Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: Two Tickets To The Christmas Ball

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul

Publication Date: October 2010
Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
Genre: Holiday/Seasonal/Christian Fiction
ISBN-13: 9780307458995

(Received for review from Waterbrook Multnomah)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Borders, IndieBound

If you live in Morehead, KY or the surrounding area:

Purchase from our local independent bookseller: CoffeeTree Books
Borrow from our local library: The Rowan County Public Library

Donita K. Paul on the Web: Blog, Website, Facebook, Twitter

Excerpt from Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball
Book Trailer:

Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):

Can mysterious matchmaking booksellers bring two lonely hearts together in time for Christmas?

In a sleepy, snow-covered city, Cora Crowder is busy preparing for the holiday season. Searching for a perfect gift, a fortuitous trip to Warner, Werner and Wizbotterdad's ( a most unusual bookshop) leads to an unexpected encounter with co-worker Simon Derrick. And the surprise discovery of a ticket for a truly one-of-a-kind Christmas Ball.

Every year, the matchmaking booksellers of the Sage Street bookshop host an enchanting, old-fashioned Christmas Ball for the romantic matches they've decided to bring together.

This year, will Simon and Cora discover a perfect chemistry in their opposite personalities and shared faith? Or will the matchmakers' best laid plans end up ruining everything this holiday?


Donita K. Paul brings us a holiday novella that will touch the heart and make us believe in fairy tales. Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball is a book that will really get readers in the holiday spirit. It is Christian Fiction with a hint of fantasy. Paul's unique ability to mix Christian wisdom and themes with fantasy and magical elements really makes this book stand out this Christmas season.

When Cora Crowder thinks about Christmas she is a bit confused. Having found a new faith in God, she isn't sure how all the commercialism and Santa Claus stories all mesh together. But, when she unexpectedly encounters a co-worker in a quaint old bookshop in a corner of the city that doesn't seem to be on the map, her vision begins to clear. There is a lot more than meets the eye to "Serious" Simon Derrick as Cora soon learns, when they both receive a ticket to the mysterious Wizards Christmas Ball. Cora soon meets Simon's very special sister, Sandy and the rest of his quirky Christian family and she longs for that peace in her own family life of misfits. Will Cora and Simon see how right they are for each other before the ball approaches? Or will they both go on about their lonely lives?

This one is definitely my favorite Christmas book this year. Donita K. Paul has written a story that not only appeals to my romantic side, but to my sensibilities as a Christian during this time of year. It's more than just gifts and the hustle and bustle of the season. Who spends the most money or has the biggest display of lights. Christmas is about love. The love that God showed when he sent his Son and the love that we share with each other. Paul brings together two lonely people, who have their hearts in the right place, but they just haven't found that special someone to share it with.

Cora's character is very compelling. She had a tough life growing up, but she didn't let that stop her. She went on to become something different. She found the Lord and it changed her life completely, but like everyone else she is still flawed. She isn't perfect and she doesn't try to be. She understands that there are things in her life that she doesn't handle in the best of ways, like her relationship with her mother or her sister Zee. Cora is a great character and I liked reading about her a lot.

Simon, the other main character in the book is the strong silent type. He stepped into a role that he felt he needed to fill when his father passed away, but that has kept him from branching out and finding his true passions or finding someone to spend his life with. It's hard to find a woman who shares your faith in this day and age and harder still to find one who can accept your family. Simon seems like someone who has been hurt in the past and has a hard time opening up, but when he does... it's magic.

I really liked the fantasy and magical elements of the story. It just goes to show you can write good Christian Fiction that isn't the same old cut and dried story. It can be refreshing, and filled with surprises. This book has a real fairy-tale quality about it that really appealed to me. You just knew there would be a "happily-ever-after" at the end of this one. But getting there was a wonderful journey. It's a short and sweet, at just over 200 pages, which is great for this hectic time of year. The characters are compelling and easy to identify with. The supporting cast including Simon's sister Sandy and Cora's sister Zee, add an unexpected strength to the story.

I recommend this one to lover's of Christmas books and fairy tales. It was a really good story, very romantic and whimsical. It's light on the Christian influences and doesn't overpower. This one isn't one you pass up!

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

This one gets 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag! Very Christmassy and very romantic!

Expertly weaving together fantasy, romance and Biblical truths, Donita K. Paul penned the best-selling, fan-favorite DragonKeeper Chronicles series. After retiring early from teaching, she began a second career as an award-winning author and loves serving as a mentor for new writers of all ages. And when she's not putting pen to paper, Donita makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys spending time with her grandsons, cooking, beading, stamping, and knitting.

Enquiring Minds Want To Know

Enquiring Minds Want To Know is a weekly meme created by Dollycas' Thoughts. How well do you know your favorite bloggers? Dollycas asks a few weekly questions so that we can learn more about each other a little bit each week. A Mr. Linky is provided so we can keep up with what we're learning. Give it a try... It's lots of fun!

It's week 18! Here are this weeks questions and my answers:

1.) Did you get what you wanted for Christmas?

It's been a hard year for us financially, and I didn't really have a lot of expectations or wants this Christmas. I guess my biggest wish was that the kids had a great Christmas and in that since, I most definitely got what I wanted. My daughters were healthy and safe and got lots of great gifts and had tons of fun. To me it didn't really matter what I got for gifts or even if I got any. I just wanted to spend time with my family and enjoy that time and I did! (Big smile!)

2.) Do you make New Year's Resolutions?

I'm not a resolution maker. Basically because most of the time I don't follow through. However, I do set goals. It may not be on New Years, but relatively close to the beginning of the new year. I don't always meet every goal, but I can track my progress usually. Small steps toward something bigger. Do I have goals in mind for the new year? A couple... (wink!)

3.) How will you spend New Year's Eve and New Year's Day this year?

The girls will be home on New Year's Eve this year and we plan to have a family game night, with board games, pizza, and of course Friday Night Smack Down (wrestling).

New Year's Day... don't have any big plans. My mom is determined to cook some cabbage, so we'll have some money this year... LOL!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review: Once in a Full Moon

Once in a Full Moon by Ellen Schreiber

Publication Date: December 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's
Genre: YA
ISBN-13: 9780061986505

(Received for review from Harper Collins Children's via NetGalley)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Borders, IndieBound

If you live in Morehead, KY or the surrounding area:

Purchase from our local independent bookseller: CoffeeTree Books
Borrow from our local library: The Rowan County Public Library

Ellen Schreiber on the Web: Journal, Website, Facebook, Twitter

Excerpt from Once in a Full Moon
Book Trailer: Author Ellen Schreiber talks about Once in a Full Moon

Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):

Beware of a kiss under the full moon. It will change your life forever.

Celeste Parker is used to hearing scary stories about werewolves - Legend's Run is famous for them. She's used to everything in the small town until Brandon Maddox moves to Legend's Run and Celeste finds herself immediately drawn to the handsome new student. But when, after an unnerving visit with a psychic, she encounters a pack of wolves and gorgeous, enigmatic Brandon, she must discover whether his transformation is more than legend or just a trick of the shadows in the moonlight.

Her best friends may never forgive her if she gives up her perfect boyfriend, Nash, for Brandon, who's from the wrong side of town. But she can't deny her attraction or the strong pull he has on her. Brandon may be Celeste's hero, or he may be the most dangerous creature she could encounter in the woods of Legend's Run.

Psychic predictions, generations-old secrets, a town divided, and the possibility of falling in love with a hot and heroic werewolf are the perfect formula for what happens... once in a full moon.


Bestselling author, Ellen Schreiber has taken a break from vampires to give us the first novel in a new werewolf series, Once in a Full Moon. With the onslaught of paranormal books about vampires and werewolves it's hard to make a decision about which ones you want to read and which ones you want to pass on by. If the gorgeous cover on this one doesn't pull you in the first novel in this series shows a lot of potential for what's to come.

Celeste Parker has lived her whole life in Legend's Run. Legend's Run is known for it's past and the werewolves who inhabited it, with stories and tales that all the kids know. But, no werewolves have been around in a very long time, that is until now. Brandon is the new boy in town, but he isn't like everyone else. Celeste feels herself drawn to him in spite of the fact that she has a great life, great friends and very popular boyfriend. Can she keep Brandon's secrets as well as her own? Is he really the one shes been waiting for or is he something entirely different.

I have mixed feelings about this one. Ellen Schreiber creates a great start to a new series. The series has a lot of potential to be very good. But, there a couple of things that didn't appeal to me as a reader. That's not to say that the next person wouldn't love it.

Celeste is a character that has a lot of room to grow. She has a very caring spirit which is shown through her volunteer work at the nursing home yet she tends to be more of a follower than a leader. She seems caught up in what everyone else expects of her instead of what she expects of herself. I just wanted her to be a bit more assertive to let her friends know that she expected them to stand by her no matter what her decisions were. She seemed a bit wishy-washy to me but that only means she has a lot of room to change in the future of the series.

Brandon is a very sexy young werewolf, who I wouldn't change a bit. He is that nice mix of tough, yet sweet. He isn't a softy that's for sure, he commands respect and it's obvious that he is very much in touch with who and what he is. I really liked the heat factor that he added to the book, without going overboard with too much teen angst. I'm glad that Celeste was finally able to make a good decision in the end, but it took her quite a while to get there.

Schreiber gives us a great start with this one. It's a face-paced quick read that sets up the story, the main characters, as well as supporting characters like Abby and Ivy. We learn a little about Legend's Run and it's history but there is so much more to learn in the subsequent novels. I'm excited to see if Celeste will pull it out and become the character she seems like she could be.

Once in a Full Moon is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Ellen Schreiber was an actress and a stand-up comedienne before becoming a writer and moving to her own Dullsville. She is the author of Teenage Mermaid, Comedy Girl, and all of the books in the Vampire Kisses series. Vampire Kisses is an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, and an IRA/CBC Young Adults' Choice.

2011 Where Are You Reading Challenge

I know, I know it's another Challenge! But this one is different. This challenge will allow me to track the settings of the books I like to read.

Shelia at One Person's Journey Through A World of Books hosts the Where Are You Reading meme each week on her blog and this is a challenge she came up with to track where we are reading. The 2011 Where Are You Reading Challenge is one I've decided to participate. (Click on the challenge name for rules and sign-up information.) I have already entered the 50 State Challenge, but this one allows me to put in books I read, that are set in other countries as well.

It is pretty simple to do. Set up a Google Map for the challenge and then upload the cover to Picasa Web Albums. Every time you read a book you put a blue push pin in the place where the book primarily takes place. The push pin is the connected to a photo of the book cover and the cover is attached with a link to the review of that book. It sounds a little complicated, but it's really not. I've already tried it out and I think I can do it. There is a prize attached to the challenge for those who read a book from each of the fifty states.

I'm looking forward to this one and I'll have my map link on the sidebar with my challenges so you can see how I'm doing.

Review: Pemberley Ranch

Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

Publication Date: December 2010
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Jane Austen Fiction
ISBN-13: 9781402241284

(Received for review from Sourcebooks)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Borders, IndieBound

If you live in Morehead, KY or the surrounding area:

Purchase from our local independent bookseller: CoffeeTree Books
Borrow from our local library: The Rowan Country Public Library

Jack Caldwell on the Web: Blog, Website, Twitter, Facebook

Excerpt from Pemberley Ranch

Book Trailer: This is a trailer created by Jack Caldwell honoring the women who have portrayed characters from Austen classics over the years.

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

Frankly, Mr. Darcy, I don't give a damn...

In the ANTEBELLUM PERIOD after the Civil War finally ends, fervent Union supporter Beth Bennet recluctantly moves with her family from their home in Meryton, Ohio to the windswept plains of Rosings, Texas. Handsome, haughty Will Darcy, a Confederate officer back from the war, owns half the land around Rosings, and his even haughtier cousin Cate DeBourgh, owns the other half.

In a town as small as Rosings, Beth and Will can't help but run into each other, and their undeniable attraction grows, but their pride and their prejudice conspire to keep them apart.

Then nefarious carpetbagger George Whitehead attempts a land grab, and Will and Beth are the only ones who can save the town. But they'll have to let go of their differences first...


"... Pride and Prejudice meets Gone With the Wind..." Jack Caldwell's debut novel is Jane Austen fiction with a twist. Pemberley Ranch is set in post-Civil War Texas, giving the reader all the pride and decorum of the Regency Gentleman in the form or the American Cowboy. It's quite a combination! Caldwell has a refreshing take on a classic that will leave readers wanting more Austen variations with western influences.

Beth Bennet travels with her family from Meryton, Ohio to Rosings, Texas and there she meets the devil-may-care, Will Darcy. Will is a Confederate soldier returning to his home, a cattle spread called Pemberley Ranch. Will's arrogant demeanor turns Beth off from the start, but she soon learns there is more than meets the eye to Will Darcy. Darcy finds himself in love with Beth and trying to prove what kind of man he really is. It takes the entrance of George Whitehead to finally sway Beth's opinion. Whitehead is determined to insert himself into the Bennet family but Darcy and Dr. Bingley know his true character. It's up to Beth and Will to save Rosings when George Whitehead tries to take the town for all it's worth.

I have read and reviewed several Jane Austen variations, sequels, and prequels, but this is the first one set in the old west. I have always thought of myself as more of an Austen purist, preferring the variations to be minimal and expecting the story to flow in a similar manner to the original, but I was pleasantly surprised by Pemberley Ranch. I was fully prepared to dislike the changes that Jack Caldwell had made to my beloved Pride and Prejudice, but it certainly didn't turn out that way.

I really enjoyed this book and believe it is probably my favorite variation so far. The western influences only enhance the story and give the reader a totally different perspective. Of course, this may be in part because this variation is written by a man. Let's face it ladies, men don't think the way we do and this book clearly shows that. Caldwell has taken the stuffiness of Regency England out of the story and allows Austen's characters to relax a bit and let down their hair. Darcy gets very intoxicated after Beth refuses his proposal. Who would have thought, that Fitzwilliam Darcy would do such a thing and Beth Bennet is less of a book worm and more of a tom-boy in this book than Elizabeth Bennet would ever be.

This book has all of our favorite supporting characters from Charles Bingley who is now a doctor, to some of Austen's beloved characters from other novels, including Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey who is now the local preacher. Caldwell lacks a little of Austen's quick fire wit but he makes up for it with great character development and a very refreshing take on this classic. I really enjoyed the way the author gave Austen's characters new life and purpose. I recommend this one to those who are considering Austen variations for the first time and to the tried and true Austen fans who want something a little different.

Don't forget to check out the great giveaway I am having for two copies of Pemberley Ranch!

Pemberley Ranch is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag! My favorite Austen variation by a long mile!

Jack Caldwell, a native of Louisiana living in Wisconsin, is an economic developer by trade. Mr. Caldwell has been an amateur history buff and a fan of Jane Austen for many years. Pemberley Ranch is his first published work. He lives with his wife and three sons in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Interview and Giveaway: Jack Caldwell

Please join me in welcoming Jack Caldwell, author of Pemberley Ranch to Debbie's Book Bag today!

Sourcebooks has generously offered two copies of Pemberley Ranch for giveaway to two winners, see details at the end of this post.

DEB: Jack, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
JC: I’ve had a funny road to being a writer. I have an MBA from Tulane University in New Orleans, and have worked in the investment and economic development field. I did not take creative writing in college. However, being a voracious reader and a sometimes-actor/director in community theatre, I started to write down the stories in my head, both novels and plays.

I could not have done what I did without the incredible support from my team of editors, who I call my Beta Babes, led by my wife, Barbara.

DEB: Tell us a little about your book, Pemberley Ranch?
JC: I’ve taken the basic plot of Pride and Prejudice and moved it in time and space. The novel is set in 1870s Reconstruction Texas. It is the aftermath of the Civil War, and Beth Bennet moves with her family from Ohio to Rosings, Texas. Beth is a proud Yankee, and has vowed to hate Southerners for the rest of her life. Her only brother died during the war. Of course, she meets up with Will Darcy, ex-Confederate officer and owner of the biggest ranch in the county. Sparks fly, especially since carpetbagger George Whitehead is telling lies about Darcy. What Beth doesn’t know is her family is in deadly danger…

DEB: What was your inspiration for this book? What made you decide to transport Pride and Prejudice to the South?
JC: In Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the prejudice and misunderstandings were a result of the Regency class system that limited open communication. A similar class system existed in America, but I also upped the ante by setting the story during the Reconstruction Era. Propaganda and resentment would be the forces at play in Pemberley Ranch. However, these barriers would be overcome in my story, as they were overcome in real life. The story of Pemberley Ranch is the story of America.

DEB: What type of research did you do for your book?
JC: I’m a Civil War buff, but I took the time to do additional research. I learned about Morgan’s Raid in Ohio and about the struggle for the rule of law in Texas during Reconstruction.

DEB: What is your normal writing day like? Do you have things that have to be in place to write comfortably?
JC: I write mostly in the mornings and evenings, particularly after my wife goes to bed. She claims I snore, which is ridiculous, as I have never heard me doing that. I have a very messy office in my house—a bedroom converted for that purpose. It looks like a disaster zone, and it is, but I know where everything is. I have my computer and printer in there, and no one disturbs me. I can concentrate there. I try to write a chapter a week.

DEB: What was it like when you got the word that your first novel would be published?
JC: I was particularly grateful, as I was facing open-heart surgery at the time. Fortunately, both the medical procedure and the editing on my manuscript went very well.

DEB: Do have any advice for new writers?
JC: Write every day. You need the practice. Also, read out aloud what you’re written, particularly dialogue. If it doesn’t sound right, change it.

DEB: When you’re not writing, what kinds of books do you like to read? Do you have a favorite author?
JC: I enjoy fiction and non-fiction. Most of my books deal with history—either straight history or historical fiction. I’ve read the entire Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian and the Hornblower series by C. S. Forester.

DEB: What are you working on right now?
JC: My next book is set during the Regency—in fact, during the great crisis of the Napoleonic Wars. It was the Hundred Days: Napoleon’s escape from Elba which led the Allies to form one last Coalition to fight him at Waterloo. The Three Colonels, a grand sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, deals with Jane Austen’s fighting men and the ladies they love. You will meet old favorites, like the Darcys, the Brandons, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Anne de Bourgh, George Wickham, and Caroline Bingley. There will be new original characters, such as the dashing and dangerous Colonel Sir John Buford. It will be released by Sourcebooks in spring of 2012.

DEB: Tell us one thing that people may not know about you?
JC: I’m a darn good Cajun cook. I make Turkey Gumbo every Thanksgiving. Anybody who wants a recipe, just email me.


Sourcebooks has generously offered two copies of Pemberley Ranch to two readers from Debbie's Book Bag! It's easy to enter and the rules a very simple.

~You must be a Google Friend Connect follower to participate.
~This giveaway is for US and Canadian addresses only, as these books will be sent out directly from the publisher.
~The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, January 11th.

1. Please leave a comment for author in the comments section.

2. Fill out this FORM to be entered.

Extra Entries: You will be asked about these on the form

+5 for following me on Twitter (sidebar)
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+50 for signing up for the 2011 Cozy Mystery Challenge (sidebar)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Dead Witch Walking

Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows - Book 1) by Kim Harrison

Publication Date: April 2004
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal
ISBN-13: 9780060572969

(E-book from the Library)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Borders, IndieBound

If you live in Morehead, KY or the surrounding area:

Purchase from our local independent bookseller: CoffeeTree Books
Borrow from our local library: The Rowan County Public Library

Kim Harrison on the web: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Website

Excerpt from Dead Witch Walking

Book Trailer: This is a fan-made trailer for the entire Hollows Series


The underground population of witches, vampires, werewolves - creatures of dreams and nightmares - has lived beside humans for centuries, hiding their powers. But after a genetically engineered virus wipes out a large part of humanity, many of the "Inderlanders" reveal themselves, changing everything.

Rachel Morgan, witch and bounty hunter with the Inderland Runner Services, is one of the best at apprehending supernatural lawbreakers throughout Cincinnati, but when it comes to following the rules, she falls desperately short. Determined to buck the system, she quits and takes off on the run with an I.S. contract on her head and is reluctantly forced to team up with Ivy, Inderland's best runner... and living vampire. But this witch is way out of her league, and to clear her name, Rachel must evade shape-changing assassins, outwit a powerful businessman/crime lord, and survive a vicious underground fight-to-the-death... not to mention her own roommate.


This is a book I had been wanting to read for a very long time. I finally downloaded it for my e-reader from my local library. I just had a feeling from the cover and what I'd read about Kim Harrison and her writing that this book would be one I would enjoy. It definitely did not disappoint. I have recently really started to get into reading Urban Fantasy and Paranormal books or books with magical elements and this one had it all. Vampires, witches, pixies, even hellhounds.

Rachel Morgan decides that being on her own has to be better than continuing to work for the Inderland Runner Service. She has a tendency to flaunt the rules and it's finally caught up with her, causing her to get the very worst assignments when she is capable to bringing in the worst supernatural criminals. But when she leaves she takes the Inderland's best runner, Ivy with her. Ivy may not be the simplest of roommates and partners though. She's a living vampire and that makes for interesting company around midnight. Rachel has a contract on her head and she has to find a way to pay of her contract and get her freedom back.

Harrison has created some of my favorite characters in the paranormal realm so far. Rachel is a earth witch who can make charms and cast spells and even shape-shift, even though that tends to get her in trouble. I really enjoyed reading about her and all the scraps she gets into. She is a strong character, knowing that she'll be facing a death threat if she leaves the Inderland, she does it anyway. She isn't afraid to go where others fear to tread. She's got guts and determination. But, she has a vulnerable side we are able to see now and then and that makes her a character easy to identify with.

Ivy and Jenks are such wonderful supporting characters as well. I loved the idea of a pixie being a sidekick. Not only that, but Jenks was a tough little dude. And he had Rachel's best interests at heart. He added a lot of really good comic relief to the book and I found myself wondering what Harrison would make come out of his mouth next. Ivy was a very sensual character and created a lot of sexual tension for the book and a lot of mystery. Readers will probably be wondering throughout the book, just exactly what Ivy is up to, what's in it for her.

Harrison did an excellent job of creating the Hollows itself. This place where witches and vampires lived while the rest of the population feared to even go there. It kind of reminded me of a "Chinatown" or a "Little Italy" where those weren't just like everybody else, made a home for themselves and carved out their own niche. I liked the way Harrison was able to explain how the paranormal being were exposed and able to live among humans. I thought the book was very well written and thought out and I can't wait to read the next book in the series... This one is definitely going to make my paranormal top ten of the year!

Dead Witch Walking as well as the other books in the Hollows series is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Best known for her paranormal fantasy series starring sexy witch/bounty hunter Rachel Morgan, New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison is one of the leading lights in a burgeoning hybrid genre that combines fantasy, mystery, horror, and romance.

2011 YA Reading Challenge

So I've been really getting interested in reading more YA books. And so far I like the genre a lot. I have several in my TBR pile that I'd like to read this year so I'm going to join this challenge.

For the Love of YA is hosting the 2011 YA Reading Challenge and I will be participating in this one. Click the name of the challenge for more info, rules and sign up information.

I'm going to go for the "Fun Size" Challenge and read 20 YA books this year.

--The Mini YA Reading Challenge – Read 12 Young Adult novels.

--The "Fun Size" YA Reading Challenge – Read 20 Young Adult novels.

--The Jumbo Size YA Reading Challenge – Read 40 Young Adult novels.

--The Mega size YA Reading Challenge – Read 50+ Young Adult novels.

Book Won Challenge 2011

I enter tons of giveaways throughout the year and this challenge will really speak to that.

I will be participating in the Books Won Challenge 2011 hosted by So Many Precious Books, So Little Time. Click on the Challenge name for info, rules and sign up information.

I'm going for the gold on this one!

Honorable Mention: Read 1-3 book you won.
Bronze: Read 4-6 books you won.
Silver: Read 7-9 Books you won.
Gold: Read 10 or more books you won.

ARC Reading Challenge 2011

I know, I know... I said I was about done with challenges... been then I found a few more I liked LOL... I'm an addict!

I will be participating in the ARC Reading Challenge for 2011 hosted by So Many Precious Books, So Little Time. Click the challenge name for rules and sign up information.

There are four levels of participation: I'm going for the Platinum Level

The Levels

Level Bronze: .a. All of us who have or will have less than 12 ARCS must read all of the ARCS we have. Note, that if you have 11 ARC's and then receive a 12th one you will be bumped up to catagory b.

b. All of us who have or will have 12 or more than 12 ARCS must read and review at least 12.

Level Silver: Read 24 ARCS

Level Gold: Read 25 ARCS

Level Platinum: Read 30 or more ARCS

Review: Paranormal Stories of the Other Side Book 1

Paranormal Stories of the Other Side Book 1 by Daryl Sedore

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Paranormal

(Received for review from Daryl Sedore via Library Thing Member Giveaways)

Purchase: Amazon

Daryl Sedore on the web: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Library Thing

Synopsis (Amazon):

Paranormal Stories of the Other Side Book 1 is filled with stories of people in everyday situations trying to deal with something extraordinary.

In "Second Chances" we meet Perry Strall. A man who has been married for over forty years without any violence, but last night he hit his wife and today his wife can't see him.

In "Near Death Experience" a woman dies before her man gets to meet her and then she shows up with knowledge of the other side.

In "A Time of Love" a woman keeps seeing her husband on downtown streets. When she runs over him, he is no longer there, yet his presence changes her life: if she can stay alive long enough.


Author, Daryl Sedore gives us a paranormal book that's a little on the lighter side. When I first got this book, I was expecting a typical paranormal book. Most of which lean toward the horror side of writing. Daryl Sedore's idea of the paranormal is surprising light and refreshing. His stories show us the other side from a different perspective.

We have all seen television shows that portray clairvoyants or mediums. One of the most popular is "Crossing Over" with John Edwards. This book reminded me of the experiences that Edwards reveals on his show. Ordinary, normal people who have had extraordinary experiences. Daryl Sedore's characters are not out of blood or trying to carry the other characters off to the here-after. They are focused on issues like forgiveness or just letting someone know that they are loved.

I enjoyed this short collection of stories about the strange things that happen in life. Readers who are intrigued by the paranormal and what happens on the other side will find this a great beginner. So I would definitely recommend it to those trying paranormal reading for the first time and for those that enjoy a lighter side of this sub-genre. It's short and sweet and a great read for those who have busy schedules.

Paranormal Stories of the Other Side Book 1 is available from Amazon NOW.

I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag! It was a good book!

Daryl Sedore was born in Southern Ontario in 1969. By the age of ten he was already writing short stories. Throughout high school various teachers encouraged him to choose writing as a career, but Daryl decided to invest in the stock market (TSE) in grade 11 and start his first company by age seventeen. He built numerous companies and became semi-retired at thirty years of age. During the 1990's he still wrote short stories, but it wasn't until the year 2000, that he started writing novels. Daryl has written four novels and over 50 short stories, plus a work of non-fiction called, "Publishing Exposed: The Sedore Report" which was published in November of 2010. Six of his short stories have won awards, including, "The Newspaper" which won 6th place out of thousands of entries in the 75th Annual Writer's Digest Short Story Contest.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Simply Marvelous Monday (49)

Shelia at, One Person's Journey Through a World of Books, get's all the credit for this one...

On Simply Marvelous Monday's here at Debbie's Book Bag, we want to know... What are you reading?


Brava Valentine (Valentine series - Book 2) by Adriana Trigiani (My Review)
The Heir by Grace Burrowes (My Review)
The Christmas Journey (The Christmas Hope series - Book 6) by Donna VanLiere (My Review)
A Season of Gifts (Grandma Dowdel - Book 3) by Richard Peck (My Review)
The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson (My Review)
What a Difference a Dog Makes by Dana Jennings (My Review)
The Vagrants by Yiyun Li (My Review)

Savor the Moment (Bride Quartet - Book 3) by Nora Roberts (Review coming soon!)


I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!
1 Year Blogoversary Giveaway
2011 Cozy Mystery Challenge
The Heir Giveaway


Paranormal Stories of the Other Side Book 1 by Daryl Sedore (For review from the Author)

Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell (For review from Sourcebooks)

Once in a Full Moon by Ellen Schreiber (For review from Harper Collins via Net Galley)

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul (For review from Waterbrook Multnomah)

Darcy and Fitzwiliam by Karen V. Wasylowski (For review from Sourcebooks)

A Plain and Simple Christmas by Amy Clipston (For review from Zondervan)

City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley (For review from St. Martin's Press)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays!


I have a few reminders for the week!

1.) Don't forget my 1 Year Blogoversary Giveaway

2.) Sign up to win one of two copies of during The Heir giveaway.

3.) Don't forget to sign-up for the 2011 Cozy Mystery Challenge.

4.) Have a great holiday!

Christmas Spirit Week: Day Seven

It's Christmas Spirit Week here at Debbie's Book Bag! All week I have been doing Christmas posts and doing some Christmas reviews. We've talked about Candy Canes, Christmas Carols, Snowflakes and Santa Claus, even other holidays that surround the season, but on this most important day I wanted to make sure the focus was on the Christ Child.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever holiday you celebrate, from my family to yours. Keep our troops who are far from their families this holiday season in your prayers and remember to celebrate safely.

Luke 2: 1- 20

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor Syria). And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David). To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in that same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will to ward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning the child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Review: The Vagrants

The Vagrants by Yiyun Li

Publication Date: February 2010
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Genre: Fiction
ISBN-13: 9780812973341

(Received for review from Random House)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Borders, IndieBound

If you live in Morehead, KY or the surrounding area:

Purchase from our local independent bookseller: CoffeeTree Books
Borrow from our local library: The Rowan County Public Library

Yiyun Li on the web: Website, Facebook, Twitter


Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):

In luminous prose, award-winning author Yiyun Li weaves together the lives of unforgettable characters who are forced to make moral choices, and choices for survival, in China in the late 1970's.

As morning dawns on the provincial city, Muddy River, a spirited young woman, Gu Shan, once a devoted follower of Chairman Mao, has renounced her faith in Communism. Now a political prisoner, she is to be executed for her dissent. While Gu Shan's distraught mother makes bold decisions, her father begins to retreat into memories. Neither of them imagines that their daughter's death will have profound and far-reaching effects, in Muddy River and beyond. Among the characters affected are Kai, a beautiful radio announcer who is married to a man from a powerful family; Tong, a lonely seven-year-old boy; and Nini, a hungry young girl. Beijing is being rocked by the Democratic Wall Movement, an anti-Communist groundswell designed to move the country toward a more enlightened and open society, but the government backlash will be severe.

In this spellbinding novel, the brilliant Yiyun Li gives us a powerful and beautiful portrait of human courage and despair in dramatic times.


The Vagrants is a powerful novel about the political and personal drama's erupting in China in the 1970's. Author, Yiyun Li crafts a novel that is told from many viewpoints, all converging during a pivotal time in Chinese history, in a small town called Muddy River.

Gu Shan has been arrested and is sentenced to die. She was once a follower of the Communist movement and has turned counter-revolutionary. Her story is the entry into the lives of many people who Yiyun Li uses to tell this remarkable tale. Through each a very large cast of characters Li is able to convey the desperate times and desperate circumstances China was in. This is a story about a town, it's people and how it was to survive, while all of China is being torn apart.

This novel is riveting. I had a hard time putting it down. It really captured my interest, just seeing how one person's life could have affected so many different people was amazing. Yiyun Li writes with such depth and her style gives off an elegance despite the nature of the story. She uses so many different elements to bring this novel to it's conclusion. Using character archetypes in a way that I had never seen before, Li shows the suffering of the people of China as they waited to see how their political future played out. There was a lot of sadness in this book and a sort of hopelessness that permeated it, but that only added to the effect of the book. Not every story turns out with a happy ending and I think that's something that a lot of writers tend to forget about.

I truly enjoyed this book and think that Yiyun Li is a very gifted author. I would recommend it to readers who are interested in Chinese history, or who are looking for a book with a very different style. The story itself is compelling and the political implications of the times are written with great fluidity and knowledge of the circumstances.

The Vagrants is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Yiyun Li is the author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Vagrants. A native of Beijing and a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, she is the recipient of the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, the Hemmingway Foundation/PEN Award, the Whiting Writer's Award, and the Guardian First Book Award. In 2007, Granta named her one of the best American novelists under thirty-five. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, The Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories, among others. She teaches writing at the University of California, Davis, and lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and their two sons.

Review: What a Difference a Dog Makes

What a Difference a Dog Makes: Big Lessons on Life, Love, and Healing From a Small Pooch by Dana Jennings

Publication Date: November 2010
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday
Genre: Non-Fiction
ISBN-13: 9780385532839

(Received through the Library Thing Early Reviewers Program)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Borders, IndieBound

If you live in Morehead, KY or the surrounding area:

Purchase from our local independent bookseller: CoffeeTree Books
Borrow from our local library: The Rowan County Public Library

Dana Jennings on the web: Wikipedia, Facebook, Blog

Book Trailer:

Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):

A must read for every dog lover- a short, tender, and uplifting tale of a cancer survivor and the life lessons shared with him by his beloved family dog.

Our dogs come into our lives as "just the family pet," but before we know it they become drinking buddies and fuzzy shrinks, playmates and Cheerios-munching vacuum cleaners, alarm clocks and sleeping partners. And in their mysterious and muttish ways, our dogs become our teachers.

When Dana Jennings and his son were both seriously ill - Dana with prostate cancer and son with liver failure - their twelve-year-old miniature poodle Bijou became even more than a pet and teacher. She became a healing presence in their lives. After all, when you're recovering from radical surgery and your life is uncertain, there's no better medicine than a twenty-three pound pooch who lives by the motto that it's always best to play, even when you're old and creaky, even when you're sick and frightened.

In telling Bijou's tale in all of it's funny, touching, and neurotic glory, Jennings is telling the story of every dog that has ever blessed our lives. The perfect gift for animal lovers, What a Difference a Dog Makes is a narrative ode to our canine guardian angels.


What a Difference a Dog Makes, written by New York Times Journalist, Dana Jennings is about the lessons on life and how to live it that he learned from his canine best friend, Bijou. Bijou, a minature poodle lives in the moment, in the "now" and he taught his master a lot about doing that very thing. Letting the past go, not worrying about the future and living for today, letting this moment be your best.

When author, Dana Jennings was going through a terrible ordeal with prostate cancer, his small dog Bijou became a sustaining force in his life. Offering a type of healing he couldn't get from doctor's. Bijou helped heal his spirit. He was so much more than just the family pet. Jennings retells incidents during his recovery that show the wise understanding of Bijou, the joy for life Bijou had and the fun Bijou shared with anyone who was around.

Many of you know that I am a diabetic and have a wonderful dog named Sundae who helps take care of me. If you have never experienced not only the joy a dog can bring to your life, but the loyal care and love they show daily, you've truly missed out on a powerful relationship. Dana Jennings found out how much we can learn from our little fuzzy friends and he shares that with us in this remarkable book. It's short and sweet and will definitely warm your heart. Animal lovers and people who understand what it's like to loose your health will really be touched by this book as well as everyone who reads it.

Bijou taught Dana a lot about living in the moment, which is something I think we often forget. Between worrying about paying the bills and what to cook for dinner we neglect those little moments that are slipping away from us. We need to remember to stop and smell the roses so to speak. Play that board game with your kids, the dishes will keep. Read that bed time story, is the news really more important than that? Don't let your life pass you by, pet that dog and rub it's belly, because she knows that, that is what it's all about. NOW!

What a Difference a Dog Makes is available now from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Dana Jennings is currently a feature writer at the New York Times and writes a popular weekly column about coping with prostate cancer and it's aftermath for the Times "Well" blog. He is the author of five previous books, most recently, Sing Me Back Home. He lives with his family in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Spirit Week: Day Six

It's Christmas Spirit Week here at Debbie's Book Bag! I've done a few Christmas Posts and some Christmas book reviews, but I know that not everyone who reads my blog celebrates Christmas. I don't want to leave anyone out, so I want to spend today focused on other traditional and religious holidays are center around this time of the year.

Hanukkah - Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights, starting on the 25th of the Jewish month, Kislev which corresponds to late November or late December on our calendar. Hanukkah means "dedication". The holiday itself commemorates the re-dedication of the holy temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

Hanukkah has become a more popular Jewish holiday because of it's proximity to Christmas. It has become more festive and celebratory over the years. Jewish children often receive one gift for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. Every community has unique Hanukkah traditions. These are only a few examples.

The lighting of the Hanukkiyah, which is a candelabrum with eight candle holders and a ninth set above the rest. Each night during Hanukkah one candle is lit. The ninth candle is lit first and it is used to light all the others. A popular Hanukkah game is the spinning of the dreidel. It's a four sided top with Jewish letters written on each side. Since Hanukkah is a holiday that celebrates oil. Fried foods are on the menu including: Latkes (like pancakes) and sufganiyah (like a jelly filled donut).

Kwanzaa - Kwanzaa is a week long celebration held in the United States honoring universal African American heritage and culture. It is observed from December 26 - January 1 each year. This holiday started in the 1960's and is now celebrated by over 18 million people each year.

Kwanzaa has a special candle holder as well, called a kinara. Which contains seven candles. Each night one candle is lit and a principle of Kwanzaa is discussed. The seven principles are: Umoja=Unity, Kujichagulia=Self Determination, Ujima=Collective work and responsibility, Ujamaa=Collective economics, Nia=Purpose, Kuumba=Creativity, and Imani=Faith. On the 6th night, New Years Eve a large feast is held to commemorate African American heritage and customs.

Other holidays and traditions include: Yule, Ramadan, HumanLight, and Diwali.

Click on the name for more information about each one.

How does your family celebrate this time of year?

Review: The Christmas Dog

The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson

Publication Date: September 2009
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Genre: Holiday/Seasonal
ISBN-13: 9780800718817

(From my own collection)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Borders, IndieBound

If you live in Morehead, KY or the surrounding area:

Purchase from our local independent bookseller: CoffeeTree Books
Borrow from our local library:
The Rowan County Public Library

Melody Carlson on the WEB: Website, Facebook


Synopsis (Book Blurb):

Christmas miracles can come from unlikely sources

Betty Kowalski isn't looking forward to the holidays. She just can't seem to find Christmas in her heart. Maybe it's because her husband is gone, Maybe it's because she's missing her children. Or maybe it has something to do with her obnoxious new neighbor, who seems to be tearing his house apart and rearranging it on the lawn.

But when a mangy dog appears at her doorstep, the stage is set for Betty to learn what Christmas is really all about.


I love a good Christmas book and this one really hit the spot. I won it awhile back on blog I was visiting and I was really happy to get it. I love Melody Carlson. I believe she is a wonderful Christian writer for young girls and women. Her books have inspired me, made me think about a lot of things and propelled me to action in some cases. The Christmas Dog is a wonderful story about the true meaning of Christmas and about how things aren't always what they seem.

When a new neighbor moves in next door to Betty Kowalski, she is less than pleased. Nobody knows anything about him. He stays up all night with strange noises coming from the house and he has a mangy little dog. Times are changing for Betty. It's Christmas and her husband is gone, her children have families of their own and she just doesn't seem to be in the Christmas mood this year. When her granddaughter Avery appears out of the blue, Betty is drawn into a family squabble and feels even more defeated for the holidays.

That's when Ralph appears. Ralph is the neighbor, Jack Jones' mangy pooch. Betty can't stand the dog or the man, but Avery is head over heels for the dog. Betty wants to take him to the pound but Avery wants to keep him. Betty feels compelled to keep him and see what happens. God works in mysterious ways and Ralph might just be the answer to all their prayers.

I really enjoyed this book. Melody Carlson is such a versatile author. She can write about young girls, she can write stories for women, devotionals. You name it and she can write it... I was really excited to read this book. I'm a strong believer in the ability of animals and pets to change our lives and I just knew that "Ralph" was going to be a miracle worker. Carlson gives us a story that could be taken from our own lives or those around us. A young girl, struggling to make amends with her mother, an elderly woman who is lamenting days gone by and an old man who is lonely and just needs to be understood.

This book really embodies the Christmas Spirit and what it's all about. The story is fast paced and well written. It is just right for this hectic time of year. It will make you sit down a while and forget about the hustle and bustle and remember that not everyone is having a wonderful Christmas and what we can do to make it better.

The Christmas Dog is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!