The Mercy Seller by Brenda Ruchman Vantrease

In the fifteenth century, with religious intolerance spreading like wildfire across Europe, Englishwoman Anna Bookman and her grandfather, Finn, earn a living in Prague by illuminating precious books–including forbidden translations of the Bible. As their secret trade grows ever more hazardous, Finn urges Anna to seek sanctuary in England. Her passage abroad, however, will be anything but easy.

Meanwhile, a priest in London, Brother Gabriel, dutifully obeys church doctrine by granting pardons . . . for a small fee. But when he is sent to France in disguise to find the source of the banned manuscripts finding their way to England, he meets Anna, who has set up a temporary stall as a bookseller. She has no way of knowing that the rich merchant frequenting her stall is actually a priest–just as he does not know that he has met the woman for whom he will renounce his church.

It is only in England, which is far from the safe harbor once imagined, that their dangerous secrets will be revealed.


As I read this book I thought it is funny how often I take things at face value and don’t dig deeper.  As this book is about the attempts to be rid of the Wycliffe Bible (the Wycliffe Bible is the translation of the Bible into different languages so the whole world can have access to God’s word in their own language).  While I have known about the Wycliffe Bibles for years, supported their cause, and been to their benefits to raise funds when they have been in our area, I had no idea there was such controversy over the Bibles.

And at this point I really ask myself why did I not see that?  Of course there had to be controversy – and if at this point you are thinking, “but uhhh….. Sheila, wasn’t the book you read fiction”?  You would be right.

However – it gave me cause to dig.  Certainly John Wycliffe’s journey had not been without its bumps and bangs?  And with very little digging at all I found this:

The conspiracy theorists who believe that [Wycliffe] is a simple front for the CIA will find little support for their views […] It is true, however, that [Wycliffe] has influential ties to capitalist enterprise, politicians, and military figures in the United States and in the developing countries in which it works. [Wycliffe] is not an “empire” per se, but foreign missions such as [Wycliffe] are part of the larger political process in which powerful nations export political, economic, social, and ideological patterns to the relatively weaker and poorer regions of the world. Today, people in many developing countries are debating whether some aspects of this process should be limited or controlled.

I digress.   Set in 1410, the book is filled with wonderfully vivid images and characters that are thrust deep into the book and into me.  They are colorful and real.  Anna is hit left and right in this book with the reality of what happens to those who go against the laws.  Her belief in the Bible puts her in real danger.  Then we have Friar Gabriel who is set upon a mission to disguise himself in order to search out the Bibles that are considered unlawful. It is interesting to find myself in the center of this religious intolerance of the Roman Church of the 15th century.

As Anna and Gabriel find themselves entwined in the depth of this book, Gabriel is put through what I would call his own crisis of faith. Their story is really – the story and what pulls all the pieces of The Mercy Seller together.

In the beginning the book is heavy with details bringing us up to the story.  I at times felt a bit overloaded with data.  Yet as the pages turn Brenda Rickman Vantrease sorts through the background and pulls us into the real heart of what I would describe as an adventure I am glad I embarked on.

Wycliffe Bible Translators is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making a translation of the Bible in every living language in the world, especially for cultures with little existing Christian influence. Wycliffe was founded in 1942 by William Cameron Townsend. There are currently branches in over 50 countries.[1] The organization is named after John Wycliffe, who was responsible for the first complete English translation of the whole Bible into Middle English.[2]

Wycliffe bases its philosophy on Townsend’s Protestantism which regards the intercultural and multilinguistic spread of Christianity as a divine command. This type of Protestantism adheres to the principle of sola scriptura and regards Biblical texts as the authoritative and infallible word of God.

In a Wycliffe mission, Wycliffe senior workers first request permission from the government in charge of a region. After the organization receives permission to operate, several small teams research a region’s linguistic populations. Based on this data, teams are sent to each linguistic group.

The team introduces itself to a group, usually with the aid of bilingual helpers. The team lives on site, and attempts to speak the language. Formal recordings, word lists and grammars are kept, usually on computers, backed up periodically to the national mission.

When the phonology is understood, the team develops a scientific writing system similar to those in use by related, regional, or national languages, or according to standards set by the government. At some point, the team begins to translate short portions of the Bible into the native language. The translation is tested and corrected with native speakers, as well as the existing lexicographies and grammars. Once the Bible is translated, printings are arranged, often through one of the United Bible Societies. The length of the entire process varies depending on the portion of the Bible being translated; it can take longer than twenty years.

My Amazon review

I read this book as part of the Social Justice Challenge.  January’s theme was Religious Freedom.  Looking through the books that were suggested for this challenge there were several that I had read before:

In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham (memoir–Christian)  (Pre Blogging)

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A book I am still hoping to read was special ordered for me by our library but as of this date is not in yet:

Between Two Tigers:  Testimonies of Vietnamese Christians by Tom White

As part of the Social Justice Challenge we are encouraged, as we feel called to, to take action steps towards these issues.  While we do not have to take these steps for each of the months, January’s theme of Religious Freedom spoke to me.  If you would like, here are a list of action steps one can take.  I am looking into writing letters to prisoners and am working on this yet this afternoon.

Morning Meanderings…

Happy Sunday and day 3 in Florida.  Yesterday Al and I had a laid back morning….  I thought we looked funny, each of us at the kitchen table on our lap tops, he exploring the equipment auctions and I writing a review.  We went into town in the afternoon exploring the area picked up a few things at the Super Target, had a wonderful dinner at Red Lobster, then stopped at Penney’s and lastly, a place called Books A Million.

Pause for effect.

I had never heard of a Books A Million before and my husband, heart of gold that he has, stopped and patiently waited for me while I browsed, touched, and yes – I bought.

Today I wanted to share with you what I have decided to call:


Yes!  Evermore!  I have yet to read this author and I am anxious to do so!

Bargain book and I love a good mystery!

I have seen this one on so many blogs and looks like a good one!

Ok – I never said that my Florida Finds had to be all about books.  I needed a pair of casual sandals and I found these little babies!

I am always looking for a pair of tall black shoes…  I love them and my two pair I own are so worn out because I can not find ones I like.  Yesterday – I found these and I am super excited!

*giggle*  Yup – these are my kind of tennis shoes and these will be the shoes that I am wearing around the house today!

Today Al is at the auction.  Tomorrow I will be going with him because Tuesday I need to be here all day for the phone guy to come out.  It looks a little cool and dreary outside today and that’s ok.  I have a book I am dieing to finish and some wrap up things to do for the end of January!  Tomorrow I announce winners of the January.comment giveaway winners AND introduce you to my plans for February! 

Of the above 6 items… which one do you like?

In My Mailbox

I am currently in Florida but put this together before I left home on Thursday.  Here is what came in my mailbox this past week  and thank you to Kristi from The Story Siren for hosting this fun meme.

The action begins when a grizzled professional cat burglar gets trapped inside the bedroom closet of one of the world’s richest men, only to witness, through a one-way mirror, two Secret Service agents kill the billionaire’s trampy young wife as she tries to fight off the drunken sexual advances of the nation’s chief executive. Running for his life, but not before he picks up a bloodstained letter opener that puts the president at the scene of the crime, the burglar becomes the target of a clandestine manhunt orchestrated by leading members of the executive branch. Meanwhile, Jack Graham, once a public defender and now a high-powered corporate attorney, gets drawn into the case because the on-the-lam burglar just happens to be the father of his former finance, a crusading Virginia prosecutor. Embroidering the narrative through assorted plot whorls are the hero’s broken romance; his conflict over selling out for financial success; the prosecutor’s confused love-hate for her burglar father; the relentless investigation by a northern Virginia career cop; the dilemma of government agents trapped in a moral catch-22; the amoral ambitions of a sexy White House Chief of Staff; and the old burglar’s determination to bring down the ruthless president. Meanwhile, lurking at the novel’s center like a venomous spider is the sociopathic president.

In this startling new vision of a cultural classic, Wendy intends to live happily ever after with Peter Pan. But Time, like this tale, behaves in a most unsettling way. As Wendy mothers the Lost Boys in Neverland, they thrive on adventure. She struggles to keep her boys safe from the Island’s many hazards, but she finds a more subtle threat encroaching from an unexpected quarter. . . . The children are growing up, and only Peter knows the punishment.

Gr 6-9- Charlemagne Mack, a 12-year-old African American, is an honors student in a poor part of The City. She lives with her uncle and aunt until the day a giant spider named Miss Lettie comes through her bedroom window to warn her that she is in grave danger. Charlemagne escapes to Louisiana and is surprised to discover that she is not simply an above-average student to whom odd things sometimes happen, but is instead Queen of the Sky Conjuring People. She learns to deal with her new identity, ruins the plans of some very bad, bad guys, and learns about her family.

Already sloshed from one-too-many drinks at a faculty party, Leah Thornton cruises the supermarket aisles in search of something tasty to enhance her Starbucks—Kahlua, for example. Two confrontations later—one at the grocery store and the other with her friend Molly—Leah is sitting in the office of the local rehab center facing an admissions counselor who fails to understand the most basic things, like the fact that apple juice is not a suitable cocktail mixer.  Rehab is no picnic, and being forced to experience and deal with the reality of her life isn’t Leah’s idea of fun. But through the battle she finds a reservoir of courage she never knew she had, and the loving arms of a God she never quite believed existed.

Things are really bustling at the Witt’s End resort in Northern Minnesota. Clients are vying for one of the few remaining rentals, except Cabin 14 thing is no–one gets out of Cabin 14 alive. Sadie isn’t your typical sixty-four year old senior citizen. She has things she wants to do and shouldn’t be expected to solve a murder while trying to prevent an unscrupulous sheriff’s deputy from shutting down the lakeside resort she owns with her straight arrow sister. But that’s exactly what Sadie Witt must do. When five guests with hidden agendas arrive at Cabin 14, they’re stunned to learn that the flamboyant Sadie is their conduit to the hereafter. Clad in the latest fashion trends–fads typically reserved for those without sagging body parts–and sporting hairdos that make bystanders want to look away but can’t, Sadie realizes one of the guests has been murdered and must work against the clock to untangle the web and prevent further mayhem.

Liberal sprinkling of fairy dust charm youthful readers of all ages, while expanding their theatre vocabulary and knowledge of theatre history and lore.  On behalf of the league of Historical American Theatres, I express gratitude tot he creative forces that inspire this rare glimpse behind the scenes of Boston’s oldest theatre.

Maura Sullivan never intended to set foot in Granger, Ohio, again. But when circumstances force her to return, she must face all the disappointments she tried so hard to leave behind: a husband who ignored her, a congregation she couldn’t please, and a God who took away everything she ever loved.

Nick Shepherd thought he had put the past behind him, until the day his estranged wife walked back into town. Intending only to help Maura through her crisis of faith, Nick finds his feelings for her never died. Now, he must admit the mistakes he made, how he hurt his wife, and find a way to give and receive forgiveness.

As God works in both of their lives, Nick and Maura start to believe they can repair their broken relationship and reunite as man and wife. But Maura has one more secret to tell Nick before they can move forward. It’s what ultimately drove her to leave him six years earlier, and the one thing that can destroy the fragile trust they’ve built.

This first book by Tomlinson, a management consultant, is a perfect fit for the booming spirituality market, particularly for enthusiastic, evangelical 20- and 30-something audiences. He begins his personal musings with a simple thesis: it is too easy to become a “comfortable Christian” and we must always search for ways to express our active devotion to God and Jesus Christ. This premise is not particularly innovative, but his writing style is straightforward and personally honest. The author acknowledges his own struggles with pride while retelling, often with humor, his only too human attempts to reach lofty spiritual goals such as charity and purity. Every chapter opens with vivid and iconic imagery—a spoon, a bit of floss, a pager—tangible symbols throughout the book for more abstract ideas like obedience, joy, and comfort. In sum, the product is endearing and inspiring, especially appealing to young, male evangelicals. One chapter specifically devoted to the intersection of his spirituality and military service will also draw the interest of Christian men and women in the armed forces.

America is on the brink of war with England, and Fin Button is about to come undone. She’s had it with the dull life of the orphanage, and she’s ready to marry Peter and get away from rules, chores, and a life looked after by the ever-watchful Sister Hilde. But an unexpected friendship forms between Fin and the fiddle-playing cook, Bartimaeus, which sets her on a course for revolution. With Bart’s beloved fiddle and haunting blunderbuss as her only possessions, Fin discovers her first taste of freedom as a sailor aboard the Rattlesnake. She’s hiding some dark secrets, but there are bigger problems for the crew: they are on the run from the Royal Navy, and whispers of mutiny are turning the captain into a tyrant. When Fin finally returns home, will she find Peter still waiting, or will she find that she’s lost everything she once held dear?

Great books in my future!  Absolute Power sounds wonderful and is suppose to have a Grisham like feel to it.  Hook and Jill… well, do I need to say anything about this one?  Seriously it looks fantastic!  Rise Of The Queen looks good.  Walking On Broken Glass is one I have admired from afar.  Footlights and Fairy Dust is just going to be cute – I know it!  At Witt’s End is a Minnesota author about a Minnesota mystery and I can’t wait to be a part of it!  The Pastors Wife sounds wonderful.  Crave is going to be so good and I have a giveaway with that one as well.  The Fiddlers Gun is one I have waited to have a chance to read!

I didn’t buy any books this week and I didn’t check any out from the library with us leaving Minnesota until February 9.  That’s the excitement in my mailbox this week!

I am so interested in knowing what was in your mailbox?

Faith n’ Fiction Saturday

Faith n’ Fiction is a weekly meme hosted by My Friend Amy.  Today the question on the table is:

Why read?

I am currently on vacation and I was talking to my Cousin In Law (my cousin’s wife) yesterday on the phone.  She asked me how many books I brought with me and when I said 11 she almost choked.  “I don’t think I read 11 books in a year!” she said.

For me reading started a young age.  My sister and I were 7 years apart so reading was my “friend” and “companion.”  In my later youth years when tragedy struck – books became a source of safety. I could escape in a book.  Now these may not sound like the best reasons to read – but that is how it all began…

As I grew older I never lost the passion to read and always have a book with me.  Through books I have traveled to places I can only hope to some day see.  I have learned about people of interest in memoirs, and learned not only through non fiction – but in fiction books as well.  (In fact I challenge our book club each month to learn something new in every fiction book they read).

There are books to match every mood I am in and taking them in is like making new friends.  I even learn more about me.  I love going somewhere new and when my husband I travel I love to point something out and say “Wow – I have read about that!”

Why do you read?  If you would like to write a post about this today – be sure to link to the Faith n’ Fiction post over at My Friend Amy’s!

Morning Meanderings…

Day 2 in Florida!  There is only an hour difference between Minnesota and Florida but I believe I am still on it.  🙂  According to “Florida”  I slept until 9 am today!  9 am!  LOL

Here is my funny story.  At home, when my coffee gets cold in my Coffee Cup, I dump the coffee into a near by plant and get a new hot cup of coffee.  I had learned a long time ago from a friend I used to work with  that the coffee provides nutrients for plants.  My plants at home are greener than green so who am I to argue? I do this all the time – I never throw old coffee down the drain.

HOWEVER – when you are a guest in someones home and late at night you take your cold coffee and feed the fake plant with it…..  not so cool.  😉  I am just saying…. LOL

Today we will venture out together and go exploring.  I am excited… I hope to find a local book store….. maybe just to browse…. but maybe to buy.  I will be taking a book along with me of course for the road trip… planning to have a review up later today!

Where we are staying in Florida

Where’s My Head At?

I was off and visiting blogs today and commenting here and there because you know I like to chat it up with fellow bloggers….  and then this happens.  I leave a comment where I become a faceless snowman shaped icon.  Talk about awkward.  Whats up with that?

It is rare…. I pretty much have a face wherever I travel (I make it a point not to leave home without it).

So really – that is the question.  Anyone know why that happens?

A Black Tie Affair by Sherill Bodine

Fashion curator Athena Smith will do anything to get her hands on the Clayworth family’s couture collection for her exhibit. So she’s thrilled when she’s called in to authenticate the gowns…until she falls ill while examining them and wakes up face-to-face with notorious Chicago bachelor Drew Clayworth.

Drew doesn’t trust Athena one bit. He still believes she betrayed him years ago. So when his family’s gowns go missing and Athena offers her help in exchange for the dresses, he reluctantly accepts. But they’re both taken off guard by the barely restrained passion that’s still between them…and the memories that are both bitter and sweet. As they work together to find the dresses, can they resist the sparks between them?

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Sherrill Bodine has been writing stories since junior high, when she won a pair of silver skates in a state-wide essay contest. While moving twenty-two times back and forth across America and rearing her four children, she published fifteen award-winning novels under two pseudoynyms (Lynn Leslie/Leslie Lynn). Now she’s decided to be herself and write about the people, parties, and high-life in the city she knows best: Chicago. When she’s not in the Windy City with her husband, family, and Newfoundland and pug dogs, she’s fulfilling her passion to travel to exotic locales around the world.

A light romantic read that was just simply fun.  This book for me was a little jolt of the theme on “the one who got away”.  I liked the quirky idea that Athene is thrown into a project that puts her working alongside the before mentioned “the one who got away” Drew. A second chance perhaps?  Well, nothing like solving a mystery together to see if that is a possibility!  While the plot is not strong and the characters are not ones I would find myself hanging out with, Sherill has woven together a tale that did hold my attention.

A light afternoon read curled up in a chair or sitting at the beach.  This is one that will bring a smile to your face and perhaps bring up a memory or two…

Don’t forget – I have a giveaway of 5 copies of this book!

Enter Here

I received my review copy from Hachette Book Group