Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sweet September

I read a wide variety of books in just about any genre. I can even manage to read books that are outside my normal interests; I've even read books I absolutely can't stand or bore me to death. But last night I think I reached the end of my endurance. I set a goal last year to read a biography of each American president. It's been slow going. I read great biographies of George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Those led me to other biographies of Alexander Hamilton and Martha Washington, as well as books about specific events in that area of history. My next project was Ralph Ketchum's biography of James Madison. It's been sitting on my shelf for nearly three months, and I started reading it once, got to page 21 and put it down. Last night I decided I was going to muscle my way through all 784 pages and get it done, once and for all. An hour after I started, I had read 20 pages and learned absolutely nothing about Madison at all. I learned a great deal about what he may or may not have learned during his time at Princeton, as well as the philosophical bent of his teachers, but nothing about the man himself. I had also developed a full-blown migraine: nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and a world of pain. I put the book back on the shelf and picked up a book by Robin Jones Gunn (Engaging Father Christmas, excellent, review to come next week), and in less than half an hour, my headache was gone. I've never, ever read a book so awful that it induced a migraine. I'm now a bit frustrated in my quest for a good, but readable, bio of Madison. It seems like my choices are limited to either books written for young adults, histories that focus mainly on The Federalist Papers and his presidency, or Ketchum's 784 page tome, which should come with a warning label: may induce nausea, drowsiness, severe distractibility, and boredom. I did find a new biography of Sam Adams that's coming out early next year and looks like a winner, and a bargain too at 352 pages!

Before the Dawn by Carolyne Aarsen is the first book in the Home to Heather Creek series. Charlotte Stevenson and her husband Bob are in their sixties and still working on the family farm with their son Pete. When their daughter Denise, who ran away at age 18, dies in a car accident and leaves them to raise her children: Sam 16, Emily 14, and Christopher 10. The three kids are from San Diego and the world of sun and cell phones. Adapting to small town life in Nebraska may just stretch all of them until they break. Aarsen has a wonderful talent for capturing the everydayness of farm life with a touch of magic and nostalgia. Charlotte is a wonderful character. She loves her grandchildren and wants only to heal their wounded hearts, but Bob wants to raise them in the strict environment in which their own three children were raised. Pete is 32 and still living at home and butting heads with his aging father about how to farm. Aarsen weaves all of these stories together along with the powerful message of learning to lean on friends and family, as well as rely on the promises of God.

Sweet September by Tricia Goyer is the follow-up to Before the Dawn and picks up a few months later. Sam, Emily, and Christopher are adapting well to Nebraska life, but there are still plenty of culture clashes between the Stevensons and their grandchildren. Sam seems to be taking after his uncle Pete, who never graduated from high school. Emily still desperately misses her mom, and Christopher finds a strange piece of metal in one of the fields that makes the whole family re-evaluate what Heather Creek is really all about. It takes a true talent to take the everyday events of this family's life and make them not only interesting and enjoyable but also inspiring, and Goyer does it with style. This isn't a book with explosions, dead bodies, or vampires. It's a solid story of a family's struggles to learn to live with and love each other, populated with characters just like the people you meet every day. I hope that there will be more in this terrific series.

Since Sweet September is all about family, Tricia wants to meet yours. Leave a comment on the Tricia’s blog tour post sharing who your favorite family member is and why and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win William-Sonoma’s Pumpkin Harvest Loaf Pan & Quick Bread Set. (I’ve attached a photo. It’s super cute…and would be great for fall treats!)

And don't forget, I'm giving away a copy of Sweet September, so if you want a copy, drop me an email before 10 pm on Thursday. I'll announce the winner here on Friday!


Christy G. said...

What a great goal! I've been trying to read a book called "...and Ladies of the Club" by Helen Santmeyer for 10 years. I check it out every summer, but never manage to get more than fifty pages in to it! Oh, well.