Saturday, May 31, 2008

Book Review: Murder by Mushroom


Murder by Mushroom by Virginia Smith - Love Inspired Suspense #63 - Aug 07

When it comes to what to bring for potlucks, I can relate to the heroine of this book. Jackie Hoffner usually brings chips and store-bought stuff to potlucks. When this is pointed out to her, she decides to cook up a delectable casserole for the next function. She's feeling great after all the rave reviews. But a few days later when a senior from the church dies, it comes out that Jackie's casserole containing poisoned mushrooms did the old lady in.

Trooper Dennis Walsh doesn't think Jackie is a murderer but his personal agenda is to learn everything he can from his esteemed partner. And if his partner thinks Jackie did it, then Dennis is willing to treat her as a murder suspect until proven otherwise.

This was a well-written book with an interesting plot. However, I found it somewhat boring. Why? Because I read Love Inspired for the romance and this book was only 20% romance - maybe. And even though there was suspense because no one knew the motivation for the murder, the heroine spent almost 50% of the book, sitting around having coffee and talking. Not enough action in this book for me.

What I did like, was the way the subject of gossip was handled. It's amazing to me how many people can sit at ‘coffee row' every morning and talk without acknowledging the fact that they're gossiping. Or the hurt that they could be causing by that gossip. I believe it's our job to stop this kind of talk whenever we encounter it whether it's over a morning coffee or at a church function. (Yes, even Christians gossip. (gasp))

Heat Level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more)

My Review: Good 2½ stars (Good writing and story line but not my cup of tea)
----------------------------------

100,000 book Challenge:

Total books Read: 59 Harlequin Imprint: 55 Others: 4

Monday, May 26, 2008

Book Review: MIA: Missing In Atlanta


MIA: Missing in Atlanta by Debby Giusti Love Inspired Suspense #94 – Mar 08

Debby Giusti doesn’t shirk in detail when she’s describing the seamier side of life. She takes you right down into the heart of the story, the city and the hearts of the two main characters. She hooked me right in and kept the pace up while effectively balancing the action with the romance.

Returning war hero, Jude Walker is finally back on US soil and he only has one thing on his mind – to reconnect with a girl he met and fell in love with six months ago on his last US leave. The only problem was she’d sent him a Dear John email and won’t answer his calls.

Sarah Montgomery knows the dark side of the city. As the temporary director of a shelter, she’s seen people affected by drugs, prostitution and other crimes. She’s tried to guard her heart from it all but when Jude Walker comes knocking on the shelter’s door, her heart stirs. If it weren’t for the fact that he was looking for his lost girlfriend, she might think twice about her vow to stay away from relationships.

But as Sarah works side-by-side with Jude doing whatever they’re needed to do, she begins to re-assess her life. She had her future all planned out, but is it really what God had planned for her?

And while Jude continues the search for his missing girlfriend, he begins to wonder what he’ll do if he finds out that he’s been pursuing the wrong woman after all.


Heat Level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more)

My Rating: Very Good - 4 stars (excellent one time read)

----------------------------------

100,000 book Challenge:

Total books Read: 58 Harlequin Imprint: 54 Others: 4

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Book Review: The Perfect Blend


Book Review: The Perfect Blend by Allie Pleiter Love Inspired #405 (Steeple Hill Café) Jul 07

I cried at the end of this book. Of course you know that as a Harlequin, there's a happy ending so I'm not telling you anything you didn't know...but this book is a faith story and those aren't always the easiest to read.

You know how some people have a higher calling to be a pastor, priest, missionary, etc? Well, Maggie Black feels that God has called her to open a coffeehouse in Seattle - as if the city needs another one. But ‘Higher Grounds' will be a Christian coffeehouse...a place where people can fellowship and relax over their favourite java. Just one little problem holding her back...financing.

Loans Officer, William Gray III is the stuffy Brit who denied Maggie's loan application. He's a tea drinker - can't stand coffee - and thinks Maggie needs to take a small-business course before his bank will reconsider loaning her any money. Especially to a business as risky as another coffee venue.

As most Steeple Hill Café books, this one is written in first person. I'm becoming used to reading these books but always feel gypped in a way because I never hear the hero's POV. I want to know what he's thinking. However, this is the 2nd Allie Pleiter Café book I've read and I don't miss his POV as much with her stories as I do some of the others.

Heat Level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more)

My Rating: Very Good - 4 stars (excellent one time read)
----------------------------------

100,000 book Challenge:
Total books Read: 57 Harlequin Imprint: 53 Others: 4

Monday, May 19, 2008

Make Someone's Day!

Yeah, yeah...I know I said I wouldn’t do any writing or anything while the kids were around but they’re hiding in their room supposedly cleaning it.

So I figured I’d sneak in some of what Harlequin Romance author Donna Alward calls ‘housekeeping’ of my own. Things like replying to emails, updating blog posts – you know – office work.

This is how I usually spend Monday morning anyway but with the kids home due to the Victoria Day holiday, I was going to do my ‘housekeeping’ tomorrow.

So, they disappeared in their room and here I am.

When I fired up my laptop, I was pleasantly surprised to receive email from a couple authors. Now you might not think that’s anything special, but for an unpubbed writer like me to receive a personal email from a published author is a big thing. Especially when it’s someone who really liked something I wrote.

What am I talking about? Leaving comments on blog posts! I am starting to have a list of writer/agent/editor blogs that I check every morning. These blogs offer hints, tips, and contests for writers. With prizes like free critiques or autographed books.

The fun part is when I receive email from the comments I’ve left.

It’s almost as good as when I receive an email that says someone (like Deb or Cheryl) has left a comment on my blog. That alone makes my day!

So, what I’d like to say is that if you happen upon a blog that you really like, leave a comment. You’d be amazed at how a simple ‘Thinking of You’ comment can cheer someone up or even make their day.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Book Review: All Our Tomorrows

All Our Tomorrows by Irene Hannon Love Inspired #357 - Jul 06

I love reading books where one person loves another from afar but they put their feelings aside for the good of the other. This was the case in All Our Tomorrows.

Two years ago, reporter Caroline James and her fiancé were on assignment in the Middle East when a suicide bomber attacked and Caroline had to go on with her life...alone. Devastated, she returned home to St. Louis, to recuperate in her mother's arms.

Caroline thinks she's moved on until one day, her mother happens to mention the name of David Sloan, brother of her slain fiancé. Caroline goes into shock. The last 2 years are swept away in a tidal wave of grief. And guilt.

David's had feelings for Caroline since the first time he saw her walk into his mother's house on his brother's arm but he hid his emotions under a cloak of guilt even after his brother died. Was it God's plan that brought Caroline into his life once again?

I loved watching Caroline fall in love with steadfast David. It was like watching a flower slowly open in the morning sun. Although Caroline thought she'd never love again, she blossomed in the rays of David's love.

Heat Level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more)

My Rating: Very Good - 4 stars (excellent one time read)

-------------------
100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 56 Harlequin Imprint: 52 Others: 4
-------------------

I can also be found at http://newsfromthepews.blogspot.com

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Chicken Pox & Tick Bites

My youngest son had the misfortune to catch the chicken pox so he's been at home all week. We weren't sure what it was at first because we only saw a couple red spots on his face. He has a milk allergy and we've been testing his limits this week so an allergic reaction was one possibility. The other possibility was a reaction to the tick bite he received the day previous. He'd been sitting in class and yanked the sucker off his neck. He said he'd got it all, but the spot seemed tender when I touched it.

By Sat night, he had a bunch of small blisters on his scalp and under his arms. We were concerned enough to call the HealthLine nbr we keep on the fridge. An RN told us to keep an eye on it and call back if anything changed.

More blistered spots were showing up on Sunday (Mother's Day) so I stayed home with him because it was our teen daughter's turn to lead worship music at church and her dad accompanies her on his guitar. So I stayed home with the little guy.

Around 8 pm though, he came to me because his eyeball was itchy. Yup, you guessed it...it looked like he had a spot on the inside corner of his eye. Not only that, but the tick bite on the back of his head was over 1/2" wide and an angry red. I called the HealthLine again, told the RN the symtoms and she gave us a 4 hr window to get him to a doctor. That means a trip to the emergency room.

Since we're in the country, it took us over an hour just to drive to the city. Then they had my son wait in the van with his father because they guessed he had chicken pox and they didn't want him to contaminate anyone other small kids or people with immune deficiencies in the waiting room. When they had a room ready, I went to the van to get him and they whisked us down an empty hall and put us in a room with a sign on the door that told everyone to take protective measures. So, both the RN and the Dr came in masked and gloved.

By 1:30 am we were out of there with a prescription for anti-biotics to treat his infected tick bite area and a confirmation that he did indeed have chicken pox. But, just to make sure, they cut into one of the tiniest blisters and took a sample to send to the lab. Because the spot was in the corner of his eye and wasn't impeding his vision, the Dr said it would be okay for the time being.

Thank the Lord for an open Shopper's Drug Mart with pharmasist at 2 am followed by a trip to 7 Eleven for coffee.

So, I've had a little monkey to entertain this week. He's doing fine but he's bored at home without the other 2 kids. It's looking like he'll be able to go back to school next Monday though.

That's good, because I can't get any critiquing or writing done with the little guy around.

My line-up is:
1 wip to critique from one of my critique partners
1 - 1000 word scene to write for the writer's challenge on eharlequin.com
1 - 500 word scene to write for Cheryl Wyatt's Prompt Contest
and I need to work on Book 2 of my Prairie Junction series

Monday, May 12, 2008

Book Review: Her Christmas Protector

Her Christmas Protector by Terri Reed Love Inspired Suspense #79 – Dec 07

I didn't want to put this book down because I was caught up in the story of a beautiful woman fleeing her abusive, possessive ex-husband. Terri Reed didn't let the suspense lag even when I thought Faith had found sanctuary.

Elegant heiress Faith Delange, is running for her life. In a diner in Oregon, she meets a rancher, Luke Campbell, who needs a companion/caregiver for his mother who is recovering from a heart attack. Faith thinks she'll be ‘out of sight' on a ranch, so she takes the job and quickly finds a friend in Luke's mother.

Luke, a captain on leave from the military, wants to get his mother back on the road to recovery before he heads back to his troops. But his attraction to Faith has him hesitating, especially when he realizes she's in danger and his protective instincts kick in.

Add to this a woman scorned and you have a first class tale of intrigue.

Heat level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more.

My Rating: Very Good - 4 stars (excellent one time read)
-------------------

100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 55 (Harlequin Imprint: 51 Others: 4)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

100,000 Book Challenge

Are there any readers out there? People who love reading books? I've been a reader since I learned that letters strung together made words, but I never wrote any book reviews until January. Today, I just posted my 54th book review over on the eharlequin website. We have a challenge going on over there: we read books and Harlequin Enterprises will donate books for literacy. So, I've decided to post my book reviews here as well because I've read some fantastic books that you might want to read, too. But we also need more readers to join the challenge and post reviews over on the eharlequin site. You don't have to write a review as long as mine because I tend to 'talk' a lot, but if you're a reader, why not join us and help literacy?

Here's the official press release:

National Center for Family Literacy to receive up to 100,000 books with estimated valued of $700,000

Toronto, (February 11, 2008)—eHarlequin.com (www.eHarlequin.com), the online site for Harlequin Enterprises Limited, is challenging its community members to read an astounding 100,000 books in one year in the 2008 eHarlequin.com 100,000 Book Challenge. When the reading challenge ends on December 31, 2008, Harlequin will make an unprecedented donation of an equivalent number of books to the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL). The estimated retail value of a 100,000 book donation to the NCFL by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. is $700,000 U.S.

The stated mission of NCFL is to create a literate nation by leveraging the power of the family. Family literacy helps parents and children form a learning partnership that ends the cycle of poverty and low literacy. NCFL works to find solutions to the literacy crises that build on the family by creating a new cycle of ongoing learning and mutual support. Since its inception in 1989, NCFL has provided leadership to solve the national literacy problem. Through groundbreaking initiatives, NCFL fuels life improvement for the nation's most disadvantaged children and parents. More than one million families throughout the country have made positive educational and economic gains as a result of NCFL's work, which includes training more than 150,000 teachers and thousands of volunteers.

"Recent studies show that people are reading literature less and less," said Sharon Darling, president & founder of NCFL. "This reading challenge not only will provide an important incentive for everyone to read more, it also will greatly benefit the millions of adults who have low literacy - 34 million in the United States alone and 771 million globally."

In addition to promoting literacy, the 2008 eHarlequin.com 100,000 Book Challenge encourages readers to discuss the titles they have read on the eHarlequin.com website in their own blogs. Those participating in the challenge share their thoughts, reviews, opinions, recommendations and progress. Another remarkable and unforeseen aspect to the challenge is that many people who were not bloggers—or who even knew what a blog was—are now passionate blog hosts and are spearheading online discussions in the forums.

"Our readers are very passionate," says Jayne Hoogenberk, community manager for eHarlequin.com. "They read, talk, think and dream about books 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. The median number of paperbacks read in one year by Americans is 12. The median for Harlequin readers is 30. Since we're always looking for ways to inspire and challenge our community members, we wondered if, as a group, they would be able to read 100,000 books in a single calendar year and through our donation of 100,000 books, share that love of reading with others who don't have such easy access to entertaining and engaging literature for women."

The original book challenge was laid down on eHarlequin.com in January 2006 and challenged community members to each read 100 books. Seventy-five community members took up the gauntlet. By the end of the year, 55 of those people had read or exceeded the goal. In 2007 eHarlequin.com challenged its members to read 10,000 books collectively. By year end they had read an astounding 24,440 books. To date 350+ participants have accepted the 2008 100,000 Book Challenge. In one week they have already read some 1,000+ books.

"The response of the past two years was so overwhelmingly positive that we had to keep going," states Hoogenberk. "We also knew that we had to up the ante. And so the 2008 eHarlequin.com 100,000 Book Challenge for literacy was born. Last year we capped the number of participants and still easily surpassed our target. Since the event has generated such positive feedback, and in order to reach our goal of 100,000 books read, we've decided to leave registration open-ended this year."

There are no hard and fast rules other than participants being asked to have at least 50% of their list be novels published by Harlequin. This allows readers to discover the outstanding breadth of editorial Harlequin has to offer. The other 50% of books can be any genre by any publisher. Likewise, all formats—print, eBooks, audiobooks, etc.—are acceptable, and readers are encouraged to seek them out and give them a try.

The range and diversity of Harlequin readers is not confined solely to the type of books they read or the medium in which they enjoy them. The online nature of the eHarlequin.com community illustrates the significant power of books to unite readers in a global way. Geographic boundaries have become meaningless in this venture as the challenge brings together readers from countries as varied as Germany, France and the Philippines, as well as Harlequin editors in Toronto, New York and London and Harlequin authors from around the world.

The 2008 eHarlequin.com 100,000 Book Challenge is taking place right now at eHarlequin.com.

About Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Harlequin Enterprises Limited is the global leader in series romance and one of the world's leading publishers of women's fiction, with titles issued worldwide in 25 languages and sold in 94 international markets. The company releases over 115 titles monthly and publishes more than 1,300 authors from around the world. Harlequin Enterprises Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Torstar Corporation, a broadly based media company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TS.nv.b). Harlequin's website is located at www.eHarlequin.com. Harlequin has offices in 18 countries, including offices in Toronto, New York and London. For more information please visit www.eHarlequin.com or press.eHarlequin.com.

About National Center for Family Literacy
The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) is the worldwide leader in family literacy, an intergenerational approach to help families escape poverty through education. More than 1 million families have made positive educational and economic gains as a result of NCFL's work, which includes training more than 150,000 teachers and thousands of volunteers. Educators, policymakers and philanthropists rely on NCFL to mobilize family literacy efforts, conduct research and develop new, effective tools to leverage the learning relationship between parents and children. Family literacy, pioneered by NCFL, is a powerful community strategy for raising educational levels, improving workforce skills and breaking the cycle of poverty. Visit www.famlit.org to learn more, make a donation, locate a literacy program in your area or find out how to become a volunteer.

Media Contacts:

Don Lucey
Senior Writer, Public Relations Communications
Harlequin Enterprises Limited 416) 391-7094
don_lucey@harlequin.ca

Carla Blanton
National Center for Family Literacy
859-608-4850
cblanton@famlit.org

Friday, May 9, 2008

Writing with Kids

I've been remiss in posting here. Why? I spent half of April doing my taxes because I’d procrastinated. Then I had to catch up.

Once the tax returns were sent out, I was busy chauffeuring my daughter to the Regina Music Festival. We live one hour from the city and she was entered in 5 classes. That was 4 separate trips because they scheduled one class per day except for the last one.

While chauffeuring, I found that reading author, editor and agent blogs and adding comments are great time fillers. It’s not that I had a lot of extra time, it’s just that I had smaller portions of it between activities.

I belong to an ACFW critique group with 3 other ladies and we’re busy emailing chapters back and forth. But I won’t read a chapter if I haven’t got at least an hour to devote to critiquing it. So I’m about 5 chapters behind with those.

Some writers have a goal of 1 page a day. Or 150 words per day. I can’t write like that. I need a couple hours at a time – big chunks of time so that I can engross myself in my story and get into the heads of my characters. And I don’t like interruptions. So, I’m mucho chapters behind in my writing.

In order to make up the time, I tried carrying my laptop down to my bedroom and closing the door. And I tried staying in the living room but putting ear plugs in. Both of these methods were effective for my writing. However, I realized somewhere at the start of May that I was depriving myself of something important.

My kids.

The 3 kids I still have at home are aged 9-17 yrs. And except for youth related church activities or lessons in the city, they’re usually home every evening.

Think about that. My pre-tween to teen kids voluntarily stay home every evening. They’re not out with their friends on the streets. They’re not begging us to take them to the movies. They’re not hanging out at the mall. They’re at home where it’s safe. With us, their parents.

They get home from school at 4 and they’re off to bed by 10. That’s 6 hrs that I have to shower them with love and I’ve been ignoring them. Not good.

At the beginning of May, I came to a decision. While the kids are home, I won’t have anything to do with writing unless I’m under a deadline. I won’t play around with a deadline because it’s a commitment that I’ve made and it should be honoured.

So, in the evenings now, I’m there with the kids, in the living room. And they basically ignore me. Until it’s a commercial. Or until they finish their game. But then they immediately turn to me for my attention. And now, I’m there, ready for them.

I always did my best writing between 10 pm and 3 am anyway.