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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review: A GIRL TO COME HOME TO by Grace Livingston Hill (Barbour Publishing, January 2014)

From Amazon.comA war hero wounded by love, Rodney Graeme returns home to face the aftermath of a broken engagement. But the past won’t fade without a fight. His ex-fiancée, Mrs. Jessica De Groot, insists on keeping old friendship alive. Meanwhile, New Yorker Diana Winters is visiting a friend in town and sorting through her own love woes after receiving a marriage proposal she’s not sure she should accept. Just as Diana’s presence begins to salve Rodney’s hurt, Jessica’s jealousy flares and the real reason for her interest in her ex-beau comes to light, threatening new love. . .and government secrets.

Audience: Adult (Clean)
Genre: Inspirational Romance, Historical Romance
Length: 256 pgs.

Rating: ** (It was okay)

Review: One of the things that colored my reading of this is not knowing that it was a reprint of an older book. I did like the charming way the narrative was told in that old, head-hopping style that they used to use. The girls were so cute and fun and the boys real heroes. The villains were all nasty and non-religious. One of the storylines didn't resolve, but I understand there are other books in this series. In reality, the love story played second or third fiddle to the gospel message in the book, which is fine, but not really my thing.

Content: Rated 1-5; 1 being minor instances, 5 being saturated
Sex - 0 (The kisses were all very chaste)
Violence - 0
Language - 0
Preaching - 5+

Source: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

DEFY by Sara B. Larson (Scholastic, Jan 2014)

From Sara B. Larson's blogAlexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Audience: YA
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 336 pgs

Rating:  **** (Loved it.)

Review: Can't even remember how I came across this book, but I knew I had to read it when it came out in January. And then, one days I was trolling NetGalley for a good read and there it was. You better believe I requested that title like a boss. (Forgive me, I'm practicing my teen lingo since I'm in the middle of editing a YA project.) And I was so giddy when I got approved for it.
I loved all the real elements to this story. It's not soft, fluffy, everyone-lives-happily-ever-after fantasy (yeah, the uh, kind I write...) I love how strong Alexa is. I love the way she feels torn between her best friend and the prince. The romance in it is exciting and spine tingling. (Sweetness!) My only, tiny little pickyness is that the political parts seemed so big for the story. It was a little hard to keep track of the royal family and the opposing sides, but it didn't detract from the story at all. (Maybe I'll just have to read it again...)

Content: Rated 1-5; 1 being minor instances, 5 being saturated
Sex - 1+ (Passionate kissing)
Language - 0
Violence - 4 (There's lots of fighting and all of described, but not too graphically.)

Source: I was provided a copy via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, December 23, 2013

GOODNIGHT KISS by Ranee` S. Clark

When Chase sees Clare during her brief Christmas visit to their hometown, he knows it's his chance to make things right between them. Considering he all but ignored her while on his mission, it's a tough task. 
After having her heart broken by him before, Clare is wary of a holiday romance. But a long-awaited goodnight kiss might change her mind.

Check out these blogs, featuring GOODNIGHT KISS this week:

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Coming soon! GOODNIGHT KISS, a Sweet Kisses Story for the Holidays!

So my best writing buddy Kaylee and I have this fun little project: The Sweet Kisses Stories, and the first one, GOODNIGHT KISS by yours truly, will be out soon. As in, I am putting the finishing touches on the whole thing right now.

It has a cover that I just *sigh* adore.

Cover (c) 2013 Ranee` S. Clark
Image “Happy Young Couple in Winter Park having fun” copyright Vladyslav Spivak

When Chase sees Clare during her brief Christmas visit to their hometown, he knows it's his chance to make things right between them. Considering he all but ignored her while on his mission, it's a tough task. After having her heart broken by him before, Clare is wary of a holiday romance. But a long-awaited goodnight kiss might change her mind.
**If you're interested in obtaining a review copy, use the Contact Me form**

UPDATE! GOODNIGHT KISS is now available on Amazon!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: THE CHAOS OF STARS by Kiersten White (HarperTeen, September 2013)

From Kiersten White's BlogAll good stories have a few false starts...
Myth: The children of immortal gods are immortal, too.
Reality: Isadora isn’t going to be around forever—and her parents barely seem to notice she’s alive right now.

MythOnce a god, always a god—that kind of power never fades away.

Reality: These days, Isadora’s relatives are clinging to the little bit of power they have left. And some of them would do anything to take it all.…

MythEvery teenage girl dreams of falling in love.

Reality: From what Isadora’s seen, “love” is a painful mess. All she dreams of is a normal life away from her crazy family—minus any romantic drama.

MythIf you go far enough, you can leave the past behind.

Reality: Isadora moves halfway around the world to San Diego for a fresh start, but quickly finds that there’s no such thing as a clean break from family—and that leaving her old life may mean sacrificing more than she ever guessed.

The Chaos of Stars blends sweet romance, high-stakes suspense, and the magic of Egyptian mythology to create a complex, funny, and deeply moving story about true love and what it means to be a family.

Audience: YA
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 288 pgs.

Rating: *****+ (Loved, loved it!)

Review: You know how when you find an author and no matter what they write you will buy it even if it was a bathroom photo book? I have a couple of those and Kiersten White is one of them. I preordered THE CHAOS OF STARS so it arrived at my house the day it came out. Unfortunately, with all this nonsense about moving across a country (doesn't that sound so much awesomer than moving to Alaska...?), I didn't get to it until my power went out for two days and I couldn't unpack in the dark. Let's correct that. I devoured it in those two days. I love the humor, the characters--the CHARACTERS! I loved how much Isadora grew and changed. I could feel her growing up and figuring things out. Kiersten does characters so, so well, always--the food, of course. Kiersten has said that so much of this book is really about food. It's so sweet and simple and I loved it. Score for her again. (No but really, if she wrote a photo book for the bathroom, it would be awesome and we all know it.)

Source: Hardcover from Amazon

Content: 1-5 (1 being minor instances, 5 being saturated)
Sex: 1+ (Kissing, Isadora's mother is the goddess of fertility, so the topic is discussed frequently, but not in inappropriate detail. Certain...parts...are mentioned by name a couple times in a mostly scientific way.)
Language: 0
Violence: 1 (Some fights.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review: BAKED ALASKA by Josi S. Kilpack

From http://www.josiskilpack.comSadie plans to spend time relaxing with her two grown children, Breanna and Shawn, and her boyfriend, Pete, while enjoying the luxury and cuisine of an elegant cruise ship and helping to plan her daughter’s upcoming wedding. But even as the crew prepares to leave port, Sadie has suspicions about the voyage ahead and the relationship between her normally easygoing son and a mysterious female passenger he obviously knows but refuses to discuss. When the woman is discovered unconscious during the second night at sea, Sadie’s apprehension escalates. Over the last few years, Sadie has developed an extreme dislike for secrets—and it would seem her son is keeping one from her.

Audience: Adult (Clean)
Genre: Cozy Mystery (Culinary)
Length: 368 pgs.

Rating: **** (Really liked it)

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Writing Process Blog Tour

What? An actual post on ... something other than book reviews? From me? Yes, in fact. Thanks to the lovely Charlie Holmberg, author of THE PAPER MAGICIAN, coming soon from 47North, who tagged me and ran off somewhere...

(I do have to tell you how me and Charlie *met* [and when I say met, I mean how we came across each other on line since I have yet to meet her in person]. I was part of a getting to know you blog tour, can't even remember where it started, and Charlie commented on my post about my then current project, THE GAME PLAN, and being at BYU during the Jimmer Fredette craze. I followed her on Twitter immediately. CLICK.)

1. What am I working on?

You know how when you are submitting your stuff they tell you to write and get on with life while you wait? That's what I'm working on. Waiting. Oh, yeah, and that writing stuff too. Actually, I'm editing the companion novel to THE GAME PLAN, which is the story of one of THE GAME PLAN character's best friends. Everyone who has read this book for me loved David and insisted that he needed his own story. I agreed. I wrote the first draft a few months ago and let it sit (at a disgustingly short 43k words). Now I'm back to combing through it, adding conflict, rounding out the characters and such.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I've been told by a few people, including an editor, that THE GAME PLAN is unlike any other romance they've heard of. I'm actually not totally sure why. I think it's funny, but there are other funny romances. The characters are a bit younger than most LDS romances like it--it almost borders on an NA. Ty, the (female) main character of THE GAME PLAN, is different from most heroines I've read in romances. She goes in with a goal of winning Anthony's heart and she's forward and goes after the guy she wants instead of initiating contact and letting him come after her.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I've written lots of YA and fantasy before and found myself almost always focusing on the magic of the love story. So when I first got the idea for THE GAME PLAN (my first, straight-up romance), I went with it. At first it was hard for me to fill in the story with only the romance, but I kept learning and talked to who I thought was the best at it, and I'm getting a lot better. I still love to write YA fantasy, and I have a special place in my heart for a YA magical realism novel I'm working on, but it seems as though Romance might end up my primary genre.

4. How does your writing process work?

I get random ideas from everything. Songs on the radio. (Oh, oh, there's a story in that!) History. What I make up about the people I see around town and in stores. I write down my basic ideas in a "notebook" on my iPad and let them settle. Especially if I'm already working on something. Then, when I'm ready, I take that idea out, dust it off and do a basic outline. I used to be a pantser, but I always ended up with so many issues with pacing and not finishing, that I started outlining, like Charlie, with the Save the Cat method. I don't do post-its though, I use a note-taking program on my iPad. (I like to have it with me wherever in case I can sit down and write.) Once I have that basic map, I start writing. Because I don't go into minute details while I outline, I usually end up with a first draft in the 30-50k range. I let that sit for a few months before going back to fill in details--usually I work on adding more conflict and subplots. (My first drafts are usually just the basic plotline, everything revolving around the original idea.) This is the point where I use post its. I write down every scene on a post it, color coded to the POV (usually pink for female POV and blue for the male). I use little post-its to add in scenes I know I need to put in, then as I edit, I'll use them to add the scenes I've just put in. It allows me to see the story as a whole and know where the best spots for additional scenes, conflict, character development, etc. is. 
Then I do another read through for basic consistency before I send it to alpha readers. Again, it sits while that happens and I work on other projects--either new drafts or editing others. When I get it back, I'll edit in depth again and send it to beta readers. When I can, I like to send my "just before the final" draft to my critique partner Kaylee. She's really great at helping me fine tune it. (She's also really great at finding the problems, so sometimes I have to send her earlier drafts.) Once I've gone through all my readers I do a very detailed edit: searching for words I overuse, cleaning up the prose, etc. I read it aloud to find awkward sentences and mistakes I missed. Then I get ready to submit to ... wherever I'm going to submit that project. ;)

Well, there you have it. And I know you want to hear about how other people work it too. How about Gina Denny and Kaylee Baldwin?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Review: SUPER DAISY by Jennifer Griffith

From Amazon: Super Daisy! is the story of Daisy Blaine, a disgraced former beauty queen who has to return to her small Idaho town of Prairie Grass, where the potatoes grow and the mayor (who she finds herself stuck working for) is a corrupt old louse. It’s a career and social dead end. The only guy she could feasibly date, the handsome Cliff Calloway, doesn’t know she’s alive, and Daisy’s long-time nemesis Natasha Willikie is determined to keep it that way. It all looks bleak for poor Daisy, until one day she's driving home from work--lightning strikes, she crashes her jeep on the bridge, and sees a "super" vision. In that moment, everything changes. What’s a small town girl with super strength to do?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review: SNOW ON TULIPS by Liz Tolsma

From the Thomas Nelson website: A stranger’s life hangs in the balance. But to save him is to risk everything.
The war is drawing to a close, but the Nazis still heavily occupy the Netherlands. After the losses she’s endured, Cornelia is only a shadow of the woman she once was. Her main objective is protecting her younger brother, Johan, who lives in hiding.
But when Johan brings Gerrit Laninga, a wounded Dutch Resistance member, to Cornelia’s doorstep, their lives are forever altered. Although scared of the consequences of harboring a wanted man, Cornelia’s faith won’t let her turn him out.
As she nurses Gerrit back to health, she is drawn to his fierce passion and ideals, and notices a shift within herself. The thought of opening her heart, however, is almost more terrifying than the thought of losing her life.
But Gerrit’s intensity challenges her, making her want to live fully, despite the fear that constrains her. When the opportunity to join him in the Resistance presents itself, Cornelia must summon every ounce of courage imaginable.
She is as terrified of loving Gerrit as she is of losing him. But as the landscape slowly thaws, so too does her heart. Will she get a second chance at true love? She fears their story might end before it has even begun.
Audience: Adult (Clean)
Genre: Historical Romance, Inspirational Romance
Length: 336 pgs
Rating: *** (Liked it)
Review: I saw the cover of this book, read a couple lines about this taking place during World War II and really wanted to read it. (The cover is gorgeousness. So. Much. Gorgeousness.) I liked that the author kept things realistic, while still letting a happy ending win out. There's plenty of danger, conflict, and intensity. The setting is very in depth. The language is sometimes stilted, and since I always have to comment on how *preachy* inspirational books are, this one is kind of high on the scale.
Source: Received a copy via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Content: 1-5 (1 being minor instances, 5 being saturated)
Sex: 1 (some kissing with passionate feelings)
Language: 0
Violence: 2+ (War scenes are described)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review: THE GIVER by Lois Lowry

From AmazonSince winning the Newbery Medal in 1994, Lois Lowry’s The Giver has become one of the most influential novels of our time. This illustrated edition is a celebration of the book’s standard of excellence and of Lowry’s illustrious writing. The text is complemented by thirteen new illustrations from the acclaimed artist Bagram Ibatoulline. Also included are an introduction by the author and her inspiring Newbery Medal acceptance speech. The additional content now makes it easier than ever to introduce young readers to this riveting modern classic, and provide a fresh edition for its legions of fans.
The story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind his fragile community. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: JANITORS by Tyler Whitesides (Shadow Mountain, June 2012)

From Amazon: The magical, secretive society of JANITORS will sweep the country in the fall of 2011. Have you ever fallen asleep during math class? Are you easily distracted while listening to your English teacher? Do you find yourself completely uninterested in geography? Well, it may not be your fault. The janitors at Welcher Elementary know a secret, and it s draining all the smarts out of the kids. Twelveyear- old Spencer Zumbro, with the help of his classmate Daisy Gullible Gates, must fight with and against a secret, janitorial society that wields wizard-like powers. Who can Spencer and Daisy trust and how will they protect their school and possibly the world? Janitors is book 1 in a new children s fantasy series by debut novelist Tyler Whitesides. You ll never look at a mop the same way again.

Audience: Middle-grade (Upper)
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 288 pgs

Rating: **** (Really liked it)

Review: I actually read this book a while ago and forgot to review it! A friend posted it was free on Amazon, and I always jump on top of that, especially when I’ve heard of the author or it’s published by a publisher I’m familiar with. As you know, if you’ve read my middle-grade reviews, it’s not my favorite age to read, but this book was fun and quirky and I loved the characters. It just so out of the box, you can’t help but love it. I liked the twists and the imagination. I loved how the parents weren’t totally absent, but their roles were still believable. Great book for a 10+ kid! I know when my oldest finally gets through The Lightening Thief (he’s an over-achiever), this will be one of my first recommendations for him.

Content: Rated 1-5, 1 being minor instances and 5 being saturated
Violence – 2 (minor fighting)
Language – 0
Sex – 0

Source: Bought from Amazon during a sale.

Try this Like middle-grade fantasy? Try ARTEMIS FOWL by Eoin Colfer

Friday, November 8, 2013

Blog Tour Review: SPY FOR A SPY by Jordan McCollum (Durham Crest, November 2013)

We're celebrating the launch of Spy for a Spy, sequel to I, Spy! Read on to get a cool spy tip for your daily life, free & discounted reads, and enter to win some great prizes! You can also find Spy for a Spy at the special $3.99 launch discount on Amazon, Kobo, and JordanMcCollum.com!

About the Book

Canada is probably the last place you’d expect to find an American spy. And it was the last place CIA operative Talia Reynolds expected to run into fellow operative Brand Copley. AKA her new boss. AKA her ex-boyfriend.
Just the guy every woman wants to face in the middle of planning her wedding. Once again, Talia’s lying to the man she loves, but this time, to protect his heart. After Brand takes over Talia’s latest case and steals her newest agent, he assigns her to spy on her old boss—who’s suddenly giving her every reason not to trust him. With only weeks until the big day, planning falls by the wayside as she goes into damage control mode. But when Talia discovers Brand’s real motives, fighting him is the only option, no matter what the personal and professional cost. More about Spy for a Spy | Add Spy for a Spy to your Goodreads to-read list!

Audience: Adult (Clean)
Genre: Romance Thriller
Length: 318 pgs

Rating: ***** (FANtastic Book that I LOVED)

Review: Upside--by signing up for the blog tour, I got a copy of SPY FOR A SPY early. Downside: It will now seem like forever before the next book is out. I am not patient. I hate waiting for books in a series. (Truth: I came into Harry Potter so late, I only had to wait for the last two books.)
But, the few week wait between I, SPY and reading this one was well worth it (and a drop of salve with the FREE prequel novella MR. NICE SPY!) Same great voice. Awesome action and awesome Talia. Slight Spoiler Alert *** I was a tiny bit disappointed that after what happened in the first book, that Talia still managed to justify lying to Danny about small things. I thought she'd learned, but it works out well and I'm pretty sure that now she's got it. ;) What I love about these books is the way the tension is built line upon line. Sheesh, the first person narrative is so riveting. I had no problem reading this book in a day and a half, it kept me so close to the page. Go. Read. Now.

Content: Rated 1-5, 1 being minor instances and 5 being saturated
Violence - 2+ (Plenty of fighting and action, but nothing too graphic.)
Language - 0
Sex - 1 (Kissing)

Source: I received a copy of this book as part of the SPY FOR A SPY blog tour and in exchange for my honest opinion.


Hone your spy skills

Spy skills can come in handy in the most unusual situations, like this one . . .
 Further hone your spy skills by reading Spy for a Spy!

About the author

An award-winning author, Jordan McCollum can’t resist a story where good defeats evil and true love conquers all. In her day job, she coerces people to do things they don’t want to, elicits information and generally manipulates the people she loves most—she’s a mom. Jordan holds a degree in American Studies and Linguistics from Brigham Young University. When she catches a spare minute, her hobbies include reading, knitting and music. She lives with her husband and four children in Utah.


Tell me about yourself and how you got started writing. What I really want to know is, were you a spy in a former life ;)?
 Haha, no, I wish (sort of) (but not really). I've kind of always written, but some of my first real, independent creative writing projects came about as fanfiction. It's hard for me to admit this, but . . . my first fandom was The Monkees. True. After many years of that—and a long writing break to finish college, become an Internet marketing expert and start a family—a dream inspired my original fiction. You can read all about my writing journey in my blog series on the topic.

Everything worked so well and seemed so realistic in SPY FOR A SPY. What kind of research did you do and what kind of experience/experiences did you use to write the I SPY series? Where did your inspiration for the series come from? Thank you so much! Funnily enough, my love of The Monkees indirectly inspired I, Spy. I was big into '60s rock and pop as a teenager (I was born 30 years too late, apparently). Just before Valentine's day last year, I heard a somewhat obscure '60s pop song, and old favorite, while shopping for Valentines at the Dollar Tree. I asked the writer's favorite question, What if . . . and I, Spy was born. To add authenticity, I did a ton of research. Which is cool, because I love research ;) . I read about a dozen CIA memoirs and histories, and I'm always reading more. The last addition to my library was a dissertation, an ethnography on CIA analysts by Bridget Rose Nolan. But when it came down to it, I still had to make a whole bunch of stuff up ;) . My favorite research exercise, however, had to be three weeks ago when I took a Spy Escape & Evasion course from former CIA officer Jason Hanson. I spent an entire day learning escape, social engineering and other spy techniques, and then I spent another day on the streets of Salt Lake City, evading surveillance and carrying out "spy" missions. When I arrived at the final rendezvous, having successfully escaped surveillance for over six hours (and having walked 10+ miles), I could have wept for joy . . . if I weren't so dehydrated ;) .

What are your personal tips and tricks for balancing the rest of your life (being a mom, etc) with writing? Honestly, this novel has taken over my life for the last four months. I have no tips anymore. I use a to do list arranged by time of day (morning, afternoon, evening) and an accountability partner to get stuff done. I try to maximize bedtime and naptime for me, but I'm very committed to making sure my kids get to go out and do fun things. I may not be able to play with them every minute of the day, but I do try to make sure we get to go to museums or fun family activities regularly. Also, chores. Although chores have become a big fight in our family sometimes, I need my kids' help to keep the house functioning properly!

Lots of budding authors (like me) love to hear that How I Got Published or How I Got My Agent story. What’s yours? Once upon a time, I sent a novel to a publisher. And they rejected me. I spent over a year reworking the manuscript before I sent it back. And they accepted me! BUT when I got the contract . . . let's just say they weren't tears of joy. That experience helped convince me I would be better off publishing myself. So I founded my own company, as a commitment to publishing quality, hired professionals for cover design and editing, and learned a TON about ebooks, print book interior layout and more.

Most important of all: Favorite flavor of ice cream? BYU Creamery's Earnestly Chocolate: milk chocolate ice cream, caramel and marshmallow ribbons, and mini chocolate-covered caramel cups. Second favorite: Subzero (liquid nitrogen ice cream) marshmallow and caramel flavored base with chocolate flakes (simulating See's Scotchmallow candies). But I'm always a sucker for plain ol' vanilla.

So much fun to hear Jordan's answers! Thanks, again!

Join the party & enter to win!

As part of the debut of Spy for a Spy, Jordan is co-hosting a launch party with Julie Coulter Bellon, author of Pocket Full of Posies. Join us November 12 on Facebook (Jordan's and Julie's pages) and Twitter (follow Julie and Jordan) for drawings throughout the day, and enter to win more fabulous prizes here!!

Special deals!

Spy for a Spy is a sequel to the novel I, Spy, available for 99¢ at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Jordan's site this week only! To save her country and her secrets, CIA operative Talia Reynolds will have to sacrifice the man she loves. More about I, Spy. Also, as a free gift this week, Jordan is giving out free e-copies of a prequel novella, Mr. Nice Spy, on Amazon and her site!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mini-Review: MR. NICE SPY by Jordan McCollum (Durham Crest, 2013)

From Jordan's websiteCanada is probably the last place you’d expect to find an American spy. CIA operative Elliott Monteith has made it work, just like he’s made things work with his longtime fiancée Shanna. Until Shanna lays out an ultimatum: move forward or move on. Meanwhile, Elliott and his best friend and fellow operative, Talia Reynolds, try to track an elusive leak at the American embassy.
But something changes between Elliott and Talia as they close in on the man selling out his country. Professional and personal lines blur and Elliott has to choose—his fiancée or his best friend.
Audience: Adult (Clean)
Genre: Romance, Adventure
Length: 101 pgs.
Rating: *****
Review: I LOVED this short snipped of the I, SPY world as much as I loved the full-length one. I like seeing Elliot's side of things, especially the way he sees Talia. Great adventure, perfect romance. All the excitment you need in a hundred pages. Love.
Source: Amazon Kindle book. (Free)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: I SPY by Jordan McCollum (Durham Crest, May 2013)

Canada is probably the last place you’d expect to find an American spy. 
But even idyllic Ottawa has its deadly secrets—and so does CIA operative Talia Reynolds. She can climb through ventilation shafts, blend in at the occasional diplomatic function, even scale buildings (small ones). But there’s one thing she can’t do: tell her aerospace engineer boyfriend Danny about her Top Secret occupation.
It worked for a year, keeping Danny in the dark, keeping him away from danger, keeping her secrets. And then Talia finally catches a hot case: Fyodor Timofeyev. Russian. Aerospace executive. Possible spy?
She can make this work, too—until Danny needs her at the same time her country does. And when Fyodor targets Danny? Suddenly her schedule isn’t the only thing suffering. Now to save her secrets and her country, Talia must sacrifice the man she loves.
Audience: Adult (Clean)Genre: Romantic Spy ThrillerLength: 312 pgs
Rating: ***** (Loved it!)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mini-Review: DESPERATE MEASURES by Candice Hern

From AmazonCustomers who enjoy the traditional Regency Romances of Georgette Heyer will enjoy this witty Regency short story by New York Times bestselling author Candice Hern. Lydia Bettridge is a young woman suffering the pangs of unrequited love. To capture the attention of Geoffrey Danforth, the man who has stolen her heart but barely notices her, she has resorted to desperate measures with a seemingly clever plan. By engaging the help of Phillip, a friend of her brother's, to play the love-smitten fool in public, she hopes to pique the interest of her unnamed love. But when Geoffrey himself shows up to take Phillip's place, all her careful planning is turned upside down. What's a girl to do but to make the best of it? This short story was originally published in The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A TALENT FOR TROUBLE by Jennifer Turano (Bethany House, October 2013)

From Bethany House's websiteFor years, Miss Felicia Murdock's every thought and action have been in pursuit of becoming a minister's wife. When the minister she'd set her sights on has other ideas, she decides something in her life needs to change--and soon--before she wastes any more time pretending to be someone she's not. If that means spreading her wings and embracing a more lively way of life, who's to say nay?
Grayson Sumner, Lord Sefton, has had more than enough of spreading his wings and only hopes to settle into the life of a respectable New York gentleman. Prompted by some friends to lift the spirits of the disappointed-in-love Miss Murdock, he is surprised to encounter an adventurous young lady with an unfortunate knack for stumbling into troublesome situations.
Just as Grayson decides he's had quite enough of her antics, his past comes back to haunt him and his presence in Felicia's life endangers her. As they work together to extricate themselves from this latest complication, will Grayson and Felicia decide they want to spend the rest of their lives keeping one another out of trouble?

Audience: Adult (Clean)
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 352 pgs.

Rating: *** (Liked it)

Monday, October 28, 2013

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Lately, I have heard so many authors (on Facebook, of course) lamenting about how useless Twitter is. So I couldn't hold in my opinions any longer. This is how you do Twitter and win friends and fans!

DO NOT post constantly and only about your book, and where it's on sale, and who read it, and who reviewed it, and on and on. People will tune you out and then it becomes pointless. Authors who have books releasing during a week are given a bit of leeway, but usually because they post about normal stuff 95% of the time.

DO interact. If you like a writer's book, tweet them about it. They'll love to hear it. They'll probably answer. Kiersten White and Shannon Hale--best selling YA authors, peeps!--have tweeted me. 

DO make writing friends. It's a fantastic writing community. It's how I got to know Sarah Eden. Even though Krista Jensen and I once lived only four hours apart in Wyoming, I became friends with her through Twitter. She's awesome. I even got to beta read for her a few months ago. It was my friendship with Melanie Jacobson that got me a pitch appointment with an editor at Covenant, who ended up requesting to see THE GAME PLAN. I wouldn't have gotten that fateful appointment if Melanie hadn't tweeted me. I met the fab Gina Denny and Suzanne Gale via Twitter (we followed some of the same people). 

DO stalk agents and publishers. There are amazing contests and chats via twitter that you will NOT see on Facebook. People hooking up with agents, finding out what agents are looking for, finding agents that are perfect for them. Isn't that, in and of itself, worth getting on twitter for?!?

Sure, okay, it's not for everyone and your writing career will probably survive if you just don't want to, but when I think of all the advantages, I know there's a reason I can't stay away!

So go forth! Tweet!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

THE RELUCTANT BACHELORETTE by Rachael Anderson (HEA, 2012)

From Rachael Anderson's BlogUnknowingly cast as the bachelorette for her town’s charity event, Taycee Emerson wants out. Especially when she discovers her old teenage crush, Luke Carney, is one of the bachelors and it's up to the viewers--not her--to decide which bachelors stay or go.

Coerced into participating, Taycee does what any self-preserving girl would do. She launches a subtle attack on Luke’s good name with the hope of getting him voted off the show. Unfortunately, Luke's an eye-for-an-eye kind of guy, and when he discovers what she's up to, it means revenge.

But when their pranks go south, will they screw up any chance they have at a future together, or will they be able to forgive and forget and prove that love really does conquer all?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Blog Tour Review: JUST ELLA by Annette K. Larsen (CreateSpace, August 2013)

Just Ella Tour

Just Ella Just Ella by Annette K. Larsen

Book Summary:
A Proper Romance
Ariella was only looking for a distraction, something to break up the monotony of palace life. What she found was a young man willing to overlook her title and show her a new and vibrant way of life. But when her growing feelings for Gavin spiral out of control and clash with the expectations of her station, she will discover that the consequences of her curiosity are far more severe than she’d imagined. I watched in helpless horror as two guards hauled Gavin to his feet and dragged him from the room. My voice was frozen, unable to protest as another guard took hold of my arm, leading me upstairs. From the confines of my room, I stared into the darkness beyond my window, hoping to catch one more glimpse of Gavin. He was gone, and I wondered if he would have been better off if he had never met me. I write clean romance. Why? Because that’s what I love to read, but over the years I’ve discovered it’s quite a challenge to find good clean romance. I believe it’s a genre that many people are looking for and too few authors are writing. My first novel, Just Ella, took me many years to write because I wanted it to be more than just a cutesy love story. I wanted it to have depth, to feel genuine. Hopefully I succeeded, but you’ll have to be the judge.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: GLIMMER OF HOPE by Sarah M. Eden (Covenant, 2013)

From DeseretBook.comStunning Miranda Harford once had the world at her feet. She was young, carefree, and desperately in love. But when her new husband left for London without her, her world fell apart. Devastated by his abandonment, Miranda fled their home, taking residence at her husband’s rarely visited countryside estate. For three years, she lived alone. But now, as the holidays draw near, an unexpected visitor arrives . . .
Carter Alexander Harford, Seventh Viscount Devereaux, is a man driven to succeed. His work is his life, and the position of Prime Minister of England is within reach. But in truth, Carter is a man haunted by lost love. Estranged from his beautiful wife, Carter is shocked to find Miranda—the woman he loved and who he believed left him—in residence at his country home.
As plans for a holiday party move forward, the uneasy couple realizes that to avoid further scandal, they must keep up appearances in a charade of marital happiness. Thrust together by fate, it quickly becomes clear that they have both been living beneath a conspired cloud of misunderstanding. As family, career, and social pressures threaten to keep them apart, can love have even a glimmer of hope?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lessons In Storytelling from a Three-Minute Viral Video

I've seen this video around a lot the last few days, but usually when I'm checking out social media, I'm popping in for a minute or two. I scan statuses, tweets, whatnot, but I don't always watch the great videos people post. This one was absolutely worth is. Watch it. Then let's discuss how it shows excellent storytelling in three short minutes. (Don't worry. It's in Thai, but there are subtitles. Not that you'd need them actually...)

This video is three-minutes long and tells an excellent story. Why?

1. No long explanations
In three minutes, the makers of the video didn't have time for long-winded back story--there is still back story and setup, but we're shown exactly what we need and no more. The little boy needed medicine. The man paid for it and the boy runs away. We see by his giving the homeless man food too that this man regularly gives back to others.

2. The characters are relatable
The storytelling makes us care about the characters--about the little boy who's so desperate to help his mom he will steal medicine; a kind man and the daughter who would do anything for him. Two and a half minutes with them is all it took to make me cry.

3. The story has a familiar structure
First we have the brief set-up, followed by the catalyst (the father's illness) that moves the story into the second act (how will the daughter pay for the bills?). It seems like she will lose everything to save her father (conflict, something to fight for). Then the story resolves as the twist is revealed--the doctor is the little boy the kind man helped out all those years ago.

In three minutes. Stories don't have to be long, sweeping tales to be epic. This video proves it.

Review: THE HOST by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown & Co., 2010)

From StephenieMeyer.com: 
Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away.
Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.
When Melanie, one of the few remaining "wild" humans is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.
Wanderer probes Melanie's thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer's mind with visions of the man Melanie loves—Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

No Reviews?!?

This is so strange for me! I've had reviews scheduled out a month in advance all summer. Lots of great reading and all that jazz. So what happened? I'm not sure...it might be that I'm moving to Alaska in a month and a half and I've been trying to figure all that stuff out. That my husband had minor mouth surgery over the weekend. Just stuff going on, you know.

So today? A recipe. Because I love treats.

It came from this blog and I made it this weekend for my birthday. The best part is that my husband, still recovering, can't eat it. So I'm eating it all and trying ever so hard to save a piece for him.

It's Ice Cream Sandwich Cake. I've actually had this at my aunt's house before, so when I saw this pin, I obvious jumped all over it. Delish! And super easy. Here's how I made it.

First, I halved the recipe. It's just my little family, and while I would LOVE to stuff my face with a 9x13 pan of ice cream sandwiches and whipped cream, it's probably not the best idea.

So, to make a 9x9 pan.
12 ice cream sandwiches
1 16 oz tub of whipped cream
1 or 2 of your favorite candy bars (I used twix.)
1/2 jar of caramel

Layer 6 of the sandwiches in the bottom of the pan, then half the whipped cream, half of the candy bars crushed or cut up and half the caramel. Repeat the layers. Freeze for a few hours then pull out about ten minutes before you want to eat. I'm not sure if it's my freezer or what, but I pulled some out yesterday, cut it and ate it.

Enjoy! Almost as good as a great book! ;)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review: STEALING THE PREACHER by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House, July 2013)

Publication Date: July 2013

From Bethany House's websiteA cowboy who wants to be a preacher. An outlaw's daughter who wants to change his mind.
On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can't believe it when he's forced off the train by an outlaw and presented to the man's daughter as the preacher she requested for her birthday. He's determined to escape--which would be much easier if he could stop thinking about Joanna Robbins and her unexpected request.
For months, Joanna had prayed for a minister. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. But just when it seems her prayers have been answered, it turns out the parson is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett he ended up right where he was supposed to be?
With her signature blend of humor, history, and lively western romance, two-time RITA Award finalist and bestselling author Karen Witemeyer delivers a Texas love story sure to steal your heart.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: PIVOT POINT by Kasie West (HarperTeen, 2013)

From Amazon:  Knowing the outcome doesn't always make a choice easier. . . .
Addison Coleman's life is one big "What if?" As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It's the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie's parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the "Norms," or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it's not.
In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback's girlfriend. When Addie's father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she's unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she's willing to live through . . . and who she can't live without.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: WORKING IT OUT by Rachel Anderson (HEA Publishing, 2013)

working it out tour
From Rachel's Blog
A chance encounter . . . 
Grace Warren's life is safe and predictable—exactly the way she likes it. But when she gets roped into going to an auction to help out a friend, everything changes. She meets Seth Tuttle—a guy who unexpectedly kisses her then disappears, leaving her flustered and upset. If she never sees him again, it will be too soon.

A chance for love . . . 
 Weeks later, when Seth limps into Grace's rehab clinic post surgery, he's every bit as frustrating and annoying as she remembered. Yet there's something about him that makes her second-guess her carefully placed boundaries even though he's everything she's sure she doesn't want in a man. But maybe Seth is exactly what Grace has needed all along—assuming she's willing to risk safe and predictable for a chance at love.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: LONGING FOR HOME by Sarah M. Eden (Shadow Mountain, 2013)

From Shadow MountainTwenty-six-year-old Katie Macauley needs to convince the influential Joseph Archer to hold true to his word and keep her on his payroll as his housekeeper—despite her Irish roots. When Joseph agrees to keep Katie as his housekeeper, the feud between the Irish immigrants and frontiersmen in the 1870 Wyoming Territory erupts anew, and Katie becomes the reluctant figurehead of hope for the Irish townsfolk. As the violence escalates throughout the town, Katie must choose between the two men who have been vying for her love—though only one might be able to restore hope to her own heart.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: A MOST PECULIAR CIRCUMSTANCE by Jen Turano (Bethany House, May 2013)

Publication Date: May 2013

From BakerPublishingGroup.comMiss Arabella Beckett, defender of the down-trodden women of America, is returning from her travels in support of the women's suffrage movement when she makes a simple offer of assistance to a young woman in need. But things go sadly awry, and both ladies soon find themselves in dire need of rescue. Arabella, always loath to admit she needs help, is particularly reluctant to receive assistance from the arrogant, narrow-minded knight in shining armor who shows up just in time.

Private investigator extraordinaire Mr. Theodore Wilder is on an assignment that began as a favor to his good friend Hamilton Beckett, but swiftly evolved into a merry chase across the country. He is already in a less than pleasant mood, and when Hamilton's sister turns out to have radical ideas and a fiercely independent streak, he's at his wit's end. 

Much to their chagrin, Theodore and Arabella's paths continue to cross when they return home to New York, but the most unusual feelings beginning to grow between them certainly can't be anything serious. When the trouble Arabella accidentally stirred up in her travels follows her home and threatens her very life, the unlikely couple must face the possibility that they might have landed in the most peculiar circumstance of all: love.

Audience: Adult (Clean)
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 353 pgs

Rating:  *** (Liked it)

Review: I sort of hate myself for giving this a three stars. It was a pretty fun book and I enjoyed it. Had it been set in contemporary times I would have certainly given it four stars. I'm pretty open to non-realistic things happening in historical fiction. I'm a fan of absurd stuff. (Have you guys read A CONTEMPTIBLE AFFECTION or A LADY AND A SPY? Check out this review; she thinks the ending of ACA is absurd too... ;) ) And THE GRAND SOPHY is one of my favorite Georgette Heyer books and it's completely absurd. But...it has to be a least 75% based in fact for me to accept absurdity, and there were just too many characters doing too many unbelievable things. It seemed like a plot better suited for maybe somewhere in the West where manners and expectations would have been a lot more relaxed.
Okay, that aside, it was terribly fun with some really fun characters. I saw the word "madcap" used to describe it in a review, and it really fits. And all in all, I'm really a fan of madcap books. :D

Disclaimer: Nothing
Source: I was given an e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Try this Do you like fun historical fiction? Read FRIENDS AND FOES by Sarah M. Eden
Check Out Some of Jen Turano's other books.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: RULES OF MURDER by Julianna Deering (Bethany House, Aug 2013)

Publication Date: August 2013

From BakerPublishingGroup.com: 

Introducing Drew Farthering 

From The Tip of his black Homburg to the crease in his stylish cheviot trousers, he's the epitome of a stylish 1930s English gentleman. His only problem? The body he just discovered. 

Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. 

With the help of beautiful and whip-smart Madeline Parker, a guest from America, Drew proposes to use the lessons he's learned reading his mysteries to solve the crime. Before long, he realizes this is no lark, and no one at Farthering Place is who he or she appears to be--not the butler nor blackmailer, the chauffeur nor embezzler. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer--and trying harder to impress Madeline--Drew must decide how far to take this dangerous game.

Audience: Adult (Clean)
Genre: Romance, Mystery, Inspirational
Length: 336 pgs.

Rating: ***** (Loved It)

Review: YES. I have read quite a few books that Bethany House publishes and loved them. I can count on them to be good, clean fun. This one surprised me by how good it was! The best way I can think of to describe it was a cross between Georgette Heyer and Anne Perry Lite. So, so fun. Lots of great lines, lots of hilariousness, cute romance, and intriguing mystery. Awesome historical details and so well researched. I'm an absolute sucker for this time period. I raved to my mom (who loves both Gerogette Heyer and Anne Perry), telling her she needed to pick this one up as soon as it was available. You should too! And I'm thrilled that there will be many more Drew Farthering mysteries! (I will probably read every one produced.)

Check it out at the publisher's website.

About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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