29 August 2014

Friday Fifteen: Jenny Blake

Friday Fifteen: Fifteen books which have influenced your life or your writing. Today, a warm welcome to well-known Aussie book blogger Jenny Blake, who brings back some familiar names from my childhood!

Fifteen authors who have influenced me

Enid Blyton

One of my first Enid Blyton books was Mr Gilliano’s birthday and I loved the book and series, but my favourite was the Magic Faraway series. I just loved it and wanted to climb the tree.

Colin Theile

In grade six my teacher was reading Sun on the Stubble then February’s Dragon when Colin Theile visited our school to talk to the grade 7’s. When he heard that our class was reading his books he came and talked to us and read some of February’s Dragon to us. How exciting!

Margaret Davidson

Helen Keller’s teacher was one of the books that really touched me. Reading about Annie Sullivan and how she overcame her start in life to then teach Helen Keller. I read this book so many times.

Dorothy Canfield

I read Betsy and loved the story of an orphan who goes from living in the city with her great aunt and aunt to living with relatives in the country. I still own this book and its falling apart from being read so much.

Johanna Spyri

I loved Heidi and the whole series and loved reading these books. It was another series mum read as a child.

CS Lewis

After reading these books I tried to get my wardrobe to take me to Narnia. Didn't we all!

Dorothy McKay Martin

I read the Peggy series so many times as a teen. I loved those stories.

Mary Bruce Grant

Reading the books my mum read as a teen felt special and that they were set in Australia which is even better. Loved the books.

Agatha Christie

I just loved reading the mysteries and trying to work out what happened. Agreed! I never managed to get it right, but it always seemed so obvious after Miss Marple explained everything.

Janette Oke

Janette Oke rekindled my love for reading. I read When Calls the Heart, the first in the Canadian West series and fell in love with Canada, Mounties, and reading again. I certainly remember reading this, and falling more than a little in love with Wynn myself.

Gilbert Morris

What can I say? He is such a great writer—his Civil War series taught me so much about the Civil War and I love the way he weaves history into the story.

Cheryl Wyatt

What can I say—I fell in love with Cheryl’s books when she mentioned cricket in the first book. It bonded us after I wrote a letter to her about her book, how much I loved it and my love of cricket which she also has.

Virginia Smith

One of Virginia’s books had a secondary character who resonated so much with me and the way she wrote her I could see so much of my situation in it and it gave me hope.

Kaye Marshall Strom

I read Once Blind the story about John Newton and it really moved me and seeing his life and what it was to what it became really had an impact on me.

Jillian Hart

I just love Jillian’s books, and through them I have become great friends with her.

JENNY BLAKE (aka AusJenny) is an avid reader. When not reading she enjoys watching cricket, in fact you could call her a cricket fanatic, scrapbooking and jigsaws. She volunteers at the local Christian bookshop where she can recommend books to customers. Her book blog is where she reviews books and interview authors. Her goal is to help promote new books and encourage authors. Her blog is at Come Meet AusJenny, she is a co-founder of and contributor to Australasian Christian Writers, and she is also the co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance.

Would you like to contribute a Friday Fifteen? If so, email me via my contact page to set a date. Contributions are welcome from anyone—readers, reviewers and authors. It's an opportunity to share some of the authors (and books) which have influenced you, and to pick up some ideas for new authors to read. The rules are simple: 

Take fifteen minutes and write down the names of fifteen authors who have influenced your reading life (or your life in general). If you've got a little more time, write down a sentence or two for each, explaining why you've chosen that author. That's it!

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 (fictionfrenzy.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 Sams.net (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 www.adelejonesauthor.com.

For purchasing details and general information about my novels, more information can be found on the publishers’ websites: http://rhizapress.com.au (Integrate) and www.roseandcrownbooks.com (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.

19 August 2014

ARCBA Tour: Dynamic Ageing by Ray Hawkins

18th - 22nd August 2014
Dynamic Ageing
(Even Before 1 February 2014)


Ray Hawkins

About the Book

Discover how to make the ageing experience into an adventure. Join the Lord's plan for ageing dynamically. Understand why God's seniors are priceless. God's grace for dynamic ageing more than compensates for physical limitations. 

About the Author

Ray Hawkins, retired after over 40 years as a Churches of Christ minister, enjoys sharing themes from the Scriptures through Devotional writing. Married to Mary, multi-published inspirational romance author, they have three children and five grandchildren. Ray shares his insights in his first two books on Marriage and Children with more ideas to come about ministry and much more. Living in Beauty Point Tasmania Ray heads up a new Christian Fellowship as well as doing relief preaching, community work and writing.

18 August 2014

Review: The Doctor's Return by Narelle Atkins

Career ... or Love?

Megan Bradley returns to her home town of Snowgum Creek after years of travelling the world, working in seasonal resorts such as ski fields. Now she has a part-time job as a therapist at a local hospital, and hopes to establish a private practice in Snowgum Creek. This puts her back in contact with Dr Luke Morton, her high school sweetheart, the guy she left behind.

Luke is now the new Snowgum Creek GP, and is still searching for the woman to spend his life with. When he meets Megan again, the old attraction is still there, but he’s hesitant: is she here to stay, or will she leave again? Megan has her own lesson to learn before she can make the decision to stay in her home town: can she be happy in Snowgum Creek, or will she only be happy chasing her dreams in the city?

This is the third and final book in the Snowgum Creek series, following Falling for the Farmer and The Nurse's Perfect Match. While it does have characters (and a location) in common with the previous books, it is a standalone novel, and can be enjoyed without having read the earlier books. Readers were first introduced to Luke in The Nurse's Perfect Match, and I was one reader who was waiting for him to find his own perfect match.

I enjoyed The Doctor's Return, but (and this is going to sound odd) after meeting Luke in The Nurse's Perfect Match, I wanted his story, and it felt like this was more Megan’s story. Yes, that’s odd, because romance novels (especially short novels like Heartsong Presents) are almost always focused on the heroine not the hero—and I’ve criticised books in the past for having too much from the male viewpoint. But that didn’t stop me wanting to know more about Luke.

Having said all that, The Doctor's Return was an enjoyable and quick read, perfect for those who enjoy the shorter length of the Heartston Presents novels, or those who want to try a Christian novel that isn’t set in the United States.

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

15 August 2014

Review: Five Days in May by Ninie Hammon

Highly Recommended

Five Days in May starts with the end: the “Big Ugly”, a massive tornado that strikes the town of Graham, Oklahoma, in May 1963. It then goes back five days to show in detail the lives of the townspeople—and it’s typical of tornados that there is no warning. The reader knows what’s coming, but the characters are tied up in their everyday lives.

There are four main characters: Princess (Emily Prentice), who is due to be executed in five days for murdering her baby sister; Mac, the widowed preacher who’s lost his faith in God; Jonas, Mac’s father-in-law, who is caring for a wife with “old-timers” disease; and Joy, Mac’s teenage daughter, who has her own set of problems. There are also some fascinating yet disturbing minor characters, including Wanda and Jackson.

The characters are excellent, especially Princess, who has a distinct and engaging voice, and who “sees” things in a way that’s a cross between the movies Green Mile and Being John Malkovich. Joy is a typical teenager, so tied up in her own problems that she can’t see the wood for the trees. Mac is the typical father of a teenage daughter, in that he can’t relate to her and can barely hold a conversation with her (I could relate—Mac’s relationship with Joy had a lot of similarities to the relationship between my husband and my daughter).

The plot was complex, a tangled web of relationships. While I did guess one of the major plot points before it was revealed, that only added to the tension. Was I right? What would the characters think and say when they found out? I was right, but the reaction of one character in particular surprised me. Another behaved exactly true to character … but justice was served in the end, albeit not in the tidy way I perhaps expected.

There are ‘rules’ of writing which say authors should limit the number of viewpoint characters, and shouldn’t use omniscient point of view. Hammon ‘broke’ both rules in Five Days in May, yet in such a way that it didn’t detract from the story at all. Rather, it added considerably to the tension (especially given how unhinged some of these characters were …)

While Five Days in May isn’t specifically Christian fiction, there are strong Christian themes of love and sacrifice underpinning a story that is, quite simply, brilliant in both concept and execution. Recommended.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Ninie Hammon at her website, or check out our interview. And here's the book trailer:

14 August 2014

Author Interview: Ninie Hammon

Today I'd like to welcome Ninie Hammon to Iola's Christian Reads. Like me, Ninie is a member of the Mispronounced Names Sisterhood—her name is pronounced "nine-e", and you'll see her on various websites as "9e".

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

I grew up in Muleshoe, Texas. And no, I am NOT making that up. (You get points if you can come within 500 miles of locating Muleshoe, Texas on a map.) It is on the West Texas High Plains that my grandmother used to say were “so flat if your dog ran away you could see it for three days.”

Which of your books is your personal favourite, and why?

Agggh. That’s like asking which of my children is my favourite.

Perhaps Sudan…because it is so gut-wrenchingly true. Perhaps The Memory Closet…because it’s in first person and has so much ME in it. Perhaps Home Grown…because I ran the newspaper in the small town where the real events fictionalized in the book actually happened. Perhaps Five Days in May … because the book was “hijacked.” The thematic elements in it were not planned. Perhaps Black Sunshine…because I fell in love with Eastern Kentucky coal miners. Perhaps The Last Safe Place because it is my first true “thriller.” Perhaps the book that’ll be released this fall: When Butterflies Cry. It might just be my favourite because I always like the one I just completed best.

It’s said that authors should write the kind of book they like to read. What is your favourite genre? Who are your favourite authors?

My favourite genre is mystery, thrillers and suspense. Favourite authors are …duh!... Stephen King and Dean Koontz. They inspired me, but my work took a different trajectory. Unlike most of their books, the unexplainable (paranormal) elements in mine are forces for “good,” not evil.

What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it? Why/why not?

The last ten books I’ve read were marketing books. And no, I wouldn’t recommend any of them unless you absolutely MUST learn how to sell books. Which I did. Right now, I’m listening to the audio book of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo when I run and I’m enjoying it tremendously.

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

I write suspense—inspirational suspense and psychological suspense, thrillers and one (Sudan) action and adventure. My target audience is adults who like clean suspense fiction, who want values-based, right-and-wrong stories with exciting plots, believable characters, twists, turns and surprises. People who enjoy the unexplainable elements in Dean Koontz and Stephen King but are drawn to supernatural forces for good.
Taking the “write-what-you-know” advice, my books are set in small towns—in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kentucky.

Tell us about Five Days in May (which I'll be reviewing tomorrow). Is this all fiction, or are parts of the novel based on historical events?

Though several of my books were based on or at least inspired by real events, Five Days in May is pure fiction. I grew up in Tornado Alley, where we stood on the porch on spring afternoons and watched twisters drop out of the clouds onto the prairie. So the twister was the starting point and then “what if?” took over from there.

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

The characters and story came right out of the old noggin. Home Grown and The Memory Closet were based on my journalism days, Sudan came from a story in Christianity Today. But Five Days in May bloomed from “what if … a twister were about to hit a town where four people were already planning death in some other form that day?”

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

My favourite character is the death row inmate Princess! She bloomed so pure I could almost touch her. All I have in common with her is dialect—it’s one of my great strengths as a writer—and I could hear every word she said perfectly in my head as she spoke. During her meetings with the minister, I felt like I was not so much writing dialogue as transcribing a conversation.

You are a Christian but your books are aimed at the general market. What made you choose this rather than the Christian market?

I wrote three books before I finally figured out what I was called to write. The first ones were entertaining, moral, clean stories—though they were realistic and gritty! Then I wrote Five Days in May and I’ll always believe the Holy Spirit hijacked the book. I did not plan for it to become the allegory it did! I watched it unfold on the page in awe and wonder. The book was reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly by a totally secular reviewer—who quickly picked up on the Christian themes. But he DIDN’T CARE, wrote that even though I “beat readers over the head” with Christian allegory, the book was “a fine story of love and sacrifice that will hook readers to the end.” That’s when I knew what God had called me to do—to write books with Christian themes that are so engaging secular audiences are drawn in to hear the message.

How does your faith influence your writing? How would that be different if you were writing for the Christian market?

My writing is all about my faith. After the Holy Spirit “planted” the Christian theme in Five Days in May, my story development process changed. In the next three books, I selected a Christian theme first and then wrapped a story around it. In Black Sunshine, I wanted to write about the healing power of forgiveness. I wanted to explore the Prodigal Son and the older brother and the difference between Peter and Judas--who both betrayed Jesus. Peter sought forgiveness and was restored; Judas didn’t and died. All of that is told with the story of a coal mine disaster in Eastern Kentucky.

I wouldn’t write any differently if I were marketing to Christians. And I actually plan to turn some of my efforts there in the future because the Christians who’ve read my books have been very moved by them. I don’t enjoy in-your-face Christian fiction. I much prefer a more subtle approach and that’s how I write.

Have people suggested you should write for the Christian market? What is your reaction?

All my Christian friends have clamoured for years that I ought to market my books to Christians and, as I said, I do intend to do that in the future. But I will never write “for the Christian market.” I’ll be faithful to what God has called me to write.

You’ve recently regained the rights to your books and are now self-publishing. How is self-publishing different from working with a publisher? What made you choose the self-publishing option?

Self publishing is MASSIVELY different from working with a publisher because I get to make all the decisions. Working with a publisher, I spent all my time pushing a rope, trying to influence marketing decisions. Now, I don’t answer to anybody but myself. I will succeed or fail under my own steam and that’s the way I like it.

What’s next for you?

What’s next for me is marketing, marketing, marketing. Other indies write a book, market it, then write another and do the same. Their marketing activities have been spread out over the whole course of their writing careers. But since I purchased my book rights, I’ve had to play catch-up. Every marketing activity any indie publisher has to perform (prepping manuscripts, formatting, writing book descriptions, figuring out categories and keywords and launch strategies, etc) I don’t do just once.

I have to do everything SEVEN TIMES. Yes, it is totally overwhelming! I will be out of the country during July, but I will hit the ground at a dead run in August to get Five Days in May ready for launch. Then I’ll do the same for all the other books at 3 to 4-week intervals.

But I’m excited that after I start the book launches, I will get back to my WIP, The Knowing. I set aside my eighth book in February to work full time on designing a marketing plan for the other seven. The Knowing is the first book in my very first series! Writing a series is exciting and I’m itching to get to work on it again.

Five Days in May has just been granted a Mom’s Choice Award. Congratulations, Ninie!

If you'd like to find out more about Ninie and her books, please visit her website, where you'll find first chapters and links to Amazon (http://bit.ly/9eWebsite), or her YouTube channel, where there are eight videos in which she talks about each individual book, along with book trailers for four of the books (http://bit.ly/9eYouTube).

Here she is talking about Five Days in May:

Ninie, thank you so much for visiting today, and best wishes for the launch of Five Days in May!

12 August 2014

Review: The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall

Excellent Historical Debut

It is 1890, and Amaryllis Brigham is a talented musician, but a slanderous letter from the rich influential Bram Everstone ends her study at the Boston Conservatory of Music, and sends her to the home of her Aunt Claudine. Here she is reintroduced to her childhood friend, cousin Lawry Hampton, and his friends, Jay Crawford and Nathan Everstone … Bram’s son.

Amaryllis discovers she is a rich heiress, but she must marry in order to claim her inheritance. She has no desire to marry, yet the money would enable her to return home to her beloved Whidbey Island, Washington, and establish a music school. Logic would dictate that the handsome Jay would make the ideal husband, as he’s a preacher in search of a wife to accompany him to fulfil his call to preach in Washington. Yet Amarillys finds herself attracted to Nathan, the son of the man who has ruined her life in more ways than one.

The Hesitant Heiress is written in the first person, which is an unusual choice for a historical romance, but it works. So many of the characters are hiding secrets, and first person enables the reader to uncover those secrets slowly, and means they have the same element of surprise to us as they do to Amaryllis. I liked that, as it added to the suspense.

This story has it all—fascinating characters, secret love, obsession, suspense, loads of romantic tension, and a few rather fabulous kisses. I thoroughly enjoyed The Hesitant Heiress. The only thing I didn’t like was the teaser for the sequel, because now I’m going to have to wait months to find out what happens. Recommended for fans of historical romantic suspense from authors such as Colleen Coble.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Dawn Crandall at her website.

11 August 2014

Author Interview: Dawn Crandall

Today I'd like to welcome debut author Dawn Crandall. She has just released the first in The Everstone

Chronicles series, The Hesitant Heiress, which I will review tomorrow. Welcome, Dawn!

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

I’m not only having my first three books published in a series from Whitaker House this year… I also had my first baby in March! He wasn’t an oops-baby, but a baby my husband and I had been trying to have for seven years. I’ve always wanted to write a book ever since finding and falling in love with Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier when I was in high school. However, I don’t think I ever would have actually done it if it weren’t for the encouragement I received from my husband the moment he found out about my secret dream. I’m from northern Indiana and my husband is from Maine. We visit there ever summer, which is how I came to love it so much and wanted to write it into my books.

It’s said that authors should write the kind of book they like to read. What is your favourite genre? Who are your favourite authors?

My favorite genre is definitely historical romance, and in that genre, my favorite point of view is first person perspective… which is exactly what I write. The books that have always been my favorites have been Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Christy by Catherine Marshall and anything by Jane Austen. My favorite current authors are Julie Lessman, Jody Hedlund and Lori Benton.

What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it? Why/why not?

I haven’t read as much lately since I have a newborn to take care of, but the few books I have finished since having him was The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton. I loved it as much as I loved her debut last year, Burning Sky. They are beautifully written, and I still find myself sighing inwardly whenever I think of them.

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

I write historical love stories from the first person perspective of the heroine of each book. They are, first of all, love stories, but they also include some elements of suspense.

There are two distinct settings in The Hesitant Heiress (which takes place in 1890), the neighborhood of Back Bay in Boston, and then for the last half of the novel, a group of elaborate "cottages" (mansions, really) on Mount Desert Island where Acadia National Park is located.

Tell us about The Hesitant Heiress. Who will enjoy it?

After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy disappearing before her very eyes. Now the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: marry within the year to inherit her grandmother’s fortune. Amaryllis reluctantly takes part in her aunt’s society, intent on getting to the west coast on her own… and without a husband.

Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, whose father not only had a part in her expulsion, but whose ominous presence has haunted her dreams for a decade since her mother’s tragic death. Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been managing her life isn't who she thought at all.

Anyone looking for a complexly emotional love story with a bit of suspense thrown in will probably like this book. My favorite part of writing the way I do is creating the awesome tension between the hero and heroine, and scattering the pages with answers to questions which only create more questions to answer.

This is the first in a series. What can we expect in the subsequent books?

The second book in the series, The Bound Heart, comes out this November. It's about one of the minor characters, Meredyth Summercourt as she deals with her own issues a few months after the first book concludes. The prologue to this second book is previewed at the end of The Hesitant Heiress.

The third book, The Captive Imposter, is about Estella Everstone, the sister of the hero in The Hesitant Heiress. The readers will have seen and interacted with her in books one and two, but will finally have a chance to be in her head and understand where she’s coming from.

What was your motivation for writing The Hesitant Heiress?

I’d always wanted to write a novel reminiscent of old classical romantic suspense novels like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier—but I also wanted to tie in a very relevant spiritual thread. The heroine of The Hesitant Heiress, Amaryllis Brigham, thinks she knows what she wants, as well as how she will achieve it.

I usually take a spiritual lesson I've learned in my own life to infuse into the lives of my heroines. I love taking them from the beginning of their journey to the end, getting to know them so intricately along the way. As I'm writing a book I already know the end and what kind of freedom my heroine is looking for—I think it's so fun to witness her transformation throughout the book.

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

Not a hard question to answer. :) It's Amaryllis Brigham, of course. Even though I really wasn't doing anything toward writing in college, I did have a few of my main characters named. Amaryllis has been with me for so long, even if she was buried in the document files on two different laptops before I ever had the guts to bring her out and actually write her story.

Honestly, there is a lot of me in Amaryllis Brigham. When I started my second book in the series (before I had my agent), it was just for fun as well, and also to prove to myself that I could write another character from first person POV that didn't sound just like Amaryllis. I ended up with a character so opposite of me, it was quite interesting to write.

What made you choose to write for the Christian market?

Even before I started writing I knew that I would someday write a novel about the spiritual journey of a girl named Amaryllis Brigham. It was what God had laid on my heart while I was in college. There is just too much of God working in the lives of these characters to be considered anything but inspirational fiction.

What do you see as the main differences between fiction written for the Christian market compared with the general market?

I hardly read books from the general market—they’re so totally different than books written for the Christian market. I don’t love all Christian fiction, but I love the stuff written with honesty and a passion for glorifying God in the lives of the characters within their pages.

Do your novels have an overt faith element?

I believe they do. I don’t include preaching or salvations scenes in my books. My heroines are already Christians, but like every Christian, they always need to learn new things and grow in their faith. I start out writing each book by figuring out what exactly it is that my heroine needs to learn, what kind of freedom she might need to attain… and (totally unrelated) why the hero is the perfect person for her. :)

What kind of support does your publisher give you? What are you expected to do yourself?

Whitaker House has a publicist who has been very helpful to me. I know what kinds of things she has planned, but I also wanted to do more. That’s why we have The Hesitant Heiress Blog Tour going on until the end of August, which includes lots of interviews and book reviews, as well as a ton of prizes, including a Kindle Fire as the grand prize.

What is the hardest part of getting a book written, edited and published?

Because I started writing my book for fun, I didn’t have the pressure of “what the industry wants” breathing down my back, and because I signed with my literary agent before The Hesitant Heiress was technically finished, those things were not a difficult in my particular experience. What was hard was waiting for the one and only proposal I had to make its rounds to the publishing houses. There were many (MANY) times I thought the book wouldn’t find a publisher. That was hard, because I didn’t have anything else I felt led to do. I didn’t have any children (at the time—I had my first baby in March!), my degree from Taylor University was very vague, and I felt that writing books was the one thing I did best. If I wasn’t able to find a publisher for “Amaryllis Brigham,” I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself.

What advice do you have for someone seeking to write and publish a novel?

Write what you love to read, no matter how it has to come out. Don't dwell for too long on all of the "rules". Personally, I like to read—and usually, end up enjoying immensely—the books that come out of nowhere and take me on a journey so opposite of "what's done" and what is supposed to work to get a book contract. Write an amazing book. Readers want books that make them forget there are rules.

About Dawn Crandall

A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming traditionally published, he encouraged her to quit working in order to focus on writing The Hesitant Heiress. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary.

Apart from writing books, Dawn is also a first-time mom to a precious little boy (born March 2014) and also serves with her husband in a pre-marriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter.

The Everstone Chronicles is Dawn’s first series with Whitaker House. All three books composing the series were semifinalists in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Writing Contest, the third book going on to become a finalist in 2013.

You can connect with Dawn on Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, Twitter, on her Book Review Blog or via email. She also has an Amazon Author Page. If you'd like to read the opening chapter of The Hesitant Heiress, visit http://whpub.whitakerhouse.com/dawncrandall/heiress.html.

8 August 2014

ARCBA Blog Tour: A Jane Austen Encounter by Donna Fletcher Crow

4th - 8th August 2014
A Jane Austen Encounter

(Stone House Ink February 2014)


Donna Fletcher Crow

About the Book

Join Elizabeth and Richard on the Jane Austen trail. Visit all the sites so redolent of Jane and her characters in the beautiful city of Bath, stay in the Chawton House Library and visit the charming cottage where Jane's writing flowered and the nearby Steventon church where her father was rector and her own faith established, stand by her grave in Winchester Cathedral, and enjoy your time at the lovely country estate of Godmersham. But don't let your guard down. Evil lurks even in the genteel world of Jane Austen.

About the Author

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 43 books, mostly novels of British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave, A Darkly Hidden Truth and An Unholy Communion as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the literary suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener. 
To read more about all of Donna's books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to: http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/ You can follow her on Facebook at: http://ning.it/OHi0MY

7 August 2014

Review: With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden has done it again

Elizabeth Camden is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. She’s won well-deserved RITA and Christy awards with her previous novels, and she just keeps getting better.

Kate Norton lost her chance to go to college in 1879 when Trevor McDonough won the scholarship they were both competing for. She has worked as a statistician at the census bureau since then, but is now offered a new opportunity working for Dr T M Kendall at Washington Memorial Hospital, analysing data and predicting trends in health. She is shocked to find Dr Kendall is her high school nemesis, but soon finds there is more to him than she knew.

Trevor is attempting to find a cure for tuberculosis, an infectious and misunderstood disease. He’s convinced that rest, good diet and sunshine are key, but a series of malicious newspaper articles bring the project under scrutiny, and he and Kate have to work together.

I thought everything about With Every Breath was excellent—the characters (especially the brilliant but socially awkward Trevor), the plot, and especially the writing, which was a masterful exercise in restraint in the way so much was happening beneath the text. With Every Breath is Christian fiction, although the faith elements are understated.

The information around tuberculosis gate a poignant and bittersweet note to With Every Breath, because I knew Dr Kendall wasn’t going to discover the cure. My great-grandfather, a postman, died of pulmonary tuberculosis and exhaustion on Christmas Day 1925, and Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers (and based on her family history) featured a character suffering from the disease in the early 1950’s. Reading this made me thankful for the men and women like Kate and Trevor who have dedicated their lives to finding cures for horrible diseases over the years. Recommended.

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

6 August 2014

New Releases: August 2014

It's a new month, which means the fabulous Ellie Whyte has another New Releases post up at Soul Inspirationz, and offering another bumper load of book giveaways! Enter at her website.


I'll be reviewing several of these books, including With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden, and The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall (both excellent!).

5 August 2014

Review: Out of Hiding by Rachel Dylan

Enjoyable Debut

Sadie Lane is a private investigator with a mission: to bring down the man who gunned down her parents when she was eight, and left her an orphan in the Witness Protection scheme—and with an abiding distrust of the FBI, who she sees as failing her family. Enter FBI agent Kip Moore, who she is forced to work with—and who might just change her mind. They are both on the trail of the same man, and the race is on to find a missing girl before they are exposed.

I’m a long-standing fan of romantic suspense, but haven’t always been impressed with the offerings from Love Inspired Suspense. I can see they are written to a definite structure (surely it’s not coincidence that they all have ten chapters?), and this can work against them. Not so with Out of Hiding. It started with a blast (well, actually with a gunshot), and the pace didn’t let up as it moved from Texas to Mexico, and then to the one place Sadie had promised never to go.

I liked both the lead characters—always important in a romance. It took a long time for each of them to get over their initial distrust, but the ending was worth the wait. My one grouch is that in the first portion, Sadie in particular was so busy being suspicious of Kip that she missed the obvious link between their cases (and so did he). They got there, and the story continued it’s fast pace, and managed to surprise me with an unexpected plot twist more than once. An enjoyable first novel, and I’ll look forward to reading more from Rachel Dylan.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Rachel Dylan at her website.

4 August 2014

Author Interview: Rachel Dylan

Today I'd like to welcome American author Rachel Dylan. Her debut novel, Out of Hiding, has recently been released by Love Inspired Suspense (very good—I'll be reviewing it tomorrow). Welcome, Rachel.

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

I write inspirational romantic suspense. I live in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and five furry pets. I was born in Georgia, but have lived in a few different states. I enjoy the warm weather in Atlanta though!

What motivated you to start writing?

I actually started writing at a very young age. When I was in elementary school, I wrote some short stories, and I loved to write poetry. It wasn’t until the past few years that I wrote my first novel.

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

I write contemporary romantic suspense. My stories usually have law enforcement/military type characters. So far the stories I’m working on are set in the United States in various cities, but I’d like to write a story that has international elements soon.

Tell us about Out of Hiding. Who will enjoy it?

Out of Hiding is about a private investigator named Sadie Lane and FBI agent Kip Moore. Sadie comes face to face with the man who murdered her parents—who is now running an organized crime network. I think those people who enjoy suspense novels with twists and turns and a sweet romance will enjoy it.

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

You know, I really don’t know where any of my characters come from. It’s just part of having an active imagination and a healthy dose of creativity. While I’m influenced by other books I read, I try to bring my own self and journey into everything I write.

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

This is a tough one! My heroine Sadie Lane is probably my favourite. She struggles on a difficult journey in the story. Trying to get past the death of her parents and trying to manage the feelings of revenge she has toward the man that killed them. Sadie and I don’t have a lot of commonalities except our faith and our commitment to our careers.

I see on your website you have shots of your pets (furkids), and your characters also have pets. Is this a coincidence? Are they actually your pets?

I love adding animals to each story. I did name the animals in this book after my own because I love the names so much :) My furkids are very special to me, and I love supporting animal rescue organizations.

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

I am currently working on a story about a forensic sketch artist and U.S. Marshal. I have tons of ideas for other books, it’s just a matter of finding the time to fit it all in.

There is a view that Christians shouldn’t write novels: they should write non-fiction, because this is truth while fiction, made up stories, are lies. What is your opinion of this?

I don’t agree with that opinion. I think my creativity is a gift from God, and I embrace it.

What made you choose to write for the Christian market?

I saw that Love Inspired Suspense was having a writing contest. I had always thought about trying to write a Christian romance novel, so I decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did!

What do you see as the main differences between fiction written for the Christian market compared with the general market?

I think the main difference is that there is a certain content expectation for the Christian market regarding the level of romance, language, behaviour etc.

Why have you chosen to write category romance? Do you think you will stick with category, or will you move into full-length novels?

For now, I’m focused on category because I’d like to really get a few of those published first. But I would be interested in branching out to full-length novels.

People often criticise romance novels (and especially category romance) for being formulaic. Is there a formula? Does this make it easier or harder to write a novel that is accepted for publication?

I wouldn’t say it’s a formula so much as an expectation that the story will have certain elements. Readers of category romance are very loyal and they know what they like. Therefore, the book needs to fall into those parameters. For a new author, it does take some time to make sure your story fits into the line you are writing for (in my case Love Inspired Suspense). Reading other books in the line helps with that.

What has been the hardest part of getting a book written, edited and published?

I think the waiting! The publishing journey in general is a lesson in patience. I’ve learned that while you’re waiting to hear about one book, it’s best to start writing the next one.

What advice do you have for someone seeking to write and publish a novel?

Write, write, write. And read, read, read. I believe hard work and dedication are also key ingredients to becoming a published author.

You can find me at www.racheldylan.com or email me at racheldylanauthor@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from readers. I’m also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RachelDylanAuthor and Twitter @dylan_rachel

Out of Hiding is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Christian Book.

Thank you, Rachel, for joining us today, and best wishes for the success of Out of Hiding.

2 August 2014

Review: When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren


When I Fall in Love is the third book in Susan May Warren’s Christiansen series, following Take a Chance on Me (2014 Christy Award winner) and It Had to Be You. When I Fall in Love is about daughter Grace, who wants to be a chef. It’s set partially in Deep Haven, so there are some mentions of characters from the Deep Haven series. But it’s also partly set in beautiful Hawaii, where Grace participates in a cooking contest with hunky hockey player Max Sharpe. Hawaii and food. What’s not to love?

Despite the title, When I Fall in Love wasn’t the standard lightweight romance (Susan May Warren novels never are). There are family complications in the relationship between Max and Grace, one of whom is Owen, Grace’s younger brother, who used to play on the same pro hockey team as Max. The other complication is Max, who has decided never to marry because of his family history. There’s also a subplot featuring Raina Beaumont (Liza’s niece, from Happily Ever After), and this looks as though it’s setting up the next novel in the series.

I’ve read a few foodie novels over the last few months, including A Table by the Window, While Love Stirs, and Stones for Bread. They’ve all been excellent, as is When I Fall in Love. Is there some kind of subliminal message there? I even highlighted her sauce recipe: brown sugar, molasses, honey (that’s three kinds of sugar. It sounds good already), Worcestershire sauce, mustard, liquid smoke, salt and pepper. Yum. It’s not exactly barbecue season here in New Zealand, but I’ll have to try this sometime.

However, it’s not the food that most impresses me about Susan May Warren’s writing. It’s the way she manages to seamlessly integrate solid Christian principles into her novels without ever sounding preachy. In When I Fall in Love, it’s Grace who has the spiritual lesson to learn, a lesson about abiding in Jesus and not just following Him. It’s a lesson we can all benefit from. Recommended.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Susan May Warren at her website. Susan May Warren has a giveaway to celebrate the release of When I Fall in Love. To enter, either click on the giveaway button to the right, or visit yesterday's giveaway post.