Hello Mellow! or What We Read for Our “Gentle Read”

Allow me to clear up this one matter before we begin: a Gentle Read doesn’t have to mean boring or pointless, and the story shouldn’t be based in faith -those books will be discussed in our Christian Fiction genre discussion. Instead Gentle Reads are meant to be stories based on everyday life, the small moments, friendships and family in small towns you can find anywhere. These are the quiet books you enjoy on a peaceful afternoon when the weather is mild. Now that you’re feeling all centered and mellow, shall we see what everyone chose to share?

Janet: Hawks Mountain by Elizabeth Sinclair is a contemporary, gentle romance set on Hawks Mountain and the nearby town of Carson, West Virginia. Josephine Walker Hawks better known as Granny Jo, her granddaughter, Becky Hawks, and newcomer Nick Hart round out the cast of main characters. Both Becky and Nick are seeking refuge from the world from very different painful experiences. They are smitten with each from their first meeting. However, it takes a long time for them to overcome their personal demons and embrace a much happier future.

Steve: Nights in Rodanthe, by Nicholas Sparks, tells the story of 45 year old Adrienne Willis, whose husband left her for another woman. Seeking solace, she agrees to help watch a friend’s inn for a week. Adrienne and the lone guest, surgeon Paul Flanner, who himself is having a change of life experience due to a patient that died in his care, share their life stories and fall hopelessly in love. Paul though is just in Rodanthe to see the husband of the patient who died, and then will be heading to Ecuador to join his estranged son in providing medical care to the poor. Paul heads out and the two keep their love alive through letters, and plan on being reunited in a year after his trip ends. However, their relationship does not have a happy ending, as Paul suffers a terrible tragedy. It’s a very easy read that tries to speak to the human spirit about love and redemption, but seems much too formulaic to provide anything more than a flat and predictable story.

Rosemary: Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson is the sixteenth in the Goldy Schulz culinary mystery series. When talented caterer Goldy and her family take in fellow chef Yolanda Garcia and her aunt, they really had no idea the trouble and danger Yolanda and Ferdinanda would bring to them. Goldy needs Yolanda’s help to keep her catering business up and running, but Yolanda is anxious and easily frightened. The fire that destroyed the home Yolanda and Ferdinanda were living in might have been caused by arson. It will be up to Goldy, investigating on the sly, and her husband Tom, a sheriff’s department investigator, to find the answers to this simmering mystery.

Megan: An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor is a charming and comical look at the quirks and traditions of a small Irish village. The year is 1964 and Barry Laverty has just finished medical. He has secured a position as an assistant to a GP in the small village of Ballybucklebo, in Northern Ireland. His excitement fades upon meeting Dr. Fingal O’Reilly. A burly and gruff man, Dr. O’Reilly’s motto is to never let the patient get the upper hand and he’s not above twisting the truth. Barry is initially dismayed, but quickly sees that he has a lot to learn about being a country doctor and Dr. O’Reilly may be the best teacher he has ever had. With its beautiful setting, colorful characters, and a healthy dose of Irish colloquialisms, this first book in a series will leave readers eager for more.

Chris: The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty tells the story of Laurel, a Chicagoan, returning to New Orleans to care for her father, who’s hospitalized after eye surgery. He unexpectedly dies in the hospital so Laurel stays on to bury him then goes to Mississippi to spend some time in her childhood home before relinquishing it to her father’s new, young, flakey wife. Being back home, unleashes many memories–good and bad–of her parents and their relationships. After confronting them, Laurel is able to move on and return to Chicago. What I liked most about this book was the wonderful way Welty establishes the sense of place. You feel that you’re in the South, surrounded by eccentric family members gossiping and lamenting the passing of a loved one; you can hear the dishes being moved around the buffet table and the creaking floors of an old homestead. Chris

Ann: Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith begins with a flurry of danger when a cobra is found in the offices of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency just as Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi are about to have their bush tea. When the cobra is taken care of, Precious Ramotswe tackles a series of perplexing cases and provides advice to both clients and co-workers. As delightful as buying a new pair of shoes, this seventh book in the series is both charming and a bit old-fashioned.

Emma: Miss Julia to the Rescue by Ann B. Ross is the 13th entry in this popular series. Hazel Marie, her private eye husband J.D., and the twins have moved out of Miss Julia’s home, and husband Sam is on a trip to the Holy Land. Julia decides to redecorate the master bedroom and create an office for Sam. In the midst of the project Julia receives a strange late night telephone call from J.D. who’s been shot while investigating a case and is being held prisoner in a small town hospital in West Virginia. It’s Julia and Etta Mae to the rescue to bring J.D. back home and figure out what happened. At home the citizens are concerned about Agnes Whittman who has recently moved back home with a host of tattooed followers who are trying to convert the young carpenter working for Julia. A quick fun read!

Carol: In Emily Davis by Miss Read, retired schoolteacher, octogenarian Emily Davis passes away peacefully in the quiet English village she has spent most of her life in. When her best friend and house-mate, Miss Dolly Clare discovers her friend gone, she sets out to spread the news to Miss Davis’ other friends, former students and family. As the news spreads who fond memories of how Miss Davis improved so many lives, are shared. This sweet read kept my interest as the ups and downs of Miss Davis’ days are portrayed with compassion.

Dori: Cordelia Underwood, or, the Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath League by Van Reid is the first of a series of books set in the late 19th century in Maine. It follows Cordelia, a feisty red-headed young woman, after she receives an inheritance from her sea-faring uncle and a cryptic note which may mean treasure! As she journeys to her inheritance, a parcel of land in the middle of Maine , she meets a large cast of eccentric characters and encounters adventures aplenty. Meanwhile, three nutty fellows decide to start a club named the Moosepath League and name Tobias Walton, one of Cordelia’s newfound friends, to be the chair. Originally published as a serial in a newspaper, the book’s numerous stories within stories involving balloonists, an escaped bear and ghost ships are funny, silly and charming. This is a genuine, old-fashioned yarn of a story where kindness wins the day.

Stacey: Persuasion by Jane Austen is a classic gentle read by one of my favorite authors, but this book hasn’t always been one of my favorite books. It was actually a BBC Film back in 1995 that helped me catch some of the finer moments in Anne Elliot’s journey to her happy ending. Anne is a dutiful daughter who has spent her life taking care of everyone’s needs but her own, including refusing the offer of marriage to a Frederick Wentworth, a man who had won her affection. Years later Anne is reunited with Frederick, now Captain of his own ship, but perhaps he is no longer seeking out her company. Or is he? The slow revealing of true feelings and Anne’s brave leap of faith at the end are what continue to persuades me this book is a great read!

Next time? We’re going to discuss the hot topic of … Romance! Books in this category appeal to readers who want immerse themselves in the emotion of love that have happy conclusions. Usually featuring a misunderstanding between the main characters or interference from outside of the relationship, the couple may have to face all kinds of obstacles before they find resolution. Romance books tend to have strong female characters in the spotlight, can be funny, and are often written as a series of titles with cross-over characters. Oh boy! Bring on the Romance!

— Stacey


Another Holiday book to add…

   I wasn’t able to attend the Holiday book discussion but I wanted to share the holiday book that I recently finished. Be prepared…it’s a crier but it is also filled with faith, love, friendship, laughs and wonderful memories along with the tears that may flow by the end of the story. This is a beautiful story that I will add to my collection to treasure. Isn’t that what a great Holiday book should be? This one is perfect to share…the Christmas Cake by Lynne Hinton, a sequel to her earlier book, The Friendship Cake.

published in 2000. (I laughed and cried through that one too and have looked since then for another book by this author featuring these wonderful women.)

     The four members of the Women’s Guild of the Hope Springs Community Church are once again planning to make a new cookbook with a Christmas cake recipe contest. However, no one is in a festive mood since Margaret’s cancer has returned. To try to cheer everyone up, Beatrice plans an impromptu journey for Margaret and the others to visit to visit her hometown in Texas and their friend and former pastor, Charlotte Stewart, who now runs a battered women’s shelter in Texas. This story once again confirms that true friendship is one of the best gifts of all to give!

 Season’s readings!       ~ Donna


Anyone for a Feel-Good Hug?

This was our gentle read slash religious book genre discussion. (You may be thinking, doesn’t she mean Christian fiction? And I would say, “Nope, I’m broadening our horizons and making it ‘religious’ fiction so we can include all kinds of faiths!” We like to be an inclusive group, so don’t you think that makes sense?) And I’d say we wound up with a good mix of gentle vs. religious themes and historical vs. contemporary settings, making for an interesting and wide-ranging discussion. There wasn’t one, big idea that came out of it, but I think now we all have a new appreciation for the variety of stories available in these two categories.

Why not decide for yourself? Take a peek at what we’re saying about the books we read and make up your own mind…

I’m saying this about the book I read:

Courting Trouble by Deeanne Gist is a sweet, funny romance featuring a main character that turns to her faith in time of need. Essie is an old maid in 1894 in a small Texas town but she’s just about given up any hope that she’ll ever have a family of her own. When a drifter comes to town and begins paying her special attention giving Essie hope again. But not all is as it appears and in the end Essie must decide what she wants to compromise about herself, if anything at all.

Evelyn is saying this about the books she read:

Collins, Brandilyn — Brink of Death (Hidden Faces #1)

Soon after Annie Kingston moves her family to the small town of Grove Landing, California, her neighbor is killed in a break-in. Erin, the twelve-year-old daughter of the neighbor sees the killer but is too traumatized to offer up a description. Because Erin is friends with Annie’s daughter, Annie, who is a courtroom sketch artist, offers to help Erin create a drawing of the killer. Erin’s father’s faith during this whole ordeal amazes the nonbeliever Annie and, as she tries to help Erin, she finds herself asking God for help.

Ferrell, Miralee — Love Finds You in Last Chance California

After the death of her father, Alexia Travers must manage the family horse ranch—not an easy task in 1877 California. Despite her best efforts, everything seems to go wrong. Some of the ranch hands refuse to work for a woman boss, a fence is cut and horses are stolen, even the gold her father received from the bank after mortgaging the ranch is missing. Alex offers widower-newcomer Justin Phillips a job after he arrives in Last Chance with his young son. He seems like a good man, but he has secrets he seems unwilling to share. He is a man of strong faith, but will he be able to help Alex learn to depend on God? A nice, historical/western romance that has likeable and engaging characters and an interesting story line; the author actually visited the present site (a ghost town) of Last Chance, California as part of her research.

Janet is saying this about the book she read:

Any Minute by Joyce Meyer centers on the main character, Sarah Harper. Even though Sarah is a wife, mother, daughter and career woman, her career receives the majority of her attention. Unfortunately it takes a life-threatening accident to get Sarah to take a good look at herself and her priorities.

Julie is saying this about the book she read:

I read Celebrations at Thrush Green by one of the masters of gentle reads, Dora Jessie Saint, aka. Miss Read. In this installment of the Thrush Green series residents are arranging festivities to celebrate the 100 years since the founding of both the town school and a mission in Africa set up by one of the village’s own. This isn’t a book with a great deal of pathos or action, but something to slip into if you want to feel a bit less hectic and bit warmer inside.

Carol is saying this about the book she read:

My gentle reads pick was Angela Hunt’s Doesn’t She Look Natural, the first book in her Fairlawn trilogy. This is definitely a work of Christian fiction as God and prayer are central to the plot. A newly divorced mother of two, Jennifer Graham, moves in with her mother in Virginia when her husband leaves her for the nanny. Just as Jennifer is at her breaking point, fate intervenes and Jennifer learns that she has inherited a historic Victorian home in Mt. Dora, Florida–only to discover, it’s also a funeral parlor. Jennifer puts her fate in the hands of God, who she believes has a greater plan for her life. Her only complaint: Does this plan really include running a funeral home?

Though a bit predictable, this novel celebrates the mortician ministry and its effect on loved ones left behind. Despite being filled with some gruesome details about the funeral parlor business, the supporting cast (including Joella and her society of Red Hatters) in this book were the reasons I kept reading. If this sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll be happy we also own books two and three in the series: She Always Wore Red and She’s In A Better Place.

Rosemary is saying this about the book she read:

Tyler’s Rowby Miss Read is a lovely and gentle story. Peter and Diana Hale are smitten with four row houses in the English countryside. Their ultimate plan is to remodel the houses into one beautiful home for their retirement. Of course, their dreams take much longer to achieve than they ever thought possible. The renters in two of the houses are cantankerous and not about to move to other living quarters. Peter and Diana prevail by drawing on their own good humor and the assistance of the Fairacre villagers.

Ann is saying this about the book she read:

Where You Once BelongedBy Kent Haruf

The narrative of small town bad boy, Jack Burdette told by one of the fellow townsfolk of Holt, Colorado. Jack, an unruly kid goes on to become a high school football star, but trouble follows him, and as a grown man when he marries a woman he met at a weekend convention, and then later shocks the town by committing a sinister crime, he becomes the town pariah. DISCLAIMER: This book is not a very gentle read. A better choice for a more gentle and uplifting story is Haruf’s Plainsong and it’s sequel Eventide, both set in that same small town of Holt, Colorado.

Emma is saying this about the book she read:

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene is the story of an unnamed Mexican “whiskey priest” on the run for eight years. Christianity has been outlawed by the state. All priests must renounce their faith, get married, flee or face execution. Although seemingly broken down by his love of the bottle, he remains true to his calling. Finally giving into the Mexican Government’s decree that all priests leave the country, he complies but is called back to hear a final confession. Is this his final act of faith?

Megan is saying this about the book she read:

Lucky T by Kate Brian

Carrie has always counted on her special T-shirt to bring her luck and it has never failed her. She has aced tests, won lead roles in school plays, and found a very cute boyfriend, all with the help of her lucky T. When her mother accidentally donates the shirt to Help India Carrie’s luck takes an immediate turn for the worse. Determined to get back her shirt, her luck, and her charmed life Carrie sets off to India to find the lucky shirt. The odds are against her, but with the help of some new friends Carrie begins a life changing journey. This is a sweet coming of age story with hints of comedy and romance suitable for teens of all ages.

Dori is saying this about the book she read:

In Recipes from the Dumpby Abigail Stone, single mother Gabby Fulbriten lives near the dump in a small town in Vermont. Intelligent, funny and honest, she listens to Shakespeare and frets about her lack of money and a man, about her weight and the environment. Interspersed are recipes for food and for life, such as ‘Life Juice’ and ‘Just Desserts’. Gabby may not find all she’s looking for, but she’s an interesting character to spend an afternoon with.

Donna is saying this about the book she read:

Aunt Dimity Slays the Dragonby Nancy Atherton is the fourteenth mystery in this cozy English series featuring Aunt Dimity, the paranormal detective. Lori Shepherd and her husband and twin sons live in a small English village in the Cotswolds. Aunt Dimity is Lori’s mother deceased friend who communicates with her by writing in a magical blue notebook. Together, they solve the mysteries surrounding Finch and the English countryside. Lori and the villagers are excited to learn that a Renaissance Faire plans to open nearby for the summer. After a series of accidents mar the opening of the Faire, Lori begins to fear that someone wants to kill King Wilfred the Good, the Faire’s organizer. Will Lori and Aunt Dimity be able to stop a murder before it happens?

Good variety, right? Next time things won’t be quite so … kind or … caring. Next up? Horror of horrors, it’s the horror genre! We’ll be reading frightening stories, often with supernatural or occult elements, and they may cause us to have terrified responses to a world gone awry. So, what do you think? Are you ready to sleep with the lights on for a while? Are you going to read a horror book with us? Edgar Allan Poe counts, if that makes you feel better?