How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Friday, July 30, 2021

Visiting De Smet

 A Very Bookish 4th of July has been out for almost two months, and now this limited-time collection has just one month left! 

 


 

Recently, I returned to the land that inspired my Fourth of July novella, Prairie Independence Day. The corn stood tall and thick, the soy formed low, leafy bushes, and the untamed prairie grass waved in the wind. In the mornings, a sometimes soft, sometimes strong, but always constant wind tempered the sun’s heat, but the afternoons turned quite sultry. I had a lot of fun visiting my friends who live in eastern South Dakota, but one of the highlights was our trip to the Ingalls sites in De Smet, which I wrote about in Prairie Independence Day.


They were almost exactly how I remembered them. A few details were different, but nothing of much consequence. (Sadly, the changes were mainly due to the pandemic, which I did not include in my novella.) Out on the homestead site, it was still incredible to touch Pa’s cottonwoods—planted in the 1880s—and walk inside the dugout, the claim shanty, and the wooden house representing the types of homes the Ingalls family lived in at one time or another. I loved thinking about how they walked this very land under my feet. Just like Chandler Ivey in my story, I enjoyed the covered wagon ride to the one-room schoolhouse and the one-room church. There were demonstrations and antique objects that helped bring the books to life, such as the hay twists Pa and Laura had to make during The Long Winter. And then in the town of De Smet, I loved imagining them inside the Surveyor’s House (featured in By the Shores of Silver Lake) and the Third Street house (where every member of the immediate family except for Laura lived at some point).

 

The Cottonwoods

 The Claim Shanty
 
Inside the Claim Shanty

The Dugout

Inside the Dugout

Ma's Little House

The Covered Wagon





If you’re a Little House fan and you’re ever in eastern South Dakota, visit the Ingalls Homestead Site and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes! And if you'd like to read about my first visit to De Smet, way back in 2013, here are the blog posts:

"The Slough of Delight"

"The Little House Stage"

"One Last Little House Post (I Think)"

P.S. If you haven’t gotten a copy of our limited edition novella collection yet, here is the link to check it out!


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

This post is written in memory of Eric Carle, children’s book author and illustrator extraordinaire, June 25, 1929 – May 23, 2021.

The other day, I opened up a few of my favorite childhood picture books. 



Draw Me a Star by Eric Carle



Simple Pictures Are Best by Nancy Willard and Tomie dePaola 

 

 

Round Trip by Ann Jonas

 

 

A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert and Anita Lobel



On Market Street by Anita Lobel and Arnold Lobel


I’ve always enjoyed my family’s collection of picture books. My mom didn’t thin them out as we kids grew up. Instead, she kept them (ostensibly) for the grandchildren … though in reality, neither she nor I could bear to part with them.

Now that I work at a preschool, children’s picture books are a regular part of my life again. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the job. Although reading a particular picture book for the first time as an adult isn’t usually as wonderful as it is in childhood, I can enjoy it vicariously when I see the toddlers’ thrill. I’m on the hunt for my own copies of …

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood

 

You Are Special by Max Lucado


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle


Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle


But books I knew in my childhood are different. I was sad to hear that Eric Carle had recently died. He was one of my favorite illustrators, and we have a sizable stack of his books. (Do you know how he did his art? He painted tissue paper and cut it into shapes to form pictures! Look it up on YouTube sometime.) And Tomie dePaola! He was another icon of my childhood, gone for over a year now. Reading their books and others I loved as a kid transports me back in time, back to when I was savoring them and being absorbed in the world their pictures and simple words created. Nothing else can take me back like that, not even childhood movies or toys.

Draw Me a Star is particularly significant to me now because of how it beautifully links the work of an artist with God’s creation, ending with the artist as an old man who lived out his days and flew into the night sky with a star. Rest in peace, Eric Carle.

One of these days, I plan to do a post (or a series) on the memorable books of my growing-up years, but to finish this one out in honor of Eric Carle, here is a list of just his that I own:

Draw Me a Star

Today is Monday

Dragons Dragons & Other Creatures That Never Were

Animals Animals

Treasury of Classic Stories for Children

Pancakes, Pancakes!

A House for Hermit Crab

Rooster’s Off to See the World

The Tiny Seed

The Mountain That Loved a Bird

The Mixed-Up Chameleon

The Lamb and the Butterfly

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Have You Seen My Cat?

The Grouchy Ladybug

A Color of His Own

The Foolish Tortoise


Did you enjoy any of these books I mentioned when you were growing up?

Friday, May 28, 2021

A Very Bookish 4th of July Preorder


A young mother, pulled into event planning for her new hometown on the prairie like Laura Ingalls Wilder.

An aspiring authoress, finding companionship outside of Anne of Green Gables for the first time in her life.

Two sisters, with a deadline to travel an incredible distance just as it was in Around the World in Eighty Days.

A young girl, preparing for her favorite holiday with her many cousins like in the book Eight Cousins.

Four stories, by four authors, based on four classic books together in one collection. Tales of faith, patriotism, and hope.

Available only through the end of August 2021. 

 

The third Very Bookish Holiday collection is almost here! The special preorder price is available for only one week more. Join me, Abigayle Claire, Sarah Holman, and Rebekah A. Morris as we celebrate Independence Day through heartwarming stories inspired by beloved classics.

Buy on Amazon | Add to Goodreads

 

Follow on us on Facebook and Instagram to get ready for the release and to learn more fun details! 

Friday, April 30, 2021

A Very Bookish Fourth of July Launch Team!


 

 

I'm so excited to announce the next book in the A Very Bookish Holiday series.


A Very Bookish Fourth of July!


I will be joining several other authors in this collection of novellas inspired by the Fourth of July and beloved classic books. We need you! We need some readers to help promote this release! 


Apply to this exclusive team HERE.

 

 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Reclaiming Ryda Blog Tour



I'm excited to share with you about this new release by Rachel Rossano, one of my favorite indie authors, published on April 21! 

 

 Reclaiming Ryda

Book 2 of Once Upon a Duchy


Rydaria lives as a prisoner in a tower library. Captured as a child, her past is a mystery. Maintaining the literary treasures within her care, she studies the world through books that give her a glimpse of the freedom she craves.

A scribe by trade, Crispin has devoted the last three years of his life seeking the lost heir of Avalene. He travels to Worthenave’s famed library in hopes of finding the key. Instead, he discovers a new mystery, a beautiful librarian who is locked in with her books every night.

As the days pass, Crispin must choose. Rydaria’s precarious situation is deteriorating. Meanwhile, his duty demands he leave before the Duke of Worthenave uncovers his quest. Still, the scribe can’t bring himself to abandon the captive in the library tower, even if it costs him his mission.

Inspired by Rapunzel and East of the Sun West of the Moon

 

Find on Goodreads

Purchase on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo


About the Author

Rachel Rossano specializes in clean romantic fiction set in historical-feeling fantasy worlds. She also dabbles in straightforward historical romance and not-so-strict speculative fiction. A happily married mother of three children, she divides her time between mothering, teaching, and writing. She endeavors to enchant, thrill, entertain, and amuse through her work. A constant student, she seeks to improve her skills and loves to hear from readers.

Find her at:

 

Giveaway


 
Excerpt

 

Ryda


Distantly the noon bells sounded as I lifted the first of the scrolls into place. Hoping that the stranger would leave for his meal, I continued to replace the scrolls until at least a score of minutes had passed. The last one slid home with satisfying ease. Dusting myself off a bit, I descended to the first floor to check if my meal had arrived.

It had.

Only one meal, the standard shavings of meat, a small loaf of bread, a pot of salted butter, and a bit of yellow cheese, lay on a tray at one end of the table. The jug of ale and a wooden cup sat next to the food.

The stranger still lingered. His satchel lay half-empty next to a mess of supplies and logbooks, scratch paper, and empty ink bottles covering the other half of the table. Pens in varying states of decay or disrepair were scattered about as though someone had sought a functional implement in haste and found them all lacking. Then, all of it had been shoved toward the end of the table to make room for the tray and such. The delivery boy had shown his customary lack of concern for anything beyond his task.

“Just push anything that is in the way aside.” The stranger himself stood next to the shelves where I had directed him, bent over the oldest log on the shelves.

“There is plenty of room, thank you,” I replied as I set about breaking the loaf into pieces. “Did you take your meal in the great hall?”

“I am well enough for now, thank you.” He didn’t look up from his perusal of the ledger.

From all I had read, large men seemed to require vast quantities of food. I glanced at the invader. He definitely fit the definition of large, but he didn’t have the manner of a warrior. I had seen many of those from my window perch and at my tower’s gate over the years. Though, I would definitely not consider him flabby or soft either.

As I considered the best descriptors for him, he lifted his gaze from the ledger and met my gaze. One golden-brown eyebrow rose in a silent question.

“You do not have the appearance of a man who skips meals regularly.”

“True, I don’t usually, but this is an exception.” He gestured to the laden shelves around us. “I have no way of knowing I will be allowed in again tomorrow.”

I shrugged. “I suspect you will. Worthenave likes showing off his collection, and admirers cannot fully appreciate it in only a single survey.”

“I prefer not to risk it.” His attention returned to the page.

Breaking my bread into two hunks, I opened up one of the linen napkins on the tray. Spreading it out, I set the bread hunk, half the cheese, and the meat shavings on it. I then folded the linen so that the food wouldn’t fall out.

Delivering the bundle took a bit more bravery, but I forced myself to act before I thought on it over much.

“To hold you until the evening meal,” I explained as I dropped it on the open shelf near his elbow. I returned to the table to focus on my own meal.

For a few moments, I feared he would reject it, or worse, take offense that I had not believed him. Only the sounds of him eating put me at ease enough to devour my own meal efficiently. As I cleared away the remnants, he approached and dropped the crumpled napkin on top of the pile.

“Thank you.”

 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Fanny's Hope Chest Scavenger Hunt

 


Welcome to the Hope Chest Scavenger Hunt! Today, I’m taking part in this fun event and giveaway to celebrate the release of Sarah Holman’s new book Fanny’s Hope Chest.

Here’s how to play:

1.     Go to Tangled up in Writing or The Destiny of One and get the full list of items to search for and the blogs taking part.

2.     Find the hidden item on each blog.

3.     Go to Tangled up in Writing or The Destiny of One and enter the giveaway with your completed list.

4.     Tell your friends about the scavenger hunt.

5.     Watch to see if your name is drawn on February 16th for 1 of 5 prizes.

 

Okay, see if you can find the item I’ve hidden:




 

Did you find it? Don’t forget to enter the giveaway. There will be five winners!


Interested in Fanny’s Hope Chest? Grab it for $0.99 through the 14th. (Price will go up to $2.99 after.) 

 

How old is too old for a hope chest?

When Ellie starts a new job as a home health aide, she doesn't expect to meet a woman in her eighties looking for her hope chest, nor a house as messy as Ellie's own emotional state. But as she cleans up Fanny's house, she begins to wonder if Fanny's hope chest might hold the answers to her questions about disappointed dreams and holding on to hope.

That is, if she can face both the mess and her own heart.

Find it on Amazon.

Friday, February 5, 2021

My Top 15 Books of 2020

This year turned out to be an excellent year for reading. According to Goodreads, I read 56 books, which is higher than normal for me. (But that still doesn’t count the books I edited this year.) I also set a goal of reading two pre-1920 classics a month, which I’m very glad to say I accomplished. Of those 56 books, here are the top 15 that will stay with me the longest:

#15

Romeo and Juliet

by William Shakespeare

I was actually surprised at how much I liked this play. Knowing the story before I read it, I hadn’t taken it seriously because of how young Romeo and Juliet were. Their youth still bothers me (as do certain characters—ahem, Juliet’s nurse and Mercurio), but the surprising depth in Juliet’s character really captured me. There are many beautiful lines, and, somehow, being a tragedy it entrenches itself more firmly in my mind as I think wistfully of what might have been. (Interesting side note: While I buddy-read this with my mom in April 2020, we experienced a “plague” with lockdowns like the plague that figured significantly in Romeo and Juliet.)


#14

Towers in the Mist

by Elizabeth Goudge

Although this novel may not have been as deeply affecting to me as other Goudge novels I’ve read, it drips with her beautifully characteristic style: rich description and symbolism, well-crafted characters, and a setting vividly brought to life. The genuine historical characters, like Walter Raleigh and Philip Sidney, add zest and a feeling of reality. I truly felt I had visited late sixteenth-century Oxford. Time-traveling is one of my favorite hobbies! Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


#13

A Holy Passion

by Alicia G. Ruggieri

This was a hard book to read. But so good. Ruggieri weaves a heartbreaking story around real events in the lives of David Brainerd and Jerusha Edwards. David Brainerd was a missionary to the Native Americans in the mid-1700s, and when he got sick and stayed with the Edwards family, Jerusha helped care for him. A Holy Passion beautifully depicted the reality of loving and desiring God above everything else, inspiring me to reevaluate my life and actively delight in the Lord. Read my full review HERE.


#12

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

Dickens is one of my favorite authors. Although Great Expectations may not have reached as high in my affections as two of his other novels (Little Dorrit and Bleak House), it showcases Dickens’s masterful writing, plot weaving, and character creating and explores what it means to be a truly successful human being. Pip, the main character and narrator, takes us on his twisting, turning journey of discovery when he mysteriously inherits a lot of money that promises to make him into a “gentleman” in Victorian society. But there is far more to his journey than he ever imagined. Read my full review HERE.

 

#11

The Woman in White

by Wilkie Collins

This was a very fun read. A mystery that begins with the identity of a young woman dressed in white becomes more and more layered and suspenseful as the story rolls forward. This Victorian novel contains a bevy of compelling characters, chief among them Walter Hargrave, Marian Halcombe, Laura Fairlie, and Count Fosco, whose lives intertwine in a plot that kept me breathlessly guessing until the very end. Read my full review HERE.


#10

Deerbrook

by Harriet Martineau

This early Victorian novel (published the first year of Victoria’s reign, 1838) was a fascinating read. Standing as a bridge between early nineteenth-century fiction and what would become a hallmark of Victorian literary style—the multilayered domestic novel—Deerbrook contains many details of daily life within various lifestyles. The characters and their story were also endearing, especially primary characters Edward Hope and Hester and Margaret Ibbotson. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


#9

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

Written by Himself

This fascinating and affecting autobiography was published by an incredible African man to help the efforts of the British abolitionists in the eighteenth century. Slave narratives were vital in showing Europeans that Africans were people created in God’s image, too, and should therefore be treated equally. It’s a valuable resource into the horrifying history that we must face and acknowledge in order to move forward in the ongoing struggle for complete racial reconciliation. Find it on Goodreads HERE.


#8

Virgil Wander

by Leif Enger

The newest novel from one of my favorite contemporary authors, Virgil Wander did not disappoint. I love Enger’s rich, unconventional prose, the way he breathes life into every detail and character, and the nostalgic atmosphere of the plot. Set in a dying town in modern-day northern Minnesota, this novel still has a classic feel that sinks deep and makes you appreciate life. Read my full review HERE.


#7

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

If I’ve read a Jane Austen novel during the year, it’s going on my top reads. This was only my second time reading Pride and Prejudice, and honestly I’d forgotten how good it is, not to mention funny, profound, and relatively fast-paced. Austen’s ability to sketch an iconic character with a few quick lines always amazes and delights me.

 

#6

The Song of the Lark

by Willa Cather

I usually only love a book if I love the main character. This is one exception. Cather’s writing is beautiful as she captures characters’ emotions and interactions or describes the stirring landscapes of the West. The Song of the Lark depicts the journey of a singer, Thea Kronberg, from her humble origins in Colorado through all the heartache and hard work of building an artistic career. It also explores art and the true cost and meaning of success in the pursuit of it. Read my full review HERE.


#5

The Little House Series

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This year I reread most of this beloved series for the first time since I was a kid. I’d forgotten how charming and absorbing it is. It seems I was always aware of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books. My mom and I read them while I was homeschooled as the basis of a unit study, and I felt unsure if they’d stand up to my childhood fondness for them. Well, if anything, I love them even more now. Wilder’s descriptions of life in the olden days and the warm family relationships never lose their appeal. The books are even more important to me now because I’m writing a story that is inspired by them.

 

#4

Anna Karenina

by Leo Tolstoy

I’d been meaning to read this epic novel for years, but it daunted me. I finally took the plunge and thought it was incredible! Leo Tolstoy is the first Russian writer I’ve encountered, and now he’s one of my favorite writers. The stories of the numerous characters in Anna Karenina are deeply moving, from the gradual downfall of Anna to the arduous upward climb of Konstantin Levin, a man Tolstoy patterned after himself. It’s a book to really make you think about your moral choices and goals in life. Read my full review HERE.


#3

The Other Bennet Sister

by Janice Hadlow

This became my favorite Regency novel by a non-Regency author. I’d always felt a little sorry for marginalized Mary, the middle Bennet sister in Pride and Prejudice. Bookish and awkward, she needed to grow. The Other Bennet Sister recounts some of the events in Pride and Prejudice from Mary’s perspective and then goes on to trace her path afterward. It’s a deep coming-of-age story that I could relate to, told in an authentic yet completely readable historical voice that immersed me in the Regency period. Read my full review HERE.


#2

Sir Gibbie

by George MacDonald

This book awed me. I grew up thinking MacDonald’s Scottish novels in their original form were inaccessible ... but that is certainly not the case, especially now with David Jack’s side-by-side translation of the Doric dialect into English. MacDonald’s works are profound and beautiful, his language flowing and poetic, and I’m so glad they are being republished like this. All this novel’s characters are memorable and meaningful, but none more so than Sir Gibbie himself, a mute boy with a heart full of love for mankind. The Christian values encased in his inspiring story weave their way into your heart. Check it out on Goodreads HERE.


#1

Why Care about Israel?

by Sandra Teplinsky

From the back cover: “No one can read the Bible and deny that God has specific plans for the Jewish nation. From the moment he created Israel, he loved her and set a plan in motion that is yet to be fulfilled. What is that plan? What does it mean for Arab peoples? How are Christians to respond?”

This book helped me reaffirm my commitment to care about Israel, pray for her, and support her now more than ever in these stormy times when the tide of world opinion is more against her, and God, than ever. A must-read for every Christian. Find it on Goodreads HERE. (The updated version is HERE.)

 

What were your favorite reads of 2020?