Tag Archives: friendship

“This Is How I’d Love You,” by Hazel Woods — A Perfect Read Any Time of the Year

I discovered the novel This Is How I’d Love You totally by accident. I was searching for books about the history of chess. Among the selections was this World War I-era story about chess players. After being matched, the correspondents share some details about each other’s lives, but the main purpose of writing is playing the game. Each man enjoys the chess challenge and is very good at it. Although they have never met, they like and respect each other.

Sascha Dench is a journalist at the New York Times who is very much against the U.S. entering World War I. In fact, he’s penned incendiary opinion pieces–and they have cost him his job. Charles Reid is from a wealthy New York business family. Unwilling to join the family firm, he enlists–much to the ire of his father. He is now serving as a medic in France, confronting war’s horrors and adjusting to life as a soldier.

Meanwhile, Sascha Dench is at loose ends. His independent-minded daughter Hensley, a seamstress, has recently graduated from school. However, she is facing her own serious problems. Deciding that a new start is in order, her father accepts a mine supervisor job in New Mexico through a distant relative of his late wife. Hensley goes with him–feeling alone and very unsure of what to expect in an unfamiliar part of the country.

One day, Hensley intercepts a letter from Charles to her father. She writes back, and encloses her letter with her dad’s reply. In addition to telling Charles about herself, she includes descriptions of their new home, and a few sketches and doodles.

Charles responds, and he soon looks forward to the family’s letters. On some days they are what keeps him going. “Your words have become as necessary to me as my own heartbeat,” Charles tells Hensley. His words are just as vital to her. When tragedy strikes, they are there for each other. It isn’t long before they fall in love through their correspondence. However, Charles and Hensley still have to dig deep to reveal truths about themselves. As they journey toward each other to meet in person, their relationship is strengthened even more.

This is Hazel Woods’ first novel. I can’t wait for the next one!  And I hope it will be just as beautiful. Here is an interview with the author.


Image result for free clip art chess pieces


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Filed under historical fiction, Romance, World War I

Only This Once, I Judged a Book by Its Cover….and Loved It!

When I choose a book, the cover is usually the very last thing that draws me to it. Nine times out of ten, I always have a specific title in mind. I almost never care what the cover looks like.

But one day recently, I was browsing a local library’s EBook collection when I ran across a holiday book called The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson. Though it sounded predictable, the story was also promising because it was about a cat. I didn’t care that I would be reading it in late January, either.

But the photograph of the Maine Coon cat on the front grabbed me at first glance. Miranda, also a Maine Coon, was our “bestest and prettiest”cat for eighteen years. Common traits of all Maine Coons are keen intelligence, shyness, and a loving and playful nature. But each has specific personalities. I was thinking about Miranda and missing the days when we had a pet–and wishing I could have a cat–or a dog–again. And then I found the book. Turns out that the author has a Maine Coon named Harry. She named one of the cats in the story after him. Isn’t the cover cute? Hr’s such a sweetie-pie!

The Christmas Cat

All together, now: Awwww!!  I showed the picture above to my aunt, and she liked it also. Both the eReader version (black and white) and the color version (Adobe Digital Editions). I think she was getting sick of my excitement over this, but she was patient.

Now, on to the story. Garrison Brown has just returned to the U.S. from six years in Uganda, where he’s been an international aid worker. Sadly, just before Thanksgiving, he learns that his grandmother has passed away. Her lawyer has asked Garrison to come settle her estate. This includes caring for and finding neighborhood homes for her six rescue cats: Muzzy, Rusty, Harry, Oreo, Viola, and Sadie (I think that’s her name), a calico. This is not as easy as it sounds. The adoptions have specific requirements. Worse, Garrison has allergies–and a deep fear of cats.

Along the way, Garrison recalls a lot about his life and his grandmother’s. She was well thought of in the community, and she had taken Garrison in when he was twelve, after his parents died in a car accident. He meets her neighbors–some of whom were her close friends.

Garrison also thinks about his life goals. Like all of us, he doesn’t get everything right the first time. His journey makes a very pleasant Christmas read.
Maine Coon Cat

I also couldn’t resist Phillip Martin’s free clipart image of a Maine Coon….very cute!

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Fiction, Helping People, inspiration

A Second Journey with Harold Fry

When I first heard about Rachel Joyce’s debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I was curious about it and even checked it out. But I let it go because I thought it might be too sad.  With so many things to do, I let a few months pass. Something wouldn’t let me let go; I’m not sure what led me back to it.

So I tried again, downloading it to my NOOK. One evening, I decided to give it a try, and I couldn’t put it down! Even if I had something else going on that day, the first spare minute I had, I went back to the book until I finished.

The story begins simply enough. Kind and unassuming Harold Fry, 65, of Kingsbridge, England, has been retired from his brewery job for six months. Home life, with his wife Maureen, is very quiet. Too quiet.

One spring morning, Harold receives an unexpected letter from an old friend–his former co-worker,  Queenie Hennessy, whom he hasn’t seen in more than twenty years. She has cancer, and is writing to  say good-bye.

This affects Harold very deeply, and he is moved to tears.. A long time ago,Queenie helped him out, and he never took the time to thank her. Never good with words, he writes a reply, putting his last name in parentheses just in case people have forgotten who he is. He goes for a walk to post the letter.  And keeps right on walking. “Queenie must live,” Harold says. “I won’t let her down.” Before he reaches a mailbox that is farther away, he opens the letter to add a postscript: “Please wait for me.”


In Harold’s case, he’s walking from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where Queenie’s hospice is. A map is included in the front of the book. Basically, he is walking the entire length of England.

As the story opens, readers see that Harold and Maureen are estranged, and there is some rift between them and their son, David. As the story develops, traders discover more details.

As Harold embarks upon his totally spur-of-the-moment journey, he learns, observes, cheers for, and cares about the quirky people he meets along the way–who may or may not have the greatest of motives. He is looking for faith, hope, and forgiveness. Along the way, he realizes that other people carry unseen burdens too. He also learns that the greatest gift he can give to people is to listen. Ultimately, he sees that it’s better to join life than to shrink away from it. The road gives him a lot of time for reflection. The other characters–and readers–also cheer for him.

Walking, he sees so many things that he forgot about or missed entirely while in a car. I have found the same thing.

Soon I will read the prequel, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and Joyce’s additional novel, Perfect. Have a look at the U.S. and British versions of Rachel Joyce’s websites, and enjoy!


Happy man walking in countryside


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Filed under Fiction, Hope, inspiration, journeys, Marriage and family, Uncategorized

Little Egret and Toro–A Story of Friendship

The other day, when I wrote about reading Ferdinand the Bull and the poem I enjoyed about it, I remembered another children’s story about a bull whose life was saved. I was in first grade, and one of my teachers read Little Egret and Toro aloud to the class. Originally published in 1966 by Robert Vavra, I really got into the story. The young bull, Toro, saves the life of his friend Little Egret from a dangerous fox. Years later, Little Egret returns the favor as a grown Toro is led into the bullring. I was transfixed also by the fact that it was set in Spain (a longtime interest, especially the Spanish language), and that the black and white drawings were so beautiful. It was the first time I realized that pictures didn’t have to be in color to be pretty.

As the years passed, this story was overtaken by many other interesting books that were much more difficult and equally moving. But I never forgot this one completely. All I could remember was “Toro” and an image of white handkerchiefs.

In rare moments of nothing to do, I would try to look it up. No title really sounded like it, but I kept looking. I’m not sure which combination of words led me to it in the card catalog, but I found it, checked it out, and enjoyed visiting it again. The gaps in my memory were filled, and now I have a clear picture of the tale again. And it’s just as lovely the second time around.

Years ago, I knew nothing about the author, Robert Vavra, and the illustrator,, John Fulton. Fulton passed away in 1998. He was a gifted artist and Spain’s first U.S.-born matador. And he did so much more in his life. Here is an article about the last bullfight before his retirement.

Robert Vavra has also done many cool things in his life, including being a professional photographer. Check out his website above for his work and varied life. He specializes in photographing horses. Besides Little Egret and Toro, he has written ten other books for children.




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Filed under Animals, Children's Books, Classics