Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"City of Stairs" by Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett is a master builder of stories that appeal to all ages. In this new book, he takes the time to develop his characters and setting to not only draw his readers into the story, but to also create characters to follow and watch. Open "City of Stairs," and enter a different world.

The city of Bulikov was once a powerful, breathing city that was filled with wonders and powers of the gods who protected it. But, something awful happened, killing the gods, and changin Bulikov into a city that is run-down, hopeless. Interestingly, because of the destruction, there are roads and staircases that lead absolutely nowhere! Through the story, readers follow Shara (sent to investigate a murder) and Sigrud (Shara's assistant) and their interactions with others. What happened to the gods? What happened to the will and hope of the people? Why is death the punishment for anyone who studies the work of the gods? Is there any hope? Come, step into this wonderfull written, complex novel and find the answers to your quesions.

What a well written book! I truly enjoyed the complex style Mr. Bennett used because he not only got my interest, but pulled me into the story. I was invested in the reading. The characters are very well constructed, ultimately feeling like people we could know in real life. The city comes alive through the story telling. Written for the YA audience, adults will enjoy this book as well. If you enjoy stepping into a story that is complex, well written, and very interesting, this book is for you! I received my review copy from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"NKJV Adventure Bible" published by Zondervan

The Bible is an adventure for anyone who reads it. It has stories of kings, queens, battles, blessings, and so much more. Zonderkidz has just published the NKJV Adventure Bible! Come on, let's explore!

This hardback Bible has a beautifully designed cover with a magnifying glass that invites children (and adults) to look inside. Once inside, readers are treated to colorfully illustrated truths, historical facts, "Live It" postings, and so much more. Interspersed in the NKJV Bible are full color pages with things like: "Love Passage for Kids," "Two Week Reading Plan on Jesus' Life," "How to Pray," and "The 12 Disciples." In the back, are tables, a glossary, a concordance, and some beautiful maps. Children, and adults, will love reading the Bible while taking the adventure.

I love this Bible! I teach Children's Church and know it will come in handy when teaching. One of my favorite things is that this Bible is geared for children and they will love it. If you are a parent, or a church worker, looking for a Bible for your children, this one is for you. I am going to recommend it to all the parents of my group. I received my review copy from the Book Look program in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Christmas Past" by Sharyn McCrumb

Christmas is a wonderful time of traditions, family, and fun. In this new novella, Nora Bonesteele gives us two stories, and either can destroy the holiday. 

The Honeycutt house has been sold, and Nora Bonesteel is happy. It is not good for a house to be empty. The new owners decide to stay for Christmas. It is then that they begin having some interesting problems, and ask Nora to help them. Will she find ghosts or is something else going on in the house? 

The other storyline readers are treated to involves Sheriff Spencer Arrowwood and his deputy, Joe LeDonne. It's Christmas Eve and they are looking forward to a quiet holiday. That thought is interrupted when they get a call asking that they arrest an elderly man. Will this call stop them from enjoying Christmas? 

This is an easy, quick read that will leave you with a good feeling. Ms. McCrumb invites you into her story, and brings two of her beloved characters with her. There is some laughter, some mystery, and a lot of enjoyment contained within these covers. If you like quick, fun Christmas reads, this book is for you. I received my review copy from PR by the Book in exchange for an honest review.

Website: Book Tour: Twitter Hashtag: #NoraIsBack
Christmas in Appalachia with bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb
Coming this October, first-ever holiday novella from favorite Southern 
writer means Christmas comes early 
For Sharyn McCrumb's "Ballad Novel" fans, October can’t come soon enough. 
Her first-ever holiday novella, Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past brings back her most popular characters, Nora 
Bonesteel and Spencer Arrowood, in a heartwarming story of a ghost of Christmas past and a felon of Christmas 
The book finds Nora happy to see some life brought back to the old Honeycutt mansion, even if it is by “summer 
people.” But when her new neighbors decide to stay through Christmas, they find more than old memories in the 
On Christmas Eve, Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and Deputy Joe LeDonne find themselves on an unwelcome call to 
arrest an elderly man for a minor offense. As they attempt to do their duty, while doing the right thing for a 
neighbor, it begins to look like they may all spend Christmas away from home. 
In a story of spirits, memories, and angels unaware, McCrumb revisits the mountains we call home, the folk we 
call family, and a familiar message that there is more to this world than the eye can see, especially at 
For product info, go to:
Praise for Sharyn McCrumb and her previous bestselling Ballad novels 
“Ms. McCrumb writes with quiet fire and maybe a little mountain magic....She plucks the mysteries 
from people's lives and works these dark narrative threads into Appalachian legends older than the 
hills. Like every true storyteller, she has the Sight.” —The New York Times Book Review 
“There are few writers today who are able to blend past and present, tradition and law, legends and 
headlines in a wholly credible fashion—Tony Hillerman springs inevitably to mind. Sharyn McCrumb is 
another; her widely acclaimed Ballad series is one of the finest being written today.” —Bookpage 
“McCrumb provides fresh evidence that there is no one quite like her among present-day writers. No 
one better, either.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune
“True to the language and culture of its time and place...the Ballad series could be headed for 
bestsellerdom.” —Library Journal 
“With fluid writing and sensitive telling, McCrumb presents her Appalachian series as perfectly 
as dogwood in the spring.” —Houston Chronicle
Christmas in Appalachia with bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb
Coming this October, first-ever holiday novella from favorite Southern 
writer means Christmas comes early 
Abingdon Press
October 7, 2014
160 pages
ISBN 978-1426754210
#NoraIsBackAbout the Author 
Sharyn McCrumb is the New York Times bestselling author of The Rosewood Casket, The Ballad of Tom Dooley, 
and many other acclaimed novels. 
Her much-loved Ballad novels weave together the legends, natural wonders and contemporary issues of 
Appalachia, also home to McCrumb’s own family legacy. Readers have come to love the characters, mountains, 
and mystery brought to life by the award-winning Southern writer.
McCrumb tributes her gift of storytelling to her great-grandfathers who were 
circuit preachers in the Smoky Mountains 100 years ago, riding horseback 
over the ridges to preach in different communities each week.
Her novels, studied in universities throughout the world, have been translated 
into 11 languages. She has lectured at Oxford University, the University of 
Bonn-Germany, and at the Smithsonian Institution; taught a writers workshop 
in Paris, and served as writer-in-residence at King College in Tennessee and 
at the Chautauqua Institute in New York.
A short list of her numerous honors include: 
• NYT Bestseller list appearances for four titles
• 2014 Mary Hobson Literary Prize for Southern Literature
• 2014 Woman of History Award – Daughters of the American Revolution
• 2010 Perry F. Kendig Award – Roanoke, VA – Writer of the Year
• 2008 “Virginia Woman of History” for Achievement in Literature
• 2006 Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award
• 2006 Appalachian Writers Association Book of the Year Award
• 2003 Wilma Dykeman Award for Historical Writing – East Tennessee Historical Society
She lives and writes in the Virginia Blue Ridge, less than 100 miles from where her family settled in 
1790 in the Smoky Mountains that divide North Carolina and Tennessee.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

"Noah" A Wordless Picture Book by Mark Lundy

Noah, a man called by God to save anyone who believed God and animal species. Noah built an ark according to God's specifications, and was jeered at and mocked for his trust. No one but his family believed. 

Noah was a family man who was found faithful in God's eyes. When the people of the earth were so evil God wanted to destroy them, He told Noah to build an ark. This picture book shows Noah as a family man, then as a man who built an ark amidst the mockery of the earth's people. They didn't even know what rain was! But Noah continued on and when the rain came, he, his family, and animals from all over the earth were safe. 

The illustrations in this book are wonderful and will appeal to children of all ages, most specifically toddlers. I especially loved the emotions shown on the faces and the pictures showing how they cared for the animals. It is also fun to look for Squeakers (a mouse) as you go through the book. He can be found on every single page! If you enjoy books that illustrate the story you are telling, this book is for you. I received my review copy from Handlebar Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

From Handlebar:
The Book

A hundred years before the Great Flood, a man namedNoah came home talking crazy. God wanted him to build the biggest ship the world had ever seen. The future of humanity depended on it. How would his wife respond? What would the neighbors think? Was it even feasible? This lavish re-imagining of one of the greatest stories of all time will fascinate children and adults alike. Nuanced and playful, yet meticulous in following the biblical narrative, Mark Ludy's world-class art digs deeper than the Sunday-school tale of cuddly animals, exploring Noah's relationship with his family, the natural world, God--and a formidable engineering challenge. Immerse yourself in this stunning wordless epic. Whatever your age, you'll never read this story in the same way again. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

An Interview with NYT Bestselling Author Sharyn McCrumb - PR by the Book

An Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author
Sharyn McCrumb

You are the successful author of the popular Ballad novels, many of which have become New York Times bestsellers. Did you ever expect your books to be bestsellers? Do you allow yourself to dream about such goals as you write? Or is the story more important?

Oh, dear. I know the answer to this question is supposed to be “No.” Women, and Southern women in particular, are supposed to say things like, “Laws! I never in the world expected anybody else to like my little old stories,” but really that’s like asking a doctor if he’s surprised when his patients don’t die or a lawyer if she’s amazed when her client is acquitted. I took many, many writing courses, and I’ve read one book a day since third grade, and I’ve written easily ten million words, perfecting my craft, so yes: I expected to be successful. I worked very hard, not only in the writing but also in promoting, touring, and public speaking to ensure that my work would be read and appreciated. A literary career takes talent, but it also takes every bit as much work as a career in medicine or law.

Why do you think the Ballad novels are so popular with your readers?

Judging from the messages I get from readers, the Ballad novels strike a chord with people who are from the mountains or whose ancestors came from there. Sometimes, too, the setting resonates with people of Scots-Irish descent. I think people long for a simpler time, for connection with the land, and a sense of peace. It seems odd to say that people find those things in novels that often deal with violence and war, but that does seem to be the attraction: a connection to the past, to old ways, lost stores of folkways…as Thomas Wolfe put it, “The long lane-end into heaven.”

Fan-favorite character Nora Bonesteel has made many appearances in your novels. She’s back as the central character in Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past. Why did you decide to write this book about her?

Nora is more real to a great many people than I am. My later Ballad novels were set in earlier times altogether: the Civil War, the American Revolution, and there was no easy way to insert Nora into those narratives. I didn’t want to do it anyway because I had other important points to make, and I didn’t want readers to be distracted by a chance to visit with their imaginary friend. Finally, I decided to give her a book of her own so that her friends could visit her.

Tell us about the real Nora Bonesteel. Are your other characters based on real people? Have you met them?

Characterization is seldom a matter of pure invention. A writer is always observing the world, ready to salvage it for parts. Garrison Keillor said, “Writers are vacuum cleaners who suck up other people’s lives and weave them into stories like a sparrow builds a nest from scraps.” Almost all major characters are to some extent embellishments upon the personality of a real person known to the author—though not necessarily well-known. One might build a character on a face seen in a magazine or on a scrap of overheard conversation.

In my work the most direct translation from life is Nora Bonesteel, who, after twenty years of novels, has taken on a life of her own, but originally she was inspired by a folklore professor at Appalachian State University, Charlotte Ross. Here’s how that came about:

When If Ever I Return Pretty Peggy-O was published in 1990, Scribners hosted a publication party for the book at that year’s Appalachian Studies Conference at Unicoi State Park, near Helen, Georgia. The publisher sent my editor, Susanne Kirk, down from New York to host the festivities. The magic realism probably began for Susanne when she was picked up at the Atlanta airport by Major Sue, an elfin army intelligence officer from Wisconsin, and driven up several hours north into the hills of Georgia to be set down in Helen, a Bavarian theme-park-style alpine village that has made many an unsuspecting traveler believe in magic realism—or at least in Oz.

The conference book party ended in the early afternoon, and that evening Susanne and I invited some of the conference attendees to a get-together in the cabin we had rented for the weekend at Unicoi State Park. The party consisted of eighteen professors, two bottles of wine, a bag full of whatever the convenience store had in the way of snacks, and Susanne, the major, and me. After an hour or so of pretzels and shop talk, the talk turned to the supernatural, and one by one we began to tell the family ghost story. These weren’t “Give me back my golden arm” stories. Nothing that Stephen King would buy you a cup of coffee for. They were little stories of supernatural happenings that occurred in the family. Nobody made much of them. They were just there. Most of them went something like this: “My grandmother was in the kitchen when she looked out the window over the sink and she saw my Uncle John walking across the yard. Now Uncle John lives in Cincinnati, so she wasn’t expecting to see him, but she thought he might have driven in to surprise her. She hurried out into the yard, but she didn’t see him. No car was in the driveway, and when she called out to Uncle John, there was no answer. Finally she gave up, and as she was coming in the back door, the phone was ringing. It was the family in Cincinnati calling to say that Uncle John had died—just when she saw him in the yard.”

It isn’t an earth-shaking story, but when you hear more than a dozen similar stories at an academic party, it gives you pause.
We had PhDs in English and Appalachian studies and mining engineering, people from Georgia and New York and everywhere in-between, and everyone there had a ghost story—everyone except Susanne and the two male professors.

Charlotte Ross, the folklore scholar from Appalachian State wasn’t surprised. “These stories tend to get passed down in the family by the womenfolk,” she said. “Men don’t hear about them.” Wait until a multigenerational family holiday like Thanksgiving, she advised. After the meal is over, the men go out to watch television or talk among themselves while the women congregate in the kitchen to do the dishes and put away the leftovers. Now, first the women tell childbirth horror stories. That will get any rookies out of the kitchen. After the uninitiated have fled, then they get down to it.

“I don’t have any family ghost stories, either,” said Susanne. “I grew up in Tucson.”

Charlotte Ross looked at her for a long moment and said, “Well…ghosts don’t have call-  

But the rest of us had a swarm of tales: about a host of invisible beings who ford the Little Santeetlah River at twilight, speaking Cherokee and smelling of bear grease; about the girl who dropped a knife setting the table for a dumb supper and was stabbed by her husband years later…with the same knife; or the weary Confederate soldier who asks the reenactors how to get back to his regiment.

“I left that thread out of the book,” I said wistfully. “This streak of the supernatural runs deep through mountain families, and I left it out.”

“You had to,” said Charlotte Ross, who later became the model for Nora Bonesteel. “Peggy-O is told from the male point of view. The element of magic didn’t belong in the narrative.”

“Maybe not,” I said, “But it belongs in stories about Appalachia.”

You are known for writing about Appalachia. Did this begin with your own love for the culture, a special interest in a specific town, a personal experience, or something else?

The dark and troubled world of the Ballad novels is the other South, drawn on my father’s Appalachian heritage. My father’s family—the Arrowoods and the McCourrys—settled in the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina in 1790, when the wilderness was still Indian country. They came from the north of England and from Scotland, and they seemed to want mountains, land, and as few neighbors as possible. The first of the McCourrys to settle in America was my great-great-great grandfather Malcolm McCourry, whose story I tell in my novel The Songcatcher. Malcolm McCourry was kidnapped as a child from the Scottish island of Islay in the Hebrides in 1750 and made to serve as a crewman on a sailing ship. He later became an attorney in Morristown, New Jersey; fought with the Morris Militia in the American Revolution; and finally settled in what is now Mitchell County in western North Carolina in 1794.

Another (distant) relative, an Arrowood killed in the Battle of Waynesville in May 1865, was the last man to die in the Civil War east of the Mississippi. I recount the search for him in my novel Ghost Riders, which won the Wilma Dykeman Award for Historical Fiction from the East Tennessee historical Society. (Through the Honeycutts, I am also a cousin of Wilma Dykeman.)

Yet another “connection” (we are cousins-in-law through the Howell family) is the convicted murderess Frankie Silver, the subject of my 1998 novel, The Ballad of Frankie Silver. Frances Stewart Silver (1813–1833) was the first woman hanged for murder in the state of North Carolina. I did not discover the family tie that links us until I began the two years of research prior to writing the novel. I wasn’t surprised, though. Since both our families had been in Mitchell County for more than two hundred years, and both produced large numbers of children to intermarry with other families, I knew the connection had to be there. These same bloodlines link both Frankie Silver and me to Appalachian writer Wilma Dykeman (The French Broad) and also to the famous bluegrass musician Del McCoury.

The namesake of my character Spencer Arrowood, my paternal grandfather, worked in the machine shop of the Clinchfield Railroad. He was present on that September day in 1916 at the railroad yard in Erwin, Tennessee, when a circus elephant called Mary was hanged for murder: she had killed her trainer in Kingsport. (I used this last story as a theme in She Walks These Hills, in which an elderly escaped convict is the object of a manhunt in the Cherokee National Forest. In the novel the radio disc jockey Hank the Yank, reminds his listeners of that story as a prayer for mercy for the hunted fugitive.)

I grew up listening to my father’s tales of World War II in the Pacific and to older family stories of duels and escapades in Model A Fords. With such adventurers in my background, I grew up seeing the world as a wild and exciting place; the quiet tales of suburban angst so popular in modern fiction are Martian to me.

Two of my great-grandfathers were circuit preachers in the North Carolina mountains a hundred years ago, riding horseback over the ridges to preach in a different community each week. Perhaps they are an indication of our family’s regard for books, our gift of storytelling and public speaking, and our love of the Appalachian mountains, all traits that I acquired as a child.

Some would say that the setting of your novels is just as important as the story or the characters. Do you believe this is true?

Yes, I think that the setting of the Ballad novels is almost a character in itself. The heritage from Celtic Britain and the folkways of the ancestors of the current residents influence the events and actions of the narrative in ways that make the story unfold here as it would nowhere else.

This story is specifically set at Christmas and it’s your first novella. Did you set out to write both? Will there be more of the same in the future?

I did set out to write both. Nora has so many eager fans that I thought of this book as a Christmas present to them. Will there be another one? Ask Nora.

You are a storyteller. Is storytelling an art or a science? Is it a formula or craft? What advice do you have for others pursuing storytelling (written or told)?

I compare storytelling to basketball. It takes an enormous amount of practice and effort to perfect your skills at either, and if you put in the time and effort, you will get better at it. But no one can give you a talent for storytelling any more than someone can teach you to be tall. You can improve what you have, though.

Advice to writers: George Washington Carver said, “Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.” You have to really care about the story you’re telling  in order for it to become real and heartfelt for the reader.

Your readers are eager for more. What’s next for you?

I am spending the summer writing a novel inspired by true events in 1936, but Nora is not featured in it. She may be back someday, though, if readers really like her Christmas adventure.

"Live: Your Life with Christ" by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Living a life with Christ can be challenging in today's world especially for a new believer. Sometimes you need refreshment and encouragement, to follow the plan He has for you. How can you get the refreshment you need? In her new study, Rebecca Pippert answers that question, and shows non-believers what the Christian faith is.

Faith to live a life that follows the teachings of Christ can seem daunting for a new Christian, as well as for Christians who have become so busy that they have lost touch with the basics. In this new study, readers are taken back to the basics of faith. How do you begin to walk with Christ? How do your begin to study the Gospel? Included with the Handbook is a DVD that provides Bible study, testimony, and some discussion. 

This book and DVD will make wonderful additions to home libraries for personal recharging, but will also be helpful for study groups, especially those for new believers. The reading portions are short and the video lessons only last about ten minutes. So if you need recharging in your Christian life, or know a new believer, or simply want to keep something on hand just in case, this book/DVD is for you. I received my review copy from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.

"Abraham: One Nomad's Amazing Journey of Faith" by Charles R. Swindoll

Abraham, beloved patriarch of the Old Testament, loved and followed God. What were the times like when he lived? How could his faith stand during those difficult times? In this new book, Charles Swindoll opens up the life of Abraham to his readers, letting them see in depth the life of this man who would become the "father of a great nation."

Abram was a man who lived during a time that was difficult to live for, and trust in, God. All around him were people who made up superstitions to explain what was happening. They build pyramids to achieve immortality. Their were many immoral practices and the pressure was to be like them. But, Abram trusted God through it all, even when God told him to move from his home and go to a new land he had never seen, a promised land. There were tests, and he didn't always pass, but he did try to do what he was asked. Later, God changed his name to Abraham and his wife's name went from Sarai to Sarah, and God blessed them with a son in their old age. How did Abraham keep his faith? How did he live a godly life in those times? This book will not only answer those questions, but also give you a much deeper understanding of this nomad named Abraham.

I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot about the times of Abraham. I have always loved the story of the beginning of the Jewish nation, and this book gave me more insight into the depth of the faith and trust Abraham had in God. If you enjoy studying Bible characters and learning about the background of their lives, this book is definitely for you. It will make a great addition to personal and church libraries. I received my review copy from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review.