This blog post has been pre-empted by…

THE FLU!!!!

Ugh. Miserable, horrid, no good truly bad bug that has kept me up nights for days…well, not technically days because it’s night and I’m normally awake days and sleeping nights except when I have this flu and I can’t sleep because the crackling in my chest keeps waking me up! Gah!

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So I’m a night owl but not as wise as an owl because clearly I’m not making any sense.

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I’ve done a lot of reading though. Discovered this awesome author and a new Nancy Drew meets Veronica Mars in 1924 type of story which I absolutely love!!! Hope this is the first of many.

So, anyway, no blog post today (other than these ramblings).

Happy reading!

 

Falling in love with Love Inspired

While we are talking about what is up and coming in our reading world I want to give a shout out to the Love Inspired lines — Love Inspired (Contemporary romance), Love Inspired Historical and…my all time favourite…Love Inspired Suspense. I read a selection of these lines every month. This image is of my most recent purchases — order came in yesterday.

 

proYou’ll notice two suspense novels by Jessica Patch in the mix. That’s because I just ‘discovered’ her a few weeks ago and loved her writing style so much that I had to check out her backlist as well as her most recent release. Jessica delivers a Dee Henderson style of romantic suspense in her shorter word count stories. I don’t know how she does it…her writing is…so smooth. Which seems like an inadequate descriptor. I guess what I mean is her writing flows so fluidly that the story unfolds at an unhurried pace even though it’s full of gripping suspense scenes. And I love the way the romance gets as much ‘air time’ as the intrigue.

 

And look here — our friend Shannon Vannatter has another new release. It’swinn getting hard to keep up with her Cowboy stories but I sure enjoy trying. This author knows how pummel my emotions while making me laugh and groan and fume and swoon. All with a captivating cowboy hero to ride roughshod over my heart. What’s not to love?

 

You’ll find a lot of familiar authors in the Love Inspired lines too. Authors who publish with other Christian publishers as well. Like Lisa Carter, Irene Hannon, Lisa Harris, Ruth Logan Herne…even Dee Henderson wrote for the line.

So, how about you? Do you read any of the Love Inspired series? Have any favourite authors you just can’t miss?

When Canada hands you record snows…

What’s a Canuk to do but make the best of a snowy situation? We’ve had record snowfalls this year. Seriously it snowed and snowed and snowed and…Well, there’ a lot of snow lying around up here. We can either ignore it or use it for the greater good.  Me? I’ve pretty much got the ignore thing down pat as long as I have a good book in hand. But the more hardy souls are getting out there and having fun in the snow.

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Like making a snowman. This is Chubby from Halifax. I wonder how long it took to make him?

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Lot’s of Canadians enjoy skating on the longest skating rink in the world in the nation’s capitol.

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And why wait for summer when you can hold ice dragon boat races in winter?

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And then there’s always snow sculptures. We go for them in a big way in winter festivals all over the country.

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When the snow threatens to take over your yard, why not build a really big fort? That’s what an Ottawa dad did, though the city made me tear it down because they felt it was a safety risk for children in the neighbourhood.

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No worries about making a maze for your dog though. With all the snow they’ve been getting in New Brunswick this owner dug out a maze in his backyard so his pooch could still get his daily exercise.

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Ice sculptures are pretty popular too. Naturally, hockey is frequently portrayed. Canadians are hockey crazy. Kids play it on the street and in neighbourhood rinks. When I was a kid I used to lament the lack of figuring skating time.

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But the best part of a Canadian winter are Beavertails! They sell them year round but it’s become a tradition to have them sold at winter festivals. Fried dough topped with your choice of decadent extras. My favourite is cinnamon and sugar like this one here. Served piping heart — the perfect way to keep your fingers warm…as long as it lasts!

How about you — any popular winter activities happening in your neck of the woods?

 

 

 

Capturing Beauty from Cover to Cover

A special shout-out to ‘retired’ inkster Brenda Anderson who is releasing a new contemporary romance this week. Aptly titled Capturing Beauty because, really, isn’t that cover a beauty? This eye-catching cover screams “read me now!” Which is exactly what an author wants a book cover to do.

I hesitate to admit this in public but…I’m kind of a cover snob. Yes, I know all about that old adage that says “Never judge a book by its cover,” but seriously, don’t we all? I’ve been known to place a book back on the shelf if the cover doesn’t appeal. Yes, that’s another wretched true confession and now you know how shallow I am. So I thought it would be fun to share some of my favourite book covers.

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Aren’t these two historical covers striking? Guaranteed to stand out on a crowded shelf. There’s a contrast in colour and tone between both books and yet each one stands out.

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I’m not always a fan of the hero being front and center. My active imagination is more than capable of filling in the blanks and I hate it when my mind clashes with the publisher’s artwork. But these two books are the perfect example of the magic that happens when, in my humble opinion, the publisher gets it right. Both covers convey much more than the hero’s image. Each picture captures the essence of the man as well. The gentle side of a tough cowboy. The steely resolve of a law enforcement officer. One look at either of these book covers and I’m smitten. There’s no way I’m not buying these!

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I love these two covers for their winsome, other worldly qualities. Soft lines and alluring contours put me under a spell that won’t be broken until I reach the end.

Sigh. I love books so much that someday I’m going to make an art gallery of beautiful book covers. And it will have plenty of comfy seating so that an eager reader can curl up with a good book while enjoying all that literary artwork on the walls!

So how about you? Are you a book cover snob like me?

To Dream the Impossible Dream

My One Word for 2017 is AISLING. That’s Irish for dream or vision. Pronounced Ash-ling, by the way. It came to me during a really rough patch and I dismissed it as lame because, well, really, how can embracing dreaming be a life-changing One Word? More like a fluffly cop-out. At least, that’s what I thought at first. Until I realized I’d stopped dreaming. And not just new dreams, but I’d given up on the old ones too. And that left me mired in a gnarly reality with no where to go. Sounds depressing, right?

Well it was. Because somehow, I’d allowed my chronic pain condition to take over my whole life. I was micro-focusing on the present — not looking beyond the next hour. I was in survival mode, content to claw my way through the day until I could go to bed and get a few hours of sweet relief while I slept. So, basically, I was living to sleep. Period.  And that scared me.

So when I started praying about my One Word and ‘dream’ kept coming to mind even though I kept dismissing it, I realized that God was telling me something. I needed to take my dreams back. Sure, with my new limitations those dreams need to be modified in order to be realistic, but that doesn’t mean they are impossible. Just different. And that’s okay, because for the first time in quite a while I’m looking up instead of down and enjoying the scenery along the way!

New Year, New Releases

I had some fun on my review blog last week. Instead of reviewing books from my non-existent TBR pile, I asked readers to recommend the new releases from January, February and March 2017 that they were most looking forward to reading. This is a sneaky way for me to get other people to do my research and leaves me with a lovely reading wishlist. And no matter what genre I was highlighting (a different one for each day) it was clear that some books were more popular than others. So, I thought it would be fun to share the top three requested books from my unofficial survey of Amish, Suspense, Historical and Contemporary Christian Fiction. So here we go:

AMISH 

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The Newcomer by Suzanne Woods Fisher

releases January 31 2017

 “A fresh start in the New World will test Anna’s resolve…and her heart.” A mix of  Historical and Amish genres — second book in the series and it promises to be as riveting as the first book.

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Her Secret by Shelley Shepard Gray

releases March 14 2017

Not just another Amish story — this one has a thread of suspense that includes a stalker!

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Buried Secrets by Rachel J. Good

releases March 7 2017

“Overcome the past and any other obstacles that stand in the way of the future God has planned for you.” Book two in the Sisters and Friends series promises to be filled with angst and tummy plummeting scenes. I can’t wait.

HISTORICAL 

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To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden

releases on February 28 2017

Army nurse and a dashing naval Lieutenant who broke her heart…and lots of intrigue.

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An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

releases January 3 2017

“Engaging Regency Romance to sweep you away.” USA Today Happy Ever After Blog

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The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

releases March 7 2017

“Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them…or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.”

CONTEMPORARY 

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Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

releases January 31 2017

Book 2 of the Montana Rescue series. Action and romance = lots of reading excitement.

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Still Life by Dani Pettrey

releases January 31 2017

Book 2 in the Chesapeake Valor series. And yes, this is also romantic suspense and was the top pick of the week in the contemporary, suspense and general Christian categories.

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Paws for Love by Dana Mentink

releases February 1 2017

“The only thing sweet about Jellybean is his name. Jellybean the terrier is about to unleash some serious mayhem on the unsuspecting town of  Albatross” Love that a dog story is a popular choice in this category.

SUSPENSE 

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Still Life by Dani Pettrey

releases January 31 2017

See? Told you it was popular.

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Because You’re Mine by Colleen Coble

releases January 10 2017

“Alanna has been plagued by tragedy. So it should come as no surprise that in the beauty that surrounds Charleston, all is not as it seems…

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Moving Target by Lynette Eason

releases January 31 2017

“Fast, furious, and flirty, Lynette Eason’s relentless suspense barely gives her readers time to catch their breath in this third thrilling installment of the Elite Guardians series.”

I’m looking forward to reading all these novels…and a whole lot more this year. What books are you anticipating with copious amounts of readerly glee?

 

And then there was none…

…as in books. Not a one gracing my cute antiquey wicker footstool which is actually my TBR shelf. It’s usually brimming with books, all carefully arranged in reading order. It’s situated at the end of my bed and is guaranteed to send a thrilling tingle up my spine first thing in the morning when I set eyes on it. Oh the sweet promises all those stories hold. The lure of adventure and romance. Countries to visit. Mysteries to solve. Heroes to fall for.

Yes, I might derive a bit too much comfort from my TBR pile as I learned all too well last week when…gasp…my gaze lit upon an empty footstool. All the books were gone. Read. Nestled in their permanent home on a Keeper Shelf. And that left me…GASP…bookless!

Well, not really bookless since I have hundreds of book-friends crowding my little home. But no new friends. Not a one. It was…traumatic. And frustrating since I should have seen it coming. I should have prepared more. Calculating the approximate number of reading hours on that pile and then divided it into days so I’d have plenty of time to stock up before I reached that last book.

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But I didn’t. Despite this clever tracking system. Isn’t it pretty? It’s my Must Read list for 2015 – 2016. Those tabs each represent a month and then I write down the new releases I absolutely must read. Nothing like keeping your reader love totally organized, right?

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Here’s a glimpse inside. See the way I check off the book once I receive it? And I make a notation about where I got it — review group, library or bookstore. Is that a little too organized for y’all?

Despite my efforts I never seem to manage to read every book on my list by the end of the year. I come close though. Now’s the time I make a new, abbreviated list. “The Ones That Got Away.” and then I lay hints on friends and family and I make a desperate last minute order from an online store, or head out to the local bookstore…okay, I usually do both…in a last ditch effort to read everything on my list.

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This one looks so intriguing — and who can resist the lure of historical and suspense?

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Two words: Irene Hannon — need I say more?

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I’ve wanted to read one of Pepper’s books for ages but they are hard to come by in Canada. And super expensive to buy even from Book Depository (the Canadian dollar being what it is and all.)

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I can’t resist a good Amish story…and this is a new-to-me author.

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This is the Christmas story that got away and it looks too sweet to resist.

So, how about you? Is your TBR pile hail and hearty? Are you as compulsive about tracking your reading life as I am? And what are the books that got away from you this year?

 

 

 

 

 

It’s all in the details…

Are you a stickler for detail? Does incorrect information pull you out of a story? I know some readers who are real nit-pickers but I usually don’t allow myself to get bogged down by minor details when I’m devouring a novel. Recently though I’ve noticed a few glitches that really threw me off my reading game. They got stuck in my brain and replayed over the course of the story. Drove me crazy!

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I recently caught the airing of a new holiday movie — The Nine Lives of Christmas. It was right up my alley.  Fire fighter hero (need I say more?) Frisky ginger cat with a mind of his own. I do so love a good animal story! What’s not to love? Well there was one scene…

It’s Christmas time (obviously) and, baby, it’s cold outside. The hero and heroine head out on an impromptu date. She’s in a slinky black mini dress and high heels. He’s in shirt sleeves.  They decide to get dinner at a food truck and eat outside at a picnic table. In December. In the cold. Everyone around them is bundled up — coats, mitts, hats and scarves. It’s obviously freezing outside but these two are flirting and bantering practically in their skivvies! The incongruity of it all bugged me for the rest of the movie. Talk about distracting! Why didn’t anyone catch this rather obvious detail? Writers, actors, director? Somebody must have noticed how odd it was.

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I recently read my first Baxter Family book (Karen Kingsbury.) A Baxter Family Christmas is #24 in a long line of books in the series. Phew! There’s no way I could catch up but the author did a great job of creating a memorable story that had just as much meaning for the new-to-the-Baxters readers as life long fans. Loved the story — the way faith and family are shouted from the rooftop! The sweet, goosebumpy Christmas message. So off I went to post my review only to discover some 1 and 2 star reviews. Seriously? Who could rate such a heartwarming story so low? Die-hard fans, that’s who. Readers who knew the Baxter family, including the ages of the parents, kids and grandkids and apparently, those ages didn’t add up in this Christmas story and they weren’t happy. On the one hand — how awesome is it to have people so emotionally invested in your characters? On the other hand — how scary is it to have people so emotionally invested in your characters? A writer would definitely have to be detail-oriented to keep on top of things.

Isn’t it funny how the little details have the power to stall a reader’s karma? Like when a cover doesn’t match the story. Now that can send me into a tailspin. I just finished reading a romantic suspense where the heroine was described as having close-cropped hair that framed her face but on the cover image she’s sporting a long swishy ponytail.  Seriously?

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And take a look at this cover for Shelley Shepard Gray’s A Sister’s Wish. If you are an Amish fiction fan you will notice a major faux pas in this image. The hero is sporting a very un-Amish haircut. And if that isn’t enough, this bachelor has a beard and a mustache! (insert indignant gasp here.) Amish men don’t grow a beard until they are married and no Amish male has a mustache. Period.

So how did the art team get this so terribly wrong? I have no idea — other than maybe they surmised by the back blurb that Simon, who had lived among the Englisch for some years, had just recently returned to Charm. However, he’s been back for quite a while, living Amish but never married. So the whole hair/beard thing is  wrong on so many levels. There is a very minor character — a teen named Justin described as having “hair practically shaved off”- and I wonder if someone caught that description early on in the book and just assumed it was the hero? I can’t tell you how distracting that cover was for me as I read the book. And obviously it still does since I’m mentioning it here.

So — if you are a writer — how do you keep track of details? Is it a struggle or are you just naturally detail-oriented? And if you’re a reader — do mixed-up details bother you or do you just go with the flow?

 

 

 

Really…this isn’t a book review but…

This isn’t about a book….but it starts with one. Are you surprised that I seem to find books at the source of every aspect of my life? No? I didn’t think so.

And this isn’t really a review – that will come on my review blog next week – but I wanted to share a bit of what impacted me as I read Made Well : Finding Wholeness in the Everyday Sacred Moments by Jenny Simmons.

So, basically this is a book about looking for God’s healing beyond the big and bold miracle moments we all hope for. It’s about the quiet, unobtrusive things that gently carry us through the pain, supporting us in the midst of darkness. As Jenny Simmons says: “…God is often quietly at work behind the scenes answering in ways we would never expect or pray for.” (p 32) I’ve had so many of those quiet moments during my 6+ years dealing with chronic neuropathic pain.

Like the church plant that started up in my backyard this year. I live in a downtown neighbourhood where churches are closing down not opening up. Because of my disability I wasn’t able to take the long bus rides out to the suburbs to attend church and I ached for a church family. And there was God working quietly behind the scenes preparing the way and a church plant opened this year within walking distance of my house!

Of course, just because God plopped a church into my ‘hood, doesn’t mean I wasn’t filled with angst over attending it. I didn’t know a single soul and I was really self-conscious about the ‘new’ and definitely not improved me I’d be presenting to complete strangers. I felt broken and I looked broken – shuffling in to church that first day – legs and feet wrapped in compression bandages, wearing old hospital slippers because my feet were too swollen to fit into any kind of regular shoe. Not to mention the walker I had a white-knuckle grip on. Oh, I hated making that kind of first impression because, honestly, that broken outer shell didn’t match the ‘me’ inside.

But there went God again, working quietly behind the scenes, prompting two women to befriend me that very first day. Ladies who readily looked past my physical barriers and actually connected with the ‘inside me.’

It’s eight months later and I’m settling in. Made some friends, joined a small group in my neighbourhood. Gathered my courage and shared my story and my struggles.  And I have been so encouraged by the acceptance I’ve received. From prayers to service to reserving accessibility seating for me every Sunday – I’m being blessed abundantly in ways I never dreamed of. Yes, I’m still in pain and I struggle with the enormity of that and how massively it has changed my life but God keeps showing up in awesome ways, meeting me where I need Him most through the actions of others.

Operation Christmas Child

I’m pretty sure that Operation Christmas Child doesn’t require an introduction but I thought the first day of November was a fitting day to highlight this Samaritan Purse endeavor since the packed boxes are due to be collected the week of November 14-20.

In case you haven’t heard of the program, it’s an opportunity to share a bit of Christmas cheer and the gospel with needy children throughout the world. Participants fill a regular size shoe box with hygiene items, school supplies and toys and the boxes are collected locally and then distributed to children (regardless of race, religion or gender) throughout the world. Canadian boxes are heading to Haiti, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Venezula, Chile, Urugay, Guinea, Senegal, Ukraine and Sierre Leone. Which is why the boxes need to be collected my mid November. You can read more about this international program here:

Information on Operation Christmas Child

I’m attending a new church plant this year and I just realized that we haven’t organized an Operation Christmas Child project. Think I’ll volunteer to oversee that next year. Anyway, I was disappointed because I thought I’d missed out on this Christmas tradition but I just discovered that it’s possible to fill a Christmas box online! Perfect for me especially since I have a hard time getting around these days and shopping can be grueling. So this is a win/win for me…and maybe you. Check it out here.

Operation Christmas Child — fill a box online