Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Protector

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Protector
Avon Inspire; Original edition (June 28, 2011)


Shelley Shepard Gray


Shelley Shepard Gray is the beloved author of the Sisters of the Heart series, including Hidden, Wanted, and Forgiven. Before writing, she was a teacher in both Texas and Colorado. She now writes full time and lives in southern Ohio with her husband and two children. When not writing, Shelley volunteers at church, reads, and enjoys walking her miniature dachshund on her town's scenic bike trail.

Check out Shelley's Facebook Fan page


Everyone needs a safe place to call home

When her mother passes away, Ella's forced to auction off her family's farm. Her father died years ago, and she could never manage the fifty acres on her own. But after she moves to town, she can't deny the pain she feels watching the new owner, Loyal Weaver, repairing her family's old farmhouse—everything Ella had once dreamed of doing.

What Ella doesn't know is that Loyal secretly hopes she will occupy this house his wife. He begins inviting her over, to ask her opinion on changes he wants to make. As their friendship blooms, Ella starts to wonder about Loyal's intentions, especially when her best friend, Dorothy, hints that Loyal is not who he seems. There's no way the golden boy of their close-knit Amish community could be interested in Ella, long the wallflower, hidden away caring for her ailing parents.

Should she trust the man she's always yearned for, or the friend who's always been by her side? When one of them threatens to disrupt the independence she's finally achieved, Ella is faced with a choice. She can protect her heart and keep things the way they've always been. Or she can come out of her shell, risk everything for the love she's always wanted, and finally have a place to call home.

If you would like to read an excerpt from The Protector, go HERE.


Shelley Shepard Gray continues her new Families of Honor series with this enjoyable book. (I reviewed the first one, The Caregiver, here). But I will warn you that while you will like the book, there is at least one character that will sorely try your patience. The author has done a great job of showing that just like the rest of us, the Amish community is not without its share of people with Issues! I'll let you read the book to discover the impact this person has on Ella.


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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge

I always look forward to Wednesdays and the Hodgepodge!

1. What makes you stand to your feet and cheer?

A touchdown for The University of Texas Longhorns if I'm at a football game.

2. What's your favorite patriotic song?

This is a hard one. I LOVE patriotic music. I like a lot of them for a lot of different reasons but it's hard to beat Stars and Stripes Forever!

3. Do you believe that opposites attract? If you have a significant other are you opposites?

I think that is true many times; we subconsciously look for what we lack. My man and I are opposite in many ways.

4. You're going to get a behind the scenes look someplace...where would you like that someplace to be?

A Broadway show.

5. How far would you have to travel to ride a carousel (merry-go-round)?

Only about three hours. There's a really nice old-fashioned one at a mall in Houston. It even has two levels. My girl loves it.

6. When was the last time you saw fireworks? What was the occasion? Do you enjoy fireworks?

I love fireworks. We don't generally go, though, because the crowds and traffic are such a pain. And we live outside the city limits where folks set off some pretty spectacular ones of their own, so we sometimes get a good show just sitting on our driveway! We did see some a couple of years ago but for the life of me I can't remember where or when it was.

Sadly, we are in such a horrific drought that all fireworks have been banned and even the big shows put on by the city of Austin and the surrounding towns have been canceled.

7. Of all the 'beauty products' you own, what item do you consider to be the most overpriced?

I've always thought foundation is ridiculously expensive. I just switched to a mineral powder foundation and it seems to be much more reasonable.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I love to read. (Surprise, surprise!) The books to be read for reviews and to prepare for my interviews in Atlanta (coming up in TEN DAYS!!) beckon to me. And then the other day I realized that this is the year my nursing license renewal requires me to submit proof of continuing education, and so another book was ordered. It's not nearly as enticing!


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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This Will Make Your Heart Smile

You may have seen this on FB, but it just happened a couple of weeks ago, so maybe not. If you manage to watch it without either crying or getting goosebumps, I suggest you check your pulse.


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Monday, June 27, 2011

Bridge to a Distant Star

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Bridge to a Distant Star
David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2011)


Carolyn Williford


Carolyn Williford has authored seven books, including Jordan's Bend, Devotions for Families That Can't Sit Still, and Faith Tango, as well as numerous articles. She and her husband, Craig, live in Deerfield, Illinois, where he serves as president of Trinity International University. They have two children and four grandchildren.


It All Comes Tumbling Down

As a storm rages in the night, unwary drivers venture onto Tampa Bay’s most renowned bridge. No one sees the danger ahead. No one notices the jagged gap hidden by the darkness and rain. Yet when the bridge collapses vehicles careen into the churning waters of the bay below.

In that one catastrophic moment, three powerful stories converge: a family ravaged by their child’s heartbreaking news, a marriage threatened by its own facade, and a college student burdened by self doubt. As each story unfolds, the characters move steadily closer to that fateful moment on the bridge. And while each character searches for grace, the storms in their lives loom as large as the storm that awaits them above the bay.

When these characters intersect in Carolyn Williford’s gripping and moving volume of three novellas, they also collide with the transforming truth of Christ: Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Bridge to a Distant Star, go HERE.

This is an intense and gripping book. In fact, I was a bit exhausted emotionally reading it and a bit unsettled. Since the novel opens with a storm and the collapse of Tampa Bay's Sunshine Skyway Bridge, it was a foregone conclusion as I read the story of each of the families that one or more of their members would be on that bridge. I just didn't know which ones or what the outcome would be. Each family's tale is told separately, and Carolyn Williford did a masterful job of drawing the reader into each story so that I wanted to crawl into the pages of the book to stop the characters when they set off on that fateful trip. How she ties the families' stories together and the miraculous conclusion will stun you. The only thing I didn't like about the book was the ending--not so much what happened but the timing. To avoid a spoiler, I will just say that I would have preferred that it occur six months to a year after the bridge collapse instead of hours. I felt some leaps were made by the characters in emotions and thought processes that were just too quick and unrealistic, miracles notwithstanding. As amazing and miraculous as the outcome and the weaving together of the families' lives are, I don't think those would negate the heart-wrenching grief experienced by those left behind. Compelling and though-provoking, this is definitely not a light-hearted beach read!


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Saturday, June 25, 2011

TSMSS - Fall Apart

After a crazy and stressful couple of months, it's good to participate in Amy's Then Sings My Soul Saturday meme once again. I've missed this weekly focus on songs that draw our eyes to Christ.

They've been playing Josh Wilson's new song on KLOVE lately and I absolutely love it. The tune is so catchy and the words are spot on. Although it seems a bit like an oxymoron, we are never quite as close to God as when life crumbles around us and we go through trials which cause us to press in close to Him..

Visit Amy's for more songs!


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Friday, June 24, 2011

Dropping My Stones

My neighborhood grocery store is not where I usually see women who make their living in the world's oldest profession, but the other day there was one a couple of places in front of me in line at the customer service window. At first glance I thought it was just someone who had forgotten to put on her clothes. I'm not sure exactly what she was wearing, but it looked like a long black camisole or a short slip - it barely covered her top and her bottom! And she had on black pantyhose. But the main thing that clued me in was the wad of cash she had and I heard her say, "He left $300" as she held three one hundred dollar bills up to the light wanting to be sure they were real. She was pretty happy and giggly about those, and she was still smiling as she finished her transaction and grabbed a hand basket and headed to the produce department.

I was totally dumbfounded that she was so brazen and oblivious to the fact the it was 2:00 in the afternoon and t-shirt and shorts were the more acceptable attire.

But later, I was dumbfounded at myself and convicted of how quickly my Pharisaical heart judged her instead of seeing her through God's eyes of love and compassion. "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.." (John 8:7)

Forgive me, Lord.


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Thursday, June 23, 2011

She Makes It Look Easy

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
She Makes It Look Easy
David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)
Marybeth Whalen


Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt and mom of six children. The family lives outside Charlotte, NC. Marybeth is a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries writing team and a regular contributor to their daily devotions. Her first novel,The Mailbox was released in June 2010. Her next novel, She Makes It Look Easy, will be released in June 2011. Additionally, she serves as director of She Reads, Proverbs 31 Ministries' fiction division.


Ariel Baxter has just moved into the neighborhood of her dreams. The chaos of domestic life and the loneliness of motherhood, however, moved with her. Then she meets her neighbor, Justine Miller. Justine ushers Ariel into a world of clutter-free houses, fresh-baked bread, homemade crafts, neighborhood play dates, and organization techniques designed to make marriage better and parenting manageable.

Soon Ariel realizes there is hope for peace, friendship, and clean kitchen counters. But when rumors start to circulate about Justine’s real home life, Ariel must choose whether to believe the best about the friend she admires or consider the possibility that “perfection” isn’t always what it seems to be.

If you would like to read an excerpt of She Makes It Look Easy, go HERE.

If you don't relate to someone in this book, you might want to check your pulse! Mary Beth Whalen has written a tale that is simultaneously completely fiction and utterly real. For any woman who has ever felt inadequate and wondered how that "perfect" woman manages to hold it all together, this book is a good reminder that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the backyard fence.


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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sizzlin' Summer Wednesday Hodgepodge

1. Summer's here-whoohoo! What's your favorite sight, sound, AND smell associated with summer?

Sight - Daylight at 8:30 pm
Sound - Kids playing outside
Smell - Sunscreen. And fresh fruit

2. Fireflies or lightning bugs...what are they called in your neck of the woods?

Seems like I've heard them called both, but lightning bugs is probably the more common term.

3. What is something from the past week that reminded you of your childhood?

Cutting open a watermelon. It made me think of my dad and growing up.

4. Define 'the good life'.

Peace with God. A loving family. Friends. Food, clothing, shelter. A good book and an occasional treat. In short, I've got it!

5. Tell us what we'd see if you took a snapshot of your desk/work space?

UPDATED: I can't believe I skipped this one. Must have been a subconscious refusal to admit what you would see! Of course, I could actually take a snapshot, but that would be getting far too personal. Might as well show you my underwear drawer! My little corner is a mess, but it's not quite the tornado it was before I got all my sister's papers organized and into a file drawer. But this is where the mail lands and the bills. And then there are the books. The stacks waiting to be read, the stack read and waiting for reviews to be written, and the stack(s) of the books I want to read independent of reviews. Then there's all the miscellaneous stuff that seems to find its way here.

6. Peaches or watermelon...yes, you have to choose.

Oh yeah?! And what'll you do if I don't? Come through the screen?! LOL Sigh. Texas Hill Country peaches are the BEST. But. They are very weather-dependent and this has been a dry year. So I shall have to pick watermelon. It's more consistently good. And doesn't bruise easily!

7. Ever been skinny dippin'? Is that too much for the Wednesday Hodgepodge? Rest assured we won't need details...unless of course you feel you must but remember, this is a family friendly blog so keep it G rated.

Nope. Never even wanted to.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Tonight the summer youth group Bible Study starts. This will be the first year I haven't had to drive my kids there. And yesterday I had a conflict come up at the last minute and they went to the dentist by themselves. Who gave them permission to grow up?!


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Monday, June 20, 2011

Auf Weidersehen, GG!

After a busy weekend filled with lots of hugs and laughter and ending with a going-away party, we put GG ("German Girl" - our exchange student from Munich) and her mom on the airplane early yesterday morning. They are currently in New York City for a week (GG's 18th birthday gift from her parents) and then they will return to Germany next Monday.

GG had some severe migraines in May, which she had never had before, and to avoid her being sent home early, her mom came two weeks earlier than she had originally planned, and she was able to spend three weeks here. They spent a lot of time doing tourist-y things around town, but the biggest benefit was that GG's mom was able to attend our church for three Sundays instead of just one. What a "coincidence" (not!) that the sermon series just happened to be on the basics of faith! Lots of seeds were planted, and mom is interested in finding an evangelical church with GG when they return to Germany. Another wonderful benefit was that she was able to meet and get to know some of the folks at church who have been special to GG and who have invested in her life during this past year.

The party Sunday night was lots of fun. Another couple co-hosted it with us at their house which was such a blessing. Not only do they have a pool but the first time we discussed the party back in May, my friend had it planned in about 5 minutes and it took minimal effort on my part! I did the Evites and bought the hot dogs and chips and that was it! For those of you who know what my May was like, this was absolutely a gift from God. I had no idea how I was going to pull a party off!

Besides seeing GG have fun with her friends, the sweetest part of the evening came when our youth minister gathered everyone together. I presented GG with a special remembrance (described in the next paragraph), and then the youth minister invited folks to share something they will remember about GG. After several had done that, everyone gathered around GG and her mom for a time of prayer. There were several moist eyes when we were done!

I was so honored to be able to put together a Blessings Book for GG which was filled with over 20 letters that many of these people wrote to GG to encourage her as she returns to Germany. As I formatted them and printed them on the colorful paper, it blew me away how each person focused on a unique aspect of GG's life and spiritual growth and so many included Bible verses. . . .and none of them were the same! She was so delighted when I presented it to her at the party last night. (And the fact that it was hot pink and decorated with butterflies--her two favorites!--made it even better!) There was also a large professional banner (thanks to the co-hosting husband, who is an advertising guru!) that everyone at the party was able to sign for her to take back and hang on her wall. I loved reading what the youth and even the adults wrote on that as well.

Then we all got up early yesterday to head to the airport. GG's mom had to turn in her rental and we had all their luggage loaded in my van. The rental and curbside baggage check went smoothly and quickly (thanks to the kind employee who didn't charge them when one of the 3 bags went just over the 50 lb mark!). The security line was pretty long, as expected on a Monday morning, so we couldn't linger. Saying good-bye was hard for everyone. Hugs and tears and smiles were shared, and since they couldn't quite part, my girl stood in the security line with them as it snaked back and forth until it got to the last place where she could slip out.

So many things to be grateful for in our technologically advanced world - Skype and Facebook and email. But most of all, while we hope to see GG one day, either here or in Germany, what a wonderful thing to know that we are now fellow citizens of an eternal kingdom, and that. . .
Friends are friends forever
If the Lord's the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
For the welcome will not end
Thought it's hard to let you go,
In the Father's hands we know
That a lifetime's not to long to live as friends.


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Friday, June 17, 2011

Free! And Giveaway to Come!

MaryLu Tyndall is a wonderful author who I had the privilege of meeting in 2009. I reviewed and gave away a copy of her most recent book, Surrender the Heart last August; you can read the review here.

If you haven't read that book yet and you have a Kindle or a Kindle app, you can download it FREE now thru July 31. Just click here to do so.

And do not delay, because MaryLu's next book, Surrender the Dawn will be released August 1! And I have been told that I will have several copies to give away right here on my blog!


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Thursday, June 16, 2011

For Time and Eternity - Absolutely Stellar!

For Time and Eternity
Allison Pittman
ISBN: 978-1414335964
August, 2010/384 pages/$13.99

All Camilla Deardon knows of the Mormons camping nearby is the songs she hears floating on the breeze. Then she meets one of them—a young man named Nathan Fox. Never did she imagine he would be so handsome, so charming, especially after Mama and Papa’s warnings to stay away. Though she knows she should obey her parents, Camilla can’t refuse her heart. But even Nathan’s promises cannot prepare her for what she will face in Utah.

Oh. My. This is a stellar book on so many levels. The story will draw you in immediately and you will feel as if you are there. While I "lose myself" in many books, it is rare to connect with a character the way I did with Camilla. I literally had an ache in my chest as the book progressed. Yet in the midst of pain, what a beautiful thread of grace wove throughout the story. It reminded me of the line from the old song that says "although there were times I stepped out of His will, I've never been out of His care."

More than simply being a love story in a historical setting, this book presents TRUTH and reveals the subtlety of false teaching, yet without being preachy or heavy-handed. The early days of the Mormon movement and settlement in Utah are depicted and the light of God's Word is seamlessly used to expose how Satan has deceived those who follow that path. Anyone who only reads non-fiction because they think fiction is light and doesn't present theology will discover that this book lays that stereotype to rest! I will be stunned if it does not win the Christy Award for which it is nominated. Do not miss this book and series!

I am thrilled that I will have the opportunity to meet and interview Allison Pittman at ICRS in Atlanta in July. I can't wait to discuss this book with her and to read the next one, Forsaking All Others, to find out more about Camilla.

To read the first chapter of this incredible book, click here.

Allison Pittman is the author of For Time and Eternity, Stealing Home, the Crossroads of Grace series, and her nonfiction debut, Saturdays With Stella. A high-school English teacher, she serves as director of the theater arts group at her church. She is also the co-president of a dynamic Christian writers group in the San Antonio, Texas area, where she makes her home with her husband and their three boys.

I purchased this book and wrote this review just because I wanted to!


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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge

Well, life hasn't slowed down quite as much as I thought! We've been catching up on some appointments now that school is out. My girl is taking a dual-credit course to free up some room in her schedule so she can take yet another music class next year so she still has school every morning. And this is GG's last week with us; she leaves early Monday morning for a week in New York with her mom before they head back to Germany. Plus, I've been having tons of fun setting up author interviews for my time in Atlanta! If you haven't visited my blog since last Wednesday when I hinted at an incredible birthday surprise that was unfolding, click here to find out all the details, which I shared on Monday!

1. What is one thing on your bucket list? If you don't have a bucket list let's pretend you do.

I guess I'll have to pretend since I've never been a bucket list kind of girl. I've always wanted to go to Canada, particularly British Columbia.

2. What makes a good dad?

Loving God, loving his kids, patience, and a sense of humor.

3. Are you afraid of insects? Which ones?

I don't know that I'm afraid, but I'm not fond of any insects. But I especially avoid the big, buzzing, stinging ones. And the tiny mosquitos. And fire ants. Yeah, pretty much anything that's going to sting me.

4. We're barbecuing...what's on the grill at your house?

Corn on the cob. Fajitas. Burgers. Asparagus. Any of these. I even once made a peach cobbler on the grill.

5. Do you believe that playing is more important than winning?

I am highly competitive and hate to lose. But I do think the experience of playing is more important, and it's important to learn that one can't always be a winner. (Don't even get me started on the "everyone gets a prize" mentality that's so prevalent today!)

6. Do you tan? Use self tanners? Visit tanning salons? See your dermatologist at least once a year?

Ix-nay on the tanning. Yes on the dermatologist - but more for acne and barnacles of old age than for sun damage.

And if you haven't heard my barnacles story, you have to click over and read it. It's short. And sorta funny. If you aren't the one being compared to an ancient ship on the ocean floor.

7. Five years ago I would never imagine that today I would_______________.

Joyce saw this question on Marla's facebook page and she thought it was perfect for the Hodgepodge. Everyone go say hi to Marla...she has an E-book launching this week.

I have a happy answer and a not-so-happy answer:

. . .be making plans to interview authors and attend the Christy Awards!

. . .be caring for a sister with Alzheimer's who is only in her 50's.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

It is going to be a Sonic Cherry Limeade kind of summer. We've already had at least 10 days that have been 100 degrees or hotter. And it's still theoretically spring!


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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Sweetest Thing

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Sweetest Thing
Bethany House (June 1, 2011)


Elizabeth Musser


Elizabeth Musser, an Atlanta native, studied English and French literature at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. While at Vanderbilt, she had the opportunity to spend a semester in Aix-en-Provence, France.

During her Senior year at Vanderbilt, she attended a five-day missions conference for students and discovered an amazing thing: God had missionaries in France, and she felt God calling her there. After graduation, she spent eight months training for the mission field in Chicago, Illinois and then two years serving in a tiny Protestant church in Eastern France where she met her future husband.

Elizabeth lives in southern France with her husband and their two sons. She find her work as a mother, wife, author and missionary filled with challenges and chances to see God’s hand at work daily in her life. Inspiration for her novels come both from her experiences growing up in Atlanta as well as through the people she meets in her work in France. Many conversations within her novels are inspired from real-life conversations with skeptics and seekers alike.

Her acclaimed novel, The Swan House, was a Book Sense bestseller list in the Southeast and was selected as one of the top Christian books for 2001 by Amazon's editors. Searching for Eternity is her sixth novel.


Compelling Southern Novel Explores Atlanta Society in the 1930s.

The Singleton family’s fortunes seem unaffected by the Great Depression, and Perri—along with the other girls at Atlanta’s elite Washington Seminary—lives a life of tea dances with college boys and matinees at the cinema. When tragedy strikes, Perri is confronted with a world far different from the one she has always known.

At the insistence of her parents, Mary ‘Dobbs’ Dillard, the daughter of an itinerant preacher, is sent from inner-city Chicago to live with her aunt and attend Washington Seminary. Dobbs, passionate, fiercely individualistic and deeply religious, enters Washington Seminary as a bull in a china shop and shocks the girls with her frank talk about poverty and her stories of revival on the road. Her arrival intersects at the point of Perri’s ultimate crisis, and the tragedy forges an unlikely friendship.

The Sweetest Thing tells the story of two remarkable young women—opposites in every way—fighting for the same goal: surviving tumultuous change. Just as the Great Depression collides disastrously with Perri's well-ordered life, friendship blossoms--a friendship that will be tested by jealousy, betrayal, and family secrets...

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Sweetest Thing, go HERE.

Some novels are to be read. Others are to be experienced. The Sweetest Thing is one of those which will sweep you into its pages and gently set you down in Atlanta in the frighteningly uncertain days of the 1930's. Elizabeth Musser has penned a novel that is rich in detail as she depicts the many facets of life as experienced by Perri and Dobbs. A variety of themes are woven throughout this story--wealth and poverty, friendship, legalism, heartache, fear, prejudice, trust, and most importantly, faith and love--and the result is a beautiful tale that will leave you both extremely satisfied as you turn the final page and reluctant to reach the conclusion.

I am honored that I will have the opportunity to meet and interview Elizabeth Musser next month in Atlanta at the ICRS. What a pleasure it will be to visit with her in the city where she was raised and which forms the backdrop for this delightful book!

If you are looking for a great summer read, this is a wonderful choice!


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Monday, June 13, 2011


Those of you who grew up in the '70s, as I did, probably remember the Carly Simon song and the Heinz Ketchup commercial that used the excerpt: Anticipation. Anticipa-ay-tion is making me wait, Is keeping me wa-a-a-a-a-ai-ting..

(And now that song will be circling your brain all day. You're welcome.)

I have always loved anticipation, and I have something really fun to look forward to that will happen in July. I have a significant birthday in August as my odometer turns to a new decade, and my man surprised me last week by telling me he's sending me on a fun trip. Well, fun to this book lover!

The annual International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) will be held in Atlanta in July. This is a big trade show where publishers promote the latest Christian fiction, non-fiction, music and video. Many authors will be there for book signings and interviews. Some of you may remember the Christian Book Expo I attended in the Spring of 2009, a one-time show geared for consumers. This is similar to that but targeted for retailers and media.

I received an email inviting book review bloggers to attend as media. The email came toward the end of May, when we were dealing with finals and graduation and all the stress that May had brought to our family. I didn't delete the email, but I pretty much dismissed it since Atlanta is not exactly in the vicinity, and airfare and hotel would be "just a few" dollars!

Shortly after that, I received another email from a blogger who has become a dear friend begging me to come and be her roommate. I didn't even have time to respond until early last week but finally told her that I would love to but just didn't see it happening.


Sometimes God just showers us with a blessing when we absolutely have no clue it's coming!

My man occasionally uses my email address for non-work stuff, and he happened to notice the all-caps, many exclamation points subject line of the email from my blogger friend. Out of the blue last Tuesday night he said, "I want you to go. And I want you to stay a few extra days and see if your friend can stay and just do some fun things while you're there."

So, in a little less than a month I will be in Atlanta. I already have interviews set up with a number of authors. I'm going to see some who I met in Dallas. I'm finally getting to meet some I have only talked through via blogging and emailing. I'm going to meet some who are relatively new authors. I'm going to meet and interview a musician who has a beautiful voice and a wonderful CD recently released. And I already have books and CDs being sent to me for giveaways for YOU!

And the icing on the cake? The "never in my wildest dreams" thing? My friend and I will also be attending The Christy Awards and will personally see the announcement of the winners in each category. (I listed all the nominees yesterday; just scroll down to the post before this one.)

It will be a week to remember. I just hope I can sleep between now and then!


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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another Stellar Group of Christy Award Nominees

May was such a crazy month for me that I completely missed the announcement on May 6 of this year's nominees for the Christy Awards. Created in 1999 by a group of publishers, and named after Catherine Marshall's beloved novel Christy the recognizes excellence in Christian fiction. The awards will be presented at a dinner in Atlanta on July 11, 2011.

As expected, the nominees are the "creme de la creme" among Christian fiction. While I have clear favorites in several of the categories, I am conflicted in others and glad it is not up to me to decide which book should receive the award! Seriously, it would be like choosing my favorite child!

Here are the nominees. Books I have reviewed are hyperlinked to that review.

Blood Ransom
by Lisa Harris (Zondervan)

by Kristin Heitzmann (WaterBrook Press)

Sworn to Protect
by DiAnn Mills (Tyndale House Publishers)

The Reluctant Prophet
by Nancy Rue (David C. Cook) - - I cannot BELIEVE I haven't featured this yet. I will remedy that ASAP. This is an absolutely phenomenal book.

The Thorn
by Beverly Lewis (Bethany House Publishers,
a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Waiting
by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell Books,
a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Almost Heaven
by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House Publishers)

Lady in Waiting
by Susan Meissner (WaterBrook Press)

A Season of Miracles
by Rusty Whitener (Kregel Publications)

Crossing Oceans
by Gina Holmes (Tyndale House Publishers)

by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

A Season of Miracles
by Rusty Whitener (Kregel Publications)

Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther
by Ginger Garrett (David C. Cook)

For Time & Eternity
by Allison Pitman (Tyndale House Publishers)

While We’re Far Apart
by Lynn Austin (Bethany House Publishers,
a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Girl in the Gatehouse
by Julie Klassen (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

She Walks in Beauty
by Siri Mitchell (Bethany House Publishers,
a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Within My Heart
by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Bishop
by Steven James (Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Bride Collector
by Ted Dekker (Center Street)

by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan)

To Darkness Fled
by Jill Williamson (Marcher Lord Press)

Konig’s Fire
by Marc Schooley (Marcher Lord Press)

The Last Christian
by David Gregory (WaterBrook Press)

The Charlatan’s Boy
by Jonathan Rogers (WaterBrook Press)

The Healer’s Apprentice
by Melanie Dickerson (Zondervan)

Motorcycles, Sushi, and One Strange Book
by Nancy Rue (Zondervan) - I have not read this one, but my girl has. After avidly reading every one of Nancy Rue's books for tweens (the Sophie series, the Lily series, the Lucy series) she was thrilled that Nancy wrote a new series for teens. I remember when she finished reading this one, she closed the book, smiled contentedly, and said, "This is the best one she's ever written! When will the next one come out?"

If you're looking for a summer reading list, you can't go wrong with these books! More info to come in the days ahead!


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Saturday, June 11, 2011

False Witness

False Witness
Randy Singer
ISBN: 978-1414335698
May, 2011/432 pages/$13.99

Clark Shealy is a bail bondsman with the ultimate bounty on the line: his wife’s life. He has forty-eight hours to find an Indian professor in possession of the Abacus Algorithm—an equation so powerful it could crack all Internet encryption.

Four years later, law student Jamie Brock is working in legal aid when a routine case takes a vicious twist: she and two colleagues learn that their clients, members of the witness protection program, are accused of defrauding the government and have the encrypted algorithm in their possession. After a life-changing trip to the professor’s church in India, the couple also has the key to decode it.

Now they’re on the run from federal agents and the Chinese mafia, who will do anything to get the algorithm. Caught in the middle, Jamie and her friends must protect their clients if they want to survive long enough to graduate.

Randy Singer is a brilliant author who has written another (or actually, updated a previously released) legal thriller that kept me breathlessly turning pages. This is an intense, complex, and captivating novel. The technical details about the encrypted algorithm were a little above my head at times, but it was not difficult to understand the seriousness of the danger and evil that Jamie, her clients, and her friends find themselves facing. Equally as fascinating as the book is the story behind the story, so be sure to keep reading below to find what prompted the writing of this novel.

What is our responsibility for obtaining justice for those in need? Does the end always justify the means? Randy Singer examines these questions while taking his readers through twists and turns on a powerful journey in his novel False Witness. This engrossing legal thriller is a re-telling of Singer’s original novel by the same name. The new version has many substantial changes—some designed to bring about Singer’s original vision for the book inspired by his friend’s funeral.

The deceased was David O’Malley, Singer’s good friend and former client. O’Malley’s wife had asked Singer to give her husband’s eulogy. So, at the funeral, Singer talked about his friend’s generosity and big heart. Everyone there had a David O’Malley story, so heads nodded as he shared his. David’s pastor followed Singer in the pulpit. He spoke about a man named Thomas Kelly. The man was a scoundrel involved in organized crime. He turned on everyone he knew. “You don’t think you know Thomas Kelly, but you do,” the pastor explained. “David O’Malley was Thomas Kelly before he went into the witness protection program—before he came to the Lord.”

Prior to that moment, the only people that knew about David’s past were the government, his family, Singer, and his pastor. There was utter silence as the pastor concluded with a line Singer said he will never forget. “The government can give you a new identity,” he said, “but only Christ can change your life.” It was then that he decided to write this book.

But Singer also wanted to draw attention to one of his passions. He wanted to highlight the challenges of today’s church in India. He believes that most Western Christians are unaware of the persecution of the church and the miraculous things happening there.

India is a land of civil rights, in theory, but of brutal oppression, in fact—especially for the 165 million members of the Dalits, India’s lowest caste. During Singer’s first trip to India a few years ago, he saw firsthand the systemic oppression of the Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) through the Hindu caste system. Singer was astonished by the fact that the world’s largest democracy was also a breeding ground for the world’s largest human-trafficking operations, that it would allow the exploitation of 15 million children in bonded labor, that it would tolerate temple prostitution and other forms of sexual slavery, and that it would foster economic and social systems that oppress nearly 25 percent of its people.

But there is a silver lining. A bond was formed between the Dalits and Christians. The Dalits began asking the church to help educate their children. Hundreds of schools sprang up, providing thousands of Dalit children with an English-based education (critical to landing good jobs) and newfound self-respect. The Dalits responded with another invitation: “If this is the Christian faith, come start a church in our village.” The result is that millions of Dalits and other Indians are coming to Christ, drawn by a religion that believes the ground is equal at the foot of the cross.

Singer was moved by the plight of the Dalit children, struggling to throw off the yoke of oppression and replace it with real freedom and dignity, so he committed to do his part because he believes that “no child should be untouchable.” So he is donating every penny from the sale of False Witness to the Dalit Freedom Network. His novel will take readers from the streets of Las Vegas to the halls of the American justice system and the inner sanctum of the growing church in India with all the trademark twists, turns, and legal intrigue his fans have come to expect.

False Witness begins with Clark Shealy, a bail bondsman with the ultimate bounty on the line—his wife’s life. He has 48 hours to find an Indian professor in possession of the Abacus Algorithm—an equation so powerful it could crack all Internet encryption.

Four years later, law student Jamie Brock is working in legal aid when a routine case takes a vicious twist. She and two colleagues learn that their clients, members of the witness protection program, are accused of defrauding the government and have the encrypted algorithm in their possession. Now they’re on the run from federal agents and the Chinese mafia, who will do anything to get the algorithm. Caught in the middle, Jamie and her friends must protect their clients if they want to survive long enough to graduate.

In this engrossing legal thriller, Singer shows how God is a God of justice and how, in His time, justice will be served.

Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed author and veteran trial attorney. He has penned 10 legal thrillers, including his award-winning debut novel, Directed Verdict. Randy runs his own law practice and has been named to Virginia Business magazine's select list of "Legal Elite" litigation attorneys. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his "Jekyll and Hyde thing"—part lawyer, part pastor. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children. Visit his website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale and The B&B Media Group as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Friday, June 10, 2011

Craving Grace

Craving Grace
Lisa Velthouse
ISBN: 978-1414335773
May, 2011/272 pages/%16.99

For Lisa Velthouse’s whole life, Christianity had been about getting things right. Obeying her parents. Not drinking. Not cursing. Not having premarital sex. Vowing to save her first kiss until she got engaged, even writing a book called . . . well, Saving My First Kiss. (This, it turns out, does not actually help a girl get a date.) Yet after two decades of trying to earn God’s okay, she found her faith was lonely, empty, and unsatisfying. So she turned to more discipline, of course: fasting! By giving up her favorite foods—sweets—Lisa hoped to somehow discover true sweetness and meaning in her relationship with God. Until, one night at a wedding, she denied herself the cake but failed in such a different, unexpected, and world-rocking way that it challenged everything she thought she knew about God and herself. Craving Grace is the true story of a faith dramatically changed: how in one woman’s life God used a bitter heart, a broken promise, and the sweetness of honey to reveal the stunning wonder that is grace.

Lisa Velthouse is a freelance writer and speaker who has been working in communications and ministry for over a decade. She got her start in publishing at the age of 17 when she was selected from over 1,000 applicants to write a year's worth of columns for Brio magazine. While writing for Brio, Lisa began speaking at national evangelical events for teens, and she also came up with the idea for her first book, Saving My First Kiss, which was published shortly after she turned 21. In the years that followed, she worked as a ghostwriter and then served two years on staff at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan.

A believer in God all of her life, Lisa began to feel disenchanted about him during her mid-twenties. So for six months she fasted from sweets in an attempt to learn that God could be sweet. At the start of her fast, she doubted that the process would result in much more than mere discipline, if that. But half a year later, her life and her faith had been transformed. She could see for the first time that God's story is a story of grace, and she was surprised to find that God's grace is the only true sweetness. In her newest book, a memoir titled Craving Grace, Lisa tells the story of her sweets fast and of how life changed for her afterward.

Lisa's writing has been noted in Publishers Weekly and Focus on the Family publications, and she has been a guest on numerous nationwide radio and television programs. Her travels in speaking have taken her across the United States and abroad. She is married to Nathan, an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps; they live wherever military assignments take them. Read more from Lisa at her website.

As someone who has struggled with legalism, I could relate to and liked parts of this book. A time or two I worried that the author was skating perilously close to endorsing "cheap grace," and I was relieved when she specifically addressed that topic and opposed it. I did struggle a bit with the concept of community living that she enters into with some other couples; I don't personally "get" or agree with that. And I do think the timing of the book's release is rather unfortunate; like it or not, her time serving on staff at Mars Hill Church and the book's endorsement by Rob Bell, whose own recently released book is extremely controversial, is an unfortunate association for those who do not agree with the philosophy he presents. However, the underlying premise of Lisa's book is spot-on: the very things we do to become closer to God actually lead us farther away from Him when they become ritualistic practices done only for the sake of checking the box that said we did it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Shattered - A Must-Read

Shattered: A Daughter's Regret
Melody Carlson
ISBN: 978-1600069499
April, 2011/208 pages/$14.99

Everybody sneaks out of the house now and then. It doesn't hurt anybody.

Cleo Neilson is the only one who knows why her mother was in a seedy part of town that one night, but she’s determined to keep the secret that’s breaking her heart. Walk through this teen fiction novel of grief, guilt, faith, and forgiveness.

You won’t forget the journey.

Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Melody Carlson has once again written a phenomenal novel that absolutely pulses with the emotions, temptations, and hearts of teens. Shattered is indeed the word to describe Cleo's life and heart when she realizes the connection between a seemingly (to her) harmless, if mildly rebellious, choice she made one Friday evening and the devastating news her family received on Saturday. Now she must deal with not only the overwhelming grief but the guilt that she consumes her, and she is convinced that no one can ever find out her secret. How she copes with this problem that is bigger than she can handle just increases her pain and guilt and adds more secrets to her weighed-down conscience, and her life soon spirals even more out-of-control. Although this novel is written for teens, adults can certainly certainly benefit from it as well. Who among us hasn't thought that burying our sin is the easiest way to deal with it? I applaud Melody Carlson for writing the Secrets series and addressing these difficult yet very real issues that are prevalent in our world today. I highly recommend this book and this series and I am passing this one along to my teen-age daughter; she'll have plenty of time to read it since I will be protectively locking her in her room from now on!

Melody Carlson has written around 200 books for teens, women and children. That's a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a "storyteller." Her books range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She's won a number of awards (including the Rita and Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog. To find out more about Melody Carlson, visit her website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Thursday, June 9, 2011

How Huge the Night

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

How Huge the Night
Kregel Publications (March 9, 2011)

Heather Munn and Lydia Munn


Heather Munn was born in Northern Ireland of American parents and grew up in the south of France. She decided to be a writer at the age of five when her mother read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books aloud, but worried that she couldn’t write about her childhood since she didn’t remember it. When she was young, her favorite time of day was after supper when the family would gather and her father would read a chapter from a novel. Heather went to French school until her teens, and grew up hearing the story of Le Chambonsur-Lignon, only an hour’s drive away. She now lives in rural Illinois with her husband, Paul, where they offer free spiritual retreats to people coming out of homelessness and addiction. She enjoys wandering in the woods, gardening, writing, and splitting wood.

Lydia Munn was homeschooled for five years because there was no school where her family served as missionaries in the savannahs of northern Brazil. There was no public library either, but Lydia read every book she could get her hands on. This led naturally to her choice of an English major at Wheaton College. Her original plan to teach high school English gradually transitioned into a lifelong love of teaching the Bible to both adults and young people as a missionary in France. She and her husband, Jim, have two children: their son, Robin, and their daughter, Heather.


Fifteen-year-old Julien Losier just wants to fit in. But after his family moves to a small village in central France in hopes of outrunning the Nazis, he is suddenly faced with bigger challenges than the taunting of local teens.

Nina Krenkel left her country to obey her father's dying command: Take your brother and leave Austria. Burn your papers. Tell no one you are Jews. Alone and on the run, she arrives in Tanieux, France, dangerously ill and in despair.

Thrown together by the chaos of war, Julien begins to feel the terrible weight of the looming conflict and Nina fights to survive. As France falls to the Nazis, Julien struggles with doing what is right, even if it is not enough-and wonders whether or not he really can save Nina from almost certain death.

Based on the true story of the town of Le Chambon-the only French town honored by Israel for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust-How Huge the Night is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens turning the pages as it teaches them about a fascinating period of history and inspires them to think more deeply about their everyday choices.


“The Munns have written an engrossing historical novel that is faithful to the actual events of World War II in western Europe during the tumultuous year 1940. But How Huge the Night is more than good history; it is particularly refreshing because the reader sees the conflict through the lives of teenagers who are forced to grapple with their honest questions about the existence and goodness of God in the midst of community, family, and ethnic tensions in war-ravaged France.”—Lyle W. Dorsett, Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

“Seldom have the horrors of war upon adolescents—or the heroism of which they are capable—been so clearly portrayed. I loved this coming-of-age story.”—Patricia Sprinkle, author of Hold Up the Sky

“The book expertly weaves together the lives of its characters at a frightening moment in conflicted times. As we read of their moral dilemmas and of their choices, we too wonder, Would I do has these in the story have done?”—Karen Mains, Director, Hungry Souls

If you would like to read an excerpt from How Huge the Night, go HERE

Watch the book video:


I found this to be a good, but not great, novel, but it may just be a matter of personal taste. I had a hard time getting into the book and felt like it was a bit choppy as it transitioned between two parallel stories which only merged near the end of the book. The overall story had merit; the style just didn't click with me as much as other books have. As you can see from the endorsements, however, others found it to be a compelling book. I encourage you to visit other reviewers on the CFBA tour to read their reviews or to check out this book for yourself.


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