Thursday, June 30, 2016

Girls Slimline Bible NLT from Tyndale | RE:View

This review will be a little different than my other book reviews. Though I have read the whole Bible, I didn't read all of this Bible though I have gone through it and looked at it from the perspective of a reviewer. Below are my thoughts on this slimline Bible for girls. 

Bright, fun, and creative! 

This Girls Slimline Bible in the New Living Translation is, in a word, funky! First off, the cover is soft and almost fuzzy with a velvety feeling. As shown, it's a pretty bright blue with a slightly more muted pink than what you see in the picture. The sides are also stained purple and inside the front cover it's bright pink with the verse, "Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God's presence." Ephesians 3:12. I think this is an excellent choice in scriptures, especially for young girls. What a great reminder of our boldness in Christ! In this same area there is a section for a dedication (to and from) with the date and space for a note.

Moving inside the Bible you have the regular table of contents, an alphabetical reference (which is nice), readers note, introduction to the NLT (which I think almost no young reader will look through...), translation team list, and then the start of the Old Testament. It's pretty standard as Bible's go. I would say I like the font they chose (I know, I'm probably the only one who would notice that). As for the rest of the Bible there are handy footnotes with some explanations of things though not an overabundance. A bookmark in bright orange is attached, and Jesus's words are in red.

At the end you also have: dictionary/concordance for helpful reference, "Great Chapters of the Bible", "Great Verses of the Bible to Memorize" (a handy feature), a 365-day reading plan, and some maps! On the back of the bible there is a small cross (pink with green outline) with the words "Bold Faith" below it.

My thoughts:

I think this is a super fun Bible for young girls. I would be hesitant to say that a teen girl would enjoy this (this is a general statement) because it seems a little young for that age, but I would assume this would be great for girls around ages 7 to 12. I really like the features that are included, just enough to give inquisitive girls things to explore but not so overwhelming as a full-on reference Bible. I also LOVE the theme of "Bold Faith". As someone who's worked with teens and youth for almost 10 years I think this is crucial. Tyndale couldn't have picked a better thing to focus on!

My Rating: 5*
Purchase: From Amazon | From Tyndale 

I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or 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.


I was so happy to receive this Bible from Tyndale and now I'd like to spread the LOVE! I'm giving away my review copy (very gently used for the purposes of my review). Enter below: 

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Deborah Raney {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Deborah...

DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched Deb’s writing career. Twenty years, thirty books, and numerous awards later, she's still creating stories that touch hearts and lives. She and husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas for life in the city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four grown children and seven grandchildren who all live much too far away.

Connect with Deborah...


Get to know Deborah...

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing...

If not for the severe bronchial pneumonia and asthma I suffered from age six, I seriously doubt I’d be a writer today. That’s how God takes lemons and turns them into lemonade. I grew up on a farm, and it was not fun being told I had to stay inside while my younger brother and sisters were out riding the tractor with my dad, searching for the new batch of kittens in the barn, and exploring the countryside. But bless my sweet mom, she turned that time into a magic all its own when she introduced me to books!

The summer I turned 11, and read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books is the first time I’d put two and two together and realized books had authors, and being an author was a real job! From that moment, I knew I wanted to write a book someday. But after a false start at age 12 (when I wrote airplanes into a novel set in the 1700s before the Wright brothers had been born, let alone gone to Kitty Hawk!) real life took over and it wasn’t until I was 38, and the mom of four that I started writing for real!

The Lord blessed us with an “oops” baby when our older kids were 14, 10, and 8. I desperately wanted to stay home with her, as I had with the older three, but I also desperately needed to make money to help our oldest through college. God tapped me on the shoulder in December of 1993, and on New Years Day, I sat down and started writing. I wrote seven days a week, until May of that year, when I finally wrote “the end.”

Seventeen rejections later, I ended up with three publishers vying for my manuscript. Bethany House is who I chose, and the two-book contract I signed with them was to-the-penny the amount we’d just been told four years of college—room, board, and tuition—would cost for our son. Talk about an answer to prayer!

I guess the rest is history! I’ve been writing pretty much full-time since then, and recently turned in my thirtieth novel, the final book in the Chicory Inn Novels series from Abingdon Press. I have another three-book series in negotiations, and I’m delighted to be living the life I dreamed of that long-ago summer.

Emilie here: Wow, what an encouraging story! It's always such a blessing when we can look back and see how the Lord has directed us - sometimes it takes longer than we'd like, but His plan is always best!

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book...

What was a challenge you faced while writing Close to Home?
One of the biggest (yet happiest) challenges I faced while writing this book was the births of two new grandbabies! One in Seattle, and one in Missouri. Of course, this “Mimi” had to go visit both of those babies! There were tons of other things vying for my attention during this time. But then, that’s just real life. And certainly the norm in the life of a writer—or anyone else! You deal with it, and do the best you can.

We're your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book?  Like my heroine in Close to Home, I fell in love with both of the men in her life! And while I’d always known which one she’d end up with, my heart broke for the other guy!

What made you choose the setting for the book?
I set the entire series of novels in the fictional town of Langhorne (as in Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the real name of Missouri author Mark Twain), Missouri, near Cape Girardeau. It was a natural choice, given that both our daughters and four of our grandkids live near there. It meant I’d have plenty of excuses to visit my family in Missouri! Besides that, Southeast Missouri is such a beautiful and unique part of the country—very different from Kansas where I’ve lived most of my life, and where many of my previous novels were set.

What’s your favorite snack while writing?
I’m a coffee lover—a dash of half-and-half, no sugar, please—and my favorite feature of my office is my coffee bar with its display of more than seventy mugs.


Let’s talk about your writing life...

How long did you write before you got published?
I almost hate to answer this question because my story is not typical. I finished the first draft of my first novel in five months, and five months after that, I had three offers for my book. Not typical, but I was blessed to find a publisher who saw potential in my writing, and an editor who was willing to teach me all the things I didn’t know about writing well (and there were many!) I learned so much about the craft of writing while editing that first book (and learned most of all, how much I had to learn!)

The thing is, although I did my learning on the other side of a contract, I still had to learn how to write right! And hopefully I’ll never stop learning! I am always in the midst of reading a book on the craft of writing. (Currently it’s Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon.)

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
I think the thing that made the biggest difference for me was community! Early on, I got involved with several different communities of writers. We shared joys and trials, we taught each other about the publishing industry and the craft of writing, we got together in person to brainstorm, to trade stories, and to pray for one another as writers and as brothers and sisters in Christ. It was—and remains—invaluable to have a virtual water cooler where we can process this crazy industry and the ups and downs of a writing career. Especially as an extreme extrovert, this has been so important to me. Twenty-plus years later, those same writers groups are a most important part of my life as a writer. I can’t recommend organizations like ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) enough! And attending writers conferences, where you’ll meet like-minded people, along with editors, agents, publishers, potential critique partners and brainstorming friends, who can help your career along.

Emilie here: I agree! Doing the writing life alone is not advisable in my book! I don't know what I'd do with out my close friends who talk me off the ledge of "trashing" my book occasionally!

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
I am a bit of a strange duck in that I really despise first-drafting, and I absolutely adore rewrite and editing! To me, when a book becomes great is in the second and fifth and twentieth draft! I love layering in all the things that make a book so much richer and deeper—not just the themes and analogies and message, but also the smells and sounds and tastes, even the music—the metaphorical soundtrack—of a novel, that bring the story to life.

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?

A few quick tips:
  • Keep the Sabbath. Not only does God “recommend” it, but medical science tells us it’s good to take a day off. We’re more productive and creative when we let ourselves rest one day a week. 
  • Train your family and friends to treat your writing career as they would if you had a job outside the home. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you are available for phone calls, errands, etc. on someone else’s whim. Let your phone take messages during working hours and set aside specific times each week to run errands and do other tasks that interrupt your writing time. 
  • Learn to distinguish between ordinary interruptions (it’s okay to “just say no”) and divine interruptions (don’t miss a blessing or a God-given opportunity).
Emilie here: Wow Deb, these are GOLD! Thank you for these great ideas and reminders! 

What is one thing you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing?
My husband and I have become avid gardeners—flowers, not vegetables, although I did grow my first tomato plant last summer, and was rewarded with dozens and dozens of wonderful tomatoes! We also have an apple tree that provides several pies and crisps worth of fruit each year. Ken and I love spending time outdoors, and it’s been so rewarding to create a beautiful oasis in our backyard. I spend as many days a year as Kansas weather allows working on the deck out back where our house overlooks a beautiful little park, and where our birdfeeders attract the usual feathered suspects, along with Canada geese, Mallard ducks, egrets, red squirrels, rabbits, and even the occasional deer and coywolf!

What are you currently reading?
I’m loving Courtney Walsh’s Change of Heart, although it’s been an exercise in frustration, because I’ve been on deadline with two different projects and all I want to do is sit and read this great book!

Emilie here: I think I "officially" met Deb at last year's ACFW conference (though I know I'd seen her before). I immediately felt like I'd known her forever. She treated me like a long lost friend and I felt so welcomed. So excited to feature her here on Thinking Thoughts! 

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Kelli Stuart & Grace Marshall | New Novel News

Like A River From Its Course
by Kelli Stuart

Published: June 27, 2016
From: Kregel Publications
Purchase: Like A River From Its Course

The city of Kiev was bombed in Hitler’s blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union, but the constant siege was only the beginning for her citizens. In this sweeping historical saga, Kelli Stuart takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little-known history of Ukraine’s tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the “killing ditch”. He survived, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda Michaelevna never knew her mother. Growing up with an alcoholic father, Luda is only sixteen when the Nazis invade, and she’s brutally attacked due to her father’s negligence. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Herrmann is sure in his knowledge that the Führer’s plans for domination are right and just. He is driven to success by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism.

Based on true stories gathered from fifteen years of research and interviews with Ukrainian World War II survivors, Like a River From Its Course is a story of love, war, heartache, forgiveness, and redemption.

Get to know Kelli...

What’s your favorite book? 
This is always a tricky question to answer, because several books could make my favorite list. I have a deep love for Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. I love the way she manipulates language to tell each character’s story. I also love Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, because…well, because it’s Jane Eyre!

I think my very favorite book of all time, however, is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It is tragic and beautiful all at once. The love story between Kitty and Levin makes me weepy every time I read it, and the tragedy of Anna’s life impacts me no matter how many times I read the book. That’s the book that always comes out on top when I’m thinking of my favorites!

What are you reading right now? 
I’m currently researching my next novel, so I’m knee deep in a book called The Whisperers. It’s a fascinating dissection of Russia’s history under Stalin, and the lasting effects that those dark and uncertain years had on the generations following.

Who is your favorite secondary character?  One of my favorite secondary characters from Like a River From Its Course is Baba Mysa. She’s based off of the woman who inspired the story in the first place: Maria Ivanovna.

As soon as I met Maria, I fell instantly in love, and it wasn’t hard to see why. She was a small woman, her bright silver hair pulled back into a loose bun. Her blue eyes sparkled when she spoke, and the lines that crinkled her face revealed years of tenderness and laughter.

Her family called her Baba Mysa, an affectionate term combining the tender form of “grandma” with a word that translates “little fly.” When Baba Mysa spoke, the room got quiet. We wanted to hear what she had to say, wanted to soak up her grace and wisdom.

As I wrote my story, I knew I wanted to tell Maria’s story, but I also wanted to honor the Maria that I knew – the grandmother who exuded warmth and strength. I wanted readers to know both versions of the same woman.

The character of Maria Ivanovna is loosely based on my Maria’s story of survival during those dark years in the war. But the character of Baba Mysa is based upon the older, wiser Maria who gifted her story to me.

And I fell madly in love with this character.

Baba Mysa’s background and story is entirely fictional, but her mannerisms, humor, and strength are not. Baba Mysa exudes dignity, hope, and survival. I adored writing this character because through her I was able to honor the woman who endured indescribable hardships and refused to dwell on them.

No Pizza Delivery?
by Grace Marshall

Published: June 1, 2016
From: Independent
Purchase: No Pizza Delivery?

Ruth Deloach’s world is sent spinning when she finds out she is going to be ripped from America’s Dairyland to live in the embarrassingly small tourist town of Sainte Genevieve, Missouri. The blow is slightly lessened by the news that her father wants to start a horse ranch, but how enjoyable will it really be to live where there is no pizza delivery and a revolving door to the public? A public with a different idea of how things are done and said. To add embarrassment to her frustration she finds she knows less about horses than she presumed. Maybe the handsome ranch hand her father hires can brighten things up, then again, maybe not.

Get to know Grace...

What’s one thing you must have/do in the morning? 
Guilty confession – play on my phone. It’s sometimes Twitter or Facebook, blogs, posts, or texts. It helps my brain to do something while it’s still waking up, which takes about two hours. Mornings are my nemesis.

Cats or dogs or both? 
Horses! I currently do have an oversized Mastiff named Mini and a mischievous orange and white cat named Amerigo. What can I say, I like lots of animals? I do think cats are a little better, I love their snarky independent attitudes. Though I want to have a pet fox someday, too.

What prank would you play on your main character? 
Don’t I get to do this all the time when writing? I’d like to take a Styrofoam cup, cut out a little hole in it, put it upside down, and take the little pieces to create a trail going out from the hole. I’d put the cup on her nightstand, then put a sticky note on the cup that reads, “Enormous, extremely aggressive spider under cup! Only move cup when ready to kill it!”

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Friday, June 24, 2016

The Seed: A True Myth by Erik Guzman | RE:VIEW

The Seed by Erick Guzman is an interesting tale depicting an enhanced and slightly changed version of the Biblical narrative of the Garden of Eden and the fall and redemption of man. Using a total of five characters throughout the story, I feel the term "myth" is accurately applied to this book.

I will agree that Guzman takes liberties to create an interesting story without "theological language or Christian terms", though for any Christian familiar with the Biblical narrative, the story is easily mapped out. I did appreciate the vivid parallels that Guzman was able to convey between a society (not unlike ours) that works to wall ourselves off and thinks we are better than we are. I also enjoyed his depiction of good and evil and the way that, to those without eyes opened to the way of Love (his character name for God), what you see as "good" looks uninteresting and even repulsive.

To be honest though, I didn't enjoy this like I thought I would. I read "Christian fantasy tale" in the description and the comparison of C.S. Lewis by early reviews, and my mind immediately jumped to something along the lines of The Screwtape Letters (my favorite Lewis novel.) Reading The Seed, I didn't personally see those comparisons. I found myself mired in uninteresting and simplistic dialogue, an off putting sense of the world/time spectrum, and an unnecessary use of foul language.

I understand that putting the term "myth" in the subtitle allows for an adjustment of expectations and I would agree this is much more "myth-like" than it is novel or story-like. It's an allegorical journey but not a story in the way Lord of the Rings is allegorical. Go into it realizing this and you may enjoy it if that type of book appeals to you.

Purchase: The Seed

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Young Madeline and Roark are desperately running from the shadow that destroyed their home and is threatening their lives. One day, they encounter Tatus, an older man who has sworn to avenge the death of his family at the hands of the shadow, and they form an alliance with him. Tatus promises that he can keep them safe from the shadow if they will help him build a fortress. So they build.

But as fortress-building consumes their lives, Madeline and Roark are increasingly filled with anger and fear, and an unseen evil threatens to ultimately destroy them. When they finally face the shadow, he presents them with an unthinkable offer that will reveal shocking secrets of the forgotten past, the unseen present, and the unimaginable future.

We've all had the feeling that something's not quite right with our lives. It's bigger than any specific failure or disappointment. It's bigger than any person. No matter what you achieve or how much you drink or sleep, you can't shake it. It haunts you-night and day-and propels you to do something. So you build. You build and build the maze that is your exhausting life. Sound vaguely familiar?

The Seed: A True Myth is a journey into the personal labyrinths we create to protect ourselves and those we love from the pain of living in a broken world. Guzman's "true myth" takes the reader on an unforgettable journey that is, in essence, the grand narrative of God's redemptive work in the world. This page-turning Christian fantasy tale is packed with mystery and drama, and readers will feel the weight and power of redemption as they journey alongside Guzman's characters in their epic battle. The Seed deftly communicates the heart of Trinitarian theology through story-without using theological language or Christian terms-and reinforces biblical themes such as God's character and man's true identity and calling.
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or 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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Irene Hannon {Writer Wedesday}

A little bit about Irene...

Irene Hannon is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than fifty contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. A seven-time finalist and three-time winner of the RITA award—the “Oscar” of romance fiction—from Romance Writers of America, she is also a member of that organization’s elite Hall of Fame. Her books have been honored with a National Readers’ Choice award, three HOLT medallions, a Daphne du Maurier award, a Retailers’ Choice award, two Booksellers’ Best awards, two Carol awards, and two Reviewers’ Choice awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. That magazine has also honored her with a Career Achievement award for her entire body of work. In addition, she is a two-time Christy award finalist.

Connect with Irene...

Purchase: Sea Rose Lane

Get to know Irene...

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about you...
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I like to tell people I made my “professional” debut at the age of 10 when I was one of the honorees in a complete-the-story contest sponsored by a national children’s magazine. I truly believe storytelling is a gift, like any other talent. I’ve always wanted to be able to paint, but if I took art lessons until I was 95, every person I tried to draw would still look like a stick figure. I don’t see with the eyes of an artist. So I paint with words.

Your Writing

Let's talk about your book...

Why did you write it?
Sea Rose Lane is the second book set in my fictional seaside village of Hope Harbor on the Oregon coast. I knew when I was writing the first one that this little town held many captivating stories, and thankfully my publisher agreed. I mean, how can you not love a town where hearts heal—and love blooms? I should point out, too, that each Hope Harbor book stands completely alone. Stories don’t carry over from book to book.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
I love all my main characters—but I also love a few of the secondary characters who appear in every book: Charley, the ageless taco-making artist who seems to be able to see into everyone’s heart; the two town clergymen, with their friendly rivalry and deep friendship; even Floyd and Gladys, my seagull couple. This is a town filled with fascinating people who are easy to love and hard to forget.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
I hope readers close the last page uplifted—and with a renewed belief that no matter how tough life might get, there’s always the possibility of a happy ending. I also hope they have a better appreciation for the tremendous power of love to transform lives.

What’s the theme? How did you come up with it?
Hope is the theme that resonates in Sea Rose Lane—and in every book set in Hope Harbor, as the name of the town suggests. In this story, my hero and heroine find love and a new beginning, but the theme of hope is front and center in my subplot, too. The two secondary characters in this story touched my heart in a special way.

Did you get to do any fun research for the book?
Yes! I visited the spectacular Oregon coast to research the setting. For many years, I’ve wanted to set a book…or two…or three…or ??? in this beautiful part of the country. I was convinced it would provide the perfect locale for the town I’d already named Hope Harbor. That research trip exceeded all my expectations. In Florence, I found charming storefronts and to-die-for cinnamon rolls. In Bandon, I learned about seagull romance. In Cape Perpetua, I got up close and personal with amazing starfish. In Brookings, I watched the sun set in a secluded cove with a silver-white harbor seal for company. And everywhere I went, I savored the endless, sandy beaches and sea stacks. When I got home, I took all those bits and pieces of real-life coastal Oregon and created Hope Harbor!

Emilie here: You're talking about the places I grew up going on vacation to! In fact, I was JUST in Brookings last week :) I've long decided I would set a series on the Oregon coast because it has fed my imagination since I was a child camping there. Love that you have seen the same beauty there!


Let's talk about your writing...

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
I’ve lost count. Lots and lots, though! And that can be very discouraging—enough to make some people quit. But I’m not the kind of person who likes to admit defeat, and I believed in my stories. So through rejection after rejection, I kept writing. By the time I sold, I had three finished manuscripts…and my first publisher bought them all. Perseverance does pay—as does the willingness to continually learn and grow as a writer. I learn something new with every book I write.

Are you a Panster or Plotter?
I’m a hybrid. I spend a lot of time getting to know my characters before I begin a book, and I have a general story concept, but the action develops chapter by chapter…sometimes line by line!

Emilie here: I feel like I too am a hybrid - I like the "not knowing" part of creating a plot, but I get to a point where I just need to now how it's all going to work out *hehe*. 

What does your writing process look like?
I start every day by reviewing the words I wrote the previous day or two. Once I finish a chapter, I review and revise it until I deem it ready to go into my master document. After I finish my revisions for the day, I write new words. Because of this polish-as-I-go process, I have a final draft at the end. I’ll let the manuscript sit for a few days, then do a full read over a day or two to make any final polishes or tweaks. So I’m not one of those writers who throws the story down as fast as possible and then does a major rewrite. That process does work for a lot of people, though!

Emilie here: Ohhh, that's not something I've heard of before - the polish as you go. I like it! 

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
The upfront thinking phase, where I’m trying to get a handle on the general plot and scope of the book, is my least favorite part. Even though it’s critical to my process, it feels unproductive because no new words are appearing every day. My favorite part is the polishing process—the stuff I do first thing every morning with the words that haven’t yet been moved into my master document. I love playing with words that are already on the page. That’s when the magic happens for me.

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
This is a constant challenge. Writing can easily take over if you let it—and I did earlier in my career, after I left my day job to write full-time. But that’s a recipe for burnout. So now I try to take weekends off from writing. I might still do some business-related chores, or work on promotional items, but I don’t write unless I’ve gotten seriously behind on my page count for the week.


What is one thing you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing?
I love to sing, and one of my favorite non-writing activities is performing in community musical theater productions. I’ve been fortunate to play the leading role in many classic musicals, including Brigadoon, South Pacific, The King and I, Oklahoma, Anything Goes, and numerous others. When I’m not singing on stage, I’m a soloist at my church.

Emilie here: How fun! I love musicals! And I sing as well. I think having those extra hobbies are the best - they can be relaxing and fun.

Thinking of Fathers Day, is there a story you’d like to share with the readers about your father?
My dad was born in rural Ireland, where he lived until his late twenties in a small cottage without electricity or running water. After he came to America and married, he worked hard to support his family, at one point holding three jobs. Through the years, he’s always been in my corner—and he’s a shining example of what a father should be. In recent years, he’s devoted himself to caring for my mom, who’s had health issues and needs a lot of help. I think the dedication in the third book in Men of Valor suspense book (Tangled Webs, 10/16) says it all:

To my father, James Hannon—
he most unselfish man I’ve ever met.

As I conclude my Men of Valor series,
thank you for reminding me by example
that valor isn’t found only in grand, sweeping gestures,
but in quietly doing—day after day, with
kindness, grace, humility and love—
what needs to be done.

You will always be my hero.

What are you currently reading?
 Becky Wade’s Her One and Only.

Emilie here: What a great interview Irene! Thank you so much for being my guest and for sharing your sweet dedication to your father. My heart melted! Love it :) 

Readers - make sure you pick up her novel Sea Rose Lane!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Free Clubhouse Magazine Trial | Adventures in Odyssey


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Monday, June 20, 2016

Deborah Raney & V. Joy Palmer | New Novel News

Close to Home
by Deborah Raney

Published: June 7, 2016
From: Abingdon Press 
Purchase: Close to Home

Bree Cordel Whitman is a Whitman by marriage, but sometimes she forgets she wasn’t born into Grant and Audrey’s family. Her late husband, Timothy Whitman, gave his life for his country on a windblown hill in Afghanistan. Bree has let the love of Tim’s family keep her ties to him strong—in the same way she keeps Tim’s memory alive for them. But it’s been almost five years, and she can’t hang onto the past forever.

Get to know Deborah...

What's your favorite chore?
Watering, pruning, and fertilizing the plants. I have a ton of houseplants—and in the summer, lots of flower pots—and I just find it so relaxing and inspiring to take care of them. The rewards they give back in beauty, fresh air, movement, and green are such a blessing!

What are the names of your pets?
After three catless years, we adopted one of our daughter’s cats. She and her husband can’t resist a rescue and they had two dogs, two cats, and a baby on the way. We offered to take the baby, but they weren’t too fond of that idea, so we took Melvin instead. He’s 8 years old, 2 pounds overweight, but the best cat ever. We just love him.

Favorite place you’ve traveled to?
I would love to travel more widely, and especially in Europe where my great-great-grandparents hail from. But so far, my out-of-country excursions have been limited to ports of call on a cruise (Jamaica and Grand Cayman) and a quick trip over the California border into Old Mexico. But of all the places in the U.S. I’ve traveled to, I would love to return to the Riverwalk in San Antonio. It’s the city of my birth, but I was only five months old when my parents moved away (my dad was stationed at Lackland AFB there) so returning for the first time in my forties, was a pleasant surprise. My husband and I were there on business and stayed in a charming B&B along the Riverwalk. It was February, so the warm Texas days were extra delightful knowing it was cold and blustery back home!

Connect with Deborah: 

Love, Lace, & Minor Alterations 
by V. Joy Palmer

Published: June 15, 2016
From: WhiteFire Publishing
Purchase: Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations

Isabel “Izze” Vez, bridal consultant extraordinaire, has been helping brides find The Dress for years. She loves nothing more than helping make wedding dreams come true…but sometimes the happy endings grate on her. How many times can a girl discover someone else’s gown without dreaming of the day it’ll be her turn to wear one?

When James Miles Clayton walks into her life, he represents everything Izze can’t handle: change. He’s determined to bring the Ever After Bridal Boutique into the black…and to prove to Izze that she should give him a chance.

But if there’s anything Izze handles worse than change, it’s trust. She may have a few issues—fine, she knows she does. But will they keep getting in the way of any chance of her own Happily Ever After? She wants to trust God to give her those dreams of love and lace, but that’s going to require some…minor alterations.

Get to know V. Joy...

What prank would you want to play on your main character? 
My mom enjoys playing practical jokes and I loved playing them on co-workers, so I actually wrote a scene where my main character, Izze, tried to convince another girl that there was stick-on lace – kind of like a lace sticker for wedding dresses. However, Izze fell for this same prank when she first started working at the bridal boutique, too. It’s a rite of passage.

If your book became a movie, who would you cast for your main characters?

I would cast Alexis Bledel for Izze partly because she can talk fast, but mostly because you will never meet a bigger Gilmore Girls groupie than me. :)
I would pick Chris Pratt for Miles because I think he’s hilarious.

Favorite dessert?
I eat any and all chocolate like it’s going out of style, but my absolute favorite dessert is chocolate cheesecake so sweet that it makes other people sick. LOL.

Connect with V. Joy: 

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Friday, June 17, 2016

The Progeny by Tosca Lee | RE:View

The Progeny by Tosca Lee delivers question after unanswered question through shocking twists and turns with answers that dance just out of reach. 

One girl is the center of mystery, she just doesn't know it yet. Emily Porter is the descendant of a serial killer. She's smart, intuitive, and gifted, and she would do anything to save the ones she loves.

I loved this book! I mean...I didn't expect anything less from Tosca because anything she writes is fabulous, but I wasn't sure what I would find hiding in the pages of The Progeny. Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. From the start the reader is kept guessing as we're dropped into the mind of Emily. I liked Tosca's use of first person present tense - it's a popular POV right now and I think she did a great job with it. Emily isn't whiny, annoying, or trivial like so many main characters can become. I enjoy how fresh, focused, and smart she is.

I also loved the setting and infusion of history! It's set in modern day just slightly in the future (close enough to be realistic in my opinion) but the flavor of the 1600s is present with a fun, modern type flair. I also personally love anything that has to do with history affecting present day in a mysterious, slightly supernatural type way. So much YES!

Do I recommend it? Absolutely! I think fans of Tosca's other writing will love it despite the fact that it is different than anything else she's written thus far. I also think YA readers will enjoy the fast paced plot, historical fans will like the interwoven backstory, and readers of thrillers and suspense will get their action kick to. Oh, did I mention there's romance too??? So, I guess I'm saying that say pretty much any reader who likes a good book will enjoy The Progeny.

I will caution you readers that there is a slight bit of language for some of you who aren't expecting it, just know it's there.

But really, you'll love this and the end will leave you satisfied but begging for book 2.

Buckle up for this wild ride!

My rating: 4.5*
Purchase: The Progeny

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Emily Porter is the descendant of a serial killer. Now, she’s become the hunted.

She’s on a quest that will take her to the secret underground of Europe and the inner circles of three ancient orders—one determined to kill her, one devoted to keeping her alive, and one she must ultimately save.

Filled with adrenaline, romance, and reversals, The Progeny is the present-day saga of a 400-year-old war between the uncanny descendants of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, the most prolific female serial killer of all time, and a secret society dedicated to erasing every one of her descendants. A story about the search for self amidst centuries-old intrigues and Europe’s underground scene…and one woman’s mission to survive.
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or 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.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Make Your Children World Explorers


Give your family summer vacation a makeover this year and turn it into a "staycation." Have your kids forget their summer boredom, turn off their screens, and instead circle the globe with Focus on the Family's "World Explorers" summer adventure kit!

Throughout the next two months, travel our colorful, diverse world, visiting 27 different countries on six continents. Part of the fun will be figuring out where the next stop is, using five clues that reveal interesting facts about the next country. Once you've determined where you're going, use the games, activities and faith lessons to give your kids a glimpse into that country's unique culture.

Click here to sign up and receive your free summer adventure kit.

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Don’t Be Bored This Summer!

Now is the time to make sure your kids have the greatest adventure this summer with more than 800 Adventures in Odyssey episodes and non-stop listening fun! Sign up for the Odyssey Adventure Club today for just $9.99 per month at

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Alexis Goring {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Alexis...

Alexis A. Goring is a writer at heart and a journalist by profession. She loves the art of storytelling and is especially delighted to have released her first book, an inspirational romance novella called Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories, in Sept. 2013. When Alexis is not working on her next book or chasing down the next big story for the newspaper where she works as a freelance reporter, she can be found listening to songs by her most admired musicians, enjoying the food in cafes/restaurants, shopping at her favorite malls and spending quality time with loved ones (family and friends).

Connect with Alexis...

Author page on Facebook,
Blog, “God is Love” -
Twitter handle, @pennedbyalex

Get to know Alexis...

You and Writing
How did you start writing? 
I started writing at age 9 after an impromptu storytelling activity between my grandfather, my brother and I. My grandfather created the activity to entertain us while he and my grandma were babysitting us. I do not think that he knew it would spark my dreams to be a writer.

What has kept you writing? 
My desire to write is as strong as my need to breathe.

What or who is the biggest influence in your writing? 
My faith in God. He keeps me creative and diligent.

Why do you write? 
Writing is like breathing for me. I love it that much. I want to create and publish stories that bring hope to people’s hearts and point them to Jesus Christ.

Your Writing

Why did you write it? 
I wrote my first book because I wanted to infuse hope into people’s hearts and let them know that no matter how dire a situation looks, there is always hope when God is in the picture…and God is ALWAYS in the picture!

What was a challenge you faced while writing it? 
Honestly, I didn’t have any challenges while writing it because it just flowed. However the challenge was to apply all of the content edits that my editor advised. The red marks on my manuscript (track changes on Microsoft Word) were so overwhelming that I did not even try to edit my manuscript for months. But when I finally decided to tackle it, I finished the edits in only three days. I have to admit that my editor knew what she was talking about because after the content edits were applied, my story read much better!

Were your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book?
My characters were easy to pin down. The story just flowed. There were no surprises this time though I have written stories before that turned out differently (and better) than I envisioned as digging deep into the Goals/Motivation/Conflict (GMC) of my characters created quite the unexpected adventure for me as the author.

What made you choose the setting for the book? 
I wanted to write a book with a local setting so I chose the DMV (Washington, D.C./Maryland/Virginia) area that I love.

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story? 
Apart from baby names (for my characters)? Maybe language translations for the Italian restaurant scene in “Love Unexpected” which is the first story in my novella.

What’s your favorite snack while writing? 
Chocolate, black cake (it’s a Caribbean dessert), ginger ale and fried chicken.


Let’s talk about your writing life...

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”? 
It helps to study writing. I joined the Newspaper and Yearbook staff when I was a high school student. I majored in Print Journalism as a college student. Currently, I’m pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing. Studying the craft of writing has helped me to grow by leaps and bounds as a professional writer. I’d also tell young writers to apply for a mentorship with a seasoned book editor. I recently did that and have learned so much from my editor! She’s taught me the value of knowing the GMC of your main characters before you start to write the fictional story and she’s taught me so much more such as building tension with every scene. The lessons I’ve learned over the years of studying writing and learning new skills from my mentor are priceless and key to my success.

Are you a Panster or Plotter? 
I’m a little bit of both but partial to the pantser process. It’s much more fun. I feel bogged down after I plot a story out from start to finish. Plotting out every detail tends to drain me and deter me from wanting to go back and actually write the story using all of those details.

What does your writing process look like? 
I start with creating character sketches (profiles) that detail their name, age, ethnicity, background, family history, flaws, strengths and other details. Next, I fill out a GMC chart for each character. Then I turn on my favorite music playlist via Pandora or YouTube and start writing!

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?

My favorite part is writing the story. My least favorite part is applying content edits.

What did you learn along the path to publishing that you’d care to share as encouragement? 
I learned to not rush the process. It’s important to make sure that your final product is a good, solid story with no flaws and achieving that goal takes time.

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? 
Everywhere! Music, movies, restaurants, the mall, family, friends, books and my imagination.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share? 
I do have several playlists. My favorite songs on YouTube include (but are not limited to): “St. Elmo’s Fire LOVE Theme Instrumental” from the movie St. Elmo’s Fire, “Through the Eyes of Love” performed by Britt Nicole from the movie Ice Castles (2010), “What A Feeling” by Irene Cara from the movie Flashdance and “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Crocker and Jennifer Warnes. I listen to a wide variety of artists on Pandora and have several playlists, too many to mention.

Are there any books or resources you could recommend to younger writers looking to grow in their craft? 
Yes! I have quite the list! Are you ready? Here is it is:

What is one thing you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing?

I like to read. I have a stack of books from my favorite authors that I received for free in exchange for my honest review on so that keeps me busy! I love it.

What are you currently reading?
The Woman Code: 20 Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life by Sophia A. Nelson. We’re reading it for the women’s book club that I co-lead with friends from my church. It’s a great read! Sophia is one of my favorite authors.

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