Monday, November 29, 2010

Christian Fiction Book Club discussion: The Sweet By and By

The November book club pick was The Sweet By and By by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck. Participants read the novel and chose one or more discussion questions from the back of the book to address in a blog post. This month's host is Juju from Tales of Whimsy. To join our discussion, link up your post at her website.

Short Review:

I'm not usually a women's fiction fan, but I am a huge Rachel Hauck fan and her collaboration with Sara Evans did not let me down. Like her other stories, this book was filled with her signature multi-layered characters.

Beryl is an aging hippie trying to reconnect with her estranged daughter Jade. Unfortunately, Jade carries a lot of bitterness and anger toward her mother. As the authors deftly reveal her hurts to us one layer at a time, we ache over her past but cheer her on as she finally learns to release the pain.

This is ultimately a feel good story about a woman who discovers God's love for her runs deeper than the wounds on her soul. It had just enough romance mixed with the drama to satisfy this die hard romantic.

Need more info? Here's the publisher's description:
Jade Fitzgerald left the pain of her past in the dust when she headed out for college a decade ago. Now she's thriving in her career and glowing in the light of Max Benson's love.

But then Jade's hippie mother, Beryl Hill, arrives in Whisper Hollow, Tennessee, for Jade's wedding along with Willow, her wild younger sister. Their arrival forces Jade to throw open the dark closets of her past--the insecurity of living with a restless, wandering mother, the silence of her absent father, and the heart-ripping pain of first-love's rejection.

Turns out Beryl has a secret of her own. She needs reconciliation with her oldest daughter before illness takes her life. In the final days leading to the wedding, Jade meets the One who shows her that the past has no hold on her future. With a little grace, they'll meet in the middle, maybe even before that sweet by and by.

My rating:

Warning: This post continues with a frank discussion of the book and includes spoilers.

Discussion Question:

Why does Harlan show up at the wedding? What do you think of Jade's response?

I chose this question because the scene where Jade's father shows up at her wedding was the scene in this book that surprised me the most. It was no surprise that Harlan came (he'd felt God's tug in that direction for a while), but Jade's reaction to him completely shocked me.

This man abandoned her at eight years old, and instead of treating him with wariness or anger like she did with her mom, she fell into his arms and sobbed, "You came for me, I knew you would, I knew you would."

I had no idea that Jade harbored that secret hope in her heart this whole time. I believed she'd given up on him a long time ago. Jade kept a lot of secrets in this novel but that was one she kept from the reader (and maybe even from herself) right up until that moment.

I was surprised, but not in a "that doesn't fit with her character" kind of way. No, it made total sense to me and it just showed how deep old wounds can go. I cried at that point because it seemed God worked things out to give her the desires of her heart.

Further thoughts for discussion:

Recently, Amy Riley of My Friend Amy asked on her blog if there were any books where the main character considers Christianity but ultimately rejects the faith. Mike Duran followed it with a post of his own on the subject, wondering why we don't see more faith rejection in Christian fiction. They asked for examples of stories like that. I never responded because I couldn't think of any.

Honestly, I wasn't even sure I wanted to read a book where a main character rejects the faith. I thought it would leave me without a sense of closure. And as a romance fan, I do love my happily ever afters.

But in this novel, Beryl (the aging hippie) is not a believer. And neither is her other daughter Willow. I actually found myself hoping that she wouldn't have a conversion experience during the story. It would just make the ending too tidy. Maybe the authors thought so too, because the book ended without her choosing to believe.

(Note to Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck: I am not opposed to Beryl converting in a sequel- hint, hint).

So what do you think? Did it bother you that Beryl didn't have her come to Jesus moment before the end of the story?

I found a neat video on YouTube of Sara Evans discussing the characters in this book and its sequel:

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Christmas Book Signing Bash

Have you heard about the Christmas Book Signing Bash going on now at Christian Review of Books? The event starts today and runs through December 7. There are over 75 titles signed by the authors that you can order online and the list is conveniently sorted by genre. Check it out here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oprah's...uh, Joy's Favorite Things (literary gifts for readers and writers)

T-minus 48 hours until Black Friday and I've already started my internet shopping. Right now I'm obsessed with Etsy. They have some great handmade gifts for the writer or reader in your life (or for your favorite blogger- email me for my address). Here's hoping someone can benefit from all my hours of web surfing. These are a few of my favorite gifts this year (since most of these are one of a kind creations, I'm linking directly to the Etsy shop instead of the specific item).

1. Retro Typewriter Tote bag. $20 Perfect for lugging around research for her next book.

2.Complete Works of William Shakespeare Book Purse. $45

3. Time Stands Still Steampunk Charm Bracelet $110

4. Book Page Wreath $15

5. Vintage Typewriter Key Necklace $17

Have links to literary gifts you'd like to share? Post 'em here so I can drool...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review- Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury

I've swapped blogs for the day with Brenda from WV Stitcher. While I'm over there reviewing romance, Brenda is here with a women's fiction review.

Before You Take a Stand ... You Got to Take a Chance.

Holden Harris is an eighteen-year-old locked in a prison of autism. Despite his quiet ways and quirky behaviors, Holden is very happy and socially normal---on the inside, in a private world all his own. In reality, he is bullied at school by kids who only see that he is very different.

Ella Reynolds is part of the 'in' crowd. A cheerleader and star of the high school drama production, her life seems perfect. When she catches Holden listening to her rehearse for the school play, she is drawn to him ... the way he is drawn to the music.

Then, Ella makes a dramatic discovery---she and Holden were best friends as children. Frustrated by the way Holden is bullied, and horrified at the indifference of her peers, Ella decides to take a stand against the most privileged and popular kids at school. Including her boyfriend, Jake.

Ella believes miracles can happen in the unlikeliest places, and that just maybe an entire community might celebrate from the sidelines. But will Holden's praying mother and the efforts of Ella and a cast of theater kids be enough to unlock the prison that contains Holden? This time, friendship, faith, and the power of a song must be strong enough to open the doors to the miracle Holden needs.

My take on this book:

Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury is a touching story about a young man with autism that will grab your heart and not let go!

Until the age of three Holden Harris and Ella Reynolds had been inseparable, their families were the best of friends. When Holden is diagnosed with autism, the Reynolds family decides they don't want their daughter playing with him anymore, but for Holden he never forgot Ella. Part of his daily routine is watching home movies of him and Ella before he got sick.

Fast forward- Holden is 18, he is basically uncommunicative, the only thing he really responds to is music. His mother Tracy struggles daily with the challenges of taking care of an autistic child, you can feel her pain and longing as she talks about never being able to touch or hold her son, of how she holds out hope that some day he will respond to her! Holden's dad basically ran away from the problems at home by taking a job that keeps him away from home most of the year.

Ella Reynolds seemed to have the perfect life, she was a cheerleader, and dating one of the most popular boys in school, and she has just landed the lead in the school musical,but things aren't good at home, since the family moved back to town, her mom and dad seem to be having major problems!

When Ella sees her boyfriend bullying a special needs student, she realizes he isn't who she thought he was and breaks up with him. She soon realizes the boy is Holden, her old childhood friend.

Can faith, music, and finding his friend Ella, help Holden unlock the stranglehold that autism has on him?

This was one of the best Karen Kingsbury books I have ever read! The characters came alive, and the emotions literally surround you as you read. I believe that Karen is certainly guided by God when she writes her stories, because you come away uplifted, and your faith is renewed. With this book she taught me about autism, something I knew nothing about. She also deals with some very timely issues such as bullying, suicide and peer pressure, which makes me think that this book should be mandatory reading for every high school student.

I highly recommend this book, but be prepared to laugh and cry, and see the world through Holden's eyes just for a bit. This is a faith building, life changing book you won't be able to put down. On a scale of 1 to 5 this book deserves a 10!

About Brenda from WV Stitcher:

I am married, just celebrated my 23rd anniversary on Nov 15th. I have a 22 year old son, and am owned by my two dogs, Marley a German Shepherd mix, and Abby my Yorkie. I work 40+ hours a week in health care and love my job. I am a delegate in my union. In my spare time I crochet baby hats, blankets and lap robes to donate to various charities in my area. My great escape is reading, and normally set a goal each year as to how many books I will read. This year its 150 and I think I will make it!

I remember being bitten by the reading bug in the fifth grade. Back then, The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew, and Laura Ingalls were people that I shared my days with. As I got older my love for books only grew, and I am never without my Kindle or a book. My reading taste runs the gambit, my motto is if it's a book I will read it! I started my blog back in May, at the suggestion of a friend, I was always telling her about the books I read, actually I love talking about books, and try and promote the importance of reading every opportunity I get.

Thanks Brenda for visiting today!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Taking this stalking gig on the road.

You all know my reputation as author stalker, so when I read on Seekerville that Ruth Logan Herne had a book signing an hour and a half away, I packed up the binoculars and planned a road trip (rethought the binoculars on the way out the door- probably best not to creep her out in person).

One of the best parts of making the drive was the opportunity to meet my book blogging buddy Julia Reffner from Dark Glass Ponderings. Julia and I had dinner at Panera Bread before Ruthy's book signing and while we were eating, Debra Marvin from Inkwell Inspirations found us and came over to say hello (if I could think of a fresh way to write the cliche what a small world, I'd definitely use it here!).

I'm thrilled I met these lovely ladies in real life. I'm sure my husband thinks these are pretend people I chat with everyday, now I have pictures to prove they really exist.

Ruth's books Made to Order Family and Waiting Out the Storm are in stores now!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas Cards Already?

I'll admit, last year I waited so late to do Christmas cards, I had to settle with slapping a new family photo and a status update on Facebook. But with the help of Shutterfly, I have plans to turn over a new leaf. I'm sending real Christmas cards this year, not some generic social networked greeting.

Bloggers can get 50 free holiday cards in a special Shutterfly promotion that's running now. If you're interested, check out the details here.

I took a peek at some of their cards--there are over 748 different styles! Before I make a decision, I'm sure I'll spend hours going through each one. But these are some of the early contenders:

This one is called Top Ten Moments. I like that it's a cross between a Christmas letter and a greeting card.

This one's called With Love. I like the color scheme and there's something about that Louie Armstrong song that always makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The sentiment on Christ Wishes is perfect, exactly what I want to say to my friends and family.

Are Christmas cards not your thing? Shutterfly also makes holiday gift tags, birthday invitations, and personalized calendars.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gratitude Giveaway! November 17-November 28

This Thanksgiving season, I'm participating in the Gratitude Giveaways hosted by I'm a Reader not a Writer. With over 175 blogs participating, there are plenty of opportunities to win.

I usually keep giveaways pretty simple around here, following my blog is not required. Actually, I'd prefer you not follow unless you are a fan of Christian fiction. Just smile and and leave a comment and you're entered.

But since this giveaway is supposed to be for followers, if you'd like to earn an extra entry, you can follow me on Twitter. Just leave a separate comment with your Twitter ID.

The Inspy Awards are coming up next month and I'm giving away two books nominated in the romance/romantic suspense category:

A Lady Like Sarah by Margaret Brownley
Mr. Darcy Broke my Heart by Beth Pattillo

Follow this link to learn more about the other novels nominated for Inspy Awards:

This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends November 28. Make sure to include your email address if it's not in your profile.

Wait!!! This is not the only giveaway I have happening this week! Stop by yesterday's interview of Rachel Hauck to win a copy of her novel The Sweet By and By.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stalking Rachel Hauck and Giveaway!

Are you ever so excited about an interview that you poke your sleeping husband and ask, "Do you know who just agreed to visit my blog?!?" Well, that was me last month when my favorite contemporary Christian romance author agreed to let me stalk her (and after I pulled a couple of her books off my shelf, DH was equally impressed).

Get your binoculars ready friends, this is Rachel Hauck...

The last thing you threw away: Papers. I'm always tracking and throwing away papers. I hate when people hand me papers - notes, information, whatever! I never know what to do with them.

A brand of breakfast cereal in your pantry: Cheerios!

Three things in your purse: Lip gloss, wallet and iPhone.

Something that will fall out of your medicine cabinet when I open it:

LOL. Nothing. I have so few things in my medicine cabinet. A sample of Mary Kay Night Cream. How's that?

A sentence from your rough draft that didn't make the novel:

From Love Lifted Me the third Songbird Novel with Sara Evans:

“All else is an illusion. Only Jesus never fails. It’s just the truth. We can trust Jesus in others, but at the end of it all. He alone is true and faithful.”

Jade digested the confession, feeding her heart, wanting to sustain herself on a reality she barely grasped.

The name of every book you've ever published (so we can track 'em all down):

Lambert's Pride, Lambert's Code, Lambert's Peace, Hurricane Allie in Windswept Weddings, Georgia On Her Mind, Lost in NashVegas, Diva NashVegas, Sweet Caroline, Love Starts With Elle, The Sweet By and By, Dining with Joy, and one e-book, This Time available on Amazon!

Your favorite not-quite-a-curse word: Heck.

What sounds might feline stalker hear if he was hanging around outside your kitchen window? Mostly silence. LOL. I'm not in the kitchen much.

One lousy job from your past:

Oh man, the salad girl at Quincy's Steakhouse. I usually embrace a job, no matter how much I don't like it, but I hated that job.

What would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Since I don't believe we're going anywhere but rather Jesus is coming here, (re: second coming) I'd like to hear Him ask me to ride with Him into Jerusalem. Isaiah 63. I'd like to see love in His eyes when He sees me because we've known each other for decades. I'd like to know what He'll want me to do for Him during his reign on the earth. So exciting!

Rachel is a best selling award winning author. She lives in central Florida with her husband and ornery pets. She loves to teach and mentor new writers. Rachel is a worship and prayer leader in her community, and serves on the Advisory Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a graduate of Ohio State University and huge Buckeyes football fan!

It's giveaway time!

I haven't gotten my sticky little fingers on Dining with Joy yet, but I do have a copy of The Sweet By and By which Rachel wrote with Sara Evans (in case you haven't heard, it's November's Christian Fiction Book Club pick!). To enter, leave a comment for Rachel between now and next Wednesday and be sure to include your email address if it's not in your profile.

(Want a chance to win Dining with Joy and a sparkly new table top mixer? Visit Rachel's blog for a special contest that starts today!)

For more with Rachel Hauck, check out this interview for Dining with Joy!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review- Masquerade Marriage by Anne Greene

I did not intend to commit my entire Sunday to this book (after all, it's Nano month and I'm supposed to be writing). But when I picked up Masquerade Marriage this morning, the first chapter hooked me and the following pages propelled me toward the end!

Anne Greene crafted two irresistible characters (one of which was a hunky highlander), threw them into a heap of danger, and ratcheted up the tension with each passing chapter. The romance in this novel is pitch perfect and though it's based on a marriage of convenience, I didn't find the storyline predictable at all.

In fact, my stomach was clenched right up until the last page wondering if Brody and Megan were actually going to get their happily ever after. I won't tell you if they did or not, you'll just have to read it to find out. :P

If I could change one thing about this book, I would choose something that has nothing to do with the writing. I wish that the cover more accurately portrayed what a compelling story this is. Even for e-books, covers are what catch my attention first and I think this one was just a little too dark to do justice to such a fantastic story.

Want more info? Here's the publisher's blurb:

To protect his loved ones and escape the dark fate of his brothers, a noted warrior abandons his identity. Hiding from relentless soldiers who want him dead, Brody MacCaulay vows to protect the woman he loves more than life, more than freedom, more than Scotland. But his presence throws her into danger.

To escape an arranged marriage to an abusive noble, a Lowland Lady weds a stranger to save his life. But vows spoken do not make a marriage, especially when Megan MacMurry holds a different love inside her heart.

Outlawed, and with a price on his head, Brody condemns himself to a life of heartbreak without Megan. Wanting her desperately, knowing he can't have her, he heads alone to certain death...

My rating:

Challenge to my book blogging peeps:

Don't you hate it when your favorite books go unnoticed? I've read two White Rose Publishing titles this year and both will make my list of Top Ten reads of 2010. I really wish they had gotten more attention by our book blogging community. If you review Christian fiction and you haven't read either Masquerade Marriage by Anne Greene or Rodeo Redemption by Teri Wilson, I challenge you to give them a try, you will not be disappointed!

What books do you wish I had read this year?


Thursday, November 11, 2010

2010 Christmas Christian Fiction Reading Challenge

I'm getting into the holiday spirit and joining a Christmas reading challenge hosted by Margaret at Creative Madness Mama. Here are the challenge requirements (and I'm paraphrasing):

1. Challenge will start Monday November 15 and end Friday, December 31.
2. You can read anywhere from one to five books on the challenge and you are welcome to surpass that number.
3. They must be Christian fiction books.
4. Size of the book does not matter, nor does the genre. Your book choices can overlap other challenges (cough-like the Inspy E-book Challenge-cough, cough).
5. To sign up, leave a link back to your challenge post. There will be a post for review links as well as a post for challenge wrap ups.
6. There will be prizes! Check out Creative Madness Mama's blog to read the full details and to link up your post.

These are the Christmas books I plan to read:
1. Their First Noel by Annie Jones
2. A Simple Amish Christmas by Vannetta Chapman (which also happens to be a free download for both the Kindle and Nook right now!)
3.Snow Angel by Jamie Carie
4. A Christmas Gift by Diane Craver

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Have you heard about Sandi Rog?

I've seen Sandi's name around online in some of the yahoo groups I'm in, so when I read Roseanna White's post about Sandi's situation, I asked her if we could share it here too:

I have a writer friend named Sandi Rog. Sandi is one of the sweetest, most selfless women I've ever met. She approaches each moment with such enthusiasm that I often laugh when reading her gushing emails. She is quick with praise and slow with complaint. She is a true beacon of the Lord's love.

Sandi's debut book just released November 1, and it is AMAZING. The Master's Wall takes you back to first century Rome and into the world where people can be killed for their faith . . . but where the fire of the Word is spreading like only the Truth can. David is a slave being trained to fight--Alethea is the granddaughter of a wealthy man being groomed to be the perfect Roman wife. But only when they fight for each other do they find their true purposes.

I've given a sneak peak of Sandi's book here and will be posting my full review tomorrow.

Now, here's the deal. The very day her book released, Sandi was admitted into the hospital. (Not exactly the release party she had planned, but she's been making the most of it and passing out bookmarks to everyone in the hospital--see what I mean about her amazing spirit?) They first thought she had lesions on her brain connected to her MS. Further investigation proved it to be not a lesion, but a brain tumor. There were no other masses in her body, so we were hoping it was benign.

It wasn't. She's been diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma, a very aggressive cancer of the blood. Her doctor thinks it's a result of the drugs she'd been taking for MS and has reported it to the FDA. And the very day they got the biopsy results, she was moved into the cancer ward and began chemotherapy.

Sandi needs your prayers desperately. Her spirits are good, but she's weak and tired and, well, sick. And my heart just aches for her and her family. She has four children, the youngest of whom is only a toddler. Please pray for the Rogs with me.

The outpouring on her behalf has been great, and many people have asked about helping out financially. Her response? "Just buy my book." Which is actually selfless, because I guarantee you'll get more out of it than the ten bucks it costs.

So. Please pray. If you feel led (or just want a really, really excellent read), buy her book. In any case, agree with me for her healing. And stop by tomorrow for the full review of The Master's Wall.

Roseanna White is the author of A Stray Drop of Blood which is Biblical fiction available from WhiteFire Publishing. Her second bib-fic, Jewel of Persia, will be released from WFP in summer 2011. You can follow her at her blog Writing Roseanna.

Thanks so much Roseanna, for sharing Sandi's story! I'm sure my readers will join me in praying for the Rog family. If you'd like to read more about Sandi and her new release, you can visit her blog here.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Review- Hatteras Girl by Alice J. Wisler & Giveaway

I love destination books, novels whose settings make you feel like you're on vacation. So when I saw Hatteras Girl advertised for the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance tour, I had to grab it. I can think of no better way to combat falling temperatures in the Northeast than dreaming about flying kites on the beach in the Outer Banks.

Hatteras Girl is a sweet contemporary romance about Jackie Donovan, a thirty year old journalist who collects fisherman hats and dreams of getting married and owning her own bed and breakfast. For now, she shares her life with her recently widowed best friend, Minnie, and her temper-tantrum-throwing five year old son Zane.

The author did a great job building this southern coastal community and filling it with interesting characters who were just quirky enough to seem real. For the most part, her characterization was spot on.

There was one character trait I questioned, though. I believe the author's intent was to show Jackie's conflicted feelings about caring for her friend's son Zane. She tried to show her both liking (possibly loving) the little boy as well as resenting the burden of his presence. But I found hinting at resentment toward a fatherless child-no matter how conflicted-made Jackie a smidge less likable as a heroine. Others might think it just made her more realistic. Either way, that's the only minor quibble I have with this otherwise enjoyable story.

If you're looking for a taste of summer this fall, I highly recommend picking up this book. And if reading about the beach doesn't warm you up, the author includes a recipe in the back of the novel that will certainly do the trick. It's for bacon cornbread, one of the dishes served at the Bailey House Bed and Breakfast.

We made it for dinner this weekend. It was a little heavier than regular cornbread but so yummy!

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

Jackie Donovan prays for two things: an honest, wonderful man to marry and to own a bed-and-breakfast on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In the meantime, she works for Lighthouse Views, writing articles about local business owners, and intrepidly goes on the blind dates set up by her well-meaning oh-so-clueless relatives.

There's one specific property Jackie dreams of purchasing: The Bailey House, a fabulous old home located right next to the ocean, a place where Jackie spent many happy childhood afternoons. But the Bailey House has strange stories and secrets surrounding it-not to mention its outrageous price tag.

When Jackie meets handsome Davis Erickson, who holds the key to the Bailey property, she believes God has answered both her prayers. But as Jackie learns some disturbing details about Davis's past, she begins to wonder if her heart has lead her astray. Will she risk her long-held dreams to find out the truth?

(If you would like to read the first chapter of Hatteras Girl, go HERE).

My rating:

It's giveaway time!
Leave a comment between now and Saturday for a chance to win my review copy of Hatteras Girl. Be sure to include your email address if it's not in your profile!

(Thanks to the publisher and to Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing a review copy).


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