Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Book Review: Plain Proposal by Beth Wiseman

Book title: Plain Proposal
Author: Beth Wiseman
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 987-1-59554-850-4

Beth Wiseman transported me to a charming Old Order Amish community in her horse drawn buggy aka Plain Promise, her new novel. I enjoyed every minute of my stay there. The people I met intrigued me and drew me into their lives. They told me their secrets, their hopes and their fears. I laughed, worried and cried with them.

Who are these folk? Well there's Miriam Raber, who's in love with Saul. But folk say he's been in trouble and there are rumors that he's leaving the community. Will he ask Miriam to go with him? And will she go if he does? And what about Jesse, the perfect suitor for Miriam's hand? He's showing great interest in Miriam.

Then there's Shelby, Miriam's Englisch (non-Amish) cousin. Her parents send her to stay with Miriam's family as a punishment when she gets caught up in the wrong crowd and shoplifts and does drugs. She's lost her connection with God and feels rejected and without hope. Rebecca, Miriam's mother, fears Shelby will be a bad influence on Miriam. There's Aaron, Miriam's brothers, Saul's family, the bishop . . . well you'll have to read the book to meet them all.

I loved the way Beth brought these characters and their relationships to life, all stitched together with a silken spiritual thread.

In her acknowledgments, the author thanks God for His Hand on her writing and hopes that her story both entertains and draws people closer to Him. Plain Proposal fulfils both these hopes and I strongly recommend this book which I give a five star rating.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <>

Tuesday, 01 March 2011

Book review: Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones

Book title: Save the Date
Author: Jenny B. Jones
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 9781595545398

When the heroine of a book smells like pancakes and looks like "a displaced nursery rhyme character" as does Lucy, the heroine of Save the Date, you know that you are in for a fun read. And this book is indeed a light frothy read that will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next. It has several satisfying twists and turns.

Lucy runs Saving Grace, a residential home for young women who have nowhere to live. She is forced to accept a role as Alex's fiancée as it's the condition for he makes for her to receive much-needed funds for her home. Alex is running for congress and needs Lucy to be his fiancée and bring in more votes for him.

Underneath the frivolity of this novel there are deeper layers, one being the social dilemma of no formal care for foster children once they reach the age of eighteen. These children are abandoned and left to face life's challenges with no home or resources. They often end up on the streets or in prison.

Jenny Jones skilfully weaves spiritual threads throughout the book as Lucy and Alex deal with issues and insecurities which stem from their childhoods and teen years. We see their faith in God grow as their fake engagement places them in tight spots and dilemmas.

I wish Ms Jones had given readers more insight into the daily life of Saving Grace. The only girl we get to know is newcomer Marinell, whose little brother is desperately ill.  I hope the author will write a book telling Marinell's story.

I enjoyed Save the Date and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Banana Leaf Characters

Ten enchanting little folk live in my study. They sway above me as I work on my computer and they are very dear to me.

Who are they?

They are the characters on a mobile my husband bought me last year when we spent a weekend on a wild life farm. Artists crafted them in Kenya using simple materials on hand—things like leaves from banana trees, banana skins and sisal twine. The tools the artists used to dry, twist, twirl and fashion these materials into these endearing folk are readily available—the sun, and their own hands, knives, and scissors.

Today I'll chat about some of the resources around me which I use to create my characters.

Dressing to face the world
A Kenyan craftsman dressed this lady in strands of  bright pink fiber from a broom. The result is a colorful character to say the least.

I take note of people's apparel when I dress my characters.

Zephaniah, one of my favorites, came into being when I noticed a tall man swathed in a length of red patterned fabric (probably a tablecloth someone had discarded) and wearing a khaki military style hat rummaging in dustbins  for second hand objects and scraps of food.
Zephaniah is a foreigner in South Africa trying to survive on other people's trash, and throughout the book he appears in various weird and wonderful outfits.

Speaking of characters
Wouldn't you love to know what these two are saying to each other? Eavesdrop for a moment and see if you can overhear their conversation.

It's always fun to listen to snippets of conversation and work them into my writing. For example, I once heard someone say, "Oh that's a good area—a  lawyer was murdered there." Now there's a gem I can use.
Body Language
Hands on her hips shows this character is really uptight- perhaps she's telling off her neighbor in no uncertain terms. Don't rely on dialog to show your characters' personalities and thoughts, show them in their actions as well.

People around me, whether or not I know them, are a huge resource as they communicate with body language all the time. I have only to observe them and I pick up a myriad of details that I can use in my writing. The lady in front of me in the line glances frequently at her watch and drums her fingers on the top of her purse, the couple behind her raise their eyebrows as a nearby child misbehaves  . . .

Hobbies and Occupations
I imagine that our next character is on her way to work. Perhaps her job is to help old people in a care facility. Or perhaps she runs the local library or . . .

There is so much fascinating material to be found in  the careers and hobbies of people around us. A few weeks ago, I was privileged to accompany an occupational therapist friend  to work for a day. The material I gathered as I watched the therapists work, and from conversations with their clients, helped me develop my characters and make them 3D instead of stereotypes. Caroline, one of my characters, took on the endearing trait of asking her clients to give her a "high five" each time they made the tiniest step of progress. This gesture acknowledges their achievement, boosts their morale and exercises important sets of muscles.
At Home

This character holds her brush ready to attack the dust bunnies gathered under her furniture. My own home and those of my friends provide more material for my writing as they help me describe settings for the action in my story to take place. I take note of the mirror outside the front door of my friend's house--not only does it reflect me as I approach the door, but it shows a movement in the shrubs behind me. Perhaps someone up to no good is lurking behind me or one of my characters as she visits her friend.

As this banana leaf character trudges along, she carries a burden on her shoulders. And real people also carry burdens and secrets which we may not be able to see with our physical eyes, but which determine their behavior and affect their relationships. My characters come alive for me as I write about how they deal with the issues in their lives. I love to see how a character changes through the course of a story, especially when it affords me an opportunity to show how God works in lives. Ideas for burdens and secrets for my characters are readily found in human interest stories in newspapers and magazines, on the internet and TV programs.
I watch this little banana leaf person swing gently on her banana skin and wonder what she's thinking. Perhaps she's dreaming and imagining what it would be like to go on a cruise around the world, fly in a glider, or . . .
My imagination is the always-with-me-tool which I use when I write, otherwise my words are just words, and not stories. My imagination asks and answers questions like "What if Megan can no longer use her hands to shoot photos?" or "What if Ellie's foster child is taken away from her care?"

My Stories
The Kenyan craftsmen made excellent use of the materials available to them, I pray that I will use the resources around me to weave stories as pleasing to my readers as my mobile is to me.