Friday, September 26, 2014

It's a Lena Goldfinch Pre-order Party!


http://lenagoldfinch.blogspot.com/p/the-brides.html

Many of you already know that my wonderful cover designer is also a fabulous indie author. But what you might not know is that she's diving into a new genre with her next release! Lena Goldfinch is beloved for her YA fantasy and contemporary stories (The Language of Souls, Aire, Songstone, Chain Reaction, Haunting Joy, and Take a Picture). Now she's getting ready to launch the first book in a sweet historical romance series ("The Brides"). Let's take a look...


About The Unexpected Bride
What's a man to do when his father orders him a bride?

Rebecca Sullivan has been "Becky" all her life, a real hoyden. Her childhood sweetheart taught her to ride bareback and shoot a rifle, but then he chose a "perfect lady" for a wife—a real Southern belle, who's now expecting a baby. Heartbroken, Becky signs up to be a mail-order bride to a Seattle man, sight unseen. She resolves to squelch her hoydenish ways and become a "perfect lady" for her future husband.

If logging-operation owner Isaac Jessup had wanted a bride, he'd have chosen a sturdy frontier woman, not some fragile lady from back East. Ready to explain the mistake, honorable Isaac takes one look into Rebecca's vulnerable eyes...and knows he'll marry her, even though this delicate waif is obviously unsuited for wild Seattle.

Could an unexpected marriage be a match made in heaven?

Book One in The Brides Series
Sweet Historical Western Romance / A Mail-Order Bride Novel

Release Date: October 6th, 2014
Available for pre-order in ebook format:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | iTunes | Kobo 

Intrigued yet? It really is such a tender tale, loosely inspired by the story of Issac and Rebekah in the Bible. Here's an excerpt to further entice you...
The lean-to was chilly and not for the first time, Isaac considered boarding it up proper and calling it a barn. He sat on the stool and began milking the goat, all the while mentally preparing for the worship service they planned to go to later that morning. The Scriptures he'd read first thing that morning were fresh in his mind, and his prayers kept returning to the problem of Rebecca. One inner voice urged him to send her back home, but another voice spoke of commitment. He'd said vows before God to love and keep her till death do them part. Those weren't words he was willing to dismiss lightly.

"What's her name?" Her voice was suddenly in his ear, quite close.

 Isaac jumped. The goat bleated at him.

"Sorry, girl." He patted her side and resumed milking her with slow, careful hands. He glanced over his shoulder toward the subject of his thoughts.

Rebecca stood watching him, leaning over the rail and peering in at them with curious eyes. He was surprised to see her out this early. She usually left him to his morning chores, and most times he'd get back inside the cabin and find her already up preparing breakfast.

"What's her name?" she repeated.

"Name? The goat?" He looked at the goat dumbly. It was a goat. He'd never gotten much further than that. She gave them a daily supply of milk, but other than that she was generally a nuisance. She liked to butt down the stall door. And whenever she got loose, she'd eat what few vegetables he was able to grow in the summer. She also liked to nip at his shirts and underthings when he hung them out on the line--if he was lucky. Most times she'd tug the whole line down and drag it through the mud.

"Yes, the goat," Rebecca said, a pleasant-sounding smile in her voice. "Don't tell me she hasn't got a name?"

There was something nice about hearing a woman's voice in the morning. It reminded him a little of when he was young, and his mother had chatted with him in soft tones while they ate breakfast. As if speaking too loud would jar them too quickly out of whatever dreams they'd had the night before.

Rebecca's soft voice put him much in mind of those times.

"All right. I won't." Isaac focused on his milking.

"She doesn't have a name?" Rebecca pressed. "How can you have an animal that doesn't have a name?"

"Never gave it much thought. She's good for milk, but other than that she's nothing but trouble, always munching on the laundry."

"Well, then I think your choice is clear. Either you call her Milky or you call her Trouble." Her teasing tone brought a reluctant smile to his lips.

"Well, then, if I have to choose, then I guess she's Trouble."

The real Trouble was standing behind him, her elbow propped against the top of the rail, her chin cupped in one dainty hand.

If you're a blogger/reviewer interested in receiving an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, etc., please feel free to contact me at amberstokes@corban.edu


And what's a party without presents? Join us in spreading the word about The Unexpected Bride and celebrating its upcoming release with a sweet giveaway! One winner will receive a book locket necklace from the Lily Pickford Etsy shop, as well as a paperback copy of The Unexpected Bride. Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
P.S. I'll let you in on a little secret or two... You can actually order the paperback now from Amazon, if you prefer to have a hard copy and don't want to wait to see if you won the giveaway!

And there's one more recent release from Lena that you might not have heard about, as it's published under a different name. If you're looking for a unique and slightly spooky tall tale, be sure to check out Lena's short story, The Find.


Monday, September 22, 2014

My Bookish Reality

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when your mom comes for a visit, lots of shopping will be involved.

I had such a wonderful time with my mom this past weekend - taking a day trip to the coast, seeing new-to-me places, eating out, and yes, doing some shopping. ;) My mom very generously bought me a new couch, and though I've been claiming to be fine without one, I must admit I'm excited to have a comfy place for me and my guests to sit while watching movies and reading! 

A happy side effect of the new couch is that I got to move my bookshelf in preparation for the couch's arrival. Why is that news-worthy? Well, in my living room I used the bookshelf for knick-knacks and whatnot - more of a decorative piece. But now that it's in my guestroom, I've actually filled it with *gasp* books!

For now, I decided to use it as a place to put my TBR books. I think this will help with the whole Mission: Contentment thing, as I'll now be able to actually see how many books I have to choose from, as well as browse them when I'm feeling in the mood to try something new. :) Check it out...


Besides the two "filler" book boxes at the end of the top row, these are all books I have yet to read! I may have started a few and then set them aside, but for the most part, I have all these lovelies to enjoy from cover to cover sometime.

And yes, there is sort of a system!

Currently, the top left is for review books, the top middle has the Love Inspired/Heartsong Present books, and the top right has some Harvest House Amish books that I might want to read for AmishReader.com.


The second shelf begins my Christian fiction (alphabetical order by author's last name)...


...which continues into the third shelf. The right side of the bottom shelf is for my YA books.


Will I keep that system? *shrugs* I like the way it looks for now. :)

I should add that:
  1. I bought a couple of these books this weekend when I went into Barnes & Noble (Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade - I've heard such good things! - and Love's Fortune by Laura Frantz). A mama's visit is a special occasion, no?
  2. There are a few stragglers in boxes in my closet that didn't fit into my neat little categories (or on my shelf). 
  3. This doesn't even include all my Kindle books... 
In other words, I have a lot of reading to do! *laughs*

Tell me, friends, where do you keep your TBR books? Any books we have in common?

P.S. While visiting Barnes & Noble, I went on the hunt for Harvest House books - and I didn't have to look too hard! Loved seeing these Harvest House books and more in the wild...

Get Unstuck, Be Unstoppable by Valorie Burton

Choose Love by Stormie Omartian

P.P.S. Speaking of Harvest House books... I'm guest-blogging over at Seekerville tomorrow (Tuesday), talking about marketing tips - and we're going to be giving away four new Harvest House releases in honor of the company's 40th anniversary. Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cover Reveal: Anon, Sir, Anon



Cover reveals are such fun! Today I'm participating in the reveal of Rachel Heffington's latest cover. If her name sounds familiar, you might already follow her at The Inkpen Authoress. Or you might recall my review of her debut, Fly Away Home. Or perhaps you remember her being featured here for the Five Glass Slippers blog tour. Yes, Rachel is proving to be a prolific indie author!

Her next release is titled Anon, Sir, Anon, and here's a little more info about the book...
The 12:55 out of Darlington brought more than Orville Farnham's niece; murder was passenger.

In coming to Whistlecreig, Genevieve Langley expected to find an ailing uncle in need of gentle care. In reality, her charge is a cantankerous Shakespearean actor with a penchant for fencing and an affinity for placing impossible bets.

When a body shows up in a field near Whistlecreig Manor and Vivi is the only one to recognize the victim, she is unceremoniously baptized into the art of crime-solving: a field in which first impressions are seldom lasting and personal interest knocks at the front door.

Set against the russet backdrop of a Northamptonshire fog, Anon, Sir, Anon cuts a cozy path to a chilling crime. 

Sounds intriguing, no? Be looking for my review in the next month or so! The book's official release is November 5th.


 And now, without further ado, here is the cover!


My Thoughts: It's simple but striking. I love the contrast in colors, and the main font along with the layout makes it feel very mystery-novel-esque. The berries and bike add a touch of whimsy that makes me curious as to their roles in the story. The lack of character or setting depictions keeps you in suspense, which is fitting for a mystery, wouldn't you say? ;)

What are your thoughts on the cover? Will you be adding Anon, Sir, Anon to your TBR stack this fall?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Time for Candy—Cover Candy, That Is!

Inspired by Rissi of Dreaming Under the Same Moon and her awesome posts, The Enchanted Inkpot's clever cover posts, and the desire to show off a few Harvest House books, I bring you a mixed bag of delicious cover candy...

Bright and Beautiful


Bonus: I saw a note on MaryLu's Coming Soon page that there's going to be a 5th book in the Legacy of the King's Pirates series, coming Fall 2015—and it's going to be a time-travel romance!! How fabulous is that??





Clever, Cute, and Classy







Bonus: Lena Goldinch (my cover designer and indie mentor) is getting ready to take the sweet historical romance genre by storm! Want to be one of the very first to read and review her brand-new novel in a brand-new genre for her? You can email me at amberstokes@corban.edu for details! 

Peachy in Purple







Which of these treats most appeals to you? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Note: Some of these are available now, but most are going to be released later this year or early next year. You can see more of my cover finds on my Cover Candy board on Pinterest.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My Review of The Hesitant Heiress

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy disappearing before her very eyes. Now the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: marry within the year to inherit her grandmother’s fortune. Amaryllis reluctantly takes part in her aunt’s society, intent on getting to the west coast on her own… and without a husband.

 Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, whose father not only had a part in her expulsion, but whose ominous presence has haunted her dreams for a decade since her mother’s tragic death. Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been 'managing her life' isn’t who she thought at all."

My Rating

Spring

My Review

Despite my poor computer-fried eyes, The Hesitant Heiress held my interest, kept my gaze glued to the Kindle screen, and stole some of my sleep. The descriptions of the setting and era are exquisite, and the scenes flow from one romantic scenario to another, keeping me happily intrigued. I enjoyed the pace very much.

I will confess, though, that while I was an engaged reader, I was also a very frustrated one. With all suspense/mystery novels, there's a fine balance between showing all the cards too soon and not giving the readers enough of a peek to feel invested. I think this particular story skews a little more toward the latter. Maybe I was too sleep-deprived to pay as much attention to the details as I should, but I felt left in the dark for quite a while. I wanted a foundation at first, something to help me really grasp the characters and their relationships with one another (if not all the intricacies of their circumstances, naturally). And with the first-person point-of-view limitation, along with some holes in the back story that don't get filled in until later, it's hard (or at least it was for me!) to get entirely grounded in the story world right away. Just bear in mind that the nature of the relationships and their histories make more sense in time.

Another point of frustration, though, goes along with that first-person POV, and the voice behind it. I smacked my head (wishing I could smack the characters) and groaned at Amaryllis's self-assurance that completely defies her lack of perceptiveness. Her naivete could be more easily forgiven if only she didn't come across as being very self-absorbed. Not that she's an entirely unsympathetic character; I just would have loved to see her have a little more genuine interest in others (beyond attraction or lack thereof) to endear me to her.

Now, Meredyth (a friend) on the other hand shone as a secondary character. She's carefree and considerate - at least the glimpses we're given of her - and I look forward to reading more of her story in Book 2 of "The Everstone Chronicles" series, The Bound Heart!

Coming back to this first installment, though, I did quite enjoy it. I love the cast of characters - the friends with all their underlying feelings and interesting connections. I did appreciate the mystery, even if I would have liked just a bit more grounding to begin with. The suspense that builds at the very end is epic! The scenes at that point jump without much emotional resolution, as so many revelations happen one right after the other, but it's still highly entertaining.

And the romance... I wanted to smack them often for interrupting one another and not finishing their thoughts! So, be forewarned that a lot of drama comes from misunderstandings. Also, I personally found some of the hero's motives suspect. But still... Well, I'll let you draw your own conclusions from that remark. ;)

My feelings are obviously all over the place, so let me sum it up: Intriguing historical romance with plenty of drama and a dash of suspense. Frustrating communication and character flaws, but engaging characters, nonetheless. Great writing, and a story that sets the stage for a promising sequel.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a PDF copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

http://whpub.whitakerhouse.com/dawncrandall/heiress.html

Monday, September 8, 2014

My Review of Sync or Swim

Here's a description of the book from Moody Publishers:

"The workplace is stressful these days. When people are stressed, they have a harder time learning and applying helpful information. Fortunately, stories are one of the most powerful ways to communicate truths effectively.

Fables cut through complexity to reveal simple, crucial wisdom.  

Sync or Swim is a refreshing, illustrated story of a sheepdog and a puffin, that helps us to solve a frustrating mystery: Why do morale-building programs often hurt morale . . . and why does communicating appreciation too often result in cynical reactions? In Sync or Swim, you'll follow an organizational manager and the challenges he has to overcome:
  • A threatening storm rapidly approaching the island
  • The expectation to do more with less
  • Complaining, negative team members
  • Morale of loyal employees who feel undervalued
  • Long history of mismanagement
It's a small tale with great wisdom, a classic insight into the ways expressing authentic appreciation can change everything-and help us survive the storms that threaten us in work and life."

My Review

Sync or Swim is a quick and interesting read - a sort of "children's book" that addresses adult issues directly related to the workplace. Certain things I thought were really good - others weren't quite as fresh or directly related to my situation.

On the plus side: No matter what your position in a business, there's some great wisdom in here. Learning how to show genuine appreciation for others' work, taking the time to truly listen, and celebrating achievements - those are all things everyone should take to heart. There are some pithy, highlighter-worthy lines here. And the illustrations are unique and a lot of fun!

Now, I would say that the overall message of the book is more specific than I would prefer. But then, I think if the book finds its way into the hands of the exact target audience...well, there you go! Basically, the book is more for those in leadership roles, helping them to understand the employees they're managing and how to bring everyone in different departments together during turbulent times. And if you're at all familiar with Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages, then you'll recognize the heavy emphasis. My impression is that it's sort of like The Five Love Languages for employers/managers, but told in a fable format with animal characters.

Don't get me wrong! Helping managers to effectively communicate their appreciation for those working under them is a huge thing, and applying the five "love languages" to the workplace is a significant and worthy goal. And the story's approach is creative, if a little odd in the sense of animals working in human institutions.

If you're looking for some good advice for maintaining positive relationships with your coworkers, Sync or Swim does include that in a roundabout sort of way. It's an encouraging little read - probably most helpful for business leaders, but still including some good food for thought for others.

*With thanks to Moody Publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Note: Sync or Swim releases November 1, 2014.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

"It's Always a Good Time"

Taking a cue from blogging friend Kara (Flowers of Quiet Happiness), I wanted to share some of the things that I'm grateful for in this new season of my life... 

Music. To quote the song "Down in New Orleans" from The Princess and the Frog: "They got music, it's always playin'. Start in the daytime, go all through the night..." Singing in the shower, in the car, while I'm cooking and cleaning, before I go to bed - the music makes me smile, laugh, and feel, inspiring my written stories and the story of my life. I recently bought Owl City's The Midsummer Station, and I've been listening to it a lot in the car and in my apartment. Here's one song from the CD that's just so catchy and joyful:



Writing. I'm chipping away at How a Star Falls bit by bit, and I'm having a lot of fun with the story! Certain plot elements are starting to firm up more in my mind, although I don't have a set outline or anything. Sometimes I'll work on the story during lunch at work, scribbling away in my journal...


(Please forgive the mistakes and sloppy handwriting.) I've found it really refreshing and freeing to get the words down on paper first, then type up the scenes later. I'm grateful to Lena Goldfinch for the recommendation to switch things up with my writing!

P.S. The new blog header (which I tweaked via PicMonkey) features the view from one of the lookout points at Trinidad Head, a setting in How a Star Falls

Food. I don't think a long explanation is necessary here. ;) I will say that when I went grocery shopping yesterday, I bought a muffin tin and some muffin mixes. I tried one this morning, and it was SO good!


I sprayed the tin with cooking spray instead of using cupcake liners, and they came out perfectly! And the triple-chocolate goodness, fresh from the oven? Oh, yeah, I'm a happy girl!


Shows. I've been watching the first few seasons of The Office, which I borrowed from a coworker. I'd seen a little of the show before, but it's even more entertaining when you actually work in an office, LOL. And I've been loving When Calls the Heart (less than $20 for the whole season via Amazon Instant Video!). I should write up a post just for this series alone - so much sweetness!

http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/whencallstheheart 

Books. So...I haven't entirely stopped browsing books or thinking about books, but that's not really the goal of Mission: Contentment. The goal is to foster a better attitude and to let go of the obsessiveness - something I certainly haven't mastered since I posted about it. I've picked up a few new books since then, and I've had my moments of giving in to the urge to browse and dwell on new reading opportunities instead of...well, you know, actually reading. However, I'm continuing to read The Art of Creativity by Thomas Kinkade during most of my breakfasts, which has been thought-provoking! I'm also reading a fabulous book on singleness, which I imagine you'll be hearing more about in the coming months. And I'm really excited about fellow authors' upcoming releases and other books that are on my TBR. I'm grateful for this passion for books. Through God's grace, if I can keep it in a healthy balance, it does make my job, my downtime, and my outside projects that much more enjoyable. :) I mean, it would be silly to work in publishing or be an author if I didn't appreciate books!

These are just a few of the tangible things I'm grateful for. Greater than these, of course, are God's love and presence, the hope He gives, my family, my friends and coworkers, a wonderful place to live, precious memories, and more. It's bittersweet to move into a new season of life, as there are things I miss dearly about the previous seasons. And yet, I'm so thankful for all that I've been given, and I'm excited about what this season holds. I'm happy to sing, "It's always a good time!"

What are some things you're grateful for in this season of your life, dear friends?