December 8, 2013

The Journey of Eleven Moons Review & Author Interview

Bonnie Leon is a fabulous, prolific fellow Oregon author who loves to dig into the fascinating stories of her ancestral past and weave them into timeless stories that intrigue while touching your heart.

The Journey of Eleven Moons is such a story, celebrating its 20th anniversary with a special new and updated edition, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Here's the Book Summary: When a tsunami washes away an entire village in Alaska during the 1850s, two young sisters must decide whom to trust. A successful walrus hunt means Anna and her beloved Kinauquak will soon be joined in marriage. But before they can seal their promise to one another, a tsunami wipes their village from the rugged shore … everyone except Anna and her little sister, Iya, who are left alone to face the Alaskan wilderness. A stranger, a Civil War veteran with golden hair and blue eyes, wanders the untamed Aleutian Islands. He offers help, but can Anna trust him or his God? And if she doesn’t, how will she and Iya survive? 

My review: The Journey of Eleven Moons
The Journey of Eleven Moons is a lovely, captivating story of love, loss, faith and courage set in the Alaskan islands in the late 1800s. Bonnie tells the story of Anna, Iya, and Erik well with an intriguing sense of place, allowing us to see life through a native Aleutian woman’s eyes and feel her fear and her need for courage to face an uncertain future. Though just 16, Anna is a strong but gentle young woman you can’t help but admire and root for. Her young sister Iya is a caring little girl you also can’t help falling in love with.

When a tragic disaster wipes out Anna’s village, Anna as sole survivor must take on the role of mother to her young sister and ensure their survival. She knows only life on the island and is dependent on the sea. She can do all the things she’s skilled to do—gather food and make baskets from grass and pouches and clothing from hides. But without the men and their ability to hunt, the girls cannot survive the coming winter on their own. They need help. And yet there is no one to whom they can turn—no one except a tall, handsome stranger, and yet the girls know full well not to trust “outsiders”.

Erik is quiet but strong with a kind heart. He too has suffered loss. Anna and Erik must unwillingly join forces to survive, working together as a team while facing treacherous conditions of both the land and sea, the threat of treacherous, heartless men, and the threat of becoming bound by love to someone you can’t have. Most of all, they must find the courage to surrender to a God who sees the beginning and the end when all they see is the frightening unknown.

This story brought tears to my eyes as I shared in the heartaches and the hopes of all three. I would love to see this book made into a film! I enjoyed it very much. What a touching, intriguing story!

This book is available at:

Q: You’ve written several books that take place in Alaska. Why Alaska?
A: My heritage is Aleut, an Alaskan native. My grandmother and great grandmother were Aleut and they left a colorful and fascinating heritage for me. My mother is the only one in her family who left the state. She was only eighteen years old when she moved to Seattle during World War II. Talk about be brave.

When I jumped into researching the Alaskan culture and its people all the family stories came alive for me and I felt truly connected with my ancestors and the native culture for the first time. My heritage is part of who I am and I love sharing it with readers.

Q: Where did the idea for The Journey of Eleven Moons come from?
A: Most of my stories originate from real experiences or history. The Journey of Eleven Moons came from both. Alaska history is intriguing and even a little mysterious—a perfect back drop for any story.  Plus, one of the stories told by my grandmother has always stuck in my heart and mind. She lived in Unalaska and was a young woman when she stood on a bluff overlooking a small bay. Without warning the water in the bay receded and was soon followed by a powerful tsunami. The experience has always stayed with me and when I decided to write the story of The Journey of Eleven Moons that’s where began, there on that bluff with my grandmother.

Q: Just for fun. If you could have any super power what would it be?
A: What an exciting idea. I’d fly.

For those who know me, you understand how I feel about heights—I don’t like them. But being able to fly removes any fear of falling so I figure that my fear of heights would evaporate. And can you imagine how amazing it would be to have the freedom of flight? It would be like dancing in the air. I sometimes watch birds and marvel at their acrobatic skills, and their joy is evident as they swoop and glide and even spin. How I wish it were one of my special skills.

Q: If you could do one thing over, what would it be?
A: That’s a really difficult question (my daughter asked me this). I’m not certain. Right off the bat, I think I’d make sure not to be on Little River Road, the day the log truck hit my van. That moment changed my life in so many ways.

Since then, I’ve lived with chronic pain and disability. I really do not like that and sometimes I dream about what life would be like if only I’d never been hit by that truck. But I have to remember that God is sovereign. He didn’t just stand back and say, “Oh no. That truck is going to hit Bonnie. Oh dear! What should I do?” No. He had a plan and I trust Him. I don’t think I would have written if I’d not been hit that day. I turned to writing when everything else had been taken away.

So, the answer is . . . I wouldn’t change anything except maybe love others better. There is nothing that touches me that God has not allowed. And either I trust Him or I don’t.

Q: Where can readers order your new book?
A: The Journey of Eleven Moons is available on in paper back and on Kindle as well as  You can order directly from Ashberry Lane Publishing at And of course if your local store does not carry the book you can ask them to order it for you.

Q: Where can readers find you online?
A: I’m always available on my website at and on Facebook at

I love to hear from readers so I hope some of you will drop me a line.

Storytelling has always been an integral part of Bonnie Leon’s life. From childhood, she cherished the legends and family history handed down through her Aleut ancestors. 

Throughout the ensuing years, Bonnie dabbled at writing but didn’t seriously consider becoming a professional author. Instead, as a young woman, she happily stepped into the full-time profession of homemaker and mother. Pollywog hunting, finger-painting, blackberry picking, and creating fun messes in the kitchen with her children are some of her most precious and irreplaceable memories.

When her youngest child was nine years old, Bonnie decided it was time to return to the working world. She took a position in her hometown of Glide, Oregon, working with the elderly and handicapped.

Then on June 11, 1991, her world was shattered when a log truck hit the van she was driving. The accident left her unable to work, and after months of rehabilitation she was told by physicians that she would never return to a normal life. Facing a daunting fight to reclaim her life and feeling as if she had nothing to offer the world, she asked God to give her something to do that mattered.

His answer came when she received a scholarship to attend the Oregon Christian Writer’s Summer Conference. That conference ignited Bonnie’s passion for literature and for writing, and she has been writing ever since.

November 25, 2013

Upcoming Movie Review: "Let It Snow" - A Genuine Hallmark Holiday Treat

Let It Snow,” starring Candace Cameron Bure, Jesse Hutch, and Alan Thicke, premieres Saturday, November 30, at 8/7c as part of the Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas.

When a resort executive is sent to a newly purchased lodge in Maine with instructions to turn it in to an ultra-modern resort, she finds a charming, successful lodge loaded with holiday spirit and makes a connection with the owner's handsome son. Will she stick with her boss/father’s plans to tear everything down or find a way to save what she has come to love? (~from

Movie Review: Falling in Love With the Magic of Christmas

Snow may fall, but hearts melt in this warm holiday story about family, love, and the magic of Christmas.

When Stephanie Beck, self-proclaimed “grinch” arrives at the picturesque Snow Valley Lodge in Maine at Christmas, she is far from the warmth of her Arizona high-rise. Her job: to make recommendations to her boss—who is also her father and the property’s new owner—for tearing down the family-owned lodge and starting over from the ground up with a trendy hot spot for singles. 

But arriving at Snow Valley Lodge at Christmas makes Stephanie’s job increasingly difficult. As she lets herself take part in the lodge’s daily Christmas traditions like hanging ornaments, making gifts for the children’s hospital, sampling delicious treats, building gingerbread houses, lighting the Christmas Tree and singing carols, taking a horse drawn sleigh ride, she can’t help but feel drawn to the love and feeling of family here, something she hasn’t felt in a long time.  

Soon, not only does Stephanie fall unexpectedly in love with Christmas, but also with Brady, the lodge owners’ son. Stephanie’s growing desire to understand this enchanting winter wonderland and why its guests return every year for Christmas forces Brady to see the simple beauty surrounding him and to remember what he once appreciated about this lodge that his family has run for generations. Suddenly, Brady isn't sure about the direction his future was heading. 

And neither is Stephanie. Her future depends on her ability to change the charming, family-loved lodge to fit her company’s hip, happening brand, but she can’t find it in her heart to do that. Her father pressures her for a decision, but any decision she makes will require a heartbreaking sacrifice. Her heart and her job are on the line. Has her time in Snow Valley melted her heart enough that she can hear what it’s telling her?

“Let It Snow” is a charming story about love, about family, about what a gift people are to one another. It reminds us not to take anything for granted, including simple family traditions. It reminds us to see the love we have right in front of us, and if necessary, to allow our hearts to say things left too long unspoken. A genuine Hallmark holiday treat!

~Movie Review by Camille Eide
Author of Savanna’s Gift, A Romantic Christmas Novella

May 26, 2013

Touching, Unforgettable

SWEET DREAMS by Carla Stewart
(Book bio)
It's 1962, and Dusty Fairchild, daughter of a self-made millionaire and oilman, wants to go to college. Instead she is sent to a private finishing school in East Texas. Although she's never wanted for material possessions, Dusty longs for independence and adventure. The only upside to attending Miss Fontaine's is having her cousin and best childhood friend, Paisley, join her. Paisley has traveled the country with her bohemian mother, but she dreams of putting down roots and living a settled life. At Miss Fontaine's, their loyalty to each other binds them, but when they fall in love with the same handsome young man, their relationship teeters on shaky ground. Only after a tragic accident do they learn where their true hearts-and dreams-lie.

* * * * * * * * * * *
Sweet Dreams is another fine masterpiece told in Carla Stewart’s smooth, gentle drawl, as inviting as a gracious southern belle’s offer of an ice-cold lemonade on a dry Texas day.

It’s an engaging story of two young women entering into adulthood amid uncertainties about themselves and their dreams, steered by others in a time and culture when young women weren’t sure they had a say in who they were or who they could be woven through a colorful backdrop of the sixties and sprinkled with glimmers of the sixties’ music culture.

Dusty Fairchild and Paisley Finch are each strong yet vulnerable in her own way. The heart-tugging conflict between two young women who should be able to count on each other made me ask myself what I would have done in their situation. Would I choose the way of grace? Would I pursue fulfillment of my dreams regardless the cost?

Sweet Dreams is a story about love, loyalty, secrets, and forgiveness. It’s about having the courage to voice your dreams and then believing you can make them come true. It’s an inspiring reminder to be yourself whether you fit in or not. It reminds us to not be so hasty to judge on appearances. And it reminds us how pride can rob us of time that could be spent with those we hold dearest, that we have a choice to love the family we have, regardless their shortcomings and mistakes.

What I loved: Dusty’s wise grace toward others in spite of the way they treated her. I admired her courage to speak up when the need outweighed the consequences, and to be a person in her own right in a time when a woman didn’t have much of a voice. I admired the way Dusty took her circumstances and made the best of it.

I also loved Paisley’s inner strength, her ability to recognize the value of certain people in her life in spite of their disappointing flaws. She also took her circumstances and made the best of it, an admirable strength both young women possessed and, I think, inspired in each other.

I applaud Dusty and Paisley for prodding each other to refresh their wish list often, and for keeping sight of their dream, and for trying their best to put family first even if family didn’t always put them first. Most of all, I appreciate the beauty of sacrificial love displayed by several characters, making it one of the most touching, unforgettable stories I’ve read in a long time. -Camille Eide

Carla’s books can be found at her website:

March 26, 2013

Why I Write Murder Mysteries by Athol Dickson

I'm a big fan of author Athol Dickson's novel River Rising, a lyrical, riveting, inspiring story that stunned me with both its style and unique twist, and made me really want to write. Yes, all that from one book. 

And now, Athol has branched out into murder mysteries? More on that in a minute...

Dickson's mystery, suspense, and literary novels have won three Christy Awards and an Audie Award. Suspense fans who enjoyed Athol's They Shall See God will love his latest novel, January Justice, the first installment in a new mystery series called "The Malcolm Cutter Memoirs." The second and third novels in the series, Free Fall in February, and A March Murder, are coming in 2013.

Critics have favorably compared Athol's work to such diverse authors as Octavia Butler (Publisher's Weekly), Hermann Hesse (The New York Journal of Books) and Flannery O'Connor (The New York Times). 

So...if you've read Athol's previous works, you may be asking: So why murder mysteries? Here's his reply:


Why I Write Murder Mysteries by Athol Dickson

Recently I read a fascinating article in The New York Times about what may well be the first true murder mystery novel ever written. Conventional wisdom holds that the honor belongs to Wilkie Collins, who published The Moonstone in 1868, but the author of the Times piece discovered a novel written six years earlier called The Notting Hill Mystery, which he claims has all the ingredients of a modern murder mystery, and deserves the credit as Whodunit Number One.

The novel was published in serial fashion in a periodical, as was common in those days, and the author used a pseudonym. But apparently there’s good reason to believe The Notting Hill Mystery was written by Charles Warren Adams, one of the publishers of the periodical. Hopefully, Adams will one day receive the full credit for his invention of my favorite genre. It was a monumental achievement.

But intriguing though this is to a mystery aficionado like myself, the real meat of the article for me come almost as an aside near the end, where the Times piece says, “Adams was also notably religious, which points to an unexpected characteristic of the first detective novel: it’s profoundly moral. It asks not just how evil exists, but what is to be done about it. Detective novels, like sermons, can offer gratifyingly simple answers to those questions, or thoughtful and troubling ones.”

It seems to me we love a good murder mystery because in the end they’re the stories which touch most directly on death and justice. Death is the ultimate mystery of real life. What is it, exactly? Why must it exist? What should we do about it? Even the best of murder mysteries can’t answer those questions completely, but the best murder mysteries all explore the possibilities.

And when we start exploring death, something in us cries out that it isn’t right. We all long for justice, don’t we? That’s the other thing a good murder mystery delivers: a little imitation justice. The bad guy gets his in the end, or else someone has the guts to stand and rage against the second greatest mystery of all, which is why injustice exists in the first place.

I love that about murder mysteries. It’s why I’ve read, oh, about a thousand of them. And it’s why I’m writing “The Malcolm Cutter Memoirs.”

January Justice, the first book in Athol's "Malcom Cutter Memoirs" Series, is now available, and I am looking forward to reading it. I'll be back soon with a review, so watch for that. -C



I've published three novels and a novella (more about those on my website.) I've been writing all my life, but decided in 2007 to get serious about being published.

I love action movies and Jane Austen. (she’s dead, I know. I found that out when I tried to get her to endorse my novel)

They let me play Bass guitar and sing in a worship band.

I can produce 4 dozen homemade cinnamon rolls in a flash for a crowd of drooling young adults. Or publishing house editors.

I used to have a Harley. Now we have twenty-something kids. Decent trade, really. The window-rattling grumble isn't quite the same, but we are still enjoying the ride.

I am a proud Grammy. Don't even think about taking candy from my babies.

I hate shopping (Yes, I'm aware that I'm a girl)

I've lived in Oregon all my life, spent time in Eugene (Go DUCKS!), Springfield, Reedsport, and Smith River. Which is not really a town, but a river, about 70 miles long, a tributary of the Umpqua River in southwest Oregon.

Although it's not a town, it is a community with a strong sense of pioneer history. It's cool to say you've lived there, especially if you lived there during the days when you had to take a boat to school. No joke! The old farmhouse my grandfather and my mother grew up in still stands, nestled into a narrow, pasture carpeted valley, complete with a swimmin' hole and its own 'crick'. It may turn up in one of my novels.

There's a rumor that my ancestors had a connection with the Mafia back in Sicily. I used to fantasize as a kid about a big black limo with tinted windows pulling up and whisking me away from school. Ahhh. So THAT'S why I'm having so much trouble conjugating my dangling participles now.

NOT RANDOM: I am challenged by the truth and amazed by the grace of God. And it's either in spite of or because of that grace that I hold a PhD in Learning Stuff the Hard Way.