Monday Musings…Books Coming Out in October!

Sometimes the courage to face your greatestfears comes only when you’ve run out of ways to escape.

At the end of a long night, Elizabeth leans against the industrialoven and takes in her kingdom. Once vibrant and flawless, evenings in thekitchen now feel chaotic and exhausting. She’s lost her culinary magic, andbusiness is slowing down.

When worried investors enlist the talents of a tech-savvycelebrity chef to salvage the restaurant, Elizabeth feels the ground shiftbeneath her feet. Not only has she lost her touch; she’s losing her dream.

And her means of escape.

When her mother died, Elizabeth fled home and the overwhelmingsense of pain and loss. But fifteen years later, with no other escapesavailable, she now returns. Brimming with desperation and dread, Elizabethfinds herself in the unlikeliest of places, by her sister’s side in Seattle asJane undergoes chemotherapy.

As her new life takes the form of care, cookery, and classic literature,Elizabeth is forced to reimagine her future and reevaluate her past. But can aNew York City chef with a painful history settle down with the family she onceabandoned . . . and make peace with the sister who once abandoned her?

Shy and unattractive as a child, Megan McClare has always been teased by her classmates. But when she returns home from her senior year in Paris, the wallflower has suddenly blossomed into a beauty. With ambitions to become a lawyer or doctor, Megan accepts an internship at the district attorney’s office only to discover that she will be working with Devin Caldwell, a boy who mercilessly mocked her at school–and with whom she was hopelessly enamored. She turns to her dear friend Bram Hughes for support and advice. But Bram’s vision is clouded by his sudden unwelcome attraction to a girl he had always thought of as a kid sister. He advises forgiveness, but can he forgive himself for pushing the woman he loves into the arms of another man?

Fan favorite Julie Lessman draws a romantic triangle that will have readers in a tizzy in this glittering Gilded Age tale of transforming love.

Can a decades-long friendship marred by two romantic missteps ever lead to happily ever after?

Sadie McAllister’s clients know how lucky they are to have her: an ultra-fastidious personal chef who leaves behind a spotless kitchen and a week’s worth of mouth-watering meals.

Erik Davis, her best friend since middle school, is content to enjoy Sadie’s culinary skills too while maintaining their “friends only” status. Most of his energy is focused on his just-launched freelance business and casual dates that never come close to a commitment.

But when Sadie is offered a once-in-a-lifetime cooking job across country, Erik realizes maybe he’s taken his best friend for granted.  Even more, he’s about to lose his only chance for lasting love.

How can Erik convince Sadie that the well-known adage “Marry your best friend” just might apply to them? With God’s help, can they both move past their assumptions about each other and their future? Should Sadie and Erik risk taking their relationship to the romantic point of no return? If they do, their decades-long friendship is as a good as done . . . unless it ends at the altar.  

Which one are you interested in reading? I’m looking forward to them all, but super excited about Katherine Reay’s new novel.

Interview of Nancy Kimball + Giveaway!

Some time ago I had the pleasure of reading Ms. Kimball’s novel Chasing the Lion. You can read my review here. Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed it. Now onto the interview:

Thank you for willing to be interviewed!

My pleasure. I’m always happy to connect with other authors and readers. Especially about this novel which is so close to my heart.

  1. What inspired you to write Chasing the Lion?

The absolute worst season of my life. At the time the rug had been yanked from beneath me, my personal and spiritual life were in shambles, and I was floundering, in spite of the tremendous love and support from close family and friends. Through a God-thing, I heard about NaNoWriMo where novel writers pledge to write a book in a month. It was a big, crazy, goal but I’d always wanted to write a novel and more importantly, wanted to prove to myself that I could still set my mind on something and accomplish it.

At a little café on my lunch break, I brainstormed all the things I love and maybe the story I wanted to tell in the process. The movie Gladiator, the computer game ROME: Total War, and the story of Joseph from the bible began to swirl in my brain until I had one question looming.

What if Joseph, when his brothers sold him into slavery, and things started going from bad to worse for him, what if he hadn’t remained faithful to the Lord? Would God have relentlessly pursued Joseph to accomplish His greater plan, or simply raised up another in Joseph’s place? And out of that question, I saw a young man—with a divine purpose for his life but struggling with his identity and making sense of his circumstances. A man who would endure an epic journey to answer that question—if our hero abandons his faith, what happens then? How far will the Lord pursue him, and how? This emerging character, a young Roman noble betrayed into slavery, would become the man readers know and love as Jonathan Tarquinius.

 

  1. Chasing the Lion takes place in historical Rome, how much research did you have to do?

Specifically for the book about a hundred hours over six months. It was a wonderful time for me to explore more deeply a time period I already loved. Gladiator research had to be done separately and I found that so fascinating. There are many commonly held beliefs that are actually myths about gladiator history, such as every battle was a fight to the death. Shining light on some of those facts, when it could be done naturally within the story without becoming a history lesson, was very fulfilling as an author. I wanted to be historically accurate and reflect the time period well, but never at the expense of sacrificing the pacing or focus of Jonathan’s story.

  1. What character surprised you the most as you wrote Chasing the Lion?

Caelina. A fiercely independent and stunningly beautiful prostitute—the highest priced pleasure in all of Rome. (Or so she thinks until Jonathan sets her straight. ;-) I didn’t even have to think about that one. She was intended to be a minor character to show the dynamic of the relationship between my hero and one of his masters, and how my hero fared in the face of temptation. And then slip quietly away. Well she wasn’t having it. I thank the Lord for that because Lion is as strong a novel as it is, in part because of her.

  1. What novels/authors would you consider to be great influencers of your writing?

Shane by Jack Schaeffer. This is the first novel I remember reading as a child that made me care about a character as much as I did my own family. He was that real to me. I reread this book every few years. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, The Lion of War Series (King David and the Mighty Men) by Cliff Graham, and Making Faces by Amy Harmon.

  1. Can you tell us anything about book two?

Absolutely. Remember Caelina? Well she’ll be back playing a much larger role as Jonathan’s journey continues in Charging the Darkness. Old enemies will return, a new threat to our hero and to Rome will emerge. Through it all God will relentlessly pursue yet again the one lost sheep, proving once more His unfailing love and mercy, and that there is no life ever too far gone for the Lord to redeem.

Author, avid reader, and shameless hero addict, Nancy Kimball loves books, Ancient Rome and all things gladiator. She makes her home in Houston, Texas and is the former president of her local American Christian Fiction Writers chapter, Writers on the Storm. Her industry accolades include a two-time ACFW Genesis finalist (Chasing the Lion – 2012 / Unseen Love – 2013), and a Romance Writers of America Lonestar finalist in the Inspirational Category (Adrift No More – 2013). Learn more at www.nancykimball.com

Giveaway

If this book has captured your fancy (and I hope it does!), there’s an opportunity for you to win your own copy! *Note, they will be ecopies. All you need to do is leave a comment below with your email address. The giveaway ends three weeks from now on October 19! The winner will be randomly selected. If you win, you have 48 hours to respond to the notification before I will choose another winner. Happy Reading!

Jenny B Jones’ Can’t Let You Go

About

An old love whose kisses make her weak, but whose secrets threaten to destroy all she holds dear…

Fresh out of college, Katie Parker had it all—a charming romance, a role in a famous stage production, and an idyllic life in London. Until she found her boyfriend cheating and got herself fired from the play. Leaving everything behind, Katie hops a plane home, only to run into her first love, Charlie Benson. As the couple returns to In Between, Katie questions everything she ever thought she wanted—including a renewed romance with her high school flame.

While she attempts to rebuild her life, Katie’s plan to manage the family’s theater meets a devastating obstacle, dragging her into a legal battle that will rock her small town. And the boy who once broke her heart seems to have the power to do it again. As Charlie’s secrets unravel, Katie must make a choice. Can she overcome her past and trust Charlie with her heart again?

Review

I so enjoyed the Katie Parker series, so I was super excited to read about Katie being all grown up. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Being back with Katie and Charlie. I will admit to rereading the last Katie Parker book so that I would be ready for this novella, but honestly it was like being amongst old friends.

The romance. I love that it doesn’t take long to get started and I found myself rooting for them from the start. I was also beyond thrilled that Katie and Charlie didn’t pretend like they didn’t care about each other and that their history wasn’t completely erased.

Humor. This book is funny and filled with Ms. Jones’ trademark humor. You laugh from the first chapter until the very end of the book.

Characters. The secondary characters in this novel are amazing.Their personalities are so strong (Maxine anyone).

Spiritually, there is a great theme of not letting your fear run your life, but your faith.

What I didn’t like:

There were times I wanted to shake Katie. I didn’t always like the way she treated Charlie.

Romantic Scale: 8.2

Overall, a wonderful addition to the Katie Parker series. So much fun to read.

Monday Musings…The Setting

This past weekend I had the pleasure of going to Newport, RI to see my sister be commissioned as an officer in the Navy (woo hoo little sis!). After the festivities were over, we decided to do touristy things. And in Newport one of those touristy things are touring the mansions.  I had so much fun walking around those rooms, mostly because it felt like the books I read that take place in the late 1800s (aka The Gilded Age) had come to life! The name of the house we toured was The Breakers, which was a summer home for the Vanderbilts.

An outside view

Here was the great hall

One of the many parlors

And so it all got me thinking, how important is the setting really? I think it comes down to the type of novel being written. In contemporary novels, setting is not as important (unless you’re writing about a country or area you’ve never actually been, because then there can be problems). Setting really comes into play for historical novels, gothic novels, and fantasy novels. With all of these, I think its very important that the author strives to be accurate, but there is a fine line between being accurate and giving out too much information. Nothing worse than a lost reader or a reader who just plain doesn’t care (after getting lost so many times).

A house like this is a character itself….it had 70 bedrooms! And so I ask you, how important is setting to you?

Laura Frant’z Love’s Fortune

About

Sheltered since birth at her Kentucky home, Rowena Ballantyne has heard only whispered rumors of her grandfather Silas’s vast fortune and grand manor in Pennsylvania. When her father receives a rare letter summoning him to New Hope, Rowena makes the journey with him and quickly finds herself in a whole new world–filled with family members she’s never met, dances she’s never learned, and a new side to the father she thought she knew. As she struggles to fit in during their extended stay, she finds a friend in James Sackett, the most valued steamship pilot of the Ballantynes’ shipping line. Even with his help, Rowena feels she may never be comfortable in high society. Will she go her own way . . . to her peril?

With her signature attention to historical detail, Laura Frantz brings 1850s Pennsylvania alive with a tender story of loss, love, and loyalty. Fans will cheer for this final installment of the Ballatyne saga.

Review

I was so excited to get my hands on the last Ballanytne novel. My thoughts:

What I liked:

The Writing. The book captured me from the first page. I was immediately invested in James Sackett and Wren. Sometimes you just know from the first few lines of a book whether it will hold your attention and I just knew. Furthermore, Ms. Frantz’s writing is just beautiful to read, her metaphors are almost like poetry at times.

The historical facts. They’re interwoven so beautifully, that you don’t feel like you’re in school, and yet at the same time I had a great appreciation for the research that the author had done.

Wren. I loved how straightforward she is. She’s not timid, she doesn’t beat around the bush. With the exception of the last chapter, I loved her.

The setting. Pittsburgh becomes just as much a character as the people in the book (all three books for that matter).

The secondary characters. Since I’ve read all the books in the series , I enjoyed seeing Silas and Eden and Ellie and Jack and a few of the notorious Ballantyne’s as well. There are also some new faces that manages to steal the show for a minute (Izannah!)

The romance. I like that it was slow in developing and yet you knew that there was instant chemistry from the start.  I liked that they are such opposites, and you can see that really play out between them. There’s a really great scene, that’s both simple and full of romantic tension, which I think is a trademark of Ms. Frantz.

Spiritually, there’s not exactly a theme, but the characters pray and seek God throughout the novel.

What I didn’t like:

The romance. Only because once I hit about 87% on my kindle, I thought the romance dragged on, in the since that people were making bad decisions that I knew would have to be corrected and I was thinking just get together already!

Romantic Scale: 9

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. For me, I liked it better than the second one and didn’t want to put it down. If you haven’t started this series, you should!

**I received this copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

Monday Musings…Novellas vs. Full Length

Do you like Novellas? Generally speaking, I don’t. I run from novellas. Why? Because their short. I can never really justify spending money on something I know will take me only an hour to read. And let’s say the novella is good. Let’s say its awesome. If that’s the case, then I usually want more, but I can’t get more because it’s a novella.

But, there are a few exceptions: if the novella is a prequel to another novel, the novella is the point of view of one character from an already fuller novel, or the novella is about another character or couple that is featured in a full length novel.

Otherwise in my opinion every thing happens too fast. Thoughts?

Sigmund Brouwer’s Thief of Glory

A boy coming of age in a time of war…
the love that inspires him to survive.

About 
For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows—his frail, troubled mother.

Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.

When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.

Review

I was initially hesitant to read this book because I realized the protagonist was a child (hence no romance) and I thought it would be reminiscent of the film with a young Christian Bale, Empire of the Sun. A good movie, but not one you want to watch over and over again. But, I was reminded of something: a) I love history, even the ugly parts and b) the moment I fell in love with reading. I will never forget the first time I got lost in a book, and the author who had written that book was Sigmund Brouwer. It was the Accidental Detectives series, specifically, The Mystery Tribe of Camp Blackeagle. I read and reread that series well until my teen years. And so I thought, if there’s any author who can make me fall in love with children, it’s Sigmund Brouwer. And he did.

What I liked:

Jeremiah Prins. I loved this kid from the very first page with him on it. He’s only ten, but he’s the brightest ten year old I’ve ever come across. And he was bright in a time when you needed all of your wits around you. He’s funny, charming, thoughtful, and I wish I could have known the man.

The history. I knew very little about the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies during WWII and I learned a lot with this book. My respect and my heart went out to them.

The characters. Though Jeremiah stole my heart, I found myself invested in each child (and adult) that came across his path (well, almost each child).

The writing (or the story).  I stayed up well past my bedtime trying to see what would happen next. I found the book to be completely captivating.

Spiritually, this novel shows people with great faith in those camps and people who often doubted. I thought it was portrayed realistically and I learned a thing or two about what it means to really have faith.

What I didn’t like:

Sometimes Jeremiah gave some long explanations as to why things were the way they were, and so I skimmed so I could find out what actually happened next.

The Ending. Let me just clarify and say that nothing in the camp bothered me for the simple reason that I was ready mentally for anything (and I say this because some things are revealed when Jeremiah is an old man). No, what bothered me, happened after the camps. I hope this isn’t spoilery, but it might be just a bit. But for me the ending was like Mockingjay at the end of the Hunger Games series, or the last couple chapters of Ender’s Game. I guess it’s a happy ending, but mannnnnnn, I wanted so much more for the people I had fallen in love with.

Romantic Scale: N/A because their children, and yet there still manages to be a romance, and a very sweet one at that.

Overall, I’m very glad I read this book. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’ve discussed it with my military father, and had there been a movie I would have watched it. If you love historical novels, you will love this book.

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Be Sure and Check out:

Mary Jane Hathaway’s Persuasion, Captain Wentworth, and Cracklin Bread

About
A lively Southern retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, featuring Lucy Crawford, who is thrown back into the path of her first love while on a quest to save her beloved family home.

Lucy Crawford is part of a wealthy, well-respected Southern family with a long local history. But since Lucy’s mother passed away, the family home, a gorgeous antebellum mansion, has fallen into disrepair and the depth of her father’s debts is only starting to be understood. Selling the family home may be the only option—until her Aunt Olympia floats the idea of using Crawford house to hold the local free medical clinic, which has just lost its space. As if turning the plantation home into a clinic isn’t bad enough, Lucy is shocked and dismayed to see that the doctor who will be manning the clinic is none other than Jeremiah Chevy—her first love.

Lucy and Jeremiah were high school sweethearts, but Jeremiah was from the wrong side of the tracks. His family was redneck and proud, and Lucy was persuaded to dump him. He eventually left town on a scholarship, and now, ten years later, he’s returned as part of the rural physician program. And suddenly, their paths cross once again. While Lucy’s family still sees Jeremiah as trash, she sees something else in him—as do several of the other eligible ladies in town. Will he be able to forgive the past? Can she be persuaded to give love a chance this time around?

Review

Once again, even though I liked the other books in this series, I was nervous about reading another retelling of an Austen book….and I didn’t have to be. Here’s why:

What I liked:

The racial makeup of the book. It’s very interesting to me that Ms. Hathaway chose to add race as another hurdle for Lucy and Jem’s high school romance. I was particularly impressed that Lucy, the beautiful, wealthy, debutante-like girl, is black. To me it really added to the novel, making it creative and unique.

The elements of Persuasion. As with her other retellings, this is not an exact retelling of the Jane Austen novel, but there are enough hints and elements that it still feels like Persuasion. There is still that “thing” that came between Lucy and Jem, and Lucy is still doing everything she can to please a family that ignores her, and there is still that slow burn of a romance between Lucy and Jem all throughout the novel.

The romance. It was Persuasion, the only difference being that in Austen’s novel you are not in Captain Wentworth’s head. I really enjoyed it and I just couldn’t wait for them to be together in the end.

The setting. Once again we’re in the south (a bit of the glorified south) with Civil War reenactments and whatnot. I still find it a bit strange, but the historian in me loves it.

Spiritually, there is a great theme on forgiveness and trusting God.

What I didn’t like:

To me, this kind of lines up with the novel Persuasion, but from Lucy’s point of view, I could see how she just wasn’t sure about what Jem wanted due to his side flirtation. But, anyone who has read Persuasion, is familiar with this part of that novel.

Romantic Scale: 8.7

Overall, a very good book. A sweet romance that pulled me and I didn’t want to put the book down!

 

Monday Musings…2015 Books!

 

Due to her parents’ promise at her birth, Lady Rosemarie has been prepared to become a nun on the day she turns eighteen. Then, a month before her birthday, a friend of her father’s enters the kingdom and proclaims her parents’ will left a second choice–if Rosemarie can marry before the eve of her eighteenth year, she will be exempt from the ancient vow.

Before long, Rosemarie is presented with the three most handsome and brave knights in the land. But when the competition for her heart seemingly results in a knight playing foul, she begins to wonder if the convent is the best place after all. If only one of the knights–the one who appears the most guilty–had not already captured her heart.

Swan Lake meets Robin Hood when the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant by day becomes the region’s most notorious poacher by night, and falls in love with the forester.

Jorgen is the forester for the wealthy margrave, and must find and capture the poacher who has been killing and stealing the margrave’s game. When he meets the lovely and refined Odette at the festival and shares a connection during a dance, he has no idea she is the one who has been poaching the margrave’s game.

Odette justifies her crime of poaching because she thinks the game is going to feed the poor, who are all but starving, both in the city and just outside its walls. But will the discovery of a local poaching ring reveal a terrible secret? Has the meat she thought she was providing for the poor actually been sold  on the black market, profiting no one except the ring of black market sellers? 

The one person Odette knows can help her could also find out her own secret and turn her over to the margrave, but she has no choice. Jorgen and Odette will band together to stop the dangerous poaching ring . . . and fall in love. But what will the margrave do when he discovers his forester is protecting a notorious poacher?

 

A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who can help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing for good.

An Irish-born son far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He’s come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and start a farm, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he’d wagered, especially when Maggie Linden’s father makes him an offer he shouldn’t accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the annual Drayton Stakes at Nashville’s racetrack––the richest race run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance, and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder, Maggie’s father––aging, yet wily as ever––makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail––Maggie must marry a man she’s never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself. 

Cullen and Maggie need each other in order to achieve their dreams. But their stubborn, wounded hearts––and the escalating violence from a “secret society” responsible for lynchings and midnight raids––may prove too much for even two determined souls.

Don’t these all sound good? Which one tickles your fancy?

Feature Friday…Kristen Heitzmann

I haven’t done a Feature Friday post in a while, so this week I’m featuring Kristen Heitzmann! I’m a huge fan and she’s one of those authors who I will read no matter what she writes. Therefore, I’m not going to list every book she’s written, but here is one of my favorite series:

Secrets is unique because Kristen Heitzmann wrote a historical romance series (Diamond of the Rockies) and then has the descendants of those characters in this book. Furthermore, Reese and Lance are two of the most unusual heroes and heroines I’ve ever met, and I love when the main characters are not caricature. In many ways, they swap gender roles which means I never knew what was happening next. Good food, good suspense, good romance, great faith. Loved it!