Yes, I'm still alive and kicking, but don't have much spare time to even read right now, much less blog. I really miss y'all, and hope everyone is doing well. It's been crazy hectic around here for the last few months. Hubby has been having to travel for work quite a bit lately, so that leaves me all on my lonesome to take care of things here at home. It's really been cutting into my precious reading time. :( He just this evening got back from a 3-day trip to New York, where it was 16-17 degrees, and snowed most of the time he was there. I was totally bummed to not have been allowed to tag along (as it was a business trip) -- I would have loved to try and meet up with Renee and a few other friends up that way. Maybe one day! *fingers crossed*
Well, it's almost Christmas -- again! I simply can not believe how quickly 2010 has flown by -- it just blows my mind! It seems like just last week I was starting my part-time job, which I still love, btw, and planning our summer vacation with my family.
Another reason I haven't been posting any reviews lately is that I was getting really burned out on Christian Fiction romances, and decided to take a much needed break. I've been mixing it up by reading some secular romances, plus, I've finally decided to test out the very popular "vampire" craze. Nothing deep and dark for me though, just some lite, comedic, chick lit -- thank you very much! ;)
Of course, I've read a few Christmas-themed romances already, but not nearly as many as I'd planned on reading. Maybe I can get to more of those come January. I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas, as well as, a Happy New Year. I'm telling y'all now, jic I don't get a chance to post again before the end of the year!
*yawn* My eyes are starting to cross, and I can hardly keep them open -- I guess that means it's time to head to bed. I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend.
Jericho "J.T." Tucker wants nothing to do with the new dressmaker in Coventry, Texas. He's all too familiar with her kind--shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothes, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.
Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?
When Hannah decides to help Jericho's sister catch a beau--leading to consequences neither could have foreseen--will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?
What I thought:
It was a real pleasure getting to know the folks of Coventry, Texas -- and I already miss them!
The romantic tension between J.T. and Hannah is the main focus of the book, but some of the other townsfolk added an extra spark to the story. I especially loved Ezra Culpepper, a lonely old gentleman Hannah takes under her wing, and Tom, J.T.'s friend/helper at the livery. There are lots more, but those 2 stood out especially.
When J.T. learns the new business that's opening up across the street from his livery will be a dressmaker, he is beyond annoyed. He had plans for that particular building, but will have to find another way to be a Good Samaritan. He has a soft spot in his heart for the people in his town, and will do anything in his power to help them out -- especially when it comes to women and children.
Hannah and J.T. have not seen eye-to-eye from day one. She can't figure out what she's done to get J.T. so riled up, but she sure plans to find out. It's very worrisome for her to constantly be wondering what will set him off next. Hannah quickly becomes friends with J.T.'s sister, Delia, who helps her immensely in understanding what makes J.T. tick.
If you haven't had a chance to read Karen's debut release, be sure to pick up a copy as soon as you can -- you don't know what you're missing! I'm already looking forward to reading her next book, Head in the Clouds, though it will not be continuing the story of the wonderful folks of Coventry, Texas. However, Karen does have Bonus Material posted on her website, for those of us who wanted to find out more about Hannah and J.T.'s happy-ever-after. Check it out!
*Thank you to Karen for sending me a copy for review. In no way did her kindness influence my thoughts on her book.*
It is 1878 and the Caldwells and Wainwrights have been feuding for decades. Still, Sarah Caldwell has misgivings when her father pressures her into distracting a ranch hand while he and her brothers rob the Wainwright place. When it becomes clear that hand is actually Cord Wainwright, Sarah realizes she needs to lay low. But Cord spots her in town and, with the sheriff away, makes a citizen's arrest, dragging her off to the Wainwright ranch until the sheriff's return. As the feud boils over, Cord and Sarah make a most inconvenient discovery--they are falling in love. Can they betray their families for love? Or will their families betray them?
Against the beautiful and wild backdrop of the Rocky Mountains comes this sweeping saga of romance, betrayal, and forgiveness from beloved author Kathleen Morgan.
Debbie Carmichael determines to salvage her family's restaurant, Sweet Sal's Soda Shoppe, from financial ruin when her father's health fails. Help is in sight when teen heartthrob Bobby Conrad agrees to perform at a fund-raiser concert. But just two weeks before the highly publicized event, plans fall through and Bobby can't come. Enter Johnny Hartman, a young, unknown singer.
Debbie soon realizes the twists and turns leading up to the concert have been divinely orchestrated. But is it the dreamy Bobby Conrad who ultimately steals her heart...or the tender Johnny Hartman?
What I thought:
Love Me Tender was different than any romance I've read to date. It was my very first experience reading a book in this particular era -- and I found it to be quite interesting. I would love to read more about the Carmichael family, at some point, if Janice decides to make this the start of a new series.
The year is 1957. The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand are all the rage. New talent is showing up left and right. Johnny Hartman comes to Los Angeles, California to follow his dream of becoming a famous singer. He feels that God is leading him to witness to others through his amazing singing ability. After his very first audition, Johnny meets Jim Jangles, who quickly becomes his agent. Johnny moves in with Jim, his wife Theresa, and their son, Toby -- they become his away-from-home family. Toby adds a comedic aspect to the story, as he is always trying to talk his Dad into letting him audition for small parts in commercials, singing auditions, plays, etc. He's a real pistol!
Debbie Carmichael lives in Laguna Beach, California, with her family. She helps run their family restaurant, Sweet Sal's Soda Shoppe. Debbie comes up with a great idea to help her family out of their financial dilemma, brought on by her father's ailing health. They should invite Bobby Conrad to perform a benefit concert at the Soda Shoppe, and take donations instead of selling tickets. Debbie, her sister, Becky Ann, and their friends work very hard to get the news of the upcoming concert out to the public by posting flyers all over town. The women in Laguna Beach go gaa-gaa over Bobby, and are beyond excited that he will be singing for them!
When Debbie and Johnny meet for the first time, sparks seem to fly between them. Johnny falls for Debbie almost immediately, but she's still hung up on her teenage crush, Bobby Conrad. The more time they spend together, Debbie starts to see Johnny in a different light -- maybe she should listen to her heart this time.
Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, Bobby Conrad isn't gonna be able to perform the concert! Debbie, Becky Ann, and their friends are just devastated -- what are they gonna do? -- and on such short notice. Thankfully, Debbie comes up with an iffy plan, and prays really hard that the folks of Laguna Beach will be happy with Bobby's replacement, Johnny Hartman.
To find out more about Janice Hanna Thompson, stop by her website, or blog to find out what she's been up to.
Click HERE to read an interview with the stars of Love Me Tender!!
*A sincere "thank you" to Janice for providing me with a copy of her book for review!*
Emily Rose may be in the tiny West Texas town of Callahan Crossing for the moment, but it's just a rung on her ladder to success. Her work at the Callahan Crossing historical society will look good on her ever-growing resume as she attempts to break into the prestigious world of a big city museum curator.
Little does she know cowboy and contractor Chance Callahan has decided that he can convince her to stay -- both with the town and with him. As he helps Emily restore the town's history after a devastating fire, he also helps her uncover her own hidden worth and the value of love.
What I thought:
Another keeper from Sharon Gillenwater!!
After first meeting the Callahans of Texas in Jenna's Cowboy, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Emily's Chance. Now, I'm impatiently waiting to see what takes place in Megan's Hero (due out 6/1/2011) -- it sounds like another touching story.
We very briefly met Emily Rose at the end of Jenna and Nate's story, when Chance helped her haul boxes out of the Callahan Crossing Historical Museum during the wildfire that destroyed so many homes and businesses. Emily's Chance picks up shortly after. The people of Callahan Crossing are still trying to clean up their town, and rebuild their lives after such devastating losses.
Chance realizes right off the bat that he's fallen head-over-heels for Emily Rose, and feels that she is God's choice for his wife -- now he just needs to be sure Emily feels the same way. He discovers that it won't be as easy as he thought, once he begins to realize she has quite a few issues from her childhood that seriously cloud her vision of her worthiness to any man.
I'm not a huge history fan, so there were a few slower parts (for me personally), but the overall story is heartwarming. I especially like how Chance is so patient with Emily, as she tries to come to terms with her insecurities, and his willingness to sacrifice things in his own life just to help her achieve her personal dreams.
It was such a pleasure to catch-up with the Callahan family again. I really enjoyed getting a peek at how Jenna and Nate's marriage is progressing, as well as, seeing Zach again. He's just the sweetest little boy ever! I also loved watching Dalton and Lindsey's tentative relationship start to grow -- they're gonna make such a cute couple. :)
Be sure to check out Sharon's website to find out more about her books -- you'll be so glad you did!
Click HERE to read my review of Jenna's Cowboy (The Callahans of Texas, #1).
Available October 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Adventure is the last thing on Andrea Henderson's mind when she moves to Moses Lake. After surviving the worst year of her life, she's struggling to build a new life for herself and her son as a social worker. Perhaps in doing a job that makes a difference, she can find some sense of purpose and solace in her shattered faith.
For new Moses Lake game warden Mart McClendon, finding a sense of purpose in life isn't an issue. He took the job to get out of southwest Texas and the constant reminders of a tragedy for which he can't forgive himself.
But when a little girl is seen with the town recluse, Mart and Andrea are drawn together in the search for her identity. The little girl offers them both a new chance at redemption and hope—and may bring them closer than either ever planned.
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
***Special thanks to Ashley Boyer and Staci Carmichael of Waterbrook Multnomah for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Expertly weaving together fantasy, romance and Biblical truths, Donita K. Paul penned the best-selling, fan-favorite DragonKeeper Chronicles series. After retiring early from teaching, she began a second career as an award-winning author and loves serving as a mentor for new writers of all ages. And when she’s not putting pen to paper, Donita makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys spending time with her grandsons, cooking, beading, stamping, and knitting.
List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Christmas. Cora had been trying to catch it for four years. She scurried down the sidewalk, thankful that streetlights and brightly lit storefronts counteracted the gloom of early nightfall. Somewhere, sometime, she’d get a hold of how to celebrate Christmas. Maybe even tonight.
With snowflakes sticking to her black coat, Christmas lights blinking around shop windows, and incessant bells jingling, Cora should have felt some holiday cheer.
And she did.
Just not much.
At least she was on a Christmas errand this very minute. One present for a member of the family. Shouldn’t that count for a bit of credit in the Christmas-spirit department?
Cora planned out her Christmas gift giving in a reasonable manner. The execution of her purchasing schedule gave her a great deal of satisfaction. Tonight’s quest was a book for Uncle Eric—something about knights and castles, sword fights, shining armor, and all that.
One or two gifts purchased each week from Labor Day until December 15, and her obligations were discharged efficiently, economically, and without the excruciating last-minute frenzy that descended upon other people…like her three sisters, her mother, her grandmother, her aunts.
Cora refused to behave like her female relatives and had decided not to emulate the male side of the family either. The men didn’t buy gifts. They sometimes exchanged bottles from the liquor store, but more often they drank the spirits themselves.
Her adult ambition had been to develop her own traditions for the season, ones that sprouted from the Christianity she’d discovered in college. The right way to celebrate the birth of Christ. She avoided the chaos that could choke Christmas. Oh dear. Judgmental again. At least now she recognized when she slipped.
She glanced around Sage Street. Not too many shoppers. The quaint old shops were decked out for the holidays, but not with LED bulbs and inflated cartoon figures.
Since discovering Christianity, she’d been confused about the trappings of Christmas—the gift giving, the nativity scenes, the carols, even the Christmas tree. Every year she tried to acquire some historical background on the festivities. She was learning. She had hope. But she hadn’t wrapped her head around all the traditions yet.
The worst part was shopping.
Frenzy undid her. Order sustained her. And that was a good reason to steer clear of any commercialized holiday rush. She’d rather screw red light bulbs into plastic reindeer faces than push through a crowd of shoppers.
Cora examined the paper in her hand and compared it to the address above the nearest shop. Number 483 on the paper and 527 on the building. Close.
When she’d found the bookstore online, she had been amazed that a row of old-fashioned retailers still existed a few blocks from the high-rise office building where she worked. Truthfully, it was more like the bookstore found her. Every time she opened her browser, and on every site she visited, the ad for the old-fashioned new- and used-book store showed up in a banner or sidebar. She’d asked around, but none of her co-workers patronized the Sage Street Shopping District.
“Sounds like a derelict area to me,” said Meg, the receptionist. “Sage Street is near the old railroad station, isn’t it? The one they decided was historic so they wouldn’t tear it down, even though it’s empty and an eyesore?”
An odd desire to explore something other than the mall near her apartment seized Cora. “I’m going to check it out.”
Jake, the security guard, frowned at her. “Take a cab. You don’t want to be out too late over there.”
Cora walked. The brisk air strengthened her lungs, right? The exercise pumped her blood, right? A cab would cost three, maybe four dollars, right?
An old man, sitting on the stoop of a door marked 503, nodded at her. She smiled, and he winked as he gave her a toothless grin. Startled, she quickened her pace and gladly joined the four other pedestrians waiting at the corner for the light to change.
Number 497 emblazoned the window of an ancient shoe store on the opposite corner. She marched on. In this block she’d find the book and check another item off her Christmas list.
Finally! “Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad, Books,” Cora read the sign aloud and then grasped the shiny knob. It didn’t turn. She frowned. Stuck? Locked? The lights were on. She pressed her face against the glass. A man sat at the counter. Reading. How appropriate.
Cora wrenched the knob. A gust of wind pushed with her against the door, and she blew into the room. She stumbled and straightened, and before she could grab the door and close it properly, it swung closed, without the loud bang she expected.
“I don’t like loud noises,” the man said without looking up from his book.
“Neither do I,” said Cora.
He nodded over his book. With one gnarled finger, he pushed his glasses back up his nose.
Must be an interesting book. Cora took a quick look around. The place could use stronger lights. She glanced back at the clerk. His bright lamp cast him and his book in a golden glow.
Should she peruse the stacks or ask?
She decided to browse. She started to enter the aisle between two towering bookcases.
“Not there,” said the old man.
“I beg your pardon?” said Cora.
“How-to books. How to fix a leaky faucet. How to build a bridge. How to mulch tomatoes. How to sing opera. How-to books. You don’t need to know any of that, do you?”
“Wrong aisle, then.” He placed the heavy volume on the counter and leaned over it, apparently absorbed once more.
Cora took a step toward him. “I think I saw a movie like this once.”
His head jerked up, his scowl heavier. He glared over the top of his glasses at the books on the shelves as if they had suddenly moved or spoken or turned bright orange.
“A movie? Here? I suppose you mean the backdrop of a bookstore. Not so unusual.” He arched an eyebrow. “You’ve Got Mail and 84 Charing Cross Road.”
“I meant the dialogue. You spoke as if you knew what I needed.”
He hunched his shoulders. The dark suspenders stretched across the faded blue of his shirt. “Reading customers. Been in the business a long time.”
“I’m looking for a book for my uncle. He likes castles, knights, tales of adventure. That sort of thing.”
He sighed, closed his book, and tapped its cover. “This is it.” He stood as Cora came to the desk. “Do you want me to wrap it and send it? We have the service. My grandson’s idea.”
Cora schooled her face and her voice. One of the things she excelled in was not showing her exasperation. She’d been trained by a dysfunctional family, and that had its benefits. She knew how to take guff and not give it back. Maintaining a calm attitude was a good job skill.
She tried a friendly smile and addressed the salesclerk.
“I want to look at it first and find out how much it costs.”
“It’s the book you want, and the price is eleven dollars and thirteen cents.”
Cora rubbed her hand over the cover. It looked and felt like leather, old leather, but in good repair. The book must be ancient.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Which?” the old man barked.
“Which part of the statement am I sure about? It doesn’t matter because I’m sure about both.”
Cora felt her armor of detachment suffer a dent. The man was impossible. She could probably order a book online and get it wrapped and delivered right to her uncle with less aggravation. But dollar signs blinked in neon red in her mind as she thought how much that would cost. No need to be hasty.
Curtain rings rattled on a rod, and Cora looked up to see a younger version of the curmudgeon step into the area behind the counter.
The younger man smiled. He had the same small, wiry build as the older version, but his smile was warm and genuine. He looked to be about fifty, but his hair was still black, as black as the old man’s hair was white. He stretched out his hand, and Cora shook it.
“I’m Bill Wizbotterdad. This is my granddad, William Wizbotterdad.”
“Let me guess. Your father is named Will?”
Bill grinned, obviously pleased she’d caught on quickly. “Willie Wizbotterdad. He’s off in Europe collecting rare books.”
“He’s not!” said the elder shop owner.
“He is.” Bill cast his granddad a worried look.
“That’s just the reason he gave for not being here.” William shook his head and leaned across the counter. “He doesn’t like Christmas. We have a special job to do at Christmas, and he doesn’t like people and dancing and matrimony.”
Bill put his arm around his grandfather and pulled him back. He let go of his granddad and spun the book on the scarred wooden counter so that Cora could read the contents. “Take a look.” He opened the cover and flipped through the pages. “Colored illustrations.”
A rattling of the door knob was followed by the sound of a shoulder thudding against the wood. Cora turned to see the door fly open with a tall man attached to it. The stranger brushed snow from his sleeves, then looked up at the two shop owners. Cora caught them giving each other a smug smile, a wink, and a nod of the head.
Odd. Lots of oddness in this shop.
She liked the book, and she wanted to leave before more snow accumulated on the streets. Yet something peculiar about this shop and the two men made her curious. Part of her longed to linger. However, smart girls trusted their instincts and didn’t hang around places that oozed mystery. She didn’t feel threatened, just intrigued. But getting to know the peculiar booksellers better was the last thing she wanted, right? She needed to get home and be done with this Christmas shopping business. “I’ll take the book.”
The newcomer stomped his feet on the mat by the door, then took off his hat.
Cora did a double take. “Mr. Derrick!”
He cocked his head and scrunched his face. “Do I know you?” The man was handsome, even wearing that comical lost expression. “Excuse me. Have we met?”
“We work in the same office.”
He studied her a moment, and a look of recognition lifted the frown. “Third desk on the right.” He hesitated, then snapped his fingers. “Cora Crowden.”
He jammed his hand in his pocket, moving his jacket aside. His tie hung loosely around his neck. She’d never seen him looking relaxed. The office clerks called him Serious Simon Derrick.
“I drew your name,” she said.
He looked puzzled.
“For the gift exchange. Tomorrow night. Office party.”
“Oh. Of course.” He nodded. “I drew Mrs. Hudson. She’s going to retire, and I heard her say she wanted to redecorate on a shoestring.”
“That’s Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Hudson is taking leave to be with her daughter, who is giving birth to triplets.”
He frowned and began looking at the books.
“You won’t be there, will you?” Cora asked.
“At the party? No, I never come.”
“I know. I mean, I’ve worked at Sorenby’s for five years, and you’ve never been there.”
The puzzled expression returned to Serious Simon’s face. He glanced to the side. “I’m looking for the how-to section.”
Cora grinned. “On your left. Second aisle.”
He turned to stare at her, and she pointed to the shelves Mr. Wizbotterdad had not let her examine. Mr. Derrick took a step in that direction.
Cora looked back at the shop owners and caught them leaning back in identical postures, grins on their faces, and arms crossed over their chests.
Bill jerked away from the wall, grabbed her book, rummaged below the counter, and brought out a bag. He slid the book inside, then looked at her. “You didn’t want the book wrapped and delivered?”
“No, I’ll just pay for it now.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to look around some more?” asked Bill.
“Right,” said William. “No hurry. Look around. Browse. You might find something you like.”
Bill elbowed William.
Simon Derrick had disappeared between the stacks.
William nodded toward the how-to books. “Get a book. We have a copy of How to Choose Gifts for Ungrateful Relatives. Third from the bottom shelf, second case from the wall.”
The statement earned him a “shh” from his grandson.
Cora shifted her attention to the man from her office and walked a few paces to peek around the shelves. “Mr. Derrick, I’m getting ready to leave. If you’re not coming to the party, may I just leave the gift on your desk tomorrow?”
He glanced at her before concentrating again on the many books. “That’s fine. Nice to see you, Miss Crowden.”
“Crowder,” she corrected, but he didn’t answer.
She went to the counter and paid. Mr. Derrick grunted when she said good-bye at the door.
“Come back again,” said Bill.
“Yes,” said William. “We have all your heart’s desires.”
Bill elbowed him, and Cora escaped into the blustering weather.
She hiked back to the office building. Snow sprayed her with tiny crystals, and the sharp wind nipped her nose. Inside the parking garage, warm air helped her thaw a bit as she walked to the spot she leased by the month. It would be a long ride home on slippery roads. But once she arrived, there would be no one there to interrupt her plans. She got in the car, turned the key, pushed the gearshift into reverse, looked over her shoulder, and backed out of her space.
She would get the gift ready to mail off and address a few cards in the quiet of her living room. There would be no yelling. That’s what she liked about living states away from her family. No one would ambush her with complaints and arguments when she walked through the door.
Except Skippy. Skippy waited. One fat, getting fatter, cat to talk to. She did complain at times about her mistress being gone too long, about her dinner being late, about things Cora could not fathom. But Cora never felt condemned by Skippy, just prodded a little.
Once inside her second-floor apartment, she pulled off her gloves, blew her nose, and went looking for Skippy.
The cat was not behind the curtain, sitting on the window seat, staring at falling snow. Not in her closet, curled up in a boot she’d knocked over. Not in the linen closet, sleeping on clean towels. She wasn’t in any of her favorite spots. Cora looked around and saw the paper bag that, this morning, had been filled with wadded scraps of Christmas paper. Balls of pretty paper and bits of ribbon littered the floor. There. Cora bent over and spied her calico cat in the bag.
“Did you have fun, Skippy?”
The cat rolled on her back and batted the top of the paper bag. Skippy then jumped from her cave and padded after Cora, as her owner headed for the bedroom.
Thirty minutes later, Cora sat at the dining room table in her cozy pink robe that enveloped her from neck to ankles. She stirred a bowl of soup and eyed the fifteen packages she’d wrapped earlier in the week. Two more sat waiting for their ribbons.
These would cost a lot less to send if some of these people were on speaking terms. She could box them together and ship them off in large boxes.
She spooned chicken and rice into her mouth and swallowed.
The soup was a tad too hot. She kept stirring.
She could send one package with seven gifts inside to Grandma Peterson, who could dispense them to her side of the family. She could send three to Aunt Carol.
She took another sip. Cooler.
Aunt Carol could keep her gift and give two to her kids. She could send five to her mom…
Cora grimaced. She had three much older sisters and one younger. “If Mom were on speaking terms with my sisters, that would help.”
She eyed Skippy, who had lifted a rear leg to clean between her back toes. “You don’t care, do you? Well, I’m trying to. And I think I’m doing a pretty good job with this Christmas thing.”
She reached over and flipped the switch on her radio. A Christmas carol poured out and jarred her nerves. She really should think about Christmas and not who received the presents. Better to think “my uncle” than “Joe, that bar bum and pool shark.”
She finished her dinner, watching her cat wash her front paws.
“You and I need to play. You’re”—she paused as Skippy turned
a meaningful glare at her—“getting a bit rotund, dear kitty.”
Skippy sneezed and commenced licking her chest.
After dinner, Cora curled up on the couch with her Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad bag. Skippy came to investigate the rattling paper.
Uncle Eric. Uncle Eric used to recite “You Are Old, Father William.” He said it was about a knight. But Cora wasn’t so sure. She dredged up memories from college English. The poem was by Lewis Carroll, who was really named Dodson, Dogson, Dodgson, or something.
“He wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” she said. “There’s a cat in the story, but not as fine a cat as you. He smiles too much.”
Skippy gave her a squint-eyed look.
Cora eased the leather-bound book out of the bag. “The William I met at the bookstore qualifies for at least ancient.”
She put the book in her lap and ran her fingers over the embossed title: How the Knights Found Their Ladies.
She might have been hasty. She didn’t know if Uncle Eric would like this. She hefted the book, guessing its weight to be around four pounds. She should have found a lighter gift. This would cost a fortune to mail.
Skippy sniffed at the binding, feline curiosity piqued. Cora stroked her fur and pushed her back. She opened the book to have a peek inside. A piece of thick paper fell out. Skippy pounced on it as it twirled to the floor.
“What is it, kitty? A bookmark?” She slipped it out from between Skippy’s paws, then turned the rectangle over in her hands. Not a bookmark. A ticket.
Admit one to the Wizards’ Christmas Ball
Dinner and Dancing
and your Destiny
Never heard of it. She tucked the ticket in between the pages and continued to flip through the book, stopping to read an occasional paragraph.
This book wasn’t for Uncle Eric at all. It was not a history, it was a story. Kind of romantic too. Definitely not Uncle Eric’s preferred reading.
Skippy curled against her thigh and purred.
“You know what, cat? I’m going to keep it.”
Skippy made her approval known by stretching her neck up and rubbing her chin on the edge of the leather cover. Cora put the book on the sofa and picked up Skippy for a cuddle. The cat squirmed out of her arms, batted at the ticket sticking out of the pages, and scampered off.
“I love you too,” called Cora.
She pulled the ticket out and read it again: Wizards’ Christmas Ball. She turned out the light and headed for bed. But as she got ready, her eye caught the computer on her desk. Maybe she could find a bit more information.
What I thought:
One of the things I love most about the Christmas season is collecting Christmas-themed romances to read while snuggled up in front of a crackling fire, with a hot cup of cocoa nearby. I was so excited when I saw Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball offered for review by FIRST Wild Card Tours, and requested my copy right away!
Well, let me tell you, it wasn't at all what I expected. It's unlike any Christmas romance I've ever read. I knew going in that it would be different -- Donita K. Paul is known for her Science Fiction/Fantasy novels -- I just didn't realize it would be so "magical".
The story revolves around Cora Crowder and her boss's boss, Simon Derrick. Cora lives alone with her calico kitty, Skippy. She has trouble "finding" her Christmas spirit, due to her very dysfunctional family, whom she left behind as quickly as she could. Cora has her own Christmas traditions that she looks forward to every year, and has never felt inclined to accept other's offers to spend the holidays with them.
Simon, on the other hand, thrives on love for his family. He is the breadwinner for his close-knit family, which includes his Mother, Aunt Mae, Granddad, and his precious sister, Sandy. Simon has always had a hard time finding a suitable date, so he's kinda given up on looking -- until he meets Cora. There's just something about her, and he can't seem to get her out of his mind.
My favorite character is Simon's sister, Sandy. She's twenty-four, and has Down's syndrome, which makes her very endearing. Sandy and Simon's relationship was a blessing to see! She does her part to get Simon and Cora together. :)
When three landowning women put an ad in the paper expressing their desire for healthy, hard-working husbands-for-hire to help them set up and run a sawmill, they never dreamed their tiny town would be overflowing with proposals from bachelors who responded promptly...and in person!
Out of this logjam of potential suitors, which one will Evelyn Thompson choose?
Jacob Grainger trails his brother's murderer to Hopesfall where, to keep his true intentions secret, Jacob pretends to court Miss Evelyn Thompson.
Will this lumberjack-turned-bounty-hunter find himself falling for the enterprising female?
One man lives to see her dead--the other is fighting to keep her alive.
Twelve years ago, forensic anthropologist Jamie Cash survived a brutal kidnapping. After years of therapy, she has made a life for herself--though one that is haunted by memories of her terrifying past. She finally lets herself believe that she can have a close relationship with a man, when signs start appearing that point to one frightening fact--her attacker is back and ready to finish the job he started all those years ago.
Can she escape his grasp a second time? And will she ever be able to let down her guard enough to find true love?
Filled with heart-stopping suspense, gritty realism, and a touch of romance, Don't Look Back pulls you into its twists and turns to hold you there until the very last page.
What I thought:
Yet another terrifying, edge-of-your-seat suspense from Lynette Eason! She has quickly made a permanent spot for herself on my Top 10 "must read authors" list. I just can't seem to get enough! I don't know how I'm gonna survive until book #3, A Killer Among Us, releases in May 2011. *SIGH*
Don't Look Back is Jamie Cash's story. We first met Jamie in her sister Samantha's story, Too Close To Home. I have to tell you right now, Jamie's story is a LOT more graphic, and down-right sickening, imo. I'm not normally a violent person, but if I could have gotten close enough to "the Hero" -- I would have been tempted to kill him myself. This guy is the creepiest of creeps. Just like in the first book, I knew who "the Hero" was as soon as I met him. He just seemed to radiate evil, even in the most normal of circumstances.
The Cash family feels like a part of my family, I just love them all! Especially Jamie -- it just amazes me how strong her relationship is with God, after all she's been through. She turns to Him anytime she has a problem, whether big or small, and that's a great lesson for us all. Watching Jamie as she tries her hardest to find out who is responsible for kidnapping, and killing, all the teenage girls that keep turning up was really heart-breaking. You can see how tough it is for her to face her horrific past, as well as her own panic, because she knows in her heart that she will once again be in the clutches of "the Hero" before his reign of terror comes to an end.
Can I puh-leeze take a minute to talk about FBI Special Agent Dakota Richards? OH. MY. Stars! *dreamy sigh* He is such a sweetheart! Dakota has been in love with Jamie since practically the moment he met her, but he realizes that she still has issues dealing with her very scary, very traumatizing past. He's there for Jamie no matter what, and it is SO romantic to watch their relationship slowly build amidst the tragic events that are currently taking place in their lives.
It still amazes me to no end that I even LIKE this series, much less LOVE it! Normally, I can't handle reading stories such as these, but Lynette just has this incredible ability to hook me from the very first page. I read each of these books in a matter of hours!
Please, please, please get your hands on this series as quickly as you can -- I think you'll be really glad you did! Be sure to visit Lynette Eason at her website, or her blog, in the meantime.
*I can't thank Donna @ Revell enough for allowing me to review this book --thank you!*
Doctor Lisa Harper is determined to rescue her mother, Annie, from an abusive husband and end the separation they've endured since Lisa was sixteen.
If not for security expert Mark Taylor, Lisa's devoted friend who's loved her from afar for years, Lisa wouldn't know if her mother was dead or alive. But her stepfather refuses to let Lisa interfere, so he hires NINA a multinational organized crime group, to assault Annie, to lure Lisa out into the open where she's abducted.
If you haven't had the pleasure of reading the first book in Vicki's spectacular Crossroads Crisis Center series -- be sure to check out Forget Me Not (also available as an e-book!) before reading Deadly Ties.
THE FBI HAS A SECRET WEAPON. BUT NOW THE SECRETS OUT.
When missing teens begin turning up dead in a small Southern town, the FBI sends in Special Agent Samantha Cash to help crack the case. Her methods are invisible, and she never quits until the case is closed.
Homicide detective Connor Wolfe has his hands full. His relationship with his headstrong daughter is in a tailspin, and the string of unsolved murders has the town demanding answers. Connor is running out of ideas -- and time.
Samantha joins Connor in a race against the clock to save the next victim. And the killer starts to get personal.
Too Close to Home ratchets up the suspense with each page even as love blossoms in the face of danger. Read this one with the lights on!
What I thought:
WOW...just...WOW! I don't even know where to start!
This was my first taste of Lynette Eason's spell-binding suspense, but it most definitely will NOT be my last! Too Close to Home grabbed me from page one, and didn't let go 'til the very end. I devoured it in less than 6 hours -- with a few annoying interruptions. ;)
Even though there were times I wasn't sure I could go on, I just could NOT put this book down! Those of you who know me well will understand what I mean by not being able to go on. I'm not a fan of in-depth descriptions of murderous crimes -- or anything involving blood, gore, intense cruelty, etc. -- but, I seem to be drawn to them regardless. I'm SO glad I took the time to read Too Close to Home, and I am SO excited that I get to read book #2, Don't Look Back, over the weekend. HOORAY!!!
I always try my hardest to unravel the mystery as quickly as possible, but usually end up being completely bowled-over in the last few pages. However, I'm happy to say, I actually figured this one out in just a few chapters. I'm not sure what gave it away, but something just clicked and I knew who "The Agent" was, as well as, the reasons behind his horrendous actions. It cast a completely different aspect on the story -- because I could see it from both sides -- which was an intriguing change of pace.
The story revolves around teenage girls being propositioned by an online predator, who they believe to be a modeling agent. He chats with them until they get comfortable enough to send their picture to him, and eventually agree to meet him in person. In this day and age, with technology so easily accessible by kids and teens -- this is a scary reality check for any parent.
I wasn't sure how God would be incorporated into this gripping story, but Ms. Eason made everything flow so perfectly that I was amazed with how naturally He fit into every situation. It just goes to show that God really is there for us, no matter what struggles or hardships we may face on a day-to-day basis.
To find out more about Lynette Eason and/or her books, be sure to visit her website, or her blog.
U.S. Marshal Jake Taylor has seen plenty of action during his years in law enforcement. But he'd rather go back to Iraq than face his next assignment: protection detail for federal judge Liz Michaels. His feelings toward Liz haven't warmed in the five years since she lost her husband--and Jake's best friend--to possible suicide. How can Jake be expected to care for the cold-hearted workaholic who drove his friend to despair?
As the danger mounts and Jake gets to know Liz better, his feelings slowly start to change. When it becomes clear that an unknown enemy may want her dead, the stakes are raised. Because now both her life--and his heart--are in mortal danger.
Full of the suspense and romance Irene Hannon's fans have come to love, Fatal Judgmentis a thrilling story that will keep readers turning the pages late into the night.
CONGRATULATIONS!!! You're in for a fabulous treat! Enjoy! :)
There were 12 items in your list. Here they are in random order: 1. Molly 2. Diana 3. Carole 4. Michelle 5. Sara 6. Hannah 7. MaidenOfEmmanuel 8. Thou Art Jules 9. Lulu 10. Gayle Polluck 11. Martha Lawson 12. Cynthia
"On Christmas Eve, if you sleep with kismet cookies under your pillow and dream of your one true love, he will be your destiny."
The townsfolk of Twilight, Texas, believe the legend, but not Sarah Collier - not since she was a pudgy teenager, running down the church aisle on Christmas Day in a jingle bell sweater and reindeer antlers, trying to stop Travis Walker from marrying someone else. She may be grown-up, slimmed-down, bestselling children's book author "Sadie Cool" now, but Sarah will never forget that day. And she'll never fall foolishly in love again!
But when a letter from a sick fan brings Sarah back to Twilight, she's shocked to discover that Travis is the little girl's father - unattached and hotter than ever. His smile still makes her melt, but Sarah knows that ship has sailed. Travis, however, might have different ideas.
My first *and bestest ever!* blog buddy just made my day with a brand new award -- thank you SO much, Renee! You're too sweet! Y'all please be sure to pop over and check out Renee's blog -- Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot -- you'll be hooked for life. She posts lots of great reviews on lots of different books/genres. :)
Isn't this award the cutest? Y'all know I love the "patchwork" daisies!
I would like to pass this fabulous award along to a few more of my bestest blog buddies:
Are you a huge "Julie" fan? Do you enjoy passionate romances? Have you been desperately trying to get your hands on Julie's newest release, or maybe one of her Daughters of Boston titles?
Well, if you enthusiastically answered "YES!!" to any of these questions -- you're in the right place, at exactly the right time!
Julie has dropped by for an interview, and will be giving away a signed copy of one of her books to one lucky commenter at the end of the interview.
GOOD LUCK everyone!!
(I'm sorry some of the formatting is wacky. I can't seem to fix it.)
Welcome, Julie -- I am honored *and excited!* to have you visit us today! I feel it's only fair to warn y'all up front, that Julie and I both love to talk, so this could get a little long! ;) Let's get right to it..........
me:Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I’m a baby boomer married to a man who makes me feel like I’m living my own personal romance novel. I have a 27-year-old son married to a wonderful girl who is a doctor (and for whom I have prayed for since my son was a baby!) and a 22-year-old daughter in law school who hates to read. And, yes, it’s true – I paid her $20 just to read the first chapter of A Passion Most Pure. I’m happy to say it hooked her, and the rest of the book and the other three didn’t cost me a dime! :) My husband of 32 years is an artist/designer, and we are together 24/7 and actually love it—working back-to-back in a tiny, little office when I’m not outside on the deck with my laptop and hazelnut coffee.
me: That's funny! At least you didn't have to pay your daughter but the one time. If it were me, I would be giving you your money back -- I was hooked on the first page! :D
me: How do you choose your characters names/book titles?
As far as character names, mostly I go with what feels right. For instance, in the original manuscript I wrote at the age of 12, the heroine’s name was Faith O’Connor, just like in A Passion Most Pure (which is based on that early manuscript). Of course, I wasn’t a girl of “faith” back then, so I’m not sure why I named her that, but I did. Ironically, it suits her perfectly in A Passion Most Pure because she is the consummate woman of “faith.”
The names of her parents Marcy and Patrick were also from that early manuscript, but I ditched the original names for Faith’s rival sister, Charity, and the bad-boy hero, Collin, because their names were, well, pretty awful! Are you ready?? Charity was Del, short for “Delatha,” and Collin was “Bart.” Don’t even ask me what I was thinking at the age of 12 except that I do remember liking the TV show Maverick, which featured a handsome character named Bart Maverick. When I came to my senses, I chose Charity’s name because Faith had a twin named “Hope” who died at the age of 9, and I was going for “Faith, Hope and Charity.” And Collin’s name, pure and simple, came from a listing of Irish male names.
As far as book titles, my original name for the “The Daughters of Boston” series was “The Wind of God” series because I wanted each of my titles to be a “wind” Scripture. A Passion Most Pure was originally A Chasing After the Wind from Ecclesiastes 2:26, A Passion Redeemed was Chaff before the Wind from Psalm 83:13-16, and A Passion Denied was On the Wings of the Wind, Psalm 104:1-4.
After Revell said the original titles above had to go, I came up with the title of A Passion Most Pure for book 1 along with about 80 others (yes, I am a bit anal), but I admit that I did not like it at first. My daughter remarked, “Mom, will anybody really buy a romance novel with the word ‘pure’ in the title?” Unfortunately, I wondered the same thing, but as usual, Revell knew what they were doing, and I now feel the title fits perfectly—reflecting not only romantic passion that strives to remain pure, but passion for God, which really is “A Passion Most Pure.”
I was, however, sad to let go of my original title of A Chasing After the Wind from Ecclesiastes, which is pretty much the theme that is woven throughout that book, so Revell let me keep that Scripture on the opening page, as they did for the next two books as well.
You see, for me, “wind” is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, which fits because Faith is "chasing after the wind," that is, the Holy Spirit or God's leading in her life. Collin, too, is "chasing after the wind," but in his case, it is the wind of futility, chasing after his will (sin) rather than God's, which according to Solomon, is "meaningless" and nothing more than “a chasing after the wind.” I do, however, have a less spiritual reason (and maybe a bit silly one) for having originally chosen that title. Because of my obsession with Gone With the Wind—I always wanted to write a book with the word “wind” in the title. And I got my wish, sort of. Revell chose the name “Winds of Change” for my second 3-book series and I LOVE it!!
me: Seriously?!?!?! Del and Bart? *giggling* I just don't think Collin would have being the "bad-boy hero" that he is with a name like "Bart"! And, Del just doesn't fit Charity at all. I'm so glad you decided to change their names. ;)
me: Do you have a favorite sport?
Actually, no. My husband and I were into biking until about three years ago before I was published, always heading out to the Katy Trail or other bike trail in the St. Louis area. But we’ve both been so busy lately, me with my books and my husband with his design business, that the closest we get to sports today is him with his HD-TV and me with the athletic ventures of my heroes in my books.
me: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Gosh, a LONG time ago, at the tender age of twelve after reading Gone With the Wind, a novel that swept me away into the world of romance for the very first time. It captured me like no other book had done, and I immediately set out to write (along with thousands of other love-struck young girls, I’m sure), what I hoped would be “the great American novel.” Obviously my dreams of grandeur didn’t go anywhere, but I did write 150 pages of a story that became the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure.
Fast forward almost forty years later—I was sitting in a beauty parlor reading a Newsweek magazine July 16, 2001 cover article about Christian entertainment. It said Christian books, movies and music were on the threshold of exploding. My heart jumped, and something in my spirit said, “It’s time to finish your book.” Now, I have to be honest—up until that moment, I had never seriously considered writing a book. But the pull was so strong, that I started writing A Passion Most Pure one month later. And now writing is my full-time career ever since I gave up my part-time job as a travel writer to pursue writing novels full time. But trust me … it didn’t come with a pay raise … :)
me: I think I speak for all your fans when I say I'm so glad you decided to follow that "pull"! Everyone who has the pleasure of reading your books can't help but have God touch them in some way, even if they don't realize it at the time.
me: How did you come to know the Lord?
Well, it’s not a pretty story, except for the ending, of course!! :) I was a 23-year-old hard-nosed agnostic from a devout but dysfunctional Catholic family of 13 kids. I was so angry at God that I actually used to say I wanted to burn Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms. As a wild child of the 60s and 70s, I tried everything to be happy—from astrology and tarot cards … to transcendental meditation and witchcraft—you name it. My vocabulary would have made a sailor blush. Suffice it to say that I was pretty angry at God. According to the world’s standards, I had everything going for me—a hunky boyfriend with a Corvette and a boat, a great job, my own apartment (at a time when other friends still lived at home), and I was acing an advanced writing course at Washington U., a prestigious college in St. Louis. But I wasn’t happy. I felt a lot like Peggy Lee singing, “Is that all there is?”
Then one day, this annoying gal at work approached me. She had a lesser job than me, was divorced with a kid and no boyfriend in sight. I hated her because she came in humming every day, happy as a lark while I was utterly miserable. And then it happened—one life-altering moment when she and I were alone—I looked up from my typewriter and said, “Just what in the heck (except my language was a bit saltier back then) makes you so happy all the time?” She said, “I’ve been praying you would ask.”
Oh, no, a Jesus freak, I thought to myself, but I found myself going to lunch with her, badgering her with questions and accusations. I don’t remember now if it was weeks or months, but either way, I met Jesus Christ through the remarkable patience of a God-sent angel by the name of Joy—pretty appropriate name, eh?
Since then, my life has been a journey of “joy,” because EVERYTHING with Jesus Christ at the center is pure joy—especially romance! So you might say that my books are my love letters to a God whose love took me from the dark into His glorious light, and I hope and pray it brings Him the glory He so richly deserves.
me: That's a wonderful testimony, Julie! Thank you for sharing.
me: What are you currently reading -- when you're not working?
Oh, it’s been a realllly good month for reading, let me tell you! Believe it or not, I manage to get about 4-5 books read in a month just by reading in the car while my husband is driving, on powder-room breaks, briefly before bedtime and while waiting in checkout lines and at doctor’s appointments.
First off, there was Mary Connealy’s Doctor in Petticoats (love Mary’s humor!), then MaryLu Tyndall’s Surrender the Heart (love MaryLu’s romantic edge and tense adventure!), Myra Johnson’s Where the Dogwood Blooms (probing spiritual message and romance that is wonderfully sigh-worthy), Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz (Laura always packs an emotional punch with a story and characters as alive and real as my own family), and finally, my current read (and I’m almost done!) is Melanie Dickerson’s The Healer’s Apprentice, which is simply a delightful medieval YA that is pure magic. Yep, all in all, a very good month!
me: YAY! You've finally had a chance to read -- I'm so happy for you! I've read a couple of those, so I know you've been enjoying yourself.
me: Name one food that you just cannot stand?!?!
That would be, of course, the same food nobody else can stand either—liver. But two things that a lot of people love but I can’t abide are … dumplings and Heath candy bars … two of my hubby’s favorites. Uh, except not together!
me: I'm with you on the liver and dumplings, but I gotta go with your hubby on the Heath bars -- yum!
me: What is your fave vacation spot, or dream vacation?
Mmmm … a beach bungalow on an unspoiled tropical island with my husband and lots of my favorite things—good friends, great books and old movies.
me: Sounds great!
me: Do you have a favorite sitcom/TV series that you just hate to miss?
Funny you should ask! My husband and I just finished ten seasons of JAG with David James Elliott (sigh), and at first, I wasn’t sure our marriage would survive after the last episode! ;)
You see, I watch almost NO television anymore due to lack of time, but my husband got in to the habit of watching reruns of the old TV show JAG on his HD-TV (he LOVES that thing!). So I thought the first season on DVD would be a great Christmas gift and I bought it, realizing he probably wouldn’t watch it but still figured it was a great “surprise” gift.
Well … he didn’t watch it … that is, until I agreed to watch it with him on my laptop, the two of us tucked all warm and snug in bed (it was a cold January as I recall!). Well, that did it. We enjoyed the cozy atmosphere of watching that truly terrific show SO much, that we bought the next season and then the next … until we were in hock on DVDs to the tune of $250 or so, but I have to admit, it was SO worth it!! We finished the last episode of the tenth season about a month ago, and we are still going through withdrawal and actually contemplating watching them over again … Yeah, yeah, I know—we need to get a life! :)
me: Hubby and I used to watch JAG, too. I was quite upset when it ended. David James Elliott would make a great Collin! *BIG sigh*
me: Please share 5 random things we don't know about you. :)
1.) I’m a Duck Tape Queen! I’ve used it for every and anything—from wadding around a rod to lift sheers up an inch off the floor (my husband HATED that one!) to taping it over itchy labels in a blouse or mending a tear in my purse. You see, I’m dirt-practical like my father used to be. Although he was an eye surgeon, that man would throw a wad of string over the telephone wire outside his bedroom window so he could tell which way the wind was blowing. :)
2.) I’m a freak about ambiance. I have to have candles lit when I watch TV or eat dinner or visit with friends, and the lighting has to be turned down real low. Which drives my husband crazy because he likes to actually see his food, so we do compromise.
3.) I’m not a girly-girl, meaning I’m not big on diamonds and flowers and shopping, contrary to my daughter! In fact, about 15 years ago, the diamond in my engagement ring fell out of its setting while I was cleaning, and I never did find it. Told my husband I didn’t want another one because a diamond on your hand just gets caught on fabric and things like that. But oh, boy, cheap costume jewelry, especially dangle earrings?? To die for!! :)
4.) I dressed up like a Southern bell with hoop skirts and upsweep hairdo for my very first job at age 16. I was a concession girl at a new theatre that featured Gone With the Wind as their first movie—how cool is that!!
5.) I have 40 nieces and nephews who are all married, so the first 100 people at all of our family weddings are … well, family!!
me: I love finding out interesting info about my favorite authors -- thanks for sharing!
me: Where can everyone find you online?
Through my Web site at www.julielessman.com, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter at http://www.julielessman.com/sign-up-for-newsletter/. My newsletter is chock-full of fun info on my books and there’s always a contest featuring signed book giveaways and currently, a contest to have a character named after you in my next book! Also, I have a cool feature on my website called “Journal Jots” (http://www.julielessman.com/journal-jots/), which is a very laid-back ongoing journal to my reader friends that would give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog (http://seekerville.blogspot.com/), a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.
Thanks, Lori, for allowing me to connect with your readers and God bless!
Thank you, again, Julie for stopping by for an interview -- it's been great having you here. Until next time! *HUGS*
Rules for the giveaway:
* Void where prohibited.
* U.S. residents only please.
* Leave a comment.
* You MUST be a follower, if you're not you can sign up now using Google Friend Connect, under My Followers. Please leave a valid email address in your comment so I can reach you, if you're the lucky winner! Example: sugarandgrits at hotmail dot com
* Giveaway runs from October 4, 2010 thru October 7, 2010 at 11:59 PM EST. Any comments made after that time will not count.
* The winner will be announced on October 8, 2010. I will contact the winner via email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond (once the email is sent), or another name will be drawn. ~ Neither the author, nor myself, is responsible for prizes lost in the mail. ~