Friday, May 31, 2013

Tyndale Blog Tour: Grace’s Pictures

Author: Cindy Thomson
Genre: Life, family

Series: An Ellis Island Novel

Number in series: 1st (if it’s a series)

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8 (high)

Type: Historical fiction

Number of pages: 396

Time period: Early 1900s

Publisher and price: Tyndale House Publishers, $12.99

Passage from book: (see first chapter after my review)

My overall opinion: A good book! I absolutely love the cover (and was delighted to discover another angle of the picture, concentrating on the camera, inside!). And I, being a photographer, loved all the parts inside that involved cameras. I was always able to empathize with all Grace’s feelings and impulses regarding them! Grace herself was sweet, funny, and altogether lovable. I’ve made her sound like a doll…she isn’t, she’s a good strong young woman. Who’s also sweet and funny. :) And then Owen made for an excellent hero to counter her! The scenes were fast-moving, set in interesting places, and felt very historically accurate – always a good thing. Remember though, “historically accurate” and “boring” are not the same thing – quite opposites! Unfortunately, I didn’t love the writing, and the conversations especially bugged me sometimes. However, I would read more by Thomson and I would recommend it for anyone with an interest in cameras, Ellis Island, the early 1900s, New York City, or historical fiction.

**Tyndale sent me a copy of this book for review purposes. I wasn’t required to post positively and wasn’t reimbursed for this review. Many thanks to Tyndale for working with me so nicely!**

Now, a few extras…

Go read the first chapter:

A Q&A with the author:

1. What was your inspiration for this book, Grace’s Pictures?

When the Brownie Camera was introduced, it changed photography forever. What was before expensive and not very portable, suddenly became available for the average person. I read a contemporary commentary that expressed the concern that with everyone carrying a camera, someone could have his/her photograph taken without permission, and what an invasion of privacy that would be. That got me thinking…what if that happened, and at a time before there were very many mug shots available of criminals.

I love writing about immigrants because their stories are a part of who we are today. If not for their bravery and ingenuity, our lives would be much different today, and probably more difficult. 

2. Tell me about your main character, Grace McCaffery. Was her character based upon anyone in particular?

Grace comes to America wounded by her experiences of having an abusive father, being evicted from her home by the police, and then having to survive in a workhouse. When her mother gets remarried, to a policeman no less, Grace is horrified. In her mind, avoiding the kind of people who hurt you is the only way to stay safe. When she is sent to America to start a new life, she is not certain she wants to go. She wishes for the confidence and joy she sees in others around her, and she tries to capture it in drawings and snapshots so she can better study it. I know a lot of people, me for one, who would rather observe for a while before stepping out and trying something new. But historically, immigrants could not do that. They were thrust into change and had to adapt and endure.

Grace, like most fictional characters, is not based on any particular person. She is a conglomeration of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers who came to this country seeking a better life, but without many options to support themselves. They must have been frightened at first by this vast new country, but somehow they overcame that fear and founded our American families.

3. What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?

A lesson that I hope is learned in this story is that God provides what we need, but many times it requires us to put aside our preconceived ideas. No matter what disadvantages we start with, we can turn things around, with God’s help.  

4. How do you expect Grace’s story to resonate with women?

Grace, a young woman who was not nurtured much as a child, becomes a nurturer. She is a nanny with a role that becomes essential for the children she cares for. I think most women are nurturers. Unfortunately, Grace had a far from ideal childhood. I think many women struggle with not having been nurtured themselves. Grace’s story illustrates the hope that God can turn that around, and even in unexpected ways. Grace meets someone who cares for her, who just happens to work in that dreaded occupation—a policeman. 

5. As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?

I loved learning about Ellis Island, visiting New York City, and imagining those immigrants of the early 20th century moving along the same paths I was exploring. I loved writing about how the children Grace cared for helped to change her. History is fascinating to me, and it's a privilege to be able to write about it. 

6. What is your hope for this story? How would you like it to impact readers?

I hope readers will be transported to a time in history when everything was changing at a rapid pace and experience a bit of what their ancestors’ lives were like. I would like readers, through Grace’s Pictures, to not only appreciate the sacrifices their ancestors made, but also find the courage to meet their own challenges—everyone has them.  

7. How has this novel helped you to grow as a storyteller?

Grace was at first a difficult character to figure out. I had a loving father who passed away a few months before I started working on this book. Grace, who did not have a loving father, stretched me a bit, but it was good to explore what life was like for her and try to imagine how someone like her could not only survive but thrive.

8. What is it about this time period in history that made you want to write about it?

New inventions were constantly popping up, things that we take for granted today. For instance, telephones were becoming more widely available, but immigrants were not familiar with them. Same with electricity. There was a huge disparity between the rich and the poor, and the middle class was the minority. Monopolies were not yet forbidden. The rich were extremely rich. The poor were extremely poor, and the conditions in the tenements were disgraceful. And yet, this was not overlooked. There were gangs and corrupt police, but also scores of charities working hard to protect, educate, and care for immigrants. And it was also a time period of huge numbers of immigrants coming to the country, most through Ellis Island, so in that way this time period has impacted a great many Americans today.  

9. What lessons can we learn from the pages of historical fiction?

The Bible tells us, “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16, NLT).  Historical fiction uses the power of story to help us find those old ways. We deceive ourselves if we think no one has experienced the struggles we have. Someone has. Why not learn those stories and be led by them? 

10. What is one of the best pieces of advice or encouragement you have received?

I’m always open to sound advice. Here is one that has encouraged me. It’s from a tea bag quote. 

“A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.” ~Joyce A. Meyers
Want to learn more about Cindy? Read her blog:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Litfuse Blog Tour: Afloat

Author: Erin Healy

Genre: Life

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 356

Time period: Present (but it almost has a futuristic feel?)

Publisher and price: Thomas Nelson, $15.99

My overall opinion: Wow. In all seriousness, through most of this book, I had no clue what I was thinking of it. And no clue what was going to happen next. That being said, I was glued to it – hard to put down, easy to pick up. Erin is a splendid author, an excellent writer! The book was fascinating, and I recommend it especially for anyone who has enjoyed dystopian or futuristic fiction. While this book technically isn’t really futuristic or dystopian, I still came away almost feeling like it was. All in all, Afloat was a good book with a great story and some interesting Christian elements. While it didn’t make my favorites shelf, it’s still one that I’d recommend.

**Litfuse sent me a copy of this book as part of their blog tour. I wasn’t required to post a positive review – I have reviewed this book in my own words and truthfully. I’m not being compensated in any way for this review.**

Erin Healy is celebrating the release of her latest novel Afloat (Thomas Nelson) with an iPad Mini giveaway.
One winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini 
  • iTunes gift card
  • Afloat by Erin Healy 
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 15th. Winner will be announced on Erin's blog on June 17th. Save the date and click HERE to see if YOU won the iPad Mini!

Don't miss a moment of the fun; ENTER today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Visit Erin's blog on the 17th!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Just a quick reminder for y'all -- tomorrow (Thursday the 30th) is the Very Last Day to enter all the giveaways that are currently open! Haven't entered yet? This is your chance -- YOU could be the winner. They're all listed directly to the left.

Up for grabs?
  • Submerged and Shattered by Dani Pettrey
  • A book tote from Sandra Byrd
  • Where Treasure Hides by Johnnie Alexander Donley
  • The Message on the Quilt by Stephanie Grace Whitson
  • A Grand Tour book by Lisa T. Bergren
Good luck to all of you! Make sure you get all the entries you can through tweeting and/or Facebook posts -- and leave me a link.

Once again, you can enter the giveaways by going to the posts and entering via Rafflecopter. Links to each post/interview/giveaway are on the left.

Have fun!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Litfuse Blog Tour: Face of the Earth

Author: Deborah Raney

Genre: Life

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 347

Time period: Present

Publisher and price: Howard Books, $14.99

Passage from book blurb from : What if she never came home . . . ? When Mitchell
Brannon’s beloved wife sets off for home after a conference, he has no idea that his life is about to change forever. Mitch returns from work early that evening, surprised that Jill’s car isn’t in the garage….

My overall opinion: This book deals with a tough question that most of us don’t have an instant answer to – if your spouse were to just disappear without a trace one day, how long should you stay alone? When, if ever, is it okay to let love back in? Obviously this book was a little different from the normal ones I read, and while I didn’t absolutely love it, I still enjoyed it and found it quite fascinating and an enjoyable read. There was enough of a mystery/question through-out to keep me reading. Overall? A well-written book that I found interesting!

**Litfuse sent me a free copy of this book as part of the blog tour. I wasn’t required to post positively, only to review it. I was not compensated in any other way for this review.**

Saturday, May 25, 2013

5-5-5 Day 5: Lisa T. Bergren

Welcome to the 5-5-5 event, Lisa! I’m so honored to be hosting you today. Now, five questions! First of all, could you tell us a little about your most recent book, Grave Consequences?
It’s the second book in the Grand Tour Series, which is about a group of young Americans traveling across Europe to see the sites, as well as discover a bit about themselves.
Loved it. So, what’s something you love about Grave Consequences?
I liked the action—but then I always like action. :) Slow-moving, sweet text is tougher for me to write.
If Grave Consequences was made into a movie…do you have actors/actresses in mind to play the main characters? If not, can you describe a bit of what you’d be looking for?
Elisha Cuthbert for Cora, and some big, hunky guy for Will. I’m not so picky…

Readers, start thinking about who YOU would cast for Will! I’ll want you to suggest someone to enter the giveaway. :) Lisa, you’ve written multiple books. Out of all the covers, which is your favorite? Hard question, I know.

Glamorous Illusions is a fave. I love her expression, as well as her incredible gown and the setting.  Waterfall is a fave too—love the moodiness of it!
Love both of those! Finally, what can we expect from you book-wise in the future?

Glittering Promises, the third in the Grand Tour Series, comes out this fall, as well as Remnants: Seasons of Wonder, my first dystopian. Super excited about that new series! I’m trying to fit in the last installment of the River of Time Series, but I’ll have to see…want to get to that SOON.

I really like the cover for Glittering Promises. Actually, I kinda love all your covers! If I remember right, I got a sneak peek at the first chapter or two of Remnants and oh…y’all, that is a book to anticipate!
Now, you can find Lisa and/or her books at the following places:

Now, links to things on Austenitis that have to do with Lisa or her books!
Thanks to Lisa, you lucky readers have the chance to win your choice: Glamorous Illusions or Grave Consequences. Enter through the Rafflecopter below. USA only, please. Open until later on May 30. Good luck, y’all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 23, 2013

5-5-5 Day 4: Stephanie Grace Whitson

Welcome to the 5-5-5 event, Stephanie! I’m so honored to be hosting you today. Now, five questions! First of all, could you tell us a little about your most recent book, Messageon the Quilt?

The Message on the Quilt is set in 1890 Beatrice, Nebraska, which hosted a huge event called Chautauqua which brought literally tens of thousands of people to the community to hear famous orators and to participate in other cultural events. The main character is Emilie Rhodes, whose newspaper editor father has always encouraged Emilie to think for herself—until, that is, thinking for herself leads Emilie away from the future her parents have planned for her. When Emilie goes to work for her father’s competition, she meets and falls in love with “The Man of Many Voices,” a noted orator appearing at the Chautauqua. But Noah Shaw’s professional life is only one reason he’s in Nebraska. He’s on a quest to find answers about the past. As Noah discovers the real meaning behind the symbols his mother embroidered on a treasured quilt, he realizes that a future with Emilie is probably impossible.  

What’s something you love about Message on the Quilt?

The line that says something to the effect that God is often doing His best work when we are tempted to think He isn’t paying any attention at all.

If Message on the Quilt was made into a movie…do you have actors/actresses in mind to play the main characters? If not, can you describe a bit of what you’d be looking for?

I often seek character inspiration in my collection of 19th century photographs. Here are the inspiration for Emilie and Noah (together) and Emilie’s father, the newspaper editor.
You’ve written multiple books. Out of all the covers, which is your favorite? Hard question, I know.

I love different covers for different reasons. Of course cover styles change over the years, so my older book covers would be considered “dated” now. It’s also a fact of the publishing business that different publishers often establish a specific artistic “look” to their covers. Many readers responded positively to the cover art for Sixteen Brides, even mentioning the cover when they contacted me about the book. What I love about this particular cover is that “my” women’s personalities do show up in the way they are posed and in what they’ve chosen to wear.

Finally, what can we expect from you book-wise in the future?
Readers will go back to 1867 St. Louis with me and board the Laura Rose, a steamboat plying the Missouri River. They’ll meet Laura Rose White and Finn MacKnight, who are polar opposites but who are forced to learn to work together. A Captain for Laura Rose releases in the spring of 2014.

Find Stephanie on the following websites: 

Thank you so much for coming, Stephanie! I can't wait for that next book. So much fun to get to know you better! 

Next up, links to the other things posted on Austenitis related to Stephanie Grace Whitson and her books.  

Told you she was one of my favorite authors. ;) Now, Stephanie has offered up a copy of Message on the Quilt for one of you lucky people! It was a great book that I really enjoyed, and I think you will too. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

5-5-5 Day 3: Johnnie Alexander Donley

Welcome to the 5-5-5 event, Johnnie! I’m so glad to be hosting you today, on the third day of the event. :) Now, five questions! First of all, could you tell us a little about your book, Where Treasure Hides?

The novel is a story of sacrifice and hope against the backdrop of World War II. Talented artist Alison Schuyler and British army officer Ian Devlin face nearly insurmountable obstacles in their quest to build a life together. Besides the war, they are separated by a strange family curse and the schemes of a Nazi officer who is obsessed with Alison and her artistic legacy.

What’s something you love about Where Treasure Hides?

I had to skip this question and come back to it because there is so much I love about this novel. When it comes to the story itself, I love the characters – even evil, misguided Theodor. They lived out the story, surprising me with their secrets and astounding me with their courage.  

I also love the creative process and how themes and events I never planned just came together to create something whole and complete. That’s the inner joy and reward of writing . . . and of not giving up.

If Where Treasure Hides was made into a movie…do you have actors/actresses in mind to play the main characters? If not, can you describe a bit of what you’d be looking for?

I love classic movies so my first impulse is to look toward the past to cast my characters. In my dream movie, Ian is played by Joseph Cotten, Alison is played by Ingrid Bergman (on the left), and the Nazi officer, Theodor Scheidemann, is played by Van Johnson (with a dueling scar).

A more contemporary cast would have Dan Stevens (Matthew from Downton Abbey fame) as Ian, a young Gwyneth Paltrow as Alison, and a blond, also younger Jim Caviezel as Theodor.

Obviously I need help choosing appropriate younger actors for my contemporary cast. What can I say? These seem right to me. Besides, I’m a bit ignorant when it comes to current Hollywood celebrities.

Delightful! This is your first book, right? What do you think of the cover?

Yes, this is my first novel. When Tyndale sent me the cover as an email attachment, I hesitated before opening it. I wanted to like it so much and didn’t want to be disappointed. As the cover appeared on my screen, my eyes misted as I oohed and aahed. I absolutely love the cover. My husband had it enlarged and framed as an early Christmas gift. It’s beautiful.

It is indeed! A favorite of mine. Finally, what can we expect from you book-wise in the future?

Those who read the story know the ending is bittersweet. I’m working out the details for a sequel. But in the meantime, I’m returning to a previous manuscript and giving it a major revision. Ian Devlin is a secondary character in that story – but it’s the one that first gave him life. It features an American actress who works on an espionage mission with Ian for the Allies and who also falls in love with a German POW. She has a brief appearance in Where Treasure Hides.

Can't wait to read it! Readers, please see the links below to find Johnnie else-where on the internet. 

Treasured Moments blog:

Thanks for coming by, Dani! I know you're a busy lady, and I really appreciate you making the time for this. And readers, the best part? She's offered a copy of this book, Where Treasure Hides, for giveaway to one of you! At present, it's only been published in digital...I have hopes for a hard copy someday though. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

5-5-5 Day 2: Sandra Byrd

Please help me today welcome Sandra Byrd! She wrote one of my favorite historical series, titled the Ladies in Waiting series. Three books, one each for Anne Boleyn, Kateryn Parr, and Elizabeth I -- each told from the view point of a servant or lady in waiting. I'm thrilled that Sandra is back today!

Welcome to the 5-5-5 event, Sandra! I’m so honored to be hosting you today. Now, five questions! First of all, could you tell us a little about your most recent book, Roses Have Thorns?

Here's my publisher's well-crafted blurb!

From the acclaimed author of To Die For comes a stirring novel told that sheds new light on Elizabeth I and her court. Sandra Byrd has attracted countless fans for evoking the complexity, grandeur, and brutality of the Tudor period. In her latest tour de force, she poses the question: What happens when serving a queen may cost you your marriage--or your life?

In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiance has fallen in love with her sister and her dowry money has been gambled away, but ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power. 

Transformed through marriage into Helena, the Marchioness of Northampton, she becomes the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth's circle. But in a court that is surrounded by Catholic enemies who plot the queen's downfall, Helena is forced to choose between her unyielding monarch and the husband she's not sure she can trust--a choice that will provoke catastrophic consequences.

Vividly conjuring the years leading up to the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, Roses Have Thorns is a brilliant exploration of treason, both to the realm and to the heart.

What’s something you love about Roses Have Thorns?

I love the Tudors. They are the ultimate family saga - and it's all, or nearly all, true. You have love, hate, life, death, fortunes made and lost, forbidden love, faith worth fighting for, and great gowns. What more can a reader desire? Telling the story told from Helena, Marchioness of Northampton's point of view was a thrill for me. She's a real person, but very little has been written about her in Tudor fiction.

They are super interesting, gotta agree! If Roses was made into a movie…do you have actors/actresses in mind to play the main characters? If not, can you describe a bit of what you’d be looking for?

Oh, I absolutely DO have some people in mind - and I did as I wrote, too. Please visit my pinterest board to see the pictures that I thought best conveyed them, but here are a few names to get your started!

Elin/Helena: Alicia Vikander (pictured in black & white)
William Parr: John Forsythe
Thomas Gorges: David Garrett
Elizabeth: Cate Blanchett, of course (the other picture!)
Robert Dudley: Joseph Fiennes
Sofia: Emily Blunt
Princess Cecelia: Brittany Daniel

Wow, all great choices! You’ve written multiple books. Out of all the covers, which is your favorite? Hard question, I know.

Oh goodness, I really don't have a favorite. One thing I love about the covers on the Ladies in Waiting series is that great care was taken to portray the kinds of relationships that the women had. In To Die For, they hold one another like best friends. In Secret Keeper, the pose is very motherly/daughterly. And, of course, on the cover of Roses, it's clear that Elizabeth is in charge, but accessible to her closest friends.

That's a good point...I hadn't thought about it before, but you're right about those portrayals! Finally, what can we expect from you book-wise in the future?

I'm right in the midst of writing the first book of my next series, also British historical, but not Tudor era. I felt like I had explored the three Tudor queens I wanted to look at, and really, who could follow Queen Elizabeth I? This new series is great fun, though: still English, still historical, but with a little more romance this time. The first book will be out early next summer.

Please visit me! for everything I've written, a huge contest, and a cool Tudor Hall! for lots of cool things about Roses Have Thorns, including pictures of the actors I'd pick to portray my characters! to keep in touch via Facebook - please send a friend request!
Thank you SO much for taking the time to do this, Sandra. Having you as a part of 5-5-5 just made it better! :) Readers, below you'll find my links to other things on this blog related to Sandra and her books. And below that? A lovely giveaway!

Now, of course you're eager to know what you can win! Since I've given away a copy of Roses Have Thorns at a previous time, the prize Sandra graciously offered this time is a (super-cute) Buckingham Palace Book Tote! If you don't have a book tote either (1) you never go anywhere, (2) you hate books, or (3) you're TOTALLY missing out. Books should go everywhere with you. Especially Sandra's. :) So, enter below to win this adorable tote! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway