31 May 2016

Review: The Peppercorn Project by Nicki Edwards

Bittersweet Australian Rural Romance

When Isabelle Cassidy’s husband dies, he leaves her not just their two children but also all the debts from their overextended city lifestyle. Isabelle applies for a reduced rent property in the tiny South Australian town of Stony Creek as a way of getting back on her feet financially, and providing her small family with a new start. While she does have some trouble adjusting to life in the small town, her major issues are her son—who keeps getting into trouble at school—and her own inability to move on from life with Dan.

The Peppercorn Project is the first book in a new rural romance series from Australian author Nicki Edwards. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I enjoyed the books in her first series (and I think there is still one more to come in her Escape to the Country series, because there is one recurring character she has yet to marry off).

I think there are a couple of reasons I didn’t enjoy this as much. One is that the first book in a series often has a lot of setting in terms of time and place and introducing new characters, and it naturally feels a little unfamiliar.

Another is that The Peppercorn Project is about a widow who is still in love with her husband for much of the book—which meant she wasn’t a character I found it easy to related to (but let’s be honest. Who wants to be able to relate to a widow who lost the love of her life in a freak accident?). This meant the romance took a long time to get going, and felt a little rushed towards the end.

I’ll also provide a brief content warning: while Nicki Edwards is a Christian, The Peppercorn Project is a general market romance novel. It’s clean, but there are still a few scenes that many Christian romance readers won’t feel comfortable with.

But those slight niggles aside, The Peppercorn Project is an enjoyable light romance with shades of darker issues, like the drug problems affecting rural Australian communities. The cover is lovely, the writing is good, and the characters are excellent.

Matt Robertson is a worthy hero, a policeman intent on protecting his adopted community of Stony Creek . . . and the beautiful wounded widow who has just moved into town. Issie is fragile and distant, daughter Mietta is a darling, and Fletcher is achingly familiar. The townsfolk range from goodheartedly interfering to downright irritating, which is exactly as it should be (after all, we have to get to know some characters so we have an idea of what to expect in the next novel in the series).

Overall, this is an enjoyable light read with a location and characters I’ll want to come back to. Only no more distraught widows, please!

Thanks to Momentum Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Nicki Edwards at her website (http://www.nickiedwards.com.au/).

27 May 2016

Friday Fifteen: Christy and Sarah Newman

Today I'd like to welcome authors Christy and Sarah Newman to Iola's Christian Reads. The sisters have recently published their first novel, Madra Rising, and are here today to share their own favourite authors. Welcome, Christy and Sarah!

1. The Bible authors (first and foremost)

God, speaking through them, gives us endless wisdom, delight, understanding, direction, and the most solid foundation there is.

2. J. R. R. Tolkien 

His writing style encourages us to use our imaginations with honor to the King.

3. Walter Farley 

We love horses, and his writings were fun to read.

4. Robert Frost 

His poetry is so descriptive we can see, feel, smell, and hear his poems come to life. We aim to make our descriptions beautiful.

5. C. S. Lewis 

He is a highly intelligent man, and his writings say much that is important in a manner readily understood by all.

6. Robert Louis Stevenson 

Treasure Island is loved by many and sweeps us away to great adventure.

7. Frank E. Peretti 

Just a gripping and exciting storyteller.

8. William Shakespeare 

Let me count the ways.

9. Erin Hunter 

When I was a child, her stories, brought to life with cats, entertained me and made me want to write.

10. William Goldman 

He brought almost everyone’s favorite, S. Morgenstern’s classic, The Princess Bride, to life. Quotes from his book (and movie) never grow old.

11. Sherri Schoenborn Murray 

Although she is a new author, her books touched us deeply.

12. Edgar Allen Poe 

Although often dark, Poe’s brilliance shines through his work.

13. R. C. Sproul 

He is one of the foremost theologians of our time, making the heaviest and most difficult theological questions understandable to the layman. He has even written beautiful children’s books.

14. Lloyd Alexander 

He wrote books with a standard of excellence in fantasy literature for children. His characters are fun for children while teaching important lessons.

15. T. H. White 

He brought Arthurian legends to life for us.

Cristy and Sarah have recently published Madra Rising, a Christian Fantasy/Romance novel. It is an innocent fantasy romance with Christian undertones which brings together castles, royalty, adventure, and dragons in a way that will satisfy your desire for good and justice to triumph over evil. Nonstop action along with keen humor and fellowship will lead you through this medieval-type world where knights, kingdoms, countrymen, and royalty team up to bring tyranny to a timely end.

The only fantasy element is dragons, but we’re not so sure they are fantasy because they are mentioned in the Bible. It has surprises, humor, and a quick pace. It is clean of foul language, gruesome violence, and sex. You can read the opening below:

About Christy and Sarah Newman

We are sisters and best friends, artists, musicians, and award-winning authors who live, eat, ride horses, sing off key, and work in tandem to produce books for your entertainment and our pleasure. We are teen students living, studying, and writing in the high desert. Our goal is to provide clean, God-honoring fiction with undercurrents of Christian themes and good values.

My sister and I love writing together. We enjoy it so much we don't consider the uncountable hours we spend on our books as work. Life can be difficult, and our books will take you away to another world for a while. -- In His Grip, Christy & Sarah Newman.

Please see our website at https://www.SilverMistBooks.com

Our Social Media Links are:
Silver Mist Books on Facebook
Christy Newman on Amazon
Sarah Newman on Amazon

Contact us at SilverMistBooks@yahoo.com if you have any questions.

26 May 2016

Review: Smoke and Mirrors (multi-author box set)

Smoke and Mirrors is a collection of eight romantic suspense novellas, all of which have characters with hidden identities, to keep them out of danger. Each novella is introduced by the author of the previous novella, which is a nice touch.

THE LONG VIEW by Connie Almony

JT is thrown back together with Destiny, his teenage crush, when his old boss—her father—calls on him to investigate Destiny’s new ‘friend’, a suspected ISIS terrorist.

An excellent story, with a theme it pays to remember: sometimes, we have to take the long-term view in order to succeed. This is the first time I’ve read anything by Connie Almony, but it won’t be the last.

TAKEN by Sally Bradley

Taken follows on from Kept, Sally Bradley’s outstanding debut novel. But Taken is definitely romantic suspense: Cam Winters has feelings for Jordan Foster, his best friend’s much-younger sister. But he also has a secret . . .

I enjoyed Kept, I enjoyed Taken, and I look forward to enjoying many more of Sally Bradley’s novels and novellas in the future. I like her characters (especially her strong and intelligent female characters), her writing, and the way she combines Christian themes and messages into stories that aren’t the Christian norm without ever coming across as preachy.

ON THE ROPES by Hallee Bridgeman

Victor is a pro boxer and member of a Russian mob family, but a strong Christian and faithful boyfriend, even in the face of distance and danger. But will Ruth believe that, or will she believe what everyone else believes?

On the Ropes is a dual timeline story, slipping between the present and the recent past. I initially found this a little distracting, but it worked once I got into the flow of the story, and On the Ropes turned into an excellent short suspense novel with a strong Christian message (although perhaps a little too heavy on the suspense and a little too light on the romance? Oh, well, we can’t have everything).

OUT OF CIRCULATION by Heather Day Gilbert

Out of Circulation also has Russian mobsters, this time threatening small-town librarian Katie McClure. She seeks protection from Manhattan bodyguard Ace Calhoun who just “happens” to be in town. I didn’t enjoy Out of Circulation as much as the previous three novellas, mainly because I didn’t like Ace’s prehistoric attitude towards women, and couldn’t understand what Katie (and her sister, and her mother) saw in him. It’s hard to love a romance when you don’t like the hero.


Hollywood grip Levi Boulter is an undercover FBI agent, and when his ‘other’ job catches up with his day job he finds himself forced to dump Mahari, the love of his life, for her own protection. But his noble gesture soon puts both of them in danger.

While Dangerous Alternative had excellent potential as a romantic suspense novella, I did feel the plot got a little lost in the pro-alternative medicine theme. I was taken aback by Mahari’s profession as an acupuncturist and herbalist, as her belief in and reliance on these alternative medicines seemed to contradict both her Indian heritage and her Christian faith. It also bothered me that the Christian characters were more willing to seek healing through alternative medicine (on which Christian opinion is divided, to say the least) than through prayer (I know not all Christians believe in the power of prayer to heal, but surely it should at least be considered? Or is this my needle phobia talking?).


Jo aka Lacy is finally moving on four years after losing her fiancé and entering the witness protection program. Alaskan state trooper Kurtis would like to marry Lacy, but is she ready?

I felt this novella was mistitled: there was no identity theft (where one person steals the identity of someone else and passes him or herself off as that person especially in regard to financial fraud). I also got confused over the details of the witness protection program, as one of the details in this contradicted a detail in On the Ropes. Yes, I get they are both fiction and both use an element of artistic license. But reading them so close together highlighted the inconsistencies to the detriment of this story.

OBSESSION by Rachel Trautmiller

Two pregnant homeless women are dead, and Detective Amanda Nettles is horrified to find that not only has her mother escaped from her Alzheimer’s care home, but she’s found at the scene of the second crime holding a bloody knife. Factor in a pregnant teen, an unhelpful colleague and an obstructive doctor, and there are a lot of problems to solve.

Obsession is obviously part of a series, and I found it difficult to get into at first, because it felt like I was dropped in the middle of a story without knowing any of the characters (not helped by the fact there were a lot of characters, most of whom were referred to by several different names). The plot was also more complex than normally found in a novella, with a couple of significant subplots which only came together in the closing pages.

Once I sorted out all the characters, Obsession turned into a well-written and fast-paced thriller, one of my favourite in the collection. I suspect it would have been better as a full novel so all the subplots could have been given the attention they deserved.

SCENT OF DANGER by Alexa Verde

Small-town cop Maya Hutchinson risks her life to find her missing twin sister by posing as her (now this one could have been called Identity Theft!). She is helped by dashing senator's son and cop-turned-PI Connor McNamara, but he’s keeping a secret from Maya as well . . .

Scent of Danger was an excellent finish to the Smoke and Mirrors collection, with solid writing, great characters and a plot that was exactly the right mix: straightforward enough to follow, but with enough twists and turns to keep me guessing. Another author I’ll watch out for.

Any novella collection has some stories which are outstanding (Taken), some which are average, and most of which are in between. And a lot of this will be down to personal taste: I find it hard to like a story about a character I can’t relate to or like, but that’s often a matter of different life experience. Overall, Smoke and Mirrors is a very good collection and one which has added some authors to my to-watch list. As though it’s not long enough already.

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

24 May 2016

Review: Think & Eat Yourself Smart by Dr Caroline Leaf

MAD Scary

Think and Eat Yourself Smart is a new direction for Dr Leaf, better known for books about the mind, such as Switch on Your Brain. In Think and Eat Yourself Smart, she looks at the relationship between what we eat and our general health, including brain health—as nutrition affects the way we think.

She goes on to a detailed discussion of the problems associated with the Modern American Diet (which gives us a convenient and descriptive acronym, MAD), characterised by fast food, processed food, and cheap genetically modified food.

I live in New Zealand, and a book like this makes me doubly thankful, because many of her complaints either don’t apply here, or apply to a lesser degree. For example, New Zealand doesn’t currently produce any genetically modified food crops, so her concerns about introducing GM crops into the food chain needn’t affect the way I shop or eat as long as I’m buying local products. (Then I looked at the canola oil my husband bought which is made in NZ "from local and imported ingredients". Hmm. That could mean anything.)

I’d never thought too much about the “evils” of GM food before this, but now I’m convinced I don’t want to eat GM foods, I don’t want the meat I eat to have eaten GM foods, and I want New Zealand to remain committed to GM free horticulture and agriculture (although I’m less fussed about GM pine trees. I don’t eat pine trees).

As another example, our cows and sheep live in paddocks and eat grass. Dr Leaf has numerous reasons as to why grass-feed milk and beef are healthier alternatives than the “conventional” US grain-fed diet—much of which is genetically modified grain. Yes, our food is more expensive than food in the US, but reading this makes me happier about paying for that quality.

Dr Leaf talks about food deserts (areas where there is no fresh fruit and vegetables available to buy), battery farms, and food that has been manufactured to be cheap and addictive, not nutricious. I can see this is a huge social problem: how can parents think and eat themselves and their children smart if they can’t actually access healthy food?

This is where the “thinking” ourselves smart comes in: we have to retrain our minds to believe the truth about food, so that we can actually change our eating habits to feed our bodies and our brains the way we were meant to.

In a nutshell, Dr Leaf is a firm believer in the value of “real” food—basically, cooking using seasonal local ingredients, as so many of the processed options available today consist of “empty” calories which send the wrong messages to our brain and can result in a multitude of health problems, not least weight problems.

Dr Leaf writes from a Christian point of view and backs up many of her opinions with quotes from the Bible. But even an atheist would benefit from reading this book: ignore the Bible quotes and focus on the science and the common sense.

We are what we eat, and a lot of the “food” available to eat isn’t what our ancestors would recognise as food. And the science backs this up: too much American food has been processed to the point where many of the nutrients aren’t there any more, and this affects the way our bodies and brains process the food.

Recommended for anyone concerned about what they eat.

Thanks to Baker Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Dr Caroline Leaf at her website (http://drleaf.com/), and you can read the introduction to Think and Eat Yourself Smart here:

20 May 2016

For my African Friends (whether you live in Africa or not!)

This isn't a typical Iola's Christian Reads post. But it's a post about something I believe is important, and I wanted to share it with you—to share with your friends, with your fellowship, and to pray about (or even contribute towards via the Kickstarter campaign, which you can find here: Africa Study Bible Kickstarter Campaign).

Introducing the Africa Study Bible from Oasis International and partners.

From the press release:

Millions of English-speaking Africans know and love Christ, but for many, God’s word is hard to grasp. With nearly every full evangelical study Bible written from the viewpoint of the United States and United Kingdom, Africans have lacked a resource that connects with their unique experience, hindering discipleship.

But that is about to change as major Christian organizations, led by Oasis International, are joining together to launch the Africa Study Bible (ASB), a six-year, cross-continental effort that has produced the first study Bible developed by Africans for Africans.

“With the ASB, we’re bringing the power of Scripture to Africa in a new and culturally relevant way,” says Dr. Matthew Elliott, president of Oasis, publisher of the ASB.
“Under the leadership of an 11-member editorial board of scholars from across Africa, we’ve brought together 350 writers and editors from over 40 African countries, representing 50 denominations. This is an unprecedented project that will impact the global church.”
With the editorial nearly complete, Oasis, with the support of its partners, is inviting fellow Christians to join with them in helping get the ASB into the hands of Africans. With a goal of raising one million dollars to print the first 100,000 copies, Oasis is seeking private donors as well as launching a Kickstarter campaign, which begins April 18 and runs through June 16.

Contributors to the Kickstarter campaign have the opportunity to receive incentives ranging from artwork prints to limited Italian leather editions of the ASB as well as all-expense paid trips to the launch of the ASB in the United States and in Africa.
“Our goal is to have the first run of the ASB available in Africa by the end of 2016,” says Elliott. “We already know of more than 100 million people in denominations and movements in Africa whose leaders want to use the ASB for discipleship so there is a lot of anticipation throughout the continent.” 
Designed to grow the faith of African church members, teach them to evangelize their communities, and apply a biblical worldview to their society, the ASB uses the New Living Translation and includes 2,400 plus features such as application notes, stories and proverbs, touchpoints that link Africa and the Bible, learn notes that explain basic theology, and major theme articles that apply the Bible to key issues. Oasis plans to initially release the ASB in English with French and Portuguese translations in development. Oasis is also developing a full-featured app of the study Bible.

To support the effort, Oasis is partnering with Tyndale House Publishers to create the study Bible. Other participants include Campus Crusade for Christ, International, Willow Creek and Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students), Scripture Union, Africa Leadership, TransWorld Radio, Moody Broadcasting, Center for Early African Christianity, PJA (Publications pour la Jeunesse Africane), MMD Global, The Livingstone Corporation, InSight Books, Urban Ministries Inc., and the Association of Evangelicals in Africa, with additional participants being added on a regular basis.
“We have seen the hand of God in amazing ways throughout the development of this project,” says Elliott. “In the words of our supervising editor, Dr. John Jusu, the content of the ASB is bubbling up from the cultures of Africa. The biblical truth is percolating through our own cultures and stories to create a rich and textured tapestry that Africans can claim as their own.”

This video introduces the project, and why it's important:

The Kickstarter Campaign:

The English translation is done, and now Oasis International are seeking donations to fund the printing of the first 100,000 Bibles. French and Portuguese translations will follow, and these will enable 70% of literate Africans to read the Africa Study Bible.

Campaign pledges start at USD 5 (for which pledgers receive a social media shout-out and access to the online version of the Book of Genesis), to USD 10,000, which includes an all-expenses-paid trip to Kenya for the launch of the Africa Study Bible. Yes, I'd love to, but unfortunately, the higher rewards are only available to residents of Canada and the US (rewards up to USD 500 are available for Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the European Union).

You can out more information about the project and the rewards at the Kickstarter Campaign page: Africa Study Bible Kickstarter Campaign

From Iola:

While the Bible isn't yet ready for production and there are no reviewer copies available, Oasis International have provided me with a link to the front matter and the Book of Genesis, and I'm impressed.

It's obvious a huge amount of work has gone into this project. There are contributions from hundreds of African pastors, and traditional sayings and stories from across the continent are used to illustrate the Biblical principles. I can see this project will be of huge benefit to Christians across Africa—and to Christians outside Africa who'd like to learn more about the similarities and differences in African cultures.

I might just have to pledge the USD 50 that will get me the paper version . . .

19 May 2016

Review: The Reluctant Duchess by Roseanna M White

Strengths and Weaknesses

The Reluctant Duchess is the sequel to The Lost Heiress, and has all the same strengths—and weaknesses.

Americans don’t seem to understand that a title is a title, not a first name. I found the continual use of “Duke” and “Duchess” as names to be annoying and disrespectful—I know teenagers go through school calling their teachers “Sir” and “Miss” (regardless of age or marital status), but an adult wouldn’t call President Obama “Pres”, although he might be called Mr President. Nor would we refer to Prince Harry as “Prince”, partly because Prince refers to The Artist who recently died. (Also, the architecture of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton isn’t Russian. At least, not according to the guide book I bought when I visited the Pavilion a few years back. Or Wikipedia).

Leaving that aside, The Reluctant Duchess was very good. I love Roseanna White’s writing, especially her clever turns of phrase:
The smile one wore in company. The way one spoke, laughed, connived. Lessons no one had bothered teaching Lady Rowena Kinnaird.
It’s a twist on the marriage of convenience plot, with Brice, the Duke of Nottingham, offering to marry Lady Rowena Kinnaird after she is threatened by a “suitor”, and because God told him to. Lady Rowena knows she has to marry, and soon, but can’t stomach the thought of what goes with marriage—not after her recent attack by her “suitor” (which, of course, Brice knows nothing about). This is a picture of God’s love in action, and it’s refreshing to see Christian fiction which is actually Christian. More, please!

So there is the married-strangers plot and the jealous-ex subplot. There is also a subplot which follows over from the first book around some missing jewels. Both Brice and Rowena find themselves in the middle of a plot to locate and steal the jewels . . . only Brice has them very well hidden. This provides an excellent suspense plot to go along with the developing relationship between Brice and Rowena.

The Reluctant Duchess can easily be read as a standalone novel. Recommended for historical romance fans, especially those who enjoy novels set in the Edwardian era (aka when Downton Abbey is set).

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Roseanna M White at her website (http://roseannawhite.com/wordpress/), and you can read the introduction to The Reluctant Duchess here:

17 May 2016

Review: Mail Order Surprise by Lucy Thompson

Excellent Mail Order Bride Debut

Amazon Description

Colorado, 1881.

Lydia Walsh is on the run. The quiet rancher she marries and expected to find safety and protection with turns out to have three siblings, next to nothing to live on, and is a crack shot who may or may not be one of the states best cattle rustlers.

Beau Harding wants to keep his family together and do the right thing by them. His mail order bride comes with her own set of baggage: two more mouths to feed and empty hearts begging him to fill. The job he took for some quick money gets him thrown in jail for rustling, and then to clear his name he takes on another job--and learns that his wife may have been the one plotting his family’s downfall all along.

My Review

I do enjoy a good Christian Western—I suspect they are one of my favourite genres of historical because they are full of strong heroines and loveable heroes, and many of them also have a touch of humour (e.g. Karen Witemeyer, Carol Cox). So I was thrilled when I heard Australian author Lucy Thompson had released her debut novel, and even more thrilled when she offered me a review copy.

And it’s excellent: totally on point, as my teenage daughter would say. We’ve got a heroine in a pickle, a hero with a problem (well, three problems in this case, in the form of three younger siblings). There is a raft of lovable minor characters as well, and while many of the elements of the novels are predictable (cowboys, ranches, steers, and a regrettable lack of indoor plumbing), there are also plenty of original touches to keep the reader interested and story moving forward.

There was one aspect to the plot which didn’t quite ring true for me, in that it didn’t seem consistent with what we had been told about the character. However, I was relieved to find that was addressed with a completely unexpected plot twist (and I don’t want to say anything else, as it might spoil the story).

Recommended for fans of mail order bride stories, and fun Western historical romances. I’ll be looking forward to the sequel (there has to be a sequel. There are three more siblings!).

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Lucy Thompson at her website (https://lucythompsonauthor.com/), and you can read the introduction to Mail Order Surprise here:

13 May 2016

Friday Fifteen: Kara Isaac

Today I'd like to welcome debut author Kara Isaac to Iola's Christian Reads. Kara has recently released her first novel, Close to You (which I reviewed here), and she's here today to share her favourite 15 authors. Welcome, Kara!

1. C.S. Lewis

Who can get past the Chronicles of Narnia? Brilliant storytelling that appeals from small children up to the oldest adult.

2. Becky Wade

Becky Wade’s My Stubborn Heart that released a few years ago now was the book that helped me believe there was a place for my voice in Christian fiction.

3. Enid Blyton

What an imagination! From the Famous Five and Secret Seven, through to the boarding school girls of Mallory Towers and St. Claires then the wonderful magical worlds at the top of the Faraway Tree or on the other side of a ride on the Wishing Chair, she fed my reading for years.

Agreed! I wanted to go to Mallory Towers.

4. and 5. Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon

In my tweens and early teens I devoured every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book I could get my hands on! At the time sixteen and seventeen seemed sooo old ;-)

6. Brock and Bodie Thoene

To date, their Zion Covenant series, set during WWII remains my favourite series of all time. Even though it’s been almost twenty years since I first read it. And John Murphy was my first fictional crush ;-)

7. Susan Meissner

Every year, I wait for January to come and the next Susan Meissner story to be published. Her The Fall of Marigolds was my favourite book for 2014 and I still think about it!

8. Jen Hatmaker

I’m very late on the Jen Hatmaker fan-train. I only really discovered her last year and need to work my way through the backlog of her titles but For The Love had me alternating between hysterically laughing and pondering. You know it’s a great book when you’re sending photos of pieces of text to your sisters!

I've just looked up her books—they look excellent!

9. Carla Laureano

I love how Carla’s main characters never have a sense of the predictable about them. She crafts nuanced and complex people and isn’t afraid to go places where it’s rare for Christian fiction to go.

This doesn't surprise me—I could see similarities between Carla's writing and Close to You.

10. Katie Ganshert

Katie has such stunning writing and is so well deserving of all the awards and praise that she’s garnered. She just keeps getting better with every book.

11. Francine Rivers

Her Mark of the Lion series made ancient Rome so real and vivid. Capitvating!

And Marcus . . . 

12. Julie Cantrell

I just finished her latest release, The Feathered Bone. While I loved both of her previous books this one had me absorbed like nothing existed. The lyrical writing, the rawness of the protagonist, the hope weaved through the devastating circumstances. But be prepared for your heart to be shredded by the end and your eyes to be puffy!

13. Kate Morton

Kate’s The Shifting Fog was the first book that got my hooked on dual-time stories and it still remains one of my favourites ever!

14. Jenny Simmons

I love her memoir style of writing. She writes with an authenticity and vulnerability but also a great sense of humour.

15. Donald Miller

I haven’t read his most recent releases but I remember buying three copies of Blue Like Jazz so that I could pass them around friends and never risk losing my own copy!

That's some endorsement!

Kara, thank you for adding to my to-read pile. :)

About Kara Isaac

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, is about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand and just released from Howard Books. 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. She loves to connect on her website, on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Writer and Twitter @KaraIsaac

You can read the beginning of Close to You below:

12 May 2016

Review: Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson

Amazon Description

A Riveting Cold-Case Mystery from Dee Henderson

Evie Blackwell loves her life as an Illinois State Police Detective . . . mostly. She's very skilled at investigations and has steadily moved up through the ranks. She would like to find Mr. Right, but she has a hard time imagining how marriage could work, considering the demands of her job.

Gabriel Thane is a lifetime resident of Carin County and now its sheriff, a job he loves. Gabe is committed to upholding the law and cares deeply for the residents he's sworn to protect. He too would like to find a lifetime companion, a marriage like his parents have.

When Evie arrives in Carin, Illinois, it's to help launch a new task force dedicated to reexamining unsolved crimes across the state. Spearheading this trial run, Evie will work with the sheriff's department on a couple of its most troubling missing-persons cases. As she reexamines old evidence to pull out a few tenuous new leads, she unearths a surprising connection . . . possibly to a third cold case. Evie's determined to solve the cases before she leaves Carin County, and Sheriff Thane, along with his family, will be key to those answers.

My Review

It’s always interesting to read the book description after reading the book—it shows that what the publisher thought the story was about, what they thought was important . . . which doesn’t always stack up with what I, as the mere reader, thought the story was about. Because I hadn’t read the book description since I requested the book (several weeks before I read it), I honestly thought Traces of Guilt was about Josh Thane and his childhood friend, Grace Arnett. Oops.

Traces of Guilt actually covered both couples (although they weren’t really couples—Traces of Guilt is definitely suspense rather than romantic suspense). Evie is in town to solve some cold case crimes, and Grace is in town to ask for Josh’s help in solving a cold case of her own—her parent’s death, over twenty years before. There’s conflict, mystery and suspense, and plenty of it.

I’ll add a trigger warning here: 

If any readers have avoided some of Dee Henderson’s earlier books (e.g. Taken) because of the themes, they’d be well advised to avoid Traces of Guilt as well. This isn’t the novel you pick up when you’re looking for a little light-hearted entertainment, as the plot elements echo Henderson’s other recent novels—this is one Christian author who isn’t afraid to expose hidden evils.

The other possible proviso is for those who didn’t like Full Disclosure: Ann Falcon is a pivotal character in Traces of Guilt, and while other characters say marriage has been good for her, I’m still not an Ann Falcon fan. She’s too perfect, and I don't like her.

However, this isn’t Ann’s story. Instead, Traces of Guilt is a well-plotted police procedural mystery, with Evie working with Gabriel, Josh, Will and their father to uncover the secrets behind the disappearance of a police deputy and his family, and a small girl. The results are predictably unpredictable. Or perhaps unpredictably predictable.

Overall, Traces of Guilt was a solid mystery that will appeal to Dee Henderson fans (but perhaps not those who loathed Taken, or don't like Ann Silver). But I can't say it was good enough to tempt me to read the next book in the series.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

10 May 2016

Review: Someone Like You by Victoria Bylin

Real Christian Romance About Real Characters

Victoria Bylin might write Christian romance, but she doesn’t shy away from the tough topics. In fact, anyone who scoffs at romance novels in general and Christian romance novels in particular should read Someone Like You. Whether they like it or not, they can’t call it soft or shallow or any of the other less-than-complimentary terms people use (as an aside, it’s fascinating how some Christians exhort others to follow their God-given calling at the same time as decrying romance novels. Do they forget God is the author of the ultimate romance? Or reject the idea that He might call authors to model godly sacrificial love in fiction as well as non-fiction?).

Anyway, Someone Like You covers it all: faith, loss of faith, premarital sex, single parenthood, men with control issues, men with personality issues, men with faith issues. Fortunately, these issues are balanced out with a good dose of

Zeke Monroe is the General Manager of the Caliente Springs resort, a position that might be temporary if he can’t pull the resort out of a financial tailspin and convince the co-owner not to sell. He’s hoping to land a big contract with Carter Home Goods . . . but doesn’t expect the event planner here to review the resort to be his college girlfriends, Julia Dare.

Julia has recently left her partner, the father of her four-year-old son, and become a Christian—in part, because of the influence of her college boyfriend, Zeke—the guy she dumped to hook up with suave lawyer Hunter Adams, Max’s father.

She’s now struggling to set up an event planning business to support herself and Max, and manage a relationship with a narcissistic ex who seems set on sabotaging her childrearing methods and her life in general. Especially when he finds out she’s in contact with Zeke again. Even though that’s purely professional. Isn’t it?

Basically, Someone Like You had everything a Christian romance should have. Loveable hero. Intelligent and likeable but flawed heroine. A strong Christian theme that achieves challenging without being preachy. And excellent writing. Recommended.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

5 May 2016

ACRBA Tour and Review: Glimpses of Light Anthology

2 - 6 May
is introducing

(By the Light Books, 15 December 2015)

Edited by  Jeanette O'Hagan and Nola L Passmore

About the Book:

Be challenged, captivated and moved by these imaginative reflections on faith, help in time of need, joy in the midst of tragedy, and surprising encounters with God.

During 2015, the International Year of Light, twenty-one authors from Australia and the United States have come together to explore the theme of 'glimpses of light'—finding light in dark places—through short stories, poems, flash fiction and creative non-fiction.

Glimpses of Light includes contributions from respected and award-winning authors and poets Jo-Anne Berthelsen, Paula Vince, Lynne Stringer, Adele Jones, Jo Wanmer, Jeanette Grant-Thomson and Ellen Carr, as well as exciting new talent.

Profits from this anthology go to CBM Australia, giving sight to the blind.

My Review
This anthology is a mix of short fiction, longer fiction, poetry, and a couple of non-fiction pieces, all around the theme of light. Several are fantasy stories, and each of the authors to an excellent job of condensing a lot of world building and plot into a small space.

I’m normally a fiction reader I do have to say I liked the two non-fiction pieces best, especially the final piece from Jo-Anne Berthelsen. I also surprised myself by liking one of the short poems! It’s a varied and enjoyable selection, and I’m sure everyone will find something to like.

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

About the Editors


Jeanette O’Hagan 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 Tied in Pink romance anthology, Another Time Another Place, Poetica Christi’s Inner Child, Let the Sea Roar, Like a Girl. 

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master’s in writing. She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children. 

Website: jeanetteohagan.com


Nola Passmore’s poetry, devotions, inspirational articles, and short fiction have appeared in magazines, journals and anthologies in Australia and overseas. Although she’s a former academic with qualifications in creative writing, psychology, and Christian ministry; she’s found that you can never underestimate the power of friends and mentors in the writing journey.

With ringleader roles in Quirky Quills and the Toowoomba chapter of Omega Writers, she’ll be nagging (oops, encouraging) other writers for some time. She and her husband Tim have a freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish. 

Website: www.thewriteflourish.com.au

3 May 2016

Author Interview: Hope Toler Dougherty

Travel to the small town of Mars, where you'll find a meddling horse, paper bag floors, and a flying saucer on the town square—in Hope Toler Dougherty's book, Mars . . . with Venus Rising. Penn Davenport dreams of passing the CPA exam and moving away from the two aunts who reared her after her parents died in a plane crash. When John Townsend—full of life and the joy of living—moves to town, he rattles Penn's view of herself, her life, and her dreams . . . which isn’t such a bad thing until she falls for him and discovers he’s a pilot.

Celebrate Hope's Mars . . . with Venus Rising blog tour with a Kindle Fire Prize Pack giveaway!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Mars . . . with Venus Rising
  • A $25 Amazon gift card
  • A Kindle Fire
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry! The giveaway ends on May 18th. The winner will be announced May 19th on Hope's blog.


I wasn't able to finish Mars with Venus Rising, so instead of a review, I'm bringing you not one, but two interviews with the author. First, a YouTube interview, then a pen-and-paper (well, keyboard-and-internet) interview.

Tell us a bit about the story behind your latest novel. Where did you find inspiration?

For my second manuscript, I wanted a twenty-something United States citizen, like the ones found in a particular line I liked to read.

We lived near an intriguing little town for fourteen years. Mars, Pennsylvania, is a cool place with a flying saucer planted in the middle of town. The residents are called Martians. The ball teams’ mascots are the Planets.

As a Southerner, I have plenty of interesting relatives, and I’ve heard many crazy stories, like selling socks to finance a coast-to-coast vacation. Add my Southern roots to zany tidbits from Mars, temper crazy into quirky, and I had my tone.

Next, I focused on characters. Penn Davenport teaches math, studying to be an accountant.

Reared by her aunts after her parents died in a plane crash, Penn struggles with belonging, living a quiet, safe life. John Townsend, a live-life-with-gusto pilot nudges her out of her comfort zone.

What was the hardest part about writing your novel: Getting started? Keeping it going? Finding the perfect ending?

Fear and procrastination. Once I get started, I’m okay, but I have to get started every day.

What trait do you love most about your main character?

The trait I love about my main male character is his enthusiasm for life. He doesn’t let a slight handicap (walking with a limp) hold him back from experiencing all that God has planned for him, but he tempers that enthusiasm with compassion.

When readers get to the last page, what do you hope they take away from the story?

I want readers to realize God wants us to live a full life. He doesn’t want us to sit on the sidelines, watching. He has wonderful plans for us, and He wants us to embrace those plans with a spirit of power.

What are you working on next?

My agent has my third manuscript, a romantic suspense set in North Carolina. The story has guns, a kidnapping, and an attempted rape. It’s very different from my first two novels. I’m a little over halfway writing a fourth story, and this one is mostly romance.