Book Review–Sweet On You by Chautona Havig

For the third time now, I’ve been invited to read one of Chautona Havig’s books before publication and help her to launch it! What fun. She is one of my favorite authors; I haven’t been disappointed with any of her books that I’ve read.13087624_1162523900465209_6338254437451990389_n

Here is my review, which will be here until it publishes on Esther’s website:

I discovered one of Chautona Havig’s books a couple of years ago, and loved it, but didn’t read any of her others till about a year ago. Once I got started, however, I was hooked. I love her books! Most of them are fairly light, easy reads, but they all make you think. She has a knack for showing how Christians should live in the form of a gripping story. Her books are not preachy, but very definitely portray people living out their faith in Jesus.

Sweet On You is a little different from a lot of this author’s books. The main character is Madeline Brown, a young lady in a midwestern city sometime around 1901. She knows what society demands of young ladies, and what her aunt’s expectations are. She also knows that if she oversteps conventions she’ll harm her father’s political career. Therefore, she will not join the suffragettes or the temperance movement. However, she can’t stand to just sit at home and do nothing!

One evening, when Madeline is at a party at her friend’s house, she notices that Edith is receiving special attention from a man new to the city. Then, she notices something strange. She starts wondering about Vernon—and ends up finding herself becoming a detective!

I loved reading Sweet On You and watching Madeline investigate clues around the city while trying not to shock her aunt too much. Of course, I was fairly sure what the outcome of the investigation would be long before Madeline arrived at a conclusion, but it was quite intriguing to watch her using the resources at her disposal to learn the truth. I look forward to reading the next book in the series and seeing Madeline’s growth, not only as a sleuth, but also as a Christian. Her faith seems to be very shallow in this book, not at all like most of the author’s characters. There are a couple of friends of Madeline’s who seem to have a very strong faith in God, and Madeline considers them to be fanatics—I will be very interested to see what Havig does with her in the sequel! I can’t wait to read the next book, especially with the cliff-hanger with which this one ended. There are supposed to be six books in the series eventually.

I enjoyed the vocabulary used in this story as well. Havig did a lot of research into the way people talked and wrote around 1900, and her characters consistently use appropriate language. Another thing I found interesting was the way people thought about new inventions that were just coming into use—their reactions seemed quite natural. I highly recommend Sweet On You if you are looking for light, inspiring reading.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. You can buy it, in  Kindle format, here. Edited to add: I forgot to mention this at first, but if you buy the book this first week, you can get a free bonus short story about one of the minor characters in the book. Find the details here.

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Book Review—Miriam by Mesu Andrews

I’ve seen mentions several times online, lately, about Miriam, a new novel by Mesu Andrews. The reviews I saw sounded pretty intriguing. They said that Andrews had done extensive research, both in the Bible and in history, to try to flesh out the story of Miriam, the sister of Aaron and Moses. I finally grew so interested that I looked on a few sites to try to find a copy of this book that I could get for review. It turned out to be every bit as interesting as had been promised.9781601426017

In this story, Miriam is 86 years old, a retired midwife but still a sough-for healer when her people are mistreated by the Egyptian overseers. She is also a prophetess, the only person to whom El Shaddai reveals Himself. When Pharoah has a pair of terrible dreams, and desperately needs someone to interpret, Miriam’s nephew Eleazar, bodyguard to one of Pharoah Ramesses’ firstborn sons, rashly mentions that Miriam can interpret dreams. When she goes to court to give the interpretation, she ends up putting the whole family in danger. This danger only gets worse as Moses returns from his 40 years of exile in Midian with unwelcome ultimatums for Pharoah.

Throughout the story of the plagues of Egypt is woven a love story—actually, two of them. The main focus of the book is the Biblical account, but the love story helps to carry the whole story forward and adds a bit of tension. I was quite intrigued by the insights into Miriam’s life, and had to stop and think about a number of things—is this really supported by the Bible, or not? Amazingly, some of the most incredible things were. I could not find any details that contradicted Scripture.

I really liked the way Andrews described the plagues. She brought to life very vividly the absolute terror of the people of Egypt, both Egyptians and Hebrews. The sense of wonder and awe when God made a difference between His people and the Egyptians came through vividly, as well. I also enjoyed watching as the Hebrews learned to know and love the God they had totally lost track of during their time in Egypt as slaves.

If you enjoy historical novels as much as I do, you will enjoy Miriam. I appreciated that, even though it includes a romance, there are no explicit descriptions of kisses or other physical relationships. I expected to find scenes I didn’t like in the book, but was pleasantly surprised to find it clean. And, I was pleased that the romances were a secondary part of the book; the most of the book is about the conflict between Moses and the Hebrews on the one hand, and Pharoah and the Egyptians on the other hand. The romances are basically a vehicle to carry the story on. Another facet of the story which I found fascinating was the perception of God and the way He revealed Himself to His people.

WARNING: There is some killing and a few beatings are described.

You can buy the book here. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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Today

Yesterday we spent the day in the city, with a couple of appointments and shopping for Mr. Inventor’s next project: making a large trailer. He needed gas for his MIG welder, and steel for the frame of the trailer. I had told him I was not going to try to help him figure that out, so Gayle took the day off work (yay! We ought to come up with excuses like that more often!) and went with us. On the way home in the evening, we had been invited to a friend’s house for tea. After she extended the invitation, she realized that yesterday was Passover. Their family celebrates the Christian Passover, so she invited us to join them for that instead of just an ordinary meal. What an interesting experience! I was awed at the way the Jewish customs, which are not detailed in the Bible, point so directly to Jesus. It made for a late night getting home, but was very worthwhile.

Today, then, I was very tired, and after a short nap this afternoon I finally got to the kitchen again to try to get something done. I was feeling like I hadn’t done anything yet today—and then looked around and decided to take pictures of all the projects that were underway. Nice to know that I have done something, after all!

I’m making a batch of cheese—and seeing this picture reminds me that I need to check it!

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I put chicken legs and a large pumpkin in the coal range oven this morning. This is my favorite version of a slow-cooker—nearly free, and the water is heated at the same time!

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Bread is now baked; we were totally out.

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We butchered a turkey, two roosters, and two ducks this morning, when I saw a couple of turkeys in the garden one-too-many times. The turkey was the size of the roosters, but will give us a meal (I plan to roast it in the coal range in a couple of days; if I put meat in early, then let the fire go out after about six hours, it’s just right for dinner.)

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I finished the chicken broth that I started several days ago, after we butchered 13 chickens.

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Mr. Imagination wanted juice, so I helped him make some apple/carrot juice.

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We’re also enjoying two new babies! We brought these kittens home last night; the family who fed us the Passover supper had six to choose from. I chose the black one; her name is Linda. Mr. Inventor chose the tabby; his name is Leif. They are so much fun! 5-IMG_3305

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February Garden

The garden is now looking pretty sad, after drying out with six more weeks of no rain, a howling wind one day that sucked the moisture right out of the leaves, and then a frost, but it was gorgeous in February. For once, I got a few pictures of it near the peak. Mr. Intellectual grew this beautiful sunflower.03-IMG_2945

The pumpkins from two gardens grew toward each other. Just after they met, though, we decided we needed a path between them to the gate at the far end, so we redirected the vines to keep it open in the middle.17-IMG_2987

For a little while, it felt almost like a tsunami spilling out of the garden! The pumpkins and zucchini were trying their best to take over the world. The frost has nearly finished them off by now, though.

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We left the onions lay out to dry for a little while. We have enough for a few months!

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Mr. Imagination frequently checked on the pumpkins, looking for large ones. I scratched his initials into a few of them.

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Giveaway!

Esther is having a giveaway on her blog! I told her I’d help her spread the word, so if you’re interested please go here. I told her I’d like to enter–I’d like to win this one–but she says I can’t because I’m family. Oh, well.

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My Sweeties in February

As always, this has been a busy summer-you can probably tell how busy I am by the frequency (or lack thereof) of posting! Today, we are on our way home from a weekend in Timaru, so while the battery holds out I’ll try to get a few posts ready to upload when we get home. Esther installed a program for me (Windows Live Writer) that is wonderful. You write your blog post and get the pictures the way you want them, offline, and then publish whenever you can! As I write, we’re driving through very flat farming country just south of Ashburton. There are large flat paddocks stretching away from the highway in both directions, and a railroad parallels the highway to my left. I’m seeing nicely manicured shelterbelts (hedges), and now a plantation of pine trees. There is a lot of dairy in this area, and some sheep. We see a lot of enormous stacks of giant square bales of hay, and irrigation rigs are everywhere. We passed one center-pivot irrigation rig with 18 sections a little while ago! I should have had Gayle push the odometer to measure its length, but didn’t think of it in time.

Anyway, here are a bunch of pictures of my younger children, from February. Little Miss loves to eat. She discovered the room, behind the garage, where we keep fruit (it’s cooler than anywhere else), and if someone leaves the door open she helps herself—usually to three items at once. She holds one in her right hand to eat, and clutches the other two to her chest with her left hand for later. Here, she had an apricot—what a yummy mess! It looks like Mr. Imagination had one, too.01-IMG_292102-IMG_2926

Mr. Intellectual and Mr. Diligence on their bikes.

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I found this whiteboard at a secondhand shop, and we hung it in the kitchen beside where we do school. Mr. Imagination loves to draw on it. This is a picture of him; the top circle is his forehead.

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Mr. Diligence eating a picnic lunch.

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The hose was leaking, and Mr. Imagination and Little Miss had great fun playing in the puddle!

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Mr. Sweetie considering how to do the cleaning!

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Little Miss was worried that she might have to have a haircut, too!

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The wheel turns! For several days, she spent a lot of time turning it!

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Flyswatter in one hand and a peach in the other—she’s all set!

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Mr. Imagination made hollyhock dolls for awhile.

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Little Miss loves to draw, too. Thankfully, she sticks with the whiteboard, although she uses pencils as well as whiteboard markers.

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One day, the two littlest boys made suits of armor and weapons by stapling together scrap paper.

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A Few More Pictures from January

Esther let me look through her memory card before she deleted everything, a couple of weeks ago, and I found some lovely pictures she took of the boys and Little Miss. I thought Grandma might enjoy them, so here they are.

This is Mr. Imagination and Mr. Sweetie, studying a large bug they found.01-DSCF1111

Little Miss, wishing she would be allowed to help pick plums (at the edge of a busy road, with a bank going down steeply! Sorry, little girl, not this year.). The next three pictures are from that time, as well. We enjoyed the rare close-up look at a cicada. Little Miss is on my lap right now, and has been exclaiming over the picture of herself!

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Mr. Handyman took Little Miss with him to town one day when I asked him to run an errand for me.

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When we got some rain in January, the boys loved playing in the creekful of water. Mr. Inventor took Little Miss for a boat ride, and Mr. Diligence was dared to ride his bike across a 2×4 across the water—with predictably funny results!

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Little Miss wanted a pea—but couldn’t figure out how to pick it, so she ate it still attached to the vine!

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In Memory

Over a month ago, I posted that we had a new kitten. We loved that kitten, and thoroughly enjoyed having him, but something must have been wrong. One morning last week, we found him dead in his cage. Mr. Inventor, who had found him and who was the primary caregiver, was especially sad. Here are several pictures we took while we had him. He especially liked my rocking chair.23-IMG_300624-IMG_3030

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We had to be careful about sitting down; he loved to cuddle under blankets on a couch to sleep!

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These last two pictures were taken the night before he died, when we had no idea anything was seriously wrong. We’re hoping to get a couple of kittens sometime, now that everyone has had a taste of the fun they are.

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Digging a Well

When you need water for irrigation, and you know that two of your neighbors have found water at 6-10 feet below the surface, and you have lots of boys with lots of energy, what do you do? You get them interested in the challenge of digging a well by hand, that’s what! The four oldest boys have been spending every spare minute for the past week or more, digging. The soil is solid clay, under the top 6-8 inches of topsoil, and with the drought that is now well into its second year, that clay is bone dry and not quite but almost rock-hard. They are chipping it away, a 6-inch level at a time, with their spade, and using it to fill in holes in the paddock. Mr. Inventor and Mr. Diligent built a crane to lift the buckets of clay out. I thought it was pretty ingenious! It only lasted a few hours, long enough for me to get these pictures, and then a screw came out of the hinge. They are now pulling the buckets of clay up with a rope. As of last evening, the well was 5.5 feet deep. Hopefully in another week I can report success! 12-IMG_312013-IMG_312414-IMG_312515-IMG_312616-IMG_3127

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Gore Bay on Waitangi Day

Waitangi Day (the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the Maori and the English in 1840) fell on a Saturday this year, so Monday this week was a holiday. As always, we enjoyed having Gayle home for the day. He and the boys spent the morning in the garden, ripping out the pea vines and working the ground to replant the fall garden, while Esther and I worked on cabbage in the house. Then, we took a picnic lunch out to Gore Bay. It was a gorgeous day, just right to sit on the beach! I thought it was a bit cool for swimming, but all the boys except Mr. Imagination went in for awhile.IMG_2949

Esther read for awhile.

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Mr. Diligence found several rocks and experimented with what color they made when he wrote with them on another rock.

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Mr. Imagination picked a handful of nasturtiums, which grow wild along the sea.

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On our way home, we drove through the Domain, and came across a family we know. We invited them to our house for dinner that evening, and had a nice visit—a perfect ending to a good day!

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