Category: book review

Christmas is Best Served with a side of Friends and Good Books

I have been gifted with some of the best friends an author could have! We have a critique group of geeks who happen to be authors. We work hard together. Okay- we also laugh and chat about kids, cats, books, jobs, and a few other things. The best part of our little group is getting to preview some very talented author’s current works in process while wearing pajamas and eating pancakes. Several of us will be launching our books over the next few months.

Deb Goodman is launching her new book,  The Billionaire’s Christmas Fling: A Sweet Christmas Novella (The Billionaires of Gramercy Book 1).  

Buy the Kindle version on Amazon HERE. 

Meet Deb Goodman, Sweet Clean Romance Author, and one of my favorite geeky authors.

I asked Deb to share 10 things about herself. I love this list and getting to know Deb.

Ten Things You May or May Know about Author Deb Goodman: 

*She must have missed something in kindergarten because she can’t cut a straight line to save her life.

*Some of her favorite authors include Lucy Maude Montgomery, Josi Kilpack, Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, Barbara Kingsolver, Shannon Hale, Jane Austen, Jerry Spinelli, Gail Carson Levine, and Heather Vogel Frederick. But, come on, who doesn’t love them?

*She is 4’10” tall. She has to use an actual hook to grab the laundry out of the bottom of the washing machine and ask random strangers to reach items on top shelves in stores. It’s embarrassing.

*She just published her first book, The Billionaire’s Christmas Fling, and has written three more that are in various stages of development and will be out soon. She knows you’re dying to read all of them.

*Her household consists of four terrific kids, one top-notch husband, a little dog, and balls and other sports equipment (depending on what sport is in season) that fly past her at all hours of the day and night.

*She thinks the secret to becoming a better writer is to join a critique group or two. They force you to pay attention to deadlines, take constructive criticism, and better analyze what works and what doesn’t in your own and your partners’ texts. Plus, they help you grow great relationships in this often solitary writing life.

*Cooking is one of her hobbies, but her fear of undercooked meat means she burns things way too often. Sorry, kids.

*One of the things she wishes she could change about her writing habits is her propensity for procrastination. She’s working on that, though.

*Because she grew up in Idaho, she got to take two weeks off of school in the fall and work long days in the “spuds.” The summer after high school, she worked in a potato processing plant where she spent eight hours a day cutting rotten spots out of potatoes. Good times.

*She’s wanted to be an author for as long as she can remember. Writing makes her happy. And writing romance makes her the happiest.

Here are some places you can find Deb Goodman:

Deb Goodman Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/dPZblT
Instagram: @Debgoodmanwrites
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How to get Cinnamon Rolls and the Keys to Dad’s Car

Do you want to see this author geek out? Just tell me you read something I wrote in a newspaper. It is like Christmas morning! Yes, I wrote the article. Yes, I thought it might be published. And yet, every time I cannot contain my joy. It is like opening a new book and smelling the pages (Confess true book lovers, you know you’re closet book sniffers).

The Deseret News Mormon Times (I know- didn’t we all rebrand ourselves?) published an article by several authors detailing the way they prepare for General Conference. It is filled with wonderful ideas. But, as for me and my house? We prepare with Celestia Sappenfield’s Cinnamon Rolls, lovingly known as Mom’s or Grandma’s Rolls. They have kept us together for General Conference for more than 40 years.

The only person happier than me to see the newspaper story was my dad, Jeffrey Sappenfield. You see, there is nothing my father loves better than reading a newspaper. Not on a Kindle, but a real paper newspaper. The kind that is thrown on your porch.

Growing up, my brother’s and sister’s knew that for my father, his mother, and all of the relatives, newspaper reading was to be taken seriously. All pages were to be read. Every front page story was to be discussed. And then the paper was folded lovingly for the next reader. My job was to cut out all the good political cartoons and paste them in my notebook.

We also knew that dad came home after 5 PM. He would walk in the door with the paper. He would sit in his lounger and read, cover to cover. if we wanted the keys to the car, we let dad finish the paper before we asked. It felt like an eternity.

Today is my father’s birthday. I won’t give away his age, but I will say the older I get, the younger he seems. It may be silly, but seeing an article in a newspaper about his family by his daughter (me!) was the perfect gift. Tonight, when I say my prayers, I will thank the appropriate person.

And here is the recipe!

Mom’s Cinnamon Rolls

Preheat Oven to 425

In this century – Use parchment paper on a thick Costco Baking Pan

In a very large bowl (Yeast hates metal)  add 1 and 1/2 cup water. Make sure it is 110 degree (Yeast likes warm)

Add 3 Tablespoons Yeast (Rapid rise is okay – use fresh new yeast)

Add 4 Tablespoons….or more…sugar

Let this rest for 15 minutes. Yes – the ENTIRE 15 minutes. Let the yeast have a party.

Add 2 eggs

3 Tablespoons oil (I like to use melted and cooled real butter)

Add 2 cups warm milk – 110 degrees (Not too hot! You will kill the yeast)

Mix

Take 1 Tablespoon of Salt and add it to a cup of flour and set it aside.

Gently mix in 4 cups flour

Add your 1 cup salt and flour

Add 3 more cups until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl

Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm spot in your kitchen. Let the dough rise until double.

On a clean surface (There is more dough than you think) roll out the dough until it is a thick rectangle. Pour melted and cooled real butter allllll over it.

Mix a bag of brown sugar and cinnamon to taste. Sprinkle it generously all over the butter. Roll the dough and slice into cinnamon rolls.

Place them on the parchment paper on your baking tray and let them rise for a few minutes.

Bake 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees

Frost with a mixture of powdered sugar, 1 TBL real butter, 1 tsp vanilla, and water. Serve hot with MORE butter.

Next week- The Gluten Free, Dairy Free Cinnamon Bun recipe for me…sigh…

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Safe House funds for Freedom

In honor of my favorite holiday, July 4th, and Safe House’s first birthday on July 11, I am donating 100% of my ebook profits to Operation Underground Railroad and reducing the cost of my ebook to $0.99 for the ENTIRE month of July.

Cedar Fort is supporting the cause and donating 1 signed copy of Safe House to Operation Underground Railroad for their aftercare programs, auctions, or to give away for every 50 ebooks sold during the month of July.

The Singing Librarian is helping by giving away a signed copy of Safe House and promoting the sale on her Christian & Clean Fiction Summer Reading Safari, as well as a ton of other giveaways and fun!

July 4th is my favorite holiday! Since 1921, our family has gathered on the Seaside, Oregon Beach and lit a massive bonfire, made s’mores, and celebrated Independence Day together. So, of course, I want the same for everyone in America, including victims of human trafficking!

Comment below or on my blog, FaceBook page, Instagram, or Twitter, with the word Freedom and I will enter you into a Facebook Live drawing from a jar! One of my beautiful family members will help me on the 4th of July.

Remember, the fight for freedom is far from over. Somewhere out there are children who need us to care. Learn more at OurRescue.org.

And watch for the first annual Seaside, Oregon family fun run on the historic prom on August 18th. I will be there and we will be running to raise funds for Operation Underground Railroad, as well as our local Seaside Sunset Empire Parks & Recreation- providing safe programs for kids!

Sponsored by: 

  • Sam’s Seaside Cafe
  • Providence Seaside Hospital
  • Clatsop Community Bank
  • The Human Bean

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My New Read: The Road to Freedom by Shawn Pollock

World War II is ending, but for Captain Meier, the fight for his life has only begun. Stranded behind enemy lines and tormented by his past, his only ally is a young private who practices a strange American religion. As they travel through treacherous Russia, the two quickly realize they will have to trust in merciful God to have any chance of escaping a deadly fate.

Excerpt from: The Road To Freedom:

A rumbling rose in the distance; it was harsh, mechanized, and unwelcome. He watched as a truck appeared in the west, coming from the town he had just left. Only one. He sighed with relief. He could handle one, and maybe the driver could help him. He pushed himself upright and went to the shoulder of the road and waved. The truck stopped. The driver leaned over and pushed the passenger door open.

“Dobroye utro!” he said. Then, with a shake of his head, he said, “I mean, good morning! Do you need a ride?”

Christoph backed away, suddenly panic-stricken at the sound of the driver’s voice. An instinct surged inside him–primal and violent–triggered by those words, that accent. He tried to push it down, but the anxiety ignited once again at the sound of the truck flaring again. His mind raced and his heart pounded. The driver had offered the ride in broken German, but “dobroye utro” was “good morning” in Russian.

In the late war, every German had learned to fear the Russians. He especially knew that fear. He had survived on it. And now, a Russian was here? Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong.

My Thoughts….

When Shawn asked me to read his book, I didn’t know what to expect. After all, I am a girly girl who likes mystery, romance, and historical fiction. So far, so wonderful and very unexpected.

Shawn’s characters are very three dimensional. I can see the story unfold. Break out a little, and give Shawn’s story a try. I am glad I did.

Shawn and I talked, and I am pleased to share a little author interview with you.

Shawn Pollock, Author

Shawn grew up in Cache Valley, Utah, served a mission in Japan, and graduated from Utah State University with degrees in Professional Writing and Instructional Technology. He works as an instructional designer in the software industry. His short story, “Hats,” won first place in The New Era magazine’s fiction contest. Any time not devoted to work and family goes to cooking, reading about history, and participating in the League of Utah Writers. The Road to Freedom is his first novel.

What inspired you to write about this era?

Well, I have always been fascinated by both World Wars and have a natural interest in Germany. I’m not sure where that comes from because I’ve never been to Germany and I don’t speak German or even know any Germans, but hopefully someday.

I also thought it made for a very fertile place to examine some questions of faith that are also found in the Book of Mormon. How can a man try to stick to values and convictions when he’s in a place where no one shares them and everyone is very war-like and violent? What effect might that have on those around him? Will he change, or will they?

How did you do your research?

I have a large collection of books on World War II, most of which belonged to one of my grandfathers. I got them when he passed away. I also made good use of my library card. So, tons of reading and making notes. I’d been reading about the war for years already anyway, so I started off with a good base.

Your characters are so believable. Are they based on people you know or knew? How did you develop them?

None of my characters are base too specifically on real people. Certain elements of people I know did find their way into the story, though. For example, my grandfather who served in WW2 in Europe was a big guy who lost a lot of weight from endless walking and bad food, so I made that part of Kohler’s character. I also knew a man who got really pouty about things his neighbors did, which became the inspiration for Heinz Kohler.

Other times, little things inspired some of the characters. If you read about the uprising at the Sobibor death camp, Gustav Wagner was one of the meanest, most vicious guard there. I transplanted that idea into the character of Wagner. Likewise, Captain Manteuffel was inspired by Ian Holmes’ performance in the 1979 version of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which I’ve seen several times.

I made Meier and Kohler as opposite from one another as I could because I knew their growth through the story would show in the ways they played off each other. In an earlier version of the story, Kohler was an experienced sergeant who had been with Meier for a long time. I eventually realized I was just writing the same character twice and changed Kohler into a green private.

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Shannon and Elliott’s Review of: Quiet as a Church Mouse by Stephen Bevan and Author Interview

 

Find Quiet as a Church Mouse on Amazon

The Story:
What does it mean to be quiet as a church mouse? This charming picture book
shares the story of how one little boy learned to sit still while his imagination
kept running free. With these fun and colorful illustrations, follow along as a
boy and a mouse discover how reverence shows our love and respect for our
Savior.

Elliott’s Review:
Elliott Dickerson, age 6 thinks, “I like it! Because it’s really cool cause it has that mouse that goes to church. I liked its blue jacket. It is really tiny. It was a new mouse who goes to church. I wish I had a mouse in my church bag. I think I can be as quiet as a mouse when I sit in church. I sit with dad on the stage. He leads the music.”

Nana: Do you think the church mouse will help you sit still?

Elliott: Uh huh. Because it is being quiet and I will copy it being quiet.

Elliott in his fake reading glasses. According to Elliott, they make him look like Dumbledore.

Nana Shannon’s Review: 
I LOVED this story! I want a church mouse in my church bag too! The art is adorable. There is so much to looks at. I also love that it is a based on a childhood moment in the author’s life (We had a little online chat. Read his interview below).

Elliott’s review is totally authentic. I am an amazing typist. I asked him what he thought and the statement above is all his, word for word. The interesting thing is he made the correlation between the cool little church mouse and his reverence. Elliott loves to sing and make car noises. Reverence is a challenge. I wonder what will happen when I remind him to be as quiet as a mouse.

Quiet as a Church Mouse is a 2017 Association Of Mormon Letters Winner

5 out of 5 Stars! Without a doubt.

About the Author: Stephen Bevan

Stephen Bevan imagined his church mouse at age 5. All those wild Sundays of imaginings are distilled in this book. He and his little church mouse lived in
Montgomery County Maryland, until Heavenly Father took them both to Western Australia for many amazing adventures “down under.” Now those two troublemakers reside in beautiful Cache Valley, Utah. On Friday nights they are telling stories and hammock camping with the scouts but each Sunday
morning they are both trying to sit reverently in church with Stephen’s own wonderful and imaginative children. Learn more about Stephen at
www.bevanstories.com, while you are there see what other adventures he and his mouse have to share.

 My Author Interview: 
Hi Stephen, Is this your first book? Have you written anything before?
I grew up with 7 brothers and sisters. Being one of the older children in the family meant I was often the bedtime storyteller. At first, I read stories by others and by the time I was 10, I was writing my own stories for my siblings. Time and teenage years tend to lead you off into new paths for a time. While attending Brigham Young University I majored in Socio-Cultural Anthropology, which included a lot of ethnographic interviewing and writing. I found I loved writing again. Although I have co-written a few research papers no one else has ever read, and a few electronics articles that a few folks have read, my first book is this fun little picture book, Quiet as a Church Mouse.
Can you tell us the story behind your book?
When I was a little guy about four years old my father was in the US Navy and he was assigned as a Corpsman to the 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan. For the next two years, my Dad would be off with the Marines and my Mom was left in Maryland with five children and one on the way! We didn’t even have a car. Nevertheless, my diligent and faithful Mother got up every Sunday morning, fed us, dressed us, and then walked the mile to church. You would think that after walking a mile a four-year-old boy might be tired enough to sit still in church, but not me. I was crazy! Army crawling under the pews, hanging from door frames I had climbed etc. My poor mother had her hands full and everywhere I went my little brother followed. One day my saintly Mother asked me to be as quiet as a church mouse, and I could not help but wonder why I had never seen one of these church mice in all my wanderings through the building? I began to sit very still in hopes of seeing and catching a church mouse as a pet. I tried to imagine what a church mouse might do. Somewhere along the way, I began to hear the words from the pulpit and more importantly feel what those words meant. I began to see Christ for the first time.
Are any of the characters patterned after someone you know?
The characters in the book are really me and my family. That little boy who finally learns to sit reverently was me. And those two siblings in the book represent my five younger siblings. Though I do tease one of my sisters that the little girl not paying attention is her!
If you have children, and they go to church, what other things have you done to help them understand why reverence is important in their Heavenly Father’s house?
I have seven lovely children who sometimes are more like their me than I could have ever imagined. We have tried to teach them reverence by helping them see the bigger picture. We have never shied away from teaching them of Heavenly Father’s plan. I guess I might be considered a mean Dad, but we just don’t do Cheerios at church– we do have a few books, and a paper where they can write or draw things they are hearing, but they can’t just doodle pictures of dogs and cats. We expect them to listen and they know they will get asked at dinner, “what did you learn today and how can you apply it to your life.” It can be fun to hear the responses from children at 3 or at 14. They see things in God’s plan that sometimes I overlook so sometimes they teach me!

One thing that my children enjoy is as the music plays before the service starts I like to doodle a scripture or gospel scene on the offering envelope, and then incorporate in a scripture.  They have taken to decorating their own tithing/offering envelopes. 
Learn More Here:
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Change, Line Upon Line

“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? …For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little… ”
Isaiah 28: 9-10

My Grandmother, my father, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, and I all walked on this wall along the sea, and now my children’s children walk the same wall. Each one of us learned to walk the wall holding a grown-up’s hand until we all insisted on letting go. Step by step, starting with our first baby steps we learned and grew.

Seaside summer evenings were often spent walking as a family to the ice-cream shop. Twenty or more of us strung out along the promenade or Prom on the beach laughing, chasing children, holding our lover’s hands, pushing baby strollers, or watching our parents, aunts, and uncles smile and talk.

We learned about more than how to balance on a cement wall by the sea. We learned trusted loved ones had rules because they cared about us. We learned through quiet conversations on the mile-long walk to town for ice-cream. We learned by watching the grown-ups hold hands and treat each other with respect. The journey was so much more than a walk on the wall. We were building little people and a large family.

Life is a lot like our walks by the sea. It looks like you are doing dishes, going on a diet, teaching your children how to plant a garden, but you are actually doing something much deeper and wider, you are building love, trust, identity, connection, and a family.

A month ago, I committed to making some health changes. I was going on a cleanse. It absolutely made me giggle. For the first time in my life, I joined a group, bought some shakes, and began a sugar fast. All the laughter covered my terror. Remember, I am the girl on the prom wall. All our major childhood accomplishments were followed by dessert or sweet reward, and family gatherings always had food.

I set a goal. One month without refined sugar, caffeine (Diet coke which always led to needing Hot Tamales and a bucket of popcorn), as well as a TON of other foods like corn, honey, potatoes, and soy that I wouldn’t eat.

A few days ago, I finished the month! I was changed. Did I look different? Was I thinner and prettier? No. Was I changed? Absolutely. But the change was on the inside. I felt healthier. I had gained the strength that comes from setting out to accomplish something, anything, and finishing it. The sense of self-worth that comes from seeing something through, especially when it is difficult. I had endured with honor.

Just like the walk on the Prom, it looked simple, fun and easy but the results I hope will be much deeper than improved health today. Years down the road, I hope I look back and find I am grateful for the things I chose to change, the lessons I learned along the way, and the blessing of inner strength that comes from striving to be just a tiny bit better each day.

Every step we take is a choice.  Even when we try to take random road trips through life, we are making a choice. But when we choose a direction and take one small step after another toward our goal we just might find we reach not only reach our destination, we have changed along the way.

Special thanks to Hilary and the group at Designing Health. I may stumble and I may fall, but I have a new network of friends headed the same direction. See you all at the Salad Bar!

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So You Think You Can Write Spotlights Safe House!

Ready, Set, Write Podcast crew spotlighted Safe House today on their new show, “So You Think You Can Write!” I am so excited! I am a huge fan of this fun bunch. If you dream of being published they give great advice. It’s a hilarious way to laugh your way through the struggles of the first chapter and writing a great hook. Enjoy!

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Valentine’s Day Celebration Book Tour hosted by Singing Librarian Books

Safe House

Love, gone wrong can go so right!

Tour Schedule

February 12-cherylbbookblog
February 13-All-of-a-kind Mom
February 14-Singing Librarian Books
February 15-Red Headed Book Lady Heidi Reads…
February 16-amandainpa
February 17-Soulfully Romantic | Reading for the Stars and Moon

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Healing Week 1

Healing…

We all have stress in our lives. We don’t have to be trauma survivors to feel overwhelmed.

The world is full of quick and easy ways to soothe ourselves when we feel like life has not only run us over, but it has backed up and parked on us. The question is, what do we choose?

Do you open the freezer and say hello to Ben and Jerry’s Ice-cream like it is a long lost love, or do you call a friend and go for a walk?

According to Maxine Harris, Ph.D., and creator of “Trauma Recovery and Healing,” there are high-cost coping methods and low-cost coping methods.

High-cost methods may not be expensive, but usually, they have costly consequences. For example, when you smoke you might gain quick relief from stress, but the long-term outcome is costly.

Low-cost methods may or may not give you immediate relief but they don’t cost a lot and they lead to long-term positive outcomes. For example, it only costs time to take a brisk walk but it is a great coping mechanism. It gives you time to process or a place to escape thinking for a minute, as well as improved health. The only financial cost is a good pair of shoes and permission from your doctor.

I took some time to practice one of my favorite low-cost methods of coping with stress. I rode my old rusty beach cruiser (Coastie talk for a one-speed bicycle with a basket on the front) on a 12-mile trail and listened to some great tunes. A garage sale bike and the beach! The best!

Here is a little live movie on my favorite subject, how to heal. I hope you listen and remember, there is nothing wrong with Ben and Jerry’s as long as you share it with a friend like me!

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2017 Whitney Nomination for Safe House by ME! (No not the other one…really….me!)

Thank you to everyone who nominated Safe House for a Whitney Award! Wondering what a Whitney Award is? Look HERE. And yes- it is for my book! I am so relieved you can’t see my dance of joy! What a gift it is to have you all in my life. I love every person I have met on this journey including Cedar Fort staff, the critics, the other authors, bookstore family, and bloggers.

Okay, there is another Safe House, which came out later by everyone’s favorite author, but she is nominated too! Wouldn’t it be fun to actually make it to the finals and sit together? I would lean over and say, “Hey, nice title,” real smooth and casual like I wasn’t jumping out of my skin to be at the Whitney Awards by Traci Abramson. Then I would say, “So, I hear we share a shelf at Deseret Book.” Do you think she would sign my copy of her book?

Well… a nomination is just the first step. It is such an honor to even be listed. To be in the same room as the people I read and respect would be like Christmas times ten!

This is the happiest photo I own. This is my face one second after finding Safe House in the Deseret Book Catalog. Trust me – you don’t want me to video my dance of joy!

P.S. Sunday is my birthday. This was the best gift! But if you feel like it, visit my Operation Underground Railroad donation site and donate. A small portion of the proceeds from Safe House will go to O.U.R.

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