29 December 2016

Review: Beneath the Heavens by Lindsey Barlow

More Weak Points than Strong Points

Beneath the Heavens starts well, introducing readers to midwife Esther Callen and her son Michael, then flighty teacher Abigail Silver. It’s soon apparent that both women are going to find love during the course of the novel.

This leads to one of the problems with the novel: shallow characters, because it meant there wasn’t enough time to focus on them all. Will’s characterisation was shallow at best, and I never felt any emotion from him. Abigail came across as an inconsistent mix of flighty and intelligent—I would have liked more consistency in the beginning, and more character growth throughout the novel.

Joseph was assertive to the point of controlling, and I wasn’t convinced that was healthy. Overall, Esther was the best character, in that she was the one with the most consistent story and the most believable change.

The plot was typical of a Christian historical romance novels set in the American West in the late 1900’s, although it did try and cram too many romance tropes into a single book. The writing started well, with lines like:
Her father had told her that religion was delusion, but to her, it was conclusion. The answer to all her problems, until it wasn’t.
Unfortunately, the novel as a whole didn’t live up to this early promise, with multiple writing and editing issues such as not using contractions (which made a lot of the dialogue feel unnatural and wooden), confusing point of view changes, punctuation errors, anachronisms (words that are too modern for the 1896 time setting) and some questionable vocabulary (mild swearing and misused words).

Overall, not a novel I recommend.

Thanks to Light Messages Publishing for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Lindsey Barlow at her website, and read the introduction to Beneath the Heavens below:

28 December 2016

Review: Finding Margo by Jen Turano

Shows Promise but Needs Polishing.

I’m a big fan of Jen Turano’s Christian historical romance novels published by Bethany House Publishers. I’m also a huge fan of contemporary Christian romance. So when I saw Jen Turano had published a contemporary Christian romance novel, I was keen to read it, and thrilled when Gilead Publishing offered me the chance of a free copy to review.

I was soon to be disappointed.

On the writing side, while Finding Margo has a solid plot, it doesn’t have enough romance to make it a great romance, and it doesn’t have enough suspense to make it a great romantic suspense (I’m not even sure if it was trying for suspense—if it was, the first paragraph killed what suspense there might have been). Finding Margo lacked the wit I’ve enjoyed in so many of Jen Turano’s other novels.

But it wasn’t just the lack of wit which disappointed me. It was the overall lack of polish in the writing—which I now suspect had a lot to do with the skill of Turano’s previous editors. It was also the mistakes, like calling one character the patriarch of his family twice in three pages (as though I’d forgotten), or implying there are 356 days in the year. Sure, that one is an obvious typo, but it’s the kind of typo I expect to see in books from some vanity press notorious for their lack of editing, or the first book from some small press with no background in fiction. It's also a typo based on something which it appears isn't true: the number of times the phrase 'fear not' (or similar) appears in the Bible.

And there were other writing issues I won’t bore you with. Suffice to say I checked Amazon’s Look Inside, and I’m afraid the underpolished version I read appears to be the final published version. This isn’t always the case with NetGalley books, although most publishers take pains to point out it’s the unproofed version and may still contain mistakes—although few do. Once I realised the writing/editing wasn't up to par, I decided I should ignore the obvious issues and focus on the characters and the story.

First, Margo. 

I didn’t like her at first, because she seemed as shallow as her pop star life. I warmed to her more and more in Ohio, especially once she ended up in hospital and I could contrast her with her overbearing mother. Caroline is, to put it politely, a piece of work who brings new meaning to the term ‘shallow’. Margo said she was a Christian although she hinted at having fallen away … something which was never properly explored.

Brock was a strong hero, although perhaps a little too good to be true. But I didn’t feel I got to know him, or where he stood on faith, and I did feel his character could have been developed beyond being the too-perfect foil for Margo. Nor did I ever really feel his attraction for Margo … or any second-guessing of that attraction (which would have seemed natural, given their different backgrounds).

And that leads me to the suspense plot, because this is apparently a suspense novel (at least, according to the Amazon categories).

Well, there was no suspense.

Except, perhaps, who was after Margo and why (and I don’t even know if I’m convinced by that, because it seemed a little chicken-and-egg).

The first paragraph made it pretty obvious who Margo “really” was, and the lines in the novel that hinted at the suspense would have been more powerful and suspenseful if I hadn’t already been handed the big secret. The big reveal of the evildoer was underwhelming—I thought it could have been revealed and written a lot more powerfully. Or perhaps I’d reached the point where I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Overall, Finding Margo is a story which shows promise but needs polishing.

Thanks to Gilead Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Jen Turano at her website, and read the introduction to Finding Margo below:

27 December 2016

Review: Pursuing Gold by Cynthia L Simmons

Publisher Fail

Yes, it’s that week where I bury my reviews of the books I didn’t like in the hope you’re all having an enjoyable Christmas break and ignoring all the blogs (I’ll be back to my regular schedule on 3 January).

Amazon Description

With his father dead and his business partner incapacitated, Peter Chandler inherits the leadership of a bank in economic crisis. With only a newly-minted college degree and little experience, Peter joins his partner’s daughter, Mary Beth Roper, in a struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat while the Civil War rages around Chattanooga. Political pressure for unsecured loans of gold to the government stirs up trouble as tempers and prices rise. Their problems multiply when Mary Beth discovers counterfeit money with Peter’s forged signature. Can they find the forger before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace.

My Review

Sounds good enough. So what was my problem? There were many.

First we have Perfect Peter. The guy has no faults … and while most romance readers want to (figuratively) fall in love with the hero, he has to be human. And humans have faults.

Then we have Mary Beth. Her problem is similar—it’s not that she’s perfect, and more that she wants what she can’t have. In her case, she wants her (dying) father to live. Okay, I can understand that from a human perspective. Her mother is dead, and she doesn’t want to lose her one remaining parent.

But that’s not enough of a motivation for a novel. The result is a passive character who goes through the story waiting for the thing she’s dreading to happen and not doing much. And that’s not an interesting read.

This is supposed to be a romance, but I never got the feeling Mary Anne had any feelings for Peter beyond friendship. And I wasn’t convinced Peter loved her as a wife. Their relationship seemed more like friends or siblings than potential lovers, and that’s a eww factor for me.

And then there was the editing (hint: books are edited. Financial accounts are AUDITED). This was the first book I’ve read from the new Elk Lake Publishing, and I wasn’t impressed. There were anachronisms, typos, redundancy, and punctuation errors. The writing was slow paced, the dialogue stilted, the scene transitions were clunky, and some of the action reminded me of Batman (the camp 1960’s TV show version, not the movies). I think they’ve done the author a disservice by publishing her book before it’s ready.

Sure, the subplot around the counterfeit money was interesting. But even that lacked suspense, and wasn’t enough to compensate for the other problems. Overall, this was a slow read, something I wouldn’t have finished if I was reading it for pleasure.

Thanks to Elk Lake Publishing and Litfuse Publicity for providing a free ebook for review.

23 December 2016

Review: The Room with the Second-Best View by Virginia Smith

Third Time Lucky

This wasn’t t easiest book to get in to – it took me three tries to get past the first few chapters. I suspect part of that is that it’s the final book in a series, and I haven’t read any of the earlier books (I didn’t actually realise it was part of a series when I requested it for review). This made my first two attempts more difficult that they would have been if I’d read the earlier books in the series.

No, it’s not a fast-paced thriller. It’s not a romance (although it’s certainly a story of love and marriage, with Al and Millie providing some important lessons on how to make a marriage last). But it is a well-written character-based novel with a group of interesting characters and a pile of low-key interpersonal conflict provided by Lulu the annoying neighbour (who has odd recipe ideas--recipes included), and Miss Hinkle, the opinionated unexpected guest (opinionated and manipulative).

The overall tone was light drama—once I got into the story, it had a little of the feel of The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel, only set in small-town America (something which is as foreign to me as the Indian location of the Marigold Hotel). Oh, but Al and Millie’s B&B is a lot classier than the Marigold Hotel. Especially once Miss Hinkle has visited.

If you’ve read the earlier books in the series, you’ll enjoy this. If not, you might want to read the earlier books first. And if you have read the earlier books (or this one) ... you won't want to miss A Goose Creek Christmas, the new Christmas novella, available as a free Amazon download (and probably from other retailers as well).

Thanks to Harvest House Publishers and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about more about Virginia Smith at her website, and you can read the introduction to The Room with the Second Best View below:

22 December 2016

Review: O Little Town of Bethany by Rene Gutteridge and Cheryl McKay

Call Me Contrary …

Bethany is a small tourist town in Georgia presided over by Miss Bethany (yes, named for the town), who could give Margaret Thatcher lessons in dealing with the little people. She handpicks each of the tenants for the main street shops, and her latest pick is Holly Truesdale.

Holly is escaping from the city, from parents who argue all the time and an almost-fiance who can’t even be bothered to ask the question. She goes to Bethany, the town she visited with her parents for the best Christmas of her young life, and rediscovers a town where everyone helps

Yes, this is pure escapist fantasy. No one lives like this—well, no one I know. The men are all gentlemen (well, except for Holly’s father and almost-fiance), the women are all ladies who rule with humour and grace, and the town really is a character all of its own.

The romance was sweet, sure (and a little fast for my taste). But I’m a little contrary. For me, the romance was secondary behind Miss Bethany’s story, which brought a tear to my eye. But I’m not going to spoil it for you.

Recommended for those looking for a Christmas story that’s sweet without being sappy.

Thanks to Seranade Books for providing a free ebook for review.

20 December 2016

Review: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen

Great Start to a Series

As I was reading The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, I was reminded of The Gresham Chronicles by Lawana Blackwell. Then I got to the note from the author at the end, where Julie Klassen mentions The Gresham Chronicles, and says:
If you’re anything like me, you probably love village series set in England, whether in books or in film or television. Series like Lark Rise to Candleford, Cranford … close-knit communities with quirky characters, which create an idyllic place to retreat from the hectic modern world.
Well, if that quote resonates with you (as it did with me), then you’re the right person to be reading The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill.

Here’s the book description from Amazon:
The lifeblood of the Wiltshire village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. But when the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant owner. Jane has no notion of how to run a business. However, with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must find a way to bring new life to the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to find her place in the world. As she and Jane work together, they form a measure of trust, and Thora's wounded heart begins to heal. When she encounters two men from her past, she sees them--and her future--in a different light.
With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane employs innovative methods to turn the inn around, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place. Will her efforts be enough to save The Bell? And will Thora embrace the possibility of a second chance at love?

Those who have read The Gresham Chronicles will see parallels with some of those stories—the widow left in charge of the inn, the overbearing older woman, the class system, showing that ‘gentlemen’ aren’t always gentlemen. But the plot and writing are all Klassen’s own take on some of these traditional tropes, and it’s excellent.

I will admit that I haven’t especially enjoyed the last couple of Julie Klassen novels I’ve read (I may have unfavourably compared one to the movie Footloose, and that one ‘impressed’ me so much I’ve yet to read the next, even though I bought the paperback close to two years ago).

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill is, in my view, a return to the kind of form Klassen showed in her earlier novels such as The Apothecary’s Daughter and The Lady of Milkweed Manor—she’s back to addressing social issues in a genteel almost English way. She also points out how everyone in the village is dependent on everyone else:
Village life is like an ivy vine climbing a great oak. You cut off the vine at the root, and all the way up the tree, the leaves wither. We’re all connected.
Yes, it is still obvious from some of the vocabulary that she’s an American writing about a foreign country (although a foreign country she’s familiar with, having visited beautiful Wiltshire several times). But that’s something most readers wouldn’t pick up on unless they too had a very correct English Army officer for a grandfather (back in his day, cute meant sharp. Not pretty).

So if you’re looking for a gentle wander through the pretty villages of 1820’s England, you’ll enjoy a visit to Ivy Hill. For myself, I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Julie Klassen at her website, and you can read the opening to The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill below:

19 December 2016

Book Promotion: Hannah's Journey by Barbara M Britton


It's common knowledge that authors find their muse in many different places, but one author found her muse while teaching Sunday school.

Author Barbara M. Britton recently was featured on the Books of the Month TV program. Today we host the episode, now available online, on demand, courtesy of Preach the Word Worldwide TV Network. Learn how teaching Sunday school to children helped to spur Barbara's story ideas for her now-popular Biblical fiction series "Tribes of Israel."

(if you can't see the video, click here to visit the Preach the Word Worldwide Network TV station page.

Purchase Providence: Hannah's Journey today

Pre-order Building Benjamin: Naomi's Journey


16 December 2016

Introducing Pursuing Gold by Cynthia L Simmons


Take a trip back to the Civil War raging around Chattanooga while Peter and Mary Beth struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat in the midst of political pressure in Cynthia Simmons’ new book, Pursuing Gold. Can Peter and Mary Beth find the forger who created counterfeit money before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace.
Pursuing Gold (Elk Lake, October 2016)
With his father dead and his business partner incapacitated, Peter Chandler inherits the leadership of a bank in economic crisis.
With only a newly-minted college degree and little experience, Peter joins his partner’s daughter, Mary Beth Roper, in a struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat while the Civil War rages around Chattanooga. Political pressure for unsecured loans of gold to the government stirs up trouble as tempers and prices rise. Their problems multiply when Mary Beth discovers counterfeit money with Peter’s forged signature. Can they find the forger before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace.
Cynthia Simmons


Cynthia L Simmons and her husband, Ray, have five children and reside in Atlanta. She has taught for over thirty years as a homeschool mother and Bible teacher. She’s a columnist for Leading Hearts Magazine and she directs Atlanta Christian Writing Conference. Cyndi has a heart for encouraging women in today’s crazy, upside-down world. She loves history and peppers her speaking and teaching with fascinating vignettes from the past. Her first book, “Struggles and Triumphs,” was nominated for 2008 Georgia Author of the Year. She co-founded Homeschool Answers and hosts Heart of the Matter Radio.
Find out more about Cynthia at http://clsimmons.com.

15 December 2016

Review: For the Record by Regina Jennings

Should have Read the Earlier Books First ...

It could be just me, but I didn’t find this as compelling as I’d hoped. There was nothing wrong with it in terms of the writing, the plot, or the characters. It just didn’t have the zing I’d hoped for and I found the beginning somewhat awkward.

I think part of the problem might be that it felt like I was supposed to know some of the characters and their histories, and I didn’t. (I later found this is the third book in a series, and I haven't read either of the earlier books, A Most Inconvenient Marriage, and At Love's Bidding). Anyway, that gave me the feeling I’d been dropped in the middle of a social function where everyone else knew each other and I was left trying to infer relationships from what wasn’t being said.

And that’s exactly how Deputy Puckett feels when he arrives in Pine Gap to sort out the problems with the Bald Knobbers who have taken it upon themselves to be the law. It seems the people of Pine Gap want him about as much as he wants to be there – not that either he or the town of Pine Gap have any choice.

Meanwhile, Betsy Huckabee wants to succeed as a writer so she can be financially independent and not have to live with her uncle and his growing family. Her attempts at writing real news stories haven’t paid off in the city paper she’s submitted to, but the arrival of the handsome new deputy gives her a new inspiration … a fiction serial in the women’s section of the paper.

I did enjoy the story once it got going, and there were some excellent lines:

Overall, a solid historical romance novel, but probably more enjoyable if you've read the first two books in the series.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. Click here to find out more about Regina Jennings at her website, and can read the introduction to On the Record below:

13 December 2016

Review: Activate by Adele Jones

Excellent End to Series

This is the third and final novel in Adele Jones’s trilogy about mitochondrial disease patient Blaine Colton, and I don’t recommend you read this without reading the other two books first: Replicate and Integrate.

Activate has the same fault as the final book in many other Young Adult series: you’re desperate to read it to find out what happens to characters you’ve come to know and love (or not!) through the previous books, but at the same time you don’t want it to end because that means saying goodbye to those same characters.

And while you’d like to believe it’s going to have a happy ending, the previous novel killed off a major character, which means you’re not entirely sure if Blaine is going to get his happy ending … after all, he has an incurable degenerative disease. Odds are, this isn’t going to end well.

I’m not going to say too much about the plot. Suffice to say it met expectations (which were high, given how much I enjoyed the earlier novels). Yes, there is a lot of science stuff. No, I didn’t understand it all, but that didn’t matter. Yes, there is plenty of suspense—not just in the main plot, but in the underlying race against time to find a cure for Blaine.

Overall, Activate and the other books in this series are fast-paced Young Adult thrillers with a male protagonist—so great options for any teenage boys you know who love reading but don’t want novels with any of that silly romance stuff (although Blaine does have a romantic relationship, it’s not the focus of the plot). The series is also unique in that it’s set in modern-day Brisbane, Australia, not some dystopian future version of the USA, and it reflects a Christian world view.

Thanks to Rhiza Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. Click here to find out more about Adele Jones at her website, and you can read the introduction to Activate below:

12 December 2016

October November Clash Champion!

Congratulations to Kara Isaac, with 
Can't Help Falling


Buy on Amazon
Buy on Barnes and Noble

A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England.

Emelia Mason has spent her career finding the dirt on the rich and famous. But deep down past this fearless tabloid-reporter façade, there’s a nerdy Narnia-obsessed girl who still can’t resist climbing into wardrobes to check for the magical land on the other side. When a story she writes produces tragic results, she flees to Oxford, England—home to C.S. Lewis—to try and make amends for the damage she has caused.

Peter Carlisle was on his way to become one of Great Britain’s best rowers—until he injured his shoulder and lost his chance at glory. He’s determined to fight his way back to the top even if it means risking permanent disability to do so. It’s the only way he can find his way past failing the one person who never stopped believing in his Olympic dream.

When Peter and Emelia cross paths on her first night in Oxford, the attraction is instant and they find common ground in their shared love of Narnia. But can the lessons from a fantasyland be enough to hold them together when secrets of the real world threaten to tear them apart? Cobblestone streets, an aristocratic estate, and an antique shop with curious a wardrobe bring the world of Narnia to life in Kara Isaac’s inspiring and romantic story about second chances.

What Voters Had to Say:

These authors are all a blessing! Please keep writing...You encourage us all!

The cover alone makes me want to read the book, which sounds like a wonderful read. :)

Loved Can't Help Falling. More please! :)

Keep writing, Kara! Love your books!

Kara Isaac, I have just discovered your books and love them. Keep it up! 

I loved Kara Isaac's first book, Close to You, so am really looking forward to reading Can't Help Falling. I enjoy her style of writing. I recommended Close to You to my book club, so hopefully we'll be reading and discussing it sometime in 2017.

I have read, and enjoyed, Can't Help Falling. As far as the covers, I have to vote for this one because what little you see of the guy's face, it looks like my son!!

I won Kara Isaac's Can't Help Falling on a Facebook giveaway and was wonderfully surprised at how much I loved this book! The cover is amazing and it really catches the eye!

Kara has a zany unique writing style that combines substance with heartfelt laughter

I'm not familiar with some of these authors but really like some of them!  Keep up the good work!

Kara Isaac, you have such a gift bringing comedy, romance, and meaning to your stories. I love them!!

Wish I could have picked two books here, because Can't Help Falling caught me just by the description. I'll be looking for this one!

About the Author:

Kara Isaac
Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, released April 2016. Her sophomore novel, Can't Help Falling, releases in October 2016 and is an RT Reviews Top Pick. She loves to connect with readers on GoodReads, Twitter, Facebook and through her website.

9 December 2016

Book Promotion: Heart of the Mountain by Jeanette O'Hagan

5 - 9 December 2016

is Introducing 
(By the Light Books, 1 August 2016)

By Jeanette O'Hagan

About the Book:
Twins Delvina and Retza’s greatest desire is to be accepted as prentices by their parents’ old crew when they stumble across a stranger. Trapped under the mountain, young Zadeki’s only thought is to escape home to his kin. Peril awaits all three youngsters. Will they pull apart or work together to save the underground realm?

YA Fantasy Adventure in the lost realm deep under the mountain.

About the Author:
Jeanette O’Hagan first started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of nine. She enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing.

She is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Her short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl. She has recently published her short novella, Heart of the Mountain and, in Mixed Blessings: Genrellly Speaking anthology, also a flash fiction 'Space Junk'.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master of Arts (writing). She is a member of several writers’ groups. She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends and pondering the meaning of life.  Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Sign up to Jeanette O'Hagan's Newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/bbLJKT

Website: jeanetteohagan.com/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JeanetteOHaganAuthorAndSpeaker

Twitter: @JeanetteOHagan

Instagram: @bythelightof2moons

8 December 2016

Review: Once Confronted by Lynne Stringer

Brisbane teen Madison Craig wanted to spend her gap year in Europe with her friends, but her parents were worried that was too dangerous. Instead, she’s living in Sydney with her hippy Aunt Myrtle, and working in a bookshop with the rather attractive Evan. It’s all a little boring … until Madison and Evan are robbed at gunpoint.

Madison returns to Brisbane afraid of almost everything, at the same time as trying to convince everyone around her that she’s okay. She enrols in a degree in social work, but worries that she’ll never get over her own problems enough to help other people. An older woman on her course suggests a way for Maddie to get past the attack, but she’s not convinced and Evan is dead against it.

Once Confronted is perhaps best described as a confronting read. It doesn’t gloss over the problems social workers face and provided me with a new insight into a hugely challenging job – not one I’d be good at, both because I don’t think I could handle hearing all the hard things, and because I’d want to tell the clients what to do.

(Apparently this is discouraged, as it’s replacing one form of control with another, and the clients need to be given the freedom to make decisions for themselves. Even bad decisions. While I can see the logic, I don’t think this is something I’d be good at!)

Anyway, Once Confronted was a challenging read, but also excellent. I felt it treated both the attack and Maddie’s resulting trauma and stress symptoms realistically, showing there are no quick or easy answers. It also illustrated that each person has different reactions … and that some are more positive and healing than others.

Once Confronted is written in first person point of view, all from Maddie’s viewpoint. I know some readers don’t like this viewpoint, but I felt it worked in this case as it made sure we really understood what was going on inside Maddie’s head. I think third person might have made Maddie seem too distant, which would have made her emotional journey less compelling.

I know this is a total cliché, but I’d really like a sequel!

Thanks to Rhiza Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Lynne Stringer at her website, and you can read the introduction to Once Confronted below:

6 December 2016

1 December 2016

Clash of the Titles Oct-Nov 2016

It's the end of our CLASH year, and we've lined up some awesome holiday reading (and gift ideas!) for this month's Clash of the Titles.
Vote for your Ideal curl up in front of a fire read!

Scroll through these releases and cast your vote for your perfect idea of a next read.
It's a tough choice, but it's up to you to determine our Clash Champion!


Risking Love
Brenda S. Anderson

A play-it-safe bank employee falls for a down-on-his-luck, risk-taking widower.
Can she risk loving a man whose home she may have to take away?


An Unexpected Role
Leslea Wahl

Josie's island getaway becomes the summer of her dreams as friendships grow,
romance blossoms and a series of thefts surround her with excitement. But as
she sets out to solve the mystery she has become entangled in, she not only
realizes the importance of relying on her faith but along the way also
discovers her true self.


Forest Child
Heather Day Gilbert

Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable,
conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life and is Book Two in the
bestselling Vikings of the New World Saga.


Can't Help Falling
Kara Isaac

A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a
mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and
picturesque Oxford, England.


The Cautious Maiden
Dawn Crandall

In an effort to salvage her good name, Violet is forced into an engagement with
a taciturn acquaintance; Vance Everstone. With danger stalking her and a new
fiance who hides both his emotion and his past, Violet must decide who to trust
and who to leave behind. 


The Thorn Healer
Pepper D. Basham

A wounded nurse battles resentment against a German prisoner as the two work together to save an Appalachian town from deception and disease in the wake of World War 1.


If you have trouble viewing the entire survey Click Here to load a dedicated page to the survey. 

29 November 2016

Review: The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep

Amazon Description

Proper English governess Eleanor Morgan flees to the colonies to escape the wrath of a brute of an employer. When the Charles Town family she’s to work for never arrives to collect her from the dock, she is forced to settle for the only reputable choice remaining to her—marriage to a man she’s never met. Trapper and tracker Samuel Heath is a hardened survivor used to getting his own way by brain or by brawn, and he’s determined to find a mother for his young daughter. But finding a wife proves to be impossible. No upstanding woman wants to marry a murderer.

My Review

It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel set in America’s Colonial era. It’s an interesting time, as Europe (and even the bigger American settlements) are relatively sophisticated, but out in the back country, Americans are still living in tents and hovels.

The novel begins in 1770, before the American War of Revolution and the Declaration of Independence, but it’s easy to see the hotbed of political activity the country will become.

There are social tensions, as the country is a mix of free immigrants (religious or economic) and those who have immigrated as indentured servants, those who were forced to immigrate as convicts, or the growing number of slaves. There are also the racial tensions—between American settlers and the local Indians, between the Indians and the English, and between the English and the American settlers who want more rights.

The Captive Heart touches on many of these issues without making them the central focus of the plot—which is good. The central focus always remains on Eleanor: on her understandable difficulties in adapting to the hard life of an American settler, on her feelings for Grace, her charge … and her feelings for Samuel Heath, her owner and her husband ... who I liked a lot, mostly because of lines like this:

Samuel has secrets, a lot of secrets, and these are gradually revealed throughout the story. This keeps the plot moving, and gives us more and more reason to want to see Samuel and Eleanor together properly. The writing is excellent, with shades of early Deeanne Gist novels such as A Bride Most Begrudging (which remains my favourite, and which shares a similar time and setting to The Captive Heart).

There are also some minor characters I’d have liked to have seen more of: Molly and Biz, Eleanor’s forced companions on the voyage from England. I’m hoping they will be the subjects of a sequel or two (hint hint).

Overall, I enjoyed The Captive Heart and recommend it to fans of American Colonial fiction from authors such as Jack Cavanaugh, Laura Franz and early Deeanne Gist.

Thanks to Shiloh Run Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Michelle Griep at her website, and you can read the introduction to The Captive Heart below:

25 November 2016

Author Interview with the authors of Kisses, Kids and Bundles of Joy!

Today I'd like to welcome the authors of Kisses, Kids and Bundles of Joy to share a bit about themselves. Welcome, ladies!

1) How does your faith play into your writing?

Trisha Grace: Jesus loves you regardless of who you are or what you’ve done. That’s the message behind my books. I’m blessed to be planted in a church where my pastor preaches the grace message, reminding me each week that I’m loved and blessed despite of my flaws and sins. And that’s the same message I hope my readers will get when they read my book.

2) Why do you write the kind of books you do?

Jenn Faulk: I write Christian chick lit and romance, and my intention with every book is to point readers to Christ and His sufficiency. I think there’s great biblical truth that can be communicated through a love story about two normal, believable, imperfect people who need and find redemption in Christ as they deal with relationships and real life issues. It’s my hope that someone would read my book and enjoy the story while they’re also being encouraged and challenged to know Christ better, love Him more deeply, and serve Him more fully.

3) What advice would you give to a beginning writer?

Liwen Y. Ho: Writing is a solitary exercise, but it should not be done alone! For beginning writers, I’d recommend joining a writer’s group, whether online or in person. The best thing you can do is to share your work with other writers and get their feedback. And read, read, read! Read books in the genre(s) you want to write and discover what you like/dislike about certain stories. Read about writing techniques and how to create characters that come to life and how to keep a story flowing from beginning to end. Then do what you love to do the most—write! And don’t forget to have fun while doing it!

4) What’s on your reading list?

Lindi Peterson: My reading list lately has been amazing. Over the summer I read RITA winner Kristi Ann Hunter’s A Noble Masquerade. Awesome book. Then I read The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. I couldn’t put this book down. Three different generations whose stories intertwined. Loved it. I read a cool short story, A Spoonful of Spice by Liwen Ho. Right now I’m reading The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry, one of my favorite authors. I have so many books on my TBR pile. What a good problem to have, right?

5) How do you celebrate the release of a new story?

Tanya Eavenson: Growing up my parents would celebrate special occasions by taking the family out to Red Lobster. Fast forward twenty years, my wonderful husband takes me out to celebrate a new release. Can you guess where? Yep! Red Lobster. Love that man!

6) What do you like to snack on while writing a story?

Cindy Flores Martinez: I love this question because I can just picture it in my mind, casually reaching over and grabbing a snack while writing. I’m sure every writer would tell you that there isn’t time to stop when you’re in the middle of writing, especially if you’re working on an important scene. Sometimes I find myself feeling weak because I’ve skipped a meal. And just in case that happens, I always have fruit or a granola bar nearby that I can reach for. But that’s only if I am absolutely about to lose consciousness.

7) What type of research do you enjoy doing for your stories?

Cindy K. Green: I love research! I’m a trained historian so research is exciting to me. In fact, when I am stuck on a project whether plot or otherwise, research is one of the best ways to get out of a bit of writer’s block or it just inspires me to write period. I write both contemporary and historical novels. Of course, every story includes some research. I had to research golf & golf courses, as well as, how a company goes through the process of going public for one contemporary novel. But the historical ones are the ones I love to research most. I’ve been working on a historical western series for the last few years. It has been such a joy learning more about old Carson City, Nevada; the 1870’s clothing and hats; and everything else relating to the period of the booming silver mines in the area of the Comstock Lode. My father lives in that area, and he is a terrific resource for background information.

Snuggle up with seven Christian winter romances from bestselling and award-winning authors. Kisses and kids abound in this collection of novellas that will warm your heart all winter long.


24 November 2016

Review: The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson

Amazon Description

Evangeline is gifted with a heavenly voice, but she is trapped in a sinister betrothal until she embarks on a daring escape and meets brave Westley le Wyse. Can he help her discover the freedom to sing again?

Desperate to flee a political marriage to her cousin King Richard II’s closest advisor, Lord Shiveley—a man twice her age with shadowy motives—Evangeline runs away and joins a small band of servants journeying back to Glynval, their home village.

Pretending to be mute, she gets to know Westley le Wyse, their handsome young leader, who is intrigued by the beautiful servant girl. But when the truth comes out, it may shatter any hope that love could grow between them.

More than Evangeline’s future is at stake as she finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue that threatens England’s monarchy.Should she give herself up to protect the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

My Review

I’ve read several favourable reviews for Melanie Dickerson’s fairytale retellings, so I was when The Silent Songbird came up for review, I was keen to read it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it. I suspect I’m not the target audience, even though I often read and enjoy Young Adult novels (e.g. Intermission by Serena Chase).

I didn’t warm to either Eva/Evangeline or Westley as characters. Westley was too perfect—his only fault seemed to be that he was too trusting. Evangeline seemed too modern in her thinking, and I wasn’t convinced someone with her sheltered upbringing would have the gumption to refuse marriage at the order of the King.

I found the writing wooden, mostly because of the lack of contractions. Yes, I know the English didn’t use contractions in the 1300’s, and avoiding contractions was probably intended to add an air of authenticity. But I still think it made the writing seem stilted and artificial.

The novel seemed well researched, if a little Disneyfied. It’s loosely based on the story of the Little Mermaid, and if I remember my childhood fairytales correctly, her punishment for choosing to live as a human was that every step would feel like she was walking on knives. Disney ignored this, and The Silent Songbird also ignores some of the seedier side of medieval life—which made it read more like fantasy than the historical romance I thought it was going to be.

And perhaps that’s my actual problem. I’m not a fantasy reader. Sure, I’ve read some of the classics, but I much prefer dystopian or science fiction to fantasy. Perhaps that’s because I’ve studied history and visited English castles, and know a little too much about what goes on in a torture chamber, which means I don’t find anything romantic about novels with this kind of time setting—whether true historical fiction or some kind of wishful fantasy, as this is.

This is the seventh book in a series, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. I’m sure those who have read and enjoyed the previous books will also enjoy this, as will readers who enjoy historical fiction/fantasy.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

22 November 2016

Review: A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay


A Portrait of Emily Price is Katherine Reay’s fourth novel, and all have similarities. They’re all contemporary, yet with a strong nod to literary masterpieces of yesteryear. They all feature strong characters, especially the flawed heroines from messy backgrounds trying to find their way in the world. If Katherine Reay’s were young adult novels, they’d probably be called coming of age, but they’re definitely not YA—the themes are definitely grown-up.

They’re character-driven novels. The plots often meander, especially in the beginning, and it’s only when I finish the novels that I realise how all the threads have been pulled together. Yes, the writing is outstanding.

But that leaves me with a dilemma every time I come to start a new Katherine Reay novel: will it measure up to my memories of the previous story?

Well, I’m pleased to report that A Portrait of Emily Price measures up, and more. The beginning was a strange mix of slow and fast. Fast, in that Emily and Ben meet and fall in love so quickly, but slow in that we’d almost reached the halfway point before Emily arrived in Italy … which would have been a spoiler if it wasn’t for the book description:

Art restorer Emily Price has never encountered anything she can’t fix—until she meets Ben, an Italian chef, who seems just right. But when Emily follows Ben home to Italy, she learns that his family is another matter . . .
Emily Price—fix-it girl extraordinaire and would-be artist—dreams of having a gallery show of her own. There is no time for distractions, especially not the ultimate distraction of falling in love.
But Chef Benito Vassallo’s relentless pursuit proves hard to resist. Visiting from Italy, Ben works to breathe new life into his aunt and uncle’s faded restaurant, Piccollo. Soon after their first meeting, he works to win Emily as well—inviting her into his world and into his heart.
Emily astonishes everyone when she accepts Ben’s proposal and follows him home. But instead of allowing the land, culture, and people of Monterello to transform her, Emily interferes with everyone and everything around her, alienating Ben’s tightly knit family.
Only Ben’s father, Lucio, gives Emily the understanding she needs to lay down her guard. Soon, Emily’s life and art begin to blossom, and Italy’s beauty and rhythm take hold of her spirit.
Yet when she unearths long-buried family secrets, Emily wonders if she really fits into Ben’s world. Will the joys of Italy become just a memory, or will Emily share in the freedom and grace that her life with Ben has shown her are possible?

Don’t you just love it when the book description is a plot summary rather than a teaser? No, nor do I.

As suggested in the book description, the story really hits its stride in the second half, when Emily arrives in Italy. It’s as though the first half is all the back story and set up necessary for us to understand Emily’s actions and reactions in Monterello, because it was here we got to see Emily change—and it was great to see.

A Portrait of Emily Price isn’t specifically Christian fiction. There is no conversion, and while the Vassallo family are obviously all Roman Catholic, there is little to hint that their faith is separate from their small town Italian culture. Yet there are hints, especially in Emily’s conversations with the town priest, and in the underlying themes of acceptance and forgiveness.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Katherine Reay at her website and you can read the introduction to A Portrait of Emily Price below:

17 November 2016

15 November 2016

Review: 3 Days: A Passion by T M Fairman

Amazon Description

Within the aftermath of an epidemic that has been contained through sacrifice rather than cure, a young woman discovers she has contracted the Disease.

She has three days to live.

Society has deemed her irredeemable and requires her to pass her last three days in quarantine; a sacrifice for its own preservation.

Her only link to the life she once had is her husband. Together they must try to battle with their demons. Together they must try to discover how their love can be expressed during separation and in the face of death. Together they must wrestle with the issues of love and loss, grief, depression and hope before finally having to say goodbye to each other.

On this sad, but beautiful journey, they are faced with the questions;
Where does the light come from in their lives?
What happens when that light goes out?
What is there beyond life itself?

My Review

What initially captured my attention about Three Days was the voice. It’s told in first person, from two points of view: a husband and wife, both unnamed. The wife has the Disease, and while we don't know at first what the Disease is, we see it means she has ten minutes to leave her entire life behind and go into isolation. And the husband is left behind to cope with life alone.

While this provides a lot of intrigue at the beginning, the constant telling and unbelievably long paragraphs make parts of it a long slow read, especially the husband’s point of view. There were also a few speed bumps: misspelled words, typos, tense mixups, and stilted dialogue (which I suspect was a result of a lack of contractions and gave the novel a "foreign" feel, even though I later worked out it was set somewhere in England—where I lived for ten years, so not exactly foreign).

Yet some of the writing was brilliant:

Isn’t that intriguing? And it was lines like that—and the overall intrigue of the story—which kept me reading.

Three Days is subtitled A Passion, which has clear links to Jesus and his Passion—the time between his crucifixion and resurrection. But I wouldn't call it Christian fiction. Yes, there were faith elements, but they were understated. It's more a study on dying and death, and one that was all the more poignant as I was reading it the day my father died.

Does Three Days answer the big questions posed in the book description? I don't think so. But I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it.

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

11 November 2016

Friday Fifteen: Toni Shiloh

Today I'm delighted to introduce debut author Toni Shiloh and her novel, Buying Love. Here's the book description:

Will money ruin everything?

Nina Warrenton is ready for the next step in her life plan—marriage, but there is one problem. No one has proposed! Taking matters into her hand, she places an ad in the newspaper hoping to entice a willing stranger. But when she begins to fall for the small-town chef, she realizes how much she wants him to love her and not her money.

Dwight Williams needs fast cash to save the family restaurant. When he sees Nina’s monetary offer for a husband, he goes for it. He’s determined to save the legacy his dad left him, but can he let it go to prove his love for her?

Can Nina and Dwight find true love, once money has entered the equation?

Congratulations, Toni, on your new release!

And now here is Toni's Friday Fifteen: her fifteen favourite authors. Welcome, Toni!

1. Jane Austen

Ms. Austen is the reason I fell in love with romance. I first read her when I was preteen and adored the characters and the story.
(I didn't read Austen until later, but there's something magical about her characters and her writing).

2. Danielle Steel

When I got older, I read Danielle Steel. There was something about her novels that captivated me and transported me into another world.

3. Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

These guys were my first introduction into Christian fiction and I was hooked!

4. Lauraine Snelling

Ms. Snelling was one of the first romance authors I read in Christian fiction. Her Red River of the North series made me long for simpler times.

5. Francine Rivers

Ms. Rivers challenged me to think outside the box. Her characters have real issues that tug at your heart strings.

6. Beverly Jenkins

Ms. Jenkins’ Blessings series pulled me in with the diverse characters and hometown settings. I loved the family atmosphere and hope to incorporate that in my own work.

7. Joanne Bischof

Five words: The Lady and the Lionheart
(On my to-read pile)

8. Heather Gray

I love her characters. Real, funny, and Christian.

9. Lynette Eason

Romance and suspense?! Need I say more?
(No, that covers it.)

10. Dee Henderson

She was the first romantic suspense author I ever read and got me hooked on the genre.
(Me too!)

11. Becky Wade

I adore her writing. Her books touch my heart.

12. Jennifer Rodewald

The emotion in Ms. Rodewald’s books is phenomenal!
(Another author who is on my to-read pile.)

13. Ronie Kendig

Ms. Kendig writes military romantic suspense…at least that’s how I think of it! As former Air Force, I LOVE it.

14. Camille Eide

The Memoir of Johnny Devine hooked me to her reading style and made me a forever fan.

15. Elizabeth Maddrey

She deals with tough subjects and always makes me think.
(And yet another author who is on my to-read pile.)

About Toni Shiloh

Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an Air Force veteran, and a member of the body of Christ.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She likes to volunteer at her children’s school. When she’s not writing, she’s reading. An avid reader of Christian fiction, she writes reviews on her blog and enjoys helping other authors find readers.

10 November 2016

ACRBA Review: The Kingdom of the Air by CT Wells

7 - 11 November 2016

is introducing 

(Rhiza Press, 1 April 2016)

By C. T. Wells

About the Book:
Winner of the CALEB Unpublished Fiction 2014

Winner of the Clive Cussler Adventure Writer's Competition

1940. The Battle of Britain has begun.

A young Messerschmitt pilot is shot down over Dartmoor. He tries to evade a manhunt, knowing that if he is captured by the British, his war will be over. But when Josef Schafer falls into the hands of a sinister agent of the Special Operations Executive, his troubles have only begun. He is returned to occupied France having made an impossible deal with the British.

As the air war escalates, Josef is in danger in the sky and on the ground. His allegiances are tested as he is torn between loyalty to his Luftwaffe comrades and a French woman whom he is compelled to serve.

The stakes are high. Whoever controls the sky above the English Channel will decide the fate of nations. 

About the Author:
Peter C.T. Wells grew up in coastal Victoria, Australia. He comes from a creative family. Playing in the bush and on the beach was a fertile place for an imagination to develop. He has always been drawn to stories that explore character in the extremes of human experience.
He attended The Geelong College and The University of Melbourne. He has an Arts degree and a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership. He taught English and Outdoor Education for many years before becoming a school leader in Australia and then Head of School in an international school in Indonesia.

He was seriously injured in a taxi accident in Jakarta whilst en route to America to receive an award for The Kingdom of the Air. Now almost fully recovered he sees the experience as his own opportunity to explore character in the extremes of human experience!

Authors who have influenced Wells include: William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Chandler, Ian Fleming, Jack Higgins, Alistair McLean, Conn Iggulden, and Lee Child.

Wells now lives in country Victoria with his wife and three sons.

My Review

I read an early version of The Kingdom of the Air, before it won the 2014 CALEB Prize for unpublished manuscripts. It needed work, but I could see the potential even in that rough draft. The writing was strong, the characters memorable, and the plot full of action. Even better (as a historical fiction fan), the research was top-notch. I've visited many of the locations in the novel, I've seen many of the planes fly, and I've spoken to people who were there. Wells captured the feel of World War Two Europe better than most authors, and I was thrilled when I heard not only had he won the 2014 CALEB Prize, but also the Clive Cussler award. Both awards are well deserved, and I hope to read more from CT Wells.

Recommended for historical fiction readers.