Friday, September 30, 2016

"The Christmas Angel Project" by Melody Carlson

My review...

Abby, Belinda, Louisa, Grace, and Cassidy have been “book group” friends for some time. Their lives change drastically when Abby, the leader of their group, dies unexpectedly. The ladies try to deal in their own way, as well as encourage each other, but it’s difficult without their “rock.” The women decide to meet one final time to open the gifts Abby left for them. They are surprised to learn that Abby viewed each of them as her angels, and this was signified by personalized angels, with a message, that she made for them. It was almost as if Abby knew she would be leaving. Belinda, Louisa, Grace, and Cassidy decide to become Christmas Angels, in hopes of helping others in need and blessing them like Abby blessed the group. Along the way, they will discover a new purpose for their own lives.

This is a highly emotional, inspirational, and sweet holiday book which may encourage the reader to look at how they can help others. While it is not overly Christian in nature, it is certainly a hope-filled tale, which is exactly what Carlson’s fans have come to expect from her stories. Her characters demonstrate how by helping others, we can help ourselves.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy as part of the Revell Readers blogger program in exchange for an honest review.

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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:

Create a new craft using "found" objects from around your house. How can you repurpose rubber bands, sticky notes, bottle caps, newspapers, plastic bags, etc? Write out step-by-step instructions so anyone can recreate your invention. Feel free to include diagrams, if desired. For this activity, be sure to tell, versus show, what must be done.

Happy writing!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday Motivation

Some motivation to begin your week:

"The writing life is lonely. Taking some of that loneliness out of it helps you to hang in there. Create a supportive environment that allows you to give it the kind of time it takes."

- Po Bronson

Where can you go for support this week? You may find it by taking classes at a local college or online, or you could join a local writers group. Find other like-minded people to help you "hang in there" when you start to question why you're a writer.

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, September 23, 2016

"Sarah's Orphans" by Vannetta Chapman ... and a GIVEAWAY!

In celebration of her latest release, Vannetta 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 September 30, 2016.) If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information. Good luck!

Q & A with Vannetta...

Q:   What inspired you to write this?
 A:   One of the things I like to do in Amish fiction is show that Amish families and communities deal with many of the same issues that the rest of us do—whether it’s mental illness, addiction, or handicaps. The way they live their life is certainly different. It’s plain. It’s simple. But life is rarely plain and simple, and so I created the character of Sarah who has suffered with an eating disorder for years. We first meet her in Joshua’s Mission, and then in Sarah’s Orphans she becomes a major character. We learn that her eating disorder was her way of coping with a difficult home life. And we’re able to see how God uses her in spite of the struggles that she’s faced.

Q:   I loved Sarah! Such an inspiring character. What can you tell me about your next project?
A:   I’m currently working on edits for What the Bishop Saw, a new Amish mystery series. Henry Lapp is 64 years old and the bishop for a relatively new Amish community in the San Louis Valley of Colorado. Henry is also an accidental savant. He suffered a brain injury as a child, and the result is an uncanny ability to draw anything he has seen. It’s not quite a photographic memory, but it’s pretty close. And that sort of talent can come in very handy in a murder investigation, especially when the person killed was one of their own. It’s a story about gifts, God’s grace, and learning to trust that God has a plan for our life.

Q:   That sounds good. I can't wait to read it. What is something about you, or your writing process, which would surprise your readers?
 A:   I write my story out of order. By that I mean that I write the beginning, maybe 1/3 of the book. Then I stop and write the ending. I envision the most perfect, satisfying ending that will cause a reader to sigh and close the book with a smile on their lips. After I’m done with the ending, I go back and write the middle. I’ve done this for all 17 of my releases, and it’s a very good process for me, though it’s probably not the “normal” way to write a book.

That's interesting. It obviously works well for you! Thanks for giving my readers the chance to get to know you a bit better.

My review...

Sarah Yoder never imagined she would be in charge of her household, caring for her four younger siblings and trying to save the family farm from foreclosure. An encounter with a young Hispanic boy and his sister puts even more on her plate, but it also leaves her with a sense of peace about her purpose.

Paul Byler is new in town. He is there to help his brother after a heart attack. Paul buys the property next to the Yoder family, and he soon discovers that God has plans for his life beyond what he had envisioned.

This is the third installment in Chapman’s “Plain and Simple Miracles” series, though it could be read as a standalone. This is a heartwarming tale full of delightful characters which will tug at the reader’s heartstrings. The importance of family and community is highlighted, and the faith elements are smoothly integrated. Difficult topics, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and anorexia, are skillfully addressed. The story also highlights the important need for foster families in today’s society. This book may leave the reader looking for miracles in their daily lives. While there is some predictability, it is definitely not your average Amish tale.

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

Amazon link for purchase...

About Vannetta...

Vannetta Chapman writes inspirational fiction full of grace. She has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines, receiving more than two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather's birthplace of Albion, Pennsylvania. Her novel Falling to Pieces was a 2012 ACFW Carol Award finalist. A Promise for Miriam earned a spot on the June 2012 Christian Retailing Top 10 Fiction list. Chapman was a teacher for 15 years and currently writes full time. She lives in the Texas Hill country with her husband.

Where to find her online...

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tuesday Tip: Italics

Tuesday Tip

Italics is the modern-day version of underlining. It is sloped writing used for emphasis. There are certain situations where italics is used in writing.

Direct internal discourse (unspoken thoughts):  Direct thoughts, imagined dialogue, and other interior monologue, when expressed in the first-person point of view, are typed in italics. Example:
           Stephanie shook her head and thought, What am I going to do with him?

Indirect thought:  interior thought that is paraphrased should not be italicized. An example would be:
          Stephanie told herself that she needed to tell him the truth.

Titles of books, movies, songs, and newspapers

Foreign words: Foreign words and phrases should be in italics if they are likely to be unfamiliar to most readers, particularly for the first occurrence with in the book. If it is a fairly common word, italics is often unneeded.

Letters used as letters:  Individual letters of the alphabet are italicized, unless they are used in a common expression. Examples include:

          the letter T
          Justin signed the paperwork with an X.
          Be sure to dot your i's and cross the t's.

Words used as words:  Words used as words, or phrases used as phrases, should be italicized. Examples include:

           "Why is it so hard for you to say I'm sorry?"
            "The word resign has multiple meanings," Amanda said.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Every Day with God Devos for Girls (VeggieTales)

My review...

I was given the opportunity to review this updated version of the devotional featuring the popular VeggieTales characters. There are two versions of this book, and I chose to review the one geared toward girls (ages 4-7).

This is truly a delightful book. It is filled with brightly colored illustrations to accompany the 365 devotions. The book is structured so it can be started any time during the year, as it does not correspond to the traditional calendar. Each devotion features a Bible verse, a short devotion, a thought for the day, and a prayer. It is perfect for parents to read with their child at the start or end of each day.

Some of the topics included are honesty, forgiveness, and kindness. The end of the book features popular verses for the child to memorize. There is also a suggestion for the parents to help the child understand what the verse means. This book is a great way to get a child started on having a relationship with God and establishing a daily plan for doing so. I would highly recommend this for people with young daughters.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy (from Propeller/FlyBy Promotions) in exchange for an honest review.

This book releases on October 4, 2016. Here's the Amazon link for purchase:

Friday, September 16, 2016

"Damaged" by Lisa Scottoline ... and a GIVEAWAY!

In celebration of her latest release, Lisa's publisher 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 September 23, 2016.) If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information. Good luck!

Back cover blurb...

One boy. One lawyer. One chance for justice.

Ten-year-old Patrick O'Brien is a natural target at school. Shy, dyslexic, and small for his age, he tries to hide his first-grade reading level from everyone: from his classmates, from the grandfather who cares for him, and from the teachers who are supposed to help him. But the real trouble begins when Patrick is accused of attacking a school aide. The aide promptly quits and sues the boy, his family, and the school district. Patrick's grandfather turns to the law firm of Rosato & DiNunzio for help and Mary DiNunzio is on the case. Soon Mary becomes Patrick's true champion and his only hope for security and justice. But there is more to the story than meets the eye and Patrick might be more troubled than he seems. With twists at every turn and secrets about the family coming to light, Mary DiNunzio might have found the case that can make her a true protector, or break her heart…

My review...
(I rated it 4 1/2 - TOP PICK!)

Click here to read the first chapter...

Amazon link for purchase...

About Lisa...

Lisa Scottoline is a New York Times bestselling author and also writes a weekly column, called Chick Wit, for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Lisa has won many honors and awards, notably the Edgar Award, given for excellence in crime fiction, and the Fun Fearless Female Award from Cosmopolitan Magazine. She also teaches a course she created, called Justice and Fiction, at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and regularly does speaking engagements. There are twenty-five million copies of her books in print, and she is published in over thirty other countries. Lisa graduated magna cum laude in three years from the University of Pennsylvania, with a B.A. degree in English, and her concentration was Contemporary American Fiction, taught by Philip Roth and others. She graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She remains a lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area, where she lives with her array of disobedient pets.

You can find her online at:

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

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 short story about something funny that happened to you last week.

Happy writing!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday Motivation

Some motivation to begin your week:

"If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just sit there scowling at the problem."
—Hilary Mantel

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, September 9, 2016

"Roadtrip to Redemption" by Laurie Larsen ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Laurie has graciously offered to give away a copy of this book (US ONLY), as well as the companion book, "Pawleys Island Paradise." To enter, see the Rafflecopter box at the bottom of this post. (Contest ends September 16, 2016.) If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information. Good luck!

A Word from Laurie...

I was sort of at a crossroads in my writing career. I had written and published nine books. I jumped around genre-wise, trying to find my niche. My backlist included contemporary romance, family saga, and young adult romance. I'd worked hard on all my books, learned a lot along the way, and some were better than others. Most readers enjoyed the books while they were reading them, but (I imagine) quickly forgot them after the last page was turned. Sales were, in general, minimal. So, being a woman of faith, I prayed to God for guidance. I wanted to know where HE wanted me to take my writing career. I could either continue writing forgettable fiction that didn't share God's message, or… did He have something else in mind for me? Could He and I partner together to create meaningful, heartwarming stories that touch the hearts of people searching for God in their lives? And once those stories were published, could God get those books in front of the right people who needed to hear the message? In other words, could He help me find a readership? I figured I had nothing to lose. So I ventured off on a new way of writing. At each writing session, I would bow my head and pray for God's guidance to take this story, these characters, where He wanted them to go. That way, I knew these stories were anointed by Him. I didn't fear away from story choices, such as prayer and Bible study. And guess what? God found readers once the book was published. Hundreds of thousands of people have read this book, and although there are some critics, my overall reviews are extremely positive. These books (starting with Roadtrip to Redemption, continuing on with a full series of six related books) mean something to people. The characters, the series, the inspired message—they're hitting the mark with so many more readers than I ever had with my non-inspirational fiction.  God put me where He wanted me. And that's all I ever wanted.

Q & A with Laurie...

Q:  What would you be doing if you were not an author?
A:   Beach bum

Q:   How did you start writing?
A:   I was touring the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, Georgia, and I got inspired. I figured if she could do it, so could I.

Q:   What do you consider the hardest part about being a writer?
A:   Saying no to other activities in my life so I can keep my butt in the chair.

Q:   What are your thoughts on the publishing industry in general? In relation to self-publishing?
A:   We've survived revolutionary changes in the publishing industry. Now we're out on the other side, and things need to normalize.

Q:   What advice do you have for new authors?
A:   Don't expect it to be easy. Don't expect instant success. Keep writing. Every book teaches you something.

Q:   What is your favorite writing-related book?
A:   On Writing by Stephen King

Q:   What can you tell me about your next project?
A:   It's the finale of my bestselling series. I've got the pressure of figuring out what everyone loved about the other books and making sure I include lots of that in it!

Q:   Who are some of your favorite authors or what are some of your favorite books?
A:   My all-time favorite author is Pat Conroy, who we tragically lost to cancer this year.

I've never read any of Pat's books, but I'll have to look them up! Thanks for stopping by, Laurie. I'm sure my readers enjoyed getting a chance to know you a bit better.

My review...

Leslie Malone is contemplating her purpose. School is out for the year. Her marriage is over, and her daughter will be in Paris for the next few months. For the first time in many years, Leslie will no longer be a wife/mother/teacher, so she decides to take a road trip.  Destination?  Pawleys Island.  Along the way, Leslie feels God leading her. She is provided with many opportunities to reflect God’s love and light into the lives of others. One of the people she meets on her journey is Hank Harrison. He soon comes to realize that Leslie is the answer to his prayers. Could Hank be the answer to hers as well?

Larsen’s book is a beautiful contemporary romance, filled with stories within the story. There are scenes which will have the reader laughing and crying. The faith element in this book is strong, as the characters base their decisions, large and small, on prayer. At times, it feels a little unrealistic that someone would stop and pray as often as these characters do, but it is heartwarming to believe that people do turn to God in every situation. On occasion, some parts seem a bit rushed, but it is an enjoyable, pleasing read overall.

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

Amazon link for purchase...

About Laurie...

I wear a lot of hats. I'm a 27-year wife of my husband who has been my partner in a life filled with ups and downs, just like anyone else's. I'm the proud mother of two accomplished adult sons. I'm an empty nester trying to figure out what I'm going to do next. And I'm a 34-year employee of a Fortune 50 company, where I spend my days managing big, huge, complicated Information Technology products, more often than not, pulling my hair out. At night and on the weekends, I'm the published author of fifteen novels, and I'm currently writing the final installment of my Pawleys Island Paradise series, Book 6: Return to Devotion. I'm also a major planner, and this year my husband and I made a life-changing investment into the next chapter of our lives—when we both retire from our day jobs and continue on with a life of leisure. We bought a beach house about five miles down the road from Pawleys Island, our favorite spot in the world. My dream has always been to live at the beach and write books, and that dream is now within sight.

Readers can find Laurie online at:  


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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tuesday Tip: Collective nouns

Tuesday Tip

Collective nouns name groups of people or items, such as committee, team, club, bunch, or herd.  If the group is viewed as acting as one, the noun is treated like a singular noun. However, if the members of the group do not act in unison, the collective noun is treated like a plural noun.


  • The committee has decided to have the dance at the local country club.
  • The committee are in disagreement about the band chosen to perform at the dance.
  • The class listens to the teacher give directions.
  • The class start their projects while the teacher grades their homework.

Friday, September 2, 2016

"The Lady and the Lionheart" by Joanne Bischof

A word from Joanne...

A few years ago, I got the idea for the story and it was a whirlwind writing time that produced a finished novel in just four weeks. I've never written a book that quickly (not even close!), But the inspiration for the story came so fast, I typed as quickly as my fingers could move. The Lady and the Lionheart began as a reflection on Beauty and the Beast and along the way, it morphed into an allegory of the Gospel. Writing that book was an adventure through and through and some of the most worshipful writing I've ever done. It was a truly incredible experience and in the years since, God's really helped me shape and polish the novel into what it is today. My prayer is that the book will point to the cross and touch hearts that might need that extra dose of encouragement as told through a tale of grace and sacrifice.

Q & A with Joanne...

Q:  What do you consider the hardest part about being a writer?
A:   The hardest part is probably balancing it all. As a mom of three kids, all of whom are homeschooled, I find that it's sometimes hard for my brain to be in two places at once. There's the real world: dishes, laundry, scraped knees, adventures at the park… And then there's the pretend world: the lives of my characters and the wondering of how I'm going to pull it together in a finished, enjoyable novel. Sometimes my brain gets a little overloaded. Whenever that happens, some quiet, a little prayer, and extra time spent with my family is always the ticket to reboot and recharge and feel strengthened to balance both sides to my life and brain space. I love getting the chance to be in both worlds, and being an author really has been a dream come true.

Q:  What are your thoughts on the publishing industry in general? In relation to self-publishing?
A:   The publishing industry is very complex!  There are benefits to traditional publishing and also to independent or self-publishing. Each one has complications and also advantages. As an author, I think of myself as a hybrid author — one who writes and publishes through both outlets. I think it's been neat to see how both sides of the process have been more and more in harmony the last few years in the Christian writing community. As more authors branch out in different avenues, it's clear that we're all in it for the same purpose, and the absolute bottom line is God's message being spread and the glory and honor going to him. Regardless of the avenue that it's done, I truly believe He's there to bless the projects that are crafted to bring Him praise. And by that, I don't mean high sales or even notable success — but that the stories will reach the hearts that He's readied and that they'll touch the lives in need of His promises and truths.

Q:   What advice do you have for new authors?
A:   Take deep breaths and take each step at a time. Remember that there is no arrival point. A book contract will not be the pinnacle of success that it can sometimes seem like. The road is just as rocky on the other side. But that just like with any phase of life, God is there to walk with us through them. He is there in our valleys and there on the mountain tops. By keeping your hand in His, and trusting in the journey as being as much for your growth as for the success of your writing, He will use you in special ways.

Q:   That's wonderful advice, for authors and readers alike! What can you tell me about your next project?
A:   I'm currently working on a novella that I've been keeping top-secret for about nine months now. Soon, I'll get to leak what that's about and I'm super excited! I think readers are going to be excited too :-)

Q:   I can't wait to hear!  What are some of the books in your TBR pile?
A:   In my TBR pile are Melissa Tagg's Keep Holding  On, Dr. Jocelyn Green's Mark of the King, and Laura Frantz's A Moonbow Night. All of those are upcoming releases and I'm so excited for each one.

Q:   What is the book you wish you'd written?
A:   This is always a fun question. I'd probably have to say The Memoir of Johnny Devine. I read it recently and fell in love with that story. Camille Eide weaves a brilliant tale with a swoon worthy hero — my favorite kind!

Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm sure my readers will enjoy getting the chance to know you a little bit better.

My review...

Lion tamer Charlie Lionheart is used to living amid the fame and mystique found under the Big Top. However, he is at a loss when it comes to caring for baby Holland. Nurse Ella Beckley finds herself captivated by the pair and agrees to help care for the sick child. It is against circus policy for Charlie to associate with outsiders, but he finds himself drawn to Ella. Ella’s faith is scarred by her past, and it is difficult for her to open up to Charlie. He wants her heart, but he is unsure of whether or not she will be able to handle the secrets he keeps hidden underneath his costume. Can he help Ella regain her faith and open herself to love?

I’m almost at a loss for what to say about this unique, beautiful, and, at times, heartbreaking Victorian-era tale. It is a wonderful story of love and redemption, and it reflects Christ’s love for us. Parts are a take on Beauty and the Beast, but it goes even deeper than that. The faith element is seamlessly woven throughout.  Bischof gives the reader an insider’s look into life under the big top, which provides an interesting backdrop to the story.

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

You can enter to win Joanne's Big Top Giveaway by going to the following link on her website...

Amazon link for purchase...

About Joanne...

A Carol Award and three-time Christy Award finalist, Joanne Bischof writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the reader's heartstrings. She was honored to receive the SDCWG Novel of the Year Award in 2014, and in 2015, she was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon Writer's conference. That same year, her historical novella, This Quiet Sky, broke precedent as the first self-released title to final for the Christy Awards. To Get to You, her 2015 release, was the second. Joanne's 2016 novel,The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from Romantic Times Bookreviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of southern California with her husband and three children.

You can find her online at: