Friday, February 28, 2014

Tyndale Blog Tour: It Had To Be You

Author: Susan May Warren

Genre: Life, family

Series: Christiansen Family series

Number in series: 2nd

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 462

Time period: Present

Publisher and price: Tyndale Fiction, $14.99

My overall opinion: This right here, folks – this is a good book. I think I have become quite attached to the Christiansen family. You get to know them very well in these first two books in the series. They are delightful, realistic, easy to identify with, and very lovable. I’m so excited for Owen’s story someday! Something tells me it’s going to be interesting. But I really loved getting to know Eden and Jace so well in this book. They are an adorable couple with a strong foundation. The story felt very realistic (I’ve already mentioned that the family is!) and was easy to get into and read quickly. Another highlight in this book was the novella at the end, titled I Really Do Miss Your Smile, and covering pages 395-462. It’s the story of the parents in the family, and is a most delightful read that I greatly enjoyed. All in all, I recommend this series and can’t wait for more!

**I reviewed this book for Tyndale House Publishers as part of the blog tour. I wasn’t compensated in any other way or required to post positively. All opinions are my own.**

Author Q&A below! :)

1. This is the second installment in a new six-book series. Can you give us a bit of background on this series? 
The Christiansen Family series is a spin-off of the bestselling Deep Haven collection, stories about the townspeople of Deep Haven, Minnesota, a tiny resort town on the north shore of Lake Superior. The original series started with a book titled Happily Ever After and grew to include six titles. However, one family began to stand out, and we decided their story needed to be told. We wanted a series about a family with adult children learning what it meant to carry on the legacy of faith into their lives. And I wanted to write a series that would really let readers dig into the family, feel like they were a part of their journey. 
2. This Christiansen Family series is set in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Tell us about this setting. 
It’s a gorgeous place to set a story—on the rocky shores of Lake Superior, in a tiny town where everyone knows your name. It’s a town with a rich heritage, strong ties, and a place where people want to escape—in fiction and in real life (as it is modeled after my town of Grand Marais, Minnesota). You’ll find people from all walks of life here—and most importantly, Evergreen Resort, run by the Christiansen family for four generations. 
3. What is your hope for this series? 
Of course, I hope people fall as much in love with the Christiansens as I have. They’re a great bunch—all led by John and Ingrid Christiansen, who have tried to instill their values into their children. But each child has their own path to walk, and part of the series is just watching as they walk that path—through the good and the bad, trying to figure out where their faith and their parents’ legacy fit into their lives. It’s a contemporary epic family
series set in the wilds of northern Minnesota with romance, suspense, and lots of great family drama! 
4.  What was your inspiration for this particular book and the main character Eden Christiansen? 
Eden Christiansen came from a number of places. Watching the siblings of movie stars and athletes, watching my own daughter cheer her athlete brothers, even watching my friends, parents who feel on the sidelines of their children’s lives . . . maybe even a little left behind as they leave for college. I began to wonder—what if you had an amazing sibling, and your entire family focused on his or her successes, and you felt left behind, void of your own amazingness? This is Eden—who feels like she hasn’t accomplished anything and is sitting on the sidelines of her life. She feels like she needs to “get into the game” but doesn’t know how or where to start. And she feels like she really has nothing spectacular to offer . . . 
But God has different plans . . .  
5. Did you base the character of Jace Jacobsen on anyone in particular? 
Jace was loosely modeled after famed Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard, who died, in part, due to the many concussions he suffered as a hockey player. The problem of concussions with today’s athletes, especially in hockey and football, can be life-threatening for athletes, and although hockey (and football!) is played much differently today, it’s still an issue. 
I wanted Jace to have the opposite problem from Eden—he is only good at one thing. In fact, he’s spectacular at it, but he believes if he walks away from it, he will be nothing. So same problem . . . different perspective. It gave me a good opportunity as an author to examine our “worth.” 
Of course, adding the John Doe element only rounded that theme out with yet another perspective. I loved how these three angles came together. 
6.  What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel? 
I think we all need to see our worth not in relationship to our external successes but in how we work out the task God has for us. How we love one another, how we use our gifts and talents. How we abide with God in our daily lives. Hopefully readers will begin seeing their worth in a new way. 
7.  How do you expect this new series to resonate with your audience? How do you want your books to make them feel?  
I am hoping readers walk away from this book, and this series, with hope. The sense that they belong to something—to God, to family—and the feeling that our lives are not chaotic or out of control, but that God has a
unique and amazing journey for each of us, and it’s lived out within our relationships. I want them to feel as if they’d found a new set of friends. 
8.  Have you received any feedback from your fans on this series? What are they saying? 
People fell immediately in love with Darek and his sweet son, Tiger, in Take a Chance on Me, and I think readers will really enjoy Jace and Eden’s romance in this story. I’m thankful that people enjoy the work I put into developing my characters and the romance, and I have loved diving into these multilayered stories about people with realistic, everyday struggles. 
9.  As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story? 
I loved writing about Minnesota in the winter. And I loved the story of John Doe and uncovering who he might be. (I plotted it like a mystery, so it was fun to revisit my mystery-plotting techniques). I especially loved the layers of Jace, the hero, and how, with every turn, he became more intriguing. 
10.   What is the best advice or encouragement that you have received? 
Try to up your writing game with each book, and just keep writing. Not every story appeals to every reader, but I try to write a story I would enjoy—and then hopefully my readers will also. 
11.   In your writing career, what are you most proud of? 
I think I’ve stayed true to who I am and the kind of story I’m supposed to be writing. I’m very blessed by my reader friends and their constant encouragement. I am very blessed to spend my days with the Christiansen family! 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Need to Read #34: Dear Mr. Knightley

Title: Dear Mr. Knightley

Author: Katherine Reay

Book blurb: Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary epistolary novel with a delightful dash of Jane Austen.
Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.
After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.
As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.

Quick endorsement: I was delighted that Katherine honored me by asking me to write an endorsement for this book – but that’s not why I’m recommending it now! I genuinely loved this one, loved the Jane Austen aspects, loved the writing, loved the characters, just plain loved it!

Link to review:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Take a Chance on Me

Author: Susan May Warren

Genre: Life, family

Series: Christiansen Family series

Number in series: 1st

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 393

Time period: Present

Publisher and price: Tyndale Fiction, $13.99

My overall opinion: I’m so glad I finally got to read a book by Susan May Warren! This one was delightful – a lovely read. The characters felt very real and I can definitely feel an attachment to them already, even after only one book. They’re easy to connect to and easy to love. I could identify with them from the very start and empathize with their problems as well. I wasn’t entirely blown away by it, but I definitely did enjoy this book and will read more by Susan.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Blog Tour: The Beast’s Enchantress

Author: Elizabeth Jane Kitchens

Genre: Fairy tale

Series: I do hope there’s a sequel.

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5 high

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 234

Time period: 1700s

My overall opinion: This book is a new and delightful take on the classic fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast! I was amazed by the creativity of the author – you won’t guess it all! The story was quick moving with never a dull moment – always interesting. It was an absolutely fascinating storyline. The characters were lovely and I really enjoyed getting to know each of them. I quite loved the Woodsman! This book kept me reading the whole way through, and I would definitely read more books by Elizabeth. I recommend this one especially for those who love fairy tales.

**Elizabeth Jane Kitchens, the author, sent me this book in return for my honest review. I wasn’t paid for this review in any other way, nor was I forced to review it positively. All opinions are my own.**

Friday, February 21, 2014

Need to Read #33: Submerged

Title: Submerged

Author: Dani Pettrey

Book blurb: Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again. She has a past, and a reputation--and Yancey's a small town. She's returned to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash and is determined not to stay even an hour more than necessary. But then dark evidence emerges and Bailey's own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.
Cole McKenna can handle the deep-sea dives and helping the police recover evidence. He can even handle the fact that a murderer has settled in his town and doesn't appear to be moving on. But dealing with the reality of Bailey's reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart, but she is not the same girl who left Yancey. He let her down, but he's not the same guy she left behind. Can they move beyond the hurts of their pasts and find a future together?

Quick endorsement: I’ve read three books now by Dani Pettrey, and this one is my favorite. As you can see from my review, it earned a 9.5 from me! There were some amazing settings and the characters were awesome. This book is never leaving my shelf! All romantic suspense peoples – you’ll love it.

Link to review:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Blog Tour: Dare to Love Again

Author: Julie Lessman

Genre: Romance, adventure

Series: Heart of San Francisco

Number in series: 2nd

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 407

Time period: early 1900s

Publisher and price: Revell, $14.99

My overall opinion: Julie has written another gem of a book! I enjoyed this one so much. Allison was delightfully full of life (for lack of a better way to sum her up) and daring and energy and fun. Nick was a classically mysterious hero, exciting and heart-stopping. The setting there in San Francisco is fascinating and I greatly enjoyed it. The whole book was less passionate than some of Julie’s others have been, which I appreciated. However, it was still full of romance and I really enjoyed the humorous situations into which the characters often stumbled. I’m definitely keeping this book, and I’m definitely excited to read more by Julie.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Revell Blog Tour: Rachel

Author: Jill Eileen Smith

Genre: Life, romance

Series: Wives of the Patriarchs

Number in series: 3rd

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9

Type: Historical fiction

Number of pages: 314

Time period: Bible times

Publisher and price: Revell, $14.99

My overall opinion: After finishing Jill’s books, I am always amazed by her attention to detail. In addition to that, I always feel like I really have gained a great insight into whichever characters were featured. This book was no exception! I found myself completely empathizing with Rachel and the anger she harbored, and with Leah and the desperation and pain that pierced her. I definitely felt a connection with each of them, and with Jacob. It takes skill to establish such a connection, but Jill has it down to a science! As is usual with Jill’s books, this one was Biblically accurate and even had direct quotes for some of it. It kept me reading (and up too late). I highly recommend it to all Biblical and historical fiction fans!