Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Distant Heart by Tracey Bateman - Review

Distant Heart (Westward Hearts Series #2)by Tracey Bateman
softcover, 2008, Avon Inspire
ISBN 9780061246340
264 pgs.

In this second book in the Westward Hearts series, will the promise of a new life out west heal the scars of Toni's past?

This series tells the stories of three strong women as they struggle to survive on the rough wagon train and lose their hearts to unlikely heroes along the way. Think Little House on the Prairie meets Francine River's Redeeming Love and you begin to get a sense of the riveting historical series that Tracey Bateman has created.

In this second installment, we follow Toni Rodden, a former prostitute who sought to escape her past and build a new life, and a new reputation, when she joined the wagon train. Despite much resentment and distrust from the other women, Toni has finally earned a place on the wagon train and found a surrogate family in Fannie Caldwell and her two siblings. For the first time in her life, Toni actually feels free.

But while Toni once harbored dreams that her new life might include a husband and family, she soon realizes the stigma that comes with her past is difficult to see beyond and that she'll never be truly loved or seen as worthy. As the trip out west begins to teach her to survive on her own, she resolves to make her own living as a seamstress when the train finally reaches Oregon.

But despite Toni's conviction that no man will be able to see beyond her marred past, Sam Two-Feathers, the wagon scout and acting preacher for the train seems to know of a love that forgives sins and values much more than outward appearances. Will Sam have the confidence to declare his love? Will Toni be able to trust in a God that can forgive even the darkest past? Faith, love, and courage will be put to the test in Distant Heart.

Tracey Bateman is the award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including Defiant Heart, the first in the Westward Hearts series. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and recently served on the board as President. She lives in Lebanon, Montana, with her husband and their four children.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Shadow of Treason by Tricia Goyer - Review/Interview

A Shadow of Treason (Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War, Book 2)
by Tricia Goyer
softcover, 2007, Moody Publishers
ISBN 0802467687
288 pgs.

In A Shadow of Treason Sophie discovers that nothing is as she first imagined. When Walt, the reporter who helped her over the border, shows up again after Guernica is bombed, Sophie is given an impossible mission. She must leave behind the man she's fallen in love with and return to the person who betrayed her. Another layer of the war in Spain is revealed as Sophie is drawn into the international espionage schemes that could turn the tide of the war and help protect the soldiers from the International Brigade ... she must find a way to get a critical piece of information to Walt in time.


Q: A Shadow of Treason follows A Valley of Betrayal. This is the first time you've written books as a series instead of stand alone. Which way do you like better?

A: I love writing in series. It was great to continue with the same characters. In my stand-alone books I fell in love with these people and then I had to say good-bye after one book. It was wonderful to be able to continue on.

Q: In A Shadow of Treason Sophie must return to the person who betrayed her in an effort to help the Spanish people. It makes the book hard to put down because the reader has to know how Sophie's heart will deal with it. Why did you decide to make this an element of the book?

A: There are very few of us who go through life without giving away a part of our hearts to someone who didn't deserve it. Even though Sophie had the best intentions, she gave away her heart and she was hurt-not only that she must revisit those emotions.

I wanted to include this element-to delve into the topic that emotions are sometimes as big of a trap as any physical cage. Emotions are real and they guide us -- even when we don't want to admit it. Poor Sophie, not only does she have to deal with a war around her -- she also has to deal with a war within herself. It's something I've battled, and mostly likely others have too.

Q: There is an interesting element that arises in this book and that is Spanish gold. I know you can't tell us what happens in this book, but can you give us a brief history of this gold?

A: Sure. When I was researching I came upon something interesting. The Spaniards, as we know, had taken much Aztec and Inca gold during the time of the conquistadors. Well, at the start of The Spanish Civil War much of this gold was still held in Madrid. In fact Spain had the fourth largest gold reserves in the world at that time. The Republican government was afraid Franco would take the city and the gold. They had to get it out of Madrid and this included transporting priceless artifacts. The element of gold does make its way into my story. It was great to include this little-known (and true!) element into my story.

Q: Another historical fact I learned about was the Nazi involvement during this time. Not only were the Germans active in Spain, but they had spy networks busy around the world. How did you find out about this?

A: I love reading tons of research books. Usually I find one little element that I dig out and turn into a plot line. This is what happened with my plot-line for the Nazi pilot, Ritter. I dug up this bit of research of Nazi involvement in Spain -- and the United States -- because a lot of people aren't aware of the Nazi involvement prior to WWII. The truth is they were busy at work getting the land, information, and resources they needed far before they threatened the nations around them. The Germans knew what they wanted and how to get it. And most of the time they succeeded!

Q: A Shadow of Treason is Book Two. When will Book Three be out? Can you give us a hint of how the story continues?

A: Book Three is A Whisper of Freedom. It will be out February 2008. The characters that we love are all still in the midst of danger at the end of Book Two. Book Three continues their stories as we follow their journeys in -- and (for a few) out -- of Spain. It's an exciting conclusion to the series!

Q: Wow, so we have a least one more fiction book to look forward to in the near future. Are you working on any non-fiction?

A: Yes, I have two non-fiction books that will be out the early part of 2008. Generation NeXt Marriage is a marriage book for today's couples. It talks about our marriage role models, our struggles, and what we're doing right as a generation. It also gives advice for holding it together.

I've also been privileged to work on the teen edition of Max Lucado's book 3:16. It was a great project to work on. What an honor!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Perilous Proposal by Michael Phillips - Review

A Perilous Proposal (Carolina Cousins #1) by Michael Phillips paperback, 2005, Bethany House Publishers
352 pages
ISBN: 0764200410

Reading A Perilous Proposal reopened my eyes to the struggle made by the slaves of the south to gain their freedom – something they never allowed themselves to dream.

Jake a young black man in the south. Though a slave on a plantation, he is fortunate to still remain with his parents. One day the owner changes that, and with his decision, changes Jake’s life forever.

Years later the War Between the States looms on the horizon, and slaves everywhere start to allow glimmers of hope for a life like they have never known. Jake’s Ma makes him vow to search for the father who disappeared so long ago. But the anger that has been building in Jake for all these years towards a father that was never there, takes Jake on a perilous journey through a war torn south.

Finding love with a young woman, a former slave, Jake starts to find peace. But pieces of her and Jake’s past are not far behind, and their love is tested. Will Jake be able to forgive his Father and move on?

Mr. Phillips story kept the pages turning, as I was taken back to a different time and life. I enjoyed the real life characters as well as the events happening during the Civil War. A Perilous Proposal is a companion to the series Carolina Cousins – Shenandoah Sisters.

A Fire Within by Kathleen Morgan - Review/Interview

A Fire Within (These Highland Hills, Book 3) by Kathleen Morgan
Paperback, 2007, Revell
320 pages
ISBN: 0800759656

Immersed deep in the Scottish highlands, Kathleen Morgan takes us on her third and final journey into the Campbell clan. Surrounded by the rugged and beautiful Scottish country we are taken back to a time of castles and highland honor, a time of romance and danger.

Caitlin Campbell listens to her heart more then her head and in the past it has caused her pain. Extending the highland code of hospitality, she invites two men to stay at the home of her brother, Niall, chief of the Clan Campbell. Struggling to let God control her life, Caitlin’s world spins out of control when she is abducted.

Darach MacNaghten and his cousin travel under assumed names deep into Clan Campbell in an attempt to rescue his brother. Although he has been banished from his own outlawed clan he fights to save the Clan MacNaghten and resort honor to its name. When Darach realizes his rescue attempt is impossible he makes one last desperate effort and takes Caitlin as a hostage.

Will Caitlin finally let God control her life? Can Darach put his trust in God and realize His plans are much larger then his own? Can these two make it through the Scottish highlands will fighting their attraction for each other?

Kathleen Morgan once again captures our minds and hearts in this delightful tale of Highland romance.

Questions & Answers with Kathleen Morgan

Gail: What is your favorite part of Caitlin and Darach’s story?
Kathleen: The way they grew personally for the better as they met and overcame each new challenge, and began to fall in love.

Gail: I love your website! The Scottish look is perfect. Anything that has to do with castles and Scotland has me intrigued. In fact one of the many pacts my twin sister and I have made is to one day get to Scotland and see the castles. This brings me to my next question. Have you ever been to Scotland?
Kathleen: Nope, never been to Scotland, but like you and your sister, I want to go someday. In the meanwhile, I use my extensive library of Scottish related book, along with some good Scottish music that I listen to on my computer, to stimulate my imagination.

Gail: What got you interested in writing books that take place in Scotland?
Kathleen: Scottish history is so full of drama, pathos, a wild, romantic land, and a people who stir the heart and imagination. Plus, I’ve got Gaelic blood in me and och, when the bagpipes play!

Gail: On your website we can read that you play the Celtic harp. What got you interested in that particular instrument and however did you find a teacher?
Kathleen: A lot of Gaelic music includes the Celtic harp. Plus, I love string instruments, and a harp has lots of strings J. Plus, I’ve never been known to do anything by half measures, and so, when it came to learning to play an instrument, I picked one of the hardest ones to learn to play. As far as teachers go, I was lucky to live in a large enough town to possess several harp teachers.

Gail: A Fire Within is the 3rd in your series, These Highland Hills. Is this the last book in this series or do you see more coming?
Kathleen: At present, A Fire Within is the final book in the series. From the start, I’d only planned on doing three books—Anne, Iain, and Caitlin’s story. Of course, I’ve also learned never to say never.

Gail: I just finished a fantasy series not too long ago. I see that you have a series started called Guardians of Gadiel and plans to start the next two in the series in 2008. Can you tell us more about it?
Kathleen: I love fantasy for its potential to depict a lot of today’s problems and issues in another time and place and, in the doing, hopefully make some point in a less threatening and preachy, but even more powerful, way. I also love the freedom fantasy gives me to create new lands, peoples, history, and conflicts without the usual historical constraints.

Even before I began writing Giver of Roses, the first book in the series, I plotted out the entire three book series. It just came to me so clearly. Though I knew it would have a love story (or even several J) in it, I also wanted not to so easily conclude that primary love story right away, like I usually do in my historical romances. I sought a new challenge—to develop the characters of Vartan and Danae (well, especially them anyway) over the space of three books, as they struggle not only with their love for each other, but also with their own, unique, God-inspired callings in addition to the bigger challenge of saving a realm—Gadiel—from the clutches of evil.

Gail: To you, what are the worst and best aspects of writing?
Kathleen: Best aspects: the excitement of a story that you just have to tell and can’t wait to get onto the page. Also, the often surprising revelations of plot and character as they evolve in the writing process, and the spiritual truths and insights that I personally gain in the writing of these stories.
Worst aspects: Writer’s block. Writing in the vacuum that all authors cannot help but experience, the not knowing if even the slightest vision of the story will find a place on the written pages, or if even one reader will understand that vision, much less like the finished book. Also, the need to keep yourself motivated through all the doubts and fears and sometimes actual drudgery of the writing process.

Gail: Is there any advice you have for budding authors?
Kathleen: Fiction is a lot harder than non-fiction, and requires patience, perseverance, and the willingness to put in the work necessary to hone a craft. And you’d also better love writing and storytelling, because it’s frequently the only positive experience you’ll have, especially while trying to get published. There are lots of talented writers out there—most of them still unpublished. Unfortunately—or fortunately—it takes more than just talent to succeed, much less survive, in this business.

Gail: Now for some fun questions, I love romance, so can you tell us how you met your husband?
Kathleen: I met my husband while on active duty in the Army as a nurse. My sister was trying to set me up with another guy for a blind date for New Year’s Eve. My future husband came along because the other guy (we all met at the Officer’s Club) asked him to as a possible out for him if he didn’t like me. Though that guy eventually gave my husband the signal that it was safe for him to leave (imagine that!), by then I was so taken with my husband that I didn’t want him to go. Luckily, I met my husband (the other guy didn’t win any points with me, I’m afraid) a few more times at the Officer’s Club in the ensuing weeks, and we ended up going out on our first date on New Year’s Eve. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, looking back now, I realize it was the closest thing to love at first site that I’d ever experienced. And all because he was so friendly, and kind, and laughed a lot. He just came across as a great, sincere guy.

Gail: Caramel vs. Chocolate. Which would you pick in a crisis?
Kathleen: Most definitely chocolate, either dark chocolate or a very rich, creamy milk chocolate. Caramel is too sweet for my tastes. Makes my teeth hurt just thinking of it. J Oh yes, and I don’t need a crisis to eat chocolate. I don’t have a strong sweet tooth, so a little bit goes a long way with me.

Thanks so much for the wonderful interview Kathleen, we look forward to reading more of you!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Two Book Giveaways!

This month we are offering two free books. Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant and The Shepherd's Prayer by Richard M. Barry.

It's easy to enter! Simply post a comment in the comment section under their specific reviews and you are automatically entered into the drawing for that book. If you'd like a chance at winning both, be sure to post a comment for both books.

Winners will be notified on December 31st.

Remember that you need to post your email address so that we can notify you if you are a winner. We've had winners before and no way to contact them! If you are uncomfortable posting your email address on the blog, you can also email Paula at instead.

Have fun!

The Shepherd's Prayer - Review

The Shepherds' Prayer: A Christmas Novel by Richard M. Barry
hardcover, 2006, RM Barry Publications
ISBN 0976729059
127 pgs.

The horror of screaming babies, hysterical mothers and grief ridden fathers turns a tranquil night in Bethlehem into utter chaos. Roman soldiers ride through the streets, stealing the lives of innocent babies - at the demand of a jealous king.

One mother, her son clutched to her chest, grabs a soldier’s horse in an attempt to escape. But in the fight for her son’s life, she loses her own. The horse rolls down an embankment, crushes her and orphans a lambskin-wrapped baby boy.

Thirty years later, Anam is surrounded by the loving family who found him. His brothers are happily married and producing heirs and his father is enjoying the blessing of many grandchildren. But Aman’s thoughts aren’t focused on finding a wife and adding to the family. His heart is still searching for a place he feels whole.

The circumstances of his birth and family still linger in his mind along with the lambskin and the mysterious words written into the tanned hide: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to men of good will, through Jesus Christ, who was born of Mary in a stable in Bethlehem and who, wrapped in swaddling clothes, was in a manger, he who is Savior of the world. Aman decides it's time he found out what happened.

Through the story of Aman and his quest, I found myself drawn back in time to Bethlehem. I began to wonder what it must have been like for the people of Bethlehem during such a tragic time. What really happened after the slaughter? How did the town’s people view the shepherds who brought the news of Jesus birth and, as a result, send Herod into a jealous rage? How did they view Christ?

Richard M. Barry does a wonderful job in creating a man looking for answers. A man who becomes one of the greatest names in Biblical history.

Richard M. Barry is an author, publisher, inventor, entrepreneur and committed Christian, wrote The Shepherds' Prayer to help disseminate the untold story of the Bethlehem shepherds of the Bible. A labor of love, the inspiring story of tragedy, suffering faith, hope and triumphant vindication took nine years to complete.