Monday, March 31, 2014

2014 Goals Update (March)

You can find my goals post from the beginning of the year HERE.

Personal:
  • I got back into the job-hunting swing a bit toward the latter half of this month. Mostly with this one place I feel good about. Of course, they're not currently hiring...but I believe I shall politely and professionally hound them. ;) The person I spoke with there said to keep checking in, so I plan to! I actually have jury duty this week (unless it's canceled), so maybe it's for the best that my schedule's still open. If everything works out, this will be my first-ever jury duty experience. Could be interesting!
  • Books...ummmm.... I totally went over my self-imposed limit in both departments (reviews and purchases). I think I acquired almost twenty new reads in March. See, I received a gift card, so that accounted for several purchases. (Honestly, gifts don't really count anyway, right? ;)) I visited a local bookstore and couldn't leave without buying a couple of books. I scouted out some interesting review opportunities and had a couple fall in my lap. And then Kindle books - so many great deals and new releases this month! I basically just let my addiction take over. So, the book-acquiring got a little out of control. Which has led me to decide that next month I will not acquire any new books - with a couple of exceptions. (You know there's always an exception...) If Karen Witemeyer's next release comes up for review, I plan to snatch up that opportunity! It just sounds and looks so wonderful, and I really enjoy Karen's stories. The book is set to release in June, so I wouldn't receive it until May anyway. :) And I have to add that if I'm gifted any books, that's a different story. ;) On the plus side of all this, hopefully you'll have some fun reviews headed your way! LOL. (By the way, if we're not already friends on Shelfari or Goodreads, you can connect with me on those sites to keep up with my reading habits and view the latest titles I've acquired - or you can check out the widgets in my sidebar to see what I plan to read and what I'm currently reading!)
  • I'm doing all right with the reviews. There were a couple of books I finished that I chose not to review, and I have one I just finished yesterday that I need to review sometime. Otherwise, it's coming along!
  • Exercise... Seriously, this month's updates are a little embarrassing. I didn't keep up with my goal of exercising four times a week. I did get in a few workout video sessions, though, and there were a couple of square dances I attended this month (love those!), so I didn't completely fail...
  • There was one week where I didn't send any letters, but otherwise I got at least one letter out to friends/giveaway winners each of the other weeks. :)
Publishing:
  • It was a fun month on the publishing front! While I didn't get as far as I wanted to in starting Morning Glory, I've at least started on that project. (You can meet the main characters HERE.) I received my Forget Me Not paperbacks, and the book is now available to purchase in that format. I published Bellflower & Fairy Slippers as a $.99 combo ebook and did a release-day promotion. I offered the Kindle version of Forget Me Not for free for a week, which got some good visibility and has led to much better sales this month. I also ended the month with a book giveaway (still going on!) in celebration of my 4th blogoversary. 
March was kind of a crazy month. (Do I say that about every month?) In addition to all my own book marketing, I had two blog tours for clients (so fun!), a client's book release and cover reveal (which was especially stressful because the Internet went out the worst possible time! But God is good, and it all worked out. :)), and planning for client projects coming in the next two months. We also had our choir concerts, and since our semester was so short and our director has a rather long commute, we had a week of back-to-back practices that took up a lot of time. But it was a lot of fun, and the songs were very special and beautiful. (I especially loved performing "Blessings" by Laura Story.) Then there was St. Patrick's Day, my sister's wonderful Irish dance performances (two of them!), my mom falling and hurting her knee and ankle at the beginning of the month :(, visits to my grandpa at the care home, taxes... Yeah. There's been a lot of drama, but also a lot of reminders of God's faithfulness and provision.

How was March for you? What are you looking forward to in April?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

4th Blogoversary and Book Giveaway!

So... Maybe I should have a big blogoversary party every other year, and a fun little giveaway for the in-between years? Because that's how the blogoversaries have gone down so far. ;)

Alas, this is one of those years where I don't have a huge bash planned. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't exciting things lined up for the coming months! In fact, I've been rather preoccupied this week with upcoming publicity projects for clients that are going to be a ton of fun. We've got everything from an NA fantasy cover reveal and blog tour, to a romance tour, to a devotional book tour with a cat theme. Be sure to check out those pages and mark your calendars!

As for today, I thought I'd celebrate my 4th blogoversary by giving away some of my own books. Can't believe I can do that! I was still in the process of getting Bleeding Heart (my debut) ready for publication during my last blogoversary. It's been a crazy year!

Since Forget Me Not just released in paperback, I'm giving away a signed copy to one US resident. And for my international readers, I'm giving away an e-copy of any of my three books in "The Heart's Spring" series: Forget Me Not (Book 1), Bleeding Heart (Book 2) or Bellflower (the short-story collection). If you already have all my books, I'd be happy to gift a copy to someone for you if you win. :) You can enter using the form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thank you all so much for your readership! I'd love to hear what you enjoy about the blog and what you might like to see more of in the next year before my 5th blogoversary. (For example, do you like having my publicity clients' blog tours hosted here? Do you miss the devotional posts or author interviews? Do you want more reviews?) Blessings and *group hugs*!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Review of Pilgrimage of Promise

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"Broken promises, enduring love…

A dusty stack of unopened love letters forces Bo and Mona Beth Miller to revisit a part of their past they’d rather leave buried–especially in the face of death. Only as they retrace history will they learn the truth about the shattered promise that threatens to come between them. But can their relationship endure the deception and sabotage they unearth, or will the experience compel them to trust more fully in the promises that never fail?

 Book Four in the Miller’s Creek Novels"

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

Reading Pilgrimage of Promise constituted my favorite visit to Miller's Creek thus far, as its heartfelt message touched me deeply. Despite all the hardships and misunderstandings and trauma that befall Bo and Mona Beth - in the past and in the present - an overall sense of healing and hope pervades the pages. That ending... Lots of tears!

Back to the beginning, though. Bryant does a great job of weaving past scenes with the present. The scene depicting how Bo and Mona Beth first met is too cute! Once again, Bryant includes a lot of sensory details to engage readers and settle them in homey Miller's Creek, Texas.

But all the memories explored are not happy ones. Sometimes it felt like too much - knowing that miscommunications were coming and the "happy ending" wasn't all that the characters would have wanted it to be. In some ways, it felt unfair to have to experience those painful scenes, knowing the outcome as the reader does. And yet, those scenes made the reference to Isaiah 54:5 leave that much greater of an impact on me. The ending was all the more poignant and beautiful because of the repetitive reminder that God is faithful, even while humans break their promises and cause one another grief.

From the young love of high school to family drama and the tragedy of the Vietnam War, Pilgrimage of Promise takes the reader back in time through two beloved characters' lives. It's not always an easy journey, but it's still full of smiles and unexpected blessings, and it includes a very worthwhile, moving, and inspiring ending. This would be a great choice for book clubs (there are some thought-provoking discussion questions in the back of the book) or for anyone who's searching for a reminder of hope in life's disappointments.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Reviews for Other Miller's Creek Novels
Coming Soon!

http://www.catbryant.com/millers-creek-novels/a-bridge-unbroken/

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Review of The Ransom + Winner Announcement

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"Port Royal, Jamaica 1692

Living in a city deemed the wickedest in the world is no easy task for Miss Juliana Dutton. To make matters worse, with an ailing father and a drunken fool for a brother, she is forced to take over the running of the family business in order to survive. When a meddlesome suitor threatens to discover her secret and cast them all onto the streets, she agrees to a spurious engagement with the town buffoon, Lord Munthrope. She only hopes the man is trustworthy.

Alexander Hyde, son of the infamous Captain Edmund Merrick Hyde, is the most feared pirate in Port Royal. Disillusioned with the religion of his parents and the pleasures of the world, Alex staves off his emptiness by leading a dual life as both the pretentious dandy, Lord Munthrope, and the feared Pirate Earl.

A long-time enemy is out to destroy Alex and take Juliana for his own. Yet could their problems be a Divine hand leading them down a path of escape? Or when an earthquake strikes, will they be doomed with the rest of Port Royal to be swallowed up by the sea?"

My Rating

Spring

My Review

I was so thrilled to learn that MaryLu Tyndall was writing a sequel for the "Legacy of the King's Pirates" series - the trilogy that introduced me to her work and made me fall in love with her writing. The Ransom is a great sequel to the series, as Tyndall never fails to pen engaging stories full of adventure and heart.

At the beginning, I confess I was a little put off by the dialogue. I'm not sure it's all that different from her first books, but for some reason it hit me the wrong way this time, like it was trying too hard to define itself as historical. But as the story moved along, I got caught up in the happenings, and the dialogue was no longer a big issue.

And what interesting happenings! Captain Merrick's son leads a very strange life as half-lord and half-pirate. I loved how he used both roles to woo Juliana, though - really rather cute, if buffoons and pirates can be called such! And his fascination with the sea - his longings to revive his father's ways and times - resonated with me. History is so romanticized for us historical-romance lovers, and there is a certain desire to bring back or visit "better," more exciting times.

As for Juliana, I really did like her character overall. She's sweet. She has a big heart. She takes care of her family and isn't afraid to stand up to others. I confess she did come across as rather foolish (in some of her actions) and rather naive (she seriously didn't get Alex's secret for that long?), but it all contributed to an intriguing plot, nonetheless.

The connections to the book of Ecclesiastes were thoughtful and well-suited for the characters. Love how Tyndall weaves Scripture into her stories. And the dramatic conclusion was fitting for the series. I do hope the way it all ended means there are more books about this family to come?? The Ransom is a must-read for Tyndall fans, although it can be enjoyed without having read the first three books in the series, as they're only loosely connected. Bring on more seafaring stories, MaryLu!

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Winner Announcement!

In honor of the official release of Bellflower and Fairy Slippers as a combo ebook, I gave away a bookmark. And the winner is...

Jan H!

Jan has been e-mailed and has responded. Congratulations, Jan!

If you really liked the looks of the bookmark, I hope you'll check out Belle on a Budget on Etsy. She has so many lovely pieces - from bookmarks to necklaces to earrings! I always enjoy shopping at her site. And don't forget that you can pick up an e-copy of Bellflower (+ Fairy Slippers) for only $.99 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bookish Cheer!

Happy weekend, dear readers! I've got a couple of bookish things to share with you today. (I'm sort of addicted to the word bookish now - sorry it keeps showing up on my social media sites, LOL.)

Love's Promises


Let's start with the Love's Promises cover reveal conclusion. First, on the giveaway form we asked entrants which of Sandra's covers (between the three pictured below) was their favorite. Here's the breakdown...


Out of 17 votes:
  • 12% preferred Love's Miracles
  • 29% preferred Love's Refuge
  • 59% preferred Love's Promises 
When chatting with others on Twitter and participating blogs, it seemed like Love's Refuge was especially loved, but Love's Promises also seems to be adored by readers - and, I mean, who can resist the hero's smile? ;) So happy for Sandra, that all of her new covers this past year have been gorgeous! (Thanks to designer Lena Goldfinch!)

And now, for the winner of the journal giveaway from the cover reveal! And the winner is...

Jennifer!

Congratulations, Jennifer! Gotta love a new journal - so much potential and promise with those blank pages. :)

Jennifer has been e-mailed and has responded. For those who didn't win, though, there's going to be a super awesome giveaway for the Love's Promises blog tour in April, so stay tuned!

Speaking of the blog tour... If you're a blogger interested in participating in the tour by reviewing or spotlighting the book, interviewing the author, or posting some special feature, sign-ups are still open! Just fill out the form on the blog tour page, and I'll be in contact via e-mail. We're looking at the week of April 21-25 for the tour dates. Hope you'll join us - it's going to be a lot of fun!

And don't forget that you can purchase the Kindle version of this book now on Amazon!

Forget Me Not

 

As many of you know, I offered the Kindle version of Forget Me Not (Book 1 in my "Heart's Spring" series) for free this past week. I thought it would be a neat way to celebrate the official release of Bellflower & Fairy Slippers as a combo ebook, as well as see how a freebie promo would do now that I have other books for sale. (The other freebie promo I did last fall for Bleeding Heart was before any of my other books had been released.)

Well, I am pleased to pronounce it a success! Here is the total for how many times the book was downloaded Monday through Friday (March 17-21):

14,564

That, my friends, is a lot of potential new readers!! I'm so thrilled by the interest in Forget Me Not (and I know Lena's gorgeous cover design had to be a big part of that), and I hope people are blessed by the story.

Throughout the week, Forget Me Not remained on Amazon's Best Sellers list for Free Kindle books, usually hovering on the second or third page (between #31 and #50, or thereabouts). Forget Me Not also made some free best sellers lists for certain genres. Here are some highlights:

#1 in Historical Romance

#1 in Western Romance

#2 in Inspirational Romance

Forget Me Not (#3) and Laura Frantz's Courting Morrow Little (#1) together on Historical Romance list! (Pic courtesy of Melanie)

Keep in mind that these lists are updated hourly, so these are just snapshots (literally, ha!). And forgive my rather unprofessional highlighting and circling - I was playing around with this new-to-me tool and having too much fun. ;)

Despite all that, though, Forget Me Not stayed #1 or #2 in Western Romance for most of the week, and it was so fun to see Elizabeth on the charts! 

I consider the freebie promo a success for several reasons: the potential new readers, the visibility, and the sales - as this time I had other books in the series available for purchase, so my sales for Bleeding Heart and Bellflower increased! Since sales weren't doing too well this winter, any boost is good news in my book. ;)

HUGE thanks to all of you who helped spread the word on Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, on your blogs, and elsewhere! It truly made a difference, and your help and support are greatly appreciated. *Hugs* all around, dear friends, and thank you for all you do!!

If you missed Forget Me Not's freebie promo, it's only $2.99 for Kindle - and only $8.09 for the paperback. Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Review of The Art of My Life

Here's a description of the book from Smashwords:

"Cal walked out of jail and into a second chance at winning Aly with his grandma’s beater sailboat and a reclaimed dream of sailing charters.

Aly has the business smarts, strings to a startup loan, and heart he never should have broken. He’s got squat. Unless you count enough original art to stock a monster rummage sale and an affection for weed.

But he’d only ever loved Aly. That had to count for something. Aly needed a guy who owned yard tools, tires worth rotating, and a voter’s registration card. He’d be that guy or die trying.

For anyone who’s ever struggled to measure up. And failed."

My Rating

Spring

My Review

Despite the difficult issues the characters face in The Art of My Life, there's a breezy, sweet relief to the story. The setting with its small businesses and its sailboats at dock...the honest, head-on presentation of struggles both universal and typical for new adults...the final baring of souls and revealing of secrets... All in all, it's an engaging, character-driven read.

I really liked the fact that there were two main romances, and might I add that the characters have some great names? Cal, Aly, Fish (nickname), Missy, Evie, Starr, Henna, Leaf, Van Gogh (the dog)... All very distinctive, fitting, and fun! The plot itself is a little too angst-ridden to be called "fun," but the moments of suspense toward the middle of the novel, as well as the coastal setting and some sweet romantic scenes, make it an overall enjoyable reading experience.

For those readers who are sensitive about content, there is some language throughout the story, and there's an emphasis on the physical in the romantic relationships. (Nothing overly explicit - mostly just a general focus on how the other looks and wanting the other person in a physical way, although there is kissing and general talk of sex.) That was one thing that kind of frustrated me about one of the romantic relationships, especially - so much emphasis was placed on wanting to be able to be together physically. But the overall message of the main romance transcends that.

As I previously noted, the story is very character-driven. In some ways, I definitely loved that, because the characters are very endearing and intriguing with their quirks and flaws and authentic grappling with love and life. But there were times when it caused the story to stretch out a little long. The climactic moment suspense-wise happened about 3/4 of the way through, I believe, and so the resolution of all the issues - while inspiring and important - went on a little longer than I would have preferred. And it seemed to take the characters so long to realize that all they had to do to resolve their differences was simply open up about what was really bothering them. (But that's not so much a complaint about the book as it is about human nature, I guess!)

For a heartfelt and hopeful NA (new adult) romance with well-drawn characters, The Art of My Life delivers. And for all my fellow bloggers out there, the blog quotes/entries at the beginning of each chapter are an added creative treat, going along with the thought-provoking title and theme.

*With thanks to the author for providing me an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Covers!

So I've come across two sets of covers for this "New Smyrna Beach" series, and I was curious...which do you like better? I didn't realize there were ones with people (vs. the art ones) until after I finished the book, and I had thought the covers might look neat redone. And they do! I especially like the new version of Kicking Eternity. At the same time, though, the art cover for The Art of My Life is so fitting for the story, and I think the art covers really do go well the series. What do you think?


Monday, March 17, 2014

A St. Patrick's Day Surprise! (Fairy Slippers)



Happy St. Patrick's Day! I don't have any four-leaf clovers for you...but I do have some fairy slippers, which are also a rare and lovely find. :) (Well, at least the flower is - hoping you'll find the story to be sweet, too!)

Yes, Fairy Slippers - the short-story sequel to Bleeding Heart featuring Zachary Taylor the cook - is now available! Instead of publishing it as a separate ebook, which was my plan earlier this year, I was inspired by my cover designer's latest project, Take a Picture. The way she so sweetly combined her two short stories made me want to do the same for "The Heart's Spring" short stories, especially since both stories are such quick reads (about 6K words for Bellflower and 5K for Fairy Slippers).

So the cover for Bellflower got a makeover - with a brighter background and a note at the bottom about the extra short story being included. And now the combo ebook is available for $.99 at the following sites!


Here's some more information about the ebook...

"The Heart's Spring" Short-Story Combo eBook 

BELLFLOWER: Short Story Prequel to Forget Me Not 

Spring 1880 

Annabelle knows only one way of life. Jacob knows only one way to feel secure. When their paths cross in a Western mining town, can they find a way for love to bloom? Discover the story behind two hurting hearts in this short but sweet retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

FAIRY SLIPPERS: Bonus Short Story Companion to Bleeding Heart 

Spring 1888 

Margaret is fragile. Zachary is tough. Both are lonely. Will a dance in a redwood lumber town bring them together—or drive them apart forever? Discover the continuing story of the cook from Bleeding Heart in this short but sweet retelling of Cinderella
If you've already read Bellflower because you subscribe to my newsletter or you got it for free on Smashwords, I hope you'll still find Fairy Slippers to be an encouraging little afternoon diversion for a buck. :)

***

To celebrate the official ebook release day, I've got a couple of special offers for you!

Forget Me Not is Free for Kindle!

Today (March 17th) through Friday (March 21st), Forget Me Not is FREE in Kindle format! Click HERE to pick up your copy. Bellflower is the prequel to Forget Me Not, so this is the perfect chance to read both together for only $.99! You can actually read the whole series (minus Book 3 - Morning Glory - which should hopefully be released this summer) for less than $4!! The paperback versions of Forget Me Not and Bleeding Heart are also both available now for only $8.99 each.

All that to say... If you've been waiting to pick up your copies of these books and dive into "The Heart's Spring" series, now is the time! ;)

A Cinderella Giveaway!

I've been holding onto this horse & carriage beaded bookmark from Belle on a Budget for a few months now, waiting to use it for a Fairy Slippers giveaway - isn't it just darling? Even though there are no horses or carriages mentioned in Fairy Slippers, I think it's perfect to celebrate a Cinderella-themed story. I hope you agree! This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only, and you can enter via the Rafflecopter form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 ***

St. Patrick's Day Spotlight Participants

Check out these super sweet bloggers who are helping me spread the word about all this bookish news today!
One last note: If you're interested in learning more about fairy slippers (the flower) or the setting for Fairy Slippers (the story), be sure to visit The Heart's Spring series blog today! I'm sharing a little bit of the story behind the story in honor of release day, and I've got some neat YouTube videos for you to check out. :)

What do you think of the updated combo cover? Do you enjoy getting to learn about secondary characters in a series through short stories?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Conclusion of Lena's Sweet Spring Reads Tour!

It's always a pleasure to spread the word about my awesome cover designer/mentor/friend's fabulous books! And it was so fun having some wonderful bloggers join me by posting their reviews this past week. I loved seeing the enthusiasm for these sweet stories via the blog posts, comments, and giveaway entries! Remember that you can learn more about Lena Goldfinch on her website, and you can purchase the books reviewed this past week on Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), Barnes & Noble, Google Play, iTunes, and Kobo.

Lena's YA fantasy romances: The Language of Souls, Aire, & Songstone

Winners!

We've got two winners to announce today (with the first prize being open to US/Canada only and the second prize open internationally).

The winner of a paperback copy of any of Lena's books (winner's choice of The Language of Souls, Aire, Songstone, Haunting Joy, or Take a Picture) is...

Angel H!

And the winner of an e-copy of Take a Picture is...

Aerykah!

Congratulations to you both! I'll be sending you an e-mail, and you have until Wednesday (March 19th) to respond before I pick another winner - so be sure to check your inboxes. :) Happy reading!

Lena's YA contemporary/paranormal stories: Take a Picture + Chain Reaction, Haunting Joy, & Haunting Melody (releasing later this year)

Acknowledgements

It was awesome to see the eagerness on the part of the bloggers to read/review/promote Lena's stories! Lena and I are both very grateful for each of these bloggers and their thoughtful, insightful, and fun reviews:
Be sure to click the links to check out any reviews you might have missed!

Paperback Announcement

Paperback-lovers give a cheer! Lena decided to make Take a Picture - her new collection of two sweet short stories - available in paperback format! Check out the full cover:


Isn't it so cute?? I love it! And you can have this lovely little double-feature grace your shelf for less than $6! (That doesn't include any shipping expenses, though, just as an FYI.) Here's the link:


Thank you all for following this sweet almost-spring tour! Don't forget to subscribe to Lena's newsletter to keep up-to-date on all her latest author news. :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Love's Promises Cover Reveal & Release Announcement!

Today is a big day - Love's Promises by Sandra Leesmith is making its debut with both a cover reveal and e-book release!! First of all, I must apologize for the late start... As the book's editor, I spent much of yesterday reading through the manuscript to double-check the writing and formatting before publication. Unfortunately, just before I was about ready to finalize things with KDP late last night, the Internet went out. And yes, there were some tears shed... An agonizing reminder that sometimes working last-minute isn't the best way to go. It was an utterly awful feeling as the hours ticked by, the Internet remained out, and I had no way to get my post together or contact anyone online to explain the delay. But God is indeed merciful, and the Internet is currently back - hopefully at least long enough to get all of this together! My sincerest apologies for the wait, and thank you very much for your patience.

And now, back to the fun, because there is a lot of it to be had today!

A Cover Story

The road to the final version of this cover was a bit longer than previous designs, but it was so worth it in the end. Lena Goldfinch (Stone Lily Design) was once again the cover designer, and we once again have a similar layout - but the cover for Love's Promises has its own unique flair and feel.

It started a couple of months back, before I had read/edited the manuscript. Sandra gave me an idea of what the two main characters looked like, and she sent a longer synopsis so I would have a feel for the story. Based on that, Lena and I tried to find the right couple/models and background. But I think reading the story really makes a difference in the input I can give - on the models, especially. The first cover comps Lena put together (while very fresh and lovely!) weren't exactly the right fit. Sandra wanted the lake background to be very distinctive, and the couple wasn't quite meshing. So we agreed to set the cover design aside until I had a chance to edit the book. Hence the reason we're doing a cover reveal later along with the e-book release. ;)

After having a better idea of what Monica and Greg (the heroine and hero) were like, I went back to search the stock photo sites. And then on Dreamstime, lo and behold, I found a couple with their foreheads touching (a theme I'm happy we're continuing in the covers!) that struck me. I pinned it to Lena's and my secret board for the cover and claimed, "Oh my goodness, I think this couple could be it!!" Of course, the female model had brown hair instead of red, and she looked perhaps a bit younger than Monica, but the "feel" of it was just right for me. There was Monica's "clouds of auburn hair," Greg's big smile, Monica's sophistication, Greg's tenderness/laid-back mood.... And the pose was just perfect. I also proceeded to pin some Lake Tahoe landscape images to give Lena an idea of what we might want to use.

Then Lena worked her magic. :) She played around with backgrounds and colors, fixed up Monica's hair, made some tweaks to the sunset, and voila! We have this very gorgeous cover...


What I Love: The way this couple captures the personalities of Greg and Monica. (And really, isn't Greg so incredibly handsome and adorable?? He's such a fun hero!) The way Emerald Bay and Fannette Island are prominently displayed in the background, showing the Lake Tahoe setting in a unique and distinctive way. (Plus the Tea House is on that island, which plays a role in one of the scenes in the book!) The way the cover is dark to hint at the suspense of the story, but also bright with the sunset and their smiles to show the promise of love. And the way the layout and colors hearken back to the previous two covers, but also leave this one standing out in a new way.

Which cover do you like the best?

About the Book

For Monica Scott, building her late father’s house at Lake Tahoe isn’t an option—it’s a necessary distraction from confusing memories and an uncertain future. But a handsome planner working for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) is keeping Monica from moving forward with the project. Never mind that he’s young and charming with a great sense of humor. No one is going to stop Monica from making her father’s dream—and her own—a reality.

All Greg Linsey wants is for his work to mean something. His job at TRPA gives him the opportunity to fight for the environment he loves and make a difference in his small corner of the world. But with the sophisticated Monica Scott’s arrival, his dedication is tested as never before, especially when Monica turns to his unscrupulous nemesis for assistance.

As Greg and Monica’s animosity turns into something far sweeter, can they learn to accept each other’s promises and avoid the growing danger to their lives and hearts?


Editor's Note: The story is set in 1985 so that Sandra's earlier research of the TRPA remains relevant to the characters. Not sure if you'd classify that as a historical or a quasi contemporary... In any case, it's an inspirational romance with a dash of suspense and a dose of environmental concerns. :) You can add the book now on Goodreads!

Release Announcement!

It's here!! Despite the aforementioned delay, Amazon (with its awesomeness and speedy turn-arounds) now has Love's Promises up on their website! You can purchase a Kindle copy for only $2.99 at the link below:


Happy day! And happy reading! ;)

Giveaway!

To celebrate the cover reveal and e-book release of Love’s Promises, Sandra is giving away a red leather-bound journal perfect for recording your own promises! The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only, and you can enter via the Rafflecopter form below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Cover Reveal Participants

Want to learn more about Sandra (the author) and Lena (the cover designer), and read some bloggers' thoughts on the cover? Be sure to visit all these lovely blogs today!
What do you think of Sandra's latest cover? Will you be reading the book?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My Review of Sing For Me

Here's a description of the book from Howard Books:

"When a good church girl starts singing in a jazz club and falls for the music—as well as a handsome African American man—she struggles to reconcile her childhood faith with her newfound passions.

Raised in the Danish Baptist Church, Rose Sorensen knows it’s wrong to sing worldly songs. But Rose still yearns for those she hears on the radio—'Cheek to Cheek,' 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes'—and sings them when no one is around.

One day, Rose’s cousin takes her to Calliope’s, a jazz club, where she dis­covers an exciting world she never knew existed. Here, blacks and whites mingle, brought together by their shared love of music. And though Rose wor­ries it’s wrong—her parents already have a stable husband in mind for her—she can’t stop thinking about the African American pianist of the Chess Men, Theo Chastain. When Rose returns to the jazz club, she is offered the role of singer for the Chess Men. The job would provide money to care for her sister, Sophy, who has cerebral palsy—but at what cost?

As Rose gets to know Theo, their fledgling relationship faces prejudices she never imagined. And as she struggles to balance the dream world of Calliope’s with her cold, hard reality, she also wrestles with God’s call for her life. Can she be a jazz singer? Or will her faith suffer because of her worldly ways?

Set in Depression-era Chicago and rich in historical detail, Sing for Me is a beautiful, evocative story about finding real, unflinching love and embracing—at all costs—your calling."

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

This was one of those books where I wasn't sure how engaging it might be. The cover, the reference to "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," and the premise of the book all caught my attention, but I didn't know if the story would hold my attention. It looked like it could be a slower read. And yes, in some ways it was, as it's more literary in nature, very focused on descriptions of the characters, background, setting, and feelings. Even still, I wasn't able to give up on it. Sing for Me captured my imagination and wouldn't let go.

I started reading the book in an art museum while waiting for my sister's Irish dance performance to begin. My sister and I had just spent some time examining and critiquing the artwork (in a fun, non-professional way, of course!), and I had some drawings of different cities and cultures viewed from unique angles fresh on my mind. I think that "museum mood" stayed with me the whole time I read the book... The story felt unique, mysterious - something to be figured out and yet appreciated for its unflinching display of human error, emotion, and enchantment.

I confess the first-person present tense POV threw me off a bit at first, but I think it ultimately served its purpose of drawing me into the heroine's (Rose's) heart. The writing does get a little flowery in some regards, and the ending felt a little off from the rest of the story, in that it's a little abrupt and emotionally different than a lot of what leads up to it. (Plus, I would have loved a little more closure for some secondary characters' futures before "The End").

And yet the story is so intriguing. Rose's struggles are so very real. Even though life is very different for many of us today, her uncertainty over conflicting duties, her love and frustration for her handicapped sister, her warring desires - all these hit home for me. And Theo... Be still my heart. His character is so wise and kind and wonderful, despite - and perhaps in part because of - his fight for freedom in his circumstances and his heart. His family is also very endearing.

Sing for Me isn't a fast read, but it is a thought-provoking and gut-wrenching one in the issues it raises: questions of hope, submission, and God's calling. The characters are studies in the range of the "religious," prodding the reader to ponder what God would really have us do with difficult choices and unexpected revelations. A really poignant story from beginning to end.

*With thanks to Howard Books and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Note: Sing for Me releases April 1, 2014.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Blue Blossom (Paperback Arrival!)

It's so strange... In some ways, it doesn't really feel like your book is "real" until you see it in paperback. And in other ways, after seeing the cover and interior and everything about the book on the computer, holding the paperback is just one more step on a journey that's been very "real" all along, but also so surreal.

Receiving my second release in paperback didn't feel the same as it did for my debut. Not as much squealing; not quite as much excitement for doing the photo shoot. I think part of that might be due to my grandma's absence... Not being able to run up to her house and hand it to her. Not being able to point out the dedication to her and see her reaction. Not being able to share the moment with her as I did for Bleeding Heart.

And yet, I still felt a thrill when I opened my mailbox and saw the package from CreateSpace. I still grinned like a little girl when showing it to my mom. And even though my response the last few days has been subdued (probably also partly due to the fact that I've been consumed with my short-story project), it's been a special time in its own way. I'm so happy with the Western-y look of the cover, and the way the model fits so perfectly. (Huge thanks to Lena Goldfinch for designing such a wonderful cover!) My mom and I got to take my proof copy to the care home where my grandpa is staying and show it to my grandpa and some of the others living/working there. My mom and I also found just the right spot for a photo op yesterday (Monday). And I've ordered a box of books, so I'm looking forward to signing and sharing some!

All that to say - thank you for letting me share this adventure with you, dear readers! Even though I know you don't really have a choice in what I post (LOL), you always let me be myself, sharing your understanding and your support. I'm grateful to be celebrating this moment with you. After about seven or eight years of having this story with me, Forget Me Not is now available to have and to hold! God is so very good. ♥

Sally and Elizabeth sitting next to each other on my dresser.

And here's a side view - always more flattering, right? ;)

Elizabeth and I by the river. We're in California instead of Colorado, but still a perfect spot to correlate with Chapter 1! Can't you just picture David galloping over on Liberty, ready to do battle with the rapids...?

***

Would you like to have the lovey Elizabeth grace your shelf? You can pick up a copy of Forget Me Not now on any of the following sites:


The list price is only $8.99 (it *is* a little shorter than Bleeding Heart, so Elizabeth's a bit thinner ;)), and you can get it for $8.54 on Amazon.

And if you'd like to learn some random "fun facts" about the story, be sure to check out the series blog today!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Launch of Lena's Sweet Spring Reads Blog Tour!


http://seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com/p/sweet-spring-reads-blog-tour.html

Spring is almost here - and I think most of us are quite ready for the change in seasons! Just in time to celebrate, we've got a fun blog tour featuring four sweet YA (young adult) reads by Lena Goldfinch (my fabulous cover designer and friend). Not to mention the delectable giveaway and the announcement of Lena's latest release, Take a Picture (+ Chain Reaction)! So grab some candy (I recommend the Reese's Egg or those Cadbury Mini Eggs), check out the schedule, enter the giveaway, and enjoy the reviews & news!

Schedule

Sunday, March 9th
Monday, March 10th
Tuesday, March 11th
Wednesday, March 12th
Thursday, March 13th
Friday, March 14th
Saturday, March 15th

Giveaway!

Lena is giving away some sweet treats in honor of the tour! The first prize drawing is open to residents of the U.S. & Canada only; the second prize drawing is open internationally. Winners will be announced Saturday, March 15th, so don't wait to enter via the Rafflecopter form below...

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Be sure to visit the blog tour page to learn more about Lena and her latest release, and to find direct links to the blog tour posts once they're live! Have a sweet week!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Conclusion of The Paris Connection Blog Tour!


http://seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com/search/label/The%20Paris%20Connection%20Blog%20Tour

How a vacation can fly by when you're having fun! Hard to believe The Paris Connection blog tour has already reached its end... I hope you had a great time taking a virtual trip to Paris with Cerella, all the participating bloggers, and I. I had a wonderful time organizing the tour with Cerella - she's such a sweet person who writes such sweet books! If you haven't yet had the chance to read The Paris Connection or her previous two releases (Gentle Persuasion and Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania - both of which I recommend!), you can find purchasing info/links on Cerella's website HERE.

And just because this tour is over doesn't mean you have to say goodbye to Cerella! Visit Cerella's website to find all the ways you can connect with her online - and be sure to subscribe to her newsletter to stay in the know regarding any upcoming releases!

Winners!

And we have our winners!

For the "Bon App├ętit" prize pack (which included a signed copy of Cerella's book, lots of sweet Parisian treats, and a dishtowel with a Paris scene made in France), the winner is...

Laurie I.!

For the "Bon Voyage" prize pack (which included a signed copy of Cerella's book, Paris-themed travel items, and a journal), the winner is...

Stephanie K.!

Both winners have been contacted and have responded - congratulations, Laurie and Stephanie! Enjoy your new "journey" to Paris through those fun prizes! :)

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaways!

Acknowledgements

A blog tour is obviously nothing without bloggers willing to participate! Cerella and I are very grateful for the time, effort, and enthusiasm of the following bloggers:


March 3rd Bloggers:

March 4th Bloggers:


March 5th Bloggers:

March 6th Bloggers:

March 7th Bloggers:

March 8th Blogger:

If you missed any of these fun reviews/spotlights/interviews/features, be sure to click the links, as they'll take you directly to their tour posts!

I'd also like to thank Cerella for the opportunity to work with her and promote her latest book. It's been an absolute pleasure - not only getting to learn about the Harlequin Heartwarming line, but getting the chance to reconnect with Cerella, chat with her about writing and life, and share this latest leg of her publishing journey. As one blogger also said, I can't wait for the chance to host Cerella on the blog again! Her stories are sweet treats romance-lovers won't want to miss, and her kindness is true and exemplary.

Thank you all for joining us for a virtual week in Paris! Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Litfuse Publicity Blog Tour: The Thief

Here's a description of the book:

"A Roman centurion longing for peace and a Jewish woman hiding a deadly secret witness a miracle that transforms their lives and leads them to the foot of the cross.

Longinus is a Roman centurion haunted by death and failure. Desperate to escape the accursed Judean province, he accepts a wager. If he can catch the thieves harassing the marketplace before Passover, he’ll earn a transfer away from the troublemaking Jews.

Nissa is a Jewish woman with a sharp tongue and no hope of marriage. Only with the help of Mouse, the best thief in Jerusalem, can she keep her blind brother, Cedron, fed and a roof over their heads.

When a controversial teacher miraculously heals Cedron, Longinus longs to learn more about the mysterious healer. Instead, his journey leads him to Nissa, whose secret will determine the course of both their futures.

Unexpectedly caught up in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, they wonder who this teacher is who heals others but does nothing to save himself. Is the mercy he offers in his teachings real, or just another false promise? Can Nissa and Longinus overcome their pasts to find a future free of their shackles?

The Thief is an evocative story of two people trapped in their circumstances and the life-changing power of forgiveness and love."

My Rating

Summer

My Review

Landsem won me over in the first couple of chapters with the depth of characterization, the wonderful setting, and the early surprises. The Thief includes a powerful blend of action/suspense, emotion, historical details, biblical references, and romance. I loved that it was not only a well-written read, but an engaging one throughout.

I had the opportunity to go to Israel when I was fifteen, and I enjoyed picturing some of the sights again through this story. Interestingly enough, the author notes that she's never been there (yet!) - but let me tell you, her descriptions and imagery are great! While I can see how Morocco inspired her (not that I've been there, but her note about the marketplaces seems fitting), Landsem obviously did her research regarding the layout of Jerusalem and the cultural elements of Jesus's day. I loved her take on the setting and found myself easily swept away to the first century.

I'm sure that was also due to the characters. Such "tangled webs" Nissa weaves...and such trouble they all find themselves in. The characters came across as very authentic - and even if that meant I got frustrated with Longinus (and others) often, it also meant I loved him all the more when he showed different sides to himself and grew. The secondary characters - especially Dismas and Cedron - also impressed me, but I do admit, being the romantic that I am, that Longinus and Nissa's relationship held my attention. Their uniqueness (in both looks and attitudes), stubbornness, and tenderness endeared me to them.

My one wish might be that the reader could see a little more of Jesus - a little more of his interactions with the other characters, a little more involvement early on, or something. While his role was undeniably the most pivotal, he felt a little distant. I think that's because the main characters mainly observed him, rather than had much chance to interact with him in a personal way. Still, Landsem portrayed him in a thought-provoking way by immersing the reader in his time and in the expectations many had of him.

Overall, The Thief is a really fascinating read, full of contrasts and realism and grace. Beautifully done!

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion, to be shared during the Litfuse Publicity blog tour.*

About the Author

Stephanie Landsem loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s explored ancient ruins, medieval castles, and majestic cathedrals around the world. Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband, four children, and three fat cats. When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, avoiding housework, and dreaming about her next adventure—whether it be in person or on the page. Find out more about Stephanie at www.stephanielandsem.com.

To Buy the Book: click HERE

Blog Tour: Check out the review from other blog tour participants HERE.

Litfuse Contest

thiefbloggerbuttonDon't miss Stephanie Landsem's outstanding sophomore effort, The Thief.

Best-selling author Tosca Lee had this to say of the book: Filled with memorable characters, The Thief is a tale of hopelessness turned to hope, of high stakes made higher, and ultimate love. What happens when a character at the lowest rung of society crosses paths with the most well-known figure in history? The story of The Thief. I couldn't stop reading.

Stephanie is hosting a Kindle Fire HDX and book giveaway at her website. CLICK THE BUTTON to find out more and enter to win.

Find out what readers are saying HERE. (Click the REVIEWS bar.)