Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top 10 Books of 2009

Another year has gone by, and I've read more books this past year than I've ever read in a single year. But,....uh,....I don't know what the final number is yet. :o) I've got one book for sure that'll be finished by 11:59pm tonight, and maybe I can squeeze in one more....we'll have to see. And maybe one of those will make it on this list as an honorable mention or something.

In the mean time, I wanted to share with you my Top 10 Books of 2009. In no particular order....here we go:

1. Daughters of Boston series by Julie Lessman (REVIEW of Book 3)
2. Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove (REVIEW)
3. The Face by Angela Hunt
4. Sisters of the Quilt series by Cindy Woodsmall
5. The Veil by Diane Noble (REVIEW)
6. Shadows of Lancaster County by Mindy Starns Clark (REVIEW)
7. Stand-in Groom by Kaye Dacus (REVIEW)
8. Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska by Loree Lough (REVIEW)
9. Pièce de Résistance by Sandra Byrd (REVIEW)
10. The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall (REVIEW)

And oops...I cheated a little bit. Hey, there are just some series where every single book is fabulous!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Rides of My Life

Wow, I just cannot believe that 2009 is almost over, and also, the end of a decade. "Decade" seems to be a word that I'm hearing all over the media around Memphis, from the newspaper to my tv screen. This morning, I heard one newscaster mention that you could log on to their website, and share your favorite memory from the last ten years. Well, it didn't take me long to think of my favorite memory/memories. 1/1/2001 was the day I met my husband, and 5/18/02 was when we were married.....absolutely, two of the happiest days of my life. We got our first doggie in 2007, and moved into our first house in 2008....two more great memories.



While I had great memories at the beginning of this last decade, the end of it has a memory that I would like to forget very soon. Christmas Eve was supposed to be a wonderful day in my family, and it almost came off without a single hitch. My aunt (who feels like more of a sister to me and one of my closest friends) was planning to get married! She and her fiance decided about three weeks before Christmas that they'd like to be married on Christmas Eve at noon. So, she calls me up asking me to help her plan the wedding......in three weeks. AGH!!!!! Most of you know that planning a wedding can be chaos at times, with other times being absolutely wonderful. Thankfully, we had more of the absolutely wonderful, and she thrilled me to pieces when she asked me to be her matron of honor. :o)


So, it's Christmas Eve morning, and I'm on my way to the church. It was about a 20 minute drive from my house to the church. I turn on Kirby Pkwy, and drive down it for about 30 seconds and get to a curve in the road. As I start to reach the curve, there's a car coming the other direction that in a split-second, crosses the middle line. He rams into the driver's side of my car, and sends me spinning across the road. All I could think when that happened was, "Please, God, don't let anyone else hit me while I have zero control of my car." Thankfully, that prayer was answered, and I ended up down the road and on the other side of the street with no one else running into my car. Also, it was wonderful that the police were already there towing a car out of someone's yard....my guess it that they hit a slick spot in the road because this other car was all the way up in the hedges next to someone's front porch. Everything from that point was just a blur because it all happened much quicker than I expected. One minute, I remember crying my eyes out, and the next, I was just shaking all over.


About an hour later, I'm at the church, and I've never felt more scatterbrained in my life. Thankfully, there were several people that stepped up and wrapped up all the last minute things that needed to be done because I start to get phone calls from the other guy's insurance company. (Are you thinking along with me that the timing for all this really could've been a lot better?) By 11 o'clock, I'm just about ready and my aunt's also just about ready, so it's time to take some pictures!! I just can't wait to see them because she was soooo beautiful. She wore a deep red, strapless gown that had a corset back and a small train, and she wore her hair up with a silver tiara with no veil. The chapel where the ceremony took place was so intimate, and the service itself was just perfect. I know they are going to be so happy together, and I'm thrilled that my aunt has found someone to share the rest of her life with. :o)


Now, it's about a week later, and I'm just sorta stuck. Having an accident during the holidays presents tons of delays simply because everyone is on vacation or their offices are closed. Right now, I'm in a waiting game to see if my car will be totalled or if they're going to try to fix it. My thinking is that it'll be totalled simply because it's older and because of all the damage. In the mean time, I'm driving a rental, and looking for another car.


Through all of this, I have not been able to stop giving thanks to God. My mind just races sometimes when I think that I could've been seriously hurt, and possibly stuck in the hospital. Even though the accident wasn't my fault, I'm also thankful that the other man wasn't injured. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were both particularly special just because I was able to be with my family and celebrate the birth of my Savior.


So, all in all, there's been some great moments this decade, some not so great, but each one is what makes up my life. I'm also thankful that this year I have made tons of new friends through blogging and reading.....you gals are fabulous! I pray that everyone has a safe New Year's weekend, and that you'll be able to make some great memories for the next decade. :o)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Book Review: Face of Betrayal by Lis Wiehl and April Henry

About the book:

Fox News legal correspondent and former Federal Prosecutor Lis Wiehl has created a suspense novel that's as timely as tomorrow's headlines.

While home on Christmas break, a seventeen-year-old Senate page takes her dog out for a walk and never returns. Reporter Cassidy Shaw is the first to break the story. The resulting media firestorm quickly ensnares Federal Prosecutor Allison Pierce and FBI Special Agent Nicole Hedges. The three unique women are life-long friends who call themselves The Triple Threat--a nickname derived from their favorite dessert and their uncanny ability to crack cases via their three positions of power.

Though authorities think Katie might have been kidnapped or run away, those theories shatter when Nicole uncovers Katie's blog. They reveal a girl troubled by a mysterious relationship with an older man. Possibly a U.S. Senator.

As the three women race against time to find Katie alive, their increasing emotional involvement brings out their own inner demons and external enemies. There are many faces of betrayal, but they must find one face in a crowd of growing suspects before they become the next victims.

In Face of Betrayal, Lis Wiehl's expertise in law, politics, and criminal investigation merges with April Henry's narrative genius to create a gripping mystery filled with rich characters, real danger, and a shocking yet satisfying final twist.

My thoughts:

From the glowing endorsements plastered all over the front and back covers, I really expected Face of Betrayal to be a great book. Unfortunately, it was just ho-hum okay. While the Triple Threat Club was a great concept, I started to get bored with it after awhile. Allison was really the only character of the TTC that I liked.

The plot of the story was a great idea, and exactly what you'd see on the news, but the delivery of the story just seemed flat. The suspense of the book was good throughout the book because I truly had no idea who the killer was. However, when the TTC figures it out, the whole scene is somewhat anti-climactic.

Overall, I'd have to say that this is a so-so book, and probably not one that I'd recommend to suspense fans. I'd say that there's a 50-50 chance I'll read the next book in the series.

3 Stars

*This book was provided to me at no charge for review through the Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger Program.

Monday, December 14, 2009

CFBA Tour and Book Review: The Familiar Stranger by Christina Barry


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Familiar Stranger

Moody Publishers (September 1, 2009)

by

Christina Berry




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Single mother and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time to write from her busy schedule because she must tell the stories that haunt her every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) She holds a BA in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem, as well. All that confusion must have influenced her decision to be team captain of a winning team on Family Feud.

Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, released from Moody in September and deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently--Forgive Extravagantly!

Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, and Daily Devotions for Writers.





ABOUT THE BOOK

Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise . . . if she knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, with fuzzy memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him.

They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, they discover dark secrets. An affair? An emptied bank account? A hidden identity? An illegitimate child?

But what will she do when she realizes he's not the man she thought he was? Is this trauma a blessing in disguise, a chance for a fresh start? Or will his secrets destroy the life they built together?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Familiar Stranger, go HERE

My very brief thoughts:

I'm in the middle of this book right now, and I have to say that I am totally impressed!!! I love the way the story's point of view goes back and forth between the husband and wife....just gives it a little something extra that is not the norm. Unfortunately, since one of my family members recently told me she was getting married on Christmas Eve, my reading time has been almost nil because of planning everything with her for her wedding (3 weeks is not a lot of time to work with). I'll be doing good to get this finished by New Years, but hopefully, it won't take that long. :o)

UPDATE (12/16/09)

Well, I can still say without a doubt that this was an incredible book. However, I must confess that I completely did not like the ending. I felt it was completely far-fetched, not believable, and almost downright bizarre. There's not a whole lot of detail I can provide on it without completely giving away the whole story, except to say when the husband got his memory back was when things started to go downhill, in my opinion.

On the flipside, I am very eager to read another book by this new author. I loved how she told this story from both points of view, and occasionally, repeated a few scenes so I could see how each person was affected by the others actions.....very insighful. I think I would recommend this first novel of Ms. Barry's to anyone that loves a good women's fiction novel with a little bit of suspense thrown in.

4 Stars

Friday, December 11, 2009

CFRB Tour and Book Review: The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again by James Maxon


This month, CFRB presents The Cat that Made Nothing Something Again by James D. Maxon


About the Book:

A nameless cat lives in a town of dry, unhappy people devoid of moisture, joy and creativity. How did the townspeople get this way? Who stole the moisture? And how can one crafty cat return moisture -- and life -- to his town? The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again tells the tale of how a feline hero discovers these answers. On his journey he overcomes obstacles with wit and determination, finds new friends in unexpected places and learns the simple joy -- and transcendent power -- of helping others.

About the Author:

James was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and now lives with his wife, Cindy, in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A writer of stories, poetry, expository, narrative and persuasive genres, James targets children and teens with messages of faith, hope and insight. Current work in progress is
A Wizard Tale, which is a story about a fifteen-year-old boy who is involuntarily forced to walk in his father's footsteps-after his death-and finds himself fighting against a powerful and opposing force.

My thoughts:

I must confess that this is the first children's book I've read...well, since I was a child. Being that I don't have any children yet, and I'm hardly ever around kids (at least, long enough to read a book to them), children's books are just not something I normally read.

James Maxon's book The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again is a great book for either kids or adults. Throughout the entire book, I could visualize each scene as though I was watching a cartoon movie. I know that sounds corny, but that's just how I envisioned it. :o) In the first part of the book when the cat is on his way to see the king, I could visualize the ground being dried up from no moisture. Also, when he meets all the different characters along the way, I could hear the bird and the seed talking in a great "cartoon" voice, in spite of the world around them looking so dreary and dull. In the second part of the book when the moisture is returned, everything comes alive, and it's so easy to imagine all the colors of this new and changed world.

For a Christian children's book, I was actually impressed that it was not too preachy. Instead, it was heavy on the symbolism, but not something that would go over a child's head. Because of that, it provides the perfect opportunity for parents to help their kids with questions that they may have at a young age about becoming a Christian. For example, the "moisture" in the book, in my opinion, represents the love of God, and that if we let that love be sucked out of our lives, we're left with a very unhappy life. Also, without that love, we don't treat others as we should, and our hearts can become hard toward one another.

This is definitely a book I would recommend for anyone, regardless of your age group. The truths found in this book apply to everyone, and are easily understood. I look forward to reading James Maxon's future books, even if they are written for kids. *grin*

Visit the author's website.

View the book trailer.

Purchase The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again at
Amazon or download for FREE from the Author's Website.

Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.

**My apologies that I was a day late in getting this post up!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Review: The Secret by Beverly Lewis


About the book:

In the seemingly ordinary Amish home of Grace Byler, secrets abound. Why does her mother weep in the night? Why does her father refuse to admit something is dreadfully wrong? Then, in one startling moment, everything Grace assumed she knew is shattered. Her mother's disappearance leaves Grace reeling and unable to keep her betrothal promise to her long-time beau. Left to pick up the pieces of her life, Grace questions all she has been taught about love, family, and commitment.

Heather Nelson is an English grad student, stunned by a doctor's diagnosis. Surely fate would not allow her father to lose his only daughter after the death of his wife a few years before. In denial and telling no one she is terminally ill, Heather travels to Lancaster County--the last place she and her mother had visited together. Will Heather find healing for body and spirit?

As the lives of four wounded souls begin to weave together like an Amish patchwork quilt, they each discover missing pieces of their life puzzles--and glimpse the merciful and loving hand of God.

My thoughts:

While this book in no way is as good as some of Ms. Lewis' earlier works, I have to say that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, I quite enjoyed it. I've read several reviews that practically bashed it, saying that it's too depressing, that there are too many characters to follow, that there are loose ends not resolved, etc. I have a few things to say about each one of those points.

First of all, yes, the book is slightly depressing, but I don't think she meant for this particular series to start off as happy. Yes, the mother leaves her husband and her children, and none of them understand why. They are the ones left to pick up the shreds of their dignity among their community. None of that is pleasant, but that's the story Ms. Lewis chose to write. If you really want to see Amish fiction that's depressing, look into the Sisters of Holmes County series by Wanda Brunstetter....hands down the worst Amish series I have read to date, and I've read several.

Secondly, the characters. I didn't think there were too many to follow; it seemed to be an adequate amount to keep it interesting, but not too many to keep up with. With that said, the only complaint that I have were a few characters that had names that were too similar. Martin (Puckett) and Marian (Reihl) look very similar when you're only reading their first name, as do Adam and Andy, two other secondary characters. I think a little bit more creativity could've been used when deciding on the names.

Lastly, yes, there are loose ends at the end of the book, but that's the author's preference. Not every author is going to have a complete resolution at the end of every one of their books. There are several storylines that are going on, and they can't all be covered in one book. Otherwise, there would be complaints that the story was too rushed. I guess you can't please everybody all of the time, much less part of the time. Personally, I didn't mind that the story ended the way it did. The actual "secret" of the book was revealed, but how it will play out will have to wait until books 2 & 3.

I am quite excited to read the rest of the series, mainly because the storyline is outside the norm for Amish fiction. Women just do not walk out on their families in the Amish world. I'm not expecting happy resolutions all around when it's all said and done, but I do think it will be some great reading....I'm really looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Author Spotlight and Book Giveaway: Loree Lough

If this is your first time stopping by Southern Sassy Things...well, you chose the perfect day to stop by. Today's big feature is my second interview with Loree Lough! Woohoo! I got to know Loree a little bit better a few months ago, and she's gung-ho ready to answer some more of my questions! :o) In addition to answering all my questions, we're also going to talk about Loree's latest book, Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska. If you didn't stop by yesterday, and would like to read my review of Loree's book, click here.

Welcome, Loree!

Thank you, thank you, for inviting me! It’s so great to talk with you again!

I see you here, there, and everywhere online. How do you manage to stay connected with your readers and fans AND find time to write?

Well, it helps that I don’t need the usual 8 hours of sleep every night. Getting up early seems to be the key for me. I get so much done between 5 (when I wake up) and 7:30 (when my husband starts meandering the house). Quiet stuff, y’know, like dusting and sorting laundry and even scrubbing bathrooms… leaving the machine-required chores like vacuuming for the hours when he’s up and about.

Since it’s just the two of us now that the kids are grown and gone, chores don’t eat up all that much time. Usually, by 6 a.m., I’m at my desk, reading and answering email. Then it’s on to all the ‘social networking’ sites like Facebook, Shoutlife, MySpace, and Twitter. I use a timer to make sure I never linger too long at any one address. (I really get a kick out of communicating with old and new friends in those places!) I set the li’l gizmo for 10 minutes, and when it beeps, I’m outta there, even if I’m mid-sentence.

And then it’s on to my Work In Progress. I read and edit the last scene I wrote yesterday, then plunge into the next one, and generally don’t come up for air until suppertime. (Love my crock pot!)

Are there any good Christian fiction books that you've read lately that you seem to recommend to everyone?

I’ve read a couple, actually! Sharlene MacLaren’s Maggie Rose was a delightful read. And so was Tammy Barley’s Love’s Rescue. A Widow’s Hope, by Mary Ellis and Melanie Jeschke’s Jillian Dare held my attention, too. And for those who like stuff that’s a little grittier, I recommend Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins and Cursebreaker by Nancy Wentz.
I've had a hankering to read both Riven and Jillian Dare, so it might have to be sooner rather than later. :o)

Tell us about the featured book.

Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska is the story of a wounded war hero who’s forced to hang up his uniform and head back home. He has a list of reasons he’d rather be just about anyplace else, not the least of which is that it’s “The Town Where It’s Christmas, All Year Long.” That, and he’s not thrilled at the prospect of managing his deceased parents’ run-down gift shop.

Enter Sam Sinclair, whose resume convinces Bryce that maybe he can achieve his dream of opening his own one-of-a-kind furniture-making shop with an able dude at the helm. If only finding out that “Sam” is short for Samantha was the least of his troubles!

When Sam rumbled into town in an oversized RV, she hoped to leave heartache and disappointment in Baltimore . Imagine her surprise when, on her very first day in town, she learns her job as the hotel chef was given to the owner’s nephew!

For her, going home means admitting defeat; for him, being home is defeat. Will stubbornness keep them apart? Or will they learn that love takes as many shapes as the snowflakes that blanket the streets of North Pole…?

Yours is the first book that I've read that features a character who fought in the Iraq War. What caused you to want to create a character who has been through that experience?

Like most patriotic Americans, I’ve always been a supporter of our armed forces. During my youth, when I (literally) sang for my supper, I visited VA hospitals in every city sang in, and went bed-to-bed, singing for soldiers wounded in Vietnam . (Yeah, I’m actually that old!) Times have changed, but my appreciation for what the brave men and women who risk life and limb to assure our freedoms hasn’t.

So I decided to honor them by creating a hero who came home from war with a very visible, life-altering injury (Bryce was blinded in one eye when he stepped on a landmine to save his men). But he has scars that don’t show on the surface, too, and I hoped to remind readers of the sacrifices our soldiers make, every day of their military lives.

Sam's career preference is a chef. Is there anything she cooked up in the book that is a particular favorite of yours? (Those sticky buns sounded pretty good to me!)

Oooo yeah, sticky buns are a regular ‘fresh from the oven’ treat around here (and I have the wiggly butt to prove it!). Sam also wanted made lasagna for her brother and Bryce, and chocolate cake. (I’m happy to share the recipes if y’all send your email addresses!)

Would you be able to live in a place like North Pole year round?

We’ve had a humble little cabin in the Allegheny Mountains , and until recently, it had no electricity, no plumbing, no phone or TV (and the area still doesn’t provide Internet access). We’ve been snowed in for days… and loved it. The 22 hours of darkness or daylight is even tough on people who’ve lived there all their lives, so yeah, I think I really could!

There were a few characters that had a few loose ends toward the end of the book, and I really want to know how they end up! :o) Is there any type of sequel or follow-up story to this one so we can know what happens with some of the secondary characters?

I would love to write a sequel to this story! (“Love RETURNS to North Pole, Alaska”?) Write the publisher and see if they’ll let me do it, because wouldn’t it be fun to see what happens between Sam’s brother Bill and Cora, the pretty waitress who showed him around town!

Now that we're in the month of December with Christmas right around the corner, are there any special Christmas traditions that you have in your family?
Every Christmas Eve, we gather here for warm and spicy cider, then head off to the evening service at church. Afterward, we eat buttered popcorn and sip home-made cocoa while watching It’s a Wonderful Life. On Christmas Day, we gather ‘round the tree to exchange gifts, then gather ‘round the table for a big family sit-down dinner (usually 30 or 40 people!). We start dessert with a birthday cake for the Baby Jesus, and yes, we sing the Happy Birthday Song before blowing out one candle.

What's this I've been hearing lately about chipmunks in your house? (You'll wanna make sure they're all gone if you are having a big Christmas get-together! LOL!)

Ha! I think they’re gone, but if they aren’t? No biggie, because I have this teeny tiny whip and if they don’t sing “Little Tin Soldier”, I’m not afraid to use it!

Can you update our readers where you can be found all over the web?

Why, sure! Y’all can find me at Facebook, MySpace, Shoutlife, and Twitter, as well as http://www.theloughdown.blogspot.com/ and http://www.loreelough.com/.

Once again, thank you so much Loree for visiting today, and I look forward to having you com back again in the future!

Well, you’re quite welcome… but I’ll bet you’re not looking forward to having me back as much as I’m looking forward to coming back! This was a lot of fun, so thanks again!

*Loree has been so sweet to offer a free copy of Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska to one special reader. If you are interested in gettin' your name in the hat, please leave a comment with your email address in the following format (your name at somewhere dot com) so the trolls don't get you. If you do not leave your email address, you will not be entered in the drawing...it's the only way we can reach you. The giveaway will be open until Saturday, December 12th, 11:59PM.

This book is a perfect holiday read, and you definitely want the opportunity to win a copy. So, come on.....what are ya waitin' for?!?! :o)

**Odds of winning are based upon the number of entrants. Contest open to U.S. residents only. Void where prohibited.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:


Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist, set to release June, 2010.


About the book:


From the day she arrives at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled--by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack's rugged behavior by tutoring him in the ways of refined society, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie's efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt's lady's maid. But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangled in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs...and their hearts.


**I cannot wait to read this one! Deeanne has not written a single book that I didn't like, and the fact that this one appears to be set at the Biltmore Estate.....WOW!!!! It's gonna be a good'un! ;o)

Book Review: Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska by Loree Lough

About the book:

A former marine is no match for the spunky Sam Sinclair. Bryce Stone has returned to his hometown of North Pole, Alaska, and he’s not very happy about it. “The Town Where It’s Christmas All Year Long” does not appeal to the self-admitted scrooge. What’s worse, Bryce must postpone his dream of opening a furniture shop when his aunt Olive retires and leaves him to manage the family’s cluttered Christmas boutique. When Bryce underestimates Sam, the inexperienced young woman he hires to run the store, it becomes a battle of wills, and the two soon find that they’re fighting for more than just the shop.

My thoughts:

Loree has written another winner with Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska! Her books are always so much fun, and I've never come across one that I didn't like. This one in particular is a perfect fireside read, especially with the snow and the obvious fact that it's set in Alaska. *grin*

I had a hard time deciding who my favorite character was because I couldn't help but like everybody! Sam's personality is so infectious, and she has that perfect "girl next door" quality. Bryce has a sort of mysterious air about him, and I could visualize him being a very handsome young man (even with the eye patch!). And Olive....you're not gonna get anything by her! I'm convinced that she's got eyes in the back of her head.

In addition to writing great characters, Loree's got a good dose of creativity when writing dialog for them. She throws in some really good one-liners every now and then, and somehow, those one-liners really add life to her stories. Here's one of my favorite lines by Olive:

"Hopefully by the time that pinchpenny Brooks realizes he passed over the prettiest girl in North Pole for that li'l whippersnapper, my hand-headed nephew will have fallen baseball cap over loafers in love with you."

If this book doesn't bring a smile to your face, then you must be a certified Scrooge! Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska is perfect to read around the holidays, but could be enjoyed year-round. I highly recommend this book if you're looking for just the right mix of cold weather, romance, and laughter!

4 1/2 stars

**Come back tomorrow 'cause Loree will be here (YAY!) for another interview, and she's giving away one copy of Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Book Review: Stand-in Groom by Kaye Dacus/5 Stars

About the book:

When wedding planner Anne Hawthorne meets George Laurence, she thinks she's found the man of her dreams. But when he turns out to be a client, her "dream" quickly turns into a nightmare. Will Anne risk her heart and her career on this engaging Englishman? George came to Louisiana to plan his employer's wedding and pose as the groom. But how can he feign affection for a supposed fiance when he's so achingly attracted to the wedding planner? And what will happen when Anne discovers his role has been Stand-In Groom only? Will she ever trust George again? Can God help these two believers find a happy ending?

My thoughts:

Romance stories are not typically my cup of tea. When I first started reading fiction a lot, they were, but I no longer go out of my way any more to read a romance. Well.....I'm glad I decided to make an exception for Stand-in Groom! This is a romance done right!

Anne's career choice alone really makes this book stand out. I had a brief desire at one point in my life to be a wedding planner, but now that I actually know what's involved, plus reading how Anne practically runs herself ragged day after day.....let's just say that I'll leave that job to the professionals. I loved how she really cared for each one of the brides that she worked with, so much so that she would drop everything at a moment's notice to help one of them through a crisis.

And then, there's George.... My, my, my! He set my heart to flutterin' from the moment he first met Anne. Initially, his part in the story was a little confusing, especially trying to distinguish between the role he was trying to play and the person he really was, but things quickly became easy to follow. Oh, and did I mention that he's British? And such a perfect gentleman? Wow!

Parts of the story were slightly predictable, but I was genuinely surprised a couple times along the way. I also appreciated how the romance progressed slowly throughout the book and not just in one big lump; it just made the story that much more believable.

All that's left to say is that I will definitely be reading more from Kaye Dacus! This was an impressive debut novel, and I have no doubt that the rest of this series will be just as exceptional! Bravo!

5 Stars

Southern?  Yes
Sass?  No

Stand-in Groom is Book One of the Brides of Bonneterre series by Kaye Dacus

Monday, November 23, 2009

2010 100+ Book Reading Challenge

Yep, I'm signing up for this challenge again! 2009 was my first year ever to challenge myself to read 100 books. I'm not quite there yet (I think I'm around 87 or 88 right now), but I'm so very close. I am going to change a few things, though, regarding the goals that I set.

First of all, I am not going to pre-select books to read for 2010. That got me nowhere fast for 2009. So, for 2010, I'm going to let the wind take me where it will regarding what I decide to read.

Next, between blog tours and other required reading, it was hard to pick up a book to read that had no strings attached and enjoy it for what it was. So for 2010, I plan to do a lot more pleasure reading and a lot less required reading. (I'm excited about that already! :o)

This post will be home base for this challenge, and all the books that I read will be recorded here. Wish me luck!

1. The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher--1/2/10
2. The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen--1/8/10
3. A Sinister Silence by Jane Peart--1/9/10
4. Outlaw Bride by Lori Copeland--1/10/10
5. A Shattered Life, An Amazing God by Madeline A. Spencer--1/15/10
6. Michal by Jill Eileen Smith--1/21/10
7. Burn by Ted dekker and Erin Healy--1/26/10
8. Beguiled by Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand--1/29/10
9. A Place Called Bliss by Ruth Glover--1/31/10
10. The Pastor's Wife by Jennifer AlLee--2/4/10
11. Texas Heat by Debra White Smith--2/6/10
12. A Kiss for Cade by Lori Copeland--2/11/10
13. Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith--2/20/2010
14. Gardenias for Breakfast by Robin Jones Gunn--2/21/2010
15. The Parting by Beverly Lewis--2/22/2010
16. Plain Jayne by Hillary Manton Lodge--2/25/2010
17. Fit to Be Tied by Robin Lee Hatcher--3/2/2010
18. June Bug by Chris Fabry--3/6/2010
19. Torch Red by Melody Carlson--3/7/2010
20. Hangman's Curse by Frank Peretti--3/8/2010
21. One Smooth Stone by Marcia Lee Laycock--3/12/2010
22. Halfway to Forever by Karen Kingsbury--3/14/2010
23. Wind by Calvin Miller--3/16/2010
24. Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa by Melanie Dobson--3/19/2010
25. The Bride Bargain by Kelly Eileen Hake--3/22/2010
26. Heart of Stone by Jill Marie Landis--3/24/2010
27. Above All Things by Deborah Raney--3/26/2010
28. Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson--4/2/2010
29. Asking for Trouble by Sandra Byrd--4/4/2010
30. The Bride Backfire by Kelly Eileen Hake--4/8/2010
31. The Desires of Her Heart by Lyn Cote--4/15/2010
32. Her Inheritance Forever by Lyn Cote--4/22/2010
33. Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers--4/24/2010
34. A Stranger's Wish by Gayle Roper--4/24/2010
35. No Place for a Lady by Maggie Brendan--4/28/2010
36. Petticoat Ranch by Mary Connealy--5/1/2010
37. Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy--5/3/2010
38. Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy--5/8/2010
39. Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot--5/10/2010
40. A Woman Called Sage by DiAnn Mills--5/13/2010
41. Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon by Miralee Ferrell--5/16/2010
42. One Perfect Gift by Kathleen Morgan--5/16/2010
43. Wanted by Shelley Shepard Gray--5/17/2010
44. Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson--5/22/2010
45. Almost Forever by Deborah Raney--5/27/2010
46. A Matter of Character by Robin Lee Hatcher--5/28/2010
47. The Winter Pearl by Molly Noble Bull--5/29/2010
48. The Sheriff's Surrender by Susan Page Davis--6/1/2010
49. Deceit by Brandilyn Collins--6/3/2010
50. Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin--6/8/2010
51. Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James--6/14/2010
52. Through Thick and Thin by Sandra Byrd--6/16/2010
53. Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley--6/22/2010
54. Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart--6/27/2010
55. In a Heartbeat by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy--6/28/2010
56. The Gunsmith's Gallantry by Susan Page Davis--7/5/2010
57. The Sister Wife by Diane Noble--7/6/2010
58. A Rose for Melinda by Lurlene McDaniel--7/8/2010
59. The Other Daughter by Miralee Ferrell--7/8/2010
60. Angel's Den by Jamie Carie--7/11/2010
61. The Road Winds On by Francena Arnold--7/11/2010
62. Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon--7/13/2010
63. Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer--7/16/2010
64. Predator by Terri Blackstock--7/24/2010
65. Brink of Death by Brandilyn Collins--7/26/2010
66. The Gifted Sophmores by Terri Blackstock--7/30/2010
67. Adrienne by Judy Baer--8/1/2010
68. Light of My Heart by Ginny Aiken--8/2/2010
69. Adam by Ted Dekker--8/3/2010
70. Stain of Guilt by Brandilyn Collins--8/7/2010
71. Forgotten by Melody Carlson--8/8/2010
72. The Price of Freedom by Carol Umberger--8/9/2010
73. The Mark of Salvation by Carol Umberger--8/14/2010
74. Masquerade by Nancy Moser--8/20/2010
75. Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers--8/27/2010
76. Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss--8/27/2010
77. Jillian Dare by Melanie M. Jeschke--8/30/2010
78. Where My Heart Belongs by Tracie Peterson--9/3/2010
79. Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman and Ellen Vaughn--9/6/2010
80. The Vigilante's Bride by Yvonne Harris--9/7/2010
81. For Time and Eternity by Allison Pittman--9/9/2010
82. The Bride Blunder by Kelly Eileen Hake--9/13/2010
83. Fighting for Bread and Roses by Lynn A. Coleman--9/14/2010
84. Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad--9/20/2010
85. The Seeker by Ann Gabhart--9/27/2010
86. A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman--9/28/2010
87. Judgment Day by Wanda L. Dyson--9/29/2010
88. The Dead Rise First by Ragan/McLaughlin--9/30/2010
89. Weaving a Future by Susan Page Davis--10/01/2010
90. The Sunroom by Beverly Lewis--10/02/2010
91. Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde by Laura Jensen Walker--10/03/2010
92. The Lumberjack's Lady by Susan Page Davis--10/07/2010
93. Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus--10/09/2010
94. Over the Waters by Deborah Raney--10/09/2010
95. Hearts Twice Met by Freda Chrisman--10/09/2010
96. Sooner or Later by Vickie McDonough--10/10/2010
97. Banking on Love by Janice A. Thompson--10/10/2010
98. Mozart's Sister by Nancy Moser--10/10/2010
99. The Waiting by Suzanne Woods Fisher--10/16/2010
100. I Am Nujood, Age 10, and Divorced by Nujood Ali--10/17/2010
101. Forgiven by Shelley Shepard Gray--10/18/2010
102. Winter's Awakening by Shelley Shepard Gray--10/20/2010
103. A Man of His Word by Kathleen Fuller--10/22/2010
104. Grace by Shelley Shepard Gray--10/24/2010
105. Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar--10/29/2010
106. Love Finds You in Charm, Ohio by Annalisa Daughety--10/31/2010
107. The House on Malcolm Street by Leisha Kelly--10/31/2010
108. An Honest Love by Kathleen Fuller--11/03/2010
109. Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman--11/10/2010
110. Plain Pursuit by Beth Wiseman--11/20/2010
111. Plain Promise by Beth Wiseman--11/22/2010
112. Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman--11/24/2010
113. Anna's Return by Marta Perry--12/05/2010
114. Anne by Muriel Canfield--12/06/2010
115. True Light by Terri Blackstock--12/12/2010
116. Dawn's Light by Terri Blackstock--12/19/2010
117. A Plain and Simple Christmas by Amy Clipston--12/20/2010
118. Seek Me With All Your Heart by Beth Wiseman--12/21/2010
119. The Blacksmith's Bravery by Susan Page Davis--12/26/2010
120. Sunset by Karen Kingsbury--12/27/2010

Saturday, November 21, 2009

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:
and the book:

Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Tricia Goyer was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference "Writer of the Year" in 2003. Her book Night Song won Book of the Year from ACFW in the Long Historical Fiction category. Her book Life Interrupted: The Scoop On Being a Young Mom was a Gold Medallion Finalist. Tricia has written hundreds of articles, Bible Study notes, and both fiction and non-fiction books.

Visit the author's website.

Ocieanna Fleiss is a published writer and has edited six of Tricia Goyer's historical novels. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area. Connect with Ocieanna on Facebook!

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935416294
ISBN-13: 978-1935416296

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



The sound of little girls’ voices and the sight of the sun streaming through the tall, second-story window of the Open Door Home for Destitute Girls, a privately owned orphanage on upper Manhattan, told nineteen-year-old Julia Cavanaugh that the day had started without her. Julia, an orphan herself, now running the place for the owner, brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes. She submitted to a second yawn as a twelve-year-old girl hopped onto her bed.

“He’s gonna ask her to marry him, don’t you think, Miss Cavanaugh?”

“Oh, Shelby.” Julia wiped the sleep from her eyes and smiled into the freckled face staring eagerly at her. “Give me a moment to wake before you go asking such things.” Julia stroked the girl’s cheek, her heart seeming to double within her chest with love for the youngster.

The embroidery sampler she’d fallen asleep working on still lay at the end of her bed. She picked it up and eyed the image of a small house she’d copied from Godey’s Lady’s Book. Above the house, she’d stitched the words Home Sweet Home in fancy script. Gazing around the broad room lined with small metal cots and bustling with little-girl chatter, Julia noted the embroidered pillowslips, carefully pressed—albeit dingy—curtains, and dandelions smiling from scavenged jam-jar vases. She’d done her best to make the room pleasant for the girls—and herself. She glanced at their faces and smiled, gladly embracing her role as caretaker.

A less-than-subtle “ahem” from Shelby reminded Julia she’d been asked a question. She glanced at her young charge, still perched on the end of her bed. “What did you ask?”

“Finally.” Shelby eyed her with mock frustration. “I said, do you think they will get married—Mrs. Hamlin and Mr. Gaffin? Haven’t you noticed the way they look at each other?” Shelby’s cheeks hinted of red. Her golden hair was already fixed in a proper bun, her hands and face washed, and her simple dress clean and pressed despite its patches and stray threads.

“Shelby Bruce.” Julia shook her head, as Shelby’s two-year-old sister Beatrice wiggled onto Julia’s lap with a squeal. Julia planted a firm kiss on the top of Bea’s head.

“Married? I don’t think so,” Julia continued. “Mrs. Hamlin would’ve told us—told me—if she was being courted. Mr. Gaffin’s just an old family friend.” Julia wondered where on earth the girl got the notion that their headmistress wished to marry.

Although they have been spending a lot of time together. Julia pushed the thought out of her mind as little Bea shuffled to a stand, planting her pint-sized feet on Julia’s thighs. “Fammy fend!” She pointed a chubby finger at her older sister, Shelby.

“All right, Bea.” Julia plopped the toddler on the floor and swiveled her toward the small bed she shared with Shelby. “Time to straighten your bed.” Then Julia eyed the twins. “Charity, Grace, would you two virtuous girls fetch fresh water for the basin?”

Shelby pushed away from the bed, wrinkled her brow, and thrust her hand behind her as if to support her back—a perfect imitation of their middle-aged headmistress. “Now where did I put my spectacles?” Shelby clucked her tongue as she waddled forward.

Laughter spilled from the lips of the girls around the room. Encouraged, Shelby scratched her head. She plopped down on her bed then hopped up again as if surprised, pulling imaginary spectacles from under her rump. “Oh!” she squealed. “There they are.”

The laughter grew louder, and Julia pursed her lips together to smother the impulse to laugh along with them. She planted her fists on her hips. “That’s enough. All of you know what must be done before breakfast.” The girls’ laughter quieted to soft giggles hidden behind cupped palms as they scattered to do their chores.

Shelby lingered behind, her form now straight and her eyes pensive. “Maybe she forgot to tell you, Miss Cavanaugh.” The young girl gazed up at her. “The way they look at each other—it’s like my ma and pa used to, that’s all.”

Julia folded a stray sandy blond curl behind the girl’s ear. “Don’t worry, my sweet. If Mrs. Hamlin was getting married, we’d be the first to know.”

Julia hoped her own gaze didn’t reflect the sinking disquiet that draped her. Mr. Gaffin was a rich world traveler. If there was any truth to Shelby’s suspicion, Julia couldn’t imagine he’d let Mrs. Hamlin continue to work with orphans. Perhaps they’d get a new headmistress.

Or maybe the girls would be separated, moved to new homes…

If Mrs. Hamlin got married, all their lives would be radically changed. And if Julia had to leave the orphanage, she had no idea what she would do. Julia swept that painful thought away and steadied her gaze at Shelby. She couldn’t hide her true feelings from this girl. Julia took Shelby’s hand and answered as honestly as she could.

“I don’t think she’ll get married, but if she does, God will take care of us, like He always has.” Julia lifted her chin in a smile. “And really, Mrs. Hamlin may be forgetful, but no one could forget that. I sure wouldn’t.”

Ardy, a shy Swedish girl, removed her dirty sheets from a small bed and then approached, taking Julia’s hand. “Don’t ya think you’ll ever be gettin’ married?”

“Actually, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you all….” Julia leaned forward, resting her hands on her knees.

The two girls eyed each other in surprise, and Shelby’s brow furrowed.

“Come closer.” Julia curled a finger, bidding them.

“What is it?” Shelby asked, her eyes glued to Julia.

The girls leaned in. “I’d like to tell you…that there’s a wonderful man who’s asked me to marry him!”

The squeals of two girls erupted, followed by the cheers of nearly three dozen others who’d been quietly listening from the stairwell.

“There is?” Shelby reached forward and squeezed Julia’s hand.

Julia let out a hefty sigh and giggled. “No, you sillies. Well, at least not yet. Someday. Maybe.”

Shelby pouted “But you said… ”

“I said I’d like to tell you I had a man. I’d sure like to, but of course since I don’t, I’m happy to stay here with all of you.”

The girls moaned.

The squeak of the front door down on the first floor of the Revolutionary War–era home-turned-orphanage drew their attention. They waited as Mrs. Hamlin’s familiar chortle filled the air, along with a bash and clang of items—hopefully food and supplies that she’d picked up.

“Julia!” Mrs. Hamlin yelped. “Julia, dear, where are you?”

“Coming.” Julia hurried down the stairs to help the older woman.

Julia neared the bottom of the steps and paused, trying to stifle a laugh at the sight of the twinkly-eyed woman sprawled flat on her back. Scattered boxes and bags covered the donated rug.

“Mrs. Hamlin! What on earth? Why didn’t you get a steward to help you?”

“Oh, I didn’t want to be a bother.” She cheerfully picked herself up. “I was in such a hurry to show you all what I’d bought. And to tell you my surprise. Such a wonderful surprise.” Julia eyed the boxes and noted they were from R.H. Macy & Co. More than a dozen boxes waited to be opened, and she couldn’t imagine the cost.

“I found just what the girls need, and on sale!” the headmistress exclaimed.

What they need is more food—vitamin drops, too—and maybe a few new schoolbooks. But Julia didn’t dare say it. And somehow God’s hand of providence always provided.

“New clothes, I gather. That is a surprise.”

“But only half of it, dear.” Mrs. Hamlin rubbed her palms expectantly. “I also must tell you my news. The best news an old widow could hope for.”

Julia followed Mrs. Hamlin’s gaze toward the idle youngsters who’d gathered on the staircase to watch. Her eyes locked with Shelby’s, then she quickly looked away. “News?” The muscles in Julia’s stomach tightened.

“Girls,” Julia shooed them away with a wave of her hand, “you know better than to eavesdrop. Off to chores with you. We’ll have breakfast soon.”

The girls started to scurry off, but Mrs. Hamlin halted them with her words.

“No, no,” her high-pitched voice hailed. “Come back. This news is for all of you.” They circled around her, and she tenderly patted their bobbing heads.

“What is it?” Julia wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Mrs. Hamlin’s cheeks so rosy or her eyes so bright.

“I’m getting married!”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Spotlight: What the Bayou Saw by Patti Lacy


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

What The Bayou Saw

Kregel Publications (March 24, 2009)

by

Patti Lacy



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Though Patti's only been writing since 2005, she thinks her latest profession of capturing stories on paper (or computer files) will stick awhile.

The Still, Small Voice encouraged Patti to write after a brave Irish friend shared memories of betrayal and her decision to forgive. In 2008, An Irishwoman’s Tale was published by Kregel Publications. Patti’s second novel, What the Bayou Saw, draws on the memories of two young girls who refused to let segregation, a chain link fence, and a brutal rape come between them.

The secrets women keep and why they keep them continue to enliven Patti's gray matter. A third book, My Name is Sheba, has been completed. Patti's WIP, Recapturing Lily, documents a tug-of-war between a Harvard-educated doctor and an American pastor and his wife for a precious child and explores adoption issues, China's "One Child" policy, and both Christian and secular views of sacrifice.

Patti also facilitates writing seminars in schools, libraries, and at conferences and has been called to present her testimony, "All the Broken Pieces," at women's retreats. She also leads a Beth Moore Bible study at her beloved Grace Church.

Patti and her husband Alan, an Illinois State faculty member, live in Normal with their handsome son Thomas, who attends Heartland Community College. On sunny evenings, you can catch the three strolling the streets of Normal with their dog Laura, whom they've dubbed a "Worchestershire Terrier" for her "little dab of this breed, a little dab of that breed.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Segregation and a chain link fence separated twelve-year-old Sally Flowers from her best friend, Ella Ward. Yet a brutal assault bound them together. Forever. Thirty-eight years later, Sally, a middle-aged Midwestern instructor, dredges up childhood secrets long buried beneath the waters of a Louisiana bayou in order to help her student, who has also been raped. Fragments of spirituals, gospel songs, and images of a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans are woven into the story.

The past can't stay buried forever Rising author Patti Lacy's second novel exposes the life of Sally, set amid the shadows of prejudice in Louisiana.

Since leaving her home in the South, Sally Stevens has held the secrets of her past at bay, smothering them in a sunny disposition and sugar-coated lies. No one, not even her husband, has heard the truth about her childhood.

But when one of her students is violently raped, Sally's memories quickly bubble to the surface unbidden, like a dead body in a bayou. As Sally's story comes to light, the lies she's told begin to catch up with her. And as her web of deceit unravels, she resolves to face the truth at last, whatever the consequences.

If you would like to read the first chapter of What The Bayou Saw, go HERE

Watch the Book Trailer:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Book Review: The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey/3 Stars

About the book:

It is August 1944 and the Gestapo is mercilessly rounding up suspected enemies of the Third Reich. When Joseph Engel, a German physicist working on the atomic bomb, finds that he is actually a Jew, adopted by Christian parents, he must flee for his life to neutral Switzerland. Gabi Mueller is a young Swiss-American woman working for the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to the CIA) close to Nazi Germany. When she is asked to risk her life to safely "courier" Engel out of Germany, the fate of the world rests in her hands. If she can lead him to safety, she can keep the Germans from developing nuclear capabilities. But in a time of traitors and uncertainty, whom can she trust along the way? This fast-paced, suspenseful novel takes readers along treacherous twists and turns during a fascinating--and deadly--time in history.

My thoughts:

The Swiss Courier was only just released a few weeks ago, and there are already a ton of great reviews out all over the web. Based on all the reviews I've seen, I had really high expectations of it, and I was really anxious to read my first book by Tricia Goyer. Even though it was a really great story, there were just too many things that kept bugging me throughout the whole story, and I just can't help but give my honest opinion.

First of all, the title alone is somewhat misleading. I look at the cover and see a woman along with the book's title, The Swiss Courier. So, I expect that she will be the main character in the book. Well, she wasn't. During the first half to two-thirds of the book, she appears about every 3rd chapter at best. While the rest of the story was good, there's so much other activity going on, and her character almost gets lost in the shuffle. Because of this, I think that's why I didn't connect with her or any of the other characters throughout the story.

Another thing that disappointed me was a portion of Joseph Engel's story. I really enjoyed the beginning of it when I was learning about him, and what he's on the brink of discovering. But then, it just stops abruptly once he's in hiding. It was like I got to meet him for 10 minutes, and then he was gone.

Lastly, I think it would've been a huge help if there had been some sort of glossary enclosed in the book. I don't know the slightest bit of German, not to mention that my knowledge of WWII in general is limited, and can't tell you how many times I was confused along the way. In addition to this, I think it would've helped tremendously to have a "fact or fiction" segment at the end of the story just to establish what was real and what wasn't.

You'd think from all those criticisms that I didn't like the book one bit, but I really did. It is quite evident that there was tons of research that was poured into this book, even down to the plane ride at the end. There were even a few twists and turns that caught me by surprise...so much so that I was practically holding my breath hoping that things would end the right way! Overall, I would have to give it 3 stars--a middle-of-the-road rating because even though it was a good story, there were a lot of things that could've made it better. 



Southern?  No
Sass?  No


**Many thanks to Revell for providing a copy for review.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Have Not Fallen Off the Face of the Planet!

It just dawned on me today that I haven't had a blog post in a week (gasp!). I'm usually not that much of a slacker. But.....if you knew how crazy things have been in my life lately, well...you'd understand. :o) It would also explain why I have no pics to go along with this post, but maybe I'll be able to get to that soon.


First of all, I've been working on some updates to our house. Not big ones, mind you, but little things that have made a dramatic difference. You may remember a few weeks ago that DH and I invested in some new furniture for our dining room and living room. Both purchases were very much needed, and will be a huge help when we have the whole family over for Thanksgiving. But to go along with that, I've been wanting to paint a few rooms since we moved in a year and a half ago. Right before we moved in, the previous homeowners repainted all the walls the same color throughout the whole house, and it was a warm cream color. Also, when they painted, it appears that they never put up the first piece of painter's tape, so all the trim in the house has splotches of the wall color on it. And so basically....painting has been a job waiting to happen.

The first room I wanted to target was the master bedroom. We picked out the most gorgeous shade of blue for the walls, and I made it by the skin of my teeth with just one gallon of paint! :o) And of course, we needed to take care of the trim, too.....but it's oh so much more exhausting to paint the trim, IMO. In addition to the trim in the bedroom, we also have a window seat and built-in bookshelf that would need to be painted, too. But here's the blessing in disguise.... I initially chose white for the trim because eventually, all the trim in the house will need to be redone. But then, I changed my mind (yep, females are allowed to do that as much as we want). I decided I should keep it the off-white color that's already there. So, when I went to the store to return the white paint I had already bought, I had to have some off-white paint mixed. I found the most generic shade of off-white I could find, and miracle of all miracles, it is a dead-on match to what's already on the trim! I got so excited because now, I don't have to break my neck getting all the trim painted....I can just do a little bit at a time! At least for now....I have a completely repainted bedroom! YAY!


In addition to the master bedroom, we also chose to repaint our guest bathroom. The difference in there now is like daylight and dark. Of course, that same cream color was in there, and that poor bathroom had no personality whatsoever. So, now....it's a beautifual pastel blue that had a hint of lilac in it....just a peaceful color that you can get lost in, no joke. I'm planning to hang a picture in there from my in-laws trip to Hawaii....when I get a copy of it, I'll post it on here, too. Once you see it, the picture looks like it's black-and-white, but it really is a color photo. It is the most beautiful picture of the ocean with the sun breaking through the clouds as it sets....I can't wait until I have it hanging up in the bathroom. :o)


So as you can imagine, my reading time lately has been minimal at best. I've been doing good to get 50 pages read per day. Also, on top of all that, I've started looking for a part-time job so we can afford some more updates that will need to be done before we try to sell the house in a couple of years. Keep me in your prayers that I'll be able to find something that'll give me about 10-15 hours more per week, but not run me ragged at the same time.


Oh, and I don't want to forget to send a big thank you to Renee and Beth for passing along the Kreativ Blogger Award to me recently. You gals are the best!


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book Review: Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove





This month, CFRB presents Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove.

About the Book:

Twenty-something Kate Davis can't seem to get this grieving widow thing right. She's supposed to put on a brave face and get on with her life, right? Instead she's camped out on her living room floor, unwashed, unkempt, and unable to sleep-because her husband Kevin keeps talking to her.

Is she losing her mind?

Kate's attempts to find the source of the voice she hears are both humorous and humiliating, as she turns first to an "eclectically spiritual" counselor, then a shrink with a bad toupee, a mean-spirited exorcist, and finally group therapy. There she meets Jack, the warmhearted, unconventional pastor of a ramshackle church, and at last the voice subsides. But when she stumbles upon a secret Kevin was keeping, Kate's fragile hold on the present threatens to implode under the weight of the past. And Kevin begins to shout.

Will the voice ever stop? Kate must confront her grief to find the grace to go on, in this tender, quirky story about second chances.

My thoughts:

Very rarely do I come across a book that just leaves me floored the whole way through. Except for one tiny little break, I read this book from cover to cover, and loved every second of it. While it's not a book that I would normally go out of my way to read, words cannot adequately express how impressed I was after reading this fabulous debut novel.

Talking to the Dead is a great example of an author thinking outside the box and finding a new niche in the Christian fiction arena. I have never come across a Christian fiction novel that dealt with any type of mental illness, much less mental institutions and shrinks, and how individuals seek help (be it worldly or spiritual) for those problems in the real world. Even though the Christian aspects of the novel were a tad bit watered down in places, I really applaud the author for showing what some churches/pastors are like in the real world, particularly, the scene with Jack's father. It literally broke my heart to read through Kate's experience with this fictitious pastor, knowing that there really are pastors and church leaders out there that use the same tactics.

Talking to the Dead is now firmly planted on my all-time favorites list. Now, I must begin the impatient wait for whatever she has in store for her next book. If all of Bonnie's books are as great as this one, I'll be a fan for life.

About the Author:

Bonnie Grove started writing when her parents bought a typewriter, and she hasn't stopped since. Trained in Christian Counseling (Emmanuel Bible College, Kitchener, ON), and secular psychology (University of Alberta), she developed and wrote social programs for families at risk while landing articles and stories in anthologies. She is the author of Working Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You; Talking to the Dead is her first novel. Grove and her pastor husband, Steve, have two children; they live in Saskatchewan.


Purchase Talking to the Dead at
Barnes and Noble and Amazon.


Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Review: Abide with Me by Delia Parr

About the book:

The three Long sisters of Welleswood, New Jersey, felt they could handle any problem, any crisis together…

But suddenly, each was facing the most critical challenge of her life. Andrea, a single mom, was in a fight for survival, against cancer. Madge, who'd once lived a storybook life, needed to find forgiveness--if she ever could--for a husband who'd kept a shocking secret for years. Jenny, pregnant with her third child, longed to keep her husband's dream alive, whatever the sacrifice.

To get through it all, they would have to lean on one another as never before, trusting that their love and hope--and their faith, no matter how far it was tested--would see them through.

My thoughts:

I had never even heard of Delia Parr until last year when I read one of her books--Day by Day. Turns out that Day by Day is book 2 of her Home Ties Trilogy, and I had no clue I was reading the series out of order....which is not a bad thing since each book can stand on it's own. While I was not at all impressed with Day by Day (very depressing and slow-moving story), Abide with Me was just right. There are some pretty hefty issues brought up, but I didn't have that same depressed feeling with this one as I did with Day by Day. Overall, Abide with Me was a wonderful, light read, and as soon as I can find a copy, I plan to finish out the series and read book 3, Carry the Light.

A-Z Wednesday

A-Z Wednesday is hosted by Vicki at Reading at the Beach. The rules are pretty simple.....

1. Visit Reading at the Beach to get this week's letter.
2. Find a book on your shelf that starts with this week's letter.
3. Post the title, picture, description and link of the book on your blog.
4. Go back to Reading at the Beach to post a comment with a link to your post.

This week's letter is M. I've decided to feature the following book--Michal by Jill Eileen Smith.

About the book:

As the daughter of King Saul, Michal lives a life of privilege--but one that is haunted by her father's unpredictable moods and by competition from her beautiful older sister. When Michal falls for young David, the harpist who plays to calm her father, she has no idea what romance, adventures, and heartache await her. As readers enter the colorful and unpredictable worlds of King Saul and King David, they will be swept up in this exciting and romantic story. Against the backdrop of opulent palace life, raging war, and desert escapes, Jill Eileen Smith takes her readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride as Michal deals with love, loss, and personal transformation as one of the wives of David. A sweeping tale of passion and drama, readers will love this amazing story.
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I have wanted to read this book for sooooooo long, and it's just sitting there patiently with all the other books on my shelf waiting to be read. :o) I am a huge fan of Biblical fiction, and am so glad to see new authors in this genre. Oh, and it won't be long 'til the next book comes out in this series. Book 2, Abigail, will be releasing in February 2010.

Waiting on Wednesday: Burn by Ted Dekker and Erin Healy

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Burn by Ted Dekker and Erin Healy set to release January 2010.

About the book:

She Escaped the Fire—But Not the Effects of the Burn

Janeal feels trapped in her father’s Gypsy culture. But everything changes one night when a brutal and powerful man named Salazar Sanso promises her the life she longs for if she will help recover a vast sum of money tied to her father.

When the plan implodes, Sanso and his men attack the gypsy settlement and burn it to the ground. During the blaze, Janeal is faced with a staggering choice.

The impact of that choice changes her forever.

Years later, the wonderful and terrible truth of what really happened that night begins to sear Janeal’s soul. In a horrifying revelation, Janeal learns that nothing about her life since has been exactly what it seems. As truth rises from the ashes of her past, Janeal finds she must make a new life-or-death choice. But this time, escape is not an option.
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I'm really looking forward to this book! The Dekker/Healy combo did a great job last year with Kiss, and I have no doubt that this book will be just as incredible! :o)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Blog Tour and Book Review: Leaving Carolina by Tamara Leigh

*A big thank you to Liz Johnson at Waterbrook Multnomah for sending me a copy to review!*

About the book:

Piper Wick left her hometown of Pickwick, North Carolina, twelve years ago, shook the dust off her feet, ditched her drawl and her family name, and made a new life for herself as a high-powered public relations consultant in LA. She’s even “engaged to be engaged” to the picture-perfect U.S. Congressman Grant Spangler.

Now all of Piper’s hard-won happiness is threatened by a reclusive uncle’s bout of conscience. In the wake of a health scare, Uncle Obadiah Pickwick has decided to change his will, leaving money to make amends for four generations’ worth of family misdeeds. But that will reveal all the Pickwicks’ secrets, including Piper’s.

Though Piper arrives in Pickwick primed for battle, she is unprepared for Uncle Obe’s rugged, blue-eyed gardener. So just who is Axel Smith? Why does he think making amends is more than just making restitution? And why, oh why, can’t she stay on task? With the Lord’s help, Piper is about to discover that although good PR might smooth things over, only the truth will set her free.

My thoughts:

I have lived in the South my entire life, with most of it spent in Tennessee, and just couldn't imagine livin' anywhere else. Also, I absolutely love reading books that are set in the South, especially when a writer gets it right. Tamara Leigh is just flat out a great writer anyway, and Leaving Carolina is a great start to what I'm sure will be a fabulous Southern series of books.

Growing up with a last name like Pickwick is about as Southern as it gets...we actually have a Pickwick of our own in TN. :o) Just throw in some sweet tea and pickled corn, and then, you'll be Southern to the core. Tamara did a great job of describing what it's really like down here--good home cookin', down to earth people, and a love for family and friends. But listen, this book is not just all Southern stuff. There a great deal mentioned about forgiveness, first impressions, and making amends....certainly all things that could come across as preachy, but never do.

Personally, I cannot wait to read more about this family and the town of Pickwick. Tamara's style of writing is just plain fun to read, and I can't wait to see what happens next!

4 Stars

Southern?  Without a doubt!
Sass?  Yes, a staple with Tamara's books.  :o)

Friday, October 30, 2009

What's on Your Nightstand--October

What's On Your Nightstand? is hosted once a month by 5 Minutes for Books. It happens on the fourth Tuesday of every month. It's a great chance to let others know what you like to read, and to find new bloggers with the same taste in books as you have. I'm a couple of days late in getting my post up, but better late than never, I suppose.

October was really good for me in regards to meeting my reading goals. I got everything read on my nightstand this past month with one exception--A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick. It needed to be returned to the library before I got a chance to read it. :o(

This next month, here's what I'm aiming to read:

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner
The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer
Thirsty by Tracey Bateman
Abide with Me by Delia Parr

I'm pretty positive that I'll get all four of these read, plus a few others. I'm not setting too large a goal because most of November is going to be spent doing a couple of things on the house (painting, chair rail in the living room, etc.) plus having the whole family over for Thanksgiving, so there won't be quite as much spare time for reading....I'll be too busy!