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28 August 2014

Review and Giveaway: Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney

The first book in Deborah Raney's new Chicory Inn series, Home to Chicory Lane, introduces us to Audrey Whitman, a mother who has launched all her children into life and now looks forward to fulfilling some of her own dreams during her empty-nest years. However, not all of her children are ready to stay out of the nest quite yet.

Deborah is celebrating the release of her new series with a $200 B&B Weekend Getaway and a Facebook author chat party.


 One winner will receive:
  • A B&B Weekend Getaway (via a $200 Visa cash card)
  • Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 9th. Winner will be announced at the Home to Chicory Lane Author Chat Party on 9/9. Deborah will be hosting a heartfelt book chat, giving away prizes, and answering questions from readers. She will also share an exclusive sneak peek at the next book in the Chicory Inn series!

So grab your copy of Home to Chicory Lane and join Deborah on the evening of September 9th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 9th!

My Review

Romance fiction is a huge genre, and takes the reader through those early stages of a relationship and usually ends with an engagement or a wedding and the promise of happy-ever-after. But we all know that’s not the end. That’s only the beginning, and there’s more to marriage than roses and candlelit dinners. There’s life, and it’s not always happy. Home to Chicory Lane explores this from different perspectives, and it’s good to see fictional characters exploring real issues without it becoming angsty.

Audrey and Grant Whitman have spent the last year renovating their family home to turn it into a B&B, and it’s opening weekend. Landyn, the recently-married youngest of their five children, turns up on the doorstep needing a place to stay—she’s left her husband, Cory, because he made a major decision without consulting her—because he was sure God told him to do it.

My initial feelings towards Landyn were frustration. Yes, I could see what Cory had done wasn’t good, but immediately running home to Mommy and Daddy didn’t show Landyn in a good light. She came across as selfish and whiney (never attractive qualities), but this was the basis for her personal growth, both as an individual, as a Christian, and as part of a marriage. While I didn’t like her at first, I did by the end, and I could see how the youngest of five could be that way. Home to Chicory Lane did a good job of showing how she learned that there is more to a good marriage than, well, you know.

Cory was a good character. He never thought he was good enough, because of his family upbringing, so he had that to deal with, along with a flighty wife. His background meant he felt inferior to the Whitman family, and this came across in the way he interacted with Audrey and especially Grant. Meanwhile, Audrey and Grant had their own issues, with the financial stretch of starting a new business and Landyn’s unexpected arrival.

Home to Chicory Lane was a little confusing in the beginning, with Audrey, Grant, five children, spouses and grandchildren. But it soon settled into the main story: Landyn and Cory, and Audrey and Grant. It’s definitely a book written for the Christian market, as there is a central spiritual issue around Cory’s desire to be obedient to God despite Landyn’s uncertainty and frustration. There are a lot of lessons in here for newlyweds, and perhaps those with more established marriages. I'll be looking forward to future books in the series.

Thanks to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for providing a free
 ebook for review. You can find out more about Deborah Raney at her website

27 August 2014

CrossReads Book Blast with Anne-Rae Vasquez

By Anne-Rae Vasquez

About the Book:

Harry Doubt, a genius programmer and creator of the popular online game ‘Truth Seekers’, has a personal mission of his own; to find his mother who went mysteriously missing while volunteering on a peacekeeping mission in Palestine. His gaming friends and followers inadvertently join in helping him find her; believing that they are on missions to find out what has happened to their own missing loved ones. During Harry’s missions, Cristal and the team of ‘Truth Seekers’ stumble upon things that make them doubt the reality of their own lives. As they get closer to the truth, they realize that there are spiritual forces among them both good and evil, but in learning this, they activate a chain of events that start the beginning of the ‘end of the world’ as they know it.

Anne-Rae-Vasquez-500pixAnne-Rae Vasquez is currently writing "RESIST" book 2 of the Among Us Trilogy. Her latest novel Doubt, Book 1 of the Among Us Trilogy was released on November 9, 2013 at the Rain Dance Book Festival. Among Us Trilogy is a book series about a group of outcasts (online gamers) who band together to investigate who or what is behind the catastrophic events happening around the world.

Her previous novel, Almost a Turkish Soap Opera, was adapted into a screenplay and later produced into an award winning feature film and web series and was her directorial debut.

Aside from her artistic work, Anne-Rae is the creator/producer and host of Fiction Frenzy TV (, a VLog channel featuring indie artists and authors. She also freelances as a journalist for Digital Journal, an online magazine

Other works include: Gathering Dust – a collection of poems, Salha's Secrets to Middle Eastern Cooking Cookbook published by AR Publishing Inc. and Teach Yourself Great Web Design in a Week, published by (a division of Macmillan Publishing).

Follow Anne-Rae Vasquez

Enter to Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

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This book blast is hosted by Crossreads.

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

26 August 2014

Review: Integrate by Adele Jones

Fast-paced YA Suspense with a GMO twist

Blaine Colton isn’t the average seventeen-year-old boy. He spent the first fourteen years of his life in a wheelchair until Professor Ramer’s experimental gene therapy turned him into a normal Australian teen. But now he’s back at the Advance Research Institute, under the care of Dr Melissa Hartfield, and something’s not quite right …

Blaine isn’t sure what’s happening, but he knows he needs to escape the Institute, and keep out of the clutches of Dr Hartfield and her cronies. And he needs to get more pills, so he seeks help from his former next-door neighbour, Sophie Faraday. But Dr Hartfield has already contacted Sophie, who now doesn’t know who’s telling the truth: Blaine, or the doctor?

Integrate is a fast-paced psychological thriller set in Brisbane, Australia. The plot is excellent, with enough science to keep it interesting, but not so much that it dissolves into technobabble. I liked the way all the little bits tied up at the end, yet still leaves room for a sequel (I’d like to see more of Blaine, Sophie and Jett).

Blaine is mature for his age, having come through the disabilities he faced in childhood with a strong sense of self, and no desire to return to the person he used to be. He’s fighting for his life in a different way, and has to persuade Sophie and others that he’s not violent or deranged—a difficult task when he’s only partway through his cure and his physical health is failing.

The other characters are good as well. They all feel like real people, with a mixture of good and bad points. They make mistakes, judge things incorrectly, and get frustrating. Annoying, but just like real people in real life. All in all, Integrate is a good read. Recommended.

Thanks to Rhiza Press for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Adele Jones at her website, or by reading our interview.

25 August 2014

Author Inteview: Adele Jones

Today I'd like to welcome Australian author Adele Jones to Iola's Christian Reads. She's about to release her debut novel, Integrate, which I'll be reviewing tomorrow, and will also be releasing another novel later in September. Welcome, Adele!

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

I’m originally a farm girl from the Western-Downs of Queensland, but now live in Queensland’s largest inland city, Toowoomba. I love doing life on the mountain top and sharing it with a fabulous collection of friends and family (both local and further afield).

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

I write historical maritime romance and young adult fiction. Pretty well opposites when it comes to genres! My historical work is set in the nineteenth century in various locations (handy having your characters on a ship) and the YA is a modern story set in Brisbane, Australia.

Tell us about your latest books. Who will enjoy them?

I have two books about to be released. ‘A Devil’s Ransom’ is a historical maritime romance about Scottish shipmaster, Quinn MacKinnon, a man entangled in an illegal human-trafficking operation. The story begins when he and his men abduct an unintended hostage – a wealthy woman with strong ideals – which causes him all kinds of trouble and ultimately risks his life. This book has a theme of redemption and will appeal to adventure seeking readers who enjoy some romance in the mix. The release date is September 19 – International Talk like a Pirate Day!

Integrate is a fast-paced YA fiction about Blaine Colton, a young man whose life has been saved through revolutionary gene therapy. What should be the best time of his life turns into a nightmare when he’s told his treatment was unapproved, forcing him to remain within the Institute where his therapy was developed. When information he’s being told doesn’t quite add up, Blaine decides to take matters into his own hands and finds himself running against time as he seeks answers before his body fails completely. ‘Integrate’ is being released September 1st.

What was your motivation for writing Integrate?

Friends of ours had a young family member who was really sick. We’d known the family for a while, but I’d never asked specifically about the cause of the disease, so one day I did. My friend told me it was a genetic disorder called Mitochondrial Disease. With a background in science, I questioned what genes were affected and possible treatments, amongst other things. Essentially the answers kept coming back to, ‘It’s complicated.’ After doing some reading into the topic, I had to agree – it was very complicated!

I guess that’s when the idea for Integrate started percolating. (It rattled in my head for a number of years.) Medically there was little to be done, except let nature take its course. But what if science could ...?

Where did the characters and story come from? What were your influences?

When it came to writing an outline of the story, I explored numerous genetic disorders and possible treatments that could be developed in an ideal world. But I kept coming back to Mito. It really is complicated and I wanted to create an impossible genetic challenge then push out the bounds of currently attainable science.

The characters and scenarios are entirely fictional (except for the gorgeous blonde in the red VW convertible – she dared me to write her in :)), but as I constructed Blaine’s hypothetical condition based on various forms of the disease, I began to gain a better picture of the challenges our friends had faced. (Sadly the young man passed away a year before I wrote Integrate.) Mito could be full-on and although I knew the family were incredibly dedicated to providing the best care and quality of life possible, I glimpsed a small part of the bravery it takes for an individual and family to live with this disease at its most challenging.

Blaine has undergone genetic therapy. Can you explain this a bit? Is it completely fictional, or is there some basis in scientific fact?

Gene therapy is being increasingly explored for genetic disorders, with some positive advances being made. Basically the concept behind gene therapy is to introduce functional DNA into cells with damaged (i.e. mutated) DNA, enabling restoration of the cellular operation that has been disrupted. In the context of Mitochondrial Disease there has been some limited success, but the disease is complicated by many variations and combinations, and can affect either (or both) mitochondrial DNA and genomic DNA. For some individuals the actual mutation(s) can’t be identified. The theoretical methodology behind Blaine’s therapy is fictional but based loosely on actual approaches, then extrapolated within that fictionalised context. Some aspects are purposed specifically for the story.

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

I think Blaine is my favourite character, followed closely by Jett (Blaine’s ‘other’ best friend). I like that Blaine has a bit of attitude so I could indulge my inner adolescent, but at nearly eighteen he also has a kind heart, which you often find in people who have faced enormous personal challenges early in life.

What are you working on at the moment? What other books do you plan to write? Will we see a sequel to Integrate?

I’ve already written a draft sequel to Integrate, but need to get stuck into more research now. There are also several sequels to ‘A Devil’s Ransom’, but I say let’s get one book out at a time! Short works also keep me out of mischief if I’m ever lost for things to write (which is pretty well never!).

Thanks so much for having me as your guest today, Iola. It’s been fun exploring my writing projects with you. If any reader would like to find out more about me and my work, they can visit my website at

For purchasing details and general information about my novels, more information can be found on the publishers’ websites: (Integrate) and (A Devil’s Ransom).

20 August 2014

Review: Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering

A Must for Mystery Fans

Drew Farthering and Madeline Parker are looking forward to their wedding when their plans are interrupted by a visit from an old flame of Drew’s, and (inevitably) a body. Drew and Nick are persuaded to investigate the murder of a local actor, which annoys Madeline, because it’s taking Drew away from the wedding plans—and back into the sphere of his previous life.

The mark of a good mystery (at least in my opinion) is that there is a murder early in the plot (and I hope that doesn’t sound too macabre), that there are lots of clues around who could be the murderer, and that when the actual culprit is revealed, it’s both someone I didn’t expect, yet painfully obvious. Another murder or two only adds to the story.

Murder at the Mikado scored on all my points. I’m enjoying watching the ongoing development of the three main characters, and I appreciate the opportunity to revist Winchester, my favourite English town, through the eyes of Drew, Madeline and Nick. I had an early idea who the culprit might be, but soon found out I was dead wrong.

Murder at the Mikado is the third book in Juliana Dearing’s Drew Furthering series, and it’s just as good as the others, Rules of Murder and Death by the Book. It works as a stand-alone story, but it's best to read them in order to best understand the wider character relationships (because there are a lot of recurring characters). Perfect for those who enjoy old-fashioned British murder mysteries by the likes of Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Julianna Deering at her website.