Sunday, December 27, 2015

Faithful Reviews: Dynamo by Eleanor Gustafson

Faithful Reviews



Eleanor Gustafson

His path to redemption isn't easy...

Who is He, really?

What does He ask of Us?

The Book, Dynamo:

Jeth Cavanaugh is searching for a new life along one of Pennsylvania's mountain ridges when he stumbles upon a stable of show jumpers owned by Rob and Katie Chilton. Throw in a volatile gaited stallion named Dynamo, and Jeth will do anything to work there. He earns his living by training and showing Rob's jumpers, but Dynamo is his primary passion.

Everything changes when God enters his life--in the unconventional form of a hard slap by an old girlfriend--and ignites a new, greater passion within him. But along with fervor comes fear at the undeniable evidence of God's hand on his life. Inexplicable events, both good and bad, makes him moan plaintively, "Why does God do this to me? I get the feeling I'm being set up for something."

He is, indeed. Jeth's life is anything but predictable, much like the God he serves. The real Dynamo and his ultimate trainer emerge out of an excruciating mix of disaster and brokenness, which are never beyond the reach of redemption.

The Author, Ellie Gustafson:

Ellie Gustafson began thinking up stories at a young age but did not begin writing and publishing until 1978. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, she has been actively involved in church life as a minister's wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager.

Additional experiences include gardening, house construction, tree farming, mouse control, and parenting--all of which have helped bring color and humor to her fiction. One of her major writing goals has been to make scriptural principles understandable and relevant for today's readers through the undeniable power of story.

The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David grew out of her fascination with the biblical story of David.

Dynamo builds off her lifelong love of horses.

Renee's Review of Dynamo, a Novel:

Ellie Gustafson pens a powerful story of life and redemption in her novel, Dynamo. The amazing tale captures the attention as well as the heart. Realistic characters and unexpected twists keep the reader turning the pages as the story rips along.

A well-written book with a focus on the spiritual and emotional journey of Jeth Cavanaugh, Dynamo explores the struggle of a man's re-introduction into society following prison. It also paints the picture of the cutthroat world of horse-jumping as well as the lives of the owner, trainer, and rider...and the dangers that lurk therein.

For the characterization, focus, and amazing story, I give five stars. I believe information about Dynamo, the stallion could have been expanded on a bit earlier in the plot. I kept waiting for it, especially since the book was named after the horse, but that's not enough for me to dock my review.

***** Five stars, Ms. Gustafson...well, done.

All reviews by Renee Blare are conducted as a reader (not a writer/author) and are posted on this blog and various online reader and purchase sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads at no charge. Author(s) provide a free copy of work for unbiased review.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

It's a Coffee Corner Christmas with Sharon McGregor (with Giveaway)

The Coffee Corner Welcomes

Sharon McGregor

for Christmas!

Is that sleigh bells I hear? I'm so excited I can barely stand it! I love this time of year. As far as I'm concerned, there's never been a better reason to celebrate the Son of God's birthday than right now. And Christmas is around the corner. Speaking of corners...guess who's on the Coffee Corner? That's right! Sharon McGregor.

So, pull up a chair and stay awhile. We have a lot to talk about including her latest, know, the one you may just WANT TO PICK UP FOR CHRISTMAS!

Let's get started with the interview...


RB: Hello, Sharon, welcome to the Coffee Corner. What can you tell us about your new book?

SM: Hi, Renee. I'm excited to be here. Thank you for having me.

All's Fair In Love And Arson is a Christmas novella. Bella has returned home to help her mother Izzie who broke her leg when she fell down a hill in the Nuisance Grounds. In addition to minding Izzie's store, Bella is coaxed into taking over her role in the Christmas production of Hercule Poirot's Christmas, which Izzie's best friend has decided to transform into a musical. Bella had hoped her homecoming might bring back a little Christmas spirit to her life, but things become difficult when she runs into Jake, her old high school sweetheart. Someone is setting fires in St. Christopher, a family feud is in full swing, and everyone is on edge. In the midst of all this, Bella is searching for the real meaning of Christmas.

RB: Wow, sounds like a lot is going on! What an incredible story. I can't wait to read it! What about you, folks? I love Christmas stories...almost as much as I love Christmas. Bella, Izzy, did you come up with these names, Sharon? After all, I struggle with picking names for my own characters...anybody else have this problem out there?

SM: In All's Fair In Love And Arson, I began with the name Jake because it's always been one of my favourite men's names. I think this goes back to my younger days when I had an unrequited crush on a "Jake." It wasn't until after I'd settled on Bella and Izzie as the two diminutives of Isabel that I realized the pairing of Jake and Bella were reminiscent of characters from the Twilight series. By then I was attached to my characters so I decided to run with it.

RB: I've been there before. I have a novella with a similar name to another book I've written, but I can't bring myself to change it. I can't see him as anybody else but JB! Sometimes this writing thing is so difficult. (sigh) Like outlining...I HATE outlining. In fact, I don't do it. But now, I love the editing process, although it is rather time consuming. What's the easiest part of writing for you?

SM: What an interesting question, Renee. I'd have to say it's always the first draft. Once you get the story line in your head, it's so easy for me to just let the characters lead me along as I tell their story. The difficult part is the editing and rewriting that follows.

RB: Some people prefer to certain "point of views" when they read a book such as first or third person. In turn, certain writers may prefer one over the other. Do you have one you like?

SM: I'm always most comfortable both reading and writing third person stories. There are some classics of course that simply had to be told in the first person, like Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird, but it takes a deft hand to do it, and I don't know if I could. Maybe someday I'll give it a try. I also prefer past tense to present. Again, it takes a special talent to write in present tense, and I don't think it's one of mine. I love humour. I always try to bring an element of fun to my stories. I think bringing out the funny side of a character makes them more easy to identify with.

RB: I think your book is sounding better and better! Let's talk more about it. What's your favorite part of the novel and why?

SM: I love the rehearsals and performance of the Christmas production. I've always loved Agatha Christie and it was so much fun writing about the bizarre twists Sarah gave to the story. I could just imagine outdoorsy, masculine Jake playing the role of the prissy, obsessively neat, symmetry-loving, Belgian detective.  Like Bella, I giggled every time I pictured it. Actually, I spent a lot of time giggling as I wrote this one.

RB: I love Agatha Christie too. And if you laughed when you wrote the book, I bet I'll laugh when I read it. How did you pick a setting for your story?

SM: I like to use small prairie towns for my stories. Timber was the prairie town where my three Dreams series romances took place. This story has a different setting but it's still  small-town prairie. I chose the name of St. Christopher for Bella's hometown as it seemed apt for a Christmas tale. I grew up in a small town and love the way people all seem to be part of a larger family.

RB: I love small towns. I live in one! I've lived in larger towns but I like small towns the best. I know this is a little personal, Sharon, but if you weren't a writer, what do you think you'd be?

SM: I've always wanted to be an archaeologist. I'd love to be out there on a dig in the sun and the sand with an ice pick and a toothbrush to uncover old pottery shards or projectile points, trying to put together a lifestyle picture of our ancestors. I think writers and archaeologists are birds of a feather-we both like to dig around in other people's lives-professional snoopers, if you will.

RB: Good one! My mom's dug around in an archaeological dig site and found a cool dinosaur bone. It's in a museum now. I don't know if I'd like to scrape around in the dirt looking for bones, but I'd wouldn't mind finding a bit of treasure. It may pay for a new computer or desk. My desk is a chair and TV tray...for the moment. What does your writing spot look like?

SM: I have a desk in the corner of my living room. It's right beside a window so I can look out at my little piece of the ocean.  It's usually more cluttered than it should be and sometimes covered with a calico cat. Zoey likes to take control of my keyboard and we have a running battle over it. She does some strange things with my resolutions and settings. I'm afraid someday she's going to order a carload of catnip or Fancy Feast when I leave her alone at my desk. I make sure she has no access to my credit card numbers.

RB: Hide the mouse! I have a tiger kitty that does the same thing. LOL Thanks for stopping by the Coffee Corner, Sharon. I've had a grand time! Oh, and have a Merry Christmas.




"What is the name of Sharon McGregor's cat?"
(Hint: You can find the answer in the interview above.)

Winner will be chosen by random draw on December 27,2015 from comments below.
Five comments required to validate giveaway.


About All's Fair in Love and Arson:

Bella is back at her childhood home. When her mother took a fall in the Nuisance Grounds (garbage dump) and broke her leg, Bella came back to help her and run her shop, Izzie's. Soon Bella discovers she's also been handed Izzie's role in the town's Christmas theatre production, a musical version of a well-known mystery that threatens to become more bizarre each day. A serial arsonist is frightening the townspeople, a family feud threatens young romance, and intrigue and rumors are the order of the day. On top of everything, Bella's high school sweetheart Jake, who dumped her for a cheerleader, is now Chief of Police. Poor Bella! Christmas in St. Christopher's is not what it used to be.

Barnes and Noble -

About Sharon McGregor:

Sharon McGregor is a prairie girl who has been working her way west to escape the cold. She now lives on beautiful Vancouver Island. She hasn't escaped her roots, though, as her romances are set in small town North America. When not writing or reading, she operates a shave ice concession with her daughter and follows her grandchildren's athletic endeavours. She has a constant battle with her cat Zoey for control of her computer keyboard. Sharon loves to write romance, mystery and humor, if possible all three at the same time.

Facebook Author Page -
Web page and blog -
Twitter - @sharonmcgr

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas in Winter Wonderland and Special Giveaway

Christmas in Winter Wonderland

 It’s December in Wyoming, and it’s a wonder to behold.

Fluffy flakes drift down to become a blanket of white. Once-barren trees don their mantle and the air sparkles in the rays of a new day. Winter's arrived in Wyoming.

The bitter north wind howls as the storm barrels across the plains. It enters the valley and drives ice and snow without mercy. Deer, antelope, horses, cattle, mules…and people hunker down until a new day dawns.

Skis slash a fresh-groomed trail of white as a figure in red skims down the steep mountainside beneath a sky of crystal blue. The crisp sound of a snowboard follows accompanied by laughter when an impromptu wipe-out sends powdered snow high into the cold air.

Winter's arrived to Wyoming, and it’s a wonder to behold.

The morning sun flashes its brief hello before settling once again beneath the gray veil of the clouds. As the hunter creeps through the still, white forest, the fresh-fallen snow crunches beneath his boots. The young buck jerks to attention behind the wild raspberry bush. They stare at each other in frozen astonishment.

The dim light works its way through the crystals hanging in suspended wonder, and a forest road’s bathed in white. Tall aspens stand watch over the path into their land and they guard it well. Once clothed in beauty, they stand bare and exposed, but forever strong, their markings stark to the eye.

The seasons change. Harsh weather impacts the bear, elk, moose, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, deer, antelope, wolf, mountain lion, coyote, beaver, prairie dog, squirrel, chipmunk, ferret, fish, snake, mole, man…the list goes on.

Winter’s arrived to Wyoming. It’s a wonder to behold.

It’s befitting we celebrate Christ’s birthday this month. After all, during this time, winter transforms a dry, cracked land into a majestic winter wonderland.

Trees twinkle through frosty windows as cars slice through the slush. Carolers stroll down the sidewalk, lifting praise songs to the Lord. And people huddle on their doorsteps while they listen beneath the starlit night.

Christmas in Winter Wonderland,
A wonder to behold.


!!!Special Christmas Giveaway!!!

To celebrate the birth of our Savior, I'm giving away

(1) Fly Ornament Combo

(includes 4 hand-tied fly ornaments)


(1) signed copy of To Soar on Eagle's Wings


Beast of Stratton

 (winner's choice!)

(enter via Rafflecopter below!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Have a very Merry Christmas!

In Christ,

Renee Blare

Refer to Scribbles and Scratches Etsy Shop for details regarding Fly Ornaments.
To Soar on Eagle's Wings Amazon Link
Beast of Stratton Amazon Link
Renee Blare's Website
Renee Blare's Facebook Readers Page: The Lodge Link
     Current Event: Renee's CRAZY Culinary Christmas Contest - Entry Deadline - Dec 25th

Saturday, December 5, 2015

3 Songs that Capture the Heart of Christmas

3 Songs


Capture the Heart of Christmas

Luke 2:10-11
“Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

I love everything about Christmas. I love the decorations, the gifts, the parties…but above all, I love the music. Not because I like to dance or sing, but because it reminds me what this holiday is all about.

It’s not Santa Claus, or reindeer, although I’d love to think there’s a jolly, old man in a red suit out there bringing gifts to every child in the world. And it’s not about how many gifts I manage to stuff under the tree for those I love. Or even what’s waiting for me to open on Christmas morning or how much candy may be in my stocking on the mantle (if I have a fireplace to hang one on!)

No, it’s the music I hear at church, the grocery store, or around the local department store. The same music I treasure and blesses me during this holiday season. It reminds me that although this time’s now commercialized and more of a season of chaos than blessing, it is and always will be about the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

It’s about one amazing gift which can never be matched in any shape or form…a tiny baby in a manger in a town called Bethlehem.

Right now, I’d like to share with you three of my favorite Christmas songs and why they mean so much to me. May you be as blessed by them as I am.

1. O' Holy Night:

The first is an old Christmas Carol you may recognize, O' Holy Night. You may be able to sing along with this one. This rendition’s actually performed a cappella by Home Free. I love this carol. The words bring home to me how truly amazing this day is and why I need to keep it holy.

2. Little Drummer Boy:

The second is a wonderful song of humility and praise, Little Drummer Boy by Celtic Woman. It shows that no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves, the Lord acknowledges our offering, even if small. He knows our hearts. It’s a grateful reminder in an age of trying to get to the unreachable top of the ladder.

3. Mary, Did You Know:

My third song is a special song. Mary, Did You Know by Pentatonix is captivating, but don’t just listen to the music, listen to the words. It’s written to Mary but meant for us all. The words are powerful and pierce to the soul. They remind us who Jesus is and why He came to this earth. It wasn’t to be just a man but a deliverer. He was more than a baby, He was and is the Almighty.

Like me, I hope you have something that penetrates your soul and mind this Christmas season to remind you what it’s all about. May God bless you and keep you.

In Christ always, and Merry Christmas,

Renee Blare

Special Acknowledgments: