Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Damsel in Distress--Concluding Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride

Host: Jennifer Slattery

Love is in the air...but villains lurk on the ground.

I was not expecting Karen's ending. Here I sat, nose-deep in the story, envisioning wedding bells and lacy gowns when all of a sudden, out pops slimy Warren who grabs Hannah and holds her hostage.

And just when you start to hate this warty toad, he sheds a bit of his slime and offers Hannah an apology. My question to you is, what were your feelings toward Warren? Did you hate him entirely? Feel a smidgen of compassion?

And how did you feel a bit earlier when J.T. confronted Warren's father?

One thing I thought about during the interaction between J.T. and Warren's father was the tendency parents have to over-compensate. Compassion is a wonderful and necessary emotion, especially when it comes to parenting. However, taken to far, it appears, compassion can actually harm the recipient. Although there's no way of knowing if Warren's villainous behavior resulted from ineffective parenting, I'm sure we can all think of real-life examples where coddling led to spoiling.

How did you feel when Hanna returned from the picnic to find her store ransacked? Have you ever experienced a similar let-down? Maybe you worked hard for something, only to see the goal slip between your hands. Or maybe, like Hannah, someone worked against you. If so, were you able to rebuild and start again?

Finally, what did you love most about this book? Did God use this book to show you any truths? Were there any moments you felt drawn to God afresh?

Join our discussion then hop on over to Clash of the Titles to meet two more great authors. And I hope you're getting ready for our next book club. For July, we're diving into Eleanor Gustafson's The Stones! Fun, fun, fun!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Falling in Love

Hosted by Jennifer Slattery

I know many of you flew through Karen Witemeyer's novel, A Taylor-Made Bride, the first week. I can't wait until next week to talk about the story in it's entirety and learn what drew you most. Personally, I'm reading the chapters as we go to prevent my mind from slurring the details.

Last night I read about the flash flood and Hannah's near death experience. One year our family went canoeing on a river ravaged by a storm--only we didn't know that until we got going. Branches clogged the river and in many places, it was so bad, we had to get out and carry our canoes along the bank until we passed the rubble. At one point, the river curved and began to pick up speed. My husband and daughter capsized. Ahead, a mass of branches acted like a dam and the water funneled beneath it. Seeing this, I jumped out and grabbed the girl in my canoe. My husband quickly carried both girls to a dry patch. And yet, before I could breath a sigh of relief, I looked up to see my husband sailing down the river, clutching the over sized canoe. Praise be to God, the Canoe got lodged in the brambles and not him, otherwise I have no doubt he would have died. It was a divine moment, for sure.

In the story, Hannah expresses similar feelings. She felt two angels saved her life. Do you remember who those angels were?

Jericho seemed less than pleased to hear her praises of his behavior. According to his sister, he was uncomfortable with compliments and was emotional from the experience. I've heard it said that anger is a secondary emotion. Think of a time when you've been scared. Perhaps you lost your child or saw them dangling from a tree branch. Have you ever felt a surge of anger arise?

It is also interesting how often it takes nearly losing someone to realize their value. Although Jericho acknowledged his feelings for Hannah shortly before the flood experience, his love became most apparent, it seemed, when he saw her lying on the log. And did you notice the emotions that welled up within him? He wanted to protect her. I believe men were created to be the providers and protectors and if you look at many of the heroes in novels and fairy tales, often you'll see this same trait. Men want to feel strong, powerful, needed and respected. Women want to be cherished.

Did you find it interesting that Hannah's independence threatened Jericho? Initially, he thought she would use her "wiles" to manipulate him into doing things for her, then later, it was her lack of asking for help that made him feel unnecessary. I wonder if that is a fine balance? In today's world, do men still need to feel needed? And if so, how does that translate in our dual working society?

Here's a personal question for you--do you want to feel cherished? Think of your interactions with your spouse or boyfriend. When do you most feel loved?

Did you like the interchange between Ike and Cordelia? Do you think it was Cordelia's make-over and physical change that drew him? And what about the conversation Hannah had with Jericho? Is it true that men are attracted to beauty most of all? And how do Christian women find the balance between enjoying nice things and becoming overly consumed with appearance? As a mom of a teen girl, this is something I think of and pray about often. I want our daughter to feel confident, but I don't want her obsessed with appearance and I certainly don't want her to become prideful. What about us? How do we maintain that balance?

Lost of questions today. I hope you're enjoying your reading. Have you purchased your copy of Eleanor Gustafson's, The Stones, yet? Should be a great read!

Next week we will discuss the remaining chapters of a Taylor-Made Bride and our over-all thoughts.

Don't forget to hop on over to Clash of the Titles to join the fun!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Discussion: A Tailor Made Bride, through Ch 19

hotess: Michelle Massaro

Last night I finished reading Tailor Made... at 2:00 AM. I can't speak for all of you, but I found this book to be a very satisfying read. Although I find myself wanting to dive right in to gushing over the ending, this week's discussion must focus on the book up to about chapter 19. (next week you can prepare to discuss up to chapter 26.)

One of the things that stood out to me in chapter 15 was the way Hannah reacted to Jericho's accusation that she was a stumbling block, appealing to women's vanity. Not only did Karen do a great job at writing persuasive arguments on both sides of the debate, I also admired Hannah's ability to pause to consider whether she might be wrong or at least not fully right. How often would we do well to reflect on whether there might be truth in something hurtful someone has said to us?  What did you think about this?

In chapter 16, Jericho learns more about Hannah's activities helping those around her. I love how conflicted he is. He grumbles but can't deny the good she is doing for those in the town. This is one thing I like about J.T.--he gives people credit when due, even if he has a problem with them. Do we do that? I had to ask myself how often I let a personal squabble or irritant keep me from acknowledging the good done by a person. Sometimes I want to explain it away or ascribe a false motive to their actions, all because they've done something to irritate me or because I have found fault in some part of their personality. Did this come through to you? What are your thoughts?

In chapter 17, we get a delicious flirtation/competition going between Hannah and J.T. I loved the way Hannah so stubbornly challenged his strength, really trying to give him a run for his money. I enjoyed watching him try to impress her, and the little sparks that flew between them. What was your favorite thing about this scene?

In chapter 19, J.T. takes his sister's challenge to read about the Proverbs 31 woman. This is difficult for any of us to do. To open our hearts to the possibility that something we've firmly believed was God's will might not be the truest expression of His nature. My favorite line in this chapter, and perhaps the book, is this: Apparently, I'm an idiot.  Says it all, doesn't it? LOL Has this ever happened to you? If you are willing, please share with us a time when God challenged your thinking. Was it a quick surrender on your part?

What other scenes in the book jump out as favorites for you so far?

Send your friends to join in the discussions. They can visit previous posts and jump in at any point as they read. If you haven't already done so, pick up Eleanor Gustafson's The Stones for next month's club reading.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Action-Reaction Merry-Go-Round

Today's host: Jennifer Slattery

The other day, after tripping over one too many messes, mentally adding them to my "could you please..." list, I bided my time waiting for our daughter (the mess-maker) to come home. She walked through the door with a scowl, shoulders slumped. (Turns out, she'd taken a three hour algebra test and had a major headache. Which I didn't find out until quite some time later.) Had I been a loving and observant mom in that moment, I would have switched gears--from task-oriented to nurturing. Unfortunately, I didn't and launched into the long "honey-can-you-do-list."

The results were less than optimal and initially I was shocked by our daughters angry reaction...until I simmered down and reviewed our interaction. Had I given her a few moments to unwind, she likely would have reacted better. Had I not reacted to her reaction, likely our spat wouldn't have erupted. Hannah's sewing bee story in chapter eleven reminded me of all the times my reactions create and expand problems.

Hannah said, "Emily might have been guilty of instigating the trouble, but my reaction to her is what caused the situation to escalate out of control...."

Charles Swindoll often says that life is 90% how we take it. The Bible tells us a gentle answer turns away wrath. Have you found this to be true? Any stories to share?

I also liked how Hannah used a story from her life to speak truth to young Tessa. By doing so, she turned the situation into a joint effort, communicating to Tessa that she was on her team, that she understood her and wanted to help.

How might Tessa have reacted had Hannah launched into lecture mode?

I'm reading Boundaries With Teens by Dr. Townsend, for a contemporary youth series I'm working on for Christ to the World. In the book, Dr. Townsend reiterates the importance of empathy in parenting. How does parenting change when we remember our experiences, thoughts, and feelings from our teen years?

I imagine the same principle applies to any relationship. Empathy and finding ways to relate to others always seems an effective approach. Do you agree? Any examples to share? Any times when this is not true?

What are your thoughts regarding Hannah? What do you find most endearing about her? What do you think her greatest challenge is? What do you think is her greatest strength?

Last question: Are you ready for July? We're diving into Eleanor Gustafson's The Stones.

And...there's still time to vote for our next literary champion! You might even win a free book in the process!

Next week I'll be in El Salvador leading a children's conference and ministering to orphan girls recovering from sexual abuse, so April and Michelle will facilitate the discussion. But, if I can find internet access on occasion, I'll pop in to join the fun. Happy reading, all!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Have You Performed Your Morning Constitutionals?

Today's host: Jennifer Slattery

Although I'm hesitant to "assign" chapters, for ease of discussion purposes, we are up to chapter 15 today in Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride. Again, if you haven't purchased your book yet, there's still time. We'd love to have you join our discussion. And please, don't let the questions I pose box you in. If something in the novel triggered your curiosity or provoked a thought, by all means, share it! The more rabbit trails we skip down the better, right? (Or am I the only gabby one?)

As someone who believes whole-heartedly in the need for physical activity, I found Hannah's morning "constitutionals" amusing. I forget that women didn't always exercise. No wonder they fainted all the time! What are some other changes we ladies enjoy?

I also found Hanna's reaction to "free" advertising quite amusing. You may remember, when the laundress came to meet her, the two discussed ways Hannah might generate more business. Do you remember Louisa's suggestion? Quite sound business advice, really. Everyone loves a freebie, right?

In today's culture, freebies are almost expected, but as I read the conversation between Hannah and Louisa, noticing Hannah's somewhat shocked reaction, I realized someone started this practice. Some business owner, at some point in history decided they needed to spend money to make money.

Do you think Hannah's bread cloth give-away will drum up business? Anyone else worried she may run out of funds before that happens?

If you were Hannah, what might you do to generate a bit of business?

Tom Packard is an enthusiastic young man with slow mental functioning, yet Jericho trusts him to run the livery when he's not around. What kind of giftedness did Tom exhibit despite his disabilities? How well do you think today's society welcomes and involves people with similar mental challenges? Are they viewed as important contributors to the community or simply as a responsibility?

Can't wait to hear your thoughts (and questions) on all this! And don't forget to hop on over to Clash of the Titles to vote for our next literary champion! Who knows, you might even win a free book in the process.

Are you getting excited for July? I can't wait to dive into Eleanor Gustafson's The Stones! King David is one of my favorite biblical characters.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Launching Clash of the Titles' Book Club--Join the Fun!

This month's host: Jennifer Slattery

I can't believe June's already here! Have you stopped by Amazon to pick up your copy of A Tailor-Made Bride yet? If not, there's still time. We'll be chatting about Karen Witemeyer's book all month, and considering the sparks flying between J.T. and Miss Richards, I'd say we're in for a lively conversation.

It's interesting how times have changed, isn't it. When you read about Miss Richards plumes of fabric, petticoats and stockings, did you find yourself longing for the 1800's? Me? I spend most of my time in jeans and t-shirts. I like fashion, but comfort rules.

It appears Miss Richards might find some similarities among her clients. You probably remember her concern upon seeing the townsfolk and their simple attire. And it appears, if J.T. is any indication of the overall mindset of the town, that many are rather opposed to seamstresses.

To those of you who've devoured this novel already, no spoiling the ending!

I'd be curious to know what you think of J.T. so far. Rough on the outside with a heart of gold? Too stubborn and opinionated for his own good?

What about Miss Richards? Do you think she has what it takes to make it as a businesswoman? Now before you answer a hearty, "Yes, ma'am!" remember the decade we're talking about and all the struggles women faced. Now add to that starting a business...as a woman.

Final question: Early in the story, Jericho is frustrated because he believes Hannah's arrival interferes with his calling to minister to Louisa James. He had planned to provide Louisa with a new building for her laundry business, but the Lord saw fit to give it to an outsider. Have you ever experienced confusion or frustration when a ministry you felt called to doesn't progress in the way you expect? Does resentment or envy ever creep in when you hear other believers talk about the way the Lord has blessed them?

(And don't forget to stop by Clash of Titles' main site to meet Julie Carobini, author of Fade to Blue. And...help choose our next book club novel! CLICK HERE to vote for August's book.)

Happy reading all!

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