Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book Review: Love's Reckoning

Available @
Fishpond AU 

& Amazon | Kindle
Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz
Revell, 01 September 2012

On a bitter December day in 1785, Silas Ballantyne arrives at the door of master blacksmith Liege Lee in York, Pennsylvania. Just months from becoming a master blacksmith himself, Silas is determined to finish his apprenticeship and move west. But Liege soon discovers that Silas is a prodigious worker and craftsman and endeavors to keep him in York. Silas becomes interested in both of Liege's daughters, the gentle and faith-filled Eden and the clever and high-spirited Elspeth. When he chooses one, will the other's jealousy destroy their love?

In this sweeping family saga set in western Pennsylvania, one man's choices in love and work, in friends and enemies, set the stage for generations to come. Love's Reckoning is the first entry in The Ballantyne Legacy, a rich, multi-layered historical quartet from talented writer Laura Frantz, beginning in the late 1700s and following the Ballantyne family through the end of the Civil War.

Love's Reckoning is the first book in The Ballantyne Legacy. Here we meet Silas Ballantyne, an older-than-usual apprentice blacksmith who has come to the household of Leige Lee to finish his training. Liege Lee is an unpopular man with two daughters - Eden and Elspeth, who are as different as night and day, and Liege is determined that Silas marry one of them.

As always, Laura's writing is beautiful and elegant, painting pictures with words and making reading effortless.  Love's Reckoning is a slower paced novel, best savoured in languid chunks of time.  There is plenty of mystery, and secrets are rife - some made plain to the reader, and some a complete surprise.

Eden and Silas are quieter characters.  Eden's strength is evident through her persistent and enduring nature. Silas is a man who will not be deterred from his values or his plans.  His heroism is defined by his steadiness as opposed to dramatic gestures.  

There are some nasty characters in Love's Reckoning.  Elspeth is a spiteful piece of work.  Her viciousness shocked and riled me!  I feel like she may have gotten off a little too easy.  But when I read the epilogue, a shiver ran down my spine.  I have a feeling she hasn't been completely dealt with yet.  I'll have to wait and see what the next book has in store.

Love's Reckoning is a slow building love story, written against a backdrop of secrets and punctuated with heartbreaking tragedies.  I particularly liked the beautiful romance between Eden and God - her thirst for God's word and His love are touching. 

I'm looking forward to seeing where the Ballantyne Legacy takes us.

Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review: Against All Odds: Heroes of Quantico Book 1 by Irene Hannon

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon | Kindle
Against All Odds by Irene Hannon
Heroes of Quantico (Book #1)
Revell, 01 February 2009

For FBI Hostage Rescue Team member Evan Cooper and his partner, dignitary protection duty should have been a piece of cake. Unfortunately, Monica Callahan isn't making it easy. Estranged from her diplomat father--who is involved in a sensitive hostage situation in the Middle East--she refuses to be intimidated by a related terrorist threat back in the States. That is, until a chilling warning convinces her that the danger is very real--and escalating. 

As Coop and his partner do their best to keep her safe, Monica's father triggers an abduction that puts his daughter's life at risk. And with every second that ticks by, Coop knows that the odds of saving the only woman who has ever breached the walls around his heart are dropping. After all, terrorists aren't known for their patience--or their mercy. Book one in the Heroes of Quantico series, this suspense-filled novel will whisk readers along for the thrilling ride.

My abbreviated notes:
  • Detail is very good - obvious that Ms. Hannon has done her research regarding FBI procedures etc.
  • Great action and a with a nail-biting ending. Loved it!
  • Good romantic suspense.
  • Funny at times.
A very, very good introduction to Irene Hannon!

Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tueaday's With Jess: Studying the Craft

So now that my life is in a much more settled state I can resume my routine!

So over the past week or so I've been reading the book The Breakout Novelist by Donald Maas. Last year when I entered a competition it was recommended that I read this book. So I bought it, but it took me almost a year later to pick it up! I'm glad I did! As I'm reading, highlighting and taking notes I'm thinking of my current WIP and how I can enrich it etc. My head often spins after 40mins of reading and note-taking but this is good work I'm doing even though I know I'll have to reread certain chapters to make sure I understand what's being said.

I'm not a very good studier but it's my new resolution to study all I can to make my writing better! What books out there do you guys recommend that are a good resource for learning the craft?

Photo from this link:

Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursdays With Helen: How's My Kindle Going, You Ask?

Hi Folks!

I've had my kindle for a little while now, so I thought you might be interested to see how I'm going with it.

In short, I love it.

Let's look at why:
  • Easy to read whilst eating.   I can place the kindle on the table whilst I eat my breakfast, and still have both hands free to eat.  That's always been tricky to do with a book!
  • I can plop the kindle down without having to fumble for a bookmark so I don't lose my place (great for when I suddenly have to rescue the kids from a scrape).
  • As long as I turn my kindle off, the kids can't remove my bookmark (because for someone reason, when kids see a bookmark sticking out of a book, they have to yank it out!)
  • Travelling is a dream - so easy to cart several books around with me, without taking up the space or being so heavy!
  • When I like a passage in a book, I can highlight the section or make notes, all without having to dig around for pen and paper.
  • So easy to download the next book in a series or from my favourite author ... even in the middle of the night
There's so much to love about the kindle.  But will it replace my love of 'real' books? No, I don't think so.

This week on my train trip, I've been reading a real, hold-in-your-hands, non-digital book.  There's something more natural about holding a volume of pages.  When I take a break, or pause to ponder the story, I like to turn the book in my hands, re-study the cover and check where my bookmark now divides the pages.  There's something satisfying in seeing how far I've come, and how far I have to go.  There's a deeper, more intimate relationship between me and the book.

Okay, non-book lovers out there are probably closing their laptops right now, dismissing me for a nutter.  But if you're still with me, you totally get what I mean.

I opened an old book the other day and was quite affected when I was hit by that familiar musky smell.  My first thought was, "Wow! A real book!" It stirred all sort of emotions inside me.  I can't ever imagine an electronic device doing the same.

So, where does this all leave me?  

I think I will love digital books for their convenience, and I will love physical books for their tangibility.  I believe that the ebook revolution is great for the publishing industry.  Book sales are increasing, and going to increase even more - good news for authors! I know already, that from here on end, there are going to be some books that I buy twice - one digital, one physical.

Will the next generation who grow up on kindles do the same? Maybe not.  For my part, I will still be putting good old paper and binding books in to the hands of my daughters and fostering their love of stories that way.  But for those kids who have grown up with nothing but digital devices, perhaps ebooks will give them a new chance to develop a love of reading that they might not otherwise had had.

Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Review: Fatal Judgment: Guardians of Justice Book 1 by Irene Hannon

Available @
Fishpond AU 

& Amazon | Kindle
Fatal Judgement by Irene Hannon
Guardians of Justice (Book #1)

Revell, 01 January 2011

U.S. Marshal Jake Taylor has seen plenty of action during his years in law enforcement. But he'd rather go back to Iraq than face his next assignment: protection detail for federal judge Liz Michaels. His feelings toward Liz haven't warmed in the five years since she lost her husband--and Jake's best friend--to possible suicide. How can Jake be expected to care for the coldhearted workaholic who drove his friend to despair?

As the danger mounts and Jake gets to know Liz better, his feelings slowly start to change. When it becomes clear that an unknown enemy may want her dead, the stakes are raised. Because now both her life--and his heart--are in mortal danger. Full of the suspense and romance Irene Hannon's fans have come to love, Fatal Judgment is a thrilling story that will keep readers turning the pages late into the night.

My abbreviated thoughts:
  • Protective guy
  • Strong woman
  • Misconstrued ideas
  • Past's linked
  • Romance, intrigue and some action
A great, quick read that fits my bill for drama, action and romance!

Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Friday, October 12, 2012

October Feature Author: Ann Lee Miller + Free Ebook

I'd like to introduce our feature author this month, Ann Lee Miller.

Ann has two books published, both of which I have reviewed and greatly enjoyed (see Kicking Eternity and The Art of My Life).  Her characters are intriguing and varied twenty-somethings with very real and relatable challenges.

Giveaway: Anyone who leaves a comment with their e-mail address will receive a free e-copy of prequel: Kicking Eternity. Or you may request your free copy at AnnLeeMiller.com.



How much of your real life experiences show up in your fiction?

As a writer, I’m a vulture, feeding off the carcass of my life and other peoples’. Usually, it’s just bits and pieces—an experience here, a personality trait there, a deeply etched emotion, a pivotal relationship.
 
For example?

In The Art of My Life Henna shows up as a secondary character who grows pot in the back yard and has obviously smoked one doobie too many over the years. She is a loveable, comical character who fractures clich├ęs much like my mother did in her waning years with Altzheimer’s. I use a funny story that actually happened. Mom insisted that while she was in the grocery store someone stole eighteen pair of her panties out of her laundry basket which was setting in the passenger seat of her car. And the would-be thief replaced her pristine grandmamma undies with eighteen ratty pair.

Starr, who has a more predominant role in the story is a repressed ballet teacher. I took ballet as a child to correct my inward-turning feet. I also struggle with repression. Starr and I rebelled from bohemian upbringings into conservatism. Starr’s hyper-critical attitude toward her son, however, I borrowed from my father’s personality. Both Starr and I heard from our fathers, “I’ll give you something to cry about,” when we cried.

Cal went to jail, had a love affair with marijuana. Close relatives have done the same. Aly fights my leftover Catholic guilt. Fish holds grudges like I do. Aly falls overboard like I did as a kid. Leaf and my late father were Willie Nelson look-alikes.

I, like my characters. have always inhabited the bottom rung of the middle class. We all drive beater cars my kids call POSes (Ahem, you’ll have to figure that one out yourself).

Because I am a spiritual person, my characters wrestle or refuse to wrestle with issues of faith.
 
Are there recurring themes from your life you revisit in fiction?

In The Art of My Life I focus on an adult child overcoming diminished self-esteem due to a critical parent, forgiving people who have deeply hurt us, overcoming self-condemnation when we breach our personal moral code—all issues I have dealt with.
 
The Art of My Life features a male main character. Where did you draw your insight from?

I’ve been surrounded by guys my whole life. My closest relationship growing up was with my father, toxic though it may have been. My only sibling is male. Three of my four children are guys. My husband grants me access to dive in and poke around in the male psyche. But I’m still learning. This year’s big discovery is that most guys could care less about matching—they don’t really give a flip whether they walk out the door with brown pants, brown shoes, and a coordinating shirt. Just last week my sons told me you have to “train” a beard. Who knew?
 
Tell us a little about The Art of My Life.

Here’s the back cover:

Cal walked out of jail and into a second chance at winning Aly with his grandma’s beater sailboat and a reclaimed dream of sailing charters.

Aly has the business smarts, strings to a startup loan, and heart he never should have broken. He’s got squat. Unless you count enough original art to stock a monster rummage sale and an affection for weed.


But he’d only ever loved Aly. That had to count for something. Aly needed a guy who owned yard tools, tires worth rotating, and a voter’s registration card. He’d be that guy or die trying.


For anyone who’s ever struggled to measure up. And failed.


The Art of My Life is available now at:

Bio:

Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University and writes full-time in Phoenix, but left her heart in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she grew up. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn’t writing or muddling through some crisis—real or imagined—you’ll find her hiking in the Superstition Mountains with her husband or meddling in her kids’ lives.

AnnLeeMiller.com

Blog: http://the-art-of-my-life.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @AnnLeeMiller
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AnnLeeMillerAuthor 

Thank you Ann Lee Miller for being on our blog! Don't forget, to receive a free e-copy of her first book, Kicking Eternity, all you need to do is leave a comment with your email address :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday's With Jess: My Next 6 Book Reviews


Okay, I'm going to be reviewing all of Irene Hannon's books published in Suspense/Romance genre over the next six weeks.

The six books I'll be reviewing encompass two book series Heroes of Quantico and Guardians of Justice. due to the amount of books here and the fact that they are all related, I will make the reviews short. After the blurb, I'll list some dot points about what I liked and didn't like. I hope that this format is okay with you all for a little while. I know it's not standard reviewing format but I want to review these books the best way I can in the most productive manner - especially with a toddler running around!

I hope you enjoy the next few weeks! :)

Website of Image of Heroes of Quantico
Website of Image of Guardians of Justice



Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

We're having a week off

Hi Folks!

Spring is here ... spring holidays in fact.  So Jess and I are taking a week off.  We hope you have a great week and we'll see you in a few days :)


Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.