29 May 2015

Friday Fifteen: Joey Wills

Today I'd like to welcome Joey Wills to Friday Fifteen, to share fifteen authors who have changed his life and writing. Welcome, Joey.

Picking the fifteen authors that have most influenced me is a bit like picking groomsmen. There are a few selections that just have to be there, even if a couple of them are semi-embarrassing and don’t quite fit with all the rest. After the absolutes, it is a vast prairie of possibilities. Every committed decision unleashes three possibilities that could very well be in its place. But, if this is the hardest task of my day, I’m doing pretty well. So, here they are, in no particular order. My Friday Fifteen.

1) C.S. Lewis

When I was in fourth grade, my parents handed me a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I’ve been reading ever since. For the first few years after, I searched for secret doors to Narnia. It was the very first book that changed the way I looked at the world. I read the Chronicles of Narnia every couple of years (my favorite is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). I stopped looking for Narnia, but only because I found it.

2) Madeline L’Engle

I still cry at the end of A Wrinkle in Time. Love is the most important thing in the world and it is displayed as an epic hero in much of L’Engle’s work.

3) John R. Erickson

Yeah. Him. He wrote the Hank the Cowdog series. I read them. I collected them. I re-read them. I could hear the voices of the characters and feel myself drifting into another world. I was a kid in Texas, and Erickson introduced me to the world of new worlds.

4) Charles Dickens

Reading Dickens is like watching an artist carefully paint stroke by stroke. It seems slow at times but, at the end, you’re shocked to see the beautiful fullness of the picture and are thankful you were watching each and every stroke.

5) Paul Coelho

In spite of never having figured out how to pronounce his name, Coelho has been one of my favorites for a few years. I travel a lot and appreciate that Coelho just feels like a foreign voice, but a familiar one as well. Although I liked The Alchemist, I’ve enjoyed his other books more – particularly Veronika Decides to Die and By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept.

6) Gary Paulsen

Another huge influence from my childhood, Paulsen’s novels felt to me like a call to masculinity. I read The Hatchet and The River in school and it made me start to consider what it might mean to be a good man.

7) George Orwell

I’m a big fan of the classics, as you’ll notice from the list. 1984 tested the boundaries of my imagination and spurred an interest in ‘what if’ storytelling. Animal Farm is one of my top three favorite books. I love stories that strap my head to a medieval electric chair and force me to look at the mirror, even when it hurts. Animal Farm is my favorite such story.

8) Jules Verne

They’re just fun, aren’t they? The Jules Verne novels. They don’t try too hard, they just tell a great story.

9) J.D. Salinger

I’m one of those occasionally annoying The Catcher in The Rye people. But I swear, he was writing about me. I think Holden Caulfield influenced me so much because he taught me the value of vulnerability, the power of just saying it. Good, bad, ugly, and messy - just say it.


10) James Dashner

This is one of my new favorites and it is strange how much it has impacted me. The Maze Runner did what 1984 once did and challenged the boundaries of my imagination. I also appreciate Dashner’s breakneck speed. They are the kind of novels that dare you to blink – not just The Maze Runner series, but The Eye of Minds and others of his as well.

Those are my fiction influences. The rest are non-fiction, which is just fiction that has been lived. These non-fiction influences shaped the way I think and feel about the world, God, and myself. Obviously, this bleeds into my stories


11) Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird basically launched my writing career. Lamott’s weaving of witty humor and incredible depth, sometimes in the same sentence, is truly inspiring.

12) A.W. Tozer

I don’t know what to say about Tozer. It just feels like worship when I read his words. It is the most God-centric writing I’ve encountered to date.

13) John Piper

Desiring God was a big one for me. It helped shaped my theology and the way I see everything in the world. Piper’s other works challenge and inform my beliefs, especially in the realm of suffering, which is prevalent in many of my stories.

14) Donald Miller

Miller writes with such whimsy and grace. It is like an roller coaster ride through a cloud – it should be scary, but it is oddly comforting and a whole lot of fun.

15) Jonathan Edwards

Ok, so I went to seminary and can sometimes be a nerd about it. Edwards taught me that I might be able to change the world just by being who I am. Writing and speaking from the heart, boldly and with a humble eye toward truth, Edwards is my favorite theologian and he communicated mostly through writing. His sermons were boring affairs where he read a text, line by line. But people were engaged because it was dripping with truth. And that was enough to monumentally change the world around him.

Sorry to those who didn’t make the wedding party. You still matter a great deal to me.

Check out my debut novel, The Mountains, to see what all this influence brought about. It is a story of adventure and identity, based on my experience travelling to 12 countries (five continents) in 2013 as a missionary.






















Joey Willis

www.Joeywillisauthor.com

http://kellanpublishing.3dcartstores.com/The-Mountains_p_40.html

27 May 2015

Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

A book that became a movie

My review last week was of Rebcca by Daphne du Maurier, an audiobook of a famous story that’s had several outings on the small screen. This week I’m reviewing another audiobook, one that is perhaps even more famous for its big-screen portrayal than as a book (well, a novella).

Yes, elfin Audrey Hepburn in the iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’ve never seen the movie, but surely everyone has seen photograph of Hepburn as Holly Golightly, the girl about town who window-shops at Tiffany’s of New York to chase away the “angry reds”. When “Fred” described Holly, he could have been describing Audrey Hepburn.

There were a lot of similarities between Rebecca and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Both are told in the first person by an unnamed narrator relating events which happened years earlier (while Holly calls the narrator Fred, after her brother, we never find out his real name). Both audiobooks have excellent narrators who breathe life into the characters, and are excellent at portraying the different accents. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, these included the somewhat reserved narrator, Holly’s breathy voice, and Sal’s earthy Jersey accent.

But there were differences. I knew where the story was taking place, and had a good idea of when. The characters were excellent, especially Holly. I never warmed to the narrator of Rebecca, but I warmed to Holly Golightly immediately—perhaps because her story was being told by someone who loved her, even if he hadn’t seen her in years and never really knew her. Holly fascinated "Fred", which meant she fascinated me as I listened.

Her character is complex. She’s young, but has a maturity beyond her years (towards the end of the story, we find out parts of her history which actually made me feel sorry for her). She is naïve in some areas, yet sophisticated in others, and it all builds up into a character we want to know more about, everything about, but never can. Because “Fred” doesn't know, because the story ends before he can find out.

Yes, I can see why Breakfast at Tiffany’s is considered a classic.

This book (audiobook) counts towards my 2015 Reading Challenge as A Book That Became a Movie.

26 May 2015

Blog Tour: Walking a Haunted Sandbar by Rorry Nighttrain East

Book Description


A lyrical yarn about an overly-curious newspaper man transplanted from England to the eastern coast of the USA, who stumbles onto the fact that a one-hundred-year-old cult of drowned sailors has complete control of his quaint, seaside town. A legend about a hand-held golden mirror (with a portable vortex inside its case); as it is randomly passed between owners in separate vignettes to change their lives beyond human comprehension. The ennui and general apathy of living in a sleepless big city that doesn’t seem to care—as expressed in skeleton symbols. A humble man with great calculating abilities uses his natural mind to auto-suggest (the future of law and order) hundreds of years from now.

Click here to find Walking by a Haunted Sandbar at Amazon.

About the Author

Rorry Nighttrain East (a.k.a., R.L. Farr) is truly a literary anomaly. At least, he’s really not some kind of author to typecast, nor even place into any single mode or genre. For he seems to run all gamuts of poetry & prose, humor, short stories, screenplays, teleplays, and even novels. What’s next from this versatile new talent? He says he writes because he’s handicapped; and we believe him: Laugh, cry . . . and then wipe the tears away. You’ve found yourself the pen pal of a lifetime. (With two artificial legs thrown in, to boot.)

A repentant, imperfect Christian still under construction. Born on July 18, 1952 in Fresno, California, he is an alumnus of De Anza College Cupertino, California and was formerly a journeyman automobile mechanic for a Lincoln Mercury dealership in San Jose, California. He has since moved from the “Golden State” and now lives upon a sprawling ranch where he writes just outside the beautiful, mile-high mountains of Silver City, New Mexico.

You can found out more about Rorry at his website: http://rorrynighttraineast.com/Home.html

25 May 2015

Review: A Heart's Danger by Colleen Coble

Sarah risks everything to expose the betrayal threatening the man she loves—but will the risk be worth it? Find out in book three, A Heart's Danger, of Colleen Coble's A Journey of the Heart series. Rand’s new fiancée wants to keep him from returning to Sarah Montgomery . . . for whom his heart clearly still yearns. Sarah just wants to move on with her life at Fort Laramie, but doing so under the watchful eyes of both Campbell—the man whose love she craves—and Croftner—the man whose lies have cost her everything.

Enter to win the perfect pairing giveaway: three books (books one–three in Colleen's A Journey of the Heart series) and coffee to pair with your new book!


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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of A Heart's Danger
  • A pound of Colleen's favorite coffee, Captain Davy's Coffee Roaster Costa Rican
  • A copy of A Heart's Disguise
  • A copy of A Heart's Obsession
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 31st. Winner will be announced June 1st on Colleen's website.

heartsdanger-enterbanner

My Review

Book Description

On the brink of war with the Sioux, Sarah risks everything to expose the betrayal threatening the man she loves.

Christmas is coming, and the air at Fort Laramie has turned cold . . . but relations with the Sioux have turned colder. As tensions between soldiers and natives approach a tipping point, a trap has been set for Rand Campbell.
Rand’s new fiancée wants to keep him from returning to Sarah Montgomery . . . for whom his heart clearly still yearns.

Sarah just wants to move on with her life at Fort Laramie, but doing so under the watchful eyes of both Campbell—the man whose love she craves—and Croftner—the man whose lies have cost her everything.

Will Rand fall victim to the conspiracy and go through with his wedding? Or will he declare his love for Sarah and make good on the promises that brought her into the rugged western territories?

My Review

The book description sounds good, but the actual book was less good. This was mostly because of the characters. Ben Croftner is basically the archetypical bad guy: evil but with no real motive. Sure, we understand he wants to marry Sarah, but why? What is it about her that he followed her halfway across the country?

Jessica DuBois is no better. Yes, we get that she’s jealous of Sarah, but Rand has promised to marry Jessica, and he’s a man of honour. He’s not going to go back on his word, even if he does still love Sarah. Of course, by choosing to align herself with Ben Croftner, Jessica shows herself to be a poor judge of character, so perhaps she really doesn’t understand she has nothing to fear from Sarah’s presence. Anyway, we get that Jessica has this deep-seated hatred and jealousy towards Sarah, but her actions still don’t make any sense. After all, all she had to do was marry Rand and the Sarah problem would go away.

As for Sarah, she's mostly decorative, a personality-less person who exists to serve as the inexplicable object of Rand's love, Ben's obsession, and Jessica's jealousy. She never does much except react to the events around her.

This is the third novella in the A Journey of the Heart series, following A Heart’s Disguise and A Heart’s Obsession. It’s better than the previous two, in that at least the plot arc comes to a satisfactory conclusion. However, it does raise the question of what (or who) the final three novellas are going to be about. Hopefully it will include characters who are a little more rounded.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

22 May 2015

Review: A Stranger's Secret by Laurie Alice Eakes

Slow and Unengaging



Widowed Lady Morwenna Trelawny Penvanan wants nothing more than to be left in her rundown mansion, but her grandparents want her to move back to their estate … or marry one of her pursuers. Plans change when she finds a shipwreck survivor on her private beach, a strange man with the Trelawny family crest on his pendant.

David Chastain is a shipbuilder who has travelled to Cornwell to try and solve the mystery of his father’s death, and the disappearance of their family’s money. But now he’s injured and in the care of an angel …

A Stranger's Secret never engaged me. I didn’t understand why Morwenna chose to live in the rundown Penvanan when her grandparents lived in luxury only a short distance away, and where where her parents? These questions were answered, but not until too late for my liking (and I had read the first book in the series, A Lady’s Honor, so that wasn’t the reason).

I found the first three-quarters of the novel very slow, which wasn’t helped by Morwenna’s overlong interior monologue (which still didn’t give any information about how she got into her situation, or why she wouldn’t accept help). David wasn’t any better: late in the book, we found out he knew more than he’d let on, which was a problem I had with the first book in the series as well. In contrast, the ending was fast—too fast. I never felt as though I got to know either character.

The historical research and sense of time and place was excellent, as were the Christian themes. However, I found some of the writing to be overly complex, almost archaic, even for a novel set during the Regency. There were several times when I found myself reading and rereading sentences in order to understand what was being said. I never had that problem reading Jane Austen.

Overall, I found A Stranger’s Secret a struggle to finish, because it took so long to get interesting and I felt no connection with any of the characters.

Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Laurie Alice Eakes at her website.

20 May 2015

Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier


2015 Reading Challenge – My (Grand) Mother’s Favourite Book


This review is a slight cheat in two respects: it was my grandmother’s favourite book when the challenge called for my mother’s, and it was an audiobook—a twelve-CD version that belonged to my grandmother (that’s over fourteen hours of playing time, which took me about three weeks to get through, in a series of three-hour car journeys).

The quality of the audiobook was excellent. The narrator, Anna Massey, made each character come alive: from the naïve nameless narrator, Maxim and his boisterous sister, the shy maids and the distant Mrs Danvers, to the local characters including the intellectually challenged Ben. Each character had their own distinct voice, and it all sounded effortless and not at all contrived (unlike some narrators).

But I didn’t especially enjoy the book, despite its enduring popularity and famous first (and last) lines.
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again …”. 
It took me a good while to work out Manderley was a house in southern England—Devon or Cornwall, perhaps—not somewhere in India. I also couldn’t work out when the book was set (and still haven’t). I assume it was a contemporary novel when it was published (although Daphne du Maurier wrote contemporary and historical fiction, so that’s not clear). It’s obvious some years have passed since the events Mrs de Winter is telling us about, but I never knew how many years had passed, or what year—what decade, even—she was writing about. Perhaps Grandma could have told me.

Rebecca is told entirely in the first person, from the viewpoint of the unnamed second Mrs de Winter, and I found the fact she went nameless throughout the entire novel to be an unnecessary affectation. I found it odd that despite being the narrator, she told us little about herself prior to meeting the famed widower, Max de Winter of Manderley. Perhaps the author felt it wasn’t necessary to show us what happened to make Mrs de Winter the shy orphan she was, but I would have liked to have known, partly because I never understood what Maxim saw in her, except that she was nothing like Rebecca.

I found her unbearably naïve, although that’s perhaps a function of her young age (about twenty), and the fact Rebecca is set in a time before television, let alone the internet. Mrs de Winter simply hadn’t had much exposure to life. I found that annoying, but not as much as her habit of imagining future conversations or events, as I was never sure whether the past Mrs de Winter was indulging in teenage flights of fancy, or if the future Mrs de Winter was telling us what had really happened. Yes, it was an interesting literary device and I can see why people rave about du Maurier's writing, but it was a device which annoyed me.

I did get annoyed by the constant “he said/she said/I said” dialogue tags. In fairness, these might not have worried me as much if I had read the book rather than listened to it—Anna Massey did such a good job of using different voices for the different characters that she made the dialogue tags quite redundant.

But the main thing which annoyed me was how slow the book was (and, yes, it was probably made even slower by listening to it, because I couldn’t skip ahead through the endless introspection to the next part where something was actually happening in real time). There was a big “oh, no” moment just after halfway, but that had been telegraphed in flashing lights which rather destroyed the impact (while I have read the book before, decades ago, I’d forgotten that particular plot point). I had vaguely remembered the other major plot point and the final climax, but they still managed to surprise me. The book really didn’t get to the point and pick up pace until around the three-quarter mark.

If I had been reading it, I probably wouldn’t have got past the first chapter. There’s a lesson there: while we can appreciate (or not) the famed writers of past generations, it won’t do to attempt to imitate their style or structure. What was original and compelling when Rebecca was written is no longer new, and may no longer be compelling.

18 May 2015

Award Time!

Last week I introduced the finalists for the RITA and Christy Awards. This week I'm back with the finalists in the INSPYs.

The INSPY Awards are the newer kids on the awards block, and are organised by bloggers, not publishers or writers. I'm a judge for the General Fiction category this year - a new challenge I'm looking forward to! The finalists are:

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE/ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Beowolf: Explosives Detection Dog by Ronie Kendig
Somebody Like You by Beth K. Vogt
A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge
Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade
A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

DEBUT FICTION

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron
Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas
How Sweet the Sound by Amy K. Sorrells
Healer of Carthage by Lynne Gentry
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

GENERAL FICTION

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer
All Right Here by Carre Armstrong Gardner
Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke
Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay
Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

HISTORICAL

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander
The Thief by Stephanie Landsem
Mark of Distinction by Jessica Dotta
Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund
With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

MYSTERY AND THRILLER

A.D. 30 by Ted Dekker
Checkmate by Steven James
Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering
Raptor 6 by Ronie Kendig
Playing Saint by Zachary Bartels

LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS

Remnants: Season of Wonder by Lisa T. Bergren
Storm Siren by Mary Weber
Blur by Steven James
Destined for Doon by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon
Jupiter Winds by C.J. Darlington

SPECULATIVE FICTION

Spirit Bridge by James L. Rubart
Shadow Hand by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Seek and Hide by Amanda G. Stevens
Healer of Carthage by Lynne Gentry
A Draw of Kings by Patrick W. Carr

As a judge, I can't say any more except that it's a great crop of books to read, and I'll be looking forward to sharing my findings and reviews with you after the winners are announced at the end of June.

15 May 2015

Review and Giveaway: A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

Fall in love with Becky Wade's new book, A Love Like Ours, a story of healing, romance, and cowboys. A glimmer of the hope Jake thought he’d lost returns when Lyndie lands back in Texas, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

To celebrate the release of her new book, Becky is giving away a $100 cash card and a book-inspired prize pack!

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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A $100 cash card
  • A copy of A Love Like Ours
  • A copy of the Secretariat DVD
  • A scarf
  • A dog-tag/cross keychain
  • A pair of earrings
  • A Scarf
  • A Texas-shaped cutting board
  • A Jake Porter mug
love like ours - prize pack 


Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 26th. Winner will be announced May 27th on Becky's site.


lovelikeours-enterbanner

My Review: Tortured hero, quirky heroine


A Love Like Ours is the third in the Porter Family series, and is Jake’s story. Jake had a cameo in the previous novel in the series, and struck me as a fascinating character even then, a tortured soul suffering from PTSD following his Marine service in Afghanistan who now trains Thoroughbred horses on the family ranch.

His childhood friend Lyndie James has recently moved back to Whispering Springs, and wants a job on the ranch as an exercise trainer. She finds Jake wounded, but there’s still the connection between them there was two decades ago, the last time they met. But will Jake let her in?

I thought Lyndie was an excellent character, a fascinating mix of horse-mad jockey, imaginative author-artist, and a woman of deep Christian faith. She had a quirky way of looking at the world—and Jake, who she described as Mr Tall, Dark and Brooding, a description which characterised him well.

Jake was a harder character to get to know, but that was part of his character: his PTSD and survivor guilt holds him back from opening up from others, which means he’s a more remote character than most fictional heroes in romance. But the tortured hero has an appeal, not least to the woman—Lyndie—who wants to ‘fix’ him. There is also the appeal of a couple reunited after years apart yet still connected in some undefinable way, a reminder that true love is unconditional and never-ending.

There were a two things about A Love Like Ours which bugged me. One was the way characters kept stating and interrupting each other (she stated, he interrupted) etc. It felt odd. The other was the secondary will-they-won’t-they romance with Lyndie’s neighbour, Amber (who series fans might remember from the earlier books in the series, Undeniably Yours and Meant to Be Mine). It wasn’t that I didn’t like seeing Amber again, more than it detracted from Lyndie’s developing relationship with Jake, which is what I wanted to see.

Despite these minor glitches, I thoroughly enjoyed A Love Like Ours. Lyndie and Jake are special and unique characters, and while I almost thought they weren’t going to make it, I need not have worried. It was a definite “awww” ending, with plenty of wonderful kisses in as well.

Thanks to Litfuse and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Becky Wade at Litfuse Publicity, or at Becky's website.

13 May 2015

Review: Uncharted Inheritance by Keely Brooke Keith



I'm reviewing at The Christian Manifesto today!
From the author of The Land Uncharted and Uncharted Redemption comes the third book in the Uncharted series, Uncharted Inheritance. Written like a historical, set like a sci-fi, and filled with romance, Uncharted Inheritance concludes this suspenseful story of life in a hidden land.

Bethany Colburn finally turns eighteen and Everett Foster is about to confess his love for her. When a new man arrives in the village of Good Springs, he brings charm Bethany has never encountered and illness the Land has never known. While the medicinal power of the gray leaf tree is put to the test and the Colburn family’s strength is stretched thin, Bethany must learn to protect her true inheritance. Uncharted Inheritance weaves heartbreak and hope while delivering long-awaited answers in this suspenseful story of life in a hidden land.

That description doesn’t tell you a lot, does it? Actually, I think that’s a good thing. I often find book descriptions for sequels give away major plot points for the earlier books, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Anyway, to read the rest of my review, click here pop over to The Christian Manifesto.

While you're there, take a look at some of the other reviews - they have a large team of fiction reviewers, with diverse tastes. Let me know what you think!


12 May 2015

New Release Spotlight: Falcon Heart by Azalea Dabill

Book Description:

A strange dagger...
Adventure beyond fear...

Slavers seize Kyrin Cieri from the coast of medieval Britain and sail for Araby. With a dagger from her murdered mother’s hand, an exiled warrior from the East, and a peasant girl, Kyrin finds mystery, martial skill, and friendship closer than blood.

The falcon dagger pursues her through tiger-haunted dreams, love, and war in the Araby sands. Kyrin is caught by the caliph’s court intrigue and faces the blade that took her mother. One thing can give her the will to overcome, justice against
hate, dagger against sword.

Murder, sacrifice, vengeance...compassion and the art of war.

Crossover: Find the Eternal, the Adventure


Whether you love historical or Christian medieval romance with a touch of martial arts fiction, or need a young adult epic fantasy series for teens, Falcon Heart, Chronicle I is a solid choice.

Read the excerpt of this medieval adventure and discover the magic of Falcon Heart. A medieval fantasy of romance and mystery from Britain to Arabia and back.

Author Bio:

Azalea Dabill grew up in the California hills, building forts in the oaks. She remembers the fuzzy-sweet smell of acorns and moss, fields of lupines and poppies, the clear song of crickets. Home schooled, she read fantasy and adventure to her siblings. Now she enjoys growing things, old bookstores, and hiking the wild.

5-Star Review Excerpt:

"Every once in a while, you come across an author with a voice so distinctive, you could recognize it anywhere. Azalea Dabill has her own unique, lyrical style that draws you into the story and lets you experience it through all the senses." - K. McKee (taken from Amazon)

Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/azaleadabillmythicfantasy

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/AzaleaDabill

Author Website:

http://azaleadabill.com/wp/home/

11 May 2015

Award Time!

It's coming up to award time, and several organisations have announced their lists of finalists over the last few weeks. Today I'm introducing the finalists for the 2015 RITA (Inspirational Fiction) and Christy Awards.


Romance Writers of America

RWA have five finalists in their Inspirational Romance Category:

Deceived by Irene Hannon (read and reviewed)
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin
Hope at Dawn by Stacy Henrie
Huckleberry Summer by Jennifer Beckstrand
The Widow's Suitor by Rose Ross Zediker

For Such a Time is also a finalist for First Novel - well done, Kate Breslin!

Christy Awards

The long-established Christy Awards are the premier awards in Christian fiction, and showcase novels in a variety of categories:

CONTEMPORARY

Farewell, Four Waters by Kate McCord
Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon
The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert
Firewall by DiAnn Mills (read and reviewed)
Undetected by Dee Henderson (read and reviewed)

It's curious that Firewall and Undetected are in the Contemporary Romance category, as both are part of a series. 

CONTEMPORARY SERIES

The Amish Blacksmith by Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner
Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney (read and reviewed)
When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren (read and reviewed - always a favourite author)

FIRST NOVEL

Feast for Thieves by Marcus Brotherton (this one's on my to-read list)
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin
House of Living Stones by Kate Schuermann

HISTORICAL

The Advocate by Randy Singer (another on my to-read list)
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (interesting choice, as not known as a CBA author)
The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot (I've heard good things about this, but haven't read it)

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander
Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (and another on my to-read list!)
With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden (read and reviewed)

SUSPENSE

The Color of Justice by Ace Collins
A Cry from the Dust by Carrie Stuart Parks (read and reviewed)
Sky Zone by Creston Mapes

VISIONARY

Once Beyond a Time by Ann Tatlock
Shadow Hand by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes

YOUNG ADULT

Failstate: Nemesis by John W. Otte
This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof
Storm Siren by Mary Weber

I've read and reviewed a lot of books over the last year, and I'm surprised to see I've read so few of these. What have you read?

8 May 2015

Review: Seaside Proposal by Narelle Atkins


More than the usual


Billie Radcliffe has taken a temporary job in Sapphire Bay Beach, and is hosting her family for Christmas—and her sister’s friend from church, Zach Montford, who is running a youth camp at the beach over New Year. There’s an immediate attraction between Billie and Zach, but their different views on Christianity are an issue. She gave up on church as a teenager; he’s considering giving up his career and going to Bible college. But she has an ulterior motive in staying in Sapphire Bay, and while she’s secretly attending Riverwood Community Church, it’s not about her faith.

With a title like ‘Seaside Proposal’ and an engagement scene on the cover, there’s not a lot of doubt around the will-they-won’t-they of the romance. But Seaside Proposal managed to pack a lot more into the story. Those who have read the earlier books in this series may remember that Billie and her sister Julie are both adopted. Julie was reunited with her birth mother in the last book, and now it’s Billie’s turn. Of course, that’s not something she’s shared with her family … or with Zach.

As a result, the story was perhaps a little more complex than the regular Heartsong Presents, yet without skimping on the romantic elements. Sure, there was the romance plot, but there was also the adoption subplot, and a related subplot about Billie reconsidering her faith (or lack thereof). Zach might have been a little too perfect as a character, but Billie was very real, facing big decisions and learning again that life doesn’t always go to plan.

Yes, the ending was perhaps a little too perfect, but this is a romance novel, not real life. It’s meant to be entertainment, and it certainly succeeded in that. Recommended, for managing to be more than a simple Christian romance.

Thanks to the author for providing a free book for review. You can find out more about Narelle Atkins at her website, www.narelleatkins.com.

6 May 2015

TCM Review: Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist

I am now a guest reviewer at The Christian Manifesto, and my first review went live at the end of last week. I'm reviewing Tiffany Girl, the latest from Deeanne Gist.

Click here to read my review, and another review from Denise Hershberger.

At The Christian Manifesto, most novels are reviewed by two different people so readers get a variety of views. Check the site out - they have a large team of fiction reviewers, so are able to review a lot more titles, and a broader range than I can.


2015 Reading Challenge

Tiffany Girl counts towards my 2015 Reading Challenge as a book with more than 500 pages–544, according to the Amazon book page. That's one disadvantage of reading on a Kindle: you can't judge how long a book is by the thickness!.




5 May 2015

ARCBA Tour: Too Pretty by Andrea Grigg


4 - 8 May 2015
is introducing

Too Pretty

((Rhiza Press), August 2014)

By

Andrea Grigg



About the Book:

Being beautiful isn’t easy – just ask Ellie Paxton.Frustrated by a long string of empty relationships, Ellie makes a promise to God not to date for six months, a promise she’s determined to keep.

Tired of being continually misjudged because of her looks Ellie moves to Sydney for a fresh start. But when her path keeps crossing with the darkly handsome Nathaniel, that promise becomes much harder to fulfil.

As they battle with their attraction for each other, Ellie is not the only one to discover it takes more than simply looking in a mirror to find out who you truly are …

Could it be that God has a bigger plan? Could this really be one of those matches made in heaven …?



About the Author

Andrea Grigg grew up in Auckland, New Zealand, but has lived more than half her life in Australia.

Andrea lives with her husband on Queensland’s Gold Coast, where they have raised their three adult children – two daughters and a son. Recently retired from teaching ten-year-olds, if she isn’t being a domestic executive or socialising, Andrea can be found in her cave, writing stories.




I reviewed Too Pretty last year: click here to read my review.

I also interviewed Andrea about Too Pretty: click here to read our interview

4 May 2015

Review: Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray

Excellent. 

Shelley Gray is more commonly known as Shelley Shepherd Gray, bestselling author of Amish fiction. I haven’t read any of her Amish fiction, but I think I’ve read the three contemporary romantic suspense novels she’s published as Shelley Gray, and they are excellent. Excellent writing, strong characters, and hard-hitting plots touching on some major contemporary issues.

Deception on Sable Hill is, as far as I can tell, Gray’s second historical novel, following Secrets of Sloane House. It’s part of her series set in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair, although the Fair isn’t a major feature. Anyway, Sable Hill is the exclusive part of town, although Miss Eloisa Carstairs has found out that exclusive doesn’t necessarily mean safe ...

In hindsight, Deception on Sable Hill shouldn’t have worked. While it’s entirely believable that Mrs Carstairs was so self-absorbed that she didn’t notice the anguish Eloisa was going through, it’s much less likely that she didn’t notice Eloisa spending far too much time with that police detective. It would be unusual for a lady of Eloisa Carstairs’s station to spend time with an Irish police detective under normal circumstances … but this is a novel, and Eloisa’s circumstances are hardly normal.

Maybe it shouldn’t have worked, but it did, and that’s a testament to Shelley Gray’s consistently excellent characterisation and strong writing, Even if logic says the plot shouldn’t work, Gray managed to convince me it did, and I was swept up in a romantic suspense novel set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (a popular topic, it seems: Deeanne Gist is also writing a series set in and around the Fair).

Deception on Sable Hill is the sequel to The Secrets of Sloane House, but can easily be read as a standalone novel (I own The Secrets of Sloane House, but haven’t yet read it. This reminds me I must). Recommended for those who like historical romance … especially historical romance with a mystery/suspense twist. Recommended.

Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Shelley Gray at her website.

1 May 2015

Review: Serving up a Sweetheart by Cheryl Wyatt

Not Me



When wedding caterer Meadow Larson’s kitchen roof collapses, her high school nemesis comes to the rescue, offering his barn as a temporary kitchen. While Colin McGrath never led the bullies in the popular crowd who made her high school years a misery, he never called them on their behaviour either. Now he says he’s changed. Can she believe him?

Yes, I can see that a person can change after high school. I can see that they might regret some of their teenage decisions and behaviour (who doesn’t?). But I never got an impression of how Colin had changed, which meant I didn’t get that he had changed. I only saw the almost-perfect Christian contractor he now is.

I also didn’t really get Meadow. If she hated high school and everyone in town bullied her, why did she stay? Here’s the other thing I didn’t get. She appears to be operating a commercial catering business out of her house, and when her kitchen is destroyed, she uses the home kitchen of her building contractor. Really? A bachelor who lives in a barn has a kitchen good enough to use for commercial catering? And it doesn’t have to be certified as meeting local hygiene standards?

Okay, these might be minor issues, and it seems most people are loving Serving Up a Sweetheart. But it didn’t work for me. The writing was good, and I thought the Christian aspects were excellent. But the characters were too good to be true, and I thought the plot was too complex to adequately cover in such a short word count. Overall, average.

Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Cheryl Wyatt at her website.