Friday, December 30, 2011

Do You Like Your Plots Served with a Twist? Comin' Right Up! - Accused by Janice Cantore

Going into the new year, it's my intention to read more books outside of my historical fiction comfort zone.  With that said...what a great way to end 2011 in this excellent new suspense novel by Janice Cantore--Accused.

Before reading Accused, I had never even heard of Janice, and had no idea that she's been writing books for a few years now.  I thought I would be getting an early peek at a debut author (considering this book doesn't release for another month). debut here, but nonetheless, Janice is definitely an author I'll be reading more from in the future!  She does what all authors should do, in my opinion...write what they know.  Being a veteran police officer-turned-author, her knowledge and expertise in law enforcement shines through much of this story.

Accused is also a very appealing read for those who want a little romance with their suspense, and the mix here is just right--not too much so that it's corny, but not too little to make you think no one has a heart.  :o)  It is all-the-more believable since Carly and Nick are divorced, and Carly still carries a great amount of bitterness toward Nick because of their split.

But the icing on the cake here is the plot itself!  It is so twisted that you won't come up for air until the very last page!  The bad guys in this story are all over the place, too, and just when I think I've got one pegged, another one rears his ugly head.  To me, that's what makes a good suspense novel.  Give me a little something to figuratively chew on, while keeping me glued to the pages at the same time, and I'm a fan for life.

If there's anything to dislike here, it would be the spiritual elements.  Now, since I read nothing but Christian fiction, you'd think I wouldn't have a problem with this, but this is the first book that I've read in awhile that is as preachy as this one is.  Carly has some major issues with anything concerning God, and her disinterest initially is a little repetitive.  It's not until after the funeral that the preachiness starts to become overwhelming.  I understand that everyone in her circle wants to be a witness to her, but it's all just laid on a little too thick here.  I think if maybe just one character, perhaps two, had not shared their personal testimony, it would've helped the overall flow of the story a great deal.

So, with a mixed bag of thoughts, Accused is still a great read, and gets a high recommendation from me if just for the suspense alone.  Out of 5 stars, it easily gets 5, but the preachiness causes me to bring the overall rating to a 4.  I am so glad there is a sneak peek into book 2, Abducted, included in the back because I'm anxious to see how Carly performs in her usual element of patrolling the streets, a job she was not allowed to do in Accused.  Oh, and not to mention what happens between her and a certain someone...gotta get the juicy details on that.  :o)

4 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

Summary of Accused:

Detective Carly Edwards hates working in juvenile—where the brass put her after an officer-involved shooting—and longs to be back on patrol. So when a troubled youth, Londy Atkins, is arrested for the murder of the mayor and Carly is summoned to the crime scene, she's eager for some action. Carly presses Londy for a confession but he swears his innocence, and despite her better judgment, Carly is inclined to believe him. Yet homicide is convinced of his guilt and is determined to convict him.

Carly's ex-husband and fellow police officer, Nick, appears to be on her side. He's determined to show Carly that he's a changed man and win her back, but she isn't convinced he won't betray her again.

As the investigation progresses, Carly suspects a cover-up and strikes out on her own, uncertain whom she can trust. But when danger mounts, she begins to wonder if she made the right choice.

**Many thanks to Tyndale House through NetGalley for providing a copy for review. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top Ten Books of 2011

This year is quite possibly the hardest year to compile a list of my Top Ten Favorite Books.  In years past, I've cheated just a tiny bit and included 2- or 3-book series, but this year...I'm stickin' to my guns, and it's 10 books or bust.  :o)


#1 - To Die For by Sandra Byrd - review

For those (like me) who can't get enough of Tudor history, England, or The Royals in general, this stunning book would make an excellent addition to your reading fare, and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

#2 - Heiress by Susan May Warren - review

Without a doubt, Heiress has to be the edgiest Christian fiction book of the year.

#3 - A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell - review

Even though I've only read two books now by Siri, it's going to be extremely difficult for any of her others to match up to this one.

#4 - The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz - review

I drank in every drop of this book, and when finished, sat back and breathed a very contented sigh of happiness. 

#5 - The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund - review

It's not often that I have an opportunity to practically fly through a book as good as this one, but in 24 hours time, I read this book every moment I could spare.

#6 - Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer - review

This book was like a breath of fresh air when it comes to the Amish fiction genre.

#7 - The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena Miller - review

Serena Miller's realistic tale of life after the Civil War was one that deserves a permanent place on the keeper shelf.

#8 - House of Secrets by Tracie Peterson - review

Sometimes, books come along that are so broad and meaningful, there's really nothing left to say except it was a great book.

#9 - Waterfall by Lisa Bergren - review

I jumped off a bridge and into a book that far exceeded my expectations.

#10 - Along Wooded Paths by Tricia Goyer - review

Not since book 3 of Cindy Woodsmall's first Amish series have I been so impatient to read the last book in a series!

Honorable Mentions

Baby, It's Cold Outside by Susan May Warren - review
Desired by Ginger Garrett - review
The Inheritance of Beauty by Nicole Seitz - review
She Makes It Look Easy by Marybeth Whalen - review


So, that's my Top Ten for 2011!  Any books on there that you've read, too?  :o)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Unique Amish Fiction That's Guaranteed to Please - Along Wooded Paths by Tricia Goyer

Until I got my hands on the two novels currently in the Big Sky Series by Tricia Goyer, I'll confess...I wasn't a huge fan of her work.  Now, before you go bashing me on the head because I've lost my marbles, let me be clear.  She's a good author, but up until a week ago, her books didn't have that "zing" or "snap-crackle-pop" that I love to experience when reading.  And now....we've got a "snap-crackle-pop," a "zippa-de-do-dah," and a "wowza!" all rolled together thanks to her latest offering--Along Wooded Paths--the second book in the Big Sky Series. 

I love Amish stories that take me beyond the borders of Pennsylvania, Ohio, or Indiana (where most Amish stories are set).  This series just happens to take place in Montana, and thanks to the majestic mountains and the small-town folk, the little town of Kootenai is almost a character by itself.  Everyone loves to stop by the little store where Marianna works so they can get a good meal, maybe a slice of cake, and some good conversation.  You may even find Ben there once in awhile, participating in an open mic night of sorts.  But what sets this one little place apart from all the other Amish communities is the ordinary interaction between the Englisch and the Amish.  In most Amish novels, the Englisch are pictured in one of three ways:  as a mode of transportation, as a trusted doctor that they visit regularly, or as a temptation to some young boy or girl during their rumshpringa.  But when your car is stuck on the side of the road, or when your cabinets are void of food...everyone helps each other.  That quality alone makes this series different from any other Amish series I've ever read, and ya know...I'd love to see a whole lot more of 'em.

If all that wasn't enough to really make Tricia's Amish novels unique, she's got one more little trick up her sleeve--their interaction with God.  Now, if you're a regular to Amish books, you know that they are pretty much "by the book" when it comes to matters of church, faith, and their Ordnung.  Just like every other facet of their lives, there is a system and order to things that has been there for hundreds of years.  While I understand most of it (although I couldn't ever physically do it all), I've always wondered about the religious side of things.  Why don't they believe in reading the Bible on their own?  Why do they almost blindly trust every word from their bishop's mouth?  Why do they believe in praying silently versus praying aloud?  Do they believe that they're the only chosen group going to heaven?  What about outsiders that say they're Christians, too?  In Along Wooded Paths, Marianna has many of those same questions, too, and I'm on pins and needles waiting to find out how she comes to terms with her new relationship with God, and how it's so special to her.

And good grief, you'll smack me upside the head for sure if I don't give you the best morsel of all!  Yep....there's a love triangle, too!  And sweet mercy, it's a good ' of the very best I've read in a long time.  :o)  Now, Marianna hasn't sided with the right guy yet, in my opinion, but I'm still hoping for things to work out the way they're supposed to...there's still hope.  I just don't think she's truly happy with her decision at this point.  (Oh, and there's not one triangle, but two...geez, could this book get any better?!)

Not since book 3 of Cindy Woodsmall's first Amish series have I been so impatient to read the last book in a series!  How many days 'til April 1, 2012, Tricia...because I promise, I'm countin' them down!

5 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

Summary for Along Wooded Paths:

All she wanted was a simple Amish life . . . But now Marianna Sommer finds herself depending on Englisch neighbors. Although proud of living apart from the world, she and her newly relocated Amish family have discovered that life in the remote mountains of Montana requires working together.

As Marianna begins helping those different from herself—and receiving their help—her heart contemplates two directions. She’s torn between the Amish man from Indiana whom she has long planned on marrying and the friendly Englischer who models a closer walk with God than she’s ever seen before.

Who should have young Marianna’s heart? What is God asking her to sacrifice? Her traditions? Her community? The answer is found along the wooded paths.

**Many thanks to Wynn-Wynn Media for providing a copy for review.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Be Prepared for Butterflies in Your Stomach! - A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell

This was one of the those books that just would not let me go until I reached the very last page.  While the characters and the setting were quite ordinary, the intricacies of high fashion and historical detail were so well-crafted that I felt transported to the time and place.  Through Siri's skillful storytelling, it was easy to imagine living in a squalid tenement, cramped with other immigrant families, and hoping that I would have enough money to feed my family that day.  Now, imagine that daily lifestyle with the backdrop of the Spanish influenza epidemic and World War I, and it's not difficult to see why this book was so captivating.

The story follows three unique girls, each with their own stories, and they all happened to work together at Madame Forza's gown shop.  Julietta was a little on the reckless side--fascinated by Angelo's mystique, yet not crazy about the danger he seemed to attract.  Luciana wanted nothing more than to blend in with the crowd, lest she be found by the men who murdered her family and followed her to America.  And finally, personal favorite.  She longed for a life of lesser responsibility, where no one immediately assumed that it was her job to take care of her parents into their old age, but instead, to create a new beginning with the man of her heart.  This man just happened to be from the grocer's shop across the street, only he's the last person she ought to be attracted to.

While A Heart Most Worthy most likely would not be considered a historical romance, the romance elements of the book were some of the best I've read in ages.  Few authors can weave it into their tales in such a beautiful way that it makes one think back to the early days of their own individual love story.  Siri is one of those authors.  For example, Annamaria was literally forbidden from speaking to the grocer's son across the street, yet after each visit there, the attraction between them escalated after a quick glimpse here or a subtle smile there.  When they spoke to one another for the first time, my stomach was so full of butterflies, you'd think I was going on my first date! 

Even though I've only read two books now by Siri, it's going to be extremely difficult for any of her others to match up to this one.  I could go on for another two or three paragraphs about everything that I loved, but I've tried to leave a little bit to entice a new reader.  The story was unique, the setting realistic, and the romance...well, I think you know my feelings on that.  *wink*  A Heart Most Worthy was one of the most satisfying books I've read in a very long time, and has easily carved out a line on my Top Ten Books of 2011.

5 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  A little bit, mostly from Julietta

Summary of A Heart Most Worthy:

The elegance of Madame Forza's gown shop is a far cry from the downtrodden North End of Boston. Yet each day Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana enter the world of the upper class, working on finery for the elite in society. The three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream—and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times. Julietta is drawn to the swarthy, mysterious Angelo. Annamaria has a star-crossed encounter with the grocer's son, a man from the entirely wrong family. And through no intent of her own, Luciana catches the eye of Billy Quinn, the son of Madame Forza's most important client. Their destinies intertwined, each harboring a secret from their families and each other, will they be found worthy of the love they seek?

**Many thanks to Bethany House for providing a copy for review.

Pssst.......  Yeah, you heard me.  :o)

Interested in getting your own copy of A Heart Most Worthy?  Well, Amazon has it right now for $6!!!  Is that a steal of a deal or what?!  Go...go right now!!!

(Wait, what are you still doing here?  Oh, you're leaving a comment, are you?  Well then, by all yourself!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Change is Good, Especially When It Comes to the Amish - Beside Still Waters by Tricia Goyer

I love being able to have a new experience every time I read a book, and when it comes to reading Amish fiction...well, that's a tad bit of a rarity.  Most of the time, their culture is seen as difficult, closed off, and rigorous.  But in Tricia Goyer's first Amish novel, those cultural boundaries are pushed to the edge, and makes for an incredibly entertaining, yet beautiful, story that I won't soon forget.

What surprised me most about this story was the increased interaction between the Amish and the Englisch.  Normally, the Amish are not known for this, but frankly, when you live in the wide open spaces of Montana, you don't have much choice about who your neighbors are.  For Marianna and her father, this unusual arrangement with outsiders took some getting used to at first, but slowly, those self-imposed walls began to drop, and new relationships started to form.  Not only were these new relationships with common people, but also, with God Himself.

Prior to reading Beside Still Waters, I had read only a handful of Tricia's novels, but truly, she has a gift with the Amish genre.  Not that her other books aren't great in their own rights, but she has a different voice here that kept pulling on my heartstrings, and it just would...not...let...go.  If you're like me and love a great Amish read, yet you long for something different, Beside Still Waters is one of the best.  Period.

5 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

Summary of Beside Still Waters:

Raised among the Amish of Indiana, 18-year-old Marianna Sommer plans to get baptized into the church, marry Aaron Zook, and set up life in the only community she has ever known. But when her older brother chooses the world’s path following his rumschpringe, and a younger sibling begins showing interest in Englisch ways, Marianna’s parents move the family to Montana.

Although she is also in her rumschpringe years and not obligated to move, Marianna makes the journey to dutifully help her mother who is expecting another child. Surprisingly, from strangers on the cross-country train ride to the less rigid stance of the new Montana community, many English influences awaken within Marianna—and even her father—the desire to pursue a deeper kind of joy and love for God.

After an accident, Marianna tells her friend, Ben, a defining story about the Sommer family, and his response further illumines the active relationship God seeks with His followers. In due time, she learns the move from Indiana was not about losing anything, but finding out who God really is. Despite all the shake-ups, Marianna feels a sweet peace, like still waters, in her soul.

**Many thanks to B&H Fiction through NetGalley for providing a copy for review.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Southern-Style Meet & Greet with Suzanne Woods Fisher Plus Giveaway!

Well, looks like it's been a week or two since we met up for a Southern-Style Meet & Greet, but I'm so glad you stopped by today for a Christmas-themed visit with one of my favorite Amish authors, Suzanne Woods Fisher!

Suzanne is a bestselling author of Amish fiction and non-fiction and the host of a weekly radio program called Amish Wisdom. She has twenty books under contract with Revell--seven published, thirteen to come...she's contracted all the way into 2016. The Waiting was a finalist for a 2011 Christy Award. The Choice was finalist for a 2011 Carol Award. Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World and Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life were both finalists for the ECPA Book of the Year (2010, 2011).

Welcome, Suzanne!!

How has becoming a successful author changed your life?

I feel very, very grateful that my books have sold well and that I have been a finalist for a number of awards—yet I don’t “feel” like a successful author. Not at all! Probably one thing that has changed for me is the paradox of a blessing: I have multiple book contracts…and that means a lot of deadlines to meet! So I am working about 70 hours a week. (Maybe more. Never less.)

If you weren’t an author, what would your dream job be and why?

I might be romanticizing this dream…but I have thought about owning and operating a B&B. My grandmother ran a small B&B and Tea Room on a beautiful piece of property in Cape Cod. ( dad always told us to avoid the hotel industry. Too much work!) I love to cook and I love to meet new people—those are the pluses. The negatives? Getting up in the night with guests who have problems.

Yeah, that wouldn't work for me, either.  I crave uninterrupted sleep (and whenever DH and I *ever* get around to kids...well, that plan will go out the window!).

How has writing about the Amish changed your perspective on our present fast-paced society?

As I researched and wrote “Amish Peace” (my first book for Revell), I found myself very affected by so many aspects of the Amish. That book became my foundation for writing credibly about these wonderful people and their culture and their faith. Even though many parts of the Amish already resonated with me (living small and simply in an uncluttered home, being financially frugal)—there was a deeper level that really touched me. Intentional forgiveness, trusting more deeply in the sovereignty of God in all matters. Really profound stuff!

Tell us a little bit about your latest release.

“A Lancaster County Christmas” is a story about two couples—one Amish, one English—whose lives intersect for 48 hours. Both couples are facing a crisis, for different reasons. And yet they both have something important to learn from each other. (And if you read Question #7, I wrote a side story about a very cool dog named Tucker and wove it into the story.)

Do you and your family share any special Christmas traditions?

We have a wonderful Swedish Christmas Eve dinner (my husband is a Viking) that I only make once a year because it’s so labor intensive. We go to church early, then gather around the table…and linger and linger and linger! Other traditions: a new jigsaw puzzle gets worked on by a roaring fire in the fireplace. The kids were given one new present before going to bed (new jammies!). Such happy memories.

What’s one of the most memorable Christmas gifts you’ve ever received?

A new puppy! I raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and it seems as if I was often on a cycle of starting a new puppy right at Christmas. We’re on puppy #10! They’re like potato can’t stop after one. You just can’t take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone’s underwear in his mouth.

LOL!  My dogs are always good for a few laughs, but I must say, I'm thankful we haven't had to worry them pulling out our unmentionables to put on display! 

Do you have a favorite movie that you watch every year at Christmas?

“It’s a Wonderful Life” by Frank Cappa (who doesn’t love that movie?!).

Where can readers find you on the web? and I’m on Facebook and Twitter. I really enjoy connecting with readers. It’s one of the best parts of this author gig!

And because this is a still “Southern-Style” Meet & Greet we’ll just include one bonus Southern question for today. :o)

What is your most favorite thing about the South?

For a few years, we lived in Houston (kinda southeast, isn’t it?) and I have to say the best part of living there was the people. I made some wonderful friends. Oh…and my love of iced tea started there. Only the South knows real iced tea. :)

I'm sure it'll go down in history as the *best* thing we're famous for.  (And if it doesn't, it ought to.)

Folks, thanks to Suzanne's sweet generosity, there's one copy of her newest book, A Lancaster County Christmas that's up for grabs just in time for Christmas!  Simply fill out the form below in its entirety to be entered in the drawing.  Incomplete entries will be disqualified...sorry.  Contest is open to US addresses only, and all entries must be received by Sunday, December 18th.

Thanks so much for coming by today!  Sorry we didn't sit out on the porch for our little's too cold to do that for awhile!  :o)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Winners...and an Update

Can I just humbly admit that I have been the biggest slacker this week?  Please?  Confession is good for the soul, or so I've been told. :o)

I should've announced the winners from last week's Birthday Bash a whole...three...days...ago.  But I've sorta kinda taken an internet break this week, spent some time evaluating my blog goals (more on that later), and choosing the winners was the last thing on my mind.

But I know you're anxious to see if you won something, so here we go!  :o)

The winner of Vickie McDonough's latest book, Long Trail Home is...Julie W!

The winner of Pack One of books from the Giveaways Galore post is...Kathy C!

The winner of Pack Two of books from the Giveaways Galore post is...Melanie D!

The winner of Pack Three of books from the Giveaways Galore post is...Beth M!

The winner of Ginger Garrett's latest book, Desired, is...Julie L!

The winner of Lori Copeland's latest book, Lost Melody is...Carol W!

And last, but not least, the winner of any one of Julie Lessman's books is...Sandy A!

All of the winners have been notified, and have 48 hours to respond with their mailing addresses.  Congrats to all you ladies!  You're in for some real good reading!  :o)


Oh, right...I promised you an update here, too, didn't I?  Well, here goes.

I'm in a rut.  An all-encompassing rut.  

I still love reading, but I don't know how much I love blogging about reading.  There is so much time and effort that is required when there's a deadline to review a particular book.  I know I'm not alone here, but I feel enormous guilt when I haven't gotten something read by a tour date, or when I promised someone, or close to a release date, etc.  Don't get me wrong...I love the camaraderie of blogging, meeting new people, comparing what we love and don't love, the occasional recommendation from a friend, and so on. 

But is that enough to continue, considering the dedication it takes to keep it going?

I read a blog post this week from my dear friend Casey about how after she finished with one week jam-packed with blog posts, she was simply exhausted.  And she's right...being on "go" all the time will wear you out quicker than you can blink.  Last week was like that for me.  Don't get me wrong...I had so much fun, I could hardly stand it, but by the end of the week, I was flat exhausted.  I was spending an hour or more every night gearing up for the next day's post. 

So, all that leads me back to whether or not it's worth the effort.  How much of an impact is being made with the content on this blog?  A little?  A lot?  None at all?  Do the reviews here convince anyone to go out and buy a book?  Do people really enjoy meeting Christian fiction authors through the weekly interviews on Southern-Style Meet & Greet?  Did you enjoy this post when I did a little twist on an author interview?  Do people think I'm crazy because I'm a Southern girl who sounds like she's from the sticks once in awhile?  Or do people just come because of the book giveaways?

These are the things that have been running through my head all week long.  At this point, I just don't know which direction I want to go.  I know this much...I don't want this blog to become stagnant.  But on the flipside, I know I don't have as much time as I use to for promoting, tweeting, facebooking, etc.  Does a happy medium really exist?

What are your thoughts?  Have you gotten in a rut before, and if so, how did you get out of it? 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Allow Me to Gush--The Wonder of Your Love by Beth Wiseman is Impossible to Put Down!

The Land of Canaan series has got to be one of my favorite Amish series...ever.  If you don't believe me, I dare you to compare them to some of the other Amish books on the shelves and see what you think.  If they don't have you glued to the pages like they do me...well then, we might have to have a little chat to change your mind (just kidding, I promise).  :o)

I don't know how she does it, but Beth Wiseman has got this incredible way of getting me emotionally invested with all of her stories. I find myself cheering for their successes, and empathizing with their heartbreaks like they were real people.  And if those things weren't enough, then she goes and writes these stirring romantic scenes between her male and female lead characters that literally set my heart to in out-of-my-chest pounding!  There are only a handful of authors that are truly gifted when it comes to writing romance into any story, and by golly, Beth is at the top of the list!

But now that this visit back to Canaan has come to an end, it's like anguish...horrible, gut-wrenching anguish.  I know I make it sound like my dog just died, but I usually feel this way after I read one of Beth's books.  How in the world can I make it until I know what happens next in this close-knit community?!  I want to know what will happen with Danielle--is something on the horizon for her and Levi?  Will Eli's children be happy with the changes they are about to make?  Will Martha continue to be her ornery old self now that her relationship status has changed?  See what I mean...there are just too many questions!!!

So, while I patiently wait, I guess I'll have to be satisfied that this particular story ended just how I wanted it to--not a cliff-hanger in sight.  :o)  Still, a return trip to Canaan is on my radar, and I hope Beth won't make us wait too terribly long before we can go back.

5 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  Yes, and her name is Martha.  She had me LOLing the whole way through!

Click here to see my review of book 1 in the Land of Canaan series, Seek Me With All Your Heart.

Summary of The Wonder of Your Love:

Katie Ann lost the love of her life. Then God offers her a new beginning in Colorado.

Katie Ann Stolzfus lives in the small Amish community of Canaan, Colorado. At forty she is widowed and raising her first child. But baby Jonas will never know his father, and Katie Ann wonders if her Heavenly Father hasn't forgotten about her as well. Is it really God's plan for her to be a single parent?

Eli Detweiler has come to Canaan for a wedding and a long vacation. Having raised six children following the death of his young wife, Eli is finally an empty-nester. He's enjoying the slower pace of having no one to care for but himself.

When Katie Ann and Eli meet, there is an instant connection. Yet as strong as the attraction is, they both acknowledge that a romance would never work. He is done parenting, while she has just begun.

But as their friendship slowly blossoms into feelings that are as frightening as they are intoxicating, Katie Ann and Eli question if the plans they made for themselves are in line with God's plans.

**Many thanks to Thomas Nelson through NetGalley for providing a copy for review.

Birthday Bash Day 5 with Special Guest Julie Lessman!

Well, all good things must always come to end, but at least we're going out with a bang!  You're gonna love *everything* about today's post with my very special guest, Julie Lessman, so why don't we just get right to it, k?  :o)


What’s one of the most memorable gifts you ever received for your birthday?

Well, I can’t remember if it was my birthday or Mother’s Day, but my wonderful artist husband gave me something so unique and beautiful, that I will treasure it always. He’d just built us a beautiful media room in our basement, a work of art really, because the man is incredibly creative and handy, and it had these multi-colored pillows on our leather sectional couch. Would you believe he took a picture of one of those pillows and designed three different versions in the same colors, then superimposed them on canvas frames as a wall grouping?

“It’s beautiful, babe,” I said, amazed once again at his mind-boggling creativity. “Look closer,” he said, and I squinted a bit, suddenly seeing our entire life before my eyes. Yes, you guessed it—this incredible man actually super-imposed pictures of each of us—me, my son, daughter and himself—over the multicolored canvases to create living artwork that captured US (I hope it shows in the pix I took)!! WOW!! Let me tell you—I teared up on the spot and threw myself into his arms, giving him the biggest, most grateful kiss I could!  What can I say—MasterCard has nothing on him—he’s “priceless.”

Awww, Julie, I love those pictures!  You've got a keeper of a husband!

Do you have any special memories of the year you turned 30?

Oh, honey, at my age, do you really think I can remember back that far??? 

Mmm... let me see (straining brain here)... not, 30 so much, but I will NEVER forget age 32! Why, you ask? Well, you see, I was an infertility patient who was desperately trying to have a baby. It was a very traumatic time for me with LOTS of tears, but as with everything when God is involved, He turned it around to be one of the greatest lessons of my life on the power of praise. Anyone who would like to read about it in my article entitled “Clean Heart, Dirty Diapers,” can do so on the Hannah’s Prayer Ministry (an infertility blog) website called HELD at, but keep in mind that I no longer monitor the comments.

Anyway, the day I found out I was finally pregnant is emblazoned in my memory! I was helping my neighbor paint her bedroom and needed to call the doctor for the results of the pregnancy test, but I didn’t want her to know. So I ran home to call privately (this was WAY before I owned a cell phone), and when that nurse told me the rabbit died (smile), I’m telling you right then and there, I just about did too!! I had had SO many months of disappointment after disappoint with infertility drugs, sonograms, charting my temps and my poor hubby in boxers, that I literally gasped and yes, started sobbing like a baby myself! Let me tell you, it was sheer murder trying to act calm and nonchalant in front of my neighbor after that, but I managed because I wanted Keith to be the first person I told, and I wanted to do it in person when he got home that night!!

Wow, what a story, Julie!  I can see you now...trying to act "calm and nonchalant!"

If you could only give one book to me for my birthday (not including your own), what book would I find underneath the wrapping paper?

Mmmm...well, since this is the Southern Sassy Things blog, I’m guessing you already have a copy of Gone With the Wind, so that rules that out! ;) So … I would probably give you a copy of Prayers That Avail Much by Germaine Copeland because after the Bible, that book has impacted my life more than any other. Mind you, all it is is a compilation of prayers for any possible need you can imagine—from depression or fear, to buying a home or wayward kids, etc. The prayers are simply Scriptures strung together in a heartfelt and poignant petition for whatever trial you are undergoing, BUT … they are SO powerful because think about it—it’s 100% Word of God put into a prayer! I bet I have given at least 20 of these books to various people over the years, it’s that good!

Yes, I do have a copy of GWTW (that ashamedly, I haven't read yet), but that prayer book sounds like one I might like to have someday.  It reminds me a great deal of a similar book, Daily Light by Anne Graham Lotz.  It's more of a devotional with a series of scriptures to read each morning and evening, and they all flow together in the greatest way.  I've given a couple as gifts, too.

And the most important question of all... What’s your favorite flavor of birthday cake? :o)

LOL!! Yes, indeed, a MOST important question!! White cake tops the list, followed by red velvet—lure me with either of those two, and I’ll follow you anywhere! :)

Who says we can't have both today?!  White cake is oh-so-yummy, and while I'm personally not a fan of the red velvet, I'm sure we have a reader or two that is.  :o)  (Oh, and I can never think of red velvet cake without thinking of Steel Magnolias, either!)


Y'all, I'm so sorry that this week has come to an end!  I hope that each and every one of you has had as great of a time as I have, and in just a couple more days, a few of you will be the big winners!

Now, for today's "present," we've got something a little different...a reader's choice, so to speak.  If you sign up for today's giveaway, you have your choice of receiving any of the following:

Any one of Julie's books, including her newest release, A Heart Revealed,


a writer's critique and the detailed handout from my and Ruth Axtell Morren's ACFW Workshop, A Kiss is NOT Just a Kiss.

To enter today's giveaway, simply fill out the form below to be entered. We're getting close to the end of the week, and that means you've only got 3 DAYS to enter Julie's contest! All contests are open until Sunday, December 4th, and winner will be announced Monday, December 5th. US addresses only, please.

And if you've missed any of the other posts this week, get your entries in while you have the chance!

Click here for Vickie McDonough's interview and giveaway.
Click here for a post chock full of book giveaways!
Click here for Ginger Garrent's interview and giveaway.
Click here for Lori Copeland's interview and giveaway.

Once again, thank you all SO MUCH for spending this week with me!  I appreciate all the wonderful comments more than you possibly know, and I feel like I have made some new friends this week, too.  :o)  Y'all don't be strangers now, ya hear?  And when it's your birthday, I hope you'll consider inviting me to your par-tay...I'll bring the cake!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Birthday Bash Day 4 with Special Guest Lori Copeland!

I am so happy that I have been able to spend this birthday week with so many friends, both old and new!  If you're new here to the Southern Sassy Things blog, let me take this moment to give you a warm welcome!  I hope you won't be a stranger now...  :o)

To keep this Birthday Bash going, I hope you'll give a great big howdy to today's guest--Lori Copeland!


If you could choose one place in the whole world to visit for your birthday, where would you want to go and why?

If I could go anywhere, I would choose Germany and a cruise along the Reine. My brother served in the army there, and that was his favorite thing to do.

You're the second person this week to want to go to Europe.  Vickie wants to go to Ireland.  :o)

Do you have any special memories of the year you turned 30?

The year I turned thirty I thought life was downhill from there. I discovered there was a lot of uphill left!

If you could only give one book to me for my birthday (not including your own), what book would I find underneath the wrapping paper?

If I could give you one book for your birthday it would be a copy of The Message. I hear the groans, but reading it would enhance anyone's life.

I have a Message Bible, and it is one of my favorite translations.  In some ways it feels like I'm reading a novel.

And the most important question of all... What’s your favorite flavor of birthday cake? :o)

My favorite cake......drumroll....... White Wedding Cake with tons of gooey icing! Someday, when I'm close to death, I'm going to eat at least all of a top layer!

YUM!!!!  Now, I know we all want some of that!!


Now, y'all don't shoot me, but....

I actually had a real version of Wedding Cake this week for my birthday...

with cream cheese icing...

and it was good, even though I know it all went straight to my hips!

(Believe me, I would've grabbed a piece for all my friends, too, if I knew it would've traveled well in the mail...and been fresh by the time it arrived!)

But alas, gotta carry on with today's "present"--a brand-new copy of Lost Melody by Lori and her author buddy, Virginia Smith!  Just like every day so far this week, simply fill out the form below to be entered in the giveaway.  We're getting close to the end of the week, and the days remaining to enter the contests are getting less and less!  All contests are open until Sunday, December 4th, and winner will be announced Monday, December 5th. US addresses only, please.

And if you've missed any of the earlier posts this week, then, you're about to get some homework!  Don't worry...if our homework was this easy growing up, we'd have all gotten straight A's!

Click here for Vickie McDonough's interview.
Click here for a post chock full of giveaways!
Click here for Ginger Garrent's interview.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Birthday Bash Day 3 with Special Guest Ginger Garrett!

Y'all, this has just been the greatest week ever, and we're only at the halfway point!!!  If I haven't personally thanked you yet in the comment section, let me take this moment to let everyone know how much I have appreciated all the birthday wishes and comments.  :o)  Yesterday was indeed a wonderful birthday, and from now on, I'm convinced that I will forever be "29."  My new boss took me out for a wonderful lunch today, and my husband and I spent the evening with my family at one of my favorite Italian restaurants.  And even better...I actually did get to eat a *real* slice of coconut cake.  :o)

But now, time for today's special guest--Ginger Garrett!!


If you could choose one place in the whole world to visit for your birthday, where would you want to go and why?

Texas! My birth place and favorite place on earth. I'd visit the Alamo and say hello to the picture of James Garrett, a martyr who died there. We claim him as part of our family, but I don't know how certain that is.

My husband has been to Texas a couple of times, and the farthest I've ever been inside the state is Texarkana (doesn't really count, in my opinion).  :o(  I really would like to actually visit someday!

Do you have any special memories of the year you turned 30?

I had been told I would never have children, and had lost a pregnancy after a car accident. I was heartsick beyond repair. But my husband invited all my friends and family over for a birthday party, and I looked around the room, seeing all these smiling faces. It healed me. I was loved. And for that night, it was enough.

Sounds like you have a keeper of a hubby.  :o)

If you could only give one book to me for my birthday (not including your own), what book would I find underneath the wrapping paper?

Beowolf in hard cover. I named my beloved Bearded Collie after Grendel, so it's a story I will always cherish. Nothing ever made me giggle more than waiting in the vet's office, and having a technician call out, "Grendel's mother? Come this way please..." If you know the story, you know that she was the most horrid, ugliest monster in all the world!

And the most important question of all. What's your favorite flavor of birthday cake? :o)

German Chocolate!!

Oooo, that's one of my favorites!  I could eat the icing alone by the spoonful!


Well, I hope all of y'all grabbed your slice of German Chocolate cake today!  I know I did!  And while you eat it, take a look at today's present--a copy of Ginger's latest book, Desired.  :o)

First of all, isn't that cover just gorgeous?!  And secondly, if you haven't had the chance to read this vivid retelling of Samson and Delilah, then I hope you'll sign up for today's giveaway.  Just like the previous two days, simply fill out the form below to be entered in the drawing.  Contest is open until Sunday, December 4th, and winner will be announced Monday, December 5th. US addresses only, please.

Also, if you missed Monday or Tuesday's post, click here for Monday's visit with Vickie McDonough plus a giveaway of her newest book, and here for Tuesday's post for a chance to win a pack of three books!!

Thanks for stopping by again today!  I hope you've been having a blast with all this fun this week!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Birthday Bash Day 2 with Giveaways Galore!

Thank you so much for stopping by for Day 2 of my Birthday Bash!

And ya know what... is my birthday!  The big 3-0!

Of course, we're going to have cake today, too, so grab a glass of milk, a cake plate, and put that fork in my most favorite flavor--yummy, delicious coconut cake!  I have loved coconut cake since I was a kid, mostly because of my fond memories of making them every summer with my grandma.  I would spend anywhere from 1 week to 4 weeks with her every year, and we would make a coconut cake at least once, usually in time for Sunday lunch with my parents when they came to pick me up until the next visit.  Those cakes were sooooo moist that when she divided up the leftovers, she basically had to spoon it into a container!  (Then I had to "fight" with my dad to get as much as I could in the days that followed!)  

So, enjoy that virtual, melt-in-your-mouth coconut cake today!  What I wouldn't give to have my grandma here so we could make the real thing.  :o)

Now, while you're here, let's celebrate because I've got LOADS of books to giveaway!  I can't keep all these books, and I need to share the book love.  No doubt about it, there's sure to be something down there that'll strike your fancy.



House of Secrets by Tracie Peterson
False Witness by Randy Singer - ARC
 Baby, It's Cold Outside by Susan May Warren


Captive Trail by Susan Page Davis
 A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander
 Beyond All Measure by Dorothy Love


 Captive Trail by Susan Page Davis
 A Necessary Deception by Laurie Alice Eakes
Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer


There you have it!  Three different packs, and LOTS of great books!

Enter to win one pack...enter to win them all!  Simply fill out the form below to be entered in the drawing.  :o)  Contest is open until Sunday, December 4th, and winner will be announced Monday, December 5th. US addresses only, please.

And if you missed out on yesterday's present, click here to be taken to a fun interview with historical author, Vickie McDonough, and a chance to win her newest book, Lone Star Trail.

Oh, and don't forget your cake!  :o)