Spring Splendors

Spring Splendors

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thunder of Heaven Giveaway!

I was recently asked to help promote the June 2011 Zondervan release, Thunder of Heaven by Tim LaHaye & Craig Parshall, which means I have some exciting news for you! If you're a fan of LaHaye's "Left Behind" series (of if you are simply interested in giving LaHaye's latest book a try!), Zondervan has generously agreed to give away a copy of Thunder of Heaven to one of my readers!

Here's some information on the book:

"Best-known for the 'Left Behind' series, LaHaye and his co-author Parshall introduced readers to 'The End' series with last year’s EDGE OF APOCALYPSE. Now, in THUNDER OF HEAVEN (Zondervan; on-sale June 28th), lead character Joshua Jordan is back. In an epic story ripped from the headlines of world events and filtered through Scriptural prophecy, THUNDER OF HEAVEN chronicles the earth shattering events which eventually lead up to the Apocalypse foretold in Revelation.

According to TV personality Glenn Beck, 'Tim LaHaye’s books always entertain, educate and thrill, but THUNDER OF HEAVEN takes it to a new level.'"

If you'd like a chance to win this book, here's what you need to do/know:
  • Leave a comment saying you'd like to be entered in the drawing. Please include your e-mail address!
  • You must have a U.S. or Canadian mailing address.
  • A winner will be announced when I return from vacation (sometime the first week of July).
Good luck!

Disclaimer: I haven't read Thunder of Heaven, so I can't say whether I recommend the book or not. But I'm grateful to Zondervan for offering to give away a copy to one of my readers!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Glass Road PR: Forever After Review to Come!

Here's a description of the book from Simon & Schuster:

"A fire killed his best friend and his lifelong dream of being a firefighter. The same fire killed her husband and hopes for a family. Can new dreams replace old?

Lucas Vermontez
was a proud firefighter like his father. Now, not only has he lost his father and his best friend, Zach, in the fire at the Grove Street homeless shelter, but the devoted rookie can no longer do the work he loves after being crippled in the tragic event. When friendship with his buddy's beautiful widow turns into more, he wonders, what could he possibly offer Jenna?

Jenna Morgan
is trying to grieve her husband's death like a proper widow, but the truth is, she never really loved Zach. His death feels more like a relief to her. But that relief is short-lived when she loses her home and the financial support of her in-laws. Now the secrets of her past threaten to destroy her future. Can the two forget the painful past and discover new reasons to live and love?"

Note: I apologize that I haven't finished the book or written my review yet, but hopefully not long after I get back from vacation I'll be able to share my thoughts with you! I'm enjoying it so far--Deborah's writing ability is superb!

*With thanks to the publisher and Glass Road PR for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gone on Vacation

Tomorrow my family and I are heading for Sunriver, Oregon for a relaxing vacation! I love our family vacations, and this year my great-aunt and my cousin will be joining us in Oregon for a few days, which will be great! =)

Like last year, I'm planning on spending the following 10 days or so away from the blogosphere, so I can enjoy the undivided time with God and my family. (I'm planning on checking my e-mail occasionally, though, if you need to get a hold of me!) I love blogging, but it's amazing how time-consuming it can be, as you all know. ;) However, I will miss you all, and I look forward to catching up that first week of July!

Before I go, there are some loose ends I need to tie-up and some announcements I need to make:

First, I want to thank Beth from Beth's Thoughts for passing on "The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award" to me and this blog! Thank you, Beth, for your support and kindness!

I'm supposed to share some random facts about me, so here goes nothing!
  • I have a cat named Mr. Murphy who stays at my grandparents' house. He's a brown tabby--a sweet purring machine and a dear friend!
  • I'm listening to bluegrass music as I write this. Are you surprised? ;)
  • I love to dance, even if I'm not very good at it!
  • I also love to sing, even if I'm not very good at it! ;)
OK, enough about me! Here are the super sweet bloggers I'm passing this award on to:
Second, I wanted to let ya'll know that even though I'll be gone for the next week-ish, I still have a couple of posts pre-scheduled, including a cool giveaway! So feel free to comment while I'm gone, and I'll check in with you when I get back.

Also, I have posts scheduled for Monday, June 27th and Monday, July 4th over at The Borrowed Book, so I'd love to have you stop by there, as well, if you get a chance! As with this blog, I'll plan on checking the comments when I return. =)

Third, the weekend after I get back is the Christian Fiction Book Club discussion of Pompeii: City on Fire, which I'll be hosting right here at this blog (Saturday, July 9th)! Be sure to mark your calendars!

I hope you all are having a great summer so far! God bless!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Review of Behind the Badge (L.I. Suspense)

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"YOUR SISTER IS NEXT!"

A killer is threatening the life of rookie cop Sydney Tucker’s sister-unless Sydney turns over evidence from a drug bust. But she doesn’t have the evidence. Not that the thug believes her. Now she and the sibling in her care are under the watchful eye of Logan Lake police chief Russ Morgan…but will his protection be enough?

The killer is closing in, picking off the people and places that mean the most to Sydney. A list that now includes Russ. To protect her loved ones, will she pay the ultimate price-her life?

My Rating: Fall/Spring

My Review:

Like all good "Love Inspired Suspense" books, Behind the Badge is a fast read with an encouraging theme. And this book has a great hook! (Pardon the rhyme, but it works!) Chapter One places the reader in the middle of a hide-and-seek/chase scene with a creepy killer, and it introduces us to a strong hero who might just have a tender heart beating behind the badge.

The action kind of dissipates after the first chapter, replaced by a simmering-beneath-the-lid suspense that focuses most of the attention in the meantime on the emotional suspense between Russ and Sydney. The slower pace wasn't exactly up my alley, but the action makes a return appearance at the end for an intense (and quite romantic!) finale.

Even though Sydney's sister, Nikki, really frustrated me, I think she was one of the most complex characters in the story. The reader mostly sees her teenage angst, but Sleeman gives glimpses into why she acts the way she does, and I enjoyed seeing the way things worked out for her and Sydney in the end.

This story was a nice, quick read that shows that God--who is the only One who really understands what's "behind the badge"--loves us enough to work for our good, even if that means allowing us to go through difficult experiences.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Review of Pirate of My Heart

Here's a description of the book from Christianbook.com:

"When her doting father dies, Lady Kendra Townsend is given a choice: marry the horrid man of her cold, money-grubbing uncle's choosing or leave England to risk a new life in America with unknown relatives. Armed with the faith that God has a plan for her, Kendra boards a cargo ship and meets American sea captain Dorian Colburn. But the captain has been wounded by a woman before and guards his independent life. A swashbuckling man doesn't need an English heiress to make him slow down, feel again, or be challenged with questions about his faith-or so he thinks. It is not until Dorian must save Kendra from the dark forces surrounding her that he decides she may be worth the risk."

My Rating: Spring

My Review:

Pirate of My Heart is another exciting story full of danger and romance from the pen of Jamie Carie! Since reading her beautiful debut novel Snow Angel, I have come to expect great things from this author, and her latest is no exception! The love stories she shares are unique and thrilling.

This book offers an extra helping of surprise, as the cover and the title of the book can be a bit deceiving. There are some pirates, there is a ship, and the heroine is both spunky and stylish. However, the hero is not a pirate and most of the account takes place on land. But I'll let you find out for yourself how the title of the book works, because it's a sweet story!

From evil plots (and lots of dastardly villains) to tender romance sweeping from England and across the Atlantic to America, this is a fast-paced read that's difficult to step away from for very long. But what really makes this book meaningful is its emphasis on understanding in a relationship. It can be costly to jump to conclusions and to hide one's feelings and thoughts. And this is shown not only in the relationship between the hero and the heroine, but between a person and God.

If you start to read its pages, you might discover that--like a pirate--this book has stolen your time as you become captive to the story. But if you're like me, you won't mind a bit.

*With thanks to B&H Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.*

Note: This book will be released September 2011.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Magical Vacation

I love Disneyland! It's a place full of hope, excitement, and beauty. You can visit Tomorrowland, Adventureland, and Fantasyland--all just a short walk away from each other. And now you can celebrate the unique grandeur of California in the California Adventure park! It's all so, so much fun!!

My family and I have a ton of pictures from our trip a couple of weeks ago, so I'll just share a few of them here. I hope you enjoy this glimpse at our magical vacation!

Carnation Cafe on Main Street--it's the place to go for breakfast! Their Mickey waffles are so light, sweet, and delicious! And while you eat, you can plot out the day's adventure like I'm doing here.

Can you tell my sister and I are excited? ;) (Yes, she's the tall one. And my family affectionately calls me the "cling-on.") Tom Sawyer's Island has now been taken over by pirates, so you can see some of their influence while you walk on the trails and through the caves on the island...

Or you can just ride the Mark Twain like my daddy did later on and enjoy the island from afar!

OK, seriously, I hope I turn out to be a better driver in a real car than in the cars on the Autopia ride in Tomorrowland! I think my dad would have been scared for his life...if it wasn't for the fact that we were on a track. ;)

This summer they have the Soundsational parade, which is worth taking a break from the rides to watch. Great music, great floats, and great dancing!

Couldn't resist getting a picture with this sign! ;) It reads, "Smaller guests enter first."

And here's the ride the sign was referring to! This is me and my daddy on the Dumbo ride.

So those of you who have been following this blog for a while are probably aware of the fact that I am a devoted bluegrass fan. Well, I just loved seeing Billy Hill and the Hillbillies at the Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland! They're awesome and super funny, not to mention talented!

Here's a glimpse at Paradise Pier in the California Adventure park. Now, if you get the opportunity to go to Disneyland this summer, I highly, highly recommend taking the time and effort to see the "World of Color" water show they do here in front of the Ferris Wheel at night. It was a special, amazing experience for me, and one of the highlights of the trip. Simply breathtaking!

I just love my family! I had a fabulous time with them in Disneyland--thank you Mom and Dad for the wonderful trip (and the pictures!)!

Now, dear readers, in the words of Tigger: "TTFN! Ta-ta for now!"

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Review of Hidden Affections

Here's a description of the book from Bethany House:

"A Tale of Unexpected Romance

Betrayed by her husband, Annabelle Tyler wears the burden of legally being a divorcee, a difficult position for an upstanding young woman to find herself in. While attempting to start a new life for herself, an unexpected turn of events once again has Annabelle married--this time to Harrison Graymoor, the most eligible, yet elusive, bachelor in Philadelphia. Harrison assures her that he will secure an annulment immediately, unaware that the constable has sent word of the marriage to the press in Philadelphia. And here things continue to go awry. Harrison's past, a philanthropic cousin with his eye on Annabelle, and the appearance of Annabelle's ex-husband threaten the tentative relationship growing between Harrison and his "wife." For two individuals set against marriage, there are certainly a lot of second thoughts regarding the one forced upon them."

My Rating: Fall/Spring

My Review:

One thing I've noticed from reading two of Delia Parr's novels is that she really can create some intriguing plots! Hidden Affections is the story of a forced marriage between Annabelle Tyler and Harrison Graymoor. From the very beginning the reader is thrown into a mixed-up world where the rich and charming Harrison has no choice but to wed the sweet but secretive Annabelle. Let me tell you, it's one of the strangest shot-gun weddings you'll ever encounter!

This book isn't a light summer read--in fact, it's more of a shadowy winter read. While there are some lighter aspects to the story, such as the sassy housekeeper at Graymoor Gardens, mostly this is a sober tale about the ramifications of divorce in the early 19th-century society of Pennsylvania.

I didn't care much for Harrison's selfishness and the emphasis on society's opinion throughout the book. And the story seemed rather unrealistic considering Annabelle's values as compared with her actions (or lack thereof). However, the uniqueness of this historical romance, combined with some sweet tidbits--including Annabelle's gratitude diary and the lovely descriptions of her outfits--still make this an enjoyable read.

*With thanks to Jim Hart and Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Revell Blog Tour: My Review of Chasing Sunsets

Here's a description of the book from Revell:

"Sometimes you get a second chance at your first love

Kimberly Tucker's life hasn't turned out the way she thought it would. While her ex is living it up, she struggles to understand what went wrong. When her two sons end up spending five weeks of summer vacation with their father, Kim plans a respite at the family vacation home on tiny Cedar Key. As she revisits the long-forgotten past, she discovers that treasures in life are often buried, and sometimes you do get a second chance at love.

Let yourself get swept away to an island retreat of warm tropical breezes, sandy beaches, and the most glorious sunsets you can imagine."

My Rating: Spring

My Review:

Everson has created an emotionally engaging read in Chasing Sunsets. From the initial heartbreaking courtroom scenes to the rebirth of first love, this is a story brimming with feelings. Everson deftly weaves in flashback chapters to give the reader a better understanding of her realistic characters. And yet the story remains tight and paints an overall picture of hope.

Upon visiting Cedar Key through these pages, I'm not inclined to say that I took a relaxing vacation for my mind. Rather, I found Cedar Key to be a thoughtful place where there is much to learn and much to endure.

The descriptions of the setting and the characters are wonderful. This book is well-written and interesting to read. And yet topics such as divorce, alcoholism, and abuse hardly qualify this as a light summer read.

But at the end of the day this book has a lot to offer, if only by reminding the reader of the pitfalls of judging others and of the pleasures to be found in kindness. This isn't a book that really teaches a lesson so much as shares a story of overcoming love. In that sense I enjoyed Chasing Sunsets and it has certainly intrigued me about Seeking Sunrise, the sequel!

*With thanks to Revell Publishing for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

“Available June 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Review of Plain Fear: Forsaken

Here's a description of the book:

"Hannah Schmidt pines for Jacob, the boy who saved her life. But Jacob is gone, buried. Levi Fisher loves Hannah. But he knows how much Hannah loved his brother Jacob. He also knows the troubling event that took Jacob out of their lives.

So when a stranger named Akiva comes into their community, he carries with him two secrets: he is, in fact, Jacob. And he is now a vampire.

When secrets are revealed, Hannah must choose between light and dark, between the one she has always loved and the new possibility of love—a decision that will decide the fate of her soul."

My Review:

This is the kind of book that requires a conversational review. I find it difficult to sum up my thoughts on this book in an eloquent way, so I hope you don't mind if I just speak plainly. (Pun intended, but not meant to be distracting!)

I have read two other books by Leanna Ellis: Ruby's Slippers and Once in a Blue Moon. Like those books, Forsaken defies labels. It is not a book that fits neatly into one specific category. Ellis is skilled at penning novels that are engagingly unique.

But unlike those two books, Forsaken is not "traditional" Christian fiction. Please don't let this be where you stop reading this review, or where you decide this is a must-read (depending on your preferences)!

I think the eerie cover fits the tone of the story, as well as the content, very well. So don't let the Amish girl there fool you. This is far, far different from a Cindy Woodsmall, Wanda Brunstetter, or Beverly Lewis novel. This is a book about vampires.

I have never read or watched any of the Twilight movies or books. But I have read Dracula by Bram Stoker. And I am pleased with how Ellis handles the subject--creating sympathy for Jacob, but showing that his vampire state (as Akiva) is evil. She includes certain characteristics of vampires that I recognized from Stoker's novel, such as a vampire's ability to morph into other forms (not just bats). But I also saw some differences, such as the vicious nature of a vampire attack (nowhere near romantic/seductive).

I think at this point it is important to state that this book contains some language, a fair amount of sensuality, violence, sexual innuendos, as well as drug/alcohol/smoking references. I believe that some of the questionable material was unnecessary, especially the extent of certain sensual scenes and the occasional language. But I also see that some of it is important to the story.

I don't say that to excuse Ellis' content or approve it. I think of it as more like what the artist Thomas Kinkade wrote in his book, Touched by the Light:

"Without a consciousness of darkness, there can be little or no awareness of light. Friends often ask me how I go about painting light. It often surprises them when I say that I start with massive amounts of darkness... Only after those pieces of cloth are saturated with darkness do I allow the light to emerge--and often only small pools of light at that." (p. 59)

In any case, I think the most important thing to note about Forsaken is that there are "small pools of light" which demonstrate a strong theme of good vs. evil, as well as a powerful message about love--the kind of love that sacrifices, giving instead of taking, and driving out unhealthy fear. That is the heart of the book, evidenced by the symbolism of blood (etc.) throughout the pages.

My main qualm with the book is the heroine, Hannah. I loved reading about Levi, and I really think he steals the show. He is sweet, protective, and strong in his faith. It is his growth and his insights at the end that tie the symbolism together. There were moments when I felt Hannah was maturing, too. But her overall emphasis on romantic love at the end disappointed me. Love between a man and a woman can be a gift, but it can never be salvation.

Last year on Ellis' blog she compared Forsaken to Phantom of the Opera. That intrigued me, and now I have seen the striking connection for myself. The love triangle will engross you; Akiva's fate will sadden you; and the "music of the night" might temporarily enchant you. But as Christine sings to the Phantom: "It's in your soul that the true distortion lies."

If you approach this book with an open mind and look to the deeper threads binding this story together, then I think you will find this to be an ultimately hopeful read through all of the sorrow and pain. But beware: it will also challenge you.

*With thanks to the author and Sourcebooks for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Note: Since this was an advance copy, some changes might have been made to the final edition which would not be taken into consideration in this review.

Book Trailer:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Review of Shadowed in Silk

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"She was invisible to those who should have loved her.

After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India with her small son, where her husband is stationed with the British army. She has longed to go home to the land of glittering palaces and veiled women . . . but Nick has become a cruel stranger. It will take more than her American pluck to survive.

Major Geoff Richards, broken over the loss of so many of his men in the trenches of France, returns to his cavalry post in Amritsar. But his faith does little to help him understand the ruthlessness of his British peers toward the Indian people he loves. Nor does it explain how he is to protect Abby Fraser and her child from the husband who mistreats them.

Amid political unrest, inhospitable deserts, and Russian spies, tensions rise in India as the people cry for the freedom espoused by Gandhi. Caught between their own ideals and duty, Geoff and Abby stumble into sinister secrets . . . secrets that will thrust them out of the shadows and straight into the fire of revolution."

My Rating: Spring

My Review:

As the cover design suggests, this is a bold and beautifully-detailed historical novel set in a time of turmoil during the British Raj in India. Shadowed in Silk is fast-paced with plenty of intense action to hold the reader's interest. Danger and uncertainties abound within these pages!

Due to the setting, as well as the situation Abby finds herself in from the beginning, this is not a light read. It's sad and difficult to read about Abby's broken marriage and her failed attempts to fix it. This book shows how every decision has its consequences, and how things aren't always the way they appear on the surface.

Yet there remains a sense of hope, as well as love, that somehow survives through all of the devastation and loss. It's a convoluted journey, but overall Shadowed in Silk is an intriguing and satisfying story!

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Contentment Reading Challenge: June (Book Swap!)

Back by popular demand, let's welcome another round of the Contentment Reading Challenge Book Swap! ;) To save me a bit of time, as well as to make sure we're all on the same page, I'm just going to repeat the book swap guidelines from the last swap (in March).

Here are some guidelines:
  • If you are participating in the challenge and you end up getting a book through the book swap, feel free to count it to your total if you would like. It can be a re-read or a first-time read. You don't have to count it, though, if you only want to count re-reads. I'm just giving you permission if you'd like to. ;)
  • There are no guarantees that everyone will get to participate. It's all up to you whether or not you end up connecting with another reader and finding some commonalities in your lists. (I'll explain that in just a moment.)
  • If you choose to participate in the book swap, you will have to pay your own shipping to send your book(s) to another person. (This probably means that most of the "swappers" will be U.S. residents, but if a couple of people from another, same country find each other here, then that would be great!)
So, now I'll tell you how this is actually going to work! You'll need to put together two lists:
  1. A list of books you are willing to send (swap) to another person.
  2. A list of books you are interested in receiving through the swap, whether books you don't have that you want to re-read, or books you've never read before.
In the comments section post your two lists along with your e-mail address. If you see someone whose list matches up to yours in some way, someone you want to trade/swap with (etc.), then contact that person by e-mail and set up a swap! Or wait and see if anyone contacts you.

To get us started (and to give you an example), I'm just going to post my two lists here:

Books I'm Willing to Part With:
  • Love is Grand by Annalisa Daughety
  • Angel Song by Sheila Walsh and Kathryn Cushman
  • Just Jane by Nancy Moser
  • If Tomorrow Never Comes by Marlo Schalesky
  • Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith
  • Where Hearts are Free by Golden Keyes Parsons
  • Love Finds You in Poetry, Texas by Janice Hanna
  • Quite a few Karen Kingsbury and Dee Henderson books
And much more! Now that I'm home for the summer, I have access to my bookshelves--and let me tell you, they are loaded! If you have a book I'm interested in (listed below), then I just might have one to interest you, too. ;)

Books I'm Interested In:
  • Waterfall or Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren
  • Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall
  • Anna Finch and the Hired Gun by Kathleen Y'Barbo
  • Doctor in Petticoats, Montana Rose, or Deep Trouble by Mary Connealy
  • How Sweet It Is by Alice J. Wisler
  • A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin
  • The Jewel of His Heart by Maggie Brendan
  • Bound By Guilt by C.J. Darlington
If you're interested in swapping with me, e-mail me at: stokes.a@suddenlink.net

I can add more to these lists, and I'm willing to be a bit flexible. ;) So go ahead and post your lists and see if there's anyone you want to swap with!

Note: If you don't have a U.S. mailing address, be sure to let others know that in your comment. There might be someone from your country willing to swap with you!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Join the Tyndale Summer Reading Program!

Are you someone who loves to read Christian books?

[Feel free to wave your arms wildly and shout a resounding "yes" if this applies to you!]

Well, have you heard about the Tyndale Summer Reading Program? Whether you've heard about it but you're not sure you should join, or whether this is news to you, let me share with you some cool facts:
  • The Tyndale Summer Reading Program is all about promoting Tyndale's latest Christian books (including fiction, non-fiction, and young adult reads). As many of my readers out there are fellow book bloggers, this might be right up your alley!
  • Here's what you do: You read five of the books from any of the three categories mentioned above (fiction, non-fiction, and YA) found on the lists on the program's website. (There's a good variety to choose from, in my opinion!) Then you write a review for each of the books and post it in three different places (options are listed).
  • And here's the incentive as described on the website:
"For every five books you read you'll earn a free book.

The top three point leaders at the end of the summer win $50 gift cards for books.

Everyone with at least one point will be entered to win a free e-reader.

Plus we'll introduce more great promotions throughout the summer!"
  • Even more good news! For all you bloggers out there who are already part of the Tyndale book blogger program, you can count the books you review already that are on the lists! So you can end up getting a free book by reviewing mostly free books! How cool is that?! Even the Tyndale book some of us reviewed recently for LitFuse Publicity--My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren--counts!
So what are you waiting for? Join the program for free right now! Even if you only post one review, you'll still be entered for a free e-reader, so what's to lose?

And when they say they have more great promotions, they aren't kidding! Because I've already published two reviews, I was given the chance to get a free book now if I tell 10 people about the program. Cool, huh? So yes, I have added incentive to tell you about this program. ;) But really, I think it's a great idea, and I'm all for book contests/giveaways!

Click HERE to check out the website, and then let me know if you're joining me in this fun summer program!

Christian Fiction Book Club Meets Here July 9th!

EdgyInspirationalRomance

I am thrilled to tell you that I will be hosting next month's Christian Fiction Book Club meeting here at "Seasons of Humility!" I apologize for being so late in making this announcement, but I do hope you'll consider stopping by Saturday, July 9th and joining in on our discussion of Pompeii: City on Fire by T.L. Higley.

If you're never participated in one of these meetings before (and I confess that I'm not too familiar with them yet, either!), here's the scoop from Joy at Edgy Inspirational Romance:

Want to part
icipate?

1. Secure a copy of the book club pick and read it before the discussion date.

2. Find the reading group guide in the back of the book or on the publisher's website. Choose one or more of the discussion questions to address in a blog post. You might also want to include a short review of the book. *Click HERE for a link to discussion questions for Pompeii on the author's website.*

3. Schedule your blog post to run on the discussion date. You may copy and use the book club logo above if you'd like.


4. On the discussion date, the host will run his/her review and answer a few discussion questions. The host will also include a MckLinky at the bottom so bloggers can link their posts.


5. On the discussion date, we all hop around reading and commenting on the reviews and opinions of participating bloggers.


6. If you do not have a blog of your own, you can share your opinions about the book club pick in the comment sections of other blogs.


7. Have you already read our book club picks? Great, participate anyway! You'll have a head start answering some of the questions!


Pompeii: City on Fire
is a powerful book. T.L. Higley's work is action-packed, complete with spiritual truths and some sweet romance. You won't want to miss her latest release! So grab a copy and join us here July 9th--we'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, June 13, 2011

LitFuse Publicity Blog Tour: My Foolish Heart

Here's a description of the book:
"Unknown to her tiny town of Deep Haven, Isadora Presley spends her nights as Miss Foolish Heart, the star host of a syndicated talk radio show. Millions tune in to hear her advice on dating and falling in love, unaware that she’s never really done either. Issy’s ratings soar when it seems she’s falling in love on-air with a caller. A caller she doesn’t realize lives right next door.

Caleb Knight served a tour of duty in Iraq and paid a steep price. The last thing he wants is pity, so he hides his disability and moves to Deep Haven to land his dream job as the high school football coach. When his beautiful neighbor catches his eye, in a moment of desperation he seeks advice from My Foolish Heart, the show that airs before his favorite sports broadcast.

Before he knows it, Caleb finds himself drawn to the host—and more confused than ever. Is his perfect love the woman on the radio . . . or the one next door?"

My Rating: Summer

My Review:

My Foolish Heart is a winning combination of You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, and Susan May Warren's great characters and beautiful romance!

Like in the movie You've Got Mail, Isadora and Caleb find themselves falling in love online (and on the air) without realizing who exactly the other person is--and how different romance in action can be from romance through words. Also, like Tom Hanks, Caleb is the one who figures out who Miss Foolish Heart really is before Isadora figures out who Boy Next Door really is.

Instead of feuding book store owners, however, Isadora and Caleb are two people with conflicting fears. One is afraid to leave the safety of her house due to a horrible memory, and the other is afraid of dependency (especially on God) due to the debt he feels he owes for his very life. But the new NY152 and ShopGirl have a sweet romance all their own in this football-themed book that will have you cheering them on!

Isadora's radio show is also reminiscent of Sleepless in Seattle, but as I mentioned earlier Warren has created a unique story with two romances instead of one and enough authentic emotion to inspire you and leave you sighing with satisfaction. Add in a beautiful message about the amazing, incomprehensible love of God, and you've got a wonderful and moving read!

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion, to be shared during the LitFuse Publicity Blogging tour.*

About the Author:

"Susan May Warren is an award-winning, best-selling author of over twenty-five novels, many of which have won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, the ACFW Book of the Year award, the Rita Award, and have been Christy finalists. After serving as a missionary for eight years in Russia, Susan returned home to a small town on Minnesota’s beautiful Lake Superior shore where she, her four children, and her husband are active in their local church.

Susan's larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!)

A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found HERE."

To Buy the Book: click HERE

Blog Tour Schedule: Check out all of the other reviews scheduled by clicking HERE.

Contest:

Susan May Warren is thrilled to announce the release of her latest Deep Haven book, My Foolish Heart!

Read what the reviewers are saying here.

To celebrate this charming novel about a dating expert who's never had a date, Susan has put together a romantic night on the town for one lucky couple. One grand prize winner will receive a Miss Foolish Heart prize package worth over $200!


The winner of the Romantic Night on the Town Prize Pack will receive:

* A $100 Visa Gift Card (For Dinner)

* A $100 Gift Certificate to a Hyatt/Marriott Hotel

* The entire Deep Haven series

To enter just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on June 16th. The winner will be announced that evening during Susan’s Miss Foolish Heart Party on Facebook! Susan will be chatting with guests, hosting a book club chat about My Foolish Heart, testing your Deep Haven trivia skills, and giving away tons of great stuff! (Gift certificates, books, donuts, and more!) Don't miss the fun and BRING YOUR FRIENDS!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Review of Praying for Your Future Husband

Here's a description of the book from Waterbrook Multnomah:

"Have you ever thought about praying for your future husband?
Will it make a difference?
There's only one way to find out…

From when we were small girls, most of us dream of “The One,” our future husband. We think about what it would be like to be a bride. We wonder who that special guy is and when we'll find him. The great news is that what you do now can make a difference in your life and the life of your future husband!

Authors and good friends Robin Jones Gunn (Christy Miller series) and Tricia Goyer (author and former teen mom) believe God answers women's prayers for husbands—even husbands they may not meet for years. They invite young women to pray boldly for their future mate … while also asking God to prepare their own hearts.

In Praying for Your Future Husband, Robin and Tricia share their two vastly different experiences, including the things they did right and the mistakes they made on the path to meeting and marrying their husbands. Each chapter includes helpful Bible verses, prayers, and practical application, along with true stories of women who prayed for a husband and how God answered in remarkable ways.

God has a beautiful romance prepared for you. Prayer is the key to unlocking the love story … with your future husband and with God, the lover of your soul."

My Rating: Summer

My Review:

Before reading Praying for Your Future Husband, I thought the cover was pretty with its bold but soothing colors and the peaceful image of a girl soaking in the sun. But it wasn't until I read the book that I realized just how fitting the cover really is.

For you see, the feelings portrayed by the girl on the cover matched my own. This book caused me to look up, to soak in the comforting and life-giving Light of the Son of God. In these pages I wasn't told that I needed to pray hard for a man to enter my life. I was told that with or without a husband, I can live an abundant life filled with the hope of God's sovereignty and love for me.

Praying for Your Future Husband is a book of true love stories, mainly from the lives of author Robin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer. It is a book designed to encourage the reader to trust in God's plan and timing in regards to her own love story, as well as to use one's season of singleness (whether that season last for a few short years or a lifetime) to seek God.

I love how this book is organized, with chapters that include anecdotes, prayer suggestions, and discussion questions--all wrapped up in a lovely package. And I love how there are prayer suggestions not only for a girl's future husband, but also for the girl herself to grow in love for God, patience, understanding, trust, loyalty and faithfulness, strength, character, contentment, and commitment.

This is a wonderful, inspiring book that has much to offer any woman who longs to seek God's best for her life and the life of her husband, whether she is already married or hopes to be married someday. From cover to cover, Praying for Your Future Husband is beautiful!

*With thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Would you consider ranking my review? Thank you!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Back from the Happiest Place on Earth!

Hello, everyone! I just got back from a most wonderful vacation in Disneyland!! I'm sure I'll be posting more pictures and sharing some stories soon, but for now I simply wanted to let you know that I haven't dropped off the face of the planet. ;)

Next week I plan on sharing quite a few book reviews with you. And drum roll please...the next Contentment Reading Challenge Book Swap is headed your way soon!!

Hope you all are having a great summer so far!

P.S. If you would like to read my review of To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer, stop by the Radiant Lit website!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review of Love Finds You in Prince Edward Island

Here's a description of the book from Summerside Press:

"In the summer of 1860, Prince Edward Island is astir. Its citizens eagerly anticipate the arrival of the first member of the British royal family to visit the island. Molly Orland is too poor to be invited to the ball, but she and several other local young women are thrilled when they’re hired as extra staff at the lieutenant governor’s house, where the young Prince of Wales will be a guest.

Peter Stark has arrived a few days in advance of the royal party to make sure arrangements are suitable for the prince. He is attracted to the beauty of the island—and to a young local girl named Molly, whom he’s determined to shield from the notorious antics of the playboy prince. When Peter and Molly discover a long-buried secret that could bring shame to his royal employer, will he remain a loyal servant—or help Molly’s family get the justice they deserve?"

My Rating: Fall/Spring

My Review:

As the lovely cover suggests, Love Finds You in Prince Edward Island, Canada is a charming book. While the story is set in the same beautiful place as Anne of Green Gables, it stands on its own, unique and sweet.

Like Cinderella, Molly is a young lady who wins the heart of the Prince and attends the ball despite her position as a maid in the lieutenant governor's household. But in an interesting twist, it's not the Prince who catches Molly's fancy--it's Peter Stark, attendant to an earl, with a complicated past.

The plot starts out slow, but the cute romance and the interesting details regarding the setting and the events for the Prince make this a quick read. While this book is not very deep, I enjoyed the fun summer trip to one place I really, really want to visit someday!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Disney Birthday Bash Finale!

Thank you to my guests, as well as my dear readers, for helping me celebrate my birthday this week! It's been a lot of fun discussing all things Disney. Today I'll announce the winners first, and then I'll add my two cents' worth to the Disney discussion! ;) I'd also love to hear your thoughts on any of the questions!

The winner of Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West is...

Missy!

And the winner of Gallimore by Michelle Griep is...

Renee C!

Congratulations, ladies! Be on the lookout for my e-mail!

And now here's my Q & A with myself regarding Disney:

Question: Since this week’s theme is “Disney,” could you share with us your favorite Disney movie and why it’s your favorite?

Answer: OK, I don't think we bloggers realize how difficult our questions are until the roles are reversed! Definitely hard to pick a favorite Disney movie. Some of my favorites have already been mentioned by others this week, including Tuck Everlasting, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Beauty & The Beast. But one of my other favorites is Brother Bear 2. The first one was very good, as well, but I just love the sweet romance, as well as the music, in the second movie. The theme of love overcoming fear and sacrificing for others is wonderful!

Question:
Have you ever been to Disneyland or Disney World? If so, do you have a fun memory you could share with us about one of the rides/attractions?

Answer:
Yes, I have! I've been to Disneyland twice so far, with this next week marking my third vacation there. (I haven't yet been to Disney World, but it sounds awesome!) As for a fun memory, I like sharing the one about meeting my "twin" at Disneyland. When my family and I were attempting to get an autograph from the Mad Hatter, he assumed that another girl who was the same height as me, with the same color hair (about the same length), and wearing glasses like me, was a member of my family. (Or maybe he just thought it was funny we looked alike--I don't know!) He put an arm around each of us and we ended up getting a picture together, even though we had never met! ;)

Then there was the time I got to play Jafar at Aladdin's storytelling place... That was interesting!

Question:
Which Disney character from any of the Disney movies do you most identify with?

Answer: I'm going to be a copycat and say Belle. I love to read, I have brown hair, and "I want adventure in the great, wide somewhere." What can I say? ;)

I'll also say Cinderella, because for my senior prom in high school a couple of years ago I got to wear a blue poofy dress and be Cinderella for one special evening. It was so fun to dress up and dance the night away like a princess!

Question:
Have any of the Disney movies reminded you of a spiritual truth? If so, could you share an example?

Answer:
One somewhat recent example is from The Princess and the Frog. When Tiana is in the graveyard with the villain, he tries to get her to give up the talisman she's holding by tempting her with the fulfillment of her dream--her own restaurant, just like she and her dad had always wanted. But when Tiana thinks about her dad, she realizes that even though he didn't have what he wanted, supposedly, he had what he needed. He had love.

The difference between wants and needs is something I really need to take heart. With God, we have everything we could ever need. He provides for us, and in Him we find an all-encompassing love. Sometimes He gives us our wants, but sometimes He knows that what we need doesn't match up with what we want. So may we have what we need (according to God), rather than what we want.

Question:
What do you love the most about Disney movies?

Answer:
I love how Disney movies are positive in general. They encourage people to love others and to really live life--a life full of dreams, adventure, and hope. As they quote in Meet the Robinsons: "Keep Moving Forward."

(Brother Bear 2 picture is from IMDb.com, and The Princess and the Frog picture is also from IMDb.com.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Disney Birthday Bash with Ashley!

Today's guest is a dear blogging friend, Ashley from After All, Tomorrow is Another Day. It's a pleasure to host her here, and I think you'll love her responses to this Disney-themed interview!

Amber:
Thank you so much for joining us today! Since this week’s theme is “Disney,” could you share with us your favorite Disney movie and why it’s your favorite?

Ashley: Hands down, Tuck Everlasting has to be my fave Disney movie. Because, it’s the saddest movie you’ll ever see, yet you can’t help but watch it again and again. It’s romantic without being oushy-goushy and there is the element of adventure and wonder that comes with the thought of living forever, that sucks you in from the very beginning.

Amber: Great choice--I love that movie, as well! Have you ever been to Disneyland or Disney World? If so, do you have a fun memory you could share with us about one of the rides/attractions?

Ashley: I’ve actually been to both parks, and they’re both amazing, however the memory that stands out the most for me is when: my sister, my mom and I were at Disneyland, in Story Bookland (any place about books has to be good, right?), where there is this boat ride that takes you down a river and through the mouth of the whale that swallowed Pinocchio. On the banks of the river are miniatures of several of the Disney character’s houses. Before, my family and I got to board the boat, the operator of the asked if my sister and I could sit in the front and be the shark watchers. At the time, I was only 5 yrs. old, and I truly thought there were man-eating sharks in the water. But luckily, none decided to attack that night.

Amber: Hahaha, very cute! ;) Which Disney character from any of the Disney movies do you most identify with?

Ashley: I know we all will say Belle, and now that I’m older, I totally understand wanting more to read a good book, then to spend time with an arrogant (if handsome) and insufferable man like Gaston. However, when I was younger, I always fancied myself to be more of a Sleeping Beauty type. I loved the thought of having long golden hair, the ability to understand animals, and three fairy Godmothers, dressed in green, red and blue. But never yellow, mind you, for that would be a crime of fairy fashion.

Amber: That's sweet! Have any of the Disney movies reminded you of a spiritual truth? If so, could you share an example?

Ashley: In the beginning of Beauty And The Beast, where the prince refuses the rose from the old “hag” and turns her away with hateful words, that really reminded me of how Jesus was treated here on earth. He came to offer us such a simple, but beautiful gift, and we not only didn’t want it, we crucified Him for it. We are all ugly beast without Jesus’s love. We may not look like one on the outside, but in the inside, our hearts are vile, and riddled with sin like cancer. But there is a Beauty that is constantly showing us love and our need to be loved by the King of Creation, all we have to do is except that love for now and eternity.

Amber: That is beautiful, Ashley! So glad you shared that with us, and I completely agree. So, what do you love the most about Disney movies?

Ashley: That no matter what’s going on in your life, the moment you turn a Disney movie on, you can believe for a moment that dreams really are wishes your heart makes and that with a wonderful thought, some faith and pixie dust, you can fly.

Thank you so much Amber, for the fun interview and I pray you have a blessed and magical birthday this year.

Amber: Thank YOU, Ashley, for visiting us today and for your wonderful responses!!

(Tuck Everlasting picture is from IMDb.com; Sleeping Beauty picture is from IMDb.com; and rose picture is from Families.com.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Disney Birthday Bash with Michelle Griep!

Our second guest this week is Michelle Griep, author of Gallimore and Undercurrent, two amazing time travel romance stories! Earlier this week I posted my review of Undercurrent on The Borrowed Book blog, if you're interested in reading my thoughts on this great book. Read on to learn more about Michelle and find out how you can win a copy of Gallimore!

Amber: Thank you so much for joining us today! Since this week’s theme is “Disney,” could you share with us your favorite Disney movie and why it’s your favorite?

Michelle: Wow. That’s like asking my favorite kind of pizza. Tough call! So I’ll totally cheat and pick a favorite non-animated and a favorite animated…

George of the Jungle is my favorite ‘real people’ Disney flick. I could look at Brendan Fraser’s abs all day long. Seriously. Besides that, though, the story itself is cute and romantic.

Tangled is my favorite animated movie and I can sum up why in two words: Flynn Rider. What a hero! Headstrong and cocky, yet entirely teachable and loyal. The other bonus to this movie is the humor. Hilarious. I rarely laugh out loud, but I almost peed my pants watching this one.

Amber: Those are both very fun movies! Have you ever been to Disneyland or Disney World? If so, do you have a fun memory you could share with us about one of the rides/attractions?

Michelle: I went to Disneyland when I was 7. Being the youngest kid by about 15 years, I was basically an only child. Translation: spoiled rotten. I remember going on the teacup ride, the one with a wheel-type gadget in the middle that is used to spin the cup around. It was my dad’s goal to make me barf. Yes, my family certainly knew how to put the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional. He whipped that teacup around as fast as a tilt-a-whirl on steroids. But ol’ ironsides (my gut) was impossible to break. My dad wasn’t though. He felt pretty woozy by the time we exited.

Amber: "Ol' ironsides," huh? Hahaha, that's a great story! So, which Disney character from any of the Disney movies do you most identify with?

Michelle: Belle from Beauty & The Beast. No, I don’t look that fabulous in a yellow ballgown, and I don’t even know how to waltz. I relate to her because she’s always got her nose stuck in a book, re-reading her favorites and on the lookout for more. Now that’s a kindred spirit!

Amber: I totally understand! Have any of the Disney movies inspired your writing (ie: characters, plot, etc.) in any way?

Michelle: Not an entire movie, but a character: Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. He’s always doing and saying things that are unexpected, kind of out-of-the-norm for what you’d expect a pirate to be like. Outwardly he looks the epitome of the roguish swashbuckler, but there are so many layers to him that don’t fit the typical pirate stereotype. I use that template when creating my characters. Define who they are and then throw in idiosyncrasies that are quirky and endearing.

Amber: Very cool! Gotta love Jack Sparrow. ;) What do you love the most about Disney movies?

Michelle: Happy endings. I can’t think of one that doesn’t have a feel good finale.

Amber: Great answer! So glad to host you here today, Michelle!

Readers, if you would like a chance to win a copy of Gallimore, just leave a comment for Michelle along with your e-mail address! (U.S residents only, please.) A winner will be announced on Friday, June 3rd.

P.S. Doesn't Gallimore's cover fit so well with the Disney/castle theme this week??

(Teacup ride picture from AllEars.Net, and Pirates of the Caribbean 4 picture from IMDb. com.)