Review: “Shoes to Fill” by Lynne Gentry

Review: “Shoes to Fill” by Lynne Gentry

A few months ago, I reviewed author Lynne Gentry’s independent publishing venture, Walking ShoesIt was the start of a new contemporary family series with southern charm, humor, and serious life obstacles, the “Mt. Hope Southern Adventures” series. Today I’m sharing my review of the second book in the series, Shoes to Fill. It continues the journey of this little pastor’s family living in west Texas as they learn to cope with the aftermath of personal loss and find joy and purpose once again.

About the Book

stf-jpeg-642x1024Shoes to Fill

The highly-educated millennial, David Harper, is adrift. He is also the pastor’s son. Or he was, until his father dropped dead in the pulpit. When David learns his widowed mother is in danger of losing the roof over her head, he surprises everyone, most of all himself, and steps in to fill his father’s shoes. David knows it won’t be easy to dynamite the small congregation into the twenty-first century, but it’s the tough little blonde who blows his world apart. Return once again to the humor and drama of the small Texas town of Mt. Hope. Tear-jerking candor. Face-paced humor. Heart-melting romance.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

While this book could be read on its own, I think it would be better enjoyed in sequence as the second book in the series to fully understand the obstacles already undertaken by the characters.

This story is just the right combination of drama and humor, continuing themes of healing and hope that began in book 1. The quirky humor and pop culture references (like Hallmark movies and Quigley Down Under! 🙂 ) offsets the serious themes at the heart of the story. These characters’ lives show how God can take something awful and make something good come of it — all because it brings Him glory along the way.

David, in particular, grows tremendously during this story. With help from both his biological and church family, he starts to see past his own grief to realize other people are hurting –some still in their own grief, others dealing with many sources of pain. And, on the romance side of things, Amy (the “tough little blonde”) is so complementary to him; from sharing a caring heart to understanding grief and the crazy community they live in.

Speaking of the community, the secondary characters in this story are special. They establish a sense of “home” within the story and serve to show what a heart for people David has. Leona, David’s mom, shares a little perspective in this book, too, because her story is not over yet (bring on book 3!).

There was one comical device used near the end of the story that I thought was a little overdone to the point of being less realistic, but it served its purpose to upset a certain situation and bring about clarity to the characters. Other than that, I enjoyed this glimpse of small town Texas living and identified with the struggles of the characters. I particularly liked how David’s family is portrayed as giving him a legacy of faith but he still has to discern his own calling.

Thank you to the author and publisher, Travel Light Press, for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

IMG_9446 Hi-Res_300dpi_Vert_CropLynne Gentry knew marrying a preacher might change her plans. She didn’t know how ministry would change her life. This author of numerous short stories and dramatic works travels the country as a professional acting coach and inspirational speaker. Lynne allows her imagination to run wild and also writes in the fantasy/science fiction genre of time travel. You can find our more about these adventures into historical worlds at www.lynnegentry.com. Lynne lives in Dallas with her husband and medical therapy dog. She counts spending time with her two grown children and their families her greatest joy.

Lynne’s Website | Facebook |Twitter | Pinterest

And, last but not least, check out my reviews of Lynne’s awesome time travel series here!

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Review & Book Spotlight: “Second Impressions” by Pepper Basham from the Love at First Laugh Novella Collection

This little review features a wonderfully Austen-esque novella, a modern day rom-com set in Bath, England, amid matchmaking schemes, Regency attire, and a historical inn. Second Impressions by Pepper Basham is the first novella in the recently released “Love at First Laugh” collection, further detailed below.

About Second Impressions

Nora Simeon is a Jane Austen nut. After years of putting her dreams on hold, she’s given the opportunity to attend the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England, but a brooding American businessman threatens to upend her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Ethan Keller hate his uncle’s sordid penchant for matchmaking. With a string of failed attempts in Ethan’s past, the last thing he needs is another ‘opportunity’ in the person of Nora Simeon, but her country charm brings color to his structured life in the most unexpected ways.

As these two lonely hearts sort through misunderstandings, a conniving assistant, and a homicidal bonnet, will the heart of Jane Austen’s novels inspire their own romance or will their story end in unrequited love?

second-impressionsMy thoughts

Second Impressions is Jane Austen meets rom-com in a modern world. With all the wit and heart of an Austen story, Nora and Ethan are thrown together with a little bit of matchmaking and a lot of personality.

One thing I love about Pepper’s stories is that her characters have a deep sense of normalcy. It shines through in the little habits and comments, like the simplicity of a dream or talking over tea with hand gestures and a butter knife. This authenticity makes them all the more relatable and down-to-earth as you journey with them through a story.

The references and clever parallels to Austen characters will bring a smile to any Austenite’s face. The humor and comedic situations had me giggling more than once — especially where Ethan and Regency attire was concerned. Beneath the lighter side of the characters, though, is a story of heart. Of realizing dreams might just be in reach, of having the faith to believe in them.

Nora and Ethan will work their way into your heart in this little novella. If you’ve never read a Pepper Basham novel (why not!?), this is a perfect place to start to glimpse her style and storytelling. And, if you love all things Austen, this book will have you swooning and wanting to dance a cotillion!

For more behind-the-scenes on this novella and LOCATION photos from Bath, England, visit Pepper’s “Book Journeys” blog posts Bath, UK Part 1 and Bath, UK Part 2.

Thank you to the author/publisher for the complimentary review copy of this collection. This is my honest review.

About the collection

Love at First LaughDive into eight brand new contemporary Christian romantic comedies from some of your favorite inspirational authors.

From light-hearted romance to laugh-out-loud love, this set will put a smile on your face and keep you reading long into the night.

Second Impressions by award-winning author Pepper Basham
He likes streamline. She prefers embellishments. His forte is business. Hers is atmosphere. Will they realize each has what the other needs most to create the perfect romance with a touch of Jane Austin flair?

Mowed Over by USA Today bestselling author Christina Coryell
A tiny, chatty fairy artist with multicolored pastel hair. A burly, bearded landscaper who can’t get a word in edgewise. They have nothing in common, but is that enough to keep them apart?

An Informal Affair by award-winning author Heather Gray
She’s tired of waiting for happily-ever-after, so she takes matters into her own hands…with online dating. He has the worst bad-date streak ever. How will God show two people who are determined to do things their own way that He’s had a perfect plan all along?

A Heart Restored by Elizabeth Maddrey
She renovates old houses. Can he restore her heart?

Unleashing Love by Jessica R. Patch
She’s a dog walker who agrees to a full-time position caring for a puppy. In total shock, she’s handed a precious baby girl. He’s a construction mogul who’s taken his infant niece into temporary relative placement — keyword: temporary. Unless the sassy southern nanny can change his mind…and his heart.

A (nearly) Normal Nanny by Krista Phillips
Normal is highly overrated…

That’s When I Knew by award-winning author Laurie Tomlinson
When two childhood sweethearts find themselves thrown together on the road to a trade show that could save her career, past mistakes threaten to ruin her chances–and the possibility of rekindling a romance. Will the end of the summer find them apart once again?

A Time to Laugh by USA Today bestselling author Marion Ueckermann
When an unexpected inheritance and a lung disease diagnosis coincide, a missionary couple realizes God is telling them it’s time to retire. But sometimes retirement comes with strings attached. Will their life-long dream be a blessing or a curse?

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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.

 

WebsiteBlog | Facebook | Twitter  | Instagram | Goodreads

Snack Time Devotions Blog  | The Diamond Mine of Christian Fiction

Review & Author Feature: “Walking Shoes” by Lynne Gentry

Review & Author Feature: “Walking Shoes” by Lynne Gentry

When a beloved author reaches out to me to share my thoughts on her latest book, I count it a privilege and blessing to be counted as a friend and trusted reviewer. Recently, author Lynne Gentry contacted me inviting me to read her new-ish novel, Walking Shoes, a contemporary story of family, humor, loss, and the strength of the body of Christ. Originally released under a different title and publisher, Walking Shoes is a refreshed story from Lynne’s heart drawn from her own experiences as a pastor’s wife. Today I’m happily sharing my review and a Q&A feature with Lynne.

About the Book

Sooner or later everyone experiences a fork in the road. When tragedy changes the path of the overly-cautious, by-the-book, pastor’s wife, Leona Harper has no choice but to disrupt the lives of her estranged children. Parenting her adult children in a small Southern community populated with zany characters proves as difficult as reinventing herself. Determined to give her broken family a shot at a second chance, Leona puts one foot in front of the other and begins to walk through her grief. But reconciliation and healing won’t come easy.

This holiday story of tear-jerking candor and fast-paced humor offers hope in the darkness.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

 

I really, really liked this story! It was a great combination of funny and serious. Before I talk about the lovable characters, I want to address the way grief is exposed in this story. walking-642x1024There were moments delicately handled with humor that otherwise could have been a little “dark” or sad due to the story circumstances. I personally identified with the situation and characters because I have had a similar unexpected loss in my family. I believe the way Lynne Gentry recognizes the grief process in a gentle and understanding way, shading it with humor, speaks of her personal experiences as well as her ability to relate to the reader through story. It exposes how everyone deals with grief or shock differently while emphasizing that it’s perfectly OK to be different. To say the least, it was a little therapeutic for my own heart to read Leona’s story.

The “friends” and supporting characters of this story are endearing, to say the least. Some fiercely in Leona’s corner, some more antagonistic, all of them work to steer the story and reveal how God takes care of people in unexpected ways. Sometimes through an angry grandmother. Sometimes through a janitor. And sometimes through a gruff neighbor. All of them combine to display the blessing and care of a church family. A “home”, of sorts, with mismatched loved ones.

Within the story, sometimes the point of view changes from Leona to that of her son or daughter, David and Maddie. Their experience and secondary storylines all mesh to paint a bigger picture of what’s going on and how each person deals with the complexity of the situation, giving the reader a new perspective of empathy and understanding. For all POVs, the third person narrative sometimes switches to first within the same paragraph in an internal dialogue sort of way. This technique expertly works for the story’s humor and timing as well as revealing the heart of Leona, David, and Maddie at key points.

Ok, now it’s time to talk about the humor! Lynne’s “southern humor” hit the mark with me! Especially with a few little sayings and witty pop culture references I’ve come to appreciate from Lynne. (If you’re an old soul, you’ll really love them, too! Especially ones referring to Robert Redford or something that’s “slicker than snot”! Ha!) The quirky supporting characters fittingly remind me of some people in my own church and circle of friends. If any of ya’ll read this and are curious, just ask. I’d be happy to point out which of you is a Bertie or Roxie!

To me, this story is a reminder that God’s all-knowing plan is always there, intended for your good and His glory, even through seasons of pain and uncertainty. Leona’s journey comes full circle to a place of hope and second chances. Leona Harper and her family experience many emotions and twists, from shock to pain to a determination to live to the fullest. Ultimately, they learn to embrace any second chances they have to mend relationships and make new memories. The Harpers are not quite done with finding their purpose, though, just like us. (Yay for more books to come!). Personally, I’m glad He’s not quite finished with my story, either.

Thank you to the author and publisher, Travel Light Press, for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Interview with the Author

This is a rewrite of your novel Reinventing Leona. Can you tell us more about the reasons behind your decision to refresh the story? 

Yes, WALKING SHOES is a rewrite/RETITLING of Reinventing Leona. I sold this original story to Tyndale in 2011.  When I got the rights back last year, I re-read the story I’d written in 2006. Hoping that I’m a much better writer now, I tore into it. Took out 10,000 cliches and softened Leona and some of the church people. I also changed up Justin’s character considerably. In the end, the story has  far deeper implications and I’m glad.

How does your personal experience as a pastor’s wife shine through the character of Leona?

Obviously, many of Leona’s experiences were drawn from the deep well of serving as a pastor’s wife for 30 years. I have so many wonderful, sad, endearing, life-changing stories from those very precious years. Some made the story. Many did not. But one thing is certain, so many people have crossed my path and I have been forever changed by all of them. Telling this story of God’s ability to transform us through tragedy has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

The Story sisters are my favorite supporting characters of this story. They are a hoot! Can you tell us if they were inspired by anyone in particular? 

Our ministry was spent very far from home. Therefore, I didn’t have the daily support of my physical family, especially my mother. As for the Story sisters, they are a combination of the many fabulous older women who mothered me and loved me (a very young and naïve girl) with their unique gifts, but mostly their treasured gift of time.

Thank you, Lynne, for taking the time to discuss this story and answer my questions!

stf-jpeg-642x1024You readers should be excited to know Lynne’s plans for the rest of the series are in the works!  The next book, Shoes to Fill, featuring Leona’s son, David, is planned for release in February. The next two books, Dancing Shoes and Baby Shoes, will finish out the series with the continued story of Leona and Maddie’s story.

 

 

IMG_9446 Hi-Res_300dpi_Vert_CropLynne Gentry knew marrying a preacher might change her plans. She didn’t know how ministry would change her life. This author of numerous short stories and dramatic works travels the country as a professional acting coach and inspirational speaker. Lynne allows her imagination to run wild and also writes in the fantasy/science fiction genre of time travel. You can find our more about these adventures into historical worlds at www.lynnegentry.com. Lynne lives in Dallas with her husband and medical therapy dog. She counts spending time with her two grown children and their families her greatest joy.

Lynne’s Website | Facebook |Twitter | Pinterest

And, last but not least, check out my reviews of Lynne’s awesome time travel series here!

The Carthage Chronicles

Review: Told You Twice by Kristen Heitzmann

Review: Told You Twice by Kristen Heitzmann

Author Kristen Heitzmann has penned another compelling story of redemption with elements of romance, suspense, and her signature subtle humor with her latest indie release, Told You Twice (“Told You” series #2). She again tackles gritty subjects with class and a refreshing straightforwardness. I think she has found a niche in addressing plot elements not commonly found in the mainstream Christian fiction market in a way that serves as an outreach to mainstream readers (Bravo, Kristen!).

Read my review of Told You So by clicking here!

About the Book

Told You Twice by Kristen HeitzmannFrom the lights of Broadway to the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, winning her heart might cost him everything

Alexis Murphy is done messing with the wrong kinds of men. She could not be happier planning a personalized Grace Evangeline wedding with her fiancé, Jeffrey, who is so…right for her. Or is he?

Stage star and spokesmodel, Bo Corrigan, could be the ultimate disruption. Alexis—Exi—is caught by his talent and sexual magnetism. Yet under the glow, she senses trouble, not only danger from Bo’s past mistakes, but something inside tearing him apart.

From the moment Bo sees Exi, he knows she’s special, but not only that—she’s real. Unlike the theater scene he’s been immersed in, she sees the man he is and won’t stop until she’s reached inside and brought that person from despair to life … if only they have time. With violent forces against them, can they get beyond the damage to love that heals and restores?

Find this book on Amazon | Goodreads | Kristen’s Website

Review

Once more, Kristen has penned a story that goes beyond its classification as a contemporary romance/suspense and instead delves deep into the heart of its characters in a realistic way. With brilliant dialogue and subtle humor, this layered story exposes

img_20160809_163307.jpg

My favorite quote from the book! Bo really needed to hear this bit of wisdom at the time.

everyone’s desperate needs of acceptance and forgiveness.

Exi, for instance, has such a genuine soul. She initially lacks a certain confidence and really needs someone to believe in her, though. While Bo undergoes the most dynamic transformation (and what a journey of healing it is!!!), Exi’s quiet and subtle growth over the course of the story stood out to me as a testament to her character.

It’s hard to talk about Bo’s character with no spoilers! So I’ll be careful. 🙂 I’ll just say that he has long believed a lie about himself and his perspective on life needed a major overhaul. It is neat to see how Exi’s personality draws out the real person inside Bo, the one hurting over loss and trying to hide behind his celebrity. Through the combined influence of Exi, Grace, and a few other unexpected characters, he gradually begins to see life through a lens of forgiveness. His eyes are opened in the most unlikely way when the people around him start to break through his walls.

The message of healing this story tells is at times heartbreaking and beautiful. The simplicity of redemption found in its pages is communicated best with this quote:

“…love, trust, forgiveness, and faith can fill the shadows with light and hope.” –Told You Twice, chapter 20, by Kristen Heitzmann

On another note, huge fans of book 1 (ahem, like me), will be happy to see Grace and Devin back and still the same! They are still sparring, flirting, and complimenting each other’s personalities. I was so happy to “spend time” with them as secondary characters and to see that they are important to Bo and Exi in different ways. And that they are still growing, still in love, and still learning lessons on what it means to live out their faith in this crazy world.

 

Thank you to the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.