Friday, July 18, 2008

Home is Where the Mom Is by Shelly Burke, R.N.

Home is Where the Mom Is by Shelly Burke, R.N.
softcover, Shelmar Publications, 2003
ISBN: 0972384200
366 pgs.

Shelly Burke touches the heart of all mom's when writing this book. She knows from experience how important it is for mom's to care for their family, others, and themselves to make a Christian home run smoothly. Home is Where the Mom Is is a thick, comprehensive book filled to the brim with expert advice on nearly everything a mom faces on a daily basis.

Home is Where the Mom Is is broken into three sections. Section One teaches the importance of taking care of yourself -not in a self-centered 'let-me-shop-till-I-drop' mindset, but in caring for your spirit, your mind, and your body. She opens her first chapter by graciously teaching that developing a personal relationship with God is the first area to turn your attention to.

Section Two covers the area of caring for others. Again Mrs. Burke hits the nail on the head when whe explains that caring for others is not only important but biblical. The section is divided into five chapters that address caring for your marriage, your children, your family and extended family, and for your friends.

Organizing life is a hurdle many of us struggle with. Section Three appropriately brings this area of our lives to the surface and addresses issues like organizing your time, your days, your home, and your finances head on.

Shelly Burke does an excellent job covering everything from praying for our husbands to eating healthy and conquering paperwork-and all from a refreshing God-centered focus. This would be a wonderful addition to any family library.

Shelly has had articles published in many magazines, including RN, Nursing, The Nebraska Nurse, Livestock Plus, Childbirth Instructor, Baby Magazine, and Woman’s Day. She is currently the State Editor for Nebraska Family Times.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Having A Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver - Review

Having a Mary Heart in A Martha World: Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Life by Joanna Weaver
hardcover, reprinted 2007, Waterbrook Press
ISBN: 9781400074037

I was surprised at how quickly Joanna Weaver jumped into my head. I'd barely begun reading chapter one and suddenly my own thoughts were appearing in published form. As Joanne retold the biblical story of Mary and Martha, two sisters with very different approaches on how best to serve the Lord when He is a guest in their home, she puts into words the struggle so many women face - the "Martha" mindset.

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World is best summed up in a simple reminder Joanna fives us. "The world clamors , 'Do more! Be all that you can be!' But our Father whispers, 'Be still and know that I am God.'" The Martha in us becomes overwhelmed with duties, 'to do' lists, responsibilities, and our own daily calenders. With the three Deadly D's: distraction, discouragement, and doubt in Satan's arsenal, it's not hard for us to become envious and even irritated with the Marys out there.

Why? Because Marys stop to smell the roses. Marys take time to read their Bibles consistently. Marys listen to that deep yearning to 'be still' and know who God is. The Martha in us feels that same yearning, but it's only added to our lists and continually pushed aside in favor of more immediate concerns.

Joanna's book is one of the very few I've seen on the market that addresses our innermost
thoughts, desires, and struggles between the Martha side of us and the Mary. She addresses the hazards of chronic worry - that nail-biting thought that usually starts out small and ends with a box of tissue and deep agitation. As Joanna so effectively puts it, "If my God isn't bigger than life, then my life is bigger than God and that's when anxiety takes over."

"It all goes back", she says, "to what God desires". I felt a thrill when I read that. So many authors play around that one truth - she meets it head on. And what does God desire. He wants us to serve Him, right? Yes, but our first priority is that one thing we all crave whether we realize it or not: true intimacy and fellowship with God.

Joanna gives several examples and ways to accomplish this: put true worship before work, do not make worship, prayer, and Bible study items to be checked off a list but let them become the things we do because we delight in Him. We do that by simply coming before Him. Put aside the check lists, the schedules, and the emotional upsets.

"Be still and know that I am God."

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World does an absolutely excellent job in getting to the heart of the issue, in pushing aside all the other distractions, and coming face to face with what God desires. This book has become one that will forever be a part of my bookshelf and one I'll turn to again and again. The book also includes a 12 week companion Bible study and here is a link to the reader's guide.

Joanna Weaver was voted the Most Promising New Writer of 1997 at the Mount Herman Writer's Conference. She has authored Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World and written for publications such as Focus on the Family, Home Life, Aspire, and The Evangel.

A pastor's wife for more than eighteen years, she and her husband have counseled many couples, both those approaching their wedding and those struggling in marriage.

The Weavers live in Montana and have taught young married classes and spoken on the topic of marriage throughout the northwestern United States.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Mission: Russia - series by Susan May Warren - Review

I have always enjoyed a good Christian thriller, but I was surprised how riveted I was in the series Mission: Russia by Susan May Warren. I have read the first 2 and am excitedly awaiting the release of the third book, due to come out June 1st, 2008.

In Sheep's Clothing (Mission: Russia #1)
by Susan May Warren
Softcover, Steeple Hill, 2005
ISBN 0373785445
336 pages

In the first book In Sheep’s Clothing Gracie is ending her two year stay in Russia discouraged and convinced of her failure as a missionary. Days before her flight home, Gracie discovers her friends murdered in their apartment. Scared and seemingly abandoned in a country where the powerful prey on the weak, Gracie uncovers a Russia she never knew existed. At the mercy of the Russian KGB agent investing the case, Gracie can only turn to God for peace.

Vicktor Shubnikov, has reasons of his own to be interested in the murder surrounding Gracie. Victor has spent years chasing the illusion of a man called Wolf, getting close but never close enough. He slipped through Vicktor’s fingers once before, and it’s only a matter of time before he kills again.

Together with a group of friends Gracie and Vicktor struggle to discover the medical secret Wolf is after before they lose their hearts to each other or Gracie’s life to the Wolf.

Sands of Time (Mission: Russia #2)
by Susan May Warren
Softcover, Steeple Hill, 2006
ISBN 0373785682
304 pages

In the second book, Sands of Time, we follow Sarai Curtiss who has been in Russia for the past two years as a medical missionary. When the son of Govenor Bednov dies of an unexplainable sickness and a village child dies a few days later of the same sickness, Sarai is determined to discover what is going on.

Complications arise as Govenor Bednov; a former Communist and his party, overthrow the government in a bloody coup. He demands that all foreigners leave under punishment of death, but Sarai is dedicated to the hospital she has worked so hard establishing and the mystery of the sickness that has killed 2 children already.

In enters Cobra Captain Roman Novik, a man who broke Sarai’s heart 13 years ago. He’s familiar with Sarai’s stubbornness and will stop at nothing to see to her safety – even if it means going AWOL and facing prison if he’s found out.
Roman and Sarah race against time to unravel a mystery while Russia unravels around them.

Here is a summary from Ms. Warren website of the third book in the series entitled Wiser Than Serpents due to come out June 1, 2008.

Wiser Than Serpents (Mission: Russia #3)
by Susan May Warren
softcover, Steeple Hill, 2008
ISBN 0373786204
352 pages

When her sister vanishes into a human slave ring, FSB agent Yanna Andrevka is determined to rescue her. Unfortuantely, she's in over her head, with no way out, especially after destroying the undercover operation of Delta Force Operative David Curtiss, who is deep undercover in the Twin Serpents crime syndicate. David has his hands full trying to save Yanna, and his operation -- one that could rescue hundreds of women from the Serpent, or cost he and Yanna their lives. The thrilling next chapter of the Mission:Russia series!

Susan May Warren grew up in Wayzata, Minnesota and lives once again in Minnesota after she and her Husband and four children served as missionaries in Khabarovsk, Russia. You can find her at

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sarah, My Beloved by Sharlene MacLaren - Review & Interview

Sarah My Beloved (Little Hickman Creek Series #2)
by Sharlene MacLaren
softcover, 2007, Whitaker House
ISBN: 088368425X
365 pages

Sarah Woodward was no stranger to making the best of difficult situations. Whether it was leaving her life of ease behind to traveling to Little Hickman, Kentucky as a soon-to-be-bride, or finding out the man she was supposed to marry was marrying another. Sarah is determined to stay come fire or storm, positive God wants her there.

And fire and storm do come in the form of Rocky Callahan. Left to take care of his deceased sister’s children, Rocky is battling pain of his own. Having no use for God or anyone else, Rocky is as cold and hard as his name.

Sarah has little use for a man who is as heartless to his niece and nephew as Rocky seems to be, but when he offers a solution to Sarah’s problem and his own, can she marry a man who hides behind such a gruff exterior? Agreeing to a marriage in name only, Sarah and Rocky embark on a marriage that will take both their determination and God’s to make work.

Sharlene MacLaren pulled me into Sarah’s story with the first few lines. I admired Sarah’s determination to stay in a place where she knew no one because she felt God had called her there. If not for the original reason she thought, then for another she had yet to discover. Just that fact about Sarah made me want to finish the story. But when you throw in a man who desperately needs to return to God’s love, and two adorable children, I couldn’t put the book down.

Sarah My Beloved is the second book in the Little Hickman Creek Series.

A Christian for over forty years, and a lover of the English language, Shar has always enjoyed dabbling in writing—poetry, fiction, various essays, and freelancing for periodicals and newspapers.

Shar is a an occasional speaker for her local MOPS organization, is involved in KIDS’ HOPE USA, a mentoring program for at-risk children, counsels young women in the Apples of Gold program, and is active in two weekly Bible studies. She and her husband, Cecil, live in Spring Lake, Michigan with their lovable collie, Dakota, and Mocha, their lazy, fat cat.
Questions & Answers with Sharlene MacLaren

Gail: Sarah, the main character in the book, feels God has led her to Little Hickman for a reason. Do you feel there is an area in your life God has called you to?
Sharlene: ABSOLUTELY! Back in the year 2000, when I was just a couple of years away from retirement, God laid it on my heart to pursue writing Christian fiction. I know this is my “calling” as I’m very passionate about it, and I love spreading the Gospel message through the written word. I feel like I’m serving on my own little mission field, but I’m doing it from the comforts of my office.

Gail: Writers usually leave a little bit of themselves in each character; does Sarah have a bit of you in her?
Sharlene:Well, I’m not sure Sarah and I have the same personalities, but we probably have a few likenesses. I think it’s hard for an author to distance herself completely from her characters.

Gail: What are you currently working on?
Sharlene: Now that my Little Hickman Creek series is complete, all three books, that is, I’m working on my next series titled The Daughters of Jacob Kane. This will start releasing in January ’09 and has a West Michigan 1903-06 setting.

Gail: Romance has always been a favorite for you, and it looks like on your website you have been married for a long time. Share with us, if you will, a little bit about the romance in your own life.
Sharlene: God has blessed me with a wonderful, handsome (and I’m not prejudiced here), romantic man! We’ve enjoyed 32 years together and the love is still very much alive and cookin’. He does the sweetest things for me, and I suppose I reciprocate. We love to serve each other. Not a day goes by but what we don’t ask, “Is there something I can do for you – or get you?” Marriage should never be 50/50. It should always be 100/100!

Gail: You recently retired from teaching school. What grade did you teach?
Sharlene: I taught 2nd grade for 27 years and 4th for the final 4. It was a glorious experience. I love kids. They are just the best thing on earth, so funny, cute, and entertaining. Plus, they are sponges when it comes to learning.

Gail: When did you seriously start pursuing writing?
Sharlene: As I touched on earlier, I started writing shortly before retirement – in the year 2000. I pled with God to give me a new direction for my life, and he planted a seed of passion in my heart for writing. That seed has grown and continued to blossom ever since.

Gail: Tell us if you can, one bad habit, if you have any!
Sharlene: Only one??? Well, let’s see, to narrow it down – I do love chocolate to a fault, and actually all things fattening and not good for me. I’m blessed not to have gained a lot of weight because of my lack of self-discipline when it comes to my poor eating habits.

Gail: You traveled internationally after college, where was you favorite place?
Sharlene: Yes, I traveled throughout the US and parts of Canada – way back in the mid-70s. Now I’m truly dating myself. It’s hard to pin down my all-time favorite place because every state we visited (including lovely Canada) had so, so many unique aspects. We spent the longest period in California (three weeks), so I think my memories are freshest of that state, but then we breezed through the lovely state of Vermont, and I recall its lush, green countryside with such fondness. And Kansas – what I loved about Kansas was the WIDE-OPEN SPACES, how big the sky seemed to me. Of course, I love Florida – the palm trees, the gorgeous beaches, the tropical flowers, the HEAT! Oh, and Arizona with its miles of desert and interesting cactus and other desert life.

Nope, I can’t narrow it down. It’s impossible.

Gail: Being a wife, mom, grandma, and involved in all sorts of activities, when do you find time to write?
Sharlene: I have to carve out time, sometimes even force myself to write when other things press in on me. Writing with deadlines makes an author realize how precious time truly is, and how very little of it can be spent sitting on a sofa watching TV. haha

Gail: What is something about you that most people don’t know?
Sharlene: I think of myself as an open book. I love to laugh till my sides hurt, both with others and at myself. I think we are funny creatures, we humans, and if we can’t laugh at the silly things we do and say, we lose so much of life’s meaning.

I love romance movies, books with happy endings, watching people fall in love, good music, heartrending poetry, candy, holding hands with my darling man, hugging my grandchildren and daughters, sweet kisses, smiles, and reading the Word of God.

Every night without fail, no matter what time I come to bed, I read several chapters of my Bible. I love soaking up God’s precious Word, having that be the last thing on my mind before I close my eyes.
Thanks Sharlene for letting us get to know you better!

Gail Quistorff

Monday, April 21, 2008

Change and Cherish Series by Jane Kirkpatrick - Review

A Clearing in the Wild (Change and Cherish Historical Series #1)
by Jane Kirkpatrick
softcover, 2006, Waterbrook Press
ISBN: 1578567343
384 pgs.

Spirited young Emma Wagner chafes at the constraints of her 1850s religious community, which values conformity over independent thought, especially in women. Skeptical of the colony’s growing emphasis on preparing for “the last days,” Emma clashes with their increasingly autocratic leader—and faces the unexpected consequences of pursuing independence.

A Tendering in the Storm (Change and Cherish Historical Series #2)
by Jane Kirkpatrick
softcover, 2007, Waterbrook Press
ISBN: 1578567351
400 pgs.

This lyrical novel, based on an historical figure of the 1800s, follows the spirited and intelligent Emma Giesy, who achieves her goal of separating her family from the repressive religious community in which she grew up. But unexpected and dire consequences leave her family—and her faith—struggling to survive.

A Mending at the Edge (Change and Cherish Historical Series #3)
by Jane Kirkpatrick
softcover, 2008, Waterbrook Press
ISBN: 1578569796
416 pgs.

This richly textured novel, the third in the acclaimed Change and Cherish series, follows the historical figure of Emma Wagner Giesy, who chafes under the restrictions of her 1860s religious colony. When her bid to belong in her unique way unravels her most precious relationships, she seeks new ways to stitch meaning into her life.

Jane Kirkpatrick is the best-selling author of two nonfiction books and fourteen historical novels, including the popular Kinship and Courage series. Her award-winning writing has appeared in more than fifty publications, including Sports Afield and Decision. She’s won the coveted Western Heritage Wrangler Award, an honor shared by such writers as Larry McMurtry and Barbara Kingsolver. Jane is a licensed clinical social worker as well as an internationally recognized speaker. She and her husband, Jerry, ranch 160 acres in eastern Oregon .

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

American Patriot Series by J.M. Hochstetler

Plunging us into American history, J.M. Hochstetler recreates the tensions between the British and the colonies in 1775 Boston.

Daughter of Liberty (American Patriot Series, Book 1)
by J.M. Hochstetler
Softcover, 2004, Zondervan
ISBN: 0310252563
368 pages

In the series' first book Daughter of Liberty, Elizabeth Howard finds herself torn between honoring her parents and their Tory loyalties and fighting for the country she loves. An undercover courier known only as Oriole, Elizabeth finds a freedom of her own helping her country and the Sons of Liberty.

But danger awaits her with the arrival of Captain Jonathan Carelton who fights for the Seventeenth Light Dragoon – and England. Working side by side with General Gage, Captain Carelton’s special assignment is finding and stopping Oriole. Staying in the town house of the Howard family he finds himself intrigued by their charming daughter Elizabeth.

Elizabeth flirts with chance as she charms the British soldiers on one side and gathers information from them with the other. Struggling against the mutual attraction between Captain Carelton and herself, she fights to keep her head above the waters of growing confrontations between the British Regulators and the Sons of Liberty.

Native Son (Book 2, American Patriot Series)
by J.M Hochstetler
softcover, 2005, Zondervan
ISBN: 0310252571
320 pages

In the second book Native Son, Jonathan has given his heart to Elizabeth and his loyalties to General George Washington. Elizabeth continues to balance her days charming the English and her nights hazardously slipping away to give their secrets to the Sons of Liberty.

But war and special assignments from General Washington keep Jonathan and Elizabeth apart. Carelton undertakes a journey into hostile Indian territory and find himself captured and a slave. Fighting to get away and he finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into his past life with the Shawnee.

Meanwhile Elizabeth must remain behind continuing her work as a spy. Her dance between the two enemies becomes more dangerous as her identity is compromised. Receiving word of Jonathan’s capture and possible death she is desperate for a way to find him. Then suddenly word begins to spread among the British of a white warrior leading raids against their outposts.

Ms. Hochstetler weaves the fascinating story of the early outbreak of war in the colonies. In that tale we find a love that is found, lost, and fighting to survive amidst all that is happening. I look forward to the 3rd book in this series.

Ms. Hochstetler was born in central Indiana and grew up on a farm near Kokomo. In 1970 she graduated from Indiana University cum laude, taking a degree in Germanic languages, with minors in history and sociology. She moved to Tennessee in 1992.

Gail Quistorff

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Excellent Wife

The Excellent Wife: A Biblical Perspective
by Martha Peace
paperback, Focus Publishing Inc.
257 pgs.

The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace has to be one of the most influential books I have ever read for women. It was first introduced to me by the ladies of our church when I was a newcomer, young wife, first-time mother, and a very self-reliant Christian - all of which was futile ground for the seeds of a 'modern womanhood' to take hold. I can only praise God for His working to bring such a humbling book to my attention at the perfect time in my life. Don't get me wrong, I've not reached the desired status of the Proverbs 31 woman simply by reading Martha's book - instead I've been shown just how very far I am from her!

Martha Peace has done what very few authors writing for women do: she's bluntly honest, convicting, humbling, and she asks questions and covers topics others tip toe around. All of this while being scripturally sound, organized and presented in an easy to understand and practical format.

I know, it sounds too good to be true, doesn't it. But no, Martha has taken the time to create chapters that covers what it means to be a biblical wife from all angles.

The Excellent Wife is divided into four parts. Part One - A Wife's Understanding covers understanding God, sin, relationships, marriage, and a wife's role. These chapters go in depth and give a good foundation to understanding who God is.

Part Two - A Wife's Responsibility gets into the area of the home and what a wife's responsibility is to her home and family. Other chapters in part two are bluntly honest about the choice to love our husbands, respect them, have sexual intimacy with them and learning the joy of being submissive. Yes, you read that right. The JOY of being a submissive wife. That was one area I always thought I was pretty good at. Not excellent, but passable. Can I laugh out loud now?

She lists ways wives are not submissive to their husbands by:

  • doing things that are annoying to him

  • not disciplining the children

  • more loyal to others than to him

  • arguing, pouting or giving the cold shoulder when you don't get your own way

  • spending over limits of the budget

  • correcting, interrupting or talking for him

  • manipulates with tears, begging, nagging, complaining, etc.

  • making important decisions without him

  • defies him purposely

  • worries about his decisions and 'takes matters into her own hands'

  • does not pay attention to what he says

All of these are followed with verses that convict as well as help remind you that when you are not submissive, you are not only unsubmissive to your husband but to God as well.

Part Three - A Wife's Submission goes deeper into this topic explains that being a submissive wife does not mean being a doormat, as many women argue. This section is important because of how the word 'submissive' has been trampled on by today's woman and literally thrown into their husband's faces. Martha effectively lists common questions and doesn't give pat answers.

Part Four - A Wife's Special Concerns brings up problem areas we face such as anger, impatience, anxiety, and loneliness. One of my favorite tools she uses throughout the book is the comparison charts. For example, she takes this thought: "How dare he 'snap' at me on his way out the door. He's not the only one who's had a bad day" and encourages you to replace it with a thought such as: "He doesn't usually 'snap' at me like that. I wonder if he's had a bad day or has a headache. What can I do to help?"

The Excellent Wife gets into heart issues. It's a book I've given many times as a wedding gift as it's one every wife should read. Martha Peace did an excellent job when she wrote a book that doesn't give wives the answers they wanted to hear, but the ones they need to hear. There is a study guide and a Teacher's Edition available as well.

Martha was born, raised, and educated in and around the Atlanta area. She became a Christian in June, 1979. Two years later, Martha ended her nursing career and began focusing her attention on her family and a ladies' Bible study class. For five years she taught verse-by-verse book studies. Then she received training and certification from the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors. N.A.N.C. was started by Dr. Jay Adams for the purpose of training and certifying the training of men and women as biblical counselors.

Martha is a gifted teacher and exhorter. She worked for eight years as a biblical counselor at the Atlanta Biblical Counseling Center where she counseled women, children, and teenagers. For the past five years she has presented workshops on various biblical counseling issues for women. She also instructed for 6 years at Carver Bible Institute and College where she taught women's classes including The Excellent Wife, Raising Kids Without Raising Cain, Introduction to Biblical Counseling, Advanced Biblical Counseling, Personal Purity, and The Book of Esther.

Martha is active with her family in Faith Bible Church located just outside Peachtree City, Georgia, where she teaches Children's Church and ladies' Bible study classes. In addition, she conducts seminars for ladies' groups .

Martha has been married to her high school sweetheart, Sanford Peace, since September 24th of 1966.

Paula Miller

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Reclaiming Nick & Taming Rafe by Susan May Warren - Review/Interview

Reclaiming Nick (Noble Legacy Series #1) by Susan May Warren
soft cover, 2006, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
ISBN 141431017X
370 pgs.

Nick Noble becomes a modern day prodigal son in Reclaiming Nick, Susan May Warren’s first novel in her Noble Legacy Series. Not only is Nick Noble covering a wounded heart, he’s also bitter at the turn of events concerning his family’s ranch, The Silver Buckle. Heading home to right the wrongs he feels have been done to him, the wounds of his past are reopened.

Piper Sullivan is a woman undercover, following Nick home and posing as a ranch cook. Although she can’t cook worth beans, she keeps up the farce hoping to force a confession from Nick’s past cop days and the brother he put behind bars.

Between the high emotion, the attempts to right perceived wrongs, and the attraction between two unlikely people, comes a story of restoration. Susan May Warren writes a powerful story with characters that live and breathe.
Paula Miller


Taming Rafe (Noble Legacy Series #2) by Susan May Warren
soft cover, 2007, Tyndale House Publishers
ISBN: 1414310188
400 pgs.

It takes 8 seconds to win fame, fortune and glory in the bull riding arena. But it takes less for Rafe Noble to lose everything he has worked for and more. Running from broken dreams and remorse over the loss of his friends' life, Rafe's behavior spirals out of control. Crashing his truck into a ritzy hotel he trashes the lobby and the fund-raising event inside. Broken and bitter he returns to his family's ranch to heal.

Katherine Breckenridge follows Rafe to Montana, furious with his careless behavior that cost her desperately needed funding to save her mother's bankrupt charity foundation. Katherine's determined to get money from him somehow, even if she has to wrangle it out of him. But nothing can prepare her for dealing with Rafe face-to-face. Hard as nails on the outside, Katherine is unprepared for the man she discovers.

Together they try to find a way to help Katherine's charity and uncover what happened to half a million dollars that mysteriously disappeared. As the seconds tick by Katherine's finds her life in danger and Rafe puts his own on the line for one last ride to save her, but will 8 seconds be enough?

Susan May Warren, kept me captivated in her book Taming Rafe. From the sweat-breaking adrenaline ride in the beginning to the taming of a tall, dark and handsome cowboy, I found myself breathlessly turning the pages to the end. After all who can resist a rugged dark-haired cowboy when he turns on the charm?

Gail Quistorff


Award winning author Susan May Warren recently returned home to her native Minnesota after serving for eight years with her husband and four children as missionaries with SEND Internationl in Far East Russia. She now writes full time from Minnesota's north woods.

Paula: Susan, thanks so much for taking the time to visit with us here at Reviews By Two - Christian Books. We're full of questions for you so we'll start right off . . .

You will be teaching at the Minnesota Christian Writer's Guild spring event on April 14th. Your topic is How to Get your Groove: The Basics of Novel Writing. Why is this topic close to your heart?
Susan: I lived in Far East Russia, in the middle of nowhere when God gave me the nudges (or should I say, hard push!) to write. I was desperate for “how to” books and classes, and spent hours on my knees praying for instruction and dissecting books that I’d read so I’d learn how to write. There is so much that goes into writing a book, and that can be overwhelming to an aspiring author. I love to teach, so I’ve taken the lessons I learned over the years, added some of my techniques and put them together in a way that (I think!) is fun and allows a beginning (and even intermediate) author to leave the class and put together their own novel.

Paula: The north shore of Minnesota is one of your favorite spots because it's where you met your husband and where your first series is based. Can you tell us a little of those stories?
Susan: My first words to my husband were, “Can I borrow your hammer?” I like to say we “hit it off,” from there. *g* I always loved camping and the wilderness, and he was such a cutie with his long hair, his black leather jacket, his motorcycle. He looked “bad” but under all that was a man who loved the Lord and wanted to be a missionary. What a package! Our first outing together was swimming in the turbulent waters above the Devil’s Kettle, and I nearly got swept downstream. I knew he was the one for me when I found him (after hiking down the river) hanging over the river from a tree branch, getting ready to “catch” me should I float by!

Paula: What a great story! Thanks for sharing. Your first stand alone novel was Letters from the Enemy, by Heartsong in 2004. Since then you’ve written an amazing 15+ novels. With a family, speaking, teaching, and simply being you, when do you find time to write?
Susan: I love to write, so it’s a priority right after spending time with the Lord, and my family. I spend about 4-6 hours/day writing, and the rest of the time researching and learning. I am grateful to have a family who really pitches in to help me with chores and cooking!

Paula: What a blessing to have a family that supports your writing. God brings so many situations into our lives to teach, mold and change us. Was there a time you felt He was doing something extra special in your writing career?
Susan: I’ll never forget sitting in a fishing boat with my hubby and his pals, and discovering that one of them had family out in Montana ! I was hoping to write a series set in Montana , and here was my research connection! God does cool things like that – surprising me with contacts, or ideas, or even spiritual epiphanies as I surrender my writing to Him.

Paula: Novice writers always hear the advice, “just keep writing”. Do you have anything to add to help them along?
Susan: Read!!! I am constantly reading a book, and taking notes on things that work (or don’t work) in a book, analyzing the story structure, the characterization and even the turns of phrases that I love. (and why!) Keep a “craft” journal to capture these thoughts and return to it often.

Paula: Great advice, Susan! Now, you’re the heroine in your own thrilling life story as well. Living in Russia, living out your dreams on the north shore, becoming a published author. . . But we all know characters have quirks - can you share one of yours?
Susan: I’m a little OCD. *g* Can’t sleep if there are closet doors open, or lights shining anywhere. And I have to have my writing “chair” – a big blue leather chair I found on sale with tall arms that sort of “cacoons” me into it. When I lived in Russia , I had another chair – a lovely purple and green one that had the same effect. I thought my writing career was over until I found a new chair in America!

Paula: Taming Rafe just came out and it’s doing great. Congratulations! What did God show you personally while writing your newest novel?
Susan: I think I have situational memory loss because every time I start a book, I panic, and think - -what was I thinking? I can’t write this, and it’s going to be shallow and stupid…and then God reminds me that He called me to this, He will equip me, and that I just have to trust Him for each chapter. I re-wrote Kat’s spiritual epiphany scene about 15 times before I just surrendered and let God do it. I wish I wasn’t such a slow learner!

Paula: What’s your favorite thing to do to relax and get away - even if you‘re still at home?
Susan: READ. And I love to take walks.

Paula: Your writing style is astounding and loved by everyone who reads your works. What is one thing you learned that has helped your writing style?
Susan: Oh, thank you! What a sweet thing to say! I think the most important element is to be true to the voice of the characters. I take a lot of time to understanding who they are and listening to their voice, and doing that helps them speak their story out on the page.

Paula: There was a time you were planning on heading back to Russia. How has God opened ministry doors for you in Northern Minnesota instead?
Susan: We are very involved in our local church – running the children’s church program and helping with the building project. I definitely believe that God called us here, and we’ll stay until He calls us some place else!

Paula: Susan, thanks so much for talking with us and giving our readers a glimpse of Susan May Warren. It was great having you!

You can catch up with Susan at her website at

And here's the link for the contest Susan’s running during the blog tour - don't miss it!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

When the Morning Comes by Cindy Woodsmall - Review

When the Morning Comes by Cindy Woodsmall
softcover, 2007, WaterBrook Press
ISBN 140007293X
336 pages

Cindy Woodsmall once again carries us into the Amish world in her book When the Morning Comes, Book 2 in her series Sisters of the Quilt.

We are brought once again into Hannah Lapp’s life as she flees her Old Order Amish community to find peace and healing in the home of her aunt who was long ago shunned. Plunged into an unknown world Hannah struggles to find her way through the difficulties of education, job hunting, and understanding the Englischer world.

Paul Waddell remains back in Owl Perch eaten away by guilt over his reaction to Hannah’s secret. He tries fruitlessly to find Hannah through the help of her friends and brother. But the Amish life is strict and Hannah’s father refuses to bend causing more anguish to Hannah’s already mentally unstable sister, Sarah.

Hannah begins to find purpose and fulfillment in her new life and friendship with Martin Palmer, but when the past finds her will she face her past and return home?

Ms. Woodsmall once again makes it hard to leave Hannah’s story and leaves us waiting impatiently for the next chapter of her life.

Posted By: Gail Quistorff

Monday, January 28, 2008

Reluctant Smuggler by Jill Elizabeth Nelson - Review

Reluctant Smuggler (To Catch a Thief Series #3)
by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
softcover, 2008, Multnomah Publishers
ISBN 1590526880
352 pgs.

Looting of archaeological sites is big business in a thriving art and antiquities black market. When a desperate foreign government hires Desiree Jacobs’s security company to stop the hemorrhage, she runs afoul of a deadly art-for-drugs operation. Tony Lucano risks his rising career in the FBI to dive into the international underworld after her. Before either of them can come up for air, they must navigate through a deepening murk of ruthless looters, hair-trigger DEA agents, crooked government agents, and innocent bystanders caught up in an illegal trade beyond their understanding. Even if a miracle delivers Desi and Tony from evil, will their love survive the test?

Complete with a reader’s guide, this third book in the To Catch a Thief series explores the power of hope in the darkest of circumstances.

Jill Elizabeth Nelson graduated with a degree in literature and creative writing from Southwest State University in Marshall , Minnesota . She served for three years as the senior inspirational reviewer for Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Writers Group, and Christian Authors Network. In 2004, she served as a Christy Award judge in the romance category. Nelson and her husband have four children and live in Madison, Minnesota.

Awaken My Heart by DiAnn Mills - Review

Awaken My Heart (Avon Inspire) by DiAnn Mills
softcover, 2008, Avon Inspire
ISBN: 0061376019
272 pgs.

Awaken My Heart is set in 19th century Texas and tells the story of 18 year old Marianne Phillips, the daughter of a wealthy rancher, Weston Phillips. Weston is involved in a hostile struggle with Armando Garcia, the infamous rebel leader of the 'mestizos' who claim to own the land that Phillips has settled.Marianne Phillips, the daughter of a wealthy rancher, has never agreed with her father's harsh treatment of the poor mestizos who first inhabited the colony of Texas.

When rebels kidnap Marianne, in hopes her father will trade back their land for her freedom, she realizes her loyalty lies with her abductors, not her father, who plans to marry her off to the don of a nearby estate. Armando Garcia is the locals' reluctant leader, but his people revere and depend on him. Knowing that without his leadership they'd be forced from their land, Armando accepts his role, but does not approve of the latest attempt to manipulate their enemy.

When he learns that Marianne actually speaks his language, of her loyalty to his people, and of the faith that keeps her strong, Armando is faced with a difficult decision. Will his newfound love keep him from letting her go? Or will he set her free and risk losing their land forever?

Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. She is the author of numerous titles including novels, novellas, and a nonfiction. In addition, she's written several short stories, articles, devotions, and has contributed to several nonfiction compilations.

DiAnn believes her readers should "Expect an Adventure." Her desire is to show characters solving real problems of today from a Christian perspective through a compelling story.

Several of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA Best Seller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents, and she remains a favorite author by Heartsong Present's readers. Two of her books have won short historical of the year by American Christian Fiction Writers both in 2003 and 2004. She was named Writer of the Year for 2004 at the 35th Annual Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference and is the recipient of Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards for 2005 in the long contemporary and novella categories.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, ChiLibris, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops. DiAnn also belongs to Cy Fair Women's Networking, an exclusive professional women's networking organization.

She lives in sunny Houston, Texas, the home of heat, humidity, and Harleys. In fact she'd own one, but her legs are too short. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Christian Writers' Market Guide 2008 by Sally E. Stuart - Review

Christian Writers' Market Guide 2008: The Essential Reference Tool for the Christian Writer (Christian Writers' Market Guide)
by Sally E. Stuart
softcover, 2008, Waterbrook Press
ISBN 9781400074617
628 pgs.

The essential reference tool for the Christian writer, Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide is now in its 23rd annual edition!

Writers’ conference listings, book publishers, magazine publishers, and a bookstore filled with the resources you need to be successful in this business. Get a book contract or manuscript evaluation, and check out the Writer’s Resource links. This book has all you need to connect to all these valuable helps for the beginning, intermediate, or professional writer.

To keep you up to date with the latest marketing news, visit Sally Stuart’s new marketing blog, Christian Writers’ Marketplace, at

A new, updated version of the Christian Writers’ Market Guide is available about January 15 each year.

Sally Stuart has been writing for the last 40+ years, and has been putting out the annual Christian Writers' Market Guide for the last 23 years. Her other writing include several Christian education resources books, a children's picture book, a basic writing text, writing resources, and a western novel--plus hundreds of articles and marketing columns. She writes marketing columns for the Christian Communicator, Advanced Christian Writer, and the Oregon Christian Writers' Newsletter. She speaks and teaches at Christian Writers' Conferences nationwide.

Sally is the mother of 3 and grandmother of 8. She and her husband, Norm, spend their free time vacationing on the Oregon coast.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Lady of High Regard by Tracie Peterson - Review

A Lady of High Regard (Ladies of Liberty, Book 1) by Tracie Peterson
softcover, 2007, Bethany House
336 pages
Although Mia Stanley was born into a family of high social standing, she loves her job as a writer for Godey’s Lady’s Book magazine and matchmaking for her friends. Through her writing assignments, her eyes are opened to the world around her.

Only blocks from home, down at the waterfront, is a world of poverty and danger. Mia’s heart is heavy for the plight of the seaman’s wives, who are left with the burden of rent and providing for their families. Enslaved by a society that would rather ignore their existence, Mia stands as a woman who would be their champion.

Mia’s talent for matchmaking and persuasion influences others for her cause. While trying to find a match for her closest friend Garrett, Mia realizes she cares deeply for him.

As danger from the waterfront looms closer, Mia risks’ not only losing her heart, but her life as well.
Tracie Peterson brings us another wonderful romance, filled with danger and excitement. I look forward to the next in the series; Ladies of Liberty.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Winner of A Shepherd's Prayer!

We have a winner for this month's book contest. Jennanne, you have won A Shepherd's Prayer! Congratulations! The only problem is that I don't have your email so I have no way of contacting you. Please send me an email and let me know where to send your free book. Have a great day!