Monday Musings….Cliffhangers

Recently, I reviewed a book, which for me, had a pretty big cliffhanger and I was not happy. Once upon a time, I liked cliffhangers, I thought they added a bit of pizzaz to the novel. But either I’ve just gotten older or I read too many books, because I can’t stand cliffhangers. Here’s why:

1. Generally speaking, book two or three won’t come out for a whole year. That’s a long time for me to remember characters and plots and…care. I cannot tell you how many “book ones” I’ve enjoyed and how many “book twos” I have not read because time and distance has made me ambivalent.

2. You lose the magic of book one. Unless, the novel is just life-changing, or hands down your favorite book of the year, by the time you read book two, you usually spend the first couple of chapters remembering what you liked about the book in the first place. I’ve gotten to the place folks, where now I don’t buy a book if there is a cliffhanger. I wait until the whole series is completed first.

When Cliffhangers work:

1. When book two is coming out in a couple of months.

2. When the major plot has been tied up and book two continues with someone or something that does not feel major (it can become major in book two, but otherwise the novel feels wrapped up).

And so I ask you, how do you feel about cliffhangers?

Deeanne Gist’s Tiffany Girl

From the bestselling author of It Happened at the Fair and Fair Play comes a compelling historical novel about a progressive “New Woman”—the girl behind Tiffany’s chapel—and the love that threatens it all.

As preparations for the 1893 World’s Fair set Chicago and the nation on fire, Louis Tiffany—heir to the exclusive Fifth Avenue jewelry empire—seizes the opportunity to unveil his state-of-the-art, stained glass, mosaic chapel, the likes of which the world has never seen.

But when Louis’s dream is threatened by a glassworkers’ strike months before the Fair opens, he turns to an unforeseen source for help: the female students at the Art Students League of New York. Eager for adventure, the young women pick up their skirts, move to boarding houses, take up steel cutters, and assume new identities as the “Tiffany Girls.”

Tiffany Girl is the heartwarming story of the impetuous Flossie Jayne, a beautiful, budding artist who is handpicked by Louis to help complete the Tiffany chapel. Though excited to live in a boarding house when most women stayed home, she quickly finds the world is less welcoming than anticipated. From a Casanova male, to an unconventional married couple, and a condescending singing master, she takes on a colorful cast of characters to transform the boarding house into a home while racing to complete the Tiffany chapel and make a name for herself in the art world.

As challenges mount, her ambitions become threatened from an unexpected quarter: her own heart. Who will claim victory? Her dreams or the captivating boarder next door?

Review

Deeanne Gist is one of my auto-buy authors and so naturally, I was excited to get my hands on her new novel. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Tiffany Girl. I had never heard of Tiffany Girls. Ms. Gist seems to be on a Chicago Fair kick and with each book, I learn more and more about that time era. I must say, she incorporates her research flawlessly in a work of fiction, so much so, that I never feel like I’m “learning” anything.

Flossie. I liked Flossie. I liked her idealism and her ambition. I liked the fact that she impacted people around her. And I like that you really see her character grow and develop. I found that I really cared about Flossie and it’s not often that I care about heroines or feel as emotionally invested in them as I did with Flossie.

Reeve. I liked Reeve because I like heroes who are not cookie cutter and Reeve is not cookie cutter. He is lonely, yet opinionated, and very rough around the edges. And every time he appeared on the pages, I looked forward to Flossie upending his careful life.

The romance. It was my kind of romance. It was the slow kind that developed over time making it something that you knew would stand the test of time. I loved the way Reeve’s action showed he loved her more than just his words.

Spiritually, I will say that someone mentions a Bible. Maybe someone prays. I would have to say that this novel is more or less a clean romance novel.

What I didn’t like:

I will say there is a certain point where Reeve and Flossie are separated and while it makes sense for them to grow, I was just skimming the pages where they were apart.

Romantic Scale: 9

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It was a lovely look at a different aspect of the Chicago Fair and the romance was really the star here.

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

Lori Benton’s Into the Woods

At the wood’s edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?

The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.

On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald’s wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.

When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood’s edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin’s absence, another unaware of his twin’s existence. And for Anna, who loves them both—Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?

Review

I’m a huge fan of everything that Lori Benton writes, mainly because she writes excellent historical fiction about a time period that is not often utilized (except by maybe Laura Frantz). I also love that usually one of her main characters is American Indian (yay diversity!). But, I will say that the “back of the book” though accurate wasn’t exactly what I thought. I assumed the novel would mainly be from Anna’s pov, but it wasn’t. There were about four other povs and Anna’s didn’t jump in until about 40%. This didn’t bother me, except that I expected something different. My thoughts:

What I liked:

The story. I love the idea of switching babies (ok, not really, but it works well as a plot device). I was completely invested in the storyline from the start.

The setting. The novel starts during the French Indian War and ends just at the start of the American Revolution. There is so much going on and yet you don’t get lost in the details.

The characters. All of them. I wanted good things for all of them.

The romance. I loved watching Anna fall in love. When she was with her guy, time stood still. They were friends first and when it became love, I was just so happy for them.

Spiritually, the novel dealt with having a relationship with Christ and how the grace of God can change lives. Also, it dealt with forgiveness and grace and how there is no sin you can commit that Christ has not already died for.

What I didn’t like:

I saw that this book was a series, but that fact registered like a blip on my radar…until I reached the 80% of the novel and realized that things were not going to conclude. While that was kind of annoying to me, I could deal with it because I like the characters. But, I really wanted a specific “thing” to come to a resolution and it didn’t. And that didn’t exactly make me want to read the next book, it made me angry (though I will definitely be reading the next book).

Romantic Scale: 9

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t want to put it down. I don’t mind that there is a second one in the sense that I really liked the characters and look forward to being put in their heads again. I’m just kind of irritated it will be another year before that happens.

Monday Musings…Inspirations

So, it looks like things are on schedule and my next book will be coming out in June. Yay! That said, I thought it would be fun to spend a few Mondays sharing some things about my next book, how it came together, and finding out from you today what inspires you to be creative.

What inspires me? A lot of different things. I’ve mentioned before that The Eyes of the Heart came out of my love for a children’s book and a history class I was taking in college. But this book was a bit different.

For this novel, there were two distinct things that jump started my novel: an article in a newspaper I read and a song. Some time ago, I read in a newspaper an article about a man who was a well-known photographer of the Civil Rights Movement. Like, that is what he was known for. But then he died. And his family went through all his papers and discovered that the man was, in fact, an undercover FBI agent during the Civil Rights Era. Instead of being impressed or wowed, they were extremely upset, and concluded that his legacy was a joke (paraphrase). And I remember reading that article and thinking just because the man was an FBI agent (which seemed pretty cool to me) did not mean that he was in any way anti-Civil Rights. Why couldn’t he be both? And so I try to reconcile those two identities in my new book, Unfailing Love with my hero Truitt Tate.

I was also inspired by a song called “Deep Blood Red” by Mali Music. Music definitely inspires me as a writer, but rarely as much as it did with this song. It actually wasn’t the lyrics so much as the feel of the music. I heard the song, and I saw two people dancing, in the American south, at someone’s farm, and I knew the man was the law, and the woman was a native, that he loved her, and that they had a history there (yes, this scene is actually in the book).

I’m currently working on another book, and I can tell you now that I was inspired by the life of a man who was introduced to me in a legal class I took in law school. It’s never the same for me (though often similar). Lightening rarely strikes twice.

And so I ask you, if you paint, if you write, if you sing, if you dance, if you cook, what inspires you or has inspired you in the past? Is it music? Movies? TV shows? Other books? Actual people? Let me know!

Introducing Melanie Kilsby

 1. What got you interested in writing?
I got interested in writing at a fairly young age. Once I learned how to write and discovered a journal, I poured myself out into them. It was a release of my thoughts and my heart at that time. Later, after I became a christian, God honed in that talent that he placed in me at such a young age. I started to write songs and poetry. Then, one day I had a story to tell. So, I wrote it.
2. If there is one thing that you want a reader to take away from your books, what would it be?
The one thing I want people to take away from my books is a deeper relationship with Christ. If my book aren’t Glorying Him, I feel like my writing has not accomplished what it was meant to do. 
3. Who or what would you consider to have the greatest influences on your writing?
I would have to say…many things!
I don’t suppose I can pick just one thing, or one person. The Bible and my relationship with God is key. That influences all of my writing first and foremost. Then, for the fine veil or writing and what goes behind the writing–Frank Peretti. His writings have given me a lot of insight. Then, styles of writing have influenced me and people, places, and events in my own life too. However, that is a larger list and too much to put down and that list grows every year with each good book I read :)
Reading I would say is the second greatest influence lol! I tend to read a lot of what has the best sales–what is popular. I study them, dissect them and learn from them.
4. Do you have any favorite authors that you recommend?
My favourite authors are all those who wrote the Bible ( God inspired & the book of Isaiah), Frank Peretti, Lisa T. Bergen, Janette Oke, C.S.Lewis, etc. The list goes on from there, but at the moment, that is the top 5.
5. Can you tell us about what you’re working on now?
Right now, I am finishing up book #2 in the Reality Series. It is called, Facing The Grey.
Life is not always black and white and when you have to face life after becoming a new christian…it can become grey. Zoe, the protagonist, has to face her dark past and try to live life as a new Christian. She has a tendency to run from her problems instead of facing them dead on. The book deals with teen pregnancy, foster home issues, finding security in insecure places, finding friends, finding trust, finding love, finding hope and drawing closer to Jesus.
It is coming in November 2015
You can find out more at:
Thanks again Embassie :D

Dina L. Sleiman’s Dauntless

Where Legend and History Collide,
One Young Woman Will Fight for the Innocent

Born a baron’s daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is now an enemy of the throne after her father’s failed assassination attempt upon the king. Bold and uniquely skilled, she is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village–a group that becomes known as “The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest.” Merry finds her charge more difficult as their growing notoriety brings increasing trouble their way.

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, he’s forced to reexamine everything he’s known.

Review

When I first heard of this book, I knew I wanted to read it because, hello, Robin Hood. I adore Disney’s Robin Hood, even if he is a legit fox. I mean, come on, that charisma. So, naturally, I thought a female version of Robin Hood would be good. But, then I began to hear rumors of love triangles and so I put off reading this book for a while. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Merry captures the essence of Robin Hood. There are certain qualities that Merry doesn’t have that Robin had, like the aforementioned charisma. But mostly because she does not, on purpose, interact with people outside of her merry little band. That said, Merry is like Robin in the sense that they both come from privileged backgrounds that were unjustly torn from them, they both care deeply about those they work with, and they steal to help others out. I was not disappointed on this count.

The band of thieves. I love that the author was able to pull out such personality from each of the secondary characters. There’s quite a few of them, and yet I was not confused when any one of them was talking. In fact, I still feel as though I could sit down and tell you a bit about them individually (some more than others).

Engaging. I found the story to be thoroughly engaging. I wanted to know what would happen next and read the book faster than I had anticipated.

Spiritually, the novel portrays two things: that God knows your heart and the power of prayer. The latter is pretty self-explanatory, but with the first, all I kept hearing was that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. But, I think it is hard to reconcile the fact that in the end, Merry’s group is a group of thieves and the Bible says do not steal. The author did a good job of trying to bring those two facets together.

What I didn’t like:

The dreaded love triangle. I’ve read enough love triangles that I was able to pick out the “guy” who would win and Merry did a better job than most heroines by not trying to plow two fields. But, I still didn’t like that pull and push towards two different, but very good men. Not only do I feel like its, generally speaking, unrealistic, someone always loses in the end while patiently waiting for the girl to make up her mind. I mean, just think ladies, wouldn’t you hate it if a man waffled between you and some other girl?

Also, the end felt like a bit of a run around.

Romantic Scale: 7

Overall, this book was very cute and I very much enjoyed it!

** I received a copy of this book from BethanyHouse. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

Monday Musings…How Christian Should a Christian Novel Be?

What makes a Christian novel a Christian novel? Is it the fact that the characters pray? Must there be a message of salvation? Or is it just that the novel is “clean” and has a “hope” message. Personally, I don’t think there is a right answer to this question. That said, I have run across some novels that made me scratch my head and wonder why they were considered “Christian.” I have read books from authors who always include the message of salvation in their novels (Lori Wick) and I have read books from authors who always have Christian protagonist so as to avoid, perhaps, the potential-ness of corni-ness in their books. I have read books that do not have the message of salvation, but were so focused on Jesus that I knew the author had spent some time with Him. And then I have read some books where God is mentioned in the last chapter right before the character thinks they are about to die. But this being the subjective topic that it is, I decided to list some things that I think should be necessary to a Christian novel:

1. Evidence of Faith. This can be shown through the message of salvation or the characters using prayer to combat whatever situation(s) they come up against. But clearly, clearly they could not make it through their situation without some kind of interaction between them and God.

2. Scripture usage. It’s important. I can’t live a successful life in Christ without reading the Bible. If my characters are believers, they should be reading the Bible too.

3. Lifestyle. If the character is not a good person (they don’t have to be perfect), and supposed to be Christian (unless the novel is about that person changing) it’s just not going to work for me. And this includes leading men on, being incredibly selfish, unwilling to hear people out, or being involved in shady areas of the law. Let’s not even begin to talk about Christians who don’t live Biblically, and see no problems with it.

4. Hope. At the end of the day, when I finish a Christian novel, I should leave with hope. I should put that book down knowing that God is still sovereign and He is still in control.

So, what are some things that make a Christian novel a Christian novel to you?

Books Coming Out This Month!

Abducted at the age of sixteen and coerced into assisting the Jacoby crime family, Shannon Bliss has finally found a way out. She desperately wants to resume some semblance of normal life, but she also knows she has some unfinished business to attend to. She has enough evidence to put her captors behind bars for a very long time.

When Shannon contacts private investigator and former cop Matthew Dane to help her navigate her reentry into society, she quickly discovers that gaining her freedom doesn’t mean her troubles are over. For one thing, her brother is the leading candidate in the race for Illinois governor, and news of her escape will create a media frenzy. For another, the ransom her family reportedly paid years earlier appears to have been a scam; no one knows what happened to the money. And then there’s the fact that Shannon’s escape involved faking her own death. If the Jacoby family learns she is still alive, they’ll stop at nothing to silence her.

If justice is to be done, and if Shannon’s life is ever to get on track again, Matthew will need to discover exactly what happened to her–even if it means stirring up a hornet’s nest of secrets.

A vacation to Sunset Cove was her way of celebrating and thanking her parents. After all, Claire Dellamore’s childhood was like a fairytale. But with the help of Luke Elwell, Claire discovers that fairytale was really an elaborate lie . . .

The minute she steps inside the grand Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Claire Dellamare knows something terrible happened there. She feels it in her bones. Her ensuing panic attack causes a scene, upsetting her parents. Claire attempts to quiet her nerves with a walk on the beach, to no avail. She’s at too great a distance to make out details, but she believes she witnesses a murder on a nearby cliff. When local police find no evidence of foul play, they quickly write off the “nervous” woman’s testimony as less than credible.

But Luke Elwell, home on leave from the Coast Guard, has reason to believe Claire. Years ago when his mother went missing, Luke’s father suspected she’d been murdered. He died never having convinced the police to investigate. So when an employee of the grand hotel doesn’t show up for work, Luke steps in to help Claire track down the missing woman.

As Claire and Luke put together the pieces of a decades-old mystery, they discover that some family secrets refuse to stay buried. And some passions are worth killing for.

Somewhere in a sea of tulle and taffeta, satin and crepe, Katie Fisher needs to find a key ingredient of the perfect wedding–the groom.

Small-town girl Katie Fisher is busy planning her fairy-tale wedding. Sure, her boyfriend hasn’t managed to pop the question just yet, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t enter a contest in Texas Bride magazine to win the dress of her dreams, right? Anyway, she’s sure he’ll be getting down on one knee any time now. And a one-of-a-kind designer dress doesn’t just fall out of the sky right when you need it.

But when Katie’s boyfriend takes a job in another town and breaks up with her–on the very same day she wins her dream dress–her world is turned upside down. Dare she go to Dallas to claim her prize? And will the hunky pro basketball player who runs the beyond-swanky bridal shop–yeah, you read that right–discover her humiliating secret if she does?

What Would You Sacrifice to Save Mankind?

The great city of Thyra has fallen and shadows spread across the land. Rowen Mar, the last Truthsayer, is taken before the Shadonae. But the Shadonae are not who she thought they were, and now they want to claim her as their own.

Caleb Tala, former assassin and prince, is now a Guardian of mankind. Exiled from his country, Caleb wanders the desert in search of his mother’s past and clues to who he is.

These are the last days of the Eldaran race. Rowen and Caleb must find their way along the dark path set before them by their ancestors: to heal what was wounded and love where hatred grows. But the road is narrow and the darkness beckons. If either of them fails, all will be lost…

And the human race will be no more.

Book three of the Follower of the Word series.

Any books I left out that you’re looking forward to this month?

Monday Musings…Do Publishing Houses Matter?

I have recently discussed my love for Indie books, but established published houses are not to be missed either. That said, when you see a book published by a certain company does that make you want to read the book or put it back on the shelf? I know for me that is often the case. I have found that I trust some publishing houses more than others. In fact, I won’t name the publishing house, but I can read what the book is about, think it sounds good and then not buy it if I see who published it. Anyone else ever felt this way?