Friday, August 17, 2012

Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway: Count Down to Love by Julie N. Ford


Count Down to LoveCOUNT DOWN TO LOVE
by Julie N. Ford
Bonneville Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59955-516-4
Adult Fiction
Copy received from author as part of blog tour.
No other compensation was received.
All opinions expressed are solely my own.
 
Abandoned at the altar, Kelly Grace Pickens finds herself left holding not only the bouquet but also the exorbitant bill for an A-list wedding. Homeless, a once promising singing career floundering, and her life bearing an uncanny resemblance to one of her country music ballads, she reluctantly accepts a last minute offer to appear on a reality TV show akin to the bachelor. Pitted against silicon-enhanced supermodels in four-inch heels, Kelly feels confident that she will be among the first would-be fianc├ęs to be excused. Only, when the mysterious bachelor from New York City, Dillon Black, invites her to stay, Kelly finds herself thrust into the vortex of a game she doesn’t have the first idea how to play. Nursing her hopelessly broken heart while avoiding the foils of her fellow contestants, Kelly is oblivious to Dillon’s affections as she wades through hurt and betrayal to discover, in the end, that she has landed firmly on both feet.
 
Leaving behind Nashville’s Music Row for the majestic Grand Teton mountains, Count Down To Love takes readers on a journey from duplicity to sincerity as Kelly discovers that being true to oneself is the first step in finding happiness and everlasting love.

Author Bio

Julie has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a minor in English Literature from San Diego State University. In addition, she earned a Masters in Social Work from the University of Alabama. She has worked in teaching, childbirth education and family therapy. Besides writing, she spends many hours working along side her husband at their UPS Store franchise, but hopes to re-enter the Social Work field someday.

She is the author of three women’s fiction novels, The Woman He Married (March 2011) and No Holly for Christmas (November 2011), published by Whiskey Creek Press. The third, Count Down to Love (July 2011), published by Bonneville Books.  Currently, she lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, two daughters and one very feisty fish.

GUEST POST: Goin’ Country with Count Down to Love

About a year after moving to Nashville I awoke from a dream one morning with an idea for a novel. The story would be about a washed up country star named Kelly Grace Pickens who is ditched at the alter and ends up on a reality TV show akin to the Bachelor. And to sweeten the plot, I’d have her writing a song that develops as the story unfolds.

The only problem: how can a person who doesn’t even listen to country music write about a country singer, much less come up with the lyrics to a country song?
She can’t, that’s how.
You see I was raised on rock-n-roll—Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, The Cure . . . a true music lover, always believing that nothing spoke volumes to the soul like a well-written song. However, for the sake of my story I would abandon my rock-n-roll roots and turn my car stereo to one of Nashville’s many country stations. Okay so now I was listening to songs about drinking, hooking up, eight-second rides and big green tractors. And I might be reading too much into his song, but is Jason Aldean singing about an actual piece of farm equipment or is his “tractor” really a metaphor for something else? I’m just sayin’ is all.
Needless to say, it wasn’t too long before I was reminded of my teenaged years and how grownups often warned us kids not to listen to rock music because the lyrics would undoubtedly lead us straight to hell. And wondering how country music had managed to fly under the moral radar all those years?
But as I continued my research into the genre of country music, I soon found that most of the songs were about love, family, and forgiveness—downright heart trending material.
Try as I might, after a month or so of paying close attention to the themes and structure of the songs, the fact still remained—I was just not a music writer. A simple solution to my dilemma would have been to change Kelly’s character but I seem to have an inexplicable aversion to taking the easy road. So in order to create something resembling a country ballad, I turned to a couple of singer/song writer friends, Brad Hull from the country band, Due West, and Aaron McBride.
A few weeks later I was sitting in my living room across from two scruffy boot wearing, guitar-toting men, and as long as I kept the kettle corn and jellybeans coming, they were happy to just hang out bouncing tunes and lyrics off each other. Watching them work, and the way the music flowed naturally from their minds to their fingertips, was truly magical. It was kind of how narration and dialogue sometimes flow effortlessly through me as if being sent from a special place I have yet to discover—like my own little miracle. Only with these guys, the process looked way cooler. And when they allowed me to write a line or two, the whole experience got even better.
Of all the works I’ve had a hand in creating, I think I’m most proud of the song, Who I Am. This experience was likely my first, and last, delve into writing lyrics, but I will carry the memory, and the knowledge that I helped create a real-live song, with me for the rest of my life.
To hear Who I Am you can go to my web site: JulieNFord.com.
REVIEW
 I've always been a sucker for a sweet romance, but I've never been a big fan of supposed reality shows that claim to help a man or woman find 'love.' These shows seem anything but real to me.  So I was a bit wary going in about how much I would like this, but Kelly sounded like an appealing character so I gave it a try, and I'm glad I did. 
There are characters in this book who definitely made me roll my eyes and wonder how anyone could be happy living such empty, image-focused lives but there were other characters that I couldn't help but like.  I really liked Kelly and admired her efforts to find herself amid the ruins of all her plans. Trevor, her fiance and a big jerk, who abandoned her at the alter does unfortunately make an appearance later in the book, in what turns out to be a very emotionally powerful scene. Dillon, the 'bachelor' up for 'grabs' is a fascinating character. One almost expects him to be a shallow, self-centered person, but he really isn't.  He is of course gorgeous, but that is not what stood out for me while reading this book. Clearly he is looking for something beyond his business and money but he can't seem to find it. Maybe that is why he seems to see Kelly for who she really is.  I think that is what I liked best about their romance (although there are some great kissing scenes as well), is that they helped each other find themselves and see that there is much more to life than fame and money.
 There were some great secondary characters as well. Lexi, a fellow contestant, a bright red-headed gal from Texas, who seemed very comfortable in her own skin. Sissy, Kelly's cousin, a producer on the show, who encourages Kelly to look beyond Trevor and see the possibilities (although there is one scene in which I got very mad at her).
I appreciated that the story was clean, the most that goes on is some intense kissing. There is some mention of belief in and prayer to God, but it is not preachy in any way. I recommend this book to those who enjoy a good romance with some depth to it, where the relationship develops rather in spite of the so-called reality show. I'm not any more a fan of reality shows than I was before, but I am a fan of Dillon and Kelly. And I enjoyed the song that was written to go with this story, so be sure to check it out.
GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY

As part of the tour, Julie is generously offering a grand prize giveaway of a hard copy of Count Down to Love, a CD of the band Due West, and a copy of the single, “Who I Am”, which Julie and Due West wrote and recorded specifically for the book. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post or any of the other stops on the tour. (Visit the tour page for the full tour schedule.) The more stops you comment on, the more entries you have into the contest!

GIVEAWAY
  • Must be over 13 to enter
  • Open internationally
  • Winner will be emailed and have 48 hours to respond
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Across the Sea, Across the Plains by Shelli Simmons

I intended to have this post up on July 24th, the day that Utahns celebrate the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley.  But I had other things going on, so I didn't make it. But it is a fabulous book.

ACROSS THE SEA, ACROSS THE PLAINS: The Epic Account of the Willie & Martin Handcart Companies from Europe to Zion
by Shelli Simmons
Cedar Fort Inc., 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4621-1017-9
LDS Nonfiction
Reviewed from purchased copy.

From the wilds of Rural Denmark to the soot-blackened streets of London, one by one, they heard the message. They felt the Spirit's power. And even as their friends and family turned against them, they held strong to their fledgling faith. These remarkable Saints were only beginning their journey--one that would take them from their beloved homes, to a new continent, and on toward Zion.

Join the handcart pioneers in their epic journey to Zion. Beginning with the conversions and persecutions they experienced in Europe, this remarkable book shares the true story of the Martin and Willie handcart companies as you’ve never heard it before. Follow along through the miracles and heartbreaks with eye-witness accounts, first-hand documents, and personal testimonies. Thorough and well-researched, this is a must-read!

I loved this book. Despite having heard the story of the Martin and Willie Handcart companies many times before, I found myself learning a great deal about some of the individual's who were there.  I found it very humbling to read of the dedication and sacrifice that so many made to follow God's command to gather to Zion.  To read of individuals who had the means to come by wagon who donated their money to others and came by handcart instead. The story of a family whose twelve-year-old son disappeared the night before they were to set out across the plains made my heart ache.  How the parents must have wondered about their son, but when they were promised they would see their son again, the continued on their journey. They did indeed see their son again, but not for 20 years.

I especially enjoyed reading the stories in the actual words of those who experienced them. The author uses many actual journal entries and ties them together beautifully. I really admire the author for conducting such extensive research and organizing it all into a coherent whole. I highly recommend this book for any who enjoy reading books of LDS history, or just a faith-filled journey of suffering and sacrifice with miracles sprinkled in.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Choosing Charity Blog Tour: Choosing Charity Review

CHOOSING CHARITY (Book #3 in the Faith, Hope, & Charity Trilogy)
by Terri Ferran
Bonneville Books, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4621-1065-0
LDS Fiction
Reviewed from e-copy provided by author for blog tour.
All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

With a new job, a husband she adores, and a life full of friends, Kit’s life seems pretty much perfect—well, aside from the fact that her husband is in school and way too busy for Kit’s liking. And of course she’s still dealing with the fall-out from her adoptive parents’ divorce.

But when Kit learns that her biological mother wants to meet her, she’s not sure how to react. What good could possibly come from getting to know someone who left you in a dumpster to die?

Exquisitely written and full of heart, Choosing Charity is a can’t-miss read that’s sure to remind you why Christlike love is the greatest virtue of all.

I'm not sure what to say about this one that I haven't already said about the previous two, Finding Faith and Having Hope.  This book provides a great ending to a series that I have enjoyed very much. I hate to say goodbye to Kit and her family.  I've enjoyed getting to know them and empathizing with their struggles.  In this book, Kit struggles with her adopted parents divorce, but in addition to that is the shock of her birth mother suddenly wanting to see her. 

Once again, Ferran creates a believable and tender story of love and family and forgiveness. The struggles that Kit goes through in this book are truly heart-wrenching.  I found myself angry and sympathetic in turns. The characters just felt so real to me as did the settings and storyline.  The strength of this series though is the characters and their choices and struggles. Not only is the book full of heart but plenty of humor as well. There is religious doctrine included in this book (Kit is a Mormon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), but it flows so well and is such an integral part of the story. I highly recommend this series to those who enjoy stories with a lot of heart.


Check out the rest of the tour here and be sure to enter the giveaway here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Sisterhood of Strength Blog Tour

A SISTERHOOD OF STRENGTH: TRUE STORIES OF MIRACULOUS SERVICE
by Diony George
Cedar Fort, 2012
ISBN13: 9781462110766
LDS Nonfiction
Reviewed from ARC e-copy provided by publisher through NetGalley.

Experience for yourself the pure love that inspires ordinary women to serve and accept service in a truly extraordinary manner. This inspiring collection of true stories from the lives of women just like you is told with heartwarming sincerity. Perfect for sharing, this remarkable book is sure to uplift, encourage, and cheer any woman, whether it's her turn to serve or be served.

A collection of tender stories of love, kindness, and service. What leads a group of ladies to serve a stranger who is sick for months? Or offer comfort to someone who doesn't even speak the same language and you don't know what her sorrow is about? One thing that I love about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the organization called the Relief Society. This organization is for women 18 and older, single or married.  The purposes of this organization can be found in the name Relief Society, it is to help and strengthen each other and extend relief to all who need it members of the church or not. The Relief Society motto is Charity Never Faileth.The stories in this book illustrate some of the ways this motto is put into action. Above everything else, it comes down to love. Love extended to family, friends, and neighbors but also to any in need. If you are looking for a book to inspire and uplift, I recommend this one.

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Choosing Charity Blog Tour: Having Hope Book Review

HAVING HOPE (second book in the Faith, Hope & Charity Trilogy)
by Terri Ferran

Bonneville, 2009
ISBN: 9781599552330
LDS Fiction
Reviewed from ARC e-copy received as part of blog tour.
All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

After being reunited with Adam Bridger, the missionary she waited for for two long years, Kit Matthews experiences feelings she cannot ignore promptings that take her halfway around the world. The strong connection she feels with orphans in Romania because of her own abandonment at birth draws Kit to Romania where she meets a Romanian medical student, Marcel and when Kit challenges Marcel to learn about the gospel, she has no idea of the doors she has opened. After learning of some disturbing news at home, Kit struggles to have hope that God is mindful of His children, and must decide between creating a new life in Romania and returning to repair her life in America.

As I've mentioned in other reviews, there are some characters that I feel a special affinity for, that I really come to care about what happens to them. Kit is one of those characters. It didn't take me long into the first book before I really cared about Kit and what was going on in her life. The fact that the story is told by Kit herself adds to that closeness because I got to know not only what she said and did but what she thought and felt as well. Kit is a well-rounded character with both strengths and weaknesses making her easy to relate to. Not that I'm a lot like her, because I'm very different from her as a character, but because some of the things she struggled with are universal themes, such as where does one fit in one's family, what does one want to do with one's life, and what are one's beliefs about God.

I also enjoyed many of the secondary characters as well.  Sometimes when a story is told from one person's point of view it can be easy for the secondary characters to be one-sided, but that is not the case here. Kit's boyfriend, Adam and his family, her parents and brother, and her best friend, Tara, all come to life on the pages. Sometimes they seemed so real that I almost expected them to come walking in the door.

The major plot line in this book revolves around Kit's traveling to Romania to volunteer in an orphanage and hospital there with Tara and a couple of other young ladies.  Much happens to Kit while she's there, including the introduction of Marcel, who she has very conflicted feelings about.  It was heart-breaking to read about the conditions in the hospital and orphanage, where the children often receive only the most basic of care.  Following along as Kit serves these children and deals with the challenges of not only these children who have been abandoned but her own feelings about her own abandonment. I found it fascinating to read about the way Kit's various relationships ebbed and flowed through the story in very realistic and not always positive ways.

Overall, I'd say this is a tender story about growing up and dealing with the challenges of our own decisions but those of people we care about. This story is very much LDS fiction, but the religious aspects are beautifully integrated into the story. I liked how the author brought up different issues than in the first book. 

If this book interests you, be sure to check out my review of the first book, Finding Faith, and tune in tomorrow for my review of the third book in the series, Choosing Charity. Also be sure to enter the giveaway.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Choosing Charity Blog Tour: Finding Faith Book Review

FINDING FAITH
by Terri Ferran
Bonneville Books, 2007
ISBN: 9781599550732
LDS Fiction

Kit Matthews tries to avoid thinking about God - and her unknown birth mother - altogether. She loves her family and is content with her life in California. That is, until her parents decide to move to Utah, the land of Mormons. New surroundings and culture shock do nothing to help Kit's social life. It is only with the help of Janet, a new friend, that Kit begins to adjust to life in Utah, as well as to the Mormon culture. Janet's older brother, Adam, is more than happy to befriend Kit, but when their feelings begin to go beyond friendship, Kit is torn. Does she really want to devote her heart to a boy who is going to leave her for two years to serve a mission for his faith? Can she support him when she doesn't even believe in his religion? As Kit looks deeper, she realizes that it isn't Adam's faith she needs to come to terms with - it's her own.

I find it interesting how much this book speaks to me in terms of character, setting, and plot.  Maybe it's because I've grown up in Mormon-dominated Utah myself and been surrounded by others of my faith pretty much my whole life. Kit's experiences as a so-called outsider were somewhat eye-opening. There is an unfortunate tendency in a culture dominated by one religion or one way of thinking to exclude outsiders but at the same time Mormons can be very welcoming as well.  I was happy to see this in the Bridgers, the LDS family that takes Kit under their wing. This story feels very real with the ups and downs of growing up and finding one's own way in life.

This story is full of heart, family, and faith. There is a good amount of LDS doctrine weaved into the story but it doesn't slow the story down. I found the author did a fine job of explaining LDS beliefs in an understandable way. I highly recommend this book for those who enjoy a contemporary story about family, friends, and faith.

Be sure to check out the rest of the tour, here and enter the giveaway of the third book in the trilogy, Choosing Charity, here.

Choosing Charity Blog Tour: Author Spotlight & Giveaway


Welcome to my stop on the Choosing Charity Blog Tour. I will be sharing reviews, an author interview, and hosting a giveaway over the next four days.  But first the book, the last book in a trilogy including Finding Faith and Having Hope. Today, I'm introducing the author and presenting the giveaway. For each of the next three days, I will review all three books in the series, so be sure to check back. My review of Finding Faith can be found here.

CHOOSING CHARITY
by Terri Ferran
Bonneville Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1462110650
LDS Fiction

With a new job, a husband she adores, and a life full of friends, Kit’s life seems pretty much perfect—well, aside from the fact that her husband is in school and way too busy for Kit’s liking. And of course she’s still dealing with the fall-out from her adoptive parents’ divorce.

But when Kit learns that her biological mother wants to meet her, she’s not sure how to react. What good could possibly come from getting to know someone who left you in a dumpster to die?

Exquisitely written and full of heart, Choosing Charity is a can’t-miss read that’s sure to remind you why Christlike love is the greatest virtue of all.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT

Terri Ferran grew up in a small Colorado town that offered little in the way of entertainment. She escaped through reading (and later on a Continental Trailways bus), and although the town didn't have a library, she eagerly anticipated the coming of the Bookmobile and would check out stacks of books at a time.

She moved to Utah as a high school senior where she joined the LDS Church and met her husband, Tod. She dreamed of being a writer but took the safe route of becoming a CPA. She finally got brave enough to quit working in the world of numbers to pursue her dream of writing and also to spend more time with her children. Her first book, Finding Faith was published in 2007 and she is excited to be living her dream of writing in real life.

Terri still loves to read, but she can usually be found writing, doing laundry, dishes, running errands, napping, eating chocolate, or exercising (not necessarily in that order).


INTERVIEW

What's the story behind the story for these books? (I love finding out where the books came from and how they developed.)

Finding Faith is a conversion story with romance & humor mixed in. Like Kit, I joined the LDS Church when I was 17 and encountered major culture shock. When they told me I was getting baptized at the stake house, I thought steak house (e.g. Sizzler)!

Having Hope continues Kit’s story as she travels to Romania to serve the orphans there. Many of the Romania experiences came from my daughter’s journal from when she completed her practicum in Bucharest, Romania, working at an orphanage and children’s hospital.

Choosing Charity is the final book in the trilogy. Kit is contacted by her birth mother who abandoned her in a garbage can at birth and the reunion isn’t what Kit hopes for.

All three books deal with adoption issues. Three of my six children are adopted so it is a subject close to my heart.


What led you to choose the setting that you did? (I enjoy learning about great places I've never been to.)

I attended USU so Cache Valley was a natural setting for me to use in Finding Faith. In the Having Hope, my daughter recorded such vivid details in her journal that I felt I had been to Romania. Taking Kit to Ventura, California in Choosing Charity was like traveling back to the area where my husband and I lived for four years.

How did you become a writer?

I’ve always loved writing but considered it an unattainable dream. My fear always overrode my desire to put my work out there. Now I’m much more comfortable in my skin and what’s left of my mind, so it’s easier to show the world my babies—even if someone thinks they’re ugly!
What's the best thing that's happened to you since being published?

It’s amazing to see and hold the finished book for the first time. But the best thing is when readers take the time to write to me and share how the book touched them or inspired them.


If you could go anywhere in the known or unknown universe, where would you go?

I would love to time travel and stop at various historical places. Kind of like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure; except without Bill and Ted, Genghis Khan, or actually bringing the people back. 

What's the best book you've read recently?

I’ve had to ground myself from reading for a while so I can get some writing done! I read all 35 of the Whitney Award finalists for the 2011 Whitney Awards (from February-April 2012) and that was a real treat for me. A couple in particular really stood out for me: Letters in the Jade Dragon Box by Gale Sears and With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo.

Website: http://www.terriferran.com/

You can purchase at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Cedar Fort

GIVEAWAY

Rules:
  1. Must be over 13.
  2. Please enter only once.
  3. Winner will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
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