The Roll of the Drums by Jan Drexler

While I have enjoyed a number of stories set in the Amish culture, The Roll of the Drums is the first book I’ve read by Jan Drexler.  It is a story I would classify as a cozy romance although it is also historical fiction set in 1863 and is an interesting exploration of faith being challenged in difficult times.  It is book 2 in The Amish of Weaver’s Creek series and I received a free copy of this book from Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.

Amish minister Gideon Fischer, his wife, and four children were left with next to nothing after the Yankee soldiers came through their small community.  Then when the army forced him to use his wagon to help carry their supplies, he was caught up in the war and all its violence even though he was a pacifist.  Arriving home after several months, his flock had dispersed and his confidence and faith were shattered by the brutality of war he has been exposed to.  He was determined to head to Ohio, as far away from the war as possible to start over in a safe place.  His wife, Lovinia, was very ill and for her sake, they stop in Weaver Creek to let her rest in the welcoming community there.

Ruby Weaver has always been a bit too strange and independent for an Amish woman and her only friend is her younger sister Elizabeth.  She has moved into Elizabeth’s cabin while her husband Reuben is off fighting in the war, helping her with the chores and helping to keep the cabin in shape and the garden going.  She, too, is carrying a secret she struggles with and feels she must continue unmarried and is content with that.

When the Fischer family arrive, Ruby becomes fast friends with the dying Lovinia who extracts promises from both Ruby and Gideon that they will marry and raise her children together.  This is a promise they both find next to impossible to comply with.

There are secrets and jealousies in the community and as the war threatens their peace once more, Gideon questions his faith and calling.  How do they stand up to the raiders and keep the conscience of their beliefs?

This is an interesting look at Amish beliefs in the face of circumstances that would try to force them to turn their backs on the tenents of their faith.  It deals with coping with grief for both adults and children and the way that hidden sins fester and destroy peace of mind.  It also looks at relationships within families and how war changes people.  It is the journey of faith through trials and a seeking for God.  I would certainly read more by Jan Drexler and give this 4/5 stars.

Posted in Adult Book, Christian Book, Historical Fiction, Opinion, Romance, Spiritual Growth | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Harvest of Thorns, by Corban Addison

A Harvest of Thorns is a story based on recent events in the garment industry where modern day slavery, life-threatening working conditions and serial rape exist across the globe.  It begins with an electrical fire in a fashion factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh where workers on the fifth floor break through the bars on the windows to escape the fire only to jump to death or fall to irreparable bodily damage.

When the news footage of 14-year-old Sonia lying on the ground outside the factory clutching a piece of clothing to her face with the Piccola label clearly visible, the high echelon of Presto corporation in Arlington, Virginia, want to get to the bottom of how it could happen that a red-listed company would be manufacturing their clothing line.

Searching for the truth, senior vice-president Cameron Alexander teams up with a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Joshua Griswold, to follow leads involving corruption, deception, and intrigue not only in Bangladesh but in factories in Malaysia and Jordan, and also within Presto’s global corporate headquarters in Virginia.  When Josh’s wife, Madison, and father-in-law, Lewis Ames attorneys at law, slap CEO Vance Lawson with a $50M lawsuit on behalf of garment workers in three countries claiming malfeasance, it is a suit that could set a precedent for American culpability in factory disasters in 3rd world countries.  But then things take an unexpected turn when it comes to trial.

Corban Addison is described as “an attorney, activist, and world traveller . . . a supporter of human rights snd social justice causes around the world” and each of his four novels deal with these issues in some way.  They are eye-opening and thought-provoking and if that isn’t enough, they are well-written and compelling.  This is his fourth novel and I intend to read all of them.  * * * * *


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Tuesday’s Tantalizing Teasers & First Chapter, First Paragraph: The Girl Before by JP Delaney

First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted by I’d Rather Be At The Beach you can reach it here.  Easy to participate.  Include your book title and author, a picture of the cover, and quote the first (or first two) paragraph(s) from the book.  Leave your link at the blog site along with a comment on what is posted there.  Learn about books other people are reading by visiting their blogs and noting their excerpts.

Today’s First Chapter, First Paragraph is from The Girl Before by JP Delaney, a spooky, psychological thriller, murder mystery:

1. Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

Then Emma

It’s a lovely little flat, the agent says with what could almost pass for genuine enthusiasm.  Close to the amenities.  And there’s that private bit of roof.  That could become a sun terrace, subject of course to the landlord’s consent.

I am hosting this Tuesdays’ Tantalizing Teasers which is easy to participate in.  It may not appear every week but when it does, it will always be on Tuesday.  To participate, show the title, author, and cover, and choose a random (or not) quote to share with other readers (two or three sentences), and leave a comment with the link to your own tantalizing teaser for the day.  Here’s my quote from the above book:

The light from my phone isn’t very strong, and it’s only when I feel something soft under my feet that I look down and see a sleeping bag, pushed between two rafters.  It has clearly been up here a long time — it’s covered with dust and dirt. . .

I have no way of knowing if the sleeping bag belonged to Emma Matthews — I don’t even know how many other tenants there have been in One Folgate Street.  And if it was Emma’s, I’ll clearly never know what nameless fear caused her to leave that beautiful, sleek bedroom and sleep up here instead. (p. 118, 119)

Would you keep reading?  Have you read this book already?  Share your thoughts and leave a link to your own post.  Enjoy your day!

Posted in Adult Book, fiction, Mystery, Thriller | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

On My Bookshelf, May 10th, 2019

Here are some more books I have read in recent months but not written reviews of as of yet. Perhaps you have read some of them or have been meaning to read them.  Maybe you’ve never heard of them.  See what you think.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

A complex mystery within a mystery when the author is murdered in the same way as described in his book.  Another great Horowitz mystery!

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

Historical fiction featuring Einstein’s first wife, her brilliance, how he stole her work and abused her mentally and physically.

Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom

A reluctant spy for the British government is sent undercover in war-torn Madrid to learn about how a former school chum is hoodwinking the government and in the meantime, discovers another chum from the same time, thought dead.  Pure Samson!

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

Old legends, Roman legions, ghosts, archaeology, second sight, and sabotage combine in this fascinating tale of a search for the lost Ninth Roman Legion.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Wonderful historical fiction about the first female jockey in the club in Kenya and a pioneer in aviation, Beryl Markham, who survived a torturous childhood, disastrous and abusive relationships and scandals with royal princes.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The love relationship between Hadley Richardson of Chicago and struggling author Ernest Hemingway, their life in Paris, relationships with “the Lost Generation”, the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound until if floundered in betrayal and lost love.

Posted in Adult Book, Adventure, Author, fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring) gives us another fascinating historical novel based on the lives of fossilist and palaeontologist Mary Anning and her fellow-enthusiast Elizabeth Philpot and their important discoveries in the early 19th century which fuelled speculation and controversy about God, creation, and extinct species of life.

Mary Anning was born in Lime Regis, Dorset, UK in 1799.  As a toddler, she was struck by lightning and shouldn’t have survived.  But she did.  She was, however, known to be odd as a result.  Born into a working-class family of little substance, from an early age Mary would search the beach looking for interesting specimens of fossils and shells she could sell to tourists and thus augment the family income.  As a result, she was often dirty and bedraggled and generally looked down on and talked about.

Elizabeth Philpot’s parents died leaving her older brother, John, a solicitor, in charge of herself and her 3 sisters.  After her older sister married and John became engaged, their summer progress was completely with the intent of finding a modest home for Elizabeth, Margaret, and Louise as John’s wife would now be in charge of John’s home.  They settled on Lime Regis in Dorset and it was here that her interest in fossils began as did her strong bond with Mary Anning.

At a time when women were not expected to take part in higher education, politics, or science, these two women pioneered a greater understanding of the natural world and made many discoveries which shook the scientific and religious world.  It began when Mary discovered what they first thought to be a skeleton of a crocodile which, in itself, raised many questions.  Later, it was classified as an ichthyosaurus specimen, and it attracted many scientists and tourists to the area in search of more unusual fossils.

Mary’s first major discovery was bought by a Lord and sold on to a museum where it was credited to him.   When confronted with the deception by Elizabeth, he referred to Mary as a “spare part” because she was only a woman.  While Mary led many scientists to unusual finds and discovered a wide range of extinct species, she was never allowed to take part in meetings at the Geological Society where some of her discoveries were displayed and discussed nor could she ever publish a paper and yet her diligent work led the way to what were amazing revelations.

The story of these two ladies is well told.  Elizabeth’s observations of people were quite delightful and the temporary rift in the friendship between the two was detailed in a believable way.  Elizabeth collected mostly fish fossils and so they weren’t competitors in any way and Elizabeth was able to negotiate when required between Mary’s often poverty-stricken world and the London society she herself had come from.  Both were able to hunt fossils because of their independent attitude toward life and their disregard for what others thought of them.  They certainly lived in interesting times and were considered unusual in their unladylike behaviour but the story moved along as it alternated in the telling between Mary and Elizabeth.

I wish there had been a glossary included in the book and drawings of the fascinating fossils the ladies discovered.  I was forced to the internet where I found all the information I sought but it would have been nice to have it in the book.  At times I wondered whether the title, Remarkable Creatures, referred to the ladies themselves or the creatures’ remains they discovered but either way, it is a book well worth reading for anyone but especially for anyone with an interest in palaeontology.  A remarkable story.   * * * *

Posted in Biography, Historical Fiction, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Twas A Dark and Stormy Night

You probably thought from the title that this was going to be about Snoopy but it is not.  I’ve always wanted to go to a Murder Mystery Theatre Dinner production and finally got to go to one last Friday night here in Ottawa at Britannia United Church.  Conceived by Ottawa playwright Maggie Taylor, whose plays have been performed here before, the evening was a fundraiser and was well attended.

The production starred members of Britannia United including the pastor, Jim Baldwin, and the set was at a remote campsite where Director of Camping for Newbies Sara “Sunbeam” Sutton (played by Jess Carey) is trying to encourage the odd assortment of newbies to get along and have some camp spirit.  It isn’t too long before the campers begin to worry that Jonesy, who had been coming up the rear, hadn’t made it to the campsite.

Clues about the characters were on the dinner tables along with a paper to take notes on as the audience had to submit their theories about who had strangled poor Jonesy in his hammock up in the tree before the final act.  There were lots of great camp songs and some spooky stories, tension between several of the lady campers who couldn’t get along, and special muffins (not for the audience) were passed out to try to ease the increasing animosity and suspicion as the group tries to figure out who could have had a motive to off Jonesy.

We ate between acts and after dessert, our papers were collected and our solutions read out to the audience by the cast, who didn’t know themselves who had done it until they were handed the scripts for the final act and we all learned who in the audience had guessed correctly about the murder.  Other players were Dori Jensen as know-it-all Mia Martel, Debbie Roi as the unpopular Carmen Cordova, Todd Mitchell as space cadet Travis Talbot, Chuck Trewartha as the quiet camper Hunter Hardaker, Jennifer Trewartha as perky Phoebe Parks, and Myles Frosst as social worker Frank Felton.

It was great fun and great food.  The performance was repeated the following evening but if you haven’t seen it yet and would like to, you can catch it this coming Saturday, May 10th at St. Paul’s United Church in Carp, Ontario beginning at 6 p.m.

Posted in Musings, Opinion, Plays | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Tuesday’s Tantalizing Teasers & First Chapter, First Paragraph: Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table

First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted by I’d Rather Be At The Beach you can reach it here.  Easy to participate.  Include your book title and author, a picture of the cover, and quote the first (or first two) paragraph(s) from the book.  Leave your link at the blog site along with a comment on what is posted there.  Learn about books other people are reading by visiting their blogs and noting their excerpts.

Today’s First Chapter, First Paragraph is from Michael Ondaatje‘s The Cat’s Table.

He wasn’t talking.  He was looking from the window of the car all the way.  Two adults in the front seat spoke quietly under their breath.  He could have listened if he wanted to, but he didn’t. For a while, at the section of the road where the river sometimes flooded, he could hear the spry of water at the wheels.  They entered the Fort and the car slipped silently past the post office building and the clock tower.  At this hour of the night there was barely any traffic in Colombo. They drove out along Reclamation Road, passed St. Anthony’s Church, and after that he saw the last of the food stalls, each lit with a single bulb. Then they entered a vast open space that was the harbour, with only a string of lights in the distance along the pier. He got out and stood by the warmth of the car.

I am hosting this Tuesdays’ Tantalizing Teasers which is easy to participate in.  It may not appear every week but when it does, it will always be on Tuesday.  To participate, show the title, author, and cover, and choose a random (or not) quote to share with other readers (two or three sentences), and leave a comment with the link to your own tantalizing teaser for the day.  Here’s my quote from the above book by Michael Ondaatje:

I wasn’t breathless. I had prepared my anger and I had come to wound him in any way I could for what he had done to the child.  I saw him for what he was, a bully who hid in his courteous power and authority. (p. 227)

Would you keep reading?  Have you read this book already?  Share your thoughts and leave a link to your own post.  Enjoy your day!

Posted in Adult Book, coming of age, fiction, Meme, Teaser | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Mystery Monday Meme: Camino Island by John Grisham

Today’s mystery is Camino Island by John Grisham, a complicated look at the underground buying and selling of stolen first editions and manuscripts.  It begins with the theft of 5 priceless F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton University’s Firestone Library by a gang of five: Denny, Mark, Jerry, Trey & Ahmed — the at home man, “the forger, the the hacker, the creator of illusions”.  It is a heist flawlessly executed except for one thing:  a tiny drop of blood where a splintered piece of wood from the third drawer in the vault nicked Jerry as he lifted the duffle bag of tools as they were readying to leave.  Within a short period of time, Mark and Jerry are behind bars, Trey is dead, and Denny and Ahmed have fled the country.

With her adjunct professorship at the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina about to expire, thirty-four-year-old Mercer Mann is offered a job she can’t refuse: live in her late grandmother’s house in Santa Rosa, Camino Island, Florida, work on her second novel, and learn what she can about Bruce Cable, owner of a popular bookstore on the main drag and where he keeps his real assets — stolen first editions and manuscripts.  The offer comes from a representative from a recovery company that helps insurance companies retrieve stolen items of great value to save them paying out huge fees.  They work closely with the FBI according to rep, Elaine Shelby, and since Mercer has spent many summers in Santa Rosa, her cover will be perfect — she’ll fit in with the literary crowd that Cable associates with and earn their trust.

Except for the murder of one of the gang members, there is no violence in this book.  It is a fairly laid back story mostly set in the small resort town on Camino Island and while there is a fair bit of suspense, both the dealer in stolen property and the amateur sleuth are likeable characters who come through the escapade relatively unscathed.  The recovery of the manuscripts is a delightfully complex episode that makes for an unusual resolution to the plot.  The characters providing the backdrop to the Santa Rosa community are interesting and diverse despite the literary connection, and the development of Mercer’s character as the story unfolds is totally believable.  The ending is surprising and the book is just a really fun read.  Classic Grisham.  * * * * 1/2


If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday Mystery, mention my meme, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery (or mine) briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review.  You can also copy my MMM badge to your post or your sidebar.  (Links to books are an Amazon affiliate link!)

Posted in Adult Book, Author, Mystery, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sunday Special: Melanie Willard

Melanie Willard spoke to our Woman 2 Woman Bible Study (Metropolitan Bible Church, Ottawa) session recently about how to care for people in crisis.  She speaks of this with authority because she has been through an amazing, torturous journey that involved drugs, suicide, domestic violence, and cancer.  She has written a book about her true story:  Dare To Be Raw.  Watch Melanie talk about her “redemption” in this interview with Brian Warren.  It is a story of triumph over adversity and hope for the future.

I hope that this will be inspirational for many people.  If you want Melanie to speak to your group, you can reach her through her website,  You can purchase her book through Amazon by clicking on the title above.  Cheers!

Posted in Adult Book, Author, Christian, Memoir, Non-fiction, Opinion, Spiritual Growth | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Anastasia (1957), a movie review

I don’t think you could say I prefer old movies to new movies but I am definitely an old movie buff.  The book by Ariel Lawhon, I Was Anastasia, rekindled my interest in the longtime puzzle of whether the Grand Duchess Anastasia survived the massacre of the Russian imperial family in Ekaterinburg in 1918.  It led me to research on the internet, a vast number of documentaries, other books, and, naturally, to this 1956 black and white movie starring Ingrid Bergman and Yul Brynner.

In the book, Anna Anderson — claimant to the identity of the youngest daughter of the Tsar — meets with Ingrid Bergman and signs an agreement allowing the movie to go forward.  When the script was written, it was based on a play written by Marcel Maurette who only learned after it was published that Anna Anderson was still alive and therefore 20th Century Fox has to have Anna’s agreement to make the movie.  But Ms. Bergman is only interested in Anna’s story.  She tells Anna,

I know what that feels like. To be disgraced. To be hated and driven to extremes. But I don’t know what drove you to feel those things. And I can’t make this film until I do.

So I had to watch the movie.  I’m sure I had seen it decades ago on TV but I needed it to be fresh in light of the book and the research on the internet it led me to.  The movie is delightful — with a different ending, of course, because there was still much more of the story to unfold.  Bergman is in full command of the many facets of this woman who has experienced memory loss and gradually regains snippets; she is desperate when she decides to throw herself into the Seine, gentle and familiar with the dowager empress (Helen Hayes), imperious with members of the former court, frustrated and impatient with General Bounine (played by Brynner), and flirtatious with Prince Paul to whom she was engaged before the revolution.  She won 3 awards for best actress: an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and the David di Donatello award for best foreign actress.  Brynner is arrogant and manipulative to start, only interested in the fortune, but becomes infatuated and jealous along the way, willing to toss aside his whole agenda for the sake of her love.  He won the National Board of Review award for best actor.

The plot is well paced, beginning with Anna distracted and distraught, throwing herself in the Seine and being jailed for attempted suicide.  While we are never told if she is or is not truly Grand Duchess Anastasia, as the story moves forward Bergman’s brilliant acting provides many hints that she is indeed who Bounine claims her to be even though from the beginning he is certain she is a fraud and doesn’t care — he can make her into the lost duchess either way.  Hayes is brilliant as the forbidding dowager empress who slowly unbends to relive the tender connection she had with her favourite granddaughter and then to accept the seeming inevitable when Anna absconds into the night with Bounine.

Some of the stage-like settings are offset by opulent ballroom scenes and wonderful scenery and it is interesting to see the imagined lives of white Russian exiles, many of whom left their homeland with next to nothing.  The inspired music by Alfred Newman was nominated for an Oscar.  There have been other movie adaptations of this story, most notably the animated Disney version, but if you haven’t seen this movie, your experience of the mysterious Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanova is incomplete.  * * * *

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