Archive | Worth Reading

Books And Music: The Playlist For Blackberry Winter

At She Reads we’re endlessly fascinated by the process of storytelling. And for many authors, part of  that process includes a playlist that they write to–a musical collage of sorts. In many cases once you know the playlist you can recognize those emotional undertones running through the story.

We asked this month’s featured author, Sarah Jio, to share her playlist for Blackberry Winter. I’m not sure about you but we can “hear” the story in these songs.

Playlist for Blackberry Winter:

-“Blackberry Winter” by Hilary Kole

-“Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own” by U2

-“Wintersong” by Sarah McLachlan

-“You & Me” by Dave Matthews Band

-“You Don’t Know Me” by Ray Charles

-“Love Theme From Sparticus” by Jean-Yves Thibaudet

-“A Little More of You” by Ashley Chambliss

-“I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” by Norah Jones

-“Heartbreak Warfare” by John Mayer

-“From Embrace to Embrace” by Joy Wants Eternity

-“Blackbird” by Sarah McLachlan

-“And So It Goes” by Karrin Allyson

Did any songs come to mind when you read Blackberry Winter?

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Review: Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

Today’s review by our own Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

SHINE SHINE SHINE by Lydia Netzer

When Maxon met Sunny, he was seven years, four months, and eighteen-days old. Or, he was 2693 rotations of the earth old. Maxon was different. Sunny was different. They were different together.

Now, twenty years later, they are married, and Sunny wants, more than anything, to be “normal. ” She’s got the housewife thing down perfectly, but Maxon, a genius engineer, is on a NASA mission to the moon,  programming robots for a new colony.  Once they were  two outcasts who found unlikely love in each other: a wondrous, strange relationship formed from urgent desire for connection. But now they’re parents to an autistic son. And Sunny is pregnant again. And her mother is dying in the hospital.  Their marriage is  on the brink of imploding, and they’re at each other’s throats with blame and fear. What exactly has gone wrong?

Sunny wishes Maxon would turn the rocket around and come straight-the-hell home.

When  an accident in space puts the mission in peril, everything Sunny and Maxon have built hangs in the balance. Dark secrets, long-forgotten murders, and a blond wig all come tumbling to the light. And nothing will ever be the same.…

A debut of singular power and intelligence,  Shine Shine Shine  is a unique  love story, an adventure between worlds, and a stunning novel of love, death, and what it means to be human.

Marybeth’s review:

Shine, Shine, Shine is a quirky book. I’m not going to lie. The main character is bald. Her son is autistic. Her husband has Asperger’s, builds robots and is in space throughout the novel. I took one look at the premise and thought “That is SO not for me.” I don’t do quirky. I mean, I am normal so I prefer to read about normal people.

But am I really normal? Are any of us, really?

That’s kind of what this book is about– how even the quirkiest of us deal with normal human emotions and the most normal of us deal with some pretty freaky emotions and somehow– in this giant soup kettle of people and problems– we are all pretty similar. I read the first scene where Sunny, the main character who is wearing a wig and pretending to be just as normal as her two best friends, is in her kitchen going through her life. She’s fought hard for normalcy, even at the expense of her relationships with others. She’s worked hard to put the past behind her, to fit. And I realized that Sunny, though bald and married to an astronaut, is not that different from me, who has hair and is married to a salesman whose feet are firmly planted on the ground. I realized perhaps I could learn something from her.

If you like quirky– or even if you don’t– I would highly recommend reading this novel so that you too can meet Sunny and her family and neighbors and can read the rich writing that Lydia Netzer brings to this tale. I can guarantee you it won’t be like any other book you’ve ever read. But sometimes it’s good to depart from the normal.

Here’s what a few others are saying about this wholly original novel:

“Netzer’s debut is a delightfully unique love story and a resounding paean to individuality.”  

- People Magazine (People Pick)

“Over the moon with a metaphysical spin. Heart-tugging…Nicely unpredictable…Extraordinary.”  

- Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Lydia Netzer’s luminous debut novel concerns what lies beneath society’s pretty surfaces.”  

— The Boston Globe

Side note: we’ll be profiling Lydia Netzer in the near future and learning more about this remarkable book so stay tuned! It’s a post you don’t want to miss.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Summer Reading Roundup – If You Loved THE HELP

Today’s post by She Reads co-founder, Marbeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

The Help is a novel that captured the hearts and imaginations of a nation, the likes of which doesn’t come along often. When the movie came out on video, my husband and I sat our entire family down in front of it and insisted we watch it together. Because we live in the south and we don’t want to raise children who don’t know from whence we came. But The Help isn’t your only option for reading well-written novels that deal with the subjects of racial equality, social justice, and where human emotions fit into it all. Below are some novels you might want to put on your reading radar this summer:

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew. (This one got on my radar because the author’s last name is my maiden name AND we hail from the same city. But we’re no relation, at least not that I know of.) I’ve heard good things about this one.

On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family’s black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there – cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father’s rages and her mother’s benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally. Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass, and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents’ failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence…Infused with the intensity of a changing time, here is a story of hope, heartbreak, and the love and courage that can transform us – from child to adult, from wounded to indomitable.

Catfish Alley by Lynne Bryant. A bookseller I respect told me that if this one had come out before The Help, this was the book we’d have all been talking about. I’ll be reading this one soon.

A moving debut novel about female friendship, endurance, and hope in the South.

Roxanne Reeves defines her life by the committees she heads and the social status she cultivates. But she is keeping secrets that make her an outsider in her own town, always in search of acceptance. And when she is given a job none of the other white women want-researching the town’s African-American history for a tour of local sites-she feels she can’t say no.

Elderly Grace Clark, a retired black schoolteacher, reluctantly agrees to become Roxanne’s guide. Grace takes Roxanne to Catfish Alley, whose undistinguished structures are nonetheless sacred places to the black community because of what happened there. As Roxanne listens to Grace’s stories, and meets her friends, she begins to see differently. She is transported back to the past, especially to 1931, when a racist’s hatred for Grace’s brother leads to events that continue to change lives decades later. And as Roxanne gains an appreciation of the dreams, courage, and endurance of those she had so easily dismissed, her own life opens up in new and unexpected ways.

Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman. An author told me that Beth Hoffman is truly one of the nicest people you’d ever meet. That right there made me buy her book. I’m not kidding. That and I’ve heard that it’s wonderful.

Twelve-year-old CeeCee is in trouble. For years she’s been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille— the crown-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town. Though it’s 1967 and they live in Ohio, Camille believes it’s 1951 and she’s just been crowned the Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia.

The day CeeCee discovers Camille in the front yard wearing a tattered prom dress and tiara as she blows kisses to passing motorists, she knows her mother has completely flipped. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, a previously unknown great-aunt comes to CeeCee’s rescue and whisks her away to Savannah. Within hours of her arrival, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricities—a world that appears to be run entirely by women.

While Tootie is busy saving Savannah’s endangered historic homes from the wrecking ball, CeeCee encounters a cast of unforgettable, eccentric characters. From the mysterious Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in an outdoor tub under the watchful eyes of a voyeuristic peacock, to Oletta Jones, the all-knowing household cook, to Violene Hobbs, the loud-mouthed widow who entertains a local police officer in her yellow see-through peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

But CeeCee’s view of the world is challenged in ways she could have never imagined: there are secrets to keep, injustices to face, and loyalties to uphold. Just as she begins to find her ballast and experiences a sense of belonging, her newfound joy collides with the long-held fear that her mother’s legacy has left her destined for destruction.

Laugh-out-loud funny, at times heartbreaking, and written in a pitch-perfect voice, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a spirited Southern tale that explores the intricate frailties and strengths of female relationships while illuminating the journey of a young girl who loses her mother but finds many others.

The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore. I heard Susan speak about this book, which she said was inspired by a random introduction at a dinner party. The woman explained that her name was Bezellia, and then went on to explain the history of her name. And Susan knew she had the beginnings of a novel on her hands.

Nobody in Nashville has a bigger name to live up to than Bezellia Grove. As a Grove, she belongs to one of city’s most prominent families and is expected to embrace her position in high society. That means speaking fluent French, dancing at cotillions with boys from other important families, and mastering the art of the perfect smile.

Also looming large is her given name Bezellia, which has been passed down for generations to the first daughter born to the eldest Grove. The others in the long line of Bezellias shortened the ancestral name to Bee, Zee or Zell. But Bezellia refuses all nicknames and dreams that one day she, too, will be remembered for her original namesake’s courage and passion.

Though she leads a life of privilege, being a Grove is far from easy. Her mother hides her drinking but her alcoholism is hardly a secret. Her father, who spends long hours at work, is distant and inaccessible. For as long as she can remember, she’s been raised by Maizelle, the nanny, and Nathaniel, the handyman. To Bezellia, Maizelle and Nathaniel are cherished family members. To her parents, they will never be more than servants.

Relationships are complicated in 1960s Nashville, where society remains neatly ordered by class, status and skin color. Black servants aren’t supposed to eat at the same table as their white employers. Black boys aren’t supposed to make conversation with white girls. And they certainly aren’t supposed to fall in love. When Bezellia has a clandestine affair with Nathaniel’s son, Samuel, their romance is met with anger and fear from both families. In a time and place where rebelling against the rules carries a steep price, Bezellia Grove must decide which of her names will be the one that defines her.

Beyond Molasses Creek by Nicole Seitz. Nicole is a gentle soul, a gifted artist, and a writer who weaves wisdom into her words. This latest offering by her is evidence of all three.

Three lives are bound by a single book . . . and the cleansing waters of Molasses Creek.

Having traveled to the ends of the earth as a flight attendant, Ally Green has finally returned to the Lowcountry to bury her father as well as the past. But Vesey Washington is still living across the creek, and theirs is a complicated relationship-he was once her best friend . . . and also part of the reason she’s stayed away so long. When Ally discovers a message her father left behind asking her to quit running, it seems her past isn’t through with her yet.

As Ally’s wandering spirit wrestles with a deep longing to flee again, a young woman on the other side of the world escapes her life of slavery in the rock quarries of Nepal. A mysterious sketchbook leads Sunila Kunari to believe there’s more to her story than she’s ever been told, and she’s determined to follow the truth wherever it leads her.

A deep current intertwines the lives of these three souls, and a destiny of freedom, faith, and friendship awaits them all on the banks of Molasses Creek.

Question for you: what Southern novel have you read and enjoyed recently?

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Love in the Time of War

I first became aware of the potential for love stories within World War II as a teenager watching the show “thirtysomething.” The season premiere for the second season revolved around one of the characters finding an old trunk full of letters and photos dating back to the war. The character got sucked into the love story between a young woman and the man she loved, who was fighting overseas. The main character felt a kinship with the woman who wrote the letters and the struggles she was facing, in spite of the  fact that they were separated by decades. After that show, I was hooked by the music, the drama, and the romance of that time period in our country’s history.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone. At She Reads we’ve read several titles that deal with this time period– each with their own unique take on the war. Think World War II has been done? Not like these novels!

The Discovery by Dan Walsh

Gerard Warner was not only a literary giant whose suspense novels sold in the millions, he was also a man devoted to his family, especially his wife of nearly 60 years. When he dies he leaves his Charleston estate to his grandson, Michael, an aspiring writer himself. Michael settles in to write his own first novel and discovers an unpublished manuscript his grandfather had written, something he’d kept hidden from everyone but clearly intended Michael to find. Michael begins to read an exciting tale about Nazi spies and sabotage, but something about this story is different from all of Gerard Warner’s other books. It’s actually a love story.

As Michael delves deeper into the story he discovers something that has the power to change not only his future but his past as well. Laced with suspense and intrigue, The Discovery is a richly woven novel that explores the incredible sacrifices that must be made to forge the love of a lifetime. Author Dan Walsh delivers yet another unique and heartfelt story that will stick with readers long after they turn the last page.

WHAT WE LIKED: As novelists we love the idea of a writer leaving a manuscript for his grandson meant to tell a story he couldn’t tell while he was alive– a story that’s unlike anything he’s ever told.

The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

In the summer of 1942, newly engaged Anne Calloway sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war.

A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne’s determination to discover the truth about the twin losses–of life, and of love–that have haunted her for seventy years.

WHAT WE LIKED: We loved Sarah Jio’s debut novel The Violets of March, and she’s back with a story of love and loss set in the Pacific. Romance on a tropical island in a bungalow hideaway? Yes, please!

Bridge Of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris

Los Angeles, 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern’s life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother’s best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.

When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.

Skillfully capturing one of the most controversial episodes in recent American history, Kristina McMorris draws readers into a novel filled with triumphs and heartbreaking loss–an authentic, moving testament to love, forgiveness, and the enduring music of the human spirit.

WHAT WE LIKED: This novel focuses on the lives affected by the Japanese interment during the tumultuous time after Pearl Harbor from the viewpoint of those who lived it. McMorris tells a side of the story that we rarely hear about.

The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy

In 1945, Elsie Schmidt is a naive teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she is for her first kiss. She and her family have been protected from the worst of the terror and desperation overtaking her country by a high-ranking Nazi who wishes to marry her. So when an escaped Jewish boy arrives on Elsie’s doorstep in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, Elsie understands that opening the door would put all she loves in danger.

Sixty years later, in El Paso, Texas, Reba Adams is trying to file a feel-good Christmas piece for the local magazine. Reba is perpetually on the run from memories of a turbulent childhood, but she’s been in El Paso long enough to get a full-time job and a fiancé, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba feels that lines are often blurred.

Reba’s latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery is no easy subject. Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba’s questions are a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII. And as Elsie, Reba, and Riki’s lives become more intertwined, all are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive.

WHAT WE LIKED: This novel tells the story of a German woman forced to be part of Hitler’s plan to create a master race, giving us  a harrowing look at what life was like as the Nazis grew in power while tying this woman’s story to a contemporary woman facing challenges of her own.

Next To Loveby Ellen Feldman

Set in a small town in Massachusetts, Next to Love follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon them move them in directions they never dreamed possible—while their husbands and boyfriends are enduring their own transformations. In the decades that follow, the three friends lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places. And as they change, so does America—from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities—and uncertainties. And yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.

Beautifully crafted and unforgettable, Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.

WHAT WE LIKED: This author gives us an original take on the war by giving us a glimpse at how the war shaped the perspective  of three women, their family members, and a nation.

If you’re fascinated with this time period, consider picking up one or all of these novels and immersing yourself in the romance, the drama, the history that is WWII.

Have you read any novels set during WWII that captured your heart?

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Young Adult Worth Reading

nicole o'dellToday’s post comes from Nicole O’Dell, author and She Reads YA reviewer.

“In this medieval fantasy debut, idealistic servant Achan Cham dreams of becoming a Kingsguard Knight, while Vrell Sparrow disguises herself as a boy to escape an arranged marriage. She has a supernatural gift of being able to communicate to Achan without words. This thoroughly entertaining and smart tale will appeal to fans of Donita K. Paul and J.R.R. Tolkien. Highly recommended for CF and fantasy collections.” –Library Journal–Library Journal, April 2009

I’ll start right off by admitting that I’m not a big fantasy reader. I can’t remember the last fantasy book I actually read. It’s not that I have anything against fantasy or spec fiction–in fact, I just may have to start adding it to my reading list now that I’ve been completely captivated by Jill Williamson’s debut novel, By Darkness Hid.by-darkness-hid-final

By Darkness Hid portrays a speculative world of danger as it lives out the age-old battle between good and evil with swords and the gift of bloodvoicing. (Intrigued, yet?) So many times, as I was reading, I forgot that Er’Rets wasn’t real. That’s the true mark of great fantasy, in my opinion.

I felt myself tense up at important scenes and wanted to shield my eyes at others–nope, not going to tell you what they were. Some of the danger and extreme situations would have been over-the-top and unbelievable if they weren’t crafted so well.

The underlying Christian message is that of God’s light prevailing in the darkness. That message is skillfully woven throughout the book without being overdone.

If you have a teen who enjoys this genre, or even one who doesn’t, this is a must read. I’d actually encourage readers of all ages to pick up all three books from the Blood of Kings trilogy as they’re available.

As a bonus, Jill answered some interview questions for us, letting us look a little deeper into her life.

Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?

JillHeadShotI grew up in Alaska with no electricity. My biggest dream was to get out of Alaska and experience “real life.” I wanted to be a fashion designer, so I eventually went to New York City for a year to finish that degree. We moved to Los Angeles next because my husband wanted to work in the movie industry and I could do fashion there. It didn’t take long for our hearts to change.

My husband went back to school to become a youth pastor. I stayed home with our kids and started writing articles and short stories. I got hooked on writing a young adult novel. So hooked that it drove me crazy and I had to put it aside and write another story, then another, and another†¦

We now live in Eastern Oregon where my husband is a youth pastor. Ministry is my life. Teens are a big part of that. God has allowed me to write and teach about writing and I’m thrilled about that. (Wedding dresses were a lot more work, believe it or not.)

Actually, I do believe that.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up and help my husband get the kids off to school. I try to have prayer/Bible study/worship time and a walk on the treadmill. My day is always better when I do all that first, but I’ve been known to skip parts of it too often. I try to write each morning, but again, I get distracted, usually by emails. I try to work on my writing until lunch, then after lunch, check emails and critique the work of others. The idea is to stop when the kids get home from school. Whether or not I do, depends on my deadlines.

Describe your surrounding while you write…

I sit in the back room of my house at a big desk covered in piles of paperwork. (My “to do” piles.) This room has a wall of windows on my right that overlooks the back yard, the John Day River, and the “mountains” beyond. It’s beautiful. (I put mountains in quotes because I’m from Alaska, and these John Day “mountains” are really more like hills in comparison. They are still beautiful.)

How did you choose your genre?

Could someone like me really write anything else? I love weird stuff. When I was nine, my parents rented a TV and a VCR and all three Star Wars movies. We didn’t have electricity, so Dad started up the generator and we watched them straight through. It was the most amazing day. I think it opened my imagination up to the speculative genre. And that same year, the first movie I saw in the theater was ET. I love to read all genres. I’ve even written some contemporary novels, but I just seem to gravitate toward the speculative stuff. When you love something, you’re drawn to it and you invest more in it. That’s true for me with my speculative stories.

With which character do you most identify?

With Vrell Sparrow. She is a girl who is pretending to be something she is not. What girl has never done that at some point in her life? Plus, Vrell has a controlling seed that comes from her own insecurities. I so have that problem too. God’s been working on me over the years and I’m learning to trust God and others, which is quite difficult and freeing. Arman is working on Vrell too. Vrell also tends to point out injustice, which is something I’m prone to do. She is also creative and extremely loyal.

6. Can you tell us about the other books in the series?

By Darkness Hid is the first book in the trilogy. It’s about how Achan and Vrell came to be in this mess, how they met each other, and how they discovered their bloodvoicing abilities.

And I’m working on book three right now. It’s called From Darkness Won and will probably be out April 2011. Sign up for my Facebook fan page or the E-zine on my website (look in the top right corner) to get updates on book three.

Where can we find you on the web and where can we buy your books?

I’m everywhere! My website is www.jillwilliamson.com. I’m also on Facebook, MySpace, Shoutlife, Shelfari, GoodReads, Twitter, Amazon†¦

On top of that, I run two blogs. The first is Novel Teen Book Reviews at www.novelteen.com. It’s a website that reviews clean teen fiction. This is a great resource to see what books are available in the Christian market for teens. The other blog is for teen authors, though adult authors may find some useful tips too. www.teenageauthor.com.

And if you are looking to buy one of my books, online go to Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or MarcherLordPress.com. You can also buy an autographed copy from me through my website. Many libraries have the first book and if they don’t they would likely order it if you ask. And you can request your local bookstore order my books too.

Thanks so much, Jill. I’ve loved hearing about your life and your writing area. For some reason, I’m fascinated by where authors write.

I hope you’ll all take a look at this fantastic book trailer. If this doesn’t make you want to read this trilogy†¦

Jill has graciously offered a winner the choice of a signed copy of either By Darkness Hid, book number one, or To Darkness Fled, book number two in the trilogy. As always, just leave a comment on this post and the winner will be selected at random on Friday.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Worth Reading – The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren

susan may warren photo

****Update: the winners of Susan May Warren’s novel, The Great Christmas Bowl, were chosen at random using www.random.org. We have notified each of the lucky recipients. Thanks to each of your for participating!

Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota.

A little about her new book The Great Christmas Bowl: Marianne Wallace is focused on two things this holiday season: planning the greatest family Christmas ever and cheering on her youngest son’s team in their bid for the state championship. Disaster strikes when the team loses their mascot-the Trout. Is it going too far to ask her to don the costume? So what if her husband has also volunteered her to organize the church Christmas tea. When football playoffs start ramping up, the Christmas tea starts falling apart. Then, one by one her children tell her they can’t come home for Christmas. As life starts to unravel, will Marianne remember the true meaning of the holidays?  great-christmas-bowl-jpg

We’ve chosen The Great Christmas Bowl as our very first “Worth Reading” profile. How do you determine what’s “worth reading” within the vast array of Christian fiction out there?

That’s a great question!   I’m a tough reviewer, I’d admit.   A book has to hook my attention in the first chapter, plus have a heroine that is likeable and sympathetic.   I also want to   read a story that has a premise that touches my heart.   And the writing has to have some poetry to it.   I can usually tell if a novel is going to have these things within the first three chapters.   At the end of the day, the novel has to be worth my time in sitting down to read it †” something that makes me ponder my life, my relationship with God, and makes me want to reach higher.

What made you decide to do 1) a Christmas book and 2) a Christmas book about football?

I think every author needs to have a signature “Christmas” story (much like a musical artist might have a Christmas album!).   Only, I wanted something unique and funny and heartwarming, and with a message that might appeal broadly.   Truthfully, I feel as if I received this story as a gift from God †” it came fully packaged into my heart during a season when I saw my oldest son preparing to graduate and “leave the nest.”   I blubbered my way through that Christmas season, so much so that really, all I had to do was sit down and spill the story it onto the page.   In truth, I wrote it   as a gift to my family †” football is a Warren passion, as well as our Christmas traditions, and I wanted something even   my boys would read.   (and I’ve had a lot of male readers who have endorsed it, also!)   My family’s gift to me was that they loved it.

I told you that there were many parts in this book that made me laugh out loud. Do you always incorporate humor into your books?

I try to.   I love to laugh †” life is funny when we step back from it.   Even in stressful moments, there are funny elements that can help ease the tension.   So, I love writing books with humor sprinkled throughout.     My current series, the “Trouble” series about a wannabe Private Investigator is part humor, part suspense, part romance †” okay, I think it’s the blend of a perfect book.   The Great Christmas Bowl is really an example of the daily life in the Warren household.

The story revolves around a mom who will do anything for her children. What is something you’ve done for your kids that you never expected to do?

I got involved in our small town theater (and yes, there may be a book about that someday!).   I have donned costumes as a Lions paw (Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe) and an eccentric church lady (the Worst Christmas Pageant ever) and spent hours backstage and running lines for their “theater” careers.   I also spend A-LOT more hours driving to football games than I ever imagined.   Yes, sometimes I am the lone mother in the stands at an away game, shivering in the rain, whoo-ha-ing my fullback or middle linebacker.   I also never thought I’d be the host of the prom party every year, but then again, at least I know where my teenagers are spending prom night!

Some parts of the book are derived from your real-life experiences. Care to tell us which ones?

Oh†¦.well, it’s probably easier to detail which ones aren’t real.

I’ve never been a fish.

That’s it.

Oh, and we’ve never spent Christmas in Cancun.   (Yet).   But we have been to Cancun.   And spent Christmases in places all over the world.

The rest†¦.well, times and places have been changed to protect the innocent (or guilty!)   Except for the dog.   Gracie deserves to be immortalized in the Library of Congress.

Finally, share a Warren family Christmas tradition.

Clam Chowder soup, of course!   We have it every year, along with fresh made buns (made by yours truly), and sandwich fixin’s.   We eat by candlelight, have a family devotional time, and then open ONE gift from under the tree (it’s always pajamas).   Then the kids (and grownups) get into their new jammies, and we do a family puzzle.   (a new one every year).       It’s something my family did growing up, and it’s been fun to continue the traditions.   I suspect my children will carry into their families, too.   Perhaps a new tradition will be me reading the Great Christmas Bowl aloud while we do the puzzle.   Hmmm†¦..I like that one.

Merry Christmas to all the Proverbs 31 women out there!   Have a fabulous season celebrating the gift of our Savior!

Susan May Warren

If you would   like to win a copy of The Great Christmas Bowl, just leave a comment below!   Three lucky winners will receive   TWO copies of Susan’s novel (one for you and one to give to a friend),   along with a copy of Catherine Palmer’s Victorian Christmas, a nostalgic collection of four novellas never before released in the same volume, and a pocket Bible Promises book all from Tyndale House Publishers.

Comment away, and good luck!!

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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