Monday, September 29, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: Chain of Mercy by Brenda Anderson

Welcome to Christian Book Review Blog, Brenda! Thank you for being here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thank you for welcoming me, Aizess! I’ve been married to Marvin for 27 years, and I’ve been a full-time mom for 22 of those years. An empty nest is lurking in our near future. We live in a suburb of northern Minneapolis, MN with our three kids (two in college and one a recent college grad) and one sassy calico cat. My dream is to live in an A-framed log home looking out over Lake Superior.

When did you first discover that you loved writing? 

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Even back in grade school I wrote plays that our class put on for the school. Writing a book had always been a dream, but it wasn’t until nine years ago that God got a hold of me and said, “I gave you this gift. What are you going to do with it?”

Why do you write the type of books that you do?

I tend to be a serious person, and my favorite novels have always been those that deal with the gritty side of life, so when I put fingers to keyboard, that’s what came out. My books aren’t light, but they show God’s love shining through the darkness.

What was your greatest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?

My greatest obstacle is myself. First in convincing myself that writing wasn’t a waste of time, then in learning that rejections aren’t personal. I’m blessed to be surrounded by a family of supporters. My husband is my biggest cheerleader, and our kids and parents are close behind. Having their constant encouragement makes it much easier to overcome obstacles.

Has writing changed your life in any way?

Absolutely. One of the biggest blessings is meeting new people, people who totally “get” your passion for writing. With writing, I’ve been forced out of my safe, introvert bubble by traveling alone to conferences around the country and pitching my stories to industry professionals. Definitely out of my comfort zone.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

My favorite verse has to be “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me Heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13 – 14. When I’ve had those moments of wanting to quit, I just have to read that verse, and I keep pressing on.

Is there a book you’ve read that has been truly spectacular?

I love Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Jane is such an unusual heroine. She isn’t attractive, wealthy, or athletic, attributes that seem to draw the reader, yet she is a true hero. She’s gutsy, intelligent, wise, and passionate. The story is dark, yet it offers hope.

What’s the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

In 2012, my contemporary romance was a finalist in the ACFW Genesis contest. At the conference that year for the banquet, all finalists entered the banquet hall before the rest of the attendees. As I’m entering the room, rushing toward a table, I felt my panty hose start to slither over my hips and creep down my legs. Pretty soon I was waddling toward a table, praying the hose would stay above my knees. I grabbed a table and sat, wondering if I’d have a chance to sneak to the rest room. When the rest of the attendees entered, my critique partners joined me at the table, and I whispered to Shannon, telling her my problem. She told me to slide them off. No one would notice. So, I slipped them off and Shannon tucked them away in her purse. I was not surprised to find that episode detailed in one of Shannon’s published novels.  

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Please tell us about the featured book.

Chain of Mercy is the first novel I ever completed, so it holds a very special place in my heart. It’s the first in the four book Coming Home series. Here’s the back cover copy:

Manhattan businessman Richard Brooks was at the top of the world, drunk with success, wealth, and women, and he proudly lived that prodigal lifestyle, until one disastrous evening, when that world came crashing down.

Richard flees to Minneapolis where he repairs ancient boilers instead of solving corporate problems, and he's determined to live the solitary life he now deserves.

But Executive Sheila Peterson has other plans for the handsome custodian. Richard appears to be the perfect match for the no-strings-attached romance she's after, but she soon discovers that he's hiding more than the designer clothes in his closet.

Can you please give us the first page?

“The good news is that the company only lost a million this quarter.” Richard Brooks smirked at his assistant and slapped the quarterly report down on her desk.
“That’s the good news?” Verna stopped typing and turned to him, propping a hand on her hip, her Southern accent always a welcome sound in this sea of nasal New Yorkers. “Young man, in my day people didn’t make a million dollars, much less lose it. Now, tell me, if that’s the good news, what’s the bad?”
He stared at the Picasso print above Verna’s desk. Reminded him of his life. “It looks like we’re going to have no choice but to close the Phoenix plant.” How had he missed the unmistakable signs of its mismanagement? Now, because of his lack of foresight, hundreds of people would lose their jobs. In all his years in New York City, he’d never made such a costly blunder.
“Goodness. And you’re blaming yourself. I can see it in those beautiful blues of yours.”
“I should have seen it coming months ago. All the signs were there.”
“It just so happens you’ve had a few other things on your mind lately.”
The muscles in his cheeks tightened. “I’m not paid to think of other things.”
“You stop putting yourself down. It’s time I see that gorgeous smile again.”
He chuckled. “Happy?” Only Verna could make him smile under these circumstances.

Where can readers learn more information about you?

They can find me at:

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GIVEAWAY!
(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Brenda has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of Chain of MercyPrint giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday October 11, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: Truth Be Told by Carol Cox

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"Sometimes the truth can be dangerous. . . 

When Amelia Wagner takes over her father's newspaper in 1893 Granite Springs, Arizona, she vows to carry on the paper's commitment to reporting only the truth. But Amelia soon learns that even the truth can have serious consequences. Her father's revealing articles about the Great Western Investment Company have caught the attention of the wrong people, and pressure mounts for Amelia to retract her father's statements.

Determined to find out the real story, Amelia begins her own investigation. She's joined by Benjamin Stone, a Great Western employee who's been assigned to keep tabs on her for the good of the company, a man Amelia finds both perplexing and intriguing.

What they uncover stuns them both--and has far-reaching implications for not only Ben and Amelia but all of Granite Springs. Can they reveal the truth before the enemy finds a way to silence them for good?"

     After reading and enjoying Love In Disguise by Carol Cox, which made it to my 2012 Top Ten Books list, I was excited to delve into Truth Be Told. Written in simple, down-to-earth prose, I was easily transported to 1800s Granite Springs, Arizona––a quaint western town rife with interesting townspeople.

     Amelia Wagner is a woman determined to continue her father's legacy of truth by reporting only the truth. It was refreshing to see her commitment to integrity––to the point that she was willing to print a retraction of her deceased father's articles on Great Western if she discovered they were untrue. Ben was a gentlemanly hero and his spiritual journey, similar to Jonah's story in the Bible, was uplifting. Amelia and Ben's romance was humorous, at times, and filled with pockets of tension, due to their separate loyalties and Ben's initial deception. Seeing their evolving romance was sweet.

     I enjoyed the mystery and suspense surrounding Great Western––the owner, Owen Merrick, and his partners-in-crime were good villains. The other secondary characters were a great addition, as well. From Jimmy, the enthusiastic paper boy, to Clara, Amelia's new friend, they added an extra layer of depth to the story. I especially liked Homer, the former partner of Amelia's father, because of his kind, fatherly attentiveness. 

     I enjoyed Carol Cox's latest addition and give it 4 out of 5 stars. If you're hunting for a western with a truth seeking journalist, a dosage of mystery and suspense, and a dash of romance, try Truth Be Told. Plus, you'll learn how to run an 1800s newspaper and experience an edge-of-your-seat ending.

** Thanks to Bethany House publishers for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, which I have given. **

Monday, September 22, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: Rebels by Jill Williamson

Welcome to Christian Book Review Blog, Jill! Thank you for being here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure! My name is Jill Williamson. I’m the author of twelve books, most of which are fantasy novels of some kind. I live in Eastern Oregon, where there are more deer and cows than people.

When did you first discover that you loved writing? 

I think I discovered it in tenth grade. We were assigned to write a short story. And mine was about twenty pages and not even half done. My teacher finally made me turn it in. But I didn’t start writing books with the intent of getting them published until 2004, when I was twenty-nine years old.

Why do you write the type of books that you do?

Because they are the kind of books I most like to read.

What was your greatest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?

For me it was completing that first book. It took me three-and-a-half years. And I overcame it by writing and writing and making myself write until I finished it. And going through that process is so important for a new writer. New writers tend to start lots of stories, but finishing one is a major milestone and learning experience.

Has writing changed your life in any way?

Sure. I don’t have time to scrapbook anymore. *grin* Writing has given me a voice in this world. I’m an introvert and don’t do well with people. (If you met me at a conference and disagree, it’s because I’m comfortable with other writers. I feel like I’m with my people.) But in every-day society, I’m quiet and withdrawn. But writing gives me a voice, and that has made a huge difference in my life.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

There are so many. I really can’t say there was only one. But one of my favorites is Philippians 4: 6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Is there a book you’ve read that has been truly spectacular?

So many! If you mean recently, I’ve become slightly obsessed with Brandon Sanderson. His book The Rithmatist was so much fun! But so was Steelheart. And so was Mistborn. And so was Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. So … yeah.

What’s the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

I don’t know about ever, but this past June my friend and co-author Stephanie Morrill was unable to attend a conference we usually attend together. So I printed out her picture and put it on a stick and carried it around with me. 


Please tell us about the featured book.
Rebels is the third and final installment of The Safe Lands trilogy. We last left Mason and Omar, sentenced to liberation. And now readers will finally find out what that means! Here is the back cover copy:

The remnant of Glenrock has been scattered. But they are not beaten.

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The Safe Lands have long kept the true meaning of Liberation secret from their people. But after being sentenced to Liberation themselves, Mason and Omar soon discover the truth.

Levi watched his brothers’ public sentencing and tries to hold out hope they are still alive, He is forced to focus his attention elsewhere, however, when his new wife, Jemma, is captured and made the Safe Lands’ newest Queen. His only choice to save Jemma may be to take up Omar’s old role of undercover vigilante, leading the rebels in their quest to overthrow the government. But will Levi’s new role be enough?

Meanwhile, Jemma’s sister, Shaylinn, is ready to give birth to the “Safe Lands’” children … but not even Ciddah is sure they can be delivered safely in the midst of a rebellion. And Mason must face the fact Omar’s illness could be fatal.

If they can all unite their efforts, together they may be able to expose the Safe Lands’ lies to the people. But if they fail, they will all surely die.

Can you please give us the first page?

Chapter 1

Levi woke to the sounds of chaos. Footsteps thumping through the house. Giggling toddlers. Screeching children. Women unsuccessfully shushing.

He rolled over. No sign of his wife. She must be up already and keeping the children out of the room.

It all came back then: Mason and Omar had been captured. Mason had been shot in the leg. Omar had been beat up by General Otley.

At least Otley was dead now. But what would become of his brothers?

Outside the room, someone banged against the door, followed by an ear-piercing squeal.

Levi wondered what time it was, but this room had no clock. This was no way to remain inconspicuous to neighbors. Not in a place where children live only at the boarding school.

When he’d finally laid down that morning—after having seen his brothers captured and after Nash had brought Shaylinn, the medic named Ciddah, and Kendall’s baby boy to Zane’s house—there had been over fifty bodies crammed into the small dwelling in the Midlands. They’d covered the floor, sleeping side by side and head to toe.

Now all of them seemed to be wide awake and filled with energy.

Levi slid out of bed and opened the door. Three little girls ran past, nearly knocking him over, filled with shrieking giggles. They all met at the end of the hallway, colliding like cornered chicks.

“Give it back!” one yelled. “I found it!”

Then they ran back toward him.

He reached out and caught the first. It was Eliza’s Kaylee, a rhinestone butterfly pinched between her fingers. The other two stopped behind her, and she pulled her hand close to keep her treasure away from her pursuers. “No running in the house, Kaylee,” Levi said. “And you must keep your voices down.”

Where can readers learn more information about you?

Website/blog: www.jillwilliamson.com

Other blogs: www.GoTeenWriters.com –a site where I teaches about writing.


Readers of Jill Williamson FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/745051488841927/ 


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GIVEAWAY!
(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Jill has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of RebelsPrint giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday October 4, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

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Author Interview: Driftwood Tides by Gina Holmes

Please welcome to Christian Book Review Blog, novelist, Gina Holmes!  Gina is the founder of popular literary site, novelrocket.com. She is a two-time Christy and ECPA Book of the Year finalist and winner of the INSPY, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award. Her books regularly appear on Christian bestseller lists. 

Gina, tell us a little bit about your newest release, Driftwood Tides.

Driftwood Tides tells the story of an aging, alcoholic driftwood artist turned beach bum, Holton Creary, and young Libby Slater. Libby grew up with an absent father and a loving but cold, socialite mother. Leading up to her wedding, Libby and her groom-to-be go through genetic testing and she learns her blood type doesn’t match either of her parents. She confronts her mother and is reluctantly told that she’s adopted. She goes searching for her mother, Adele, only to find her husband, Holton Creary lying face down on the carpet of his Nags Head beach shack. 

She lies about her real identity until she is finally found out. Holton does not welcome the news. He never knew the wife he had given saint status too had given up a daughter for adoption. Together the two search to find the truth about Adele, Libby’s father and themselves. 

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

At its heart, Driftwood Tides is really about discovering who we are, whose we are, where we belong and the need to accept and bestow forgiveness. 

Why did you set the novel in Nags Head?

Oh, how I love that place! I’m not sure there’s a more peaceful setting in all the world. And the further out I get from civilization, the happier I am. I love the sand dunes, the untouched nature, the quaint towns. Just everything! (Well, except sand in my bathing suit maybe

You seem to have a recurring theme in your novels about absent fathers, if it’s not too personal, why do you think that is?

It is too personal, but I don’t mind answering (wink!) When I was 6 years old, I was packed up by my stepfather and driven to my father’s house. Overnight I had a new Mom, new sisters and brother, house and life. It was as traumatic an experience as I can imagine. There were few explanations that made sense to me and I missed my other family desperately. I think ever since I’ve been trying to settle some pretty deep-seated questions. Writing books is wonderful for that. 

The novel you’ve written that seems to be a fan-favorite is Crossing Oceans, do you ever see yourself writing a sequel?

I love that book too. Makes me cry just thinking about certain scenes. I would love to write a sequel, prequel or off shoot stories. I love those characters dearly. I’m under contract for three different novels, so I’m not sure when I’ll have the time, but I’d love to explore Craig’s story and of course, Bella’s. I miss Mama Peg very much! 

You’ve said that your favorite novel you’ve written is Wings of Glass. Why is that your favorite?

Well, for storyline, I think Crossing Oceans is the strongest. I think my writing in Wings of Glass was my best, plus when I was very young I watched my mother in one abusive relationship after another, and then two of my sisters. I had been there too, despite thinking I was better than that. I know the mindset that keeps a woman (or man) in a relationship like that and I wanted to give insight to those who don’t understand. I’ve received enough letters to know I did what I set out to do. 

You’re originally from NJ but write all your novels from the South, why do you set your novels down South if you’re from up North?

Ha, you found me out! Yes, I was born and raised in NJ. As much as I love my friends and family, I am definitely more suited for the slower pace of the South. I’ve lived in Southern VA for half of my life and I plan to spend the rest of my life here if I can help it. I try to write books from settings that make me happy. So I write where I want to be. (Although, I’ve got to say, NJ food is amazing and you’ve got to love a boisterous NJ laugh!)

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What do you like most about being a writer? Least?

Most, I like being able to have a platform to share lessons I’ve learned in my life that I know others would benefit from. And more than that, I just love to tell a good story. 

Least, would be the unpredictability of the business. Sometimes it seems so random and the lack of control makes me uncomfortable sometimes. (Which is probably right where God wants me!)

Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

My advice is pretty much always the same. 1. Write. So many people want to have written but don’t actually do the work. 2. Get to a writers conference because there’s so much  you don’t know, that you don’t even know you don’t know. If you don’t you’ll be spinning your wheels for years, wasting valuable time. 3. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest bookstore and buy yourself a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Then apply it. (Best money I ever spent!) 4. Join a good critique group and get a nice thick skin, ‘cause you’re sure going to need it! 

If you could go back to the pre-published writer you were, knowing what you do now, what advice would you give her? 

Well, I wouldn’t have told myself how many novels I’d write that would never see the light of day, because I would have given up. I wouldn’t have told myself how little money there is actually to be made or how lonely writing can sometimes be. I wouldn’t have told myself that I’d still have a day job with 4 novels out in stores, including 3 bestselling novels… okay, but that wasn’t your question… I would tell myself to relax. Some of this, most of this is, is out of your hands, and that’s okay. It’s not going to be at all what you think it is, but it’s going to be so much more. You won’t get rich, but you will touch lives. At the end of the day, that’s going to be exactly what will fulfill you. 

Where can readers find your books and more about you?

Thanks for asking. My books are in B&N, BooksaMillion, Amazon, Lifeway, Parable, Family Christian and hopefully a good number of independent bookstores. You can find me at Ginaholmes.com. Thanks so much for hosting me!

Thanks for being with us today, Gina!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West

Welcome to Christian Book Review Blog, Catherine! Thank you for being here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure! I’ve been writing longer than I can remember and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I was born and raised on the beautiful island of Bermuda, which is about 700 miles off the coast of North Carolina, in the Atlantic. We’re a British colony, so I’ve always had a yen for all things British and I went to boarding school in the UK. My pediatrician husband and I have been married for 27 years and we have two grown children and a wonderful son-in-law. 

When did you first discover that you loved writing? 

Probably in primary school, when we first began to write short stories. Mine were always read out in class.  

Why do you write the type of books that you do?

My tagline is “Stories that Resonate” and that’s the goal with my writing. I write contemporary romance and women’s fiction, and I believe in keeping things real. I write about characters with real struggles, real-life issues that everyone can relate to, and I don’t sugarcoat. I don’t think we can hope to point people to the cross without revealing why we need it. Sin and temptation are all around us, and nobody is immune, not even Christians. Especially not Christians, actually. While I hope my stories entertain, I also want readers to come away feeling changed and challenged in some way. And I always want to leave them with hope. Because even when things seem impossible, we must hold onto hope. 

What was your greatest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?

Probably really believing in myself. That I could do this. That I’m good enough to do this. It’s hard to keep going in the face of rejection, and the publishing world is pretty crazy right now. It’s difficult to get new contracts, and for authors like myself who don’t have a huge fan base yet, it’s discouraging. I keep going though because I believe this is the path God has me on, and I trust him to take my writing to the places and people that need it most. 

From a craft aspect, the greatest obstacle is always finishing the story. I tend to get to the middle and seem to get stuck. But somehow I muddle through and I’m usually quite pleased with the end result. 

Has writing changed your life in any way?

I’ve made a lot of great friends through my writing, so in that regard, yes, my life is all the better for being part of the writing community! I’m constantly challenged to step out of my comfort zone, go deeper and stretch myself as a writer. I love that. I’ve been at this so long that I can’t say it’s really changed my life per se, but rather challenged me. 

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
I’ve had to hold onto that verse, claim it for myself and truly believe that God will work things out. No matter what the struggles are, I know He’s in the middle, holding onto me, and going before me to smooth the waters. Sometimes it’s not easy to believe that, but God has proven faithful too many times for me to doubt that He will ever not come through. 

Is there a book you’ve read that has been truly spectacular?

Hmm. I can’t say spectacular. A lot of books have stayed with me over the years, particularly the classics like Dickens and Austen. Lately I’ve read a lot of Jojo Moyes, and I love her writing. I also enjoy big family saga type stories. Those are the kind of books I love to write, but haven’t found a lot of them in the CBA market yet. 

What’s the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

I’m not sure. I’m a bit of a scatterbrain so I’m always doing silly things. I can’t think of one particular thing that stands out unfortunately. 

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Please tell us about the featured book.

Vietnam, 1967. 

Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father's memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother's wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he's hiding something. 

Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they’re forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

Can you please give us the first page?

Prologue 
February 1954.

Didn’t they know they were shouting so loud the neighbors could
hear?
Twelve year-old Kristin Taylor huddled in bed, drew her knees to her
chest and clapped her hands over her ears. Through the thin wall she heard Daddy’s voice rise and Mom burst into tears. It was past ten o’clock. She was supposed to be asleep, but they’d woken her. Kristin gritted her teeth and began to hum her favorite song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
A moment of peace settled over the brownstone apartment. Kristin smiled and wiped her eyes. It worked every time, even if she couldn’t hit the high notes.
Dad started yelling again.
Something smashed against the other side of her wall and shattered. More yells. No way to sleep with this racket going on. She sat up and turned on her bedside table lamp.
Kristin hopped off her bed and pushed her arms through the sleeves of her thick flannel robe. Cold air chased her as she quick-stepped across the faded rug to her dresser. She ran her fingers along the stack of books squashed between two hand-carved wooden bookends The frayed bindings of Heidi, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations and Pride and Prejudice and the Bible she’d received at her confirmation shared space with all the Agatha Christie novels Kristin could get her hands on. Every once in a while Mom came in to clean, found them, and threatened to throw them out in favor of books she felt more appropriate, but Daddy wouldn’t let her.
“The child has an inquisitive mind, Val. We should encourage that.”

Where can readers learn more information about you?

Catherine West is an award-winning author who writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. Her first novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, released in 2011 and won the INSPY for Romance, a Silver Medal in the Reader’s Favorite Awards, and was a finalist in the Grace Awards. Catherine’s second novel, Hidden in the Heart, released in September 2012, was long listed in the 2012 INSPY’s and was a finalist in the 2013 Grace Awards.
When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two grown children. Catherine is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America, and is represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Catherine loves to connect with her readers and can be reached at Catherine@catherinejwest.com 


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GIVEAWAY!
(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Catherine has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of Yesterday's TomorrowPrint giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday September 20, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

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