Thursday, February 25, 2010

Double Trouble by Susan May Warren

It's always a pleasure to highlight books by author Susan May Warren here on Net's Book Notes. She's not only a great author, she's a warm and fun person with a heart to help other writers. And I'm blessed to call her friend.

Let's begin with the back cover copy of this latest PJ Sugar installment:

With one solved case under her belt, PJ Sugar is ready to dive into her career as a private investigator. Or at least a PI's "assistant" until she can prove herself to Jeremy Kane, her new boss. Suddenly PJ's seeing crime everywhere. But is it just in her head, or can she trust her instincts? When she takes on her first official case-house-sitting for a witness in protective custody-Jeremy assures her there's no danger involved. But it soon becomes clear that there is someone after the witness . . . and now they're after PJ, too.

And now, my review:

This general fiction reads more like a mystery or romantic suspense. And Susan sure keeps us in suspense about PJ’s romantic choice throughout this story, but I won’t fault her because the story is fun, and I like going along for this ride.

Readers will follow PJ Sugar, PI in training, as she “innocently” gets into scrape after scrape. Trouble follows her wherever she goes, but readers will feel for her. She’s a lovable character, still trying to determine her own mind, find God’s grace in the middle of everything, and prove herself. Who can’t relate with those goals?

I liked this story because 1) I love Susan’s voice. Humor, great word-smithing, skillful story crafting. 2) She weaves stories that keep you turning pages. This isn’t a nail-biter, but you’ll be intrigued through the end by more than one thread. 3) Her leading characters are too fun to ignore. Susan makes it look easy to write this well.

I recommend this story to anyone who likes romance, mystery, suspense, a light read, and/or Christian fiction with a subtle (yet profound) message. I'm looking forward to the next installment of PJ Sugar’s life and times. Thanks, Susan, for this enjoyable read!

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-four novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year. Her larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!) A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at:

Click here to see the list of other blogs involved in Susie's blog tour.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith

Biblical fiction at it's best--today's feature: Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith.

First, the back cover copy:

Abigail's hopes and dreams for the future are wrapped up in her handsome, dark-eyed betrothed, Nabal. But when the long-awaited wedding day arrives, her drunken groom behaves shamefully. Nevertheless, Abigail tries to honor and respect her husband despite his abuse of her. Meanwhile, Abigail's family has joined David's wandering tribe as he and his people keep traveling to avoid the dangerous Saul. When Nabal suddenly dies, Abigail is free to move on with her life, and thanks to her brother, her new life includes a new husband--David. The dangers of tribal life on the run are serious, but there are other dangers in young Abigail's mind. How can David lead his people effectively when he goes against God? And how can Abigail share David's love with the other wives he insists on marrying? Jill Eileen Smith, bestselling author of Michal, draws on Scripture, historical research, and her imagination as she fills in the blanks to unveil the story of Abigail and David in rich detail and drama. The result is a riveting page-turner that will keep readers looking forward to the next book in this trilogy.

And now, my review:

David is one of my biblical heroes, so reading Jill Eileen Smith’s fictionalized accounts of his life has been enjoyable. Smith is insightful, her research thorough.

As happens with heroes, flaws are often missed. Especially with someone tagged by God Himself as “a man after God’s own heart.” But just because David acted in a certain way doesn’t mean he was right to. Smith demonstrates that with David’s contriteness and repentance in a few instances covered by the scope of Abigail’s story. She shows us a tenderhearted king, and in the case of Abigail, a lovesick one.

This book is a standalone, though it covers the next chapter in David’s life following Michal’s story. Readers will find they can read this novel without feeling “lost” if they haven’t read the first in this trilogy.

Whether the biblical accounts are familiar to readers or not, these novels (The Wives of King David) will interest those fascinated by history, by King David, or simply wanting a good story based in truth. So, whether readers are looking for biblical fiction, romance, adventure or women’s fiction, they’ll find this series enjoyable.

Abigail’s story is full of heartbreak and tragedy, triumph and love. And this novel is an enlightening account of her story. Bravo, Jill!

I’m looking forward to reading Book 3: Bathsheba.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Country House Courtship by Linore Rose Burkard

Ahhh . . . Regency. Grab the Pride and Prejudice DVD, a bowl of popcorn, and prepare to be transported to another time. Oh, wait. This is a book I'm talking about.

First, the back cover copy of this Jane Austen-esque offering:

Linore Burkard's fans devoured her first two Regency novels Before the Season Ends and The House in Grosvenor Square. Now, as her third novel opens, the year is 1818 and Miss Beatrice Forsythe is determined to marry well. After all, her sister, Ariana, married The Paragon, Mr. Phillip Mornay, five years earlier--which all but guarantees that she, Beatrice, can also make a famous match to a wealthy man.

But her sister and husband have disappeared from high society as they raise a family at their country estate. Can Beatrice persuade them to chaperone her in London? And what about Beatrice's business with the curate, Mr. O’Brien, whom she rashly promised to marry years earlier. At seventeen now, she has no wish to marry a mere clergyman—despite his agreeable countenance and gentle, understanding ways.

When Mr. Tristan Barton becomes the tenant of the Manor House, Beatrice's hopes seem to have found their object. But when Ariana falls gravely ill, secrets come to light, motives are revealed, and the pretenses that are easy to keep up in the darkness begin to crumble. Hearts are bared, truths uncovered, and when all is said and done, a country house courtship like no other has occurred!

As always, Linore Burkard delivers “spirited romance for the Jane Austen soul.”

And now, my review:

This kind of novel, with this level of commitment to Regency, stylistically speaking, takes some getting used to, especially for a writer/reader in 2010.

Head hopping and two speakers per paragraph in “real time,” are two elements which threw me initially as I was reading. That, and the language. (BTW, you’ll find a short glossary at the back of the book. FYI.)

But, I enjoyed this book. The story, the characters. And though I haven’t read books one and two, I found I could follow this story just fine. This is a stand alone novel. But for readers of books one and two, I imagine you’ll have a deeper connection and experience reading this novel.
I felt Burkard especially captured the sometimes maddening immaturity of Beatrice, as well. And the two romances which developed? Delicious.

Burkard’s tagline seems very fitting: Inspiration Romance for the Jane Austen Soul. I very much enjoyed the exuberance this adherence to the Regency genre permitted the author. She successfully, masterfully, gives us Regency in all its flavors, oddities (to modern readers), romance, and liveliness.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Never Say Never by Lisa Wingate

Today, I get to share my impressions on Never Say Never, a very enjoyable read. Following my review and the interview, you'll find information on a contest. Check it out below.

First, the back cover copy:

Sometimes Life's Storms Blow in Unexpected Possibilities Never Say Never Kai Miller floats through life like driftwood tossed by waves. She's never put down roots --and she doesn't plan to. But when a chaotic hurricane evacuation lands her in Daily, Texas, she begins to think twice about her wayfaring existence. And when she meets hometown-boy Kemp Eldridge, she can almost picture settling down in Daily--until she discovers he may be promised to someone else. Daily has always been a welcoming place of refuge for those the wind blows in, but for Kai, it looks like it will be just another place to leave behind. Then again, Daily always has a few surprises in store--especially when Aunt Donetta Bradford has cooked up a scheme.

And now, my review:

You’ll get more than you bargain for reading this book. Never Say Never is such an enjoyable read!

I’ve never experienced a hurricane. You’d think this author was taking us directly into the storm and bringing us through it the way she penned this story. Her characters come alive with their quirkiness and relatable feelings. As a lover of romance, at first I was a little disappointed we were only in two POVs—the elderly character—Donetta Bradford, and the youthful heroine’s—Kai Miller. But as I kept reading the romance thread which develops, I found Wingate very capable of showing us the hero’s heart from his surrogate mother’s (Donetta’s) POV, and even Kai’s. Well done, Lisa!

There are so many laugh-out-loud moments in this story. And like a good comedy writer, Wingate knows just when to turn up the intensity. One scene had me laughing so hard, I had to put the book down, catch a breath, assure the other family members in the room that I was going to be fine(!), And assure myself I could keep reading, calmly. Then, I’d come back to the story and laugh ‘til more tears came. This cycle happened about four times during that one scene alone. Then, when Wingate revisits those characters a few pages later, I was laughing (or as my family calls it, “gone”) again. This author is a master of getting deep into the comedy of a situation. But she’s also skilled at bringing out poignancy, too.

Relationships. Wingate’s ability to take us into relatable relationships and elicit similar feelings to the characters is fantastic. She didn’t only make me laugh in her story. She made me cry. And that’s the sign of a good writer, a great novel.

So, even though, perhaps by the cover*, you may feel you’ll get a light, fluffy read. You won’t. You get a light read, but it’ll take you to deep places. And all of them worth it.

I’ll be reading this author again!

Highly recommended.

*BTW, I love this cover. And though I believe the cover will sell the book, being in Kai's POV while reading, you won't find this girl flirty and sassy like the cover depicts. But I wouldn't change the cover. Just expect a deeper character than you see. :)

Here's an interview with Lisa Wingate:

1. How did you develop the initial story idea/plot line for this book?

Some book ideas you search for, and some just blow in on the wind. For the past several years, dating back to Hurricane Katrina, we in Central Texas have been the recipients of massive hurricane evacuations. These massive exoduses of people, pets, and belongings are frightening, frustrating, challenging, and at times oddly wonderful. When so many are on the road seeking shelter, the worst, but also the best qualities of humanity come to the surface. Hurricane evacuations truly provide times when we ask the question, "Am I my brother’s keeper?" In answering that question, we’ve enjoyed amazing moments of friendship and fellowship, family reunions, and chances to share a food and space with strangers from other parts of the country. We’ve traded stories and recipies, laughter and tears.

One thing we’ve learned about hurricanes, living here, is that the paths are never predictable. Storms waver, hesitate, speed up, slow down, and sometimes change course unexpectedly. Evacuations needs can change and develop quickly. What better way for the beauty shop girls to find their inner strength and to show Daily hospitality, than for their cruise plans to land them smack in the middle of a sudden and chaotic hurricane evacuation?

2. Almost every author puts a little of themselves into their stories—what did you put of yourself into this one? (personality traits, life events/jobs, settings, characters based on people you know, likes/dislikes, etc.)

There’s a bit of me in the setting, of course. I love Texas, in all its variety of cultures and landscapes, but, living in a small town, I have a particular affection for little bergs like Daily, where the coffee’s always hot, and a good slide of pecan pie can cure most ills. Having watched our little town mobilize to take in hurricane evacuees several times now, I’ve been reminded that sometimes the worst things that can happen bring out the best in people. Given the opportunity and faced with the need, regular people can rise to the occasion in amazing ways, as do the citizens of Daily in the book.

Some members of the Wingate family might also claim to recognize themselves among the citizens of Daily, Texas. I would offer the disclaimer that any resemblances are completely unintentional, but that would be a bald-faced lie. When you come from a family of great storytellers and colorful characters, there’s nothing to do but make use of what you’ve got.

3. Did you encounter any interesting challenges while writing/researching for this book? Please explain if so.

The most difficult part of working on Never Say Never was researching and reliving the devastation left behind on the Texas gulf coast last year after Hurricane Ike. While interviewing family members about their experiences during the evacuation and return, we shared laughter and quite a few tears. For those who have lived in southeast Texas all their lives, talking about familiar landmarks, heirlooms, and old family places that were washed away forever, knowing some things will never be the same, is both difficult and devastating. For those of us who have so many memories of family gatherings and vacations there, it’s hard to believe we’ll never visit the old places again.

4. Why is this book/story relevant today?

Despite our best-laid plans, we all experience storms in life—whether those storms be of a weather-related nature, or due to an illness, death, or in recent months, job loss and financial misfortune. When the parameters of life and our ability to control fate suddenly change, we’re confronted with our own helplessness and need to rely on other people and God. In a culture that values independence and self-sufficiency, it’s important to remember that we all have a common need and a common responsibility for each other and that without faith we really are alone in the storm.

Lisa Wingate is a popular inspirational speaker, magazine columnist, and national bestselling author of several books, including Tending Roses, Talk of the Town, Drenched in Light, A Thousand Voices, and A Month of Summer. Her work was recently honored by the Americans for More Civility for promoting greater kindness and civility in American life. Lisa and her family live in central Texas.

Okay, now for the contest info. Leave a comment for a chance to win the following treats. Here's how the contest works: you leave a comment here. I choose a winner. That person's name gets forward to the blog tour coordinator who will then include our winner's name in the hat with other winner's names and come up with a grand prize winner. All of these prizes are included to the Grand Prize winner:

Grandprize Drawing

Donetta and Imagene's Texas Road Trip Basket (approximate total value over $150)

Take a Texas road trip, without ever leaving home!


The Daily Texas Series by Lisa Wingate:

Talk Of the Town

Word Gets Around

Never Say Never

The Blue Sky Hills Series by Lisa Wingate:

A Month of Summer

The Summer

Beyond Summer (a special advance copy not available in stores until July 2010)

Road Trip Snacks (Straight from Texas, of course!)

Wrap it all up with a fuzzy, fleecy Texas throw blanket for those cold nights on the road (or curled up with your books!)

So, leave a message here to be entered into the overall contest. Don't forget to leave your email address: youraddress [at] wherever [dot] com. :) We'll have the drawing on February 19th and pass the winner's name on over that day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Contest -- Susan May Warren's "Double Trouble" release

Hey readers, later this month I'll be posting a review of Susan May Warren's latest release, Double Trouble.

But in the meantime, she's running a contest for readers. This contest runs from 2/1/2010 to 2/20/2010. Click the link below to learn more:

Double Trouble, the brand new PJ Sugar novel by Susan May Warren, is in stores now! To celebrate the release, we’re running a HUMDINGER of a contest!!

One Grand Prize winner will receive a $150 SUPER SLEUTH prize package that includes:

* A brand new iPod Shuffle (perfect for those all-night stakeouts)

* A $10 iTunes gift card (we recommend the ALIAS soundtrack)

* A $10 Amazon gift card (why yes, they do sell spy pens)

* A $10 Starbucks gift card (for fuel, obviously)

* A pair of designer sunglasses (be stealthy AND super chic)

* A gorgeous scarf from World Market (can also be used as a blindfold, and/or for tying up bad guys)

* AND signed copies of both Nothing But Trouble & Double Trouble. (romance! danger! intrigue! sooo much better than Surveillance for Dummies!)

They'll announce their super sleuth winner on March 1st. Click the link above to enter and learn more. Best wishes!

Check back later this month as Susie's blog tour stops here at Net's Book Notes.

Monday, February 1, 2010

New Christian Fiction Releases for February, 2010

New releases for February, 2010, as compiled by American Christian Fiction Writers.

1. Abigail: A Novel, The Wives of King David, Book 2, by Jill Eileen Smith from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Turmoil marks her life - what price will she pay for love? (NOTE: Watch Net's Book Notes for an upcoming review of this book.)

2. A Valentine Wish, by Betsy St. Amant from Steeple Hill. Lori, chocolate-lover extraordinary, is unemployed, single, and out of brownie mix. But when a secret admirer pops up at her new job running a chocolate boutique, she might have the ingredients for a special Valentine's after all!

3. Deliver Us From Evil, by Robin Caroll from B&H Publishing. When a female helicopter rescues a US Marshal escorting a heart, they must race against time to uncover the largest child trafficking ring in history.

4. Hometown Promise; First in the Kellerville Series, by Merrillee Whren from Steeple Hill. Kellerville: Finding family, community and love in one small town

5. Love's Winding Path, by Lauralee Bliss from Heartsong Presents, Barbour Publishing. A prodigal's life is never out of God's reach and His love as two lonely adventurers are about to discover.

6. The Marriage Masquerade, by Erica Vetsch from Heartsong Presents, Barbour Publishing. Sometimes running away brings you right back where you started.

7. Meander Scar, by Lisa Lickel from Black Lion. When Ann is ready to jump back into life with a new love, she discovers the devastating truth behind her husband's disappearance.

8. My Deadly Valentine, by Lynette Eason and Valerie Hansen from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Two suspense filled stories about stalkers and the men determined to protect the women they love.

9. On Wings of Love, by Kim Watters from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. A dedicated nurse devotes her life helping others, only to discover the man who steals her heart doesn't want her help..

10. The Pastor's Wife, by Jennifer AlLee from Abingdon Press. A woman must face the husband - and the congregation - she ran from six years earlier.

11. Walking on Broken Glass, by Christa Allen from Abingdon Press. Leah Thornton stops numbing her pain with alcohol, but discovers the road to redemption might still be under construction.