Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review- Head in the Clouds by Karen Witmeyer

I've swapped blogs for the day with my blogger buddy Casey from Writing for Christ. If you haven't checked out her blog yet, definitely take a look!

Head in the Clouds is a charming story filled with believable characters and a page turning story line all complete in a lovely little package that I loved!

First, have you seen the cover of this book?? The most ingenious one ever! The story that fills the space between the covers is filled with adventure and romance. That pace in the tense moments is fast paced and filled with to the point descriptions that kept me turning pages. The romance made my heart sigh. And as I neared the end of the novel, the only thing I wanted to do was read.

They say every book is predicable, and they are, but it is the getting there that is unpredictable. And this book fits that word to a “t”. Each twist and turn left me turning pages faster to see what in the world was going on. The dialogue is realistic, the prose lends a wonderful descriptive quality and the hero and heroine are charming characters. How they act and move across the page is visible to the reader and quickly become real. Even the villain, who was all too real!

This wonderful piece of historical fiction is everything it should be. Flavorful in setting and overflowing with the stuff that makes great stories. It well earned my five stars!

This review is my honest opinion. Thanks to the publishers through CFBA for my copy to review.

What to know more?
Adelaide Proctor is a young woman with her head in the clouds, longing for a real-life storybook hero to claim as her own. But when a husband-hunting debacle leaves her humiliated, she interviews for a staid governess position on a central Texas sheep ranch and vows to leave her romantic yearnings behind.

When Gideon Westcott left his privileged life in England to make a name for himself in America's wool industry, he never expected to become a father overnight. And five-year-old Isabella hasn't uttered a word since she lost her mother. The unconventionality of the new governess concerns Gideon--and intrigues him at the same time. But he can't afford distractions. He has a ranch to run, a shearing to oversee, and a suspicious fence-cutting to investigate.

When Isabella's uncle comes to claim the child--and her inheritance--Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect Isabella from the man's evil schemes. And soon neither can deny their growing attraction. But after so many heartbreaks, will Adelaide be willing to get her head out of the clouds and put her heart on the line?


Casey's Rating:










Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people. Taking the words and stories God has placed on her heart and putting them on paper is one of her highest passions in life. Casey is a member of ACFW. You can connect with her through her personal blog, Writing for Christ and her writing related group blog, The Writer's Alley.

Monday, May 30, 2011

(Secrets and) Sensuality in Christian Romance by JoAnn Durgin (and giveaway!)

I’m a Christian romance writer. Let’s face it – like it or not – the word “romance” is often equated with sex. In and of itself, “romance novel” conjures up visions of beautiful women with gorgeous tresses and overflowing bosoms straining low-cut gowns and swooning in the arms of strong, virile-looking men. A gentle wind may or not lift wisps of her (and maybe even his) hair. They are kissing on a cliff, clenching by the sea, riding a horse in the forest or even reclining on a (gasp) bed. At dusk. At midnight. At sunset.

Just check out any local grocery, drug or chain mega store with row-upon-row of romance novels depicting shirtless, broad-chested men (usually a billionaire, cowboy, pirate, rogue – or a combination of all of the above) and women in various stages of dress, or undress, posed provocatively with laughable titles. What’s deceptive are those romance novels with seemingly innocuous covers featuring seascapes, houses and flowers – but enough in-between the covers, so to speak, to make your cheeks positively flame.

Okay, eyes back to the text. Find it hard to stop staring at this larger-than-life photo (and have you ever seen Ken look so, um, masculine)? That’s pretty much what you find with traditional romance novels. I was going to reduce the size of the photo, but then decided to leave it. Your eyes are drawn to it because of the sheer enormity. When I found it, I couldn’t stop laughing. It proves my point beautifully without using “real” people or an actual book cover. Simply put, it’s “over the top.”

A Jewish friend of the male persuasion recently asked me, point-blank, “What makes a romance novel Christian?” Ah, that is a great question. If you write Christian novels, especially romance, I suggest you find your own answer. It is perhaps the most important question you might ever be asked as an author and an opportunity to make an eternal impact in someone’s life.

Christian romance authors have an awesome responsibility – write a realistic book about a man and woman falling in love, recapturing love or saying goodbye to love without offending sensibilities. It’s a very fine line. We’re charged with writing an involving, God-honoring story without resorting to sensual scenes at least every 10-15 pages like our secular counterparts. Write about murders, and you won’t have a problem. But write something even remotely sensual, and people will squirm.

I’ll tell you a secret: I know Bible-believing, strong Christian women who read secular romance novels. Why? It’s not usually because they want their glasses to steam and their naturally straight hair to curl. Ironically enough, most Christian romances don’t fulfill their need for pure romance. You know what I’m talking about – those moments that make you swoon or sigh and maybe increase your heartbeat. Most Christian romances are safe, sweet and non-threatening, and a large percentage of the plot past the midway point involves keeping the main characters apart until the end due to some type of conflict. Why? Because it’s safe.

When I first started writing Christian romances years ago, there was almost a stigma associated with it, and I was told, “Editors don’t want to touch it because of all the temptations and pitfalls of modern life.” Thus, the preponderance of historical Christian romances. Gradually, the contemporary Christian novels became more prominent. While I love reading historical novels, I simply don’t have the time for the research involved in order to write them authentically. I’d invariably have my characters say the incorrect thing, wear the wrong thing, or violate any manner of practices or habits out of sheer ignorance of the terms and customs of the day.

One of the most precious things in life is that first blush of love, that rush of adrenaline at a glance, a touch, a kiss… Personally, I love the hope and joy in an uplifting romance. As a writer, I don’t generally adhere to the “three kiss rule” – one kiss early on or toward the middle, one about two-thirds of the way through the novel and one at the end. Sometimes I simply need more pure romantic moments, not necessarily with kisses.

While I understand and applaud the safe and sweet, I also believe there’s room for more within the scope of a God-honoring story. I’ll admit to loving witty, flirtatious banter between my hero and heroine. I believe in weaving a strong element of faith throughout a book, and I’m a firm believer in the happy ending. It’s more satisfying and I believe, deep down, it’s what the majority of Christian romance readers want.

As a debut author, the title of my book, Awakening, unfortunately conjures up sensual connotations for some, but the name is as perfect now as it was when originally written more than a decade ago (just a tip, though: search for my name instead of the book title to avoid the erotica).

Awakening is loosely based on my own story with my husband, Jim, and involves a spiritual and emotional awakening. I sincerely appreciate that my publisher, Torn Veil Books, put the tag, A Christian Romance Novel, following my book title. Cuts down on any possible misinterpretation. It might limit my audience in some respects, but that’s more than fine. Awakening will find its way into the hands of those the Lord wants to read it, and hopefully, it will bless their hearts and/or touch their soul in some way.

While Awakening is interwoven with that strong element of faith, it’s also realistic in terms of a mature, adult relationship – complete with lots of romantic moments and flirty banter interspersed with drama and emotional moments. It’s important to show how characters react to the temptations and pitfalls of life, maintaining a mindset to honor the Lord, even when they stumble.

In my book, two great characters are falling deeply in love – my God-fearing hero, Sam Lewis, and my God-seeking heroine, Lexa Clarke (yes, Lewis and Clarke - it’s a contemporary romantic adventure, after all). They work through situations and problems together, and it’s those things that truly bond them together even more, building on a foundation of mutual admiration and respect. Sam and Lexa also make the conscious, mutual decision to honor the Lord in terms of their physical relationship and share an open, honest discussion.

It’s a beautiful testament to waiting on the Lord’s timing. No clothes come off that shouldn’t, and there’s nothing offensive or inappropriate, yet some might perceive it as edgy. I stand behind this scene as written. It’s endearing and incredibly tender. I’ve also never seen anything quite like it in a “traditional” Christian romance, although I’m sure there are some.

But they’re few and far between. Why? Most likely because it might make readers squirm. As one reader affirmed, what shines through in this particular scene is Sam’s integrity and desire to honor the Lord and Lexa. I’ve had mothers tell me teenage girls should read Awakening as a testament to abstinence before marriage. So, you see, Christian romance authors have an awesome responsibility. All Christian writers do, but we’re perhaps unfairly categorized by sheer virtue of the connotations of our genre.

Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. God first loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins, and it’s through His boundless love that I write. Humans, like characters, often stumble and sometimes fall but they find grace, forgiveness, love, redemption and hope when they seek to follow the Lord’s will for their lives. Matthew 5:16 is my personal theme verse, and it’s my prayer that His light will shine through the words in my books, giving light and hope to an often hurting world. It’s my high honor and privilege to share the love stories the Lord has given to me. May you find the love of the Lord in your life today, and each and every day. Blessings, my friends.

JoAnn Durgin’s debut novel, Awakening, released in late 2010. A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and the Romance Writers of America (RWA), she was a finalist in the 2010 RWA/Faith Hope & Love Touched by Love contest (long contemporary romance), and is a Clash of the Titles “Best Back Cover Copy Blurb” champion and winner or finalist in several flash fiction contests. JoAnn invites you to visit her website at www.joanndurgin.com.

It's giveaway time!

I have a review copy of Awakening here to pass along just as soon as I finish reading it. Leave a comment for JoAnn between now and June 14 to be entered.

And is Blogger still acting funky for anyone else?!? I can't seem to log in to leave comments on posts. But this blog is set up to accept anonymous comments, so don't hesitate to leave one that way. Just make sure to include your email address.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Armchair BEA interview: Hannah from Word Lily



Book bloggers who couldn't make it to New York City for the Book Expo America are celebrating from the comfort of their homes during the Armchair BEA event online.

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to blogger I've been following for about a year. Hannah from Word Lily reviews a variety of genres, inspy included. And sometimes she blogs about her adorable dog Maisie whose pictures are soooo precious you'll wanna pucker your lips and speak baby talk to your computer.


Last thing you threw away:
Old label on a bubble mailer, so I could reuse the envelope to mail a book.


Your brand of toothpaste:
Crest


Three things in your purse:
Sunglasses, lip glosses, notebook (And so much else; I really need to clean it out!)


Something that will fall out of your medicine cabinet when I swing it open:
Nothing really precarious, but maybe moisturizer?


A post idea that never made your blog (and why): A joint review of Julie & Julia (book and movie) with my sister; she didn't ever finish the book.


List every book you've reviewed in 2011:

That's what I have a Books Read page on my blog for. :)


Which one's your favorite?
Book I've read in 2011, that I've reviewed? I know I gave 5 stars (out of 5) to The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear ...


Your favorite not quite a curse word:
I can't pick a favorite anything, let alone words. I go through phases in my speech, but I don't think I have any. Certainly no words I speak do I intend as a substitute curse word. I really try to not use language frivolously.


One lousy job from your past:
student-loan consolidator


Something you do when you're not book blogging:
I play with fiber — knit, spin, dye, card, design


What would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
I thought this was standard ... "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Hannah Nielsen has been blogging at Word Lily since early 2007. One feature she’s known for is “Words from my reading,” in which she highlights and defines unknown words she’s discovered in books. She reads from a variety of genres, but she seems to focus somewhat on literary fiction and mysteries. She’s particularly interested in well-written stories at the intersection of life and faith. Besides all things bookish, she also spends time on fibery pursuits (knitting, spinning) and with Maisie, her Old English Sheepdog.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Christian Fiction Book Club- Words by Ginny Yttrup



The Christian Fiction Book Club meets every six weeks at different book blogs. This month we read Words by Ginny Yttrup and chose one or more discussion questions to address in a blog post. Julie at My Only Vice is hosting, feel free to come join the conversation!


I hate, hate, hate reading books about abuse, especially abuse of children, but Words by Ginny Yttrup grabbed me right at the beginning and didn't let go. Kaylee is a prisoner of abuse. Held captive by a child molester, she's found a way for her mind to escape through collecting words.

Sierra carries guilt over her past. She discovers by helping the little girl she found hiding in a tree, she may find a way to break free from her own bondage.

This book took a subject I find about as pleasant as the swine flu and turned it into a story I didn't want to put down. If you're a fan of women's fiction, I bet you'll love it.

My rating:










The discussion question I chose:

Kaylee finds comfort in the words she reads in the dictionary. Who or what do you turn to for comfort?

Funny, when I was Kaylee's age or a little younger, I loved the dictionary! I read it all the time. I didn't really collect words like she did, I found it fascinating.
When I had children of my own, one of the first books I ever gave them was a dictionary. Unfortunately, they didn't seem to get the big deal.

Which character impacted you most, Kaylee or Sierra? Why?

Kaylee. I found it fascinating the way she developed coping mechanisms to survive her situation. The words, the silence. She found her own ways to silence the screams in her head.

I thought the personality quirks she had were so authentic, they really made this story seem real. I don't know what it feels like to be an abuse victim, but I've met people who do, and her personality rang so true to me.









CymLowell

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thinking in Words by Brandy Bruce

I’m one of those people who thinks in story form. Do you know what I mean? It’s when you’ve read so many books that you can turn any scenario into a romance, adventure, or mystery. Think of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, where the heroine’s overactive imagination makes her turn ordinary people into villains. She can’t help but add just a little melodrama to whatever situation she finds herself in. That’s me. Add to that the fact that I’m a book editor by profession and you can see how books are a huge part of my life.

The truth is that my love affair with reading started way back when I was child, snuggling up to my mother as she read to me. In middle school I discovered Robin Gunn’s Christy Miller series and I was so hooked that I’d count the days impatiently until the next book in the series would be released. I was on the lookout for my own personal “Todd” (Christy Miller’s love interest), checking every guy I knew for “silver-blue eyes” and a passion for God. There’s just something about a well-told story that stirs my soul. I’ve got my stack of favorites that I can read over and over again, and yet I still get wrapped up in the stories.

Several years ago I went on a European tour. I visited Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, France, and Italy. Talk about scope for the imagination! I was amazed by Stonehenge. I was in awe of Westminster Abbey. I sat at a café near a river, just steps from a Beatrix Potter bookstore. I laid down in the grass and looked up at the Eiffel Tower. As I was on a coach in Paris, I could hear Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA being sung in French! I ate pizza in Rome.

I came home with my mind brimming with stories, and eventually I wrote what ended up being my first novel, Looks Like Love. Can I share a secret with you? Since it’s been published, I’ve reread Looks Like Love and there were moments I was so into the story that I forgot the fact that I was the one who wrote it! I just love the feeling of falling into a good story. Of characters becoming alive to you. Of closing the book and feeling so satisfied. For a book-lover, that’s an experience you want to duplicate over and over.

Has there been a book that left you inspired? A story that you’ve read again and again? For me, a good book is a gift. It stays with me, inspires me, even changes me.


Brandy Bruce is a book editor for Focus on the Family. She makes her home in Castle Rock, Colorado, with her husband and daughter. Looks Like Love is her debut novel.

Her blog




Want more info about Looks Like Love? Here's the book blurb:
Following a break-up with her boyfriend, an unfulfilling career, and a general bad taste in clothes, Kasey Addison feels lost in her own life. With the help of her best friend, Amanda, Kasey embarks on an unexpected journey to rediscover life and love, starting with a whirlwind London jaunt. Surrounded by red telephone booths, double-decker buses, and men in fuzzy black hats, Kasey falls in love with mud baths, Jane Austen, and stone cathedrals. And in the middle of London she meets Lincoln Davis, a Texan with a really great tan, and her life gets even more unrecognizable.

When her spur-of-the-moment vacation is over, Kasey, a junior marketing consultant, finds herself on the marketing team for LETA, a growing cosmetics company. Kasey's thrown into the fast-paced world of promotional galas, photo shoots, and magazine interviews. When the owners of LETA decide to release their very first fragrance, Kasey’s new assignment is to find out what love looks like and then find a way to sell it. With the help of Amanda and a few new friends, and with a rekindled relationship with the Lover of her soul, Kasey discovers that sometimes love looks like what we least expect.

And here's the book trailer:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review- Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren

Last week I got a really nice email from a super groovy book-promoter asking if I would review Cascade, Book Two in Lisa T. Bergren’s River of Time series. I yawned, flipped through some old emails, then thought, “Oh, sure. Why not.” and emailed her back that I would be glad to review this novel… if I could fit it in between naps.

As if.

For anyone who read my review of Waterfall (Book One in this series), your sarcasmometer probably just started squawking because you know that the exact opposite thing occurred. In truth, when I received this particular review request, I squealed very loudly and about peed myself.

And I’m not ashamed to admit it, either.

I loved WATERFALL – and, since I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, I wasted no time replying to the groovy book-promoter. I typed my very professional version of a “YES! YES! YES!” response as fast as my fingers would fly and, although, I received the book too late in the evening to start it, I read CASCADE in its entirety the following day. And I’ve got one word to say:

Awesome.


THE SITCH:


Cascade takes off right where Waterfall left off (if you haven’t read Book One of the River of Time series, what are you waiting for??? In the meantime, please see my review of Waterfall for those details!) Seventeen-year-old Gabi Betarrini and her fifteen-year-old sister, Lia, are back where their adventure began. Still dressed in the silken gowns in which they’d been attired in Medieval Italy, they are at their mother’s modern-day archaeological dig amidst Italy’s Etruscan tombs. There’s just one problem: Gabi left her heart in Medieval Italy and she can’t stay in the present– not when Marcello, the young knight she loves, remains in danger.

Convincing their inquisitive, scientific mother to travel back in time with them is difficult, but the story doesn’t linger in the present long. When the three Betarrini women arrive back in Medieval Italy, Gabi and Lia find their fame has grown, their names are at the top of the enemy’s Most Wanted list, and that they are faced with the challenge of figuring out which enemies are masquerading as friends – and which enemies could be friends in disguise… or not.

It’s a lot for a pair of teenagers to deal with, but with swords, bows, and a couple of hunky Italian knights at their side, they might just make it out alive.


HOW IT HIT ME:


Like an arrow as it’s fired through the strings of a harp and into the heart of someone threatening a person I love.

In other words, Ms. Bergren was true to her characters voices, true to the emotion of each moment, and true to the violent nature of the times. But through it all she captured the essence of the romance(s) within the story with beauty and finesse.


WHAT MADE ME SQUIRM

"Oh no you didn’t!” Another cliffhanger at the end?
And Torrent won’t be released until September?????
Lisa, you’re killing me here!!!!
(In a good way.)



TO READ, OR NOT TO READ; THAT IS THE QUESTION:


I love this series. I adore it. And so does my (almost) fourteen-year-old daughter. Lisa T. Bergren is setting the bar for teen Christian Romance, writing this ongoing tale so well that it could cross seamlessly onto Mainstream bookshelves. And I hope it does. Even if you scoff at something written for teens, you will love it. And you will salivate along with me for the release of Torrent in September.

So what are you waiting for? Read Cascade, by Lisa T. Bergren as soon as you can get your hands on it. (But read Waterfall first, of course, if you haven’t yet!!! These are not stand-alone titles!)

Read it. READ IT. READ IT!!!


AND FINALLY, IN THE WORDS OF INIGO MONTOYA:
“No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”


This series is humorous, romantic, and packed with surprising twists of action which keep the reader glued to the page. As a bonus, it is a Christian novel -- but the writing is so refreshingly preach-less that Christian teens (and grown-ups!) don’t have to grimace as they hand it to their non-believing friends. Brava!

Cascade, by Lisa T. Bergren is a fantastic, engrossing tale of adventure and love that will have your knuckles whitening, your face grinning, and your heart singing a soft Italian love song long after the final (cliffhanging!) page is turned.

Serena's rating:







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

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lunch Anyone? by Dora Hiers

Since I started writing inspirational romantic suspense, my husband seems almost scared to go to lunch with me. I can’t help but wonder why.

The other day, I met him at Buffalo Wild Wings. He breezes in, slings the radio off his belt, does that one-handed flip with the thing, and leans down to plant a kiss on my cheek before sliding onto the opposite bench seat. “Hey.”

“Hi, honey.” I flash my best “happy to see you” smile.

“Ready to order?”

Well, I am, but he just sat down. Doesn’t he need a couple minutes to look over the menu? I shrug. “Sure.”

The waiter brings our drinks, takes our order, and leaves. I’m the type that usually orders the same thing. At Buffalo Wild Wings, it’s always the buffalito. The meal arrives, and I dig into my buffalito. I finish my meal, ready to talk.

“So, honey. I need your help. I need a way to crash a plane.”

His eyebrows practically arch off his head. His gaze darts around the room. He sees a couple local police officers sitting a few tables away, nods, and smiles at them. He leans back and inhales, deep and shaky, lets it out slowly. Takes a long sip of water. “OK. Crashing a plane. Hmmm.”

“Yeah. Or maybe a poison.” I let that swirl around in my head for about thirty seconds. “Yeah, poison might actually work better. Just enough of a drug to make the pilot a little woozy, but not enough to kill him.”

My husband scrunches his face, does another quick glance around the dining room, and hunches his generous body lower in the bench. In the smallest voice he’s capable of (my husband only has one volume: booming), he says, “Poison. OK. Give me this afternoon. I’ll make some phone calls and find you something to work with.”

A head from the booth behind my husband swivels in our direction and frowns. The man leans towards his lunch partner and whispers, begins punching numbers into a cell phone.

My husband grabs the check, bolts to his feet, and holds out a hand. “You ready to go?”

“Sure, honey.” I smile, knowing he’s a busy guy and has a ton of work waiting for him at the office. “Thanks for your help. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

He throws a desperate glance over his shoulder, waves at the police officers, and hustles me out the door.

I love my wonderful hunk of a husband. He's a tremendous help in plotting books. Sometimes just talking things out will loosen up writer's block. And although he may cringe at my weird, come-out-of-left-field dilemmas, he never complains. Wonder where he’ll want to go to lunch tomorrow?

Want to know more about Dora's book? Here's the blurb for Journey's End:
Devastated after the brutal murder of her husband, Chelsea Hammond vows never to love another lawman. Intent on rebuilding her shattered life, she turns her focus to helping troubled teens. But when an angry father bent on retaliation, threatens her, Chelsea must turn to the one man she never thought to trust: Deputy U.S. Marshal Trey Colten.

Trey wants only to protect Chelsea, but she blames him for her husband’s death.Trey can relate. He blames himself, also. As danger lurks, Trey begs Chelsea to heed his warnings. He let down one Hammond. He won’t let down another—especially one who now holds his heart.

When Chelsea is snatched from her home, can she put aside her fear, and trust Trey with her life? Can she forgive him for destroying her past and let him help to rebuild her future?

Where one journey ends, another begins…


...and here's an excerpt:
“I suppose I should have been a vet.” Chelsea stroked the dog’s fur from his head all the way down his back, careful not to touch his wounded leg.

“Maybe. But I don’t think you’ve wasted your energy or your talents as a guidance counselor. Teenagers can’t seem to resist you, either.”

That produced a full-fledged smile in his direction. Way to go, Colten!

“Remember that natural charm I warned you about?”

He threw back his head and laughed. “Yes. And after a few days in your presence, I’m inclined to agree with you.”

He pulled into the veterinarian’s parking lot and glanced her way, surprised to see her grinning. “What?”

“Saved by the vet.”

Her words hit him like a piano dropping ten stories. She was flirting with him.
He took his time walking around to her side of the truck. He opened the door and leaned in, planting his hand on the seat next to her shapely legs. His face hovered inches from hers while he savored the way her wavy hair cascaded down her shoulders, the lips that curved in that always graceful way, and the eyes that spoke everything his heart wanted to hear.

Her eyes closed, and her lips parted slightly.

Trey snapped out of it. He couldn’t do this. He was on the job. She didn’t know the secrets he knew, the truth about her husband.

Her eyes startled open. As much as he wanted to partake and enjoy, he couldn’t. He touched a silky curl framing her face and ran it through his fingers. “You need to know that right now I’m working. But there will come a time, soon, when I’m not.”


After a successful auditing career, Dora left the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom to her two sons. Eventually, needing something more to fill her days, she started writing heart-racing, God-gracing books that glorify her Creator. Dora belongs to the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Carolina Christian Writers.

Dora and her husband make their home in Kannapolis, North Carolina. When she’s not writing, Dora enjoys spending time with her family, guzzling café con leche, kicking back in her recliner with a good book, teaching Sunday School, vacationing in the mountains, watching football, walking her dog, and did somebody say shopping?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blogger's meltdown coincided with my own...


Unless you've been living under a mushroom cloud, by now you've heard about Blogger's recent glitches. I actually have been walking around in a fog and didn't notice the problem until shortly before it was resolved.

The Blogger Apocalypse delayed the posting of Serena's Predator review by a couple of hours, but the biggest effect it had over here was it wiped out most of the entries on Delia Latham's guest post and giveaway.

If you entered the giveaway for Kylie's Kiss, you might want to swing by the post again to see if your comment is still there.

I've had a blogging meltdown of my own lately.

My husband has been gone more than two weeks on an extended business trip and I feel like I'm running a three legged race without my strongest leg. It's just been me and the boys (and the spiders and wasps who were clearly just biding their time until they knew I was the only adult home).

Though I'm loving the extra face time with the kiddos it means less time reading, writing, and reviewing.

I'm also taking a grueling online writer's course this month (two words: Margie. Lawson). As I write this post, I'm currently two lectures behind on my homework. Hopefully my editing partner will understand. ;)

I had hoped by stockpiling a bunch of posts I'd be able to phone-it-in the month of May, but I'm falling behind on even the most basic of blogging tasks, like responding to comments, visiting friend's blogs, and replying to emails.

I have three books in my review pile whose review dates came and went (and went and went). My apologies to the authors. I look forward to reading Heartsight by Kay Springsteen, The Green Veil by Naomi Munsch, and Double Identity by Diane Burke and getting reviews done before the month is out.













Thanks for hanging in there with me friends! I'll catch up soon!






Photo credit: used with permission by Parajunkee.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Review- Predator by Terri Blackstock

First off, let me offer this disclaimer for you fans of hearts and flowers and hunky shirtless men: this book is not a romance. There is romance within the book, but it’s a side kick to the storyline, not the main attraction. But that being said, I believe that anyone with a computer, -- or anyone with a tween/teenager in their sphere of influence --, or anyone with any semblance of modern technology touching their life –, should read this novel for its takeaway value as a modern and relevant cautionary tale.


THE SITCH
(Quoted from the inside jacket)


The murder of Krista Carmichael’s fourteen-year-old sister by an online predator has shaken her faith and made her question God’s justice and protection. Desperate to find the killer, she creates an online persona to bait the predator. But when the stalker turns his sights on her, will Krista be able to control the outcome?

Ryan Adkins started the social network Grape Vyne in his college dorm and has grown it into a billion-dollar corporation. But he never expected it to become a stalking ground for online predators. One of them lives in his town and has killed two girls and attacked a third. When Ryan meets Krista, the murders become more than a news story to him, and everything is on the line.

Joining forces, Ryan and Krista set out to stop the killer. But when hunters pursue a hunter, the tables can easily turn. Only God can protect them now.


HOW IT HIT ME:


Like a raw egg thrown at my brand new car as it sat in my driveway on Halloween night.

In other words: shocking, spooky, all-too-close-to-home, and sure to leave a mark that will make me think twice about what I leave outside my boundaries of protection.


WHAT MADE ME SQUIRM:


Everything.

About two years ago, I was cyber-stalked. While my experience was, thankfully, not even near the degree of scary described in Blackstock’s novel, there was a point, early on in my reading, that I had to put the book down. It was dark. I was the only one awake in my house, and Predator was hitting way too close to home. I was not sure I could continue reading -- and pretty darn sure I would have trouble sleeping that night.

As all the “what ifs” and “I can’t believe I was so stupids” flowed into my wee little brain, I found the pages blurred with the filling of my eyes. Every muscle tensed. I was short of breath. All the manipulated fear and feelings of victimization that I’d pushed aside as my own threat faded came back. I put the book aside, crawled into bed really close to my husband, and prayed.

Finally, I slept; and twelve hours later, with the sun high in the sky, I started reading again. That’s the blasted thing about a well-written novel of suspense: no matter how much it creeps you out, it’s really hard to keep it closed when the sun comes up.


TO READ, OR NOT TO READ; THAT IS THE QUESTION.


If you are reading this review, you are probably, like me, one of the tens of millions of individuals who are very active online, innocently (and sometimes mindlessly, no offense) opening integral pieces of your life to people you have never met. If this book doesn’t make you think twice before entering your next “status update” – well – it would make me wonder if you really read it.
Every socially networking adult should read this book and take its cautionary message to heart. Every parent of a socially networking child should read this book and, if after reading it you decide your child is mature enough to handle the content, pass it on as required reading. This novel is not just a soap-box driven package for an author’s message; it’s an engaging and well-written story that has the potential to become a great opener for a conversation about Internet safety. Read it. And tell your friends to read it.


AND FINALLY, IN THE WORDS OF INIGO MONTOYA:
“No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”


Predator by Terri Blackstock is a frightening novel of suspense with touches of romance that will entertain you, touches of the divine that will inspire you, and a good dose of reality that will, hopefully, help you to reexamine some of your Internet habits.

Serena's rating:








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

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Come on in to....a Writer's Mind by Delia Latham (and giveaway!)

Ever wondered what goes on inside a writer’s mind? Surely you have… I’ve often pondered what kind of weird, wonderful, strange, twisted, totally unbelievable place must exist inside Stephen King’s coconut!

I’m certainly not Stephen King, though I must confess to having read many of his books. (Don’t shoot me…the man’s writing technique is amazing, and so are his fictional worlds.) I’m not even close to his level of expertise, but I do sit around and think up people, places, and situations which become actual published books, so I think it’s all right to call myself a writer. Since Stevie’s mind isn’t open for discussion, we’ll have to settle for mine.

It isn’t a scary place...well, not usually, but I do have a vivid imagination, so you never know what you’ll find wandering the halls of my mental castle. Behind each door is something different. From behind one entrance, you might hear the cries of a lost, wounded, lonely child, crying for its mother. The next room could be packed with people—laughing, happy people; sad and bitter ones; men in crises of faith or integrity; women resisting the temptation of infidelity; innocent children and evil predators. Another portal might open onto a stage on which angels and demons battle for the precious soul of a human being.

One bright spot in my inner world is filled with all the love, hopes and dreams for and memories of my loved ones—family and friends. That area is private and heavily guarded against unwanted intrusion. Funny how we’re like that with folks we love, isn’t it?

So here’s the question: How does a Christian writer come to include within the pages of her books situations often non-conducive to a godly lifestyle? Sin in all its ugly forms. Addiction. All manner of temptation and possible pitfalls. In short…things one wouldn’t expect to find in the mind of a Christian.

Here’s why it works. Because the biggest, brightest, most important room in my mind—you’ll recognize it on your tour because it’s the “lived-in” space—belongs to Jesus Christ. He is the Source of all the surrounding activity, for it is He who provides fodder for the mill of my imagination. He shines onto the walls of my mind moving pictures in vivid techno-color, with instructions on how to word-paint them into the pages of my books. He draws the outline and provides the various hues and shades of color with which to fill them. He provides the details that show how my characters got themselves into the spots we find them in—undesirable, questionable, ungodly places.

And then He reveals what they need to do to escape. Funny thing is, the way out always leads to the same destination…the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Yep, right back to the Big Room. The bright room. The lived-in space in my mind where Jesus dwells.

In summation, it seems that within a Christian writer’s mind is an endlessly revolving Circle of Life. It isn’t always perfect and pretty and free of sin. It contains a few things that might make a Child of God shudder, because we know they’re doubtful, deadly or undesirable…and they lead to destruction.

But the hard, unflinching reality is that in the real world—the one where you and I live and breathe and have our being—these situations exist. Temptations abound, and people are caught in them. Addictions take root, and our neighbors and friends are imprisoned by them. These “undesirables” are, and people with souls are trapped there, seeking a means of escape.

Perhaps one of these tortured, seeking souls who would never consider darkening the door of a church house, will pick up an edgy Christian fiction novel. And maybe she will find, within those pages, a Way of escape.

Because within that churning, twirling, twisting circle I mentioned are a generous number of spokes. Life-changing, soul-saving, hope-giving spokes—because each of them is attached to the Big Room where Jesus dwells, and where Philippians 4:8 is in full working mode: …whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I hope you enjoyed your tour, and that it helps you understand a little better what goes on inside the mind of a (Christian) writer.


Here's an excerpt from Kylie's Kiss by Delia Latham:
Rick settled into a seat across from Kylie and Clay and sat in silence for a moment, a slight frown drawing his dark brows together. Finally he looked up, first at Clay, then in her direction. “Kylie, I haven’t had a chance to share with you about Lea, though I believe Clay knows a little.”

Her heart sank and her gaze flew to her boss, who nodded. Yes, he knew about Lea, whoever she was. This didn’t sound good. “Who’s Lea?”

“She’s my little girl.” Kylie drew in a slow, deliberate breath, forcing herself to stay calm. So he had a daughter. As long as a wife wasn’t the next announcement, she could handle that.

“You have a child. How old is she?”

“She just turned six.” Rick’s expression softened as he spoke, and Kylie knew without a doubt that Lea was his life. His green eyes, startling against the olive of his skin, met hers without flinching. “She’s a special child, Kylie. Smart, beautiful, charming….” Kylie found herself fascinated by the adorable little self-derisive grin that played about his lips. “And sweet as cotton candy.”

Kylie couldn’t help smiling. “You don’t like her much, huh?”

“She is my heart and soul.” A little sheepish, but unrepentant.

“When do we get to meet this perfect child?” Clay’s grin lit up his craggy face. “Destiny’s already looking forward to it, but be warned—she’s going to try to keep her. My wife has a thing with kids, man. She loves ’em, and they always love her right back.”

Rick laughed a little, but his tone was serious. “I hope she still feels that way after she meets Lea.” He pulled a wallet from his pocket, then sat for a moment, saying nothing.

Puzzled, Kylie watched him run slender fingers through his thick black hair. Again and again he invaded the thick waves, managing to somehow leave them only slightly mussed. Finally he opened the billfold and pulled out a photo.

When he raised his head, revealing the torment in his eyes, her heart nearly stopped. What was wrong with Lea? Whatever it was, did Rick think it would make a difference in how she or Clay might feel about the child? If so, he certainly didn’t give them much credit.

“This is Lea.” He handed the photo to Clay, who smiled and passed it on to Kylie.

“She’s a cutie all right, my friend. You weren’t exaggerating. So what’s the problem?”

Kylie wondered the same thing. The photo showed a partial silhouette of an extraordinarily beautiful child. Unlike her olive-skinned father, Lea was a vision of light. Golden hair, porcelain skin, eyes the color of a robin’s egg. Kylie met Rick’s gaze, mystified by his obvious unease. “She’s lovely.”

“Thank you. I think so.” He pulled out another photo and handed it to Clay. “In spite of this.”

Kylie’s stomach clenched and threatened to revolt. Her boss’s flinch was slight, but unmistakable. Oh, dear God, please help me handle whatever this is with grace. How ironic that her first real prayer in years would be one of such a pitifully begging nature. Somehow she knew her reaction to this photo could mean life or death for her relationship with Rick. How strange that she’d be thinking in terms of a relationship now, when only moments before she’d been ready to concede defeat.

Clay nodded slowly, then met Kylie’s eyes. He held briefly to the picture even after her fingers closed on it. His words were directed to his friend, but his gaze held hers. “You’re right, my friend. Nothing could make this child anything less than perfect.”

He released the photo into Kylie’s grip. By now she did not want to look at it. Something in Rick’s eyes and Clay’s voice told her she could be in trouble. But what choice did she have?

Her eyes moved in slow, jerking movements from Clay’s face to the photo in her hands. She gasped, overwhelmed with sympathy—and total panic.

Another silhouette, shot from the opposite side of Lea’s face. Long, lumpy red welts stained her exquisite skin, puckering her cheek into an inhuman mask. Kylie had no idea she was crying until the tears tickled her face, even as her throat closed and her stomach lurched.

The photo fluttered to the floor as she leaped to her feet. Sending the two men a desperately apologetic look, she flew out of the room with a hand over her mouth.


Born and raised in a place called Weedpatch, Delia Latham moved from California to Oklahoma in 2008, making her a self-proclaimed California Okie. She loves to read and write in her simple country home, and gets a kick out of watching her husband play Farmer John. The author enjoys multiple roles as Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially loves being a princess daughter to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. She loves to hear from her readers. You can contact her through her website or send an e-mail to delia AT delialatham DOT net.


It's giveaway time!

I have a PRINT COPY of Delia's newest book, Kylie's Kiss to give to one lucky reader. Leave a comment for Delia between now and May 31 to enter. Be sure to include your email address if it's not in your profile.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lots of contest winners!

Usually I announce contest winners in the comments section of the original post, but I have so many giveaways this time I thought a special post would be warranted. All winners were chosen by Random.org and I will be contacting the winners by email this afternoon.

1. The winner of a PDF copy of Hearts Crossing by Marianne Evans is Kacie.

2. The winner of the Joy's Spring Blog(iversary) Carnival box-o-books is Amie@bookgoonie.

3. The winner of the $10 Amazon gift card is Jen at http://cleanromancereviews.blogspot.com


These giveaways are open until May 14:

The Lightkeeper's Ball by Colleen Coble.

The Art of Romance by Kaye Dacus

Thank you for reading my blog and leaving comments! I appreciate you all so much!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Q & A with Colleen Coble (and giveaway!)

What do I have to offer this world?

Can I really be loved for who I am on the outside and not for how others view me?

Where does my true significance come from?


In her third installment of the Mercy Falls series, The Lightkeeper's Ball, award-winning author Colleen Coble will answer these questions while leading her readers down a path of betrayal, desire and ultimate fulfillment.

The Mercy Falls series centers on a small town in California and its lighthouse. Coble uses the lighthouse as a reminder that Jesus is our lighthouse always leading us home. In her latest addition to the series, the main characters must wrestle with their desire to find fulfillment in more than their work and money while being hunted by those who are holding on to resentment and unforgiveness.

With murder, suspense and desire, readers will enjoy peeling back the layers and discovering that this is more than your average romance novel. They will be perched on the edge of their seats trying to solve a mystery while discovering that the true worth of an individual never comes from a name or accomplishments. True worth can only be found in Christ


Did you always dream of becoming a writer? Why did you choose the romance genre?

I wrote my first story in the first grade. It was about a horse that had twin colts. The teacher praised it and the writing seed was planted. I love illustrating God’s love through romance. I especially love the suspense I put into all my books as well. I have a strong streak of justice and it plays out in the suspense element.


What inspired you to write a historical series based in the early 1900’s? What would you have enjoyed about living in that time period and what would you have found the most difficult?

I happened to read an article about the Gilded Age and it mentioned how that era was so similar to today’s. I was intrigued with that, plus I wanted to choose a time period that wouldn’t be too much of a departure from my contemporary books. In that era, there were still cars and telephones!

I would have loved the simpler lifestyle. However, I would miss my jeans! How vain.

Society at the turn of the century was very preoccupied with appearances and impressing other people. How is that not so different than our society today and how can we keep from falling into that same trap?

That’s exactly right! The parallels between the two eras are astounding. I’ve been at the cancer hospital this week with a dear friend, and it was a reminder of how fragile this life is. We seek THINGS when God wants us to seek Him. We need to keep our eyes set on eternity and remember that THIS life is the real dream. When we reach heaven, we will finally start to really live.

Bitterness and unforgiveness led to the death of Olivia’s sister. Why is it so important to forgive those who have wronged us?

An unforgiving spirit hurts us much more than the person we hate. It makes us ugly and crowds out the love we want to show other people. God is love, not hate. Bitterness is the very opposite of the attitude God wants us to have.

This is the third book in your Mercy Falls series. Addie and Katie were the main characters in your first two books. Olivia was given a true gift in the friendship of Katie and Addie. What does it take to find trustworthy and loyal friends? Why do you think that we all desire to find friends like these?

You have to first be a friend. You have to be open and giving of yourself to have those kinds of friends. A true friend tells you the truth in love, and that’s an important component of the give and take of real friendship.


What do you hope that your readers will take away from reading The Lightkeeper’s Ball?

I hope the readers who feel they have to earn love will take away the realization that their true worth is that Jesus loves them and died for them. They are valuable beyond comprehension. When we can step into the role of daughters and sons, we can realize our true potential.

It's giveaway time!

I'm passing along my review copy of The Lightkeeper's Ball. Just leave a comment with your email address to let me know you're interested. You can read my review here.

Thanks to The B&B Media Group for my review copy and for the interview questions!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Grab this free download and come join our book club!



Have you considered joining our Christian Fiction Book Club but have had problems getting hold of the books? I am excited to share that the book we're discussing this month, Words by Ginny Yttrup, is currently a free download for the NOOK!

I don't know how long it's going to be free, but the timing is perfect. Grab it now and join us a Julie's blog, My Only Vice on May 21 to discuss it.

(Thanks to Gina at Hott Books for the Free Friday heads up!)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Review- Surrender the Heart by MaryLu Tyndall


For Celebrity Review Week, I turned the camera around on three Christian fiction authors we love and asked them to review books of their choice. Julie Lessman is here today to review Surrender the Heart by MaryLu Tyndall.

THIS WOMAN KNOWS HOW TO WRITE ROMANCE!!

I love romantic tension, and when I pick a book to read for pleasure, MaryLu Tyndall is ALWAYS at the top of my list. As a romance author myself, I’m pretty particular because I don’t have a lot of time to read. When I do, I want an action-filled plot with lots of twists and turns and flesh-and-blood characters that grip my heart, something Ms. Tyndall delivers … every … single … time! And did I mention passion? Because MaryLu Tyndall races the pulse with some of the best in the Christian market today, both spiritually and romantically.

Surrender the Heart is the first in her “Surrender to Destiny” Series and if even possible, my favorite so far, which is saying something because everything this woman writes is a favorite of mine. From the very first line (“I would rather boil in oil than marry Noah Brenin.”), I was riveted by this engaging and fast-paced tale of a reluctant bride-to-be who becomes an unwilling stowaway aboard her “fiance’s” merchant vessel during the War of 1812. No love is lost between Marianne Denton and her equally reluctant intended Noah Brenin, but when Noah’s ship is captured by a British man-of-war vessel and its crew impressed into the British navy against their wills, the unwelcome engagement is the least of their problems. With skillful ease, Ms. Tyndall not only carries Marianne and Noah away on the heart-pounding high-seas adventure of their lives, but the reader as well, forcing all to “surrender” to her undisputable talent as a master storyteller—sweet “surrender,” indeed.

Julie's rating:








About our celebrity reviewer:

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 and is the author of “The Daughters of Boston” series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. Her “Winds of Change” series has recently released with A Hope Undaunted, which ranked #5 on Booklist’s Top 10 Inspirational Fiction for 2010. You can contact Julie through her website at www.julielessman.com.

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