Thursday, April 2, 2020

"The Blue Cloak" by Shannon McNear -- Book Review, Blog Tour, and Giveaway

About the Book

Book:  The Blue  Cloak
Author: Shannon McNear
Genre:  Christian Historical/Suspense
Release Date: March, 2020
9781643523149Evil Incarnate Leaves a Trail of Destruction across the Frontier
Book 5 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History
Rachel Taylor lives a rather mundane existence in 1797 at the way station her family runs along the Wilderness Road in Tennessee. She attends her friend Sally Rice’s wedding only to watch the marriage dissolve into horror has the groom, Wiley Harpe, and his cousin Micajah become murderers on the run, who drag their families along. Declaring a “war on all humanity,” the Harpes won’t be stopped, and Ben Langford is on their trail to see if his own cousin was one of their latest victims.
How many will die before peace can return to the frontier?

My Thoughts

"The Blue Cloak" is part of the True Colors series, but is not tied to any of the other books. It is a standalone book. I found the book to be well written and enjoyed how it was written so it felt like it was in the language from the time period. Shannon McNear did a good job of showing the horrors of what the Harpes did without actually showing most of the acts they committed. There is a faith thread woven through the story. It was interesting seeing a little of what life was like in frontier villages. 

About the Author

ShannonMcNearTransplanted to North Dakota after more than two decades in Charleston, South Carolina, Shannon McNear loves losing herself in local history. She’s a military wife, mom of eight, mother-in-law of three, grammie of two, and a member of ACFW and RWA. Her first novella, Defending Truth in A Pioneer Christmas Collection, was a 2014 RITA® finalist. When she’s not sewing, researching, or leaking story from her fingertips, she enjoys being outdoors, basking in the beauty of the northern prairies. Connect with her at, or on Facebook and Goodreads.

More from Shannon

How dark is too dark for a Christian to write?
That was the question I wrestled with when deciding whether or not to take on the story of the Harpes. The histories in Scripture itself aren’t rated G, but writing fiction requires a level of detail and depth of emotion I wasn’t sure would be wise, or helpful, to explore in this case. But as I prayed and sought the counsel of those whose discernment I trust, the answer came back, overwhelmingly …
Is God stronger than the darkness, or not?
Well, of course He is. And nothing in human history has ever escaped His notice, or taken Him by surprise.
So, was there something redeeming to be found in the tale of the Harpes?
For the first few weeks of research, I walked around in a state of shock at the horror of the historical accounts, but details surfaced that helped me shape my fictional characters Rachel and Ben. With Rachel working in her family’s trading post near the wild frontier town of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Ben a lawyer who recently passed the bar, the real-life Hugh Lawson White provided a handy connection point between them. Many other details fell together in ways I had not foreseen when I began developing the story. Sally Rice Harpe, however, rose to the forefront. This was more her story than anyone’s, but realizing I couldn’t properly write the book without using her point of view? That was scary. I knew the moments I’d have to visit, some of them in real-time.
Despite the tragedy, however, I could see an overarching story of spiritual warfare. Felt a growing conviction that prayer must have played a vital role in bringing the Harpes’ reign of terror to an end. So it is my hope that against the backdrop of one of the most chilling episodes of our country’s early history, the hand of God shows clearly, and that yes, the reader finds it redemptive.

Blog Stops

Emily Yager, March 25
Genesis 5020, March 26
Remembrancy, March 26
Among the Reads, March 27
Betti Mace, March 30
Older & Smarter?, March 30
Robin’s Nest, March 31
Stories By Gina, April 1
By The Book, April 2
Artistic Nobody, April 3 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)
Pause for Tales, April 5
Hallie Reads, April 6


To celebrate her tour, Shannon is giving away the grand prize package of a copy of The Blue Cloak and a $25 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

"The Blue Cloak" is available in paperback:
  • Series: True Colors
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Barbour Books (March 1, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1643523147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1643523149
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches

and in Kindle edition:
  • File Size: 1924 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Barbour Books (March 1, 2020)
  • Publication Date: February 14, 2020
  • Sold by: Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B081GG9JVQ

I got a free copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own and given voluntarily. No compensation was received for my review.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

"A Latte Difficulty" by Angela Ruth Strong -- Book Review

About the Book 

Can two baristas track down a gunman after the espresso shot heard ‘round the world?
When Marissa witnesses an attempted murder during the 4th of July parade, it starts a battle for her independence. She is forced to hide out in a safehouse, leaving her co-owner, Tandy, to run their coffee shop, track down the criminal, and, worse, plan Marissa’s wedding. Thankfully Tandy has help, but can she really trust the P.I. in a bow tie, her new deaf barista who acts more like a bartender, or a wedding planner who’s keeping secrets?
The threat on Marissa’s future goes from bad to worse when her bridal gown is covered in blood. Though her fiancé, Connor, agrees to give up his identity to join her in the Witness Protection Program, Marissa refuses to wave the white flag. Instead, she enlists Tandy to help her fight for truth, justice, and the Americano way.

My Thoughts

"A Latte Difficulty" is the third book in the CafFUNated Mysteries series. The stories do build on each other, so I would recommend reading them in order, but they could be read as standalones if you wanted. I found the book to be well written with Biblical truths woven through the story. It was fun to be able to spend time with Marissa and Tandy and Conner and Greg. I had wondered if someone could have been the one behind the threats, but this time I was wrong and who was actually behind them was a surprise which was nice. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

About the Author

Angela Ruth Strong sold her first Christian romance novel in 2009 then quit writing romance when her husband left her. Ten years later, God has shown her the true meaning of love, and there's nothing else she'd rather write about. Her books have since earned TOP PICK in Romantic Times, been optioned for film, won the Cascade Award, and been Amazon best-sellers. She also writes non-fiction for SpiritLed Woman. To help aspiring authors, she started IDAhope Writers where she lives in Idaho, and she teaches as an expert online at WRITE THAT BOOK. Get to know her even better at

"A Latte Difficulty" is available in Kindle edition:

  • File Size: 7890 KB
  • Print Length: 214 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Mountain Brook Ink (April 1, 2020)
  • Publication Date: April 1, 2020
  • Sold by: Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B084L8XHBZ

I got a free copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own and given voluntarily. No compensation was received for my review.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Month in Review -- March

  • Wrote everyday at least a minimum of 100 words? yes
  • Number of days that I wrote 500 words a day: 26 (5 days < 500)
  • Wrote 14,763 words this month 
  • Be creative
    • Tat
    • Crochet 1 snowman
    • Knit
    • Sculpt
    • Bracelets 4
  • Exercise 5 days a week? nope COVID-19 happened (4, 5, 2, 1)
  • Read my Bible everyday? Except 1 day
  • Blog posts that weren't book reviews: 1
  • Read 8 books

Sunday, March 29, 2020

"A People Chosen" by Karen Engle -- Author Interview, Blog Tour, and Giveaway

About the Book

Book:  A People Chosen
Author: Karen Engle
Genre:  Non – Fiction / Christian / Bible Study
Release Date: March, 2017
A Chosen People coverIs God finished with the Jewish people? Understanding Israel according to the Bible and not the media, political views, or personal opinion sheds incredible light on why Israel and the Jewish people exist today. God is not finished with the tiny nation and has a great purpose and plan for Israel that will impact the world. A People Chosen: God’s Purpose and Plan for Israel and the Nations is a self-guided eight-lesson Bible study. You will learn about the creation of Israel in Genesis, God’s promises to Israel and the nations, Israel’s scattering and current regathering to Israel, the return of King Jesus to rule and reign from Jerusalem, and why Israel is pivotal in God’s plan of redemption. It is a love story of faithfulness, mercy, and justice. It is the story of a people chosen by God to be a conduit for God’s blessings to all mankind. It is a weighty call, and it has not come without a price.
Author Interview

What kind of research do you do? I spend hours researching the topic of Israel and do it daily (it’s what I love doing in my free time). I’m a fan of Logos Bible Software, which gives me access to thousands of digital books and resources on the topic. I also spend a fair amount of time researching the culture and context of the Bible, and I believe it strongly affects how we interpret the Word of God. But the best “research” happens when I’m in the land of Israel, especially visiting archaeological sites and hearing from those who are (almost) daily discovering artifacts that support the accuracy of the Scriptures.
How long do you spend researching before beginning a book? This is my only book, and unless the Lord leads me to write another, it will probably be the last one I write. I’m an editor by trade, and I prefer editing to writing. For A People Chosen, I spent about eight years researching for it, including five trips to Israel.
Was there anything you found interesting while researching the topic? The most interesting thing I learned while researching this topic was the magnitude of Aliyah, or Jewish immigration, from the four corners of the earth back to the land of Israel promised to them through the Abrahamic Covenant (just as God had said would happen!) I learned about something called “The Finnish Route,” which began when a wave of about one million persecuted Russian Jews seeking immigration to Israel overwhelmed southern transportation routes. In the early 1990s, Finnish Christians began to help Jews cross the border into Finland, where they stayed with Christian families until they could fly out of Helsinki. It made Finland a major pipeline for Soviet Jewish immigration. Upwards of 30,000 Jews have immigrated to Israel through the Finnish Route over the past twenty-nine years—and it’s still active today. That story blew my mind, and I included it and some other amazing stories in the chapter on gentile responsibility in A People Chosen.
Do you read much? I’m an avid reader and confess I have a real problem: I buy more books than I have time or energy to read. I tend to gravitate toward theologians like Walter Kaiser and Darrell Bock, but I also love to get lost in good novel.
Anything else you'd like to share? God has a purpose and plan for his people (the Jews) that did not stop with the New Testament and a specific calling for gentile believers in that plan. I wrote this Bible study to take people by the hand and connect the dots, beginning in Genesis, with that plan—and to understand why what is happening in Israel today is so important! 

Click here to get your copy!

About the Author

Karen EngleKaren earned a master’s in biblical studies from Western Seminary. She is an adjunct writing instructor with Moody Bible Institute, a copy editor for Faithlife Corporation, and owner of East Gate Editing. Her passion is taking study groups to the land of Israel, which she says brings the Bible from “black and white to technicolor.”

More from Karen

There is something peculiar about the Jews. They are one of the few ancient people groups that has endured into modern times, and their religion—Judaism—is one of the world’s oldest.

The Jewish people have been miraculously regathered together into a thriving nation after being scattered throughout the earth. Hebrew, Israel’s official language, was once a dead speech but has been revived and is now an active, living language with more than five million native speakers.

They have been the most persecuted people in history and as such their existence baffles historians and theologians alike. There is no logical rationale for the Jews’ existence. Considering the Holocaust alone, the Jewish people should not have survived. And yet, they do.
In fact, they have flourished and been a blessing to the world.

The narrative of the Bible is centered on this unique nation of individuals established by God thousands of years ago in ancient Mesopotamia. From Abraham to King David to Jesus, the story of the Bible is knit together with a common thread: the Jewish people. It is a love story of faithfulness, mercy, and justice. It is the story of a people chosen by God to be a conduit for God’s blessings to humanity. It is a weighty call, and it has not come without a price.

Yet, many people, even Christians, don’t give this a second thought.

About twelve years ago, God stirred my heart toward this tiny nation, and I subsequently spent years studying the history of the Jewish people and God’s purpose and plan for them according to Scripture. And it rocked my theological world. I was in the middle of seminary, and no one (outside of one professor, who is still my favorite) talked about Israel. And though there were books on the topic, I could not find one Bible study.

When I talk to people about Israel and its importance in Scripture and thus modern-day world events, there seems to be a disconnect—a lack of understanding as to why anyone would bring up the topic. Why should anyone care? What is so significant about Israel?
I wrote this Bible study to answer these questions. It’s a cross between a book and a Bible study and is designed to take participants by the hand and help them understand why God cares so deeply about this peculiar nation. It’s a culmination of many trips to the land and years of personal study—and I’m still learning. Heavy on Scripture, full of beautiful images from around Israel, and focused on Christ, the study will turn the black and white pages of your Bible to technicolor.

I hope that those who do the study will begin to see Israel as a beautiful example of God’s faithfulness to his Word.

Blog Stops

Blossoms and Blessings, March 29 (Author Interview)
Genesis 5020, April 1
For the Love of Literature, April 4 (Author Interview)
Mary Hake, April 4
Artistic Nobody, April 7 (Author Interview)
SPLASHES of Joy, April 8


To celebrate her tour, Karen is giving away the grand prize package of an Israel-themed basket: 6 copies of my book/Bible study A People Chosen, the movie The Hope on the rebirth of Israel in 1948, the book Your People Will Be My People, and a $25 gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Monday, March 23, 2020

"One Hundred Valleys" by Bonnie Leon -- Author Interview & Book Spotlight

About the Book

After the death of her mother, Emmalin Hammond discovers she is not the heiress she’d always assumed she’d be. The revelation exposes her fiancé’s true intentions when he withdraws his marriage proposal, leaving Emmalin heartbroken and humiliated. When she discovers the father she believed to be dead is still alive and living in the Oregon Territory she decides it is time to meet the man who has been hidden from her all of her life.

Accompanied by her Uncle Jonathon, she sets out for the Oregon Territory in search of answers and hoping for a renewed relationship with her father. When tragedy strikes, she confronts the terrifying challenge of completing her quest alone. Faced with few options, she entrusts her life to a mountain man named Jacob Landon who agrees to transport her to a small settlement in Southern Oregon called Deer Creek, a place also known as the Land of One Hundred Valleys.

Emmalin is not prepared for the hardships of life in the Oregon wilderness. Each day presents a new challenge. Newfound friends, including the reserved Jacob Landon, who unexpectedly stirs her heart, come alongside to help her adapt. Yet she feels out of place. Should she brave the arduous journey back to Philadelphia for the life she once knew or remain and hope for something better in the Oregon wilderness?

Author Interview

  1. Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you (are you a plotter or a pantser?)?

I’m definitely NOT a pantser. My brain would get lost in a book if I did that. 

I create detailed character outlines, a book synopsis, story arcs, and a story outline (a brief synopsis for each chapter) before I begin writing. 

I need to know who my characters are, as much as that is possible at the beginning of a book. They become more fleshed out as I work through a story. I love creating characters! 

The outline is like a road map. It guides me. If I were to set off on a road trip without a map I’d become lost. And that’s what would happen to me if I set off to write a novel without an outline. I’d be lost in no time. I don’t advocate that writers adhere strictly to their outlines, some rabbit trails take you places where you discover story treasures, but some can take you so far off the path that it isn’t easy to find your way back.

  1. What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

My first draft is the most difficult part of the process for me. I actually enjoy editing, which tells you a bit about how my mind works. 

I use speed writes to release creativity. When I set out to write a chapter I take a few minutes to envision what will happen in the scene, then I plunge in and write without stopping. I don’t stop for misspelled words, stupid ideas, or clunky paragraphs. I just write. Afterward I do a quick clean up on the chapter and then let it rest, sometimes for a few weeks before returning to it when I do some of the fine tuning. While the chapter rests I move on to other chapters.

3. What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

Coming up with the story. I have all kinds of ideas in my head for future books. I love to imagine what will happen. I might play with a story idea for weeks, months and sometimes even years before the actual work begins.

4. Do you pen down revelations and ideas as you get them, right then
and there?

Oh yes. I have to. My brain is flighty and even if I get what I think is a fabulous idea, I will likely forget it. Revelations and revisions fly into my mind any old time so I keep a file on my phone. I no longer drive because I’m losing my vision, but I used to actually pull over when driving to get a new idea written down before I’d forget what it was.

5. Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can
just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?

I cannot write in a room with distractions. I can’t even have music with lyrics playing, instrumentals only. I get distracted by the lyrics. 

I have a back injury so I no longer work at my desk, which I miss. It was much easier because all the research materials needed would be close at hand. I now use a recliner with my lap top. Last year my husband had a new office built for me. It is beautiful and good for my spirit. I used soothing colors and décor. With spring upon us I can work with my windows open, and I love the sound of my wind chimes while I work.

Here’s a photo.

8. Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Ideas come from a myriad of places. I try to keep in my mind open to the idea that stories can be found anywhere, as life happens. That way I won’t miss a great story. Some of my tales come from my family history. For instance, my first book The Journey of Eleven Moons emerged from something that happened to my grandmother when she was a young woman living in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. I’ve discovered stories in the pages of history books. And I wrote a contemporary story, To Dance With Dolphins, which came about because of my personal struggle with chronic pain and disability. 

I think my mind loves stories because I see them in all sorts of places. I actually love that about me. I’ve been making up tales since I was a girl.

10. Do bits of yourself/friends show up in your characters?

Absolutely. In fact, so much of myself shows up in stories, not just the characters, that when I was about to sign a contract for my first book I hesitated. I wasn’t sure I wanted all of my inside stuff to be “out there” in the world where people could make judgments.

There have been characters in my books that have been a compilation of characteristics found in friends. But I don’t use any person fully because it might be too easy for someone to see themselves, which could have a bad outcome.

11. Anything else you'd like to share?

I’m not sure how many of your visitors are writers, but this is for those who write. I wish you well. I hope you find the joy in writing process. Please be true to yourself, and create stories you love. And as long as you love putting words to paper keep doing it.

About the Author

Bonnie Leon is the author of twenty-two novels, including the recently released One Hundred Valleys, the popular Alaskan Skies and bestselling The Journey of Eleven Moons.
Bonnie’s books are being read internationally and she hears from readers in Australia, Europe, Poland, and even Africa.  She enjoys speaking for women’s groups and mentoring up and coming authors.
Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and seven grandchildren


Twitter        @Bonnie_Leon

"One Hundred Valleys" is available in paperback:

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Ashberry Lane (February 28, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1946531472
  • ISBN-13: 978-1946531476
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches

and in Kindle edition:

  • File Size: 470 KB
  • Print Length: 381 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Ashberry Lane (March 15, 2020)
  • Publication Date: March 15, 2020
  • Sold by: Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0857LF6Y3