Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pieces of the Heart

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Pieces of the Heart
Abingdon Press (June 1, 2013)
Bonnie S. Calhoun

 This book is much deeper than the write up on the back (and below) would suggest. It is a wonderful story of love and perseverance, but the golden threads holding the book together are the serious issues of prejudice (in many forms), withheld forgiveness, and disbelief in prayer.

Bonnie Calhoun weaves a tale of the horrifying truths of WWII and pre-judgement of people based on their color, gender, beliefs, sins, and countenance. I would never have imagined a book could creatively wind these real-life issues together, but as it happens in real life, Bonnie has made it all seem (unfortunately) natural.  She takes the reader behind the externals of the characters to reveal hurts and motivations beyond simple understanding.

Under it all is the peace that faithfulness in undying love and prayer can bring to the life of another. I love the historical tradition of the pinecone quilt, a prayer covering over the life of the next generation.

This book is definitely a thought-provoking read worth every minute. It is hard to put down -- I received it one afternoon and immediately got hooked. It was finished before bedtime!

You can purchase the book HERE.


Bonnie S. Calhoun is Owner/Director of Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, owner/publisher of Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Northeast Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), the ACFW ‘2011 Mentor of the Year,” President of (CAN) Christian Authors Network, and Appointment Coordinator for both the Colorado Christian Writers Conference (CCWC) and the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference(GPCWC).

For the last six years she has taught workshops in Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, and creating Social Media promotions at both CCWC, and GPCWC, and in 2011 at the Montrose, Pa Christian Writers Conference. She also taught a Facebook workshop at the 2012 ACFW conference.

Bonnie and her husband live in a log cabin in upstate area of New York with a dog and cat who think she’s wait-staff.

Her sites are: https://www.facebook.com/bonniescalhounsnarkandsuspense


Cordelia Grace watched Bernard Howard, the love of her young life, go off to fight for our country in WWII. And she has spent the last three years creating the Pine Cone quilt that will grace their marriage bed when he comes home. Each row of triangles signifies a layer in her life, sets of memories, hopes, dreams, and prayers for her future, enough spoken words to cover them forever. Her image of their “happy-ever-after” grows proportionally as the quilt expands.

But is the man that returns from the war, the same man that she remembered? Are the dark shades of color that she had to use for the outside edges of the beloved quilt prophetic of her life to come? Can love and faith overcome all?

If you would like to read teh first chapter of Pieces of the Heart, go HERE.

Thank you to Abingdon Press for providing a copy of this book for review. This in no way influenced my opinion of the book.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cafe Chocolat Retreat

Cafe Chocolat -- Where Women Delight in God's Grace
Women's Ministry Retreat Director's Kit
Group Publishing

I had the honor of reviewing one of Group's newest Women's Retreat programs. Group does a fabulous job of pulling together all the materials necessary for a women's group leadership team to plan and deliver a great retreat without having to pay a speaker or organizer.

Cafe Chocolat uses chocolate as a metaphor for God's grace. The kit comes with:
Director Guide
Training and Promo DVD
Graphics and other goodies on a CD
Worship Leader Guide
6 Session Leader Guides
Music CD
There are also samples of the materials for each participant (purchased separately):
God's Grace Bracelet
Cafe Chocolat Tote bag.

If interested, a Bible study follow up and a chocolate themed devotional can be purchased.

My Thoughts
The retreat seeks to link women's typical love of chocolate and it's wonderful attributes with the amazing grace of God.

This is an effective retreat for women in all stages of their walks with Christ, and it is probably geared most toward women who want a relaxing retreat, not an in-depth study. As with most of Group's retreats, it is heavy on relationship building within the participants. The games are lighthearted and familiar. As one who really doesn't like 'get acquainted' games, those described for this retreat are not too 'cheesy', so even stick-in-the-muds like me won't be uncomfortable!

The games aren't much different from those in Group's Cozy Cabin retreat, so it might seem repetitive if your women's group has done that retreat in the past.

As with all Group retreats, there is a missions project included. This particular one could be quite expensive, requiring 25 yards of fleece for a group of 30. The project requires a couple of people to do quite a bit of cutting before the event.

this type of retreat might be difficult for those who are trying to lose weight or those who are allergic to chocolate. It would be important to have a plan to deal with these situations so no one feels left out. I don't remember reading any suggestions.

This would be a fun retreat for a group that doesn't want to go too deeply into spiritual issues at their retreat, those who really want a chance for women to get away from the stresses of the world and relax. It is definitely Biblically sound, and provides a well planned package for a successful retreat.

Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel
B&H Publishing Group (April 30, 2013)
Melody Carlson

 Although this book has a familiar story line (a person inherits a huge home from a wealthy relative and has to deal with repurcussions), Melody Carlson has done a great job of adding twists to the story that make it fresh and fun.

The characters in this book are fabulous. Each has enough quirk to make them memorable and enough realism to make them believable. The position our heroine is placed in by a well meaning aunt (with enough quirks and secrets of her own), adds suspense and turmoil to the book.

I really appreciated the ending of this book. I don't want to give it away, but let's just say it leads well into a sequel that I'm anxiously awaiting.

As with every other book of Carlson's I've read, this one's a great read that will take you away from the worries of your day.


Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past eight years, she has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults--with sales totaling more than two million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards.

She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.


With high hopes, Dorothy Ballinger lands her dream job at The New York Times. But it's not long until writing about weddings becomes a painful reminder of her own failed romance, and her love of the city slowly sours as well. Is it time to give up the Big Apple for her small hometown of Appleton?

When her eccentric Aunt Dot passes away and leaves a sizeable estate to Dorothy, going back home is an easy choice. What isn’t easy is coming to terms with the downright odd clauses written into the will.

Dorothy only stands to inherit the estate if she agrees to her aunt's very specific posthumous terms -- personal and professional. And if she fails to comply, the sprawling old Victorian house shall be bequeathed to . . . Aunt Dot’s cats.

And if Dorothy thinks that’s odd, wait until she finds out an array of secrets about Aunt Dot's life, and how imperfect circumstances can sometimes lead to God's perfect timing.

If you would liketo read the first chapter of Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel, go HERE.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fear Has a Name

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Fear Has a Name
David C. Cook (June 1, 2013)
Creston Mapes

Creston Mapes is a master of terror -- and this book is another winner. The main character is stalked in a horrifying believable way, and it results in dynamic chapters that kept me turning the pages long into the night.

I particularly appreciated the struggle between doing what might be safe and striving to live a 'normal' life. Where is that line that must be drawn to avoid giving in to the terror of criminal minds?

Faith is a strong mediator in such a case, and Mapes does a wonderful job of dealing with the struggle between giving in to fear/seeking retribution and relying on a God who is firmly in control of all situations. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series!


Creston has fond memories of his boyhood in Bath, Ohio, where he became enchanted with his future wife, way back in the fourth grade. His father, Bernie, owned and operated The Weathervane Furniture Shop in town. The whole family lived right upstairs in the century-old house known as "The Shop."

Creston studied journalism at Bowling Green State University, then began his writing career. During the past 30 years, he has worked as a reporter, corporate copywriter, creative director, freelance writer, and author.


From popular suspense author Creston Mapes comes another faith-building thriller, a tale that follows journalist Jack Crittendon as he fights to protect his family from a stalker's terrifying schemes, investigates a pastor's mysterious disappearance, and struggles to keep his faith amidst unthinkable fear.

With his family's safety on the line, Crittendon realizes there are secrets behind "Christian" walls--secrets with painful, deadly implications. He must find the faith to trust a God who allows inconceivable trials, and the courage to guard his family, with danger exploding at every turn.

Through it all--the sharp, character-driven writing for which Mapes is known--takes fans and new readers on an edge-of-your-seat journey that explores the harsh, far-reaching consequences of bullying and the Christian response to fear.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Fear Has a Name, go HERE.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An Open Heart

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
An Open Heart
David C. Cook (June 1, 2013)
Harry Kraus

Harry Kraus was a doctor first by trade, and a writer second. He has had great success in both areas, and his fiction works attest to that! If you like medical mysteries, missions, and just a hint of the supernatural, this is a perfect book for you. 

The main character, Dr. Jace Rawlings, is an open-heart surgeon who has suffered from a traumatic head injury. He can't remember the night he got injured, and unfortunately it appears that he was involved in a scandal that could spell disaster to his marriage. He runs to Africa to start a medical mission and hopefully find peace about the death of his twin sister years earlier, but finds himself embroiled in political and mystical workings that he can't understand.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a fast read because I couldn't put it down. I highly recommend it and all of Harry Kraus's other books.


A Word from Harry:

I started writing my first novel during my last year of surgery training at UK. I was a chief resident, and started writing Stainless Steal Hearts in a call room at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Lexington. It was a crazy time to write! I had a very demanding schedule, often spending days and nights in the hospital. I had two sons at that time, and I recognized the wisdom in my wife's urging: "Now doesn't seem the right time for this dream."

My experience as a writer is far from typical. Having received my formal training in biology and chemistry and medicine, my only preparation for a writing career was a love for reading. The longest thing I'd written before my first novel was a term paper in undergraduate school. My first novel was accepted by Crossway Books and published in 1994, and it wasn't until after I had FOUR published novels that I even opened a book of instruction about the craft of writing fiction. This is not what I recommend to others! Yes, I was successful, but I was bending the "rules" without knowing it. I had a natural talent for plotting, but I realize my initial success may have stunted my growth as a writer. I'd have made faster progress if I'd have gone to the fiction teachers sooner.

I have three sons: Joel, Evan, and Samuel. Look closely in all of my books and you'll see them there. My lovely wife, Kris, provides the basic composition for all those beautiful, athletic, dedicated women in my novels.


Their Messages—From Beyond the Grave—Might Destroy Him ...

They hover between life and death, their hearts stopped on the surgery table. And the messages Dr. Jace Rawlings’ open-heart surgery patients bring back from beyond the grave cannot be ignored. For they predict the deaths of people around him, and point a finger of suspicion straight at him.

It thrusts Jace into a firestorm of controversy and danger. A maeltsrom blown by the darker winds of political intrigue and spiritual warfare. And the forces working against him will do anything to stop him from uncovering a truth they will kill to hide. He’d come to Kenya to establish a heart-surgery program for the poor. But what he will find in that place where he grew up will put everything at risk–his marriage, his career . . . his life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of An Open Heart, go HERE.