Monday, July 27, 2015

Five Summertime Reads!


What a great bunch of books to take on vacation or read under a shady tree this summer. Selections include a Regency romance, a thriller, the story of an abandoned child found by the shore and two Westerns. Peruse below and let us know which one you’ll put on top of the stack in your beach bag. Scroll down and vote in the survey box. Then let your friends know about these interesting reads.


Unmasked Heart by Vanessa Riley

A young woman reconciling the lies of her birth must learn her true worth, unmasking her heart to true love, but will she find her soul mate in a duke running from scandal? With everything she knows to be true evaporating before her spectacles, can the mulatto passing for white survive being exposed and shunned by a powerful duke who has taken an interest in her?


Rodeo Reunion by Shannon Vannatter
Slade Walker, the bronco-riding rodeo chaplain breaks all of widowed Raquel’s rules—find a father for her son with a safe occupation, who’s home every night. He can’t turn his back on the cowboys who need him, but Raquel and her boy need him, too.
Two Days in Caracas by Luana Ehrlich
In this pulse-racing Christian thriller, Titus Ray, travels from Costa Rica to Venezuela in an effort to stop Ahmed, a Hezbollah assassin, from murdering a high-profile government official.
Finding Mia by Dianne J. Wilson
Isobel is on the beach hunting for her muse. What she finds is a toddler, sunburnt and close to death.
The Rancher Takes a Cook by Misty Beller
When their South Carolina home burns to the ground, Anna Stewart’s only choice is to move with her younger brother to the wilds of a Texas ranch. When danger escalates in the form of a band of cattle thieves with deadly intent, can Anna learn to release control to God’s capable hands...and those of the blue-eyed cowboy who’s stolen her heart?



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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

COTT Features: "Until the Harvest" by Sarah Loudin Thomas



This follow-up story will delight readers of Thomas’ previous novel, but, 
it reads perfectly as a standalone as well.
 – RT Book Reviews Top Pick – 4.5 stars

 
 About the book:

 When a family tragedy derails Henry Phillips’s college studies, he’s left unmoored and feeling abandoned. Although Henry tries to find escape in bad company, the only things that can tamp down his anger and grief are the family farm, his fiddle, and sweet but unusual pre-teen Mayfair Hoffman.

Unfortunately, Mayfair’s older sister, Margaret, with the freckles and cute, turned-up nose, has the opposite effect. Worse, she’s his grandmother’s housekeeper and helper, so she’s always around and ready to push his buttons. At first he thinks she doesn’t care about his loss, before beginning to understand she’s facing her own struggles. Mayfair’s health and unique gift sit at the heart of those worries, and Henry and Margaret soon find themselves relying on each other as both Henry’s future and Mayfair’s life are put at risk.

 Until the Harvest
 PURCHASE

A note from the author:
 Good Books and Great Food

Eating and telling stories are two of my favorite things so it’s only natural that food turns up in my writing over and over again. The second book in the Appalachian Blessings series—Until the Harvest—opens with the hero, Henry Phillips, enjoying one of his favorite dishes–venison steak. And a little later he partakes of . . . fried squirrel.

Now, before you turn up your nose, understand that in my growing up years we ate quite a bit of game including squirrel. Plenty of folks still enjoy it. And my mother made the best squirrel gravy. If you tried some on a biscuit, I bet you’d think so, too.

My books aren’t about food, but food plays an important role in each one. Life on the farm—in West Virginia or anywhere else—centers on raising and harvesting food. Readers often comment that my books make them hungry, so today I thought I’d share a couple of recipes with you. One for Emily Phillips’ fried squirrel (courtesy of my mom, Nancy Loudin) and one for Margaret Hoffman’s egg salad (courtesy of WV chef Dale Hawkins).

Hope you enjoy the book AND a good meal!

 What COTT voter had to say:

 --I have enjoyed "getting to know" Sarah Loudin Thomas via social media and eagerly look forward to reading both of her novels.
--I absolutely loved Until The Harvest, by Sarah Loudin Thomas!
--I love Sarah Loudin Thomas's books! She is a favorite of mine!!
--Absolutely LOVED Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas. UTH has it all--life lessons, "get real" God moments, and the sweet stirring of love--all set amidst the beautiful backdrop of Appalachia country. No ten dollar words here--just great storytelling at its absolute finest!
--Sarah Loudin Thomas, I have loved both of your books! Keep 'em comin'!
--Sarah Loudin Thomas: keep up the good work and allowing God to reach people through your writing!
--Sarah Loudin Thomas is one of my favorite authors. I love the way she tells a story! I can always feel what the characters are feeling.

Fried Squirrel with Gravy

Makes 4 servings

2 large squirrels
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper
Oil or lard for frying
Milk and water

Soak the cleaned squirrels in a pan of water in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Cut into pieces, place in a large pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the meat is tender, but not falling off the bones. Drain. Season the meat with salt and pepper and roll in the flour. Heat oil or lard to shimmering in a cast-iron skillet and add the pieces without crowding. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove to drain on a brown paper bag. Leave about two tablespoons of oil in the skillet and add two tablespoons of the flour left over from dredging the squirrel. Stir the flour until it’s lightly browned. Add milk and water alternately, stirring constantly, until your gravy is as thick as you like it. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with hot biscuits.

Egg Salad

8 eggs
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. prepared yellow mustard
¼ cup chopped green onion
¼ tsp. paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, cool. Peel and grate on a box grater. Place the eggs in a bowl and stir in the mayonnaise, mustard, and green onion. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Stir and serve.

About the author:

Sarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV, the seventh generation to live there. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Her first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, released August 2014 through Bethany House and won the 2015 Selah Award and an INSPY Award for debut fiction. Book #2, Until the Harvest, released May 2015.

A graduate of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC, Sarah once dreamed of being a marine scientist. But her love for words won out and she has spent much of her career in public relations and marketing. She currently oversees fundraising and communications for a Christian children’s home in Black Mountain, NC.

Sarah and her husband Jim live in the mountains of Western North Carolina with Thistle–the canine equivalent to a personal trainer pushing them to hike, run, and play tug-o-war. Sarah is active in her local church and enjoys cooking and–you guessed it–reading.



Monday, July 13, 2015

When Heroes are Not Heroic: An Inside Look at "BlueColumbine"


Blue Columbine, book one in the Grace Revealing series by JenniferRodewald


Welcome, readers! This week we're goingbehind the scenes of Jennifer Rodewald's new book, Blue Columbine!! Findout why her hero, Andrew Harris, drew such a reaction, and why this"non-heroic" hero makes the perfect star of this beautiful contemporaryromance. 

The main character isn’t your typical Christian Fiction hero. What is helike?


Andrew Harris insists on living on his own terms. Angry because of life’sinjustices, he is determined that failure will not cross his path again. Heis also adamant that he is not an alcoholic. When he reunites with JamieCarson, finding her to be rooted in the faith they’d grown up with, andevery bit as sweet and lovely as he remembered, he is plunged into anemotional whirlwind. Guilt, a longing to be better, frustration that he isnot enough, and a rekindled love for his childhood sweetheart all swirl inside with maddening strength. But for all his faults, he is still loyal,supportive, and generous when he wants to be—all qualities that keepJamie’s attention and devotion. Which keeps their close friendship—edging on more than friendship—complicated, to say the least.

What was the hardest part of writing this story?


This is a tough one, because the greatest difficulty didn’t come during the writing part. The hardest thing was taking in the amount of very strong negative reactions to Andrew as a Christian fiction character during the critiquing stage of the novel. Andrew’s a mess. An alcoholic in denial,angry at life and at God, selfish, and overall just not pretty. I knew that, but I didn’t expect to have vehement reactions insisting that such a character did not belong in Christian fiction. One comment labeled him “unredeemable.” That broke my heart, because as I shared before, God reminded me through this story that no one is beyond the Hand of Grace. Ithink it’s important that sometimes Christian fiction confirms that truth, even if it means starting with messy characters.

Where did Blue Columbine, the story, come from?


I’m not sure there’s one single, straight shot answer to that. The story unfolded in my mind and I was compelled to write it. I’ve had several years to look back and wonder, “Why this story?” since it first gripped me.Looking at it from hindsight, I think God was pouring truth into me through this book. I was at a point in my life when I was praying for loved ones…and losing hope. I see now that God was teaching me that nothing is beyond His reach. I needed to see that, to believe it again.

What messages/ themes do you hope your readers will get out of thisbook?


The first is this: NO ONE is beyond redemption. No one. I need to know that, because I love some messy people. God showed me through this book that my prayers do not go unheard, that His hand is more powerful than I give Him credit for, and His time and storyline are not necessarily mine.

And second: Jesus saves. From white lies to powerful addictions, Jesus saves the lost, washes sin completely clean, and offers new life with realhope.

What an amazing message! This book's hero proves that when our characters are not perfectly heroic, that only proves that God is! Thank you for sharing your book with us.
Now for a closer look at this book--and the gorgeous cover that sets the tone!

BLUE COLUMBINE, Book 1 of the Grace Revealing series


Best Friends—maybe more—until addiction shatters everything.
Childhood sweethearts reunite, but Andrew is not the boy he had been, andJamie hasn’t changed. Their connection, however, outlasts time andoffense.

Loyalty, love, and then betrayal….For Jamie, one thing becomes clear: Andy needs a savior, and she cannot be it. Will Andrew allow the hand of grace to redeem his legacy of addiction, or will he and Jamie remain the casualties of heartbreak?

What her readers are saying:
~ “Delicate. Humorous. And plumbing the depths of God's redeeming love.”

~ “This book does not disappoint. Instead it takes you through the emotional upheaval of loving someone with a problem you can't solve--and lets you witness the glory of the One who can.”

About Jennifer:

Jennifer Rodewald is passionate about the Word of God and the powerful vehicle of story. The draw to fiction has tugged hard on her heart since childhood, and when she began pursuing writing she set on stories that reveal the grace of God.

Aiming to live with boundless enthusiasm, her creed is vision, pursuit andexcellence. Blessed with a robust curiosity, she loves to research. Whether she’s investigating the history of a given area, the biography of a Christian icon, or how nature declares the glory of God, her daily goal is to learn something new.

Jen lives and writes in a lovely speck of a town where she watches with amazement while her children grow up way too fast, gardens, and marvels at God’s mighty hand in everyday life. Four kids and her own personal superman make her home in southwestern Nebraska delightfully chaotic.

She would love to hear from you! Please visit her at authorjenrodewald.com or connect with her on Facebook. Author Jen Rodewald.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hearts Made Whole, Beacons of Hope,book 2 by Jody Hedlund 


Paperback, 379 pages
Published June 2nd 2015 by Bethany House Publishers 
ISBN 0764212389 (ISBN13: 9780764212383) 
Series: Beacons of Hope #2
Characters: Ryan Chambers, Caroline Taylor, Tessa Taylor

About Book

After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper–even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s been given the post as lighthouse keeper, and the isolation where he can drown in drink and hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s none-too-pleased to be giving up her position. They both quickly realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but Ryan’s unwilling to let anyone close, ravaged by memories and guilt. Caroline’s drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?


Where to Purchase:  AmazonCBD, B&N

About Author

Jody Hedlund is an award-winning and bestselling author of inspirational historical romances including books for adults and youth. She currently makes her home in central Michigan with her husband and their five busy children.

As a busy mama-writer, she has the wonderful privilege of teaching her crew of 5 children at home. In between grading math papers and giving spelling tests, she occasionally does a load of laundry and washes dishes. When she's not busy being a mama, you can find her in front of her laptop working on another of her page-turning stories.

She loves reading almost as much as she loves writing, especially when it also involves chocolate and coffee. 

Jody Hedlund website:  http://jodyhedlund.com/

My Thoughts

Caroline feels it is her responsibility to care not only  for her younger siblings but for the lighthouse she helped her father care for until his death.  She refuses without a fight to relinquish the care of the lighthouse to a Civil War veteran Ryan Chambers.  Caroline is being replaced for the simple fact that  she is a woman.  In her mind she has all the other requirements to perform the job.  

Ryan is willing to have Caroline assist him with caring for the lighthouse mainly because, what we now call PTSD, makes him unable to perform as the soul light-keeper.  Besides he is becoming very fond of Caroline and her siblings but this is not enough to officially keep her as his assistant.  The only way for Caroline to stay at the lighthouse in any form would be if she married an approved light-keeper.  Yet it is the apparent threats on her family that conveniences her that someone does not want Caroline to remain at the lighthouse.

At first I did not have a lot of sympathy for Ryan and his addiction. But I learned compassion from Caroline and with her constant patience and forgiving of Ryan's constant failure to perform his job. She saw in Ryan what God also saw, that he was capable of doing the job.  Therefore giving him time to forgive himself for his past and present mistakes. A healing within himself.

The author kept me captivated!  Caroline was a very determined young woman and Ryan was so broken from the war.   There is romance, mystery, vengeance, trust, forgiveness and one of my favorites is the history. 

I highly recommend this book.

I rated this book 5+ out of 5.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review.  I was in no way compensated for this review.  This review is my honest opinion.