Archive for May, 2010


May Blog Tour: “It Had to Be You”

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

And the final stop on our blog tour is… fiction, the third in a series for which I’ve previously reviewed the second book. You can find that review here, from our February blog tour.

Did you see which book it was? Yes, that’s right… Janice Thompson’s ‘Weddings By Bella’ series.

It Had to Be You (Weddings By Bella, Book 3) – Janice Thompson

Synopsis (from publisher):

Get ready for a double dose of wedding frenzy!

Bella couldn’t be happier that two of her long-feuding relatives have finally admitted their love for one another and are getting married. Their forties-style wedding is sure to be a night to remember. But when the Rossi house begins to fill up with family from Italy–and an old mobster from New Jersey–life starts to get complicated. Will a friend from the past drive the happy couple apart once more? And will Bella ever have time to think of her own rapidly approaching wedding amid the chaos?

Full of humor, plenty of Italian passion, and a bit of Texas gumption, It Had to Be You will have you laughing out loud and wiping a tear from your eye.

My Thoughts:

Why, oh why did I agree to read this when I was less than impressed with book #2? Well, I have a good reason. When I was browsing around online a few days after posting my own review, I came across a rather positive review of the book on someone else’s site. The author of that review had a few similar qualms to mine (notably, the lack of any flaws in the main character), so I clicked through to read the comments. Turns out the author took a moment to comment on the review and mention that in book #3, we’d see more of Bella’s flaws and she’d have some tough things to work through.

“Oh, well in that case,” I thought, “Maybe I’ll read the next book if it’s available, because I’m curious to see how that pans out.”

Lucky for me, the third book came up for offer on this blog tour, and I accepted. And read the book with an open mind and a view toward what the author said she was trying to accomplish with this installment.

How did that turn out? I’ll tell you honestly — I enjoyed this book a lot more than the previous one, that’s for darn sure. But then again, that’s not saying much. In all seriousness though, I had a much easier time working through this book and relating to the characters than in book 2. Maybe that’s because the author had two previous books in which to develop the characters and establish the family dynamics? Still, it worked better this time.

Now, the rest of what I have to say about the book may dive into spoilery territory, so if you plan on reading the book, go ahead and stop reading the review now. I mean it! If you’re not sure about whether you’ll read it or not, and are interested in my qualms, keep reading — but I’m warning you, I will give away one plot point in particular at the end… mind you, it’s a rather predictable plot point, but I warn you nonetheless.


Yes, the family dynamics worked better. Yes, Bella’s character, and the supporting characters, were better shaped, and I didn’t want to scream at them as often. However, there’s still the issue of the “too perfect” hero and heroine.

Bella’s fiance is absolutely flawless. He keeps a few secrets from her now and again — which is presented to us like this is something terrible — but the secrets are actually surprises. So, nothing harmful or things that you’d typically consider a “secret” kept from a significant other. Yes, we read romances for strong, capable men, but no one is perfect. No one is in a good mood 100% of the time. Especially in the months leading up to a wedding!

But even I could look past this. What I really wanted out of this book was to see something change in Bella. I wanted to see her weaknesses, her frailties, anything to be able to connect with this all-too-perfect heroine that, in the previous book, did nothing but make me want to scream at her. This time around, Bella actually did get flustered. She lost concentration, she wasn’t always in a good mood… and it was clear that the author was taking her down the “doing too much & not caring for yourself” road (maybe Bella should have read “No More Christian Nice Girl”!).

This was a good sign! A flaw (albeit, a pretty weak one…)! And here’s your spoiler, because Bella’s overexertion lands her in the hospital with a diagnosis of exhaustion. Yeah, we saw that coming. But then it gets bizarre… because instead of teaching Bella a lesson about doing too much and not taking care of herself, we get a moment of NON-FORESHADOWED PERSONAL CRISIS where Bella “realizes” that she’s been trying to “prove herself to everyone”, yada yada. Wait… what? This is the flaw? This is the thing she needs to confront?

Okay, okay, that’s fine and all… but we learn about it only in the last few chapters of the book?!? If Bella was so concerned about failing and ruining her business and such, shouldn’t we have seen hints of it throughout the novel? Instead, we get an overworked Bella who seems to be doing it because she’s a workaholic… not because of some personal crisis.

When you throw out reasoning like that at the last second, it negates all the character building work from the rest of the book. It felt random, and I still don’t know why we didn’t see real hints of it throughout the rest of the novel. Honestly, it spoiled the book for me. I’d been having a decent time reading it until… total randomness. Sigh.

In Conclusion…

Look, I know this author has a large following and has written a lot of books, and I think that’s wonderful! Like I’ve said before, she has a wide audience who clearly love her style of storytelling, and I don’t begrudge that one bit. So, Janice Thompson, if you read this (since clearly you read blog reviews!), please know that I respect you as a successful author who has found her niche market. :) I really, truly mean that!

However, since not every book is for everybody, I think I’m justified in saying that I don’t like how this one ended and I felt a bit cheated by it. Still, looking at the book as a whole, I had a much better experience with this one than the previous installment, and I do think this one could be read as a stand-alone without the previous two.

Ultimately? Stick it in the church library! I know folks who would love to read this kind of thing, and even though I didn’t particularly care for the writing style, the characterization, or the plot “twist” with Bella, I know it has an audience out there with readers who like their romances very sweet and very innocent (and with perfect people).

So, if that’s your thing? Don’t let me discourage you!

And for your own reading pleasure… here’s an excerpt you can read, to see for yourself whether it’s the kind of thing you’d enjoy or not (note: it’s a PDF).

Available now at your favorite bookseller from Revell,

a division of Baker Publishing Group.


May Blog Tour: “No More Christian Nice Girl”

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Day 3 of the blog tour… and onto a book that, despite the title, contains a measure of wisdom that I think almost ALL women could use sometimes.

No More Christian Nice Girl: When Just Being Nice — Instead of Good — Hurts You, Your Family, and Your Friends – Paul Coughlin & Jennifer D. Degler, PhD

Summary (from the publisher):

Be the Strong, Confident, and Caring Woman You Were Meant to Be

Tired of doing all you can for others while your relationships remain stuck in neutral–or headed in reverse? Paul Coughlin and psychologist Jennifer Degler show how being nice can harm you and drain the life out of your relationships. They explore the keys to fulfillment at home, work, church, and even in the bedroom. You’ll discover that emulating the real Jesus is the key to transforming from a Christian Nice Girl into an authentic, powerful woman of loving faith.

My Thoughts:

This is one book I wish I’d read even just six months ago. The concept of this book is that Christian women are so often taught to be “nice”, that “nice” is the only acceptable way of behaving, because that’s how Jesus behaved. Conflict, confrontation, anger, and standing up for one’s self (if it causes conflict) is no way for a nice woman to act, according to our example in Scripture… BUT… the authors point out that this is absolutely not the case.

Jesus didn’t avoid conflict, he got angry, he yelled at people, he stood up to those who asked things of him that he didn’t care to give or do for them, and he made a lot of enemies. But he also was good, which means he acted out qualities like caring, helpfulness, love, righteousness, and justice. And as Christian women, we have to stop buying into the “nice” description and be GOOD instead.

“Nice” gets you walked all over. “Nice” brings stress and anxiety because you’re trying to be everything to everyone. “Nice” brings eventual emotional breakdowns because you’re spending all this time doing things for other people that resentment and frustration will build to a breaking point. “Nice” means staying in emotionally or physically abusive friendships or relationships because you don’t want to rock the boat, or get anyone upset with you.

And in the end, the person you’re hurting? Is yourself. We’re not supposed to be “nice”. We’re supposed to be “good”. From my perspective, women from all backgrounds — religious, social, economic — are all susceptible to this “nice” mindset, and we’re experts at feeling false guilt when we say “no” to things or refuse to do something.

Until a few months ago, I was a “Christian nice girl”… and then I realized that’s no way to live. I started saying “no” to things, and gave myself permission to sit down and relax. I’ve always been one to stand up for myself — I don’t avoid confrontation — but in certain settings, I’ll sometimes wait until it’s too late to say anything. I’ve been in some bad friendships that I clung to because I didn’t want people getting upset with me. But you know what? Living that way, being “nice”, was hurting me. I don’t want to be “nice” anymore, I want to be GOOD. And that means acting in MY best interests AS WELL AS the interests of others.

The book also reminds you that sometimes this will be seen negatively by the world, since many people have a double standard for women and men. Men who say ‘No’ are viewed as strong, competent players who know what they want and aren’t afraid to go out and get it. Men get into conflict and it’s looked on as part of the way they relate, no harm done. When many women act the same way, they’re viewed as aggressive, heartless bitches. Unfortunately, that’s just the way the world works sometimes, and until the people around you realize that you’re no longer willing to be their doormat, you’re going to encounter this from some people.

I could talk for hours about this subject and this book, but instead I’ll leave you with a few links to some additional information about the book and the authors.

**EDIT: WordPress is giving me some trouble inserting links, so I’ll come back and try to do it later. I have a book excerpt and an author Q&A to link you to, but you can also reach them through the book page linked to the title of the book at the top of this post. Thanks for your patience!

Available now at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House,

a division of Baker Publishing Group.


May Blog Tour: “What Happened to My Life?”

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

In the same vein as yesterday’s book, today’s book explores those instances in life where thing don’t (or didn’t) go the way you planned… but unlike yesterday’s book, this one is specific to women and women’s issues.

What Happened to My Life?: Finding New Passion, Purpose, and Joy – Danna Demetre

Summary (from the publishers):

Here’s your 40-day plan for reclaiming your life

Do you feel too busy? Do you worry about the future? Do disappointments in life drain your joy? It doesn’t have to be that way! In What Happened to My Life? personal life coach and speaker Danna Demetre invites you to join her on a 40-day journey where you’ll learn to

  • slow down and make good choices
  • reinterpret life and have more realistic expectations
  • choose the very best from all the good
  • pursue God in a life-changing way

Whether you’re dealing with a crisis or simply feeling that life is not all you’d hoped for, you’ll learn to find authentic contentment and joy regardless of your circumstances.

It’s time to move from simply surviving to truly thriving once again!

My Thoughts:

In this book, Demetre has woven a narrative that speaks directly to women — all women — no matter what stage they’re at in life. At one point or another, we’ve all lost our passion and purpose, and it can be both helpful and encouraging to read a book like this that speaks as ‘one woman to another’.

It’s clear that the author is no stranger to heartache and pain. She openly describes how she single-handedly destroyed her first marriage through selfish thoughts and actions, and she discusses her struggles with eating disorders, anxiety, and broken relationships. This is a woman who’s had to pull herself up out of the darkest places — with God’s help. Clearly, this woman knows what she’s talking about, because she’s been there before.

The book itself is divided into two sections: the narrative, and the devotional. I found a lot to like in the narrative, and wouldn’t hesitate to pass it on to a struggling friend (or anyone, really)… and while I haven’t completed the devotional portion of the book (it’s a 40-day program), I like what I’ve read and the format — Scripture, “story” (ie. some more thoughts from Demetre), and personal questions — is easy to follow and quick for busy women to complete.

My primary complaint is… the book doesn’t SAY it’s a devotional up front. Yes, on the table of contents page it’s clear that there are two parts to the book, and on the back the text says “here’s your 40-day plan for reclaiming your life”, but if you’re picking this up off a bookshelf, you might just assume that it’s a regular book with 40 chapters. Or 40 scheduled readings. Or you might not think anything of the number ’40′ at all, since it’s not explicitly said “this is a devotional guide”.

That bothered me, and I think it would have been best to state right on the cover “40-day plan” or “40-day journey” if the publisher wanted to shy away from “devotional” — I can see how that might be the case, since the focus is on learning how to find authentic joy and contentment again, and not on developing spiritual disciplines (or whatever other expectations the word ‘devotional’ conjures up to the average reader).

One other thing that’s relatively minor was the use of quotations from the author’s previous books. In a few chapters, large chunks of text were taken from Demetre’s earlier works. I can understand the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, but would it really have taken that much time to re-phrase the points being made? To me, it seemed like indulgent self-promotion, but that’s really a matter of perspective and it might not bother other readers.

In Conclusion…

I’ll leave you with a link to an excerpt from the book, which you can find here: *EXCERPT* (pdf file)

It’s a very well written book, because Demetre takes a conversational approach to the subject and is very open and candid about her own struggles. Women at different places in the their lives will get different things out of it, and I think it’s the kind of book that you read once, place on your shelf for a few years, and read it again as your life changes and you encounter new obstacles and pitfalls.

I encourage you to read the excerpt and, if you know God, to pray about who think book might be best suited for. If you’re not a Christian, you’ll be able to tell from the excerpt whether or not you’d be interested in this book, but I think there’s something for everyone here, regardless of where they’re coming from — after all, we could all use a little more encouragement and joy in our lives, right?

Available now at your favorite bookseller from Revell,

a division of Baker Publishing Group.


May Blog Tour: “Plan B”

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Heidy-ho, good neighbors! (Does anyone else miss Wilson from Home Improvement, or is that just me?)

It’s that time of month again (no, not THAT time, ladies)… the time where we look at all the lovely books sent for review by Graf-Martin Communications/Baker/Revell and this month, also Thomas Nelson.

I have four books to show you this month: three non-fiction and slightly related in terms of topic, and one fiction that I think you’ll be surprised by (if you’ve been reading this blog for a little while).

This month, we’ll start with the three non-fiction books and end off with fiction. Remember, these three non-fictions are somewhat related in content, so if this is an area of reading that interests you, RSS this baby and come back over the next few days. You might also find a book among these ones that you’ll want to pass on to a friend or relative (I know I did).

So, today? We start with Plan B.

Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would? - Pete Wilson

Book Trailer (it’s interesting, watch it if you’d prefer not to read the summary):

Summary (from the publisher):

What do you do with a shattered dream? Or an unmet expectation? What do you do when your life isn’t turning out the way you thought it would? What do you do when you have to turn to Plan B?
In Plan B pastor and author Pete Wilson uses real life stories of disappointments and hurts along with the biblical stories of men and women like David, Joseph, and Ruth to help readers come to grips with the truth that they will face situations that in themselves they are completely unable to handle but that in them God is simply trying to get them to surrender their plans so that they can receive His.
Wilson points readers to the cross as not just the starting line but the centerpiece of our story with God and shares that it is there we turn in our Plan B and find the undeniable relationship between crisis and our hope followed by true spiritual transformation. “God wants to live inside the questions” says Wilson and then reminds us that “the cross is proof that He does not always change the circumstance but that He always has a purpose in every circumstance. He will never let go of us. He will hold us and His cross will be an anchor for us.”

My Thoughts:

Plan B is “one of those books”… the kind you pick up when you’re in the midst of struggling with a circumstance in your life, or if you know a friend or relative who’s struggling and you’re looking for some way to help comfort them… only to find more packed inside the pages than you expected. The author is speaking to you, and you’re amazed at the truth behind the words.

All of us have something in our lives that didn’t go the way we planned, and I’d be willing to take bets on the chances that we think about it and wonder “what if?” or “why me?” from time to time.

Wilson’s book speaks to those longings and wonderings, and helps us understand what to do when it’s time to turn to Plan B. Or, how to keep on going if you’ve been stuck on Plan B for awhile now.

I honestly don’t want to say much else about it, because I think the book trailer says enough for you to know whether or not this is the kind of book you want or need (or that someone you know wants or needs). But I’ll also say that Wilson doesn’t let you off easy, either — there are no pat answers, trite responses, or cliched phrases of comfort.

He hits readers with biblical wisdom, logical thinking, and the hard truth that you need to hear. I was skeptical of the book at first, I’ll admit (but that’s not unusual for me) and was impressed with what I came away with. It may not be easy to read if you’re struggling with life not turning out how you’d planned, but I think you’ll come away a stronger person for it.

After all, life never goes the way we expect — that’s why it’s called living and not coasting.

My verdict? This is one for the bookshelves. Re-read as necessary. Pass on where you see need.

Rest assured in the ‘plan Bs’ of life.

Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Available May 2010 at your favourite bookseller.


The Edit Monster

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

I’m at that point in How to Revise Your Novel where we sit down with the manuscript and, tools at hand and preparation done, actually cut our manuscript. This is the one-pass revision where I take my novel from the place it is to the place I want it to be.

And that’s a terrifying concept. What if I get it wrong? What if all this lead-up just means failure? What if I make the wrong changes?

Then I think… they’re just words. I’m not physically deleting or throwing anything out, and once I do the type-in I’ll save everything in a new document.

I have my snacks, drinks, blank pages, pens, scissors & tape, worksheets from several months of analysis and prep work. Now all I need is to get over the hurdle of *doing* the revision.

A few weeks from now, I hope to have a fully revised copy of my NaNoWriMo novel from 2007.

Then I’ll do the query, synopsis, etc., and send them out the door. I don’t have high hopes for this one, since I think the market for it is in a very low point, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on it — instead, I’ll think of this revision/query process as a “practice” run.

If I don’t get any bites on it and the market for it picks up in a few years, I’ll do a second pass.

So that’s the plan! Much easier said than done, that’s for darn sure. But learning to revise properly and figuring out where my own weak spots are has been worth every penny I paid for the course…

But here’s where it all comes together and we find out if I can practice what I’ve learned.

Revisions, Day One… go!


How do you approach the editing/revision process: do you do analysis/prep work first, or do you dive on in and just start cutting?


Book Review: “I am Hutterite”

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

I am Hutterite: The Fascinating Story of One Woman’s Journey to Reclaim Her Heritage - Mary-Ann Kirkby

In 1969, the author’s parents did something unthinkable: they packed up their things and left the Hutterite colony where they’d lived with their seven children for years. They intended to start a new life outside the colony, and the entire family was thrown into a society they didn’t understand and which looked at Hutterite people as strange, bizarre creatures.

The book records the early days of Kirkby’s parents — before they met — traveling through their courtship, the birth of their children, the conflict between her father and the colony leader, and eventually their ‘running away’ (leaving the colony was referred to as “running away”).

My Thoughts…

Some of the most interesting points of the book were: learning about which customs today’s Hutterites have kept since their sect was founded 500 years ago; the communal nature of the colonies; the bizarre politics involved in the daily interactions; seeing Kirkby’s family attempt to integrate themselves into ‘modern society’.

Mind you, the “running away” doesn’t come until three quarters of the way through the book… and that was the thing the book description focused on the most, so I was a little surprised to see that less than half the book was devoted to this material. I understand that most people don’t have any concept of who the Hutterites are, but I don’t think it’s fair to label a book as being about someone’s journey to find her self of self outside the only life she knew, but spend most of the book talking about that former life.

But, it’s interesting at the very least. It’s not the most riveting read — sometimes the endless description of life inside the colony can get a bit dry, and I admit to skimming pages more than a few times — but if you’re interested in the Hutterites and who they are, you’ll probably find a lot to like here. Just don’t expect to spend a lot of time reading about the transition (though what IS there is fascinating).

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their

book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review.


Write (and Read!) With Pride

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

Yesterday, CNN posted an article entitled:

I Write Romance Novels — So What?

I agree with the majority of the article, and was thrilled to see it starting to get some momentum around Facebook and Twitter.

Have someone in your life who teases you for reading or writing romance? Someone who doesn’t realize that it’s just as legitimate as writing literary fiction or children’s books? Forward this article to them.

Go on — click through! No matter what genre you write in, the article has something to say to you.

Read it, and allow yourself that feel-good moment before you sit down to do your daily type-in. :)


Some Days You Just Can’t

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

There are a million ways to beat writer’s block. I often read those articles and nod my head, thinking “oh yes, I’ve done that, and maybe next time I’ll try that…”

But you know what? Sometimes we just have to suck it up and accept that we’re going to have the occasional day, or week, or couple of weeks (I’m trying to be optimistic and not go for ‘months’) where we just CAN’T think of any new ideas. We may have a deadline, or a themed issue to help clarify the idea, or seventeen magazines on topics we love and want to write for, and we still can’t come up with anything.

Yesterday I spent several hours attempting to brainstorm… I wrote character maps, used idea generators, drew cartoons, played the “what if…?” game… and still, nothing.

Eventually I had to admit that it just wasn’t my day.

And you know what? Sometimes that happens. And it’s okay. And you don’t need to beat yourself up about it.

Go have some ice cream and read a book, or take a walk instead. Enjoy the sunshine or the comfort of the couch without feeling [too] guilty (trying to be realistic, here). It’ll come to you eventually.

So why not enjoy life in the meantime?


Book Review: “Mom Still Likes You Best”

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Mom Still Likes You Best: The Unfinished Business of Siblings – Jane Isay

Promo material for Mom Still Likes You Best suggests that the book is a “must-read” for anyone blessed/cursed with a sibling. However, I might suggest that the book is more appropriate for someone who’s somewhat bored and possibly suffering from a bit of insomnia.

Not that there isn’t some interesting material in this book… no, the title tells us exactly what to expect – stories about siblings and their “unfinished business” with each other into adulthood – and there are more than enough anecdotes to satisfy the curious. Strong sibling bonds, tenuous ones, bonds that fail… Isay asserts that the foundation of sibling relationships happens when we’re very young, and we carry this over into adulthood, making it very difficult to change our perception of our siblings unless we consciously make an effort to do so.

An interesting theory. But is it true? Unfortunately, we’ll never know… because that’s where the theorizing ends. Instead, Isay pads the book full of anecdote after anecdote, barely pausing for a breath before diving into the next example. The transitions are clunky, and though the sentence at the end of each anecdote is supposed to set up the one that follows (then we get the title of the next segment, and then the next segment), instead it reads like the first paragraph in each new section has been hacked apart. That’s not a transition, that’s just poor organization.

Since the book is 98% anecdotal, this also means that we have a lot of names throughout the book. I think Isay tried to help people keep things straight by frequently not naming people (referring instead to them as “her brother” or “his younger sister”), but when you’re giving an anecdote where there are three younger siblings and you talk about them all and don’t name them, it can get pretty gosh dang confusing. I don’t know how many times I had to re-read sections to figure out who was doing what to whom, and this often made me put the book down in frustration.

That’s not simplifying things, dear author. That’s just making it more difficult for the reader to follow the logical sequence within each story.

That said, I think it’s true that people with siblings will probably see themselves reflected somewhere in this book, and it really is horrifying to realize what some people do to their brothers and sisters. However, if you want more than a list of anecdotes — such as, understanding why people act this way, or what triggers the behavior, or whether it’s part of a pattern, or psychological, or anything at all — you won’t find it here.

And that was what I found most disappointing of all. There wasn’t anything to tie it all together, so it just read like a bunch of stories about people we don’t know. Would I pay $28.95 for this book, the suggested cover price for the hardcover? Absolutely not. I also wouldn’t buy it for someone else at that price (plus, the thing is less than 200 pages to boot).

It might make for interesting reading if you see it at the library and have nothing else going on. Then again, it might just frustrate you. And hey, if you don’t like your siblings very much, it could even make the perfect birthday gift…

I received a complimentary ARC version of this book from the publisher.