Where have I been?

Hi everyone,

I’ll try not to make this one of those blog posts where I apologise for how long it has been since my last post. Yes, it has been quite a while though, so I thought I’d give you an update on what I’ve been up to of late.

Study – This year I began a Graduate Certificate in Management as part of my career development (for my day job). I am really enjoying the course, although there is a lot of reading, which has meant less time for writing – I’m missing it!

Writing – In between my exams and assignments, I’ve been devoting most Friday nights to writing. ‘Double Pursuit’ is coming along well. I’m in love with the characters and can’t wait to finish so I can share them with you too. It has been a different experience to get inside the head of someone who has lost a husband way too early – I’ve found myself shedding a few tears while writing. I am still aiming to finish the book so it can be out before Christmas. I’m also looking out for some good cover designs that will fit well with the book.

Positive reviews are still coming through for my first two books – ‘Second Chances’ and ‘Trust Me Twice’ – ‘Second Chances’ has almost received 500 reviews!!! I am amazed how God is using my ‘experimental’ book to help people find their way back to him. I could never have imagined this when I first started writing it almost three years ago.

I have a backlog of books that I have read, and now just need to find the time to write reviews for. I will try to get to these over the next few weeks before my next subject starts.

Personal life – I’ve just come through a couple of weeks of illness (cold & flu related) – it’s that time of year in Australia! However, on a positive note, a few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a women’s retreat at my church where we talked about the parable of the seeds that fell on different soils. I was challenged to tend to my soil to make sure I continue to grow in my relationship with Jesus, and to make sure I pull out any weeds that start to grow. It was great to spend a whole day singing praises to God, hearing from God’s word, and talking with godly sisters in Christ. My husband and I have also just started leading and hosting a church bible study group together, which has been fun.

I’m really enjoying the stage of life that my kids are at right now. They ask such perceptive and challenging questions, and they still think that I’m awesome (which feels great when I’m having a low day). It is such a privilege and responsibility to lead these little ones, and I feel so blessed.

Thanks for your ongoing support in my writing journey!
God bless,
Alison

Book review: ‘Silenced’ by Dani Pettrey

From the back cover:

A relaxing day of rock climbing takes a disturbing turn when Kayden McKenna’s route brings her face-to-face with a dead climber. Is it a terrible accident or something darker? When the case is handed to overburdened sheriff Landon Grainger, he turns to Jake Westin for help. With Jake’s past now revealed, he’s ready to use his talent for investigation again–but he could never prepare for where the mystery will take him.
Kayden’s climbing expertise soon leads her and Jake to the realization that the death was no accident. And worse, it seems the killer is onto them. When strange things begin happening in Yancey, Jake is terrified that once again his world may put someone he loves in danger. But the truth is far worse than he could ever imagine.

My review:

This is now the second book I have read in the Alaskan Courage series by Dani Pettrey (see my review of Stranded here). As I mentioned in my earlier review, I recommend reading this series from the start, as there was a lot of back story I missed by reading only the third and fourth books.

Silenced begins with a murder mystery, as Kayden McKenna finds a dead rock climber and immediately suspects foul play. With her climbing expertise, she is the logical choice to accompany former cop (and newly appointed deputy sheriff), Jake Westin, in his quest to find out the truth.

The book is written largely from Kayden and Jake’s point of view, although there are several passages written from the perspective of minor characters in the book. I felt that the point of view changed too frequently, often due to very short scenes, and I got confused as to whose head I was in at times. I think this was the main reason why I didn’t feel as invested in the characters as I could have been. The other thing that bothered me was the inefficiency of Kayden and Jake’s interviewing technique – meaning they had to visit/revisit suspects because they didn’t ask the right questions first time around (although I guess the book would have been too short if they got all their answers straight away).

Throughout the book, Kayden has to come to terms with her fear of letting anyone get close to her, and her fear of dying. It was nice to see her heart warm to Jake throughout their investigation, and his protectiveness was touching. I particularly enjoyed the last third of the book, when Jake’s past catches up with him and Kayden’s life is on the line – this part of the story was very suspenseful.

Overall, I did enjoy reading this book, although I’m not sure whether I would read the next book in the series.

Thank you, NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for providing me a free copy of this book  in exchange for my honest opinion.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

To see my ratings system, click here

Book Review: ‘To Die Once’ by Miranda A. Uyeh

From the back cover:

To Die Once Ebook Cover

Two men, one woman, a rosebush …

… a terrible past, an uncertain future

From a culture where good girls follow the norm and live as they’ve been told, Jennifer is no different from any other girl until by happenstance, she meets and falls in love with Rodrigo, a man who’s handsome, rich and foreign. Different. She has no idea who he is or what he does, and is swept into a world of romance and passion. It is not long before she discovers a shocking truth that shakes both her world and his.

Then he is gone.

Stefano shows up at a time when Jennifer has made up her mind about the rules of life. He thinks she’s beautiful and is in love with her. In a bid to convince her to give him a chance in her life, old memories once buried are brought to life. And the events that follow don’t leave anyone unaffected by the truth of the past that was left unsettled.

Meanwhile, Jennifer with her friend Chidi, find themselves on a self-discovery journey that has one of them raising questions.

Some just have to ask, where is God in all this?

… an inspirational romance, from Lagos to Italy.

My review: I happily obliged when Miranda asked me to participate in her book tour for her debut novel, To Die Once.

Coming off the back of two solid weeks of exam preparation, it took a while for me to get into this book. The first chapter really didn’t hook me, and the physical attraction between the two main characters, Jennifer and Rodrigo, seemed too much too soon – I wished I’d known more about Jennifer so I could empathise with her more in all the ups and downs of her relationship with Rodrigo.

Thankfully, the story and characters came alive after the first few chapters, with plenty of twists and turns in the plot that kept me in suspense. I think if Miranda had re-written the earlier chapters in the same way, I would have been hooked right from the start. There were some touching moments between the characters, particularly between Jennifer and her best friend, Chidi. If only we all had a friend like that during times of need.

The spiritual themes in the book included forgiveness, repentance and learning to trust when everything tells you otherwise. It was an inspirational novel that I’m sure will appeal to many Christians, particularly those who feel out of step with God’s plan.

Overall, it was a very solid effort from Miranda. She has loads of talent and I look forward to seeing what she comes out with next.

Recommended for those who enjoy passionate romance books with Christian themes.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

To see my ratings system, click here

About the author

IMG_6074Miranda A. Uyeh is an assistant lecturer at a local college in Makurdi City, Nigeria, where she teaches two geology courses. Her love for books goes as far back as when her father placed Disney’s Rapunzel in her hands—her very first storybook! By the time she was thirteen she knew she was going to be a writer. You can find Miranda on her blog where she shares her love for books, entertainment and Christian spirituality with her readers. Miranda holds a B.Tech (Hons) in Applied Geology from ATBU, Nigeria. To Die Once is her debut novel, #1 of the Child of Grace book series.

To find out more, visit Miranda’s blog – http://mautobeaperson.wordpress.com/

 

Book Review: ‘Bridge to Haven’ by Francine Rivers

From the back cover:

To those who matter in 1950s Hollywood, Lena Scott is the hottest rising star to hit the silver screen since Marilyn Monroe. Few know her real name is Abra. Even fewer know the price she’s paid to finally feel like she’s somebody.

To Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, Abra will always be the little girl who stole his heart the night he found her, a wailing newborn abandoned under a bridge on the outskirts of Haven. Zeke and his son, Joshua—Abra’s closest friend—watch her grow into an exotic beauty. But Zeke knows the circumstances surrounding her birth etched scars deep in her heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking bad boy who proclaims his love and lures her to Tinseltown. Hollywood feels like a million miles from Haven, and naive Abra quickly learns what’s expected of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes. But fame comes at an awful price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now, all she wants is a way back home.

My review:

I haven’t read a Francine Rivers’ book I didn’t like. I’ve been following Francine on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest on the release of her new book, Bridge to Haven, which hit stores on the 22 April 2014. Despite being thick enough to knock someone out (a handy bedside weapon if ever needed), I read it within two days, almost non-stop. I even read it while eating breakfast, which might be a first for me.

Before I get into my review, I just have to say how much I love the cover of this book!

The story follows Abra through her childhood up until her mid-twenties, and it is not for the faint hearted. The heartbreaking experiences in Abra’s formative years cause her to pull back from others and seek her identity elsewhere. Her need to ‘be somebody’ leads her away from family and God and into the arms of men who only want to use her. This part of the book was hard to read, mainly because I really sympathised with Abra and felt her pain. Those familiar with Francine Rivers’ books will know that she writes about difficult topics such as sexual sin and abuse in a very ‘real’ way.

The saving grace in the book is Abra’s childhood friend, Joshua. His patience with Abra and unconditional forgiveness are inspiring – a picture of Jesus’ love (If you’ve read ‘Redeeming Love’, his character is very similar to Hosea). There are many other heartwarming and colourful characters that paint a vivid landscape for the story.

There were only a couple of minor issues I had with the book, such as some head-hopping in one of the latter chapters in the book. There was also a ‘twist’ at the end of the book that seemed to be quite rushed.

Just as a side note, my husband thought the name Abra was strange and asked me if her last name was ‘Cadabra’ (it isn’t, by the way).

Also, as a word of caution, there is a marital love-making scene in the book, although it is described in sensual rather than physical language so I didn’t feel it was inappropriate, but others may feel differently.

The themes of God’s forgiveness and acceptance are present throughout this book, and make for a challenging but inspiring read. Recommended for those who enjoy Christian romance books without puppies and rainbows.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

To see my ratings system, click here

Book Review: ‘A Home For My Heart’ by Anne Mateer

From the back cover:

Sadie Sillsby works as the assistant to the matron at the Raystown Home for Orphan and Friendless Children and dreams of the day she’ll marry her beau, Blaine. But when the matron surprises everyone by announcing her own engagement, Sadie is suddenly next in line for the job. For a young woman who was once an orphan herself, a shot at such an esteemed position is a wish come true.

But the matron of the Home cannot be married. Is Sadie willing to give up her dreams of a life with Blaine and a family of her own? Is she prepared to forgo daily involvement with the children as she instead manages the financial, legal, and logistical aspects of the orphanage?

And when it’s revealed that the Home is spending a lot more money than it’s taking in, can Sadie turn things around before the place is forced to close forever?

My review:

The first thing that struck me about this book was that it was written from the first person perspective, which is very unusual in historical Christian romance. While I do enjoy first person narratives in other genres, eg young adult or chick lit, I wasn’t sure at first if it was really working for the book – however, I soon forgot about my initial hesitation.

Sadie Sillsby, a former orphan, finds herself in the position of matron at the orphanage where she grew up. Having worked there for years, she feels more than qualified for the job and is even willing to give up a chance at love to take on the position she feels God has called her to.

Much of this story revolves around events at the orphanage and the dilemma that Sadie faces in keeping the orphanage open. Sadie has a lot to learn in her new position and it is satisfying to see her grow in the role and in maturity as a woman. In addition to all this, she has the added confusion of how to act around Blaine, whom she rejected for the role, and Earl, a charming gentleman from The Children’s Aid Society. Will her heart ever find a home?

The storyline was fairly predictable, without too much conflict, but the character development was interesting enough to make this an enjoyable read for me. Recommended for those who enjoy sweet, easy-read, historical romances.

Thank you, NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

To see my ratings system, click here

Book review: ‘The Beloved Daughter’ by Alana Terry

A few months ago I interviewed Christian fiction author, Alana Terry (click here). Alana wonderfully sent me a copy of her book, The Beloved Daughter, and over Christmas I finally had the opportunity to read it. I was absolutely blown away!

Alana Terry book coverFrom the back cover:

In a small North Korean village, a young girl struggles to survive. It is  her father’s faith, not the famine of North Hamyong Province, that most  threatens Chung-Cha’s well-being.

The Beloved Daughter follows Chung-Cha into one of the most notorious prison camps the  contemporary free world has known. Her crime? Being the daughter of a  Christian.

My review:

This book completely opened my eyes to the persecution of Christians in other countries, such as North Korea. The story of Chung-Cha was tragic, as well as hope-inspiring. The book is written from the first-person perspective of Chung-Chain the style of a letter. I found out several chapters in that it was, in fact, a letter.

The descriptions of Chung-Cha’s experiences in the prison camp were gritty and horrifying. Most people would find the events that happen to Chung-Cha and others in the camp to be very disturbing – how could humans do such brutal things to one another? It is a story of great evil, but also the power of the love of Christ that brings light in the darkness.

Alana did a terrific job with telling this story. Each chapter of this book has a different theme, linked to a verse in the Bible, which worked really well. I felt emotionally connected with the characters in the story and, being a mother, I was sobbing by the end of the book. The story was so powerful.

The only down-side I see with this book is that some readers may find the descriptions of the sexual depravity in the prison camp very confronting. I think Alana has dealt with this difficult topic sensitively, however, I wouldn’t recommend this book to younger readers for this reason.

My rating:

5 out of 5 stars

To see my ratings system, click here

I’m pleased to announce that Alana has a second book coming out in this inspirational suspense series – Slave Again.

She escaped a North Korean prison camp only to find herself enslaved again.

Mee-Kyong endured a childhood fending for herself in a North
Korean prison camp. When she finally flees across the border into China, Mee-Kyong must draw upon all her survival skills. Does Mee-Kyong have the cunning she needs to escape the world of abuse and shame into which she’s been sold? Can she manage to save both herself and the innocent child under her protection?

About the Author:  Alana Terry is a homeschool mom, pastor’s wife, and Christian author. Her debut novel, The Beloved Daughter, has won awards from Women of Faith and the Book Club Network. The Beloved Daughter was a number one bestseller in Christian suspense on amazon. Her next novel, Slave Again, is due out this summer.

Giveaway Time! Alana is giving away free copies of her next release to anyone who makes a donation to Liberty in North Korea, an organization dedicated to rescuing refugees who escape North Korea. She’s also giving away a mini kobo e-reader and several copies of Slave Again, so be sure to enter the giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Author Alison Stanley

AlisonStanley:

Curious to know more about my writing journey? – see E.A West’s interview with me here.

Originally posted on The West Corner:

Please welcome author Alison Stanley to The West Corner! We swapped interviews, and I’m happy to have her here today. If you want to check out my interview on her blog, you can find it here.

Without further ado, let’s get to Alison’s interview.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Alison Stanley author photoI have been married for 8 years (time flies!) and I have two delightful little girls who are 6 and 4 years old. We live in Sydney, Australia.
I work full time, and I’m also studying this year. Some people think I’m crazy!
In my spare time, I enjoy writing novels. I also love to read. I have too many hobbies and not enough spare time :)

Please tell us about your latest release.

My latest book, Trust Me Twice, is an inspirational romance book based in Australia. The story follows Alana Johnston, a talented interior designer, who returns…

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