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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Shock of Night: Patrick Carr

By Kelly Bridgewater


The Darkwater Claims All Who Enter It.

All But One. 

When one man is brutally murdered and the priest he works for mortally wounded, Willet Dura, reeve to the king of Bunard, is called to investigate. As he begins to question the dying priest, the man pulls Willet close and screams in a foreign tongue. Then he dies without another word.

Willet returns to his task, but the clues to the crime lead to contradictions and questions without answers, and his senses are skewed. People he touches appear to have a subtle shift, as though he can divine their deepest thoughts. In a world divided between haves and have-nots, gifted and common, Willet soon learns he's been passed the rarest gift of all--a gift that's not supposed to exist. 

Now Willet must pursue the murderer still on the loose in Bunard even as he's pulled into a dangerous conflict that threatens not only his city, but his entire world--a conflict  that will force him to come to terms with his inability to remember how he escaped the Darkwater Forest--and what happened to him inside it. 

From Amazon
My Thoughts:

I have read the first series by Patrick Carr, The Staff and the Sword, and I enjoyed it. It has everything I would want in a fantasy series. Intrigue. Action. A unique setting that is fully described with different characteristics. Carr’s newest series, The Darkwater Saga fulfills these similar requirements.

One of my favorite things about Carr’s writing is his ability to create a different world and make it jump off the page. Even though the world of Bunard is totally fictional, Carr uses descriptive images to bring the world to life, so I can suspend my belief and join Willet on the journey to solve the mystery. Carr captures the essence of a true fantasy novel like Tolkien and Lewis and invited me in to join the conflict on the page.

Speaking of the conflict, I was amazed at the unique tension in this story. Carr intermingles mystery with his world of fantasy, involving the gifts that every person has been created with by God. This takes a different path for the story. The conflict also centers on the social order of those who have the gifts and those who do not, which is comparable to the hierarchy in the world’s society today.

I did have an issue with how the story was written. There is A LOT of prose and not that much dialogue. As someone who enjoys reading a story that moves at a fast pace, The Shock of Night does not really move along at a nice clip. I trudged through the pages after pages after pages of description and back story, making it easy for me to put the book down and hurry into another book that I could lose myself in. I found it really hard to get into and wanted to put the book down a number of times. Actually, I did. I went to other books, but knew I had to finish this book in a timely fashion, so I picked it up again and skipped a lot of pages that were filled with prose.

I read the prequel novella, “The Divine Right”, and I recommend anyone to read that one before they jump into The Shock of Night. There is a lot of key information that needs to be understood before reading the actual series.

In true literary fashion, Patrick Carr’s The Shock of Night welcomed me into a world of disbelief that is filled with suspense, intrigue, and action. Get past all the prose and the story will capture your attention.

I received a complimentary copy of The Shock of Night from Bethany House and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

What aspect of Patrick Carr’s writing sparks your interest in the fantasy genre?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Power of Story
By Kelly Bridgewater

What is the character who stuck with you the most from any book?

A character who stuck with me is Edmund Dantes from Alexandre Dumas' literary masterpiece The Count of Monte Cristo. I felt so bad when he had everything going for him, being a captain of the Pharaon with the most beautiful woman in town about to marry him, a loving father, and the respect of important figures in town. But then, a couple of men became jealous and wanted to hide their secrets, so they shamed Edmund and stuck him in prison for 17 years before he got out. I'm not going to tell you how he got out. Everyone should read this book. It is a book I return to every year. LOVE it!! This story keeps me engaged.

While the character stick with me, I love the plot too. It is about revenge and forgiveness. If Edmund Dantes would have allowed the revenge to keep root in his heart, it would have torn him apart. Piece by piece. I love stories where the underdog comes out on top. Those are the types of stories that I am drawn to. 

But how many times do you hear from a reader commenting on a writer's Facebook page or a review of their book saying that this book changed their life?

A lot. I know. 

How about the woman who is struggling with her marriage, but Karen Kingsbury's A Time to Dance and A Time to Embrace helped reunite the couple? Or reading a certain book while int the hospital helped a patient fighting for his/her life with cancer?

I want to be the type of reader that keeps my reader engaged in the plot and interact with my characters on a personal and emotional level.
But I most want to write a story that God places on my heart and use it to help or change someone's life. I want to see someone grow closer to God after reading my story or see someone give their life to God because the Gospel wasn't even handed to them in that fashion. 

Don't we all want that?

The opportunity to change  a life.

What story have you read the changed your life and how?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

James Rubart: The Five Times I Met Myself

By Kelly Bridgewater


What if you met your twenty-three year old self in a dream? What would you say?
Brock Matthews’ once promising life is unraveling. His coffee company. His marriage.
So when he discovers his vivid dreams—where he encounters his younger self—might let him change his past mistakes, he jumps at the chance. The results are astonishing, but also disturbing.
Because getting what Brock wants most in the world will force him to give up the one thing he doesn’t know how to let go of . . . and his greatest fear is it’s already too late.

My Thoughts:

From Amazon
James Rubart is an author that I have never read. I have heard many people talk about how good his books are, and even took a class offered by him at the 2014 ACFW conference. I even planned to read all his books this year, but review copies of books keep showing up at my door, and I don’t have time to squeeze anything else in. But when The Five Times I Met Myself came up for review, I said yes because I finally get to read a book by James Rubart. And I’m really glad I did.

Getting down into the soul of a person is Rubart’s greatest strength in my opinion. Right from the first chapter, I could totally relate the marriage of Brock and Karissa. Being married for fourteen years with three boys and one a teenager, I sometimes feel like my husband and I are missing the fun we used to have together. Time flies by and schedules for the kids and our lives keep us busy, so we don’t date and pursue each other much as we should. I have had doubts and wondering if I went back and made different decisions would my life be different? That is what Rubart is getting at. God has a plan for our lives, and we should trust him with the plan.

Rubart’s use of short chapters intermingled with time jumps didn’t confuse me at all. Brock comes back to a number of different versions of 2015 before dream hopping back into the past. When he dreams, he travels to a whole bunch of different times in the past. The transitions between the time periods were woven seamlessly together with Brock going to sleep or waking up to an alarm that I followed Brock on his journey. I had a really hard time putting the book down. It captured my attention and did not let go. I wanted to see how Brock would end up.

The title says five times that Future Brock met younger Brock, but I counted seven. As I reflected on the story, I wondered why Rubart only mentioned five times in the title, not seven. I think, and I could be wrong here, but the five times he first met him are the times he asked for younger Brock to change something in his life. Those five times had a profound effect on his future. The last two times were to fix the mistakes he instructed younger Brock to take. Seven is an important number in the Christian faith so that could be a connection too.

Restoration can happen at any time and can take many years to feel the full effect. Rubart did a great job at showing how one decision can affect our entire future. If we’re not spending time with our kids, what could our children perceive our relationship as? If our job is more important or finishing the last chapter in a book instead of hanging out with them, do they resent you as the years pass? Even I struggle with this.

I wouldn’t change anything about the story; I truly loved it.

In conclusion, James Rubart’s The Five Times I Met Myself is a original, gripping narrative that had me questioning what do I place value in and do I really trust God’s will for my life. I really enjoyed this book and need to go find the rest of Rubart’s books, so I can stand stronger on my faith. The Five Times I Met Myself haunts me even now, long after I finished the story.

I received a complimentary copy of The Five Times I Met Myself from Thomas Nelson and the opinions stated are all my own. 

My Rating: 5 out 5 stars                      

Friday, November 6, 2015

What Susan May Warren Means to Me

By Kelly Bridgewater

I hope that this past couple of months you have joined this journey with me on sharing the twelve authors who have influenced my writing. This will be the tenth post. I have discussed C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Steven James, Robin Jones Gunn, and Dee Henderson.

From Amazon
Today, I will be discussing an author who writes fabulous books while using her God-given talent to teach others through her My Book Therapy. Of course, I’m talking about Susan May Warren. I have met her twice at the 2013 and 2014 ACFW conference. She is always smiling and giving away free hugs.

I was introduced to Susan May Warren after my family moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, and I was checking out about 15-20 books a month at the library. The library was only a fifteen minute walk from my house, so I would load up the boys and head there practically every other day. It was a great way to get my toddler boys out of the house. Plus, they loved to explore the neighborhood.

I was perusing the books and came across Happily Ever After, one of the first Deep Haven books written by Susan May Warren. In the upper right hand corner is a yellow promotion bubble with the words, “I enjoyed every minute. Dee Henderson.” Being an avid reader of Dee Henderson (if you read last month’s entry, you’ll know why!), I took her advice and checked out my first Susan May Warren book. I agreed with Dee Henderson. The book was great.

Then I found out she wrote a three-book series called “Team Hope,” which was romantic suspense. They had those at the library. I checked them out and devoured them within two days. Just in time for me to return to the library and check out more.

Susan May Warren creates stories that grab at your heart and doesn’t let go. I still buy her books and review them the moment they are offered by the publishing company. I couldn’t ask for someone who writes so well and uses the talent God has given her to teach and encourage others to write better.

Me with Susan May Warren at the ACFW Conference in 2014
During 2015, I have taken a number of her books and studied how she uses the senses to captivate her audience. That is one of the strongest things about Susan’s writing. I can always feel the wind on my neck as the characters stand in three feet of snow. I love feeling like I’m the character, struggling and feeling overjoyed with them. I know other writers do it well too, but for some reason, Susan May Warren just tugs at my writer’s part of the brain when I read her books.

I thank Susan May Warren, personally, for all her time she spends helping unpublished writers, like me, who are working and studying the craft, hoping to earn her first publishing contract.

What author do you study for inspiration to improve an aspect of your writing? What is that aspect of writing you hope to improve?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Janice Thompson: Every Girl Gets Confused

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

Katie Fisher and Brady James may be a match made in heaven, but that doesn't seem to guarantee them a happily ever after accompanied by angelic choirs. In fact, the sounds being heard at the bridal shop where she works are on the contentious side lately, as a bride- and groom-to-be try to mediate the growing rivalry between their basketball-obsessed families in the middle of play-off season. On top of that, Katie's parents are nagging her to get out of Dallas and come home to tiny Fairfield where her former boyfriend Carson is waiting for her, ready to rekindle their relationship. Oy vey! What's a girl to do? And will she ever be able to wear that gorgeous wedding dress she won?

The breezy fun continues as Janice Thompson throws everyone's favorite small-town girl into big-city bridal chaos--and makes her choose between the love she thought she lost and the love she stumbled upon in the aftermath.

My Thoughts:

I read Every Bride Needs a Groom, and I loved getting to know Katie Fisher. I was excited to know there was a second book in the series, Every Girl Gets Confused, which reminded me of why I enjoyed the first book. I love a story that has a small town girl who heads to the big city and tries to make a name for herself, something different than what she originally was. Thompson does exactly what a contemporary romance should do.

From the first page, I was reminded of the events that occurred in Every Bride Needs a Groom. I felt like no time had passed since I read that story. I remember the connection between Katie Fisher and the bridal shop, Cosmopolitan Bridal. I couldn’t forget her unengagement to Casey and her new developing relationship with ex-basketball player Brady James. Thompson created a story that brought comfort, joy, and a sense of familiarity when I opened this book.

In the second book, Katie struggles with feelings of homesickness. She keeps returning home to prepare for her grandmother Queenie’s upcoming wedding to a local pastor. During this book, Thanksgiving and Christmas occur, which brings a lot of memories of home and fitting in where she belongs. To throw another wrench in the pile, Thompson brings back Casey, her almost finance, and Katie ponders if she did the right thing in moving on to Brady. Even through all her emotions, Katie is still a successful business woman with tons of ideas to improve Cosmopolitan Bridal, even when she works herself to pure exhaustion. I really relate to how much she wants to succeed, but life throws her for a loop

Seasons. The story hits on the theme of the different seasons of our lives. Some seasons are good, warm, and bright while other seasons have more treacherous weather with a variety of storms, but we have to learn to trust in the Lord with every difficulty in our lives. The footprints poem came to mind when I think of all the different seasons and how we cope with them.

I think I enjoyed Every Girl Gets Confused more than most contemporary romance novel because of the continuing main character. I enjoyed returning to a setting that I knew well and returning to a character that I could relate to. It was nice watching her grow and mature from the girl I met at the beginning of Every Bride Needs a Groom. In that book, all Katie thought about was getting engaged and settling down. But now, Katie doesn’t define herself by whether or not she is getting married. She is making a name for herself in the Bridal business. She is still improving spiritually and emotionally. Just like me.

I wouldn’t change anything about the story; I enjoyed it just the way it was.

In true bridal fashion, Janice Thompson’s Every Girl Gets Confused comforted me and reminded me of all the trials in my life and how I need to stay focused on God’s plan for my life, not my plan for my life. I can’t wait for the third book in the series, so I can see what becomes of Brady and Katie’s whirlwind romance.

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

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars