Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt



Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt

Released today!

Let's begin with the summary:

Wedding bells and storm clouds collide in the first engaging novel in a brand-new series about destination weddings, the power of love, and the possible mishaps and missteps that happen on a couple’s journey down the aisle to “I do.”

Paramedic Vanessa Hollister has put her adolescence behind her, including the unwanted label of being the new kid in town over and over again, thanks to her father’s military career. She’s overcome what her mother called “the biggest mistake of her life” and is planning an elegant destination wedding in Destin, Florida with her new fiancé. But will the reappearance of her first husband from her what-were-you-thinking teenage elopement disrupt her dream of an idyllic beach wedding?

As a professional storm chaser, Logan Hollister is used to taking risks. However, a reckless decision during the last tornado season has him questioning the future of his team, the Stormmeisters. Coming face to face with his ex-wife eight years after their divorce compels him to confront his greatest regret: losing Vanessa. Does their past give him the right to interfere with her future?

A fast-moving, powerful hurricane throws Vanessa and Logan together as they evacuate to a storm shelter along with other residents of the Florida Gulf Coast. Forced to spend time together, the pair battles unexpected renewed feelings for each other.

Vanessa and Logan are faced with a choice: Should they accept, once and for all, their teenage marital mistake? Or is God offering them a second chance at happily ever after?

And now, my review:

Our heroine has moved on from her past. Gone are her high school sweetheart and the memory of their two-year marriage. Well, mostly. Until their paths cross again.

Our hero lives with regrets, both personal and professional. He has some decisions to make about the future.

These two had great chemistry. Beth’s writing voice is very strong. She layers characters and plot in purposeful ways. She used flashbacks to show us the hero’s and heroine’s history. At first, I didn’t like losing forward momentum, but then the technique clicked for this reader and I enjoyed them.

“For old time’s sake.” That phrase stirs these two up. Problem is the heroine’s engaged.
Vanessa believes lies about God. She’s never had a stable home, so she’s always looking for it. She keeps people at a distance, isn’t too great with relationships. I liked that she journaled her experiences.

One of the themes in the story was trusting God. The characters learned to recite the truth, “God, You are who you say You are” as they learned to trust Him. 

I really enjoy Beth’s writing. I’ll be watching for her next book!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Rori's Healing by Dora Hiers


Rori's Healing by Dora Hiers


Dora is a fellow White Rose Publishing author, and I haven’t read her work before, so I was thankful for an opportunity to read this title for review.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Still stinging from the publicity surrounding her father's death, social phobic Rori Harmon prefers the solitude of her animal sanctuary, and accepts that marriage isn’t in her future.

Race car Driver Graham Decker refuses to be wrangled into a relationship by another money-hungry female. On a philanthropy mission, he arrives just in time to assist Rori with a llama birthing, but his appearance thrusts her into the media spotlight again.

Has Graham found a woman who doesn't care how deep his wallet extends? Has Rori finally met a man who will stick around when times get tough? Is healing for a hurting heart finally within Rori's reach?

And now, my review:

Dora has penned a sweet romance. Our heroine runs an animal shelter and tries to stay out of the spotlight. Enter the hero, a nationally renowned race car driver—a celebrity. The hero is tired of others taking advantage of his wealth, but though Rori needs money for her non-profit (the animal shelter), she doesn’t want his. Are these two the perfect match?

One of the story’s themes was overcoming fear—Rori had some challenges. Though readers may not struggle with the same fears, I believe this is a relatable issue. I liked how the hero honored her throughout the story. And I appreciated the spiritual element in this story. The book begins with a Scripture of trusting God no matter what others might do, a lesson our heroine must learn. (see Psalm 56:11)

There were some elements that weren’t my favorites—the llama’s activity when he didn’t like or trust someone. I wouldn’t have minded seeing that element once, but it appeared several times. 

Today is release day! Congratulations, Dora!

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 fiancé 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 fiancé 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!