Monday, October 17, 2011

Sierra Jensen Collection, volume 1

Sierra Jensen, Volume 1
By Robin Jones Gunn
About the book:
The Europe mission trip brought Sierra Jensen the best gift possible: two new friends, Katie and Christy. But now Sierra is headed home, and she can’t help but wonder will her friendships last? And what about her new home? Her family moved while she was gone, and that means facing a new high school. And the biggest question of all: Will she ever find love? Then a chance meeting in a London airport answers that question. Paul makes her heart leap. But she’ll never see him again! Or will she?

My thoughts:

Volume 1 is a collection of the first three books in the Sierra Jensen series, repackaged from its original printing of the 1980’s. It amazes me that a book written over 20 years ago is still relevant and interesting today.

Sierra Jensen has just finished a great summer on a European mission’s trip and is starting fresh, anew in Portland, Oregon.  She's not happy to be there and struggles to make peace with starting over. Along the way Sierra learns a lot about herself and what she believes.

My favorite part of the entire book is the tremendous amount of spunk Sierra has.

Favorite Quote:
"Have you ever felt like you were caught between two lives? The one you're living and the one you wish you were living?"

*I received this book free for review from Waterbrook-Multnomah Publishers *

Rating: 4 carats
Visit Robin Jones Gunn's website Buy the book

Friday, October 7, 2011

Interview with Janice Thompson

Janice Thompson is a seasoned romance author. An expert at pulling the humor from the situations we get ourselves into, Thompson affords an inside look at TV land, drawing on her experiences as a screenwriter. She is the author of the Weddings by Bella series and lives in Texas.

1. This is the second book in a series; can it stand alone or do you need to read Stars Collide first?

Hello Hollywood can be read alone. However, the story’s heroine (Athena) is introduced in Stars Collide. So, if you want to get to know her (and the backstory about the sitcom) it would help to read Stars Collide first. This would also give the reader insight into the characters of Kat, Scott and Lenora.

2. In addition to being a popular author, you’ve also worked as a screenwriter; how much of your experience did you draw from to create the character of Athena?

Whether I’m writing a screenplay, a stage play or a novel, the process is much the same. I always see the story in my head, much like a movie! It’s great fun to translate what I see to the page. What bliss! I should add that my time in L.A. (writing the movie Liar’s Moon) was such a blast! That experience played heavily into my decision to write the “Backstage Pass” series.

3. Athena comes from a large, wacky Greek family and there are certain stereotypes associated with that; are you Greek or do you come from a big family?

I am not Greek, but I do have a large family (and chaos ensues whenever we’re all together). Our family is of Scottish heritage. We are the “Hanna clan” (with our roots trailing all the way back to Sorbie Castle in Scotland). When we all get together, there are nineteen and eleven small children (average age three). You can imagine what fun that is! Like every family, we have our “wacky” characters. Some in the Hanna clan would argue that I’m the wackiest of all. I’m definitely one of the few who has talking characters in her head.

4. Fans of My Big Fat Greek Wedding may see some similarities with Hello, Hollywood! was this intentional?
I’d just finished promoting my (very Italian) “Weddings by Bella” series when I started writing the “Backstage Pass” series, so some of the ethnic eccentricities in those books translated well to Athena’s story. I tried my best to shy away from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, (because I didn’t want to copy-cat). That said, it is one of my favorite movies, so I suppose some of the flavor rubbed off. Years ago I had a good friend whose family owned a Greek restaurant. I used much of what I learned from her in the sandwich shop scenes. Hope the readers are hungry for Greek food after reading!

5. Athena has a very prestigious position but also is somewhat childlike; how did you go about balancing these two seemingly opposing qualities?

Athena is a writer. We writers live half the time in the real world and half the time in an imaginary one. Keeping a childlike frame of mind is key to keeping the imagination open/active. Writers (even prestigious ones) are paid for their stories. So, shifting back and forth between the professional world and the creative world is a must for any writer, especially one in Athena’s high-profile position.

6. Athena and her writing team love classic television; is that something you find inspiration in as well?

Oh my goodness, yes! I grew up on the sitcoms and often teach on comedy writing, using sitcoms as the basis for my teaching. I’m still inspired by the antics of I Love Lucy. And I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m nuts about the Dick Van Dyke show. Those old TV shows shaped my view of comedy and of life, in general.

7. There’s a lot of detail about Stephen’s good looks and very little attention given to Athena’s aesthetics; was this a conscious choice on your part and why?

Yes. As a writer, she’s keenly aware of the details/physical descriptions of those around her. It might not make much sense to non-writers, but we writers hone in on those around us…every detail. (After all, we’re crafting characters based on the physical descriptions of those we meet.) It makes sense for Athena to notice every detail about Stephen’s looks but overlook her own in the process. Also, I wanted the reader to know what Athena was up against. She’s not just concerned that Stephen will sweep in and steal her job…she’s got to deal with the very real issue of his handsomeness in the process! (This makes hating him so much tougher!)

8. Stephen is a single father and his daughter, Brooke, takes to Athena and her family instantly; why did you choose not to make this a point of conflict for the characters?

I couldn’t get too deep into the conflict this causes between hero and heroine because this is a first person POV book (only in Athena’s POV). If I’d added Stephen’s POV, I could have really played this out. Mostly, this story is about the tension caused on the set/in the studio.

9. Athena’s mother inherits, Zeus, a terrorizing canine from Greece; where did you get the idea for this character?

After signing the contract for this book, my editor called to ask if I would add a dog to the story (so that they could put a dog on the cover). I was told this would help sales. Ha! I had to laugh because I’m SUCH a dog lover. My friend Heather was at my house at the time. She’d been puppy sitting my two dachshunds while I was away on a trip. She helped me locate the perfect breed for the dog: the Greek Domestic dog. Made sense, because Athena’s family is from Greece. The dog-lover in me had a blast adding Zeus’s character. (Side note: Two days ago I received a call from a reporter in the D.C. area who is running a feature article on Gus, the dog who posed for the cover. Isn’t that cool?!)

10. There’s a scene in which Athena pokes fun, tongue-in-cheek, at the general perception of the Romance genre; how does Hello, Hollywood! fit into that genre?

Hello Hollywood is definitely a romance, but fits more into the romantic comedy genre than the general romance category. Most general romances are written in third-person (he said/she said). Hello Hollywood is more like the chick-lit novels of the past—written in first person and seen only through the eyes of the heroine. This provides further insight into your earlier question about why so little attention is paid to Athena’s physical attributes. Because this story is only from her POV (point of view) the “eye of the camera” (as it were) focuses only on what she sees/hears/feels, etc.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hello, Hollywood

Hello Hollywood
By Janice Thompson
About the book:
Athena Pappas is the head writer on one of the most popular sitcoms in television history. But when Vegas comedian Stephen Cosse is brought in to beef up the show's suddenly sagging ratings, she starts to worry about her job. Sparks fly as the competition--and attraction--between the two writers heats up. Athena has never had a problem scripting the romances of her characters. So why is her own love life so hard to script?

With humor and a Hollywood-insider viewpoint, Hello, Hollywood! delivers lots of laughs as the characters discover that not being in control of the plot of their lives might just be the best thing that ever happened to them.

My thoughts:

“Hello, Hollywood” is the second installment in Janice Thompson’s “Backstage Pass” series ( see the first one here )and is a lighthearted escape into the life of a TV sitcom writer's life.

“Hello, Hollywood” has an upbeat setting, is quirky with great characters, and is a lot of fun. The first line on the back cover sums it up best “When it comes to love, one thing is for sure - it doesn’t follow a script.”

To top off a great story, the book guides readers through 12 steps to writing a good story plot, mentions of old TV shows, and a dog you can’t help but fall in love with!

Favorite Quote:
“There are moments in life you wish you could just dive under the covers and hide.”

“Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Come back Friday for an interview with Janice Thompson
Rating: 4 carats
Visit Janice Thompson's website
 Buy the book

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Grace of God

The Grace of God
By Andy Stanley
About the book:
Learn how God's grace can and will transform you.

None of us deserves what God offers, a life free from sin and hope for a glorious future, but unbelievably it's ours for the taking. Why? Because of God's grace. The unmerited favor, the lavish love and kindness he pours out on us, and has, since Creation.

But if it's so available then why do we live a graceless life? Why are our churches filled with disillusioned Christians, weary of religion's demands, struggling with personal defeat because of issues or behaviors?

Join pastor Andy Stanley as he traces grace through the Old and New Testaments, observing God's grace at work in the lives of some of the best—and worst—characters. He also uses personal stories from his own life to reveal how grace is not a natural response but is the most essential one. Together these stories unravel the mystery of grace and tell of its transforming power to set us free.

My thoughts:

The foundation of the Christian church is built on the grace offered by God to all, received only through a personal faith by man. Churches, preachers, teachers, and every-day people share the grace of God with those who are willing to listen. Yet I have never had the principles of God’s grace shared in a manner in which Andy Stanley does in ‘The Grace of God.’

Andy gave me a new perspective of God’s grace; not changed, more renewed. Andy chose a unique approach, a better approach in sharing how God has revealed His grace through scripture. God’s grace does not begin at the cross of calvary but began ‘in the beginning’. Andy uses the Bible stories we have grown to love to expose how the grace of God has been woven into history since the beginning of man.

This book is a wonderful read for a seasoned Christian, stands to be a powerful teaching tool for a new believer, and a great witness to those who have yet to gain a personal understanding of God’s grace.

Favorite Quote:

“Grace is not reserved for good people; grace underscores the goodness of God.”

*I received this book free for review from Thomas Nelson publishers*
Rating: 5 carats
Buy the book

Monday, August 29, 2011

The First Gardner

The First Gardner
By Denise Hildreth Jones

About the book:
Jeremiah Williams has been tending the gardens of the Tennessee governor’s mansion for over twenty-five years. And like most first families who have come and gone, this one has stolen his heart.
Mackenzie and her husband, Governor Gray London, have struggled for ten years to have a child and are now enjoying a sweet season of life—anticipating the coming reelection and sending their precious daughter, Maddie, off to kindergarten—when a tragedy tears their world apart. As the entire state mourns, Mackenzie falls into a grief that threatens to swallow her whole.
Though his heart is also broken, Jeremiah realizes that his gift of gardening is about far more than pulling weeds and planting flowers. It’s about tending hearts as well. As he uses the tools that have been placed in his hands, he gently begins to cultivate the hard soil of Mackenzie’s heart, hoping to help her realize what it took him years to discover.
A Southern tale of loss, love, and living, The First Gardner reminds us that all of life is a gift, but our heart is the most valuable gift of all.

My Thoughs:

After reading this book I feel like saying "WOW". Denise Hildreth Jones is such a gifted writer and improves with each book. Denise has a way of crafting characters that reach out and grab your heart whether they are in good or bad situations.

"The First Gardner" has sadness hanging over it and yet it held such inspiration and wisdom, ending with a great sense of hope.

On the outside it may look as though Mackenzie and Gray have it all as the Governor and First Lady of Tennessee but inside their hearts are broken. The two are desperately searching to restore what used to be, but God has other plans and uses unexpected people to show them the way.

My favorite character of "The First Gardner" was just that, the gardener, Jeremiah. He worked so diligently at keeping the garden and was always there to give a kind word. His knowledge grew out of his own heartache and may not have been what Mackenzie and Gray wanted to hear but always seemed to be what they needed to hear.

Favorite Quote:

“Grief aint' sump'n you wanna rush. It be God's way of helpin' us get out the pain. He know if we ain't got some way to get it all out, we gon' explode. So He give us grief, He give us tears. All of them things we need to get it all out."

*I received this book free for review from Tyndale House Publishers*
Rating: 5 carats

Visit Denie Hildreth Jones' website
Buy the book

Monday, August 22, 2011

Shades of Blue

Shades of Blue
By Karen Kingsbury

About the book:
Brad Cutler, twenty-eight, is a rising star at his New York ad agency, about to marry the girl of his dreams. Anyone would agree he has it all … a great career, a beautiful and loving fiancee, and a fairy tale life ahead of him—when memories of a high school girlfriend begin to torment him.

Lost innocence and one very difficult choice flood his conscience, and he is no longer sure what the future will bring except for this: He must find his old love and make amends. Haunted by the past and confused about the future, he turns to God seeking forgiveness and redemption.

Three people must work through the repercussions of a decision made long ago before any of them can look toward a new future.

My Thoughts:
Karen Kingsbury is an extremely prolific writer and I have enjoyed most of her books but with this one I have mixed feelings.

As is with all of Karen Kingsbury’s books, this one is deep and emotional. Karen Kingsbury is not afraid to embark on difficult topics nor show consequences of misguided choices. "Shades of Blue" is no exception.

However, Shades of Blue is a little difficult to follow at times. Not only does the writer switch points of views but within those points of views she switches years. Readers can easily identify which character’s eyes we are seeing through but not so easily identify which period of life the characters are in, teenage or adult. Without knowing this at the onset of a scene made the reading a challenge to keep up with.

The characters were deep and well developed; readers can easily sense the pain and joy. As a whole, "Shades of Blue" is a good story, even powerful at times.

*I received this book free for review from Zondervan Publishers*

Rating:4 carats

Visit Karen Kingsbury's website
Buy the book

Monday, August 15, 2011

To Die For

To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn

To Die For
By Sandra Byrd

About the book:
To Die For, is the story of Meg Wyatt, pledged forever as the best friend to Anne Boleyn since their childhoods on neighboring manors in Kent. When Anne’s star begins to ascend, of course she takes her best friend Meg along for the ride. Life in the court of Henry VIII is thrilling at first, but as Anne’s favor rises and falls, so does Meg’s. And though she’s pledged her loyalty to Anne no matter what the test, Meg just might lose her greatest love—and her own life—because of it.

Meg's childhood flirtation with a boy on a neighboring estate turns to true love early on. When he is called to follow the Lord and be a priest she turns her back on both the man and his God. Slowly, though, both woo her back through the heady times of the English reformation. In the midst of it, Meg finds her place in history, her own calling to the Lord that she must follow, too, with consequences of her own. Each character in the book is tested to figure out what love really means, and what, in this life, is worth dying for.

Though much of Meg’s story is fictionalized, it is drawn from known facts. The Wyatt family and the Boleyn family were neighbors and friends, and perhaps even distant cousins. Meg’s brother, Thomas Wyatt, wooed Anne Boleyn and ultimately came very close to the axe blade for it. Two Wyatt sisters attended Anne at her death, and at her death, she gave one of them her jeweled prayer book—Meg.

My Thoughts:


“To Die For” is a fictional look at the Anne Boylen-era but through the eyes of her best friend Meg Wyatt, which makes “To Die For” unique from other Tudor-era novels. The story follows them from the time they are teenagers to after both are married.

This book is filled with rich descriptions which was my favorite thing. Sandra Byrd has obviously done quite a bit of research and it shows. I haven’t been one to read historical fiction in the past so this took a little concentration for me, yet simply reading about the regal clothes and jewelry was worth the read!

The personal friendship between Anne Boleyn and Meg Wyatt is pretty incredible. They stood by one another and, as you will see, Meg sacrificed a lot of be by Anne’s side

Anyone who loves historical fiction or the Tudor-era will absolutely love this book.

Favorite Quote:

“A sweet voice, a deep voice, a voice that made me wish for all things that could be and mayhap a willingness to throw away all things that must be in order to gain them - to die for.”

Rating: 4 carats
Visit Sandra Byrd's website
Buy the book

Friday, August 5, 2011

Interview with Betsy St Amant

1. IF "Fireman Dad" were a movie who would you want to play the main characters?
Ohhh, tricky. Let's see. Marissa could be Julianne Hough (actor/singer/dancer) and Jacob would be Josh Duhamel :)

2. What gave you the idea for or inspired "Fireman Dad"?
My husband is a fireman, and he's always wanted me to write a fireman book. So I did this one partially for him, and partially because so much of it is a true story that we lived out. (see the Dear Reader letter in the back of the novel) It begged to be told in some form.

3. At Pink Sapphire, we rate books in carats. 5 carats being a great book! What are your 5 carat books?
To list just a few (otherwise I'd take up your entire blog!) I'd have to include Siri Mitchell's "She Walks In Beauty", Julie Lessman's entire Daughters of Boston Series, Liz Curtis Higgs entire recent Scotland series, Rene Gutteridge's "Boo" series, Lisa Wingate's "Daily Texas" series, and Susan May Warren/Susan Down's Russian series from several years ago. They all linger with me.

4. What is the one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
 I hope my readers feel a little challenged or encouraged in their faith when they put down of one of my novels. Either challenged to grow deeper spiritually, and meet a goal for themselves that the characters did, or encouraged that the rainbow is often just around the corner from the storm. Whichever they need most at the time.

5. Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you first begin to write?
Yes! Truly, my entire life. I was writing short stories on my home computer at the age of 7. I always knew I wanted to be published and set out making that a serious goal when I turned 18.

6. What book do you wish you’d written?
Lisa Samson's "The Passion of Mary Margaret". It was so unique and deep and amazing. I loved the story for so many reasons. Highly recommend.

7. Do you also write music?
 No, unfortunately. I'd love to, but that's not where my skills are! My dad is very talented on the guitar. I think if I could magically have any musical ability granted to me by a genie, I'd want to be a pro on the fiddle. I have my bluegrass side ;)

8. You're in line at Starbucks, what are you ordering?
 Oh easy! Tall, non fat, white chocolate mocha. No whip, unless I'm celebrating...

9. If you could spend the day with any person who is living, who would it be and why? Maybe Nicholas Sparks, to pick his brain about where he gets the emotion and the ideas for his best sellers!! :)

10. What's up next for you?
Next is my Young Adult novel via Barbour Publishers, releasing January 2012 and titled ADDISON BLAKELY: CONFESSIONS OF A PK. It's the story of a teen girl who is a preacher's daughter and struggling to live life in the fishbowl as she starts to question the depth of her own faith...and her unwanted feelings for the "bad boy" down the street...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fireman Dad

Fireman Dad
Fireman Dad
By Betsy St Amant

About the book:
Widowed mother Marissa Hawthorne’s little boy wants to be like his new hero—firefighter Jacob Greene. But Marissa and her son lost too much to the profession of firefighting already. She can’t possibly let either of them get close to the man, no matter how noble he is. Especially because her own father is Jacob’s boss. But when Jacob hires her to plan a special birthday party for his niece, Marissa soon learns that Jacob is a hero in many ways. And that taking risks for love is what life and faith are truly about.

About Betsy
Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana and is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group. Betsy is multi-published through Steeple Hill and has been published in Christian Communicator magazine and Praise Reports: Inspiring Real Life Stories of How God Answers Prayer. One of her short stories, ‘Kickboxing or Chocolate’, appears in a Tyndale compilation book, and she is also multi-published through The Wild Rose Press. She has a BA in Christian Communications and regularly freelances for her local newspaper. Betsy is a fireman’s wife, a mommy to a busy toddler, a chocolate-loving author and an avid reader who enjoys sharing the wonders of God’s grace through her stories.

My Thoughts:

“Fireman Dad” is a sweet love story which asks the question “can you trust God with your heart?”

Event planner Marissa is mourning the loss of her firefighter husband, lost in the line of duty, while struggling to maintain a relationship with her workaholic fire chief father. Marissa takes on a new client who she begins to having feelings for, only to discover he too is a firefighter. Will Marissa be able to let go of the fear of being hurt another time?

Betsy St Amant tells a story of heartbreak and love which draws the reader into Marissa’s struggles of overcoming her fears and longings in order to move on with her life. You won’t be disappointed reading this book as the characters can easily teach every reader lessons about oneself and the ability we each possess to trust God to carry our burdens.

Favorite Quote:

“Sometimes you have to let someone else carry the burden.”

Come back Friday for an interview with Betsy
Rating: 5 carats
Visit Betsy's website
Buy the book

Monday, July 25, 2011

Enemies of the Heart

Enemies of the Heart

Enemies of the Heart
By Andy Stanley
About the book:
In this compelling and helpful book, previously published as It Came From Within!, pastor and author Andy Stanley wrestles with what he calls "four invaders of the heart"--guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. One or another of these caustic emotions sabotages lives on a daily basis and destroys relationships. But Stanley assures readers that there is hope. In his trademark style--smart, engaging, and popular--he examines where these powerful forces come from and reveals effective strategies for overcoming them and moving toward healing and maturity.

My Thoughts:
  “Enemies of the Heart” is a convicting read about the health of one’s heart, not the literal heart but the state of one’s heart before the Lord. Andy Stanley presents four destructive emotions that can take hold in our heart: guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. The first section of the book is about diagnosing these emotions and the second part of the book addresses how to fix them.

This is a good book. The author is very straight forward and has easy-to-grasp concepts which when applied can be very useful in our lives. Andy Stanley quotes a lot of scripture to explain his points, all of which are very applicable to life.

Being “Enemies of the Heart” is so straight forward in concepts and application; I think it would make for a great Bible Study.

I listened to the audio version of this book and at first I thought the narrator was very dull. As the book went on he became easier to listen to and his voice seemed to match the subject matters he was speaking about.

Favorite Quote;

“When our embarrassment level has exceeded our desperation level, we are a candidate for God’s grace.”

*I received this audiobook free for review from*
Rating: 4 carats
Buy the audiobook

Monday, July 18, 2011

Story Engineering

Story Engineering
By Larry Brooks
About the book:
From story concept to character development to scene construction and beyond, this blueprint for dynamic storytelling makes putting together a strong novel, memoir, or screenplay easier than ever. Beginning writers in all genres?from fiction writers to nonfiction writers to screenplay writers will learn how to wrap their heads around the big picture of storytelling at a professional level through a new approach that shows how to combine six core competencies: the four elemental competencies of concept, character, theme, and story structure (plot); and the two executional competencies of scene construction and writing voice. You'll discover how to achieve the greatest potential in your story through mastering the way these six factors combine and empower each other on the page.

My Thoughts:
Story Engineering sets out to show that there is a basic model that any story can be built upon. This is not a how to book but a book on writing that shows six core concepts to writing a great story.

This book was hard to read, most of it was analogy after analogy. It tooks three chapters of basically repeating himself before you ever find out what his supposed “six core competencies” are and nearly 150 page before he gets to explaining how to execute them.

If the author cut down on all his babble this book would probably be half the size it is and much more effective. That being said, once he finally got to the point he had a lot of valuable advice for anyone interested in writing a great story.

*I received this book free for review from Tyndale House Publishers*

Favorite Quote:

“We can work hard or we can work smart. Hopefully both. A killer story development model doesn’t take the hard work out of writing, but in any case it infuses the process with a heavy dose of smart.”

Rating: 4 carats
Visit Larry Brook's website Buy the book

Monday, July 4, 2011

Area 51

Product Details

Area 51
By Annie Jacobsen
About the book:
It is the most famous military installation in the world. And it doesn't exist. Located a mere seventy-five miles outside of Las Vegas in Nevada's desert, the base has never been acknowledged by the U.S. government-but Area 51 has captivated imaginations for decades.

Myths and hypotheses about Area 51 have long abounded, thanks to the intense secrecy enveloping it. Some claim it is home to aliens, underground tunnel systems, and nuclear facilities. Others believe that the lunar landing itself was filmed there. The prevalence of these rumors stems from the fact that no credible insider has ever divulged the truth about his time inside the base. Until now.

Annie Jacobsen had exclusive access to nineteen men who served the base proudly and secretly for decades and are now aged 75-92, and unprecedented access to fifty-five additional military and intelligence personnel, scientists, pilots, and engineers linked to the secret base, thirty-two of whom lived and worked there for extended periods. In Area 51, Jacobsen shows us what has really gone on in the Nevada desert, from testing nuclear weapons to building super-secret, supersonic jets to pursuing the War on Terror.

This is the first book based on interviews with eye witnesses to Area 51 history, which makes it the seminal work on the subject. Filled with formerly classified information that has never been accurately decoded for the public, Area 51 weaves the mysterious activities of the top-secret base into a gripping narrative, showing that facts are often more fantastic than fiction, especially when the distinction is almost impossible to make.

My Thoughts:
There is an old saying ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ and, if the information and statements in this book which are claimed to be true and factual actually are true and factual, well then truth really is stranger than fiction. At least it is for the ‘Normal Joe’ most of us Americans are.

I believe the majority of US citizens have an unspoken understanding that our government participates in many activities purposely kept secret from the general public in the name of national security. Is it necessary? Do the ends justify the means? The answers to such questions are as varied and opinionated as there are individuals.

The book is not a whimsical light read but requires a certain amount of focus and attention to detail in order to maintain a fluid understanding of the events and claims shared. Much of the information can be verified and is therefore factual. Others may be left to a more personal interpretation.

All in all this book could prove to have an almost cult following from those individuals who thrive on the knowledge of espionage and the secret activities taken by our government to ensure our beliefs in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is full of many interesting details that had never previously crossed my mind but intrigued me.

Favorite Quote:

Winston Churchill famously said of Russia, “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” The same can be said about Area 51.

*I received this book free for review from Hachette Book Group*

Rating: 4 carats
Buy the book

Monday, June 27, 2011

Working It out

Working It Out
By Abby Rike
About the book:
In 2006, Abby Rike lost the life she knew and loved when her husband and two young children were killed in a car accident. Devastated and numb, she shut down. For nearly three years she walked through life like a spectre, present in body only. As she descended, so did her health.

Fortunately, Abby was not alone. She had loving parents, supportive friends, and a faith that continued to sustain her. Little by little she found the courage to return to life. Joining The Biggest Loser proved a catalyst for the physical and emotional changes she needed to make. In fact, against all odds Abby gained strength, courage, wisdom, and continued her steadfast relationship with God. Instead of anger, she found herself slowly but steadily healing. She lost a hundred pounds but gained hope.

In this riveting book, Abby tells her story--from her joyous life before the accident to the unbearable pain that followed it and her eventual emergence as a woman reinvigorated by her faith in God. Today Abby's resilience and positivity are a testament to the power and importance of faith in the darkest hours

My Thoughts:

Few people allow others to see into their heart; Abby Rike opens hers to the world. This book is a true journey of love, loss and hope reaching deep into the heart of Abby Rike. Abby gives the world the opportunity to know her, her husband Rick, beautiful Macey, and dear baby Caleb.

For most it is hard to comprehend how anyone who has found meaningful love in one’s life to continue to find strength and praise in God once that love has been taken. Yet Abby uses her beliefs and trust in the Lord to share with others how to overcome such loss and make a difference in not only her life but in the life of anyone willing to take the time to learn from her life story. Life gives and takes away. The key to making it through is understanding where to turn for strength and who to guide you through.

Abby went through great suffering, pain, and loneliness with the loss of her family but the choice she made at the crash site is what has helped her be successful. Abby’s journey isn’t done because God isn’t finished with her yet.

Favorite Quote:

“Sometimes we can’t change the world in the snap of a finger, but just by changing one little thing in someone’s heart changes the world for that person. And when we change the world for one person, the domino effect begins.”

* I received this book free for review from Faithwords Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group*
Rating : 5 carats
Visit Abby Rike's website Buy the book

Monday, June 20, 2011

Double Take

Double Take: A Novel [Book]

Double Take
By Melody Carlson
About the book:
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you could switch your life with someone else for just one day? Readers will live the one-week experiences of a bored Amish girl and stressed out socialite when they decide to switch places in Double Take.

Spring break has arrived. It’s her senior year, and Madison VanBuren is fed up with her surroundings and the pressures of life. Stressed out over choosing an Ivy League school that will please her parents, their marital problems, and her boyfriend's pressure, Madison gets in her car and drives west.

Meanwhile, eighteen-year-old Anna Fisher wants to escape the so-called simple life--which for her consists of caring for younger siblings, sewing, cooking, and gardening--and she's well aware that her future will simply be more of the same with a man she doesn't love.

Madison and Anna stumble into each other in a small town. Realizing their looks are uncannily similar, they both think their lives are boring. Thinking the grass is greener on the other side, they make a decision that will transform them forever and switch lives for one week.

Readers will love this funny and provocative tale of switching places from bestselling author Melody Carlson. As they get a glimpse and understanding of these two very different worlds. They may find themselves happy to be just who they are, and where they are

My Thoughts:
  I was really excited to read this book; there is a lot of Amish fiction out there and a lot of contemporary fiction but none combining both settings.

Madison Van Buren is a wealthy teenager is New York City is on Spring Break and frustrated with her life. She longs for peace but doesn’t know how to find it.

Anna Fischer is a sweet Amish girl deciding whether she wants to fully commit herself to Amish ways.

In a chance meeting the girls realize they look enough a like to switch places and explore the other side of life. Seeing as they both want out of they have it’s a win-win, or is it?

Melody Carlson does a great job of showing the surprises of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes and what it can teach you. Some of my favorite scenes where when the girls were learned something about the other culture and how it made them view their own lives.

Favorite Quote:

“But Madison felt certain that God appreciated simplicity. Because that was where she found him and that was where she was determined to remain”

*Available June 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.*
Rating: 4 carats
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hollywood Ending

Hollywood Ending
By Lucie Simone

About the book:
Trina Stewart needs cash. Fast. She’s barely got enough dough to keep her fanny off the streets, let alone any spending money on Sunset Strip. And her job teaching English as a Second Language is seriously lacking in both pay and glamour. But not just any job will do. She’s after a real Hollywood job. The kind that makes her $100,000 in film school debt and ten years in Tinsel Town not seem like such a big fat waste of time and money. But a girl can’t fritter away all her time fretting over her next paycheck, can she? Certainly not when a man like Matiu Wulf, a s Maori from New Zealand, parks his oh-so-fine self in the apartment above hers while he takes his best shot at Showbiz.

If only Matiu didn’t seem so… repelled by Trina. Really, though, it’s Los Angeles that Matiu finds so revolting. He’s only in L.A. to get some scene design experience to beef up his resume, and then he’s headed back to New Zealand to follow his dreams in peace, thank you very much. That’s his plan, anyway, until he falls hard for Trina…and Trina falls under the spell of a toothy-grinned wannabe actor who charms the pants right off her.

With Matiu on a mission to win Trina’s heart, and Trina on a mission to nail down that ever elusive Hollywood job, these two soon discover that when love gets tossed in the mix, life in Tinsel Town isn’t all red carpets, after parties, and celebrity gossip.

My Thoughts:

This book is a quick, glitzy read about trying to make it in the film industry all while staying true to oneself.

The main character, Trina, has a lot of spunk and is bubbling over with wit. Her quest to pay off her film school debts and decide whether or not she wants to date her neighbor, Maitu, definitely kept for a curious plot. While the main characters offered a lot to the story many of the supporting characters acted in ways which seemed forced throughout the book.

Favorite Quote:

"Even Juliet's tropic-inspired surroundings couldn't soothe the prickles beginning to form under her skin."

Rating: 3 carats
Visit Lucie's website Buy the book

An Interview with Lucie Simone
1. What inspired the idea for your book?
Hollywood Ending was inspired by my own experiences trying to get ahead in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. While finishing my masters at a top film school, I taught English as a Second Language, and once I graduated, I found it very difficult to actually get a job in my field. I also wanted to write a story that depicted the Hollywood that I know and love. It’s more than just celebrities! And it’s got a lot of charm, if you know where to look. Many of the characters in Hollywood Ending are also based on people in my own life, whether that be a waiter, an ex-boyfriend, or my best friend.

2. If your book were a movie, who would you want to play the main characters?
Good question! I think for Trina, I’d love to see Ginnifer Goodwin in the role. She wouldn’t even have to wear a wig since Trina sports a pixie just like Ginnifer’s. She’s super cute and sassy like Trina, but also capable of portraying real emotional depth. As for Matiu, gee, I don’t know! The producers might have to head to New Zealand for him since he’s Maori, and whomever were to portray him would have to embody all that exotic manly charm with a Kiwi accent.

3. Which character interested you most while writing?
All the major characters were really fun to write, but the one that most intrigues me now is Trina’s best friend, Juliet. She’s facing a major life change and has some issues regarding love and men that she has to work through. Luckily, I’ll get to explore her character more in depth soon because she’s getting her own book!

4. You’re in line at Starbucks, what are you ordering?
A tall, non-fat, 4-pump Chai Latte. (I like it spicy!). If I’m hungry, I might also get a piece of Very Berry Coffee Cake. Yum!

5. What are you currently working on? What is next for you?

Right now, I’m in the middle of writing my second novel, Picture Perfect, about a TV producer whose soon-to-be-ex-husband and former assistant launch a smear campaign against her, which leads to a grisly murder and targets her as the main suspect. It’s Hollywood at its most scandalous best! I also just released my short story, A Taste of Italy, for the Nook and Kindle. At 99 cents, it’s a steal!

Monday, June 6, 2011


By Robin Jones Gunn

About the book:
This book includes a short story about Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen. In the note below, Robin explains the re-release of this frequently requested novella.

“Rediscovered” is such a great word. It makes me think of that happy moment that comes when you open a suitcase and out tumbles a tiny shell you picked up on the beach on your last vacation.

My husband and I recently moved. In the middle of the packing of my old nest I found the original floppy disc where I stored this book when I first wrote it in 1995. It was a lovely rediscovery moment. My agent and I agreed that this book went out of print too soon. The team at Waterbrook/ Multnomah Publishers jumped onboard and agreed to make “Departures” available once again.

I think you’ll enjoy having an opportunity to pop in to see what happened with Christy and Sierra during a summer season that was full of changes for both of them. As I went through the restored manuscript while sitting in my new nest after our move, I felt as if I were visiting with old friends. The stories still bring a smile. I hope you’ll have the same experience as you read “Departures”.

My Thoughts:

In the prologue Robin Jones Gunn writes, "Rediscovered is beautiful word" as she talks about the moment she came across two stories she wrote years ago but had somehow packed away. After reading "Departures" I have to say discovered is also a beautiful word!

"Departures" is two novellas, one about Christy Miller and the other Sierra Jensen, the two characters who catapulted Robin Jones Gunn into the heart of teenage girls over 20 years ago. Now a whole new generation is discovering Christy and Sierra.

Both the stories were a lot of fun. The novellas center around the girls (Christy and Sierra) learning what to put behind them in order to grow as a person.

Robin Jones Gunn has a wonderful way of writing a fun story and wrapping in nuggets of great advice as you turn the pages just like opening a present.

After reading these two stories, I want to go back and reread the entire Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen series because their personalities and stories put a smile on my face.

Favorite Quote:

"Sierra made another mental note that while going down the river of her life, at times she would have to be still while everyone else was busy with what they were instructed to do. That didn't mean that she was being left out, but that rather, for that place and time, she was supposed to sit."

*I received this book free for review from Waterbook-Multnomah Publsihers*
Rating: 5 carats

Visit Robin Gunn's website Buy the book

Friday, June 3, 2011

An Interview With Karen Kingsbury

                                                   Karen Portrait by Dan Davis Photography

About Karen:
USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America's #1 inspirational novelist. There are nearly 20 million copies of her award-winning books in print, including several million copies sold in the past year. Karen has written more than 50 novels, ten of which have hit #1 on national lists.

Karen's newest novel, Unlocked, released Oct. 12 and has stayed in Amazon's top fifty for the past few weeks. Unlocked debuted at No. 3 on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Another recent and popular title of Karen's is Shades of Blue - the story of a 28-year-old ad executive who is six weeks away from marrying the girl he loves. But as he prepares for his wedding, something brings up his past girlfriend - a girl he dated in high school. He realizes he can't go forward and say, "I do," until he goes back to Holden Beach, finds the girl he loved back then, and tell her he's sorry.

Karen's novel Like Dandelion Dust is the subject of a major motion picture currently in theaters. Like Dandelion Dust stars Academy Award winning Mira Sorvino and Barry Pepper, along with Cole Hauser and Maxwell Perry Cotton. The film has received more than 30 awards in the Film Festival Circuit including numerous Best Picture awards. Several of Karen's books are currently under theatrical development.

1.Where do you get your story ideas?

 I get my ideas from life happening around me, mostly. The news, the radio, a conversation, a trend, a contemporary struggle of some sort. Obviously the war is very contemporary, and the issues are those facing all Americans . . . that sort of thing. But most of all, my ideas come from the Lord. He puts the picture in my head, the whole story. It’s very visual. I’m just responsible for getting it onto paper.

2.What are the steps you take when you write a new book?

 First I take an idea that God has placed on my heart, and I find a title. Next I flesh out the characters. I name them, give them biographies, strengths, weaknesses, etc. I figure out how the story will change them, make them stronger, and how God will be glorified in the process. Finally I write a very detailed chapter outline. From there, I write the book.

3. Which of the books that you have written is your favorite and why?

 Each of my books is special to me so that’s a tough question to answer. Each story was placed on my heart by God, and comes with a theme or storyline that God has used to change the lives of various readers.

4. You've said, "Christian fiction is more powerful than other fiction." Could you expound on this?

   Christian or inspirational fiction is more powerful because the characters can be fully developed. In mainstream fiction, readers can only learn about a characters physical, intellectual, and emotional traits. But with inspirational fiction, readers can learn about the character’s spiritual traits, as well. In this way, readers are identifying with these books like none others. I’ve trademarked my fiction – Life-Changing Fiction™ because I hear from hundreds of readers every week who say God is using these novels to change their lives. That’s more powerful than books written for sheer entertainment value.

5. You were a reporter for the LA Times & LA Daily News long before you were a novelist. What first drew you to journalism?

  I knew from fifth grade on that I wanted to be an author, but I also understood that not everyone can become a novelist. Journalism was my back-up plan. It was something I loved to do, and it was a job I could take to any place in the world. The camaraderie of the newsroom is something I still miss, but no question my work as a reporter opened doors for me to become an author

Visit Karen's website
Buy her books

Monday, May 30, 2011


By Karen Kingsbury

About the book:
The Bailey Flanigan Series begins with Leaving. Bailey leaves Bloomington, Indiana for the adventure of a lifetime. She has won an audition for the ensemble of a Broadway musical in New York City.

Bailey is determined to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but is she really ready to leave family and friends for the loneliness of the city? And what of Cody? His disappearance has her worried about their future and praying that their love can survive.

My Thoughts:
“Leaving” continues to follow the Baxter family and this time focuses on Bailey Flannigen as she tries to figure out what to do with her life. Does she take the opportunity to move to New York City and be on Broadway or stay in Bloomington, Indiana with her family?

“Leaving” illustrates how we may leave everything that is familiar to us but God will never leave us.

This book flows right along with all of Karen Kingsbury other books. It is very emotional and life is always challenging and changing these characters.

Come back Friday for an interview with Karen Kingsbury

*I received this book free for review from Zondervan Publishers*

Rating: 4 carats
Visit Karen's website Buy the book

Monday, May 23, 2011

Battlefield of the Mind

Battlefield of the Mind
By Joyce Meyer
About the book:
Worry, doubt, confusion, depression, anger and feelings of condemnation: all these are attacks on the mind. If readers suffer from negative thoughts, they can take heart! Joyce Meyer has helped millions win these all-important battles. In her most popular bestseller ever, the beloved author and minister shows readers how to change their lives by changing their minds.

She teaches how to deal with thousands of thoughts that people think every day and how to focus the mind the way God thinks. And she shares the trials, tragedies, and ultimate victories from her own marriage, family, and ministry that led her to wondrous, life-transforming truth--and reveals her thoughts and feelings every step of the way.

My Thoughts:

I was impressed with this book from the first page. Battlefield of the Mind is based in the fact that our actions are controlled by our thoughts and without even realizing it we are in battle for our thoughts with Satan.

This book starts out by explaining the most common ways we are deceived into poor thinking patterns and then goes onto giving us the ammunition we need to change our thought patterns.

There is so much information packed into each page of this book. It is very clearly written and Biblically based. It has the ability to be a wonderful Bible study tool

Favorite Quote:

“If you use wisdom, you will find God meeting your needs. Anyone operating in the mind of Christ will walk in wisdom- not emotions”

* I received this book free for review from Faith Words, a division of Hachette Book Group*
Rating:  5 carats
Visit Joyce Meyer's website Buy the book

Monday, May 16, 2011

An Object of Beauty

An Object of Beauty
By Steve Martin

About the book:
A captivating presence who naturally draws in everyone around her, Lacey Yeager appears on the New York art scene as a clever and funny young intern at Sotheby’s. With her charm, ambition, and questionable and sometimes illegal tactics, she climbs the cultural ladder, step by step, and moves from cataloging paintings to success in the labyrinthine and mysterious art world. Her knowledge of art and art collectors quickly grows, and the list of men she enchants and inevitably destroys grows right alongside it. Her rise to the highest tiers of the city’s social life parallel the soaring heights—and, at times, the dark lows—of the art world and the country from the early 1990s through today.

My Reveiew:
I thought this book would be funny. It wasn't. It wasn't anything I would expect from Steve Martin.

This is really a story of misplaced values and greed. Lacey Yegar is fresh out of college and begins to work in the art world. Lacey quickly learns how too much money can lead to lies and deception.

A person who loves art and art history will probably like this book the best because it is rich with art descriptions and history yet other than that the plot is weak. Lacey, although smart, seems rather cold and aimless. It felt like I was waiting for Lacey to have some sort of breakthrough but with all that happened around her, Lacey remained unchanged and dull.

*I received this audiobook free for review from Hachette Book Group
Rating: 3 carats
Visit Steve's website Buy the audiobook

Monday, May 9, 2011

Save the Date

Save the Date
BY Jenny B Jones
About the book:
Former NFL star Alex Sinclair is a man who has it all–except the votes he needs to win his bid for Congress.

Despite their mutual dislike, Alex makes Lucy a proposition: pose as his fiancee in return for the money she desperately needs.

Bound to a man who isn’t quite what he seems, Lucy will find her heart on the line–and maybe even her life.

When God asks Alex and Lucy to scrap their playbook and follow his rules, will they finally say, “I do”?

My Thoughts:

I liked this book as it was both sweet and funny. The characters were unique, and I was always surprised by what happened next. The characters were engaging and fun.

The main character, Lucy, is filled with spunk and passion. She loves her job at a girls homes and is willing to do almost anything to save it from closing down, even faking an engagement to Alex Sinclair, a former football player now running for congress in need of votes.

Lucy thinks she has Alex all figured out from the tabloid reports of him but quickly learns he's more complex than she ever imagined.

A great book to read anytime.

Favorite line:

"She didn't have a face that would sell the latest parisian perfume. Nor did she possess the confident air that ladies in his world wore like a necessary undergarment. But if he peeled back her hostility and the years of the bratty youth, Lucy Wiltshire was still a traffic stopper."

Rating: 4 carats

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Friday, April 29, 2011

An Interview with Sandra Byrd

                                                          About Sandra Byrd

About Sandra Byrd:
After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd went on to publish more than three dozen books including her widely-acclaimed adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, and her recent 4-book young adult fiction series, London Confidential. Publishing her Tudor Series, Ladies in Waiting, is a lifelong dream come true.

A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra is also an accomplished non-fiction writer and author. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications such as Radiant, Focus on the Family's Clubhouse Magazine, Christian Parenting Today, Today's Christian Woman, the Oregonian, Pockets, Decision, and Guideposts. For nearly a decade Sandra has mentored hundreds of students through the Christian Writer's Guild.

Sandra resides in Washington State with her husband Michael, a chaplain, their two children, and a circus dog named Brie.

Read my reviews of the London Confidential Series book 1, 2, 3, and 4

1.What gave you the idea or inspired the London Confidential series?

I get ideas from life all around me. From the circumstances I and others go through, from exciting places and times in history, from an overheard conversation or remark. Anything is fair game! I also think it's fun to learn about how people can live in different places, and have different racial, family, or nationalities but deep inside, in the heart, we are all pretty much the same. We have the same needs, to be loved and to love, to feel wanted and have an important calling, and the same fears, rejection, embarrassment, being alone. Plus, isn't it just fun to go new places and meet new people, even in books?

 I moved quite a bit when I was growing up, so the challenges that Savvy faces in relation to that are ones I can relate to as well. I do love London , too! :)

2. What is the one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
Be strong and courageous. Dream big. Trust God even when it seems very dark. Love people but don't let them walk on you. Live with joy and faith.

3. If "Flirting with Disaster" were a movie who would you want to play the main characters?
Hmm. How about Emma Roberts for Savvy, Emma Watson for Penny, possibly America Ferrara for Hazel. The guys are much harder. Blonde and British? Curly brown hair and British? Maybe we'll have to go on a talent hunt!

4. Do you ever find it challenging to get to you keyboard everyday? What do you do when the words won't come?
The hardest part of anything is getting started. Getting started with a new book, a new chapter, a new page, or just sitting down at the computer and staying there till I've done my word count. Once I get about 300 words down on paper, I'm on a roll and I can stay in the zone. Those first 300 are hard, though.

5. What is your writing process?
I dream for a few months and let things knit together in my head and heart, jotting down notes as necessary. Then I throw some queries to my focus group readers and close friends. Then I outline - religiously. Next, I write, a word count per day, every day, till the first draft is done. I send it off to the focus group readers and beg them not to give me any comments for at least a week while I gather my marbles back together and take a long nap.When the comments come back, I tweak the manuscript. Then it's off to my editors, where I await round two!

6. What is the best advice youve ever been given?
If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew10:39)

7. What are two things people would be surprised to know about you?
I eat Lemonheads nonstop while writing a rough draft to help me deal with the tension. If I had to be stranded on a desert island with only one luxury, it would be fresh lemonade. I guess I am a lemon fan.

If I weren't a writer I'd be a chef or a baker and my favorite non-writing websites and blogs are almost all related to food.

8. What is on your cd player/ iPod?
It changes every day. Today? Third Day, Abney Park, Redlight King, Jars of Clay, Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

9. When you're not writing, what are you doing?
Cooking and baking, spending time with my family and friends, music, and, of course, reading!

To see what's next for Sandra Byrd or friend her on facebook click on over to her website