Book Recommendation – All Made Up by Kara Isaac

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I initially had mixed feelings about reading All Made Up. On the one hand I love Kara Isaac’s writing. I trust her, after reading her first three books, to deliver a great story.

On the other hand I’m really not a fan of reality tv shows. I wasn’t sure if I’d like reading a contemporary Christian romance based around a Bachelor-style reality tv show.

Kat is an internationally renowned make up artist who has won an Oscar for her work in film. She’s in a tight financial situation and agrees to work behind the scenes of an Australian reality tv show that’s set in a Sydney mansion. Kat is stunned to discover the handsome farmer bachelor is Caleb, her first love who broke her heart when he abruptly ended their relationship.

Caleb is a farmer from Toowoomba in Queensland. His mother secretly sent in an audition tape because she wanted to see her son happy and married and settled on the family farm.

When Caleb is chosen at the last minute to be the bachelor, he feels compelled to do it to please his mother who is struggling with major health issues.

The producers quickly regret choosing Caleb because he’s terrible on camera and a potential financial disaster for the show. Caleb is awkward and uncomfortable around the large number of physically beautiful and scantily clad young women who are living in the mansion and competing for his attention and affection.

When Cat is directed by her boss to fill in as a contestant on the show, she grits her teeth and does her best to survive the circus that ensues. The whole set up is both humorous and sleazy, and I totally understood why Caleb hated his time at the mansion.

The first fifteen percent of the book was, at times, a bit icky to read. If I wasn’t a fan of the author, and if I didn’t trust her to deliver a great story, I probably would have tossed the book during those early chapters. The thought of reading an entire book set in the mansion was not appealing.

I’m glad I persevered with the story and kept reading. By the twenty percent mark the story had really picked up and was motoring along. There’s a big twist in the story that takes the tv show in a different direction and forces Cat and Caleb to confront their past.

In typical Kara Isaac style, the big secret reveal toward the end of the book is heartbreaking. Cat and Caleb reassess their faith and values and beliefs as they make tough decisions.

Fans of The Bachelor will love this romance story that provides a rare happy ending for a reality tv couple. Readers who you couldn’t pay to watch a reality tv dating show may struggle with the early chapters, but I encourage them to keep reading and journey with Cat and Caleb on their fun and humorous roller coaster ride to true love.

Book Recommendation – Luna Rosa: Blushing Moon by Elizabeth Maddrey

Book Description:

She loves the spotlight, he prefers backstage. Can they still play love’s duet?

Nick Carter’s career as a piano tuner and teacher keeps him off-stage and allows him plenty of time to compose music he has no intention of ever publishing. Enter Louisiana Chalfant, the new symphony pianist who embodies the word diva. She’s exactly the kind of woman Nick has vowed to avoid, but when they’re cajoled into playing a duet he finds there’s more to her than he first thought.

Louisiana settles into her temporary role with the symphony in Washington, D.C., glad for the reprieve from touring professionally. She’s astonished to discover immense talent in the handsome man who keeps her piano in tune. Practicing for a duet at church gives her the perfect opportunity to get to know the real Nick.

As they play together, Nick and Louisiana develop a friendship that begins to morph into something more, but what happens when their diverging goals threaten to upstage their love?

This nine-book Christian romance series from seven of your favorite authors releases weekly from April 2018. Look out for Book 3 in the series, Rapsodia.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I loved reading Luna Rosa and exploring Washington D.C. with Nick and Louisiana. Their first meeting is awkward and Louisiana soon realizes that Nick is her opposite. She has built a successful career and chases after her dreams without fear of failure.

Nick’s music is very personal and his compositions are from the heart. He teaches piano lessons and tunes pianos and hides away his musical compositions. If he doesn’t share his music with the world, he can’t be rejected and he can’t fail.

Louisiana’s go-getter approach to life challenges Nick to step outside his comfort zone. Their friendship evolves into a heartwarming and fun romance. Louisiana’s southern charm and enthusiasm for life is contagious and she works hard to draw out the real Nick.

Nick’s twin is the globe trotting Piero (Piero’s romance story is Bella Notte, Book 5). In Luna Rosa we gain an insight into the American branch of the Rossi family. The next book in the series, Rapsodia, features the romance of Nick’s older brother, Marco, in their home state of Texas. I highly recommend Luna Rosa to readers who enjoy contemporary romance.

Full disclosure: I enjoyed writing Sienna’s story (Solo Tu, Book 7) for A Tuscan Legacy and becoming immersed in the Tuscan Legacy story world. Learn more about the series set up and the family mystery by reading my book recommendation for That’s Amore (Book 1). 

Read a FREE sample of Luna Rosa on Amazon Kindle – Read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited

Book Recommendation – That’s Amore: That’s Love by Marion Ueckermann

Book Description for That’s Amore:

Begin your journey to Tuscany this summer with Book 1 of A Tuscan Legacy! Each novella is a complete and satisfying romance, filled with faith, family, forgiveness and love.

When Rafaele and Jayne meet again two years after dancing the night away together in Tuscany, is it a matter of fate or of faith?

After deciding to take a six-month sabbatical, Italian lawyer Rafaele Rossi moves from Florence back to Villa Rossi in the middle of Tuscany, resigned to managing the family farm for his aging nonna after his father’s passing. Convinced a family get-together is what Nonna needs to lift her spirits, he plans an eightieth birthday party for her, making sure his siblings and cousins attend.

The Keswick jewelry store where Jayne Austin has worked for seven years closes its doors. Jayne takes her generous severance pay and heads off to Italy–Tuscany to be precise. Choosing to leave her fate in God’s hands, she prays she’ll miraculously bump into the handsome best man she’d danced the night away with at a friend’s Tuscan wedding two years ago. She hasn’t been able to forget those smoldering brown eyes and that rich Italian accent.

Jayne’s prayers are answered swiftly and in the most unexpected way. Before she knows what’s happening, she’s a guest not only at Isabella Rossi’s birthday party, but at Villa Rossi too.

When Rafaele receives what appears to be a valuable painting from an unknown benefactor, he’s reminded that he doesn’t want to lose Jayne again. After what he’s done to drive her from the villa, though, what kind of a commitment will it take for her to stay?

This nine-book Christian romance series from seven of your favorite authors releases weekly from April 2018. Look out for Book 2 in the series, Luna Rosa.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Firstly, let me say how much I enjoyed writing Sienna’s story (Solo Tu, Book 7) for A Tuscan Legacy.

Marion Ueckermann and Autumn Macarthur have created a rich and compelling story world for the series. The family mystery is introduced in That’s Amore (Book 1) and threaded through the nine books in the series. The resolution to the family mystery is revealed in Book 9 – La Risposta: The Answer.

That’s Amore is a short novel length book that features Rafaele and Jayne’s romance, and introduces the series mystery plot that unfolds in the shorter novellas.

The Italian book titles are named after songs. Rafaele and Jayne dance together to the song That’s Amore: That’s Love in their story. The song is important to Rafaele and Jayne because they danced to That’s Amore when they first met at a wedding two years earlier.

For the other novellas in the series, the song titles may not play a role in the actual story.

All nine books include a fully developed contemporary Christian romance. The series spans three continents and has a strong international flavour.

Cultural differences are explored in the stories. More conservative readers may be concerned to see Rafaele and Nonna drinking vino (wine) at dinner as part of their normal life in That’s Amore.

Villa Rossi is a typical Tuscan Estate that includes a vineyard. Drinking a glass of vino at dinner in Tuscany is a normal part of their culture – in the same way that abstaining from alcohol is normal for some Christians in other cultures. It would have been culturally inaccurate to not include vino in That’s Amore.

Rafaele’s siblings and cousins drink sparkling water instead of vino at Nonna’s 80th Birthday Party.

I loved reading That’s Amore and seeing my girl, Sienna, with her family in Tuscany for Nonna’s 80th Birthday Party.

Rafaele Rossi is a lawyer who returns to Villa Rossi to help his Nonna. His father passed away three months earlier and, as the eldest son, it’s his family duty to take care of the family estate. A family duty he’d avoided due to his complicated relationship with his late father.

Jayne Austin remembers the one night she spent dancing with Rafaele at a friend’s Tuscan wedding two years earlier. The English jewellery store where she works closes down, and Jayne decides to go on vacation in Tuscany. She prays that God will lead her back to Rafaele.

Rafaele and Jayne’s romance is fun and fast – they fall in love quickly! The challenges of life and the different worlds they live in throw many obstacles in their path. A beautiful summer romance in a gorgeous location – highly recommended. Start your journey to Tuscany with That’s Amore.

Read a FREE sample of That’s Amore on Amazon Kindle – Read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited

Book Recommendation ~ A Love Song For Kayla by Kimberly Rose Johnson

Book Description:

When two strangers cross paths their lives are forever altered.

Kayla Russell has all but given up on finding love until a new guy to town walks into her flower shop. There is something mysterious about him that intrigues her, but when she finds out the truth everything changes.

Derek Parker wants to leave his old life behind, but it proves to be harder than he’d anticipated when his past finds him. Now the woman he has come to care for feels deceived.

Will his secrets come between them and destroy what could have been something wonderful?

Previously published under the title A Valentine for Kayla.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this book back in 2015 when it was first published. I recently re-read a few Valentine’s contemporary Christian romances and picked up this book again.

Kayla Russell made the decision many years earlier that she wasn’t going to settle and marry a man who didn’t meet most, if not all, of the items on her potential husband criteria list. She’s single and the co-owner of a flower store and it’s Valentine’s Day – her least favourite holiday.

Derek Parker is a musician who’s hiding away from the paparazzi in the small town where his mother lives. He is caring for his mother who’s recovering from a stroke, and he wants to simplify his life. His fame and successful music career has made him financially wealthy but it hasn’t brought him happiness.

Kayla meets Derek and she starts falling for him, despite her trust issues and without realising Derek’s true identity. Derek holds back on sharing his former life with Kayla, and he regrets his decision when his past catches up with him and complicates his life.

Their growing relationship is tested as secrets are revealed and difficult circumstances place obstacles in their path. A fun and satisfying romance develops as Kayla and Derek are challenged by their faith and learn that God’s plan for their lives may differ to their own.

I recommend A Love Song for Kayla to readers who enjoy fun and thought provoking contemporary romances with a cute Valentine’s theme.

Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

Book Recommendation ~ The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

Book Description:

Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.

With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn’t afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, but I did initially have mixed feelings on whether or not I’d like the story.

At the start we meet Sarah and she comes across as a bit arrogant and self absorbed. Being in her head space (the book is written in first person point-of-view in an easy to read style reminiscent of chick lit) wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience. Sarah is the mean girl in her book club. She creates secret snide nicknames for the other attendees she looks down on, and she doesn’t actually know their real names.

Sarah’s ex-husband cheated on her, and Sarah’s way of coping with her divorce is to write a steamy romance novel. She hits the publishing jackpot and becomes a famous author with a lucrative book contract.

When Sarah becomes a Christian, her other life as a steamy romance author is a big problem. Her initial attraction to Ben is compelling, and they’re drawn to each other despite their differences. Ben is the widowed new pastor at her new church who has an adorable young daughter. He is taken aback by Sarah’s occupation, but he looks beyond the stereotypes of romance authors and the judgemental tendencies of church people to discover the real Sarah.

An aspect of the story I appreciated was Sarah’s struggle with her physical attraction to Ben. This fitted her background as a romance author who wrote raunchy scenes and an ex-wife who wasn’t loved and cherished by her former husband. Sarah’s emotional baggage is real and enormous, and it doesn’t instantly disappear when she becomes a Christian. Her life is messy and complicated and her impulsive nature leads her into trouble.

The last half of the book is where the story really takes off as secrets are revealed and Sarah is forced to confront the consequences of her life choices. Her faith and her relationship with Ben is tested, and we journey with Sarah and watch her change and mature during the story.

I recommend The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck to romance readers who enjoy fun and entertaining contemporary romances.


Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

Book Recommendation ~ Muffins & Moonbeams: Baxter Family Bakery Book One (Arcadia Valley Romance 3) by Elizabeth Maddrey

Book Description:

Malachi Baxter is happy to hide in the background and manage the business-end of the family bakery. He’d much rather live in the online world of computer games where he can explore the galaxy and no one has to know he’s deaf.

Ursula Franks designs websites during the day and spends her evenings battling alien races online where relationships are easy and uncomplicated. When she agrees to design a website for the local Community Supported Bakery, she has no idea that Malachi is the real man behind her online persona’s best friend and her own secret crush.

As the two work together on the website, they uncover an attraction, but will they be able to put aside past hurt and insecurity to find love?

Welcome to Arcadia Valley, Idaho, where a foodie culture and romance grow hand-in-hand. Join my friends and me as we release a book every month set in Arcadia Valley. You’ll enjoy meeting old friends and making new ones as each of the six authors’ books intertwine with the previous stories in this Christian romance series. Get started with Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley and follow along at Arcadia Valley Romance dot com to make sure you don’t miss any installments!

Muffins & Moonbeams is the first full-length novel in the Baxter Family Bakery series set in Arcadia Valley. It follows the novella, Loaves and Wishes, that was introduced in Arcadia Valley Book 1, Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley. Get your copy today to spend more time baking with the Baxter family.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Muffins & Moonbeams. We first meet the Baxter brothers In Elizabeth’s Arcadia Valley novella, Loaves & Wishes. While reading the novella I really wanted to learn more about Malachi and discover his romance story in the first full length book in the Baxter Family Bakery Romance series, Muffins & Moonbeams.

Malachi lost his hearing when he was a young child and he has learned to lip read. He speaks well although he’s self conscious and worries about how people will relate to him. Ursula is an introvert who has social anxiety. She prefers to escape into her online gaming world rather than relate to people in the real world.

I have a family member who struggles with social anxiety and it was insightful to view the world through Ursula’s eyes. I really enjoyed Malachi and Ursula’s romance and how their unique challenges and character strengths created a fun and fascinating story.


Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

ACRBA Tour ~ Star! Stable! Saviour! by Cameron Semmens

6 – 10 December

Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

is introducing

Star! Stable! Saviour!

(Wombat Books, 1 December 2015)

By

Cameron Semmens

 

About the Book

“Forget the kids! It was me who loved this in our house. OK the kids did too!” – Sally Smith

The traditional Christmas story has been told and re-told for nearly two thousand years – but never quite like this. Poet Cameron Semmens’s quirky and alliterated re-telling of it in Star! Stable! Savior! brings a totally fresh perspective on the ancient Christmas story.

Originally published in 2007 under the title The Story of The Star, The Stable and The Saviour, the book sold out after only a few years. Now it’s back with a fresh, punchy new title.

 About the Author

Cameron Semmens is a poet, entertainer and poetry educator with 15 books to his name. He makes his living through words: performing, running workshops and book design. He lives in the Dandenong Rangers with his wife and two children.

Narelle’s Thoughts

My daughter and I enjoyed reading this cute version of the nativity story. The alliteration and cadence in the story was fun to read. Who knew that so many elements in the original Christmas story could start with the letter S?

The smart, snazzy scientists were joined by several shabby shepherds as they followed the star to see their saviour in the smelly stable. The saviour seekers wore snappy sneakers, and the illustrations matched the quirky tone in the story.

I highly recommend this book to children who are looking for a unique spin on the Christmas story.

I received a review copy of the book as part of the ACRBA Tour.

ACRBA Tour Too Pretty by Andrea Grigg

4 – 8 May 2015

is introducing

Too Pretty

(Rhiza Press, August 2014)

by

Andrea Grigg

About the Book

Being beautiful isn’t easy – just ask Ellie Paxton.

Frustrated by a long string of empty relationships, Ellie makes a promise to God not to date for six months, a promise she’s determined to keep.

Tired of being continually misjudged because of her looks Ellie moves to Sydney for a fresh start. But when her path keeps crossing with the darkly handsome Nathaniel, that promise becomes much harder to fulfil.

As they battle with their attraction for each other, Ellie is not the only one to discover it takes more than simply looking in a mirror to find out who you truly are …

Could it be that God has a bigger plan? Could this really be one of those matches made in heaven …?

About the Author

Andrea Grigg grew up in Auckland, New Zealand, but has lived more than half her life in Australia.

Andrea lives with her husband on Queensland’s Gold Coast, where they have raised their three adult children – two daughters and a son.

Recently retired from teaching ten-year-olds, if she isn’t being a domestic executive or socialising, Andrea can be found in her cave, writing stories.

Narelle: My book recommendation for Too Pretty can be found here.

ACRBA Tour Swallow Me, NOW! by Melissa Gijsbers

2 – 6 March 2015

is introducing

Swallow Me, Now!

(Lilly Pilly Press, October 2014)

By

Melissa Gijsbers

 

About the Book:

All Sam wants to do is to fit in at her new school. Feeling alone, and desperately trying to find her place in the world, she concocts an AMAZING story – BUT it backfires on her, and she becomes known as the ‘Evil Genius’s Daughter!’ Can her life get any worse?

About the Author

Melissa Gijsbers started writing when she was in High School during the 1990s, even winning some awards for a short story and a script. For many years, life got in the way of creative writing, however she did start blogging around 2006.

She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia with her two sons and a pet blue tongue lizard.

Narelle’s thoughts

I enjoyed reading Swallow Me, NOW! and I read the whole story in one sitting. The story is easy to read and the target audience is children aged 7-12 years.

Sam is in Year Five and the story starts on Sam’s first day at a new primary (elementary) school in suburban Melbourne. Sam’s parents were missionaries in Nepal, and she recently returned to Australia after many years abroad. An Aussie school is a culture shock for Sam. We follow her journey as she struggles to fit in at her new school. The story addresses important social issues that confront many children. I highly recommend Swallow Me, NOW! for children who are looking for a fun story with a positive and inspiring message of hope.

My daughter’s thoughts: I liked how the story is realistic and shows how hard it can be for kids to adapt to a new school. Even if you’re not starting at a new school, bullying can still happen to you. I also loved how Sam was very creative and was brave enough to talk about the mean things that were happening to her. I understood why she finally fought back and didn’t just let it keep happening to her. The story was fun and exciting. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

We received a complimentary review copy from the author.

ACRBA Blog Tour The Songs of Jesse Adams by Peter McKinnon

 16 – 20 November 2014

is introducing

 The Songs of Jesse Adams

Acorn Press

By

Peter McKinnon

 

About the Book

Set in the turmoil of social change and political unrest of Australia during the 1960s, The Songs of Jesse Adams traces the meteoric rise of a boy from the bush – a farmer’s son who breaks away to follow his heart, his dreams and his love of music. But, as Jesse travels with his band and the crowds gather, it becomes clear that something else is afoot. This rock singer captivates and transforms a host of fans who hear his songs and encounter his touch.

Lives are changed in unexpected ways and the enigmatic Jesse becomes a symbol of hope and freedom for those on society’s edge. But not all will celebrate the rising tide of influence of this charismatic figure whose words and actions challenge those in power – the media, the politicians, the church. In one tumultuous week this clash of ideals comes to a head – with profound consequences.

Awash in all the protest and collapse of conservative Australia, the colour and madness that was the sixties, The Songs of Jesse Adams is a tale of conflict, betrayal and tragedy, but ultimately the triumph of love.

*Warning this book contains some language that some readers may find offensive*

About the Author

For seventeen years, Peter McKinnon held senior roles in some of Australia’s largest corporations, with a focus on human behaviour and organisational effectiveness. This culminated in his appointment in 1999 as Executive General Manager, People & Culture, of Australia’s then largest financial organisation, National Australia Bank.

In late 2006, Peter was approached to head up the global human resources function of  World Vision International(WVI), based in Los Angeles. WVI is the world’s largest humanitarian aid organisation, with over 40,000 employees in 100 different countries and countless volunteers working in highly diverse and challenging settings.

When he returned to Australia in late 2009, he committed to pursuing his creative interests more directly and began to write. ‘The Songs of Jesse Adams’ is the result.

Peter has been published in publications as wide-ranging as the ‘Age’, ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly’ and ‘4 x 4‘ magazine and regards winning a Pacific cruise for his writing as his crowning achievement in this field ! He has also written and produced several musicals.

Peter is a qualified psychologist, has studied theology, worked briefly as a minister and served on the Council of the MCD University of Divinity.

He lives in Melbourne with his wife Julie. This is his first book.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Narelle: The Songs of Jesse Adams is different to the books I usually read. It’s a fictional story with Christian content that’s written for a general market audience. The story touches on confronting social issues that will probably offend conservative Christian readers. It has edgy content that doesn’t just prick the so-called ‘Christian bubble’, but blows it apart with dynamite. The book contains strong language that isn’t usually found in the typical Christian fiction book. If you’re offended by reading bad language and blasphemy, this book probably isn’t for you.

I really liked the story premise. The Songs of Jesse Adams is an allegory of the gospel story, set in Australia in the late 1960’s. If Jesus had lived during this time in history, what would he be doing? Who would he be hanging around? More importantly, who would he offend with his message of love? We follow the character of Jesse Adams, a country boy who forms a band and becomes a well known singer. A charismatic man who draws a crowd and inspires people to follow him.

If you know the gospel story, you’ll follow the basic plot and discover which characters are inspired by specific Biblical characters. The story has a strong, authentic Australian flavour and includes many colloquial expressions that were common in the 1960’s. For example, nong (idiot), cocky (farmer), grog (liquor), yarns (stories), loos and dunnies (toilets), and chinwag (chat).

One reason this story is different to my usual choice of reading material is my personal preference for fiction written from a purist point of view. The Songs of Jesse Adams is written from multiple viewpoints, including omniscient (narrator) viewpoint, and there is head hopping within scenes and paragraphs. I can understand why the author has chosen to use multiple viewpoints. It stylistically fits the allegory and the original Biblical narrative story format. The reactions of the people who encounter Jesse are an important aspect of the story.

At times I found the first half of the story difficult to follow because we were introduced to a large cast of characters. I like to become absorbed in a character’s viewpoint, get to know them and become invested in their story journey. It’s harder to do this when we’re moving between a number of character’s heads in a short space of time. I did re-read a few sections to get a handle on what was happening and which characters were involved. Once I passed the half way mark, it became much easier to read and follow each of the main characters. I suspect I’m more sensitive to head hopping than the typical reader, and others may not even notice the viewpoint changes.

I recommend The Songs of Jesse Adams to readers who are looking for gritty, real-to-life fiction that isn’t sugar-coated and challenges their thinking on contemporary social issues.

I received a complimentary review copy from the publisher.