Wednesday, August 31, 2011

WATERFALL WEDNESDAY #1 -- Now showing at Tina's Book Reviews!!

This week's WATERFALL WEDNESDAY is being hosted by Tina at Tina's Book Reviews. She's come up with some awesome discussion questions for us. Won't you join in? You can get there right now (or a few minutes from now) by clicking on the pretty button above that Missie (at The Unread Reader) designed for this event! So grab your copy of Lisa T. Bergren's Waterfall and let's all dip our toes into the River of Time!

Here are my thoughts on Tina's discussion questions:

1. Waterfall opens with the introduction of Gabi. She's depressed, a little angry, and is dealing with feelings of loneliness. Are you connecting with her this soon in the novel? Do you see things you like or dislike?

I found Gabi's voice to be "believably teen" from page one. I well-remember getting dragged -- almost as baggage -- into some of my parents' interests, so I connected with Gabi's feelings of bored resentment. Gabi wants to be where the action is (aka: BOYS) and hates that she and Lia are almost an afterthought to their mother, who is much more interested in digging in the Etruscan dirt than connecting with her daughters. I liked the humanness, teen vernacular, and realness of Gabi. A lot.

2. Gabi gets to time travel back to 14th Century Italy -- the Dark Ages in its prime. Is there any time in history that fascinates you and would you travel back if you could?

I'm drawn by the chivalry of medieval times -- but a little put off by the violence and chauvinism (not to mention the lack of plumbing. And medical care. Leeches and Poop are not my idea of holistic remedies.) Of course, if Marcello and Luca were there to greet me, I might consider the trip! sighhhhhhhhh.

3. Most of the men, including Marcello, have a very set opinion about a woman's place. Gabi gets manhandled a bit in these first few chapters, and even gets asked if she's a witch. The men are shocked when Gabi rides a horse like a man and shimmies down the castle walls. What do you think of men's mentalities back then? Gentlemanly, chauvinistic, simple-minded?

I'm sure then, just like now, the mentality depended on the man: how he was raised, and by whom. I'm sure there was a bit of each characteristic in most medieval men -- and also in the women for the same reasons. If you're told/treated all your life your are chattel for breeding heirs, you will most likely believe it of yourself and your purpose without some sort of intervention.

In our modern times, acts of chivalry are often mistaken for chauvinism. I think that is a sad loss to our culture in acknowledging the hidden worth of a woman -- and the beautiful care of the men who appreciate it.

4. When Gabi becomes a part of this era, the people are immediately intrigued but suspicious of her. Many judge her by her difference. Do you think this is fair? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like an outsider or that others were misjudging you?

In a climate of war, within a society where daily survival is in question, I think it is perfectly fair to be suspicious of newcomers. However, it is also wise to make an effort to perceive the newcomer's character and adjust your opinion according to those observations.

Sure, we've all been in those situations. As the wife of a public school principal, I am often relegated to the "leper section" at school events. It's almost comical at times, the invisible force field that surrounds me and repels people from sitting within my immediate radius. Like Gabi, I've learned to deal with it, laugh about it, and to more easily discern who is brave enough to be seen in proximity to one such as me and the (perceived) "evil authority" that I represent.

What do you think the coolest thing would be about living in the Dark Ages? What would be the worst?

Coolest? Chivalrous knights determined to adore me in my beautiful gownage.

Worst? Violence without proper medical care. An also, because it is scary. And also, because I could get hurt or killed, and that is most certainly not on my bucket list.

Thanks for stopping by this week! Please visit TINA's blog, as she is this week's official host! (and **GIVEAWAY ALERT** make sure you go to THIS POST at Tina's Book Reviews to "linky up" and get in the running for one of FIVE autographed* sets of the River of Time series, generously provided by Lisa T. Bergren.)*autographed sets for U.S. winners only.

Happy Read-Along! Meet us at Missie's place (The Unread Reader) next Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Top Ten Forgotten BBAW Categories

(Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, but I'm going rogue this week and picking my own topic).

The long lists were announced yesterday for Book Blogger Appreciation Week and I want to thank everyone who nominated Edgy Inspirational Romance in both the Romance and Spiritual/ Inspirational/ Religious categories. We could only accept one nomination and chose Inspy since it's a better fit.

The whole BBAW process got me thinking of categories I wish I could create for some of my favorite people. If you're looking for a new book blog to follow, all of these bloggers review Christian fiction (though some not exclusively).

1. Most Intellectual Book Blogger- Kate at The Parchment Girl. My IQ jumps two notches just commenting her reviews.

2. Best Networker- Juju at Tales of Whimsy. I dare you to find a book blog anywhere on the World Wide Web that Juju hasn't commented on.

3. Most Encouraging- Rel at Relz Reviewz and Amber at Seasons of Humility. Watching the supportive way Rel interacts with authors and bloggers on Twitter makes me want to be a better social networker and Amber is a natural cheerleader who inspires everyone around her.

4. Kindred Spirits- (AKA the bloggers most likely to be reading something I want to read) Renee at Black n Gold Girl's Book Spot, and Heather at Proud Book Nerd.

5. Best Book Bloggers South of the Mason Dixon Line- Christy at Southern Sassy Things and Tammy at Bluerose's Heart. Y'all check 'em out now, ya' hear?

6. Most Likely to Succeed-- (AKA a blogger you're not following yet but will be) Julie at My Only Vice. Her numbers may be small, but this is one blogger you'll want to read. Be sure to check her out.

7. Most Beautiful Profile Picture- (AKA the blogger who could take up modeling if the whole book review thing didn't work out). Lydia at The Overweight Bookshelf.

8. Most Likely to Steal Your Book Boyfriend: If your man wears combat boots and hangs out in Ronie Kendig books he's not safe around Jules from My Own Little Corner of the World (or Rel and Renee for that matter) and if Lisa Bergren set you up with Marcello Fiorelli, keep your eye on Tina from Tina's Book Reviews.

9. Most Likely to Write a Book I'll Want to Review: Casey at Writing for Christ, and Renee Ann at Doorkeeper

10. Most helpful info: Kiki at Vessel Project and Gina at Hott Books. My go-to girls for Kindle/Nook freebies and book giveaways.

It's not too late to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week! Head over to BBAW to register and you'll be able to vote for your favorite book blogs in September.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Review: TORRENT by Lisa T. Bergren

It's not easy to write a spoiler-free review for the third book in a series -- especially considering how the preceding novel left readers hanging, drooling, and begging to know what was going to happen next! But because I've loved traveling to medieval Italy with Gabi and Lia (I'm practically in mourning at the thought that my adventures with The She-Wolves of Siena could be coming to an end) I'm bound and determined not to spoil the journey for those of you who have not yet dipped your hearts into the River of Time.

(from the back cover of Torrent)

"Hold tight," I said. "No matter what happens, do not let us go."
"We won't," my dad said.
"Never," Mom added.
And with a look at Lia, we laid our hands upon the prints.

Gabriella and Evangelia Betarrini are just two normal American teenagers. Normal except for the fact that they time-travel to fourteenth century Italy, where they've lived in castles they've seen as crumbling ruins, been swept up in historic battles, and fallen in love with handsome knights willing to do anything to keep them alive.

They've returned to the present to save their father, just short of his tragic death,and now all four return to the place that holds the girls' hearts, medieval Italy. But remaining there means facing great risk as the battle for territory wages on and the coming Black Plague looms. Can they convince their parents to stay and leave behind everything they've worked so hard to accomplish? And will the girls sacrifice their futures in an uncertain past? Or, in facing death head-on, will they discover life as it was always meant to be lived?

Like a white-knuckled fist clutching a bouquet of wildflowers, it slammed violently into my imagination and grabbed hold of my heart.
In other words, it took my breath away. Torrent is a white-knuckle romance that tips the scales of awesome. 'nuff said.


Lord Greco.

Sure, we met him in Cascade -- but who is this guy... really?

In Torrent, Lisa T. Bergren keeps her reader guessing right along with Gabi as to the nature of this enigmatic character: Is he one of the Good Guys?
Maybe. One of the Bad Guys? Umm... maybe. A friend? Sometimes. A foe? More often. A tortured but romantic soul? For sure. Hot? You bet. Made my knees a little weak? Mm-hmm. Wish I was Gabi? Oh yeah.

Lord Greco is a perfectly romantic villain -- and, also, the consummate mysterious hero... or is he???

Of course I love Marcello best, but since I have a certain weakness for romantic bad boys, I heartily believe that somewhere in the annals of fictitious history, Lord Greco is listed quite officially as, "Lord Greco: The Hotness of Firenze."

So, enough about Lord Greco.

If this novel is not in your Amazon cart in the next thirty seconds, I am totally not speaking to you anymore!!! Okay, I'm kidding. (A little.) That may be laying it on a bit thick, but... you should really read this book. (After you've read the other two, of course.)

Inserting fresh intrigues, new twists, and secret brotherhoods into the third installment of this romantic adventure, the author grows the presence of newer characters (like Lord Greco, see above) and forces the existing cast (especially Gabi) to mature emotionally through adventures of both a physical nature and of the heart.

I don't know what it is about these novels that makes me love them so dearly. Is it the author's fantastic craft? The heart-twisting imagination? The dashing Italian knights? The feeling that, at any moment, anyone -- or everyone -- I've grown to love over the course of these three books could die? Well, it's all that and so much more. It's love. Honest-to-goodness, true book love -- for Torrent, as well as Waterfall and Cascade, the other two books in the River of Time series.

Read it. Unless your heart is made of stone or play-doh, I guarantee you'll love it.

"No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

Torrent is the perfect conclusion to this trilogy -- not only because it satisfies on every level, but because it keeps you hoping that the younger She-Wolf of Siena (Lia) will get a series of her own sometime soon. (Hint, hint, wink, wink to Lisa T. Bergren and the Publishing Powers That Be.) I adore these books and plan to read the entire series again (make sure you join us for Waterfall Wednesdays -- beginning this week!) as soon as I get the chance!

Rapturous romance and spine-tingling adventure await you within Lisa T. Bergren's medieval Italy, so don't wait another minute to let yourself get swept away by the River of Time.

Serena's rating:

Sunday, August 28, 2011


We recently sponsored a drawing to give away a copy of Sandra Byrd's new novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn **and** an autographed book plate to stick inside. Well, the deadline for entries arrived last Friday and, thanks to my virtual friends at, I am pleased to announce that we have a winner!

Congratulations to lgm52, a retired librarian who has a great new book to add to her personal library! lgm52, I'll be contacting you personally to arrange shipping of To Die For and the autographed book plate provided by author Sandra Byrd!

And for the rest of you: if you haven't yet, be sure you check out MY REVIEW of this book as well as my interviews with the author!

Keep your eyes open, y'all! We'll be hosting more giveaways -- right here -- before you know it!

Congrats, again, lgm52! Happy reading to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review: Plain Fear FORSAKEN by Leanna Ellis

As a rule, I don't read Amish Fiction. I'm not exactly what you would call a fan. In truth, I may be the anti-fan.

Last year I read an absolutely hi-lar-i-ous satire about creating a new genre of Christian Amish Vampire Fiction (laughable, isn't it?). So this summer, when I found out that somebody actually did it? Well, I couldn't resist latching on to the new novel by Leanna Ellis to find out -- and pardon the Transylvanian, please -- if it sucked.

Well, mark me down surprised, Amos. Cuz she done it good, jah?

(from the back cover)
Hannah cannot move on. She pines for Jacob, the boy who saved her life when she drowned, bringing her back from the brink of death by breathing life into her. But Jacob is gone now, buried.

Levi's love for Hannah burns just as strong. But he knows how much Hannah loved his brother Jacob. He also knows the troubling event that took Jacob out of their lives. And he lives with that lie every day.

So when a stranger named Akiva comes to their community, he carries with him two secrets that will change their lives forever: he is in fact Jacob, whom Hannah had lost. And he is now a vampire.

When passions stir and secrets are revealed, Hannah must choose between light and dark, between the one she has always loved and the new possibility of love. But it's more than a choice of passion; it's a decision that will determine the fate of her soul.

Like tripping over a buggy wheel in the moonlight, and landing in comforting arms -- next to an open grave.
In other words, this novel was not about how awesome it is "to be Amish and in love", nor did it glamorize/romanticize the Amish lifestyle like so many of those Amish books I detest. (I didn't say "all". No need to send me nasty mail.) This was a dark, well-crafted story about complex relationships, the dangers of tamping down questions of legalism, the long-lasting effects of grief, the costs of deception, the risks of awakening passion too soon, the definition of true love, and... the transformation of a rebellious Amish kid into a vampire.

Um, well, it's an Amish book, duh. And, as a rule, I don't read Amish. (and, as a 2nd rule, I am a habitual rule-breaker.)

A well-written, engaging novel, Forsaken adds a fresh bite of originality and quality plot craft into the over-weaning and somewhat oxymoronic market we know as "Christian Amish Fiction." Leanna Ellis has written a sensual, dark tale that will shock many diehard fans of this subgenre and, at the same time, draw skeptics (like me) toward it through her passionate and sensory prose.

Plain Fear: Forsaken is creepy and edgy, and Amish and sexy. (sexy? Yep, sexy. Don't believe me? Well, read it for yourself.)

"No, there is too much. Let me sum up."
I'm not going to lie and tell you that I'm rushing to fill my Amazon cart with a buggy-full of bonnet books, but this novel was a unique, enthralling read. And, although I'm a little shocked to admit it, I read it, I liked it, and (gasp!) I highly recommend it.

My rating:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Golden Oldies: The Kensington Chronicles by Lori Wick

The Kensington Chronicles, by prolific author Lori Wick, are my most frequent escapist re-reads. In the middle of winter (or fall, or spring, or summer) when I'm sick and miserable and feeling ugly and gross, these are the books to which I turn. They brighten my heart with dashing, but faulted leading men (okay, Brandon isn't all that faulted, but he is yummy), strong, but faulted young women (okay, they aren't all that faulted, but they have heart), adventure, romance, and redemption (yep. everyone we care about comes to Jesus. I'd call that a spoiler, but that was the way it was across the board in this genre when these books were new!) And when I most need it, these novels provide me with the feel-good sighs of visiting a fairytale-like depiction of Medieval (Book 4, but chronologically book 1) and Regency (Books 1, 2, & 3) England.

Here are the quickie (but somewhat pzazz-lacking) blurbs I found on

The Knight and the Dove: When the King commands Bracken to marry, high spirited Megan is chosen to fulfill the edict. Unskilled in the ways of love, Bracken finds Megan captivating, yet cannot seem to voice his feelings until he almost loses her forever.

The Hawk and the Jewel: Everyone thought little Sunny had perished with Lady Gallagher in storm tossed seas off the Arabian coast, but the beautiful toddler had been found, taken to the palace at Darhabar, and raised as the ruler's own child. Now the emir, Ahmad Khan, is sending her home, and Sunny's uncertain new life is completely in God's hands.

Who Brings Forth the Wind: Tanner Richardson, the volatile Duke of Cambridge, finds his wife with another man. Misinterpreting the situation, he erupts in a rage and throws her and their unborn baby out. Tanner's rage smolders until the night he is shot...

The Wings of the Morning: Victoria "Smokey" Simmons stands silently on the deck as her father's body is lowered into the Atlantic, asking God for the strength she will need to command the Aramis alone. Not wanting to remain at sea forever, Smokey dreams of the time she can trade her life aboard ship for a home and family. When she meets another Captain, Dallas Knight, Smokey believes her dream will finally come true. But circumstances beyond their control and schemes of a cunning pirate threaten to destroy the young couple's hope for the future.

Yes, I love these sweet, silly books. When I first read this series it was the edgiest new thing in the squeaky-clean Christian Romance genre.


Back-in-the-day, these novels had waayyyy different covers than what's currently available. And, although I know mine are dated, I fell in love with these particular books (and, to some extent, the characters depicted on their covers) a long time ago. Therefore, I feel justified in "pshaw-ing" and "Huh--wha?!-ing" at the cover designs of the new editions. I mean, really, check it out -- compare my books (below) to the new covers (above):

Yes, I know mine are kind of dated and cheesy, but I still can't quite come to terms with the new (still cheesy!) covers. They bug me.

Here's why:

The Knight and the Dove: On the new cover, Megan doesn't appear remotely Medieval. She looks like a contemporary college girl.

Who Brings Forth the Wind: On the new cover, Stacy looks cold and rich -- so unlike her character. She looks a bit too modern, too; like she should be on some new show like "The Real Housewives of Upper Manhattan"

Wings of the Morning: This is the worst, in my opinion. On this new cover, while Smokey looks ready to celebrate her 4oth birthday right after she closes a corporate deal, she doesn't at all resemble the 20-something Captain of the fastest ship on the sea portrayed in the book.

But the most important lack of all these new covers: WHERE ARE THE BOYS???? None of the hunky gents from the books are to be seen ANYWHERE on these new covers. (Although, in all fairness, I thought the illustration of Bracken on Book 4 (book 1 chronologically) made him look like a medieval cave man and not-at-all attractive.) Maybe I'm biased, having dipped the corners of these cheesy, early-1990s illustrated covers in my bathwater so many times, but... really?

Still, if you're not embarrassed to be seen reading them (and lets face it, girls: that's a hurdle we have to jump quite frequently when reading romance novels -- specifically Christian romance novels) you can probably find them at your local public library; or, if you are lucky enough to be able to get them on an e-reader (all are available on Kindle, but much more risky to take with you into a bubble-filled tub than a print copy), then, by all means, give yourself permission to read these indulgent yet redemptive escapist romances.

Although there is nothing in these novels to make your brain hurt (or even strain), they are fun, quick reads of pure indulgence and, in my opinion, Golden Oldies. I recommend pairing these books with soft piano, good chocolate, and a candlelit bubble bath.

My rating:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Review- The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz

I'm a little late to the Laura Frantz party, my book blogging friends have been singing her praises for a while. But now I see the appeal. I found her writing style lyrical and poetic and reminiscent of another one of my favorite authors, Tamera Alexander.

The Colonel's Lady is the kind of novel you'll want to savor on lazy Saturday afternoon (even if your lazy afternoon means reading a good portion of it in parking lots while playing family chauffeur). Whether you can while away a rainy day on your sofa, or have to sneak it in between running errands, I must insist you read this book.

Set in a backdrop of the Revolutionary War, The Colonel's Lady was about the relationship between Colonel Cass McLinn and Roxanna Rowan, the daughter of one of his slain soldiers. The relationship between Roxanna and Cass may have been forged on a deathbed promise, but it grew in intensity as the story progressed until it mirrored the colonel's intense personality and the intensity of his kisses.

Yeah, there was some *really* good kissing in this book (that alone might be enough for some of us to go storming the bookstores, eh?). But throw in a few plot twists readers won't see coming, and a climatic battle at the end, and you've got a recipe one of the best historical romances of the year.

Well done, Laura Frantz. I'm looking forward to reading your backlist.

Want more info? Here's the book blurb:
Can love survive the secrets kept buried within a tormented heart?

Roxanna Rowan may be a genteel Virginia woman, but she is determined to brave the wilds of the untamed frontier to reach a remote Kentucky fort. Eager to reunite with her father, who serves under Colonel Cassius McLinn, Roxanna is devastated to find that her father has been killed on a campaign.

Penniless and out of options, Roxanna is forced to remain at the fort. As she spends more and more time with the fiery Colonel McLinn, the fort is abuzz with intrigue and innuendo. Can Roxanna truly know who the colonel is—and what he's done?

Immerse yourself in this powerful story of love, faith, and forgiveness set in the tumultuous world of the frontier in 1779.
Available August 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Revell for my review copy.

My rating:

Linking up with:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ready to FALL all over again? Announcing Waterfall Wednesdays!

You are cordially invited to join me and a few of my blogging friends in a special Waterfall read-along (or in our case, a Waterfall reread-along). Just in time for the release of Torrent we're revisiting how it all began!!

For the next five Wednesdays, we'll be reading and discussing one of my favorite books of 2011. Check in at these blogs every Wednesday to link up your discussion and to find the following week's questions.

Here's the schedule:

August 31- Prologue & Chapters 1-6 Host: Tina at Tina's Book Reviews

September 7- Chapters 6-11 Host: Missie at The Unread Reader (Grab our logo button from Missie!)

September 14- Chapters 12-17 Host: Joy & Serena at Edgy Inspirational Romance

September 21- Chapters 18-23 Host: Jenny at Supernatural Snark

September 28- Chapters 24-28 & Wrap-Up Host: Nic at Irresistible Reads

We want you to join us!! Link up your post with Tina's announcing the read-along, acquire your copy of Waterfall and read chapters 1-6. The first five questions are posted at Tina's Book Reviews and will be discussed on August 31, 2011.

And bonus! Lisa Bergren has offered to giveaway the entire Rivers of Time Series to one lucky participant from each discussion week!! Whooo-hooo!

Who's in??

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stalking Sandra Byrd (and giveaway)

Today's stalking victim is a talented Tudorphile who takes extra time for her teeth! Please welcome to the stage a prolific author with a bright, white smile:

The one place you insist must be kept clean?
My teeth. (See reference to 2012 Dodge Challenger, below.)
(Right on!)

Pet peeve?
Unkindness. I can tolerate just about anything else.
(You are much kinder than I. I flip out over hair in the bathtub!)

Favorite memory from a writers' conference of event?
At my very first conference I pitched the Secret Sisters books, my first series for tweens, to some well known editors. I -- nervously -- met with Steve Laube, who was with Bethany House at the time. Came to find out he attended the church we once had attended in Phoenix, and I was able to ask after the well-being of a young girl whom I'd mentored and taken under my wing years before, but had lost track of. We spent the time talking about her, and not my books, but that was okay. It reminded me that life is much, much bigger and more personal than publication. And the books got published (by WaterBrook Press) anyway.
(A great reminder for us writers!)

Best fan moment?
Seeing someone reading my book in the airport. It's the readers!
(How cool is that?)

Your brand of toothpaste?
I could say something arty like Rembrandt, or green like Tom's of Maine, or even hipster like Organique -- but the plain truth is that I use Crest Pro-Health brands 2-3 times a day. I could have purchased the muscle car I want with the amount of money I spent last year on dental care so I'm being a bit overcautious.
(The teeth always win and yet you've not become an anti-dentite? Amazing!)

Three things on your desk?
Coffee. A phone charger. The Leaning Tower of Research books.
(Coffee? In Seattle? They drink that there? wink, wink.)

Favorite souvenir from your travels?
My "Keep Calm and Carry On" print from London. Every writer needs one in her office.
(Note to self: get copy of print, STAT.)

A sentence from your rough draft that didn't make the novel:
It was a dark and stormy night.

The name of every book you've ever published (so we can track 'em all down):
LADIES IN WAITING: To Die For (Available now!), The Secret Keeper (June, 2012)
FRENCH TWIST: Let Them Eat Cake, Bon Appetit, Piece de Resistance
LONDON CONFIDENTIAL (teens): Asking for Trouble, Through Thick and Thin, Don't Kiss Him Goodbye, Flirting with Disaster
SECRET SISTER SERIES (tweens -- soon to be available on ebooks!)
GIRLS LIKE YOU (nonfiction tweens)

If you could spend one week in any time in history, it would be?
I'm really into sixteenth century England right now, so I'm pretty sure I'd like to travel back then, hang out, and see if I got it right! I'd probably hold off on the roasted swan and jellied eel, though.
(Eww. Eel? Nasty. I don't even want to know what the jelly's made from.)

And in that week you would trade places/assume the identity of?
Meg Wyatt. Of course!
(Of course!)

Your favorite not-quite-a-curse-word (in case you're forced to eat the eel):
"What the Bev?" It stands in for "What the Heck?" Long story, but I do get a lot of strange looks and people wondering if I mean Beverly Hills or Beverly Cleary. But it's neither.

Besides, "What the Bev?" what sounds might I hear if I was eavesdropping outside your kitchen window?
A Kitchen-Aid running and a dog begging. And maybe the nanny-beeper on my fridge going off to remind me that I'd left the door open.
(Thank goodness you didn't say, "The shrieking eels!")

One lousy job from your past:
House cleaning. And I accidentally set the house on fire.

Worst writing (or life) advice you ever received:
"Write for yourself." Um, no. That would be a diary. When you write to publish you write for readers. If you write about something that both of you are interested in, though: jackpot!

What would you like God to say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Well done good and faithful servant!
(And, scene.)

Stalkers can also find you in these places:
Please visit me online at my website; you can also link to me on Facebook and Twitter from there. I hope your readers will also sign up for my e-postcards (where I am also giving away two Kindles) so I can keep in touch!

Awesome, Sandra! Thanks for letting us stalk you!

And now, for our own GIVEAWAY DETAILS!!!!

Leave a comment on this post between 8/16/2011 and 8/26/2011 to enter to win: My copy of Sandra's newest novel, To Die For and an **autographed** bookplate to put inside it!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Q & A with Author Sandra Byrd

Though we've never met in person, (she's in Washington, I'm in Iowa -- but that's what the internet is for, right?) I've considered Sandra Byrd a mentor and friend for a long time. Over the years I've benefited in countless ways from her friendship, encouragement, and advice. This past year Sandra's excitement about the creation and release of To Die For has had me chomping at the bit to get my hands on this book. And now that I've read it? (See my review here) I can hardly wait for the next Tudor novel from this talented author who also happens to be one of my favorite people.

Q: How difficult was it for you to switch hats from writing contemporary and often humorous fiction (like the French Twist Trilogy) to put on the heavier, more cumbersome helmet of a serious historical novelist?

Sandra: Because I love the time, the people, and historical novels in general, it didn't feel heavy or cumbersome at all. It was pure pleasure. It was weightier, though, to make sure that I got all of the details right. Most people who like to read historical fiction also love history, so I knew they'd keep me on my toes. I like my novels to align as close as possible with the real story, too, so I enjoyed the research challenge. My historical timelines, before I ever begin to write the novels, run between 40,000 and 50,000 words alone.

Q: A year or so ago we chatted about To Die For and you called it "the book I've always wanted to write." What makes To Die For THAT BOOK for you?

Sandra: I've always been in love with British history, especially from the medieval age through the Victorian age. Getting to write where I most love, and have always loved, to read was what made it so delightful to me. I also felt that Anne deserved to have a point of view that showed her more holistically. She's often portrayed as vixen or victim. I had the compulsion of a friend, maybe, to add to the effort to set the record straight.

Q: It's clear from the writing that this time period and these characters, both fictional and historical, are dear to you. What made you decide that NOW was the time to write this book-of-your-heart?

Sandra: I'm not sure. I think I'd written all of the contemporary books I had interest in exploring, and there are so many historical stories I want to dig into. When you go into a project knowing you might sweat blood over it, you want to put those long, difficult writing hours where your passion lives.

Q: You've referred to yourself as "a lifelong Tudorphile." What first captured your fancy with this time period and cast of characters?

Sandra: I started reading Victoria Holt, who was also known as Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr, perhaps when I was about 11 years old. She made historical fiction so engaging that I constantly delved into my still-favorite time periods. I think the drama of the Tudor years, plus a lot of strong women, has helped to keep my interest all this time.

Q: While several other novelists of Tudor fiction have told their tales as an outsider looking in, you took a risk, telling Meg's story in the First Person Point-of-View. How did this change how you approached the subject and your research?

Sandra: From a young age, we women are wired for friendship. Little girls link arms in exclusivity with one another on the playground. The most devastating betrayals during our middle and high school years often come not from boys, but from the friends we thought loved us and in whom we'd trusted. I have several friends with whom I've been close for more than twenty years and I know they have my back, and I, theirs, no matter what. So when I began to write novels set in the Tudor period I wondered, who were these Queens' real friends, those who would remain true in a treacherous court? Ovid wrote, "While you are fortunate you will number many friends, when the skies grow dark you will be alone." I began with Anne Boleyn and Meg, and began by looking through their hearts.

Q: What do you see as the biggest prize (other than having been entirely engrossed in your tale!) your readers will take away from this novel?

Sandra: I want them to see Anne as I believe, through extensive research of really creditable sources, she really was. Anne was definitely a witty, strong, and ambitious woman. But she could also be soft, funny, warm, and was a loyal friend, sister, and daughter. She was a powerhouse for the English Reformation. Women in that time and place had many more restrictions than we do today, and yet they didn't chafe under them so much as meet the challenge with creativity and perseverance. I'd love to have twenty-first century readers discover that about them, too.

Meg, too, learned faith and patience and that sometimes, really, it's better to be the setting than the stone, and that good will come in due time. I try to remember that from her life as well.

Visit Sandra's website for more info, plus virtual castle tours!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Christian Fiction Book Club: Digitalis by Ronie Kendig


This month's Christian Fiction Book Club is hosted by Jules at My Own Little Corner of the World. If you read Digitalis by Ronie Kendig and would like to discuss it with us, choose a question from HERE and link up your post. No blog? You're welcome to hop around and join our discussions in the comments.

My first impressions? It's a nice setting to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. I can appreciate the high tension, the non-stop action, the break-neck pace, but I'm just not sure I can make military stories a regular part of my diet.

I dunno, chalk it up to the fact I'm a girlie girl. I like purses and Starbucks and frou-frou shower gels from the cosmetic counter. I found myself skimming over some of the fight scenes to get to the romance.

But the romance was good, all angst and restrained passion, some of the best I've read. Buried beneath all the guns and ammo is one smoking hot hero (Sorry ladies, Renee called dibs). I can see what makes Kendig's writing is so popular with my book blogging friends.

Soldier stories may not be my go to genre, but the next time I feel reading one more western romance will make me upchuck a cactus, I'll reach for a Ronie Kendig book. They're a nice change of pace.

Want more info? Here's the product description:
Step into the boots of a former Marine in this heart-pounding adventure in life and love. Colton “Cowboy” Neeley is a Marine trying to find his footing as he battles flashbacks now that he’s back home. Piper Blum is a woman in hiding—from life and the assassins bent on destroying her family. When their hearts collide, more than their lives are at stake. Will Colton find a way to forgive Piper’s lies? Can Piper find a way to rescue her father, trapped in Israel? Is there any way their love, founded on her lies, can survive?

My rating:

Discussion question:
It’s a fact that many soldiers returning from a war theater will experience combat-related PTSD or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Many will never seek treatment, instead trying to push through and “get over it.” Do you know anyone who has experienced PTSD or TBI, combat-related or otherwise? How can you show this person your support?

Unfortunately I do know someone who fits this description. If I didn't write under a pen name and know for a fact my friend doesn't read fiction, I would never share his story (and still the odds of this post getting deleted are hovering around 98%).

We had a family friend, a career Army guy who had been deployed several times, but until a few years ago had never seen active combat. He was a sweet, gentle, godly man who'd often considered becoming an Army chaplain. A doting spouse, a great father. The kind of guy you encourage your husband to hang around in hopes some of it would rub off.

The last time I saw our friend was shortly before he left for Afghanistan. He came dressed in uniform to speak to my class for career day. My students sent him a care package and wrote letters to his unit.

I speak about him in past tense, not because he lost his life in the war, but because the person who came back from Afghanistan is a stranger, a shell of the man we knew.

His personality is completely different, short-fused, angry, bitter. His marriage has fallen apart. No one really knows what did it. There are things he experienced over there he won't even share with his wife.

This is the devastating side of war. We know war destroys lives, we often think about it in terms of the body count, but rarely do we think about what it does to the people who make it out. It destroys entire families. Whatever my friend experienced in Afghanistan broke him. It broke his wife. It's the sacrifice that keeps on taking.

These days, my husband and I are not close enough to talk to him about anything deeper than how he's enjoying his summer, but we can (and do) pray for him. We pray for his wife and children. If you think about it, maybe you can pray for them too.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Love Men by Dana Pratola

I love men. I love ‘em all – the tall ones, the handsome ones, the ones who think they’re God’s gift to women, the mama’s boys and the ones who couldn’t get in touch with their emotions if Love sent them a certified letter with return address and directions. To me, fictional heroes (and villains) are, the most interesting component of the romance tale. Women are usually the hub of the story, and with good reason – they are the characters we identify with, worry about and pull for. But I know them and how they work, even if it makes no sense, lol.

Men, on the other hand are simply fascinating, like some woodland creature you’ve seen in pictures a thousand times, but one day it decides to come up to you and eat out of your hand. You think you know what to expect, but when you’re this close, and the initial uncertainty is overlaid with plain awe… That’s what I want to read about. Don’t mistake me, I’m not saying men are animals! Just intriguing beings. I love to read about all aspects of the male persona, whether it’s his quirks, his workout regime or how insecure he is about a first date. I know how the heroine feels about the man that just wrung her heart out like a moist paper towel, but what’s his side?

Where, but in romance novels will you find a man laid bare (as it were) so as to allow a glimpse into his “masculine realm”, dispelling the notion of men being shallow or easy to read? Some would argue that since these novels are usually authored by women that I’m not reading about men, but rather a woman’s perception of men. To those people I say… true. But who knows men better than women?

BIO: Dana Pratola lives in New Jersey with her husband of 25 years and 3 children. When she’s not writing she’s reading or hiking through the woods. You can find her at her website

EXCERPT from Pratola's new release, The Covering:
“It’s a nice day,” she said, looking up at Gunnar’s dismal expression.

He kept moving.

A police car passed and tooted the horn. Tessa waved at Kevin Moore, one of many boys she’d gone through school with who went on to become a police officer.

“Are you going to say anything?” she asked Gunnar.

“I’m thinking.”

She was about to tell him he should have thought it out first, when he pulled her behind a fat oak.

“I thought I knew,” he said. “But when I get this close to you I want to…”

Kiss you, her brain finished for him. She trembled at the dark intensity in his eyes. She waited for his lips to meet hers.

“…choke you.”

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t handle betrayal well.”

“Excuse me?” she repeated, clueless.

“Is there a problem, Tess?” Kevin asked through the passenger side window as he glided his cruiser to the curb.

Tessa didn’t see the car swing around, but apparently her disappearance behind the tree wasn’t missed. “No, Kevin, we’re fine.”

The cleft in his chin deepened when he smiled wryly. He lifted his wire frame sunglasses to better assess the situation, and Gunnar. “You’re sure?”

“She said she’s fine,” Gunnar ground out.

Tessa saw Kevin stiffen in his seat. He was perhaps seconds from getting out of the car.

“Be quiet,” she told Gunnar, and walked to the car and leaned in
the window. “Wow, that’s something,” she told Kevin when he took off the glasses to reveal his newly acquired scar.

“Yeah, that’s what I get for breaking my fall with my face.” He gingerly touched a hand to his brow. “Fifteen stitches.”

“Poor baby,” Tessa said sympathetically. “But chicks love guys with scars.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review- The Champion by Carla Capshaw (and giveaway!)

Until now, I assumed Love Inspired was synonymous with light romance (not that there's anything wrong with that) but thanks to Carla Capshaw I'll have to mentally re-shelve the line. Sparks started flying in chapter one of The Champion and the romantic tension continued to build making this summer read as refreshing as a glass of iced tea, and not nearly as sweet as I expected.

Fans of the line needn't worry, your favorite Love Inspired authors haven't swapped places with Harlequin Blaze writers. But if you read a lot of Christian category, you might notice an uptick in the heat level- a fact that wasn't wasted on this edgy Christian fiction lover.

Alexius is a gladiator with rage issues, Tibi is the woman who brings out his tender side. Both of the leads were extremely likable, and their faith journeys didn't feel heavy handed. I found the setting and tone reminiscent of Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series (but obviously not as graphic).

I'm not sure if Capshaw's work represents what we can expect from Love Inspired in the future, but in my best British waif accent, "Please sir, I want some more!"

Want more info? Here's the back cover blurb:
A warrior without equal. A woman without options...

Triumphs in the Coliseum--and society bedchambers--made gladiator Alexius of Iolcos famous for his brutal skill and womanizing ways. Yet the only woman who intrigues him is Tiberia the Younger, who now needs his help. Protecting Tiberia places Alexius in the greatest danger he has ever known: from her vengeful father and his own heart...

Becoming a temple priestess may be an honor, but Tibi can't bear to surrender her freedom or her newfound faith. Alexius's solution stuns her. a gladiator! Scorned by her noble family, Tibi always felt unworthy. But with her champion by her side, can she accept--and give--a love strong enough to vanquish their enemies?
My rating:

It's giveaway time!

I'm giving readers a chance to win both The Champion and an earlier novel in the series, The Gladiator. To enter, leave a comment with your email address on this post between now and Saturday.


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