Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blog Tour: The Jewel of His Heart


In the second book of her "Heart of the West" series, The Jewel of His Heart, Maggie Brendan has created a story set in 1890s Montana, featuring Josh McBride a "handsome, gentle sheepherder" and Juliana Brady, a young woman left semingly orphaned by the death of her mother.

Woven into the story is Juliana's efforts to discovery her identity and a future - after the death of her mother (her father had abandoned the pair years before), along with Josh's desire to have a secure future.

Along the way, Josh discovers a rare kind of sapphire on his property and considers striking out on his own path in the world. That discovery forces him to decide what is truly his heart's desire - world’s riches or the eternal value of love in a woman.

Maggie Brendan's style - of capturing the rugged, adventurous life on the American frontier - has been compared to Lori Wick and Kim Vogel Sawyer.

So What Did I Think?
Ok, let's face it. This is a historical romance set in the American Frontier. If you don't like any of those factors, than you probably won't like this book.

With that said, I enjoyed reading the book. I "figured" Josh and Juliana would find their love at the end of the book, let's face it - it's a Christian romance, and with such, there's a "formula" to the manuscript.

However, it's a sweet, simple story, with several twists and turns including the ultimate reappearance of Juliana's father - in an unexpected way.

I truly enjoyed the book - it's the kind that you can "loose yourself" into after a long, stressful day, along with a cup of hot chocolate or tea.

A few references in this story, raised a couple of questions - which I assume were answered in the first book. However, it easily stood alone - so you could grab it without feeling as if you need to read the first book.

I'm looking forward to reading more books by Maggie/Brenda. I think this is a romance book I could easily hand to some of the middle school/high school girls I work with - the girls devour romantic titles on a daily/weekly basis - without missing a beat.

This story has the earmarks of a Hallmark mini-series....I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Landon Jr. turns it into his next western scripts.

More Info About the Book
“Available October 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”
Want to find out more about the book? You can order it online at Amazon.com

More about Maggie
Maggie Brendan (the pen name for Brenda Lott) is a member of American Christian Writers and the American Fiction Writers Association. She is the author of No Place for a Lady and lives in Georgia.

Brenda chose her pen name because she wanted something that "sounded like an Irish romantic name."

"I also wanted to maintain a way to write non-fiction under my real name," explained Lott. "I almost went with my maiden name, O’Neal, I’m part Irish, but I really like my pen name. Maggie was my mother’s name and my granddaughter’s name is Maggie. I was nicknamed Maggie years ago by sister-in-law and it stuck."

According to her blog (click her for additional info) When Brenda is not writing, she likes to paint, scrapbook and be with her four grandchildren. She is also a member of a large sanctuary choir.

Hot off the Press
If you read The Jewel of His Heart and like Juliana and Josh's story....just wait...Maggie has woven a tale featuring Josh's sister, April. It's set for a June 2010 release.

April McBride has suffered a broken engagement once before and fully intends to guard her heart when she travels to Lewistown, Montana, to attend her brother's wedding. 

One look around the small mining town convinces April that this won't be difficult--just a bunch of dusty shops, bad service, and ill-bred cowboys. But a run-in with a horse trainer named Wes Owen opens up vast possibilities for frustration, embarrassment, friendship, and . . . love?

And Remember, the series begins with "No Place for a Lady."

Crystal Clark arrives in Colorado's Yampa Valley amid the splendor of a high country June in 1892. After the death of her father, Crystal is relieved to be leaving the troubles of her Georgia life behind to visit her aunt Kate's cattle ranch.

Despite being raised as a proper Southern belle, Crystal is determined to hold her own in this wild land--even if a certain handsome foreman doubts her abilities. Just when she thinks she's getting a handle on the constant male attention from the cowhands and the catty barbs from some of the local young women, tragedy strikes the ranch.

Crystal will have to tap all of her resolve to save the ranch from a greedy neighboring landowner. Can she rise to the challenge? Or will she head back to Georgia defeated?

As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell Publishing. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail. 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blog Tour: The Swiss Courier - Review & Interview


Intrigue and espionage, along with a dash of romance and a murder all combine to create The Swiss Courier, a historical novel set within Switzerland during World War II.

Developed by Mike Yorkey and Tricia Goyer, the novel centers on the experiences of a young, Swiss woman, Gabi Mueller, who becomes part of the American Office for Strategic Services – the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Mueller, along with a wide cast of characters, finds herself with the unexpected task of helping a young German scientist named Joseph Engel escape the clutches of the Nazi’s.

“One of the aspects about World War II that I was always fascinated about was how Switzerland figured into the global conflict,” explained Yorkey. “Although Switzerland declared its neutrality after the invasion of Poland, the landlocked country had to be military prepared to defend her neutrality since Nazi Germany had already invaded several other “neutral” countries, including Belgium and Denmark.

“I learned that the U.S. set up an espionage network in Switzerland, headed by Allen Dulles, starting in 1942. In fact, all the Allied and Axis powers had spy networks operating in Switzerland during the war, and there was a ‘war of wits’ that made for a lot of intrigue.”

Using the spy network as a backbone, along with numerous other historical facts, Goyer and Yorkey developed a novel, which included both the presence of OSS – American spies, and American soldiers – pilots held for the duration of the war in Swiss detention camps.

“This isn't just a Swiss story—it's a story about American lives that were impacted within the Swiss border,” Goyer explained. “What I loved the most about including the OSS, is that our story doesn't center around ‘professional’ spies.

“We really wanted to tell the story from Gabi's point-of-view: an ordinary girl called to help the Allied forces in extraordinary ways. My hope is that each of us will stop and thing, ‘What would I do?’ and ‘Would I answer the call?’”

Origins of the Collaboration
Yorkey and Goyer met several years ago while participating in an online Christian writer’s network, Writer’s View.

At that time, Yorkey had just completed his first novel, By the Sword, a Mideast thriller with Islamic themes. Goyer helped him determine why he was facing numerous rejections and what the novel needed to be published.

“After that experience, Tricia and I started kicking around some ideas about a World War II novel,” explained Yorkey, “which was up my alley since I’ve always thought of myself as a Second World War buff.”

Goyer said it was excitng to work with Yorkey, not only because of his passion for World War II, but also because it included getting to know his wife of 30 years, Nicole, a Swiss national.

True or False?
While numerous characters, including Mueller, Engel and Eric Hofstadler may only live in the imaginations of Yorkey and Goyer, many of the figures woven into the manuscript were real people, who appear throughout the annals of World War II.

“[The Swiss Courier] begins with a faithful recounting of the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life on July 20, 1944,” Yorkey said. “At that time, Werner Heisenberg, a German winner of the Nobel Prize, was leading the efforts to build the world’s first atomic bomb.”

In both the novel and in real life, Swiss officials closed its boarders to Jews and other refugees using the “boat is full” excuse. The “neutral” country also allowed German trains to pass through Switzerland while traveling between Germany and Italy.

As in real life, the novel includes the stories of American and British pilots who found themselves landing damaged planes in Dübendorf, Switzerland, rather than “ditching” in Germany where they most likely would be shot on sight by German troops.

More than 300 Allied pilots were interned “for the duration” of the war in the Swiss Alpine villages of Davos and Adelboden, explained Yorkey.

Allen Dulles, the brother of John Foster Dulles, the “Dulles” of “Dulles Airport outside of Washington D.C., established the OSS—the forerunner of the CIA—in the capital of Switzerland, Bern, in 1943.

“[Dulles] found that sending Allied agents into Germany had scant hope of eluding the Gestapo, but travel between the Reich and neutral Switzerland was free enough to bring certain Germans to him,” Yorkey explained. “Hence the need for field agents with mother-tongue ability to speak German, and that’s where people like Gabi Mueller, our heroine, comes in.”

Yorkey said much of the book was based upon historical facts found within the definitive biography of Werner Heisenberg—Heisenberg’s War: The Secret History of the German Atomic Bomb by Thomas Powers, and two books about American and British pilots interned in Switzerland – Shot from the Sky and Refuge from the Reich.

Additionally, World War II novels, like The Swiss Account by novelist Paul Erdman, also played a role in shaping the manuscript.

“Once you have this information in your head, you create these characters and let things play out as you envision everything happening,” Yorkey said. “By the end of the novel, I really believed that Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler lived!”

While Yorkey focused on the technical details of World War II, spies and pilots, Goyer concentrated on shaping the motivations, fears and inward battles that helped establish the main character’s personalities and experiences.

“Mike put the ideas on the page, and I worked to bring the people and the story to life,” Goyer said. “There were some sections - technical stuff - where I gave very little input. There were other parts - like the romance - where I, yes, rewrote whole sections! I thought we worked well together, as we each respected the other person's talents.”

Throughout it all, Yorkey and Goyer hope their readers find an appreciation for those who stood up against the Nazi regime – especially those who often faced death for their actions.

“I hope this story will entertain,” Goyer said. “I also hope the reader will come away with ‘external’ knowledge about this time in historical and ‘internal’ strengthening of one's own convictions.”

Goyer and Yorkey are already pondering a sequel to The Swiss Courier. It may center on the Mona Lisa painting during the liberation of Paris in August 1944.

So What Did I Think?
When I interviewed the authors, Goyer told me she hoped readers would have a “sleepless night” or two when they read the novel.

Well, in my case, Goyer was right! I started reading the book the evening it arrived in the mail. Two days later (yes, I stopped to go to work) I finished the novel – the first time.

I love books that make me think. The Swiss Courier accomplished that with abundance. I’ll admit, I’ve read it a couple of times…and even found myself Googling the characters to see who was “real” and who only reside in Yorkey and Goyer’s minds.

I think it’s a great read – especially if you like historical fiction.

More About The Swiss Courier
It is August 1944 and the Gestapo is mercilessly rounding up suspected enemies of the Third Reich.
When Joseph Engel, a German physicist working on the atomic bomb, finds that he is actually a Jew, adopted by Christian parents, he must flee for his life to neutral Switzerland.

Gabi Mueller is a young Swiss-American woman working for the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to the CIA) close to Nazi Germany.

When she is asked to risk her life to safely "courier" Engel out of Germany, the fate of the world rests in her hands. If she can lead him to safety, she can keep the Germans from developing nuclear capabilities.

But in a time of traitors and uncertainty, whom can she trust along the way? This fast-paced, suspenseful novel takes readers along treacherous twists and turns during a fascinating--and deadly--time in history.

About the Authors
Tricia Goyer is the author of several books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Montana. To find out more visit her website: www.triciagoyer.com.

Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California.To find out more visit his website: www.MikeYorkey.com.



A few more extras!

Listen to an interview with Yorkey and Goyer HERE!

Buy the book at Amazon.com:

Enter and win....it even includes CHOCOLATE!
Pst...pass it on! Help Spread the word about #SwissCourier on Twitter and enter to win a signed copy & Swiss Chocolate!

Just tweet this: The Swiss Courier by @triciagoyer fast paced and suspenseful! Don't miss out! http://tr.im/Ahjs RT #swisscourier and we'll enter you into a drawing for 1 of 5 SIGNED copies of The Swiss Courier!

Blog Tour:
See what others think about the book.

As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blog Tour: Lost Mission


With his newest offering, Lost Mission, Athol Dickson has created a book that explores how an 18th Century crime/disease could impact lives 12 generations later.

At the very least, the manuscript will keep you hooked until the last chapter.

Using two distinct sets of points of views - the first of the 18th century priests, and the second, four main characters living in present day, Southern California, Dickson has created a novel that incorporates a variety of issues and ideas.

The present day characters include:
•  Lupe, a shopkeeper who leaves her tiny village deep in Mexico to preach in America
• Tucker, a minister wracked with guilt for loving the wrong woman
• Delano, an unimaginably wealthy man, blinded to the consequences of his grand plans; and
• Ramon, a devoted father and husband driven to a horrible discovery that changes everything

Through the entire novel, Lupe, provides the common link, hooking the reader between past and present, as her interactions with all of the characters intertwines very distinct (and different) men.

Lupe also helps link the past actions of the priests (and the subsequent collapse of their 18th Century Spanish mission) and the present day efforts of Delano to build a "dream Christian" community, disturbs the forgotten ruins - and in Dickson's words cause rich and poor alike, to confront the onslaught of "hell on earth."

So What Do I Think
It took a couple (actually four) chapters for me to get into the rhythm of  Dickson's writing style. At first, I found his method of switching between between the past and present a bit jarring. But I stuck with it.

Once I became "hooked" into the manuscript, I wanted to continue reading until I discovered the "ultimate" crime - what caused the collapse of the Spanish mission, so I could find out how it was impacting the present day lives.

The novel, at the very least, will make you think. Dickson weaves in themes of witnessing to "non Christians," immigration, Homeland security, greed, the impact a mega church can have in the world, and the disparity between rich and poor.

Bit take note: It's a novel that won't necessarily leave you with a "happy, happy, joy, joy" feeling at the end.

The novel will however, stay with you, as you examine the world created by Dickson and realize that some issues - no matter what people may tell you - are not black and white for Christians, but rather, filled with shades of grey.

It will also make you think about how you treat the service person you may find yourself interacting with - the person who cuts your lawn, cleans your business and maybe even runs your household.

It may even remind you that Jesus came to save everyone, regardless of age, race or monetary status.

It would definitely be a good book for a book club - because it will stir on a lively conversation.


More About Athol Dickson
Athol Dickson is an award-winning author of several novels. His Christy Award-winning novel River Rising was name one of the "Top Ten Christian Novel of 2006" by Booklist magazine. He lives in California with his wife. Find out more about Athol and his books by visiting his website: www.atholdickson.com.

Some Things You Can Check Out....

* Purchase the book at Amazon.com
* Read the book already? You can post a review on Amazon....
* Read what others are saying about the book. Click here.

A Contest (of Course!)
Tweet this and be entered to win signed copies of Athol’s award winning books:

Tweet 4 words that describe Athol Dickson’s #LostMission along with this link: http://tr.im/BPD1

Or

Athol Dickson’s redemptive tale #LostMission is a MUST read! Gripping story about mistakes and miracles!  http://tr.im/BPD1

Contest clarification: To be clear – to be entered into the contest your tweet must have these two elements 1. Athol Dickson’s #LostMission 2. this link: http://tr.im/BPD1.

As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blog Tour: O2 - Breathing New Life Into Faith


Breathe in. Breathe out.

OK, now that you've gotten that detail figured out - you every few seconds of your life - you have the beginning premise of Richard Dahlstorm's newest book "O2: Breathing New Life Into Faith."

Dahlstrom, pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, has penned what may become a new classic for the emergent church - a look at the spiritual disciplines in a new way.

He divides the "disciplines" into two categories - those that impact the person internally or through "inhaling" and those that involve doing something or "exhaling."

Inhaling disciplines include: solitude,  prayer, and reading the Bible.

Exhailing disciplines include: service, hospitality and living generously.

Through it all, he weaves a variety of personal stories, all designed to show Christians of all ages and stages, a way to incorporate faith into their lives - so that they can develop a living, vibrant faith.

So What Do I Think?
Even if the thought of integrating spiritual disciplines into your life makes you cringe (or feel inadequate), I truly believe this book will make you think.

Dahlstrom has an easy writing style, which will at least let you begin a conversation, either with yourself or a small group, related to how Christians interact with these topics.

As someone who "grew" in faith reading Richard Foster (another contemporary theologian), I'm not sure what I expected in O2. Frankly, the book didn't immediately "click" with me like Foster's writings. However, that doesn't mean it's not good or a potential resource for Christians wanting to know more.

Honestly, I'm still processing some of his ideas and trying to see how they can directly impact my life. I am tired of reading books and saying "great," what 's next. I'm trying to savor this book and see what new things it can teach me about prayer, solitude and the Sabbath.

Yes, I'm technically writing this review on my sabbath from my job as a children's pastor, so you can see, I still have a lot to learn about the disciplines and how they impact my faith journey.


So I think O2 is definitely worth a read - and probably more than just a read. I think it's a great way to explore some "vital" issues that impact a Christian's life. At the vary least, you may find yourself having a much needed conversation with Jesus. 

A Bit More About Richard Dahlstrom
Richard Dahlstrom is Senior Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, WA, in the heart of the city, among university students, young professionals, families, the homeless, and the elderly.

He is also a popular teacher in North America and Europe for the Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers. He holds a M.Div. from Talbot Theological Seminary. Find out more about Dahlstrom at: http://raincitypastor.wordpress.com/

A Few Extras You Can Explore
* Watch a video about the book: Click here!
* Read the first chapter of the book and download a copy of a free study guide: Click here!
* Reach an excerpt from the book: Click here (a second link if you have trouble with the first).
* Follow Pastor Richard on Twitter - @raincitypastor 
* See what others think of this book: Click here for the blog tour list.

A Contest

Win a signed copy of 02 for yourself! There are two ways to enter! The winners will be announced 10/26.

1. Jump over to Pastor Richard’s blog “Pastoral Musings from Rain City” (http://www.raincitypastor.blogspot.com/ ) and leave a comment between October 5th and October 24th. Just say hi or tell Pastor Richard what you liked about his book, or share with him how you’ve experienced ‘new life’ in your faith!

2. Tweet this:
@raincitypastor Pub. Weekly voted Breathing New Life into Faith as top 10 book in 2008 check it out! http://tr.im/Au8q #02

As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Quote of the Day

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.
Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.
Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.
Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.
One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.


- Mary Jean Iron

Thanks to Ali Edwards for the gentle reminder to look for the normal days.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blog Tour: Intimate Conversations: Devotions to Nurture A Woman's Soul

Are you tired? Thirsty? Do you desire something warm and toasty - like a cup of hot chocolate for your soul?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may want to pick up Alicia Britt Chole's newest book, "Intimate Conversations: Devotions to Nurture A Woman's Soul."

Through 52 devotions, Chole tackles a variety of subjects, all with one theme - things that stop us from fulfilling our desire for a deeper, richer relationship with Jesus Christ.

Chole sums up her thoughts surrounding this work with a simple statement.

“I want to show women how each minute of every loud, distracting day is pregnant with potential for intimacy if we can learn how to simply and intentionally live it with God,” Chole said.

Each devo is paired with a set of questions for a small group discussion or reflective journaling.

Deovs that "Jumped" Out (a.k.a. That Spoke To Me...)
As I thumbed through the book, to get a feel for Chole's writing style, a few devos jumped out, and made me want to stop and think about life.

One devo "Every Choice Is A Seed" talks about the choices we make, each day, using a garden/seed analogy. Each choice we make is a "seed" planted within the "garden" of our soul.

It made me wonder what my "soul's garden" might look like. Is it like my virtual garden on Facebook - dry, dusty and well, dead (yes, I haven't played Farm Town since the fall semester geared back up), or is it full and lush, like the gardens found at the botanical gardens?

Would someone want to take a picture of my "soul" and share it - talking about how beautiful it is, or would my soul's garden cause people to run in horror?

We all make choices. What choices will you make today?

The Call
Reading the devo entitled "The Call" made me realize that Chloe and I share a similar passion for working with youth.

The devo opens with the description of a pastor/worship leader asking students to stand if they feel "called" into full time Christian service/ministry.

Those who stood were celebrated - and rightly so - for the momentous decision they have made.

However, like Chloe, I wish churches/ministries would celebrate with our students who accept God's call on their lives to become doctors, teachers, lawyers, dentists, hair stylists, etc. Every job is essential in this world. Every job contains ministry opportunities. It may be that those in "regular" jobs have a greater opportunity to minister to others.

Chloe said in the devo that limiting a ministry calling to professional ministry label limits how all Christians, regardless of job title, are called in Mark 16:15 to go out and preach the good news throughout the world - Go into all the world and preach the good news to everyone, everywhere.

The verse doesn't say "go out only if you are a youth pastor, minister or paid ministry staff. It simply says "go."

A Few Final Thoughts
I think Chloe's devo book will make you think. Hopefully, with 52 devos, at least one (or more) will speak to your soul - or at least make you think about things in a new way. The book is definitely going on my "referral" book for moms within my children's ministry.

More about Alicia Britt Chloe

Alicia Britt Chole speaks nationally and internationally to leaders, pastors, professionals, students, women, and churches. She has been a mentor for students and women for more than twenty years. She is the author of Anonymous and Finding the Unseen God. Chole lives in Missouri. Her website: is www.truthportraits.com

(From her website:) Alicia declared herself an atheist at the age of 9. Immediately after God interrupted her existence, He began sending her mentors who loved Jesus deeply and treasured His Word with integrity. Alicia spiritually grew up seeing, appreciating, and learning from an enriching collection of God's people including Baptist missionaries, Episcopal artists, Assemblies of God churches, Catholic writers, and charismatic ministers. Since moving to Missouri in 1996, the Choles have been members of New Life; a fresh, Bible-based, Jesus-centric church community.

More About Intimate Conversations
Intimate Conversations: Devotions To Nurture A Woman's Soul is now available at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.

The book has been selected as the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) theme devotional for 2009. Click here for more details.

For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com

As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell Books. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail
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