Book Review: Now & Forever by Mary Connealy

So, I was accepted into Bethany House's reviewer program which was thrilling!! And the first book I received was the 2nd book in the Wild at Heart series by Mary Connealy. The postman dropped off  the package and my heart beat excitedly in my chest. I ripped it open and found this book just waiting for me to read, but being the busy mommy, wife, teacher, author that I am, it has taken me much longer to read this book than I would have liked.  It had nothing to do with the book and everything to do with finding time to read the book.

I love Mary Connealy’s books and this one did not disappoint!

Not having read book 1, at the onset there was some confusion on who all the characters were and how they were related, but once you get into the first chapter or so the book really is stand-alone. The author capably explains the necessary plot ideas that you might have missed from book 1.

In Now and Forever, we meet Matt Tucker (wild man/mountain man) and Shannon Wilde (pretending to be a man since the Civil War and trying to forget that same war too) who end up going through an adventure together and surviving only to be forced into a marriage of convenience due to propriety.

This is one of those books that you just tuck into, rest back into your pillow and enjoy every moment. Mary's writing style is so easy to get drawn into and before you know it several chapters have gone by. There's just something so genuine in the way the author creates her characters and as they reach their epiphany of life and love it touches your heart in a real way and the words flow over your soul and comfort you.

Matt Tucker for instance is a hero to fall in love with and not just because he's handsome and able to fight and protect Shannon but he also has a heart for God. And he says things like this after Shannon finally divulges something personal and hurtful from her past: “”If I’m strong enough to listen, then for certain God is.”

Memorable characters, terrific writing and the plotting and pacing are perfect. I definitely plan to get the other books in the series. Go out and get this one but maybe start with book 1 in the series. Ava liable at all book outlets such as Amazon.

I received a free copy of the book from Bethany House publishers for an honest review.


Cover Reveal...Next Door to a Star

We are extremely excited to reveal the cover of NEXT DOOR TO A STAR by Krysten Lindsay Hager! This Young Adult Romance releases September 1st! 

They like me...they like me not.

NEXT DOOR TO A STAR by Krysten Lindsay Hager
Genre: Young Adult Romance
Hadley Daniels is tired of feeling invisible.

After Hadley’s best friend moves away and she gets on the bad side of some girls at school, she goes to spend the summer with her grandparents in the Lake Michigan resort town of Grand Haven. Her next door neighbor is none other than teen TV star Simone Hendrickson, who is everything Hadley longs to be—pretty, popular, and famous—and she’s thrilled when Simone treats her like a friend.

Being popular is a lot harder than it looks.

It’s fun and flattering when Simone includes her in her circle, though Hadley is puzzled about why her new friend refuses to discuss her former Hollywood life. Caught up with Simone, Hadley finds herself ignoring her quiet, steadfast friend, Charlotte. 

To make things even more complicated, along comes Nick Jenkins…

He’s sweet, good-looking, and Hadley can be herself around him without all the fake drama. However, the mean girls have other ideas and they fill Nick’s head with lies about Hadley, sending him running back to his ex-girlfriend and leaving Hadley heartbroken. 

So when her parents decide to relocate to Grand Haven, Hadley hopes things will change when school starts…only to be disappointed once again.



Love gone bad.

Is this really what it’s like to live…
Next Door To A Star?


Krysten Lindsay Hager is an obsessive reader and has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and humor essayist, and writes for teens, tweens, and adults. She is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series and her work has been featured in USA Today and named as Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases in Teen & Young Adult Values and Virtues Fiction and Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases in Children’s Books on Values. She’s originally from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and southwestern Ohio. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.


Young Adult Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the YA Blog Hop Giveaway! There are a lot of fun blogs to visit and see what they are offering. Lots of books to be had!!

Let me tell you about the Aubrey Christian Academy series--Meet Andrea, the right-brained, neurotic pianist; Amy, the never-wrong brainiac; Angie, the rebellious artist & Alisha, the sweet, beautiful ex-cheerleader.

Book 1--Andrea & the Five Day Challenge:

When a never-been-kissed teenage pianist collides with an all-star varsity baseball player, nothing good can happen...

Public humiliation, a run-in with the head cheerleader, peer pressure, and head-butting the most popular guy in school. Andrea Jamison's life just took a turn for the worse.

High school junior Andrea Jamison, self-proclaimed change-o-phobic and, incidentally, a fabulous pianist in her own right has lost faith in herself and her abilities.  At the exact moment when her parents begin pressuring her about an opportunity that just might lead to Julliard, Andrea’s friend Amy meddles in her personal life trying to pair her up with the cute, transfer jock Luke Ryan. Will Andrea learn to accept her parents often repeated word FOCUS or will she finally start trusting in God’s strength instead of cowering in her own weaknesses?

Want to win a copy of this book & a $10 gift card to Amazon? Then enter using the Rafflecopter below. (US Entrants only. A physical giftcard will be mailed.)

COMING CHRISTMAS 2015! Luke's Crazy, California Christmas-the next book in the Aubrey Christian Academy series.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Have You Been Reading This Summer?

Friends of mine have asked if I've been getting any reading this summer. My initial reaction was NO! It has been a crazy, busy summer. I can't believe it's almost over and we start schooling again next week. But then I remembered I had been reading!

This summer I've been 're-reading' all of the Jane Austen novels by listening to audio books using the Librivox app on my phone as I drive or clean house. I decided to read them in backwards publication order. Started with Persuasion, (my fav) then did Northanger Abbey and just finished Emma the other day. Now it's on to Mansfield Park. The best part is that it's FREE! So there is no reason to be too busy to read these days.


L.M. Montgomery & the YA Genre

When I reflect back on my reading as a teenager, I’d have to say that my favorite Young Adult author could be none other than L. M. Montgomery (author of the Anne of Green Gables series and so much more). Now you might not think of her as a typical YA author. I know, I know—that genre didn’t even exist until the 1940’s when the term teenager came into use. But when I think about the 1990’s when I grew up, there just wasn’t a whole lot of new YA fiction out there and definitely not Christian YA.

The first Golden Age of YA fiction started in the ‘70’s with the likes of Judy Blume & Robert Corimer (Chocolate War). The 80’s brought in more genres like horror & R.L. Stine and even the Sweet Valley High series. And then the 1990’s arrived and YA fiction slowed almost to a standstill. Why you might ask? Well, through a little bit of research this week, I discovered that in the mid-late ‘70’s there were lower birth rates so that there were not as many teens in the ‘90's when I was a teenager. Thus, there was not as much YA literature written (or should I say published) during that decade.

This makes a whole lot of sense when I think back on my love of L.M. Montgomery. Every time I made it to a bookstore during those teenage years, my young heart skipped a beat as I made it to the YA section to discover a new Montgomery. They weren’t publishing new authors, but they were rereleasing these classic novels and publishing all her short stories into anthologies for a new audience. I still have them all stacked neatly on the top of one of my many bookshelves.

After the baby boom in 1992, the YA market rebounded just in time for Harry Potter and the Princess Diaries in the year 2000. And as I began to consider writing for the YA market, I thought about my love of Montgomery and compared it to the trends for our youths today—the paranormals and the supernaturals and now the return to realistic fiction with John Green. And where did I fit into all that?

I’ll admit I love Meg Cabot. Without a doubt, she’s a talented author. Her teenage voice and relatability just can’t be beat. Even this quote from her makes me like her just a little bit more. "The whole reason you're reading is because you want some hope that you're going to get through whatever you're going through. I know how hard it was as a teenager, and I understood how it felt to be an outsider. I want to be able to offer people hope."

I love that. And I too want to offer teens hope, and fun and a great journey. Meg’s style and sense of humor are similar to mine, and I’ve always felt akin to her books, and yet I can’t agree with everything in them. Besides that, I wanted to take my books a step further. I want my readers to latch on to that hope through a knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Andrea & the Five-Day Challenge (Book 1 in the Aubrey Christian Academy Series) is written in a Meg Cabotesque style. It’s funny and quirky with its own set of memorable characters.

I wish to entertain my readers, but I want to reach them too but in a natural, organic way. I want them to be encouraged that they are not alone. We’re all going through the same thing (or we have). I want them know that you can be a Christian and have fun too, and make wrong choices, and be forgiven. I hope Christian and non-Christian teens will be inspired by my books and to what they as individuals can be and can do.

And that brings me back to L.M. Montgomery. She was a little girl who dreamed of being a writer. She wrote of characters who too dreamed the same dream. And she shared that dream with me. It’s a dream I hope to pass on to another generation of dreamers and writers and whatever else they dream of becoming.

"I don't exactly want to make people know more... though I know that is the noblest ambition... but I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me... to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn't been born.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams

(Previously published on the Christian Fiction Online Magazine.)


Challenging Miss Valentine Out Now!

From CleanReads.com!

Ella punched the button for the lobby and waited. Oh, why had she waited? Why hadn’t she taken the stairs? Behind her, she heard rapid steps thumping down the hallway. She peeked back to see Charlie Murray rushing toward her. He didn’t appear calm and mellow, like at the restaurant—not even charming and confident, as he’d been in the office. No, he was angry. Why on earth should he be angry? She’s the one who just lost her job.

Oh, dear Lord! I lost my job! No, I just quit my job. She held up the photograph. “George, I am a colossal idiot.”

What had she done? Obviously, she needed more prayer than she thought. And now what was Charlie planning to do to her? She decided not to stick around and find out. In a flash, she took off down the side hall toward the stairs. She pulled open the heavy steel door and glanced over to see Charlie still coming right for her, and this time he was jogging. After running through the doorway, she took the cement steps to the floor below as quickly as she could.

“Ella, stop!”

She paused on a step for just a second to peer up at Charlie staring down at her, a deep frown marring his handsome face.

“Stop following me. I quit, remember?”

“I remember. Now hold on. We need to discuss this.” He started down the stairs.

Her heart raced with panic. With his much longer legs, he was bound to catch up with her in no time. She launched herself down the next set of stairs. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

“Yes, there is,” he shouted back. “Now stand still, because I’m bringing you back to the office with me one way or another.”

She stopped and his footsteps ceased, as well. Would he actually force her back to the office? She could almost imagine him picking her up and tossing her over his shoulder fireman-style to carry her back to the office.

Carefully, she peeked up the stairwell. Shimmering brown eyes filled with determination met hers. Her breathing from all the running remained elevated.

“Ella…what are you running off…like that…for?”

Charlie stood right in front of her now, a little short of breath and patience, too. He couldn’t hide the flash of annoyance ruminating in his dark eyes, as he stared her down.

Like he had any right to be mad at her! What had she done? Not a thing. Except quit. And she had every right to do that. The longer she looked at him and ignored the cute dimple in his cheek, the angrier she got.

“Now, just take a step back, mister.” She held her palm out to him. “I quit, and you have no right to force me to come back.” With her wool coat in place, she felt incredibly warm. Why had she put it on when she was still inside the building? A trickle of perspiration formed at the back of her neck.
“You’re right.” The way he smiled just then made it absolutely impossible to ignore the dimple a second longer and her anger began to wane.

But then she remembered why she could never see this man again, never be in his presence, and most definitely never work for him. That Saturday night. The flirting. The fake number.

“Y…you should have told me,” she blurted out, “who you really are.” His eyes opened wider, as if confused. “At the diner. ‘Just Charlie.’” She firmed her mouth and tilted her head slightly.

In response, he gave her a relaxed smile. He leaned into the wall of the stairwell and placed his hands into his pockets. “I like just being Charlie. It fits me a whole lot better than Charles Murray II.”

His sincerity at that moment moved something deep inside her chest. It must have been her heartstrings. It had been a long time since someone had yanked on them. She’d done her very best to keep them hidden away. Away from the players, the liars and the commitment-a-phobes. Away from anyone looking one iota like Mr. Charles Murray II.

And yet she couldn’t help but think that Charlie wasn’t like many of the men she’d dated. He had eyes that seemed too direct and too earnest to ever intentionally hurt someone. And it seemed as if the boss’s son carried a burden of his own. You probably needed big shoulders to carry the Murray name around. Although, in point of fact, Charlie had mighty broad shoulders, now that she came to think of it.

Oh, she couldn’t think. Her emotions were a blur racing through her system. Pondering the width of Charlie’s shoulders was not helping. She lowered her eyes and leaned against the door to the third floor. If she looked into his eyes one more second, he could probably get her to do whatever he wanted. She glanced at the photograph and focused on George’s face. If only her brother were here now. He’d get her out of this mess.

For one mad moment Ella Valentine steps outside her comfort zone and ends up caught in a lie and saddled with a new boss who she suspects might be losing his mind. Now he has her enacting insane acts of espionage while trying to catch the culprit who has embezzled money from their company. 

Charles “Charlie” Murray II might be heir to the Murray family dynasty, but he’d rather be off creating than running the CFO office. However, if he can discover who’s been stealing from the company then he just might attain the position of his dreams or will he sacrifice it all to be with Ella.

Available from CleanReads.com.

Buy at Amazon.


GoodRead Reader Interactions

I've heard such varied stories from authors about their interactions with readers on GoodReads--some good and many not so good. It has sent a number of authors running from this social media site. Even I avoided the place in the past, but ever since my latest YA novel released in March, I have been utilizing the site a good deal. In fact, the site Seekerville asked me to write an article for writers on how and why to use GoodReads. You can find that article here. I was told later it was the most viewed article on their site that month.

But I have to say that I have had some of the best reader interactions with teen readers over at GoodReads. I'm not there as often as I was back in March and April, but I pop in every now and then. The other night I had another fun interaction with a teen reader. We were discussing one of Jenny B. Jones' books when she messaged me this:
             "Jenny B. Jones reminds me so much of your book, Andrea and The Five Day Challenge. Which BTW I think about your book almost every day...It was awesome!"

It is moments like this that makes this whole crazy, harried author life worth it. I love sharing my stories and knowing that they are being read and being loved as much I do.