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 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 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 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 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)


Christina Berry


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.


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 and

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'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'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!