Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Review: Love Finds You in Victory Heights by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss

By: Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss
Publisher: Summerside Press
ISBN: 978-1-60936-000-9

About the book:

The Second World War has stolen Rosalie’s fiancĂ© from her. But rather than wallow, Rosalie throws herself into her work at the local Boeing plant, shooting rivets into the B-17 bombers that will destroy the enemy. A local reporter dubs her “Seattle’s Own Rosie the Riveter,” and her story lends inspiration to women across the country. While Rosalie’s strong arms can bear the weight of this new responsibility, her heart cannot handle the intense feelings that begin to surface for Kenny, the handsome reporter. Fear of a second heartbreak is a powerful opponent…but will it claim victory over love?


Rosalie’s childhood dream was falling in love and having the kind of marriage and family her father, a reporter whose work consumed his life, could never seem to give his own family. When war comes and Rosalie’s brother dies at Pearl Harbor, she decides that her best friend, Vic, would make a good husband. But she puts off marrying him until his return, hoping to convince herself that she loves him enough. However, Vic never comes home, and consumed with guilt over promising to marry a man good man she never really loved, Rosalie loses herself in her work as a riveter at the local Boeing plant. Surely her valuable wartime work will help atone for the shame she carries over not being able to give Vic the love he deserved. When a chance meeting with Kenny, a dashing reporter, thrusts her into an unwelcome spotlight as a poster girl for women working to support the war effort – and possibly Kenny’s ticket to the big time, Rosie must decide if she can come to terms with her past and look beyond her fears long enough to risk a future with a reporter who seems to treasure her every word. Can she trust a story seeker, or will her scars keep her heart bound by guilt?

Love Finds You in Victory Heights is a seamless collaborative effort between authors Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss. I’ve been a longtime fan of Goyer’s World War II novels, and was excited to see how this new, co-authored effort set on the homefront would unfold. This book is so chock-full of 1940s atmosphere and mannerisms that at times I felt like I was watching an old black and white film play out in my imagination as I read the story (and being a classic film fan, I LOVED that!). The world-crafting in this novel is superb. The authors do an excellent job bringing every aspect Rosalie and Kenny’s world to vivid life, from the sounds and atmosphere encountered at the Boeing plant to the excitement of a war bond rally graced with the presence of movie stars, along with liberal descriptions of the fabulous music that served as the soundtrack to the time. Every detail, from the setting descriptions to the clothes to the food unfolds with precise, rich detail that fully immerses the reader in 1943 Seattle. In that respect Victory Heights is like a nostalgic love letter to a time long past, a time capsule of an era when patriotism ran high and “dolls” like Rosalie couldn’t wait to get off work and cut a rug with a fella like Kenny.

The romance that develops between Kenny and Rosalie is the heart of the novel, and I loved watching their relationship develop from the moment sparks flew at their first meeting. Kenny is a great hero and his point-of-view is particularly well-drawn. We get an insider’s glimpse into his view of Rosalie (so romantic!), and I thought his struggle to reconcile his desire for affirmation and advancement in his career with his faith was quite realistic. Rosalie occasionally frustrated me. I loved her strength and how she embodied the character of a generation of women who left their homes and took on “men’s work” in order to support their country. These women were trailblazers, and Goyer and Fleiss have crafted a loving tribute of thanks to these women for their courage with this novel. But Rosalie’s “mood swings” as regards Kenny was occasionally frustrating and her faith journey felt a little rushed. More time to develop that would have been welcome. I also wish there’d been more time to resolve Rosalie’s conflict with Lanie- that reconciliation felt completely glossed over. But those issues didn’t detract from my overall appreciation of the novel. The authors deserve major kudos for creating a cast of characters who are pitch-perfect true to the time period. The dialogue is peppered with 1940s slang that adds authenticity and fun, and the attitudes and faith of all the characters populating Victory Heights ring true to the time period. If, like me, you love this history, Love Finds You in Victory Heights is the perfect cure to satisfy your nostalgic longing for the 1940s with a healthy dash of swoon-worthy romance. Here’s hoping for future Goyer and Fleiss collaborations like this one!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Inspector Lewis: Counter Culture Blues

Inspector Lewis returned to Masterpiece Mystery last night with the first episode of the show’s third series, Counter Culture Blues. I have to be honest, while this episode was pretty good, story-wise it is far from my favorite Lewis episode – this is a story saved by my fascination with the characters of Lewis (Kevin Whately) and Hathaway (Laurence Fox). The “big reveal” just wasn’t that big of a shock, all things considered – the identity of the murderer was way too obvious in my view. Here’s the episode summary from the PBS website:
Loud gunshots on a local estate interrupt an Oxford church service, and Detective Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately) and Detective Sergeant Hathaway (Laurence Fox) are stirred from their quiet Sunday plans to investigate. The estate owner is an aging rock star, Richie Maguire, part of an iconic band from Lewis's youth. The offending gunfire is the least of the chaos on the estate. Esme Ford (Joanna Lumley), the band's singer long presumed dead, has just resurfaced. And, Lewis suspects that an orphan boy has recently died just outside the estate gates. As Lewis remembers his rock-and-roll youth, the violence escalates. Yet, these fading rockers don't seem capable of much of anything, much less murder. It will take the inspiration of Inspector Morse to sort out the true suspects from the rock stars.
Beware of spoilers in this post if you haven’t seen the episode yet. And in case you missed last night’s broadcast, you will be able to watch episodes of Inspector Lewis for a limited time online at the PBS website.

As with all Lewis episodes, there were several seemingly disparate, unrelated story threads that the filmmakers managed to successfully weave together by the end of the story. There was the murdered teenage boy, Esme’s return, shadowy dealings between the members of Midnight Addiction and their old manager, and blackmail plots. As Esme, Joanna Lumley pretty much stole every scene she appeared in. She may have looked quite frightening (seriously that wig did her NO favors), but she seemed to be having a lot of fun playing once again such an over-the-top character. And the reveal at the end about her relationship to the murdered teenager was heart-rending and played quite well by Lumley.

Other than the Lewis cast regulars (and more on them in a moment) there weren’t all that many familiar faces that I recognized, anyway, populating the cast of this episode. But there were a couple worth mentioning. Perdita Weeks played Kitten, the daughter of band member Richie. I really enjoyed the relationship that was revealed between Kitten and Mack (Hilton McRae), Richie’s junkie brother. Mack’s character was just heart-breaking, and really, really sweet – so seeing him get some positive resolution was nice to see. Weeks played Lydia Bennet in the fabulous Lost in Austen, as well as Roberta in the Masterpiece Mystery presentation Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking that aired a couple of years ago. She’s being blackmailed by a fellow Oxford student – Peter, played by Harry Lloyd. And this was a disturbing bit of casting, people. Lloyd played Will Scarlet in my much-loved Robin Hood television show, and the character of Peter is about as far from Will’s heroics as one could imagine. The guy positively made my skin crawl. The up side to Lloyd’s character being so smarmy? It made Hathaway look really, really good when he took him down several notches for the blackmailing scheme. Laurence Fox really shines when he gets to exhibit Hathaway’s tough and protective side. I just loved it. *g* The only other face I recognized in the cast was Simon Callow’s, and he played the group’s manager, Vernon Oxe – also one of those characters that made my skin crawl. Callow’s one of those actors who has appeared in a variety of productions – everything from Doctor Who episodes to the film version of The Phantom of the Opera. When Vernon receives his comeuppance, complete with Hathaway telling him off about his ruined suit, I just howled with laughter – the moment was too perfect, and too hilarious.

Speaking of Hathaway, the sergeant’s relationship with his superior, Lewis, is clicking even better than I remembered. I love, love, love watching Fox and Whately play off each other in these roles – they make a wonderful team, and it’s been a lot of fun watching their on-screen relationship develop from just coworkers to mutual respect and friendship. Hathaway, for obvious reasons – the main one being that Laurence Fox is just adorable – is my favorite character in the series. This script really gave him a chance to show off his wonderfully dry, sarcastic sense of humor. Whether he’s needling Lewis or backing him up from pressure from the “top brass,” the respect and friendship between these two is evident and wonderful to see. It’s interesting to see Lewis’s character this time around, since at the end of series 2 he finally discovered the culprit behind the hit-and-run that resulted in his wife’s death. He’s definitely more relaxed, I guess you could say, in his personal life. And I’ve got to say I’m hoping for a possible romance between Lewis and coroner Laura Dobson (Clare Holman). It seems, to me at least, that Laura really does like Lewis though he certainly doesn’t make it easy for her. Men! *sigh* ;-)

While this wasn’t my favorite Lewis episode, it was a welcome return for Hathaway and Lewis to my TV screen. I look forward to seeing where the rest of this season’s cases take my favorite Oxford crimefighters! Here's to four more episodes...

The Vigilante's Bride by Yvonne Harris

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Vigilante's Bride
Bethany House (August 1, 2010)

Yvonne Harris


Yvonne Harris earned a BS in Education from the University of Hartford and has taught throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic. Unofficially retired from teaching, she teaches writing at Burlington County College in southern New Jersey, where she resides. She is a winner and three-time finalist for the Golden Heart, once for The Vigilante's Bride, which is her debut novel.


Montana Territory, 1884...Is Her Kidnapper the Only Man Who Can Keep Her Safe?

Robbing a stagecoach on Christmas Eve and abducting a woman passenger is the last thing Luke Sullivan expected to do. He just wanted to reclaim the money stolen from his pa, but instead ended up rescuing a feisty copper-haired woman who was on her way to marry Sullivan's dangerous enemy. Emily McCarthy doesn't take kindly to her so-called rescue. Still, she's hoping Providence will turn her situation for good, especially when it seems Luke Sullivan may just be the man of her dreams. But Luke has crossed a vicious man, a powerful rancher not used to losing, and Emily is the prize he's unwilling to sacrifice.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Vigilante's Bride, go HERE

Friday, August 27, 2010

Brotherly love :)

Indulge me a second while I share a little video of my cats. :) Just to give you a little background...Pepper (the black cat, in case you couldn't guess) has never really been all that fond of Mr. K (a.k.a. The Interloper). Barely tolerating him would be an accurate description. However, I think things are changing...oh, and that noise you may hear in the background is Eureka Season 2. :)

Inspector Lewis Series III

Oh happy day...Inspector Lewis Series III finally kicks off this weekend with the first of five new episodes. Starring Kevin Whately as Lewis and the always-fabulous Laurence Fox as DS Hathaway, the first case of the new season is entitled "Counter Culture Blues." here's a bit about the story:
Don't miss the first of five all-new episodes of Inspector Lewis starting Sunday, August 29, 2010 on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY. In Counter Culture Blues, rock star Esme Ford who Lewis once admired isn't dead after all. But a teenage boy is, and there seems to be a connection to Ford's old band. Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous) guest stars. (One episode; 90 minutes; TV-PG).

Surrender the Heart by M.L. Tyndall

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Surrender the Heart
Barbour Publishing (August 1, 2010)
M. L. Tyndall

M. L. (MaryLu) Tyndall grew up on the beaches of South Florida loving the sea and the warm tropics. But despite the beauty around her, she always felt an ache in her soul--a longing for something more.

After college, she married and moved to California where she had two children and settled into a job at a local computer company. Although she had done everything the world expected, she was still miserable. She hated her job and her marriage was falling apart.

Still searching for purpose, adventure and true love, she spent her late twenties and early thirties doing all the things the world told her would make her happy, and after years, her children suffered, her second marriage suffered, and she was still miserable.

One day, she picked up her old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read. Somewhere in the middle, God opened her hardened heart to see that He was real, that He still loved her, and that He had a purpose for her life, if she'd only give her heart to Him completely.

She had written stories her whole life, but never had the confidence to try and get any of them published. But as God began to change her heart, He also showed her that writing had been His wonderful plan for her all along!

For the sake of her ailing mother, Marianne Denton becomes engaged to Noah Brennin---a merchantman she despises. But as the War of 1812 escalates, Jonah's ship is captured by the British, and the ill-matched couple learns vital information that could aid America's cause.

Relive the rich history of the War of 1812 through the eyes of Marianne Denton and Noah Brenin, who both long to please their families but neither one wishes to marry the other. Noah is determined to get his cargo to England before war breaks out, and Marianne is equally determined to have a wedding so that her inheritance can be unlocked and her destitute family saved. When their stubborn games get them captured by a British warship, can they escape and bring liberty to their country—and growing love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Surrender the Heart, go HERE.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Revisiting North and South...

...all in the name of promoting books!

My friend and author, the fabulous Laura Frantz (author of The Frontiersman's Daughter - my review - and Courting Morrow Little - my review) recently posted a "teaser" about the new series she's working on, slated to debut in 2012 - The Ballantyne Legacy. If you click over to her post, you'll discover that the template for her hero is a very familiar face to those of you who know (and share) my obsession with all things British. It's the one and only Richard Armitage, as he appears in the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South.


Are you through swooning yet? :) Personally I think I'm still scraping myself off the floor. 

I haven't posted about North and South in a while...actually, I've shamefully neglected my Richard Armitage obsession lately! So in honor of Laura's upcoming series, and to hopefully provide her with a little extra "inspiration" as she pens the Ballantyne stories (*wink*), I thought I'd transfer a small collection of North and South related images from my old blog to this one. Enjoy! :)

This last photo is a screen capture collage my friend Kaye put together for a "Best Screen Kisses" post I compiled a couple of years ago (if memory serves, my post was inspired by her own "Fun Friday" post on the same subject). That was a fun post to put together, let me tell you! Staring at this picture is really the next best thing to watching the last ten minutes of North and South over and over (and over and over) again...it never gets old, trust me on this people!

Oh and Laura, might I humbly suggest you look into using actress Daniela Denby-Ashe (Margaret in N&S) as a template for a character in the Ballantyne books? Just a thought, as given her work with Richard Armitage here I'm sure she'd be a good fit. :) Oh, and 2012 is way to long to wait for these stories, just sayin'! :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Nanny McPhee Returns

Friday I went to see Nanny McPhee Returns with Kaye and Lori. And while I expected to enjoy the film, I was surprised by exactly how much I did so since going into it, I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea that the first Nanny film required or merited a sequel. Nanny McPhee came out five years ago (already?! – my, how time flies!), and was a wonderful, magical adventure from start to finish. I absolutely loved seeing Colin Firth as the loving but completely overwhelmed father of the wild, irrepressible Brown children. The film also featured several noticeable guest stars, including Angela Lansbury, Imelda Staunton, and Derek Jacobi, who gave the production some added gloss. With a sparkling predecessor like that, I really had my doubts that a sequel could bring anything new to the table. Happily, I was wrong on all counts – I never should’ve doubted the brilliant Emma Thompson’s work.

Nanny McPhee Returns jumps about 60 years or so into the future, taking the story to the 1940s. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I love studying pretty much anything to do with the World War II time period, so this setting was most welcome. This time around we’re given a harried, stressed mother as the main character, one Isabel Green – here played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. I have to say I was quite impressed with her turn as a young British mother struggling to keep her children in line and keep a roof over their heads while her husband is away at war. She exhibited a very creditable British accent, and she really was completely believable as the young mother of three barely treading water during a most difficult time. Gyllenhaal just has a look that fits the clothes and mannerisms of the 1940s surprisingly well, and the glimpses she gave of the pain and concern she carried for her little family were quite moving.

Her wild trio of children is anchored by son Norman, played by Asa Butterfield. He looked so familiar, but I couldn’t place him while I was in the theater. Thankfully Kaye set the record straight – Butterfield is also known as the unbelievably creepy young Mordred in the television show Merlin! I’ve got to say it was really quite nice seeing him play a sympathetic kid for a change, LOL! Norman’s nemesis for the first part of the film is his cousin Cyril, played by Eros Vlahos. Cyril and his sister, Celia (Rosie Taylor-Ritson), were sent from London to live with their poorer cousins in order to escape the German bombs – and their culture shock is extreme, to say the least! Norman’s two siblings are Megsie (Lil Woods) and Vincent (played by an absolutely adorable Oscar Steer). When these five children are first thrown together, they are in desperate need of structure, guidance, and Nanny McPhee’s “five lessons” (though they would be loathe to admit it!). I really feel like this group of children got their act together a lot faster than the children in the first film. This felt appropriate to the time (even though they are just kids, they are very aware of the war and its affect on their lives), and true to the trying situation the children found themselves in through no fault of their own. This turnaround was anchored by Norman and Cyril coming to terms with each other and working to discover the whereabouts of Norman’s missing father. I really, really liked how those scenes played out – these kids matured fast and did it well.

As with the first film, this movie is full of humor and magic, with perhaps an even greater reliance on Nanny McPhee’s magical abilities than the first movie (though it’s been ages since I’ve watched that one, so I could be forgetting some scenes). These movies just feel like wonderful storybooks come to life with their vibrant, eye-popping colors, quirky sets and costumes, and gorgeous music. James Newton Howard provides an appropriate magical-sounding score, taking the reins from the great Patrick Doyle’s work on the first film. Howard’s work feels like a natural extension of Doyle’s, though not a carbon copy, full of his own flourishes and unique take on Nanny McPhee’s fantastic world. I also liked how the filmmakers used period songs two or three times throughout the movie – it was a nice touch that added to the 1940s atmosphere.

Nanny McPhee Returns is just as much of a who’s who of British acting talent as the first film. Rhys Ifans plays Isabel’s wastrel brother-in-law Phil. While Phil is definitely the villain of the piece his misadventures also provide some of the movie’s funniest scenes as he attempts to placate debt collectors, the delightfully named Misses Topsey and Turvey (sort of a whacked out Tweedledum and Tweedledee). Ralph Fiennes makes a brief appearance as Cyril and Celia’s father, the imposing Lord Gray of the War Office. (I could go off on a tangent here and discuss how far Ralph Fiennes has fallen role-wise in recent years – Voldemort notwithstanding, and honestly I do question if he was the best candidate for that role – but I will refrain.) I’ve saved the best two for last, though – Maggie Smith gives a sweet and hilarious turn as Mrs. Green’s employer, shop proprietress Mrs. Docherty. Mrs. Docherty has an unexpected connection to Nanny McPhee, and if you’re like me the reveal will bring a tear to your eye – very sweet and very well played. (The presence of Fiennes and Smith, along with Thompson, make this a mini Harry Potter reunion…and it makes me wonder why they could appear in this movie and the final Potter films, and Thompson bowed out. Granted, Nanny McPhee was her “baby” as far as projects go, and Smith and Fiennes’s scenes were limited…but still, I would’ve loved to see her return as Professor Trelawney. Oh well, c’est la vie!) And finally, Ewan McGregor makes a surprisingly and thoroughly welcome appearance as Mr. Green, the beloved husband and father away at war. I think he had something like two lines between his two scenes, but I just cannot begin to tell you how perfect those moments were – he was ideally cast as the family’s devoted husband and father.

If you enjoyed the first Nanny McPhee movie, I feel safe in whole-heartedly recommending this sequel as a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. In many ways, thanks to the setting and war-centered storyline, I think I may end up preferring this sequel to first in the long run. The acting chemistry between the kids also help sell the movie – this time around this group gelled really, really well and I loved watching them overcome their differences and come together as a family. I have to commend Emma Thompson for once again a job well done bringing Nanny McPhee to life – she’s so good as this character. There’s something so heartbreaking when you stop to think about McPhee’s role in the lives of her young charges – she can only stay when she’s needed, but not wanted - and when she’s finally wanted, that’s when she must go. It’s really a powerful reminder to treasure the relationships that matter in one’s life through thick and thin, especially parental relationships, I think. Between Thompson’s energetic script and elegant on-screen presence (warts and all!), Susanna White’s fast-paced direction (she’s behind Jane Eyre and several Bleak House episodes), sparkling sets and costumes, and wonderful acting, Nanny McPhee Returns is heart-warming, not-to-be-missed fun. With a sequel this good, I say bring on a third installment…

Masquerade by Nancy Moser

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Bethany House (August 1, 2010)

Nancy Moser


Nancy Moser is the award-winning author of over twenty inspirational novels. Her genres include contemporary stories including John 3:16 and Time Lottery, and historical novels of real women-of-history including Just Jane(Jane Austen) and Washington's Lady (Martha Washington). Her newest historical novel is Masquerade. Nancy and her husband Mark live in the Midwest. She’s earned a degree in architecture, traveled extensively in Europe, and has performed in numerous theaters, symphonies, and choirs. She gives Sister Circle Seminars around the country, helping women identify their gifts as they celebrate their sisterhood. She is a fan of anything antique—humans included. Find out more at http://www.nancymoser.com/ and http://www.sistercircles.com/.


They risk it all for adventure and romance, but find that love only flourishes in truth...

1886, New York City: Charlotte Gleason, a rich heiress from England, escapes a family crisis by traveling to America in order to marry the even wealthier Conrad Tremaine.

She soon decides that an arranged marriage is not for her and persuades her maid, Dora, to take her place. She wants a chance at "real life," even if it means giving up financial security. For Charlotte, it's a risk she's willing to take. What begins as the whim of a spoiled rich girl wanting adventure becomes a test of survival amid poverty beyond Charlotte's blackest nightmares.

As for Dora, it's the chance of a lifetime. She lives a fairy tale complete with gowns, jewels, and lavish mansions--yet is tormented by guilt from the possibility of discovery and the presence of another love that will not die. Is this what her heart truly longs for?

Will their masquerade be discovered? Will one of them have second thoughts? There is no guarantee the switch will work. It's a risk. It's the chance of a lifetime.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Masquerade, go HERE.

View the book trailer:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Review: The Crimson Cipher by Susan Page Davis

By: Susan Page Davis
Publisher: Summerside Press
ISBN: 978-1-60936-012-2

About the book:

It’s 1915, and Emma Shuster has far too much on her mind to entertain notions of romance…

Saboteurs are doing their best to keep the United States out of the Great War. With enemies lurking at every turn, whom can Emma trust? Is romance the true motive behind her two suitors’ advances? Or could one – or both of them – have traitorous intentions in mind?

When Emma’s code-breaking father is found murdered and his secret encryption project left unfinished, the navy offers Emma a position breaking intercepted ciphers from America’s enemies. Emma races to discover the nefarious plans of her country’s foes and unmask their leader before others are killed. And yet, her greatest challenge may be deciphering the cryptic messages her heart sends her whenever she encounters a certain navy lieutenant…


Emma Shuster’s peaceful, academic world is rocked when she discovers her father, a professor and researcher, has been brutally murdered. His death leaves his most important work unfinished – a new machine designed for the secure encryption of sensitive information. With war raging in Europe, and the United States government skirting a delicate balance of maintaining neutrality while protecting political and economic interests, the need for new methods of encryption and deciphering codes has never been greater. Thanks to her own knowledge of ciphers, Emma is recruited to join the Navy’s Signal Corps and their top-secret group of cryptographers working to stop the sabotage plots of German spies and sympathizers on U.S. soil. Between her work and a blossoming romance with a handsome lieutenant, Emma’s life has taken a turn she never could’ve imagined. When Emma learns that because of her father’s machine she’s being targeted by Kobold, the shadowy leader of the German saboteurs, she doesn’t know who to trust. It’s a race against time to capture the spies and catch her father’s killers before they can eliminate Emma and stop the critical work she’s now a part of in defending the country.

The early day of World War I, especially prior to U.S. involvement in the conflict, is a sadly overlooked time period in the historical fiction market in my experience. Happily, Davis’ The Crimson Cipher illuminates this time period with a tale rich in detail and historical authenticity. The only other story I can think of that deals so intensely with cryptography during this time is The 39 Steps (I love both the Hitchcock and recent Masterpiece Classic versions of the story). While Cipher is less of a rollicking adventure than the film versions of The 39 Steps, what sets it apart is its focus on the ins and outs of cryptography and its applications, and the type of personality and training required to become a successful code breaker. In a day when computer programs can encrypt or decipher information in mere seconds, the discipline and trial-and-error work it took to manually crack codes blew me away. Emma and her real-life counterparts were brilliant and could look at number and letter combinations in ways I have a hard time fathoming, and I loved reading all of the detail concerning their work that Davis peppers throughout the text.

I have to applaud Davis for crafting a novel with a strong female heroine like Emma in an extremely unusual profession to boot during a time when women couldn’t yet vote, and if they worked it was often as secretaries or the like, not in male-dominated fields. Emma is extraordinarily smart, but Davis is careful that quality doesn’t translate into a modern, pushier personality – her character feels wholly true to the early twentieth-century’s customs and manners, without seeming forward or out of place. I was occasionally frustrated with Emma though, because I feel like her emotional reaction to her father’s murder is really glossed over and its impact on her decisions given the short shrift. And while I loved John’s character – he very much embodies the dashing, gentlemanly quality I have always imagined a spy must’ve possessed during this time period (I blame old movies, LOL!) – the romantic in me wishes there’d been a little more focus on the romance aspect of the novel, since John is such a sweetheart . But solid research and an engaging storyline, a unique heroine, and a fascinating premise make The Crimson Cipher a thoroughly enjoyable read. Given her in-depth research and affinity for the time period, I hope that Susan Page Davis chooses to revisit this time period – she clearly has a knack for penning a thought-provoking spy tale.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Crimson Cipher by Susan Page Davis

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Crimson Cipher
Summerside Press (July 1, 2010)

Susan Page Davis


From Susan: I've always loved reading, history, and horses. These things come together in several of my historical books. My young adult novel, Sarah's Long Ride, also spotlights horses and the rugged sport of endurance riding, as does the contemporary romance Trail to Justice. I took a vocational course in horseshoeing after earning a bachelor's degree in history. I don't shoe horses anymore, but the experience has come in handy in writing my books.

Another longtime hobby of mine is genealogy, which has led me down many fascinating paths. I'm proud to be a DAR member! Some of Jim's and my quirkier ancestors have inspired fictional characters.

For many years I worked for the Central Maine Morning Sentinel as a freelancer, covering local government, school board meetings, business news, fires, auto accidents, and other local events, including a murder trial. I've also written many profiles and features for the newspaper and its special sections. This experience was a great help in developing fictional characters and writing realistic scenes. I also published nonfiction articles in several magazines and had several short stories appear in Woman's World, Grit, and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

My husband, Jim, and I moved to his birth state, Oregon, for a while after we were married, but decided to move back to Maine and be near my family. We're so glad we did. It allowed our six children to grow up feeling close to their cousins and grandparents, and some of Jim's family have even moved to Maine!

Our children are all home-schooled. The two youngest are still learning at home. Jim recently retired from his vocation as an editor at a daily newspaper, and we’ve moved from Maine to Kentucky.



A female Navy cryptographer seeks to save lives...and uncover her father’s killers.

In 1915, German sympathizers escalated acts of sabotage in the United States to keep the nation from joining in the war. With enemies lurking at every turn, whom can Emma trust? Is romance the true motive behind her tow suitors advances? Or could one-or both of them-have traitorous intentions in mind?

Following the mysterious murder of Emma Shuster’s father, Lt. John Patterson invites Emma to become a Navy cryptographer because of the expertise she gained in helping her father develop a cipher system.

Emma races to discover the nefarious plans of her country's foes and unmask their leader before others are killed. She finds new strength in her faith as she strives to outwit her adversary, known only as Kobold - German for goblin.

And yet, her greatest challenge may be deciphering the cryptic messages her heart sends whenever she encounters a certain navy lieutenant... Can Emma and John find love in the midst of turmoil as America plunges toward war?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Crimson Cipher, go HERE.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Celebrating Love Finds You in Victory Heights!

I am excited to share with you another great blog tour contest that is currently running to celebrate the release of Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss. Here's all the details about the book and how to enter:

About Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington: The war has stolen Rosalie’s fiancĂ©, Vic, from her forever. But rather than wallow, Rosalie distracts herself by cramming her days full of activity—mainly by shooting rivets into the B-17 bombers that will destroy the enemy.

When a reporter dubs her “Seattle's Own Rosie the Riveter,” even more responsibility piles up. Her strong arms bear all this, but when intense feelings surface for Kenny, the handsome, kind-hearted, and spiritually unwavering reporter, the fear of losing another love propels Rosalie to leave.

It’s only when Rosalie realizes that God has brought her to this place—and this person—for a reason, the sparkling grace of God compels her to let go of her own strength and lean on His, as well as open her heart to love.
About Tricia Goyer: Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-four books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. For more on Tricia visit http://www.triciagoyer.com/.

About Ocieanna Fleiss: Ocieanna Fleiss is a published writer and has edited six of Tricia Goyer’s historical novels. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area. For more about Ocieanna visit her blog.
Contest info: Tricia is giving away 5 Victory Prize packs during the blog tour. This contest is open to both you and your blog readers so please share it in your blog post too. That info can be found on this blog post: http://triciagoyer.blogspot.com/2010/08/win-victory-prize-pack.html
*Remember: Comments on this post will NOT count as entries in this contest. Please click the above link to enter. Thanks, and look for my review of this title soon!*

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Licensed for Trouble by Susan May Warren

Licensed for Trouble (PJ Sugar #3)
By: Susan May Warren
Publisher: Tyndale
ISBN: 978-1-4143-1314-6

About the book:

“You, PJ Sugar, have inherited the Kellogg family fortune.”

PJ Sugar has no idea why she is the sole beneficiary of the town’s wealthiest widow, a woman she barely even knew. But the timing couldn’t be more perfect – PJ has clearly worn out her welcome at her sister Connie’s house. Even if there’s barely enough in the inheritance to pay the real estate taxes on the Kellogg estate, at least it will be a roof over PJ’s head.

Unfortunately, the place has seen better days, and PJ is short on cash to make the necessary repairs. Rescue comes in the form of Max Smith, a mysterious handyman who is willing to trade his skills for PJ’s help in investigating his past.

But between trying to catch a bail jumper, working toward her PI license, and nurturing a budding romance with her boss, Jeremy Kane, PJ’s caseload is full. If she’s not careful, she’ll inherit more trouble than she knows what to do with.


Having faced down the demons from her past that kept her running from her hometown of Kellogg for ten years, PJ Sugar is ready to embrace her new life as a private investigator-in-training. However, the final step – believing in and accepting herself – may be the hardest task she’s attempted yet. PJ longs to explore the chance of a future with her enigmatic boss, Jeremy Kane, but she has a more difficult time than she expected closing the door on her feelings for her old flame, Boone, and the memories of their legendary exploits that resulted in branding her with the moniker “nothing but trouble.” When PJ finds herself the beneficiary of the town’s wealthiest widow – a woman she barely knew – the unexpected legacy forces PJ to make a choice. In order to live the life she wants, she must quit running from her past and accept the divine grace that can turn her mistakes and shame into a redeemed treasure, a springboard for a future better than she ever imagined. Couple that with an unexpected mystery surrounding an amnesiac handyman, and PJ’s sleuthing and survival skills will be put to the ultimate test. If PJ can come to terms with her past, she might just have a shot at a dream-come-true future – but only if she survives the trouble her latest investigations throw her way…

Susan May Warren’s PJ Sugar series just gets better with each successive installment. PJ’s laugh-out-loud exploits remain as funny and fresh as ever, and the mysteries she stumbles into and solves with her unparalleled sleuthing instincts have gotten better and more suspenseful with each volume. And the romance – wowzers. For my money Warren pens some of the most swoon-worthy romances in the business, and Jeremy’s character is no exception. She excels at writing the male point-of-view, and I absolutely loved how she develops Jeremy and PJ’s relationship – they are a beautiful illustration of the “face of God’s grace” to each other, and I loved each twist and turn in their budding romance (even if PJ’s nose for trouble was apt to give me whiplash). Each character in this novel is incredibly well-drawn and so realistic it hurts – but that’s just one of the many things I love about Warren’s novels. The worlds she builds and the characters she creates never fail to leave an impact because like PJ, Warren’s writing is real, and her heart for authentic stories of redemption and grace drip from every page of her books.

The crowning jewel of this series is PJ, and the character growth she experiences in her quest to find redemption and that elusive “fresh start” for which her heart longs. I think any believer, if we’re being honest with ourselves, will not be able to help but relate to PJ’s penchant for living loud and messy and seemingly unable to escape the mistakes and scars our pasts have tattooed into the very fabric of our beings. Like PJ, we can spend so much time trying to remake ourselves and prove to others that we’ve changed that we forget one very important truth – namely, that God can redeem the messiest past, and use that mess as a springboard into a future more glorious than we could ever imagine. But we have to allow Him and then accept that grace – and it’s characters like the lovable, endearing PJ that bring that truth to vibrant life. PJ’s latest case leads her on a page-turning adventure to seek the truth that grace can truly redeem the past, and that one’s past, when washed with the sweet rain of God’s grace leads to a life worth savoring.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Celebrating PJ Sugar!

A couple of months ago, I reviewed the first two books in Susan May Warren's fabulous PJ Sugar series. You can check out my reviews here: #1 Nothing But Trouble and #2 Double Trouble. I'm participating in the blog tour celebrating the recent release of the third PJ novel, Licensed for Trouble, and should have a review posted sometime tomorrow. However, I wanted to go ahead and tell you abou the amazing contest SMW is running to celebrate this release! Here's all the info and links you'll need to enter:

Enter PJ Sugar's "Sweet" Giveaway

Enter PJ Sugar's

Licensed for Trouble, Susan's brand new PJ Sugar novel, is in stores now! To celebrate the release, we’re giving away a Kindle!! You can enter using Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail using the icons below.

One Grand Prize winner will receive a A SWEET Kindle prize package that includes:

  • A brand new Kindle (Free 3G, 6”, Latest Generation)
  • The entire PJ Sugar series by Susan May Warren
To enter, simply click on the icons below to fill out the entry form, then tell 5 or more friends about the contest.

Oh, and enter soon! Winner will be announced on September 2nd.

Be sure to check out the blog tour here or purchase a copy of Licensed for Trouble here!

*Remember, any comments you leave on this post will not count as contest entries! Please click the links above to enter!*

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Gathering Storm by Brock & Bodie Thoene


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing
The Gathering Storm
Summerside Press (August 1, 2010)

Bodie and Brock Thoene


Bodie and Brock Thoene (pronounced Tay-nee) have written over 50 works of historical fiction. Over twenty million of these best-selling novels are in print. Eight ECPA Gold Medallion Awards affirms what millions of readers have already discovered—the Thoenes are not only master stylists but experts at capturing readers’ minds and hearts.

Bodie began her writing career as a teen journalist for her local newspaper. Eventually her byline appeared in prestigious periodicals such as U.S. News and World Report, The American West, and The Saturday Evening Post. She also worked for John Wayne’s Batjac Productions (she’s best known as author of The Fall Guy) and ABC Circle Films as a writer and researcher. John Wayne described her as “a writer with talent that captures the people and the times!” She has degrees in journalism and communications.

Brock has often been described by Bodie as “an essential half of this writing team.” With degrees in both history and education, Brock has, in his role as researcher and story-line consultant, added the vital dimension of historical accuracy. Due to such careful research, The Zion Covenant and The Zion Chronicles series are recognized by the American Library Association, as well as Zionist libraries around the world, as classic historical novels and are used to teach history in college classrooms.

Bodie and Brock have four grown children—Rachel, Jake, Luke, and Ellie—and seven grandchildren. Their sons, Jake and Luke, are carrying on the Thoene family talent as the next generation of writers, and Luke produces the Thoene audiobooks.

Bodie and Brock divide their time between London and Nevada.


As Nazi forces tighten the noose, Loralei Kepler, daughter of a German resistance leader, must flee her beloved Germany. But is any place safe from Adolf Hitler's evil grasp? Loralei's harrowing flight leads her into the arms of needy child refugees, who have sacrificed everything in exchange for their lives, and toward a mysterious figure, who closely guards an age-old secret.

Explore the romance, the passion, and the danger of the most anticipated series of the last twenty years.

Born from the highly acclaimed and best-loved novels of three generations of readers -- The Zion Covenant series and The Zion Chronicles series -- Zion Diaries ventures into the lives of the inspiring and intriguing characters who loved intensely, stood up for what was right, and fought boldly during Hitler's rise to power and the dark days of World War II.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Gathering Storm, go HERE

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Captain Jack takes on Beyonce

Hat tip to Lori for sending me this video of John Barrowman being absolutely hilarious.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Inspector Lewis encore

Tomorrow on Masterpiece Mystery, viewers can enjoy an encore presentation of Inspector Lewis: Allegory of Love, an episode from series II of the mystery series that aired last summer. Starring Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox, Allegory of Love is, as I recall, a highly entertaining episode. Here's a bit about the story to whet your appetite:
Young and handsome Oxford writer Dorian Crane is following in the noted fantasy footsteps of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien with his newest book. The day after Crane's book launch party, reality shatters the celebratory mood when a young Czech barmaid is found dead by the river, savagely murdered with an antique Persian mirror. Some of the grisly circumstances seem to have been lifted from Crane's fiction. But the celebrated author claims no knowledge of the crime, instead fawning over his bride-to-be and muse Alice Wishart. At the murder scene, Lewis and Hathaway find a one-word note scrawled in blood that references a place in Iraq. As a result, Lewis and Hathaway get pulled into the world of Oxford's literary elite, only to find that it harbors resentment and jealousy and at its center, holds terrible secrets beyond all imagination.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Casting Call: Stars in the Night

Cara Putman’s Stars in the Night sparkles with the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood. A novel that does such a fantastic job evoking that classic time period deserves a stellar cast, right? Here are my thoughts on the perfect cast for this novel – it’s not a comprehensive list, but I definitely tried to cover all of the major players in this drama (and had an absolute blast doing it!). The more I got into the novel, the more I could envision these actors bringing the story to life on-screen. Here’s a bit about the story, with a link to my review of the novel.

Any other day, attorney Audra Schaeffer might have been flattered by the friendly overtures of Robert Garfield – a real-life movie star. But on the flight from Indianapolis to Hollywood, Audra can think of little else than finding her missing sister. When Audra arrives in the city of glitz, glamour, and stars – and learns her rising-starlet sister has been murdered – all thoughts of romance fly away.

Determined to solve the mystery and find justice for her sister, Audra takes a job with the second Hollywood Victory Caravan. Together with the handsome Robert and other stars, she crisscrosses the southern United States by rail in a campaign to sell war bonds. When other mysterious events unfold, Audra realizes that if she doesn’t get her emotions back on track where Robert Garfield is concerned, she could be flirting with real danger!

Rosalind Russell a.k.a. Audra
*Here's a link to my review of Stars in the Night.*

When sisters Audra and Rosemary Schaeffer are introduced at the beginning of Stars in the Night, their close relationship (especially Audra’s protective “big sister” instinct) immediately reminded me of the sister relationship from the film My Sister Eileen. There have been a couple film versions of the Sherwood sisters story, but to cast Stars I have to go with the 1942 film version.

Audra Schaeffer, played by Rosalind Russell: To my mind, Rosalind Russell is the perfect actress to portray Audra, the no-nonsense, aspiring attorney. After all, Russell is well-known for playing strong female characters on-screen (think His Girl Friday). Audra’s always felt inferior in the looks department when compared to her sister. I think Russell’s gorgeous, but has more of a girl-next-door type beauty (especially in this photo) than compared to some other old Hollywood glamour girls.

Janet Blair a.k.a. Rosie
Rosemary Schaeffer, played by Janet Blair: Rosemary would get very little screen time in a film version of Stars, but since she played Russell’s sister so well in My Sister Eileen I can’t imagine anyone else who would be better in the role of Audra’s gorgeous, aspiring starlet of a sister. This photo is in keeping with the fact that Rosemary dyed her brunette tresses blonde after a couple of months in Hollywood.

Robert as Robert :)
Robert Garfield, played by Robert Taylor: Classic movie fans may recognize Taylor from some of the splashy, Technicolor epics he starred in later in his career (Knights of the Round Table, Ivanhoe). But I’m rather partial to his earlier film roles, where he displayed quite a knack for comedy (Her Cardboard Lover - absolutely hilarious movie!) or being an earnest, romantic lead (Waterloo Bridge, Magnificent Obsession). I think Taylor is perfect for the romantic lead in Stars. He and Russell make a nice pair, no?

I had a really, really, REALLY difficult time deciding on the "perfect" Robert picture...so there are a few bonus photos at the end of this post. After all, an actor's bound to have a lot of headshots, right? :) (Hmm...I see a Robert Taylor film festival in my future...)

Dick Powell as Det. Franklin
Detective Franklin, played by Dick Powell: Detective Franklin is with the Hollywood PD, investigating Rosemary’s murder. He strikes me as lean, intense, and businesslike (and at one point, if I recall correctly, he’s described as rather “rumpled” in appearance). I could think of any actor better suited to portray him than Dick Powell. All you have to do is watch is performance as Raymond Chandler’s famous detective Philip Marlowe in the classic (and wildly entertaining) film noir Murder, My Sweet, and I think you’ll agree.

Betty Garrett a.k.a. Victoria
Victoria Hyde, played by Betty Garrett: Betty Garrett played the Rosalind Russell role in a later, musical version of the movie My Sister Eileen, which probably influenced my decision in some small way to include her in this Stars cast. That, and the fact that I think she’s a terrific actress. Victoria is described as beautiful but much, much nicer (i.e., less stuck on herself) than most of the actresses Audra encounters. Garrett was definitely not your typical Hollywood star, and I think this photo perfectly captures her elegance and charm – essential characteristics for the role of Victoria.

Lana as Lana :)
Lana Garfield, played by Lana Turner: Really, is there any other choice for Robert’s ex-wife? I can’t think of anyone better than Lana Turner to play the role of a high maintenance, rather manipulative rising star than Ms. Turner. Just watch her wreck John Garfield’s character in The Postman Always Rings Twice and you’ll see what I mean.

Laird Cregar a.k.a. Mark
Mark Feldstein, played by Laird Cregar: Mark is described as a big, imposing guy who gets dates based on his perceived position of importance in Hollywood – not his charm or good looks. Cregar’s name may not be familiar to classic film fans, but his face may be. He didn’t have a long career, but he appeared in everything from Charley’s Aunt to The Black Swan. However, his appearance in the film noir classic I Wake Up Screaming proves he’s perfect for the role of Mark. There are a few eerie similarities in both characters…that’s all I’m going to say. Don't want to spoil anything... :)

Lou Costello a.k.a. Artie
Artie Schmaltz, played by Lou Costello: I had a really hard time coming up with an actor to play the role of Artie Schmaltz, the smarmy Hollywood talent agent. With a last name like Schmaltz, you know the character is designed to make your skin crawl. Based on the character description, Artie isn’t overtly threatening appearance-wise…so I think this would be a great opportunity for Costello to play against type. Trust me on this one. *wink*

Sydney Greenstreet a.k.a. Det. Franklin
Detective Brown, played by Sydney Greenstreet: Brown is the opposite of Detective Franklin in manner and appearance, and comes aboard the Hollywood Caravan when it encounters some unwelcome drama on the tour. Greenstreet, who has played memorable villainous characters in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca also portrayed the detective Nero Wolfe in the early 1950s radio series. With his memorable screen presence and striking voice, I think he’d play Brown perfectly.

Juanita Moore a.k.a. Dalia
And last, but certainly not least, we have Dalia, played by Juanita Moore: Moore’s character Annie, the devoted maid and mother in Imitation of Life, reminds me most of the sweet and wise Dalia, the costume mistress, that Audra befriends on the train.


Well, people, this post was an absolute marathon to compose and format...but I had a lot of fun putting it together. :) I'm obviously WAY too obsessed with classic Hollywood, no? Who knows, there might be future "Casting Call" posts for you in the future - let me know what you think (especially if you've read the book!!).

As promised, here are a few bonus photos of the "leads" in this little production of Stars in the Night - Rosalind Russell as Audra Schaeffer, and Robert Taylor as Robert Garfield:

Don't they make a lovely couple? :)