Sunday, April 05, 2015

CFBA presents: Mist of Midnight

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Mist of Midnight
Howard Books (March 10, 2015)
by
Sandra Byrd


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. The Tudor series’ end cap, Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.

A life-long lover of Victorian Gothic romances, Sandra’s new series, Daughters of Hampshire, weaves elements of that mystical, traditional genre with inspirational and literary threads. Mist of Midnight, the series’ first book, debuts in March, 2015.

Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens, and is passionate about helping new authors develop their talent and their work toward traditional or independent publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

ABOUT THE BOOK

In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her...and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca's name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father's investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Mist of Midnight, go HERE.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

CFBA presents: The Spy of Richmond

{Note: I haven't received my copy of the book, so no review yet.}
This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Spy of Richmond
River North (March 1, 2015)
by
Jocelyn Green


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jocelyn Green is a child of God, wife and mom living in Cedar Falls, Iowa. She is also an award-winning journalist, author, editor and blogger. Though she has written nonfiction on a variety of topics, her name is most widely recognized for her ministry to military wives: Faith Deployed. Her passion for the military family was fueled by her own experience as a military wife, and by the dozens of interviews she has conducted with members of the military for her articles and books, Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives and its sequel, Faith Deployed...Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives. She is also co-author of both Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan and Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front (forthcoming, May 2012). Her Faith Deployed Web site and Facebook page continue to provide ongoing support, encouragement and resources for military wives worldwide.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Trust none. Risk all. Richmond, Virginia, 1863. Compelled to atone for the sins of her slaveholding father, Union loyalist Sophie Kent risks everything to help end the war from within the Confederate capital and abolish slavery forever. But she can't do it alone. Former slave Bella Jamison sacrifices her freedom to come to Richmond, where her Union soldier husband is imprisoned, and her twin sister still lives in bondage in Sophie's home. Though it may cost them their lives, they work with Sophie to betray Rebel authorities. Harrison Caldwell, a Northern freelance journalist who escorts Bella to Richmond, infiltrates the War Department as a clerk-but is conscripted to defend the city's fortifications.

As Sophie's spy network grows, she walks a tightrope of deception, using her father's position as newspaper editor and a suitor's position in the ordnance bureau for the advantage of the Union. One misstep could land her in prison, or worse. Suspicion hounds her until she barely even trusts herself. When her espionage endangers the people she loves, she makes a life-and-death gamble.

Will she follow her convictions even though it costs her everything-and everyone-she holds dear?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Spy of Richmond, go HERE.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Secrets of a Charmed Life

What an amazing novel by one of my favorite writers, Susan Meissner.

From the back cover:

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart.

1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…

In her signature style, Susan Meissner has crafted an unforgettable story set in both modern day and the Second World War. She seamlessly shifts between both worlds, telling the stories of Kendra, Isabel, Emmy, and Julia with tenderness, sympathy, and yes, intrigue.

I devoured this book. It was hard not to rush through, because I wanted to savor the language. The intriguing plot, however, drew me in and pushed me forward to finish the book inside just a couple of days. It is also the kind of book I know I will revisit.

Susan is a woman of great faith, and indeed she has until recently written for the Christian fiction market. In spite of changing publishers, however, faith still plays a strong role in the story. It’s more like a strong undercurrent than a melody, but it’s unmistakably present.

I highly recommend this novel. In fact, I think it would be a great choice for any book club, because it is a multi-faceted story dealing with love, the most universal of all human experience. Love between men and women, mothers and daughters, and sisters.

Similar authors on the market with this type of story would be Sarah Jio (except for her most recent novel, which I will also be reviewing soon), and Kate Morton, both of whom meld the past and the present in their stories.

The cover blurb by Sarah Jio is absolutely the truth: Susan’s writing is “Beautifully crafted and captivating.” Her books are always good. I can hardly wait for her next novel, which will be set in the golden age of Hollywood.

Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy of this book from the author to write this review.

To read my review of A Fall of Marigolds, click here.

Let God Talk to You

Becky Tirabassi is probably best known for her prayer journaling method that helped revolutionize women’s prayer lives in her book Let Prayer Change Your Life.

In this book from Bethany House, Let God Talk to You, Tirabassi talks more about how God speaks to us:

  • through His Word
  • through thoughts
  • through silence,
  • and always requiring of us a listening heart.


She intersperses Biblical truths with her own story as well as stories of other Christians. Then she gives the reader tools and suggestions of practical ways to actively listen for God’s voice and then record those prayers and responses and Bible verses for remembrance.

This book will be helpful to Christians seeking to learn fresh ways to listen to God.

Acknowledgement of compensation disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for posting a review, which I am sad to say is long overdue. 



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge: 52 Books in 52 Weeks

I posted this link on Facebook at the end of December, and wow, the response I got! I started a Facebook group and it grew and grew as people added their friends. 

You can print the PDF of the list (the link is in the article here) and start checking them off.

Since I read around 100 books per year (and with a huge long road trip this summer I should have no problem finishing some of them), I am confident I'll finish the list.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

One Word 2015: WRITE

I haven't been doing what the mug says, have I? Evidence below, as my last post was almost two months ago.

In fact, I hit a wall with my 2014 One Word, which was Creative.

I read books about creativity and art, which side of the brain does what, and many other things. But when it actually came to creating, well, that was where I stuck with the familiar: painting pottery like this mug, or two sketches all year in my journal, or even knitting the same kind of scarf (two strands of Lion Brand Hometown yarn, size 50 needles, 6 stitches across in garter).

Not much adventure there. I allowed the word to dictate how I had to be, so I learned avoidance.

Enter the end of 2014, and the expectation of 2015 just around the corner. All I saw in my mind and on my desk was this mug: Write.

I have not used my gift well.

I teach writing, I can write, and I edit others' writing. But I get all wrapped up in my head and just don't write anymore.

So with the one word staring me in the face (literally in my line of vision right now on the windowsill above my desk where I sit typing this blog post), I must do what I must do.

Write.

Proverbs 3:3 says, Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.

Lord, let me be faithful to the gift You have given me.




This post is linked at Bonnie Gray's site here: http://bit.ly/belovedbrews

Past themes:
Brave (2009)
Focus (2010)
Grace (2011)
Listen (2012)
Dream (2013)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

CFBA Book Review: Swept Away

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Swept Away
Abingdon Press (November 18, 2014)
by
Laura V. Hilton
and
Cindy Loven


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award winning author Laura V. Hilton has penned many novels, including the Amish of Seymour series, the Amish of Webster County series, and the forthcoming Amish of Jamesport series. A member of ACFW, Laura is also a professional book reviewer for the Christian market, with over a thousand book reviews published at various online review sites. A pastor’s wife, stay-at-home mom, and home school teacher, Laura and her family make their home in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas.

A lifelong reader, Cindy Loven is an active church wife of a minister and mother to one son who is a home school graduate. Cindy and her family reside in Conway, Arkansas.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Sara Jane Morgan is trying to balance teaching with caring for her ailing, stubborn grandmother. When school lets out for the summer, the plans are for Grandma to teach Sara Jane to quilt as they finish up the Appalachian Ballad quilt Grandma started as a teenager. But things don’t always go as planned. Andrew Stevenson is hiding from his past—and his future. He works as a handyman to pay the bills, but also as an artisan, designing homemade brooms. When Sara Jane’s grandmother hires him to renovate her home, sparks fly between him and his new employer’s granddaughter. Still, it doesn’t take Sara Jane long to see Drew isn’t what he seems. Questions arise, and she starts online researching him. What she discovers could change her life—and her heart—forever.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Swept Away, go HERE.

Pattie's Review: I know of Laura Hilton because we've both been reviewing Christian fiction books for a very long time. Cindy Loven is new to me as an author.

The strength of this novel is in the handling of the situation with Grandma Sari. It's not easy to deal with an aging parent or grandparent, and Sara Jane's situation with her grandmother is portrayed with realism and grace.

I also liked the links within the story of historical significance, as well as the link to the Appalachian Trail experience.

The romance seems a bit forced to me in several places. Sara and Drew don't seem to mesh well at all, yet before we know it they're "feeding the crush" they have on each other. I think that could have been handled a bit better. I do like that Sara gets over her first impression by reading Drew's online blog from his hike. That was really neat, and it is culturally relevant with Cheryl Strayed's Wild coming out in theaters soon.

If you're looking for a sweet, clean, Christian romance, this is a good book for you. Probably the entire series, actually, since Abingdon Press is a well-known Christian fiction/romance publisher with quite a few good series in their catalog.

Friday, October 31, 2014

What didn't make the list: #31Days of Books



I'm sure you're wondering what didn't make the list of 31 books. There are so many great books that I have read and loved, and even if I wrote for 365 days for years on end, I'd still never run out of books. My annual reading goal for the past ten years has been to read 100 books per year. Most years I exceed that goal.

My criteria for choosing the books for October was narrowing down the list to the books that have had the most influence on me personally, and that hold special meaning for me in some way. This included many books I read in my teens and twenties.

October 31st: Hamlet



"Brevity is the soul of wit."
Shown: My antique volume of The Complete Works of Shakespeare,
with a cartoon I found in college that was used as a bookmark.
"Hey, Hamlet, who were these?" showing a smiley face and Killroy.

Renowned Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom, in his book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, notes, "After Jesus, Hamlet is the most cited figure in Western consciousness" (xix). We are aware of Hamlet, even in the 21st century, as we are aware of Jesus--specifically His words in the King James Bible. All that said, we know Hamlet. It has become ingrained in our Western culture and thought. To read it is to think about humanity, revenge, parent-child relationships, love, romance, insanity, and friendship.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

October 30th: Joy for Beginners

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister

I enjoy Erica Bauermeister's work. She does a wonderful job in her novels of switching points of view.

From my new smartphone Kindle app.
I'm still trying to learn this
new technology!
Summary on Goodreads: At an intimate, festive dinner party in Seattle, six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate's recovery from cancer. Wineglass in hand, Kate strikes a bargain with them. To celebrate her new lease on life, she'll do the one thing that's always terrified her: white-water rafting. But if she goes, all of them will also do something they always swore they'd never do-and Kate is going to choose their adventures.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October 29th: The Contemplative Mom


Restoring Rich Relationship with God in the Midst of Motherhood. It's possible.

The idea of having a consistent quiet time when my children were tiny and I was working full-time was completely overwhelming to me. This often-undone task made me feel as if I was a failure as a Christian and as a mother, when I could barely find time to read a verse or two some days, or pray while I was driving to work.

Enter Ann Kroeker and her wonderful book.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October 28th: A Wrinkle in Time


Gosh, I loved 5th grade.

I had the best teacher, Ms. S., for the second half of fifth grade (we moved from Iowa to St. Louis in January, so I don't remember my Iowa 5th grade teacher. I'm sure she was a good teacher, though.) Ms. S. was not only my first teacher who went by "Ms." but also she had a great habit: she read aloud to our class every day the last twenty minutes.

Of course, moving is always awkward and adjusting is not easy, so when we finally got into school, it was midway through the month and midway through the readaloud book, which was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I was fascinated, but lost, so Ms. S. suggested I check the book out at the school library. It was checked out. Then the bookmobile, that magical library-in-a-truck, arrived, and I was able to get it there.

To say I devoured the book is probably an understatement.

Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27th: The Best Yes


"Just as our bodies need oxygen, our souls need truth flowing steadily in and out."
from The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst

 {This is my second Lysa book this month, if you didn't notice. The first was Unglued.}


I read this book this summer after reading The Cure for the 'Perfect' Life (also a favorite book choice this month), and it was the best follow-up ever.

I love this book for many of the same reasons I loved Unglued. Biblical, practical, helpful, and real. She has a nifty process (with a super-nifty chart on her website) for planning whether something is a yes or a no or a Best Yes.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 26th: Betsy and Tacy in Deep Valley series


Betsy and Tacy and Tib and Minnesota. 

Who wouldn't love them? Turn of the century grade school and then high school and then college and marriage and Europe and adulthood...

I discovered Betsy Ray and her besties--Tacy and Tib--after moving to Missouri in grade school. I found Heaven to Betsy in the library stacks and I was hooked! I started in the middle and had to work backwards, then forwards, to read Betsy's entire story. I used to have to request Maud Hart Lovelace's books from other library branches, because they were out of print and the entire St. Louis County library system had only one set among all the branches. It's wonderful that they've now been reprinted in paperback more than once (you can see the two styles of cover in my photo--I did have most of them in the style on the right, but when they reprinted two novels per volume in the style on the left, I took the opportunity to replace my older set with fewer books for obvious reasons).

Saturday, October 25, 2014

October 25th: The Chosen and Davita's Harp


I first read The Chosen in ninth grade English. Mrs. Meier brought the books to class, checked them out to us, and we read the opening baseball scene with Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders aloud.

This book ignited in me a love for Judaism and a desire someday to study Hebrew. Chaim Potok's writing intrigued me, made me think, and made me consider my own Christian faith in light of the Old Testament. 

Of course I headed to the library to read more of Potok. I read The Promise, which is the sequel to The Chosen. But then I found Davita's Harp with its strong female protagonist, and its historical background in the Spanish Civil War and the art of Picasso...and I was even more intrigued. 

Like most of the country, we went online in 1997 with America Online. I remember being so thrilled to be a part of an AOL chat with Chaim Potok. Total fangirl evening before "fangirl" was even a thing. He even answered one of my submitted questions, and I was absolutely thrilled.

Years later, I would find Potok's book Old Men at Midnight to be a bit harsher, both in tone and in content, even though it uses Ilana from Davita's Harp as the protagonist. Creatively it was masterful. But I did not love it like I loved these two books. When I think of books that influenced me and my interests, these two are definitely a part of my teenage years.



To read more of this #31DaysofBooks series, visit the introduction post.