Friday, February 26, 2010

Blog Tour: Out With The In Crowd (Review)

She knew changing her life wouldn't be easy--but she never expected it to be this hard.

With those opening thoughts, Stephanie Morrill has introduced readers with the second book in the "Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt" series - Out With The In Crowd.

In this novel, Skylar has vowed to change her partying ways, and continue to figure out what becoming a Christian means to her.

Although, Skylar soon learns that giving up her partying ways is easy - changing her friends and dealing with things at school and home, as well as figuring out who she truly is, is the hard part. Read the First Chapter: Click here
 
What I Thougth
I liked Morrill's writing style. The book was easy to read and full of interesting characters.

I liked how she portrayed Skylar's struggles in a realistic manner - how she deals with her parents' pending divorce, a younger sister's pregnancy, her boyfriend and her past and former friends.

I'll admit, I was a bit lost at times, not having read the first novel. It was kind of like jumping into a mini-series in mid stream. However, I think this complete series would be one I could safely pass along to the middle school girls I work with.

While Skylar is a senior in high school, I'm not sure this book would appeal to older girls. However, I know many of my gals - especially those in seventh, eight and probably ninth grade - would read Skylar's story with interest.

Morrill attacks some "tough" subjects in a light and easy to read way - without a lot of "preaching." It truly shows a young girl struggling with changing who she is - as a Christian - without losing the quirky things that make her unique.

One thing that jumped out to me, is how Skylar attempted to change herself based upon clothes and, I assume, other "outward" markings - to show that she was a Christian. I think this is a realistic idea - I know as a teenager, I thought being a Christian meant I couldn't listen to anything but Contemp. Christian music. I thought my Christian faith meant I had to live in a certain "mold" or "ideal."

I think (remember, I haven't read the first book), Morrill is trying to use Skylar's story to show that becoming a Christian is more of an internal transformation than outward change.

I will probably purchase the first and third books, so I can put all three in our church's library (the girls have been asking for good, solid Christian novels.) I can see these books providing me with a way to talk to some of the girls about a variety of issues in a non-threatening way.

Other Books In the Series
Book 1: Just Me, Different
Getting a fresh start is harder than it looks.

Skylar Hoyt is a girl who seems to have it all--she's pretty, popular, and has a great-looking boyfriend. Her senior year should be the best one yet. But a horrible experience at a summer party has changed everything. Now she's vowing to make better choices, including going back to church. But as Skylar tries to gain new perspective on life, the world as she knows it begins to fall apart.

Her parents are constantly fighting. Her younger sister has a big secret that Skylar is forced to keep. The guy she's dating is annoyingly jealous. And the new guy down the street is just plain annoying. In the midst of the chaos, Skylar starts to wonder who her real friends are and, even more importantly, who she is.  
Read the first chapter by clicking here

Book 3: So Over It (July 2010 Release)

Senior year is over and Skylar Hoyt is ready to forgive and forget. Or at least forget. She wants a fresh start where people don't know about her partying past or her younger sister and her baby. A place where she won't run in to her ex-boyfriend every time she leaves the house. When she gets the chance to spend the summer in Hawaii with her grandparents, Skylar jumps at the chance to get out of town. But when her sister needs her, Skylar has to swallow her pride and come back home. Will she be strong enough to rise above the gossip and live the life God wants for her?

The final book in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, So Over It shows teen readers that forgiveness is always available.


About Stephanie Morrill 
Stephanie Morrill is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and the Teen Lit writers' group. Morrill is the author of Me, Just Different and Out with the In Crowd, and she also serves in youth ministry. She lives in Kansas with her husband and young daughter.

--From Stephanie's Website

There’s a reason I write fiction and not memoirs. My life—while chaotic and wonderful—wouldn’t make a page turner. But for those who still want to know, here you go:

Writing has always been a part of me. Some girls played with Barbies or Polly Pocket, but I chose to write. Mostly about horses. And sometimes dynamite, though not in the same story. Now I write the types of books that are really hard to describe in a way that makes them sound interesting. 

When people ask me what they’re about, I always start with, “Well, it’s about this girl…” and then fumble around for awhile until their eyes glaze over. What many of my stories deal with is that moment when you realize things you were raised to believe in—God, goodness, peace—aren’t always embraced by the world around you. 

I remember when I discovered that not everybody believed in Jesus, or even a Creator, and having to figure out how my religious beliefs fit into the reality of my world. This happens in so many different ways that I’m constantly thinking of new tactics to explore this pivotal moment.

In regards to my actual life, I spent the first part of my childhood in California. Long enough to be influenced, to have roots there, but not long enough to really be “from” there. I did the bulk of my growing up in Kansas City. It’s where I went to high school, met my husband, and worked a few lousy jobs. 

Ben and I make our life here now, along with our baby girl, McKenna, and dog, K.C. They’re the most interesting things about me. Without them I’m just a book junkie with a crazy thing for coffee, who would rather sit in front of my computer and write than go to a party.

Which is why I make stuff up.

Want to know more about Morrill and her books? Visit http://stephaniemorrillbooks.com

About Revell, The Publisher
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. For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

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

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Winners Announced - Port au Prince Kit!

Congrats to Che for winning the GC for Songbird Avenue's Port au Prince kit! I'm sending you an e-mail!

(Sorry about not posting earlier today, life got a bit crazy at the church for me today....)

This is what she wrote:



Che said...
I hope mine counts. My husband and I watched my nieces on Valentine's Day so their parents can go out and celebrate. :)
Absolutely, it counts. The parents I know rejoice greatly when there is someone they trust willing to help with their kiddos! Great way to help someone!

Business end - Here's the random list.
Thanks for playing. I have a feeling I'll be doing something like this again....

Want to read all the other comments - it will make you feel good today - visit this link: http://kaytebug2002.blogspot.com/2010/02/its-blog-give-away.html


List Randomizer (From Random.org)
There were 12 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
  1. che
  2. dady
  3. yvon
  4. danenan
  5. jewel
  6. hybridgalmlee
  7. elisa
  8. schneeflocke
  9. coincon
  10. lauriewe
  11. anita
  12. nwfotobug
Timestamp: 2010-02-25 23:00:43 UTC

Monday, February 22, 2010

Blog Tour: Abigail (Review)

From the pages of the Bible and the research of Jill Eileen Smith comes the tale of Abigail, one of the wives of King David.

Abigail's story begins when her hopes are dashed after her dark-eyed, yet drunken betrothed, Nabal, begins a pattern of abuse and shameless treatment.


Nevertheless, as Smith weaves her story about Abigail, she shows how the woman tries to honor and respect her husband despite his abuse.

As Abigail struggles to stay in her abusive marriage, her family flees the clutches of Nabal to join David's wandering tribe.

When Nabal suddenly dies, Abigail can move on with her life - and is suddenly given the opportunity to become David's newest wife.

Throughout Smith's tale, she examines the dangers of tribal life for David and his followers, and David's relationship with his wives - specifically with Abigail - and above all, his relationship with God.

She asks two questions throughout her novel: How can David lead his people effectively when he goes against God? And how can Abigail share David's love with the other wives he insists on marrying?

Pulling from both scripture and in-depth historical research - along with a vivid imagination - Smith attempts to tell Abigail's story from an unique perspective.

What I Thought
Wow. I truly loved this book.  Not only did Smith weave a tale that is gripping, but it truly made me stop at times, to grab for my Bible.

I mean, I've read the story of David, but this made me want to say - wait a minute - what does the Bible say. Is that really in there?

While Smith admits she draws on research and inspiration, the basis of her novel is true and pulled from the Biblical text.

Abigail's story examines the power of choices - both good and bad. It examines how a single choice (in Abigail's case, marrying David) can have a life-long impact.

I really liked this book, and now want to go back and read Michal's story. I can't wait to see what Smith develops in Bathsheba's story - book three of the Wives of King David - which is set for a 2011 release.

Find Abigail:
Amazon,
Christianbook.com,
BarnesandNoble.com
and your local bookstore.

The First Novel: Michal
Can their epic search for true love survive a father’s fury?

The daughter of King Saul, Michal lives a life of privilege–but one that is haunted by her father’s unpredictable moods and competition from her beautiful older sister. As a girl, Michal quickly falls for the handsome young harpist David. But soon after their romance begins, David must flee for his life, leaving Michal at her father’s mercy in the prison that is King Saul’s palace. Will Michal ever be reunited with David? Or is she doomed to remain separated from him forever?

Read the first chapter, and find some book club discussion questions here.
  
What's Ahead? 
Book Three: Bathsheba: A Novel
She longs for love, but succumbs to his charm – can she ever regain all she’s lost?Coming 2011

Find out more about the Wives of King David Series
Visit: http://thewivesofkingdavid.com/



More about Jill Eileen Smith
When Jill Eileen Smith isn’t writing, she enjoys time with her family, reading great stories, trying new recipes and snuggling her two adorable cats. Jill’s research into the lives of David’s wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Her collection of Bible study helps and books on culture and history, along with an abundance of novels fills at least one shelf or bookcase in nearly every room in the house.

She loves movies, travel, dark chocolate, black tea, stories with great characters and plots twists, and nights when she doesn’t have to cook! She and her husband Randy have been married for 32 years and together they have three grown sons. During 12 years of homeschooling, Jill studied the craft of writing with her eye on a future career. She has visited most of the continental United States (with the exception of the East Coast) along with Hawaii, Canada, and Israel. She has taught women’s Bible studies and piano and enjoys mentoring young writers. She lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

Abigail, book two in The Wives of King David series was actually written before Michal, book one, during the first five years she homeschooled her three sons. Upon completion of the manuscript, Jill submitted Abigail to one editor at a  CBA publishing house. The editor took the book to committee, but the story was turned down because they were no longer looking for biblical fiction. Jill tucked the book away after that and turned to writing in other genres. But Abigail’s story has long been on her heart.

After she finished the draft that has become this book two in The Wives of King David series, Jill read a true-life story, Shattered Dreams, My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife. She was amazed to see how much the character she envisioned as Abigail carried similar feelings of frustration and distress as a modern-day woman caught in the life of polygamy. For women today who have suffered the anguish of sharing their man, either through infidelity or polygamy, Abigail’s story shares that pain.

When asked whether she writes from experience, whether Abigail’s story reflects her own life, Jill responds:

“Fortunately, no. I have never faced the pain of infidelity or even known anyone who shared her husband with another wife (as in polygamy) as so many biblical women did. But I have known women who have lost their husbands to another women in divorce and can imagine how awful that would feel. I’ve watched it happen to too many people I love.

“I have long been interested in examining the motives behind the actions of biblical characters. What made them tick? What was it about their culture that put women in such positions? How did they feel about the circumstances they were faced with? It always amazes me how closely the lives of biblical men and women parallels our modern lives today. Human nature does not change despite the centuries that separate us.”

To learn more about Jill or follow her musings, visit her personal blog.www.jilleileensmith.com

About Revell, The Publisher
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. For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

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

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Deep Thoughts: Practice Makes Perfect

Editor's Note: This devotion will appear in the 2010 Lenten devotional book that my church compiled. 

My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped. I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer. - Psalm 17: 5-6.

Recently, I joined the thousands (probably millions) of people who send text messages.

I was dragged kicking and screaming into this form of communication when a friend’s son was in the hospital - it was the best way to contact her for updates, since she could text quietly from his bedside.

I’ll admit, I’m pretty lousy at it. Some of my initial messages consisted of “yes” or “no” or “praying.”

But slowly, and with practice, I’ve started to have actual - albeit short - conversations with a few people.

I know that by investing lots of time, energy and of course, sending messages, I might be able to send messages like many of my friends - quickly and with lots of skill.

Learning to pray may be a bit like learning to text. It may seem hard at first, and you might stumble around a bit, but slowly, with practice, your “messages” to God evolve from one word requests to full conversations.

While texting isn’t my favorite way to communicate - I’d much rather have a phone conversation with someone - I can see its value, because it keeps me in contact with friends.

Prayer keeps us in contact with God. It may seem hard at first, but keep trying. You might be surprised at what God will tell you through prayer.

Prayer: God, I realize I don’t always stop to talk to you. Sometimes I worry about “how” I pray, rather than “what” I’m praying. Help me remember that the most important thing I can do today, is to stop and talk with you. Amen.

Question for Today: How will you start communicating with God today?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Facebook Friday Fast - The Update

Well, the first official session of the 2010 Lenten "Facebook Friday Fast" is over - only six more "sessions" to go.

This week (9 p.m. Feb. 18 to 9 a.m. Feb. 20) was the first "official" Friday for my "Facebook Friday Fast," but it was the third Friday I attempted to fast from Facebook (I tried to do it the two previous weekends to "build up" my endurance, and well, to work out any bugs in the system before the youth girls attempted it.)

I guess, I'm finding that it's hard to stay off-line for any length of time. Maybe I'm addicted to technology (yes, more than one of my parents at church have "jokingly" mentioned this....) than I realized.

I use it for work - in both the children's and communications ministry at church - and I use it at home - as I strive to build up my freelance writing career (right now that includes one digital e-zine magazine, one youth devotional magazine and three book Christian book publicists, as well as working with several digital scrapbooking designers.)

So, while I was off Facebook yesterday for the fast, I did spend at least 4-5 hours last night working on two future book reviews for my blog - and a freelance writing assignment for the digital scrapbooking magazine. So technically, despite my efforts, while I did fast from Facebook, I was on the computer A LOT last night.

Through all of this, I'm trying really hard to be a good example for the youth I work with....and it's not working so hot right now. .... I guess I didn't realize how "addicted" or "reliant" on technology I am.

I'm impressed that one of the girls has decided to extend her "fast" from Friday to all weekdays during Lent. I want to hear more about her experience and well, the other girls who are taking part in the fast from social media.

In my own world, I'm not sure what God's trying to tell me. That's the honest truth.

Maybe this is the case of the guy in the flood, sitting on his roof waiting for help (and turning down every offer because it didn't look like God), but I'm not sure what I need to do yet.

I think God is using this Lent to have me re-focus priorities....I realize when I can't even sign off for a full day - that I may be juggling way too much at work and at home.

A friend posted that "the season of Lent is about clearing a personal path for Jesus along the road to the cross."

That's why I'm doing this - it's not for show, or to have people say "good job" - but it's to figure out who I am, today in 2010, and figure out the next stage of my faith journey.

Because I feel like the best way to live is to live transparently, I am sharing the struggles and this journey on the blog  - and again, because I opened my mouth and now I'm putting my "money where my mouth is."

Honestly, giving up soda last Lent may have been easier....lol....

So, some things I've learned in the first fasting day and two trial runs....

1) It's harder to ignore the e-mails that FB sends to my gmail account than I initially thought.
I only get email messages in three cases - someone sends me a direct message, someone replies to one of my posts, or someone replies to a post I commented on.

The first week, I literally got the shakes as I ignored those e-mails. Yesterday, I slipped and read them, without thinking - because it was "just another e-mail" in my box. After the first slip, it was "easier" to keep reading them.

(In my rationalizing nature, one was from a seminary friend who rarely e-mails me, and I was worried that something had happened to a mutual friend - yes rationalization 101.

2) Appearance is everything.
My blog feeds automatically into my Facebook account - it's a marketing tool I use for the publicists I review books for...so I can say they get double the exposure - several people have jokingly questioned if this breaks my fast - even me even being signed in.

Two "twitter" posts that I made before logging out Thursday night showed up as my Facebook status' AFTER I had already begun my fast. So again, technology was not my friend this weekend. It gave me the appearance of saying one thing, but doing another.

3) Twittering Does CountLast Friday, I realized I did not "log" off FB until Friday morning. So I "twittered" my status, just to make sure people knew what was up.

Two members of my loving family (who hare watching very closely) called me to remind me that even though I was not on Facebook, twittering to my Facebook broke the fast.

4) iPhone Stumbling BlockI've also figured out that I need to move the Facbook icon off of my "home" page on my phone, and have it be "hidden" several pages in on my phone. This keeps me from automatically "logging in" to Facebook when I'm not thinking, just reacting.

I'll keep you posted on how this goes - and how the girls experiences went.

Want to read the post that started it all????
http://kaytebug2002.blogspot.com/2010/02/facebook-friday-fast.html

Blog Tour: Swinging On A Star (Review)

A Renaissance themed wedding, complete with period costumes and foods, a horse-drawn carriage and even a castle - no problem for Bella Rossi, owner of Weddings by Bella.

In her newest tale, Janice Thompson explores Rossi's life - which includes a perfect guy, a successful business and a ambitious themed wedding.

Her only glitch - the best man just happens to be Brock Benson, Hollywood's hottest and most eligible bachelor. (Who just happens to be staying at her house to avoid the paparazzi.)

What Did I Think?
I thought this book - the second in Thompson's series - was cute. It was easy to fall in love with Bella and her family.

While this was the second book in the series, it was easy to "catch" up on what happened in the first novel (spoiler alert - she gets her guy and begins to build a successful business).

I enjoyed the book - complete with a set of three women who are quite the characters.

I also found it interesting that the book is set in Galveston, Texas, in its post hurricane form. I think Thompson has captured the spirit of the island (well, the spirit that friends who are Galveston born and bred talk about!)

Want to Read More About Bella?
Check out Fools Rush In, the first book int the Weddings by Bella Series

Bella Rossi may be nearing thirty, but her life is just starting to get interesting. When her Italian-turned-Texan parents hand over the family wedding planning business, Bella is determined not to let them down. She quickly books a "Boot Scoot'n" wedding that would make any Texan proud. There's only one catch--she's a country music numbskull because her family only listens to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Where will she find a DJ on such short notice who knows his Alan Jackson from his Keith Urban?

When a misunderstanding leads her to the DJ (and man) of her dreams, things start falling into place. But with a family like hers, nothing is guaranteed. Can the perfect Texan wedding survive a pizza-making uncle with mob ties, an aunt who is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and a massive delivery of 80 cowboy boots? And will Bella ever get to plan her own wedding?

Book one in the Weddings by Bella series, Fools Rush In is fun, fresh, and full of surprises. Readers will love the flavorful combination of Italian and Tex-Mex, and the hilarity that ensues when cultures clash.

Meet Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson is a seasoned romance author and native Texan. An experienced wedding coordinator herself, Thompson brings alive in her books the everyday drama and humor of getting married. She is the author of Fools Rush In and lives in Texas.

You can read more about Thompson by visiting her website: http://www.janiceathompson.com/

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. For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

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

Friday, February 19, 2010

Blog Tour: All Things Hidden (Review)


What happens when something from your family's distant past comes to light - introducing a new generation to a secret.

Will it change your life? Will people treat you differently? Is there a way to finally find out the truth? How can God use this to impact your world?

Those are just a few things that run through Charlotte Stevensons' mind the past is brought to light while she helps clean the basement of the Bedford Community Church.

As the women pour through things left in the basement, the tattered and yellowed newspaper article - published more than a century ago - appears. It implicates Charlotte's great-great-grandfather in the loss of funds intended to help finish building the church.

How would you handle this happening in your world?

What I Thought
Tricia Goyer has crafted a book centering around a secret - that comes to light in an unexpected way.

In her efforts, she has created a realistic conflict, that women can relate to.


Oh, "normal" secrets may not be found in a tattered newspaper clipping, but secrets - regardless of a subject - tend to find a way out of the darkness into the light.

Through the struggles of the Stevenson family, Goyer shows how secrets - past or present - can impact a family.

This is the second book I've read in the Home To Heather Creek Series. Since reading the first book, I've passed it along to several women in my church. At least one has said it was a simple, but nice read.

Think of reading this book like you are "drinking" a cup of chicken soup. Drink in the simplicity of the story and find how God works in our lives, sometimes in the small, simple ways.


More About The Book
Charlotte has heard stories about the incident through the years, but now it seems the past has come back to haunt her. Is it just her imagination or are people treating her differently now that they think she's descended from a crook? Will Charlotte be able to clear her family's name once and for all?

Meanwhile, Sam is spending time with a new girl in town-and is keeping secrets from his grandparents about where they go. Christopher is trying to get an article published in the local paper, and Emily reluctantly partners with a foreign exchange student on a class project and eventually comes to see that they're not that different after all.

As old secrets are brought to light, the whole family is reminded that the truth is often more complicated than it seems.

Come home to Heather Creek. Get to know Charlotte Stevenson, who is raising her grandchildren on the family farm after a tragic accident changes all of their lives forever.

With the help of her husband Bob and a close-knit circle of friends, she will do whatever it takes to keep this fragile family together. See how God, who makes the sun rise and the crops grow, watches over our lives too.

Read an excerpt here!

About The Home To Heather Creek Series

Charlotte Stevenson's world is turned upside down when her daughter, Denise, dies in a tragic car accident.
Denise ran away at eighteen and Charlotte has never forgiven herself. Now, Denise's children, abandoned by their father, are coming from California to live on Heather Creek Farm in Bedford, Nebraska.

Note: The Home To Heather Creek Series is a multi-author series.Goyer’s first book in the series was Sweet September (book two) followed by Every Sunrise (book seven) last spring and Sunflower Serenade this summer. All Things Hidden is book 18 in the continuing story of the Stephensen family!

You can find out more about the entire series, by clicking here To order just this book, rather than the complete series, call customer service at 1-800-431-2344.

Want to know more about Sunflower Serenade? 
You can read a review and more info about Sunflower Serenade by clicking here.

More About Tricia Goyer

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. Her parenting books include Blue Like Play Dough. Her book, Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medalion in 2005.
Goyer lives with her family in Montana. To find out more visit her website: www.triciagoyer.com

It’s A Contest
Follow this option below to be entered into a contest to win the ENTIRE set of the Home to Heather Creek books (books 1-18)!


Tweet THIS: (must use hashtag #AllThingsHidden to be entered - no limit on entries! Tweet away!)

Read #AllThingsHidden by @triciagoyer http://ow.ly/14nNd! RT for a chance to win all 18 books in the Home to Heather Creek series!

It’s A Blog Tour
Want to see what others thought about this book? Check out the tour at: http://ow.ly/14nQc

Want to read some other books by Goyer?
*Blog Tour: Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie Montana   Review & Interview
*Blog Tour: The Swiss Courier  - Review & Interview
*Blog Tour: Blue Like Playdough - Review
*Blog Tour: Sunflower Serenade - Review

Note: 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, February 18, 2010

It's A Blog Give Away


Note: Winners announced in this post:
One of the things I love about the digital scrapbooking world, is how generous many of the designers are - especially when times of crisis take place.

Songbird Avenue is no exception. The creation of Jan Crowley (the Queen of Quirk) and Meredith Fenwick, this site offers specially designed, limited addition kits each month for a specific charity.

This month is especially important, because the kit "Port au Prince" - will benefit Doctors Without Borders, an organization at work now, helping individuals impacted by the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

The kit features the artwork of more than 60 designers including past sponsors, The Queen of Quirk, Meredith Fenwick, Janet Philips and Amy Wolff.

"Every kit that we work on at Songbird Avenue is special, and this kit is no exception," the statement on the Songbird Avenue Website reads. "We are thrilled to present 'Port au Prince,' a digital scrapbooking kit for the benefit of relief in Haiti. All proceeds from February will be donated to Doctors Without Borders.

"As a community of caring and giving people, we at Songbird Avenue hope that we can help make a difference together. We appreciate your help supporting these charities and are so proud to be a part of this amazing community. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts."

According to Songbird Avenue's blog, as of Feb. 15, the kit has raised $5,803.85 in USD.

Win This Kit
Your only requirement - leave a comment below (make sure to include your contact info) with a comment one thing you've done recently to help someone else.

You will receive a gift certificate to Songbird Avenue, good for either the purchase of this kit (if you have already purchased this kit, the gc is good for a future kit from SA.)

Deadline:  Wednesday, Feb. 24, midnight CST. The prize will be awarded on Thursday, Feb. 24, before 10 a.m. CST. (Pending my morning work schedule - I'm a children's pastor by day!) This gives you a few days to download the kit, before it goes into the SA vault.

The winner will be chosen randomly, via Random.org, based upon the comments.

Want another Entry?: Sign up blog updates and you'll get a second entry into the contest.

My blog often features book reviews, interviews with authors (both in the scrapbooking world and non scrapbooking world) as well as feature stories from my various writing outlets.

More info, provided by Songbird Avenue

From their website, the Doctors Without Borders' Mission:

"Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971.

Today, MSF provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. MSF provides independent, impartial assistance to those most in need. MSF reserves the right to speak out to bring attention to neglected crises, to challenge inadequacies or abuse of the aid system, and to advocate for improved medical treatments and protocols."


Additional Info about "Port au Prince"
Included in this kit are: 104 patterned papers, 208 elements including , 8 alphabets and 6 12x12 inch PSD, 300 DPI layered templates. This kit is approximately 1.2 GB and is available in 12 download links.

Contributing Designers:
Ali Edwards
Amy Martin
Amy Sumrall
Amy Teets
Amy Wolff
Studio Baers Garten
Birgit Kerr
Dianne Rigdon
Emily Merritt
Emily Powers
Flergs
Gina Miller
Heather Ann Melzer
Hollie Haradon
Irene Alexeeva
Jacque Larsen
Janet Phillips
Jenna Desai
Karah Fredricks
Kari Hentzelt
Kate Teague
Kaye Winiecki
Leora Sanford
Lili Niclass
Meredith Fenwick
Nancie Rowe Janitz
Paislee Press
Pamela Gibson
Phuong Ton
Queen of Quirk
Randi Oh
Rhonna Farrer
Sausan Designs
ScrapKitchen Designs
Shabby Miss Jenn
Shabby Princess
Studio Alana
Studio Berna Datema
Studio Crystal
Studio Lorie
Studio Manu
Studio Maya
Studio Mgl
Studio Miss Vivi
Studio Rosey Posey
Studio Ruby Rynne
Studio Ztampf
SussieM
Tangie Baxter
Valorie Wibbens
Vicki Stegall
Studio Wendy

Note: As a freelance journalist, I am often provided with copies of things to review or give away. In this case, I was provided NOTHING. I purchased the kit (and the give away gift certificate) on my own - my Paypal Account went "cha-ching." This post was not influenced by any outside sources - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail. 

An Online Opportunity!


kitchen chat
"A mile a minute - that is how fast your child can disappear." 
Haunting and truthful words 
posted on the website for Klaas Kids.

At 11 a.m. (CST) Friday, Feb. 19, Margaret McSweeney will interview Marc Klaas, father of Polly Klaas who was kidnapped and murdered in 1993.  
As a legacy to his daughter, Marc founded KlaasKids Foundation to help stop crimes against children. Please tune in to Kitchen Chat with Margaret McSweeney to find out more about his efforts.

Learn about effective ways to keep your children safe from harm and find out what you can do to help stop crimes against kids.  Please tune in and call in with your questions for Marc from 11 a.m. to noon, CST THIS Friday, Feb. 19, on Kitchen Chat.
KlaasKids


Here is an excerpt from Marc's journal that is posted online:


"There is nothing that can prepare one for a murder trial. My family sits as the last few hours in Polly's life are dissected, analyzed, de-constructed, reconstructed, cross-referenced and compartmentalized. 
The constant assault on our sensibilities by horrible revelations that defy the principles of civilization seem overwhelming much of the time. It is impossible to withstand or rise above the continual dehumanizing facts that are revealed in a constant, monotonous stream of revelation. There is no room for anything but the processing of nightmarish information. 
The killer laughs throughout the video tape and I want to shout, yet I must sit unflinching and stone-faced for fear of causing a mistrial. Every day my family is drawn into the world of murder, mayhem, rape and deprivation and there is no way out."

About Margaret McSweeney
Margaret McSweeny lives with her husband, David and two teenage daughters in the Chicago suburbs.  After earning a master's degree in international business from the University of South Carolina, McSweeney moved to New York City to work at a large bank where she met David. She became a vice president in the corporate finance division of a New York City bank and worked there from 1986-1993.

McSweeney is the editor of Pearl Girls, author of A Mother's Heart Knows and co-author of Go Back and Be Happy.  Charity and community involvement are very important to McSweeney.  She has served on the board of directors for WINGS (Women in Need Growing Stronger) for over six years.

McSweeney has been featured on Greg Wheatly's "Prime Time America," TLN's "Aspiring Women," and LeSea's "The Harvest Show." McSweeney writes freelance articles for The Daily Herald, the largest suburban Chicago newspaper. Notable interviews include Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Kinkade, Susan Branch and Dr. John Gottman.

For more information please visit KitchenChat

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Blog Tour: A Mom's Ulitimate Book of Lists (Review & Interview)

Looking for a comprehensive parenting resource that doesn’t involve an online search engine? Need a source of practical, useful information in an easy-to-read format? Starting (or new to) the “mom” journey?

If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, then Michelle LaRowe may have the solution for you.

LaRowe, a career nanny with more than 15 years of experience, has turned her experience into A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists: 100+ Lists to Save You Time, Money and Sanity.

The one-stop resource is a collection of practical information, formatted in easy to navigate lists. In fact, LaRowe calls it her “version of an encyclopedia for moms, or as I call it, a ‘Momopedia.’”

“Today there is so much information accessible to parents, sometimes the information they are getting isn’t the best, most current or most reliable,” LaRowe said. “Many parents spend endless hours looking up information online or sorting through magazine articles and doctor’s handouts trying to locate a key piece of information. It’s my hope they’ll find it easily in my book.”

The book grew out of the “family binders” LaRowe would compile for past employers. Those binders would include everything from eating, sleeping and vaccination recommendations and guidelines to easy meal ideas and lists of clothing size charts for different clothing stores.

“When I became pregnant with my own daughter and started compiling my own binder, I thought, ‘Wow, this would be a great resource in book form for moms and moms to be. They’ll get the best and most updated information and I’m already doing the research!” she said. “I really covered a lot of ground in this book. It’s 300 plus pages of pure pregnancy and parenting vital information.”

LaRowe believes the book’s style – lots and lots of lists – helps give it a structured format.

“I’ve always used lists to organize information for my work and knew that busy moms would appreciate the list format,” LaRowe continued. “In A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists there are lists for do’s, lists for don’t, lists for things you need, lists for things you don’t and lists that simply outline information or provide step by step instructions for things like taming a temper tantrum.” 

As a mom of a toddler - and expecting her second child – LaRowe said she often refers to the book, herself.

“It’s been helpful to be reassured by my own research,” she said. “I think the lists that cover when to call the doctor, how much your baby should be eating, how much your toddler should be sleeping  and the lists of developmental milestones tend to be my favorite. I like knowing what I can expect at different stages of development.”

LaRowe decided which lists to include through her experience as both a mother and nanny.

“I tried to include the key information that has helped save my past employers and I time, money and sanity,” she explained, adding the book is most beneficial for expectant moms and those with children through age five.

“It’s my hope that readers take away a feeling of reassurance from the book,” LaRowe said. “Nothing in here is rocket science or ground breaking news.

“It’s really a compilation of information and tried and true tips that many parents may know but have difficulty applying. It’s my hope that the material sparks something in them that says ‘I knew I was on the right track!’”

Who is LaRowe
LaRowe describes herself as a “Jesus loving, husband loving, child loving work from home mom who really enjoys life.”

“ I enjoy being active in my church and I truly love my work,” she continued. “I have lots of energy and think, talk and type really (often too) fast.”

Statistically, LaRowe said, she should be a “parenting failure.”

“I come from a family of divorce, and I myself, had a marriage annulled,” she said. “God can take who the world would throw away and lift them up.  He can make you who He desires you to be and equip you to do what He desires you to do.

“Many people find it interesting that my first three parenting books were released before I ever had children of my own.”

LaRowe said she truly feels as if she’s living in a season of miracles.

“I suffer from PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), severe insulin resistance and thyroid issues,” she said. “I was told I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant, but the first night of our honeymoon, we got pregnant with my first daughter and we are now expecting a son. God is good, faithful and more than enough!”

She said she often draws encouragement from Proverbs 31.

“God understands the life of a busy mom,” LaRowe said. “God gets what we are going through and we can trust Him with our lives and our families.”

What I Thought
I thought this book would be a great resource for new or expectant moms. It's quite comprehensive in the types of lists LaRowe has included in the book.

As a Children's pastor, I found some of her lists - including how to teach your preschooler to pray - and selecting a family-friendly church were quite interesting. (Almost an affirmation for things I've been saying for a while!)

I also liked the list on creating "family fun" traditions.

Honestly, I think this book will go in a pile of current books that I often hand off to parents I work with saying "I think you might like this."

It's definitely a "refer to often" book - and would make a great expectant mom gift.


Sample of Lists
Preparing for Baby
o    What’s safe and not safe during pregnancy?
o    What to include in your birthing plan
o    Key components to include in your maternity-leave proposal

The First Year
o    Introducing solid foods
o    Top toys for baby’s first year
o    Sleep training your baby

The Toddler Years
o    Guilt-free DVDs for your toddler
o    10 life lessons to teach your toddler
o    The best bedtime routine

The Preschool Years
o    6 steps to a successful preschool playdate
o    Teaching children to share, step-by-step
o    The preschooler’s library

Family Life
o    10 house rules for every home
o    Age-appropriate chores for young children
o    Feeding a picky eater

Health and Safety Information
o    When to call the doctor
o    The top 12 safety mistakes parents make
o    Hidden household poisons

Saving Time, Money & Sanity
o    10 time-management tips for moms
o    Common children’s clothing size guidelines
o    A week’s worth of quick, family-friendly meals


Want to Know More?
Click here to read an on-line excerpt!


More about Michelle LaRowe
Michelle LaRowe is the 2004 International Nanny Association Nanny of the Year. A career nanny specializing in caring for twins, Michelle has over a decade of professional childcare experience.

Although she holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and a certificate in pastoral studies, she enjoys her work as a professional nanny, freelance writer and as a parenting consultant.

LaRowe is an active member of the nanny community and has served on the board of directors and as vice president of the International Nanny Association. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the association.

LaRowe is called on by the media as a parenting expert and has appeared on local, national and international television and radio and has been featured in print. She is also a national speaker, bringing a message of hope and empowerment to moms groups across the nation.

LaRowe is the author of the Nanny to the Rescue! parenting series, Working Mom's 411 and A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists. She and her husband Jeff, reside on Cape Cod with their daughter Abigail. They are expecting a son this spring. You can read more about her by visiting her website:  www.michellelarowe.com


More about Revell
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.

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

Monday, February 15, 2010

Blog Tour: Life Lessons From A Horse Whisperer (Interview & Review)

Horses may seem like a strange way for most to convey the gospel, but for Dr. Les Sterrett, the animals are exactly the right tool that he can use to reach out to those needing to hear the message of Jesus Christ.

“Horses are the conveyor belt that carried me from a very wounded, withdrawn individual to friends and neighbors and community leaders who gave me a helping hand,” Sterrett said. “My interest and success with horses brought me to other crossroads where godly people who loved horses led me to Christ.”

In fact, Sterrett says, horses, to him, were the rein in his hands – much like the fishing net used by Peter, or the rod used by Moses.

“They would become the means by which I could both understand and illustrate significant biblical principles of life,” he said. “They eventually became the background for lessons of life and leadership that would transcend every human barrier.”

In his newest book, Life Lessons from a Horse Whisperer, Sterrett relates a variety of Christian leadership principles, using illustrations from his experience as a horse trainer and through his ministry, “Sermon on the Mount.”

“ ‘Sermon on the Mount’ lessons mirror human life and process,” explained Sterrett. “In an entertaining and pithy, yet very practical way, Sermon on the Mount presents in a different format much of the conflict and tensions that take place in our homes, churches and workplaces.

“Without a word, they mirror the unspoken language of the heart and spirit that accounts for success or brokenness in relationships. Students often relate to this because they are at a pivotal time in their life, because they are looking for things to trust in and pattern their life after. Sermon on the Mount presents a road map for the hope of a constructive and fulfilling purpose in life.”

In his book, Sterrett relates the gospel through numerous stories, including one featuring a horse named Spotlight, who, while on a trail ride, becomes tangled in barbed wire – and is saved because of a trust that was developed during training.

Other stories feature horses from Sterrett’s ministry, including Berry, the first “major” Sermon on the Mount horse; Spark, who Sterrett describes as a loyal friend and an outstanding servant; and Romeo, a horse with a “very fun personality.”

Through those personal experiences and stories, Sterrett hopes people will experience a deeper relationship with God.

“It is my hope that all readers will walk away from this book with a deeper appreciation of the relational God and the redemptive work that He offers mankind,” Sterrett explains. “It is my hope that readers will identify with the ups and downs of life for both humans and horses and will be willing to look past their resentments and hurts to hear the voice of the gentle Shepherd and kind Trainer who calls you to trust in Him.”

The SOTM Key MessageIn both his book, and Sermon on the Mount presentations, Sterrett’s message focuses on one word – hope.

“Though the horse rarely understands all that the trainer is trying to do, little will be accomplished if we take away all hope the horse has of pleasing the trainer. Crowding a scared horse is a dangerous thing,” Sterrett said. “Like a horse, people perform poorly when they feel criticized, crowded and defenseless. Though God confronts the issues of sin, He does so to bring true and lasting hope of eternal life.

“Hope that is founded upon the character and promise of God strengthens the purpose and resolve of one’s life.

Finding God In His Ministry, LifeSterrett said he continues to live, along with his horses, in a training process, with exercise, trials and testing ongoing.

“While these things are a part of my everyday life, they are also the very issues that keep my heart dependent and listening to God’s greater purpose in my life,” he said. “Though I am 57 years old, I believe that we are standing on the threshold of great opportunity.

“I am particularly interested in writing and illustrating those truths and principles that will help today’s leaders give a hand to the next generation.”

Who Is Sterrett?Sterrett describes himself as a “very average person, with a very average life.”

“Growing up on the farm in a large family and coping with the loss of a father set the stage for a very above-average God to go to work,” Sterrett said. “Though unrecognized at the time, the context of my life was woven with the loving support of a heavenly Father who drew me to Himself and led me through many wilderness experiences.”

A profound part of his life and message, explains Sterrett is his wife, Melodie, and their two adopted sons, Jeremiah and Daniel.

“[They] introduced us to a world of concern that we have little understanding of and need to rely on God to guide us through,” Sterrett continued. “The message of God’s redemptive work in our lives is far beyond any accomplishments of our own.”

While he has spent much of his life speaking in camps and conferences, Sterrett’s ministry has expanded in recent years, to international venues, as well as working with corporate, athletic and leadership training venues.

"In the next phase of my life, it is my hope to be an encouragement to encouragers,” he said. “We must make it clear that the gospel is about having a responsible relationship with our Creator, our conscience and our community.”


What Did I Think?
My first thought was  - I want to check out this book, because I'll bet my dad would like it. (He raises horses and I was sure he would find this very interesting.)

Surprise surprise, I enjoyed the book. I thought the stories related by Sterrett were great and related managed to relate a variety of Christian leadership principles in a non-threatening, easy to understand way.

I think you can read this book in two ways: The first, you'll find a nice, simple story, that will leave you feeling quite "warm and fuzzy" at times (even as Sterrett relates some tough stories and issues.) The second, you'll find something that will help you identify some ways to strengthen your leadership skills - especially if you work with students of all ages.

Sterrett uses the illustrations given to him through his horse training, to find ways to talk about leadership growth and potential - without sounding preachy or tough. Instead, he does it in a casual, laid-back manner that will cross gender and economic lines.

I'm glad I picked up this book - oh and I still think my dad will like it!


More About The Book
A champion trainer and true horse whisperer, Dr. Lew Sterrett has used patience and a firm but gentle hand to earn the trust of more than 3,500 horses.

In this book, Sterrett tells the stories of his work with these horses and the lessons each one has taught him. Sometimes heartbreaking and often uplifting, he has condensed his lifetime of learning into messages for the Christian life. Today, Sterrett shares these messages with more than 50,000 people each year through horse training presentations at Miracle Mountain Ranch and nationally through his Sermon on the Mount Ministry.

The author's engaging style and adroit mixture of well-tested anecdotes and thoughtful instruction make this a winning read-and not just for horse lovers.

More About Sterrett
A champion trainer and true horse whisperer, Dr. Lew Sterrett has used patience and a firm but gentle hand to earn the trust of more than 3,500 horses.

Sterrett had little idea that his boyhood interest in horses would open doors internationally for speaking and training. During his years in 4-H, he savored many opportunities to train and show horses and earn national recognition. As a student leader at Penn State University he benefited from many mentoring relationships from which he received valuable training, experience and honors. This foundation provided a basis for an extensive horse career with a unique emphasis on training youth and community leaders.

Sterrett has served as the Executive Director of Miracle Mountain Ranch Missions, Inc. (MMRM) since 1977. MMRM, located in northwestern Pennsylvania, is home for a summer youth camp, and a leadership training center for youth, adult, and family groups. He has also promoted safety in public riding programs, serving as President of the Certified Horse Association for seven years. A licensed pastor, certified Youth, Marriage and Family Counselor, he earned his Ph.D. from North Tennessee Seminary in 2007.

Find out more about Sterrett on his website: http://www.sermononthemount.org/

Want to Buy the Book?
http://ow.ly/16a7d

Read an Excerpt
http://store.kregel.com/client/excerpt/978-0-8254-6316-7.pdf

It's A Contest!
Tweet the following to be entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card & signed copies of Lew's book!

TWEET THIS: (must use hashtag #lewsterrett to be entered - no limit on entries! Tweet away!)

Life Lessons from a Horse Whisperer: not just for horse lovers! http://ow.ly/169ym RT to win $50 to @amazon #LewSterrett

Blog Tour - Want to See What Others Think?
Visit: http://ow.ly/169ym to read more reviews!

Note: 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.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Deep Thoughts: What if?

Editor's Note: This devotion will appear in the 2010 Lenten devotional book that my church compiled. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11.

In the movie the Tooth Fairy, Derek Thompson (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) can no longer say “what if…,” as in “what if I take a chance,” or “what if I give my heart to this person,” or “what if I believe in … .”

In reality, he has lost his ability to dream. He no longer has hope. He simply goes about life almost as if the “same old, same old” is enough.

Thompson coasts along, living life without dreaming, not necessarily because it is easier, but because it seems less painful. By not dreaming, Thompson cannot be hurt when things do not get any better.

It’s only when Thompson begins to dream again, and well, believe in impossible things, does his life begin to turn around.

Sometimes our faith journey is like Thompson’s life. We move along, doing the daily grind, moving forward as if we’re weighed down by the weight of the world.

We forget that God has a plan for us. He wants us to prosper. He wants us to know that we have a future.

Oh, it may not look like we expect, and it may not match our five or 10-year goals, but ultimately, if we place our hopes and dreams in God’s hands, it will be amazing.

Prayer: God, help me recognize the dreams that you give me. Give me enough faith to trust that you will help your dreams for me, to come true.


Question for Today: What are your hopes and dreams? Can you place them in God’s hands? What is keeping you from dreaming “big” dreams today? How would you answer “What if…” today?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Deep Thoughts: A Push From God

Editor's Note: This devotion will appear in the 2010 Lenten devotional book that my church compiled.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breaker have swept over me.
By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is
with me — a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:7-9

A few days ago, I discovered a new “app” for my phone – Words With Friends - which is a Scrabble-like game.

One of the games’ features is that each time one of my opponents makes a move; I receive a “push” notice on my phone. The best way to explain this is that my phone “dings” and sends me a text notice to say “It’s your move.”

Often, if I have a couple of free minutes, I’ll stop and make the next play. Other times, I ignore the message until life is, well, a bit more convenient.

Sometimes, I think God sends us his own “push” notices to pray for someone. While they may not be as obvious as the message on my phone, they are there – waiting for us to notice.

I know in my own life God uses a variety of ways – sometimes a bit unusual at times – to “push” me to pray for other people.

Some days, I find myself praying for a friend because of something he or she types in their Facebook status or on their personal blog.

Other times, I wake up praying for a random person because they appeared in a dream. I often find myself getting into contact with the person, only to find out that they are in need of prayer or an extra dose of encouragement.

Through all of these methods, I’ve learned that I need to be open to God’s gentle “pushes” in my life and see it as a call to prayer. It may not be as obvious as the “push” my phone gives me, but it is just as real and just as important.

Prayer: God, thank you for your nudges and reminders to pray for people in my life. Help me to find the time to pray for the people in my life - friends, family and more. 

Question for Today: How does God get your attention so you will pray for someone? Do you listen when God “pushes?” Who is God directing you to pray for or to encourage today?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blog Tour: Anything But Normal (review)

Sophie Ramsay should be at the top of her game – she’s friends with the right people, she’s a shoo-in to become the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, and she’s managed to turn the head of one of the hottest guys in school.

Then a choice, made during a summer moment, unravels her plans – and changes the direction of her life forever.

Now she has a secret to keep hidden and a broken heart in need of healing.

What I Thought
In less than 250 pages, Melody Carson has crafted a story that features a realistic and view of teen pregnancy - from the vantage point of a normal, average high-school student who attends church and gets good grades.

The novel opens with Sophie returning home from summer camp, ready to begin her senior year. At first she's only dealing with a broken heart. Later, as events unfold, she discovers that her summer choice has led to an unplanned pregnancy.

Through her struggles and decisions, Carson has captured the emotional turmoil that high school senior faces when the unexpected happens.

Through the various storylines, Carson explores the various choices a young, teenage mother may find herself facing including abortion and adoption. The teen father's role is also explored, along with a church's reaction to a pregnancy in the midst of a youth group.

Without being preachy, Carson also takes a look at how people treat teen mothers - while often ignoring the teenage boy's role in the pregnancy.

In all, the book could launch an interesting series of discussions in a teen reading circle, within a youth group or at home between a mother and daughter.

The character of Sophie seems real, honest and just like "the girl next door." She could easily be a member of your youth group, hiding behind her pain.

A Teen Endorsement
Several teen girls I work with on a regular basis fell in love with Carson's "True Colors" series last summer. So I wanted to see what at least one of them thought about her newest book.

So between homework assignments, CA, an eighth grader, took time to read and give me her opinion of Anything But Normal.

She handed the book back to me with a huge smile, saying "it's awesome."

In fact, she enjoyed it so much, and talked to her fellow co-horts, that several girls in the youth group are lining up to read this book - as well as asking me to find a way to purchase the True Color series for the church library (and any other book I can get of Carson's.)

The only reservation I had in initially handing the book to one of my girls, is thinking of how I would explain to the parents about how Carson attacks controversial topics. (I figured I needed to say, "I'm giving your daughter this book, by the way, it talks about teen pregnancy in a frank way," for a variety of reasons.}

But honestly, most parents I've talked with, on a one-on-one basis, are excited that their daughters are interested in reading Christian novels. The fact that Carson approaches hot button topics through a Christian lens is a bonus. One mom told me she'd rather her daughter read the stuff at church - and find out the Christian take on an issue - than in a non-faith-based setting.

So, it's a win-win situation. The girls get a good book to read (that gasp, isn't about vampires), and the parents have a chance to talk to them about hot topics with a non-threatening tool.

More About Melody Carson
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books, several of them Christmas novellas from Revell, including her much-loved and bestselling book, The Christmas Bus.

She also writes many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the TrueColors series, and the Carter House Girls series.

Carson was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books, including the Notes from a Spinning Planet series and Finding Alice, which is in production as a Lifetime Television movie. She and her husband serve on the Young Life adult committee in central Oregon. Visit her website at www.melodycarlson.com.

You can read an interview with Carson, and a review of her latest Christmas novella, The Christmas Dog, by clicking here.

Find It Online
You can find Anything But Normal online at Amazon.com

A complete list of Carson's books available at Amazon can be found here.

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

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Blog Tour: Dreams That Won't Let Go (review)

We all have dreams. What happens when those dreams seem out of reach - or at worst - become nightmares.

Unshakable dreams are at the center of the third and final book in Stacy Hawkins Adams' Jubilant Soul series.

Dreams That Won't Let Go opens with the return of the "prodigal" son, who is moving back home, to face his own "demons" and a sister, who is trying to determine where her dreams will take her.

As the story unfolds, we learn more about the things which have caused this family years of pain, the efforts the go to move beyond their pain, as well as how they use their faith to heal.

What I Thought
I've said it before, normally I don't pick up a book in mid-series - especially if it's the LAST book in series. However, I was pleasantly surprised as I dove into this book.

While I did need to do some "catching up" for character background info, I was able to do this by paying attention to the details Hawkins Adams wove into the story.

I do think reading the first two books would have enhanced my enjoyment of Dreams That Won't Let Go, because it would have helped me understand some of the family drama which was expounded upon in this book.

However, picking up this book was not a mistake. It introduced me to a new author, and a new sub-genre within the world of romantic, Christian fiction, for which I am very glad.

It's the first time I've read a book like this, set within the lives of an African-American family. It was different than what I'm used to, or what I expected - but it was different in a good way.

If you pick up this book, I think you will find a novel filled with unforgetable characters, lots of humor and a family who strives to live out their faith, even during the tough times.

More About The Book
"Readers have followed along with the Burns family of Jubilant, Texas as they’ve experienced heartaches, celebrated new faced life-changing choices and learned how far faith can carry them through it all.

"Now in Dreams That Won’t Let Go, everything seems to be going along perfectly for Indigo Burns: Her wedding preparations to the man of her dreams are under way and her career as a photographer is a success. Even her family seems to be doing better than ever—all except her brother Reuben who no one has seen in years. But that's about to change, because Reuben has decided to move back home to Jubilant, bringing with him all his unspoken secrets and upsetting all of Indigo’s best-laid plans.

"As the family struggles to deal with the pain of the past and find healing, Dreams That Won’t Let Go illustrates that despite what has happened in our lives, there is always a second chance where love conquers all."

Find Out More About Hawkins Adams
Stacy Hawkins Adams is a writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the author of several novels, including the Essence bestseller The Someday List and Worth a Thousand Words. All of Stacy's novels have been bestsellers in Black Expressions Book Club.

You can find out more about Hawkins Adams and her books, as well as her speaking engagements by visiting:: http://www.stacyhawkinsadams.com/

Find Stacy On Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/BooksByStacy

Read An Excerpt From "Dreams"
Dreams That Won't Let Go by Stacy Hawkins Adams (Excerpt)

You can also download a pdf excerpt here:
http://www.stacyhawkinsadams.com/pdf/DTWLG-Excerpt.pdf

Other Books In the Jubilant Soul Series
Book 1 -  The Someday List
What do you do when you realize you're not who you want to be?

Rachelle Covington has it all. A fabulous home, a handsome and successful husband, two beautiful children, and a place in the upper crust that's quite comfortable. But life is not all it's cracked up to be, and Rachelle finds herself yearning for more.

When her husband goes away on a business trip and the kids are sent off to the grandparents for a month, Rachelle heads back to Jubilant, Texas, to visit family and reconnect with her past, her purpose, and herself.

But when a blast from the past shows up, Rachelle must confront feelings she thought she'd long buried. Will she give up everything to recover what could have been? Or will she find a reason to plan for the future?

Fresh, sincere, and full of hope, The Someday List is an honest look at what makes us who we are.
Available at Amazon.com

Book 2 - Worth A Thousand Words
Life has always gone Indigo Burns's way. She's smart, pretty, and talented, and she knows exactly what she wants. A photography internship at her hometown's local newspaper is the next step in her well-laid plans for her future.

But her long-term goals are put to the test when her boyfriend Brian proposes--two years before he's supposed to and in front of all the guests at her college graduation party.

Too concerned about his feelings to say no, she heartily agrees, but inside she's cringing. Indigo knows in her heart that she's not prepared to sacrifice her dreams to become Brian's wife--not before she has achieved any of them.

Will she find the answers among family and friends in Jubilant, Texas? Or will the picture-perfect life she dreams of be left behind?
Find it on Amazon.com

Find Her Books Online: 
You can find an assortment of books by Hawkins Adams at Amazon.com
Looking specifically for Dreams That Won't Let Go? Click here.

About the Publisher
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. For more information, visit http://www.revellbooks.com/.

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

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blog Tour: Double Trouble (Review)

"PJ Sugar had been born to sneak up on people." 

With that opening line, Susan May Warren draws readers into the second novel in the PJ Sugar series "Double Trouble."

PJ Sugar is back, working along side her boss, Jeremy Kane, and trying to determine if Boone Buckham - her high school sweetheart - is truly the love of her life; all while trying to figure out what God has in store for her.

What did I think
I really like the PJ Sugar series. Warren has created a fun, true to life character in PJ Sugar (but two novels in we still don't know what PJ stands for...). PJ is smart, she takes risks and above all, she is trying to live her faith in an authentic way.

She's also trying to find love - and determine if Boone her high school "tattoo-mate" is also her soul mate.

I think what I like most about PJ Sugar is that she makes mistakes. She's not perfect. She could be your best friend. (Well, your goofy, never know what will happen next best friend.)

Double Trouble is the second book in the series, but stands alone well. I'll admit, I understood a bit more because I read the first novel - but I think Warren provides enough "back story" that you'll do well if this is your first taste of "sugar." (You'll probably find that you enjoyed the book so much, that you'll want to go back to read how it all began.)

Can't get enough of PJ? Licensed for Trouble the third novel (tentative title) in the series will release later this year.

More About Double Trouble
With one solved case under her belt, PJ Sugar is ready to dive into her career as a private investigator. Or at least a PI's assistant until she can prove herself to Jeremy Kane, her new boss.

Suddenly PJ's seeing crime everywhere. But is it just in her head, or can she trust her instincts? When she takes on her first official case-house-sitting for a witness in protective custody-Jeremy assures her there's no danger involved. But it soon becomes clear that there is someone after the witness . . . and now they're after PJ, too.

Want to Read an Excerpt?
Click here to visit Warren's website, so you can read a bit from the book. 

More About Susan May Warren
Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-four novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year.

Her larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!.

She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!) A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: www.susanmaywarren.com.

The HUMDINGER-of-a-CONTEST:
Be sure to enter the Double Trouble Prize Package Giveaway 
by clicking on the ‘Double the Sass” button (below)
Susan’s giving away an iPod prize package 
that is anything but troubling! Check it out!

The Contest 
Double Trouble, the brand new PJ Sugar novel by Susan May Warren, is in stores now! 
To celebrate the release, we’re running a HUMDINGER of a contest!!
One Grand Prize winner will receive a $150 SUPER SLEUTH prize package that includes:

    * A brand new iPod Shuffle (perfect for those all-night stakeouts)
    * A $10 iTunes gift card (we recommend the ALIAS soundtrack)
    * A $10 Amazon gift card (why yes, they do sell spy pens)
    * A $10 Starbucks gift card (for fuel, obviously)
    * A pair of designer sunglasses (be stealthy AND super chic)
    * A gorgeous scarf from World Market (can also be used as a blindfold, and/or for tying up bad guys)
    * AND signed copies of both Nothing But Trouble & Double Trouble. (romance! danger! intrigue! sooo much better than Surveillance for Dummies!)
Pst... you need to hurry, the contest closes on February 20, 2010 @ 09:59 pm (PST)
They'll announce the super sleuth winner on March 1.

Blog Tour Schedule!  
Check out what others are saying about Double Trouble...

Read the First Novel - Nothing But Trouble
PJ Sugar knows three things for sure: After traveling the country for ten years hoping to shake free from the trail of disaster that’s become her life, she needs a fresh start.

The last person she wants to see when she heads home for her sister’s wedding is Boone—her former flame and the reason she left town.

Her best friend’s husband absolutely did not commit the first murder Kellogg, Minnesota, has seen in more than a decade.

What PJ doesn’t know is that when she starts digging for evidence, she’ll uncover much more than she bargained for—a deadly conspiracy, a knack for investigation, and maybe, just maybe, that fresh start she’s been longing for.

It's not fair to say that trouble happens every time PJ Sugar is around, but it feels that way when she returns to her hometown, looking for a fresh start.

Within a week, her former teacher is murdered and her best friend's husband is arrested as the number-one suspect. Although the police detective investigating the murder--who also happens to be PJ's former flame--is convinced it's an open-and-shut case, PJ's not so sure.

She begins digging for clues in an effort to clear her friend's husband and ends up reigniting old passions, uncovering an international conspiracy, and solving a murder along the way. She also discovers that maybe God can use a woman who never seems to get it right.

You can read more about the first book - and my interview with Warren, by clicking here.

Note: 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. (However, I can be bribed by Starbucks and chocolate....fyi...)
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