Book Review: All’s Fair in Love And Cupcakes

19 Sep

338450Kat inspected rows of the same old cupcakes. They seemed to blink back at her, as if they knew she was capable of so much more.

Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie’s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.
But when Lucas Brannen, Kat’s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.

As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself—her—is suddenly in danger of slipping away.

The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat’s senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.

BStAmant-257Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana with her young daughter and has a heart for sharing the amazing news of God’s grace through her novels. A freelance journalist, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to a Disney soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing.

Find out more about Betsy at http://www.betsystamant.com/.

 

My Impressions:

Football and cupcakes? Football and cupcakes! Yes, All’s Fair in Love And Cupcakes is a perfect combination for those who want a sweet romantic escape. Filled with endearing characters, a behind the scenes look at reality TV and a romance that you can root for, Betsy St. Amant has written a novel that 20-somethings (and beyond) will love. So put up your feet, grab a sweet and dig in to All’s Fair in Love And Cupcakes.

Kat Varland is stuck in her hometown of Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Stuck baking ordinary cupcakes that reflect her ordinary life. But best friend, football coach Lucas Brannen, believes in more for Kat. When he enters her in Cupcake Combat, a reality TV cooking show, Kat has a chance to realize her dreams. But is it all she or Lucas hoped for? And what do they really want?

Overall, I liked All’s Fair in Love And Cupcakes. Kat and Lucas are two fun and endearing characters. Kat’s insecurities and family tension are realistically portrayed. There is a lot of soul-searching for both characters, which allowed a good look into their heads, but I felt slowed the action in the first third of the book. The cooking competition, which was my favorite part of the book, included varied and colorful contestants and was a good vehicle for Kat and Lucas’ evolving feelings. And those who require a happily ever after will be satisfied, but not without a last twist!

So if you are in the mood for a fun romance to sweeten your day, check out All’s Fair in Love And Cupcakes.

Recommended.

(Thanks to Zondervan and LitFuse for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Spotlight: A Plague of Unicorns

18 Sep

Here’s a middle reader I think you might be interested in. I have not read it, but it looks quite interesting. I will be giving it to a my friend and 4th grade teacher, Carrie, to see what she thinks. (Per the press release it meets Common Core standards.) In the meantime, have a look at A Plague of Unicorns.

746485Young James, an earl’s son, is a bit bothersome and always asking the oddest questions. In despair—the last of James’ tutors having quit—his mother sends him off to be educated at Cranford Abbey. She feels the strict regimen will do him a world of good. But Cranford Abbey has its own problems. It has been falling into disrepair. The newly appointed Abbot Aelian takes it upon himself to save the abbey with the use of his secret weapon: a recipe for golden apple cider passed down in his family for many generations. He believes that by making and selling the cider, the monks will raise necessary funds to restore the abbey to its former glory. Abbot Aelian has everything he needs—almost. One obstacle stands in his way, unicorns that happen to feast specifically on the golden apples. Abbot Aelian and his men must fight off the unicorns to make the cider. He and the monks try to form a battalion to fight off the beasts; next they import heroes to fight for them. But the heroes run off, monks are injured, and a herd of ravenous unicorns continue munching. After no success, the abbot finally calls upon the most unlikely of heroes, one suggested by no other than young James. That hero is small and unprepossessing but possesses the skill to tame the beasts. Though wildly skeptical, Abbot Aelian must risk everything and believe in this recommended stranger or risk the fall of Cranford Abbey.

 

frontpage2Jane Yolen is an author of children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature. She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century.

 

(Thanks to Zondervan for a copy of A Plague of Unicorns.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: Lighthouse

17 Sep

13357750First Novel in the St. Simons Trilogy

A compelling, vibrant saga of conflict, love, and a young man’s search to fulfill his dreams.

In this enthralling first novel of the St. Simons Trilogy, Eugenia Price shares the compelling story of James Gould, a young man with a passionate dream. Raised in post-Revolution Granville, Massachusetts, Gould could only imagine the beauty and warmth of lands to the south. It was there that he longed to build bridges and lighthouses from his very own design and plans. The gripping story unfolds as Gould follows his dream to the raw settlement of Bangor on the Penobscot River, to St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia, to lawless Spanish East Florida, and back—at last and finally—to St. Simons. Along the way, he encounters hardship, peril, failure, and success, but it is the unwavering love of Janie Harris, an especially beautiful and strong-willed young woman, that fulfills his deep need for someone who can share the dream and the life he has chosen.

 

6320a6901ff60a82390b78.L._V356503853_SX200_(From Wikipedia) Eugenia Price (June 22, 1916 – May 28, 1996) was an American author best known for her historical novels which were set in the American South.

In 1961 Eugenia Price visited St. Simons Island, Georgia during a book signing tour. In the cemetery for Christ Church, she saw a tombstone for the Reverend Anson Dodge and his two wives.[3] This inspired her to research the area, including history and famous figures. She would spend the remainder of her life writing detailed historical novels set in the American South, many of which were critically acclaimed. Her early works, particularly the St Simons Trilogy -which consists of the books The Beloved Invader (1965), New Moon Rising (1969) and Lighthouse (1972) were extensively researched and based on real people. This is in contrast to her later novels, such as Another Day (1984) and The Waiting Time (1997) which featured her own characters. Other historical novels include her The Georgia Trilogy consisting of Bright Captivity, Where Shadows Go, and Beauty From Ashes. The Florida Trilogy has Don Juan McQueen, Maria, and Margaret’s Story. Then she has a Savannah Quartet with Savannah, To See Your Face Again, Before the Darkness Falls, and Stranger in Savannah.

After moving in 1965 to St. Simons, Georgia with her long-time companion, the writer Joyce Blackburn (who assisted her with research), Eugenia Price became active in many local causes; most of which involved protecting the local environment from the effects of industrialisation.

She died in Brunswick, Georgia on May 28, 1996 of congestive heart failure. She is buried just yards from Anson Dodge and his two wives. Her tombstone reads “After her conversion to Jesus Christ, October 2, 1949, she wrote Light…and eternity and love and all are mine at last.”

 

My Impressions:

My church book club, Page Turners, picked Eugenia Price’s novel, Lighthouse, for our September selection because it is considered a classic for those interested in the historic South and in particular the coast of Georgia. The novel was the third book written by Price, but chronologically it is first in her St. Simon’s Trilogy. Set in the years following the American Revolution and filled with real people and places, this is a must read for fans of historical fiction. The novel had been out of print for a number of years, but is now being reissued, along with many of Price’s other books.

Most of the characters in Lighthouse are historic. James Gould was a young man with a dream to build a lighthouse. Price follows James from his humble roots in Granville, Massachusetts through his accomplishments in building, timber, cotton planting and of course the building of the St. Simon’s lighthouse. Extensive research by the author, as well as a deft writing hand, make this novel beautifully crafted as well as historically accurate. James Gould is a very interesting character. He is single-minded in his work, faithful to his family and fair and even-handed in his dealings with his people, or slaves. But he is also a proud man who takes himself very seriously. Independent and uncomplaining, he also finds forgiveness hard. Many of his virtues become faults when not mixed with mercy and grace.

Written in 1972, I think Lighthouse would probably not have found a publisher in the secular world of today. Its worldview, with a natural expression of faith from its characters, makes it definitely read like a Christian novel. And in fact it is. Price took her Christian faith seriously. The issue of slavery in the novel is one case in point. It is portrayed as it probably was, with both good and bad slaveholders. But it in no way condones slavery. It portrays slavery as an insidious evil that lured men away from their convictions. Gould is anti-slavery at the beginning of the novel, yet by the end owns many slaves on his cotton plantation. Those with conscience viewed slavery as a necessary evil during the years before the Civil War. A necessary means to an end. But no matter how good the conditions, owning another human was and is wrong. Turning a blind eye did not make it go away. And neither does it today when there are still so many forced into slavery.

I expect a good discussion when we meet tomorrow night. Have you read this novel? What are your thoughts? We’d love to know.

Recommended.

Audience: older teens to adults

(I purchased this book on my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: The Confession

15 Sep

688868Confession is good for the soul, but it could mean death to an ambitious young lawyer.

Assistant DA Holt Douglas has made a career of getting confessions from criminals. With a confession in hand, he knows a guilty plea is soon to follow.

In the midst of professional success, Holt is haunted by a secret—a lie he buried in the grave of his best friend. Holt’s crime is hidden from all eyes—family, friends, police, and his soon-to-be fiancé.

But the truth has a way of coming back to life.

With obsessive prosecutorial zeal, Holt reopens a cold case involving the death of the town’s wealthiest citizen. The man’s death was ruled a suicide, but Holt suspects murder. Facing fierce opposition, he is determined to expose the killer. Holt slowly begins to unravel the facts.

And comes face-to-face with his own guilty conscience.

With his job, his relationship with the woman he loves, and his future at risk, Holt skirts the boundary between truth and lies, confession and hypocrisy, redemption and ruin. Can he survive long enough to finally make the right choice?

 

Robert_Headshot_Low_ResRobert Whitlow is the best-selling author of legal novels set in the South and winner of the prestigious Christy Award for Contemporary Fiction. A Furman University graduate, Whitlow received his J.D. with honors from the University of Georgia School of Law where he served on the staff of the Georgia Law Review. A practicing attorney, Whitlow and his wife, Kathy, have four children. They make their home in North Carolina.

 

My Impressions:

Robert Whitlow is back! No he didn’t really go anywhere, but this book club favorite left us puzzled and dissatisfied last year with The Living Room (read my review HERE). But his newest novel, The Confession, combines his trademark characters, excellent plotting and insightful faith message that make for a classic Whitlow novel. By The Book is discussing this one next week. Have you read it? Please let us know your thoughts.

Holt Douglas is a DA with a past. From the beginning, the reader is let in on the secret which has shaped his life’s goals. The accident changed the course of his life and has caused him not to divert from it. Deputy Trish Carmichael has also been impacted by a tragedy. Her black and white sense of right and wrong were reinforced by it. The two come together to solve a cold case that is not as it seems. Past and present are on a collision course that will again change the paths of many of the characters.

First off, I have to say that I liked the mystery that was the main plot line. Things are never as they seem and the main characters’ perceptions and experiences influence the direction of their investigation. Whitlow examines how what we see may not really be what’s real. But it was the course the characters take in gaining real insight that I enjoyed the most. Holt is a case in contradiction and irony, dedicated to bring justice, but keeping his own sins secrets. Trish believes in the justice of God, but has a hard time extending grace. The Confession has lots of characters seeking restitution, but not true repentance. The surprise ending is filled with the message of hope in the love and mercy of God.

I am so glad that Whitlow has returned to his roots. This is a book I can recommend.

Recommended.

Audience: Older teens to adults.

(I purchased a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Audiobook Review: The Real Enemy

12 Sep

767860_w185Brill Jessup would rather work than deal with the bitterness she feels about her husband Kurt’s infidelity. They’ve made a fresh start with Brill taking a job as the new police chief in a small East Tennessee town. Kurt is genuinely contrite and making every effort to show his commitment to Brill. Meanwhile Emily, their nine-year-old, is being the perfect little girl, as if she can make everything okay again. So why can’t Brill get over this anger? Work presents the perfect distraction as rumors and superstition are running rampant in the wake of the disappearances of seven people in seven days. As fear rises in the community, Brill works desperately to solve the mystery… until it threatens her family and she is forced to confront the real enemy.

 

kathy-laptopSuspense novelist Kathy Herman is widely-recognized in the Christian book industry, having worked five years on staff at the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) in Colorado Springs, eleven years at Better Books Christian Center in Tyler, Texas as product buyer/manager for the children’s department, and eventually as director of human resources.

She also conducted numerous educational seminars on children’s books at CBA Conventions in the U.S. and Canada, served a preliminary judge for the Evangelical Christian Publishers Gold Medallion Book Awards (now known as ECPA Christian Book Awards), and worked as an independent product/marketing consultant to the CBA market.

Since her first novel, Tested by Fire, debuted in 2001 as a CBA national bestseller, she’s added nineteen more titles to her credit, including eight additional bestsellers: All Things Hidden, The Real Enemy, The Last Word, The Right Call, False Pretenses, Dangerous Mercy, Relentless Pursuit, and Not by Sight.

Kathy’s husband Paul is her manager and most ardent supporter, and the former manager of the LifeWay Christian Store in Tyler, Texas. They have three grown children, five almost-perfect grandchildren, and a rescue cat named Samantha. The couple also shares a mutual interest in identifying birds and butterflies, a hobby that goes hand-in-hand with Kathy’s passion for photography.

 

My Impressions:

Kathy Herman has been a long time favorite of mine. She combines great characters with real life struggles and page-turning mysteries to produce great novels. She always includes a faith message that speaks to readers as well. The Real Enemy is the first book in her Sophie Trace Trilogy. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to more with the Jessup family in the quaint town set in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Brill Jessup is the new police chief of Sophie Trace. Her family is attempting a new start, but past regrets, betrayals and bitterness keep them from truly moving on. Brill’s husband, Kurt, was unfaithful and it is this that has impacted the whole family. Unwilling to forgive, Brill immerses herself in her work, which following mysterious abductions and increased gang activity, has gotten harder and more complicated.

Herman does a good job of balancing the family drama with a good mystery. Both story lines kept this reader interested. Herman explores the damage that is done to the whole family when just one strays from God’s law. The mystery of the missing people makes way for the town legend of the Red Shadows adding an interesting look into the history of the early settlers and Native Americans of the Smokies. I also liked that Herman introduces supporting characters that add color to the small community. Nick’s restaurant is the hub for town gossip and serves as a means for the main characters and the reader to gauge the pulse of the town.

I listened to The Real Enemy on my morning walks. The reading was well done — a great pace that made my exercise fly by. So if you are looking for a mystery with some depth and spiritual truth in the mix, check out The Real Enemy.

Recommended

Audience: Adults

(I purchased the audio version of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Spotlight: Adventure Bible for Toddlers

11 Sep

null.jpg_9628The Adventure Bible for Toddlers starts children ages 2-5 on the journey of a lifetime, teaching them about the Bible’s great stories and themes. It helps young children grow in their relationship with God using stories and art from the wildly popular Adventure Bible Storybook. With ten beautifully illustrated and beloved Bible stories from the Old and New Testament, this sturdy padded board book will stimulate toddlers’ minds and fill their hearts with love for their heavenly Father.

 

Catherine DeVries is a writer and editor. She has been influential in the development of many bestselling children’s Bibles and Bible storybooks including The Adventure Bible, The Beginner’s Bible and the Jesus Storybook Bible. She is also the author of My Time with God and many articles that have been published in professional magazines and journals. Catherine lives with her husband and three children in Colorado.

Jim Madsen has been illustrating for the past 15 years. He has worked on more than 50 books including the recently updated NIV Adventure Bible and the NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers. Jim lives in Utah with his wife and three children. He enjoys the outdoors, golf, and riding Harley Davidson motorcycles.

My Impressions:

The Adventure Bible for Toddlers is a colorfully illustrated board book featuring 10 well-known Bible stories, among them the Creation, Daniel in The Lion’s Den. Jonah and The Whale, and Jesus’ birth and life. A good first introduction for your young child, this sturdy book can become their favorite Bible to read and take to church. Make sure to check this one out.

Audience: Toddlers

(Thanks to Zonderkidz for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

This book will be available on 9/23/14. Click on the image below to order.

Book Spotlight: Slave Again by Alana Terry

10 Sep

slave again small

About Slave Again: After escaping a North Korean prison camp, Mee-Kyong is hustled over the border and sold into the Chinese underworld. She vows to survive, but sheer determination and willpower won’t save her this time. Is she fated to remain a slave forever?

Slave Again is a Christian suspense novel from award-winning author Alana Terry, whose debut novel, The Beloved Daughter, won awards from Women of Faith, Grace Awards, The Book Club Network, and Readers’ Favorite.

NEW BOOK RELEASE: Slave Again by Alana Terry is hot off the press, and both the ebook and paperback are at a steep (30-60%) discount!! Prices will go up soon, so grab your copy today.

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alana-terryAbout the Author: Alana Terry is passionate about human-rights issues in North Korea and has devoted her writing to raise both awareness and funds to help North Korean refugees find freedom and safety. You can learn more about her work with Liberty in North Korea at alanaterry.com/link.

Check out Slave Again now before the price goes up, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

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