Posted in 4 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: Romantic Interludes from TWCS

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Genre: Romance, Short Stories
Publisher: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House
Publication Date: February 1, 2013
Formats Available: Kindle

Summary:

The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House gives its readers seven spicy, sweet, and sassy stories guaranteed to satisfy. 

What happens when the god of love is smitten by a mortal woman? Or when a marine comes home from overseas and whats a second chance with the one he let get away?

From a greeting card writer who hates Valentine’s Day, to a matchmaker who doesn’t believe in love, to a young couple who has to face fears from the past before they can accept their future–Romantic Interludes includes seven tales of love from these authors:

Lissa Bryan
Suzy Duffy
T.M. Franklin
Allie Jean
Sandi Layne
Sydney Logan
Jennifer Schmidt

Whether in an emergency room or flower shop, love is in the air. From first glances to second chances, this bundle of romantic stories will get your heart racing!

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚

Since this is a collection of seven short stories by different authors, my overall rating is an average of the star ratings I gave to each individual story.

“The Golden Arrow and the Butterfly”
Lissa Bryan

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SummaryEros is the god of Love, but he has never experienced the emotion himself, despite his inexplicable fascination with a beautiful young mortal woman, Psyche. When one of his golden arrows strikes Psyche instead of its intended target, he whisks her away to Olympus, to save her from the fate of falling in love with the next man she sees. Psyche is terrified when she wakes blindfolded, in a strange realm, in the company of an oddly compelling man who claims to be a Greek god. What happens when the blindfold finally comes off? 

 

 

My Rating: 📚 📚 📚 📚

This story is light and charming in the way I want a short romance to be. I always enjoy new spins on mythological tales. I think my favorite part of this piece was Ms. Bryan’s interpretation of Mercury! “The Golden Arrow and the Butterfly” is a fun read, and really my only complaint is that I wish it were a little longer!

What this piece really does is showcase Ms. Bryan’s versatility and imagination. I love how her stories are so wildly different–gothic romance, historical fantasy, mythological romantic short. She doesn’t let genre tie her down, but instead goes where the stories want to take her. I love that. If like me you’ve enjoyed her work before, you’ll love this tale.

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About the Author
Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot . . . though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing. 

She is the author of several novels, including Ghostwriter, Under These Restless Skies, The End of all Things, Land of the Shadow, and Shadows Have Gone. She has short stories in Romantic Interludes and Tales from the End.

Connect with Lissa on her website, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr pages.

“The Gentleman Gardner”
Suzy Duffy

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SummaryThe flowers might be fresh, but Becky’s love life isn’t blooming. Spring has sprung and it’s looking like another year on the shelf in The Little Flower Shop for Becky. Enter the tall dark stranger who comes calling every Monday. But how can she fall for a guy who likes mediocre mopheads over zany zinnias? He might be cute, but he sure ain’t no gentleman gardener. Harder to open than a dahlia in December, Becky and her buddy, Jilly, have to resort to every trick in the book to figure out the mystery behind the guy they call The Monday Man.

 

 

My Rating: 📚 📚 📚 📚

This was a cute little story about finding love when you are least expecting it. I would have liked to see the characters developed a little more, and find out more about Becky outside her past relationships and her time at the flower shop, but those are minor complaints, really. “The Gentleman Gardener” made me smile, which is always good.

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About the Author: Suzy Duffy is an international and #1 bestselling author of romantic comedy. Her New England Trilogy includes Wellesley Wives, Newton Neighbors and Lincoln Ladies. Her books have been translated into German & Norwegian. She was a guest speaker at the 2013 Sydney Writers Festival in Australia.

Connect with Suzy on her Facebook page.

“A Piece of Cake”
T.M. Franklin

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Summary
Emily Valentine is a matchmaker who doesn’t believe in love. Well, at least not the hearts and flowers, see-your-soulmate-across-a-crowded-room-and-the-world-stands-still kind of love. No, Emily is a pragmatist–a scientist–and she’s abandoned her family’s tradition of matchmaking based on instinct and uncanny intuition for a more scientific approach to pairing people up. Emily believes love is more about compatibility and common interests than anything mystical. But a run-of-the-mill job turns her world on end when swoony cake designer Sam Cavanaugh pops up as a potential match for her newest client. The attraction she feels for him throws a wrench in her plans, but she’s not going to succumb without a fight. Emily is nothing if not practical. And reasonable. But she’s about to learn that sometimes the best things in life . . . are neither.

My Rating: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

What a delightful, fantastic little romp! I’ve read some of Ms. Franklin’s other works–the More trilogy and the delightfully creepy “Unscheduled Departure”–and I’ve never been disappointed, but I have to say I was not expecting “A Piece of Cake” to be THIS exciting and enjoyable.

In a very short piece, Ms. Franklin manages to create fully developed characters and explain the wonder and the struggle that is the Valentine family gift. She avoids one of the easy pitfalls of writing short stories and does not resort to info dumping, instead revealing everything we need to know in a very easy, natural way. I laughed, I cried, I was sad when it was over. I want a full-length novel in this world, pretty please!

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About the Author: 
T.M. Franklin writes stories of adventure, romance, and a little magic. A former TV news producer, she decided making stuff up was more fun that reporting the facts. Her first published novel, MORE, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days. MORE was well-received, being selected as a finalist in the 2013 Kindle Book Review BEst Indie Book Awards, as well as winning the Suspense/Thriller division of the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Awards. She’s since written three additional novels and several best-selling short   stories . . . and there’s always more on the way. 

Connect with T.M. on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

“Dissecting Lies and Intentions”
Allie Jean

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Summary: After a less than stellar ending to her seemingly perfect relationship, Christine decides to spend Valentine’s Day at the one place where her mind will stay good and occupied. The Emergency Room has a way of making the day pass by quickly, yet when her former fling elects to change his schedule with another nurse, Christine finds herself in a situation she can’t avoid. Can she finally set aside her fears and take a leap of faith? Or will her assumptions about Mitch prove her to be unlucky in love?

My Rating: 📚 📚

This story had an interesting concept, but it didn’t really grab me at all. The characters felt flat, and I found it hard to care about them. I was happy that Christine found happiness in the end, though! There were several points in the story where I wasn’t sure she would.

5836035.jpgAbout the Author: Allie Jean was born with an overactive imagination. She spent her childhood inventing stories and telling tales. Her mind never shuts down, even while she sleeps. Vivid dreams containing extensive, elaborate plot lines of good overcoming evil villains captured her nightly visions, lingering into her waking hours and filling the pages of her well-loved bounded diaries. She was encouraged by her parents, even at a young age, to write down her tales, and it has remained a somewhat secret hobby. As a busy wife, mother and critical care nurse, Allie’s love of storytelling has been reborn through the adventures of her unforgettable characters.

Connect with Allie on her website.

“Justin’s Second Chance”
Sandi Layne

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Summary: Ten years ago, April Peterson asked her long-time crush and pen pal Lance Corporal Justin Clark for a date. Just a day spent alone together. Though he cared for her more than he had ever let on, he was still in shock after his first military deployment to Afghanistan, and responded in perhaps the worst possible way: He ignored her.

When they meet again, April Peterson Sinclair is a widow with a young daughter. Gunnery Sergeant Justin Clark is hoping to win April’s heart and asks for a second chance.

My Rating: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

Wow. This story absolutely blew me away. I have not read any of Ms. Layne’s work before, and I’m not usually drawn to the military romance thing, but . . . wow. From start to finish, “Justin’s Second Chance” captivated me. In a very short piece, the author acquainted me with Justin and April and all that had transpired between them without being heavy-handed or rushing anything. The fact that she was able to create a slow but steady romance so quickly has me in awe. I have to find more of Ms. Layne’s writing to read!

About the Author: Married for more than twenty years to a very tole2264252rant (and brilliant!) man, she has two sons, no pets, and a plethora of imaginary friends. Her interests range from ancient civilizations to science fiction for both reading and research. With degrees in English and Ministry, she also claims Theology’s crimson Masters collar which she has been known to don on rare occasions. If you drive by her window before dawn, it is likely she’ll have a light on for you. Or at the very least, she’ll be alert on twitter. She invites you to visit her online space at http://sandyquill.com.

“Stupid Cupid”
Sydney Logan

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SummaryJada Morgan hates Valentine’s Day, which is ironic, considering she’s a writer for a greeting card company. She meets Nathan Reynolds, one of the company’s new graphic artists, and they bond over their mutual hatred for all things Cupid while working on designs for this year’s marketing campaign. As they grow closer, Jada learns Nathan is a single father, and she quickly becomes attached to him and his little girl. When it’s time for the company’s holiday party, Jada assumes she and Nathan will attend together, not realizing he already has a date for the event. Has Stupid Cupid broken her heart once again? A heartfelt short story about love, family, and second chances.

My Rating: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

This story reminded me a little of one of my favorite movies, (500) Days of Summer, but with a happier ending! I really felt like I understood Jada and Nathan as characters, and I had an honest connection to the story. I’m looking forward to rereading this one in the future!

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About the Author: Sydney Logan is the bestselling author of six novels. She has also penned several short stories and is a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul. A lover of music, she fills her playlist with everyone from Johnny Cash to Eminem. Sydney holds a Master’s degree in Elementary Education and spends her days surrounded by kids and books. A native of East Tennessee, she enjoys playing piano and relaxing on her porch with her wonderful husband and their very spoiled cat. Visit her website at www.sydneylogan.com.

“Two Pink Lines”
Jennifer Schmidt

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Summary: After twelve years of friendship, Memphis and Kennedy Adams took a risk that changed their lives forever. Now, three years later, they’re a happily married, suburban living couple whose only problem is a disobedient puppy. Things couldn’t be going more smoothly for these two—until Valentine’s Day turns out to be more than flowers, chocolates and candy hearts. Kennedy’s been down this road before and it ended in heartache. Will she be able to overcome her fear of the past in order to see the good? Sometimes the best things in life are the unexpected surprises along the way.

 

 

My Rating: 📚 📚

Honestly, I did not really connect with this story at all. However, that very well could be because the story of the main characters are told in one of Ms. Schmidt’s full-length novels. If I’d read that beforehand, I probably would have enjoyed it a little more. I did smile at the ending, though!

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About the Author: Ever since learning to read, Jennifer’s always had a love for books. There’s hardly been a time since second grade that she didn’t have a book in her hand or close by. Her love for the written word soon inspired her to write her own stories. However, it wasn’t until she found an online writing community that she took the first step and, hiding behind a penname, posted her work. After some persuasion from family and friends, Jennifer shed the penname and entered the 2010 TWCS Original Fiction Contest and won for best romance. In 2011, Jennifer published her first novel, Last Call.  When she’s not glued to her laptop making her characters’ lives as chaotic as possible, she’s chasing after her two young sons, Hayden and Nicholas, and doing the “mom thing.” 

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Posted in 4 Stars, Book Review

Review: The Half Killed by Quenby Olson

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Genre: Historical Fantasy, Gothic Fiction
Publisher: World Tree Publishing
Publication Date:
August 13, 2015
Formats Available: 
Kindle, Paperback

Summary:

Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid. 

She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London. 

And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control.

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚

Disclaimer: I am acquainted with this author via social media, through mutual membership in a large online writing community. This in no way detracts from the honesty of my review.

When I was a child, I had recurring nightmares inspired from visions of a horror film my parents had for some reason allowed me to watch. The name of that film? Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Oh, that’s not a horror film, you say? Well, it was to me. Because that’s how much of a scaredy cat I am. Just the thought of Violet Beauregarde swelling up into a bizarre blueberry-human hybrid and being rolled out the door in order to be SQUEEZED and JUICED was enough to fuel my nighttime terrors for years.

All this is to say that, despite the cover and the rather dark subject matter, The Half Killed is not a horror novel. If you are like me and hesitate to read anything that might be the least bit scary, you are most likely safe with this book. There are creepy scenes, so I don’t recommend reading this book, say, in a dark garage or empty house (ahem, not that I’d know anything about that . . .), but overall, it steers clear of the overly gory and graphic.

From my past experiences reading Quenby Olson’s work, both of which have been pleasant, I have fallen in love with her gift of description. It is within the pages of The Half Killed that this gift of hers shifts into overdrive.

In writing classes and online workshops, a maxim that is often repeated ad nauseum is “show, don’t tell.” The Half Killed is an excellent example of what that means. This is a very visual book. The prose is just lovely, and mirrors well the style and vocabulary of Victorian writers. Ms. Olson’s attention to detail and historical accuracy are apparent in the way she constructs the narrative, and I felt like I could see everything unfolding in my head, like a moving picture.

Oddly enough, this visual aspect of the novel is both what made me love it, and what made me a little disappointed when I reached the end. The descriptions of every physical event were rich with detail, but only the slimmest bits of backstory and explanation are offered. The reader leaves Dorothea and Julian with very little explicit confirmation about the nature and identity of their villain, their feelings about what they have just experienced, and even really the specifics about Dorothea’s gift. I also thought some of the Spiritualist practices could have been explained a little more thoroughly, for readers who were not as familiar with the movement. I had to read two or three articles to understand some aspects of what was going on. In the end, I was left wanting more . . . and not entirely in a good way.

That being said, I still rather enjoyed reading this book. Given the genre, it was out of my comfort zone, as I’m sure you can guess by perusing the rest of my reviews, but I am glad I made that leap. It is definitely a thought-provoking, entertaining piece that will keep you on the edge of your seat.


About the Author

QuenbyQuenby Olson lives in Central Pennsylvania where she spends most of her time writing, glaring at baskets of unfolded laundry, and chasing the cat off the kitchen counters. She lives with her husband and three children, who do nothing to dampen her love of classical ballet, geeky crochet, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who.

Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate

The Sea Keeper's Daughters (A Carolina Chronicles)The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great read, although I will say it took a while for the narrative to snag my interests. I didn’t realize this was the third in a series or considered Christian fiction until my reading was well underway. For that I am grateful, because had I know either fact beforehand, it’s doubtful I would have picked it up. (I have nothing against those with faith and am myself a Christian, but Christian fiction as a genre has left a bad taste in my mouth thanks to some less-than-thrilling encounters I had in high school.)

Over the course of the novel, Whitney Monroe transforms from a myopic, self-centered woman hellbent on living outside the bounds of love and forgiveness to a caring, compassionate woman who thinks of others before herself. I include this in my review only to encourage current readers who are put off by our protagonist’s initial behavior, which is not very becoming. I enjoyed the contemporary story, but I must say that the historic narrative woven throughout TSKD was much more interesting, and during my reading I almost wished the novel had been written more about that story instead. However, looking back, I understood why Whitney had to be the one to tell the tale.

Ms. Wingate’s descriptions are really quite beautiful, and her prose is almost poetic at points. It is clear she is a seasoned writer who is confident in her abilities. I am definitely interested into finding out more about her work and reading some of the other works in her Carolina Heirlooms series.

The negative bits are both small and few. In places, the dialogue seemed a little wooden and unrealistic, and there was one historical inaccuracy that made me grit my teeth–there were only 48 states in the 1930s, not 50. That might not seem like a big deal, but it did pull me out of the story and, for a while, at least, question the accuracies of the other historical elements I was not as familiar with.

Overall, though, this book was well worth the time. Beautiful, important message with characters who almost jump off the page with the realness. If you, like me, usually shirk the genre and are looking for a quality read, look no further.

View all my reviews

Posted in Author Update, Blog Tour, Writing

THIS DREAD ROAD Cover Reveal Blast!

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 This Dread Road
Cover Reveal Blast

We cried with Hattie as her life fell apart after one forbidden mistake. 

We held our breath as Molly walked the razor-thin tightrope of ambition and morality. 

Now, it’s Claire’s turn to break and mend our hearts . . .

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Now that college is over, Claire James doesn’t know where to turn. All she has is a business degree she isn’t using and a trust fund she doesn’t want. She longs to leave her poor little rich girl past behind, but when she leaves her fiancé and finds herself stranded in a strange city with no job, no plans, and nowhere to stay, she has no choice but to seek help from her father, the fearless leader of their family’s hotel empire. 

But when he offers Claire the keys to a penthouse apartment, and with it, a path back to her old life on the Upper East Side, something inside her snaps. Instead of taking the easy way out, as she has so many times before, she makes a counteroffer: she wants to work in a James Hotel, preferably one far from the city and close to her best friend. 

As it turns out, though, Bennett is not the answer to all of Claire’s troubles. Hattie, who has always helped her in the past, is busy caring for her own growing family, and the other employees at the James see her new position as nothing more than an act of nepotism. Claire is left an outcast in a town she once called home. Lonely and depressed, she begins to wonder if this attempt to alter her fate was just one more mistake.

When Claire connects with one of the hotel’s guests during one of her long overnight shifts, though, her move finally starts to make sense. Their conversation shifts quickly from lattes to loves lost, and as her newfound friend reveals the tale of her own ruined heart, Claire realizes that she just might hold the key to repairing them both. 

Following The Partition of Africa and The Marshall Plan, this stunning conclusion to the Bennett Series whisks us across space and time to remind us of one simple truth: 

Love never fails.

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Join in the party on Facebook! 

 

Exclusive Excerpt:

“James!”

Claire’s head snapped up at the sound of her boss’s voice. All the color drained from her face when she saw the anger twisted into his features, which were usually gruff but kind. He made his way across the foyer as quickly as he could manage, his right leg lagging slightly behind the rest of his body. He stopped at the front desk and leaned on the counter for support as he caught his breath.

“What can I do for you, Hank?” she asked, hating how shrill her voice came out.

His eyes hardened when he took in her phone, which was once more open to Trevor’s Facebook page. He and Jenna were visiting her family over winter break. She had posted several pictures the day before of them touring an old retired lighthouse. A true New England Christmas. Claire locked the screen quickly and shoved it in her pocket.

“My office. Now. Richard will take over for you here.”

Like a ghost answering the summons of a séance, Richard appeared by Hank’s side. “Anything you say boss.” He gave Claire a self-satisfied smile before sliding behind the desk. He stood behind her, hands clasping each other primly at his waist, waiting for her to vacate the chair.

Without another word, Claire rose and followed Hank. Usually she would have demanded to know what was going on before abandoning her post to Richard, of all people, but she had never seen Hank in such an agitated state.

While he had only been her boss for a few months, Claire and Hank had been friendly with one another for several years. She’d briefly lived in the suite usually reserved for her father before defecting to the dorms after a nasty fight with her mother, and she often spent long weekends here during her student days when she needed a quick getaway. During those stays, Hank had always been kind to her, taking extra measures to make sure her needs were met. He’d once even seen to caring for Hattie when her plans over Thanksgiving abruptly changed and she no longer had a place to stay, going so far as to pick her up in Bennett and send Claire daily reports on her wellbeing while she languished at her mother’s house in Connecticut.

Now, though, Hank’s usually sparkling gray eyes were dark and brooding, like a bank of thunderclouds gathering on the horizon. Once he was sure Claire was following him, he turned and limped off toward his office with as much speed as he could muster. She wracked her brain as she fell into step behind him, trying to figure out what in the world could have elicited such strong emotion in him. Nothing she’d done came to mind, except for the tense conversation she’d exchanged with Richard a few days before, when he’d accused her of slacking off. She wondered now if Richard had lied to Hank about why she left the front desk that night, or perhaps exaggerated how long she was gone.

The two of them wended their way through the employees-only section of the first floor together, passing the conference rooms and the small kitchenette where most of the employees chose to take their breaks. Amalia was the only one back there now, and she regarded them with wide eyes as they passed. The surprise evident in her expression confirmed she had nothing to do with whatever this was. Even though she’d been somewhat cold to Claire since her arrival in August, the college student didn’t seem intent on bringing her down. Unlike some people.

When they reached Hank’s office, he held the door open for Claire so she could pass through first. A sudden terror that he was about to fire her seized control of her body. Everything inside tensed up, and her stomach churned so much she worried she would get sick again. Thankfully, she made it to the arm chair opposite his desk fully intact. He closed the door and walked past her to his desk.

Trying not to tremble, Claire crossed her arms over her stomach and waited for him to begin. Where mere months ago, her conspicuous ribs had poked out, a soft swell of flesh met her hands. Had she been in happier surroundings, she might have smiled.

Hank folded his hands on top of his desk calendar and issued a deep sigh, but offered no explanation as to why he had dragged Claire to his office. They stared at one another for several minutes before she cleared her throat, determined to put an end to this agony.

“Hank, I–”

“Claire, we need to talk about your future here.”

She swallowed and looked down, taken aback by his abruptness. “All right,” she said slowly. “What about my future here?”

“Whether or not you have one.” He unwrapped a toothpick and held it up to his mouth gingerly, as if he was contemplating how great his need for it was, before tipping his chair back. “I had high hopes for you, Claire, but I don’t think this is working out.”

This Dread Road

About the Author

12194847_10206411210811399_2494367645966130343_o​Olivia began writing creatively at eight years old. During middle and high school, she attended several writing conferences and submitted poems and short stories to various writing contests. She finished her first long work of fiction, a novella entitled Heaven’s Song, in the tenth grade. Her short story “By Its Cover” placed first in its division in the 2008 District III ​Alabama Penman Creative Writing Contest. She took a reprieve from writing during her years at the University of Montevallo, where she earned a degree in history in 2012. She finished and published her first novel, The Partition of Africa​, in 2014.

Olivia currently lives in central Alabama with her husband, to whom she’s been wed since the age of twenty-two, and their cat, Buddy. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys watching quality television—The Office (US), Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, and Friends are her favorites—and cooking without recipes. Along with working full-time at her alma mater and studying English at the graduate level, she is busy working on her next literary adventure.

CONNECT WITH OLIVIA:

WEBSITE | BLOG FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS | LINKEDIN

Other Titles in the Series

The Partition of Africa: Book 1

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Hattie Greene is a serious-minded sophomore who always follows the rules. She earned her place at the prestigious Howard Knox College & University, and she intends to keep it. Much to the chagrin of her socialite roommate Claire, Hattie ignores the usual college activities in favor of focusing on her academic career. Hattie’s status as a perpetual good girl comes into question when Samson Campbell, a married professor with rugged good looks, enters the picture. He’s wrong for her on every level, but she can’t stay away. They enter an affair that threatens everything Hattie holds dear, causing her to question her very identity. All actions have consequences, and this is no exception. The heart wants what it wants. . .but what if the heart is wrong?

The Marshall Plan: Book 2

51QUn72sLUL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Molly Marshall is fresh out of graduate school, armed with a shiny new degree in journalism and ready to take over the world. There’s just one little problem: no one seems to care.

Six months have passed since graduation and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t find a paying job in the field she’s spent years preparing to dominate. Stuck in a menial job she hates, plagued with memories of an abusive childhood, and engaged to a man she may no longer love, she’s running out of options and fast. When she stumbles across a long-kept secret, though, everything changes and she’s forced to make a choice. What will it be, her ambition or her heart?

This standalone sequel to THE PARTITION OF AFRICA invites you to examine your thoughts on family, desire, and the nature of love itself.

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Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

Review: Stay With Me by Carolyn Astfalk

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Genre: Contemporary Romance, Religious & Inspirational Fiction
Publisher: Full Quiver Publishing
Publication Date: October 1, 2015
Formats Available: Kindle, Paperback

Summary:

With her sister Abby’s encouragement, Rebecca has moved out of their overbearing father’s home. When a chance encounter with Chris ends with an invitation, Rebecca says yes. The authentic way Chris lives his life attracts Rebecca and garners her affection.

Chris loves Rebecca and her innocence, but he’s confounded by the emotional scars she bears from her parents and an attempted assault. Her father’s disdain for Chris’s faith and career only make matters worse. 

With the counsel of their friend Father John, can Rebecca and Chris overcome every obstacle and bridge the deepening gulf between them and her dad? Or will a crucial lapse in judgment and its repercussion end their relationship? 

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

Disclaimer: I am acquainted with this author via social media, through mutual membership in a large online writing group. This in no way detracts from the honesty of my review.

Stay With Me stayed in my to-be-read pile for quite a while before I finally got around to reading it. I don’t usually read straight romance or inspirational fiction. But I grew to admire Ms. Astfalk’s online presence, both on her blog/website and through conversations in our online writing group, so I finally bit the bullet and started in on her debut novel.

I wish I hadn’t put it off so long. This book has almost everything I’m looking for in a romance. Chris and Rebecca are well-rounded characters who have flaws but work past those flaws in order to love each other. What begins as a simple love story transpires into a complex tapestry about the human experience. Ms. Astfalk manages to tackle big topics like propriety, communication, theology, sex, love, family relations, marriage, and the nature of sin, all within the context of this deceptively light book. Surprisingly, thanks to the author’s deft and talented hand, none of this comes across as heavy-handed or “preachy,” which has largely been my experience in faith-based fiction.

The ways that Chris and Rebecca mess up might have some more ardent readers of this genre raising their eyebrows, but I loved it because it was relatable and real. She handles the subject of repentance and grace so, so much better than other well-known Christian authors does. I wish this book had been around when I was twenty, and I recommend it to all unmarried Christian couples who find themselves struggling with temptation.

The only thing I wish was present in this book was more details about Chris and Rebecca’s courtship early in their story. While we are told they bond quickly over great conversation, the reader is left largely out of the loop when it comes to those conversations. I would have loved to have more insight into those long talks.

Other than that, this book was an absolute joy to read. Ms. Astfalk is supremely talented in her use of emotional language–I think I went through my entire range of feelings in this relatively short read, and I know you will too. Whenever I find myself in need of a good, healthy cry, I know this is the book I’ll turn to.


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About the Author

Carolyn Astfalk lives in Hershey, Pennsylvania where the scent on the morning breeze carries either chocolate or manure depending on wind direction and atmospheric conditions.

A Pittsburgh native, Carolyn carries her Yinzer card with pride, having interned at Pittsburgh’s iconic TV and radio stations KDKA and WDVE. She is a graduate of Duquesne University, where she majored in Latin and Broadcast Journalism.

A cradle Catholic, Carolyn was raised mainly at church basement rummage sales and other parish-sponsored events. She worked her way up to “pup girl” at weekly Bingo and even served as a parish organist for several years. Having reached the apex of parish ministry, she moved to the state capital to advance her churchy career.

Carolyn served as communications director and registered lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference for a decade, advocating for religious liberty; prolife, pro-family issues, Catholic education, and healthcare, among others.

Since then, she has been a stay-at-home mom to her four children. Most days she can be found changing diapers, wiping up spills, folding laundry, and tapping furiously on her laptop.

Carolyn is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, Pennwriters, the Pennsylvania Public Relations Society, and 10 Minute Novelists.

Connect with Carolyn at her website!

Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate

The Sea Keeper's Daughters (A Carolina Chronicles)The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great read, although I will say it took a while for the narrative to snag my interests. I didn’t realize this was the third in a series or considered Christian fiction until my reading was well underway. For that I am grateful, because had I know either fact beforehand, it’s doubtful I would have picked it up. (I have nothing against those with faith and am myself a Christian, but Christian fiction as a genre has left a bad taste in my mouth thanks to some less-than-thrilling encounters I had in high school.)

Over the course of the novel, Whitney Monroe transforms from a myopic, self-centered woman hellbent on living outside the bounds of love and forgiveness to a caring, compassionate woman who thinks of others before herself. I include this in my review only to encourage current readers who are put off by our protagonist’s initial behavior, which is not very becoming. I enjoyed the contemporary story, but I must say that the historic narrative woven throughout TSKD was much more interesting, and during my reading I almost wished the novel had been written more about that story instead. However, looking back, I understood why Whitney had to be the one to tell the tale.

Ms. Wingate’s descriptions are really quite beautiful, and her prose is almost poetic at points. It is clear she is a seasoned writer who is confident in her abilities. I am definitely interested into finding out more about her work and reading some of the other works in her Carolina Heirlooms series.

The negative bits are both small and few. In places, the dialogue seemed a little wooden and unrealistic, and there was one historical inaccuracy that made me grit my teeth–there were only 48 states in the 1930s, not 50. That might not seem like a big deal, but it did pull me out of the story and, for a while, at least, question the accuracies of the other historical elements I was not as familiar with.

Overall, though, this book was well worth the time. Beautiful, important message with characters who almost jump off the page with the realness. If you, like me, usually shirk the genre and are looking for a quality read, look no further.

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