Friday, December 30, 2016

"Grace for the Moment: Inspirational Thoughts for Each Day of the Year" by Max Lucado

My review...

This is the large print edition of Lucado’s popular devotional. It is a daily, year-long plan which allows the reader a chance to pause daily to reflect on God’s message. Each reading is short, comprised of a Scripture and devotional message taken from one of Lucado’s other books.

The book itself is beautifully designed, with a faux leather cover, easy to turn pages, and a ribbon page marker. Various Bible versions are referenced. This is a wonderful collection overall. These devotions can easily be read again year after year. It would make a great gift, as well.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy as part of the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to leave a positive review.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Tuesday Tip: Bring vs. Take

Tuesday Tip

"The difference between  'bring' and 'take' has to do with the location of the speaker and the location of any other actors who will be bringing or taking something from some place to some other place."

— C. Edward Good, A Grammar Book for You and I… Oops, Me!

Take is a verb which means an action which will proceed away from the location where the person is currently located. You can think of it as the action "to take away." Many writers use the word "bring" when they really mean "take." For instance:

  • Incorrect: He should bring a lunch, as it will not be provided.
  • Correct:   He should take a lunch, as it will not be provided.

Bring should be used when the actors in the sentence are returning or bringing something back. 

The two words get even more confusing when you're writing about two people who are not in the same place. For instance:

  • If James is going on a date with Susan, James will be taking his car, but Susan will think that James is bringing his car. (In such a case,  the use of both verbs is correct.)

Friday, December 23, 2016

"Sleigh Bells Ring" by Sandra D. Bricker, Barbara J. Scott, Lynette Sowell, and Lenora Worth

This novella collection consists of four related contemporary romance novellas. It is a fun, quick read, and it is perfect for the holiday season. While parts of it are predictable, it is enjoyable nonetheless. Each story focuses on one of the Tucker sisters. The stories blend seamlessly, and themes of forgiveness, family, healing, and love are key to the book.

All I Want for Christmas by Sandra D. Bricker

JoJo Tucker is surprised to learn that her father, who recently passed away, left her and her sisters a horse farm in Kentucky. She learned this by receiving a final letter from him. None of the girls had been on speaking terms with their father in some time. JoJo returns home and encounters her first crush, Jed Weatherly. Jed’s been working at the farm since her father died to keep things afloat. She figures it is in everyone’s best interest to sell the farm, and she makes plans to get all of her sisters together for Christmas. However, will they be receptive to her plans? Will Jed be able to help JoJo’s Christmas wish come true?

Her Old Kentucky Home by Lynette Sowell

Bella Tucker decides to spend Christmas at her old Kentucky farm with her sisters, at JoJo's request. Bella's job is shaky, so she figures the timing is perfect. Her boyfriend David will go along to visit his own family. He would love to move back to Kentucky, but he is not sure how Bella feels. JoJo and Bella discover some unopened letters their father had sent to their mother while he was in the military. Will these letters bring clarity to the sisters? Will David’s career plans be the end of their relationship?

I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Barbara J. Scott

The first person Sophie Tucker encounters when she returns home to visit with her sisters is her high school crush Matthew Weatherly. He rescues the vet from a car accident. Matthew knows that their father wanted to make amends with the girls, and he hopes to convince them that there was a different side to their father than they knew. Matt would love for her to stay in Kentucky, but will Sophie’s past make it too painful? Can she admit her feelings and take a chance on an unknown future?

Please Come Home for Christmas by Lenora Worth

Amy Tucker Brosseau is a single mother working at a café in New Orleans. While she had been angry with her father, she does agree to return to Kentucky, despite numerous bad memories. She just wants to let go of the farm and her past. She meets Dan Wentworth, who is interested in purchasing the farm. Amy plans to convince her sisters to sell it to him, but will something change her mind?

Wednesday, December 21, 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 about your favorite holiday tradition.

Happy writing!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday Motivation

Some motivation to begin your week:

"In my writing, as much as I could, I tried to find the good and praise it."
— Alex Haley

Look for the good, and have a wonderful week!

Friday, December 16, 2016

"A Baxter Family Christmas" by Karen Kingsbury

If you're looking for a new book to try this holiday season, I'd recommend the latest from Karen Kingsbury.

My review...

John Baxter is trying something new this Christmas, and he wants to do it in memory of his daughter Erin, who died in a car accident two years ago. He has invited Kendra Bryant and her husband to spend Christmas with his family. Kendra is the recipient of Erin’s heart. John’s children are less than thrilled with the idea, particularly his daughter Ashley. Ashley and her husband have been raising Amy, the only survivor of the accident which killed Erin and her husband. Kendra agrees to go, but her husband thinks it is a bad idea. How will Amy respond to meeting Kendra? Is it possible for all of them to have a miracle this Christmas?

This is the latest book containing Kingsbury’s very popular Baxter family. Themes of love, redemption, and hope are key, making this the perfect book for the holiday season. It is easy to see why Kingsbury is a fan favorite. This book could be read as a standalone, which is what I did. However, by reading the Baxter titles in order, the reader would have a greater appreciation for the family dynamics. Kingsbury does a wonderful job of giving enough details so that a reader new to the family could still follow along and enjoy the book. The reader is made to feel a part of the Baxter family. Some yummy recipes are included, as well.

Amazon link for purchase...

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Letitia Suk's "Getaway with God" travel bag giveaway (LitFuse Blog Tour)

Getaway with God Letitia Suk

My review...

Is it possible for one day to totally change your life? Yes, if that day is spent alone with God, instead of God just being part of your to-do list. Suk’s latest is designed to encourage the reader to take a personal retreat to spend time with God. It is a step-by-step guide to help you plan your trip, which could be from a few hours to a few weeks. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should be a time away from the daily demands so that the focus can be on strengthening a relationship with God.

Suk shares personal experiences to help the reader determine the best way to plan their own retreat. While this book is titled in a way to appeal to women, men could benefit from this, as well. The book does not provide a one-size-fits-all approach. Relevant scripture is woven throughout. Numerous resources are provided, including a sample schedule for a retreat and feedback from other women. If you are looking for way to recharge, this just might be the book for you.

While this book wasn’t quite what I was expecting, it was an enjoyable read nonetheless. It is well-organized and detailed and likely to be valuable for those looking for a spiritual retreat.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy as part of the LitFuse blog tour.

Landing page for blog tour...

Link for purchase...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday Tip: Double Negatives

Tuesday Tip

"I won't not use no double negatives."

— Bart Simpson

Ah, yes, the wise words of Bart Simpson. Using a double negative doesn't always turn a negative statement into a positive one. However, it can lead to a confusing sentence.

An exception to this rule is to follow the word "not" with an "un-" statement if you are attempting irony, sarcasm, or an understatement.  For instance, you could say, "I'm not unhappy" to show that you are not totally happy.

It is best to stick with positive statements, as they will be more clear and to the point. They will make your writing feel crisp. Negative words can come across as being indirect, which may make it more challenging for your reader. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

"Unwritten Melody" by Tessa Emily Hall

About the book...

Does breaking free require breaking the rules?

Cassie Gilbert lives every day in the shadows of her deceased mom’s rebellion. But now that she’s seventeen, she finds herself longing to break away from her grandmother’s suffocating rules, experience what it’s like to be a regular teenager, and fulfill her songwriting dreams.

James Russo, former American Spotlight contestant, escapes to small-town Willow Creek, SC, hoping to flee from his tarnished past. When a school project pairs him with the shy principal’s granddaughter, he’s determined to get to know this Emily-Dickinson-obsessed and typewriter-using girl. His plan? Convince Cassie to co-write songs for his demo album.

As Cassie gets to know James over “project meetings” (more like opportunities to match her lyrics with his melodies), she becomes intrigued by his sense of adventure and contagious passion for music. But soon, his past becomes exposed. Cassie’s left to wonder—did she make the same mistake Mom did by falling for the bad boy?

Then, Grandma’s control pushes her over the edge. Cassie must choose between remaining in the chains of yesterday or delving into her own freedom by completing the melody her mom left behind.

Q&A with Tessa...

Q:  What was the inspiration behind Unwritten Melody?
 A:  I loved the idea of having a songwriter (Cassie) mesh her lyrics together with a musician (James) and for the pieces to fit together like a puzzle—almost as though the lyrics and songs were created for each another.

I also knew that I wanted to somehow incorporate the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson into the novel. I first learned about this poet in my 8th grade English class. I remember becoming fascinated—not only with her works, but also with the unique story of her life. After I brainstormed the premise to Unwritten Melody, I knew Cassie’s own life would shadow perfectly that of Dickinson’s and highlight the book’s theme in the process.

Q:  What is the message you hope readers will grasp after reading Unwritten Melody?
A:  It’s my hope that, through any book that I write, readers will realize they are not alone in their life’s journey—in the questions they wrestle with, emotions they deal with, situations they experience, etc. And hopefully, through following the journey that my characters take, readers can find a solution for their own problems as well.

I specifically hope readers will come away from Unwritten Melody with newfound hope for their current circumstances and a deeper revelation of the power of God’s unending love.

Q:  Could you give a brief overview of the writing and publication process behind Unwritten Melody?
 A:  I brainstormed the plot when I was seventeen-years-old—the spring of 2011. I was working on my debut novel, Purple Moon, at the time, so I filed the idea away until I could have dedicated time to focus on it. Finally, I wrote the first draft when I was eighteen and working on the edits to Purple Moon. That draft continued to develop and transform as I went through the editing/revision process for over a year.

When I was twenty-one, my agent sent me a long edit letter, detailing the major areas that needed to be fixed in the plot. I was extremely grateful for the feedback—yet at the same time, a part of me was discouraged, because it would require a great deal of “book surgery” to fix the errors in the plot. That was a lot to take on, especially after I’d already spent over a year in edits.

So, I stepped away from the book and poured my energy into another project. Yet the story didn’t let me avoid it for long. I knew that the book didn’t exactly match the original story that was first laid on my heart several years before, and I was determined to make that happen.

To make a long story short—I spent the fall of 2015 applying my agent’s suggestions and rewriting the entire book from scratch. It still has the same characters, premise, and setting, but now the novel matches the original novel I had first brainstormed when I was seventeen.

The book went on for submission to publishers for winter 2016. One day in May, while I was packing to leave for a writer’s conference, I received a phone call from my literary agent with the great news—Clean Reads had offered a contract. J (I knew they were considering it because they had requested the manuscript about a month before.)

The moral of the story? Never give up on the story of your heart!

Q:  What’s next in your writing journey?
A:  I’m currently working on the sequel to Purple Moon (which has been another lengthy project) and hope to finish it by winter 2016. I’ve also been working on a teen devotional that I’m really excited about!

After that? Well, I hope to continue writing inspirational and authentic novels for teens and possibly write another installment in the Purple Moon series. I don’t see myself switching genres any time soon! But I do hope to delve more into non-fiction as well.

Although God is the Ultimate Author of my future, I always ask him to give me the desires He wants me to have. Right now, my burning desire is this: To write books that transform lives — stores that portray the power of God's steadfast love and His unending grace.

Q:  What advice would you like to give aspiring authors?
A:  First of all, stay fueled with a passion for writing. Build your writing journey on a foundation that consists of a love for both reading and writing. Write because you can't not write, because honestly, if you don't begin with this kind of passion, then it's going to be far too tempting to quit when the discouragement comes. (Notice that I said when, not if!) It's important to also find the time to write and stay disciplined with your writing time because perseverance is the only way to produce an actual book.

Then, learn as much about the craft industry as you can through blogs, books, workshops, and conferences. Apply what you learn to your manuscript. Network with other writers on blogs, social media, critique groups, and at writing conferences. Keep a teachable spirit. Remember that, no matter how naturally gifted you may be in writing, every writer could use improvement to grow.

Finally, create long-term and short-term goals for your writing journey. I've met so many writers who never pursued their writing dreams because, A) They didn't push themselves to finish a book, B) They gave up too soon, C) They didn't learn how a book is published, therefore never pursued publication and believed that "being an author" was an impossible achievement.

I love to mentor young writers through my course, Write Now. have you can find more info about this three-month program at this link:

Amazon link for purchase...

About Tessa...

Tessa Emily Hall writes inspirational, yet authentic, YA fiction to show others they’re not alone—and because she remembers the teen life like it was yesterday (or a few years ago). The debut novel she wrote at 16-years-old, Purple Moon (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), was a Selah 2014 Finalist. Her second novel, Unwritten Melody, releases with Clean Reads November 2016. She’s the Founder of, a magazine that inspires teens to embrace their calling. Tessa also enjoys helping writers achieve their dreams through her internship at Hartline Literary Agency.

When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, Tessa can be found making healthy homemade lattes, speaking to teens, decorating her insulin pump, and acting in Christian films. She writes in a small town nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Southeastern coast. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers.  You can find her online at the following;

Twitter:       @tessaemilyhall

Wednesday, December 7, 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:

My favorite hobby...

Happy writing!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday Motivation

Some motivation to begin your week:

"I'm very proud of my flops, as much as of my successes."
— Francis Ford Coppola

Everyone has failures. The important thing is to learn from the mistakes. Don't let them hold you back. Go out and tackle the week!

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

"365 Devotions for Rest" by Christina Vinson

My review...

If you’re looking for an easy and encouraging way to fit some positivity into your day, this devotional may be just what you need.

Many people are looking for rest in their lives, and this book can help the reader achieve that, if only for a few minutes each day. Everything about this book is designed to promote rest from the title, to the purple cover, blue-accented pages, beautiful ribbon bookmark, and devotional titles.

The devotions are short, making them easy to fit into a busy schedule. Each devotion contains a title, Bible verse, message, and a brief prayer. The author uses various Bible versions, and a verse index is included. This is a devotional book to be treasured and used for many years.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy as part of the BookLook Bloggers Program. Opinions are my own.

Amazon link for purchase...

Friday, December 2, 2016

"Prose and Cons" by Amanda Flower ... and a GIVEAWAY!

To celebrate the release of her latest book, Amanda has graciously offered to give away a copy of the first book in the series, "Crime and Poetry" (US ONLY). To enter, see the Rafflecopter box at the bottom of this post. (Contest ends December 9, 2016.) If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information. Good luck!

Q&A with Amanda...

Q:  Your cozy mystery series uses poetry. How did you choose the poets/poems to use?
A:   In Crime and Poetry, I settled on Emily Dickinson's work as the poems I would use to solve the crime. Even before I started writing Prose and Cons, I knew I wanted to use a 19th century American writer. Who is a better writer to choose for a mystery set close to Halloween and Edgar Allen Pope? I knew he was a perfect fit.

Q:  How much research is involved in writing your cozy mysteries?
A:  I do the most research for my novels for the first book in a series because that's the time that I am establishing the setting and the characters. I want to know everything I can about the places and people I create. I know much more about them than ever appears in the final version of the novel, but it's important to me to have a good understanding of the places and people in order to tell a good story. As a series goes on and I know these places and people like the back of my hand, my research is much more specialized. I might spend hours looking for one tiny detail or I might just spend a few seconds Googling something for a random fact. However, in both cases, my favorite way to research is to go to places I'm writing about or ask someone who has knowledge and/or experience with what I am writing about. Having first-person experience is very important to me as an author.

Q:  Do you get your ideas from any real-life people or situations?
A:  Always. Every single day. Everything in my life is book fodder, just ask those closest to me. I change the names and adapt situations. For better or worse, much of my life is cozy mystery like — minus the dead bodies — so I have a lot of material with which to work.

Q:  How long does it generally take you to write a book?
A:  Because of my deadlines, I write a new novel every two to three months.

Q:  What can you tell me about your next project?
A:  I'm currently writing a novel that will release in 2018. It's the second book in my Amish Candy Shop Mystery Series coming out with Kensington. It's the second book in the series. The first book, Assaulted Caramel, releases in September 2017, and it's about a New York City chocolatier who returns to Ohio to visit her Amish grandparents, only to be tangled up in a small-town murder.

Q:  That sounds like a good book! I look forward to reading it.
A:  Thanks.  I would also like to share the following information with your readers. When they buy a mystery, they can help feed a community! Purchase any edition of Prose and Cons between now and Tuesday, December 20, 2016, and I will  donate $1 for every book sold to a food pantry, The Landing, located in Akron, Ohio. The Learned Owl is also making a $1 donation to The Landing for every copy the bookstores sells and is selling personalized and signed copies of the novel. They can ship anywhere.

Q:  That's wonderful! Think so much for doing that in sharing information with my readers. This is a wonderful book, and I hope they pick up a copy and donate to this worthy cause. Thanks for stopping by. I'm sure my readers enjoyed learning a bit more about you and your latest release.

My review...

Violet Waverly is helping her grandma Daisy run Charming Books in Cascade Springs, NY. The store is unique in that the patrons don’t choose the books. The books choose the patrons. Violet and Daisy are gearing up for the local Food and Wine Festival, as well as hosting the Red Inkers, a local writing group, who are planning a Poe-try reading, which will feature poems by Edgar Allan Poe. The last thing Violet expects is to find one of the members of the group dead on-site. Violet knows she must work quickly to solve the murder. She is concerned about how it will affect the bookstore, as the town is preparing for an influx of visitors for the festival. She will need to enlist the help of Faulkner (a crow), Emerson (a cat), Police Chief David Rainwater, and Mayor Nathan Morton (who broke her heart when she was 17). What secrets will Violet uncover along the way, and how well they impact the store? What part will Poe’s works play in the case?

It is such a joy to read the second book in Flower’s “Magical Bookshop Mystery” series. Flower has the ability to transport the reader to an imaginative and wonderful world. The quaint setting is perfect for this cozy mystery, which is complete with charming characters and scenery, as well as a solid mystery. The perfect blend of suspense and comical scenes makes it difficult to put this book down. I truly enjoy the author’s play on words, too. There are a few unique twists, including the method of murder, along the way. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy, but I was not required to write a review. Opinions expressed are my own.

Amazon link for purchase...

a Rafflecopter giveaway