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Saturday, May 16, 2020

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About the Book

Book:  Illusions
Author: Jennifer Sienes
Genre:  Christian Contemporary
Release Date: April 28, 2020
Illusions eBook coverCorey Schaffer, pastor’s wife and mother of two teens, has spent her entire marriage subconsciously repenting for one reckless night the week before her wedding.
Upon discovery of Corey’s indiscretion, her 17-year-old daughter, Taylor, is in a car accident resulting in a weeklong coma, traumatic brain injury and memory loss. Corey is riddled with guilt and would like nothing better than to confess all to her husband, Paul. But how can she when his pastoral position is at risk, thanks to their son’s thoughtless act of rebellion the year before—an act Paul has yet to forgive?
Instead, Corey loses herself in the day-to-day work of Taylor’s rehabilitation and prays God will give her the courage to face the past. But when a disgruntled church member sees an opportunity for revenge, Corey must find the faith and strength to put her family first, even if it means walking away.

Click here for your copy!
I hope I can do a review for this book that will let readers know how powerful this story is. The author holds nothing back as she digs deep into emotions that rip your heart out. How many of us are guilty of expecting more from our pastor and their family? We believe they should have their house in order and their children should be perfect. Oh how we must all get on our knees and ask God to forgive us for judging, gossiping, pointing fingers and acting holier than thou. Just so you know, pastors go through trials just like us. Their children may mess up, their marriage may not always be the best it can be, but we better make sure to check ourselves before we point at a family that God has called into ministry. 
This story is very personal for me. My dad was a preacher and I grew up in a very strict household. Every time the church was open, we were there. We were the picture of happiness but behind closed doors, secrets and shame ran rampant in our home.  This book opened up a few wounds fir me and allowed me for  the first time to see my sin of bitterness.
 We are introduced to Paul, his wife Corey and their children Michael and Taylor.  In the first few pages we witness an accident that will unravel secrets that one person never thought would be found out. I cried through the majority of the story as I felt the pain this family went through. 
The relationship between father and son is fractured and I think Paul was more concerned about what the church thought of Michael’s actions than actually finding out why Michael had become so rebellious. As a pastor he sees and counsels people every day. He speaks to them  about forgives, but has he forgiven his son? I enjoyed reading how the author explores a father and son relationship and breaks it down to the bare bones where sin is exposed. 
Corey is overwhelmed with being a pastor’s wife, raising a family and being a substitute teacher. The day Taylor has an accident she had just discovered something that shook her world. The anger she expressed to her mom was brought on by a secret that will change the family forever. The author does a great job of taking us through Taylor’s accident and showing us what it would be like to have a child who would need not only physical therapy but emotional therapy as well. Oh how I wanted to hug Corey and tell her that she needs to stop carrying around guilt that God has forgiven her for. 
The family is torn apart and in walks the enemy to try to severe a marriage, destroy a family and shame a pastor. I couldn’t put the book down as I wanted to know why someone was so determined to try to remove Paul from the pulpit.   The story is very realistic and shows how vengeful people can be when they become angry and feel rejected by a pastor.  Perhaps we can understand how hard it can be at times when your family is put under a microscope with people waiting to find a blemish. 
I think  this book needs to be put in every church library. It should also be required reading for all leaders and new members of a church. Allow this story to teach lessons about forgiveness,trust, communication, family and unconditional love. Let the story remind us that we all sin. Instead of pointing fingers when someone sins, lets wrap our arms around them and pray with them. The book is a powerful look at a fractured family who must be vulnerable to allow God to heal them and set them free from past pain and anger. 
“Whom the son sets free, is free indeed.”
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion. 

About the Author

Jennifer SiennesJennifer Sienes holds a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in education, but discovered life-experience is the best teacher. She loves Jesus, romance and writing—and puts it altogether in inspirational contemporary fiction. Her daughter’s TBI and brother’s suicide inspired two of her three novels. Although fiction writing is her real love, she’s had several non-fiction pieces published in anthologies including several in Chicken Soup for the Soul. She has two grown children and one very spoiled Maltese. California born and raised, she recently took a step of faith with her real-life hero and relocated to Tennessee.

More from Jennifer

Since I was twelve years old, I’ve been writing stories. I even wrote fan-fiction before it was a thing—a Happy Days episode, which I’m sure dates me. I took every creative writing class I could, starting in high school, and even declared journalism as my college major until I realized I like fiction a whole lot more than truth because I can create the characters any way I like.

However, my first attempts at writing emotionally charged novels fell flat; I hadn’t lived enough to truly understand what deep emotion felt like. Then life happened—a series of tragedies that made me feel I was more on par with Job than with Jesus. Someone wise told me that all writers must find the core of why they write—that deep part of us that God instilled in our hearts. What is it we, as writers, want to communicate to our readers? What I came away with was that we all need hope, especially in our darkest days.

Illusions was born out of a near-fatal car accident my daughter was in only weeks after her eighteenth birthday. It was walking through that accident with her that started the what if questions years later. What if an accident is the result of a mother/daughter argument? What if that argument was caused by something the mother did in her past—a deep, dark secret that even she cannot face? And what if that mother is held to a higher standard than most others? Say the wife of a pastor? And what if that pastor already has a black mark against him because of an act their other child (a boy) previously committed?
Would the congregation turn against him? We all know people in church who seek any opportunity to throw a wrench into things—that live with a big ol’ log in their eye, blinding them from the concept of grace.
To add to the tension (because, what’s the point of a story without it?), what ifthe accident caused a traumatic brain injury and the daughter remembers nothing? It may not be on par with Sophie’s Choice, but now a mother is torn between wanting her daughter to be whole again and hoping the deep, dark secret remains lost somewhere in the recesses of her mind.
Admittedly, the two children of Corey and Paul Schaffer (the main characters) are based loosely on my own children, Nicole and Christopher. It is so much easier to write what I can easily envision in my mind. And many of the challenges Taylor (the accident victim) faces were actually those my own daughter experienced. But that’s where truth and fiction part ways. So, Illusionsstarted with inspiration, but God took it to whole new level. It’s one of the ways He uses the challenges I’ve faced in life to connect with readers and hopefully give them His inspiration and encouragement.

Blog Stops

Genesis 5020, May 14
Emily Yager, May 15
CarpeDiem, May 23
Moments, May 24


To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card & a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Friday, May 15, 2020

About the Book

Book:  Avalanche
Author: M. Liz Boyle
Genre:  Christian YA
Release Date: September 27, 2019
Updated CoverWhen fifteen-year-old Marlee Stanley joins her two sisters and the sons of their family friends on a secretive hike in the middle of the night, she is thrilled and nervous. Battling her conscience, she prays that the hike will go flawlessly and that they will return to the safety of their campsite before their parents wake. The start of the hike is beautiful and wonderfully memorable.
In a white flash so fast that Marlee can barely comprehend what has happened, an avalanche crashes into their path. Buried in packed snow, Marlee is forced to remember survival tips learned from her dad and her own research.
This group of friends, ages eleven through seventeen, is about to endure bigger challenges than many adults have experienced. Digging out of the packed snow is only the first of many challenges. Injuries, cold, hunger, fatigue, aggressive wildlife and tensions in the group make this a much bigger adventure than they ever imagined. As the kids strive to exhibit Christian values throughout the trials, they learn numerous life lessons. But they are nearly out of food, and their energy is waning quickly. How will they ever reach help?
Click here for your copy!

The story is full of adventure when a group of teens take a secret hike late at night.  The description of the snow cascading down the  mountain was so realistic I could feel chills running through my body.  I can’t imagine the terror the teens felt as they saw the destruction coming their way. 

I enjoyed reading how they looked for each other after the avalanche had stopped. You could feel the confusion as each one hoped for rescue. The details about climbing was interesting . I didn’t realize all the equipment you need to pack and survival tools that are necessary. It is hard to say which character I liked the most because they each brought a purpose to the story. It is a clean book with light faith elements scattered in the story. It is a perfect read for teens where they will find lessons about encouraging each other, trusting God and never giving up. 

I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion. 

About the Author

Liz is an author, the wife of a professional tree climber and the mom of three energetic and laundry-producing children. She received her Associate’s of Arts at the University of Sioux Falls, where she received the LAR Writing Award for her essay entitled, “My Real Life Mufasa.” Liz once spent a summer in Colorado teaching rock climbing, which she believes was a fantastic way to make money and memories. She resides with her family in Wisconsin, where they enjoy hiking and rock climbing. Liz and her husband have also backpacked in Colorado and the Grand Canyon, which have provided inspiration for her writing. She likes making adventurous stories to encourage others to find adventures and expand their comfort zones (though admittedly, she still needs lots of practice expanding her own comfort zone). She has thoroughly enjoyed working on her first novel, Avalanche, and the sequel Chased, which will release in the summer of 2020.

More from Liz

Have you ever been tempted to take a risk even though your conscience was screaming at you? Were you able to justify the pursuit of the thrill, actually convincing yourself that what you knew to be the unwise decision made perfect sense?
I did. So did my sisters. And so did Sawyer and Marshall Miles. When Sawyer first proposed the idea of the moonlit summit on our families’ annual backpacking trip, I was terrified. But I was also hooked. Sawyer convinced us that we would be fine, and we would be back to camp before our parents woke up with the sunrise.
Hearts racing and hands trembling, we five kids snuck away from camp in the middle of the night. Hiking toward the peak, the full moon was breathtaking, the wildlife abundant, and the experience unreal.
It became a whole lot more unreal when an avalanche, roaring, white and enormous, thundered into our path. Buried in the packed snow, I would have given anything to go back in time and change my decision to go along with this foolish idea.
Digging out of the cemented snow was the first of many challenges in the coming days. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, we were all pushed to our limits.
I had always loved hiking Colorado’s peaks. But, of course, I had never had to evacuate my own sister. I had always trusted Dad’s orienteering. Now I had to trust Sawyer, who, by the way, was the brain behind this dilemma. I usually slept best while backpacking. But, mountain nights are warmer when spent in a sleeping bag. But I can’t let my mind go there. I must keep a positive outlook and trust God to bring us to safety. That’s easier said than done.
Avalanche is a Christian teen and young adult novel. This engaging journey, told by fifteen-year-old Marlee Stanley, captures a timeless sense of adventure. The five young adults strive to exhibit godly character throughout their escapade, but they have not been in such a dire situation before. It will take immense strength and cooperation to hike out of this mess.

Blog Stops

Remembrancy, May 10
Lukewarm Tea, May 14 (Author Interview)
Mary Hake, May 14
Blossoms and Blessings, May 19  (Author Interview)
Rebecca Tews, May 19


To celebrate her tour, M. Liz is giving away the grand prize of a gift basket with the items pictured above!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

About the Book

Book:  Taking Chances
Author: Melody Carlson
Genre:  Middle Grade
Release Date: April 15, 2020
Zoey knows her days are numbered. At least when it comes to remaining in Cedarville. So when Louisa coaxes her to be part of a garage band, Zoey tosses her insecurities aside to make music with her friends. And she even goes out for the basketball team. But what will happen when her mom shows up and pulls the plug on everything?

Click here for your copy!
I have  enjoyed getting to follow Zoey and her friends in this fun series. It is geared towards middle school and the author nails their attitude and problems perfectly. Even though you can read this book as a stand alone, I would recommend reading from the beginning. Each book focuses on Zoey and the problems she faces as a pre teen.  This story finds Zoey branching out and getting  involved with school activities. There is also a very fun adventure that she and a few of her friends get involved in. To me this was an important part of the story because it shows Zoey becoming more confidant in herself. 
Another aspect of the story I really liked was the lesson on forgiveness. Zoey has learned to forgive someone  who hurt her last year.  When another rumor starts about Zoey, will she blame the wrong person for starting the vicious lie? This storyline was used in the last book but the author takes it a step further. The faith element in the book is just the right amount for this age group. It is on a level that they will fill comfortable without feeling preached to. 
I am sad to see the series ending but the author has ended the story with a great lesson that we can all learn from. When you forgive someone, you need to let the past go. I hope this series is put libraries and used in youth groups to help pet teens understand the value of friendship and a forgiving heart. 
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion.  

About the Author

Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women, and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller.” Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, True Colors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including RT’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita, and the Gold medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog.

More from Melody

Sometimes I feel guilty for ‘torturing’ my teen and tween characters, but I do it for my readers. It’s not easy being an adolescent, and reading about someone who’s facing hard times is comforting. But in the final Zoey book, I really wanted to give her some victories too. So when challenges come her way, she stands up to them. And she even puts her newly found faith to work. The goal is for readers to feel hopeful about their own lives when they see Zoey rise above her tough circumstances.

Blog Stops

Vicky Sluiter, May 20
Remembrancy, May 21
Moments, May 25


To celebrate her tour, Melody is giving away the grand prize package of the full Being Zoey series!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Monday, May 11, 2020

About the Book

Book:  The Good Shadows
Author: Carol Alwood
Genre:  Young adult romance with a supernatural twist
Release Date: January 10, 2020
She believed him when he told her some Shadows were good.
When sixteen-year-old Violet Blackstone seeks to belong outside of her Christian community, she opens doors to a dark world she doesn’t understand.
Her parents’ secret separation and conflict at church fuel her desire to find something more. She sneaks out to a party at Chuckanut House and meets Dakota Selby, the mysterious new guy at Bellingham High School who reads her tarot cards and tells her she doesn’t belong. When she discovers his family owns Chuckanut House, she plans to hold her parents’ twenty-fifth-wedding-anniversary party there to reunite them in the beautiful mansion surrounded by forest and ocean—and to spend more time with Dakota to prove she fits into his world.
Violet works her way into Dakota’s life and must face the secrets and Shadows buried deep within Chuckanut House and her own family’s past. Entrenched in darkness, Violet searches for light and love as she battles Shadows threatening to capture her soul.
When her life falls apart, where will she turn?
Winner of the 2016 Orange County Christian Writer’s book proposal contest.

Click here for your copy!
Wow! This has been an experience I never thought I would have. Reading  a book about Wiccan religion. The book takes readers on a journey as Violet becomes rebellious against her parents, her friends and God. Like Violet I grew up as a pastor’s kid. The church constantly watched everything  we did and I was taught to keep secrets so the church would never know what happened in our home when no one was around. I understood Violet and her need to find something she could belong to. She feels like God has abandoned her so she is easily persuaded to take a walk on the wild side. There were times I wanted to tell her to stop trying to play parent and act her age. Her deviance brings her into a world where no Christian wants to be.
I am amazed at how in depth the author describes spells and the rituals that take place. It is evident the author has done much research on this subject. It was very hard to read the book at times as felt chills going down my arm. I loved her friend Owen. He and Violet have been best friends since they were little. He can sense that Violet is slipping away into darkness. His determination to save her is powerful. I don’t want readers  to think this is a book to glorify Wiccan, but a book that warns us how easy it is to seek out something when you feel lost. God is very prevalent in the book and there is a strong pull of good vs evil. 
The author captured my full attention and as much as I wanted to toss the book because of its content I couldn’t. I had to know if Violet turns away from God. I needed to know what Dakota was about. Violet is attracted to him even though he is not exactly a good influence on her. The deeper Violet dug into this new religion the more she became different. Her anger was almost out of control, she pushed friends away and turned her back on God. There is a verse I kept hearing as I read the book. “Train up a child in the way he  should go and when he gets old he shall not depart from it.”  Oh I know Violets parents held that scripture close as they fought for their daughter. There are secrets that cause a family to pull away from each other. Over and over again through the book I felt God’s presence rise as darkness tried to take innocence away. I am amazed at how good this book is and how the author handled a topic with honesty. She doesn’t hold back and allows Violet to dip her toes with curiosity into shadows that surround her in  darkness. At the end of the book , the author has included a short Bible study. I highly recommend doing the study to see what the Bible says about the subject from the book. This book should be a reminder to all of us that there is always hope. Prayer is a powerful tool and when two or more are gathered in  His name He is there with them. 
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion. 

About the Author

Author Carol Alwood grew up in the green haven of Bellingham, Washington, the setting of The Good Shadows series. Now living in Southern California, she misses the raindrops on maple leaves, so when she isn’t home for a visit she writes stories that take place in her hometown. Carol adores fiction and is the author of the novelette, Ghost of a Girl. She also wrote Focused Backstory: The Key to Writing Deep Character Journeys, a newly released writing-craft book.

More from Carol

Magic isn’t a new topic for Christian fiction.
Many readers of this genre often enjoy spell-filled stories that take place in faraway lands because they know the narrative involves make-believe creatures and battles. But what if by becoming used to magic in stories we have allowed a gentle pathway for magical ideas to trickle into our lives? What if in one sudden moment (in the same way other things have become acceptable overnight) magic, a.k.a. magick, touched our fingertips in the real world, and we felt compelled to wield its power? Could it be that magic is already here? All one has to do is check online for tarot card readings, potion recipes, and steps for casting spells. What if while we scoffed at the thought of magic as something more than the stuff of fantasy our children stumbled upon it? From this logic, The Good Shadows was born.
Violet Blackstone is a sixteen-year-old pastor’s daughter who struggles to feel whole. Her parents hide their secret separation, she feels like she doesn’t fit in at church, and she meets a Wiccan priestess’s son who shows her another way of thinking. Nestled in the shadowy forests of the Pacific Northwest, Violet sets out on a new pathway that leads toward love and magick. Meanwhile, she uncovers disturbing information about her own family’s past. Her friend Owen tries to stop her from heading down this dark path, but she’s drawn in by a boy with forest green eyes and the desire to exercise control over her crumbling life.
What will it take for Violet to realize she has opened doors to a dark world and there are shadows are after her soul?
This award-winning book is available on Amazon in paperback and as an ebook (Kindle Unlimited). The Bible study at the end is ideal for small groups or individuals to enjoy an in-depth study on magick and sorcery. Don’t miss Ghost of a Girl, a novelette in The Good Shadows series, and The Dark Shadows (book two coming out June of 2020).
Carol Alwood is also the author of Focused Backstory: The Key to Writing Deep Character Journeys and the book’s corresponding workbook. Both are available on Amazon. While Carol lives with her husband and two daughters in Southern California, she loves visiting her hometown of Bellingham, Washington, where The Good Shadows takes place. The road to Chuckanut is a real place with stunning views and inviting forests. Check out her website for a virtual hometown tour and to read chapter one of The Good Shadows.

Blog Stops

Genesis 5020, May 14
Emily Yager, May 15


To celebrate her tour, Carol is giving away the grand prize package of a signed paperback copy of The Good Shadows & $10 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.