Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top Ten Books of 2012

So, this year's list wasn't too difficult for me to narrow down considering I've only managed to read about 60 books this year (setting up a new Etsy business stole a LOT of my reading time), but honestly, some of these books are some of the BEST I've ever read!  I tried to venture a little farther outside my comfort zone of historical fiction this year to read more contemporary, suspense, and YA books, and it definitely paid off.  Also, a couple of these are not 2012 releases, but I figure that's probably ok.  :o) 

Out of the 60 books I read, 15 were 5-Star reads.  For each of the ones I've included on the list, there's a little snippet from my book review, as well as the link to complete review if you'd like more information about each title.

Going from #10 to #1, here are my Top Ten books of 2012:

Echoes of Titanic was a great blend of mystery and history that had me glued to the pages for two solid days.

I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a Regency novel more than I enjoyed this one.

An Uncommon Grace was a very intriguing story that was both entertaining and satisfying.

Jenny has managed to write a witty, sassy, yet quite painful, novel that had me on an emotional roller coaster that I didn't want to end.

There are so many layers to the story and characters that as you go deeper and deeper, it is impossible to not be affected in some way.

Few authors capture the raw tension and depth of emotion that Katie Ganshert has in her debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter.

Siri's portrayal of a young 17-year-old debutante hoping to catch the hand of uber-rich Franklin de Vries was both entertaining as well as heartbreaking.

I loved the redemptive theme and the unfailing love of God that was present in every chapter. But if the truth be told, I really, really loved the romance.

I have been so impressed with all of Sandra's books over the years, but historical fiction is where her talents shine the brightest.

When I had no choice at times but to place my bookmark inside this haunting novel, my heart just ached to be back within its pages.


Honorable Mentions


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Review: She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell/5 Stars

About the book:

For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage in the late 1890s, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work -- there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling.

Yet Clara wonders if this is the life she really wants, especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is, and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her heart at stake -- the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

My thoughts:

I have always fancifully wished myself in some other era other than my own - preferably one with gorgeous fashion, busy social events, and an enviable last name - but after reading Siri Mitchell's tale of Guilded Era New York with it's tight corsets and marrow shovels, I think my wishing days are over.  Siri's portrayal of a young 17-year-old debutante hoping to catch the hand of uber-rich Franklin de Vries was both entertaining as well as heartbreaking.  Truly, this novel overflowed with opulence and finery, but the cost such beauty exacted was far too high.  Sadly, our culture has not changed over the years in spite of the fact that women no longer wear lacing corsets, but we are still surrounded by the noise and imagery of whether we are "pretty enough."  I applaud Siri for tackling such a difficult subject matter amidst the backdrop of the Guilded Era, but I shouldn't be surprised.  She has become one of the best authors in Christian historical fiction, and I always appreciate that I gain a bit of history paired with an exciting tale in every one of her novels.

5 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

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

**For more information about Siri and her novels, please visit

**To read my review of A Heart Most Worthy (also by Siri Mitchell), click here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: McKenzie by Penny Zeller/4 Stars

About the book:

"Desperate times call for desperate measures" is the reasoning that prompts McKenzie Worthington, a young lady of Boston's high society, to respond to an ad for a mail-order bride for a man in the Montana Territory. McKenzie is desperate, after all, to save her beloved younger sister, Kaydie, from her evil, abusive husband, who robs banks for a living. And so, it is with reckless determination that McKenzie runs away from the comforts of home and hearth to head West and meet her new husband-whom she'll divorce, of course, after she rescues her sister.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures" is the reasoning that also prompts Zachary Sawyer, a rugged rancher after God's own heart, to post an ad for a mail-order bride in various newspapers across the country. Managing a ranch and caring for his adoptive son, Davey, has become more than one man can handle alone, and Zach prays for God to send him a wife with whom to build a life and share his dreams.

When McKenzie arrives at Zach's ranch, she immediately puts her plan in motion, searching for her sister and doing all she can to keep her new husband from forming an attachment. But his persistent kindness and significant self-sacrifices begin to change her heart-and ruin her plans. God has a way of working things out to the good of those who love Him, though, as McKenzie and Kaydie will soon see

My thoughts:

Most fans of romance will enjoy this first novel in the Montana Skies series about a Bostonian woman that travels out West as a mail-order bride, yet has an ulterior motive.

The title character of this book, McKenzie, answers an ad for a mail-order bride willing to travel to Montana Territory. The only thing is, she's really not all that interested in becoming a wife, much less to a complete stranger, but she is, however, in search of her sister who is trapped in an abusive marriage and also lives in Montana Territory. Her husband-to-be, Zach Sawyer, believes that God has sent McKenzie to him, and devotes himself fully to this new relationship even though McKenzie keeps him at arm's length. He eventually discovers her reasons for uprooting herself from a cultured lifestyle in Boston, and his initial joy of having her as his wife dissolves into feelings of disbelief.

Truly, the plot alone was worth the read since it's been a long while since I read a mail-order bride story, and this one came with an intriguing twist. McKenzie's snobbish nature early on turned me off, and her family wasn't particularly likeable, either. (In hindsight, I suppose that could be considered a good thing because by book's end, McKenzie had found a place in my heart.) Zach, on the other hand, was a complete and utter dream all the way through, and his young son, Davey, was as sweet as cherry pie. :)

On the flip side, I grew tired of the overdone Christian message throughout the novel. Most of the time, authors subtly include references to Scripture, but in my experience, it's atypical to see Scriptures used in their full context in the middle of a novel. If it had appeared once or twice, I would've thought nothing of it, but after multiple occurrences, I started to skim. Don't get me wrong...I have no problem with the inclusion of Scripture in Christian fiction, but in this case, it felt a little excessive and hindered the flow of the character's conversations in which it was used.

In spite of the preachiness of this novel, I was fully invested in the story, and sincerely wanted Zach and McKenzie's marriage to succeed. Also, there were a handful of great life lessons and nuggets of advice shared between Asa and Zach that were great additions to the story. The ending of this book set the stage nicely for the next book where I'll have the opportunity to get to know Kaydie as well as a certain confirmed bachelor who has already piqued my interest. :)

4 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

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

**For more information about Penny Zeller, please visit

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Wreath by Judy Christie/4 Stars

About the book:

What do you do when you’re too young to be on your own but have no one to turn to? 

Sixteen-year-old Wreath Willis makes a list: Find a place to live. Buy cheap food. Finish high school. Get a job. Go to college. Now she’s finishing high school by day and squatting in a junkyard by night, flying below the authorities’ radar while she makes a few awkward friends and searches for an illusory “good life.” But when a teacher grows too suspicious, Wreath is afraid she’ll have to move on before she graduates. Could it be this was a good life?

My thoughts: 

Sometimes, there's nothing greater for a reader than finding a new book that just resonates deep within. Such was the case with me and my last read - Wreath. I can't explain what it was exactly that drew me back to this book over and over again, but I knew I would not be satisfied until I completed it. :o)

One thing that impressed me was that this did not feel like a young adult novel at all, perhaps because the main character had no choice but to grow up rather quickly after the sudden death of her mother. My heart ached that Wreath spent her days either going to the local park for a shower, eating nothing but peanut butter and crackers because her money supply was so thin, and that her home was the despised local junkyard. But oh, what perseverance! In spite of incredible obstacles, her determination to finish high school and hold down a job at the same time proved that this fictitious character was better than most kids I know in real life!

Wreath's biggest obstacle, though, was trust, and wow...did she have a lot to overcome there. I couldn't imagine living a life being afraid to trust in those around me--those who have shown they care about my well-being. It took a very long time, almost the span of the entire book, before she realized that she didn't need to run from those friends that she grew to love.

The ending was a little abrupt for my taste, but I'll admit that I'd love to take a return trip to Landry and catch up with Wreath and her friends. As this was my first experience with Judy Christie's work, I have no doubt that I'll pick up another of her novels down the road.

Highly recommended!

4 Stars

Southern?  Yes
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to Barbour Books through NetGalley for providing a copy for review.

**For more information about Judy and her books, please visit


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Book Review: Dawn Comes Early by Margaret Brownley/4 Stars

About the book: 

Looking for a woman of good character and pleasant disposition willing to learn the ranching business in Arizona territory. Must be SINGLE and prepared to remain so now and forever more. Will be given ownership of ranch. --Eleanor Walker

Disgraced dime novelist Kate Tenney fled the city that banned her latest book for a fresh start at a cattle ranch in the Arizona Territory. She hopes ranching turns out to be as romantic as she portrayed it in her novels.

But what awaits her is a much harder life. There is no room for mistakes on a working cattle ranch in 1895, and Kate is ill-prepared for her new life. She quickly learns that dawn comes early . . . every day. But she is tenacious.

Having been abandoned by a string of men, Kate has no intention of ever marrying. But she didn't expect to meet Luke Adams either. Luke awakens feelings inside Kate she doesn't recognize, and his steady presence is a constant distraction. She has only written about love in the past, never known it herself. But her feelings for Luke stand in the way of all she has to gain if she is chosen as the heir.

Perhaps God brought Kate to the barrenness of the desert to give new life to her jaded heart.

My thoughts:

Lately, my reading time has been "catch as catch can" with no continuity whatsoever, so to say I was very pleased that I picked up Dawn Comes Early would be a great understatement!  This was my first experience with one of Margaret's books, and I already know I will be coming back for more.  Her writing style was so different from other historical fiction authors in that, her characters were so entertaining and full of life and spunk, and frankly, just plain unique.  I loved them!  The storyline in itself was unusual because I was fully expecting a romance, but when the back cover said the heroine must be "prepared to stay single now and forevermore"...I knew the author had something up her sleeve.  :o)

With one tiny exception of a lull around the 200-page mark, Dawn Comes Early provided me with a wonderful reading experience that will prompt me to recommend it to several friends.  I'm anxious to see what happens next!

4 Stars

Southern?  No
Sassy?  Yes

**Many thanks to Nancy Berland PR for providing a copy for review.

**For more information on Margaret and her books, please visit


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz/5 Stars

About the book: 

On a bitter December day in 1785, Silas Ballantyne arrives at the door of master blacksmith Liege Lee in York, Pennsylvania. Just months from becoming a master blacksmith himself, Silas is determined to finish his apprenticeship and move west. But Liege soon discovers that Silas is a prodigious worker and craftsman and endeavors to keep him in Lancaster. Silas becomes interested in both of Liege's daughters, the gentle and faith-filled Eden and the clever and high-spirited Elspeth. When he chooses one, will the other's jealousy destroy their love?

In this sweeping family saga set in western Pennsylvania, one man's choices in love and work, in friends and enemies, set the stage for generations to come. "Love's Reckoning" is the first entry in The Ballantyne Legacy, a rich, multi-layered historical quartet from talented writer Laura Frantz, beginning in the late 1700s and following the Ballantyne family through the end of the Civil War.

My thoughts:

There are few books anymore that I am wildly eager to read, but hand me a book with Laura Frantz's name on the cover, and I promise you, I will go into hiding until I've read that book from cover to cover.  When I had no choice at times but to place my bookmark inside this haunting novel, my heart just ached to be back within its pages.

That was my journey with Love's Reckoning--a breathtakingly beautiful tale of a yearning love between two gentle souls.  Eden's sweet spirit was always in danger of being squashed under her father's stern manner, and Silas's quiet strength was the rock in an otherwise tumultuous household.  But their love prevailed in spite of dangerous ploys, hurtful lies, and long distances apart from one another.

I could feel the tension lurking within the walls of the Lee house because of the secret they were forced to keep or the alienation they would face in their small town.  I could sense the jealousy Elspeth felt toward Eden, even though she oftentimes got what she wanted anyway.  And I could imagine that, if Elspeth was standing right in front of me, I just might be tempted to slap her face.  There were so many feelings and emotions for me here...many more than I'm used to experiencing in a typical novel.

That, my friends, is what makes Laura's books so exceptional.  Her characters work their way into my heart and mind until their like my friends and family.  I want to invite them over for some tea or hot chocolate and talk for hours and hours.  And quite possibly, the characters from Love's Reckoning may just be my favorite.  Granted, I have loved Lael, Morrow, and especially Roxanna, but Eden and her loving soul will always leave a lasting memory.

So...bravo, Laura.  You continue to impress this reader with each and every novel you write, and I know I'm not the only one.  Our next journey with the Ballentynes can't begin soon enough.

5 Stars

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

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Litfuse Blog Tour and Book Review: Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan by Melanie Dobson/4 Stars

About the book: 

It's the height of the Gilded Age, but Elena Bissette's family has lost most of its fortune. The Bissettes still own a home on fashionable Mackinac Island, and they spend summers there in hopes of introducing Elena to a wealthy suitor. Quickly tiring of the extravagant balls at the Grand Hotel, she spends her days walking along the island's rugged coastline. There she meets Chase, a young fisherman who invites her to watch the ships from an abandoned lighthouse. The two begin to meet there in secret, hoping to solve a decades-old mystery. Meanwhile, Elena's mother contrives introductions between Elena and the island's most eligible bachelor, an elusive millionaire named Chester Darrington. When Elena's two worlds unexpectedly collide, she will be in for the surprise of her life.

My thoughts: 

My favorite genre of historical fiction is quickly becoming Guilded Age fiction, and Melanie Dobson has easily earned a spot among some of the best authors currently writing about this glorious era.  Her writing in this novel is wonderfully descriptive without being overdone, and with the backdrop of Mackinac Island, the combination is perfect.  The romantic angle is a little far-fetched in my opinion, and the conflict between Elena and Chase drags a little long, but all in all, the entire story really is quite sweet.  Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan is a great addition to the ever-growing series, and I sincerely hope that Melanie will find another occasion soon to take me back to the Guilded Era.  :o)

And as a side note...  I have always wanted to read a novel set on Mackinac Island since I've about worn out my DVD of Somewhere in Time.  :o)  I honestly have never known that cars are not allowed on the island, and that the slow pace is the norm.  It's time to plan a trip, if you ask me.  *wink*

4 Stars

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


Celebrate with Melanie by entering her Kindle Fire Giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • Signed copies of Melanie’s Love Find You books: Love Finds you in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa, Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana.
But hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/4/12. The winner will be announced on 8/6/12 at Melanie's blog!

Just click one of the icons below to enter! Tell your friends about Melanie's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Book Review: The Ride of Her Life by Lorna Seilstad/3.5 Stars

About the book: 

The only man pragmatic Lilly Hart needs in her life is a six year old. Widowed two years ago, Lilly leaves the shelter of her intrusive in-laws' home to stand on her own and provide for her young son by working for the summer as a cook at Lake Manawa. However, her in-laws find that life utterly unsuitable for their grandson, and when a row ensues, a handsome stranger--who designs roller coasters, of all things--intercedes on her behalf. Still, Lilly is not about to get involved with any man, especially this cocky (though charismatic) gentleman. Little does she know she is about to begin the ride of her life.Filled with delightful characters and the romance of summer, The Ride of Her Life is another supremely entertaining story from the witty Lorna Seilstad. Readers will laugh out loud and sigh contentedly as they spend the summer of 1906 in Lake Manawa.

My thoughts:

While I have thoroughly enjoyed the last two book offerings by up-and-coming CHF author Lorna Seilstad, her latest book, unfortunately, left me wanting.  The heroines from her first two books had oodles of spunk, sass, and no-nonsense personalities that I was itching to meet another one in The Ride of Her Life.  In spite of this one qualm, Lorna still managed to create an exciting story with a great message at it's core--that "God has not given us a spirit of fear..."  Now that the Lake Manawa series has come to a close, I'm curious to see what Lorna will think up next.  Just give me a spunky heroine and a handsome hero and there's no doubt I'll be one happy reader!

3.5 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

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


Book Review: The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd/5 Stars

About the book:

The author of To Die For returns to the court of Henry VIII, as a young woman is caught between love and honor.

Juliana St. John is the daughter of a prosperous knight in Marlborough. Though her family wants her to marry the son of her father’s business partner, circumstances set her on a course toward the court of Henry VIII and his last wife, Kateryn Parr.

Sir Thomas Seymour, uncle of the current heir, Prince Edward, returns to Wiltshire to tie up his business with Juliana’s father’s estate and sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman he loves, Kateryn Parr. Her mother agrees to have her placed in the Parr household for “finishing” and Juliana goes, though perhaps reluctantly. For she knows a secret. She has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one of her visions she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of the king’s daughter, the lady Elizabeth, to perilous consequence.

As Juliana learns the secrets of King Henry VIII’s court, she faces threats and opposition, learning truths about her own life that will upset everything she thought she once held dear.

My thoughts:

While many of the historical novels and movies of late featuring the wives of King Henry VIII are nothing more than sensationalism, Sandra Byrd shows that historical fiction can be accurate and still entirely sensational in her latest book The Secret Keeper.  Sweeping through 8-plus years of court intrigue, royalty, and grandeur, Sandra tells the story of Kateryn Parr through the eyes of a humble lady-in-waiting, Juliana St. John.  Juliana's journey begins innocently enough, but hairpin turns are only a moment away, and what was once an exciting adventure to be included in the company of the Queen quickly becomes Juliana's duty to protect her from those who intend to discredit her.  She also does not count on shameful circumstances affecting her directly, and thus, charts a firm course for the remainder of her which, God has another plan.

Sandra's study of the Tudor period and Kateryn's life was intense, providing the reader not only with several family trees in the beginning, but an extensive author's note in the back detailing her meticulous research.  From the royal garments and stunning jewels to the actual letters and books used in conversation during that time, The Secret Keeper had a natural authentic quality that set it apart from other historical novels regardless of their time period.  As a reader, I paused several times to savor the rich language and dialogue that made up each scene.  This was not a novel that I wanted to race to complete, but one that grew sweeter with each and every page.

I have been so impressed with all of Sandra's books over the years, but historical fiction is where her talents shine the brightest.  Although I am anxiously awaiting her next Tudor novel about Elizabeth I, it comes with a hint of sadness that it will bring this series to a close.  And for a reader whose tendency is to never re-read a book, I have no doubt I will be making an exception *several* exceptions for Sandra's entire Ladies in Waiting series. 

5 Stars

**Many thanks to the author for providing a copy for review.
**Click here to read my review of Sandra's last historical novel, To Die For.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

CFBA Blog Tour: Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Almost Amish
Bethany House Publishers (July 1, 2012)
Kathryn Cushman


Kathryn Cushman is a graduate of Samford University with a degree in pharmacy, but all her life she knew that she wanted to write a novel “some day”. For her, “some day” came in 2003, when she started writing and never looked back.

Her first two manuscripts remain firmly ensconced in the back of her closet (the dust bunnies tell her they really are terrific!). Her third attempt became her first published novel.

A Promise to Remember and Leaving Yesterday were both finalists for the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, and Waiting for Daybreak was a finalist in Women’s Fiction for the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award.

On the homefront, she has been married to the wonderful and handsome Lee for nearly twenty-five years now, and their two daughters are currently braving the worlds of high school and college.

They’ve lived in Santa Barbara for over twenty years. It’s a beautiful place and Kathryn feel blessed to be there (although a seventy degree Christmas still leaves her dreaming of a white one—or at least a colder one!)

When she's not writing or reading or braving seventy degree holidays, you’ll find her trying her best to keep up with her daughters in their various theater, softball, dance, and filled-with-activity lives.


Proving the Simple Life Isn't So Simple After All

Overcommitted and overwhelmed, Julie Charlton is at the breaking point. She knows she should feel blessed as a mother and wife--but she just feels exhausted. And then, the miraculous happens. Her sister-in-law Susan, a Martha Stewart-in-training, lands the chance to participate in a reality TV series about trying to live like the Amish and needs another family to join her. It's just the break Julie needs.

But the summer adventure in simple living soon proves anything but simple. With the camera watching every move, Susan's drive for perfection feels a lot like what they left behind, while Julie suddenly finds herself needing to stand up for slowing down. Whether it's cooking, cleaning, or dressing differently, each new Amish challenge raises new complications...and soon each woman learns unexpected lessons about herself and her family.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Almost Amish, go HERE.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Where I've Been Lately...

You may have noticed that my posts have been lately.  :o(  Several changes have happened in my life as of late, and I promise, I have missed chatting with all of you so much!!

So, here's the scoop...

You may remember that my job situation has been on a little bit of a roller coaster, all the way back to October of last year.  First a layoff, then a new job the next day, then the hours at the new job being reduced from full-time to part-time.  Needless to say, things suddenly became very tight in our household...not to mention the time had come yet again to search for another job.  (I'm convinced job searching is for the birds.)  :o)  But God has a plan, as always, and I found a wonderful job at a local dental office. The people are great, and it's great that it's only minutes from my house.  :o)

And guess what else has happened?  I've finally gotten off my bum, and put my jewelry online!  I've been procrastinating about this for MONTHS, but as soon as the job stuff started to get shaky, I knew there was no time like the present.  :o)  I'm slowly but surely learning different photo techniques, getting new inspiration for jewelry designs every single day, and I'm having more fun with it than I've had in a long time.  If you'd like to read about how it all got started, I'd love it if you'd join me over at my new blog--Belle on a Budget.  (Oh, and if you decide to follow me over there, you'll be my new best friend!)  In addition to the new blog, you can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and last but not least, at my Etsy Store.  (I'd love to see you at all of them, but even if you just visit one place, I'll be as happy as a tick on a coon dog's ear!)  One other tidbit...  I'm currently trying to reach 50 likes on my Facebook page, and once I do, there is going to be a giveaway...yay!  So be sure to share that big piece of news and tell your friends!

But in all this excitement, guess what's suffered lately?  Reading.  I've managed to read a total of TWO BOOKS since I started this new job exactly one month ago.  While at times I'm really bummed that I haven't been on top of it, at other times, it's been very nice to have a break.  And while I could say I'm hoping to pick things back up in this department soon, I've liked being able to read at a relaxed pace.  Unfortunately, this leaves me with very little blog about on a book blog because I'm also taking a break from interviews, giveaways, and the like...there's quite a lot of time that goes into those that I just don't have right now.  I'll still be popping by with reviews occasionally, and slowly but surely, honoring the commitments I've made for the books I've received.

So, it's a new journey here, and I can't wait to see where it takes me!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Book Review: Submerged by Dani Pettrey/4 Stars

About the book:

A sabotaged plane. Two dead deep-water divers. 

Yancey, Alaska was a quiet town...until the truth of what was hidden in the depths off the coast began to appear.

Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again. She has a past, and a reputation--and Yancey's a small town. She's returned to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash and is determined not to stay even an hour more than necessary. But then dark evidence emerges and Bailey's own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.

Cole McKenna can handle the deep-sea dives and helping the police recover evidence. He can even handle the fact that a murderer has settled in his town and doesn't appear to be moving on. But dealing with the reality of Bailey's reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart, but she is not the same girl who left Yancey. He let her down, but he's not the same guy she left behind. Can they move beyond the hurts of their pasts and find a future together?

My thoughts:

What a fabulously suspenseful novel from debut author Dani Pettrey!! Never before have I read a book with such a great mix of historical elements balanced against heart-pounding action. Considering that Dani's novel was set in Alaska, it wasn't far-fetched to include some intriguing Russian components, and believe me, they made the story. I normally shy away from Russian history or talk of czars and such in fiction, but the way it was presented here was so very interesting! Dani may have just gotten me a little farther outside my comfort zone in books here... :o)

The only thing (and truly, this really was the only thing) that I didn't care for were the character's names. With the exception of one or two, they were all a bit too faddish for me, and truthfully, a bit difficult to tell them apart in the beginning. I'm hoping for at least a few people to have more normal names in book two.

In spite of that one qualm, I can't wait to see what Dani has in store for these Alaska folks next! My guess is that it will be another gripping adventure full of twists and turns, and it'll be great for this reader to make a return trip to Yancey. :o)

4 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

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


Monday, June 18, 2012

Southern-Style Meet & Greet with Terri Blackstock (Plus Giveaway)

Back a couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting not one, but TWO, great Christian suspense authors.  The first one (Brandilyn Collins) stopped by for a Meet & Greet of her own a few weeks ago, and author number 2 is here with me today.  :o)

I have been reading Terri's books since I first started reading Christian fiction, and in my expert opinion, she has gotten better and better with every single book.  Her latest series about drug addiction has really taken off like a rocket, and I've talked to several people who have really enjoyed them immensely.  I was so very excited to be able to meet her in person, and as a fellow Southerner, answer a few questions for me about her books and thoughts on the South.  I hope y'all will give Terri a very warm welcome!

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I knew when I was eleven years old. After my dad got home from Vietnam, I wrote a poem about the war, and my mother sent it in to our local newspaper. They published it, and I was so thrilled. From that moment on, I knew that writing was what I wanted to do with my life.

What genre do you most like to write?

I mainly focus on suspense, because that’s what I like to read the most. I have a short attention span, so books that I read and write have to have a lot happening to keep me engaged.  

I love your suspense, but when you venture to write a women's fiction novel, I'm in heaven.  *sigh*  Couldn't get enough of your series of books with Beverly LaHaye! 

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

I want them to understand the depth of God’s love for them and His provision through every circumstance. While my books are crafted to be fast-paced thrillers, I weave a message of redemption and hope, and a strong thread of good versus evil, throughout each book. I’m a firm believer that God gives us crises for a purpose, and that crises often bring profound blessings. It’s important to me to show that through characters who are suffering or in danger, and while they often don’t have things together spiritually, the reader can follow their growth arc throughout the story and come away with a feeling of hope for their own trials.  

What is your latest book release?

My latest release is Downfall, Book 3 in my Intervention Series. The series is about a family struggling with a loved one who has addictions, and it was inspired by my own journey with my daughter’s addictions. The series takes the reader through the character arcs of these family members as they deal with the addictions, the potential relapses, and the danger surrounding addictions. Intervention (Book 1) and Vicious Cycle (Book 2) were both New York Times Best-Sellers.

In Book 3, Downfall, Emily has turned her life around, but her family still has trouble trusting her. Though Emily has committed herself to a year-long treatment program and has been sober for almost a year beyond that, even her mother walks on egg shells around her, fearing she’ll relapse. After her behavior during her drug years, Emily realizes she has a lot to prove.

When police discover a home-made bomb under Emily’s car, and she then learns the wife of one of her friends was murdered that same morning, she knows things are deadly serious. But who wants Emily dead? And why? A conversation she had with two men, an Alfred Hitchcock movie, and a plan for a double-murder all conspire for one explosive ride...and Emily is the only one who can identify the killer and save the life of the next potential victim. As she frantically works to solve this ever more complicated puzzle, Emily finds herself playing right into the killer’s hands. To buy or read an excerpt, go to

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

I’ve just finished the first book in my new series. It’s called Truth-Stained Lies, and it’s part of the Moonlighters Series. It won’t release until February of next year, but I’m having so much fun with it. The series is about three sisters--a blogger, a stay-at-home mom, and a ne’er-do-well taxi driver--who wind up moonlighting as private detectives to solve some crimes related to their family. In the first book, their brother is accused of murdering his wife in order to win custody of their son. But the killer staged the scene so that the truth is too ludicrous to be believed. How can they prove their brother’s innocence when the lies make more sense than the truth? When their five-year-old nephew is kidnapped, their urgency ramps up. Since the police don’t believe the truth, it’s up to the sisters to find the killer and stop the madness.

Wow...sounds like another winner!!  

Where can readers find you on the web?

Most people can recognize a Southerner by their accent.  Would I know what area of the country you’re from by yours?
You would definitely know I’m from the South, but you might not be able to place exactly where. I grew up in the Air Force, and we lived all over the place. Because of that, my accent is probably not quite as clear-cut as some of my neighbors. I’m also a little bit of a chameleon with accents. If I’m in another place for two weeks or so, I’ve been known to lose my accent entirely.

What is your most favorite thing about the South?

The thing I love about the south is the people. They’re warmer, kinder, more empathetic, less pretentious, and when you’re in crisis, they’ll love on you with casseroles and hugs. Doing what I do, I could live anywhere. I stay in Mississippi because of those good people.

Iced Tea—sweet or un-sweet?

Un-sweet for me, usually. I’m not much of a sugar lover.

Gulf Coast beaches or the mountains of East Tennessee?

Mountains of East Tennessee. My honeymoon was in Gatlinburg. Because we live in Mississippi, we don’t like baking in the sun, so the beach doesn’t hold as much of an appeal to us as it does to others. I’m also a real red-head, so my skin has no pigmentation. I’m not a good candidate for sun tanning.

Dolly Parton or Elvis Presley?

I love them both, but there’s something about Dolly Parton’s story-telling in her songs that really moves me. I love a good story-teller.

Beignets in New Orleans or BBQ in Memphis?

These days, BBQ, because I have to be gluten-free. But I could have eaten my weight in beignets before.

It's probably a good thing that neither of us lives in New Orleans.  :o)

You, you all, or y’all?

Y’all, definitely. 


Terri, I can't begin to thank you enough for being my special guest today!  It was such a pleasure to meet you in person, and that much more enjoyable to have a nice little chat with you, too.  :o)  

And thanks to Terri's fabulous generosity, you have the chance to win a copy of her latest book, Downfall.  Trust me, friends...this entire series will have you burning the midnight oil more than once!  If you'd like to be included in the drawing, simply fill out the form below in its entirety by Sunday, June 24th, 11:59pm.  The winner will be selected through third-party site,, and notified via email by me.  Limited to US residents only.  Odds of winning are based on the number of entrants, and I am not responsible for lost or damaged prizes.  

Good luck, y'all, and thanks for stopping by today!  Grab your glass of tea before you leave (and leave a comment down below the entry form, too, if you'd like).  :o)

Friday, June 15, 2012

CFBA Blog Tour: Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Short-Straw Bride
Bethany House Publishers (June 1, 2012)
Karen Witemeyer


Karen Witemeyer is a deacon's wife and mother of three who believes the world needs more happily-ever-afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul.

After growing up in California, Karen moved to Texas to attend Abilene Christian University where she earned bachelor and master's degrees in Psychology. It was also there that she met and married her own Texas hero. He roped her in good, for she has lived in Texas ever since. In fact, she fell so in love with this rugged land of sweeping sunsets and enduring pioneer spirit, that she incorporates it into the pages of her novels, setting her stories in the small towns of a state that burgeoned into greatness in the mid- to late1800s.

Karen is living her dream by writing Christian historical romance novels for Bethany House.


No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk.

Fourteen years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue once again.

if you would like to read the first chapter of Short-Straw Bride, go HERE.

Monday, June 11, 2012

CFBA Blog Tour: Love in Disguise by Carol Cox

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Love in Disguise
Bethany House Publishers (June 1, 2012)
Carol Cox


Native Arizonan Carol Cox has an abiding love for history, mystery, and romance. The author of more than 25 books, she believes in the power of story to convey spiritual truths. Carol lives with her husband and daughter in northern Arizona, where deer and antelope really do play--within view of the family's front porch.

A word from Carol:

As a native of Arizona, I have a longtime interest in the Southwest and its history. My family shares my love of the Old West, as evidenced by this photo taken back in the halcyon days before my son turned to a life of crime and started robbing trains for a living...


When costume-maker Ellie Moore suddenly finds herself out of a job in the middle of a bleak Chicago winter, she uses her knowledge of theatrical disguise to secure a position as an undercover operative with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Her assignment: find the culprit behind the theft of silver shipped from the mines near Pickford, Arizona.

Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie begins her investigation. Soon she finds she must also pose as the dazzling young Jessie Monroe, whose vivacious personality encourages people to talk.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love in Disguise, go HERE.