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!

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?

Book Spotlight, Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. Gray

Welcome! I want to wish the happiest of book birthdays today to author Tammy L. Gray for her new release, My Unexpected Hope, an inspirational contemporary romance. She has dropped by the blog today for an interview AND is graciously giving away a signed paperback copy of this new release here ony my blog! First, here’s a little more about the book…..

About the Book

My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. GrayAfter a year of grieving her divorce and living a life permanently stuck on pause, Laila Richardson is finally ready to have her own happy ending. Then a listing for a quaint cottage in another town answers her prayers for a fresh beginning—one that will bring her closer to her new boyfriend, Ben. Unfortunately, in her small town of Fairfield, Georgia, letting go of the past is virtually impossible. No one wants to see her move on, including the man who destroyed her heart to begin with.

Chad Richardson has spent years in misery but finally has his life on somewhat stable ground. When he learns his ex-wife is dating, he knows it’s time to go back and fight for the life he abandoned. Bolstered by his newfound sobriety, Chad has every intention of winning back the woman he loves, even if that means facing old demons that are waiting for him to fail.

Passions run deep as two souls searching for a second chance find the courage to let go of old patterns. Can they recognize that their dreams are still possible, even when forged from a broken past?

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write My Unexpected Hope?

Laila and Chad were first introduced in My Hope Next Door. I fell in love with their story and wanted them to have a happy ending. I also felt that divorce really hadn’t been explored much in Christian fiction and felt it should be.

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

I wanted to write a believable reconciliation while showing that the baggage we bring into a marriage impacts both parties and must be dealt with. I also wanted to show hope for addiction through Christ.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in this time period or place?

Time period and place wasn’t as much of a challenge as was the subject matter. Writing a hero who struggled with addiction was very difficult. I needed to show the realism of his life-long battle while also shedding light on how victory can be found in Christ.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Katie. She’s still one of my favourite female characters I’ve ever written and getting to show her in a new role as a mentor and friend, while still keeping that spunk she has, was a lot of fun.

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies? 

Yes, and it’s rather cliché for an author. I love to read. It’s what I do in my down time.

Reading isn’t too cliché, it’s the BEST hobby! 

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

Unfortunately history has not been so kind to women, so I’m not sure my strong personality would fit in any historical time. But it would be very cool to witness the New Testament first hand.

What are you currently reading?

That answer changes daily! J But the most recent one I’ve picked up is Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han.

Thank you so much, Tammy, for taking the time to answer my questions! I (and my readers) love hearing about the themes and inspiration behind a story. I look forward to reading My Unexpected Hope soon!

About the Author

IMG_3789 small (1)Tammy L. Gray lives in the Dallas area with her family, and they love all things Texas, even the erratic weather patterns. She writes modern Christian romance with true-to-life characters and culturally-relevant plot lines. She believes hope and healing can be found through high quality fiction that inspires and provokes change.

Tammy is often lauded for her unique writing style within the inspirational genre, preferring to use analogies verses heavy-handed spiritual content. Her characters are real, relatable and deep, earning her a 2017 RITA award nomination in the Romance with Religious and Spiritual Elements category. Tammy currently has six published works available with the seventh, My Unexpected Hope releasing June 2017.

When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry.

Tammy L. Gray has lots of projects going on. For all the latest info, visit her website at http://tammylgray.com and sign up for her periodic newsletter.

Tammy says: I’d love to hear from all of you! Come join me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tlgraybooks or Instagram and Twitter (@tlgraybooks)

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 7/4/17, 11:59 pm. CT.

To enter, comment with a valid email address and answer one of these questions: What is one of your favorite contemporary romances? OR What is one tough subject you would like to see addressed in a novel?

Review & Author Interview: With You Always by Jody Hedlund

I ALWAYS love it when a novel shines light on a lesser-known historical fact, era, or event. Often, there is nothing more fascinating that real life. In this case, the time period is 1850s New York to Illinois, during a challenging economic downturn. This was especially hard on immigrant families, and subsequently children AND women were sent west to find a better life, on what is now known as the Orphan Train. With You Always by Jody Hedlund tells a fictional story based on the journeys many women took to provide a better life for their families. Read on for more about the book, my review, and an interview with Jody Hedlund!

About the Book

When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She’s had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children’s Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn’t want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother’s shadow and is determined to win his father’s challenge. He doesn’t plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

Find With You Always on Amazon | Goodreads

Review

With You Always by Jody Hedlund.jpgAuthor Jody Hedlund dependably pens characters with well-established personalities. I loved the nurturing tendencies of Elise and the gentlemanly determination of Thornton. It *did* take me a few chapters to really settle into the plot and the direction the story was taking, but I empathized with the characters immediately, especially concerning the plight of Elise and her family.

I liked that the challenges both Elise and Thornton face are not only tactile and physical but also challenges to their very hearts. Elise, for instance, faces finding a place for her family AND coming to terms with her faith that God is constant, and for her. Thornton deals with the manner of proving himself; whether choosing to set aside his pride is worth a greater, selfless task he can accomplish in the wake of his dreams.

Through the ups and downs of Elise and Thornton’s intersecting journeys, a sweetly natural romance emerges. Jody handles this with her signature style (read: era-appropriate swooniness) and realistic conflicts. The romance combines with the threads of faith, a story of finding a “true home”, and the belonging found with friends in a close community to make With You Always a rich story AND a lovely introduction to a new series.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion.

 

Interview with the Author

What is the inspiration behind your new Orphan Train series?

I have long been fascinated by the era of the Orphan Trains and the heart-wrenching stories of the homeless and helpless young orphans that were taken from the streets of New York City and other eastern cities and shipped West by the dozens. I was familiar with stories of those scared orphans who were placed out in what was thought to be a more wholesome, healthy environment of the newly settled Mid-Western states. Some of the orphans found happy endings and were adopted into loving families. Others experienced great abuse and heartache in their new homes.

While stories of the orphans who rode the trains have been told—and rightly so—the stories of the women who were involved in the movement are not as well known. One of the things I particularly like to do when telling my stories, is focus on women who have been overlooked by the pages of history. I consider it a great privilege to be able to bring forgotten women to life for our modern generation. Thus, throughout this series, I’ll be focusing each book on a different aspect of the Orphan Train movement, particularly from the perspective of women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.

What do you hope readers take away from With You Always?

One of my hopes in telling this story is to leave readers with the reminder that God is walking with us in whatever dark valley we’re going through. Often, like Elise, we tend to pull away from God and let the bitterness of our circumstances drive us into a cave of isolation and self-blame and heartache. But God wants us to realize that even if we pull away from Him, He’s still there walking by our side, waiting for us to reach out our hand and grab ahold of Him. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He’s there waiting.

An e-novella, An Awakened Heart, kicks off the series. What is the novella about, and is it a must-read in order to understand the series?

An Awakened Heart is not a must-read in order to understand the series. But I do highly recommend reading it. (Plus it’s FREE, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try!) The e-novella introduces a couple, Guy and Christine, who are both passionate about helping the poor immigrants crowded into the overflowing and dirty tenements of New York City. The novella shows their efforts to bring about change in the city, but also brings them together in a satisfying love story.

The novella also introduces the three orphan sisters who will each become main characters for the three full-length novels in the series. It gives some of the background information on their situation, particularly how they become orphans, which I think readers will find helpful as well as informative.

What are you working on next?

The second book in the orphan train series releases next summer in 2018. The story continues with Marianne Neumann. She gets involved in the orphan train movement as one of the placing agents and accompanies the orphans as they ride the trains west. I hope readers will enjoy Marianne’s story and also appreciate learning more about the orphan train movement from the eyes of the compassionate workers who tried to place the orphans into new homes.

Connect with Jody

Facebook  | Twitter | Author Website | Instagram | Pinterest

Review & Author Interview: “Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations” by V. Joy Palmer

Review & Author Interview: “Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations” by V. Joy Palmer

This post is all about a recent release from author V. Joy Palmer and WhiteFire Publishing (yay for small-time publisher!): Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations. A contemporary rom-com with spunk and meaning, this story is one to be enjoyed for its sweetness and fun. I’m happy to have Joy joining us today to answer a few questions about her novel.

About the Book

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

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

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

Review

Izze’s snarky and sarcastic humor is hilarious. This book is laugh-out-loud funny — or at least it speaks to my sense of humor really well. While the humor is important and fun, sometimes I think it’s more of a shield for Izze’s character, brushing off a few issues she doesn’t want to deal with yet. Since we experience Izze’s (and occasionally Miles’s) first person perspective, sometimes there are little “asides” and explanations that add to the humor. For example, my favorite was when Izze tells on her grown cousin who chased her around with a snake just a few years ago. Or when she’s lamenting about the properness of her boss and her perfect bun.

Random comment: I liked the “behind the scenes” look at a  bridal shop through Izze’s career. If you like TV shows like Say Yes to the Dress or similar ones, you will enjoy this aspect!

The “denial factor” of the storyline is something Izze deals with on a deeper level, making the story have import and meaning behind the lighter moments. Her denial extends to her interest in Miles, her trust issues, and even her lack of confidence in her own abilities of “adulting”. Despite this flaw, she is instantly relatable and likable. Though frustrating at times, you want to cheer her on with pom-poms or claps or whatever form of celebration. Her arc teaches the bigger picture of this story: that God is the remedy for fear and doubt. Trusting Him is the way to real happiness. (And not the rainbows and perfect happily-ever-after kind, but reality with its joy and peace in the moment.)

Speaking of happily-ever-afters, Miles is ideally romantic and a fitting compliment to Izze. Steadfast where she is unsteady, sure when she is uncertain. Though not without his own flaws and pain, his character is an anchor to the story, even during the time he has his own lessons to contend with. His journey takes seeing beyond doubts to another level, learning selflessness and how to recognize other people’s pain instead of being blinded by his own hurt.

This story is stitched together with humor. The fabrics are deep hues of love and God’s provision, with scriptures and lessons weaved throughout. The finishing touch is a happily-ever-after that looks at lot like hope. I look forward to whatever story Joy crafts next!

Thank you to the author and WhiteFire publishing for providing the review copy. This is my honest review.

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations?

I’ve always been obsessed with weddings, and I was single and frustrated with the man who is now my husband when I first started writing and brainstorming. I started venting writing, and all of a sudden I just heard Izze in my head. The idea of a single woman in the wedding business who wanted to get married and was fed up with the leading man fascinated me. However, there were a lot of factors that lead to me writing this particular story, like amazing books by amazing authors and the fact that I had a hard time finding first person point of view books for twenty-somethings that sounded like real twenty- somethings.

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

I really, really just want God to touch your heart. That’s what makes me happiest. 🙂 But I really hope readers know all the way to the core of their souls that they can trust God. Life, fear, and drama can make it so hard for us to fully trust Him, but God has beautiful plans for us. We can trust Him with our dreams.

What was most challenging about writing this book?

It was probably when I introduced Miles’ perspective. I wanted to stay true to my own writer voice and the tone of the story, but I also wanted Miles to sound and respond like a real guy. I bugged my husband with a lot of guy questions. 😉

Which character was your favorite to write?

I really loved writing my main character, Izze! She is very similar to me, but Izze is a little more of a loose cannon. For instance, I don’t take off and refuse to talk when something makes me angry. I try to resolve the problem then and there – even if I don’t want to talk. But Izze doesn’t. She just reacts on impulse. While it was fun to write a character who reacts to everything (Especially in ways the very human side of me wants to react sometimes!), it was also really insightful.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

Um, does reading count as a hobby? Or eating chocolate? I’m great at those things. 😉 When I’m not perfecting my résumé as a chocolate connoisseur, I’m trying to avoid cooking and thus burning our food, chasing after my one-year- old daughter, and arguing with two cats and a dog. I’m also a youth leader at my church, which I love! It means I get to drink lots of coffee and eat more chocolate. 😉

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

The Victorian Era! Some of my all-time favorite books are Lori Wick’s Kensington Chronicles, specifically, The Hawk and the Jewel and Wings of the Morning. I love that era. *happy sigh*

What are you currently reading?

I am tantalizingly close to finishing Ronie Kendig’s Conspiracy of Silence. Then I’ll be reading Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen, An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter, Sandy Toes by Robin Jones Gunn, and I’m am super excited to read Happily Ever Ashton by Erynn Mangum!

About the Author

v-joy-palmer

Joy Palmer is an avid blogger and co-founder of Snack Time Devotions. She is a youth leader at her church, and loves acting crazy and drinking coffee with the teens. When Joy isn’t urging the elves that live in her computer to write, she’s hanging out with her husband, their adorable baby girl, and their two socially awkward cats.

 

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Review & Author Interview: “The Sound of Diamonds” by Rachelle Rea

Review & Author Interview: “The Sound of Diamonds” by Rachelle Rea

One of my favorite things about book blogging is virtually “meeting” bloggers and authors who share a similar passion for story. Another one of my favorite things is seeing the success of bloggers-turned-authors –whether through a major or small publisher, or those who brave self-publishing. Rachelle Rea is one such author braving the market through a smaller publishing house. Her debut novel, The Sound of Diamonds, deserves a shout from the rooftops to spread the beauty of her story (and humble talent) to the world! 🙂 I’m thrilled to be sharing my review and an interview with Rachelle today!

About the Book

Her only chance of getting home is trusting the man she hates.

With the protestant Elizabeth on the throne of England and her family in shambles, Catholic maiden Gwyneth seeks refuge in the Low Countries of Holland, hoping to soothe her aching soul. The Sound of Diamonds.jpgBut when the Iconoclastic Fury descends and bloodshed overtakes her haven, she has no choice but to trust the rogue who arrives, promising to see her safely home to her uncle’s castle. She doesn’t dare to trust him…and yet doesn’t dare to refuse her one chance to preserve her own life and those of the nuns she rescues from the burning convent.

Dirk Godfrey is determined to restore his honor at whatever cost. Running from a tortured past, Dirk knows he has only one chance at redemption, and it lies with the lovely Gwyneth, who hates him for the crimes she thinks he committed. He must see her to safety, prove to the world that he is innocent, prove that her poor eyesight is not the only thing that has blinded her but what is he to do when those goals clash?

The home Gwyneth knew is not what she once thought. When a dark secret and a twisted plot for power collide in a castle masquerading as a haven, the saint and the sinner must either dare to hold to hope…or be overcome.

Review

Rachelle writes first person point of view with major skills. It’s something that can be tricky for an author to pull off!!!!  Sometimes, a character can come off self-centered, but that is not the case with Gwyn and Dirk. I can see why Rachelle chose to tackle that format for this series. A shift in perspective between Dirk and Gwyn each chapter added additional interest and made the journey very personal and relatable. It also caused the action scenes to be more dramatic because you’re experiencing them through the eyes of one person at a time.

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One of my FAVORITE quotes from this book!

The mystery surrounding the connection Dirk and Gwyn have –the source of her hostility and his determination to prove honorable — was expertly revealed. I was anxious to know just what drove Dirk to such lengths and what caused Gwyn’s initial bitterness. And when all is revealed, the deep emotion of each of them is poignantly communicated.

Though the era and religious turmoil of the Reformation age seems far removed from contemporary times, the questions and doubts these characters wrestle with are very relevant today. Does God’s holiness make Him distant because of our sin, or does He really want to extend forgiveness and offer a personal relationship to us? Let me assure you, He does offer forgiveness and grace with the desire that all would come to Him. These questions are addressed with themes of hope and forgiveness shining in a beautiful way through the journeys of Gwyn and Dirk.

This story had the perfect combination of action, suspenseful drama, mild humor, serious issues of faith, and a sweet and promising romance. I’m already on to book two where Gwyn and Dirk seem to be getting out of one scrape into another!

Thank you to Rachelle and WhiteFire Publishing for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write The Sound of Diamonds?

The title came first, as I was driving down the road one day. I decided I needed to know what the sound of diamonds even was, so I started writing a story about a girl who needs glasses and gets herself embroiled in the middle of the Dutch Revolution–and of course the handsome red-headed hero who saves her!

Rachelle ReaWhat spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with The Sound of Diamonds?

Hope. Specifically, how hope can be had even in the midst of life’s tragedies…like the death of loved ones, the death of dreams held dear.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in this time period?

Probably nit-picking the little details! I searched for what felt like the randomest facts: what sleeves looked like in the 16th century, what the most common beverage was since water sanitation was, well, not quite up to par. And how far a horse could travel in a day. Although it could be frustrating, it could be fun, too.

Do you have any hobbies?

I spent way too long staring at this question, LOL. Do writing-related hobbies count? Book signings make me nervous and happy at the same time! I enjoy blogging more as a hobby than a regularly-posting blogger. And I’m always, always tempted to put writing as a hobby at times like these, before I remember that I actually get to call that a job now. 🙂

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

The Elizabethan era! It fascinates me, which is one of the reasons I wrote about it…

What are you currently* reading?

Three Little Words by Melissa Tagg! I haven’t gotten very far yet but I already really like Ava and Seth. Also, I’m reading Harry Potter for the first time. Currently in number four!

*I’m sure Rachelle has finished these books by now…. I have been terribly slow at posting this interview! I ❤ Melissa Tagg, too!

Thank you SO MUCH for answering my interview questions! It’s fascinating to learn stories behind a book or author. I’m glad to hear you googled sleeves 🙂 Now I know I’m not the only person who googles odd things!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachelle Rea plots her novels while driving around the little town she’s lived in all her life in her dream car, a pick-up truck. An Oreo addict, she is also a homeschool graduate and retired gymnast. She wrote The Sound of Diamonds the summer after her sophomore year of college.

LINKS

Website: http://RachelleRea.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/InspiringDaring/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/RachelleRea/

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/RachelleRea

Instagram: @RachelleDianeRea

What is one of your favorite eras to READ about? Have you ever read a book set in the Elizabethan or Protestant Reformation era? 

Review & Interview: “The Thorn Keeper” by Pepper D. Basham ~ Blog Tour & Giveaway

Review & Interview: “The Thorn Keeper” by Pepper D. Basham ~ Blog Tour & Giveaway

The Thorn Keeper Tour BannerA few weeks ago, I was happily a part of the blog tour for Pepper Basham’s debut novel, The Thorn BearerIt was a fabulous book, and exhibits everything I love about the historical romance genre. I didn’t think the next novel in the series could compete with my attachment to it. I was wrong. The second book, The Thorn Keeper, is different and beautiful in so many ways. And it has overtaken book 1’s position on my favorites list. It just released on February 28th! Today, I’m thrilled to feature my review and an INTERVIEW with Pepper hosted through Singing Librarian Books.

About the BookThe Thorn KeeperGenre:  Fiction, Historical, Romance, Christian

Publisher: Vinspire Publishing

Publication Date: February 28, 2015

Number of pages: 402

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With her past in shambles, how can she fashion a future of hope?
Catherine Dougall’s past of manipulation has left her future in threads. With a new faith, she longs to take the remnants of her life and make something beautiful, but shame, societies’ judgments, and the natural consequences of an unplanned pregnancy test her newfound hope. Dr. David Ross doesn’t help either. His kindness, sacrifice, and tenderness tempt her to impossible dreams. A fallen woman doesn’t merit a fairytale.

David Ross has made every effort to keep his life above reproach. His passion for the sick pump fresh purpose through his choices, but without financial support to maintain his war hospital, all is lost. When his notorious aunt offers an easy solution, David is tempted to give in to her demands, but his growing affection for the reformed flirt, Catherine Dougall, unwinds the careful wall around his heart and offers an unexpected choice.

When the worst of war tears them apart, can love renew the memory of what was lost or will tragedy steal away their hope forever.

From the beautiful Derbyshire countryside to the trenches of World War One, Catherine and David must learn to trust in a God who designs a masterpiece out of brokenness and fashions hope in the most unlikely places.

Purchase on Amazon

Review

Lately I’m prone to choose one adjective to describe a story. To borrow an adjective she used a couple times in this story, I must say Pepper’s writing is exquisite. She builds on a world of characters established in The Thorn Bearer and takes them forward in another story of forgiveness and growth. So many manifestations of redemption and grace intertwine in this story while never feeling overbearing. It’s a story of second chances while WWI rages on with tumultuous challenges and social conflicts.

This story goes beyond the power of grace (and God) to transform a person and continues to show the aftermath of forgiveness. I appreciated that Pepper doesn’t depict life through a rose-colored view — even after giving your life to God, surrendering your will to His is a daily commitment. Tough choices, hard trials, and struggles to understand God’s will are all depicted realistically and contrasted with the beauty and peace that can shine through it all.

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Pepper made this meme after I posted it as my Goodreads status while reading! 🙂

David and Catherine’s relationship becomes a beautiful example of what true love should be, in my opinion. Gentle, selfless, passionate, and protective. I could talk about how perfect they are for each other (and the sparks that fly between them! *swoon*) for another hour, but I don’t want to spoil the story! Just read it. Please.

Even secondary characters in this book, like Jessica and Fanny, have a voice or influence with the main characters and their own concepts to learn. I really love it when an author uses secondary characters like this. And I’m very excited that Jessica will be the main character of book 3!

I’ve compared Pepper to Julie Lessman before, and I want to reiterate that here with a different emphasis. With The Thorn Keeper, Pepper reminds me of her characters in the best way. Pepper writes spunky characters, deep emotion, and romantic scenes with amazing skill. So, if you’re a fan of Julie’s style, historical fiction, romances, emotional page-turners, or if you’re breathing and like to read, I would HIGHLY recommend Pepper’s books! They are, 2 for 2, #mustreads.

Thank you to Pepper and Vinspire Publishing for the review copy obtained through Singing Librarian Books for this tour.

Interview

What inspired you to write The Thorn Keeper?

Well, I suppose necessity brought about The Thorn Keeper because I’d signed on for a 3 book series with Vinspire -but the most interesting thing that happened from the process is that the ‘fallen’ character from The Thorn Bearer (book 1) who was NOT supposed to be ‘redeemed’ in the initial draft, became the redeemed heroine of book two. I was not expecting that, but I’m SOOOO glad I was initially wrong. This story is my favorite historical I’ve ever written.

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with The Thorn Keeper?

God can take the most broken person and fashion something beautiful from the pieces of their hearts. In essence, nothing is impossible for God 🙂

What was most challenging about writing a story set in this time period?

Meeting my deadline 😉

AND…. making sure my fashion research was right. There were so many wonderful tidbits I wanted to include but just didn’t have the time or space to do so.

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?

Well, since I work full-time outside the home as a speech-language pathologist, writing tends to be my hobby 🙂 But I also love spending time with my awesome kids, reading, playing music, and going on walks through the Blue Ridge Mountains near where I live.

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

The early 20th century. I’m fascinated by the world of that time (plus indoor plumbing was in use in many places ;-). I love the costuming, the vast changes, and the beauty of the era. Of course, I’m romanticizing it, but still…I’d choose it 🙂

What are you currently reading?

A Spy’s Devotion by Melanie Dickerson. Fantastic regency novel.

Pepper, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! And I love that the story went somewhere unexpected — that’s just like God to show the power of his redemption, even through story.

About the Author

Pepper D. BashamPepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of 5 great kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus, and proud AlleyCat over at a group writing blog, The Writer’s Alley. Her debut historical romance novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in May 2015, with the second arriving in February 2016. Her first contemporary romance debuts in spring 2016.

Website/blog: www.pepperdbasham.com

FB Author page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pepper-D-Basham
Twitter – https://twitter.com/pepperbasham
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/pepperbasham/
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13561411.Pepper_D_Basham
AmazonAuthor Page – http://www.amazon.com/Pepper-Basham/e/B00W0IZ1F4/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Giveaway

TWO ebook copies of The Thorn Keeper will be give away at the end of the tour! Click below to enter.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here.

Tour Schedule

February 29–Singing Librarian Books
March 1–Toni Shiloh Prayerfully-Lifted Romance | Smiling Book Reviews
March 2–Just Commonly 
March 3–Griperang’s Bookmarks
March 4–Red Headed Book Lady | The Green Mockingbird
March 5–Reading Is My SuperPower

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