Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cup of Hope by Hope Wilbanks

Recently a reader of my devotional blog contacted me to review her devotional book, "Cup of Hope." It is my pleasure to highlight her collection today. Though her name is Hope, the book was actually written (she explains in her opening pages) to provide hope to readers. But what a fitting name for her first book! And what's not to love about that cover?!

I enjoying picking up devotional books. Written for quick reading, they offer a lot of punch in few words. Oftentimes, our sovereign God orchestrates meeting with us as we read. I love that!

As I read Hope's devotional, I found moments like that. Hope also isn't afraid to tell the truth. Here's what I mean:

A bright light shone in my face. It blinded me. It startled me because I wasn’t expecting it. That light is called Truth. Truth is sometimes ugly. Sometimes painful. Sometimes sad. But truth is uplifting. Truth is powerful. Truth is the tool that, when taken in hand, will lead you out of your misery.

I couldn't agree more. Readers will enjoy her thoughtfulness and find nuggets of takeaway for their busy schedules. Hope has prepared meaningful pages (one page per day, mostly) to encourage and exhort readers, while glorifying Jesus (who is the Truth). I recommend this devotional.

For more information, see her website at You can purchase the book here. I wish her all the best as she pursues her dreams!

ECPA Bestseller List for May, 2009

Recently a fellow member of the ACFW posted the news that a new author's book is already on the bestseller list according to the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association.

Here is that list. Watch for my review of Jill Eileen Smith's Michal very soon.

We rejoice with these authors and their accomplishments. Personally, I'm so grateful for Christian fiction.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Guest Author: Sharon Hinck

Sharon Hinck hooked me on the first page of The Restorer, Book One of the Sword of Lyric Series, and I read all three books. She not only garnered a new reader, but her genre has won a new fan. Her work is insightful, and I'm pleased to welcome her today to Net's Book Notes.

First, let's take a look at Book Three: The Restorer's Journey.

With a loved one's life at stake, Jake charges through the portal into Lyric to stage a dramatic rescue, trusting that the signs that mark him as Restorer will guarantee success. But everything familiar in Lyric has vanished, swept away by deadly lies and a corrupt king. As inexorable forces conspire to turn him from his purpose, Jake finds his path leading to places beyond his courage. While he confronts the temptation to flee his calling, Susan struggles in brutal captivity. Can she gain freedom before the enemy destroys her spirit, and will Jake choose to follow his destiny before everything is lost?

Today, let's mix things up and put my review before the interview:

Once again Sharon takes us to the land of Lyric. With adventure and high stakes on the horizon, she leads her heroic characters through tough battles—yes for life over death, but also for their own sanity. And she never lets her characters off easily. I think readers will relate with Jake’s mother (Susan, the restorer from the first book in this series) as she is held captive by fiendish enemies of her mind. Anyone who has suffered with/battled depression will see him/herself in the story. Readers will root for Susan to overcome the mind bending tactics of the Rhusicans. Christian readers will likely perceive and appreciate the symbolism she portrays. Jake, the other main character in this book, is called to a certain mission, though he’s compelled to find and rescue his mother. All doors close in that regard as he is commissioned by The One to fight for the sake of His people. I loved this third book and appreciate how it rounded out the series. Sharon bravely tackled tough issues and wasn’t afraid to dig deep, making the final victory that much more sweet. If you haven’t read this series, read it. Book after book, you’ll thrill to find yourself in the land of Lyric once again.

And now for our interview:

Welcome, Sharon. I'm so glad you could visit! (Readers, the Lord has definitely knitted the two of us together. Isn't it great when you meet an instant friend?)

Sharon, I love how the Sword of Lyric series is like an escape from the life of a busy mother. Well, that's how I read it. :) What inspired the Sword of Lyric series?

One of my major inspirations was the story of Deborah from the book of Judges. I’m fascinated by the way God calls ordinary people and equips them for a special task. I wondered how that might translate in the life of a modern day woman. That tends to be the underlying theme of all my novels – God using flawed vessels, people who feel their small abilities or efforts couldn’t possibly make a difference – then through His grace, doing amazing things in and through the life of that character.

In the "Etc." portions of your Navpress books there are songsheets (one for each book). You are listed as writing the lyrics, and Joel as the one who wrote the music. Is Joel your husband? Or son? And how often do you write music? Do you sing? Are you on a worship/praise team at your church?

Joel is my eldest son. He has a degree in music composition and is a gifted musician, so I asked his help with the songs. I wrote LOTS of songs in high school and college and they were pretty terrible, so I was relieved to have someone talented to turn to for scoring those songs. I still sometimes sit down at the piano and write a song for God, but only for Him to hear. :-) And yes, I love music. In the past I participated in many choirs, worship teams, bands, choral groups, and musical theatre. I was a church organist for several years, and play piano and guitar and very bad clarinet.

One more thing we have in common--the love of music. Your other novels are contemporary, women's fiction. What made you decide to write fantasy? Will you write fantasy again?

The Restorer books were the first books I wrote. The stories came to me in that genre so I wrote them that way. :-) I’ve always enjoyed creative and imaginative “outside the box” novels and would love to write more books like that again. I love the way that in speculative fiction we are given the freedom to explore something so different than our own experience, that it gives us fresh eyes to look at our reality. Writing stories about epic battles and dangerous enemies and noble sacrifice gives me a new perspective on the exciting and challenging walk of faith in my day to day life. I draw courage and inspiration from those sorts of tales, and I hope my readers will, too.

I'm so inspired reading your stories. I felt like a restorer myself after reading Book One. ;-)

I love your sweet spirit, whether on the video/interview or teaching sessions at a writer's conference, or in email interactions. Tell me how you see God. What does He look like to you?

WOW! Talk about a challenge. I could write novels my whole life, and each one would only succeed in giving small, imperfect glimpses into His nature. Humans don’t have adequate words to describe the transcendence and perfection of God. Scripture does a wonderful job of giving us clues – God as our Creator, Sustainer, Healer, Strong Tower. And of course God reveals His nature perfectly in the incarnation: Becoming man, to experience everything we do and reassure us that He understands, to take our place and save us – to love so deeply that He surrendered to death, and to be so powerful He rose and gives us eternal life. One thing I’ve been learning in recent years, is that God still surprises me all the time with the tenderness of His love. He finds ways to draw me closer to Him, to bring comfort on difficult roads, to be my sufficiency. All my life one of my favorite images of God has been that of the Good Shepherd. I think it’s because I relate so much to being a dumb little lamb – often helpless and confused – yet feeling totally safe in the arms of my Savior.

Beautifully expressed,
Sharon. Thank you for coming by Net's Book Notes. We wish you all the best! Thanks for sharing your writing with us and your heart.

Thank you for inviting me! I’m so delighted the Sword of Lyric series was a blessing to you.

Readers, you can learn more at

Monday, April 13, 2009

Guest Author: Anita Higman

I'm excited today to welcome writing friend Anita Higman to Net's Book Notes. She is such a gracious woman of God, and I appreciate her taking the time to answer some interview questions. We're featuring her book Love Finds You in Humble, Texas.

Here's the back cover copy:

Trudie Abernathy is a little inelegant, and she's never had much luck in love. To make matters worse, her thirtieth birthday is fast approaching and her sister, Lane, has decided to treat her to a makeover and a few blind dates. Trudie is about to protest, but then she meets the kind and handsome Mason Williamson. In spite of her humble manner, Mason finds her attractive, funny and smart. But Lane inexplicably pushes Trudie away from Mason and toward the other willing suitors. The makeover has transformed Trudie from ordinary into stunning, but she isn't sure how she feels about all the attention from men. Can Trudie stay true to her humble self and find her heart's desire in the process?

Here are some Q&A's with Anita:

~ How long have you been writing?
About 25 years. It's been a long journey, but a good one.

~ You've written romances and mysteries. What other genres have you explored? What is your favorite?

I've written books of one-act plays, books for kids, Texas books, gift books, and nonfiction for women. I like writing love stories the best.

~ What's next for you?
Well, it looks like I will be fortunate enough to write for Summerside Press again. They are a great publisher.

~ What inspired your Humble story? :-)
Well, the creative process is a mystery to me. Characters like Wiley and Kat and Cyrus start showing up in my head and talking. Sometimes I’m not sure where they come from. As far as plot for Love Finds You in Humble, Texas, I started with a premise...two very different sisters—one an image coach and the other in desperate need of an image coach. But I thought, "What if both sisters fall in love with the same man?" I wrote an opening scene, and then my fingers began to fly. Even though I generally know where the novel is going, many times the story reveals itself to me as I go along. So, the process of creating a novel is part mystery, but I still have to put in my time. Lots and lots of time.

~ That’s so interesting and so true. My characters sometimes do the same thing! Thank you for visiting today. How can readers contact you?
I'm at I have a book trailer on my site in case you'd like to learn a bit more about my novel.

Anita's bio:

Award-winning author, Anita Higman, has twenty-four books published (several coauthored) for adults and children, and she has been honored as a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston. Anita has a B.A. degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Some of her favorite things are exotic teas, going to the movies, and all things Jane Austen. She’d love for you to visit her website at

And now for my review:

Anita's Summerside offering is one of my favorites to date. Her characters were charming, believable and relatable. This story involves a bit of a love triangle which compelled me to keep reading, that and the way Anita unfolded the romance. I was hooked immediately and eagerly committed to finish this book quickly. I loved how Anita portrayed humility, contrasting it with low self-esteem. There's a difference (humility recognizes one's value but sees him/herself as the same as others; low self-esteem belittles self, failing to recognize one's true value, masquerading as humility). Her heroine, Trudie, experienced both aspects, oftentimes mistaking the truth for a lie. I believe many women will relate with this challenge. That and Trudie blamed herself for a past mistake which she didn't quite interpret accurately. I believe many readers will relate with that as well. Forgiving herself was key to her freedom. That will resonate. I'm excited Anita will write for Summerside again! Congratulations to her and I look forward to reading her next book.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lost in Novel Land

We spent the afternoon at the lake where I lost myself in Rhus and Braide Wood, the fictional setting of Sharon Hinck's fantasy series "Sword of Lyric." Oh, what a great third book she has crafted. I'll post a more formal review later, but suffice it to say, if this series passed you by, snatch it up before it goes out of print. It's so good. I'm reading "The Restorer's Journey" right now. Can't wait to get back to it. :-) Isn't it great getting lost in novel land?? Watch for my review and an interview with this very creative author coming up soon.

Happy reading!