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30 October 2014

Review and Giveaway: The Promise by Beth Wiseman

In a daring new novel, Beth Wiseman jumps way outside the box. The Promise will take readers far away from Amish country and small Texas towns to a dangerous place on the other side of the world. Inspired by actual events, this is the book Beth has been working toward for a long time.


Curious? Click here to read the reviews, and be sure to enter Beth's Kindle HDX giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Promise by Beth Wiseman
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 9th. Winner will be announced November 10th here.


My Review

When seventeen-year-old Mallory wasn’t allowed to donate the kidney that would have saved her cousin’s life, she made a promise to herself that one day she would do it. She would save a life. Twelve years later, she has another opportunity, but her parents aren’t going to like this one either, because it involves a trip to Pakistan and a sick teen. And her long-term boyfriend, Tate, isn’t happy either.

I quickly discovered Mallory is my least-favourite kind of fictional heroine: noble, academically bright but na├»ve, with little understanding of life outside her first-world bubble. She shows herself to be easily led--in the wrong direction--as she makes a vital decision based on some basic internet research, and has no idea what she’s letting herself in for. I hoped I’d be wrong about the way the story would progress, but I wasn’t (although it could have been worse. It usually is, based on the stories I used to read in the London newspapers when I lived there).

However, I really liked Tate. There was a nobility and intelligence about him that Mallory lacked, but he still had two major faults, one being Mallory. My dislike of her aside, Tate is a committed Catholic who attends Mass and believes Jesus is the only way to God. Mallory has no personal faith, and has never read the Bible, yet is happy to start reading the Quran—so why is Tate in a relationship with her? The second fault is that he cries. A lot. I guess that as a music teacher she’s supposed to be the sensitive new age (?) guy, the metrosexual who is in touch with his feelings. Maybe. But it came across as girly (note: this isn’t intended to be a sexist comment. I get equally annoyed by fictional women who cry all the time).

I can imagine a lot of people are going to rave about this novel. It’s based on real-life events the author was personally involved in—but I didn't find that out to the end. Maybe I'd have been able to feel more sympathy for Mallory if I'd known.

The writing is solid (not spectacular, but solid), it’s touching on subjects and issues not usually seen in Christian fiction, and it certainly inspired emotion in my as I read. The first half of the book was a real struggle as I kept hoping Mallory would come to her senses (and knowing she wouldn’t). The second half was a lot better, with a lot more action and suspense, but overall, I found the novel a frustrating read.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. To find out more, visit Beth Wiseman's page at Litfuse Publicity, or her website.

28 October 2014

Review: Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

Excellent Foodie Fiction

Elizabeth is the head chef at Feast, a chic New York restaurant. But she’s losing her touch, and when her boss brings in a celebrity chef/marketing expert to restore Feast’s reputation, Elizabeth decides it’s time for a break. She heads to Seattle, Washington, to a home and a father she’s barely seen since she left sixteen years ago. And she heads to an older sister who’s undergoing treatment for breast cancer, the same cancer that killed their mother during Lizzie’s senior year in high school.

Katherine Reay’s debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, was nominated for a Christy Award, nominated for two Carol Awards, and won the 2014 INSPY Award for a Debut novel. I read it, and while I thought the writing and characterisation was excellent, I did wish Reay had written an original story (Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary retelling of the Jean Webster classic, Daddy Long Legs).

Like Dear Mr. KnightleyLizzy & Jane has links to Austen, in that sisters Jane and Elizabeth are named for the heroines of their mother’s favourite novel. Unlike Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy and Jane is a fresh story, not a retelling of a classic (or if it is, the retelling is unobtrusive enough that I couldn’t see what was coming in the way I did with Dear Mr. Knightley. As a result, I enjoyed it a lot more. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy Dear Mr. Knightley, more that I always found the ending of Daddy Long Legs a little contrived, and the ending of Dear Mr. Knightley was even more so.

Lizzy & Jane was different, in a good way. It had all the strong writing and characterisation of Dear Mr. Knightley, with the added bonus of an original and compelling plot. Elizabeth has some deep-seated resentment towards Jane, who was never around while their mother was dying. While Elizabeth is in Seattle helping Jane face her health crisis, Elizabeth is also facing her own personal crisis, a crisis of identity and self-belief around her cooking. It’s the one thing she’s always excelled at, yet even that talent seems to be failing her.

There are touches of romance and an underlying Christian theme, but Lizzy & Jane is very much women’s fiction, Lizzy’s story of personal, professional (and spiritual) rediscovery. Recommended.

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

27 October 2014

Author Interview: Rosie Somers

Today I'm interviewing YA author Rosie Somers. Rosie lives in Florida, soaking up year round sunshine (hey, that's like New Zealand and Australia!). She can often be found in her favourite spot on her favourite beach, nose-deep in a good book.

First, please you tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? 

I’m from Florida. I’m not a native (wasn’t born here), by I’ve lived here most of my life, so I sometimes forget I wasn’t born here. I’m a wife and homeschooling mother, and I have a habit of bringing home stray animals. My life is pretty busy, so I find relaxation in books, both reading them and writing them.

It’s said that authors should write the kind of book they like to read. What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it? Why/why not? 

The last book I tried to read was a YA sci-fi that turned out to be not at all my cup of tea, just a few pages in. I didn’t even finish chapter one though, so I’m not sure that counts. I’m currently reading Ted Dekker’s The Bride Collector. If you like darker content that highlights the struggle between good and evil, I’d definitely recommend it.

What kind of books do you write? Where and when are they set?

I mostly write YA, and it’s typically in a contemporary setting. I think there’s something so unique about the whole experience of those years as teens are on the cusp of adulthood. It’s real and raw and so emotional.

Where did the idea of a story about the Seven Cardinal Sins come from? What were your influences?

I hadn’t really spent much time thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins, but one day I started thinking about what it would be like if there were real, tangible deadly sins. Then I started thinking about what that would be like; would people be tasked with protecting them? What would the sins look like? What would they do? Even though, my beliefs are grounded in Christianity, I borrowed a lot of my deadly sins inspiration from the Catholic belief system. And Pride was born.

The steward of Lust exudes Lust, but I didn’t feel Gabby epitomised Pride in the same way—she seemed a lot more self-effacing than prideful. Was this intentional? (Pride, to me, is epitomised by Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy.)

Actually, I’m glad you picked up on that. From a theological (mostly Catholic) standpoint, the Cardinal Sins are said to be sort of… counteracted, or overcome by the Seven Heavenly Virtues. Since the stewards are supposed to control the sins, keeping them from affecting innocent people, I thought their characters should reflect the virtues which directly oppose their assigned sin. Humility correlates as the antithesis of Pride. The reason Jason exudes Lust when Gabby meets him, isn’t so much a statement about his character, but more a statement about how others are affected by his sin.

What was your motivation for writing Pride?

Mostly it was getting the story bug out of my brain and onto the paper. The idea kept crawling around in my head, demanding my attention. So I wrote it down.

Pride is one of the Seven Cardinal Sins. Does that mean it’s the start of a series? What book is next, and when will it be released?

It is the start of a series. Currently there are a total of eight books planned, one for each of the Seven Deadly Sins, and a bonus book to tie it all together. Wrath and Envy are next and are scheduled for publication Fall 2015 and early Spring 2016.

Who is your favourite character in Pride and why? Do you have anything in common with him/her?

I have a couple of favorites, each for their own reasons, but I think teenage Rosie would have identified most with Grant. I marched to my own beat, existed outside the box, felt deeply, and wasn’t really the best communicator. Oh, and I’m sure at some point, I probably had green hair. :)

Pride is obviously based on a religious concept, but neither Gabby nor the other characters come across as overly Christian. Are you aiming Pride at the Christian or the general market?

My intention from the beginning was just to tell a story of working toward something greater than yourself, of learning to love the kind of love that would make someone risk her life for someone she cares about, the way Christ loves. It was meant to be inspirational and growth-provoking without being overtly “preachy”. The faith element will probably grow throughout the series as it will become more crucial to the overall story arc.

How does your faith influence your writing?

I think it makes me consider my choices more. It definitely affects the direction of my plot lines. Even when my characters go to some dark and worldly emotional places, I try to end everything with at least a tidbit of inspiration, whether it be a message of redemption and healing, or an implied message of learning selfless love. I like to try to mirror real life, showing that yes, ugly happens, but it gets better.

What are you working on at the moment? What other books do you plan to write?

I’m working on more of the Temptations series, of course. I’m also working on a standalone, allegorical YA dystopian, and a contemporary YA suspense is in the pipeline right behind that. All have an inherent message of faith sewn in.

Thanks, Rosie!

You can find out more about Rosie via:


I have already reviewed Pride, and you can find my review here. You can also see the book trailer:

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Book Links:

24 October 2014

Veil of Secrets by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel

Out of the Christian Rut

Publisher’s Description

Melanie and Will Connors are the perfect power couple. Will is the chief campaign strategist for a rising presidential candidate; Melanie is a prominent advocate for protecting children in an over-sexualized culture. Their devotion to one another is admired, even envied.

But their marriage isn’t what it appears to be.

Will maintains an apartment in Washington, DC, and over the years his visits home have grown fewer and farther between. The long-distance marriage has enabled Melanie to avoid intimacy—and has only increased her shame about her secretive past. But then Will issues an ultimatum: We work on the marriage . . . or we work on the divorce.

The Connors commit to marriage counseling in the most brutal of environments—snowy New Hampshire, a tiny state that is first in the nation for presidential primaries and a prize to be won at any cost . . . and the price of victory keeps rising.

As Melanie sifts through the debris of her past, she obsesses over the fear that she hasn’t done enough to protect her teenage daughter. When Melanie sees her facing some of the same temptations, she knows she must intervene . . . but how can a woman with so many veiled secrets guide a
daughter honestly?

While the country struggles with threats to its integrity and security, Melanie can no longer ignore the dangers looming in her own world. She can never undo the mistakes of her youth, but perhaps she can still save her marriage and family—if she can surrender her guilt and learn to open herself to her husband once again.

My Review

There is a sameness about a lot of Christian novels. The characters are “good” Christians, whose main faults are emotional, not physical. Veil of Secrets is different. To be blunt, it’s about sex (not that there are any sex scenes. It’s more about the consequences of bad decisions around sex). These are characters who live in the real world, where otherwise intelligent people still sometimes do stupid things, and then have to work out how to live with the consequences. I liked that. Not that the characters did dumb things, but that the authors showed a realness not often seen in novels from Christian publishers.

Veil of Secrets was a more complex book than most I read. There were a lot of characters, and it probably took longer than it should have for me to work out who was related to whom and how. This might have been a bit easier if I’d read the first book in the series (To Know You), but reading the first book isn’t necessary for the story—Veil of Secrets can be read as a standalone novel.

The other layer of complexity in Veil of Secrets was the plot. As well as the obvious political background of the beginning of a presidential campaign, there was the issues plots: the “good Christian” career woman who finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand, and the broken marriage of a Christian couple. Shannon Ethridge has an extensive background in ministry around healthy sexuality and spirituality, and this comes through in the counselling scenes.

Recommended for mature audiences (meaning that a lot of Christian fiction appeals to a wide age group, from teens to grandparents. This won’t. The target reader is probably people like me: young professionals, married women, or parents of teens).

Thanks to BookLookBloggers and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Shannon Ethridge at her website, and more about Kathryn Mackel at her website.

23 October 2014

I'm reviewing Every Tear a Memory by Myra Johnson at ACW

Lovely Historical Romance

Every Tear a Memory is the third book in Myra Johnson’s Till We Meet Again series, and I hope it won’t be the last. It follows When the Clouds Roll By and Whisper Goodbye, and is also set in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We get the opportunity to catch up with the characters in the previous books, but Every Tear a Memory can easily be read as a standalone novel.

To read my full review, please visit Australasian Christian Writers.

You can find out more about Myra Johnson at her website, or visit Seekerville, where she is a contributing blogger.