Top Ten Tuesday

I don’t often join in on the Top Ten Tuesday, though I think it’s an awesome feature since it’s my normal day to post a new review. But, today’s topic of top ten reads so far this year is one that’s been percolating in my brain anyway. So unlike my friend Carrie at Reading is my Super Power, I was excited! These are all books I’ve read this year, regardless of print date, and pulls from either print or audio books. Also to help narrow it down since I read a copious amount, these are all full-length novels (no novellas) and they are all ones I’ve either purchased or am on the street team for (as opposed to library or friend borrows).

  hearontheline   Behind The Scenes   LizzyJane  berry-on-top   stilllife   uncommoncourtshipcover   True to you   rescueme  chili slaw dogs   ever after

There you go! I hope you find some new reads. There are many more books I’m really looking forward to this year. Stay tuned!

Sprouts of Love with Author Valerie Comer

Romance Grows AVHappy Tuesday, ya’ll! Today we’re chatting with Valerie Comer. Valerie is known for her local fresh food focus and sweet romances. Her band new book, Sprouts of Love, is part of the A Garden Grown Romance series. It was kicked off with a fantastic collection of stories by six authors called Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley. There was a lot of collaboration by the authors to make a little fictional world in a corner of Idaho. I am amazes at how well all of the different series work so well together, even as each author continues dependently. Since cats are know for their curiosity, it only made sense to ask Valerie to join us here today!

Sprouts of Love:

Sprouts Of LoveCan love sprout amid a tsunami of vegetables?

Single mom Evelyn Felton takes on another part-time job managing a greenhouse and garden project for Grace Fellowship. Formerly homeless, she’s thrilled to offer truckloads of fresh produce to the Arcadia Valley food bank.

If only Ben Kujak weren’t running Corinna’s Cupboard singlehandedly, he’d be delighted to be on the receiving end. But Evelyn and her dynamo daughter, Maisie, won’t take no for an answer, even if it means restructuring Ben’s charity.

Soon Ben finds himself wishing they’d transform his personal life, too, but can true love sprout when their pasts collide with the present?

Interview

Valerie- Thanks for joining us here today! We like to ask all of our authors a couple fun questions to start off with:

  1. Open your text message app. What are the first 10 words that come up automatically?

Valerie: The girls in that evening are so cute I can’t…

Kat: You can tell you have grandgirls!

  1. Here’s at Kat’s Corner books, we’re fans of cats, but love all pets. Do you have a pet? If so, what and what’s their name?

Valerie: Three animals — a dog and two cats — currently share my husband and me. Brody is a black Lab cross (crossed with something unknown and large!) who’s nine years old and is not the smartest thing on four legs. Even hubby  says that, and he’s the dog person! Coonie and Moxie are tortoiseshell littermates who are seven and a half years old. They’re a good trio, between them. They get along well and keep us company.

And now on to the book!

  1. This series started off with a collaboration of a set of novellas. I imagine that an immense amount of coordination was required. I even saw one of the authors post that some of you have never met (at least until that trip). Can you tell us a little about the process?

Valerie: There’s a fair bit going on behind the scenes in our Facebook group and in our shared Dropbox folder, for sure. We started brainstorming early in 2016, creating our setting and divvying up the parts we each wanted to write about.

I’ve met two of the other authors in person, and the other three only online. The internet makes it so easy to work together and to become true friends with people we’ve never met!

  1. As each of the authors continue forward in the series, how much do you all still collaborate or check-in? While all the series happen in the same town, they’re very different and kind of exist in their own world. Do you all try to refer to each other’s stories?

Valerie: We check into our Facebook group often. Someone is posting at least once or twice a week, perhaps with a timeline question or a “would your character say this” question. We are all reading each other’s work, so as things go along, I think you’ll find increased mixing from when the first few authors were working more in a vacuum.

We agreed early on to keep our smaller series focused on our own characters and themes, and only bring in someone else’s characters for flavor. At the same time, the characters may attend the same church (we’ve created three) or dine at the same restaurants or go to the same park or events. I love how the town of Arcadia Valley is filling out a little with each new story!

  1. I know that you have a passion for “real” food and that is an important aspect for all your stories. I know I’ve learned a lot from them. For those who may not understand the concept, can you describe it in a few sentences and tell us why/how it’s so important to you?

Valerie: As a culture, we’re quite selfish. We tend not to think about the results of our choices that often – the workers who harvest sprayed vegetables, the child slave labor that goes into much of today’s cocoa production, the big corporations that care more for their bottom dollar than any person’s health and welfare. We willingly gobble up empty chemical calories with little regard for our own bodies or the moral implications!

Am I perfect? Not by a long shot. Sometimes tiredness and thrift play a role in the food choices I make, too. But I truly believe that we who are residents of first world countries need to learn to think beyond ourselves for the betterment of our own bodies, our communities, people around the world, and the environment.

Yeah, I’ve got an entire soapbox, but I’ll get off now. 😉

  1. I also believe in the importance of real food, but struggle to implement it living the middle of the city (though I do cherish my three small community garden plots). For some, it seems far out of reach. If there were one or two things that they could implement today, what would they be?

Valerie: I think the first thing is just being aware. Look at the labels on your food… not just on the boxes and packages but even on your fruits and vegetables. What country did they come from? Are there other alternatives from closer to home? What’s actually in season?

I recommend frequenting your local farmers market or a food co-op if you can. Talk to your farmers and growers. Learn what actually grows in your area. Fresh produce picked at the peak of ripeness may turn your picky kids into fans of vegetables.

  1. Sprouts of Love deals with an issue that many try not to think about: homelessness, and even more so homeless women and children. What was the inspiration behind this theme?

Valerie: I honestly don’t know the answer to that. It’s the second time homelessness has been central to one of my novels — the other was Berry on Top, released in February 2016. I’ve never been homeless or close to it, and I’ve never worked at a shelter or anything like that.

All I can say is God probably wanted to teach me empathy. I don’t plot my story details out prior to writing, so sometimes what happens on the page is just as much a surprise to me as it is to the readers!

  1. If there’s one lesson you’d like readers to walk away with after reading this story, what is it?

Valerie: We’re so quick to judge other people for the way they are and the choices they make. In the story, characters are judged because they’ve been homeless… or because they have a beautiful home. There are other judgments, too, against parents who do literally anything for their children, and others who abandon their kids.

So maybe the takeaway is not to judge, not even the big things that are so obviously wrong. Each person makes decisions based on their history and current circumstances. We need to give grace and come alongside people who are hurting, not heap condemnation on their heads.

You know, I hadn’t really thought about that before with this book. Good question.

What an insightful interview. Thank you so much! I really look forward to following all of the Arcadia Valley series.

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Author Bio

Valerie-Comer-150x150Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary Christian romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie grows much of her own food and is active in the local foods movement as well as her church. She only hopes her imaginary friends enjoy their happily-ever-afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner. She writes engaging characters, strong communities, and deep faith laced with humor into her green clean romances.

Connect with Valerie! 

http://valeriecomer.com

http://arcadiavalleyromance.com

http://inspyromance.com

http://twitter.com/valeriecomer

https://www.pinterest.com/valeriecomer/garden-grown-romances-set-in-arcadia-valley-idaho/

https://www.pinterest.com/valeriecomer/arcadia-valley-romance/

 

Becky Wade’s ‘True to You’ Prize Pack and $100 Giveaway

Do opposites really attract? John and Nora might just be the perfect match. Find out in True to You, book one in Becky Wade’s new series! Genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now. Former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

My Thoughts

I have long been a Becky Wade fan. That said, long time readers will notice that this is a very different style from our beloved Porter series. But, what is consistent is Becky’s trademark romance and solid story line. What is different in this story is how long the main characters fight their attraction. While sometimes this can be frustrating in a story,  Becky does a great job of progressing the romance and tension, as well as giving us a realistic perspective on two people falling in love but trying not to; they have real struggles, real problems, real feelings. I loved this aspect of the book as so often the feelings of attraction that we struggle with in real life relationships is glossed over in Christian romance. I wish I could visit Mayfair, but since it’s unfortunately make believe, I’ll have to settle with adding all of Washington to my travel list.

As a lover of history, frequent researcher, and adoption advocate, this story line contains many elements that I thoroughly enjoyed. I think many readers will be able to relate to John’s search for his birth parents or Nora’s introverted book loving, generous nature. There’s also a fun quiz that Bethany House has put together to see which Becky Wade heroine you are most like. I got Willow; I’ll take the supermodel!

I can’t wait to read Willow’s and Britt’s story.

I received a copy of True to You from Litfuse  for promotional purposes. All opinions expressed are purely my own.

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Celebrate the launch of Becky Wade’s new series by entering to win a fabulous prize pack and $100 cash card from Litfuse!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of True to You
  • A $100 Visa cash card
  • A prize pack hand-picked by Becky

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on May 30. The winner will be announced May 31 on the Litfuse blog.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park

In general, I’m not a huge drama fan. I read for escape and I prefer those escapes to be happy. But…Julie Klassen is an exception to my do-drama rule. I love how Julie approaches some hard topics in her books that are mostly avoided in Christian Fiction. While this book doesn’t approach a “taboo” subject, Julie doesn’t shy away from the grit of real life. Here’s a summary:

Pembrooke ParkAbigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her–a longtime friend–has fallen for her younger, prettier sister.
When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll’s house left mid-play . . .

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor’s past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.

Hoping to improve her family’s financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks…or very real danger?

Oh, my gosh! This book is gripping! I listened to the audio version on a long car trip and there were definitely times that I was gripping the steering wheel. This novel is written in the style of the great gothic novels, but the story leaves you with a satisfying ending, unlike many gothic novels which are endlessly depressing. There are twists and turns, ups and downs, joy and heartbreak. All of the characters have to learn about forgiveness and redemption of both themselves and others.

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Winner of Still Life Giveaway

It’s a fun post kind of day! I have been way too sick the past several days from a stomach bug someone was nice enough to share with me and am finally starting to feel normal. Yay! So, it’s a great time to announce the winner of the Still Life Giveaway that was posted last week. But first, the hubs discovered this hilarious cat book this weekend and couldn’t resist it. It’s called You Need More Sleep, by Francesco Marciuliano. Here are some of my favorite highlights:

If you’re a cat owner, you can definitely relate to these. If you laughed, I encourage you to get the book. There are many many more great ones.

And now…..the winner of the Still Life Giveaway is:

Loraine(momrain)!!!

Loraine, I’ve sent you an email. Please contact me either through email or Facebook to let me know your address!

Thank you to all who have entered and now follow my little blog.

Meow.

 

Berry on Top

The weather is glorious here today and super warm for being winter. Thank goodness Berry on Top by Valerie Comer has a real winter in it with cold temps and snow because I need something to remind me what winter is supposed to feel like. I miss snow. I know, I know, some of you wish you could miss snow.

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Liz Nemesek’s first visit home in forever is tough enough before Mason Waterman shows up. Despite her best efforts, she’s never forgotten — or forgiven — him for the hurt he once caused.

Former bad boy Mason Waterman has returned to northern Idaho to raise his five-year-old twins. The kids are determined to find a new mommy, but Liz is the last person they should latch onto… and the last person he should find himself falling for. Again.

If Mason has really changed, can Liz re-open her heart to him… and to the God who could have prevented her decade of heartache?

Review: Berry On Top is the 6th book in the Farm Fresh series. While it is a stand alone story and you can enjoy it without reading any of the others, I would encourage you to read them all as it deepens your enjoyment of the characters and their world. Valerie does a great job of giving you the backstory where you need it; enough to feel up to speed, but not overwhelming to the story line.

The mysterious missing Nemesek has finally come home! I’ve been wondering what has kept her away for so long and boy do we find out why. While I don’t get her choices, I understand why she made them. So many take a wrong turn in their life as a reaction to a situation and don’t know how to get back on track. This has been the hardest of Valerie’s books for me to get through and there were times that I was yelling at the main characters, but you know what, it was REAL. Life is messy. Faith is messy. Sometimes Christian fiction can ignore both or wrap it up with a once-you-know-Jesus-everything-is-better Bandaid, but humans are still imperfect and struggle to make the right choices and allow God’s grace to seep in. Mason and Liz’s story is meaningful example of how we struggle with faith, but God is faithful, even when we walk away.

Enjoy!

Amazon       Goodreads

To Have and To Hold

I had this blog post all composed in my head (on my extra long walk this morning after the bus broke down the final time) and then I remembered it’s Valentine’s Day, so happy day dedicated to romance! For any of you gents out there reading this, I have the perfect book for your reading lady. Read on.

It was an interesting morning. I could probably write a blog filled with stories of my trips to and from work on the bus, but I don’t think anyone would actually read it. Thankfully, this morning I had Becky Wade’s Love in the Details to keep me company so I didn’t find the whole bus thing nearly as perturbing as I otherwise would have. I finished up The Perfect Arrangement by Katie Ganshert last night which is also joined by Love Takes the Cake by Betsy St. Amant, all in the To Have and to Hold: Three Autumn Love Stories collection of novellas. Then to put the icing on the, um…doughnut, I got into work and there are doughnuts! God bless whoever brought them.

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Love Takes the Cake: A September Wedding Story by Betsy St. Amant

Charlotte Cantrell is always the baker; never the bride. When Will, a regular at Charlotte’s bakery, catches her attention, she can only hope that he is the reliable man this single mother has always hoped to find. The problem is that he’s regularly stopping in to buy cookies for another girl. But when Charlotte is hired to bake a host of wedding goodies for a difficult bride and finds out Will is the best man, she has the perfect opportunity to get to know him better—and find out how serious Will is about this other girl in his life.

The Perfect Arrangement: An October Wedding Story by Katie Ganshert

Amelia Woods is a small-town wallflower and the proud owner of Forget-Me-Nots, a quaint flower shop. Her love life has always been a bit lackluster—until she ends up in an embarrassing fender-bender with handsome Nate Gallagher. Meanwhile, Amelia’s younger brother, William, has proposed to his girlfriend. Amelia would be excited except she has evidence that the fiancée is not who she says she is. It seems Nate is the only one available for any advice-giving, and he’s good at it—and pretty fun to talk to, too. As Amelia works to craft the perfect flower arrangements for other people, she begins to wonder if real love is better than the dream. And if it is, will Nate still be interested when he learns who she is?

Love in the Details: A November Wedding Story by Becky Wade

When Josh returns to his hometown of Martinsburg, Texas, to help his best friend get married, he didn’t intend to run into church wedding coordinator—and ex-girlfriend—Holly. He can’t help but pine after the girl he never got over. Holly broke up with Josh years ago in an attempt to ensure his future success. But she loved him then and still loves him now. As she helps him plan his best friend’s wedding, she longs to be with Josh but doesn’t feel worthy of his big-time lifestyle when she is more comfortable in her small-town world. Will Josh and Holly be able to keep things as they are when their true feelings threaten to surface at every turn?

Review:

Love Takes the Cake: This was a sweet story with the perfect novella recipe of character development, tension, and romance. I felt that the author did a great job of working within the confines of limited space while still creating a story that was complete and wrapped up nicely. And Zoe is a spitfire. Maybe one day we’ll get a story about grown up Zoe.

The Perfect Arrangement: I love flowers so the flower shop setting was spot on for me. I’m not usually a first person narrative fan, but Katie does well with breaking it up by using emails between the main characters and two others which help with their perspectives. I thought it was an interesting twist and combination of some classic storylines (some are even mentioned in the story itself). The only drawback was that it felt like it ended quickly with a neat little bow. I would have liked to see more from these characters and it would’ve made a good full-length novel concept.

Love in the Details: I’m not sure how I hadn’t read this before as I’ve read everything else by Becky Wade. I confess I’m only a few chapters in (in part thanks to this morning’s “ride,” a.k.a. the wait and walk) but I am hooked. Unfortunately, I have to do the job that earns a paycheck and not spend the rest of the morning finishing the story. BUT I WANT TO! (Some days adulting is HARD.)

So, pick up this collection and read it to celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Amazon     Goodreads