Sunday, September 3, 2017

Christian Fiction Reader's Retreat belated update

I would like to be able to say that I can’t believe I forgot to write a post about the Christian Fiction Reader’s Retreat that I went to three weeks ago, but that would be a lie.  I’m honestly not surprised in the least that it completely slipped my mind, until a friend reminded me just today that I’d been slacking (not what they said, but still true).  But, better late than never, right?  
I don’t have many photos - I was too busy just soaking everything in (plus, I forgot my charger and my phone was dying) and I have an ongoing list of people that I wish I had gotten a picture with, but missed.  So if we’re there next year, I’m taking pictures with /of everyone!  Haha!  So this is mostly going to be stories and happy chatter, with a few visuals thrown in.  :)

To begin, my trip to Cincinnati, OH, got off to an auspicious start with a flat tire at the bottom of my driveway caused by this tiny piece of metal.



So, I intended to leave about 10am and ended up actually getting on my way closer to 11:30am. Thankfully, it happened while I was at home and my dear family took care of me: with my uncle calling a friend of his to fit me in to get my tire repaired, then my dad bringing me a couple spare tires, when we discovered mine was ruined - I’m so thankful for my family!

Despite the rough start, I finally made it around 6pm and met up with Denise (who graciously offered to share her room with Jessica and me [I don’t have any pics with her! :( ]) and we decided to head to the hotel and see who was already there.  One of the most exciting moments for me happened while we were standing in the lobby of the hotel where the retreat was being held and Denise and I were talking and I heard someone call my name and turned around and saw Jen Turano waving at me!!  I couldn’t believe that one of my very favorite authors recognized me and knew my name!  I adore her books (and she is as sweet and hysterical in person as her books would lead you to believe) and was SO excited to meet her!  So, that was fantastic!  And we got to meet and talk with Dawn Crandall and Joanna Davidson Politano (her debut novel releases a month from today!), which was a lot of fun.  

I apologize if I’m giving too many unwanted details, so skipping ahead - the next morning, waiting in line to register, we got to hang out with Pepper Basham’s daughter, Lydia (who made the amazing bookmark pictured below).  Lydia, on the very off chance that you ever stumble across this, I adored meeting you!  And I know you’ll be excellent in theater.  :)  We learned a lot of behind the scene things about Pepper’s books (which I actually haven’t had the chance to read yet, but I so need to buy a copy of Just the Way You Are - I’ve heard so many great things!) and were treated to Lydia’s talent for accents.

Isn't this bookmark just lovely?!
She also made a gorgeous one for Carrie for her
book boyfriend that I totally would've "borrowed."  ;)

We picked up the awesome swag bags that everyone was telling us about (the propaganda is all true) and went to find seats, though as soon as we did, we got shifted around and split into teams for games (I got to be on Melissa Tagg’s team!).  I won’t add too many more details, because if I did, this post would be so long!  Which would be fine with me, but I know some people have lives outside of books and blogs.  ;)  But it was phenomenal!  Carrie and Annie and everyone else involved did a fantastic job!  I can’t begin to fathom everything that went into creating and executing such a thing and I know how tired they were at the end of it, but it was such an amazing day!  There’s just something about being in a room full of people (there were roughly 200 of us) who all share at the very least, two things in common:  A love of God and a love of books.  We spent roughly 10 hours together, praising God and talking about books and writing and fictional people (the book boyfriends session was so much fun!).  I got to meet so many amazing people, readers and authors alike, and made some great new friends!  And you all need to be proud of me - I only bought 3 new books!  This was huge, considering how many others I wanted to buy, but managed to resist.
I’m definitely hoping I can go next year, wherever it’s at (I heard Jen Turano is going to be one of the speakers - how can I miss that?!) and I promise if I do go, I’ll remember my cell phone charger and will take more photos.  You can keep scrolling if you’d like to see the few I actually did get.  :)

Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read my belated ramblings!

Now, for photos.  Be amazed at how few I have - and I still need to get Melissa Tagg to send me the one on her phone . . . .

Meeting Katie Ganshert!
(she also recognized me and stopped
over with "You're Sarah, right?" so excited
to meet and hug her!)


Meeting Dana R. Lynn!
I won her book during author speed chats
and got to spend a few minutes talking with her -
she's such a sweet lady and I'm looking forward to reading her book!


Kristi Ann Hunter!  I tried to abscond with an
advanced copy of her new book, but alas, Carrie and Annie were
watching me.  ;)

Fifth time's the charm, I suppose!  Ha!
It only took 5 tries and restarting the computer
for it to load this photo of Ronie Kendig!
I was so excited to find an early copy of her newest
book in my swag bag!  I literally couldn't stop
smiling when I found out about it.  And getting to talk
about Dane with her was so much fun!



Becky Wade is the sweetest lady!  She let me talk her
ear off for a few moments and I seriously
wanted to claim John Lawson as my
"book boyfriend" for the day. :)








Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Out of Darkness, blog tour plus GIVEAWAY!




Description:
Elisabeth Allen gave her heart to Jesus as a little girl and to Drew Marek as a teenager. When their wedding day finally arrives, its the happiest day of her lifeuntil a car bomb transforms her dream come true into a living nightmare.

As Best Man at the wedding, Gabriel Di Salvo promises Drewhis best friend and CIA partnerhell look after Elisabeth, but he never dreams it will become necessary so soon. As Elisabeth struggles to put the pieces of her life back together without Drew, Gabe becomes her rock, and as they share their grief and begin to heal, their friendship gradually deepens into something more.

Three years later, Gabe and Elisabeth are planning a future together when he receives a shocking call from the one man who can upend his happiness: Drew. Suspecting someone at the CIA is behind his abduction, Drew refuses to come home. Instead, he asks Gabe to bring Elisabeth to him. Now Gabe just has to figure out how to let her go.
Drew and Elisabeth race across Europe, dodging international arms dealers and attempting to reclaim what was stolen from them. But years of captivity and torture have left their mark on Drew. He is no longer the same boy Elisabeth fell in love with, but he is still her husband, and shes determined to build something new and leave her relationship with Gabe in the past, if her heart will get the memo.

When their enemies close in and the threat of a terrorist attack escalates, Gabe may be the only person they can trust. Drew, Elisabeth, and Gabe are thrown into a fight for their livesone that will test their loyalties to God, country . . . and each other.



About the Author:
Erynn Newman is a pastors kid, raised in churches all over the Eastern Seaboard. Since earning her degree in Christian Studies, she has traveled the world and served as a missionary, a counselor, an ESL teacher, and a nanny. Though she has never worked with the CIA, her DVR contains a veritable Whos Who of international spies. She is a Carolina girl, a wife, and Mama to a very busy little boy, two cats, and a gaggle of characters that live inside her head.






My Review: 4 stars
I have mixed thoughts regarding this book.  On one hand, I loved the characters and was so into the story!  On the other hand, there were a few things that bothered me a bit, looking back.  As far as Im aware, this is Erynn Newmans first book, aside from the prequel novellette (which I enjoyed) and as such, I didnt really have many expectations.  I was hoping to be entertained and enjoy the adventure, both of which definitely happened, and I always look for characters to fall in love with, something that is also true of this story.  With those things in mind, I am definitely looking forward to another book from this author!

Ms. Newman has an interesting writing style that drew me in from the very beginning!  I was curious to read this story, as I love suspense and adventure, and the synopsis had me wondering where the story would go before I ever turned the first page.  I enjoyed how she pulled me into the characterslives and it seemed as though I was right there with them, even when it was painful.  She did an excellent job of creating characters I would care about and come to think of as friends.  I cried with them and ached at their pain, while also cheering them on and hoping for a happily ever after.”  Or at least, something close to it.  I appreciated how the mystery kept me guessing and the suspense had me wishing for just a few more minutes,more than once.  I have no idea how many pages this story has, but I have to confess, I wanted it to be longer.  I loved the pace of the beginning, the hooksat the end of chapters that kept me coming back, getting to know Elisabeth and Gabe, and watching them walk through their grief.  After that, the middle and the ending felt rather rushed.  Its as though the story reached a certain point and then everything focused on getting to the end.  The characters began falling a bit flat and I didnt connect with them as thoroughly.  Some issues were a bit glossed over and I wouldve really liked to have seen more of the investigation, maybe been given another clue or two as to whodunit.”  I dont want to spoil anything, but I will say that there were some heavier topics and issues the characters needed to address and I felt as though we were simply told how they were handling it, rather than getting to walk through those things with them.  I dont know if the author simply didnt want to take the chance of slowing down the story, or maybe it didnt fit into her intention when starting out, but I wouldve loved to have seen a bit more depth in that regard.  


I have no idea who made this photo, but I love it and am borrowing it!
Thank you, whoever made this.  My complete lack of visual creativity salutes you. :)
Click here to purchase a copy!


Undoubtedly my favorite part of this story was the faith element.  I loved how Ms. Newman chose to show it through the darkest moments.  I appreciated how authentic it was, especially in how the characters approached God.  They never came across as perfect.  We see their doubts as clearly as their faith, but they never entirely gave up or lost hope, despite the trials they faced.  I enjoyed how it was so naturally woven throughout the story, never feeling forced or contrived.  Some may find it preachy,but I definitely appreciated the depth and the willingness of the author to portray Christianity with so much authenticity.

Overall, I enjoyed this story, despite it feeling a bit rushed.  I will definitely be looking forward to the authors next book (Im really hoping it might be a sequel)!

Now, for the part you probably scrolled right past my lengthy review for: giveaway details!


To celebrate her tour, Erynn is giving away a grand prize of a signed copy of Out of Darkness, a signed copy of First Light, The Joy Eternal~A Sweet and Bitter Providence CD, a $10 Starbucks gift card, and Italian Chocolate Hazelnut Creme Cookies!! Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!  And be sure to check the other posts (listed below) for more opportunities to win!



Blog Stops!


August17: Genesis 5020



August 19: Fiction Aficionado






August 22: Faithfully Bookish

August 22: Mommynificent




August 24: 100 pages per hour

August 25: Carpe Diem


August 26: J.E. Grace Bog

August 26: Karen Sue Hadley


August 27: Back Porch Reads





August 29: Remembrancy


August 30: Henry Happens

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My Review: Chasing Secrets


"So I had to let it go.  It wasn't easy.  It was definitely a daily thing and sometimes an hourly thing, but eventually, it got easier.  And then one day I realized that I had truly release the hate and he had no more power over me."  - Haley Callaghan

Description:
Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan may be in South Carolina, but when a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, her life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she's made a career out of taking care of others. But after an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her--and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he's not about to let Haley fight this battle alone.

In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories--and the depths of the heart--Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley's past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won't quit



About the Author:
Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice series, the Deadly Reunions series, and the Hidden Identity series, as well as Always Watching, Without Warning, and Moving Target in the Elite Guardians series. She is the winner of two ACFW Carol Awards, the Selah Award, and the Inspirational Readers' Choice Award. She has a master's degree in education from Converse College and lives in South Carolina. Learn more at www.lynetteeason.com.




My Review: 4.5 stars
Chasing Secrets is the fourth book in the Elite Guardiansseries and one I have been anxiously awaiting since meeting Haley in the very first book!  I can very happily say that I was not disappointed in the least!  I was drawn in from the first page and hated to put it down - I just had to know what would happen next!  

As always, Ms. Eason kept me on the edge of my seat from cover to cover and begging the clock for just a few more minutesof reading time.  I love her writing style, how her words breathe life into characters and their story, making them seem real and like dear friends by the time the final page is turned.  I never want her books to end, despite dying to know if Im right about whodunit.”  I loved the suspense that kept ratcheting higher and higher, causing me to race toward the ending, regardless of my intention to savor this last book in the series.  My only negativecomment is that I found the first few chapters a bit discombobulating, as things happened very quickly and were spread across multiple view points that seemed disconnected.  It smoothed out once I caught up and figured out what was going on, but the time line tripped me up a bit, at first.  

Of course, I loved the characters, too!  I so enjoy how every book in this series stays connected with the same characters.  The ladies from the Elite Guardians and their significant others continue to step in and out of each others lives, offering friendship and help along the way.  So though this is Haley Callaghans story (at last!), I was also kept up to date on the couples from the previous books, as well.  And I so adored Haleys character!  She is strong and bold, with a killer Irish accent, and a heart that pours into others.  I loved her compassion and desire to reach out to the hurting around her, even when her efforts were rebuffed.  She isnt perfect, but her heart shines on these pages.  

Steven Rothwell is one of those heroes that makes me smile - from his rapport with Quinn (from Moving Target [click the title to read my review]) to his desire to care for Haley, to his strength under pressure.  He is determined to watch over Haley and anyone around her, while she focuses on caring for others and tries to figure out her past.  I loved his support of her, being her sounding board and anchor in a world whirling out of their control.  He is driven and stubborn, struggling to accept events in his life, and holding on to bitterness from his past.  I appreciated the conversations between Steven and Haley, some revolving around forgiveness and the pain of the past.  I saved several quotes from those pages, needing the reminders they held.  

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys romantic suspense!

Thanks again for taking the time to stop by!  As always, links are below!
 Have a fantastic day! 








Saturday, August 12, 2017

My Review: Just Look Up


"It won't change anything for me to worry about it.  We'll do what we can do, and it will be enough." - Ryan Brooks

Description:
After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back homea quaint tourist town full of memories she'd just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on worksomething her eclectic family doesn't understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren't ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can't find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he's found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all alongif only she'd just look up.


About the Author:
Courtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theater director, and playwright. Change of Heart is her fifth novel and is set in the same town as Paper Hearts. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists and was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category.









My Review: 5 stars!
As this is my first book by Courtney Walsh, I wasnt sure what to expect.  I knew it was contemporary romance, but would I like her style?  Would it be a new take, or the same old thing?  Id heard so many excellent things and one of my friends very highly recommended it, so I decided to give it a go.  And Im so glad that I did!  I immediately found myself drawn into this story, pulled into these characterslives and wishing I could take a trip to Harbor Pointe, MI.  I have definitely found another favorite author, whose books will be finding a home on my keeper shelves.

The story line itself, intrigued me.  A character that hides behind her phone, keeping it as a shield between herself and the world.  It is so fitting for the time, where electronic devices are everywhere and so many seem so attached to them.  I was curious to see how Ms. Walsh would tackle this subject and I have to say that I think she did an excellent job!  I felt as though every time someone admonished Lane Kelley to look up,they were also speaking to me, challenging me to pay attention to the world around me.  I loved that!  I found this story to be a journey, both for the characters and myself.  The further I read, the more I found myself pausing to really see the people around me, wondering what Id been missing.  I also loved how Ms. Walsh took care to describe the world around Lane, placing emphasis on the things she was missing by always running, going full speed ahead.  
I have to confess, when I first met Lane Kelley, she didnt impress me.  She seemed selfish and stubborn, unwilling to bend.  But, as I got to know her and saw beyond the cool facade she showed everyone, I found someone I would love to have as a friend.  Shes spent most of her life feeling as though she doesnt belong, doesnt measure up.  My heart broke for her, for the lies shes believed, for how hard shes worked to attain something that was always right in front of her.  I loved watching the transformation her character goes through, learning to love and allow herself to be loved in return.

What do I say about Ryan Brooks?  So many things . . . . first, he is SO swoony!  Not only is he nice to look at, but hes got a great sense of humor, doesnt always take life too seriously, knows how to have fun, focuses on the important things in life, and is willing to drop everything for a friend in need.  Oh, and he has a chivalrous streak a mile wide, which just adds to the swoony-ness.  I loved getting to know him and seeing his heart for Lane, despite her standoffish behavior and sometimes cranky attitude.  And their romance was so sweet!  There were definitely several *sigh* worthy moments, a couple where I just wanted to Gibbs slapthem, and the great just have to smileending.

Overall, I would highly recommend reading this book, whether romance is your genre of choice, or not.  I loved being challenged by the message with this story and would happily give it more than 5 stars, were that an option.  


Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read my review!  There's a chance that while you were reading this, I was at the Christian Fiction Reader's Retreat in Cincinnati, OH!  I might do a blog post with some photos and stories about the awesome people I'm hoping to harass while I'm there!  I haven't decided, yet, but I am super excited about it!

Anyway, hope you have a wonderful day!  As always, purchase links are below, and I really hope you'll check out this book!





Monday, July 31, 2017

A Name Unknown blog tour, plus GIVEAWAY!


There are a couple quotes I'd love to share, but I don't want to spoil anything or ruin the fun of finding them yourself, so I'll refrain . . . this time.

Description:
Shes Out to Steal His Name.
Will He Steal Her Heart Instead?

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpocketsnow they focus on high value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemarys challenge of a lifetime comes when shes assigned to determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. How does one steal a familys history, their very name?

As Europe moved closer to World War I, rumors swirl around Peter Holstein. Awkward and solitary, but with access to the king, many fear his influence. But Peter cant help his German last name and wants to prove his loyalty to the Crownso he can go back to anonymously writing a series of popular adventure novels. When Rosemary arrives on his doorstop pretending to be a well- credentialed historian, Peter believes shes the right person to help him dig through his familys past.

When danger and suspicion continue to mount, though, and both realize theyre in a race against time to discover the truthabout Peters past and about the undeniable attraction kindling between them.

About the Author:
Roseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, shes homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of over a dozen historical novels and novellas, ranging from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her British series. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to make their way into her novelsto offset her real life, which is blessedly boring. You can learn more about her and her stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.


My Review: 4 stars
A Name Unknown is the first book in a new series by one of my favorite authors and I was so looking forward to reading it!  Ive very much enjoyed Ms. Whites previous book, since first discovering her Culper Ring series, and have been eagerly anticipating this one.  A heroine who happens to be a thief, looking to steal a mans name?  Yes, please!  I just had to know how that could possibly work out!  I can happily say that I enjoyed this book, though there were a couple things I mightve changed.
As always, Ms. Whites writing is excellent!  I love her writing style, the way she describes things, how she brings her characters to life, and the unique story lines always found between the covers of her books.  I do confess that it took me a bit to really get into the story, but once I did, I found myself rushing to the end.  I dont believe Ive read any books set in England just before the start of WWI and I was fascinated by the history and the rising tensions regarding ones nationality.  Its obvious the amount of research the author put into the story and I loved the historical background and details.  And I quite liked the characters Ms. White introduced in this story.  From Peters friends, to Rosemarys family, to some of the towns people.  Im very curious as to whos story will be next and am hoping at least a few of these delightful people will be back!

Rosemary Gresham is definitely a unique heroine!  A thief, tasked with learning where Peter Holsteins loyalty lies, she masquerades as a librarian.  Despite her questionable employment, I liked Rosemary from the first.  Her love for her family is obvious within just a page or two and I admired her desire to see them cared for, even if it meant doing something that began to rub on her conscience.  I had to laugh at her quick wit and occasionally quick temper, as well as smile over her defense of those who cant defend themselves.  Rosemary is a survivor with a cynical outlook on life, until meeting Peter, someone who seems to be a genuinely kind person.  I loved watching her forced out of her element and having to adjust her preconceived notions.

Peter Holstein is an excellent hero for Rosemary.  He is patient, kind, a willing listener, and someone who sees her for who she truly is.  He refuses to let her hide herself.  They are both very observant, occupational hazards, and note things about the other that they would generally prefer to keep hidden.  I loved his quirkiness, his tendency to get distracted and completely ignore everything going on around him, his faith, and even his faltering speech, for its something that has made him a compassionate person.  He defies Rosemarys expectations of the upper-class, while she helps him see the world and his writing from another perspective.  

My favorite part of this story was either the romance between Rosemary and Peter, (which is so sweet!) or the faith woven throughout.  Peter truly tries to live his faith and it plays into every decision he makes, and how he treats those around him.  There is wisdom found within the pages of this story that touched my heart.

My only negative comment was that I found part of the ending a bit contrived, with too many characters in play and a couple belated plot twists that I didnt think necessary to tie up loose ends.  Despite that, I did love the final chapter and was laughing and smiling as I turned the last page.

You can purchase a copy here.


As I'm sure you'd like me to just get on with the giveaway details, I'll put you out of your misery now.  :)

Ms. White is giving away a grand prize of a paperback copy of A Name Unknown, along with 2 dozen cookies!!  Click below to enter!  And be sure to leave me a comment to gain 9 extra entries!

And be sure to check out the other stops on the tour (listed below) and collect entries from each one! 
July 20: Genesis 5020
July 21: Pause for Tales
July 22: Bigreadersite
July 23: Vicky Sluiter
July 26: Carpe Diem
July 27: cherylbbookblog
July 27: Splashes of Joy
July 31: Cafinated Reads
July 31: Artistic Nobody
Oh, and one last thing!   One of Rosemary Gresham's favorite cookies is a ginger fairing (I'm wondering if they're  the ones pictured above) and we have the recipe for them!  So it's listed below, as well!  If you make them, please let me know how they turn out!  I've not had the chance to try them, yet.
Ginger Fairings:
100 grams butter, cold and diced
225 grams all-purpose flour
¼ heaping teaspoon salt
2 heaping teaspoons baking powder
2 heaping teaspoons baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon ginger
2 heaping teaspoons mixed spice
100 grams superfine (caster) sugar
4 heaping tablespoons golden syrup

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices in a stand mixer. Add the butter and beat until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Stir in sugar.

In a small saucepan, warm the golden syrup until it’s clarified a bit; stir into the flour mixture until a dough forms. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and put on prepared baking sheets a few inches apart.

Bake 8-10 minutes, until golden. Cool a few minutes on the trays and then transfer to a cooling rack.