Wednesday, March 20, 2013

CFBA Tour- Book Review: Catherine's Pursuit by Lena Nelson Dooley

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Catherine's Pursuit
Realms (February 5, 2013)
by
Lena Nelson Dooley

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award-winning author, Lena Nelson Dooley, has more than 675,000 books in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers http://www.acfw.com/ and president of the local chapter, DFW Ready Writers. She’s also a member of Christian Authors Network, CROWN Fiction Marketing, and Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas.

Lena loves James, her children, grandchildren, and great grandson. She loves chocolate, cherries, chocolate-covered cherries, and spending time with friends. Travel is always on her horizon. Cruising, Galveston, the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, Mexico. One day it will be Hawaii and Australia, but probably not the same year. Helping other authors become published really floats her boat, with fifteen signing their first book contract after her mentoring. Three of her books have been awarded the Carol Award silver pins from American Christian Fiction Writers and she has received the ACFW Mentor of the Year award at their national conference. The high point of her day is receiving feedback from her readers, especially people whose lives have been changed by her books. And she loves chocolate, especially dark chocolate.

ABOUT THE BOOK 



When Angus McKenna was forced to give two of his daughters to families in the wagon train, he promised he'd never try to contact them. Catherine made no such pledge. But when she sets out to find her sisters, she doesn't go alone. Angus sends Collin with her. Will they discover the two women---and love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Catherine's Pursuit, go HERE.

REVIEW
At the mature age of eighteen your life is pretty secure and your future seems bright, but when your life gets flipped upside-down it proves to be quite heart-breakingly unstable. The day of her birthday Catherine learns that she was born a triplet and her mother died birthing THE three of them. Though her father promised never to reclaim the other daughters he gave away, Catherine goes on a journey to find the sisters she has always wanted. Her father proceeds to send young Collin Elliot to protect his pampered daughter in her mad-dash search. Collin has his own skeletons in his closet that hinder his way of life and happiness. The future holds great things for all if they choose to forget about their pasts and live for the future.


This book is the culmination to the Mckenna triplets' adventures. The book presented many strong Christian lessons. I love how the author portrayed each character with the same fear of rejection, making it a bonding theme. Though prompted by different occurrences, we see how rejection comes in many forms and affects each differently.

The search proved to be a bit faster than I thought accurate, but it did help to not drag the book out long. Though the journey begins as one just to find her missing sisters, Catherine learns a lot about her true self and love. Which allowed the reader to get to know her on a more personal level.

Catherine's Pursuit, book three in the Mckenna's Daughter Series, is the conclusion to this heart-stirring series. Having read only book two and the final one, I felt like I missed a part of the puzzle. I would recommend that the reader read all three installments to appreciate the full richness to this tale.

The emotionally drawn characters, suspenseful plot, and nice pace, though they were great additions to the book, were not my favorite elements. My favorite thing was how Lena's writing style stands true to what a biblical novel should be. She presented the gospel in such a clear cut way that anyone could understand it (the characters and readers;) Much to my edification, she had some characters that resembled true, rich relationships with Christ. The author included many diverse biblical themes throughout the story plot much to my spiritual delight.

I enjoyed this novel seeing the bittersweet ending and concluding my time with the Mckennas. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoys happy endings and a sweet styled plot. I give Catherine's Pursuit 4 out of 5 stars. It can be bought at Amazon.
** Much thanks to Ali for guest reviewing**

Friday, March 15, 2013

CFBA Tour- Book Review: Memory of Murder by Ramona Richards

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Memory of Murder
Love-Inspired Suspense
by
Ramona Richards

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A word from Ramona:

The hardest biographical sketch to write is always your own, whether or not you’re a writer by profession. You can’t decide what to throw in, what to leave out, and whether or not you should list strengths and flaws, or just strengths.

I like writing and telling stories so much that I once tried to live out a few. After getting a master’s in English, I went on to be the seneschale of my local Society for Creative Anachronism. I had a rocky start, but I did get better. (Robin Hood, eat your heart out.)

People often ask members of the SCA, “Are you in a play?” so I thought it would be fun to do that, too. For seven years, I produced and performed in shows staged by Nashville’s Circle Players.

Although I’m single now, I married in 1982 and in 1987 had Rachel. She’s a cutie. Severely disabled, she’s the heroine of many an article for Special Ed Today magazine. Rachel's nurse, Phyllis, is the real life heroine of “An Act of Desperation,” which I sold to Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul.

I’m not really a complex person, and my dreams are fairly straightforward: sell books, have enough money to pay the bills and travel a bit, and settle into a cottage. In early 2006, I bought the cottage, which is now more or less swamped by books and DVDs. I write at night (I’m a lifelong night owl), and I occasionally escape by scuba diving, hiking, dancing, and going to movies and bookstores.

I’ve gone to the same church since 1993, and I even sing in the choir. It’s a small but awesome church. I’m no angel, although occasionally I play one in the backyard.

I like staying busy. Life is too short not to follow your dreams.

ABOUT THE BOOK 

THE SECRETS OF HER PAST COULD IMPERIL HER FUTURE 

Lindsey Presley certainly can't imagine why anyone would want her dead-though she knows she wouldn't be alive today if not for the local cop who saved her from two murder attempts. Deputy Jeff Gage has worked difficult cases, but with only Lindsey's fractured memories of a broken past to guide him, this is by far his most challenging.

For Lindsey, fleeing the town she has come to call home is unthinkable. Separately, they are vulnerable, but together, Jeff and Lindsey just may stand a chance of catching a ruthless killer.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Memory of Murder, go HERE.

Watch the book video trailer:


MY REVIEW
For its small size, Memory of Murder by Ramona Richards has a great story arc and characters that are surprisingly real, considering the small amount of words that Ramona had to flesh them out. The mystery and suspense were well done and kept me flipping the pages. So much so that I read the book in about a day.

The romance and action were well-balanced. And I was pleasantly surprised by some of the unexpected twists scattered throughout the book.

Lindsey and Jeff were easy characters to cheer for, especially considering Lindsey’s hard childhood. Her toughness and determination were admirable qualities. The ending was predictable, to a certain extent, yet sweet. This book is great for those looking for a quick read full of mystery and hint of romance. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. It can be bought at Amazon.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

CFBA Tour- Book Review: Swept Away by Mary Connealy

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Swept Away
Bethany House Publishers (March 1, 2013)
by
Mary Connealy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Christy Award Finalist, a Carol Award Finalist and an IRCC Award finalist.

The Lassoed in Texas Series, Petticoat Ranch, Calico Canyon and Gingham Mountain. Petticoat Ranch was a Carol Award Finalist. Calico Canyon was a Christy Award Finalist and a Carol Award Finalist. These three books are now contained in one large volume called Lassoed in Texas Trilogy.

The Montana Marriages Series, Montana Rose, The Husband Tree and Wildflower Bride. Montana Rose was a Carol Award Finalist.

Cowboy Christmas—the 2010 Carol Award for Best Long Historical Romance, and an Inspirational Readers Choice Contest Finalist.

The Sophie's Daughters series. Doctor in Petticoats, Wrangler in Petticoats, Sharpshooter in Petticoats.

She is also the author of; Black Hills Blessing a 3-in-1 collection of sweet contemporary romances, Nosy in Nebraska, a 3-in-1 collection of cozy romantic mysteries and she's one of the three authors contributing to Alaska Brides with her Carol Award Winning historical romance Golden Days.

ABOUT THE BOOK 

When a cowboy focused on revenge encounters a woman determined to distract him, there's going to be trouble in Texas!

Swept away when her wagon train attempts a difficult river crossing, Ruthy MacNeil isn't terribly upset at being separated from the family who raised her. All they've ever done is work her to the bone. Alive but disoriented, she's rescued by Luke Stone...so unfortunately, there are more chances to die in her immediate future.

Luke is on a mission to reclaim the ranch stolen from his family. But the men currently on the property won't let it go without a fight. Luke plans to meet up with friends who will help him take back the land, and since he can't just leave Ruthy in the middle of nowhere, she's going to have to go with him.

But the more time Luke spends around the hardworking young woman, the more he finds himself thinking of things besides revenge. Will Ruthy convince him to give up his destructive path and be swept away by love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Swept Away, go HERE.

MY REVIEW

Swept Away is the first book I've read by Mary Connealy-- and I don't think it'll be my last. Western Romance is one of my favorite genres and Connealy doesn't disappoint. In fact, she probably puts the western in Western Romance-- okay, maybe the romance too:-) (Not that I've read many western romances...;)

Luke and Ruthy are great main characters. They're both strong and hardworking and determined. Ruthy was an especially fun character-- her spunk and bravery are admirable. And, hey, it's hard not to envy a girl who can cook well, loves (or needs) to clean, can survive on her own in the wilderness if need be, and is a crack-shot with a gun. To be honest, she seemed a little too perfect, in spite of her hard years with the Reinhardts (her "adopted" family). But her perfectness didn't really hinder me from enjoying the story.

Luke and his friends were more believable characters-- all former Union soldiers who survived Andersonville. They gave an authentic western-feel to the book with their charm and skill with guns-- and their execution of their plan against Flint Greer. Glynna Greer, Flint's wife, added another dimension to the book and provided a second layer of suspense.

For me, the romance was hasty. I enjoyed it, but it felt shallow since Luke and Ruthy barely knew each other and love was not at the center of their emotions-- only outward attraction. As a result, the romance twist towards the middle of the book wasn't sigh-worthy. It was understandable and could be justified as necessary but it felt as if nothing had changed, which, in this case, is strange.

The action was high throughout the book. And Connealy did a great job at incorporating the western-feel by her scenery, imagery (metaphors, similes, etc), and dialogue. Complete with western villains. Overall, Swept Away was a great read that I enjoyed. You'd be a yellow-bellied sidewinder not to read it for your yourself:-) I give it 4 out of 5 stars. It can be bought at Amazon.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Author Interview and Giveaway: Amidst Traffic by Michel Sauret

Welcome to the CBRB, Michel! Thank you for being here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Author: Michel Sauret
Book: “Amidst Traffic”
Genre: Short Stories

When did you first discover that you loved writing?

In high school I had to pick an author for a book report, so I chose Stephen King, thinking he would be nice and easy since he’d already written so much. I selected his novella, “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” because I had watched the movie a dozen times. Heck, maybe I didn’t even need to read the story to write my report...

Except, after reading a few pages I became hooked. Reading that novella changed me. The characters, their motives and their pains all felt so alive.

Soon after that, I began writing short stories.

There was something really satisfying about writing short stories. You had to pack so much meaning, emotion and development is a short number of pages.

My early work was obviously really immature, since I was just 16, but it was a start. It propelled me forward to writing my first novel, “Breathing God” which was published by the time I was in college.

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

My first novel, “Breathing God” was an end-times type novel. Except, even though it was “Christian” I wouldn’t call it Biblical. It was total fiction from start to finish, not based on Scripture in any way.

With my second book, “Amidst Traffic” I was more interested in conveying the pain and suffering we experience in this life and present it in light of our existence in God. I wanted it to be a book about human struggles, and the real philosophical and even physical challenges we must battle in daily life.

I think that writing quality fiction should always be human first. God created people with minds, emotions and desires. That’s my drive in my fiction, to write compelling characters first, then fit the story around them like a cape.

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

When I published the first edition of “Amidst Traffic” it actually contained a heavy amount of profanity. My original motive for keeping it in the book was to convey a real depiction of the world: a world of depravity. This was an internal battle for me for a while. The grittiness of the language certainly made the characters more believable and realistic, but were they necessary?

In the end, I decided I could convey the same sense of depravity without actually being explicit in its depiction. I scrubbed all of the stories and republished the book under a renewed edition.

The tension I felt about it has since been gone.

Has writing changed your life in any way?

Writing always forces people to be more thoughtful. I’m a terribly impatient person, and often I jump to unwarranted conclusions when I don’t understand something. Writing allows us to chew on ideas, problems or internal pains. Sometimes the experience is cathartic, while other times it’s more philosophical. Writing forces me to slow down and not jump to conclusions.

Also, it’s incredibly satisfying to create characters to battle out my thoughts in the form of a story. I write myself in a lot of my characters, then I can step back and read myself the way other people see me. I have a lot of sins and a lot of personality faults, and writing characters who are like me helps me reflect on those faults in hope to improve.

But overall, I simply enjoy the thought process that goes into writing. Writing really does make a person a better critical thinker.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

I used to sing Psalm 1 to my son when he was a young baby to put him to sleep. He turned one a few months ago and he goes to sleep much more easily now, but sometimes I still sing that psalm to him and it’s a humbling reminder of our need to remove ourselves from the way of sinners and to indulge and meditate in God’s word daily.

I’m a terrible, tone-deaf singer, but I love singing that Psalm. In the last few months it’s been a reminder in our family life that no matter how busy I feel, it’s necessary to devote time to worship God daily. So now my wife and I do family worship with our son, Phoenix, after dinner. Sometimes it’s brief, but it’s really such a joy.

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

Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” blew me away. It is such a stunning glimpse of man’s depravity and our need for God. I don’t know that the book is Christian, in fact I doubt it is, but the image it presents of man is impeccable. McCarthy inspired quite a few of the stories I wrote in the last year.
The novel won the Pulitzer, and yet it’s written so plainly. There’s really nothing fancy about it. No gimmicks. No real novelties. It’s just pure, direct, quality writing. I think it’s something we need to see more often in literature.

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

A lot of my characters hear voices inside their heads, and although I don’t hear any voices myself, sometimes people will catch me talking with myself.

Yes, it’s true.

I talk to myself.

But only because I’m usually trying to work out characters’ dialogue before committing it to paper. Sometimes I’ll even do some exaggerated gesture, like an arm wave, or a kick, just so I can picture that motion and decide how to describe it in words.

I’ll admit it. It’s weird. My only hope is that other authors do the same thing.

Buy At Amazon
Please tell us about the featured book.

“Amidst Traffic” is a collection of short stories that are all interconnected. It’s been getting a lot of positive reviews from various critics and readers, which is an extremely rewarding feeling because short story collections don’t sell very well in the book industry.

And yet, I feel that short stories are one of the few things still right with the world of literature. Short stories force you to be precise and attentive. Every detail matters. Every word has meaning, sometimes added meaning.

Maybe that’s why short stories don’t sell, because they force the reader to think, and as of late we’ve become such an entertainment-heavy society. I’m totally guilty of that, too, of course. I love my share of action movies and a bit of mindless TV, but I really love a good story that provokes you to think. That’s how “The Road” was to me as a reader, and that was my goal for “Amidst Traffic.” I didn’t want to feed the reader the answers. I wanted the reader to search for and think about the deeper meanings implied in each story.

On the surface, these stories are about everyday people who don’t do anything extraordinary (there’s a young man who obsessively digs a hole in his back yard, and a woman who tattoos herself constantly in order to hold on to memories, for example). But as you dig deeper into each story, you discover that it’s packed with meaning and implications.

The stories battle with a lot of philosophical ideas and theological questions, such as our freedom in the presence of God’s sovereignty, the question of evil in this world and our existence.

Overall, responses to the book have been really positive. I can’t wait to see where it will take me next.

Can you please give us the first page?

Three Straws

The same dream kept coming for Eli, and it was terrible. The worst part about it was the faces of children who chased him through cobbled streets beneath dilapidated, stone-faced buildings of a foreign country. In the dream, he kept looking back over his shoulder as he ran. Their faces looked as if someone had taken a box cutter and carved at their lips, noses and eyelids. Tiny monstrous faces. Eyes wide and nostrils flared. Their cut-up lips revealed small, gnashing teeth.
They looked so much like his father’s drawings.
Eli couldn’t take another night of those faces. So he stood outside behind his trailer because he didn’t know what else to do. He didn’t want to go to sleep.
He stared at the dark forest for a while, but then he imagined those children hiding among the trees. So he looked up at the sky and stared a while longer at the stars. Time simply passed, but eventually even in the sky he could connect the dots and see those carved-up stares.
“Oh my God,” he said, covering his face with his hands. “Let it stop.”
Impulsively, he hurried to the shed. He needed to put his hands on something. The first thing he saw was a shovel, so he grabbed it. He walked a few hundred feet into the open stretch of land behind his trailer and stabbed the dull blade into the earth.
It felt good.
The blade went in softly. So he pulled out a chunk of dirt and stabbed the earth again. The soil was moist and easy to dig. A few more of these, he thought, and he would be okay. He just needed to work it out. He just needed to release whatever demons plagued his mind. If any alcohol had been in the house he might have washed those demons away with booze, but he rarely drank and there were no liquor stores open this late for miles. Living out in the countryside of Oklahoma relaxed him, but even out here he couldn’t hide.
Don’t think of it. Keep digging. Keep working.
He dug and flung chunks of dirt across his body and over his shoulder. He thought that after a few shovelfuls, the labor would make him exhausted. Then it would be okay to sleep. Maybe if his body ached, he would pass out from exhaustion and there would be no dreams. He didn’t know how this worked, but that seemed right.
After an hour, he had only built up momentum. Now he was consumed in his digging. Sweat formed a paste with the dirt and glued to his skin from the neck down. It wasn’t until three in the morning that the pains finally caught up to him. In a few hours he had to start his morning shift at the diner. He finally paused, looked around and realized he had dug a hole as wide as a kiddy pool four feet into the ground.
“Good,” he said, although it wasn’t.
What would he do next; fill it back up?
“No,” he said, “Leave it.” He said this as though he needed to answer the question. Maybe I’ll fill it later. It will give me something to do.
He slept for two hours that morning and dreamed nothing.

Where can readers learn more information about you?

My website is: www.msauret.com

There, you can find out more information about me, my book and my writing. I also use it as a running blog to discuss the world of self-publishing with other authors.

**********
GIVEAWAY!
  Michel has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of Amidst Traffic! Just leave a comment with your email address to be entered in the giveaway. Print giveaway is available to U.S. residents only. Be sure to check the sidebar (under Winner Announcement) after the giveaway is over to see if you've won. The winner must contact me by going to my "Contact Me" page and sending me an email. 

For extra entries: 
~Be a follower +1 
~Add my button to your blog +1
 ~Post about this giveaway +2
~Be a subscriber +2
~Tweet +1
~Post on Facebook +1
(please leave a separate comment for each extra entry)

Giveaway ends on Saturday, March 23, 2013 at midnight (Eastern time). Winner will be chosen through Random.org.

Friday, March 1, 2013

CFBA Tour: The Return of Cassandra Todd by Darrel Nelson

Buy At Amazon
"When the popular girl whose friends bullied him in high school suddenly re-enters his life, little son in tow, Turner Caldwell must put the past behind him if they are to survive.

Turner Caldwell works at a local motel as a handyman while attending college full-time. On his way to class one day, he is shocked to see Cassandra Todd and her young son in town. The sight of her brings back powerful memories of being bullied in high school—she was the popular head cheerleader and he the target of her friends’ mean-spirited pranks.

When Cassandra and her son check into the motel where he works and she asks for his help in eluding her abusive husband, he finds himself entangled in a dangerous drama that will require him to forgive and draw on every skill he has if they are to survive."

The great outdoors– a place of tranquility, serenity, and comfort– becomes the backdrop to one of the most action-filled, riveting tales of the day. Using their environment as a cover up, Cassandra, her son, and Turner flee from their tormenting pasts. This is no child's game of hide-and-seek but, rather, survival of the fittest. It takes all of Turner's boy-scout skills and what little faith he has in God to keep them alive.

This novel presented many valuable lessons. Whether it was basic first-aid knowledge or the profound revelation that God is in control, it allowed the reader to be fed intellectually and spiritually. The realization of God’s sovereignty and omniscience was the poignant lesson for this reader.

Having read both novels, Nelson’s literary progress is evident. Whereas his debut was a romantic historical, this one is a suspenseful contemporary. The story was a worthwhile read because of its unique plot, edge of your seat suspense, and many spiritual and intellectual lessons. If you enjoy these three factors in a book, you are sure to enjoy The Return of Cassandra Todd. It can be bought on Amazon.com.

** Much thanks to the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and the publisher for providing a free copy of this book to review; Guest review by Ali **