I am a sucker for a good western romance novel so when Jessica Nelson asked if I would review her new book “Love on the Range” I naturally agreed even though my calendar was filling with other review obligations and the threat of potential jury duty was looming. I am so glad that I didn’t turn her down.
“Love on the Range” can take its deserved place among some of the best books I’ve read in awhile. Not only does this appear to be Jessica’s first novel but it is also one of those much maligned mass market paperbacks published by Harlequin. As far as I’m concerned, the quality of the books in any of the Love Inspired categories has improved dramatically. “Love on the Range” can stand proudly next to many of the trade paper novels published today.
The realities of life during World War 1 and the terrible influenza pandemic of that era were realistically portrayed. The isolation of the Oregon ranch and the constant threat of the slave traders kept just the right amount of tension throughout the story. I loved the characters. Gracie was opinionated, spunky, and stronger than she thought and she had a true love for Christ and a heart of compassion. Trevor was the perfect hero – loyal and true to the core but emotionally conflicted about his own worthiness. Uncle Lou and Mary were interesting enough that I would like to hear more of their story (hope there will be a sequel). A strong and uncompromised message of faith was woven throughout the story but was not at all preachy.
I can’t think of a thing I didn’t like about “Love on the Range” except that it ended much too soon. I look forward to more books from this promising new author.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review by the author.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Any other socialite would view being packed off to a remote Oregon ranch as a punishment. But Gracelyn Riley knows that this is her opportunity to become a real reporter. If she can make her name through an interview with the elusive hero known as Striker, then she’ll never have to depend on anyone ever again.
Rancher Trevor Cruz can’t believe his secret identity is being endangered by an overly chatty city girl. But if there’s one thing he knows, it’s that Gracie’s pretty little snooping nose is bound to get her in trouble. So he’ll use her determination to find “Striker” to keep an eye on her…and stick close by her side.
Read an excerpt from “Love on the Range” HERE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
In keeping with her romantic inclinations, Jessica Nelson married two days after she graduated high school.
She believes romance happens every day, and thinks the greatest, most intense romance comes from a God who woos people to himself with passionate tenderness.
When Jessica is not chasing her three beautiful, wild little boys around the living room, she can be found staring into space as she plots her next story. Or she might be daydreaming about a raspberry mocha from Starbucks. Or thinking about what kind of chocolate she should have for dinner that night. She could be thinking of any number of things, really. One thing is for certain, she is blessed with a wonderful family and a lovely life.
Jessica loves connecting with readers so feel free to hit her up on her blog, Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter.
I always enjoy books by Melody Carlson and am constantly amazed by her versatility and the sheer volume of her work. “River’s Call” and the preceding book of The Inn at Shining Waters series “River’s Song” were a bit different from the other Carlson novels I’ve read. Set in the late fifties and the sixties with a remote setting free of many modern distractions, both novels have a laid back nostalgic feel to them that appealed to me.
Despite the difference in setting, “River’s Call” did not lack in human conflict and interaction. I am glad that I had already read “River’s Song” because it contains the background information that helped me to understand some of the reasons that certain characters related to each other and/or acted the way they did. I really liked both Anna and Clark as well as Clark’s mother but heartily disliked both Anna’s daughter Lauren and her paternal grandmother Eunice. Lauren was a spoiled and lazy young woman who was interested in nothing but herself and Eunice was a bitter old woman whose manipulation and control contributed to Lauren’s problems. Her interference when Lauren found herself unmarried and pregnant created all kinds of problems.
I have found that Carlson’s novels are usually filled with wisdom and life lessons that are a direct result of faith in God. The message was not as prominent at first in “River’s Call” but it emerged strongly before the end with an excellent example of forgiveness and reconciliation.
I was sorry to find that some loose ends were left hanging but that just makes me eager to read the final installment of the series “River’s End”. I can’t wait for it’s release.
This book was provided for review by Glass Road Public Relations.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
What happens when the ties between generations are severed?
It is the 1960s and Anna’s daughter, Lauren, is confused, broken-hearted, and pregnant. The difficult situation seems to bring out the worst in the selfish girl. When Lauren chooses to stay with her manipulative Grandma Eunice, Anna worries her daughter will never become a mature adult and the relationship between Lauren, Anna and Eunice becomes even more strained. However, when she hits the lowest point in her life, Lauren returns to her mother, the river, and the Inn and Shining Waters. As time passes, Lauren, now a mother to her own defiant teenager, faces a new crisis, one that puts the entire family at risk.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melody Carlson published her first book in 1995 and she has been writing prolifically ever since. To date, Melody has published over 200 books, making her one of the top 20 most prolific authors of all time. With total sales of over 5 million her award-winning books include: Homeward, Love Finds You in Sisters, Oregon; Limelight; the Diary of a Teenage Girl series; the True Colors series; and the Carter House Girls series.
In her professional life, Melody has worn many hats: from pre-school teacher to political activist to senior editor. Currently, she writes full-time, and freelances from her home. She has two grown sons and lives in Sisters, Oregon with her husband, Chris, and Audrey, her yellow lab. They enjoy skiing, hiking, and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today’s Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Thomas Nelson (March 13, 2012)
***Special thanks to Rick Roberson The B&B Media Group, for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
As a child growing up on the campus of a Christian school where her parents taught, Neta Jackson began creating imaginary worlds at a young age. Loving horses but not having one, she wrote stories about them instead. By the time she reached high school, she had so honed both imagination and writing skills that when her English teacher submitted one of her stories to a Scholastic magazine writing contest, it won first place. With that first win, Jackson knew beyond the shadow of a doubt she wanted to be a writer. She’s been writing ever since.
After marrying the love of her life, Dave Jackson, the couple chose to settle in the Chicago area where Neta had attended college. Throughout their marriage, the Jacksons have worked together as a team, writing a multitude of books together on topics ranging from medical ethics to stories of gang kids, sometimes sharing the task with other experts who have served as co-writers. Together, they have also penned forty historical fiction accounts of Christian heroes, called the Trailblazer Books, along with another five-volume series called Hero Tales: A Family Treasury of True Stories from the Lives of Christian Heroes.
These days, both are busy penning their own works of adult fiction. Jackson began her individual effort in 2003 with the Yada Yada Prayer Group series, inspired by her real-life Bible study group, a multi-cultural gathering of dynamic women who have played an important role in her life for over fifteen years. Since publication of the first Yada Yada Prayer Group novel, the seven-book series has sold over a half-million copies and given rise to countless prayer groups across the country and the publication of a personal prayer journal for prayer group participants. In 2008, Where Do I Go?, her first book in the four-book House of Hope series, was published. The second book in the series, Who Do I Talk To?, won a Christy Award in 2010 for excellence in Christian fiction. Recently, the fourth book of the series, Who Is My Shelter?, was nominated for Best Inspirational Novel for 2011 by RT Book Reviews. Stand by Me is the first in Jackson’s new SouledOut Sisters series.
The Jacksons have been married 45 years and have raised two children plus a Cambodian foster daughter. They continue to live in urban Chicago where, together, they enjoy writing, gardening and spending time with their grandchildren.
Visit the author’s website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
How does God expect us to get along with those people who are always causing us pain? Are we supposed to keep helping those who repeatedly take advantage of us? Exactly what is the key to living in peace with difficult people? These are the questions award-winning author Neta Jackson addresses in her latest novel, Stand by Me (Thomas Nelson), the first book of her newest series, SouledOut Sisters.
Inspired by her own Bible study group, Jackson began several years ago to write about a multi-cultural gathering of dynamic women in a collection of books known as the Yada Yada Prayer Group series. Since publication of the first Yada Yada Prayer Group novel in 2003, the seven-book series has sold over a half-million copies and given rise to countless prayer groups across the country. Jackson followed the Yada Yada novels with the four-book House of Hope series. Though the series is not dependent upon its predecessors for understanding, Jackson has used the individual lives of familiar characters to introduce some of the more complex issues prevalent in our modern society. By allowing her characters to lead the way, Jackson has shed light on issues like drug addiction, the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and even the racial conflicts that can so easily arise within any culturally diverse group.
In her newest work, Stand by Me, Jackson introduces her readers to Kathryn Davis, a young college student who has left her prestigious Phoenix family behind to move to Chicago after dropping out of medical school against her father’s protests. Her newfound faith in Christ helps temper the realization that she has stepped out of her family’s good graces, but does little to alleviate the pain of their rejection.
When Kat discovers the dynamic multi-cultural membership at Souled Out Community Church, she longs to be part of it. But her unconventional behavior and brash eagerness have not helped her win favor with the church members. And, much to her dismay, Avis Douglass, the one woman in the church whom she most admires and would love to know better, is the one who is the most aloof.
Kat has no idea that, after being confronted by a number of serious problems all at once, Avis and her husband, Peter, are beginning to question God’s will for their lives. Having been recently estranged from her HIV positive daughter and being worried about her welfare, Avis would like nothing more than to quietly retreat into the recesses of her faith and find the answers she seeks. Her attempts to do so, however, are thwarted at every turn by the flamboyant Kat, who has apparently decided to foist herself on their lives whether they want her to or not.
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (March 13, 2012)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Midwest Music Festival, Central Illinois
Kat Davies ducked into the billowing exhibition tent staked down in a large pasture in central Illinois like a grounded Goodyear blimp. She’d been at the Midwest Music Fest three days already—didn’t know it was a Christian festival until she got here—and needed a little respite from the music pulsing morning-till-night on the Jazz Stage, Gospel Stage, Alternative Stage, Rock Stage, Folk Stage, and a few more she’d forgotten.
Besides, she’d be heading back to Phoenix in two days, and sooner or later she needed to figure out how to tell her parents she’d “given her heart to Jesus” after the Resurrection Band concert last night. Maybe this tent had a quiet corner where she could think. Or pray. Not that she had a clue how to do that.
Kat had a good idea how they’d react. Her mother would flutter and say something like, “Don’t take it too seriously, Kathryn dear. Getting religion is just something everyone does for a year or two.” And her father? If he didn’t blow his stack at what he’d call “another one of your little distractions,” he’d give her a lecture about keeping her priorities straight: Finish pre-med at the University of Arizona. Go to medical school. Do her internship at a prestigious hospital. Follow in the Davies’ tradition. Make her family tree of prominent physicians proud.
Except . . . she’d walked out of her biochemistry class at UA one day and realized she didn’t want to become a doctor. She’d tutored ESL kids the summer after high school and realized she liked working with kids. (“Well, you can be a pediatrician like your Uncle Bernard, darling,” her mother had said.) And the student action group on the UA campus sponsoring workshops on “Living Green” and “Sustainable Foods” had really gotten her blood pumping. (Another one of her “distractions,” accord- ing to her father.)
Was it too late to pursue something else? Her parents were already bragging to friends and co-workers that their Kathryn had received her letter of acceptance into medical school a few months ago. Feeling squeezed till she couldn’t breathe, she’d jumped at the chance to attend a music fest in Illinois with a carload of other students—friends of friends—just to get away from the pressure for a while.
What she hadn’t expected was to find so many teenagers and twenty-somethings excited about Jesus. Jesus! Not the go- to-church-at-Christmas-and-Easter Jesus, the only Jesus she’d known growing up the daughter of a wealthy Phoenix physician and socialite mother. That Jesus, frankly, had a hard time com- peting with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
But these people talked about a Jesus who cared about poor people. A Jesus who created the world and told humans to take care of it. A Jesus who might not be blond and blue-eyed after all. A Jesus who said, “Love your neighbor”—and that neighbor might be black or brown or speak Spanish or Chinese. A Jesus who said, “All have sinned” and “You must be born again.” The Son of God, who’d died to take away the sins of the world.
That’s the Jesus she’d asked to be Lord of her life, even though she wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. But she desper- ately longed for something—Someone—to help her figure out who she was and what she should do with her life. The guitar player in the band who’d challenged the arm-waving music fans last night to be Christ-followers had said, “Jesus came to give you life—life more abundantly! But first you must give your life to Him.”
That’s what she wanted. Abundant life! A life sold out to something she could believe in. To give herself to one hundred percent. So she’d prayed the sinner’s prayer with a woman in a denim skirt whose name she never learned, and a “peace like a river” f looded her spirit.
Last night, anyway.
But by the light of day, she was still heading in a direction—medical school—that she didn’t want to go.
Big fans circulated the air in the large tent, though mostly it just moved the stif ling July heat around. Thick, curly strands of her long, dark hair had slipped out of the clip on the back of her head and stuck in wet tendrils on her skin. Redoing the clip to get the damp hair off her neck and face, she wan- dered the aisles, idly picking up brochures about Compassion International, Habitat for Humanity, and YWAM. Huh. What if she just dropped out of pre-med and did something like this Youth With A Mission thing. Far from Phoenix and the Davies Family Tradition. Go to Haiti or India or—
“Nice boots,” giggled a female voice nearby.
Kat glanced up from the brochure. A cute brunette with a shaggy pixie cut grinned at her from behind a booth that said Find Your Calling at CCU! Kat self-consciously looked down at the Arizona-chic cowboy boots peeking out beneath her designer jeans and f lushed. Ever since she’d arrived at the fes- tival, she felt as if she’d walked into a time-warp—girls in tank tops, peasant skirts, and pierced nostrils, guys wearing pony- tails, tattoos, shredded jeans, and T-shirts proclaiming Jesus Freak. Kat had felt as conspicuous as a mink coat in a second- hand store.
“Thanks. I think.”
The young woman, dressed in khaki Capris and a feminine lemon-yellow tee, laughed. “This your first time to the Fest? Where’re you from?”
Kat felt strangely relieved to be talking to someone else who didn’t look like a throwback to the seventies. “Phoenix. First time.”
“Wow. You came a long way.”
“Detroit. But during the year I’m a student at CCU in Chicago. I get a huge discount off my festival fee if I sit at this booth a couple hours a day during the Fest.” The girl grinned again and extended her hand across the stacks of informational literature. “I’m Brygitta Walczak.”
Kat shook her hand. “Kathryn Davies. But my friends call me Kat. With a K.”
“Like ‘kitty kat’ ? That’s cute. And . . . blue eyes with all that dark, curly hair? Bet the guys love that.”
Ignoring the remark, Kat glanced up at the banner above the booth. “What does CCU stand for?”
“Chicago Crista University. Usually we just call it Crista U. Located on the west side of Chicago. I’ll be a senior next year. Christian ed major.”
“Christian ed? What’s that?”
“You’re kidding.” Brygitta eyed her curiously. “Mm. You’re not kidding. Uh, are you a Christian?”
Kat allowed a wry smile. “For about twelve hours.”
The pixie-haired girl’s mouth dropped open, and then her amber eyes lit up. “That is so cool! Hey . . . want a Coke or something? I’ve got a cooler back here with some soft drinks. Wanna sit? I’d love some company.”
Brygitta dragged a folding chair from an unmanned booth nearby, and Kat found herself swapping life stories with her new friend. Unlike Kat, who had no siblings, Brygitta came from a large Polish family, had been raised in the Catholic church, “went Protestant” at a Youth for Christ rally in high school, planned to get a master’s degree at Crista U, and wanted to be a missionary overseas or a director of Christian education somewhere.
“Sorry I’m late, Bree,” said a male voice. “Uh-oh. Two gor- geous females. You’ve cloned yourself. I’m really in trouble now.”
Kat looked up. A young man about their same age grinned at them across the booth. He was maybe six feet, with short, sandy-brown hair combed forward over a nicely tanned face, wire-rim sunglasses shading his eyes. No obvious tattoos or body piercings. Just cargo shorts and a T-shirt that said CCU Soccer.
Brygitta jumped up. “Oh, hi, Nick. This is Kat Davies. She’s from the University of Arizona, first time at the Fest. Nick Taylor is my relief. He’s a seminary student at Crista—well, headed that way, anyway.”
Nick slid off his shades and flashed a smile, hazel eyes teasing. “So, Miss Blue Eyes. Has Brygitta talked you into coming to CCU yet?”
Kat laughed and started to shake her head . . . and then stopped as her eyes caught the logo on the banner across the booth. Find Your Calling at CCU.
Transfer to Crista University? Why not?
As the first book in the SouledOut Sisters series, Stand by Me continues the fine tradition of Jackson’s previous two series – the Yada Yada Prayer Group and Yada Yada House of Hope. Readers familiar with the earlier series will welcome a cast of characters who seem like old friends. In addition, new characters have been introduced who will quickly find their place in readers’ hearts.
Long time favorite Avis is prominently featured in Stand by Me but in a bit different light than we are used to seeing her. Although still a strong Christian with a leadership role in her church, Avis seems to be in one of those “valley” periods of her life. She is terribly worried about the welfare of her estranged daughter and grandson, her husband is restless and suggesting major changes to their lives, and she has just learned that her own job may be at risk. When a group of college students move into the apartment below, Avis is less than welcoming. She finds them disruptive, especially the apparent ringleader Kat who seems to intrude in Avis’ life every time she turns around.
As expected, Jackson has penned an excellent narrative with realistic characters who struggle with the same issues most of us face on a regular basis. A major theme in Stand by Me seems to be about how we judge others – whether by racial differences, age differences, appearance, personalities, etc. A strong message of forgiveness and reconciliation is also woven throughout.
Neta Jackson’s books are always entertaining but are also thought provoking. I always come away from one with plenty to ponder and hopefully change my own life for the better.
This week, theChristian Fiction Blog Allianceis introducingThe Hope of ShridulaAbingdon Press (March 2012)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
A word from Kay:
Kay Marshall Strom… who am I? Well, I’m a traveler… a railer against social injustice… a passionate citizen of the world. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I’m a 21st century abolitionist who speaks out against slavery of all kinds. I am a beach walker and a gardener and the off-key singer of songs. I’m a wife… a mother… a sister… a daughter… a friend.
Most people, though, know me as a writer and a speaker. So here is a bit more about that part of my life:
Of my 39 published books, seven have been book club selections, twelve have been translated into foreign languages, and one has been optioned for a movie. My writing credits include numerous magazine articles, books for children, short stories, television scripts and two prize-winning screenplays. Along with my husband Dan, I also have produced a series of booklets for writers. My writing has appeared in a number of volumes including three versions of the NIV Devotional Bible and the devotional book My Heart—Christ’s Home, Through the Year.
I love to write, and I love to share about topics close to my heart. I speak at seminars, retreats, writer’s conferences, and special events throughout the country. And because I do enjoy travel, I even speak on cruise ships!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
The Blessing in India series is a saga set in India’s heartbreaking history and breathtaking present that points toward a future of hope. Along the way, name-only Christianity collides with Hinduism, and then is confronted by an entirely new understanding of the call to follow Christ.
India: 1946. For forty-eight years, Ashish and his family toiled as slaves in the fields of the high-caste Lal family, and all because of one small debt. At fifty-four, Ashish was old and worn out. Every day was a struggle to survive for his family including his only daughter.
His wife had named the girl Shridula—Blessings. “Perhaps the name will bring you more fortune than it brought me,” Ashish told his daughter. His words proved to be prophetic in ways he could never have imagined. And when the flames of revolt brought independence to India, they seared change into the family of Ashish.
If you would like to read the first chapter of The Hope of Shridula, go HERE.
Learn more about Kay and her books on her Website.
This week, theChristian Fiction Blog Allianceis introducingThe ChaseZondervan (March 27, 2012)byDiAnn MillsABOUT THE AUTHOR:
DiAnn Mills believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” She is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. Her books have won many awards through American Christian Fiction Writers, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005, 2007, and 2010. She was a Christy Award finalist in 2008 and a Christy winner in 2010.
DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and is the Craftsman Mentor for the Christian Writer’s Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops.
DiAnn and her husband live in Houston, Texas. Visit her website or find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/diannmills
ABOUT THE BOOK:
To the FBI it’s a cold case. To Kariss Walker it’s a hot idea that could either reshape or ruin her writing career. And it’s a burning mission to revisit an event she can never forget. Five years ago, an unidentified little girl was found starved to death in the woods behind a Houston apartment complex. A TV news anchor at the time, Kariss reported on the terrifying case. Today, as a New York Times bestselling author, Kariss intends to turn the unsolved mystery into a suspense novel. Enlisting the help of FBI Special Agent Tigo Harris, Kariss succeeds in getting the case reopened. But the search for the dead girl’s missing mother yields a discovery that plunges the partners into a witch’s brew of danger. The old crime lives on in more ways than either of them could ever imagine. Will Kariss’s pursuit of her dream as a writer carry a deadly price tag? Drawing from a real-life cold case, bestselling novelist DiAnn Mills presents a taut collage of suspense, faith, and romance in The Chase.
Watch the book video!
If you would like to read the first chapter of The Chase, go HERE.
Learn more about DiAnn and her books on her Website.
The Chase is a high octane romantic suspense novel with the emphasis on suspense. Primary characters are an ex-news anchor/best-selling author and the FBI agent who has been assigned to assist her as she writes a new novel based on a cold case. For a large portion of the book, Kariss Walker is a major thorn in the side of agent Tigo Harris with her incessant questions and interference in his case. Kariss find’s Tigo’s attitude just as infuriating. You might say they have a mutual case of dislike. Of course any frequent reader knows just where that will end up.
I won’t go into details about the plot – there is enough information in the above book description and numerous other reviews. This book appears to have been very well researched and some of the crime details could have come from recent news. The bad guys were truly frightening in their total depravity. I liked the fact that both Kariss and Tigo were portrayed so realistically with emphasis on both their strengths and their very human frailties. Kariss’ very strength and determination were both strengths and weaknesses. For someone as smart as she seemed to be, she could certainly make some wildly inappropriate decisions that usually got her in over her head.
They say that “all’s well that ends well” but boy was it a crazy and convoluted journey to get to the end of this one. There were moments of “I didn’t see that one coming” as well as “Don’t trust him!”. Yeah, I get pretty involved with my books sometimes. Anyway, The Chase is well worth reading but be warned, you will probably be looking over your shoulder for awhile afterward.