Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sarah, My Beloved by Sharlene MacLaren - Review & Interview

Sarah My Beloved (Little Hickman Creek Series #2)
by Sharlene MacLaren
softcover, 2007, Whitaker House
ISBN: 088368425X
365 pages

Sarah Woodward was no stranger to making the best of difficult situations. Whether it was leaving her life of ease behind to traveling to Little Hickman, Kentucky as a soon-to-be-bride, or finding out the man she was supposed to marry was marrying another. Sarah is determined to stay come fire or storm, positive God wants her there.

And fire and storm do come in the form of Rocky Callahan. Left to take care of his deceased sister’s children, Rocky is battling pain of his own. Having no use for God or anyone else, Rocky is as cold and hard as his name.

Sarah has little use for a man who is as heartless to his niece and nephew as Rocky seems to be, but when he offers a solution to Sarah’s problem and his own, can she marry a man who hides behind such a gruff exterior? Agreeing to a marriage in name only, Sarah and Rocky embark on a marriage that will take both their determination and God’s to make work.

Sharlene MacLaren pulled me into Sarah’s story with the first few lines. I admired Sarah’s determination to stay in a place where she knew no one because she felt God had called her there. If not for the original reason she thought, then for another she had yet to discover. Just that fact about Sarah made me want to finish the story. But when you throw in a man who desperately needs to return to God’s love, and two adorable children, I couldn’t put the book down.

Sarah My Beloved is the second book in the Little Hickman Creek Series.

A Christian for over forty years, and a lover of the English language, Shar has always enjoyed dabbling in writing—poetry, fiction, various essays, and freelancing for periodicals and newspapers.

Shar is a an occasional speaker for her local MOPS organization, is involved in KIDS’ HOPE USA, a mentoring program for at-risk children, counsels young women in the Apples of Gold program, and is active in two weekly Bible studies. She and her husband, Cecil, live in Spring Lake, Michigan with their lovable collie, Dakota, and Mocha, their lazy, fat cat.
Questions & Answers with Sharlene MacLaren

Gail: Sarah, the main character in the book, feels God has led her to Little Hickman for a reason. Do you feel there is an area in your life God has called you to?
Sharlene: ABSOLUTELY! Back in the year 2000, when I was just a couple of years away from retirement, God laid it on my heart to pursue writing Christian fiction. I know this is my “calling” as I’m very passionate about it, and I love spreading the Gospel message through the written word. I feel like I’m serving on my own little mission field, but I’m doing it from the comforts of my office.

Gail: Writers usually leave a little bit of themselves in each character; does Sarah have a bit of you in her?
Sharlene:Well, I’m not sure Sarah and I have the same personalities, but we probably have a few likenesses. I think it’s hard for an author to distance herself completely from her characters.

Gail: What are you currently working on?
Sharlene: Now that my Little Hickman Creek series is complete, all three books, that is, I’m working on my next series titled The Daughters of Jacob Kane. This will start releasing in January ’09 and has a West Michigan 1903-06 setting.

Gail: Romance has always been a favorite for you, and it looks like on your website you have been married for a long time. Share with us, if you will, a little bit about the romance in your own life.
Sharlene: God has blessed me with a wonderful, handsome (and I’m not prejudiced here), romantic man! We’ve enjoyed 32 years together and the love is still very much alive and cookin’. He does the sweetest things for me, and I suppose I reciprocate. We love to serve each other. Not a day goes by but what we don’t ask, “Is there something I can do for you – or get you?” Marriage should never be 50/50. It should always be 100/100!

Gail: You recently retired from teaching school. What grade did you teach?
Sharlene: I taught 2nd grade for 27 years and 4th for the final 4. It was a glorious experience. I love kids. They are just the best thing on earth, so funny, cute, and entertaining. Plus, they are sponges when it comes to learning.

Gail: When did you seriously start pursuing writing?
Sharlene: As I touched on earlier, I started writing shortly before retirement – in the year 2000. I pled with God to give me a new direction for my life, and he planted a seed of passion in my heart for writing. That seed has grown and continued to blossom ever since.

Gail: Tell us if you can, one bad habit, if you have any!
Sharlene: Only one??? Well, let’s see, to narrow it down – I do love chocolate to a fault, and actually all things fattening and not good for me. I’m blessed not to have gained a lot of weight because of my lack of self-discipline when it comes to my poor eating habits.

Gail: You traveled internationally after college, where was you favorite place?
Sharlene: Yes, I traveled throughout the US and parts of Canada – way back in the mid-70s. Now I’m truly dating myself. It’s hard to pin down my all-time favorite place because every state we visited (including lovely Canada) had so, so many unique aspects. We spent the longest period in California (three weeks), so I think my memories are freshest of that state, but then we breezed through the lovely state of Vermont, and I recall its lush, green countryside with such fondness. And Kansas – what I loved about Kansas was the WIDE-OPEN SPACES, how big the sky seemed to me. Of course, I love Florida – the palm trees, the gorgeous beaches, the tropical flowers, the HEAT! Oh, and Arizona with its miles of desert and interesting cactus and other desert life.

Nope, I can’t narrow it down. It’s impossible.

Gail: Being a wife, mom, grandma, and involved in all sorts of activities, when do you find time to write?
Sharlene: I have to carve out time, sometimes even force myself to write when other things press in on me. Writing with deadlines makes an author realize how precious time truly is, and how very little of it can be spent sitting on a sofa watching TV. haha

Gail: What is something about you that most people don’t know?
Sharlene: I think of myself as an open book. I love to laugh till my sides hurt, both with others and at myself. I think we are funny creatures, we humans, and if we can’t laugh at the silly things we do and say, we lose so much of life’s meaning.

I love romance movies, books with happy endings, watching people fall in love, good music, heartrending poetry, candy, holding hands with my darling man, hugging my grandchildren and daughters, sweet kisses, smiles, and reading the Word of God.

Every night without fail, no matter what time I come to bed, I read several chapters of my Bible. I love soaking up God’s precious Word, having that be the last thing on my mind before I close my eyes.
Thanks Sharlene for letting us get to know you better!

Gail Quistorff

Monday, April 21, 2008

Change and Cherish Series by Jane Kirkpatrick - Review

A Clearing in the Wild (Change and Cherish Historical Series #1)
by Jane Kirkpatrick
softcover, 2006, Waterbrook Press
ISBN: 1578567343
384 pgs.

Spirited young Emma Wagner chafes at the constraints of her 1850s religious community, which values conformity over independent thought, especially in women. Skeptical of the colony’s growing emphasis on preparing for “the last days,” Emma clashes with their increasingly autocratic leader—and faces the unexpected consequences of pursuing independence.

A Tendering in the Storm (Change and Cherish Historical Series #2)
by Jane Kirkpatrick
softcover, 2007, Waterbrook Press
ISBN: 1578567351
400 pgs.

This lyrical novel, based on an historical figure of the 1800s, follows the spirited and intelligent Emma Giesy, who achieves her goal of separating her family from the repressive religious community in which she grew up. But unexpected and dire consequences leave her family—and her faith—struggling to survive.

A Mending at the Edge (Change and Cherish Historical Series #3)
by Jane Kirkpatrick
softcover, 2008, Waterbrook Press
ISBN: 1578569796
416 pgs.

This richly textured novel, the third in the acclaimed Change and Cherish series, follows the historical figure of Emma Wagner Giesy, who chafes under the restrictions of her 1860s religious colony. When her bid to belong in her unique way unravels her most precious relationships, she seeks new ways to stitch meaning into her life.

Jane Kirkpatrick is the best-selling author of two nonfiction books and fourteen historical novels, including the popular Kinship and Courage series. Her award-winning writing has appeared in more than fifty publications, including Sports Afield and Decision. She’s won the coveted Western Heritage Wrangler Award, an honor shared by such writers as Larry McMurtry and Barbara Kingsolver. Jane is a licensed clinical social worker as well as an internationally recognized speaker. She and her husband, Jerry, ranch 160 acres in eastern Oregon .

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

American Patriot Series by J.M. Hochstetler

Plunging us into American history, J.M. Hochstetler recreates the tensions between the British and the colonies in 1775 Boston.

Daughter of Liberty (American Patriot Series, Book 1)
by J.M. Hochstetler
Softcover, 2004, Zondervan
ISBN: 0310252563
368 pages

In the series' first book Daughter of Liberty, Elizabeth Howard finds herself torn between honoring her parents and their Tory loyalties and fighting for the country she loves. An undercover courier known only as Oriole, Elizabeth finds a freedom of her own helping her country and the Sons of Liberty.

But danger awaits her with the arrival of Captain Jonathan Carelton who fights for the Seventeenth Light Dragoon – and England. Working side by side with General Gage, Captain Carelton’s special assignment is finding and stopping Oriole. Staying in the town house of the Howard family he finds himself intrigued by their charming daughter Elizabeth.

Elizabeth flirts with chance as she charms the British soldiers on one side and gathers information from them with the other. Struggling against the mutual attraction between Captain Carelton and herself, she fights to keep her head above the waters of growing confrontations between the British Regulators and the Sons of Liberty.

Native Son (Book 2, American Patriot Series)
by J.M Hochstetler
softcover, 2005, Zondervan
ISBN: 0310252571
320 pages

In the second book Native Son, Jonathan has given his heart to Elizabeth and his loyalties to General George Washington. Elizabeth continues to balance her days charming the English and her nights hazardously slipping away to give their secrets to the Sons of Liberty.

But war and special assignments from General Washington keep Jonathan and Elizabeth apart. Carelton undertakes a journey into hostile Indian territory and find himself captured and a slave. Fighting to get away and he finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into his past life with the Shawnee.

Meanwhile Elizabeth must remain behind continuing her work as a spy. Her dance between the two enemies becomes more dangerous as her identity is compromised. Receiving word of Jonathan’s capture and possible death she is desperate for a way to find him. Then suddenly word begins to spread among the British of a white warrior leading raids against their outposts.

Ms. Hochstetler weaves the fascinating story of the early outbreak of war in the colonies. In that tale we find a love that is found, lost, and fighting to survive amidst all that is happening. I look forward to the 3rd book in this series.

Ms. Hochstetler was born in central Indiana and grew up on a farm near Kokomo. In 1970 she graduated from Indiana University cum laude, taking a degree in Germanic languages, with minors in history and sociology. She moved to Tennessee in 1992.

Gail Quistorff