Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Morning Musings: My Journey to Christian Fiction – It Happened in the Specials Bin

rachels-tears-the-spiritual-journey-of-columbine-martyr-rachel-scottI have always loved books. I know this because my library grows ever bigger and my database of all the books I’ve read since November 1998 grows ever longer. I can flick through my database and tell you when each of my book phases began and for how long it went for. My Christian reading didn’t really start until 2001 after I read "Rachel’s Tears". I recommitted my life to Christ after reading that book. My Dad began helping me pick appropriate Christian Living books for me to read and some teen devotionals. I devoured all sorts of Christian Living books especially Philip Yancey.

After I finished university I took a job teaching High School Scripture to Years 7 and 8 students. For 3 years I was privileged to answer questions from every area of Christianity. I didn’t know all the answers and told the kids so, but they seemed happy enough that someone was willing to listen to their questions all the same. This job sent me to my local Christian bookstore, Koorong at least two times a week. I would literally trawl the aisles after school looking for anything to help me teach the kids. 

It was during these trawling times that I came across a set of books in the specials bin. Now, I have read some Christian Fiction before (only 8 titles actually) but none of it really caught my attention. I saw a box of Christian Romance fiction which contained 10 books for $20. Never a girl to pass up a bargain I snatched it up. I was both pleased and disappointed with what I discovered there. Some of the books were simply not to my taste and I struggled to finish them. However one or two books caught my attention and I realised that I couldn’t judge Christian Fiction based on 10 romance novels. So using the authors I liked from this collection I started trawling the Christian Fiction section.  Nothing grabbed me enough to take it home though. The following three books have defined my journey to Christian Fiction. 

cvtn_sweetwaterOn another visit and again in the special bin I came across a book that showed me how great Christian Fiction could be. "Sweetwater Gap" by Denise Hunter just grabbed me from the moment I read the blurb. I took it home and devoured it (I checked my database and I read it in 1 day it seems!) and it has become one of my most favourite books. I was hooked on Christian Fiction. I started exploring different writers, trying out what I really liked. From more Denise Hunter to Tracie Peterson, Michael Phillips, Delia Parr, Noel Hynd, Christine Lynxwiler and Judith Pella I got a good idea of what was going on in Christian Fiction. I’m very pleased to say I greatly enjoyed and have collected and still do, many of the books written by the authors mentioned above. Still I was looking for something more and I didn’t know what it was. Again after browsing through the specials bin I picked up another book that blew me out of the water.

Image.ashx
"Down Where My Love Lives" by Charles Martin was the second book and something I had never picked up before. It is a collection of two of his novels "The Dead Don’t Dance" and it’s sequel "Maggie". I have never talked about Charles Martin’s books on here because when we started this blog I had already read all his books. Charles Martin does not tell you things, he shows you instead – in vivid colours and layers of meaning infused in to each word. His ability to create characters so rich in meaning and real without harping on their appearance leaves me slack jawed.  Yes I am gushing about his books but you have to read one to get what I’m talking about.

the-weight-of-shadowsI was quite happy having discovered some fantastic authors and was now enjoying slowly discovering others I had not yet read. The third book, which jumped out at me, was not in the specials bin this time. Alison Strobel’s "The Weight of Shadows" had caught my attention several times but I didn’t buy it straight away. The blurb intrigued me. Finally I gave in to my curiosity and bought it. I was rewarded with a deeply moving, emotionally charged read. I had no idea that Christian Fiction could write on the ugliness of life yet still show the wonderful grace and love of Christ shinning through. 

My Christian Fiction journey has not ended by far. However I have come to understand that these three author’s sum up what I relate to as a reader and also the direction of my own hopes and dreams of becoming a published author.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Words of Wisdom for the Weekend

The link below is to my daily bread reading for yesterday, which I felt compelled to share with you all. I think it's a reminder we all need regularly, that we need to watch what we say about other people. This in particular I think paints a very good picture as to why we should be careful what we say:

"Solomon said that speaking badly of others could have disastrous effects. It betrays confidence (Prov. 11:13), separates close friends (16:28; 17:9), shames and saddles you with a bad reputation (25:9-10), and perpetually fuels the embers of a quarrel (26:20-22). People rarely can undo the damage their untrue words have done to a neighbor."
See the whole devotion here: Zero Tolerance courtesy of ODB.org (Our Daily Bread).

Have a great weekend everyone, and I pray we can all be instrumental in building each other up with our words!

PS - Don't forget our current giveaway, you could win a copy of your choice from one of Colleen Coble's Lonestar series books, including her new release, Lonestar Angel. Get your entries in now if you haven't already, it closes on Monday!

Tell Me About Yourself Award

Wowee! We are so flattered to have been given this award ... our first ever blog award ... by Cathy at Thoughts on Books.  Thanks Cathy for thinking of us!



The Rules:
1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
2. Reveal seven things about yourself.
2. Pass the award on to 15 other bloggers. Leave a comment on each blog, telling them that you've nominated them for this award.

Seven things about me:
Ok, we're going to change this a little, considering Jess and I do this blog together.  These are Seven Things About Us:
  1. We're Australian, and proud of it!
  2. We are as different as chalk and cheese, but we're best friends
  3. We were privileged to grow up in a Christian home, and we both gave our lives to Christ at different stages of our childhood
  4. We live 325km apart, and don't get to see each other as often as we'd like.
  5. Between us we have 3 children under 3 - and they're all girls!
  6. We'd both love to go on a Mediterranean cruise, starting in Greece and going all the way to Spain.  We'll take any donations to help the cause! :P
  7. We'd also both love to attend the ACFW Conference one day.
We're going to pass this award along to 3 blogs, instead of 15.  We hope you will pop on over for a visit to these great blogs:
If you are one of the 3 blogs we've nominated and would like to pass it on (it's not compulsory!), copy the blog award to a post, reveal 7 things about yourself, and pass this award on to other bloggers of your choice. Congrats!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review: The Mark (Left Behind Series, Book 8) by Tim Lahaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon
The Mark by Tim Lahaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

His Excellency Global Community Potentate Nicolae Carpathia is back, this time as Satan. Resurrected and indwelt by the devil himself, the beast tightens his grip as ruler of the world. Terror comes to believers in Greece as they are among the first to face a GC loyalty mark application site. The gloves are off, as the forces of good and evil begin a battle for the very souls of men and women around the globe.


"The Mark" - the 8th book in the Left Behind Series, feels like a staging book.  Whilst there is action in it, it's main purpose appears to be setting up for an even bigger event to happen which I expect will occur very early into the next book.  It really is one of those books where it just gets to the good part when it ends, so going straight to the next book is mandatory!

I was glad there wasn't much focus on Nicolae this book, because I was pretty sick of him after the previous book "The Indwelling" where all we seemed to do was wait for him to wake up from the dead.  

The Tribulation Force has settled into their new hide out, and the number with them at headquarters has increased so it's picked up the morale of the characters and this flows onto the reader who needs fresh faces as well.

There haven't been any more judgements dished out on the earth for two books, so I figure some major action is due, and I'm hoping for that in the coming instalments. Otherwise, there are some parts in this book which are quite moving as we see increasing numbers of believers suffering persecution and execution at the hand of the resurrected Carpathia's new world regime.
I find myself returning to this series at those times when I'm wanting something familiar - kind of like what Jess spoke about in her MMM post "Old Friends".  When I'm tired and don't have the brain power for focusing on a new setting and new characters, I pick up the next Left Behind book because I can "catch up" with my familiar characters whilst reading something new at the same time.

Left Behind Series Website

Other books in the series we've reviewed:
  1. Left Behind
  2. Tribulation Force 
  3. Nicolae
  4. Soul Harvest
  5. Apollyon
  6. Assassins
  7. The Indwelling 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Morning Musings: My Obsession With the Past

It's only recently I've discovered my favourite genre is Christian historical romance. Today I'll share with you my journey to finding it.

I've always loved history.  I loved studying it at school - I particularly enjoyed ancient history, and was quite miffed when my school didn't offer medieval history the year I would have been able to take it.  Actually, I still long to go back to uni and study history.  In a way, I'm a walking contradiction.  I'm fascinated with the way people lived in the past and would love to travel back in time and live in a simpler and more chivalrous period, yet I'm equally as fascinated and thrilled by the computers and technology of our current age.  I ended up choosing the latter as my career path because I figured it was more practical!

Where I had hoped to find a
quaint old shopfront building
Another historical avenue for me was researching my family history.  I can't quite remember how it all began.  I know my dad was interested in our family history, and I think he got this interest from my grandmother.  But it was probably a Year 10 assignment in history to do our family history what really kick started me.  For years after that I was deeply involved with research, and found that the wonderful conveniences of our internet age was a great aid for digging in the past.  I found and came into contact with countless distant relatives around the world.  And I was never content with "who" and "what" ... I always wanted to know "why?"  It wasn't enough that my great-great-grandfather came out to Australia in 1873.  I wanted to know WHY he did.  (Though that particularly question, despite the family rumours of navy service and 'black sheep', remains unanswered.)  And then I wanted to see and imagine how they lived.  I visited old addresses where the family used to live.  I visited the church where my great-grandfather was Christened, and was later quite moved when I ended up attending a wedding in that very same church.  I even went to the UK and attempted to find the drapery shop the family owned in London.  Unfortunately in that case, all I found was a big office block.  I was very disappointed.

In my endeavours to understand and imagine what life was like for my ancestors here in Australia and in the UK, I turned to history books.  I asked for Simon Schama's books and DVDs "A History of Britain" for Christmas from my family one year.  When I finished my very last university exam, I walked right over to the bookshop and bought "The Kings and Queens of England" for myself as a celebratory gift.  (Yes, nerd alert - who finishes 4 years of study by buying something else to "study"?).

Still got the discounted sticker on it!
Then one day I was cruising through a shopping centre and the newsagents had a table out the front with discounted books.  I picked up this interesting looking hardback by an author I had never heard of.  It was $34.95 down to $5.95.  As if I was going to pass that up.  That book was "The Forest" by Edward Rutherfurd, and became the first historical fiction I'd ever read.  And I LOVED it.  I was captivated by the way Edward picked a location and created a story about it over hundreds of years.  The book is set in "The New Forest", a region in southern England, and starts it's story in 1099.  Each chapter tells a different story set in the same region, but in a progressive time period, with the final chapter set in the year 2000 - present day.  The characters are fictitious, but Edward tries - as he states in his preface, "to set their stories amongst people and events that either did exist or might have done."  And not only that, all the characters throughout the time periods are connected by a family tree.  This is the formula with which Edward Rutherfurd writes his epic novels, and I enjoyed it so much bought and read two of his others - "London" and "Sarum" before I totally lost myself in the IT world for several years.  Both books I thoroughly enjoyed as well, but I have a soft spot for London due to my family heritage, and so I was particularly fascinated with his book set in that city.

Sharon Penman was the next historical author I discovered, when a friend lent me "The Sunne in Splendour" to read.  I've mentioned this book a few times (see my review), and it's certainly one of my favourite books.  It's about the brothers Edward IV and Richard III of England.  I became a little fascinated with the period after that and I hunted down a few other books set in the same time.  It was then I discovered that there were historical novels out there that weren't so focused on historical accuracy but more on entertainment.  Although I love and admire Penman and Rutherfurd's detail, my brain was a little weary by this point in my life (from working in IT of course) so the lighter historicals were a welcome change.

Well, after a while I wasn't reading much at all since I spent long days at work staring at a computer screen.  It wasn't until I stopped working to have my children that I started picking up books again.  I was still quite exhausted but wanted something to do during feeding and just needed to have a non-baby related activity! (Note: the exhaustion is still here ... lol ... but the need for non-child related mental stimulation is stronger than ever!). I was looking for something new to read, and that's when Jess put the Stonewycke Trilogy into my hands.  It was the first Christian fiction I'd ever read, and a historical one at that. I did enjoy it, and that put me on a quest for more Christian historical fiction.  

It didn't take me long to find Christian historical romance after that! This has become my golden trifecta. That's not to say it's the only thing I'll read - not by a long shot.  I enjoy chick-lit, contemporary romance and YA.  And there's still many historical fiction authors in the secular realm I'd like to try out. All I'm saying is that it's been a bit of a long journey, but I am now able to pinpoint my favourite genre.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October Feature Author: Colleen Coble – Interview & Book Giveaway

ccAbout Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble is immensely popular. With nearly 2 million books in print and forty novels and novellas to her name it’s not hard to see why! She has either won or been a finalist in awards ranging from the Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA, the Holt Medallion, the ACFW Book of the Year, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, the Booksellers Best, and the 2009 Best Books of Indiana-Fiction award. She writes romantic suspense because she wants to see “justice prevail and love begin with a happy ending”.

Colleen also infuses her stories with a strong element of setting. One of my favourite things is reading about the places her characters inhabit. It adds wonderful depth to her novels. The romance between the leads is always a page turner and I can never figure out who the criminal is!

We're very excited to have had the opportunity to ask Colleen a few questions.

1.Thanks for joining us on our blog today Colleen. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Any hobbies you have?

Before I was a writer, I used to crochet and quilt. But now my "hobby" is my granddaughter Alexa! She takes up any spare time I might have. I waited a long time for her, and she's the family darling. She's three now. 

2. I read and reviewed, “The Lightkeeper’s Ball” and “Lonestar Sanctuary” and enjoyed them both. Will there be any more Lightkeeper books in the future? What inspired the “Lonestar” series?

I have no concrete plans for a sequel to The Lightkeeper's Ball yet, but I'm thinking about it! There is a sequel to the Lonestar series just now hitting bookstores. It's called Lonestar Angel, and I think it's my favorite Lonestar book yet! Eden is divorced after losing her baby daughter in a kidnapping gone wrong. Or so she thinks. Her husband Clay shows up and tells her that not only did he not sign the divorce papers, but that he's never stopped looking for Brianna. And he's found her. He needs Eden's help at Bluebird Ranch to discover which of five little girls is their daughter. Very fun story to write! 

(Jess: I will keep my ears open in case you give us more in the Lightkeeper series. Lonestar Angel sounds very exciting – I can’t wait to read it!)

3. How do you get the inspiration for your male lead characters? I just love all the guys you write!

They are usually a blend of my husband's many strong traits as well as my son. Those fellows are great inspiration!

(Jess: You must be a vey blessed woman Colleen! I bet they love that they inspire you!)

4. What books did you read as a teenager?

You don't have enough space for me to list them all! I have always been an avid reader. My favorites were the classics, and I devoured gothics by Bronte, Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and Barbara Michaels. I loved Edgar Allen Poe too. 

5. Whose writing do you admire?

My answer may shock you! I love Stephen King's writing. No one can immerse you in character the way he can. My favorite is The Stand. I've read that well over thirty times. It's an epic story of good vs evil.

(Jess: Stephen King hey? I am surprised. Having read a little bit of him, I can understand his ability to immerse his reader in a character.) 
6. When you get writers block, what do you do to try and get out of it?

Writer's block? I've never had it! I generally have more ideas than I can write. I adore writing, all aspects of it. My favorite is the editing process after I've received my substantive edits back. I even like promotion where I get to talk to readers.

(Jess: I think I may have writer’s block envy! :D Keep the ideas coming though!) 

7. If you could be any fictional book character for a day, who would you be, and why?

I'd be Bree from my Rock Harbor series. When I was researching that series, I followed a dog trainer around for a day. It was so incredibly interesting to learn what those air tracking dogs can do.

Thanks so much for the fun chat!

Find Colleen Coble on the Web
Colleen's Blogs
Our Reviews of Colleen's Books
Book Giveaway!
 
Enter our giveaway for a chance to win your choice of one of Colleen’s Lonestar series books, including “Lonestar Angel” – the latest book in the series which will be released Nov 8th.  That means the winner can pick one of the following books as their prize:
  • Lonestar Sanctuary
  • Lonestar Secrets
  • Lonestar Homecoming
  • Lonestar Angel
To enter the competition, you just need to complete the form below.  Entries must include a valid email address, or we won't be able to contact you if you win!


All information provided remains confidential and will not be given to any third party.  Your email address will only be used by Book Review Sisters to contact you in the event that you win.

If you are contacted and advised you are the winner, you will have 1 week to provide us with the address for postage of your prize.

Entries close Monday 31st October 2011

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If you opt in for any of these bonus entries, please indicate so by ticking the appropriate boxes on the form.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review: Brides of Gallatin County Trilogy by Tracie Peterson

After the unexpected death of their father, the three Gallatin sisters—Gwen, Beth, and Lacy—must fashion a life for themselves in the Montana wilds, operating a roadhouse that sits at the crossroads of two stage lines. But the saloon owner in town has his sights on the roadhouse, and an unexpected visitor from the east adds to the chaos. Though each sister hides a secret sorrow, they determine to look to the future with faith and a dose of humour—all to embrace the love they long to claim as their own. 
(http://www.traciepeterson.com/bridesofgallatincounty.html)

I decided to not do each book in this trilogy but instead you give a general overview and opinion.

I have read numerous Tracie Peterson books and have enjoyed them all. This box set trilogy was going for $24.95 at my bookshop and I certainly wasn’t going to walk past that. 

Anyway, each book focuses on one sister and the story of their time in Montana after the death of their father. Gwen, Beth and Lacey are tough frontier girls who are not easily pushed around. While I enjoyed the stories of Gwen and Beth, it was the youngest girl Lacey that hooked my attention. She’s a spunky, stubborn, independent spitfire.

A fun read filled with humour, adventure, romance and action.

Book Review: Stars Collide by Janice Thompson

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon
Stars Collide by Janice Thompson
Revell, 01 April 2011

Kat Jennings and Scott Murphy don't just play two people who are secretly in love on a television sitcom--they are also head over heels for each other in real life. When the lines between reality and TV land blur, they hope they can keep their relationship under wraps. But when Kat's grandmother, an aging Hollywood starlet with a penchant for wearing elaborate evening gowns from Golden Age movies, mistakes their on-screen wedding proposal for the real deal, things begin to spiral out of their control. Will their secret be front-page news in the tabloids tomorrow? And can their budding romance survive the onslaught of paparazzi, wedding preparations, and misinformed in-laws? From the sound stage to a Beverly Hills mansion to the gleaming Pacific Ocean, Stars Collide takes readers on a roller-coaster tour of Tinseltown, packing both comedic punch and tender emotion.


I decided to stay in the present for a change, so this is the first book I've read in a while that wasn't set in the past - or in the future!

"Stars Collide" is the first book in the Backstage Pass series by Janice Thompson. The second book, "Hello Hollywood" just released this month, and I believe a third book is on it's way.  I haven't read Janice Thompson before.

I was a little flabergasted at the beginning since right on the first page sit-com stars Kat Jennings and Scott Murphy get together.  I thought, "Where can this go?" But I read on, and soon found a whole underlying storying unravelling regarding Kat's grandmother - Lenora, a former Hollywood glamour star.

It was interesting to read a book which showed the behind-the-scenes life of actors and their battles with publicity and the paparazzi

This book made me think of "rom-com" movies - something you might expect to see Katherine Heigl or Jennifer Garner in, except it's clean and Christian! It's a light and entertaining novel, and served it's purpose for me as I was looking for something sweet to read since I just have way too much going on at the moment for anything heavy.  It's a feel good kind of book, that includes a little mystery and scandal, and alls well that ends well.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Morning Musings: Helen's Heroes

Last week on MMM, Jess outlined her favourite literary heroes.  Now it's my turn!

So, what makes a hero for me?

Integrity, first and foremost.  He can make mistakes - in fact, he has to ... where can he improve if he starts from perfect?  He will wrestle with issues internally, but in the end his true nature shines through - and it's a good one! And that integrity must absolutely extend to the woman he loves - his love is true and noble, not driven solely by a physical attraction (though, that should be there too, of course!).

He's a manly man.  Usually he has a distinguished or dangerous occupation, something that showcases his strength and courage, sets him apart from the other men.  That doesn't mean he's a fist-wielding barbarian.  I like him to have a sense of self control and decency!

When he falls for a woman, he makes it known. There's nothing like a manly man expressing that a woman has stolen his heart.  Now I'm not talking about those emotional men who sprout their feelings at the drop of the hat.  I'm talking about the man who never exposes his heart.  But once his heart has been captured, he is willing to risk rejection and humiliation in order to make his feelings known.

He will do anything for the woman he loves. Nothing speaks love more to a woman that a man who will go past the boundaries of expectation, go outside his own comfort zone in order to please her. And it is usually done without her asking, and without parading the fact around.  After all, he's done it out of love for her, not with the motive of impressing her.

Confidence without cockiness.  This is a biggy for me.  A real man doesn't need to boast of his accomplishments, because he's secure in himself.

Ok, so who are my favourite literary heroes?

I'll start with the obvious - Mr Darcy.  Not many will argue with me on this one.  Particularly when he's played by Colin Firth.  Could there have been anyone any more suited to a role?  My favourite scene is when his sister Georgiana is playing the piano and Elizabeth is helping to turn her pages.  The obvious warmth Mr Darcy feels from seeing Elizabeth with his sister, and from seeing her in general can be seen when he finally reveals a smile.  But I can't think of this wonderful version of Pride & Prejudice without thinking of my mum's favourite scene.  I don't know how many times Jess and I watched it with mum, but mum never fails to kill herself laughing when Mr Darcy runs into Elizabeth unexpectedly at Pemberley after his impromptu swim.  His repeating the question regarding her parents sends her into hysterics.  The uncomfortableness of the encounter is unmistakable!

If I go based solely on the books, and leave aside any good looking actor enhancing the hero's qualities, I am tempted to declare Mr Knightley from "Emma" as my favourite Jane Austen hero over Mr Darcy.  Let's face it, Darcy is arrogant, and he still looked down on Elizabeth's family - until he decided he loved her.  (That said, Elizabeth's feisty temperament is just the antidote and they do make a perfect match.)  Mr Knightley's kindness and benevolence to those in society beneath him is more open and obvious.  He struggles with his feelings for Emma, endures a period of time when he believes she's in love with someone else, but in the end he can fight it no longer and declares his feelings.

You'll have to forgive my lack of range because as you may have heard me mention before, I've spent a good decade of my recent life with my head out of books.  I struggle to remember the books I read before my life went into career overdrive, and I've only been playing catchups in the literary world in the last few months.

There is one hero I remember reading who I did sit up and notice.  King Richard III.  What? You mean the king who they believed killed his boy nephews in the tower? The one and the same!

I'm referring to King Richard III as portrayed in Sharon Penman's "The Sunne in Splendour".  Her account is highly sympathetic of Richard and does an excellent job at weaving a story which provides a plausible explanation for the scandalous events surrounding his reign.  The book really has two heroes - Edward IV, who is Richard's older brother and precedes him as King, being the other.  Edward is the confident, charismatic hero of the battlefield (and um, the bedroom...), and I certainly didn't dislike him. But it was Richard's steadfast devotion to his one true love, Anne, and the lengths to which he went in order to be able to marry her that had me captivated.  And the fact that his motives and intentions were more noble that his brother's - in love and in kingship - helped raise my opinion of him.

The last one my favourite heroes list (at least, this time around!) is certainly not the least, and it's the one I've discovered most recently.  That is Colonel Cassius McLinn of Laura Frantz's "The Colonel's Lady".  *sigh* ... sorry, excuse me for that, I can't seem to help it when I think of this brooding American civil war colonel.  And I've never had a thing for military men.  Or for redheads for that matter! But his strength, his confidence and capability in leading his men send my heart a flutter.  He is certainly the manly-man and any arrogance he has is well placed. He struggles internally with a torturous secret that threatens to sever any possibility of securing his love with the lovely Roxanna.  But his feelings for Roxanna are so real and tender, it positively takes my breath away!

So, there you have it folks - my favourite literary heroes :) Yes I realise that all these characters live quite well in the past, but don't read too much into that.  I simply don't read much contemporary fiction.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Next Week: Author feature and book give away


Next week it's time for our monthly author feature again. Who will it be? Make sure you drop by on Thursday to find out! And we'll be giving away one of her books, so don't miss your chance to get in the draw.

Happy reading :)

Spring time in the Aussie Backyard

We are having a relaxed Friday today.  Our mum's garden is bursting with flowers now, and the roses are coming out.  Mum is quite a green thumb, and some of her roses have won in the local rose competition on several occasions.  She doesn't spend as much time gardening these days, but despite that the backyard is still loaded with colour this spring.

So I thought I'd share a few pics we've taken recently.  Hopefully it will make you feel all relaxed for the weekend :)

This is from one of mum's award winning rose bushes, the variety of which is aptly named "Gold Medal"

Checking out the flowers with my eldest

My eldest, "hiding" in the flower gardens.  She is obsessed with "Waybuloo" at the moment and is always telling me "Mum, the ceebees are coming!" and then we have to hide in the garden.

We had the rare privilege of spotting an Australian King Parrot in our backyard the other day.  I don't know where it came from, it's not something we normally see around here.  What a gorgeous bird! We didn't get a chance to grab the camera, but my daughter and I managed to sneak nearby and get a good look at it in the tree before it sailed past us in a quick getaway.

Below is a photo of an Australian King Parrot, so you know what I'm talking about.  I've borrowed this from http://www.birdphotos.com.au, the site of photographers Greg Holland and Leon Keasey.  However I have to tell you, that digital images just don't do justice to the red on this bird.  I mean seriously, this creature was just stunning, and the red was amazingly rich in reality.  Made such a nice change from those noisy magpies (and whatever birds are canoodling on my rear vision mirrors every single night and leaving a fine mess for me to clean off the car every morning).



Enjoy the colours of the season - whether it's the Southern Hemisphere blooms or the changing leaves of the Northern Hemisphere.  Inspiring season wherever you are in the world :)

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Free eBook: I Surrender All: Rebuilding a Marriage Broken by Pornography


Are you married? Do you live in the 21st Century? Then, you should read this book, particularly whilst you can download it for free.

Quote from the book:
"I've had beautiful, young newlweds as well as women in their seventies come to me in tears telling me that their husbands are hooked on pornography."


Currently available for FREE DOWNLOAD on Kindle 

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Please note that free ebooks are only free for a limited time, so please make sure BEFORE downloading that the Kindle price still reads $0.00, otherwise you will end up paying for it.

Don't have a kindle? You can download the Kindle software onto pretty much any device - your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android device etc.
*************

From Publishers Weekly

 

Contemporary Christian singer Clay Crosse shares his journey as a performer whose 1994 number-one hit, "I Surrender All," captured the attention of the Christian music scene as he secretly battled a consuming addiction to pornography. Crosse tells how a mysterious throat ailment stopped him cold, causing his financial world to tip precariously, and bringing the realization that the road he was traveling was surely going to end in the demise of his marriage, crushing both his faith and his career. Telling his sobering story, Crosse takes turns with wife, Renee, as they candidly reveal the desperate condition to which their spiritual and marital lives had deteriorated before Crosse acknowledged his addiction. After he confessed that he would have had sex with any woman who offered, Crosse and his wife started a harrowing journey toward building a relationship characterized by trust and accountability. Renee had to struggle to overcome a wide range of feelings, including a sense of inadequacy as a wife, as well as hurt and anger at her husband's betrayal. Many Christian readers will appreciate the candor of the Crosses' story, which offers a fragile but persistent message of redemption.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Site update and a word about book reviews

Firstly, let me apologise if you've been, and/or still are having problems accessing our blog.  I could go into all the details of internet addressing and explain the semantics of propagating url addresses and the pointing of domain names.  But I'm guessing you're here because you love reading books, not wanting a internet addressing lesson!

The short of it is, some of you may still have problems accessing the site, but hopefully within another 12 hours the problem will be gone entirely.  That is, providing our hosting providers don't go fiddling with the settings again. 

Anyway, the good news is we have FOUR reviews for you today!

Here is a message from Jess:
I have surpassed my own record. I managed to read 9 books in 21 days. My eyes are tired. As a result of the reading frenzy I have decided to review all the 9 books I read. They are, however going to be short and sweet. Enjoy!
Now it's a good thing Jess has been ploughing through the books, because I am on a total slow down right now.  My two munchkins have been taking turns playing up every night so I'm currently very sleep deprived. I have to take a break from reading for at least a few days.  But never fear, I still have a couple of reviews coming on books I've read recently, and with Jess' marathon there will be no hiatus in the flow of book reviews to you.

Happy reading!

Book Review: Always the Baker, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker

Available @ 
Fishpond AU
& Amazon

Thirty-six-year-old Emma Rae Travis has been baking specialty cakes and melt-in-your-mouth pastries at The Backstreet Bakery in historic Roswell, just outside of Atlanta, for the last six years. But here s the rub about her job as a baker ... Emma is diabetic. When she tastes her creations, it can only be in the most minute portions. Emma is considered an artisan for the stunning crème brulee wedding cake that won her the Passionate Palette Award last year, but she s never even had one full slice of it. 
 
When Jackson Drake hears about this local baker who has won a prestigious award for her wedding cake artistry, he tells his assistant to be sure and include her in the pastry tastings scheduled at his new wedding destination hotel the following week. And for Jackson, that particular day has started out badly with two workmen trapped in a broken elevator and a delivery of several dozen 300-thread-count bed linens in the wrong size abandoned in the lobby. But when the arrogant baker he met a week prior in Roswell stumbles into the dining room with a platter of pastries and a bucketful of orders, he knows for certain: It s going to be a really rotten day. 

Can these two ill-suited players master the high-wire act and make a go of their new business venture? Or will they take each other crashing downward, without a net? And will the surprise wedding at The Tanglewood be theirs?

I love a book where the characters are funny and witty. "Always the Baker, Never the Bride" is both of these plus romantic without being nauseating. Sandra D. Bricker has given her readers a fantastic leading lady in Emma Rae Travis. She is witty, funny, quirky and overall a really genuine character. She is paired off with Jackson Drake. A man still in mourning but is capable too of being witty and funny. He and Emma play off each other splendidly. 

When I finished this book I first though was this: Always the Baker, Never the Bride is one of the loveliest, sweetest, funniest books I have ever read. I went to sleep with a huge silly grin all over my face! 

One of the best things in the book is the concept of Aftercare or Post-Operative Care in relationships. Don’t get what I’m talking about? Well read the book – it’s funny!

Book Review: Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist

Available @ 
Fishpond AU
& Amazon

From the day she arrives at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled--by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack's rugged behavior by tutoring him in the ways of refined society, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie's efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt's lady's maid. But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangled in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs...and their hearts.




At time of this post, the ebook version of "Maid to Match" is available for FREE DOWNLOAD from Amazon.  Please note that free ebooks are only free for a limited time, so please make sure BEFORE downloading that the Kindle price still reads $0.00, otherwise you will end up paying for it.

You don't need a Kindle in order to download ebooks from Amazon.  You can download kindle software onto any device, including your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry & Android.

This historical fiction is set during the very late 1800s and is the story of Tillie, the head parlour maid of a wealthy estate called "Biltmore House", and Mack, who comes to the estate in the position of Useful Man.  I really enjoyed reading a historical that focuses on the serving class, it was very interesting to see life from this different view.  I particularly enjoyed the irreverence and informality of the relationships amongst the staff.  It gave the book a real element of fun.

The cool thing is, Biltmore House is a REAL place! It was built by the Vanderbilts and Deeanne has done alot of research to keep aspects of the family and the house accurate and true. The serving staff - and hence the main characters - are all fictional.

Deeanne included a great detail of the duties, facilities and lives of the different servers in such a large estate, which I found interesting and informative.  I love when I can enjoy a book and learn about how people lived in the past at the same time.

And speaking of enjoy - I did that too! "Maid to Match" is a passionate book.  The hero has a big thumping heart, and there's a secret about the local orphanage that he is trying to uncover.  There's a strong plight for the underdog in this book.

I liked Deeanne's style! I'm looking forward to reading more from her.

Book Review: A Cowgirl at Heart by Christine Lynxwiler

Available @

Amazon

Elyse McCord, the biological daughter of a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, turns into a mighty warrior when a dog’s well being is at stake. Finding herself in the sights of a pistol-wielding maniac whose been mistreating his dog, she’s suddenly swept to safety by Andrew Stone, a widower bent on hunting down his wife’s killers. Is there any future for an outlaw’s daughter and a Texas Ranger’s son?
 
This book came along when I needed something light and romantic after reading a few books with a heavier subject matter. It filled the bill perfectly. It’s easy to like, amusing, has a mystery and chemistry between the leads in solid.

A good read.

Book Review: The Indwelling (Left Behind Series, Book 7) by Tim Lahaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon

The Indwelling by Tim Lahaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

The members of the Tribulation Force face their most dangerous challenges. Following the assassination of the Antichrist, some are murder suspects; others test the precarious line between subversion and being revealed. All over the news, reporters announce that Rayford Steele is Nicolae Carpathia's assassin, but Buck soon learns the truth. The world mourns the loss of a world leader until events at Nicolae's funeral bring all mourning to an end.

This might be the slowest book of the series so far.  And mainly because the whole way through the book I knew how it was going to end - it's no secret that Nicolae wasn't going to stay dead.

I don't have much else to say about this book, as I have to admit I finished it a couple of weeks ago, and have already since read the next book in the series.  I was a unnecessarily hung up on a little matter in the book - and that was regarding little Kenny Bruce, the son of Tribulation Force members Buck & .  You won't notice if you've never been a mother, and if it's been a while since you'd have a 14 month old around, you probably won't remember.  But this age group is something I live and breath at home, and I'm sorry but they do not have such extensive vocabulary skills as Kenny Bruce! But maybe it's just my kids? I don't know - but like I said, a completely unnecessary hang up I had as I read the book.

Otherwise, a phenomenon that occurred a couple of times near the end of the book I found strangely fascinating.  Seeing the angels - namely archangels Michael and Gabriel - interacting in the heavens? That was really cool :)

I'm that invested in the series that a slower book in the middle of it isn't going to deter me from continuing.

Left Behind Series Website

Other books in the series we've reviewed:
  1. Left Behind
  2. Tribulation Force 
  3. Nicolae
  4. Soul Harvest
  5. Apollyon
  6. Assassins

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Morning Musings: Jess' Heroes

Women across the world love a hero – a man capable of making a girl go weak in the knees, sigh dreamily and grin like an idiot. These heroes come in all different types, as each girl is different.

What is my idea of a hero? I’ll give you some examples.

darcy Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice played by the delectable Colin Firth in 1995’s stunning BBC adaptation. Why do I like him? Besides the obvious good looks it’s the awesome sarcasm and how he’s determined to not love Elizabeth but he still can’t help himself! To make him a real hero though, he’s got to fail. He does this in spectacular fashion when he proposes to Lizzie at Kent. I still cringe when I see that scene and can’t believe anyone would actually say those words and expect a positive response from a girl! Like all good heroes who fail; he is redeemed in the end. What makes him a true hero to me is his willingness to ask for her hand one more time. Now most guys would really struggle to do that, especially after the dressing down he received from Lizzie.

Captain-Frederick-Wentworth-captain-frederick-wentworth-13893916-226-272Captain Frederick Wentworth from 2007’s Persuasion played by Rupert Penry-Jones. I’ve wrestled with why he is a hero to me for some time. The simple truth is that he loves Anne and has always loved Anne. Even when anger and wounded pride colour his decisions, it’s plain he still cares for her. No one looks that intently at a woman without having any feelings! Again, he’s man enough to ask her a second time for her hand in marriage. I love these gutsy guys! 

My final hero actually comes from a book – about time huh? It’s Grady McKenzie from Denise Hunter’s Sweetwater Gap. He’s the one you might recall from my previous MMM post, Old Friends, in which I declared I’d marry him if I got to live in a fictional world. He tops my hero list. He’s a strong capable man who lives by truth and integrity. Josie can’t intimate him but loves that she’ll challenge him all the same. He’s tough when it counts and gentle when he needs to be.

I can’t get enough of watching Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion or reading Sweetwater Gap. I go weak in the knees, sigh dreamily and grin like an idiot when I’ve spent time with any one of these literary heroes.

Note: I also love Darcy and Captain Wentworth in the books Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice. They are my literary heroes. They were just played so wonderfully by Firth and Penry-Jones.

Stay tuned next week when Helen shares who her heroes are!

Who are your heroes? Tell us why - we’d love to know!

Friday, October 7, 2011

October Book Releases

Here are a few Christian titles that have been released this month, in a variety of genres.



Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist
- Historical Romance -
Buy Now from Amazon

Rural switchboard operator Georgie Gail is proud of her independence in a man's world ... which makes it twice as vexing when the telephone company sends a man to look over her shoulder.

Dashing Luke Palmer is more than he appears though. He's a Texas Ranger working undercover to infiltrate a notorious gang of train robbers. Repairing telephones and tangling with this tempestuous woman is the last thing he wants to do. But when his stakeout puts Georgie in peril, he realizes more than his job is on the line.

Available in Australia 1st Nov through Fishpond


Ten Plagues by Mary Nealy
- Suspense -
Buy Now from Amazon

Join the breakneck chase through Chicago for a murderous maniac. As the victims begin piling up, detective Keren Collins’s spiritual discernment is on high alert. Will she capture the killer before another body floats to the surface? Ex-cop, now mission pastor Paul Morris has seen his share of tragedy, but nothing prepared him to be a murderer’s messenger boy. Will his old ruthless cop personality take over, leading him to the brink of self-destruction? Can Keren and Paul catch the killer before the corpse count reaches a perfect ten?


Late Discoveries: An Adoptee's Quest for Truth by Susan Bennett
- Memoir -
Buy Now from Amazon

Susan was forty-three years old before she ordered a DNA test and learned the truth that she had long suspected: that she was adopted. By this time, the woman she had always called her mother, who had kept the adoption a secret, was dying, so Susan never got to talk with her directly on this important matter of identity. Then came the long, involved search for her half-siblings and her biological family roots, a roller-coaster of emotions that uncovered secret after secret, revealing truth after truth. The most important truth Susan learned from her quest was that she had been wanted and loved by both her mothers.


A Wedding Invitation by Alice J. Wisler
- Contemporary -
Buy Now from Amazon

After returning home from teaching English at a refugee camp in the Philippines, Samantha Bravencourt enjoys her quiet life working at her mother's clothing boutique in Falls Church, Virginia. When she receives an invitation to a wedding in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, she looks forward to reconnecting with her college friend. Instead her life collides with Carson, a fellow teacher and the man who broke her heart, and a young Amerasian refugee named Lien who needs Samantha and Carson's help to find her mother before Lien's own wedding. When the search for Lien's mother reveals surprising secrets from the past, Samantha must reevaluate her own memories and decide whether to continue to play it safe or take a risk that could change her life.

Available in Australia through Fishpond


Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin
Buy Now from Amazon

Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But happily-ever-after life she's planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend, Gordon, breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real world. Then to top it off, Alice loses her beloved job at the library because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression.

Fleeing small-town gossip, Alice heads to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to the library in the tiny coal-mining village of Acorn. Dropped off by her relatives, Alice volunteers to stay for two weeks to help the librarian, Leslie McDougal.

But the librarian turns out to be far different than she anticipated--not to mention the four lady librarians who travel to the remote homes to deliver the much-desired books. While Alice is trapped in Acorn against her will, she soon finds that real-life adventure and myster--and especially romance--are far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.

Available in Australia 1st Nov through Fishpond


Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker
Buy Now from Amazon

As a wedding planner, Sherilyn Caine should have the perfect wedding experience...

After all, she just landed her dream job at the wedding destination hotel, The Tanglewood. The rest should be a piece of cake for Sherilyn's Type A personality.

But while everything else goes smoothly, her own wedding plans start to sink right before her eyes. One way or the other, Sherilyn is determined to make this wedding work—until the latest development threatens to call the whole thing off. Is it possible that Sherilyn is allergic to her fiancé?

Available in Australia 1st Nov through Fishpond



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Free eBooks! Some Suggestions

There's a few interesting free ebooks available to download from Amazon at the moment. Free ebooks are a great way to try out authors you haven't read before, or just to find some great reads!

Please note that free ebooks are only free for a limited time, so please make sure BEFORE downloading that the Kindle price still reads $0.00, otherwise you will end up paying for it.

Don't have a kindle? No worries - neither do I! You can download the Kindle software onto pretty much any device - your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android device etc.  I use my Samsung Galaxy S smartphone and my laptop for reading ebooks.

Here are some suggestions:


Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist

From the day she arrives at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled--by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack's rugged behavior by tutoring him in the ways of refined society, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie's efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt's lady's maid. But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangled in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs...and their hearts.

This is my top pick of the free ebooks at the moment.  I am currently reading it and really enjoying it. Expect a review next Wednesday :)


The Pastor's Wife by Jennifer AlLee

Maura Sullivan never intended to set foot in Granger, Ohio, again. But when circumstances force her to return, she must face all the disappointments she tried so hard to leave behind: a husband who ignored her, a congregation she couldn’t please, and a God who took away everything she ever loved. Nick Shepherd thought he had put the past behind him, until the day his estranged wife walked back into town. Intending only to help Maura through her crisis of faith, Nick finds his feelings for her never died. Now, he must admit the mistakes he made, how he hurt his wife, and find a way to give and receive forgiveness. As God works in both of their lives, Nick and Maura start to believe they can repair their broken relationship and reunite as man and wife. But Maura has one more secret to tell Nick before they can move forward. It’s what ultimately drove her to leave him six years earlier, and the one thing that can destroy the fragile trust they’ve built.


While We're Far Apart by Lynn Austin

In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades each aspect of their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother. Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie's wife is dead, Penny feels she has been given a second chance and offers to care for his children in the hope that he will finally notice her and marry her after the war. And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war-torn Hungary. But during the long, endless wait for victory overseas, life on the home front will go from bad to worse. Yet these characters will find themselves growing and changing in ways they never expected--and ultimately discovering truths about God's love...even when He is silent.

Heart of Gold by Lacy Williams

Wyoming, 1902--Ranch foreman Charlie Welch suspects his boss's daughter has returned home with purely selfish motives--she wants money.
After being estranged from her father for years, Opal Bright hopes her homecoming will result in both reconciliation and a solution to help the orphanage she sponsors back home in Omaha.
When Charlie and Opal find themselves mixed up with a ragtag group of bandits and trapped in an abandoned gold mine, they must risk everything to survive... including their hearts.