Monday, September 25, 2017

Review: Mercy Triumphs


Mercy Triumphs
By Jana Kelley
New Hope, 2017


Summary

Three women. Three impossible circumstances. One merciful God.

Mia, an American Christian, has lived in Sudan so long that persecution, harassment, and danger have become commonplace for her. Her tough outer shell threatens to harden her heart while her newly Christian friends, Halimah and Rania, former Muslims, are forced to live in exile outside Sudan. All three quickly discover that escaping danger in one place only means facing even greater challenges elsewhere. As God's mercy becomes evident in their lives, they must choose whether or not to offer mercy to those who don't deserve it.

Third in a trilogy, Mercy Triumphs opens the reader's eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Mercy Triumphs reveals some of the struggles Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for new believers, those who are persecuted for their faith, and even for the salvation of the persecutors.

Learn more and purchase a copy.


My thoughts

Mercy Triumphs concludes an outstanding trilogy of stories set in the Muslim country of Sudan. Technically, it can stand alone – and if you only have time for one book, then read this one. However, reading the previous Side by Side and Door to Freedom would provide a better understanding and continuity to the series.

Mercy Triumphs is impressive, informative, and entertaining. It takes us to a geographical location that most of us have never experienced – and a culture that, however little or much we know about it, often raises fear. Any author can do diligent research and write a believable novel, but Ms. Kelley draws from her wealth of personal experience, and conveys a realness that makes this story come alive.

The story of Mia, Halimah and Rania is eye opening – especially if, like me, you might have grown a little comfortable in your faith. I was caught up in Mia’s life, who lived in a culture antagonistic to Christianity and wanted to follow Christ’s command to “go and tell” with the women she met. And if I initially felt that I had little in common with Halimah and Rania, I soon realized that we all share the same hopes, dreams, and love for family.

I found Mercy Triumphs so very inspiring in many ways, but the greatest personal impact has been the desire to pray daily and fervently for Muslim women around the world.

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


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Author of the captivating novel Side by Side, Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Beware the Orchids




Beware the Orchids
By Cynthia Hickey
A Shady Acres Mystery #1
Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications, 2016


Summary

Ditched at the altar, Shelby Hart tosses down her bouquet, quits her job, and accepts a position as gardener and event coordinator at an upscale retirement community. Her first day on the job results with a dead body in the greenhouse under the orchids and with her as the prime suspect!

Toss in a handsome handyman, quirky characters, and a flirtatious grandma and the fun never stops.


My thoughts

Beware the Orchids is a cute cozy mystery, light and perfect for when you just want to relax and be entertained. The author is someone I would like to know in person because she surely has a great sense of humor, which easily translates to her writing.

I have loved being around older adults all my life, because there’s nothing quite like them, and I think it really is true that the older we get, the less inhibited we are. Having Shelby redefine her career and take a jot in a retirement village, doing something she loves, works well. There’s not a lot of character depth, but that’s okay because all the quirky characters made up for it. And what a live wire Shelby’s grandmother is!

Cynthia Hickey has written Christian fiction in the past, and while Beware the Orchids is a clean read, there’s some sexual innuendo that I wasn’t expecting. The story would have been much better without it, but was still good overall.

This is not the author’s fault, but the mobi review copy that I read was poorly formatted and difficult to read, which is probably why I wasn’t able to connect with the characters as much as I wanted to. I would like to read a correctly-formatted copy eventually and continue the series.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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Multi-published and Amazon and ECPA Best-Selling author Cynthia Hickey has sold over a million copies of her works since 2013. She has taught a Continuing Education class at the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writers conference, several small ACFW chapters and RWA chapters. You can find her on FB, twitter, and Goodreads, and is a contributor to Cozy Mystery Magazine blog and Suspense Sisters blog.

She and her husband run the small press, Forget Me Not Romances, which includes some of the CBA’s best well-known authors. She lives in Arizona with her husband, one of their seven children, two dogs, one cat, and three box turtles. She has eight grandchildren who keep her busy and tell everyone they know that “Nana is a writer.”

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Purchase at Amazon


GIVEAWAY

Please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here to let me know.




Friday, September 22, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Waiting on Butterflies



Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Book

Book title: Waiting for Butterflies  
Author: Karen Sargent  
Release date: April 4, 2017  
Genre: Christian Women’s Fiction

When tragedy strikes, Maggie discovers a mother’s love never ends—not even when her life does. Longing for her family after her death, she returns home where she helplessly witnesses her family’s downward spiral in the aftermath of her passing. 

Her husband is haunted by past mistakes and struggles to redeem himself. Her teenage daughter silently drowns in her own guilt, secretly believing she is responsible for her mother’s death. Only her five-year-old, full of innocence, can sense her presence. 

Although limited by her family’s grief and lack of faith, Maggie is determined to keep a sacred promise and salvage her family before her second chance runs out. 

A tender portrait of a mother whose love reaches beyond possible, Waiting for Butterflies will embrace your heart and not let go.


My Thoughts

Wow! Anything I say will fall short and be woefully inadequate in describing this beautiful story that touches every emotion possible. Karen Sargent knows how to tell an evocative story and has an incredible writing ability. She writes in a character-driven, lyrical style that is not often found in Christian fiction, a style that I long for. I could hardly put it down, even knowing that I would shed tears of emotion occasionally. I hope this is just the first of many stories that readers can anticipate.

If you’ve read the description above, you might be hesitant about trying Waiting for Butterflies for a couple of reasons. First, it deals with an unpleasant topic, the death of a young mother; and secondly, the spirit of that mother “lingers” for a period of time in her family home before going to heaven. But while the topics and emotions are raw and heartbreaking, this is a redemptive, uplifting story overall. And it’s not meant to be a ghost story or a reflection of theology, but rather a moving “what if” story of a mom's love in light of family loss, guilt, grief, and healing.


Maggie’s husband Sam, teenage daughter Rachel, and five-year-old Olivia handle unimaginable tragedy and guilt in different ways, as any of us would – pulled apart by that which should unite them. Sam always found excuses not to attend church with his family, so he has no faith to draw upon. Rachel’s downward spiral is hard to watch … “She didn’t want to think about her mom. That story was over, and she refused to rewrite it for anyone.” Adorable Olivia, the only one who can sense her mother’s presence, simply stole my heart.

Waiting for Butterflies has a huge spiritual impact. In the same way that God places ordinary people in our lives for a purpose, secondary characters impact Sam. Pastor Rob longs to witness to Sam, yet feels that God is telling him to wait. Roxy speaks of God always being at work to Sam … “We can’t see it because we don’t know what to look for. But one day you’ll look back, just like I do, and you’ll wonder how you missed it.”

The restoration of an old house is a beautiful picture of spiritual rebirth, and I loved Gary’s words to Sam …

“A gallon of paint can cover a multitude
of flaws, but it takes something mightier to cover
a man’s sin ... We’ve all sinned, but we’re blessed
that’s not how the story ends.”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the characters and message of Waiting for Butterflies. “Best of the best” for me.

Very highly recommended.

I was provided a free e-copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


About the Author

Karen Sargent creates characters whose imperfect faith collides with real-life conflicts, taking readers on a journey through grace and redemption to discover enduring hope. A romantic element is woven within each story. 

In addition to writing inspirational novels, she blogs at The MOM Journey…where moms aren’t perfect and that’s perfectly okay. Her writing has been featured in Guidepost’s Angels on Earth magazine and on ForEveryMom.com. 

When she is not writing, she teaches high school and college English in the beautiful Arcadia Valley where she resides with her husband and two daughters. Visit her at www.karensargentbooks.com

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Guest Post from Karen Sargent

Waiting for Butterflies: The Accidental Controversy

I didn’t intend to write myself into controversy when I wrote Waiting for Butterflies. Yes, it is Christian fiction. Yes, the main character is a “lingering spirit.” And no, ghosts aren’t biblical. Thus the controversy.

As the story idea began to stir my imagination after my mother-in-law’s unexpected death, I wondered how ghosts fit into the Christian view of the afterlife, especially since I too believe our souls go to Heaven once we die. So I asked my pastor. He referred to Hebrews 11, the “Faith Hall of Fame” that lists Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and many spiritual giants who lived by faith. That list is followed by Hebrews 12:1 which states, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” My pastor explained witnesses is translated by some to mean spectators. So maybe, maybe, this suggests those who have died can somehow still be present—emphasis on maybe. 

But…this gave me just enough permission to play with the idea of a mother’s love being so strong that she could remain after her death until she was certain her family would heal. I was writing fiction after all.

When my manuscript was complete and I began submitting to agents, the response was mixed. Some replied with a simple, “This story isn’t for me.” Some warned, “This will be a hard sell to Christian publishers.” Yet others were more encouraging. Finally my story made it to the desk of an acquisition editor who emailed, “This is the one.” Waiting for Butterflies found a publishing home.

Now that my book is in the hands of readers, most are surprised to hear my topic is controversial. Like me, many believers haven’t really considered ghosts in a biblical context. But a few are adamant that the storyline contradicts their beliefs.

I know my story—just like every story—will not appeal to everyone. But I certainly didn’t set out to offend my fellow believers, and I sincerely apologize if anyone finds it offensive. However, I appreciate this perspective one skeptical reader shared in her review:

“While I was initially put off by the idea that a spirit can remain and interact, in a sense, with those still living, the author handled it with sensitivity and grace. We all have ideas about the unknown, but it is just that, unknown, and I could relate strongly to the thought of wanting to continue to influence and connect with loved ones after death in order to help them.”

I appreciate that in spite of the controversy, this reader gave Waiting for Butterflies a chance—and five stars.


Giveaway

Please help spread the word about Waiting for Butterflies by clicking on this link and sharing my Facebook post, then leave a comment here. If you have trouble with the Rafflecopter entry below, please try this direct link: https://promosimple.com/ps/bef1

To celebrate her tour, Karen is giving away a grand prize that includes a few of Karen’s favorite things – one of which is a Hobby Lobby gift card!!! Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!





Thursday, September 21, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): All of You



Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Book

Book title: All of You   
Author: Sarah Monzon  
Release date: May 15, 2017  
Genre: Dual-timeline/Contemporary Romance  

Maryland, Present Day

Jacquelyn Rogers can rebuild anything…except the shambles of her past. A restorer of vintage planes, she’s worked hard to earn the reputation of being one of the guys. The last thing she needs is a former Navy pilot fighting his own inner demons stepping in to defend her from dangers she thought she’d outrun long ago. Some battles must be fought alone. 

After a freak accident severs Lieutenant Michael “Finch” Carrington’s dreams, as well as two limbs, he’s left with nothing but a fragile faith and a duty-bound promise to watch out for his friend’s baby sister. A promise she insists is as unnecessary as it is unappreciated. But when she turns the tables and begins to weld together the broken parts of his life, it may be his heart that is in need of protection. 

England, 1944 

With the world at war yet again, Alice Galloway rejects her father’s traditional expectations and offers her piloting expertise to the Air Transport Auxiliary. She may be a woman in a man’s world, but when she overhears key intelligence, she must find the strength to transcend boundaries and her own fears. Or countless people may die. 

Sometimes the past reaches forward to bring hope to the future.


My Thoughts

Sarah Monzon writes my type of book – poignant and spiritually uplifting, with rich characterization. Two great leading men also! I enjoyed All of You so very much and, although it stands alone, I want to read previous books by this author very soon.

I’m particularly fond of dual timelines when they’re well crafted, as is the case here, and I was equally invested in both stories, although I connected most with Jackie and Michael. Monzon is a talented writer, easily conveying vivid images and emotions that pulled me into the story.

I loved that Jackie and Michael aren’t your typical lead characters. Jackie, who restores vintage planes, has a low self-image. “Guys didn’t look past the wrench and blowtorch she wielded daily, the unflattering mechanic coveralls that made up her wardrobe, or the layers of grease that covered nearly every inch of her skin.” I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a double amputee cast as the hero – but let me tell you, he lacks for nothing! But it’s a different story emotionally, as you would expect. “It was ironic that he, a sailor, was drowning in the sea of an unknown future.” Great relationship and chemistry between these two.

The connection of Alice and Henry’s storyline isn’t obvious at first, but I knew it had to be and enjoyed trying to figure it out. One of my favorite parts was being able to feel the excitement of D-Day, a day when “the fight may just be beginning, but it is the start that will bring forth the end.”

Most stories where a character faces an unimaginable difficulty or heartbreak results in a loss of faith, or at least doubt or a questioning of God. Michael struggled both physically and emotionally as everything that he identified with and worked for was wiped away, but his core faith was never shaken. I think that really hits at where we live, challenging and encouraging us at the same time as we deal with our trials. While never overpowering, faith plays an important part in this book, leaving me with much to reflect upon.

I thoroughly enjoyed All of You and look forward to much more from Sarah Monzon.

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free e-copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


About the Author

Sarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn’t enough, she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters. When she isn’t in the world of make believe, she can be found in the pine forests of western Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings. 

Her debut novel, The Isaac Project, skyrocketed to Amazon bestseller status while her Sophomore book, Finders Keepers, won the 2017 Selah award for contemporary romance.



Guest Post from Sarah Monzon

I’m so excited to be here today and getting this opportunity to hang out with y’all in this virtual world. If you are anything like me, you devour books faster than my son drinks orange juice (and he really loves orange juice!). Because of that, it is sometimes hard to come across a book with a unique premise or a message that you haven’t seen incorporated a thousand times before. As a writer, I always try to bring something fresh to the table. 

In the first book of the Carrington Family Series, Finders Keepers, neither of my characters were Christians. What? No Christians in a Christian fiction novel? Most Christian fiction books usually have at least one or both main characters a Christians. Don’t worry, they both found their way to Jesus. With All of You, however, I wanted to take yet an even different approach. 

I’ve ready lots of books where the main character is angry or upset with God for such-and-such thing that happened in his/her life (I’ve even written a character like that), but I hadn’t really read a story about a character that, no matter what life threw at him/her, he/she was going to trust in God no matter what. As a life-long Christian, this is a message I can identify with. The “If not, He is still good” resonation that is sometimes harder to hold on to in the midst of pain and struggles. 

So, as with all my books, I hope the freshness of the story and the realness of my characters will inspire and uplift you as you travel along with them on their journey. God Bless.


Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Sarah is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!! Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!





Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review + Double GIVEAWAY: Cat Got Your Secrets




Cat Got Your Secrets
By Julie Chase
Kitty Couture Mystery #3
Crooked Lane Books, 2017


Summary

Lacy Marie Crocker has settled into a comfortable groove back home in New Orleans, and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, she’s busier than ever running a thriving pet boutique, helping her mother organize the upcoming National Pet Pageant, and untangling her complicated love life. But when delivering a king-sized order of dreidel-shaped doggy biscuits for a Saint Berdoodle’s bark-mitzvah, Lacy stumbles into yet another murder scene—and the last person to see the victim alive was her own father.

It’s up to Lacy to clear her dad’s name from the suspect list before Detective Jack Oliver has to cage him for good. But just when she starts pawing at the truth, she receives a threatening letter from a mysterious blackmailer bent on silencing her with her own secrets. And Lacy’s not the only one with bones in her closet.


My thoughts

I simply adore Julie Chase’s Kitty Couture series, and Cat Got Your Secrets just might be my favorite yet. Either the series keeps getting better, or I’ve come to enjoy characters who are familiar by now. But whatever the reason, this witty, well-written story that’s filled with southern charm provided a great reading experience.


Art by Diane Millsap
New Orleans’s Garden District, known for its stately historic homes and wealthy residents, is a fascinating backdrop for the action that centers around Lacy and her Furry Godmother pet boutique and bakery. I love my pets, but when it comes to the couture designs that Lacy creates for her high-end customers, I just have to roll my eyes. Fun to read about, though!

Lacy might not be the smartest fictional detective I've met, but she cares about her family and leads from the heart as she tries to clear her father’s name. Detective Jack Oliver is a favorite of mine … financially secure through inherited family wealth, but loves police work. The romantic tension and witty dialogue between them is wonderful. Lacy actually has two love interests, but let me just say that if Jack doesn’t win fair lady, I’ll be terribly disappointed.


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A socialite without a grapevine was like a cat
without an attitude. Nonexistent.
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Strong, appealing secondary characters add richness to the story, such as Lacy’s best friend and also their family employee who used to be her nanny. Lacy’s mother cares about her, but she’s a controlling figure who worries about appearances, and I’m on the fence as to how I feel about her. And then there’s Penelope, the cat. I can just see her riding the automatic vacuum cleaner around the shop!

The murder plot is well crafted. Rarely am I able to solve the murder’s identity; I just enjoy going along for the entertaining ride. The dry wit and some laugh-out-loud scenes are a strength of the story. This is also a clean read with no profanity or anything graphic. Thank you for that, Julie Chase!

Another creative touch that I loved are the quotes at the beginning of each chapter, helpful “tips” from Furry Godmother with a hint of what’s to come. Here’s two of my favorites …


If you want something done right, do it yourself.
Just don’t get caught.

Everyone deserves the royal treatment, even the jesters.

I loved Cat Got Your Secrets and hope the series continues for a good while.

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


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Julie Chase is a mystery-loving pet enthusiast who hopes to make readers smile. She lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three spunky children.

Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime. She is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Julie also writes as Julie Anne Lindsey. Learn more about Julie Anne Lindsey here.

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GIVEAWAY #1

Julie is graciously offering print copies of two cozy mysteries from the Patience Price series, written as Julie Anne Lindsey:  Murder by the Seaside and Murder in Real Time.



To enter, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then let me know by leaving a comment here. E-mail address required.



GIVEAWAY #2




Friday, September 15, 2017

Spotlight (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Still Waters




Still Waters
By Lindsey P. Brackett
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, 2017

Genre: Adult, Christian, Contemporary, Fiction


Summary

When her beloved grandmother requests one last summer at Still Waters, the family cottage on Edisto Beach, Cora Anne returns to a place that haunts her with loss and tempts her with forgiveness.

Peace means reconciling her family and her Edisto memories. But acceptance may mean loving the man determined to preserve a past she'd rather forget.



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Award-winning writer Lindsey P. Brackett once taught middle grades literature, but now she writes her own works in the midst of motherhood. A blogger since 2010, she has published articles and short stories in a variety of print and online publications including Thriving Family, Country Extra, HomeLife, Northeast Georgia Living, Splickety Prime, Splickety Love, and Southern Writers Magazine Best Short Fiction 2015. Lindsey serves as Editor of Web Content for the Splickety Publishing Group, and she writes a popular column for several North Georgia newspapers.

As a mother of four chaotic kids, her home is always full of wet towels, lost library books, and strong coffee. Her love of family ties and southern places prompted her debut novel, Still Waters, inspired by her own love of Edisto summers and peach ice cream. Connect with her at http://www.lindseypbrackett.com.




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10 Behind the Scenes Facts about Still Waters

  • My grandparents actually met on a back road in Colleton County in the 1940’s. She was lost and he was bundling pine straw to sell. So that story inside the story is true.
  • McConkey’s Jungle Shack—and they’re not kidding about the shack part—really does have the best fish tacos on the coast.
  • Late in the book I reference a story about soldiers mistaking a loggerhead turtle for an enemy when the beach was being used as a lookout during WWII. This really happened and you can read about it in Nell Graydon’s Tales of Edisto, which I used for both reference and inspiration.
  • We drive a blue minivan and it’s kind of well-known because the paint job was bad (thanks Honda) and we’ve never spend the money to fix it. So my best friend begged me to put the blue van in the story. It’s there, when Cora Anne and Nan stop at King’s Market, complete with a passel of kids. (I have four of those.)
  • King’s Market has the best key lime pie. For real.
  • My cousin Heather and I were born 18 hours apart, and our moms are sisters. Yes, she inspired Hannah. We spent (and still do sometimes) many weeks on Edisto with her family growing up. Our favorite thing was to hunt for sharks teeth and snail shells so we could make necklaces with our grandmother.
  • The book is set in 2006 because I wanted a time period before social media’s invasion and before BiLo bought out the Piggly Wiggly. Edistonians are not coming around. They still call their only grocery store The Pig.
  • The Edisto Island Open Land Trust is a gem I stumbled upon while researching what made the most sense for Tennessee’s philanthropic spirit. The EIOLT was the perfect fit since it’s all about preservation of the Island’s natural beauty, while empowering home owners to still be able to afford family property that’s been passed down for generations. The executive director, John, drank coffee with me one morning at the Edisto Coffee Shop and told me so much valuable information.
  • Botany Bay (and that’s the Botany sentinel tree on my cover) was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Edisto took the brunt of the storm’s hit and the eye passed over the island. The entire first row of houses were left standing in water since the beach was pushed inland. But the community there is strong and resilient. They’ve been rebuilding and regrouping. The beaches will never look the same, but as my mama says, “That’s nature. And life. Storms come and you have to deal with the aftermath.” Or, as Tennessee puts it in the story, “Sometimes a storm’s what clears out the junk…”
  • Edisto Beach still has a video store, probably the last one left in the country. It’s also one of two places in the town to get ice cream—unless you’re sitting on your own porch enjoying the ocean breeze and listening for the churn to slow down.


GIVEAWAY

Please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here. If you enjoy southern fiction, do you have a favorite book or author?



Three winners will be drawn on Sept 26 …

Winner #1: Print copy of Still Waters + swag (US only)
Winner #2: E-copy of Still Waters
Winner #3: $10 gift card to Amazon or B&N


a Rafflecopter giveaway