Archive for the 'Blog Tours' Category

Review: Sea Changes by Gail Graham

Friday, June 12th, 2009

sea-changesSarah Anderson is in deep grieving for her husband Charles. Two years after his unexpected death, she finds it difficult to carry out even her daily tasks. One night she attempts suicide by drowning in the sea.

Once in the water, though, she is pulled into an underwater world. In this world, life is different. When she reemerges, she can’t decide whether or not what happened was a dream.

It’s really difficult for me to review this book, because I’m not entirely sure that I “got” it. The writing is absolutely beautiful, there’s no doubt about that, but the underwater world didn’t make any sense to me. I couldn’t tell if the story was about Sarah going crazy, being willing to face death, or learning how to move on, and the ending didn’t really answer any of that for me.

One thing I did really enjoy was Sarah’s assessments of the Australian people and culture. While I’ve never been to Australia, it was a huge culture shock for me to live with Australians when I was in Japan, and I found many of her observations, unsurprisingly for the amount of time she was there, spot on.
All in all, it was an enjoyable and fairly quick read, I just didn’t really understand it.

Review: The Lost Hours by Karen White

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Piper Mills has just lost her grandfather when the family lawyer passes on a small gift from her grandmother. The gift is nothing more than a small charm and Piper is puzzled about why it’s important. Unfortunately, she can’t ask her grandmother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. However, when Piper’s grandmother dies, she attempts to find some information about her grandmother’s mysterious past. When an old friend of her grandmother refuses to speak with her, Piper goes undercover as a renter on her property to pursue the truth.

I really enjoyed this story by Karen White as it embodied many of the things I’ve come to expect from White’s books. Interesting characters who are deeply hurt and looking for peace and redemption, a slow but satisfying pace, and a rich setting. Karen White also seems to write about mysterious family history well.

I enjoyed the way the story was told and the characters though a few pieces of the premise stretched believability a little bit for me. I have a hard time thinking of girls sharing a scrapbook based on when they get to wear a charm. Even so, I just threw my disbelief to the wind and savored the story.

I also love love love White’s prose, for example, how beautiful is this?
“But guilt, she’s also learned, was a lot like tree sap: it stuck to everything and after a long time it hardened to stone, trapping unsuspecting creatures inside of it.”

Little nuggets of wisdom like that are throughout the book! I’ve also noticed that White does not follow conventional point of view in her book…this book is told through Piper’s first point of view and Lillian and Helen’s third person point of view.

Ultimately, this is a satisfying character piece with an interesting mystery to keep you engaged to the end.

Heart of Diamonds by Dave Donelson

Monday, November 24th, 2008

About the Book: In Heart of Diamonds, star TV reporter Valerie Grey risks her life—and her love—to expose a diamond smuggling scheme involving a celebrity televangelist, an African dictator, and possibly the White House. It happens while she’s on assignment in the Congo, where life itself is brutal and the censuring eyes of civilization have long been blinded.

Some Thoughts: I am pleased to welcome Dave Donelson on tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion, but unfortunately I did not get this book finished in time. I am in progress of reading it, however, and will bring you a full review when I can. So far it’s a well written book..and I’m thankful that Mr. Donelson took the time to write a book that brings to light the horror of life in the Congo through a story that many can enjoy. You can visit the Heart of Diamonds website for more information.

Blog Tour for Marcia Gruver’s Diamond Duo

Friday, October 31st, 2008

On the last day of Bessie’s life, she and her companion, Abraham Rothschild, took a picnic basket into the woods. He came out alone, wandering the streets of Jefferson by himself for several days. When asked about Bessie, he said she was staying with nearby friends, and would return in time for their departure. However, he left by himself two days later, carrying Bessie’s luggage along with his own.

A local woman discovered poor Bessie’s body in the woods several days later. Jefferson officials went after Abraham Rothschild and tried him for her murder, but due to his money and considerable influence, he was acquitted.

While standing over Diamond Bessie’s grave, assuming her eternal fate, I found myself wondering: “What if?” Maybe history had been unkind to Bessie. What if she wasn’t as bad as some claimed? Suppose God had arranged a surprise finish for her—a loving, merciful end that no one would’ve expected?

How did you become interested in the real life murder of Annie Monroe?It’s hard to visit historic Jefferson, Texas without tripping over Annie’s story. Diamond Bessie has become a tourist attraction, and the locals seem more than eager to tell the account. The shops abound with books on the topic, one penned by Jefferson historian, Fred McKenzie. Every year, during Jefferson’s annual Pilgrimage Festival, the residents perform in a play entitled “The Diamond Bessie Murder Trial.” The play is derived from court transcripts, and it’s really quite an event!

You have several themes woven into Diamond Duo. Could share them with us?
Young Bertha Biddie schemes to win the affections of Thaddeus Bloom, a man bound by honor to his father’s dream. She gets a lesson on honor herself when God asks her to risk her future with Thad to help a stranger.

Thad learns the importance of listening to his mama the hard way, but wonders if it’s fair to expect him to sacrifice his happiness in obedience to his father’s plans for his life.

Sarah King is used to better treatment from her fellow man regardless of race, but forgets her husband deserves the same regard. Her unbridled temper and acrid tongue threaten to drive him away, until the pure heart of a tragic stranger teaches Sarah a lesson in colorblind acceptance.

In Diamond Duo, Bertha feels solely responsible for leading Annie Monroe out of her lifestyle and into a believer’s world. Have you ever had a similar experience in your life?I think every Christian feels a strong compulsion to share God’s grace once they’ve had a taste. If you think about it, given the Great Commission, we’re all solely responsible for leading those in our paths to God.

How do you research a historical project for accuracy?
Actually, I begin most of my research on They have books on every imaginable topic. No, I don’t own shares of stock, but I should by now.

After I pore over written material to get a visual of the period, I plan a visit to the area where the book is set. For my Texas Fortunes Series, I spent a week in Jefferson, Texas researching Diamond Duo, book one. Book two was easy. I live just a few miles from Humble Texas, the setting for Chasing Charity. My family all work in the oil patch and have for generations. My contractor husband is currently on a job in South Texas, so I was fortunate to spend several months in Carrizo Springs researching book three, Emmy’s Equal. There’s no substitute for walking the streets, exploring the sites, haunting the libraries, and talking to the locals. However, I’ve discovered the little details that provide historical accuracy need constant verification. I do my best, but I don’t know if it’s possible to get all the facts right. I use the Internet some, but you have to be careful with information gleaned from the web. Not every source can be trusted.

You have so many wonderful and unique characters in Diamond Duo. Which of the characters do you identify with and why?This question makes me smile. I’ve been accused of being the inspiration for Bertha Maye Biddie—a free-spirited rebel with an aversion to shoes. I think that’s me on the inside.

Can you tell us about your next book?Chasing Charity, book two in the Texas Fortunes series, picks up in Humble, Texas, several years after Diamond Duo ends. Charity Bloom, Bertha’s daughter, stands at the altar watching her best friend flee the church on the heels of her departing fiancé. This is the final straw for Charity, who is distressed by the many changes taking place in her life and in her hometown, most notably the devastation wrought after oil is discovered near Humble. Imagine Charity’s surprise when one of the men responsible comes to her rescue, and she finds her heart torn between two suitors—the handsome roughneck and the deceitful rogue who broke her heart.

You can visit Marcia’s website here and her blog here. You can buy the book here.

Blog Tour: Starting From Scratch When You’re Single Again by Sharon Knudson and Mary Heitzman + Giveaway!

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

About the Book: You’re suddenly single again. What do you do now? Where do you turn? Starting From Scratch When You’re Single Again serves up poignant stories from twenty-three widowed or divorced women who survived a horrific deathblow to their dreams for a happy, secure future.

Somehow, with white-knuckle faith, each one found enough strength in themselves and in their God to move forward. Let each woman’s story and the guiding principles she offers be an encouragement to you, and as a bonus, let the taste and aroma of her favorite recipe comfort and nourish your soul.

Amy’s Thoughts:Well, I’m still single, but I think this book is a magnificent resource. This issue is something that’s often overlooked in Christian circles that focus heavily on traditional family units. But this book offers hope in the form of true stories from women who have been there. As they address different aspects of the struggle in finding themselves single again, they also offer hope and…recipes. How fun is that? Additionally, guiding principles are pulled out and highlighted. Since this book is in the form of individual stories, it’s very easy to read and laced with hope and inspiration.

Here’s a question and answer with the authors, Mary and Sharon!

Mary, why did you write this book?

Mary: I’m neither divorced nor widowed, but I, too, have a heart for those who are starting from scratch. My father died when I was 16, and although she was never aware of the impression she made, my mother was an inspiration to me. While my faith in God faltered, hers remained intact. I watched how she made decisions—how she continued to put one foot in front of the other—how she guided my younger brother and me.

Today I work with my husband in the financial services business. We meet many women who, because of the loss or absence of their spouse, are faced with decisions that were once shared.

I wanted to offer all of these women hope and encouragement so they wouldn’t feel alone or overwhelmed. I want them to know that others have survived and that they will, too. I also want them to know—if they are young mothers—that their children are learning how to cope through the example they set. Children are not harsh judges, but will admire them for their willingness to learn new skills, and for listening to, talking with, and leading them even when the road is strewn with uncertainty.

Sharon, do you think widows and divorced women are treated differently? In what way?

Sharon: When my marriage failed after thirty years, I was filled with tremendous guilt and shame. I had been a devout believer in Christ, an active leader in my church, the parent of two beautiful daughters, and the kind of person who loved both my own and my husband’s extended family. It was as if I had received a ten-foot tall letter “F” on my imaginary “Report Card of Life.”

Widows don’t carry that kind of shame around, although they are consumed with grief, as was I. Friends and relatives know what to say to a widow—they offer counsel and comfort.

Mary, as you talked with women, what did you find helped them cope with their situation?

Mary: Many of the women we visited with often spoke of turning to Scripture. While some had a strong faith that allowed them to draw comfort from great passages in the Bible, others questioned God at first, or had feisty conversations with Him.

All were needy of, and appreciated, kind words and gestures from friends and family. But I was struck at how they all found comfort when their supporters were not available. Many of the women we visited with mentioned a devotional, a workbook, or some special story that encouraged them. Some started blogs or began a ministry. Many swallowed their pride and accepted help from others, including the government, recognizing that this was just for a season.

For most of these women, dependency on God Himself seemed to be the key ingredient when tragedy first struck. After that they allowed others to minister to them. And then eventually they took that one small step necessary to move forward and accept change.

Sharon, the first story in the book is from your personal experience and is titled, “Telling.” Why is talking to others—even friends—about your situation so hard?

Sharon: When I suddenly got divorced, no one knew what to think or say. It was a complete shock to everyone (including me), and it felt like a bomb had gone off in the night. People want an explanation, and if one is not readily apparent, they make their own guesses as to what probably happened. Some gossip and take sides. Some get very angry and feel betrayed: in a way, their own security is threatened and they wonder, “If that could happen to her, could it happen to me?”

“Telling”came right out of my journal. It was written as I grappled with how to tell people what had happened just a few months after the divorce. We have included this as a book excerpt on our blog.

Mary, what is your best advice to a woman who finds herself single again?

Mary: As tempting as it might be, do not stay in bed with the covers pulled over your head. Accept invitations from friends and learn something new, no matter how small. If God seems far away, ask Him for just a little bit of faith. Eventually, it will grow.

Sharon, do you have a quote from the book to close with?

Sharon: Mary and I designed beautiful bookmarks to give away, and they express what the stories in this book convey. The bookmark says, “Be thankful for whatever God is doing in and through your suffering. TRUST that eventually He will make everything right” (from page 212). God is in the business of redeeming and restoring lives, and this holds true for those who believe in Him no matter what.

Giveaway: Interested in owning a copy of this book? Leave a comment with a valid email address!

Review: The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

Friday, September 19th, 2008

About the Book: Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne, has been for centuries an enigmatic figure shrouded in lurid myth. Was she the bereft widow of legend who was driven mad by her loss, or has history misjudged a woman who was ahead of her time? In his stunning new novel, C. W. Gortner challenges the myths about Queen Juana, unraveling the mystery surrounding her to reveal a brave, determined woman we can only now begin to fully understand.

The third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, Juana is born amid her parents’ ruthless struggle to unify their kingdom, bearing witness to the fall of Granada and Columbus’s discoveries. At the age of sixteen, she is sent to wed Philip, the archduke of Flanders, as part of her parents’ strategy to strengthen Spain, just as her youngest sister, Catherine of Aragon, is sent to England to become the first wife of Henry VIII.

Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her handsome young husband, the sole heir to the Habsburg Empire. At first she is content with her children and her life in Flanders. But when tragedy strikes and she inherits the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, her intelligence and pride used as weapons against her, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it could cost her everything.

My Review: Until I read The Other Boleyn Girl earlier this year, the subject of the queens and kings of long ago was not very interesting to me. In fact, I probably never would have picked to read a book like this. But when this book came on offer for virtual tour, I jumped at the chance having so greatly enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl.

I am so glad I did, because I absolutely loved this book. This has been an extraordinarily busy week for me, and I just did not want to put this book down. I brought it everywhere with me, hoping to sneak in a page here and there.

I knew nothing about this legendary queen, but what a fascinating history! Gortner portrays Juana’s stubborness, her strength and self-doubt, her courage, and love of country so deeply that you feel you are right there with her. I felt so much of what she felt as she faced a life I can’t even imagine. From the various manipulations of her birth family to her husband, whether or not she was at all insane, I think she was mostly a smart woman with incredible courage and force of will.

Gortner spent six years researching this book and it shows. The details are present without being overwhelming and the characters are sharply drawn and feel so authentic. The plot moves at a perfect pace…trust me when you start this book you won’t want to put it down. Highly Recommended.

Review: The Lost Diary of Don Juan by Douglas Carlton Abrams

Friday, September 12th, 2008

About the Book:In a time of discovery and decadence, when the gold that poured endlessly into the port of Sevilla devalued money, marriage, and love itself, young Juan Tenorio was abandoned and raised by nuns. He grew up loving and worshipping all women, but a clandestine affair with one of the sisters forces him to leave the Church—and his plans for the priesthood—forever. Juan becomes a spy, as well as the world’s greatest libertine. But far from the heartless seducer that legend recounts, he seeks liberation and redemption as much as personal pleasure and gratification. He begins to keep a diary of his greatest adventures and the arts of passion he has mastered. The most dangerous adventure of all—the irresistible fall into the madness of love with the only woman who could ever make him forget all others—finally compels him to confess everything.

My Review: I hadn’t spent much time thinking about Don Juan, so I thought this book would be an interesting way to learn more about him and his time period. And it was! The stakes were high during the life of Don Juan..the Inquisition was in full force. And his job was to please women! I found the way he believed in pleasing women for their own benefit to be a believable way to look at this famous lover from history.

This book is very sensual…in that the description is so rich you feel you are actually experiencing Spain in the 1500’s. In the beginning, the book weaves back and forth between Don Juan’s past and his present so that we can understand the present situation with more clarity. There’s a lot of swordfighting and adventure, but also little nuggets of wisdom and truth revealed through dialogue and some last minute revelations that will surprise you.

Recommended if you have an interest in Don Juan or this time period in history.

Check it out on Amazon!

Interview with Mary Ann Rodman Pt.2

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

This is the last day of the tour for Jimmy’s Stars and we bring you the second part of our interview with Mary Ann!

I read on the cover of Jimmy’s Stars that you were inspired to write this book after reading a cache of letters that your family members wrote during World War II and your uncle’s diary, were any of the characters and/or situations based on real people or events?

The characters of Sal and Ellie are composites of my mom and her four sisters. Jimmy is my Uncle Jim, although he joined the Merchant Marine and not the Army.(I did not change his name because I simply could not imagine a more perfect name than Jim. I did change his last name however) Aunt Toots is based on a shirttail relative on my dad’s side of the family who athough she had a good heart and meant well, always managed to say exactly the wrong thing! I devoted pages and pages in my diaries when I was a young teen as to my run-ins with this relative!

Although I kept pictures of these relatives as children on my desk while I was writing (I need a visual to start me off writing), I found as I got deeper into the story, the characters took on lives and personalities of their own, and were less like their real life counterparts. The one thing that stayed true to real-life, was the close and special relationship of Ellie and Jimmy.

Have you written any historical fiction for adults?

No. I have no interest in writing for adults, period. I tried writing a romance novel set in the American Revolution, once, a long time ago…and bored myself to death!

Without giving away too much of the story, you cover sensitive issues in this book, what was your goal?
For the most part, American history is taught in a way that doesn’t involve people. Oh sure, there are the presidents and generals…and usually the big world events that are in the textbooks do not affect them in a personal way. Although I don’t write with “an agenda” in mind, other than to tell a story, I did want kids to know that the decisions made by those “Big Historical Figures” affect kids, both then and now, impact all of us…even children.

Thanks so much Mary Ann for writing such a great book and taking time to answer some of our questions! Be sure to visit the other sites on the tour today!

01 Charger, A Childhood of Dreams, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, A Mom Speaks, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Book Review Maniac, By the Book Reviews, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Buzz, Looking Glass Reviews, Maggie Reads, Maw Books, Small World Reads, The Friendly Book Nook, The Hidden Side of a Leaf

Interview with Mary Ann Rodman Pt. 1

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

We’re covering Mary Ann Rodman’s book, Jimmy’s Stars, this week and are pleased to bring you an interview with her.

Highlight your journey to becoming an author.

I could write for pages on this one, but I will be brief. I have written my whole life. I published my first story in a local newspaper when I was seven, and went on to win a lot of local and national writing contests. I wrote a school new column for the local paper all through middle school and high school. I became a school librarian, but never stopped writing. I became a full time writer by force…my husband was transferred to Thailand, and Thailand didn’t need any American school librarians. So, for the first time my life, I was a full-time writer. I also enrolled in the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children Program. Within two years of becoming a full-time writer, I made my first book sale, MY BEST FRIEND.

Who is your target audience? How have they responded to the books?
My target audience, according to my publisher, is ages 9-12.

But when I am writing, I am always writing for the eleven-year-old I was, and the books I would have wanted to read

The book hasn’t been out long enough to get much feedback from children (it came out right at the end of the school year, so you do the math!) A few of my die-hard fans, however, have been very enthusiastic about it, reading it over and over. As one of them said “I wish I could just LIVE in that book!”

What sparked your interest in writing historical fiction for children?

I have always loved history. I was blessed with some wonderful history teachers along the way who saw history as a narrative, with characters and stories arcs. In addition, I come from a family (on both sides) where family stories were told over and over. Instead of a bedtime story of say, Cinderella, I heard such stories as “When Mom and Her Siblings Dug a Swimming Pool in the Front Yard When Their Mother Wasn’t Home” or “How Daddy Escaped from Kindergarden Three Times the First Day of School.” Naturally, all of these stories took place during my parent’s childhood, or my grandparents’…and grew up thinking that kids had waaay more fun “back in the day.” As a result, my favorite books growing up were historical fiction (and they still are!)

Tomorrow we will bring you more of the interview. Until then, be sure to visit the other blogs touring Jimmy’s Stars!
01 Charger, A Childhood of Dreams, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, A Mom Speaks, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Book Review Maniac, By the Book Reviews, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Buzz, Looking Glass Reviews, Maggie Reads, Maw Books, Small World Reads, The Friendly Book Nook, The Hidden Side of a Leaf

Left to Die by Lisa Jackson

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Although this author goes beyond my comfort level with language and explicit sexual content, I was riveted to the story. There is a serial killer on the lose in the wilds of Montana. One by one he or she is shooting out tires of women driving on deserted roads causing serious accidents. After the accident, he/she finds the women in their cars and becomes their healer. When they become well, he ties them outside to a tree naked and leaves them to die from the elements. We become very familiar with one of the victims. We also come to know the two women detectives working on the case. There are clues left behind, but they are very sketchy and the women and all working on the case are at a loss to find the killer. There is a main story and a side story.

The story part of the book is fascinating. This is the third book by Lisa Jackson I have read this summer and I do see a similar pattern in the plots. The books very much keep you hooked, however, as you try to figure out who the killer is and what his/her angle is. The characters are realistic, although I don’t know many people who live as they do. I like the fact that the women are strong and smart. The characters are flawed – not perfect people although very good at their job. This book didn’t resolve the main mystery after 496 pages which was a disappointment to me. The side story was resolved with a unexpected twist. That was exciting. More is promised to come in August of 2009, so I will look forward to the continuing saga.