Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve, 2009

I've been very neglectful of my blog the last couple of months. I'm not sure when I'm going to start doing better, though. But I wanted to refer you to a beautiful Christmas poem by my friend and fellow blogger, Pepper Basham.

Hope you enjoy it! Merry Christmas! May you be blessed as you reflect on our perfect Lord's coming to the Earth to love us and save us. God blessed us, and we have only to seek him to find him.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge--Mission Accomplished!

I did it! I finished Pride and Prejudice, thus completing my challenge of reading all six of Jane Austen's novels in six months.

I saved the best for last and very much enjoyed reading about Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet. I was afraid it would be too familiar to me and I wouldn't enjoy it that much, or it would be boring, but it wasn't. It was really fun! And now I have to watch my favorite movie version of P&P, of course, the version with Colin Firth. Yay! Can't wait.

And now, I must tease you and say that I have a big announcement to make, hopefully in a few weeks. So stick around for that!

And have a very merry Christmas! God bless you!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pearl Girls

I'm happy to get the word out about this new book by a bunch of great Christian authors. The proceeds will help fund a Safe House in the Chicago suburbs. It costs $50 a night to provide safe shelter for a woman and her children. During this economy, WINGS is receiving even more phone calls for a safe place to stay. Already, the Pearl Girls have provided 60 nights with the advance royalties. Here's Margaret with a little bit about the book:

With His love and grace, God covered the unexpected pain in my life of becoming an adult orphan and transformed this pain into a pearl. We are all Pearl Girls. Each of us has been touched by God's gift of love and grace, and it's a gift that I want to share with others. That's why I am launching Pearl Girls.

Actually, my very first gift from my parents was a pearl. The gift of my name. Margaret means "precious pearl." So perhaps this is what I was always supposed to do. My heart's prayer is that Pearl Girls will be a blessing to others - to the women who contribute their literary talent to the Pearl Girls projects; to the readers who are inspired and comforted by the life experiences shared through these projects and to the women and children who will benefit from the proceeds given by Pearl Girls to various charities. This is a win-win for everyone, and each of us has a special part in making the Pearl Girls projects "blessed sellers."

After the first Pearl Girls tea in Atlanta, I went to my brother, Claude's home to help sort through our parents' boxes in his basement. It was an emotional experience and tedious process to discover what was in each box, to decide what to do with each item and to discard those belongings which we needed to let go. After several long hours of sorting, I received an incredible hug from heaven - a confirmation that Pearl Girls is something that is meant to be. I discovered a three strand necklace of painted pearls belonging to my grandmother from the early 1900s! Isn't that amazing?

Authors include Shaunti Feldhahn, Melody Carlson, Kimberley Woodhouse, and Robin Jones Gunn.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

December 2009 New Releases

Enjoy perusing the new books coming out this month! Some might even make good Christmas presents! For yourself or others.

1. A Bouquet for Iris, by Diane Ashley & Aaron McCarver from Barbour Heartsong Presents. Iris Landon travels to Daisy, Tennessee, to care for two Cherokee children and finds romance and danger while aiding one family in the struggle to keep their land.

2. A Lady Like Sarah, Rocky Creek Romance, by Margaret Brownley from Thomas Nelson. He's a preacher. She's an outlaw. Both are in need of a miracle.

3. ANGEL WITH A BACKHOE, by Deb Kinnard from Desert Breeze Publishing. A small-town widower and a spunky suburban transplant match wits over a church construction project, finding true love can mix with blueprints and concrete footings.

4. Child Finder: Resurrection series: Child Finder Trilogy, 2nd book, by Mike Angley from Total Recall Publications, Inc. Child Finder: Resurrection…the highly-anticipated sequel to the award-winning debut novel, Child Finder, which Library Journal placed on its 2009 Summer Reads list for Christian fiction!

5. Christmas Peril, by Margaret Daley from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Christmas themed, romantic suspense stories.

6. Cup of Joe, by Teri Wilson from White Rose Publishing. A grieving woman resists the cups of comfort offered by the shy, but handsome, owner of the neighborhood coffee shop.

7. Field of Danger, by Ramona Richards from Love Inspired Suspense. When April Presley can’t remember details of the murder she witnessed, deputy Daniel Rivers must help her recall the event and protect her from the killer determined to silence her.

8. Her Patchwork Family series: The Gabriel Sisters, by Lyn Cote from Love Inspired. In spite of opposition from the rich and influential, can Felicity Gabriel establish a home for children orphaned by the Civil War and heal two wounded hearts?

9. Patterns and Progress series: Michigan historical, book 3, by Amber Stockton from Barbour Publishing. A farmer's daughter would rather turn back the hands of time than accept the fact that advancement in technology could be in God's plan.

10. The Sheriff's Surrender series: #1 of The Ladies' Shooting Club Series, by Susan Page Davis from Barbour Publishing. The men of Fergus aren’t keeping the town safe, so a group of feisty women take matters into their own hands.

11. The Glassblower series: First book in the New Jersey Historical Series, by Laurie Alice Eakes from Barbour Publishing. Colin Grassick moves from Edinburgh, Scotland to Salem county New jersey totake a position as a master glassblower. He loves his work and hopes of bringing his family to America for a better life. But his love for Meg, the daughter of the owner of the glassworks, threatens his job...and then his life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sense and Sensibility

I finished Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, which was a wonderful reminder of why it's my second favorite Jane Austen book. Now I just have one more book, my favorite, Pride and Prejudice, to read before Jan. 1st to accomplish my Everything Austen Challenge! It's been great fun.

Sense and Sensibility is a wonderful story of two sisters who are quite opposite in their temperament. Elinor, the oldest, is very sensible, which is a good thing, because her younger sister Marianne and their mother are much too emotional, with sensibilities too strong, for their own good.

The two sisters fall in love, Marianne without any restraint, and Elinor with much self-control, and both affairs of the heart end rather badly, or at least seem to. I watched the movie version written by Emma Thompson, with Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant as soon as I finished it. I love that movie, but the newest one, that just came out last year, I think, is also extremely good and has a more perfect actor for the part of Willoughby, the roguish but very endearing blackguard who breaks Marianne's heart.

So, you can see I'm still as much into this challenge as I was at the very beginning! I'm a Jane Austen fanatic, what can I say?

Christmas Miracles drawing

I drew one commenter's name and forwarded it to Cec Murphey's assistant, and she will be included in the drawing for the Christmas Miracles gift basket. And that commenter is ... Debra Ullrick!

Good luck! (Or maybe I should say, God's Blessings on you!) Debra!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Christmas Miracles by Cec Murphey

Many ordinary people experience Christmas miracles—those special moments during the season of giving and receiving when Christmas becomes more than just a holiday. In Christmas Miracles (St. Martin’s Press, October 2009), Cecil Murphey

and Marley Gibson

share the stories of those who have recognized the special moments that transcend daily experience and transform their lives.
In these stories, people overcome desperate situations through a miraculous twist of fate—all during the most wonderful time of the year. A young boy sits down to read a Christmas book and discovers that his learning disability has vanished. A woman stranded in a blizzard is rescued by a mysterious stranger who she suspects is an angel. And a woman living far from home gets an answer to her prayer in the form of an unexpected gift.

Bestselling author Cecil Murphey says, “We all face discouraging times, whether it's the lack of money, being stuck on a road in a snowstorm, feeling stress, or being hungry and homeless. But God's help is available. I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural. We start by asking, and in strange and wonderful ways God tiptoes into our dark nights; we experience renewed joy in life and witness God in action through people and unexpected events.”

Interview with Cecil “Cec” Murphey

by Marley Gibson

Co-authors of Christmas Miracles, from St. Martin’s Press

I am extremely privileged to have the opportunity today to talk to my friend and co-author, Cecil “Cec” Murphey, and to chat about our upcoming book, Christmas Miracles.

Marley: Cec, thanks for spending some time with me today.

Cec: Marley, it's great that you could take time away from important things like making a living to spend a little time with me.

Marley: I’m so jazzed about our Christmas Miracles book that’s coming out soon. I’ve had a lot of questions from folks wanting to know how we met, what brought us together, etc. So, I thought we’d do a back and forth on how it all came to be. Of course, I have to give props to our amazing agent and friend, Deidre Knight, for bringing us together. For those of you who don’t know, Cec co-authored the runaway New York Times bestselling hit 90 Minutes in Heaven with Don Piper.

Cec: I have to say thanks to Deidre Knight as well. Between Deidre and my assistant, Twila Belk, I've been able to sell quite a few books. 90 Minutes in Heaven has been my big book. I'm also proud of a book I wrote in 1990 called Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. The book has never been out of print and has hit close to four million in sales. Early this year, Cuba Gooding Jr. starred in the made-for-TV film version.

Marley: That’s amazing! You are truly prophetic and definitely “the man behind the words.” Now, people ask how we teamed up. Sadly, there was a personal tragedy that brought Cec and me together as friends.

Cec: True. In early 2007, our house burned and our son-in-law died. Aside from the grief over Alan, we lost everything. Deidre and Jan, my-then-assistant, sent the word out of our tragedy without telling me. I'm immensely grateful for every gift people sent, but I probably wouldn't have admitted I needed help and wouldn't have asked. They taught me how much we need other people.

Marley: Deidre put out a call to other clients of The Knight Agency, to help Cec and his family out in any way in their time of need. At the time, my company was moving and we were cleaning house. We had a ton of office supplies that we were either going to throw away or give to some of the charities the company worked with. I got my boss’ permission to send a large care package to Cec…full of office supplies for him to re-stock his writer’s office. You name it…post-its, staples, paper clips, pens, pencils, markers, white out, ruler, scissors, paper, notebooks, notepads, envelopes, a laptop case, tape, glue, folders, binder clips…etc. A veritable potpourri of office delights. I was hoping that it would help Cec have a sense of getting his office back so he could keep working.

Cec: Marley's gift was the most unexpected I received. We hadn't met, although Deidre Knight had spoken of her many times and kept telling me she was wonderful. I wonder if you can imagine what it was like for me to open that box from someone I didn't know. I saw all those practical things for my office and yelled for my wife. I felt as if I were reading a first-grade book. "Look! Look and see! Oh, look!" I was overwhelmed by the gift and even more to receive it from a stranger. Those supplies were the most practical gift anyone could have given me. I'm still using black paper clips and red folders from Marley.

Marley: Awww…thanks, Cec! I didn’t have to think twice about doing it. Writing is such a solitary “sport,” but the writing community always astounds me with how they help their own. Not long after that, over plates of spinach and Gouda omelets, Deidre introduced me to Cec in person and I was thrilled to finally meet the man behind the words. Deidre knew we needed to work on a project together and thus began our brainstorming. What did you think of that first meeting, Cec, and cooking up the idea to work together?

Cec: Deidre and I had already spoken about a Christmas book and I had some idea about what it should contain, but nothing had come together. One day Deidre told me that Marley was coming to visit her and she wanted us to work together on a Christmas project. Marley and I talked before we ate and again during the meal. Everything felt right to me. I knew my strengths and Marley knew hers (and Deidre knew both of us). Everything clicked. Marley, a far better networker than I am, immediately sent out the word for submissions. Within days she had almost four times more than we could use. (She read every one of them!)

Marley: I was truly impressed with the submissions we received and it was hard narrowing it down to the ones we chose for the book. We’re fortunate to have such a go-getter agent in Deidre Knight. Cec, can you share how the whole idea of Christmas Miracles came about and what you thought of the project originally?

Cec: For me, it actually started while I was on the rapid-rail train from the Atlanta airport when I listened to teens talk about Christmas and it was mostly about gifts. I had the idea then, but nothing really came together. Months later when Deidre I and had a meeting, she brought up the idea of a compilation and mentioned my working with Marley. I've been Deidre Knight's client since 1997 and I've learned to listen carefully when she comes up with an idea. I said yes before she gave me all the information.

Marley: That’s the truth about Deidre! Getting back to those submissions, I want to say we got more than two hundred submissions for Christmas Miracles. So many wonderful stories to read through and select for the book. It was a challenge to pick and choose which ones were right for the book, but I loved every minute of it. After I chose the entries that would go into the book, Cec toiled long hours editing the works for a unified voice. What was the biggest challenge you found in the editing process, Cec?

Cec: I've been a ghostwriter and collaborator for twenty-plus years and this was a switch to give the book a unified voice—which was mine. It would have been easier to stay with each writer's voice, but the book—like many compilations—would have been uneven in tone and quality. When I discussed this via email with our delightful editor, Rose Hilliard, she was (to my surprise) familiar with my work. She told me she liked the warm tone of my writing and that I don't waste words. "That's the voice we want," she said. It still wasn't easy, but it was an exciting challenge. After Marley and I agreed on the stories and gave them that unified voice, our editor pulled six contributions. Although different, Rose felt they were too similar to other stories.

Marley: Can you give our readers a preview of the book? A favorite story perhaps…or one that moved you to tears? (I have to say the little boy who wished for nothing but to be able to read a book all the way through because of his stutter had me bawling when I read the submission.)

Cec: That's not fair! I liked them all. The one that touched me most, however, is the last story in the book, "Sean's Question." We had almost finished the book and I was teaching at a conference in Florida. I felt we needed one strong story at the end. Despite all the good ones, I didn't feel fully satisfied to conclude the book. On the last day of the conference, I met a conferee named Sara Zinn for a consultation. As we talked, I mentioned Christmas Miracles and that I still needed one more story. "I have a Christmas story," she said and told me about Sean. As I listened, tears filled my eyes—but, being the macho type I am, I was sure it was an allergy. Sara wrote the story, and it became the one I sought.

Marley: Oh yes…that one is an emotional one all right. It was meant to be in the book because of how you met at the conference. Now, you and I have both had challenges in our lives that others might have found too much to take, but we are both very strong in our faith and our relationship with God. How do you think Christmas Miracles is going to help others feel closer to God and experience His miracles in their own lives?

Cec: Awareness and appreciation are the two things I want readers to grasp. Awareness means for them to realize that they're never totally alone in life. Those unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary events remind us of that. Appreciation means to be thankful for what we already have. Too often, and especially at Christmas, we focus on what we'd like or what is supposed to make us happy. Christmas Miracles gently reminds readers of both.

Marley: In this day and age when our country is fighting two wars, unemployment is high, and a lot of people have a lack of hope and faith for their future, what do you want readers of the book to take away from Christmas Miracles and how can the stories in our book help provide comfort to those struggling?

Cec: I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural (as in one of Marley's stories). I call myself a serious Christian. For me, the world's greatest miracle began with the birth of Jesus. Regardless of a person's religion, this book encourages readers to think about life during the Christmas season and see that life as more than gifts and celebrations. It's also a reminder that God loves us and hears our needy cries.

Marley: Beautifully put, Cec, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Can we share what’s next after Christmas Miracles? J

Cec: Why it's the Cec and Marley show, of course. Because of our go-getter agent and our enthusiastic editor, we've already received thumbs up for The Christmas Spirit. This will be stories of people who express the true spirit of Christmas by acts of love and kindness, for release in the fall of 2011.

Marley: And I can’t wait to start working on that project! Thank you so much for your time, Cec, and answering my questions. It was a privilege and honor to work with you and I look forward to our future projects together. You’ve helped me along during a trying time and I appreciate your friendship and support.

Cec: I liked this project because Marley had to send out the word, collect submissions, read them, and discard the weaker ones. I get to see only the better-written stories. (Don't tell her that I have the better job.) Although I mentioned only one story, all of those in the book touched me because of the poignancy of their situations and the miraculous answers. I won't say the stories increased my faith, but they increased my appreciation for the delightful mix of human need and divine intervention.

Marley: Thanks again, Cec! God Bless! And to our readers, please be sure to pick up a copy of CHRISTMAS MIRACLES, out October 13, 2009 from St. Martin’s Press. It’s a great stocking stuffer or gift basket filler. We hope you, too, will discover your own Christmas Miracles in your life.

Marley Gibson is a young adult author whose first published books in the Sorority 101 series were released by Penguin Group in 2008 under the pen name of Kate Harmon. She has a new Ghost Huntress series with Houghton Mifflin written under her own name. She can be found online at

Leave a comment for a chance to win the Christmas Miracles gift basket.

Wouldn’t you love to take home this amazing basket filled with Christmas goodies galore? This amazing gift basket contains everything you’ll need to make your Christmas holiday a success. Inside you’ll find a stocking stuffed with hard candies, kitchen towels and oven mitts, seasonal potpourri, holiday-colored candles, stuffed animals that talk, snowman candle, nutcrackers, Christmas ornaments, gift bags, gift tags, gift bows, ornament hangers, Christmas cookie cutters, a Merry Christmas doorstopper, a picture frame, Christmas cards, Santa ear muffs, and not just one, but two copies of Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson’s Christmas Miracles – one to keep and one to give away to someone special.

So leave a comment for a chance to win the fabulous gift basket! And if you need an inspirational gift, this book will no doubt be a wonderful gift.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Jane Austen Rocks!

I read Persuasion. Yay! Only two more books to go before I accomplish my goal for the Everything Austen Challenge!

Persuasion is one of my favorite Jane Austen books. It's actually a pretty quick and easy read, and it's such a sweet story. I believe Captain Wentworth is one of my favorite heroes because he's so real. He's hurt by Anne Elliot's early rejection of him, so he takes it out on her by ignoring her and flirting with her cousins. But he can't be mean to her, and he ends up getting caught in his own trap.

If you haven't read Persuasion, it's one of JA's shortest and best books. I decided to re-watch the movie version with Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth last night after I finished the book. It was great. When I read the book, I was thinking of Ciaran Hinds as the hero, because he seems to fit him so well. I think he's the only one of JA's heroes who really likes to talk, and he expresses himself well. I guess that's another reason why I like him so much.

Now I only have to read Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility before Jan. 1st. They have always been my favorites, so I know I can do it. How is everybody else doing?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson

I just finished this book last night. Ever read a book that just makes you feel good all over, makes you feel like you're glowing after you read that last page and close the book, like you can't wait to write your own story in hopes it will be this great? Yeah, me neither, not very many times in my life, but I did feel all those things last night when I finished this book.

Anna Grazinsky is a Russian countess, a teenager who has lost everything during the Russian Revolution and must flee with what's left of her family to England. She is such a vivid character, very strong, so NOT snobby, and she insists that being a maid is not beneath her. Besides, it's only temporary. She comes to love the people who live in the huge estate where she goes to serve, and falls in love with the handsome, unassuming Earl of Westerholme who is about to be doomed in marriage to the cold-hearted Murial. Oh, what's a penniless countess to do?

This novel is full of vivid characters, so lifelike I found myself praying for them! LOL I absolutely adored the story, too, maybe, partially because I love all things Russian so much. But it's very sweet and romantic and I highly recommend it. And no, I did not receive any compensation for writing this review, and have never received a single penny from Amazon for linking to them. In fact, if the FTC would really like to know (and I can't imagine why they would, but who wants to pay a fine of thousands of dollars? Not me) I got this book from my local library. So there.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge--Mansfield Park

I finally finished reading Mansfield Park. I did enjoy it, very much, but I couldn’t help wishing during the middle part of the book, that Jane Austen had redeemed Henry Crawford and made him the hero instead of Edmund. Oh, Edmund is such a non-hero! Yes, he’s a good, virtuous person, but even in that one hero-like quality he has flaws. He’s easily turned aside by Mary Crawford’s pretty face. Blech.

And I just can’t imagine marrying a first cousin. I guess it was done quite a lot back then, but it doesn’t appeal to me in the least! It just seems … wrong. Icky. Not an option. But even in spite of these perceived flaws in the story, I still enjoyed it. There’s just something about Jane Austen’s style that is so appealing. Plus, it gets me to thinking about my own future stories, helps me come up with ideas, and makes me want to try writing a Regency.

I do think Mansfield Park is probably the most criticized of Jane Austen’s books. But it’s still well worth reading. And now I’m moving on to Persuasion. As soon as I finish it I plan to reward myself with the movie versions. I may watch both the Ciaran Hinds version (which is my favorite) and the newest version with that pale blond fellow who doesn’t appeal to me. In fairness, I didn’t actually watch much of that one. I just saw a tiny bit of it when it was on PBS.

So how are you all faring with your Everything Austen Challenge? I still have to read Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility, but they’re my favorites, so I think I’ll make it with time to spare. We’ll see!

And no, Miss Austen did not send me this book and I got no compensation from writing this review. *Rolling my eyes*

Monday, October 12, 2009

Jane Austen Challenge - Falling Behind! Uh-oh

So, how are you doing on your Jane Austen Challenge? Hmmm? I have to admit, I've fallen behind. I should have finished Mansfield Park last month, but I'm still only halfway through it! Yikes. So I need to finish it and read one more Jane Austen by the end of this month to stay on track. But I can still finish. I have 2 1/2 months to read Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and finish Mansfield Park. Can I do it?

Yes! I think I can.

I've already watched several Jane Austen movies as well. But my goal was to read all six JA books by Jan 1st. It's still doable.

And BTW, I'm enjoying Mansfield Park. Fanny isn't as admirable a heroine as Jane Austen's other leading ladies, but I'm sympathetic to her at least. And somehow I just can't get into the thought of Fanny being in love (and ultimately marrying) her first cousin, in whose house she has grown up since she was very young. There's just something icky about that. I guess it was no big deal in the early 1800's, but still ... I'm having trouble with that.

Any opinions?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New FTC regulations regarding book reviews

Some new regulations have a lot of book reviewers in an uproar. The gist of it is that from now on, book reviewers have to make a statement in their review saying that they received the book for free, since the FTC sees this free book, apparently, as "payment" for writing a review.

This brings me to some things I want to address.

I started this blog so I'd have a place to post my book reviews. At first I was just posting reviews of books that I'd bought, read, and liked. But soon authors and publicists started sending me free books. Sometimes I agree to post something about the book on my blog, but more often than not, I receive the books without me even knowing they're being sent. And I'm on "the list" of some authors, which gets me a free copy of each of their new books just before it releases.

You may have noticed that I never post negative reviews, that all my reviews are positive. The reason for this is very simple. I don't write reviews on the books I don't like. So if you read a review of mine talking about how much I loved a book, you can trust it. If I say I loved it, I really loved it, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I received the book for free! When I agree to post something about a book on my blog, if I didn't read the book, or I started the book but didn't like it, I will post some information about the book, post the link to purchase the book, but I won't review the book. I don't do negative reviews, but neither am I going to lie and say I loved it when I didn't.

So from now on, I will let you know if I received the book for free when I post a review. I don't know why you'd care, but since I don't want to be fined $11,000, I will post that little disclaimer! But I also want you to know that I get tons of books that I never even read, or I start reading but because I'm not crazy about the book, or I have other things I'd rather read, I never post a review about them. When a publicist sends me a book, it doesn't mean I feel obligated to read it or write a positive review about it. Because I don't. I'll read it if I want to. If I don't, I won't!

Anyway, that's all I want to say about that!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Time to pick some winners!

The winner of A Prisoner of Versailles by Golden Keyes Parson is ...

Susanne Dietze!

And the winner of Cowboy Christmas by Mary Connealy is ...

Tammy A!

Congratulations to these winners!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Cowboy Christmas by Mary Connealy

Oh, what a fun book!!!

Mary has graciously agreed to give away a copy of this book to someone who comments on this blog post. So to get your name in the stetson, please leave a comment!
(And the giveaway for Golden's book in the previous post is still up for grabs, so comment on that one, too.)

Here's my review of Cowboy Christmas:

Whoa! This book is a wild gallop on an excited pony, but you won’t want to pull back on the reins until the very last word on the last page. A fun ride.

Elijah Walker is sick to death of wily women and their evil ways, and with good reason. That’s why he’s so disgusted with himself for caring about Annette Talbot. He finds her half starved and needing help and just can’t seem to stop himself from helping her. Although he might have succeeded if it hadn’t been for his interfering Ma, who’s taken a shine to the little homeless orphan, Annie.

I enjoyed this book completely. It has hate-able villains whose hearts are as black as sin, a loveable hero who needs the love of a good woman, and an equally loveable heroine who needs the protection of a good man. It has surprise twists and daring adventures. What more could you ask for? I was glued to the pages and could hardly wait to find out what was going to happen next. Just like all of Mary Connealy’s books, it was funny, exciting, touching and romantic all at the same time. And just like the rest of her books, when I finished reading it, I was sure it was my favorite one so far.

I highly recommend it! Can’t wait to read the next one!

Leave a comment if you want to win it!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Prisoner of Versailles by Golden Keyes Parsons

If you'd like to be in the drawing for this adventurous, romantic novel, please leave a comment!

This is book two of the exciting series chronicling a Huguenot family, the Clavells, who are persecuted for their faith by the Catholic King Louis XIV of France. It continues where the last book left off, with Madeleine, a wife and mother who was once the childhood sweetheart of King Louis, forced to flee with her family to Switzerland. Her husband is on the brink of death and the ruthless King of France will stop at nothing to have her back at Versailles.

In this book, the life of handsome courtier Pierre Bovee is in danger because of the aid he has given to Madeleine and her family. When Madeleine becomes a prisoner, along with her oldest son, Philippe, it becomes a question of who will rescue whom, especially when a former enemy proves himself a great friend.

This is an exciting, fast-paced adventure, with romance and characters of faith and virtue. I enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to the next book in the series!

Golden is giving away a copy to someone who leaves a comment on this blog post. Thanks, Golden!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The winner is ....

The winner of a brand new copy of Bruce Wilkinson's book, You Were Born for This, is ... Tina!

Congratulations! I will contact you by email for your address.

I have not finished reading this book--I'm about halfway finished--but it's very exciting and inspiring so far. Right now I'm working on edits, hoping to sell a book! Plus I keep getting sidetracked by fiction books. That's always how it is with me, I'm afraid.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

You Were Born for This by Bruce Wilkinson

Remember The Prayer of Jabez guy, Bruce Wilkinson? Well, he has a new book coming out, You Were Born for This. I just started reading it and it is fabulous. I'm loving it. If you'd like to win a copy, just leave a comment on this post.

Here's a short summary:

Anyone can do a good deed, but some good works can only happen by a direct intervention from God. Around the world these acts are called miracles—not that even religious people expect to see one any time soon. But what would happen if millions of ordinary people walked out each morning expecting God to deliver a miracle through them to a person in need? You Were Born for This starts with the dramatic premise that everyone at all times is in need of a miracle, and that God is ready to meet those needs supernaturally through ordinary people who are willing to learn the “protocol of heaven.”

In the straightforward, story-driven, highly motivating style for which he is known, Wilkinson describes how anyone can be a “Delivery Guy” from heaven in such universally significant arenas of life as finances, practical help, relationships, purpose, and spiritual growth.

You Were Born for This will change how readers see their world, and what they expect God can do through them to meet real needs. They will master seven simple tools of service, and come to say with confidence, “I want to deliver a supernatural gift from God to someone in need today—and I expect to!”

Here's a link to a video about this book. Don't forget to leave a comment. I'm giving away a copy of this book.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

ACFW Conference 2009!

I didn't think I'd be going to the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference this year, but here I am, packing and getting ready (Praise God!) and thinking about it almost every minute of the day--and night! I'm even dreaming about it!

Anyway, if you are interested, and especially if you think you might be interested in going next year, when the conference will be in Indianapolis--driving distance! YAY!--then take a look at the following information.

"So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT)

SEPTEMBER 17 - 20, 2009

Bestselling authors, publishing industry representatives, and newcomers to Christian fiction writing will gather in Denver at the American Christian Fiction Writer's annual conference September 17-20 to compare notes, learn from each other, and encourage one another in the pursuit of publishing goals.

This year's conference theme , Standing Firm; Moving Forward, will especially inspire the full range of talent and dreams in the ever-changing publishing world today.

This amazing conference will feature representatives from major publishing houses like B & H, Guideposts, Zondervan, Harvest House, Barbour, Steeple Hill, Summerside Press, Bethany House, Waterbrook Multnomah, Marcher Lord Press, Tyndale House, and Thomas Nelson, and top literary agents who will meet with writers and identify promising proposals from both new and veteran novelists. Conferees will have access to publishing panels, professional critiques, and customized workshops based on skills and interests.

The keynote speaker is New York Times bestselling author, Debbie Macomber, who has more than 100 million copies of her books in print worldwide.

Learn more about the American Christian Fiction Writer's Conference by visiting Click on the left sidebar on Annual Conference.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

New Releases for September 2009

Cooler weather has made me happy that Fall is almost here. I love it when the seasons change. Well, here are some newly released books for you to enjoy. Pick one out and buy it, request it at your library, or download it on your Kindle.

1. A Blue and Gray Christmas, by Carrie Turansky, Vickie McDonough, Lauralee Bliss Tamela Hancock Murray from Barbour Publishing. A Blue and Gray Christmas highlights the faith and courage of four couples who remained true to their convictions and found lasting love despite the hardships of the Civil War.

2. A Man of His Word, Book 1 in the Hearts of Middlefield Series, by Kathleen Fuller from Thomas Nelson. Moriah’s heart will only be safe with a man of his word.

3. A Silent Fury, by Lynette Eason from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Detective Catelyn Clark and her ex-boyfriend, FBI agent Joseph Santino, must overcome their rocky past while working to solve the murder of a deaf student and find the friend who’s still missing.

4. Always Ready, Book 1, by Susan Page Davis from Heartsong. Two Coast Guard officers find danger and romance in the hostile seas of Alaska.

5. An Amish Christmas, by Kathleen Fuller, , Beth Wiseman, from Thomas Nelson. Follow the lives of three Amish families through the Christmas season.

6. Beautiful Ugly, by Shelia Lipsey from Kensington Publishing Corp. Three friends need plenty of faith in God and support from each other to see their real beauty lies within.

7. Cowboy Christmas, by Mary Connealy from Barbour. A secretive singer with trouble following her, and a cowboy who hates liars, especially female liars, need a Christmas miracle to take a chance on love.

8. Distant Thunder, by Jimmy Root Jr. from American Book Publishers. The coming fulfillment of the Ezekiel 38 and 39 prophecies. A coalition of nations will attack Israel, but God will intervene.

9. Fields of Grace, by Kim Vogel Sawyer from Bethany House. A Russian Mennonite family fights to survive and maintain their faith in a new land.

10. It’s Not about Him, Second Glance Series, Book #2, by Michelle Sutton from Sheaf House. Two young Christians with an unplanned pregnancy where she wants to place her child in a good home but he wants to marry her so she’ll keep her child even though it’s not his.

11. Love Finds You in Charm, Ohio, by Annalisa Daughety from Summerside Press. A summer in Charm, Ohio, gives Emma Miller the chance to decide once and for all what she wants from life—but soon finds herself pulled between two worlds.

12. Painted Desert, by Nancy Farrier from Barbour. As modern life takes unexpected turns, love comes knocking on the doors of three Arizona women’s lives.

13. Protector’s Honor, by Kit Wilkinson from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Rory Farrell searches for the link between Tabitha Beaumont and his ongoing murder investigation, but to protect her, he’ll have to her trust as well.

14. Raising Rain, by Debbie Fuller Thomas from Moody Publishers. A single woman desperate for a child and the 3 college roommates who raised her meet her terminally ill mother on a stormy weekend and confront the past.

15. The Transformation, Project Restoration Series Book 3, by Terri Kraus from David C. Cook. Can a good, hard-working Christian man disregard his cultural and religious admonitions—as well as his mother’s plans for his life—for the love of a woman and an historic church building?

16. The Unfinished Gift, by Dan Walsh from Revell, Division of Baker Publishing Group. Set at Christmastime in 1943, The Unfinished Gift is an engaging story of reconciliation between a father and son, and how God uses an unexpected gift from the past to mend this broken family.

17. Tidings of Great Boys, All About Us #5, by Shelley Adina from Hatchette FaithWords. Lady Lindsay (Mac) MacPhail invites her classmates home to her castle in Scotland for an unforgettable Christmas.

18. Wild West Christmas, by Lena Nelson Dooley, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Vickie McDonough, Darlene Franklin from Barbour. Christmas courtships corral four sisters in Texas.

Thanks to Lynette Eason for providing this list! Happy Reading!

Winner of Rose House by Tina Forkner

And the winner is ... Sugar and Grits! Congratulations! I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rose House by Tina Ann Forkner

I'm giving away a copy of Rose House by Tina Ann Forkner. Leave a comment if you're interested in winning!

Here are what other authors are saying about the book:
“In Rose House, Tina Ann Forkner brings us back to the beauty of California wine country and draws us into a story fit for the misty gothic moors. Just as the Rose House itself sits within a mass of beautiful, entwined roses and vines, so is the story nestled in a masterful weaving of secrets, betrayals, hope, and healing.”
–Allison Pittman, author of Stealing Home and Saturdays with Stella

“Tina Ann Forkner pens a compelling tale of betrayal and grief, of hope and forgiveness in Rose House. The unique setting and her lyrical descriptions enticed me into the scene, where I was captivated by the appealing characters and the story’s underlying mystery. I couldn’t put it down.”
–Ane Mulligan, Editor and Co-Owner of Novel Journey

“With Rose House, Tina Ann Forkner paints a breathtaking canvas of lush prose brushstrokes. Don’t get lulled into a sense of calm; the storyline casts suspenseful shadows on this masterpiece of women’s fiction. Delightful!”
–Patti Lacy, author of An Irishwoman’s Tale and What the Bayou Saw

“Captivating, mysterious, and romantically enticing, Forkner’s Rose House keeps the pages turning.”
–Alice J. Wisler, author of Rain Song and How Sweet It Is

Leave a comment to win it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge--Northanger Abbey

Hello, all you Jane Austen fans! We're almost one-third of the way through our Everything Austen Challenge. How are you all doing? Also, it's not too late to join us, if you're an Austen fan. All you have to do is watch 6 movies, or read 6 books, or a combination of 6 movies and books, having to do with Jane Austen and you win! What is the prize, you may ask? At the moment, I'm not sure! But I need to come up with a prize, don't I? Okay, if you'll post your goal, and if I get more than 6 participants, I promise to have some sort of prize for those who meet the challenge.

Anyway, I want to tell you about reading Northanger Abbey. It sort of stands alone among JA's books because it is so different, a little tongue-in-cheek and spoofy, if you will, as JA tries to shed light on the cliched gothic romances of her day. I prefer JA's other books, but I enjoyed Northanger Abbey very much. It was fun and funny and had a nice moral message, and it made me remember what it was like to be 17 and naive.

Catherine Morland sets out with some neighbors of hers, a childless couple. They are kind but shallow and unsuspicious of the dangers that lurk for our fair heroine, Catherine. Luckily, Catherine meets with a fine young man who is very sensible, with a wry sense of humor and good looks and a healthy income, which is always essential. Catherine meets with ill-use by her new best friend's brother, as well as the hero's self-seeking father, but all turns out right at the end. A very enjoyable read.

Now I am looking forward to watching a couple of JA movies, and I'm starting Mansfield Park in my quest to read all 6 Jane Austen books. It's been a very long time since I've read Mansfield Park. I saw the movie a year or so ago, and it intrigued me, since I couldn't remember the story being like the movie! It should be interesting to see how much I've forgotten, and how much the movie invented.

Share your progress! Leave comments if you want to win a prize on Jan. 1st!

Monday, August 24, 2009

August '09 New Releases

I almost forgot to post the August new releases! Here they are. Pick one out for a late summer read.

1. All That Glitters, Scenarios for Girls, book 2, by Nicole O’Dell from Barbour Publishing. The reader will decide if Drew Daniels does the right thing when sudden popularity causes her to forget about things that were once important to her.

2. Forgiven, Sisters of the Heart Series, Book 3, by Shelley Shepard Gray from Avon Inspire, a division of Harper Collins Publishing. Tragedy strikes when a brother and sister find themselves facing two difficult situations.

3. Surrender the Wind, by Rita Gerlach from Abingdon Press. When a patriot of the American Revolution inherits his grandfather's estate in England, he inherits more than a crumbling manor house.

4. Sweet Waters, Otter Bay Series Book 1, by Julie Carobini from B&H Publishing Group. Sweet Waters is the story of a newly-jilted woman who talks her sisters into moving back to their hometown only to discover family secrets that threaten the fairy tale image she'd always had.

5. The Blue Enchantress, the Charles Towne Belles Series book 2, by MaryLu Tyndall from Barbour. An adventure-seeking woman and a security-minded captain are shipwrecked together.

6. The Last Woman Standing, by Tia McCollors from Moody. A man, his woman, and his ex-wife search for love again.

7. Truth or Dare, Senarios for Girls Book 1, by Nicole O’Dell from Barbour. Peer pressure threatens to drive Lindsay Martin to doing something she doesn't want to do; the reader will decide.

8. Under the Tulip Poplar, by Diane Ashley and Aaron McCarver from Heartsong Presents. When Rebekah Taylor and Asher Landon struggle to find their ways to the other, will they allow God to direct bring their separate dreams together as one?

9. You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, Book #1 in the VA VA VA BOOM series, by Allison Bottke from David C. Cook. When life is a dance and Disco is a state of mind, it’s Mamma Mia goes Vegas!

Thanks to Lynette Eason for providing this list!

Winner of North! Or Be Eaten

And the winner is ... Debra E Marvin!

Congratulations, Deb!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson--Giveaway!

This book is the second in a series. I got it for my daughter, and she loved it so much she forced me to get the first book in the series, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness for her birthday.

That's high praise, folks! My daughter doesn't get that excited about very many books.
Here's the summary of North! Or Be Eaten.
Readers thrilled to the phantasmagorical adventures in On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Book One of the Wingfeather Saga. Now in Book Two, Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby, mom Nia, ex-pirate grandfather Podo, Peet the Sock Man, and trusty dog Nugget flee north to rebel headquarters.

Their escape brings readers to the very brink of Fingap Falls, over the Stony Mountains, and across the Ice Prairies, while villains galore try to stop the Igibys permanently. Fearsome toothy cows and horned hounds return, along with new dangers: a mad man running a fork factory, a den of rockroaches, and majestic talking sea dragons.

Andrew Peterson’s lovable characters create what says made Book One “one of the best fantasy novels in a very long time,” and Book Two contains even more thrills, exploring “themes universal in nature, ranging from the classic good versus evil, to the importance of family, and burdens of responsibility.”

If you'd like to win this book, please leave a comment and I'll put you in the drawing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kimberley Woodhouse--Welcome Home!

Kimberley Woodhouse, the author of Welcome Home: Our Family's Journey to Extreme Joy, has graciously agreed to an interview. If you haven't already, please read my review of this wonderful book about her family's experiences before and during and after the time the ABC show, Extreme Makeover Home Edition was considering building her family a new home.

Kimberley, thanks so much for allowing me to interview you on my blog. If you don’t mind, will you share a little bit with my readers about how Kayla and Josh are doing, healthwise, since you ended your family’s story in the book, and since the TV show about you was filmed?

Josh and Kayla are doing incredibly well. Since we’ve been in the house, Josh hasn’t had one asthma attack, and Kayla’s health has skyrocketed. One year ago, the doctors felt Kayla was strong enough after her brain surgery to swim competitively. So, we are now proud members of Cheyenne Mountain Aquatics swim team, and they swim 4-6 hours every day between swim team and the YMCA. They LOVE it, and they are having so much fun. (And – they’re REALLY good at it.) 

Your book was so full of details about the various “big events” in your family’s life. Did you keep a journal all those years when your children were little?

Yes, I tried to keep a journal of events—how I felt, how we coped, how we made it through. They are precious memories and notes to me now.

Are you often recognized when you run your errands as “the woman from Extreme Makeover”? Do people treat you differently?

Again, yes. Especially when we leave the state of Colorado (people are used to us now here in CO) – but we get recognized everywhere we go. And people definitely treat us differently. That’s been a big adjustment for me, because I think, “I’m still just… me.” 

Do you schedule time every day to write, or how do you fit it in?

I do try. Try being the operative word. But most of it gets done on my laptop at one of the pools. I also homeschool my precious kiddos, so that is a big chunk of my day.

Now that you have a non-fiction book on bookstore shelves, how is your fiction career coming along? What is your current writing project?

Well, I have two. I’m currently working on another non-fiction – a parenting encouragement. And I’m also working on another fiction – romantic suspense set in Alaska.

If you could give one piece of parenting advice to young mothers, what would it be?

Remember that you don’t have to measure up to what everyone else is doing or saying. You are unique as a parent – and your children are unique, too. God gave them to you – He will give you what you need to parent them. So, don’t quit. Keep going. Grab onto His joy, each and every day.

If you could give one piece of writing advice to beginning writers, what would it be?

Write. Write. And write some more. Keep your focus on Him.

Thanks, Kimberley.

Kimberley Woodhouse is a wife, mother, author, and musician with a quick wit and positive outlook despite difficult circumstances. A popular speaker, she’s shared at more than 600 venues across the country. Kimberley and her family's story have garnered national media attention for many years, but most recently her family was chosen for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Montel Williams Show, and Discovery Health channel’s Mystery ER. Welcome Home: Our Family’s Journey to Extreme Joy, releases from Tyndale House Publishers September first. In addition to her non-fiction, she also writes romantic suspense and children’s books. Kimberley lives, writes, and homeschools in Colorado with her husband and two children in their truly “extreme” home.

To order the book, go to

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cowboy Christmas and the Winner of Mary's book

And the winner is .... PAIGE! Congratulations! You're going to love Mary's book, whichever one you choose. And I can't believe I somehow missed putting the picture up of Mary's book, Cowboy Christmas, which comes out in September. Here it is.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mary Connealy - Interview and Giveaway

Here is my interview with Christian Western Romance writer Mary Connealy. She's going to give away one of her books, so leave a comment if you want to be in on the drawing.

Mary, your books are so fresh and fun and different. Stephen King says all writers hate this question, but I can’t help but ask you: Where do you get your ideas?

My books have a jumping off spot usually from my own life but then I start with the what-if. I call Petticoat Ranch my husband’s story because he’s from a family of seven sons and we have four daughters and watching him interact with the girls is sometimes comical.

Calico Canyon I think of as my husband’s life growing up in that family of all boys.
Gingham Mountain is more my family when I was growing up. Eight kids in a two bedroom farm house.

Montana Rose was inspired . . . the original spark of an idea . . . by Janette Oke’s beautiful classic Love Comes Softly. The basic set-up. A widow, pregnant and alone in the west, more or less forced into an immediate marriage.
Of course, I’m not Janette Oke (like anyone was making THAT mistake) and my novel has taken an alarming turn to romantic comedy, suspense and chaos. I think of it as Love Comes Hardly. Or maybe Love Comes Loudly. Or, in the case of the poor, long suffering hero Red, Love Comes Unfortunately.

When did you start writing and why?

I started writing seriously, book length fiction, when my baby went to Kindergarten. I was inspired to do it by a friend who wrote a book. I just loved the idea and started one of my own. And once I started I couldn’t seem to stop, regardless of all the editors who seemed to be saying I should.

Your newest book, Cowboy Christmas, comes out in September. Will you tell us about it?

Elijah Walker's lost his father at the hands of a deceitful woman. The one thing he can’t abide is lies.
Citified Annette Talbot is on the run from something and Eli knows a liar when he sees one.
After a lifetime of being a good girl who does what she’s told, Annette’s obedient nature has led her straight into danger. She’s determined to live more bravely and she’s planning to start just as soon as she can be brave from behind her tough Wyoming rancher father.
Her father fails her but Elijah can’t ignore a damsel in distress. He’s powerfully drawn to the little liar. In self-defense he turns his back on her.
That leaves Annette her first perfect chance to stand up and face trouble.
She almost dies running away.
Walker can’t help protecting her, especially since God pretty much dropped Annette straight into his unwilling arms.
But helping her isn’t the same as trusting her, and that he will never do.
As Annette and Walker fight their attraction and danger draws near, Christmas approaches. The bickering twosome will get one special chance to heal old heartbreaks and follow their own star.

Do you have any other books coming out in the near future?

Montana Rose, which released in July is book one of a three book series. Cowboy Christmas isn’t in that series but book two, The Husband Tree releases in January 2010 and book three, Wildflower Bride comes in May 2010.

What book are you working on now? Give us a sneak peek into your future stories.

I’m on the three book series Barbour Publishing has contracted for after the Montana Marriages series. This books are the children from Petticoat Ranch all grown up. I think of it as the Sophie’s Daughters Series but we haven’t given the series an official name yet.

What does your family think about all your success? Has your success changed how “the locals” treat you?

My family has been so great. Melanie, if you knew me, you’d know I am just the most regular person imaginable, honestly. I am a ranch wife. I live a quiet normal life. A stay-at-home mom for twenty-seven years. Now I have a job teaching GED. All very orderly and nice and boring. That I got a book published is still amazing, seriously stunning to me. That people seem to really like them is beyond any hope I ever had. It’s like my dreams came true and now I can’t dream big enough to imagine what will happen next.
Everyone in the area seems so happy for me. Lots of the people from my hometown, where I’ve lived all my life, make such a fuss over my books. It’s wonderful

Do your husband and four daughters read your books? Do they ever “critique” them?

They do. My husband is great, though he usually reads them after they’ve released so he’s a little late to critique them then.
My girls are terrific fans. They’ve all been so encouraging and excited for me. And they’re probably even more surprised than I am that MOM has books that are actually on the shelves in Wal-Mart.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

The advice I always give is write. Write and keep writing. Yes take classes. Yes join a critique group. Yes read books on the craft. Yes enter contests and take the judges critiques seriously. Yes join professional organizations and attend conferences and make contacts, meet people. But bottom line, write. All that stuff you learn had to be practiced, honed. And you can’t do that without putting words on that computer screen. Finish a book. Toss it out into the world in contests and to editors, but don’t sit around biting your fingernails waiting. Start a new book. Just keep writing.

Any advice for writers who have been at it for a long time?

I’m a big believer in perseverance, Melanie. I wrote for ten years before I got my first book published and most writers has similar stories. Yes, you find an occasional troublemaker who gets her first book published but mostly not. Mostly you need to stay in there. Take the heartbreak and disappointment and heartbreak. Grow a tough hide. If you want to be published you’ve got to learn to handle that. And sometimes it’s really not easy. You’d better love writing. In fact, if you can stop, I’d say just stop if it hurts too much. I just can’t seem to stop.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Emma by Jane Austen

You probably know, as part of my participation in the Everything Austen Challenge I'm reading all six of Jane Austen's best-known novels in six months. I finished Emma a few days ago and want to record my impressions of it.

Emma is spoiled, comfortable, self-absorbed yet infinitely concerned about the feelings of her family members and friends. She is confident and cheerful. She's likeable and, at the same time, very flawed. She proudly claims she doesn't intend to marry, but is equally proud of her matchmaking abilities--or more accurately, the ability to predict who will fall in love with whom. But how can Miss Emma Woodhouse fail to fall in love herself, with so many interesting young men around her? And when she proceeds to take a young illegitimate girl under her wing and get her a well-to-do husband, she actually ends up doing the girl much more harm than good. But of course, everything turns out well in the end.

Emma could almost be boring at the beginning if you don't take the time to notice all the humor and the funny characteristics of the characters. To me, the genius of Emma is the characterization. How Jane Austen was able to come up with such interesting, over-the-top but true-to-life characters, I really can't imagine. The beauty of them is how they all interact with each other. So much comedy, so much fun. As a writer I was really fascinated with how she made the characters so consistent, and yet was able to spring surprises on the reader as she went, especially toward the end. I enjoyed this book so much. I can't wait to re-visit more of Jane Austen's wonders!

Right now I'm starting to read my second JA book, Northanger Abbey. It's a different book from her others, with the humor more obvious, as she sets out to spoof the gothic romances that were so popular in her day. It's a lot of fun already and I'm only on page 43! Stay tuned for my review!

Also, I'll be posting an interview with the wonderful Mary Connealy this week and she'll be giving away a copy of one of her books. So come back soon!

Please post how you're doing with the Everything Austen Challenge. I want to know what books you've read or movies you've watched!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I'll be in Seekerville on Wednesday

I'm blogging on "What we can learn from Jane Austen" in Seekerville tomorrow (Wed.) so please come by and say hi!

And I just finished reading Emma! It was superb. I'll have to blog more about that later.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Everything Austen Challenge--We're one-sixth of the way into it!

Okay, Austen Buddies, time to fess up. How are you doing with your goals in the Everything Austen Challenge? I'm still reading Emma, which is one of Jane Austen's longest novels, but I hope to finish very soon. I also watched one of the Emma movies, the Kate Beckinsale version from 1996.
It was fun, but I thought Emma wasn't as lively as Jane intended her, and Mr. Knightly a good deal too angry and loud. But it was still enjoyable. Now I want to watch the other 1996 version of Emma, the one with Gwynneth Paltrow.
I remember liking her portrayal of Emma much better. In fact, as I'm reading the book, I have Gwynneth Paltrow in my mind. She makes a very proper Emma. And by the time I finish this Jane Austen marathon, I have a feeling I'll be on my way toward writing a Regency. I've already been getting some ideas, quite involuntarily.

So let's hear it. What have you done to further your Jane Austen tendencies?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Welcome Home: Our Family's Journey to Extreme Joy by Kimberley Woodhouse

If you are an avid viewer of the TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition, as my children are--they can't stand to miss this show!--then you probably saw the episode about the Woodhouse family. The mom is a writer, so she chronicles her family's story leading up to the moment when Ty Pennington stood in their yard and yelled through his megaphone, "Good morning, Woodhouse family!"

I rarely read an entire nonfiction book all the way through, but I read this one in one day! I couldn’t put it down. And it made me cry, which also never happens. I cried several times while reading this book. It really touched me and convicted me of so many sinful attitudes I have, like failing to “count it all joy” when I face trials. Oh boy, do I ever fail at this! This is such an incredible story, and I truly believe I grew as a person while reading this book. How could I ever take my children’s health for granted again? Or my home? Or anything else?

The Woodhouse family has dealt with some serious medical issues, not only with their daughter, Kayla, who has a very rare disorder that causes her to overheat if the temperature is above 64 degrees, but also with their son, who almost died several times due to an undiagnosed problem with his trachea. But the best part of this story is reading the very real and honest account of Kimberley’s spiritual journey and the way she overcame so many difficulties and learned to hold on to God’s joy no matter what was going on. She just kept repeating that verse, James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I highly recommend this story to anyone who feels they need an extra dose of trust and faith, and who worries how they’ll handle serious trials if and when they come. Or for someone who is facing trials and is struggling. If you feel you need more joy, then this is the book for you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mary Connealy's Montana Rose

Christy Award finalist, Mary Connealy has crafted yet another fun, funny, touching book. Her heroine is a sweet, dutiful wife who suppresses all her anger and frustration until the day of her husband’s funeral. She unleashes all that anger on the gravedigger. But when some rough men, living in a rough environment, decide Cassie has to choose a new husband immediately, this same gravedigger may be her only hope.

Red Dawson is a simple, hard-working man, so he isn’t interested in marrying a woman who’s used to wearing silk and has been sheltered from hard work. But if he doesn’t step in, the poor little thing is going to end up in a terrible situation. Maybe God does want him to help her.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I especially liked the hero, a man who was very sweet but realistic at the same time—that’s some amazingly good writing! I highly recommend this book, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series, to see what happens to Cassie’s friend, Belle. If you haven’t read any of Mary’s books, read this one and you’ll be hooked like I am!

Mary Connealy also just got the nod for FOUR of her books in the ACFW Book of The Year Contest! WOW!

I hope you're also working toward your goals in the Everything Austen Challenge. I'm reading Emma. What about you? Leave a comment about what movie you've watched or book you've read. You still have over five months, but don't procrastinate!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jane Austen Challenge

You may or may not know that I am Jane Austen's #1 fan and have been since I was about 15 or 16 years old. That's when I picked up a copy of Emma at my school library and started reading. Next I read Pride and Prejudice, and my literary life would never be the same!

I just heard about this other blogger who has started something called the Everything Austen Challenge on her blog. The contest runs from July 1 until Jan. 1, 2010. You must choose 6 things Jane Austen-related to do. You can watch Jane Austen movies. (I've seen most of them--I'll work on seeing them all!) You can read one of the MANY fan-fiction books that are out there these days--books about Jane Austen's characters, taking them places Jane Austen herself never dreamed of. I believe there's even a book about Mr. Darcy as a vampire. Oy vey! I tried to read one of these Jane Austen-inspired novels, one that had gotten good reviews, from Darcy's point of view. I didn't get very far. I just couldn't stand reading things coming out of Darcy's mouth that I'm quite sure Jane never intended! Don't mess with Jane's characters, that was my reaction. So I think that option is out for me. Instead, I think I'd like to read all her novels again, one by one.

So there you have it. That's my plan. I'm going to read Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park. Can I do it? Can I read six Jane Austen novels in six months, even though they're written in language a bit dated from our respects, with a literary style that also a bit archaic by today's standards? Will I change my mind about Jane Austen's books, since it's been a lot of years since I've read most of them? Or will I fall in love with her characters all over again? Well, stay tuned to find out!

And here's my friend, Tina Russo's blog on the Everything Austen Challenge. Dive in and enjoy the challenge!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

July's New Releases

1. A Promise Kept, Heartsong Presents Historical Ohio Book 1 , by Cara C. Putman from Heartsong Present. Newleyweds Josie & Art must choose whether to honor the promises they've made when their relationship experiences the fire of pain.

2. Blackmail, sixth and final book in the Bayou Series, by Robin Carroll from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. The sixth and final book in Robin Carroll's romantic suspense bayou series.

3. Cranberry Hearts, by Lena Nelson Dooley, Beth Goddard and Lisa Harris from Barbour Publishing. What will happen when three Massachusetts women find their journeys home lead them down dangerous paths?

4. Deadly Intent, by Camy Tang from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Massage therapist Naomi Grant must prove her innocence when her client is murdered in her family's Sonoma day spa.

5. Gripped By Fear, The Chicago Warriors Series, by John M. Wills from TotalRecall. Two Chicago Detectives struggle to capture a serial rapist.

6. Hometown Courtship, by Diann Hunt from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. A carpenter and a hair stylist work to build a house together--but are they building much more?

7. Lonestar Secrets, Lonestar Series Book 2, by Colleen Coble from Thomas Nelson. A young veterinarian returns to her childhood home and finds the man who humiliated her may be in custody of a daughter she thought had died.

8. Love's Rescue, The Sierra Chronicles Book One, by Tammy Barley from Whitaker House. A headstrong Southern woman falls for her kidnapper, a Western cattleman she blames for the loss of her family.

9. Maggie Rose, Second in The Daughters of Jacob Kane series , by Sharlene MacLaren from Whitaker House. Mission-minded Maggie Rose takes a job at an orphanage in New York City, never expecting to fall in love with a hardnosed newspaper reporter.

10. Menu for Romance, Brides of Bonneterre Series Book #2, by Kaye Dacus from Barbour Publishing. The Chef and the Party Planner Each Seek the Kind of Love that Requires No Reservations.

11. Montana Rose, by Mary Connealy from Barbour Publishing. Love Comes Softy, with mayhem, comedy and gunfire.

12. Ransome's Honor, Book 1 The Ransome Trilogy, by Kaye Dacus from Harvest House PUblishers. Once Youthful Sweethearts—Can Their Love Be Renewed?

13. Rose of the Adriatic, Sequel to Jewel of the Adriatic , by K.M. Daughters from The Wild Rose Press. Messages of hope and peace for the world from Our Lady of Medjugorje woven into a prayerful, fictional love story.

14. Second Chance Family, Fostered by Love Series Book 4, by Margaret Daley from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Whitney and Shane, two wounded people, come together to try and help each other heal from their past through the appeal of a little boy who is autistic.

15. The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn, by Liz Johnson from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Kenzie Thorn is surprised when she's kidnapped from the prison where she teaches a GED course, and even more shocking is that someone wants her dead.

16. The Last Resort, The Wanderlust Mysteries Book 2, by April Star from Five Star Gale I Cengage Learning. One woman's murder and a bottle washed ashore on the St. Anastasia beach open a Pandora's box and unleash secrets pursued by an entire camping resort . . . and the truth proves as elusive as the killer in their midst.

17. The Sacred Cipher, by Terry Brennan from Kregel Publications. An ancient, secret scroll could trigger nuclear war or world peace, four Americans are caught in the crossfire, and opposing radicals will stop at nothing to silence The Sacred Cipher.

Pick out something that sounds good and take some time this summer to read!

And the winner of The Vanishing Sculptor is ...

The winner is ...
Robin Johns Grant! Congratulations! I hope you enjoy this book by the very popular Donita K. Paul!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul

As you may know, I mostly read historical romance, but I agreed to participate in this blog tour because my daughter LOVES Donita K. Paul's books. This one is no exception. So if you'd like to be entered in the drawing for this book, please leave a comment.

In the 5-book Dragon Keeper series, a world of dragons and alternative creatures mirrors our own world. The author has created another new world in her new series, which begins with The Vanishing Sculptor. My daughter says the funniest characters from the Dragon Keeper series are in this new book. And she loved it. Here is a summary.

Donita K. Paul’s 250,000-plus-selling DragonKeeper Chronicles series has attracted a wide spectrum of dedicated fans–and they’re sure to fall in love with the new characters and adventures in her latest superbly-crafted novel for all ages. It’s a mind-boggling fantasy that inhabits the same world as the DragonKeeper Chronicles, but in a different country and an earlier time, where the people know little of Wulder and nothing of Paladin.

In The Vanishing Sculptor, readers will meet Tipper, a young emerlindian who’s responsible for the upkeep of her family’s estate during her sculptor father’s absence. Tipper soon discovers that her actions have unbalanced the whole foundation of her world, and she must act quickly to undo the calamitous threat. But how can she save her father and her world on her own? The task is too huge for one person, so she gathers the help of some unlikely companions–including the nearly five-foot tall parrot Beccaroon–and eventually witnesses the loving care and miraculous resources of Wulder. Through Tipper’s breathtaking story, readers will discover the beauty of knowing and serving God.

Leave a comment if you'd like to win a copy!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Winner of Never the Bride

And the winner is ... Susan Mires! Congratulations, Susan! I'll get the book out to you soon!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Father's Day Books

The Disappearance God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness by R. Albert Mohler Jr. is a truly important book.

I just picked it up a few hours ago and finished it this afternoon. It was that compelling.

Have you considered how much your worldview has been influenced by the world? Have you considered how our culture influences what your pastor/preacher/minister preaches from the pulpit? Have you considered whether that has skewed the truth, the absolute, Biblical truth, in your own mind?

As Christians, we all want to have a Biblical worldview, to be set apart from the world and the world's beliefs. But how well are we succeeding? For instance, the author of this book brings up the issue of hell. The world says a loving God would never send someone to hell. If there is a hell, then God must be cruel. But aren't we judging God by completely human standards? And not just human standards, but post-modernism, which says to punish someone in a retributive way is wrong. But in the words of this author, p. 38:

"Our responsibility is to present the truth of the Christian faith with boldness, clarity, and courage--and defending the biblical doctrine in these times will require all three of these virtues. Hell is an assured reality, just as it is presented so clearly in the Bible. To run from this truth, to reduce the sting of sin and the threat of hell, is to pervert the gospel and to feed on lies. Hell is not up for a vote or open for revision. Will we surrender this truth to modern skeptics?"

Another slippery slope for Christians is the issue of church discipline. "The disappearance of church discipline has weakened the church and compromised Christian witness." p. 133.

On p. 139 he quotes the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5: "...I wrote you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves."

He speaks of how the new "openness" and "tolerance" is actually just the opposite. "... a central reality of our emerging culture is the closing of the postmodern mind. Something is happening to the worldview, the mentality, and the consciousness of this age.... Tolerance is perverted into a radical secularism that is anything but tolerant. There is little openness to truth, and growing hostility to truth claims. Indeed, the postmodern mind has a fanatical, if selective, dedication to moral relativism, and an understanding that truth has no objective or absolute basis whatsoever." p. 166

"Openness becomes closedness. Freedom becomes bondage, and tolerance becomes intolerance." p. 170. Have you ever heard a more accurate assessment of popular thinking today?

"The closing of the postmodern mind is not a pretty sight, nor is it friendly to human rights and human dignity.... Sweden, for example, already has imprisoned a Pentecostal pastor, Ake Green, for preaching a sermon in which he spoke of the sinfulness of homosexuality.... Across much of Western Europe there is legislation in which it can be considered a crime to speak of the sinfulness of any sexual lifestyle, and of homosexuality in particular." pp. 170-171.

"...In the Netherlands, the largest medical school in the country just reported that 31 percent of pediatricians have admitted to killing babies, and 45 percent of neonatologists have admitted to euthanizing infants--even without informing the parents that that is what happened to their child.... Then along comes the Christian to say, 'We have a message about the dignity and sanctity of life,' and he is told to be quiet." pp.171-172.

"In this time of shifting and sifting and shaking, we are going to be tested, and we are going to find out what we are made of.... But there is one kingdom that cannot be shaken, and that is the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ." p. 181. Amen!

If there ever was a person who hated controversy, who despised the thought of hurting someone else's feelings or causing conflict, it's me. But how can we as Christians sit back and say nothing? I will not. How can I, when I see the destruction wrought by evil thinking and evil policies being carried out even here? Our children aren't allowed to speak the name of Jesus in school, yet Christian students who believe homosexuality is a sin are being labeled "bullies" and worse. Now is the time for us to let our voice be heard. Now is the time to be courageous and to hold out the truth as the only bondage-breaking, liberating hope of every single person on this planet.

Our culture thinks of Christians as "dangerous." Even our own American government has labeled us "dangerous." Why? Because we believe the Bible as the infallible truth of God, and we strive to live by it. That's "dangerous" to them.

Lord, let it be so.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Never the Bride by McKay and Gutteridge

I'm giving away a copy of this book, so be sure and leave a comment if you'd like to be in the drawing!

Here's a quick summary:
Jessie Stone has spent thirty-five years fantasizing about marriage proposals, wedding dresses, and falling in love. She’s been a bridesmaid eleven times, waved dozens of couples off to sunny honeymoons, and shopped in more department stores for half-price fondue pots than she cares to remember.

But shopping in the love-of-her-life department hasn't been quite as productive. The man she thought she would marry cheated on her. The crush she has on her best friend Blake is at very best…well, crushing. And speed dating has only churned out memorable horror stories.

So when God shows up one day, in the flesh, and becomes a walking, talking part of her life, Jessie is skeptical. What will it take to convince her that God has a better love story than one of the thousands she’s cooked up in her journals? Will she trust Him with her pen when it appears her dreams of being the bride are forever lost?

A romantic comedy with a spiritual twist, Never the Bride is what it means to lose control—and getting more than any woman could ever imagine.