Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas and see you next year!

Helen and I wish all our followers and friends a very Merry Christmas. May you all remember the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ - not just during the Christmas season, but throughout the year. We hope you all enjoy the coming of 2014 and all that it will hold.


It's the height of summer here and as usual we take our annual break from the blog for the month of January, to enjoy those long lazy summer days. We are looking forward to returning in February 2014 with reviews and news of our adventures!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Helen and Jess

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Jess' 2014: Changes and A Big Adventure!





So as the year rapidly comes to a close, I thought what a good time to start looking forward to 2014! 2013 for me has been a quieter year, my little family have just been happy pottering around this last year. As Helen has shared, I've got the crochet bug! However 2014 is going to be a big year.


My little girl is finally going to preschool! So I will have two days at home by myself! I can't tell you how excited I am. Both of us are ready for this new change. She is so excited about preschool and as her mummy I'm excited for her as I watch her take this new step in life. I'm excited to be able to have some time to myself again.

What are my plans while she is away?

A) Write my book
B) Relax
C) Spend more time on the blog - it has been hard getting reviews out weekly as finding the time to write the reviews is hard when I don't get a break much at all from being a mummy. I've read so much this year that right now, reading is something I need a break from.



What else is on in 2014?

A big Mummy and Eleyna Adventure...3 weeks in the USA!



In March 2014 Eleyna and I will be heading off to visit friends in Virginia and they happen to live close to Washington DC. So for a little while Eleyna and I will be checking out the sites and sounds of DC and its surrounds! We are very excited and I'm also a very nervous Mummy as I'm taking my 3.5 year old all that way on my own. It's 20 hours of flying with only a 2 hour break from the plane....that's a long time to keep a child amused!

So that's my 2014 dreams and goals...what does your next year look like?


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, December 5, 2013

Guest Blogger: Michelle Dennis Evans

Many families have Christmas rituals. There are rituals around food, spiritual rituals and activity rituals. In Spiralling Out of Control, the main character’s family finds themselves in a new situation, with no family surrounding them as they had previous years. Stephanie’s father comes up with a brilliant idea summing up the year in one sentence –and they find everyone is willing to be completely honest, something none of them have been through the year.

Do you behave differently at Christmas time? Are you kinder, more forgiving and more generous?

What rituals do you implement every year for Christmas?

Christmas excerpt from Spiralling Out of Control
 
“Let’s take turns in summing up our year in one sentence.”
“Great idea,” said April. “I’ve made a new best friend, I made it into the state gym team and I think Toowoomba is pretty cool.”
“I’ll go next.” Mum sat forward. “I’ve made new friends too. I’m enjoying working part time and volunteering at school and in the church. I do miss our Sydney friends, but it has been a great year since the move.”
“Your turn, Dad.” Stephanie passed the buck.
“I’m just happy that my family is together. I love working and living in the one city. Life has been simpler since the move. That leaves you, Steph.”
“I’ve made no real friends, I’m beginning to think my boyfriend has dumped me, I got egged on the last day of school, and the job that I’m really enjoying is looking shaky because business is slow. The best part of my year was Jason and now he’s gone.” There were no tears. She clenched her teeth then swallowed her rage as she cast out her frustration. “Horrible. My year has been pathetically horrible!"

Michelle Dennis Evans writes picture books, chapter books, young adult contemporary novels and enjoys dabbling in free verse poetry. Her debut novel Spiralling Out of Control and poetry collection Life Inspired both reached #1 in subcategories on Amazon in their first week of release. Michelle lives on the Gold Coast of Australia with her husband and four super active, super fun and super time consuming children.

Spiralling Out of Control is being launched at the John 3:16 Marketing Network.  Swing by to check out the giveaway.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Looking towards 2014

Hello folks - and happy summer for all us Southern Hemispherians! (Yes okay, that's not a word....)

Those of you who regularly follow our blog will know that Jess has been single handedly keeping this site going.  And with her dedicated efforts, we've seen our blog visits hit record highs.  Thank you Jess, and well done!

Also, thank you to all our readers who continue to visit even though one sister is frequently absent.

I have done little reading in the last few months.  I've struggled about reading on a 'must-do' basis.  My children are at an age where they are needing a lot more intellectual stimulation and they're taking up more of my concentration than before.  But I'm not complaining, I'm loving this phase.

In place of reading these past few months, I've re-taken up crocheting.  It has provided me with a creative outlet, and it's something I can do whilst still listening and talking with my daughters (something I definitely can't do when reading or writing!). I have churned out four little blankets and started some others, a few beanies, a couple of scarves and learned and experimented with new stitches and designs.






If you're looking for someone to blame for this crocheting distraction, please thank my dear sister.  My crochet hook was kicked back in to life when she told me about all these YouTube videos with crocheting instructions.  Jess has been doing a lot of crocheting too ... we've been joking about turning this blog into "The Crochet Sisters".

So where does that leave me on the reading / writing / editing thing?

It's still happening.  But my kids are only young once and these other things will come into their own at the right time.  I have a three year staging plan that is going to bring me back into the writing world.

Next year I'll move into the first stage as we start yet another new phase of life ... the school years. My eldest daughter starts school in January.  I can't tell you how emotional I already am over this. 

My youngest daughter will start preschool one day a week in January - something I'm very much looking forward to, yet can't believe my baby is growing up .... I'm becoming well acquainted with 'bittersweet' as a feeling in this mothering gig.

So you know what this means? Next year I'm going to have one day a week at home on my own!

Oh what to do with my precious day off ... the possibilities are endless, and the temptation to cram it with a myriad of activities (including crocheting!) is great.  But my plan is to use these days in the following way:

1. Finish writing my novel's first draft.
2. Start taking on small editing work.  I'm thinking of doing this on a chapter by chapter basis.  If you're interested in having this sort of work done (rather than contracting and paying for an entire manuscript at once), let me know!

This means I need to say no to any tempting coffee and lunch date invites.

Also, I have been praying about (and still am) where God wants me to focus my attention in ministry work.  This year I have taught Sunday School full time and also led a teen bible study after church.  By the end of the year I've found myself a little worn out and yet the areas in which I can contribute seem to be growing.

For me, 2014 is going to be very different.  An emotional ride, an adventure and a challenge (having to get up, dressed, and make lunches 5 days a week is going to be interesting, particularly in winter!).  I will also need to refocus and make moves towards establishing my editing business.

How will 2014 be different for you?


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.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review: On Distant Shores by Sarah Sundin



On Distant Shores by Sarah Sundin
Book 2, Wings of the Nightingale
Revell, 1 August 2013

Lt. Georgiana Taylor has everything she could want. A comfortable boyfriend back home, a loving family, and a challenging job as a flight nurse. But in July 1943, Georgie's cozy life gets decidedly more complicated when she meets pharmacist Sgt. John Hutchinson. Hutch resents the lack of respect he gets as a noncommissioned serviceman and hates how the war keeps him from his fiancée. While Georgie and Hutch share a love of the starry night skies over Sicily, their lives back home are falling apart. Can they weather the hurt and betrayal? Or will the pressures of war destroy the fragile connection they've made?

On Distant Shores is the second book in the Wings of the Nightingale series.  After reading the first book, With Every Letter late last year, I couldn't wait to get this second installment. Unfortunately I did have to wait a little bit as it wasn't stocked in Australia until several weeks after the release date.  I definitely wanted the paperback so I didn't settle for the ebook version and waited it out ...

Georgie and Hutch are great characters - they're everyday people in the extraordinary circumstances of war.  They are so easy to like and relate to. It was refreshing that Georgie was a character with genuine fears in being a flight nurse (i.e. a real kind of person!) and it was intriguing to see Hutch develop as he struggled with his noncommissioned status. Theirs is a truly sweet romance and definitely left me feeling all warm and happy at the end.

I absolutely loved the subtle overlaps of events from the previous book where we get to see a scene from the new characters' perspective.  It had me grabbing for my With Every Letter copy and re-reading scenes to compare what was concealed then and revealed now.

Sarah Sundin's writing is so easy to slip into and I love her recreation of life in WWII.  I love the combination of the old world manners and the modern female social position.  Sarah takes you vividly into war life without overpowering you with the horrors.  The depth of her research is evident by the natural flow of events, you don't have to stop and think or turn pages to work out what is going on.  At the same time, you're not overloaded with unnecessary details.

On Distant Shores has delivered everything I love about historical fiction: effortless reading that enables me to be totally lost in the setting,  well researched and effectively used details which enables me to learn about life in the period, and a sweet romance.  Can't wait to read the next in the series!


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.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Review: Unspoken by Dee Henderson

Unspoken by Dee Henderson
Bethany House Publishers, 1st Octber, 2013

Charlotte Graham is at the center of the most famous kidnapping in Chicago history.

The task force of FBI and local cops found her two abductors, killed them, rescued her, but it took four very long years. The fact she was found less than three miles from her home, had been there the entire time, haunts them. She's changed her identity, found a profession she loves, and rebuilt her life.

She's never said a word--to the cops, to her doctors, to family--about those four years.

A family legacy has brought her back to Chicago where a reporter is writing a book about the kidnapping. The cops who worked the case are cooperating with him. Her options are limited: Hope the reporter doesn't find the full truth, or break her silence about what happened. And her silence is what has protected her family for years.

Bryce Bishop doesn't know her past, he only knows she has coins to sell from her grandfather's estate--and that the FBI director for the Chicago office made the introduction. The more he gets to know Charlotte, the more interested he becomes, an interest encouraged by those closest to her. But nothing else is working in his favor--she's decided she is single for life, she struggles with her faith, and she's willing to forego a huge inheritance to keep her privacy. She's not giving him much of an opening to work with.

Charlotte wants to trust him. She needs to tell him what happened. Because a crime cops thought was solved, has only opened another chapter...


So from having read Dee's O'Malley series - and loving them to following her to Full Disclosure and now Unspoken, something has changed in her manner of story telling. For one the books are longer and more involved and there is more character depth. At the same time, the action and mystery that characterized the O'Malley series isn't there.

The lack of action and suspense doesn't bother me really, the book did however fell a bit flat. I didn't dislike it (only elements of it) and I liked it enough to want to read her next book. In many ways this book is a slow, mostly enjoyable read that focuses on Charlotte and Bryce's budding relationship. The relationship is handled nicely. The interlocking plots work well and the overall tone of the book is good.

I found though that I couldn't related to Charlotte. she is a closed door to almost everyone is the book due to her past (I get that and am okay with that). The problem with that is though, is that she then becomes a closed door to the reader. We don't really get to see Charlotte's emotions or to know what her real thoughts are. We don't ever break past the exterior wall she's got up. Bryce kind of did, but not enough. Perhaps as the years go by he will, however we as readers will never know that.

Bryce was a little too perfect for me. He is patient and so understanding of Charlotte that is stretches the impossibility level. I am married to a patient and understanding man (I really mean patient and understanding) but even he is human and runs out of both on occasion. Bryce never seems to. He doesn't seem to need to learn to be patient, or if he does his road to patient isn't really delved into.

My last point on what I didn't like was the amount of Charlotte's wealth and the coins - so many coins that it seemed almost ludicrous. Plus, there is only so much information a reader can take in regarding how coins are valued, sold, processed, marketed etc. I admit to skimming those sections as it added nothing to the book.

The one element that I loved was Charlotte's faith journey. She believes in God, but is angry at him. Nowhere does Dee try and hurry Charlotte along in making peace with herself and with God. Dee uses Bryce to open discussion with Charlotte on this issue a few times throughout the book and their dialogue reflects genuineness and a unhurried journey. That was beautiful!

I might sound a little harsh, but truly I'm not meaning to. I simply wish Dee had given us more human traits for both Charlotte and Bryce. I imagined those human traits as I went along and for me the story came more alive. I'm willing to give her next book Undetected which will release April 29th, 2014 a go. I'm generally a loyal reader and Dee is still a good writer and worth persevering with.

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


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, November 12, 2013

Book Review: Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris

Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris
Revell, 1st September, 2013

When two Jane Does are killed on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, detective and behavioral specialist Avery North discovers they share something in common--a tattoo of a magnolia on their shoulders. Suspecting a serial killer, Avery joins forces with medical examiner Jackson Bryant to solve the crimes and prevent another murder. But it doesn't take long for them to realize that there is much more to the case than meets the eye. As they venture deep into a sinister world of human trafficking, Avery and Jackson are taken to the very edge of their abilities--and their hearts.

Dangerous Passage exposes a fully-realized and frightening world where every layer peeled back reveals more challenges ahead. Romantic suspense fans will be hooked from the start by Lisa Harris's first installment of the new Southern Crimes series.


This book is right up my alley - contemporary, suspense, romance, mystery, a bit of action - what's not to like? There was stuff to like and stuff to leave with this book. It was good but not great. It took a while to get going, I was about 40% through it when it started to pick up pace and get really interesting. For the most part, in the first half of the book, there is a lot going on (almost too much at times) and I feel exhausted for Avery with such a heavy work/family life. The workload of her life leaves her so burdened with everything that it got in the way of really liking her as a character. There was no room for her to breathe and thus I felt I didn't know her really. Plus, the woman on the book cover kept reminding me of the actress Christina Ricci and that just seemed to be a stumbling block for me for most of the book!

Avery's family is a little confusing (too many people) and her work colleagues suffer from the same problem. Her relationship with Jackson though was nice. I liked how the book started with these two already interested in each other, having been on one date. It made their budding romance more real. I liked the struggle they had, especially Avery with figuring out how to put Jackson in her already too full life and did she really want him there? These two came across as real busy people, wanting to make a relationship work. I found them to be a nice touch in the book and would have liked more time for them to hang out etc. But with Avery so busy, that didn't really happen either.

As for the mystery, when the book finally picked up pace, so did the mystery and from about 40% onwards I raced through the book, wanting to know how it would end and was happy with the ending.

So overall, whilst not  a great book, it will please many fans of the Christian, suspense genre.

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


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, November 5, 2013

Book Review: A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears

A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears
Bethany House Publishers, 1st Oct 2013


A Tender Tale of Love on the Prairie Perfect for CBA Readers

Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won't humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again--not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She's the prettiest woman he's ever seen, and it's just not possible she's there to marry a simple homesteader like him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she's determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas.

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love?

Straight off the bat this book was not what I thought it was going to be. It was not a typical, mail-order-bride book, where the loveless marriage overcomes hardship and they fall in love. That did happen but not in the way one expects. It might look like something similar has crossed your reader path before but this is a little different. The main reason for that is the two main characters - Everett and Julia.

These two have secrets they feel they need to keep and thus aren't terribly interested in a marriage based on friendship, or even love. It's more like a mutual agreement to live silently together, going through the motions of life. Which is what these two do. They don't treat each other well, they don't communicate well (if at all) and they don't know how to love  each other well (even as friends). Everett has had a bad history with mail order brides, so when his friend offers him one without telling him, he begrudgingly accepts it but he doesn't want to like her (even if she is really pretty). Julia is interested in starting a new life, far away from the horror she left back East, but she's not interested in a real marriage. These two are stubborn and it takes them a long time to figure themselves out and each other. They are mostly likebale, but it can get a bit tedious watching them silently live together day after day.

I did think that Everett was a little preoccupied with Julia's looks and trying to keep his distance from her was hard as they were married but not in love and I get it - I know guys are visual people, but I'm not sure they thought about sex that much 150 years ago (especially if they were a God fearing man - which Everett was).

Overall I did enjoy this book because it was just that little bit different from the norm in this genre.

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.
 


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 29, 2013

Book Review: I'm No Angel by Kylie Bisutti

I'm No Angel by Kylie Bisutti
Tyndale House Publishers, May 14, 2013 

In December 2011, 21-year-old Victoria’s Secret model Kylie Bisutti stunned the fashion industry when she chose faith over fame and fortune and made the switch from supermodel to role model.

In I’m No Angel, Kylie shares her story—from her early years struggling to make it big in the cut-throat world of modeling, her “big break” winning the Victoria’s Secret Angel competition, and the disillusionment and spiritual warfare that followed, to the moment she realized that she could no longer reconcile her career with her Christian beliefs, surrendered her life to God, turned in her Angel wings, and dedicated her life to preaching a message of modesty and inner beauty.

Along the way, Kylie talks about her personal struggles with inadequacy, low self-esteem, and her near-constant quest for approval in a world where you can never be thin enough, pretty enough, or sexy enough. She helps readers understand that true beauty lies within and that real fulfillment comes from knowing, loving, and serving Christ. 

It seems this book is making some waves. As it should. A former Victoria's Secret model leaving all the fame and money behind for God and his standards. Who wouldn't be interested in Kylie's story?

For that reason this is a really important book for parents to read and take into consideration the impact our western world places on beauty and the impossible goals set by our image focused society. Kylie's story is engaging and easy to read. As she talks about her experiences in  the modelling world, one gets to see the extremes women go to achieve a certain look deemed "beautiful". It's heartbreaking really. Even more heartbreaking is the fact that young girls around the world are striving or starving for this same "beautiful" look.

Kylie's faith journey is one that might make some people say: "How can she be a Christian and still do Victoria's Secret's contest and the life after it?" For me, though Kylie still had some things to learn about God's standards. Her husband faithfully prayed everyday for her to come to this realization. Also, people need to take into consideration, that although a Christian from her mid-teens, modelling took over her life and in this world Godly people are scarce. With a family not Christians (although gleaned from the book they take family and morals seriously), how can Kylie truly grow to be all that God has for her? Something else that struck me about Kylie's journey, is that although she struggled to see God's standard for modesty, God didn't forget and he turned a bad situation into good - his good and Kylie's good and a good for thousands of other girls who need to hear Kylie's story.

I really enjoyed this book and it made me stop and think about some of the messages I inadvertently send my own daughter about looks etc. I do this unknowingly, as simply being a part of our western culture, a culture that is obsessed with looks. Thank you Kylie for writing this book and sharing your story with the world. I pray many people will be impacted by it and thus brought closer to God.

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


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 24, 2013

Book Review: Spiralling Out of Control by Michelle Dennis Evans


Spiralling Out of Control by Michelle Dennis Evans
Available on Kindle October 2013 

Temptation, depression, seduction, betrayal ... Not what Stephanie was expecting at fifteen years of age. Uprooted from her happy, all-girl high school life with a dream filled future and thrown into an unfriendly co-ed school, Stephanie spirals into depression.

When charismatic high school senior, Jason notices her, Stephanie jumps in feet first and willingly puts all her faith and trust in him, a boy she barely knows.
Every choice she makes and turn she takes leads her towards a dangerous path.

Her best friend is never far away and ready to catch her … but will she push Tabbie too far away when she needs her most?
 
Spiralling Out of Control is the debut novel by Australian author, Michelle Dennis Evans.

This novel is about Stephanie, a teenage girl whose life goes haywire after her family moves from Sydney to Queensland where she meets Jason ...

I'm going to be upfront with you, because that's how we do it at the Book Review Sisters.

This book pretty much covers all the major themes of an adolescence gone wrong : sex, drugs, alcohol, exploitation ... and all under-aged.

If you're easily offended, or just not looking to read about these issues, don't read this book.

Having said that, I'll tell you that the book doesn't go into unnecessary detail - nothing is described graphically.  It's written as tastefully as possible, and written with enough emotional distance to keep you from being overwhelmed by the spiralling events in Stephanie's life.  To me this was great, as otherwise it'd be too upsetting.

I found Spiralling Out of Control a little cumbersome at the start, but once things start happening, the pace picks up and the story becomes quite gripping and difficult to put down.  The faith element is very subtle, which will suit those who don't like being preached too.  But if you're looking for a dramatic spiritual redemption, you'll be disappointed.  

I think Michelle has written Spiralling Out of Control to be as realistic as possible, and the fact is there are many people who learn about God and refuse to accept Him.  This novel is the first in a trilogy however, so perhaps there's more of Stephanie's journey to come.

One thing Michelle has done brilliantly is portray the nature of a boy-girl teenage relationship and how easy it is for things to get out of hand without ever intending it to.  Jason was so cringing-ly real I thought I was reading about someone I knew in high school.  At the very least, girls should read this book to see how Mr Nice Guy can easily manipulate words - and you - to get what he wants.

That said, as a parent, if my girls were 15 I'd only let them read half the book.  At 17? I'm still not sure, as I'm way away from there yet.  The reality is that many secular YA fiction regularly explore the same issues - and with greater detail, and are read by very young teens.  But as Christians we draw a different line with our fiction and try to shelter our children from these issues.  Should we? I can't answer for you.

My advice? Parents should read this book for themselves first and then make up their minds.  And it's definitely worth a read. Michelle has done a great job of showing how a few poor choices can take a kid's life far away from where anyone expected it to and serves as a good reminder that we should be vigilant and pro-active in our children's lives.


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.

Thursday Thoughts: Writing Re-ignited

I remember the week I stopped working my WIP (Work in Progress). It was the first week in February 2013 and my husband and I had just got out 2 year old daughter weaned off her dummy. That same week she also ditched her day naps...I cried for a week when that happened! It took me a good two months to adjust to the fact that my time home was now FULLY occupied!

With only pockets of time for my writing I put it aside. Now I'm having those whisperings of echoes long ago, telling me, soon I can write again. You see, at the end of January 2014 my girl goes to pre-school for two days a week! I'm excited! She is ready for it and so is her Mama!

I'm getting excited about the time to blog consistently and WRITE!

What is something you've had to put aside for a time? I'd love to hear from you. 


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 17, 2013

Thursday Thoughts: Are You EVER going to read these?

Does your TBR pile look like this?
A while ago, I posted about Struggling to finish that book that you've been trying to read since forever, well this time I'm going to talk about that dreaded To Be Read (TBR) pile!

If you're anything like me, you have a list that is too long to count. Why are these TBR piles so high?

Some thoughts:

1) A true book lover will see a book in a book store and for whatever reasons it's calling them to purchase and read it. However, by the time they finish at the bookstore about a million (exaggeration but you get the idea) other books have said the same thing. A true book lover will also buy one or two of these (maybe more depending on budget) and take them home with every intention of reading them and then....
Or this?

2) Your favorite author releases a new book...well all current books in the TBR pile gets shoved to the bottom while this one is voraciously consumed.

3) I've noticed a bit of a trend that some of my favourite authors books end up being released roughly about the same time every year. This then creates a book binging type senario where nothing but these author's book are read and for a while the TBR pile doesn't even exist!

4) Then, I find that if I read a particular genre (like inspirational suspense) I find it very, very hard to start another book in a different genre and once again the book/s don't get read.

5) Finally, it's been so long since I intended to read said book/s on TBR list that I've forgotten why I want to read them...

and so the vicious cycle continues!

Recently I gave away a section of my TBR pile, as I looked over it and asked myself honestly:

"Jessica, are you EVER going to read these books?"

The practical, quiet but sure answer was no. The reader is me was screaming...YES! One day! Well it's been two years and that one day still hasn't come..so bye, bye books.

My current TBR pile is still high, but I feel like the books there I will actually read. To that end, I got so sick of seeing the pile grow, or get less from giving away that I was determined to move books from the list by actually...shocker...reading them!  Two books have been moved and I'm going to start another very soon. I feel productive, happy and less guilty!

What about your TBR pile? How high is it? Do you experience any of the above problems? I'd love to hear from you!


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 15, 2013

Book Review: A Matter of Trust by Lis Wielh with April Henry

A Matter of Trust by Lis Wiehl with April Henry
Thomas Nelson
It all starts with a phone call from the dead.
  Mia Quinn is on the phone with Colleen, her best friend and coworker, when the unthinkable happens: she hears the sound of a gunshot. And Colleen's death is an eerie echo of the murder of another Seattle prosecutor who was also gunned down at home four years earlier.

Mia’s life has already been turned upside down by the recent death of her husband. Now a single parent to a teenager and a toddler, she is struggling to hold on to their house. Meanwhile, her son has turned moody and secretive, and her daughter is suffering from mysterious nightmares.

When the DA asks her to head up the investigation into Colleen’s death and its connections to the earlier murder, Mia agrees—if he’ll also let her investigate the suicide of a teenager who may have been bullied to death. Partnered with irascible homicide detective Charlie Carlson, Mia finds that many people could have wanted Colleen dead, including people in Mia's life she thought she could trust.

As Mia races to figure out who gunned down Colleen in cold blood, she uncovers more secrets than she bargained for. Has she been wrong to trust those closest to her?
Will she put the pieces together before it’s too late? A Matter of Trust is a riveting tale of love, loyalty—and murder.

This is my second Lis Wiehl book and whilst I liked it, I didn't love it. Quite simply it didn't grab my heart or attention. I struggled to get into the book and although the mystery was solved (it was a decent mystery actually), this book is clearly headed for second book featuring this character as some personal plot points were left unanswered obviously waiting for a second book. Whilst it was okay, I doubt I would pick up another book in this series.


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 10, 2013

Thursday Thoughts: Stranded....

 Picture From



So after reviewing Dani Pettrey's Stranded the other day, I got to thinking about places one would want to be stranded...IF anyone wants to be stranded that is! I've watched too many Man Vs. Wild episodes featuring Bear Grylls to want to be stuck anywhere without a hotel within walking distance! So for me deserts, jungles, swamps and most of Australia's outback are out but...

If I had to be stuck anywhere really, I'd probably pick some kind of island. There are trees, you can fish (well I couldn't but hey this hypothetical) and hopefully a shipping lane is near by.

What about you guys? Would you want to be stranded? Where?




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 8, 2013

Book Review: Stranded by Dani Pettrey

Stranded by Dani Pettrey
Bethany House Publishers, September 1, 2013

When Her Friend Goes Missing,
Every Minute Counts

Darcy St. James returns to Alaska to join a journalist friend undercover on the trail of a big story. But when Darcy arrives, she finds her friend has disappeared. Troubled by the cruise ship's vague explanation, Darcy uses her cover as a travel reporter to investigate further.

The last person Gage McKenna expects to see during his summer aboard a cruise ship leading adventure excursions is Darcy. And in typical Darcy fashion, she's digging up more trouble.

He'd love to just forget her--but something won't let him. And he can't help but worry about her as they are heading into more remote regions of Alaska and eventually into foreign waters. Something sinister is going on, and the deeper they push, the more Gage fears they've only discovered the tip of the iceberg.



I was really excited when this book arrived from the US. I love getting Amazon orders - it's like Christmas several times a year! I've been enjoying Dani Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series and was happy to delve into Darcy and Gage's story. I enjoyed the book but Darcy got on my nerves a little. She was simply too pushy and nosy for me to truly engage with. Even though I'd read Shattered (my favourite so far in the series), I had trouble remembering the connection she and Gage had in that book. As a result I was struggling to place where they were in their relationship - were they together, did they talk about a relationship before this book? and so on. This impacted on my ability to relate to them as a couple. Oh and yes, I could have reread Shattered to find out but I couldn't find my copy!

I found Gage a character I could understand more, his journey to faith was one I was happy to see through till the end - boredom is sometimes most often used by God if we let him! As much as I struggled with Darcy, her faith is something I liked. She clearly was working on things in her life, trying not to cross moral boundaries, but struggling all the same. Such a human trait!

As usual with this series the whole McKenna clan gets involved and as each book goes by it's easier to keep track of them all! I was confused though by the various cruise liner characters. They had minor roles and some very important roles, but they were very interchangeable and I didn't know who was who most of the time. This is important because when it came to uncovering the bad guys, I was confused as to which bad guy was which!

It seems like I'm not really liking this book - but I did enjoy it overall - just not loved it. I'm really excited about Silenced and reading Jake and Kayden's story!

Your series continues to keep me wanting more from the McKenna's Dani!


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 1, 2013

Book Review: Trapped by Irene Hannon

Trapped by Irene Hannon
Revell, September 1, 2013

When librarian Laura Griffith's sixteen-year-old sister disappears on a frigid February day, leaving only a brief note behind, Laura resolves to do whatever it takes to track down the runaway teen. That includes recruiting ATF agent turned PI James "Dev" Devlin to help. But the deeper he digs, the more he begins to suspect that something sinister is at work in the girl's disappearance. And the closer he gets to uncovering the truth, the clearer it becomes that the situation isn't just dangerous--it's deadly.

Chilling and at times terrifying, Trapped is the latest thrilling read from Irene Hannon, the queen of romantic suspense. Hannon outdoes herself with this fast-paced tale of fear, deception, and just the right dose of romance.


I've been waiting for this book since Vanished came out. Nine months is a long time! My first thoughts after finishing the book is that I was creeped out by the villain - not necessarily a bad thing, but this guy was not just crazy, but creepy and it made some of his scene a little hard for me to read. Some people will find the subject matter (kidnapping - especially in the form taken in this book) hard to read at times. However, this character did add to the suspense of the book and for me that is a good thing.

I think this book is a little different from her other ones. We knew who the bad guy was a lot earlier, so it was a game of waiting and wondering when and how they were going to catch him - if at all at some points. I liked this new angle actually, it left a bit more time for character development. This is Darcy's story as much as it is Laura and Dev's. I felt for her, was scared for her and worried for her. I felt for Laura as she waited to hear word from her sister.

Laura and Devlin make a good but understated couple. Restrained chemistry marked much of their interactions, but it was easy to see how much they liked each other and were willing to wait the case out to pursue a relationship. Devlin as a hero didn't grab my attention - it might be his red hair, but he was guarded for much of the book and even when he did let Laura in behind his walls, it still didn't grab me emotionally. So, besides their mutual attraction, Dev could have been replaced by a different hero it wouldn't have changed the outcome of the story.

In terms of spiritual things, this is also Hannon's most understated regarding Christian themes. This is highlighted by how little the characters discuss their faith or lack of. I liked this. I knew the characters believed in God, with some struggling with this, but overall it was not discussed in lots of detail. I'd rather make my own judgments on their faith journey that have it spelled out for me.

So overall another great book! Looking forward to many more successful years!

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.
 

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, September 24, 2013

Book Review: That Certain Summer by Irene Hannon

That Certain Summer by Irene Hannon
Revell, June 1, 2013

Karen and Val are family--yet they're anything but close. Karen has carried the burden of responsibility for her aging mother ever since her gorgeous sister left town years ago to pursue a career in theater. But Val had darker reasons for leaving town--as well as a secret to keep--and coming home has never been an option . . . until their mother suffers a stroke.

Reunited in their hometown, Karen and Val must grapple with their past mistakes, their relationship with each other, and their issues with a mother who is far from ideal. When a physical therapist raising his daughter alone and a handsome but hurting musician enter the picture, the summer takes on a whole new dimension. As their lives intersect and entwine, can each learn how to forgive, how to let go, and how to move on? And strengthened by the healing power of faith, might they also find the courage to love?

With her trademark compelling characters and heartwarming hope, fan favorite Irene Hannon offers her readers an inspiring true-to-life tale of complex family relationships, transgressions revealed and forgiven, and the complicated process of finding love.

I love Irene Hannon's suspense books and when I saw this, I thought I'd better try it. I know she has written in the straight romance genre before, I just haven't read any. What struck me about this book was the characterization. The three women (Karen, Val and their mother) are trying to sort their lives out. Karen and Val are living under the constant scrutiny of their mother. Karen takes it to heart and tries even harder to please her, while Val shrugs it off and pretends it doesn't bother her. Neither strategy really works and it only makes their mother more difficult. The relationship between the three women is very realistic. A mother's harsh criticism stays with the girls well into their adulthood and still holds sway over them. However Val and Karen are on a journey to free themselves from their mother's criticism, move on from the heartbreak of the past and look forward to a brighter, hopeful future.

As sisters estranged for many years, Val and Karen reconnect when Val returns to help their mother after her stroke. I loved the girl's weekly coffee dates while their mum slept! I liked the way they forged through some difficult stuff to see the truth behind their Mum's manipulations and this gave them a stronger bond. We even got to see the human side of their mother and slowly watch as she stopped her endless criticism and opted for silence - while not ideal, it was much better for the girls.

There's a lot going on emotionally for Karen and Val and I lapped up the difficult journey God has them on. What I struggled with was the love interests for them. Val's man seemed a little too perfect and Karen's guy didn't seem that appealing personality wise. They just didn't ring true for me and because of that I couldn't connect with them and thus the romances didn't have the effect I would have liked.

Overall though, this was a solid read from a good author!

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


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, September 19, 2013

Jess' Thoughts: Musicals, Musicals, Musicals

image from

So I started watching The Sound of Music with Eleyna the other day, hopinig to find a movie that she wasn't scared of. My lovely girl doesn't like Disney and Disney/Pixar movies (she's 3) and so I put on the Julie Andrews classic. She loves it so far, but they don't sing enough for her liking! 

While watching it, I started thinking about my own favorite musicals. Both my parents grew up in the era of musicals, such as Oklahoma, State Fair, Brigadoon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Calamity Jane...you get the idea. As a result, I also enjoy musicals.

So what is my favourite musical/s? Well I've got two really.

Image From
Calamity Jane

I'm a big fan of Doris Day. Some people love Audrey Hepburn (yes, I like her and have seen many of her movies which are good) but I really love Doris Day. That sunny smile, great singing voice, that girl-next-door image etc. I saw this movie quite possibly before I was 10 years old and it captured my attention. Why? It's a little corny, amusing for the most part, but its got genuine heart behind it. I can't help but smile when I watch this movie.



Image From


Singing In the Rain

I didn't see this movie till I was in my early 20s but I loved it. I thought it was clever and very, very funny! There was something magical about this movie and it swept me up in its charm. I made sure I bought it on DVD a few months ago. I have watched it a few times since purchasing it and always enjoy it.



What about you guys out there? Do you like musicals? do you have a favourite? I'd love to hear about it!



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, September 17, 2013

Book Review: Waking Hours by Lis Wielh with Pete Nelson

Waking Hours by Lis Wiehl with Pete Nelson
Thomas Nelson, October 4, 2011

Welcome to East Salem. A deceptively sleepy town where ancient supernatural forces are being awakened.
A local high-school girl is found murdered in a park amid horse farms and the wealthy homes of northern Westchester County, New York. The shocking manner of her death intrigues forensic psychiatrist Dani Harris. All the suspects are teenagers who were at a party with the girl—yet none remembers what happened. Could one of them be a vicious killer? Or is something more sinister afoot—something tied to an ancient evil?
Across town, former NFL linebacker Tommy Gunderson finds his state-of-the-art security system has been breached by an elderly woman. Mumbling threats in Latin, she attacks him with an uncanny, preternatural strength. Before he has time to process the attack, someone close to him is implicated in the girl’s murder at the park. He agrees to help—and finds himself working with Dani, the only girl who could resist his charm years ago when they were in high school.

A heavy darkness is spreading. Yet a heavenly force is also at work.

Dani and Tommy suspect there’s more to the mystery than murder, more to their growing friendship than chance . . . and more to the evil they’re facing than a mere human killer.

 I took a chance on this book. It was cheap in the specials bin. I'd never read Lis Wiehl and the book sounded interesting. I also really liked it! Usually supernatural thrillers don't work for me...I get too scared! But this one, wasn't scary (some might find it so) and it kept me enthralled along the way.

I found this book to be interesting with funny dialogue between the two leads plus their internal monologues had me chuckling! I found the characters to be well written and the mystery brings everything together only gets deeper as the novel progresses.

Overall, for a new author to me, I liked this book enough to go out and buy the second book in the series.  Stay tuned for my review of Darkness Rising soon.


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, September 12, 2013

September Feature Author and Book Giveaway: Candace Calvert



Candace Calvert writes gripping and at times heart rendering medical dramas filled with hope, great romance and hunky heroes! She has quickly become a favorite of mine as her stories are populated with real people facing real decisions, but who are still firmly planted in the world of fiction.

Thanks so much Candace for joining us on our blog today. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Any hobbies you have?
It’s a delight to be here—thank you for this opportunity to connect with your readers.  In a nutshell, I’m a former ER nurse, wife, Mom, and proud grandmother to seven (ages 2 to 23!) When I’m not writing, I love to garden, hike, bird watch, and travel—in fact, hubby and I will be taking a Rhine River cruise this fall. Folks who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know that I’m a passionate “foodie,” very happy wearing an apron and brandishing a wooden spoon.
Jess: Oh the Rhine River is beautiful! My hubby and I got a chance to see some of it a few years ago and it’s gorgeous! I can totally relate to wearing an apron and brandishing a wooden spoon. Baking is one of the joys of my life.
What got you into medical inspirational romance novels? What do you think it is about this genre that people like so much?
Of course, the classic advice is “write what you know,” and I spent three decades in the trenches of ER. But more than that, I was disappointed that while TV’s very popular medical shows offer the lights-and-siren action, hospital lingo, and loads of interpersonal drama, they very rarely address issues of faith. As a nurse, I know that’s unrealistic; so many prayers are sent heavenward by patients, family, and by medical and rescue professionals. I wanted to “help Grey’s Anatomy find its soul.”  People sometimes call me the author of “medical hope opera”. I like that!
Jess: I love what you have done for this genre. 
How much time do you usually spend on the research element for your books? Do you visit locations and conduct interviews?
Having worked in the emergency medical field for a long time, I’m accustomed to the hospital setting. And I ask still-practicing colleagues for clarification of new procedures. I’ve been blessed to work with professionals in law enforcement, firefighters, military, and search and rescue and chaplaincy volunteers. I do visit my story settings and enjoy offering readers imagery that puts them “into the scene” right down to the taste of scrumptious regional food, like the fajitas and pecan pralines in Trauma Plan—tough work, but I am very dedicated (wink).  And, of course, I did leap into my own skydiving research . . .
Jess: I’ve noticed and appreciated the way the setting is often included in your books. The “flavor” of each place is right there in the book. I couldn’t do the skydiving…I’ll leave that stuff to my hubby!

When you get writers block, what do you do to try and get out of it?
Oh dear, I try not to ever say the “block” word—it’s like saying things are “quiet” in the ER; stirs up all sort of trouble! Seriously, I find that physical exercise stimulates the brain as well as the body. And sometimes indulging in an alternate creative effort gets the juices flowing, like trying a great new recipe. Or painting a wall—evidenced by the small eggplant purple wall above the shower in our guest bathroom.

My (Jess) favorite book of yours is Trauma Plan, I just loved Jack! Which book has been the most joy to write? Any that were hard to write?
Thank you for enjoying Trauma Plan! I’d have to say that it was one of my favorites, too. I enjoyed writing Dr. Jack “Rambo” Travis, offering readers all the color of San Antonio. And I loved meeting former rodeo clown Bandy Biggs. He was one of those unplanned characters who sort of wandered (bowlegged) into the story, and captured my heart. He still hangs around my office offering peanut butter sandwiches . . . and hope.
Code Triage was perhaps most difficult to write because of the subject matter: my first marriage didn’t survive similar challenges. I’m so grateful for our God of second chances!

Can you tell us what's up next from you regarding books?
The third book in my Grace Medical series, Life Support, is scheduled for release in March—I’m eager to share this Houston set story.  And (drum roll) I’ve very recently signed a new 3-book contract with Tyndale House to bring readers another exciting medical fiction series! I couldn’t be more pleased.
Jess: Congratulations on the book contract! I’m sure there are many eager readers out there (myself included) looking forward to reading more from you.

If you could be any fictional book character for a day, who would you be, and why?
It’s too hard to choose what character I’d be! So many books, so many different experiences. Maybe I’ll pick a wild card here and say I’d be (the spider) Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web.  What a unique way to see the world, what a cool way to knock the socks of people (writing those words in her web)!  Charlotte had such a great, wise, and encouraging heart.  An expected and memorable heroine. 

What do you know about Australia, and is there anything in particular you would like to see if you came for a visit?
Some of my biggest impressions of Australia come from watching (over and over!) “The Man from Snowy River”—I love that movie. Horses, romance, action, and spectacular scenery, how can it get any better? Hubby and I love snorkeling, so we’d want to see The Great Barrier Reef. Do the sights in Sydney (local food, of course), and then arrange an opportunity to see Australian birds and wildlife—a must for us!  Your beautiful country is definitely on our travel list.
Jess: I’ve seen “The Man from Snowy River” and yes the scenery is spectacular. I’ve yet to visit that region of Australia, but would love to. I hope you get to visit Down Under Candace! Thanks for joining us today for a great interview! 
Thank you for hosting me here, ladies—this has been delightful.
I invite your readers to visit me online at:

Book giveaway!

Candace is kindly giving away a signed copy of one of her books. The competition is open to international residents. To be entered into the competition leave a comment with your email address and we will draw the winner on Friday the 20th September, 2013.

Candace Calvert Books (and links to our book reviews):


Critical Care (Mercy Hospital 1)











 Disaster Status (Mercy Hospital 2)
 Code Triage (Mercy Hospital 3)
Trauma Plan (Grace Medical 1)











Rescue Team (Grace Medical 2)













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.