Friday, April 17, 2015

Go Ahead & Like It by Jacqueline Suskin (Review)

Go Ahead & Like It
by Jacqueline Suskin
Available April 28, 2015
Random House
72 pages



About the Book
An artistic, smart self-help book that prompts and inspires readers to write lists of things they like--a simple yet profound way to collect and remember the good in daily life.

This scrapbook-style art book is an invitation to write lists of things you like: small things that bring delight, intriguing things that excite, and meaningful things that make every day special. It's a how-to guide, writing prompt, model for self-discovery, and beautiful inspiration for daily gratitude, with poet Jacqueline Suskin's personal lists intertwined with photographs, illustrations, and instruction. It's a self-help book for people who might not be drawn to standard self-help, and it's creative thinking for people who might not identify themselves as creative thinkers (What does it mean to "like" something in today's digital age, anyways?). Above all, it presents a simple, dependable method to notice the good that's all around us--even in a traffic jam or waiting in line--so we can inhabit our world more fully and smile more in the process.

Buy a copy  |  Find out what others think  |  Learn more

My Thoughts
To be totally honest, I had a hard time telling what this book was all about from the description. However, I thought it sounded interesting. I love making lists, and I love the idea of recording things I'm grateful for, special memories, or whatever random thoughts strike. What's not to like, right?

Well, Go Ahead & Like It is part instruction on how to make a "list of likes" and part a sampling of the author's lists. It seems the author was going for a "Post Secret" type feel, with photographs, unique layouts, and handwritten text. Unfortunately, it didn't strike the right chord with me. The lists included things like "I like: lake swimming, naps, the banjo, and storms." I think I might have felt differently if I was previously familiar with this author and her work.

It wasn't a total loss, though. I think this might be a fun idea to try with our Compassion kids. Sharing "like lists" would be a simple, easy way to get to know one another better, and the simplicity would help us cross language, cultural, and age barriers a bit easier.

This wasn't a good fit for me, but others may enjoy it.  [2 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Jacqueline Suskin is best known through her work with Poem Store, a public performance project in which she composes custom verses on a manual typewriter in exchange for donations. She and her typewriter have been featured on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, in the New York Times, at SFMoMA, and at Los Angeles Contemporary, bringing poetry to the general public in an intimate, immediate, and accessible way.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Harlequin Heartwarming Spring Fling Giveaway


The authors over at Harlequin Heartwarming are hosting a fabulous giveaway this month! Be sure to enter and comment over on their blog on each day's post for extra entries. Here's all the info:

After the long, harsh winter most of us endured, what better way to celebrate spring—and our April and May Heartwarming releases—than with an exciting new giveaway? As with any celebration, the more the merrier, and we hope you will join us.

First, here are the beautiful covers of the April and May books . . .


And here’s what we have planned to warm your heart and chase away any lingering winter blahs. All eight Heartwarming authors with April and May releases have teamed up to offer two prize packs of four books each. We will also give away one grand prize consisting of all eight books and a stunning mix of “ever-blooming” spring garden flowers, for use indoors or out. These are gifts you can enjoy time and again, as you can read our books over and over, and the flowers won’t fade when winter threatens, since they're steel, painted in bright colors.


Our first prize pack contains:

The Truth About Hope by Kate James
Katia’s Promise by Catherine Lanigan
Raising the Stakes by Karen Rock
A Case for Forgiveness by Carol Ross

These books are certain to provide hours of springtime reading pleasure!









 
Our second prize pack contains:

The Long Road Home by Lynn Patrick
Man of His Word by Cynthia Reese
Fighting for Keeps by Jennifer Snow
Firefly Nights by Cynthia Thomason

Another set of four wonderful stories you will surely enjoy!









Finally, our grand prize winner will receive all eight books, along with an “ever-blooming” spring garden, consisting of a bouquet of 13 white daisies, two periwinkle blue alliums and a set of 13 black-eyed Susans, a retail value of over $150 US, before shipping.


Photos and “ever-blooming” flowers from Gardener’s Supply Company (http://www.gardeners.com/)

Now if that isn’t enough, we have a bonus book for each prize pack. Harlequin MIRA and Harlequin Intrigue author Elizabeth Heiter will include one of her recent releases—winner’s choice—in each of the prize packs.

There are three exciting prize packs waiting to be won. The contest runs until April 25th. Enter as often as you like. Post a comment right here on our blog for two entries, visit our Facebook pages, follow us on Twitter, and tweet about the contest once a day while it's running! And check back here on April 26th to see if you are a lucky winner!

Happy spring . . . and happy reading!

(Please note, prize packs can only be shipped to a continental US or Canadian address. International winners will receive the books only, in e-book format.)

Photos and “ever-blooming” flowers from Gardener’s Supply Company (http://www.gardeners.com/)

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Must reside in the US/CAN for print copies; if outside these countries ebooks only will be sent from the prize packs. You must be at least 13 years old to enter and if under 18 must have adult or guardian permission. This giveaway is in no way affiliated with Facebook, Twitter, Google or any other entity other than the authors involved. Void where prohibited by law.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Favorite Siblings Series on National Sibling Day

In honor of NATIONAL SIBLING DAY, I thought I'd highlight my favorite "sub genre" of fiction—series that follow siblings! Is that really a sub genre? Let's just go with it for today, okay? I think I love these books because it allows me to follow characters I've gotten attached with through several books. Plus siblings provide so much entertainment—the love/hate back and forth, the teasing, the protectiveness—which makes for a great story! Here are a few of my favorite sibling series!

The Heart of San Francisco by Julie Lessman


Cooper Creek by Brenda Minton

The O'Malleys by Dee Henderson

Christiansen Family by Susan May Warren

Porter Family by Becky Wade

Alaskan Courage by Dani Pettrey

Women of Justice by Lynette Eason

Wings of Glory by Sarah Sundin

Ladies of Distinction by Jen Turano

Grand Tour by Lisa T. Bergren

Chapel Springs by Denise Hunter

McKenna's Daughters by Lena Nelson Dooley
 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Which CROSSROADS Character Are You? by Cathy Bryant


Which CROSSROADS Character Are You?
by Cathy Bryant

Before I write one word of a new story, I spend a LOT of time getting to know my main characters. I fill out lengthy character charts for each of them, which includes every aspect of their background--childhood, relationships, jobs, personality traits, tough life situations, etc. I also subject them to a battery of online personality tests.

Why do I go to all this trouble? Because if my characters aren't 'real' people to me, I stand no chance of writing them well enough to convince savvy readers that they are 'real.'

Anyway, without further ado, please allow me the privilege of introducing you to the characters of the latest Miller's Creek novel, CROSSROADS.

Meet Mara, the Heroine of CROSSROADS
With each character I create for a novel, I find a picture (usually of an actor or actress) that helps me visualize the character as I write. This unusual picture of actress Julia Roberts was the perfect picture for the character of Mara Hedwig, the heroine of CROSSROADS.

To me this photo shows strength of character as well as a just-beneath-the-surface vulnerability and kindness, all of which describes Mara. She's also maternal, driven, motivated by her desire to provide stability for her little girl, lonely, cynical (especially when it comes to matters of faith), a survivor, and distrusting.

Her public persona is very different from her private persona. In public, she's all about appearances for the sake of her business, so she dresses to the hilt in business attire (yes, even in the back-roads Texas town of Miller's Creek) and drives a Cadillac Escalade to have the appearance of success.

In private, she's much more relaxed and casual in her dress, preferring to let her hair down, wear sweats or blue jeans, and to shuck her shoes. In her not-working hours, her life centers around being a mama to her little girl, Ashton.

Meet Carter, the Hero of CROSSROADS
I used this photograph of actor Geoff Stultz as inspiration for Carter Callahan. Carter is a former soldier, now serving on the police force of Miller's Creek, who is strong in his faith and struggling to raise his teen-age daughter Chloe on his own. The one word that best describes him (as confirmed by his family, the infamous Callahan clan) is protector. When he meets the vulnerable and cynical Mara and her little girl, his life is literally turned upside down.

Why? Because as a protector/defender, he sees it as his job to win Mara back to faith in God. The only problem? He has bought the enemy's lie that he's not smart enough to win a war of words. All his previous battles have been fought with brawn and training, so how could he possibly win the battle of defending the faith to Mara?

Other words that describe Carter are: thrill-seeker, action-oriented, outdoors-man, caring, compassionate, and tender-hearted.

Meet Ashton, Mara's Daughter in CROSSROADS
What is it about kids that tend to steal the spotlight in a book or movie? That definitely holds true for the character of Ashton, Mara's little girl in CROSSROADS.

To play the part, I chose this picture of actress Dakota Fanning. Isn't she cheek-pinching cute???
Words that describe Ashton are: precocious, sweet, smart, charming, and funny. She's one of those kids that has a vocabulary of a thirty-year-old. I derived a lot of inspiration for this character from the role of the little girl Susan in the remake of the movie, Miracle on 34th Street (played by actress Mara Wilson).

In the story of CROSSROADS, Ashton faces a life-threatening illness. Once Carter and his teen-aged daughter Chloe enter her life, she is impacted for the faith. There's nothing like that sweet, child-like faith to serve as the perfect picture of what faith in Christ should be like.

Meet Chloe, Carter's Daughter in CROSSROADS
There is always at least one character in any story I write that ends up surprising me. Chloe was that character for me in writing CROSSROADS. This photo of actress Spencer Lacey Ganus served as my visual inspiration for the character of Chloe.

Honestly, I think the reason Chloe's character surprised me so much is because teenagers are not normally my favorite people. To me, they tend to be self-centered, rebellious, and smart-mouthed.

Not that Chloe isn't those things. She totally is. But throughout the story she grows into a mini-adult, overcoming some of her own personal hang-ups and obstacles to become a compassion-filled cheerleader and champion for Ashton.

Other words that describe Chloe are: bouncy, moody, searching, and strong-willed. Of all people, Mara becomes the voice of reason for Chloe.

Which CROSSROADS Character Are You?
Now that you've met each of the main characters in CROSSROADS, I hope it makes this little quiz all the more fun. Please let us know in the comments which character you are the most like!


About the Book
A former soldier battles for the soul of a prodigal...

After a devastating divorce, a bitter single mom and atheist starts her own real estate company in the nostalgic and picturesque town of Miller’s Creek, Texas. Then her young daughter’s disturbing symptoms lead doctors to discover that her leukemia has relapsed. With her new life now turned upside down, Mara Hedwig struggles to keep her business afloat. And her daughter’s worsening condition forces her to rethink her beliefs about Carter Callahan and his God. Will Mara make the return to Christian faith in the face of life’s greatest challenge?

An ex-military operative struggles with the return to civilian life while coping with his rebellious teen-aged daughter. During a house-search, Carter meets Mara, a headstrong Realtor who wants nothing to do with his God. But when Mara’s little girl is diagnosed with leukemia, the clock begins ticking for him to convince Mara to return to a life of faith. Just as he seems to be making headway, circumstances beyond his control throw his efforts into a tailspin. Can Carter learn to rest in the sovereignty of God?

About the Author
Amazon best-selling author Cathy Bryant writes Christian fiction set in the heart of Texas. Her popular romance and romantic suspense novels take place in the fictional town of Miller's Creek, where folks are friendly, the iced tea is sweet, and Mama Beth's front porch beckons. All the Miller's Creek novels have been on the Amazon Best-Seller list and are rated at 4.5 stars or higher on Amazon. Her debut novel, TEXAS ROADS, was a 2009 ACFW Genesis finalist. Since then five other stand-alone novels have been added to the series, one of which was a reader-nominated 2013 Grace Award nominee (PILGRIMAGE OF PROMISE). Readers have compared her work to that of Karen Kingsbury and Nicholas Sparks. 



A native Texan, Cathy currently resides in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo mountains of northern New Mexico with her minister husband of over thirty years. She's written devotions for The Upper Room devotional magazine, two devotional books in collaboration with other Christian authors, and for online sites. She also has released a Bible study book, THE FRAGRANCE OF CRUSHED VIOLETS. In addition to her writing, she enjoys thrift store shopping, romping in the great outdoors, and mini-farming.

Cathy Bryant Online
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Pinterest

Book Launch Party

YOU'RE INVITED!

What: CROSSROADS Book Launch Party

Where: Facebook (from the comfort & convenience of your own home)

When: April 30, 2015 ~ 7:00-8:30 p.m. (Central time)

Why: To celebrate the book launch of CROSSROADS (a Miller's Creek novel and Christian Romance by Cathy Bryant)

LOTS of Fun, Games and Prizes!

Prizes Include: Miller's Creek pens, tote bags, t-shirts, mugs, digital books, autographed print books, Amazon gift cards, and
an Amazon Kindle Fire HD6!
Click here to RSVP and enter the Kindle Fire drawing.

Giveaway
Cathy has been gracious enough to offer a giveaway to one of YOU. Your prize? A digital copy of CROSSROADS! We'll keep this simple. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post: tell us either which character you're most like (see the quiz above) or which character you'd most like to meet. Be sure to leave an email address so I can contact if you win. Giveaway ends April 17.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Bookmarked Death by Judi Culbertson (Blog Tour + Giveaway)

A Bookmarked Death
by Judi Culbertson
Delhi Laine Mysteries series
Available March 2015
Witness Impulse | 262 pages

About the Book
For the first time in nearly twenty years, Delhi Laine’s family is whole. But that doesn’t mean everything is back to normal. With no proof to condemn her daughter’s kidnappers, Delhi’s family is forced to share Elisa with her “adopted” parents. But when they suddenly perish in a mysterious house fire, Elisa is heartbroken…and Delhi’s husband, Colin, is charged with their murder. Delhi knows it’s up to her to prove his innocence, but the deeper she digs, the more it becomes evident that nothing is as it seems. When Elisa goes missing, Delhi fears her nightmare may be repeating itself. If she can’t clear Colin’s name and find Elisa again, there may not be another chance. Twenty years ago she lost her daughter…if she fails now, she might lose everything—and everyone—she holds dear.

Buy a copy  |  Find out what others think

About the Author
Judi Culbertson draws on her experience as a used-and-rare book dealer, social worker, and world traveler to create her bibliophile mysteries. No stranger to cemeteries, she also co-authored five illustrated guides with her husband, Tom Randall, starting with Permanent Parisians. She lives in Port Jefferson, New York, with her family.

Judi Culbertson Online
Website

Giveaway
As part of this blog tour, the author is giving away a digital copy of A Bookmarked Death to 5 winners! Winner must have access to Bluefire Reader and have an Adobe account to receive free download. Giveaway ends April 15.

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Blog Tour Schedule
April 1 – Queen of All She Reads – Guest Post
April 2 – Community Bookstop – Review
April 3 – Chloe Gets A Clue – Interview
April 4 – Beppe DM Books Blog – Spotlight
April 5 – Babs Book Bistro – Guest Post
April 6Melina’s Book Blog – Review
April 7i blog 4 books – Spotlight
April 8Lori’s Reading Corner – Interview
April 10Shelley’s Book Case – Review
April 11View from the Birdhouse – Interview
April 12A Blue Million Books – Guest Post
April 13Back Porchervations – Review
April 14Christa Reads and Writes – Review

Monday, April 6, 2015

In Tune With Love by Amy Matayo (Review)

In Tune With Love
by Amy Matayo
A Year of Weddings 2 series, Book 5
Christian Fiction / Contemporary / Romance
Available March 2015
Zondervan
120 pages



About the Book
They've helped orchestrate the perfect day for countless couples. Now twelve new couples will find themselves in the wedding spotlight in the second Year of Weddings novella collection.

April is willing to do anything for her sister's wedding-until she comes face to face with a guy from her past.

April Quinn is thrilled to be her sister's maid of honor, until the wedding coordinator quits and the responsibilities get dumped on her. It's April's worst nightmare-especially since her sister has more objections and opinions than a lawyer presenting a high-profile court case. When the wedding singer walks out at the last-minute, her sister hires a replacement. When April finds out who the replacement is, she's ready to call it quits as well. Because there's only one person in April's past that she never wanted to see again, and her sister just handed him a front row seat to the wedding. Jack Vaughn finally has the career he's always wanted. After playing in bars and singing in weddings as a struggling musician for half a decade, he's just released his second album and sales are skyrocketing. But while visiting his parent's Nashville home the weekend before his first headline tour, he runs into an old friend. When she asks him for a last-minute favor, he can't bring himself to say no. Even though saying yes means he has to come face to face with April Quinn—the girl who hasn't spoken to him in years.

Buy a copy  |  Find out what others think

My Thoughts
I'm a big fan of Amy Matayo, so I was super excited to find out that she was invited to be part of this year's A Year of Weddings series! The story itself is interesting and unique. I mean, the thought of someone making a huge career for himself by stealing another person's—and a friend's no less!—lyrics had me intrigued. Throw in reconnecting with said friend and a bridezilla and I'm totally interested. All of the drama around the wedding totally stressed me out, but it made for a good story.

I think the biggest challenge for me is the length of the story. Amy writes what many consider to be "edgier" stories, so they're full of snark and sarcasm and characters that aren't quite as easy to love as what you might normally find in a romance story. While this plays out nicely in a full-length story where readers have a chance to get to know the characters over a longer period of time and more fully understand their history (and therefore their snark), for me it didn't come off quite as well in such a short novella. I really felt like this was the beginning of a story that I wanted to read a lot more of. (Amy, if you happen to be reading this and ever decide to go back and revisit April and Jack, I'll definitely read that story!)

I'm thoroughly happy to have read In Tune With Love, but I want more! If you've read anything by Amy before, you'll definitely enjoy this story. And if you haven't, well, give it a shot. I'm sure glad I did! [3.5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Amy Matayo has a degree in journalism from John Brown University. She worked for seven years as senior writer and editor at DaySpring Cards until the birth of her first child. Amy was a freelance writer for David C. Cook before pursuing writing full-time, and she focuses on edgy, contemporary books for women of all ages. She is the author of The Wedding Game, Love Gone Wild, and the upcoming Sway. She lives with her husband and four children in Arkansas.

Amy Matayo Online
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

From Farm to Table: What Safe Food Means to One Child (Repost from Compassion International)

Today is World Health Day. I read this blog post on Compassion's blog yesterday and wanted to share it with all of you. What a wonderful story of how Compassion doesn't just help children, but impacts entire families and communities as well!



World Health Day is April 7 and this year’s focus is food safety. More than 200 diseases are caused by unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses and chemical substances.

Helping meet the physical needs of the children in our program, and of their communities, sometimes means having to find healthy food sources. Often, farm to table is the best solution possible.

This is where little Borisut comes in. He is a sponsored child in Thailand’s rural northern region. And we’d like you to hear his perspective on how farm-to-table living has benefited not only his family but also his entire community.

This is 7-year-old Borisut.

And this is his family’s beautiful garden.

Farm to Table Borisut

His grandparents’ generation used to plant all their vegetables by themselves. But by the time Borisut was born, people from the city had built roads into his village and started hiring the villagers to work in their fields and factories.

Farm to Table Field

His mom and dad worked hard in others’ fields, but their own gardens started to dry up because no one was taking care of them. Before long, no one in their village planted their own vegetables anymore. They had to buy all of their food from other people.

The produce they purchased always contained chemicals from pesticides that gave Borisut fevers and often made his younger brother break out in rashes.

Buying food also took a lot of money, so Borisut’s mom and dad had to work extra to keep them in school. Sometimes they didn’t make enough money to buy meat, so they would eat only rice and vegetables.

Then one day at his Compassion child development center, the teacher said they would learn something new: planting a garden. The center was going to teach the children’s parents how to grow their own food again, and the kids would get to join in. Borisut was excited to learn!

Farm to Table Garden

The center director taught them a new motto: “Plant what you eat, and eat what you plant.”

He planted a large garden at the Compassion center to show them how it’s done. Their teachers took them walking through the garden often, teaching them about all the fruits and vegetables.

Borisut learned all about the different plants he can eat, how vegetables don’t need chemicals to grow, and how to help his mom and dad in the garden.

Farm to Table Helping

His parents learned about gardening from the center director. At first the family’s gardens died as soon as the summer started. But as his parents learned about water conservation and storage, the gardens stayed green all year long!

Soon they were picking their own food from the trees and bushes around their house for their meals.

Farm to Table Meal

Borisut’s dad is a leader in their village, so now other families come to learn from him how they can have their own garden. The village is going to be swimming in pumpkins and bananas soon!

When they have more fruits and vegetables than they can eat, the center director helps the the families sell the surplus at a small market he set up for them. Every day the families take turns sitting at their booth selling the extra produce to people from other villages.

The other villages like to buy from them because Borisut’s village knows how to grow their gardens without using harmful chemicals.

Farm to Table Booth

Since they stopped buying the plants with chemicals, Borisut’s fevers have stopped and his little brother no longer has painful rashes.

Not only are they healthier, they’re also saving a lot of money! With the extra money they save and earn, they can now have more meat in their food, and also money for school supplies.

This week the center director told them that one of Borisut’s friends needed food. His father is dead, and his grandmother just died; there is no one in the house to work for money. All who have gardens are going to be giving him fruits, rice and vegetables that they grew themselves.

Borisut thanks God for blessing their gardens so they can bless those around them!

* Reblogged from Compassion International's blog. Original story and photos by Jonathan Suwaratana


Learn how you can help meet needs like this for other families like Borisut’s by visiting Compassion's Gift Catalog.
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