Spring Splendors

Spring Splendors

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Caring for Caregivers: Out from the Shadows

http://www.pamthorson.com/out-from-the-shadows-blog-tour/
When Grace Thorson contacted me about this blog tour, I really wanted to take part - not just because Grace has been so kind in participating in the blog tours I run via Editing Through the Seasons (which she has!), but also because I've recently been given a greater glimpse at the sacrifices of caregivers.

My grandpa is currently living in a local care/retirement home. Over these past few months I've had the opportunity to get to know some of the people who work there, and they're often friendly, kind, and considerate - even when they're stressed, elbow-deep in dishes with people needing their attention, assisting the residents to and from the bathroom, cleaning up messes, and addressing a variety of issues and day-to-day tasks. I greatly admire their fortitude in a job that's all about helping people who no longer have the ability to help themselves, at least in certain ways. 

While I confess to being a little hesitant at first (and sometimes still!), I've become more and more comfortable at the home. One resident always has to shake hands when we come in. Another loves to give hugs and can proclaim any day her birthday. :) Yet another once told me about his time going through the Panama Canal back when he was in the military. These are my grandpa's new housemates, and it makes me happy that my grandpa's presence there is what gave my mom and I the chance to meet them. So I'm grateful for the caregivers who provide this home for my grandpa and the other sweet residents - a place where we can stop by any time, pick my grandpa up for a special occasion, visit with my grandpa in his room, or join him and the gang at the table while they eat dinner or enjoy some ice cream!

If you're a caregiver or know of someone who is, read on to learn more about a book meant to encourage you. You're appreciated and loved!


About the Book

No place is so dark, no shadow so deep, that God can't find us.

Does the suffering you witness or experience seem pointless? Do you feel like your problems are endless? Do you wonder if God cares about you?

Caregivers live in the daily shadows of death, countless duties, and shattered dreams. But they don t have to exist in the shadows of their faith.

Nurse and veteran caregiver Pam Thorson offers weary families hope and insights gained from her own struggles. Out from the Shadows is a collection of thirty-one stories that pull back the veil on the unique joys and challenges of caregiving. Each devotion draws from the author's own experiences to reveal a fresh understanding of Jesus' call upon our lives as we care for others.

Available for purchase on Amazon


 About the Author

Pam Thorson is a licensed practical nurse, author, speaker, and full-time caregiver. She pioneered in the homeschooling movement from 1982-2006 and authored her first book, Song in the Night, in 2008. Her newest book, Out from the Shadows: 31 Devotions for the Weary Caregiver (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), pulls back the veil on the unique joys and challenges of caregiving. Pam resides with her family in the Northwest.


Book Trailer

 

Click HERE to check out the blog tour itinerary!

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Season"-ed Snack Size Reviews

Sometimes it's nice to just have a little something to read - a little story to make you smile or intrigue you. I indulged in a couple of shorter reads in the last few days (and yes, I confess, I bought one this weekend for $.99...). Here are my thoughts!

You Made Me Love You by Beth K. Vogt

Rating: Spring

I loved Wish You Were Here, so the fact that this is a fun little sequel with a truly adorable cover made this a must-read for me! While not as deep as its novel-length predecessor, and while the heroine (Meghan) sometimes came across as abrasive rather than cute in her teasing, I still really enjoyed this sweet read about clashing personalities, staying true to yourself, and standing strong in humility in the midst of awkward circumstances. The ice cream scenes were great, and I loved Seth's character growth (and the way a certain someone made him fall in love!). All in all, a great follow-up to a wonderful book!

Out of the Blue (Hindsight, Book 1) by Kelly Martin

Rating: Spring

Martin intrigued me with her early-2014 release, The Afterlife of Lizzie Monroe, so I've been curious to read more of her work. Out of the Blue is another creative story (novella-length) with a great hero POV. This is just "the beginning," which means readers will have to wait a while for "the middle" and "the end." Even still, I found this to be an easy read with fun nods to BBC's Sherlock. I liked the mystery, despite a few points where the elements didn't seem to mesh perfectly. There are darker tones - and there's certainly a strong suggestion that darker revelations are to come. Yet it's a clean NA (new adult) read that presents an interesting (albeit not yet fully explained) premise in an engaging, small college-town setting. 

Note: "Seasoned" or "unseasoned" is in reference to my book rating system. Thanks to Juju of Tales of Whimsy for the inspiration regarding mini reviews!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Resistance: An Epic Fantasy Cover Reveal



Welcome to the world of Ilyon - the setting for Jaye L. Knight's new NA (New Adult) Christian fantasy series! The story begins with Resistance, the first of six epic, adventure-filled books:

“Don’t you know? Animals like you have no soul.” 

Could God ever love a half-blood all of society looks upon with such fear and disdain? Jace once believed so, but when a tragic loss shatters the only peace he’s ever known, his faith crumbles as the nagging doubts he’s tried to put behind him descend on his grieving heart. With them come the haunting memories of the bloodstained past he longs to forget, but can never escape. 

Taken from home at a young age and raised to serve the emperor, Kyrin Altair and her twin brother live every day under a dangerous pretense of loyalty. After her unique observation skills and perfect memory place her into direct service to the emperor, Kyrin finds herself in further jeopardy as it becomes increasingly difficult to hide her belief in Elôm, the one true God. 

Following the emperor’s declaration to enforce the worship of false gods under the penalty of death, many lives are endangered. But there are those willing to risk everything to take a stand and offer aid to the persecuted. With their lives traveling paths they never could have imagined, Jace and Kyrin must fight to overcome their own fears and conflicts with society as they become part of the resistance. 

Intrigued yet? Check out the cover...


My Thoughts

This cover sets me up for something legendary. From the torn scroll border at the top, to the light shining down on the beautifully detailed sword waiting to be pulled from its resting place by its rightful master, the cover quietly but emphatically states that an adventure awaits. The important details are clear: the series name (showing that this is only the beginning), the title in tall caps, and the author's very fitting pseudonym boldly standing out in the darkness. My favorite aspect, though? That would be the gorgeous background. It brings to mind childhood stories and imaginative games in the woods. It's both ominous in what's hidden and optimistic with the brilliant green and the shining light. I want to walk right into those woods and discover their secrets!


About the Author

JAYE L. KNIGHT is a 25-year-old independent author with a passion for writing Christian fantasy and clean NA (New Adult) fiction. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God's love shines as a light to offer hope.

Jaye is a homeschool graduate and has been penning stories since the age of eight. She was previously published as Molly Evangeline. You can learn about her latest writing projects at www.jayelknight.com.

http://seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com/p/resistance-blog-tour.html

Blog Tour Announcement

Anxious to get your hands on Resistance? (Believe me, if you love clean fantasy with engaging characters and lots of adventure, you won't want to miss it!) There's a blog tour happening May 20-27, coinciding with the book's release on May 20th. If you're a blogger, you can sign up and join the journey on the blog tour page. (And even if you can't participate as a blogger, be sure to mark your calendars and follow the exciting event. There will be reviews, interviews, a giveaway, and lots of fun!)

Giveaway!

Speaking of giveaways, in celebration of this epic cover reveal, Jaye L. Knight is giving away two handcrafted bookmarks with sword charms—one each to two different winners! The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only, and you can enter via the Rafflecopter form below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Cover Reveal Participants

Want to hear what other bloggers think about the cover, or read an excerpt from the book? Be sure to visit all these awesome blogs today!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Review of The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn

Here's a description of the book from WaterBrook Multnomah:

"Frontier dangers cannot hold a candle to the risks one woman takes by falling in love

In an act of brave defiance, Tamsen Littlejohn escapes the life her harsh stepfather has forced upon her. Forsaking security and an arranged marriage, she enlists frontiersman Jesse Bird to guide her to the Watauga settlement in western North Carolina. But shedding her old life doesn’t come without cost. As the two cross a vast mountain wilderness, Tamsen faces hardships that test the limits of her faith and endurance.

Convinced that Tamsen has been kidnapped, wealthy suitor Ambrose Kincaid follows after her, in company with her equally determined stepfather. With trouble in pursuit, Tamsen and Jesse find themselves thrust into the conflict of a divided community of Overmountain settlers. The State of Franklin has been declared, but many remain loyal to North Carolina. With one life left behind and chaos on the horizon, Tamsen struggles to adapt to a life for which she was never prepared. But could this challenging frontier life be what her soul has longed for, what God has been leading her toward? As pursuit draws ever nearer, will her faith see her through the greatest danger of all—loving a man who has risked everything for her?"

My Rating

Summer

My Review

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is the epitome of what I long for in historical romance - fascinating characters, a fast pace, high tension, intriguing historical details (not overdone), gorgeous and sweeping imagery, engaging and excellent writing, points to ponder, and (of course!) a tender romance. The story is as soft, mysterious, and grand as the cover claims it to be, and I couldn't have been more thrilled with that discovery!

With most historical fiction, there's always the concern that the plot will drag, weighed down by details or less engaging, day-to-day scenes. But Benton's sophomore novel is full of movement, unanswered questions, and suspense to carry the story forward. This led to some late nights for me, as the book contains a delicious balance of literary loveliness and action that guarantees a longer but exciting sojourn on the frontier. And there's enough obvious depth in the first read-through of the story and a perusal of the discussion questions to suggest that subsequent reads could reveal further enchanting elements of the adventure.

I really appreciated the portrayal of the various people groups - from the settlers caught up in the drama of the State of Franklin to the Native Americans as both brutal warriors and beloved friends and family. Each character is complex; each character arc captures the imagination.

My one (very slight) disappointment was that I wished for a little more emphasis on the romance at the end - just another more personal scene to touch on all that the hero and heroine went through together. But not to worry! The romance is a very prominent, surprising, and wonderful part of the story, and I loved it. The hero's patience, devotion, and care completely won me over, and the conclusion of his and Tamsen's story is poignant and hopeful.

Fans of historical romance like Laura Frantz's Courting Morrow Little and Catherine Richmond's Spring for Susannah will adore The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn - a story that delivers in both meat and treat, quality and enjoyment.

*With thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah through Blogging for Books for providing me with an ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Note: The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn releases April 15, 2014.

Would you consider ranking my review? Thank you!

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Review of The Chapel Wars

Here's a description of the book from Bloomsbury:

"Sixteen-year-old Holly wants to remember her Grandpa forever, but she'd rather forget what he left her in his will: his wedding chapel on the Las Vegas strip. Whatever happened to gold watches, savings bonds, or some normal inheritance?

And then there's Grandpa's letter. Not only is Holly running the business with her recently divorced parents, but she needs to make some serious money—fast. Grandpa also insists Holly reach out to Dax, the grandson of her family's mortal enemy and owner of the cheesy chapel next door. No matter how cute Dax is, Holly needs to stay focused: on her group of guy friends, her disjointed family, work, school and... Dax. No wait, not Dax.

Holly's chapel represents everything she’s ever loved in her past. Dax might be everything she could ever love in the future. But as for right now, there's a wedding chapel to save."

My Rating

Fall/Spring

My Review

With such a whimsical cover and interesting premise, The Chapel Wars promised to be a fun read. And it was in certain aspects - but it also went deeper, touching on grief, the effects of divorce, shattered illusions, and financial responsibilities. I really appreciated some of the ways Leavitt addressed these issues. Others didn't entirely win me over.

Surprisingly, Holly's younger brother stole the show for me. It wasn't because I overly liked his character or because I approved of everything he did. But he felt "real" to me - an honest mix of angst, confusion, and warring longings to be an independent "man" and yet to see his family heal and succeed. His presence in the story really highlights the importance of family.

I also enjoyed experiencing some of the local haunts in Las Vegas. The critiques and love for the city blended nicely, and it proved to be a very intriguing backdrop for young love.

That young love didn't exactly work for me. The make-out sessions were a little more than I wanted to know (nothing explicit - I was just sad that they got physical so quickly, and that the physical connection was used as a distraction from other relationships issues). I also hated the ways Dax let Holly down, and the fact that there wasn't more fallout for his choices (despite the sad reasons for him making them). Basically, the romantic relationships often came across as immature, and I guess I just had hoped for something different, despite the YA level (or maybe because of it).

As for other issues... Sometimes it took more thought and work to figure out who was speaking than I would have preferred, but I'm not sure if that was an attribution issue or due more to the formatting of the e-ARC I read - or perhaps a combination of the two. And the overall tone of the book rubbed me wrong. There were moments of hope, for sure, but the ambiguity of faith and the constant uncertainty of purpose left me feeling...bummed, I guess. I really wanted to see the heroine stand up for the things she believed in - the things her grandpa had stood for - but I felt like there was way too much compromise. It wasn't necessarily because of Holly's marketing/business strategies, but more because she was willing to go certain directions only because she thought it would help them make money, not because she really believed they would be beneficial for all involved. Maybe that sounds conceited and unrealistic of me to be against that. But the general attitude and the throwing out of "ethics" (to some degree) didn't impress me. Plus, the view of rushing customers to the altar bothered me.

Leavitt's writing style is engaging, her imagery vivid, and her premise both touching and clever. I just don't think The Chapel Wars was the right book for me, especially since I lost respect for some of the characters, which made it hard for me to care for them as much as I should. If you like the magic of Las Vegas and YA romances that deal with grief, though, you might want to give this one a try.

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

Note: The Chapel Wars releases May 6, 2014.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

All in for the Win! (Winners and Morning Glory)

Happy Sunday, everyone! Let's start this "winning" post with a winners announcement. :) For my 4th blogoversary, I gave away a signed paperback copy of Forget Me Not and an e-copy of one of my books.

The US winner (for the paperback) is...

Amy C!

The international winner (for an ebook) is...

Rochella D!

Congratulations, ladies! I've sent you both emails, so be sure to check your inboxes. :)

Thank you all so much for your interest in "The Heart's Spring" series, and for your support of "Seasons of Humility" these past four years! I'm so blessed to have the chance to share with you, interact with you, and become friends with you. I've absolutely loved my blogging experience so far, despite the time commitment. I mean, what did I even do with myself before blogging?? LOL. Thank you for joining me on this journey and for making it such a wonderful one for me!

Now, some of you follow me on The Heart's Spring series blog, so please forgive the repetitiveness - but I wanted to share with all my readers here about my progress with Morning Glory. It's been a bit of slow going, and March wasn't as productive as I wanted it to be. But I've signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo for this month, and I'm hoping I can finish the first draft of the book - or at least make a very sizable dent in my goal! - by the end of April. 


You can check out my camper profile HERE. (Camp NaNoWriMo totally brings back happy memories of Camp Humility! Any long-time followers remember that event??) Anyway, if you check out my profile and click on the tab "Novel Info," you can read my working synopsis for Morning Glory, as well as a brief, unedited excerpt from Chapter 1!

For those who don't want to venture into the wilds of camp, here's that synopsis:

***

The depths of fear. The dawning of hope.

Summer 1887

Felicity Lute's family is on the run from scandal and sorrow, but their "vacation" isn't bringing Felicity and her sister, Helen, together the way it should. Hope - or at least distraction - comes in the form of Myghal Tamblyn, a Cornish man wandering the West. When he joins them on their journey to Crater Lake, Felicity begins to believe her heart and her dreams will heal. Just as long as she and her two sisters can keep their secrets hidden.

Myghal has fallen in love - and been forced to let go of love - twice. He's intrigued by the flirtatious and flamboyant Felicity, but he's also wary of the obvious tension in her family, despite their welcome. An adventure with new friends might be just what his lonely heart needs, or it could be the path to a third and final heartbreak.

When tragedy plunges Felicity and Myghal into the very depths of their fears, will they find anything strong enough to help them rise again?

Inspirational Historical Romance

***

It's not necessarily the final version, but what do you think? Does it make you want to read the book?

I'll let you in on a few little secrets, too...
  • I currently have a third POV in play for the story (beyond Myghal and Felicity). Not sure yet if I should tweak the synopsis to mention more about her - guess that will be a question to run by my editor(s)! She's going to play a very pivotal role, from what I can tell so far. 
  • I've been doing a lot of my brainstorming for the story on Pinterest. It's been very fun to have ideas sort of leapfrog one another as I find new visuals to inspire me. I just hope it all makes sense when it comes together!
  • And speaking of secrets and Pinterest... You might have already come across these boards or overheard me chatting about "genre hopping" on Twitter, but if you want to catch a little glimpse at what I'm brainstorming for books to work on after Morning Glory, check out Secret Future Writing Project and Secret Future Writing Project 2. I'm not really sure why I'm attempting any secrecy, LOL. The title for the first one is pretty set, and Lena's actually already designed the first cover. But I guess since I haven't written the stories yet, I kind of want to wait until the right moment to share more. ;) I will tell you that I'm contemplating trying something more contemporary. We'll see how it goes! Be on the lookout in the coming months for title announcements and cover reveals, Lord willing. "I make you no promises, I tell you no lies" - but I am very excited about these projects, so I hope to pursue them!
Anyone else participating in Camp NaNo or working on writing projects? Let's go for the win and get some stories on paper!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

To Die Once: Upcoming Release Announcement and Endorsement

It's an exciting time to see a friend's book baby being introduced to the world! Miranda Uyeh has been a dear blogging friend of mine for quite a while now - she shares very thoughtful and insightful reviews and posts over on her blog, To Be A Person. Her debut is special for several other reasons: I had the pleasure of editing it last fall; my proofreader and freelance buddy, Rachelle Rea, proofread the book this spring; and Lena - whose cover designs we all know and love - designed the stunning cover.


Let's just pause and talk about this cover for a moment.
  1. If you're familiar with Miranda's online presence (her blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), you know the font style/color choices are perfect! Love that Miranda's rockin' the brand. :) 
  2. The endorsement is very fitting for the story. Yep, mystery, intrigue, and romance abound!
  3. The model is a great match for the heroine, Jennifer: sophisticated, stubborn, lovely, wounded, and headstrong. And that expression - so intense.
  4. The roses! They play a prevalent role and serve as a strong symbol in the story, so of course they needed to be on the cover. So perfect that the one by the title appears almost dead in spots, and yet looks like it's about to bloom.
This cover is a bit more "glamorous" than you generally see with inspirational romance books, but I think it works well with the tone and unique elements of the story. What are your thoughts?

***

Now, as for the story itself, here's a description of the book from Miranda's blog:

"Two men, one woman, a rosebush … 
… a terrible past, an uncertain future 

Jennifer, a woman unexpectedly trapped in a path of love and passion against everything she believes.

Rodrigo, a man set to get what he wants at the cost of what matters most.

Stefano, a man with a past, a story to tell and passion to offer.

Chidi, a friend in need, a friend indeed. Or not?

From a culture where good girls follow the norm and live as they’ve been told, Jennifer is no different from any other girl until by happenstance, she meets and falls in love with Rodrigo, a man who’s handsome, rich and foreign. Different. She has no idea who he is or what he does, and is swept into a world of romance and passion. It is not long before she discovers a shocking truth that shakes both her world and his.

Then he is gone.

Stefano shows up at a time when Jennifer has made up her mind about the rules of life. He thinks she’s beautiful and is in love with her. In a bid to convince her to give him a chance in her life, old memories once buried are brought to life. And the events that follow don’t leave anyone unaffected by the truth of the past that was left unsettled.

Meanwhile, Jennifer with her friend Chidi, find themselves on a self-discovery journey that has one of them raising questions.

Some just have to ask, where is God in all this?

… an inspirational romance, from Lagos to Italy."

***

Here is my official endorsement:

"Miranda Uyeh has penned a novel full of heart. To Die Once is a story alternately thorny and tender that tackles the various forms of love - romance, friendship, and faith - in unique settings and situations. Often surprising, consistently intriguing, Uyeh's debut is a bold start to her blossoming writing career." 
~ Amber Stokes, Author of "The Heart's Spring" Series

Less officially...

It was a pleasure to be one of the editors of this book and to get an early glimpse at such a complex and touching read! The book blurb didn't quite prepare me for the scope of the story - the diverse locations, the intense and surprising twists and turns, and the vast emotional landscapes. Miranda holds nothing back with her debut, blending her own personal touch with the writing lessons she's picked up on her reading journey.

I came to appreciate the fact that Miranda knew what she wanted to convey with this story and stuck to it - not just the romance, but the essence of friendship and the call of faith. For those who are searching for something different in inspirational romance - something that still offers heart, a strong focus on relationships, and a beautiful redemption theme - To Die Once is your train ticket to a satisfying and poignant adventure. Come discover what it means to die once in a lifetime...

To Die Once on Goodreads

(The tour runs through May 21st.)

Will you be signing up for the blog tour or purchasing the book when it becomes available? Which intrigues you the most - the cover, the blurb, or the endorsements?