Summertime Reading Adventures

In other parts of the country, folks are looking for a “beach

read”. They plan to stretch out on a lounge chair, shaded by either a beach umbrella or a large-brimmed hat, and while away the hours. In the Ouachita region, we are more inclined to a “ceiling fan read”. It’s just too dang hot to stay out on any lake-shore or creek bank for too long. Regardless, it’s a wonderful time to get lost in some good fiction.

This year, your reading list will be a little different. It started off with an adventure! Because I count several authors as friends, I am sometimes asked to help promote a new project.  Many of my friends were asked to participate in something really exciting on July 2 at 6:00 p.m. A Book Launch party is today’s equivalent of a movie premiere. Without a requirement of wearing a silly hat, guests were able to learn more about the book and participate in the excitement live with fellow book lovers! Called Engraved on the Heart, this story is now officially launched, and gaining attention from all directions!

The new book’s author is Central Arkansas’s own Tara Johnson. She is a lively wife and mom who shares her heart through her music and her inspirational messages at every opportunity. Her first work of fiction, set in the Civil War era. highlights the all too real struggle of a young woman who deals with a health issue that causes seizures. In a time when physical weakness was looked upon with disdain and isolation, she shows courage and strength, knowing that God has a plan for her life. Insider’s tip – I won a contest to help name the male protagonist of the book. So, you will see a character named Jennie mentioned somewhere in the book! There will be a prize from me for the first person to find it!

I have a confession to make now. When I started reading this book I thought I would love it because I love it’s author. But, the story began to sweep me along, and now, I am totally enthralled. It involves the Underground Railroad, and deals with the timeless issues of doing the right thing, and treating other humans with respect and compassion. A beautiful story with a handsome hero and a believable heroine. Perfect summertime escape. Have I ever steered you wrong? Read this book!

A tradition of this column is to offer up a Christmas book to read during the heat of a Ouachita summer. Try “Restoring Christmas” by Cynthia Ruchti. This tale combines a home improvement television show with a tale of a couple who are defining their lives and their careers. Also, a fascinating mystery about the house and its owner, which unfolds as the demolition and rebuilding progresses. Short enough to be satisfying, involved enough to keep you guessing. This is another favorite author of mine, and I’m sure you will be a new fan of hers too.

Another favorite author is enjoying tremendous success with a blockbuster hit called “Before We Were Yours”.  Lisa Wingate is a former resident of Mena, Arkansas, so some of you may have actually shopped at the grocery store with her. This book, which is her thirtieth, is a sensitive portrayal of a real life sinister plot to kidnap children and “sell” them to wealthy childless couples. Set in the 30s and 40s in the Memphis Tennessee area, there are still people alive who were involved in this scandal. The story is told from the perspective of one of the children, and also from the point of view of a present-day woman who is uncovering the truth about her own family’s history. The transitions from the past to the present make for a fascinating and hard to put down account. This book was recently chosen by the Arkansas State Library as their selection for the annual If All of Arkansas Read the Same Book  program. It has also been on the New York Times best-sellers list for several weeks.

If you are in the mood for lighter reading, try a series by Ane Mulligan, called The Chapel Springs series. Set in a Southern tourist town, the main characters will remind you of your old friends Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz, and their humorous predicaments will keep you smiling long after the stories are finished. It’s not all fun and games. Some lessons are learned about how families love each other. Its all well done, and great fun.

And then of course, if you are looking for some short selections to read between trips to the pool or popsicles on the porch with the grand-kids, you can find a collection of these monthly ramblings in my book called Turn, Turn, Turn. You can purchase it on Amazon in paperback or Kindle format. It will include some columns you may have missed, some you enjoyed in years past, and one or two you haven’t seen before. My hope is that it brings a smile to your face, and makes you want to be kind to someone you encounter in your daily walk. Just for you, my loyal readers. Enjoy the sunshine but be careful. You are loved!

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