WBTV from February 19, 2018

Vhonnelle’s Heart: More Precious Than Rubies by Natalie. L. McKinney

MENO-Vations: a.k.a. Menopause Motivations by Cynthia King

Saving Grace by Jane Green


Arden Recommends Vhonnelle’s Heart More Precious Than Rubies by Natalie L. McKinney (interview included)

Book: Vhonnelle’s Heart: More Precious Than Rubies

Author: Natalie L. McKinney


Genre: Christian Fiction, Christian Romance

Basic Description: Many struggle to believe that true love stories can still come true and that one day, they can actually have a love story of their own. Vhonnelle’s Heart is a beautiful love story of a couple’s journey to forever.

Vhonnelle’s story is one that will encourage all who read it to have hope in the power in love once again. This story serves as a message of hope for singles and married couples as well. As you read this story, know that love still exists, and it can be yours. However, the most beautiful love story begins with you loving you.

Arden’s Thoughts: Ah, love. It’s a vital need. Everyone wants it but so few of us really know how to give it. I was reminded recently of why I’d rather wait on the right person for me to date than settle for someone who is someone else’s Mr. Right. I’m a gal who wants to be romanced and for me, that includes making a plan, asking to participate in said plan days in advance, and honoring me as a woman. Plus, take out my trash.

What I enjoyed so much about Vhonnelle’s story was the lead character had the confidence in herself to stay true to her vision of her forever. Yet, she allowed room to be pursued by a man (who eventually captured her heart) even though she wasn’t totally sold on him at first.

This book is character-driven with lots of dialogue. Readers get to experience the characters getting to know each other, and experiencing some trying times, through their words. I think some folks will read this book and really want a relationship like what Vhonnelle and Simeon experience. However, these same folks will not believe it could happen for them.

Here’s what I think… I think what Vhonnelle and Simeon have is the ideal. And, no, most people won’t get the ideal. Not because it’s not their story, but because they don’t wait for their story.

I recently interviewed the author of Vhonnelle’s Heart, Natalie L. McKinney. I think you’ll enjoy how she sheds light on her book, and her main character.

Arden: V seems so personal to you as the writer, more than any of the other characters. How much of you is in V?
Natalie: It’s interesting that you pose this question; this is actually not the first time I have been asked this. Succinctly, yes, I do see pieces of myself in V. Friendship and sisterhood are cornerstones of my life and I wanted to highlight that in my book. My best friends push me to be great and I make it a priority to do the same for them. V can testify to the power of sisterhood as well. So, on that front, we are completely alike. In the book, the younger version of V struggles with self-esteem and the ability to truly love herself for who she is. I too, struggled with self-esteem and the ability to love myself was something that I had to work at for a while. So, as I created V in terms of a character, I wanted to make that connection between myself and Vhonnelle because I know other young women out there have struggled with something similar and I wanted to show that there is hope for the girl who doesn’t always like the person she sees staring back at her in the mirror every day. Additionally, I would say that V and I are alike because she’s a go getter. V has goals and at all costs she intends to achieve them. Plus, she’s brilliant and she loves any and everything that has to do with the 90’s.
Arden: Who doesn’t love the 90s?!? Haha! Faith is such almost an additional character in your book. Is there a reason why you chose to focus on it instead of a more worldly dating point of view?
Natalie: This is also a great question. I wanted to show how sweet relationships can be when they are ordained by God. In the world we live in I think many people date for the sake of dating without truly consulting the One that not only made them, but also the One who created their future spouse as well. Also, many people confuse the terms dating and courting. Dating can lead to many things both good and bad. But courting leads to the altar, it leads to marriage. In the book, readers will get a glimpse into courting and I think it will be a refreshing take on relationships. The last point that I would like to highlight with this question is that what V and Simeon have is a mirror of what my parents had (My father is deceased). I am grateful that I was able to see that example because if I hadn’t seen their love, honor, and connection to each other that was ultimately fueled by their individual connections to Christ, I may not believe that such a relationship goal is attainable.
Arden: Yes, I really saw the courting process within the characters. Seeing this caused me to rethink a thing or two in hopes that I’ll meet a Simeon of my own one day. With that said, is Simeon based on any man in particular or the perfect fantasy?
Natalie:  Simeon is based off of my father. Simeon is strong in his faith; he has the desire to raise a family, to cherish and protect his wife, and to be a champion in his workplace and community. Often times in movies or books, when a male love interest is presented, the audience only sees that character as having one of these traits and maybe two at best. But, Simeon has a great drive to be all of these things. My father was just like this. To be honest, when I get married I want the traits of my father and the traits of my husband to match because I have experienced the power of man who possess them and I would want the same experience for my own children.
Arden: We haven’t talked about one of the other characters in the book yet, Kanissa. What are your plans for Kanissa? Is her story one you plan to tell?
Natalie: I don’t want to give everything away now but Kanissa’s story is one that I plan to tell in my next venture as an author. Just as my audience has been touched by V as a character, I would like to introduce them in the same manner to Kanissa. Kanissa and V are a yin and yang and I would do a disservice to only serve my audience one piece of the pie.
Arden: I was hoping you’d say that about Kanissa! I feel like her story is just getting started. So, I know my viewers and readers will want to get this book. Where can they find it?
Natalie: You can find my book on Amazon! The easiest way to purchase it would be through my website: www.thenatalielmckinney.com once you
Arden: Perfect! I’ve got links throughout this post too. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers?
Natalie: I would just like to say to my readers that nothing you go through is ever wasted. Sometimes when we go through things we wonder why it is us that are experiencing those things. You may even consider throwing in the towel; but don’t do it. If I had not gone through certain issues earlier in my life, I would not have been able to write a story that has the power to change the outlook of other people. Your gift assigns certain trials to your life, and on the other side of those trials is not only a story of how you made it over them, but also a path for you to be able to help someone else. The characters in my book have triumphed over the hurdles in their lives and you can too. If you are looking for proof of this, read Vhonnelle’s Heart.

WBTV From March 20, 2017

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

The Rose & The Dagger by Renée Ahdieh


Arden Reviews: Nemesis by Brendan Reichs (Interview Included)

IMG_2176Book:  Nemesis

Author: Brendan Reichs

Genre: Teen & Young Adult Mystery & Thriller, Action & Adventure, Fiction

Basic Description: It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.

For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.

Arden’s Thoughts: Y’all. This book blew my mind. I read it in 4 days. I only read books that quickly when I’m on vacation. I work with quite a few clients through my marketing business and Rodan + Fields business. They’re all paying me so I try to be the best darn steward of their investments as I can be.

Now, I promise you, all my work was turned in on time and very well done, but I didn’t sleep much the week I read Nemesis. I literally could not put down the book because every page felt like a cliffhanger swirled with a character development topped off with a plot twist.

I had no idea where Min and Noah were going, why they would be murdered (sorta) every two years, who was behind the conspiracy, and exactly how in the heck would Reichs find closure in a rapidly developing story that held as many questions as it did answers.

Lucky for me, I got to interview the author himself early on a rainy Saturday morning. Even in the middle of a clean eating diet, Brendan (we’re tight now so I can toss aside AP style) engaged me from the beginning of our phone conversation. Had it not been for my Southern upbringing that taught me to not over stay my welcome, I could have chatted with him for hours.

We recounted stories of his early days as a lawyer turned writer and our most embarrassing “only a book nerd could understand” fan moments. Mine involved chasing down John Grisham and Sarah Dessen at the same conference. His… well, you’ll have a chance to meet him on tour at a bookstore near you starting March 21. You can go visit him to learn his.

And we talked about Nemesis. Because our conversation was one of true creative types, sporadic with a hint of random, it wasn’t as linear as my previous author interviews. Hopefully, you’ll capture how engaging and personable he is as I share the highlights of our conversation with you…

Arden: Thanks so much for chatting with me this morning. I’ll be upfront with you. I don’t normally read books like Nemesis and enjoy them. I’m not a thriller kind of gal. But, wow! Your book is incredible. But, I’ve gotta ask… Where did you get the idea for this plot and your characters?

Brendan: Haha, I love that question. It makes me think I’ve created something a bit original and the twists and turns might surprise my readers.

The idea came from Highlander. I was toying with the finality of death. Then, what if you died but it didn’t really count. What if you saw yourself murdered, felt it, but then… you were alive again. What would that do to you?

And really, Nemesisis the beginning of at least a two-part series. I’m working on the next book and it’ll dive even deeper into what happens with Min and Noah… what their lives of dying and then, well not dying, do to their personal development.

Arden: Yea… it’s interesting how Min handles it versus Noah. I think the idea of several people being in a similar situation yet reacting vastly different will resonate with readers. For me, it had me wondering… would I be the best version of myself in this story, or the worst?

Brendan: True. I wanted people thinking deeper than the thriller portion of the story. I also wanted Min and Noah to be very different. I chose Min to be the stronger of the two because so often it’s the boy in the story being the strong one. I didn’t want that. I wanted my girl lead to be strong, empathetic and understanding, but really strong. I wanted Noah to be the weak one, the character barely holding it together. I think more girls need to see that in characters so I wrote that in mine.

And, I don’t like characters who are flat or one-dimensional. I want to show that not everyone is perfectly good or perfectly evil. There’s depth to who I write.

Arden: Ah! I love it. And the depth shows. I mean, when the one guy… (Ha! Just kidding. I’m not giving away any twists.)

Brendan: No! Don’t give away anything. There’s so much to uncover.

Arden: Just keeping you on your toes since you’re sans coffee this morning. So, do these characters come to you in your sleep? Do you see the plot unfolding before you as you watch college basketball? What does your crafting process look like?

Brendan: I’m a former lawyer and current MFA (Masters in Fine Arts) student. I have to know the broad strokes, and a lot of the smaller strokes, before going into it. But, then I’ll be in the middle of a day-to-day activity and the link to the entire story will come to me. I actually have a 6’x4′ whiteboard in my office. I’ll storyboard in my office, outline chapters, and then write a paragraph for each chapter.

Thrillers should thrill. For me, that means carefully crafting the story from start to finish. I need a huge outline before me to keep me focused on where I am now and where the story is taking me.

I write so my reader is engaged, entertained. And every time I finish a book, I’m convinced it’s the last time I’ll ever write. I’ve poured everything into that book.


Are you dying to meet Brendan and hear more about his latest book, NemesisWell, if you’re in and around the Charlotte area, plan to be at the Barnes & Noble in the Arboretum Tuesday, March 21 starting at 7 p.m. For more tour details and his other locations including the D.C. area, Charleston, and others, click here.







WBTV July 11, 2016

Check out my latest segment on WBTV.


Arden Reviews: The After Party by Anton DiSclafani

FullSizeRender 3Houston, Texas.
Oil money.

These words invoke a saucy set-up to any summertime read, but hearing them used to describe the narrative doesn’t lead you to think the book will be thought-provoking; or incredibly irritating.

Yet, The After Party by Anton DiSclafani was both thought-provoking
and incredibly irritating for me.

Upon opening The After Party, we’re dropped into the world of the socially elite living in River Oaks (still one of the top ten wealthiest neighborhoods in the country) in the mid-1950s. Our main characters are Joan Fortier and Cece Buchanan. Joan’s our It Girl, the Kim Kardashian of her day. Cece’s her loyal sidekick, or handmaiden as she’s called later in the novel.

Joan and Cece have been friends since grade school… though friendship seems an incorrect term for their relationship. Cece worships Joan and Joan appreciates Cece’s worship. The two are magnets for each other, and even though everyone they encounter can see the completely unhealthy relationship in which they reside, they stay connected.

Joan’s portrayed as the town’s socialite and unpredictable queen. But, at 25, her royalty is slipping because society dictated she’s of age to be married. I found Joan a little over-the-top but mostly, I appreciated Joan. She saw a system she could never beat as a woman in the 1950s and somehow manages to get out from under the judgmental, tyrannical eye of her fellow socialites.

For me, it’s Cece who is so annoying. Her infatuation with Joan infuriates me. But, the more I wonder how a fictional character can anger me so, the more I realize how like Cece I can be. I am loyal to a fault. There have been people in my life I should have cut off long before I actually said “goodbye”.

And like Cece, I still wonder about these people. Are they okay? Are they happy? Do they think of me at all?

It’s that odd self-gratifying/hardcore-loyalist combo that drives the story for me. Cece’s other friends, and her husband, cannot understand the hold Joan has on Cece. As I put myself in Cece’s shoes, I feel her resistance to letting go of Joan. There’s something so idealist and pure in her pursuit of making Joan whole; yearning for her friend to be entirely happy.

But, there’s also a point where no human can make another human fully happy. We’re broken creatures and at some point, we have to let go of those who are breaking us.

It’s this lesson I took away from The After Party. Many people will love this book. I can appreciate it, but I spent way too much time being irritated to love it. But, I also couldn’t stop reading it and was fully invested in every character. So… I’d venture to say it’s a “must” for your summer time list.


WBTV February 8, 2016

Books for the men in your life