Saturday, September 30, 2017

Spotlight (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Crepe Factor




I’m so glad to have the opportunity to spotlight Crepe Factor, a cozy mystery that I reviewed last fall and enjoyed very much. It may be #14 in a long-running, popular series, but it also works as a standalone. Please see my thoughts here and be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this post.  
- Carole



Crepe Factor
By Laura Childs & Terry Farley Moran
A Scrapbooking Mystery #14
Berkley, 2017


Summary

The Winter Market in the French Quarter is in full swing, but murder isn’t taking a holiday in the latest from the New York Times bestselling author of Parchment and Old Lace

The holidays are a busy time for scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand—but not so hectic that she doesn’t have time to enjoy browsing the booths at the Winter Market with her best friend Ava. The last thing the ladies expect to see is a lurching man stabbed by a serving fork, dying in front of them.

The victim is loathed restaurant critic Martin Lash, who posted his scathing reviews on the Glutton for Punishment website. And the prime suspect is New Orleans restauranteur Quigg Brevard—who was seen giving the critic a tongue-lashing minutes before someone stuck a fork in him. An old flame of Carmela, Quigg asks for her help, which does not please her current beau, Detective Edgar Babcock, to say the least.

Before her relationship is the next victim, Carmela needs to find a murderer who had no reservations about punishing the culinary curmudgeon…

Scrapbooking tips and recipes included!


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Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries , Scrapbook Mysteries , and Cackleberry Club Mysteries . In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fund raising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:

The Tea Shop Mysteries – set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.

The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!

The Cackleberry Club Mysteries – set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.

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Short-listed twice for The Best American Mystery Stories, Terrie Farley Moran is delighted to introduce mystery fans to the Read ’Em and Eat cafĂ© and bookstore, which debuted with Well Read, Then Dead . followed by Caught Read-Handed  and Read to Death  released in July of this year.  The only thing Terrie enjoys more than wrangling mystery plots into submission is playing games and reading stories with any or all of her grandchildren.

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Purchase at:

Amazon    B&N    Goggle Books    IndieBound



GIVEAWAY





Review: Liar's Winter


Liar’s Winter
By Cindy K. Sproles
Kregel, 2017


Summary

Lochiel Ogle was born with a red-wine birthmark--and it put her life in jeopardy from the moment she entered the world. Mountain folks called it "the mark of the devil," and for all the evil that has plagued her nineteen-year existence, Lochiel is ready to believe that is true. And the evil surely took control of the mind of the boy who stole her as an infant, bringing her home for his mother to raise.

Abused and abandoned by the only people she knows as family, Lochiel is rescued by a peddler and given the first glimpse of love she has ever known. The truth of her past is gradually revealed as is the fact that she is still hunted by a brother driven to see her dead. Unsure if there's anyone she can truly trust, Lochiel is faced with a series of choices: Will she continue to run for escape or will she face her past and accept the heartbreaking secrets it reveals? Which will truly free her?

Set in the wild and beautiful Appalachian Mountains of nineteenth-century East Tennessee, Liar's Winter is an unflinching yet inspirational exploration of prejudice and choice.


My thoughts

Liar’s Winter is a powerful story written by an equally powerful storyteller. Cindy K. Sproles writes with a fresh voice in Christian fiction and spins a mesmerizing, character-driven tale as hauntingly beautiful as its Smoky Mountain setting.

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Liar’s winter:  the time when the mountain
fights with winter and spring, not knowin whether
to warm the ground or chill a body to the bone.
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From the time in my youth when I read Catherine Marshall’s Christy, I’ve been drawn to Appalachian settings, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a combination of elements ... for instance, the raw beauty of an untamed land – isolated, an area unto itself – and the naivetĂ©, superstition and innocence of its people. The lyrical voice of Sproles captures the essence of late nineteenth-century Appalachia and its people in this story of faith and redemption. The dialect and ungrammatical language of the mountain people is easy to follow, even bringing back memories of my own north Georgia ancestry.

If a character has ever stolen my heart, it’s Lochiel. With her horrifying background of abuse, brokenness and abandonment, concepts of love, trust, tenderness and caring are unimaginable to her. Liar’s Winter is raw and gritty, just like Lochiel’s life. But contrasted with that is Lochiel’s moving response to honesty, compassion, and grace.

I’m more of a fan of drama than suspense and adventure; but although those elements are present, they fit the storyline. Strong secondary characters like Walton, Edna and Silas also captured my heart. Liar’s Winter is a story of prejudice and choices; it's not a light read, but a compelling and memorable one.

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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Cindy Sproles is an author and speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the cowriter of the popular He Said, She Said Devotions written with her cofounder, Eddie Jones. She is a novelist and best-selling author.

Cindy’s devotions and articles are published in Christian newspapers across the eastern seaboard, including having been used to represent legislature for protection of the elderly. She is a speaker to women’s conferences addressing not only the heart of women, but also their biblical responsibilities to their families.

As a teacher and speaker for Christian Writers Conferences, Cindy teaches writing skills and how to write placing God in the forefront. She is a contributing author to CBN.com and is the Executive Editor for www.christiandevotions.us and the Managing Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas’ imprints: SonRise Devotionals and Straight Street Books. She is a certified life coach and mentor, an eldercare specialist and a special needs advocate.

Her book, New Sheets – Thirty Days to Refine You Into the Woman You Can Be is being used to help raise funds for Hope House, an abortion crisis center and her novel, Mercy’s Rain, is giving a voice to children who suffer sexual child abuse. Cindy is also the coauthor of He Said, She Said – A Devotional Guide to Cultivating a Life of Passion.

She is the mother of four adult sons and lives in the mountains of East Tennessee with her husband.




Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review: The Christmas Blessing


The Christmas Blessing
By Melody Carlson
Revell, 2017


Summary

Although Amelia would be on the train only until tomorrow morning, she unpacked a few things with the goal of making Jimmy and herself as comfortable as possible. To her delight, this cozy sleeping car felt just right for the two of them. Not only that, but as the train began to move, Jimmy relaxed and settled in. Almost as if he were glad they were finally on their way. Maybe he instinctively knew that life was about to get better for them. Perhaps he would enjoy meeting his paternal grandparents. At the moment the train pulled out of the station, anything seemed possible.

She's determined to give her baby a better life.
Could a Christmas miracle make it possible?

Not long after she receives the news in 1944 that her baby's father was shot down in the South Pacific, Amelia Richards loses hope. Jobless and broke, she has nowhere to turn for help but her infant's paternal grandparents. The only problem is, they don't know that she--or their grandson--exists.

When Amelia discovers the family is wealthy and influential, dare she disclose the truth of her relationship with their son? Or could the celebration of the arrival of another unexpected baby nearly two thousand years ago be the answer to her dilemma?


My thoughts

I’m glad that a feel-good Christmas story by Melody Carlson started my seasonal reading this fall. Carlson is a prolific writer and her yearly Christmas stories are among my favorites, always look forward to them. They’re not deep, just relaxing and entertaining. Novellas are perfect for me during the busy fall/winter months … but that being said, The Christmas Blessing is a well-written novella that would have made a great novel.

November 1944 – San Diego / Montana

Amelia, single mom doing her best to protect and provide for her son, is such an appealing character. James and Amelia are sympathetically flawed characters – products of a quick wartime romance with marriage license in hand, and a son conceived the night before he is suddenly called up to fight. Several neat twists make an otherwise predictable story such a fun read. Little Jimmy’s grandparents are well drawn characters – the doctor capturing my heart, and the mother – not so much at first. I also enjoy the small-town Montana setting.

The Christmas Blessing isn’t really a romance, since all of that action happened before the story began. That’s why I said earlier that this would make a great novel, letting us see Amelia and James meet and get to know each other as they fell in love – and the wonderful ending could have been more drawn out. But that’s okay because this heartwarming story focuses on relationships between Amelia and Jimmy’s grandparents, and readers can use their imagination for the rest.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Christmas Blessing and hope for many more Christmas stories from Melody Carlson.

Recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book from Revell. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


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Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with combined sales of more than six million. She is the author of several Christmas books, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, Christmas at Harrington's, The Christmas Cat, The Christmas Joy Ride, and The Christmas Angel Project. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice.

She and her husband live in central Oregon. Learn more at www.melodycarlson.com.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Review: Mercy Triumphs


Mercy Triumphs
By Jana Kelley
New Hope, 2017


Summary

Three women. Three impossible circumstances. One merciful God.

Mia, an American Christian, has lived in Sudan so long that persecution, harassment, and danger have become commonplace for her. Her tough outer shell threatens to harden her heart while her newly Christian friends, Halimah and Rania, former Muslims, are forced to live in exile outside Sudan. All three quickly discover that escaping danger in one place only means facing even greater challenges elsewhere. As God's mercy becomes evident in their lives, they must choose whether or not to offer mercy to those who don't deserve it.

Third in a trilogy, Mercy Triumphs opens the reader's eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Mercy Triumphs reveals some of the struggles Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for new believers, those who are persecuted for their faith, and even for the salvation of the persecutors.

Learn more and purchase a copy.


My thoughts

Mercy Triumphs concludes an outstanding trilogy of stories set in the Muslim country of Sudan. Technically, it can stand alone – and if you only have time for one book, then read this one. However, reading the previous Side by Side and Door to Freedom would provide a better understanding and continuity to the series.

Mercy Triumphs is impressive, informative, and entertaining. It takes us to a geographical location that most of us have never experienced – and a culture that, however little or much we know about it, often raises fear. Any author can do diligent research and write a believable novel, but Ms. Kelley draws from her wealth of personal experience, and conveys a realness that makes this story come alive.

The story of Mia, Halimah and Rania is eye opening – especially if, like me, you might have grown a little comfortable in your faith. I was caught up in Mia’s life, who lived in a culture antagonistic to Christianity and wanted to follow Christ’s command to “go and tell” with the women she met. And if I initially felt that I had little in common with Halimah and Rania, I soon realized that we all share the same hopes, dreams, and love for family.

I found Mercy Triumphs so very inspiring in many ways, but the greatest personal impact has been the desire to pray daily and fervently for Muslim women around the world.

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


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Author of the captivating novel Side by Side, Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Beware the Orchids




Beware the Orchids
By Cynthia Hickey
A Shady Acres Mystery #1
Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications, 2016


Summary

Ditched at the altar, Shelby Hart tosses down her bouquet, quits her job, and accepts a position as gardener and event coordinator at an upscale retirement community. Her first day on the job results with a dead body in the greenhouse under the orchids and with her as the prime suspect!

Toss in a handsome handyman, quirky characters, and a flirtatious grandma and the fun never stops.


My thoughts

Beware the Orchids is a cute cozy mystery, light and perfect for when you just want to relax and be entertained. The author is someone I would like to know in person because she surely has a great sense of humor, which easily translates to her writing.

I have loved being around older adults all my life, because there’s nothing quite like them, and I think it really is true that the older we get, the less inhibited we are. Having Shelby redefine her career and take a jot in a retirement village, doing something she loves, works well. There’s not a lot of character depth, but that’s okay because all the quirky characters made up for it. And what a live wire Shelby’s grandmother is!

Cynthia Hickey has written Christian fiction in the past, and while Beware the Orchids is a clean read, there’s some sexual innuendo that I wasn’t expecting. The story would have been much better without it, but was still good overall.

This is not the author’s fault, but the mobi review copy that I read was poorly formatted and difficult to read, which is probably why I wasn’t able to connect with the characters as much as I wanted to. I would like to read a correctly-formatted copy eventually and continue the series.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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Multi-published and Amazon and ECPA Best-Selling author Cynthia Hickey has sold over a million copies of her works since 2013. She has taught a Continuing Education class at the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writers conference, several small ACFW chapters and RWA chapters. You can find her on FB, twitter, and Goodreads, and is a contributor to Cozy Mystery Magazine blog and Suspense Sisters blog.

She and her husband run the small press, Forget Me Not Romances, which includes some of the CBA’s best well-known authors. She lives in Arizona with her husband, one of their seven children, two dogs, one cat, and three box turtles. She has eight grandchildren who keep her busy and tell everyone they know that “Nana is a writer.”

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Purchase at Amazon


GIVEAWAY

Please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here to let me know.




Friday, September 22, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Waiting on Butterflies



Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Book

Book title: Waiting for Butterflies  
Author: Karen Sargent  
Release date: April 4, 2017  
Genre: Christian Women’s Fiction

When tragedy strikes, Maggie discovers a mother’s love never ends—not even when her life does. Longing for her family after her death, she returns home where she helplessly witnesses her family’s downward spiral in the aftermath of her passing. 

Her husband is haunted by past mistakes and struggles to redeem himself. Her teenage daughter silently drowns in her own guilt, secretly believing she is responsible for her mother’s death. Only her five-year-old, full of innocence, can sense her presence. 

Although limited by her family’s grief and lack of faith, Maggie is determined to keep a sacred promise and salvage her family before her second chance runs out. 

A tender portrait of a mother whose love reaches beyond possible, Waiting for Butterflies will embrace your heart and not let go.


My Thoughts

Wow! Anything I say will fall short and be woefully inadequate in describing this beautiful story that touches every emotion possible. Karen Sargent knows how to tell an evocative story and has an incredible writing ability. She writes in a character-driven, lyrical style that is not often found in Christian fiction, a style that I long for. I could hardly put it down, even knowing that I would shed tears of emotion occasionally. I hope this is just the first of many stories that readers can anticipate.

If you’ve read the description above, you might be hesitant about trying Waiting for Butterflies for a couple of reasons. First, it deals with an unpleasant topic, the death of a young mother; and secondly, the spirit of that mother “lingers” for a period of time in her family home before going to heaven. But while the topics and emotions are raw and heartbreaking, this is a redemptive, uplifting story overall. And it’s not meant to be a ghost story or a reflection of theology, but rather a moving “what if” story of a mom's love in light of family loss, guilt, grief, and healing.


Maggie’s husband Sam, teenage daughter Rachel, and five-year-old Olivia handle unimaginable tragedy and guilt in different ways, as any of us would – pulled apart by that which should unite them. Sam always found excuses not to attend church with his family, so he has no faith to draw upon. Rachel’s downward spiral is hard to watch … “She didn’t want to think about her mom. That story was over, and she refused to rewrite it for anyone.” Adorable Olivia, the only one who can sense her mother’s presence, simply stole my heart.

Waiting for Butterflies has a huge spiritual impact. In the same way that God places ordinary people in our lives for a purpose, secondary characters impact Sam. Pastor Rob longs to witness to Sam, yet feels that God is telling him to wait. Roxy speaks of God always being at work to Sam … “We can’t see it because we don’t know what to look for. But one day you’ll look back, just like I do, and you’ll wonder how you missed it.”

The restoration of an old house is a beautiful picture of spiritual rebirth, and I loved Gary’s words to Sam …

“A gallon of paint can cover a multitude
of flaws, but it takes something mightier to cover
a man’s sin ... We’ve all sinned, but we’re blessed
that’s not how the story ends.”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the characters and message of Waiting for Butterflies. “Best of the best” for me.

Very highly recommended.

I was provided a free e-copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


About the Author

Karen Sargent creates characters whose imperfect faith collides with real-life conflicts, taking readers on a journey through grace and redemption to discover enduring hope. A romantic element is woven within each story. 

In addition to writing inspirational novels, she blogs at The MOM Journey…where moms aren’t perfect and that’s perfectly okay. Her writing has been featured in Guidepost’s Angels on Earth magazine and on ForEveryMom.com. 

When she is not writing, she teaches high school and college English in the beautiful Arcadia Valley where she resides with her husband and two daughters. Visit her at www.karensargentbooks.com

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Guest Post from Karen Sargent

Waiting for Butterflies: The Accidental Controversy

I didn’t intend to write myself into controversy when I wrote Waiting for Butterflies. Yes, it is Christian fiction. Yes, the main character is a “lingering spirit.” And no, ghosts aren’t biblical. Thus the controversy.

As the story idea began to stir my imagination after my mother-in-law’s unexpected death, I wondered how ghosts fit into the Christian view of the afterlife, especially since I too believe our souls go to Heaven once we die. So I asked my pastor. He referred to Hebrews 11, the “Faith Hall of Fame” that lists Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and many spiritual giants who lived by faith. That list is followed by Hebrews 12:1 which states, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” My pastor explained witnesses is translated by some to mean spectators. So maybe, maybe, this suggests those who have died can somehow still be present—emphasis on maybe. 

But…this gave me just enough permission to play with the idea of a mother’s love being so strong that she could remain after her death until she was certain her family would heal. I was writing fiction after all.

When my manuscript was complete and I began submitting to agents, the response was mixed. Some replied with a simple, “This story isn’t for me.” Some warned, “This will be a hard sell to Christian publishers.” Yet others were more encouraging. Finally my story made it to the desk of an acquisition editor who emailed, “This is the one.” Waiting for Butterflies found a publishing home.

Now that my book is in the hands of readers, most are surprised to hear my topic is controversial. Like me, many believers haven’t really considered ghosts in a biblical context. But a few are adamant that the storyline contradicts their beliefs.

I know my story—just like every story—will not appeal to everyone. But I certainly didn’t set out to offend my fellow believers, and I sincerely apologize if anyone finds it offensive. However, I appreciate this perspective one skeptical reader shared in her review:

“While I was initially put off by the idea that a spirit can remain and interact, in a sense, with those still living, the author handled it with sensitivity and grace. We all have ideas about the unknown, but it is just that, unknown, and I could relate strongly to the thought of wanting to continue to influence and connect with loved ones after death in order to help them.”

I appreciate that in spite of the controversy, this reader gave Waiting for Butterflies a chance—and five stars.


Giveaway

Please help spread the word about Waiting for Butterflies by clicking on this link and sharing my Facebook post, then leave a comment here. If you have trouble with the Rafflecopter entry below, please try this direct link: https://promosimple.com/ps/bef1

To celebrate her tour, Karen is giving away a grand prize that includes a few of Karen’s favorite things – one of which is a Hobby Lobby gift card!!! Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!