Fiction Faith & Foodies

Fiction Faith & Foodies: August 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

F is for Friends...

A to Z blog hop at Patterings.
It was 2007, and we'd just moved to North Carolina for hubby's new job as fire chief. You know what new jobs require: demanding hours, lugging work home to catch up if there had been a prolonged vacancy, familiarizing yourself with the way things work within the new organization, learning names, yada yada yada. All of that meant I didn't see him much those first few months.

We'd moved across states, so it wasn't like I could hang out with anybody I knew, and as a writer, I spent most of my time perched in front of my laptop. I remember feeling so alone and praying, begging God, for friends in my new city

Did you catch that? I don't know why I tried to limit God.

He showed me. In a big way.

God answered my prayer, but He ignored the "in my new city." Thank You, God!

He introduced me to so many sweet friends that I now connect with over coffee or lunch, so many that I confess sometimes I have trouble squeezing time with them into my schedule. But He also expanded my prayer to include online friendships over states and even oceans. Not only that, but He moved my sister and her family to live within a two-hour drive from us. How awesome is He??

Friendships. I asked, and God provided.

What about you? Have you ever begged God for friends?

Would you share a situation in your life where God showed up in a mighty way? 

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Have You Read GUNPOWDER TEA by Margaret Brownley?

Gunpowder Tea
by Margaret Brownley
About the book~
In a case that could change her career, Miranda uncovers a love that will change her life.

When Miranda Hunt sees the classified ad for an heiress to the legendary Last Chance Ranch, she knows assuming the identity of Annie Beckman is the perfect cover. As one of the finest agents for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, Miranda has been tasked with apprehending the Phantom – an elusive and notorious train robber thought to be hiding on the sprawling ranch.

But she isn’t the only one there with something to hide. Wells Fargo detective Jeremy Taggert is working the scene undercover as well. And although their true identities are a secret, it is impossible for Jeremy and Miranda to hide the spark that flares between them.

But neither is about to let romance interfere with such a huge case. Besides, Miranda hasn’t removed Jeremy from her list of suspects yet. The closer they come to uncovering the identity of the Phantom, the more dangerous he gets – and no one on the ranch is safe.

But neither are their hearts – the longer Miranda and Jeremy spends working together, the harder it becomes to keep their feelings in check. Their careers – and their lives – depend on solving this case. Love will have to wait.

My summary... 

After growing up in a household of brothers and feeling responsible for her mother's untimely death, undercover operative Miranda Hunt tries to please her father and follows in his footsteps, determined to be the best operative Pinkerton employs. So when her boss assigns her to track down the Phantom, she's thrilled about the "assignment of a lifetime." Not so thrilled that she's attracted to her prime suspect, David Branch, really Jeremy Taggert, an undercover Wells Fargo detective who infiltrated the Phantom's robbery gang. 

"There should be a law against handsome thieves."

My thoughts...

Wow! If you thought Waiting for Morning was fabulous (and I did!), wait until you read Gunpowder Tea! I can't think of one element that could be improved. Not one. And don't you just love the cover? It perfectly incorporates the tone of the book. Playful, yet suspenseful, combined with daily afternoon teas featuring a certain grumpy Miss Walker, the owner of the Last Chance Ranch, who says, 

"...of course I have enemies. Making enemies is so much easier than making friends, and they're far less trouble to maintain." ha!

Margaret Brownley hooked me with the opening chapter, laugh out loud funny, and kept me glued to the pages with a compelling, fast moving plot. When I closed the book, I was wearing a goofy grin. That's just the kind of book I love to read! What about you?

And I always love a book more when it addresses certain sensitive topics, and this one did. Miranda came from a mixed heritage, an Indian mother and white father. 

"Her Indian heritage was first thing people saw. Many didn't bother looking for anything else." 
So many years later, are we really any better at 
appreciating and valuing every human being?

No worries about picking up Gunpowder Tea before the first two books in the series. Each book is fine to read as a stand alone. But now that I've been introduced to Margaret Brownley's books, I can't wait to scoop up the first book in the series, Dawn Comes Early. What are you waiting for -> Purchase Link

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Margaret Brownley and Thomas Nelson Publishing for providing me with an advance review copy of Gunpowder Tea. The opinions expressed in this review are my own, and I received no monetary compensation.

Have you read Gunpowder Tea? 
Do you agree with my review? 
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Friday, August 23, 2013

E is for Envy...

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. 
Prov 14:30 NIV

What does that person do for a living to afford that?
Wow! Would you look at that house! Wouldn't you love to live there?
Why did my co-worker snag the promotion? I was more qualified.

Do you fall into the “envy” trap? 
Confession time! I admit that sometimes I do. Maybe I haven’t said those particular words. Mine would sound more like…

What? That writer can crank out 5,000 words in a day? How is that possible? I'm not sure I can think that fast, let alone type! or
You sold 100 books at a booksigning? or
She snagged a multi-book contract on her first try?

Insert heavy sigh here. When I hear about these tremendous accomplishments, I cringe and immediately wonder what’s wrong with me. Why can’t I write that fast? When it comes to speed, I'm definitely not going to break any records. I count it a good day if I manage to eek out over 1,000 words. To sell 100 books at one time? That number hasn't even filtered into my dreams yet. I was thrilled to snag a contract for one book, and I lost track of the years and how many rejections it took to get that. 

If I dwell on those things, I become cranky, ungrateful, and dissatisfied with the journey I'm on.

Envy rots the bones.

Oh Lord, I so don't want to go down that road.

"My precious daughter, don't you know by now that I love you just the way you are?" A tiny voice whispers in my heart, convicting me that envy is not from God. "You are fearfully and wonderfully made…" (Psalm 139:14 NIV) 

Fearfully and wonderfully made? Yowzers! 

No, God didn't equip me to crank out 5k in a day, but He created me, shaped me into the person I am, unique and one-of-a-kind, precious in His sight. How my complaining and comparing must hurt Him! 


I'm so sorry, precious Lord. Please forgive me. Guard my heart from envy. Don't allow it to seep into my life and settle into my bones. I will praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

What about you? Do you fall into the "envy" trap?

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Have you read STRANDED by Dani Pettrey?

About the book~
When her friend vanishes from a cruise ship, reporter Darcy St. James isn't satisfied with their explanation that she simply left her job of her own accord. Something isn't lining up, and Darcy believes the only way to find the truth is to put herself in Abby's position. Within days, Darcy learns her friend wasn't the only person to disappear mysteriously. Last summer, a woman vanished under almost identical circumstances.

Gage McKenna has taken a summer-long stint leading adventure excursions for the passengers of various cruise lines that dock for a few days of sightseeing. He's surprised to find Darcy working aboard one of the ships, investigating a troubling report. Something sinister is going on and the deeper they dig the more Gage fears they've only discovered the tip of the iceberg.

My summary~
Darcy St. James gave up investigative reporting years ago, but she still loves the thrill of tracking down leads. So when her friend, Abby, terribly frightened and distraught about her current story, contacts her, Darcy determines to help her friend uncover the truth. When Darcy arrives on the cruise ship, Abby has vanished. Restless and hoping to squash five month old memories of Darcy, Gage McKenna accepts the excursions gig on the cruise ship. The last person he expects to run into on the cruise ship is Darcy St. James.

What I liked...

I really liked that the author had set up Gage and Darcy's story at the end of her last book, Shattered. Even so, while it's not necessary to read Shattered before Stranded, you probably should because once you read this one, you'll want to go back and read the first two. Trust me.

Loved the characters. I've gotten to know Gage over the last two books, and he's definitely a favorite of mine. Masculine and manly, yet wounded and vulnerable. How could Darcy not fall for him? Especially when she sees the two little feet tucked close to his heart. But then, he'd stolen her heart long before then. 

Darcy's not a wimpy heroine. Sure, she's frightened once she learns what they're facing, but she's not willing to give up on finding her friend, especially since Abby doesn't know the Lord. This book made me think about my loved ones who don't know the Lord. Would I be as willing to face the same frightening situations for my loved ones? The faith element is woven into the plot, so beautifully and intrinsically, and it doesn't come off forced or trite.

and not so much...

I can't think of one element I didn't like about this book, except that it had to end. 


Stranded is worthy of highest praise. It's a book that'll make you forget about everything except flipping the page. Definitely a keeper, and Pettrey is now on my "must read" list!

Purchase Link

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to NetGalley and Bethany House Publisher for providing me with an advance review copy of Stranded. The opinions expressed in this review are my own, and I received no monetary compensation.

Have you read Stranded
Do you agree with my review?
What about you? Would you face frightening situations to track down a friend in danger? 
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Have you read FIVE DAYS IN SKYE by Carla Laureano?

Five Days in Skye
About the book~
Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she'll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she's sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she'd rather leave buried. For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father's dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.

Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.

Meet the cast~
"I like men. I just don't particularly trust them." 
Meet Andrea Sullivan. After a disastrous marriage straight out of college, Andrea abandons her dream of playing in a symphony and strives to become Vice President of a hospitality consultant firm, ignoring the hurtful zingers from the men she works with about her personal life. She's a workaholic with a strong closing ratio, and that coveted VP designation is right around the next contract.

Until she runs across celebrity Chef James MacDonald, who's flirty and fun. His smile ignites her dormant excitement about life, but he's too much like her ex-husband to stand a fighting chance to claim her heart. Besides, he's fighting his own demons from the past. After a devastating breakup with his ex-fiance, he's determined not to become emotionally entangled again. It doesn't help that Andrea's equally determined not to be just a pretty girl on his arm.

Sharing my thoughts~
OK. Here's where I confess that I'm not particularly enamored with either the cover or the title, so this book sat unopened in my kindle for at least a month. But, when I read the first few pages and they totally reeled me in, I was hooked! What a playful, engaging book! I loved it, from the cast of characters to feeling like I was actually touring Scotland, if only in the pages of a book. 

I mean, really. What's not to like about this?

"The entire Sound of Sleat spread out in front of them, a wide expanse of blue. Gentle waves lapped at the rocky beach below, creating lacy ripples of white froth against the dark sand. Across, she could see the mountainous edge of the Scottish mainland. The sun had finally risen, and now the sky was a brilliant blue, dotted with fluffy white clouds."

Don't you just want to dive into the pages of this book? Or book a trip to Scotland? Yeah, I know. I hear ya. If I like that excerpt, why don't I like the cover? For some reason (lack of people maybe?) the cover doesn't work for me. This is a prime example of why I shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but that's such a challenge for me.

If you know me, you know I love "happily-ever-after's." Like the title implies, this book covered just five days, so there wasn't what I'd call a "proper" HEA, but the ending definitely left me satisfied. No spoilers from me. You'll just have to read the book. Those Five Days in Skye are jam-packed with character depth, emotions and setting. 

Reviewers have noted that Five Days in Skye isn't your typical Christian romance. Some readers might not appreciate particular topics like drinking wine/ale with meals, which I considered to be more of a cultural difference. It's also rated high on the kissing intensity scale, yet I found the scenes well-balanced with emotional tenderness and never graphic. I appreciate how the author showed realistic characters and tackled sensitive issues like this:

"Christians like to talk about love and forgiveness, but they're no better than anyone else. They'd sooner judge you than accept you. I'd rather be a heathen than a hypocrite."

Have you read Five Days in Skye? 
Do you agree with my review? What were your thoughts?
What about you? Do you decide whether to read a book based on whether you like its cover?

Purchase Link

Disclaimer: I scooped this book up from Amazon when it was offered free. The opinions expressed in this review are my own, and I received no monetary compensation.
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Friday, August 16, 2013

Doubt...or Trust?

"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubtedMt 28:16-17 NIV

Jesus had warned his disciples all that would happen surrounding his crucifixion. They'd been hanging around with him for three years and had witnessed countless miracles, so many they weren't all recorded in the Bible (Jn 21:25). You'd think that they would have believed him, right?


Everything happened exactly as Jesus predicted. One of his own disciples turned him over to the authorities in exchange for trinkets of silver. Jesus was beaten, whipped, and then nailed to a cross until his last breath. A heavy stone was rolled across the entry to where his broken body lay, and guards were posted outside the tomb. 

All events he'd told them about ahead of time, happened exactly as he'd said. To the last detail.

When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

Seriously? The disciples doubted?

Men that had followed Jesus around for three years? Soaking in his words, watching him perform miracles, witnessing the compassion in his eyes as he looked upon his children? 


What a nasty, five letter word that sometimes slithers in to my life. Whether it's in my marriage, my writing, my faith...

Why do I struggle with it so?

Because doubt is a lie of the enemy, an all out frontal attack by the devil to rob us of joy, of peace that passes understanding. The enemy tosses out those tiny nuggets of doubt, and if we let allow them to take root, they blossom into full-fledged fear.

The disciples doubted even after they'd had a chance to see Jesus, to touch the holes in his hands, to hear his voice. Peter doubted after he'd stepped out of the boat and he looked down at the waves crashing around his feet. Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Mt 14:31 NIV

I can sometimes picture him, with an outstretched arm, glancing down at me with warm eyes, full of compassion, and in a loving voice, saying, "Oh, Dora, where's your faith? Why must you doubt?"

God promised that He'd always be with me. Why rob myself of joy and peace by doubting? I choose trust over doubt

Do you struggle with doubt? Which will you choose?
Doubt or trust?
A to Z blog hop at Patterings.
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Have You Read NORTH COUNTRY HERO by Lois Richer?

North Country Hero
by Lois Richer
About the book~
Back home to heal, army veteran Kyle Loness can't wait to leave the town that holds such sad memories. He never expects beautiful newcomer Sara Kane to enlist his help with the town's new youth center. What does he know about helping kids? But the more time he spends with the troubled teens—and Sara—the more the jaded soldier feels his defenses crumbling. It might take Sara—and the kids—to open his guarded heart to love again. 

My summary~
Reeling from an injury and angry at God, Kyle Loness is only in Churchill, Canada, to settle things after his father's death. He plans to get the house ready to sell, and get out. Sara Kane heads to Churchill to cook for Lives Under Construction, a youth center for boys. A former foster child, she has plenty of love to go around. Determined to find her biological family, she seeks out computer savvy Kyle for help.

What I liked...
I really liked Sara. Although she suffered a rough childhood, she still managed to find the good in everything and everybody. Instead of being weak and wimpy, her experience made her strong and determined. Sara showed kindness to the wounded soldier, and although Kyle tries to distance himself, her sweet, generous spirit draws him in.

At a crucial point in the book, Sara couldn't discern God's voice or the path He wanted her to take. It took being alone, really alone, for her to recognize His will. I could relate to that. When my world clamors with noise, I need that "alone" time with Him.

and not so much...
I felt the faith element tended to be a bit on the heavy side. That said, the author tackled a couple tough topics with this book, feelings of unworthiness and struggling with why bad things happen, and I thought she handled them well. 

I enjoyed North Country Hero and how the characters overcame their feelings of unworthiness and worked through their faith issues realistically. North Country Hero is definitely worth picking up for a nice, leisurely read. 

Disclaimer: Sending a huge thanks to Harlequin  and NetGalley for providing me with an advance review copy. The opinions expressed in this review are my own, and I received no monetary compensation.

What about you? Do you sometimes worry that you can't hear God's voice or that you missed His direction? Does it take getting alone with Him for you to discern His will?
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Friday, August 9, 2013

Conferences...or routine?

August is all about conferences in our family. As a fire chief, hubby attends two conferences, and they're both in August. The first is a regional conference, always in Raleigh, and the second's an international one held in different cities across the US. This week we're in Raleigh; next week, Chicago.

I enjoy traveling, but I confess I tend to be more of a "routine" kinda gal.
I mean, really. Raleigh and Chicago offer some spectacular sights, but what can beat the view from our back deck?

And hotel coffee doesn't compare to the strong brew I make at home.
This week we were able to bring along our baby, but next week, we'll have to leave him at home. He's skiddish about getting in an elevator. I can't imagine how he'd be after being forced into the belly of a plane. 

I'll miss the big baby next week.

And my writing?

Usually, I write from my office every day. No music. No distractions. No noise. Just the way I like it. But that means conferences stretch my comfort zone, 
take me out of my normal writing environment. 
Which means my word count comes to a screeching halt.

So, every August I'm faced with a difficult decision.
Conferences...or routine?
Traveling with hubby or staying at home to write?

Hmmm...not a no-brainer for me. I choose him.

What about you? 
What brings you out of your comfort zone? 
Are you a routine kinda person or do you like to shake things up?
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A to Z blog hop at Patterings.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Have You Read DARK ROAD HOME by Elizabeth Ludwig?

Dark Road Home by
Elizabeth Ludwig
About the book~
The nightmares of her past have found Ana Kavanagh an ocean away.
Ana Kavanagh's memories of Ireland are mostly of fire and pain. As a girl she survived a blaze that left her an orphan, left her scarred, and left her angry at God. Now in New York, Ana finds a kindred spirit in Eoghan Hamilton, who's struggling with his own anger. His twin sister, Cara, betrayed him by falling in love with his enemy.

Cast aside by everyone, Eoghan hopes to rejoin the Fenians, an organization pushing for change back in Ireland, by securing information against Rourke, the man his sister married. Ana, Cara's friend, may be his best source, and despite the attraction he feels, Eoghan determines to use the girl's sweet nature to his advantage.

Adding to the danger is a specter from Eoghan's own past, one whose thirst for vengeance knows no bounds. Eoghan must choose which road to follow--bitterness or forgiveness--and where to finally place his trust.

My Summary...
Irish immigrants Ana Kavanagh and Eoghan Hamilton both vowed never to cross the threshold of a church again, but for different reasons. Beaten and bruised by the Fenians and bitter over his sister's betrayal, Eoghan wakes, gazing up at a steeple, robbed of his last coin. Father Ed offers a meal in exchange for some work around the church. Ana blames God for the fire that ravaged her home, killing her mother and sister, and leaving her an orphan far away from her home. When Ana's friend practically drags her to the church to help feed the women and children staying in the mission, Ana discovers Eoghan's identity. While Eoghan barters to get back in the good graces of the Fenians, Ana hopes to reunite Eoghan with his sister. Neither of them are aware of the rippling effect one circumstance has on the other.  

My Review...
Typically, I'm not a huge history buff, but the author did a great job sparking my interest in 19th century life for Irish immigrants living in New York. 

As circumstances brought Eoghan and Ana together, each had to decide whether to stay bitter or forgive. This was especially true for Eoghan. Faced with a life or death situation, he was forced to choose who to trust. Their faith journey was totally realistic and organic to the story.

What an interesting, intense plot with layers of depth! This isn't a book you'll breeze through in a couple of hours. I savored it over a few nights, soaking up the history and the author's delightful way with words. This was a new author to me, and I'll definitely be keeping abreast of future books by Elizabeth Ludwig!

To note...

I definitely recommend reading the first book in the series, No Safe Harbor, before Dark Road Home. The plot started with No Safe Harbor and continues, I suspect all the way through the third book in the series. Also, had I read No Safe Harbor first, I believe that my questions about the Fenians would have been resolved sooner. 

Purchase Link

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Elizabeth Ludwig and Bethany House Publishers  for providing me with an advance review copy of Dark Road Home. The opinions expressed in this review are my own, and I received no monetary compensation.

Have you read Dark Road Home? 
Do you agree with my review? What were your thoughts?
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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Have you read FIRED UP by Mary Connealy?

Fired Up
Purchase Link
About the book~Fired UpTrouble in Texas Book 2
Dare Riker is a doctor who saves lives, but someone seems determined to end his. It may have something to do with the traitors he dealt with during the Civil War, or it might be related to the recent incident with Flint Greer and the ranch. Whoever the culprit is, he or she seems really fired up, and Dare can't let his guard down for a moment, which is a challenge, since right now he's trying to win the heart of the recently widowed Glynna.

Glynna Greer came west as a mail-order bride and ended up in a bad situation. Now her husband, Flint, is dead, and she's determined to care for her son and daughter on her own. She wants to believe Dare Riker is as decent as he seems, but she's terrified to lock herself into another marriage. She plans to support her small family by opening a diner--never mind that cooking is not her greatest talent. The men in Broken Wheel, Texas, are so desperate for home cooking that they seem willing to overlook dried-out beef and blackened biscuits.

Glynna can't help but notice that danger follows Dare wherever he goes. There's the avalanche. And then the fire. But things really get out of hand when someone plunges a knife from Glynna's diner into Dare's back. Are Flint's cronies still plotting revenge? Is Glynna's son engaged in a misguided attempt to protect his mother? Is a shadowy outsider still enraged over past injustices? And can Dare survive long enough to convince Glynna to take another chance on love?

My summary~
Feeling like a fraud because of his lack of schooling, Dare Riker isn't convinced he's supposed to be a doctor. Glynna and the rest of the town know that he's the closest thing to a doctor Broken Wheel will ever have. Dare saved Glynna from the rough treatment of her deceased husband, and his heart's set on marrying her, but Glynna promised her son she'd not marry again without his blessing. When danger strikes Dare more than once, he can only hope it's not Glynna's son intent on killing him.

My opinion...

Glynna wasn't the typical Connealy heroine: headstrong, gun-toting, and a 'save the hero from himself' kinda gal, but she wasn't weak, either. After surviving her second husband's abuse, she was determined not to marry again and to make it on her own. She opened a diner, but couldn't cook, and I enjoyed a twist from the normal stereotype.

I also loved how the author set up the chemistry between Vince and Tina, secondary characters. I'm hoping that's because Vince and Tina's story is up next in the Trouble in Texas series. :-)

Sparks always fly in a Connealy novel, and you're guaranteed a few laughs. This one was no different. A theme of forgiveness weaves throughout the book so naturally, it's seamless and as essential to the plot as the romance. 
I enjoyed a few hours reconnecting with Glynna and Dare, and I can't wait to read Connealy's next Romantic Comedy with Cowboys. Will it feature Vince and Tina?

Purchase Link

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Bethany House Publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advance review copy of Fired Up. The opinions expressed in this review are my own, and I received no monetary compensation.

Have you read Fired Up? 
Do you agree with my review? What were your thoughts?
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