Archives For Litfuse Blog Tours

Just Like Going Home

Renee Ann Smith —  September 7, 2014 — 22 Comments
I'm fourth down on the right: the small blonde child facing the camera

I’m fourth down on the right: the small blonde child facing the camera

 My childhood was marked by large family gatherings, like the Thanksgiving in this photo

I grew up in the same small town as the families of my dad’s three brothers & my mom’s two siblings. My cousins walked the halls of my school with me, and I seemed to stumble over at least one relative every place I went. At one point, of the twenty or so homes on our street & extension, about seven of them housed relatives—granted some were distant.

The presence of my extended family left me with a strong feeling of being loved and watched over, of being part of something good.

Some of my best memories involve family dinners—my four siblings, I, and my parents sitting around the table during those few short years when we were all home and healthy and happy How quickly the time has flown since those days under my parents’ roof.

I enjoyed my childhood, but I truly did not realize what a rare treasure it was until I began teaching. I teach high school English at a small-town Christian school, and I calculated that in our tiny community of 80 kids, 20% of them come from fractured homes &traumatic pasts. Unlike me, their childhoods include abuse, foster care, a parent in prison or on drugs, death of a parent, being raised by grandparents, no father, never met their father, or unhappily married parents who divorced. So they are highly entertained when I share stories from my growing up years!

I enjoy going home again in my mind. I think that’s why I’m drawn to books about large, chaotic, loving families facing life together even after they’re adults. I call it my Walton’s Syndrome.

The latest book to provide my Walton’s Syndrome fix is Deborah Raney’s charming story Home to Chicory Lane.

Chicory Lane is where Audrey & Grant Whitman raised their five kids. Now that those kids are grown, they’ve invested a large part of Grant’s retirement and much sweat equity into transforming their home into a bed & breakfast. The book begins as they’re ready to jump into the new world of innkeeping. However, little do they expect their first—nonpaying!—guest to be married daughter Landyn, who has run back home after a fight with her husband. Though shocked that the newlyweds have run into trouble after just six months, Landyn’s family rallies around her and her husband Chase in a beautiful way.

Because that’s life in the Whitman family—parents, adult kids, and grandkids, supporting each other through tough times with grace, humor & prayer. And then, as Grant says, “Learning to enjoy the lull between catastrophes.”

What I liked best . . .

  • The gentle flow of the story—perfect for a crisp fall day & a cup of tea!
  • The whole idea of running a bed & breakfast (My Lorelai Gilmore Syndrome!)
  • Getting to know the Whitmans & their adult kids (They’ll be featured in more books to come!)
  • Going along for the ride as Audrey & Grant learn to handle scheduling and preparing and unruly guests (even young beauty queens)
  • Seeing their daughter Landyn grow & change as she puts her life back together
  • Speculating on the future relationship between Link & Bree

My favorite quotes . . .

deborah raney quote“We’re just imperfect people trying to follow a perfect God. We try to be obedient to all we know of Him. And we have to trust that He’ll take care of the rest.”

Deborah Raney quote“The more we see Him work in our lives, the easier it will be to trust Him.”

What you should do next . . .

You can grab a copy of Home to Chicory Lane at this link. ***Thanks to Deborah Raney & Litfuse PR for providing a copy for me to review.

Deborah RaneyAbout the author: DEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, A VOW TO CHERISH, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Her books have since won the RITA Award, ACFW Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers’ Choice Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. HOME TO CHICORY LANE released in August from Abingdon Press Fiction. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy life in Kansas. They have four children and five small grandchildren, who all live much too far away.

You can connect with Deborah . . .

At her website

On her Facebook page

On Twitter

So glad you stopped by to soak in some nostalgia today. Blessings, friends!

***I’ll Tweet your post! I enjoy tweeting the posts and/or graphics of my visitors. If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Let me know in the comments how to find you in the Tweet-world!

***Photo Backstory: I made the quote graphics with images from my account at RGB Stock Photos & tweaked them with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Continue Reading…

knightleyThis weekend I officially added Samantha Moore to my list of favorite book people. You don’t know Sam? She’s the heroine of Katherine Reay’s debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley.

The tagline for Sam’s story reads: “Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.”

Sam’s favorite literary folks all come from Jane Austen stories. However, the best way I can share with you how much I loved this novel is to say that she reminded me of my favorite spunky, heart-breaking, turn-adversity-into-triumph leading ladies, like  . . . Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables), Katherine Mary O’Fallon (Mrs. Mike), Antonia Shimerdas (My Antonia), Lucy Waring (Moonraker’s Bride), Novalee Nation (Where the Heart Is), and Anna Moray (The Firebird). I even saw a touch of Beatrice Prior (Divergent) in her.

The story is told from Sam’s perspective through letters to her anonymous benefactor, who goes by the name George Knightley. Sam is an orphan who spent time on the streets and was in & out of the foster care system until she landed at Father John’s Grace House. Now she’s at the point in her life where she is ready to spread her wings and fly—if she can just tear down the wall of books that guards her heart. Her adventures and observations made me laugh and cry. And the ending of the story was totally satisfying!

My Favorite Quote: “Yes, I wrote ‘pray.’ It’s not a word I’ve used before and not one I write lightly. But I can’t listen to Father John, the Muirs and the Ridleys, and once-upon-a-time Alex, and not believe that there is something to it. How can I not believe that there is a God who exists and loves, when the people before me are infused with that love and pour it out daily? I still can’t grasp that it’s for me, but what if it is? The professor says it’s okay to pray even if I’m not sure.”

Knightley quote 1

Christmas Gift Alert! This is a great gift book for teens on up. Hopefully, you can tell by the books I’ve listed which readers on your gift list would love it.

Ready to grab a copy? Follow this link to purchase Dear Mr. Knightley. ***Thanks to the Litfuse Chicks, Thomas Nelson, & Katherine Reay for providing a copy for me to review.

katherine reayAbout the Author: Katherine Reay is a writer, a wife, a mom, a runner, a tennis player, a tae kwon do black belt (how random is that?), a wanna be chef, a disorganized housekeeper, but compulsive vacuumist, and a horrific navigator.

You can connect with Katherine at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter Continue Reading…

Once upon a prince 700

“Other than Kate Middleton, who marries a prince?” Susanna Truitt from Once Upon a Prince

Rachel Hauck is an author who creates novels with something for everyone. Her most recent novel, Once Upon a Prince, is a story you can share with women of every age—from teens on up to grandma. There’s much to love about this sweet romance. Here are some of the highlights:

The charming heroine: Susanna Truitt has been waiting twelve years for her boyfriend Adam to finish school, military training, and several tours of duty in Afghanistan. Yet the story begins with Adam breaking things off with her. Susanna not only loses the man she put her life on hold for, she also can’t seem to catch a break in her budding career as a landscape architect. Her way of handling life has been to plan every aspect down to the last detail. Once all her plans fall through, she is left wondering how she fits into the world and what the purpose of her life should be. Susanna shows resourcefulness and courage as she faces situations that might send others girls into depression or on a man hunt. I found her a great character to root for!

The quirky secondary characters: Susanna is surrounded by lots of folks who cherish her and want to see her succeed. Her loud, lovable family led by Glo and Gib, give her plenty of affirmation and advice.

One gem of a secondary character is Aurora, a beautiful homeless woman who once amassed a fortune lobbying DC politicians. Aurora says she used to be adept at drinking, drugging, and lying. In fact, she could “spin a lie to curl your hair.” But one day she realized “the trappings she possessed, possessed her.” When God’s still, quiet voice told her she was wasting her life, Aurora left all the worldly trappings behind to pitch a tent in the forest of St. Simon’s Island.

Aurora realizes gaining all the world has to offer won’t make up for losing her soul. For me, she symbolizes how we Christians probably look to the world when we make a point to go against the culture. And Aurora is the one who encourages Susanna to stop clinging to her manmade plans and take a risk by following God.

As Proverbs 21:10 reminds us, “We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails.”

The handsome prince: What a let down this story would be if the prince—Susanna’s catalyst for change—were not worthy of all the fuss. But no fear, Prince Nathaniel is how I’d imagine a young King David. He’s all that we would wish any king to be: upright, pure, prayerful, kind, down-to-earth, and, of course, handsome! His rich inner life gives him depth and helps us believe any young lady would be well-rewarded for changing her life for him. I really hope he shows up in future books in this series. (Hint, hint, Ms. Hauck!)

Nate lives out Psalm 21:1-2, “The king rejoices in your strength, Lord. How great is his joy in the victories you give! You have granted him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.”

The Spiritual Takeaway: The truth I took from this novel was that sometimes God empties our hands of all we wish to cling to and sets our plans at naught on purpose. He wants us to feel our unfulfilled needs in an unmistakable way. Only then does He miraculously meet those deep needs in our hearts.

It’s not a new concept really. God has been doing this since the beginning of time. In the garden of Eden, God set Adam to naming the animals so he would realize he’d never find a suitable companion on his own. Once God made certain that Adam felt a need nothing on earth could fill, He made a miracle—and enter Eve, the perfect helpmeet.

Just so, the characters in this novel discover that no matter their power, position, or personal charm, they cannot build abundant lives apart from God. And through their stories we see God’s wise ways and tender heart.

This is the kind of book that played through my head like Hallmark movie. If you enjoy sweet films like Roman Holiday or The Student Prince, you’ll love Susanna and Nate’s story!

Follow this link to purchase your copies of Once Upon a Prince. This is definitely a story I’ll be sharing with my students. Your teen will love it, too. ***Thanks to Litfuse, Rachel Hauck, and Zondervan for providing a copy for me to review.

rachel hauckAbout the Author: Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, bestselling author of critically acclaimed novels such as RITA nominated The Wedding Dress and RITA nominated Love Starts with Elle, part of the Lowcountry series, the Nashvegas series and the Songbird Novels penned with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in a chair to write full time in 2004.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship at their annual conference. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy and a conference speaker. You can connect with Rachel at her website, at her Facebook page, and on TwitterContinue Reading…

Feeling a little weary and worn today? Take in these heartening words from Joanna Weaver’s At the Feet of Jesus . . .

“One of the most precious ways God expresses His love for us is through His Word, the Bible. The Hebrew word for Bible is Mikra, which means ‘the calling out of God.’

Isn’t that wonderful? We don’t have to wonder what God thinks, what He feels about certain topics, because to a large extent He has already told us through Scripture. Better yet, we don’t have to wonder whether He loves us or not. According to my dictionary, the Old English word for gospel is godspell. God spells out His love for the whole world to see. It’s right there in His Word.

‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you,’ the Lord tells us in Isaiah 43:1,4. ‘I have summoned you by name . . . You are precious and honored in my sight . . . because I love you.” We are a chosen people. Made holy. Deeply and dearly loved by God. How do I know that? I hear God’s voice telling me, ‘calling out’ to me, every time I open His Word.

I love the way Kent Hughes describes the intimate impact of spending time with God. ‘Think of it this way,’ he writes. ‘Our lives are like photographic plates, and prayer is like a time exposure to God. As we expose ourselves to God for a half hour, an hour, perhaps two hours a day, His image is imprinted more and more upon us. More and more we absorb the image of His character, His love, His way of dealing with life and people.’

That’s what I want. That’s what I need. And that’s what I receive when I spend time in God’s Word and in prayer. I get more of Jesus and, in the process, a little less of me.”

A message from the heart of author Joanna Weaver . . .

“‘Change me, God!’ These words have been my daily prayer since I was a young Christian. My deepest fear has always been waking up twenty years from now still the same person I am today. With the same annoying habits and petty attitudes, the same besetting sins and false beliefs—all because I refused to change. I don’t know about you, but that terrifies me.

I want to be more like Jesus. I need to be more like Jesus!

Transformation. That is my heart’s cry—not only for me but for you as well.”

I first learned of Joanna’s heart for spiritual transformation through her book, Lazarus Awakening: Finding Your Place in the Heart of God. So I was eager to get my hands on her devotional—and with good cause.  At the Feet of Jesus has been a source of encouragement and inspiration. I love being able to soak in Joanna’s wisdom and comments on Scripture with each morning reading. And since Christmas is just around the corner, I can’t help but think that this would make a great gift for the friends on my shopping list!

If you’d like to pick up a copy, you can purchase her beautiful book at this link. (HINT: Did I mention it would make a great gift?) ***Thanks to Litfuse Publicity and WaterBrook for providing a copy for me to review. Continue Reading…

Do right. Fear nothing.

These simple words sum up the moral code that guides Sam Hopkins, the teenage hero of Andrew Klavan’s Crazy Dangerous.

Sam is a preacher’s kid from a loving family, whose mom, dad, and brother are all a little too busy to spend time with him. When he is tapped by the biggest troublemaker in school to become part of a bad-boy entourage, he feels cool for the first time in his life. Initially, his bad choices lead to a dilemma that only affects himself. Then he stumbles upon a plot so evil he must risk his life to save his town.

This novel is a thrill ride sure to please readers from young adult on up. From the moment I opened the book, I became lost in the adventure as Sam struggles to make sense of the crazy, dangerous tangle his life has become. And one of the things I love most about this story is how Sam learns to look past the trappings of social standing and popularity, recognize the bullies of the world for who they really are, and stand up to them.

But after reaching the end—which was even more exciting than the beginning—I briefly wondered if a boy Sam’s age would have been so quick-thinking, sacrificial, and courageous. I ran down the list of young men I’ve taught in my twenty-five years of working at a Christian high school. My conclusion? Yup! Many of the boys who once sat in my classroom definitely followed Sam’s moral code in their youth and were ready even then to stand for right. Now, they’ve moved on to raise families, serve their country in Iraq and Afghanistan, and become leaders in their communities.

So this book holds a special place in my heart because the humble hero reminds me of those guys. I wish there were more like them—and Sam—on the world stage today!

***Thanks to Litfuse for providing a copy for me to review. You can purchase Crazy Dangerous at this link.

About the author: Andrew Klavan was hailed by Stephen King as “the most original novelist of crime and suspense since Cornell Woolrich.” He is the recipient of two Edgar Awards and the author of such bestsellers as True Crime and Don’t Say a Word.

His books and screenplays have been turned into films directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Michael Douglas, Ed Burns, Michael Caine among others. Hometown: Santa Barbara, California Books Sold to Date: over 1.5 million. For more about Andrew and his books for young adults, visit him at the Adventure Page on Facebook.

Follow this link to see what everyone else is saying.

Celebrate with Andrew Klavan by entering his Crazy Dangerous giveaway and connecting with him during the Author Chat Party on 5/29!

One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A $100 Visa Cash Card
  • A copy of Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan for YOU and 5 of your Friends!

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on May 28th. Winner will be announced at the “Crazy Dangerous” Author Chat Facebook Party on 5/29. Andrew will be hosting an Author Chat, testing your survival trivia skills, giving away books and gift certificates to iTunes and Amazon.com! Don’t miss a second of the “danger”!

Grab your copy of Crazy Dangerous and connect with Andrew on the evening of 5/29/12 for an author chat and lots of giveaways.

Enter via E-mail Enter via Facebook Enter via Twitter

Don’t miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 24th!

(You didn’t miss the Spring Fling Giveaway Hop–it’s at this link!)

If you love sagas that feature multi-generations of plucky, conflicted heroines and provide sweeping portraits of bygone eras, Susan May Warren’s Daughters of Fortune series will give you that same feeling.  For me, these books brought to mind Showboat, Giant, Forsyte Saga, Zoya, A Woman of Substance, even Downton Abbey, and all those richly-costumed, lose-yourself-in-the-story dramas from the golden age of TV mini-series.

The story begins in Heiress and continues with the next generation in Baroness. Set in the Roaring 20s, Baroness focuses on Rosie and Lilly, a pair of high society cousins whose family fortunes provide lives of ease. But the two girls want more. They set out searching for what makes life meaningful and end up in all the wrong places. We follow the girls’ adventures and misadventures from Paris to New York City to Chicago and the wilds of Montana as they pursue exotic careers.

Lilly becomes a wing walker on an airplane, and Rosie chases the dream of being a star on the silver screen. They rub shoulders with adventurers, baseball stars, pilots, and mobsters. Meanwhile, their families wait in the wings and hope for them to come to their senses. But the girls, for the most part, make disastrous decisions—until finally God gets through to one of them and we enjoy a half happy/half cliffhanger ending. Now I can’t wait for book three!

****Baroness is an eventful page-turner that will satisfy your dramatic cravings for quite some time!  You can purchase Baroness at this link. Thanks to Litfuse for providing a copy for me to enjoy and review.

Celebrate with Susan by entering her Roaring 20s Giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • Signed copies of Baroness and Heiress by Susan May Warren

But hurry, the giveaway ends on 5/7/12. The winner will be announced on 5/9/12 on Susan’s blog, Scribbles!

Just click one of the icons below to enter! Tell your friends about Susan’s giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

About the author: Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: Discover, Create and Publish the Novel in You! She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. You can find her online at www.susanmaywarren.com.

UPDATE: A winner has been announced on the Gabby landing page. Congrats!

Gabby’s back … and she’s brought a Kindle Fire Giveaway with her!

Meet Gabby for yourself here. || Read what people are saying here.

Enter today – Sheila and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have put together a prize package worth over $200!

One lucky winner will receive:

  • A brand new KINDLE Fire with Wi-Fi
  • Gabby, God’s Little Angel
  • Gabby’s Stick-to-It-Day

But wait! There’s more …

The winner will be announced on the Gabby Landing page on 4/2/12. In the meantime, enter to win the Kindle Fire then head over to the Tommy Nelson site and download the Gabby coloring sheets, watch Sheila’s Gabby video, sign up for news about upcoming Gabby and Thomas Nelson products, and much more.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Chasing Mona Lisa

Renee Ann Smith —  January 28, 2012 — 1 Comment

As some of you readers may remember, I was privileged to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference last September. One of my favorite classes was taught by prolific author Tricia Goyer. Tricia hosts a weekly radio show, leads a MOPS group, raises kids, writes and more. In her class, she shared the research techniques she uses as the basis for her historical fiction novels. She uses those techniques to create an unforgettable story world in her latest book, Chasing Mona Lisa.

Chasing Mona Lisa is an action-packed historical thrill-ride with a romantic thread. I enjoyed how this story transported me to World War II, which is one of my favorite time periods (as seen in this post). From the opening scene, this novel sucked me in and kept me turning pages during my study halls at schools (who knows what my students were doing!) and late into the night. I couldn’t wait to discover what would happen in the lives of Swiss OSS agents Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler and the other couple that featured in their temporary alliance, resistance fighters Bernard and Collette.

I love being able to read a story of international intrigue, love, and revenge, which features layered characters, sophisticated plotting, and historical accuracy—all the while being confident that the authors would never take me into inappropriate scenes and conversations. (And that’s just one of the many reasons, we should be reading, purchasing, and recommending Christian fiction!)

I find it difficult to discuss a book like Chasing Mona Lisa without sharing spoilers. Continue Reading…