Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Thin Ice: Irene Hannon

By Kelly Bridgewater


After losing her parents in a car accident and her sister to a house fire, Christy Reed has been mired in grief. Life is finally starting to feel normal again when an envelope arrives in the mail--addressed in her sister's handwriting. And the note inside claims she is still alive.

FBI Special Agent Lance McGregor, a former Delta Force operator, is assigned to reopen the case, but he's coming up with more questions than answers. If Ginny Reed is still alive--who is the woman buried in her grave? Where is Ginny? And is Christy a pawn in a twisted cat-and-mouse game--or the target of a sinister plot? As he digs deeper, one thing becomes clear: whoever is behind the bizarre ruse has a deadly agenda.

From Amazon
My Thoughts:

I really enjoy Irene Hannon's romantic suspense. I love the cover for her latest book, Thin Ice. Being an avid hockey fan, I was hoping the story would have something to do with hockey, but it has to do with an ex-figure skater. Thin Ice has the action, bad guy wanting to seek revenge, and the underplay of the romance that is expected from a romantic suspense novel.

While the action starts on the first page, I kept flipping through the pages wanting to see how the story played out. The action started off pretty fast, but then it slowed down a lot in the middle, but kicked back up at the end of the story. With the passing of my father, it took longer than usual for me to find my way through the book.

As for the characters, I really enjoyed returning to the story of Lance McGregor. He made an appearance in Buried Secrets, the first book in the Men of Valor series. I was happy to hear more of his story and learn more about his personality. Thin Ice makes him more of a realistic character that I really enjoyed learning more about. As for the heroine, Christy Reed, I would have liked to know more about her. She seems to be motivated as a child, but after an accident to take her out of the running for the Olympic Skating Team, she appears to be just moving through life. I feel bad that she lost her parents and her sister right before the start of the story, but I didn't really feel any connection to Christy.

True to her roots, Irene Hannon created a romantic suspense that relies more on the romance than the actual suspense this time around. This is usual for Hannon so don't write her off if this book doesn't do it for you. Her earlier books are much better.

I received a complimentary copy of Thin Ice from Revell Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Purchase Thin Ice

Friday, December 25, 2015

Creating the Impossible

By Kelly Bridgewater

There is a story that everyone is familiar with, especially around this time of year. A story of a young teenage girl who was betrothed to marry a man she barely knew. Being a good, responsible young lady, she agreed to her father’s wishes, even though she didn’t even know the young man who would become her husband. But she trusted her father and nodded in agreement. Not long after the agreement was completed, she was visited by an angel of God who informed her that she would be having a child.


This young woman, who you probably guessed by now is named Mary, was confused. She had never been with a man. How could this be? The Angel of the Lord comforted her by saying that, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The Most High will overshadow you. That’s why this holy child will be known-as not just your son but also as the Son of God. It sounds impossible but listen-you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet, she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. So the impossible is possible with God.” Luke 1: 35-37. Mary believed and went off to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Of course, the rest of the story is very familiar to the majority of us. She gave birth to baby Jesus in a manager with a star guiding the shepherds and the wise men while King Herod slaughters babies all over his kingdom.

But the comforting Christmas story isn’t what I have been urged to write, I want to draw attention to how God allows us, writers, to take images, either of characters or plot points and turn them into a story on the page that influences our readers. If God can create a child inside a teenage woman who never had been with a man, then why can’t he take our ideas and make a heart wrenching story?

I have been struggling with my chosen career path for the past four years. I keep writing, but I haven't gotten published yet. I don’t have a writing mentor who is willing to come along side me and coach me into better writing. I start every day with worship songs and reading God’s word, begging for his touch as I write, but I still don’t have it. When I enter contests, I receive three’s on my score sheets. How do I make this writing better? I read writing instruction books. I read and review books for a number of publishing companies. But I can’t get any better when I sit down to write. I know a million rules to writing. The inciting incident. The characters. Know their lies. Keep pushing your characters till they feel so trapped, they beg you to stop torturing them. But when I write, my hands don’t type a well-written story. It is a plot line, but my words and Deep Point of View don’t whistle off the page, like published writers.

“So the impossible is possible with God.” Luke 1:37. Being able to craft a compelling story, which will get published seems like the impossible dream for me. When you read published writers thank you in the back of the book, they thank their critique partners. Usually one of their critique partners is someone who is already published. I don’t have someone like that who is willing to hold my hand and help mentor me to publication. Being a stay-at-home mother, we doesn’t have a lot of spare money, but my husband and I have chosen to allow me to stay at home and create while raising our boys. We sacrificed having a lot of money, so I could pursue my dreams, but I keep thinking, it would be better to give up on this writing dream and return to work. At least, we would have more money.

I keep waiting for God to “create the impossible” story in me that will be published, even if it doesn’t happen when I’m alive. I pray for the faith of Mary who accepted God’s word with comfort and allowed the impossible to grow inside of her. I will keep praying for encouragement for God to create the impossible and make my dreams of becoming a published writer a possibility.

Are you struggling with God who tries to create the impossible in you? Are you struggling with putting the words on the page to paint a story that the readers will devour? Any words of advice to help this struggling writer not feel so depressed and ready to call it quits, please share them.

This blog entry originally appeared on December 23, 2014, but I liked it so much I decided to use it again this Christmas. ENJOY!!!

Merry Christmas!!!!! Jesus is Born!!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Rachel Hauck: The Wedding Chapel

By Kelly Bridgewater

Back Cover Copy:

From Amazon
For sixty years, a wedding chapel sat silent, waiting for love. But times have changed and the hour has come when it just might be too late.
Retired hall-of-fame football coach Jimmy “Coach” Westbrook never imagined anything would come of his labor of love—the wedding chapel he built for Collette Greer, the woman he fell for back in ‘49. But now an offer has come to turn the chapel into what it was meant to be—a place for love—and Jimmy sees no reason to hang onto his dream any longer.
Photographer Taylor Branson is trying to make a life for herself in New York. Leaving her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, she put a lot of things behind her, including her family’s abysmal marriage rate. But love surprises her when she falls head-over-heels for Jack Forester, a top ad man. Their whirlwind romance results in an elopement, and a mountain of doubt. Jack, while genuine in his love for Taylor, can never seem to overcome his own demons to find the words of his heart.
When Taylor takes an assignment in Heart’s Bend, the job does more than send her back to her hometown, but into a world of family secrets buried beneath the sands of time.
When Taylor’s journey intersects with Coach’s, they rediscover the heartbeat of their dreams and that the love they long to hold is right in front of them. And worth every waiting moment.

My Thoughts:

The Wedding Chapel is a story about sharing secrets from the past. Like Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke, Hauck’s latest story reminded me how hidden secrets can destroy a person because of the festering and boiling before the story. The Wedding Chapel is an interesting addition to the contemporary romance genre.

First, the different timelines. Hauck plots the novel featuring events that have occurred in 1948, 1951, and 1954 mixed in with the present. By doing this, Hauck allows the readers to watch what actually took place in the past when affects the present. In similar fashion, Hauck uses different characters that are affected by these secrets. At the beginning of the novel, I was really confused on what these four characters had to do with one another. But as the story wore on, I really got to know and understand each of them.

I really liked Hauck’s use of description. Even through the numerous time jumps, I felt the setting. I smelt the crisp fall air and the cold winter as the snow fell on Jimmy and Collette in the wedding chapel. I knew what the wedding chapel looked like even though there was no image on the front cover.

Surprisingly, the character I related to the most was Jack Forester. I believe I related to him because of hiding his emotions. I do that really well. Don’t believe me, ask my husband. I grew up in a dysfunctional family where I hid all my emotions and act like nothing bothered me, but this has affected my married life, and I keep praying for God to help me overcome this. It is on the top of my prayer list. Anyways, when Jack figured out that he needed to have God teach him how to love Taylor, I started to mist up. It struck a deep chord in me.

As for the conflict, it boils down to secrets. Like I already stated, secrets can harm a family and hurt a number of future generations, not just the ones doing the lying. I enjoy watching how the four main characters sought forgiveness and learned to lean on God and learn to love again.

Fans of Hauck’s previous book The Wedding Dress will totally engage themselves in The Wedding Chapel. I also believe fans of Becky Wade, Becky K. Vogt, Melissa Tagg, and other writers of contemporary romance will love this book.

Would I change anything? Maybe draw the connections between the characters earlier in the book, but other than that, no, I enjoyed it. Not as much as my suspense books, but it was a good, tug at my heart read.

In conclusion, Rachel Hauck’s The Wedding Chapel was an emotional journey that hit me smack down in the chest. I enjoyed taking the journey of forgiveness with the characters and can’t wait to see what else Hauck plans to write.

I received a complimentary copy of The Wedding Chapel from Zondervan Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, December 18, 2015

How Sarah Sundin inspires me

By Kelly Bridgewater

What draws readers to the World War II historical fiction genre? Maybe it is learning about the past in a fun way. Maybe it is reading about different parts of the world. For me, it was learning about a part of history that always fascinated me, but the way the history books at school teaches it bored me to death. The Nazi’s Holocaust tugs at my heart. How could anyone be so cruel to someone else just because they believed in a certain God or looked a certain way?
From Amazon

I am a blogger for Revell Books, and when they gave me a chance to read Sarah Sundin’s In Perfect Time. I picked it. At the time, I did not know anything about Sarah Sundin’s writing. Usually I ignore historical fiction. Still do for the most part. If there is a picture of a woman in a bonnet, on a prairie, cowboys, or an old western setting, I ignore the books. Nothing grabs my attention there.

But for some reason, World War II historical fiction is genre that I have come to love. After reading and reviewing Sundin’s In Perfect Time, I found the first two books in the series, With Every Letter and On Distant Shores.  I loved those books too. Doing an Amazon search, I found she wrote another three books series called the Wings of Glory. I checked them out at the library and lost myself in the World War II era. I have always been fascinated with the music and the lifestyles of the forties and fifties, so it makes since that I’m drawn to these books.

Sundin has taught me that reading historical fiction can teach me about a time period by giving an inside look into the brave women and men who populated our world during that era. I love learning about the horrors of the Holocaust from the eyes of survivors or nurses who bravely went across the front line to help our soldiers. I am extremely grateful for Sarah Sundin’s ability to bring history to life in an engaging format.

I truly am a fan of Sarah Sundin’s writing and am looking forward to any other story that God has laid on her heart to write.

What books in the World War II historical genre have you read? Have you discovered any new treasures that you can recommend for me?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Shelly Gray: Whispers in the Reading Room

By Kelly Bridgewater

Back Cover Copy:

From Amazon
Lydia’s job at the library is her world—until a mysterious patron catches her eye . . . and perhaps her heart.
Just months after the closure of the Chicago World’s Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.
Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.
Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn’t merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.
Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks—the man so many people fear—is actually everything her heart believes him to be.

My Thoughts:

I truly enjoyed reading the first two books in The Chicago World’s Fair Mystery Series by Shelley Gray. Secrets of Sloane House and Deception on Sable Hill. Both of the stories were rich in historical detail and interesting characters. In Whispers in the Reading Room, I sadly have to have did not hit the mark with me.

First, being part of a mystery series, I expected a mystery. There was none. If you called a dead body and accusing the owner of the gambling saloon the only suspect without looking at anyone else, then this could be a mystery for you. But as an avid mystery reader, this really had nothing to do with the story. The mystery element felt like it was thrown in at the last minute but really had nothing to do with the overall conflict. It was majorly downplayed for me.

As for the characters of Lydia Bancroft and Sebastian Marks, Sebastian was the only character that I felt a smidgen of empathy for. Lydia is a fallen woman of society because of a couple of financial issues her father left her and her mother in, so her mother is pushing her to marry anyone with money to help them out and keep face in society. Lydia loves books and hides all her emotions while she widdles away the hours reading them. Even though Lydia is demanding and pushing to Sebastian, she is a weakling to everyone else in the story.

Sebastian Marks made a better life for himself by promising to not be like his mother who was a prostitute while she was alive. He now has money and fear of the slums of Chicago’s society’s underbelly. Presently, he owns a gambling club, so he still wants more from his life. He is a closet bookworm, which is how he meets Lydia. I really liked how he swore to better himself  and he did.

As for the romantic conflict, way too fast for my taste. In the beginning of the novel, Lydia is engaged to Jason, a wealthy man in society. Then Sebastian helps her escape Jason, and they slowly move through a relationship, even an akward proposal. I really didn’t feel that they loved each other the way Gray wanted us to believe they did. Their relationship was weird and odd.

On a positive note, Gray does a good job at keeping the historical detail on target. I was reminded of Chicago right after the World Fair in 1894. Every tiny detail now to the outfits the woman wore or the positions in the job market appeared to fit the time period. I really felt like I was enjoying life in Chicago in the late nineteenth century.

Overall, Shelly Gray’s Whispers in the Reading Room is a lackluster conclusion to her The Chicago World’s Fair Mysteries. I really couldn’t wait for the book to be done. It did not grab my attention at all.

I received a complimentary copy of Whispers in the Reading Room from Zondervan Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Friday, December 11, 2015

Writing compared to Disney World (Part 2)

By Kelly Bridgewater

Last week, I wrote my first part of comparing my trip to Disney world with writing. Click here to read that piece of advice.

For today, I will be discussing expectations versus reality when it comes to Disneyworld and writing.

What did our family expect when we traveled to Disney World?

We expected a fun time filled with many memorable moments. My youngest son, Obadiah, is a huge Dumbo fan. He owns 15 different Dumbos, and he could not wait to write the Dumbo ride and maybe add another one to his collection. My middle son, Isaiah, is a huge Star Wars fan, so he wanted to experience the Stars Wars Jedi Training, and he adores the classic Herbie movies, so he wanted to see if there would be anything there about that. My oldest son, Elijah, is almost 14, so he tries to act like he is too cool for the trip to Disney World, but I know he really wants to go. I, personally, am surrounded my boys all the time, so I wanted to spend some time in Belle's castle. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie, so I want to do some girly things for a while. My husband loves thrill rides, so he really wants to do The Hollywood Tower of Terror and the Aerosmith Rock and Rollin' Coaster.

What did we actually experience?

Writing is the same thing. I spend a lot of time dreaming up plots with characters who roam across the page, imagining how their lives will change by the end of the book. I can see them falling in love or catching the bad guy and saving the day, but I also can struggle with peeling back their layers and allowing everyone to see their most vulnerable moments.

When I actually sit down and put my idea to paper, sometimes my story takes a different turn than I originally planned. Sometimes my characters act different than I saw them when they entered my life. The setting may even change to better suite my characters personality or even to make the characters lives more difficult. I love creating villains that are easy to hate or love. I can't decide. I enjoy when I really like the antagonist for his reasoning, but I also truly enjoy the moments when they have surprised me and made me hate them. I can't wait to see what is going to happen to them. I enjoy writing a story where the ending is totally unexpected and even I didn't see how the story was going to end.

Share with me an example of when your writing took a turn that surprised you. I want to be inspired by how many writers share this trait with me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Every Crooked Path: Steven James

By Kelly Bridgewater

Description (From Amazon):

Who is the Piper? . . .
Special Agent Patrick Bowers returns in an electrifying prequel to the Bowers Chess series from critically acclaimed, national bestselling novelist Steven James. 
A mysterious suicide and a series of abductions draw Patrick into a web of intrigue involving an international conspiracy where no one is who they appear to be and the stakes have never been higher.
Soon, Patrick discovers that the secret to stopping the Piper’s current crime spree lies in unlocking answers from an eight-year-old cold case—and the only way to do that is by entering the terrifying world of the conspirators himself.
Dark, probing, and chilling, Every Crooked Path takes an unflinching look at the world of today’s cybercrimes and delves into a parent’s worst nightmare as it launches a new chapter of Patrick Bowers thrillers.

From Amazon
My Review:

I love everything written by Steven James. I fell in love when I discovered Rook for the first time. James has a great way of storytelling and capturing my attention. Every Crooked Path has everything I want in a suspense novel: a lengthy book filled with many twists and turns and a bad guy who I didn’t see coming.

Right from the first chapter, I am thrown into the action as Patrick Bowers enters a crime scene, but someone is still in the room. There is a face off where Bowers gets sliced on the arm and a man ends up dead. I want to find out, like Bowers, what did this man mean? Why did he die? Hence, on the chase I go.

I enjoy how James is a master at writing such short chapters and sections that I always believe I have time to read one more before putting it down. Next thing I know, it is a couple of hours later, and I finished the book. James’ paces the book in this way to capture my imagination and allow me to stay and feel the rush that Bowers feels as he is trying to imprison the bad guys.

True to his past books, James always touches on hot topics or areas that haven’t been explored. A word of a caution, which even James includes a letter right in the front of Every Crooked Path warning the readers that this novel does with child molestation through the internet and kidnapping. James doesn’t actually show any visual images for the reader to cringe at, but he does allow me to see the dark underbelly of this work and make me grateful that my children really do not spend much time on the internet.

Always thrilling, Steven James’ Every Crooked Path captured my attention from the first page. It is a dark and chilling story about the horrify world of cybercrimes focused on the innocence today. There is a cliff hanger at the end of the novel, which makes me anxious for the next book in the Bowers Files.

I received a complimentary copy of Every Crooked Path from Signet Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own. 

My Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars

An image posted by the author.
From Amazon

About the Author: 

Steven James is a national bestselling novelist whose award-winning, pulse-pounding novels continue to gain wide critical acclaim and a growing fan base.

Suspense Magazine, who named James' book The Bishop their book of the year, says that he "sets the new standard in suspense writing." Publishers Weekly calls him a "master storyteller at the peak of his game." And RT Book Reviews promises, "the nail-biting suspense will rivet you."

With a Master's Degree in Storytelling, James has taught writing and storytelling around the world and is one of the seven Master CraftFest instructors at ThrillerFest, North America's premier training event for suspense writers. 

Respected by some of the top crime writers in the world, James deftly weaves intense stories of psychological suspense with deep philosophical insights. As Christy Award-Winning novelist Ann Tatlock put it, "Steven James gives us a captivating look at the fine line between good and evil in the human heart."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Painter’s Daughter: Julie Klassen

By Kelly Bridgewater
From Amazon

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.

Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.

Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.

Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family's estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?

My Thoughts:

Julie Klassen’s newest release The Painter’s Daughter is a love triangle to the max. I have enjoyed The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Klassen and hoped for a mystery this time around. Even though there was no typical mystery, I did wonder the whole time which brother Sophie would actually choose to spend the rest of her life with. The story centers around Sophie and her new husband Stephen Overtree, but the plot has the third aspect of Stephen’s older brother Wesley Overtree. With the attention to detail, relatable characters, and a lively setting, The Painter’s Daughter is a joy to read.

Attention to detail is important to a historical writer, and Klassen just does that. I enjoyed walking through the Overtree elaborate home with Sophie as she discovered the family portraits on the wall, went to the attic to ask the old teacher certain things, or hiding in the old servants’ quarter to listen to secrets in the house. Klassen researches her time period and the houses she wants her characters to roam around in, and then she invites her readers to come sit down alongside the characters and take this journey with them.

Klassen’s greatest strength, in my humble opinion, is her ability to create characters that I like instantly and can’t wait to spend more time with. Sophie is a strong woman who has a strong desire to be loved and paint, but with the death of her mother when she was little, she has been starving for affection. On the other hand, Stephen Overtree joins the military to make his grandfather, who was also in the army, happy. Finally, Wesley is the only character who actually follows his heart by painting for a living.

When I started to read the story, I thought I would be reading the same type of story that I have always read when certain circumstances come to pass, but Klassen threw me for a loop. There is a long battle scene which takes place during the Napoleon Wars where Stephen is injured. This type of scene is not popular in Regency novels, but I actually enjoyed reading it.

Fans of Julie Klassen and Regency novels will enjoy losing themselves in The Painter’s Daughter for a while. The attention to the historical and setting detail are great just as the characters of Sophie, Stephen, and Wesley will keep readers imagination blooming.

I received a complimentary copy of The Painter's Daughter from Bethany House Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own. 

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Want to read my other thoughts on Julie Klassen’s The Secret of Pembrooke Park or Lady Maybe? Click on the book title and read my thoughts on these books.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

By Kelly Bridgewater

I have an extra blog post for today (lucky you!) because something VERY important is going live today. My fellow book blogger and friend, Jamie Lapeyrolerie (Hi Jamie!!!) has opened a Shoppe for bloggers and readers. Jamie reads as much as I do, so we both understand the significance and importance of a good book. Plus, we're both huge fans of C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and J. K. Rowling. Great writers, just saying. Tomorrow, at her personal blog, Jamie will go into more detail about what The Shoppe entails, so please, don't forget to stop by there tomorrow, December 8th.

Below is one of the items for sale at The Shoppe! It is a book blogger's planner created by Jamie with help from some awesome people.

Here is how Jamie came up with the idea:
(I, also, stole this from the About section at Book and Beverages Shoppe website)

Books and Beverages - The Shoppe! started when I was looking for a 
book blogging planner. I didn’t come across anything specific to book bloggers, 
so I decided to change that. Once the planner came together, I thought of other 
designers I'm a huge fan of and wanted to find a excuse to work with them. Thus 
The Shoppe was born!
All the items available are custom designed and I love each design! They all hold 
a special place in my heart, not only because the designers are genius creators, 
but they represent books and stories I deeply love and adore. I hope you love 
them as much as I do!  

It does:
(taken from The Shoppe's product page. I didn't make this up!)

If you have a book blog and need a little help staying on top of requests and posting to all the right places, then this little gem is for you! Custom designed with the help of the amazing team at May Designs, this planner will give you space to plan, dream, keep track of favorite quotes and stay organized!
Included with the planner:
- Six Non Dated Months
- 28 Weeks of the Weekly Checklist and Weekly Notes Page
- Pages to record the books you’ve read
- Pages to write down quotes

From Jamie
How awesome is that! If you are like me and blog more than once a week and have tons of books and reviews to keep track of than this seems like the type of planner we all need. It is hard to keep all track of all the books I receive and when I have to finish reading them. Then the added bonus of remembering if you posted your review on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Christianbook, or Goodreads. Plus, remembering to send feedback to the publishing company. I can't wait to get my hands on one of these planners, so I can be more organized. What a great idea, Jamie!!!

About The Shoppe!

Books and Beverages- ­ The Shoppe! is a place for book bloggers and readers alike. Whether you’re a book blogger or not, there’s something for you and friends at The Shoppe! When you purchase items from The Shoppe, you are also helping to change the world! A portion of the profits goes to:
● World Vision’s work with refugees
● Compassion’s work with students and education
● Children’s Hunger Fund work to help kids in America and around the globe with supplies they need to go to school
● Mocha Club's Action Project

Jamie has invited you to learn about The Shoppe! in her own words. Stop by and see how excited she is for you to join her on this new journey!

Taken from Books and Beverages blog

About the owner: The Shoppe! was started by Jamie Lapeyrolerie author of Books and Beverages and She Laughs With Dignity. You can connect with Jamie on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest! If you enjoy a Podcast, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, please check out Jamie’s podcast, Jack & Tollers: An Inklings Podcast!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Writing compared to Disney World (Part 1)

By Kelly Bridgewater

Disney World.

What do these two random things have to do with each nothing?
Nothing to the normal trained eye, but as someone who just spent the last week in Disney World for the first time in her life with her husband and three boys, I drew some connections.

Back in July, my husband and I finally saved up enough money to take the boys. I don't like the heat, so there was no way I would plan a trip in Florida during the summertime. Since Christmas is my favorite time of the year and Disney is just plain awesome, I wanted to go during Christmas time. We called a local Disney travel agent and met with her. She suggested going sometime in November because they will still be all decked out for Christmas, but we will miss the majority of the crowds. During November the boys have school, but they do get the whole week off for Thanksgiving. Since my husband works for the school corporation, he would only have to take Monday and Tuesday off to have the whole week off too. So we scheduled our trip to Disneyworld for the week of Thanksgiving. As an added bonus, my birthday just happens to fall on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Score!

Now we know when we were going and where we were going to stay. I had to come up with a doggy sitter for our Golden Retriever and our Beagle. Thank goodness for grandmothers who love dogs! Make sure we had money on the debit card. Make sure the bank knew we were going to be in Orlando, so they would okay our debit card to work. (Something I never knew until the travel agent mentioned it!) Figured out and reserved a hotel an our outside of Disneyworld, so we could sleep before the fun begins. It is a 14 hour drive from our home. Pack our suitcases! Remember the camera with the sharing port for the battery. Laptop with the battery pack. Extra battery for phones and such as we drive down there. Cash for food to eat meals along the way. Snacks in the car. Cooler in the back with some drinks, so we don't have to stop every hour.

Doing all this reminds me of how much planning goes into writing my novel. I might have a great idea, but will it flush out completely into a novel? I have to do research. My latest novel is a spy novel that takes place in World War II in London. I have never been to London, so I have spent a lot of time glancing through hundreds of images of London. Found a house I think my heroine and hero would live in. I found a map of London and have it printed out, so I don't have my characters traveling down the wrong road. I have images of clothing, lists of music, and favorite past times near my writing area. This helps me bring the 1940's to life for my characters and for my readers.

I also have my story plotted out on the door in my office. What needs to happen when. If I reached a certain climax in the story and haven't covered an important part, then my story will fall apart for my readers. I want my writing to flow smoothly.

Just like planning for my Disneyworld trip, planning for my novel takes a lot of time and energy. But both of them will be worth it in the end as my family had a great time in Disneyworld last week, and hopefully, someday, I will have readers who will truly enjoy my historical spy novel.

What do you do when planning a novel? How do you bring your era or setting to life? Share with me some of the resources that you have found that make writing your novel even easier for you.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wisdom and Folly: Michele Israel Harper

By Kelly Bridgewater

Today, I have an extra special treat for you. My friend and fellow Indiana ACFW member, Michelle Israel Harper, (Hi Michelle!!!) just released her first book Wisdom and Folly, and I wanted to share this story with you. It is a great book! So here is my thoughts on Part 1. I will do a similar review on Part II after I read it, so come back later. Okay.

Synopsis (From Amazon):
Wisdom. She may have crafted the worlds by the Maker’s design, she may have been by His side since the beginning, but her heart aches. Her sister is gone. Defected, to a group of rebels who loathe their Creator with every fiber in their beings, who plot His downfall. Her new assignment? Fight them. Defeat them. But how can she fight her sister, when all she wants to do is bring her home?
Folly. Fury seethes within her. Jealous of the attention the Maker lavished on her sister, she turned to a new master and became his favorite. Or so she thought. Determined to prove herself, to become invaluable, she realizes destroying her sister just may be the key to Lucifer’s heart. Her plan? Engage Wisdom. Distract her, defeat her. If only there wasn’t the minor detail she wasn’t counting on. Missing her sister.

My Thoughts:

From Amazon
I have read John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost while in graduate school. It was a nice change from all the other stories I had to read in school. The poem is about the angels: Satan, the fallen angels, and the good angels, and their perspective on the new human race that God had created on planet Earth. It shows the fall of Satan and how he persuaded Adam and Eve to take a bite from the forbidden tree.

Michele Israel Harper in her debut novel, Wisdom and Folly: Sisters Part I, created a similar story but with a twist. The twist is having the story centers around two girl angels who happen to be sisters named Wisdom and Folly. While Folly wants to follow Satan, Wisdom doesn’t understand her sister’s desire to ignore the Lord. The story tells important Bible stories like David, Solomon, and Noah. Harper allows us to see the stories from a fresh and new perspective.  There are even hints of future Biblical events that I know are going to happen. Harper does a great job at inviting me into the description of hell and Heaven. I really feel like she did her research and made both places come to life for me. There were even some moments of me cringing as she described some of the fallen people in Hell.  Harper really allowed me to understand by allowing me to climb into Wisdom and Folly’s skin. I felt their struggle as they hurt and were happy.

Fans of Biblical fiction, angel stories, or a well-written story will want to pick this up. I anxiously await Part II because I want to see what happens to Folly and Wisdom and how far through the Bible does Harper take her story. Wisdom and Folly is definitely a great book written by a debut author, but she held my attention the whole time while I anxiously turned the pages.

I received a complimentary copy of Wisdom and Folly from Michele and the opinions stated are all my own. 

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A little bit about Michele:

Michele Israel Harper
From Michele's Amazon Author Page
Michele Israel Harper is an addict. To books, to writing--if it includes ink and paper, she's all over it. When she found out she could write books instead of simply read them...well, let's just say she's rarely been seen outside of her office since.

She adores her writer's group, the Heartland Christian Writers, and has no idea what she would do without the American Christian Fiction Writers. Being voted treasurer for her local Indiana Chapter of ACFW just about sent her into a happy coma. Which, you know, she's very much familiar with since that happens at the end of every good book she reads.

Visit her website at www.MicheleIsraelHarper.com if you want to know more about her!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Until the Dawn: Elizabeth Camden

By Kelly Bridgewater

Synopsis (From Amazon):
From Amazon
A volunteer for the newly established Weather Bureau, Sophie van Riijn needs access to the highest spot in her village to report the most accurate readings. Fascinated by Dierenpark, an abandoned mansion high atop a windswept cliff in the Hudson River Valley, Sophie knows no better option despite a lack of permission from the absent owners.

The first Vandermark to return to the area in sixty years, Quentin intends to put an end to the shadowy rumors about the property that has brought nothing but trouble upon his family. Ready to tear down the mansion, he is furious to discover a local woman has been trespassing on his land.

Instantly at odds, Quentin and Sophie find common ground when she is the only one who can reach his troubled son. There's a light within Sophie that Quentin has never known, and a small spark of the hope that left him years ago begins to grow. But when the secrets of Dierenpark and the Vandermark family history are no longer content to stay in the past, will tragedy triumph or can their tenuous hope prevail?

My Thoughts:

In Elizabeth Camden’s latest book Until the Dawn, Camden captures the mysterious feeling of the Hudson River Valley with vibrant characters, who I instantly bonded with and wanted to learn more about. The characters of Sophie van Riijn and Quentin Vandermark are as different as night and day. One sees the beauty in the abandoned mansion belonging to the Vandermark family for the past couple of generations called Dierenpark, whereas, the other one wants nothing to do but destroy the curse on the family from this horrible home.  What makes Camden stand out in her writing, in my humble opinion, is her ability to fully engross the readers in the historical period. The setting jumps off the page. I really feel like I’m in the late nineteenth century struggling along with the characters. I highly recommend this book to historical fans of Jody Hedlund, Julie Lessman, and Lorna Seilstad. This book grabbed my attention and never let go because I wanted to know the historical mystery behind the Dierenpark Mansion and why it was abandoned for a long time.

I received a complimentary copy of Until the Dawn from Bethany House Publishers and the opinions stated are all my own. 

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Want to read my other reviews of Elizabeth Camden's Beyond All Dreams and With Every Breath? Please feel free to click on the above book title and read my thoughts. 

Purchase Until the Dawn

Friday, November 27, 2015

Why Julie Lessman Inspires Me

By Kelly Bridgewater

Here I am with my eleventh post about authors who inspire my writing. If you have missed any of them, go ahead and look back at my previous posts. I have written about C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, J. R. Tolkien, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Steven James, Robin Jones Gunn, Dee Henderson, and Susan May Warren.

Today, I’m going to talk about Julie Lessman.

From Amazon
Lessman writes romance, which is not what I typically read, but I read her book A Passion Most Pure because I downloaded it for Free for my Kindle. But I was surprised how much I loved Lessman’s writing.

She does not write a simple romance story with obstacles in their way. Lessman really understands the internal, physical, and emotion behind the love. The hero and the heroine have to fight against the demands of love.

The characters are written so well with great obstacles to overcome. Plus, the stories are historical romances, so the reader can learn something about the 1930 in Boston and San Francisco.

I’m glad that Lessman has written ten books to date. I have read almost all of them and loved reading about the O’Connors, which were featured in seven books. As a reader who enjoys returning to familiar characters as they are the heroine or hero in the book, then returning to them as they grow and make an appearance in a future book, I was glad to see Lessman created seven book, which start with the story of how the parents fell in love, then moves on to tell the trials and tribulations of their six children as they handle the waves of romance in their personal lives.

Lessman has taught me how to construct a romance that is realistic and grabs the reader’s attention. I have spend time reading her book that she wrote on writing romance titled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Inspirational and Sweet Markets. I have spent time studying and losing myself in the romance she sparks between her hero and heroines.  The Love is realistic and grips my heart with every story. Lessman has also shown me the love between a man and woman should also parallel the love that we have for God. It is passionate and demanding of our time, but the more time we invest in our significant other and God, the better return on our investment. What a great lesson from a great writer!

How many of Julie Lessman’s books have you read? What is your favorite aspect about her writing?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rising Darkness by Nancy Mehl

By Kelly Bridgewater

Back Cover Synopsis:

Sophie Wittenbauer left her strict Mennonite hometown under a cloud of shame and regret. After a rough childhood, her teenage poor choices harmed others, leaving her with no choice but to change her life. Her entry-level writing job at a newspaper puts her in the right place at the right time to overhear office gossip about a prisoner who has information on a decades-old unsolved crime. While the other reporters write off the tip as the ravings of an angry criminal, Sophie can't ignore it because she knows the name of this prisoner from her old life. 

Upon learning from the man that one of the other suspects is hiding out in the Missouri town of Sanctuary, she takes on a false identity to investigate and meets the young pastor of a local church--the very man she'd loved as a troubled teenager. As she gets closer to finding the suspect, will the truth of her own past come out before she discovers the identity of the criminal--or the very person she's seeking puts a fatal stop to her investigation?

My Thoughts:

From Amazon
I really enjoy reading romantic suspense, cozy mysteries, or thrillers. I love the thrill of chasing my characters around as they hunt and seek for the bad guy. I have read all of the books in Nancy Mehl’s Finding Sanctuary series, and they fit into the cozy romantic suspense genre where the novel focuses more on the romance between the heroine and the hero then the actual suspense haunting the character’s every move.

Mehl does a good job at using the small Mennonite town to her advantage. I didn’t believe for a moment that I was roaming around in anything sinister. The town was inviting, and I could see the visual images that Mehl uses to bring the town to life for me. Her descriptions were spot on, and I really enjoyed getting to know the other side of the Mennonite community. One of my favorite parts was when Mehl allowed the Conservative Christian church and the Mennonite church to get together for a church supper. It made me smile. That is how all churches should be, not divided by our little differences. We all love the Lord, right?

Anyways, as for the romance and conflict between Sophie Wittenbauer and Jonathon Wiese, the romance took up most of the story. There was a suspenseful story in the background because that is why Sophie is in Sanctuary, but it appeared to be a side note, not the whole point of the story. I enjoy mysteries where the suspense takes first place and the romance takes a back seat. Mehl’s story definitely does not do that. It was over the top in the romance department for me. Another thing, the bad guy didn’t fit the story well enough. 
He appeared out of left field and left me scratching my head. It wasn’t what I accepted, and I felt cheapened by the ending to the story.

I really did not lose any sleep reading this novel. The use of dialogue and prose moved the story along pretty quickly, allowing me to lose myself in the emotions, but the suspense did not have me anxiously turning the pages, wanting more.

Mehl does bring up the idea of loving our Heavenly Father. Sophie has a hard time loving God because of the various areas of abuse at the hands of her earthly father. I understand this completely. As humans, I compare God to what I see my own father doing. It is really hard to believe and follow God when he is compared to a father who might not be so nice.

In short supply, Nancy Mehl’s latest edition to her Finding Sanctuary novel, Rising Darkness, the suspense was not as important as the romance between Sophie and Jonathon. Fans of the previous two books will enjoy this book, but I wanted something more.

I received a complimentary copy of Rising Darkness from Bethany House Publishers and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Friday, November 20, 2015

Melanie Dickerson: The Golden Braid

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

The one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower.
Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man. She paints beautiful flowering vines on the walls of her plaster houses. She sings so sweetly she can coax even a beast to sleep. But there are two things she is afraid her mother might never allow her to do: learn to read and marry.
Fiercely devoted to Rapunzel, her mother is suspicious of every man who so much as looks at her daughter and warns her that no man can be trusted. After a young village farmer asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides to move them once again—this time, to the large city of Hagenheim.
The journey proves treacherous, and after being rescued by a knight—Sir Gerek—Rapunzel, in turn, rescues him farther down the road. As a result, Sir Gerek agrees to repay his debt to Rapunzel by teaching her to read. Could there be more to him than his arrogance and desire to marry for riches and position?
As Rapunzel acclimates to life in a new city, she uncovers a mystery that will forever change her life. In this Rapunzel story unlike any other, a world of secrets and treachery are about to be revealed after seventeen years. How will Rapunzel finally take control of her own destiny? And who will prove faithful to a lowly peasant girl with no one to turn to?

My Thoughts:

Melanie Dickerson did it again. With the publication of her newest novel, The Golden Braid, I returned to Hagenheim and immersed myself in the once familiar fairy tale of Rapunzel.  Read my review of The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest here. This time around I got to hang out with Rapunzel and learn the back story of why she was taken from her parents and raised by Gothel. The Golden Braid had everything I have come to know and love about Dickerson’s writing.

First, the setting. I love how Dickerson stays true to the time period with the clothes everyone wears and the horses and carts to carry things. As in some of her other fairy tale stories, Dickerson shows the importance of education and how sad that in the past education wasn’t valued or shared. Only the wealthy were taught to read and write and do math. I really liked returning to Hagenheim and meeting some of the characters from the previous books.

As for the characters Rapunzel and Gerek, I enjoyed getting to know them. Rapunzel is a trapped young lady, wanting to be loved because she felt like her first round parents didn’t want her. Gothel filled her mind with lies by stating her birth parents abandoned her when she was three years old. Rapunzel had a hole in her heart that she wanted filled. Luckily, she found God and realized his love and helped close the gap in her heart. However, Gerek believed he would abuse his wife just because that is what his father did. I’m glad that he realized he was sent away when he was six to be a page and he watched how Duke Wilhelm and Lady Rose showed love for each other.

The conflict was interesting and kept me on the edge of my toes. I did have a problem about fifty-six percent into the book (according to my Kindle). Duke Wilhelm went away while another King came to visit with all his guards. The guards overtook the castle and stored Lady Rose and the remaining children in the solar. Then the King tried to force the oldest daughter to marry him. If you have read any of Dickerson’s other fairy tales novels, this should sound really familiar. It does. It happened in another book practically the same way. The story does change course after the conflict is fixed, then it moves into Dickerson’s imagination. Even though I kept flipping the pages thinking to myself that I have already read this scene, it didn’t stop me from reading the rest of the story to completion.

In true fairy tale fashion, Melanie Dickerson’s The Golden Braid captured my love with the description setting and memorable characters. I loved Dickerson’s ability to bring familiar fairy tales to life.

I received a complimentary copy of Melanie Dickerson’s The Golden Braid from Thomas Nelson and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars