Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: The Memoir of Johnny Devine + GIVEAWAY




The Memoir of Johnny Devine
Genre: Historical
Publisher: Ashberry Lane Publishing
Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Number of pages: 279

Awards/Honors:  RT Book Reviews (rare) 5 goldstar Top Pick, a Reviewers' Choice Award Nominee (of 5), and the December 2015 Seal of Excellence winner, which makes it a Book of the Year Nominee (1 of 12 out of thousands reviewed)




Summary

The Memoir of Johnny Devine (RT Book Reviews 4.5 GOLD Star Top Pick): In 1953, desperation forces young war widow Eliza Saunderson to take a job writing the memoir of ex-Hollywood heartthrob Johnny Devine. Rumor has it Johnny can seduce anything in a skirt quicker than he can hail a cab. But now the notorious womanizer claims he’s been born again. Eliza soon finds herself falling for the humble, grace-filled man John has become—a man who shows no sign of returning her feelings. No sign, that is, until she discovers something John never meant for her to see.

When Elizas articles on minority oppression land her on McCarthys Communist hit list, John and Eliza become entangled in an investigation that threatens both his book and her future. To clear her name, Eliza must solve a family mystery. Plus, she needs to convince John that real love—not the Hollywood illusion—can forgive a sordid past. Just when the hope of love becomes reality, a troubling discovery confirms Eliza’s worst fears. Like the happy fa├žade many Americans cling to, had it all been empty lies? Is there a love she can truly believe in?


Available to purchase on
- AMAZON -


_________________________


Camille Eide writes romantic, inspirational dramas about love, faith, and family. She lives in Oregon with her husband and is a mom, grammy, bass guitarist, and a fan of muscle cars, tender romance, oldies Rock, and Peanut M&Ms.





My thoughts

What a fresh and unique voice Camille Eide has! The first two thoughts that enter my mind are that 1) this is why I read Christian fiction, and 2) the major publishing houses should be beating on Camille’s door.

The Memoir of Johnny Devine is set in 1953 during a time when fear of communism ran high and everyone was suspected until proven innocent. It’s a well written and intelligent book, one that will make you think. I was born in 1947, so I have some sketchy memories of this era as a child – with President Eisenhower and McCarthy being in the news a lot. It was fascinating to learn about organizations such as American Women’s Alliance and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Camille has done an outstanding job at conveying a strong sense of place in old Hollywood, as well as the suspicion that seemed to lurk everywhere.

Johnny and Eliza are wonderful characters, flawed and honest. I loved Eliza’s passionate crusade against racial, ethnic, and gender oppression – a risky stand to take during these times because it was seen as Communist propaganda.  Johnny, a screen idol with a notorious reputation, is writing a memoir in an effort to witness of his faith through the confession of past mistakes. Both have previous experiences that make them wary of forming a new romantic relationship.


_________________________

“With each surrender of my will, I find myself a little
freer in my soul, a little less chained to myself,
a little closer to God, a little more like Him.”
– Johnny
_________________________


One of the strengths of this novel is its spiritual theme, with Christ’s love, mercy and grace evident on every page. Both Johnny and Eliza have a journey to make, for although Johnny has received Christ’s forgiveness, he can’t let go of the guilt – and the idea of “surrender” to anyone scares Eliza. This story has an emotional spiritual impact that any reader can relate to.

The Memoir of Johnny Devine reflects the essence of what Christian fiction should be. And while it could be classified as historical romance, if offers so much more to the reader! Highly recommended.

Thank you to Singing Librarian Tours for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.




a Rafflecopter giveaway






February 8--By The Book

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Movie Screen Leading Men




Thank you to the folks at The Broke and the Bookish for hosting this fun Top Ten Tuesday meme each week! Many other bloggers’ picks on today’s theme can be seen here.

This week’s theme is a Valentine-related freebie, so instead of drawing from books, I’m going to share some of my favorite romantic leads from movies. This was such a fun project because I guess I’m a romantic at heart, and these guys (and their gals) have given me much enjoyment as I watched their stories over and over again.

Many of these are from the 60s, and I don’t know why. Maybe they just don’t make them like this anymore. You’ll also notice that some are Rogers & Hammerstein musicals. It may not be realistic to burst into song at the drop of a hat, but the musician in me loves that part. Also, all have happy endings – with the exception of two, that is.

So, in no particular order, here are some leading men who have captured my heart over the years. Have you seen any of these movies? And who are some of your personal favorite leading guys from the big screen?



Christopher Plummer / Captain Von Trapp
The Sound of Music, 1965
I’d hate to pick a favorite from this list, but if I had to, it would probably be Captain Von Trapp. Just a beautiful story in every way.




Jonathan Crombie (1966-2015) / Gilbert Blythe
Anne of Green Gables, 1985
“The first time we met was in the Anne of Green Gables production office for a preliminary read-through of the script. I was 17. I think Johnny was 18. I remember thinking he was so sweet and non-threatening in the best way. Because we were all nervous, and he put you at ease. He had a wonderful sense of humor, so we laughed a lot.” – Megan Follows




Yves Montand (1921-1991) / Paul Robaix
My Geisha, 1962
My Geisha is a movie that most of you have probably never even heard of. But it is a fantastic romance built around the filming of a movie adaptation of Madame Butterfly – and Shirley MacLaine costars. Did I mention that it’s a wonderful romance?!




Harve Presnell (1933-2009) / “Leadville” Johnny Brown
The Unsinkable Molly Brown, 1964
Love this musical adaptation of the real-life Molly Brown (played by Debbie Reynolds), a Titanic survivor, and Johnny who awaited her back in Denver, Colorado.




Andrew McCarthy
Come Dance with Me, 2012
Straight from the Heart, 2003
I just can’t get enough of Andrew McCarthy in these two Hallmark movies. Those blue eyes! He’s the type of leading man that gets to me.




William Holden (1918-1981) / Hal Carter
Picnic, 1955
Picnic is considered pretty racy for its time. I love the way it looks back on an era (the 1950s) when drifters hopped boxcars, marriage was the most important goal for a girl, and people wore ties, sports coats, and full-skirted dresses to picnics.




 
Patrick Swayze (1952-2009) / Johnny Castle
Dirty Dancing, 1987
Simply timeless.




Michael Douglas / Ed Leland
Shining Through, 1992
Suspense and World War II stories aren’t high on my list, so I don’t know why I ever watched Shining Through. So glad I did, though! When he rescues Melanie Griffeth from the Nazis at the end . . .




Robert Preston (1918-1997) / Harold Hill
The Music Man, 1962
76 Trombones…Lida Rose…Goodnight My Someone…Till There Was YouWhat could be more delightful?!




Gary Sinese / Terry McQuinn
Fallen Angel, 2003
Can’t help but be drawn to Gary’s character is this outstanding Hallmark movie.




Richard Chamberlain / Ralph de Bricassart
The Thorn Birds, 1983
Franco Nero / Lancelot
Camelot, 1967
These two leading men did not get their happily-ever-after endings, but I was drawn to their stories in spite of that. Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave from Camelot actually married in 2006. And as good as The Thorn Birds was, the book by Colleen McCullough was even better.




Pat Boone / David Wilkerson
The Cross and the Switchblade, 1970
This movie isn’t a romance, so why on earth have I included it? Well, Pat Boone was a very popular singer and teen heartthrob in his day, and this is a powerful movie. It’s the real-life story of David Wilkerson, who founded a ministry to New York’s street gangs called the Teen Challenge Center. Nicky Cruz, a tough Puerto Rican gang leader (played by Eric Estrada), was converted and went on to serve with Wilkerson and later started his own outreach ministry in California.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review + GIVEAWAY: A Son's Vow


A Son’s Vow
By Shelley Shepard Gray
The Charmed Amish Life, #1
Avon Inspire, 2016


Summary

Three months ago, everything changed for Darla Kurtz and her family.

Darla’s father was responsible for a terrible fire at Charm’s lumber mill which killed five Amish men. And though he, too, lost his life, the town of Charm hasn’t looked at her family the same since. Even Lukas Kinsinger—with whom Darla used to have a close friendship.

Now her brother’s anger at the town is spilling over onto Darla, and she has the bruises to prove it. The accident already cost five lives, but if something doesn’t change soon, Darla fears it will cost her—and her family—even more.

Lukas Kinsinger wants to mourn the loss of his father, but he can hardly find the time to breathe. Suddenly the head of his father’s lumber mill and responsible for taking care of his three siblings, he’s feeling the pressure. He has also never felt more alone—especially with the new tension between he and Darla. But when he learns of her troubles at home, Lukas knows he can’t simply stand by and watch. Someone has to help her before another tragedy occurs.

As Lukas and Darla attempt to repair their families, they discover something deeper than friendship growing between them. But will Lukas and Darla’s love be accepted after so much loss? Or will the pain of the past overcome any chance of future happiness?

Shelley Shepard Gray’s first book in her Charmed Amish Life series is set in the quaint Amish village of Charm, Ohio, and tells the stories of the Kinsinger siblings who are each struggling to find both forgiveness and love in the face of tragedy.


_________________________


Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.

Connect with Shelley:
shelleyshepardgray.com, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest


My thoughts

With A Son’s Vow, Shelley Shepard Gray begins a new four-book series, transporting readers to the Amish village of Charm, Ohio (population 110). I always find much to enjoy in Shelley’s writing and am delighted with this new series. Although Shelley incorporates a wealth of sensitive issues (grief, anger, physical abuse, blame), the narrative isn’t especially deep - but other factors combine to make this a really good story. The heart and emotion of its characters are vividly conveyed, and the story’s length of 262 pages seemed just right. And the bottom line? A Son’s Vow is not your typical Amish story, and that makes for a compelling read.


Charm, Ohio
I loved Shelley’s previous series set in Pinecraft, but am just as hooked on the small community of Charm. A wonderful little village map is included at the beginning, and it was fun to explore online pictures of this area that inspired the series. While Lukas and Darla are the lead characters, they are surrounded by a great ensemble cast of family and friends. One of my favorite things about a series like this is that we get to come back to familiar characters and see their development.

At the center of this story is the lingering effect of an accidental fire at the Kinsinger Lumber Mill that killed five men, including the fathers of Lukas and Darla. Lukas, the eldest son, shoulders the responsibility of running the mill and taking care of his family. Anger manifests itself in different ways . . . For some, it’s in laying blame at the feet of Darla’s father; for Aaron, Darla’s brother, it’s an uncontrollable anger that leads to abusive behavior.

One of the things I liked most about A Son’s Vow is that it presents a realistic look into the lives of a flawed people, showing that there’s really no difference between the Amish community and us when it comes to dealing with life issues. From unimaginable grief over the loss of a loved one, to the need to forgive and go on – the Amish struggle is just as difficult as ours.

For Lukas and Darla, the road to redemption and forgiveness might be rocky, but God’s hand and lovingkindness is seen throughout. I look forward to all that is to come in this series – hopefully more from Lukas and Darla, as well as Hannah, Rob, Aaron and Hope. Book #2, A Daughter’s Dream, releases in May 2016.

Recommended

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Litfuse landing page:

____________________

GIVEAWAY

Are you new to Shelley’s writing or a long-time fan? Do you have a favorite story or series by Shelley? (I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I enjoyed her recent series set in Pinecraft very much.) To enter the drawing, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here.

BE SURE to leave your name and your email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Saturday, February 13. Winner will be chosen by random.org and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US residents

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Historical Settings



Thank you to the folks at The Broke and the Bookish for hosting this fun Top Ten Tuesday meme each week! Many other bloggers’ picks on today’s theme can be seen here.

This topic has been fun to think about because I read so much historical fiction. There are a few eras that I’ve always enjoyed, such as Regency and the American Revolution - but in some cases, maybe it’s the fiction that has drawn me to that particular era. Each of these books is a favorite. So here’s my . . .


Favorite Historical Settings



Old Testament



New Testament times



Medieval England



Regency England



American Revolution



1800’s Appalachia



Civil War



World War II



Vietnam
Although this has a contemporary setting, a Vietnam veteran suffering from what we now know as PTSD plays a major part.

Review + Prism Tour GIVEAWAY: The Express Rider's Lady




The Express Rider’s Lady
By Stacy Henrie
Love Inspired Historical, 2016


Summary

Delsie Radford is going to make it to California, no matter the danger or difficulty. Her father may have kept her and her sister apart, but Delsie refuses to miss her sister's wedding—even with only eighteen days to get there. And she's found the perfect escort in Pony Express rider Myles Patton.

Myles can't believe it when a pretty socialite hires him to take her cross-country through rough terrain and dangerous territory. Surely she'll quit before they reach their destination—he's known girls like her before. But the longer they ride together, the more Myles notices Delsie's toughness and kindness beneath her polished exterior. And though they may be worlds apart…they might just be perfect for each other.



_________________________



Stacy Henrie has always had a love for history, fiction, and chocolate. She earned her B.A. in public relations before turning her attentions to raising a family and writing inspirational historical romances. Wife of an entrepreneur husband and a mother to three, Stacy loves to live out history through her fictional characters. In addition to author, she is also a reader, a road trip enthusiast, and a novice interior decorator.

Find Stacy online at . . .


Website - Goodreads - Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest



My thoughts

With its epic scope and beautiful writing, The Express Rider's Lady ranks among the best of Love Inspired books that I've ever read. I’m glad to have discovered the writing of Stacy Henrie.

Spanning a year’s time, The Express Rider’s Lady traverses the Pony Express route between Missouri and California in 1860, and evokes a strong sense of place as we glimpse the Western prairie and mountains through Delsie’s eyes. I gained a deep appreciation and respect for these Pony Express riders, who journeyed approximately 125 miles per day, facing hardship and danger.



Sparrow Hawk
Myles and Delsie are well developed, appealing lead characters and I was immediately drawn to them. Delsie is impressive in her love for family and desire to preserve unity – and how she endured that long ride on horseback staggers the imagination! Myles is such an appealing hero – a man of integrity, kindness and compassion. For a man who had come to question God’s love, it was touching that he gave the animals in his life biblical names – Elijah, his pet sparrow hawk, and Moses, his horse. And I loved the chemistry between Myles and Delsie, with the gradual building of a relationship that began as friendship.

Elements of faith are skillfully woven throughout – such as the way Delsie honored her father, and the effect of her faith on Myles. Stacy has beautifully shown through these characters that, even when we pull away from God, He is still quietly at work in our lives.


I enjoyed The Express Rider’s Lady very much and look forward to more from Stacy Henrie.


Recommended.


Thank you to Prism Book Tours for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


And be sure to enter the tour giveaway below. Prizes include . . .


$50 Amazon eGift Card (open internationally)

Print copy of The Express Rider's Lady (US only)
ebook of The Express Rider's Lady (open internationally)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule

February 1st: Launch
February 2nd: Heidi Reads... & The Power of Words
February 3rd: Katie's Clean Book Collection & Min Reads and Reviews
February 4th: Babs Book Bistro & Wishful Endings
February 5th: Savings in Seconds & Literary Time Out
February 7th: Wishful Endings & Zerina Blossom's Books
February 8th: Mom with a Reading Problem & Backing Books
February 9th: Seasons of Humility
February 10th: Singing Librarian BooksChristy's Cozy Corners, & Mel's Shelves
February 11th: Getting Your Read On & Tell Tale Book Reviews
February 12th: Dixie n DottieReading Is My SuperPower, & Rockin' Book Reviews
February 14th: Grand Finale

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review: Thin Ice


Thin Ice
By Irene Hannon
Men of Valor, #2
Revell, 2016


Summary

If Ginny Reed is still alive--who is the woman buried in her grave?

After losing her parents and her sister, Christy Reed has been mired in grief. Now, life is finally starting to feel normal again--until an envelope addressed in her sister's handwriting arrives in the mail. And the note inside claims she is still alive.

FBI Special Agent Lance McGregor, a former Delta Force operator, is assigned to reopen the case . . . but he's coming up with more questions than answers. Is Christy a pawn in a twisted cat-and-mouse game--or the target of a sinister plot? As Lance digs deeper, one thing becomes clear: someone in the shadows has a deadly agenda.

Bestselling author and three-time RITA Award winner Irene Hannon pulls out all the stops in this high-stakes thriller that races to a bone-chilling finish.


_________________________


Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than forty-five novels, including That Certain Summer, One Perfect Spring, and the Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series. Her books have been honored with three coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, three HOLT Medallions, a Daphne du Maurier Award, two Reviewers' Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine, a Retailers' Choice Award, a Booksellers' Best Award, and a National Readers' Choice Award. In addition, she is a two-time Christy Award finalist, and Booklist included one of her novels in its "Top 10 Inspirational Fiction" list for 2011. She lives in Missouri. Learn more at irenehannon.com.


My thoughts


Edge-of-your-seat suspense. Engaging, well-rounded characters.
Tension. Romance. Compelling heroes.
Humor. Inspiration.

As with all of Irene Hannon’s suspense novels that I’ve read, each of these elements is present. I’m not really a suspense fan, but Irene’s stories have rich character depth and I enjoy her writing so much that these adventures are just about impossible to resist. (However, I will say that Irene’s contemporary romances are my favorite and I highly recommend them.)

There’s so much to like about Thin Ice! Like Irene’s other heroes, Lance is such a good guy – one who brings strength, intelligence, determination and courage, along with caring and compassion - yet he wrestles with his own personal demons. I love to watch figure skating, so the fact that Christy is a figure skater drew me to her. From the raw terror and loss that Christy experienced in the prologue, I was emotionally engaged.

The story is told from three perspectives – that of Christy, Lance, and the villain – and I enjoyed getting into the villain’s mindset, thought process and rationale. And that brings me to my least favorite part, the twisted psychopath. Really, really creepy and twisted. It’s interesting how, when money isn’t the object, it’s often all about intimidation and control through fear. However, one element of his behavior, while important to the complexity of his nature, was almost too much for me. This behavior has caused me in the past to close a book and never read that particular author again. Not the case this time, though.

I appreciate how Irene always weaves important faith elements into her stories. The enduring of traumatic experiences usually has one of two effects – that of drawing us closer to God or pushing us away – and that’s exactly what happened to Christy and Lance. Christy struggled like any of us would, but it was her faith that comforted and sustained her – while Lance pushed away from the faith of his childhood. I enjoyed not only the very real sparks that flew between them, but their faith journeys as well.

To say that Thin Ice was hard to put down is an understatement. Recommended to all who enjoy romantic suspense.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review + Kindle Fire GIVEAWAY: Grace's Forgiveness


Grace’s Forgiveness
By Molly Jebber
Keepsake Pocket Quilt, #2
Zebra, 2016


Summary

A handsome newcomer with secrets shows a yearning Amish woman a chance at happiness—but their love will need all their courage to keep . . .

Grace Blauch is skilled at midwifery—and crafting quilts that help others pass on messages of enduring family love. But a disfiguring birthmark keeps the young Amish woman from a husband and home of her own—until Mark King arrives from another community. His helpfulness and independent nature earn Grace’s respect. And he finds her outspoken ways and determination to do right irresistibly appealing. Soon Grace is planning a wedding quilt of her very own . . . until her father discovers that Mark’s shunned brother is hiding somewhere in town . . .


Grace can well understand why Mark took such a risk once she hears his wrenching reasons. But she fears even prayer will not convince her father to restore his blessing on their union. She wills herself to face the end of her dreams, but sudden danger and an impossible act of generosity will show her that abiding hope can inspire the most precious of miracles . . .



_________________________



Molly Jebber is an educational, motivational, and Women’s Christian Connection speaker. She was raised in a small town in the Midwest, and insists if you had blinked twice, you would’ve missed it. She loves God, her family and friends, sunshine, swimming and traveling to the Amish communities.

Creating historical Amish characters and throwing them into difficult situations and joyous times has been challenging and fun for her. The greatest reward she’s experienced in becoming an author is meeting wonderful people from all over the world who’ve been encouraging and supportive. Connect with Molly online at mollyjebber.com.



My thoughts

Grace’s Forgiveness is a sweet, pleasant read, one that fans of Amish fiction will enjoy. Yet in its simplicity, Grace’s Forgiveness deals with shunning, one of the most difficult, hard-to-understand practices of Amish life. Although Grace was introduced in the previous book, Change of Heart, this story stands alone.

The characters seem so true to life that they feel like friends, and I’ve been looking forward to Grace’s story. With elements like midwifery, furniture making, and barn raising, Molly brings the Amish lifestyle to life. But one thing I especially like about this series is the way Molly incorporates some serious issues, like shunning and marrying outside the Amish faith.



Jacob's Ladder quilt
For a people who are supposedly so loving and accepting, their attitude toward Grace because of a birthmark on her face just seemed cruel – and I loved that Mark looked past that disfigurement when he first met her. What a good lesson for all of us! I'm unashamedly a fan of Amish fiction and appreciate the life values we can learn from them. However, the practice of shunning someone who leaves the Amish faith after being baptized – thinking of them as literally dead – that’s something I’ll never be able to understand. Both Grace and Mark had friends or a family member in this situation, and Molly did a good job bringing out the emotion and personal struggles.

I also loved the pocket quilt theme, for in a time where so much communication is done through social media, the idea of a personal note tucked in the pocket for the recipient to find is very appealing. The writing sometimes seems a little stiff or formal, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of this sweet story. I suspect that we will see more from two secondary characters, and I look forward to that.


Grace’s Forgiveness is a good book to sit back and relax with. Recommended to all who enjoy Amish fiction.


Thank you to Kensington Publishing and Celebrate Lit for providing an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Purchase Grace’s Forgiveness at AmazonB&N | BAM | IndieBound


And be sure to enter Molly’s Kindle Fire giveaway below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway