“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Monday, April 30, 2012

(ARC) Review & Giveaway--"The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr" by Sandra Byrd

I'm so excited to share this amazing novel with you from Sandra Byrd!  The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr is a historical novel that will whisk you away into another time full of court life, grand banquets, intrigue, and of course secrets. 

The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr by Sandra Byrd is the second in the Ladies in Waiting Series.  It releases June 5, 2012.

The first book in the series is To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn (a 2012 Christy Award finalist).  To Die For is an amazing book on its own!  It follows the lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn, Meg Wyatt.  Although Meg Wyatt appears in The Secret Keeper, it can easily be read as a stand alone novel.  Meg Wyatt makes a brief appearance, but Byrd does a good job of explaining who Meg is.

The Secret Keeper begins at the end of King Henry VIII's reign.  He is no longer the handsome, virile king he used to be.  The story is told from the perspective of Juliana St. John, the daughter of a well-to-do knight in Marlborough.  Through different family connections, Juliana ends up serving Kateryn (Kate) Parr as her lady in waiting.  Juliana develops a special relationship with Kate.  Juliana is worried though, because she discovers that she has the gift of prophecy.  King Henry has become more strict with his laws regarding religion, accusing anyone he deems suspicious of witchcraft.  She decides to harbor this secret to herself, although many of her visions concern those in high positions, including the Lady Elizabeth, in great danger.  She has to continually make choices regarding how she will act on her prophecies.  Juliana also learns many of her own lessons about life, love, and faith throughout the novel as she struggles to adapt to the life at court.  She must learn to rely on God, who will never leave us nor forsake us.

I appreciate that Byrd realizes that most of her readers are familiar with the basic outline of historical events that she is writing about.  Therefore she doesn't tell the same old story, but decides to take the perspective of the lady in waiting and really get inside her head.  She asks the question, "What would it be like to serve in the court of King Henry VIII?"  Another question she asks is, "What kinds of things would a lady in waiting have to give up to serve the queen?"

King Henry VIII
Sandra Byrd adds greatly to the richness of the time period and has obviously done her research.  Byrd describes the detail of the period clothing so vividly that I could see it vividly in my imagination.  I also loved learning more about courtly manners and the customs of the Tudor period, while still being immersed in Juliana's story. 

Kateryn (Kate) Parr is another character that I appreciated.  How much do we really know about her, except that she survived? I loved learning more about this Godly woman!  She is very admirable, has a sweet temper, and is humble  I do not know what I would have done if I were in her position and was basically forced to marry the king when I loved another. The situation is even worse because the king is so old and physically disgusting, with his oozing sores, obesity and... er... bodily functions.  Kate handles the situation with such dignity and Christian character.  I love how she actually prays about it and then feels that God is telling her that it is His will for her to marry the King because she can influence him, especially with the new laws.  God is saying that the realm is going in the wrong direction with Scripture being banned and she can help make a difference if she is to become the king's wife. By the end of Kate's life, she has turned the king's wrath, and the king's council has ended up being led by reformers who have made strides in religious matters.  She wrote religious books on her faith that were published.  She also mothered many of her former husband's children, King Henry's children, and Lady Jane. 

Kateryn Parr
Clean Content:  This is a clean read.  Juliana does have to deal with the terrible struggle of being raped.  There is a rape scene, but it is not too graphic.  Byrd handles it very well and in the back speaks about the reason she wanted to deal with the subject under her Q&A section.  She is validating those who have been through this--that they are not alone.  Juliana was afriad to speak out about her rape, but readers should not be.  Readers can still be happy in the end, just like Juliana, even after experiencing such an atrocity.  God will be the ultimate judge. 

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!

I want to thank Howard Books and Libby Reed from Howard Books for the complimentary copy of this book for review.  I also want to thank Sandra Byrd for the complimentary copy of the book for giveaway purposes.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.  

You can find Sandra Byrd on her Website, Facebook, and Twitter

GIVEAWAY:  Sandra Byrd was kind enough to offer up a copy of her book The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr for the giveaway.  Thank you so much Sandra!  The winner will receive a copy of the book when it releases June 5, 2012. 

  • 1 paperback copy of The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr by Sandra Byrd
  • Winner will receive their copy when it releases
  • US residents only please
  • Only valid entries will be counted (I will be verifying entries)
  • Contest will be held for two weeks--4/30-5/14/12
  • Winner will be announced on blog and be contacted via e-mail
  • If winner does not respond after 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen

Thank you so much for entering!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Until Today" Review--Inspiring Poetry Everyone Will Enjoy!

My Summary:

Until Today: Stories and Poems on Life as I Know It is author Jerry White's latest work.  It is a book of poetry; but don't be fooled, it is also much more.  The book also contains vivid stories and introductions to many of the poems, providing an explanation and giving each poem more meaning.  Until Today is broken up into four segments:  Life in the Spiritual World, Life in the World of Family, Life in the World of Work, and Life in the World of the Living.  Some of the poems are more just Mr. White's thoughts regarding a certain issue, such as politics, while others are more prayer-like.  He shares many memories from his past and there is a pleasant feeling of nostalgia.  There's something for everyone in this book--the poems range on a wide variety of topics including faith, sports, handymen, movies (Star Wars), and even the Civil War!

My Review:

Until Today is a wonderful addition to the world of poetry!  Mr. White's introductions and personal stories give his poems more meaning and break up the monotony that sometimes comes when reading large volumes of poetry.  As for his poetry, his poems can be poignant and convicting.  Many have a depth and insight that is especially apparent when he explains his faith and Christianity.  He is vulnerable as he shares his thoughts on his faith journey, which endears him to the reader and makes the reader think about their own faith journey (the poem Waiting Room is one example).  I especially loved the poem Only A Moment which is inspired by Max Lucado's book One Incredible Moment, which tells how Christ's birth changed the world.  It's a powerful poem, which speaks of the significance of Christ's birth, its truth, and what it does for us.  There are many more poems like this that will inspire and uplift or just bring a smile to your face.  This is a great book for people of all ages and walks of life!

Excerpt from Until Today:

God’s Waiting Room

My thoughts I conveyed to God today

But He knew them before a word was said

My dreams I have made fully known today

I choose now by God to be led

My rudderless dreams have led me astray

Without the compass I have mislaid

My misguided misadventures in life

Have led to my family’s dismay

It is time for me now to relinquish control

Of the course my life has made

I give it to God to lead my way

With little or no further delay

I find myself now in God’s waiting room

Surrounded by those just like me

We have all been lost near the rocks of doom

Now we each wait for clear sailing at sea

With God at the helm of my life’s ship

I can’t wait to see where my life’s charted

But today I rest in God’s waiting room

It is here that my new course will be started


Until Today Bio for Jerry White
Author and poet, Jerry M. White, lives with his wife of 30 years, Micki, in the Atlanta area. Now empty nesters, Jerry and Micki expect the birth of their 10th grandchild sometime in May of 2012. Mr. White is a 1978 graduate of Georgia State University’s school of journalism and has worked for 3 different newspapers in the state of Georgia. He is a contributing writer for Poetic Monthly Magazine and has seen his work published in a number of regional publications such as The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Loose Change, Whimsical Collections, Reach of Song, The Golden Isles Guide, and others. He is a member of The Georgia Poetry Society, and the Poetry Society of Georgia. Mr. White also authored his first collection of poems, Moments of Mine: A Collection of Thoughts in Poem, in 2009 and is happy now to bring this new work to his readers.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"The River of Time Series" by Lisa Bergren --An Adventure To Sweep You Away!

The River of Time Series: All the romance and suspense of Twilight, with none of the vampires.

I bought the first book in the River of Time series, Waterfall, back in 2011, right when it was released.  I was drawn to it because it seemed to be full of everything I loved:  knights, medieval history, castles, chivalry, romance, and a kick-butt heroine.  It seemed like a clean read, yet still promised a lot of romance.  Yes, I knew I would love it.  O yes, yes, I did.  I consumed this book like there was no tomorrow.  I pre-ordered the next one and the next.  They fulfilled my expectations and more!

Waterfall is the first in the River of Time series by Lisa Bergren.  In this book, the reader is introduced to the main character Gabi Betarrini, and her sister, Lia, who also plays a huge part in the series.  Gabi, the eldest, is the more outgoing of the two.  Lia is the quieter one who excels at archery (a skill which comes in very handy later on in the series).  Their parents are famous archaeologists.  Gabi and Lia always have to tag along with their parents to archaeological sites in Tuscany, Italy during their summer vacations.  Their father has recently died from an accident at a dig and their mother has been very distant.  One day at one of the dig sites, the two sisters put their hands on a hand print in an ancient tomb and travel back in time to fourteenth-century Italy!  When they emerge in this new time period, they are in the middle of a skirmish between several knights.  Luckily, they end up with Marcello and Luca, two of the good knights in the fight.  They may be safe for a time, but they are caught up in a war that is a lot bigger than they bargained for.  They even find themselves taking up arms, trying out some moves, and finding that they are pretty good at medieval combat.  There's an even bigger war for their hearts...especially Gabi's with the gorgeous Marcello.  Will she even want to go home after meeting the man of her dreams? 

Cascade is the second book in the series.  Gabi and Lia have returned home, but Gabi wants to to go back to Marcello, a dashing knight who has stolen her heart, and who also lives in the 14th century.  She also has another problem:  she cannot go unless her sister returns along with her.  Lia is a little more reluctant and practical.  Their lives will be at risk, because they do not know how the time travel operates.  They may not survive or be able to return.  They will also be returning to a time that is fraught with dangers and politically charged.  Lia does finally agree.  This time, their mom comes along.  When they arrive, it is a few months later and Gabi and Lia are famous for helping to win the battle for Siena against Firenze.  They are not yet free from the danger as the enemy seeks to retaliate.  The mighty She-Wolves of Siena (what Gabi and Lia have been nicknamed) must draw weapons with their men once again as their safety is threatened.  Their mother adapts well to the culture and joins in the fight.  She and the girls finally start to connect and grow closer in the midst of the battle.  Gabi's love for Marcello has grown to the point where she has considered marriage with him.  The only problem is that if she marries him, she will be forcing her sister and mom to stay with her in the past.  She also has another reason for possibly going home.  She and her family have played with the idea that they could possibly go through time and rescue her father.  But it is a lot to risk, not knowing how the time travel operates.  What will she choose? 

Torrent is the third book in the series.  For reasons explained in the book, the Betarrini family travels back in time once again to fourteenth-century Italy, knowing they will be braving the Black Plague, one of the most ravaging pandemics in history.  The battle between Siena and Florence also continues and their lives are at risk.  Throw in kidnapping, a forced marriage and imprisonment and it makes for quite the suspenseful read.  Gabi is set up in an arranged political marriage to Lord Greco, an ambassador for Firenze.  Will Gabi be rescued by Marcello or be forced to marry someone she does not love?  Or does she?  What about the confusing feelings she starts to develop for Lord Greco?  What is Lord Greco's real role in the story?  What is the fate of the She-wolves of Siena?

On all three of the books:

Bergen writes in a style to which teens will be able to relate.  I love Gabi's comments and thoughts; sometimes humorous, other times sarcastic.  The story is full of plot twists, making my heart pound throughout most of every book. I had to keep turning the page to find out what happened next. Each book got better than the previous one.

All of the characters are very well done.  Each is fleshed out and I feel like I know them.  I especially love Gabi's character.  She is certainly the "kick-butt, full of heart" heroine that I was hoping for.  She isn't perfect and struggles with real-life issues.  I appreciate her struggle (in Cascade) with whether to marry Marcello and force her family to stay in the past, or be forever separated from her one true love.  That is a really tough decision.  What would you do if you had to make that choice?   

I love that these books are full of romance and suspense, both things I enjoy in a good read.  Faith is interwoven into the series, but in such a way that it is not preachy.  The lessons are ones that can apply to anyone, not just teens, and I found myself growing in my faith as I was reading these stories.  I have thoroughly enjoyed these books and give them five stars!  They are all clean reads. 

I am looking forward to reading Bourne, which came out February 27, 2012 and features Lord Rodolfo Greco on the cover.  I was so happy when I heard Lisa Bergren was going to be writing this.  It is an e-novella and it is #3.1 in the River of Time Series. 

BOURNE SUMMARY (from www.lisatawnbergren.com):
In this e-novella, River of Time #3.1, the dramatic tale about the Betarrinis and Forellis continues, picking up directly after where Torrent left off…  The battle is done at the front, but the battle is only beginning back at Castello Forelli.  Marcello fights for his life; Lord Greco fights to find his place; and Lia fights for love.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Launch Out Into the Deep by Acacia Beumer & Aaron Slaton! $50 VISA GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY & 2 Book GIVEAWAY!

Acacia Beumer:
Acacia Slaton Beumer is a graduate of Oral Roberts University; she will earn her Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy in the summer of 2012. She works in the Social Service field and finds a sense of joy from helping others. Her husband John is in the United States Army. She has two daughters; Jana is 3 years old Jaci is 1. Acacia loves to interact with readers and welcomes questions and feedback. Her next project is to write an autobiography about her many life experiences. If you're interested in contacting Acacia email her at acacia@launchoutbook.com . May you be tremendously blessed and continue to persevere and daily grow in your walk with Christ.

Aaron L. Slaton:

Aaron Slaton is the author of the poetry and one chapter featured in this book. Writing since the age of twelve, Aaron has been gifted with the ability to bring the Scriptures to life through rhythm and rhyme. Aaron is an aspiring songwriter and producer. If you're interested in contacting Aaron email him at aaron@launchoutbook.com .

Purchase Link:

There will be a $50 Visa Gift Card to one commenter from tour, and $50 Visa Gift Card to host with most comments.


The topics are contemporary and compelling; these are subjects that affect our world today and those for which people are seeking genuine guidance. Her words reveal an understanding of the depth of emotions in our world, as she explains situations through her own personal experiences. Yet, throughout the book, there is a solid and strong emphasis on the Word of God. The author has effectively bridged the gap between the natural and the spiritual world. Her complete reliance on the power of God brings a taste of heaven to some of today's bitter situations. Sexual promiscuity, peer pressure, disease and even crime are discussed with a bold and frank style. Readers will know there is nothing outside of God's reach that He cannot restore and make right again. An added layer of spiritual enlightenment comes from the poems that accompany many of these essays. Intense and extremely insightful, the words of Aaron L. Slaton provide a strong commentary to his sister's counsel. Encouraging, yet filled with many hard-hitting exhortations, this book speaks with a contemporary language and a timeless commitment to love and truth.

Interview with Acacia Beumer
Hello Acacia and welcome to Faery Tales Are Real!  I am so happy to have you today.Thank you for being here!

Thanks so much for having me Megan.  I am honored to be your featured guest!

1. You seem very passionate about your writing and the topics you write about.How did you get started as a writer?

Acacia: Megan, I remember, when I was no more than four years old, having a fascination with words and a strong desire to read.I would take out my chalk and copy words from a kid’s book onto the blackboard.Then I’d try to pronounce the words and would ask my mom for help if I ran across a word I couldn’t pronounce.This fascination with words and reading turned into a desire to write.I would attempt to write fiction novels at the age of twelve.I’d write up to one hundred pages and would be anxious to share and receive feedback from family and friends.After a while, I stopped writing.Instead, I became an avid reader.I was really into V.C. Andrews and Judy Blume when I was a youth.If I find the time, I still occasionally enjoy reading some of V.C. Andrews’ books (smile). My college professor and friends encouraged me to get back into writing again.The same college professor encouraged me to keep a journal and to date and write about events in my life.One of my college friends said,“If you leave this earth and don’t share your story it would be a “crying shame.”The truth of the matter was that I didn’t have faith in my writing ability. I read too many books by famous writers and believed there was no way I could measure up.Recently, I told my mom that although I’d written a book, I still didn’t see myself as the best writer.Mom replied, “Acacia, writing is not always about technicality.It’s being capable of sharing experiences in a way that’s vivid, engaging and relatable.That’s your gift; you are a writer!”
2. I love that you combine your brother’s poetry with your writing.How long have you two been working as a team and what does that process look like?

Acacia:To be honest Megan, we never worked together prior to the release of “Launch Out Into The Deep.”It just happened by chance or, should I say, it wasn’t coincidental but was part of God’s plan.While working at a psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents I was inspired to write a poem titled, Fear Not Only Believe, which is featured in our book.

I began the prose with these words:

“Fear not my child, for I am near.

I will wipe away every tear.

Be not ashamed, you are not alone.

I am your sunshine in the midst of the storm.

Step forth in faith—do not sway; the help you need is on the way.

Hold your head up high—look towards the sky,

for the Lord Jehovah is nearby.”

This is where my brother Aaron began after I had tried unsuccessfully to complete the poem:

“Just when your hope seems to fade away,

the Lord comes just in time to save the day.

He may not come when you want Him to,

but He’s the Lord Almighty, He knows what to do.

The Lord always comes in the right season;

He wants to make sure you’re ready that’s the reason.

Look towards the horizon and you will see,

your path through the storm to your destiny.”

My mom and I encouraged him to write more and from that point on he’s written over twenty pieces of prose that we believed should be published and shared with others.During our research into publishing, we discovered that poetry is not easily marketable so I decided to write on the various topics of Aaron’s poetry in a devotional style, which later became known as my first book “Launch Out Into The Deep!”

3. Please describe the part your faith plays in your writing.

Acacia:My life experiences are intertwined with my faith.I believe this is mainly because I know without a doubt that if it had not been for God’s grace and mercy I would not have been privileged to write “Launch Out Into The Deep.” Launch Out Into The Deep” is my alabaster box.In this book, I’m transparent and I lie down my entire being, my innermost secrets, my fears, hopes, belief and my unbelief at the feet of Jesus.Writing is healing and it has brought so much spiritual cleansing in my life.I will forever honor God and can’t forget his faithfulness throughout my youth.At the age of 15, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and my prior psychiatrist told my mom I would never be normal or able to function in society.God said,“This sickness is not unto death but that the father through the son will be glorified” (John 11:4).Amen and Amen!
4. What tips could you give for those interested in becoming an author?

Acacia:Don’t let it be said that you left this earth with unfulfilled dreams.Begin the writing process and surround yourself with people who support you. Find your voice and don’t imitate others.Don’t equate success with receiving a traditional publishing contract because one may never come.There are many renown authors who self-published their first book.The sky is the limit!
5. If you could share one piece of advice with readers, what would it be?

Acacia:Always believe and hope for the best in each and every circumstance.When you’ve done all you can, trust God and let Him do the rest. You are too blessed to stress!

6. Where can readers find you and can up to date with the latest information on your books?
Acacia:Readers can visit my site at www.launchoutbook.com.  Sign up for our newsletter and receive two sample chapters from the book, two audio book mp3’s and a screen saver. Also, tune in to my most recent TV interview. Also, readers, one first place winner (the reader who leaves the most comments) will have an opportunity to have a choice of receiving “Launch Out Into The Deep!” Audio Book MP3 CD, or the Paperback book. And the second place winner will receive the E-book. Let the comments begin! JAnd don’t forget to follow my blog tour until the end, as one special winner (who leaves the most comments on my posts, throughout the tour) will receive a $50.00 Visa gift card. Ready, set, go… BANG, BANG!

Thank you so much for your time.It was wonderful having you!
Acacia: Thanks so much for having me Megan. Also, thanks all readers for your support!

When we were children, our interest and adoration was for fairy tales. I do not know any child who does not like hearing stories or watching movies of this nature. My favorite cartoons were and still are "Snow White", "Beauty and the Beast", and best of all, "Cinderella". Although, these stories are fairy tales, they have some truth because they depict certain realities. In each of these stories, the main character goes through tests and trials and unwanted hardships. In each case, her fate seems doomed, but through the storms of life, she comes out shining like a star. In the end, each heroine’s character and virtue were found to be true. As we become adults, we sometimes wish these fairy tales were reality. One thing is certain: life may bring hurt, shame, uncertainties, and fears, but in each of us is a small child who still dreams and is entitled to a happy ending.

Now that I have your attention, come on a journey with me to the Book of Ruth. Her story may make you cry, but in the end you will be in awe. If God was faithful in the life of Ruth, there is still hope for you. Some of you reading this may have recently lost your spouse or a child. More than likely, you’re not over the loss and are still grieving. Maybe you are in a financial bind and see no way out of your hardship, or perhaps, like myself, you are single and tired of meeting toads. It doesn’t matter your background or status in life—if you are here, there is a message for you from the story of Ruth.

--I Still Believe: The Cinderella Story, Chapter Excerpt from Launch Out Into The Deep 

Please leave a comment with your e-mail address below to be entered in the contest to win a copy of Launch Out Into the Deep.  Winners will be selected at Random.org.  First place winner will have a choice of a paper back copy of the book or an MP3.  Second place will get an E-book copy.  Whoever leaves the most comments on Acacia's posts throughtout the blog tour will receive a $50.00 VISA gift card.  This is the beginning of the tour, so start commenting!  You can find the link to the main site of the tour above, which will take you to all the tour stops, where you can leave comments.