Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Favorite Books in 2007

I did a lot of reading this year, and there are several books that really made an impact on me. I'll list my top ten...let me know what yours were!

Not in any particular order...and they aren't necessarily new...

Directionally Challenged, Travis Collins
Prayer, Does it Make a Difference, Philip Yancy
For Parents Only, Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa Rice
Valley of Betrayal and Shadow of Treason, Tricia Goyer
Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus combination
The Christian Writer's Market, Sally Stuart
90 Minutes in Heaven, Don Piper and Cecil Murphey
QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, John Miller
More Than Enough, The 10 Keys to Changing Your Financial Destiny, Dave Ramsey
Under God, Toby Mac and Michael Tait

Friday, December 14, 2007

What Lies Within

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing What Lies Within by Karen Ball (published by Multnomah Fiction ,November 20, 2007)

This book is actually the third in a series, so I was a little hesitant to read it before I'd finished the other two. It really didn't matter! I tried to guess what the first two books might have been about, but there really wasn't anything that wasn't well explained in the book so I didn't feel like I missed anything.

The prelude to this book catches your attention immediately, and I had a hard time putting it down until I finished. The mystery and intrigue in the book keep you wondering who the bad guy really is. It is interesting to see some of the ins and outs of the construction business, especially seen from the perspective of a female owner in a male-dominated world.

The book successfully links Marines, gang leaders, construction workers, and clergy in a way that gives you insight into each of these worlds. I can't wait to read the first two books. I'd definitely put this on in my 'must read' column.


Karen Ball , bestselling novelist, is also the editor behind several of today's bestselling Christian novels. Her love for words was passed down through her father and grandfather - both pastors who shared God's truth through sermons and storytelling. Blending humor, poignancy, and honesty, Karen's writing style is a powerful force for revealing God's truth. She lives in Oregon with her husband, Don, and their "kids," Bodhan, a mischief-making Siberian husky, and Dakota, an Aussie-terrier mix who should have been named "Destructo."


Nothing’s going to stop Kyla…

until the ground crumbles beneath her feet.

Kyla Justice has arrived. Her company, Justice Construction, is one of the most critically acclaimed, commercially successful companies in the Pacific Northwest. And yet, something is missing. Not until she’s called on to build a center for inner-city kids does she realize what it is: her sense of purpose. Now nothing can stop her, not the low budget, not supply problems, not gang opposition, not her boyfriend’s suggestion that she sell her business and marry him–and most especially not that disagreeable Rafael Murphy.

Rafe Murphy understands battle. Wounded in action, this Force Recon Marine carries the scars–and the nightmares–to prove it. Though he can’t fight overseas any longer, he’s found his place as a warrior in the civilian world. So he soldiers on, trusting that one of these days, God will reveal to him why Rafe survived the ambush in Iraq. That day has arrived.

Kyla and Rafe both discover that determination alone won’t carry them through danger and challenges. When gang violence threatens their very foundations, there’s only one way to survive: rely on each other, be real–and surrender to God. In other words, risk everything…

You can get a copy of the book here!

Check out more of Karen's books or contact her at her website.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Shadow of Treason

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I have a new favorite author, Tricia Goyer. I just finished reading book two of her Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War series, A Shadow of Treason. This book is fabulous! Throughout the series, Tricia has done a ton of research. Maybe one of the reasons I like this series so much is that I have been to Madrid, and her characterization of the city is very real. I even stayed in one of the hotels she talks about in the book, and she has the layout down pat.

I hadn't really remembered anything about a Spanish Civil War from school, so I wasn't sure how this would play out, but it is really a fascinating story of intrigue, action, and romance. Tricia's characters are very life-like, her style keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the story line makes you forget where you are. I highly recommend it! Read on for a synopsis of the book, an interview with Tricia, and more info on Tricia and her books.

If you would like to win a copy of A Shadow of Treason, leave a comment and I'll draw a name early next week. Please be sure to leave a way for me to contact you or I won't be able to let you know that you won.

Book 2 in the Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War series

Sophie discovers that nothing is as she first imagined. When Walt, the reporter who helped her over the border, shows up again after Guernica is bombed, Sophie is given an impossible mission. She must leave behind the man she's fallen in love with and return to the person who betrayed her. Another layer of the war in Spain is revealed as Sophie is drawn into the international espionage schemes that could turn the tide of the war and help protect the soldiers from the International Brigade ... she must find a way to get a critical piece of information to Walt in time.

Q and A with Tricia!

A Shadow of Treason follows A Valley of Betrayal. This is the first time you've written books as a series instead of stand alone. Which way do you like better?

A: I love writing in series. It was great to continue with the same characters. In my stand-alone books I fell in love with these people and then I had to say good-bye after one book. It was wonderful to be able to continue on.

Q: In A Shadow of Treason Sophie must return to the person who betrayed her in an effort to help the Spanish people. It makes the book hard to put down because the reader has to know how Sophie's heart will deal with it. Why did you decide to make this an element of the book?

A: There are very few of us who go through life without giving away a part of our hearts to someone who didn't deserve it. Even though Sophie had the best intentions, she gave away her heart and she was hurt-not only that she must revisit those emotions.

I wanted to include this element-to delve into the topic that emotions are sometimes as big of a trap as any physical cage. Emotions are real and they guide us -- even when we don't want to admit it. Poor Sophie, not only does she have to deal with a war around her -- she also has to deal with a war within herself. It's something I've battled, and mostly likely others have too.

Q: There is an interesting element that arises in this book and that is Spanish gold. I know you can't tell us what happens in this book, but can you give us a brief history of this gold?

A: Sure. When I was researching I came upon something interesting. The Spaniards, as we know, had taken much Aztec and Inca gold during the time of the conquistadors. Well, at the start of The Spanish Civil War much of this gold was still held in Madrid . In fact Spain had the fourth largest gold reserves in the world at that time. The Republican government was afraid Franco would take the city and the gold. They had to get it out of Madrid and this included transporting priceless artifacts. The element of gold does make its way into my story. It was great to include this little-known (and true!) element into my story.

Q: Another historical fact I learned about was the Nazi involvement during this time. Not only were the Germans active in Spain , but they had spy networks busy around the world. How did you find out about this?

A: I love reading tons of research books. Usually I find one little element that I dig out and turn into a plot line. This is what happened with my plot-line for the Nazi pilot, Ritter. I dug up this bit of research of Nazi involvement in Spain -- and the United States -- because a lot of people aren't aware of the Nazi involvement prior to WWII. The truth is they were busy at work getting the land, information, and resources they needed far before they threatened the nations around them. The Germans knew what they wanted and how to get it. And most of the time they succeeded!

Q: A Shadow of Treason is Book Two. When will Book Three be out? Can you give us a hint of how the story continues?

A: Book Three is A Whisper of Freedom. It will be out February 2008. The characters that we love are all still in the midst of danger at the end of Book Two. Book Three continues their stories as we follow their journeys in -- and (for a few) out -- of Spain . It's an exciting conclusion to the series!

Q: Wow, so we have a least one more fiction book to look forward to in the near future. Are you working on any non-fiction?

A: Yes, I have two non-fiction books that will be out the early part of 2008. Generation NeXt Marriage is a marriage book for today's couples. It talks about our marriage role models, our struggles, and what we're doing right as a generation. It also gives advice for holding it together.

I've also been privileged to work on the teen edition of Max Lucado's book 3:16. It was a great project to work on. What an honor!

Tricia's Bio
Tricia Goyer has published over 300 articles for national publications such as Today's Christian Woman, Guideposts for Kids, and Focus on the Family, and is the co-author of Meal Time Moments (Focus on the Family). She has led numerous Bible Studies, and her study notes appear in the Women of Faith Study Bible (Zondervan).

She has written seven novels for Moody Publishing:
From Dust and Ashes (2003)
Night Song (2004)
Dawn of a Thousand Nights (2005);
Arms of Deliverance (2006)
A Valley of Betrayal (2007)
A Shadow of Treason (Fall 2007)
A Whisper of Freedom (February 2008)
Night Song was awarded American Christian Fiction Writer's 2005 Book of the Year for Best Long Historical. Dawn of a Thousand Nights won the same award in 2006.

Tricia has also written Life Interrupted: The Scoop on Being a Young Mom (Zondervan, 2004), 10 Minutes to Showtime (Thomas Nelson, 2004), and Generation NeXt Parenting (Multnomah, 2006). Life Interrupted was a 2005 Gold Medallion finalist in the Youth Category.

Also, coming out in the next year are: My Life, Unscripted (Thomas Nelson, 2007), Generation NeXt Marriage (Multnomah, Spring 2008), and 3:16-the teen version of the a book by Max Lucado (Thomas Nelson, Spring 2008).

Tricia and her husband John live with their three children in Kalispell , Montana . Tricia's grandmother also lives with them, and Tricia volunteers mentoring teen moms and leading children's church. Although Tricia doesn't live on a farm, she can hit one with a rock by standing on her back porch and giving it a good throw.

Important Links!

First Chapter

Amazon Link

Book 1, A Valley of Betrayal

Tricia's Website

Tricia's blogs:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid

"Who are you and what have you done with my child?" I have to honestly say that I have thought this about each of my children as they entered the teen years. At some point in their teens (usually during junior high), I've often wondered 'who' would be walking through the door after school. From day to day, and often hour to hour, their attitudes, actions, and preferences would swing from one extreme to another. Luckily, teens eventually discover who they are and what they want from the world and life settles down.

I just finished reading a book called For Parents Only -- Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa Rice. I hope the things I've learned in this book will change the relationship I have with my teens (and improve the relationship I'll have with my boys when they become teens).

This is an easy-to-read book that is based on the input of hundreds of kids across the country. Some of the findings seem a little shocking at first until you think back to the time when you were a teen (regardless of how long ago that was), then you wonder if the authors had peeked at your diary! Other findings helped me realize that there are some things we are doing right.

At each stage of our lives we seek to stretch and grow. As babies we want to walk and communicate. As teens we want to learn who we are and how to function on our own in the world. More than anything, this book shows that teens crave freedom and they want to establish their own identity. Often our attempts to control our worlds as parents stifle the very things our teenagers need. Even though our teens may do stupid things with their freedom, they will do almost anything to gain more of it. Our job as parents during this time is to help the kids achieve independence and build responsibility without making reckless choices.

Many of the findings in the book helped me understand some of the attitudes and actions of my teens and their friends. While the information doesn't always make me comfortable, hearing the 'behind-the-scenes' thoughts and feelings that play out in everyday activities helps me gain perspective on what my teens are dealing with. The authors include a chapter that shows how boys and girls react differently to the difficulties of their teen years that really helps a parent deal with gender-unique interpretations of events.

Shaunti and Lisa provide an opportunity to look inside the heads of today's teenagers and give tangible actions parents can take to help their children grow into responsible adults. This would be a great gift for anyone who has a child entering or fully entrenched in the teen years!

Shaunti Feldhahn is known for unlocking the mysteries of relationships for men and women. Now she turns to a parent’s relationship with a child, particularly a child of the opposite sex. Drawing on the results of a nationwide survey of kids and teenagers, she explores questions such as:
What do moms need to understand about the “tough and tender” boy who values respect over love?
What do dads need to understand about their daughter’s need for affirmation?
What are the six biggest pet peeves teens have about their parents?
Understanding the answers to these and other important questions can help parents make the holidays a time of celebration and unity, not strife and friction.

For Parents Only offers a unique look into a child’s mind and frees readers to communicate in healthier ways as they discover that understanding their kids may not be as complicated as they think.

Author Bio:
Shaunti Feldhahn is the author of For Women Only and numerous other books, with sales totaling nearly one million copies. A nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and public speaker, Feldhahn earned her master’s degree at Harvard University . She and her husband, Jeff, have two young children. Lisa A. Rice is the associate editor of Christian Living magazine, the mother of two teenage girls, and a screenwriter and producer.

You can find out more about the book and purchase it here, or you can go directly to the website for additional details about the book and some actual survey responses from teens. You can also get a workbook to go with it...this would make a great study for a small group of parents.

Leave a comment about this blog and I'll enter you into a drawing for a free copy of the book! Please be sure to leave an e-mail address or some other way for me to contact you.

Monday, October 1, 2007

An Interview with Lisa Tawn Bergren

In an earlier post I mentioned that I was reading the books 'The Begotten' and 'The Betrayed'. I love historical fiction, and these two books were really hard to put down! They are set in Italy in the 1300's, and the story revolves around several characters who discover they have been given special gifts by God. The heroine, Daria, is a healer, and she meets up with several others who have gifts of faith, prophecy, discernment, and wisdom.

In those days, the Church was much more of a political organization than a religious one, and they would stop at nothing to eliminate those who went against their philosophies. In addition, there was a powerful organization of evil seeking to silent "The Gifted" in any way possible. The story quickly becomes an exciting chase through Italy as the Gifted find each other and discover God's will for their lives. Check these books out – they are amazing!

I had the chance to interview the author, Lisa Tawn Bergren and the information I learned is printed below. I'd highly recommend these books to anyone who wants to be transported to another time in the midst of an exciting and dangerous controversy!

1. How did you get the inspiration for this series?
I read Da Vinci Code and stayed up all night reading it. In the end, I was grieved and angered at the heresy presented there. I set out to find a true biblical mystery, and two scholarly friends told me about the "lost letter(s) of Saint Paul," written to the Corinthians. At the same time, was profoundly influenced in watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on film. So when Publishers Weekly referenced both Da Vinci Code and LOTR, and compared my book, The Begotten, favorably, I was thrilled!

2. What do you admire most about Daria?
Man, this girl has gone through misery, and look at her! She was handfasted to her longtime love, Marco, then abandoned because she couldn't get pregnant (vital for nobles in need of heirs, thus the Church-sanctioned "handfastings"--basically a try-out of marriage!), finds out she's a healer of amazing proportions, that her coming has been prophesied to come for centuries, and oh...forces of evil are likely on the hunt for her and hers. She's strong, she's faithful, she battles darkness. I want to BE her.

3. Which character was the most difficult to create and why?
I don't want to spoil the story--so suffice it to say a character who is hovering between the righteous life and the evil life. We see this character move and breathe, understand his pain, and catch a glimpse of why he might be tempted by the dark. But watching it unfold is painful. And real. It happens every day. I don't want to be THIS character.

4. What are some of the unusual things you discovered in your research?
Handfastings, mentioned above; that there were no gondolas in my era in Venice; that each region in Italy at that time spoke a different language/dialect; that Venice had the most envied maritime force in the world.

5. What is the most challenging part of writing a historical novel?
Getting it right. I'm always afraid that some history professor will come in, read my book, and send me UnFan Mail. I work hard at trying to get the big--and small--stuff right. And the thing that is really tough is getting your head into the characters, how they might see the world at that time, in that place, rather than simply applying my 21st Century American persona in a different body. That's true perspective, true Point of View, which is undoubtedly the most daunting of tasks.

6. How have these stories changed the way you look at the world?
I'm much more aware of light versus dark, that there is an unseen battle taking place that we largely ignore, when we are in fact called to don our armor and enter the fray. We can make a difference, hold evil at bay with God's help, but we have to recognize it first. I autograph my books to "One of God's gifted..." because we all are given spiritual gifts that God hopes we will make use of on his behalf. Our lives count!

7. What projects are you working on now? When can we expect your next book?
I'm working on book #3 in the Gifted, The Blessed. It's due in a couple of weeks! It will come out Fall, 2008. Then I'm on to concepting my next series and beginning the research. I'm considering another epic trilogy, set in the 18th century, and a Colorado 19th century series.

8. How did parts of the story change based on what you discovered in research? For example, did you add or delete any scenes that resulted in a major impact on the story line?
The Gifted are on a quest journey, covering some major territory. The biggest thing I discovered was that the papacy had been moved to Avignon, France, during my time period (rather than Rome). Since the Church is essentially a main character in my books, that caused a big, screeching halt, reorganization and rewriting. It could've been an excruciating post-pub "whoops." I'm shivering, thinking about it.

9. What question would you like to answer that I haven't asked?
"Lisa, did you get to go to Italy to research?"
Yes, yes, yes! (I got to go three times--once with my husband, once with my eldest daughter, and once with my folks and children--the whole gang.) And I can't wait to return. It's every bit as cool as everyone says. I would very much like to see the Amalfi Coast next...hmmm...maybe that could be the locale my next book!

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the author of 28 books, with over 1.3 million sold. She is a publishing consultant, writer, Bible study leader, mother and wife. Her hobbies include travel (mostly from an armchair), reading, watching movies, cooking and exploring with her family. Lisa's most recent books include The Begotten, The Betrayed, God Gave Us Heaven, What Women Want and The Busy Mom's Devotional. She resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado. To sign up for her monthly email (which includes a new, unpublished devotional) go to and join her newsletter list.

Make sure to check out her website, there is a longer bio and more about her other books.

The Begotten

The Betrayed: