Sunday, January 24, 2010

"The Adventures of PJ and Split Pea" by S.D. Moore

"The Adventures of PJ and Split Pea (Vol. 1): Fine Feathered Friends" by S.D. Moore and illustrated by Bobbi Switzer is a cute children's book. The protagonist is a short singing boy by the name of PJ. He is ridiculed in school for his small stature. One day, he seeks a pet. After much contemplation in the pet store, PJ adopts an injured parrot. Many of the bird's wings were lost in a severe storm. Together, the parrot confesses his insecurities to PJ. The boy tries to fit the bird in vain. In the end, both learn that they are perfect as they are--imperfections and all. The morals in this book are great, and the illustrations are fantastic. The only imperfections in this children's book is the occasional syntax error and some pages that are a bit of text on top and just white space on the bottom.

"Jenna’s Cowboy" by Sharon Gillenwater

"Jenna’s Cowboy" by Sharon Gillenwater is a romance novel of sorts. It centers around a divorced woman, her child, and an old friend. Characteristic of most romance novels, Nate (the old friend) comes back to her town more dashing than when he left, with muscles to boot. Jenna herself is also described as good looking and athletic. Anyway, the story is quite predictable. Judging from the title, the reader knows that Jenna and Nate will end up together. Since this is published from Revell--a predominantly Christian publishing company--the reader also knows this entails matrimony of some sort. There is little romance in the book that is physical--a plus for Christian readers looking to avoid raunchy / trashy romance novels. There is some mention of kissing and affection, but there is nothing beyond that to cause readers to be reviled. Although Gillenwater does write about Jenna's family, the majority of the book revolves around Jenna and Nate, with events hosting her child in the background. So, readers can read some of this book, put it down, pick it up a week later, and not miss a beat. What makes this romance novel different from others is that the male is a war veteran from Iraq. Post-traumatic-stress-disorder is covered heavily. Descriptions of the Texas surroundings and rural lifestyle are included, too. As said before, this book is tiredly predictable. However, Gillenwater works her magic to make the reader keep turning those pages in placid entertainment.

Available January 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

"50 Ways to Feel Great Today" by David Biebel DMin, James Dill MD & Bobbie Dill RN

"50 Ways to Feel Great Today: Keys to Beating Stress, Worry and the Blues" by David Biebel DMin, James Dill MD and Bobbie Dill RN is a straightforward book for those looking to make variety truly their spice of life. Each chapter gives a quick headline of an action, followed by a famously relevant quote and the description itself. These include various anecdotes from all three authors, in addition to stories from others. Scientific claims are made that are easy to understand and that seemingly common sense. Still, the authors include an in depth section of notes in the back. This book is religious at times, quoting scripture and relating to God, but it is not as religious as some readers may like (such occurrences are widely interspersed and not covered throughout). Also, due to there being three authors, sometimes the He is capitalized when relating to God, and sometimes the he is not. All in all, the fifty ways to feel great are geared towards all, but there are references that imply the reader may be a parent or grandparent. The list of actions are not entirely unique, yet they come together in a most easygoing manner, as to make readers appreciative of such an organized book that gives them pointers for "feeling great."

Available December 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller

"A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller has an interesting back story. One of Miller's memoirs ("Blue Like Jazz") sold many copies, and he was approached by filmmakers to turn the book into a movie. After much back-and-forth discussion, they made it clear that he would have to fabricate and enhance most of his book to make the memoir-turned-movie sell and appeal to the average person. Miller counteracts them and writes about how he quizzically prodded them to elucidate. In the book, many anecdotes and stories are thrust at the reader. Some are random, some hold meaning, and some just seem to prove to the filmmakers that God's life we are granted isn't necessarily boring. The stories are about Miller, his friends, and distant acquaintances. Some stories involve him, others don't. Maybe one day Miller will have a movie, but, as of now, that isn't likely. Miller doesn't want to change his life. There is talk of God in this book but not as much as one would expect from a book published under a predominantly Christian market. Readers will be entertained with this book and lift an eyebrow while smirking as they turn each page.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"The Choice" Blog Tour

"The Choice" by Suzanne Woods Fisher is a riveting book. Set in the Amish world, readers take the avid descriptions and become ensconced in them. There is just enough detail to be immersed in the setting but not so much as to bore the reader. The protagonist, Carrie, is a young woman; her exact age is never given, perhaps so a wider audience of women may relate to her. She loves a fellow Amish man, and they have plans to marry. However, when he makes a sudden and unexpected decision, everything changes. Carrie then finds love elsewhere, if that is what one would call it. The reader learns whether or not Carrie loves her new mate in step with Carrie as she finds out for herself. There are many twists and turns in the book that readers would not think that Fisher would dare do--let alone twice. The book starts out a bit slow, but the drama kicks into high gear after the first twenty pages or so. It is akin to someone sitting down to watch the middle of a soap opera with no prior knowledge--it goes slowly because personas are not known--but that feeling subsides. Readers may not be happy with all the decisions Fisher makes with regards to the characters and their choices, but they would have to agree that the book is entertaining nonetheless. There are only a few major events in the book that are drawn out for the reader to make connects, so it is difficult to discuss more plot without giving away the story.

Available January 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

You can find Suzanne on-line at or Facebook or Twitter (suzannewfisher). She loves to hear from readers and tries to get back to each one. Below is an interview with her:

Amish Fiction is a "hot genre" right now in the Christian book industry. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a front-page article that cited its market share as high as 14%. Why do you think people are so intrigued by the Amish?
There’s a direct correlation between how complicated our lives are—with all kinds of time-saving technology that oddly consumes time—and peoples’ longing for a simpler life. It seems as if people are hungry for margin in their lives—for leisure time, for fewer demands, for quiet, for peace. I’m not sure life ever has been simple, but there’s a perception that a rural, less materialistic life is more manageable. And who better personifies the simple life than the Amish?

Not many authors write both fiction and non-fiction. In fact, most authors find "their voice" and stick with it. Why is that different for you?
Having started as a magazine writer, I assumed I was a non-fiction writer. As I ventured into fiction, I wondered why I had limited myself! My non-fiction writing has improved because of writing fiction—I’ve learned to jazz it up. And my fiction writing has an edge because I have research skills to give it credibility. I really think writers should be open to stretching their vocal chords!

You started your writing career as a free lancer for magazines. Your first book was published with a small press. Are you glad you "started small?"
Very, very glad. It was a small pond to learn in, make mistakes, gain important skills like public speaking or book promotion. I can’t say enough about the benefits of starting small.
I learned two important principles:
1) Take your writing very seriously. Set goals, find a writers’ group, attend conferences, learn from others.
2) At the same time, don’t take yourself too seriously. Get a tough hide. Persevere. Anticipate a few battle scars. Laugh at your mistakes. Enjoy this writing gig!

How do you get your ideas for writing?
It takes a while to get a story into focus, but I start with the main “footprint” and fill in as I go. It really is strange how a story starts to take on a life of its own.

What has God taught you through writing?
Four words: “Hangeth Thou In There.”

Tell us about "The Waiting", Book 2 in the "Lancaster County Secrets." (To release on October 1, 2010.)
The second in this series takes place in the same town of Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania, but in a different time period—during the 1960s. Jorie King is in love with Ben Zook—a fellow who has a tendency toward “fence jumping” and is currently serving in Vietnam as a Conscientious Objector. Everyone assumes Jorie will marry Ben when he returns, but life in Stoney Ridge takes a few unexpected twists and turns.

Why did you kill a character just as the readers were growing attached to that character?
I know! I know it was hard to see that character go (can't say too much...don't want to reveal the plot!). In my own life, there have been some unexpected, untimely deaths of friends or family members. The Amish believe that when death comes, a life is complete. Doesn't make it easy to accept the loss, but it does help to remember that God holds our lives in his hands. So I guess that was the reason...but I am very pleased that readers felt "attached" to that character. That is not an easy thing to do! Even if it means they feel grief. And if it makes you feel better, I grieved for that character. So did the editor! But alas...that individual's book life was complete.

Did you intentionally not mention Carrie's age so more female readers could identify with her?
Carrie is around age twenty-ish...that wasn't meant to be omitted as much as assumed. Young enough for teenagers to relate to her, but starting to move into young adulthood. so many at that came a little before Carrie was ready for it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"101 Glam Girl Ways to an Ultra Chic Lifestyle" by Dawn Del Russo

"101 Glam Girl Ways to an Ultra Chic Lifestyle: A CHEEKY POCKET-SIZED BOOK WITH TIDBITS OF ADVICE FOR A GLAMOROUS LIFESTYLE" by Dawn Del Russo is a quick read that is exactly what the cover describes it to be. There are 101 tips, each with its own girly page that pops. There is a title, a picture (illustrated by Barbara Ann Scarrillo), and an adage to boot. There are some quick fashion pointers that relate to must-have accessories, but this isn't a fashion book that tells women how to dress for their body and complexion. Rather, there are pointers for taking care of one's skin and staying in shape. Some hints are for the exterior, and some are for mental / emotional development. For example, tips range from taking a walk to buying a white button down shirt to writing in a journal to taking vitamins and more. The 101 glam tips make sense and come together well. They serve more as reminders than explicit directions since very few words are on each page. Still, readers get the gist. The only thing some conservative readers may not like is the makeup push and the "wear sexy lingerie" tip. Other than those, this book is rather posh. It even arrived in the mail wrapped fastidiously in hot pink tissue paper!

Friday, January 8, 2010

"The Gospel According to Lost" by Sean Seay

"The Gospel According to Lost" by Sean Seay is a riveting read. It dives deep into the jungle that is Lost and does not even come up for a breather. The book briefly explains the concept of the show, its philosophical heritage, and its cultural repercussions. Subsequently, chapters are devoted to characters and their psyches, with the occasional chapter being host to two characters when they are a couple. Not all the personas from Lost are covered, but the main ones plus a few secondary roles are elucidated. Also, there is a full set of glossy pages with paintings of said characters in the middle, as well as black and white photos of these alongside their respective chapters. Seay refers to Scripture when necessary and is very simplistic in his explanations of such. While viewers of lost may be a bit partial towards this book, others will enjoy the ride as they find out what all the fuss is about whilst gaining a Christian perspective on it.