Sunday, September 30, 2018

"The Sparkle Effect" by Kristen Dalton Wolfe

My review...

The authentic narrative and relatable struggles will likely strike a chord with many women, particularly those who have felt discouraged or insecure at one time or another. The author is honest and open about her struggles with depression, weight issues, and dyslexia. The goal of this book is to help the reader discover their true identity, as Kristen Dalton Wolfe did.

The chapters address a number of topics, such as style, beauty, resilience, focus, wisdom, purity, forgiveness, and self-worth. One of the chapters start with a quote pertaining to the topic, and each chapter ends with a prayer and “wonder words” (relevant Bible verses for the chapter). In the Afterword, the author reminds the reader what they became when they were adopted and married into the Royal Family, which includes a new creature, a temple of God, a royal priestess, and a sparkle.

There are a number of positive points made in this book. However, at times, I felt that things were a bit too focused on encouraging the reader to enhance or focus on their looks, which seem to contradict the message of embracing your God-given beauty.

Some of my favorite quotes:

·        “Jesus is an identity transformer.”
·        “When we are in control, God isn’t.”
·        “Losing is an opportunity to grow in character and skill.”
·        “We can’t control everything, but we can decide how you will respond.”
·        “…focus on what God is giving, instead of what you’re lacking.”

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

Friday, September 28, 2018

"Hidden Among the Stars" by Melanie Dobson ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Melanie is here to share a bit about her latest release, Hidden Among the Stars.  Her publisher has offered to give away a hard copy of the book (US ONLY).  You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends October 5, 2018. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.)  Here's Melanie...

Hidden Treasure of World War II
By Melanie Dobson

Ownerless treasure—that’s what Nazis called the jewelry, artwork, and coins they stole from Jewish people. They began plundering this “ownerless” treasure before World War II, and as the war progressed, they stored these valuable items in caves, mines, and castles across Europe.

Fifteen years ago, my husband and I visited the alpine lake district in Austria called the Salzkammergut where the Nazi Party intended to build their Fourth Reich. In the 1940s, Nazi officials brought crates of gold, millions in counterfeit and real money, artwork, jewels, and other treasure to store in this alpine fortress.

Near the end of the war, as Nazi officials fled south through Austria, they began hiding what they’d stolen. Some of it was distributed up into the mountains, hidden in abandoned castles or salt mines. Some of it was buried in gardens or on farmland. Some of it was tossed into the deep mountain lakes.

The Devil’s Dustbin—that’s what locals call this region where the Nazis abandoned so many of their things. After years of careful calculation, record-keeping, and storage, the Nazi officials dumped much of their stolen treasure across these Austrian Alps, planning to come back for it later.

During the research for my new novel, Hidden Among the Stars, I found an article from the 1950s that said the material loss of the Austrian Jewry—almost two hundred thousand people—was estimated at more than one billion dollars. Sadly, only about five thousand Jewish Austrians returned to reclaim their property after the war. And it wasn’t easy to find.

Some of this Nazi plunder was kept by people who found it on their property. Some of it left the country with officers and soldiers who thought looting was their victory reward. Jewelry, coins, artwork, silver teacups with saucers—an assortment of items were shipped back to the United States after the war.

During our trip to the Salzkammergut, Jon and I spent several days on a lake called Hallstatt, surrounded by a fortress of mountains. Because of the lake’s four-hundred-foot depth and the many hiding places in its underwater caves, forests, and shifting sands, divers continue finding World War II artifacts today, almost eighty years after the war. Some believe there’s still a treasure trove hidden far below the depth range of a scuba diver.

Along Lake Hallstatt’s shore is a medieval castle with rusty turrets, boarded windows, and an old boathouse resting in the water like a felled log. Intrigued, Jon and I boated across the lake to see Schloss Grub, and the match of inspiration ignited my mind as I wondered about its story. Who had lived here during the war? And had the Nazis hidden any of their stolen treasure on the estate?

I began writing in my journal that night, hoping that one day a novel would emerge from the ashes of this castle’s story. As the years passed—and access to online material grew—I was able to find out more about Schloss Grub. During World War II, I discovered, the estate was used as a Hitler Youth camp, but my imagination had to fill in many gaps about what happened there after Austria was annexed into Nazi Germany. And about what happened to the treasure—if the legend was true—that had been hidden in this region’s castles and lakes.

Set in a fictional castle, Hidden Among the Stars is a time-slip story about treasure lost along the shores of Lake Hallstatt. Some of my characters are searching for treasure stolen from the Jewish people; others are looking for Jewish heirlooms hidden by well-meaning Austrians who thought their neighbors would return after the war.

But more than just a treasure hunt, Hidden Among the Stars is a mystery about finding something even more valuable than heirlooms or artwork. I won’t tell you whether or not my characters find the treasure, but I can tell you that my protagonists find exactly what they need. And they learn that while they may lose their material possessions to the Nazis, may even lose their lives, they can never lose the legacy of a treasure stored deep in their hearts.

Q&A with Melanie...

Q:  What inspired you to write Hidden Among the Stars? Can you tell us about the research that went into writing this novel? 
A:  My husband and I backpacked across Europe to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, and our favorite stop was the ancient town and alpine lake called Hallstatt. On this trip, we discovered that this region in Austria’s Alps is often called the “Devil’s Dustbin” because the Nazis retreated through here near the end of World War II, throwing all sorts of valuable items in the lakes. Because of the water’s depth and the many hiding places in the underwater forests, caves, and shifting sands, people continue searching for World War II artifacts here today. After learning this history, I began digging through mounds of old books and interviews to create my own story about two people—characters in the past and present—searching for a lost treasure in Lake Hallstatt.

Q:  You explore fear, evil, and God’s sovereignty in your novel. How do you hope readers might relate these themes to their own lives? 
A:  When we experience tragedy, many of us ask where God is in the midst of this pain. Both the past and contemporary characters in Hidden Among the Stars struggle to understand where God was during the Holocaust and where God is today when people are hurting. As I wrote this story, I was reminded that this life we’re living is a battle, the world around us a battlefield, and as readers step into the fictional journey, I hope they are reminded that God doesn’t run away when they are suffering. He is right in the midst of their pain, and in the end, no matter what evil does in attempt to destroy this world, the peace and love and holiness of Christ will prevail. 

Q:  What role does faith play in this story? 
A:  Faith is integral to Hidden Among the Stars. As I wrote this book, I dug deep into a question that has haunted me for years: how can a loving God allow so much pain in our world? I wrestled with this question personally as my characters in both the contemporary and historical portions struggled to find an answer. I hope their conclusions will encourage and inspire readers in their own journey.

Q:  Why did you decide to feature children’s literature as part of this story? 
A:  At first, I wanted to counter the heaviness of the past scenes with the life and fun of children’s books, but the more I wrote, I was reminded of some of the poignant and provoking themes in great children’s literature. Many children’s books are about confronting fear, and this novel features two books written in the shadow of World War II that helped both children and adults overcome fear.

Q:  What are some future projects you’re working on? 
A:  I just returned from the Netherlands and am finishing a time-slip novel based on an incredible rescue mission that happened in Amsterdam during World War II. The heart of this story is about identity—who we are in Christ, no matter the circumstances—and I hope it will capture again the power of seemingly ordinary people doing extraordinary things to fight evil and rescue those in need. 

Thanks, Melanie. I'm sure my readers will enjoy getting to know a bit more about your book and future projects.

My review...

I've read other books by Melanie Dobson, so I had high hopes for this book, and I wasn't disappointed. (Plus, I look books of this genre!)

The book blends current day, small-town life with Austria at the beginning of the German occupation. Dobson weaves a beautiful dual-timeline story that explores one of the most evil times in history. The present-day characters try to right some of the wrongs of the past, and it all starts with a children's book that could be the key to unlocking the past.

Dobson's novel is well-researched, so it educates the reader along with entertaining them. It highlights some of the sacrifices people made, as well as the suffering they endured. There is romance angle, as well, but it is not the key focus (and I was happy about that). the book is a bit longer than some, but every word was well-utilize. Many books of this genre focus on concentration camps, whereas this one focuses on the possessions the Jews owned and what happened to them. Dobson has crafted a tale that is the perfect blend of history, mystery, and romance, making it one of my favorite reads of 2018 so far. 

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

About Melanie...
Writing fiction is Melanie Dobson’s excuse to explore abandoned houses, travel to unique places, and spend hours reading old books and journals. The award-winning author of almost twenty books, Melanie enjoys stitching together both time-slip and historical novels including Hidden Among the Stars, Chateau of Secrets, and Catching the Wind. More information about Melanie’s journey is available at

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

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:

Hidden away on the inside of the jacket...

Happy writing!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday Motivation

"You may be disappointed if you fail, but you'll be doomed if you don't try."
— Beverly Sills

Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tuesday Tip: Prologues

Many times, prologues are nothing more than info dumps, and that can cause readers to skip over them. If you are considering one for you WIP (work in progress), ask yourself the following questions first:

  • What is the point?
  • Is the information necessary for the reader to understand your book?
  • Is this the only way to include that information in the story?
  • Is it short? (It should be less than three pages.)

If you keep these questions in mind, you can create (if needed) a prologue that is vital to the story and one your reader will enjoy reading.

Monday, September 17, 2018

"Pull It Off" by Julianna Zobrist

My review...


Julianna Zobrist addresses the thought we all have at one time or another: I could never pull that off! Zobrist goes on to show in her book that, yes, you can!

I didn’t know much about Zobrist before reading this book, other than the fact that her husband is Ben Zobrist. Julianna’s personality shines through in this book. She’s vulnerable, funny, and relatable. She wants to help the reader gain confidence to face their fears.

The book is divided into three parts: authority, identity, and security, and she presents ways to address these root issues where our fears stem from, and that involves leaning into our God-given gifts. Her message is one that can be life changing, if taken to heart. For instance, she reminds the reader that their identity is found in God, not their success or image. It is possible to retrain your mind. So, go ahead and embrace your uniqueness!

Some of my favorite quotes:

·        “Courage is recognizing our weaknesses and simultaneously recognizing that God approves us amidst these weaknesses.”
·        “Investing in yourself happens when you decide that it is worth it!”

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

Sunday, September 16, 2018

"The Spirit of God Illustrated Bible" ... and a GIVEAWAY! (Read with Audra blog tour)

God’s Spirit is living among God’s people.
He always was, always is, and always will be.
These are the stories that tell about him and what he does.

The Spirit of God Illustrated Bible, written by Doris Rikkers and illustrated by Fernando Juarez, presents over 40 Bible stories from the old and new testaments that show how God’s Spirit has been with his people from the beginning of time. Keep reading to learn more about this new release from ZonderKidz!

About the book...

The Spirit of God Illustrated Bible brings to life more than 40 Bible stories that help readers understand that God’s Spirit has been with us since the beginning of time and continues to be with us today. From the glory of creation through the powerful letters of Paul, God’s Spirit is living in his people. Old and New Testament stories such as Adam and Eve, Abraham, Joseph, the Baptism of Jesus, and Pentecost come alive with dramatic illustrations by Fernando Juarez and moving text by Doris Rikkers. With a cover that sparkles and shines with foil, this is a special storybook Bible that will appeal to both children and parents alike.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.
~ Psalm 139: 7–10

About the author and illustrator...

Doris Wynbeek Rikkers is a freelance writer and editor who has written many bestselling children’s books and Bibles. Although she loves the ocean, she lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, surrounded by her books, her flower gardens, and her family and friends.

Spanish artist Fernando Juarez illustrates children’s books and also works as an art supervisor at the Madrid studio Ilion Animation. The company produces 3D feature films for children. Fernando has three kids himself, and if he has any time left after work and family, you might catch him playing guitar in a rock band.

My review...

The title of this book is a bit misleading, as it’s not really a Bible. Instead, it’s a book filled with forty-five stories pertaining to the Spirit of God. There are numerous Bible verses throughout, as well. The verses are from the NIV translation of the Bible, which is a popular translation. However, verses may be a bit different than what some readers are used to reading.

The stories are divided between the Old Testament (twenty-nine stories) and New Testament (sixteen stories), and they follow the Spirit of God moving among the people of the Bible (some familiar, and some, not so much), such as King David, King Josiah, Mary and Joseph, Balaam, Ezekiel, Simeon, and the disciples. There are various short stories, which reference specific Scripture verses. The stories combine in a way to feel like one continuous story. Not all of the stories are well known or frequently taught in Sunday School, so some readers may be unfamiliar with them (but perhaps learn something while reading this). The illustrations have a bit of a “cartoon” feel to them, and they are vibrantly colored.

If you are looking for a traditional Bible story book, this may not be what you’re looking for. However, if you’re looking for something a bit different, The Spirit of God Illustrated Bible may be one for you to check out.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher as part of the Read with Audra blog tour, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

You can also enter to win a copy of The Spirit of God Illustrated Bible and other awesome kids' releases in a giveaway hosted by Read with Audra. Details below!

Would you like to win your own copy of
The Spirit of God Illustrated Bible?

Win a children's book prize pack from Read with Audra!

The prize pack includes a copy of:

Spirit of God Illustrated Bible
Adventure Bible Book of Daring Deeds and Epic Creations
NIV Kids Visual Study Bible
Explorer's Bible Guide
Words to Love By
Love Letters from God 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Christy Awards Blitz Tour (#JustRead Tours)

the Christy Awards blitz

If there were a Christian fiction version of the Oscars, The Christy Awards would be it. And we are teaming up with The Christy Awards to help you read good fiction!

Some of the best of the best, in fact. Last year's 2017 Christy Award winners included The Lady & The Lionheart (Joanne Bischof), A Note Yet Unsung (Tamera Alexander), Her One and Only (Becky Wade), The Mark of the King (Jocelyn Green), The Silent Songbird (Melanie Dickerson), The Long Journey to Jake Palmer (James Rubart), and more!

2017 Christy Awards
Image Source: The Christy Awards
The 2018 Christy Award Celebration Gala is coming up on November 7, 2018 but first the finalists will be announced on September 19th!! And you don't want to miss it! Make sure you're following along with their social media accounts so you don't miss the big announcement!

Christys invite

The Christy Award team invites you to two events that celebrate fiction, both held on November 7, 2018 at Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN!

First, from 1-5:30pm, is the Art of Writing Conference - a focused conference for writers, storytellers, and publishing curators. This is a half day of intensive seminars that celebrate the creative life, provide practical tips for overcoming challenges in a rapidly-changing industry, and answer questions authors are asking. Head here for a full list of speakers, including Carla Laureano, Joanne Bischof, Donald Miller, and Charles Martin.

Then, starting at 7:00pm, The Christy Award Dinner Gala will celebrate the art of Christian fiction, announce the 2018 winners of The Christy Award, and honor the power of Story, the legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, and the year's best in Christian fiction.

Wanna know which authors will be at The Christy Awards gala? How about Charles Martin, Carla Laureano, Francine Rivers, Sarah Arthur, and Cynthia Ruchti, for starters? Many of the finalists will be there too so make sure you follow The Christy Award on social media for the big announcement on the 19th!

christy awards gift card giveaway

On behalf of the ECPA, JustRead is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card (US only) to help you read good fiction!

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight September 15, 2018 and last through 11:59pm September 21, 2018. US only. Winners will be notified within a week 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.


Friday, September 14, 2018

"Coffee Shop Devotions" by Tessa Emily Hall ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Tessa is here to share a bit about her latest release, Coffee Shop Devos She's offered to give away a hard copy of the book (US ONLY).  You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends September 21, 2018. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.)  Here's Tessa...

Back Cover Copy...
     There's something special about spending time at a coffee shop with a friend — engaging in a meaningful conversation, then leaving refueled and ready to tackle the rest of the day. What if your quiet times with God energizing the same way?
     Coffee Shop Devos offers a warm atmosphere that will inspire you to discover your God-given purpose and live to your greatest potential. Choose your devo flavor in the Menu of Content based on your current need. Then lean into deeper intimacy with Christ through reflection and prayer. Along the way, you'll pick up tips and recipes for making your own coffee-shop beverage — regular or decaf — to enjoy what you read. Don't forget to share your journey with your friends! #CoffeeShopDevos
     Each of the 180 challenging a motivational devotions leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated — almost as though you've shared a steaming pot of group at a coffee shop with your Creator.
Amazon (pre-order until it's released on 9/18/18)

Q&A with Tessa...
Q:  What message do you hope readers take away from your book?
A:  My intention in writing my books for teens is to help girls feel less alone in what they're facing. The same is true with Coffee Shop Devos. As girls read the devotions, I hope they will be compelled to spend time with Christ and develop a relationship with Him. I hope you see that Christ is the answer to our every longing. He's the comforter in our pain, the joy in our sorrow, and the peace in our storms. We live life with Him by our side, then that relationship will provide us with the joy, peace, and love that is far greater than anything this world could offer us. So, to summarize: I hope Coffee Shop Devos will cause teens to develop a thirst for Christ — a habit of spending time with Him that becomes far more addicting than their daily caffeine intake.
Q:  What advice you have for new authors?
A:  It's always hard to nail down only one piece of advice! I like to tell writers two things: one, don't give up. As cliché as it sounds, it's often exactly what us writers need to hear — especially when the publishing journey seems endless. It's only those who persist that actually reach the finish line. And two, do your research! There are so many writers out there who dream of writing, and yet they never take the necessary steps to achieve this dream. I believe this could be avoided if writers would simply do their research before seeking publication. If you're an aspiring author and you want to impress an agent, you might want to first understand how you should craft a query letter and format the manuscript. If you want to be a children's book author, first double check that your word count is within the standard word count range. Remember that writing is an art, but publishing is a business. There are general guidelines set by agents and editors that writers must follow if they hope to sell their book. And please don't assume that you're the exception! It's that attitude that often keeps writers from seeing their dream unfold. But regardless of the "hoops" you might have to jump through (such as building a platform)—rest assured. It is possible to succeed in today's industry. So going back to that first piece of advice: Don't give up!
Q:  What writers have inspired you?
A:   Karen Kingsbury has definitely served as an "author role model" throughout my writing life. She's proven to me that it is possible to have a book ministry through writing life-changing fiction. I also love how she interacts with her fans, treating them as if they're her friends. It's inspiring to see that she's built such a big readership by writing character-driven books that are emotionally charged and inspirational. Those are the kind of stories I'd like to write, as well — specifically for teens.
Q:  What's your favorite writing -related book?
A:  I love reading books on writing craft! It's difficult to decide on just one book. However, I think the one that influenced my writing the most was A Novel Idea: Best Advice on Writing Inspiration Fiction. read this book when I was beginning my writing journey as a team. It served almost as a road map for me, and I would refer to it frequently as I wrote my book and entered publication. The book is a compilation book that contains amazing advice from popular Christian fiction authors, such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Karen Kingsbury. It covers every aspect of the writing journey—from the craft of writing to the business and marketing side of it. Perfect for beginning writers especially!
Q:  What's one thing about you that would surprise your readers?
A:  On an average day, I typically only drink one cup of coffee! A lot of people are often surprised to hear this because of how much I love coffee. However, I like to be careful about my caffeine intake — especially since I know how prone I am to go overboard. There are days, though, when I need more than just one cup. I try to use decaf when possible. Especially when it's after 5 p.m.!
Q:  Do you have any writing rituals you must have or do when writing?
A:  If it's in the morning or afternoon, I need to have a cup of coffee. It's in the evening or night, herbal tea or sparkling water will do. Music is a necessity, as well. Sometimes I'll play the soundtrack I've created for the specific book, and other times I'll listen to worship music. I try to find worship music that's instrumental — that way I'm not distracted by the lyrics. And it helps to write in private. Although I love going to coffee shops occasionally for a change of scenery, it's more difficult for me to enter the flow of writing when I'm around other people. That could just be because I might have ADD tendencies, though :)
Thanks so much for stopping by, Tessa. I'm sure my readers will enjoy getting to you a bit better!
About Tessa...

Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic books to show teens they're not alone. Her first teen devotional, Coffee Shop Devos, will release with Bethany House in September 2018. Tessa's passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens letter to a career as an Associate Agent for Cyle Young at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PURSUE Magazine. She's guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren't flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating art journals, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media, and website.

Where to find Tessa online...

           Author website
·       Twitter
·       Instagram
·       Facebook
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Thursday, September 13, 2018

"Chasing the Hunter" by Emily Yager (SLB Tours blog hop)

Chasing the Hunter Tour Banner

About the Book

Chasing the Hunter

In 1788, Aria Stonewood is chased from her home in the New England colonies after being accused of murder and abducting twin baby girls. Hiding a secret, Aria travels west deep into the north-woods of the Minnesota territory. She seeks shelter at a French trading post that is run by a former priest and meets Francois Marcks; both of whom distrust her and do not want her staying there. But with the dangers of winter coming they have no choice but to reluctantly let her stay unaware of what the coming winter will bring to their door.

About the Author

Emily Yager

Growing up in Northwestern Minnesota, Emily spent the long winter days dreaming and creating stories. She loves the mild summers and cold, wind swept state so much that she incorporates the landscape and small towns into her stories. A life-long book dragon, Emily is fulfilling her dream by writing novels.

Author Interview (via SLB)

Q: Who or what inspired you to become an author? 
A:  I was raised with a family of avid readers and storytellers, Momma, Mimmie (Grandma) and Pappaw (Grandpa) always seems to have a book hidden somewhere close by just in case. I followed in their footsteps. Though the person who inspired me the most is Momma. She always encouraged creative thinking and writing. After all she did name me after three of her favorite writer’s: Emily Bronte, Anne Bronte, and Emily Dickerson. Perhaps she knew something even back then.

Q: When did you first start writing? When was your first novel published compared to when you first started writing?
A:  According to family member’s I have always been able to create elaborate tales at a moment’s notice. I wrote my first story when I was in second grade in my school notebook instead of doing the assignments. My first book was not published until 2016, A Whippoorwills Song, which is still available. So, I spent quite a few years, practicing my writing with several unfinished or poorly told stories safely hidden away and reading anything I could get my hands on.

Q: How do you deal with publisher rejection letters?
A:  As an indie author this is not something I’ve had to deal with much. I did start out wanting to be traditionally published. Even sent my first novel to several publisher’s and got rejected by all of them. How’s the saying go ‘when one door closes, you open a window. That is what I did, when tradition publishing didn’t work out of me, I turned toward indie-publishing and so far it has worked out fine for me.

Q:  What authors would you recommend to your fellow readers?
A:  Oh, my giddy aunt. I have SO many favorite’s that I enjoy reading that it would be a very long list. My top 10 that I would recommend in a heartbeat, since I’ve read all or at least most of their books would be (in no particular order): Jody Hedlund, Melanie Dickerson, Mary Lu Tyndall, Cathy Marie Hake, Mary Connealy, Jen Turano, Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Tracie Peterson, and Tessa Afshar.

Q: What does “a day in the life of Author Emily Yager” look like?
A:  My day starts with a cup of coffee with butter in it, then spend the rest of the morning catching up on everything, phone calls, mail, email, social media, Family, housekeeping (sometimes), and time with my dog. Then after lunch It try and leave most of my afternoons flexible to be able to hang out with family or going places, occasionally writing or research. After supper, is my main writing time. I tend to write late into the night. It’s not uncommon that I am up until one or two (sometimes later or would it be earlier?) in the morning. That’s an overview of a typical day for me.

Q:  When you are not writing, what hobbies do you enjoy?
A:  Besides reading, I enjoy cooking and/or baking, arts and crafty things like drawing, crocheting, scrapbooking, cardmaking, sewing and quilting. I love music, whether it be listening to it, singing, playing an instrument (or try to). I play several instruments including piano, banjo, ukulele, penny whistle, and bodhran. Other hobbies I enjoy are gardening, hiking, canoeing, and archery.

Q: What inspired the idea for Chasing the Hunter?
A:  As a history geek, I love learning about the history of Northern Minnesota (where I grew up and currently live) I saw this exhibit on the French Fur Traders in Minnesota and the thought hit me: I have never seen nor read a book about the fur traders that wasn’t a documentary, essay, or a dry factual history book. I even Googled the topic to prove it. So, I told myself that I would be the one to change that and since I love canoeing and drifting down the river it just made sense.

Q: What did you as an author take away from writing Chasing the Hunter?
A:  I think the biggest thing that I learned or at least relearned while writing this book was to be more forgiving and to be willing give people the benefit of doubt when something bad happens or something from their past comes up. Because we don’t always know what happen to a person in the past or what caused them to do what they did. That it is something that, as a Christian especially, we need reminded of from time to time. I know I certainly do.

Q:  What is your current WIP? What can you tell us about it?
A:  I just finished book two in the Pursuing Voyageurs series “Coaxing the Clerk” which will be released in mid- October. And I am about half-way through writing book three in the series “Catching the Nor’wester” They continue to showcase the difficult life that the Fur Traders endured as they lived and working in the Northwoods. Each book is about a different ‘couple’ and their own struggles. Book two feature’s Allis and Stefan’s story, book three is about Calliope and Etienne’s. Beyond that I can’t really say anything else yet.


CTH e-book giveaway
Enter the giveaway HERE.
Giveaway is subject to policies HERE.

Blog Hop Schedule

September 3-Britt Reads Fiction 
September 4-Blooming with Books 
September 5-Robin’s Nest 
September 6-cherylbbookblog September
September  8-ReadingIsMySuperPower 
September 10-Remembrancy 
September 11-Singing Librarian Books 

SLB Tours Button for Team (1)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

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 what you would do if you won the lottery.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tori Kelly - "Hiding Place" (CD review for #FlyBy Productions)

About the album...

While working on the follow-up to her debut album Unbreakable Smile—a 2015 release that premiered at #2 on the Billboard 200—Tori Kelly felt compelled to include a track that honored her lifelong passion for gospel music. With the help of her manager, Scooter Braun, the L.A.-based singer/songwriter soon connected with Kirk Franklin, a 12-time Grammy Award-winning gospel artist and one of Kelly’s musical idols. “I flew to Dallas and Kirk showed me a few songs he’d written, and I fell in love with all of them,” says Kelly, a 2016 Grammy Award nominee for Best New Artist. “Next thing you know, one song turned into us doing a whole album together. It just took on a life of its own.”

With its R&B-infused, deeply melodic take on classic gospel, Hiding Place offers up what Franklin refers to as “hope-pop”—a classification that fully resonates with Kelly. “One of the things I want for this album is for people to feel uplifted and encouraged when they listen,” she says. “I want them to know that, no matter what they’re going through, there’s a God who loves them so much and so unconditionally, and there’s always a reason to feel hope. That’s what I really believe in, and I want everyone out there to hear my heart.”

As Kelly explains, the title to Hiding Place draws inspiration from a line in one of her favorite psalms (“You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with songs of deliverance”). “That always stuck with me: this idea of God being a place of safety, a place where you can hide from all the crazy things that this world can throw at us,” she notes.

Produced by Franklin, Hiding Place unfolds with a lush yet simply adorned sound beautifully suited to Kelly’s incomparable voice. “I’ve worked with Mary J. Blige, Bono, Yolanda Adams, and I’ve never seen anyone that’s a monster behind the microphone like Tori Kelly,” says Franklin. “She’d nail one song in three takes, and all those takes were amazing. It set the bar higher for my whole career.”

While half of the songs on Hiding Place were penned solely by Franklin, the remaining tracks came from a collaboration between him and Kelly—the first time that Franklin’s ever co-written in a decades-long career that’s seen his songs performed by legends like Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston. (“It blew me away that she wanted us to co-write, because she’s a phenomenal songwriter and could’ve easily done it herself,” Franklin says.) And at Franklin’s urging, Hiding Place was mostly recorded at his studio just outside Dallas. “The most important thing to me was that if Tori wanted to do a gospel album—a real, authentic, heart-throbbing gospel album—she’d have to come to the South,” he says. “Then she showed up at my studio with no entourage, no handlers—just Tori and her guitar, standing at my front door.”

With its sonic palette gracefully rooted in live instrumentation, Hiding Place first reveals its unbridled spirit on the album-opening “Masterpiece” (featuring Houston-bred hip-hop artist Lecrae)—a joyfully uptempo track that instantly sweeps the listener into a more radiant state of mind. From there, Kelly delivers her slow-burning lead single “Help Us to Love,” whose breathtaking harmonies feature the famed HamilTones (official background vocalists for Grammy Award-winner Anthony Hamilton). Proving her versatility as an artist and musician, Hiding Place then shifts seamlessly from the silky groove and playful scat singing of “Sunday” to the sweetly ethereal soul of “Just As Sure” (a duet with chart-topping gospel star Jonathan McReynolds) to the quiet intensity of “Psalm 42.” “So many of the songs on this album are so intricate, I wanted a song that I could play completely stripped-down, just me and my guitar,” says Kelly of the tender piano ballad.

One of the most profound moments on Hiding Place, the hushed yet urgent ballad “Questions” finds Kelly tearfully examining the current state of the world (sample lyric: “What happens when the healing never comes?”). “It’s about trying to make sense of all the dark and heavy things that keep happening, sort of crying out to God and asking, ‘What’s going on? I don’t like what I see down here,’” says Kelly. Then, on the subtly determined “Never Alone,” Kelly recollects her own struggles (“I’ve cried many rivers/I’ve walked through some pain/Seen my world crumble”) and ultimately re-discovers comfort and peace through her faith.

On “Soul’s Anthem,” Kelly closes out Hiding Place with an a cappella, full-choir-driven rendition of the beloved hymn “It Is Well.” Perhaps the most powerfully captivating track on the album, “Soul’s Anthem” also gave way to what Kelly considers a landmark moment in her musical career. “Before we started, Kirk said to me, ‘Don’t look at me or the choir, just look down and get into your own world,’” says Kelly, who recorded “Soul’s Anthem” at the iconic Capitol Studios. “So I sang it all the way through, and at one point there’s a part where the choir takes over. I looked up and saw all these incredible singers, and it finally hit me that this was really happening. You can’t hear it on the recording, but I’m crying at the end of the song.”

Looking back on the making of Hiding Place, Kelly still marvels at the experience. “I always thought I would do something like this, but I thought it would be much further down the line,” she says. “It’s been in my heart for some time, but the timing didn’t feel right until now. I didn’t think I’d get the chance to work with someone like Kirk just yet, and that people would be so excited and accepting.” And though the album marks a stylistic departure from her work in the pop world, a commitment to uncompromising artistry carries through all of Kelly’s music. “No matter what genre you’re working in, there should be a level of excellence, and Tori definitely brought that excellence to this album,” says Franklin. “A lot of artists out there will rely on Auto-Tune or studio tricks, but there’s no button you can push for emotion, and there’s no button for skill. Tori is excellent in everything she does, because she’s a real, pure artist.”

As she gets ready to share Hiding Place with the world, Kelly hopes that it might give others the same sense of solace and joy she’s found in gospel in her entire life. And as the album’s creator, one of the most rewarding aspects of Hiding Place was embracing gospel’s boundless intensity, and pushing her vocal performance like never before. “With gospel music, you can’t sing without all your heart being in it,” says Kelly. “This album was an opportunity to not only express my faith and my love for God, but to do what I felt and never hold back. I could just be free and let the song take me over.”

My review...

Tori Kelly is widely recognized for her pop songs. I've heard a number of her songs, and I've always been amazed by her voice. So, I was excited to hear her take on a gospel album. It's a perfect fit! I jumped at the chance to review this CD, especially when I knew Kirk Franklin was involved, since he's amazing.

I love that they co-wrote a number of the songs, as well as that songs are based on familiar Scripture verses and songs (as the final song on the album incorporates It Is Well). Overall, the songs are beautifully arranged, allowing Kelly's powerhouse voice to shine through, all the while delivering an uplifting message about God, His love, and who we are to Him. 

My advice is to pop in this CD, sit back, close your eyes, and let the words sink into your soul.

My favorite songs are: 
  • Masterpiece (featuring Lecrae)
  • Questions
  • Never Alone (featuring Kirk Franklin)
  • Soul's Anthem (It Is Well)

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this album from #FlyByProductions. I wasn't required to write a positive review.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Monday Motivation

"If you can't fly then run,
if you can't run then walk,
if you can't walk then crawl, 
but whatever you do, 
you have to keep moving forward."
— Martin Luther King Jr.

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

"Fit to by Tied" by Debby Mayne

My review...

I fell in love with the Bucklin family in High Cotton, so I was really excited to have the chance to review the sequel … and I still love this family!

It’s time for the “yearly” family reunion (though they seem to occur far more frequently, to the dismay of some family members). The explosive events (literally) from last year are still fresh in the minds of many. As a result, Brett doesn’t want to go, but that’s not an option. He tries to steer clear of Julian to avoid any further trouble, especially as Julian seems to get away with everything. But, trouble seems to find Brett anyway. Since Julian’s parents came into money, he lives a privileged life, and his mother, Marybeth, has had just about enough, and she realizes that money doesn’t buy everything. Unfortunately, her husband, Bucky, doesn’t see a problem and is happy with their life.
Thanks to Puddin’ and Shay and their new clothing shop, Coralee has revamped her wardrobe and look and is now attracting all kinds of attention on campus.  Unfortunately, she learns that it may not give her the relationship she deserves.

Twins Sally and Sara are dealing with a lot of changes, starting with the fact that Sally may be moving out of the condo she shares with Sara and her husband. A new relationship throws Sally another curveball. Their mother Sheila can’t help but worry as she sees them growing up and going more in separate directions.

As with the first book, Mayne shows that family can be complicated, to say the least. I like how the title is woven throughout the story. Chapters alternate between characters so the reader gets to see things from just about everyone’s perspective. Some things wrap up a bit too neatly, with minimal drama, which is a bit different than the first book. Food is mentioned a lot in this book (as it’s a key focus at reunions!), so recipes would’ve been a nice addition. Perhaps Mayne will consider that for future books. Overall, if you’re looking for an enjoyable, light read, this is one to check out.

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

About Debby...

Debby Mayne is the author or more than 40 novels and novellas that have received the "Top Pick" award from Romantic Times Magazine and been among the "Top 10 Favorites" in the Heartsong Presents book club. She writes family and faith-based romances, cozy mysteries, and women's fiction. She has also written more than 1,000 short stories and articles as well as dozens of devotions for busy women. She has worked as managing editor of a national health publication, product information writer for a TV retailer, creative marketing instructor, and copy editor and proofreader for several book publishers. She is currently an etiquette writer for The Spruce, one of the DotDash (formerly companies.

Debby grew up in a military family, which mean moving every few years throughout her childhood. Debby was born in Alaska, and she has lived in Mississippi, Tennessee, Oregon, Florida, Hawaii, and Japan. Her parents were both from the Deep South, so she enjoys featuring characters with southern drawls, plenty of down-home cooking, and folks with quirky mannerisms.

To learn more about Debby:

Twitter:         @debbymayne