Amanda's Beau (Excerpt)

Amanda’s Beau
by Shirley Raye Redmond

Now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Astraea Press

The year is 1905. It is autumn in the village of Aztec in New Mexico territory. Amanda Dale is burdened with the responsibility of caring for her widowed sister—an invalid--and Ella’s two children—one a premature infant. Schoolteacher Gil Gladney is handsome, intelligent, and God-fearing. He is drawn to Amanda, but feels he cannot propose marriage until he is able to purchase the ranch he has been saving for. When Gil and his pupils discover the relics of an ancient culture among the ruins outside the village, Gil contacts an old college friend. The possibility of an archeological excavation excites the community of cash-strapped farmers, eager to earn extra money working on the site. When a rabid skunk reels through the excavation site, threatening the lives of Amanda and her nephew Rex, Gil realizes that life is short and the possibility of true happiness can be fleeting. In the end, Amanda learns to trust God to provide the happily-ever-after ending she’s been praying for.

Excerpt from Amanda's Beau:

Chapter 1
Village of Aztec,
New Mexico Territory--1905

      The baby was nestled snugly inside the large roasting pan. Wrapped in a bit of blue flannel blanket, she reminded Amanda Dale of an oversized tamale. The pan had been set upon the open door of the hot oven so that the premature infant could absorb the life-saving heat. She is so little, Amanda thought with a clutch of fear. She bent over the pan to peer into her niece’s tiny face—a face not much larger than a silver dollar.
     “Do you think she’ll die?” 10-year-old Rex asked. Bonita, the large red dog, stood beside him, her long tongue hanging out of her open mouth. Amanda noted the anxiety in her nephew’s voice. She didn’t answer at first. Born almost two months early, the baby had been quite small and barely strong enough to suckle. Tufts of dark hair now sprang from the top of her little head like scraggly sprouts. Her tiny limbs appeared so fragile that Amanda was reluctant to carry the infant without first placing her on a pillow. Ella hadn’t even bothered to name the child yet. When Rex started calling the baby Minnie, Amanda did too. After all, the tiny girl was no bigger than a minute, Gil Gladney had declared the first time he’d seen her.
     With a heavy sigh, Amanda shoved thoughts of the handsome schoolteacher, out of her mind and filled the medicine dropper with warm milk. She couldn’t afford to indulge in romantic daydreams. Not this busy September morning. Perhaps not ever.
     “Aunt Mandy, is she going to die?” Rex repeated.
     “Not if I can help it,” Amanda replied. She gently pressed the tip of the medicine dropper into the baby’s small rosebud mouth. Minnie puckered a bit, trying to suck. Small and feeble, the infant made frail, pitiful sounds like a mewling kitten.
     “How is Mama this morning?” Rex asked.
     “As well as can be expected,” Amanda replied, shrugging. Glancing at him, she noted the anxiety etched on his young face. Her heart ached for him. He’d endured a lot of grief for one so young. “Your mother is sick in her heart and in her mind. It takes a lot of time to heal in those places.” She did wish Ella would make more of an effort though. Sometimes she had to resist the urge to go in there and shake some sense into her younger sister. Of course, she’d never tell Rex that. Changing the subject, she asked, “Did you feed the chickens?”
     “That’s all I ever do--take care of those stupid chickens!” he snapped.
     “Watch your tone with me, young man!” Amanda warned.
     Rex sighed. “Yes, ma’am. I didn’t mean nothing by it. I fed the chickens and filled the pans with fresh water too.”
     “Anything, you didn’t mean anything by it,” she said, correcting his grammar.
     He shrugged a shoulder. “ I spend so much time out there, I should move my cot into the chicken house.” With another shrug, he added, “Ozzie Lancaster calls me Chicken Boy.”
     Amanda bit her lip and tried not to laugh.
To connect with Shirley, check out her website -- or visit her on facebook


Reading by the Numbers

Long before I was a book blogger - or knew what that was - a couple friends and I kept track of the books we read. On facebook, of all places. It was a hotly contested battle, and I reigned as Queen every year (no really, I kicked major reading butt, mwuhaha). As I started blogging, I shifted my record keeping to here and eventually began to integrate Goodreads more. Their challenge widget is so nifty!

The other day I started thinking: I know what my recent reading has been like, I can look at the stats on Goodreads, but what was I reading in college? In grad school? Back when this all started ... I dug up the old facebook notes, and found out!
  • 2007: 77 books, 24084 pages
  • 2008: 58 Books, 18124 pages
  • 2009: 64 books, 21333 pages
  • 2010: 76 Books, 25128 pages
  • 2011: 78 Books, 23679 pages
Not too shabby, especially considering the end of college and all of grad school are covered in those years. Apparently 2012 was the magic year to shift everything over to Goodreads, so the most recent numbers are:
  • 2012: 83 Books, 24723 pages
  • 2013: 83 Books, 25899 pages
Again, I don't feel that's too shabby. Even if I did have to step down as reigning champ in 2013. I bow to Steven's vacuum reading, and the resulting amazing numbers (151 books, 49137 pages!). Honestly, when I think about all the Crazy Big Things that happened in 2013, I'm a little surprised I managed to read as much as I did, let alone beat my personal page number record. I'm shooting for 100 again this year (I like the maths), but I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't make it. The numbers show I've never made it to 100 ... but as fun as the numbers are (Mum says I really should have majored in math), that's not what reading is about.

Reading is for fun. Sometimes an escape - a realization that came startlingly clear to me last week while I took a hiatus from fiction. I've got to find the balance between reading because it's what I love and is a great way to spend lunch hours and/or wind down from the day, and turning to a book when I don't want to deal with whatever is going on in life. I've taken back reading for pleasure - there won't be nearly as many "for review" titles, as we've discussed already, and I'm going to spend 2014 reading What I Want To Read. (I have a sneaking suspicion this might raise my final counts).

I plan to continue my experiments with audiobooks this year ... I do love my music in the car, but it's fun to work in an "extra" story too. And I desperately need to catch up on eBooks ... my poor Kindle is loaded with books I've stashed away in a virtual no-man's land, and I must be more diligent about reading these treasures. I should probably also try to resist the impulse to check out every awesome looking book that comes across the Library desk and read my own ... Since I brought home an entire trilogy last Friday, as soon as they transitioned from "in cataloging" to "checked in," I'm failing on that point already. Ah well, it's early yet.

Looking back at the titles and authors I've read - remembering some books and drawing a blank on others - I'm very interested in seeing how 2014 will develop as a year of reading ...


My Word of the Year ...

... I've never formally adopted a "word for the year" before, at least not in January. I used to pick a word that I would try and embrace for the coming year on my birthday (in July), seeing my age as more a "definer" than a calendar year. Last year, I unofficially claimed "NEW" as my word or theme for the year - looking back, it was a bit of a battlecry, the fierce determination to break out of the same-ol' and move into the next, NEW, chapter(s) of life. It worked, ha. As mentioned briefly earlier this week, 2013 was a year of many changes for me - most of them big. You know, the life-altering kind. I loved almost every minute of it, but some things definitely got lost in the blur. My year sped by at a rate that'd challenge Han Solo's Falcon, and I am still adjusting to the fact it is now 2014 and a whole year has gone by.

This year, I decided to declare an official word of the year, inspired in part by seeing my friends talking about their words on the interwebz, as well as Krafty Kash offering a discount on a personalized vintage dictionary necklace featuring your 2014 word. (Yes, I confess to being swayed by wordy jewelry). Deciding what my word would be ... now that was far more difficult than I anticipated. Since they all sort of linked together, I decided to share some of my "almost words" ...

My honest-to-goodness first impulse was "Elven," but I was fairly certain that would not exist in dictionaries ... Maybe I'll make myself an Elven necklace somewhere along the line this year.

In terms of serious word deliberation, I began with "treasure," in direct response to feeling like last year flew by too fast, wanting to treasure the moments in 2014. This shifted minutely to "savor," as well as "ponder" and "wonder." I toyed with the idea of "dance" or "breathe," to remind myself to take time to just enjoy. (I also considered "enjoy" for that matter). As I thought about where I've come, and where I'd like to go, I was very close to picking "story," but that's how I view life in general and as such can't be limited to a single year. I was tempted by "dare" and "experiment," to stretch my dreams and find new ones; and "grace" was a very real contender - to walk in grace daily, receiving it with a grateful heart and giving it freely. And then, everything fell into place and I simply knew what my word for 2014 was.

It encompasses all of the reasons I liked the other words, with the added bonus of being a key component in that favorite-of-all-favorites fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast." While we're on that subject, isn't this quote the most amazing ever?

Stacey Jay rocked my world, as I literally read myself into 2014 with Of Beast and Beauty.

In 2014, I will try and find beauty in all things. All. Things.
Beauty in the waiting times, when it seems life is stalling out and I've reached the end of the story.
Beauty in the every day: a stunning sunset; the stark silhouette of a tree against a winter sky; the way the stars shine brightest on clear, cold nights; laughing until I can't breathe with friends; baby giggles and kissing chubby cheeks.
Beauty in knowing who I am, and Who has called me His own.
Beauty in friendships, and the glorious vulnerability of trusting others.
Beauty in the words I read, the things I see, the dreams that grow.
Beauty in the music that stirs my soul and sets my heart at ease - or makes me feel brave and fierce.
Beauty in the stillness, and in the dance.


2014: Looking Ahead

Whew, two weeks into the new year, and I'm just getting around to posting about my goals/ideas/philosophies for 2014. It's been that kind of a start, y'all. Not bad, just zany.

To begin, by looking back ...
... 2013 was an amazing year for me. My official-unofficial word of 2013 was NEW, and boy did that come true! The 3rd day of the year, I was offered (and accepted) my dream job, and it kept getting better! Over the course of 365 days, I got new wheels, I found a new church - and made quite a few new friends, who I already know will be there for a time to come. There were babies born and relationships started, naturally expanding my personal circle(s). NEW was definitely a year-long theme. Of course, with all the new beginnings, there were also some endings ... Those are always tough, it's hard to say goodbye, even when you're leaving because dreams are coming true. But, in good book-speak, chapters - and books - must end at some point, so you can go on to the next. (Skipping ahead to read what's coming before you get there doesn't work so well in real life ...)

This blog maintained fairly well, until the fall, when it started to slip further and further "behind." As I was thinking about that, and starting to think about how I was going to approach 2014, I came to some conclusions ...

... I'm backing away from the "review" aspect. With a few exceptions: Nancy Kelley, Jessica Grey and Jennifer Becton will always be reviewed, because their writing kicks tail and makes me many kinds of happy. I'm also planning to continue my relationship with Peachtree and Quirk publishers, as well as Candlewick (for whom I'm dreadfully behind on reviewing, oops). These are my favorite publishing houses (teehee), and I get to pick exactly what I want to review. Outside of these parameters, I am probably not accepting "for review" titles - if I do, it will be a special exception for something I simply cannot turn down.

That said, here's what you can expect for 2014 ...
... Catching up on my backlog of books! Which, unfortunately, does feature many titles I accepted for review. I'm debating whether I will post reviews sort of "as I read them," or sprinkling them throughout the year. There are also so many books I want to read for me - and this is a big part of why I'm not doing the review thing. I want to read my books. I want to be able to check out twelve new arrivals from the library and sit down and read them all without talking myself out of it because I have other things I "need" to read. And I don't want to feel like I have to read-for-the-blog. I've always said that this blog is, first and foremost, about me - it's supposed to be fun. When I start feeling bad because I'm getting behind, or not doing as much as I could/should/would like to be doing, then it's not fun anymore. When it's not fun anymore, things have to change. (Wow, I felt a little like those anti-cable commercials there, ha).

There will still be books and posts! I'll review books I'm in love with, or have comments to make about, as well as those mentioned above. I'm also going to take part in (select) blog tours/blasts, primarily on a promo basis: I'll happily feature covers, release info, excerpts, or guest posts - but generally not reviews. Something else I'm planning to add (and excited about) are more personal-ish posts. I want to talk to you, tell you things ... Goofy stories, random reading (or writing) tangents, share giddy fangirling over new books/movies/shows. I'm toying with the idea of having these be "Friday things," but it's open for evolving and tweaking.

There's my glance into the future ... at least as regards blogging here. We'll see how it works, and go from there ...


2013: Book Survey

I saw this posted on Melissa's blog, loved it, and decided to do it myself ... I also swung by Effortlessly Reading's original post (where Melissa saw it), and added a few extra questions. Now, to think about these answers ...

1. Best Book You Read In 2013?
FAIRY TALE: Atone by Jessica Grey
CONTEMPORARY YA: Just One Day by Gayle Foreman
CONTEMPORARY ADULT: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (somewhat random selection, there were too many good ones)
HISTORICAL: The Gilded Chamber by Rebecca Kohn
CLASSIC: The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t?
Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo ... It just wasn't what I wanted it to be.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?
Grounded by Angela Correll -- Way better than I anticipated (is that horrible to admit? haha)

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?
Um ... I honestly have no idea. That's a horrible answer, but it's true ... I did a lot of library-pushing of books I've not read yet (yes, that's weird, but hey - it works!) ...

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?
The Hero's Guide series by Christopher Healy. 
I'm in love with the League of Princes.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?
Let's go with Karen Kingsbury ... since I read her for the first time, and managed to knock out three of her novels

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
Uh ... Shannon Hale's graphic novel fairy tale retellings: Calamity Jack and Rapunzel's Revenge

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?
Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta ... I had a major book hangover when I finished it (at some ridiculous midnight hour), and was desperate to start Quintana of Charyn as soon as possible

9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Hmm ... Either Atone by Jessica Grey (I've read it several times over already) or The Silmarillion by Tolkien

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?
The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, because it's fun and summery

11. Most memorable character in 2013?
Nicholas Hunt, from Atone by Jessica Grey.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?
Can I take the easy way out and say "All the classics?" Because, really, they are all gorgeously written ...

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?
Hmm ... Excellent question, and I'm not sure I have an answer ... Actually, let's go with one I bailed on: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I was trying to listen to it on CD, because a friend keeps nagging me to read it, and I just couldn't take it. I suffered through a disc, and couldn't take anymore ... It was a big impact, just not a positive one.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?
Either The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery or North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.
I thoroughly enjoyed both (which was all-but guaranteed going into the reading), it just took me a while - and outside motivation - to read them. Glad I did, though!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?
"A smuggler with a lover's kindly heart,
A gambler with a noble spirit brave."
Han Solo, William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?
Longest: Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
Shortest: I ... have no idea? Double Click by Lisa Becker, maybe?

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? 
Atone by Jessica Grey.
One word for you: Mirror.

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
Beren and LĂșthien, from the Silmarillion

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Considering I had a lot of read-again-authors, I'm sort of doing a random selection pick here and going with .... Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson - a beautifully satisfying sophomore novel.

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
The Chance by Karen Kingsbury

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?
If my rough count is correct: contemporary! There's a surprise ... Fantasy was second, with historical fiction significantly less than I would have guessed. Hmm, maybe my reading trends are shifting a bit ...

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?
Nicholas. Hunt.
For all the reasons.

23. Best 2013 debut you read?
I'm not sure what debuts I read ... Oh! The Geek's Guide to Dating by Eric Smith!

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?
I'm going with The Silmarillion, since I dreamed about it.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?
The Geek's Guide to Dating by Eric Smith!

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?
The Gilded Chamber by Rebecca Kohn - this one just sort of drifted across my radar, and was excellent

Some questions about looking into 2014 ...
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?
Since I'm filling this out post-January 1st, that's easy answer: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay.
It was an awesome way to start 2014's reading journey.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014 (non-debut)?
All of them? No, really, I can think of several, including-but-not-limited-to: Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw; The 3rd Keeper of the Lost Cities Book; The Here and Now; Solving for Ex ...

3. 2014 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
Hmm ... I'm thinking Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge ... I love Beauty and the Beast retellings, and this one's been lurking on the radar for a while.

4. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2014?
Aspire by Jessica Grey, even if it might not strictly be considered a series-ender.
The One by Kiera Cass, because I have got to know if America gets with the program or not!

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?
Catch up on things! Both my actual, literal To Read stacks, as well as catching up on books I've missed.
And reread some others ... Like an extended journey through Middle Earth.
I also hope to always have one eBook in-progress, because my Kindle books get very "lost"


2013: Another Year of Bookish Adventures

This year, instead of breaking out ebooks from other monthly reads, I'm going to include them in the main listing and just mark 'em "(ebook)". I'm also going to mark books I've reviewed for the blog(s) at work with an * after the listing. I will still place "unfinished" and picture books in their own lists, but I think this will help things stay a little more organized.

- All Things New: Lynn Austin
- Turning Pages: Tristi Pinkston
- Out of the Blue: Lisa Maliga (ebook)
- All for a Song: Allison Pittman

- A Natural History of Dragons: Marie Brennan
- Never Gone: Laurel Garver (ebook)
- Safe Haven: Nicholas Sparks
- Loving Miss Darcy: Nancy Kelley (ebook)
- Attempting Elizabeth: Jessica Grey (ebook)

- Liberty: Annie Laurie Chechini (ebook)
- Bitter Greens: Kate Forsyth
- The Blue Castle: LM Montgomery

- Froi of the Exiles: Melina Marchetta
- North and South: Elizabeth Gaskell
- Being Friends with Boys: Terra Elan McVoy *
- Quintana of Charyn: Melina Marchetta
- Summerset Abbey: TJ Brown
- Summerset Abbey: Bloom in Winter: TJ Brown
- Wedding Night: Sophie Kinsella
- The Ryn: Serena Chase (ebook)

- At Fault: JW Becton (ebook)
- Fairest Beauty: Melanie Dickerson
- Time Between Us: Tamara Ireland Stone *
- Rapunzel's Revenge: Shannon Hale & Co
- Calamity Jack: Shannon Hale & Co
- The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom: Christopher Healy
- Strands of Bronze & Gold: Jane Nickerson
- Seraphina: Rachel Hartman
- Shadow and Smoke: Rachel Wetsriru *

- Towering: Alex Flinn
- The Karmic Connection: Libby Mercer (ebook)
- The Movement of Stars: Amy Brill
- Out of this Place: Emma Cameron
- Second Chance Summer: Morgan Matson
- Double Click: Lisa Becker (ebook)
- The Elite: Kiera Cass
- Just One Day: Gayle Forman

- Revenge Wears Prada: Lauren Weisberger
- Scarlet: Marissa Meyer
- The Chance: Karen Kingsbury
- Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood: Abby McDonald
- Limits: Steph Campbell & Liz Reinhardt (ebook)
- William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily A New Hope: Ian Doescher

- Beautiful Day: Elin Hilderbrand
- An Abundance of Katherines: John Green (audiobook)
- The Moon and More: Sarah Dessen
- Frogged: Vivian Vande Velde
- The Silmarillion: JRR Tolkien
- Jane Austen Marriage Manual: Kim Izzo

- Gorgeous: Paul Rudnick
- Pride & Prejudice: Jane Austen (audiobook)
- True Love: Jude Deveraux
- Lola and the Boy Next Door: Stephanie Perkins
- Longest Ride: Nicholas Sparks
- Mouse with the Question Mark Tail: Richard Peck
- Blackmoore: Julianne Donaldson
- Atone: Jessica Grey (ebook)
- Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle: Christopher Healy
- Sense & Sensibility: Jane Austen (audiobook)

- Grounded: Angela Correll
- Letters from Skye: Jessica Brockmole
- Small Town Girl: Ann H Gabhart
- The Sweetest Spell: Suzanne Selfors
- Life in Outer Space: Melissa Keil
- King's Mountain: Sharyn McCrumb
- The Rosie Project: Graeme Simsion
- Moonrise: Cassandra King

- Starry Night: Debbie Macomber
- Lying to Meet You: Anna Garner (ebook)
- Fangirl: Rainbow Rowell
- Southern as a Second Language: Lisa Patton
- Princess in the Opal Mask: Jenny Lundquist
- Seeing Light: Michelle Warren (ebook)
- The Bridge: Karen Kingsbury
- Over It!: Sarah Billington (ebook)

- Little Women: Louisa May Alcott (audiobook)
- Fifteen Minutes: Karen Kingsbury
- Cold Spell: Jackson Pearce
- The Gilded Chamber: Rebecca Kohn
- VIII: H.M. Castor
- Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor: Lisa Kleypas
- Geek's Guide to Dating: Eric Smith
- Trouble with Cowboys: Denise Hunter

Picture Books:
- Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?
- Prairie Chicken Little
- Tiger in my Soup
- Claude in the City
- King of Small Things
- Claude at the Circus
- Where is Baby?

Reading started out a bit slow, and picked up steam once the year was underway. Reviewing on the other hand, took a definite turn for the worse. A lot more mini-reviews, and more than a few books I just didn't review at all. At first, the fact I wasn't reviewing bugged me a little. Then I remembered: this is my blog, and it's supposed to be fun. Yes, there are a couple of those November/December reads I read for review -- and those reviews will be posted soon. But the others? They were reading for me. That said, if you want to talk about any of them, I'd be more than happy to discuss!

Anywhosers. That's my 2013 at a glance. I'll be reflecting further on the year, as well as outlining some of the big changes coming for 2014, in days to come ... so stay tuned, my little flock of faithful readers.