Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dark Room

Publication Date: May 1, 2012
First Prize Winner of the 2011 Forward National Literature Awards
Award-Winning Finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category of The USA "Best Books 2011″ Awards

After scattering her mother's ashes in Vietnam, photojournalist Xandra Carrick comes home to New York to rebuild her life and career. When she experiences supernatural visions that reveal atrocities perpetrated by American soldiers during the Vietnam War, she finds herself entangled in a forty-year-old conspiracy that could bring the nation into political turmoil. Launching headlong into a quest to learn the truth from her father, Peter Carrick, a Pulitzer Prize Laureate who served as an embedded photographer during the war, Xandra confronts him about a dark secret he has kept--one that has devastated their family.

Her investigations lead her to her departed mother's journal, which tell of love, spiritual awakening, and surviving the fall of Saigon.

Pursued across the continent, Xandra comes face-to-face with powerful forces that will stop at nothing to prevent her from revealing the truth. But not before government agencies arrest her for murder, domestic terrorism and an assassination attempt on the newly elected president of the United States.
Darkroom is a riveting tale of suspense that tears the covers off the human struggle for truth in a world imprisoned by lies.

My review:

I am not a big fan of thrillers; this is not a book I would pick for myself but once I began reading it, I had to know how it would end. Dark Room grabs you by the throat, holds you down in your chair and takes you on an emotional roller coaster that leaves you dangling in between terror, nerve-wracking fear and anxiety to know how it is all going to end. I was actually afraid each time I picked up the book; worried about what was going to happen next.

Dark Room is an exceptional emotional thriller and literally kept me on the edge of my seat, I could not put it down until the very last page. You will find yourself transported into the story with the characters and there is no rest until you have drunk in the very last word. I would advise not reading this book before you go to bed because you won't get any sleep until you have finished it!

A retelling of historic events that bring the Vietnam War to life in alarming detail. I highly recommend Mr. Grahams Darkroom if you love emotional thrillers.

Dark Room was provided to me by the publisher
Howard, a division of Simon & Schuster

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Interview with Samuel Oakes

Do you like to read Amish fiction? This author combines Amish with suspense and intrigue. Treason is very different from your typical Amish novel. This week I would like for you to tell me what it is you like or dislike about Amish Fiction. I will enter your name to win a copy of Samuel Oakes new novel "High Treason"

The future is here for a bankrupt nation gripped in the throes of the plague, and the corrupt government is in charge of the vaccine. Young Amishman Enos Yoder faces the greatest crisis of his life when his father refuses to accept the compromises the Bishop has made, and his mother lies on her deathbed. Will the family be consumed by his father's stubbornness? Regina Owens, the liberal minister in town, is having her normal world rocked to the core by what is happening. She wonders why a man would lift his own hand against what is most precious in life. Will Enos recover from the brutal shock when his girlfriend is taken from him? Will his faith, backed by five hundred years of teaching against violence, survive the hate rising in his heart? High Treason is a story of love, bitterness, and treason, rising up in the heart of a man and in the highest corridors of government.

Samuel Oakes is a Pseudonym for a best selling fiction author.

I'm happy to feature Samuel Oakes on my blog this week. If you want to win a n autographed copy of his book, you must leave a comment, post a link on your Facebook page and/or your own blog.

Do you share circumstances from your own life in your stories?
I do if the incidents are applicable to the story line. And the same happening can be applied to different people, which produces a different reaction, or even cross gender,etc. But I haven’t always lived the life of my characters. That would be a little impossible, I think. Especially once you write about bombings and killings. Never lived that life, that I know of.

Do you enjoy reading?What genre? Which Authors do you read?
I read broadly. “The Dragon Tattoo” books, which I love, but my wife made me throw out of the house. “A Reliable Wife” by Goolrick, which blends Christian themes in an excellent way. I’m reading the third of Chris Paolini’s phantasy series right now. Don’t like the magic elements exactly, but the story’s good. Nicholas Sparks books must all be read. Eventually, once they aren’t as expensive to buy.  

What is the most amazing reaction you have ever gotten from a readers about your books?
The review on Amazon from the reader who ha da deep spiritual experience while she read “High Treason.” That was the most startling reaction related to this particular book. And I considered it a great honor.

Tell us about your faith
I believe in God first of all, who transcended all the earthly traits we give Him. And yet one must live in the world. Which means to me that one must be something. Go to church somewhere. Live with people someplace. The conflict between those two truths can be severe at times, but finding a balance helps our spiritual health greatly, I think.

Can you fill us in on your next book?
Currently there are no plans for a follow-up to “High Treason”. That could change of course, so we’ll have to see.

Tell us one thing that would surprise your readers to know about you
How baffling I am to people, I suppose. I don’t fit preconceived ideas well. I was teaching at Bible School this winter, deep theological stuff, and yet I write this fiction. Some of it kind of edgy. Plus some other things, I do. One of the leaders there told me, “With you, we might as well throw the mold up against the wall.” And I don’t think he meant it complementary. It’s inconvenient, I guess. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake


Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at “the old home place,” a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. The children embrace the reunion as a welcome escape from the prying eyes of their father’s congregation; for Willadee it’s a precious opportunity to spend time with her mother and father, Calla and John. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core: John’s untimely death and, soon after, the loss of Samuel’s parish, which set the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.

In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But it is Blade Ballenger, a traumatized eight-year-old neighbor, who soon captures Swan’s undivided attention. Full of righteous anger, and innocent of the peril facing her and those she loves, Swan makes it her mission to keep the boy safe from his terrifying father.

With characters who spring to life as vividly as if they were members of one’s own family, and with the clear-eyed wisdom that illuminates the most tragic—and triumphant—aspects of human nature, Jenny Wingfield emerges as one of the most vital, engaging storytellers writing today. In The Homecoming of Samuel Lake she has created a memorable and lasting work of fiction.


Jenny Wingfield grew up “pretty much all over Louisiana”.  The daughter of a Methodist minister, she learned early on that being a preacher’s kid could mean moving a lot. 
After high school, she attended Southern State College (now SAU), in Magnolia, Arkansas, earning her B.A. in English. Later on, she taught English and Language Arts in the Hope, Arkansas and Ashdown Arkansas public schools.

Wingfield broke into freelancing by writing celebrity articles for Scene Magazine, Music City News, and The Saturday Evening Post.  Several years later, she shifted lanes, tackling screenwriting.  Her film  credits include The Man In The Moon (Reese Witherspoon’s debut movie), The Outsider (starring Naomi Watts), and Hallmark Hall of Fame’s A Dog Named Christmas (winner of the 2010 Genesis Award), plus a number of Disney animation projects.
Her first novel, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, was released by Random House on July 12, 2011.  The book has also sold in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Israel, Norway, Spain and Russia.

Wingfield’s other passions are watercolor painting, animal rescue and organic gardening.  She lives on a farm, surrounded by rescued dogs, cats and horses, plus a few “bought” dairy goats.

My review:

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake transported me to another world.  The style of writing has a similar feel to that of  "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.  This book would be a great summer read sitting on a picnic blanket in the warm sun with a tall glass of ice-cold sweet tea in your hand. I really loved the characters of Uncle Toy and especially Swan Lake!  One of her more memorable quotes in the book is:  "I think maybe miracles are something everybody has to find out about for themselves. Telling them about it doesn't make them believe. It makes them think you're crazy as a bessie bug!"
The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is about good vs. evil, miracles and disappointment, redemption, faith and above all...forgiveness. 

The plot, setting, pacing and dialogue were all "spot on"!  This is a wonderful debut book by a very talented author. I plan to read it again and it will become a permanent fixture on my bookshelf...a high honor I afford to very few books. 

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is available at Amazon and the paperback version will be re released in July at Barnes and Noble. Run! Don't walk and pick yourself up a copy.

To purchase the book: The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reading Groups vs. Book Clubs - Please help me out!

I would love to get YOUR feedback from both authors and readers about book clubs and reading groups.

Is there a difference? What are the differences?
Who decides on which book will be read?
Does everyone read the same book or a different book?
Do you belong to a book club or reading group?
What do you love about your group?
What do you dislike about your group?
For the next week please leave your comments to the questions above.
Please share anything you would like to your book club.
If you would like to have any of the authors I interview who live in your area come to visit your book club and make their books personally available, let me know and I'll see what I can do.  Most of the "big name" authors won't be able to but those who aren't as well known are usually delighted to do so at no charge simply for the opportunity to getting their books into your club's hands!

Thanks and looking forward to your feedback!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Make a Wish

If you had one deep, heartfelt wish, what would it be?
That is what our first author interview did in her book, "Make a Wish"
(Stories written for real people where they are the star).

The Mary Reader: Marlayne, welcome to my brand new blog!

Marlayne:  Thanks so much! I feel honored to be the very first one on here.

The Mary Reader: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Marlayne: I'm a 50-something wife, mother, career administrative assistant and also the author of 3 books (with a two more in the works). I'm also a Messianic Jew who loves Jesus and wants to glorify him in all that I do; especially my books.

The Mary Reader:  Tell us about Make a Wish.  How did you get the idea to write Make a Wish?

MarlayneA good friend of mine, Henry, who has been a quadriplegic since the age of 14 (and is now in his early 50s ), was really down in the dumps. He had been stood up for a fishing trip and because of his condition; he is subject to the schedules and whims of others. He wouldn't get out of bed, wouldn’t do anything and his wife, Vicki, had given up trying to coax him. Henry and I had become good friends ever since Vicki reviewed my first book, The Victor, on her blog.
        I had already spoken with Henry several times before this so I was distressed when I heard how low he was feeling. But what could I do? I lived on the west coast and he lived on the east coast. How could I possibly cheer him up? Then a light bulb went on over my head and I thought, “I can write him a story”…and that’s exactly what I did. I wrote “A Gift for Henry” in about one hour and then emailed it to them that night.  The first thing the next morning I checked my email to see what the response was.  Well…it was amazing!  Vicki had written me and told me that they had wept for 20 minutes after reading it. That it had truly been inspired of God because of the details I put in that I were not aware that were perfect for Henry.  Such as the smell of orange blossoms being his favorite, how he was always trying to wiggle his toes to see if they had started working and that all he wants to do when he gets to heaven is to run, run, run for the Lord.
        All of these stories were written as gifts for others either because I was inspired to do so or because they were requested.  Some are deeply emotional, heartfelt and inspirational while others are just fun.
         Each story is preceded by a brief paragraph which gives a little bio on the person for whom it was written and why.  Each person appears in their own story as the “star”.
        If you would like your own story, all you have to do is contact me via email and… “Make a Wish”!

The Mary Reader: What is your process for writing the wish fulfillment stories?

Marlayne: Well first I pray and ask the Lord to guide me in what I write so it will not only bless the recipient (so that they will feel like they have really heard from God instead of me), but that I will also faithfully represent Him in each story. Since I'm not God and do not have 2-way conversations with Him, I am very concerned that I do not misrepresent Him in any way.  Usually I will see an image in my mind and I will just sit down and start typing while the "movie" plays in my head. In just about all my stories the Lord has inspired me to put in little elements here and there that are very specifically unique to each of the people for whom I am writing the story and the most common response I get back is: "how did you know that about me?" At first I thought it was just sheer "luck" but when it kept happening over and over again I began to trust that it was truly the Lord putting these little nuggets inside my head so I could tuck them into the stories.  

The Mary Reader: What do you hope to achieve in writing the wish fulfillment stories?

Marlayne: That it will give the recipient (and the reader) a sense that God truly cares about all the little details of their life and most of all: them.  I also hope people will come away with a different and more God-centered perspective about their lives rather than just looking at only the circumstances.  There are so many awful things going on in the world and in people's lives...I hope the book will not only touch them emotionally but uplift them as well. 

The Mary Reader:  What has been the response to these stories from the people you wrote them for?

Marlayne: Just about everyone has said that they couldn't help but cry as they read them. I think it makes it more real when they read a story in which they star as the main character. The reactions frequently amaze me more than the people for whom I have written these stories. I often wish I could be a fly on the wall when they get them so I could experience their response as they do.
The Mary Reader: Will you be writing any more wish fulfillment stories?

Marlayne:  I have written another 15 stories for the next wish fulfillment book which I plan to title "Star Light, Star Bright" after the wishing poem but I need more people to email me with their wish.

The Mary Reader:  If people want to send you their wishes for the next book, what should they do?

Marlayne:  They need to email me at:  The information I need is some background about themselves, what their wish is and why. If I need to ask more questions to help me with the story then I will write and ask them. I won't write stories that include anything that is not G-rated.

The Mary Reader:  Do you have a website or blog?

Marlayne:  Yes I do! My website for my first book, The Victor is:  My blog is: 

The Mary Reader:  Where can we get your books?

Marlayne:  All my books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They can also be ordered through Family Christian Stores. The Victor (a historical/inspiration romance set in a mythical medieval setting) and In Plain Sight (an Amish paranormal fiction with a twist) are available for all e-readers as well. Make a Wish is paperback only.  Personally autographed copies can be purchased through my blog using a Christian version of Paypal here: 

My review of Make a Wish:

When Make a wish was published, it had stories from many people that I know personally. I got to witness the effects these stories had on all of those people. Many of them told me they read and reread their story everyday. Marlayne does not even realize the effect she had on so many people when she wrote Make a Wish. I for one have a wish story in this book and it has moved me so much I want everyone  I know to have their very own wish story. I believe that God gives Marlayne these stories to touch the very heart of each recipient. If you want to be moved and inspired then pick up your copy today.  

Marlayne will be giving away 1 personally autographed copy of Make a Wish. If you would like to enter to win, you must provide evidence of posting this blog link on your facebook page (and/or your own blog) and leave a comment.

I give Make A Wish 5 stars!