Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Shenandoah Family Christmas by Lisa Belcastro {Review and Giveaway}

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Where is Christmas?

Disease, freezing temperatures, and the Revolutionary War bring bitter reality to the Reed home in December 1777. Captain Benjamin Reed is ordered to sail a supply shipment south to General George Washington. Days before Shenandoah’s scheduled departure, Ben’s first mate succumbs to smallpox.

Rebecca Reed had never feared the dreaded disease until her one-year-old daughter Felicity breaks out in the telltale rash. In the cold, dark days of Advent, Rebecca, Ben, and the Reed family wait in prayerful hope as Felicity fights for her life and they wonder who could be next.

With the rest of the family at risk, they decide to obtain the forbidden cowpox vaccine. Ben's brother Jonah, his uncle Isaiah, and Shenandoah’s cook Adam Greene venture off in search of the outlawed vaccine. A blizzard hits. A tree crashes. Jonah crumbles to the ground. A woman with the face of an angel aids Jonah, but is it too late? And where are Adam and Isaiah?

As the death toll rises throughout the Colonies, the Reed family prays for more than one Christmas miracle.




Amazon Purchase Link: 

http://www.amazon.com/Shenandoah-Family-Christmas-Winds-Change/dp/0996794506/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1449168828&sr=8-1&keywords=lisa+belcastro

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Lisa Belcastro lives with her family on Martha’s Vineyard.  She loves time with her family and friends, running, gardening, outdoor activities, cooking, chocolate, reading, traveling, a healthy dose of adventure, and her cat, Ben, who keeps her company while she creates fictional lives for the numerous characters living inside her head.

Lisa runs as an ambassador for TEAM 413 (www.team413.org), and has completed a marathon (26.2 miles) in all fifty states.

Lisa’s stories are set on the Vineyard amidst the magnificence of the ocean, the beauty of sandy beaches, rolling hills, and ancient cliffs, as well as the people and events that make the Island so very unique.

When she’s not at her desk, Lisa is living in paradise, volunteering at her daughter’s school, serving in her church community, planting and weeding her numerous gardens, training to run the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge in January 2016, walking the beach looking for sea glass, or enjoying a great meal while she pens the cuisine column for Vineyard Style Magazine.




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Top Ten Favorited List1-Favourite quote:  Attitude by Charles Swindoll: “The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

2-Favourite book: The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews. I read this book at least twice a year. Five times would not be unheard of.

3-Favourite dessert:  Chocolate

4-Favourite flower: Lilacs, though Rosa Rugosa and Peonies are close behind

5-Favourite season:  Summer!  I love heat, and sunshine, and going to the beach, and warm nights. Did I mention I like to be warm??

6-Favourite musical: This is a tie:  “Aida” and “Wicked”. I LOVE them both!!

7-Favourite country you want to visit:  Greece! I took two of my girls as their high school graduation
present. It was one of our best family vacations. We’d all like to go back again. Hopefully one day.

8-Favourite Restaurant: Chescas – on Martha’s Vineyard

9-Favourite author: Did you really ask this question? I have soooooo many! If I had to, absolutely had to, narrow my selection down to one author, then it would be C.S. Lewis.

10-Favourite holiday:  Christmas!  I start playing my Christmas CDs the day after Thanksgiving, and all
my decorations go up.  I love the celebration of Christ’s birthday. I avoid malls and shopping and
excessive gift giving. I do my best to immerse myself in the joyous celebration of the greatest gift of all – God’s love for us.


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Description: Anchor Image Shenandoah Nights
Chapter One

“Come on, sweet girl, take a sip of water.” Rebecca Reed held the teaspoon against Felicity’s lips. Although the baby burned with fever, she turned her head away, refusing the water.
Less than two months ago, they’d celebrated Felicity’s first birthday. Now, Rebecca feared her precious girl had contracted a serious case of influenza. For two days, she’d lain limp and despondent, her temperature reduced only with cold compresses and body wraps.
People died from influenza. Lots of people. Rebecca shuddered. She’d grown up untouched by fatal illnesses or the fear of contagious disease. Life in 1777 was so very different from everything she’d lived before she’d unknowingly entered the time portal in her now-husband’s ship, Shenandoah. In this time that was now her present, the colonists were battling Britain for their freedom. Disease and poverty ran rampant and soldiers died every day, victims of starvation, sickness, and freezing temperatures. Rebecca had known all this was going to happen, but she never thought her family might be, or would be, one of the casualties.
Shaking off the thought, Rebecca plunged the damp cloth into the pail of frigid stream water with melting chunks of ice Ben had brought upstairs a half hour ago. She wrung out the excess, then pressed the cloth to Felicity’s neck for a minute. Her temperature had to be close to 103, possibly higher. The cloth warmed almost instantly.
She turned over the beige fabric and placed the cooler side on her daughter’s forehead. Felicity barely moaned, her body wilted from hours of infection.
What Rebecca wouldn’t give for a bottle of children’s ibuprofen, a digital thermometer, and a prescription for Tamiflu. But that was a lifetime ago. Medicine, at least the kind she’d grown up with, wasn’t an option. Herbal treatments, ice baths from the nearly frozen-over stream, and vigilant care were her only options.
Rebecca attempted to give Felicity another sip of feverfew tea she’d boiled and let come to room temperature. The liquid merely dribbled down the side of her sweet little face. Swallowing back sobs, Rebecca rocked Felicity against her chest. “Lord, we need Your healing touch. Please deliver Felicity. Please don’t take my little girl.”
God was close to the sick and brokenhearted. How many times had Rebecca read those verses? Today, she needed to feel Him in the room, next to her, with Felicity. The swag of pine branches and red bow adorning the window reminded her that Christmas was coming. Felicity was too young to understand the holiday’s importance, but Rebecca couldn’t bear to think about Christmas arriving with Felicity still sick . . . or worse.
She kissed her baby on the cheek, then rose and carried her back to the crib. Last week, when General George Washington sent orders that Ben was to sail south before the weekend, Rebecca had moved the crib into the cozy spare room. Ben couldn’t afford to get sick. A fire burned in the hearth of the room that would one day be Felicity’s, and any sisters she might have. Rebecca positioned her in the crib nearer the far wall.   
She gingerly lowered Felicity to the bed, which Ben had lined with sailcloth to protect the mattress during the cooling sessions. If only her baby girl would stir, resisting the separation from her mama. She didn’t. Her fourteen-month-old body didn’t react. Not so much as one finger reached out.
Another sob built in Rebecca’s throat. She fought against the sadness and fear. She would cry later, after Felicity was better, after this nightmare was over.  
Determined to beat whatever ailed her daughter, Rebecca dunked a sheet into the cold water, and then covered Felicity. The goal was to bring her fever down and keep it down. She had halved two large onions and put them on rags around the crib. Whether it was an old wives’ tale or not, many women swore by sliced onions for guarding against germs. Rebecca would do all she could. She couldn’t fail Felicity. Nothing else mattered.   
She glanced out the window. The diminishing light of the setting sun signified the dark days of winter and gave Rebecca an uncomfortable twist in her stomach. She moved across the small room and lit the oil lamp. She needed light—and hope.
Sitting in the rocking chair next to Felicity’s crib, Rebecca began singing the nursery rhymes of her childhood. The songs filled her with sweet memories of her mother and grandmother. She willed Felicity to hear her. How she longed to see her daughter rock from side to side, smiling as her mama sang to her.
“Rebecca!” Ben burst through the door. “I need to see Felicity.”
Startled, Rebecca jumped to her feet. “What’s wrong?”
“Let me examine Felicity first, then I shall explain.”
Her husband, Captain Benjamin Reed, was a kind and loving man, and also a man of detail. He ran a tight ship, missed little, and had earned the respect of his crew and fellow patriots. Feeling their daughter’s forehead, opening her mouth and examining her lips, Ben shook his head.
A new grip of fear crushed Rebecca’s heart. “What is it?”
“My love, I believe our daughter has smallpox.”
“No!” Rebecca wobbled, her body folding in on itself as the news delivered a brutal blow to her mind and body. Smallpox . . .
The dreaded disease that claimed thousands of victims over the last year, the scourge that Rebecca had taken such care to protect her daughter from—how could it have happened? It wasn’t possible for her to be sick. It just couldn’t be!
“How do you know? How can you be so sure?”
    Ben drew a cloth from the bucket of ice water near the crib and laid it on Felicity’s head. “I sent notice to the crew that we were to sail to Delaware Bay to bring supplies to our troops who would winter at Valley Forge. A messenger arrived at the docks an hour ago with a note from William’s father. Upon discovering I was not present, the stable lad gave the note to Jonah, who arrived moments hence with the missive. William is covered in pox, severely ill, and in isolation.”
    Rebecca gasped. Ben’s first mate, William Barton, was such a strong, rugged young man, she couldn’t imagine him sick. Felicity had looked so small in his arms the last time he visited—
“William was here two weeks ago. He played with Felicity. He—” Rebecca couldn’t finish her sentence, couldn’t say aloud what her mind did not want to hear.
    “Aye, my love. It seems that the day after he returned from our meeting, William broke out in the rash.  I remember how tired he looked, but I made no inquiry as to his health. William has never been one to complain. He made no mention of a fever or feeling ill.”
    Rebecca shuddered. William was the Barton’s only son, the oldest of five children. “Is Jonah downstairs? I want to write Mrs. Barton a letter.”
    Ben shook his head. “I sent my brother on his way immediately, telling him that our darling Felicity had been ill and that I now feared she could have smallpox.”
    Running a finger along Felicity’s forehead, Rebecca felt for any sign of the telltale bumps. Nothing. Maybe it was simply the flu. The flu was bad enough, but nothing compared to smallpox. There was hope. “Is anyone else sick?”
    “Nay.” Ben kissed Rebecca’s cheek, and then gently pried open Felicity’s lips to check her gums more thoroughly. No spots. Easing a finger between her gums, Ben opened Felicity’s mouth. No spots.
“Nothing,” Rebecca said, the relief  
Ben cupped her chin and looked into Rebecca’s eyes. “I do not wish to give you false hope, Becca. We must be prepared for the worst. In the coming days, the course of the disease will reveal itself. Or it will not.”
Smallpox.
What if Ben was right? What if William died? What if that dreaded disease had its grip on her daughter?
Ben wrapped his strong arms around them, and began to pray. Rebecca buried her face in the crux of Felicity’s neck and listened to her husband call upon the Lord.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies . . .”


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I enjoyed this Christmas novella, but I did feel a bit confused. As is clear in the very beginning, this story takes place in the 1770s, but almost right away, that didn't feel consistent. Rebecca's young daughter is very sick and she wishes for a bottle of children's ibuprofen to give her. I immediately wondered if the author did her research enough to know that a bottle of ibuprofen probably wasn't around back then. As the story went on, a few things led me to believe that for some reason, Rebecca is from the future. It might not bother some people, but I really want to know what is going on and why.

Once I put that out of my mind, I was really able to enjoy this sweet story. Rebecca has so much love for her little family. Her husband is a ship captain and she shows a lot of concern for his crew, as well. With many prayers and help from a friend, Rebecca is able to deal with her situation and recognize the true meaning of Christmas. I love the relationships between the characters and the loyalties they share. This heartwarming story is sure to touch any heart.

Content: moderate religious references. Clean!
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
*I received a copy through Singing Librarian Tours in exchange for an honest review*

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6 comments:

  1. I love the exxcerpt and can't wait to read it. I'm actually putting the whole series on my wishlist. Thank you for the chance.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) ccom

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    1. That's great! I think it sounds like a fun series.

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  2. I love the exxcerpt and can't wait to read it. I'm actually putting the whole series on my wishlist. Thank you for the chance.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) ccom

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Carol,

    I'm thrilled that you enjoyed the excerpt! I hope you enjoy the series. I love all the characters, and am enjoying the writing process now for next year's full-length novel, Shenandoah Song.

    Merry Christmas,
    Lisa

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  4. Hi Katie,
    Thanks so much for hosting me! I hope you'll go back and read Shenandoah Nights, and discover how Rebecca ended up in 1775. :-) It is quite the journey.
    Merry Christmas,
    Lisa

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    Replies
    1. I've definitely got to read this series!

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