Fiction

Featuring: Undercut by Heather Day Gilbert

I’m slowly but surely getting back to consistency with this blogging thing ;). YAY! Today I’m featuring Heather Day Gilbert’s latest release, her second novella in Hemlock Creek Suspense series, Undercut.

Marine sniper Isaiah (“Zane”) Boone is home from Afghanistan with more than a few ghosts. Try as he might to settle back into civilian life in small-town West Virginia, he can’t escape the conviction he’s being followed. Both Zane’s ex-wife and his psychologist claim he’s paranoid, and he can’t prove he’s not. Hoping to outrun his misery, he sets his romantic sights on the irresistible Molly McClure.

A successful wedding coordinator at the illustrious Greenbrier Resort, Molly has had plenty of wealthy men willing to open their wallets and hearts for her. But when Zane strides into the upscale Greenbrier lobby with his lumberjack boots and his troubled eyes, the attraction she’s felt since high school reawakens—and she’s willing to go way out of her comfort zone to pursue it.

When Molly becomes an innocent target, Zane realizes too late that his malevolent stalkers are very real. As a net of vengeance tightens around them, Zane gears up for a fight to the death…and Molly has just one chance to prove she can be far more than a pretty face.

Where to Buy: Goodreads | Author Website

About the Author

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather writes Viking historicals and Appalachian mystery/suspense. Publisher’s Weekly gave Heather’s Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is “an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership.”

Where to Follow: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Book Reviews

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen | Book Review

(ICYMI: I switched blogs! I combined my blogs for this new writing and blogging chapter. You can find out all the details here).

Where my small town fiction readers at? If that’s you, I think you should keep reading!

A win brought them together, but loss may tear them apart.

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

I’ll start by saying this: this is a page turner. You want to find out what’s next, you want to know what’s going to happen. It kept me reading and if I remember correctly, I finished it in one setting.

It’s very much a small town novel. While there were a couple things I guessed were going to happen (but not in a way that ruined the reading experience), there were a few surprising bits that got my attention (if you’ve read it, message me. There’s one key thing I really REALLY want to discuss!)

It’s a page turner for sure and there were times when I wanted to sit characters down and tell them to make better choices, but isn’t that what good novels often do? I also like that it was an honest look at parent’s grief (not matter what you are grieving for). I liked that it showed how people do change and people can work at something they once thought lost.

Have you read any of Whalen’s novels?

(This was a Fall pick for SheReads.org. Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

The Space Between the Words by Michèle Phoenix | Book Review

“Enduring with courage, resisting with wisdom, and pressing on in faith.”

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.
“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

Books dealing with recent horrific and tragic events will never be an easy read. It’s a painful revisit and a reminder of the broken world we live in. Phoenix’s story of loss, pain and the path to healing though, not only had me fully engaged, I was reminded that life is beautiful and precious. I enjoyed the modern day story, but also really enjoyed the historic piece of this novel. It was a piece of history I didn’t know and glad I now do.

We’ll never escape terrible events while we’re on earth. It’s a hard reality, but I’m thankful of the hope I have that this isn’t it. Dealing with grief, how our minds respond, to the healing we need and the time it takes, this novel will remind you to never waste a moment and when life deals us a heavy blow, all hope is not lost.

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Author Interviews

Featuring Katherine Scott Jones | Author of Her Memory of Music

Y’all, I’m so excited to chat more with Katherine Scott Jones today! You may remember my book review last week of her debut, Her Memory of Music, and today we dive a little deeper! I hope y’all enjoy (and stick around for a chance to win a copy of her book!)


1.What’s been the most exciting thing about publishing your debut novel?
Two things: Number one, seeing the finished cover because it put skin on my story for the first time. When my cover designer—the amazing Jenny at Seedlings Design Studio—sent me the initial cover comps, I felt the tingling reality of my book.

Number two is what’s happening right now—the opportunity that my published novel is giving me to talk to other bookish people. So fun to connect with readers and talk all manner of story matters. Really, it’s a dream come true.

2. Where did the inspiration for the book come from?
Toni Morrison famously said, “If there is a book that you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” When I began writing HER MEMORY OF MUSIC, there wasn’t an abundance of inspirational (“Christian”) women’s fiction that compellingly addressed real-life issues. Where answers aren’t easy and problems are complex—maybe even scandalous. Fortunately, in the years since I began writing, more of these have arrived on the scene. I hope readers will find my book to be one of them.

As for the specific elements, Langley is a little town on Whidbey Island, Washington, where my husband and I enjoyed vacationing in our early married years. I always thought it would make an atmospheric setting for a novel. Some of my own journey through infertility is mirrored in Darcie’s story. As for Ally—I have a dear friend who gave birth to her son when she was seventeen. That life-turned-upside-down experience is what brought her into a personal relationship with Jesus and made her into the strong, faithful woman she is today. Though that backstory got cut from HER MEMORY OF MUSIC, it’s what inspired my conception of Ally and Jack.

3. What was one of the most unexpected bits from writing this book?
Sheela and Jayashri’s stories weren’t in my original plot outline. The story I’d originally outlined detailed that of a young mom hiding from a frightening past who encounters a troubled sex-trafficking investigator home from India on furlough. So far, so good. But as I wrote, I realized that in order to give the investigator’s side of the story substance, I had to do some research. I interviewed a real trafficking investigator, and that’s when Jayashri materialized onto the page—and took up residence in my heart. Because the more I researched what it meant to be Jayashri—a girl caught up in the horrific sex trafficking trade—the more I realized Jayashri could not remain a footnote. She needed her own story.

4. What do you hope readers walk away from after reading this novel?
I strove to have my characters mirror real life, where people grapple with eternal issues: of fear, and faith, and forgiveness. I also aimed to broaden the typical reader’s awareness of the plight of so many girls and women around the world who are the objects of oppression. I sought to bring together two very different lifestyles—that of the woman in the developed world living in relative comfort but with significant questions of faith and purpose; and that of the woman in the developing world whose basic needs are great but whose voice has so little chance of being heard.

I wanted to show the connection between these different women, bringing their two worlds together and revealing them as one. I also wanted to show that God is a very big God who sees and cares, who orchestrates events and fights on our behalf. And to celebrate the empowering of women by God’s daily grace.

My hope is that readers will be encouraged to find their own empowered voice—and in doing so, to give a hand up to other women who still need one.

5. What are some of your writing habits?
As soon as the kids are off to school, I light a few candles and close myself inside our cozy study, our dog nestled on her pad nearby. I settle into the burgundy leather chair that serves as my writing chair and tune into movie soundtracks on Pandora. If I’m not feeling the mood, I set my timer for 25 minutes (per Pomodoro Technique) to get my fingers moving. I try to get some good work done in the hours the kiddos are otherwise occupied. After school, I squeeze writing into the crevices, often taking my laptop with me to write while they are at dance or jazz band.

6. What are you reading right now?
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for one. Because my friend Jamie of Books and Beverages recommended it recently (Jamie stopping in to say YESSSSSSS :), and I purposed in 2017 to return to reading at least one classic a year. So far, so good—though I see what you mean about it affecting your dreams.

I’m taking a quick breather between books-for-review, but next up is A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake.

When I need a break from heavier fare, I pull any one of James Herriott’s All Creatures Great and Small series from my shelf. The comfort food of books.

In non-fiction, I’m reading Shelly Miller’s Rhythms of Rest, a beautiful reminder of why God created the Sabbath: good rest for our souls.

7. And finally, any hints of what’s to come? We readers are hardly patient 🙂
I’m well into the final edits of my next novel, The Shadow Sister, due out August 2018. This novel also has a Pacific Northwest setting but on the other side of the Cascade Mountains in Eastern Washington wine country, with Bolivia as the global accent. Another work of women’s fiction, it’s about a gifted artist who embarks on an Andean journey with a small-plane pilot to discover the secrets of her estranged, dead sister’s life and fulfill her last request.

Thank you so much for sharing Katherine! I hope you readers enjoyed this as well. Be sure to connect with Katherine on Twitter and Instagram! And because Katherine is fabulous, she’s giving away an ecopy of Her Memory of Music. Be sure to enter below!

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Book Reviews, Fiction

Her Memory of Music by Katherine Scott Jones | Book Review

I love watching authors release debut novels out into the world. What a journey and a joy it must be for authors! It’s especially fun when it’s a blogger friend realizing that dream! I forget when we first crossed paths on the Internet, but I’m so glad we did, because Katherine Scott Jones is awesome and such an encourager. I get to return the favor by helping spread the word about her debut, Her Memory of Music!

A single mother’s past catches up with her and threatens the stability of her new life with her young son in this multi-layered treatment of contemporary relationships. Loss is met with hope and grace as Ally learns to open her heart and trust dangerous secrets to those she’s learning to love.

 

If you enjoy women’s fiction, then definitely pick up this book. If you haven’t read much women’s fiction, then pick up this book. Not only is this a captivating story, but Jones weaves important issues throughout the novel effortlessly. Not overwhelming the reader, but drawing the reader more deeply in. And the music piece of the story? Such a reminder of how healing and beautiful music can be.

I thoroughly enjoyed every piece of the novel, from the character development, to a real life perspective to encouraging faith weaved throughout seamlessly and naturally. Don’t miss out on this one friends!

What’s a recent debut you loved?

(With thanks to author and Redemption for providing a copy for review)

Where to Buy: Amazon | BN.com | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

Ascension Of Larks by Rachel Linden | Book Review

Remember when I said I was only going to have a break in July and then there was silence for most of August too? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Here’s the thing. I bought a house. (It was the best birthday present I’ve ever given myself – ha!) I also thought it would only take a day or two to get said house in order. I’m so funny.

Anyway, I’m finally getting into a routine that doesn’t include unpacking boxes on the weekends and so back to blogging! I make no promises of regular scheduled programming just yet (I learned) and I’m still so behind on everything blogging, but it’s a start! So let’s dive in.

When globetrotting photographer Maggie Henry loses the only man she’s ever loved, she jeopardizes her rising career and steps in to care for her best friends’ three young children on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest. Free-spirited and fiercely independent, Maggie’s star is rising fast. But she has a secret. She can’t let go of her first and only love, renowned architect Marco Firelli, now married to her best friend Lena.

With the shattering news of Marco’s death, Maggie rushes to the Firelli family’s summer home on San Juan Island and attempts to provide stability for the children as fragile, perfectionist Lena slowly falls apart. When Maggie is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete in the world’s most prestigious photography competition, she finds herself unable to leave the only family she has during their time of need. Devastated, Maggie takes a series of photographs documenting their life in limbo.

A mysterious man appears on the island, and Maggie soon realizes there is more to him than meets the eye. Daniel Wolfe, an award-winning Native American poet hiding in exile on the island, is responsible for Marco’s death. Maggie is both drawn to and repelled by Daniel, a sensitive, tortured soul with secrets of his own. Out of their loneliness and grief they form an unlikely friendship. Maggie develops her recent photographs, and she’s elated to discover that they are good enough for the photography competition. She still has a chance to win. But she must first relinquish the past so that she can move forward and embrace the reality of her unexpected life.

What to say about this book? All in all it wasn’t a bad read, but I didn’t connect with it. I would put it down, come back to it, then put it down again. I know part of the reason is I’m not a fan of best friends being in love with their best friend’s husbands and normally I wouldn’t pick it up, but since he died in a tragic accident, I was intrigued.

Outside of not connecting with the characters, there were some things that were introduced a bit too late in the story. If brought about earlier, they could have helped with story connection, character development and arc. I did appreciate learning about the island, the unique lives of the characters, and the children, I just wish I became invested more.

I do love this cover though and I’m also interested to see what’s next from Linden.

While this question has nothing to do with the book, how have y’all been? How was your summer?

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Inklings

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis | Inklings Series Discussion

(The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!)

Today is discussion day! Woot! We’re discussing C.S. Lewis’ last work, Till We Have Faces. He considered this his most mature work (a.k.a. favorite) and it was also written with his wife, Joy. Plus, I have always enjoyed Greek history (and the mythology that comes with it), so I have definitely been looking forward to Lewis’ retelling of Cupid and Psyche’s story.

Haunted by the myth of Cupid and Psyche throughout his life, C.S. Lewis wrote this, his last, extraordinary novel, to retell their story through the gaze of Psyche’s sister, Orual. Disfigured and embittered, Orual loves her younger sister to a fault and suffers deeply when she is sent away to Cupid, the God of the Mountain. Psyche is forbidden to look upon the god’s face, but is persuaded by her sister to do so; she is banished for her betrayal. Orual is left alone to grow in power but never in love, to wonder at the silence of the gods. Only at the end of her life, in visions of her lost beloved sister, will she hear an answer.

One of my first thoughts after finishing this book was how true it is that all of us long to love and be loved in return (and not just in the romantic Moulin Rouge sense). Both Orual and Psyche love fiercely and this tale is one of self-discovery and that love. The way Lewis chose to revise the story reminded me of Disney’s Cinderella vs. the movie Ever After. Did anyone else think that? Where in the original, both step sisters are terrible, but in a retold version one sister is good. Random, I know, but I may have just watched Ever After.

I thought the story worked incredibly well from Orual’s point of view.

“You, who read my book, judge.”

One thing she didn’t lack was honesty. She was always true to what she thought, did and why. In the second half, she is willing to admit her earlier faults and be the better person for it.

“Today I shall meet cruel men, cowards and liars, the envious and the drunken. They will be like that because they do not know what is good from what is bad.”

Plus, as always, I love the characters Lewis creates.
The King: Simply put: was a jerk. Why you ask? Well, he said this to his daughter: “And you goblin daughter…if you with that face can’t frighten the men away, it’s a wonder.” Then, when he heard about the sacrifice due, after finding out it wouldn’t be required of him, had this happen:

“What?” said the King. (And this is the greatest shame I have to tell of in my whole life) his face cleared. He was only a hair’s breadth from smiling. I had thought that he had seen the arrow pointed at Psyche all along, had been afraid for her, fighting for her. He had not thought of her at all, nor any of us.” Pg 55

So yeah, he was a fan of himself.

I loved Fox.

“I’d lose not only my throne but my life to save the Princess, of I were a King and a father.”

Such a feisty old man, yet fiercely loyal to those he loved. I think he’s character represents a lot of people in the world. Refusing to believe while alive, only to discover things that were true when you are dead (in this case the gods). It reminded me of the story in Luke 16, of the the Rich Man and Lazarus, where the Rich Man only discovered the truth after he died.

I was a big fan of Bardia too. He was the friend Orual needed, although it makes me sad that she loved him and for several reasons, that love couldn’t be returned the way she longed for. But it was the love of a true friend and he was faithful to the end (although according to his wife, maybe too faithful).

This leads me to Orual: don’t mess!
Here’s how Bardia described her: “Why, yes, it’s a pity about her face. But she’s a brave girl and honest. If a man was blind and she weren’t the King’s daughter she make him a good wife.”

While she didn’t follow through with this, this quote was drop this mic style to her selfish sister: “I put my face close up to hers and said very low but distinctly, “Redival, if there is one single hour when I am queen of Glome, or even mistress of this house, I’ll hang you by the thumbs at a slow fire till you die.”

While some of her actions may come into question (think almost killing herself to make a point to Psyche), it was always based in love. Much different from the jealous character of the original tale. It’s interesting to see her character in the second half, from finding part of Ungit in herself, to the discovery and trial of all things with Psyche (and even becoming her). With each new “task” you see her develop more and more, taking on the role of a good Queen who earned respect from her subjects and surrounding kingdom. I enjoyed Lewis’ use of the veil as well. It gave her strength she didn’t have before.

Alright, here’s some more questions I’d love to have your thoughts on!

  • Which part did you prefer? The second half was a bit harder to read. While I enjoyed it, it wasn’t as clear as to what was happening, mainly when it came to Psyche (I had to make sure I understood all that happened, since I didn’t expect that). But I enjoyed her accusation against the gods – in that she realizes her true reason for being angry and why she is finally able to come before them (“They cannot meet us face to face, until we have faces”).
  • While this is a myth, did you see any themes in Christianity? (Lewis started this when he was an atheist, but finished after his conversion).
  • Who was your favorite character?

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes:

“Not that kind of longing. It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine… Where you couldn’t see Glome or the palace. Do you remember? The color and the smell, and looking across at the Grey mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it… I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind were flying home.”

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and thanks for joining in!

Where to buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Books

Inklings

The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien | The Inklings Series

I’m so excited for another Inklings post! Today we’re diving into one of Tolkien’s sagas of Middle Earth, but before we do, since this is a lesser read work, I want to officially warn you that there shall be many o’ spoilers ahead, so please no hollerin at me if you feel jipped! And I will say it’s very much worth reading!

First things first. The story was not at all, I mean, AT ALL what I expected. Being used to epic heroes and characters you love, it was an interesting twist to read a tale of woe and tragedy. My blogging friend Wesley may have said it best: it was like an episode of Game of Thrones. I don’t watch the show, but I knew exactly what she meant. People dying, curses thrown down and oh yeah, PEOPLE DYING. While it was very different, I still kinda liked it. It definitely evoked emotion and it expanded the Middle Earth universe in a different kind of way. Tolkien knows how to write a story that draws you in and this one most definitely did (you know, after the first few chapters of getting into the details and Middle Earth vibe), even if it ended rather tragic.

Random sidenote: If you read the intro, you may have seen this, but I loved how Tolkien himself described The Silmarillion (since it’s one of my favorites): Tolkien said of the tale of Beren and Luthien: “the chief of the stories of The Silmarillion” and “the story is (I think a beautiful and powerful) heroic-fairy-romance…” This makes me want to read it all over again!

Random Fun Facts and Thoughts

  • Middle earth was once called the Great Lands and rests between the seas of the east and west.
  • Lembas bread! Túrin the first man to eat it. Nom! Nom! I feel geekyishly cool knowing that fact.
  • The whole time I kept thinking donde esta Hùrin? Oh wait…he was released to find his family destroyed and his wife die in his arms.
  • One of Tùrin’s names, Turambar (Master of Doom) was such a fitting name.

Favorite Quote: “I do but follow my trade, which is Orc-slaying.  I have no idea why, but it made me smile. I’m adding it to my resume.

Thoughts of Characters

Morgoth: Why hello satan! He plays dirty. Tolkien has such a way of epitomizing such things in characters. In Morgoth’s case? Pure Evil. This was a great quote about him as well: “Neither are you the most mighty; for you have spent your strength upon yourself and wasted it in your own emptiness.”

Andróg and his band of outlaws: I had flashbacks to last season on The Walking Dead and the loonies that Rick/Daryl/Michonne and Carl took care of. But they definitely redeemed themselves. Like Andróg? Times 50!

Túrin: I gotta admit, overall I wasn’t a huge fan of him. It doesn’t help that I had Aragorn on my mind. Early on, he was described as this: “…he learned to speak early and was slow to forget injustice or mockery; but the fire of his father was also in him, and he could be sudden and fierce. Yet he was quick to pity, and the hurts or sadness of living things might move him to tears…” His arrogance seemed to blind him (like from the true evil of Morgoth’s curse), but his tale is a most interesting one.

Beleg: He was such a true true friend! Like Samwise. He was probably my favorite of the book. I love the ideas and ways Tolkien displays friendship. Such strong and amazing themes. But what happens to him? HE DIES.

“Thus ended Beleg’s Strongbow, truest of friends, greatest in skill of all that harboured in the woods of Beleriand in the Elder Days, at the hands of him whom he most loved; and the grief was graven on the face of Túrin and never faded.”

Another great friend? Brandir. Too bad our buddy Túrin accidentally kills him as well. Cool.

Mîm: Shady McShady.

Niënor: I felt bad for her. I’ve decided those are my final feelings. When she finally entered the scene grown up, I thought her fate would liken to Éowyn or Arwen, but no. She did not. She died. By jumping off a cliff into raging rapids.

“Mourning you named me, but I will not mourn alone, for father, brother, and mother. But of these you only have I known, and above all do I love. And nothing that you fear nor do I.” At first I was excited to finally see more of her, but after everything that happened, homegirl, you should have stayed.

Glaurung the Dragon: He is evil. This quote is one of many examples. “The neighing of the horses and the cries of the riders came to the ears of Glaurung; and he was well pleased.” His love of destroying humanity was just creepy.

THINGS I NEED TO TALK ABOUT!

  • Remember that one time Túrin and Niënor, GOT BLOODIED MARRIED?? I mean WHA?? I thought I read it wrong or had their names mixed up. Nope. That sealed the deal that this story was 100% a tale of a cursed family. Tolkien wasn’t lying about Morgoth. Then when she finds out the truth, she jumps off a cliff and he kills himself with his sword. Twisted Morgoth. Twisted.
  • Oh and she was pregnant.

“To Brethil they brought their dark doom’s shadow. Here their doom has fallen, and of grief this land shall never again be free.”

Alright let’s discuss!

  1. How would you rank Túrin against the other men heroes of Middle Earth history?
  2. Did this book meet your expectations?
  3. I need to brush up on my Middle Earth history, but when does Morgoth get the boot?
  4. Since friendship plays such a major role, what’s one of your favorites in Tolkien lore?

The more I read of Tolkien and his tales of battles with men, the more I see how his WWI experience influenced his writings. I cannot fathom the horrors of surviving battle, but Tolkien’s tales pay homage to the brotherhood bonded in battle.

In case you missed the last announcement, we’ll be reading Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis next. The discussion is set for July 16, 2014. Hope to have you join us!

Bookish Radness

My Top 8 All-Time Favorite Fiction Reads

Do I dare even tackle such a list? Now before you think there’s really only eight favorites on my list, I just have to say this is me we’re chatting about! But here’s a start of some novels that have held a place in my heart for at least 10 years. You know it’s solid if it’s remained on the list for at least a decade.

Mark of the Lion Series | Francine Rivers: If you ask me for a book recommendation, this will always be the first series I recommend. Looking for a biography of the 13th President? Read Mark of the Lion. Oh, you want a story about London society after 1912? I think the story of Marcus and Hadassah is just what you need. Just kidding, I’d give you a legit recommendation, but I don’t think I can put into words how amazing this series is. If I ever meet Francine Rivers, I’m just going to hug and thank her for this book. I’ve probably read it 10 times and I only see that number increasing through the years.

Just know it’s a three book series. I did not know this and when the first book ended, I texted my friend who recommended it asking why she would think to suggest a book that just RIPPED OUT MY SOUL. Yep, my reaction was equivalent to all caps plus a bag of chips and toss in some fireworks.

I own a hard copy and the kindle version so I can read it at anytime. I also read it two weeks after I read it for the first time because it’s just that amazing. If I could only have one series the rest of my life, this would be it. (I need to confess, I only read this about 5 years ago, but I’ve read it 10+ times, so I still added it to the list.)

Dracula | Bram Stoker: Vampires? Wha? Let’s just clear things up by saying it is nothing like modern day vampire shenanigans. No, this is a classic that so fantastically demonstrates battling such evil. I’m reminded that in the fight against evil, you will battle dark forces, you will lose people, you will want to quit, but you won’t. The world will be a better place because you didn’t. I haven’t read this one in a few years, but man, what a book! My e-reader friends, it’s free, so no excuses!

Redeeming Love | Francine Rivers: That sneaky, sneaky Rivers lady. Without knowing how it happens, after reading her stories, you’re forever connected to the characters she creates and wish you could meet these people in real life. Redeeming Love was also the first Christian Fiction book I read back when I was in college. I remember my friend Lindsay, from one of my Comm classes during my freshman year (folks, I never remember details, so the fact that I remember the class, the friend and the year should tell you something ;), gave me her copy to borrow and I had the chance to read it over Thanksgiving and I devoured that sucker in about two minutes flat.

Please, read this book if you haven’t yet (which I need to point out that every monthly top seller list Lifeway releases, Redeeming Love is on it. I jest not. And it’s nearly 25 years old. In May, Francine Rivers not only had her latest (which was fantastic, see my review here), but Redeeming Love as well. P.S. IT HAS IT’S OWN WIKIPEDIA PAGE. Need I say more?

The Land I Lost: Adventures of a Boy in Vietnam | Huynh Quang Nhuong: This is one of the first books I vividly remember reading. I read through it so many times, I’ve lost count. Since growing up in Vietnam was so vastly different from growing up in my parent’s house in Orange County, California, I was so fascinated by this man’s life. Every time I read this book I wanted to do one thing: Go on an epic adventure. If my mom ever asks why I’m always fixin to do something crazy, it’s because I grew up on stories like these. It was also my Mama who gave it to me 🙂

Fire By Night | Lynn Austin: Sigh….just thinking about this book makes me want to re-read it. I think I might too. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered Dr. McGrath and Julia, so I think this summer I might change that. Not only do I love Julia’s character (and connect with her), I adore Dr. McGrath. The whole series is enjoyable, but this one shines far greater than the other two. Plus it’s Civil War (and still my favorite Civil War fiction novel), so win with that.

The Giver | Lois Lowry: I’ve talked about this one the blog enough, so I’ll keep it short. Without pain, one would never know the true depth of happiness, beauty and love. Lowry so beautifully captures this. Plus it’s coming out in the movies soon!!

The Harry Potter Series | J.K. Rowling: Duh.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee: This was one of those books I actually liked in high school and understood at the age of 16 why it was such an important piece of literature. It’s beautifully written, it’s an amazing story and Atticus Finch is one of the all-time greatest heroes in literature.

You might be wondering about the books I talk about every 27 seconds and why they aren’t on this list. Well, I figured it was a given that anything Narnia/Lewis or Middle Earth/Tolkien related are in their own category of greatest all-time anything. I mean, I have a monthly series about them internet, so of course they are my favorite of favorites. (If you want to join in The Inklings series, check it out here)

Alright, there’s the fiction list! I feel I can breathe a little easier now ;). What do you think? What are some of your favorites to add?

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Bestselling Author Deeanne Gist

(This interview is part of my 4 Questions Project, where I get the chance to chat with authors and tell stories of people, life, and adventure. Be sure to check out previous interviews here!)

Guys.

Look who is on the blog today. Look! Yep, the very same I always mention is absolutely hilarious and how I love all her books. The bestselling author herself, Deeanne Gist! Do you know how exciting it is for me to be able to host my favorite authors on this little corner of the web? All I’m saying is I’ve been known to dance around the room from excitement. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did and be sure to pick up one of her books stat!

Deeanne Gist — known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee — has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very original, very fun historical & contemporary love stories. Add to this four RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

You can connect with Deeanne on at her website, Twitter or Facebook!

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
In the last five years we’ve seen 2 kids get married, 2 graduate college, and 1 move to the other side of the country to pursue a career in music. In that time, as Greg and I became empty nesters, our sweet border collie suddenly moved way up in the pecking order. He’s not *quite* top dog, but he’s close. Never did I dream we’d let him on the furniture with us, on our bed, in our hotel rooms, and hardly ever out of our sight. Our kids are all shaking their heads at this sad state of affairs.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Oh, goodness. There are too many to count, much less narrow down to one. So many words I’ve let spill out that I’d love to recapture. So many decisions I’ve made that I so wish I’d never fallen through on. So many falls I took that could have so been avoided. One thing? Hardly.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
I remember looking out the window above the kitchen sink while washing up some dishes. The day was glorious and the girls were playing hula-hoop on the deck and the boys were eating popsicles while they watched Greg work on a fort he was building for them. I remember resting my hands against the sink and thinking, “You know, life just doesn’t get any better than this.”

Before
After

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
I hope the next generation never forgets that though they are connected to “friends” all over the globe with a touch of their fingers, that it is still extremely important to have friends they spend time with, play with, and share with–live and in person. No amount of texting, tweeting, or facebooking can ever replace the rewards which come from those face-to-face, day-to-day relationships.

Thank you so much Deeanne! Such a pleasure to host you at Books and Beverages!