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Surprise

Whether it’s a gift, an unexpected gesture, or just something turning out differently than I had expected, I love the excitement that comes with being surprised. Here are three books offering more than three delightful surprises.

Since Liz Curtis Higgs is one of my favorite authors, I am always anxious to pick up one of her new releases. Her latest, Thorn in My Heart (Waterbrook Press, $13.99), is based on the biblical stories of Rachel, Leah, Jacob, and Esau. Her fictional account of their tragic lives takes place in 18th-century Scotland. Leana and Rose take the place of Leah and Rachel as the sisters who are in love with the same man. Jamie and Evan represent Jacob and Esau as the twin brothers who have been pitted against each other since birth. With its Scottish dialect and vivid descriptions of the Scottish countryside, I felt as though I was there watching the characters’ webs get ever more tangled, finding myself weeping over their sorrows and celebrating their blessings. Higgs again has managed to work her magic in making readers rethink a well-known story by adding feelings and emotions we might otherwise never consider. The emotion she provoked in me was most surprising. The ending was a bit of a surprise as well. Don’t spoil it by reading the ending first!

My biggest surprise came from Songs of Life and Grace by Linda Scott DeRosier (University Press of Kentucky, $26). I struggled with this book at first. I had a hard time following the names and birth and death dates in the first several chapters that covered several generations of DeRosier’s genealogy. But after all the introductions to her family were made, I found myself laughing out loud at some of the stories about these folks and appreciating their grit in times that weren’t easy. The book centers on Life and Grace Preston, DeRosier’s parents, and their extended family members living in Appalachia during the coal-mining boom. DeRosier has done an excellent job of erasing stereotypes of “her people” by telling of her family’s tough work ethic, strong loyalty to each other, and the ever-present laughter in their homes. She speaks of her mountain heritage so fondly that I found myself wanting to go there and feel the same joy that she does each time she recalls her childhood.

It is always interesting to read about famous people and places in Kentucky. Even though I have never lived in any other state, I can always learn some new Kentucky fact when I read about our claims to fame. Such is the case with Hospitality—Kentucky Style by Colonel Michael Edward Masters (Equine Writer’s Press, $18.85). Not only does this book provide descriptions of several of the state’s traditions and historical attractions, it comes complete with Kentucky recipes that “capture Kentucky’s rich culinary history.” Now you can surprise your family with your Kentucky knowledge, and a new dish for dinner.

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