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
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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
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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
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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