30 December 2014

Review: Love Overcomes by Angela Schroeder

It's the last week of the year, so I'm burying the reviews of the books I didn't manage to finish in 2014 in the hope that you are all too busy recovering from Christmas to notice.

Amazon Book Description


Single mother Arabella Mackenzie never imagined that going to California with her sister Clara would have such a huge impact on her life. Since the end of a disastrous relationship, Arabella has been wary of wanting or needing anyone other than her family. But when she meets hunky actor, Jeremy Fowlis, she begins to have feelings for a man for the first time since her three year old son was born. Now, she needs to try to overcome her past and learn to trust again.

Jeremy is not used to women who don’t want to date him, or at least show him off to their friends – he is an in-demand actor, after all. He is tired of the shallow, avaricious attention that he gets from the public, but when he meets intelligent, cautious Arabella, she doesn’t even know his name. Arabella’s grounded beauty captivates him instantly, but, he is wary of getting involved with a single mother with a complicated past.

Can Arabella and Jeremy both overcome their doubts and fears in order to find love?

Meh.

I managed to make it a third of the way through Love Overcomes before I gave up. I simply wasn’t engaged in the plot or the characters, and I was finding the writing didn’t flow well, which made for awkward reading. This was mostly because of the excessive use of adverbs, creative dialogue tags (“Jake offered quickly”), floating body parts (her “eyes darted away”—did they come back?), redundant language (“she nodded consent”—when do we nod in dissent?) and a lack of contractions in dialogue. It didn’t help that the plot was a rehash of others I’d read and enjoyed more, such as Firstborn by Karen Kingsbury, and Freefall by Kristen Heitzmann.

It didn’t start well—it wasn’t explained why Arabella, Liam and Clara were going to LA (or why Arabella and Liam had to accompany Clara). The characters all seem to be holding back. It's one thing for a character to have secrets and hold them back from the other characters, but enough has to be revealed to the reader to get us to like the characters. It's not that the characters in Love Overcomes are unlikeable, more that I never felt I was given enough information to know enough to like them.

Overall, the unplot, uncharacters and awkward writing combined to ensure I had no emotional engagement in the story, and therefore no reason to finish it.

Thanks to Anaiah Press for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Angela Schroeder at her website.

29 December 2014

Review: The Innkeeper of Bethlehem by Scott Roloff

I hope you are all enjoying the Christmas season and your summer (or winter) holidays, and I hope you're spending time with family rather than online. For that reason, I've chosen this week to bury the reviews of the books I haven't enjoyed this year, but still feel morally obliged to review because I said I would. 

Annoying Mix of Stories


The Innkeeper of Bethlehem is described as “the true story of Santa Claus”, a story you will share with your family and create a new holiday tradition.

Uh, no.

First, Jesus is shown to be disobedient as a child. That contradicts the Bible, which makes clear Jesus was without sin. It mixes historical fact with supposition and plain fiction. For example, the book has the innkeeper’s wife helping Mary as she gave birth to Jesus—it’s possible, although we don’t even know from the biblical account if the innkeeper even had a wife. The innkeeper and his wife then go to Egypt with Jesus and his family (unlikely), and the families are lifelong friends, with the innkeeper teaching Jesus about wisdom (Jesus showed his Father’s wisdom from an early age. Why did He need to learn from an ex-innkeeper?).

The end of the story gets even more unbelievable. From the Amazon book description (which now summarises the whole story, although it didn’t when I agreed to read and review the book):
The book concludes with Shai and Adi following the Lord’s Star to the North Pole, where angels have built a palace. Jesus wants Shai and Adi to raise the baby angels there until they reach adulthood. The baby angels, or elves as the grown angels derogatively refer to them, are a mischievous lot. Shai becomes known as Santa Claus when a baby angel mispronounces “Shai, Uncle of Jesus,” claus being the angelic word for uncle.

Jesus also wants to give a present to each boy and girl on his birthday, Christmas Day, a tradition that he began during his life when he gave presents to his family. As part of their training, once a baby angel sprouts wings he or she is assigned to watch children and make toys for them. On Christmas Eve, Santa flies the sleigh to heaven to present the new adult angels to God, and then flies around the globe delivering Jesus’s presents to the children of the world.
As an adult, I think that’s ridiculous, but I could see it appealing to small children who don’t know anything of the truth of Jesus or Santa Claus. But I can't see why any Christian parent would want to teach this to their children.

And I don’t understand why the author has found a need to invent a background for Santa Claus when he’s based on a real historical figure who was known for his anonymous generosity. That’s right, St Nicolas (Santa = Saint, and Claus is a contraction of Nicolas). If you want to know more about Santa (aka St Nick, Kris Kringle etc), read this excellent blog post from author Roseanna White on the origins of Santa Claus.

My biggest concern with The Innkeeper of Bethlehem is that mixing up the stories of Jesus and Santa Claus will teach children that neither is real when they grow old enough to learn the truth about Santa Claus. Parents, teach your children the truth, not half-truths that will confuse them.

I can’t recommend this to any Christian reader except perhaps as an object lesson for teens or adults as to how we can dilute the gospel by misusing words and misrepresenting truth.

The author provided a free copy of the ebook in order for me to give an honest review. He may well wish he hadn’t.

26 December 2014

Review: Heaven Sent by Amanda Bews

A Book of Two Halves


Heaven Sent is a contemporary young adult novel set in Australia and New Zealand. While it had some real strengths, there were also some weaknesses, and these outweighed the strengths, at least for the first half of the novel. The second half was better—but I almost didn’t get that far.

The back cover blurb talks about “one drunken mistake”, a “disappearing boyfriend” and Heaven being “sent to New Zealand to ‘protect’ her father’s reputation”. On that basis, seemed pretty obvious what the “mistake” was, and just left the reader wanting it to happen already, so we could move on with the plot. Well, it took forever. The first quarter of the book was Heaven persuading the reader that she really wasn’t interested in sex. Almost eighty pages, and it could have been covered in ten. Then more introspection while Heaven realises what’s happened and fesses up to the parents (who are having their own relationship issues). All in all, we’re up to page 144 out of 279 before Heaven even sets foot in New Zealand.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if the writing in this first half was good, but it wasn’t. It was slow and repetitive, with too much thinking and not enough action. The entire book is written in first person point of view from seventeen-year-old Heaven’s viewpoint, which perhaps explains the endless navel-gazing, but doesn’t excuse it.

But the really distracting thing was the editing. It seems the author and editors (yes, one editor and two copyeditors are credited) are allergic to the word “said”. No one says anything. They scowl, spit, yell, hurl, pipe up … and that’s just in the first chapter. It gets worse, with the addition of unnecessary adverbs, excessive punctuation (because it adds excitement, perhaps?!), and a minor character who starts as Ted and becomes Tom. On the plus side, the interior formatting was excellent and I liked the cover.

The pace in the second half was much better, and meant it was easier to skip over the writing issues (which were still there). The main problem in this second half was everything moved too fast. I don’t want to give spoilers so let’s just say this is Christian fiction (specifically, Seventh Day Adventist fiction), and 130 pages wasn’t long enough to make the inevitable progression in Heaven’s character arc credible. Sweet, yes, but not believable.

Overall, I give Heaven Sent one star for the first half and four for the second. Recommended for teenagers looking for issues-based Christian fiction, for fans of authors such as Elaine Fraser and Michelle Dennis Evans.

23 December 2014

Review: Veiled at Midnight by Christine Lindsay


Exciting Historical Romance

Veiled at Midnight is set in the final days of British rule in India, a time of uncertainty as the country moved towards self-government after two hundred years. It was also a time of political unrest due to the spectre of Partition: the division of India into two countries based on religion. It’s a fascinating backdrop, and one that really adds to the plot.

Veiled at Midnight is the third book in Christine Lindsay’s Twilight of the British Raj series. It’s set a generation on from the first two books, so can easily be read as a standalone novel, as it focuses on brother and sister Cam and Miriam Fraser. Cam is an army officer who had a bad war and isn’t really coping with life until one day he sees Dassah, the Indian girl he and Miriam grew up with, the girl who suddenly disappeared after he kissed her. Circumstances bring them together again … but not for long.

Miriam is a confirmed spinster, devoting her life to her job as a teacher at a school for girls. She has her own romantic problems when she is pursued by a handsome army officer who threatens her understanding of herself and challenges her beliefs about her brother. It’s a complex and exciting plot with four strong lead characters--Cam, Dassah, Miriam and Jack—set against a fascinating historical backdrop, and a mix of the expected and the unexpected. Recommended.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

22 December 2014

Review: The Fruitcake Challenge by Carrie Fancett Pagels


Jo Christy is a cook in her family’s logging camp in 1890 Michigan, and wants to get away … and perhaps be courted. She’s not impressed when she finds out the reason none of the loggers have approached her over the years is because her brothers have warned them off, and is even less impressed with the new man in camp, Tom Jeffries, starts paying her attention.

Tom wants to catch the attention of the pretty young cook, so issues the fruitcake challenge: he’ll marry the woman who can bake a Christmas fruitcake as good as his mother’s cake. Several other bachelor loggers take up the idea, but Jo’s having none of it. She wants to leave the camp, no matter what.

The Fruitcake Challenge is a short but enjoyable Christmas novella that manages to pack a lot into a small space. The plot is original, the characters are fun, and there is an underlying Christian theme. All that’s missing is the recipes!

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can find more about Carrie Fancett Pagels at her website.

19 December 2014

Review: Promise to Cherish by Elizabeth Byler Younts

Compelling Historical Romance


I’m going to start by saying I’ve read quite a bit of Amish and Mennonite romance in the past, and haven’t enjoyed most of it. I find the heroines are generally immature, probably a result of young age and a lack of education. I find the books are often full of too-perfect characters living a romanticised a lifestyle that seems to value obedience to rules rather than salvation by grace. The fact the rules seem to differ between communities points to rules made by men rather than by God, and I’m sceptical any time a religion puts the rule of man above the Word of God. I’ve also been disappointed by the quality of writing in some of the books.

However, I get annoyed by readers and critics who write off an entire genre (e.g. Christian fiction) because of a few bad reads, so I do continue to read Amish fiction from time to time, although I tend to pick titles that look a little different than the standard romance—generally titles which include some non-Amish characters.

Promise to Cherish is one of these. It’s the second title in The Promise of Sunrise series (although it can easily be read as a standalone novel), and follows the stories of Christine Freeman, a nurse in a mental hospital in World War II America, and Eli Brenneman, a Conscientious Objector serving in the same hospital as part of the Civilian Public Service camp scheme.

The two meet and become friends, and when the war ends and Christine needs a place to live, Eli invites her back to Sunrise—which causes it’s own set of problems.

I liked the way that none of the characters were too-perfect caricatures, even the Amish. All the characters felt like real people facing difficult decisions that challenged their personal beliefs, and even though several of the characters had conflicting beliefs, both sides were examined respectfully.

I didn’t like the descriptions of the mental hospital, or the fact that not all the patients had psychiatric problems: one was a Down’s syndrome man, and another was a deaf-mute. Although unpleasant, the scenes were written sympathetically and I’m sure they were representative of conditions in a time where mental illness wasn’t so well understood by the medical profession or the general public, and where there simply wasn’t the manpower to give the people the care they deserved.

Overall, Promise to Cherish isn’t the standard wishy-washy Amish romance, but a novel raising some important issues, and one I certainly enjoyed reading.

One warning: don’t read the Amazon book description, or the book description on the author’s own website. Both give away significant plot details, one of which only happens at the climax of the novel. I think I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book nearly as much if I’d known what was coming.

Thanks to Howard Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Elizabeth Byler Younts at her website.

18 December 2014

Review and Giveaway: Beyond I Do by Jennifer Slattery

Christian Fiction at a Different Level


Beyond I Do is more overtly Christian than most novels I read, even though most of them are marketed as Christian fiction! The characters quote Bible verses (well, some of them do), although it is a little strange seeing the references in brackets, and are actively pursuing their Christian walk. Well, most of them. But that’s the basis of the story …

Ainsley Meadows has always dreamed of helping less fortunate women—women like her mother, perhaps—but instead she has settled for security: a secure job as a pharmaceutical sales representative, and a safe relationship with Dr Richard Hollis, a psychiatrist with plans to publish the next breakthrough bestseller in his field. But a few chance remarks from Richard and she’s starting to wonder if she’s made the right decision: is he really a Christian? It’s a big question, and certainly one which has to be answered before any marriage can take place.

Meanwhile, Ainsley has a new next-door neighbour, Chris, who has bought a local café and wants to be able to share his faith with the customers. However, it seems the existing staff and customers aren’t so keen on the idea. Meanwhile he’s getting pestered by his sister, who doesn’t want to move their mother to a home which will offer better care, and he’s attracted to his pretty neighbour. The one with the rich boyfriend …

Beyond I Do forces readers to ask some tough questions about our own faith and priorities. Sure, Ainsley doesn’t always have a choice in her situations, but she shows us the importance of seeking God first, and being obedient to His will. A solid first novel.

Thanks to Jennifer Slattery and New Hope Publishers for providing a free book for review. They posted me a paperback (thank you, New Hope!), which means I have one gently-used paperback book to give away to a New Zealand mailing address. Leave a comment if you’d like to be in to win.

If you'd like to find out more about Jennifer, click here to visit her website.

17 December 2014

Release Day Blitz: Revenge by Paula Rose






Revenge by Paula Rose
Anaiah Romance


Blurb:
As a job coach, it’s up to Olivia Foster to ensure her clients work in a safe environment, understand their positions, and serve their employer’s mission. The death of her brother drives her career choice, and she loves her job. It remains her only focus until one of her autistic clients goes missing. Then Olivia’s employer ends her position and adds her to the suspect list, but she makes plans to bring the missing young man home.

Meanwhile, Detective Lt. Phillip Landon is deep into second-guessing his career choice, but his well-honed instincts see major flaws inside this missing person’s case. Surprising contacts, mysterious happenings, and threats can turn deadly. Can he keep Olivia safe, protect his heart, remove the job coach from someone’s target list, and adopt a faith he never knew all while adjusting to the new lives of his old family?


Release Date: 
December 16, 2014





Author Bio:

Paula Rose provides inspiration through Christian romantic suspense stories where "average" families come into extraordinary situations, brushed with life-size strokes of reality and a touch of humor. Born in Philadelphia, she lives in Southern New Jersey with her husband and rescue kitty but often plays amateur photographer in both states.



Author Links:


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16 December 2014

Review: Revenge by Paula Rose

Showed Promise



Olivia Foster is a job coach for an organisation working with adults with autism or Asperger’s. She arrives at work one morning to find the police swarming the place: one of her clients, Bobby, is missing—kidnapped? Lt. Phillip Landon is in charge of the case, and finds himself with two problems: his attraction to the job coach, and his worry that Bobby might be the bait rather than the target—with Olivia the kidnapper’s true target.

Revenge was a fast-paced romantic suspense novel with plenty of romantic tension tension between Olivia and Phillip, and plenty of external tension as they seek to locate Bobby and “Jerry” before something worse happens. Unfortunately, the tension was often let down by the writing (or perhaps by insufficient editing): bad sentence structure, missing words, incorrect words, and excessive repetition. I often found myself rereading passages to try and work out what had been said or what was meant. This disrupts the flow of the story and breaks the suspension of disbelief necessary to really enjoy a novel.

As an example:
“The full implement of manpower wasn’t able to stay on this case without something to go on.” 
For starters, “implement” should be “complement" (implement a noun is a tool or other piece of equipment used for a particular purpose, while implement as a verb means to put a plan or decision into effect). Also, “wasn’t” is the incorrect word: it’s past tense. Better choices would be “isn’t” (present tense, which is correct in character’s dialogue) or “won’t be” (future tense, given they are talking about a decision to be made). Another example:

"The open display of grief from the executive director coupled with the facts only persona in the human resources department framed Olivia Foster’s normal reaction in the situation.”

I can kind of see what this is trying to say (kind of), but it sounds like something my management consulting colleagues would write--when they didn’t want the client to understand something. It also sounds like there some wrong words, and a few words missing. This example is typical of the writing in Revenge, especially in the interior monologue, and it really gets in the way of the story.

Overall, Revenge had the potential to be a good story, but it didn't make the grade for me.

Thanks to Anaiah Press for providing a free Advance Review Copy for review (they say it was unproofed, which could explain errors such as manor/manner and reign/rein, but proofreading is unlikely to fix sentences such as those quoted above. That's line editing, a much earlier stage in the book production process. And the Kindle sample is still showing the mistakes).

15 December 2014

Review: The Lawman Returns by Lynette Eason


Social worker Sabrina Mayfield is concerned for one of her teenage clients, who has disappeared in mysterious circumstances, leaving behind a wallet that belonged to Steven Starke, who was murdered four weeks ago. Clay Starke has returned to Wranger’s Corner as the new Sheriff’s deputy, replacing his brother, and hoping to find some clues to his brother’s murder. He isn’t expecting to find himself attracted to the lovely Sabrina, who he remembers from his high school days.

For her part, Sabrina isn’t expecting to feel this way about a Starke, not given the history between their respective families. However, they’ll all have to deal with it if they are to solve the mystery of the missing teenager, and the unsolved murder.

The Lawman Returns wasn’t Lynette Eason’s best romantic suspense novel, although that’s partially because it’s a Harlequin, which means it’s shorter, which doesn’t give the author a lot of scope to develop the plot. However, it’s also not her worst (I’m still trying to read Nowhere to Turn. I’ve started it twice and made it a quarter of the way through, but it’s just not grabbing me).

One thing that puzzled me was that the town of Wrangler’s Corner apparently only had a population of 1,037 (not sure if that was before or after the murder), but it had a police department with several officers, and a full hospital. America must have more hospitals per capita than where I live in New Zealand (which might partially explain US healthcare costs). So that required a little suspension of disbelief …

For what it is, The Lawman Returns is a good category romantic suspense novel, a quick and enjoyable read with more plot twists and spiritual depth than most.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Lynette Eason at her website.

12 December 2014

Review: The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen


Classic Julie Klassen


Abigail Foster had always expected to marry neighbour Gilbert Scott, but that looks to change when he goes abroad and her family find themselves almost left almost destitute after an investment goes wrong. The family is offered the free use of Pembrooke Park, the deserted estate of distant relatives on her father’s side. Here Abigail meets William Chapman, the local curate, and Miles Pembrooke, the possible heir to the estate which has been vacant for close to two decades following a death—and possibly a murder.

There is an old story of the house hiding some kind of treasure. If so, Abigail could help restore the family fortunes which she feels responsible for losing. But noises in the night and footsteps in the dust suggest she’s not the only person searching. And who is sending her anonymous letters?

The writing in The Secret of Pembrooke Park was excellent, the characters interesting, and it was a complex plot, with several unexpected twists and turns. I liked that. I especially liked the fact that while I’d worked out one of the character was hiding a major secret, I was completely wrong in what that secret was—yet when it was revealed, it made perfect sense.

Julie Klassen is one of my favourite authors, I haven’t especially enjoyed her last couple of novels, which seemed to lack the original spark which first drew me to her writing. I’m pleased to report that The Secret of Pembrooke Park is as good as those early books, with a healthy mix of mystery, suspense and romance (and a choice of possible suitors, with Gilbert, William and Miles).

Recommended for fans of historical romance, especially the Regency period.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Julie Klassen at her website.

11 December 2014

Review: The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

Another Fun Romance in the Chapel Springs Series



PJ McKinley wants to prove to her family that she is capable of making good choices, despite her past history of less-good choices, especially those concerning men. The Wishing House is her opportunity: she wants to turn the property into an exclusive B&B with a classy restaurant attached. Her competition is Cole Evans, who wants to open the house up to teens who’ve aged out of the foster care system and need somewhere safe to live while they complete high school.


Mrs Simmons can’t decide which is the better plan, so comes up with a compromise: PJ will have the ground floor to open her restaurant, and Cole will have upstairs for his teens, and each of them have a year to prove they should be gifted the house. A potentially awkward situation made even more awkward by the way PJ and Cole met—when she knocked him unconscious—and by their mutual attraction.

Denise Hunter gets better and better with each book. In The Wishing Season, she’s done an excellent job of combining a small-town romance with the spiritual theme about the lies we tell ourselves, without getting preachy. I still think Susan May Warren does this best, but Denise Hunter is catching up.

Basically, The Wishing Season has it all: lovable characters, a compelling plot, secrets and plenty of tension between PJ and Cole, the rivals who find themselves in the middle of something bigger.

The Wishing Season is the third in the Chapel Springs Romance series, following Barefoot Summer (good) and Dancing with Fireflies (excellent). It can easily be read as a standalone novel, although if you plan to read the series it is best to start with the first. Recommended.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Denise Hunter at her website.

9 December 2014

My Top 10 Reads of 2014

Today I'm at Australasian Christian Writers, sharing my Top 10 fiction reads of 2014. To pop over and join in the discussion, click this link: Top 10 Reads

8 December 2014

Review: Crooked Lines by Holly Michael


Challenging yet Inspiring


Teenage Rebecca Meyer, of White Gull Bay, Wisconsin, blames herself for the death of her seven-year-old sister, Kara. The seventh of nine (now eight) children, her desire is to finish high school, and then to travel to India. Sagai Raj is also the seventh child in his family, and he also wants to leave his home village of Sheveroy Hills, Tamil Nada, South India, to become a Catholic priest. Both find the journey long and difficult, and have to reconsider their beliefs and ambitions.

“It didn’t occur to me at the edge of the pond that I’d broken the sixth commandment, actually committed murder”.

The attention-grabbing opening line was just one of the things I specifically liked about Crooked Lines. There was also the original plot and setting, particularly the Indian sections with their insight into the Roman Catholic faith and the priesthood. The way the author has pulled off the combination of first person (Rebecca) and third person (Sagai) writing without it seeming contrived—something I’ve rarely seen. The fact that while the book didn’t fit cleanly into a genre, it was clearly Christian in nature, as two teenagers in opposite sides of the world struggle with questions of life and faith, and how to maintain faith when life doesn't work out how they'd planned.

The story spans almost twenty years, starting in 1985 and finishing shortly after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. I usually prefer stories which cover a shorter timespan, as it's generally easier to keep the pace moving. But I never felt the pace lag in Crooked Lines, and I never had the problem I often have with books from two distinct and separate points of view: that I want to read one story more than the other. That's a credit to the author, that she managed to engage me emotionally with both characters.

“Peace is not a place. It’s in your heart. Peace is when you are living the life God intended you to live.”

Crooked Lines is an excellent debut novel, and I'll be sure to watch out for more from Holly Michael.

Thanks to BookRooster and Holly Michael for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Holly Michael at her website or her blog.




5 December 2014

Review: Song of Springhill by Cheryl McKay

Kind-of True Story


It's 1956, and orphan Hannah Wright escapes from Toronto to Springhill, Nova Scotia, hoping her one living relative, an aunt, will take her in, at least temporarily. She finds the bustling Percy family are only too happy to have her stay, which leaves her with the challenge of finding a job. There isn't a lot of call for music teachers in the impoverished town where the main employer is the coal mine that killed her father the day she was born.

Although the characters in Song of Springhill are fictional, the plot is set against the backdrop of real historical events: the 1956 mine explosion, the 1957 Main Street fire, and the 1958 bump. I've read several novels over the last few months where the plot was based on real events, and they've all come up short for me. The plots have felt contrived and preachy, as though the characters only exist to follow the Real Story.

Song of Springhill is the exception. Cheryl McKay has taken what could have been a depressing and contrived plot and turned it into something special, and I think the difference is the characters. While Hannah, Abigail, Josh and Liesel aren't real people, they feel like real people, and surely that's the ultimate aim of good fiction. I cared for them. I wanted them to be happy. And I especially wanted Hannah to learn that God is good, even in the midst of her troubles.

"Had she spent too much of her live focusing on what God wasn't doing rather than what he was? Had she missed all of his little graces?"

In summary, I really enjoyed Song of Springhill. It was an original plot with fascinating characters, and backed up by solid writing. Recommended.

Thanks to Cheryl McKay for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Cheryl at her website.

4 December 2014

December 2014 New Releases

It's December, and it's time for the new releases in Christian fiction from Ellie at Soul Inspirationz.



Not so many titles this month, which should give me a chance to catch up with my to-read pile!

I'll be reviewing:
- The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klaasen
- The Bracelet by Dorothy Love
- Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

What are you planning to read over the Christmas season?

3 December 2014

CrossReads Book Blast with "Love Brings Us Home, 7-Book Box Set"

Love Brings Us Home
7-Book Boxed Set
only 99cents!

By Hallee Bridgeman, Valerie Comer, JoAnn Durgin,
Kimberly Rae Jordan, Lynette Sowell, Staci Stallings, and Debra Ullrick
Amazon Buy Button


About the Book

Seven sweet stories celebrating love and home in one amazing, limited time collection!
Greater Than Rubies by Hallee Bridgeman: Antonio Viscolli asked and Robin Bartlett said "yes!" Soon, she will say "I do." Or will Boston's "Royal Wedding" leave someone standing at the altar?

Raspberries and Vinegar by Valerie Comer: Josephine Shaw, a feisty environmentalist and local-food advocate, falls for Zachary Nemesek, the junk-food-loving reluctant farmer next door.

Awakening by JoAnn Durgin: When Lexa Clarke tumbles from the top beam of a house and straight into the arms of TeamWork Missions Director Sam Lewis, Sam suspects his life will never be the same.

Home is Where the Heart Is by Kimberly Rae Jordan: Free spirit Violet Collingsworth never expected to return home to live. But when she goes back to attend her grandmother’s funeral, she meets the sheriff and begins to reconsider.

Wildfire Wedding by Lynette Sowell: During the height of Texas wildfire season, Krista and Luke prepare for their wedding while battling past guilt and future fears, when a fire breaks out, threatening the town.

Cowboy by Staci Stallings: To all the world, Ashton Raines has it all: fame, money, and the adoration of millions of fans. Then one night he walks away from it all. Can down-on-her-luck waitress, Beth, let God work through her to lead Ashton back to hope and faith?

Reunited at Christmas by Debra Ullrick: Shelby Davis thought she’d never again see the ex-fiancé who dumped her. Then Ryker Anderson gets lost in a blizzard, and she’s on the snowmobile search and rescue team. Now what?
The Authors of "Love Brings Us Home"
Hallee
Hallee Bridgeman
Greater Than Rubies
Valerie
Valerie Comer
Raspberries & Vinegar
JoAnn
JoAnn Durgin
Awakening
Kimberly
Kimberly Rae Jordan
Home is Where the Heart Is

Lynette
Lynette Sowell
Wildfire Wedding
Staci Stallings New Headshot 1
Staci Stallings
Cowboy
Debra Ullrick
Debra Ullrick
Reunited at Christmas
Follow The Authors at the Links
with their pictures!

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This book blast is hosted by Crossreads.

We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

30 November 2014

Book Launch, Review and Giveaway: Tess in Boots by Courtney Rice Gager


Tess Dougherty plans every aspect of her life right down to the last detail. But she doesn’t plan on running her boyfriend off by bringing up the topic of marriage before he’s ready. And she doesn’t plan to lose her job on the day she’s set to receive a huge promotion. So when her perfect world unravels, Tess makes a new plan: disappear.

Tess packs her bags and leaves her city apartment for a remote vineyard in North Carolina. At first, she’s put off by the slow pace of small-town life in the South. She’s especially irritated by Thatcher, the vineyard’s smart-mouth, dimple-faced farmhand. But she soon begins to appreciate the area’s charm, and Thatcher’s charm, too. She even swaps her trademark heels for a pair of cowboy boots. As Tess spends more time getting to know Thatcher, she finds herself loosening her grip on her old life little by little. Unfortunately, things on the vineyard aren’t as simple as they seem. There’s a secret here, and when the truth comes to light, Tess is forced to reconsider every plan she’s ever made.

You can find the book on Goodreads and through Anaiah Press. You can preorder Tess in Boots at Amazon, B&N, iTunes and Smashwords. Release date is 2 December 2014.

My Review

Tess Dougherty has the perfect life: handsome long-term boyfriend who’s about to propose, and a job as Marketing Director in a swanky New York office. Then she doesn’t. He doesn’t propose, she gives him an ultimatum, and then her entire firm is closed overnight. She retreats to North Carolina where her twin brother and his wife have just inherited a vineyard.

What follows is a fun romance full of confusion and secrets, starting with Tess asking for directions at what turns out to be a bachelor party, and getting mistaken for someone else. This is just the first of many misunderstandings and secrets which drive the plot forward. There’s also plenty of tension with Thatcher, the mysterious and handsome vineyard helper the local ladies warn Tess against. But why? And what is the significance of the boots?

At about the three-quarter mark I was starting to get worried. I was really enjoying Tess in Boots—like, Really Enjoying—but there was still this huge secret hanging over the plot and I was worried it might all fizzle out when the secret was revealed. (I’ve read novels like that before, where the tension ramps up and up and up at the thought of the secret, and it’s a huge let-down when the Big Reveal comes.

I had nothing to worry about. The secret was big enough, and somehow managed to ramp the tension up even more—in fact, I think this would be even more fun to read the second time around, knowing the secret and looking out for clues. Recommended for fans of fun contemporary Christian romance by authors such as Becky Wade, Denise Hunter, Carla Laureano and Andrea Grigg.

Thanks to Anaiah Press for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Courtney Rice Gager at her website.




Author Bio:

Courtney Rice Gager graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in creative writing. Courtney is also the author of The Buggy List. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.


You can connect with Courtney at:

Website: http://www.courtneyricegager.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CourtneyRGager
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/courtneyrgager
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/courtney_rice_gager
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CourtneyRiceGager
Google+: http://www.plus.google.com/+CourtneyRiceGagerWrites
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/courtneyricegager




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27 November 2014

Review: Just Over the Horizon by Susan Rush

An Unusual Christian Romantic Suspense Novel


Sarah Reeves is a visiting hospice nurse, and has just moved to a new three-month assignment where she meets handsome carpenter Nate Williams while looking less than her best. A lot less than her best, but that doesn’t prevent the two becoming friends as they care for Nate’s adopted father. Sarah gets more involved in the community, and is even asked out by a handsome young doctor, and she finds herself torn, and perhaps even wanting to settle in one place.

There were quite a few typos and glitches in the writing, but not enough to detract from a powerful and unusual story. In a way, it’s nice to see people die naturally (!) in Christian fiction, which more often features death through murder and violence. There is tragedy and death in Just Over The Horizon, but it’s dealt with in a beautiful way. I especially liked the idea that sometimes we have to remind ourselves that dying is sometimes a process, and we need to make that process as easy as possible.

But it wasn’t all maudlin. There was also a healthy dose of romance, a potentially less healthy dose of suspense, and the obligatory happy-ever-after ending (do not despise the happy-ever-after ending. It’s the reason I read romance). An enjoyable novel with an original viewpoint.

Thanks to Susan Rush and Astraea Press for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Susan Rush at her website.

22 November 2014

Cover Reveal: Grit of Berth and Stone by Lisa Dunn





Grit of Berth and Stone by Lisa Dunn
Surge, Anaiah Press

Blurb:

Banished for a foolish mistake, sixteen-year-old Grit of Berth and Stone scorns the loss of her home, her honor, and her only ally. Only the weak worry about such things.

But war is brewing all across Chasmaria, and as a group of rebels pull Grit into their ranks, she begins to question what strength, courage, and honor really look like. When faced with a horrible truth about herself, Grit must either fight her way back to Thresh or live with the blood of the innocent on her hands.



Release Date:
March 17, 2015

Book Links:




Author Bio:

As a child, Lisa Dunn fell asleep to her father’s fanciful bedtime tales and played with her own story ideas during the daylight hours. She now resides in a small southern town with her husband, four children, and an ever-changing assortment of pets. Local librarians habitually thank her for their job security. 





Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorlisadunn
Twitter:  @ScouterWife
 Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/21086727-lisa-dunn







21 November 2014

ARCBA Tour: The Songs of Jesse Adams by Peter



16 - 20 November 2014
is introducing


The Songs of Jesse Adams
Acorn Press

By

Peter McKinnon


About the Book:

Set in the turmoil of social change and political unrest of Australia during the 1960s, The Songs of Jesse Adams traces the meteoric rise of a boy from the bush – a farmer’s son who breaks away to follow his heart, his dreams and his love of music. But, as Jesse travels with his band and the crowds gather, it becomes clear that something else is afoot. This rock singer captivates and transforms a host of fans who hear his songs and encounter his touch. 

Lives are changed in unexpected ways and the enigmatic Jesse becomes a symbol of hope and freedom for those on society’s edge. But not all will celebrate the rising tide of influence of this charismatic figure whose words and actions challenge those in power – the media, the politicians, the church. In one tumultuous week this clash of ideals comes to a head – with profound consequences. 

Awash in all the protest and collapse of conservative Australia, the colour and madness that was the sixties, The Songs of Jesse Adams is a tale of conflict, betrayal and tragedy, but ultimately the triumph of love.



*Warning this book contains some language that some readers may find offensive*


About the Author



For seventeen years, Peter McKinnon held senior roles in some of Australia’s largest corporations, with a focus on human behaviour and organisational effectiveness. This culminated in his appointment in 1999 as Executive General Manager, People & Culture, of Australia’s then largest financial organisation, National Australia Bank.

In late 2006, Peter was approached to head up the global human resources function of  World Vision International(WVI), based in Los Angeles. WVI is the world’s largest humanitarian aid organisation, with over 40,000 employees in 100 different countries and countless volunteers working in highly diverse and challenging settings.

When he returned to Australia in late 2009, he committed to pursuing his creative interests more directly and began to write. ‘The Songs of Jesse Adams’ is the result.

Peter has been published in publications as wide-ranging as the ‘Age’, ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly’ and ‘4 x 4‘ magazine and regards winning a Pacific cruise for his writing as his crowning achievement in this field ! He has also written and produced several musicals.

Peter is a qualified psychologist, has studied theology, worked briefly as a minister and served on the Council of the MCD University of Divinity.

He lives in Melbourne with his wife Julie. This is his first book.


20 November 2014

Review: The Bridge Tender by MaryBeth Whalen

Not Whalen’s best

I’m going to admit two things before I start, because one in particular affected my enjoyment of The Bridge Tender. First, I thought it was a romance, because the book description I read when I downloaded it made it seem like an amusing romance about a widow finding second love. It even gave the guy’s name and occupation, so there was no mistaking what was ‘supposed’ to happen.

So when I was a quarter of the way though and the main character—the widow—hadn’t even met the guy, I was starting to get confused and a little annoyed. This wasn’t what I signed up for—dragging backstory and depressing introspection (yes, I get that she’s a widow. But I thought this was a romance, which means she’s supposed to be past her grief and ready to move on). I went back and checked the book description, and it had changed to this:
On their honeymoon, the new Mr & Mrs. Ryan Shaw made a pact: No matter the sacrifices along the way, one day they would return to Sunset Beach, North Carolina—this time to buy their own home.
But that dream was not to be. Seven years into a beautiful marriage, Emily is left a widow, heartbroken, and way past caring about anything.
Until a man approaches her, claiming to have something left to her from Ryan. Something secret.
Unsure if she can ever embrace a new life without her husband, but even less sure about continuing to stay where she is, Emily heads to the coast to keep her end of the promise she once made.
Without delay, she becomes immersed in the lives of the locals, including the reclusive bridge tender with an unexpected past. As the community debates over building a new bridge, Emily must decide whether she will build a bridge of her own, one that will take her out of a painful past and into the new life—and new love—that her lost love made possible.
Ah. Not a romance then, which might explain why it was taking so long for the romance to get going. Although, in my defence, it still takes a long time to get into even this plot. Emily doesn’t “head to the coast” to keep her promise until a quarter of the way into the book, and it takes even longer before she really gets “immersed” in the lives of a small group of locals.

The second thing was my fault entirely. I misunderstood the title. The ‘bridge tender’ refers to the person who looks after (tends) the bridge, not a tender moment concerning a bridge. My bad.

As a result, I found the plot dragged, Emily was depressing and introspective, and I didn’t enjoy The Bridge Tenderas much as I’ve enjoyed other novels by Marybeth Whalan.

Would I have enjoyed it more if I’d read this blurb instead? Maybe, but I found myself waiting for something unexpected to happen. It did, but it took a long time. Emily was a distant character all the way through, and while I could empathise with her as a widow still grieving the loss of her husband, it wasn’t exactly fun reading. This distance also worked against her in the second half of the story, where she was becoming more involved in the lives of the locals, as the distant viewpoint never made it feel like she was truly “immersed”.

However, the writing was solid and I liked the way the Christian message was woven subtly throughout the novel. But I’ve enjoyed other Marybeth Whalen books more (I think my favourite is She Makes It Look Easy, for the way it shows us it’s what inside that counts, not outward appearance, and that being 'perfect' isn't all it's cracked up to be).

Thanks to Zondervan and BookLook Bloggers for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Marybeth Whalen at her website.

18 November 2014

Review: A Promise to Protect by Patricia Bradley

Even Better than her Debut



I enjoyed Patricia Bradley’s first novel, Shadows of the Past, but I enjoyed A Promise to Protecteven more. Both are set in the small town of Logan Point, near Memphis, but you don’t need to have read Shadows of the Past in order to read this. While I have read both, I have to admit I’ve read so many novels in between that I don’t remember the details.

Ben Logan has stepped into his father’s shoes as Sheriff of Logan Point, and trying to find out the truth behind his father’s shooting. Tony Jackson said he had information, but now Tony’s been shot, is bleeding out, and asking Ben to protect his sister. Ben agrees, despite his uneasy relationship with Leigh.

Dr Leigh Somerall left Logan Point ten years ago, basically run out of town by Sheriff Tom Logan, who didn’t see her as a suitable girlfriend for his son. Now she’s back with her son, working in the Emergency department of the local hospital and staying with her brother, Tony.

Ben and Leigh are both hiding secrets, Ben about his fear of children, and Leigh about why she broke up with Ben all those years ago, and married so quickly afterwards. There’s nothing like a good secret to keep the pages turning, and these work well. When will they admit they are still attracted to each other, and confess to what’s holding them back?

Intertwined with these secrets is the bigger suspense plot. It soon becomes apparent that Tony’s shooting isn’t an isolated incident. The only question is: who is the next target? Ben or Leigh? And why?

Overall, A Promise to Protect is the perfect blend of romance and suspense, and I’ll be looking out for the next in the Logan Point series. Recommended for fans of Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Irene Hannon.

Thanks to Revell and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Patricia Bradley at her website.

17 November 2014

Review: Deceived by Irene Hannon


Irene Hannon at Her Best



Three years ago, Kate Marshall lost her husband and four-year-old son in a boating accident, and Kevin’s tiny body was never recovered. She’s now re-established herself as a career counsellor for abused women in St Louis, Missouri, far away from the rugged New York coastline which stole her family. But one day she hears a small blond boy at the mall asking a man—his father?--for a Poppysicle, a word she’s only ever heard Kevin use. She loses the boy in the crowd, and when the police aren’t interested, she approaches Phoenix Inc, an upmarket firm of private investigators, for help.


Connor Sullivan is immediately attracted to his new client, something he’ll have to ignore if they are working together. She has a strange story, but one that bears investigating. The more Connor investigates, the more he comes to believe that Kate is right, and the more he wants to see of her. But can they find out the truth before their search is discovered?

I’ve found the last couple of Irene Hannon romantic suspense novels I’ve read a bit flat. There was nothing technically wrong with them, but they didn’t have that spark of inspiration and originality I remember from her earlier books. I’m relieved to report that Deceived is back to Hannon at her best. Okay, the first meet between Kate and Connor was probably more corny than cute, but the suspense plot was excellent (and the romance worked nicely).

It’s an ambitious plot. Was the boy on the elevator Kate’s son? If so, is the man with him involved? How exactly does a four-year-old “drowning” victim resurface as a seven-year-old half a country away? Where has he been for the last three years? Who took him? And why?

At the same time as Kate and Connor are searching for the truth, we see Greg and Todd Sanders, to all outward appearances a loving father and son. This, in my view, is the real strength of Deceived, because Hannon hasn’t depicted a cliché “villain” but a likeable and well-rounded character that I sympathised with. After all, if Kate is right, Greg and Todd are about to have their worlds ripped apart. Writing likeable antagonists is a real skill, especially when it comes to their motives, and I commend Hannon on the way she dealt with Greg’s backstory. When the full story came out, it all seemed horribly plausible. Recommended.

Thanks to Revell and Netgalley for providing a free ebook for review. To find out more about Irene Hannon, visit her website.