Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Reads: "The Christmas Joy Ride" by Melody Carlson

My Review…

Miranda never intended to spend her holiday traveling across the country with her 85-year-old neighbor Joy, but that’s exactly what she finds herself doing. Joy is headed to her retirement place in Phoenix, in an RV covered with Christmas decorations, and she invites Miranda to go with her. Miranda is unemployed and facing foreclosure since her husband left her, so she accepts Joy’s offer. Miranda had helped Joy set up a blog entitled “Christmas Joy.” Joy chose six winners who weren’t feeling the holiday spirit and added them in to the travel plans. Joy is determined to spread cheer on their journey across Route 66 with the assistance of decorations and cookies. Joy neglects to mention her hidden agenda for this trip, and she fails to anticipate the unexpected event that could derail her plans altogether.

This is a fun, heartwarming read. The characters are so enjoyable, particularly Joy. You can’t help but be inspired by this tale. While the religious elements are a bit understated, it is still apparent that the characters understand that Jesus is the real reason for the season. This book may leave the reader with their eyes open a bit wider, making it easier to notice the needs of others. I really enjoyed hearing the stories behind each of the blog winners, too. While the ending felt a bit rushed, this is still a great addition to your holiday reading collection!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book as part of the Revell Readers blogger program in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my review.

Here's the Amazon link for purchase:

About Melody…

Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women, and children. That's a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a "storyteller." Her novels range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in my Flip-Flops), but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, True Colors, etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She's won a number of awards (including Romantic Times' Career Achievement Award, the Rita, and the Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog. To find out more about Melody Carlson visit her website at

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tuesday Tip: Tackling the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing

Tuesday Tip

Today, instead of focusing on just one tip, I'm going to highlight a book which mentions numerous tips and addresses twelve fatal flaws of fiction writing.  So if you are looking for ways to grab your reader and keep them engaged, as well as make your editor very happy, you will want to pick up this book. It will be released on December 1, 2015, so you still have time to pre-order your copy.

My Review...

The authors address many common flaws found in fiction. These include repetition, weak construction, too much backstory, POV violations, telling instead of showing, lack of pacing and tension, flawed dialogue, weasel words, and flawed writing mechanics. Each chapter includes a checklist of what to look for in your current work in progress, as well as specific advice on how to address each of the problem areas dealt with in this book. Numerous examples are included for each fatal flaw (complete with before and after passages). It really is a step-by-step guide to self-editing your work.

Their tips include:
  • Overuse of "-ing" words tends to weaken and slow down your prose, so use them sparingly.
  • Intersperse description to ground the story's setting and situation and continue to do that as the story plays out. 
  • Strong dialogue is crucial.
  • Avoid too much or too little backstory.
  • Remember that your POV character can't know what others are thinking.
  • It is important to balance dialogue, narrative, and action.
  • Make sure every scene has a point. 

If you are a writer, or hoping to be one, you need this book! It is written by five copy editors, who happen to be authors, and they share their expertise with the reader. There is so much information to absorb and apply. Their advice can help a writer craft a story they are proud of and one which readers will enjoy. Other editors will likely find this information beneficial, as well.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Amazon link for purchase...

Friday, November 20, 2015

"The Gifting Series" by K. E. Ganshert...and a GIVEAWAY!

I am doing things a bit differently with this post, as I will be reviewing all three books in the series at one time. Katie has agreed to do an awesome giveaway: a paperback set of the entire series! In order to be eligible for this contest, please go to the Rafflecopter box at the end of the post. You must enter by November 27,2015 (US ONLY). Good luck!

My Review of The Gifting…

"If science is right, then I am crazy. And crazy is dangerous."

After a séance and an encounter with a Ouija board, Tess Eckhart believes she is slowly losing her mind, especially when she begins seeing things that aren’t there. Her parents worry that she may be mentally ill, like her grandmother. They pack up and move the family so that Tess can receive treatment at the renowned Edward Brooks Facility, where she will be seeing Doctor Roth. Her brother resents her for the move, and she is struggling to fit in at the new school. Things seem to be looking up, as she makes a new friend, Leela, and the most popular boy in school, Luka, seems to take an interest in her. Strangely, she feels a connection to Luka, even though they have never met. She begins to wonder if he is just a delusion, too. All she has ever wanted is to be normal. She knows her parents are still keeping secrets from her, particularly in relation to her grandmother. She is forced to wonder what is real and what’s not. How will she feel when she learns that Luka is apparently keeping secrets from her as well? And just who are “the Gifting”?

This is the first book I have read by Ganshert, but it certainly won’t be my last. I finished this one in less than a day and quickly went to purchase the remaining two books in the series. The fast pace makes it difficult to stop reading. There are so many twists and turns in this YA dystopian novel, which also includes some chilling scenes and supernatural aspects. There is a mild amount of romance sprinkled in. Like Divergent and The Hunger Games, the reader may be left questioning the norms of society, as well as the unseen forces of good versus evil. Themes of hope and salvation are woven throughout. The characters are realistic and scenes believable, even though this book is a bit futuristic. It is a book that is safe for anyone to read, and it is certainly not just for teens. If you are a fan of Frank Peretti or Ted Dekker, you may find yourself adding Ganshert as one of your new faves. Warning: this book ends with a major cliffhanger!
(Note: As of 11-23-15, this book is currently free wherever e-books are sold!)


My Review of The Awakening…

"What is The Gifting? Why are we in danger? Who and where are the others?"

This book picks up right where the first book left off. Tess and Luka are fugitives, and they are finding that no place is safe. The man they believed could help them is now dead.  Equipped with some patient files, they head to Detroit to find others with “The Gifting.” Now that they have a name for what they are, they want to find out everything they can about it. At least Tess knows she’s not crazy.

In Detroit, Tess and Luka find an underground community of people just like them.  Their goal is to awaken as many people with “The Gifting” as possible, but it is a far more dangerous mission than imagined. Even Tess’s dreams are at risk from those out to stop her. She is told that she could be “the One” to save them all. Is that even possible?

While some backstory is included, it is best to read the books in order. This series is so creative and unpredictable, as well as uplifting. There is a depth to the characters, and they seem to jump right off the page. It ends with another cliffhanger, perfectly setting the scene for the final book.

One of my favorite parts pertains to the following message, which is a good reminder for everyone: “Sometimes, the most ordinary people are given the most extraordinary things. Who knows why you were chosen… The gift is yours. You can bury it if you want. You can deny it or ignore it. Or you can embrace it… What are you going to do with the gift you’ve been given? It’s something only you can decide.”

My Review of The Gifting…

“A time approaches when evil will grow to such heights, our kind will face extinction. One will arise with the ability to set captives free. She alone will see evil’s mark and her gifting will be complete in its power. She will be our victory.”

Luka is trapped, but Tess realizes that it is not too late to save him. However, she is not sure that he will ever be the same. She will have to work hard to convince the other members of the Hub that what she saw is true. Their underground community is no longer safe, but neither is above ground. Everyone is focused on the fact that “The Gifting” members are being systematically killed. Tess must decide what she will do with the powers she holds. Can she defeat Scarface and save her grandmother? Will she finally be able to understand the ancient prophecy, of which she is at the center, and fit all the puzzle pieces together? Is she truly prepared for the sacrifice required for victory?

This book is a satisfying conclusion to the series, though it is sad to see it end. It really is necessary to read the books in order. There are great dynamics in the relationships, particularly between Luka and Tess. Like the others in the series, it is an intriguing, multilayered storyline with just the right mix of creepy factor and romance. In general, this series is more hope-filled than some dystopian novels. The entire series is an engaging, quick read which would make a great movie trilogy.

A Word from Katie…

Q: Can you tell us how this trilogy came to be written?

A:  I wrote The Gifting Trilogy—on and off—over the course of three years. It started off as this fun, random idea—what if a girl could see things nobody else could see, and then she met a boy who could see those same things? The idea started to build in my head and with its expanding girth, came an equally expanding excitement to write it. I started to flesh out the characters of Tess and Luka. I started to imagine what sort of world the story might be set in. And then the fun part—I began brainstorming with my brother, who is a total outside-the-box thinker. Sky was the limit, and together, we came up with a pretty cool story world that I couldn’t wait to put down on paper. It took awhile, though, since I had to find time in between my contracted books to work on these, but every time I got the opportunity, my creativity was completely fueled. The change of pace and genre was thrilling. I’ve discovered that I seriously love writing young adult literature.

Q:  How did you make the decision to self-publish this series?

A:  The world of indie publishing has tugged at my curiosity for the past couple years. I’ve had more and more friends who have gone indie and their experiences were largely positive. When I made the decision to do something with this series, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to give the indie route a try, as it’s very off-genre than my Katie Ganshert novels. I talked to my agent about my plan. She was incredibly supportive, and then I started learning all I could learn about indie publishing. It’s been a very fun adventure so far! I hope to publish more books like these under the K.E. Ganshert name in the future

 I hope we see a lot more books like this in the future, too!

About Katie...

K.E. Ganshert was born and raised in the exciting state of Iowa, where she currently resides with her family. She likes to write things and consume large quantities of coffee and chocolate while she writes. She’s won some awards. For the writing, not the consuming. Although the latter would be fun. You can learn more about K.E. Ganshert and these things she writes at her website

Twitter: @KatieGanshert

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

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 a prompt to try today. Use it as your first sentence.

"If I could live anywhere in the world..."

Happy writing!

Friday, November 13, 2015

"The Girl from the Train" by Irma Joubert... and a GIVEAWAY!

To celebrate this new release,  I'll be giving away a copy of  the book (US ONLY). To enter, go to the Rafflecopter box at the end of this post. The last day to enter is November 20, 2015. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I will contact you for your information. Good luck!

My Review…

Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train headed to Auschwitz. She doesn't know that Jakob Kowalski has different plans for that train. He is planting a bomb on the train tracks. He believes the train is a German troop transport. He is surprised to encounter Gretl, who manages to escape. He vows to help her get to family in Switzerland. However, it must be kept secret that she is Jewish and German. In order to survive, Gretl must change her language, name, and religion. Can Jakob keep his promise, or will the truth come out? Will Gretl be able to grow up in a loving family?

Loneliness, friendship, and loyalty are key themes in this story, which shows World War II from a different point of view than is typical: a six-year-old girl with no home, no family, and no country. The reader follows Gretl through a confusing and scary time in history. It's apparent that this book was well-researched. This character-driven tale contains some emotionally raw scenes and easily captivates, as well as educates, the reader.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Amazon link for purchase…

About Irma...

International bestselling author IRMA JOUBERT was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical details. She's the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tuesday Tip: Transitional Words and Phrases

Tuesday Tip

Transitions in your writing are needed whenever possible to provide links between thoughts and paragraphs. There are a number of ways to do this. Here are some to choose from, and they are divided into categories according to their use. (This is just a small sample of transitional words and phrases.)

  • Addition/sequence:  additionally, again, also, furthermore, in addition, meanwhile, still, too
  • Concession:  admittedly, certainly, in fact, naturally, of course, surely, without a doubt
  • Contrast:  after all, although, at the same time, but, despite, however, otherwise, yet
  • Examples/emphasis:  after all, clearly, for instance, in other words, specifically, to demonstrate
  • Place or direction:  above, below, near, next to, underneath, wherever
  • Purpose/cause and effect: as a result, because, so, then, therefore
  • Qualification:  almost, always, frequently, nearly, never, often, probably
  • Result:  as a result, consequently, so, then, thus
  • Similarity:  again, also, and, furthermore, likewise, similarly
  • Summary:  as a result, finally, in conclusion, in summary, to conclude
  • Time:  after a while, also, at that time, eventually, first, later, meanwhile, once, so far, whenever
 Look through your current work in progress (WIP). Can you identify places where transitional words are needed?

Friday, November 6, 2015

"The Bronte Plot" by Katherine Reay... and a GIVEAWAY!

A Word from Katherine...

How the story came to be…

As I read C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, I thought not only about the choices one makes at the end of one’s life, but the little ones I make each and every day. That trail led me to Lucy, the main character, and quickly Helen, her friend and mentor. These two jumped out as interesting and dynamic women and exploring their choices and lives became fascinating—who they were, how they came to see the world as they did, and what might cause them to think differently and try something new.

We’re all on that journey. I think we constantly assess our lives and our purpose deep underneath our daily goings-on. And this book became their story, my story and, I hope, something readers can find enjoyable, relatable, and a compelling read. 

My Review...

Lucy Alling works at Sid McKenna Antiques and Design, and books are her life. She sells rare books and will do whatever is needed to make the best profit on them. She is dating James Carmichael, but that relationship, as well as her job, is in jeopardy when her shady practices are revealed. Surprisingly, James’s grandma, Helen, seems to bond with Lucy and invites her to go on a trip to England. It appears that Helen has some secrets, and ghosts, of her own. Helen wants to right the wrongs of her past, with Lucy’s help, before it is too late. Both Helen and Lucy are about to learn that the past will be key to the future.

This truly is a tale for book lovers, particularly if you are a fan of classic British literature. Reay’s latest is beautifully detailed, particularly regarding England. It is a solid reminder that all decisions have consequences. Some of the scenes with James seem a bit cold and unnecessary, and the reader may occasionally be put off by Lucy’s habitual lies. However, these combine to add to the overall flawed, reflective nature of the characters and storyline. Helen was my favorite character, by far. The details about the Brontë house are so vibrant that I could almost imagine being there with Lucy and Helen. Lucy’s struggles with poor decisions and finding her place in the world will be relatable for many readers.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Amazon link for purchase…

Q & A with Katherine...

Q:  What are your thoughts on the publishing industry, particularly in relation to self-publishing?
A:  The industry is blowing wide open! I think we can all agree on that, and in the end, it means more accessibility to great stories—and that’s a good thing. But it feels a little daunting for the writers, right now, as we struggle with “discoverability” in a rapidly expanding landscape. In the end, it’ll sort out. In the meantime, we do what we can—write compelling books.  

Q:  What would you be doing if you were not an author?
A:  Raising the kiddos, running, eating chocolate, and dreaming of becoming an author—and working on it every single day.

Q: What advice do you have for new authors?
A:  Work on it every single day. As I said before about the publishing industry, the game is changing. While there are so many ways to enter the publishing world, you still have to present a well-crafted product. So, if it’s on your heart to write, keep writing. That is the best and only true worthy advice I can give.

Q:  What project are you currently working on?
A:  I’m having such fun with my current project. In my head, I call it The Pizza Maker’s Wife. The title will most likely change, but it’s a wonderful story of a young woman, an impetuous marriage, a transformative trip to Italy, a little family drama, and some yummy food.

Q:  What is your favorite writing-related book?
A:  Donald Maas’s The Breakout Novel is a must-have. It provides wonderful basic advice on novel construction then takes it further to analyze the elements that make up the truly breakout stories.

Q:  PC or Mac? 
A:  Mac

Q:  City or country?  
A:  Suburb… I love the city but adore my green spaces.

Q:  Cat or dog?  
A:  DOG…. Can I say that again? DOG 
   (and here's photographic proof!)

Q:  Introvert or extrovert? 
A:  Well-trained Introvert

Q:  Tea or coffee? 
A:  Coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon

Q:  Mountains or ocean? 
A:  Tough one… Adore both! But I LOVE the sound of the ocean.

Q:  Winter or summer?  
A:  Summer sun. Winter wardrobe.

Q:  Casual or dressy?  
A:  Casual, preferably with Converse.

Q:  Twitter or Facebook? 
A:  Twitter. Life in 140 characters or less. Does it get better?

Q:  Mexican food or Italian food? 
A:  That is so hard!! I lived 13 years in Austin, TX and get twitchy without a steady influx of Mexican food. But at home, we cook far more Italian. I just spent a few weeks in Italy this summer and am in love with the entire country. 

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Katherine. I'm sure my readers will enjoy getting to know you a bit better :) 

About Katherine...

Katherine Reay is the author of Dear Mr. Knightley, a Christy Award Finalist and winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut, as well as Carol Awards for both Best Debut and Best Contemporary. She's also the writer behind Lizzy & Jane. Wife, mother, runner, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer, Katherine and her family recently settled in Chicago, IL.

 Goodreads:   Katherine Reay

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

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 a prompt to try today. Use it as your first sentence.

"Her voice had never sounded so cold."

Happy writing!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"Beautiful Star of Bethlehem:A Christmas Novella" by Lori Copeland...and a GIVEAWAY!

In celebration of her latest release, Lori has graciously offered to give away a hard copy of the book (US Only). To enter, see the Rafflecopter box at the bottom of this post. (Contest ends November 14, 2015.) If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information. Good luck!

A Word from Lori...

Often I write a book around a title of a favorite song.  I love almost all Christmas melodies, but "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem" by the Judd’s rates at the top of my seasonal favorites, so I put pen to paper, listened to the song many, many times again, and started writing.

Some will find Beautiful Star of Bethlehem sad. Others will have a laugh—not at the person, but because we know the feeling. Most, I will venture to say, will strongly identify with Arlene Santana and her often laughable but tragic struggles.

This vibrant, first-time grandmother’s life changed in a matter of minutes. Arlene had what most consider “everything”: a goood marriage, money, children, and a new grandchild, Ella Parker.  Arlene was at the top of her game.

I have spent many hours in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities and much of what I’ve written about I’ve witnessed.  Growing old is not for sissies, or does it mean hope is gone. Tragedies often turn into blessings. Loved ones try but often fail to supply what Arlene needs most: clarity, a sense of purpose, and her husband Jack.

Adversity almost always leads to the knowledge that God will never take you where He won’t sustain you.  I hope when you finish reading Beautiful Star of Bethlehem your heart will agree.

You can find my review on the RT Bookreviews website at the following link:

About Lori...

Lori Copeland is a popular bestselling author of both historical and contemporary fiction. Her books have been nominated for the prestigious Christy Award, and she received two Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Awards. Lori makes her home in Missouri with her husband, Lance, three sons, and ever-growing family. Her hobbies include knitting prayer and friendship shawls and baking chocolate chip cookies.

Where to find Lori online...

Link for Purchase...

a Rafflecopter giveaway