Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook" Review

Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook

Eat Up and Slim Down with More Than 350 Healthy Recipes
by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison

In their debut cookbook, the Trim Healthy Mama’s share hundreds of delicious, healthy recipes to help readers successfully slim down while eating well. 

This companion cookbook to the bestselling Trim Healthy Mama Plan is just what readers have been waiting for. It features simple, mouthwatering, recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner—including slow cooker and one-pot meals, hearty soups and salads, omelets and waffles, pizzas, breads and more.  No Trim Healthy Mama should be deprived, so there are also favorite snacks, delectable desserts, and the smoothies, sippers and teas fans love.

With  pantry-stocking advice, time-saving tips, and information on how to cook for the entire family, the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook offers a delicious and nutritious way to make trim and healthy meals with less stress—so you have more time with your loved ones.

For more information click here.

More information about the Trim Healthy Mama Lifestyle can be found here -

My Take:

When I signed up to review this cookbook, I didn't actually realize the whole picture of what this "Trim Healthy Mama" was about. The cookbook promised simple, healthy recipes for all sorts of things, and I am a sucker for a cookbook!

It turns out that the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle is something that the authors founded based on their previous book - Trim Healthy Mama Plan. Here is what it says on their website about it:
Authors Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett provide a comprehensive, Biblically-sound, effective and delicious way to eat for health and weight loss. Written with humor and thorough research, these books will entertain, enlighten and encourage women (and men!) to feed their bodies and souls the way God created us to thrive. Separating scientific realities from the fads, this book addresses the diverse needs of adults and growing children.You'll never look at food and health the same way again.
To me, all that seems fairly vague. When you get farther into reading about the plan and farther into the cookbook, you realize that this plan involves completely cutting out sugar. It also involves following a plan for eating other types of foods. For someone who has had bad reactions to "other" sweeteners (even natural stevia), this is extremely hard to do!
Now I'm not trying to bash the authors of this book - far from it. This plan obviously works for them and works for many others. I just am not able to follow this plan, and it wasn't clear at the outset that this is what this cookbook was about.
I looked completely through this cookbook, and there were some recipes that we were able to use, substituting here and there as needed. Most were very tasty, but I think you would get much more out of this book if you are trying to follow the Trim Healthy Mama plan.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Penguin-Random House Publishing through Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day Salute

Bill DeWitt (Shoopette's Dad)
Honorably discharged as Petty Officer 2nd Class (E-5) after four years in the United States Navy -- 1964-1968.

Bill enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1964 and served primarily on the USS America (CV-66), an aircraft carrier. The USS America was attached to Fighter Squadron (VF-33), and Bill served as an Aviation Fire Control Technician (AQF-2). He worked on the electronics that controlled the air-to-air missiles on the F4-B Phantom fighter jet.

The time period when my dad served was the early Vietnam War era. His aircraft carrier was also involved in the rescue effort of a Navy electronic intelligence vessel during the Six-Day War in June, 1967, when the USS Liberty was mistakenly attacked during the Arab-Israeli conflict.
My dad learned as much as he could about electronics in the Navy, and after he was discharged, he used the G.I. Bill to attend college at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After earning his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Electrical Engineering, he spent the next 40+ years as a Professional Engineer in various companies and then as a Full Professor of Electrical Engineering Technology at Purdue University.

Orlo Shoop (Shoopette's father-in-law}
U.S. Army, Chief Warrant Office IV, retired after 24 years of service.

After attending Wabash College in Indiana, Orlo entered the U.S. Army in 1971 in the midst of the conflict in Vietnam. While stationed in Hawaii, he graduated with a Bachelor's degree from Chaminade University.
During his career in the U.S. Army, Orlo was stationed at various bases throughout the world including bases in Hawaii; North Carolina; Wurzburg, Germany; Arizona; Georgia, Heidelberg, Germany; and Nebraska. He served in Military Intelligence including being stationed at Headquarters USAREUR - Heidelberg, Germany, during the U.S. Gulf War in the early 1990s. He finished his career at STRATCOM in Bellevue, Nebraska. Beyond that, since he was in Military Intelligence, we can't say anything else -- it's classified. :)
My husband grew up in this Army household and moved at least every three years during his childhood. The motto in the Shoop household was, "Home is where the Army sends you."
After retiring from the Army, Orlo moved his family back home to Indiana. He has spent the past 20 years working for Purdue University in IT/Technical Operations.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"A Worthy Pursuit" Review

A teacher on the run. A bounty hunter in pursuit. Can two enemies learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.

Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan's Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the orphaned girl entrusted to her care. Charlotte promised Lily's mother she'd keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.

When Miss Atherton produces documentation that shows her to be Lily's legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he's been led to believe. Is she villain or victim? 

Then a new danger forces Charlotte to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone vows to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he's ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte's heart.

My Take:

Books by Karen Witemeyer were some of the first ones I read when I started doing book reviews several years ago. Some of her novels I have thought were just OK, but there are a couple of hers that I would list among my favorite books that I have reviewed.

Fortunately, this latest novel can be counted as a favorite.

First of all, the setup for this book was one that I thought was very unique. A bounty hunter chasing a supposedly kidnapped girl and a guardian trying to protect that same girl from her disreputable grandfather – it made for a great stepping off point for the rest of the novel.

And what a multi-layered novel it was.

The complicated setup only led to an intriguing novel that had so many dimensions that I never once felt bored. There were just so many things that led to my overall enjoyment of this book. The talented children, the bounty hunter with a heart of gold, the uptight music teacher who was running from the emotional turmoil in her past, the suspense, the witty banter – all of it came together into a very well-written book that was extremely hard to put down.

One thing that has been lacking in recent novels I have read is the depth of the characters. This was definitely not lacking with A Worthy Pursuit. Charlotte and Stone and especially the children leapt off the page. They never once felt as if they were cookie-cutter characters, and their actions and dialogue seemed genuine. The plot of this novel really could have led to many Big Misunderstandings in order to keep the characters apart, but even though one time it got close, it never fully went that route. And for that I am very grateful! 

I also appreciated the relationship between Charlotte and Stone. I knew where it would ultimately end up, but it was fun to see their journey. Even though the physical descriptions at times were a bit eye-rolling or unnecessary, their courtship still felt genuine, and I liked seeing how they fell in love.

The suspense throughout this novel was something else that kept things interesting. I like having another dimension to a romance besides the courtship, and this novel definitely had that. Poor Stone was beaten up and shot at so many times it became borderline unbelievable, but it still made for an interesting story.

One of my favorite aspects of the Charlotte character was her love of music. I so related to how she could just let go and lose herself in the music when she played the piano. I saw a quote years ago (attributed to a German opera house), and the last part said, “God gave us music that we might pray without words.” This came to mind at once when Charlotte played the piano in the book, and there are so many times when I feel the same way when I play.

If I had to pick something that could have been done a little bit better, it would be the spiritual aspect. The two main characters already had a relationship with God, and they did rely on Him and the Bible for guidance. It was very seamless in its presentation, which is something I appreciate, but I wish at times that it just went a bit deeper.

Something that I thought was really cute in this novel was how Stone, because of his career as a bounty hunter, ended up being portrayed in dime novels as a character. It was a neat way for Stone to relate to Lily as her protector, and I thought it was just flat-out funny at times. Stone’s friend and fellow dime novel character, Dan, was fun, too, and I would love to read a book about him in the future!

I truly feel that this novel was reminiscent of what I really liked about Karen Witemeyer’s books back in the beginning of her career. A Worthy Pursuit is definitely a favorite read of the year.

I will give  A Worthy Pursuit ... 4 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"The Finishing School" Blog Tour

The Finishing School: How One Book Nerd Began Living What She Learned (Nyree Press, August 2015)

Are you tired of waiting for change to happen in your life? Do you feel stuck, even though you want to live more intentionally?

In today's world, our most precious pursuit of a life well lived gets squeezed out by the silliest of things: binging on Netflix or ice cream, shopping trips for things we don't need, bad habits we can't seem to get a handle on, and so much more. Valerie has been there despite knowing what she wanted for her life. Actually do it? That's the challenge.

After gobbling up all the non-fiction and self-help books her donut-filled belly could handle, she decided it was time to put her knowledge to good use and start actually living it out. You will hear about her journey through victories and plenty of failures and find practical tips to apply to your own pursuit of holiness. You will find homework at the end of each chapter that includes a worksheet to put real change in motion for your own life as well as recommended books to further study those topics that really test you.

Purchase a copy:
About the author: Valerie Woerner is owner of Val Marie Paper. She and her husband, Tyler, live in Louisiana with their daughter, Vivi Mae. The Finishing School is her first book.

Connect with Valerie: websiteTwitter, Instagram
My Take:
I think we all struggle with getting things done and just not having enough hours in the day. My six-year-old daughter even commented on this the other day. She was disappointed that she just didn't have enough time to do everything she wanted to do in one day!
So what do we do about it? Make lists? Tell ourselves we are failures who will never do better? Give up and watch Netflix all weekend? Maybe. But what's the best thing we can do?
Be intentional.
That's what I got from this book, The Finishing School. The most important thing to think about when trying to "get your life together" is to be intentional. Intentional with what you do, intentional with whom you have relationship, intentional in your time spent with God.
Woerner covers many different areas in this book including joy, hospitality, friendships, health, rest, and contentment. There are a lot of topics covered, which may seem overwhelming. I would recommend taking it slowly and doing a little bit at a time - being intentional but also not stressing yourself out!
At times this book read more like a memoir than a self-help book. It's nice to have examples and feel as if other people are in the same boat. It just needs to really be balanced in a book like this.
I do find it ironic that the author says that she has read all of the books, and her answer to that is to -- write another book! It was helpful to have so many books narrowed down in this book, though. And of course I appreciated how she always referred back to the only book that we really need to follow - the Bible!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Nyree Press through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, August 28, 2015

"Irish Meadows" Blog Tour

1911, Long Island, New York
Faced With an Uncertain Future, Sometimes All You Have Left Is the Courage to Dream

Brianna and Colleen O'Leary know their Irish immigrant father expects them to marry well. Recently he's put even more pressure on them, insinuating that the very future of their Long Island horse farm, Irish Meadows, rests in their ability to land prosperous husbands. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.
Brianna, a quiet girl with a quick mind, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry---as long as her father's choice meets her exacting standards of the ideal groom. When former stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from business school and distant relative Rylan Montgomery visits Long Island during his seminary training, the two men quickly complicate everyone's plans.
As the farm slips ever closer to ruin, James O'Leary grows more desperate. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to avoid being pawns in their father's machinations and instead follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

Irish Meadows
by Susan Anne Mason 
Historical Romance
Courage to Dream series book 1
Bethany House 
See what other reviewers are saying here:
Susan Anne Mason's debut historical novel, Irish Meadows, won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA. A member of ACFW, as well, she lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two children.

Find Susan online: website, Facebook
My Take:
As I started reading Irish Meadows, I was immediately taken back to 1911 on a Long Island, New York, horse farm. The writing is very descriptive and really captures the scenery and atmosphere of this time and place.

As I kept reading, I realized that the only plotlines were going to be ones about the romantic relationships between Gilbert/Brianna and Rylan/Colleen. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, I usually prefer for my historical romance to have a few more interesting things going on around the romantic storyline. Even so, I decided to keep reading to the end to see where things went.

Brianna and Gil’s relationship was one that went back-and-forth throughout the story and sometimes seemed contrived, especially at the end. I actually didn’t really like their relationship to begin with anyway. I felt that it was kind of weird that they were in love. I could understand if he had been a farmhand or something (“Farm boy – fetch me that pitcher?” “As you wish.”). But he had been raised as a brother in Brianna’s house. Sure, they weren’t biologically related, but it still seemed odd to me, and I just couldn’t get past it. Plus, I felt as if they spent more time not liking each other than actually liking each other!

The relationship between Rylan and Colleen was definitely the more interesting of the two. A man studying to be a priest having to decide whether or not he should give up his commitment to the church for love is a compelling romantic plotline. Again, this relationship seemed a bit odd since they were distant relations, but I guess if it was distant enough, it would be OK. The book wasn't too clear on that point.

If I had to pick a favorite character, it would be Rylan. I liked his easygoing personality, and I appreciated his struggle.

As for the spiritual aspect, I really had a hard time with how it was portrayed in this novel. God was mentioned quite a bit – praying to Him and turning to Him in times of need – but Jesus was barely discussed. One character even turns to God, but it all happens without any reference of Christ and His sacrifice for sins. I just think it’s dangerous to portray salvation without mentioning the cross and what Christ did for us.

Now, I am not someone who has to have her Christian novels filled with salvation experiences and preaching. I realize that a book can just be a good, clean novel that is enjoyable. But if the book brings up spiritual aspects, I expect them to be based on truth and include Jesus. It is Christian fiction, after all. As an example, at one point this statement is made: “What [Rylan] needed was absolution – to confess his offense to a priest and receive a clergyman’s counsel. It was the only way to make up for his sin and find a way to move forward.” While I do believe that confession is good for the soul, again, where is Christ in this? The only way to “make up” for his sins was to confess to a priest? There is absolutely no way we can make up for our sins. Christ is the only way (Hebrews 9), and I’m actually kind of surprised that Bethany House publishers would allow this in one of their books.

I also thought that there were many portions of the novel that focused on clich├ęs and drama rather than reality. There were many references of “following your heart” and many eye-rolling moments of romance. I understand what the author means when the characters talk about following their hearts. I wouldn’t want my daughter to end up in a loveless marriage. But the Bible says that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB). I think it is dangerous to portray following your heart as always being the right thing no matter what. There was a lot of talk about God’s will and wanting God’s will for their lives, but there was no clear look at how that might be accomplished. All of the talk about following the heart and doing what a person wanted to do seemed to be in conflict with the talk about God’s will.

I realize that I have pretty much skewered the spiritual portions of this novel, but the more I read Christian fiction, the more I realize how very far away from Christ these novels can get. As I said earlier, not every book has to preach the gospel. But when a book tries to do so and falls short, I feel it should be noted. This novel just seemed to be Christian fluff which doesn’t do anybody any good in the long run.

Now that I have said all of that, I think my favorite part of this novel was the setting. I liked the horse farm atmosphere, and I wished that it had been explored even further. The part of the story focusing on the family possibly losing the farm was interesting and might have been something that could have been elaborated on in order to create even more suspense.

If I had to pick one word to describe this novel, it would be “drama.” I really thought that the story would revolve around more than just the two romances, but it didn’t. If straight romance is what you like, then you might want to give this series a try. I really wanted to like this novel much more than I did.

I will give Irish Meadows … 2 BookWorms.  


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor" Blog Tour

Heather Toulson never thought she would have to return to England after fleeing to America years ago. But after the death of her father, she must return to the English cottage of her youth that sits on the property of Ladenbrooke Manor. Heather is thankful that at least her newly-married daughter is able to join her on the trip.

When it is discovered that the sorting of the things in the cottage will take longer than anticipated, Heather finds herself staying in England indefinitely. Along the way she has a run-in with her first love that leaves her more confused than ever about her life currently and her plans for the future.

But an even bigger shock awaits Heather in the little cottage in which she grew up. As she continues to sort through her parents’ belongings, long-held secrets about her family come to the surface. As Heather explores her past, she discovers what really happened at Ladenbrooke all those years ago and how her family is connected to this mysterious Manor.

Purchase a copy:

See what other reviewers are saying here:

About the author: Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of thirteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie lives with her husband Jon and two daughters near Portland, Oregon.

Find Melanie online: website, Twitter, Facebook

My Take:

I am a sucker for "past and present" stories these days. The book club I am in has read many of these types of books over the years, and we seem to continue to pick them every year. I think it's difficult to tell stories like this well without getting the reader all mixed up, but Ms. Dobson was able to do so, at least as far as the time period goes.

First off, the setting of this story was very interesting and gave a little bit of new life to the usual English countryside novels. I’ve read several novels that tell about someone who must return to their childhood home to sort through their parents’ things, but for some reason this one didn’t seem completely run-of-the-mill.  
This novel was definitely portrayed as one that would explore the secrets and mysteries of Ladenbrooke Manor and of Heather’s past. (I mean, it’s in the title, right?!) While there were secrets that the characters kept that were revealed throughout the novel, I never quite got an overall feeling of mystery or suspense. I think the back of the book summary gave way too much away, which is why I chose to write my own summary for this review. I guessed every single secret way before it was exposed, which is really odd to me considering that I haven’t been able to do that in Ms. Dobson’s other novels.

I also have to point out that one of the main secrets/plot points of the book was based on the main characters having a Big Misunderstanding, which is definitely not my favorite way to keep characters apart. Plus, it seemed as if each generation of women in this novel kept making the same mistakes over and over. It got a bit tiring towards the end.

The inclusion of a character with autism in this novel was very interesting. It was fascinating to see how each parent dealt with the child and to see how far we have come in relation to those on the autism spectrum. That being said, I thought the romantic storyline for the autistic character was quite traumatic. It felt more like a story of a stalker and lack of consent than it did a beautiful love story, and I’m still not sure which way the author was trying to go with it.

Even though this story had several hiccups along the way, the overall effect is still interesting. The struggles the characters face are very real and very emotional. While the spiritual aspect didn’t focus as much on Christ as I prefer in Christian fiction, there is an overall feeling of forgiveness and redemption in this novel that is expressed quite well.
I will give Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor ... 3 BookWorms.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Howard Books through Litfuse. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Friday, July 24, 2015

"Thriving in Babylon" Blog Tour

About the book:

Thriving in Babylon (David C. Cook, April 2015)

Meet a man forced to live in a fast changing and godless society. He faced fears about the future, concern for his safety, and the discouragement of world that seemed to be falling apart at warp speed.

Sound familiar? His name was Daniel, and with the power of hope, humility, and wisdom, he not only thrived, he changed an empire while he was at it. Though he lived thousands of years ago, he has a much to teach us today.

Even in Babylon, God is in control.

In Thriving in Babylon, Larry Osborne explores the "adult" story of Daniel to help us not only survive - but actually thrive in an increasingly godless culture. Here Pastor Osborne looks at:

-Why panic and despair are never from God

-What true optimism looks like

-How humility disarms even our greatest of enemies

-Why respect causes even those who will have nothing to do with God to listen

-How wisdom can snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat

For those who know Jesus and understand the full implications of the cross, the resurrection, and the promises of Jesus, everything changes---not only in us, but also in our world.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:

Dr. Larry Osborne has served as a senior pastor and teaching pastor at North Coast Church---one of the ten most influential churches in the country---since 1980. Dr. Osborne is the author of numerous books, including Accidental Pharisees. He and his wife live in Oceanside, California. They have three grown children.

Find Larry online: website, Facebook, Twitter

See what other reviewers are saying here:

My Take:

In America these days, it does sometimes feels as if we are living in the Babylon of the Bible. I don't always feel this way, but there are definitely times when the blatant animosity towards God and the Bible in our culture is jarring and very upsetting.

That's one reason I really this book. When I get worried and upset about how things are turning in our society, books like this help to get my focus back to what is important - God, the truth of Scripture, and what we as Christians have been called to do. He calls us to not be reactionary but to be living our lives in such a way that others can't help but see the difference Christ has made - and not just the difference here on Earth but our lives for all eternity.

The writing style of the author is interesting. It took a bit for me to get used to, but it did keep me engaged throughout, which is something that is really important in a non-fiction book. I also think that some of the comparisons to us in America today and Daniel in Babylon in Bible times was a bit of a stretch but only because I feel I need to do some more biblical research to fully understand the life and times of Daniel.

There is not denying it - our culture is becoming increasingly anti-Christian. Jesus even warned that such a thing could and would occur in our everyday lives - "In this world you will have trouble." But the first and last parts of that verse are what we need to focus on in order to live in a world that is in trouble - one that is in dire need of the peace that only comes from the Savior:

"I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  John 16:33 (NIV, emphasis mine)

Let the truth of the Bible cause you to take heart - Jesus wins. And that gives us hope as well as an urgency to share the gospel as much as we possibly can.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from David C. Cook Publishing through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, May 8, 2015

V-E Day

In honor of V-E Day, I am posting a Q&A with author Sarah Sundin that was originally posted on Straight off the Page.

At the end I will post links to my reviews of Ms. Sundin's books. They are pretty much the only World War II novels that I have truly enjoyed.

Sara:  Hello, Sarah! It is a pleasure to be able to ask you some questions about your books and about yourself!  Please tell our readers a little about yourself and how you got started as an author.

Sarah: Just your ordinary stay-at-home mom/pharmacist/author. My husband and I live in northern California, and our three children are in various stages of fluttering out of the nest—our daughter is getting married this summer! I never planned to write novels—I majored in chemistry and earned a doctorate in pharmacy. But in 2000, I got slammed with a story idea that wouldn’t leave me alone, and I had to write it. That first novel will never be published, but it got me started.

Sara: What do you like most about writing? Is there anything about writing that you do not particularly like?

Sarah: I love almost every part. I love playing with new story ideas and getting to know my characters. I love the heady, falling-in-love feeling when the rough draft is flowing and dialogue is zinging. I love the research and the editing. And I like many of the extra things authors need to do—speaking, teaching, and connecting on social media. When I’m in the middle of plotting a novel, I grumble and whine about how much I hate it. But when it all swoops together, it’s such a thrill.

Sara: Your books all take place during World War II, which I have to admit was not one of my favorite settings for historical fiction…until I read your books! You really have a way of taking a difficult time period and turning it into a story full of hope. What do you like most about this time period, and how do you make your stories hopeful instead of disheartening?

Sarah: What appeals to me about the World War II era is how a divided people came together to fight for freedom and how ordinary men and women learned they could do extraordinary things. World War II showed us the worst things humanity is capable of, but it showed the best of humanity and good prevailing over evil. I love writing fiction set during this era, because I can explore how individual men and women not only survived these difficult times, but thrived in them through their faith.

Sara: I also like that your novels are filled with historical details about the war but that they never get boring. How do you weave these details into the story without it getting bogged down?

Sarah: I slash and burn. I love the history so much that I have to restrain myself from throwing in all the great tidbits I learned. My rough drafts always have too much detail, but in the edits I hack out great chunks—and my editor hacks out even more. I keep reminding myself to include only what the reader needs to know to understand the story. Nothing more. Slash and burn.

Sara: Another thing that I really appreciate about your novels is how the spiritual aspects shine through so well. Is it difficult to incorporate Christ in your novels and have it feel natural as opposed to forced?

Sarah: For me, the spiritual aspects arise straight from the characters. I don’t come in with a lesson to teach, but I figure out what my character needs to learn, and then I put her in situations that challenge her and help her grow.

Sara: I really enjoyed your recent Christmas novel Where Treetops Glisten that you co-authored with Tricia Goyer and Cara Putman – especially since it took place in my hometown! Please tell us a little about the research you did for that novel and how you all worked together to make it a reality.

Sarah: That was so much fun! Cara asked Tricia and me if we’d like to write a Christmas novella collection set in WWII—and we loved the idea. Cara and Tricia brought so many great ideas and such energy to the project, and I—well, I made charts and spreadsheets to keep us organized. Sigh. That’s what I do.

Researching Lafayette, Indiana during World War II was a lot of fun. Not only could I find a lot of information online, but Cara lives in Lafayette! I spent a few days with her family, and she took me to all the sites, where I took gobs of pictures. Then I spent an afternoon in the library looking at wonderful issues of the Lafayette Journal & Courier from December 1943! And the phone book! What a treasure trove.

Sara: If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would go to Germany. Where would you go?

Sarah: I love Germany! My family spent the summer of 2007 in Mannheim, and it was spectacular. I’m also extremely fond of Britain, Scotland, and Italy. I’d be torn between revisiting a favorite location and exploring somewhere new. Wanderlust runs wild in my family.

Sara: I am so excited to read your upcoming novel Through Waters Deep, the first in your new Waves of Freedom series, which is due to release this August. Can you give our readers a little preview?

Sarah: I’m thrilled about this new series, which follows three American naval officers during the Battle of the Atlantic. Through Waters Deep is set in 1941, when the US was officially neutral, but our warships escorted British convoys—and were exchanging fire with German U-boats. One US destroyer and five US merchant ships were sunk—before Pearl Harbor!
In Through Waters Deep, Ensign Jim Avery serves on a destroyer based in Boston, and his childhood friend, Mary Stirling, works as a secretary at the Boston Navy Yard. When evidence of sabotage is found on Jim’s ship, Jim and Mary work together to uncover the culprit. As America teeters on the brink of war, Jim and Mary’s friendship teeters on the brink of romance. Action, mystery, romance…with a side of Boston cream pie.

Sara:  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our site! We look forward to reading and reviewing your future novels!

--- Shoopette

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Where Trust Lies" Review

After finishing her year of teaching in Coal Valley in the Canadian West, Beth Thatcher returns home to Toronto and to her doting family. But before she has much time to catch her breath, her mother and sisters whisk her off with some family friends on a summer cruise down the eastern coast of Canada and the United States. Beth is not extremely excited about the trip, but she decides to try to use the time to connect more with her mother and sisters and to sort out her feelings about Jarrick – the Canadian Mountie back in Coal Valley.

The more time she spends with her family, the more Beth realizes how difficult it would be to leave them again if she returned to teaching in the West. But she cherishes each phone call and letter from Jarrick, and as her feelings for him grow, the more she feels torn. When the unexpected strikes her family on the cruise trip, Beth’s faith will be tested more than it ever has before, and she will discover from where her trust must truly come.

Where Trust Lies is the second book in the “Return to the Canadian West” series by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan.

After reading and enjoying the first book in this series last year, I was looking forward to this next installment. Even though this is the second novel in the “Return to the Canadian West” series, the story took place entirely on the East Coast of Canada and the United States! I was a bit disappointed that we wouldn’t be returning to the West and to Coal Valley in this book, but once I got involved in the story that was taking place, I was able to move past that and really enjoy the novel.

This book is told from the perspective of Beth, who was the main character in the first novel. I expected this, but what I did not expect was that even though the story is told from Beth’s side of things, most of the action and development in the story revolves around Beth’s younger sister, Julie. I thought this way of telling things was slightly odd, but not necessarily in a bad way – just different.

I absolutely adored the main plot in this novel – Beth, her sisters, her mother, and some family friends going on a summer trip by themselves. It was like a girls’ night out extended to an entire summer. I’m not sure I would be able to (sanely) be away from my husband for that long, but it still sounded like fun and made for an interesting and emotional story. Since this book is written by a mother and daughter, it makes that even more poignant.

The romance continues from the first book in the series as Beth and Jarrick continue getting to know one another and waiting and praying to make sure that their relationship is God-honoring. The catch this time is that their courtship must take place while they are separated by thousands of miles – Jarrick in the West attending to his duties as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Beth while she is on this trip with her family and friends. I liked how their relationship progressed, though, even over the miles, and I could feel their angst as they tried to wait patiently and see how the Lord was directing them.

*****Possible Spoiler*****

I don’t know if this is a true spoiler, but I was so excited when towards the end of the book Jarrick shows up in person to be with Beth during a moment of true crisis for the Thatcher family. When he walked into the room, I wanted to stand up and cheer! It was a very knight-in-shining-armor moment!

*****Possible Spoiler Over*****

Although I could kind of see the direction in which this novel was headed with Julie and her choice of friends, I was still intrigued. That storyline definitely kept the novel moving, especially towards the middle when it got a bit slow. When I finished this novel, I was disappointed that I didn’t have the next one in the series ready to go! I’m really looking forward to that one when it comes out – probably next year.

The “Canadian West” series by Janette Oke is definitely one of my favorites, but the “Return to the Canadian West” series is definitely up towards the top of the list as well.

I will give Where Trust Lies … 4 BookWorms.

Where Trust Lies
by Janette Oke & Laurel Oke Logan
"Return to the Canadian West" #2
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: February 3, 2015

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"Beyond All Dreams" Blog Tour

Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress.

From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

Purchase a copy:

About the author:

Elizabeth Camden is the author of six books and a RITA and Christy Award winner. With a master's in history and a master's in library science, she is a research librarian by day and scribbles away on her next novel by night. Elizabeth lives with her husband in Florida.

Find Elizabeth online: website, Facebook
Blog Tour Landing page:
My Take:

When I started reading this book, I was hooked instantly. I immediately adored the library-loving Anna (to whom I could totally relate), and I thought her job was so interesting. I was also drawn to the story of her father's ship - the Culpepper - that was lost at sea and the mystery surrounding it.

When the novel introduced the character of Luke, I was not an immediate fan of him. He seemed arrogant, and I was thinking, "How am I going to read about this guy as the 'hero' in this book? I don't like him at all!" But as I kept reading, his character was developed so much more, and I grew to like him more than I thought I would at the beginning. I’m still not totally convinced that I really liked him, but I was able to appreciate him and the reasons behind his actions. I also liked that his character did seem to go through a lot of growth throughout the course of the novel.

I also really liked some of the secondary characters in this book. Anna’s friend Neville was so sweet, and I enjoyed their best friend relationship. His romantic involvement later on in the novel was developed very well. It was also interesting to see how different relationships and alliances developed between the members of Congress and how they worked for and against each other.

Even though the characters in this novel are interesting, what really set it apart are the historical details. I sometimes get bogged down in political stuff, but this aspect was kept interesting because of the involvement of Luke and Anna. The emotions that people must have been feeling during this time period came across so clearly, and it shed light on a time in American history that I didn't know too much about.

The romance in this one had a bit of a different flavor to it. I especially liked the constant witty banter between Luke and Anna. That's always a favorite of mine in a novel. But I wasn't quite convinced of how the romance ends up. It seemed a bit abrupt. The growth of the characters didn't so much happen over time as much as just being back-and-forth. I also thought the spiritual side could have been so much deeper. It was there and was sometimes clear, especially with the aspect of forgiveness, but it could have gotten to the heart of the characters so much more.

This novel is definitely not a light read. There are some heavy issues that are discussed, including drunkenness, abuse, and political cover-ups. It is very realistic at times, but there is definitely a sense of hope and forgiveness in the end.

Overall, Beyond All Dreams is a well-written historical novel that is both complex and compelling, and it sheds light on some possibly unknown aspects of the United States and its political life.

I will give Beyond All Dreams ... 4 BookWorms.


About the giveaway:

Travel back in time to the U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress in Elizabeth Camden's newest release, Beyond All Dreams. From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

Elizabeth is celebrating the release of Beyond All Dreams with a Kindle giveaway and Facebook party on February 17.

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • One copy of Beyond All Dreams
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 2/17. Winner will be announced at Elizabeth's 2/17 Beyond All Dreams Facebook author chat party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Elizabeth and historical fiction fans, as well as for the opportunity to win some great prizes!

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 17th!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers through LitFuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."