Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book Review: The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall/4.5 Stars

About the book:

Love alone isn’t enough to overcome the obstacles between a man and a woman.

Lena Kauffman is a young Old Order Amish schoolteacher who has dealt all her life with attention raised by a noticeable birthmark on her cheek. Having learned to move past the stares and whispers, Lena channels her zest for living into her love of teaching. But tensions mount as she is challenged to work with a rebellious young man and deal with several crises at the schoolhouse that threaten her other students. Her lack of submission and the use of ideas that don’t line up with the Old Ways strengthen the school board’s case as they begin to believe that Lena is behind all the trouble.

One member of the school board, Grey Graber, feels trapped by his own stifling circumstances. His wife Elsie has shut him out of her life, and he doesn’t know how long he can continue to live as if nothing is wrong. As the two finally come to a place of working toward a better marriage, tragedy befalls their family.

Lena and Grey have been life-long friends but their relationship begins to crumble amidst unsettling deceptions, propelling each of them to finally face their own secrets. Can they both find a way past their losses and discover the strength to build a new bridge?

My thoughts:

There are a handful of authors that are my true favorites.  Whenever they release a new book, I'm literally beside myself until I can get my hands on it.  Such is the case with anything by Cindy Woodsmall.  I discovered her books after she had written her first series called Sisters of the Quilt.  I devoured those books in no time flat, and then, began the patient wait for her next series book, The Hope of Refuge.  Since that book, I have read every single book she's written, and now, I can hardly stand the wait between each release!

The Bridge of Peace was a little different from some of Cindy's previous books.  All of her books have a thread of emotional drama running through them, but this one seemed to be even more dramatic.  Deborah was a returning character from book one who was still lamenting the departure of Mahlon.  Frankly, I wasn't a fan of Mahlon in the first book, and I was thankful much of this story didn't dwell on him.  Deborah also had the added worry of making a success of the new bakery she set up with Ada, Mahlon's mother.  That alone took some skill, right there.  How many of us could work with the woman we thought was going to be our future mother-in-law without maligning her son and his adventurous ways?  Tough stuff, for sure.

There were a couple of new characters introduced, which of course, brought some drama of their own.  Gray was a local man married to Elsie, and their marriage was awful.  I mean, *way* awful.  Separate bedrooms, stilted conversation, but with one bright spot...their son, Ivan.  Ivan was such a sweet child, and his brief appearances always brought a smile to my face.  He was born with part of his arm missing, but he did not let that stop him from being a typical, rambunctious 5-year-old.

Another new character was Lena, the local schoolteacher, and I confess that I liked her more than I expected.  She was a very opinionated, passionate individual who cared so much for her students, but suffered a quiet pain because of a facial birthmark.  Her self-worth was so tied in with her birthmark that she almost didn't recognize when love came her way. 

Between Ivan's handicap and Lena's birthmark, the biggest lesson I learned from this book was that we should never judge someone by their outward appearance.  Our thoughts and words toward those people can, at times, be so cruel.  Instead, we should love them for who they are, and realize that they were fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator of all mankind.

Cindy's books are some of the best that Amish fiction has to offer, and I cannot recommend her highly enough.  There is always something in her stories that has me coming back for more, and I've been known to burn the midnight oil to finish one.  :o)  While The Bridge of Peace was not my favorite of all her novels, it was still a very good read, and necessary to continue the series.  My rating is 4.5 Stars.

Southern?  No
Sass?  Yes...Lena  :o)

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

**It would make my day if you would take a moment to rank my review.  Don't worry...it's okay to un-check the box so you don't receive updates, but you'll still need to type in an email addy for your ranking to count.  Thanks in advance!  :o)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Southern-Style Meet & Greet with Deborah Raney

It gives me the most ENORMOUS pleasure to have Deborah Raney as the first featured author on Southern-Style Meet & Greet!  I have been a fan of Deb's stories since I found her books on my local library's bookshelves, and she gets better and better with every single novel she writes.  If you've not had the chance to read any of her books, just pick one (doesn't even matter which one you choose) and discover one of the true gems in the world of Christian fiction.

I hope y'all enjoy our first Meet & Greet!

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

The summer I was 12 and read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. That's the first time I realized that "novelist" could be a career aspiration!

If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be and why? (This is, of course, assuming that writing IS your dream job!)  :o)

I love decorating my home and office, so (NOT including the painting, refinishing, wallpapering, hard-work part LOL!) I might choose to be a decorator or designer. Or a psychologist. I know, I know, BIG difference between those two. And that's why I love being a writer. I get to decorate my character's homes and offices, and play psychologist to them––AND I get to work in my jammies. Talk about the best of all worlds!

The best of all worlds is right!  LOL!  What genre do you most like to write?

Women's fiction, because not only can I explore a social issues, but I can add in elements of romance or mystery or suspense and satisfy my desire to write in various genres under one "brand."  

Do your own personal experiences, or those of family and friends, ever find their way into one your stories?

Almost everything that has ever happened to me has found its way into a novel––just not necessarily in a way that readers would recognize. For instance, the heroine in my first novel is sending her youngest son off to college and facing the empty nest. It was written at a time when I was sending my oldest off to college, but I still had three kids at home, including a 3-year-old, so I was projecting how that empty nest time would feel. I witnessed a murder the day before my very first book contract was offered. In several of my novels when someone has witnessed a murder or other shocking event, I was certainly drawing on my own experience! More subtle ways that my personal experiences make it into my books are based more on "what ifs" than actual happenings. For instance, if my teenagers were WAY past curfew, I start imagining what could be wrong, and how I would deal with it, etc. My "what if?" makes it into the book, but that doesn't mean it really happened. 

What is your latest book release?

Forever After is the second book in Deborah Raney's Hanover Falls Novels series from Howard/Simon & Schuster. Book 1, Almost Forever, is the winner of the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, as well as an Award of Merit for the HOLT Medallion.

Lucas Vermontez was a proud firefighter like his father. Now, not only has he lost his father and his best friend, Zach, in the fire at the Grove Street Homeless Shelter, but the devoted rookie can no longer do the work he loves after being crippled in the tragic event. When friendship with his buddy's beautiful widow turns into more, he wonders what he could possibly offer Jenna.

Jenna Morgan is trying to grieve her husband's death like a proper widow, but the truth is, she never really loved Zach. His death feels more like a relief to her. But that relief is short-lived when she loses her home and the financial support of her in-laws. Now the secrets of her past threaten to destroy her future.

Almost Forever, Book 1 in the Hanover Falls Novels series, won the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence in 2011.

Are you currently working on another novel, and if so, can you give us a snippet about it?

I'm working on my first novel for Summerside Press's When I Fall in Love line. My book, We've Only Just Begun, is set in 1971 in a small-town newspaper office. I'm having a blast remembering a time when cell phones and laptops didn't exist. Boy, does it change the way my plot evolves!

I bet it does!  Seems like you've changed your mind about not writing another historical...  :o)  Where can readers find you on the web?

www.deborahraney.com  I also have a great blog featuring CBA authors and their garden spots:  http://novelgarden.blogspot.com

And now it's time for the fun stuff!  :o)
If you could visit anywhere down South, where would it be and why?

Does North Carolina count? I've gotten to know tons of wonderful Southerners while teaching at various conferences at Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, NC. People in Kansas are wonderful and friendly and kind, but Southerners are downright sweet!

Yes, North Carolina does indeed count!  I've only gotten to visit there once myself, and that was on a trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.  It truly was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and I'd love the chance to go back some day. Maybe you'll find your way there, too, if you pop in again for another conference.  :o)

Iced Tea—sweet or un-sweet? 

Most Kansans don't sweeten their tea, but my husband and I always have a delicious mix of brewed tea with a packet of Crystal Light Peach Tea mixed in at half strength in our fridge. Not too sweet and zero calories. 

BBQ Pork or BBQ Beef?

Pulled pork is a guilty pleasure, but BBQ chicken is probably my favorite. Can I choose C?

(Deb, I won't hold the chicken against you, although nothing will do but pulled pork for this girl!)

Potluck dinner or restaurant dinner?

Potluck ANY day! LOVE all the salads and desserts!

Summer or Winter? (because we really only have 2 seasons down here)

Winter! I love spring and fall best of all, but can't stand to be hot in the summer, and love cozying up by a fire in a sweater and socks in the winter. 

Country gal or city gal?

Country gal. I was raised on a farm and totally enjoy small-town life now. Cities are great to visit, but wouldn't want to call one home!

You, you all, or y’all?

You. Even though I was born in Texas, my parents returned to their native Kansas when I was just 5 months old, so I never learned y'all. : )

Well, that about wraps it up!  Deb, you could fit in with us Southerners down here real easy...but you may have to put up with sweet tea bein' on the menu.  :o)  Thank you so much for sharing a little bit about yourself today, as well as the scoop on your upcoming novel.  I hope you'll come back to   "meet & greet" with us again sometime soon!


Be sure to come back next time to meet another fantastic Christian fiction author!  I'll bring the sweet tea...you bring the conversation!  :o)

If you'd like to check out my review of Deb's new book, Forever After, click here.

Book Review: Forever After by Deborah Raney/5 Stars!!

About the book:

A fire killed his best friend and his lifelong dream of being a firefighter. The same fire killed her husband and hopes for a family. Can new dreams replace old?

Lucas Vermontez was a proud firefighter like his father. Now, not only has he lost his father and his best friend, Zach, in the fire at the Grove Street homeless shelter, but the devoted rookie can no longer do the work he loves after being crippled in the tragic event. When friendship with his buddy’s beautiful widow turns into more, he wonders, what could he possibly offer Jenna?

Jenna Morgan is trying to grieve her husband’s death like a proper widow, but the truth is, she never really loved Zach. His death feels more like a relief to her. But that relief is short-lived when she loses her home and the financial support of her in-laws. Now the secrets of her past threaten to destroy her future.

Can the two forget the painful past and discover new reasons to live and love?

My thoughts:

I feel like I'm gonna sound like a broken record here, but Deborah Raney gets better with every single book she writes! Seriously! I said this very same thing for her last book, Almost Forever, and not to take anything away from that book (because it's equally as good), but Deborah has taken her writing to a whole other level with this newest book, Forever After.

I knew I would be in for another sad story because this was a continuation of the events surrounding the fire in book 1. A lot of the same characters from book 1 are featured in this story, but it mostly focused on some new ones--Lucas and Jenna--who were drawn to one another partially because of their grief. Lucas was injured in the fire that happened one year ago, and is still trying to recover from his injuries. Jenna's husband was lost to the fire, and she's left with in-laws who are too concerned about their societal image. How both of these wounded individuals overcame their sadness and grief was nothing short of incredible...thanks to the masterful writing of Deborah Raney.

I was surprised how much I identified with Jenna. She had a past similar to mine (although loving parents was a major difference), and a present situation with her in-laws that I've experienced as well. I admired her courage to stand up to them, and not let them dictate her life...although it did come with some harsh consequences. She matured so much throughout the course of the story, and was a better person for it once she was able to stand on her own two feet.

What I was impressed with the most was Deborah's note at the back of the book. It's no secret that our economy is drastically different now than ever before, and it affects all of us in one way or another. She took her own personal, financial struggles, and wove them into the fabric of this story. Being short on cash or not being able to pay a bill on time is something that most of us have had to deal with at some point in time. But it's how we handle those moments that shape our character, and that lesson was portrayed beautifully through Jenna's character in this book.

As far as I'm concerned, the conclusion for this series cannot come soon enough! I have not even scratched the surface about all the good qualities that this series, and particularly this book, has to offer. Bravo, Deb, for getting me attached to these wonderfully realistic characters that I now feel like I know personally. :o)

Highly Recommended!

5 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to Howard Books and Glass Road PR for providing a copy for review.

**Check out my interview with Deb here where she is featured on my first ever Southern-Style Meet & Greet!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Review: False Witness by Randy Singer/4 Stars

About the book:

Clark Shealy is a bail bondsman with the ultimate bounty on the line: his wife's life. He has forty-eight hours to find an Indian professor in possession of the Abacus Algorithm—an equation so powerful it could crack all Internet encryption.

Four years later, law student Jamie Brock is working in legal aid when a routine case takes a vicious twist: she and two colleagues learn that their clients, members of the witness protection program, are accused of defrauding the government and have the encrypted algorithm in their possession. After a life-changing trip to the professor's church in India, the couple also has the key to decode it.

Now they're on the run from federal agents and the Chinese mafia, who will do anything to get the algorithm. Caught in the middle, Jamie and her friends must protect their clients if they want to survive long enough to graduate.

An adrenaline-laced thrill ride, this retelling of one of Randy Singer's most critically acclaimed novels takes readers from the streets of Las Vegas to the halls of the American justice system and the inner sanctum of the growing church in India with all the trademark twists, turns, and the legal intrigue his fans have come to expect.

My thoughts:

I can now safely say that Randy Singer never fails to amaze me with any book he writes. He's got a knack for creating these larger-than-life tales that make me feel like I just watched a whole season of 24 non-stop. Granted, I've only read two of his novels, but simply put...he's just awesome. End of discussion. :o)

False Witness was an action-packed thrill ride, and that's no joke! There's the mob, the FBI, a bounty hunter, and this one little algorithm that everyone wanted. The problem was that if it fell into the wrong hands, chaos would ensue in no time flat. Then, there were the kidnappings, the torture, the money demands, and well...you can seen why it was an addictive read!

But the one strike this book had against itself was all the legal stuff. I was able to keep most of it straight initially, but toward the end, my brain was on overload. I think if it had been toned down just a little bit, False Witness would have been 5-star worthy, for sure.

In spite of that one little irritation, I still highly recommend False Witness as an incredible read. Just a warning that you may burn your dinner, have a pile of laundry waiting, or not get enough winks at night until you get it finished. :o)

4 Stars

Southern?  Mostly; the last 2/3 was set in Georgia.
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to The B&B Media Group and Tyndale for providing a copy for review.

Announcing the Winner of Pompeii!

Thank you all so much for entering my latest giveaway for a brand-new copy of Pompeii by T.L. Higley.  This blog gained several new followers, too, and for that, I am so thankful.  For all you newbies, I hope you'll discover lots of great, new books, and that you won't mind my occasional Southern twang.  :o)

Thanks to Random.org, the lucky winner is.....  *drum roll, please*

MICHELLE (joyfulhutch@...)

Be watching in the next few weeks for some more great books that I'll be giving away!  Thanks again everyone!  :o)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review and Kregel Blog Tour: How Huge the Night by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn/4 Stars

About the book:

Fifteen-year-old Julien Losier just wants to fit in. But after his family moves to a small village in central France in hopes of outrunning the Nazis, he is suddenly faced with bigger challenges than the taunting of local teens.

Nina Krenkel left her country to obey her father's dying command: Take your brother and leave Austria. Burn your papers. Tell no one you are Jews. Alone and on the run, she arrives in Tanieux, France, dangerously ill and in despair.

Thrown together by the chaos of war, Julien begins to feel the terrible weight of the looming conflict and Nina fights to survive. As France falls to the Nazis, Julien struggles with doing what is right, even if it is not enough-and wonders whether or not he really can save Nina from almost certain death.

Based on the true story of the town of Le Chambon-the only French town honored by Israel for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust-How Huge the Night is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens turning the pages as it teaches them about a fascinating period of history and inspires them to think more deeply about their everyday choices.

My thoughts:

I'm finding lately that I really enjoy young adult fiction.  I mean *really* enjoy it!  When I was in my teen years, there was not much to choose from unless I wanted to read general market.  Fifteen years later, there's tons of Christian YA fiction, and well...I gotta make up for lost time!

In addition to having not read a lot of YA books, I've also not read a whole lot from the WWII period.  Frankly, it's just really difficult to read.  I cannot imagine living in a world of persecution and hate, being separated from my family, or having to wonder where I will get my next meal.  So, it was with a little bit of nervousness that I decided to read How Huge the Night by debut authors Heather and Lydia Munn.

First of all, I loved how this story was told through a teenager's eyes.  Being an adult, I know the terror I would have felt if I were a wife and mother.  How would I prepare to go into a war?  How will I make sure my family doesn't starve?  But reading this story from a younger generation's point of view made it that much more realistic.  At first, Julian was the typical teenager--frustrated with a move to a new town and a new school, struggling to make new friends--but as he matured, his focus shifted to concerns for his family, their Jewish boarder, the new friends he had made, and eventually, how the war would change all of their lives forever.

Secondly, I loved that the story was told with a French setting.  While I have a very basic knowledge of WWII, I have almost no knowledge of France or French history.  There were snippets of history regarding the Huguenots and their struggles for religious freedom in the 1600's, as well as details about the armistice between France and Germany, and how Germany eventually violated their agreement.  I was also surprised to read at the very end that France as a whole had very little knowledge about what was actually happening around them during the war (shared in the author's note).  This made me curiously wonder whether they simply did not have access to tv's or newspapers, or if the news that was brought to them had been censored.  Either way, how frightening it must have been to not know what's happening in the world around you.

Also shared in the author's note was that there is another book coming soon from this talented mother/daughter team.  While I have no idea if it will just be a sequel or part of a series, I wish it was available to read right now!  This book did not leave me hanging per se, but I'm just itching to know what happens to Julian, Benjamin, Nina, and Gustav as the worst of the war is yet to come.  I happily give a rating of 4 Stars for this exceptional debut novel.

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to Kregel Publishing for providing a copy for review.

**For more information about the book, the authors, and the history presented, please visit http://www.howhugethenight.com/

CFBA Blog Tour: She Makes It Look Easy by Marybeth Whalen

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
She Makes It Look Easy
David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)
Marybeth Whalen


Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt and mom of six children. The family lives outside Charlotte, NC. Marybeth is a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries writing team and a regular contributor to their daily devotions. Her first novel,The Mailbox was released in June 2010. Her next novel, She Makes It Look Easy, will be released in June 2011. Additionally, she serves as director of She Reads, Proverbs 31 Ministries' fiction division.


Ariel Baxter has just moved into the neighborhood of her dreams. The chaos of domestic life and the loneliness of motherhood, however, moved with her. Then she meets her neighbor, Justine Miller. Justine ushers Ariel into a world of clutter-free houses, fresh-baked bread, homemade crafts, neighborhood play dates, and organization techniques designed to make marriage better and parenting manageable.

Soon Ariel realizes there is hope for peace, friendship, and clean kitchen counters. But when rumors start to circulate about Justine’s real home life, Ariel must choose whether to believe the best about the friend she admires or consider the possibility that “perfection” isn’t always what it seems to be.

If you would like to read an excerpt of She Makes It Look Easy, go HERE.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Review: Anna Finch and the Hired Gun by Kathleen Y'Barbo/4.5 Stars

About the book:

When an aspiring reporter and a Pinkerton detective get tangled in Doc Holliday’s story—and each other—sparks can’t help but fly.

Despite her father’s attempts to marry her off, Anna Finch dreams of becoming a reporter. A chance encounter with legendary gunslinger Doc Holliday gives her the opportunity of a lifetime, but Pinkerton agent Jeb Sanders is about to ruin everything.

Though her father hired Jeb to keep her out of mischief, Anna’s inconvenient attraction to her hired gun only multiplies her troubles. She doesn’t realize Jeb has a score to settle with Doc Holliday, or that her association with the famous outlaw will affect more than just her marriage prospects. Between her father’s desperation to see her wed and Jeb shadowing her every move, getting the story and fulfilling her journalistic ambition just got far more complicated than she ever imagined.

My thoughts:

Wow...was I impressed with this story!  A feisty heroine, a stubborn hero, and a notorious outlaw made for one of the best westerns I've read in a long time.  

This book reminded me so much of the series by Susan Page Davis about the Ladies Shooting Club.  The only difference in this story was that there was no club--only one gun-totin' woman here--and none of their members ever shot anyone accidentally like Anna Finch did.  (Okay, so 2 differences...but who's counting?)  :o) One of my favorite lines of the story was when Anna decided a certain gentleman caller was getting a little too fresh with his courtin'.  She wasted no time in saying, "A Derringer is not my pistol of choice.  It is, however, the pistol in my skirt pocket."  Needless to say, he went on his merry way.

The dashing hero of the story came in the form of Jeb Sanders, a Pinkerton agent hired by Anna's father to shadow her daily activities.  What that job really amounted to was trying to keep Anna out of trouble at all hours of the day!  Jeb was a no-nonsense kind of guy, too.  He made it his business to be in-the-know about the important things, whether that was shooing away the wrong sort of caller, or interfering with freedom of the press when it thwarted his "official" Pinkerton duties.  :o)

I won't deny it...I wasn't all that crazy about the first book in this series, The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper, but I was thoroughly pleased with this one!  Kathleen's style of writing was a little different than what I'm accustomed to, but once I was several chapters in, I never noticed it again.  By that point, I couldn't get enough!  So, if you're a fan of westerns by such authors as Susan Page Davis, Mary Connealy, and Vickie McDonough, then I encourage you to check out Kathleen's books.  Prepare yourself, though...it'll be one great adventure!

4.5 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  Heaping piles of it!

It would make my day if you'd take a moment to rate my review!

**Be watching in the next few weeks as I get to sit and chat with Kathleen on Southern-Style Meet & Greet!  It's gonna be fun!  :o)

Friday, June 17, 2011

CFBA Blog Tour and BOOK GIVEAWAY: Pompeii by T.L. Higley

**So far, I am IN LOVE with this book!!  Don't have a review ready just yet, but give me a couple more days.  Be sure to scroll down to the very end of this post for the info about a giveaway.  :o)

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
B&H Books (June 1, 2011)
T.L. Higley


A fiction aficionado since grade school, T.L. Higley, author of Pompeii: City on Fire (B&H Publishing House, June 2011) started her first novel at the age of eight.

Now the author of nine historical fiction novels, including the popular Seven Wonders series, Higley isn’t just transporting readers: She’s transporting herself, too.

“My Iifelong interest in history and mythology has taken me to Italy, Greece, Egypt, Rome, Turkey, Jordan and Israel, where I’ve gotten to study those ancient cultures in rich detail,” says Higley. “It’s my desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past, and I figure what better way to do that than to visit the cultures themselves?”

In addition to her accomplished novelist career, Higley is a business entrepreneur and a mother. In fact, for Pompeii, she brought her daughter along with her to Italy for the research trip.

“We gave it to her as a graduation present, not only because Italy is terrific, but because I believe in exposing children to global cultures,” says Higley, who became a student herself again this year. She’s now a graduate student at American Public University, earning her master’s degree in Ancient and Classical Studies.

When Higley isn’t traveling on research trips, writing her novels, or studying for class, she operates four online retail companies, including KoolStuff4Kids.com – a family-run business that began as a way for her oldest daughter to make some extra money for camp. Today, it is a go-to site for parents, children and teachers all over the country, looking for beads and other kid-friendly craft supplies.

Higley lives with her husband and her three other children (aforementioned daughter now in college) just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Pompeii, a city that's many things to many people. For Cato, it's the perfect escape from a failed political career in Rome. A place to start again, become a winemaker. But when a corrupt politician wrongfully jails Cato's sister, he must oust the man from power to save her.

For Ariella, Pompeii is a means to an end. As a young Jew, she escaped the fall of Jerusalem only to endure slavery to a cruel Roman general. She ends up in Pompeii, disguised as a young man and sold into a gladiator troupe. Her anger fuels her to fight well, hoping to win the arena crowds and reveal her gender at the perfect time. Perhaps then she will win true freedom.

But evil creeps through the streets of Pompeii. Political corruption, religious persecution, and family peril threaten to destroy Ariella and Cato, who are thrown together in the battle to survive. As Vesuvius churns with deadly intent, the two must bridge their differences to save the lives of those they love, before the fiery ash buries Pompeii, leaving the city lost to the world.

Watch the book trailer:

If you would like to read the Prologue of Pompeii, go HERE.

And you heard me say GIVEAWAY, right?  :o)

The sweet folks at B&H sent me an extra copy of this book by mistake, and I'd love to pass it on to you!  Only thing is, ya gotta leave a comment along with your email address to be entered to win.  Pretty simple, no frills, and no begging you to follow my blog, post on your blog, tweet about it, and all that.  :o)  Just be sure to get your entry in before the end of the day on Friday, June 24th.  I will be drawing a winner on Saturday, June 25th.

But I have to give you the technical mumbo-jumbo first:

Void where prohibited.  Odds of winning are based upon number of entrants.  US addresses only, please.

Okay, that's out of the way.  The rest is up to you! 

Southern-Style Meet & Greet Coming Soon!

It won't be long, and there will be a new feature here!  Yay...aren't you as excited as I am?!?!  :o)

Oh, you want to know what it is, do you?  Well, it's gonna be a little thing I like to call the Southern-Style Meet & Greet, and it will be featuring some of the best authors Christian fiction has to offer.  Mondays will be our meetin' and greetin' time, so you be sure to stop by now, ya hear?  I'll have some questions some of your favorite authors, along with a bit of fun stuff thrown in for good measure.  Oh, and I'll bring the sweet tea...you just bring yourself, and talk all you want to.  (We talk all the time down here...it's hard to shut us up.)

Wait, there's more!  This may mean some free books, too, and won't that be fun!  :o)  The freebies are up to the author's discretion, but I'm hoping it'll become part of the routine.

One more thing...  if you're a CF author and would like to be included in this new feature, give me a ring, would'ya?  (Well, not an actual telephone ring...an email will do just fine.)  You can find my email addy in that little PR box over there.  ----->  Oh, and you need not be Southern...we like fellowshippin' with everybody (even Yankees...hehe).  :o)

So, can you tell I'm excited?  I hope you are, too!  I hope you'll come back and visit real soon...maybe even before meetin' time gets here.  :o) 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book Review: Heart of Lies by Jill Marie Landis/3 Stars

About the book:

Raised in a tribe of street urchins, Maddie Grande was taught to be a thief and beggar on the streets of New Orleans. But Maddie doesn’t know her real name or where she came from.

Raised by Dexter Grande, Maddie and her twin “brothers” have recently left New Orleans and moved to the bayou. The twins are rarely there, but Maddie has come to love the swamp. She has learned to fish and trap and sell pelts at the local mercantile.

Maddie longs to change her life but knows that her brothers will never give up their lawless ways. When they kidnap the daughter of a wealthy carpetbagger, the twins force Maddie to hide the precocious eight-year-old while they return to New Orleans to wait for notice of a reward.

Pinkerton agent Tom Abbott is assigned to the kidnapping case in which Maddie has become an accomplice. In a journey that takes them to Baton Rouge, a mutual attraction becomes evident, but Tom and Maddie cannot trust each other.

Will Maddie ever discover who she is? Will her real family ever find her? Will Maddie and Tom listen to their hearts? Or will they choose honor over love?

My thoughts:

Heart of Lies was a book that I've been anxious to read for a long time.  I was thoroughly captivated with the book before it, Heart of Stone, and hoped and prayed that the continuation of this series would be as good as the start.  Well, let's just say my expectations may have been set a wee bit too high.

First of all, I loved the setting of this book:  historic New Orleans.  I felt a part of this city throughout the story, with all of it's alleyways, hidey-holes, and street corners.  Because Maddie was raised smack-dab in the middle of it, it was easy to see all of it's features from her point of view.  But once she grew up, she moved away from the hustle and bustle to the bayou, and I equally loved that setting as much as the busy city.  I could smell the water, see the moss on the trees, and hear the creaking of her little cabin in the middle of nowhere.  Trust me...all of this was masterfully done.

Secondly, I loved little Penelope!  That little girl was a pistol with her sassy nature at only 8 years old, but she was smart as a whip, too.  I thought the relationship that developed between her and Maddie was very well-written, and it was sad, but understandable, to see it come to an end.

But in spite of those things, I had a couple of concerns.  One thing was the tempo.  The first few chapters seemed very slow and wordy, and I had a slight case of doubt as to whether I would keep reading.  Also, there were several chapters devoted to "chasing," mostly Tom trying to catch either Maddie or Penelope or both.  The other issue was the romance.  I knew it was would culminate at some point, but when it did, it seemed way too abrupt.  It was better toward the end, but I couldn't seem to get the other scene out of my head.

The tempo and the romance issues were minor compared to the spiritual content, or rather, the lack of it.  When I read a book marketed by a Christian publisher, I expect that there will be a Christian theme to the story.  There was barely any in this entire book, and that was truly disappointing.  Instead, the characters seemed more concerned about just being a "good person."  If that's the case, why bother marketing this book as Christian fiction?  Why not just sell it as general market?  Now, just so I'm clear, I don't expect every single Christian book to have a conversion scene, or a church scene, or something else similar.  BUT, I do expect there to be characters that either grow somehow in their faith, return to their faith, or become a new Christian altogether.  None of that was in this story, and that's why I felt the need to point it out.

While I gave Heart of Stone a well-deserved 4 stars, I'm giving 3 stars to Heart of Lies.  If I was a fan of general market fiction and/or romance, the rating might be a little higher.  But since I only read Christian fiction, I have to take the lack of Christian content into consideration.  I do plan to read the final book in the series, Heart of Glass, once it is released next year.

Southern?  Yes
Sass?  Yes, a small amount

**Many thanks to Zondervan for providing a copy for review through Amazon Vine.

**Click here to read my review of Heart of Stone.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blogger Commenting Tip

I don't know if any of you out there are still have problems with commenting on Blogger.  I know it's been frustrating me to no end!  Well, I may have found a work-around today...kinda by accident. 

When I was viewing a blog on Internet Explorer, I got stuck in the comment loop.  You know, type in your comment, then go to the log-in screen, and type in your username and password 1,472 times!  Frustrating, right?!  Well, I decided to go to the same blog, but this time with a Firefox browser.  Guess what?  No problems!  If I'd known it was that easy 3 weeks ago, I'd have been leaving a lot more comments for all my bloggy friends.  :o)

So, this may be a little late getting to you...maybe you've already discovered a solution.  If not, I hope this one will work for you.  And personally, Firefox is just way cooler anyhow.  :o)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mailbox Monday

This week's Mailbox Monday is gonna be short and sweet with just book covers and sources.  But don't leave too quickly...you just might want to read one of these!  :o)

 Once in a Blue Moon by Leanna Ellis (Author giveaway...sweet, too. She challenged everyone to help their family choose a name for their new kitty.  Well, we all chose girly names because we thought it was a girl.  Nope, turned out to be a boy...so she thanked 5 of us for our suggestions with books.  I like deals like that, don't you?)  :o)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Review: Goodbye, Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson/4.5 Stars

About the book:

Charley's off to Scotland with her new beau, and Scotty and her dad travel to Maine in search of Scotty's mom. That's not all they're looking for though.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about faith. Scotty's faced with her bitterness toward Karissa and what it means to live a "Jesusy extraordinary" life. Shouldn't forgiveness play a role in that?

And when Scotty and her dad land on her mother's last known trail, will their questions finally be answered?

My thoughts:

I am genuinely sad that my journey with Scotty and her family is now over!  :o(  Truthfully, when I started the first book, I didn't think I would become so attached to her...and her dad...and Charley...and well, everyone else that was a part of her life.  But, over time, she grew on me, and I couldn't help but (slightly) wish that I'd had an ounce of her maturity when I was her age.

I don't want to share too much about the details of the story because really, it is a must that all 4 books be read in order. Scotty is such a great character, and while she has a little too much freedom at times (in my opinion), parts of her life are well worth emulating.

My rating for this book is 4.5 stars, although it's a little closer to 5.  I have no trouble at all recommending this series very highly for older teens, and a few of us past our teen years (like me) are likely to enjoy it, too. It may even make you a little misty-eyed..."I'm just sayin'!"

Southern?  Some; a portion of the book was set in Kentucky
Sass?  Maybe a little.  :o)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

CFBA Blog Tour: The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Lady of Bolton Hill
Bethany House (June 1, 2011)
Elizabeth Camden


A research librarian and associate professor, Elizabeth Camden has a master’s in history from the University of Virginia and a master’s in library science from Indiana University. She has published several articles for academic publications and is the author of four nonfiction history books. Her ongoing fascination with history and love of literature have led her to write inspirational fiction. Elizabeth lives with her husband in central Florida.

A word from Elizabeth:  I am a college librarian in central Florida by day, but by night I can be found pounding out inspirational historical novels the moment the sun goes down. I love writing books about fiercely intelligent people who are confronted with profound challenges. As a rather introverted person, I have found that writing is the best way for me to share my faith and a sense of resilience with others.

As for who I am? I love old Hitchcock films, the hour before sunset, a long, sweaty run through the Florida countryside, and a glass of good wine. After spending my entire adult life on a college campus (either as a student or a librarian) I have finally been able to pursue my ultimate goal of writing professionally.


Female journalists are rare in 1879, but American-born Clara Endicott has finally made a name for herself with her provocative articles championing London's poor. When the backlash from her work forces a return home to Baltimore, Clara finds herself face-to-face with a childhood sweetheart who is no longer the impoverished factory worker she once knew. In her absence, Daniel Tremain has become a powerful industry giant and Clara finds him as enigmatic as ever. However, Daniel's success is fueled by resentment from past wounds and Clara's deeply-held beliefs about God's grace force Daniel to confront his own motives. When Clara's very life is endangered by one of Daniel's adversaries, they must face a reckoning neither of them ever could have foreseen.

When Clara Endicott and Daniel Tremain's worlds collide after twelve years apart, the spark that was once between them immediately reignites into a romance neither of them thought possible.

But time has changed them both.

Daniel is an industrial titan with powerful enemies. Clara is an idealistic journalist determined to defend underprivileged workers.

Can they withstand the cost of their convictions while their hearts, and lives, hang in the balance?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Lady of Bolton Hill, go HERE.