30 September 2014

Review: Between Us Girls by Sally John

Good Points and Not-so-good

Waitress Jasmyn Albright lives in the tiny town of Valley Oaks, Illinois, in the same house her mother and grandmother lived in. She’s stuck in a rut and knows it, until a catastrophe forces her to makes some life changes—one of which is a vacation in sunny San Diego. But even that doesn’t go according to plan, and she finds herself in the care of Liz, and a temporary resident of the Casa de Vida Cottages, just a few block from the beach.

There were parts of Between Us Girls. I liked, especially the slightly offbeat character of Liz, the intelligent yet shy engineer Samantha, the mysterious Keagan, and Beau, the gentle giant. I also liked the way both Jasmyn and Samantha were able to better come to terms with their family backgrounds, and to begin to develop relationships with God.

But there were things which detracted from my enjoyment, like the way the beginning was rally providing background rather than getting into the story, the way the story moved from Illinois to San Diego with no warning, and the list of residents at the Casa de Vida Cottages—there were a lot of characters to keep straight, and I got lost more than once. I also wasn’t especially keen on Jasmyn. I didn’t know why she’d stayed in Valley Oaks all those years when she said she never fitted in there. I understood why she left (and why she loved San Diego—who wouldn’t), but if she was that unhappy, why hadn’t she left years earlier?

I’m in two minds about Between Us Girls
. The writing was excellent, there was a solid underlying Christian message, and I loved the San Diego setting, but overall I felt it took too long to get going, it was too easy to put down, and the complexities of multiple character relationships made it hard to pick back up again. I can usually finish a novel in a day, or two at the most, but this took me a week.

I’d be interested in knowing what happens next for Jasmyn, Sam and the other Casa de Vida residents, but next time I’d like it to get straight into the story rather than having the first few chapters feel like an extended prologue.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Sally John at her website.

29 September 2014

Review: The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron


The Butterfly and the Violin takes place in two timelines: the present, in which Manhattan art gallery owner Sera James is searching for the original of an enigmatic painting she saw when she was just eight years old. Her search leads her to William Hanover, the almost–heir to a $100m estate, who has a copy of the painting and is also searching form the original. The past is the story of Adele Von Bron, the beautiful Aryan daughter of a high-ranking member of the Third Reich and solo violinist with the Vienna Philharmonic.

I’ve read novels with two timelines before, and there is often the temptation to skip one of the stories in favour of the stronger one. There was no such temptation with The Butterfly and the Violin, as both stories were equally compelling. It’s soon obvious that the painting is of Adele, and that the past story is going to solve the mystery of the present, and the present story is going to reveal the secrets of the past.

Adele’s story was made even more compelling by the fact that it didn’t move strictly forward in time. First we were in 1942, then 1939 … it jumped around (which did mean I had to pay close attention to the dates at the beginning of the Adele chapters). Hers was a story of love, sacrifice, and hardship almost beyond enduring. The present story of Sera and William might have seemed weak in comparison, except that it was so closely linked with the past story, and it worked.

There were a couple of writing glitches (although I was reading an advance ecopy, so these might not be in the final book), but it’s a testament to the strength of the characters and the dual plot that I barely noticed them. A huge amount of research has gone into writing The Butterfly and the Violin, and while the level of detail (often unpleasant) made this obvious, it was never overwhelming, it was always relevant, and nothing felt out of place (which I sometimes find in historical novels. Some authors try too hard to incorporate everything, to the detriment of the story).

Basically, I thought this was one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I’ll be on the lookout for more books by Kristy Cambron. Recommended, especially for those who enjoyed Saving Amiele by Cathy Gohlke or other good World War novels.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

26 September 2014

Cover Reveal: Dangerous Love by Kara Leigh Miller and Jody Holford

Dangerous Love banner


by Kara Leigh Miller and Jody Holford

Anaiah Press is proud to present the cover of a romantic suspence novel by Kara Leigh Miller and Jody Holford

Dangerous Love!
Release date: March 3, 2015

About the book:
He’s fighting to forget his past while she struggles to remember hers...
Doctor Josh Parker lives with guilt about his wife’s death every day.
He believes himself incapable of ever loving again, but when a
mysterious woman arrives in the Emergency Room, brutally beaten and
left for dead, he starts to feel something he hasn’t felt in far too long:
Alessandra Matthews has no memory of the events that led to her being
hospitalized. Worse, she has no idea who hurt her or why. Although she’s
uncertain of who she is, she is fully aware of one thing -- she’s falling
for her doctor.
Sometimes, what you don’t know can kill you...
As Josh and Alessa work to solve the mystery surrounding her past, she
soon realizes just how much danger she’s really in, but Josh refuses to
let her face the darkness of her memories alone. With each of them
struggling to put their pasts behind them, theirs is a DANGEROUS LOVE.

And here's what we've all been waiting for – the cover!

Dangerous Love 1600x2400
Add Dangerous Love on Goodreads!

About the Authors:

Kara Leigh Miller

Kara lives in Upstate New York with her husband, three kids, three dogs, and three cats. When she's not busy writing romance novels that leave readers swooning, she's spending time with her family or attending one of her many writers groups. An active member of The Romance Writers of America and the CNY Writers Haven, Kara is also Managing Editor for Anaiah Press' Surge and Romance Imprints. She absolutely loves to hear from her fans and fellow authors, so feel free to drop her a line anytime!
Website     Twitter      Goodreads     Facebook

Jody Holford

Jody lives in British Columbia with her husband and two daughters. She is a fan of Nora Roberts, Jill Shalvis, Rachel Gibson, and Rainbow Rowell. In reading and writing, she likes characters who are flawed, but driven toward the pursuit of love and happiness. In November 2013, she published A Not So Lonely Christmas with Foreward Literary. In December 2014, she published Forever Christmas through Kindle Direct.

Website     Twitter      Goodreads     Facebook

25 September 2014

Review: Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund

Excellent Historical Detail

Angelique Mackenzie lives on remote Michilimacinac Island, Michigan Territory, in 1814. The island is occupied by the British, and all the loyal American men have left, including her fiancé, Jean Durant, but not her cruel step-father. With Spring comes the return of Jean’s handsome and adventurous older brother, Pierre … who Angelique had feelings for even as a young girl.

I don’t know what I think about Captured By Love. The writing was good, the research was excellent and I got a real feeling of time and place, but something didn’t work for me.

I didn’t like the love triangle. It’s not that I’m against the concept of a love triangle as a plot device, but this felt too contrived (especially as one character kept returning as if from the dead). Perhaps it was because I didn’t like the choice Angelique had to make: honour, or love (and I couldn’t help but think that it was never a choice she should have had to make).

I didn’t like Ebenezer. There was nothing redeeming about his character. It could be said that at least he financially supported his step-daughter, but I’m sure he more than recouped that with the bride–price he extracted. And none of the other characters felt real. It was as though they all existed merely to propel Angelique’s story along.

The Christian elements were a strange combination of not enough and too much. Not enough, because I never got the impression Angelique had any great (or even small) faith in God. Too much, because the climax depended on her supposed spiritual revelation. I wanted to love Captured By Love, and while I was totally engrossed by the historical setting and the war between the British and the Americans, I was less engrossed by the actual plot and characters.

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

23 September 2014

Review: Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Mathematics Meets Music

Miss Lula Bowman is the first female winner of the Donally Mathematics Award, which provides her with an income as a college lecturer, and the ability to further pursue her studies and become the first female PhD in the state. But her plans go awry when her brother-in-law dies, leaving her sister with four children and no way to support herself. Lulu is offered a job teaching high school music—which she can do—and coaching the girls’ basketball team—which she has no idea about.

Chet Vaughn is the school mathematics teacher, and coach of the boys basketball team. He has been hounded by previous husband-hunting music teachers, so is determined to keep this new female at arm’s length … until he meets Lula Bowman, who is determined to keep well away from him, and to leave town as soon as she can.

Playing by Heart was written in first person, with chapters alternating between Lulu and Chet’s points of view. This made it pretty obvious what the end result was going to be (a little surprise would have been nice), and I occasionally had to backtrack to remind myself who the viewpoint character was—it took a while before I was able to tell the difference. My other issue was that it took a while for me to tell when the story was set (World War One), which didn’t help my initial confusion.

However, once I worked out who and when, I found myself in the middle of an interesting story. I always admire intelligent characters, and Lulu was no exception, especially as the story progressed and we gradually found out more about her history and why she was so determined to escape her hometown and pursue her academic career.

I also found Playing by Heart had some interesting observations to make about parental expectation. Lula’s mother had encouraged her musical talent, while her father encouraged her ability to understand complex mathematical problems (I suspect these gifts are two sides of the same coin). It’s an important lesson we all have to learn, that we need to discover who we are in God, not simply to meet the expectations of those around us. A solid read, recommended for historical romance fans who like something a little different.

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

19 September 2014

Friday Fifteen: Keely Brooke Keith

Friday Fifteen: Fifteen books which have influenced your life or your writing. Today, a warm welcome to Nashville-based author Keely Brooke Keith, who is also revealing the cover to her debut novel, Land Uncharted (which I'll be reviewing in October).

Welcome, Keely!

Fifteen Authors Who Have Impacted Me (in no particular order):

  1. Ernest Hemingway - for his athletic prose. The Sun Also Rises is my all time favorite book.
  2. Angela Ewell Hunt - I’ve only read one of her novels, which I adored, but her influence on my writing has been through her series Writing Lessons from the Front.
  3. Oswald Chambers - I don’t know how many times I’ve read My Utmost for His Highest and still every time some line sticks out like I’ve never read it before.
  4. Eleanor Catton - Let’s face it: Catton’s command of the English language is second to none.
  5. Robert Frost - I could get lost in his poetry for hours.
  6. John MacArthur - for his Bible commentary. He makes me look up words while I’m looking up words.
  7. Jack London - for The Call of the Wild, the first book I voluntarily read twice.
  8. J. Oswald Sanders - especially for Incomparable Christ.
  9. Stephanie Meyer - Twilight is so last decade—I get that—but Meyer came up with something original and that is what I strive for with every sentence I write.
  10. C.S. Lewis - most people say The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but The Magician’s Nephew was my favorite.
  11. John Keats - especially his odes.
  12. William Shakespeare - because at thirteen I opened a copy of Othello (of all things!) and learned there was more to the English language than I ever dreamed.
  13. Beth Moore - for her smart, but conversational studies. She teaches and becomes the reader’s friend without being physically present. That’s voice.
  14. Donald Maass - for the questions at the end of each chapter in Writing 21st Century Fiction.
  15. King David - Yes, the Psalms are attributed to several different authors, but I’m most fond of David’s Psalms. He was so real—a big sinner and a big repenter. I can relate.

About Keely Brooke Keith

Keely is a bass guitarist and lives on a hilltop south of Nashville. When she isn’t writing stories or playing bass, Keely enjoys dancing, having coffee with friends, and sifting through vintage books at antique stores. You can find her on TwitterFacebookGoodreadsInstagram or PinterestYou can now add The Land Uncharted to your shelf on GoodreadsShelfariLibraryThing, or FictFact.

About The Land Uncharted

Lydia Colburn is a young physician dedicated to serving her village in the Land. Day and night, she rushes by horseback to treat the ill and injured, establishing a heroic reputation as the village’s new doctor.
Naval Aviator Connor Bradshaw is flying over the South Atlantic Ocean on a mission to secure any remaining sources of fresh water in a 2025 world torn apart by war. A malfunction activates his aircraft’s ejection system, parachuting his unconscious body to the shore of a hidden land.

Lydia risks her safety to help the injured outsider despite the shock of his mysterious arrival and the disastrous implications his presence could have for her peaceful society, which has gone undetected for seven generations.

Connor searches for a way to return to his squadron, but his fascination with life in the Land makes him protective of Lydia and her peaceful homeland. And while Lydia’s attraction to Connor stirs desires she never anticipated, it also pushes an unwanted admirer to stage a dangerous attempt to win her affection.

As Connor tries to keep the Land off the radar, he learns the biggest threat to Lydia lurks in her village. But when Lydia’s greatest passion and darkest fear collide, will she look to the past or the future to find the strength to survive?

Release Date: October 21, 2014
Publisher: Edenbrooke Press

Pre-order today!

Advance Praise for The Land Uncharted:

"I was caught up in the characters and the story line from the first pages and hated to see it end.” -Ann Ellison, Goodreads reviewer

"Not only is Keely's writing beautiful and full of vivid detail, but the story and characters are incredible! I love the way she crosses genres and how well it all blends together.” -Christina Yother, author of Reverie

"The premise is unique, the characters - realistic, the storyline - consistent and entertaining, and the language - fluent. It has just the right touch of conflict, suspense, longing and hope.”- Annalise Joy, Goodreads reviewer

18 September 2014

Review: Last Family Standing by Jennifer AlLee


I’ve read a couple of novels recently set on or around reality TV shows—I suppose that tells you something about contemporary TV (I wouldn’t know. I’ve usually got my nose to my Kindle). Last Family is something a little different, and that’s what makes it special.

Getting a phone call from your best friend to say they’ve just seen your daughter on TV isn’t an everyday happening, but it’s something Monica Stanton never expected to hear. She gave her daughter up for adoption the day she was born, twenty-five years ago. Now her daughter wants to reunite—on a reality TV show.

Last Family Standing is close to perfect. Excellent opening. Solid writing. Well-paced. Great characters. Plenty of conflict, both internal soul-searching and the external conflict of attempting to establish a relationship with a complete stranger while participating in an elimination-style reality show on a tropical island with not enough food. A twist in the middle and another towards the end which gives it that real “wow” factor. And even a little romance (that’s the one failing. Perhaps not enough romance …).

The entire story is told by Monica in first person point of view. That’s sometimes a weakness, but Monica is a strong character, one with plenty of hidden secrets (like the identity of Jessica’s father), and a character who is well able to hold the novel without it getting boring. And the single viewpoint works well, because that way the reader is just as surprised as Monica when the twists come.

Recommended. I’ll certainly be looking out for more books from Jennifer AlLee.

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

16 September 2014

Review and Giveaway: All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

Don't miss Betsy St. Amant's latest fiction release, All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes. A "sweet" tale of two best friends and the choices they make between dreams and a possible "sure thing," St. Amant's novel is sure to satisfy your romantic-fiction craving.

Betsy is celebrating with a fun Kindle giveaway and a Love & Cupcakes Facebook party!
One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle
  • All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 18th. Winner will be announced at the "Love & Cupcakes" Author Chat Party on 9/18. Betsy will be hosting a "sweet" book chat, giving away prizes, and answering questions from readers. She will also share an exclusive sneak peek at her next book project!

So grab your copy of All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes and join Betsy on the evening of September 18th 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 18th!

My Review: Surprise! It’s a romance involving cupcakes

Kat Varland is twenty-six, and works in Sweetie Pies, her aunt’s cupcake shop in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. She bakes the same vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry cupcakes each day because Aunt Maggie won’t sell any of those “weird” flavours … which leaves her testing them on her best friend, high school football coach Lucas Brannen. But things change when she’s accepted as a contestant in reality cupcake show (yes, really) Cupcake Combat, and takes Lucas to LA as her competition assistant.

It’s pretty obvious that there’s more between Kat and Lucas than simply being long-time best friends. Both would like the relationship to be more, but both are too scared to take the next step, for fear they’ll ruin their friendship, and the LA trip tests them in more ways that one when Kat realises the prize for winning the contest is a year-long internship in a famous New York bakery, and Lucas realises that winning the contest will mean losing Kat.

Kat lacks confidence in herself, which I thought was sad. Her father is a pastor, but it seems she’s always taken second place behind her sister, Stella, beauty queen. The focus of the story was on Kat so we didn’t get to see much of her family, but what we did see was glossed-over Christianity, where being seen in the right places and with the right people is what counts. Kat’s more than that, and Lucas encourages her. Usually.

While I enjoyed the story and the characters, I did feel it took a long time to get anywhere, and both Kat and Lucas engaged in a lot of introspection that didn’t exactly get them anywhere. This was exacerbated by the fact we could tell they were interested in each other from the get-go. If one had been interested and the other took a while to return the feeling, it wouldn’t have seemed so drawn-out. However, it was still an enjoyable romance with a food backdrop (always good), and I’ll be interested in reading more from Betsy St Amant.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Betsy St Amant at her website.

15 September 2014

Review: Hallowed Halls by Hannah Alexander

Excellent Medical Romance

Dr Joy Gilbert is getting to the end of her patience with her new boss, Weston Cline. Not only has her role as a “pain management specialist” turned into legal drug pusher, but he’s reluctant to let her take pro bono cases, and seems to expect more from their relationship than employer/employee. The only positive is her relationship with Tressa, his daughter, who is struggling with her parental relationships after their divorce.

An unexpected telephone call takes her back to her home town, where her mother has been admitted to hospital, and is under the care of Dr Zachary Travis, Joy’s ex-fiance. She arrives to find more than she bargained for—she has a stowaway. Tressa. Tressa, who is suddenly having fainting spells for no apparent reason.

Hallowed Halls is a combination of a medical thriller, and second-chance romance. There’s history between Joy and Zack, and there’s a story as to why she left her home town to work for Weston. There was so much unspoken backstory that I wondered at times if this was actually the second book in the series, but it’s not. While the medical aspect is central to the story, it’s well-written and not so detailed that I was grossed out (a distinct advantage. I had to skip pages in one novel recently, because the medical description was too, well, descriptive).

One thing I did keep getting hung up was Weston, who is a complete slimebag. Weston isn’t a common name, and the only Weston I’ve ever known was the complete antithesis of this fictional Weston, and it took me a while to get into the story for that reason. However, this improved once Joy got home and the focus of the story was more on Joy, her mother, Tressa … and Zack.

Overall, I really enjoyed Hallowed Halls. It was a good plot (especially the medical bits), and the characters were fascinating. Recommended.

Thanks to Hannah Alexander and Soul Inspirationz for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Hannah Alexander at her website (well, their website. Hannah Alexander is the pen name of husband-and-wife writing duo Cheryl and Mel Hodde).

12 September 2014

Review: Love, Justice by Elaine Fraser

Warning: Biased Review Ahead ...

I provided Elaine Fraser with manuscript assessment and copyediting services for Love, Justice (via my freelance editing business), so there is a degree to which this review might be biased. Or maybe I liked Love, Justice because I could relate to Justice, who seems to have more courage to stand up for herself than I ever did at her age!

Justice is seventeen, and finds most of the teens at school are shallow and more concerned about finding the right dress for the Graduation Ball than thinking about others. She’s got bigger dreams than her schoolmates, dreams to make a difference in an unjust world. When she meets Seth at a peace rally, she is inspired to be just like him, travelling the world and making a difference. But she soon finds there are opportunities to make a difference right at home … especially when her father springs a bombshell on the family.

I very much enjoyed Love, Justice . It’s written in a chatty voice which makes it an easy read, and easy to get involved in Justice’s life. Justice is a likeable character who is on a personal journey to find a way she can make a difference in her life, asking questions typical for this age group. (It doesn’t seem that long since I was a searching young idealist myself, yet now I have my own teenage daughter).

In many ways, Justice has gone out of her way to make sure she doesn’t fit in with her schoolmates, with her “unstylish” hair and Doc Martens. But as the story progresses she realises that she’s judged the “cool” kids (especially Perfect Mercy) based on the way they look as well, and she gradually learns that it’s what’s inside that counts.

While Love, Justice has definite Christian themes, I believe it’s a novel that any teen searching for their identity will enjoy. Love, Justice is the sequel to Perfect Mercy, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. You can find out more about Elaine Fraser at her website.

11 September 2014

Review: A Marriage of Convenience by Debra Lynn Collins

Sorry. Spoilers ahead

There’s something about the marriage of convenience plot that piques my interest. Perhaps it’s because we live in a society where arranged marriages aren’t the norm, and it’s interesting to see how a couple with seemingly nothing in common are thrown together by circumstance (aka the plot machinations of the author), and discover there is some commonality between them after all.

A Marriage of Convenience, debut novel from Debra Lynn Collins, has a lot going for it. A beautiful cover. Cowboys and horses. Good writing. Likeable characters, and a solid plot that manages to make what could be a contrived arrangement somehow work.

Lily Meyers is the widowed mother of five-year-old Joey, and the man she’s been employed by for the last three years has just died. She never expected to feature in Martin Chapman’s will, much less to inherit half of the Chapman Quarter Horse Ranch. But there’s a condition: she has to marry Martin’s grandson, Bryce Fowler.

For his part, Bryce has resented his grandfather for years, ever since the old man threw in his New York job, moved to Alabama to breed and train horses, and never wrote or called despite the fact Bryce was his only grandchild. But he wants his inheritance, so decides he’s prepared to go through with a platonic marriage of convenience. At least, that’s the plan …

Skip the italics if you don’t want to read the spoiler.
Everything was going well for the first 92% of the book. Well, if not exactly “well”, the plot was moving along with a good balance of conflict and resolution, and two characters who were gradually finding their way towards each other. Bryce has also discovered what a lying and deceitful piece of work his mother is, and has shared that information with Lily.
So when dear Sherry Ann calls Lily to tell her Bryce is in love with another woman, what does Lily do? Knowing Sherry Ann is a deceitful liar? That’s right. She believes Sherry Ann, and decides to break it off with Bryce. Really? Yes, this problem was resolved quickly, but it never should have happened at all only a few pages after Bryce told Lily how Sherry Ann kept his grandfather’s letters from him. It soured what, up until this point, had been an excellent story.
If you wanted to miss the spoiler, you can start reading again now.

I had one other grouch. A Marriage of Convenience is Christian romance, but there's more to a Christian romance than a woman who goes to church. Specifically, there's that whole pesky bit about "unequally yoked", meaning both partners are Christians. I didn't see anything in A Marriage of Convenience that suggested Bryce had any personal faith, or was seeking faith, and I see this as a weakness.

Apart from that I did enjoy A Marriage of Convenience, but if stupid characters annoy you, I recommend you stop reading at the end of Chapter Twenty Four.

You can find out more about Debra Lynn Collins at her website.

10 September 2014

Book Launch and Giveaway: Pride by Rosie Somers

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Book Links:
Add it on Goodreads: Click here
Anaiah Press: Click here
Amazon:Click here
iTunes: Click here
Smashwords: Click here


PRIDE by Rosie Somers
Surge, Anaiah Press


Seventeen-year-old Gabriella Pierce is used to taking care of herself, but she’s about to become responsible for a whole lot more. When she gets a visit from three men claiming to be defenders of fantastical rings imbued with the powers of THE CARDINAL SINS, her life is changed irrevocably.

Gabby is the steward of PRIDE

To make matters worse, she’s falling hard for fellow steward, Grant Barnett, and he hates her guts. Now Gabby has to learn to protect Pride without letting her feelings for Grant get in the way.

Author Bio:

Rosie Somers is a YA author who lives in Florida, soaking up the year round sunshine. She can often be found in her favourite spot on her favourite beach, nose-deep in a good book.

Website: http://www.RosieSomers.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ProsyRosie

Enter the Giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

9 September 2014

Review and Giveaway: A Grand Design by Amber Stockton

Don’t miss this month’s Quilts of Love book, A Grand Design by Amber Stockton. Who hasn't struggled to let painful memories go and move into God's healing? You’ll be sure to love this heartfelt and encouraging tale set on historic Mackinac Island.

Celebrate August’s release by entering to win a Kindle from Quilts of Love and RSVPing for the "Fall into Fall" Facebook author chat party.

Quilts of Love Kindle HDX Giveaway, Amber Stockton, A Grand Design

One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • A Grand Design by Amber Stockton
  • Hidden in the Stars by Robin Caroll
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 16th. Winner will be announced on the Quilts of Love blog. Plus make sure you RSVP to the October 7th author chat party with Amber Stockton and Robin Caroll for an evening of book chat, quilting tips and tricks, prizes, and more!

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on October 7th!

My Review: Underwhelming

Alyssa Denham has won a romantic trip for two to the Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island. She’s taken her childhood best friend back to the island where her grandmother lives, and which she hasn’t visited since she was a teen. The holiday gives her the chance to help her grandmother complete a quilting project, and to meet handsome local Scott Whitman.

It sounded good, but there were a couple of plot questions which left me puzzled, and detracted from what could have been an enjoyable romance.

The romance between Alyssa and Scott was nice but not compelling, and I didn’t find it realistic. The story felt as though part of Scott’s story (especially his faith journey) had been cut to make room for the quilt subplot, which seemed contrived. Alyssa spends her holiday touring around the island picking up quilt squares for her grandmother (which is the first puzzle: it’s never explained why grandma can’t do this herself).

The second puzzle was how Scott always seemed to have time to transport Alyssa around (it seems a stretch to believe his hotel shifts never clashed with when Alyssa or other clients needed transport). There were hints of a secret about Scott’s family that were never explained (and certainly didn’t explain why he held down two jobs on the island), and the overall effect was unsatisfying.

The writing was solid, but I found it difficult to connect with either of the main characters, which makes it difficult to rate this book as anything better than okay.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity, Abingdon Press, and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Amber Stockton at her website, and you can read more reviews on the blog tour landing page here: A Grand Design Blog Tour.

8 September 2014

New Releases: September 2014

It's a new month, and Ellie Whyte has all the Christian fiction new releases up at Soul Inspirationz!

US and Canadian residents can enter to win one of 25 new release titles, and there's the choice of one Kindle title available for those outside the US and Canada.

I'm planning to review several of these over the coming weeks, including:

- Last Family Standing by Jennifer AlLee (outstanding!)
- Under a Turquoise Sky by Lisa Carter
- Hidden in the Stars by Robin Caroll
- Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer (very good)
- A Bride in Store by Melissa Jagears
- Nowhere to Turn by Lynette Eason
- Feast for Thieves by Marcus Brotherton
- All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St Amant

... and there are a few more I'd like to read as well. What about you? What are you looking forward to reading this month?

5 September 2014

ARCBA Review: Rebecca's Dream by Carol Preston


1st - 5th September 2014
Rebecca's Dream
(Even Before March 2014)


Carol Preston

About the Book

Rebecca Oakes is thirteen years old when her mother, Suzannah, dies in the small town of Marengo, New South Wales, in 1873. With her older brother and sisters soon involved in their own lives, Rebecca is left alone to care for her ageing father. But Rebecca has a dream for her own life. She wants to make a difference to the world around her; a world where it is hardly possible for a woman to get an education, where women have no rights, no vote, no voice. Rebecca will have to fight the systems of her time if she is to achieve her goals. She must find the courage to stand against sexual and religious prejudice, and resist the pressures of even those close to her, in order to make her way towards her dream, influenced by one man who hates her, who will do anything to thwart her plans, and another man who loves her, and will do anything to make her happy.  

Rebecca’s Dream is the second book in the Oakes Family Saga. Background notes and discussion questions are available for book clubs. 

About the Author

Carol lives in Wollongong with her husband, Neil. She is a psychologist and has a part time private counselling practice, as well as being an author and speaker. Carol enjoys spending time with her children and four grandchildren, as well as bushwalking, gardening and holidaying overseas with her husband. One of her hobbies over many years has been family history research. It was this research which started Carol on the journey of writing novels.   
Her first trilogy is about the Oakes Family; Suzannah’s Gold, Rebecca’s Dream and The Price of Peace, which takes the reader from 1838 when her great great grandmother, Suzannah Casey was transported from Ireland, through to the end of the First World War when Suzannah’s children and grandchildren are involved in the battle, not only to survive the war but to survive the waiting at home. The first two of these have recently been re-released by EBP. Carol’s fourth novel, The Face of Forgiveness, is about two young women who are transported to Australia in 1839. The most recent of Carol’s novel is a series based on her mother’s family, which begins with the First Fleet of convicts to Australia. These include Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets, and Truly Free.
 For more information about Carol’s books and her other interests she can be contacted on her website: www.carolpreston.com.au, on her Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/writingtoreach or her Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/carolpreston

4 September 2014

Review: Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke


It’s September 1939, and Rachel Kramer has travelled with her father from her New York home to undergo her regular examination at the Institute, while her father attends an international conference on eugenics. She meets Jason Young at a ball while trying to escape from an overbearing suitor, and realises Young is the journalist who is trying to discredit her father’s research. However, an unusual request from a childhood friend leaves her with no one to rely on except the annoying journalist …

The start was a bit slow, as it was necessary to introduce several different characters, each a different thread to the story. This made the early chapters complex, but the pace improved quickly once all the essential elements of the story had been introduced—elements which were chilling, yet added a layer of realism to the plot.

Rachel was annoying with her naïve views, especially at first, but it was good to see her gradually change as she considered and rejected her long-held beliefs about her family and herself. The eugenics subplot was chilling, especially as I saw how Rachel had been raised to believe she was better than others—and it made me wonder how many people still believe this, and don’t recognise how the idea distorts biblical truth.

Jason was a strong hero, despite his inability to show the truth of the Nazi regime to those who needed to know in the US. It was good to see a man who wasn’t afraid to admit he needed to change, and to pursue truth despite the cost. The minor characters were also well-written, and fulfil a necessary part of this fast-paced historical thriller (with a touch of romance).

The thing I liked best about Saving Amelie was the depth of research that has gone into the writing, and the accuracy. I’ve read other books written by American authors and set in Germany during World War Two which downplay the Nazi oppression of the weak or those not deemed “Aryan” enough, and seem to look at Hitler’s Germany through rose-coloured glasses.

Saving Amelie is not like that. It shows the oppression in chilling detail, right from the early days of the war in September 1939. It shows the price paid by those who didn’t support the ideals of the Third Reich—a group which included many Christians. And it shows the activities of the German resistance, a needed reminder that not all Germans were complicit in the crimes committed by Hitler and his followers.

But, perhaps most importantly, Saving Amelie shows that there are still lessons to be learned from the rise of Adolf Hitler and World War Two. There is no “master race”. There is no such thing as “levels of evolution” within the human race—we are all equal in the sight of God. And ‘grace’ is isn’t the nice all-is-forgiven idea we’ve come to believe in the Western church. Grace is costly:
“We’ve come to practice cheap grace—grace that appears as a godly form but costs us nothing—and that is an abomination … it took the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, to achieve that grace. It requires just as much from each of us”.

Thanks to Tyndale and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Cathy Gohlke at her website.

2 September 2014

Review: A Bride in Store by Melissa Jagears

Fun Mail-Order Bride Story

Eliza Cantrell is a mail-order bride on her way to Salt Flatts, Kansas, in 1881, when her train is stopped by robbers, who steal all her savings and leave her needing stiches on her face. Her fiance, Axel Langston, isn’t in town, but his business partner, Will Stanton, is at the store. Will’s dream is to become a doctor, but he’s stuck in Salt Flatts as co-owner of the store until he can save enough money for medical school.

Will doctors Eliza's face, and finds himself inconveniently attracted to his partner’s fiance, even though she does keep wanting to make changes in his store. Eliza fights her attraction to Will, while wondering when Axel will get home … Southey can work together in the store and make the reader changes that will turn the store around financially.

A Bride in Store is the third of Melissa Jagear’s Salt Flatts mail-order bride stories, and while there are some characters from the earlier books, this novel stands alone. While the characters were excellent, and it was a good combination of Western romance and Christian principles, I didn’t enjoy the actual story as much as I enjoyed the previous novel and novella. Parts of the story felt contrived, and I wasn’t convinced by the decision Eliza made towards the end of the story. I could see it was the big dramatic gesture, and I don’t want to say too much, for fear of giving spoilers, but I thought there could have been a better solution. However, it’s still an enjoyable read. Recommended for fans of Mary Conneally, Tracie Petersen and Carol Cox.

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

1 September 2014

Review: Test of Magnitude by Andy Kasch

Pure Science Fiction

Alien abduction, addiction, a far-off galaxy, space battles, and a mysterious race … what more could any sci-fi reader want?

Mip7 is a guide on Cardinal-4, the spectacular new space station in the Torian system, one of many systems under Erob law. A briefing with the Azaarian ambassador leads to unexpected summons to meet with the governor of the station, where he receives an unusual assignment from a prophet: to revive the Earthlings who have been kept in suspended animation, as they will be needed in the impending interstellar war.

Brandon is one of two Earthlings who are revived. He’s the newest, taken twenty years earlier, and the other is the oldest, and turns out to be a hippie. It’s a complex plot, incorporating several races and dozens of characters (perhaps too many?), but it all draws together well as Mip7 and Brandon have to work together to find the source of the infection and bring the worlds together to defeat the enemy.

It’s always a little hard reading the first of a science fiction series, as the author has the difficult task of introducing the reader to the world he has created without overwhelming the reader with unnecessary detail. Test of Magnitudemanages this reasonably well, and I’m sure the second book in the series (Flash Move) will be better as the reader will have the basic understanding of the Erob worlds.

While Test of Magnitude isn’t specifically Christian fiction (which is what I normally review), there is an underlying spiritual theme, and there is no sex or gratuitous violence. While it’s perhaps not to my personal reading taste, Test of Magnitude is an enjoyable read for science fiction and space opera fans.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Andy Kasch at his website. You can also see the book trailer on YouTube: