I can’t believe we’re looking at the last day of 2013. It’s also the celebration of my surrender. Seven years ago I promised God I’d give Him my fears of rejection and start writing for Him. I created a blog that very night. And the rest they say is history.
One of my favorite things to do here is to choose my favorite reads of the year. To the author it gives them bragging rights if they want, but for me, I love looking back. I choose among the books I reviewed in fiction, non, and Kindle categories. My Kindle category is free reads I chose for me and might not have been published in 2013.
Let me tell you, choosing my favorite fiction wasn’t easy.
Afterall, there were these great reads:
and so much more.
I was torn between two.
Runner-up is A Marriage in Middlebury by Anita Higman.
This book has romance, a quaint town, wonderful friends. It was refreshing and sweet. If you haven’t read it, please do.
I ultimately chose this book as my favorite fiction read of 2013:
Even months after reading it, Raspberries and Vinegar still comes to mind. Often. I loved this farm lit romance that used processed vs organic food as part of the conflict. I love strong senior citizen characters. The romance was as natural as the food, and fun to watch blossom. I enjoyed everything about this book.
I think you’ll love Jo and Zach, too.
Come back tomorrow to learn my favorite non fiction read of the year.
Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve!
Tags: 2013, A Marriage in Middlebury, Alaska, Anita Higman, Deliver Us, Dr. Richard Mabry, Farm Lit, favorite fiction read, Fiery Secrets, Joi Copeland, Julie Arduini, June Foster, Karen Barnett, Letters of Love, Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Mistaken, Ocieanna Fleiss, Raspberries and Vinegar, Stephanie McCall, Stress Test, Take a Chance on Me, Tricia Goyer, Valerie Comer
novel, a hearty “hurrah!” for Clash of the Titles’s
for a job well done!
this fantastic book.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Josephine Shaw: complex, yet singleminded. A tiny woman with big ideas and,
some would say, a mouth to match. But what does she really know about
sustainable living as it relates to the real world? After all, she and her
two friends are new to farming.
Zachary Nemesek is back only until his dad recovers enough to work his own
land again. When Zach discovers three helpless females have taken up
residence at the old farm next door, he expects trouble. But a mouse
invasion proves Jo has everything under control. Is there anything she
can’t handle? And surely there’s something sweet beneath all that tart.
Q&A WITH VALERIE:
Q: Where did the idea for Raspberries and Vinegar come from?
A: There’s a huge interest these days in food issues, and many
20-somethings dream of having a small farm and growing their own food. As a
long-time farmer myself, I wondered what it would look like to have
idealistic urban young people tackle a farming environment. And the whole
Farm Fresh Romance series was born!
Q: They say to write what you know. What do you know about growing
A: My husband and I both grew up with moms who had large gardens and
cooked from scratch because of financial necessity. Having the same need in
our early years, we followed in their footsteps, but we soon came to
understand that our food was healthier and tastier than what many families
ate. Now we are beekeepers and own a small farm. We grow most of our own
meat and vegetables, and source a great deal of our fruit and grain
locally. This means a large garden and an intimate knowledge of processing
food for winter via canning, dehydrating, and freezing.
Q: Why do you call this novel Farm Lit?
A: Farm Lit has been getting a lot of attention lately as today’s
answer to Chick Lit. In the current economic atmosphere, women’s minds are
turning from shoes and handbags to gourmet food and farm-to-table
restaurants. Farm Lit http://farmlit.com
is any literature that embraces the life of modern-day “new” farmers. These
stories can be fiction or memoir, and most often include city-bred heroines
who head for an idealized rural existence and (often) find the man of their
dreams riding a tractor rather than a horse or a motorbike. As such,
Raspberries and Vinegar fits the bill perfectly!
WHAT COTT VOTERS HAD TO SAY ABOUT THE BOOK:
* Raspberries and Vinegar–Wonderful title and I look
forward to reading it. Bless you.
* Valerie, always a great job.
* I look for feel-good
reads with wholesome challenges and real, yet admirable characters.
Raspberries and Vinegar seems to have it all!
* I chose Raspberries and Vinegar by Valerie
Comer because it’s her debut book as well as the debut book for ChooseNow
Publishing. I’m very interested to see what all the hoopla is
* I like
Valerie Comer’s originality with her genre. There’s a freshness about
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING:
Don’t pick up Raspberries and Vinegar and expect the same old blah-blah
love story, because you won’t get that. What you will get is a
well-written, enjoyable, emotional tale that will pull you into the
beginning of a series I predict you’ll look forward to following as much as
I do. Romance, locally sourced foods and interesting, complicated
characters all make this a page turner.
Valerie Comer’s Raspberries & Vinegar is a sweet and sassy story that
made me laugh out loud, get teary-eyed, and sigh with pleasure at the
ending. There’s Josephine, a spunky heroine with a heart for her friends,
the earth, and the handsome vet next door. And there’s Zachary, a
veterinarian who cares about animals, his sweet and confused grandmother,
and the spunky new neighbor, Josephine.
Until I read this book, I’d never heard of “farmlit,” and didn’t know what
to expect. Romantic, fun, with refreshing values, and small town
atmosphere, readers will enjoy this romp on the farm!
Each December I pick my favorite reads of the year and right now
Raspberries and Vinegar is a top contender. If you love strong characters,
a great message, a clean romance and the country, this book is for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed
for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her
characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are
active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric
church. She only hopes her characters enjoy their happily ever afters as
much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable
Valerie writes Farm Lit with the voice of experience laced with humor.
Raspberries and Vinegar, first in her series A Farm Fresh Romance,
released August 1, 2013. Visit her at
The ultimate literary challenge, where authors battle and readers
encourage you to share the contest on your social media sites. Spreading
the word about an author’s latest novel is the best way to encourage
by Diana L. Sharples
Still reeling from the loss of his brother in Afghanistan, Calvin Greenlee
pours himself into fixing his motorcycle and spending the rest of his time
with his girlfriend, Stacey, who always has the right words to say. But
when Stacey starts losing weight—a lot of weight—it’s clear she has
problems of her own. Calvin is determined to cure her—but could that only
push Stacey further into danger?
RASPBERRIES AND VINEGAR
by Valerie Comer
Outspoken advocate for local food Josephine Shaw moves onto a rundown farm
with two friends to prove to the world that she can live sustainably, but a
mouse invasion and the cute reluctant farmer next door test her resolve.
Zach Nemesek is itching to get back to his easy life in the city, but a
Border collie puppy and the woman next door make him wonder if he’s better
off embracing God’s plan for his life…or running from it!
SNOW ON THE TULIPS
by Liz Tolsma
After the German occupiers kill her husband, the last thing Cornelia de
Vries wants is to be involved with the Dutch Resistance. Wounded
underground worker Gerrit Laninga brings nothing but danger to her doorstep
– and the chance at love she thought had gone forever.
THE PASTOR’S WIFE WEARS BIKER BOOTS
by Karla Akins
Pastor’s wife, Kirstie Donovan, lives life in a fishbowl, so when she
hops on the back of a bright pink motorcycle, tongues start to wag at the
conservative, century-old First Independent Christian Community Church of
Eels Falls. Certain church members have secrets to hide, and when God uses
Kirstie’s ministry to fill the pews with leather-clad, tattooed bikers,
those secrets could be exposed, and some will stop at nothing to hide the
by Jerusha Agen
No love, no pain—no God, no games.
A tragedy three years ago destroyed Nye’s rise to the top of the dancing
world as an upcoming tango star, making her shut out God and all emotional
attachments that could lead to pain, but when a handsome lawyer and elderly
landowner enter her new life to make her face the God she can’t forgive,
will Nye learn to dance again?
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Tags: authors, Clash of the Titles, COTT, Diana L. Sharples, fiction, Jerusha Agen, Julie Arduini, Karla Akins, Liz Tolsma, Raspberries and Vinegar, reading, Running Lean, Snow on the Tulips, The Pastor's Wife Wears Biker Boots, This Dance, Valerie Comer
A Farm Fresh Romance Series:
A Farm Fresh Romance. This unique farm lit series follows the adventures, romantic and otherwise, of three college graduates who move onto a reclaimed farm where they plan to take the rural area by storm with their sustainable lifestyle and focus on local foods.
Raspberries and Vinegar:
Josephine Shaw: complex, yet singleminded. A tiny woman with big ideas and, some would say, a mouth to match. But what does she really know about sustainable living as it relates to the real world? After all, she and her two friends are new to farming.
Zachary Nemesek is back only until his dad recovers enough to work his own land again. When Zach discovers three helpless females have taken up residence at the old farm next door, he expects trouble. But a mouse invasion proves Jo has everything under control. Is there anything she can’t handle? And surely there’s something sweet beneath all that tart.
Raspberries and Vinegar is the debut book from Choose NOW publishing, an issue-driven company, and Valerie Comer’s farm lit series is a perfect fit. In Raspberries and Vinegar, Jo comes on the scene passionate about eating healthy and growing foods the right way.
Zach’s grandma, in his mind, has earned the right to a little chocolate now and then. But when Jo’s day job includes making sure his grandma stays healthy, it’s just one more issue that seems to divide the two.
I absolutely adored this book. Farm Lit is a refreshing genre that I think is long overdue. As our country plunges into darker and more troubling times, it is books like Raspberries and Vinegar that remind us of what’s important. Valerie crafts a strong romance with a current message without beating readers over the head. The characters aren’t perfect and neither are their paths. What I especially enjoyed was that writers can often tell what’s happening next, we’re just wired that way. When I’m stumped, I love it. Raspberries and Vinegar took me places I never saw coming. That is a very good thing.
Each December I pick my favorite reads of the year and right now Raspberries and Vinegar is a top contender. If you love strong characters, a great message, a clean romance and the country, this book is for you.
Valerie is also hosting a Book Blitz August 6-9. Check my sidebar (for subscribers it is on the right at juliearduini.com.
Connect with Valerie Comer today:
I received a .pdf of Raspberries and Vinegar from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Julie’s Note: Valerie Comer is the debut author for Choose NOW Publishing. Her Farm Fresh Romance series begins with Raspberries and Vinegar, available now. I will review in a separate post, but let me say—I loved it.
Explain your tagline, where food and faith meet farm lit.
Over the past decade or so, I’ve become fascinated with the junction where food meets faith. So many Christians don’t think about how our beliefs play into our eating choices beyond a vague thought of “gluttony is a sin.” As I’ve delved deeper into the intersection, I’ve discovered food meets faith in our bodies in a variety of ways, in our churches, and also in our world…the latter in ways most believers haven’t ever considered. Click the link above for a primer on the topic! And I’d love to hear from you if you think of new ways to look at the junction.
As for adding farm lit to the mix, well, writing is my main form of expression. Because my husband and I have lived on the farm over half our married life, have raised gardens—and kids!—on the farm, and strive to eat real food grown locally and organically, writing this type of fiction is a natural fit for me. My life revolves around food, farm, faith, family, and the written word.
How much from your own life is featured in Raspberries and Vinegar?
My character, Jo, has very strong opinions on the subject of organics. Strangely, she gets her ideas from me, but, where she sees the world as black-and-white, I know that many times we have to flex to adjust to reality.
The mouse invasion that opens the novel is far too much from my own life. We had so much trouble with mice a few years ago (when our old cat was too sick to patrol, and before we got new kittens) that we lost track of how many we’d trapped. I was glad to pass off the problem to an unsuspecting character and let her deal with it!
Some of my critique partners have noticed that my characters often have major issues with their mothers. My own mom, who died several years ago, was a loving Christian mom. So that part of the story definitely didn’t come from my own life!
You asked about the illness. A good friend of ours contracted Guilaln-Barré Syndrome a number of years ago in a similar way that Steve gets it in the novel. You may notice that Raspberries and Vinegar was dedicated, in part, to Rick and Nancy. While they were believers before meeting Guilaln-Barré, their lives were forever changed by the disease and now they are in the pastorate. God turned a major trial into something good in their lives.
Where did you get the idea for Raspberries and Vinegar?
This novel came about as I considered how I might write contemporary romance that came from a world view more compatible with mine than the typical city girl of novels a few years ago, obsessed with shoes and handbags. I’m a country girl through and through and am more likely to be found wearing gumboots than stilettos. At that time my son and his wife were living in the city as university students. It amazed me how many of their friends were jealous when the kids decided to return to rural life after graduation. A lot of that generation is hankering for real food and getting their hands in the dirt. Choosing this scenario for my characters made a lot of sense to me. The upside to our kids’ choice? Our one-year-old granddaughter lives across the farmyard from us, and we see her nearly every day. That makes this grandmother a very happy lady!
Your publisher for Raspberries and Vinegar, Choose NOW, is issue driven. Explain that, and why it is important to you.
My agent approached publishers with Raspberries and Vinegar for two years. It came close to selling to a major house, but it was just a little too different from average. Most editors are looking for “same but different.” And really, they can’t afford to take a chance on very much different. They are hesitant to publish anything that might be offensive to their typical reader. I can understand that, but my environmental and local food themes were too important to me to change. These are the stories I feel God has given me to write—and share.
Choose NOW Publishing gets that. They’re not an edgy publisher, but they realize that “real life happens.” The whole mandate of the company is to make wise choices today for a better future. That fits my stories to a tee! I’m delighted to be Choose NOW’s debut author.
What can we expect to see next from you?
The sequel to Raspberries and Vinegar, Wild Mint Tea, will release in March, 2014, with the final installment, Sweetened with Honey, coming out in December, 2014. And if you’re watching closely, you’ll catch another piece of news about an unrelated story, also in 2014. I’m not free to divulge the details yet, but while it definitely follows similar themes, it’s a very different angle. I can’t wait to share the news with you!
Anything else you’d like readers to know?
Until midnight Friday (Eastern time), my publisher and I are running a Book Blitz. This means that if you order a paperback from one of the links on my publisher’s page for Raspberries and Vinegar, we’ll toss in the digital version of your choice PLUS a whole lot of other goodies. Check the graphic below for details!
Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her characters enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.
Valerie writes Farm Lit with the voice of experience laced with humor. Raspberries and Vinegar, first in her series A Farm Fresh Romance, released August 1, 2013. Visit her at http://valeriecomer.com.
Wife. Mom. Author. Reader. Blogger. Amateur nature photographer. Chocolate eater. Encouraging you to surrender the good, the bad, and---maybe one day---the chocolate.
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