Saturday, April 30, 2011

We've come a long way, baby!


It's my blogiversary!!!!

The month of May marks one year since I swung open the doors to this blog and invited you all to share my obsession with inspirational romance, edgy or otherwise.

Care to stroll down memory lane with me?

My first real post: The one where I'm all wet behind the ears.


My favorite post: Anything Serena writes, like this or this. Seriously, this chick just cracks me up. Are you following her on twitter yet? Why not?


Top 3 most popular posts (based on page views):
1. What is Edgy Christian Romance?
2. Vampires in Christian Fiction.
3. Stalking Julie Lessman

Number of Kindle subscribers: 1 (and it's not my mom, I asked)

Shout out to my one anonymous reader. Thank you for subscribing and I hope you're enjoying the content.

My favorite part of blogging:

Meeting such wonderful people. I have a great circle of bloggers and authors I call friends.


Biggest surprise about blogging:

The time commitment. I had no idea. I have no immediate plans to expand to daily blogging, but I feel a sense of obligation to continue posting at the same level I started. In order to keep up, I've had to look for help. You've met Serena and Julia, but I'm adding one more person who I'll introduce this month.


How my style has evolved:

When I first started, I pictured this blog would be about both writing and reading related subjects. Since then, I've put the writing topics on the back burner. I might bring them back, but right now the focus is really on the books I read, not the writing I do.

What's coming up:

To celebrate my blogiversary, I have giveaways galore. They kick off tomorrow as I take part in the Spring Carnival.

This week I'm also introducing a new feature. I have three of our favorite authors stopping by to review some of their choices in Christian fiction. There will be a giveaway for friends who show up to support my celebrity reviewers.

Giveaways going on now:
These giveaways are open right now! Click on the book to visit the post and leave a comment!





Friday, April 29, 2011

Stalking Kaye Dacus (and giveaway!)



Please help me welcome Kaye Dacus to Edgy Inspirational Romance! Stalkers can find here with me or at her website and on twitter!

The last thing you threw away:

A tissue—it’s allergy season in Nashville (which, for most of us, extends from February through October/November).

A brand of breakfast cereal in your pantry:

I’m a protein-for-breakfast kind of girl, but the closest thing I have is a canister
of Publix store-brand rolled oats. I do occasionally get a craving for good, old-fashioned slow-cooked oatmeal with lots of butter and brown sugar!

Three things in your purse:

Sunglasses, bookmarks for my two latest releases, and Bath & Bodyworks’ Citrus Crush hand sanitizer.

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

Some kind of pain killer: aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, Excedrin, Excedrin PM, muscle relaxers. . .after a lifetime of migraines, debilitating deep-muscle spasms in my upper back, a ruptured disc in my lower back (corrected by surgery in 2003, but giving me lingering pain and muscle cramps/spasms in my left leg), and a recent broken ankle, I have just about every over-the-counter pain remedy available.

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

At their first portrait session, Sassy had admitted to Dylan her pact with Perty to try to get Dylan and Caylor together. When he’d confronted Perty, she tried to deny it—until he told her Sassy had confessed. Perty had snorted and bemoaned Sassy’s inability to keep secrets.

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

Stand-In Groom
Menu for Romance
A Case for Love
The Brides of Bonneterre 3-in-1 (the three above novels in one volume)

Ransome’s Honor
Ransome’s Crossing
Ransome’s Quest (August 2011)

Love Remains
The Art of Romance
Turnabout’s Fair Play (November 2011)



Your favorite not-quite-a-curse word:
Oh, for mercy’s sake!

One lousy job from your past:
Only one? I’d probably have to say the lousiest was working in the laundry room at The Faculty Club, a restaurant/boutique hotel/event venue on the campus at Louisiana State University. I worked in that department from May through October, and in addition to a huge steam press and enormous dryer, the room had no air conditioning.

What sounds would a feline stalker hear while hanging around outside your kitchen window?
The coffee pot brewing. I love my coffee (though, in actuality, I only brew half a pot, which makes two cups for me in my big 16-ounce mugs).

What would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
“The best is yet to come.”

Humor, Hope, and Happily Ever Afters! Kaye Dacus is the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romances with Barbour Publishing and Harvest House Publishers. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, is a former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, and currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. She loves action movies and British costume dramas; and when she’s not writing, she enjoys knitting scarves and “lap blankets” (she’s a master of the straight-line knit and purl stitches!). Kaye lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and even though she writes romance novels, she is not afraid to admit that she’s never been kissed.

It's giveaway time!

Kaye has offered to give one lucky reader a copy of her new book The Art of Romance. Just leave a comment between now and May 14. Be sure to include your email address if it's not in your profile!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review- The Lightkeeper's Ball by Colleen Coble

The cover of The Lightkeeper's Ball is stunning and called to me from my bookshelf. Even though I haven't really been in the mood for a historical and even though I had several reviews due ahead of it, I couldn't stop myself from picking up this novel.

Colleen Coble wrote a romance encased in a whodunnit. There's a murderer on the loose in Mercy Falls and his identity had me guessing right up until the reveal. Each time I thought I had it figured it out, I was proved wrong. Spoiler: Turns out, it's not Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick.

The author does a fantastic job building romantic tension between the leads. It was fun watching Olivia and Harrison's relationship change from bristly to friendly to love.

There is some suspension of disbelief required to make the story work, and this is my one complaint. I was able to accept Harrison proposing without even knowing Olivia's first name...um, a little far-fetched, but whatever. But then he took her home to introduce her to his mother, and not only didn't he use her first name, his mother never asked what it was either!

Anyone who's married knows you'll never pull something like that over on a mother in law. At your first meeting she'll get your name, your mother's maiden name, your kindergarten teacher's name and probably pull a credit report and run your fingerprints as well.

I found that one aspect pushed the boundaries of realism, but this is such a fun story filled with great action that I was ultimately able to overlook it and get caught up in the adventure.

Want more info? Here's the book summary from B&N:
Olivia seems to have it all, but her heart yearns for more.

Olivia Stewart's family is one of the Four Hundred-the highest echelon of society in 1910. When her sister dies under mysterious circumstances, Olivia leaves their New York City home for Mercy Falls, California, to determine what befell Eleanor. She suspects Harrison Bennett, the man Eleanor planned to marry. But the more Olivia gets to know him, the more she doubts his guilt-and the more she is drawn to him herself.

When several attempts are made on her life, Olivia turns to Harrison for help. He takes her on a ride in his aeroplane, but then crashes, and they're forced to spend two days alone together. With her reputation hanging by a thread, Harrison offers to marry her to make the situation right. As a charity ball to rebuild the Mercy Falls lighthouse draws near, she realizes she wants more than a sham engagement-she wants Harrison in her life forever. But her enemy plans to shatter the happiness she is ready to grasp. If Olivia dares to drop her masquerade, she just might see the path to true happiness.

My rating:










(Thanks to The B&B Media Group for my review copy)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On My Wishlist- Writing Edition (and book swap!)



On My Wishlist is a weekly meme from Book Chick City where book bloggers highlight the books they've been pining for.

One of my reading goals this year is to finish at least six writing craft books. If I had a gift certificate to Amazon right now, these are the ones I'd choose.


Title and author: The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction by Jeff Gerke

Why I want it: His name comes up a lot in Christian writing circles. I'd like to see what they're all talking about.

Book blurb:
Artist and Craftsman. As a Christian novelist, you're both. You know the soaring creativity of the Creator and the serious discipline of the artisan. And you feel the impulse to excel in each. So grab a steaming mug of your favorite hot drink and come learn the art and craft of Christian fiction from one of its master teachers.

You'll learn: How to find your story amidst all your ideas, How to bring your characters onstage the first time, How to convert your telling into showing, How to handle profane characters in Christian fiction, How to use the dumb puppet trick, How to write for the (approving) audience of One.

The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction is the complete school of fiction from Jeff Gerke, popular writer's conference teacher, professional book doctor, and Christian novelist. It includes and expands upon his influential Fiction Writing Tip of the Week column at WhereTheMapEnds.com.


Title and author: Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins

Why I want it: Brandilyn's Christian fiction gets rave reviews. I bet she has lots to teach me.

Book blurb:
Proven techniques for creating vivid, believable characters.

Want to bring characters to life on the page as vividly as fine actors do on the stage or screen? Getting into Character will give you a whole new way of thinking about your writing. Drawing on the Method acting theory that theater professionals have used for decades, this in-depth guide explains seven characterization techniques and adapts them for the novelist’s use.

In this unique and practical book, you’ll discover concepts that will help you understand and communicate the behavior, motivation, and psychology of every fictional character you create. Examples from classic and contemporary novels show you how these techniques have been used to dazzling effect by Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Steve Martini, Anne Rivers Siddons, and others. These simple yet highly effective techniques will help you:

Create characters whose distinctive traits become plot components
Determine each character’s specific objectives and motivations
Write natural-sounding dialogue rich in meaning
Endow your characters with three-dimensional emotional lives
Use character to bring action sequences to exuberant life
Write convincingly about any character facing any circumstance


Title and author: From the Inside....Out by Susan May Warren

Why I want it: I lurk over at My Book Therapy where she trains aspiring authors. I'm interested in reading more about what she has to say.

Book blurb:
Have you always wanted to write a novel, but didn't know where to start? This book is for you. With proven techniques, easy to understand explanations and practical steps, From The Inside...Out will teach you how a story is structured then take you through the process of creating and marketing your novel. Topics include: Character-driven plotting, How to HOOK your reader, The elements and flow of SCENES, How to build STORYWORLD, Secrets to Sizzling Dialogue, Proven Self-Editing techniques, Synopsis and Query letter writing, How to manage your writing career ...and everything in between!


Title and author: Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

Why I want it: I've found his Storyfix blog incredibly helpful and his four part story structure really clicks for me.

Book blurb:
From story concept to character development to scene construction and beyond, this blueprint for dynamic storytelling makes putting together a strong novel, memoir, or screenplay easier than ever. Beginning writers in all genres, from fiction writers, to nonfiction writers, to screenplay writers, will learn how to wrap their heads around the big picture of storytelling at a professional level through a new approach that shows how to combine six core competencies: the four elemental competencies of concept, character, theme, and story structure (plot); and the two executional competencies of scene construction and writing voice. You'll discover how to achieve the greatest potential in your story through mastering the way these six factors combine and empower each other on the page.

I have found writing books to be very hit or miss. Have any of you read these? Would you recommend them?

Wanna swap?

Not too long ago, Amber at Seasons of Humility hosted a book swap. People posted their wish lists in the comments section of her blog and offered books they had available for trade. Swappers contacted each other by email.

So I'm going to borrow this idea from her. If you have any writing books you're interested in trading with others, list them in the comments. Be sure to include your email address if it's not in your profile. Maybe we can connect a few writers with the resources they've been looking for.

Trade for keeps or trade to borrow, work that out with your swapper. You're on the honor system. I can't be responsible for swaps that don't work out. But leave me the names of any dead-beats and I'll blog all about 'em (juuuuust kidding...kinda).

Books I have available to trade (click titles for info):




Friday, April 22, 2011

Facts and Faith in the Culture Wars by Marianne Evans (and giveaway!)


It was a billboard exclamation that stirred me to action.

Upon it was depicted the three wise men, on their way to a manger in Bethlehem, a sparkling star in the sky above them. Beneath that familiar image? The words: ‘You KNOW it’s a myth. This season, celebrate REASON.’ I’m sure, somewhere, there’s a billboard just like it designed to decry Easter.

The idea of such a thing makes my heart ache with sadness. Not anger, not some self-righteous call to vindication and recrimination. Instead, I feel sorrow that some people will go to quite an extreme to tell me I’m wrong to believe in the mystery, the grace, love and divinity of Jesus Christ. The intent of billboards like this is clear: Christians are expected to come to our senses, and respect non-believers while at the same time, they are allowed to ridicule and mock us. The lack of respect is jarring. That’s OK, though. Jesus knows all about that battle, and he already won it. As for me, I care about helping as many people find their way to His love as possible—despite instances of non-belief and antagonism that run counter to everything I hold most dear.

That’s why I wrote A Face in the Clouds. We live in a culture of instant access to “knowledge.” We live in a society governed by quantification that’s quickly moving our entire world away from the mystery of living.

And life is a mystery—a mystery even science and fact-finding can’t fully comprehend or explain. That’s not myth—that’s reason—reason in its purest form.

‘If I’d turned the corner, I never would have met my spouse.’

‘In a dazzling split second of squealing tires, a life is saved. Millimeters of space spare an accident.’

‘An instant and unexpected event has turned my life upside down.’

How can such things be explained? We are given over to whatever life circumstances come our way. These are not quantifiable sets of circumstances, they are part of God’s Plan incarnate, His sprit breathing unique life into each and every corner of existence. Where does life come from? A cell-burst of microscopic evolution, or the breath of God?

It’s both, of course, but what we need to remember is the fact that God is in both!

I illustrate the truth of God’s direct existence and intervention in the pages of A Face in the Clouds.

Reporter Paul Hutchins is all about finding facts and uncovering the truth. Verification, authenticity and quantification are the fuel of his spirit…Until he falls in love with producer Sandy Pierson. Sandy sees Christ alive in every aspect of her life. No need for quantified facts. Faith is the fuel of her spirit . But her love for Paul puts her at odds with God's call toward faith and all of its mysteries.

Paul considers Christianity to be well-meaning myth—hyperbole. To Sandy, it’s everything—and she can accept nothing less from the man she loves. This story answers the questions: Can a miracle happen? Can the touch of God Himself keep their relationship from shattering?

My sister-in-law is a Christian artist, an anointed missionary much like the artist who impacts Paul and Sandy’s love story so strongly, and brings God to the forefront of seeking hearts, many times with miraculous results. I loved giving a voice to her ministry. I also loved debunking the idea that God doesn’t exist—because He most certainly does. God’s presence abounds, if you but open yourself to Him, receive, and accept! I hope you enjoy Paul and Sandy’s journey!

Here's an excerpt from Marianne's A Face in the Clouds:
“I know how deeply you feel things, Paul. You have a wonderful heart. That’s part of why I love you so much. I’m torn in two about my feelings for you.” Sandy’s declaration would have filled him were it not chipped and cracked by the impact of her doubts.

“Your reporter’s instinct toward authenticity and revealing the truth is a big part of what I admire about you. There’s nothing wrong with facing the world honestly, but you need to make room for a few other truths.”

“Like God.”

“Yes, and the fact that life holds as much mystery, and as many intangibles, as it does realistic things you can hold tight with both hands.”

She wanted him to change. Right down to the soul. Paul continued to study her. She was hurt enough that she had almost stepped away from attending tonight’s event—out of a frustrated sense of love. Yet here they were—together—out of a frustrated sense of love.

And if he wasn’t mindful of her beliefs, she’d step away from him.

Paul navigated the rapidly-filling parking lot of Woodland Church. Once they stopped, he killed the car engine and used a restraining hand to keep Sandy in place. He closed the space between them and gave her a kiss that lingered and thoroughly tasted. He felt the gesture ease a bit of the tightness in her shoulders and back. “I’ll keep an open mind, OK?”

She touched his face, and there was yearning in her eyes. “Keep an open heart. That’s much more important.”


Marianne Evans is a multi-published author of Christian contemporary romances and fiction. A lifelong resident of Michigan, Marianne is an active member of Romance Writers of America and the Greater Detroit RWA where she served the chapter in a number of capacities, but most notably for two terms as Chapter Treasurer and two terms as Chapter President. She also belongs to the Faith Hope and Love chapter of RWA, American Christian Fiction Writers and the Michigan Literary Network.

Find out more about Marianne and her releases at:
Her website
Her blog
Facebook

It's giveaway time!


Marianne is giving away a PDF edition of Hearts Crossing, the story that kicked off her Woodland Series- the prequel for A Face in the Clouds.

To enter, leave a comment between now and May 1st. Include your email address if it's not in your profile.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The reviewer gets reviewed



I had the tables turned on me today. The Kindle Blog Report is the original blog review blog. The folks over there review blogs available on Kindle (we've been listed at Amazon since January).

And today they reviewed us. It's neat to be on the other side of this review business. Check it out!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Review- Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans

Every now and then I need the reading equivalent of smelling a bowl of coffee beans. I need something completely different to cleanse my palate. Usually I choose YA or general market fiction, or sometimes a celebrity biography, none of which gets reviewed here.

This time I picked up Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans, a memoir about a young women questioning her faith. Rachel is the type of person I'd love to chat with over coffee at Starbucks. I love her snarky self-depreciating humor. We hold remarkably similar political views. I have asked God the questions she asks.

This book is highly readable, a real page turner, and for me to say that about non fiction is pretty rare. It's the kind of book I feel compelled to get on my personal Facebook account and share with old buddies from my Christian college days.

Despite the title, Monkey Town has very little to do with evolution or the Scopes Monkey trials (and too bad, because that'd make a great conversation. Meet me in Starbucks one day and we'll chat).

Instead, the title comes from the evolution of Rachel's faith. Something I can totally relate to. She's speaking to my people. Those of us who grew up in fundamental Christian homes, whose conversion experiences were so early we barely remember them. All of us reach a point (hopefully) where we seek, and we question, and we evolve from a childlike acceptance of our faith to a mature relationship with the Almighty.

In the end, I may not accept all of Rachel's conclusions. But some of the things she said resonated soooo true, that I couldn't help but agree out loud, "yes! YES!"

Evolving in Monkey Town was a 2010 INSPY award winner for the Creative Non Fiction category and it's easy to see why it won. You don't have to agree with everything Rachel believes to identify with the journey she's on. God Bless, Rachel Held Evans. May the Lord continue to reveal himself to you.

(I did not receive this book for review. I read it for fun, so please don't pitch me any nonfiction).

Want more info? Here's the book blurb:
Knowing all the answers isn't as important as asking the questions.

Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial made a spectacle of Christian fundamentalism and brought national attention to her hometown, Rachel Held Evans faced a trial of her own when she began to have doubts about her faith. Growing up in a culture obsessed with apologetics, Evans asks questions she never thought she would ask. She learns that in order for her faith to survive in a postmodern context, it must adapt to change and evolve.

Using as an illustration her own spiritual journey from certainty, through doubt, to faith, Evans adds a unique perspective to the ongoing dialogue about postmodernism and the church that has so captivated the Christian community in recent years. In a changing cultural environment where new ideas threaten the safety and security of the faith, Evolving in Monkey Town is a fearlessly honest story of survival.


My rating:










CymLowell

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Writer's Mean Streak by Allie Pleiter

Every once in a while it strikes me that I earn my living making other people miserable.

Yes, they fictional people, and if I do my job right I make them as happy as I’ve tormented them, but still. You gotta wonder about the sinister little chuckle that escapes my mouth when I’ve figured out how to really take them over the edge.

Why go there? Why pull the rug out from underneath noble, honorable loners like Mack Tanner? Why strip gracious, feisty Lana Bristow of everything that makes her comfortable? I believe the answer goes a little deeper than “because it makes great reading.”

Stories of folks pushed to their limits remind us of struggle’s eventual rewards. They proclaim that darkest comes before dawn, and that pain changes us in ways nothing else can. The truth is that Mack and Lana can’t get together until each of them comes apart on the inside. They’ve got to tear down their own preconceptions and face their own fears. They’ve got to earn their way to the happy ending God has waiting for them.

When they do, they see the gift they are to each other. When we read stories like that, we’re reminded that the dark clouds in our own lives have silver linings. Mack and Lana’s journey to each other lights the way for our own adventures toward love, and toward the purpose God has for each of us that might be out of sight right now. It’s why I love happy endings--it keeps the faithful optimist in me alive and kicking.

Really, I’m a very nice person. Looking at me, you’d never know I torment imaginary friends for a living. Well, at least I hope so.

Want more info about Allie's book? Here's the blurb for Yukon Wedding :
A gold-rush town is no place for a single mother. But widow Lana Bristow won’t abandon the only home her son has ever known. She’ll fight to remain in Treasure Creek, Alaska—even if it means wedding Mack Tanner, the man she blames for her husband’s death.

Mack sees marriage as his duty, the only way to protect his former business partner’s family. Yet what starts as an obligation changes as his spoiled socialite bride proves to be a woman of strength and grace. A woman who shows Mack the only treasure he needs is her heart.


An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and devoted chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, buying yarn, and finding new ways to avoid housework. Allie hails from Connecticut, moved to the Midwest to attend Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois. The “dare from a friend” to begin writing has produced two parenting books, fourteen novels, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing. Visit her website at www.alliepleiter.com or her knitting blog at www.DestiKNITions.blogspot.com

Review- Nightshade by Ronie Kendig

The Sitch:

Nightshade starts fast: literally. One minute you’re reading the Seal Creed, the next you’re eavesdropping on a super-secret meeting between powerful men, and then, suddenly, you’re racing down a lonely highway on a motorcycle with Max Jacobs, an ex-military hotty with a death wish.

(Wow. We’ve covered a lot of ground in a really short time. But back to the hotty on the motorcycle, right? Because this, of course, is Edgy Inspirational Romance.com and I bet “hotty” and “motorcycle” grabbed your attention a lot better than the two powerful dudes having a meeting.)

For those of you who go for the brooding tortured hero type, Max Jacobs, former Navy Seal, could be your man -- except for one annoying little detail: he’s married… sort of. Separated from his wife and on the fast track toward divorce, Max is angry, alone, and… hopeless. Max’s anger is what has sent his marriage to Sydney, a journalist, to the latrine. Max now sees himself as unchangeable, unemployed, and unworthy -- he has lost all will to live. So he pegs his speedometer and hits the pavement. Literally.

Enter a big, Jesus-loving cowboy (also ex-military) who shows up at the site of Max’s motorcycle crash with an intriguing offer – join an elite team of discarded heroes (codename: Nightshade) to right wrongs and rescue the innocent.

And so it begins….

How it hit me:


Like an action flick from the late 1980s – with a little behind-the-scenes footage.

In other words: this story had satisfying action scenes but (thankfully) steered clear of the over-the-top testosterone and Stallone-isms so common in those semi-ancient films. But – and this was a BIG “but” for me -- although I found the military guys way more believable and human than the heroes of old action flicks, I found our main gal Sydney to be something of a weak-willed heroine who I couldn’t quite respect. Not to mention that I kept picturing her with big, frizzy 80s hair no matter how many guys in the story thought she was beautiful. (Once I get on the 80s action flick train it’s a long time before the next stop, I guess.)

But at least our “heroine” was consistent. Over and over Sydney’s inner thoughts showed that she knew the right thing to do, but she just couldn’t self-actualize and actually do it. Finally, forced by circumstance, she does let herself be rescued by the big-muscled men. Hooray! Maybe this was realistic, but… I was hoping for a dose of girl power and Sydney let me down. I wanted Sydney to become stronger, wiser, and bolder, but throughout the novel she remained consistently (and mildly cluelessly)… waffle-like.


What made me squirm:

On a personal level, I probably squirmed a little because I realized that, unfortunately, sometimes I’m a bit waffle-like myself. Sometimes I even bring my own syrup. But, uncomfortable introspection aside, on a technical level I must admit that, for a little while at least, I wasn’t sure I would like this book at all. The first few chapters shift the reader’s point of view between several characters (many of whom I do not even have time to mention in this review) and I found this a bit distracting; but as the character’s individual voices developed -- and I think Ms. Kendig does an admirable job developing these distinct voices -- I found it much easier to shift my imagination between locations and points of view.


To read or not to read, that is the question:


If you’re looking for romance, you might want to look elsewhere. This book deals with the darker side of love relationships: the one that comes with blood and pain instead of hearts and flowers. There is love to be found here, but not much romance. If, however, you would like a book with page-turning action, a movie-like plot, and a sprinkling of the inspirational, I would recommend this title in place of your Saturday night adventure DVD.


And finally, in the words of Inigo Montoya,
“No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”


Although I found this novel a little hard to sink my teeth into at the beginning, I found it extremely engaging once the action took off. If you, like me, are a bit of an action-flick-junkie, try bypassing your local Blockbuster next weekend and fill your Amazon cart with Nightshade, the first book in Ronie Kendig’s Discarded Heroes series, instead.

Serena's Rating:










Reviewed by contributor Serena Chase
Follow Serena Chase on Twitter @Serena_Chase

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Christian Fiction Book Club- The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen


The Christian Fiction Book Club meets every six weeks at different book blogs. This month we read The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen and chose one or more discussion questions to address in a blog post. Feel free to come join the conversation!


The author's bio on the back of this book says, "Julie Klassen loves all things Jane- Jane Eyre and Jane Austen."

...And I love all things Julie Klassen.

The Girl in the Gatehouse is the third novel I've read by this author and each has been fantastic. I actually snuck this one to work in my purse to read during my free periods instead of photocopying worksheets for my students.

The Auten-esque feel of this Regency romance starts with the beautiful cover and continues into the storyline which is about a disgraced woman who's fallen from her place in society-a recurring theme in Jane Austen books.

I would not consider this novel edgy in any way, but I was surprised by the level of disgrace the heroine endured in her back story. I kept thinking she must be remembering things as worse than they were-but no, she really went there. In my opinion, the harder the characters fall, the sweeter the redemption, and Klassen does a great job weaving a theme of forgiveness throughout the book.

Another thing she weaves throughout the book is mystery. She crafted a tranquil, romantic setting, filled it with an eccentric cast of characters who aren't always what they appear, and turned their quiet lives into an adventure I couldn't put down.

My rating:






The discussion question I chose:

Had you known that Jane Austen's never appeared in her books during her lifetime? Did it surprise you that novel writing was considered (at least by some) improper and unladylike? In what ways do those attitudes continue today?

I think it's kind of sad that Jane never got to see her name in print, or see how beloved her novels are today. It doesn't surprise me that novel writing was considered improper. As much as I love to read about or watch movies set in that time period, I really don't think I would have wanted to live back then. Life seemed to rigid, too structured. I'd probably be bored out of my mind.

In an interesting contrast, it wasn't too long ago that Christian fiction was seen as in improper pursuit. Why would Christians waste their time writing fiction when they could be studying the Bible, or writing devotionals?

I still think reading romance or writing romance carries a little bit of a stigma. I'm not sure it's taken as seriously as other genres.

Coming up next:

Our next book club discussion takes place May 21 and the book is Words by Ginny Yttrup. We need a host! If you linked up this month and you're interested in hosting in May leave a comment below.





Did you read The Girl in the Gatehouse? Link up your discussion here:


Friday, April 08, 2011

Review- Rodeo Rescue by Teri Wilson

Teri Wilson rocks at writing the broken hero, men with emotional or physical scars that you wanna take home and tend to health. This is the second book I've read of hers and it pretty much ensures she will remain on my must read list in the future.

In Rodeo Rescue, Wilson crafted romantic tension so strong you could reach out and pluck it, then delivered one of the best first kiss scenes I've read in a while. I'm tempted to quote it here, but you should probably read it for yourself. This short book packs a huge emotional hit and if you're anything like me, you won't be able to read it without a goofy grin on your face.

Rescue is the second in a series. It's a standalone so you don't have to read number one (but the first made my top ten romances of 2010, so why wouldn't you?). The author grounds us in the series by bringing back Josie and Luke from Rodeo Redemption. I only wish Josie had played a meaningful part in the story, I kinda felt like she was just filling up space. It's the only minor quibble I had with an otherwise superb book.

Want more info? Here's the book blurb:
With the ink still dry on her new veterinary license, Rodeo Queen Ruth Davis returns to Angel Springs as the new town vet. It seems her plans to save the world as a veterinary missionary are on hold. But, when her first patient arrives in the arms of battered rodeo man, Dodge Atwell, she realizes God has bigger plans than she ever dreamed possible.

The last thing Dodge wants, or needs, in his life is Ruth. Her annoying habit of quoting Scripture only serves to remind him that she’s everything he’s not—Pure, innocent, good.

When Dodge returns to her clinic, with yet another rescued dog, Ruth cannot help but become fascinated with the man and his scars—the physical ones there for the world to see, as well as spiritual ones she senses lurking beneath the surface.

Could the reluctant animal savior be the hero she’s been waiting for all her life?

My rating: (More like four and a half couples)



Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Planting a seed...by Wendy Davy

Ahh…spring is in the air. What better way to celebrate than to get outdoors, dig in the dirt and plant a garden or some brightly colored flowers. If you’re like me though, born with zero talent for keeping anything green alive, you may be thinking about some alternate past times. As I look at my poor dying tulips, which were perfectly healthy when I bought them a week ago, I thank God He gave me the desire, and grace to write. (At least this way, I can write a heroine that has a green thumb, and live vicariously through her.)

I’ve even drowned my pansies, or petunias, I forget what they are called. Poor things. I actually feel sorry for whatever plants I pick up at the store. So, what kind of seeds can I plant that may actually live, I ask myself?

The answer comes swift and sure. The seeds of faith. As a writer of Christian romance, my goal is to entertain while leading people to God without being preachy. As a reader, I’m not looking for a sermon when I pick up a romance. I want adventure, sweet but very real romantic tension, and a happily ever after—and that’s what I write.

So, the next time I’m tempted to sentence a pretty little flower to what ultimately will be its demise, I am determined to pass it by and spare its life, and spend my time crafting my next sweet love story.

Speaking of love stories, if you’d like a chance to win a digital copy of my newest release, Reluctant Bridesmaid, stop by www.wendydavy.com and sign up for my newsletter, drop me an e-mail through my contacts page and I’ll put your name in a flowerpot and choose a lucky winner. (I’ve got to find something useful to do with my empty flower pot, right?).

The contest runs through Sunday April 10th.

Wendy Davy is an award winning, inspirational romance author with several titles available. She uses her active imagination and love of adventure to create faith based stories of the heart. When not writing or chasing around her young children, she spends time reading, enjoying her real-life hero and watching movies.

She loves hearing from readers and can be contacted at wendy@wendydavy.com




Want more info? Here's the book blurb for Reluctant Bridesmaid (a 2010 SARA Merritt Award Winner)...
Jordan Harrison no longer trusts relationships, so when her widowed mother is swept away by a handsome, wealthy architect, Jordan fears the hasty engagement will end in disaster. After all, how well can her mother know the guy after only a few months? Intent on saving her mother from certain heartbreak, Jordan races to Breckenridge Manor to delay the wedding, but runs into more than she's bargained for--a handsome, understanding man intent on helping her heal past wounds and open her mind to new possibilities.

Known as the man with nerves of steel, Tanner Breckenridge lives up to his reputation, but it doesn't take long for him to discover he has a soft spot for Jordan Harrison, the daughter of his father's future bride. Loyal to his father, but captivated by Jordan, Tanner puts his heart on the line and risks everything for a chance at love.


...and here's an excerpt:
“I think a little bit of fun would do you some good.” He winked as he took one long stride toward her. He bent and scooped her from the chair.

“Tanner!” she shrieked, clutching his shoulders. His warm skin covered granite muscle underneath. She squirmed, but her movements pressed her harder against his chest as he lifted her into his arms.

He sauntered to the dock’s edge as if he had no care in the world. The water, crisp and clear loomed below.

Adrenaline spiking, she tucked her head against him. “You don’t want to do this.”

“I don’t?” A low, deep chuckle formed in his chest, vibrating against her cheek. “You can swim, right?”

“Yes, I can swim.”

“You just don’t like the idea of taking the plunge do you? Marriage or otherwise?”

“I have nothing against marriage…in general,” she defended. “And, this isn’t about my opinion regarding ‘the plunge’. This is about you,” she poked him in the chest, “tossing me into that cold water.”

“How do you know what it feels like until you try it?”

She lifted her head to offer a witty remark, but lost her breath as she found herself eye-level with Tanner’s sun-kissed neck. His scent, earthy and masculine surrounded her. She looked up. From this angle, his jaw-line appeared more defined, his features more chiseled, and his eyes a lighter shade of blue. She swallowed, but her dry mouth refused to moisten.

“Are you ready?” A small, faint scar melded into the creases beside his left eye as he smiled.

Flustered, she asked, “R-ready?” Her breathing came in quick, shallow gasps as her gaze travelled to his mouth. As good as it felt to be held in his strong arms, she wondered what it would feel like to have his lips pressed against hers.

Magical? Maybe. Out of the question? Definitely.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

My son's sequined socks



I have to admit, when I first came across the email from Charles at Costume Discounters asking me to review one of their products, my first response was "Dude, this is a book blog." Still, something made my finger freeze over the delete key. No harm in just peeking at some of their products right?

Finding the Michael Jackson items in their costume accessories pretty much guaranteed a review in my future. Here's the thing. My youngest son looooves himself some MJ. You know how some kids can rattle off baseball stats and batting averages? My child can rattle off the names of the original Jackson Five, the siblings that never made it into the group, and all of Kathryn's grandchildren.

He's already accumulated enough dress up items to make a living off his King of Pop impersonation in Vegas, but one thing he didn't have yet were glitter slouch socks. And what self-respecting Michael Jackson fan forgoes the glitter slouch socks?

So I asked Charles to send over the Adult Michael Jackson Sequin Glove and Leggings. We already had a glove (or three) but my son believes it's the accessory that goes with everything, so you can't really have too many.

I received the product I requested within a week. The leggings, designed to fit over socks, were sized for an adult but they fit my eight year old just fine. The glove was a little loose on his hand, but he'll grow into it (or as my husband hopes, just grow out of this phase). Overall, we liked the items and would deal with this company again.

So what d'ya think? Should I start booking Vegas dates for 2031?

(Face obscured to protect his reputation at 17).
.

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