Monday, February 16, 2015

CBRB's Top Books of 2014/CBRB Awards


Top Ten

Christian Fiction

Books of 2014 and

CBRB Awards 


2015 is proving to be a very busy year––hence the somewhat late yearly CBRB wrap-up post (and late "Happy New Year!" greeting). No, folks, I have not forgotten to share my top books of 2014. This year the list consists of nine books––including one non-fiction book that deserves a special mention because of it's engaging and informative content. I know the saying "It's better late than never" is very cliche . . . but it IS true;) So here is the long awaited Top Ten Books (minus one) of 2014 and, yes, the CBRB Awards!

# 8: A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund

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If you're searching for a historically rich novel with vivid descriptions and an extra dose of romance, A Noble Groom might just be the story you're looking for.

#7: Truth Be Told by Carol Cox

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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 ToldPlus, you'll learn how to run an 1800s newspaper and experience an edge-of-your-seat ending.

#6: Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

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A light read infused with humor and directed by a capricious heroine, Love Comes Calling is a fun read with serious underlying themes and a dash of mystery.

Non-fiction Book: Pro-Blogging Secrets by Bob Lotich

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With just a glance, I'm sure you can tell this is way out of my normal reading. But when the author contacted me asking me if I would consider reviewing one of his books, I decided it would be different and informative to give this one a try––and I'm glad I did! This book is for those bloggers looking to take their blog to the next level. The information given is easy-to-understand, informative, and extremely helpful. The detailed "Table of Contents" and short chapters make it simple to search for a specific topic. One of my favorite features is the screenshots (pictures of step-by-step tutorials) placed strategically in-between information.

It is apparent that Bob Lotich knows what he is talking about. I recommend this book for beginning bloggers looking to start off on the right foot as well as experienced bloggers looking to enhance their blogs. (You can download a FREE copy of Bob's first book: How To Make Money Blogging at http://blogbusiness101.com. Plus, check out Bob's interesting blog http://christianpf.com/blog/)

#5, 4, and 3: The Safe Lands series by Jill Williamson

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      Buy At Amazon                  Buy At Amazon



Jill has crafted another creative, interesting and suspenseful series. I enjoyed the underlying similarities to Daniel and his friends in pagan Babylon yet with a twist of a highly technological society. This series began with suspense... and ended in suspense. A definite recommend for older teens and beyond.

#2: The Beloved Daughter by Alana Terry

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Reading this book allows a reader to truly count their blessings and pray more earnestly for our persecuted Brothers and Sisters. Chung-Cha's story is one filled with pain, hope, betrayal, love and sorrow.  This book will take you out of your comfort zone, reveal a glimpse into the life of North Korea, and, God willing, leave you with thankfulness in your heart that you can freely know and serve Jesus Christ.

#1: Somebody Like You by Beth Vogt

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The best word I can use to describe Somebody Like You is the word gentle. Each word, sentence, page pulled me along like someone tugging me gently by the hand. Cracking open the pages of this book––tagging along on Haley and Stephen's journey––was like snuggling with my favorite downy comforter: soft, warm, gentle. 

The characters were real. Their emotions real. And, surprisingly, their romance real. I'll admit my skepticism––because of the premise and my previous experience with Wish You Were Here. But the characters, the prose, the spiritual message––everything––was executed beautifully.

The pace was just right. Not too fast, not too slow. Haley and Stephen's love blossomed like a rose opening in slow motion. Bits of humor were interspersed at just the right moments. The ending was unexpected, charming, sweet. And to top it off? This book was released on the day of my birthday.

I give Somebody Like You 5 out of 5 stars––it rightly deserves first place in Christian Book Review Blog's Top Books of 2014.

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CBRB Best Hero Award goes to . . . Stephen Ames from Somebody Like You by Beth Vogt (Surprisingly Omar from The Safe Lands series by Jill Williamson is a close second)


CBRB Best Heroine Award goes to . . . Ellis Eton from Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell



CBRB Best Plot Award goes to . . . The Beloved Daughter by Alana Terry


Once again, there is no CBRB Best Child Award for this year. Perhaps I should swap that award with a new award such as the CBRB Best Villain Award


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Honorable Mentions
~ Veiled Freedom by Jeanette Windle 

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Now it's time to hear from you! What were your top books of 2014? And what Awards would you like to see awarded each year on Christian Book Review Blog? Just make some noise in the comment section below.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: The Covered Deep by Brandy Vallance

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

Thanks for having me! Let me see . . . I’m a complete history fanatic and a shameless Anglophile. I drink far too much tea to be sensible. I love roaming around museums and traveling. More than that, I love being a novelist. 

When did you first discover that you loved writing? 

In the seventh grade I wrote stories while listening to the Sonnets of Shakespeare on cassette tape. In high school, a friend and I wrote a time traveling story about Mozart. In college, my highest grades were in creative writing. But when I started the first draft of The Covered Deep, I knew I had found my passion. 

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

I’ve always been drawn to historical romance. When I was younger, I’d visit my Great Aunt Hester in Maysville, Kentucky. She was a fan of all things historical romance, especially Gone With The Wind and Barbara Cartland novels. As soon as I’d arrive we’d pull out boxes of books from her closet. She’d let me have my pick of novels and I’d read as many as I could throughout my visit. 

For me, the Victorian time period is boundlessly fascinating. I love researching, delving into the emotions of my characters, the intricacies of love, and the vagaries of the human heart. There’s nothing I’d rather do than create stories that make me feel. Having those stories resonate with others is an amazing thing. 

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

I think writers always struggle with balancing everything. For me, I had to make writing a priority and treat it like a full time job long before it was one. Everyone only has twenty-four hours in the day. I have found that to be a professional writer, things have to be sacrificed. For me, there were a lot of months when I didn’t sleep much. I wrote most of The Covered Deep in the wee hours of the night. But to me, those hours became magic. 

Has writing changed your life in any way?

Writing has definitely made my life more fulfilling. The gifts throughout the years are unparalleled. I have made so many forever friends during my journey to publication. I am so thankful for that.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

Jeremiah 33:3, KJV “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which though knowest not.” This verse helped me hold on to the fact that God loves to do the impossible. Seeing The Covered Deep published has been miraculous. When I sign books I usually write, “Dream big. God makes the impossible possible.” This is reminiscent of Bianca’s journey in the book, and also of my journey to publication.

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

I recently enjoyed reading Sarah Ladd’s The Heiress of Winterwood. It was right up my alley and so much fun! 

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

This question has stumped me! I think I need to get out more. ;-)

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Please tell us about the featured book.

The Covered Deep is a little Anne of Green Gables meets Indiana Jones meets Around The World In 80 Days. Here’s from the back cover: 

SOME DREAMS ARE WORTH SEARCHING FOR

Bianca Marshal is looking for a man who can quote both Jesus and Shakespeare. Not surprisingly, that man is hard to find in the small Appalachian town where she lives. Her mother insists that Bianca lower her standards. One the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday, even Bianca wonders if her mother is right.
Still set on experiencing love, or at least a little adventure, Bianca wins an essay contest that propels her into a whirlwind search for the perfect hero. Via the opulence of London and the mysteries of Palestine, Bianca's true love will be revealed—but not without a price that might be too heavy to pay.

Can you please give us the first page?

Here’s a little more than the first page:  

CHAPTER ONE
SOUTHERN OHIO, 1877
At seventeen, most ladies of fashion expect to receive proposals. If they do not marry within a few years, they have a mortified sense of having lost time. Inevitably, they become an object of sympathy. The next few years are often a period of subdued vexation. During this time, the sweetness and contentment of the lady’s original character is impaired. As the unwholesome state of spinsterhood approaches, a lady finds herself soon to be restricted in social pleasures and more. 
I am inclined to believe that with good temper, pleasing manners, and respectable connections, a lady need not despair. Herein are the facts: Between the ages of twenty to twenty-four, a lady has a 52 percent chance of marrying. Between the ages of twenty-five to thirty, her chances are 18 percent. 

The book slipped from Bianca’s hands, the pages fainting on her bedroom desk. Words. Reminding her of all the ways she’d never fit in. She collapsed in the chair, her cotton dress limp against her. “When the sun rises tomorrow, my chances of marrying will drop thirty-four percent.” She breathed, in and out, slowly. “Spin—” The word felt like cod liver oil on her tongue.
“It doesn’t matter that my twenty-fifth birthday’s tomorrow.” She slid her hand underneath the desk and pressed the small, metal button. The secret slot popped open, sending a spray of dust over her sleeve. “When going into battle, planning is often the most important thing.” Saying the words calmed her, as did the feel of the hidden paper. She unfolded it, and scanned the first few lines.  
Soul mate must be
(1) a true believer in Jesus Christ 
(2) devastatingly handsome, with a slightly wild look in his eyes 
(3) brilliant and humorous like Mark Twain
(4) a foreigner, possibly a disgruntled duke 
(5) able to quote Bible verses AND Shakespeare 
(6) a more than capable kisser 
(7) adore me completely.
“Yes, well.” She drew her eyebrows together as she considered. “Perfectly reasonable I thin—”
“Bianca! You’d better be lacin’ up your boots.” Mama’s voice was a crescendo crack, the kind of noise one hears when alone in the woods and a big tree falls. “Girl, don’t you make me late.” 
Bianca shoved the list back into its hiding place, but the secret door wouldn’t shut. She pushed harder. Nothing.  
“Are you ready to go or not?” Mama rapped her knuckles on the door, like the battle march of a soldier’s drum. 
“Coming.” Bianca stood and put her weight against the warped side of the drawer. “Just a moment.”
Mama jiggled the door handle. “I told Mr. Rutherford we’d be there by four o’ clock. It is now precisely three o’ nine.” 
A hairpin came loose, and a piece of Bianca’s dark auburn hair fell over eyes. “Guts griping harpy!” The drawer slammed shut. The large bottle of ink tipped. A waterfall of black spread over her books, seeping into the pages like a hungry poison. 

Where can readers learn more information about you?

Twitter @BrandyVallance
Facebook (Personal Page and Author Page)
Goodreads
Pinterest
YouTube (Brandy Vallance Inspirational Historical Romance)

Thank you again for being with us today, Brandy. Readers, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

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GIVEAWAY!
(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Brandy has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of The Covered DeepPrint giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday December 7, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter! (If the Rafflecopter widget doesn't work, just comment below with your answer to the question and make sure to leave your email address with the comment.)


Question (Comment Below): Did you ever have a "Perfect-Soul-Mate list"? What were some of your "requirements"? 

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: Covert Christmas by Hope White

Welcome to CBRB, Hope! Thank you for being here! For those who were not able to enjoy your last interview, can you again give us a little information about you?

I’ve been making up stories in my head ever since I was a little girl.  I figured everyone does this, right?  Post college I became a journalist and PR specialist where I was, in fact, writing stories, but just not fictional ones.  Years later those fictional stories started creeping into my brain again, especially when my kids were little and I was balancing a freelance writing career and motherhood.  As a young mother I was mostly reading parenting books – didn’t want to mess up my kids too much. <G>  Then a friend challenged me to lose myself in a book, and dropped off a stack of fiction novels on my doorstep.  That day changed my life!  Not only did I devour them, but I also thought to myself, “So this is what I’m supposed to be doing with all the stories racing around in my brain!”  

Is there a particular genre you enjoy reading/writing and why is it your favorite? 

I read everything, mystery, romance, inspirational, non-fiction, literary fiction.  As for a favorite genre, I’d say the books featuring strong romances are usually my favorites.  The same goes for writing books.  Although my books are suspenseful with an element of faith, the romance is my priority, and the happily ever after is a must. 

Can you tell us two or three things that most readers don’t know about you?

I’m a tea freak!  Seriously, I know more about tea than the average person should know.  I’m loving green tea right now, both for the taste and the health benefits.  I just discovered Matcha – yum!  Not so much into black tea, but love herbals and whites. 

The second thing?  I love to dance.  Not in public or anything, but just around the house, with a little good music going.  Even better, I put on that Happy song from Despicable Me 2 and dance with my dog.  She loves it!

What five things do you love/like the most?

Besides God, and my family (which includes the furry family members), I’d say, tea, movies, and friends. 

If you could meet one person (besides Jesus, because who doesn’t want to meet Him!), who would you choose?

The Dalai Lama.  I saw him speak once and was struck by his peaceful and loving demeanor.  

What is your favorite Bible story?

Queen Esther.

How do you choose your characters names?

I find images of the characters online, usually actors.  Then I look at those pictures and (no laughing please) start talking to them.  Their names are naturally born from that conversation.

If you weren’t an author, what would your dream job be?

Besides being a mom?  Because I’m loving that job.  I guess my dream job would be a counselor.  I love helping people work through emotional trauma.  

Do you have any books that are soon-to-be-released that we should keep an eye out for?

Not until next summer.  The third book in my Echo Mountain series will be released in June 2015.  The title is pending.

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Please tell us about the featured book.  

Here’s the blurb!

A man has been shot and left for dead on Echo Mountain, and Search and Rescue K-9 handler Breanna McBride wants answers. With no memory, all the injured man can recall is that his first name is Scott, and that someone wants him silenced. Scott knows better than to depend on strangers, yet he finds himself falling for his captivating protector. And although Breanna won't rest until she helps him piece together the rest of his past, she vows to ignore the attraction between them. But as they close in on the truth, she becomes the killer's next target. Now the pursuers will stop at nothing to ensure the pair is six feet under by Christmas. 

Can you please give us the first page?  

Sure! 

They were close, dangerously close.
Scott Becket sprinted up the trail hoping to disappear in the brush ahead.  He wasn’t sure how long he could keep up this pace considering the abuse he’d sustained at the hands of his captors.  He was lucky to have gotten away although without his backpack he wouldn’t survive long out here in the rugged mountains. 
Scott needed the perfect spot where he could camouflage himself until they passed, if they passed, because he knew they were nothing if not determined to find Scott and kill him.  After they finished what they started earlier; beat him until he admitted where he’d hidden the proof of criminal activity that could destroy them all.
As long as he had sole possession of the documentation, Scott would breathe another day or two, long enough to gather the last bit of evidence he needed to end this thing. 
Eyeing the trail ahead, he hoped he wouldn’t run into innocent civilians out for an afternoon hike.  Scott didn’t want to put others in jeopardy and wasn’t sure how far his pursuers would go to secure the information and eliminate Scott, the only person cynical enough to question their plan.
He winced at the pain of bruised ribs as he gasped to fill his lungs.  Scott berated himself for not catching on sooner.  What a fool.  Just like he was a fool to think he could get water samples to the EPA without being caught.  But then he hadn’t been thinking clearly for a while now. 
They’d distracted him with the illusion of love and happiness.  Christa had been so good too, an expert at making him feel safe and loved.  He should have known better.  Sweet, perfect women like Christa did not fall in love with damaged goods like Scott Becket.

Where can readers learn more information about you?

Check out my website: hopewhiteauthor.com  or my Facebook page: facebook.com/hopewhiteauthor

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GIVEAWAY!
(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Hope has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of Covert ChristmasPrint giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on Sunday November 9, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

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Author Interview and Giveaway: A Promise To Protect by Patricia Bradley

Welcome to CBRB, Patricia! Thank you for being here! For those who were not able to enjoy your last interview, can you again give us a little information about you? 

First, it’s such an honor to be on Christian Book Review, and I want to thank you for having me. I’m a former abstinence educator and live in North Mississippi. When I was 35, these people came to live in my head and they wouldn’t go away until I wrote their story. I was fortunate that Woman’s World published the story in their mini-mystery section. Thirty-four years later, my first book, Shadows of the Past, the Logan Point series, was published, and now my second book in the Logan Point series, A Promise to Protect has been released. 

Is there a particular genre you enjoy reading/writing and why is it your favorite? 

For some reason, my mind just turns to suspense whether it’s reading or writing. Romance comes in a close second, so it’s just natural for me to write romantic suspense.

Can you tell us two or three things that most readers don’t know about you? 

Three things, huh? Hmmm. I knit chemo hats and booties. I’ve been bucked off a horse more than once. I’m ADHD.

What five things do you love/like the most? 

Beside God and Jesus, my family and friends, my kitty Suzy, my church, knitting, Pilates.

If you could meet one person (besides Jesus, because who doesn’t want to meet Him!), who would you choose? 

The apostle Paul.

What is your favorite Bible story? 

I identify most with the prodigal, but I think my favorite is Esther.

How do you choose your characters names? 

The Social Security Baby names website, phone book, random generator…I look at a lot of names until one just says, this is his/her name. I’ve also changed a name mid-story if it doesn’t fit.

If you weren’t an author, what would your dream job be? 

A master potter.

Do you have any books that are soon-to-be-released that we should keep an eye out for? 

I have two books just released. September 1, Michael’s Choice from Harlequin Heartwarming, and in early October, A Promise to Protect, the 2nd book in the Logan Point series releases. 

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Please tell us about the featured book. 

In A Promise to Protect, acting Sheriff Ben Logan hasn’t heard from Leigh Somerall in a very long time, but it doesn’t mean he can get her—or their whirlwind romance of ten years ago—out of his head. When she calls out of the blue it is with a strange request to protect her brother, Tony. But when Tony dies just days later, Ben is charged with a different task—protecting Leigh and her nine-year-old son, TJ, from the killers. But how can Ben keep an eye on Leigh if she’s doing everything in her power to avoid him? And could the secret that Leigh is keeping change Ben’s life forever?

Can you please give us the first page?

Tony Jackson shouldn’t be dying in a ritzy hotel room in downtown Memphis on a hot July night.
He shouldn’t be dying at all.
“Who shot you?” Sheriff Ben Logan pressed a blood-soaked towel against the victim’s chest. The left sleeve of Tony’s Armani suit had bullet holes where he’d lifted his arm in defense. Otherwise the bullet would have killed him instantly.
This meeting wasn’t supposed to go this way. Tony would show up, deliver his information. Ben would save the day.
The coppery scent that hung heavy in the air turned his stomach as Tony’s life drained away, his blood staining the plush white carpet. Ben cradled Tony’s head and glanced toward the opened door. Where was that ambulance?
Tony wrapped his fingers around Ben’s wrist, and Ben leaned closer to the man he couldn’t keep from dying. “Stay with me, man.”
“Tell Leigh . . .” Tony’s breath grew shallow. “I’m . . . sorry.” The grip faltered.
“Hang on, buddy.”
Sirens. Ben snapped a look behind him to where a few people had gathered in the hallway. “Tell them to hurry.”
“Your dad . . .” Tony closed his eyes and took a shuddering breath then coughed, blood gurgling in his chest. 
Ben jerked back to the dying man. “What about my dad?”
“I’m sorry . . . should’ve told . . .” He coughed again. “Something . . . got to tell . . . Blue . . . dog . . .”
“Don’t die on me.” What did Tony know about his dad’s shooting?
“Both know . . .” Tony’s voice faded.
Ben eased the man’s head up. “Stay with me. Tell me who did this to you.”
Tony closed his eyes, then his lips moved, and Ben strained to hear.
“Protect . . . Leigh.”
“Come on, man, you’ll—”
Tony’s eyes popped open, the light in them fading. “Promise . . .”
Ben couldn’t escape the haunting gaze. “I . . .” The words lodged in his throat.
Tony tightened his fingers on Ben’s wrist. “Say it.”
“I . . .” He swallowed. “I promise.” The grip eased as Tony slumped in his arms and slipped into eternity.
A low moan escaped Ben’s lips. He dropped his head, sending a prayer heavenward as Tony’s death settled in his chest like lead. He’d let him down. Just like with Tommy Ray. Ben pushed the thought aside. Revisiting the past wouldn’t bring either back.

Where can readers learn more information about you?


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GIVEAWAY!
(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Patricia has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of A Promise to ProtectPrint giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on Sunday November 9, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

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