Posts tagged ‘books’

Book Review: A Second Chance by Alexis Goring

Book coverI interviewed Alexis Goring here in May, and came to know her as one who stands in the intersection of the arts and faith. Ever since then, I looked forward to her new book, A Second Chance. Here is my review.

What will food critic Traci do when she receives an inheritance from her grandfather … with a string attached: She must marry, with her mother’s approval, before she will receive a penny. At least there’s no time limit imposed on her love life.

And then she loses her job.

Is her attraction to political journalist Marc desperation, or is it real? With her history, how can Traci tell?

And given those who have lied to him in the past, and his current responsibilities, will Marc open his heart up to her?

Alexis Goring’s novella, A Second Chance, starts off with an intriguing premise. How will Traci and Marc sort through all the issues as they build a relationship? This is exactly the kind of romance I enjoy (I’m normally a suspense gal, of course).

Their faith issues play an important role in their relationship, as well. And you know what, in real life, this is how it is for Christians, working out their relationship with God as they navigate the challenges of life. This is what made Goring’s novel such a good read. The faith aspect was real, not contrived, not ignored, not glossed-over. Again, this is the way it is for real Christians in a real world. We get to sit back and watch Traci and Marc unravel the knots of their lives to see if their lives can be knotted together in a good way.

The writing itself is another excellent aspect of A Second Chance. Goring is a smooth writer, skillfully weaving the subplots (Marc’s sister and her kids, and Traci’s financial situation) into the main love story plot, and hitting all the awww moments romance readers crave. Skillfully, I have to add — those awww moments are neither forced, nor are they so sweet they give you a tummy ache.

What did I not like about A Second Chance? I felt the relationship between Traci and her mother, while not ignored, was given short shrift, especially given her grandfather’s mandate that her mother approve her marriage. She does approve, of course, but this could’ve been a source of tension, though Traci and her mom get along well, that would have enriched the story. Of course, it would’ve lengthened it, too, and the novella is just about perfect, length-wise. A tough balance for any writer.

Goring’s intriguing premise, and her adroit weaving of the subplots, and the adept heart-touching awww moments make the reader’s day.

I highly recommend A Second Chance.

Blessings,

Voni

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Alexis Goring: The intersection of the arts and faith

Christian author Alexis Goring is here today, sharing her faith, her heart, and her novella, A Second Chance. (I have a review of A Second Chance here.)

Voni: Thanks so much for coming on my blog, Alexis! I’ve been excited for you to show off your new novella. The cover is just all-out fun…what can you tell us about the story itself?

Alexis A. Goring, April 2017

Alexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers with the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ.

Alexis: Thanks, Voni! I’m happy to be here. A Second Chance is an inspirational, standalone novella. It’s a contemporary romance about characters that are in need of a second chance in life and at love.

The story features Marc (the hero), Traci (the heroine) and Gina (Marc’s sister). Marc is a newspaper journalist who keeps getting burned by women. So before he meets Traci, he’s ready to give up on love. Traci is also a newspaper journalist. Her fiancé left her at the altar on their Wedding Day and ran off with her Maid of Honor who she thought was her best friend. Needless to say, when readers first meet Traci, she is knee-deep in debt from the wedding that didn’t happen and her heart feels wounded beyond repair. Gina becomes quite the matchmaker in this story. But you’ll have to read it to find out why and how.

Book cover

Voni: How do Traci and Marc meet up in your story? What connects them?

Alexis: Traci and Marc’s meet-cute takes place inside a fancy restaurant. They connect later on when their best friends prompt them to give love a second chance. Working as newspaper journalists gives Traci and Marc immediate common ground. It also gives them a competitive edge because they both know when they’re “on to something”. You’ll have to read the story to find out what I mean by that phrase.

Voni: Common ground…just what people need when they’re on to something! On your Facebook page, you say “I’m a storyteller with a passion for the Arts & Entertainment industry and a heart for Jesus Christ!” What drew you to the arts and entertainment industry?

Alexis: Movies and music! Together along with amazing acting, these elements make movies memorable. I still listen to movie soundtracks when I’m writing a new fictional story. Movies always felt like home to me. Music has soothed my soul and inspired me on so many occasions. It was only natural for me to want to work in the Arts and Entertainment as a career professional. So I pursued it and graduated from college with a B.A. in Print Journalism and grad school with an MFA in Creative Writing. Waiting on the Lord to see what He wants me to do next.

Voni: Movies and music are a natural pairing, for sure, tied together with passion. How does your heart for Jesus intersect with this passion for the arts?

Alexis: My faith informs my viewpoint on life. As a believer in God and a follower of Jesus Christ, I consult them first before I make a career move. I go to God for every issue, praise, problem and concern for whatever happens in life because He is the only One with the answers that I need. It’s amazing how He places people in your life to connect with and help you in your time of need. I love how God works through people to accomplish His kingdom purposes. Since faith informs my viewpoint on life, it’s easier for me to stay motivated and bubbly because I’ve got Heaven on my mind. I know that Earth is not our home so that helps me to choose my battles wisely. When it comes to writing fictional stories, I always pray about it first and I ask God to guide me in every aspect of the creative writing process. He never fails me. As a writer of faith-based stories, my hope and prayer is that God will speak through my stories to help my readers find Him. I hope that each story is like an altar call, leading people closer to the heart of Jesus Christ who loves them with His Life.

Voni: Absolutely! How could your faith not be a part of all the stories you create? Thanks for letting us get to know you, Alexis. Congratulations on your book! Blessings!

(Alexis and I are having fun trading places today. Check out my turkey story on Alexis’ blog!)

Review: A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

A Portrait of Emily Price by [Reay, Katherine]

“Francesca sported a perfect American accent–one that stretched flawlessly from Chicago to Seattle, dipping down through Colorado rather than passing up near the Canadian border.”

This…this is why I loved Katherine Reay’s Book, A Portrait of Emily Price. These characters are friends to me, now. Emily simultaneously broke my heart and warmed it with her instinct to fix everything, whether it be a pan with a loose handle or a teenager whose home Emily was restoring from a fire, whether it was her sister or her mother-in-law. I don’t do spoilers, but this instinct to fix things comes from Emily’s childhood, and it is the very thing that brings her family to a boil. And solves their problems, in a way, ultimately through faith and family. I loved watching the art come out of Emily the way pizza came out of Ben, pasta out of Donata, and bread from Lucio.

And that’s the thing. Often in a Hallmark movie, a character has a job…something artsy or community-service oriented in some way. But the writers/actors fail to make that a real part of who the character is in their core. It’s kind of a token designation that a character is a florist or a poverty lawyer or whatever.

Reay has no such failure! The artsy, fix-it side of Emily, the food-and-family side of Ben made them who they are, and it made the story what it is. I want to be frowned at by Donata, given a book by Lucio, and fed by Ben. I want to help Emily fix something and watch Joseph paint. These are people I feel like I know. This is a family whose Sunday Dinners I want to join.

I was surprised not to find myself in Atlanta or Italy when I had to look up from the book…Oh, the field of sunflowers! I wanted to go sit there until they turned my direction. I want to go truffle hunting with their dog.

But the story of Emily and this family stopped my heart in places, as it frequently stopped Emily’s heart, left her not knowing what to do, panicked. As warm as these people are, as close as they are…the secrets buried in this family are heart-breaking. And heart-warming.

It’s that kind of book.

So what did I not like about A Portrait of Emily Price? The end. I literally flipped the page on my Kindle, desperate to read more, not conscious I had reached the end. But it was over. Reay does not tell us what happens with Joseph (oops, almost committed a spoiler there). She leaves us hanging, having to think it through for ourselves. Heart-warming. And heart-breaking.

Yep. It’s that kind of book.

Blessings,

Voni

Review: Warror’s Seal by Ronie Kendig

I was enjoying my lunch out (it was my birthday, and Rich was traveling for work). I took my Kindle and was reading Ronie Kendig’s novella, Warrior’s Seal.

The waitress walked up to ask me if I wanted a refill. “Oh! Sorry!” she said. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Yep.

I was that into it.

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Ronie has a way with a military novel. She has a way with imagining an impossible (fiction) situation, and making it more impossible. She has a way of connecting your heart with the characters, so that when they are nervous, you are; when they are determined, you are; when they are exhausted, you are; when they are happy, you are.

All these things are very evident in Warrior’s Seal. Thus, the waitress’s ability to startle me.

What did I like about this novella? The situation, first and foremost. The main character, Tox, is the leader of a military team tasked with a mission to save the President, a mission that is complicated by his personal relationships (no spoilers here, but this is a doozy). I absolutely love how Ronie was able to bring in ancient history, too. Do we today have the ability to save the world from the ancient toxin that is released?

What did I not like about Warrior’s Seal? Not much. It makes me angry that Tox is in trouble (I told you it was a doozy), though his loyalty to his team is very evident in the end. It makes me even more angry that Tox accepts the trouble. He is an extraordinarily capable warrior of integrity and yet sees no way out? He obviously feels powerless, destined to the trouble. He has more strength of character than this; If he told his story, explained why he did what he did, America would be on his side.

Of course, it’s complicated (I told you it’s a doozy), and Tox himself is complicated.

I did not like the ending: I wanted more!

But that’s the purpose of this free prequel. (Get it here) It’s setting up her Tox Files series, the first book of which is on preorder now, and releases tomorrow. It’s called Conspiracy of Silence.

Ronie is sending the more that I’m craving.

Thanks, Ronie.

Blessings,

Voni

Book Review: Shades of Chocolate by Cecelia Dowdy

Cecelia Dowdy wrote a Bakery Romance series that, just by its designation, intrigued me. I read the first, Raspberry Kisses, and enjoyed it enough that I was glad to read book two, Shades of Chocolate. (I was offered this book free for purposes of review, but a review was requested, not required, and a “good” review was never mentioned. These are my fair opinions.) Book three just came out mid-summer, Sweet Dreams, and there is a Christmas novella I own, but haven’t read yet; saving it for Christmas. A fourth is soon coming out!

 

Shades Of Chocolate (The Bakery Romance Series Book 2) by [Dowdy, Cecelia]

I love stories in which someone’s dreams and passions and talents are at stake. This series follows the lives of women chasing the dream of owning their own bakeries. (Each is stand-alone, connected by theme more than characters.)

In Shades of Chocolate, Toni runs a bakery inherited from her aunt, who raised her in many ways and taught her to bake. Baking—and the bakery itself—is a deep part of who Toni is. The offerings of Toni’s bakery are all chocolate themed…even the coffee. Here’s the problem. Dowdy does such a fantastic job of making the bakery real, I want to go! Alas, it’s a fictional bakery, and the book doesn’t come with any samples.

Toni and her love interest, Jason, are written in the same way. So real, I’d like to sit and talk with them. At the Shades of Chocolate bakery, of course. Alas, they, too are fictional, but I thoroughly enjoyed my sojourn with them.

But if you think this is just a sweet story where they fall in love over sweet chocolate treats, you are wrong. Their very real pasts wreak havoc, but I won’t offer any spoilers. As a writer, Dowdy is unafraid to look face on at very real, contemporary issues through the medium of her fictional world…without wallowing in those issues as certain books and TV shows and movies do.

She is also unafraid of Christian faith. The characters in this book grapple with faith issues, as do the most committed Christians. (Book one, as well.) So many authors are unable to do that.

So, what do I not like about the book? Well, the writing can be overdone, the dialogue full of the truth of the characters, but unnatural-sounding in places. However, when you are immersed in the setting and characters that seem real, that’s a relatively minor flaw.

Blessings,

Voni

Book review: Nerve by Bethany Macmanus

The creators of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew have nothing on Bethany Macmanus. Her novel, Nerve, is a breathtaking roller coaster of a dream ride.

You’ll find yourself on the sultry hot streets of Fort Lauderdale, in secret science labs, a small house created in a van, a concrete bunker…

No one, but no one does setting like Bethany Macnanus.

Like I said: It’s a wild ride as Wren Masterson hunts for her father’s scientific invention, perhaps his killer, but no spoilers here.

A former nurse, Macmanus has both the writing chops and the medical knowledge to pull this novel off, and her faith is woven through the story in an organic, unpreachy way.

My favorite element of Nerve (besides setting): Wren’s abiding love for her father. Wren’s artistic streak. The sea turtle scene. Okay, I should have said, elements, plural.

My least favorite element: The plethora of characters in the climax, but that didn’t take away from the book at all.

Not to read this book for yourself is to sit at the amusement park and watch other people ride.

Here is the Amazon link for you to check it out!

Tomorrow, tune in for some flash fiction by ME! And or the winner of Kelli Hughett’s Red Zone. Comment on my Saturday blog featuring Kelli’s flash fiction in order to put your name in for the drawing.

Blessings, Voni

FLASH FICTION FEATURE: Heather Gilbert

Today begins my new Flash Fiction Feature! I know some awesome Christian writers whom I’d like to introduce to you. For the month of June, I challenged four of them to write a flash fiction piece for my blog…only I sent each of them the same photograph as inspiration. It has been fun to see how each one took the same photo and wrote such different stories! Tune in each Saturday of June to check it out…and leave a comment for a chance at the weekly GIVEAWAY! I’m so excited.

First up is the awesome Heather Gilbert!

Heather Gilbert

Heather Day Gilbert writes character-driven novels that go beyond the vows, capturing the triumphs and heartaches unique to married couples. A graduate of Bob Jones University, she’s been married to her sweet Yankee husband for eighteen years. After eleven years of homeschooling and eight years of writing, she really doesn’t have many hobbies. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, she believes that bittersweet, generational stories are in her blood.

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And here is the photo with which I challenged her, and the other three writers.

Bark_Cabin_Wood_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1322

Solace

By Heather Day Gilbert

How many times had she come here over the past few months, trying to remember the specific timbre of his deep voice? To recall the roughness of his calloused hands, as they clasped hers? No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t summon the sounds and images to her mind’s eye.

The oversized rocks lay strangely juxtaposed, as if some giant had tossed them like dice down the hill. A heavy coating of moss confirmed that the sun rarely kissed this side of the forest. For so many years, this had been a flowerless secret garden for them, a haven that enabled them to articulate the dreams they hadn’t realized they had.

Now the rocks did not comfort her as before, but reflected the harshness of the scattered barren trees. Gently resting her head on the thick moss, she allowed her gaze to trail upward. The white sky seemed blank and closed, just like heaven had felt for her lately. No spark of love, no answers to her questions.

An anger that had tormented her began to rise like bile in her throat. This deep in the woods, she could give voice to the injustice, shout at the deaf heavens. Her scream filled the air.

“Why, God!? Why him? You should have taken me, not my husband!”

In those early days, when the news sank in that he’d been killed on assignment, she was sure God would step in visibly to comfort her. Whisper in her ear at night, maybe show her an angel…anything. Possibly she was waiting for a Lazarus-style miracle in which someone would tell her it was all a mistake, that it wasn’t his flag-draped coffin that had shipped over.

All she needed was assurance that God understood the grief she couldn’t even put into words.

Yet days went by with no sign. Casseroles and flowers flooded in, accompanied by sad looks of friends and family. No one knew what to say.

That’s when she began to return to the rocky enclave, hoping God would stoop to meet her there and kindly explain why this had to happen.

But each time, she was met with the resounding silence of nature. Not one rabbit or squirrel interrupted her earnest, yet fruitless, quest.

Today would be the last day, she had decided. Her one last attempt to break through the opaque curtain that God had drawn around Himself. Yet even as her scream died, nothing changed.

Until.

Until one still-green leaf fluttered onto her chest and landed on her heart. The leaf itself was heart-shaped. They used to lie here, marveling at the extensive shade that very catalpa tree could provide in the heat of summer.

As she clutched the leaf, deflected sunlight broke the cloud cover and shafted directly onto her. Some would say this was a coincidence. But she knew what it was.

Her refreshed soul sang the words of truth. “He has always loved you, and He always will.”

THE END

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See what I mean? Awesome, right?

I encourage you to leave a comment below for a chance to win an electronic copy of Heather’s latest book Trial By Twelve. I’ll draw from all the commenters on Wednesday. 

Trial by Twelve

trialbytwelve_fc_2

Tess Spencer loves her low-key job at the Crystal Mountain Spa, which allows her plenty of down-time with her one-year old daughter and lawyer husband, Thomas. But when a pool installation turns up eight skeletons in the spa’s back yard, Tess becomes entangled in a sleuthing job destined to go awry.

As the investigation gets underway, someone dumps a fresh body near the excavated burial site, confirming unspeakable fears. A serial killer has returned to Buckneck, West Virginia…a skilled hunter with a unique taste in prey.

When Tess agrees to help the cunning Detective Tucker gather clues from the inside, she discovers the posh spa hides more than dead bodies. Even as she sifts through layers of deceit, Tess realizes too late that the killer’s sights have zeroed in on her.

Unpredictable psychological mystery replete with memorable characters, Trial by Twelve is Book Two in A Murder in the Mountains series.

This novel is written from a Christian worldview.

Check out Heather’s other books on Amazon, too.

And, of course…Tune in next Saturday. Kelli Hughett was the next author to accept my challenge and write a story inspired by the same photo. Another giveaway, too!!

Blessings, Voni

Photo credit: Paul Baxter http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bark_Cabin_Wood_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1322.jpg

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1322