Thursday, March 5, 2015

"Duck Commander: Devotions for Kids" by Korie Robertson and Chrys Howard

Based on the principles of the Robertson family from "Duck Dynasty" comes this new devotional for children. Kori and Chrys are a mother and daughter writing team who present the daily thoughts with wonderful clarity. The devotions are based on family events, so the reader knows the stories and activities work. Each devotional has Scripture, a lesson, a prayer, and an action (Duck Commander in Action). The illustrator, Holli Conger, does a great job making the pictures fun and colorful. Some of the lessons are: "Be YOU!" "Buried for Us," Everyone is Important," and "Learn to Wait." At the end of the book, they encourage the children to bring their questions about God to their parents, youth pastor, or pastor. There is a lot of wisdom in these pages.

I really like this book and plan to buy copies to give as gifts. The illustrations are wonderful accents to the devotional content, and I love the Duck Commander Actions. If you are a parent, grandparent, or children's ministry worker, you will enjoy this book. I recommend it highly. I received my review copy from the BookLook program in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An Interview with Kyle Prue

A Q&A with Kyle Prue, author of The Sparks,
Book One in the Feud trilogy

     1.          Where did you get the idea for the Feud series?

This is a coming of age story for young adults and I am a teen in that demographic. Everyone struggles to find their path in life and my characters are all struggling with not wanting to let people down and to find their way; forgiveness and hope is a part of that journey as well. One night, at the age of 15, I had terrible insomnia and I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking about the different personalities of my siblings and myself and how we will all follow different paths. That gave me the idea to create three different families loosely based around our differing personalities. I decided it would be fun to take these families and place them in a fantasy world where the obstacles we all face could be magnified to a whole new level. I wrote out the plot for the three books that night.

     2.          What drew you to write YA Fantasy?

I wanted to write for me. Recently, I’ve hit an “in-between” zone where it’s harder for me to find books I want to read. I wanted to write something that I would want to read and that would appeal to other kids my age. I wanted to appeal to boys who have lost interest in reading and I also created strong female characters that girls will love.

     3.          When did you first start writing?

Like a lot of kids, I was bullied in middle school. I doubt you will ever find a kid that says, “I rocked 7th grade! That was the best time in my life.” I was short and fat and had a bowl haircut with braces. This was not a great time in my life. But I discovered I could come home and pick up a pen and create a whole fantasy world that I could control, when the rest of my life felt out of control. I learned that I loved to create characters because their potential is limitless.

I was lucky because I learned to use writing as an escape at an early age. I was in a multi-age program from 1st-3rd grade where I had the same teacher for three years. She had an experimental writing program where she gave us an hour a day to write in our journals. She told us to just write freely and not worry about punctuation or grammar, just let the creativity flow. So by the end of that program, I had a stack of notebooks filled with an adventure series. I also did a series called Three Rings that I wrote from the age of 12 to 14 when middle school was really rough. It was a 200-page manuscript. It wasn’t good, but it was good practice.


     4.          What are your other interests besides writing?

I love stand up comedy because like writing, it requires an ability to look at the world in a unique way and find the humor in that. I’m a varsity swimmer for my school. I’m involved with mock trial, I’m in a number of plays every year, I started an improv club at my school and I’m really involved with our film club—we spend our weekends writing scripts and filming. We are currently working on a web series called “Amockalypse” that I’m really excited about. I pretty much gave up on sleeping after middle school.

     5.          When do you find the time to write?

If you love something, you find the time. I write during any hour that I can get free. With extracurriculars, I don’t usually get home until around 7:00 p.m. or later, and then I have homework, so I may only write an hour or two during the week. I try to make time to write during the weekends and breaks—I get the most writing done in the summer. I started the second book in the trilogy, The Flames, this past summer and am working on editing it over this school year.

     6.          Where is your favorite place to write?

I’ve usually got a notebook or computer on hand so any time I feel even the slightest bit inspired I can write. I am a big fan of writing in bookstores—it’s an interesting feeling to be surrounded by the works of people who have achieved what you are trying to accomplish.

     7.          What is your family like?

My family is nothing like the families in the book, I better clarify that up front. My parents are incredibly supportive and have allowed me to follow my dreams. I have two siblings: a brother and a sister. They are great; we are very close. I am the youngest.

My brother and I used to fight a lot and that dynamic inspired my idea for the three feuding families in the books. We don’t fight anymore, as we’ve outgrown that phase, but it gave me plenty to write about.

     8.          What were you like as a child?

I lived in a fantasy world all the time—I was always inventing stories and reenacting them. I lived in costumes. I had a cat suit that I particularly loved. My mom would always get me a new costume for Halloween and inevitably I would end up back in my cat suit when it was time to go trick-or-treating. I wore that cat suit until the legs only came to my knees. It’s weird…for some reason when you dress like a cat all the time you don’t make a ton of friends. But anyway, that’s why my parents signed me up for acting classes. I started taking acting classes at the age of six. I loved it from the start.

     9.          I understand you still have the acting bug. What are you doing now?

Currently, my whole focus is on college auditions. I’m crazy enough to be applying for programs where thousands of kids audition and they literally accept only six boys. So it’s kind of like trying to win the lottery, but I’m giving it my best shot. As I mentioned, I’m writing, directing and acting in my web series and we are launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund that this week. I spent last fall in LA and I was so lucky to take acting classes and perform improv at LA Connection. It was like what I imagine grad school is like. I spent 40 hours a week in acting classes and seminars—and still had to keep up with schoolwork online. It was intense but amazing.

  10.          What's your favorite part of acting? Favorite thing about improv?

My favorite part of acting is initially stepping into the shoes of a character and just beginning to break them in: finding out what they want, how they talk, how they move, etc.

My favorite part of improv is when you are easing into a scene and the really good lines just start flowing, especially when you’re working with a talented partner.

  11.          Were you a big reader as a kid?

In 5th grade, I started at a new elementary school when I moved to Naples. They had a reading contest for whoever read the most books. I ended up reading like 200 books, which was a bit of overkill as the next highest kid read about 75 books, but apparently I’m more competitive than I realized. I just really wanted to beat this girl in my class who told me she was a better reader.

  12.          Were you drawn to a certain genre as a kid?

When I was younger, I really disliked reading. My mom would read me the books that my brother liked and I just never got into them. One day she was at the bookstore picking out books for us, and she mentioned to the owner that I didn’t seem interested in reading and he asked her about my personality and interests. He recommended that she try some fantasy books for me. She brought home a few of those books and from then on, all I did was read and write. I love young adult fantasy.

  13.          Were there certain authors that you really liked?

I’ve always loved Rick Riordan, and every kid in my generation loves JK Rowling. My mom started guarding the Harry Potter books and reading them aloud to us, because otherwise I would read one whole book in a night and then tell my siblings what happened. We would barely leave the house until we had finished each book. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series has been phenomenal.

  14.          How have those writers influenced your writing?

I think Rick Riordan introduces and writes characters very well, which is something I kept in mind, because I have a group dynamic with my book. But I really like the way JK Rowling set up the overall plot and carried it through, intertwining a lot of different elements. She knew how to set up a big, epic adventure and finished it beautifully. That is what I hope to do with this trilogy.

  15.          Do you work with an outline or do you just write? Do you ever get stuck?

Normally, I have a basic idea of where the story is going when I start writing a chapter. But there have been times when I am writing the chapter that I suddenly decide to take it in a new direction. Sometimes I struggle with writing a chapter or a character in the book, so to overcome that I’ll take a break and work on another project.

  16.          Do you have a favorite character in The Sparks?

It alternates a lot. In general, I’ve always been a fan of characters that are only around for one book and that are very big and eccentric. I really like Michael Taurlum because he’s kind of the epitome of what’s wrong with the Taurlum family and he’s just such a child. So it was really interesting to write about him and make him such an aggressive, haughty character.

  17.          If your book was made into a movie, which actors would be cast as the main characters?

I’ll try my best at this one. (Disclaimer: this would be one expensive movie . . . )

Neil: Brenton Thwaites (or Kyle Prue, if Brenton Thwaites is not available)
Saewulf: Michael Fassbender
Darius: Luke Bracey
Lilly: Alexandra Daddario or Emma Watson
Rhys: Dane DeHann
Jennifer and Victoria: Teresa Palmer
Bianca: Leven Rambin
Michael: Chris Hemsworth
Carlin: Mark Strong
The Emperor: Benedict Cumberbatch
Jonathan: Rico Rodriguez
Sir Vapros: Mads Mikkelsen
Quintus: Jonah Hill (Cameo Role)

  18.          Can you tell us a bit about the second book, The Flames?

One of the big themes of the second book is that no one should get to a point in their life when they should experience a complete absence of hope. Things will always get better. My best friend from childhood committed suicide this year and I really want other teens to understand that whatever seems so overwhelming in your life today, won’t be what’s important to you down the road. When my characters experience this loss of hope, that is when they gain their advanced powers. Something good can come out of something that in the moment seems so terrible.

The second book in the series focuses on the remaining family members (spoiler alert!) and their friends, as they begin to kindle the revolution. It’s a lot about personal growth for the characters, like Neil and Darius. Even Robert Tanner, who is a minor character in the first book, comes back and has a very big story arc. It is the book where we start to reach that giant conflict that the characters have been stepping toward in the storyline.

  19.          What was your favorite part or chapter to write in The Sparks?

I really, really enjoyed writing the fight between Darius and Jennifer. It’s interesting when you write characters separately, then give them a chance to interact together. Jennifer is one of my favorite characters. Neil describes her as the model assassin so it was really fun to write her in that type of setting.

  20.          How did you come up with the title?

The entire book is based on a family feud so that was the reason for the series name, Feud. But the individual titles are The Sparks, The Flames and The Ashes; these are symbolic of the Vapros family motto which is “Victory Lies Within the Ashes.” The Vapros turn a person to ash when they kill them. For them that is a macabre way of saying, “You have to bust a couple of heads to get what you want.” So the titles reveal that there is going to be a lot of bloodshed and a climax to this storyline, which we are building up to in the series.

  21.          How did you pick the names of the families?

I based the family names on Latin root words: Taurlum is based on the Latin word for bull, Celerius is the Latin word for swift and Vapros is smoke.

  22.          How did you get the idea for the three families?

In the first book, there are three main families and since I have a brother and a sister, I loosely based these families around the three of us—their mannerisms, their traits, resulting in a black-and-white version of us blended with a more honorable, respectable side and a more aggressive, audacious side. So the Taurlum are based off my brother, the Celerius off my sister and the Vapros off me, a little bit.

  23.          What can you tell us about the challenges of getting a book published?

I went to the New York Pitch Conference and Writer’s Workshop and got the opportunity to pitch my book to Random House, Penguin and McMillan Press. Each requested the manuscript (it was the most requested manuscript at the conference!), so I felt like I had a sound idea. The conference director advised me to use the publisher interest to try to get an agent. So, I began the process of sending query letters. I got some good advice from the agents I talked to. One advised me to hire a well-respected editor, as publishers expect manuscripts to be perfect, so I did that. Then another agent took the time to really ask me about my goals. I wanted the book to be read by as many people as possible and I wanted to get it published in a timely manner. She explained that—if I was lucky—the publishing process would take 3-5 years. She recommended that I meet with a small, independent publisher with a good reputation. They could meet my timing needs and I would have more input in the process, ensuring that I could retain some creative control of the final product. I met with the publisher she recommended (Barringer Publishing) and we hit it off immediately. So far, I’ve been thrilled with the process.

I’m hoping to publish Book 2, The Flames, in late summer 2015.

  24.          Do you have advice for other high school students wanting to write a book?

Yes, never stop writing. Write, and write and write, until you’ve got something that you like. Don’t be afraid to have a very rough copy of something. The editing process is terrible and long and arduous, but it’s something you have to do. What matters is getting something on paper and then really shaping it into what you are looking for.

  25.          Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you for sharing this journey with me. The series only gets better and more intense from here and I can’t wait to see what you guys think of it all.

  26.          Tell us where we can find your book and more information about you.

You can find more info on my website, www.kyleprue.com, Facebook www.facebook.com/kyleprue, Twitter @KylePrue and Instagram @KyleStevenPrue.



PRESS CONTACT
Ashley Lauretta | PR by the Book
512-481-7728 | ashley@prbythebook.com


"The Sparks" by Kyle Paue

The City of Altryon has been protected by the Vapros, the Taurlum, and the Celerius. The dangers outside threaten to come inside the safety as the centuries have taken their toll on these families. Can they keep it together and hold out the danger? Or, will a spark ignite even more horrors than the people can imagine? 

Neil Vapros if sixteen and wants to make his father proud of him, to notice him. It's easy to get lost in all the infighting, so he develops an idea to become an assassin. One big problem with that is that he discovers that much more is going on besides the dangers they know about. There is more lurking out there. There are other teenagers trying to make their way in the city. Two of them are  Lily, a Celerius and Darius, a Taurlum. Can these three join together and fight the evil that threatens to not only destroy the city but the families as well? Who is behind it and why? Open the pages of this book and see who is on what side and how the battle will be enjoined.

Kyle Paue is a teenaged author and this is the first book in his "Feud" trilogy, and what a great start it is. It is written with the YA audience in mind, but will captivate the attention of anyone who loves fantasy novels. This book definitely lays the foundation for the series, and is one I can't wait to read more of. Well done, Kyle! I received my review copy from PR by the Book in exchange for an honest review in the blog tour. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"The Ishbane Conspiracy" by Randy Alcorn

Being a new college student has many tests as it is, but throw in some spiritual warfare, and you have the backdrop of this new book by Randy Alcorn. Jillian, Rob, Ian, and Brittany will each face trials that test their faith as they try to transition from high school to college. How will each fare?

Everyday Satan attacks and some of the most vulnerable among us are the young people who are transitioning into college and adulthood. Spiritual tests and trials like drugs, alcohol, premarital sex, etc., are ever present, and the ability to stand against them is sometimes shaky. In this book, readers see how each of four young people reacts to the tests and what the results are. But, don't be mistaken in thinking that only young people are faced with these tests. This book is for all ages and is a warning of what is all around us.

This is a well-written book, as all Mr. Alcorn's books are, about the need to stay sharp and ready in our spiritual lives. It is a book that will appeal to all ages, and will make a good discussion book for youth groups and other book groups. I recommend it to everyone, as it will help us be more aware of the battles raging around us. I received my review copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

"Twisted Innocence" by Terri Blackstock

In this third book of her "Moonlighters" series. Terri Blackstock get the story of Holly Cramer. The setting for this suspenseful thriller is Panama City, Florida. While this story is about Holly, her daughter, and the changes she is trying to make in her life, readers will also find her sisters Juliet and Cathy in the story. Will Holly be able to make the changes that will provide a life of safety and security for her and her daughter?

Holly was a wild, biker chick who enjoyed having a good time, but also worked with her sisters and as a cab driver. A one night stand produced a beautiful little girl named Lily,and the responsibility and love made Holly realize it was time to settle down completely. After being robbed while driving her cab, Holly has to give it up for safety's sake. Then, her carefully crafted cover up of who Lily's father was starts to unravel as Creed comes back into her life. How can she keep that fact hidden and keep Lily safe? All the while this is going on, there are things going on going on in Cathy and Juliet's lives, and it isn't all good. The twists and turns will keep suspense lovers glued to the pages to see how this story ends!

What a great way to end her trilogy! I love reading Terry Blackstock's work because it captures me with interesing characters and story lines. I almost hate to see this trilogy end, but know there will be more books in the future! If you like suspenseful thrillers, this book is for you. I also think that people will want to discuss this trilogy, so think it would be a great choice for book clubs. Thank you, Litfuse Group, for my copy and the opportunity to be part of the blog tour.


Book info
About the book:


Twisted Innocence (Zondervan, February 2015)

Holly Cramer's past choices have finally caught up to her, but she never expected them to endanger her baby.

Though Holly's stumbled through most of her adult life as a party girl, she longs to live a more stable life for her daughter. Then police show up to question her about the whereabouts of Creed Kershaw, Lily's father. She has kept his identity a secret from friends and family---she never even told him about the pregnancy. Now he's a person of interest in a drug-related murder case.

Determined to keep him out of their lives and turn him over to police, Holly uses her private investigating skills to search for him. But her bravado backfires when he turns the tables and takes her and the baby hostage. As desperate hours tick by, Holly realizes his connection to Leonard Miller-the man who has gunned down several members of her family. Creed claims he's innocent and that Miller is after him too. His gentleness with Lily moves her, but she can't trust a man who has held her at gunpoint . . . even if he reminds her so much of herself.

Dangers old and new threaten Holly and her baby, and lives are demanded as sacrifices for love. Through a complex web of mistakes and regret, redemption is the one hope Holly has left to hold on to.
Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1hDkeXy   

About the author:

Terri Blackstock
 has sold over six million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of "Intervention," "Vicious Cycle," and "Downfall," as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, Restoration, and Moonlighters.

Find Terri online: websiteFacebookTwitter
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Friday, February 13, 2015

"The Daniel Fast" by Kristen Feola

21 days of fasting and prayer - this is the Daniel Fast. In her easy to understand ways, Kristen Feola describes the purpose of the Fast, how to do the Fast, and what the results will be. This book offers that journey,

21 days. It doesn't sound like a lot, but in three short weeks you can create a habit to last a lifetime. This diet isn't just physical, It contains spiritual components that not only make you more successful, but enable a closer relationship with God. With 100 recipes and 21 days of devotion and motivation, "The Daniel Fast" can help individuals get healthy and lose weight. Once you understand what your motiation is, you can more easily remove things from your life. Looking for a diet plan with spiritual principles? This book is for you.

I love having this book in my home. The devotions hit every corner of my life, the time to change my bad habits is quick, and I have gained a closer relationship with God. This book is perfect for someone who is looking for something quick (you won't want to abandon what you learn!) that will help change the way look at food, family, work, God, etc. It would even be fun to do in a group. I received my review copy from the Book Sneeze program in exhange for an honest review.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Remember the Lilies" by Liz Tolsma

This new book by Liz Tolsma is set in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp, which was set up by the Japanese after Pearl Harbor was bombed. The story follows Irene Reynolds and Rand Sterling, and shows a glimpse of what it was like inside the camp. 

Irene Reynolds had been a missionary, but was now interred in Santo Tomas Internment Camp, a prisoner of war. But, she was given a job that gave her access to many of the other prisoners, that of censoring their mail. One of the other prisoners was Rand Sterling. He had nightclubs on the outside and wanted to get back to running them. What to do? Plan an escape, of course. Failure was not an option as torture would be in his future if he did. He didn't plan on anyone "doctoring" his mail, but Irene did. How did her changes affect his plan? What would happen if she were found out for removing the information and Rand's plan was exposed? Open this book and enter a world where prisoners fought hard to stay alive and sane.

This book is really good. Ms.Tolsma certainly knows how to weave her story, bringing actual events to life with a story line that makes sense. It is not a fun, beach-read, but rather a book to make you think. If you like stories based on history, you will definitely like the book. I also think it would make a good book for discussion groups. I received my review copy from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.


Book info
About the book:


Remember the Lilies (Thomas Nelson, February 2015)

Can Irene and Rand stave off starvation until the American troops bring freedom?

Interred by the Japanese, missionary Irene Reynolds comes across a mysterious note while working at the censor's office. She memorizes the parts she must black out and delivers it to wealthy nightclub owner Rand Sterling. Before she knows what's happening, she's drawn into a web of secrets and danger.

Rand Sterling wants nothing more than to reopen his nightclubs once the war ends. But slimy Frank Covey wants his hand in the till---and has news that could threaten Rand's reputation if it became public. More importantly, beautiful and intriguing Irene Reynolds cannot discover this information if he expects to persuade her to become his wife.
When Irene is attacked by a sinister Japanese guard and their secrets are exposed, they must learn the true meaning of forgiveness---if they can stave off starvation untilthe American troops bring freedom.
Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1EDGVJJ  

About the author:
New York Times best-selling author Liz Tolsma is the author ofDaisies are ForeverSnow on the Tulips, and the contributing author of A Log Cabin Christmas. When not busy putting words to paper, Liz enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and children, all adopted internationally.

Find Liz online: websiteFacebook, Twitter
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