Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Interview with Sibella Giorello


An Interview with Sibella Giorello,
author of The Stars Shine Bright

Q: The Stars Shine Bright takes place at a race track. What drew you to that setting?

Here's one key for writing fiction: Don't squash the "weird idea." Sometimes that weird idea is your best friend.

Last year, the weird idea was gambling and horses. Aside from driving around Seattle in the rain, I don't gamble. And I'm not a "horse-girl." But this idea kept pulling at me. When I mentioned it to my husband, he said: "I got a guy."

Note: My husband is from New York City, he's "got a guy" for everything.

But this guy turned out to be a former jockey, who now owns part of a race horse. He spent weeks showing me the local track, including the back barns. He also introduced me to the track vet, who was invaluable. The vet told me to come on his rounds, starting at 5 A.M.

It was all a gift, because it's difficult for strangers to get inside barns at most big race track. Trainers and owners are wary -- justifiably so -- that somebody will steal their training secrets or use the information to sway the betting odds.

But with these two guys, doors opened.

And from there, the "weird idea" started to unfold like a map.

Q: Has that ever happened before, when a certain person makes research easy?

With every book, keep thinking: "Well, THAT will never happen again."

But it does. With every book in this series.

When I was researching The Mountains Bow Down, for instance, my family took a cruise to Alaska. Our first day at sea, I went to check out the chapel, where the chaplain was giving a sermon. It was a good sermon, and I thanked him for it afterwards--only to discover the guy was also the ship's cruise director. When he asked about my trip, I told him, almost apologetically, that I was doing research for a murder mystery.

His reply?

"There are hundreds of ways to kill people on this ship. I'll show you."

For the next seven days, he took me from the engine room to the kitchens to the captain's bridge, pointing out the hazards and dangers.

If that sort of thing is not the hand of God, I don't know what is.

Q: Your books are known for in-depth research, especially with geology. Beside horses, what kind of research went into The Stars Shine Bright?

My kids have gotten used to piles and piles of books in my office. It looks like a cave with stalagmites made of paper.

Before starting each book I comb through Forensic Geology by Ray Murray. It's the definitive textbook on the subject, and a really great read even for the layman.

For this book specifically, I read several autobiographies of agents who went undercover, including The Last Undercover by Bob Hamer. Then a bunch of books on wagering, which were colorful and often funny. How odds are determined, what constitutes a long-shot. I still don't understand wagering entirely. It's like some intuitive calculus with greed as one of the variables.

But I also read a half dozen astronomy books, trying to understand something about space and getting to know constellations. I wasn't sure how this title -- The Stars Shine Bright -- fit into the story, but the more I read, the more clear it became.




Q: The Stars Shine Bright has Raleigh Harmon going undercover for the FBI. Why did that situation appeal to you as an author?

Raleigh Harmon's been undercover most of her adult life--she just wasn't getting paid for it.

Right out of college, she started working for the FBI as a forensic geologist. Then her father was murdered, and she chose to become a special agent. But she never told her mother about the FBI, because her mom's mentally ill. She suffers from paranoid delusions. Raleigh's only said she's a geologist. Which is true, but not totally true. That's why I mean when I say she's always been undercover.

But now the jig's up. In The Stars Shine Bright, her mother's been sent to the state mental hospital, and Raleigh's decided, finally, to be honest with her--right when the FBI tells her to start lying.

That whole double-life (or double-double-life) was a terrific challenge, especially since Raleigh is so blunt about everything else. Really fun to write about.

Q: After four Raleigh Harmon novels, did you approach this fifth book any differently?

Every book is written on my knees. I am not kidding.

They all begin with that "weird idea," followed by a bunch of imaginary friends who have personality issues and who all demand to join the adventure. And since it's crime fiction, somebody's going to die.

If that doesn't drop a writer to the floor, they're either dumb or bulletproof.

But there was one difference with this fifth book. Music. In particular Herb Alpert's "This Guy's in Love with You." I didn't know why that song was important until the book's second-to-last chapter.

Which brings me back to my first point: Every book is written on my knees. The unknown is just too overwhelming otherwise.

Q: Raleigh Harmon's definitely faced some serious ups and downs. When you first started writing about her, did you see those challenges coming, or have they surprised you?

Raleigh's taught me that sometimes the writer is the last to know.

When I first "saw" her, I was a reporter at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. I would walk to work and pass a certain house, this brick mansion on Monument Avenue. It sat across from an enormous statue of General Robert E. Lee. But this house wasn't like all the other stately mansions. This place was a mess. Overgrown magnolia trees, ivy climbing over the cracked slate roof.

But I clearly "saw" who lived there. Raleigh Harmon. Her mentally ill mother. The black dog. Back then, Raleigh struck me as so strong and capable that she was unlikely to change.

I know God gave me Raleigh Harmon to write about, and I also know He's laughing now. Because I was so wrong about her.

Q: What sort of books do you read for fun?

For fun, I always come back to mysteries. It's in my DNA. I grew up in Alaska without a television and my dad was a judge. Instead of hiring babysitters, he had me sit in his courtroom. A significant part of my childhood was spent listening to cops, thieves, swindlers, wife beaters, child molesters, and lawyers. Today somebody would probably call Child Protective Services but it was a fantastic education. Even better, my grandmother sometimes came with me. It was quite the contrast. She was one of those elderly women with perfect posture and perfect diction who attended daily Mass. But she also liked to discuss motive and means, and she was extremely well-read. She layered all that courtroom experience with Dickens and Dostoyevsky and Chekhov.

Given that background, is it really any wonder I'm into crime fiction?

Q: What writer or book most inspired you?

That's so difficult to pinpoint. I really believe some kids are marked to become writers. And certain books almost whisper their name. It makes you want to grow up and write as well as those authors. For me it was books like The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken and the Narnia collection by C.S. Lewis. Later came the great mysteries by Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald and John D. MacDonald.

But what keeps me inspired is the Bible. And you know, whenever I say that, some people gag or groan. They feel a need to distinguish themselves, maybe they want us to believe they're too intelligent for scripture. But those 66 books are sheer poetry, and they cover the most crucial questions. What's life all about? Who is God? Why are we here and what's the plan -- for individuals and for humanity?

Those questions inspire me to keep me writing. Those questions matter.

Q: Did you have an easy time finding an agent and publisher?

No. And yes.

A friend sent the manuscript for my first book, The Stones Cry Out, to her agent. This was a great agent, among the best in New York City.

But we didn't see eye-to-eye.

First of all, she couldn't believe a forensic geologist would question evolution. Secondly, she wanted me to change Raleigh Harmon from a Christian into an alcoholic. I guess she saw them as equal handicaps, except being a drunk was somehow better marketing.

I wrote her back, thanking her for her time, then politely advised her to get out of New York City.

My writer friends were horrified. That reply was the kiss of death, they said, the agent knew better than I did.

But another writer gave me the name of her agent. Several months later he sold that same manuscript to Revell, and the following year The Stones Cry Out won the Christy for best first novel.

Which means, five books later, I'm still right about Raleigh Harmon.

Q: So you don't think there's a problem with a scientist who's also a believer?

No. In fact, I can't understand how anyone, especially a scientist, could believe in evolution. It's scientifically impossible. For evolution to work—for random chance to be the operating system—we would see tornadoes blasting through junk yards and leaving behind F-15 fighter jets.

But that's not how what we see.

We live in a highly designed world. Check out one tree—just one—from its root system to its leaf veins. In mathematical terms alone, random chance can't create that sort of engineering. Meanwhile, we have scripture telling us, the heavens declare His glory. That's an invitation. God wants us to explore all these mysteries of nature. I think atheists and Christians make the same mistake, seeing the world as binary. As either-or.

The world is both. God and science.

That's why Raleigh Harmon is a geologist and a believer. She knows who created the universe, and she looks to science for the means and methods.

Q: So what's next for Raleigh Harmon?

I'm writing two new series.

One picks up where this book leaves off. As readers will discover, she has a whole new life after The Stars Shine Bright.

The other series is a prequel. Her life before she became a forensic geologist, before she joins the FBI, before her father dies.

I'm thrilled with both series, and I hope readers will be too.


Visit Sibella Giorello online at www.sibellagiorello.com, Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Following Your Heart


Title: FOLLOWING YOUR HEART
Author: Jerry S. Eicher
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
May 2012
ISBN: 978-0736944786
Genre: Inspirational/Amish

Susan Hostetler returns to her Amish roots bringing along single mom, Teresa Long and her newborn son Samuel. Teresa has hopes of raising her son in the Amish faith. Teresa is really down on herself and seems to think she deserves the bad things in life—even a potential marriage to an elderly man. Anything, to give her son a good Amish life.

Susan’s parents are glad Susan returned and welcoming to Teresa, but not everyone is. In fact, the Deacon is very unhappy about Terese being in the community and forbids her to even attend church services.

What is a girl to do when she wants an Amish life—for her and her son? And what about Susan? Is she home for good—or will she return to the Englisha world she left the Amish for?

FOLLOWING YOUR HEART is the second book in Mr. Eicher’s Fields of Home series. I was glad to read more about Susan and her friend Teresa that we were introduced to in Missing Your Smile. Readers will want to read the books in order, as they are a continuing story and not stand-alone.

I’ve enjoyed reading this series of Mr. Eicher’s book and can’t wait for the next book in this series When Love Grows, and the continuing story of Susan. Fans of Amish fiction will enjoy this. $12.99. 271 pages.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The 3-Minute Difference


Title: THE 3-MINUTE DIFFERENCE
Author: Wayne E. Nance
Publisher: Mission Books
June 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61843-118-9
Genre: Self-help

Wayne Nance (AKA The Real Life Attitude Guy) was obese, a jerk, and greatly in debt. It took three big things to make him face facts. And then Wayne took steps to get his weight and spending under control. But his wife still said he was a jerk, and his marriage was in jeopardy.
So then he began to study personality types and attitudes and found certain underlying things identifying each attitude.

According to Wayne, each of us have these inborn, underlying attitudes, and they affect everything we do and our decisions. Then he teaches us how to regain our life. He stresses that we don’t need to change who we are, but come to terms with who we are. He uses the term ALTER: meaning Awareness, Learn, Tactical plan, Execute the plan, and Re-evaluate.

There is a survey included in the book that only takes 3 minutes. It shows how we’re wired differently. Everyone is a combination of four categories:

T for tactical (planners, goal setters)
R for rational (logical thinkers, attending to facts)
I for impulsive (playful, spur of the moment, generous)
M for mellow (laid back, harmonious, trustful)

Wayne covers each combination, their traits, and what they need to know, pitfalls and pros. He has practical plans for physical, financial, and relational fitness for each personality.

My personal 3-minute survey is as follows:

Your 3-Minute Survey score resulted in the pattern TMRI (N28).

Your decisions will tend be fairly balanced between your purposeful, logical, and pragmatic "head side" and your impulsive, idealistic and relational "heart side." You appreciate well-planned activity, paying particular attention to detail, and expect consistent, positive results. You will tend to navigate the waters of life like a sailboat: focused on maintaining balance and staying out of the way of barges and tugboats.

You are a very organized person who wants to work with facts and information in a stable and secure setting. Although you appreciate structure, too many details can be overwhelming. You are logical and focused, expecting everything to be done in a timely manner and with a smile. You like to know that the things you work on will benefit society.

You genuinely care about people, and you enjoy being involved in projects that are good for the people in your life. However, insensitive and illogical people are a turnoff for you. When you encounter people like this, you tend to set boundaries and take control of the situation. Indeed, negative people cause you to hold off on developing any long-term relationship with them. The greatest sources of stress in your life are rejection by others and unstructured, insensitive people.

You feel pressure when people try to manipulate you, and when you encounter such people, you will quickly shut them down - in a nice way, of course. If someone wants to get you involved in something, they need to answer all your questions and convince you that it will benefit others.

Managing your finances is something you are very capable of doing, although not something you necessarily enjoy. You tend to be balanced in your spending, and if you get carried away occasionally it's only because you're spending on others.

As for your lifestyle choices, you strike a good balance between your head and your heart. You are usually good about your eating and health habits, even if you do "fall off the wagon" occasionally with an unhealthy meal.

Some of this is pretty general – it could fit anyone. But reading over this, I can see that he’s pretty right-on with who I am. I do recommend this book. $9.99. 260 pages.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Plain & Fancy Christmas


Title: A PLAIN AND FANCY CHRISTMAS
Author: Cynthia Keller
Publisher: Ballantine
October 2011
ISBN: 978-0-345-52875-9
Genre: Amish

Two women, switched at birth. Rachel Lawrence and Rachel King were both born in the same hospital, days apart. A doctor makes a mistake, his nurse wife covers it over, and both babies are sent home with the wrong family.

Now Rachel King has been married, has a child, and has been widowed. She’s always struggled with being Amish, and when she receives a letter from the doctor’s wife, all the reasons, she believes, becomes clear.

Rachel Lawrence doesn’t answer to the name Rachel, she answers to Ellie—and she’s happy in her Fancy world. But when she learns she’s truly a daughter of an Amish family, she goes home to a place she’s never been before…

Both of these women have some adjustments to make. But which world will claim them?

A PLAIN AND FANCY CHRISTMAS is Ms. Keller’s most recent Christmas story. In a beautifully done hardback, it’s lovely for gift giving for the Amish fiction lovers on your shopping list.

There is a lot of telling in this book, a lot of backstory, which caused me to skim a lot, but the ideal was intriguing and it was interesting seeing how each woman handled the shocking news and resulting upheaval. The characters are rather flat and I didn't care much for them. And some situations were unbelievable. This isn’t a Christian book, but there is some reference to church and praying. 3.5 stars. $16.00. 336 pages.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Love that Multiplies


Title: A LOVE THAT MULTIPLIES
Authors: Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar
Publisher: Howard Books
July 2011
ISBN: 1439183813
Genre: Inspirational/memoir

Most everyone in America has heard of the Duggar’s whether or not they have television. A conservative Christian family who believes God should decide the size of a family—and has been greatly blessed in many ways.

In this story, it starts out with that bad ice storm that had hit Arkansas, with terrible power outages all over the state. It was fun reliving that ice storm through the Duggar’s eyes, but they got off easy. They only lost power for nine days. We went three weeks. I’m sure their experience was compounded though, with a very sick grandpa, and a very sick one-month old, plus camera crews filming their entire experience.

As another conservative Christian homeschool family, it was nice to know that there are others out there. It was good to read about how God has blessed them and their family, and my daughters want to read the books now. There are lots of fun extras included, such as pictures, recipes, and more.

In the pages of A LOVE THAT MULTIPLIES Jim Bob and Michelle attempt to answer questions that others have asked them as a result of their television shows. Everything from homeschooling, coping, challenges, dating, etc are addressed.

If you are interested in the Duggar family, then A LOVE THAT MULTIPLIES would be a book to pick up. Definitely recommended. 288 pages. $15.00.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

To Love and to Cherish


Title: TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH
Author: Kelly Irvin
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
February 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7369-4371-9
Genre: Amish

Emma Shirack has not yet healed from her boyfriend, Carl, leaving the Amish. But now her life is thrown into turmoil. In less than a month’s time, her parents are killed in a tragic accident, her brother and his wife sell their home and move in, a tornado takes down the barn and Carl returns from the world.

But things have changed. Emma has become bitter and unforgiving. Her brother’s wife is difficult and hateful, and she’s discovered that an older Amish man has been interested in her, but turned down due to the huge age difference between them.

Will Emma learn to forgive? And which man holds the keys to her heart?

TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH is the first book in Ms. Irvin’s The Bliss Creek Amish series. It is action packed, full of drama, and emotions. Readers will hurt with Emma over the injustices in her life, and mourn with her and some of their siblings as they adjust to the loss of their parents, loss of their freedom, loss of their rights… and for the good of… who?

I’m not really sure how I feel about this book. Ms. Irvin is a very talented author. The reader will care. But…the bitterness, unforgiveness, and anger seem to be overdone, and the death of the parents seemed to drag on a little long. Fans of Amish fiction will probably devour this book. Discussion questions are included. $13.99. 326 pages.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Embraced by God



Title: EMBRACED BY GOD
Author: Babbie Mason
Publisher: Abingdon Press
February 2012
ISBN: 9781426741340
Genre: Christian living

Have you ever thought of yourself as being God’s favorite? According to Gospel singer Babbie Mason, each one of us are God’s favorite—and she explores this revelation in EMBRACED BY GOD.

EMBRACED BY GOD is a twenty-one day encounter that shares the unconditional love of God. The book contains seven promises to study –

God’s passion for you is unconditional
God’s picture of you is beautiful
God’s presence in you is perpetual
God’s provision for you is immeasurable
God’s plan for you is exceptional
God’s power in you in accessible
God’s promise to you is incomparable

And each chapter presents four challenges by which to embrace the day.

This book is a journey of discovering what it means to be unconditionally loved, approved, accepted, forgiven, blessed, cherished, treasured, and favored by God.

Ms. Mason made a discovery just a few years ago, which changed her perception of how God viewed her, and she wanted to share it with everyone.

If you are uncertain of God’s love for you, individually, then EMBRACED BY GOD is a book to consider. It is divided by twenty-one chapters and Ms. Mason encourages the reader to read one a day. Chapter notes and the plan of salvation is included in the book. $18.95 hardback. 429 pages.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When Strawberries Bloom


Title: WHEN STRAWBERRIES BLOOM
Author: Linda Byler
Publisher: Good Books
September 2010
ISBN: 978-1-56148-699-1
Genre: Inspirational/Amish

Lizzie Glick has a dream of teaching school, and now her dream has finally come true. The Amish school teacher is getting married, and the board has approached her about taking the position.

But at home, life is in turmoil. Dat is having some health problems. Lizzie’s sisters Emma and Mandy have found their life’s mates, and the man Lizzie likes asks another girl to be his girl. Not only that, but a man Lizzie considers only a friend declares his love in one breath, then that he’s leaving in the next.

With these kinds of problems, what’s a girl to do? Will she find a man to truly love her? Or will teaching school be the answer for awhile?

WHEN STRAWBERRIES BLOOM is the second book in Ms. Byler’s Lizzie Searches for Love series. It has a lot of telling in it, and is kind of jumping around from past to present back to past, so it’s choppy and jarring, but the idea behind it is good.

Ms. Byler is an Amish woman so she has first hand knowledge of Amish life. The story telling is not the greatest, but the premise is good, and it is interesting. I will probably read the third book to see what happens with Lizzie. Readers of Amish fiction will want to read WHEN STRAWBERRIES BLOOM. There are lots of delicious sounding recipies included. $13.99. 276 pages. 3.5 stars.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Majesty of Prayer


Title: THE MAJESTY OF PRAYER: Encounters with God’s Amazing Grace
Author: John MacArthur
Photographer: Dennis Frates
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7369-3841-9
Genre: Inspirational/prayer/giftbook

Through prayer, we talk to God—we can pour our hearts out to God. We can tell Him about our joys, concerns, hopes and fears. We’re invited to draw upon His infinite power, wisdom, and strength as the Lord of all creation.

As you read through these prayers, you can tune your heart and experience God’s amazing grace in your life.

I have to say that this is the most beautiful prayer book I’ve ever seen. I read the prayers out loud, either to myself or to my children, and my spirit is just completely moved in worship and praise to God. The pictures too are gorgeous, mountains and bodies of water, wonderful creations of God.

If you are looking for a unique gift book for someone in your life, then THE MAJESTY OF PRAYER is just the thing. Buy one for a friend and one for yourself. It’d be beautiful as a coffee table book—or to jumpstart your daily devotions. $17.99 hardcover. 48 pages.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Perfectly Ridiculous


Title: PERFECTLY RIDICULOUS
Author: Kristin Billerbeck
Publisher: Revell
July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8007-1974-6
Genre: Inspirational/young adult

Daisy Crispin and her best friend Claire have just been offered an amazing trip to Argentina for their graduation gifts from Claire’s parents. But there’s only one catch. In order to meet the requirements for her scholarship to college, Daisy has to spend a week there doing mission work. Daisy and Claire aren’t thrilled, but agree to it. But Libby, Daisy’s missions supervisor, doesn’t seem to like Daisy, and makes life miserable for her.

JC is also there on missions for the same university as Daisy and they both form an instant bond, but Daisy is really hoping to see her high school crush, Max, while she is there. But is Max avoiding her, or is he really busy? What exactly is the status of her relationship with Max?

PERFECTLY RIDICULOUS is the latest book in Ms. Billerbeck’s A Universally Misunderstood Novel series. This book stands alone, but it is the continuing story of Daisy so readers will probably want to read the high school days saga from the earlier books Perfectly Dateless and Perfectly Invisible.

I think Daisy grew up a lot in this book, and that was good to see. I did sympathize with her, wondering what Libby’s problem with her was (since she was so hateful), what Max’s issues were (since at times he was positively a jerk), and was JC really as upstanding as he seemed?

PERFECTLY RIDICULOUS will appeal to your teen girl. Warning – there are some “soft” swear words that might offend some more conservative Christians. $12.99. 245 pages. 4.5 stars.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Missing Your Smile


Title: MISSING YOUR SMILE
Author: Jerry Eicher
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
February 2012
ISBN: 978-0736939430
Genre: Inspirational/Amish

Susan Hostetler leaves the Amish and flees to New Jersey when she catches her boyfriend, Thomas Stoll, kissing her best friend Eunice. Susan is uncomfortable in her new fancy world, and still using kerosene lanterns, fearful of even turning on the electricity. She lands a job in a bakery, and helps sells roast beef sandwiches during festivals. Still, she isn’t quite sure what she’s doing there, at least until handsome Duane Moran, a CPA, pays some attention to her.

Thomas Stoll is confused. He loves Susan, and doesn’t quite understand why she doesn’t understand that. Sure, he kissed Eunice, but why should that mean the relationship is over? He doesn’t know how to make it up to Susan, so he turns around and asks Eunice out again.

Susan is adjusting to her new life, but then she meets a young unwed expectant mother who wants Susan to help her get her unborn baby adopted by an Amish family. As Susan tries to help the young woman, she’s drawn back to her Amish roots—but will her heart allow her to return to the life she left behind?

MISSING YOUR SMILE is the first book in Mr. Eicher’s newest series Fields of Home. Readers will be drawn into Susan’s life, experiencing first hand what an Amish teen would go through as they adjust to life among the English. Mr. Eicher has Amish roots so he writes with firsthand knowledge.

MISSING YOUR SMILE is a quiet, gentle read, that will leave you caring for Susan and even Thomas, though you want to sit the boy down and have a talk with him. Fans of Amish fiction won’t want to miss MISSING YOUR SMILE. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book. $11.99. 286 pages.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Glamorous Illusions


Title: GLAMOROUS ILLUSIONS
Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Publisher: David C. Cook
July 2012
ISBN: 978-1434764300
Genre: Inspirational/historical romance

Cora Deihl’s has just returned home from Normal School, where she’s studying to be a teacher. But when her parents fail to meet her at the train station she catches a ride home with someone else, only to discover her pa has suffered a stroke. When Cora learns that they are on the verge of loosing the family farm, she takes matters in her own hands and takes a beautiful necklace she’s received as a gift to the mercantile in order to buy seed…

But things don’t improve. Instead, a man comes forward who claims to hold answers to questions Cora never knew she had. He buys the family farm, finances the trip to Minnesota for her parents and spirits Cora off to Europe…with kin she never knew existed. But all isn’t sunshine and roses – unless you count the burns and the thorns.

GLAMOROUS ILLUSIONS is unexpected. The back of the book says “Cora is about to discover who she truly is.” And that is what the book is about. The journey of discovery. Is she as strong as she believes she is? Is she willing to face the greatest challenges she’s ever known?

I couldn’t help but care for Cora, and other characters that had point of view. Ms. Bergren did a stellar job bringing them all to life in the pages of this book. Cora’s point of view is in first person, everyone else’s is in third. I don’t see that done much in books, but Ms. Bergren did it well. There are little headings above each scene letting us know who’s point of view we’re in.

There’s an afterwards included in this book, which includes a chat with the author, discussion questions, and historical notes. Fans of historical romance won’t want to miss GLAMOROUS ILLUSIONS. The ending is a bit abrupt without clear resolution. 4 stars. $14.99. 403 pages.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Fiddler


Title: THE FIDDLER
Author: Beverly Lewis
Publisher: Bethany House
April 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0977-2
Genre: Inspirational/Amish/contemporary

An English Fiddler meets an Amish boy – and interesting premise….

Michael Hostetler has one food in the world, and the other in his Amish community. He loves his home, loves his people, but he’s been bitten by the education bug and gotten his degrees. Still, he’s being pushed by the People to give up his worldly ways and return home, join the church, and stay.

Amelia Devries takes a wrong turn on her way home to Ohio after a fiddling event where she opened for a famous country musician. She is taken in by sweet Michael, who helps fix her flat tire, retrieves her things, and takes her home to his people, just so she can stay a spell.

But will Amelia return home, marry her fiancé and take her planned European tour? Or give it all up to stay in Hickory Hollow?

THE FIDDLER is set in Hickory Hollow, where Beverly Lewis first started her beloved Amish stories. I’m a long time fan of Beverly Lewis, and honestly never thought I’d meet a Beverly Lewis book I didn’t like… until THE FIDDLER. I found myself skimming and then going back and rereading, and I checked the back to see if this was supposed to be a romance because Michael and Amelia spent little time together.

The story is disjointed, confusing, boring, and not at all like I’ve come to expect from Beverly Lewis. She’s been my long-time hero, and I’ve inhaled all her books, and I am just overwhelmed that this one is so different than I’ve come to expect. I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. I never thought I would ever write less than a 5 star review for Beverly Lewis’ books. I never imagined a 3 star review…. $15.99. 326 pages.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Death of the Couch Potato's Wife


Title: DEATH OF THE COUCH POTATO’S WIFE
Author: Christy Barritt
Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carollinas
May 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9847655-9-1
Genre: Inspirational/mystery

Laura Berry and her husband Kent have recently moved to Boring, Indiana, to escape the big city and the crime rate there. But Laura isn’t sure how well she’s doing in her new neighborhood. There are very strict home owner association rules, cliquish neighbors, and her husband is working long hours, leaving her wondering if her marriage is over.

But then Laura discovers her neighbor, Candace dead on the sofa, hands in a bag of pork rinds. The police say she was poisoned. But who did it… and why? Worse, someone has now targeted Laura, leaving threatening notes and grainy home videos on her porch, and bugging her house.

Laura is determined to find out who is doing this, and why. Will she find out before it’s too late?

DEATH OF THE COUCH POTATO’S WIFE is a stand-alone mystery by talented author Christy Barritt. I enjoyed reading this and getting to know Laura Berry, and the quirky residence of her neighborhood. I’m also glad there’s no neighborhood association where I live—I’d go insane with all the meetings Laura is forced to attend!

I did guess who might have killed Candace early on, but I didn’t have all the particulars figured out before they were revealed. If you enjoy cozy mysteries, then you’ll want to read DEATH OF A COUCH POTATO’S WIFE. $14.95. 293 pages.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Little Prayers to Bless Your Day


Title: LITTLE PRAYERS TO BLESS YOUR DAY
Author/Illustrator: Chris Shea
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7369-4767-1
Genre: Inspirational/gift books

Imagine the blessings that would come in a day where a little prayer—like grace before meals—is whispered while doing ordinary things like waiting in line, shopping for shoes, or doing a load of wash.

Most Christians pray before bed, before eating a meal, while visiting a sick friend, or while sitting in church. But what about the other times? Standing in line at the post office. Enrolling for college classes. Washing dishes. Grocery shopping.

We are encouraged to pray without ceasing and LITTLE PRAYERS TO BLESS YOUR DAY is a great way to start that process. If you don’t automatically breathe a prayer as you go about the different things in your day, and need a little help to get you started.

If your teenage son is on your last nerve? There’s a prayer about getting angry. If your getting impatient with another person, there’s a prayer about impatience.

This is the cutest little giftbook, colorful and encouraging. It’d be a beautiful little “pick-me-up” for an unexpected gift for someone you care about. Perfect to tuck into a basket of gifts, for the hospital, baby shower, wedding shower, or a house-shower. $9.99 hardcover. 64 pages.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Inescapable & giveaway


To CELEBRATE the release of Inescapable, Nancy Mehl is giving away a handmade Mennonite Quilt giveaway! Then on 7/26 she'll be announcing the winner at a fun "Inescapable" Author Chat Party where she'll be chatting with readers and giving away fun prizes! Click for details and don’t miss the fun. http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/13514299/inescapable Booklist says, "Nancy Mehl does a remarkable job of showcasing the lifestyle of the Mennonites against the backdrop of a modern mystery" in Inescapable.

Title: INESCAPABLE
Author: Nany Mehl
Publisher: Bethany House
July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0927-7
Genre: Inspirational/romantic suspense



Lizzie Engel has been fired from her job, due to false accusations of embezzlement, and is convinced that someone is stalking her and sending her threatening notes. She does the only thing she knows to do, pay off all her bills in Kansas City, pack her things and move back home to the old order Mennonite community she’d fled from as an unwed mother.

Lizzie is confident she’ll be safe in Kingdom, Kansas, at least until she finds her footing and can leave again. There she meets handsome and kind Noah Housler and begins to think that things possibly might be fine.

But it soon becomes apparent that the threat Lizzie has fled from is now closer than ever. And Lizzie has only one place left to run—

INESCAPABLE is the first book in Ms. Mehl’s Road to Kingdom series. Readers will sympathize with Lizzie with all the troubles in her life, even though she makes some mistakes.

There was a lot of telling in this book. The characters were kind of flat. But once you got past that, the premise was good, and it was interesting to read about a very strict, old order Mennonite community, and a woman who is struggling to find herself. Fans of bonnet fiction will want to read this book. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book. 4 stars. $14.99. 332 pages.



About Nancy:

Nancy Mehl, the author of 12 books, received an ACFW Carol Award in 2009 for her novel For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls. She has a background in social work and is a member of ACFW and RWA. She writes from her home in Wichita, Kansas, where she lives with her husband, Norman, and their puggle, Watson. Visit her website at www.nancymehl.com.

YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq7-xzUPkpI

Blog Tour Schedule

http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/13514299/inescapable


Celebrate with Nancy by entering her "Inescapable" Giveaway and connecting with her during the Author Chat Party on 7/26!


One winner will receive:

A Handmade Mennonite Quilt
A copy of Inescapable by Nancy Mehl

Enter today by clicking the box on the sidebar! But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on July 25th. Winner will be announced at the "Inescapable" Author Chat Facebook Party on 7/26. Nancy will be hosting a book chat, testing your trivia skills (how much do you know about the Mennonites?) and giving away some great prizes!

So grab your copy of Inescapable and join Nancy on the evening of the July 26th for a chance to connect with Nancy and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 26th!

Link to buy the book - http://ow.ly/caqAl.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Brave


Title: THE BRAVE
Authors: Hayley & Michael DiMarco
Publisher: Revell
July 2012
ISBN: 978-0800733056
Genre: Inspirational/young adult/Christian living

What are you afraid of? Failure? Bullies? Pop quizzes? Natural disasters? Embarrassing yourself?

There’s a ton of stuff in the world that make us scared, stressed out, and worried. Things that make us want to hide. Things that make us doubt that God cares.

But Hayley & Michael DiMarco show us that the Brave people around us aren’t superhumans, they just learned how to have faith. Not in themselves, but in Someone much bigger than their fears.

Are you tired of being afraid? Want to be one of the Brave?

Even adults get worried, scared, or stressed out. So even though pop quizzes don’t scare me any more, and I learned to laugh over embarrassing incidents, I still get scared when the phone rings. Is it bad news? Is someone calling to cause problems or disrupt my life in some way? Or when a police car pulls into the driveway and your teenage son isn’t home… was there an accident? Fear happens, to every one. But the DiMarcos show us in THE BRAVE how we can turn our fears over to God and let Him handle them.

Pretty in blue, THE BRAVE includes pop quizzes, but the fun kind, where you learn if you are brave or scared. And it has five facts that they discuss. They include:

. The Brave have faith
. The Brave fear the right thing
. The Brave know the truth
. The Brave know pain
. The Brave conquer their fear

Full of truth, biblical advice, and personal stories, THE BRAVE is perfect for the tweener, teenager, and even adult who wants to be one of the Brave. The blue print is kind of hard to read (though pretty) but that’s my only complaint. Recommended. $12.99. 167 pages.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan and giveaway


Title: LOVE FINDS YOU IN MACKINAC ISLAND, MICHIGAN
Author: Melanie Dobson
Publisher: Summerside Press
July 2012
ISBN: 978-1609366407
Genre: Inspirational/historical romance

Elena Bissette’s family is suffering financial ruin at the end of the gilded age. The bank is going to foreclose on the factory and the house. The family decides to take on last summer vacation to Mackinac Island, Michigan, where Mrs. Bissette plans to marry Elena off to Chester Darrington, a wealthy bachelor, hoping to save her family’s finances. Elena agrees to marry for money, but meeting Chester is harder than she imagines, especially once he hears rumors that she’s chasing him.

When Elena goes up to her favorite escape on the island, an old forgotten lighthouse, she discovers an ancient mystery—and the man of her dreams, a man who introduces himself as Chase. She and Chase quickly develop feelings for each other, but Elena knows her duty to her family.

Will Elena marry for money to save her family—or will she marry for love?

LOVE FINDS YOU IN MACKINAC ISLAND, MICHIGAN, is set on a place I would dearly love to visit. I grew up in Michigan, most of my life, but I’ve never been on that magical island. I love lighthouses, I love the Great Lakes, and I love Michigan. Ms. Dobson was able to bring it all to life on the pages of this book.

I loved Elena and her story; she was a sweet heroine all the way through. I don’t know how much I can say about our hero without giving away the story, but I will say that at some points he is a real sweetie, and others, he’s very rude and insensitive. Still, this is one of the best historical romances I’ve read recently and I highly recommend it. $12.99.
320 pages. 5 stars.

****

Romance, Mystery and the Wonder of God’s Creation
Author Melanie Dobson transports readers to a magical place and time to reveal God’s majesty

Not only does God love to create, He also loves His creation. This is the message author Melanie Dobson hopes that her readers gain from her latest release Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan (Summerside Press/July 1, 2012/ISBN 978-1609366407/$12.99) that combines historical romance with her trademark element of mystery.

A story filled with beauty and wonder, Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan transports readers to a magical place and time. The story begins in the 1890s at the end of the Gilded Age, a golden era of prosperity and growth. As the Gilded Age comes to a close, the kingdoms of many wealthy industrialists begin to collapse, including the once-wealthy Bissette family who has nearly lost its fortune. However, the Bissettes still own a home on the fashionable Mackinac Island, where they will spend one last summer in the hope of introducing their daughter Elena to a wealthy suitor.

Not only is Elena is repulsed by the idea of marrying for money, she quickly grows tired of the extravagant balls and spends most evenings escaping back into Mackinac’s rugged forest. There she meets Chase, a handsome laborer who shares her love for the night sky. The two begin to meet in secret at an abandoned lighthouse where they discover a mysterious tattered diary.

As Elena falls in love with Chase, her mother relentlessly plots to introduce her to Chester Darrington, the island’s most eligible bachelor. While marriage to the elusive millionaire would solve the Bissettes’ financial woes, Elena is torn between duty to her family and true love.

The Love Finds You series from Summerside Press is a collection of novels that captures the flavor of towns and cities across the country with colorful histories. The towns become as much of a part of the stories as the characters themselves. Researching the towns in which her novels are set is the aspect of historical fiction that Dobson enjoys most. In writing Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan, she was able to explore the island that has intrigued her since her early years growing up in Ohio. “I've always been fascinated by Mackinac Island because I was told time seemed to stand still there,” explains Dobson. “From the moment I got off the boat, I could sense it was a magical place. There are no cars on the island so people ride bikes or horse-drawn carriages through the charming village and back into the forest. The island has been a popular vacation destination on the east coast since 1819, so it’s rich with fascinating history and lore.”

In the midst of writing this book, Dobson went to Haiti to help lead a retreat for the wives of Haitian pastors. Each member of their team spoke on a different name of God, and Dobson spoke about God as Mighty Creator. “As I researched God's passion for creating and the love He has for His creation, it was a joy for me to incorporate the wonder and beauty of the universe into this historical novel. I hope that readers leave with a sense of God's majesty on this beautiful island.”


About the Author

Melanie Dobson has written ten contemporary and historical novels including five releases in Summerside’s Love Finds You series. In 2011, two of her releases won Carol Awards: Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa (for historical romance) and The Silent Order (for romantic suspense).

She enjoys the research process that comes along with being an author of historical fiction so much that she often has a difficult time stopping the research on the history and locale in order to start the writing. Because Melanie visits each location she writes about, she’s been able to spend time in the beautiful and fascinating towns across the country that bring her stories to life.

Melanie received her undergraduate degree in journalism from Liberty University and her master's degree in communication from Regent University. Prior to her writing career, Melanie was the corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family and a publicist for The Family Channel. She later launched her own public relations company and worked in the fields of publicity and journalism for more than fifteen years.

She met her husband, Jon, in Colorado Springs, but since they've been married, the Dobsons have relocated numerous times including stints in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado, Berlin, and Southern California. Along with their two daughters, Karly and Kiki, they now enjoy their home in the Pacific Northwest. The entire Dobson family loves to travel and hike in both the mountains and along the cliffs above the Pacific.

When Melanie isn't writing or playing with her family, she enjoys exploring ghost towns and dusty back roads, line dancing, and reading inspirational fiction.

***


Q: Was there any special inspiration for the story? And why Mackinac Island?

I've always been intrigued by Mackinac Island (a very popular vacation destination on the east coast) because I was told time seemed to stand still there. There are no cars on the island so people ride bikes or horse-drawn carriages, and from the moment you get off a boat, you can sense it is a magical place.

Q: How does this book differ from your other books, including the Love Finds You series?

Love Finds You in Mackinac Island is a historical romance with an element of mystery (like my other novels). Many of my recent books have been about different religious groups, but this story is about high society in the 1890s. Readers will recognize and I hope enjoy some of the characters and twists inspired by Jane Austin's novels.

I love being one of the writers for the Love Finds You series! I grew up in a small town in Ohio and have always been intrigued by small towns and their stories. The opportunity to research and write about unique towns has been an absolute joy for me.

Q: Do you decide where the books in the Love Finds You (LFY) series are set, or does the publisher assign locales? How do you decide where the story is set?

Summerside has asked me to write about a specific locale before, but usually I send my wonderful editor a couple ideas of places where I'd like to set a story and we work from there. My book LFY in Liberty, Indiana was set in Liberty because they were a major hub on the Underground Railroad, and the name Liberty was quite fitting for their work helping runaway slaves. LFY in Amana and Homestead were set in the Amana Colonies--a place I've been intrigued about since I was a child. I've also been intrigued about Mackinac Island since my early years, growing up in Ohio.

Q: Do you always get the opportunity to visit the places your books are set?

I always visit the locations for my Love Finds You books before I write about the towns because the setting is ingrained in these stories. I usually post blogs about my visits to the locations once the books are released if you would like to read about some of my adventures. http://melaniedobson.blogspot.com

Fortunately, my next novel (Where the Trail Ends, releasing in October) is set on the Oregon Trail so I didn't have to go far to research it.

Q: You’ve written in more than one genre including historical and contemporary. What genre or time period is your favorite and why?

My desire is to write stories that stir people's heart and soul--whether historical or contemporary--but my favorite genres would be to write historical romance and romantic suspense. I love to research--so much so that it's sometimes hard for me to stop and actually write the book. :)

Q: The book takes place in the Gilded Age. What/when was the Gilded Age?

The Gilded Age was a golden age of prosperity and growth in the United States from the late 1860s through the early 1890s. My story begins at the end of the Gilded Age when the kingdoms of many wealthy industrialists began to collapse.


Q: For such a small island, how did Mackinac Island become such a popular getaway? How long has it been a tourist destination?

The resort island nestled into a strait below Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is known by many names. Fairy Island. Land of the Giant Turtle. And my personal favorite—the island that time forgot.

From the moment I stepped off the ferry and heard the clip-clopping of horses’ hooves along the island’s historic Main Street, I was transported back a good hundred years. Pronounced “Mackinaw” like Mackinaw City (but spelled differently so the post office could differentiate between the island and town), Mackinac Island is a place that time did indeed seem to forget.

Even today, Mackinac Island reflects an era when the wealthy and their servants escaped the heat and grime in cities like Chicago and Detroit to enjoy natural spring waters and cool lake breezes. It was an era when women wore beaded gowns and plumed hats and twirled parasols in their gloved hands, when people were just beginning to talk about horseless carriages as they rode in their own horse-drawn carriages to an elaborate ball at the Grand Hotel or to an afternoon tea at what their neighbors would call a “cottage”—a residence that more closely resembled a castle. A nineteenth-century writer once said that the island was so healthy, a person had to leave Mackinac to die.

Mackinac Island hasn’t swung far beyond the era of the Victorians, and both residents and visitors alike savor the past. Its diverse history goes back hundreds of years, when Native Americans considered the island the home of their Great Spirit and local tribes gathered there each summer to fish. In the 1700s, lucrative French and American fur companies made their homes and millions of dollars on Mackinac until the British took over during the War of 1812 and held the island for three years before returning it to the United States.

Then, in 1819, the first steamship of tourists arrived.

However, the investors in the Grand Hotel made it a premier summer destination when they built the hotel in 1887. The Grand Hotel (on the cover of the book) celebrates its 125 anniversary this summer.

Q: What do you hope readers come away with after reading Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan?

I hope readers will be inspired by God's majesty and be reminded that not only does God love to create, He also loves His creation.

I've published ten novels now, and LFY in Mackinac Island was one of my favorite books to write. This story (I hope) is filled with beauty and wonder. It's about a magical place, during a magical time, and I hope that readers leave with a sense of God's majesty on this beautiful island where time has seemed to stand still.

Q: As you were writing this book, you were able to travel to Haiti to lead a women’s retreat. Tell us how you were able to tie your preparation and experience there into the book.

In the midst of writing this book, I went to Haiti to help lead a retreat for the wives of Haitian pastors. Our whole team spoke on a different name of God, and I spoke about God as Mighty Creator. As I researched God's passion for creating and the love He has for His creation, it was a joy for me to incorporate the wonder and beauty of the universe into this historical novel.

For more about Melanie Dobson and her books, visit www.melaniedobson.com.

###

Celebrate with Melanie by entering her Kindle Giveaway!


One grand prize winner will receive:

• A brand new Kindle Fire
• Signed copies of Melanie’s Love Find You books: Love Finds you in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa, Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana.

Hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/4/12. The winner will be announced on 8/6/12 on Melanie’s blog!

Just click one the box on the sidebar to enter. Tell your friends about Melanie's giveaway onFACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Asher of Bethlehem


Title: ASHER OF BETHLEHEM
Author: Howard Rodney Jones
Illustrator: Paul C. Spoor
Publisher: Laughing Squire Press
May 2011
ISBN: 978-0615428796
Genre: Inspirational/young adult

Asher is a young orphan boy, his parents have died in a tragic accident and his cruel uncle kicks him out on the streets. Asher is a terrible beggar, not whining about his troubles, and trying to work to earn money honestly. All the other beggars make fun of him, and Asher often has trouble earning enough to put food in his stomach.

When Asher’s best friend offers him a job working in the inn’s stable, Asher jumps at it. He’s promised an income if he cleans the stables and cares for the animals. But Asher is never paid for his work. And one night when the inn was full some poor strangers came to stay. Asher offered to give up his unpaid income permanently, if the inn-keeper will allow these strangers to stay in the stable.

As a result, Asher is a witness to the miracles God wrought in that stable on that long ago day. But what he sees lands him in danger. Will Asher be able to safely leave Bethlehem? Or will he die for what he sees?

ASHER OF BETHLEHEM is a sweet story loosely based around the real life nativity story of baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. While Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus are real, and the events unfolded mostly as portrayed, the author took liberties with who interacted with them, when, and how. He also included the wise men coming immediately following the birth, which didn’t happen. All in all though, this was a story that my ten-year-old loved, and it held my interest from beginning to end. I recommend this story – as a sweet Christmassy story for tweeners. $9.95. 120 pages.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Launch Out Into the Deep!


Title: LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEP!
Author: Acacia Slaton Beumer
Poet: Aaron L. Slaton
Publisher: Create Space
April 2012
ISBN: 978-1468024524
Genre: Essays / Christian living

Judging by the cover of this book, I thought it was for young adults, tweeners, and maybe a science fiction novel. One should never judge a book by it’s cover.

This is in reality, in the author’s own words: Bold, daring, daring and life-changing truths, candid answers to real-life stories and scenarios.

LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEP! addresses these issues and more:

. is there hope for someone who is single and tired of waiting?
. how can I overcome sexual perversion?
. is there forgiveness for someone who knew the truth but committed sexual sin?
. my spouse is not a believer and I’m tired of the battle, should I call it quits?
. how can I learn to accept and love myself?
. and much much more.

The book is filled with the author’s perspectives on these subjects, biblical insights, thoughtful poetry, resource guides, and discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEP! would be wonderful as a small group book. But the age limits are not really well defined. Some are geared for singles and teens, others are geared for married couples or women… so if you were to use it as a small group you’d need to be picky with the chapters and only choose the ones relevant to that group.

I’m not sure if I recommend this book or not. I’m torn. There are many positives. Also some negatives. But it is definitely something to consider to see if it meets your needs. Maybe it could be kept in a church library, or a Christian counselor, to help with specific issues. $9.99. 198 pages.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Interview with Beth Guckenberger / review of Tales of the Not Forgotten


An interview with Beth Guckenberger,
Author of Tales of the Not Forgotten

With the help of missionary and author Beth Guckenberger, parents and Sunday school teachers can introduce children to the wonderful things that God is accomplishing around the world through Tales of the Not Forgotten (Standard Publishing/May 1, 2012, ISBN 978-0-7847-3528-2).

Written for ages 8 and up, Tales of the Not Forgotten shares a collection of four real-life stories of children from impoverished circumstances and paints a picture of God’s dynamic movement in their lives. The first in the Storyweaver series, Guckenberger inspires readers to trust that God is weaving a story in the lives of each us, writing endings they would never imagine. She takes young readers on a journey to faraway lands, introducing them to faces the world often doesn’t see, but are not forgotten by God.

Guckenberger and her husband are founders of Back2Back Ministries, an international Christian non-profit organization dedicated to being a voice for orphans and existing to love and care for orphans and impoverished children.


Q: Your previous books have worked in stories of your mission work to an adult audience? Why did you decide to write a book for a young audience this time?

It was a combination of motives. Being a mother, I see my own kids asking questions about the world and the issues they are aware of around the world. Also, as a missionary, we serve alongside so many families that travel here on a short-term trip. Those experiences provoke good discussions they take back home with them. I wanted a book that would spark those kinds of conversations of substance at the dinner table and in the minivan, but without having to travel. I had noticed a lot of missions’ material specifically geared towards kids was outdated, or a little cheesy, or primarily guilt-driven. I kept thinking while I was writing that I wanted a book that addressed was God was doing instead of what man wasn’t.

Q: When did you go on your first mission trip? What countries have you/do you do mission work in?

I went on my first missions’ trip when I was 16 to Costa Rica. I can remember at the end of the month, I wasn’t ready to come home!

My family and I have lived in Monterrey, Mexico for 15 years. Back2Back Ministries has sites in Jos, Nigeria, Hyderbaad, India, Mazatlan and Cancun, Mexico and a new work in Port au Prince, Haiti.

Q: What other resources are available to go along with Tales of the Not Forgotten? How are churches and other groups using the book and leader’s guide?

We have written a curriculum to accompany the book that is very user friendly. A parent, a Sunday school teacher, a VBS teacher, or a Christian school can use it. It has a guide, “If you have 15 minutes, if you have 30 minutes, if you have 60 minutes…” so you can pick and choose the activities depending if it’s a classroom lesson or an after dinner devotional. Many churches are already using it in regular classrooms, as a part of their summer programs, or missions’ emphasis months. Families are using it as their once a week devotional, homeschooling families are using it in their school day, there are many ways in which the activities can be incorporated into your already existing structure.

Q: Are you able to keep up with the children in the book to know how they are doing?

Since I live in Monterrey, I am absolutely able to keep up with Joel who lives here. The other three are in the lives of our staff who serve in those countries.

Q: What is the main thing you hope children will learn from your book?

That we trust them with these stories and many more like it. We believe in what their generation will learn and be called to and accomplish for the gospel around the world. Also, that they aren’t too young to be learning about, praying for and going as God’s ambassador.

Q: Tell us a little bit about Back2Back Ministries.

Our Mission: Back2Back Ministries is an international Christian non-profit organization that is dedicated to being a voice for orphans. We exist to love and care for orphans and impoverished children, by meeting their spiritual, physical, educational, emotional, and social needs that they may overcome their life circumstances and break free from the cycle of generational poverty.

Our Vision: We desire for every orphan and impoverished child to have the opportunity for success through “care for today and hope for tomorrow”. Our goal is that each child would experience restoration to a life of purpose in which they can become fulfilled and mature Christian adults.

For more information about Beth and Back2Back Ministries, visit www.bethguckenberger.com or www.back2backministries.org.


Title: TALES OF THE NOT FORGOTTEN
Author: Beth Guckenberger
Publisher: Standard Publishers
May 2012
ISBN: 978-0784735282
Genre: Inspirational/missions/young adults

TALES OF THE NOT FORGOTTEN are stories of orphans in various places of the world, the tales of the ones that the world doesn’t see—unless you’re a missionary.

Joel dares to ask for what he can’t have. Seraphina sacrifices what she can’t afford to give. Ibrahim looks for answers buried out of reach. Christiana, saved by a mission, searches for her own.

These are real stories about real kids that will take you to faraway lands and unknown faces. You’ll see their challenges, be moved to tears for these poor children, and see the hand of God working miracles you’d never imagine!

Wow! That is all I can say. I was crying by the time I finished the first story and I am totally glad that God has provided hands/missionaries to help care for these people. God is so good.

There is a companion leader’s guide (on cd-rom) to use with this book so you can help children in your tweener youth group or Sunday School class to understand. It is filled with fun activities, compelling stories, biblical teaching and practical applications. (ISBN: 978-0-7847-3527-5)

This is an awesome missionary book for tweeners. My ten year old sat down and read it in a couple hours, and gave the book to her older (twenty-one) brother, who now wants to go on a mission trip and help however he can. Highly recommended. $8.99. 208 pages.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Passages




Title: PASSAGES
Author: Brian Hardin
Publisher: Zondervan
November 2011
ISBN: 978-0310329190
Genre: Inspirational/Christian living

How a few minutes a day will change your whole life

Many of us want to read the Bible more often, but we rarely take time for more than a few verses—on the run.

The Bible was never meant to be read in short segments here and there when you can fit it in. The Bible should be experienced in passages and read daily.

In PASSAGES, Brian Hardin shares his own remarkable story about how reading the Bible in a year changed his life—and will change yours too. PASSAGES goes beyond exploring how the Bible was meant to be read, but provides three distinct Bible reading plans to help you get started.

If you’ve always wanted to read through the Bible in a year, then PASSAGES might be just the tool you need to help you get started. It explains the why, the what, the how, and all that’s left for you is the when.

Pick up PASSAGES today, and change your life. $14.99. 217 pages.

Tour Schedule:

http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/13507671/brianhardin




Biography

Brian Hardin is a speaker, photographer, record producer and an ordained minister. In 2006, he created the Daily Audio Bible, an online podcast that now delivers 1.5 million downloads a month. He has produced over 150 albums and works with artists and the arts extensively. He is married to Christian musician Jill Parr.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Walk His Trail Movie Message Series




What People Are Saying About The Walk His Trail Movie Message Series:

I enthusiastically recommend the Walk His Trail Movie Message Series to any pastor or group looking for a fresh way to communicate the eternal messages of forgiveness and sacrifice. Your audience will be riveted by this timeless story of God's extraordinary power to forgive and transform the hardest of hearts.

Dr. Robert Jeffress, Sr. Pastor First Baptist Church, Dallas

Though the slaying of five missionaries along the Amazon occurred decades ago, the truths and examples continue to roll down through time. God has much to teach us through what our human side sees primarily as tragedy. The Walk His Trail Movie Message Series combines the best of contemporary skills to instruct our visually-minded generation with ancient truth through an event more than a half century ago. The format provides flexibility for use before small groups as well as whole congregations. [Walk His Trail is] done well with high creativity.

Wallace Henley, assistant pastor Second Baptist Church, Houston
A Heritage Born of Sacrifice and Reconciliation
50,000 U.S. Pastors to Receive EthnoGraphic Media’s Teaching/Preaching Resource
The Walk His Trail Movie Message Series from EthnoGraphic Media (EGM) will be given away free of charge to 50,000 U.S. pastors. This three-part series offers an innovative way to teach and preach about deep sacrifice, true reconciliation and a lasting heritage.

The Walk His Trail Movie Message Series was inspired by the true story of five American missionaries speared to death in the Amazon jungle in 1956. EGM captured the fullness of this transformative story in their three films, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, End of the Spear and The Grandfathers. The spirit of these films and this program is best revealed in the words of Mincaye, one of the tribal killers: “We acted badly, badly, until they brought us God’s carvings. Now we walk His trail.”

“While the story may be more than a half century old, it continues to positively impact individuals, families and communities,” explains EGM’s president, Bill Oechsler. “Our hope is that the Walk His Trail Movie Message Series will align with ministerial programs, cut across cultures and generations and reach out beyond the church to those in the surrounding communities,” Oechsler continues. “It’s a way of helping their congregations experience this true and incredibly inspirational story in a new way and, perhaps, for the first time. But the real impact of this program will be realized in the teaching and preaching experiences at the local church level.”

Designed specifically for pastors as a teaching/preaching resource, the Walk His Trail program contains three parts that can stand alone or work as a complete “movie message” series. Creative and archival assets from the making of the feature film and two documentaries help illustrate and dramatize essential biblically based themes and messages. Steve Saint, son of one of the martyred missionaries, serves as a first-person storyteller throughout the series. Recalls Saint, “Over the years, many have sympathized with our loss, but they could never have imagined our gain.” Of course, pastors have the option of disabling Steve’s narrative to lead the message themselves.

The Walk His Trail Movie Message Series is a one-of-a-kind program with the ability to draw large, diverse audiences into the church, connecting on a heart-level around the messages of sacrifice, reconciliation and heritage. Beginning in late May 2012, 50,000 U.S. pastors will begin receiving the complete DVD program. Pastors may request a free copy for their own churches at www.egmfilms.org.

EthnoGraphic Media is an educational non-profit organization that explores the critical issues of our time. As a community of artists and filmmakers, EGM uses media to tell true stories of hope and compassion in the midst of suffering and strife. EGM believes that gaining a deeper understanding of the human condition inspires positive action. Other film projects include Little Town of Bethlehem, The Grandfathers, End of the Spear and Beyond the Gates of Splendor.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Stars Shine Bright


Title: THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT
Author: Sibella Giorello
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
July 2012
ISBN: 978-1595545367
Genre: Inspirational/suspense

The FBI has suspended Special Agent Raleigh Harmon for breaking its rules. Now, she’s offered a chance to redeem her career and restart her life.

The trouble is—it’s impossible. Sent undercover to a race track for thoroughbred horses, Raleigh is asked to determine why horses that are long shots are winning consistently, then start dying of mysterious illnesses. When Raleigh’s own life is threatened, she realizes that something bigger and much more sinister is ruining Emerald Meadows.

Her one contact with the FBI is Jack Stephanson—a man who seems to be a friend one moment and her worst enemy the next. Raleigh has never felt more alone. Undercover, she has no contact with friends or family—making matters worse, Raleigh’s real-life fiancé wants them to begin their life together—at a time when she’s under orders not to be herself.

THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT is the fourth book in A Raleigh Harmon series, but it easily stands alone. Readers who fall in love with Raleigh will want to read the first three books though, The Rivers Run Dry, The Clouds Roll Away, and The Mountains Bow Down.

Raleigh is a realistic heroine who grips your heart and won’t let go. I was instantly drawn into the story, and had to keep reading to find out what happens. Even though I know next to nothing about horses, let alone thoroughbred racing horses, I cared what happened at Emerald Meadows, and I cared for Raleigh as she struggled through the darkness of what remained of her life and career. If you are looking for a page turning suspense, then pickup THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT. $15.99. 391 pages.

***

You Can’t Hide from the Truth
Giorello thrills audiences with her latest installment of the Raleigh Harmon mysteries

Seattle: Popular suspense author Sibella Giorello gives her readers the mystery, intrigue and excitement they’ve been waiting for in The Stars Shine Bright (Thomas Nelson/July 17, 2012/ISBN: 978-1-59554-536-7). Known for her in depth research, the latest installment of Giorello’s critically acclaimed Raleigh Harmon series brings readers into the world of crime solving and forensics as well as the darker realms of horse racing and gambling.

The Stars Shine Bright explores the consequences of lying, especially those deceptions meant to protect someone you love. The story follows Raleigh Harmon, FBI Special Agent and forensic geologist, as she struggles to redeem her career and re-start her life following her suspension from the Bureau for bending its rules. Raleigh’s newest assignment sends her undercover to a thoroughbred horse track to uncover who’s fixing the races. But when horses start dying and her own life is threatened, Raleigh realizes something bigger and more sinister ruining Emerald Meadows.

Living her double-existence undercover as a wealthy scion of the racing world, Raleigh’s never felt more alone. Or more pressure. Her fiancé wants them to begin their life together—now -- but she can’t make any contact with family during her assignment. Meanwhile her mother is confined to a state mental hospital, following a psychotic breakdown, and her one contact with the FBI is Special Agent Jack Stephanson, a guy runs the gamut from jerk to genuine friend at any given moment.

With just days left before the horse season ends, Raleigh races to stop the killing and find out who’s behind the deadly plot, while still trying to determine if Jack is friend or foe, and whether marrying her fiancé will make her life better—or worse.

Giorello puts a unique spin on the popular genre of forensics, focusing on forensic geology and mineralogy. With a background in geology, she shares with her heroine a belief that science and faith are not opposing studies but ideas that go hand-in-hand. “For evolution to work—for random chance to be the operating system in the universe—we should be witnessing tornadoes blasting through junk yards and building F-15 fighter jets. But we see the exact opposite. There’s a grand design to the natural world, and a design means there was a designer.”

Giorello credits her favorite mystery authors, such as John D. MacDonald, and growing up in a courtroom where her father served as judge as inspirations for writing crime fiction. Giorello’s also inspired by the Bible. “Whenever I say that, some people groan, but those 66 books are sheer poetry, and they cover the most crucial questions. Who is God? What's life all about? Why are we here and what's the plan—for individuals and for humanity?”

Giorello’s strong yet flawed heroine appeals not only to both male and female readers, but to Christian and mainstream audiences alike. As the Seattle Times once noted, “You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy her books.” She hopes to bridge a gap between audiences. “There are readers who don't want to 'get inside the mind of a killer', and they don't want a lot of cursing and extramarital sex. At the same time, they want something gritty, something more than sugar-coated life. The Raleigh Harmon mysteries offer readers an intriguing puzzle with a smart and sensitive protagonist. She’s cool, honest and very real. She knows God exists, even as she manages to mess up her own life. "

Advance Praise

Praise for The Stars Shine Bright:

“Christy Award-winner Giorello arrives with the fifth in the Raleigh Harmon series… Giorello's writing is poignant, concrete, and humorously descriptive yet sincere.” ~ Publishers Weekly

Praise for previous releases in the Raleigh Harmon series:

"Giorello has won the Christy Award and has received two Pulitzer Prize nominations. When you read this book, you'll see why." ~ Booklist, Starred Review of The Mountains Bow Down

"…a gritty, suspense-filled page-turner that will appeal to those who prefer their forensic thrillers with a moral theme." ~ Library Journal on The Clouds Role Away

"The clever plot twists will have readers riveted from the start. Tough, edgy Raleigh Harmon and the city of Richmond are beauties with endearing qualities that are hard to resist." ~ Romantic Times on The Clouds Roll Away

"A journalist who worked at the Richmond Times, Giorello uses her considerable writing skills, in part, to explore Christian themes—but lightly, in a way that will appeal to crime-fiction fans along the religious/spiritual continuum. In other words: You don't have to be Christian to enjoy her books." ~ Seattle Times Sunday Books on The Rivers Run Dry


About the Author

Sibella Giorello grew up in the mountains of Alaska admiring the beauty and nature that surrounded her. She majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts hoping to learn more about the landscape she loved back home. From there Sibella followed a winding path, much like the motorcycle ride she took across the country, which led to her true love, journalism.

She found herself in Seattle writing for rock-n-roll magazine and earned a journalism degree from the University of Washington before heading south to the land of great stories. In Virginia, Sibella became a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was there she also met her husband and would hear Jesus whispering her name at a tent revival.

Sibella started writing about Raleigh Harmon as a way to keep her love of story-telling alive while staying at home with her young sons. As a journalist and author, her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. The Stones Cry Out, the first Raleigh Harmon novel, won a Christy award for debut novel in 2008. Sibella now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons.

Visit Sibella Giorello online at www.sibellagiorello.com, Facebook or Twitter.




Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dangerous Mercy


Title: DANGEROUS MERCY
Author: Kathy Herman
Publisher: David C. Cook
October 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7814-0341-2
Genre: Inspirational/Suspense


Eighty-five year old Adele Woodmore moves to Les Barbes to be near the Broussards--and her namesake, their daughter--and she wants nothing more than a quiet, comfortable life. She employs homeless men to do odd jobs and landscaping and delights in the casual conversations she has with them, the fledgling friendships, and knowing she's playing a part in helping them get back on their feet.

But a series of murders in Les Barbes has cast a pall over the town. One of the homeless working for Adele is a person of interest in the case. But Adele cares for these men, she knows them, and she continues to treat them kindly despite her friends concerns.

And then one day a murderer walks through Adele's defenses...

DANGEROUS MERCY--now that is a title that grabs the attention! This is the second book in Ms. Herman's Secrets of the Bayou series, but it easily stands alone. Ms. Herman is a best-selling author and very gifted in her ability to draw the reader into the story. The prologue is gripping and chilling at the same time and the tone doesn't let up much through the course of the book.

I had to admire Adele for her kindness to the down-trodden and I hoped that none of the men she helped were guilty. I also hoped that Adele would be safe. I didn't even try to guess the identity of the killer, though I did have some suspicions. If you like spine-chilling suspense, don't miss DANGEROUS MERCY. $14.99. 336 pages.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Two Crosses


Title: TWO CROSSES
Author: Elizabeth Musser
Publisher: David C. Cook
June 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7814-0500-3
Genre: Inspirational/Historical/suspense

The glittering Huguenot cross she innocently wears leads her deep into the shadows.

Gabriella Madison goes to France in 1961 to complete her education. She is a missionary’s daughter, and out of place among all the rich socialites also attending there. But she also catches the attention of a professor—David Hoffman.

Suddenly she is drawn into the secretive world behind the Algerian war for independence from France. And the further she delves into the war efforts, the more her faith is challenged.

People surround her with a whirlwind of transforming forces—with a wise man involved in smuggling, a little girl carrying secret information, and a man with unknown loyalties who catches her heart. But then she discovers a long hidden secret about her past, a secret that has the power to destroy everything.

TWO CROSSES is the first book in Ms. Musser’s Secrets of the Cross trilogy. It caught my interest from the very first pages, which surprised me as the blurb didn’t sound all that exciting. There were a lot of people introduced in the first few pages, that I found rather confusing trying to keep them all separate, but I eventually realized how the story came together. There is also a lot of description at first, causing me to skim through sections.

All in all, TWO CROSSES is a book I enjoyed, with a heroine that readers just want to cheer for and a charming little girl who just captures your heart. Plus a host of other characters who are well developed and real. I highly recommend TWO CROSSES and look forward to reading the second book in the series Two Testaments which also released in June 2012. $14.99. 464 pages.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

False Pretenses


Title: FALSE PRETENSES
Author: Kathy Herman
Publisher: David C. Cook
March 2011
ISBN: 9780781403405
Genre: Inspirational/Suspense

Zoe Broussard loves her home town. She loves the wrought ironed galleries and the unique brightly colored shops as well as the customers who come to her restaurant which she owns with her husband Pierce.

But when Zoe begins to repeatedly receiving the same mysterious envelope with the same enigmatic message without knowing where the messages are coming from, she wonders if her horrific past has caught up with her.

Suddenly, Zoe’s life is about to change forever. And instead of being content, Zoe becomes desperate to survive, and her future is in jeopardy.

FALSE PRETENSES is the first book in Ms. Herman’s Secrets of Roux River Bayou series. Set in Louisiana, the setting is described so well that even readers not familiar with the area can visualize it. Also, with some of the Cajun French used in the story, there is a helpful glossary included.

The story is well written, engaging and suspenseful. Zoe and Pierce are realistic characters who’s lives have just fallen apart and they are struggling to make sense of it before it destroys them, their business, and their marriage. Readers who love suspense will want to read FALSE PRETENSES. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book. $14.99. 376 pages.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Interview with Cynthia Hickey




What kind of research did you do for Deadly Neighbors?

I did extensive research on drugs and medications. I needed something accessible but not likely to kill the person it was administered to. There are a lot of drugs available out there if a person knows where to look.

How did you come up with the plot for Deadly Neighbors?

This is the first book of a new cozy series initially geared toward Barbour’s cozy mystery line. When that line closed, I shelved the book until my agent decided to ebook the cozies.

Share a brief blurb about the book.

When Marsha Calloway's daughter is accused of a crime she didn't commit, Marsha is determined to find the real culprit. She enlists the help of her Cadillac driving mama, the man who ditched Marsha at her high-school graduation but kept her heart, and a bumbling police officer. Folks around River Valley are having things disappear while they are sleeping with their eyes open. Seems everyone has a dream and not enough funds. Someone is determined to kill for that dream. Will River Valley's cast of colorful characters live to see another day? Can Marsha find out who the thief is before she becomes one of the sleep walkers?

What role have your life experiences played in the characters and/or the situations you develop in your books?

My experience with children and young adults played a huge part in the main character’s daughter’s actions. Plus, I listened to a lot of stories that friend’s teenagers did.

Do you see parallels or do you try to avoid using your own personal life as a source of inspiration?

Life is the best inspiration!

What are your own favorite authors? Genres?

I love Brandilyn Collins. She keeps you on the edge of your seat. I also love Robert Patterson’s Woman’s Murder Club series. Great characters. Great plots.

How has your passion for reading impacted your writing?

To write, you must read. Reading fuels the mind and keeps a writer up on the current trends.

Describe how you write a book – with your other responsibilities, does it tend to be something you work into your every day, or do you have to “set apart” time to write with open, undesignated blocks of time?

I often have to write when time permits. I get a lot of writing time at work, but it comes in chunks. I have to take advantage of the time when I can get it.

What provides your inspirations during that time – i.e. do you go out in nature, do you seek to be in a busy place with people or in a quiet library, etc.?

I go off “in space”. I daydream and let God lead me to the next scene.

How have social networking sites, even including email, etc. impacted your writing? Do you find the internet to be a helpful or harmful resource in research, advertising, reviewing, etc. your books?

In today’s writing world, social media is a must! You can reach tons of people using very little income. I try to set time aside each day to market.

Do you use these tools such as facebook as a means of observing the behavior of others which could be the basis of a character, or are you of the ‘old school’ that relies more on personal relationships and “human” touches?

Personal relationships and “human” touches. Forming relationships is the best way to reach people who may buy your books.