Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday's With Helen: Accountability with my Writing

Welcome to my new segment! Yeah okay, the title is not particularly original (yes, I stole the concept from Tuesday's With Jess).  But I haven't had time to think of anything else.  I'm open to suggestions :D

Back in March, I joined Seekerville's Speedbo.  And I was more than pleased with my result.  Over the moon in fact.  I set a goal of writing 20 000.  Bear in mind at this point, my WIP was sitting at 18 000 words, which I'd done over the course of several months.  And yet I dared to dream that I could at least double that in the space of 31 days.

I did it.  I really did it.  And you know what really helped? The fact that I had set the goal, made it public and hence made myself accountable to someone other than myself.

So what's happened since March? A heck of a lot.  Oh, you mean writing wise? Next to nothing.

April was insanely busy for me, and I had set that month aside to get on top of all these other things that needed attending to.  Unfortunately, April's busy-ness spilled into May, to the point where it's only been the last few days that I've actually added to my word count.

I couldn't really help all the things that happened in April and May.  But now that I've made it through, I'm ready to knuckle down in the writing department again.  And I'm letting you know what I'm intending to achieve so you can cheer me on.

My current word count is at 42780.  My goal is to reach 60k by the end of June.  This works out at a bit over 500 words per day.  That's doable.  And I'm hoping some days I can hit 1000 to make up for those occasional 0 word days that I know are bound to happen (I do have 2 kids aged three and under).

I'm going to let you know my progress each week on Thursday's with Helen.

Now, what is it I'm writing? Well ... that's a story for another Thursday ... :)

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, May 30, 2012

Book Review: Back to Resolution by Rose Dee

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon | Kindle
Back to Resolution by Rose Dee
Even Before Publishing, 01 November 2011
Bay Anders is lost. She enjoys every privilege a wealthy upbringing affords, but the void in her soul refuses to be filled. Her mother's dying revelation drives Bay to the brink of self destruction, before a move to Australia changes everything. She embarks upon a search for her father that leads her to his island home, into a hazardous melting pot of hostile locals and a mystery - her father's disappearance. The only person who can help her is a strong, self-assured and intensely magnetic man. Bay must fight an overwhelming attraction to stay focused on her goal. Flynn McKenna is hiding from the world. A past filled with mistakes drove him to withdraw from society and live in seclusion. But the arrival of a woman he cannot avoid shatters his solitary existence. As the search for Bay's father unites them, can he resist his desire for her?

What a lovely book to read as the weather got horribly cold.  I was warmed by the exotic island location of Back to Resolution.  In fact, I'm still sitting on the beach with Bay and Flynn.  This book had that kind of lingering effect on me -  which is the best thing a book can do.

The first couple of chapters seemed a little slow as the story was being set.  But once Bay hit the glorious shores of the north Queensland coast, everything took off.  It was so easy to get caught up in her search for her father, and I was desperately hoping for their reunion.

The chemistry between Bay and Flynn is electric.  Their restraint, ability to irritate each other and their emotional connection make for a realistic and entertaining dynamic.  You can just imagine them squabbling on the beach .  There's mystery and intrigue to boot, keeping me turning the page with painful anticipation.  As Bay's life is turned upside down by the death of her mother, she is forced to examine her life and she comes to understand that God has more planned for her.

Aussie and international readers alike will enjoy this book.  It captures well the atmosphere of tropical Australian life.  Along with Bay and Flynn are a couple of likeable traditional locals, a pair of bumbling baddies and plenty of island sunshine.  This is an easy read loaded with warmth, romance, intrigue and substance.

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, May 29, 2012

Tuesday's With Jess: Downton Abbey

Since today is the first Tuesday's with Jess, I thought I'd start with a lovely show that I've only just started may have heard of it....

I remember when Downton Abbey first screened in Australia. My daughter was about 12 months old. Helen came and visited me and was telling me all about this great new show. Since my husband and I don't watch much TV, I didn't know much about the show. Helen wanted to watch one episode when she was at my place and I remember being confused. Since it wasn't the first episode, kids were still awake, I wasn't able to concentrate on the show and therefore never bothered with it again.

I knew somewhere in the recess of my mind that I would probably like this show if given the chance to watch it uninterrupted. So about 3 months ago I saw Season 1 on DVD for $20. So I bought it. I didn't start watching it though until a week ago. My husband was away for the night. So I snuggled under the quilt, put the subtitles on so I wouldn't miss anything. One hour and a half later I became a fan of Downton Abbey.

Unfortunately now for me is that the second season is screening here and it's only just started. Since I haven't finished watching Season 1, I can't very well start Season 2 now can I?

This has got me thinking to another mini-series I saw quite some time ago. I had a friend over and she wanted to watch the last episode of a four part series. The series was Wives and Daughters. I knew nothing about this series, but seeing the last episode ensured that I was hooked. I didn't even know what was going on but I wanted the two leads to fall in love. A few years back my mother-in-law gave it to me on DVD and oh was it heaven.

Is there any movie, TV series etc that has caught you by surprise? Something that you didn't expect to ever watch or 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.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Party's Over - What's Next?

Greetings folks!!

Thank you to everyone for making our 1st birthday month long celebrations such a success.  We had our busiest month on record, and hit a few milestones:
  • 100 Facebook likes
  • 50 Google Friend Connect Followers
  • 200 Twitter followers
  • Passed 10 000 page views
The party is over and the balloons have been taken down.  But this doesn't mean it's the end of all the fun - not by a long shot! 

To kick off our second year of Book Review Sisters, and we have a new blogging schedule for you:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Feature Author Interview: Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden writes historical romance novels that jump off the page and land right into your heart. It was so much fun doing this interview and getting to know Elizabeth better!

Today we're giving away a copy of Elizabeth's upcoming release, "Against the Tide".  See the end of this interview for how to enter.

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

Hi Jess….thanks for asking me aboard! Although I like to write big, sprawling romantic stories, I’m afraid my personal life is terribly mundane. By day I am a librarian at a small college….which is a terrific job for someone who loves books and research. I am married to a phenomenal man, and I inherited his two (then adolescent) daughters. They are now grown and out of the house, so I needed a new pastime. I turned to writing books…..and now here I am on your blog!

Jess: That doesn't sound mundane to me at all! :)

You write Historical Fiction with a strong element of romance. What is it about this genre that you love so much?

For me, the romantic aspect of a novel is always the best part. I usually put the romance front and center, although when I say “romance” I am not talking about poetry and roses and chocolate. I am more interested in the Beethoven-type of romance. I like the dark & stormy, the soaring joy and crashing back down to the earth, then rising again into the clear light of daybreak. This is risky in a novel. The reader needs to have confidence in the inherent goodness and wisdom of the lead characters in order to want to go along for the ride. 
Michael from the Rose of Winslow Street had such a strong presence. It blew me away at first, so much so that I had to stop reading for a couple of weeks!  What inspired you to write him?

Yup…Michael is a very strong presence, and although most readers latched on to him immediately, some took a while to warm up to him, and others put the book down after the first chapter because they could not tolerate him!

Here is the thing…..I wanted The Rose of Winslow Street to be a celebration of manhood. Raw, brawny, unabashed manhood with all the magnificent things that come along with men… but these tough, masculine qualities often come bundled with habits that drive women nuts. I am sorry when I hear women in contemporary society denigrate men or undermine our boys in an attempt to scrub those masculine traits away. Good, honorable men are the engine and the fuel that makes this world go around. Yes, they often have a crude sense of humor or act like slobs on the weekend when a good football game is on, the beer is cold, and the wings are hot. So what? My husband moves mountains during the work week, and if he wants to kick back with a football game on the weekend, I’m happy to bring him a cold beer and make the nachos. I wanted to feature this sort of big-hearted hero in The Rose of Winslow Street. I confess it was a little risky opening the book with all these qualities laid out so bluntly…..but it was A LOT of fun to write!

Jess: Oh yes Elizabeth, Michael certainly made an impression! But he won me over in the end :) Michael certainly trips over himself a few times in the book, but he's was so lovable one couldn't dislike him forever! 

How much time do you usually spend on the research element for your books? Do you visit locations and conduct interviews?

I do a ton of research, but most of it is from the comfort of my home office. I am a librarian, so I have access to a bottomless well of resources, and know how to track down the factual details of what I need. I also love to read memoirs written during the era I am writing about. For The Rose of Winslow Street, I read a memoir by Princess Ileana of Romania, upon whose experiences I drew to flesh out the character of Lady Mirela. Many of the details I inserted about life in Romania were drawn from Princess Ileana’s memoir. I think they helped add a fresh and quirky insight that had a ring of truth because they were true! I wrote a bit about Princess Ileana on my blog, which you can see here:

Jess: Sounds like a very interesting memoir to read.

I understand from your blog that you’re next book is about Bane, whom we first met in The Lady of Bolton Hill? This is so exciting! Can you tell us more about it?

Yes ma’am! Bane was the charming, wickedly clever dare-devil from The Lady of Bolton Hill. He was only 17 years old in that book, but he was an overwhelming force who stole every scene he in which he appeared. I knew I had to think long and hard to develop a female lead who could match him in terms of wit, resilience and intrigue….and yet still be a sympathetic woman with a deep gash of vulnerability. Lydia Pallas is hands-down the best female lead I’ve ever written. She is fluent in seven languages, landing her a position as a translator for the U.S. Navy. That talent brings her into contact with Bane… all grown up and ready to set the world on fire. Bane needs Lydia’s ability to translate a bunch of documents from eastern Europe to help crack a smuggling ring. Despite Bane’s relentless charm, beneath that fa├žade he is a stone-cold man driven on a mission. He never expects to fall in love with Lydia…..and knows that doing so could derail his lifelong mission. My favorite part about writing Against the Tide was dismantling Bane’s carefully constructed defenses and having him fall headlong in love. I think this is the most romantic book I’ve ever written. Look for it in October of 2012.

Jess: I'm looking forward to meeting up with Bane again and meeting Lydia! She sounds awesome. So excited!! :)

When you get writers block, what do you do to try and get out of it?

My theory is that writer’s block is what happens when your writing is predictable. I’ll scan my manuscript and try to pinpoint the moment the writing became predicable and flat. I then brainstorm the answer to questions such as what is the worst thing that could happen to the heroine right now? The most unexpected? The most dramatic? So long as the answer makes sense with the rest of the manuscript, it is almost always a quick jolt of energy that can get things flowing again. 
If you could be any fictional book character for a day, who would you be, and why?

In all honesty…..I wouldn’t trade! Not even for a day. The very best novels put their characters through untold misery, and I am way too much of a safety girl to sign up for that!

Jess: Maybe you could be one of them on one of the rare good days their author's give them! :)

What do you know about Australia, and is there anything in particular you would like to see if you came for a visit?

I’ve never been to Australia, but my husband has been several times. He used to do a lot of business with the Australian Airforce, and the stories he tells about those guys have me howling. In short, he says the Aussie pilots are as fierce as they come, and “anyone who would pick a fight with those guys are insane.” He also has great things to say about Manly Beach. Coming from someone who has lived on the two most famous beaches in the United States (Santa Barbara, and all along the coat of Florida,) he is an expert….so Manly Beach would absolutely be on my list of things to see.

I also remember a great mini-series on BBC called A Town like Alice. The countryside around that town reminds me a lot of where I grew up in Texas, so the Alice Springs area might be nice (especially if Bryan Brown is still there!)

Thanks so much for inviting me on board! I am thrilled that my books are making it to the other side of the globe, and would love to come visit sometime!

Jess:  We're thrilled to have you here Elizabeth! We can certainly promise great beaches and Alice, I'm not so sure about Bryan Brown though! :)

Find Elizabeth Camden on the Web

Elizabeth Camden's Books

BRS Review
BRS Review

Available 1st Oct 2012
Pre-Order Now

Book Giveaway!

We're giving away a copy of Elizabeth's upcoming release - Against The Tide.  Please bear in mind that since this book will not be released until 1st October 2012, the winning copy will not arrive until after then :)

To enter the competition, all you need to do is complete the form below.  See our policies page for further conditions.

Entries close 12pm Tuesday 29th May, Australian Eastern Standard Time

Optional Extra Entries!
  1. "Like" our Book Review Sisters Facebook and get 1 bonus entry in the draw
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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.

Please also leave a comment on the post after filling out the entry form (don't forget to submit the form first, or your entry won't go in!).  Elizabeth (and we!) would love your feedback and to know you've dropped by.

Dear readers: Utilising the links found on this blog when purchasing books helps to support this site - a labour of love for two stay-at-home mums.  We thank you for considering us!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review:: Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon | Kindle
Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst
Zondervan, 15 December 2010

I've never read any books on losing weight, I've never dieted. I never really believed in dieting, figuring that eating well and indulging every now and then was okay. So why did I decide to read a book on weight loss? Well for the most part I kept liking the cover! It just kept catching my eye and I knew I wanted to investigate it more. Then I read the back of the book and knew I probably should buy it, but I didn't. Over the weeks the cover would keep popping up in my mind and I'd want to buy it again. I still didn't buy it though!

Slowly something started happening. Something you guys need to know is that over the past three years I've been able to attend a small outdoor training group led by my friend who just happens to be a personal trainer. So over these three years I have been exposed to better ways to exercise and manage my health (notice I did not say weight). So always in the back of my mind was the thought "I can lose weight if I want to" as I had been taught a lot of the tools needed for this from the training sessions. However I never took up those tools consistently.

However, lately I discovered a real love of running. When my friend offered training sessions focused on running (technique, pacing etc) I jumped at the chance. So I started running once a week at each session. That was it. Then this book kept popping up in my head again. So this time I went purposefully to Koorong and bought it. By the end of the first chapter I was crying. The girl Lysa TerKeurst was describing in the book was me. Whether I liked it or not I had issues with emotional eating and my cravings for food with little to no self-control.

In this book Lysa gently and humorously walks women through, and challenges us to remember that we were Made to Crave God - not food or anything else we might chase after. Lovingly, Lysa used her own journey with struggling with weight and emotional eating to overcoming her "cravings" by realizing she needs God more than she needs that 5 minute satisfaction that a plate of brownies will give her.

This book is about growing closer to God by surrendering our need to crave food to him. Lysa doesn't just end there, she literally walks her readers through every step of the "surrendering my food issues" to God. She equips us with sound, practical and Biblical ways to overcome the food that hold us back.

There is more I can say, but I will leave it for here now. One final thing though: This book is way more than just about losing weight - it's about turning our lives over to God with powerful results, inside and out!

Dear readers: Utilising the links found on this blog when purchasing books helps to support this site - a labour of love for two stay-at-home mums.  We thank you for considering us!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Friend's Five with Laura Frantz: Five Books That Have Impacted My Life

Today we have the lovely Laura Frantz sharing with us five books that have impacted her life.  Laura's own books have been listed three times by our previous guests.  This doesn't surprise me in the least, as I just love love love her writing - so much so we awarded her latest release, The Colonel's Lady, a Book Review Sisters Opal Award.

So let's take a look at which books have impacted Laura's life!

Five Books That Have Impacted My Life
Laura Frantz 

1. Christy by Catherine Marshall

This was my first foray into Christian fiction and I'll never forget it! Rich and multi-layered, this story stayed with me and set the standard for the kind of fiction I love most. Francine Rivers and Liz Curtis Higg's novels remind me of Christy. I went on to read all of Marshall's books, both her sequel, Julie, and her non-fiction titles. They're all great!

2. George Whitefield's Journals by George Whitefield 

I love so many George's from the 18th-century - George Washington, George Rogers Clark, and now George Whitefield, the famous evangelist. How can you not love a man who was described as "all life, fire, wing, and force"? There's never been another preacher like him.

3. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I read all of the Little House books but this remains my favorite. It has a sweetness to it that isn't found in many books - an echo of a bygone era. I've always been encouraged that the author first published a book in her late 60's - or so I've heard!

4. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Though I love the Anne of Green Gables books, this adult romance by Montgomery tops my list of favorite books of all time. I've even reread it several times, something I almost never do. And I never thought I'd fall in love with a hero named Barney Snaith. But...thud!

5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I first read Bronte's classic in college and then reread it all over again. It's haunting and powerful and full of the angst and passion I love.

About Laura Frantz

Laura is a lover of history, is the author of The Frontiersman's Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, and The Colonel's Lady, and currently lives in the misty woods of Washington with her husband and two sons.  Her next book, Love's Reckoning - the first in a four book series -  releases in September 2012 and can be pre-ordered now.

Connect With Laura

Website & Blog:

Thank you Laura for coming by and sharing these great books with us!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Morning Musings: Downtown Abbey and My Patience Muscle

I can't tell you how excited I was when I saw early last week that Channel 7 had stopped teasing us with "Downton Abbey - Coming Soon" statements.  Finally they were giving us an actual date! 

I don't know how many Aussie fans are left that haven't found an alternate means of watching Season 2, particularly since it appears the rest of the world saw it a million years ago.  I've seen many conversations about Downton Abbey on Facebook over the past several months and always had to look away - bursting with jealousy - in case of spoilers.  And let me tell you, more than once I did contemplate buying Season 2 on DVD, particularly since I saw it on sale several times.  But I managed to restrain myself.  I'd like to say it was purely because of my wonderfully mastered self control.  Though a lack of extraneous funds had something to do with it, I'm sure!

But it got me thinking - how many things do we wait for these days? In this cheap product, digital, easy access, "now" era it seems like we've lost the need and ability to wait.  We can't even sit still for a few moments without whipping out some digital device to keep us entertained.

As soon as Downton Abbey Season 1 finished airing last year, I was ready for the second season.  I reasoned and had accepted that I'd have to wait for this year.  Then the tennis came and went in January, and the station started flashing Downton Abbey ads and I thought, surely it would be on soon.  When it wasn't, I figured it might be on during the post Easter screening season.  That didn't happen either.  My anticipation - and frustration - had been building for so long, that when I finally saw that Downton Abbey was screening again on Sunday (last night), I was so ecstatic I almost did cartwheels.  Would I have sat down to watch season 2 with the same excitement and pleasure if I hadn't waited as long? I seriously doubt it.

The waiting principle works in books too, right? The more anticipation built, the more you have to wait - the more satisfying the outcome.  If the hero and the heroine don't have obstacles, struggles and a painfully long wait before their first kiss - would it be as sweet?

In Romans 15:5, Paul calls God the "God of patience".  James teaches us that the testing of our faith produces patience (James 1:3).  Patience is one of the fruits of the spirit.  Patience is obviously very important to God, and is something He wants us to have in bucket loads in our own lives.

Why does God want us to be patient? Is it so we can enjoy and appreciate things the way they were intended?

If we can't exercise patience in waiting for a favourite TV show, how much harder is it to wait for more important things in life? From waiting for a Godly spouse, waiting for a much wanted baby, waiting for deliverance from an illness - even waiting for a job, a house ... if everything is handed to us immediately, would we appreciate these things as much as we should? 

I am quite content to wait for a new episode of Downton Abbey each week, even though I know I could easily get the DVD and watch it all at once.  There are not many shows on TV worth watching these days and I enjoy having something to look forward to each week.  Plus I figure, waiting for "little" things like these is exercising my patience muscle.  

I'm trying to build up my patience with smaller things so that I have the staying power when I have to wait for bigger things.  At the moment I feel like there is a giant "WAIT" sign hanging over my life.  I've lost many significant things in recent times, and I'm waiting - sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently - for a time when they might be restored, if God wills it.   

Do you have any things you need patience with right now?  If you want to share - specifically or not - I'm willing to pray for you :)
Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises
Hebrews 6:12b (NKJV)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Giveaway: A Heart Revealed by Julie Lessman

This week we are giving away a copy of A Heart Revealed by award winning historical romance author, Julie Lessman.

Of Julie's five books published so far, A Heart Revealed is definitely my favourite. You can check out our review to find out more.

Ten years ago, Emma Malloy fled Dublin for Boston as a battered woman, escaping the husband who scarred her beautiful face. The physical and emotional wounds have faded with time, and her life is finally full of purpose and free from the pain of her past. But when she falls for her friend Charity's handsome and charming brother, Sean O'Connor, fear and shame threaten to destroy her. Could Sean and Emma ever have a future together? Or is Emma doomed to live out the rest of her life denying the only true love she's ever known? 

How to Enter
To enter the competition, all you need to do is complete the form below. See our policies page for further conditions.
Entries close 12pm Tuesday 22nd May, Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Optional Extra Entries!
  1. "Like" our Book Review Sisters Facebook and get 1 bonus entry in the draw
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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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review: Promise Me This By Cathy Gohlke

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon | Kindle
Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke
Tyndale House Publishers, 20 January 2012

Michael Dunnagan was never supposed to sail on the Titanic, nor would he have survived if not for the courage of Owen Allen. Determined to carry out his promise to care for Owen’s relatives in America and his younger sister, Annie, in England, Michael works hard to strengthen the family’s New Jersey garden and landscaping business.

Annie Allen doesn’t care what Michael promised Owen. She only knows that her brother is gone—like their mother and father—and the grief is enough to swallow her whole. As Annie struggles to navigate life without Owen, Michael reaches out to her through letters. In time, as Annie begins to lay aside her anger that Michael lived when Owen did not, a tentative friendship takes root and blossoms into something neither expected. Just as Michael saves enough money to bring Annie to America, WWI erupts in Europe. When Annie’s letters mysteriously stop, Michael risks everything to fulfill his promise—and find the woman he’s grown to love—before she’s lost forever.

The very first thing I liked about Promise Me This is its short chapters.  Made it easy for a busy mum to get through it as I was able to slip in a whole chapter here and there between chopping carrots and refereeing disputes.  It meant less disruption to the flow of the story than if I'd been constantly putting it down mid-chapter.  Cathy's writing is tight and effective, easily painting the pictures of the historic setting without superfluity.

Promise Me This is a love story - true, sacrificial and enduring love, with a good dose of romance thrown in for good measure! It's full of endearing - and loathsome - characters, entwined in the dramatic and life-changing period of history in the sinking of Titanic, and WWI.

Owen is a compassionate and caring man.  His ability to put the needs of others before his is the catalyst behind the story, and his enduring legacy brings hope and healing to many.  Annie has to overcome her anger and bitterness, and Michael his painful past and guilt.  The book brings them both through a journey of reflection, searching and finally surrender at the foot of the cross.  It's done so naturally and eloquently that nothing feels forced onto the reader.

There's a positively heart stopping battlefield rendezvous that left me holding my breath for goodness knows how long. Shortly after, I reached a point the book where I thought I could go no further.  I anticipated the heartache and the tears (the characters' and mine!) and wondered if I could put myself through it.  But of course I could - I had to - because you can't just stop a book like this.  You have to read on, get through the tragedy in order to come out the other side with hope.

There was just one problem with the story; at the end - I needed just a bit more.  Just a bit more to describe the emotion, a bit more of a sampling of the happily-ever-after.

But otherwise I loved the period, loved the characters and loved their story.

Dear readers: Utilising the links found on this blog when purchasing books helps to support this site - a labour of love for two stay-at-home mums.  We thank you for considering us!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Friend's Five with Julie Lessman: The Top Five Romance Books That Have Impacted My Life

We're very excited to have Julie Lessman with us on Book Review Sisters today! She is sharing with us five romance books that have impacted her life.

Friends, make sure you come back for a visit on Thursday as we'll be giving away a copy of Julie's current release, "A Heart Revealed".  Of Julie's five books published so far, this is definitely my favourite.  So if you don't already have a copy, this is your chance to win one.  And if you already have a copy, why not try and win a copy for a friend? Books make great presents!

And now, I'll hand things over to Julie!

The Top Five Romance Books That Have Impacted My Life
Julie Lessman
Let me preface this list by saying it’s SO difficult to limit one’s self to just five favorite books because the CBA is literally bursting with excellent authors and to be honest, if I had to list my faves who I always read, I would have to list about twenty names. BUT … you only asked for five, so here are the ones that impacted me the most and just why I chose them.

1.) GONE WITH THE WIND, by Margaret Mitchell

From the moment Scarlett seared Rhett with a look on the winding staircase of Twelve Oaks, I was hooked, and my “romance-writing career” began! In fact, after reading GWTW at the age of 12, I penned my own 150 single-spaced manuscript that became the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. Clearly for me, GWTW is the greatest historical novel I’ve ever read, not only for the rich and sweeping Civil War tapestry that Margaret Mitchell created, but for the wonderful impact her haunting love story had on me at such a young age.

2.) LOVE’S RECKONING, by Laura Frantz

Regrettably for those of you reading this now, Love’s Reckoning by Laura Frantz is not out until September, but do yourself a favor—pre-order it now!! I had the privilege and honor of reading Laura’s upcoming family saga for endorsement, and I was simply blown away. Words cannot do justice in stating the impact this novel had on me, but I will let my endorsement try:

Stunning. Heart-wrenching. Breathless. Not since Gone With the Wind have I read an epic novel that has stolen my heart, my breath, my sleep to such a jolting degree. Love’s Reckoning marks Laura Frantz not only as a shining star in Christian fiction today, but a shooting star who soars skyward to the glittering heights of Rivers and Higgs.

3.) PROMISE ME THIS, by Cathy Gohlke

When I finished Cathy Gohlke’s Promise Me This in the wee hours of the morning, I immediately padded downstairs in nightgown and bare feet to send Cathy (whom I never met) an e-mail, telling her that Promise Me This was simply one of the best books I’d ever read in the CBA. Cathy is a two-time Christy winner, so ‘nuff said. Here is the endorsement I wrote for Cathy’s book:

Promise Me This is a quiet masterpiece that whispers to the heart and shouts to the soul. Make no mistake—Cathy Gohlke is a New York Times Bestselling author in the making. Simply one of the best—if not most powerful—books I have ever read.

4.) THE COLONEL’S LADY, by Laura Frantz

Before I read Laura’s upcoming novel, Love’s Reckoning, The Colonel’s Lady was just about my favorite novel in the CBA. Ironically when I wrote a review for it, I joked that it would continue to be until her next one came out, no doubt, and boy, was I on target!! But trust me, this is a stunner as well, so here’s my review:

It’s no secret to those who know me that Laura Frantz is hands-down one of my favorite writers IN THE WORLD, her haunting prose and rich historical setting almost second to none. And did I mention romance?? Lord, have mercy—Laura’s romantic tension has more sparks and power than a battery of muskets fired in the Kentucke Territory of 1779. The Colonel’s Lady is no exception … or maybe it is … “exceptionally” beautiful and heart-rending, and wonderfully, achingly hard on the pulse!! Just when I think I have read one of the best books ever, Laura writes a new one, so let me say it again—The Colonel’s Lady is easily one of the best books I have ever read in the Christian market—that is, until her next one comes out!


Thorn in my Heart/Fair is the Rose/Whence Comes a Prince

Oh my, what do I say about Liz Curtis Higgs??? She is top of the heap for me, along with Laura Frantz and Francine Rivers and is hands-down one of my favorite authors in the world. Since I could not just pick one of her books, I will pick my favorite series of hers, which is haunting and unforgettable. I read it years ago and STILL think about it today—that’s how good she is!! 

About Julie Lessman 

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 13 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction."

Chosen as #1 Romance Fiction Author of the Year in the Family Fiction magazine 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also awarded #1 Series of the Year in that same poll and #3 Author of the Year, #5 Novel of the Year and #4 Historical Fiction Author of the year. She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law and is the author of “The Daughters of Boston” series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. Her “Winds of Change” includes A Hope Undaunted, which ranked #5 on Booklist’s Top 10 Inspirational Fiction for 2010, and her most recent release, A Heart Revealed.

Connect with Julie

Website & Blog:
Catch her regularly at Seekerville blog
Thank you so much Julie for taking the time to be with us today, and sharing these wonderful books that have impacted your life.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Morning Musings: Mother's Day

We hope all the mum's out there in Australia had a great mother's day yesterday! To our Northern Hemisphere friends, we hope your mother's day is wonderful!

So on the topic of Mother's Day, I thought about who my favourite literary mothers are.  As I scanned my books, an interesting trend became apparent. Many of my books feature mother's who distance is too far from their child to be of any good to them, they are close but useless or they are dead!

So with that, I searched my mind for my favourite close, useful and alive mothers! Here's the two that jumped out at me:

Mrs March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Mrs March is a gentle but strong woman. She teaches her four girls the value of giving, honesty and loving each other. She lets the girls make their own decisions but reprimands them when needed. She is patient but firm with them. She is proud of them and wants them to be happy with or without money.

Sophie McClellan from Petticoat Ranch by Mary Connealy

Sophie is one tough woman! The word gentle doesn't come to mind when one thinks of Sophie. Instead one envisions a gun-totting, sharp-shooting, smart mouthed woman who teaches her three eldest girls to gun-sling, shoot and talk like her is too! Her independence is carried on through to her three oldest girls and the adventures and mishaps keep you amused for ages.

So we hope everyone has a happy mother's day, today and any other time of the year!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Giveaway: A Design of Gold by Paula Vince

This week we have up for giveaway, Design of Gold by Australian Christian contemporary fiction author, Paula Vince.

A Design of Gold by Paula Vince

After a traumatic experience, Nicola recovers by taking refuge in Casey and Piers Bowman's spare room. Jerome, Piers' son, is learning to be a young man, struggling in his quest to make a difference, with ideals of mission life from his childhood hero. Michael, a teenager who's been down all the wrong roads, is trying to follow the straight and narrow. As their lives intertwine they grow, learn about themselves and find that true discipleship starts at home. 

How to Enter
To enter the competition, all you need to do is complete the form below. See our policies page for further conditions.
Entries close 12pm Tuesday 15th May, Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Optional Extra Entries!
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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.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Book Review: The Mother Road by Jennifer AlLee

 Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon | Kindle
The Mother Road by Jennifer AlLee
Abingdon Press, 01 April 2012

It's unusual for me to read women's fiction - since I'm a romance-devotee.  But when I heard about an inspirational fiction book in which the heroine is a marriage expert who's own marriage ends in divorce, I was intrigued!

The book isn't solely focused on the divorce aspect.  Turns out Natalie has other family issues to deal with.  She's enstranged from her younger sister, Lindsay, and their dad is calling them home to see their mother who has Alzheimers.  The two sisters, practically strangers,  reluctantly embark on a road trip home together via Route 66.  Along the way they have to deal with their differences - and Lindsay's stalking ex-boyfriend.

The Mother Road is a journey of discovery in more ways than one.  Natalie has to come to terms with her post-marriage life, Natalie and Lindsay have a chance to put their differences aside and get to know each other for real, and everyone has to work together to cope with their mother's progressive deterioration.

Natalie grapples with her own miss-judgements and shortcomings - and has to face the effect of her divorce on her career.  She has to repair her relationship with her sister and her parents.

I enjoyed this book.  The Mother Road is full of unique, yet real, characters.  It tackles some tough issues usually avoided inspirational fiction, and this was quite refreshing.  Natalie's road trip with her sister along Route 66 is an entertaining journey, tying the story together.   The end leaves you with a sense of satisfaction and a smile on your face.

Book Review: Blue Moon Promise by Colleen Coble

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon | Kindle
Blue Moon Promise by Colleen Coble
Thomas Nelson, 14 February 2012

Lucy Marsh's worldly resources are running out, but she's fiercely determined to care for her younger brother and sister. When she discovers that their father's recent death was no accident, Lucy is eager to leave town. She accepts a proxy marriage she believes will provide safe refuge. But trouble follows her to Texas where her new husband is surprised to suddenly have a wife and children to care for.

Nate Stanton always hoped he'd marry someday, but running the family ranch meant he had no time for romance. When his father deposits Lucy Marsh-a city girl-on his doorstep, with two siblings in the bargain, he expects ranch life will send her running on the first train out of town. But Lucy is made of tougher stuff than Nate imagined. When danger moves in, Nate finds he'd give anything to protect Lucy and the children he's grown to love. Even if it means giving up his ranch.

Blurb from

Okay, I'll admit to reading this book in a four hour sitting. I started it at 9.30pm and finished it at 1.15am! I'm a book junkie. Needless to say the next day I was a very tired and cranky woman! The price is high for being a book junkie.

I enjoyed this book for the most part. Colleen has again given her readers a spunky hero who I just love! This woman can write a guy of a girl's dreams of well!! So really I don't need to say much more about Nate. But I must add that I really loved the relationship Nate developed with Lucy's younger brother. It really showed how a young boy needs guidance and direction from an older man to teach him what it means to be a man. It was really touching.

Lucy is a tough girl who's had to make the best of a very bad situation. She is used to being in control (mainly because that is what life has demanded of her) and she has trouble surrendering control to anyone. She cannot seem to understand that Nate accepts her as she is. She is constantly trying to prove her worth by doing things she doesn't either know how to do or need to do. In truth, her stubborn determination is a little off-putting at times. Lucy needs to chill a bit.

The story trots along at a good pace but something strange happened to me when I finished the last page. Empty was the only word I can use to describe what I was feeling at the time. After giving it a little more thought, I worked out that I felt the book needed another chapter or two. In truth, it felt a little anti-climatic but it wasn't obvious until I'd finished the book. It felt a little unfinished to me...especially Lucy and Nate's romance. I think one more chapter of their journey would have really helped me as a reader.

But to meet Nate...well, this book was worth the read!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Friend's Five with Paula Vince & Carrie Fancett Pagels

We have another two wonderful ladies with us today, sharing five books that have impacted their lives - Australian Christian contemporary author Paula Vince, and American Christian historical fiction author and blogger, Carrie Fancett Pagels.

Paula Vince

Five Books which have impacted my life.

1) The Bible, because it is a living book whose promises I've found reliable and often surprising.

2) Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. From the time I was a teenager I've admired this book as a prototype in plot, characterization, settings and suspense.

3) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is another book from my teen years which influenced me to want to be a writer. I love the way the author used the voice of a young girl to examine a very serious topic and also managed to keep the book lighthearted at times.

4) How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. I preferred this to his more famous, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." It's a simple but profound read guaranteed to uplift your faith in God and yourself, full of sound advice and true stories.

5) The "Little House" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is a series rather than an individual book, but I thought I'd group them all as one. I love the beauty of timelessness of her prose. I love it that she wrote about her experiences to benefit the world. She helped inspire me with a revelation of the happiness a writer can bring readers.

About Paula Vince

Paula is the author of four adult contemporary romance / drama novels as well as the Quenarden series, a young adult fantasy adventure trilogy.  Her most recent novel, Best Forgotten, was awarded the 2011 Caleb Prize for faith inspired fiction.  You can connect with her at her blog, It Just Occurred To Me.  She also contributes at Christian Writers Downunder and International Christian Fiction Writers.

Carrie Fancett Pagels

Five Fiction Books That Have Influenced Me

By Carrie Fancett Pagels

I moved to South Carolina when I was seventeen and graduated high school there. The people seemed to be reliving the Civil War. I didn’t understand how the people who lost in this terrible war had such a totally different perspective on things than I did growing up in the far north. This fictionalized account was the best popular fiction I had ever read. My high school English teacher could not believe I had read the entire book, when I turned in the book report.  I had to do an oral report with her up front.  It was a medium, not advanced, level class and the other students read books a fraction of the size. It seemed sad to me that probably most of them would never in their lifetime read this masterpiece of Southern literature.

After reading this book, I wanted to become a writer.  I even wrote in the back of my book so I could marry Anne to Gilbert and I gave them three children!  I did not know, until I was an adult, that she had an entire series.  I read them all and loved them.  Growing up in the frozen northland, but living in a gorgeous part of the upper peninsula of Michigan, I felt that L.M. Montgomery understood what it was to live there. And she “got” how children felt.  This story of how instead of a boy a girl is sent to help on a farm touched on issues of gender preferences and the impact on children. It also showed how what we think we want isn’t always what we need.

I read this as an adult, wondering why so many Americans, including my husband, were so crazy about Louis L’Amour.  I ended the read going “wow” and listened to many other of his stories.  This one, though, which includes the original Sackett characters in England, was amazing and had a different tone to it than his later books.  It is really a book about immigrants and the stories they carry with them – something that resonates deeply with me in my writing. After listening to Sackett’s Land, I felt I’d found someone (a man!) who had a similar author’s voice as mine.  That felt a little weird, but I have come to think it is all okay!  

Brock and Bodie Thoene’s Warsaw Requiem, which I read in the first edition which I believe was Bethany in 1991.     

The attention to detail in the book was phenomenal. The couple combined both an amazing historical story and strong romance with strong voice. Unparalleled commitment within the Christian fiction community, until recently with Liz Curtis Higgs, to digging up the facts and including them seamlessly within the story.

This was a book of the heart. The author has a haunting poetic voice. Characterization is amazing, storyline wonderful, and historic details rich with a beautiful romance, too.  I had been working on my own colonial American story set in Kentucky and Virginia when I first “met” Laura when looking for comparable works to my own. We are celebrating our one year blogiversary on Colonial Quills this week. Laura has been an encouragement in my own writing and helped found the group that hosts this blog.

About Carrie Fancett Pagels

Carrie Fancett Pagels, is Owner/Administrator of Overcoming Through Time - With God's Help. Carrie writes "romantic" historical fiction, often with colonial and frontier Americans overcoming their limitations, with God's help. She is represented by Joyce Hart, CEO of Hartline Literary Agency.

Carrie is the Zone Director for the MidAtlantic Region of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is the founder of the Colonial American Fiction Writers Yahoo Group and owner and administrator of the Colonial Quills group blog. Carrie is a columnist for the My book Therapy E-zine.
Thank you so much, Paula & Carrie, for taking the time to be with us today, and sharing these wonderful books that have impacted your lives.
Friends, please come back on Thursday as we're giving away one of Paula's books!
There's only a day and a half left to vote in the Best Australian Blog Awards.  If you haven't already voted for us, and would like to, we'd greatly appreciate the support :) (Voting Instructions)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Morning Musings: Reading Habits

I've just finished another Christian historical fiction novel - my favourite genre. As soon as I put it down, I thought, "Right.  I'm done with that for a while.  I need something else."

Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing - tiring yourself out on a particular genre, even your favourite kind?  Or do you generally mix things up so you don't come up against this problem?

So right now I'm deciding what to pick up next.  The other genres I am known to read are YA, a little Christian contemporary (chick-lit or romance) and self-help books.  Should I try something different? Aside from the Left Behind Series, I've never really been into speculative.  Should I read some secular novels for a change? They used to be the only thing I read, but in the last year since I discovered Christian fiction, I'd be lucky to have read two.  As for self-help ... I always have one of those going along side whatever fiction I'm reading anyway.  And it's easy to get "information overload" when I read too many of those in a short space of time!

For sure, the next book I pick up is going to be contemporary.  Looking at my to-read pile, that narrows it down to romance, romance and ... oh look, there is a secular YA in the pile - romance, of course.  Here's the list I'm choosing from:

Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones

After reading "There You'll Find Me" - I decided I just have to read more from Jenny.  This one is a 2012 Rita finalist in the Inspirational Romance category.

Flawless by Lara Chapman

This is my secular pick, which I selected from the list of 2012 RITA Young Adult Romance finalists.

Back to Resolution by Rose Dee

This one is by an Aussie Christian author, and I've heard lots of good things about it.

Hmmm ... what to do? What do you guys think?

Plus I'm interested to know - how do you pick your next book to read?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Book Giveaway: Signed Sealed Delivered by Rita Stella Galieh

Hi Folks!

Time for another giveaway :) This time we have up for grabs a Christian historical fiction by Australian author, Rita Stella Galieh.  Rita was a guest on our blog on Tuesday, sharing with us five books that have impacted her life.

Megan Trevallyn, a young English governess, stands accused of a heinous crime. An added trauma is a fraudulent report which breaks her heart. Duplicity by those of the household, who stand to gain most by her transportation to a harsh penal colony in Australia, appears to determine the course of her tempestuous life. And stripped of everything, except her faith, upon her arrival she faces a daunting challenge. Will this be a land of promise...or perdition?

Book I of the Watermark Women Trilogy introduces those whose lives entwine with Megan's destiny. Cornelia Cantrell, the scheming mistress of the Mayfair mansion. Captain Charles Cantrell, her love. Lieutenant John Stafford, her nemesis. Ezra Montefiore, an ardent suitor. And her Christian mentor, Caroline Chisholm, the bane of all who practice excessive adherence to rules and regulations in the new colony. 

How to Enter
To enter the competition, all you need to do is complete the form below. See our policies page for further conditions.
Entries close 12pm Tuesday 8th May, Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Optional Extra Entries!
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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.