Memorial Day has come and gone. I hope you took time to remember the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and their families as the summer of 2014 officially started. So, now that we are preparing for those lazy, hazy, crazy days, you can find an exhaustive list of things to do and see in the Ouachita area in the normal spot in the heart of this magazine. But, what to take along? Sunscreen, a sturdy hat with a brim, a hammock or at least a good lawn chair, and most importantly, a good book that will help you while away the hours.
I have several titles in my to-be-read stack this year both on my nightstand and on my new friend, the Kindle. Here is a quick rundown of some I’ve read recently that I can recommend.
First up: “What Once Was Lost” by Kansas author Kim Vogel Sawyer. Set around the turn of the previous century, the heroine of this story has been very happily providing a home and a bit of stability to a rather rag-tag group of people who are without a proper place to live for one reason or another. One terrible night, the residents of the “poor farm” are displaced by a fire that destroys the home Christina Willems family had established and left to her charge. Now, she has the responsibility of finding “temporary” solutions for all of them, while working to get the home rebuilt. In the process, she and all of the residents find that God’s plans are always so much better than their own.
Tamera Alexander has written two of my recent favorites. Set immediately following the Civil War in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, “Within My Heart” is a tale of bravely overcoming past pain and grief to move on to new life. As always, the hero and heroine are much more than one dimensional stereotypes. Their hopes, fears and failings make the reader want to keep turning pages well into the night. Regardless of the time period and setting, we can identify, and enjoy every minute of this tale. In a bit of a contrast, “A Beauty So Rare” is set in about the same time period in and around the Belmont plantation in Nashville, Tennessee. Since the author lives nearby, she makes this tale rich with details, and the feel of the opulent estate. Once again, the personalities of the characters shine, and when we get to know the heroine’s father, we can identify with the mixture of love and duty that make caring for our parents so rewarding and difficult. Another delight. By the way, anyone who loves cooking or raising flowers will not want to miss this one.
As always, one of my favorite escapes from the hot Arkansas weather is to find a book that is set in the winter. “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” by Susan May Warren is a delightful story about a group of people who get stranded together inside the house of one of the town’s matriarchs. Taking place right after the Second World War, each character has his or her own heartaches to deal with. It’s a well told and multi-layered story with some unexpected romance thrown in for good measure. Crank the air conditioning up, grab some hot chocolate and a blanket, and settle in for a great read!
Most of you know me well enough to understand that I love fictional stories as opposed to non-fiction when I’m reading for pleasure. I made an exception recently for my Little Rock friend Tara Johnson’s book “Hollow Victory”. Subtitled “ How to Identify & Disarm Five Landmines that make Victorious Christian Living Feel Like a Lie”, it is an eye-opening look in the mirror for any woman who feels like she is drowning while trying to live up to the expectations of others. Written by a lovely lady who has “been there” it is a great bit of encouragement for all ages.
Finally, for all of you who love romance and rodeos, I have the perfect pair of recent releases by local author Shannon Vannatter. “Rodeo Queen” takes place in modern day Ft. Worth and Shannon’s fictional town of Aubrey, Texas. Our heroine is a confident young woman who runs a clothing boutique when she’s not speeding around the dirt-floor arena with a flag. When a deranged stalker attacks her, she suddenly has to rely on a former boyfriend turned Texas Ranger who wants nothing more than to protect her. But, is he doing this because he loves her, or because he loves his job? “Rodeo Song” introduces the world of rock-star fame and paparazzi to another of our Texas belles. This time, a former beau has to convince our pretty cowgirl that there is more to him than bright lights and encounters with adoring groupies. Both are Love Inspired Heartsong Presents books, an imprint of the famous Harlequin line that mixes Christian values with heart revving emotions. Summer escapism at its finest!
The illustration that accompanies this column is called a “book-stack poem”. Just a bit of fun for bibliophiles. What happens when you arrange a few of your books in this way? I would love to see it. You can snap a quick picture and post it on the Ouachita Life Facebook page, or as a comment on my blog at www.jennycarlisle.net.
Have a great summer!