Review (Christian Fiction): Forever After (Hanover Falls, Book 2) by Deborah Raney

Monday, June 27, 2011

Forever After (Hanover Falls, Book 2)
by Deborah Raney
Copyright 2011
Howard Books
406 pages
ISBN:
Fiction/Christian/Suspense

From the publisher:
A fire killed his best friend and his lifelong dream of being a firefighter. The same fire killed her husband and hopes for a family. Can new dreams replace old?

Lucas Vermontez was a proud firefighter like his father. Now, not only has he lost his father and his best friend, Zach, in the fire at the Grove Street homeless shelter, but the devoted rookie can no longer do the work he loves after being crippled in the tragic event. When friendship with his buddy's beautiful widow turns into more, he wonders, what could he possibly offer Jenna? Jenna Morgan is trying to grieve her husband's death like a proper widow, but the truth is, she never really loved Zach. His death feels more like a relief to her. But that relief is short-lived when she loses her home and the financial support of her in-laws. Now the secrets of her past threaten to destroy her future.

Can the two forget the painful past and discover new reasons to live and love?


My Review:
Romance readers, if you are looking for a sweet story of two people finding love amidst tragedy, Deborah Raney writes the most poignant, believable story that you won't want to end. This latest installment in the Hanover Falls series does not disappoint. The fire at the Grove Street homeless shelter that shattered so many lives and affected so many families once again brings two people together to discover friendship and find love like any either has experienced. Lucas Vermontez and Jenna Morgan are both suffering, broken people but the faith that they both learn to lean on helps them on their journey. There's nothing contrived or forced in this novel. The natural ups and downs in relationships that a lot of romantic stories ignore, is brought front and center. To me that makes this a refreshing and "real" story. The first moments between Jenna and Lucas are full to brimming with romantic tension, which everyone loves in romance, but there are also some nice, healthy arguments that you don't often see. All in all this book was a great story and I very much look forward to reading what happens next in Hanover Falls.

To learn more about the author visit:

* I received my complimentary copy through GRPR in exchange for posting my honest review during the tour.*

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Review and Giveaway: The Art of Romance (Matchmakers, Book 2) by Kaye Dacus

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Art of Romance (Matchmakers, Book 2)
by Kaye Dacus
Copyright 2011
Barbour Books
320 pages
ISBN: 978-1-60260-990-7
Fiction/Christian/Romance

From the publisher:
Dylan Bradley, who once illustrated steamy romances under the name Patrick Callaghan, has moved into his grandparent’s guest house in Nashville. Caylor Evans, having once written titillating novels under the penname Melanie Mason, lives with her grandmother. When their lives collide, due to the machinations of meddling matriarchs, the pasts of Dylan and Caylor threaten to derail their futures. Will they accept each other for who they now are—and once were? Or will they never discover the true art of romance?

My Review:
4 out of 5 stars

If you are a fan of "fluff" romance than The Art of Romance probably isn't what you're looking for but if you like your books to feature realistic heroines with well-researched storylines I highly suggest picking up a Kaye Dacus novel. Having read all of her previous contemporary romances it's safe to say that she's got the smart, independent, educated lead down pat. There are no "too dumb to function" heroines to be found and yet they are not without flaws.

In this, the second installment of the Matchmakers series, we once again meet Caylor Evans, a thirty-something English professor by day and romance writer by night and struggling artist, Dylan Bradley. Neither Caylor or Dylan are looking for a relationship, Caylor having to take care of her aging grandmother and Dylan having just left a disastrous relationship with a former colleague, but God and grandmas are a team that will not be thwarted. Where Love Remains didn't include a lot from the meddling grandmas, this book more than made up for it. From setting up a "fantastic" kitchen remodel to painting daisies in an art class for seniors Sassy and Perty were unstoppable and I loved them. If anyone knows about grannies concerned for their still single grandkids, it's me and these two matriarchs were right on target.

As much as I loved the Sassy, Perty, and Caylor, Dylan wasn't my favorite hero. I definitely liked him towards the end of the book when he learned to be a little more assertive. I guess I am so used to the big, strong, alpha male heroes that Dylan came as a bit of a shock allowing his ex-girlfriend and his family to have so much control in his life. Not only was he a bit diffident but also a lot younger than Caylor. That said, I really appreciated Ms. Dacus breaking the mold so to speak with this story and making it reflect modern day trends, I just have to get used to it I think! Altogether, The Art of Romance is a terrific book and perfect for today's Christian reader.


To learn more about the author visit:

* I received my copy from the publisher in exchange for posting my thoughts on the book for the author.*

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Giveaway!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Enter to win my gently read copy of The Art of Romance!
~Leave a comment letting me know you'd like to be entered to win with a way to contact you if you are the winner. That's it!
~US residents only
~ Contest open until Monday, July 4, 2011 @ 11:59pm EST. Winner will be drawn using random.org and announced here and contacted via email. Winner has 48 hours to respond to email or another winner will be selected. Void where prohibited. I'm not responsible for prizes lost or misdirected by the post office.

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Pet Project: Meet my dog, Coco!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

If you are a fan of pets you definitely need to check out author Cerella Sechrist's website and her Pet Project feature. Each week she features a different blogger and their furry friend(s) and today she featured Coco and me. Stop by and visit to learn a little more about us and tell Cerella hi!

FIRST Wild Card Blog Tour + Review: Breath of Angel by Karyn Henley

Monday, June 20, 2011

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Breath of Angel

WaterBrook Press (June 21, 2011)

***Special thanks to Lynette Kittle, Senior Publicist, WaterBrook Multnomah, a Division of Random House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Karyn Henley has written over 100 titles, along with being an accomplished songwriter nominated for a Dove Award. She also received a regional Emmy Award as Music Composer for a television special and lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, a jazz drummer.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In Breath of Angel (WaterBrook Press, June 21, 2011), award winning author Karyn Henley brings to life the tale of Melaia, a young priestess who witnesses the murder of a stranger in the temple courtyard. A place where age-old legends recited in song suddenly come to life, in this story of two immortal brothers quest for restoration.

With Angels. Shape-shifters. Myths and stories… Melaia finds herself in the middle of a blood feud between two immortal brothers who destroyed the stairway to heaven, stranding angels in the earthly realm.

Young readers are sure to be intrigued and dig deeper into this make-believe story that explores the payment for redemption.



Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 21, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307730123
ISBN-13: 978-0307730121

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The prick of the thorn drew blood, but Melaia smiled. The last ramble rose of the season was well worth a pierced thumb. She carefully drew the blossom from the vine that clung to the side of the temple. As she breathed its rich, sweet scent, she sensed someone watching and looked up, expecting to see one of the novice priestesses. She saw only dry leaves skittering across the flagstones of the walled courtyard, along with a black feather, no doubt from a bird scavenging seeds in the woodpile.

Then a haggard young man stepped through the gate, and Melaia drew back. The chill autumn breeze riffled the edge of his dirt-stained cloak, revealing the corner of a journey pack and the hilt of a dagger. Melaia gave him a tentative nod.

“I’ve come—” His voice was dirt dry. He wiped his fist across his mouth.

“I’ll fetch water.” Melaia tucked the rose into her waist sash and headed for the stone urn by the arched doorway. “Travelers are always welcome at our temple. We’ve pallets if you wish to stay the night.” She would have to check with the high priestess, but Hanni rarely turned away weary travelers.

“My thanks,” the man croaked.

Melaia flipped back her loose honey brown braid and dipped a pottery cup into the cool water. “I’m chantress here, always eager to hear new tales from travelers.”

The young man looked too weary to tell tales. Or too ill. His dark-ringed eyes darted from one afternoon shadow to another, and he cocked his head as if he heard something beyond the walls.

“We’re healers here as well,” she offered.

For a moment his wild eyes focused on her. Then he glanced above her head, and his hand went to his dagger.

But he never drew it.

A hawk, larger than any she’d ever seen, shot like an arrow past Melaia and sank its talons into the stranger’s chest. The man’s raw screams pierced the air as the hawk’s beak knifed at his throat.

Melaia stood stunned and speechless. But as the hawk flapped its great wings and lifted the man a handbreadth off the flagstones, her senses surged back.

She snatched a branch from the woodpile and swung it at the hawk. The raptor screeched and dropped the stranger. “Fight!” she yelled at him. “Fight back!”

But it was the hawk that fought, its wings beating at her stick as its claws snagged the man again. At last Melaia struck a solid blow to the hawk’s head, and it skidded sideways. She chased after it, but the raptor took to the air, quickly rose, and soared away over the domed roof of the temple.

Melaia flung aside the stick and fell to her knees by the bloodied man. Then she covered her mouth and swallowed a bitter taste. “Most High, have mercy,” she croaked. Seeing wounds so deep and blood flowing freely, she wasn’t surprised that the stranger’s mistlike spirit had emerged from his body.

As a death-prophet, she could see the shadowy echo writhing around his form as he struggled to live.

“Mellie? Is it safe?” Dark-eyed Iona stood in the temple doorway, holding back the other two novices. At fourteen, she was the motherly one, although Melaia was two years older. Curly-haired Peron, still baby plump at six, peered around Iona, clutching her skirts, while twelve-year-old Nuri broke away from them and ran across the yard, her usual dimpled smile gone.

“Is he dead?” Nuri asked.

“Not yet,” Melaia told her. “Take Peron and fetch a basket of plumwort. And water.”

Nuri stared at the man’s wounds. “We saw the hawk.”

“Go!” said Melaia. “I need plumwort to stanch the bleeding.”

As Nuri dashed away, Melaia wondered why the high priestess hadn’t appeared.

“Where’s Hanni?” she called to Iona.

“Summoned to a birthing. The weaver’s wife.” Iona nervously twisted the end of her black braid.

“Then come help me carry the man inside.”

Melaia hesitated. She was often called to the bedside of the dying to confirm the moment of death, but never had she been required to reach through a spirit to touch someone. Of course, other people did it all the time, she told herself. They just couldn’t see the struggling, mistlike layer. She took a deep breath, grasped the man’s bloodied cloak, and pressed it to the gashes in his chest. His spirit pooled around her wrists, vibrating like a throat quivering with speech.

“Can you hear me?” Melaia asked, keeping pressure on his wound. The stranger’s spirit thrummed frantically, as if he were trying to say something.

“Where’s the plumwort?” Melaia yelled.

Nuri ran across the yard, sloshing a jar of water. Peron trotted behind her with the basket of plumwort. Iona knelt at the man’s feet, her mouth moving silently in prayer.

Melaia reached for the plumwort, but the man’s spirit slid off his body, thinned into a stream, and seeped through a crack in the flagstones. A sudden, grim silence fell over the yard. Melaia shook her head at Nuri and Peron and closed the man’s green-flecked eyes.

Peron stuck out her lower lip. “I was too slow.”

“No, I was.” Nuri’s shoulders drooped.

“No one’s at fault,” said Melaia, but she couldn’t help thinking that the man might still be alive if she had only laid into the hawk sooner. “Let’s get him inside.” She lifted his upper body. For his bulk he was surprisingly light.

Iona lifted his legs. “Starved twig-thin,” she said. “Poor man.”

They carried the stranger to the sanctuary altar, the bier for those who

could afford no better. Melaia took a deep breath, wishing Hanni were there.

“Iona, find me a winding-sheet,” she said. “Peron, go with Nuri. Fetch more

water and scrub the courtyard.”

“But it’s bloody,” said Nuri. Peron wrinkled her nose.

“Would you rather clean the man’s body?” asked Melaia. Nuri and Peron

scrambled out the door. Iona followed.

Melaia gently eased the man’s cloak from his chest and winced, wondering where Hanni would begin. She exhaled slowly. “Start with the easiest,” she murmured.

She untangled his pack from one forearm. As she slipped it free, she noticed the end of a small scroll clenched in his fist. “First the pack,” she told herself, glancing around. Her gaze fell on a shelf of incense bowls. She stashed the pack there, then turned back to the altar-bier and froze.

The stranger’s cloak had fallen back and, with it, a long, white, bloodstained wing.

Melaia’s knees almost buckled. “An angel?” she whispered. It couldn’t be. Angels were found only in legends. Chanters’ stories. Bedtime tales.

Iona’s voice echoed down the corridor. “Do we need more water?”

Melaia jerked the cloak back around the man.

Iona strode in with a bundle of white linen. “Do we need more water?”

“We need Hanni,” said Melaia.

“You look as if you’ve seen the man’s ghost.” Iona looked around. “Has he

returned?”

“Just go get Hanni.”

Distant drums signaled the closing of Navia’s city gates and the change of watch on the walls. On the altar-bier in the temple, the winged man lay serene and clean, covered in white linen up to his chin. Melaia didn’t often sit with the dead, but as she lit the oil lamps behind the bier, she decided that tonight she would request a vigil. She hoped the high priestess would join her, for she had a night’s worth of questions to ask.

But so far, the high priestess hadn’t returned. She had sent Iona back to say

that the birthing was a difficult one and she must stay with it, although she was upset at the news of a death in the side yard. Hanni intended to stop by the overlord’s villa and bring his advisor, Benasin, back to the temple with her.

As Melaia held the flaming twist of rushweed to the last wick, she eyed the three girls munching their supper on a reed mat across the room. With Hanni gone they had asked to stay with Melaia instead of eating in the hearthroom down the hall. She was glad for their company. She felt as shaky as they did, although she hadn’t told them about the stranger’s wings. She wanted Hanni’s opinion first.

Melaia tossed the spent rushweed into the brazier in the center of the room and stirred the coals into flame. For a moment she watched the smoke curl up and drift like a dying spirit out through the roof hole above. Except dying spirits always drifted down, not up.

“I’m saving my scraps for the chee-dees,” Peron said, scooping her crumbs into a tiny hill.

“Fetch your crumb jar from the storeroom, then,” said Melaia. “When you’ve finished cleaning up, I’ll tell a story.”

Peron stared warily at the dark corridor that lay beyond the bier.

“I’ll go with you.” Nuri slipped one of the lamps from its niche. With an uneasy smile she guided Peron to the corridor, giving wide berth to the bier.

Iona stoppered the olive oil. “Peron is telling tales again. This time it’s about two falcons scaring away her songbird friends.”

“She must have been inspired by the hawk in the yard today.” Melaia stacked the empty wooden bowls and glanced at the stranger who should have eaten a meal with them tonight.

“Peron said the falcons were darker than closed eyes,” said Iona. “I can picture that.” Melaia lifted her harp from its peg.

“And they had people hands.” Iona rolled her eyes.

“That I can’t picture,” said Melaia. “Too ghoulish.”

Iona laughed. “With such an imagination Peron will surely become a chantress.”

A shriek came from the corridor. Peron darted into the room, hugging her crumb jar, with Nuri on her heels. Both girls were open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

Behind them limped a sharp-nosed, beardless man wearing a cloak fashioned

completely of feathers—brown, black, and an iridescent blue that glinted in the lamplight. The skin around one of his round gold eyes was blackened, and a scratch jagged across his brow.

Melaia went cold, head to toe. How had the man entered? Had she left the side door unbolted?

Nuri and Peron ran to Iona, and all three huddled by the wall. Melaia stifled her impulse to join them. Hanni had left her in charge, so in charge she would be. She had fought off a murdering hawk. She had prepared a bloody winged man for burial. She would stand up to this intruder.

She strode to the brazier, her hands clammy as she clung to her harp. “This is the temple of the Most High,” she said, hoping he wouldn’t hear the quaver in her voice.

“So it is,” he hissed, limping to the bier. “I believe I noticed that.” “What’s your business here?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Surely you’re not the high priestess.”

“She’s the chantress,” blurted Peron.

“Ah. Singer of songs, soother of sorrows,” he crooned.

“If you’re here for our treasury box, take it and be on your way,” said Melaia.

“I have unfinished business with the high priestess,” he said.

“You can find her at the overlord’s villa,” said Melaia.

“No doubt.” With a gloved hand he slid back the sheet that covered the corpse. He smiled at the gashes, then studied Melaia. “Chantress, play your harp for me.”

Melaia gaped at him. “You have no right—”

“Or let me play it,” he said. “The little girl can bring it. The one who feeds the birds.”

Peron’s eyes grew round as the supper bowls, and she shrank behind Iona’s skirts.

Melaia hugged the harp tighter to her chest and glared at the man defiantly, even as she fought back a fear that curdled in the pit of her stomach. How long had this swaggerer been spying on them?

His unblinking gold eyes stared back at her. “I do not take disobedience lightly.” His voice was ice. “Send the girl with the harp or play it yourself.”

Melaia swallowed dryly. She felt her courage fall as limp as the poor stranger in the yard. Keeping her eyes on the intruder, she sank to a bench by the brazier and positioned the harp in her lap.

“Let us hear the tale of the Wisdom Tree,” he said. “You know it, don’t you, Chantress?”

Melaia scowled at him and motioned for the girls to join her. As she fingered

the melody, they silently gathered around, and she breathed easier. Together they were safer, with the brazier as a barrier between them and the bully.

She turned her attention back to the harp, and over the music she spoke the tale.

In a time long ago, there lived a tribal chieftain whose firstborn son was

a wealthy trader, his second-born a lone hunter. Each year at harvest festival, his sons vied to present him with the best gift. The Firstborn always gave perfumes, musicians, slave dancers, the treasures of his trade. The Second-born presented partridges, deerskins, lion-claw necklaces, the spoils of the hunt. But the Second-born thought his gifts paltry compared to those of the Firstborn. So he set out to seek the greatest gift of all.

Far and wide he journeyed, to no avail. At last, weary and discouraged, he lay to rest in the shade of a tree as tall and wide as the tower of a citadel. The Wisdom Tree it was, bearing fruit that granted the eater knowledge and cleverness.

Peron popped her thumb out of her mouth and chanted, “Within this tree stood the stairway to heaven made wholly of light.”

“Exactly,” said Melaia, glad that for the moment the tale was distracting Peron from the intruder, whose gold eyes held a hungry glitter. Melaia continued:

An angel named Dreia, guardian of the Tree, saw the Second son lying there and asked the cause of his despair. When he told his tale, she pitied him and gave him the juice of one fruit. “This will grant you knowledge and cleverness to find the right gift for your father,” she said.

As he sipped the juice, the man’s eyes brightened. “I know the perfect gift,” he said. “A fruit from this Tree.”

Dreia hadn’t intended to give the man a whole fruit. Its seeds were precious, carried by angels into the heavens to plant wisdom trees in worlds among the stars. Yet the man was handsome, his entreaties eloquent.

At last Dreia said, “You may take one fruit if you vow to bring me the first creature that greets you when you arrive home. This I shall send over the stairway as payment. Moreover, you shall return the three

seeds of this fruit, for they are strictly forbidden to mortals. Should you fail to repay your debt, the Tree itself shall exact payment in breath and blood.”

The Second-born agreed to the bargain, for the one who always greeted his homecoming was his old hunting dog. Taking his dog and the seeds back to Dreia would be good reason to see the beautiful angel again. So he carried the fruit home.

While he was still afar off, he saw, bounding across the field to greet him, his young niece. “Uncle!” she cried. “Terrible news. Your old hunting dog has died.”

The Second-born fell to his knees and wept, not for his dog, but for his niece, the only daughter of the Firstborn, now to be payment for his debt.

Melaia paused as the intruder slipped off his gloves. His fingernails were long, curved, and sharp. Talons. Her pulse pounded at her throat. His blackened eye, his scratched brow, his feathered cloak, his limp.

She had met him before. As a hawk.

“Is there no ending to the tale?” He smirked at her recognition of him and stroked the corpse. “I favor endings.”

Melaia felt foggy, as if she were in a dream. She tried to gather her thoughts.

“The Second-born knew only one way to escape his debt,” Iona prompted.

“Yes.” Melaia cleared her throat and forced out the words.

The Second-born knew he had to destroy the Wisdom Tree.

Dreia saw an army approaching, the Second son in the lead, betrayal in his heart. She gathered what angels she could. Some plucked the remaining fruit and hastened over the stairway to celestial worlds.

Others stayed behind to defend the Tree. But these were not warring angels. The best they could do was save some of the wood as the Tree fell and was plundered by men who wanted pieces for themselves.

“That was the end of the stairway,” Nuri said.

“And the end of angels in our world,” added Iona.

“But the brothers planted the seeds of the Wisdom Tree,” offered Peron,

“didn’t they?”

“They did.” Melaia set the harp aside. “The brothers learned that cultivating wisdom takes patience.”

The girls chimed in, “Wisdom, over time, is earned.”

The hawkman hissed. “A pitiful ending and woefully false.” He pointed a taloned finger at Melaia. “Remember this, Chantress. The Second-born abducted his niece and headed for Dreia. But fortune was with the Firstborn, for

I discovered the treachery in time to rescue my daughter. To ensure that the Tree never collected on the debt, I destroyed it. My daughter and I ate the seeds, round and shiny, red as blood. We became immortal!”

“You’re trying to haunt us with our own tale.” Melaia took up a poker and stabbed the coals in the brazier, determined not to show her fear. “There were three seeds.”

“So there were,” said the hawkman. “The third I crammed down my brother’s throat. Now he owes his debt for all eternity. And it is my pleasure to make sure he never repays.” He grinned at the dead man. “Son of Dreia, this night you are destroyed.”

He snatched up the corpse, and its wings unfolded. The girls shrieked and ran to Melaia.

The hawkman dropped the body back to the bier as if it had burned him.

Then he cursed and shoved it to the floor. He scanned the room. “The man

had a pack. Where is it?”

“Maybe he lost it in the side yard.” Melaia felt her face grow warm at the half lie.

But the man didn’t press his search. Instead, he stiffened and stared at the front door, his head cocked, listening. Melaia heard only wind, but the hawkman slowly retreated, tense as a cat backing away from danger. He glanced from the door to the window to the roof hole, where smoke drifted into the night. Then he hurtled toward the brazier, and his body contorted.

All of Melaia’s instincts screamed at her to run, but she stayed her feet, clenched her jaw, and gripped the poker with both hands. As the hawk leaped into the flames, she swung with all her might.

She struck only air as he rose in the smoke and vanished.



My Review:
I'll admit to not reading a lot of Christian Fantasy fiction but I have read a lot of mainstream fantasy and I have to say that Breath of Angel could definitely hold its own with most of them. Fans of fast-paced, action-packed stories will definitely enjoy this venture into a world of angels, malevolents (not a misspelling), and draks with the ever popular good vs. evil theme. While this book is entertaining, it's never over the top on violence or language and there's just a slight hint of romance so it's suitable for the younger crowd. I'm warning you parents however, don't let your teens start this book on a school night because they won't want to put it down. The journey that Melaia faces to rescue her friends becomes a quest to reclaim stolen mystical harps, restore the Wisdom Tree, and rebuild the stairway to Heaven. It's nothing short of exciting. I really enjoyed it and I'm sure others, young and old alike will too.

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Clash of the Titles: Best Protagonist Clash Winner





-guest post by April W Gardner


Rosslyn Elliot--Winner of the


Best Protagonist Clash





Fairer Than Morning was voted as having the best protagonist description by Clash of the Titles readers. Her worthy competitor was Pamela Thibodeaux's Tempered Hearts.





A snapshot of her winning excerpt:


Will groaned. His eyes still would not focus, though the barn’s spinning was slowing. The barn door rattled as Master Good left. Will raised his fingers to the side of his head, where he could feel a huge lump already forming. A sharp sting revealed a break in the skin. His fingers were slick and red when he held them up close enough to focus on them. He would live. Tom’s head had bled worse than this, when the master hit him with the poker two weeks ago. He thought vaguely that he would have to wash the blood off before dinner, or he would get another thrashing. Read full blurb here





A couple reader comments:


  • Tom's scene gave vivid picture of the protagonist was, and the dream of who he might become. I wonder what angel of mercy found him in such a state...

  • Taking on slavery from a historic and spiritual perspective seems really important and challenging. I liked the way you allow your protagonist to experience fear.




Rosslyn says:


For me, a good protagonist is admirable but also real, which means he must have sympathetic traits and also flaws. I find the most sympathetic traits to be courage, compassion, faith, sincerity, and loyalty. I want the protagonist’s weakness to be a significant problem, not just a cosmetic story device. Read full interview here:








Want to get in on the voting action? Head over to Clash of the Titles now and cast your ballot for this week's Clash!








PLEASE CHECK


OUT OUR EXCITING NEW VENTURE:


Join us in June as we premier COTT's book club! Karen Witemeyer and her COTT winning novel, A Tailor-Made Bride is up as our first read . More details and to vote for July's book, CLICK HERE.



--April W Gardner is the senior editor at the literary site,


Clash of the Titles. She is also the award-winning author of Wounded Spirits.

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Litfuse Blog Tour: Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond

Friday, June 17, 2011

Spring for Susannah
by Catherine Richmond
Copyright 2011
Thomas Nelson Publishers
348 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59554-924-2
Fiction/Christian/Romance

From the publisher:
Hundreds of miles from home, Susannah faces an uncertain future as a mail-order bride on the untamed Dakota prairie.

When her parents die suddenly, and no suitors call, Susannah resigns herself to the only option available: becoming a mail-order bride. Agreeing to marry her pastor's brother, Jesse, Susannah leaves the only home she's ever known for the untamed frontier of the Dakota Territory.
Her new husband is more loving and patient with her than she believes she deserves. Still, there is also a wildness to him that mirrors the wilderness surrounding them. And Susannah finds herself constantly on edge. But Jesse's confidence in her—and his faith in God's perfect plan—slowly begin to chip away at the wall she hides behind.

When she miscarries in the brutal Dakota winter, Susannah's fledgling faith in herself and in God begins to crumble. Still, Jesse's love is unwavering. Just when it seems like winter will never end, Susannah finally sees the first tentative evidence of spring. And with it, the realization that more than the landscape has changed.

She looks to the future with a renewed heart. Yet in her wildest dreams, she couldn't predict all that awaits her.


My Review:
It's not often that I give 5 stars to a debut novelist but for Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond, I wish I could give 5 1/2 stars. In recent years it has seemed as though the "serious" prairie romance has gone by the wayside in favor of more lighthearted westerns or war-time romances. Not since Janette Oke's, Love Comes Softly have I read a marriage of convenience story that captured my heart as completely as Spring for Susannah. I'm happy to say that Catherine Richmond has made me want more more more in this genre. The characters, the atmosphere, the romance, the tragedy, the growth; I loved every word of it. From shy, proper Susannah who is so full of sadness and doubt to the outspoken yet patient Jesse this story is magnetic. It reads a lot like a diary since we not only follow every struggle of Susannah's from her marriage to a relative stranger, her anxieties about intimacy, and her emotional and spiritual growth but each chapter starts off with a brief look at what's going through Jesse's head. I was really taken by surprise by some of the details that the author included but it was all tastefully done and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to anyone who loves a great Christian romance.


To check out what other readers thought of this book visit the Litfuse Blog Tour post HERE

*I received my complimentary copy through Litfuse Publicity in exchange for posting my review during the tour.*

********************

To celebrate her debut novel, Catherine and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away a Spring For Susannah Prize Package worth over $150!




One grand prize winner will receive:

* A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen

* Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond (for KINDLE)

To enter just click one of the icons below and then tell your friends! But hurry, giveaway ends on June 27th. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 28th at 5 PM (6PM MST, 7PM CST, & 8PM EST) during Catherine's Spring for Susannah Book Club Party on Facebook! Catherine is rustling up some fun for the party - she'll be chatting about the story behind her novel, hosting a book club chat, testing your mail-order bride trivia skills, and giving away some GREAT prizes! Don't miss the fun and tell your friends!


Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

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Lilies in Moonlight Winner!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hi all, sorry I'm a day late with this winner announcement but I went out of town Tuesday afternoon and I didn't have great computer/internet access. Thank you so much for your patience!

The winner is...

wilmamet6...

Winner has been emailed and will have 48 hours to get back to me with her mailing address or another winner will be drawn.

Thank you all for stopping by, there will be another book giveaway in the near future so be sure to look for it.

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Favorite Protags: Saying Goodbye

Monday, June 13, 2011

Guest post by Amanda Flower
When you finish reading a novel, are you ever sad to see the protagonist go? Does it feel like you’re saying good-bye to a good friend? Those are signs of well-crafted main characters, like the ones in our excerpts this week.
There are many protagonists whom I’ve met in my life who have felt like old friends, and I miss them at the end of the book.
Here are eight of my favorite protagonists and their characteristics which I found most endearing as a young reader and still admire to this day:
1. To Kill a Mockingbird- Scout Finch’s imagination
2. Pride and Prejudice- Elizabeth Bennet’s wit
3. Mouse and the Motorcycle- Ralph S. Mouse’s sense of adventure
4. Charlotte’s Web- Wilbur’s loyalty
5. The Baby Sitter Club Series- Kristy Thomas’s organization skills
6. Jane Eyre- Jane Eyre’s conscience
7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe- Lucy Penvensie’s bravery
8. Mandie Series- Madie Shaw’s crime solving skills

My question for you, who is your favorite protagonist?



***


Make sure to hop on over to COTT this week to get to know the authors of our current Clash:


Best Description of a Protagonist!


***

Amanda Flower is an academic librarian for a small college in Ohio. Her first novel, Maid of Murder, was released in 2010. When she is not at the library or writing her next mystery, she is an avid traveler, aspiring to visit as much of the globe as she can.
She is the author of Maid of Murder
Contact Amanda: amandaflower(at)gmail(dot)com
Amanda's Site, Blog, Facebook

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Review: (Christian Fiction) Courting Miss Amsel by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Courting Miss Amsel
by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Copyright 2011
Bethany House Publishers
346 pages
ISBN: 9780764207846
Historical Fiction

From the publisher:
Edythe Amsel is delighted with her first teaching assignment: a one-room schoolhouse in Walnut Hill, Nebraska. Independent, headstrong, and a firm believer in a well-rounded education, Edythe is ready to open the world to the students in this tiny community. But is Walnut Hill ready for her?

Having raised his nephews since their parents' untimely deaths, Joel Townsend is thrilled to learn the town council has hired a female teacher. His sons could use a woman's influence. But he sure didn't bargain on a woman like Miss Amsel. Within the first week, she has the entire town up in arms over her outlandish teaching methods. Of course, Joel can't help but notice that she's also mighty pretty—and just might make a good mother for his boys.

When Edythe decides to take her pupils to hear Miss Susan Anthony speak on the women's suffrage amendment, the town's outcry reaches new heights. Even Joel isn't sure he can support her newfangled ideas any longer. And if he can't trust her to teach the boys, how can he trust her with his heart?


My Review:
If you're looking for a guaranteed sweet and heart-warming read with more than a smidgen of faith, you can't go wrong with a story from the pen of Kim Sawyer. Each time I pick up her books I'm prepared to relax and enjoy life on the prairie. Don't be fooled by the pretty covers because books by Kim aren't just romances, there are spiritual relationships and neighbor helping neighbor camaraderie that you don't often see nowadays.

While Courting Miss Amsel started out rather slowly by the end I was cheering her on. I feel for all teachers if they go through half of what Edythe did. Walnut Hill is a small town but there sure wasn't a lack of trouble and a woman who was a suffragette ? Ohhhh the horror of it all...at least according to some of the menfolk. ;-) With some of the issues like disciplining unruly students to the aforementioned suffrage debate you really do get a feel for the workings of a prairie school and small-town life.

I liked this story, not for the romance, because there's little of that but for the sheer perseverance and courage that Miss Amsel showed. I've said it before but I'll say it again Kim Vogel Sawyer definitely has that classic style of Janette Oke and Grace Livingstone Hill. She writes an easy, naturally paced story that's always believable and suitable for readers of almost any age. Courting Miss Amsel is a worthwhile read.


To learn more about the author visit:

* I received my review copy from the publisher in exchange for posting my honest review of the book*

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I Love History

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yes I am a lover of history and this site just makes me love it even more. I have a greater appreciation for early photography now too thanks to this site. Just thank me now before you even click the link. Trust me. ;-) I'd love to know what you think!


Note: some of the footnotes contain strong language

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Litfuse Blog Tour: A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf

A Reluctant Queen
by Joan Wolf
Copyright 2011
Thomas Nelson
384 pages
ISBN: 9781595548764
Fiction/Christian/Romance

From the publisher:
You've read it as a biblical tale of courage. Experience it anew as a heart-stirring love story.

She was a simple girl faced with an impossible choice. He was a magnificent king with a lonely heart.

Their love was the divine surprise that changed the course of history.
The beloved story of Esther springs to fresh life in this inspired novel that vibrates with mystery, intrigue, and romance.

My Review:
Biblical fiction is probably my least favorite in the Christian fiction genre, not because of quality but because I'm so familiar with the stories already from Sunday school and church so there's really no twist or dramatic surprises. That said the story of Esther is one of my absolute favorites, who doesn't love a true story of a poor girl who became queen and saved her people? When presented the opportunity to read this latest take on Esther's story I was really excited.

Having read a few other Esther stories I found that A Reluctant Queen was a wonderful book. From the cover (The Love Story of Esther), I thought that this story was going to focus more on the personal relationship between Esther and Ahasuerus and a bit less on the entire Bible story that we all know and love but it didn't. However, I still thought that the author did a wonderful job with Esther. Esther was portrayed as sweet, innocent girl who was scared but so faithful. That said I didn't feel as Ahasuerus was likable. In the author's note Joan Wolf wrote that the king in her story was a bit more admirable but I didn't find that to be so, he still seemed a bit impersonal and distant.

If you're looking for something that is completely accurate, read the Bible story not this book. If you're looking for entertainment and a good clean read as I do when I reach for Christian fiction give this book a try. Overall I'm pleased with Ms. Wolf's first foray into the Christian fiction genre and I believe she has a bright future in the genre.


*I received my complimentary copy in exchange for posting my honest review during the Litfuse tour.*

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To celebrate Joan Wolf’s debut Christian Fiction title, A Reluctant Queen, Joan and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away A Reluctant Queen prize package worth over $150!





One grand prize winner will receive:

* A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen

* A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf (for KINDLE)

To enter, just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the contest ends on June 20th. Winner will be announced on June 21st during Joan’s A Reluctant Queen Book Club Party on Facebook (details below)! Hope to see you there – bring your friends!





Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter


Join the fun on June 21st!

Joan will be wrapping up the blog tour and Kindle giveaway promotion during her A Reluctant Queen FACEBOOK party on her FB author page. During the party she'll announce the winner of the Kindle, host a book chat discussion, test your trivia skills (Is Esther's story in A Reluctant Queen fact or fiction?), and more. Don't miss this chance to meet the author and make some new friends!

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Review: The Bedtime Book for Dogs by Bruce Littlefield

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Bedtime Book for Dogs
by Bruce Littlefield
Copyright 2011
Grand Central Publishing
32 pages
ISBN: 9780446575911
Pets


From the publisher:
Come. Sit. Stay. I want to tell you a story. I think you'll like it. It's about a TREAT and a good dog, a very good dog who wanted to go play. But his friend was busy....

THE BEDTIME BOOK FOR DOGS is a charming story about a dog who decides that he'd rather walk to the park by himself than wait for his human companion-and discovers that all of his usual activities aren't as much fun without a good friend to share them with. This is an adorably packaged book with illustrations by Paul Heath that makes a perfect gift for dog lovers of all ages, with words dogs will understand and kids will want to read again and again.

My Review:
This book is absolutely adorable. The cover says it's perfect for adults and children and I couldn't agree more. It's very easy to read and the illustrations are so freakin' cute! The only bad thing that I can say about it is it should have been packaged with dog treats. This book mentions treats a few times and Coco (my dog) was disappointed not to get one but overall she gives it 2 thumbs paws up!

Recommended for dog lovers and kids everywhere!




To learn more about the book visit:
http://www.bedtimebookfordogs.com/

* I received my complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for posting my honest review.*

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Book Giveaway: Lilies in Moonlight by Allison Pittman


Copyright 2011
Multnomah Books
352 pages
ISBN: 9781601421388
Christian fiction

Book Description:
He’d lost his zest for life. She was just lost. Will they find the healing and love they long for?

After a roaring night on the town, fun-loving flapper Lilly Margolis, dazed and disoriented, twists her ankle and falls into the backyard of a wealthy family where the effects of the Great War—over for more than half a decade—are still endured. Inside the walls of the Burnside mansion, Cullen Burnside, a disillusioned and disfigured veteran, and his widowed mother, Betty Ruth, who daily slips a little further into dementia, lead a lonely existence … until Lilly. Whimsical, lighthearted, and beautiful, she rejuvenates their sad, disconnected lives and blossoms in the light of their attention.

But Lilly, like Cullen, is hiding from a painful past. And when Cullen insists on returning her to her faraway home, their budding attraction seems destined to die on the vine. The resulting road trip becomes a journey of self-discovery—but what will Cullen and Lilly find at journey’s end?



*****

To enter just leave a comment saying you'd like to be entered and leave a valid email disguised something like this steelergirl83(at)gmail(dot)com! Simple! Winner will be drawn at random and notified on Wednesday June 15th, 2011, and will have 48 hrs to respond to my email with their mailing address or another winner will be drawn. US residents only. Void where prohibited. I'm not responsible for books lost or damaged by the post office.

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Broken Wings Giveaway Winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered the Broken Wings giveaway! The two winners as chosen by random.org are...

Faithhopecherrytea

and

Tiffany Drew!


Congrats ladies! I'm emailing you for your address info. The books should arrive shortly direct from the publisher. Thank you Hachette Book Group and FaithWords!

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Go Green!

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'll bet you thought this was going to be a post all about the environment and the serious problems that we face with air quality, pollution, fuel costs etc. Yeah right. You know this blog is "just for fun" and while our planet is important there is more than enough serious talk in the world so I try to make my blog somewhat entertaining and an overall happy, carefree place. What makes one more happy than crazy critters? I couldn't resist sharing this "goggie" who is doing his part in the go green effort. Teehee.

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COTT's first YA Champ: Shellie Neumeier









Shellie Neumeier has just received the honor of being named a COTT Champ with her teen novel, Driven. This is a first for COTT, having a YA title take the crown. And Shellie deserves high accolades. She had some stiff competition: Julie Carobini and her book Fade to Blue.
So how did this story come about?
"The plot [for Driven] morphed over several dinner conversations with my kids and my hubby," Neumeier says. "It started with a whole lot of what-if questions and ended with a girl, a demon, and a whole lot of forgiveness."
You can read COTT's excellent interview with Shellie here.



A clip of her winning excerpt:


Robyn can’t help but notice the handsome new guy at her school. She ignores, however, the arrival of another being at Brookfield Central High School—a demon assigned to destroy her…

Read the full blurb, along with that of her competition, here



About the book:



Robyn can’t help but notice the handsome new guy at her school. She ignores, however, the arrival of another being at Brookfield Central High School—a demon assigned to destroy her…





Robyn loves her friends, enjoys her youth group, and looks forward to meeting cute Caleb Montague. But when a caustic news reporter challenges her school’s prayer team, Robyn must choose: defend their right to meet on campus and pray for whomever they wish or back down at the principal’s request.




Now she must learn what God wants her to do. And she had better learn fast, because there’s a supernatural enemy in town whose sole mission is to stop her—no matter the cost.




Shellie's reaction:


Oh wow!! I'm wordless! Especially since, Julie's Fade to Blue has such a wonderful blurb. (Actually, I can't wait to go get her book, now:D.)


Thank you, COTT crew and Jennifer for letting me be a part of your competitions. And a big thank you to all the folks who left encouraging notes. That means so much!!

Here's what our readers had to say:
"Good work . The books you write help us go to a different place in our lives."
"Both blurbs are very appealing. I have to say that if I was a teenager I would be more attracted to "A", but because I'm older and love anything to do with art "B" is my choice. Very Close!"
"I'm wanting to know just how big a role this demon plays in the story. I've always been fascinated by books that give glimpses into the spiritual realm. (i.e. Frank Peretti, Randy Alcorn")
Visit Shellie Neumeier's website to find out more about her and her writing. Then visit Amazon to get a copy of Driven.

Congratulations, Shellie!!

Make sure to hop on our to the Clash of the Titles Book Club to join the fun discussion on Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride. (In July, we'll dive into Elleanor Gustafson's novel, The Stones.)
And if you'd like to get your vote on, head over to COTT for their current Clash and BE HEARD (not to mention be entered to win a free copy of a contending title.)
COTT Assistant Editor Michelle Massaro is married to her high school sweetie, Mike, and they have four amazing children. They attend Living Truth Christian Fellowship in Corona, CA where they are involved in teaching the youth- primarily about origins science- and where Michelle is involved in the worship ministry. Michelle is also a new homeschooling parent and an aspiring author of contemporary Christian fiction. Above all, she is a follower of Christ Jesus, unashamed to stand upon the Word of God from beginning to end!
Contact Michelle: michelle_massaro(at)hotmail(dot)com
Michelle's Blog Find Michelle on Facebook.

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Squeee Worthy Book Stuff!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

So when book bloggers get bored what do they do besides read? They look up cute book stuff online. One of my favorite online marketplaces to visit are the Etsy shops. I love all the unique handcrafted and antique sundry goods offered including jewlery and clothing but mostly I love the "bookish" stuff. I really need want a bunch of things from a ton of different stores but here are some of my very favorites. Click the photos to see each item on Etsy. Also be sure to check out my friend Lydia's blog @ The Overweight Bookshelf, she inspired me to post some of my "finds."

Hmmm yeah in case you haven't noticed from my profile photo I have a dog and I love her so naturally a bookmark like this one is a necessity.


Just in case you aren't a dog lover they have these amaaaazing Jane Austen themed tags which can easily be turned into bookmarks.


Oh. My. Gosh. I want to buy every single Kindle cover from the CW Creations store! Although they are a bit pricey, I would much rather spend a little extra dough there than on Amazon. Here are my two faves.




*Sigh* don't you just love all the book pretties? If I had an unlimited cash flow I'd definitely own everything in this post and then some. I really can't get over how creative people are. I wonder why I never thought of these cool things? I wonder where people get all of their beautiful fabric. The local Jo-Ann's store just doesn't carry stuff like this! Oh well, maybe it's a good thing or else I'd be crafting all day long!

Hope you all had a great weekend and are enjoying sunshine and fair weather. :-)

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Litfuse Blog Tour: My Foolish Heart (A Deep Haven Novel) by Susan May Warren

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Foolish Heart (A Deep Haven Novel)
by Susan May Warren
Copyright 2011
Tyndale House Publishers
384 pages
ISBN: 9781414334820
Contemporary Fiction/Romance

From the publisher:
Unknown to her tiny town of Deep Haven, Isadora Presley spends her nights as Miss Foolish Heart, the star host of a syndicated talk radio show. Millions tune in to hear her advice on dating and falling in love, unaware that she’s never really done either. Issy’s ratings soar when it seems she’s falling in love on-air with a caller. A caller she doesn’t realize lives right next door.

Caleb Knight served a tour of duty in Iraq and paid a steep price. The last thing he wants is pity, so he hides his disability and moves to Deep Haven to land his dream job as the high school football coach. When his beautiful neighbor catches his eye, in a moment of desperation he seeks advice from My Foolish Heart, the show that airs before his favorite sports broadcast.

Before he knows it, Caleb finds himself drawn to the host—and more confused than ever. Is his perfect love the woman on the radio . . . or the one next door?


My Review:
I have three things to say about this book - football, donuts, and romance!!!! If you love any of these elements or like me, all three, this is a must read story. Susan May Warren has never disappointed me and I've read a lot of her books. I don't think anyone has her style and ability to write a serious WWII romance, then write a contemporary mystery and return to the fun contemporary style that I've grown to love with a book like My Foolish Heart.

This is my first time visiting Deep Haven but it will most definitely not be my last. Everything about this book captured my heart, from the dog with two names to the boy next door hero with a gridiron loving heart of gold. The details in this story are amazing as well. I dare you to open this book and not smell the donuts frying or hear the crunch of football pads. It could be the insane love I have for donuts that I mentioned above but I think it's the gifted Ms. Warren that's to blame for making me feel like I could step out the door and into World's Best Donuts. What a world!

However excellent a job an author does at making one feel as if they've visited their fictional worlds a story is not worth reading unless the characters who populate the town are believable as well. I'm happy to say one dimensional and bland characters are not a problem here. Issy, our reclusive radio host is sweet and of course romantic but she's far from perfect. One can't help but really feel connected to Issy and her fears. At some point in time I'm sure we've all wanted to crawl under the piano and hide from the world. As for Caleb Knight, he's definitely got my vote for title of "Knight in Shining Armor!" He himself is not without issues both emotionally and physically but he's such a great compliment to Isadora.

All in all Issy and Caleb make for a winning team and My Foolish Heart is a book worthy of championship status on any "keeper" shelf. I highly recommend this sigh-inducing romance to Susan May Warren fans and Christian romance readers everywhere. Who knows? maybe you can get your hubby or boyfriends to read this one!


*Thanks to the publisher and Litfuse for providing my complimentary review copy for the tour.*


Be sure to check out the details below for information on how to win a great prize pack!!!!!

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Susan May Warren is thrilled to announce the release of her latest Deep Haven book, My Foolish Heart!

Read what the reviewers are saying here.

To celebrate this charming novel about a dating expert who's never had a date, Susan has put together a romantic night on the town for one lucky couple. One grand prize winner will receive a Miss Foolish Heart prize package worth over $200!




The winner of the Romantic Night on the Town Prize Pack will receive:

* A $100 Visa Gift Card (For Dinner)

* A $100 Gift Certificate to a Hyatt/Marriott Hotel

* The entire Deep Haven series

To enter just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on June 16th. The winner will be announced that evening during Susan’s Miss Foolish Heart Party on Facebook! Susan will be chatting with guests, hosting a book club chat about My Foolish Heart, testing your Deep Haven trivia skills, and giving away tons of great stuff! (Gift certificates, books, donuts, and more!) Don't miss the fun and BRING YOUR FRIENDS!



Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

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