Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Novel Anticipation - February 2012

Are the winter months dragging on for you? If you live in a colder weather climate as I do, then a good book is the perfect antidote for those winter blues. It just so happens that a number of intriguing books are coming out in February, books for every taste. There are several I'm excited about; as usual, it's a fairly diverse grouping. One is legal fiction, two are speculative, two are contemporary, and one is Biblical.

Now, if you're looking for romantic reads to get you in the mood for Valentine's Day, I'm afraid I can't help you there, but stop by Kav's Best Reads blog. I guarantee she won't disappoint you.

COVENANT OF WAR (Lion of War Series #2)

The year is 993 BC. After years of bloody civil war, Eleazar son of Dodai, one of King David's most elite warriors, wants nothing more than to finally live peacefully in the land.

But on the plains near the Great Sea, a terrifying army of Philistines has mobilized to crush the Hebrew tribes once and for all. In the sun-drenched valleys and dark forests of the hill country, Eleazar and his warriors make their stand against Israel's deadliest enemy. The fate of an entire nation rests on the courage of a small band of heroes known as the Mighty Men. In a land torn by conflict, depleted by drought and threatened by treachery, the horrors and heroism of the ancient battlefields come to life.

ENEMIES OF THE CROSS (Coming Evil Trilogy Series #2)

Consumed by guilt for abandoning his brother Dras when he needed him most, Pastor Jeff Weldon fights to expose Greensboro's secrets. Meanwhile, the Strange Man grows closer to claiming Rosalyn for his own evil designs. Who will win the battle between those who hold to the light and those who lose themselves in darkness?

Gas station attendant Marny Toogood is on the run with two kids he just met! Begging Marny to help them, Esther and William Rose are fleeing their "insane" uncle who insists on protecting William, a faith-filled boy with supernatural powers. Can Marny save the children from the would-be kidnapper---and their estranged father who leads a nightmarish cult?

HEART ECHOES (Side Road Series #3)

In the aftermath of a massive Los Angeles earthquake, the perfect existence Teal Morgan-Adams has built begins to crumble. Teal's daughter, Maiya, is determined to learn the identity of her biological father, despite the loving devotion of her stepdad, River Adams. But that's a secret Teal hoped would remain buried forever. She has never shared the truth with anyone . . . not her family, not River, not even Maiya's father.

Jamie Brock, assistant DA does not believe in plea bargains...for anyone! She's never plea bargained a case and scoffs at the attorneys who do. However, when a powerful defense attorney is indicted for murder and turns the entire justice system upside down, including letting felons walk on technicalities; he must be stopped...but at what cost?

Jenna Bouvier and Andee Bell are at a crossroads. Jenna is in danger of losing her family and her wealth when her mother-in-law accuses her of having an affair. Andee has what she wants---fame, fortune, and Jenna's brother---but she's haunted by a dark secret. Will they follow familiar paths, or risk walking in faith?

What February releases are you looking forward to reading?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2011 Novel Analysis

I read 110 books in 2011. To some people, that may sound like a very large number, but compared to the 138 I read in 2010, it was a little disappointing. This year, though, I plan on scaling back my reading even more, aiming for more books that I know I'll love, and eliminating series' and authors that don't wow me.

Out of curiosity, I've analyzed those 110 books to see if there were any surprises, and to see where I need improvement.

Of the 110 read, I ranked (10) books as Favorites, (17) with 5*, and (24) with 4*. So (41) out of 110 read ranked 4* or above, a higher percentage than I anticipated. (Note: My 5* ranking means Exceptional, and a 4* ranking means Excellent.)

Of the ten book marked as favorites, (3) were contemporary, (2) mystery/suspense, (2) historical, and (3) speculative. Considering I only read (11) speculative, having (3) rank as favorites speaks well for the quality coming from spec authors.

I read the most books from Bethany House (13). B&H Publishing Group, Revell Books, and Tyndale House Publishers tied with (10). But, only (3) books from Bethany House merited a 4* or more, while B&H scored (7), Tyndale House (6), and Revell (4). I only read (3) books from Realms, but each of their novels ranked a 4* or higher and (2) were favorites. Faith Words scored 100%. I only read (2) of their novels, but both ranked 4*. Kregel Publications also scored 100% with a 5* and a 4*. With Multnomah, (2) out (3) books read ranked 4*.

I read the most contemporary (26), followed closely by mystery/suspense with (24), making nearly half of the books I read from those two categories. No surprise there. I don't anticipate that changing.

I read (10) books by debut authors, (2) of which I ranked as Favorite. Hopefully this year will bring the same success as I love endorsing and encouraging debut authors.

Judging by the above statistics, I'll pay closer attention to books coming out from B&H Publishing, Realms, Faith Words, Kregel, and Multnomah. Tyndale House and Zondervan also scored well.

The first bit of improvement I need to address is to add more non-fiction to my reading habits, having read only (3) last year. I've never cared for what I term Christian "self-help" books. To be honest, I learn more from fiction, which I frequently label "Applied Non-Fiction." I do need to read more books on the craft of writing. Several sit on my shelves, unread or half read.

I'm also committed to reading through the entire Bible this year again. It's been a few years since I've done so. I like to read different versions so I don't skim over the verses I know so well that their meaning becomes lost. This year I've chosen the NLT One Year Bible for Women. I'm loving the new perspective.

I'm curious, did any books surprise you last year? Has a genre surprised you with their quality? What do you anticipate reading this year?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy National Reading Day!

I know this isn't my regular day to post, but I couldn't let National Reading Day pass without a quick mention.

I'm in the middle of Jerri Ledford's debut novel, Biloxi Sunrise, and don't want to put it down. It's a police procedural, suspense novel that truly has me spinning through the pages. I love her characters. You root for the deeply-drawn protagonists and her antagonist is chillingly evil. I'm thoroughly impressed with this novel.

If you're looking for an excellent read--and at an unreal price: just 99 cents--download Biloxi Sunrise. You won't be disappointed.

I'd love to know what you're reading today.


by Jerri Lynn Ledford
Deep South Press

He hadn’t protected them.

When Homicide Special Investigator Jack Roe’s daughter is killed in an auto accident and his wife dies from a drug overdose, he abandons a promising career as a Military Police Officer. If only he’d been there when they needed him, he could have saved them both.

He didn’t protect her.

Six years later, Jack is in Biloxi, Mississippi to be close to his sister and her daughter, Lisa. As long as he’s around, nothing can happen to them. But then he’s called to the hospital in the middle of the night and learns that Lisa has been abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Jack must confront old wounds that never healed, and a burning anger that’s been buried for far too long. 

She can’t protect him. 

The same night, a woman’s body turns up on the beach. A few days later, so does another one. Jack must deal with his past and his present while he and his partner, Kate Giveans, race to find a killer before another woman dies. But Kate harbors a secret that just might get Jack killed.

Jerri Ledford has been a freelance business technology writer for more than 13 years. During that time, over 700 of her articles, profiles, news stories and reports have appeared online and in print. Her publishing credits include: Intelligent Enterprise, Network World, Information Security Magazine, DCM Magazine, CRM Magazine, IT Manager's Journal.

She develops and teaches technology training courses for both consumer and business users including courses on security, customer service, career skills, and various technologies for companies such as: IBT Financial, Writer's Village University, You Don't Say, LLC., Hewlett Packard, Sony, Gateway, Forbes and CNET.

When she's not writing for a consumer audience, Jerri writes suspense fiction. Her first novel, Biloxi Sunrise, is now available.

*Like* Jerri Ledford on Facebook

(In the interest of full-disclosure, Jerri Ledford is a friend and critique partner, but I wouldn't brag on this book if I didn't completely believe in it. As you know, I'm a picky reader and will not recommend a novel that is substandard.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Novel Anticipation - January 2012

My January book wish list is a bit light, but that's okay. The kids have had more days off of school than they've had on, plus I'd really like to complete my current work-in-progress by mid-February. So, that leaves little time for reading.

That said, a couple of my favorite authors release novels this month: Chris Fabry and Dale Cramer. If you enjoy stories told with a lyrical quality, ones that bend toward literary writing, then I highly recommend by Fabry and Cramer. Both authors also know how to knit stories that speak to the heart.

Now, admittedly, I don't read Amish novels, but Cramer comes from a different angle. His Levi's Will is a phenomenal book. So, even if you're not an Amish reader, I'd recommend giving The Captive Heart a try.

Truman Wiley used to report news stories from around the world, but now the most troubling headlines are his own. He's out of work, out of touch with his family, out of his home. But nothing dogs him more than his son's failing heart.

With mounting hospital bills and Truman's penchant for gambling his savings, the situation seems hopeless . . . until his estranged wife throws him a lifeline-the chance to write the story of a death row inmate, a man convicted of murder who wants to donate his heart to Truman's son.

As the execution clock ticks down, Truman uncovers disturbing evidence that points to a different killer. For his son to live, must an innocent man die? Truman's investigation draws him down a path that will change his life, his family, and the destinies of two men forever.

The Daughters of Caleb Bender Series #2

Bandit troubles intensify as Caleb Bender's family tries to settle into their new life in 1920s Paradise Valley.

When El Pantera kidnaps Rachel and leaves her brother, Aaron, for dead, Jake Weaver and the Mexican native Domingo pursue the bandit leader to his mountain stronghold in a hopeless rescue attempt. Jake and Domingo manage to escape with Rachel, with the bandits hot on their trail.

In a desperate attempt to avoid recapture, Domingo puts himself squarely in harm's way, giving Jake and Rachel time to get away. This is not the quiet life Caleb Bender envisioned when he led his family out of Ohio.

What is a father to make of his daughter's obvious affection for a man outside the fold? And how will a pacifist Amishman like Caleb respond to the events that threaten his family and their way of life?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The End of the Debut Novels Page

Over this past year I've really enjoyed maintaining the Debut Novels page on Spire Reviews. I met so many wonderful authors, and I loved hearing about each of their journeys, all of which were inspiring.

One thing that truly amazed me was the high number of inspirational authors/novels debuting in a single year. I listed 54 on this page and I know I missed some. I've read several of the books, and many more sit in my to-be-read file on my Kindle. Two of these novels were awarded Favorite status from me (Words by Ginny Yttrup and The Resurrection by Mike Duran)--not an easy achievement for any book, as I'm very picky, let alone a novel written by a debut author.

I wish to thank all the authors who gave time and shared a piece of their heart with Spire Reviews. I loved getting to know you. Your Publication Journeys compel me to persevere. It was a privilege working with you!

That being said, I have decided not to continue the Debut Novel page into 2012. The research, while rewarding, can be very time-consuming and, at times, frustrating, so I've decided my time is better spent writing.

That does not mean the end of Spire Reviews, though. I plan on posting regularly, likely Tuesday of every week, so I'd love it if you would stop by and visit. I love talking books, especially those that stand above the rest.

I'm even open for suggestions if you've read a novel from a Christian worldview that you believe needs to be highlighted. It does not have to be published for the CBA market. City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell, the recent winner of an INSPY, is an excellent example. Send me your suggestions and, if I also find the book to be exceptional, I'll spotlight it.

I look forward to our future conversations.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Best of 2011 - Favorite Fiction

It's always fun looking back over the year at the books I've read. Out of 110 completed, I marked ten as favorites, ten that have found permanent residence on my bookshelves, ten I would recommend to others. It's even a fairly diverse grouping. Three of the novels are contemporary, three are speculative, two suspense, and two historical.

If you're a picky reader looking for quality fiction, here are my favorites in no particular order:

Words by Ginny Yttrup
B&H Books 2011

The Resurrection by Mike Duran
Realms 2011

Nick of Time by Tim Downs
Thomas Nelson 2011
Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso
Realms 2011

Desert Gift by Sally John
Tyndale House 2011
Vigilante by Robin Parrish
Bethany House 2011
The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz
Revell 2011
The First Gardener
by Denise Hildreth Jones
Tyndale House 2011
The Queen by Steven James
Revell 2011
City of Tranquil Light
by Bo Caldwell
Henry Hold & Company 2010