Friday, February 15, 2019

"The Songbird and the Spy" by J'nell Ciesielski ... and a GIVEAWAY!



J'nell is here to share a bit about herself and her latest release. She's offered to give away an electronic copy of the book . You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends February 22, 2019. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.) 

Q & A with J'nell...

Q: What message do you hope readers take away from your story?
A:  To be perfectly honest, I didn't start out with an intended message. I wanted to tell a fairly common story of falling for the wrong person with a twist of secret identities. Along the way, threads of not judging at first glance and finding unlikely bonds of love wove together in surprising ways. But it is in the small deeds of courage in the face of evil that are the soul to this story. Every-day people striving to do what's right, taking risks no matter the fallout or danger to themselves because there is a rightness that goes above personal gain. I hope it gives people courage, no matter how small or significant they believe their role in life to be.

Q:  What can you tell us about your next project?
A:  I have a novella coming out later this fall in a collection with three other authors. My story, "Night Fox," is set after the disastrous Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. My heroine turns thief in hopes of paying off her family debts until she runs afoul of the local laird's rigidity for rules. When she sets out to steal his priceless heirloom, the chase is on! Scotland is my favorite place in the whole wide world, so I love every opportunity I get to write about it. Plus, I love the idea of a charming lady thief.

Q:  That sounds like an interesting book. I look forward to checking it out later this year. What writers have inspired you?
A:  Roseanna White's incredible scope never ceases to amaze me. She writes series after series, most set in an era I adore, while running her own agency. How does she do it all? I believe she may be powered by unicorns and rainbows!

Recently, I came across Amor Towles. Oh my goodness. This man writes poetry in fiction form. He takes words to a level of brilliance that exceeds mere mortal expression. If I could have the amount of talent he has in his little finger, I'd be set for life.

Q:  I agree about Roseanna! I've never heard of Towles. I'll have to check out his books. Speaking of books, which book do you wish you'd written?
A:  Going off my current mood, it would be The Last Kingdom series. The story of Uhtred son of Uhtred has swallowed me whole with delicious appetite. It's a time not often talked about with King Alfred the Great, England before it was England, invading Danes, and the clash of paganism and Christianity. It's a sweeping saga of one man, half-Saxon and half-Dane yet belonging to neither, who is trying to reclaim his birthright. Destiny is all!

Q:  What's your favorite writing-related book?
A:  Believe it or not, it's little language dictionaries. Yes, plural because I have several depending on what era and region I'm writing in. These may not be writing-related, per se, but they're invaluable to me because without the right words the story is dead. Why tell someone to be quiet when you can say "Wheesht!" in Scots?!

Q:  Very true! I like learning different words like that, so your dictionaries sound interesting. What famous person would you like to meet and why?
A:  Ginger Rogers. She had it all: beauty, glamour, fashion, picture-perfect closeups, and she could dance circles around Fred Astaire. Literally. The woman did everything he did, but backwards and in heels! I'd beg her to teach me to dance because I have absolutely zero rhythm.

Q:  Good choice! What's one thing about you that would surprise your readers?
A:  I worked as a car valet while I was in college. I got to drive some very interesting cars, some very expensive, some that were like parking a barge, and a few I thought might fall apart as soon as the rusty door slammed shut.

Q:  That would be an interesting job! Do you have any writing rituals you must have or do when writing?
A:  My writing time starts at 1 p.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. My, that's precise, you might say. Only because it's when my daughter spends mandatory quiet time in her room or she's at preschool. I get a nice, tall glass of water, load up a quiet soundtrack that coincides with the setting of my story (right now I'm into Outlander or The Hobbit), and settle into my girly pink office. At some point I'll pace around the room when I get stuck or wander down to the kitchen for a snack. All of this is done in comfy house pants and fluffy slippers.

Q: Who are three fictional people you'd like to meet?
A:  Count Rostov from A Gentleman in Moscow. They just don't make them like that anymore, and he'd have such stimulating conversation. Captain Gregg from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (but only if it's Rex Harrison!). And finally Juliet Ashton from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.Golly, that's a mouthful. I loved her spunk and humor, plus, she's a writer. I'd love to learn all about her experiences during the war and then writing about those amazing people on the island.

Q:  Great choices! One final question. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you need to have with you?
A:  Lip balm. The good kind that doesn't make your lips even drier, like the rosy one I have from Vaseline. A razor because the thought of rubbing prickly legs together makes me gag. And ice cream, which I realize would need a freezer, but this is a fantasy question, right? So we'll all pretend it's the kind of ice cream that doesn't melt 🙂 Or have calories 🙂

Oh, that ice cream sounds perfect! Thanks so much for stopping by, J'nell. I'm sure my readers will enjoy learning a bit more about you. All the best with your latest release!



My review...

American music student Claire Baudin finds herself trapped in Nazi-occupied France. She needs to raise money in order to escape, so she works as a singing barmaid. There, she meets Nazi Captain Michael Reiner. Unbeknownst to Claire, he’s not all that he seems. Instead, he’s a British spy. He can tell Claire is harboring a secret, and he’s determined to find out what it is. Doing so could cost him his assignment, his heart, and his life, especially if his cover is blown. Is it possible for a songbird and a spy to have a future together?

Ciesielski’s sophomore debut shows she has a promising future. The Songbird and the Spy provides an honest look at life during WWII. Vivid detailing holds the reader’s attention as the characters navigate the dangers in Nazi-occupied France, which isn’t the typical locale for many books of this genre. There is a perfect mix of danger and romance. Sharp dialogue and likable characters combine to bring history to life. The story, particularly the ending, is thoroughly enjoyable. The author note provides a lot of information that history buffs will appreciate.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.



About J'nell...



Believing she was born in the wrong era, J'nell Ciesielski spends her days creating heart-stopping heroes, brave heroines, and adventurous exploits in times gone by. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages contest and Maggie Award, J'nell can often be found dreaming of a second home in Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black-and-white movies. Born a Florida girl, she now calls Virginia home,a long with her very understanding husband, young daughter, and one lazy beagle. Find out more at http://www.jnellciesielski.com/


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Thursday, February 14, 2019

"Between Two Shores" by Jocelyn Green





My review...

This is the first book I’ve read by Green, but I can see why she’s so popular. It’s obvious that the book was well researched, and I learned more about the Seven Year War than I remember learning in school. The romance angle was not overdone, and I appreciated that. It’s more sacrificial love than romantic love (between family, friends, and God). Green’s prose is full of vivid imagery in this emotional read. Catherine has a take-charge attitude and is a strong heroine, and the secondary characters are also well developed and utilized. The journey the characters go on is spiritual, as well as just physical, but the spiritual elements are not preachy.  Fans of historical fiction will certainly want to check out this book!


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Writing Prompt Wednesday

If you're feeling stuck in your WIP (work in progress) or just want to shake things up a bit, here's something different to try today:

Write a poem where each line begins with a letter to spell out Valentine's Day:

V
A
L
E
N
T
I
N
E
S
D
A
Y

Happy writing!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Monday Motivation


"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do."
— Thomas Jefferson



Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

"100 Inspirational Quotes: And the Life-Changing Scriptures Behind Them" by Joyce Meyer



My review...


I have read many books by Joyce Meyer, and I always find her inspirational, so I really like this book. It’s a short book (easily portable, too!) filled with quotes from Meyer, and each quote is linked to a corresponding Bible verse. There’s one quote per page, and the adjacent page has the verse behind the quote. The illustrations are a nice addition to the verses and quotes, and they match the cover, as well. Scripture verses are primarily from the Amplified Bible, though a few other translations (NIV, NLT, and NKJV) are used. The book is to the point, but it also gives the reader a lot to ponder. So much positivity in this little book!

It was hard to narrow them down, but here are a few of my favorite quotes:

·        “It isn’t what other people think of us that hurts us—it’s what we think of ourselves.”
·        “Everyone wants to be an overcomer but nobody wants to have anything to overcome. You can’t have a testimony without a test!”
·        “Don’t get your ‘who’ confused with your ‘do.’ Your true value is found when you fully understand who you are in Christ.”
·        “God has given us an antidote for fear: When fear knocks on your door, send faith to answer.”
·        “Courage is doing what you know you should do even though you feel afraid. DO IT AFRAID!”

       Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy as part of the FirstWords Blogger Program, but I wasn't required to leave a positive review. #SponsoredbyFaithWords


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Takeover Thursday with Molly Jebber ... and a GIVEAWAY!


Molly is here to share a bit about her latest release, Ellie's Redemption.  She has offered to give away a hard copy (US ONLY) of the book. You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends February 14, 2019. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.)  Here's Laurie...


Isn’t it the best to call a friend and chat? I treasure my friends. My favorite thing about writing is the wonderful readers I meet through signings, my speaking engagements, and social media through chats and sharing tidbits about each other. It’s a blessing to meet and have friends to share with around the world. We trust our best friends. We cry, laugh, tease, talk, and share our hearts with them. Then we have friends we may not visit due to distance, but you can pick up right where you left off the minute you see them. I’m sure you can relate. I’ve made friends with many of you I may never meet, but I smile when I see your name on Facebook. I feel like we’ve met because of all the times we’ve posted back and forth and learned so much about each other.

In Ellie, you’ll enjoy how she teases and interacts with her friends. She’s a strong young woman with flaws, she’s made mistakes, and she struggles to not express her opinion without a filter, but you love her. She’s fun, has a big heart, and she’s determined to find love.

It was great fun to write about a bakery filled with cinnamon-scented air, homemade breads, cakes, cookies, and pies. I got hungry writing it, and I may have gained a pound or two along the way.  When I’d write cinnamon roll or butterscotch pie, I’d dream about them! 

I toured an Amish home, and at the end, Leah had a long table filled with oatmeal, snickerdoodle, sugar, and molasses cookies. I had to take one of each. My husband and I devoured those by the end of the day. The Amish create recipes and make the best food. I’ve provided recipes in the back of my books for you I enjoy.

When I visit Amish communities, I never tire of the horses pulling the buggies. I’m amazed at the detail in their quilts and bonnets and many other dry goods. I’ve learned so much about baking, cooking, cleaning tips, and more from them. Charm, Ohio captured my heart. I loved this town. I had to write about it. I hope you’ll enjoy this story as it takes you to Charm and into Ellie’s life.

Visit my website and see where I’ll be speaking. I’d love to meet you in person or visit Facebook and keep in touch and enter contests. Thank you, Leslie, for having me visit here today!! 

Ellie’s Redemption blurb:

The comforting aroma of fresh baked-and-buttered bread. The hearty spice of cinnamon-oatmeal bars and hot coffee. In 1912 Ohio, The Amish Charm Bakers is the sweet sustaining center of a faith-abiding town built on peace, forgiveness--and ever-surprising love...

Ellie Graber couldn't be happier working at Amish Charm--and making good on a precious chance to reunite with her Amish community. Grief over her mother's death made her rebel and try the Englisher world, but now she's home to start again. And quiet, thoughtful Joel Wenger is one of the few willing to understand her as their unexpected friendship develops into something much more...

But no matter how hard Ellie tries, Joel's mother resolutely refuses to approve of her--much less accept her as a potential daughter-in-law. And as painful misunderstandings and a beautiful rival for Joel's affections threaten to separate the couple for good, can they bridge the gap between distrust and faith to secure a lifetime of love?



My review...

This is the second book in the “Amish Charm Bakery” series, though it could be read as a standalone.
Ellie cares for Joel but she must deal with his mother, who believes the rumors she hears through the Amish grapevine about Ellie. Will his mother succeed in keeping the young couple apart?

It’s easy to root for and connect with Ellie. This is a sweet romance with well-developed characters. Themes of forgiveness and faith are evident. A yummy oatmeal cookie recipe, as well as a Dutch/German glossary, is included. Jebber’s writing draws the reader in to her stores, making them feel a part of the community. This is a great addition to a charming series, and I look forward to reading the next installment. Fans of Amish fiction will want to check out this book.


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.


About Molly...



Molly Jebber is an award-winning author of Amish Historical Romance. Her latest book, ELLIE’S REDEMPTION, is the second book in her Amish Charm Bakery Series and releases January 29, 2019. Molly’s books have been featured in Publisher’s Weekly, USA Today’s HEA, featured in video on Naples News and Romantic Times. Her books have received widespread media attention throughout the US. She’s a touring speaker for Women’s Christian Connection, other women’s organizations, and she offers presentations on writing and the Amish. She says the most rewarding part about writing stories is meeting wonderful readers who become friends through social media and at her speaking events. Please visit her website: http://www.mollyjebber.com for a full list of her books (and options stores to buy them), speaking events and recipes.

She loves God, her family, and friends. She says yes to swimming, the beach, golf, and time with her family and friends, and no to coconut, onions, and skydiving! 


Where you can find Molly online...



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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

"A Return of Devotion" by Kristi Ann Hunter





My review...

What a delightful Regency-era book!

Hunter takes the reader on a wonderful journey in the second installment in the “Haven Manor” series. Beautiful prose, well-crafted characters, and an enjoyable story line combine in this book, which could stand alone, but the reader will have a greater appreciation for the story if they read them in order. At the core, it’s a sweet romance, with strong themes of forgiveness (including oneself), but there are some moments that had me chuckling, and other times I was on the verge of tears. Vivid detailing made me feel a part of the story. And the cover? Absolutely gorgeous! I look forward to returning to Haven Manor with the next book.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Tuesday Tip: Elicit or Illicit


Over the next few months, I'm going to be posting about some common words that can be confusing.


Elicit is a verb that means to evoke.


The telemarketing phone calls elicited no response from the homeowner.


Illicit is an adjective that means illegal.

She dumped her boyfriend because of his illicit drug habit.

Note: Elicit and evoke both begin with the same letter, as do illicit and illegal.




Monday, February 4, 2019

"The Secret of Willow Inn" by Pat Nichols ... and a GIVEAWAY! (JustRead Tours)

the secret of willow inn blog tour

Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for The Secret of Willow Inn by Pat Nichols, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!
ABOUT THE BOOK

TheSecretofWillowInnCover Title: The Secret of Willow Inn (Willow Falls #1) 
Author: Pat Nichols 
Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas 
Release Date: January 10, 2019 
Genre: Inspirational Contemporary Fiction

Two women fighting for their dreams, one who’s long lost hers, are united by tragedy and a long-held secret.

Pregnant with her first child, Emily Hayes is eager to help her mother finish transforming an estate into the Willow Inn and write a novel about Willow Falls’ colorful history. A tragic event threatens her parents’ plans to refurbish an abandoned hotel and transform the obscure Georgia setting into a tourist destination.

Sadie Lyles left Willow Falls a murderer who’d killed the town hero. She returns as a despised felon and seeks solace in the town’s café. Emily struggles to unite the close-knit community and becomes Sadie’s biggest advocate. She strives to uncover the truth about the crime and save her town from dying.

To appease her father, Rachel, a VP in his Atlanta real-estate-development firm, relegates her acting dream to secret performances for imaginary audiences. After meeting charming, flirtatious Charlie Bricker, manager for Willow Falls’ future vineyard, she vows to break free from her father’s control.

The tragedy and Willow Inn’s secret past launch Emily and Rachel on a collision course with destiny and truth.  

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon

EXCERPT

As far back as Emily Hayes could remember, her heart yearned for a sister. She directed her earliest requests to Santa Claus, which made Christmas mornings a confusing blend of excitement and disenchantment. Later she bargained with God. He disappointed her too. When she learned where babies came from, she petitioned her mom with promises to keep her room clean and be the best sister in the whole-wide world. Nothing worked. At some point the pleas stopped, but the lingering desire left a hole in her heart.

Thursday morning, she stepped outside the white-columned-home converted to a hospital and traced her ultrasound image with her finger. It wasn’t at all what she’d expected. She pressed her hand to her chest to ease the fluttering sensation, slipped the photo in her jeans pocket, and texted her husband. Have results. Meet me in the park in five.


A cool breeze nipped her cheeks and rustled the new crop of leaves on the mature willow-oaks lining Main Street. She dropped her phone in her purse, pulled her sweater tight, and crossed the two-lane road to the sidewalk fronting a grand estate. White columns extending from a railing supported the roof over the wide, front porch. The home was weeks away from final transformation to the Willow Inn, thanks to her parents' first effort to save their town from a slow, painful death. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pat 

Pat Nichols is proving it’s never too late to follow your dreams. 

During the spring, summer, and early autumn of her life this side of heaven, she and her high-school-sweetheart husband struggled and triumphed through life’s peaks and valleys. They raised two children, welcomed four grandchildren—one is with the angels—bought a Corvette, and ticked off every item on their travel bucket list. Now approaching her winter years, she ignores the minor aches that come with age and is grateful she can still paint her own toenails and dance with her hubby. 

Following twenty-five years in six different management positions with an international beauty company, Pat launched career number two as a novelist and freelance editor. She chose women’s fiction to honor her daughter’s strength in the face of significant health issues and the loss of a child. Her corporate experience, working with hundreds of amazing women from all walks of life, inspires her to create stories about women who confront challenges in the pursuit of their dreams. 

Although she writes five days a week, she and Tim—her best friend and number one fan—continue to celebrate their fifty-plus-year marriage. They lead a small group, volunteer for church guest services, participate in two social organizations, and spend time with family and friends. She thanks God for the blessings that brought her joy and the challenges that continue to strengthen her faith, skills, and resolve. 

Pat was born in Illinois, grew up in Orlando, and has called Georgia home since the eighties. She lives in an Atlanta suburb, is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers, Christian Pen, and Gwinnett Church (a campus of Northpoint Ministries).  

CONNECT WITH PAT NICHOLS: website | Facebook | Twitter

thesecretofwillowinnblogtourgiveaway

TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card from the author.  

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight February 4, 2019 and lasts through 11:59pm February 11, 2019. Open Internationally. Void where prohibited by law. Winners will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.



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

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Sunday, February 3, 2019

"The Forgiving Jar" by Wanda E. Brunstetter


Back cover copy...

What would happen if you found out someone has been impersonating you?

Sara Murray has never met her mother's parents and was surprised to learn after her death that they were Amish living in Pennsylvania. When she is finally able to make the trip to meet them, she is shocked to learn someone else has been living with them and pretending to be Sara. Sara can't understand how quickly her grandparents are willing to forgive the impostor.

Secrets and deceit seem to follow Sara, and she is so tired of it. Though soon she meets Brad Fuller who is visiting her grandparents during Christmas; even he sees to pull away from her, not being totally honest.

Struggling, Sara finds an old canning jar hidden in the barn that is full of encouraging prayers. Can Sara find a way to forgive the past and move on to building new relationships?


My review...


I really enjoyed the first book in the series, so I was excited to read this one, and I found it to be just as enjoyable.

The story continues to follow Michelle and Sara, who’s now returned to stay with her grandparents. Therefore, it would be quite helpful to read the books in order. Characters are realistic, though Sara does come across as a bit annoying at times with her tendency to hold on to her jealousy and anger. I enjoyed watching each girl go through struggles and insecurities on their way to becoming who God designed them to be. There is a bit of romance along the way. While there were a couple twists, some parts were a bit predictable. However, it was a sweet, relatively quick read overall. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

On another note, I’m looking forward to trying the two included recipes (Sara’s Pumpkin Bread and Mary Ruth’s Turkey Vegetable Soup.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.