Fiction Faith & Foodies

Fiction Faith & Foodies: January 2013

Thursday, January 31, 2013

WAITING FOR MORNING by Margaret Brownley ~ My Review

About the book:

Molly Hatfield comes to Arizona Territory seeking stability and security. But living in Cactus Patch provides her with more than she ever dreamed.

There is nothing Molly wouldn’t do for her teenaged brother, Donny. Blaming herself for the accident that left him wheelchair bound, Molly has dedicated her life to his care. But in 1896, gainful employment for a woman is hard to come by. So when Molly learns that an eccentric rancher in Cactus Patch, Arizona, is looking for an heiress—someone to take over management of the ranch in exchange for future ownership—she jumps at the chance to provide a real home for her brother.

However, Molly didn’t bank on meeting Dr. Caleb Fairbanks, the town’s charming unmarried doctor. Caleb has a way with Molly that makes her nervous. But it’s how he is with her brother that really alarms her. Caleb sees past the wheelchair and genuinely likes Donny, but Molly fears he’s putting unrealistic ideas into her brother’s head. Falling in love with Caleb would threaten everything she’s worked for, even her brother’s future happiness. But it could be the very reason God brought her to Last Chance Ranch.

In my humble opinion:

Molly Hatfield is the sole caretaker for her teenage brother, Donny, who lost the use of his legs in an accident while he was an infant. After rescuing her brother from a hotel fire, Molly determines to provide a more stable home for him, so she answers an ad from a rancher in Arizona. If she can prove her worth and learn the business, she will inherit the ranch. The only stipulation is that she must sign a contract saying she will never marry. That's not a problem for her because she has yet to meet a man willing to marry her and accept her brother. Until she meets Dr. Caleb Fairbanks.

When Caleb was first introduced, I found him somewhat flirty and wasn't sure I considered him hero-worthy. Did that ever change! <How many times do I judge somebody in real life based on a faulty initial impression?> He was unselfish and gentle, considerate and compassionate towards his patients, including Donny. Caleb challenged Donny to become independent, so Donny could live life to the fullest, and encouraged Molly to stop coddling her brother because of the guilt she carried over his accident. I enjoyed the entire cast of characters, including Bertha, the horseless carriage; Orbit, the blind horse; and Magic, Caleb's dog that went with him everywhere. Every character faced challenges and blossomed. 

Wow! This is a book that hits all the right buttons! Just enough historical details, an intriguing plot combined with a sweet romance to keep me turning pages, and an ending that made me smile. As a relatively new historical lover myself, this is the first book I've read by Margaret Brownley, but I intend to devour more by this author. Although this is part of the Brides of Last Chance Ranch series, you really don't need to read them in order. It stands alone just fine.

Disclaimer: Sending a huge thanks to BookSneeze and Thomas Nelson for providing me with a free copy in exchange for my fair and unbiased review.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Recipe for Romance in the Kitchen ~ Chili


This is one of our favorite soups, winter or summer. An added bonus is you can freeze leftovers and use to top off nachos for another meal. Yum!

1 lb ground beef (or more, depending on how meaty you like your chili)
1/2 c chopped onion (or as much as you like)
1/2 t minced garlic
salt & pepper to taste
1 - 2 T chili powder
1 T ground cumin
2 t oregano
1 can pinto beans, drained & rinsed
1 - 15oz can tomato sauce
2 packs sweet n low
2 c low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth

Brown ground beef, onion, and garlic. Toss in seasonings. Drain pinto beans & hamburger together, then place in large pan. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for up to 2 hours. Serves 4. Enjoy!

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Writer's Winter Survival Kit

A mid-morning jolt of caffeine and energy boost

Warm slippers

A mini-heater under my desk, just big enough to warm my legs

Ahhh...whoever invented fingertip-less gloves is a genius!

The occasional distraction from word counts and blog posts

What's in your writer's winter survival kit?

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

VANISHED by Irene Hannon ~ My Review

About the book~
Reporter Moira Harrison is lost. In the dark. In a thunderstorm. When a lone figure suddenly appears in the beam of her headlights, Moira slams on her brakes--but it's too late. She feels the solid thump against the side of her car before crashing into a tree on the far side of the road. 

A man opens her door, tells her he saw everything, and promises to call 911. Then the world fades to black. When she comes to, she is alone. No man. No 911. No injured person. But she can't forget the look of terror she saw on that face in the instant before her headlights swung away. And she can't get anyone to believe her story--except maybe a handsome ex-homicide detective turned private eye, who reluctantly agrees to take on the case.

As clues begin to surface, it becomes obvious that someone doesn't want this mystery solved--and will stop at nothing to protect a shocking secret.

In my humble opinion~
The premise really pulled me in. Lost in a raging storm late at night, Moira Harrison slams into a female crossing the road. A hooded man stops to check on Moira, explains that help is on the way, but when she awakens an hour later, both the female and the "Good Samaritan" have vanished, leaving no trace. 

Haunted by the female's frightened eyes and disappointed by the lack of police support, Moira hires Phoenix Private Investigator, Cal Burke, to track what seem to be non-existent leads. Still grieving his wife after five years and wallowing in guilt, Cal left law enforcement and opened Phoenix with partners, Dev and Connor. He hasn't moved on and still wears his wedding band. Moira's lonely, and her social life is non-existent since she broke up with an ex-boyfriend after he cheated on her. Both Cal and Moira feel an immediate attraction to one another.

While I was drawn to Cal and the other team members of Phoenix, I didn't connect with Moira quite so easily. When I caught the occasional glimpse of her on the job, she was sitting at her desk typing a story or talking with her friend. As a Pulitzer Prize nominee for investigative reporting, I guess I expected to see her chasing down leads, showing some grit and adventurous spirit. Maybe I just had different expectations for this character than what the author intended.

Knowing who the bad guy is early in the book didn't detract from the suspense and the romance was just sweet enough to keep me flipping pages on my kindle. Not my favorite Irene Hannon book, but shoving my expectations aside, overall, Vanished makes for a very enjoyable read. I look forward to Dev's story coming next.

Disclaimer: A huge thanks to NetGalley and Revell for providing me with a free copy in exchange for my fair and unbiased review.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pam’s Publishing P’s: Part One by Pam Hillman

For Part Two of this article, visit Mary Connealy’s blog on January 21st.

We’ve all heard that there are three P’s to publishing. Well, I’ve come up with a lot more than three!

I purchased an interesting book titled Where to Find It in the Bible by Ken Anderson, published by Thomas Nelson. I thought it would be a wonderful resource for devotionals when I bought it, but then realized it’s also great for writing related topics.

I searched the entire section under “P”. Words popped out at me, and I immediately thought of ways to apply them to writing. I’ve taken some of the scripture references out of context to shine the spotlight on publishing, and the writing life.

I won’t quote these scriptures because of time and space, but will only excerpt short pieces. If a particular section speaks to you, feel free to look the scripture up. Maybe some of these vignettes will be helpful and encouraging to someone today.

Partnership: Ministry partnership, 2 Corinthians 8:23
In some ways, writing is a solitary occupation, but at some point you will experience a partnership with agents, editors, and publishing houses. Relish this partnership. Embrace it. Learn from it. You’ll be glad you did!

Patience: Patiently see what God will do, 1 Samuel 12:16
We’re all anxious to see something happen with our writing. We want publication now. We want recognition now. We want our efforts to be rewarded. Now. But sometimes we have to be patient, and “…stand and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes.” Stand still, and wait on the Lord, but while you’re waiting, write!

Penmanship: Writing with clarity, Habakkuk 2:2
Before I read this verse in Habakkuk, I thought that penmanship would be to write carefully, clearly, and concise, to make every word count. However, the verse states, “Write the vision, and make it plain… .” I realize that Habakkuk’s vision was more terrible and dreadful than my fiction, but I do need to write with clarity, and make every word count. Or, in the words of Habakkuk, make it plain.

Perfection: Aim for perfection, 2 Corinthians 13:11
On the heels of penmanship is perfection. Same thing, maybe? 2 Corinthians 13:11 tells the brethren to “Be perfect”. Let’s aim for perfection in our writing. Many times we do this through studying the craft, working with critique partners, going through the editing process. It’s not a one-stop-shopping experience. Keep learning. Keep growing, and … keep aiming for perfection.

Persistent: Never give up, Luke 18:1-5
You may have read the story of the persistent widow who kept petitioning the unjust judge to grant her request. Finally he gave in, because she had just about worried him to death! No, we shouldn’t worry industry professionals, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be persistent in our desire to perfect our writing. Write, write some more, then turn around and do it again. Persistence for some of us might mean it takes years to see any fruit from our labor, but take courage. The persistence you display today might yield fruit tomorrow!

And, when you’ve perfected that piece through persistence and penmanship, it might be a good time to petition that judge (editor/agent) again!

I’m listing several more “P” words from the book below, and I can think of many ways to relate them to the writing life. What about you? How can you apply some of these words to your writing life?

Productivity: Time to enlarge, Isaiah 54:2

Progress: Staying too long in one place, Deuteronomy 1:6-8; Growth takes time, Mark 4:28; Progress toward perfection, Philippians 3:12

Project: When God terminates a project, Genesis 11:1-9

Prolific: Prolific wisdom, talent, 1 Kings 4:29-34

Proposal: Fear of refusal, Genesis 24:5

Protocol: Going through proper channels, Philemon 12:14

Well, apparently, I was having way too much fun with this, and my “P” words and ideas kept growing and growing. So, I’m splitting this into two blog posts….

For Part Two of this article, visit Mary Connealy’s blog on January 21st.


Pam is thrilled to announce the release of her second novel,
Claiming Mariah

To celebrate, Pam is giving away two eReaders
(choice of Kindle Wi-Fi, 6" Display, or Nook Simple Touch)
Two Winners: One on facebook. One through Pam’s Newsletter.

Facebook Drawing: Kindle/Nook Giveaway
Newsletter: Pam’s newsletter.

Registering both places is not required but will double your chances of winning. Also keep in mind that you will receive updates more often being connected on facebook than through the newsletter. Just sayin’

Contest runs from January 1st until March 31st, 2013.

And....that’s not all! There will be prizes offered randomly throughout the tour.

Pam is especially excited about this week’s giveaway:

January 15th: Blogging with Cheryl St. John
Wallflower Writer to the Rescue

January 17th: Blogging with Jenny Blake
Make Hay While the Sun Shines

For Part Two of this article, visit Mary Connealy’s blog on January 21st.

About Pam Hillman

Pam Hillman was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove the Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that’s the kind of life every girl should dream of! Claiming Mariah is her second novel.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Shattered by Dani Pettrey ~ My Review

About the book~
Piper McKenna couldn't be more thrilled that her prodigal brother, Reef, has returned to Yancey, Alaska, after five years. But her happiness is short-lived when Reef appears at her house covered in blood. A fellow snowboarder has been killed--but despite the evidence, Reef swears he's innocent. And Piper believes him.

Deputy Landon Grainger loves the McKennas like family, but he's also sworn to find the truth. Piper is frustrated with his need for facts over faith, but he knows those closest to you have the power to deceive you the most. With his sheriff pushing for a quick conviction, some unexpected leads complicate the investigation, and pursuing the truth may mean risking Landon's career.

With Piper waging her own search, the two head deep into Canada's rugged backcountry--and unexpected complications. Not only does their long friendship seem to be turning into something more, but this dangerous case is becoming deadlier with each step.

Sharing my take~

Piper McKenna would make a great friend: trusting, devoted to her family, sweet, dogged about her beliefs, and right now she believes in her brother's innocence. She strives for open communication in relationships, while Landon prefers not to lay all his cards on the table. It doesn't help his cause when he's forced to investigate Piper's brother for murder.

I have a feeling I missed a major event introducing Piper and Landon's story in the first book of Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series, Submerged, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of Shattered. Shattered picks up with Landon's realization that he's way past the friend stage with Piper, but she doesn't have a clue about her feelings, or his, yet. 

The author did a fabulous job with characterization. You either loved characters, like Piper, or you hated them, like Meredith. The dialog between Piper and Landon was fun and witty, and in some spots, laugh out loud. I loved getting to know the rest of the McKenna family, too. 

The first few pages required a second go-through to familiarize myself with everybody and what was happening, but then, WOW! It's been a long time since I enjoyed a book this much, a book that made me forget about watching my favorite television shows, cooking dinner, picking up the grandkids from school, you fill in the blank. The suspense, while not nail-biting, was enough to keep me turning the pages, and the romance satisfied my sweet spot.

I'm looking forward to the next book in the series which I'm fairly sure will feature Gage and Darcy's romance. And YES, I liked this book so much, I already scooped up Submerged on Amazon.

Shattered releases with Bethany House Publisher on 2/1/13. You may pre-order Shattered here.

Your turn.
What was the last book you read that you enjoyed so much that it kept you from your normal routine?

Disclaimer: A huge thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publisher for providing me with a free advance copy in exchange for my fair and unbiased review.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Doctor to the Rescue by Cheryl Wyatt ~ My Review

The back cover ~
Combat doctor Ian Shupe returns home from overseas with his most important mission: to raise his little girl. But Ian's a single dad, and working at Eagle Point's trauma center means having to find child care. When bighearted, struggling lodge owner Bri Landis offers babysitting in exchange for construction work, Ian accepts. He vows to keep his emotional distance from Bri, yet can't deny that his daughter is blossoming under her tender care. But is he ready to believe that his heart's deepest prayer may finally be answered?

My take ~
Stressed from overwork and frustrated with losing so much of his daughter's life while in active service, Ian's a single dad trying to build a relationship with Tia. Recently divorced, he covers for his ex-wife and determines not to make the matrimonial mistake again. Six months after ending an emotionally abusive relationship, Bri initially finds Ian's brooding temper much like that of her ex-boyfriend. Until she realizes that's just a symptom of the real hurt.

I have enjoyed all of Cheryl Wyatt's books, this one included. The characters carry around so much emotional baggage and hurt from the past, you wonder how they'll ever reach their happily-ever-after, so you stay up past your bedtime just to find out. Even little Tia, Ian's daughter, rebels against her daddy, calling him Ian and lashing out at him for her mother's abandonment. Bri helps repair the relationship between Daddy and daughter. I especially like how the faith theme weaves gently throughout this book, for example, how Bri explains to Tia how God communicates. That was such a precious conversation.

Probably the only beef I have with Doctor to the Rescue is that so much happened in the last few pages, that I felt it was a bit rushed. But that didn't detract from the story. Just made me wish it were longer. :-)

Purchase Link

Disclaimer: Thanks to Cheryl Wyatt for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and unbiased review.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

WHEN TRUTH WHISPERS coming March 15!

Did she want Hunter to kiss her? An ache, a need, started in her sock-covered toes and zapped all the way to her lips. Yeah. She did. Her free palm cupped his whisker-roughened cheek and slid down to his jawline, ending with a caress around his lips. “But I’m not laughing, now.”

His eyes darkened, his nostrils flared. His jaw tensed under her hand. “No. I see that. But are you sure this is what you want, Teal? I don’t play games where matters of the heart are concerned. Yours, or mine.”

I'm thrilled to introduce Hunter and Teal from When Truth Whispers.

After a humiliating breakup, best-selling romance author Teal Benning flees to Promise Lake to complete her current novel, minus paparazzi and flashing cameras. Suffering from writer's block and a broken heart, Teal accepts the offer of help from neighbor, Hunter Miciver.

Hunter longs to be more than the friend who picks up the shattered pieces of Teal's heart, but when Teal finds out his secret, will she see him for the man he is—a man of faith and devotion, a man who would cherish her for the rest of her days—or will she lump him into the same category as all the other men in her life, including her father?

Will Teal recognize when truth whispers her name?

Coming March 15, 2013
White Rose Publishing.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Writing through Despair

2007. Not a good year.

We’d just moved to North Carolina from Florida. My husband spent long hours working at his new job, and as a writer who rarely left the house, I hadn’t developed a support system of friends yet. Lonely? You bet.

Uprooting our youngest son mid-year in 10th grade wasn’t ideal, so we arranged for him to stay and finish the school year. He spent the following summer in NC, but he missed his friends and decided to move back. Without telling us. Yeah. We were devastated.

That alone was tough, but on top of that, our oldest son, a Marine, faced another deployment. This time, though, suffering severe emotional and psychological trauma, he made a choice that altered his life forever.

My writing suffered. How could I create a romance when I stared down a deep black hole that threatened to swallow me whole? What about you? Are you drowning in despair? Here are some reminders that I needed:

Remember His promises. "Be strong and courageous…for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut 31:6 NIV) This is one of my favorites.

Realize you don’t control others. You can only control your actions and reactions. Let everything else go.

Recognize that you may need counseling. Although I might have been lonely, I wasn’t alone. God heard my cry, and He answered with a sweet husband who recognized that I needed help. My husband procured a Christian counselor for our family, and after a few sessions and much prayer, God broke the chains of despair.

Reminisce on God’s faithfulness. I’m no stranger to pain or suffering. As a child, I suffered third degree burns, which entailed numerous surgeries. I married as a teen, and when the marriage failed, I was left with trust issues and a precious 11-month-old to raise by myself (until I met my true soul mate six years later). God faithfully carried me through these tough times, so I trust Him to continue to do so.

Refocus and appreciate. Stop focusing inward. I began volunteering at a therapeutic horse ranch serving the special needs community. My issues seemed insignificant in comparison. And I learned to appreciate the perks of empty nesting. :-)

Know God's heart for you, and trust the road He has you on, even when you can't see where it leads. 2007 was a tough year, but this is the journey God’s traveled with me since then: 

A healthy relationship with our now college-age son

Additions to our family 

My first writing contract and several more since then.

An encouraging, supportive group of writer friends

2013. It’s going to be a great year.

It’s a new day. A fresh slate for the year. 
Are you staring into the deep pit of despair?
Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning. Ps 30:5b NKJV

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