Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Review: Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade

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"Ty Porter has always been irresistible to Celia Park. All through high school--irresistible. When their paths cross again after college--still irresistible. This time, though, Ty seems to feel exactly the same way about Celia. Their whirlwind romance deposits them at a street-corner Las Vegas wedding chapel. 

The next morning they wake to a marriage certificate and a dose of cold reality. Celia's ready to be Ty's wife, but Ty's not ready to be her husband. He's a professional bull rider, he lives on the road, and he's long planned to settle down with the hometown girl he's known since childhood. 

Five and a half years pass. Celia's buried her dreams so that she can afford to raise her daughter. Ty's achieved all of his goals. Or thought he had, until he looks again into the eyes of the woman he couldn't forget and into the face of the child he never knew he had.

How much will Ty sacrifice to win back Celia's trust and prove to her that their spontaneous marriage can still become the love of a lifetime?"


Meant to Be Mine's cover is a foreshadowing of the sweetness held between its pages. From Celia's delicious baked desserts to the sizzling romance between Celia and Ty, Meant to Be Mine is one sweet read!

The book began with a gripping beginning––the words "Will you marry me?" Unique, since a romance usually ends with these words. Honestly, the whole premise was unique––which is what kept me reading. The plot was different, the characters interesting, and the descriptions breath-taking.

However, a couple of the character's spiritual testimonies were slightly disturbing. Ty and Tawny's relationship to be exact. Ty was a married man and it seemed as if both were supposed to have a relationship with God. Why wasn't he completely off-limits? 

The witty bickering between Celia and Ty was humorous––although, over time, it became somewhat irritating and redundant. Addie, their daughter, was a cute child and I enjoyed the fact that she wasn't the usual precocious and exuberant five year old. She was quiet––when she wasn't talking about Disney princesses––and serious and intuitive. 

The small, Texas town setting had to be one of my favorite aspects of this book. The vivid descriptions brought it to life––from the cute Victorian homes to the delightful town square. I also enjoyed Celia's spiritual awakening and her journey to forgiveness. The redemptive ending (complete with an unexpected twist) and Ty's sacrifice for love was a delicious ending to a sweet book. Beware, if you are on a no-sweets diet, be prepared to toss that to the wind. Celia's baking is mouth-watering (yes, I could practically taste it;) 

I give Meant to Be Mine 3.5 out of 5 stars (moral issues are always a deal-breaker for me). It can be bought at Amazon.

** I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review, which I have given **

Monday, May 26, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: Hot Chocolate In June by Holly Mthethwa

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


I grew up in the small, rural town of Cozad, Nebraska where the corn grows higher than I am tall and every local knows each other's name(though not always how to pronounce them). Mthethwa. Mm.tet.wa. I currently live in the Washington, D.C. area with my South African husband, Oscar. I graduated from the University of Nebraska at Kearney with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting. Quite early in my career, I realized accounting was not my passion and began pursuing writing. 

When did you first discover that you loved writing? 

When I was eleven, my teacher entered a poem I’d written into a school competition. The winner got to attend a Young Authors Conference that was hosted in a nearby town. I ended up taking first place in my age group and got to attend the conference and the workshops. It was through that experience I began to discover the depth of my love for writing and creating stories. 

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

Hot Chocolate in June is a memoir and is the first book I’ve written. I wrote it because I believe God wrote a really wonderful story through some of the events in my life and I wanted to share that story with others. 

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

The greatest obstacle I had in writing was wrapping my mind around how I was going to piece together the pages and chapters to create a book. I didn’t know if I had enough words to fill the pages, and not just words, but effective and powerful words. In order to overcome those challenges, I kept focusing on writing a page at a time. Each page began to fill-up chapters which began to complete the book. 

Has writing changed your life in any way?

Writing has changed my life because through it I’ve discovered one of my greatest passions. It’s opened up my eyes and my heart to how much I enjoy penning words on a page and inspired me to begin pursuing it full-time. 

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

My life verse is Philippians 4:5 which reads “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” This verse continually reminds me to be gentle and kind to strangers and those in need. It also reminds me that my gentleness needs to be evident to my family and friends as well. They deserve all of my tenderness and compassion too. 

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

I’m a huge fan of Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings series. I loved the way she intertwined biblical history with storytelling and was able to keep me anticipating each subsequent book in the series. I found it spectacular because after I read the series, I couldn’t wait to go back through the Old Testament bible stories and dig deeper. I often find myself anxious to go deeper after reading a teaching non-fiction Christian book, but it’s rare for me to do so after reading Christian fiction. I loved that!

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

The funniest things I’ve ever done almost always involve spilling something or tripping. I’m certain my husband thinks I’m a catastrophe waiting to happen at times. One day, he and I were walking hand in hand through a shopping mall in Johannesburg, South Africa. We took a short cut to our car and swung our legs over a chain link rope that was meant to section off a particular area. The stiletto heel of my boot got caught in one of the links and I was flipped onto my back and onto the cement before I knew what happened. A group of about five young kids tried to ease my humiliation and yelled, “Don’t worry, no one saw it!” Yes, no one but the five of them.

Please tell us about the featured book.

Buy At Amazon
Under-qualified and overly-ambitious, Holly left her family and friends behind in Nebraska to search for that radical life, that all-for-Jesus-or-nothing-at-all life. Escaping the depression that chased her following her father’s untimely and agonizing death, this young accountant-turned-adventurer trekked to remote mountain villages and through city streets smelling of human excrement: all in search of a Father’s love. Thousands of miles from the only home she’d ever known, Holly discovered a deeper passion for her God while sharing the gospel in India and soothing abandoned babies in South Africa. God made sure that Holly also encountered Oscar. This handsome South African rugby player seemed to have everything Holly had been praying for in a husband—except for the small detail that he didn’t look like any of the other guys she’d dated before. Oscar, as the son of parents who had lived through racial segregation and apartheid, was not supposed to bring home a woman whose skin matched the color of the people his parents had served. And this small town, Midwestern girl wasn’t supposed to fall in love with a black man, either. Hot Chocolate in June is the true story of God's undeniable ability to mend emotional wounds, overcome racial and cultural differences, and write amazing adventure stories. Join Holly as she navigates her way through deep grief and loss, only to discover the sweetness of love and restoration.

Can you please give us the first page?

I DROVE.
The crisp, fall Nebraska air blew so strongly, with threats of
winter frost, that neither the warmth of the heater nor sips from
the cappuccino in my cup holder could melt its chilling effects. I
was headed west along Interstate 80 in my white 2004 Oldsmobile
Alero, toward the seasonally abandoned cornfields of Cozad,
Nebraska. The night sky intensified my eagerness to get home. It
was Thanksgiving break, during my second year of college, and
school had let out early, but a part-time job had kept me from
making the forty-five-minute drive home until nightfall.
My parents divorced when I was six yet still, at the age of
nineteen, I spent every other holiday between the two of them.
Having outgrown the requirements of the divorce decree, I was
at the age where I could simply decide whom I wanted to spend a
holiday with, but something about choosing felt disloyal; wrong.
So I headed toward Dad’s house and my hometown, because, well,
Thanksgiving was his turn this year.
Long ago, my brother Danny and I determined to make the
best out of our situation. We discovered that children of divorced
parents not only get to celebrate each holiday three times more
than other kids, but they also get three times as many Christmas
presents come Christmas time. When you’re a kid and you start
multiplying your anticipated gifts by two parents, two step-parents,
two sets of grandparents, two sets of step-grandparents, and
step-siblings, it becomes easy to find the silver lining in being
the by-product of divorce.

Where can readers learn more information about you?

Readers can learn more about me by visiting my website at www.ruggedandredeemed.com or by following me on Facebook or Twitter. 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HollyRMthethwa
Twitter: @hollymthethwa

Thank you again for being with us today!
**********
GIVEAWAY!
(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Holly has generously offered to giveaway a signed copy of Hot Chocolate In June! Print giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on June 7, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

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Attention!

Giveaway Information: 

1. From May 19-31 visit ambassador-international.com/hotchocolategiveaway to enter up to 25 times.

2. From May 22-28, anyone who purchases the Hot Chocolate in June ebook can forward their receipt to media@emeraldhouse.com to be entered to win another prize pack

Monday, May 12, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: The Short Life of Moths by Sharon Bernash Smith

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

Thanks so much for having me. 

 I’m a mother of two grown sons and the proud Grandmother of four precocious granddaughters.  I’m active in my church as a Bible study leader and have worked in the past at several Pregnancy Resource Centers in the community. I stay fit by walking and enjoy watercolor painting when I can. I am a cowgirl at heart.

When did you first discover that you loved writing? 

I’ve always had a very active imagination and studied journalism. During the 25 years I spent with the Pregnancy Centers, I worked on the newsletters, rediscovering my love for writing.

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

I call what I write “Reality Fiction,” because I’m committed to addressing the obstacles we all face in life with passion and truth. More than anything, I want my readers to know that God desires  to be intimately involved in their everyday lives as they face those obstacles. We are never alone because of His unending love..

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

I’m a very social person by nature, but it’s impossible to write while interacting with others. So, since writing is a solitary calling, making time to write became my greatest obstacle. However, I found as I prioritized my time, it became easier, although. I still struggle. Since God has called me to this ministry, I find He gives me the strength I need.

Has writing changed your life in any way?

Oh, yes. I am much more aware of people’s “stories,” now.  I call myself a “noticer,” and often warn people if they see me taking notes, they just might end up in one of my books. Also, I’ve written with two co-authors who are now my sister’s in Christ. What a blessing.  It’s all good!

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

“Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord.” Zechariah 4:6  This is my life scripture, because ultimately it’s God’s Spirit that gives us strength and power for all of life through the shed blood of Jesus. God is in control, and this scripture is a perfect reminder.

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

Oh wow, there have been so many.  All of Corrie Ten Boom’s books made me a better Christian and furthered my interest in the Holocaust. I’m convinced that every book I’ve ever read has influenced me in some way, but none, of course like, the Bible.  Recently, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, has had a profound impact on my daily faith walk. Her words fall on me like lullabies. 

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

Without going into a lot of detail…dressing up in a gorilla suit…twice.  ‘Nuff said.

Please tell us about the featured book.
Buy At Amazon

The Short Life of Moths is the book I never wanted to write because it’s inspired by true events surrounding domestic violence. I was sitting in a courtroom, listening to my beautiful niece testify against the man who had violently attacked and humiliated her, when I knew God wanted me to tell the story.

All though the reality of domestic violence is ugly, this book is one of hope and healing.  I deliberately made my protagonist younger because I wanted to reach girls earlier in their lives in order to prevent them from ever entering into an unhealthy relationship in the first place.

My main character is a Christian, and desires to share her faith with a boy several years older, since she believes in second chances.  Because of her good intentions, she’s completely blindsided by his true motives, and they are evil.  

I’m now involved in speaking to young women about what true love looks like according to the Bible and 1Corinthians 13.  I call my presentation, “Love Never Hurts.”

Can you please give us the first page?

Superior Court, Clark County, WA

“Ladies and gentlemen, what you are about to hear is a story surrounding a lovely, caring friendship…”  The prosecuting attorney took two steps closer towards the jury box, while each person in the courtroom sat up straighter. “…a lovely, caring friendship that went terribly, terribly wrong. What began as two young people entering a relationship with hope and expectation, ended with one of them being physically and emotionally broken, shamed and humiliated as the result of deliberate and horrifying violence…”

Where can readers learn more information about you?

I love to connect with people on Facebook. Also on sharonbernashsmith.blogspot.com, and www.oaktara.com  and www.amazon.com

**********
GIVEAWAY!
(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!)
  Sharon has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of The Short Life of Moths! Print giveaway is available to U.S. residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday May 31, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: To Die Once by Miranda Uyeh

Welcome to Christian Book Review Blog, Miranda! Thank you for being here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A – Thank you for the warm welcome! So glad to be here! Apart from being a writer, I’m a blogger, a judge for the INSPY Book Awards, a book/entertainment reviewer of Christian works, a professional blurb constructor, and an assistant lecturer at a college.

When did you first discover that you loved writing? 
A – When I was thirteen, after I read a book by Norma Jean Lutz.

Why do you write the type of books that you do?
A – Well, for one, the genre Christian Romance is my favorite! I want to write books that will connect people with God and His truth.

What was your greatest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?
A – Being as I live outside of the United States but my team resides there, setting up a payment option that was comfortable for all of us proved to be a hassle. But eventually, we decided on google wallet, which is quite easy and comfortable to use.

Has writing changed your life in any way?
A – Absolutely! God has used the works of authors like Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, MaryLu Tyndall, and Julie Lessman to comfort, encourage, uplift, and clear some of my confusion as I grew in faith. I certainly hope to write books that do the same for others. I wrote all about the blessings of fiction in a post I titled Why I Believe In Christian Fiction.

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What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?
A – 2 Peter 1:3-11. It made me understand that there’s no good thing God wants to withhold from His children. We just have to be willing to walk with Him.

Is there a book you’ve read that has been truly spectacular?
A – Oh, yes! Books, in fact—Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, Veil of Pearls by MaryLu Tyndall, A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman, and more recently, Love’s Promises by Sandra Leesmith.

What’s the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?
A – Honestly, I can’t remember!

Please tell us about the featured book.
A – To Die Once is book #1 of four books in the Child of Grace Series. As the name of the series suggests, the theme of the book is grace, told through the stories of characters that made mistakes/wrong decisions, and were dealing with the consequences. In the end, they all come face to face with God’s healing power of love, grace, and redemption.

Can you please give us the first page?
A – Absolutely! Or how about I give you the first chapter instead? Sound better? Here it goes!

CHAPTER ONE

JENNIFER TINGHIR hated her work at the cashier unit of the bank. She liked her real job better at the Marketing Department. In two hours, she had attended to over fifty impatient customers, and the pressure of the work started to kick in and take its toll on her. Thankfully, she had one more customer to deal with before her break. God knew her aching fingers needed to rest from all that tapping on the computer keyboard, and her stiff back needed to lean on something cozy after sitting up for so long, before she returned to the paperwork that awaited her on her desk in her office.
Before midday, the bank was already crowded. More people trooped in like it was Black Friday at a shopping mall. It was the second quarter of the year, a time when business corporations in Nigeria repositioned their agendas to fit the profit margin, and individuals planned their budgets to maximize the best yields. Lagos City was no different. In the marketing department, she and her colleagues had to lend help to the customer care and cashier units because of the unusual influx of customers.
“Thank you for coming, sir.” She said to her second-to-last customer, then cleared the information sheet from the computer screen as she waited for the last man in line to approach.
She raised her hand to soothe the kink at the nape of her neck and within seconds started to feel the release as her stiffened muscles relaxed under the massage. What wouldn’t she give to dig out her tired feet from her stilettos, relax her back against a cozy chair and prop her legs up on her desk behind the closed door of her office? She bit back a groan and maintained her composure.
When she finally looked up, her breath caught at the sight of the man standing before her. Her pulse raced as he studied her. She had never seen him before. He had to be a new customer in the bank.
Jennifer swallowed. “Good morn—uhm, sorry. It’s afternoon—good afternoon. Sir.” She was aware she was babbling. How could she not? Before her stood the most attractive man she had ever seen in her life. She was sure that if he leaned over the counter enough, his towering height would loom over her. His dark hair sat in waves that flowed to the back of his head but didn’t extend beyond his nape. His dark eyes were penetrating. His Roman nose wasn’t too pronounced so it fit perfectly on his face. His jaw exuded a smoothness and toughness all at the same time. And his lips—oh, Lord, those lips—she stopped herself. What is wrong with me? She had just spent the last few seconds ogling a customer. But her mind stubbornly continued—pondering his lips that were satisfactorily thin and puckered enough to attract any sane female. His stare was full of such interest that she visibly shuddered, even more so when his eyes strayed and stopped on her … lips?
Jennifer blinked.
She shook her head to clear it of any nonsense and forced her mind to concentrate on the man for who he was to her—a customer. Tearing her glance away from him, she attempted to gather her composure. Her heartbeat still thrummed, but when she finally turned his way again, she hoped her look spoke “professional.”
He smiled in a soft, cocky way that tingled her senses. She didn’t like that, she decided.
“Good morning,” he said.
Italian, she noticed. “How may I help you?” 
He took his time in answering, as though teasing her. “Well, I’m new in town—here to do business—so I would like to open an account.”
He had to know she didn’t need the first half of the information he had just offered in order to open an account for him. She turned to the computer screen and cleared the fresh page she’d opened before turning back to him. “I’m sorry, sir. That’s not for this department.” She nodded towards the right direction. “The Customer Care Service handles all openings of new accounts. This is the cashier counter. Here, you’re either withdrawing or depositing cash.”
“I see.” He looked over at the Customer Care section and studied the area with one sweep of a glance before turning back to her. “That is an awful big crowd over there. You think you could help me out? It wouldn’t be fair to have me go back and stand in line again after I’ve done so here.” He put on a charming smile that could dismantle any sort of defense any woman would wrap around her senses. It allured her so much that she was sure if she were on her feet, she would have swayed.
Jennifer’s heart pounded at the flirtatious look in his eyes. It was a wonder no one could hear the noise it made in her chest. She shivered at the intensity of his eyes—so confident—and wondered if it scared her more than it excited her. No man should be this attractive. It’s simply not fair.
She blinked and offered a thin smile. “I would love to help, but I’m tied up here, as you can see.”
“I’m sure you could take a few minutes to help out. After all,”—he looked past her to the colleague waiting to relieve her—“You’re about to go on your break.”
Drat. He caught her. Of course, it wasn’t that she really didn’t have the time, but a foreboding feeling told her she shouldn’t be anywhere near this man, lest he take over her head and senses. And she was the type of girl who liked to keep her head and remain in control of her senses.
Jennifer stepped out of the cubicle. “Yes, it is my break. All the more reason why I can’t help you. I’m sorry, but you will have to wait in line with the other customers.” She hoped her poker face was convincing enough to tell him that she wasn’t interested. Something in her sensed he was dangerous to her in some way. It would be wise to keep him at a safe distance, whoever he was.
“You’re not turning me down, are you? You wouldn’t be so unfriendly to a prospective customer?” His request sounded sincere enough, but with an edge of humor.
Jennifer bit her lip. An attractive man who knew how to be persuasive with words—definitely dangerous. As a staff of the bank obligated to follow policy to be respectful of a customer’s requests, she felt cornered. Jennifer let out a sigh of resignation. Well, the sooner she got rid of him, the easier it would be for her to breathe again.
She turned to him. “Of course not.” 
Jennifer rounded the counter, and he met her halfway. He stopped too close for comfort, obviously intruding into her personal space so that they were just inches apart, her eyes level with his … broad chest. Oh, Lord. She couldn’t breathe. She swallowed, and her throat clogged. When she finally sucked in some breath, his cologne wafted into her nostrils and teased her senses so much that she could taste the flavor on her tongue.
Jennifer struggled to take her eyes off his body, slowly letting them journey all the way up to his face. A stare lingered at his lips before her eyes moved up to gaze into his, praying he didn’t notice her reaction to him. His knowing, lopsided smile told her otherwise. Her body warmed from her ears down to her toes. “Right this way,” she managed to spill out of a tight throat, turning on her heels like a prey trying to escape her predator.
Jennifer led him to the Care Service desk, each step a nervous one as she felt his eyes bore into her, like he was deciphering her body. He stopped a short distance away as she went past the long queue of customers and stepped behind the desk of the officer. She leaned to whisper in his ear and was handed an application form. After a grateful smile and a “thank you,” she reluctantly headed back to the man that waited for her.
Jennifer stopped a comfortable distance away from him and stretched out her hand to hand him the form. That didn’t stop him from crossing the short distance and standing before her as close as he had the first time. She bit back the snarky remark that threatened to escape her lips. With a silent huff, she squared her shoulders and lifted her chin.
Their fingers brushed as he collected the paper. Jennifer felt the tingling sensation first at the tip of her fingers, before it coursed through her body, causing her to flinch. His brief chuckle embarrassed her. She pretended she didn’t hear it. No. She just chose to ignore it out of politeness to a prospective customer.
After a quick scan of the form, he gave her his attention again, and this time she met his stare with a strong one of her own.
He searched deep into her eyes and held her gaze. For some reason, Jennifer let herself stay that way, the connection jolting her insides and turning them to mush. Finally, he offered a half-smile that broke their stare. “Thank you,” he said, in a husky voice.
Jennifer nodded, unable to utter a word. She crossed her arms tightly over her chest.
An awkward moment of silence passed, and then he broke it with a question. “May I know your name?”
Jennifer hesitated. Seeing as she had no choice if she didn’t want to appear rude, she answered. “Jennifer.”
His lopsided smile returned. “Jenny.” 
It sounded like he was tasting it on his lips. His boldness at shortening her name after such a short acquaintance annoyed, frightened, and stirred her insides all at the same time. God, who is this man?
“It was nice to meet you, Jenny.”
Jennifer nodded and offered a brief smile unblinking. “You, too, sir.”
Rodrigo. My name is Rodrigo Montello.” The words flowed out of his mouth like bubbling water in a stream.
“Mr. Montello, it was nice to meet you,” she gritted past her teeth. She didn’t want to fraternize.
Rodrigo offered a nod, then turned and walked away without looking back.
As she watched him leave, she prayed she never had to encounter him again. Thank goodness she was in the marketing department.

I hope this excerpt piques your interest!

Where can readers learn more information about you?
A – Glad you asked! You can find me on my blog, facebook, twitter, pinterest, google+, Goodreads, Shelfari, and Scripity! Also, you can follow the twitter hash tag #ToDieOnce to join the fun conversation between bloggers. Everyone’s invited! There’s also a pinterest board where the book comes to life with pictures! Of course it will make better sense if you’ve read the book, but it’s no reason not to stop by and take a look! Feel free to contact me anytime through anyone of these mediums. Would love to hear from you!
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