Monday, May 31, 2010

Stranded on an Island. How bad can it be?

Debra E. Marvin

My favorite summer vacation occurred when I was eleven years old. My parents used to go up to Canada on fishing trips before I came along so they were familiar with the unspoiled beauty of Ontario and Quebec.

While we often camped in the 1000 Islands region of the St. Lawrence, I only recall one vacation where we went so far north. It was also our most primitive camping experience. I loved it.

Cross Lake is a lake in Temagami, Nipissing District, Ontario, Canada. (I grew up in the town of Ontario, near Rochester New York on the southern shore of Lake Ontario.) The Temagami area is the traditional lands of the Ojibwe. When I went looking online for information on this area, I was amazed to find very little about. Now a trip would take us about seven hours so I imagine it was even longer in the sixties. Scroll around on the map here and you can see NY and Ontario. (I did this just for those of you who are directionally challenged or thought NY was on the East coast, which is is in a way but it's also our north coast, too!)

View Larger Map
Cross Lake is a little farther north than Ottawa, Ontario--Canada’s capital by the way. Ignore NY city and remember that New York is a Great Lakes state and we are separated from Canada by Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence and Niagara Rivers. New York is a rolling, green, agricultural state full of lakes and forests and farmland FYI!

My parents loaded up our station wagon (of course we had a station wagon!) and hitched up our new-to-us 14’ fiberglass boat with my dad's pride and joy 45mph Evinrude motor. Late that night, we headed north, crossed the St. Lawrence River at the beautiful 1000 Islands Bridge to arrive late morning in a sleepy little lakeside crossroads--basically a mom n’pop gas station where we bought perishables.

We put the boat in, filled it with everything for our week and headed out into the lake with no idea where to go. Cross Lake was dotted with islands; really they were rock outcroppings. No sandy beaches that I recall. Somehow we picked one, headed toward a good place to leave the boat, cut the engine and floated on in.

The big canvas tent went up. The chairs and coolers and old Coleman camp stove came out and we cleaned up an area where we could have a campfire.

Camping in the wild is an amazing experience but this particular trip had one unforgettable highlight.

Bringing a boat in to ‘beach’ on rock—even smooth flat rocks—takes it toll, and there was no place to actually anchor offshore and wade in. Very deep lake=very deep drop-off. We had to get close, walk over the front of the boat and step off onto the rocks. Eventually, the fiberglass got scraped enough that the boat started to leak. Okay, we’re on an island with a leaking, sinking boat. Not to worry. Dad can fix anything. We bailed and made one more trip into town for supplies, including a whole lotta chewing gum. Do you see where this is going?

Dad boiled up the gum over the camp stove when we got back, applied it like some kind of super caulk and our leaking problem ended. If I learned one thing from my dad it was this: Don’t panic. Come up with a solution. Use your imagination. Now they call it ‘thinking outside the box’. Mom called him Rube Goldberg.

I spent the week napping in the warmth of a tent, trying to befriend chipmunks, fishing, reading, eating camp food and swimming in my own private lagoon. It was amazing!

I apologize for the quality of my photos but I hope you get an idea of our private island. I think I might like to try and visit Cross Lake again but I probably would never find that island a second time, so many years later.

Thanks Mom and Dad for raising a girl who’s not afraid of a little dirt and inconvenience . . . one who loves solitude and finds in the beauty of the outdoors.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


By Lisa Karon Richardson
“Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.” Genesis 13:12
This scripture is sort of sandwiched in the story of Abram and Lot. Conflict had arisen between uncle and nephew, and so Abram decided it was best for them to split up. He gave Lot his choice of property.
Lot chose the fertile plain of Jordan where it would be easy to water his flocks and gather food. Lot’s story did not end happily. We get lots of clues as to what went wrong with Lot. So let’s gather the evidence.

First was his desire for supremacy. His men fought with Abram’s over the rights to certain water supplies.
Then, when given the option, Lot chose what he thought would be the easy life in the plains of Jordan.
Finally there is the verse above, specifically this phrase: “and pitched his tent toward Sodom.” To me this is all the evidence we need to know that something was wrong in Lot’s life.
He wanted to walk the fence. His heart was attracted to the evil city of Sodom even though he knew he should avoid the place, so he pitched his tent toward it. He could always claim he wasn’t a part of the problem—he was just sort of near it.
God knows our motivations though. He understands our hearts and no amount of hoop jumping self-justification will work on Him.

You see it wasn’t very long before Lot wasn’t just living near the city, but he was drawn into the city. He was living in the city when it was scheduled for destruction and it fell to Abram to intercede on his behalf. His property was destroyed, his wife turned into a pillar of salt, and his daughters were deluded into plying him with drink and having incestuous affairs in order to continue his bloodline.
Sadly, fence sitters usually come down on the wrong side of the fence. It’s better to be sold out to God. Why live your life on the border, wondering how much you could get away with?
Everything that brings real joy, everything that is pure and wholesome, everything that is just and right, is open to us. God has no desire to suck the fun out of our lives. He wants us to have all the best things.
So what evidence do our actions reveal?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Next Week: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Memorial Day or Victoria Day? For the U.S. and Canada, our summer season has begun! We made it through another winter.

Thank you Niki for handling three months of "Scoops". Thank you Lisa for another season of amazing graphics!

If you missed it, Scroll down for our Saturday Book Review today by Author Diane Burke.

Coming up this week, Inkies will share their favorite vacation memories. So if you start to get too much sun, come visit Inktropolis where 'everything is just right!' Goldilocks says so.

Sunday Devotional -- Lisa Karon Richardson
Monday, (Memorial Day celebrated in the U.S. of A.) -- Debra E. Marvin
Tuesday (June Begins!) -- Anita Mae Draper
Wednesday -- Dina Sleiman
Thursday -- Niki Turner
Friday -- D'Ann Mateer
Saturday Book Review -- Jen AlLee

To "clothes" out our week of All Things Victoria, I'm modeling one of the Queen's dresses, thanks to photoshop. Come back next weekend and find out how Jen AlLee spent her summer vacation...

Book Review: Where Mercy Flows

By Diane Burke
Where Mercy Flows
by Karen Harter

I love books. I love books more than chocolate---and that's saying something. I love books so much I often wonder where enjoyment ends and addiction begins. So I thought choosing a book for a review would be easy---not.

My house is covered with cases, drawers, closets and bins filled with books. Books on the TBR (to be read) list that I can't ever find enough time to read. Books on the TBD (to be donated) list because I believe in helping other authors find new readers. And, of course, TKS (the keeper shelf). Although I have read may great, awesome, wonderful books, there are very , very few I keep on my keeper shelf. To earn their place on that shelf they have had to reach inside my soul, squeeze my heart and become seared forever in my memory.

Where Mercy Flows is one of those books.

It is a prodigal daughter story meshed with romance and suspense. Samanta Dodd believed that she was never able to live up to the rigid expectations of her father, a state superior court judge. Her father had always approached life with a black-and-white-no-shades-of-gray personal code of standards and Sam had never measured up.

Ill and destitute, Sam is forced to return to her childhood home and brings her son, T.J. with her.

Believing her father incapable of forgiveness and herself undeserving, the homecoming is difficult.

Life becomes more complicated when you add to the mix a childhood friend, Donnie Duncan, who wants more from Sam than she is able to give. Her illness becomes more serious than first suspected. T.J.'s father reappears in her life. And the judge receives threats on his life.

This book is like riding a train that comfortably chugs away from the station only to plunge the reader into a can't-put-down read. Karen Harter does an awesome job of looking inside a family and presenting a tale of hope, love and redemption. Be sure you set enough time aside to read this wonderful book from cover to cover. And grab a hankie before you sit down because this is definitely a tear-jerker which you won't forget for a long, long time to come.

Where Mercy Flows is available at

Friday, May 28, 2010

Guest Poet Donn Taylor

Today I'd like to introduce you to poet Donn Taylor. Donn is a former college English professor, author, and a regular speaker at Christian writing conferences. He is on a mission to bring poetry back to our culture. I love the way he uses sound and humor in his poems, and I had a hard time choosing one today, but since I spent all last week learning about postmodernism, I chose a powerful poem that really spoke to me. We've come a long way from the Victorian Era, people.

The Lost Ones
Psalm 68:6

Here in the oasis it's hard to visualize
That place the lost ones name Utopia,
Created by their choices day by day,
And by their definitions to become
The optimum of human habitation.
Truth, they say, is not inherited,
A thing already there that needs discovering
Through diligent research and reasoning.
They say that truth is "socially constructed,"
Which means they make it up along the way.
Grant them heroic effort to construct
Reality as they think it ought to be.
Grieving, we watch them wander there outside.
How strange it is to watch them eat the sand
And call it nourishment, or drink their own
Ideas, defining them as water--strange to see
Their search through stones for spirituality.
We didn't make the oasis: we found it here,
Fully created, all its terms defined
Within the boudaries of the Decalogue--
We'd only to discover and enjoy.
We beckon, but they turn their eyes away,
Defining oases as superstition,
Preferring barren paths of sand and stone,
Seeking through alchemy, defining dross as gold,
Circling forever in the deserts of the soul.

Copyright 2008 Dust and Diamond
Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he completed a PhD degree at The University of Texas and taught English literature at two liberal arts colleges. He and his wife live near Houston, Texas, where he writes fiction, poetry, and articles on current topics.

A collection of well-crafted poems addressing fundamental questions of human experience in today's world--its sadnesses and triumphs, and the humor that tempers them both.

To order Dust and Diamond from click here.
For more information about Donn, his poetry, and his novels click here.

Okay, Dina here, allow me to play college literature teacher for a minute. I'm out of practice, and I miss it. What images do you see in this poem? What do the images bring to mind? What do you think the author is trying to say through the poem? Do you relate in any way?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Victoria and All Her Charms

by Suzie Johnson
Alluring, romantic, breathtaking, sparkling, quaint…words just can’t describe her.

Before we go any further, you should know I’m not speaking about Victoria the Queen. Rather, Victoria the city on an island in British Columbia.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit this one-of-a-kind sparkling little gem of a city, you simply must.

Step back from your well developed small town or city and enter a place reflective of quaint old world England. Ivy covered buildings, hidden courtyards, old-fashioned iron street lamps heavy with overflowing baskets of flowers.

Named for the queen herself, Victoria was actually first home to the Coast Salish native people. Over a hundred-and-sixty years after it evolved from Fort Victoria, the city still retains its charm.

Like most tourist destinations, Victoria has tourist activities. The wax museum features members of the royal family, including all of Henry the VIII’s wives. It’s the coolest wax museum I’ve ever been in. The first time I visited, Diana wasn’t there. But two summers ago, I was happily surprised to see Diana and her young princes as part of the exhibit.

When my husband and I went to Victoria on our honeymoon, he discovered Miniature World, a museum with miniature scenes from history. Great fun!

A couple of years ago, when I went with my friend, Diane, we toured a Scottish castle called Craigdarroch, which was built by Robert Dunsmuir in 1887. The woodwork in this Victorian masterpiece is stunning. The staircase that winds all the way up to the top of the castle is a work of art and features incredible stained glass windows and an amazing view of the San Juan Islands. The stories you learn as you roam the castle are inspiring. Because my pictures can’t do it justice, I’ve included a link so you can see for yourself. Click here for pictures of Craigdarroch Castle.

On my first trip to Victoria, I came across an out of the way little courtyard where I relaxed at an antique table with pastries and cup of Earl Grey tea. Its charm was something I never forgot, and on both of my return trips I searched for it. Unfortunately, I never did find it again.

A place that shouldn’t be missed is the Empress Hotel. The ivy covered hotel, built in 1904, is a tourist favorite that has hosted royalty and movie stars alike. But in my opinion, the most alluring draw for tourists simply has to be the English-style high tea that is served every afternoon.

Across from the Empress is another must-see, the Provincial Museum. The exhibits include lessons in the geography of the island as well as the historical native culture. Across from the museum are the Parliament Buildings where my husband saw Queen Elizabeth when he was a kid on a school field trip.

If you’re lucky enough to stay on the harbor, you can spend a lazy day watching seaplanes take off and land, tourists head out for whale watching trips, and giant ferries as they bring tourists to town. An extra treat on the harbor is a dock that leads out to the most adorable boat houses I’ve ever seen.

On a personal note, I’ll choose to stay on the harbor instead of a Bed & Breakfast. On my last trip to Victoria, my friend Diane and I stayed our first night at a B&B. Um, I can’t really say it was the quaint and charming experience I expected. Instead, it was strange and uncomfortable, and I don’t ever plan to stay at one again. B&Bs might work for some people, but not for me.

Your trip won’t be complete until you visit the one of a kind Butchart Gardens. A gardener’s dream. I’m not a gardener, know next to nothing about flowers, but I felt like I found my way to heaven. Acres upon acres of beauty can only be described as amazing, breathtaking, fabulous. If you’re lucky enough to make it to Victoria, but don’t see the gardens, you truly will have missed out on the experience of a lifetime.

The small city named after a queen is a city fit for a queen.
So what are you waiting for? Bring out your inner queen. Head up to Victoria and enjoy high tea, a Scottish castle, and the most magnificent gardens you’ll ever see.

All photos copyright Suzie Johnson

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Grandmother of Europe

by Debra Elizabeth Not Victoria Marvin

What does "Victorian" mean to you? "Painted Lady" houses? Full skirted dresses and petticoats over a menacing corset? A society bursting with rebellion under a controlled, conservative and emotionless front? Charles Dickens' London?

Here's my history lesson on Victoria's before and after--Her ancestors and descendants. Don't run in fear, this may just help you on Jeopardy someday.

Even for a colonist on this side of the pond, it would be difficult to have gained adulthood without hearing of Henry the Eighth, Queen Elizabeth (yes, there have been two of them) and Queen Victoria. Perhaps the term "the Regency" leaves you confused as well? Have a seat and I'll help you out.

Throughout British history, at least since 871, “Houses” (families of monarchs) have ruled. Quick rundown:
The House of Wessex 871-1066. What? You never heard of King Egbert?
House of Normandy 1066-1216, The Plantagenets 1216-1485. (Have you at least heard of them?) Nice power play coming up during the switch to The Tudors 1485-1603.

Go ahead and connect The Tudors to the big guy with the six wives! Despite all his bravado and big appetite (power, women and rich food included) Henry the Eighth's throne went to his sometimes legitimate, sometimes not daughter Elizabeth 1. What happened next is enough for another post, so let’s just say . . .

The Stuarts 1603-1714. And finally the House of Hanover. The Hanoverians were very European, basically Austro-German. And like the two houses before them, changes had a lot to do with religion. Britain's Act of Settlement of 1701 decreed no Roman Catholic could be on the throne. Stuarts Out, Hanovers In.

Here is where Victoria’s story begins . . .

King George l became the first monarch of the House of Hanover, followed by George II, then George III. (Hmmm, I’m seeing a pattern here and it’s not just because I’m a registered Republican.) Things were going well, in fact he was a good king, happily married and had 16 children. What bliss! Well, except for a costly war with France. George upped the taxes on those little colonies across the sea and the thankless fools dumped tea in Boston Harbor. (This is King George's portrait, wearing the same hairstyle as our Almost King George/President George Washington.)

By 1781 George is humiliated by the loss. A surrender at Yorktown and all that . . . By 1788 he’s considered off his royal rocker. Insane. His son--you can see this one coming --George IV is made Regent. (Regent means “I’m not really the king but I’m standing in for the king because he’s unable to be king, so let the party begin!”) The Regency Period in England is officially those years 1811-1820 but can be stretched a bit to describe the social structures, fashion and flair of the Beau Brummel and Jane Austen years.

Upon George III’s death, his son goes from Regent to King: George IV.
This George was a wild dude, having several mistresses and marrying a Catholic, drinking heavily, and he suffered the rich man’s disease of gout. Soon his health and mind were in decline. He had no surviving legitimate children and his older brother Frederick had died, so on George IV’s death the throne went to his brother William IV at 64 years of age. Next in line? Their niece Victoria.

18 year old Victoria became queen in 1837.

Victoria married her European cousin Albert four years later. Check out their love story from Lisa's post yesterday! They had nine children. Their second was Edward, heir to the throne.

Victoria and Albert’s children all married into the other Royal families of Europe, hence her nickname The Grandmother of Europe. This alliance by family was at its peak during her reign and by the time of her death in 1901, the continent had enjoyed a long period of peace. This family togetherness did not last long. Without ‘the grandmother,’ hostilities soon escalated into WWI.

Among Victoria’s thirty some grandchildren were Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and the beautiful Alexandra who married Czar Nicholas of Russia.

Where’s the link to the present Queen?

Victoria’s son went on to be King Edward VII, his son was George V. This George had two sons who also wore the crown:
Edward VII was King for less than a year before he abdicated to marry divorced American Wallis Simpson, giving his brother the title of King George VI.

George VI married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Together they braved the bombings of London during WWII. The much-loved Mrs. George VI came to be known as the Queen Mum, when their daughter ascended to the throne as the current Queen Elizabeth II.

As you may know, she has four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. Funny thing about royal families. If an older son dies, the crown does not necessarily go to his brother, but instead his son is next in line. This is why Prince William, that little cutie, would be king rather than his Uncle Andrew. Well, after Charles anyway, and gossip says the title may skip Charles and go to William because of that little Diana/Camilla thing.

Queen Victoria reigned for 63 years and holds the title of longest reigning English Monarch. Queen Elizabeth ll (the great, great granddaughter of Queen Victoria) has ruled for about 58 years.

If you're still hanging in with me, I imagine it's because you like history, so please tell me what period in history you're most interested in. Was there any event or book that encouraged this?

Do you enjoy historical fiction? Any favorites?
Do you ever wonder how many purses Queen Elizabeth has?

Anyone else hungry for a scone?
Check out my review of THE YOUNG VICTORIA:

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's Victoria Day

by Anita Mae Draper

It's Victoria Day in Canada today! Ah, the freedom. But it's not political freedom we're talking here. Canada attained independence in 1982 although it's still a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and has the reigning British monarch as a figurehead.

In Canada, we use Queen Victoria's and our present monarch, Queen Elizabeth's birthday for a celebration which stands for a whole list of things that start this weekend and all mean one thing...


Yes, Victoria Day in Canada means:

- Freedom from clothes! Leave that outerwear behind and feel the breeze on your bare skin. Yeehaw!

- Freedom to plant! It doesn't matter where you live in Canada, you can safely plant your garden on or after Victoria Day and you don't have to worry about frost.

- Freedom to camp! Yes, campgrounds open this weekend and quickly fill with exuberant party-goers who've shed their clothes in their eagerness to become mosquito bait.

- Freedom to suntan! Canadians suffer more sunburns on Victoria Day weekend because of all those clothes they've left behind in the house.

- Freedom to go to the beach! Regardless of how cold that water is, all beaches in Canada open for public swimming and scantily-clad bodies show off their ghastly white skin*.

- Freedom to open the cottage. Highways are jammed as cottage country owners leave their urban homes to spend the weekend mucking dead moths, flies and rodent feces out of their chosen home-away-from-home.

Need I say, Canadians thrive on Victoria Day.

Victoria was born in 1819. She took over the throne in 1837 at the young age of 18 upon the death of her uncle George IV. She ruled as queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and empress of India until her death in 1901, when her son Edward the VII became the King of England.

Here's a Canadian 5 cent piece from 1899 and yes, that's a young Queen Victoria you see there.

As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations (British Commonwealth), the current British monarch is displayed on the reverse of all Canadian coinage.

Back in 1845, the Legislature of the Province of Canada declared May 24th, the queen's birthday, a national holiday. In 1952, an amendment to the Statutes of Canada established he Monday preceding May 25 as the actual holiday. That means Victoria Day is the 3rd Monday in May.
Here are some little know facts about Queen Victoria:

- Her image was used on the first postage stamps ever printed back on May 6, 1840 in the United Kingdom.

- Young Victoria was taught to keep her chin up by placing a prickly holly sprig under her collar.

- Although she ruled for 64 years, Queen Victoria never learned to speak perfect English because her mother only spoke German at home.

- Queen Victoria was the last teenager to rule England.
Victoria Day is always the weekend before the U.S. Memorial Day.
So, what are you doing either this long weekend or next weekend for Memorial Day?

*This is not to imply all Canadians are caucasian because we aren't. Canada is made up of a diverse ethnic population. It's just that pale skin which hasn't seen the sun in 9 months looks . . . ghastly.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It’s Not About Me

by Dina Sleiman

Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ~Galatians 2:20 (The Message Version)

* * *
I would like to share four little words that are life changing, revolutionary, challenging, even a bit frightening, but they are also the most freeing four words you will ever read.

It's not about me.

It's not about me?!?!? Seriously? Are you kidding? This should be one of the most elemental facets of our Christian faith. Being born-again, dying to self, dying to the flesh, making Jesus the Lord of your life, putting away the old man, love your neighbor as yourself. All these basic tenants of our faith clearly demonstrate that it is not about me. It's all about Jesus, God, ministering to others, accomplishing God's purpose on earth.

Of course, my American culture tells me the exact opposite. It tells me that it is all about me and about feeling good. It tells me that I'm number one, and I should look out for myself, maybe my family, but rarely much farther than that. The American culture has colored our Christianity negatively in this area.

It's not about me is very freeing, though. When it's not about me, I can let so many things go. Most of the issues I struggle with, stress, worry, and obsess over begin to fall away when it's not about me. Let me name a few things that I won't have in my life anymore when it's not about me: pride, greed, selfishness, jealousy, competitiveness, pressure, and embarrassment.

Perhaps as I grow in it’s not about me, I will even let go of fear, guilt, rejection, and hurt feelings.

That's a whole lot of freedom for four little words to accomplish, and yet I think the list goes on and on. Of course, temptation to sin is still out there, but it is much easier to resist with an it's-not-about-me mindset. In fact, I think true maturity in Christ comes through an understanding of these four words. At that point you can relax, enjoy life, enjoy God, and let go of everything else.

Let’s all say it one more time, “It’s not about me.”

Now mind you, it's not about me is not an instruction to become a victim or a punching bag. You are every bit as important to God as each of the other people you minister to. God wants to take care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. He loves you and wants you to be well provided for. But, remember the all important: why? So that you can be free to minister to others and reach out and accomplish God's purposes on earth.

So, how do you balance this? I think you need to learn to hear from God, to sense his subtle prompting, to know his voice, to know his word. Sometimes when someone treats you terribly God will give you a feeling or a sense to let it go, since after all, it's not about you. A different time, he may prompt you to kindly let them know that their behavior is inappropriate and hurtful and will drive people away. So that the other person can learn and grow and become closer to him. But only God knows if it's the right time, and if it’s the right person.

Even concerning helping others, we need to hear from God. We can never help every single person in every single way. It's not humanly possible. That's God's job, not ours. In fact, if we try to, we're probably going to be doing a lot of the wrong things: doing things that aren't our calling, getting into stress and worry, draining ourselves, doing things that aren't in God's timing, even fixing things for people when God wants them to turn to him and not to other human beings.

Blessing others is the most Christ-like thing we can do, and yet we still need God's gentle prompting as to when and how we should help. If we think we have to do it all on our own and make it our responsibility, we're making it about us, not about God. Pride and self-centeredness enter in. I'm making it about me if I think I have to do it all, and in case I haven't mentioned...

It's not about me!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Next week: The Fascinating Victorian Era

Explore the Victorian age and learn some of the secrets about this surprising historical era that has captured the imagination of readers (and writers) for generations.

Sunday, May 23
Dina Sleiman ~ It's Not About Me

Monday, May 24 - Friday, May 28
Monday ~ Anita Draper
Tuesday ~Lisa Karon Richardson
Wednesday ~ Debra Marvin
Thursday ~ Susan Johnson
Friday ~ Guest Poet Donn Taylor

Saturday, May 29
Hate to buy a book you know nothing about?
Read our Saturday Inkalicious reviews and get inside information!

Book Review: The Anonymous Bride

by Anita Mae Draper

The Anonymous Bride Book 1 Texas Boardinghouse Brides
by Vickie McDonough

There’s just something about a mail-order bride story that fills me with more anticipation than a normal romance. Probably because of that unknown factor of the hero and heroine expecting to wed – sometimes within hours – of meeting.

So when Vickie McDonough put out the call for influencers to review a copy of the first book in her Texas Boardinghouse Brides series , I put my hand up faster than a winner does at Bingo.

The Anonymous Bride greatly exceeded everything I hoped for in a romance. Vickie’s easy writing style was the perfect vehicle for this historical set in 1886 Lookout, Texas. Visually appealing, the scenes unfolded without laborious descriptions to slow down the pace. And the humor… I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud.

But, what really kept the story close to my heart was the emotional impact the mail-order bride had on the heroine, Rachel Hamilton. Because you see, Rachel wasn’t the mail-order bride. Oh, no. Rachel was just the owner of the boardinghouse where the mail-order bride stayed, which meant Rachel was the one to do her laundry, clean her room and cook her meals.

And there wasn’t just one mail-order bride trying to marry the man Rachel loved. There were 3 of them.

How could a man be so insensitive and encourage three women to think they were the only one? Well, it certainly wasn’t Luke, the town marshal. No, Luke was moseying along minding his own business, wondering what he was going to do about Rachel when the brides begin to appear bearing letters he supposedly wrote. Seems his cousins figured once a new woman was on the scene, Luke would forget all about the love he used to share with Rachel. They didn't figure on three women wanting to marry Luke.

I sympathized with Rachel when she realized her boardinghouse was the only possible place for the hopeful brides to reside. And, I cried buckets when the brides – who travelled so far on faith, each desperate for their own home – put forth their small requests of assistance to Rachel, without realizing their effect on her trampled heart.

And oh, the pain when honorable Luke agrees to pick a bride.

I loved this story and I can’t wait for the next book(s) in the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series.

Vickie McDonough came be found at

Anyone else like reading about mail-order brides?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fears and Fairy Tales

by Wenda Dottridge

Aren't stories a wonderful way to take us away from our everyday fears and worries?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Charm of The Magic Faraway Tree

by Narelle Atkins

When we first talked about having a Once Upon A Time theme, The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton immediately came to mind. It was one of my favorite children’s books and I remember my mother spending hours by my bedside reading it to me at night, in the vain hope I’d go to sleep. Instead I’d ask for just one more chapter, please...

The Magic Faraway Tree was first published in London in 1943 and the Edition I’m currently reading to my children (with yellowed pages and binding that’s starting to fall apart) was published in 1971. Enid Blyton published more than 600 children’s books over her 45 year writing career, and has more than 600 million copies of her books in print. The Magic Faraway Tree is the second book in her ‘Faraway Tree’ children’s fantasy series and she also wrote The Famous Five and The Secret Seven series.

Enid Blyton’s life wasn’t without controversy. Many critics panned her books and a number of librarians refused to stock her books for various reasons. You may remember the fuss many years ago concerning her character Noddy and his friends?

In The Magic Faraway Tree, the three children and their cousin live with their super-cool mother, who occasionally lets them play all day in the Enchanted Wood and visit their other-worldly friends: Moon Face, Silky and Saucepan Man. The Faraway Tree is as tall as the clouds, and a ladder at the top of the tree leads to the different lands that visit the Faraway Tree.

As a child, I loved escaping into the magical world of the Faraway Tree and sharing adventures in the different lands with Jo, Bessie, Fanny and their cousin Dick. (Please note: if you’ve read a recent Edition, the children’s names have been updated to reflect our politically correct society.) In the last few weeks, I’ve reread The Magic Faraway Tree with my children, and I thought I’d share with you a few of their insights into the book.

Quotes about their favorite characters:

"I like Saucepan Man because he listens to stuff wrong and, in the Land of Presents, he gave Dame Washalot a lion instead of an iron."

"I like Moonface because his face is round like the moon and he bakes google buns, pop biscuits and toffee shocks."

"Their cousin, Dick, is greedy and, in the Land of Goodies, he ate a barley sugar door knocker and got himself into trouble."

Quotes about their favorite lands and adventures:

"I like the Land of Toys, but Saucepan Man was put in jail because he was confused about which land he was in and stole some sweets from a lolly shop. The boys pretended to be toy soldiers and rescued Saucepan Man."

"I like the Land of Magic Medicine because the children’s mother was sick and they got a bottle of Get-Well Medicine to make her better."

"I like the Land of Do-As-You-Please because I like trains and the children rode on a train and one of the boys was the driver, but he forgot to stop at the stations."

"The people from the Land of Tempers were horrible and took over Moon-Face and Silky’s homes in the Faraway Tree. Watzisname and the children rescued Moon-Face, Silky and Saucepan Man and helped them send the mean people back to the Land of Tempers."

From an adult perspective, I have an appreciation for Dame Washalot and the constant supply of laundry she washed and hung out to dry in the Faraway Tree. When the children climbed the tree, they had to remember to dodge the dirty washing water she poured down the tree. As a child, I remember wanting to visit the Land of Do-As-You-Please, the Land of Goodies and the Land of Presents. But even in these wonderful lands, the characters still managed to get themselves into trouble and have many adventures. In the Faraway Tree story world, you could definitely have too much of a good thing. Greed and gluttony was often their downfall.

Looking back, I think my childhood vision of heaven was in some way shaped by the Faraway Tree books. As a child, I had a vague idea that heaven was a place far away in the sky, beyond the clouds. A few of the lands that stopped at the top of the Faraway Tree were like a slice of heaven. On the other hand, the Land of Tempers was like a slice of hell, full of bad-tempered people who were constantly fighting with each other.

Are there any children’s books that have influenced your ideas about heaven (or hell)? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Little House, Big Influence

By D'Ann Mateer

So I had a post about a children’s book all set and ready to go.


Scheduled to post.

Then my husband took me to see Little House on the Prairie, the Musical and I knew I had to write about the Ingalls family instead.

My set of Little House on the Prairie books came on my 8th birthday. That’s a long time ago now, but I still have them. I still read them.

(Yes, this is my actual set of books. Can you see how well-loved they are?)

Yes, you read that right. I still read them.

While the new stage musical didn’t make me jump up and cheer, it reminded me why I love these books. It’s because they’ve been with me through every stage of life. I meet Laura as a young girl. I followed her through the first four angst-filled years of her marriage. But the hold these books have on me is about more than following Laura’s life through the pages. It’s Mary and her incredible goodness. It’s Ma and her amazing wisdom. It’s Pa who never gives up and always has a song, in spite of the circumstances. It’s Mr. and Mrs. Boast and their hospitality and generosity. Ida’s and Mary Powers’ and Minnie’s undying friendship with Laura. Almanzo’s faithfulness. Mr. Edwards’ spunk.

I still pick up The Long Winter when life is stressful and I need a reminder that even when life is at its worst, the snow will eventually thaw, spring will eventually come. I reread These Happy Golden Years when I need to remember not the wildly romantic notions of young love, but the kind that comes slowly, in the midst of hard work and real life.

I understand that while these books are based on life, they are fiction. But somewhere in the blending of what was and what Laura Ingalls Wilder wished would be, a picture of truth emerged. Of wisdom to be gleaned. From good example and bad. Through suffering and joy. I’ve become a part of the Ingalls family over the years. Or maybe they’ve become part of mine.

What children’s (or middle grade or young adult) books still speak to you as an adult? Do you still reread books from your childhood?

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