Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Book Review: Shepherds Abiding in Dry Creek

Shepherds Abiding in Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad
Love Inspired #421
Nov 07

This is another great stand-alone book in the Dry Creek series. The author has the knack of pulling us into the town to get up close and personal with the inhabitants. I’ve read every Dry Creek novel and I still want to read more. I love to read about the older characters who appear in the background of each book like a neighbour waiting for me to stop and visit. And I liked the way the author showed me POV’s of both Marla and Les. They might have been serious in their thoughts, but it was fun knowing what they thought and how far off base they were.

In this book, the town has combined forces to eat over 500 cans of soup so the labels could be traded in for a life-size plastic Nativity set. But before everyone even has a good look at the display, the shepherd goes missing and suddenly the new residents – a widow and her children – are suspect.

Reserve Deputy Sheriff Les Wilkerson would like to get to know the widow on a personal basis and that didn’t include walking up to her door and accusing someone in her family of stealing the plastic shepherd, but what else could he do when the investigation seemed to point that way?

Marla Gossett moved her children to Montana to keep her young son from being inducted into the 19th street gang. She’s hoping the new townfolk will accept their Hispanic backgrounds and although she hasn’t much for worldly possessions, is determined not to be a charity case. However, Marla feels cheated when the local law stops on her doorstep and accuses them of stealing before they’ve even had a chance to get to know anyone. That is until Deputy Les shows her the note with the 19th street signature. Could her 11 yr old son really have stolen the large shepherd? And how would she get the townfolk to accept them if they find out they have gang connections?

I enjoyed reading this book. I liked the way the townsfolk worked together for the common good and the way they made the new small family welcome.

Heat level: Affectionate

My Rating: Great - 4 stars (a keeper)


2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge: 115 books read

Harlequin Imprint: 106, Others: 9

Book Review: Calico Christmas at Dry Creek

Calico Christmas at Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad Love Inspired Historical #19 Nov 08

This is a great book for Ms Tronstad’s foray into the Historical Inspirational market. After 14 contemporary Dry Creek books, the author has gone back 130 yrs to the beginning of this small Montana town. Her refreshing story had me smiling because I could picture it all as the story unfolds including the determination of the heroine as she sat waiting for God to come and claim her.

Elizabeth O’Brian has lost her husband and infant to the influenza and is waiting for her turn to die. She sits in her tent and waits. And waits.

Jake Hargrove has inherited his half-brother’s part-Sioux daughters. The youngest is just weeks old and desperately needs nourishment. Jake has heard that Elizabeth has lost her baby and might be receptive to nursing his infant niece. After 10 days without her own baby, all it takes is the wail of Jake’s niece to start her milk flowing again. In order to ensure the baby has nourishment until it can take solid food, Jake offers a temporary marriage to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth doesn’t want to forget her first husband, but she takes on the raising of the 2 young girls including the trials of the older sister as she tries to attend an all-white school. Elizabeth must use all her matronly skills to make this a special Christmas for everyone and avert a community disaster.

When Elizabeth starts having feelings toward Jake, she pulls back in guilt. How can she feel like this for another man when her first husband hasn’t been in the grave very long? But most disturbing of all is the fact she never felt like this before.

Heat level: Affectionate

My Rating: Great - 4 stars (a keeper)


2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge: 114 books read

Harlequin Imprint: 105, Others: 9

Book Review: A Connecticut Christmas

A Connecticut Christmas by Diane Ashley, Janet Lee Barton, Rhonda Gibson and Gail Sattler Barbour Books 2008

This is a great anthology containing 4 romances which centre around a Christmas gift shop in a Connecticut mall. These faith-filled stories were just what I needed in the hectic days of December. They reminded me that everyone is busy, everyone has struggles and everyone needs to remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Santa’s Prayer by Diane Ashley – Delia feels robbed. She thought Nick, her boyfriend, might be the one, but he started going to church and going all religious on her. So, she did the sensible thing – she asked him to chose between her and his new religion. She just didn’t expect him not to chose her. Now, she’s alone at Christmas. When she peruses the new gift shop in the mall for a new Santa to add to her collection, she notices a special one of a Santa kneeling beside a manger holding the baby Jesus. The scene strikes discord within her as she sees it as a way for those religious people to pull attention away from dear old Santa. But the scene grows on Delia. She begins her own personal journey of discovery as she wonders what it is about Nick’s newfound religion that makes it more appealing than her.

The Cookie Jar by Janet Lee Barton – Jonathan and his twins have come to depend on the attention they receive in Cindy’s cookie shop. In fact, Jonathan would like more personal attention from the friendly lady but she’s always so busy with her business. The cookie shop was her mom’s dream and Cindy intends to bring it to the fruition her mom couldn’t before she died. She does want a family – some day – but with the business just starting up, she doesn’t see how she can take time off to date, marry and raise twins at the present time. But the kids have asked Santa for a new mommy and Cindy is their choice. Whatever will Jonathan do?

Stuck on You by Rhonda Gibson – This is the type of story that brings out your emotions. I was so angry at the hero even though I knew his intent. Morgan Frost meets the woman of his dreams but how can he get to know her better without admitting his feelings? So when Sheila, a children’s book author offers him a business partnership whereby she’ll write stories using the small creatures he’s designed, he goes one step further to ensure she’ll have to keep in touch with him after the venture is over. He doesn’t tell her why he wants to get to know her better and she assumes he wants to stifle her creativity by keeping creative control. Does she want to work with someone like him? Can she even trust him with her stories?

Snowbound for Christmas by Gail Sattler - Kade loves the Christmas story and everything it entails. He just can’t abide the commercialism of the holiday. He does have a business to run, however, and when new clients are enroute, Kade gives his staff free reign in decorating the workplace then regrets it later when he sees what new employee Rochelle has done. Everyone likes Rochelle’s work so much, they convince her to decorate the church lobby too so even there, Kade is bombarded by commercialism. The problem is he really likes his new employee. Rochelle knows Kade works somewhere upstairs but isn’t too sure about his actual job description. Maybe she shouldn’t have made those remarks about the building’s owner?

Heat Level: Affectionate

My Rating: Great - 4 stars (a keeper)

2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge: 113 books read

Harlequin Imprint: 104, Others: 9


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book Review: Hill Country Christmas

Hill Country Christmas by Laurie Kingery Love Inspired Historical #18 Oct 08

I liked this book. It takes a new twist by giving an inheritance to a woman of the Old West so that she has the means to pursue her dreams. But what will a poor woman do with all that sudden wealth? And can she handle the people who want to share her good fortune? Christmas is the perfect backdrop to show what’s really important in the world.

Delia Keller lived a poor life after her father took off to seek his fortune. With her preacher grandfather, they had their physical needs supplied by their parishioners, but there wasn’t any money left for luxuries – like fixing the roof.

Delia is left destitute when her grandfather dies but on the day she buries him, a stranger, Jude Tucker, rides into town and hands her a bank certificate – the entire estate of her father who had struck it rich and left it all to her in his will. She was now completely without family, but a very wealthy woman.

And it’s it nice that an important man whom she’s always looked favorably suddenly starts courting her.

Jude Tucker promised Delia’s father he’d look after her. He’s delivered the bank certificate and ensured she has access to it’s funds. He used to be a preacher but lost his faith in the civil war. Now that Delia’s grandfather has passed on, the town needs a preacher. Jude doesn’t want anyone to realize his former profession. He really should leave town before his secret gets out but how can he go when there’s a chance Delia’s new beau is only after her money. He really shouldn’t concern himself, but then he did catch the guy exiting one of the upstair’s rooms in the saloon and everyone knows what that means.

Delia was just too rich and innocent for her own good. Somebody had to keep an eye out for her.

Heat Level: Affectionate

My Rating: Great – 4 stars


2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge: 112 books read
Harlequin Imprint: 104, Others: 8

Book Review: His Holiday Heart

His Holiday Heart (The McKaslin Clan) by Jillian Hart Love Inspired 469 Nov 08

This is the McKaslin Clan book I’ve been waiting for! The author has dangled the stories of each sister before me while holding their lone brother’s aloft. Each time I caught a glimpse of surly Spencer only whet my appetite for his story. And then, the day came when I rec’d His Holiday Heart in my eharlequin box and I panicked. Surely, Ms Hart had an extraordinary tale awaiting me after all the build-up...right?...right?

YES! His Holiday Heart is an excellent book and worthy of a spot on my 2008 Top Ten List. I became intrigued on page 1 when one of Spence’s sisters hinted she knew his secret and he became paralyzed at the thought.

Ms Hart has created a wonderfully refreshing hero in this book. Spence has always been responsible for his sisters and is happy they are happily married but after he saw his mother take his youngest sister and walk away from the rest of the family, he doesn’t trust women. Marriage can be a venerable institution – it just isn’t for him. Even though his father remarried and Spence loves his step-mom and step-sisters, he’d rather live his life alone than take a chance.

But, If he was going to pursue a woman, she’d have to be just like Lucy Chapin who is Spence’s ideal of the perfect woman. He’s put her on a pedestal and adores her from afar. It’s just that whenever Lucy comes near, Spence freezes up, gets tongue-tied and basically loses his mind. His thoughts just fly off somewhere and he acts like a blithering idiot. To combat this, he steels his heart, refuses to look at her, and speaks brusquely whenever she’s near.

Author Lucy Chapin has known Spence for a long time. She believes him to be an upstanding man of integrity who is respectful to women regardless of how his biological mother treated him. He is an influential man in the community who takes his responsibilities seriously and adores his nieces and nephews. He’s the kind of man she wants for a life mate. She just doesn’t understand why Spence doesn’t like her.

Heat Level: Affectionate

My Rating: Excellent - 5 stars (one to re-read; Top 10 list)

See the rest of the McKaslin Clan here:

2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

111 books read Harlequin Imprint: 103, Others: 8


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Spoons - After Christmas Fun

So, it’s 2 days after Christmas. The anti-climax day for me. The rush of getting ready for Christmas is over. The presents are open, the turkey has been served and the clean-up done. Yesterday - Boxing Day here in Canada - meant heading to the city at 8 am to battle...uh...share the shopping frenzy with more people than I’ve ever seen shopping at one time. The city roads were icy and I almost got rear-ended 3 times. Two of those times by the same truck driven by a man who didn’t seem to understand what a stop sign meant. I wouldn’t have worried too much but when he had to drive into the oncoming lane beside me in order not to plow into us, I got a bit worried about the kids safety. Anyway, we arrived home at 7 pm safe, tired and happy with our purchases.

Hubby was late getting home from work so by the time he drove up, we had the table cleared of everything but 5 metal spoons and part of a deck of cards. Yes, we were going to play SPOONS, that fun, ballistic game where it’s every for themselves. A quick glance around the table ensured everyone’s nails were cut. It’s bad enough to smash knuckles during the course of the game while you’re grabbing a spoon, but no one likes being scraped or stabled by a fingernail.

Everybody from Dad and I (the Mom) all the way down to the 10 yo – our youngest was in on the action. It’s a simple fast paced card game and all you have to do is match 4 cards in your hand and then grab a spoon. When one person grabs a spoon, the rest are up for grabs. Of course, there’s only 5 spoons to the 6 of us playing. Think of it as Musical Chairs without leaving your seat. If you don’t get a spoon, you win a letter. The first one to spell SPOONS is out. I was the 3rd one out. And no, I didn’t get any scrapes but teen J literally jumped on me to grab my spoon at one point but I wasn’t letting that baby go although I had dents in my fingers from gripping it so tightly by the time she gave up.

I believe there were a couple scuffles under the table from flying spoons but I wasn't in on those. After a 2 hr game, Dad was declared the winner. He said good-night and went to bed with a smile on his face. He was the only one who had to get up early for work today.

I awoke this morning with shoulder and leg muscles aching and feeling like I’d been dragged behind a horse for 17 straight hours. I’m sure it was from all the tension yesterday of driving the icy streets and jockeying in position with all the other harried shoppers but then, it could’ve been the Spoons game.

I decided today was a Play Day and I’m still in my jammies. After checking my email this morning, I read a bit. Then, I settled down for a few tracks of Wii Mario Kart but my hands cramped up after 2 races so I went back to reading. When the rest of the kids got tired of racing, teen J and I decided to try our hand at the Wii winter sports game we bought for only 8 bucks yesterday at WalMart. I like this game a lot better because I use my whole hand and not just my thumbs. This game is also great exercise because we stand there and simulate the movements. No, we didn’t fact we sucked at skiing but it sure was fun. Now, my arms are tired. Sigh.

The boys are racing again and hubby just went back to work after eating his lunch but his last words to me was to rest up because he’ll be back in an hour or so and then the competition is on! Yippee!!!


Have you ever tried the Wii or any other game system? Or do you like the old card or board game better?


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Greeting and Prayer

I'm in the middle of last minute wrapping after the last minute shopping yesterday, but I'd like to send a Merry Christmas out to all my family and friends.

Sometimes this can be a hard time for those of you who've lost loved ones or are all alone. I'd like to pray for you and maybe even with you.

If you need someone to talk to or pray for you, please send me an email or leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

I'll be monitoring this site and my email today, tonight until I hit the sack, and then as soon as I get up tomorrow - and all day Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas and may God's love shower you with blessings.

Pics of Christmas Cookies and Church Play

As promised yesterday, here is a pic of some of the sugar cookies Dad and the kids decorated on Monday afternoon.

Our church Christmas program was entitled 'It's a Boy'.

I played the part of a Biblical teacher with a couple of students wondering if Mary allowed others to hold her precious baby.

The wisemen, also called the 3 Kings, were announced by a young girl dressed in a Japanese outfit.

The 2 young boys on the left are my real life sons.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting Ready for Christmas

I pray that everyone isn't getting too stressed out during this busy time of year.

I've already had a visit by my mother-in-law and my sister's family.

Our eldest daught is finally home from Vancouver, BC for another week and it's such a delight to be spending this time with her.

Somehow the kids have roped me into taking them we'll be leaving soon.

I still haven't sent out any cards and I don't think I'm going to at this late stage.

Yesterday, we made a quadruple batch of sugar cookies. I cut out the cookies and put them on a tray. One of the kids carried it to our large oval dining table where the rest of the family sat waiting with coloured sprinkles, the little brown thingies, tiny gingerman candies, etc. The trays of decorated angels, candy canes, Santas, stars, stockings, presents, holly, reindeer and snowmen came back and I popped them in the oven. It only took 2.5 hours and then we were done but I have cookies galore. Well, at least for a couple days. LOL I try to post a pic here later.

We took about 3 dozen cookies to our church Christmas program last night. We were all part of the Christmas play. The 2 boys were the kings/wisemen. I was a biblical bystander. The teen was a pigtailed kid demanding a story from her dad, played by a church member. Hubby did the lights. And our visiting daughter worked the video and camera. It was hectic getting everyone's costumes ready, but oh the satisfaction of a performance well done. I'll try to post a pic here later.

But now...the kids are awanting to go shopping. At least it's warmer out there with -28C/-18F temps. I don't mind getting out when it's like this at all.

So, how's your holiday preps coming? Are you ready?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cheryl St Johns Christmas Tree Tour

I am so honoured to have my Christmas tree and 50 yr old stocking (yikes!) featured on Cheryl St. John's blog today at

One of my favourite historical and contemporary authors, Cheryl has 35 Harlequin and Silhoutte books published so far. She can often be found at otherwise known as the Wildflower Junction.

You can check the most recent topic for both these blogs on my list at right.

I just love Christmas. Don't you?


Saturday, December 20, 2008

My 32 yr Old Wedding Photo

In June 1976, I met a very special man, became his fiancee in Sept and married him in Dec.

He was a young Corporal and I a Private in the CAF. With those salaries, we didn't have the money for an expensive wedding. I bought satin, lace, tulle and a pattern, and a friend of mine stitched my dress.

It might have been a whirlwind romance, but it’s lasted 32 yrs.

Happy Anniversary, honey.

(For those of you who know me now, can you believe that photo?!)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I was invited to Brenda Novak’s Virtual Reality Party

On Wed night I attended Brenda Novak's 1st annual Christmas Bash - a cyber/virtual reality party. Here's how it happened:

Harlequin SuperRomance and NYT bestselling author Brenda Novak hosts a month long on-line auction each May with all proceeds going to benefit Diabetes research. Last May, I bid on an ipod and a writing critique among other items but didn’t win anything. I figured I’d try again in 2009.
Count me surprised when I rec’d an email from Brenda at the end of Nov with an invitation to her cyber Christmas Bash. Anyone who bid on an item through her on-line auction was invited and there were many prizes up for grabs including a kindle but you had to be at the party and you had to pre-register. Once Brenda’s office rec’d your RSVP, they’d send out a ‘party pack’ by snail mail.

Well, a week ago, I realized the party was on Dec 16th and promptly registered. Brenda’s next email was instructions to download the virtual reality program ‘Second Life’. I did and then took a few mins to alter my avatar appearance but ran into problems when I tried to change my hair. Seems my laptop didn’t have the correct video card or CPU speed but would still work to some extent. I spent some time walking around but it was difficult to do so. I needed more time.

Brenda’s website listed practice sessions but I was unable to attend.
Then, a couple days before the party, I rec’d an email from Brenda’s office giving me 2 raffle ticket numbers with the explanation they wouldn’t reach me in time if snail mailed in the party pack.. Now that was nice!

When the big night arrived, my hubby let me use his laptop which is newer, faster and better. Once he downloaded the Second Life program, I was all set. A couple hours before the party, I rec’d my tickets via email. Talk about excited!

At the start time, I logged in and teleported to one of 4 party rooms. The first thing I did was change my avatar. This took about 20 mins but I really liked the result. Then I tried moving around. I couldn’t. All around me, avatars were moving, walking, skating, but mine wouldn’t respond. I heard them talking prizes and presents and boxes with presents... It was so frustrating. I kept trying with my keyboard arrows but nothing. It took until the party was half over before I somehow unlocked the ‘avatar auto-pilot’ and was able to move where I wanted.

By the time the party ended after 2 hrs, I was just starting to figure my way around and no, I didn’t win a prize. However, on her website, Brenda says this was the 1st annual cyber party.

Come May 2009, you’re going to find me at bidding on some items for Diabetes research. And I sure hope I get another invite to her party. But next time, I’m going to do a few things different:

- make it a priority to attend the practice sessions
- change my avatar appearance days before the party starts
- log on at least 30 mins prior to ensure my avatar isn’t on auto-pilot before heading to the party rooms
- register as soon as I receive the invite
- spend more time mingling with the other avatars

I’d like to thank Brenda Novak for this enlightening experience. Who knew I could live a double life?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Won Donna's Contest!

You are not going to believe this...I still can't and I found out a couple days ago!

Donna Alward ran a 12 Days of Christmas contest on her blog at ... and I won!!


I knew there would be a book in the prize for each of the 12 days, but I didn't realize the total prize pkg until I read it on Donna's blog.

I'm listing what I won here as my way of thanking the different authors for their contributions:

Bookmarks, magnets etc. from the authors involved
One Christmas ornament
Chocolates - that happen to be made by Donna's kids
One Jessica Hart tote bag

And EIGHTEEEN books:
The Rancher's Runaway Princess - Donna Alward
Barefoot Bride - Jessica Hart
Phantom's Touch - Julie Leto
Pursuit of Justice, Broken Lullaby and Everyday Promises - Pamela Tracy
Her Baby's First Christmas - Susan Meier
Her Royal Wedding Wish - Cara Colter
His Son's Teacher - Kay Stockham
His Secret Past - Ellen Hartman
The Italian's Miracle Family - Lucy Gordon
Heart of a Thief - Gail Barrett
Christmas Spirit, Ghost Moon, Beyond Fearless - Rebecca York
Her Kind of Man - Pamela Yaye
Sweet Surrender, No One But You - Michelle Monkou

So, thank you Donna and company. I've read Donna's blog since before she first put the word meter up for The Rancher's Runaway Princess and I'm so excited to see it now in print, that I've included a widget below where you can check it out. I believe it hits the shelves Jan 13 but you can buy it on-line now at

This wreader is doing a happy dance around the Christmas tree. And I can't wait until I become an author and get the chance to give my books away!

Have you ever won a fantastic prize that totally thrilled you? Have you ever won anything? Or do you think you're just plain unlucky?


Book Review: Her Perfect Man

Her Perfect Man (The McKaslin Clan) by Jillian Hart Love Inspired 455 Aug 08

This great book is about the final McKaslin sister in this series. The author gets down to the nitty gritty with this one because the heroine is being harassed by her ex-boyfriend which means it’s not as light reading as some of them, but it certainly isn’t as heart-wrenching as the previous McKaslin book.

Rebecca McKaslin has finally broken up with her long-standing boyfriend much to the relief of the rest of the McKaslin clan. And, she’s gone one step further and said she’s had enough of men.

Wouldn’t you know it...Chad Lawson, the perfect man moves in next door, ready to rescue Rebecca whenever the ex shows up.

But after all these years, Rebecca doesn’t want to be rescued. She wants to handle it herself without help from anyone...especially someone who’s too handsome for his own good, regularly attends church and challenges her man policy.

Heat Level: Affectionate

My Rating: Great – 4 stars

See the rest of the McKaslin Clan here:
2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge: 110 books read
Harlequin Imprint: 102, Others: 8

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Inspirational Publisher: Summerside Press

It just occurred to me - when I did the book review on Love Finds You in Valentine, Nebraska by Irene Brand, (2 posts back) I didn't give you any info about its new publisher.

According to the Summerside Press website: The LOVE FINDS YOU™ series gives readers a taste of local life across the United States. The novels—uniquely titled after actual American towns with quirky but intriguing names—inspire romance and fun. Each fictional story draws on the compelling history or the unique character of a real place. Stories center on romances kindled in small towns, old loves lost and found again on the high plains, and new loves discovered at exciting vacation getaways.

In fact, these books are uniquely different from any other inspy books because:
- each page is set up like a Post Card with a postal stamp at the top corner; and
- the lines simulate a hand-written post card by not being justified

As a reader, I'd like to thank Irene Brand for bringing this new inspy series to my attention.

As a writer, I am forfeited from writing for Summerside Press by the very nature of its books unless this publisher comes out with submission guidelines for small Canadian towns. Well, I suppose I could move to the U.S. for a few months for research, but I'm guessing my family won't like it.

But, do you write inspirational romances?

Check here for the submission guidelines for this new inspirational publisher:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh, the Joy of Christmas Shopping

The kids had been complaining they didn’t have any shopping done. Apparently, every time we go into the city, hubby and I go to the places we want, while the kids wait for us. So, a couple days ago, I picked the kids up at school, took them to the city and chauffeured them around.

It was 7:30 when we hit the 2nd mall and the kids took off as soon as they passed through those entrance doors. Fine by me because the teen has a cell phone and the boys stick together and share one.

They didn’t want me with them and I knew where I wanted to go, so I headed opposite to their direction and finally came to the store in mind which was exactly diagonal to where I’d started. Surely, the kids were off shopping somewhere else...

I spotted the gift I wanted for teen and had it in my hands when she walked around the corner. I thrust it away and jumped back. Her eyes didn’t look at what I’d been holding. She just said, “Oh, there you are.” And she smiled.

I love her smile. I’m so blessed to have a teen who smiles at me and unlike most teens, my girl doesn’t seem to mind standing or walking beside me – as long as I don’t talk to anyone about her, you understand. So there she was. And she wouldn’t go. Finally, I told her flat out that she was supposed to be shopping and maybe I was shopping, too.

She glanced at the store we were standing in front of and her eyes flared wide. She opened her mouth as if to speak. I raised my eyebrows. “Okay,” she said and wandered off. I waited all of 6 seconds before I ducked into the store in question to keep searching for her size – that alone was a mountain to climb because she’s so

And no, I’m not going to tell you if I bought the item or not because she can read and sometimes she even reads my blog. :-0

I didn’t run into the boys until they ran up to me at the entrance to Zellers. The 10 yr old looked concerned. The 13 yr old happy. Hmm. The older one immediately started prattling about his shopping but I put my hand up to stop him. Something wasn’t right. I looked down at my youngest whose whole face drooped as if it was melting away. When I asked him what was wrong, he said he thought he lost his wallet.

I looked at my older son. He looked back at me in horror. Indeed.

Frantically, younger son searched all the pockets of his snowsuit. Nothing.

Older son now looked panicked as well.

I calmly told them to retrace their steps, stopping everywhere they’d stopped, and ask the store workers if anyone had found it. The boys nodded and rushed off.

Of course it crossed my mind that I should go with them. But you know, they’re old enough, now. They don’t need a panicked mama hovering over them. What they need is to concentrate on where they’ve been. I walked through Zellers as if I wasn’t worried that someone had picked up my son’s wallet with his cash, debit and library cards. I prayed the boys would find it. Then, I texted home to tell hubby to pray, too.

About 20 mins later, the boys found me as I walked back out into the mall. The youngest triumphantly held up his wallet. While they’d been looking, they’d heard his name over the loudspeaker telling him to go to the mall Customer Service. Yes, someone had found it and turned it in. Cash and cards intact. Phew! Thank you, God.

A quick text home to mollify hubby and a reassurance to teen who rushed up to ask why someone wanted said brother, and everything was fine. Yeah, except my nerves. Although I’m sure you couldn’t tell from the outside.

It was at this point that youngest son said, “This is nice, Mom, but it’s too expensive. I wanna go to the Dollar Store.” The others agreed. Smart kids.

A few mins later via Ring Road that hugs the outskirts of the city, we enter a spanking brand new Dollarama and shopped until they closed the store a half hour later. Back in the car, the kids were tired but grinning. I asked if they were ready to go home and mentioned that WalMart and SuperStore were open all night.

Nope, they just wanted a pit stop at 7-Eleven. They were shopped out.

Fine by me. And, unlike the blowing snow we’d encountered on our way in, the drive home from the city was gorgeous. With the full moon only a couple days away, there was enough light to spot a deer before it ran onto the road. With the wind barely noticeable, a clear night, carols on the radio, and the kids sleeping in the back, I really enjoyed the hour drive back home.

So, do you have any stories to tell about Christmas shopping, either lately or in you’re your past? Forget your kids in a shopping cart? Run into someone with your potential gift in their hands, or vice versa? Lose your purse or wallet? Surely we can’t be the only ones....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Book Review: Love Finds You in Valentine, Nebraska

Love Finds You in Valentine, Nebraska by Irene Brand Summerside Press
Dec 2008

This is a sweet romance with a hint of mystery, a handful of suspense and a whole lot of love. Can a wealthy heiress and a poor cowboy truly find happiness together? Especially when he has enough pride for 10 men and worries what others will think? If you’re looking for a gentle read about a hero and heroine falling in love despite the odds, then this is the book for you.

Upon her father’s death, wealthy Kennedy Blaine is all alone in the world. One of the properties she’s inherited is a Nebraskan ranch which she hasn’t stepped foot on since a toddler. Her only memories of it are in photos. She’s advised to sell it, but before she does, Kennedy goes back to Nebraska to see what she’d be giving up. When she arrives, she immediately feels a kinship to the land. She wants to meet as many cousins and relatives as she can, but not the grandfather who, by her mother’s reasoning, was the cause of their flight to another state.

Derek Sterling is manager of Kennedy’s ranch, the Circle Cross. He loves the ranch like his own but due to circumstances of birth, he’s just a poor cowboy with a past that’ll scare off any woman never mind a high-society one, so he tries to hide his feelings. He knows he’ll never be able to afford a ranch such as the Circle Cross but he’s loyal and he’ll work there as long as he’s needed.

Kennedy felt an attraction for Derek the first moment she saw him. She doesn’t care what’s in his bank account. He’s a loyal, stalwart man who gives her joy when she’s with him. She decides to stick around and see what happens.

But something sinister is going on. Kennedy‘s life is being threatened and suddenly, Nebraska doesn’t seem so safe and comfortable after all. Whom can she trust?

This is Book #3 in the Love Finds You series by the new inspirational publisher, Summerside Press of Minnesota.

Heat Level: Romantic

My Rating: Great – 4 stars
2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge: 109 books read
Harlequin Imprint: 101, Others: 8

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Book Review: Her Wedding Wish

Her Wedding Wish (The McKaslin Clan) by Jillian Hart Love Inspired 447 Jun 08

I absolutely loved this book. 2008 Top 10 list – no question. Of all the dozen or so McKaslin Clan books I’ve read, this has been the most heart-wrenching emotion-filled one to date. We were first introduced to Danielle McKaslin Lowell and her husband Jonas a few books back. Then, 2 books back, we found out that Danielle said goodbye to her police officer husband one morning and waved him off to work. It was the last time she ever see the man she married. A few hours later, Danelle was told that her husband, Jonas, had been shot in the line of duty.

Now, Jonas is back but he has no memory of Danielle, their kids, or the life they led. And, the doctors say his memory isn’t coming back because that’s the side of his brain that was shot. Damaged nerves on his left side still present a problem from his legs to his face. He needs a walker to get around and has just re-learned how to do the most basic of tasks.

But when he looks at Danielle, his eyes are emotionless, empty, like that of a stranger.
He rejoins the family but tensions are strained to say the least. He’s a physical presence in their home, but Danielle aches for the touches, the looks, the love that defined their married life. Nothing is the same. And the longer they live this half shelled life, the more Danielle’s heart shrivels with loneliness. She wants her real Jonas back.

Like I said, this book really touched my heart. I cried along with Danielle as she searched her heart to find a love for this new husband God had given her. I cried for Jonas as he tried to fit into a world with a strange woman who looked at him with such...need. And I cried for their children who didn’t understand what had happened to their daddy had gone.

For more info on The McKaslin Clan series 3, go here:

Heat level: Affectionate

My Rating: Excellent - 5 stars (one to re-read; Top 10 list)

2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge: 108 books read

Harlequin Imprint: 101, Others: 7


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Book Review: A McKaslin Homecoming

A McKaslin Homecoming (The McKaslin Clan) by Jillian Hart Love Inspired 403 July 07

If you read enough books, sooner or later, you’ll come across one with circumstances that mirror your own. This is the case in this book. I related to the heroine in a big way because of our backgrounds. The main difference, I suppose is that when the heroine went back as an adult, over the weeks that followed, they talked about her childhood.

At 2 yrs old, Lauren McKaslin’s mother took her far away from her siblings and her father under the premise they didn’t love her anymore. Lauren never rec’d a gift or card or anything to say they even thought about her. She grew up as a lonely child, with a destructive mother, in basement apartments with bars on the windows. It seemed her own mother didn’t even want her. But now she’s an adult, almost finished college, and out of the blue, a letter arrives from her grandmother saying it was time to go back.

Although filled with trepidation, Lauren wants to meet her family so she drives across several states even with the knowledge they didn’t want her. And what a surprise when she’s welcomed with open arms wherever she goes. (Well, everyone except her big brother Spencer – but he doesn’t like anybody. That’s why I can’t wait to read his story in His Holiday Heart.)

Caleb Stone, a local lawman, is next door neighbor to Lauren’s grandmother. Because he does her chores, he’s over there – a lot. Caleb was badly hurt after a serious relationship when his city-bred fiancĂ©e refused to move to his ranch. He finds himself falling for quiet Lauren, but she’s from the city, too. He has to guard his heart until she goes back to college to finish her degree.

Meanwhile, Lauren is having a hard time knowing she’ll soon have to leave her newly found loving family. But she’s so close to completing her degree, there’s no question of her leaving.

Heat Level: Affectionate

My Rating: Great 4 stars

The McKaslin Clan Series 3:

Book 1 - A Soldier for Christmas LI 367 – Oct 06 - Kelly
Book 2 – Precious Blessings LI 383 – Feb 07 - Katherine
Book 3 – Every Kind of Heaven LI 387 – Mar 07 - Ava
Book 4 – Everyday Blessings LI 400 – Jun 07 – Aubrey (I’m missing this one)
Book 5 – A McKaslin Homecoming LI 403 – Jul 07 - Lauren
Book 6 – Her Wedding Wish LI 447 – Jun 08 - Danielle
Book 7 – Her Perfect Man – LI 455 – Aug 08 - Rebecca
Book 8 – His Holiday Heart – LI 467 – Nov 08 - Spencer

2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge: 107 books read

Harlequin Imprint: 100, Others: 7

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Nov Writing Report

November was a very busy month for me with many ups and downs.

I submitted a partial of Under a Harvest Moon - a contemporary inspirational to Barbour Publishing (after numerous revisions)

I entered 2 contemporary inspirational entries in the Linda Howard Award of Excellence Contest:
- Under a Harvest Moon
- When You Least Expect It

I entered a 500 word scene entitled The Last Bottle in Cheryl Wyatt’s Nov Prompt contest. Cheryl emailed back that I didn’t win but she liked my entry. To see/enter her Dec Prompt Contest, go here:

Steeple Hill sent me a rejection on An Outlaw for the Lady. However, it was not a form rejection and it detailed where I needed improvement. The editor also asked to see something else from me in the future, so this was a good rejection letter.

After receiving a perfect score from one judge in the first round of judging in the Gateway to the Best Contest, Charley’s Saint came in 4th overall out of 25 entries. The final judge from Harlequin passed along some nice tips for me.

I won a book - The Borrowed Bride by Elizabeth Lane for commenting on the blog.

I also rec’d a couple books to review:

- Love Finds You in Valentine, Nebraska by Irene Brand (This is a new inspirational publishing company which I’ll post more info on later.)

- Reflections of God’s Holy Land – a coffee table book from Thomas Nelson, Inc. (I’m a book review blogger)

I was tagged by Margaret Daley – again :-) and had to think up 7 random things about books. It was actually nice to sit back and think what I truly like about books. Margaret regularly gives away books for commenting on her blog here:

Of the 11 books I read in Nov, I’ve managed to write reviews on 8 of them – so far.

I started an inspirational suspense novel entitled Translucent Trust for NaNoWriMo but had to quit when I realized I just didn’t have time for it this year. Other writing commitments, like subbing the partial out, took precedence.

As well as the above, I’ve continued to make revisions to my wips based on what I learned at the ACFW conference in Sept.

And what did you do in November?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Book Review: Every Kind of Heaven

Every Kind of Heaven (The McKaslin Clan) by Jillian Hart Love Inspired 387 – Mar 07

This great book was a fun read. It’s the first time I ran into the McKaslin Clan’s ‘no-man policy’ which you’ll find in almost every book in this series. The author really let her humour shine in this book not only with the hero and heroine but also with the heroine’s twin who is so much a part of her life. I liked the interactions in this book especially on Ava’s part since she’s a lovable walking disaster.

Ava McKaslin is your basic screw-up in everything except her baking. No one can top Ava’s baking. It’s divine. All she wants to do is devote her time to her brand spanking new bakery. She’s fed up with men and their two-faced morals.

However, when her new contractor, Brice Donovan comes calling, he remembers her from high school, and invites her out for coffee, Ava mistakens him for a groom and calls him all sorts of names. Of course, she soon realizes that he’s a very eligible bachelor, but by that time, she’s told him about her no-man policy and she’s sticking with her guns.

An added bonus to this story is Brice’s golden retriever who’s also a failure since he’s failed obedience school - twice. Rex falls in love with Ava who reciprocate the affection which adds a nice touch and some panicky moments to the story.

Like I said, this is a fun book and I was so excited to read the next one in the series which is about the Ava’s twin Aubrey but I realized I didn’t have a copy of it. :-(

For all the info on this series, please go to the post before this one.

Heat Level: Affectionate

My Rating: Great (4 stars)

2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge: 106 books read


Sunday, November 30, 2008

The McKaslin Clan series by Jillian Hart

I’ve had 2 requests (one from Kelly here, and one on my eharlequin blog) for more information about the Love Inspired series by Jillian Hart: The McKaslin Clan.

On Jillian Hart’s website at you can see the complete series with book covers and blurbs but here’s a break down for you:

Series One - The original McKaslin sisters with the setting of Manhattan, Montana

1 – Jul 02 – His Hometown Girl – Karen
2 – Mar 04 – The Sweetest Gift – Kirby
3 – May 04 – Heart and Soul – Michelle
4 – Jul 04 – Almost heaven – Kendra
5 – Oct 04 – Holiday Homecoming – Kristin

I liked this series because although these sisters had their own lives and troubles, they put a high priority on family time and regularly got together for a girl’s only night out for a rousing game of Monopoly and catching up. Add that to the author’s ability to convey heart-wrenching emotion and I was eager to read the next series.

Series Two - Paternal cousins to the original sisters, also set in Manhattan, Montana where the family runs their own diner:

1 – Apr 05 – Sweet Blessings – Amy
2 – Sep 05 – Heaven’s Touch – Ben
3 – Dec 05 – Blessed Vows – Rachel
4 – Feb 06 – A Handful of Heaven – Paige

In this series, Sweet Blessings was hard to put down. I loved the loner hero who appeared out of the rain whenever the heroine needed assistance. Then, Books 2 and 3 had heroes in uniform with Heaven’s Touch having one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever read. A Handful of Heaven was different - it was the first time I’d encountered a hero and heroine aged over 40.

Series Three – More cousins to the original McKaslin sisters, this series includes siblings Katherine, Ava, Aubrey, Lauren, Danielle, Rebecca, Spence and their honorary cousin Kelly. This family owns a Christian bookstore in Bozeman, Montana. A bonus book based on Kelly’s roommate is the last in this series.

1 - Oct 06 – A Soldier for Christmas LI 367 –- Kelly
2 – Feb 07 - Precious Blessings LI 383 – Katherine
3 – Mar 07 - Every Kind of Heaven LI 387 – Ava
4 – Jun 07 - Everyday Blessings LI 400 – Aubrey
5 – Jul 07 - A McKaslin Homecoming LI 403 – Lauren
6 – Jun 08 - Her Wedding Wish LI 447 – Danielle
7 – Aug 08 - Her Perfect Man – LI 455 – Rebecca
8 – Nov 08 - His Holiday Heart – LI 467 – Spencer
9 – Mar 09 – A Soldier for Keeps – LI 483 – Kelly’s roommate Lexie

I'm almost through this series although I couldn't find a copy of Everyday Blessings. I just finished reading Book 7 in this series and I can't wait to read Spencer's story in His Holiday Heart. Big brother Spencer is one of those guys who took care of his family when required and has grown into a morose loner. As I read through the sister's stories, I kept thinking it's just gotta be Spence's turn next but nope, not yet. Finally, it arrived in the mail this past week and I'm reading it next. I am so enjoying this series although I did find a bit of repetition in the way the girls fall in love, but it seems to be a 'thing' with this family.

Series Four – More cousins to the original sisters: Brianna, Brandilyn, Colbie, Brooke, Luke and Hunter set in Bozeman, Montana and the small fictional town of Prospect.
No further info avail at this time.

Jillian Hart is also the author of Historical Inspirational books based on the McKaslin clan:

Historical McKaslin Series One: Brothers Thad, Aiden and Finn set in Angel Falls, Montana Territory:

1 – Jan 08 – Homespun Bride – Thad see my review
2 – Jul 08 – High Country Bride – Aiden see my review
3 - ???

I loved High Country Bride and added it to my 2008 Top 10 list. I don’t know when Finn’s book will be out.

If you look at Jillian Hart’s website (top of page), you’ll see she has a couple anthologies coming out in 2009 which also include McKaslin clan stories.

Book Review: Precious Blessings

Precious Blessings (The McKaslin Clan) by Jillian Hart Love Inspired 383 - Feb 07

This author has such a fantastic imagination for her characters and this great book certainly didn’t disappoint me. Yes, we’ve all heard and read the other McKaslin Clan books and this is another branch of the family in another Montana town, but that’s where the similarities end. I really like the way the author used Jack and Katherine’s pseudo perfect lives to get to the heart of the matter – ‘perfection is in the eye of the beholder’.

State Trooper Jack Munroe works hard to provide a stable home environment for his teenage daughter. That’s why he’s ticked when Katherine McKaslin runs after his SUV and accuses his daughter of shoplifting. Obviously, the woman’s got the wrong kid. But soon, Jack must face the fact it was indeed his daughter who stole from the Christian bookstore owned by Katherine’s family.

Once Jack acknowledges his daughter’s wayward behavior, he’s then ticked at himself for being attracted to Katherine whom he considers too perfect with a hoity-toity attitude. It doesn’t help matters when he keeps doing things like falling over himself in front of her.

Of course, Katherine isn’t perfect – she has a secret - but, she dresses real nice and keeps herself trim and neat. She’s attracted to the clean-cut straight-backed lawman, too but that’s the problem because she’s already had one bad relationship with a ‘perfect’ man and he dumped her when he found out she didn’t fit his ideal of the perfect woman.

To top it all off, Jack’s teenager can’t stand Katherine and undermines her at every turn which puts Jack in the unenviable position of choosing to keep his daughter happy, or date Katherine and live with an irate teenager.

Heat Level: Affectionate
My Rating: Great 4 stars

The McKaslin Clan Series 3:

Book 1 - A Soldier for Christmas LI 367 – Oct 06 - Kelly
Book 2 – Precious Blessings LI 383 – Feb 07 - Katherine
Book 3 – Every Kind of Heaven LI 387 – Mar 07 - Ava
Book 4 – Everyday Blessings LI 400 – Jun 07 - Aubrey
Book 5 – A McKaslin Homecoming LI 403 – Jul 07 - Lauren
Book 6 – Her Wedding Wish LI 447 – Jun 08 - Danielle
Book 7 – Her Perfect Man – LI 455 – Aug 08 - Rebecca
Book 8 – His Holiday Heart – LI 467 – Nov 08 - Spencer

2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge: 105 books read


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Book Review: The Borrowed Bride

The Borrowed Bride by Elizabeth Lane Harlequin Historical #920 Nov 08

This is a great book and I really enjoyed reading it. I like being near people of integrity because they make me want to rise above myself and the two main characters in this book oozed with honor as well as tension.

I wanted to read the next page...the next find out if Quint, the younger brother, was going to come back and the emotional explosion it would entail.

Hannah Gustavson grew up alongside Judd Seavers’ younger brother, Quint. Being a decade older, Hannah didn’t really know Judd and in fact, ran from his forbidding countenance. Hannah had always loved Quint, but Quint had wanderlust. He just wasn’t ready to settle down yet.

Hannah had kept Quint’s ‘roving hands’ under control but somehow, the day before he left to satisfy his wanderlust, she gave in to his male urge. It was a decision she regretted immediately after – before she even realized the full implication of the deed But Quint left the next day when Judd, injured from the war, came home to take over the ranch.

Hannah went back to her parent’s farm and started a weekly letter writing campaign to Quint. Two and a half months later however, Hannah realized she carried Quint’s child. She tried to keep it a secret but her mother found out and went to Quint’s mother. Judd was there and understood the stigma that would be attached to Hannah and her baby. He was the uncle of Hannah’s baby. He had to protect them - the child and its mother. He offered to marry Hannah and give them a home and the baby the Seavers name. The marriage would be platonic for convenience only. Judd would have divorce papers drawn and ready to be signed the minute Quint came back.

It was the perfect plan. Hannah and Judd married and settled down to wait for Quint to come back home. Of course they developed feelings for one another but they wouldn’t act upon it because any day now, Quint would come back to claim Hannah and his child...wouldn’t he? And if he didn’t, how long could Hannah and Judd hold out because they were both determined to do the right thing for the brother who wandered away.

Heat Level: Yummy

My Rating: Great (4 stars)

2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge: 104 books read

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Still Short Inspy Entries

The Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest is short inspirational entries.

Are you an aspiring, unpubbed or pre-pubbed writer?

Do you want to see if you have what it takes to get published?

Entering the contests is an excellent way to receive constructive criticism from industry professionals.

Check here for more info:

They've extended the deadline twice now so this is it.

New deadline is Nov 29th.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Revisions are a New Creative Process

I was reading Kelly Marstad’s blog the other day and I had an epiphany of sorts.

Her blog post is about having to add to your manuscript after you’ve decided it’s complete.

I don’t like revisions. And I could never figure out why. But, somewhere during her post, I realized something:

I don’t like making sewing alterations, either.

So what has that got to do with it, eh?

Well, when I sew, I take a length of fabric, a pattern, and all the trimmings and I create something new.

Same as with my writing. I love to start a manuscript, get my creative juices flowing, and work until it’s done to my satisfaction. Then, I send my ms, one chapter at a time, to my CP’s and see what they say. When their critiques come back, it’s time for revisions.

In sewing, you take the completed article and change it either to fit someone or to repair it – like a broken zipper.

But, I don’t like doing sewing alterations. It’s not creative enough.

Ah – but writing revisions can be as creative as you want to make the process. You layer your ms by adding details, descriptions and dialogue. You dig deeper into the conflict. And, you strengthen your story.

I just have to look at it as a new creative process and not an alteration of an old one.

Does this make sense to you?


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gotta Get Those Priorities Straight

My NaNo meter hasn’t moved for the past 2 ½ wks because I tried to do too many writing projects at the same time. I had to postpone my NaNo project because it was low on my priority list. I really miss NaNo, though.

Before I get to start a new project, I need to complete my current ones. I need to write this across my desk in big letters.

At the ACFW conference, I rec’d 2 requests for partials for different manuscripts. I’ve since mailed them out but need to work on revising the rest of the ms with what I’ve learned at the conference, just in case the respective editors request to see the full. This is my main priority.

I’d like to say it’s my 1st priority but I have the church blog to update and a local newsletter to get out. At the moment, being the editor of the newsletter is the only job where I get paid to use my writing skills.

I’m also working on a contest entry. The contest needs inspirational entries, so I wanted to enter something. We want to keep the inspy categories in the contests but if no one enters, they’ll drop it the next time around. And of course, contests have deadlines.

And then, someone said I shouldn’t do book reviews because it takes time away from my writing. They’re right. However, I usually do the book reviews when I need a break from my writing. I find it hard to do revisions which is the stage I’m in now. Writing a book review on someone else’s writing is cathartic. It’s usually the last thing I do before shutting down for the night. Then, in the morning, I check it for accuracy and post it. It’s the way I like to start my writing day.

So, I have to keep to my priorities straight, stop procrastinating and do it. I'll forget NaNo for this year. After all, there's always Book in a Week in January.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I’ve Been Tagged - Again!

So about 10 days ago, Margaret Daley tagged me – again. But with a twist this time, so I guess it’s allowed.

First I have to post the rules. Here:

Now I get to tell you 7 random things about me and books:

1. I love books. I love way they feel. I love the way they smell. I love the way you can enter an entirely different world when you open the cover.

2. I have written 5 books. None of which have been published. Yet.

3. My all time favourite book is a Little Golden Book called The Pokey Little Puppy.

4. I used to gauge how much I liked a book by how fast I read it. Until I read A Soldier’s Family by Cheryl Wyatt. I took days to read it because I wanted the story to go on forever.

5. I find inspiration in the Bible – not only for as encouragement for also for story ideas. Have you read some of them? Ai-yi-yi!

6. I’ve read 107 books since Jan 08 (I’m 4 reviews behind). These books count towards the Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge for Literacy.

7. I started reviewing books just for the Harlequin challenge. Then, I decided to cut and paste my reviews onto my personal blog as well because I like supporting my author friends. One of those authors liked my review so much she asked me to add it to Amazon and, so I did. Then I added Shelfari shelves on my blog to give more exposure to the authors and their books that I was reading/reviewing. I noticed that many people are on Shelfari but not all books are reviewed. Again, it was just a matter to cut and paste. So, for just a couple mins more, my reviews are added to a min 4 sites. Because of this, I am now an official Book Review Blogger for Thomas Nelson Publishers and receive nice free books from them to review. Wow.

I am tagging:

1. Missy Tippens

2. Hope Chastain

3. Gwen Stewart

4. Kelly Marstad

5. Lynette Eason

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Review: Falling for Mr. Dark & Dangerous

Falling for Mr. Dark & Dangerous by Donna Alward Harlequin Romance 4044 - Aug 08

I loved this book. I don't know if it was the ‘US marshal undercover cop' thing or the ‘I have a secret and I'm not telling' thing or the ‘we're out in the woods all alone and no one will ever know' thing, but I delved into this book with my heart and mind. It was a cathartic experience and I'm adding it to my 2008 Top 10 list.

If you've read my reviews on the first 2 related books, you know that I enjoy Ms Alward's writing. I believe this to be her best book so far. It reminded me of 2 people - aching to touch - their hands pressed together - with an invisible but solid wall of glass between them. There's actually nothing to stop either one from breaking the pane and surging forward...except the aftermath of heartache.

Single mother Maggie Taylor wants one thing in life - to give her daughter the best start in life she can. The girl's already had one tangle with the law. To circumvent another, Maggie sends her daughter to a boarding school in the city to finish her high school. It tore Maggie's heart to do it, but it was for the best.

Home for spring break, Maggie's daughter will soon return to school and leave Maggie more lonely and despondent than ever. With no guests, Maggie decides to vacation in Mexico while her B&B is closed for the season. But before she can make her reservations, she receives confirmation and fees for a 3 wk booking from the U.S. Marshal's Service for one of their employees. Apparently, Maggie's daughter took the reservation.

Nate Griffith is an undercover US marshal but he's not admitting that to Maggie. As far as she knows, he's just a cop who needs some R&R after a bad experience and her mountain B&B seems like the perfect spot to do it. She doesn't need to know who he's investigating or how it ties in with her and her daughter. Sure, he's attracted to Maggie. But once she finds out why he's really there she'll kick him out on his rear.

So, what happens when you meet someone and you recognize them as your soul mate? Nate and Maggie can't be soul mates, though. Nate's like 9 yrs younger than she is. He's from a different country. He's a cop. Maggie's husband was a cop and died in the line of duty. Nate will leave in 3 wks and Maggie will never hear from him again. He's just wrong for her!

But, he's wonderful and strong and it's been so long since Maggie has felt the caress of a man's love. Is it worth it to drop her shields if only for a little while?

This is a stand-alone book. However, it ties in with the characters from Windover Ranch:
Hired by the Cowboy - Harlequin Romance 3954 - May 07
Marriage at Circle M - Harlequin Romance 3978 - Sep 07


Heat Level: Sensual

My Rating: Excellent - 5 stars (Top 10 list)

2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 103 Harlequin Imprint: 96 Others: 7

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Marriage at Circle M
by Donna Alward
Harlequin Romance 3978 - Sep 07

I really liked this book. I could feel the tension between Mike and Grace from the very first line. A great opener and I was hooked. And, I stayed hooked til the end.

It's actually a premise I've thought about many times: what would happen if the hero or heroine admitted they were attracted to someone while ‘under the influence'. And they didn't tell just anyone - they told the person they were attracted to. How would they feel the next day when they were feeling more like themself?

That's what happened to Grace Lundquist. She used to date this guy, Mike and had a real crush on him but one day he just left town. Walked away without a word. She was devastated to the point where she went and did something that negatively affected her whole life. Now, she's back in town with her secret and she's working like 3 jobs trying to make ends meet. She's too busy living to have a life.

And then one night, she goes out for some R&R, and ends up dancing with Mike who's also back in town. The only problem, she's had a little bit too much punch and says something to Mike she will regret not just the next day, but for months.

When Mike Gardner left town all those years ago, he joined the rodeo circuit. But, a body can only take so much injury before it starts to affect hurt. So, Mike came back to town and is ready to settle down. He saw Grace around town but neither one seemed ready to pick up where they left off all those years ago.

And then one night, he goes out for some R&R and ends up dancing with Grace. And she says something that gets him wondering if maybe their spark didn't die, after all. But, can he get her to admit it when she's not ‘under the influence'.

This is the 2nd book with characters from Windover Ranch.

The 1st book was Hired by the Cowboy - Harlequin Romance 3954 - May 07

Heat level: Sensual

My Rating: Great! - 4 ½ stars (a keeper)

2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 102 Harlequin Imprint: 95 Others: 7

Friday, November 14, 2008

Book Review: Hired by the Cowboy

Hired by the Cowboy by Donna Alward Harlequin Romance 3954 - May 07

This is the first book I've read from this author and it certainly won't be my last. Her characters could be my neighbors - real down-to-earth people who care for others as well as the land. People who try to live the life they're dealt while holding onto their dignity and self-respect. People who don't flash their money in your face just because they have it and you don't.

She uses Alberta, land of cowboys, mountains and wealth to weave a marriage of convenience story that starts with despair and ends in rapture. Ride along with me while I give the low-down on this poignant story:

Alexis Grayson is pregnant and alone. She's strong and penniless. She's a victim of circumstance, yet a survivor. She knows what she wants but isn't sure how to get it...
Until Connor Madsen walks into her life and asks her to share his.

Connor needs a temporary wife. Alexis needs a temporary home.

All they have to do is accept that true happiness comes when you give your heart into someone else's safekeeping. Strong is good. Together is better.

But, they'll have to dig deep and find the courage to take the chance.

This stand-alone book has characters from the Windover Ranch. Other Donna Alward books with related characters are:
- Marriage at Circle M - HR 3978 Sep 07
- Falling For Mr. Dark & Dangerous - HR 4044 Aug 08

Heat level: Romantic

My Rating: Great! - 4 ½ stars (a keeper)

2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 101 Harlequin Imprint: 94 Others: 7

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Review: The Italian Count's Baby

The Italian Count's Baby by Amy Andrews
HP Extra: Mediterranean Doctors Oct 08

This book made me cry. Sure, it's a steamy romance, but it's so much more. The author didn't just have the characters move forward in their relationship, she gave them rich yet painful histories that impacted every step they took in their journey. It wasn't just emotional baggage. She compounded the problems in the heroine's past until I, as a reader, wondered how Katya could ever have turned out as well as she did. Oh wait--that explains why, I'd better not say that...

What would you do if you got pregnant from a one-night stand yet had a past so disturbing you couldn't imagine bringing another child into it in case history repeated itself? And even though you love the life growing inside you more than you love living, you'd rather leave your baby with its father than bring it home and tempt fate.

What if your baby's father, Count Benedetto Medici, had wealth beyond your dreams? Your baby would never know the gnawing hunger and bitter cold that went along with poverty.

It seemed like the perfect solution except Katya can't stand Ben's life of decadence. She doesn't understand why he prefers to waste his surgery skills on something so fleeting as physical beauty. What kind of child grows up in an atmosphere like that? But, at least her baby would have his father's love...wouldn't he?

There's only one way to find out. Nurse Katya Petrov takes a job working alongside the Italian plastic surgeon to find out if he even wants a child. If he really is daddy material, she'll leave the baby behind and run as fast as she can.

Ben doesn't want a relationship and certainly not a baby, but something happened to him the night be made love to Katya. She irreversibly changed him. Now, she's back and pregnant with his child and he doesn't want to let her go.

I slid into this story, heart and mind...I weaved in my chair as we drove the treacherous Italian roads...I was pregnant again...I could feel the flutterings...feel the kicks...feel myself grow huge...feel his hand splayed across my belly...I'm pregnant again...what...I can't be pregnant again...I already have 4 kids...I'm too old...I...oh...hee's only Amy's book...whew!

Heat Level: Yummy

My Rating: Great! - 4 ½ stars (a keeper)


2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 100 Harlequin Imprint: 93 Others: 7


Monday, November 10, 2008

My 100th Book is Special

My next post will be my 100th book review. Wow. If someone had told me I could read 100 books in a year, I would have said, ‘No way!’ I mean, I know I read a lot of books, but I’ve never actually counted how many before and, 100 seems like this plateau up there, you know?

So, then the question became: Which book should I give this distinction? Since it’s almost mid-Nov already, there’s no way I’ll reach 200 by the end of the year, so this will be a one-time opportunity to show favouritism to an author.

Who should it be?

I could pick one of the authors who sent me an advance copy of a book to review.

I could pick one of the books I won from leaving a comment on a blog post or for winning a writing contest.

And, of course, I could even pick a book I bought for myself or borrowed from the library.

But there’s one author whom I have a soft spot for because she sent me a book just because she heard I had never read a Harlequin Medical.

You see, last year on the Open House, we were all jumping from forum to forum across the boards and just visiting the different book lines that Harlequin publishes. As you know, I usually hang out on The Write Stuff and the Steeple Hill forums although I have friends on other boards.

Because Harlequin Medicals aren’t sold in Cdn stores, I’d never read one and being curious, I hopped over to that board (or was it the chat hour?) and checked it out during the Open House. They welcomed me and I admitted I’d never read one before.

Well, Amy Andrews – an Aussie - immediately gave me her email address and said if I emailed her my snail mail address, she’d send me book to see what the Medicals are all about. Free. No strings attached. Wow.

Within 2 weeks (all the way from Australia), I received a copy of Amy’s book, Found: A Father For Her Child Harl Med 335. And, I really liked it.

Last week, I was surprised to find one of Amy’s books, The Italian Count’s Baby on the shelves in Walmart, SuperStore and the bookstores. It’s something new – Harlequin Presents Extra: Mediterranean Doctors.

So, to thank Amy for her generosity, I’m switching books around on my Shelfari shelves so that Amy’s book is my 100th book review.

Thanks, Amy, maybe I can return the favour one day.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Book Review: The Journey Home

The Journey Home (Depression series) by Linda Ford - Love Inspired Historical #14 - Aug 08

This is a great book! I really enjoyed reading it. Now, the first thing someone might say is that the heroine wasn't strong--that she sat and waited instead of taking charge of her life--but I loved watching her come to the realization that she could step out...that she could be assertive...that she could be and deserved to be happy in her own right.

You see, for her entire life, Charlotte Porter had been told to be quiet, unobtrusive, never complain and she'd have a nice, warm house to live in. The reason behind this reasoning was because when her mother died, she had to live with her older brother who really didn't want her. So, if she did what she was told and kept her mouth shut, at least she'd have sanctuary. But one day, her brother and his family just up and left her in an unfurnished house, on dry land (not even water in the well), in the middle of the dust bowl prairies. They said they'd send for her...

Kody Douglas is on his way to the wide-open spaces of Canada so he can be alone. He's a half-breed who doesn't feel comfortable in either the white or red man's world. Yes, he has white adopted parents who love him, but they're biased because he's their son. It's the rest of his hometown he doesn't want to contend with. He's done with the name-calling and being treated like a ‘second-class citizen'. He's leaving it all behind for the sake of anonymity.

He isn't more than 2 days from home however, when a dust storm blows up and he finds shelter in an abandoned house. Surprise! It's not abandoned. Charlotte's living in the derelict house where even the broken front door doesn't stop the dust from streaming into the living room. She has no food. No water. Why doesn't she just leave? Kody's never met someone as passive as her. But, his mama would never forgive him if she found out he'd left a woman in that condition.

I loved watching Charlotte and Kody fall in love. Their hesitant baby steps. Waiting for a negative reaction. Trying not to attract attention in case someone told them they didn't belong. They came from 2 totally different worlds and yet they weren't that dissimilar after all. They both felt unlovable - castoffs in a perfect world.

There's only one thing I didn't like about this book - the cover. I don't' understand why the art team at Harlequin couldn't portray Kody and his daughter more accurately. The little girl is supposed to have black hair. And the man...well, I guess he could pass for a half-breed but I doubt it. But, that's certainly not the author's fault. Her vivid descriptions almost had me tasting the dust.

Linda Ford's Depression Series:

Book 1: The Road to Love
Book 2: The Journey Home


Heat Level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more)

My Rating: Great! - 4 ½ stars (a keeper)


2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 99 Harlequin Imprint: 92 Others: 7

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What's NaNoWriMo You Say?

So, are you wondering with the blue insignia is on the right? That’s what I’m spending this month doing.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The briefest way to explain it is – you type as fast as your little fingers can go and punch out a complete 50,000 word novel in a month.

Wow. Who can write that fast, right? Well, it’s not supposed to be perfect. In fact, you should shut off your internal editor for this month. “November is for writing. December is for editing.” I’ve heard that often in reference to NaNoWriMo.

That means, that even if you change your mind and decide not to use the last 3 pages of a scene – don’t delete it. You might change your mind later on and then wish you still had it. Some writers cut and paste it onto another document. I do when I’m not doing NaNo. I call it my ‘deleted lines’ document. During NaNo, however, I just put a box around it so it’ll still register in the daily word count. Because, after you’ve spent a couple hours writing a scene, you should get credit for it – during NaNoWriMo anyway.

On the official NaNo site at you don’t start a single word of your novel until Nov 1st. If you’ve completed your novel by Nov 30th, you receive a certificate and get to use the official NaNoWriMo logo. Last year, approx 79,000 adults participated.

There’s even a NaNoWriMo for kids at where over 15,000 youngsters participated last year. This year, my 10 yo son is trying it. He’s writing a novel entitled Island War: The Beginning. Should be interesting.

I don’t participate on the official site. I use a spinoff at because all my eharlequin friends are there and some of them just need time to finish a novel or write a novella. At the end of the month, we don’t get anything for completing our own chosen goal except a pat on the back from Dee, our eharl host and the knowledge that we accomplished it. We still get the support and encouragement from our friends. And, we still have the accountability of reporting to our peers how much we typed/wrote during the day.

Charley’s Saint, a Contemporary Inspirational, was my 2007 NaNovel. It’s making the rounds now and has finaled in 2 contests.

This year, I’m attempting a Suspense for my NaNovel, entitled Translucent Trust. You can check my progress up on the top right. It's the counter under the NaNo logo. I would have more if I hadn’t lost the 2000 words I’d written on Day 2.

Yes, I said lost 2000 words. How? Because I thought I was doing a good job of multi-tasking and ended up deleting my progress because I assumed I’d saved it. Wrong!

The first rule of writing? Back up your work.

I was so excited to start my NaNovel, I forgot this important step. Then, I spent the whole of the next day looking for it and whining. So that was 2 lost days.

You can be sure I have my trusty little flash drive plugged in now. And, for the record, I actually like the part I rewrote better than the original. It was a blessing in disguise, after all.

So, if you’ve ever thought of writing, check out these 2 sites. It’s never too late to join us – you just might have to work harder depending on your goal.

I see that my lunch break is over, so it’s back to Hayley and Dylan running for their lives in Translucent Trust...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Book Review: River of Secrets

River of Secrets by Lynette Eason Love Inspired Suspense #114 - Aug 08

I enjoyed reading this book. I had my guesses who the ‘bad guy' was but the author threw enough red herrings to dilute my reasoning so I didn't positively identify him until the end when the truth was revealed. Based in the Amazon, the descriptions of local flora and fauna enhanced the reading. It felt like I was there in the story.

If I could say anything bothered me about the book, it'd be that Amy, the heroine, grew up with Micah, the hero, because his sister was her best friend. So, the fact she didn't recognize him until saw his birthmark was a bit hard to digest. However, she hadn't seen him in a few years, he was supposed to be dead, and I know grief has a way of blocking off those parts of our brain that could be detrimental to our health. And, in Amy's case, she always had this ‘thing' for Micah, so it is conceivable he triggered a memory but her consciousness pushed it away. So, having conceded that point, I read on and to a satisfying conclusion.

And in case you're wondering, Micah doesn't recognize Amy because he has amnesia from the same accident everyone thought he died in. He's frustrated by his inability to remember all the details that make up his identity. Like his name. Or his job. Or if he has a family. He does know one thing though, Amy Graham is someone he wants to get to know a lot better.

Amy is drawn to Micah from the start. When she sees his birthmark and realizes who he is, she doesn't want to admit it to him. Why? Because he won't want anything to do with her once he finds out her own mother planned his death. Amy just wants to steal as much quality time with him as possible before the revelation of his identity ends their fledgling relationship.

Heat Level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more)

My Rating: Very Good - 4 stars (excellent one time read)

2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 98 Harlequin Imprint: 91 Others: 7

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Book Review: Beach Dreams

Beach Dreams by Trish Perry - Harvest House 2008

This novel is a romantic comedy—enough humour to keep me laughing in between the poignant parts. Miss Perry introduces wonderfully real characters from the hero and heroine to the friends and family who surround them.

It’s the story of new believer, Tiffany LeBoueuf, who is trying to outrun her old reputation of a spoiled brat. She used to be a party girl but now, as she struggles to find herself on the narrow path, she hasn’t got a social life. Nothing. Zip. And then, she meets a good looking guy who buzzes her attraction meter. Too bad he already has a girlfriend. It shows how much she’s changed when she doesn’t go after Jeremy knowing he has a girlfriend – a fact that wouldn’t have stopped her before...

Jeremy is the kind of guy with staying power. He’s loyal. It doesn’t matter what happens with his girlfriend, he’s going to stick with her because he’s a loyal guy. When he meets Tiffany, he remembers her as a person who belittled a friend of his a year or so ago. To him, she’s a shallow, rude person and he doesn’t understand why his toes curl when she’s near him. But, he’s sticking with his girlfriend because that’s what he does.

The story takes us to a beach house in San Diego where Tiffany and her father go for a vacation. Due to a mix-up, Jeremy’s girlfriend is staying in the same house. Jeremy shows up. Is there anyone left to join them? Yes, the more the merrier. But, why is Jeremy’s girlfriend never home? That leaves him more time to get to know Tiffany.

The book is flooded with secrets, emotions and epiphanies.

It’s also a part of the Beach House series.

Heat Level: Affectionate

My Rating: Very Good - 4 stars (excellent one time read)


2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 97 Harlequin Imprint: 90 Others: 7