Monday, February 28, 2011

Review: The Sins of the House of Borgia

The Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower

Publication Date: March 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical Fiction
ISBN-13: 9781402259630
ISBN:
1402259638

(Received for review from Sourcebooks)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Sarah Bower on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

A NOTORIOUS DUKE. AN INFAMOUS DUCHESS AND AN INNOCENT GIRL.

Violante isn't supposed to be here, in one of the grandest courts of Renaissance Italy. She isn't supposed to be a lady in waiting to the beautiful Lucrezia Borgia. But the same secretive politics that pushed Lucrezia's father to the Vatican have landed Violante deep in a lavish landscape of passion and ambition.

Violante discovers a Lucrezia unknown to those who see only a scheming harlot, and all the whispers about her brother , Cesare Borgia, never revealed the soul of the man who dances close with Violante.

But those who enter the House of Borgia are never quite the same when they leave - they leave at all. Violante's place in history will test her heart and leave her the guardian of dangerous secrets she must carry to the grave.

Thoughts:

Sarah Bower's debut novel, The Sins of the House of Borgia reveals the complicated lives of the Borgia's, one of Italy's most notorious crime families. Readers who are eagerly anticipating Showtime's new series about the Borgia's Premiering in April, will love this historical fiction novel that shows the Borgia's through the eyes of an innocent young girl who has been thrown into the lion's den as a lady in waiting to Lucrezia Borgia.

Esther Sarfati is a young Jewish girl, who along with her family, is forced to flee from the wrath of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. Hoping to find a place that was more tolerant of their faith, Esther's father relocates his family to the city-states of Italy. After moving to Rome he helps to finance Rodrigo Borgia's bid to become the next pope. As pope Alexancer VI, Borgia hopes to repay Sarfati by allowing his daughter Esther to join the retinue of his illegitimate daughter Lucrezia, but only on the insistence that she convert to Christianity. Esther becomes La Violante, a young woman who saw a very different side of Lucrezia Borgia than what the public was obliged to. When Violante falls in love with Lucrezia's brother, Cesare she begins a life filled with the debauchery of court, bloodthirsty politics, and a journey full of secrets.

Sarah Bower's portrayal of Lucrezia Borgia is nothing short of genius. Showing Lucrezia through the eyes of an innocent girl was a very interesting premise and I found the book to be everything I expected. Having been a former history major, the historical aspects of the story were of special interest to me and I thought the author did an excellent job of giving the necessary detail, while not bogging the reader down with too much information. She created a nice balance between the historical and the fictional parts of the book. It was easy to see the amount of research that went into a book of this nature and how the author was able to show a very and detailed account of the Borgia family.

The Borgia's are an interesting family, very corrupt and full of fascinating characters. Lucrezia is normally characterized as a very ruthless young woman, who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted, whether by using money or her own body as a means to an end. But through the eyes of Violante we see a very different Lucrezia. One that is more vulnerable and even somewhat self-conscious. Violante, as a lady in waiting, sees more to Lucrezia than just what she displays to the public. The author did such a wonderful job of making Lucrezia seem more human, if you will.

Cesare is as ruthless as he is handsome. He is crafty and deceiving, yet Violante is attracted to him in a way she has never felt before. He opens up a world to her than she has never experienced before and she sees him in an almost rose-colored hue. She doesn't see his corrupt nature or his dangerous side. Or perhaps she does and is attracted to that bad boy attitude. Bower shows Cesare's passion as well as his debauched life. I found it very interesting seeing him through the eyes of a young girl. He must have seemed like a god in some ways.

Violante's character is very well written. Bower gets into the head of this young girl and shows us the Borgia's in a very different way than we've come to know them in history. She is an innocent girl when she goes to the House of Borgia but she has a very different view of life in the end. She sees things that she probably would have never encountered in her normal life. She is exposed to backstabbing and corrupt politics as well as the pleasures that the lavish court provided. But she also saw a different side to the Borgia siblings. I loved her character, her determination and her strength. That was a very hard climate to live in for Jewish girl.

This is a great character driven historical novel giving readers a very entertaining portrayal of very interesting family. The Soprano's of the Renaissance! I would recommend to historical fiction lovers as well as those who want to read a book that has everything from debauchery to betrayal and back again.

The Sins of the House of Borgia is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!





Sarah Bower is literature development officers for the Creative Arts East and teaches creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She was the UK editor of Historical Novels Review for two years, until the beginning of 2006, when she stepped down to make more time for her own writing. She is the author of Needle in the Blood.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Simply Marvelous Monday

Shelia at, Book Journey, gets all the credit for this one...


On Simply Marvelous Monday's here at Debbie's Book Bag, we want to know... What are you reading?

READ AND REVIEWED LAST WEEK:

The Mistress' House by Leigh Michaels (My Review)
One Hundred Candles by Mara Purnhagen (My Review)
Angel Sister by Ann H. Gabhart (My Review)
The Me Project by Kathy Lipp (My Review)
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (Magical Cats - Book 1) by Sofie Kelly (My Review)
Journey to Riverbend by Henry McLaughlin (My Review)
The Bridge of Peace (Ada's House - Book 2) by Cindy Woodsmall (My Review)
Duchess by Night (Desperate Duchesses - Book 3) by Eloisa James (Coming Soon)
The 8th Confession (Women's Murder Club - Book 8) by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Coming Soon)

READING AND REVIEWING THIS WEEK:

The Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower (For review from Sourcebooks)

Walking With Elephants by Karen S. Bell (For review from TLC Tours)

The Liberation of Alice Love by Abby McDonald (For review from Sourcebooks)

The Queen's Rival by Diane Haeger (For review from Berkley NAL)

Legacy by Jeanette Baker (For review from Sourcebooks)

I Am the Chosen King (Lost Kingdom 1066 - Book 2) by Helen Hollick (For review from Sourcebooks)

Scones & Bones (Tea Shop Mystery - Book 12) by Laura Childs (For review from the author)

The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier (For review from the author)

Reminders!

There are a few things going on this week I want you to be aware of and a few reminders!


1.) The Werewolf Upstairs giveaway ending March 4th.

2.) The Mistress' House giveaway ending March 7th.

3.) The Deluxe Starbucks Gift Basket giveaway ending on March 7th.

Other things to remember:

The February Link for the 2011 Cozy Mystery Challenge will be active through February 28th. Please link your reviews so that I can give you credit for them...

I am planning a major overhaul on certain aspects of my blog in the next few weeks. Please bear with me as I make some necessary changes. Nothing huge... most things you won't even notice.

I also made some changes to the list of blogs that I receive e-mail updates from. I had far too many and felt that I needed to cut down in order to spend time at the blogs I really enjoy reading and want to comment more often on. I apologize if that leaves anyone out, but I felt it was time to make that change.

Enjoy your weekend!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Review: Journey to Riverbend

Journey to Riverbend by Henry McLaughlin


Publication Date: January 2011
Publisher: Tydale House
Genre: Christian Fiction/Historical/Western/Romance
ISBN-13: 9781414339429
ISBN: 1414339429

(Received for review from Tyndale)


Henry McLaughlin on the WEB: Website, Blog

Excerpt from Journey to Riverbend

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

Sometimes the journey is only the beginning...

Michael Archer might not have been able to save Ben Carstairs, but he vowed to carry out Ben's dying wish: to be reconciled with his father. What he doesn't know is that Sam Carstairs - the most ruthless businessman on the frontier - has no use for his own son, much less a man of God seeking reconciliation.

Soon after arriving in the booming town of Riverbend, Michael meets the stunning Rachel Stone while waiting for Sam to return from a business trip. Beautiful yet guarded, Rachel is running from a past as dark as Michael's, and the last thing she expects - or thinks she deserves - is a chance at love.

When word reaches town that Sam has been kidnapped on the stagecoach home, Michael joins the search posse. But the trail ahead is more dangerous than any had imagined, and making it back alive will require Michael to face his past and overcome his deepest fear.

Thoughts:

Henry McLaughlin isn't what you'd expect a romance author to look like. How many men write romances? Not many! McLaughlin's straight forward style and beautiful descriptions of the old west will grab the attention of the reader from the first page. Told from the viewpoint of the hero, Journey to Riverbend is a tale of forgiveness and putting the past in it's place.

Michael Archer journey's to Riverbend on a mission. When Ben Carstairs is hung for a crime he did not commit, Micheal honors his dying wish to return his mother's locket to his father, Sam and to tell him how sorry he was to have disappointed him. When Michael reaches Riverbend Sam is away on business. While waiting for his return, Michael meets a beautiful woman, Rachel Stone. Both he and Rachel have a tortured past and both found forgiveness in God. Now all that's left to forgive themselves. Feeling attracted to each other, yet unworthy of love, they do not realize the extent of there emotions until Sam and kidnapped and Michael joins the posse to rescue him. Will Micheal succeed in his mission? Will Rachel and Michael be able to forget the past and move on together?

This is a really interesting change for Christian romance readers. I was somewhat skeptical that a romance written by a man would be something I would find enjoyable, but I really liked this one. It really gave a different feel to the book. In my opinion men think differently from women in some things. They are more logical and less emotional. McLaughlin shows that, that may not necessarily be so. He writes with a very straight forward style that gives the reader a love story from a man's point of view. Every women at some point wonders what her man is thinking, how things are affecting him, what really goes on in his head. McLaughlin does an excellent job of giving us idea of what may be going through his mind.

The characters in Journey to Riverbend are very well developed. Michael as a man of God is loyal and honorable. Having a troubled past has only made his faith in God stronger, but he is still a man. He has the same feelings that other men have. He wonders if his past will cloud his future. If he can be worthy of the love of a good woman. He is a little insecure and that seems to go a long way to showing that even as a man of God he isn't perfect, just held to a higher standard. Rachel's past is also filled with some very hard experiences. Being used by her uncle and then sold in prostitution she is looking for a new start in Riverbend, but she isn't expecting to fall in love with a preacher. She feels unworthy even though she knows she has been forgiven. Both are such great characters and I fell in love with them instantly. This is really a love story about moving on from the past and leaving it there.

The supporting cast added a great deal of local flavor to the story. McLaughlin's portrayal of Sam Carstairs was a surprise to me. I expected him to go a very different direction with this character. But it was really amazing to see how he used Sam within the story to show someone who just really would not yield to God. The Christian aspects of the story were well done and not overbearing. Sometimes we don't need to be hit over the head, a gentle nudge will do. Issues of faith fit well in the story of these two people with tortured pasts.

I recommend this one to readers who love Christina romance. It's definitely different from the average Western romance you'll read, being written from a man's perspective. Who knew? LOL!

Journey to Riverbend is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag! A Christian Fiction must read!





Henry McLaughlin is the 2009 winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest. He has a master's degree in social work and spent many years working in the public child welfare system. Henry and his wife, Linda live in Saginaw, Texas.

Review: The Bridge of Peace

The Bridge of Peace (Ada's House - Book 2) by Cindy Woodsmall


Publication Date: August 2010
Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
Genre: Christian Fiction/Amish
ISBN-13: 9781400073979
ISBN: 1400073979

(Received for review from Waterbrook Multnomah)


Cindy Woodsmall on the WEB: Website, The Plain Talk Blog, Facebook, Twitter

Excerpt from The Bridge of Peace
Book Trailer: This a video of Cindy Woodsmall talking about what led her to become a writer


Synopsis (Book Blurb):

Love alone isn't enough to overcome some obstacles.

Lena Kauffman is a young Old Order Amish schoolteacher who has dealt all her life with attention raised by a noticeable birthmark on her cheek. Having learned to move past the stares and whispers, Lena channels her zest for living into her love of teaching. But tensions mount as she is challenged to work with a rebellious young man and deal with several crises at the schoolhouse that threaten her other students. Her lack of submission and use of ideas that don't line up with the Old Ways strengthen the school board's case as they begin to believe that Lena is behind all the trouble.

One member of the school board, Grey Graber, feels trapped by his own stifling circumstances. His wife, Elsie, has shut him out of her life, and he doesn't know how long he can continue to live as if nothing is wrong. As the two finally come to a place of working toward a better marriage, tragedy befalls their family.

Lena and Grey have been life-long friends, but their relationship begins to crumble amidst unsettling deceptions, propelling each of them to finally face their own secrets. Can they both find a way past their losses and discover the strength to build a new bridge?

Thoughts:

Author Cindy Woodsmall brings readers the second book in the Ada's house series, called The Bridge of Peace. Woodsmall has been long known for her writing about the Old Order Amish and the ways of these plain people. Readers will fall in love with the inhabitants of Dry Lake and their struggles to exist in a world full of Englisher's. The author's uncanny ability to show the Amish as more than just a religious group, but as individuals who face the same obstacles as other people is one thing that sets this book apart from most of the Amish fare in today's Christian Fiction.

Lena Kauffman is used to adversity. She has spent most of her young life being the object of stares and whispers because of birthmark on her cheek. But, that doesn't stop Lena. One of Lena's greatest desires is to see children learn and her dreams are coming true as the schoolteacher for the Dry Lake community, but it is not without it's challenges. Peter, a new student is almost more than Lena can handle. His resentment and hatred threaten to destroy the school. As Lena tries to help Peter more and more attention is drawn to her teaching methods which some believe do not follow the Old Ways. Lena's long-time friend and school board member Grey Graber tries to help Lena but he has problems of his own . Grey's wife, Elsie has affectively cut him out of her life and just when they begin to turn the tide in their marriage, tragedy strikes. Will Lena be able to keep her job in spite of the troubles at the school? Will Grey be able to overcome his loss and move on with his life?

Cindy Woodsmall has crafted a novel that shows the Amish people in a different light. Most of the Christian Fiction Amish books out there have a very common theme. Amish woman or man, falls in love with an Englisher and must decide whether to continue in their faith or leave the Amish community. It is the same story told over in many different guises. Woodsmall changes it up a bit and that makes all the difference. Her characters are refreshing and her story lines are authentic and believable. She shows us that the Amish people are not perfect and still face the same problems that the rest of us do. The have the same desires and wishes that other people have, they just trust in God to work those things out instead of relying on themselves. I really liked the author's approach to the Amish people. She portrayed them as individuals and not just a part of a religious order.

For example, Lena's character was very well written. Like many women out there Lena faces body image issues due to a discolored birthmark on her face. Most women today are so caught up in societies version of what their appearance should be, that they have turned to drastic measures. Lena turns to God. She has learned to accept her birthmark though she still wonders if any man will ever be able to see past it and see her as a person. These are normal fears and worries that transcend the barriers between the Amish and the everyday person. I thought the author did an excellent job of showing how Lena dealt with her issues and was still able to have a positive outlook on life.

One of the things I appreciated in this second book in the Ada's House series was that the author didn't leave the characters we met in the first book out of the loop. The story of Ada and Deborah continues in The Bridge of Peace as does the story of Cara and Ephraim. Though they are not the main focus of the book, they are not left hanging. Cara continues to struggle with her decision of whether or not she wants to join the Amish community and Deborah is still grieving for the loss of Mahlon who has decided to leave the community. Readers who are reading this book without reading the first book will not feel left out, but I urge you to read The Hope of Refuge so that you can learn more about the community of Dry Lake and it's people. One of the most helpful parts of the book for new readers to the series is the descriptions of all the characters and Amish words and phrases that Woodsmall includes in this book. An excellent resource.

I recommend this one to readers of Christian and Amish fiction as well as to readers who want to begin reading stories about the Amish. Woodsmall does a wonderful job of giving readers a realistic view of a people who are sometimes misunderstood today.

The Bridge of Peace is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!





CINDY WOODSMALL is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Cindy lives in Georgia with her family.



Friday, February 25, 2011

Review: Curiosity Thrilled the Cat

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (Magical Cats - Book 1) by Sofie Kelly
Publication Date: February 2011
Publisher: Obsidian Mysteries
Genre: Cozy Mystery
ISBN-13: 9780451232496
ISBN:
0451232496

(Received for review from Obsidian Mysteries)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Sofie Kelly on the WEB: Website

Excerpt from Curiosity Thrilled the Cat

Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):

When librarian Kathleen Paulson moved to Mayville Heights, Minnesota, she had no idea that two strays would nuzzle their way into her life. Own is a tabby with a catnip addiction and Hercules is a stocky tuxedo cat who shares Kathleen's fondness for Barry Manilow. But beyond all the furs and purrs, there's something more to these felines.

When murder interrupts Mayville's Music Festival, Kathleen finds herself the prime suspect. More stunning is her realization that Owen and Hercules are magical - and she's relying on their skills to solve a purr-fect murder.

Thoughts:

Sofie Kelly, the author of several young adult novels is taking the plunge into the Cozy Mystery world. Curiosity Thrilled the Cat is the first book in Kelly's new Magical Cats series featuring two lovable felines, Owen and Hercules, along with amateur sleuth, Kathleen Paulson, librarian. Readers will fall in love with these kitties, who steal the show in Kelly's cozy debut. Full of mystery, adventure and feline antics, this book will have readers staying up long into the night, flipping those pages.

Kathleen Paulson has to get out of Boston. Her life is turned upside down when her boyfriend goes away for a couple of weeks and comes back married. She proves to him that she is a lot more spontaneous than he gave her credit for when she picks up and moves to Mayville Heights, Minnesota to oversee the renovation of the town library. Kathleen quickly realizes that Mayville may be just the place to call home, especially after adopting two stray cats and assorted new friends from the neighborhood. Owen and Hercules couldn't be more different, a tabby and a tuxedo cat who seem to magically be able to walk through walls. When Kathleen finds the conductor of the Wild Rose Summer Music Festival dead at his piano, all leads point to her as the number one suspect. She'll have to rely on her wits and the help of her two magical cats to prove her innocence.

If you love mystery and magic this the book for you! The Magical Cats series will appeal to both cozy fans and cat lovers alike. Owen and Hercules are both very interesting cats with lots of personality. Owen, the tabby is a catnip addict, but what cat isn't? He just doesn't understand Kathleen and Hercules' musical preferences, Barry Manilow makes him cringe. Once Kathleen comes to the realization that there is something very different about Owen she begins to notice little things she has taken for granted like his ability to suddenly appear as if by magic.

Hercules on the other hand is a tuxedo with an attitude, a Barry Manilow lover who is laid back and full of mischief and being able to walk through walls is only the half of it. I loved these two kitties, they really stole the show in this book. Kelly's writing of these two characters reminds me of Rita Mae Brown's, Mrs. Murphy series. Kelly gives these two felines the spotlight as they help their "person," Kathleen solve the crime. They are just as well developed as their human counterparts. We learn a lot about them and what they can do.

Kathleen is a great character as well. Readers will be able to identify with her on many levels. Readers love books, and having the main character be a librarian is a very appropriate touch. Most women can certainly understand wanting to change their lives after a bad break up, but many lack the courage. They will applaud Kathleen as she begins a new life in Mayville, making new friends and dealing with a contractor that would drive many up the wall. Kathleen's sleuthing abilities are put to the test with this crime and Kelly's ability to show Kathleen's process of solving the crime is amazing. The author really lets us get into Kathleen's head.

The supporting cast of characters really add flavor to the book. From Detective Gordon's sarcastic wit, to Rebecca's down home friendliness, readers will fall in love with Mayville's quirky inhabitants. I would definitely recommend this one to cozy fans, who are looking for a great new author and series and also to readers who love good cat story. This one really fits the bill for both. With a very clear and simple style and a flair for the magical, Curiosity Thrilled the Cat is great addition to the cozy world.

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!





Sofie Kelly is the pseudonym for young adult writer and mixed-media artist, Darlene Ryan. Sofie/Darlene lives on the east coast with her husband and daughter. In her spare time she practices Wu style tai chi and likes to prowl around thrift stores. And she admits to having a small crush on Matt Lauer.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review & Giveaway: The Me Project

The Me Project: 21 Days to Living the Life You've Always Wanted by Kathi Lipp

Publication Date: February 2011
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Genre: Non-Fiction/Self-Help/Chrisitan
ISBN-13: 9780736929660
ISBN:
0736929665

(Received for review from Kathy Carlton Willis Communications)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Despository, Christianbook.com, IndieBound

Kathi Lipp on the WEB: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

It's Time to Pursue Your Dreams

Have daily demands caused you to set aside your goals and dreams? How might your life be different, if you took a few minutes every day for 21 days to put your dreams on "project status"?

The Me Project provides fun, creative, and doable daily steps for you to actually live out the dreams God has planted in your heart. Kathi Lipp's warm tone and laugh-out-loud humor will motivate you to take action each day toward bringing purpose back into your life. And it will give you the confidence you need to accomplish your dreams in the midst of your already busy schedule.

You'll learn how to

  • discover (or rediscover) the unique plan God has for your life
  • connect with a group of like-minded women who want to make their goals a priority
  • change your attitude toward your roles in life, as well as how you approach your goals
If you're ready to take on the challenge of living the life you've always wanted, The Me Project is your place to begin.

Thoughts:

Writer and speaker Kathi Lipp has once again brought readers a practical guide to pursuing their own personal dreams and goals. Kathi's previous books gave women insight into having a better marriage and bringing back the love they shared with their spouse. Her latest book, The Me Project is all about getting that passion and drive to pursue our dreams and goals back.

With so many demands on bodies, time and emotions it is sometimes hard to find the time to pursue our own personal goes, but Lipp shows readers that with just a few minutes a day they can take daily steps toward fulfilling the innermost longings of the heart, those dreams that may have been put aside because you got married or started a career. What you really wanted to say when someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up!

This book provides creative ideas to put your dreams on "project status". I believe that so many of us want to pursue those long held dreams but we have no idea how to get started. Lipp gives the reader starting point, a boost to get them going in the right direction. Her creative ideas are full of easy to do steps that readers will find not only challenging but also fun. Lipp uses humor to engage the reader and make them feel at ease. She gives them just a little nudge to get them going, while also allowing the reader to laugh at themselves a little bit as they start to change their lives.

When I was growing up I had one answer to that all important question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I wanted to be an author. I started reading at a young age and that's really what I wanted to do, but as I got older, life kind of got in the way. I got married, had two kids, had a very demanding job and there just didn't seem time to pursue my deepest and greatest dream to write. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and you just have to go with it. My health eventually gave me the time and purpose to pursue my writing career. Kathi Lipp's book is a great inspiration to me. If I had read it sooner, I probably would have had my own dreams on project status long before I did. I think readers will fall in love with Kathi's style and her ability to see inside the hearts of women who ask themselves the question, "Is this all there is"?

I recommend this one to women who want more out of life, who want to live their dreams and find passion in their everyday lives as they pursue life-long goals.

Please take the time to check out this short article written by Kathi Lipp to quick start you into living your dreams, it's called Three Super Simple Kick Starts.

The Me Project is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag! I love it...






Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker, currently speaking each year to thousands of women throughout the United States. She is the author of The Husband Project and The Marriage Project and has had articles published in several magazines, including Today's Christian Woman and Discipleship Journal. Kathi and her husband Roger, live in California and are the parents of four young adults.





GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Kathy Carlton Willis Communications is sponsoring a Grand Prize Giveaway! One reader from Debbie's Book Bag will be entered in the grand prize drawing to win a Deluxe Starbucks Coffee Gift Basket. Here are the details:
  • Three 2.5-oz. bags of Starbucks coffee
    (Sumatra, House Blend, and French Roast)
  • Tazo black tea
  • Starbucks marshmallow cocoa
  • Almond roca
  • Almond roca buttercrunch toffee cookies
  • White chocolate and raspberry cookies
  • 2 Starbucks mugs
  • Keepsake black bamboo basket
$62 value

Here's what you need to do to get a chance to be entered in this drawing:

~You must be a GFC follower of Debbie's Book Bag!
~Please leave a comment on this post answering the question: What did you always want to be when you grew up and did you follow that dream?
~Please include your e-mail address to be officially entered
~Deadline for this giveaway will be
Midnight EST, March 2nd.
~The Grand Prize Drawing with be March 7th and the winner will be notified.

That's all there is to it!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review: Angel Sister

Angel Sister by Ann H. Gabhart

Publication Date: February 2011
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group/Revell Books
Genre: Christian Fiction/Historical
ISBN-13: 9780800733810
ISBN:
0800733819

(Received for review from Revell Books)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Ann H. Gabhart on the WEB: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter

Excerpt from Angel Sister

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

It is 1936 and Kate Merritt works hard to keep her family together. Her father has slipped into alcoholism, her mother is trying to come to grips with their dire financial situation, and her sisters seem to remain blissfully oblivious to all of it. Kate could never have imagined that a dirty, abandoned little girl named Lorena Birdsong would be just what her family needs.

In this richly textured novel, award-winning author Ann H. Gabhart reveals the power of true love, the freedom of forgiveness, and the strength to persevere through troubled times, all against the backdrop of a sultry Kentucky summer.

Thoughts:

Ann H. Gabhart, well known for her Shaker series books, brings a new set of characters to life in her latest book, Angel Sister. Set during The Great Depression in a small, rural Kentucky community, this novel examines the affects of war on those who fought and those who were left waiting for them to return. Gabhart's fans and new readers alike will be spellbound by this heartwarming story about the power of love and forgiveness.

Victor Merritt returned home from WWI a different man. The fighting changed him somehow and he fights desperately to get back to a normal and safe place in his life. Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he self-medicates heavily with alcohol to stop the nightmares that plague him. His wife Nadine must come to grips with Victor's problems and the financial situation she finds her family in. Victor, the son of the most powerful man in town has never been able to live up to the expectations of his father, not in his career choice, as a blacksmith or with his family. Nadine has lived under the scrutiny of her preacher father, all her life and now she is unable to get over the past enough to ask him for help. All the while Victor and Nadine's middle daughter, Kate is left to hold the family together. When she finds a little girl on the church steps and the family takes her in as one of their own, difficult choices have to be made and the power love and forgiveness is the only thing that can save them.

This novel is a very emotional read. The main characters of the book are struggling with some very deep rooted issues, from Victor's feelings of failure to Nadine's struggle with the loss of her first child. When Lenora Birdsong enters the picture, she breathes new life into a family that is teetering on the edge of disaster. Through this one little girl the members of the family start to see beyond their own problems and into the heart of a child. I thought the author did an excellent job of portraying what would have happened to a child who was abandoned during this time in history. The circumstances would be very different today and readers will find it hard not to wish there was a better way to help Lenora.

The emotions are very intense and the characters themselves are deep. Nadine is a character that a lot of women will identify with. She has always had problems with her father, the preacher and felt that the community was judging her. Now that Victor is obviously having problems with alcohol, the stigma of not being good enough is even stronger for Nadine. One of the things that I really liked about her character was the fact that no matter what happened she stood by Victor and her love for him remained in spite of the stress he put on the relationship, she endured and that takes a lot of strength and courage.

Victor's condition is treatable now, but in those days they had no idea what to do with someone who couldn't quite get past what happened to him in combat. Not only that, but his relationship with his father and feelings of failure plagued him throughout the book, but he still managed to try to lead his family in the right direction. Victor has to come to grips with the past and figure how to move on and he somehow finds the will to go through faith in God and the love of one little girl. It's amazing to me how life can change in a split second and how one person or in this case one child can completely upend your life.

I really enjoyed this novel and I think Christian Fiction readers will be enthralled with this family that is so hard hit by the affects of War. It is something that doesn't just go away when a soldier returns from combat and Gabhart did a wonderful job of showing that to readers. The book was also set in Kentucky which is where I am from and I always enjoy seeing how this area is portrayed in novels. I felt the author had a wonderful sense of community and understanding of a small rural town and the complexities of it. Gabhart used experiences and stories she grew up with to craft this book and it really shows in the spirit of the novel. It is a great historical and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read a great book with lots of history and a deep meaningful plot. Faith, forgiveness and the power of love makes this one a must read.

Available February 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!





Ann H. Gabhart is the author of several novels, including, The Outsider, The Believer, and The Seeker. Angel Sister is inspired in part by the many stories her mother and three aunts told her of growing up in small-town Kentucky during the 1930's.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review: One Hundred Candles

One Hundred Candles (Past Midnight - Book 2) by Mara Purnhagen

Publication Date: February 2011
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: YA
ISBN-13: 9780373210237
ISBN:
037321023X

(Received for review from Net Galley)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Mara Purnhagen on the WEB: Website, Facebook

Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):

It's taken a long time for me to feel like a normal teenager. But now that I'm settled in a new school, where people know me as more than Charlotte Silver of the infamous Silver family paranormal investigators, it feels like everything is falling into place. And what better way to be normal than to go on a date with a popular football star like Harris Abbott? After all, it's not as if Noah is anything more than a friend...

But my new life takes a disturbing turn when Harris brings me to a party and we play a game called One Hundred Candles. It seems like harmless, ghostly fun. Until spirits unleashed by the game start showing up at school. Now my new friends and family are in very real danger, and the door that I've opened into another realm may yield deadly consequences.

Thoughts:

One Hundred Candles is the second book in the Past Midnight series by Mara Purnhagen. The author's ability to write from a teen perspective, with all it's angst and worries is one of the things that sets this book apart. Purnhagen has created a novel that centers around the paranormal world, but without it's the normal fare of werewolves and vampires. Readers will find this series a refreshing change.

Charlotte Silver is a typical teenage girl, with all the normal trappings of high school, boys and friends. Her family on the other hand has a very interesting job. They are paranormal investigators, who travel around the country trying to prove that most paranormal happenings can be explained logically without the help of the supernatural. They do experience some real paranormal activity especially when they go to inspect an insane asylum in Cleveland and one of their assistants is possessed by a supernatural being known as the Watcher.

Charlotte continues to try to live a normal life and become accepted. She decides to go on a date with Harris, a popular football player and ends up playing a game called, One Hundred Candles. The game seems harmless, like telling a bunch of ghost stories, but it gets a little creepy when these ghosts start showing up at school. With her parents fighting all the time and on the verge of divorce and the paranormal world closing in, Charlotte's dreams of a normal life start to seem impossible.

This was an interesting book. I have only recently started to read YA and most of the books I have read were paranormal titles. The big bent in YA right now is of course werewolves, vampires and the fairy world, so I was excited with this one because it was about something different, ghosts. I have always liked a good ghost story, but this book has a lot more to offer the reader than just a few ghosts.

The overall premise of the book was engaging and the plot moved at a good pace. Having read the first book in the series, I could see a lot of growth in this second book. Charlotte, the main character has really matured a lot and is seeing life from a much different point of view. One Hundred Candles has less ghostly happenings in it, but it delves more into the characters and who they are. I felt like I really got to know Charlotte and her family a lot better. Charlotte being a typical teen has a lot going on in her life with school and boys, but her home life is deteriorating right before her eyes. Her parents constant bickering has started to affect everyone around them and it's interesting to see how Charlotte handles this.

One of the things that I really like about Charlotte's character is that she is real girl. She isn't a werewolf, she isn't a vampire, she has no special abilities, just an uncanny ability to figure out paranormal mysteries. She uses her own wit and smarts to get through whatever comes her way. She has spunk and determination and those are some really good traits in a good heroine. I think that readers will really be able to identify with Charlotte as she comes of age in this novel and learns a lot about herself.

The supporting cast was much better developed in this book and you really got to see what was causing them to do what they did. There motivations and emotions were explored a lot a more and they really began to come alive to me. In the last book the author seemed to be more focused on the main character and left out those little details a reader needs to get comfortable with the people in the main characters life. I think she really got it, with this second book and I look forward to seeing what happens to them next.

One Hundred Candles is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out 5 apples from my book bag! This series is progressing very well.





Mara Purnhagen cannot live without a tall caramel latte, her iPod or a stack of books on her nightstand. She has live in Aurora, Illinois; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Dayton, Ohio; and Duncan, South Carolina. She currently lives outside Cleveland, Ohio, with her family, two cats and a well-meaning ghost that likes to open the kitchen windows. She is the writer of several Young Adult novels.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Review: The Mistress' House

The Mistress' House by Leigh Michaels

Publication Date: February 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN-13: 9781402241352
ISBN:
1402241356

(Received for review from Sourcebooks)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Leigh Michaels on the WEB: Website, Facebook, Twitter

Gotham Writer's Workshop

Excerpt from The Mistress' House

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

The rules are made to be broken...

When the handsome, rakish Earl of Hawthorne buys the charming house across the back garden from his town house, he never expects the lovely lady he installs there to ensnare him completely...

Again and again...

After Lady Anne Keighley marries the earl, it seems a shame to leave the house empty, so she offers it ot her childhood friend Felicity Mercer, who discovers that the earl's gorgeous cousin is precisely the man she's been waiting for...Finally, feisty Georgiana Baxter moves into the house to escape an arranged marriage, and encounters th earl's friend Lord Julian Silsby late one night in the back garden. The handsome soldier is more than willing to give her the lessons she asks for...

Th house's ownership, proximity to the earl's townhouse and the beauty of its successive inhabitants leads to plenty of gossip, scandal and torrid speculation, while behind closed doors, passions blaze...

Thoughts:

Leigh Michaels is an author with over 80 books to her credit. Her latest novel, The Mistress' House is her first historical romance and readers will be captivated by her sophisticated style and immense knowledge of Regency, England. The Mistress' House weaves three intertwined love stories together to create a novel that will leave readers wanting more. Full of love, scandal and mystery, This Mistress' House is an engaging story with an interesting plot.

Three women, three love stories, one house. When the Earl of Hawthorne decides to buy a quaint house adjoining the back garden to his London townhouse, he can't imagine how it will change his life. He intends to use the house as a place to install his mistress'. When Lady Anne Keighley moves in, he is quickly smitten and falls madly in love. When Anne decides to loan the house to her childhood friend, a quiet young woman from the country, she has no idea that once again the Mistress' House will be a place of love when Felicity meets the Earl's cousin. Georgiana is the Earl's ward, he moves her into the Mistress' House when she is trying to escape an arranged marriage. When she meets a soldier and friend of Earl, Julian, love along with a healthy dose of scandal again blooms in the garden of the Mistress' House.

This was a very interesting concept for a book. Basically, the reader gets three loves stories woven together in one novel. The book is not divided or separated by each story, they all intertwine and it makes for a very interesting read. The author has a knack for blending the background and back story's of the characters in a way that makes the book feel natural and believable.

Micheal's knowledge of the Regency period is obvious, her research impeccable. It is apparent from the writing of the book that the author was very conscientious about getting the small details right. I have read a lot of books set in this period and occasionally become a little disheartened by author's who don't think the reader will notice a little slip here and there. Michael's did an excellent job making sure she had her i's dotted and her t's crossed, so to speak.

The characters were developed quickly as the pace of the novel was fast and made it necessary for the stories of all three couples to be laid down quickly. The Earl of Hawthorne's character was very well done and I felt like I knew a lot about him in the end. If I have one fault with the book, it was that I wanted to know more about the other characters. I liked what I found out about them, but I wanted a little more. Why would a beautiful widow, like Anne want to proposition the Earl? Why did Felicity decide to leave the country, where she was happy and content? Why did Georgiana not want to marry the man her Uncle chose for her? These questions were talked about in the book, but I still felt like there was so much more to know about them.

The is a novel that is driven by a theme, love. This theme overshadows the whole book and is the driving force of the plot. Romance readers generally read romance to escape and find the happy-ever-after ending, in this book, they get three great love stories, with three great endings. I am looking forward to seeing if the author keeps up this three in one idea with her next novel. I liked the concept and believe other historical romance readers will as well. It was different and refreshing for the genre and I think it has a lot of potential.

The Mistress' House is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



Interview and Giveaway: Leigh Michaels

Please join me in welcoming author Leigh Michaels to Debbie's Book Bag today. Leigh is promoting her latest novel, The Mistress' House. Sourcebooks is generously offering two copies of Leigh's book for giveaway. Please see Details at the end of the post.

DEB: Leigh, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
LM: I’m a Midwesterner by birth but an Anglophile from my early childhood. I don’t know why I’m so attracted to England, but I always have been. The Mistress’ House is my 81st published novel – I wrote 80 contemporary romances for Harlequin before taking a break from fiction, then turning to writing historicals.

DEB: Tell us a little about your latest book, The Mistress’ House?
LM: The Mistress’ House is a townhouse on Upper Seymour Street in London, purchased by the Earl of Hawthorne with the intention of using it as a hideaway for his mistresses. Instead, the first woman he takes there captures his heart. With the house left empty, the new countess loans it to her childhood friend, who finds love with the earl’s cousin… and then the earl stashes his ward there to hide her from an unwanted marriage, and she, too, falls in love.

DEB: What was your inspiration for these books? Have you always been interested in historical romance?
LM: I’ve always loved reading historical romances and historical fiction, and also non-fiction about my favorite historical periods. My inspiration was actually a contest I was co-sponsoring with a writing partner. The contest challenge was to capture her attention with a 1,000-word opening section of a novel and make her want to read on, and I wanted to see if I could do it. She was the first person who read the entire manuscript of The Mistress’ House – one scene at a time – and cheered me on to write more.

DEB: What type of research did you do for your books?
LM: I feel as if I’ve been researching these books for most of my life. I have always loved English history and have studied the Regency period for years, so when I took a break from contemporary romance it was a natural choice to write about this era.

DEB: What is your normal writing day like? Do you have things that have to be in place to write comfortably?
LM: I start my day with email and a quick check on the classes I teach online at Gotham Writers Workshop (www.writingclasses.com) and then I open up my book and read over what I wrote the day before. I do some polishing, revising, and fleshing out of the most recent work and that gets me back into the flow of the story (and helps to keep the tone and voice consistent). The length of time I work depends on the stage the story’s in – shorter hours at first while I’m still working things out in my head, longer and longer as the book gets closer to the finish line. I take the last few minutes of the writing day and block out the next section – very roughly, just notes and bits of dialogue, with no attention paid to typos or grammar. Then the next day I have a starting place.

DEB: What was it like when you got the word that your first novel would be published?
LM: Even after writing 80 contemporary romance novels, each new book is a kick, and seeing it – holding it in my hands for the first time – is a delight. Because there are so many “firsts” about The Mistress’ House (first historical, first single-title, first sexy romance, first book with a new publisher) it was particularly lovely to get the news that Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks loved it and wanted to buy it.

DEB: Do have any advice for new writers?
LM: Don’t get so caught up in the beauty of your words that you think they can’t be made better. Writers can’t see their own work clearly – when we read what we’ve written, we remember what we were thinking, but the reader can’t see that. The best way to improve your writing is to write a lot – and not be afraid to do it over.

DEB: When you’re not writing, what kinds of books do you like to read? Do you have a favorite author?
LM: I like to relax with mysteries and non-fiction. Margaret Maron is a favorite mystery author. Lately I’ve been reading Donald Harstad who’s a fellow Iowan – he writes police procedurals. I like to read romance, but it’s more relaxing when I’m writing to read something different.

DEB: What are you working on right now?
LM: After writing three 90,000 word books in 18 months, I’ve been lazy for a few weeks. I’m starting a fourth triple story – three heroes, three heroines, three conflicts, three happy endings, all in one interwoven package.

DEB: Tell us one thing that people may not know about you?
LM: I love miniatures and have a 1/12 scale-model house – a Georgian-style mansion – that my husband built for me. There are pictures on my website at www.leighmichaels.com.


GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Sourcebooks has generously offered two copies of The Mistress' House to two lucky winners from Debbie's Book Bag!

There are a few simple rules:

~ You must be a GFC follower to enter.
~ This giveaway is for US and Canadian addresses only, as these books will be sent out directly from the publisher.
~The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, March 7th.

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2. You must fill out this FORM in order to be entered.

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