Monthly Archives: January 2016


A great book deserves to look the part!

I’ve featured Deb Dorchak and Wendi Kelly of Blue Sun Studios, Inc. here a couple of times now. That’s because they are good. Whether it’s their own Bonds of Blood & Spirit paranormal series or the book design and website creation services they provide to their clients, they are known for QUALITY.

The Bonds of Blood & Spirit paranormal saga

The Bonds of Blood & Spirit paranormal saga

If you’re in or near the Las Vegas area, you have an opportunity to learn how they create their stunning book covers.

Starting February 6th Deb will present a four-part course BOOK DESIGN FOR AUTHORS.

Basically, it’s everything you need to know to get started with Adobe Photoshop and InDesign.

Deb values one-on-one time with her students, so attendance is limited to SEVEN for each four-week cycle. So you want to secure your place today.  Click HERE for program and registration details.


SIA by Josh Grayson

A young woman wakes up in a park with amnesia and is shocked to discover she’s the high school mean girl.



I love it when male authors really “get” their female characters. Josh Grayson introduces us to Sia at her most vulnerable–lost and confused and in terrible physical danger. The homeless community scenes are scary and plunge us firmly into the world of the novel and Sia’s point of view. This makes Kyle’s enraged reaction to her showing up at the homeless shelter is as stinging as if we were the one he chased out into the the street. The scene also functions as the pivot that turns everything we know about this sweet, lost kid inside out. Sia may not know who she is, but we’re starting to, and it isn’t pretty.

Grayson manages to take YA cliches like mean girls, drunk moms, absent fathers and turn them on their heads through Sia’s willingness to take the hard road in her quest for redemption. Sure, there’s a bit of fairy tale here, but Sia lives in Hollywood and has a father in the entertainment business, so there’s at least a tenuous realism to the events that take place toward the end of the book.

For me, SIA called up memories of the movie CLUELESS. Darker and grittier, maybe, but it’s the same flavor. I’m not normally a fan of Queen Bees, but this Cinderella-in-reverse story has earned its spot on my (virtual) Keeper Shelf.


Financial blogger Ruth Soukup offers advice for getting the most out of life without going broke.

Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life

Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life

I was surprised at the depth of this book. There’s more here than tips on how to get stuff cheap or cut your grocery bill, though that kind of information is included. But the author also shares her own personal demons–clinical depression bad enough to lead to hospitalization, compulsive overspending. She makes clear the link between emotional conflict and overbuying, clutter and excessive spending, and offers a good discussion on the philosophy behind moderation.

On the practical side, there are plenty of questions and exercises to help readers define The Good Life as it relates to their own lives. Soukup shows how to take steps toward gaining control of your wants, so that you meet your needs and build a solid money management style. The tone throughout is conversational and approachable. There’s a definite Christian slant, but it doesn’t cross the line into preachy and it doesn’t diminish the book’s value to those with a more secular view of the world.

A useful book about the meaning of money and the power it exerts.


A sentinel demon with anger management issues must rescue a woman who holds the secret to defeating his kind’s biggest enemy.

A Dangerous Fury (The Sentinel Demons, #3)

A Dangerous Fury

This is my favorite of J.S.Scott’s Sentinel Demons series. Hunter Winston is by far the darkest and most complex of the three sentinel “brothers.” His zeal for killing “Evils” (the bad demons) makes him break all sorts of rules and gets him into serious trouble. As we learn, Hunter has plenty of reasons to be bitter. In many ways his long-term mission has been much harder and more damaging that those of his brother demons, Zach and Drew.

The future of all the Sentinels depends on his current assignment, but this woman he’s charged with protecting isn’t easy to trace. Hunter has to fight his way to her hidden mansion. By the time he gets there, he’s not a happy camper. I can’t say much more or even give the woman’s name without completely spoiling a plot full of unexpected twists that shed light on the creation of these unique demons and their mission to protect humanity.

There’s amazing chemistry between the leads. Scott builds up Hunter’s bad attitude so well that we expect an explosion when the couple finally comes together. Which brings me to my only real criticism of the book–the romantic tension resolves too quickly. I wanted a more stubbornly rebellious Hunter, who fights his attraction to this woman tooth and nail. However, even with the premature tying up of the romance part, there’s plenty of action and plot revelations to keep you reading.

An exciting and entertaining paranormal romance.

FIRST TO FALL by Olivia Blake

A college freshman finds herself falling for the owner of a local bookstore who has issues with their age difference.

First to Fall (Lessons in Love, #1)

First to Fall

The hero and heroine in FIRST TO FALL aren’t your usual NA couple. Alyssa is a college freshman with a passion for books and Kyle is about ten years older and owns a bookstore. He’s kind of jaded and his attraction to this spunky younger woman sets off all sorts of alarms for him. His continual angst over their growing relationship can get a little annoying at times. But the bookstore setting is believable and the author uses it and events surrounding it to effectively to bring the characters together. Alyssa also has an interesting group of friends–good material for future novellas in this planned series.

For a novella there’s plenty of character and plot. It escapes most of the cliches that can undermine New Adult books. I plan to read the other books in the series.

LOVE THE HOME YOU HAVE by Melissa Michaels

Lifestyle blogger Melissa Michaels explores what home means to each of us and how we can find pleasure and comfort in even the most imperfect living spaces.

Love the Home You Have

Love the Home You Have

The organization of this book is a bit scattered. Overall there’s a nice exploration of how our expectations and the need to impress others can undermine our happiness at home. The author writes from a definite Christian perspective, but it doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment of less religious readers. The 31-day challenge provides an opportunity to explore and deepen your relationship to your living spaces.

Personally, I found too much focus on interior design tips. The book is at its best when it discusses the meaning behind “home” and how to re-frame your view of where you live and make the most of what you have.

BLUSH by Shirley Hershey Showalter

An academic looks back on the joys and challenges of her Mennonite girlhood.

Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World

Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World

You’d think an academic writing a memoir would pose a fish-vs-fowl situation, but Shirley Hershey Showalter does a wonderful job balancing the highly personal memories of a daughter and parishioner with the acute observations of a social scientist. I’ve read a couple of 1950s-era memoirs lately and I love how this one gives its lens on the past an extra half-turn, so that we get a view of the time period through the eyes of someone whose particular upbringing meant she lived outside of it even as it went on around her.

Showalter expresses warmth and affection for the Plain Mennonite way of life while also considering where it failed to serve some members. She’s equally honest in her consideration of herself and her sometimes uneasy place within the plain Mennonite community. By then end of the book, I I understood the conflict she faced caught between the secure world she knew and the aspirations which would carry her away from it.