25 May 2017

Book Review: All of You by Sarah Monzon

Great Dual-Timeline Story!


All of You is book two in Sarah Monzon’s Carrington Family series, following Finders Keepers. I haven’t read the first book, but it didn’t matter—this worked well as a standalone novel.

It’s set in two separate timelines. In the present day, ex-Navy pilot Michael Carrington is trying to rebuild his life after losing two limbs in a freak accident. He’s promised to look out for his friend’s baby sister. Vintage airplane restorer Jacqueline Rogers doesn’t want or need his help, but sees he might need hers.

The past story is set in England, in 1944, where American Alice Galloway has joined the Air Transport Auxiliiary, ferrying military aircraft around England and occasionally beyond. Flying planes is dangerous, but that’s not the most dangerous thing …

I enjoyed both timelines, although it did take a while for me to work out the link between them (logic said there has to be a link, right?). Anyway, I figured it out in the end, and it made perfect sense. But I think I enjoyed the contemporary story more, because I liked those characters best.

I thought Jack’s occupation was fascinating. I’ve visited more than my share of airplane museums, and while my husband and son might like the modern fighters, I’m more like Jack—interested in the older planes and the history that goes with them. I’m also fascinated by the varied and dangerous roles women have held over the years, so Alice’s story was interesting as well.

Michael was a great character. His accident has left him having to completely rethink his life and career, and that gives him a great character arc. It’s not so much that he’s mad at God. More than he’s wondering why God allowed this to happen. But it does mean he’s still in Maryland and can watch out for Jack. Because she needs it, whether she acknowledges it or not.

I read an early draft (thanks for the shout-out, Sarah!). I’m looking forward to rereading it as the final version—although maybe this time I’ll read Finders Keepers first. Recommended for contemporary Christian romance fans, military heroes, and those who like dual timeline stories.

You can find out more about Sarah Monzon at her website, and you can read the introduction to All of You below:


23 May 2017

Book Review: Swazi Sunrise by Donna Chapman Gilbert

Amazing True-Life Story

Swazi Sunrise is the story of missionaries Lula Glatzel and Harmon Schmelzenbach. They left America in 1907, bound for southern Africa on what must have felt like a one-way trip into the great unknown. But they both believed God had called them to minister to the African people, despite the distance and the likely hardships.

The first quarter of the story follows their sea journey to Africa via Southampton, England, and the development of their relationship. I knew from the Acknowledgements before Chapter One that Lula and Harmon were going to get married, and that they were pioneering missionaries to Swaziland (a small African kingdom just north of South Africa). This meant the first quarter was a little slow, as I was waiting for what I knew would happen (and I say that as someone who loves a good romance novel).

The pace picked up in the second quarter as Lula and Harmon arrive in Africa, marry, and journey to what will become their African home. Aspects of their story weren’t unlike stories of pioneers in America or other countries—endless travel in a covered wagon, geographic isolation, food shortages, lack of medical care, and general deprivation. Lula and Harmon bore all their hardships with good grace, knowing they were doing the work they had been called to.

The best part of this story is that it’s based on fact.


Lula and Harmon were real people, and their faith and legacy is inspiring. They toiled tirelessly, through threats and turmoil, including attacks on their property. The insight into Swazi culture was fascinating, especially the parallels between their beliefs and the Christian faith.

I was saddened when I read about some of the African customs, like not breastfeeding a baby for the first four days of life—we now know that’s the most important time, because the milk is full of antibodies and essential nutrients.

But I laughed when Harmon was complaining about “those awful avocado pears.” I love avocado, although I know they are an acquired taste, and would have been even more so when Harmon was in Swaziland (and they are also full of important nutrients).

The writing wasn’t necessarily as strong as in some novels I read, but this was more than made up for by the compelling true-life story. Recommended.


Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can read the introduction to Swazi Sunrise below:


18 May 2017

Book Review: A Love So True by Melissa Jagears

A Historical Romance with an Edge

If David Kingsman had any chance of making his father proud, this next decision would be it.
David Kingsman is in Teaville, Kansas, to sell the A. K. Glass factory on behalf of his father. But he soon decides the business has more potential than his father realises, and that it would be better for them to build the business up before selling. Meeting Evelyn Wisely may or may not have anything to do with his desire to stay longer in Teaville …

Evelyn Wisely is not interested in men. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to working with her parents in the town orphanage, and to working with the children of the red light district. She’d like to reach out to their mothers as well, to give them a way to escape, but she can’t do that alone. She needs the help of local businessmen. Men like Mr Kingsman.

A Love So True is the third book in the Teaville Moral Society series, following Engaging the Competition (a novella, which I haven't read), and A Heart Most Certain (a novel, which I have read and reviewed). However, A Love So True can easily be read and enjoyed as a standalone novel. Even if you have read A Heart Most Certain, you’ll find a lot has changed in Teaville, as A Love So True is set three years later.

I thought A Heart Most Certain was excellent, and A Love So True is just as good. It’s historical romance, but historical romance with a difference. It’s not the rosy version of history painted by many Christian fiction authors. This version has all too many fallible characters, especially those stuck in the red light district. But it’s also an illustration of Christianity, of the need for Christians to shine God’s light into those dark places. As Evelyn comments, many people are only a couple of bad choices away from such a fate.

Recommended for those who like historical romance, and for those who like their fiction to have an edge of reality while still reflecting and reinforcing the Bible’s teaching.

Thanks to Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Melissa Jagears at her website, and you can read the introduction to A Heart Most Certain below:

11 May 2017

Book Review: The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser

An Outstanding Story of Christian Faith


The Long Highway Home is the story of Bobbie, an ex-missionary who has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer at the age of 39. It’s the story of Tracie, Bobbie’s niece, who accompanies her to Europe, to visit the missionaries she used to serve with before tragedy sent her back to the US. It’s the story of Hamid, a devout Muslim who is forced to flee Iran after a well-meaning missionary gives his six-year-old daughter a New Testament. But my favourite character is Rasa, the child with a faith that puts mine to shame.

The structure of The Long Highway Home is more like a thriller novel than the women’s fiction and romance I’m more used to reading. There are a lot of viewpoint characters spanning the US, Holland, France, Austria, and Iran. Unlike most thrillers, it’s always obvious who the characters are and how they are related, which kept me turning pages to find out how they’d eventually be brought together.

The author has drawn on her own missionary experiences in writing this excellent novel.


This shines through in both the story of Hamid and his family, and in the advice from some of the minor characters (e.g. Peggy, the elderly prayer warrior who supports Bobbie). These sound like real conversations Ms Musser has had in her years as a missionary—stories of the refugees who survived the refugee highway and made it to The Oasis in Austria.

It’s a story of human courage in the face of adversity, persecution, and possible death. 


It’s a story of hope, of perfect love driving out fear. It challenges our views of refugees by introducing us to real refugees—we know Hamid and Rasheed and Rasa and Omid aren’t real people, but at the same time their stories have that ring of truth, of authenticity. They could be real stories. They may well be.

After all, significant elements of the story are real. 


The Oasis is a real place, and welcomes volunteers and short-term missionaries (and long-term missionaries!) to support its outreach to refugees in Austria. Elizabeth Musser is a missionary with International Teams, an organisation dedicated to helping those who survive the refugee highway. World Wide Radio was inspired by the real-life work of Trans World Radio, which broadcasts in 230 languages to reach listeners in 160 countries.

It’s inspiring and humbling to read about people like this—missionaries who are risking their lives to bring the gospel to others. Refugees who are risking their lives to escape a government that wants them dead. Normal, everyday people who are doing extraordinary things every day.

Recommended.


Thanks to Elizabeth Musser for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Elizabeth Musser at her website, and you can read her Friday Fifteen here.

You can read the introduction to The Long Highway Home below:

9 May 2017

Review: Broken Like Glass by E J McKay

Outstanding from Beginning to End


There are not many novels that manage to grip me from the very first line, but this was one:

“Lillian. Lillian? Can you hear me, Lillian?” My therapist’s voice grates on my. I’d say like nails on a chalkboard, but that wouldn’t accurately describe just how much I hate her voice.

By the end of the first page, we know Lillian is in court-ordered therapy. By the end of the second page, we know why:

“Help me understand why you stabbed your dad with a knife in the middle of the grocery store, and then went home and smashed everything.”

“Some people deserve a little knifing every once in a while and his furniture was a hundred years past vintage. I’d say I did him a favor.”

So Lillian is stuck in her home town for six months until she can explain why … which isn’t so easy. As the novel progresses, we see more and more glimpses of Lillian’s broken past as she opens herself up to Uriah, her teenage crush, to her therapist, and to Jesus—who she refers to as Papa. The title implies we’re going to see a broken person, and we do, but we also strength and character.

Lillian is a strong main character, although some people won’t be able to related to the writing—first person present tense—but I thought it was the perfect choice. It gave us an insight into Lillian, and the present tense gave the story the necessary sense of immediacy.

Reading a first person story narrated by a character who has secrets and hides them from the reader can be frustrating. I always feel that if the character knows the truth about a matter, the reader should know that truth as well. And that’s why I think first person worked so well in Broken Like Glass, because Lillian didn’t know. Her secrets were so deep, she hid them from herself.


Broken Like Glass combined some of the freshest writing I’ve read in ages. The use of first person present tense was inspired. The plot was layered, complex, and never predictable (the couple of minor plot points I almost predicted were minor in comparison to the major twists I ever saw coming).

But the true triumph of Broken Like Glass is Lilly’s relationship with Papa, something her therapist, Chrissy, sees as Lilly's strength:

“But this relationship you have. It’s so … tangible. I want that.”
“Then have it.”
Chrissy looks at me funny. “But how? How did you do it?”
“I clung to the only thing I could. He’s all I had. He’s all I ever had … my only friend was Papa.”

Lilly is the perfect embodiment of the Christian faith as a relationship with Jesus. The scenes where Papa talks and Lilly listens remind me of God speaking in The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers. The themes and writing reminded me of Christa Allen and Varina Denman and Amy Matayo, and other newer writers in Christian fiction. But the most important thing is that Broken Like Glass makes me want to know Papa in the way Lilly does. And shouldn’t that be the aim of Christian fiction?

Recommended.

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

5 May 2017

ACRBA Tour and Review: Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman


1 - 5 May 2017


is Introducing 
(Waterfall Press, 2 May 2017)
By Varina Denman



About the Book:
A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations.

For most of her adult life, Cecily Ross has compared herself to other women—and come up short. After a painful divorce from her emotionally abusive husband, Cecily returns to her hometown of Canyon, Texas, looking to heal.

But coming home isn’t what she expects. In a town as small as Canyon, her pain is difficult to escape—especially with her model-perfect ex–sister-in-law working at the town’s popular coffee-shop hangout. With help from her father, a support group, and an old friend who guides her to see her own strengths, Cecily may have a shot at overcoming her insecurities and learning to love again.

The true test comes when tragedy strikes, opening Cecily’s eyes to the harmfulness of her distorted views on beauty—and giving her the perfect opportunity to find peace at last.




About the Author:
Varina Denman enjoys writing fiction about women and the unique struggles they face. Her novels include the Mended Hearts trilogy: JadedJustified, and Jilted, as well as her latest release, Looking Glass Lies. She seems to have a knack for describing small town life, and her debut novel, Jaded, won the ACFW Genesis Contest, the BRMCWC Selah Award, and the INSPYs Bloggers’ Award for Excellence in Faith-Driven Literature.
Varina attended three universities over a span of five years, majoring in four subjects and earning zero degrees. However, she can now boast sixteen years as a home educator, volunteering in her local cooperative where she has taught numerous subjects including creative writing and literature. Varina lives in North Texas where she volunteers in local marriage and family ministry. She is represented by Jessica Kirkland of Kirkland Media Management.
More information:
https://varinadenman.com/




Interview Questions

In Looking Glass Lies as well as the Mended Hearts series, you touch on subjects that are not often talked-about. How do you choose your topics, and what is your motivation? In all my books, my goal is to help women deal with issues in their lives, and generally the issues we women need the most help with are the ones we keep hidden, the secret ones that nobody likes to talk about. Those are the subjects I want to crack open, so that my readers and I can poke them with a stick, see what’s really happening in our lives … and heal a little.
All your books deal with female leads who are struggling with unique issues, but they seem to portrayed from the heart. How much of the plots come from your own life experience? Each book is different, but generally my books begin with a nugget of my own life story, or maybe just a feeling or an impression, and then I completely blow it up into an elaborate, exaggerated story. So I guess you could say, each plot line comes from my own life … but just barely.
Could your writing best be described as women’s fiction or romance? Why? It’s taken me a while to learn about myself as an author. At first, I thought I was a romance writer, but now I’m confident my books fit neatly into women’s fiction. All those issues I pile into the plots just don’t lend themselves to the romance genre, but I always add a touch of romance just for fun.
So far, all of your books are set in Texas. Do you have plans to pursue other settings in the future? Not yet, but I’m not limiting  myself either. As for now, my next book will be set in Texas, but after that, I’m not sure where my stories will take me.

What is your background, and how did you end up writing novels? When I was young, I never dreamed I’d be a writer when I grew up. In school, writing assignments were drudgery, but then again, most of my papers were research not creative writing. My lifelong goal was to marry an awesome guy, settle down, and have a bunch of kiddos. Once I did all that, I surprised myself by developing an increased interest in books which led to an interest in writing. Now I’m having the time of my life.


My Review

The book opens with Cecily married and sleeping in the walk-in closet, and by the end of the first chapter I was frustrated with her for staying married to such a life-sucking object lesson in how not to be a man or a husband. (In case you think I’m being unfair, I disliked him even more by the end.)

Fortunately, Chapter Two started with Cecily newly divorced and returning to her home town where she meets up with the new town hero, football star Michael Devins (who owns a coffee shop), and an old friend Graham Harper (who is now a therapist). It’s a book full of broken characters, and there are no easy answers in the journey to healing.

Looking Glass Lies isn’t Christian fiction, and there were a few times where I just wanted to shout at the characters and tell them to get to a church, or to start praying (especially given Varina Denman’s earlier books, which were based around a church community).

But I can see why it’s been written from a general market point of view, because the book touches on several issues that affect many people: pornography (although this was understated in comparison to, say, One Last Thing by Nancy Rue), and a range of mental health issues including self-harm. And these are issues that touch many women, Christian and non-Christian.

The main issue was around body image and body shaming—especially the way we judge others based on their looks at the same time as feeling bad about the way we look. It’s an intensely personal book, both in the way it was written and in the way different people will read it.

This makes it a difficult book to read, and to review. I didn’t connect with any of the characters (in this case, that’s probably a good thing), and there were some writing glitches which caught my attention once too often. It’s definitely worth reading, but it’s a long way from light and entertaining.

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

2 May 2017

Cynthia Ruchti's 'A Fragile Hope' Giveaway and Review

When your life's work revolves around repairing other people's marriages, what happens when your own marriage begins to fall apart? Find out what happens to Josiah Chamberlain in Cynthia Ruchti's new book, A Fragile Hope.

Feeling betrayed, confused, and ill-equipped for a crisis this crippling, he reexamines everything he knows about the fragility of hope and the strength of his faith and love. Love seems to have failed him. Will what's left of his faith fail him, too? Or will it be the one thing that holds him together and sears through the impenetrable wall that separates them?

Celebrate the release of A Fragile Hope by entering to win Cynthia's Sign of Hope Giveaway!


One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on May 3. The winner will be announced May 4 on the Litfuse blog.




My Review



One of my ‘rules’ for reading and reviewing is that I have to like the main character—it’s hard to like a book (especially a romance) if you can’t stand the hero.

A Fragile Hope is the exception to that rule.

Josiah Chamberlain is one of the most self-absorbed men you could ever hope to meet. He’s a Christian relationship counsellor who has given up counselling in favour of writing best-selling self-help books while his wife dabbles in some little hobby ‘business’, selling home-made greeting cards. But he’s forced to re-evaluate his life when Karin is involved in a fatal car accident, and ends up in ICU, unconscious. And she’s apparently pregnant … after they’ve been told Josiah can’t have children. This is the slightly frustrating cause of the Big Misundertanding, something that could have been sorted out early in the novel. But Josiah is the man who always has the right answer so it never occurs to him that he hasn’t.

I didn’t like Josiah, but I kept reading out of some kind of macabre fascination. Would Mr Intelligent get a clue? And when?

The other reason I kept reading was because of the writing. There were so much great writing, so many great lines. I appreciated the way the Christian themes were woven in, strong but not overwhelming or out of place. Overall, recommended for the outstanding writing, thought-provoking Christian themes, and a great character-driven story. Thanks to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can read more about Cynthia Ruchti at her website. Ruchti pin1Cynthia Ruchti's 'A Fragile Hope' Giveaway

28 April 2017

Author Spotlight: Danny and Wanda Pelfrey



Danny and Wanda Pelfrey are longtime writers of non-fiction books in the educational and inspiration markets. They have for most of their lives been avid readers of mystery/suspense. AS A SHIELD and a previous mystery title are the result of a desire to entertain themselves and others as well as drive home important spiritual messages. Their passion is now “mysteries with a message.”






https://www.amazon.com/As-Shield-Danny-Pelfrey-ebook/dp/B01N4UBKXR
CLICK COVER to BUY
AS A SHIELD is one of four planned Davis Morgan mysteries set in a small North Georgia town. Davis, a pastor for almost twenty-five years, returns to his hometown after the death of his wife, to operate a rare and used bookstore. He is promptly appointed chaplain of the small police department and recruited by city officials to write a history of his home town. Mystery and romance seem always to be lurking around the corner for the popular bookseller.The reoccurring characters such as Charley Nelson, young police officer; Amy Morgan, Davis’s young daughter who is an English teacher; her roommate Deidre, who Davis is more and more drawn to as time passes; Miss Helen, the local historian and a host of others add to the fun and excitement.

 A visit to little Adairsville, Georgia will surely be a memorable event for anyone who chooses to drop-in. In AS A SHIELD, Davis, through his encounters with two strange villains, comes to experience for himself the truth of Psalm 5:12, “For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”



About the Authors: Danny and Wanda Pelfrey are a husband/wife team who in the past were active writers of non-fiction material, having, between them, cranked out several books. They are both graduates of Point University and Danny has a Masters from Kentucky Christian University. Danny has spent most of his adult life as a pastor and Wanda as a teacher.Their interest at present lies in the creation of mysteries with a message.

Danny and Wanda are the proud parents of two daughters and five grandchildren. They reside in a little Cape Cod style cottage in the small town in North Georgia that is the setting for their mysteries.

About the Book: Davis Morgan, having left the ministry after the death of his wife, returns to Adairsville, Georgia, his hometown. There he operates a used and rare bookstore while being appointed chaplain of the police department. He and Charley, a young policeman, after discovering the body of a tattooed man find themselves in a serious battle to bring justice to two strange villains who are threating the safety of Davis's daughter. While all this is going on, Davis is struggling with interpreting his relationship with a young history teacher who happens to be his daughter's roommate.

25 April 2017

Review: A Secret Courage by Tricia Goyer


Too Many Mistakes


Tricia Goyer has written over fifty novels, but I think this is the first I’ve read. The big-picture historical background was new to me, and fascinating. I’ve heard of the codebreaking work that went on at Bletchley Park in World War II England, but I’d never heard of the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit at Dansefield House near Henley, England. Reading about the work these men and women did was fascinating, and was the novel's greatest strength.

The details were less strong—tea with cream, a fried egg for breakfast (rationing, anyone?), references to sidewalks, signposts, the United Nations, and majoring in history in college (a Brit would read history at university).

There was unintentional comedy in the references to British efficiency (if we’re talking national stereotypes, Germans are efficient. The British are bureaucratic). And while I’d like to think the typos in my review copy were all were corrected in the final published version, I don’t think that’s the case. I was able to search the Kindle Look Inside and find Blenheim Place (should be Palace), and American accident (should be accent). Awkward …

In terms of the plot, I found the first quarter confusing. While it was obvious Will was a double agent, it was less obvious where his true allegiance lay. This made it difficult to engage in the developing romance as I didn’t know whether I was supposed to like Will or loathe him. This made it impossible to engage in what was supposed to be a romance. The middle of the novel often dragged to the point where I considered giving up several times, and I didn’t feel the suspense aspect of the plot really kick in until the last quarter.

This is the first book in The London Chronicles series, but I can’t say I’m interested enough to follow the rest of the series, even though World War II is one of my favourite historical fiction genres.

Thanks to Harvest House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can read the introduction to A Secret Courage below:

24 April 2017

An Irish Hero and a Seattle Beauty



Guest post By Christine Lindsay

Sofi’s Bridge shows a variety of dialects from the many different immigrants who settled in Washington State. Here is a sample of Neil’s Irish-ness.
Neil returned the smile Sofi gave him. “To a new day then.” He took a sip and held the cup away from him, crinkling his face. “My, how you Swedes like your coffee strong.”

“Too robust for your delicate tastes, Neil Macph—.” Her eyes danced.

“Not at all. We Irish like our tea just as strong.”

“But is the coffee to your taste?”

He leaned against the wall, and his voice came out husky. “ ’Tis grand. Sure I prefer it, so I do.”

“If we’re starting off a new day, then tell me—you prefer tea, don’t you?”

“I do miss a pot of tea, one where the leaves have been stewing so long the spoon can stand straight up in the cup. Does that satisfy ye?”

Their combined laughter lifted to the eaves, filtered down on them, and their gazes locked.

While I know my Irish, I researched the correct phrasing and tone for my other immigrants. Sofi is second generation Swedish, but here is a sample of her mother’s strong cultural roots.
“As the child of poor Swedish immigrants I grew up on the old saying, ‘Manure and diligence make the farmer rich.’”
But the cadences of language and culture disappear in the universal language of a kiss.
Neil could have been strong if Sofi had stayed away. But with the perfume of her nearness, the low, melodious kindness of her voice she exposed his wants, his dreams for his life, a wife, a home. His blood ran brighter through his veins.

He took her upturned face in his hands, his breath going shallow.

If things were different, this girl, this woman could be his. Sofi was the only woman who’d ever penetrated his self-reliance and made him aware of his own needs. She brought wholeness to him, healing to him.

She closed the gap between them. Wind whispered through the pines and cedars as he grazed his lips along hers. He trailed his mouth upward, along her cheek and down the warm softness of her neck. He returned to her lips, drawing in the sweetness of her mouth.

But it wasn’t right, and he pushed away from her. He may be a lot of things, but his father had taught him to be an honest man. By kissing her he was saying he wanted to marry her. And he could never marry Sofi.

Ah yes, the language of human love.



About Christine: Irish born Christine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction and non-fiction. Readers describe her writing as gritty yet tender, realistic yet larger than life, with historical detail that collides into the heart of psychological and relationship drama.

Christine's fictional novels have garnered the ACFW Genesis Award, The Grace Award, Canada’s The Word Guild Award, and was a finalist twice for Readers’ Favorite as well as 2nd place in RWA’s Faith Hope and Love contest.

This author’s non-fiction memoir Finding Sarah Finding Me is the true-life story that started this award-winning career in Christian fiction and non-fiction. This book is a must for anyone whose life has been touched by adoption. Christine is currently writing a new fictional series set on the majestic coast of Ireland and loaded with her use of setting as a character that will sweep the reader away. Subscribe to her newsletter on her website www.christinelindsay.org




https://www.amazon.com/Sofis-Bridge-Christine-Lindsay-ebook/dp/B015M9SR6CAbout the Book: Seattle Debutante Sofi Andersson will do everything in her power to protect her sister who is suffering from shock over their father's death. Charles, the family busy-body, threatens to lock Trina in a sanatorium—a whitewashed term for an insane asylum—so Sofi will rescue her little sister, even if it means running away to the Cascade Mountains with only the new gardener Neil Macpherson to protect them. But in a cabin high in the Cascades, Sofi begins to recognize that the handsome immigrant from Ireland harbors secrets of his own. Can she trust this man whose gentle manner brings such peace to her traumatized sister and such tumult to her own emotions? And can Nei, the gardener continue to hide from Sofi that he is really Dr. Neil Galloway, a man wanted for murder by the British police? Only an act of faith and love will bridge the distance that separates lies from truth and safety.


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21 April 2017

Friday Fifteen: Pamela Poole

This week I'm pleased to welcome author Pamela Poole to share her Friday Fifteen—the fifteen authors who have most influenced her life and work. Welcome, Pamela!

Fifteen Authors that Changed My World

I grew up when classics were still revered as required reading in school, so they shaped me at an impressionable time. Looking back, I’m grateful that such powerful literature filled my heart and mind, in contrast to the book market of today.

Christ will always be first in my life for every role model, and His words have molded me as no other author can. Scripture is the sieve through which I filter my comparisons of worldviews and morality, and it inevitably influenced the choices I settled on for this post.

1.      Robert Louis Stevenson
I love anything by Stevenson, but the two books that often still come to play in my life are Treasure Island and A Child’s Garden of Verse. I truly admire this man, for he conquered the pitiless adversary of chronic illness and used the forced periods of rest to write books that contributed immeasurably to the world. He’s also a terrific example of how writers can enthrall audiences by creatively crafting rough characters and situations to make them readable without course language.

2.      James Herriot
When I was a teenager, I babysat for a professor and his wife who lived across the street from me. They introduced me to James Herriot’s work by giving me All Creatures Great and Small. Herriot’s true accounts of his escapades as a veterinarian in the English countryside were profoundly insightful peeks into human nature, and he told them in ways that left me gasping in laughter!

3.      Margaret Mitchell
This author’s classic story of the war-torn South has always been a favorite for me because of her fascinating characters in Gone With the Wind, though I personally think that she failed readers in the ending. The line that shocked so many was also the point where Rhett had a chance to shine as a hero, but he fell, and Mitchell left readers unfulfilled. I’m so glad another author, Alexandra Ripley, came through in the 1990’s with the sequel, Scarlett. The sequel was satisfying in her redemption of Scarlett and Rhett.

4. Jane Austen
I know, this is predictable. But on so many levels, she is the ultimate in classy romance writing.

5. Catherine Marshall
Christy was the novel that opened my teenage eyes and heart to the need for missionary work in the mountains not far from my own home. She also taught me that romantic love doesn’t conquer all.

6. Jules Verne
I love adventure, and Around the World in Eighty Days is unforgettable!

7. Lew Wallace
Ben-Hur, a Tale of Christ was a story that deeply affected me, and the movie adaption is still one of my all-time favorite Biblical tales. This profoundly moving story covers almost every universal situation in one timeless epic.

8. C.S. Lewis
Narnia, Mere Christianity, and the Screwtape Letters are truly books to study, not just read through.

9. J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are gold mines of life truths and encouragement for spiritual battles.

10. Bram Stoker
Many people don’t realize that the original Dracula is written from a deeply Christian perspective, and that we battle spiritual “monsters” every day. Hollywood deviations are far from the spirit of Stoker’s masterpiece.

11. Frank Peretti
This Present Darkness gave me new eyes to imagine the dimension of the spiritual battles I already knew were raging around us.

12. Robert Whitlow
The List was another nudge for me in the direction of Southern fiction and the spiritual dimension behind so much that happens in our lives, sometimes for generations.

13. Jeanette Windle
This author’s missionary background and the way she crafted rough, dark settings and characters into art, rather than communicate with offensive words, inspired my writing style. Crossfire and DMZ are so well written that she’s been interviewed by governments about her knowledge of the settings!

14. Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
The Left Behind series was eye-opening for my family, for we were reminded of the impact that scripture could have when presented in a dramatic story.

15. Edgar Rice Burroughs
While there is a wide gap between this author’s outlook and philosophies compared to my own, he created an amazing character in Tarzan. Derivatives of this novel stirred my imagination for years, and a few elements from it influenced Jaguar, my latest novel release in the Painter Place Saga. My worldview of Tarzan leans toward marveling at God’s provision for a man whose only environment in his formative years was survival in the jungle, and how the man’s reactions play out with the Biblical truth that we are not evolved from animals but created in God’s image, with His moral truth stamped into our very essence of heart, soul, and mind.


About Jaguar, Painter Place Saga Book 3

Caroline and Chad Gregory are happy on their island home at Painter Place. But an old vendetta against them puts Caroline in terrible danger. Her enemies are closing in, and the future of Painter Place is at stake. Her only hope of escape is a man known as the Jaguar, a legendary international operative and Caroline’s one-time boyfriend. Even if he and a miracle can save her, Caroline will never be the same sheltered woman who has been groomed from childhood to inherit the island.


About the Author
Pamela Poole’s love for the South inspires all her books and paintings, and is why she describes her work as Inspiring Southern Ambiance. She became an author after endlessly returning unread books to the library and her son challenged her to write the kind of novel she wanted to read. She and her husband Mark live in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and ACFW-NC.

Where to Find Pamela Online
Main Website: www.pamelapoole.com
Southern Sky Publishing Website:
www.southernskypublishing.com
YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/PamelaPooleFineArt


20 April 2017

Book Review: Above Rubies by Keely Brooke Keith

Back in the Land in the 1860’s


Above Rubies is the second book in Keely Brooke Keith’s Uncharted Beginnings series. It is set in the 1860’s, two years after the settlers arrive in The Land.

The story focuses on Olivia Owens, who has a calling to be a schoolteacher. Unfortunately, the people of Good Springs don’t see the need for formal teaching—they need their children to be contributing to building the settlement. And they certainly don’t see the need for a dedicated schoolhouse. It seems the only person supporting Olivia is carpenter and flirt Gabe McIntosh.

And Olivia has a secret (all good characters have a secret). If people knew her secret, they’d never let her teach their children. Because Olivia has what we now call dyslexia: some days she can read words, and some days the monster comes and mixes up all the letters. And who’d want a teacher who can’t read?

Above Rubies was an enjoyable read. I liked the interplay between Olivia and Gabe, both in terms of their developing personal relationship, and the way he supports her to achieve her dreams.

The one fault was that the ending was somewhat abrupt. I’d been thinking there were a couple more chapters when the book just finished—the remaining pages were teaser chapters from The Land Uncharted.

Above Rubies is a standalone novel, although it’s probably best to read Aboard Providence first, so you understand the background and family relationships. However, it’s not necessary—all you need to know is the community have settled an uncharted island, and have no way of leaving.

A must-read for all Keely Brooke Keith fans, and anyone who enjoys historical Christian romance.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Keely Brooke Keith at her website, and you can read the introduction to Above Rubies below:




13 April 2017

Review: Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano

A New Series from Jen Turano


Jen Turano is one of my favourite Christian historical romance authors. I love her characters, her witty dialogue, and the underlying truth (Truth) in her novels. And Behind the Scenes is no exception.

The main character is the unfortunately named Miss Permilia Griswold, member of New York’s elite, and well-known (or perhaps unknown) wallflower. The story starts at the famous 1883 costume ball given by Mr and Mrs William Vanderbilt II, an event which let the media into New York society for the first time, for better or worse. The descriptions of the ball are excellent, and my initial suspicions that the descriptions might have been a little over-the-top were allayed when I did a little research. If anything, Behind the Scenes is understated.


The story has touches of Cinderella, with Permilia as the motherless girl, a self-centred stepmother and an even more self-centred step-sister, an absent but loving father, and Mr Asher Rutherford, the owner of one of New York’s biggest department stores, as Prince Charming.

But there is also a suspense element, after Permilia overhears a death threat against Mr Rutherford … and he doesn’t believe her. This leads a quirky troupe of characters on what is best described as a merry chase as Permilia and Asher spend more and more time together as they attempt to find the source of the threat.

My one issue was that there were parts of the story I didn't quite understand, almost as if I'd missed something ... I had. I'd missed At Your Request, the free novella introducing this new series (partly because the novella didn't release until January 2017 and I couldn't resist reading this as soon as the review copy was available. In December 2016). Anyway, I suggest you don't make the same mistake.


Recommended for fans of witty historical romance.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

11 April 2017

Review: The Hidden Hours by Sara J Foster

Cover image The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster

Not Christian Fiction. 

But It's Excellent Suspense.


The Hidden Hours took me a while to get into, but once I did, I found it was gripping reading. Most of the story is told from the point of view of Eleanor, and it’s in present tense (which I always find takes me a while to get my head around). To add to the complexity, each chapter begins with a short piece from the point of view of a minor character. There are also some shifts in tense and time which took a while to get used to, but which were used to great effect.

Eleanor is an Australian in London on her OE (that’s her Overseas Experience, a rite of passage for those of us from Australia and New Zealand). She’s living with her uncle’s family, and has a temp job as a personal assistant at her aunt’s employer. The story starts the day after the company’s Christmas party, when is discovered that an executive drowned in the River Thames following the party. The police investigate, and Eleanor finds herself in the awkward situation of being one of the last to see Arabella, but having no memory of the end of the party, or of getting home. Oh, and she’s found Arabella’s distinctive engagement ring in her handbag. Oops.

So at the most basic level, the story is a whodunit. Did Arabella fall, or was she pushed? If she was pushed, by whom? By Eleanor, who can’t remember? By Nathan, Arabella’s husband and Eleanor’s boss? But it’s also a study in messed-up families. Specifically, Eleanor’s messed-up childhood which has left her with ongoing nightmares and memories which intrude on her present life, to the point where they can get mixed up.

The writing was strong, with a unique voice and excellent characters, especially Eleanor. There was a real sense of place – the setting felt authentic to me as someone who lived in London for ten years (and I liked that feeling of recognition). My only complaint is a little swearing that I didn’t feel was necessary.

Overall, excellent.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

6 April 2017

Review: Home by Ginny Yttrup

Slow Start


I was super-impressed by Words, the first Ginny Yttrup book I read. The second, Invisible, was a little harder to get into. And Home was a little harder again. I know Words was partly based on Ginny’s own story, and I suspect part of Home is as well (a novel about a novelist? Who ends up writing a novel titled Home? It’s easy to see why I might think that).

I know authors are told, ‘write what you know’. And obviously, authors know writing novels. But I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of novels featuring novelists as main characters. I don’t mind novels about journalists or bloggers. But something about a novelist as a main character makes it harder for me to suspend disbelief—some novels have done it (Denise Hunter and Kaye Dacus are two, but their novels are fun romance. Home isn’t).

No, Home is a story about a novelist who’s having problems writing her novel, and who has a husband who is having problems with work—he’s a building contractor, and the work isn’t coming in the way it used to. Which means the money isn’t coming in either (I must admit, this was the part of the novel that didn’t work for me. He was a successful contractor until the Great Recession hit a couple of years earlier, they’d been living in the same house for twenty years—the house he built—and it wasn’t paid off?)

Home is told in first person point of view. This isn’t something that usually bothers me, but it bothered me with Home because it’s told from the viewpoint of several different characters, and I kept having to go back to the beginnings of chapters to work out who the viewpoint character was. I find it easier if first person is one character.

The result was it took me longer than normal to get into Home, and when I did, I found myself engaging less with Melanie’s story (the novelist), and more with the story of her neighbour and editor, Jill. I did get into Melanie’s story, and even into Craig’s (her husband), but it took a while.

And that makes it a hard novel to review. The ending was good, but it took a long time to get there. The writing was excellent, particularly in the second half, and there was a lot about Melanie I could relate to:


I also liked the quotes at the beginning of each chapter:


And I liked the way the characters, especially Craig, had a solid Christian faith:


And I’m prepared to forgive a lot from a character who can say that. Overall, Home is a novel about loss and grief, and learning to cope with both. It’s uplifting and encouraging, but not a book to pick up if you’re looking for a light read.

Thanks to Shiloh Run Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can read more about Ginny Yttrup at her website.

5 April 2017

ACRBA Blog Tour: Activate by Adele Jones


3 - 7 April 2017


is Introducing 
(By the Rhiza Press, 1 November 2016)
By Adele Jones

About the Book:


Josh Hammond’s not who he says he is. To stay alive, he must guard his identity, existing isolated from his former life and those he loves. The one enemy he can’t outrun is his failing health, and time is short. Desperate for a solution, Josh leaves the protection of his safe house unapproved. Instead of a cure, he’s left powerless against a cunning adversary. Determined to reclaim his life, he grasps an opportunity for escape, but things go drastically wrong. Can he find a way to expose the lies of a criminal mastermind, or will he be silenced? Forever.
About the Author:
Adele Jones lives in Queensland, Australia. Her writing is inspired by a passion for family, faith, friends, music and science – and her broad ranging imagination.

A strong believer in embracing life's journey, Adele delights in sharing that adventure with others, be that through the pages of a story or engaging in a social or professional context. Through her broad personal and professional interests, she has welcomed diverse engagement opportunities, including science based student experience sessions, conference presentations, literary readings and musical exploits.

With a long standing interest in historical fiction, Adele based her Master's dissertation on this topic and is currently anticipating release of her first novel in this genre, A Devil's Ransom (www.roseandcrownbooks.com). She has also had a variety of poems, short stories, inspirational meditations, devotions and magazine articles published. Her first YA novel Integrate was awarded the 2013 Caleb Prize for unpublished manuscript, and is due to for release in September 2014. Replicate is the second book in this series and was released in October 2015.   

More information:
Adele Jones: www.adelejonesauthor.com

You can read my review for Activate here: Activate by Adele Jones

3 April 2017

Clash of the Titles Winner: Protective Custody by Jennifer Vander Klip

Congratulations to Jennifer Vander Klip
and the novel
Protective Custody
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About the book:

A cop burned by love falls for a key witness in a crime implicating the town's rich and powerful.

Lifestyle magazine editor Heather McAlister was in the wrong place at the wrong time. What she saw sends her faith and life into a tailspin. As a key witness in a crime shaking the roots of the town's power brokers, doing the right thing may cost her everything. Including her life.

Detective Kyle Taylor is in the midst of solving the town's worst crime spree, a case that cold make or break his career, when the woman he thinks he might have a future with witnesses a gang initiation gone wrong before they can finish their first date. He has spent his entire adult life protecting his hometown. Now he's protecting a woman he'll risk everything to save.

With more than their future at risk, they must discern betrayal from trust, image from truth while avoiding a danger closer than they think.

Christian Romantic Suspense

What Reviewers Are Saying:

I just kept turning pages to see what would happen next! Can't wait for the next one!—R. Cole

This is my second novel from Vander Klipp and I continue to be impressed with her writing.--Kelly T.

Add this book to your must-read list!—Regina F.


What COTT Voters Had to Say:
~Great Book, Jennifer! Kept me on the edge of my seat!!

~Jennifer Vanderklipp, keep on writing. Some days it may seem as if no one appreciates your books, but believe me, we, your readers, are out here just waiting for your next
release. A. Zuniga

~You have an awesome cover.The book sounds great.

~In love with Jennifer's writings!!!

~Enjoying so many new titles from amazing authors that pour their hearts in to their work. However I have to say that Protective Custody is a nail biter beginning to end. I could not put it down. Kudos to Jennifer Vander Klipp. Looking forward to more great reads from her.

~I like suspense like Jennifer VanderKlipp writes!

About the Author:

I make beauty from neglect, order from chaos. I like fixing messes!

And I get to do that a lot since I’m a mom to two and stepmom to four, navigating the tweens and

teens while battling my daughter’s juvenile arthritis, exploring the delights of my son’s autism, and keeping gluten free. A California native transplanted to the Midwest, my favorite thing is discovering with my husband how much there is to love about seasons, snow, and the delight that is Michigan.


Upcoming Release:

Promise Me is a prequel novella to Protective Custody, and it is releasing in May. With the same great setting as Protective Custody, (Orange County, California) this story focuses on Cait Bellamy and Grayson Kendall, who make brief appearances in Protective Custody. But we also get introduced to the stars of Protective Custody, Detective Kyle Taylor and Heather McAlistair.

Marketing director for Samashima Family Farms Cait Bellamy, on a break from the endless restoration of her farmhouse, witnesses potentially-devastating vandalism at the farm. Car restoration hobbiest and real estate attorney Grayson Kendall finds himself intrigued by the happenings at the farm which seem to be related to his latest real estate development. He does some digging, unknowingly putting Cait and her beloved farmhouse in danger. Can they both learn trust each other and create something new out of the wreckage their pasts while trying to discover who wants to put the farm out of business?

To find out more about her books, her latest releases, and get free chapters sign up for her newsletter at www.JenniferVanderKlipp.com