Friday, September 30, 2011

I Am In Love...

...with Pinterest.



Have you discovered this place yet?  (O...M...G....did I hear someone say no????)  :o)  It is *the* coolest thing I've seen online in a very long time.  For someone who always finds things and says, "Hey, I could do that!" or "I wish I had a place to keep that where I wouldn't forget it"...well, this is da place for you.

If you're not familiar with it, let me give you a brief 4-1-1.

First, you have a profile with all your stuff.  (Think of Facebook, but without the nosiness.)

Second, you create boards specifically designed to things you want to remember.  Some of mine are:
You can create whatever kind of board you want.  It's all about you.  :o)

Next, it's time to start pinning!  Yep, whatever you find a link for online, you can pin it.  This website has made it so you can always have a central location for all the great things you see online that you want to remember.  Personally, that's always been a problem of mine.  I'll jot down a link somewhere, or print a page off, and most times, I've lost it within a day.  Ridiculous, right?  Now, I don't have that problem.  Whee!!

You can also do something on there called "re-pin."  Basically, if you see something that someone else thought was *way cool,* you can re-pin it to one of your boards.  Everybody gets to share the love with all this snazzy stuff!

Now, I wish I was all sorts of tech-savvy so I could show you step by step how to make it all come together.  I'll leave that to the pros at Pinterest.  Yeah, it's a little bit confusing when you first start because it's a little like information overload, but rest assured, in no time you'll have seen an hour go by because you will not be able to drag yourself away. 

Seriously.

If you decide to try it out, I hope you'll look me up

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Compiling a Reviewer List

I never imagined in a million years that I would have so much fun reading, reviewing, and blogging about books.  My bookshelves now are overflowing with books, and should something like a universal power outage ever happen (go read Terri Blackstock's Restoration series to get an idea), I will never have to worry about entertaining myself because of the lack of tv.  I'll have books.  :o)

But there's a small downside to all this fun.  I'm getting to the point of having to turn away authors because I simply don't have enough time to read and review their books in a timely manner.  That's where you are about to become oh-so-important.  :o)  I would love to be able to refer these authors to some of my blogging friends who may not have a schedule as tight as mine, and who can get these books read and reviewed to help spread the word.  Does that sound like something you'd be interested in?  If so, I hope you'll take just a few moments to fill out the form below.

At the present time, I'm not inundated with requests, so the amount of referrals that I'll pass on will be very minimal, depending on your genre preferences.   By filling out the form, you are in no way obligated to respond to every review request sent your way.  It will still be necessary for you to use discretion and choose the books you are genuinely interested in reading.

And don't worry...  I am not about to share your info with anyone other than an author seeking a review.  Our email boxes already get enough junk.  :)



Thank you so much for your time!  I appreciate you stopping by!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CFBA Blog Tour: Captive Trail by Susan Page Davis



This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Captive Trail
Moody Publishers (September 1, 2011)
by
Susan Page Davis


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



From Susan: I've always loved reading, history, and horses. These things come together in several of my historical books. My young adult novel, Sarah's Long Ride, also spotlights horses and the rugged sport of endurance riding, as does the contemporary romance Trail to Justice. I took a vocational course in horseshoeing after earning a bachelor's degree in history. I don't shoe horses anymore, but the experience has come in handy in writing my books.

Another longtime hobby of mine is genealogy, which has led me down many fascinating paths. I'm proud to be a DAR member! Some of Jim's and my quirkier ancestors have inspired fictional characters.

For many years I worked for the Central Maine Morning Sentinel as a freelancer, covering local government, school board meetings, business news, fires, auto accidents, and other local events, including a murder trial. I've also written many profiles and features for the newspaper and its special sections. This experience was a great help in developing fictional characters and writing realistic scenes. I also published nonfiction articles in several magazines and had several short stories appear in Woman's World, Grit, and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

My husband, Jim, and I moved to his birth state, Oregon, for a while after we were married, but decided to move back to Maine and be near my family. We're so glad we did. It allowed our six children to grow up feeling close to their cousins and grandparents, and some of Jim's family have even moved to Maine!

Our children are all home-schooled. The two youngest are still learning at home. Jim recently retired from his vocation as an editor at a daily newspaper, and we’ve moved from Maine to Kentucky.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Captive Trail is second in a six-book series about four generations of the Morgan family living, fighting, and thriving amidst a turbulent Texas history spanning from 1845 to 1896. Although a series, each book can be read on its own.

Taabe Waipu has run away from her Comanche village and is fleeing south in Texas on a horse she stole from a dowry left outside her family’s teepee. The horse has an accident and she is left on foot, injured and exhausted. She staggers onto a road near Fort Chadbourne and collapses.

On one of the first runs through Texas, Butterfield Overland Mail Company driver Ned Bright carries two Ursuline nuns returning to their mission station. They come across a woman who is nearly dead from exposure and dehydration and take her to the mission.

With some detective work, Ned discovers Taabe Waipu identity. He plans to unite her with her family, but the Comanche have other ideas, and the two end up defending the mission station. Through Taabe and Ned we learn the true meaning of healing and restoration amid seemingly powerless situations.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Captive Trail, go HERE.

My thoughts:

Not too many yet, as I haven't gotten far enough into it to really form an opinion.  Intrigued by the whole "runaway-from-the-almost-Indian-husband" bit, though.  :o)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Litfuse Blog Tour and Book Review: Heiress by Susan May Warren/5 Stars

About the book:

They can buy anything they want—fame, power, beauty, even loyalty.  But they can’t buy love.

The beautiful and wealthy heiress daughters of August Price can buy everything their hearts desire. But what if their desire is to be loved, without an enormous price tag attached? When one sister betrays another for the sake of love, will she find happiness? And what happens when the other sets out across the still untamed frontier to find it—will  she discover she’s left it behind in the glamorous world of the New York gilded society? What price will each woman pay for being an heiress?


Set in the opulent world of the Gilded Age, two women discover that being an heiress just might cost them everything they love.


My thoughts:

I could go in so many directions with this review to tell you all about the characters, the plot, the setting, the clothes (oh...the clothes), but Heiress is one of those novels that is an experience--in jealousy, in opulence, in tragedy, in love.  It's one that, if you know nothing but the back cover blurb, then you are in for the surprise of your life.

I knew that Susan was a great writer, even after reading my first book by her earlier this year, but Heiress has catapulted her to favorite author status in no time flat.  Just when I thought I was going to hit a lull in this story, she snapped my mind back to attention with one twist after another.  Now, I know that some authors usually like to have one surprise lurking somewhere in their stories, but to have them appear in rapid succession (and all of them believable, no less) showed that Susan's got some masterful writing chops.

Without a doubt, Heiress has to be the edgiest Christian fiction book of the year.  It should also come with a warning label--"Don't start unless you plan to stay up past your bedtime."

Go.  Get.  It.  Now.  I dare you.  ;o)

5 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  It makes an appearance from time to time.  :o)

**Many thanks to Summerside Press and Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy for review. 

***

Enter 9/22-10/5!

 ***



Monday, September 26, 2011

Southern-Style Meet & Greet with Lisa Bergren Plus Giveaway


Thank you so much for joining me for another Southern-Style Meet & Greet this week.  Our special guest today will be none other than the hottest Christian YA author this year...Lisa Bergren!  Betcha can't wait to get started, huh?  :o)

But first, gotta announce the winner of last week's giveaway for a copy of Dancing on Glass by Pamela Ewen.  Thanks to the awesome Random.org, our winner is:

Darlene (darlene@...)

Congrats on your win, Darlene!  I'll be in touch with you shortly for your mailing addy.  :o)

Now, it's time for our Meet & Greet!  I have been a fan of Lisa's since the good ole days...like when Christian fiction was really starting to take off about 15 years ago.  She started writing books for the Palisades romance line published by Multnomah in the mid-90's, and I *devoured* every single book of hers, as well as every other one that was available at my local library.  :o)  And if those books of hers weren't great enough, she had to go and write the Northern Lights series.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  Let's just say if you haven't read those books yet, um...get busy.  *wink*  And it's an obvious given that the River of Time Series should be at the top of your TBR stack, also (speaking to myself here as I've only read book 1, Waterfall, so far...must get busy).  :o)

Hope y'all enjoy our chat today!
__________________________________________________

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

This is hard to answer because it wasn't until I had five published books under my belt that I could even refer to myself as a writer. I think it'd always been my dream...

What genre do you most like to write?

Suspense/romance. I had a blast with the River of Time Series because those elements rose to the top.

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

Rarely personal experiences. Writing is largely an exercise of imagination for me! But I do incorporate key things that I've learned, or friends/family have had to learn. Those internal "ahas" are somewhat universal, I think, and help tie us to a character (even if she's time-travelling back to medieval Italy!)

What do you hope readers “take away” with them after they read one of your books?

I hope that first and foremost, they feel like their time was well spent--that it was not a waste of time! If they can say, "I learned something about myself/my world/my faith in reading that book," or even just "that was great entertainment," I'm happy.

What is your latest book release?

The latest is TORRENT, book 3 in the River of Time Series. You really want to read WATERFALL (book 1) and CASCADE (book 2) first, because TORRENT picks up where the last ended--with the girls going back in time to try and rescue their father. They're faced, then, with the tough decision as a family--to stay in medieval Italy forever, or return to their own time? The Love Interest, of course, is back in medieval Toscana...

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

I'm currently working on the first book in the Grand Tour Series, and it's about a group of young people who are on a Summer tour of "the Continent" (i.e. Europe), as well as on a journey to discover themselves. My heroine is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king, who has to decipher her true identity when everything she's known about herself changes. GLAMOROUS ILLUSIONS, book 1, comes out in June 2012.

Sounds like another glorious series!  

What was the last Christian Fiction book that you read that you couldn’t put down?

Susan Meissner's THE SHAPE OF MERCY. Awesome. But to be fair, I feel like I've been called to write for the general market, and in particular, YA, to try and bring a little light into some pretty dark bookstore shelves...so I've been reading a ton of general market YA books. Looking forward to reading Sandra Byrd's TO DIE FOR, Mary Demuth's THE MUIR HOUSE and Erin Healy's THE PROMISES SHE KEEPS. They're in my stacks.

Sandra's book was positively wonderful!  I've been recommending it left and right to everyone I know!  Hope you'll be able to read it soon. 

Where can readers find you on the web?

LisaBergren.com and RiverofTime.mobi
Facebook: River of Time Series and Lisa Tawn Bergren
Twitter: @LisaTBergren

If you could visit anywhere down South, where would it be and why?

Oxford, MS for the literary roots; Charleston, SC for the romantic setting...Mmm. Would love to go!

Oxford is just down the road from this front porch, and it's also the home of Ole Miss.  Big deal for some of us sports people up here (not me necessarily, unless they're playing the University of Memphis Tigers...then, it's a big deal).  :o)

Iced Tea—sweet or unsweet?

Half and half. Better yet, unsweet w/lemonade.

BBQ Pork or BBQ Beef?

Pork.

Dolly Parton or Elvis Presley?

Elvis, baby.

Historical House—Plantation or Log Cabin?

Plantation. With servants. I'm not big on cleaning.

Me, neither...don't tell my hubby.  Shh...

Country gal or city gal

Country.

You, you all, or y’all?

My Southern friends have made this Yankee a y'all girl. But I don't say "all y'all" yet. That's just crazy talk.

Being Southern, I'm "y'all" all the way, but have been known to slip an "all y'all" from time to time.  :o)
__________________________________

Lisa, I had a blast getting to know you better, and I'm sure lots of other folks have, too.  Thank you so so much for stopping by this week!


Now, y'all are just not gonna believe this week's giveaway.  It's almost too good to be true, but I assure you that this is the real deal!  Up for grabs is the ENTIRE RIVER OF TIME SERIES!  Can you believe it?  :o)  WOW!  So, be sure to follow the directions for your mandatory and optional entries so that you don't miss out on your chance to win. 
  • Leave a comment with your email address disguised like "yourname at yourdomain dot com" or something similar. Many people are not following this rule for their mandatory entry, and I've not been able to include them.  Please leave your email addy so I can contact you.
  • All entry comments must be left by Sunday, October 2.
  • Contest is open to US residents only.
  • Become a follower/email subscriber for an additional entry, and let me know in your comment if you're a new one or an existing one. (No need to create a separate comment for this. Combining everything into one comment is much easier.)
Thank y'all so much for stopping by again this week!  I appreciate the comments that y'all leave in response to the interviews along with the occasional question for the authors.  You guys help me make these features a success, so thank you!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Carol Award Winners!

Just in case you missed it, the Carol Awards were announced tonight at the ACFW Conference.  It was so wonderful to be able to sit in my living room and watch a live stream of the entire gala.  :o)

Here's a list of all the winners:

Debut Author
Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes (Tyndale Publishers)

Long Contemporary
Never Say Never  by Lisa Wingate (Bethany House)

Long Contemporary Romance
Plain Paradise  by Beth Wiseman (Thomas Nelson) - review

Long Historical
Sons of Thunder  by Susan May Warren (Summerside Press)

Long Historical Romance
Love Finds You in Homestead Iowa by Melanie Dobson (Summerside Press) - review

Mystery
The Camera Never Lies by Elizabeth Goddard (Barbour)

Novella
A Trusting Heart by Carrie Turansky (Barbour)

Romantic Suspense
The Silent Order by Melanie Dobson (Summerside Press)

Short Contemporary Suspense
Night Prey by Sharon Dunn (Love Inspired Suspense)

Short Historical
Her Healing Ways by Lyn Cote (Love Inspired)

Speculative Fiction
K├Ânig’s Fire by Marc Schooley (Marcher Lord Press)

Suspense/Thriller
Predator by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan) - review

Women’s Fiction
Beaded Hope by Cathy Liggett (Tyndale Publishers)

Young Adult
Anything But Normal by Melody Carlson (Revell)

***

Well, I won't lie...I was hoping for a few others to win tonight, too...namely Laura Frantz for Courting Morrow Little (review) and Melanie Dickerson for The Healer's Apprentice (review).  I suppose when you get this far, though, it really is an honor just to be nominated.  

But on the upside, I am so happy for Beth Wiseman, Terri Blackstock, and Melanie Dobson on their wins!  Melanie came away with not one, but TWO awards tonight!  I've only read one of her winning novels, and the other is patiently sitting in my TBR stack.  Yep, eventually...it will see the light of day.  :o)  And I just have to say that Beth's speech tonight was so heartfelt that I about burst into tears...probably one of the highlights of the night.

I also want to give a huge shoutout to fellow blogger, Renee Ann Smith from Doorkeeper!  I had no idea that she was a finalist in the Genesis Awards until I saw her name come across the screen.  Congrats on your big win, Renee!  :o)

Congrats to all the winners!

Book Review: Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee/5 Stars

About the book:

A single decison has the power to unravel mankind.

Created, not born.

The world's first woman, without flaw, until one fateful choice. Now all humanity must pay for the mistake.

From paradise to exile, from immortality to the death of Adam, experience the dawn of mankind through the eyes of Eve -- the woman first known as Havah.

My thoughts:

Tosca Lee has got to be one of the most talented authors in Christian fiction today. It has been such a long time since I read a novel with as much depth as this one had. Normally, I fly through books as so many of them have similar storylines and plot devices, but I found myself slowly and methodically reading this book, absorbing each and every page.

This book changed my perceptions of those early days from Genesis that I am familiar with. Tosca's ability to convey the joy of Adam and Eve's time in the garden was contrasted extremely well to their sudden flight after eating the fruit, along with their subsequent wonder of how they would survive. And while it's not the norm for Christian fiction, I appreciated Tosca going the extra mile in describing the love shared between Adam and Eve as husband and wife. It seems that lately this has been frowned upon by some Christian readers, but I found it to be completely natural and added that extra bit of realness to the story.

Not only is Havah a great addition to Christian fiction, it is a wonderful addition to the genre of Biblical fiction that is growing by leaps and bounds. I have found that these novels help me in my understanding of Biblical truths, and I always find myself going to the original source and comparing both works side by side. It is my belief that Tosca has found her niche with the Biblical fiction genre, and while I'm sure her newest novel with Ted Dekker is great, I'm eager for her next solo novel in the works called Iscariot.

5 Stars

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

Southern?  No
Sass?  No



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review: Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson with Susy Flory/4 Stars

About the book:

A blind man and his guide dog show the power of trust and courage in the midst of devastating terror.

It was 12:30 a.m. on 9/11 and Roselle whimpered at Michael's bedside. A thunderstorm was headed east, and she could sense the distant rumbles while her owners slept. As a trained guide dog, when she was "on the clock" nothing could faze her. But that morning, without her harness, she was free to be scared, and she nudged Michael's hand with her wet nose as it draped over the bedside toward the floor. She needed him to wake up.

With a busy day of meetings and an important presentation ahead, Michael slumped out of bed, headed to his home office, and started chipping away at his daunting workload. Roselle, shivering, took her normal spot at his feet and rode out the storm while he typed. By all indications it was going to be a normal day. A busy day, but normal nonetheless. Until they went into the office.

In Thunder Dog, follow Michael and his guide dog, Roselle, as their lives are changed forever by two explosions and 1,463 stairs. When the first plane struck Tower One, an enormous boom, frightening sounds, and muffled voices swept through Michael's office while shards of glass and burning scraps of paper fell outside the windows.

But in this harrowing story of trust and courage, discover how blindness and a bond between dog and man saved lives and brought hope during one of America's darkest days.

My thoughts:

Thunder Dog has to be one of the most inspiring books I have read in a very long time.  Stories of hope, triumph, and perseverance are ones I'm easily drawn to, and to have one that ties in a lovable canine makes those stories that much more special.

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect before starting this book.  My initial thought was, "How can this whole book be about that one day?  Won't that be totally depressing?"  Well, it wasn't.  I learned so much from Mike in regards to blindness, how blind people are perceived in society, and how most of them really can get along just fine, thank you very much.  :o)  I also learned a great deal about guide dogs, including their early training and daily routines.  It was surprising to read that only 50% of dogs chosen to become guide dogs don't even make it through the training.  That alone makes dogs like Roselle all the more special.

I fell in love with Roselle and her fearless devotion to Mike.  Their loyalty to one another during one of the most horrific days in our nation's history was simply amazing to read.  Just when I thought she might buckle under the pressures of that day, she proved me wrong every single time.  She led Mike down some 1,400 steps to safety before their tower fell. 

Yes, this story had a tragic backdrop, but was also a great story of hope.  Now that I've read it, I feel motivated and inspired.  The simple message from this book was that our limitations do not have to define us.  If it had not been for Mike's parents pushing him to explore from an early age, there's no telling how his life may have turned out.  Instead, he persevered through the hard times, and has gone to lead a very successful life. 

I hope you'll take the time to read this encouraging story.  You will be so glad that you did.

4 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Special Visit from Judy Christie!

Well, this is a first for Southern Sassy Things!  Today, I've got special guest Judy Christie here to talk about her newest book in her Green Series, Rally 'Round Green.  It's a semi-book, semi-character interview, but it's all Southern....which means Judy will fit in just fine around here.  :o)

I've not yet had the pleasure of reading Judy's novels (although several are in my TBR stack), and this series sounds like it's right up my alley.  Is it just me, or does it seem like the whole state of Louisiana is being featured this week?  *grin*  Oh, well...that's okay.  We like all our Southern neighbors here!

Take it away, Judy!  :o)
____________________________________________

Tell us about your 4th book in the Green series, Rally 'Round Green?

The town of Green, La., survived a tornado, but now it faces a new storm – a threat to the school. Newlyweds Lois and Chris want to return to a normal life, but more threats loom. There’s always a lot going on in Green, from marriages to tornadoes to the current effort to keep the school open. Lois, Mayor Eva, and a group of Green School graduates unite to fight, with surprising – and unexpected -- results.

How did you 'meet' the character of Lois?

I was a long-time newspaper editor and I’m a southerner. I thought it would be interesting to plop a big-city journalist down into a little Louisiana town and see what happened.  Observing people around me for years, I watched Lois take shape. At first I wasn’t sure if the Green stories would be in first-person or third-person, but Lois convinced me that her voice was strong and clear. So, first-person they are!

I wrote a profile of Lois before I started the books, so I knew a lot about her as the series got under way.

How has Lois changed over the course of the series?

Outwardly, her life has changed in many ways. She’s married and lives out in the country in a house that is being remodeled. She’s led her little newspaper to greatness, despite many challenges. Inwardly, Lois is much more certain now than she was when she moved to Green and her faith continues to grow. She’s much more content.

Lois changes people, and they change her – which is one of the things I love most about the town of Green.

What kind of research did you do in creating the Green series?

Much of my research is “sponge-like.” I carry a notebook with me at all times and soak up details. For “Rally ‘Round Green,” I studied small-town schools that have been closed and interviewed a friend who had lost her school. One of the oddest things that happened while writing “Rally ‘Round Green” was that the story came to life where I live. I’d written a scene about a community meeting where passionate citizens were fighting to save their school and then I attended such a meeting for research. I felt like I was sitting in the Green High gym.

I was a journalist for twenty-five years, so I know lots about newspapers – from how the newsroom refrigerator looks to how the pressroom smells.

What was the most difficult thing about going from non-fiction to fiction?

Making things up! As a non-fiction writer, I try to offer readers practical and inspiring tips, based on facts. I interview lots of people and gather information.

As a novelist, I want to encourage and entertain readers, offering ideas through stories. So, I sit down at my computer and daydream. “What if this happened? Or that?” I have to concentrate harder for longer periods of time to invent characters and places, but it certainly is fun!

Why did you decide to become a writer?

I didn’t write my first novel until I turned 50. It was my birthday gift to myself, and I committed to write a novel before I turned 51. So, I sat down and stared at my laptop for a while and started typing. That was four years ago, and my fourth novel just released. I’m still amazed!

I have kept a journal since I was nine and have all of them. For many years I was a journalist and wrote or edited daily. I love putting words together and consider it a wonderful gift from God. I also love to talk!


What role does your faith play in creating stories and characters?

I believe each of is created to do something with our lives and that we are to slow down and enjoy each day more, using our gifts. I try to weave that into each book I write. I trust God to guide me in my daily life and to help me take the best next step, whatever that might be. I pray every day – including about my work and how God wants me to use my time and energy. When I invent characters, I consider how that process would look in their lives – and what the outcome might be.
What was the first thing you ever wrote?

A diary entry in a little red book with a lock and key! I was also the editor of The Barret Banner in elementary school. My first column was about the new school library.

What's the perfect writing environment?

Somewhere quiet with a nice view! Some writers love coffee shops or their living rooms with lots of activity, but I like a quiet spot with few distractions when possible. My most enjoyable writing has been done at Camp Slower Pace, a little fishing camp on Lake Bistineau in north Louisiana. However, I also love to write on the Kitchen Couch at our house or in my wonderful little office, which I call my writer’s cottage.

What would you like your readers to take away from their trip to Green?

As a reader, I’ve realized we take different things from stories depending on where we are in our lives – and I believe God can use a story to help us in different ways at a particular moment. As a writer, I hope readers find encouragement. Lois Barker Craig, the protagonist in the Green series, changes the world around her, and I hope Rally ‘Round Green readers will realize that one person can make a difference in this crazy, wonderful world of ours.

For more info on Judy, see www.judychristie.com. Judy loves to chat with readers at www.facebook.com/judychristie and www.twitter.com @judypchristie. For free Hurry Less Worry Less tips, visit her weekly podcast on iTunes. She also enjoys visiting with book clubs via Skype or telephone!
__________________________________

Thanks for stopping by today, Judy!  Don't be a stranger now!  :o)


Monday, September 19, 2011

Southern-Style Meet & Greet with Pamela Ewen Plus Giveaway



I am so happy that you stopped by to meet another great author on this week's Southern-Style Meet & Greet!  Before we get to all the fun, let me first announce the winner of last week's Meet & Greet.  This one *very* special person will be receiving a copy of Jody Hedlund's newest book, The Doctor's Lady, and they're in for a real treat, I guarantee it!  So, wanna know who the winner was?  None other than...

Maureen (alekee02@...)

Maureen, I will be in touch with you shortly to get your mailing addy.  You're gonna LOVE this book!  :o)

Now, to this week's featured author.  Pamela Ewen is an author whose work I haven't had the pleasure of reading, but I hope to change that very soon.  :o)  Pamela filled in for me in a pinch this week, and I'm so happy that we're all getting the opportunity to get to know her better.  Just wait until you see not only how many writers are in her family, but also where her grandparents lived!  Fascinating stuff, I tell ya!

Welcome, Pamela!

________________________________________________

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

Hmmm. First time... Well, books create whole new worlds for me when I’m reading. My entire family reads all the time. My Louisiana family—the Burkes from New Iberia originally--includes so many writers—besides me, my cousins James Lee Burke and Andre Dubus (father and son, of course) and Elizabeth Nell Dubus, Alifair Burke, DeLauney Michele...(Isn’t that weird?) Two summers ago five of us had new books released. But, I’ve always been a rabid reader. An uncle of mine began sending five or six books to me each Christmas and Birthday as soon as I learned to read. They were my favorite presents. Also, I lived in a small town in south Louisiana at that time, and we had one of those lending library trucks that would come around and I’d pick out piles of books and check them out. In the fifth or sixth grade I decided I wanted to write one. So to make a long story short, my mother taught me how to type, and every day I came home from school and spent the rest of the afternoon typing it. (You can imagine what it was like—a “Little Women” rip-off!) I took me about six months to do this.

We didn't have the trucks when I was growing up, but I still couldn't resist checking out the max number of books from the library as a child!  I was a voracious reader!  :o)

What genre do you most like to write?

I can’t say I have a favorite genre, but I do love books with plots that turn on strong issues and ideas. If you look at the great masters, like Tolstoy, Dickens, Henry James, etc. it’s the ideas in their books that last through the centuries. I love books with a strong plot that incorporates the ideas, and characters that have depth, that make you think and let you learn something new.

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

I think all writers incorporate their own thinking and ideas into stories. (Never mess with a writer, or you’ll end up in one of their books!) But seriously, major characters are often composites of people I’ve met. Although The Moon in the Mango Tree, released in 2008, was fiction, it was based on the true story of my grandmother’s life in the 1920’s—in Siam (now Thailand), Rome, Lausanne, and Paris. I was very close to my grandmother and grandfather and had grown up hearing the stories of their adventures. My grandfather was a medical missionary and my grandmother, who was an opera singer with a career on stage in mind, found herself in the middle of the jungle in the North of Siam in 1920 after they married! My mother was born there. Later on they lived in Bangkok and my grandfather became the royal physician. There they lived an entirely different life. But here’s the most amazing thing—after my grandmother passed away, my mother gave me all of her letters home during that time, and some journals. She had also brought back pictures from Siam and Europe and we found those too. What a revelation those letters and pictures were—I found a young woman with spirit and love of life, rebellious, a former suffragette who was struggling with her own longings. A jazz baby. A young woman making choices that no one in the family had ever known she’d had to make! My mother and her sister loved this—it explained so much to them, and they said the book brought her back to life for them. I’ve got a photo album of all the people in the story (the pictures she’d brought back from Siam) on my website.

I'd have to think twice before marrying a man who planned to take me to the jungle for our honeymoon!  :o) But on a serious note, what a heritage you have, and I can't wait to see what you have available to share on your website.

What do you hope readers take away with them after they read one of your books?

I hope they’re riveted to the book because of the plot and characters, but I also hope that the see something of themselves and their own lives in the story that will keep them thinking, or dreaming, afterwards! Most of my books are about the psychological aspects of making difficult choices, and also how faith lifts us through many of them.

What is your latest book release?

Dancing on Glass was released on August 1st of this year. It’s set in New Orleans—the place I consider home—in 1974. Amalise Catoir is a young lawyer who meets and falls in love with a man who isn’t what he seems…love or illusion? Slowly she’s drawn into a relationship that she doesn’t understand. One reviewer said the snippet on the back of the book says it all: What would you do if prayers seemed to go unanswered, faith slipped away, evil stalked, and you felt yourself forever dancing on shattered glass?

Dancing has been getting reviews that I really, really love. Some thoughtful, wonderful reviews focused exactly on two things I most wanted to highlight in the story – an understanding of how manipulative relationships work, particularly between men and women, and the power of those relationships. And also the whimsy and beauty of the city of New Orleans. For me, the city was almost a character in the book. Library Journal said the story gave readers both insight, and it brought the city of New Orleans circa 1974 alive. The Suspense Zone said this: “One of the best books I’ve read this year…The plot thickened with every chapter…a book that alerts you to a very real danger of our present generation, a story that stirs you to your depths.”

I've read a few books set in New Orleans, and you're right...the city really is its own character. There aren't many other locations that can boast that.

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

I just finished a sequel to Dancing on Glass. The title is Chasing the Wind, and it continues the saga of two characters in Dancing, although it’s an entirely different story, both as to plot and as to the ‘feel’ of the book. Set in New Orleans in 1977. Amalise is a successful young lawyer now, working on a corporate transaction in a large law firm. And what comes along is this:

A mysterious child with a forgotten past. Love and yearning and envy. A razzle-dazzle financial wizard building a resort hotel in the city of New Orleans.

When they collide—anything can happen!


What is the last Christian Fiction book that you read that you couldn’t put down?

It would be either Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers, or her Atonement Child. I have to brace myself when I read her books. They are earth-shaking from an emotional point of view.

Where can readers find you on the web?

At www.pamelaewen.com. And I love to talk to visitors – answer all emails.

What is your most favorite thing about the South?

That’s a hard question but here goes. Writers of fiction are basically dreamers, and the south, particularly Louisiana where I live, is made for dreamers. I love the warm sultry air scented with sweet olive, jasmine, fresh pine…I even love that dank, musky smell of places that are perpetually damp. I love the way southerners have a story for everything—never just imparting news, but working it up into a story, maybe adding a little music, maybe adding a little shuffle along the way. And then before you know it everyone’s listening to the story and laughing and the frogs and cicadas join in the music and now you’ve got a second-line behind you and a brass band out in front, and everyone holds on while you’re dancing off into the sunshine and the creator’s smiling down on us....

That’s, most of all, what I love about the south.

Plus, I love the food!

Beautiful descriptions, and yes...the food keeps us ALL coming back!  :o)

____________________________________________

Told you that you'd love that interview, didn't I?  :o)  I'm itchin' to take a trip down to New Orleans now, go to Cafe DuMonde, snatch up some beignets, and then, walk next door to grab some pralines.  YUMMMM!!  (Too bad we don't have some of those to give away this week....all y'all's diets would go down the drain!)

But we do have a copy of Pamela's newest book, Dancing on Glass, that she's so graciously offered to one person.  Simply follow the instructions below for your mandatory and optional bonus entries.
  • Leave a comment with your email address disguised like "yourname at yourdomain dot com" or something similar. Many people are not following this rule for their mandatory entry, and I've not been able to include them.  Please leave your email addy so I can contact you.
  • All entry comments must be left by Sunday, Sept. 25.
  • Contest is open to US residents only.
  • Become a follower/email subscriber for an additional entry, and let me know in your comment if you're a new one or an existing one. (No need to create a separate comment for this. Combining everything into one comment is much easier.)
See y'all in the comments...thanks for stopping by!

Book Review: Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer/3.5 Stars

About the book:

Rebekah Hendricks dreams of a life far beyond her family's farm in Oklahoma, and when dashing aviator Arthur Samson promised adventure in the big city, she is quick to believe he's the man she's meant to marry. While she waits for the Great War to end and Arthur to return to her so they can pursue all their plans, her mother's sister falls ill. Rebekah seizes the opportunity to travel to Texas to care for Aunt Adabelle, seeing this chance to be closer to Arthur's training camp as God's approval of her plans.

But the Spanish flu epidemic changes everything. Faced with her aunt's death, Arthur's indecisiveness, and four children who have no one else to care for them, Rebeka is torn between the desire to escape the type of life she's always led and the unexpected love that just might change the dream of her heart.

My thoughts:

It always pains me when I come across a book that others really enjoyed and I didn't.  It's even worse when it's a brand new author.  Each book is like a new baby to an author, and I imagine new authors are doubly sensitive when they read reviews of their "firstborn."  But unfortunately, Wings of a Dream just wasn't my cup of tea.

There's not one clear area that I can point to as to where this book went wrong for me.  I could name several things that didn't appeal to me, but I really don't want to get into a whole lot of details lest I ruin the reading experience for others.  However, I compliment the author for creating a most unlikeable character in Rebekah's mother.  She was far too uppity for her own good.  :o)

In spite of my overall dislike of this story, I do plan to give Anne's novels another try in the future.  Every author, especially a new one, deserves a second chance to make a good impression, and I think with a little more work, Anne's future novels could be real gems.  My rating for Wings of a Dream is 3.5 stars.

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

Southern?  Some
Sass?  No

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Can I Get Your Opinion, Please?

I've been stewing on a couple of ideas of late, and would love to get y'all's opinion on the matter.  :o)

Next year, I'm thinking of having a couple of new features.  Nothing crazy...still bookish, so no worries.  :o)  I'm thinking about having at least one Southern book pick/review and/or one Oldies book pick/review per month.  The Southern book pick is self-explanatory - just give me something with a Southern setting.  *wink*  Historical Southern books would be all the better!

However, the Oldies book pick is a little different.

When I think of oldies when it comes to books, no, I don't think back to the classics.  (Sorry in advance to all the Jane Austen fans.)  No, this blog will still focus strictly on the Christian Fiction genre, but an Oldie book will be anything written from the year 2000 going back.  I've got a TON of books on my shelves, most of them from authors who have been writing for ages, but there never seems to be any time to read these older books because of all the newer ones that claw their way to the top.  No worries...new Christian Fiction will still be featured here on a regular basis just like it currently is.  The Oldies book pick would just be once a month (same for the Southern pick).

To give you an idea of some of the authors that would fit the Oldies category, here's a list:
  • Tracie Peterson
  • Gilbert Morris
  • Davis Bunn
  • Michael Phillips
  • Judith Pella
  • Brock & Bodie Thoene
What do y'all think about this?  Do you like one idea but not the other?  Do you like both?  Would either of these appeal to you as a reader?  Sound off in the comments section or feel free to answer the poll at the top of the page.  Thanks!  :o)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Review: Shadow in Serenity by Terri Blackstock/4 Stars

About the book:

Carny Sullivan grew up in the zany world of a traveling carnival. Quaint and peaceful Serenity, Texas, has given her a home, a life, and a child. Logan Brisco is the smoothest, slickest, handsomest man Serenity, Texas has ever seen. But Carny Sullivan knows a con artist when she sees one---and she's seen plenty, starting with her father.

As far as Carny Sullivan can tell, she's the only one in town who has his number. Because from his Italian shoes to his movie-actor smile, Logan has the rest of the town snowed. Carny is determined to reveal Brisco's selfish intentions before his promise to the townspeople for a cut in a giant amusement park sucks Serenity dry. Yet, as much as she hates his winning ways, there is a man behind that suave smile, a man who may win her heart against her will.

Shadow in Serenity is a modern-day Music Man, penned by a Christy Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author.

My thoughts:

I have been a diehard fan of Terri Blackstock since I first started reading Christian fiction over ten years ago.  I have always been able to rely on Terri to provide suspenseful stories that keep me awake until the wee hours of the morning.  However, this was not one of her stronger novels.

While the carnival/amusement park idea was unique, I felt that I had to suspend belief for a large portion of the story.  Like Carny, I wondered how in the world all of Logan's plans would come to fruition if he wasn't in fact a con artist.  Without giving too much away, the end of the story was where this was most evident.  Considering the amount of time that had passed between Logan's first visit to Serenity and the final chapter of the story, everything progressed much faster than it would in the real world.

On the flip side, I felt that the characters in this story were extremely believable, Logan in particular.  His reflections on his past as a product of foster homes combined with the years spent with his con artist mentor made him the most complex character of the story.  Having personally met a con artist in my life (but thankfully not his victim), I could identify with some of the techniques Logan used to persuade the town into parting with their hard-earned money. 

I appreciated that Terri went back to her last novel written for the general market and rewrote it to appeal to a Christian audience.  Never once did it seem that the story was rewritten as all the Christian elements blended seamlessly throughout the story.  But if I compare it to some of her recent novels, it was not up to the same caliber that I've come to expect from her.  It was only slightly suspenseful and romantic, yet still engaging enough that I wanted to read it to the very end.  My rating is 4 Stars.

Southern?  Yes, only by mentioning the state of Louisiana.  There were no actual Southern references.
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a copy for review.



CFBA Blog Tour: Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer (with my thoughts so far)


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Wings of A Dream
Bethany House (September 1, 2011)
by
Anne Mateer


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
 
While I have been writing for what feels like my whole life, I began seriously studying the craft in 2000. Since then I have completed five novels, had several pieces published in local periodicals, attended six writing conferences and managed to final in ACFW's Genesis contest in 2006, 2008, and 2009. My first historical novel, Wings of a Dream, will be released in September 2011, with another historical novel to follow in 2012. But writing is only a piece of my life.


I am mostly just a woman trying to live her life in a manner pleasing to the Lord. That involves being a wife to Jeff and a mother to my three teenagers--neither role coming easily but both roles stretching me, requiring me to press in closer to Jesus. And because of this, Jesus has taken an insecure, fearful, sometimes angry girl and is turning her into a more trusting, peaceful, grace-filled woman. At least some of the time. There is still such a long way to go!



ABOUT THE BOOK:

Rebekah Hendricks dreams of a life far beyond her family's farm in Oklahoma, and when dashing aviator Arthur Samson promised adventure in the big city, she is quick to believe he's the man she's meant to marry. While she waits for the Great War to end and Arthur to return to her so they can pursue all their plans, her mother's sister falls ill. Rebekah seizes the opportunity to travel to Texas to care for Aunt Adabelle, seeing this chance to be closer to Arthur's training camp as God's approval of her plans.


But the Spanish flue epidemic changes everything. Faced with her aunt's death, Arthur's indecisiveness, and four children who have no one else to care for them, Rebekah is torn between the desire to escape the type of life she's always led and the unexpected love that just might change the dream of her heart.


If you would like to read the first chapter of Wings of A Dream, go HERE.

My thoughts (so far):

Hmmm....I'm about 5 chapters into this book, and I have to admit that I'm struggling a bit.  The story seems to be progressing too quickly for my taste, but my hope is that these first few chapters are merely a setup for a more in-depth story to come.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Southern-Style Meet & Greet with Jody Hedlund Plus Giveaway


Thanks for showing up for this week's Meet & Greet!  What a great treat we've got in store for us today.  :o)  But first up, let me announce the winner of last week's giveaway of The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz.  Thanks to random.org, I'm very happy to say that the winner is...

Merry (worthy2bpraised@...)

Merry, you are in for a real treat with this book!  I'll be in touch with you shortly to get your mailing address.

And now, for this week's special guest.  Jody Hedlund is a fairly new author in the Christian Historical Fiction scene, but it hasn't taken her long to start making some waves!  I had the enormous pleasure to read her newest book just a few days ago, and if you don't have this book yet...you're gonna want to get a copy FAST!  Stay tuned til the very end of our interview for a chance to win a copy.  :o)

Welcome, Jody, and thanks for stoppin' by for a Southern-Style Meet & Greet!
______________________________________________

What do you like most about writing and being a published author?

As a writer, I love telling stories. I especially like the feeling that comes as I near the end of the book when everything looks hopeless, the characters are in big trouble, and somehow I’m able to wrap up the book in a satisfying way. I call it the first-draft love affair! I fall absolutely and madly in love with the story and think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.

As a published author, I love hearing from readers. I’m always thrilled to get emails or hand-written notes from readers telling me how much my story touched them.

Have you always been interested in becoming a writer?

I’m pretty sure I was born with a pen in one hand and a notebook in the other. Since my earliest days, I loved making up stories and writing them down. The passion followed me into adulthood. And after many twists and turns along the path, I’ve finally been able to channel that passion into a full time writing career.

What is your latest book release?

The Doctor's Lady released September 1.

Priscilla White bears the painful knowledge that she’ll never be able to be a mother. Having felt God’s call to missionary work, she determines to remain single, put her pain behind her, and answer God’s call.

Dr. Eli Ernest wants to start a medical clinic and mission in unsettled Oregon Country. He’s not interested in taking a wife because of the dangers of life in the west and the fact that no white woman has ever attempted the overland crossing.

But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field. Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs.

Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God’s leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

What message do you hope readers take away?

I hope readers are inspired to try new things and brave dangerous prospects in the pursuit of their dreams. When we go after the things that matter, we’ll have to take risks and we’ll experience setbacks and obstacles. But if we persevere, we can reach our destination and do great things along the way.

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

In 2012, my next historical romance releases. I’m really excited about this story because it’s set in my home state of Michigan. It takes place during the 1880’s at a time in history when the lumber era was at its height. Although the story isn’t inspired by a true person the way my first two books have been, I do include several real people, particularly a real villain by the name of James Carr who was notorious in central Michigan for his violence and for introducing white slavery into the state.

The heroine of the story is a young woman, Lily Young, who is looking for her sister who’s caught up into the degradation of lumber camp life. While Lily searches for her missing sister, she fights against the evil that runs rampant around her, and she fights not to lose her heart to the lumber baron who turns a blind eye to the lawlessness of the lumber business.

I can hardly wait for this one, but I'm so happy that I can get my next Jody Hedlund book fix from your first book, The Preacher's Bride, which is patiently waiting on my nightstand.  :o)

Where can readers find you on the web?

I hang out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund
I also love to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund
My home base is at my website: jodyhedlund.com

What is your most favorite thing about the South?

The only place I’ve been in the South is to Florida to the tourist attractions. *Ducks head in shame* I’m pretty sure you true Southerners would not consider Disney World an authentic southern visit!

Sorry...I'd have to agree that Disney World is not what we'd consider a Southern visit...but it was sure nice to have you down here! :o)

If you could visit anywhere down South, where would it be and why?

I’d visit historical landmarks—including places involved in the founding of our country, the Civil War era, and beyond—anything historical because I really love history.

Iced Tea—sweet or un-sweet?

Can I cheat and say I like my tea slightly sweet? Although, if I had to choose, I’d prefer it un-sweet over too sugary!

BBQ Pork or BBQ Beef?

Both are good! But recently my sister-in-law made a super easy BBQ Pork that was to-die-for. (The easy part was what really hooked me!)

BBQ Pork is soooo easy to make, especially if you cook it in the crockpot.  Cook it on high for 4-5 hours with some barbecue sauce, and you'll get loads of compliments at dinner, I promise!

Potluck dinner or restaurant dinner?

Restaurant dinner. As much as I like goulash casseroles and scalloped potatoes, if I had my choice, I’d like a nice evening out (simply because they’re so rare!).

Summer or Winter?

Hmmm . . . that’s a really tough choice. I love each season in its time. But if I had to pick, I’d probably go with summer because the kids can play outside and I get a break from teaching.

Country gal or city gal?

Most definitely city gal. My idea of camping is staying in a hotel and having to share a bathroom with the whole family!

Same here.  Hubby has tried to get me to go camping a couple of times, and I've adamantly refused every time!

You, you all, or y’all?

You. Short. Sweet. And to the point. *Smile*
_______________________________________

Y'all...

(sorry, Jody...it's the Southern in me)  :o)

...if you haven't gotten your hands on this fabulous book, I may come and hunt you down!  (Naw...just kidding.)  :o)  But if you'd love the opportunity to win a copy, then, today's your lucky day.  Jody's giving one copy away to one commenter on this post.  Simply follow the rules below, and your name will be in the hat.  Easy-peasy!

  • Leave a comment with your email address disguised like "yourname at yourdomain dot com" or something similar. Many people are not following this rule for their mandatory entry, and I've not been able to include them.  Please leave your email addy so I can contact you.
  • All entry comments must be left by Sunday, Sept. 18.
  • Contest is open to US residents only.
  • Become a follower/email subscriber for an additional entry, and let me know in your comment if you're a new one or an existing one. (No need to create a separate comment for this. Combining everything into one comment is much easier.) 
Good luck, y'all, and thanks for stopping by.  Grab yourself some sweet tea and BBQ pork sandwich before you go!  There's plenty to go around.  :o)

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Book Review: The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund/5 Stars

    About the book:

    They vowed to keep their marriage in name only.

    But when the unexpected happens on the grueling journey west...

    Their carefully constructed partnership will be put to the ultimate test.

    Priscilla White knows she’ll never be a wife or mother and feels God’s call to the mission field.

    Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field. Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs.

    Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God’s leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

    My thoughts:

    As a rule, I'm not overly fond of wagon train stories, but I could not read this one fast enough!  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.  Thankfully, my husband was very understanding as we went through an evening with me cooking no dinner, folding no laundry, and watching no tv.  And yes...he survived.  ;o)

    Jody Hedlund has created a masterpiece in The Doctor's Lady.  She had me smiling at the teasing nature of Priscilla and Eli's early relationship, and conversely, she had me in tears during a moment that no mother every wants to experience.  If that wasn't enough, she created romantic tension so thick, I could cut it with a knife.

    And this was not your typical marriage of convenience story, either.  Priscilla and Eli's marriage was quickly thrust into the dangers of what would become the Oregon Trail as they dealt with rapid rivers, dishonest guides, and fatal diseases.  Not only did they butt heads occasionally with their traveling companions, they also struggled to share their true thoughts with one another which created unnecessary, yet believable, emotional turmoil.

    For those who are fans of Laura Frantz or Deeanne Gist, I guarantee The Doctor's Lady is a story that you will love in its entirety.  As I said before, wagon train stories are not my thing as there are usually several portions that lag and I find my attention drifting.  That is definitely not the case with this one!  The action is continuous, the hardships believable, and the romance new and exciting.  I have already carved out a place on my keeper shelf for this gem of a novel, and you better believe that it's there to stay.  :o)

    5 Stars

    Southern?  No
    Sass?  Just enough for me to answer yes.  :o)

    **Many thanks to the author for providing a copy for review.

    **Be watching Monday as Jody will be here for her very own Southern-Style Meet & Greet where she'll be giving away a copy of this very book.  You don't want to miss it!