Friday, March 29, 2013

Wishing on Willows: A Review

I just loved Robin in Katie Ganshert's first book (Wildflowers from Winter), and I had high expectations for this book. It lived up to every one. 

It's been over four years since Robin's husband died, leaving her pregnant. In book one, she begins the long grieving process by building a cafe, a dream she and her husband had first thought of on their honeymoon. Now, the small town is struggling, and the mayor wants to build condos on the land where her cafe is....with the help of the charming Ian, the contractor who makes her feel things she hasn't felt in years. Will Robin have to give up her heart and soul's work to help the town? 

Although I know the author is happily married, she captures grief so well. I felt like I was in Robin's heart as she dealt with the loss of her husband and now the possible loss of her cafe. At first I was thrown off by the random chapters written in first person, giving glimpses into Robin's past, but after the second one, they were some of my favorite parts, like the character was letting us in on her secrets. I could go on and on about how much I like Robin. She's a beautifully layered character.

Ian is just as wonderful, and Ganshert does a great job humanizing the guy who has come to take away Robin's cafe. The secondary characters are fantastic, and it was nice to catch up with Bethany and Evan from book one. Amanda, Robin's roommate, is an intriguing character, and I hope we'll see a book about her soon.

Despite the hard events in the book...death, cancer, unfulfilled dreams....the book offers a glimmer of hope in Christ even you don't get what you thought you wanted.

I received this e-book in exchange for my review, but I also ordered my own copy too. It's that good. 

Please take a minute to rank my review.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Today, I'm giving away a copy of A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund. I LOVED this book. 

To enter to win, tell me what you think makes someone noble. To me, a noble person is someone who does the right thing because it's the right thing, a person of moral principle.

Get a second entry by following the blog. (Be sure to leave a comment telling me you follow. I know that's annoying sometimes, but it's the easiest way to keep up with the number of comments/entries.)

I will pick a winner (via next Thursday. 
I can only ship to the US. 
Be sure to leave an email address so that I can contact you.

Congrats to Juli for winning Secretly Smitten. I sent you an email asking for your address.

Happy Resurrection Day Sunday. So thankful for Jesus and a light in this dark world. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Rancher Next Door: A Review

Although the premise is very similar to the author's last book (overprotective dad and a woman who helps him loosen up and be a real dad), I enjoyed this book because I really liked the characters. Brady and Caley are both interesting and well-developed, but the daughter Ava may be my favorite of the three.

The plot lags in the middle, but there was an great bull-on-the-loose scene at the beginning and a satisfying conclusion to even out the plot. I would have liked to see a little more of Caley in action on her job as a really know why she loved that career and to add a little action to the middle. I enjoy St. Amant's writing style and felt she captured the nuances characters and their professions perfectly.

Total side note...Caley doesn't really like Max, Brady's best friend and ranch hand. However, I found him intriguing and would love to see him get his own story. Hint, hint!

Overall, this is a sweet, enjoyable read, and fans of the Love Inspired books will want to check it out.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Noble Groom: A Review

You know a book is great when you stay up past 1:00 am to finish despite the fact that you have to wake up a few hours later for work. This book is worth the lack of sleep.

In the year 1880, few women held on to dreams of a fairy tale life. Annalisa may tell her daughter all the stories, but she knows she'll never experience that kind of love. When her husband dies, leaving her to try to save their farm alone, Annalisa's father writes the family in their native land, asking for a husband for her. When Carl Richard arrives to help until Annalisa's intended  can come (and run from his past), Annalisa comes to care for him...despite the fact he's not the man she's to marry.

Although the summary sounds like it's mainly a romance, this book offers so much more: family, the harsh farming life, murder, and family loyalty vs. love.
I enjoyed the realistic look at farm life, which included some lice scenes that made my head itch.
The relationship with Annalisa and her extended family, especially her brother Uri, was strong and more complex than it first appeared. I was certainly thrown for a loop by a twist at the end with her sweet brother...I wish that twist would have been developed a little more.
Finally, I loved the characters of Annalisa, her daughter, and Carl. They are each unique and well-developed. I liked the way the old fairy tales/folk tales were woven throughout the story.

This has been my favorite book (so far) by this author. Fans of Christian fiction will enjoy this book. Perhaps just start it early enough in the day that you can finish by bedtime.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts are my own.

The Survivor: A Review

When she was a girl, Dr. Amy Garrett was attacked and left for dead. Although the assailant was never caught, Amy is ready to tell her story, and she asks author Kariss Walker (from book one in the series) to write her story. Amy's attacker comes out of the shadows at the news of the book, and Kariss just might have to turn to Tigo, her ex-boyfriend, for help when her life's on the line. 

The Survivor picks back up where the first book left off: full of adventure, suspense, and romance. 
First, the mystery: Although parts of the book are from the attacker's point of view, the readers aren't quite sure who it is, and Mills drops a few clues but keeps the identify as one of the final twists. The sideplot of the car bombing keeps the book moving along at a quick pace and makes the reader want to keep going.
Second, the romance: Kariss ended things with Tigo, but the feelings didn't stop. This book delves a little more into the characters, and there's a nice conclusion to Kariss' lingering questions about Tigo.

My only complaint was that there seemed to be a couple loose ends wrapped up a little too smoothly at the end or not really resolved at all (like Amy's brother). 

Overall, fans of Christian suspense will enjoy this addition the series. I do recommend reading them in order though!

I received this book in exchange for my review.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Name Suggestions Please

When I wrote my first manuscript, I knew the main character's name before I typed a word. Now that I've started my second story, I have a mental picture of my main character and what she's like, but every time I try a name, it doesn't feel right.

She's an ordinary girl in every way, the overlooked sidekick to a popular, beautiful girl. She's into photography, and everyone knows her as Natalia's friend instead of her name. So, I want her to have a good name, but I just can't think of it. In fact, I don't plan on saying her name pretty late in the book.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, March 21, 2013


I haven't done a giveaway in a while, so here we go. Today, I'm giving away Secretly Smitten, which is a cute, fun read. 

To enter to win, leave a comment about something that you are smitten about lately. I have two things: cookie dough and my first little garden. I say garden, but it's just four plants...three cucumbers and one broccoli. (Two broccoli plants were tipped over and destroyed....I'm blaming squirrels even though I have no evidence of this.)

To get a second entry, follow the blog and leave a second comment letting me know you follow.
Please leave an email address.
I'll pick a winner next Thursday.
I can only ship to the US.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Round One of Bluebonnet Books: Reviews

I'm excited about the new list of Bluebonnet titles for the 2013-2014 school year. The Bluebonnet List is a list of 20 books compiled by students/librarians/etc. Students in grades 3-5 across Texas read at least five books and then vote in January for their favorite. The winning book is announced at the Texas Library Association's conference in April.

(I must confess that in previous years, I haven't read all the books on the list....pathetic for a librarian, right?) This year, I plan to have them ALL read before the new school year in August.

So, here goes.

I was excited to read this book. David Shannon is huge in elementary libraries. The kids love the David books, and I know I can always get a reluctant new reader to check them out. 

Now, I must preface this by saying this book is on the 2013-2014 Bluebonnet List, which is a list for Texas students in grades 3-6, where they read the books and vote across the state for a winner. So, I was reading this book while keeping my students in those grades in mind. I like the idea of a mystery fish that no one can catch and the secret of the one person who did. However, I just didn't enjoy the book. I thought the story was a little corny and the pictures too dark. 

I'm eager to see how the students like it, but I don't think it will be a favorite. I'll probably stick to the David books for a Shannon read-aloud.

I have to admit I had never heard of Barnum when I picked up this book, but I enjoyed the tale of a man who had a gift for sniffing out dinosaur bones. 
Although biographies can often be dry reads, this book moves quickly with Barnum's finds and puts a personal perspective on the fossils that fill our museums. The illustrations convey the excitement Barnum and his colleagues must have felt when they found the bones. 
This book is on the Texas Bluebonnet List, a list voted on by 3rd-6th graders across the state, and I'm eager to see if they like this tale. Hopefully, it will prompt them to follow their dreams wherever they may take them. 

A Matter of Trust: A Review

As prosecutor Mia Quinn chats with her co-worker, she hears gunshots and listens to her friend's last breaths. Teaming with Charlie Carlson, Colleen's murder is linked to another prosecutor's unsolved murder. Will Mia be next?

Mia Quinn has a lot on her plate: grieving her husband's recent death, going back to work after being a stay-at-home mom, and now this. I think these added subplots add to the book because instead of just telling a murder mystery (which is exciting), the author also develops a complex and intriguing character in Mia. Charlie is just as interesting, and I am excited about seeing these characters in future books. 

The plot moves quickly, with each page adding to the suspense. Although the murder is the central plot, the book tackles bullying and the secrets those we love keep, making A Matter of Trust a little more thought-provoking than just a great mystery.

Combined together, the great characters and fast storyline make for a great read. 

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts are my own.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Truth Stained Lies: A Review

When Jay gets an email from his soon-to-be ex-wife asking him to come over to work out the custody arrangement for their son, he rushes over.....just to be set up for her murder. Will his family be able to clear his name before his son is the next target?

With her latest, Blackstock gives readers another thrilling read, full of action, suspense, and character development. The action starts in chapter one when Jay finds his ex-wife dead and a clown fleeing from the scene and the action continues until the last page where hints of book two are revealed. 

The fact that this is the start of a new series is exciting to faithful fans like myself because it's the characters and their relationships with each other that make this book stand out in the suspense (with a hint of romance) sea of novels. Jay's sisters each have their own hangups, and I hope the next few books give us more insight into their pasts as we read about their future. 

Fans of Christian fiction will enjoy this latest novel by the fan favorite Terri Blackstock. 

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts are my own.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wings of Glass: A Review

At the age of 17, Penny escaped from her small-town life into the arms of Trent, convinced he was the one for her. Ten years later, she finds herself stuck in an abusive marriage without a friend or family member for support. When Trent is injured, she's finally able to get a job outside the home, where she becomes friends with two women who help her see that although they may be glass, she still has wings.

The characters are wonderfully written. I have to admit Penny sometimes got on my nerves because she couldn't stand on her two feet, but I think that means the author captured the pattern of abuse perfectly. The fights, the beatings, the apology, the forgiveness, the happy times...until the cycle starts again. 

Although Trent is a jerk, he was written in a way that explained why he acted that way without excusing his behavior. I kept hoping he would get good counseling and help, even though I wanted Penny to leave him. I found it interesting that the "pastors" who were brought in to counsel the couple encouraged Penny to forgive, as if the beatings weren't enough cause to leave her husband. Their use of scripture was in itself abusive, which is an interesting topic, and I wish the author had delved into it a bit more.

 Callie and Fati were also great characters, ones I hope every abused woman will have one day to help her break free.

At times, this is a difficult read. No one wants to read about an abused woman, but it is a captivating tale of hope, a story that kept me up until 2 a.m. to finish. 

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts are my own.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Grave Consequences: A Review

I didn't read the first book in this series, and while I don't know if that impacts my thoughts on the book, I figured I would throw that out there.

While Cora and her new family travel throughout Europe, the men who tried to kidnap her in book one are still following them. Although the sites are beautiful, her heart is still torn between the handsome rich Pierre and Will, the hired tour guide.  When the truth comes out and her father tries to manipulate her life, will Cora be able to stand on her own two feet?

While I enjoyed the description of the amazing places on the tour, I felt Cora's back-and-forth feelings between the two men were long winded and seemed almost as "filler" between events. All of the characters are likeable and well-developed, but I would have enjoyed the story a lot more if most of the first half of the book was cut. Once the action picks up, Cora becomes a stronger heroine instead of a silly girl who doesn't know which guy she likes. The second half of the book would make an excellent stand-alone novel.

The end is fun and fast with one last action scene and a dashing hero.

Christian fiction fans who enjoy rich, detailed descriptions of locations will enjoy this book. The second half is worth sticking through the first half.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts are my own.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

First person or third person?

I asked this before on Facebook one day, and it was pretty much split down the middle.

Do you prefer reading in first or third person?

Do you prefer writing in first or third person?

I wrote my first completed story (the one I just sent in) in third person.
I started a new story, and I'm trying first person. 
I'm eager to see which one I like better. 
As far as reading, I like both, depending on the genre/character.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lethal Legacy: A Review

Irene Hannon is amazing. She is quickly becoming my favorite Christian Romantic Suspense author, and the latest book about the Taylor siblings only adds to the reasons why.

When Kelly's father commits suicide, she can't believe it, especially when she receives a birthday gift he bought for her the day before he died. Determined to make the police open up the case, she finds Cole and begs him to look into it. All evidence points to a suicide until Kelly is attacked. Now the two have to work together to prove her father's death was  murder and keep Kelly safe.

As with the previous two books, Lethal Legacy is fast-paced and intense in the storyline. Although the killer is predicted early on and revealed halfway through the book, it's still a fun ride seeing how it all comes together. The characters are strong and likeable, and it's fun to see the characters from the previous books in many scenes.

Fans of Dee Henderson and romantic suspense in general will love this book (and the whole series). 

Monday, March 11, 2013

I got an email back!

Before I sent my book proposal out, I carefully researched agents and spent hours making sure my proposal fit their requirements. After I sent the proposals, I found several blogs by agents who shared how they send rejection notices and read all the various comments from other unpublished authors who shared their rejection letters.
I found a few similarities in stories.
*If you don't hear back from an agent within two months, they aren't interested.
*Some agents will send a one-line email letting you know it's not a good fit. 
*If the agent takes the time to give you feedback, there's hope.

Tonight, I sent out my last query letter/proposal, and I got a response within an hour. 
I'm copying most of it here.

Dear Laura, 

Thanks for sending this to me.

I like the story and I like the characters. I think this is worth working on. Unfortunately  I don't have time to do edits just now and I think the writing is a bit rough. 

Do you have a crit group? Do you have any money to hire an editor to edit the first few chapters. There are just a few things you could learn in the first few chapters and you could apply to the rest of the book. 

I really like this and pulled in, so I'd like to see it again. I wish I had time to work on an edit with you.

If you need suggestions for editors I have a few listed on my website on the writers' resource page: 
(I took the link out.)
If you don't have the money to hire an editor, and if no other agents pick this up, write back to me. I'll see if I can squeeze you in if you're interested in working with me. 

You have a good feel for story. (She then went on to add specifics from the book.)

I know it's a rejection, but it's so encouraging! Even if I don't hear back from anyone else, I will keep plugging away--reading books about writing, reading quality books, and rewriting my story. I am also planning to attend the ACFW conference in September.
I already contacted one of the editors she suggested, and I am looking forward to learning more.
Who knew rejection could be so nice. :)

The Storyteller: A Review

Although sometimes difficult to read, The Storyteller is a gripping and moving read. It's hard to summarize the plot because it switches from past to present, between different characters, and from fiction to reality. But, the result is amazing.

My favorite part is the saddest part: Minka's story, the one she kept hidden from her family. Although fiction, it was heartbreaking to read of Minka's survival of the Holocaust because Minka's fiction was the reality for millions of people. This part of the book shines as a reminder of what happened and begs readers not only to remember what happened but to realize it is still happening around the world. 

Of course, the ending has a Picoult-style twist, and even though I predicted the twist, the final scene still caught me off guard. 

Moon Over Edisto: A Review

After a slow start featuring too many characters to keep up with, Moon Over Edisto picks up the pace and delivers a beautiful tale of the hurt of betrayal and the peace forgiveness brings. When Mr. Bennett leaves his family for a younger woman, one who happens to be his daughter Julia's best friend, the family is fractured forever, and he passes away before Julia can reconcile with him. When the new Mrs. Bennett becomes ill and Julia is the only one who can come watch her three children, the past comes back demanding attention.

The book switches point of view between almost every character in the book, which makes for a rocky start. It was hard to keep up with everyone that quickly. However, once I remembered who each person was, I loved this book, especially the chapters from Etta's point of view. Etta is one of Julia's half-sisters, the one who loves painting as much as Julia and their father and also the one who refuses to speak. Her thoughts were deeper than her age.

The character development moves quickly, and the author does a great job of balancing all the different characters while maintaining the common thread of forgiveness and healing.

Fans of Christian fiction will enjoy this book.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts are my own.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Kingsbury Collection: A Review

This three-in-one collection is heavy on the hands and the heart. It includes some of Kingsbury's early works: Where Yesterday Lives, When Joy Came to Stay, and On Every Side. Although each story is unique, they share a common thread of a woman who is battling something from the past.

In Where Yesterday Lives, Ellen Barrett goes back to her hometown after the sudden death of her father. There, she must try to reconnect with her estranged sister while mourning the dad she loved. I found this book to be fairly boring. I think it's because most of the book was a walk down memory lane. Also, the siblings fought so much that they all got on my nerves.

When Joy Came to Stay is the best book in the set. Maggie has a perfect life, except she can't forget the child she gave up for adoption. Little Amanda Joy is moved from foster care home to foster care home but never gives up her faith. I liked the raw emotion Maggie felt through her depression and foster kids, both in fiction and real life, hold a special place in my heart. This book is classic Kingsbury: gut-wrenching circumstances and the faith to get through them.

On Every Side pits former friends Faith and Jordan against one another as they battle over a statue of Jesus in a city park. After Jordan and his sister were split up in foster care, Faith lost touch with the boy she had a crush on. Angry at God for how his life has turned out, Jordan works tirelessly to remove Christ from public forms. When he sees Faith again, he can't keep the walls up any more, both literally and figuratively. This story is sweet, and I like the parallels to the story of Joshua.

This collection is a perfect gift for faithful Kingsbury fans, but I must warn you that it gets heavy to hold after a while.

I was given this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts are my own.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I sent it.

Well, I did it. I emailed my proposal for my book to two agents. I am preparing myself for the rejection that will probably come. You always hear about authors, even amazing authors, who waited years and wrote several books before they got an agent, much less a published book.
But, it's still fun to hope! 
I am tweaking my proposal tonight to send to a third agency. Say a prayer.
Has anyone else sent a proposal to an agency? How did it go? Any advice for while I wait?