Monday, September 10, 2012

Band of Sisters: A Book Review

Hello everyone! Today I'll be reviewing Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke. I received this book from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review.

 When I read the summary of this book, I was instantly intrigued. I love historical fiction, and this book looked different then any I have read.

From the back cover: New York City, 1910
Driven by a shameful past and a perilous future, Maureen O’Reilly and her sister flee Ireland in search of safety, liberty, and opportunity. But after surviving the rigors of Ellis Island, Maureen learns that their benefactor has died, and his family—refusing to own his debt—casts her out. Impoverished and in danger of deportation, Maureen connives to find employment in a prominent Manhattan department store, only to discover the elegant facade hides a dangerous secret.

Despite her family’s disapproval, Olivia Wakefield vows to honor her father’s promise but can’t find Maureen, the woman her brother-in-law so rudely turned away. Unexpected help comes from a local businessman, who Olivia dares hope will become more than an ally, even as she fears the secrets he’s hiding.

As women begin disappearing from the department store, Olivia rallies influential ladies in her circle to help Maureen stand against injustice and fight for the lives of their growing band of sisters. But will they be too late? And in the midst of a world gone mad, can either woman open her heart to divine leading or the love it might bring?

 This is a story of suffering, love, and the one who redeems us all. I was sucked into the story, hastily reading through the pages. My heart hurt for Maureen, and I longed for things to turn out right for her. I felt for her younger sister, Katie Rose, as well, until she started acting like a spoiled brat. I didn't like her so much after that. Olivia was an honorable woman, wishing to keep the promise her father made over twenty years before. And Joshua Keeton was a gentlemen anyone would be happy to meet. I loved all the characters, really. Mrs. Gohlke has a way of making every person come to life, no matter how big or small their role.

 Band of Sisters is a page turner that I would recommend for anyone thirteen and up. It's historically accurate, and keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering what's going to happen to Maureen and the other characters. But more then entertaining, this book also contains an important, sobering message. What would Jesus do? White slavery is a prevalent thing in our time. It hasn't diminished, and some aren't even aware of it. What can we do to work against this evil practice?

 I'm only a teenaged girl. I don't have much of a way to make this horrible thing known, or to work against it. I can't donate a thousand dollars to help end it, I can't travel somewhere. But I can raise awareness by posting about this, and keeping up with reports. Maybe someday, I'll follow in the footsteps of Cathy, and write my own story. But the biggest thing I, as a Christian can do, is to pray. Prayer is the most powerful tool in a Christian's arsenal, and I shall wield it as the Lord wills me.

 What can YOU do?

 On Cathy Gohlke's website: you can find resources to help you become more aware about human trafficking, and what YOU can do to fight in this battle.

 And now, some questions and answers from Mrs. Gholke.

Human trafficking and the abolition of slavery is such a huge problem, let alone rescuing and restoring its victims. What can I do to help? *First, learn all you can through reading and talking with individuals and organizations who have already joined the fight:
-- Google “human trafficking” to learn what is happening in the world.
--Contact your local library, social services, churches or police force and ask what is being done in your community to raise awareness and prevent human trafficking. They can help you find books, organizations, and on-line information to educate yourself about:

The crime (what is human trafficking and where in the world it occurs— you will be astonished)

The people at risk

The methods traffickers use to capture and enslave

The tracking down, arrest and prosecution of predators The rescue, restoration, and healing of victims
The fight to abolish slavery through legal means

The education of men and boys re. the dignity and worth of women and girls

Organizations and/or Individuals that are already working to do the above- *
*See my website at for a growing list of these sites. If you find more, please let me know so I can add them.

*Once you understand what organizations and opportunities are already in place, determine what you are able and equipped to do. That might include:
Work directly with one of these organizations, either in this country or in a foreign country

Validate, affirm, encourage and engage girls or women who are at risk or in the process of healing

Welcome strangers into your church as part of the church family Take a rescued victim into your home or provide housing

Mentor a victim, or a girl or woman at risk

Help a woman find safe and gainful employment and/or child care

Help a woman applying for a job find appropriate clothing

Provide childcare and/or transportation when needed

Tutor a student, young or not so young and encourage hopeful options

Invite women or girls for a meal in your home or take them out for a meal or event, using the opportunity to reaffirm their worth

Provide assistance for medical care—practical or financial

Speak up when others make slurring or disrespectful comments re. women, immigrants, homeless, etc.—attitudes must change to make change

last Do not patronize stores, hotels, sporting events or other venues where you believe women or children are trafficked.

Provide legal counsel, assistance or finances for same for victims

Write or speak out against trafficking

 Are you a plotter or a seat of the pants writer?
That’s a great question! My wonderful agent, Natasha Kern, is convinced I’m a “pantser.” I’ve thought of myself as a “plotter by force.” Over time, I’ve learned to plot enough to write a synopsis—but it’s like ripping teeth from their roots. I fear losing the passion for and organic nature of my story so am hesitant to commit or share details before writing a first draft. I’d much rather write a story and then severely revise and edit. But I’ve come to see that that is not always an efficient process—not for me and not for my agent or editors. The thing that’s helped me most is Michael Hague’s Six Point Plot Structure as he describes it in the DVD, The Hero’s Two Journeys, as well as The Moral Premise, by Dr. Stanley Williams.
Now I write a long and detailed—sometimes rambling—synopsis, then put it away, and only take it out if I find myself wandering off track. The finished product is often quite different from my original notes.

 If Band of Sisters was turned into a movie, which actors do you think would best portray what you imagined for your main characters? Can you describe a few main physical features that they have?
Maureen is striking—tall, slim, with thick, flaming red hair (tendrils escaping), and green eyes in a thin face. Victoria Smurfit, who played Hannah Randall in “Berkeley Square” could play Maureen’s role perfectly.
Joshua is also tall, broad shouldered, with black, thick curls, dark blue eyes, and the ruddy complexion of a man who’s worked outdoors all his life. Perhaps Hugh Dancy could play his role.
Olivia is lovely with dark upswept hair and brown eyes. She’s intelligent, with a quiet and cultured but determined air about her. I think Jessica Brown Findlay, who played Lady Sybil Crawley in Downton Abby, would be perfect.
Curtis is tall, slim, with dark brown eyes, curling dark hair, and alabaster skin. Perhaps Jamie Bamber could fill his role.

How does your faith impact your writing? My faith is part and parcel of all I do. While writing my first novel I learned that
I cannot divide the heart God knit inside me, cannot separate what I write from how I live in response to Him.
That’s when I began praying, not just that the Lord would lay on my heart a “story,” but that He would lay on my heart His “purpose,” and a story to illuminate that purpose. Later I understood that “purpose” is what is known in writing circles as a “strong moral premise.” All the characters must respond to that premise in some way or other. It is what ties the story together. Faith weaves the moral premise in my life, and as I live out that faith—as I respond to my Savior—my own life story is written.

 What spurs your writing? Writing has become my way of making sense of the world, of putting into
perspective the struggles of humanity and of my own—past and present—of trying to see the world as God sees it, as He redeems it by pursuing and claiming one heart at a time. I want to know what gives Him joy, what breaks His heart— those are the stories that matter, the stories that bring me continually closer to Him.
Frederick Buechner expressed it best, “The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Finding that place spurs me on.

  Thank you to Tyndale and Cathy Gohlke for giving me the opportunity to be one of the first to read this book. I LOVED it. It was a great inspiration to me, and it's given me a few ideas for a book of my own. Five stars. God bless!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Audition butterflies, Band of Sisters, and the big 50.

Today we've been listening to music from The Little Mermaid broadway cast. Even my brother. Though the reason we've been listening is because we have an audition coming up for The Little Mermaid Jr. - that play- in two days.

 I've got pre-audition butterflies, I must admit. My voice doesn't seem to want to cooperate sometimes, and at my last two auditions, I had no voice. Thankfully, the music teacher knew me, so she knew I could hold a tune, so I was able to get a part in those. This time, I HAVE my voice (thank goodness!), but I'm worried it might crack or do something totally unpredictable.

 But you know what? I'm not going to worry so much. Even though I've never met any of the judges before in my life, and a bunch of strangers will be watching me, I'm going to try and be my own, crazy self, and just have fun. The song I'm doing is a fun one, from the first musical I was in. Think Positive! 

 Think Positive seems to go right along with what I'm doing. Does no one else see the irony of this?

 A week or so ago, I sprained my ankle. It's still purple and slightly swelled, but I can walk on it fine, and don't notice much pain. But part of the audition is a bit of a "dance" segment. o.O So I'm hoping my foot will hold up for that.

 Anyway, I'm excited! But a lot of kids are trying out... and even if I don't get cast, I'll still be attending theater classes on Monday! So we'll just have to see what happens.

 But if I just keep thinking positive, do my best, and trust the Lord, I'll turn out better for it.

  To change the subject, I'm excited for a review I will be posting Monday on Cathy Gohlke's book, Band of Sisters. I've been enjoying that book so much, but I can't say a lot since I'll be covering that in the review.

 I'm over 45K on Prince's Quest now! Maybe I'll get to the big 50 before the end of the week! Wouldn't that be fun?

 We've already had several people sign up for Characters Combined! If you'd like to sign up, just let me know, and we'll set you up.

 God bless, and have a wonderful day!

 ~ A rambling author

Monday, September 3, 2012

Serpent of Moses ~ A Book Review

 Hello! Today I will be reviewing Serpent of Moses by Don Hoesel. I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

 Back Cover:  Moses built and lifted up the brass serpent,
healing the afflicted Israelites of snakebites.

King Hezekiah called the serpent Nehushtan. Long thought destroyed, it's been buried for millennia, secreted under the region's shifting sands.

Now the Israeli government wants it back and they will stop at nothing to get their hands on it. Yet they're not the only ones who covet the Nehushtan.

Archaeologist Jack Hawthorne travels to Libya intent on recovering the sacred object, but one does not cross the Mossad and expect to walk away without a fight. Jack and his friends must find the priceless "snake of brass upon a pole" before those who are also hunting it find them...and silence them forever.

  This book was, for the most part, a fast paced read with interesting characters and a variety of locations. I enjoyed it, though at some parts it seemed a bit *too* fast paced, and in others too slow paced. I also found out after receiving the book that it's a sequel to a book I haven't read. The Bible does say that the serpent was destroyed, though the author tries to explain that, I still believe it was destroyed completely. Also, though Christianity was mentioned now and again, I wish the book contained more. The characters said they believed in God, etc... but a lot of them practiced non-Christian acts. There is no profanity involved.

 The history found in the book was very interesting, though sometimes it seemed that they were telling you everything that was happening. I couldn't really get into the book at first, but the more I read, the more I was able to enjoy it. Some of the sarcasm inscribed made me smile, and now I find myself wanting to read the prequel. I loved Duckey, (a character you will meet) especially when he was evading the bad guys.

 Overall, this was an exciting, fun read. It had a definite Indiana Jones touch to it, and lovers of those movies and other media like them will find this a worthy read. Also recommended to adventurers, aspiring archeologists, and any other teen-adult that needs something to read. **** Four stars.

You can find it here:

 ~A young author