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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Once a faithful fan of Food Network shows, I’m in a bit of a drought. I got a little burnt out on the drama. Or maybe I just needed a break. Lucky for me, though, there are novels that take the idea of cooking competitions and give you a backstage look at the people participating.

All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes is one such book. (Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

The book’s author, Betsy St. Amant, is a woman I’ve heard a lot about from other authors of her genre, and her writing is just as fun and witty and romantic as the hype. All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes is a sweet (ha ha!) story of two friends, Kat Varland and Lucas Brennan, who have so much more between them than friendship but who are afraid to risk losing what they have for finding something more.

Kat dreams of opening her own bakery. Meanwhile, she’s stuck working at her aunt’s bakery making the same cupcakes day after day: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry. Kat likes to experiment with flavors, and it seems her baking is riskier than her life. Her best friend Lucas is the high school football coach and a willing participant in Kat’s baking escapades. Because he believes in her abilities, Lucas signs Kat up for a spot on a cupcake competition reality show. When she wins a spot on the show, Kat convinces Lucas to come with her to Los Angeles. And the baking isn’t the only thing that heats up.

As their feelings for each other deepen and blossom, each of them must decide what it is they really want from life, and they’re each faced with a decision about their dreams.

I loved this story. Maybe because I like to cook and bake with my husband. Maybe because we were friends before we were more. Maybe because it was just a good story about love and sacrifice and dreams.

I’m adding Betsy St. Amant to my list of must-read authors. And I’ve got another foodie favorite novel to add to my growing list.

Here’s more about the author: BStAmant-257

Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana with her young daughter and has a heart for sharing the amazing news of God’s grace through her novels. A freelance journalist, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to a Disney soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing.

Find out more about Betsy at http://www.betsystamant.com/

And here’s how she’s celebrating the release of her book!

Don’t miss Betsy St. Amant’s latest fiction release, All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes. A “sweet” tale of two best friends and the choices they make between dreams and a possible “sure thing,” St. Amant’s novel is sure to satisfy your romantic-fiction craving.

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Betsy is celebrating with a fun Kindle giveaway and a Love & Cupcakes Facebook party!
One winner will receive:

  • A brand new Kindle
  • All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 18th. Winner will be announced at the Love & Cupcakes” Author Chat Party on 9/18. Betsy will be hosting a “sweet” book chat, giving away prizes, and answering questions from readers. She will also share an exclusive sneak peek at her next book project!

 
So grab your copy of All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes and join Betsy on the evening of September 18th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 18th!

 

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It has taken me a decade to pick up a book by Deborah Raney, despite glowing recommendations from trusted friends.  Ten years ago, I attended a writers’ conference where she was on faculty and in my ignorance of the industry back then, I’d never heard of her or her books. Times have changed for the better, and even though I follow her on Facebook, I still hadn’t read anything by her until now.

Home-to-Chicory-Lane-PKWhen an author has been writing books for a long time, I often don’t know where to start. Should I read their early works so I get feel for their style or just start with something new? I took the plunge on Raney’s latest, Home to Chicory Lane, when it was offered for review by Litfuse Publicity Group. (I received a free copy of the book.)

And it’s just as delightful as I might have expected. Raney has an approachable charm to her Facebook posts and I find her writing to be the same. Home to Chicory Lane is the first in a new series focusing on the Whitman family. In this one, we meet the cast of characters, led by parents Audrey and Grant who have recently turned their family home into a bed-and-breakfast. On the opening weekend of the inn, their newly wed youngest daughter shows up unexpectedly, without her husband, and her parents suspect trouble.

The book is equally balanced between the two storylines: Landyn and Chase, the newlyweds, and Audrey and Grant, the new business owners. Other family members make appearances and it will be fun to find out what further antics are in store for this family.

I’m more and more fond of these family saga type of stories and the focus on individual characters in separate books. In this one, particularly, I enjoyed the banter between siblings and the real-life emotions that surface in families during times of stress and trial. This is not a picture-perfect family that makes you want to puke. The Whitmans are pursuing dreams and struggling financially and facing hardships, and though their love for each other is apparent, there is no shortage of angry outbursts or words spoken in stress.

This was just a realistic family that drew me in to their lives. (And the Midwestern setting didn’t hurt. I’m a bit homesick for the Midwest these days.)

So, don’t be like me: Don’t wait 10 years to read a book by Deborah Raney! You’ll be missing out on some enjoyable fiction.

Also not to miss: this $200 B&B giveaway as part of the book’s launch. Read on for the details about how you can win!

The first book in Deborah Raney‘s new Chicory Inn series, Home to Chicory Lane, introduces us to Audrey Whitman, a mother who has launched all her children into life and now looks forward to fulfilling some of her own dreams during her empty-nest years. However, not all of her children are ready to stay out of the nest quite yet.

Deborah is celebrating the release of her new series with a $200 B&B Weekend Getaway and a Facebook author chat party.

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One winner will receive:

  • A B&B Weekend Getaway (via a $200 Visa cash card)
  • Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 9th. Winner will be announced at the Home to Chicory Lane Author Chat Party on 9/9. Deborah will be hosting a heartfelt book chat, giving away prizes, and answering questions from readers. She will also share an exclusive sneak peek at the next book in the Chicory Inn series!

So grab your copy of Home to Chicory Lane and join Deborah on the evening of September 9th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 9th!

 

 

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A book combining food and family secrets was almost impossible to resist, but I’ve got mixed feelings about my experience reading A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy through the Blogging for Books program.)

table-windowThe book focuses on Juliette, a food writer and youngest heir in a French-Italian family with deep cooking heritage. She tells the story in first person, and frankly, I was a bit bored in the beginning. I didn’t care much about her life, which didn’t seem all that bad, and although I was excited about the inclusion of recipes, I also felt they were intimidating and inaccessible to someone who hasn’t been raised with such a rich knowledge of proper cooking techniques. I did enjoy the cooking theme in the story, though, and Juliette’s appreciation for food. Her family was likable also and the characters were vivid and memorable.

Unfortunately, I was almost halfway through the book before I really started to enjoy it. Juliette tests the waters of online dating and that storyline started to propel the rest of the book. I took a liking to Neil, the doctor with whom she begins communicating. Their exchanges are cute and probably saved the book for me.  The ending was abrupt, offering less closure and more questions. Thankfully there was an excerpt of the next book included at the end of this one. Still, I wasn’t sure going in that this was a series and the ending kind of caught me by surprise, but not in a good way.

I mostly wanted to read this book as research for the novel I’m writing because the theme is similar: a young woman floundering in her present uncovers a family secret that could shape her future. I’m not sorry I read it, and I’m interested in the next one to see where the storyline goes, but I kind of hoped for more from this one.

If you want to make yourself drool, head on over to the book’s Pinterest page, though. In a word: yum!

 

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By the time I reach the third book in a series, the characters are my “friends.” (Don’t judge me, I’m an introvert.) And even though I know a series has to come to an end, sometimes I still dread it.

Abandoned Memories-coverI’ve been eagerly awaiting Abandoned Memories, the third and final installment in MaryLu Tyndall’s Escape to Paradise trilogy that follows a group of American colonists post-Civil War to the jungles of Brazil to form a new Southern utopia. And it was only disappointing in that it signaled the end of the journey for this group. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for my review.)

The second book, Elusive Hope, left with a mystery I couldn’t wait to see solved. And Abandoned Memories delivered. I only needed one day to read it. So, if this is the first time you’re hearing about this series, let me catch you up without giving too much away.

It began with Forsaken Dreams, on a ship bound for Brazil. There we first met this lively bunch of characters who include Captain Blake Wallace and Eliza Crawford, Magnolia Scott and Hayden Gale, and James Callaway and Angeline Moore. each with their own reasons for leaving their lives in America behind for a second chance at happiness. The first book focuses on Blake and Eliza and the obstacles they each need to overcome to find that second chance. Book two is the story of Magnolia and Hayden, who both must give up a dream to discover a life of true purpose and beauty. And book three zeroes in on James and Angeline, both who have disreputable pasts but are determined to make a new start in the new colony.

Woven through each of these stories is a mysterious temple that both draws and repels the members of the budding colony. Some are drawn by the lure of riches buried below. Others are afraid of the darkness enshrouding the temple. In this final book, the mysteries of the temple are fully revealed and these six main characters learn how their lives have been intertwined for a reason: to defeat a terrible evil.

The adventure. The romance. The spiritual battles. It all comes together in a page-turning, heart-pumping story, one I hate to see end, but know it’s for the best.

Definitely don’t read this one unless you’ve got your hands on the first two. I’m tempted to go back and read them all together again just for the continuity of the story.

If you’re a fan of movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom  and Romancing the Stone, or the TV show Lost, then this is a series you don’t want to miss.

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Friends, while I’m getting back into the post-vacation groove and mulling all my thoughts into palatable blog posts, check out this giveaway for a book I reviewed last week. And get yourself a copy of this story! 

Welcome to the launch campaign for debut novelist Kristy Cambron‘s The Butterfly and the Violin. Romantic Times had this to say: “Alternating points of view skillfully blend contemporary and historical fiction in this debut novel that is almost impossible to put down. Well-researched yet heartbreaking. . . .”

Kristy is celebrating the release of the first book in her series, A Hidden Masterpiece, with a fun Kindle Fire giveaway and meeting her readers during an August 7th Facebook author chat party.


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One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 7th. Winner will be announced at The Butterfly and the Violin Author Chat Party. Kristy will be connecting with readers and answering questions, sharing some of the fascinating research behind the book, hosting a fun book chat, and giving away some GREAT prizes. She will also be giving an exclusive look at the next book in the series, A Sparrow in Terezin!

 
So grab your copy of The Butterfly and the Violin and join Kristy on the evening of August 7th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 7th!

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I’m generally in awe of debut authors who make such a good first impression. And Kristy Cambron’s novel The Butterfly and the Violin makes a great introduction to a new writer. (Disclaimer: In exchange for my review, I received a free copy of the book through Litfuse Publicity Group.)

Butterfly and ViolinThis book is a work of art, not just because it centers on a lost painting. It’s the kind of story that makes me want to slow down and read the words over and over again so I appreciate the nuances of how they’re put together. I get the feeling that the more time spent with this story, the more details and layers I’d discover. Not unlike most pieces of art.

The Butterfly and the Violin combines the stories of Adele von Bron, a Viennese violinist during World War 2, and Sera James, a New York City art dealer in present day. Sera has been obsessed with the painting since she saw it a gallery in Paris when she was 8. Her life’s mission after her life crumbled has been to track down the painting. She and her assistant have hit a dead end when William Hanover, the heir of a wealthy California family, makes an offer to aid her search in an effort to save the family business. Sera and William try to piece together the clues to the painting’s owner and the story of Adele while each trying to patch up their broken pasts.

Adele’s story is woven into the contemporary storyline, a method of storytelling I love when it’s done well. And Cambron excels at it.

If you’ve read Susan Meissner’s The Girl in the Glass, you’ll find a similarly mesmerizing story in this book. The Butterfly and the Violin is part of the Hidden Masterpieces series, which is good news for those of us who want more stories that blend past and present.

About the book: A mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz—and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl—a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover, the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul, who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together, Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: in the grim camps of Auschwitz and in the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.
Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/zhXo3

About the author: Kristy Cambron has been fascinated with the WWII era since hearing her KCambron-238grandfather’s stories of the war. She holds an art history degree from Indiana University and received the Outstanding Art History Student Award. Kristy writes WWII and Regency era fiction and has placed first in the 2013 NTRWA Great Expectations and 2012 FCRW Beacon contests, and is a 2013 Laurie finalist. Kristy makes her home in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons.

Find Kristy online: websiteFacebookTwitter

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Every time I read and review a Jody Hedlund book, I feel like a recording with my praise. So, if I haven’t convinced you historical fiction fans to read one of her books yet, consider these reasons to pick up her latest, Captured by Love, or any other book she’s written. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.) captured-by-love-662x1024

1. History. Duh. She writes historical fiction, right? But each of her novels leaves me wanting to know about the historical events she’s writing about. In this one, she focuses in on the War of 1812 and the British occupation of what we know as Mackinac Island in the Michigan Territory of 1814. I feel like I get an interesting history lesson when I read. But if history’s not enough to convince you, how about …

2. Hunky heroes. In Captured by Love, Pierre is a fur trader from the Michigan island settlement of Mackinac, which is currently occupied by the British. He’s the manliest of men with charm to spare. I’ve read all of Hedlund’s published books, and no two heroes are the same. I appreciate the diversity in character development as well as the predictability of some of their charms. Still, it’s fun to see how these men woo the women and also how they change. (My favorite hunky hero is from A Noble Groom. I’m swooning as I type.) But they’re not all typically hunky. Take Ben, who is modeled after John Adams, in Rebellious Heart. He woos with his words and his commitment to political change. That’s hunky in its own way. It’s not just about the men, though. Let’s not forget the …

3. Spunky heroines. This was a question posed by another historical fiction author recently: Do you like spunky heroines or more genteel ones? And honestly, I like them both for different reasons. Hedlund’s heroines are a mix of both but they lean toward spunky. They are not weak, damsel-in-distress types, though they do get rescued quite often. They are strong, passionate women with goals and ideas. In Captured by Love, Angelique has had to fend for herself for some time while also taking care of Pierre’s nearly-blind mother. She holds her own among the men in her life, even when she has little choice or say in matters. I appreciate female characters who earn the admiration of the men because of their minds, not just their pretty looks. Which is good because they face plenty of …

4. Peril. Hedlund’s stories are not sweet romances. There is danger, and the characters face opposition from without and within. Sometimes their lives hang in the balance. The stories are full of adventure and hold-your-breath moments, the kind where you know (you think!) things are going to turn out okay but you’re not sure how. Hedlund keeps me turning the pages and isn’t afraid to put her characters through the worst of circumstances for the sake of a good story.

And finally, you should read her stories …

5. To believe in love again. I know not everyone agrees that reading inspirational romance is a worthy pursuit, but don’t we humans love a good love story? I love reading true stories of love that lasts and weathers storms, and I’m grateful for authors who can write stories that reflect that real-life truth. Hedlund’s books are intense sometimes, and they are entertaining, but they are also pictures of undying and sacrificial love. These are not fluff romances meant to give readers a temporary thrill. They are stories that stick with you and rekindle the belief that love conquers all.

So, there you have it. Five good reasons to pick up a Jody Hedlund novel. She writes the stories I want to read, and frankly, I wouldn’t even have to know what the book is about beforehand as long as her name is on it. If you’re looking for a new author to love, give her books a try. And if you need further incentive to read Captured by Love, head on over to Goodreads and enter the giveaway for a chance to win one of 15 copies.

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