Character Spotlight + Giveaway: Lindsay Harrel’s Megan and Caleb

About the Story:

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide and living with her parents in her small Minnesota hometown, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

Meet Megan Jacobs

Resembles: Rachel McAdams

Age: 32

Occupation: Library aide

Megan has always wanted to be a travel writer. When she decides to complete Amanda’s bucket list, she does it as much for Amanda as for herself. With her donor’s parents’ blessing, she starts a blog and writes an entry for every location she visits.

Of course, nothing in life is ever easy. Megan faces several challenges before she even begins: she’s never traveled anywhere before (so she’s rather naïve!), she constantly worries about relapsing (so she’s a health nut to the extreme), and her estranged sister Crystal—who once-upon-a-time was her best friend and now is a virtual stranger—wants to come along for her own reasons.

Despite all of that, Megan remains positive and friendly. She has not let life steal her light, even in the darkest of times. Though she doesn’t realize it, she’s an inspiration to everyone who knows her.

But will she ever be able to take a leap of faith and learn to live her life—the one she never thought she’d have—to the fullest?

Meet Caleb Watkins

Resembles: David Giuntoli

Age: 34

Occupation: Travel Photographer

He spent years in the hospital as a teen and 20-something. In fact, that’s how he met Megan. They were often in the hospital at the same time, and together they watched the Travel Channel and flipped through countless issues of National Geographic, deciding that someday they’d travel the world together—he would take the photos and she’d write the articles.

When he finally got a heart transplant a few years before Megan did, he decided he wouldn’t waste another day not pursuing his dream. Now he spends most of his time out on safari in Africa, attending festivals in Denmark, trekking through Tibet, and pursuing any other adventure he can.

The way he lives life takes courage—something Megan desperately wants, but is afraid to pursue. In fact, Caleb is the one who inspires Megan to take the first step toward her own adventure. He doesn’t seem afraid of anything.

But he’s got a secret. He’s crazy about her.

When they meet up during Megan’s trip around the world, will he finally have the courage to pursue something more—with her?

Read The Heart Between Us, which releases March 13, and FIND OUT!


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About the Author:

Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years, and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time.

Connect with her through her websiteFacebook, or Twitter.


100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs

Genre: Devotional
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication Date: October 2017

I wouldn’t put my name and brave in the same sentence. I’m terrified of everything. Anyone in that boat knows how exhausting that can be. Maybe that’s what drew me to 100 Days to Brave — a desperate desire for change.

Annie F. Downs doesn’t provide a formula or set of rules that suddenly banishes fear and makes us brave. Instead, she spends 100 days reminding us who we are in God and who we are made to be. Equipped with this reinforcement, we can then go out and act bravely in spite of our fear.

Without a doubt, 100 Days to Brave has become my favorite devotional to date. Every entry begins with a Bible verse, followed by the lesson, and ends with a mini-assignment or call-to-action. Whether starting or ending the day with it, the bite-sized entries ensure total absorption without overwhelming.

I still have a long way to go before I can say I’m brave, but I’m making the journey one step at a time. Downs’ devotional helps me to be more deliberate in this walk even as I go about my daily life and routines. I especially love her Christ-filled and Scripture-centered approach as she encourages readers to remain grounded in God’s Word. The author’s honest and humorous voice as she shares personal anecdotes makes her relatable. Her keen insight at times left me to wonder if she possesses a secret peephole into my life to know exactly what I need (not want!) to hear.

A word of advice, keep a notebook and highlighters close by. A day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t marked up or highlighted thoughts and words that encouraged and spoke to me. I recommend 100 Days to Brave to anyone striving to overcome fear and live courageously in Christ.

Review copy provided by publisher. Thanks!

**Originally posted on Radiant Lit.

Look for Me (D.D. Warren #9) by Lisa Gardner

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: February 2018

Detective D.D. Warren arrives to a devastating scene. Uniformed officers, police cruisers, and yellow tape cordon off the home of a family of five. Four members have been murdered and the fifth — a sixteen-year-old girl — is missing. Unsure whether the teen narrowly escaped with her life or played a role in the tragedy, D.D. hunts for the girl while trying to piece together the family’s final moments. However, the detective isn’t the only one searching for the truth, so is survivor and vigilante Flora Dane. Both women want justice, but each has a different idea of what it looks like.

Look for Me delivers an adrenaline-charged page turner. Lisa Gardner pens a heart-wrenching tale of mistakes, second chances, and survival. Intricate characters pulled me in and had me vacillating between rooting for their escapes or captures. I did strongly suspect the killer’s identity early on, but the author had me second guessing myself a couple times.

Gardner masterfully toys with the reader’s emotions as D.D. and Flora uncover the events that led to the family’s murder. It felt like watching a car zoom straight for a cliff and being unable to stop it. The reader knows from the start that the family dies but desperately wants to find a way to prevent it.

I highly recommend that Look for Me stay within its intended audience as it contains strong language and mature content. Though it is number nine in the D.D. Warren series, it easily stands alone. To understand Flora Dane, you might want to read Find Her first, but it is not imperative to follow this story. Gardner and D.D.’s fans won’t want to miss this latest installment.

Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley. Thanks!

**Originally posted on Fiction Addict.


Guest Post: Instant Pantry Miracle Workers

Guest Blogger: Carla Laureano

When you think of great cooking, you probably assume it means elaborate preparations and complicated technique. But as a food enthusiast, I believe the most enjoyable meal is comprised of quality ingredients treated simply—which should come as a great relief to beginning home cooks. Making great food at home is as easy as honing basic techniques and choosing good ingredients. And leveling up your cooking merely takes a few swaps. Once you make these changes, you’ll be wondering how you ever managed without them.

  1. Salt

It’s perhaps the most basic seasoning in all cooking, and once so precious that part of a Roman soldier’s pay was a salt allowance (hence the word salary). And it’s still the easiest way to make food taste good—it makes sugar sweeter and it brings out the flavors of other spices. But if you’re sticking with fine iodized table salt, you’re missing out. I keep no fewer than four jars of different salts in my spice drawer and another several in my pantry . . . and regular table salt isn’t among them.

Kosher salt – The coarser granules are easier to handle while seasoning and hold moisture better than finer crystals, leaving meat moister and juicier. If you’ve thought chicken breast is dry by nature, it could very well be your choice of salts! This is the number one choice of chefs for salting food before or during cooking. My favorite brand is Diamond Crystal for its coarse but uniform granules.

Himalayan salt – You’ll see this sometimes misnamed as “pink sea salt”—it actually comes from the Himalayan mountain range, usually from Afghanistan. Himalayan salt gets its pink color from the minerals found in the mountains and contains essential trace elements that are often missing from a modern diet. You can find it in a range from fine to coarse. I like to use this in food that’s to be seasoned raw or cooked gently since it has a softer salt flavor that is often lost during cooking or beneath heavy sauces.

Sea salt – Like Himalayan salt, sea salt contains various minerals based on its place of harvest and can have a range of flavors depending on its original environment. I buy fine sea salt in bulk and use it in place of iodized salt for baking and salting cooking water. Larger flake salt (such as fleur de sel or Maldon) can be used as a finishing touch on top of any dish from meat to bread to chocolate. The crystal structure of flake salt dissolves slowly on the tongue and gives a hit of saltiness that’s surprising but not overpowering.

  1. Whole Peppercorns

Like any other spice, pepper loses its punch almost immediately after being ground. The difference between ground pepper sold in the jar at the grocery store and peppercorns ground fresh is like night and day: one has a vaguely peppery taste (and the tendency to make you sneeze); the other has a sharp, spicy flavor that makes it easy to understand why it’s called pepper in the first place. In fact, when I don’t want to use a hot pepper, freshly ground black pepper makes a good substitute. When cooking meat, I only use a good salt and freshly ground pepper, but my guests always comment on how flavorful the dish is. Magic.

  1. Whole-grain mustard

This is another swap that barely resembles the highly processed version at the local hot dog stand. It’s true that yellow table mustard has a mellow, inoffensive flavor, but is inoffensive really our highest goal as cooks? Whole-grain mustard, on the other hand, is robust and a little spicy, giving a punch of flavor to whatever it’s used in. Whether spread on a sandwich, used to make a pan sauce or rub, or whisked into a vinaigrette, it’s a serious upgrade to the pale yellow stuff most of us are used to.

  1. Balsamic vinegar

For the longest time, I thought vinegar only came in large plastic bottles and was used in the laundry. Then I discovered the world of vinegars. Like salt, I have no less than half a dozen in my pantry, each with its own unique flavor profile. However, if you can only have one, choose balsamic. Real balsamic vinegar of Modena is made from whole pressed grapes and then aged in a successive series of barrels, each made from different types of wood. The process is similar to that of aging brandy or sweet wine, giving a complex, mellow flavor that distinguishes it from the sharpness of distilled vinegar. It’s best used at the end of cooking, as it doesn’t hold up to heat well, though it can be simmered to gently reduce it to a syrup. Try it drizzled over rich meat or a fresh caprese salad. It also pairs well with berries: bruschetta topped with ricotta and fresh strawberries and sprinkled with balsamic vinegar can’t be missed.

  1. Real maple syrup

Once, my only experience with maple syrup was the artificially flavored stuff used over pancakes; when I tried the real thing, it was a game-changer. I use this sugar substitute more than any other in my kitchen: to bring out the natural sweetness of veggies in sauces or soups, to flavor oatmeal, or in a quick vinaigrette (the fact it incorporates more easily than honey with oil and vinegar is a big point in its favor). And yes, swap out the Aunt Jemima’s for the real thing. Your French toast and pancakes will never be the same.

Now my secret is out: I’m mostly a good cook because I use good ingredients. Try these simple swaps for yourself and see if they don’t work miracles in your kitchen!

About the Book:

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard Award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant. But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back . . . even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life—and love—outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

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About the Author:


Carla Laureano is the RITA® Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C.E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons, where she writes during the day and cooks things at night.

Connect with Carla on her website , Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.



Spotlight: The Melody of the Soul by Liz Tolsma

About the Story:

By 1943, Anna Zadok, a Jewish Christian living in Prague, has lost everything, including her career as a concert violinist and almost her entire family. The only person she has left is her beloved grandmother, and she’s determined to keep her safe. But protecting Grandmother won’t be easy–not with a Nazi officer billeted below them.

Anna must keep a low profile. There’s one thing she refuses to give up, though. Despite instruments being declared illegal, Anna defiantly continues to practice her violin. She has to believe that the war will end someday and her career will be waiting. Fortunately for Anna, the officer, Horst Engel, enjoys her soothing music. It distracts him from his dissatisfaction with Nazi ideology and reminds him that beauty still exists in an increasingly ugly world.

When his neighbors face deportation, Horst is moved to risk everything to hide them. Anna finds herself falling in love with the handsome officer and his brave heart. But what he reveals to her might break her trust and stop the music forever. . . .

About the Author:

Liz Tolsma’s specialty is historical fiction―from WWII to prairie romance. Her debut novel was a finalist for the 2014 Selah and Carol Award. She prides herself in excellent storytelling, presenting accurate historical details, and creating persevering characters.

Liz is also a popular speaker on topics such as writing, marriage, living with courage, and adoption. She and her husband have adopted all their children internationally. Liz resides in semi-rural Wisconsin with her husband and two daughters; her son currently serves as a U.S. Marine. Liz is a breast cancer survivor and lives her life to the fullest. In her free time, she enjoys reading, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping with her family.

Connect with Liz through her Website, FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.