Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Raven by Mike Nappa | Re:View

Nothing beats a sarcastic character. Really. Maybe I'm partial or maybe it's just Mike Nappa's writing style in regards to The Raven (the character, not the book in this case), but I love what he did in this second Coffee & Hill mystery/suspense series. 

I had a vague memory of reading the first part of this book at the end of Annabell Lee (book 1 in this series) and was excited to start this book. If life hadn't gotten in the way I think I would have finished it more quickly, but as it was, I finally turned to the end last night and found myself excited book 3 already!

I found The Raven's character by far my absolute favorite. Yes, the snark (as mentioned above) was a big factor but I think there was something honest and real about him that jumped off the page to me. He was almost supernaturally calm as a character (to me at least) but it didn't feel fake. It was more "this is how he really feels". As the book progresses we begin to see a lot more of his backstory but I'll just leave it at the fact that I really enjoyed his character.

Ah, *sigh*, things I want to say about Trudi and Sam. But they are things I won't say for fear of spoiling anything. What I will say is I'm liking the progression of the books and hoping that what I'm hoping happens isn't just hoping, but reality. (Yes, much hope). I enjoy their character's though and I will give a shout out to Mike (and/or his editor too) for his portrayal of Trudi's female mind. There were times when I found myself nodding and thinking - yes! as a woman, I have felt/thought this exact way. I'm impressed by his intuition with regards to the immensely complex feminine mind.

From Instagram: @createexploreread
Lastly, let's talk (and not talk) about the plot. It was well done, mostly fast-paced, and intriguing. Mike uses a very interesting technique where some chapters (all divided into POV's based on character) are backtracking after other chapters. I have mixed feelings on this. It created an interesting reality where you left off at one spot and then read from before that spot to "catch up" to present time. It also meant a lot of "this happened then this did etc." because a lot of it was in retrospect. It was well written and has a certain element of style to it as much as it aided in creating suspense in the story BUT it also took some suspense out because you already knew what was happening and then just got to see it from a different POV. Are you confused yet? Yeah...

All in all, I really enjoyed this book--more than Annabell Lee actually--and am confident in recommending it. I would call it more mystery than suspense/thriller though there are elements of action to it. I think the covers of this series make them seem darker than they are (not that I don't like the covers because I definitely do). So you don't have to feel the kind of "creepy tension" you do with other, more suspenseful books. There are moments of it, but it's milder (in my opinion).

My Rating: 4*
Purchase: The Raven 

Book Description
(from Amazon)
"A thrill ride into the stark territory between grace and the letter of the law."--Tosca Lee, New York Times bestselling author

As part of his regular street performance, a deception specialist who goes by the name The Raven picks his audience's pockets while they watch. It's harmless fun--until he decides to keep the spare wallet a city councilman doesn't seem to miss, hoping for a few extra bucks. When he finds not money but compromising photos of the councilman and his "personal assistants," The Raven hatches a plan to blackmail the man. However, he quickly finds himself in over his head with the Ukrainian Mafia and mired in a life-threatening plot code-named, "Nevermore."

Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill must scramble to sort out the clues--and their complicated feelings for each other--to rescue The Raven and save hundreds of lives from a wildcard bent on revenge.
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Heather Day Gilbert | Author Chat

Please welcome Heather to the blog, friends. She is a...
"Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. You can find Heather's Viking historicals and West Virginia mystery/suspense novels here."
I connected with Heather through Instagram and am so excited to have her here for an Author Chat. So, grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and settle in to get the know the real & fun side of Heather.

What prank would you like to play on your main character?
Let's just put it this way—I would NEVER try to prank my Viking warrior woman lead, Freydis. She would likely take my head off in one slice of her curved knife with her honed killer instincts! LOL.

Which of your characters do you secretly have a crush on?
Generally, it's the male love interest (often the husband) in the book I'm currently writing. Honestly, I think most female authors are a little in love with several of our male characters, especially if you write first-person books like I do. But my top two picks are the ones most like my hubby, so that means Thorfinn Karlsefni in my Viking historicals and Thomas Spencer in my Appalachian mysteries.

Share about a failed meal you made.
Recently, I made my first Thanksgiving dinner for my family (we have always eaten with my in-laws or my parents, and this year my parents were out of town). While the turkey breast turned out great, sad to say I burned the gravy so badly it smelled (and tasted) like charcoal. I always forget to whisk the gravy packet with the water FIRST and then add to boiling water. However, to redeem myself, I will elaborate that I can whip up flour/milk gravy easily, but this time I was trying to make the kind that came with the turkey breast. ;)

Two truths and a lie (answer at the bottom):
This is so fun! Okay—my readers might guess one of these...
1. I had my daughter close me in a car trunk so I could see how hard it would be for my sleuth to escape.
2. I have a scar on my knee from when a drove a motorcycle into a cinder block wall.
3. I love to ski and had a brief stint as a ski instructor at our local ski lodge (Winterplace).
If your book became a movie, who would you cast as your main characters?
I have pondered this since God's Daughter is in negotiations for a movie option right now. I had pictured Michael Fassbender for Thorfinn Karlsefni (okay, maybe when he was a bit younger), Amanda Seyfried for Gudrid, and Lasselom (you can find him on Instagram) as Leif Eiriksson. But for Freydis in Forest Child, it's harder. I pictured a younger Tilda Swinton or Aslaug on the History Channel's Vikings series. You can check all my Pinterest boards out here and you'll be able to see who I pictured for my books.

From Heather's awesome Pinterest board!
Thanks so much for letting me visit, Emilie!

So happy to have you Heather!

You can connect with Heather online here:
Facebook Author Page:
Twitter: @heatherdgilbert

Forest Child 
by Heather Day Gilbert

Viking warrior. Dauntless leader. Protective mother.

Determined to rise above her rank as the illegitimate "forest child" of Eirik the Red, Freydis launches a second voyage to Vinland to solidify her power and to demand the respect she deserves. She will return home with enough plunder to force her brother, Leif, to sell her the family farm in Greenland.

But nothing can prepare her for the horrors she must confront in Vinland...and nothing can stand in her way when her family is threatened.

In her race to outrun the truths that might destroy her, Freydis ultimately collides with the only enemy she cannot silence—her own heart.

Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. This immersive tale is Book Two in the bestselling Vikings of the New World Saga.

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...And the lie was #3

Monday, January 16, 2017

Safe Harbor by Kristen Terrette | New Novel News

Safe Harbor 
by Kristen Terrette

Published: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Hartwood Publishing, Hart & Soul Imprint Purchase: Safe Harbor

Eva Elliott is left with a jaded heart after the death of her boyfriend while she was pregnant. She pushed away the idea of God and love, focusing solely on her daughter, Willow. She accepts an offer from her mom to move to Moanna Island, off the coast of Georgia. She hopes the move will help her tuck away the guilt for the role she thinks she played in her boyfriend’s death.

Thad Smith is the local youth mentor and football coach, who’s finally recovered from his fall from grace when his NFL career ended. The day Eva arrives, Thad saves her daughter from drowning in the ocean the day, instantly connecting the pair. Eva stubbornly fights the stirring in her heart the moment Thad smiles, but since Thad coaches the football team where Eva teaches, and lives down the street, God continues to intertwine their lives. Eva will not agree to a date, so Thad uses his adventurous spirit to his advantage.

She doesn’t expect Thad’s ex to throw a kink in the fragile plan, nor for Thad’s relationship with God to convict her own shame and brokenness. Just when she opens the door to God, finally ready to make things right, an accident occurs that could leave Willow an orphan and Thad all alone again.

Get to know Kristen...

If your book became a movie, who would you cast for your main characters?
I am a totally addicted to Pinterest and therefore all my main characters have already been pinned as a celebrity look-alike about a million times at this point. When you see my Character Inspiration board, you’ll quickly see Jason Momoa splattered all over it. He is definitely Thad’s twin (Safe Harbor’s hero). He’s a super tall, muscle-clad, ex-football playing, brute of a man. He has some tattoos and an air of toughness about him, but when he smiles…your insides turn to mush. Thad and J. Momoa both have sincere smiles that leave creases all over their gorgeous faces.

My heroine, Eva, is more of a Rachel Bilson look-alike. She’s a dark beauty and on the petite side, which stands in stark contrast to Thad. Rachel comes across as a southern belle- which maybe because of her show Hart of Dixie- but Eva is much the same, only without the twangy voice.

What's your favorite chore?
I have gone through three Swifter Sweepers over the last handful of years. I wear them out! I buzz that little mini-vac with a duster cloth on the bottom all through my house at least once a day. Sometimes more. My family hates the sound it makes at this point.

What’s your favorite book?
At any given moment, the answer to this question could be different, but the book that popped in my head was Lynn Austin’s Hidden Places. The weave of characters and their life-stories was breathtaking to me as a writer. I kept thinking, “I want to write like this one day!” It was a stretch for me to even pick it up, because I normally only enjoy recent contemporary settings in the books I read- which is weird because I love history and just completed a literary fiction novel that spans generations. This story is set in the depression era, but was recommended by a trusted reader friend, so I read it and was so glad I did. It’s opened my mind to other stories out of my comfort zone ever since!

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Friday, January 13, 2017


I was scrolling through my Facebook feed today and came across this amazing 13-year-old boy, Joey Alexander, from Indonesia, featured on my friend Paul's podcast (check out Mozart and Me here). Just watch this video and I'm sure you'll find your jaw dropping to the floor:

It got me thinking. I know I've been talking a lot about goals and goal setting here on the blog but I wanted to take a moment today, on this lovely Friday morning, to point out the fact that there are some truly amazing, talented, and gifted people in this world. Think of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis,   Mozart, and even little Joey Alexander here who are just filled to the brim with extraordinary talent.

Whether it's writing, art, science, cooking, sports, music, dancing, pottery, or whatever it may be, creativity is something we're gifted with. Some will be more talented in some areas and a few, like Joey here, will shine more brightly, but what I think I'll take with me today is that sense of wonder.

As a writer (especially one who loves Fantasy and Sci-Fi) I love thinking about the different giftings we all have and how we each get the chance to use them. I challenge you today to not look at others gifts and talents with envy, but appreciation and to recognize your own gifts (not in comparison to anyone else).

Happy Friday you talented people, you! 💛

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Life Goals 2017

As I shared last Thursday in my Goal Setting post, being specific about your goals is important. I've decided to split my posts up into these categories: Life Goals, Writer Goals, Physical Goals, and Mental Goals. At the end of that post I also mentioned being part of a team and that's where you all come into play.

YOU are part of my team! (Didn't know what you were getting into, did you?). I realize how important it is to have more 'personal' teammates as well and I would say that I do have friends who fill that role, but what better way to be kept accountable to my goals than by announcing them here to all of you.

*Blinks* I don't know if I thought this through. *Gulps* Um, you'll be nice, right guys? *Starts hyperventilating* Right...?

My Life Goals for 2017

For this post, I've honed in on a few goals I wanted to share with you. These goals fall in line with what I mentioned in my previous goal setting post but some are a bit vague to save us all time.

Be more present 
This seems slightly nebulous but I promise to break it down a little. What I mean by "more present" is that I do not want to be the person who considers their phone as essential to living. I don't want to go to coffee with a friend and set my phone on the table as if to say to the other person "Yeah, I'm here, but something more important could come up". Nope. I want to be able to separate from my phone and--guess what?--I'll still be a living, breathing, functioning person!

Check out this video by Simon Sinek on this very subject. It's kind of long but so worth it in my opinion. He makes some great points:

- Spend less time on my phone in general. Set a timer for social media browsing etc.
- Don't let my phone be the "third person" in a conversation.
- Value face-to-face interactions over digital ones.
- Don't use my phone as an excuse not to interact in the "real world" (no matter how hard it is being an introvert *cringes*).

Stay focused
Oh, ye old freelance life. You are a blessing and a curse!

But really...I love my job and the fact that I can do it from literally anywhere, but it takes a lot of discipline. Some days I'm great at this and others...not so much. I really want my work time to be work time and my free time to be just that. Fun and free! Yes, the lines blur being a writer for my job and for my fun-time too, but I think I can do this. (More tips on this in the future on the blog!)

- Create a workable schedule (see the next point)
- Keep work out of the weekends where possible
- Don't let social media and marketing rule my life (even if it is fun)
- Have friends keep me accountable to this

Consider time a precious commodity and spend it well
Time is one of the only things we cannot change no matter how amazing we are--that is, unless you're Doctor Who...but that's another matter. Because of this, I want to make sure I'm spending the time allotted to me wisely. I could literally spend an entire day answering and sending emails...but there comes a point when I just need to say no.

- Keep track of how long things really take me and then plan accordingly
- Prioritize what's important
- Spend my time on things that matter

Love well & help others
To me, there is nothing more important than loving people and helping those I can. This year I want to focus on this (as I want to do every year). I want to take time to listen, learn from others, encourage, help, sacrifice for, and regard them as more important than my own selfish desires. I also want to give back where possible.

- Consider others interests before my own
- Don't let my work become so important that I don't have time to be a good friend
- Do something (by myself and/or with others) when I see a need
- Find ways to help those less fortunate than myself
- Put LOVE above all things

Each year there is a word that I focus on. Last year's word was joy and...I'll be honest and say I'm not sure how well I did. The focus wasn't on me having joy so much as creating joy in others. It was my aim, though I'm not sure if I accomplished it well or not.

For this year, I wasn't sure I was even going to search for a word when one dropped into my lap. (Thanks God!) Believe is my word for 2017. For me, that looks like believing that what the Lord has in store for me this year is good. That's a tricky thing because "good" doesn't exactly mean "what I choose" or "what I think is good". God's good for me is often very different from "Emilie's choice of good" but, if I can be candid here...God's good is always always better, even if I don't always see that immediately.

Yeah, that's not an easy concept when this world is filled with bad things, hurts, and death...but ultimately I know that I don't live for this world. I live for something greater, for a purpose defined by Love and a Savior who died and rose again to show that love to me.

In 2017, I choose to believe that, no matter what happens, He will work things out for His good. That He will be with me through it all. That He will use me to encourage, cherish, love, and support those around me. Sounds like a pretty good focus for the year, huh?

- Take quiet time to listen to Him
- Don't be so obsessed with what I want but what He wants for me
- Release my anxiety about trying to plan my life (this is a tough one, friends)
- Spend time in His word, with His people, and talking to Him

So there you have it friends, my "Life Goals" for 2017. I'd love to hear a Life Goal you have for yourself this year! Share in the comments below!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Rachel Pellegrino of Little Lamb Books | Writer Wednesday

A little bit about Rachel...

Rachel LaMonica Pellegrino is the founder and publisher of Little Lamb Books, an independent, boutique publisher of faith-based fiction books for elementary, middle grade, and young adult readers.

Rachel has worn many hats including the ones for journalist, radio promotions assistant, a special events coordinator, and teacher. She launched Little Lamb Books, a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), to give readers ages 5 to 18 a chance to read creative stories, meet intriguing characters, and wander through interesting worlds while developing, learning about, and growing their faith.

Rachel is an Italian wife and mom (which means she talks with her hands most of the time), and a tea drinker, an avid reader, a professional photographer, and a fangirl of all things Disney. She also writes on her personal blog

Connect with Rachel...


Get to know Rachel and Little Lamb Books...

You and Books
I have been a passionate reader from the age of four. My mom took me to the library every week, and I’d come home with piles of books that I’d race through in just a few short days. Pippi Longstocking, Jo March, Anne of Green Gables, and Nancy Drew were some of my favorite characters as I grew up.

Then, I became a teacher, and I loved teaching books like Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor to The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis.

Now, as a mom to a little one, I love reading bedtime stories with colorful illustrations and fun characters, like The World Champion of Staying Awake, A Bear Called Paddington, or the Fancy Nancy Series.

When I decided to become a publisher and launch Little Lamb Books, I felt like I was finally able to mesh my passion with my purpose!

Your Company

Who is Little Lamb Books?
Little Lamb Books is a small, independent publishing company based in Texas that is focusing on traditionally producing faith-based fiction for elementary, middle grade and young adult readers. Our main goal is to encourage young readers in their faith, inspire their love of reading, and delight their imagination through stories that incorporate faith and values, character education, biblical parables, and lifestyle principles within interesting plots, strong characters, and colorful settings.

Why did you start Little Lamb Books?
As a teacher of 15 years, I know how important reading is for kids. And, of course, I love to read! I also recognized after having my own child that while there was an abundance of amazing books being written and placed in bookstores, I wasn’t finding the same inspiring characters and colorful creativity in books with a biblical worldview. I wanted to not only create a legacy for my daughter, but also to enrich and expand the character, setting, and story choices of children in homes where faith is the core value, and I think there are more families that desire this as well.

Are you accepting new manuscripts, and if so what genres are you focusing on?
Yes, we are accepting submissions for elementary, middle grade and young adult readers, or ages 5 to 18. We are accepting manuscripts in a variety of genres, including Contemporary Christian/Inspirational, Comedy/Humorous, Mystery & Suspense, Action & Adventure, Science Fiction, Simply Sweet Romance, and Historical Fiction.

Was there a passage of scripture you came across or used while building this company?
There were quite a few; some that helped with choosing our name, some which helped define our mission. Mostly, they were confirmation passages that really supported the purpose of creating this company. Here are three of them:
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11
“Start children off in the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14b
Publishing and Writing

How long does it take to publish a children’s picture book?
Everyone is always amazed at this, but it honestly at minimum takes a good year. I know when I started a few years ago, I too thought that with all the advances in technology, a book should be able to be edited, printed and distributed quickly, but if you want to work with a traditional publisher, twelve months after signing a contract is a good time table to prep your cover art and illustrations, edit your content, build in a marketing plan, gather reviews, build momentum, and so much more.

How do you pick a manuscript to publish?
I know this is different from pub house to house or agent to editor, but I mostly look at a few writing things, like story plotting and character development, content or chapter flow, but I also look at more business oriented items, such as marketability, genre data, and author platform. Most of the time, I know after reading the cover letter and the first one to two pages whether or not a manuscript will work for us. Sometimes, it’s a physical reaction like the hairs on the back of my neck stand up or I’ll get actual goose bumps on my arms. That’s what happened with our first picture book.

How hard is it to send a rejection letter to an author?
Believe it or not, it’s quite difficult. A rejection letter isn’t generally something that a publisher, editor, or agent enjoys. I always think about how I would feel receiving the letter, and I’m a sensitive soul, so I know when I send it, it’s going to hurt someone. That’s very hard. We can’t reply to every submission because there’s just too many, but when we do, I try to be the one who sends the letters, and I struggle over what to say, how to encourage.

What are things you would advise or encourage writers to work on?
I started a list last year after getting grumpy over some items we were seeing over and over again in submissions. I felt like I was a teacher again, and needed to make a cheat sheet for students:
  • Spell Check. 
  • Follow the submission guidelines exactly as they are described. 
  • Build your platform - which doesn’t mean you have to be online all the time. 
  • Work on your pitches for conferences, conventions, and pitch parties. 
  • Don’t send nasty letters if you receive a rejection or negotiations fall through - it doesn’t reflect well on you.

What are you currently watching?
Well, I’ve been binge watching The Crown on Netflix. I love all things royal, and the holidays were so busy, so I’m just now wrapping up season one. I’m not sure I can wait for season two!

What’s one thing you are looking forward to in the New Year?
I’m really excited about the release of our first children’s picture book by our author Shelly Roark. It releases at the end of summer, and it’s a precious story about a small bubble that faces some mighty challenges to complete an important mission and fulfill his purpose. It’s beautifully illustrated and has a simple, but important message for children and parents alike.

What are you currently reading?
Aside from our most recent submissions, my first book for 2017 was Lauren Graham’s Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (And Everything in Between)! If I’m going to read non-fiction, I enjoy a good, fast-paced biography, which this is. It was a Christmas gift because I’m a big Gilmore Girls fan!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Unexpected Storms by Patti Shene | Guest Post

Resolutions. I quit making them a long time ago.

The reason? I just don’t keep them.

The older I get, the more I realize life just doesn’t work that way. You don’t go to sleep on December 31st and wake up a completely different person on January 1st, with new habits, a new mindset, and a life that goes just the way you plan.

I often fall short of accomplishing the goals I set the previous night for the next day!

Why? The answer is simple.

Unexpected storms.

The Christmas program our church had planned was scheduled to take place at Sunday morning Worship Service on December 18th. Snow was expected for Friday evening, “trace to one inch” the weatherman predicted for our area.

We woke up Saturday morning to a blanket of several inches, and with the whipping wind, four-foot drifts kept some people prisoner in their homes. The program, along with our Worship Service, was canceled that Sunday morning.

We had to postpone our program until January 1st. Despite the delay, we accomplished the same goal of spreading the message of God’s great gift of His son to the world.

Storms rush into our lives in many forms and at the most inopportune times. An unavoidable home repair needs attention, the car breaks down, illness strikes, a death occurs, a job is lost, the list goes on.

All of these circumstances and much more disrupt our writing schedules and force us to crunch deadlines, beg for extensions, or back out on commitments. Add to that the frustration of computer issues, Internet connection failures, and the worst onslaught of all – writers block!

I’ve been frustrated for the longest time (years!) with the goals I don’t reach in a day, a week, a month. So, this year, I’ve started using a new system to track exactly what I do accomplish.

All it requires is a simple Excel file.

I make a list of the previous evening of tasks I want to complete the next day. This includes household chores, writing commitments, even reading goals.

The following evening, I go over that list and check “done” next to the items I can cross off.

If some task is accomplished that wasn’t on the list, I simply use the insert feature and add it, then check it as “done.”

Tasks that don’t get completed as planned are moved down to the next day.

I don’t delete anything, which allows me to a) see how many days a certain task is moved before it is accomplished b) track what I have accomplished over a period of time.

I’ve only been using this system for a few days, but I’ve already learned from it.

I accomplish more than I think I do

One project often leads to another. Even though the original task may not be completed, others that have been on the back burner are added to my list and checked off as “done.”

Interruptions are essential

These usually come in the form of phone calls from a friend, an unexpected visit from family, doing a favor for someone, taking care of responsibilities to church or organizations. I can’t sacrifice my relationships to accomplish my goals.

I don’t feel guilt about what I don’t get done

I’m learning to take pride in what I do get done. Putting away my Christmas decorations was delayed because I took the time to organize the room I store them in. It’s a win-win!

I don’t compare myself to others

God made me unique. My friend can watch her grandkids, do farm chores, and be active in several organizations and still keep her house tidy. I struggle to do the routine housecleaning, keep up with organization commitments, complete a couple of blogs posts and add a few pages to my manuscript. I work at my own pace and give my best in all my endeavors.

I pray over my day

God has plans for me that may not even be on my radar (tweet this). I try to stay open to opportunities to serve others, share the gospel, stay connected with family and friends, and accept the challenges He places before me. I pray those experiences make me a better writer!

How have you weathered the unexpected storms in your life?

Patti Shene enjoys reading, writing, and encouraging other writers. She maintains two blogs, Patti’s Porch and The Over 50 Writer, where she promotes the work of authors on her website, She hosts Step Into the Light, a weekly interview format Blog Talk Radio show, where guests share their journey from a time of darkness in their lives back to the light of hope and God’s peace. Connect with Patti on

Step Into the Light Blog Talk Radio show
Facebook (personal page)
Facebook (Step Into the Light)