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Mar 29, 2012
It’s my privilege to welcome author Jennifer Fromke today. Her new release, A Familiar Shore, hit the bookstores on March 23. This book is partly set in Northern Michigan – my own stompin’ grounds – so I’m anxious to get to the questions!

Pegg: You grew up in Bay City, Michigan. What disastrous turn of events pried you from our fair state? 

Jennifer: I’m calling it a blessed disaster: true love. Met my hubby and he was accepted to med school in MN, so that’s where we moved. Then we had to follow his “match” for residency training, which landed us in St Louis. He landed his dream job, working with his brother in NC, so that is how I was “pried” away from the land of Petoskey stones (which I have hidden all over my house because they make me happy).

Pegg: True love will do that to you! I understand that you and your hubby regularly spend time in Northern Michigan. What is your favorite thing about being here?

Jennifer: My dad has a place between Traverse City and Charlevoix. I yearn to be at the lake all year long - especially when NC gets stuck in 95+ temperatures every day for weeks on end. So we plan a trip every year at the end of summer to escape the heat, and play in the beautiful waters of northern Michigan. I love the look of the trees, the sound of the lake lapping against the shore, being with family, and playing on boats. The cottage is situated on the eastern shore of a lake, so we make a point to watch the sunset every night over the water - and the sun sets so late up there! Almost an hour later than here in NC. In August, the universe is situated so we look at it “the long way,” which means there are more stars to see. And I think somehow, I see even more at the lake, with no lights nearby. I love staying up really late and watching for shooting stars beside the lake.

Pegg: I love this photo of you by the lake! A Familiar Shore is your first novel and you’ve set it, at least in part, here in my neck of the woods. What prompted you to use this area as the backdrop for the story?

Jennifer: I think it was my love for the place . . . but I also wanted to set it at a family cottage. I wanted to present a weekend when an extended family would be there, and my excuse became Memorial Day weekend - when everybody goes up north. The cottage in the story is on Lake Charlevoix.

Pegg: Will we Michiganders find some our favorite things in your story? Walks in the woods, blueberry picking, fishing, some Traverse City cherries, our lovely Great Lakes shoreline, or a nice local vintage of wine?

Jennifer: Definitely! There’s an eventful foray into the woods, you’ll take a spin through a cherry orchard in bloom, the marina in Charlevoix, lilacs, and of course, Murdick’s fudge!

Pegg: I know you teach Bible studies and are a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. What spiritual message will we find in your story?

Jennifer: While there is not an overt spiritual thread in the story, it was inspired by the story of Joseph. I wanted to place a contemporary character in the same place Joseph stood when he had the opportunity to take revenge on his brothers for all the trouble they brought upon him. The story is informed and backed up with a Christian worldview and the reason I wrote it like this is because I saw an enormous need for books in the ABA that are not laced with sex, cussing, graphic violence, and the like. We need more stories written with a Christian worldview that might somehow relate to people without one. While that means the novel is not evangelistic, I’m hopeful that this novel will be the first of many contributions to the general market, which provide a meaningful story sans junk.

Pegg: I know a couple of authors who are publishing in the ABA with books like yours. I think it’s great that a Christian worldview is available this way. Some people can be reached through traditional evangelism and some seeds need to be sprouted more softly. People recognize and receive Christ through different experiences. Thank goodness we have people who can write in all sorts of different ways!

Thank you for spending time with us today! Your book is available in print and digital editions at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but of course, if anyone can support their local bookstore – so much the better!
Mar 22, 2012
Love Finds You in Nazareth, PennsylvaniaLove Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania by Melanie Dobson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The idea of marriage by lot drew me to read this book.  The whole idea of selecting and marrying someone based on a drawing is fascinating and more than a little... weird.  The story, however, is much more than that.

My heart broke for Suzanna several times as she follows what she believes is the Lord's leading and His will in her life.  It's not easy for her for many reasons - no spoilers! - but she is steadfast.  She is a bit of a tragic figure, but not in a victim type of way. 

Christian, her husband, is another matter altogether.  He is shallow and self-centered at the beginning of the story and the people around him suffer for it.  He doesn't work through that without getting beat up a little along the way.  Kinda like... real life!

The culture within the Moravian church was - how best to say it - very foreign to what we know now.  I could not have lived like that.  No way!  But I can see how people would find comfort and community within it.  It wasn't for the free spirit types, though, not by a long straw!

I enjoyed the subplot involving the Christian Indians as much as the major storyline.  Well written and with interesting characters on both sides of the fence.  I highly recommend this one for older teens and up. 
Mar 19, 2012
The Scarlet Letter The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


One should pick up Hawthorne every so often just to remind self how dumbed-down our language has become.  Yea, verily!  To my embarrassment, I had to look up several words during this re-reading.  *sigh*  'Tis shameful!

Who can but give 5 stars to this book?  A story so wonderfully told about so poignant a subject.  My heart fairly bled for yon Hester Prynne and little Pearl.  Conversely, I'd like to slap a backbone on the good Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale.  And yet, as ever again with this reading, the good man gets his comeuppance and marshals himself to do that right thing in the end.  Not that it helps Hester Prynne or little Pearl.  In a wonderful twist of fate, 'tis old Roger Chillingworth who provides for them, the old toad.

If you haven't picked up "The Scarlet Letter" since your 10th grade English teacher demanded it, do yourself a favor and indulge in a literary treat.  Do so with a dictionary within reach.
Mar 15, 2012
“EweNika says the shepherd will open the pasture gate soon.”

“Remember the taste of grass?”


“Do I ever!” Tap lifted her top lip and sucked the damp air deep into her lungs. “I can almost taste it already.”


Twinkle jerked her head up, ears swiveling toward the farmhouse. Tap took a step forward and watched the shepherd walk around the corner of the barn. Alerted by their actions, the older ewes raced across the paddock, flinging mud in all directions and bawling to be released onto the first grass of spring.


Twinkle and Tap hung back and watched as the shepherd opened the pasture gate and leaned on the gatepost. EweNika sprinted through the opening, the rest of the flock flowing behind her like sand through an hourglass. The young sisters came through last, saving their strongest burst of energy to plunge past the shepherd. Wool bouncing against their backs, they skidded to a halt in unison.


Tap ripped up a mouthful of the vibrant green shoots and squeezed her eyes shut, chewing slowly. Twinkle grabbed three bites before stopping to chew.


“Why are you eating so slowly?” Twinkle mumbled around the juicy greens in her mouth.


“I want to savor each bite.”


“It is a taste worth savoring.” Tap’s eyes popped open at EweNika’s deep voice.


“Why doesn’t the grass taste this good all year?” Twinkle asked around a fresh mouthful.


“If it did, we would grow bored with it and long for something else,” EweNika said.


“Impossible,” Tap said, “I could never grow tired of this.”


“Isn’t that what you said last fall when the shepherd brought in the hay?” Twinkle asked, her eyes living up to her name. “And just yesterday you were complaining it tasted like dust and mouse droppings.”


“I suppose, but hay isn’t spring grass.”


“It doesn’t matter what it is,” EweNika said. “We need change and variety to teach us to savor the differences. The Creator knew this and gave us many good things, each in their own season.”


“Well this is my favorite season and I’m going to savor each bite,” Twinkle said, sucking a bit of juice into her windpipe which set off a spate of coughing until her eyes watered.


“You can’t savor while you gulp,” Tap said with a nod of her head. “Slow down if you want to savor it.”


“Your sister is quite right,” EweNika said as she stepped away from the young ewes. Over her shoulder she added one parting comment, “Slow down and savor the good things in life. You can’t enjoy what you rush past.”


The girls watched the wise old ewe amble off and looked at each other before emitting a sheepish giggle and plunging their noses back into the rich spring offering.





T
his post is part of Christian Writers’ March Blog Chain on the topic, “Savor.” Check out the other Blog Chain posts by clicking the links right.

Mar 12, 2012
Elizabeth of Saginaw BayElizabeth of Saginaw Bay by Donna Winters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Elizabeth doesn't find what she expects when she steps off the boat into Michigan's wilderness.  Tricked by her husband's uncle, they've invested all they own to purchase a lot in town - only to find it's still forest and the town doesn't exist yet.  Forced to be pioneers, Elizabeth and her husband struggle to adapt and carve out a life in the wilderness. 

Tension keeps the reader turning each page.  Elizabeth is a likeable and realistic character, an intriguing mixture of spunky and loyal. The characters she meets in her new home are diverse and interesting as well, pioneers and Indians alike.  Another intriguing read from Michigan's past by Donna Winters. 

A wonderful story for adults, but also very suitable for 'tweens and teens. 
Mar 10, 2012
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary GenerationFounding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Good insights into the lives of Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Without the recommendation of my son, I never would have gotten through the first chapter. If you can survive the author's lengthy explanation of why he wrote this book, the rest is much more readable. The final chapters, which delve into complex relationship between Adams and Jefferson, are the best part of the book. While most of this story is well known, Joseph Ellis brings out nuances of their relationship by reprinting excerpts from their private letters. That alone makes it worth the read.
Mar 5, 2012
The RadianceThe Radiance by John Robinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book landed on top of my "to read" pile since it comes from one of my favorite authors.  I was not disappointed! 

John Robinson is a master at creating characters who walk right off the page.  In "The Radiance", it's Travis Walker.  He's as straight-arrow-honest and loaded with integrity as any hero you'd want to meet.  Except he's not a hero. He's the neighbor next door, the guy down the road, the fellow at the gas station who holds the door for you.  His claim to fame and the basis for this story is his brother, one of the movers and shakers in a high-rise tower where he pulls the strings that make the world go 'round.  Until that world is rocked on its foundation, then he needs his brother.

Intelligence doesn't change human nature.  Decisions that will impact the entire planet come down to a matter of choice.  The ending of "The Radiance" leaves me hoping Mr. Robinson has a sequel behind his belt.

If you're looking for a high-brow, urban thriller... this isn't it.  If you're looking for a slice of America, served up with a side order of cheese grits and topped off with a wedge of apple pie... this one is for you!