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Wednesday, February 29

Great Finds Issue #103








Here are my recent thrift store finds!

Hardback:

As Every, Gordy
by Mary Downing Hahn

Paperbacks:

Wings Like Eagles
by Tracie J. Peterson

The Other Side of Dark 
by Joan Lowery Nixon

The Enduring Hills
by Janice Holt Giles




Monday, February 27

Review - Blue Moon Promise & Kindle Giveaway




Blue Moon Promise
BY: Colleen Coble
PUBLISHED BY: Thomas Nelson
PUBLISHED IN: 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59554-915-0
Pages: 316
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

When my copy of Blue Moon Promise arrived, I was memorized as I glanced upon the book cover, as I am a sucker for any novel that is set in the 1800’s. The woman on cover reminds me of a teacher I had in Junior High. I set the book on my nightstand, and eagerly started reading the book later that night. I have bought a few Colleen Coble books, but I have never had a chance to read one, so jumped into the first chapter with a fresh mind.

The main character, Lucy Marsh, is adjusting to raising her younger half-siblings, Jed and Eileen. Their father, owner of a pawn store, had recently been murdered, and their stepmother ran off with another man. Lucy works hard as a seamstress, but can barely keep up with the rent. One night when she arrives home and finds an old friend of her father’s, Mr. Henry Stanton there. He wants to help Lucy out - a marriage proposal. Mr. Stanton is wanting a wife for his son, Nate.

  Lucy agrees to the proposal and soon enough she, along with Jed and Eileen, is on a train headed to Texas. Nate is surprised to find out that his father has brought him a wife. After Henry has a health scare, Nate agrees to try the marriage.

Nevertheless, someone is following the Marsh clan to Texas, and he wants a value object that belongs to him.

It took me two sittings to read Blue Moon Promise, the wonderful characters and fast-paced plot kept me turning the pages. There are a few twists & turns that keeps the plot from becoming predictable. I found the love story between Lucy and Nate to believable and never once did I think it was rushed. I recommend the book to all romance readers.

*I would like to thank Thomas Nelson/Litfuse for sending me a copy to review. 

Buy the Book at: http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=1595549153&title=Under_Texas_Stars_#1__:_Blue_Moon_Promise 


 About the Author:

Best-selling author Colleen Coble's novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, ACFW Book of the Year, RWA’s RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers' Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana.
For more about Colleen and her other books visit www.colleencoble.com
Blue Moon Promise is a story of hope, romance, and suspense . . . immersing the reader in a rich historical tale set under Texas stars.

To celebrate Colleen is teaming up with her publisher Thomas Nelson for a "Blue Moon Promise" Facebook Chat party where she will giveaway a KINDLE Fire and a Texas-sized gift basket (fabulous Texas treats and fun Lucy-inspired housekeeping products)!

Click the banner, RSVP today for the Facebook Party and mark the date on your calendar!

Invite your friends and don't miss Colleen's evening of chat, trivia, prizes, and more.

  Kindle Giveaway and More! Save the Date - 3/13!

Saturday, February 25

Review - StoryBranding

StoryBranding: Creating Standout Brands Through the Power of Story
BY: Jim Signorelli
PUBLISHED BY: GreenLeaf Book Group Press
PUBLISHED IN: 2012
ISBN: 978-1-60832-145-2
Pages: 234
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

        I thought I would expand my reading by signing up to review this book from GreenLeaf Book Group Press, whom kindly sent me a complimentary copy. After viewing the ridiculous high priced Super Bowl commercials, I flipped opened StoryBranding without any other knowledge on marketing. The book is in nonprofessional’s terms, along with a few quirky diagrams, so you do not have to be a marketing genius to understand it. Jim Signorelli’s view of marketing is simpler than you may think.

    In today’s economy, consumers are not going to waste their money on pointless products. They spend their money on things their family needs. Companies hire marketing agencies to sell their products to consumers, which can be difficult if the consumers cannot connect with the product. The product needs to tell the truth, as us customers are tired of lies. Jim Signorelli uses new, but simple ways of marketing to today’s customers by telling the story of the product/brand. You cannot just have an expensive flashy advertisement; most customers would be put off by it. It is like telling me to buy, when you should be showing me why I want to buy this brand.

    It took me longer to finish this book, because of several dry chapters. In addition, at times I thought the chapters repeated the same information. StoryBranding is primary aimed for marketers and brand owners, but small business owners, writers, and bloggers can easily find the book useful. Honestly, I did not find StoryBranding to be groundbreaking. I am not in marketing, but I found most of the information to be common sense. After viewing recent commercials/advertisements, in my opinion, it seems brands have lost their creative edge and they have no idea what the consumers want. Maybe, if they had some common sense they will read StoryBranding. 

Friday, February 24

Guest Post by Author Hope Irvin Marston




HOW I MET MARGARET WILSON:
The Birthing of My First Historical Novel
by
Hope Irvin Marston


When I was little girl my sister Shirley, who was fifteen years older than me, had a pen pal named Scotty. I was amazed that she was getting a letter from someone who lived in faraway Scotland.  Though I don’t recall how it began, I acquired my Scots pen pal, Sheena McIlvean, sometime before my twelfth birthday.  (We are still pen friends!)  We had been writing for a year or two, when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were married in 1947.  Sheena sent me a lovely book with wedding pictures of the royal couple.

About forty years later when I was proofreading a manuscript for a publishing company in Harrisburg, PA, I read the inscription on Margaret’s grave marker in a Wigtown, Scotland, kirkyard.  I was awed by the dedication of this 17th century teen martyr. I set out on my own quest to find out all I could about her.
A librarian by profession, I had research skills that put me in good stead.  However, finding information about a Scots teen who  had lived some 300 years ago was a daunting task.  For about four years I searched for Margaret in libraries and on the Internet.  I subscribed to The Scots Magazine and watched for any mention of her or of  the time frame in which she lived.

In 2000 I visited Scotland on a Castle Tour.  I met Sheena and her husband Phil and shared a dinner with them in their lovely home in Perth. The following day they took me to Stirling Castle. Just below the castle is a huge statue of Margaret and her younger sister.  We also visited some areas in Edinburgh that were significant in Margaret’s life. I came home and finished my story as best I could based on the information I had assembled.

In 2004 when Sheena was securing for me a CD entitled Voices of Wigtown, she was given the name and contact for the leading authority on Margaret Wilson and the Covenanters, Donna Brewster. Donna was an American who married a Scotsman and now lived in Wigtown. When I contacted her via e-mail, she invited me to come to Wigtown as her house guest.  She would take me to the places important in Margaret’s life.
I finished my manuscript as best I could before visiting Scotland to “check things out.”  I returned on the 325th anniversary of Margaret’s martyrdom and had the privilege of laying flowers on her grave and taking a wreath to the spot where she was drowned.

Donna took me to Margaret’s birthplace and to the moors as well as other spots that were part of Margaret’s life. Stepping into the small prison cell where she spent her last few days in Wigtown was an emotional high for me and a fitting climax to my research.

  It was home again to rewrite much of Margaret’s story. When questions arose in my mind about something Scots, a quick e-mail to Donna, or to Liz Curtis Higgs, an American author acclaimed for her historical Scots novels, secured for me the answers I needed to ensure my story details were accurate.
In July 2007 an American publishing company, P & R Publishing (Presbyterian and Reformed), released Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson as part of their Chosen Daughters Series.

The persecution of Christians around the world grows more severe day by day, a grim reminder of the mini-inquisition that Margaret Wilson and the people in Southwestern Scotland faced for fifty years from 1638-1688.

Widow M’Lauchlan, a devout Covenanter who was martyred on the same day as Margaret Wilson, had counseled her when they were imprisoned together in Thieves’ Hole that they needed to be ready for service or sacrifice.  Margaret understood this.  She was ready.

Whether the readers of Margaret’s story are teen or adult, that’s the story I aimed to tell through Margaret’s life.

Thursday, February 23

The Friday 56 - Beauty for Ashes







He motioned her to the seat beside the window,
lowered himself into his chair,
and took up his pipe.
His gray cat, India, 
hopped onto the desk to greet Carrie
before settling into her favorite spot
on the windowsill.

page 56, Beauty for Ashes by Dorothy Love

Late Thursday Rambling & Friday Blog Hop


This week went by faster than last week, and because of some personal issues, I haven't had much time this week work on any personal writings. I have a few plans (changes) for the blog in the upcoming weeks.

 I have two books on my desk that I need to write reviews for, hopefully tomorrow. I'm currently reading "Beauty for Ashes" by Dorothy Love. It's alright so far, but I'm having a hard time connecting to any of the characters. I'm only on chapter 3 and I hope it gets better.

Only one book in the mail this week: "Growing Up Ziglar" by Julie Ziglar Norman. The book is short, so if I have time I might read it quickly over the weekend.

Last week, I watched the remake - I mean the prequel to "The Thing" called "The Thing". Yeah, they went all out on the title. Overall, I enjoyed the movie and thought it nicely tied into the original. If your not a fan of the old movie, then you probably won't like the prequel, which is the reason it flopped at the theaters. 

I haven't had much luck finding very many books at the Thrift Store, but I need buy "Still More Tales For the Midnight Hour" by J.B. Stamper and "Keeping Baby Safe" by Debra Webb. Maybe I'll have better luck this weekend.



 Question of the week: Activity!!! Take a picture or describe where you love to read the most...


My Answer: Well, I don't actually have a favorite place to read. I have several chairs where I may sit and read. Sometimes I like to read in bed, reading while I workout on the stationary bike, or I might pace back and forth with a book in hand.

Tuesday, February 21

Book Spotlight with Author Hope Irvin Marston






Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest  - Biography, but written as an autobiography.

Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company)
ISBN 13: 978-0-89317-071-4    
Release Date: December 1, 2011

About the Book: 
From the time she was three years old, Aisling (pronounced “Ashley”) Lara Shepherd loved watching sled dog racing on television.  Inspired by the drive and determination of the dogs and the people who race them, Aisling set out on a personal quest to one day run her own dogs in the Alaskan Iditarod race.  This biographical account follows then eleven-year-old Aisling as she conquers obstacles, deals with heartbreak and loss, and achieves great victories, while keeping her eye on the Iditarod.


MY LITTLE BOOK OF BALD EAGLES
Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company)

ISBN-13:  978-0-89317-068-4

About the Book:
Next Generation Indie Book Award-winner. A Delightful story about a ne family of bald eagles. From the newborns' first flights to their own fishing adventures, this beautifully illustrated book is ideal for introducing young children to te wonders of nature.


Against the Tide:  The Valor of Margaret Wilson

P & R Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-59638-061-5     

About the Book: 
Seventeenth-century Scotland is a place of cruel intolerance for te Covenanters, a people bound togethr by their loyal faith. A young, earnest Covenanter, Margaret Wilson finds hr pledged loyalty to Christ and his covenant in opposition to King Charles II's demand for her absolute obedience. Will Margaret  choose to defy the autorities? Or will devotion to her family, love for her sweetheart, and hopes of future happiness rule her heart?






Friday, February 17

Follow Friday


This week flew by quick and I hardly had time to get things done. I finished reading Song of My Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer and hopefully I'll be writing the review this weekend for an upcoming blog tour. I bought two new books at a dollar store this week, well the books were three dollars each - Distant Echoes by Colleen Coble and Sarah's Choice by Wanda Brunstetter. Books in the mail this week were: Growing up Ziglar by Julie Ziglar Norman; Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings; Private Games by James Patterson; and Goosebumps Hall of Horrors: Don't Scream by R.L. Stine. 

This Week's Question: I like unique names for characters and am looking forward to coming up with some when I start writing. What's the most unique character name you've come across?


My Answer: Sookie Stackhouse pops into my mind.

Friday, February 10

ARC Review - Shakespeare's Lady


Shakespeare’s Lady
BY: Alexa Schnee
PUBLISHED BY: Guidepost
PUBLISHED IN: April 1, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8249-4528-2
Pages: 360
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

Unexpectedly I received an advanced reader’s copy of the upcoming Shakespeare’s Lady by Alexa Schnee from Summerside Press/Guideposts. I do not read much from the Shakespearean period, but I became interested after flipping to the back pages and reading the author note. I was unaware of who Emilia Bassano was, a lady-in-waiting to the Queen Elizabeth and one of the first women poets in England. Historians have debated over the years if Emilia wrote some of William Shakespeare’s plays, especially the wacky A Midsummer’s Night Dream. There have also been debates about who Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady” is. Was it Emilia Bassano? Nobody knows if it was actually her, or if William and she actually had a relationship. Both William and Emilia would have been around Queen Elizabeth’s court at the time. That is where Alexa Schnee’s plot comes in, the romantic relationship between the two.

Being completely unfamiliar with the lifestyles of the 14th century, I was shocked read about how the women, especially the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, were treated. The women were mistress for the higher class, older married men. The main character, Emilia, became of the mistress of the Queen’s first cousin, Henry Carey. If I recall right, there is a forty-five years age difference between Emilia and Henry. Despite hating Henry, she becomes pregnant with his child. With the Queen’s approval, Emilia married her first cousin Alfonso Lanier, a court musician.

Emilia was a poet at heart, but she mostly wrote in secret, as Henry and later her husband, Alfonso, was displeased with her passion. William Shakespeare, who she met briefly at the Queen’s court, admired her poems and fell for the married Emilia. Most of Shakespeare’s plays ends in tragedy, so unfortunately so does the relationship between the two.

Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying reading about this era, and at the same time I found myself somewhat sadden that this is a work of fiction. Nobody truly knows if there was a romantic relationship between William and Emilia. The author cleverly unravels a romance between the two, and brings new light to the Emilia Bassano’s legacy.

Thursday, February 9

Ramblings, Great Finds, & Follow Friday


It’s been quite some time since my last rambling, probably before Christmas. My life has been a little bit hectic. I’m been playing catch up with some book reviews/reading, working on a few critiques, trying to get into the mood to work on some personal writings, and hoping to find some time to read some personal books, A.K.A books I have purchased myself. My New Years resolution was to continue exercising and lose some weight. I have no problem with exercising five to six days of week, but I have problems staying on a diet, which is the cause of gaining seven pounds since Christmas. With some willpower, I need to cut back on the sweets. If I can keep myself motivated, I know I can lose these extra pounds.

I’m now officially a Kindle owner, as I received one for Christmas. You would think that eBooks would be cheaper than a hardback or paperback, but they are just as high. I broke down and bought an eBook by Wanda Brunstetter, which I read in a few nights. Look for my review later this month.

Have you noticed any changes on the blog? I moved my library shelf to it's own page as I was receiving complaints on how slow the widget was. It’s been awhile since I have posted a “Great Finds Issue”, maybe it’s because I have been lazy. Here is a list of my recent finds:

Hardbacks:
Culture Warrior
by Bill O’Reilly.

Pronto
by Elmore Leonard

Paperbacks:
Fear Street: The Fire Game
by R.L. Stine

Fear Street Sagas #16: The Hand of Power
by Cameron Dokey

Goosebumps: I Live in Your Basement!
by R.L. Stine

Shivers:
Ghost Writer; The Animal Rebellion; The Spider Kingdom; The Curse in the Jungle; Night of the Goat Boy; Madness at the Mall; The Terrible Terror Book
by M.D. Spenser

Graveyard School: Slime Lake
by Tom B. Stone

Belle Teal
by Ann M. Martin

Phantom Lover
by Rebecca York

.38 Caliber Cover-Up
by Angi Morgan


Her Healing Ways
by Lyn Cote

Paternity Unknown
by Jean Barrett

Tom Clancy’s Power Plays:
Cold War; ruthless.com

Gingham Bride
by Jillian Hart

Evidence of Marriage
by Ann Voss Peterson

Night of the Blackbird
by Heather Graham

Irish Dreams
by Nora Roberts

Profile Durango
by Carla Cassidy


Here’s a neat item I picked up a thrift store several months ago. As you can see I'm a Goosebumps fan!



This week, I read the ARC copy of Shakespeare’s Lady by Alexa Schnee, and Blue Moon Promise by Colleen Coble. I’ll be writing reviews shortly for them, so keep an eye out on them. I made the mistake of reading the first few pages of The Blue Tattoo by Margot Mifflin that I checked out at the library last week, and I ended up reading about half of the book in one sitting. It’s the true story of Olive Oatman! The other book I checked out was At the Mercy of the Queen by Anne Clinard Barnhill. I hope to finish The Blue Tattoo tonight and I plan on quickly reading Story Branding by Jim Signorelli before I start reading At the Mercy of the Queen. Beauty for Ashes by Dorothy Love came in the mail this week as part of an upcoming book tour. I also have a copy of The Loom by Shella Gillus to read and review.

If you have an eBook request, I will get to them shortly. On my upcoming eBook read list, is Cynthia’s Attic: The Missing Locket; and the Golden Spark by John Royce.

Here are a few books that I have bought recently: Private #1Suspect by James Patterson; Being George Washington by Glenn Beck; Raylan by Elmore Leonard (I can’t wait to read this one as I’m a big Justified fan.); Something New by Dianne Christner;  and Lenobia’s Vow by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast.

Hopefully in between all these great reads, I can read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, as I already own the trilogy.



Question of the week: What would your prefer: reading your favorite book over and over again until you got sick of it OR reading 100s of mediocre books? And why?

My Answer: If I could pick one book to read over and over again, it would The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, as it cleverly written. Lately, I haven't cared much for the recent bestsellers, instead I enjoy reading historical (sometimes Christian) novels, as the plots take me to a more simple time.

Friday, February 3

Follow Friday





Question of the week: Define what characteristics your favorite books share. Do they all have a kickass heroine or is the hot love interest the Alpha Male?

My answer: None of my favorite/or current reads have any similar characteristics. I reader books based on plot, genre, and author! I read an Amish book earlier this week and I'm currently reading a historical novel. I read a wide variety of books from teen/YA, Christian, Mystery/Crime, Non-fiction, Horror, to romance. Characteristics or if there is a strong hero or heroine has nothing to do with my choices. Good writing and a great plot always comes first.

Wednesday, February 1

Review - Shadow in Serenity


Shadow in Serenity
BY: Terri Blackstock
PUBLISHED BY: Zondervan
PUBLISHED IN: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-310-33231-2
Pages: 352
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

I was given a few books by Terri Blackstock a while back by a friend, but I have never had a chance to read them. When I received a request to review the Christian book, Shadow in Serenity, I instantly recognized the author’s name. I eagerly accepted to read it. The book tossed no to my nightstand, with a few others, and with the holiday madness, the book had slipped my mind. After a night of tossing and turning, I flipped on the nightstand light and grabbed Shadow in Serenity. Instantly, I was hooked after reading the first chapter - the  introduction of Logan Brisco, a stylish con artist with a rocky past. Abandoned by his mother, Logan lived in foster homes until meeting a local con artist who took Logan under his wing. After a stint behind bars and a name change, Logan lands in Serenity Texas with the greatest swindle of all.

One by one, Logan is convincing the citizens of Serenity to invest in his great idea - building a theme park in the county. Everyone is hypnotized by his charming self and smooth talking, except for one woman named Carny Sullivan. She has seen her share of liars and cheats in her life, and now she has spotted one more - Logan. With all her power, she is determined to protect her son, family, and friends by exposing Logan’s lies.

Shadow in Serenity is a character driven drama with some romance thrown in it. Despite Logan being a con artist, I could not help feeling sorry for him as I learned more about his past. The heroine, Carny, is smart, strong character who knows when she is being lied to. There are a few dry moments here and there, but the interesting characters, snappy dialogue, and believable plot make up for it. I enjoyed my first read from Terri Blackstock and I look forward to reading more of her books.


About the Author:

Terri Blackstock has sold over six million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestseller. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Predator, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the Sun Coast Chronicles, and the Restoration Series. Visit her website at www.terriblackstock.com.