Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Author Interview & Giveaway: The Girl With Stars in Her Eyes by Dawn Ford

The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes JustRead Blog Tour 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Dawn Ford, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK


The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes

Title: The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes
Series: Firebird Series #1
Author: Dawn Ford
Publisher: Expanse Books
Release Date: April 12, 2022
Genre: YA Christian Fantasy

Eighteen-year-old servant girl Tambrynn is haunted by more than her unusual silver hair and the star-shaped pupils in her eyes. Her uncontrollable ability to call objects leads the wolves who savagely murdered her mother right to her door. 

When she’s fired and outcast during a snowstorm, her carriage wrecks and she’s forced to find refuge in an abandoned cottage. There, her life is upended when the magpie who’s stalked her for ten years transforms into a man, Lucas. He’s her Watcher and they’re from a different kingdom. His job is to keep her safe from her father, an evil mage, who wants to steal her abilities, turn her into one of his undead beasts, and become immortal himself. 

Can they make it to the magical passageway and get to their home kingdom in time for Tambrynn to thwart her father’s malicious plans? Or will Tambrynn’s unique magic doom them all?

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository | IndieBound | BookBub


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Dawn Ford 

Winner of the 2016 ACFW Genesis Award and finalist in the 2018 Grace Award and the 2020 Great Expectations Contest, Dawn Ford has been recognized for her published and non-published works. Her flash fiction stories have been published in Havok magazine under both her real name and pen name, Jo Wonderly. Her debut novel, Knee-high Lies, was published in 2017.

As a child, Dawn often had her head in the clouds creating scenes and stories for anything and everything she came across. She believed there was magic everywhere, a sentiment she has never outgrown. Nature inspires her, and her love for the underdog and the unlikely hero colors much of what she writes. 

Dawn adores anything Steampunk, is often distracted by shiny, pretty things, and her obsession with purses and shoes borders on hoarding. Dawn lives in Iowa and helps her husband run their foodservice and catering business out of Omaha, Nebraska. When not reading, writing, or catering, Dawn loves babysitting her grandchildren, is parent to Snickers the Wonder Beagle, and can usually be caught daydreaming. 

You can learn more about Dawn Ford at her website: https://dawnfordauthor.com 

CONNECT WITH DAWN: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

AUTHOR INTERVIEW


Q: What was the inspiration behind The Girl With Stars in Her Eyes?

Dawn: I sat down one afternoon to write with a vision in my head of a servant girl who had been dismissed from her employer because of her errant abilities. Her carriage wrecks in a dark, dangerous forest. I had three chapters written within an hour just from that single image.


Q: How long did it take you to write this story?

Dawn: I started writing this story in 2010, so it’s taken me twelve years from start to publication.


Q: Do you have a favorite quote from this book?

Dawn: “Those who are given special gifts from the Kinsman have a great responsibility to use them faithfully. That doesn't mean ye won't fail. It just means ye'll have to work hard to make things right.”
 

Q: What do you hope readers take away from The Girl With Stars in Her Eyes

Dawn: From the first image of this story, I wanted to get across the idea that our abilities are gifts, not curses. Too often we belittle our own talents while thinking someone else’s have more value. We’ve all been born with unique abilities and special talents. The trick is to appreciate ourselves for how wonderful we’ve been created.
 

Q: Would you share something about yourself that most readers would not know?

Dawn: I didn’t start writing until I was in my forties, so it’s never too late to discover your special abilities.
 

Q: What are you reading now?

Dawn: I’m reading Erin Howard’s Beyond the Gates. It’s currently up for preorder.
 

Q: How many bookcases are in your home?

Dawn: Three.
 

Q: What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Dawn: Reading, thrift shopping, watching my grandchildren.


TOUR GIVEAWAY

(3) winners will receive a $10 Amazon gift card, a signed paperback copy of The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes, and book swag!

The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes JustRead Giveaway 

Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight May 16, 2022 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on May 23, 2022. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours 

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Author Interview & Giveaway: If You Really Knew Me by Alison Cheah



About the Book


Book: If You Really Knew Me

Author: Alison Cheah

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

Release date: December 2021

Tommy is glad of friendships which make him forget the situation at home. His father’s illness makes his behavior so unpredictable that the whole family must tip-toe around him for fear of becoming the butt of his anger.

Elise wishes her twin sister didn’t think being champion swimmers was an adequate goal for their lives. She has her own dreams to fulfil.

Carrie hides a secret, avoiding other students so nobody will ever find it out. But Tommy and Elise both look to Carrie to save them from their situations.

Until she disappears.

Tommy’s protective instinct kicks in, and Elise reassesses her priorities so she can help keep Carrie safe.

Click here to get your copy!


About the Author


Alison Cheah worked at Youth for Christ for five years and volunteers with her church youth group. One of her favorite activities is preparing Bible Studies and seeking how to connect the stories of the Bible with her students’ own stories.

As a child she was always to be seen with her nose in a book, and nothing has changed. One of her favorite authors was Patricia St. John. Her characters are people you want to know, and you are rooting for them to overcome their problems, but for Alison, the added dimension was that each person discovers their answers in Jesus. She saw that the faith she had grown up with had applicability in real life.

Her prayer is that this story has the same result for you.


More from Alison

I spent five years working at Youth for Christ with middle school students like Tommy, Carrie, and Elise. They are not based on kids I met, but they are inspired by my experiences then.

My friend and mentor in youth ministry was Anna-Marie Valles who is also a character in Tommy, Carrie and Elise’s story helping them to make sense of some of the questions they have.

We don’t get to know her well in the book, but I had a chat with her recently about youth ministry and here is an extract from that conversation. I think you will enjoy getting to know her better.


Alison: In the story, Elise shares her problems with you. Do you find teens want to talk to an adult about their problems?

AMV: Kids are hungry to be able to unload their stories on people who are willing to listen. I remember in one club a student said that all day, adults were telling him what to do. But club was a space where people were asking him, “How are you feeling? “What are your thoughts on this?” He was shocked.

 

Alison: You were only eighteen when you started in youth ministry. After all these years, how do you stay current so kids still want to talk with you?

AMV: If you come to kids with a willingness to learn, you become relevant. Say to them, “Tell me what’s going on?” Don’t pretend you have all the answers. I find that has worked for me. “I don’t know your culture like you do. But I’m willing to see through your lens if you’re able to share that with me.”

Age is interesting. I always worried I would age out. At my application interview for seminary I said, “I always thought if I aged out of youth ministry, I’d be a chaplain.” And the professor called me out on that. You never age out because kids still need that safe place where someone is willing to listen.

 

Alison: The profits from this book will be used to send kids to camp. Why is this important to you?

AMV: Youth ministry is all relational. But trust can take a while to build. The beauty of camps is that you can create a bond in one week that could take two years without. And at camp they hear the gospel presented in different ways by different speakers. Other people’s creativity and presentation may reach my students in a way that I haven’t been able to.

What saddens me is not everyone can go because camps are costly. My desire is that every student who wants to go will have the opportunity to do so.

 

For more of this conversation, see alisonrcheah.com

(Interview transcribed by https://otter.ai )

My prayer is that the story of Tommy, Carrie and Elise will be one of those different speakers Anna-Marie talked about, helping kids to begin their own relationship with Jesus.

Thank you.

Alison


Author Interview with Alison


Q: What was the inspiration behind this novel?

Alison: Some years ago, when our church was holding a summer reading program for the kids, my friend asked me whether I had written a missionary story which they could include. I hadn’t, but I decided to write one with a twist. The main characters were two fictional girls whose lives were impacted by some of the missionaries supported by our church.

I liked the format so much that I decided to do another one for my friend Anna-Marie Valles in aid of her work in middle schools.

The story isn’t about her, although she does make an appearance. Instead, I concentrated on three students who are trying to find their way through the complicated problems of life in middle school.
 

Q: Do any of the novel’s characters hold a special place in your heart?

Alison: I love Tommy who is mischievous and full of fun. He’s the sort of friend you’d want because you know he’ll always have your back. But that’s a heavy responsibility for him because when things go wrong, he blames himself. It’s a pity his father can’t be a better role model for him.


Q:What do you hope readers take away from this novel?

Alison: In my family when I grew up, Jesus was a daily part of our lives, but I much preferred reading fiction to reading the Bible.

However, in the stories written by Patricia St. John, I found both. Each character became a friend whose ups and downs mattered to me. But each one gave me something more. They all discovered that Jesus was a Friend who cared about their problems and loved them in their messiest moments and through them, I began to understand the same thing.

My goal is to write stories with the same “both/and” elements that Miss St. John engaged, piquing my reader’s interest while attracting them to Jesus who loves them.
 

Q: What are you reading now?

Alison: I’m scouring the shelves of the library for middle grade fiction. I review books that I have enjoyed recently on my Facebook Author page.

I’m also reading Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. He is one of my favorite authors because his observations of life are true, and he writes boldly about social issues. He is one of those people whose stories leave me with a better understanding of myself and human nature. Although I’ve read most of his books, I’m not sure I ever discovered Martin Chuzzlewit before. It’s always a delight to find an unknown book by a favorite author.


Q: Who is an author you would recommend to anyone and everyone?

Alison: C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books are stories I return to again and again. In his essay Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to be Said he explains that in stories the author can "steal past [the] watchful dragons of stained-glass and Sunday School associations" to direct the reader to a correct feeling "about God or about the sufferings of Christ." That’s what he does for me in the Narnia books.


Blog Stops


Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, May 13

Locks, Hooks and Books, May 14

Texas Book-aholic, May 15

Beauty in the Binding, May 16 (Author Interview)

Blogging With Carol, May 16

For Him and My Family, May 17

Inklings and notions, May 18

Blossoms and Blessings, May 19 (Author Interview)

deb’s Book Review, May 20

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, May 21

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, May 22

Simple Harvest Reads, May 23 (Author Interview)

Vicarious Living , May 23

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, May 24

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, May 25

Guild Master, May 26 (Author Interview)


Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Alison is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Enter Giveaway: https://promosimple.com/ps/1db4d/if-you-really-knew-me-celebration-tour-giveaway.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Book Review: Curtain Call by Lyneta Smith


About the Book:

I thought I was having a breakdown; turns out, it was a breakthrough. In 2014, I wanted out of my story. I didn’t want to be on this earth anymore. 

Bombarded by uninvited memories of childhood trauma, I questioned why God would allow so many horrible things to happen to me.

When God interrupted my pleas for help with a simple question—“Will you trust Me with your story?”—I agreed to step out of my stage-perfect Christian life and into the journey toward healing and finally seeing Him as a good, loving God.


My Thoughts:

Curtain Call by Lyneta Smith retells the author’s journey from living behind a façade to living authentically in all areas of her life. The author wove in a theme about the masks we wear and tied everything together well.

That being said, I almost didn’t get past the second chapter of Curtain Call. The author’s story belongs to her, and she has the right to tell it with as little or as much detail as she wishes, but she retold the sexual abuse by her babysitter in graphic detail. Once I read the words, I couldn’t unread them. I had to put the book down for several days. When I returned to it, I read it slowly, but found the frequent timeline jumps a bit confusing. As always, reading about sexual assault was difficult and saddening, but Curtain Call’s narrative felt authentic. I recognized some of the same family dynamics from my own childhood and experience with sexual abuse.

Curtain Call by Lyneta Smith brims with compassion and offers hope to readers struggling to heal from sexual assault. Specifically, Lyneta’s experiences testify that healing is possible for survivors and that God cares for those harmed by sexual assault. While survivors are the target audience for Curtain Call, the book might prove helpful for those wishing to understand and help a survivor.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Movie Review & Giveaway: Family Camp


About Family Camp:




When their pastor encourages the congregation to sign-up for a week away at family camp, Grace (Leigh-Allyn Baker) believes she’s found the perfect cure for her imperfect clan—even if they’d all rather be anywhere but at rustic Camp Katokwah. 

The first feature film from The Skit Guys—Tommy Woodard and Eddie James—FAMILY CAMP is a laugh-out loud comedy that is sure to touch the hearts and tickle the funny bones of every family member from eight to eighty. 

FAMILY CAMP is releasing in theaters on May 13th! Buy your tickets now!

Tickets: https://familycampmovie.com/tickets/

Website: https://familycampmovie.com/


Movie Trailer:


My Thoughts:

Family Camp made me laugh… a lot – and that’s why I enjoyed this movie. The movie’s humor hooked my attention near the start, in part because I related to the parenting struggles and kid actions depicted. Hilarious moments ensued throughout the movie as two, completely opposite families find themselves forced together at church camp.  Occasionally, the movie sacrificed plausible reality in favor of humor, but that didn’t bother me. I thoroughly enjoyed having a reason to laugh repeatedly.

Although Family Camp’s story is mostly fun and light, the latter half of the movie increases in seriousness as it explores family dynamics. The movie advocates the conservative view of the man as the leader of the family. I don’t have an issue with that, but others might. However, I was bothered by how an extremely manipulative character receives immediate forgiveness with no indication of healthy boundary setting.

Although the movie ended with more open-ended situations than I prefer, the major issues were wrapped up satisfactorily. Overall, Family Camp is a fun movie, suitable for tweens and up. I watched it alone, but I’m pretty sure my kids would laugh most of the way through this.

By seeing it opening weekend (May 13-15), you are letting Hollywood know that you and your family want more movies like this! BUY TICKETS now to see Family Camp in theaters!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Many thanks to K-LOVE Films for providing a sample of the product for this review. Opinions are 100% my own.


About the Creators of Family Camp:

The Skit Guys -- Tommy Woodard and Eddie James -- have been creating mini-movies for churches and youth groups for years, as well as performing live at events. Enjoy this interview with The Skit Guys and Jean of Momentum Influencers.

       


Giveaway:

One reader of this post will receive a $10 Amazon Giftcard.

Enter by leaving a comment on this post that includes your name and email address.


Monday, May 9, 2022

Book Review: Willow by Ronie Kendig

About the Book:

To save her, he must become the evil he fights.

Aftercare specialist Willow Metcalfe joined Mission: Liberate Everyone to help trafficking survivors navigate the healing process. When MiLE’s Obioma Compound is attacked by the Nigerian mafia, she’s taken hostage. Against nightmarish odds, she and the victims attempt an escape—and are thwarted.

A decade after leaving his beloved homeland, Chijioke “Chiji” Okorie returns to find his sister and fight for his own country. Believing a global trafficking ring behind her abduction and a string of kidnappings across Nigeria, he goes undercover to find the head of the serpent and his sister. Chiji is stunned to discover among the hostages a familiar face—a friend’s sister, Willow. The woman he vowed years ago to marry.

The man who has interfered with her escape attempts seems … familiar, kind—but Willow knows better. He reeks of the warrior ethos that has devoured many a good man. Engaged in an impossible battle and losing at every turn, Chiji is determined to complete his missions—all of them. Even if it kills him.


My Thoughts:

I read Willow by Ronie Kendig in a Sunday afternoon sitting. With a shorter page length and an action-packed plot, it’s a quick read. I loved the Metcalfe sibling dynamics and how fiercely loyal they were to each other despite tensions in their relationships. Now that I’ve been introduced to the wild Range Metcalfe, I’m looking forward to his story (coming later in 2022).

Willow brings awareness to human trafficking, a heinous reality for so many. Reading about violence and sexual assault is hard, but the story avoids graphic detail when possible. The novel does not dig deeply into the traumas of sexual assault or the extended healing process of survivors, which makes the novel lighter to read. Romance while surrounded by the terrors of sex trafficking may seem implausible, but Ronie Kendig deftly integrates Willow and Chiji’s budding relationship. 

Willow by Ronie Kendig lands as the second novel in The Metcalfes series.  I recommend reading them in order due to the overarching human trafficking plot as well as the cameos by characters from prior novels. Four Stars!

 


Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Author Interview & Giveaway: The Rancher's Want Ad Mix-Up by Megan Besing

The Rancher's Want Ad Mix-Up JustRead Blog + Review Tour

Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour for The Rancher's Want Ad Mix-Up by Megan Besing, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK


The Rancher's Want Ad Mix-Up
Title: The Rancher's Want Ad Mix-Up 
Author: Megan Besing 
Publisher: Love Inspired Historical 
Release Date: April 26, 2022 
Genre: Inspirational Historical Romance 

A mail-order mistake… 

Or a made-to-be match? 

When Della Mae Wagner’s train arrives in Missouri, she’s shocked to find that the couple who hired her don’t just want a teacher for their grandsons but a wife for their son! After a broken engagement, marriage is not in Della’s plans. And Hank Lamson isn’t pleased—with his parents, with his unexpected guest or with Della’s unfairly appealing smile. But his plans to send her packing are foiled as his family comes to love her…and he feels the walls around his wounded heart start to fall. 



PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository | IndieBound | Christianbook | BookBub

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Megan Besing 

Despite always adoring happily-ever-afters, Megan Besing didn't unlock a love for reading until her mid-twenties, which quickly expanded into writing. Her own stories have won many awards, including the Selah for her novella, Perfect for the Preacher, along with the Pre-published Maggie for The Rancher’s Want Ad Mix-up. And now she’s thrilled to be a Sunrise Publishing author. However, her most cherished achievements are being a wife and mother. She lives in a pocket-size Indiana town, centered around extended family, where she's always planning a road trip with a view. Yet, her favorite place may just be on her front porch drinking tea. Connect with Megan at meganbesing.com.

CONNECT WITH MEGAN: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

AUTHOR INTERVIEW


Q: What was the inspiration behind The Rancher’s Want Ad Mix-Up?

Megan: Several years ago, Love Inspired had a contest for stories, and I randomly thought of a historical idea where a woman arrived to be a teacher, but really the ad was for a bride. Then once I finished the story, I realized that I had drawn inspiration from my own mother-in-law. She was the one who wanted my husband and me to get together. Our long story short, my mother-in-law did some scheming of her own. Not sure it helped completely, but I am her daughter-in-law, so it didn’t hurt. 😊


Q: How long did it take you to write this story?

Megan: When the original story didn’t go to the final stage of the contest, I drug my feet on finishing it. It probably took about eight months. Then it sat on my computer for a couple of years before more edits were added.


Q: Do you have a favorite quote from this book?

Megan: Pretty much anytime the three brothers are talking, especially Wallie. My daughter is reading the book now, and she gave me her favorite of Wallie’s quotes so far:

Wallie squinted. “What’s an ally?”

“Friend, you goof.” Edward leaned over and scratched some bark off the nearest tree. “We can’t be friends, Miss Wagner. We’re brothers.”

“My brothers are my friends,” Della countered. “And they are friends with each other as well.”

“You have brothers?” Wallie’s eyes grew as large as the cinnamon rolls rising in the kitchen.

“Yes, I have three.” She patted the blanket, beckoning the boys to sit beside her. Youngest to oldest they obeyed, sitting on the far corners of the rugged blanket. It was a start.

Wallie crossed his legs and rested his elbows on his knees, chin in hands. “You don’t look like a sister.”

“Wallie’s right,” said Robert. “You’re too old.”

“Too old?” Della adjusted her skirt to make sure her ankles were covered. Maybe at twenty-four she was becoming an old maid, as Mother liked to remind her, but regardless of her age, she knew that politeness and manners were what she needed to teach the boys today. “Boys, it is never polite to tell a lady she is too old.”

“Well, ya are. You’re too old to be our sister.”



Q: What do you hope readers take away from The Rancher’s Want Ad Mix-Up?

Megan: So often we search for our identity in our jobs, spouse, and or kids. Della learns that God is the only one who can fill that hole we all have. Pleasing others shouldn’t be our life goal, but how we’re here to put God first in our lives.


Q: Would you share something about yourself that most readers would not know?

Megan: I thought I would never write a historical book. Believed it would be too hard. Eventually, my husband’s love for history rubbed off on me, and I learned I really enjoyed antique shopping, which prompted additional research. Then God opened doors, and now The Rancher’s Want Ad Mix-up is my second published historical story.


Q: What are you reading now?

Megan: All That it Takes by Nicole Deese (An auto buy author for me.), The Next Worst Thing by Sarah Jane Woodley (A new-to-me author), Besting the Earl by Allie Kensington (A newer author), Point of Impact by Lisa Phillips (My mentor author at Sunrise Publishing)

(I usually have several books going at once. I tend to be an eclectic mood reader and also a big fan of kindle unlimited.)


Q: How many bookcases are in your home?

Megan: I’m sad to say only like three small ones. Recently, four of our bookshelves decided to no longer hold things. So, we have a fair share of books stacked in closets and nestled in Rubbermaid tubs in our basement. But one day, I have high hopes of having an entire wall of bookcases.


Q: What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Megan: I’m usually taking care of my family or doing something with them. We like to play board games or activities outside like mushroom hunting, camping, or even kickball. But if I have a free moment to myself, I like to sit on my front porch and read.

TOUR GIVEAWAY

Grand Prize Package: (1) winner will receive a $20 Amazon gift card, signed copy of The Rancher's Want Ad Mix-up, rose necklace, 1 Cor. 13:13 tote, apple oven mitt, apple kitchen towel, and a Great is Thy Faithfulness bookmark!

2nd Prize: (1) winner will receive an engraved rose leather journal!

Third Prize: (1) winner will receive a signed copy of The Rancher's Want Ad Mix-up!

The Rancher's Want Ad Mix-Up JustRead Giveaway

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight May 2, 2022 and lasts through 11:59 PM EST on May 9, 2022. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours 

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Book Spotlight & Giveaway: Arena by Karen Hancock



About the Book

Book: Arena

Author: Karen Hancock

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: April 16, 2022

A Journey She Did Not Choose Will Change Her Life Forever.

Transported surreptitiously to a terrifying alien world, with limited resources and only a few cryptic words to guide her, Callie Hayes finds herself engulfed in a perilous battle for freedom – for her very life. After agreeing to participate in a routine psychology research experiment, she must unravel the mysteries shrouding her only route of escape or risk succumbing to the deadly deception of the Arena.

Click here to get your copy!


About the Author


Karen Hancock has won Christy Awards for each of her first four novels—Arena and the first three books in the Legends of the Guardian-King series, The Light of Eidon, The Shadow Within, and Shadow over Kiriath. She graduated from the University of Arizona with bachelor’s degrees in biology and wildlife biology. Along with writing, she is a semi-professional watercolorist and has exhibited her work in a number of national juried shows. She and her family reside in Arizona.


More from Karen

Arena was not my first novel. The Light of Eidon was. In those days, however, Christian publishers were not interested in the fantasy genre because it had too much magic and wizards and such, despite the publication of the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. They were softening to science fiction, however, and thanks to Kathy Tyers, Randy Ingermanson, John Olson and others the door was opened in 2001 for what is called “speculative fiction.” Arena fit right in, and was published by Bethany House in 2002. It went on to win a Christy Award, which started the ball rolling for the Guardian King series. Three out of the four Guardian King books in that series also won Christy Awards, at which point I was the first speculative fiction author inducted into the Christy Award Hall of Fame in 2013.

I am thrilled to have Arena appear again in this 20th anniversary edition with a new cover and in limited-edition hardcover. Oasis Audio will also be producing the audiobook, for the first time, so it can be available for every type of reader.


Blog Stops


Inside the Wong Mind, April 30

For the Love of Literature, May 1 (Spotlight)

Rachael’s Inkwell, May 1

Beauty in the Binding, May 2 (Spotlight)

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, May 2

Texas Book-aholic, May 3

Inklings and notions, May 4

For Him and My Family, May 5

deb’s Book Review, May 6

Locks, Hooks and Books, May 7

Tell Tale Book Reviews, May 8

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, May 9

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, May 10

Blogging With Carol, May 11

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, May 12

Through the Fire Blogs, May 13


Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Karen is giving away the grand prize of a $40 Amazon gift card and signed copy of Arena!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/1d3bd/arena-celebraiton-tour-giveaway

Sunday, May 1, 2022

April 2022 Reading Recap & May 2022 TBR

My April 2022 Reads: 

I read my first ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ fiction book of 2021: Turn to Me by Becky Wade! I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed it. Reviews and ratings are below. Overall, it was a good reading month.
  1. Turn to Me by Becky Wade - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - Review to come.

  2. The Scandal of Holiness by Jessica Hooten Wilson - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - Read my review.

  3. A Piece of the Moon by Chris Fabry - ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ - Read my review.

  4. Driving Force by Lynette Eason & Kate Angelo - ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - Read my review.

  5. All That It Takes by Nicole Deese. - ⭐⭐⭐½ - Read my review






Expected May 2022 Reads:
  1. A Healer's Promise by Misty M. Beller.

  2. Drawn by the Current by Jocelyn Green.

  3. The Finder of Forgotten Things by Sarah Loudin Thomas - My local book club's selection for May.

  4. Willow by Ronie Kendig.

  5. Curtain Call by Lyneta Smith - Currently reading.



What will you read this month?

Friday, April 29, 2022

Book Review: All That It Takes by Nicole Deese

About the Book:

When the ever-cautious Val Locklier moves cross-country with her son for a secure job, everything she'd planned unravels within the first week. After Val reluctantly agrees to rent an apartment from her best friend's brother, an unexpected chance at an elite filmmakers' mentorship ignites fresh hope for a dream career. But as Val's community begins to expand, so do her insecurities, especially those heightened by her growing attraction to a certain friendly landlord.

Pastor Miles McKenzie returns home from a short-term mission trip to discover that not only does he have an intriguing new tenant living upstairs, he's also been reassigned to a local ministry on life support. Disillusioned and restless, he distracts himself by throwing his energy into a host of new projects--not the least of which is pursuing Val--without stopping to consider the future.

As Val struggles to stop hiding behind the camera and Miles wrestles with shattered expectations, they'll find that authentic love and sacrifice must go hand in hand.

Read an excerpt from All That It Takes by Nicole Deese on the publisher's website.


My Thoughts:

Theoretically, All That It Takes by Nicole Deese lines up with my bookish ideals. The flowing prose evidenced the author’s skill with words. The novel bravely tackled heavy topics (disillusionment, unplanned pregnancy, sharing one’s story, etc.) with compassion. Occasional wisdom-filled statements made me stop and consider a spiritual truth. Yet, it took me over three weeks to read All That It Takes. The plot felt slow to me. I didn’t connect with Val until around page 200, when she explained partial details surrounding her pregnancy to both Miles and the reader.

All That It Takes by Nicole Deese possessed positive qualities and concluded with a stunningly beautiful ending. I know many fellow readers love this book, but it is not a favorite of mine. 3.5 Stars.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Book Review: The Scandal of Holiness by Jessica Hooten Wilson

About the Book:

Reading Great Literature as a Spiritual Discipline

How do we become better people? Initiatives such as New Year's resolutions, vision boards, thirty-day plans, and self-help books often fail to compel us to live differently. We settle for small goals--frugal spending, less yelling at the kids, more time at the gym--but we are called to something far greater. We are created to be holy.

Award-winning author Jessica Hooten Wilson explains that learning to hear the call of holiness requires cultivating a new imagination--one rooted in the act of reading. Learning to read with eyes attuned to the saints who populate great works of literature moves us toward holiness, where God opens up a way of living that extends far beyond what we can conjure for ourselves. Literature has the power to show us what a holy life looks like, and these depictions often scandalize even as they shape our imagination. As such, careful reading becomes a sort of countercultural spiritual discipline.

The book includes devotionals, prayers, wisdom from the saints, and more to help individuals and groups cultivate a saintly imagination.

Read an excerpt from The Scandal of Holiness by Jessica Hooten Wilson on the publisher's site.


My Thoughts:

Reading The Scandal of Holiness: Renewing Your Imagination in the Company of Literary Saints by Jessica Hooten Wilson felt like revisiting my college English major days, but better. Through her examinations of literary texts, the author shows that reading and considering literature aids the believer in the calling of being a saint (see 1 Corinthians 1:2 NKJV). Although I previously read only one of the books discussed, I never felt confused because the author summarized each literary work as she conveyed her thoughts about spiritual issues. I did learn some plot spoilers.

I enjoyed each chapter in The Scandal of Holiness, but Chapter 3 (Creation Care as a Holy Calling) rated as my favorite. Chapter 8 (Ars Moriendi) impacted and challenged me the most as it addressed the concept of dying well. This topic and the points presented stuck with me. The end of each chapter included a devotional section with Scripture, book quotes, prayers of the saints, reflection questions, and suggestions for further reading.

The Scandal of Holiness by Jessica Hooten Wilson focuses mainly on modern works of literature. A few examples: Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying, C. S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, Georges Bernanos’ The Diary of a Country Priest. The author explained in the introduction that she incorporated works from various faith traditions (Protestants, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Church, etc.) Stories from the Catholic tradition seemed the most common, and I found them interesting. The author expounded her thoughts clearly and without antagonism for opposing opinions. Even when I disagreed with a point, I respected and considered her view, in part due to the excellent presentation.

The Scandal of Holiness by Jessica Hooten Wilson is the type of book I could read annually. I enjoyed and learned from it. My personal take-away was that reading and considering well-written literature can influence a believer’s perspective and spur him or her forward in pursuit of the calling to be a saint (1 Corinthians 1:2 NKJV). The Scandal of Holiness: Renewing Your Imagination in the Company of Literary Saints by Jessica Hooten Wilson receives five stars from me.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Book Spotlight& Giveaway: Turn My Mourning Into Dancing by Henri Nouwen

Turn My Mourning into Dancing JustRead Blog Blitz 

Welcome to the Blog Blitz for Turn My Mourning Into Dancing by Henri Nouwen, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK


Turn My Mourning Into Dancing Title: Turn My Mourning Into Dancing 
Author: Henri Nouwen 
Publisher: Thomas Nelson 
Release Date: March 8, 2022 
Genre: Christian, Spiritual Growth, Grief 

How do you find hope in hard times? Why is it important to have hope during difficult times? Turn My Mourning into Dancing will help you survive the difficult seasons and learn how to live a full life in the midst of them and beyond. With practical advice, Henri Nouwen will gently point you towards a way of life that is grounded in God’s constancy and rooted within eternal hope. 

In this updated edition, Turn My Mourning into Dancing discusses five movements we experience during hard times: 

 • From Our Little Selves to a Larger World 
 • From Holding Tight to Letting Go 
 • From Fatalism to Hope 
 • From Manipulation to Love 
 • From a Fearful Death to a Joyous Life 

Healing begins with taking our pain out of its diabolic isolation and seeing our sufferings in communion with all humanity, and all creation. Nouwen teaches us that our little lives participate in something much larger. Turn My Mourning into Dancing is a must read for: 

 • men and women looking for growth and insight on life 
 • anyone going through the grief process and searching for real solutions 
 • anyone who has experienced a loss, betrayal, or hard times 

Everyone grieves differently. It is a process, not a science experiment. Mourning shouldn’t last forever. Do you want the kind of life that allows you to dance even in the middle of the darkest night? Get the answers and find hope within your hard times with Nouwen’s works on spiritual growth.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Christianbook | BookBub


EXCERPT

From Holding Tight to Letting Go.

For years I have loved watching trapeze artists. The love began when my then- eighty- nine- year- old father came for a visit. Let’s go to the circus, we decided one day. That evening we watched five South African trapeze artists—three fliers and two catchers. They danced in the air! The fliers soared and all was dangerous until they found themselves caught by the strong hands of their partners. I told my father that I had always wanted to fly like that, that perhaps I had missed my calling!

I am constantly moved by the courage of my circus friends. At each performance they trust that their flight will end with their hands sliding into the secure grip of a partner. They also know that only the release of the secure bar allows them to move on with arcing grace to the next. Before they can be caught, they must let go. They must brave the emptiness of space.

Living with this kind of willingness to let go is one of the greatest challenges we face. Whether it concerns a person, possession, or personal reputation, in so many areas we hold on at all costs. We become heroic defenders of our dearly gained happiness. We treat our sometimes inevitable losses as failures in the battle of survival.

The great paradox is that it is in letting go, we receive. We find safety in unexpected places of risk. And those who try to avoid all risk, those who would try to guarantee that their hearts will not be broken, end up in a self- created hell. C. S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves,

To love at all is to be vulnerable…If you want to make sure of keeping [your heart] intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in that casket— safe, dark, motionless, airless— it will change. It will not be broken—it will become unbreak-able, impenetrable, irredeemable…The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the danger of love is Hell.

In so many ways, the more we insist on control and the more we resist the call to hold our lives lightly, the more we have to deny the reality of our losses and the more artificial our existence becomes. Our belief that we should grasp tightly what we need provides one of the great sources of our suffering. But letting go of possessions and plans and people allows us to enter, for all its risks, a life of new, unexpected freedom.

How can we live with greater willingness to let go? Another step in turning our mourning into dancing has to do with not clutching what we have, not trying to reserve a safe place we can rest in, not trying to choreograph our own or others’ lives, but to surrender to the God whom we love and want to follow. God invites us to experience our not being in control as an invitation to faith.

Taken from “Turn My Mourning into Dancing: Finding Hope During Hard Times” by Henri Nouwen. Copyright 2001 Estate of Henri Nouwen. Preface Copyright 2001 Timothy Jones. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson Publishing. www.thomasnelson.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Henri Nouwen 

Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932-1996) was the author of With Open HandsReaching OutThe Wounded HealerMaking All Things New, and many other bestsellers. He was the senior pastor of L’Arche Daybreak in Toronto, Canada, a community where men and women with mental disabilities and their assistants create a home for one another.


TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive two print copies of Turn My Mourning into Dancing (one to keep, one to give!)!

Turn My Mourning into Dancing JustRead Blog Blitz Giveaway 

Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight April 26, 2022 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on May 3, 2022. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours 

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Author Interview & Giveaway: Forever on the Bay by Lee Tobin McClain

Forever on the Bay JustRead Blog Tour 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Forever on the Bay by Lee Tobin McClain, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK


Forever on the Bay

Title: Forever on the Bay 
Series: The Off Season #6
Author: Lee Tobin McClain
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: April 26, 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Clean & Wholesome

Safe harbor and new beginnings await on the Chesapeake Bay… 

Pleasant Shores cop Evan Stone has worked hard to become a man of his word, overcoming the alcoholism that sent him down the wrong path in his youth. So when his late best friend’s sister asks for his help, he doesn’t hesitate. He promised he’d watch out for Cassie, and the cottage next to his will be a perfect short-term refuge for her and her dog. The other half of that promise—to stay away from Cassie romantically—is harder to keep. 

Sheltered for years because of a childhood illness, Cassie is ready to reach for what she wants. And despite her family’s warnings and her own fears, Cassie’s heart wants Evan. As the return of his estranged son puts his sobriety to the test, Cassie and Evan are drawn together, finding strength through what they’ve each weathered. She knows Evan would risk anything to protect her, but are they willing to risk the price of loving, now and forever?

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | BookBub


MORE BOOKS IN THIS SERIES


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Lee Tobin McClain 

Lee Tobin McClain is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels. A professor-turned-writer, she finds inspiration in her beautiful and brilliant daughter, her goofy goldendoodle, and her aptly named cat, Trouble. Learn more about her books at www.leetobinmcclain.com.

CONNECT WITH LEE: Website | Facebook | Instagram

AUTHOR INTERVIEW


Q: What was the inspiration behind Forever on the Bay?

Lee: So many different inspirations! The Chesapeake Bay in all its beauty was primary. I also love the “best friend’s younger sister” trope, and I thought it would work perfectly for my hero, Evan Stone, a small town police officer from previous books in the series. My characters tend to have complicated histories. Evan has struggled with alcoholism. Cassie, the heroine, had a childhood illness that kept her somewhat isolated, which in turn made her a creative person—she makes dolls for children with chronic illnesses.


Q: How long did it take you to write this novel?

Lee: About three months, although the book was stewing in my head for quite awhile before I started writing.


Q: Do you have a favorite quote from this novel? 

Lee: Here’s a quote from early in the novel, and an image that shows what inspired it: I have a dog who loves adventures and stands up like a person, too!

Ace, her big apricot-colored labradoodle, jumped his front paws to the windowsill beside her, standing like a person to look out.

“We’re going on an adventure,” she whispered into Ace’s shaggy ear, and he nudged her with his nose as if to say he was excited, too.




Q: What do you hope readers take away from Forever on the Bay?

Lee: That it’s possible to overcome troubles and trauma in the past, build a new life, and find love.
 

Q: Would you share something about yourself that most readers would not know?

Lee: Even though I write about the Chesapeake Bay, I suffer from motion sickness, so I’m very cautious about taking a boat trip as research.


Q: What are you reading now?

Lee: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey. It’s the start of a new mystery series and takes place in 1920s India. It’s fascinating.


Q: How many bookcases are in your home?

Lee: Just three, but they’re overflowing.


Q: What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Lee: Walking my goldendoodle on local trails, spending time with my college-student daughter, and, of course, reading!

TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a copy of the first five books in The Off Season series and a $20 Amazon gift card!

Forever on the Bay JustRead Giveaway 

Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight April 25, 2022 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on May 2, 2022. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours 

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.