22 September 2016

Review: A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Promising but Slow

When Ella's grandmother has a stroke and needs in-home care, quilt artist Ella is happy to volunteer both to help Gran, and to escape Mark, her ethically-challenged overbearing ex-fiance. Here she spends time with her parents, and with Aunt Sadie, who never married.

The story is told in two points of view, in two separate timelines. The present timeline is mostly Ella's story, with some scenes from Gran, Perla. But the stroke has affected Perla's ability to speak, which means she can't share the big secret in her life: the identity of Sadie's father.

The past story is Perla's story from the summer she met Sadie's father and the events leading up to her conception. This is interesting because it gives momentum to the present story, but it was the present story, Ella's story, which engaged me more.

Ella's family live in a small town where their history goes back several generations, which gives the novel a sense of place which fascinates me (a first-generation immigrant to New Zealand). Ella places a lot of importance on the past, on past traditions--perhaps too much, perhaps to the point where she worships tradition over God. There were some great pearls of wisdom around this, especially around our plans vs. God’s plans:
You get to the place where you want whatever the Lord wants and you'll find you have more than you ever dreamed.
Getting things wrong is nothing more than one of the steps on the way of getting them right. All you've done is learn a valuable lesson.
Anything God gives you is sure to be better than what you thought you wanted in the first place.
I thought the first half of A Tapestry of Secrets was excellent. Great characters, great writing, and lots of fascinating questions (although this is part of a series called Appalachian Blessings, and I got no sense of place. It could have been set in any small town in America).

But I thought the second half lost its way. It felt slower, almost as though it was going around in circles and not getting anywhere. The end finally came and was good, but I got frustrated by the whole Mark subplot (if he was such a slimeball, why did she not tell her parents? There was no reason for keeping that a secret).

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Sarah Loudin Thomas at her website, and you can read the introduction to A Tapestry of Secrets below:

20 September 2016

Review: Disillusioned by Christy Barritt

Fast-paced Suspense

Nikki Wright has successfully rescued her brother Bobby from the clutches of Colombian terrorists, but soon finds that's not the end of his trials. Or hers. Not as long as people believe her brother is hiding information, that his amnesia might not be real. And when a kidnapping attempt goes wrong, Bobby contacts the one person he trusts, the one person Nikki doesn't want to see: Kade Wheaton, the man who broke her heart.

Kade is happy to be helping his friend, and happy to be see Nikki again. But not so happy when Bobby starts acting strangely, to the point where even Kade wonders if there might be truth in the rumour that Bobby sold his country out to the Colombians. No matter what Nikki says to the contrary. But Bobby isn't the only problem ...

Disillusioned is Christian romantic suspense at its best, with plenty of suspense, a solid romance, and a very definite Christian theme. No, God doesn't forget us even when we forget about him.

Nikki is my favourite kind of fictional character—intelligent and savvy, but with a vulnerability behind her. And Kade was a great match, protective when he needed to be, but not controlling, and not protective to the point of belittling Nikki's talents.

The writing was excellent, especially the fast pace and the suspense. It was one of those novels you don't want to put down because you want to find out what happens next, but at the same time you suspect that what's coming might be a bit scary or unpleasant, so you want to put the book down.

Recommended for Christian suspense fans.

Thanks to Waterfall Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Christy Barritt at her website, and you can read the introduction to Disillusioned below:

19 September 2016

Introducing Barbara M Britton and Providence: Hannah's Journey

Today we welcome debut author Barbara M. Britton and get to know a little more about her. Barbara, welcome!

Thank you for hosting me on your blog today. I am happy to share my writing journey with you and the story behind “Providence: Hannah’s Journey.”

Do you plot or let the story unfold as you write?
I have read articles on whether writers should be plotters or pantsers (write by the seat of your pants). I tend to be a combination of the two. I’m a plantser. I have an outline of where the story is going and I write to meet each plot point. With Biblical fiction, sometimes the Bible gives the entire storyline, but other times it doesn’t. I based Hannah on the servant girl in the story of Naaman in II Kings 5. The Bible doesn’t tell us if that girl was rewarded with her freedom for essentially sending Naaman to the prophet to be healed. I wrote the happily ever after.

Have you ever cried while writing a book?
Yes, definitely. I know I am writing well if I’m crying and my critique partner is crying. The number one job of a writer is to elicit emotion from the reader. I know I have done my job if there are wadded up tissues on my desk.

How well did you do in English class as a kid?
I was A material with spelling words and using them in sentences. I still struggle with comma usage and other grammatical details. I took a grammar class recently and discovered there are different types of sentences. Who knew? I flunked some of the homework assignments. That is why I love my editors.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? If so, what is it and why?
When I taught chapel to elementary students, my husband would always challenge me not to tell a story, but to think of the theology behind it, and why God placed this story in the Bible. Easy, right? So, all my books have a theme. For “Providence: Hannah’s Journey,” the theme is God is in control even in the chaos of life. I let each reader pull out the theology in the novel.

As I reviewed the galley for Hannah’s story, I was battling breast cancer. I needed to remind myself every day that God was in control no matter the outcome. Praise the Lord, for it seems I am cancer free.

What is your favorite comfort food?
Easy peasy. It’s chocolate. But I can be a chocolate snob. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to See’s Candies, so dark chocolate butter creams are my favorite chocolate. I have many, many close seconds. And I am open to discovering new favorites.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would be essential for you?

A cell phone. A cell phone tower. Unlimited fresh water. I know some would say a Bible, but I hope I have enough Scripture stored in my heart that I could recite it to myself. Prayer just comes with the territory—no pun intended.

Do you laugh at your own jokes?
Of course, even if no one else does. Laughter is the best medicine to calming the stress in life.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you so much for reading Hannah’s Journey. It’s exciting to have a book release into the world, but it’s also scary. I am grateful for the support of my readers.

Want to learn more?

My website: www.barbarambritton.com

My real name is Barbara M. Britton. The journeys will continue in February with “Building Benjamin: Naomi’s Journey.”
Thanks to Barbara for stopping by today. Be sure to pick up her debut Biblical fiction, Providence: Hannah's Journey.

Visit all the stops along the tour

COTT: Olympia Winner Announcement

Many deserving competitors entered the fray. One became the victor!

Congratulations Jennifer Uhlarik, 
2016 Olympia Award Champion.

We took a few moments to get to know Jennifer a little better, and now here's your chance to do the same:

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre.

In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and finaled in two other competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker.

Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.

How did you come up with the idea for this book and what made you want to write this particular story?
While working with a few other authors on some novella collection ideas, I came up with the idea of three adult siblings who reunite after being separated by adoption in their youth. This story and the two that follow it are the result of that idea—three strong siblings devoted to law and justice, each in their own way.

What does winning the Olympia Award mean to you?

It is such an honor! I love the Olympia since the first round is judged by readers. That is probably the truest group of judges one can have. And I know the competition is always stiff in contests, so just to final is quite humbling. To win is indescribable (and I’m an author, so that says a lot. I’m speechless. LOL)

How can people find you online/contact you?
I can be found in the following places:

Website: www.jenniferuhlarik.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenniferUhlarikAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JenniferUhlarik
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jenuhlarik/