Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Let's Play Tag and 20 Questions

Super sweet friend and fellow indie author Meghan Gorecki (A Northern Belle) kindly tagged me for the 20-questions post that's been going around. (Thank you so much, Meghan!) I couldn't resist joining in on the fun, so here are my responses...

1. How tall are you?

I think I'm still 5' 1". I've been that height for pretty much forever. It's not so bad. :)

2. Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what?

Well... "I would love to become a professional whistler. I'm pretty amazing at it now, but I want to get, like, even better. Make my living out of it."

(For all you Madagascar 2 fans out there. Anyone else besides me? Anyone?)

Perhaps my hidden talent has to do with my response to Question 7. Not sure if I'm really all that talented at either, but hey! At least I have fun.

3. What's your biggest blog-related pet peeve?

Maybe an overabundance of ads. Or a lack of interaction with readers. Or those silly, difficult to decipher CAPTCHA verifications and the spiteful spamming that necessitates them. Grr.

4. What's your biggest non-blog-related pet peeve?

The ways I too-often thwart myself with greed, materialism, and misplaced priorities.

5. What's your favorite song?

I love music so much that I don't want to name a favorite favorite song. But John Denver's songs always remind me of coming home, and "Sunshine on My Shoulders" has been dear to my heart through the years.



6. What's your favorite Etsy shop that isn't yours?

Christy's Belle on a Budget has been my go-to Etsy store for gifts for myself and others. :) Such sweet and fun jewelry!

7. What's your favorite way to spend your free time when you're alone?

Singing along to music. And dancing around my apartment, like a certain character or two from my upcoming release. :)


8. What's your favorite junk food?

Ummm...all of it? Well, maybe not quite, but still. Let's go with chocolate. I have an insatiable sweet tooth - just ask my coworkers.

9. Do you have a pet or pets? If so, how many, and what are their names?

There's a cat who lives at my grandparents' house that's my baby. My grandparents bought Mr. Murphy for me when I was ten, and I love him so. He's so sweet and such a great listener. :) Sadly, I live in a practically no-pets apartment, so I couldn't bring him with me. Since he's now thirteen and content with roaming my grandparents' property, it's probably for the best. But with my grandparents' house on the market, it's a difficult thing.

At home with my parents and sister, there's Muffin Man (another cat) and Candy (the bunny). And a kitten has been added to the family since I moved out - a sweet thing named Paris that I'm eager to meet sometime!

10. What're your number-one favorite nofiction and fiction books?

These are always the hardest questions to answer. I'm going to cheat by directing your attention to my "favorites" shelf on Shelfari.

11. What's your favorite beauty product?

I don't really wear much makeup, so I guess it would have to be cover-up (does one ever completely outgrow acne? *sigh*) and good ol' chapstick.

12. When were you last embarrassed? What happened?

I get embarrassed frequently. One of the more recent incidents was at the young-adult group associated with the church I've just started attending. Let's just say that my sister got all the artistic genes, and who knew my attempts at drawing an ape for Pictionary would have everyone guessing that it was some sort of bear? No point for our team that round. *hangs head in shame*

13. If you could only drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Probably low-fat milk. Or some sort of juice.

14. What's your favorite movie?

There are a couple of Hallmark movies at or near the top of the list. Also, Always. You've Got Mail. Tuck Everlasting. IQ. Kate & Leopold. Anne of Green Gables and its sequel. The Journey of Natty Gann. Brother Bear.

15. What were you in high school? Prom queen, jock, nerd, cheerleader, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?

Valedictorian. And prom queen. Okay, maybe not the second one (just in my own mind). ;)

16. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

There are lots of places I'd like to travel to, but as far as living... Well, I'm really quite happy right here in Oregon for this season of my life.

 At the Sea Lion Caves on the coast of beautiful Oregon

17. PC or Mac?

PC. I'll leave the Macs to the designers in our marketing department.

18. Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boyfriend, or spouse?

Is it just me, or does this question feel like a land mine for those who aren't in a relationship, no matter if there are "crush" and "date" options? I'll step very carefully around it and just say "a listening ear." Having someone express genuine interest in what you have to say can be such a meaningful gesture, friend or otherwise.

19. Favorite celebrity?

Hmmm... I guess some of my favorites would be Adam Young (AKA Owl City), Scotty McCreery, Zachary Levi, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, and JJ Feild (who played Henry Tilney and Henry Nobley - *swoon*).

The sweet little owl my mom bought me on her last visit :)

20. What blogger do you secretly want to be best friends with?

Is "all of them" an acceptable answer? ;) Seriously, I'm so grateful for my blogging friends, including the awesome and ever-thoughtful Rissi (Dreaming Under the Same Moon) and the fantabulous, kind-hearted Kara (Flowers of Quiet Happinesss). And there are so many colleagues and former clients I'd love to meet in person!

***

I now tag lovely bloggers Emily (Zerina Blossom) and Ganise (Rêves Bleus), if they'd like to participate. :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

My Review of The Covered Deep

Here's a description of the book:

Some dreams are worth searching for

Bianca Marshal is looking for a man who can quote both Jesus and Shakespeare. Not surprisingly, that man is hard to find in the small Appalachian town where she lives. Her mother insists that Bianca lower her standards. On the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday, even Bianca wonders if her mother is right.

Still set on experiencing love, or at least a little adventure, Bianca wins an essay contest that propels her into a whirlwind search for the perfect romantic hero. Via the opulence of London and the mysteries of Palestine, Bianca's true love will be revealed—but not without a price that might be too heavy to pay.

Purchase the book on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christianbook.com

My Rating

Spring

My Review

Extremely unique plot. Plenty of drama. Fascinating settings.

All tied together with a thread of mystery.

The Covered Deep is quite the impressive debut. It's weighty (literally and figuratively!) and bold in its direction. While I knew I was on the list to receive a paperback copy for review (see pic below), I got a bit impatient and decided to read an advance e-copy via NetGalley. And even though some of the e-ARCs aren't always easy to read with their formatting issues, I got swept away by the beginning of this story. I found myself as charmed as Bianca by the sights she first encounters in London and aboard ship, as well as the very interesting people she meets.

As the story continued, I became quite engaged to the point of having a hard time remaining silent while reading the book in the lunchroom. The twists and turns, the characters' quirks, the sometimes humorous reactions...all made me want to reprimand the characters, smile, and chuckle in turn.

On that note, I will confess that my desire to react audibly at times was partly due to the melodrama. Some drama with a plot like this (and given all that Bianca experiences for the first time) is certainly understandable and warranted. It just felt a little...much...at times. I love me some protective men in my fiction, but I confess it seemed a little ridiculous to have so many guys ask Bianca if she was all right over and over and over again. Bianca's changing moods and naiveté also alternately amused me and got on my nerves.

However, I should note that some of these same claims could possibly be brought against some of my own writing... So perhaps this is a case of more easily spotting something that you know you do, as well. ;)

Despite my escalating frustrations regarding the heroine and her reactions to certain revelations, I did still enjoy the story. I especially loved the scenes in Israel. I had the privilege to go there, myself, when I was fifteen, and mentions of the various sights and landmarks brought to mind special memories. Vallance does a great job of creating atmosphere and setting mood in her writing, and she balances details and action well.

As for the romance, well, that's all part of the mystery. I will say that the moment when the title is explained, as it relates to the relationships in the book, is quite poignant. The Covered Deep is an imaginative and engaging adventure, and I'm curious to see what other stories Vallance will share with the world!

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

Bianca and me, chillin' in my apartment. I think we're still friends. ;)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Review of The Princess Spy

Here's a description of the book from Zondervan:

Margaretha has always been a romantic, and hopes her newest suitor, Lord Claybrook, is destined to be her one true love. But then an injured man is brought to Hagenheim Castle, claiming to be an English lord who was attacked by Claybrook and left for dead. And only Margaretha—one of the few who speaks his language—understands the wild story.

Margaretha finds herself unable to pass Colin’s message along to her father, the duke, and convinces herself “Lord Colin” is just an addled stranger. Then Colin retrieves an heirloom she lost in a well, and asks her to spy on Claybrook as repayment. Margaretha knows she could never be a spy—not only is she unable to keep anything secret, she’s sure Colin is completely wrong about her potential betrothed. Though when Margaretha overhears Claybrook one day, she discovers her romantic notions may have been clouding her judgment about not only Colin but Claybrook as well. It is up to her to save her father and Hagenheim itself from Claybrook’s wicked plot.

My Rating

Spring

My Review

I'm always thrilled at the release of a new Melanie Dickerson novel. Her romances are sweet and full of adventure, uniquely appealing with their blend of historical setting and fairy-tale elements. The Princess Spy is another lovely addition to Dickerson's series of retellings.

The subtle (and cleverly not-so-subtle) tie-ins with parts of The Frog Prince and related stories are quite fun. And Margaretha is a great heroine, with her big heart and bold attitude. When she sees the need for action, she takes it - a bit recklessly at times, but in a way that makes for an entertaining read. Plus, you gotta love a heroine who isn't afraid to speak her mind...however long it takes to do so. ;)

Some elements of the plot reminded me a bit of The Fairest Beauty and The Captive Maiden, Dickerson's last two releases. Which, on the one hand, is cool because I love a good "on-the-run" journey that brings a hero and heroine closer together. But on the other hand, it feels like the stories are becoming a bit formulaic. With fairy-tale themes, perhaps that's partly to be expected.

The romance includes some tender moments while focusing on their blossoming friendship. I hoped for a little more from the ending...especially given how the villain is introduced so early in the story and how the danger is built up over time. Still, The Princess Spy is all-around cuteness, and I look forward to seeing what Dickerson does with more fairy tales in her upcoming releases!

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

Note: The Princess Spy releases November 4, 2014.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Days!

I've got some reviews to catch up on, and it feels like I'm forever playing catch-up with sleep! As I said on Twitter:


It's not that I can't fall asleep, but simply that I too often choose not to go to bed at a decent hour. I do like sleep (very much!)... I'd just like more hours in the day so that I could do other things, too! I suppose maybe I could prioritize my time better, but that's beside the point. ;)

My point in this post is that yes, I do have other posts I should share soon. But right now, I'm simply going to say I'm so grateful for blessings big and small...

For pumpkin-patch visits with friends (and scrumptious apple cider doughnuts).


For times at work that remind me of a greater goal, the good of the team, and that it's really not all about me.

For times at work where I feel incredibly encouraged and welcomed.

For recommendations and a shiny new indulgence in HD and popping colors.


For the opportunity to offer a book for pre-order.

For the fabulous successes of fellow author friends.

For the relief and joy of knowing a new story and its characters have reached the hearts of family and friends.


For great feedback to help make a story better.

For another story idea to daydream about and pursue.

For dear friends who support me in so many ways.

For a patient God and an abundant life.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cedar Fort Blog Tour: Sophia + Review


http://blog.cedarfort.com/blog-tour-sophia/

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

Small-town Sophia Spencer can’t believe her luck when an unexpected inheritance allows her to experience London’s social scene. But her happiness disappears when she is caught napping in a grumpy gentleman’s room—and forced into an engagement to protect her reputation! Personalities collide and love blooms in this stunning debut novel.

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

Sophia is every bit as fun and sweet as I'd hoped it to be! It starts off slow and involves more explanations/telling than I'd prefer, but those are minor complaints. And the interesting prologue does foreshadow the inheritance-induced drama to come for poor, unsuspecting Sophia.

The story really swept me away, though, with the first ball and the launch of a chain of events that causes Sophia's future to be seemingly, irreparably entwined with that of a certain gentleman. Neither one of them handles all of their interactions perfectly, but their characters are so endearing. This book isn't overly suspenseful or adventuresome, and yet the moments of budding friendship and romance are so wonderful, and the little twists and uncertainties quite engaging.

Wholesome Regency romance fans, Paula Kresmer's debut is a delightful dance through manipulations, misunderstandings, and tender emotions. A light but satisfying read!

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

Now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Paula Kremser focused on a career in science for several years after graduating from Brigham Young University. DNA purification and Affinity Chromatography were always interesting, but when she moved to England, Paula seized the opportunity to focus on her love of the Regency Era. The enchantment of the aristocracy and the fascinating stories from every stately home she visits have been both research and inspiration for her first novel. Paula lives with her husband and four children in a charming village nestled in the Chiltern hills in Buckinghamshire.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Last Chance to Attend the Pre-order Party!

This lovely Sunday afternoon wraps up The Unexpected Bride pre-order party for Lena Goldfinch, and I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you that you still have a few hours left to enter the fun giveaway. Remember, 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
I also wanted to share about all the places where the party has appeared online. Here are some links for your reading and visiting pleasure:
And you can view a few additional reviews on the book's Amazon page!

I apologize that this party reminder is coming rather late. But if you do end up reading this after the giveaway's ended, at least that means the book is now available, and you no longer have to wait to enjoy it, right? :) Don't forget that you can purchase it at the following links:

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

(Note: Also available in paperback format at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!)

Many thanks to all the fabulous bloggers who helped spread the word about the party, and to those who are reviewing the book! Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Review of Lizzy and Jane

Here's a description of the book from Thomas Nelson:

"Sometimes the courage to face your greatest fears comes only when you've run out of ways to escape.

At the end of a long night, Elizabeth leans against the industrial oven and takes in her kingdom. Once vibrant and flawless, evenings in the kitchen now feel chaotic and exhausting. She's lost her culinary magic, and business is slowing down.

When worried investors enlist the talents of a tech-savvy celebrity chef to salvage the restaurant, Elizabeth feels the ground shift beneath her feet. Not only has she lost her touch; she's losing her dream.

And her means of escape.

When her mother died, Elizabeth fled home and the overwhelming sense of pain and loss. But fifteen years later, with no other escapes available, she now returns. Brimming with desperation and dread, Elizabeth finds herself in the unlikeliest of places, by her sister’s side in Seattle as Jane undergoes chemotherapy.

As her new life takes the form of care, cookery, and classic literature, Elizabeth is forced to reimagine her future and reevaluate her past. But can a New York City chef with a painful history settle down with the family she once abandoned . . . and make peace with the sister who once abandoned her?"

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

The story begins with a troubled chef who doesn't think there's room for another chef to enter her kitchen. The new guy excels in the areas where Elizabeth is struggling, and she feels threatened and overwhelmed by his presence - and what that says about her boss's lack of faith in her.

I got a No Reservations vibe from the beginning of the story...but it quickly takes a very different turn when Elizabeth hops a plane to Seattle to visit the family she once fled. What starts out as the set-up for a familiar romance turns into a unique and challenging sister story - although the romance does eventually kick in, just in an unexpected way.

This novel had me torn at multiple levels. There's no denying that Reay has a graceful way with words; there are many touching and thought-provoking scenes in Elizabeth's journey toward reconciliation and revival. But there is an overlying tone of melancholy throughout much of the book that made it more difficult for me to fully get into. The misunderstandings...the unkind words...the painful situations...the familial discord... It's hard. And since the story is written solely in Elizabeth's point of view, the reader is also limited in connecting with the characters in that regard.

There's a lot going on in the book emotionally, but it is a slower read - or at least, I found it to be such. Yet, I still felt invested in the story. Elizabeth and Jane are the characters who set the plot in motion, but the story is about more than their relationship. It's about their family as a whole, about Jane's husband and children, about the people they meet at the hospital (nurses and patients alike), about Elizabeth's dreams, and about a certain friend and love interest whose tenderness and uncertainty and devotion charmed my heart.

I was intrigued by the cooking aspects of the book, and all the sensory details that go along with that. I was ultimately touched by the authentic struggles, as well as the persistent hope that refused to completely give up on the characters. And I enjoyed the various expressions of love that often came about in surprising ways.

Lizzy and Jane is the kind of story that makes you want to call up your family and tell them you love them. It's not an easy read, but it's alternately sweet and thought-provoking, and it gets to the heart of family issues. A rich and subtly romantic women's fiction read.

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

Note: Lizzy and Jane releases October 28, 2014.