Posted in Personal

Monday Musings…What Makes a Book Great?

What makes a good book great is very subjective, but I have a small list of what I think makes a book great.

1) Unforgettable. If, when you’re finished reading the novel, it stays with you, it’s usually a great book. I mean, if you can remember lines and you go throughout your day and you’re constantly thinking and re-thinking the plot, then it is a great book. I say this, even if you didn’t like it. If you find yourself telling a friend about this novel (and not because anyone asked), then you’ve got a great novel on your hands. Case in point, Liz Curtis Higgs has this Scottish series based on Jacob, Rachel, and Leah. Phenomenal writing, not too crazy about the storyline (no fault of hers!), and so intense. I talked about it to whomever would listen and let me tell you folks, I don’t usually talk about the books I’ve read unless someone asks me…most people… fail to understand the lure. Or, you watch the history channel with someone and try to explain history based off a novel you read. If you can remember it, probabaly a great book.

2) It evokes emotion. One of the best books I’ve ever read is the first book of the Mark of the Lion series by Francine River (called A Voice in the Wind). I’ll never forget, I finished that book and sat on my couch crying like a baby. A great book will change your emotions whether you end up being happy, sad, or scared. Any kind of change usually means it affected you. If an important person in the novel dies and it doesn’t affect you (I’m talking hero, heroine, child or even really good friend)? Bad book.

3) Your mind hums while reading it. Now this one is a little strange and I’m not sure if everyone experiences this or if this is just something that people who love to read and dabble in writing experince. But, this is when you’re reading a novel, and in the middle of the novel you set it down to go to the restroom or wash dishes or whatever, yet your mind is humming. You’re mentally writing the next scene in your head. You’re wondering how the author is going to come to a good conclusion in the end, etc. Your mind is humming because it is coming up with ways that you would create scenarios or have old friends meet and whatnot. I know if my mind is humming, its a great book.

4) Other peoples’ opinions. My younger sister is just as much as an avid reader as I am. However, she’s much more fond of nonfiction and NYTimes Bestsellers. Thus, when she comes home from college, she will often ask me for the best books I’ve read. I usually have a handy stack of 10 that I give her. And she usually tears them apart limb from limb with one reason or the other. If she can change my mind (and she usually does) it wasn’t a great novel. It was a good novel. However, if she agrees with me? It was a great novel.

5) Doesn’t care about other’s opinons. If by any chance, my sister tears a novel apart and I still love the book, it was a great novel (see what I mean about subjective). But, let me tell you, this is rare.  If reviews or people can’t change your mind, you have a great novel on your hands.

6) You reread it. On my bedstand, I have usually 5 books that I like to reread (this changes up from time to time). If I find myself rereading a novel, especially if I just finished it? Great Book. I recently read the novel Edenbrooke ( which is along the lines of Jane Austen) in one day. And reread it the next day. And a week later. And a month later. Now that’s a great book.

7) It’s not your typical book. In other words, you didn’t pick up this book to ‘feed your need’. You read something out of your comfort zone and love it. Case in point: I have some cousins who rarely read and if they read it has to be a contemporary romance. Well, I talked a few of them into reading A Voice in the Wind. They all loved it. I have a cousin to this day who only wants to borrow books from me now that change her life that one (like that’s an easy request).

Well, does anyone agree? Disagree? Got a few more to add or detract?

Posted in Interview

Interview of Laura Frantz

Thank you for willing to be interviewed! My pleasure, Em – you have a great blog!

1. I thought it was interesting that you choose to write the Ballantyne Legacy in Pennsylvania (as opposed to Kentucky), was there a specific reason for this location?
My editor came up with Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh specifically. I think there is always concern that an author might get too tied to a setting and need a fresh location. Little did I know how historically rich that state would prove to be! I love it almost as much as Kentucky and had a wonderful time researching the novel there last summer. It doesn’t hurt that my hero, Daniel Boone, was from Pennsylvania.

2. When you were writing Love’s Reckoning, did you know everything that would happen or were you as surprised as the readers?
I’m really a seat of the pants writer who just sits down and writes without any map or preconceived ideas. I just had the basic premise for this story – a blacksmith apprentice who has to honor tradition and choose between 2 sisters – but all the rest came to me chapter by chapter. In fact, the male villain in the story (there was only supposed to be a female vixen, lol) came onstage in chapter 2 and nearly took over the story. I was just as surprised by readers by all the twists and turns. Poor Eden really suffered at times though that wasn’t my original intent.

3. Elspeth somehow managed to come off as more than a little creepy, what was your inspiration for her?
Eight years of social work in the mental health field. I knew quite a few Elspeths. Clinically- speaking, Elspeths is a very disturbed individual but you’ve read the book so I don’t have to tell you that. In book 2 I try to give a little more insight into her character and why she acted as she did. But in book 1, Love’s Reckoning, she’s just pretty creepy like you said.

4. I have had the pleasure to read about Lael, Morrow, Roxanna, and now Eden, and each of them has a unique personality. Is there any one heroine who is more like you than the others? Is there any heroine that you wish you were more like?
Lael Click is most like me except she’s a bit more fearless. She’s the character I grew up wanting to be so I finally took her out of my head and heart and put her into a book. Eden Lee is the one I wish I was most like. She has that gentle and quiet spirit which may make her seem meek at first but is in fact her greatest strength.

5. Silas was a great hero which a rich history, did you have to do a lot of research to develop his back story?
My favorite heroes have always been Scotsmen. There’s just something about their rich history and the country itself. I’m headed to Scotland in December to visit the very castle I write about in Love’s Reckoning and am thrilled. Over the years I’ve collected quite a few books on Scotland and its history and customs and traditions. Silas is sort of a composite of all that. I hope he springs to life in an authentic way.

6. It will be a year before book 2 comes out, but it already sounds exciting. Is there anything you can share with us about that novel?
I’m getting ready to turn book 2 in this week! It’s 408 pages long and involves the second generation of Ballantynes, specifically Ellie and her siblings, Ansel, Peyton, and Andra. I’m afraid Elspeth reappears which always shakes things up. This book makes the leap from the 18th-century to 1822. There are quite a few twists and turns. But no spoilers!

Ms. Frantz has graciously offered to giveaway a copy of Love’s Reckoning! And so, in keeping with my Monday Musings post, what makes a Laura Frantz novel good? Is it the characters? the research? the background? the storyline? the romance?something else?
I’ll give you my answer: originality. The Kentucky setting was what drew me in to the first Laura Frantz novel and I love the fact that I can never predict what will happen in the end. Keeps me on my toes!

Contest Rules: In order to win the copy, you must leave a comment and the winner will be randomly selected. If you are interested in participating in the contest, your comment must include your email address. If you are notified as the winner, please respond within 48 hours. Winner will be announced on 9/28!

Posted in Contemporary

Kim Cash Tate’s Faithful

About

Cydney Sanders thought she knew God’s plan for her life. She’d marry, have kids, and then snap her body back into shape by doing Tae Bo. But she’s celebrating her fortieth birthday as the maid of honor at her little sister’s wedding…and still single. Now her life is suddenly complicated by the best man. He’s the opposite of what she wants in a husband…and yet, he keeps defying her expectations. Starting with a lavendar rose–symbolizing enchantment–each rose he sends her reflects his growing love for her.

Cydney’s best friend Dana appears to have the perfect marriage–until she discovers her husband’s affair and her world goes into a tailspin. Then there is Phyllis–who is out of hope and out of prayers after asking God for six long years to help her husband find faith. When she runs into an old friend who is the Christian man she longs for, she’s faced with an overwhelming choice.

Life-long friends with life-altering struggles. Will they trust God’s faithfulness…and find strength to be faithful to Him?

Review

This was an interesting book! I had hesitated to read it because Cydney is 40 and single…and I found that a bit frightening (I’m just keeping it real here). But now that I’ve let go of that fear and am trusting God with my future (duh), I went out and picked up this book. This book had me laughing out loud at times and fussing at the characters at other times. It truly was an enjoyable read. I think the only problems I had with it, is that of the three friends, I found two more interesting than the third, so I was always rushing that one along and then, I felt that everything got wrapped up too quickly. There were some heavy issues here. Spiritually, this novel dealt with trusting God to be faithful to his word, even when it seems like he isn’t, as well as the importance of living holy sexually. Overall, good book. Recommended!

Posted in Historical

Jody Hedlund’s Unending Devotion

About

High-Stakes Drama Meets High-Tension Romance

In 1883 Michigan, Lily Young is on a mission to save her lost sister, or die trying. Heedless of the danger, her searches of logging camps lead her to Harrison and into the sights of Connell McCormick, a man doing his best to add to the hard-earned fortunes of his lumber baron father.

Posing during the day as a photographer’s assistant, Lily can’t understand why any God-fearing citizen would allow evil to persist and why men like Connell McCormick turn a blind eye to the crime rampant in the town. But Connell is boss-man of three of his father’s lumber camps in the area, and like most of the other men, he’s interested in clearing the pine and earning a profit. He figures as long as he’s living an upright life, that’s what matters.

Lily challenges everything he thought he knew, and together they work not only to save her sister but to put an end to the corruption that’s dominated Harrison for so long.

Review

No one can take a historical event and bring it to life quite like Ms. Hedlund. This novel is just another example of her fine abilities as a writer. Though this novel took me a few chapters before I was completely pulled in, once I got pulled in, I didn’t want to put it down. I enjoyed the character of Connell, especially his love of math, I thought that made him a unique kind of hero. Lily, however, was a bit annoying to me. I could understand her reasons and her passions, but the way she went about doing things often seemed a bit selfish. That said, overall, it was an enjoyable read. Spiritually, Connell has to realize that as a servant of God, you can’t ignore evil. It only grows bigger. You must face it. How timely. Recommend it!

Posted in Mystery/Suspense

Steven James’ Opening Moves

About

In The Bowers Files novels, FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers has stopped some of the most vicious serial killers ever imagined. Now, in the fifth exciting installment, author Steven James takes readers back to Bowers’s terrifying beginning.
Milwaukee, 1997. In a city reeling from the crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer, a series of gruesome kidnappings and mutilations draw authorities into a case like nothing they’ve ever seen. Cops think a Dahmer copycat is on the loose.
But Patrick Bowers, working as a homicide detective, suspects this is more than an ode to the infamous cannibal. When he discovers that the shocking acts reference some of the most notorious and macabre killers in our nation’s history, the investigation spirals into a nightmare of manipulation, brutality, and terror.
Wielding groundbreaking investigative techniques, Bowers must now face off with a killer who will stop at nothing to get his message out to the world. Chilling, gritty, and packed with twists and turns, Opening Moves is Steven James’s most heart-pounding novel yet.

Review

This is the best Patrick Bowers novel so far! But then again, I think Mr. James tops himself with each novel he writes. You would think that since this is a prequel it wouldn’t be too exciting since you already know the big picture. Wrong. While there are a few ‘aha’ moments, I was getting surprised on every corner. If you like crime novels, this is the one. So this novel was not geared toward the Christian market, but, aside from the murders, it’s a clean novel that brings up an interesting issue: when do you become accountable for your actions? And it certainly made me want to pray for the protection of my family and to thank God I was born to some good parents.

Warning: I’m not sure if this novel contains more violent crimes than the others, but these are certainly very grisly. I think they’re more horrifying than his other novels, because he tosses in some real serial killers, and there’s nothing scarier than reality. Furthermore, please be wise and do not read this book well into the evening when everyone else in your household is in bed and you have to turn off all the lights in the house and then suddenly remember your bedroom is in the basement. Not wise. Such a good book. Highly Recommended!

Want to find out more about Steven James? Stay tuned for my interview this month!

Posted in Personal

Monday Musings…What Makes a Book Good

I’ve decided to try a new thing called Monday Musings and today’s topic is what makes a book good? I’m not talking about what makes a book great, because there is a difference!

1) It meets your expectations. I’m not saying the book must be predictable, but if you sit down for a romance, it shouldn’t turn into a horror story. Case in point, I bought a novel, by an author whose name I shall not disclose, assuming it was a romance novel…with a happy ending. It was a romance novel, but when I got to that ending I wanted to throw the book across the room. I felt like I got Punk’d (old tv show). Don’t Punk your readers! I don’t recommend that novel. It didn’t make me happy.

2) I turn the pages. Folks I read a lot of books. A lot of books. When I was younger, if I started a book, I finished it. Now that I’m older and there are more demands on my time, I give the book three chapters unless it just had outstanding reviews. If I’m not pulled in, it’s not a good book. If I’m pulled in from start to finish, then even if I’m not crazy about it, I give it props. Case in point, I read a book for a contest that was just wild. I mean, the characters were some of the strangest people I had ever come across in a novel, but everytime I put it down, I was like, what happens next? So I finished it. The book was over the top, but I would call it a good book or at least good writing. I wanted to turn the pages.

3) It’s not complicated. There’s nothing I hate more than a complicated book. If you read my reviews, I’ll often say, the book wasn’t complicated. What is complicated? Lots of facts or details that I simply don’t need as a reader. If I can skim the book and still get to the point, than that’s not good. I rarely skim. I feel like it’s cheating, so if I’m skimming, than there are too many details. Complication can also mean relationship issues. There are some relationships that just should not happen. Case in point, I once read a novel where, before the guy became a Christian, he had intimate relations with two sisters and then chose one in the end. That’s a negative. I could not relate. I didn’t like the guy, I didn’t understand the girl. Too many complications there (and Christianity does not erase issues!).

4) No stupid people. Annoying heros or heroines are just that annoying. Don’t get me wrong, every author should change up their characters and make them unique. Often that means that there is one hero/heroine who comes across as annoying. It’s okay to have the character be annoying on some levels (little ticks, pet peeves, etc.), but I have found that the most annoying heroines are those who are driven by a desire that tramples others in the novel and women who are strong before their time. It’s okay to be strong, but let’s be realistic here. In the old days, you didn’t turn down Godly men because you wanted to pave your own way. Just didn’t happen. Annoying heros are men who humiliate the heroine and suffer no consequences or cocky men who aren’t funny (if the guy is arrogant, he has to be funny).

5) Original. There has to be some originality. A good author can take a familiar story and make it unique, so I’m not talking about something I’ve never heard of. However, I shouldn’t read a book, and be like I’ve definitely read this already. That’s bad. Especially, if later on I can’t tell the difference between the books. Something about the novel must be original to make it stand out amongst the group. I like mail-order bride novels for some odd reason. There are a ton of them, so I really don’t read a lot of them (that sounds odd, but there are a lot of bad ones out there). Yet, there are some that stand out and it’s because they don’t have the typical heros and heroine or the typical plot. Don’t be typical, be original!

6) Lastly, it feeds your needs. At the end of the day, you know what you like. My dad always says a good movie has to have a good romance, some action, some humor, and a little mystery. Everyone has their own criteria for what makes your heart sing. When the novels matches that criteria it is a good book.

Next week, I will talk about what makes a book great or the difference on my blog between recommended and highly recommended.

Anyone agree or disagree with my reasonings? Got any to add?

Posted in Interview

Interview of Heather Burch

Thank you for willing to be interviewed!

Well, thank you for asking me!!!

1. When writing YA fiction, are there certain things that you feel must be in a novel or shouldn’t be in a novel?
Great question! I actually just wrote a guest post for Go Teen Writers and that’s the very thing I discussed! Any great YA novel should have three elements.
A. An unforgettable character
B. An impossible situation
C. A relentless threat
If you have these three things, you’re on your way to writing a fabulous YA!

2. Halflings involves a number of spiritual beings. When writing Halflings, did you have to do any kind of research?
All the research came along years before I ever started the book. I’ve always been interested in angels … not to the point that I searched out websites or anything, but there are a lot of angel/human interactions in the Bible. I always paid close attention to how and why the angels acted the way they did. Then I took it and started spinning fiction into it. Quite fun, actually. 

3. What was your inspiration for this series?
A bunch of teenagers who started talking in my head and wouldn’t shut up until I told their story. When I started writing Halflings, I’d been working on a completely different style of book. You might say the story idea took me captive. So far, it hasn’t let go. Apparently, I have my own relentless threat at work.

4. As it stands, Nikki is not supposed to end up with either Mace or Raven, but I have great faith that something, somehow, someway will change that. Do you already know who she will end up with or will you be surprised as well?
I’ve always known who, but honestly when I’m writing her with the other character, I totally change my mind. I even told my husband, “When she’s with ——-, I really believe that’s her match, her soul mate. She should end up with him!” Even though I know differently. My husband told me that if I’m not convinced, the reader won’t be convinced. Every time she’s with one or the other, we should be wondering about who is right for her. We find out in Guardian if she actually can have one or the other.  Yes, there’s a BIG reveal in that book.

5. Please tell us something (anything!) about the upcoming Guardian.
Well, I can say this, it’s the funnest book I’ve ever written. Nikki has to dig deep to fulfill her destiny. She gets to take a trip to Europe with the Halflings, discovers her “girly” side when Winter, Vegan and Glimmer “adopt” her, and she struggles with fitting into a world of gorgeous half-angel beings making her wonder if she should return home. A painful realization opens old wounds and she finds herself hunting the very man who swore he’d protect her.
Guardian releases on October 9. But you can read the first two chapters free in the ebook short story A Halflings Rescue. It’s available at all e-retailers. It’s a fun short story and my awesome publisher included the first two chapters of Guardian with it.

Check out my review of Halfings:https://remaininhislove.com/2012/08/27/heather-burchs-halflings/

Posted in Historical

Mary Connealy’s Out of Control

About

Seth Kincaid survived a fire in a cave, but he’s never been the same. He was always a reckless youth, but now he’s gone over the edge. He ran off to the Civil War and came back crazier than ever.
After the war, nearly dead from his injuries, it appears Seth got married. Oh, he’s got a lot of excuses, but his wife isn’t happy to find out Seth doesn’t remember her. Callie has searched, prayed, and worried. Now she’s come to the Kincaid family’s ranch in Colorado to find her lost husband.
Callie isn’t a long-suffering woman. Once she knows her husband is alive, she wants to kill him. She’s not even close to forgiving him for abandoning her.
Then more trouble shows up in the form of a secret Seth’s pa kept for years. The Kincaid brothers might lose their ranch if they can’t sort things out. It’s enough to drive a man insane–but somehow it’s all making Seth see things more clearly. And now that he knows what he wants, no one better stand in his way.

Review

Having read the other two Kincaid novels, I was most excited to read this one. I think Seth is my favorite brother, perhaps because he is the most endearing. When reading a Connealy book, however, I have to prepare myself for some light-hearted fun. The men are strong, but the women are fierce. I will admit, at times it’s a little strange to me, how impressive these women are, but then I’m not from Texas ;)This novel starts off with a bang and pulls you in right away. There were moments when I had to suspend my disbelief at times, but overall, if you like Ms. Connealy then this book doesn’t disappoint. There weren’t too many characters that I got lost in the novel and the romance between Seth and Callie, though not deep, had time to develop. Honestly, I really liked the way she wrapped things up in this series and would look forward to a fourth one about you-know-who!

If you want to learn more about this novel check out:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeSzqacHzQM&list=UUOTCh77FT1ZAyg-Mrj97HWw&index=2&feature=plcp

*I received a compliementary copy of this novel to review, my opinion was not affected in any way*

Posted in Historical

Laura Frantz’s Love’s Reckoning

About
On a bitter December day in 1785, Silas Ballantyne arrives at the door of master blacksmith Liege Lee in York, Pennsylvania. Just months from becoming a master blacksmith himself, Silas is determined to finish his apprenticeship and move west. But Liege soon discovers that Silas is a prodigious worker and craftsman and endeavors to keep him in York. Silas becomes interested in both of Liege’s daughters, the gentle and faith-filled Eden and the clever and high-spirited Elspeth. When he chooses one, will the other’s jealousy destroy their love?

In this sweeping family saga set in western Pennsylvania, one man’s choices in love and work, in friends and enemies, set the stage for generations to come. Love’s Reckoning is the first entry in The Ballantyne Legacy, a rich, multi-layered historical quartet from talented writer Laura Frantz, beginning in the late 1700s and following the Ballantyne family through the end of the Civil War.

Review

So I have been waiting for this book, oh, sense, I finished The Colonel’s Lady! And it was well worth the wait! This novel, if anything, showed how flexible and how great a writer Ms. Frantz is. It takes you out of that Kentucky mindset and places you in Pennsylvannia (this land was once untamed) and introduces you to two wonderful people: Eden and Silas. And some not so wonderful people. Who shall remain nameless. Eden is a character who fits her time. Somehow she is strong and admirable and sensitive and sweet. You can’t help but like her. And Silas, what a hero! I like that he’s so reluctant to know Eden at first, it makes the romance so much sweeter. I found the ending unique. I wasn’t expecting it. But it worked. Spiritually, Eden learns that life may not go as planned, but that has never stopped God. Such a great book that you won’t want to put down. Highly Recommended!

P.S. Want to know more about this book? Stay tuned, yours truly has interviewed the lovely Ms. Laura Frantz!

Posted in Contemporary

Krista Phillips’ Sandwich with a Side of Romance

 

About

She moved to Sandwich, Illinois, in search of a new life, but ended up
in a giant pickle.

Sandwich represents hope for twenty-year-old
Maddie Buckner and Kyle, the eleven-year-old brother Maddie wants to spring out
of foster care. Then she loses her new job after less than a day. It’s all
Reuben-the-Jerk’s fault, and she’s determined to make him right the
wrong.

He does so, reluctantly, by giving her a job at his restaurant,
The Sandwich Emporium. Then crazy things start happening at the restaurant, and
Kyle’s foster parents apply to adopt him. To stop it all, Maddie must learn the
art of humbling herself and accepting the help God has arranged, risking her
heart to Reuben in the process.

And she’d rather eat a million
corned-beef on rye sandwiches than do that.

Review

I really enjoyed this book. It starts off fun and light-hearted, but don’t let that fool you, this book gets deep. Maddie is a great heroine, she’s just trying to take care of herself and love God. Reuben has all this pride, but still has a soft spot for helping strays. There were moments when I wanted to slap Reuben, but his character was so realistic, I was like, I know this guy. Let me tell you, this book will make you laugh out loud and then there will be some moments that your heart just goes out to Maddie. One thing I love is how self-assured Maddie is. Jesus loves her and you can take her or leave her. I also like that  Reuben’s family strongly believes in being Jesus to everyone they meet. It’s a challenge to me to remember that. Very good. Very original. Highly Recommended!