Category Archives: Reviews

Read our reviews of your favorite books, and our comments about other authors.

It’s never too soon to think about Christmas

A SCRAPBOOK OF CHRISTMAS FIRSTS

(Leafwood Publishers, October 2008)

A wonderful new gift book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, is available in October for Christmas giving. Today, I’ve invited the six coauthors to share their unique story of how they came together to publish this exciting book full of stories, recipes, tips for simplifying the holidays and so much more (click on bookcover to see the trailer!).

First, let me introduce Cathy Messecar, Leslie Wilson, Brenda Nixon, Trish Berg, Terra Hangen and Karen Robbins. Thank you for being here today, ladies.

Karen: Thank you for the invitation.

You are from three different areas of the country—Texas, California, and Ohio. How did you all meet?

Terra: We all six joined The Writers View, an online group for professional Christian writers. Trish and Brenda met in person in 2004 for lunch, I understand, and on 9/18/04, after reading a post Brenda sent to TWV, I sent an email to Brenda, asking if she would like to join with me and walk alongside each other, as a Barnabas group. Brenda said yes that same day, and suggested Trish too. Very quickly Cathy, Leslie and Karen joined in and our stalwart band of six was formed. Living in California, I was so happy to find 5 Barnabas writers in other states so we could bring together a wealth of different viewpoints and expertise

Brenda: Actually, We haven’t met. We’re all great colleagues and friends via the internet. Four years ago Terra and I formed a dyad to support each other as Christians who write in the secular markets. Along came Trish, Cathy, Karen, and Leslie (not necessarily in that order) and we formed a close knit bond of support, creative energy, and professional accountability.

Karen: I met Trish through an online forum called The Writers View and she invited me to join the group.

Trish: Although we belong to the same Yahoo writing group, we met one by one online. Eventually, the six of us decided that since we all write as Christians for a secular market through magazine articles and newspaper columns, we could support and encourage one another.

Leslie: Though we met virtually through The Writers View, I have been blessed to give and get hugs from Trish (at a MOPS conference), Cathy (in the area on business) and Karen (in town for a writers’ conference). I can’t wait to meet Terra and Brenda face-to-face, though I feel as though I already know them!

How did you come up with the idea to do a book together?

Brenda: The book is Cathy’s brainchild. She mentioned the concept of telling stories of events that happened for the first time at Christmas and sharing holiday historical tidbits and recipes and each said, “If you need any help, let me know.” That offer morphed into each of us equally contributing and co-authoring A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.

Trish: Yep, Cathy came up with the idea and the title, and asked us if we wanted to join her on this project. Of course, we said Yes!

Terra: Cathy mentioned the idea for a Christmas book to the group, and someone (I think it was Leslie) suggested that maybe our group could all write the book together. Cathy agreed to lead the way on the project. The earliest email I have on this is from 9/7/05, which shows that this has been a three year collaboration from idea to publication.

Karen: (Chuckling) Terra is a librarian and keeps our historical records by saving our e-mails.

Leslie: Actually, Terra, I wrote that comment (in a group e-mail) kind of tongue-in-cheek. Cathy, the ultra-sweet person she is, took my joking at face value and here we are. However, I believe God prompted the passion and ideas we all bring to the project and that He will do mighty things as a result of our collaboration!

Why did you decide on a Christmas theme?

Brenda: It was Cathy’s concept to write a book centering on Christmas.

Cathy: For several years, I’d been thinking about Christmas as a threshold to introduce Jesus to folks who aren’t familiar with him, and I love a simpler Christmas with the emphasis on family, friends and doing for others. I knew of some families who had experienced “firsts” at Christmas—reunions, losses, special surprises—and I wanted to collect those stories.

Terra: Cathy’s idea immediately resonated with me because Christmas books are “a way past watchful dragons,” as C. S. Lewis wrote. Many people won’t buy a book about being a Christian, but will buy a holiday and family fun book, thus the “past watchful dragons.” People who want to grow in their faith, and people who have no faith but celebrate Christmas will buy our book and hopefully be led to put the focus back on Christ for the holiday, and for their lives.

Leslie: Though Cathy birthed the idea, the rest of us quickly hopped on board. Not only is Christmas special to me—especially now that I have a family of my own—but also that particular holiday cries out to be simplified, to return to the meaningful aspects of celebration, and to lose some of the hype and commercialism.

Tell me a little about what is in A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts? What is your favorite part?

Cathy: I like that you can read one chapter in about 15 minutes and, with all the different suggestions, it feels like Christmas Eve. Makes you want to set up the nativity! Many of the suggestions for family activities can be adapted for any family get-together.

Karen: There are heartwarming stories about things that happened for the first time at Christmas. For instance, one of my stories is about the first Christmas with our adopted children. And the book is pretty. When I first saw the colorful pages and drawings, I fell in love with the illustrator’s work.

Brenda: I don’t have a favorite part – I love it all!

Terra: I like the way the parts are woven into a seamless whole, like a patchwork quilt, that is stronger and more beautiful than the parts.

Trish: It’s like everything you ever wanted to know about Christmas, all the best tips and recipes, and neat stories all wrapped up in this perfect little package.

Leslie: I love reading the special stories, hints, recipes—whatever—and imagining the precious family time that precipitated each moment. Plus, the book is gorgeous, beautifully printed, truly something to be proud of. And we are.

I’ve heard that the book is really a nice gift book; can you tell me a little about the format?

Cathy: Yes, it’s a hardbound book, full color interior. The layout makes it easy to read. It has a definite scrapbooky look on the interior. Different logos identify sections, such as an oilcloth-look Christmas stocking appears beside the “Stocking Stuffer Tradition” (help for connecting family members), and the “Cookie Canister” recipes are on a recipe card, and the back ground of “A Gift For You” is a gift box with bow. It’s a classy gift that they can be placed on a coffee table or in a guest bedroom during the holiday season.

Brenda: I like to describe it as a Starbuck’s sorta gift book. It’s high quality, crisp, and practical.

With six different personalities and areas of ministry, how did you manage to put this all together and still remain friends?

Karen: We pray a lot for each other and it helps that none of us have an over-inflated ego.

Cathy: There were no squabbles. Surely, we had differing opinions, but we knew that any of us could suggest an idea for this book and that each idea would get fair reviews from others. We actually voted on some aspects—everyone in favor say, “Aye.” If you’ve ever watched women at a Dutch treat luncheon when they divide up a meal ticket, it can be intense as they split the ticket down to the penny. As the project came together, I was in awe of my gracious coauthors, unselfish women who respect each other.
For some decisions, we did a round robin—things like book title and chapter titles and what categories to put into the book. Then, as compiler, I’d send out a list of needs to The Word Quilters, that’s what we call ourselves. For instance in a section we call “Peppermints for Little Ones” (hints for children’s activities), I’d put out a call, and the WQs sent in their hints, and then I put them into appropriate chapters.

Brenda: (Smiling) Are we still friends? Seriously, we each have our own platform, ministry, and family life, and those interests kept this project in perspective – it was important but not the only thing on our plates. No one was so enmeshed in this project that she campaigned for her own way. We never had a bitter disagreement or insistence to be “right.”

Terra: We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.We offer support and ideas for our separate writing projects and for personal prayer requests. I love these ladies, and I have only met one of them in person. So far, Karen is the only one who has met each of us, and one day we hope to meet in person, in a circle of friendship and love.

Trish: I think we are all very flexible and forgiving. We do have a variety of personalities here, but God has worked amazing things through our little group.

Leslie: Though I have seven non-fiction projects in various stages of completion, I could not be more thankful that this is the one to reach publication first. I am truly blessed to have worked with these women, learned from them, watched as they’ve poured heart and soul into crafting a product that will impact lives for the Lord.

Where can my readers get a copy of SOCF?

Cathy: The coauthors will all have a supply, plus our publisher, Leafwood Publishers, will have plenty of copies and discounts for buying five or more. Or they can be ordered at most online stores or by your local bookstore.

Karen: And anyone who leaves a comment here can be entered in a drawing for a free book and a gift basket worth $200! For a list of its contents, check our blog, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. And while you’re there, leave another comment and increase your chances of winning!

Tell me more about your blog.

Karen: We started our blog in July and it is accumulating a wealth of information about Christmas. Each of us posts one day a week following the theme for that week. Watch for new recipes, tips, ways to simplify, stories, etc., similar to what is in our book.

Leslie: Ooh, ooh, let me answer this one. I’m probably the newest to blogging among the group, but I LOVE it. I’ve enjoyed posting and receiving comments back from readers. What an amazing adventure having an online voice can be! This blog will focus on a different theme each week—anything from tips to avoid overeating during the holidays to how to give a guest room special touches—and expand on the material in the book. I think readers will get to know the authors’ individual personalities and connect on a more personal level. Plus, they get that many more ideas, information, inspiration (!) at no additional cost.

WQs: As an added bonus for inviting us to your blog, we’d like to pass along this Christmas tidbit to you and your readers:


Enjoy a blessed Christmas this year! And thanks for inviting us to share our book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, with you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Community, Reviews, Touring

Read an Excerpt from Sanctuary

Dear Everybody,
My upcoming long Christian historical, Sanctuary, is set in 1740 and will be published in trade paperback on September 15, 2007. The novel has a Jewish heroine and a hero who is a French Huguenot, and it is the first of three long historical novels in the Faith of Our Fathers series.
We all know that Jews were persecuted for their religious beliefs. But did you know that the Huguenots were persecuted for the same reason? I wanted y’all to be some of the first to know about Sanctuary. 
My main website is located at www.mollynoblebull.com. If you visit my main website, scroll down and click Molly’s Books, you can see the cover of Sanctuary and read an excerpt from it for free. While you are there, please also read an excerpt from The Winter Pearl — unless you already have. 
And let me know what you think.
Blessings,
Molly
  

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour

CSSF Blog Tour

Thought I’d pass along this wonderful new site I’m a part of called the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour. Tina, Becky, and the host of others that are making this “Christian worldview of fiction” a huge success deserve much praise. I’m thoroughly impressed by their heart for networking the Body of Christ in the realm of modern-day parables. Please check out these fantastic authors at your leisure.

Blessings!

CH
– – –

Leave a comment

Filed under Community, Reviews

Beauty for Ashes

Since I write mostly historical novels with a touch of romance, nobody should be surprised that I also enjoy reading them. Recently, I finished Beauty for Ashes by Dorothy Clark, a wonderful historical from Steeple Hill with an inspiring Christian message. I couldn’t put it down.  

Beauty for Ashes is the story of Elizabeth Frazier, a young woman who flees her stately home in New York City to prevent an arranged marriage to an evil brute of a man. Though Elizabeth had prayed that God would provide her with a means of escape, she never realized that He had a hand in helping her take the place of another young woman. The girl had promised to marry Justin Randolph, a rich and handsome but broken young man that she had never even met, but she missed their first meeting. Unknown to Justin, Elizabeth stepped in at the last minute and took her place.

The marriage of convenience between Elizabeth and Justin joined them in wedlock on the very day she ran away from home–two attractive and wounded people who had lost the ability to trust and to love. The marriage seemed doomed.

But the Lord had another solution.  Pride prevented them from seeing God’s plan–until beauty replaced ashes. And fear was drowned in love.

Buy this one, folks. It’s a keeper. 

Molly Noble Bull  www.mollynoblebull.com

3 Comments

Filed under Reviews

The Only Best Place

This book review will conclude my January contest. Each person who posts a comment to the review will be entered to win an autographed ARC copy of my latest book, The Ultimate Guide to Darcy Carter, a contemorary romance. Thanks to everyone who entered and thanks for all you do to spread the word about the books. I always tell people the hardest part about writing for publication is letting the world know you wrote a book. I appreciate everything you do. If you want to learn more about me or my other books, visit my website http://www.teresaslack.com

Now on to the review:
This week I have chosen The Only Best Place by Carolyne Aarsen, released Sept ’06 by Warner Faith.

Leslie Vandekeere has everything she ever wanted: a loving husband, two beautiful kids, an exciting career, all set amidst a fact-paced urban life. Suddenly the rug is pulled out from under her. Loving husband loses business when a crooked building contractor bilks him out of $90,000. Sidenote-husband may not be so loving. He may or may not have had a fling with biz associate.

So Leslie, two beautiful children, and possibly straying husband are forced to leave Seattle behind and return to his boyhood home, a family farm in Montana. Leslie has no idea what is expected from a farmer’s wife, and is pretty sure she’s not interested in finding out. As if dealing with dirty cows and monotonous chores isn’t bad enough, Leslie must deal with Dan’s extended, overbearing family of which she has never fit in.

Leslie resists farm life and overtures by family and neighbors with everything in her. Her only ally is her sister Terra whom she corresponds with through email. She wants to go back to work. She misses her fast-paced life. She doesn’t appreciate her mother-in-law holding the reins on her checkbook.

This book gets five stars from me. The reader empathizes with Leslie, but at the same time, realizes everything she truly wants may very well be hers for the taking. This book will be enjoyed by anyone who’s ever second-guessed her decisions, dealt with a pushy but good-hearted mother-in-law, or relied on chocolate when life got to be too much.

Don’t forget to post a comment. Hopefully I’ve given you several books to add to your reading list over the past month.

Teresa Slack

5 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Admission

I was going to post a review on a book I read recently that I simply couldn’t put down. It was fascinating, infuriating, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I was through. The author accomplished exactly what a writer wants to accomplish. So why am I not posting a review for his book…It was written by John Grisham, someone who does not need me to take up space on my blog to promote. I’d rather promote lesser know writers who could use the online marketing to make you aware of their work. Believe me, there are plenty of those writers out there, of which I am one.

Side note: The aforementioned book is The Innocent Man, definitely worth your reading time. After you’ve read it, let me know if it affected you the same way it did me.

Now on with this week’s review of Admission by Travis Thrasher.

I always enjoy books where unsolved mysteries come back to haunt the hero, so Admission captured my imagination right away. Jake Rivers isn’t your typical Christian fiction hero. Recently born again, Jake still struggles with his past, alcohol use, and a cadre of old friends with even more problems and secrets.

At the small Bible college he attended, Jake and his friends didn’t exactly mesh with the rest of the student body. They would rather party and chase girls in local clubs than worry if the lacrosse team was having a winning season. During his last semester, it seemed everything Jake had worked for was within reach. He had found romance and the job of his dreams was his for the taking. Then something unspeakable happens and the lives of Jake and his friends are changed forever.

Fast forward eleven years. Things haven’t exactly worked out for Jake the way he planned in school. And the secret of that fateful weekend just won’t leave him alone.

The hardest part for the reader in reading a book that jumps back and forth from present day to Jake’s last college semester is sometimes getting lost in past and present. The author handles this dilemma without missing a beat. I am giving Admission four stars. Excellent character portrayals by Mr. Thrasher helped me understand Jake, even if I didn’t always like him or agree with his choices. I wish the author would’ve expounded on what happened to Jake and his friends during their last camping trip a little more. I was left with a few unanswered questions. But then, I’m nosy and don’t want any details left to my imagination.

Admission by Travis Thrasher is a little out of the box for the typical Christian fiction I usually read, and possibly you too, but I recommend you give it a try.

Post a comment on this review or any of the previous reviews this month and you will be automatically entered to win an autographed ARC copy of my latest book, The Ultimate Guide to Darcy Carter. Can’t wait to hear from you.

Have a great week!
Teresa Slack

5 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Murder 101

Welcome back, everyone. Thanks for all the comments I rec’d last week about T.D. Jakes’s book, Not Easily Broken. This week I’m reviewing a totally different type of book, Murder 101, a mystery by first time author, Maggie Barbieri.

The heroine of this whodunnit, Alison Bergeron is a quiet, unassuming  English professor at a small college on the banks of the Hudson River. Recently divorced and without a car since hers was stolen, the last thing Alison expects is to become the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

Alison isn’t your typical hip, overly confident amateur sleuth like the ones who populate most mysteries. She cries a lot, eats often, drinks plenty, and throws up when she’s nervous, which happens on a regular basis. The story is told in first-person so the reader gets to know Alison well. She isn’t aware of her own charm or dry sense of humor, which makes her all the more endearing.

I’m giving this book four and a half stars. A few scenes in the book seemed to happen just for the sake of humor or filling space, but even so they didn’t slow down the pace of the story. If you’re looking for a different voice in your typical whodunnit, Ms. Barbieri delivers. With plenty of romance and mystery, this book will make good use of your next snowy afternoon.

Please post a comment and let me know what you think. Each comment enters you in the drawing for an ARC of my latest book, The Ultimate Guide to Darcy Carter.    

Happy reading,                                                                            Teresa Slack

4 Comments

Filed under Reviews