21 October 2016

Friday Fifteen: Kelley Rose Waller

Today I'd like to introduce author Kelley Rose Waller. I recently reviewed her debut novel over at Suspense Sisters Reviews (click here to read my review), and was impressed and a little frightened by her vision of a future dystopian USA.

Welcome, Kelley!

1. Everything by Francine Rivers

Francine Rivers is the master. Everything she's written would be on my list. And the Shofar Blew would rank as my personal #1. But I could never discount The Scarlet Thread, Redeeming Love, The Atonement Child, The Mark of the Lion series, The Lineage of Grace series, and all the rest. Moving, captivating, romantic, inspired.

I have to agree!

2. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

I don't know how anyone could read this series and not list it among their favorites. It's the most riveting series I've ever read, hands-down. I am personal friends with all of the characters because they are 100% real.

You'd get on well with my teenage daughter ... who is currently watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

3. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

This masterpiece is revolutionary. Dagny Taggart is completely brilliant.

4. On Writing by Stephen King

Aside from being slightly pretentious about how much all aspiring authors must read and write (the rest of us still have full-time jobs and families, Mr. King!), this is a must-read for anyone who wants to write. Also, it's heart-warming and hilarious.

Yes, but I did find his quotes from his own work scary enough that I don't actually want to read the full novels!

5. Everything by Sandra Boynton

I'm a mother of three young boys, and some children's books make me cringe. But Sandra Boynton is hilarious, fresh, rhythmic, and charming. Each one of her stories is a national treasure. I have The Going To Bed Book and Barnyard Dance memorized and recite them when my kids are ancy.

6. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

This series is fabulous, the characters are great, and the world is incredibly rich and immersive. Katniss is one of the inspirations behind Brenna, the protagonist in my novel The Senator's Youngest Daughter.

7. Invasion of Privacy by Christopher Reich

A crime/political thriller with a strong, female protagonist who's stronger and more capable than she thinks. Mary Grant's journey also contributed to my character Brenna.

8. Masquerade by Gayle Lynds

A groundbreaking work that's still hugely relevant. The worldwide scope is enormous. Lots of twists!

9. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

You can't read this book without getting misty, and if you're reading it to your children, you'll probably cry. Stunning. Unlike anything I've ever read.

One of my favourites as well. 

10. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

This was a unique read, and it makes my list for the simple, beautiful fact that Ms. King makes something new and awesome from something old and awesome. (Here, a young woman apprentices with an aging Sherlock Holmes.)

11. The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis

Amazing and inspired. My personal favorite is The Magician's Nephew, watching Aslan speak Narnia into existence.

12. Everything by Janette Oke and Gilbert Morris

If my church library kept the old 3 x 5 cards from their book pockets, there would be a shoebox full of cards from Janette Oke and Gilbert Morris books with my junior-high handwritten name on every other line.

Pretty sure this one is cheating ... but I can't disagree with you.

13. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

This is my only non-fiction choice. I often find non-fiction books to be preachy, but this one invited me in and let me choose to change my own perspective.

If you enjoyed this, you need to read Made Well by Jenny Simmons. 

14. The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond

Don't laugh that a cookbook is on my list! Ree knows how to tell a story. She shares very short but transformational glimpses into her farm and country life that connected with me as a wife and mother. As an added bonus, the recipes are oh-so-delicious.

15. Myst series by David Wingrove with Rand and Robyn Miller

I am a proud nerd, and this is a book series based on a video game. Frankly, the game was awesome and so is the series. Compelling and epic. This concept particularly connects with me as an author, because the concept is a race of beings who can write entire worlds into existence and then travel into their books.

This sounds fascinating! Thanks for visiting, Kelly. 

About Kelley Rose Waller

Kelley writes fiction to imagine new life experiences. Her debut novel, The Senator's Youngest Daughter, was released on October 1, 2016. This conservative political thriller pits a young woman and her family against a media tycoon backed by the president of a very different United States.

Kelley's day job as a marketing strategist offers her the opportunity to write and plan for clients in diverse fields. Kelley and her husband are Pennsylvania foster parents. Kelley lives and writes to uplift and glorify the name of Jesus Christ.

Kelley is a ridiculous fan of science fiction and board games. She has a B.A. in English and lives in Lancaster, PA, with her husband, three sons, and their dog.

20 October 2016

Review: Aboard Providence by Keely Brooke Keith

Much better than some other famous prequels ...

Aboard Providence is the first book in a series of prequels to Keely Brooke Keith's Land Uncharted series. If you've read one or all of the books in that series (three novels and a Christmas novella), then you'll absolutely want to read Aboard Providence - no matter what I have to say about it. Spoiler: I thought it was excellent!

If you haven't read any of the Land Uncharted series, you have a treat in store. I don't want to tell you anything more about the series because that might be a spoiler for this novel (kind of like if you'd never seen The Empire Strikes Back, you wouldn't get the significance of the bratty Anakin Skywalker character in the first movie in the Star Wars saga).
Aboard Providence starts in 1861, and Jonah Ashton's father has just ordered him home to Virginia from medical school in Philadelphia. Dr Joseph Ashton has a long-held dream of emigrating to South America, to escape the trouble he believes is coming to Virginia (and as readers, we know he is right. Trouble is coming, in the form of the Civil War). Dr Ashton has assembled eight families for the trip, and he insists Jonah come with them.

Jonah isn't so sure--there are accusations against him at college, and he's only months away from achieving his lifelong dream of graduating from medical school. He wants to stay and fight the accusations and finish school, not be seen as a runaway. But he's also intrigue by his childhood schoolmate Marian Foster, who has grown into a lovely young lady, one he'd like to know better.

Marian is looking forward to this new adventure (as are all the other immigrants). Her hobby is botany, and she is looking forward to finding new plants to study, and especially to see if any can be used for medicinal purposes.

Reading this novel as someone who has read the Land Uncharted series, I felt some of the information at the beginning was unnecessary. I didn't much care whether Jonah wanted to go on the voyage or not; I just wanted them all to get underway because ... can't give a spoiler ... because I know Anakin Skywalker is going to turn out to be Darth Vader and I wanted to know how it happened (apologies to anyone who hasn't seen Star Wars). But I'm sure that anyone who hasn't read the earlier stories will enjoy this part and not be so impatient!

I was impressed with Dr Ashton and the level of planning he put into his scheme. He was far better prepared than, say, the Mayflower immigrants in their overcroweded ship with too few resources. His fellow immigrants were carefully selected to have the range of skills the new community would need, and - most importantly - to have a shared faith.

Overall, I very much enjoyed Aboard Providence, and now I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

Thanks to Keely Brooke Keith for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Keely Brooke Keith at her website.

18 October 2016

Review: Made Well by Jenny Simmons

Jenny Simmons is apparently most famous as the lead singer in Christian contemporary music band Addison Road, and singer of the song Hope Now. At the risk of stereotyping myself, I’d never heard of the band or the song before I picked up this book.

Okay, I see the appeal.

But that’s not what Made Well is about. Made Well is challenging our views on healing, pointing out that healing is often a process rather than an act, and that it can come in many forms. It’s not one of those self-help books promising health or wealth or happiness if you follow the author’s formula. Rather, it’s an exploration of the healing journey. She quotes Becca Stevens as saying:
My healing journey has taken thousands of prayers, countless small bits of bread, and gallons of wine one sip at a time.
And Simmons says:
Some of the world’s greatest miracles happen because doctors and nurses show up and do their jobs well.

She doesn’t discount the possibility of instantaneous miraculous healing, although she says she hasn’t experienced it for herself. That may be true, but I’d say that she’s been used in the miraculous healing of others, and she’s learned many things about healing that those who are intent on seeking the instant will miss out on:

Perhaps in our zealous quests to live long and prosper, we have confused Jesus’ invitation to be made well with our own desire for fully cured bodies [and minds?], and in doing so, we have altogether missed a deeper knowing of what it means to be healed by the Savior.
It’s a valid point: Jesus said to seek him, to seek the Kingdom of God. Not to seek healing. Do we make healing into an idol?
Healing is a prolonged process, not an instant, magical fix. It’s a book with many chapters. The road towards wholeness is long and winding.
One review I read of Made Well recommended it to fans of Ann Voskamp. That may well fit, but I personally didn’t get in to Ann Voskamp’s style. But I still found Made Well to be well worth reading - thought provoking, and written from the heart. Recommended.

Thanks to Baker Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

14 October 2016

Friday Fifteen: Kimberly Rose Johnson

Today I'd like to welcome Kimberly Rose Johnson to Iola's Christian Reads. Kimberly is here to celebrate the release of her latest novel, A Christmas Homecoming (and isn't that cover gorgeous!). Welcome, Kimberly!

Fifteen Authors Who Have Influenced Me from Kimberly Rose Johnson

1. Debbie Macomber

Her sweet romance stories and her success inspire me to work harder.

2. Sandra D. Bricker

I love the humor in her books. I never considered adding humor to my stories until I was an influencer for her years ago and discovered I love romantic comedy.

3. Colleen Coble

Not only does Colleen write fantastic romantic suspense, she is a great teacher. The first class I ever took at an ACFW conference was taught by her.

4. DiAnn Mills

She writes romantic suspense, which I love, but I also enjoy her no-nonsense blog posts for writers.

5. Lynette Eason

The pacing of her books is fast and is a great example of excellent romantic suspense. I used to aspire to be a romantic suspense writer, so I sought out exceptional romantic suspense.

6. Dee Henderson

I love her books. She hooked me with her O’Malley series before I ever thought about writing. Her writing style influenced me the most in my early years of writing.

7. Margaret Daley

I aspire to be like Margaret when it comes to writing. She writes both sweet romance and romantic suspense.

8. Susan Sleeman

I first discovered Susan when she was looking for influencers. I was not yet published. Since that time I’ve watched how she interacts with her influencer group and tried to learn from her example.

9. Jordyn Redwood

I simply enjoy reading her books.

10. Melissa Tagg

I discovered Melissa when she put out a notice on Twitter that she was looking for influencers. I love her books and have learned from her regarding influencer groups AKA street teams.

11. Rachel Hauck

Rachel’s books grab me and hold me. I’ve taken a couple of her classes at conferences and they are always excellent.

12. Melody Carlson

I’ve been reading Melody’s books long before I ever thought of writing. Next to Dee Henderson, I’d say she has been one of the biggest influences on my writing. I also took a class at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference many years ago and found it to be very helpful.

13. Denise Hunter

Aside from enjoying her books, I enjoy watching how she communicates with her fans. I try to learn from observing other writers.

14. Irene Hannon

I own a lot of books by Irene. It’s my belief that we are influenced by what we read, so I included her in my list.

15. Miralee Ferrell

She may not appear to fit with the list above as she doesn’t write in the genre I read, however, I first met Miralee ten years ago, and she has been my writing mentor and critique partner ever since. Of any writer out there, she has probably influenced my writing the most when it comes to writing technique.

About Kimberly Rose Johnson

Kimberly Rose Johnson married her college sweetheart and lives in the Pacific Northwest, USA. From a young child Kimberly has been an avid reader. That love of reading fostered a creative mind and led to her passion for writing.

She especially loves romance and writes contemporary romance that warms the heart and feeds the soul.

Kimberly holds a degree in Behavioral Science, and she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2autVLe
Facebook Group: http://bit.ly/2b1Obp6
Website: www.kimberlyrjohnson.com

13 October 2016

Review: Since You've Been Gone by Christa Allan

When I grow up, I want to write like Christa Allan.

Amazon Description

One moment, Olivia Kavanaugh is preparing to walk down the aisle and embrace her own happily ever after. The next, she learns that her fiancĂ©, Wyatt Hammond, has been in a fatal car accident. Then comes a startling discovery: Wyatt’s car wasn’t heading toward the church. He was fifty miles away…with a baby gift in the backseat.

Her faith shaken, Olivia pores over the clues left behind, desperate to know where Wyatt was going that day and why. As she begins uncovering secrets, she also navigates a tense relationship with her judgmental mother and tries to ignore the attentions of a former boyfriend who’s moved back home. But when she starts receiving letters written by Wyatt before his death, she must confront a disturbing question: Can we ever know anyone fully, even someone we love?

When an unexpected path forward—though nothing like the life she once envisioned—offers the promise of a new beginning, will she be strong enough to let go of the past and move toward it?

My Review

It’s every bride’s worst nightmare: jilted at the altar. And then things get worse. No, Olivia wasn’t jilted—her husband-to-be died in a car accident just hours before the wedding. While driving away from the church. With a gift for a small boy in the car—except neither Olivia nor Wyatt know any small boys. And then Olivia finds out she’s pregnant. Which wouldn’t have mattered if she were married, but she’s not and now her mother is barely speaking to her because what will Scarlett’s church friends think when they find out?

This is Christian fiction, and is fascinating for the two views of Christianity it presents: faith vs works. Doing the right thing vs being seen to do the right thing. Displaying God’s love in action vs … not. Scarlett, Olivia's mother, is like too many people in church: not prepared to do what most people would think was right because of how it might reflect on her. Ruthie, Scarlett’s mother and Olivia’s grandmother, doesn’t care what people think.

Behind the awkward relationship between Olivia and her mother is the even more awkward situation regarding Wyatt … which her parents initially hid from her, a decision which provokes even more fractures in an already-fragile relationship. Why was he heading away from town? Where was he going? Who was the gift for? And does Olivia really want to know?

Okay, so the plot is obviously full of questions which hooked me immediately as a reader. The characters were fascinating, especially the contrast between Ruthie and Scarlett (and with Olivia’s poor father pulled between the twin loves of his wife and his daughter).

And the writing was outstanding. There were so many good lines, so many truths, Christian truths and life truths. Olivia has a lot to learn in both areas, and she does.

Yes, when I grow up, I want to write like Christa Allan.


Thanks to Waterfall Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.