Book Review: The Story Keeper

25 Jul

386898Successful New York editor, Jen Gibbs, is at the top of her game with her new position at Vida House Publishing — until a mysterious manuscript from an old slush pile appears on her desk. Turning the pages, Jen finds herself drawn into the life of Sarra, a mixed-race Melungeon girl trapped by dangerous men in the turn of the century Appalachia. A risky hunch may lead to The Story Keeper’s hidden origins and its unknown author, but when the trail turns toward the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place Jen thought she’d left behind forever, the price of a blockbuster next book deal may be higher than she’s willing to pay.

 

lisawingatepubpicLisa Wingate is an award-winning journalist, magazine columnist, popular inspirational speaker and a national bestselling author of 16 books. Her first mainstream novel, Tending Roses, is in its fifteenth printing from Penguin Putnam. Tending Roses is a staple on the shelves of national bookstore chains as well as in many independent bookstores.

Recently, Lisa’s Blue Sky Hill Series, set in Dallas, received national attention with back-to-back nominations for American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award for A Month of Summer (2009) and The Summer Kitchen (2010). In 2011, Lisa’s Novel, Never Say Never, won the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award. Pithy, emotional, and inspirational, her stories bring to life characters so real that readers often write to ask what is happening to them after the book ends.

Lisa is one of a select group of authors to find success in both the Christian and mainstream markets, writing for both Bethany House, a Christian publisher, and NAL Penguin Putnam, in mainstream fiction. Her bestselling books have become a hallmark of inspirational southern fiction. Her works have been featured by the National Reader’s Club of America, AOL Book Picks, Doubleday Book Club, the Literary Guild, American Profiles and have been chosen for numerous awards.

When not busy dreaming up stories, Lisa spends time on the road as a motivational speaker. Via internet, she shares with readers as far away as India, where her book, Tending Roses, has been used to promote women’s literacy, and as close to home as Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the county library system has used Tending Roses to help volunteer mentors teach adults to read. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others, as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life.

 

My Impressions:

What a great experience I had being a part of Lisa Wingate’s Sisterhood of The Traveling Book. I was chosen to be a part of a group that read Lisa’s newest book The Story Keeper, due out in September.  Sharing insights and stories of our own, we passed the book around. My group is still in the process of reading and reflecting before the book heads back to Lisa in Texas. And while the Sisterhood is certainly special, The Story Keeper is a novel that you will not want to miss.

Jenn Gibbs left her Appalachian roots behind when she moved to New York to pursue a career in publishing. When she takes a new job with Vida House, a mysterious manuscript from the infamous slush pile appears on her desk and she is swept into an intriguing story and again forced to revisit the haunts of her childhood. An elusive author and her demanding family keep Jenn in North Carolina longer than she would like, but she soon discovers that you cannot really escape your past.

Two stories in one kept me turning the pages of The Story Keeper. I was impressed with the many voices that Lisa employed in telling the stories. Lisa masterfully brings to life the places and peoples of Appalachia. Her characters are real and relatable, even Jenn’s sisters who live a life dedicated to a conservative Christian cult. I loved the theme of lives being a compilation of many stories.

The Story Keeper releases on September 1, so be sure to keep a watch out for it. You can pre-order it from Amazon too.

Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

(Thanks to Lisa Wingate for the opportunity to read this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To pre-order The Story Keeper, click on the image below.

Book Review: Bridge to Haven

24 Jul

368184To those who matter in 1950s Hollywood, Lena Scott is the hottest rising star to hit the silver screen since Marilyn Monroe. Few know her real name is Abra. Even fewer know the price she’s paid to finally feel like she’s somebody.

To Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, Abra will always be the little girl who stole his heart the night he found her, a wailing newborn abandoned under a bridge on the outskirts of Haven. Zeke and his son, Joshua—Abra’s closest friend—watch her grow into an exotic beauty. But Zeke knows the circumstances surrounding her birth etched scars deep in her heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking bad boy who proclaims his love and lures her to Tinseltown. Hollywood feels like a million miles from Haven, and naive Abra quickly learns what’s expected of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes. But fame comes at an awful price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now, all she wants is a way back home.

 

 

francine-treeFrancine Rivers began her literary career at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Journalism. From 1976 to 1985, she had a successful writing career in the general market and her books were awarded or nominated for numerous awards and prizes. Although raised in a religious home, Francine did not truly encounter Christ until later in life, when she was already a wife, mother of three, and an established romance novelist. Shortly after becoming a born-again Christian in 1986, Francine wrote Redeeming Love as her statement of faith. First published by Bantam Books, and then re-released by Multnomah Publishers in the mid- 1990s, this retelling of the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea set during the time of the California Gold Rush is now considered a classic work of Christian fiction and continues to be one of the Christian Booksellers Association’s top-selling titles; it has held a spot on the Christian bestseller list for nearly a decade.

Since Redeeming Love, Francine has published more than 20 novels with Christian themes – all bestsellers- and she has continued to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for numerous awards including the RITA Award, the Christy Award, the ECPA Gold Medallion, and the Holt Medallion in Honor of Outstanding Literary Talent. In 1997, after winning her third RITA award for Inspirational Fiction, Francine was inducted into the Romance Writers’ of America Hall of Fame. In 2007, the feature-length film version of her novel The Last Sin Eater was released in theaters by Fox Faith. In March 2010, Francine officially became a New York Times bestselling author, when Her Mother’s Hope debuted at #12 on the hardcover fiction bestsellers lists. The sequel, Her Daughter’s Dream, debuted at #12 on the same list just 6 months later, in September, 2010. Francine’s novels have been translated into nearly thirty different languages and she enjoys best-seller status in many foreign countries including Germany, The Netherlands, and South Africa.

Francine and her husband Rick live in Northern California and enjoy the time spent with their three grown children and every opportunity to spoil their five grandchildren. She uses her writing to draw closer to the Lord, and that through her work she might worship and praise Jesus for all He has done and is doing in her life.

 

My Impressions:

Francine Rivers’s books are some of my book club’s favorite all-time reads. When asked what book we liked the most in our 11 years of meeting, we overwhelmingly say Redeeming Love. Now we will probably have to declare Bridge to Haven to be our second favorite. All who read Rivers’ newest novel loved it.

Abra Freeman was found as an abandoned newborn under the bridge to the town of Haven. Loved from the beginning, she still struggled with feelings of unworthiness and abandonment. A child that tried desperately to please became a rebellious teenager and ultimately a runaway set on a course to become somebody. But what Abra, now Lena Scott, finds is not love or fame or fortune, but an emptiness that has her running away from who she has become.

Bridge to Haven is an excellent choice for a book club. We found a lot to discuss — great characters, the setting of the Golden Age of Hollywood and themes of unconditional love, the value of life and God’s forgiveness. We found many parallels in Abra’s story with the Prodigal Son of the Bible, as well as the mistakes people make in general. The novel was also deemed unputdownable even though at times it was a difficult read. I first thought the book was a bit predictable, but soon came to the conclusion that the choices that Abra made were predictable because of how often people in real life make the same choices. God must find us very predictable in our sin!

Another winner from Francine Rivers, my book club highly recommends Bridge to Haven.

Highly Recommended.

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

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: Firewall

23 Jul

389936After a whirlwind romance, Taryn Young is preparing to board a plane at Houston International Airport, bound for a dream honeymoon, when a bomb decimates the terminal. Injured but still alive, she awakens to discover her husband is missing and they’re both considered prime suspects in the attack. Further, the FBI is convinced her husband isn’t who he appears to be.

Agent Grayson Hall’s number-one priority is to catch those responsible for the day’s act of terror. All evidence is pointing to Taryn and her new husband. But his instinct tells him her pleas of innocence are genuine. Is her naiveté just for show, or could she truly be another victim of a master scheme, possibly linked to the software she recently developed for her company?

With both their lives and reputations on the line, and the media outcry for justice increasing with each passing minute, Taryn and Grayson have no choice but to trust one another . . . and pray they can uncover the truth before they become two more casualties.

 

d-mills-about-picDiAnn Mills is a best-selling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also the Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and is the 2014 president of RWA’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter.

She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

My Impressions:

When DiAnn Mills says she wants her readers to have an adventure she means it! Her newest novel, Firewall, starts off with a bang and the suspense never lets up. If you like romantic suspense, then definitely check out Firewall.

Taryn is a software developer who specializes in protective programs for highly sensitive systems. When she is swept off her feet by the charming Shep, she cannot believe her good fortune. But a dream-come-true honeymoon soon turns into a nightmare as she survives a terror attack and then is implicated in the bombing. Using her considerable analytical skills as well as a healthy dose of martial arts, Taryn continues to elude the bad guys while helping Special Agent Grayson Hall discover who is behind the crimes.

Non-stop action is the hallmark of Firewall. Taryn and Grayson go from one impossible situation to the next, dodging kidnappers and evading assassins. There are sparks between the two main characters, but Mills handles it in a realistic way. Both are cautious and their circumstances warrant it. The mystery continues to the very end — I did not see the final showdown coming! There is also a great dog character for animal lovers. Faith is explored as Taryn discovers new belief in God and Grayson continues a life dependent on Him.

So for a great reading adventure filled with adrenaline and didn’t-see-it-coming surprises, check out Firewall.

Recommended.

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

To purchase a copy of this book, click on the image below.

Christian Science Fiction And Fantasy Blog Tour — The Warden And The Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

22 Jul

The folks at The CSFF are touring Andrew Peterson’s latest offering in the Wingfeather Saga, The Warden And The Wolf King. I did not read this book, but want to make sure you find out all about it. Make sure to check out the book synopsis, author info and of course the links to other participants on the tour.

 

9c86dab387630aeaf362628bde976d194f7fd173All winter long, people in the Green Hollows have prepared for a final battle with Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs of Dang. Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli—Throne Warden, Wolf King, and Song Maiden of Anniera—are ready and willing to fight alongside the Hollowsfolk, but when the Fangs make the first move and invade Ban Rona, the children are separated. Janner is alone and lost in the hills; Leeli is fighting the Fangs from the rooftops of the city; and Kalmar, who carries a terrible secret, is on a course for the Deeps of Throg. Meanwhile in Skree, Sara Cobbler and Maraly Weaver care for the broken Artham Wingfeather as Fangs muster for battle across the Mighty River Blapp.

Sea dragons lurk in the waters. Wicked Stranders crawl through the burrows. Ridgerunners and trolls prowl the land. Cloven haunt the forest. Monsters and Fangs and villains lie between the children and their only hope of victory—in the epic conclusion of The Wingfeather Saga.

 

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

 

 

bioThe son of a pastor, Andrew Peterson spent his childhood in the rural farm town of Monticello, Illinois. Peterson’s family relocated to Florida when he was seven. His parents originated from that state. After living outside of Jacksonville for a few years, his family settled in Lake Butler. Peterson graduated from Florida Christian College in 1997. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Jamie, sons Aedan and Asher, and daughter Skye.

 

CSFF Blog Tour Participants

Keanan Brand
Pauline Creeden
Vicky DealSharingAunt
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Rachel Starr Thomson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Christmas in July Giveaway Hop

21 Jul

It’s time for another book giveaway! This time I am participating in the Christmas in July Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader and Laurie Here. Check out all the bloggers giving away books and bookish stuff HERE.

Christmas-in-July-Giveaway-Hop

I am giving away 3 award winning books (see below). 3 books — 3 winners! To enter,  just leave me a comment with which book you would like to win. Good luck!

683769_w185Iscariot by Tosca Lee (2014 ECPA Book of The Year — Fiction)

Judas Iscariot…the name of Judas conjures up the ultimate betrayer. What could possibly bring him to such a vile decision to betray Jesus? Tosca Lee brilliantly captures Judas’ life; why he chose to follow Jesus when he was a respected scholar, what he witnesses day after day being near and speaking with Jesus. You will be captivated by every nuance of Judas’ story as he walked with Jesus and Judas’ history that led him to that point. Why did Jesus choose the path that he chose, from angering those in esteemed positions by not just allowing those who were “unclean” near him, but encouraging their presence? Judas struggled to understand Jesus’ motives and questioned them all along the way. The places where you question how and what Jesus did are brilliantly speculated by Tosca Lee in the amazing story of Iscariot.

731472Burning Sky by Lori Benton (Three 2014 Christy Awards — Book of The Year, Debut Novel, Historical Novel)

Abducted by Mohawk Indians at fourteen and renamed Burning Sky, Willa Obenchain is driven to return to her family’s New York frontier homestead after many years building a life with the People. At the boundary of her father’s property, Willa discovers a wounded Scotsman lying in her path. Feeling obliged to nurse his injuries, the two quickly find much has changed during her twelve-year absence—her childhood home is in disrepair, her missing parents are rumored to be Tories, and the young Richard Waring she once admired is now grown into a man twisted by the horrors of war and claiming ownership of the Obenchain land.

When her Mohawk brother arrives and questions her place in the white world, the cultural divide blurs Willa’s vision. Can she follow Tames-His-Horse back to the People now that she is no longer Burning Sky? And what about Neil MacGregor, the kind and loyal botanist who does not fit into in her plan for a solitary life, yet is now helping her revive her farm? In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, strong feelings against “savages” abound in the nearby village of Shiloh, leaving Willa’s safety unsure.

Willa is a woman caught between two worlds. As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, the woman called Burning Sky must find a new courage–the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow. Is she brave enough to love again?

366418_w185Wings Of Glass by Gina Holmes (2014 Inspy Award — General Fiction)

From the best-selling author of Crossing Oceans comes a heartrending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption. On the cusp of adulthood, eighteen-year-old Penny Carson is swept off her feet by a handsome farmhand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign town, Penny’s happily-ever-after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn’t the last, yet the bruises that can’t be seen are the most painful of all.

When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live and laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to find her own.

Book Review: Death Takes A Ride

21 Jul

721600Cate Kinkaid arrives at H&B Classic Auto Restorations to give a friend a ride. But, as usual, trouble finds Cate even there–this time in the form of one dead man, one wounded man, and what appears to be a pretty obvious case of self-defense. Owner Matt Halliday wants to hire her, but not for this case. Instead, Cate is charged with finding a man who owns a particular motorcycle Matt would like to buy. As her search progresses, she begins to suspect that the shooting in Matt’s office may not have been as cut-and-dried as it appeared.

 

935704394bc10a7f023586.L._V198106322_SX200_

 

Lorena McCourtney is a long-time resident of Southern Oregon and enjoys using Oregon settings in her books. She wrote numerous short stories for children before moving on to romances and now to mysteries, often with a bit of humor. She won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Mystery “Book of the Year” and twice won the Daphne Du Maurier Award of Excellence.

 

My Impressions:

I love a cozy mystery, and one that keeps me guessing and includes a main character who takes her faith seriously is a book that I definitely want to read. Lorena McCourtney’s 3rd book in The Cate Kinkaid Files fits the bill. If you love cozies too, then check out Death Takes A Ride.

Cate Kinkaid has the knack for finding dead bodies, even though her uncle and boss at Belmont Investigations says their private investigation firm does not deal in murder. But Cate is soon to be a full-fleged private investigator and the sole proprietor of the business, so when a case involving murder comes up she doesn’t shy away. With the aid of her boyfriend, a detecting cat and a hulk of a dog, Cate is determined to get to the bottom of a shooting that on the surface looked like self-defense, but soon involves scheming ex-wives, motorcycles and gambling debts.

Death Takes A Ride is filled with fun and endearing characters including Cate, her boyfriend and computer whiz Mitch, a detecting cat named Octavia and a big hulk of a dog named Clancy. In fact if you like a good dog story, you will enjoy Clancy and his antics. The investigation takes a few twists and turns and Cate often finds herself in interesting situations that need a bit of assistance to get out of. But through it all, Cate keeps her faith and shares it along the way. Never moralizing or preachy, this novel does have a character who takes her faith seriously — Cate goes to church, prays and  acknowledges that God is the one in control. There is romance as well which adds a sweetness to the story. And although this book is the third in the series, it can easily be read as a standalone novel. I liked it, and if you are a fan of cozies, I am betting you will too. Now I just need to go back and read books 1 and 2!

Recommended. 

(Thanks to Revell for providing me a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: When Mountains Move

18 Jul

404250It is the spring of 1943. With a wedding and a cross-country move, Millie’s world is about to change forever.

If only her past could change with it.

Soon after the break of day, Bump will become Millie’s husband. And then, if all goes as planned, they will leave the rain-soaked fields of Mississippi and head for the wilds of the Colorado Rockies. As Millie tries to forget a dark secret, she hasn’t yet realized how drastically those past experiences will impact the coming days.

For most of Millie’s life, being free felt about as unlikely as the mountains moving. But she’s about to discover that sometimes in life, we are given second chances, and that the only thing bigger than her past … is her future.

 

julie-7-2_06_03_2013Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, which won Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and for Book of the Year 2013. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm.

 

My Impressions:

When Mountains Move is the sequel to Julie Cantrell’s debut novel, Into The Free. Into The Free won 2 Christy Awards in 2013 for Debut Novel and Book of The Year. I loved it and highly recommend it to anyone. (You can read my review HERE.) However, this novel, which takes place immediately following the end of Into The Free, never really captured me in the same way. I kept waiting for the magic that was present in the first novel to show up. But in the end When Mountains Move was just a predictable and unsatisfying read for me.

When Mountains Move begins with the marriage of Millie and Bump and their move to Colorado from Mississippi to start a horse breeding ranch for the rodeo they both work for. Due to the rape that takes place in book 1, Millie has trouble with intimacy with Bump. Add to that her pregnancy by the rapist, and you have a story in which deeply held secrets strive to destroy the future that Millie has hoped for.

As I stated earlier, When Mountains Move was a predictable novel. Bump and Millie’s marriage suffers from the secrets held by Millie. The neighboring rancher, Kat, is a temptation for Bump and a point of jealousy for Millie. The novel became very soap opera-ish for me. The character of Millie’s grandmother was a shining spot, though. And even though the ending resolved problems begun in book 1, it was predictable as well.

Although I didn’t enjoy When Mountains Move, many did. Please check out some reviews HERE to make your own decision. It got overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon.

(Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this novel. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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