Monday, May 25, 2015

The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham

The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham
I first met Pepper at an American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference several years ago. She has such a cheerful disposition and was warm and open as we greeted each other. Since then, I’ve learned her story of finding her agent, Julie Gwinn—such a great story! Soon after she signed with Julie, we (Pepper’s FB friends) learned of her contract for this book: The Thorn Bearer. Then, she kept us up to date on the cover and the release date. I was thrilled to read it for review.

Let’s begin with the summary:

From the decks of the ill-fated Lusitania to the smoke-filled trenches of France, Ashleigh must choose between the forgiveness of her past, life in the present, and a Savior who can rescue her from them all. When her fiancĂ© leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father's intimate betrayal. Her worst fears are confirmed—who could ever love a soiled woman? In an attempt to escape the shame and disappointment of her past, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn't traveling alone. Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend's mistakes. Determined to help Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and protection as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh's sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in his best friend's former fiancĂ© and his own childhood companion. As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship. When the truth of Ashleigh’s past explodes in the middle of war and Sam rejects her, Ashleigh must decide if God is enough or if the double weight of her betrayal and past will crush her life forever.

And now, my review:

What a story! Pepper is a fantastic story-teller. I was hooked from the beginning through to near the end of this story. 

Sam is a strong character—likable, fallible, heroic. I enjoyed watching him fall for our heroine. Our heroine is strong and resilient. Her childhood was full of trials, but we don’t camp there. In fact, we don’t begin the story there and only visit the past a few times via memory.

One of the themes in this story was forgiveness. For our hero, forgiveness for someone who was alive and who had changed. For our heroine, forgiveness for someone whom she hadn’t watched change before the person left her life. Either way, they each faced the choice to forgive or not. That is a relatable theme, which I felt Pepper handled with wisdom and without trite answers. 

There were multiple typos in this story, which distracted me as I read since I’m trained to catch them. But the story was strong despite them. Also, the book made a switch near the last portion where the story turned to too much kissing and dragged out the ending a bit too long. I ended up skimming that part.

Overall, this is a great debut novel from a strong writer! I’m looking forward to more from this author.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

A Love Like Ours

 Review of A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

I enjoy Becky’s writing, every book. She has a distinctive voice in Christian fiction. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Let’s begin the summary:

Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake's childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion's reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake's will, Lyndie's sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he's built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he'd thought he'd lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

And here’s my review:

First, that cover! Depicts the heroine perfectly—her spunk. Shows that the book isn’t all dread and suffering (which you might get from the summary). Oh, no. This book is yummy. Also, the cover depicts the hero hiding his face behind his Stetson. Yup, that’s our scarred hero.

Jake seemed so real. He had genuine issues—PTSD—and real scars. The author showed us a realistic story line that I believe opens her audience up to both men and military personnel (instead of the usual women of a certain age bracket). Some of the proceeds from the book have gone to support veterans through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund—a heroic gesture in itself.

The author handled “the event” (which led to the hero’s PTSD) very well, in my opinion. I avoid stories with gore or extreme violence, but I felt Becky’s depiction, though realistic, was tastefully done. We only visited this event a few times.

Against his will, Jake—once a tender young man—is presented with an opportunity to employ his childhood best friend and crush, with his horses. But he’d rather protect her—from him, from injury with the horses. And he’d rather guard himself from her optimism, her faith, hope. Such rich characterization. I was totally immersed in the story and found myself reading any chance I got.

Becky’s sense of humor and sarcasm, comes through the characters and narrative. Loved that.

A big part of this story is the symbolism of a horse character—Silver Leaf. This horse will not race for just anybody. He’s strong, handsome, and he needs special handling—like our wounded hero. He needs someone to believe in him, like Jake does.

The heroine’s faith, her family’s faith, is a life-line. And this family lives what they know.

Hope, healing, choosing life—these are some of the themes in this story. I could relate with Jake, and I could relate with Lyndie. And I rooted for their relationship.

There were a lot of POV (point-of-view) characters, which at first was confusing, but less so as the story progressed. I enjoyed watching the secondary characters romances progress. There were also some POV missteps in the ARC (advanced reader copy) I read. But I could overlook them for the sake of this fantastic story.

Highly recommended!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Create a Strong Emotional Experience for your Story Readers by Amy Deardon

Create a Strong Emotional Experience for Your Story Readers

Today I’d like to highlight a non-fiction book, something I rarely do on Net’s Book Notes. As a writer, I’m grateful for helpful writing craft books. If you’re a writer, Amy Deardon’s latest is a great one to add to your to-be-read pile.

Let’s begin with this book’s description:

Emotionally Bond Your Reader to Your Story

Learn the Character Traits that Make Your Hero and Villain Come to Life on the Page

Use Point of View as the Key 

The close emotional experience a reader experiences with your characters is the most important reason he or she keeps reading and loving your story. You can strengthen that bond between your reader and characters by using straightforward writing techniques that transform your characters into sparkling individuals.

In this book you will …
  • —Discover the essential traits that a story character must have to become a “real person” for your reader.
  • —Review techniques to translate your character’s personality onto the page so your reader knows him or her as well as a best friend.
  • —Grasp the powerful point of view technique that plunges your reader into your character’s mind.
  • —Master these tactics in your own writing by going step-by-step through examples that will show you exactly how to make them work.
It's easier than you think! You can continue to be frustrated building characters by trial and error, hoping you've captured the elements that will unflatten them... or learn the powerful proven techniques that generate vibrant story people.

And now, my review:

I appreciate Amy’s ability to break down fiction writing techniques into simplified, info-packed nuggets for writers. She’s published a few how-to writing books now. According to her Amazon author page blurb, she is “a Ph.D. scientist” who decided to scientifically study story structure. I’m glad she also chose to share her discoveries with other writers. 

As usual in her writing how-to books, her chapters are short and concise. You get the info, a brief explanation and/or example, and the tip. These tips occur at the end of every chapter, and they’re also included at the end of the book for easy reference. 

I’ve been editing and writing for a long time, but I still find nuggets in Amy’s approach to story structure. I highlight my copies of her books—whether paperback or e-book. 

Seasoned writers will find familiar information, but you’ll also probably find a new key to help unlock that area where writer’s block has imprisoned you. Amy’s approach brings clarity and practicality to story structure without extra verbiage. 

I highly recommend her books!

Monday, April 13, 2015

From the Start by Melissa Tagg

From the Start

I love how Melissa’s sense of humor flows into her work. And even though this was a football story, I still enjoyed it. *wink* 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn't kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays...until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.

Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend's hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he's lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he's never really done normal before.

While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it's like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn't part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that's ever happened to them?

And now, my review:

Melissa has a knack for creating characters who are both heroic and flawed. The hero has stepped into a small town where he’ll help our heroine’s family following a natural disaster. He’s not obligated or compensated, but he’s helping. And he’s hiding a crippling secret. Seems God brought him to this small town to help him heal.

Our heroine needs a financial breakthrough. Working on the hero’s book should help. But is her dream her own? Or a projected dream?  She’s still healing too.  I loved that she’s a writer. She enjoys old movies and penning screenplays. I related with her.

These two had great chemistry, but not overdone. This line from her POV about him: “Eyes so ridiculously blue-green the Pacific might as well give up.” (ARC version.) Yum! And of course, great banter. How does Melissa do it?

I’m already looking forward to her next book. Love her writing and this new series!

I highly recommend this author!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Three Little Words by Melissa Tagg

Three Little Words by Melissa Tagg

I love Melissa Tagg’s voice! Keep reading for a surprise later in this post. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Ava Kingsley and Seth Walker might be the most unlikely friends ever. The only thing these two polar opposites have in common is a knack for wordsmithing. Back in college, they were known for their written sparring in the campus newspaper's popular "He Says/She Says" column.

At their ten-year college reunion, they pick up right where they left off. Except this time their squabbling leads to a surprising turn: friendship and a year-long exchange of emails. So when Ava approaches a crossroads in her athletics department career in Minnesota, Seth is quick to offer the open apartment above the restaurant he's been remodeling in Maple Valley, Iowa.

Ava doesn't know where her career will lead her next, but she's starting to suspect she might see Seth as more than a pen pal. Which would be exciting...except for the fact that he only sees her as a friend.

As Maple Valley grows on her, Ava wonders if there might be something here for her even though Seth is unavailable. And maybe, just maybe, after all the words the two of them have exchanged over the years, they'll finally be able to say the three that matter most.

Three Little Words is an e-only novella that gives an exciting introduction to Melissa Tagg's new series about the charismatic Walker family and the endearing town of Maple Valley!

And now, my review:

I enjoy Melissa writing. In fact, I’m currently reading her latest, which released today. So, when this novella popped up between the last title and the current title, I grabbed it from Amazon. 

She excels at heroine-hero banter. Loved Ava’s and Seth’s fights. This is a reunion romance, which is one of my favorites because the characters have a history that unfolds for the reader. Watching from the outside, in each of their POVs, you’d think there was no way these two were meant to share those "three little words" with each other. Throw in some humor and character likability, and you have a fun read.

GREAT NEWS: as of this writing (and I don’t know for how long) this novella e-book is FREE at Amazon!