Monday, December 28, 2009

Redeeming Gabriel by Elizabeth White

Redeeming Gabriel (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical #20) Redeeming Gabriel by Elizabeth White

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It seems that there are few Civil War era books out there, but this one fits the bill. Twists and turns, all the issues that were part of the day had me turning pages, including the historical facts. This was the war that tore families apart--and this book doesn't back off this tender topic. I've always loved Civil War history and novels, too, so I was glad that the Love Inspired Historical line came out with one.

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Military Daddy by Patricia Davids

Military Daddy (Mounted Color Guard Series #2) (Love Inspired #442) Military Daddy by Patricia Davids

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really liked this story. One thing that stood out to me was the fact that it deals with really touchy topics. Annie Delmar is a recovering alcoholic. Corporal Shane Ross never really had a family. When a poor choice and one night stand leads to a pregnancy, both have a lot of issues to face.

If you think edgy topics aren't addressed in the "sweet" romances of the Love Inspired line, then you are wrong. Start with this one.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Janet Tronstad and Her Dry Creek Series with Steeple Hill Love Inspired

At Home In Dry Creek (Love Inspired) At Home In Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love a good romance, something to escape for just short time. While I really like the Dry Creek series by Janet Tronstad, this may be my favorite one so far. I rarely shed tears in reading Love Inspired stories, but this touched me so much.

All Barbara wants is a home for her and her two children, something that hasn't happened while she was married to her abusive ex-husband who is now in jail for bank robbery.

I love this story and if you love Christian romance, you'll want to pick this one up. Dry Creek is one of my favorite series from Steeple Hill.

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Monday, December 21, 2009 Finding Christian Fiction the Easy Way

 ACFW Launches a New Free Online Resource to Search for Titles

PALM BAY, Fla. — With over 500,000 books published each year, it is harder than ever to find a new book that’s just right. A simple Amazon search in the Christian literature and fiction category yields more than 17,000 results. Consumers wading through the exhaustive, seemingly endless list of choices now have a more manageable resource to help them purchase their next book.

American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), the nation’s leading Christian fiction writers’ organization, is launching, a new free resource for retailers, readers, media and other Christian fiction fans to search for authors and books. The search engine allows users to sort by author, title, genre, topic, publication date, and target audience.

Cynthia Ruchti, president of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), believes this trusted, easy-to-use resource is a significant development in the search for Christian fiction authors and new titles.

”The idea rose from a roundtable discussion between the ACFW leadership team and Christian booksellers looking for a better way to connect their customers with great Christian fiction,” says Ruchti. “ACFW responded by rolling up our sleeves and creating a comprehensive database to serve readers, booksellers, publishers, authors, book club coordinators, librarians and others on the hunt for information and inspiration.”

The site also allows readers to learn about the nature of the content of each book. Each title is rated for action, conflict, humor, mystery, romance, spirituality and suspense, in addition to more sensitive issues like language, sensuality and violence. Users can also post reviews to the site and learn more about soon-to-be-released titles.

The database is the first of its kind and is not limited to books written by ACFW members. The organization is also working with publishers to ensure Christian novels by other authors are incorporated as well.

ACFW’s presence as the voice of Christian fiction and its industry prowess has long been recognized, and its authors are a mainstay on bestseller lists. is the organization’s latest effort to make finding the best in Christian fiction as easy as possible for fans around the world.

Quick facts about
* Book information pages include facts about the publisher, main themes, setting and the author’s other titles.
* A special “similar books” section offers other titles the user may be interested in reading.
* Users can create an account with their preferences, making it easier to find new favorites.

With nearly 2,000 members and 19 chapters in 14 states nationwide, ACFW seeks to promote Christian Fiction through developing the skills of its authors, educating them in the market, and serving as an advocate in the industry. Founded in 2000 under the banner of American Christian Romance writers, in 2004 the organization was renamed American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) to reflect its dedication to Christian fiction writers of all genres.

ACFW is headquartered in Palm Bay, Florida. Their advisory and operating boards work to give writers the tools they need to develop their craft, grow ACFW’s extensive publishing knowledge and secure relationships with industry professionals. To learn more about ACFW and their authors, please visit .

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Squeezing Good Out of Bad by James N. Watkins: Win a Lemon Prize!

Lately I've felt that my world has grown quite a few lemons. Even though I live in Indiana, those lemon trees can grow here, too. What do you do when life hands you lemons? Well, we all know you're supposed to make lemonade, but just what is that recipe? (Read on but don't forget to leave a comment to win a basket of lemony goodness! )

Jim Watkins, an author, husband, father, grandfather, humorist, cancer survivor and over-all glass-half-full guy, not only will help you to be encouraged by the goodness of God in your bad circumstances, he will provide a few laughs along the way. Jim has had his share of life's lemons, came up with a few recipes of his own and shares them with us in his new book.

Squeezing Good Out of Bad by James N. Watkins

Sour circumstances left you feeling down? Unemployment, foreclosures, divorce, bankruptcy and cancer don't even begin to peel the skin off all the bad news in our world today. At a time in history when the evening news contains more bad than good, people wonder if sweeter days will ever come. In steps James (Jim) Watkins with a fresh perspective on life, love and the pursuit of happiness serves readers a refreshing cup of encouragement and hope.

Written from his own experiences with cancer, unemployment and other life-puckering crises, Jim prompts readers to look at the cup of suffering with eyes focused on the true thirst quencher--Jesus Christ. Readers will be pleasantly surprised at the balance of readability and deep wisdom offered within the pages of Squeezing Good Out Of Bad. With scripture references, humor-filled lists, and a creative manuscript, Watkins brings the bitterness of hard times and blends it with the sweetness of God's presence. He's been there. His transparency is as refreshing as, you guessed it, a tall, cool glass of lemonade.

Jim agreed to answer some questions about his own life:

1. Jim, you've been in the literary world for a while, give us a quick recap of how you got started to where you are today.

By second grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I felt the suspension of disbelief was stretched too thin when the real-live puppet Pinocchio became a real live boy. So I rewrote the ending having the wooden puppet die a painful, prolonged death of Dutch elm disease. (At that point, I'm sure my parents and teachers weren't sure if I'd become a writer or a life-long patient at a psychiatric hospital.) I later went on to become the editor of my high school paper, worked at a Christian publishing house as an editor during college, and then dabbled in writing while holding down a real job. Since 1988 I've been writing and speaking full-time.

2. In Squeezing Good Out Of Bad you give many insightful tips on how to turn around sour circumstances. Share a practical way we can be encouraged during tough times.

My "top ten list" of chapter titles 10-4 provide practical steps for dealing with lemons, but the real secrets are found in chapters 3-1. (Yes, like a true top ten list, the chapters are numbered backward.) Romans 8:28 promises that that God is working all things out for our good to accomplish His purpose in our lives. But we have to read on to verse 29 to find that purpose: "to be conformed to the image of His Son."

3. No life is perfect. Can you give us an example of how you got through a challenging situation and were able to use these principles to see the good in it?

I think it's so important that we take our faith seriously, but I certainly don't want to take my situation or myself too seriously. So I create a mental "top ten" list of what good can come about in this situation. For instance, last year I had radiation for cancer and it totally depleted me physically and mentally. My family dubbed it "radiation retardation." Because of that, I was fired from a wonderful part-time job because I just couldn't do it. So, "Top Ten Great Things about Losing My Job": 10. I'll be paying less taxes next year. 9. I've got twenty hours a week of free time. 8. . . .

Our family is going through something right now that is far worse than cancer, and I can't see a single good thing that can come out of it. So, at those times, you just keep hanging on--with white knuckles--to the fact that God loves you and the Romans 8:28 is still in effect.

4. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Spare time? What's that? I'm a firm believer in "redeeming the time" so I try to keep busy doing things that matter for the Kingdom. But after my little brain is worn out--usually around 7 pm--nothing beats a session of "Freecell."

5. What's the last book you read and why?

Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, the only real reading for pleasure is on airline flights. The King book is research for a book I'm proposing as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

6. What do you hope readers will gain by reading your book?

I wrote the first draft nine years ago, and even though I have a great agent, we just couldn't find a publisher. That was before cancer, family crisis, unemployment. . . . So it's a much more comforting, honest book. And it forced me to not be so flippant and casual about the serious issues people are dealing with. Henri Nouwen talks about "wounded healers." I think, because of the lemons that have piled up in my life, I can more compassionately offer comfort to those buried under a pile of lemons.

(Crystal here:) I've prayed for Jim and his family for years. Thanks, Jim, being open and honest about your pain and giving us your thoughts on how to handle such issues. Many of us feel alone when the lemons pile up. It's good to know that "wounded" people can become "healers" and find comfort, too.

Here's a little more info on Jim:
James N. Watkins is the author of sixteen books and over two thousand articles. He is the acquisition editor for Wesleyan Publishing House, an editorial advisor for ACW Press, instructor at Taylor University and a sought-after conference speaker. He’s won Campus Life’s Book of the Year award and various other awards for writing and editing. He’s married to Lois. They have two children and four grandchildren. His family is the lemonade in his life.

Now here's the part about you winning. Read on and comment!
Blog Tour Giveaway:

The blog host with the most comments will have the opportunity to send in one commentator's name for the grand prize giveaway. Here's what they'll win:

First prize: Jim will stop by your house with fresh-baked lemon cake and hot lemon tea. (Disclaimer: Offer available only to residents of Corn Borer, Indiana. Alternate prize includes a copy of Squeezing Good Out Of Bad, mixes for lemon tea, lemon cake, lemonade and assorted lemon candies. Not available where taxed or licensed. Winner responsible for safe and proper use of products.)

If Jim's disclaimer isn't enough humor for you, read on:

When life gives you lemons . . .

10. Don't confuse them with hand grenades (Identify the problem)

9. Check the delivery slip (Determine if it's your problem)

8. Sell them on eBay (Profit from the problem)

7. Paint smiley faces on them (Laugh at the problem)

6. Join a citrus support group (Share your problem)

5. Use as an all-natural, organic astringent (Grow from the problem)

4. Don't shoot the delivery driver (Forgive the problem-maker)

3. Graft to a lime tree for a refreshing, low-calorie soft drink (Take the problem to a higher level)

2. Grow your own orchard (Live a fruitful life despite—or because of—the problem)

1. Give off a refreshing fragrance (Live a lemon-fresh life)

Friday, December 11, 2009

They Say It's Your Birthday!

Yup, yup, I turned another year older. I love birthdays! Since I've gotten to be so old and so wise, I have lots of things to say and advice for people. What's great is I give it out, and I don't even care if you take it or not! The joy for me is just saying it. And yeah, I'm still young enough to know everything.

So here's my 2009 Gifts of Crystal's Truisms:

Obey Gravity—It’s the law.
Wipe the blood off...and continue!  Charley Wright, MGHS golf coach and history teacher
If you’re happy and you know it—Go away! (Just kidding.)
Here's your things  to do today:
1. Get up
2. Breathe in and breathe out
3. Survive
4. Breathe in and breathe out
5. Go back to bed.
6. Keep breathing. Don't even think about it.
Take my advice—I’m not using it. 
I’ve seen Elvis. He was sitting next to Big Foot on the UFO. (Love Elvis. So sue me.)
I childproofed my house. They still get in.
So many books, so little time.
It’s all good! (I use that one all the time.)
Have a nice day! (Just leave me out of it.)
Always being right is an awesome responsibility. I take my responsibility seriously. 
Your opinion, though interesting, is irrelevant to me.
I’m not anti-social. I’m just not real friendly.
Organized people are just too lazy to look for things.
It IS as bad as I think and THEY are out to get you. (And my Aunt Adeline used to think that the Russians controlled the weather.)
Everything I say is fully substantiated by my own opinion.
Yes, it IS always about me.
I am not obsessive I am not obsessive I am not obsessive I am not obsessive
You’re never too old to do goofy stuff. –Ward Cleaver
Celebrate with ketchup and potato chips! (I do.)
If I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it. Now where did I put my pen?

God is good, all the time, whether you appreciate it or not. And loves you more than anyone can ever love you. I won't always be perfect in that, like Him.

Do you have something you say all the time that makes you smile? Or quotes that show your personality? Go ahead and share!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Copper and Candles by Amber Miller Stockton

Copper and Candles (Michigan Historical Series, Book #1, HP #843) Copper and Candles by Amber Miller Stockton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Felicity Chambers, daughter of wealthy Detroit elites, leads a double life in 1875. While doing charity work she takes on the job in a candle factory for the woman in her charge. Not wanting to appear out of place, she dresses and acts the part, but to her surprise she finds she loves the freedom and the work.

Felicity meets a young man, Brandt, while walking to work who works in the copper factory next door. The two agree to walk together and soon become good friends. Trouble comes as the two worlds collide.

The setting was unique--Detroit during the factory boom in 1875. Stockton captures that world and its challenges well. As this is the first of a three-book series, I will be reading the next two historical romances set in this city and time.

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