Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fifteen Minutes by Karen Kingsbury

Fifteen Minutes cover

 This title releases today. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Zack Dylan made a promise to God and his college sweetheart as he left his family’s horse farm in Kentucky to compete on the popular reality television show Fifteen Minutes: If he makes it, the fame won’t change him.

Overnight, Zack is the nation’s most popular contestant, a country singer with the looks and voice of a young Elvis. As his star rises, Zack is asked to compromise and quiet his beliefs, and also some­thing more. Something Zack could never have imagined. Just as America is falling in love with Zack, just as he’s on the verge of winning it all, his choices lead him to the brink of personal disaster.

At the same time, Reese Weatherly, a thera­peutic horse instructor, is no longer sure about her relationship with Zack, or the wedding they had dreamed about. While Zack advances from one round of the competition to the next, an offer comes to Reese—one that will take her to a home halfway around the world.

Then Chandra Olson—reigning diva pop star and one of the Fifteen Minutes judges—intervenes. Chandra has suffered so much public pain and pri­vate agony since her days as a Fifteen Minutes contestant. Now she wants just one thing: meaning.

Can Chandra’s private losses help Zack find his way, or will his fifteen minutes of fame cause him to lose the life he once loved? Fifteen Minutes is a story of character, compromise, and the cost of having it all. A story that raises the question: Who are the real winners?

And now, my review:

Karen’s books are bestsellers as soon as they come out—an author’s dream. And I used to love her work. She could quickly both access and elicit my emotions as I read. But after a while, the writing wasn’t enough to keep me reading her novels as they came out. 

Since it’s been a few years, I’d hoped this title would be different—hoped that I could get into it and find complex layers and interesting characters. But, unfortunately, I didn’t.  

I liked the aspect of a musician being torn about going after his dreams and not losing himself. But the character seemed two dimensional. I felt like I’d read this character many times before in this author’s writing. 

The redundancies and overuse of terms and phrases distracted me as well. So many uses of “eyes” and smiles “touching hearts.” I respect this author, but I couldn’t find enough redeeming qualities in this story to continue. I didn’t find layered characters, multifaceted story elements, or engaging emotions. 

I sincerely wish her all the best. I think her diehard fans will enjoy this story. It just wasn’t for me.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Greetings from the Flipside by Rene Gutteridge and Cheryl McKay

Greetings from the Flipside

I enjoy the work of this writing team, so I was excited to read their book for review.

Let’s begin with the summary: 

Hope Landon has been rewriting other people's greeting cards since she was six years old—there's always a funnier caption. She's all set to chase those creative dreams with her musician fiancĂ© in New York City until he leaves Hope at the altar, deciding he must not really love this girl if he can't write a song for her. That may give her something to write about . . .

Hope disappears alone on what was supposed to be the couple’s month long honeymoon. Upon returning she learns of her funeral—everyone in her life concluded Hope must have killed herself after being jilted. Needing a fresh start more than ever, she heads for the Big Apple only to discover it’s not that easy to rent a place when you’ve been declared dead.

Taking shelter at the YWCA, Hope soon lands a job at a Christian inspirational greeting card company as an assistant to Jake, a guy who shut down his organization's humor department. She has lost her faith in love; he needs to find something or someone that will make him laugh.

Is there anything in the cards for these two? Find out in the truly original Greetings from the Flipside by authors Rene Gutteridge (Boo) and Cheryl McKay (screenplay for The Ultimate Gift).

And now, my review: 

This story was a little confusing, at first. But that quirkiness becomes its charm as the story continues. With themes like hope, courage, choosing life, and noble sacrifices, you’re in for a fun, original read.

I liked the focus on greeting card writing. It’s rather an original occupation for the hero and heroine to share. And the humor element? Fun. Some of the scenarios made me chuckle aloud.

Even if we haven’t been in a coma, we each have to make the choice to live, or not. To go after our dreams, or not. Will the heroine be brave enough? Will we? Will we stay “safe” or launch into the unknown, hopes in tow?

The characters were as distinctive as this story was original. And rather quirky—especially Mom. I also liked the character of Mikaela. Wise for a little kid.

I liked the story’s length—just right. The pacing kept me reading. I also liked that the authors mixed third-person, past tense with first-person, present tense. Good writing!

When these two write together, we often get a movie. Here’s hoping that’s true this time. I could see the scenes playing out as I read.

(click for links for both e-book and print version on Amazon)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Made to Last by Melissa Tagg

Made to Last

Don’t you love when you pick up a debut novel and find it fun, entertaining, and meaty? This new title is exactly that! I’m part of Melissa Tagg’s launch team and happy to help promote her debut novel. Read on for some insider news and a pic.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she’s starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show—even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiancĂ© who ran out on her three years ago.

When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda’s every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth—and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she’s built come crashing down just as she’s found a love to last?

And now, my review:

Oh, these characters were fun to watch! They were flawed, relatable. The heroine is stuck holding on to old priorities which still dictate her ill-advised actions.

Our hero, Matthew, isn’t living up to everything he is because he believes some lies about himself (relatable!). He can’t see his own nobility. He’s a mess. But he’s really good to his niece, Cee! She’s had hearing loss so the author brings ASL (American Sign Language) into the story. Loved that element.

Blaze (Blake) is a hoot! (Insider heads-up, he’s the hero of Book Two in this series!) He’s distinctive and mysterious.

The plot includes an intricate dance as the main three characters balance the lies with the truth—a challenge while still keeping them noble. Well done.

As a writer, I could see the elements from the awesome MBT (My Book Therapy) materials. She did a great job including them and giving us a satisfying story.

This is a great debut novel! I can’t wait to read Book Two, which releases in May, 2014.

Insider bonus, #2—take a look at the cover to Here to Stay, book two:

Here to Stay

Monday, October 7, 2013

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer

Stealing the Preacher cover
Isn't that a playful cover?
Let’s begin with the summary:

On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he's forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man's daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he's haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind--a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.

For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, it turns out the parson is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna's outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher?

And now, my review:

An abduction! What a great way to start the adventure! An original idea for bringing the hero and heroine into each other’s worlds. Karen’s writing voice is fun, light, and her prose flows smoothly. She throws in humor that made me laugh aloud at times. I liked the warmth of the relationship between these two characters as it grew. The secondary characters added quirkiness. 

The author’s adept at male POV and painted the heroine’s father very believably—a well-meaning oaf who can’t quite get it right. Excellent characterization throughout.

Unfortunately, I didn’t finish this story as it seemed to lose momentum and lacked sufficient conflict to keep me reading. The heroine’s doting on the preacher while he preached seemed a little too starry-eyed for me.

I think readers who enjoy light reads and romantic comedies will enjoy this story.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Everlasting Light: A Civil War novella by Andrea Boeshaar

Everlasting Light

Sometimes novellas are the perfect length for a reader’s busy schedule. This one was a just-right read recently.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Travel back in history and discover how acts of faith, love, and kindness between the young lovers in this novella establish blessings that will be passed along to generations to come.

Fresh, vibrant character thrown into impossible circumstances, who demonstrate genuine, heartfelt emotions. This is a passionate, masterfully woven romance that will cause your heart to sing as you shed a few tears.

And now, my review:

The heroine, Alaina, longs for her husband to reappear. He went to war and hasn’t come back, and there hasn’t been any confirmation of his death. She’s holding out hope. As readers wait and wonder what will happen, the author deftly takes us into satisfying flashbacks that depict earlier times and keep the romance  moving. This kept the pacing steady and wasn’t confusing as we bounced back and forth. 

I’m fascinated by the undercurrents during the Civil War. This was no cut-and-dried war. And neither side’s methods were perfectly noble. Our heroine is a Southerner who wonders if God sympathizes with the North. All around her, many have lost their homes in the aftermath of the soldiers burning through the region. She honors the black man in their lives, even considering his advice. This story confronts some stereotypes, demonstrating depth and complex layers.

Andrea is an experienced and adept author whose strong prose and pacing kept me flipping screens. Great read!