Monday, September 26, 2016

You're Invited to the Emma Read-Along


Dear Friend, 

Are you longing to savor a classic tale on sunny autumn afternoons and chilly fall nights? Have you been eager to become acquainted (or reacquainted) with the refined world of Jane Austen? Then please accept this invitation to join fellow book-lovers for a read-along of Emma, beginning Sunday, October 2nd, and concluding Sunday, October 30th. 

The schedule will proceed as follows...
  • Week 1 ~ Read Vol. I: Ch. 1-14
  • Week 2 ~ Finish Vol. I // read Vol. II: Ch. 1-10
  • Week 3 ~ Finish Vol. II // read Vol. III: Ch. 1-6
  • Week 4 ~ Finish Vol. III
Thus we shall read about 14 chapters a week (or 2 per day). Discussions will be held on Sundays...
  • Week 1 Discussion: October 9th
  • Week 2 Discussion: October 16th
  • Week 3 Discussion: October 23rd
  • Week 4 Discussion: October 30th
It would be a delight to see you here next Sunday (October 2nd) to launch this grand event! And together we shall do our best to make this a fun experience for all. (Perhaps a Twitter watch-along is in order, as well?)

Sincerely,
A Fellow Reader

P.S. Please feel free to take the button above and share it on your blog or social media page to announce your participation in the read-along! You can also join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #EmmaReadAlong.

P.P.S. Would you like to see how a Jane Austen read-along works? I invite you to peruse past posts: Persuasion and Prayers Read-Along; Northanger Abbey Read-Along

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My Life According to Literature: A Borrowed Book Tag

This tag was recently shared by the creative Courtney (The Green Mockingbird), and was previously shared by the clever Kara (Flowers of Quiet Happiness). Apparently, according to a comment I wrote on Kara's blog, I had been inspired to post about this tag back in March...but well, here I am in September! Oh well. I'm glad Courtney posted about it recently so I could be re-inspired!

The goal of the game is to use book titles to respond to the given prompts. I'll be using titles from books I've read so far this year. So grab a macaron and enjoy a slice of my life... ;)


* * *

Describe yourself: Made Perfect in Weakness

(God's grace is sufficient for me! See 2 Corinthians 12:9. ♥)

How you feel today: Spell Bound

(Aren't we all a little out of it on Sundays? And I started an interesting paranormal book last night I want to finish soon that has me "spell bound"!)

Describe where you currently live: Lost Lake House

(Okay, not really. But there's a lake somewhat nearby...)

If you could go anywhere, you would go to: Mountain Hideaway

(Sounds lovely, especially if the cabin were surrounded by gorgeous fall foliage!) 

Your favorite form of transportation: Sofi's Bridge

(Bridges offer a nice way of getting from here to there.)

Your best friend is: Anchor in the Storm

(The best kind of friend is one who's there for you in the hard times, right?)

You and your friends are: Scary Close

What the weather is like: Blue Like Jazz

You fear: The End of the World

The best advice you have to give: Breathe In

Thought for the day: Love Does

How you would like to die: A Daring Sacrifice

(Well, at least I'd like to be willing to die this way, if need be!)

Your soul's present condition: Broken Things to Mend

(Because God is faithful to continue mending the broken and sinful places within.)

* * *

As far as I know, this tag can continue to live on as long as people keep sharing it! So feel free to have a go - it's a lot of fun! :)

Side note: I knew I had done something like this before! I've actually already shared a couple of "fill in the blank" posts like this. You can read them HERE and HERE if you're interested in more bookish games!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

YA Fantasy with Enchanting Style | Review of Unblemished



About the Book

Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?

Releases October 11, 2016!

My Rating

Spring

My Review

Unblemished is a very interesting young-adult fantasy read! The story begins in modern-day New York with the heroine, Eliyana, in a state of shock and mourning at the loss of her mom. But grief quickly gives way to confusion and fear when friends become strangers...and strangers may or may not prove to be trustworthy.

This could potentially be a *spoiler* (you've been warned!), but let me just jump right in and say that this story pretty much contains the Mother of All Love Triangles. Now, some readers might be completely turned off to such things in this genre. I confess I don't always mind them, depending on how they're handled. This one certainly has some intriguing twists and plenty of suspense as to who really belongs with our heroine. (I believe I do have a favorite...but  my lips are sealed, at least in this review!)

Speaking of the heroine...Eliyana makes for an interesting narrator. Unfortunately, I didn't find her entirely likable for the majority of the book, but I wasn't so bothered that I couldn't keep enjoying the story. Her preference for periods (all. the. time.) was a bit annoying, although it does make the voice distinctive, and I can appreciate that. And, despite the things that are left up in the air, I did like how Eliyana was portrayed at the very end.

You'll find some YA cliches in this story, but there's enough uniqueness and depth to make Unblemished stand out. One of the ways this story really shines is through the descriptions of the settings and the characters' emotions. The imagery is familiar and yet slightly foreign...vivid...enchanting. The author's individual style is evident in the writing. And the musical references and metaphors are a nice touch!

All in all, this YA fantasy debut has some great writing, dramatic romance, and an entertaining adventure to offer.

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Will Kennedy Survive This Deadly Obsession? (Indie Author Interview + Giveaway!)


Purchase on Amazon.com: Paperback | Kindle ebook

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to a blogging friend (Just Your Average Reviews) and fellow indie author, Caitlyn Santi! She recently released a brand-new novella. :) Learn all about it in this fun interview, and enter for a chance to win an ebook copy at the end of the post!

* * *

Amber: Welcome to Seasons of Humility, Caitlyn! Your new release is a young-adult Christian suspense novella titled Deadly Obsession. Could you share a little about the star character, Kennedy? What makes her shine—and what are some of the challenges she faces?

Caitlyn: Thank you so much for having me, Amber! :)

Well, Kennedy is a 17-year-old girl and an FBI agent, and I think she may be the most fascinating and complex character I've written so far. She was a lot of fun to write because she is definitely a teenager personality-wise, but there are also many times when she displays a maturity beyond her years.

Kennedy is very passionate and determined in her mission to do whatever she can to get predators who target teens off the streets. When the book opens Kennedy has just set up a sting operation to catch an online predator, and she appears a bit cocky and overly sure of herself, but we soon discover that because of a tragedy in her past, Kennedy has a large amount of anger simmering beneath the surface. That anger has led her to become an FBI agent and turn her back on God. Kennedy also struggles to balance life as a teenager with that of an FBI agent, and things only get more complicated when someone begins stalking her.

Amber: One of the big themes of this story has to do with the love between siblings. What made you decide to focus on this sort of relationship? What makes such a relationship truly special?

Caitlyn: My brother and I have a bond that I truly treasure, and I've always wanted to write a story about siblings. But honestly, the fact that it became a part of this book was a total God thing because when I started writing this story I had no idea that it would be about siblings until all of a sudden Kennedy's older brother, Wyatt, appeared on the page, and just like that the story changed for the better.

Kennedy and Wyatt are best friends, they are always there for each other, and truly love and respect each other, but of course no sibling relationship would be complete without a lot of back-and-forth banter and good-natured teasing, which was an absolute joy to write. Wyatt is also intensely overprotective of his baby sis and Kennedy tends to be quite independent, so that makes for a super fun dynamic.

I also want to let readers know that this is not a romance, and neither Kennedy nor Wyatt has a love interest. I personally find Wyatt to be a very dashing and swoon-worthy character and I hope to write two romance stories in the future featuring Kennedy's and Wyatt's love stories.

Amber: That's really neat to know you also share a close relationship with your brother, as your heroine does! And I think that's a neat take on a young adult story, to focus on a familial relationship over a romantic relationship.

Now, this isn’t the first story you’ve published. :) Was there something different or unique about the writing and publishing process for Deadly Obsession, as compared to your earlier releases?

Purchase Surrender Falls: Paperback | Kindle ebook
Purchase True Equitation: Kindle ebook

Caitlyn: I published my previous books just a few months after writing them, so probably the biggest difference is the fact that it took me nearly three years to publish Deadly Obsession after I finished the initial writing process. I was able to glean a lot of insights from the constructive criticism that was mentioned by several readers of my previous stories, so I spent a lot of extra time editing, revising, and rewriting Deadly Obsession, trying to make use of those suggestions. Self-doubt is something I struggle with every day as a writer, and while working on Deadly Obsession the fear of never being "Good Enough" rose to the point that it nearly stopped me from proceeding.

It definitely wasn't easy but I guess eventually it just got to the point where I had to accept that even though I'm always trying to improve, my writing will never be perfect and I had to trust that it was good enough to put out there for people to read. I have to say that even though there were many times where I really started to wonder if this story would ever be ready for publication (and I don't doubt that there are probably still things I have missed that could have been done better or differently), Deadly Obsession is a story that not only strengthened me as a writer but also drew me closer to God. I wouldn't change a thing, except if I had it to do over I would turn my fear over to God way earlier, before it could paralyze me!

Amber: It sounds like you've been learning some really meaningful lessons! What do you enjoy most about being an indie author, and what are some dreams/goals you have as a writer?

Caitlyn: I truly love everything about being an indie author. I love that I have total control of my stories, and that being an indie author has led me to learn skills such as editing, formatting, et cetera, that I probably wouldn't have ever learned otherwise. But, by far my favorite part is getting to share my stories with the world and having the opportunity to support all my fellow indie authors!

I know it sounds cliche but I really just want to keep writing stories that honor God. If just one person is brought closer to God through my stories, that makes it all worth it!

As far as dreams go, I would love to someday have the opportunity to write a book with one of my favorite authors, such as Dani Pettrey or Lynette Eason.

Amber: That's great, Caitlyn! Before we end the interview, do you have a fun behind-the-scenes story you can share with us?

Caitlyn: I mentioned earlier that Wyatt's entry into the story was totally God's idea, not mine. Well, God did the same thing when it came to Kennedy's faith story.

In the original draft Kennedy was very strong in her faith and not much could shake her, but I kind of got the feeling that she was just going through the motions, that her faith had never been tested—in other words, she was a bit too perfect and the story was boring! So I began trying to come up with some way to really send her on a faith journey, but all my efforts amounted to nothing...until one night I was on my way home not even thinking about the story and the name Brooklyn popped into my mind followed by the knowledge that she was Kennedy's sister who had passed away tragically prior to the start of the story. From that point on everything fell into place, and I feel like the story is now a hundred times stronger than my original version. I truly believe that God gave me this story to write and I am so glad I listened to his nudges of my soul!

And a fun tidbit that I learned while researching this story was that there have supposedly been scientific experiments that have led to the discovery that when certain chemicals (I think boron was one of them) are applied to a fabric such as cotton they can combine to create a bulletproof fabric. This knowledge really came in handy when I put Kennedy in a situation where there was a good chance she could get shot but yet it would be too conspicuous for her to wear a typical Kevlar vest.

Amber: Thanks so much for sharing with us about your writing journey and new novella! It's been a pleasure to have you as a guest. :)

* * *

Friends, Caitlyn has generously offered to give away an ebook copy of Deadly Obsession to one of you! You can enter for a chance to win using the form below. The giveaway is open internationally and ends at midnight on September 13, 2016. The winner can choose their preferred ebook format (PDF, .mobi for Kindle, or .epub).

[Giveaway Has Ended]

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lovely Romance with a Sinister Threat | Review of The Reluctant Duchess



About the Book

Will Fleeing the Scottish Highlands Only Leave Her in More Danger?

Lady Rowena Kinnaird may be the heiress to a Highland earldom, but she's never felt good enough - not for her father, not for the man she thought she'd marry, not for God. But after a shocking attack, she's willing to be forever an outcast if it means escaping those threatening her life.

Brice Myerston, the Duke of Nottingham, has never been one to shy away from manor-born ladies, yet the last thing he needs is the distraction of the newly introduced Lady Rowena. He has enough on his plate having recently come into possession of a rare treasure for which many would kill, yet those around him seem intent on pairing him with this desperate but beguiling girl.

Rowena is reluctant to marry this notorious flirt. And when she learns that Brice is mixed up in some kind of questionable business with a stolen treasure, she fears she'll end up in more danger than she fled.

Available Now!

My Rating

Spring

My Review

Roseanna White is skilled at penning historical fiction! I enjoyed the Scottish elements of this particular story. The haunting setting...the clash of classes and loyalties...the interesting discussion of curses and whether or not they truly pose a threat. It's a good blend of intriguing descriptions, a compelling and varied cast of characters, and a fairly unique topic and backdrop for the genre.

The poor heroine endures some awful trials and difficult changes in this story. But the Duke of Nottingham makes for a very tender and caring hero, which makes for a happy romance reader! The depictions of patient love as the story goes on are simply lovely.

As for the plot, my first impression was that the climax was a bit of a letdown, perhaps a bit rushed compared to all the build-up. But the build-up makes for an engaging read for the most part, and I feel like the conclusion is still satisfying, even if I got a bit bored toward the end and looked ahead to see what was coming.

The Reluctant Duchess is a well-written historical romance that's both sinister and sentimental in turn. And the finale definitely stirs up some curiosity for the third book in the Ladies of the Manor series, A Lady Unrivaled.

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Snack Size Reviews with a Side of Catch-Up

I have a bad, bad habit of procrastinating...as you might be able to tell by the lack of reviews on my blog lately, which doesn't match up with the amount of books I've been reading and rating on Goodreads! I want to sincerely apologize for delaying on reviews that should have been posted months ago.

This post won't catch me up on all the reviews I owe (there are some books I've had on my TBR pile for an *embarrassing* amount of time), but it's a start. :) I hope you enjoy perusing the virtual cupboard and maybe find something you'd like to try!

P.S. You can click on the titles to visit the Goodreads pages for these books, where you'll find descriptions and other reviews.

* * *

Charity's Cross by MaryLu Tyndall
Series: Charles Towne Belles #4

It's so great to have another seafaring story from MaryLu Tyndall! You can expect some trademark elements that you'll see in many of this author's novels, but the romance and adventure are definitely enjoyable. This one is hard to put down! And this particular story has some thought-provoking scenarios pertaining to the extent of God's grace and how much we can trust Him.

Bonus: MaryLu fans will appreciate the cameos from other characters in this series!

Quote to Savor: She'd spent the past hour among the night owls, insects, and frogs, the distant sound of waves, and a sky so lustrous with stars, she wondered how she could ever have thought there was no God.

For Elise by Hayden Wand

This novelette is sweet, tender, and quirky. It's easy to care for the two main characters - even though the hero can come across as a bit pretentious, perhaps. (Maybe reading about him in the third-person rather than hearing from him in the first-person would have made him even more likable?) Still, this is a fun little story with some good lines!

Quote to Chew On: I was not going to stand for being sassed by the undead in my own home.

Spell Bound by Dorian Tsukioka
Series: A Fairy Retelling #3

Sadly, this retelling is not my favorite by the author. However, I truly was impressed by the creativity of the plot and the fairy-tale connections (with Rumpelstiltskin and Snow White). The imagination behind it all is quite astounding! The twist with the dwarves is clever, and I generally liked the main characters. Unfortunately, I just had a hard time cheering for a certain direction in the plot, and I'm not sure the third-person present tense made for the best reading experience. But this author writes some creative retellings, and I've really enjoyed her other stories (Cursed Beauty, Ai of the Mountain, and Rosara and the Jungle King from the Five Enchanted Roses collection).

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund
Series: An Uncertain Choice #2

I confess I loved this one much more than the first in the series (An Uncertain Choice)! It's got a beautiful and engaging love story, plenty of intrigue and twists, and great characters. The discussion questions and the layout of the story work very well for raising thought-provoking commentary on relationships. The sacrificial theme is an important one, and I love the idea of making sure you see a love interest's world (how they live and where they're coming from) before making a commitment.

The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

This author truly does have an enchanting way with words, quirky characters, and sweet themes. I enjoyed the unique setting of the cafe in the cemetery and the way such a setting brings out some meaningful thoughts. I don't think I liked this one quite as much as A Snicker of Magic...but that story is a hard one to top! The Key to Extraordinary is still a clever and darling read.

Veiled at Midnight by Christine Lindsay
Series: Twilight of the British Raj #3

I read this book over a long, stretched-out period of time. Two things to note: 1) It was kind of easy to set the story aside, but 2) the heart of the story stuck with me enough to help me jump back in again even after being away for a while. The research involved in composing this story is definitely evident, and the setting/time period are unique choices for Christian fiction. I found the plot a little complex and the politics a little over my head, but the relationship matters are weighty, meaningful, sometimes frustrating, and yet engaging. Not always an easy read, but one that has great depth, presenting events and scenarios worth remembering and pondering.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Series: Don Tillman #1

This book was recommended to me by a girl I met at Shari's. I'm really glad I gave it a try! It's not my usual fare... Note that there's a lot of language and sexual references. (There are no sex scenes, though.) But the main character, Don, and the way his point of view is presented is brilliant, hilarious, and endearing. I enjoyed watching Don come to realize that love was nothing like he expected it to be. :)

Quote to Savor: Then, in this vanishingly small moment in the history of the universe, she took my hand, and held it all the way to the subway.

Thanks to Juju of Tales of Whimsy for the inspiration regarding mini reviews!

Monday, August 22, 2016

For the Love of Nonfiction (The Surprising Confessions of a Fiction Fangirl)

I have a picture frame hanging on the wall near my front door. Beneath the collage of my loved ones and me rests this saying: Life makes the best story of all. 

Over the past few months, I've been reveling in the story of life...the twists and turns and beautiful adventures that end up so much more unique and challenging and grand than you could have anticipated. And don't get me wrong: I've been enjoying plenty of fictitious journeys along the way, because there's something special about meeting new characters and learning more about love and life through their ups and downs.

Yes, I still love a good novel. I've just been pleasantly surprised to discover how precious nonfiction can be, and how it can enhance a life story in subtle, wonderful ways.

This fiction fangirl has discovered that nonfiction isn't always as dry and boring as she thought. Imagine that! :)

Instead of taking me on a fictional adventure, nonfiction has come alongside me on my real-life adventure and helped me ponder the paths I can take and the kind of person I can become. I'd love to share with you some of the titles that have blessed and blindsided me in really good ways...


- Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and Scary Close by Donald Miller

I have become a huge fan of Donald Miller's work! His words comfort and challenge, shining a light that reveals surprising, relatable thoughts and makes the reader squirm and squint a bit. Do I always agree or understand? No. I found that the last part of Blue Like Jazz didn't resonate as well for me as the first two-thirds did. And yet I love, love, love that Don's books make me think and see new faith connections and insights. 

Blue Like Jazz is inspiring and powerful with its deep spiritual themes. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years helped me see more clearly how analyzing stories - the elements of the fiction I love - can show me what it takes to make my own life story one full of meaningful scenes and ultimate purpose. And Scary Close shares some great thoughts on taking the risk of vulnerability in relationships. 

- Simply Tuesday and A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

Of these two, I think Simply Tuesday stood out to me the most, but A Million Little Ways has some thought-provoking passages of its own! What does it look like to truly live life in the everyday sense? How would our lives be transformed if we embraced what awaits us on our ordinary Tuesdays? And what about art and calling? Does it have to look a certain way...or can Jesus shine through us in unexpected, everyday avenues that might look far different from our typical perception of a "calling"?

It's freeing to realize how beautifully extraordinary our ordinary days can be, because it's in these days that life actually happens. That's a lesson I think I can stand to keep learning and learning. :)

- I Don't Wait Anymore by Grace Thornton

This book is deceptively simple in some ways. But it packs a power punch as it makes you wonder, Am I fully surrendered to God? Am I willing to follow where He leads? Will I open my eyes to see the exciting possibilities awaiting me...and the people I can love right here and now? 

I also love how this book encourages you to really prioritize being in Scripture, seeking God's amazing adventures by first spending time in His Word. And Grace's encouragement to come to the Bible with the goal of knowing God - not the goal of finding answers - may seem obvious when you hear it, but is truly revolutionary.

* * *


I've currently got my bookmarks in some other nonfiction titles, which I'm looking forward to reading more of soon...

- The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee

- You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan

- Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance by Donald Miller [Yep, another Donald Miller book - published by Harvest House! :)]

- Love Does by Bob Goff [So far, this has been rather entertaining and inspiring!]

- Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst [On my Fire tablet. I really liked The Best Yes, and Lysa has a great grasp of what it takes to write in a compelling, marketable way.]

* * *

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I've still been reading some fiction, and I hope to share some new reviews with you soon. :) But I've been getting such unexpected joy from reading nonfiction this year that I thought it would be worth sharing. While the growth these sorts of books encourage takes time, I'm hoping some of the beautiful truths and motivating questions will stick with me and continue to poke and prod me in good directions. 

Tell me, friends, have you read some really compelling nonfiction (or fiction!) lately? It's been too long since I've checked in, and I'd love to hear about what you've been reading!