Book Gush: “Murder at the Flamingo” by Rachel McMillan (+ Giveaway!)

Book Gush: “Murder at the Flamingo” by Rachel McMillan (+ Giveaway!)

This blog post title is in honor of a beloved author whose own book gushes have added new favorites to my own shelf. Today, I’m absolutely GUSHING over Rachel McMillan’s historical mystery and romance release, Murder at the Flamingo, with a review, interview with Rachel, BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS FROM HER, and a GIVEAWAY!

Read on for more awesome bookish stuff!

About the Book

“Maybe it was time to land straight in the middle of the adventure…”

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillanHamish DeLuca has spent most of his life trying to hide the anxiety that appears at the most inopportune times — including during his first real court case as a new lawyer. Determined to rise above his father’s expectations, Hamish runs away to Boston where his cousin, Luca Valari, is opening a fashionable nightclub in Scollay Square. When he meets his cousin’s “right hand man” Reggie, Hamish wonders if his dreams for a more normal life might be at hand. 

Regina “Reggie” Van Buren, heir to a New Haven fortune, has fled fine china, small talk, and the man her parents expect her to marry. Determined to make a life as the self-sufficient city girl she’s seen in her favorite Jean Arthur and Katharine Hepburn pictures, Reggie runs away to Boston, where she finds an easy secretarial job with the suave Luca Valari. But as she and Hamish work together in Luca’s glittering world, they discover a darker side to the smashing Flamingo night club.

When a corpse is discovered at the Flamingo, Reggie and Hamish quickly learn there is a vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots in 1937 Boston—and that there’s an underworld that feeds on them both. As Hamish is forced to choose between his conscience and loyalty to his beloved cousin, the unlikely sleuthing duo work to expose a murder before the darkness destroys everything they’ve worked to build.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

With Rachel McMillan’s distinct historical voice and attention to detail, she paints a vivid historical mystery with a hint of romance against the backdrop of a brilliant 1930s Boston scene. In her distinct way, she makes the setting a secondary character of its own, vocal and important in its culture and story role. With a fabulous puzzle solved and room for more adventures to come, the city comes to life as the characters grapple with loyalty, independence, anxiety, and purpose.

IMG_20180708_200945.jpgHamish and Reggie are endearing, quirky, enigmatic, and just plain lovable. Even secondary characters like Luca (whom you will dislike/love/want to hug all at once!) and Nate (and his wonderful candidness!) are sure to be favorites and promise to be even more essential in stories to come. And I just want to hang out with Reggie and watch films of the time!

Fans of McMillan’s previous Herringford & Watts series will be ecstatic to learn of the “next” generation (Hamish is a DeLuca, after all) and see tiny nods to the previous series and a familiar name or two!

Let’s stop right here and talk about Hamish. He is SUCH a product of his parents! But, he is his own kind of special, quirky, and important. Through his unique viewpoint, Rachel McMillan illustrates the challenges of mental illness — namely anxiety and panic — in a normalizing and emphatic way. This makes him wonderfully relatable — even for a reader with no personal experience with such challenges (like myself). I applaud her for using characterization to subtly bring awareness and empathy to the forefront in a way that adds so much to the story.

IMG_20180708_200938.jpgI could talk all day about more wonderful elements of this story — lemon cannolis, bicycles, jazz, picture shows, DANCES, light bulbs, classic literature, and an implied message of grace. Instead, I hope you choose to discover for yourself all the intricacies and fun of this little mystery.

I cannot wait to see where these beloved characters will take me next!

MANY thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy.

Interview with the Author

Pick one: lemon sandwich or lemon cannoli?

AHHH this is so hard. I am going to say cannoli.

What’s next for this set of characters?

Murder in the City of LibertyMurder in the City of Liberty releases next May and it finds Hamish and Reggie two years after they open Van Buren and DeLuca investigations/legal consulting/Winchester Molloy listening, in 1940.  There are two major forces in this book: the first is a black baseball player and fastest base stealer in the Boston farm leagues who becomes the target of a series of horrible pranks that eventually lead to murder.  The second is a growing racism (specifically anti-Semitism) which aligns with the conflict in Europe (for which Hamish’s home country is already fighting).  Very much like The White Feather Murders, I wanted explore the lack of social justice and the rampant prejudice heightened during war time.  On a personal front, Reggie and Hamish are doing a very poor job of being “just friends.”  And Nate gets a little bit of romance of his own!

Murder at the Flamingo incorporates a character with panic and anxiety when mental illness was taboo for the era. And, you have started a related hashtag #FictionForEmpowerment. Tell us more about that!

Yes! It is something that I have lived with my entire life and I thought this was the perfect time to talk about it through a fictional lens: so all of the symptoms and challenges I ascribe to Hamish are things I have struggled with since childhood.  Mental illness is very much like any other illness —except it is invisible.  So while, not unlike someone with cancer or diabetes, I have to see a doctor regularly and use medicinal treatment to live a full life, it is not something that is completely easy for everyone to understand. In Hamish DeLuca’s time, there were still rather primitive ideas about it and studies that found patients being doled all manner of horrible mercury pills (that ravaged the system), being locked in sanitariums or exposed to shock treatment. Because of Hamish’s visible symptoms, these are things that are very real threat to him.  I wanted to show that a character who suffers from this illness still has adventures and tries to get the girl: even though he had a steeper hill to climb in terms of acceptance than we do nowadays, he still is just a human being.  At heart, this series works to normalize mental illness without hopefully ever being slated as “issue” fiction. (For Herringford and Watts readers of The White Feather Murders, you will recognize that Hamish comes by his right hand tremor genetically. Something his father had since the end of A Lesson in Love and Murder).

Who was your favorite character to write?

I loved writing all of them. Just like in Herringford and Watts: they all mean so much to me.  I gave Reggie all my quips and one-liners so I loved doing that! My breakaway character in this was Nate. I always wanted to feature someone who could map the intricacies of the North End neighbourhood for them but I loved writing him so much that he ended up getting a much larger role than in the first outline. To the extent that he is a huge part of the central mystery in book 2. But my favourite character to write was Hamish! I looove all of my characters but I don’t know if I will ever feel as close to any of them as I do Hamish. I suppose it is because I am using him (as mentioned above) to speak to something very personal and challenging to me.

Loyalty is a BIG subject in this book, much of it revolving around Hamish’s cousin, Luca. What is the message you want readers to take away from their dynamic?

I think that when you read the book you see most people’s loyalty to Luca differs from Hamish’s. While so many speak to loyalty to Luca it is with the expectation that he can do something for them in return. Their loyalty anticipates a symbiotic relationship.  The spiritual themes in the book are deftly hidden but I really used Hamish’s loyalty intentionally to show a measure of grace. A few times in the book when asked by Luca where he gets his unfailing loyalty (even as Luca uses him or lets him down), Hamish has no other answer than “Your Luca.” Hamish’s loyalty is a result of his blind love for his cousin with no expectation of return on that investment. In that sense, writing aspects of this book was really heartbreaking for me. Hamish is a good kid with a great heart who just wants to spend time with his cousin and realizes that he doesn’t truly know Luca at all.  So loyalty without expectation of anything in return is one of the ways in which I tried to explore the themes of grace in the novel.

Rachel’s book recommendation fun!

OK, any #FictionForEmpowerment recommendations?

I would say The Rosie Project by Graham Simsion would be one that immediately comes to mind.  I just finished a book called the The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland and while it is never overtly expressed, it is clear the heroine suffers from PTSD. Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge mysteries feature a detective late of the war who definitely suffers from anxiety and panic.  Finally, and though this is not intentional,  I view The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery to be a study in anxiety and panic.  Valancy Stirling’s undiagnosed heart condition is very much a representation of typical symptoms of panic attacks: from the initial recognition and through the onslaught. Also, her waking up at 3 a.m. consistently is another symptom. Because LM Montgomery was a life long sufferer, I always find this a perfect unintentional example of anxiety and panic disorder.

Which “McMillan” book should a reader start with?

Love in Three Quarter TimeIf you really just want to get to know my heart and nature, Love in Three Quarter Time. Man! This is a hard question.  In the Herringford and Watts series my personal favourite is A Lesson in Love and Murder. I think it does the best job of giving a well-rounded view of the four central characters (plus Benny) and their relationships and interactions. But, I am hoping a lot of people start with Flamingo. You get better with each book, I had a wonderful editor with this, it is a story close to my heart and I am proud (as much as I can be proud knowing that there is always a million things I would have done better) of the final product.

A book for someone new to the Christian fiction genre?

Try Katherine Reay. Any of her books. They’re literary-infused and filled with romance and also exceptionally written. Any spiritual truths are expressed in a subtle way.  My friend Allison Pittman has a new one coming out next year called The Seamstress (Tyndale, 2019) and it is a fictional spinoff of A Tale of Two Cities set during the reign of Marie Antoinette and it pursues spiritual truths within a truly beautiful historical setting.

A book for people who love YOUR historical mystery/romance series?

Price of PrivilegeI loooove so many books. If you truly want to get to know me and what makes my heart tick and mind gallop, I highly recommend The Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta. I am not going to put myself on the Dotta level in terms of comparative storytelling because she is a master.  I also am strongly influenced by Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby series), Deanna Raybourn, Rhys Bowen (Molly Murphy) and Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody).  I would say reading them has infused my passion for writing mysteries with heavy romance.

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

I try super hard to read as much as I can in as many genres as I can.  Still, science fiction seems to be the one genre that I have the hardest trouble sinking into. But I loooved The Martian by Andy Weir. It is so funny. It has such an arresting narrator. I think it goes to prove that I can love anything if the voice is great.

A small time/indie published book?

JL Spohr’s The Realm Series (it begins with Heirs and Spares). Please read it.  Also, Masque by W.R. Gingell (if you have a beauty and the beast thing going, I will totally read your book).

And last but not least, a romance? (with a Rachel Catnip hero?)

High as the HeavensACK so hard! Just one! I can’t do just one. I really super duper fell in love with an Eva Ibbotson book I read for the first time this year called The Morning Gift.  I have a bit of a thing for Marriage of Convenience stories and this is one.  Quinn is totally a Rachel catnip hero.  Courtney, you know that I think Isaac Dalry in The Price of Privilege series is one of the all-time greatest heroes! Total catnip.  I have a huge thing some of Lynn Austin’s heroes. I think she writes the best kissing scenes of all time and I just love her books to death. So James McGrath in Fire by Night is an all time favourite. I like super intelligent heroes.   Who are just a little different. Or crafted by Katie Breslin. SIMON IN High as the HeavensI am looking at you!!!!!I am also looking at you, you adorable Pimpernel-Phantom of the Opera hybrid Jack Benningham in Not by Sight. Lately, a favourite was Jacobus in The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright.  Also, if your hero is a scrappy reporter, I am definitely there for that. I read Anna Blankman’s duology Prisoner of Night and Fog and Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke recently and the hero, Daniel, is a Jewish reporter in Nazi-laden Germany pre-WWII. His ambition to bring truth and light to a world that is against him is marvelous.

Oh Rachel! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and give us all new books to add to the TBR!!!! I know I need to read a few more of these. YES to all things Price of Privilege!!!

About the Author

Rachel McMillanRachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.

Rachel’s Book Blog | Website | Goodreads | Twitter 

Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

 

Giveaway

Love in Three Quarter TimeRachel has graciously offered a giveaway copy of a kindle ebook of Love in Three Quarter Time. Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form to enter! Giveaway ends 7/21/18 12:00am. Open internationally. Entrants will have 1 week to respond to email contact to claim prize. Void where prohibited.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!

 

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Book Review + Giveaway: “Love’s Silver Lining” by Julie Lessman

loves-silver-lining-tour

Travel with me to the Old West — Virginia City, NV, to be exact — while we talk about a romantic adventure from author Julie Lessman, Love’s Silver Lining, the first book in her new “Silver Lining Ranch” series. (Once again, Julie tackles another genre…. and does is SO WELL!) Before you go, be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY by commenting on this post!

About the Book

Love's Silver Lining

Series: Silver Lining Ranch

Genre:  Christian, Historical, Romance

Publisher: Indie

Desperate to escape an arranged marriage to a womanizer, twenty-two-year-old Maggie Mullaney flees New York for Virginia City, Nevada with her Aunt Liberty, two spunky suffragists intent on bettering the lives of women. Fresh out of nursing school, Maggie hopes to devote herself to serving others rather than just one man, a goal quickly affirmed when she encounters Blaze Donovan, a womanizing cowboy who both riles and rouses her pulse. But when Aunt Liberty’s parents’ house burns down, she and Maggie are coerced into staying at the ranch of Liberty’s ex-husband, Finn McShane, who just happens to be the uncle of the cocky cowboy Maggie had hoped to avoid.

If there’s one thing twenty-nine-year-old Blaze Donovan can’t abide, it’s respectable women who spout piety and prayer, so when he butts heads with perky Maggie Mullaney at St. Mary Louise Hospital, he wants to stay as far away from her as he possibly can. Unfortunately, she now lives in the bedroom next to his in his uncle’s ranch house, a revolting development that sends Blaze to The Ponderosa Saloon more than usual. But when Maggie interferes in Blaze’s life by converting his favorite “disrespectable” girl, Blaze is determined to make her pay. Only problem is—the price HE has to pay may be a little too steep for his heart.

NOTE: This book is a sweet inspirational with a bit of a higher level of romantic passion. (*Courtney’s note: I would say this book isn’t any different than other Julie Lessman books — readers know how she writes “passion with a purpose”.*)

GOODREADS | AMAZON

About the Authorjulie-turquoise-in-chair_orig

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.

Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, Heart of San Francisco, and Isle of Hope series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered over 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie’s novels also made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, Best of 2014, and “Essential Christian Romance Authors” 2017, as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction. Her independent novel A Light in the Window was an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers’ Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets. Contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at http://www.julielessman.com.

GOODREADS | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOOGLE PLUS
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Review

Love’s Silver Lining is a fun western romance with entertaining matches of wits and a strong thread of faith. It’s Bonanza-meets-McLintock with its familial-cast and clashing romantic couples, complete with two that strongly remind me of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara with his determination and her fiery temper!

In Julie’s signature romance style, this story follows two different couples as they navigate their shared histories, pride, stubbornness, and attraction. While Blaze and Maggie’s relationship has rivalry and plenty of spark, my most favorite parts of the story involve the other prominent couple, Finn and Liberty, whom you can meet in the prequel novella, For Love of Liberty. The importance of faith (especially a shared faith within a marriage), and many facets of trust are naturally incorporated into the story, along with encouraging scriptures.

From its wild west setting to its suffragists, train rides, and kisses, Love’s Silver Lining is just the right sort of western for romance lovers that offers a smile and an encouraging message. I’m excited to see where the next book in the series takes these characters! (And I hope there will be more of Finn and Liberty’s sparring!)

Thank you to the author and SLB tours for a review copy. This is my honest review.

Giveaway

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Comment on this blog post for a chance to win an e-copy of Love’s Silver Lining! Share a favorite book, western, what you’re reading now, ANYTHING!

Giveaway is open Internationally and will end at 11:59 on 7/7/18.

Tour Stops

July 2-Locks, Hooks and Books
July 3-The Power of Words | The Green Mockingbird
July 4-Reading Is My SuperPower | Faithfully Bookish
July 5-Book by Book | Why Not? Because I Said So!
July 6-cherylbbookblog
July 7-Mindy,  reviewer​

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Cover Reveal: “Jane by the Book” by Pepper Basham

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About the Book

Four years ago, Jane Warwick escaped the shame and heartbreak of being jilted at the altar by becoming a housekeeper at the secluded Inn at Simeon Ridge. Predictable and quiet, the inn helps Jane find a place to heal and celebrates her strengths, where she is promoted to head housekeeper. But an unexpected visit to Bath, England, upsets Jane’s plans and sends her out of her comfort zone, directly into the harrowing path of historical detective author, Titus Stewart. The only plans Titus sticks to are family holidays and the ones that send him careening into his story worlds, but when an uptight and nervous innkeeper stumbles into his life – and his latest novel – nonfiction begins to take on a much more interesting gleam.

As the unlikely pair delve into the mystery behind a one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old letter, will they both uncover a romance that stands the test of time?

JBTB Quote

The Cover!

…without further delay, here is the cover! I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE the colors! The couple is pretty cute, too 😉

 

 

 

Jane by the Book

Jane by the Book back

GOODREADS

You can find Jane by the Book this JULY in the Once Upon a Laugh Novella Collection.

About the Author

Pepper Basham 18Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes historical and contemporary romance novels with grace, humor, and culture clashes. She’s a Blue Ridge Mountain native and an anglophile who enjoys combining her two loves to create memorable stories of hope. You can connect with Pepper over at her group blog, The Writer’s Alley, her website, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter.

 

Also by Pepper Basham

Timeless Love and Facade

Amazon | Goodreads

second-impressions

Amazon |Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Courtney’s Review

Giveaway

As part of this Cover Reveal Blitz, Pepper is giving away 1 (ONE) ebook copy of Second Impressions. Please enter via the Rafflecopter Form below.

Giveaway Second Impressions

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Review, Author Interview + Giveaway: “Amongst the Roses” by Meghan M. Gorecki

Today I’m SO excited because I get to host author (and friend) Meghan M. Gorecki with a review, interview, and GIVEAWAY of her recent historical romance release, Amongst the Roses. This is a rich story set against the backdrop of the Civil War and two families’ involvement in that conflict.

About the Book

Amongst The Roses

The War Between the States shakes Margaret Bryant out of her comfortable upper-class life when her father enlists in the Army of the Potomac. Despite being safely ensconced above the Mason-Dixon Line in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Margaret finds her strength tested by opposition from familiar faces and Confederate threats. Will she let a young man from a lesser station into her heart even as war rages ever nearer to the homefront?

Restless Connor Doyle sees the war as a way to escape from his family’s farm and his identity as a poor Irishman’s son. His brother, Adam, torn between duty to country and his family, enlists alongside Connor. Adam dares to hope in a future with Margaret when he begins a courtship correspondence from the war front. The two brothers make a vow to protect one another at all costs, but when faced with death and destruction from all sides—will they be able to uphold it?

The three bloodiest days in America’s history brings these three together at Gettysburg and tragedy’s cruelty threatens to tear two hearts apart—and bring two unlikely allies together.

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

Amongst the Roses transports the reader to the northern front during key conflicts of the Civil War, including its society-shaking start. With multiple viewpoints, it explores the home front and battlefields from multiple perspectives that lend a voice to more than mere characters, but to a tragic and heartbreaking time in history.

This novel explores themes of hope, family loyalty, and the provision of a Heavenly Father whose presence is constant even when He may seem silent. The intricacies of the relationships in this book are fascinating and relatable, even when they illustrate hard truths about sacrifice and consequences.

I’m eagerly looking forward to the next story in this series — especially because “the end” came much too soon (ahem, a little bit abruptly for Margaret, too). I hope the continuing story of the Bryants and Doyles will resolve my questions and bring a few things full circle for the families.

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

Interview with the Author

What is the inspiration behind your heroine, Margaret’s, personality?

Part Scarlett O’Hara, part Elinor Dashwood, part Meg March. 🙂

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

That God holds our hearts in the palm of His hand—and deeply cares for us, regardless of circumstances that may suggest He’s far away. That His perfect plan—and His loving heart—never change even when the winds of war and devastation swirl.

What was most challenging about setting a story in the Civil War era?

The fact that almost the entirety of Chambersburg was burnt to the ground in 1864. And not getting to visit every single battlefield my guy characters fought at.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Connor. 🙂 He’s a stinker, but his redemption arc (ongoing) was something special to get to build.

He IS a stinker! But I can already tell his growth will be worth it.

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

Oooh. Love this question. Much as I do love the Civil War—I need indoor plumbing. LOL So probably the 1940’s or 1950’s. All things vintage for this red lipstick loving author!

I can’t argue with you there!!! I would NOT want to fetch water or have to go outdoors to do other necessary things. 😉

What are you currently reading (or reading next!)?

I’m reading this powerful book by Jess Connolly called Dance, Stand, Run: The God-Inspired Moves of a Woman on Holy Ground. Absolutely phenomenal—and I’m only through Chapter Two!

Thank you, Meghan, for taking the time to answer my questions today!

About the Author

Meghan M. Goreki

Meghan M. Gorecki is an author of inspirational fiction about what God can make beautiful from the ashes of history, and hearts. A lover and avid studier of people, times gone by, and fiction, she has been writing since childhood and now houses her books under Northern Belle Publishing. Coffee and red lipstick color her days as a redhead from a box, alongside her treasured tribe of family and friends in her beloved hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website

Giveaway

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Giveaway open 4/26/18 12am – 5/5/18 12am CT for (1) ebook copy of Amongst the Roses, ebook format of choice, provided by the author. Entrants must use a valid email address. Void where prohibited.

Music Review + GIVEAWAY: “Whole Heart” Album by Passion Music

This is release day for the latest installment in the “Passion” event live praise & worship albums: WHOLE HEART. Today I’m sharing a review + ways to learn more about Passion and an opportunity to win your own copy of the music.

Before you go, be sure to enter the CD GIVEAWAY (US only) via the Rafflecopter form at the end of this post.

MUSIC REVIEW

Whole Heart is a collection of truth-filled praise anthems. Upon my first listen, a line or two gave me chills. These songs display the styles and tones I expect from the veteran artists, while the newer voices offer refreshing artistic variance to the set.

I was happy to discover a couple familiar and already favorite songs like Crowder’s “All My Hope” and “Great Are You Lord” sung by Matt Redman on this album. And, I think I’ve found some new ones to set on ‘repeat’, particularly “Ghost” and “Reckless Love”.

Like the title song alludes, this album carries a theme of hope and grace shared through praise. It’s an all-or-nothing kind of commitment on both sides: God freely offering His whole heart to us to accept through salvation, and our returned praise and faith lived out daily.

ABOUT THE ALBUM

Passion Whole Heart

WHOLE HEART is the new live album from Passion—captured at Passion Conference 2018 in Atlanta, GA. Passion Conference 2018 was a beautiful worship experience, and the live album captures each powerful moment, allowing those who were not in attendance to experience it.

Featuring songs by these artists:

Kristian Stanfill, Melodie Malone, Sean Curran, Matt Redman, Brett Younker, Crowder, and Tauren Wells.

Buy Whole Heart by Passion Music:

http://capcmg.me/PassionWholeHeart

ABOUT PASSION

Rooted out of the Passion movement, we are committed to leading people towards renewed intimacy with God and fresh encounters of worship. Passion is more than music. More than events. Passion is a generation living for His name.”

Learn more about Passion at: http://passionmusic.com/story/

You can listen to Passion music at http://capcmg.me/PassionSpotify

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

Giveaway is for (1) copy of Whole Heart, US mailing addresses only. Giveaway ends 3/1/18 12am.

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“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller/FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Novella Review, Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: “The Cupcake Dilemma” by Jennifer Rodewald

Put the words “cupcake” and “Jennifer Rodewald” together, associated with a novella, and you have my undying attention and interest. Throw in a sweet romance, some chocolate, and a quaint (favorite) small town setting, and you have a recipe for a novella that earns a place on my favorites list!!! I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of this Valentine’s Day release AND an interview with Jennifer, along with an ebook #GIVEAWAY!

About the Book

The Cupcake Dilemma

My name is Kirstin Hill. I’m a simple girl trying to figure out life in a small town. There are a few things you should know about me before we begin. I grew up in the city. I’m a teacher–a first year teacher, (some of you understand that significance). And, finally, when it comes to cooking, I’m a disaster. Maybe none of those things seem story-worthy, but trust me, I have a story. I call it The Cupcake Dilemma, and it literally changed my life. How? I’m glad you asked.

It all started with an extra assignment delegated to me at school right before Valentine’s Day… but before we get too far, let me begin by stating this clearly. I was voluntold.

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

The Cupcake Dilemma is an absolute treat from start to finish! Kirstin and Ian are positively likable and refreshingly awkward — especially when they are “together” on the page. I expected to like this story, but I didn’t expect it to be so hilarious (I mean laugh-out-loud hilarious) in so many ways! Jennifer keeps surprising me with her versatility and voice.

It’s not all hearts and chocolate, though, as the interaction between Kirstin and Ian reveals a deeper desire to find joy and friendship. That’s what I like most about the developing relationship between Kirstin and Ian — that it begins with a friendship and wonderfully, naturally grows into a sweet could-be-love rapport.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted story with epically funny kitchen fails, look no further than this “sweet” novella from Jennifer. And, if you’re a fan of her Rock Creek stories thus far, you will be delighted by the brief appearance of beloved characters.

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

Interview with the Author

You’ve written stories across genres with different emotional depths, from lighthearted to innovative and thought-provoking. How do you prepare to write such varied stories?

You noticed that, huh? *wink and a smile* I’m not sure how to describe the prep work for my more emotionally charged books, other than to say I do quite a bit of research in the way of reading non-fiction books and blogs (blogs are a surprisingly rich wealth of information into the human heart—some people are shockingly honest on their blogs). And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. Not just that I’d write what He would have me write, but that God would show me more of His heart for people in the stories I explore. Truly, that’s the driving force behind what I do—to discover through story more Truth, to understand the heart of God. So, even with my lighter stories, there is that. I was surprised to see God reveal to me how much I needed to let go of the guilty voices that plague me as a mother through the writing of Ordinary Snowflakes; and I was completely delighted to experience God’s pleasure in humor as I wrote The Cupcake Dilemma.

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That said, with both of my novellas, they came as a reprieve. When I wrote Ordinary
Snowflakes, I had just finished the rough draft of Red Rose Bouquet, which proved to be the most emotionally challenging—and heart-wrenching story God took me through. The Cupcake Dilemma was also written after the completion of another heart-challenging rough draft (Finding Evergreen—which releases March 22). Interestingly, both novellas started with the personal challenge to create a fun hook and write a story from there. So, for Ordinary Snowflakes, the hook I started with was the line “I almost stepped on it…” and, The Cupcake Dilemma was “Let me begin by stating this clearly. I was voluntold.” With both stories, I really didn’t have a shape in mind for what would happen as I began to write. They were both rather a reminder of the delightful surprises that come with simply creating.

I love hearing the heart behind the writing process — and your heart is clearly on display in every story you pen. ❤

What is your favorite cupcake? Did you bake cupcakes while you wrote?

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First off, I LOVE cupcakes. Secondly, I am a total #kitchenfail. Thus, the story. 😉 I am
completely jealous of people who can bake (ehem, Courtney.) *Courtney smiles bashfully* and wish that they could come live with me so that I would have an unending supply of bakery deliciousness. I am ever-hopeful that one of my daughters will take up that charge. My favorite cupcake is a peanut butter Reese’s-esc creation. I’m also a fan of lemon.

Sadly, there was no consumption of cupcakes during the writing of this story. That is just wrong. I do plan on celebrating the release with one—or more! on Valentine’s Day.

You MUST celebrate with cupcakes!!! And, if you’ve had a particularly challenging time lately, I (and Ian would) suggest a “dark and dangerous” chocolate one!

Tell us about the inspiration for and story setting of Rock Creek.

Rock Creek is a mashup of several different small towns I’ve either been a part of, or have visited. When I made up the town for Reclaimed, I wanted to blend the charm of small town with the reality of some of the more difficult politics that are inherently part of small town life, but I didn’t want in any way to paint a real place in a bad light. Thus the fictional town. As a girl who grew up citified (just outside of Denver, in a not-so- awesome neighborhood), and who moved to rural Nebraska as a young married adult, I feel like I have a balanced and realistic view of life in the city versus life in small town. Having said that, though, I’ve kind of fallen in love with fictional Rock Creek, so don’t be surprised if you find me visiting there again. 😉

I do hope Rock Creek will be revisited soon!

Is there a theme or message you want readers to take away from The Cupcake Dilemma?

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Well, my theme song while writing it was Francesca Battistelli’s “Free To Be Me” (https://youtu.be/EKSQjSdU8VA), so that’s pretty much it.“On Your (HIS) shoulders I can see, I’m free to be me.” It is the beautiful gift we are all given, the freedom to embrace who I am, quirks and all. Oh, and to embrace laughter. Life is so much better when we laugh. 😉

What are you currently reading?

I just finished an Advanced Copy of Sondra Kraak’s upcoming release Three Words and A Kiss. Next up is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, and in between, I’m working through Ted Dekker’s The Forgotten Way. The next novel for me will probably be Courtney Walsh’s Just Look Up.

Oooh, out of those, I’ve read Just Look Up, and it’s fabulous!

Thank you, Jen, for taking the time to answer my questions today! You have written a treat of a story!

About the Author

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Jennifer Rodewald is passionate about the Word of God and the powerful vehicle of story. Four kids and her own personal superman make her home in southwestern Nebraska delightfully chaotic.

Born in Colorado, she experienced both the seclusion of rugged mountain living and the busy streets of a Denver suburb during her growing up years. Somewhere in the middle of college, she married a Husker and found her way back to the quiet lifestyle of a rural area, which suits just fine.

Blessed with a robust curiosity, Jen loves to research. Whether she’s investigating the history of a given area, the biography of a Christian icon, or how nature declares the glory of God, her daily goal is to learn something new. Aiming to live with boundless enthusiasm, her creed is vision, pursuit, and excellence.

Jen lives and writes in a lovely speck of a town where she watches with amazement while her children grow up way too fast, gardens, and marvels at God’s mighty hand in everyday life.

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Giveaway

CLICK HERE to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Giveaway is for one (1) Kindle ebook copy of The Cupcake Dilemma provided by The Green Mockingbird. Giveaway ends 2/17/18 11:59pm CT. Void where prohibited.

Review & GIVEAWAY: The Uncloaked Trilogy by J. Rodes ~ A YA/Dystopian Series

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Today’s featured book series is a TREAT to share because it’s not my normal cup-of-tea in the best way. I DO like to read outside my comfort zone sometimes and foray into YA/Dystopian or even stories with fantastical elements. Lucky for me, “The Uncloaked” series is just that —- a futuristic beginning of a dystopian society all from a 1st-person POV AND a subtle Christian worldview. Author J. Rodes is quickly becoming a favorite and must-read for me (some readers might know her better under the name Jennifer Rodewald *wink* who pens stories that are perfectly my cup of tea. Talk about versatility!).

Before you go on and enter the series giveaway, please do stop by some other tour stops (listed at the end of this post) because they feature wonderful behind-the-scenes glimpses and interviews with Jennifer AND HER FAMILY.

About the Books

From Sellout to hero, by way of the den. Braxton Luther finds himself in the crossfire of a new order, and discovers apathy is a dangerous option.

1-The UncloakedThe Uncloaked

Apathy is the illness of the overprivileged…” Words laced with fear—and maybe a hint of prophecy. His father’s words. Words Braxton would prefer to ignore. 

Braxton Luther is sixteen when the Progressive Reform Party takes over the government. It can’t be that bad. So they don’t want religion in government—that’s constitutional. He can’t understand his church’s hypersensitive reaction or his father’s cryptic warning to stand against the Party’s ultimatums. 

But after living under the new government for a year, Braxton faces a choice—conform to the demands of the ungodded in order to protect his best friend, Eliza, or defy the system and go into hiding, ensuring a life of misery. Still certain that life will settle back into normalcy in the near future, Braxton chooses compliance. 

Then the killings begin, and Eliza is captured and sent to Reformation Camp for her defiance. Reality finally sinks in. 

Apathy is no longer a choice.

2-Tearing the VeilTearing the Veil

“They trained us well. Power punctuated our every move, driving fear into the intended target. Who would stand against them? ”

Braxton Luther, the sellout. 

Now a part of the Den, he’s determined to make good on Eliza Knight’s faith in him—to be more than what he’d settled for when the Party had taken over. But his goal is dangerous, and not just for him. As he searches for a way to protect the silent, invisible victims of the new government, Braxton’s mission—which includes finding a way to rescue Eliza from the Reformation Camp—becomes even more complicated. Hannah Knight, Eliza’s sister, is simply too much like him. 

Tired of standing in her perfect sister’s shadow, Hannah determines to find her own place in the world. If that place is with the Pride—the girls’ home and training center provided by the Party—so be it. When she leaves the hopelessness of the cellar, that’s all she’s aiming for. But Quinn Sanger, the handsome son of a powerful political leader, finds her at the creek, and her life takes an unexpected and optimistic turn. 

Braxton’s convinced Hannah’s in trouble. Hannah’s convinced Braxton, and all the Uncloaked, are insane. But when they peek behind the real veil the Party maintains, the truth is beyond what either had feared or hoped. 

If everyone knew, it could change everything. They redefine their mission. It’s time to tear the veil. 

3-The Charging DarknessCharging the Darkness

“You were not saved for this… “

The veil has been torn, but Braxton Luther still has more to do. 

The captive Uncloaked have been freed, and the people know the dark truth. A rebellion against the Party has begun, but the question lingers among those who are safely hidden in the Refuge–what will happen to their broken nation? Secrets and shame, resentment and hatred continue to shake the nation, now divided. 

What will it take to break the grip of the Party? Beyond that, is there any hope of healing after the damage of the darkness? 

 

GOODREADS | AMAZON

Review

“The Uncloaked” trilogy is the thrilling dystopian/YA series from a Christian worldview you didn’t know you needed in your life. It’s a story of family, trust, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and hardships. Overarching is an abundant theme of choice. Choice of forgiveness or bitterness, of following the Light or living in darkness, of believing in redemption for any soul or living with hate. The Christian worldview offers a realistic scenario and a reason for both the evil and hope portrayed in the story. This is something rare in the  dystopian genre, at least as far as I have experienced it. It makes the story an allegory of sorts that represents choices you and I have every day, to stand for the Light and choose hope.

The Uncloaked sets up the environment, characters, and dilemma. It explores the real dangers of apathy with a very close-to-life scenario in the near future. Braxton begins in this book with great potential, but by story’s end makes choices that set in motion spiraling events that impact the rest of his own story. His 1st person POV serves to make him relatable even while he makes exasperating choices.

The second book, Tearing the Veil, adds another character’s perspective (Hannah’s) and further complications because of her involvement. Where some second books in a trilogy would lose momentum, this one has plenty of action  and character development, particularly with Braxton and a finality of his choices that mature him greatly (yay I’m soooo proud!) by book’s end.

Random observation: I’m continually impressed with Jennifer’s skill as an author to compellingly write such diverse characters and genres.

Charging the Darkness is the conclusion I hoped it would be. Its edge-of-your seat movement and ALL THE EMOTIONS kept me turning pages late into the night. Seriously, to say very much about this conclusion would reveal its surprises. Just trust me when I say it has more amazing character development and emotional depth that is crazy good! In short, it brings together a group of characters drastically changed by events and choices and –finally– unites them in purpose in a beautiful way.

Two more tiny comments: I first expected the relationship between Braxton and Eliza to work out to be a friendship-turned romance, and it kind of was, but it caught me off guard at times by being so much more. Wonderfully so. And, as noted on retailer sites in book 1’s description, this series should be considered PG-13 due to its sometimes dark (though not graphic) scenes (I would recommend it for teens +). It is still, very much, a Christian Fiction series.

Thank you to the author and SLB tours for the review copies. This is my honest review.

About the Author

jennifer-rodewald_4_origJ. Rodes lives on the wide plains somewhere near the middle of Nowhere. A coffee addict, pickleball enthusiast, and storyteller, she also wears the hats of mom, teacher, and friend. Mostly, she loves Jesus and wants to see the kids she’s honored to teach fall in love with Him too.

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Giveaway

3 Prizes!

  • Print copies of the books (US only)
  • E-copies of the books (International)
  • Audio copies of the books (International)

Enter the giveaway HERE.

Tour Schedule

January 8-Soulfully Romantic
January 9-Smiling Book Reviews
January 10-Book by Book | Flowers of Quiet Happiness
January 11-Just Commonly 
January 12-Remembrancy
January 13-The Green Mockingbird
January 15-amandainpa
January 16-Fiction Aficionado | A Baker’s Perspective
Janaury 17-Singing Librarain Books
January 18-Henry Happens
January 19-Reader’s Cozy Corner
January 20-Pause for Tales

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