Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: Return Policy by Michael Snyder



Joy has swapped blogs for the day with Tiffany from Tiffany's Bookshelf. While she is over there reviewing romance, Tiffany is here reviewing Christian fiction in another genre.


This book weaves together the stories of three protagonists- Willy, an writer and college professor dealing with several emotional crises in his life; Ozena, a customer service representative for a company called Javatek, struggling with being a single mother to a son with disabilities as a result of a childhood accident; and Shaq, a man living in a homeless shelter who huge black holes in his memory, and sometimes mistakenly fills them in. As the book progresses, the stories of these three people, and the people in their lives, are synthesized into one beautiful and touching story.

Michael Snyder does an amazing job of bringing these stories together to form a literary French braid of sorts, constantly adding outside information to one of the three strands, all the while strengthening the overall work of art. I was worried when I first began reading that I would not be able to keep all the characters straight, but the flow was so natural, the reader does not really notice the change in first person narrative voice between the three main characters. It was almost as if having a movie play in my mind, a sign to me of a well written book.

There were times this book literally made me laugh aloud, and there were times it brought tears to my eyes. Some of the concepts mentioned in the book include loss of love or never finding love, and fear of death versus fear of really living. I would say love, in all its various forms, is the central theme of the book. Sometimes the way it is approached is poignant, sometimes it is humorous, but always, it is relatable.

I love the fact that that Michael waited until the very end of the book to allow some very surprising resolutions to occur. It is rare that I get caught off guard with a book, but this one certainly did do just that, and I was very pleased. I like the fact that the characters in the story are flawed, and still try to make the best of who they are and what they have to offer.

Because this book has characters that are so different from each other, it will appeal to a wide reading audience. I can see both male and female readers liking the book, and it could be a great book for a married couples’ book club. I found this book to be very entertaining, without requiring too much of an investment of either time or emotion. All in all, a solid heartwarming read.

This book was provided for review free of charge courtesy of the Christian Review of Books.

Tiffany's been reviewing at Tiffany's Bookshelf for less than a year, but she has loved books her whole life. She is married to a wonderful man, and will celebrate her first wedding anniversary in October. When not writing book reviews, she also writes two additional blogs about being a small town wife, and raising their pets, a cat named Nora and a dachshund named Dexter. Someday, she hopes to make the leap from reviewing books to actually writing them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

In My Mailbox (aka Mockingjay Mania)

In my Mailbox and Mailbox Mondays, are weekly memes by The Story Siren and The Printed Page/Chick Loves Lit. It's been a couple weeks since I participated and I've racked up a few new titles.

These are the books I received for review:
1. Havah by Tosca Lee.

I got this book twice, a print version in the mail and also a free download from Barnes and Noble. I decided to use this book as the September pick for the Christian Fiction Book Club.





2. Love Charleston by Beth Webb Hart










3. Within my Heart by Tamera Alexander.

Yay! One of my wish list books showed up! Now I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a review copy of A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman.

Tamera will be here on Wednesday for my Outside the Author's Studio feature. Be sure to tune in!



4. Goodness Gracious Green by Judy Christie









These are my new e-books (I probably won't write reviews):

1. Gone to Green by Judy Christie (e-book)










2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins










3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins










4. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

Two weeks before I go back to school, and I'm trying to squeeze out the last bits of summer vacation. I went on a little book buying binge and bought this entire series. And since I didn't have to work, I devoured them one right after the other.




Jillian at Random Ramblings is running a great blog feature called "Show and Tell." A bunch of Mockingjay maniacs- I mean book bloggers, sent in photos of ourselves holding the new release and shared our stories about how we first discovered this series.



Here's my story:
Before I started blogging, I'd never heard of the Hunger Games series. But this summer I kept seeing the same book come up on blog after blog in my Google Reader. There were countdowns and tickers all over the place for this Mockingjay. It seemed I was missing out on some major event, and I never like to be left out. But I still wasn't totally convinced. I don't read a lot of YA, and I didn't even know what dystopian meant.

Last week, I decided to give Hunger Games a try. For the first third of the book, I was pretty ambivalent. The story was okay. Nothing to write home about. But I remember the exact moment the game changed (pun intended). When the boy with the bread confessed his love for Katniss Everdeen on national television, he captured my heart along with the rest of the citizens of Panem. And I knew then, not only would I finish this book, I'd have to read the whole series.

One of the advantages of getting to the party late is being able to read all the books back-to-back. I downloaded each of them onto my iPhone, culminating with Mockingjay on Tuesday morning. It's been an amazing ride!

Want to read everyone else's Mockingjay experience? Head over to Random Ramblings.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Did Ted Dekker write a romance?

Someone tweeted this trailer to me yesterday, and I have to say I'm intrigued. Intrigued enough to squeeze Immanuel's Veins into my pretty full fall schedule if someone can confirm this has a strong romantic storyline.

Watch this trailer. What does it look like to you? Gothic Christian romance? Edgy Christian romance? Romantic fantasy?




None of the Amazon tags say romance, and romance is not something I typically associate with Ted Dekker. So, has anyone read it? What d'ya think? Will I like it? How important was the romance to the story?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Review: Secrets and Lies by Rhonda Mcknight and Giveaway!

Secrets and Lies is the emotional story of a marriage falling apart. Jonah Morgan is a pediatric cardiologist who works too hard, drinks too much, and shares too little with his spouse.
His wife Faith is trying to walk in the word and live up to her name. But when her husband's drunken rage threatens to hurt her son, she takes the kids and moves out.

There was a lot of bitterness and resentment on both Faith and Jonah's parts. The author does an excellent job portraying those emotions, because I felt as if I were going through this separation with them. Since the destruction of their marriage seemed so authentic, I found this a tough read.

But the author gives us breaks of levity in this novel- sparks of snarky humor that revolve around Jonah's gold digging coworker, Samaria, whose breasts could have been a main character.

I dog-eared some of my favorite lines:

p. 114 "Faith...watched Samaria pull on the sides of her bra. Samaria was wasting her time. Those babies weren't getting back in there."

p. 128 "With each step she took, her huge breasts were closing the space between them. If they could talk, they would be chanting, "Touch us."

Mcknight is a solid writer and I can honestly say I liked the book. She did an effective job of telling Faith and Jonah's story which ultimately has a happy ending. My taste leans more toward 'sweep you off your feet' romance though, and this novel did not fall into that category.

Want more information? Here's the back cover blurb:
Faith Morgan is struggling with her faith. Years of poor communication and neglect leave her doubting that God will ever fix her marriage. When a coworker accuses her husband, Jonah, of the unthinkable, Faith begins to wonder if she really knows him at all, and if it's truly in God's will for them to stay married.

Pediatric cardiologist Jonah Morgan is obsessed with one thing: his work. A childhood incident cemented his desire to heal children at any cost, even his family, but now he finds himself at a crossroads in his life. Will he continue to allow the past to haunt him, or find healing and peace in a God he shut out long ago?

In her debut novel, Secrets and Lies, Rhonda McKnight delivers unforgettable characters and page-turning drama about a couple whose troubled marriage is pushed to its limits amidst secrets, lies, and an enemy set on revenge.

My rating:










It's giveaway time!


I have a signed copy of Secrets and Lies by Rhonda Mcknight to give to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment between now and Wednesday, include your email address if it's not in your profile!




CymLowell

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Introducing the Christian Fiction Book Club


I'm searching for more meaningful ways to connect with fans of Christian fiction. I have touched base with some of you through your blogs and on Twitter, but I'd like to chat with you in more detail. So, I'm starting a Christian fiction book club.

Thing is, I'd rather not host it every month. Instead, I'd prefer it hop from blog to blog. You don't need to be a book blogger or writer to participate. I'd love for this book club to cross over into Christian mommy blogs too!

I'll get us started by hosting September's club meeting here. We'll read Havah by Tosca Lee. Hopefully many of you were able to pick up a free download from Barnes and Noble when I announced the special a few weeks ago. But if not, I have a print copy to give away today (more on that later). Also, Havah is currently available for review at NetGalley.com.

Here's how the book club will work:

1. Secure a copy of Havah by Tosca Lee and read it between now and September 29.

2. Peruse these discussion questions on Tosca Lee's website. Choose one or more of them to address in a blog post. You might also want to include a short review of the book.

3. Schedule your blog post to run on September 29. You may copy and use the book club logo above if you'd like.

4. On Wednesday September 29, I will run my review and answer a few discussion questions. I'll include a MckLinky at the bottom so you can link your posts.

5. From Wednesday the 29th to Saturday Oct 2, we will hop around reading and commenting on the reviews and opinions of participating bloggers.

6. If you do not have a blog of your own, you can share your opinions about Havah in the comment sections of other blogs.

7. Have you already read Havah? Great, participate anyway! You'll got a head start answering some of the questions!

Here's more information about our September book club pick:


This is from the back cover:

Eve...

Myth and legend shroud her in mystery. Now hear her story....

From paradise to exile, from immortality to the death of Adam, experience the dawn of mankind through the eyes of the woman first known as...Havah.

Praise for Tosca Lee's Havah: The Story of Eve

"Havah is a novel with boundless imagination...a book of such scope, such beauty, that it defies description." -Eric Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Fireproof.

"Tosca Lee has given us a veritable literary feast in Havah. Her vivid story of the original earth mother nourishes while her delicious use of language delights. Devour it." -Claudia Mair Burney, author of Wounded.

"The story of Eve comes alive in this interpretation of the first people of the Bible. Even today, this story of love, longing, and loss offers encouragement." -Romantic Times

"Tosca Lee has breathed new life into the story we thought we all knew so well." -Fiction Addict

"An enchanting story, masterfully told by an extraordinary wordsmith." -Robert Liparulo, author of Comes a Horseman.


Giveaway time! Want to win a copy of Havah by Tosca Lee?

Leave me comment within the next two days to let me know you're interested in participating in the Christian Fiction Book Club. Remember to include your email address if it's not in your profile. I'll use random.org to pick a winner Friday.

Also, I'd love to get some book recommendations for October and pipe up if you're interested in hosting future meetings at your blog.

Want more information about future book club picks and locations? Join my group at the Book Club Network or look for updates in the Christian Fiction group at Book Blogs.





(Will you consider tweeting or blogging about this book club to drum up some interest? My social share buttons are below.)
iFellowship

Monday, August 23, 2010

41 Quirky Questions for Readers

This questionnaire has made its way around the book blogs I follow. It originated with 55 quirky questions over at the Literary Lollipop, but I cut mine down a little.

1. Favorite childhood book: The Berenstain Bears. When I was in 3rd grade, the librarian forbid me to take out any more of those books because she wanted me reading chapter books instead.

2. What are you reading right now? I just finished Hunger Games and Catching Fire this weekend. I was probably the last book blogger left who hadn't read the series by Suzanne Collins. But I'm all caught up now, and ready for Mockingjay on Tuesday. I'm also reading an urban Christian fiction book called Secrets and Lies by Rhonda McKnight.

3. What books do you have on request at the library? I don't have any books on request at the library (see question 4).

4. Bad book habit: I can't believe I'm gonna admit this in public...but I carry outrageous library fines. I probably owe in excess of $100 right now. What happens is I take out a stack of books then hold onto 'em for months and months until I finish. When I finally get around to returning them, I pay off my fines and then the cycle starts all over again. I live in fear that one day they'll turn me over to a collections agency.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? I have a book in my car right now called Writing Dialogue by Tom Chiarella, but it's- ahem- several months overdue.

6. Do you have an e-reader? I have an iPhone with both the Kindle and Nook apps on it.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? I prefer to read one at a time, but these days I seem to have 2-3 going at once.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? I definitely didn't read more than one book at a time before blogging. Other than that, I'm reading more now. Which is good for me, because I think good writers need to be prolific readers. So I'm reading for enjoyment, but I also consider it part of studying the craft.

9.Least favorite book you read this year: Out of respect for the author, I will refrain from answering.

10. Favorite book you've read this year: Since May, I've blabbed all about the books I love on this blog. Check out the five couple reviews for my favorites. But I've also loved some books that I didn't review. I read Lost in Nash Vegas and Diva Nash Vegas by Rachel Hauck this year and they were both delicious. If I had reviewed them, they would have been five couples all the way. I need to mention her name around here more often, because she's an awesome author.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? If I had to guess, I'd say every other month I'll grab something out of my comfort zone.

12. What is your reading comfort zone? My favorite genre is Christian romance. But I'll consider bestsellers in genres outside of that comfort zone. For example, Hunger Games is a mainstream YA bestseller.

13. Favorite place to read: In a deck chair on a cruise ship? But most days my bed will do.

14. Do you dog ear your books? Oh yeah, so I can come back to the juicy parts.

15. Do you write notes in the margins of your books? Only when I'm studying the book. I highlight writing craft books all the time. And occasionally I do it in novels when I want to analyze the author's technique (like how much back story she includes in chapter one, or how many adjectives she got away with).

16. Do you break/crack the spine of your books? Never.

17. What is your favorite language to read? English is the only language I read, unless you count when I read Le Petit Prince in high school French class.

18. What makes you love a book? The romance!

19. What will inspire you to recommend a book? If I'd rather read it than go to sleep.

20. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did): The classics. I read them all the time in college. Back then it was important to me to be well read. These days, I just want quick entertainment. Does that make me shallow? I feel a little guilty about not reading the classics anymore.

21. Favorite Biography: Night by Elie Wiesel, which is technically an autobiography.

22. Have you ever read a self-help book? (And, was it actually helpful?) I've read tons of books on organizing and de-cluttering. But as I type this, I'm laying in my unmade bed and there's a coat, a stack of semi folded laundry, my purse, and a couple of baseball caps on the bed with me. You be the judge.

23. Favorite Cookbook: I don't have much use for those. My husband does all the cooking in our house. He's pretty darn good at it too.

24. Favorite reading snack: chocolate

25. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience: The Catcher in the Rye. Back when I was reading the classics, I picked this up and I didn't understand what all the hype was about.

26. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? Before I started writing, I had no problems with giving bad reviews. Now, I can't help but think about how I'd feel if someone trashed my hard work. So my policy at this point is to email the author, let her know the novel didn't connect with me and let her choose between me writing a negative review or not reviewing it at all. It's an awkward conversation though, so I try really hard to pick books I'm sure I'll enjoy.

27. Most intimidating book I’ve read: The Bible, not because it's scary or hard to read. But because you can never really finish reading it, there's always more to discover. You can read it your whole life and never be done.

28. Favorite Poet: Shel Silverstein (I teach elementary school).

29. Favorite fictional characters: The ones I create myself.

30. Favorite fictional villain: There will never be a better villain than Benjamin Linus from Lost.

31. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation: I always try to find books set in the location I'm visiting. I'm a little dorky like that.

32. The longest I’ve gone without reading: Years. After I gave birth to the twins, I didn't read anything at all until they were in preschool.

33. Name a book you could/would not finish: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I have the whole series sitting here waiting for me, but 450 pages into number one, I lost interest in the story. I will finish it, eventually. I want to finish it. Everyone I know raves about it. It just seems like such a huge time commitment right now.

34. What distracts you easily when you’re reading? Not much. I mean, if there's blood I might look up....or if the boys are playing with matches.

35. Favorite film adaptation of a novel: The Hallmark Channel's adaptation of Love Comes Softly starring Kathryn Heigl was awesome.

36. Most disappointing film adaptation: I don't think the Left Behind movies starring Kirk Cameron did the books justice.

37. How often do you skim a book before reading it? Never. I don't want to know what happens until I get there.

38. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through? Bad theology in a Christian fiction book. Yeah, I know it's only fiction, but some things are too sacred to me to play with.

39. Are there any books that you’ve been avoiding? The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. A friend lent me this book last year and I've been wanting to read it, but the thought of my kids ever growing up without a parent is so heartbreaking, I don't know if I'll be able to get through his story without crying and getting depressed.

40. A book I didn’t expect to like but did: The Harry Potter series. When it first came out, I read it to see what all the fuss was about. I ended up being one of those people waiting at the door of the bookstore for the next release.

41. A book I expected to like but didn’t: The Shack

What say you, fellow bookworms? Have you answered these questions on your blog? Leave a link so I can read all about your quirks.

Friday, August 20, 2010

What is Christian Gothic Romance?

Author Nicola Beaumont is guest blogging today to describe an exciting new sub-genre in Christian romance.

Suspense. Terror. Women in danger. Classic gothic romances of the 19th century, as well as modern gothics by such novelists as Barbara Michaels and Victoria Holt, offered exciting stories by way of ghosts and all sorts of otherworldly—often non-Christian—happenings. They were a thrilling read, but I asked myself, could this gothic romance sub-genre really be pulled off in a Christian novel? My resounding conclusion was, “of course!"

Some classic elements in a gothic romance are:
• Suspense
• Tortured/misunderstood hero
• A heroine isolated/trapped and in danger
• A spooky/dark setting
• Supernatural occurrences
• Nature analogizing emotion

These elements, when enshrined within a Christian context, embody the salvation story. Our hero finds redemption, our heroine finds trust and peace, light is shed on the dark setting to reveal the truth—all truly Christian themes.

Into the Grae is set on a 19th century, misty Scottish moor. Someone is killing off the women Graeme loves. He thinks it’s a punishment from God, but as light is shed on the darkness, we discover the truth, and Graeme finds peace and a renewal of his faith.

Felicity is a woman of faith. A woman on a misguided mission who finds her life in danger. She must come to terms with her rash decisions and rely on God to protect her—from the external danger, and from her own emotions.

This is what the Christian Gothic Romance truly is—taking heart-pumping, nail-biting suspense, wrapping around the otherworldly, and through it, showing God’s love and truth.

Still not convinced that a gothic can be Christian? Leave a comment here, and I’ll randomly pick one person to receive a complimentary PDF of Into the Grae. You’ll be able to judge for yourself.

(Please remember to include an email address if it's not in your profile).

Here’s a sample of what's inside the story:

Scotland, 1823

Corpulent clouds bloated with rain cast restless shadows over Beacon Hill moor. Felicity Worthington tightened her grip on the horse’s reins as the curricle jostled over uneven ground. The impending storm gave her a moment’s pause. Was this venture worth the risk? She would end up in Bedlam, or worse, should her action prove to be folly. Still and yet, she snapped the leather, urging the black stallion to press on. Folly, or no, she would have the truth before this journey was complete. And her revenge.

Thunder rolled across the darkened sky, an angry mirror to her own knotted emotions. A bolt of lightning shattered the dusk. The horse reared, and Felicity’s hold on the reins slipped. With a violence, she was thrust to one side, her pelisse flying open to the icy, howling wind. A startled scream escaped her as the chill penetrated her walking dress, her petticoats, her skin. The blood in her veins seemed to freeze.

As the clouds gave way to their burden, she struggled to right herself, to grasp the strap before she was cast off the seat completely. Rain came in torrents. Her soaked, gloved hand slipped ever-so slightly before finding blessed purchase along the leather.
Thank You, Lord. I knew we were in accord. Please help me to reach Hamel House without further delay, that I may kill Graeme McCracken in due course. Clarissa’s death would not be in vain. Felicity had vowed it. So it would come to pass.

Rain slapped at her skin, stinging her cheeks, blurring her vision in the waning light as the horse flung itself wildly, then grappled for foothold as the road turned to thick, innavigable mud.

Thunder and lightning dueled once again. The stallion reared then faltered. A carriage wheel slammed hard into a rut. The vehicle swayed violently. Felicity lost the reins, her arms and legs flailing as her body launched into the air. The curricle keeled, the stallion collapsed. Felicity landed hard on the wheel then rolled off, hitting the mud face-up. Pain exploded in her body. Rain poured into her mouth as she struggled for breath. She coughed. The clouds billowed across the sky. The horse whinnied.

Then, all went black.

****

“Eleanor, fetch me clean water.”

The masculine voice penetrated the walls of Felicity’s unconscious mind. The words were plain, but the deep tone, made musical by a Scottish lilt, reverberated like a melody. She tried to open her eyes, to seek the sound, to partake of it once again, but she could not.

Something soft traced across her forehead. Then something cool. “Awaken fair stranger. You shall be fine in no time at all.” That voice. That touch. Come again, her mind beckoned.

“But, I am not a servant.”

Felicity winced. The female voice was shrill and whiny. Harsh.

“I need clean water, Eleanor. Why must you argue? Mrs. Haggerty is abed.”

A door opened. Closed. Something moved, caused Felicity to shift. Again, she struggled to open her eyes.

“Ah, that’s it.” The voice.

Speak again.

Light filtered in slowly. Her eyelids parted, and she focused on eyes as green as moor grass after a spring rain. They reflected compassion. Mesmerized, she could not look away.

“Welcome back to the living.” That voice. He leaned over and gently brushed hair from her cheek. “Can you tell me your name?”

She breathed in the scent of him. A genuine and pleasant masculine aroma not covered by the harsh colognes one tended to wear in the City. Refreshing.

She gave him a faint nod; her head felt heavy as a sack of flour. “Felicity Worthington?”

“Are you not quite sure, then?” His voice blanketed her in warmth, distracting her mind.

She thought she was sure. “Of a certain,” she said. Although, she wasn’t.

He studied her with those green eyes as he rubbed an open palm across his stubbled chin. So out of fashion, she thought. And so handsome. The dark shadow lent him a mysterious air and formed a perfect frame for his light eyes as it joined his shock of black hair. “Well, you certainly gave us a fright. No one tackles these moors at night, especially during a storm.”

“What do you mean, ‘at night’?”

Felicity turned her gaze towards the harsh voice. She hadn’t heard the door open, but now there stood a woman on the threshold holding a porcelain jug.

“No one tackles these moors at all anymore,” the woman said.

He glanced at her for a moment and then cast his gaze upon Felicity. A sadness was etched beneath those green eyes that tugged at her heart. “’Tis true.” He placed a cloth that Felicity had failed to notice earlier into a basin beside the bed. “Well, Eleanor, thank you for fetching the water. Please come and make the acquaintance of Miss Felicity Worthington.” He smiled at Felicity, but she took note that it did not meet his eyes.

The woman scoffed and dropped the pitcher onto the sideboard that sat to the left of the door. Liquid sloshed, leaving droplets of water on the rich mahogany surface. “I do not know what is wrong with you. I neither care to make the acquaintance of Miss Felicity Worthington, nor believe you should be playing nursemaid to her, Graeme. She is obviously ill-mannered and a trollop! Why else would she be out after dark and quite literally alone on the moor?” She spun and exited the room, the door slamming behind her.

Felicity lay stunned.

“I must apologize for my sister-in-law. She but worries on me overmuch and thinks I should have a care for my reputation.” He shook his head, and ebony strands glided to and fro across his brow. “Why, I do not understand. My reputation is a shambles. I could do naught to worsen it.”

Graeme. Surely it was not so! This beautiful male specimen with the voice like smooth, polished marble. A voice that stirred the soul even whilst it lay unconscious. This…this was Graeme McCracken, the very devil himself?


Nicola Beaumont lives in the Southwest with her husband and children. Into the Grae is her fourth White Rose Publishing title. In addition to writing romance, Nicola writes mystery/suspense. Her latest, Silent Witness, is an August 2010 release by Avalon Books.



Thanks so much Nicola for visiting today! Don't forget, if you'd like to win a copy of her book, Into the Grae, show Nicola some love in the comment section and be sure to include your email address if it's not in your profile!


(And thank you to everyone popping by from the Friday book blog hops! Please wave at Nicola while you're here!)



Book Blogger Hop

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review: Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist

If I measured the heat level of a romance by how many times I dog eared the pages to come back to them, then Maid to Match would be like a summer in Arizona. This inspirational romance was steamy, just the way I like 'em. And just so we're clear, a steamy inspirational means lots of restrained passion, not graphic descriptions.

Deeanne Gist has a way with writing dialogue- romantic one liners that just rip at your heart and bottom out your stomach (there's a scene involving shirt measurements that made me swoon). If you've been reading my blog, you already know I'm a huge fan of Gist's work. But I'd place this latest book in her top three, along with my dog eared copies of A Bride Most Begrudging and The Measure of a Lady.

Mack and Tillie are both likable characters with hearts for God. I found the premise of a romance between house servants at the Biltmore Estate unique, and I got such a kick out of exploring the setting- turn of the century North Carolina. One of the thrills of reading a great book is discovering new places, and Maid to Match delivered on that account too. The author hinted at a mountain man culture in that area that I'd never heard of. And the details she included about the Biltmore Estate made me wish I could visit.

I definitely recommend you put Maid to Match on your must read list!

And speaking of visits, Gist is hosting a special getaway for readers next month to the Biltmore Estate, and she just announced a significant rate drop. If you're interested, check out her website. Just don't tell me if you end up booking the trip, because I'll turn pea green (if teachers could take time off in September, I'd so be there).

Want more information? Here's the back cover blurb:

Falling in Love Could Cost Her Everything

From the day she arrives at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled- by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack's rugged behavior by tutoring him in proper servant etiquette, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie's efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt's lady's maid. After all, the one rule of the house is no romance below stairs.

But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangled in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs, their aspirations...and their hearts.

Did you miss Deeanne's visit to Edgy Inspirational Romance? Read her interview here.

My Rating:


Monday, August 16, 2010

New Reading Challenge 4/4/4!


Michelle Sutton over at the Edgy Inspirational Author blog is hosting a reading challenge I can really get behind. All you have to do is read four books in the next four months that are four years old or older. I want to participate in this challenge because I have some great older books sitting on my bookshelf that I haven't read yet. I started a series called Brides of Culdee Creek by Kathleen Morgan a few months ago. I loved the first book, but I never got around to finishing the series. So here's my chance.

Here are the rules:
It's simple. First, you need to post about this challenge on your blog and tweet about it, facebook it, etc. so that people know about the challenge and can join the fun. After you do that, post a comment with a link to your blog so I will know who is participating. Once this is finished, start listing the books you've read that were released (or copyrighted) no later than 2006.

By December you need to have read at least four books that fit this criteria. You can either list the four books you plan to read ahead of time and then cross each title out when you finish them, or you can list four blank numbers and fill the titles in as you read them. I'll do the latter (see below.) Also, make sure to post the copyright date of the book next to the number, title, and author's name.

For example, if I planned to read (or have read after beginning the challenge) Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers I would note whichever edition I've read and post the date. The latest edition was released in 2005. The first edition was in 1991. Either one would fit the criteria. So I'd type it like this...

1. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (1991)
2.
3.
4.

Are you allowed to read more than four? Sure! List them all. But to be fair, you can't list a book you have already read prior to the challenge, and you can't list a book you are re-reading. The books listed can only be first time reads that were published prior to 2006. I would love for all of the books listed to be Christian titles as well (to promote reading back listed or out of print titles) so if at all possible, please review and list Christian fiction. Last, make sure to copy this button (code is in the box) and post it along with the rules on your blog. Most of all, have fun!

And here is the list of books I plan to read. I'll cross each one off the list after I finish it:

1. Woman of Grace (Brides of Culdee Creek #2) by Kathleen Morgan- published in 2000
2. Lady of Light (Brides of Culdee Creek #3) by Kathleen Morgan- published in 2001
3. Child of Promise (Brides of Culdee Creek #4) by Kathleen Morgan- published in 2002
4. The Princess by Lori Wick- published in 1999

Want to join this challenge? Grab a button from Michelle at the Edgy Inspirational Author blog.




Sunday, August 15, 2010

Muse Online Writer's Conference



Didn't make it to RWA this year? Not going to ACFW?

Here's a writer's conference you can attend from the comfort of your own computer. And the best part is, it's absolutely free! But today is the last day to sign up for nothing. Starting tomorrow it will cost $5 to attend. Don't dawdle, because after September 10, registration for this conference closes for the year.


You can find a list of this year's presenters here.

You can find a list of the workshops and pitch sessions offered here.

You can register here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: Rodeo Redemption by Teri Wilson

A decade ago, rodeo queen Josie Turner was jilted at the alter.

These days she shuns her rodeo queen title, has sworn off men, and lives by the motto "I'd rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married."

With the help of the faithful pug she named Remedy- as in the remedy for a broken heart, Josie pieced her life back together. Now she runs a successful pet grooming business in her hometown of Angel Springs, Texas.

But when the man who left her at the alter returns, Josie finds everyone's willing to forgive and forget, including her parents. With the whole town trying to play matchmaker, is Josie the only one who can't get past the past?

Rodeo Redemption is the best romance I've read all summer. It was an absolute joy to read. The romantic tension was perfect and the author's voice sparkled with sass and humor. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop until I was finished (which was around 2am).

Turns out the hero had very important reasons for being away so long, and when he finally conquers his demons, it really tugs at your heart. I wouldn't call it a tear jerker, but this book definitely had its tissue worthy moments.

And the romance actually gave me butterflies in my stomach. Isn't that what every girl wants when she reads a love story? Well done, Teri Wilson. I'll be back!

(I received a review copy of this book in PDF format from White Rose Publishing, but I think I might have to buy the print version. This one belongs on the keeper shelf.)

Want more information? Here's the publisher's blurb:
A Former Rodeo Queen

Josie Turner spends her days at the local dog grooming shop pampering the pooches of Angel Springs, Texas. When rodeo season rolls around again, the townfolk are excited about who their new Rodeo Queen might be. Josie, on the other hand, finds herself reminded all too often about a night she'd just as soon forget.

A Former Rodeo Cowboy

Luke Anderson lived for three things - riding, roping and rodeos. Until the day he met Josie Turner, the girl who gave his life meaning, and whose heart he was destined to break. Now, ten years later, he returns to Angel Springs to find the town hasn't changed much, but the girl he left behind has become a stranger he hardly recognizes. What, he wonders, will she think of him, and the man he's become?

A Rodeo Weekend

Determined to break through the wall Josie has erected around her heart, Luke must face his demons while at the same time helping Josie overcome hers. With the whole town cheering them on, can Luke mend Josie's heart and can one rodeo weekend help them both find redemption?
My Rating:








CymLowell

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stalking Julie Lessman



Today I'm swinging open Julie Lessman's medicine cabinet and poking around. She's agreed to be the next victim of Outside the Author's Studio and she's also hosting a sweet book giveaway, so look for details at the end of the interview!

The last thing you threw away? Old makeup

Your brand of toothpaste? Sensodyne with whitening

Three things in your purse: A book, breath mints and lip gloss.

Favorite lawn ornament? Don’t have one, but if I did, it would be a large, modern metal sculpture of some kind.

A sentence from your rough draft that didn't make the novel:
Well, I really liked the original first line of my latest novel, A Hope Undaunted, but for some reason my editor didn’t, so I had to come up with a new one. The original first line was a thought by heroine Katie O’Connor that said: Love at first sight, my foot. However, to satisfy my editor, I changed it to: Now this is how love should be—nice and neat.

But I have to admit, I liked the original line SO much, that I sneaked it in at the end of the first paragraph, and my editor let it pass. So here’s the first paragraph as it finally went to print:


Now this is how love should be—nice and neat. Katie O’Connor sucked the last of her Coca-Cola through a straw in Robinson’s Diner and studied her steady beau Jack Worthington with a secret smile. No, siree, no dime-novel notions of love for her. Love requires a focused plan, she thought to herself with certainty. Cool, calm, rational thinking, not a moment in time where one lovesick glance seals your fate. With a loud, hollow noise, she drained her soda and pushed the glass away, assessing Jack through approving eyes. Her lips slanted. Love at first sight, my foot.

The name of every book you've ever published (so we can track 'em all down):
Grin. “The Daughters of Boston” series, which would be A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed and A Passion Denied. And releasing September 2010, book 1 in the “Winds of Change” series, A Hope Undaunted.

Your favorite not-quite-a-curse word:
Well, the favorite not-quite-a-curse word that I wanted to use in A Passion Redeemed was “bloody (i.e. I will do what I bloody well please),” but Revell nixed it because apparently in Europe, it is considered an actual curse word. So I went with “blast,” which hopefully didn’t offend anybody. :)

What sounds might I hear outside your kitchen window?
The lovely squalls of a darling Cooper Hawk family that lives in the woods outside my window.

One lousy job from your past:
Oh goodness, that would be when I was in my early 20s, before I was a Christian when I worked one night as a waitress in a tavern, which was absolutely awful! I was responsible for garnishing the drinks, which I knew nothing about, so I ended up putting maraschino cherries in martinis and olives in wine, etc. I quit at the end of the night and never even went back to get my paycheck. But I did make a lot of tips, as I recall, and even got a marriage proposal! :)

What would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? What every Christian longs to hear: Well done, good and faithful servant.

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 13 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction” . She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law. You can contact Julie through her website at www.julielessman.com.





It's giveaway time! Leave a comment between now and Saturday and Julie will pick someone to win a signed copy of one of her books! You may choose a title from the Daughters of Boston series or her newest, A Hope Undaunted. Be sure to leave an email address if it's not in your profile.





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