Novella Review & Author {Christmas} Interview: “One Christmas in Winter” by Bell Renshaw


One Christmas in Winter is the debut novella from author Bell Renshaw. If it is any indication of what her work will be like, I know I will LOVE it all! #Iwanttoreadallthebooks Today I have the privilege of sharing my thoughts on the story plus a Christmas interview with Bell!

About the Book

One Christmas in WinterReba Farwell is finally getting a chance to live out her dreams. Sent to Winter, Montana to direct filming for a crucial, on-location shoot, she knows the next two weeks will make or break her career. And she could definitely use a break. As if that isn’t enough, she’s got a secret that none of her crew knows. All she’s asking for is two weeks of small town, Christmas beauty and a little bit of on-camera sizzle.

Five years ago, Hoyt Bradley’s heart and future shattered in one fell swoop that landed him back in Winter. Thankfully, making lemonade—or his father’s famous lemon meringue pie— out of lemons is what he does best. Running Bentley’s Diner has filled the gaps left in the wake of his heartbreak, even if it hasn’t healed him completely. Not wanting to relive memories of his rocky start in the film industry, Hoyt does his best to steer clear of the dreaded film crew, but Winter has a way of bringing people together.

After one fateful delivery and a score of icy bad luck, Reba finds herself in a bind and at the mercy of what Winter can offer. Will she pull the film together in time to salvage her name as a director? Or will the sparks flying off-camera create more of a distraction than she knows how to handle?

Come visit Winter, Montana in this Christmas Novella where the Christmas lights are always on and the snow falls most frequently when loved ones share a kiss.

Amazon | Goodreads

 

Review

One Christmas in Winter is the perfect little Christmas story, full of small-town charm, Christmassy things like fuzzy sweaters, fun things like sledding, and a sweet romance. Saying this story is just like a Hallmark movie is very accurate and a high compliment— specifically, a Hallmark movie I hope it becomes one day because it has a fresh and realistic slant some of that network’s productions lack. With equal parts humor and romantic depth, it explores family relationships and a feeling of belonging most keen this time of year, whether it be belonging on a career path or a homey place with the people you love.

More little things I loved about this story:

  • fictitious setting of Winter, Montana as a vivid and idyllic backdrop
  • the “Christmas movie” production! Dear Hallmark, this would be perfect to turn into a movie because IT WOULD BE LOW BUDGET! JUST FILM YOUR OWN CREW!
  • secondary characters I LOVED! Troy, Beau, Ansley, Mama Bradley, Mariah, Lloyd, etc!
  • to be a novella, it was a fully developed and complex story
  • Beau’s coffee shop. I want to visit.
  • the fill-in takeout delivery guy 😉
  • the NEXT novella (12/2018) hinted at near the end!

Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Interview with the Author

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

One that I absolutely love is doing some Christmas baking with my family. I love giving gifts and sometimes a plate of sweets is the best (most tasty) gift for friends and neighbors.

Hot coffee, cocoa, or hot tea? With or without Christmas cookies?

I would have to say tea or coffee (I’ve been loving the Celestial Seasonings Christmas teas recently!) and definitely WITH Christmas cookies 😉

Favorite Christmas song?

I like a lot of Christmas songs so it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. But one of my top favorites is Come Thou Long Expected Jesus!

Tell us about the story setting of Winter, Montana.

It’s actually really neat because Winter is based (very loosely) on the town I grew up in. It’s embellished, of course, but it’s got a few things that my home town does. I think it’s one of my favorite parts of this book (aside from the romance of course) because of the people. They really are what make up the town. You’ll be seeing more of Timon, Fred, the ladies at the hospital, and especially more of Beau and Ansley in book 2, and I can’t wait to showcase even more parts of Winter as well.

What was most challenging about writing this story?

Movie production! I did some research and really wanted to get the feeling of what it would be like to shoot a movie in a small town, but that’s not easy to do. I follow Candace Cameron Bure on Instagram and watching some of her stories actually helped me write some of the scenes!

Which character was your favorite to write?

Mariah! I love Reba and Hoyt and they were so fun to write, but Mariah has a mind of her own and I so enjoyed writing her character. She’s got spunk and says it like it is. I think she’s a mix of a few friends of mine and the kind of friend Reba really needs in her life.

What are you currently reading?

I’m in the Christmas spirit so I’m reading Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck! I just love her writing.

Thank you, Bell, for sharing a little behind-the-scenes and your Christmas favorites! Readers, you can learn more about Bell and how to connect with her via her website and other links below.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest

 

 

YOUR TURN! What are some of your Christmas traditions or seasonal favorites? Do you enjoy Christmas novellas this time of year?

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Review & Author Interview + GIVEAWAY: “The Esther Paradigm” by Sarah Monzon

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon is a unique and compelling story; an easy addition to my favorites list. It is a story of romance and encouragement, but threaded between its pages of an adventurous journey is a mostly-whispered-sometimes-shouted challenge to live out your faith and proclaim the life-changing message of Jesus outside of your comfort zone. I have the privilege of sharing my review as part of the SLB Blog Tour for this book, along with sharing my interview with Sarah and blog tour GIVEAWAY info! Read on for more fun stuff!

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The Esther ParadigmjpgGenre:  Christian, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Radiant Publications
Publication date: November 2, 2017

The daughter of missionaries, Hannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan with whom she spent her childhood. After completing her education in the United States, she returns to the desert to pursue that dream—only to learn her parents have been receiving threats from within the community they serve. As the danger escalates, Hannah must decide how far she’ll go to stay faithful to a calling that could cost her everything.

As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravages the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, some of his people believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep Hannah and her parents safe—even if the only solution is to be found within marriage vows.

In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, where Christianity is outlawed and foreigners suspect, will Karim and Hannah’s union heal wounds . . . or inflict a final, fatal blow?

Old Testament history meets Twenty-first Century tensions in this compassionate, tender inspirational romance.

GOODREADS | AMAZON

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A totally new retelling of the story of Esther, The Esther Paradigm outright acknowledges its similarities to the Biblical story and applies them in a unique way to a modern situation. I would say it is influenced more by Esther’s own task to obey a calling to eventually save her people than it is a straight adaptation of her story.

With the utmost respect and care, Sarah Monzon has presented the culture and vivid environment of a Bedouin tribe in the “middle east”, acknowledging the customs and beliefs of a Muslim people group and the danger and challenge of sharing the Gospel and truth of Jesus. With no specifics of people or place, this is a story that could describe any number of real missionaries or situations right now which makes this story all the more relevant. I admired Hannah’s character for her tenacity, commitment, and obedience to sharing her faith in an environment that proves a physical danger to her both from natural elements (hello sandstorms, camels, etc!) and from the very people of her community.

The storytelling style is immersive and vibrant, painting everything from the desert grittiness to the romantic heat with detail and prose. Most fascinating to me was the way dual 1st person POVs contrasted both Hannah and Karim’s perspectives alternately, showing their friendship, growth, and the subtle influence of faith in each of their lives. Most of all, I enjoyed how the story showed how the earnest seeking of God’s will in Hannah’s life shaped her decisions and how her life was a testimony in itself of the truth of Jesus to Karim and others.

Thank you to the author and SLB Tours for the review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

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What inspired you to write The Esther Paradigm?

Is it okay to say I didn’t really have a direct inspiration? I’m not even sure where the idea came from except from God. One day the idea for a modern day story inspired by Esther entered my head and the need to write it was so strong, the character’s voices so loud, that I had to write it then even though I was in the middle of writing another series. This story…it was more like it wrote me than the other way around. Like I was but a tool to get it down, it flowed so freely. No other story has been like that before.

 That is awesome!

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

Love. I want readers to take away love. Love for those who are different, whether they believe differently, live differently, or look differently. I want 1 Corinthians 16:14 to take root in everyone’s hearts. “Let all that you do be done in love.”

And, I must say I believe you have accomplished this. Love is a strong and clear part of the story.

What was most challenging about writing a story in this settting?

Well, I have never been anywhere in the Middle East before so I had to rely heavily on pictures and a series I watched on Netflix about the region. It would have been easier to have experienced the atmosphere and culture firsthand, but I’m thankful for the research that was right at my fingertips.

Which character was your favorite to write?

This may sound weird since I am neither male, Muslim, or a leader, but Karim was pretty fun to write. =)

 I can totally see that! 🙂

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?

Hobbies? What are those? Lol! One must have time for hobbies, right? I have a six-year-old and a three year old and live on the other side of the country from any family (read no babysitters) so when I have free time after they’ve gone to bed I’m usually too exhausted to do much of anything.

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Oh this question is so hard! Can I cheat and just have a time machine I can travel and visit all the time periods and then come back to the convenience of the 21st century?

That is a valid choice! 😉

What are you currently reading?

Dreamlander by K. M. Weiland. I’m a mood reader and was in the mood for something speculative after a long line of contemporary and historical romances.

Oooh, I will have to look that one up! Thank you, Sarah, for taking the time to share your answers!

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sarah-monzon-hr-4Sarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn’t enough, she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters. When she isn’t in the world of make believe, she can be found in the pine forests of western Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings. Her debut novel, The Isaac Project, skyrocketed to Amazon bestseller status while her Sophomore book, Finders Keepers, won the 2017 SELAH award for contemporary romance.

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$25 Amazon Gift Card

Enter the rafflecopter giveaway HERE.

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December 11-The Green Mockingbird | Paulette’s Papers | Zerina Blossom’s Books
December 12-Faithfully Bookish | Karen Sue Hadley | Flowers of Quiet Happiness 
December 13-Singing Librarian Books | Heidi Reads… | A Baker’s Perspective
December 14-Book by Book | allofakindmom | Fiction Aficionado
December 15-Remembrancy | Bibliophile Reviews | Kat’s Corner Books
December 16-Red Headed Book Lady Bookworm Mama | Ponderings of a Poet & Procrastinator

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Review & Author Interview: “The Engagement Plot” by Krista Phillips

Today I’m thrilled to welcome author Krista Phillips to the blog to talk about her new small-press release, The Engagement Plot. It’s a contemporary romantic comedy depicting the aftermath of a reality TV show gone wrong — think what could happen after “The Bachelor” but with humor and an important inspirational thread. I’m sharing my review today AND Krista has answered some of my questions about the story and herself.

About the Book

The Engagement PlotSix months ago, William stole Hanna’s heart and shattered it in front of millions of people on a reality TV dating show. And now the big-wig CEO is back on Hanna’s home turf in Minnesota and wants her to forgive him? Fat chance of that. But life is swirling around faster than snow in a blizzard, and despite her objections, teaming up with William seems like the only option to rescue her reputation.

William has never regretted anything more than the day he gave that ill-fated interview for the reality show, The Price of Love. But while he can’t change the past, he’s determined to fix the future. He just needs to convince Hanna to forgive him—and pretend to be engaged with him. Simple, right?

When the media erupts with even worse accusations, teaming up and pretending to be engaged seems to be the only way to salvage their reputations. Despite the media frenzy that swirls around them, an attraction neither of them can fight off begins to surface. Could this love run deeper than a scandal, or will old wounds tear them apart once and for all?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Engagement Plot was at once hilarious, sweet, and emotional. I wanted to hug or high-five the characters sometimes (especially the supporting ones like Carly & Harrison, oh my!). Their vibrancy on the page made them instantly relatable… except for Will, of course 😉 , because I was on Hanna’s side! Seriously though, I was totally willing to hear him out. Sometimes I did want to have a heart to heart with him about his choices. Once I realized his true feelings, I liked him all the more. Their back-and-forth banter and clash of personalities was so funny to observe!

The spin on a reality TV show aftermath was a fresh plot (pun intended) and quite entertaining. Krista used this pop culture context to delve deeper into emotions and beliefs, though, as Hanna’s faith and commitment to standards of morality were contrasted with a secular worldview. The best part about this setup was the way GRACE was presented in story — through forgiveness and a little learning time, Hanna and Will each learn to let some things go and grasp tightly to the truths that matter.

I would be doing you all a great disservice if I failed to mention the swoony ROMANCE of this story! Will and Hanna had a fun affinity for messy kitchens. It’s all sizzling, sweet, and clean, but blunt when necessary in dealing with some real-world stuff. I loved it, and I look forward to more of Krista’s stories in the future (my TBR is growing!).

Thank you to Krista Phillips and the publisher, Shiloh Run Press, for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.

About the Author

Krista PhillipsKrista Phillips writes contemporary romance sprinkled with two of her favorite things, laughter and Jesus. And sometimes chocolate for kicks and giggles. She lives in Middle Tennessee with her husband and their four beautiful daughters, and is an advocate for congenital heart defect and organ donation awareness. Visit her online at www.kristaphillips.com.

 

 

 

 

Interview with the Author

Thank you, Krista, for joining me today and answering some questions about your new book!

What inspired you to write The Engagement Plot?

Watching The Bachelor is slightly my guilty pleasure. That and drinking Dr. Pepper. I was inspired by all the brave souls who “confessed” their virginity on the show much to the shock (and sometimes disgust) of the fellow contestants. I also wondered what happened AFTER contestants left the show.

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

I don’t go into a book trying to put a certain Spiritual message into it. But my characters are Christians and so their journey always ends up including their spiritual growth as well. In The Engagement Plot, there are quite a few, actually. Forgiveness. Not judging people based on the media or rumors. Loving your enemies. And that it is never too late to turn back to God. He loves you no matter how far you’ve fallen. Coming back to him isn’t always this snap of the finger thing, but a journey.

What was most challenging about writing a story in this setting?

For The Engagement Plot, it was juggling the 4 different states the story was set in. It starts off in Minnesota, moves to Tennessee, then to New Jersey, then to New York, then back to Nashville and Minnesota. Phew. Lots of traveling!

As a reader, it’s always fun to “visit” new places! I really liked the contrast of the locations — almost like the contrast between Hanna and Will :).

Which character was your favorite to write?

Yikes. That is like asking me my favorite kid! I love them all for different reasons. My favorite ASPECT of writing them, though, was the banter between Will and Hanna. Goodness that was fun!

The banter was SO fun! Laugh-out-loud moments, for sure.

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?

Reading… Playing Cookie Jam on my phone…. Honestly, I have 4 kids and don’t have a lot of time for hobbies outside of writing and reading, but we DO love playing family games and I love a good game of Euchre!

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Every once in a while I think the Victorian era would be fun… but then I remember corsets. Then I think maybe the roaring 20’s… but then I remember how it was quickly followed by the depression. I’m honestly content right where God put me!

Hahaha! Yes, corsets and no indoor plumbing would be problematic for me, too.

What are you currently reading?

I’m in between fiction books. Just finished Karen Witemeyer’s Heart on the Line, and have Angie Dicken’s My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah up next on my TBR pile. Non-fiction wise, I’m reading Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst and oh my goodness, it is just SO GOOD. Every Christian author needs to read it. Goodness, every Christian woman needs to read it!

Oooh, yay! More to add to my TBR! Thank you again, Krista! This has been so fun!

Your turn, readers!!! Do you have any comments or questions for Krista?

Author Pepper Basham ~ Behind the Scenes Interview + Book Recommendations

Join me today for a real TREAT! Author Pepper Basham has stopped by to answer a few interview questions in a “Behind the Scenes” look at a her writing and favorite elements of her own books. AFTER THAT, she’s shared some book recommendations in different genres!

Interview with the Author

Behind the Scenes Interview

Pepper, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to share a little of your process and chat about all things bookish 😉

YAY, Courtney!! Thanks so much for letting me join you today. I’m so thankful for your excitement about my books and your amazing support of this crazy writing journey of mine 🙂

*blushes* All of the excitement is well-deserved!

Pepper BashamYou write both contemporary and historical romance. Do you have a preference for one or the other (is one easier to write?)?

Hmm, that’s a tough question because difficulty usually depends more on the story, for me, than the genre – though I have to say that the historical research takes longer (and can sometimes be much more distracting 😉 )

I can understand the distraction part! Just googling a fun historical fact can lead me on rabbit trails….

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

I LOVE the brainstorming part. Sorting out what’s going to happen to who and how – the creative process! That’s my favorite. I also LOVE interacting with readers. Without them, I’d be fangirling over my imaginary friends all by myself. That’s no fun 🙂

And you are so gracious in your interactions! Believe me, fangirling over imaginary friends is no hardship.

Have your characters ever surprised YOU with their choices, personality, etc.?

Oh yes!! Almost every book. In my upcoming November release, Charming the Troublemaker, the hero, Alex Murdock, completely surprised me with the depth of his character and…swooniness. I wasn’t expecting him to be so swoony. He’s still a little dorky, but…hmmmm…he’s swoony too.

Oh, I cannot wait to get to know him! We’ve already coined the hashtag #AdorkableAlex. I have no doubt he will live up to it!

Pepper’s personal “favorites” from her novels

Okay, when you ask for favorites you need to know that I have a REALLY hard time choosing just one! So I’ll answer with ONE of my favorites 😉

just-the-way-you-are-by-pepper-bashamWho is your favorite hero/heroine from your books?

Right now my favorite heroine is Eisley Barrett!! She has been the most entertaining character I’ve ever written. She’s funny, loyal, kind, creative, and she loves her family. Her insecurities keep her from believing the fairy-tale that’s happening to her – so that’s fun to watch too.

Favorite setting?

The Edwardian era OR the Blue Ridge Mountains

Favorite child or secondary character?

My favorite kid I’ve written so far is Pete from Just The Way You Are (JTWYA). He makes me smile so much. As far as secondary characters, that’s a toss-up between Mama Mitchell and Madame Rouselle.

10434342_10208660778057564_6749080948507090625_nFavorite KISS?

Nope, there is NO WAY I can choose one favorite. ONE of my favorites, however, is the first kiss between Catherine and David in The Thorn Keeper – the “you taste like Christmas” kiss. I also LOVE the closet kiss between Eisley and Wes (in JTWYA) because it’s SOOOOO funny!!!

*excuse me while I swoon and dream of all things Christmas*

Favorite funny moment?

One of my favorite funny scenes is the “creek scene” in JTWYA – oh my goodness, that one gets me tickled every time I read it. There’s a scene in my upcoming novel, Charming the Troublemaker, which has to do with underoos and mud…it’s hysterical!!

~Book recommendations from Pepper~

Which “Pepper” book should a reader start with?

The Thorn BearerThat all depends on what you like to read. For historical, I’d probably start with The Thorn Bearer, for contemporary???? If you like sweet romance, A Twist of Faith. If you like spicy romcom, definitely Just the Way You Are.

A book for someone new to the Christian fiction genre?

It depends on genre. Some great ‘crossover’-ish books would be those by Sara Ella, Mary Weber, Rachel McMillan. If they want some well written books that are thoughtful but overtly Christian, I’m a BIG fan of Siri Mitchell, Laura Frantz, and Denise Hunter.

A book out of your comfort zone that you really loved?

Can it be nonfiction? (Yes!) Right now I’m reading Know Why You Believe and it’s amazing – really stretches you.

the-lady-and-the-lionheartAn independent/small time publishing book?

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof – I just started it and I know it’s going to be amazing.

And of course, a romance? ❤

Kissing Adrien by Siri Mitchell (or Chateau of Echoes or The Cubicle Next Door) – thoughtful but unique books. If you want more romance in the romance book, I’d choose Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz, A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund, or A Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter.

What about you, Courtney? What would be one of your top romance recommendations?

Oh my goodness, no one has ever asked ME a question in an author interview! Hmm. You’ve mentioned (and written) some of my absolute favorites (The Thorn Keeper, Courting Morrow Little, The Lady and the Lionheart)!!!

How about 2 recent favorites? A contemporary– Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge, and a historical — A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White.

About the Author

As a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pepper Basham enjoys sprinkling her Appalachian into her fiction writing. She is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family. You can learn more about her on her website, www.PepperDBasham.com or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

About the Book

Charming the TroublemakerPepper’s new contemporary romance, Charming the Troublemaker, releases November 1, 2017

When Dr. Alex Murdock is demoted to a university in rural Virginia, the last thing he expects to find is a future. But country charm never looked as good as it did on Rainey Mitchell.

Rainey Mitchell does not need a high-class flirt in her wounded world, but trouble and temptation wafts off the new professor as strong as his sandalwood-scented cologne.

When circumstances thrust them together to save her tutoring clinic, can the troublemaker find the hero inside and encourage the reticent Rainey to open her heart again?

Add to Goodreads | Preorder on Amazon

Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese

Happy Wednesday! Today I’m welcoming author Nicole Deese in celebration of her new release, A New Shade of Summer, complete with an interview and GIVEAWAY!!

About the Book

A New Shade of SummerAs an artist, Callie Quinn relies on inspiration to guide her wandering soul. This summer she accepts a short-term muralist job in her sister’s charming town to spend some much-needed time with her family. After meeting her nephew’s friend, Brandon, she’s eager to draw out his untapped artistic talents—however, it’s the boy’s straitlaced single father who could use a little color in his life.

Davis Carter may be the town’s favorite animal whisperer, but his experience is limited when it comes to understanding his preteen’s rebellious behavior. Desperate for a breakthrough, he follows the lead of a free spirit who claims to know the way into his son’s closed-off world. Soon, Davis isn’t the only one caught up in the hope of a new beginning.

Just as Callie considers trading her unattached existence for a life rich with promise and permanence, an unexpected visit from the past threatens to send her packing once again. Davis and Callie must learn to surrender their fears so they can find a love that will outlast the summer.

Amazon | Goodreads

Interview with the Author

First off, congratulations on your new release! A New Shade of Summer is moving its way up my own TBR with each new tidbit and happy review.

What inspired you to write A New Shade of Summer?

It was actually a who that inspired me–not a what this time around. I have a dear friend who has been in my life since my high school youth group days. She’s the most free-spirited, creative, artsy person I know and she is truly a joy to everyone around her. When I started to contemplate my hero, Davis Carter, (who is a secondary character in A Season To Love–book two) I knew he needed someone much like my friend to loosen him up a bit and to allow him to see the world, and relationships, in a different light. The connection of Callie Quinn to Davis Carter has been one of my favorites to write.

What message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

As I wrote this book, and particularly as I wrote in Callie’s point of view, I was struck time and time again by how the words spoken over us as children can have a significant impact on our identities. Even though Callie is a free-spirit who dances to her own drum beat, she’s lived under an umbrella of lies spoken over her by a trusted loved one. Part of her journey is to confront her current belief system and compare it to Truth. She craves freedom, yet her mind and spirit are bogged down by all the muck from her past. I can relate to this struggle because past lies are just so darn sneaky! It’s so important to examine our thoughts about ourselves and compare them to God’s thoughts about us. I promise you…. He will win that comparison game every time.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in Lenox? A New Shade of Summer is your third book in this setting.

I really enjoy writing in the small-town of Lenox, Oregon because it’s become such a familiar place to me, but I think that’s also the challenge. I never want the town to get soooo familiar to the reader that it becomes dull or boring. In A New Shade of Summer my characters discover a few new places to visit in order to keep Lenox feeling fresh and exciting (hopefully–Ha!).

Which character was your favorite to write?

Callie! Don’t get me wrong, I loved writing Davis, too, but Callie was such a fun new perspective for me to explore. I loved being on the page with her!

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

We recently adopted a six year-old girl from China (just two months ago!) so most of my free time is spent playing with dolls, having tea parties, and hanging up one pink outfit after another in a ridiculously full closet. After having two boys in our house for the last twelve years… this has been quite the change in our family! Haha. But I truly love having a daughter!

A new family member TOTALLY counts as a hobby 😉 ! Congratulations!

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Um… I hope I don’t offend any historical buffs out there… but I was made for the here and now. I like my modern conveniences (i.e. toilet paper, hot tubs, take-n-bake pizza, Netflix…etc.) and I’m a big fan of yoga pants. I’m pretty sure I’d be thrown out on the streets if I were to show up during the Regency era sporting my yoga wear and messy bun.

What are you currently reading?

I’m just about to start Many Sparrows by Lori Benton. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book!

Thank you so much, Nicole, for spending some time here today!

About the AuthorNicole Deese

Nicole Deese is a full-time lover of humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled fiction. She is the author of seven inspirational romances including the “Love in Lenox” novels, A Cliché Christmas and A Season to Love, and The Promise of Rayne. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading near a window while sipping a LaCroix. She lives in small-town Idaho with her handsome hubby, two sons, and one daughter.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

Now, on to the giveaway fine print! Giveaway is for one (1) copy of A New Shade of SummerU.S addresses only, please. Giveaway is open 1 week until 9/20/17, 11:59 pm. CT. Thank you to Nicole and Relz Author Support Services for the giveaway copy.

To enter, comment with a valid email address. Let’s talk books! Have you read any of Nicole’s novels? This series is set in a small town. Do you have a favorite small-town setting? What are you currently reading?

Book Spotlight, Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

Today’s post is all about a new release from an author with THE COOLEST NAME ever – COURTNEY Walsh! (See what I did there? We Courtneys can be rare, so we have to stick together.) Courtney Walsh has published a new contemporary romance novel, Just Look Up, with Tyndale House Publishers. She has taken the time to chat with me today about this new story, AND has offered to give away a signed paperback copy of Just Look Up here on the blog! Woohoo!

About the Book

Just Look UpAfter tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home–a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work–something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along–if only she’d just look up.

Also, you can watch this adorable book trailer for Just Look Up starring Courtney Walsh AND her husband!

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write Just Look Up?

It was on a trip to New York City after several years away from it. I can’t explain how much NYC means to me—I just LOVE it so much—so on our first day there, we were walking down the street, and I was completely enthralled. I was so excited to be back there, and I couldn’t stop looking at the buildings, the people, the city…but I quickly noticed everyone headed toward me was looking down. Eyes on their phones.

Inside, I was silently screaming, “Just Look Up! Don’t you see what you’re missing?!” Because when you see something every day, it becomes mundane. But to me, it was thrilling…and I started thinking about those three words—just look up—and wondering, what about my mundane life am I missing because I’ve got my eyes glued to the phone?

And that’s when I get the idea for this book…

What message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

It deals with the whole idea that we need to disconnect to reconnect. That we’re a device-addicted society and if we’d put down our phones every once in a while, we’d discover SO many things that we’re missing…but, honestly, at its core, to me, this story is about something more. It’s about the way we (especially as women) are constantly striving, trying to prove ourselves. It’s about how we don’t rest or stop or pause or take time for ourselves because we’re always taking care of everything and everyone else. It’s about the love of a God who offers grace so freely, never making us earn it or win him over, because that is a lesson I need to learn over and over and over…

What was most challenging about writing a story in this setting?

Honestly, the setting didn’t give me many problems. I write present day and this town I’ve created, Harbor Pointe, Michigan, is based off of many I’ve visited. What was challenging was reliving some of my own childhood pain. My main character grew up overweight and is bullied/teased for it, and much of what she goes through is real—not imagined. But putting yourself back to a place you’d rather forget is never exactly fun. My poor husband!

Which character was your favorite to write?

Brooks! My hero, Ryan Brooks, was so fun to write, especially since he’s not like my other heroes. He’s funny—not brooding. He teases Lane. He unapologetically pursues her, which makes her uncomfortable, so that was really fun to write!

He sounds like my kinda hero 😉

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies? 

My husband and I own a performing arts studio and youth theatre, so I’d say theatre is sort of a hobby (even though it’s also our job.) I love it so much—and love working with so many awesome kids!

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Gosh, my first thought was…the 1950’s, but I’m 98% sure poodle skirts would NOT be flattering on my hips…I think I’m too prissy to live in any era where there is no electricity or indoor plumbing! Maybe I was born at exactly the right time?! 🙂

What are you currently reading?

I just finished an Elin Hilderbrand novel and I’m getting ready to start True to You by Becky Wade and Life After by Katie Ganshert, both of which I cannot WAIT to read! 🙂

This was such fun! Thank you, Courtney, for taking the time to answer my questions! I look forward to reading Just Look Up!

>>>>>>UPDATE: I read JUST LOOK UP!

 

About the Author
courtney8web-1Courtney Walsh is the author of Paper Hearts, Change of Heart, and the Sweethaven series. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, was a New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller and a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. In addition, she has written two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives with her husband and three children in Illinois, where she is also an artist, theater director, and playwright. Visit her online at www.courtneywalshwrites.com.

 

 

Giveaway

Now, on to the giveaway fine print! Giveaway is for one (1) signed paperback, U.S addresses only, please. Giveaway is open 1 week until 7/20/17, 11:59 pm. CT.

To enter, comment with a valid email address. Let’s talk books! Have you read any of Courtney’s novels? What are you currently reading? Do you have a favorite reading routine?

Review, Author Interview, & GIVEAWAY: The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo

Today is a happy day because I get to share my thoughts on author Amy Matayo’s new indie release, The Whys Have It, along with a fabulous interview she took the time to do, AND a GIVEAWAY of a signed copy of this book (US only).

What makes this even more fun, for me, is knowing Amy Matayo is a local author, of sorts. I didn’t know this for a while, but thanks to social media (high-five!), I discovered Amy lives in a city not too far from me in the northwest corner of Arkansas. (Someday I plan to stalk her and meet her in person). Anyway, the setting of this book is also a city I go to at least a few times a year: Springfield, Missouri. I can attest that the feel of the setting Amy portrays is accurate…. from the June heat to the crazy storms, I loved the familiar feel of it.

Now, on to more about The Whys Have It…..

About the Book

“His music holds the heart of America…but his soul holds a terrible secret.” 

The Whys Have ItChart topping pop musician Cory Minor has it all—fame, money, more women at his disposal than time to spend on them. He’s living the life most American men only dream of. Until an ordinary concert in Springfield threatens to destroy everything he’s worked for. 

As he and his band leave the arena for his next show, Cory’s tour bus crashes into two teenage girls, killing one girl instantly and leaving the other barely clinging to life. Lawsuits are threatened, tabloids are talking, and Cory’s idyllic world falls apart. But what no one knows is that this scene is all too familiar. Because this isn’t the first accident Cory has caused. This isn’t the first time he’s destroyed someone else’s life to save his own. 

It’s just the first time he’s had to face it head on. 

Small town girl Samantha Dalton has no one—no mother, no father, and now no sister. She’s lost everything in a world that celebrates excess. So when Cory Minor shows up at her doorstep offering money and apologies, she turns him away too. You can’t lose what you don’t have, and she can’t take another letdown, especially not from someone who has managed to rip away all she had left. Samantha has been fine on her own for years, she’ll be fine now too. 

At least that’s what she tells herself. 

But Cory won’t leave. He’s persistent in the worst possible way. 

Will Cory’s determination to make things right pay off in the end, or will Sam keep pushing him away until there’s nothing left to fight for? How can two people learn to rely on each other when life keeps hurting them both? 

Review

AM - TWHI (8)Life is full of challenges. For Cory and Sam in The Whys Have It, life dealt them unfortunate tragedies and pain. Ironically, each of them chose to react in opposite ways: Sam, to forge ahead, sometimes in bitterness, even at the cost of her own happiness. Cory, to run away, try to dull the pain with vices, and give in to self-loathing. The contrast between these responses is brought to life in the dynamic of their unlikely friendship. They gradually learn from each other, realizing hope is really worth the risk and second chances are possible through forgiveness.

Amy Matayo’s style is brilliantly complex. She portrays the emotional turmoil of grief, the lingering shadows of regret, and the ache of loss in the most relatable of ways. A light of joy shines through it all for Cory and Sam, though, sometimes in a small moment of camaraderie or friendship, eventually growing into a romance. I liked how their relationship showed what it means to accept another person for who they are, disregarding expectations or what they might deserve because of mistakes.

AM - TWHI (5)I’m beginning to recognize Amy’s signature snarky sense of humor she pours into her novels. At times it’s laugh-out-loud sarcastic, at others it had Sam (and maybe me) blushing from the double entendré of Cory’s unfiltered flirting. 🙂

The Whys Have It cleverly sits on a blurred line between secular and Christian fiction. Just enough portrayal of faith and a belief in a higher purpose combined with just enough grittiness and candor to push me out of my reading “comfort zone”, so to speak. I believe this novel will have a broader appeal because of its relatable style and the way it handles subjects like grief, forgiveness and even romance with a raw honesty. If you’re a fan of contemporary drama/romance, indie Christian ficiton, or even new adult romance, this is one story not to be missed!

Thank you to Relz Author Support Services and the author for a complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write The Whys Have It?

Seven years ago something happened in my hometown. A local high school girl went to a concert and was killed in a car accident on the way home. The accident didn’t involve the musician, but he did make a statement the next day. His statement stuck with me; the sadness in his tone, the underlying sense of guilt in his words. He wasn’t at fault, but I began to wonder what might have happened if he had been more involved. It’s the way my brain works. I read something–even something small–and my mind begins to spin. Originally I planned to make it more like the actual events. Later I decided to separate the two out of respect. Hopefully I have done that.

What message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

That forgiving yourself is as important as forgiving others. That you can’t outrun your past, but you can stand in place and face your future. That mistakes don’t have to define you; it is possible to start over and make a new ending. And that you are worthy of love, always.

What was most challenging about writing this story?

That I don’t plot. It’s always my biggest obstacle, because almost everything is off the cuff. I wish I were more organized, but I’ve come to terms with it.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Cory, because he’s the guy. The men are always my favorite, because I relate to them the most and they are sooooo much easier.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

Well, writing and reading are my number one and two. After that–and to relieve stress–I paint (walls and furniture because I have no artistic talent), and I have a zigsaw for woodworking. And I walk all over my neighborhood every night, which is totally not a hobby but it’s somehow one of mine.

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

I would live next door to Anne of Green Gables and we would be bosom friends. I’m going to Prince Edward Island with my daughter in a couple weeks for this reason. Maybe if I wish hard enough?

What are you currently reading?

FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell

About the Author

AmyMatayoAmy Matayo is an award winning author of The Wedding Game, Love Gone Wild, Sway, In Tune with Love, A Painted Summer, The End of the World, and The Thirteenth Chance. She graduated with barely passing grades from John Brown University with a degree in Journalism. But don’t feel sorry for her – she’s super proud of that degree and all the ways she hasn’t put it to good use.

She laughs often, cries easily, feels deeply, and loves hard. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and four kids and is working on her next novel.

Connect with Amy

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Giveaway

Now, on to the giveaway fine print! Giveaway is for one (1) signed paperback, U.S addresses only, please. Giveaway is open 1 week until 7/13/17, 11:59 pm. CT.

To enter, comment with a valid email address and answer this question: What is one of your favorite songs?