Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Litfuse Tour: Making Marriage Beautiful {Review}



About the Book

What kind of marriage do you want?

If you have been married longer than forty-eight hours, you know that you have bound yourself to an imperfect person who will have his or her own preferences, will disagree with your impeccable logic, and will cause you to confront your limitations. How you respond to this predicament shapes you and your marriage.

It's easier to focus on how your spouse needs to change, but to become a mature, joyful husband or wife with a flourishing marriage, you have to allow Christ to change you. Easy? No. Possible? Absolutely.

Through grounded faith, disarming candor, and the real-life stories of eight diverse couples, Dorothy Greco equips you to
  • create an honest and intimate marriage
  • acknowledge and resolve your hurts and disappointments
  • discover how family and cultural expectations affect your marriage
  • exchange unproductive relational patterns for healthy alternatives
  • become an agent of healing for your spouse
  • learn how to love sacrificially and faithfully
Making Marriage Beautiful provides wisdom, encouragement, and hope, regardless of whether you have been married four weeks or forty years.

Includes "Going Deeper" sections for individuals or couples


My Review

I greatly appreciate how this book reminds me I have no strength apart from Jesus to be the person my husband-to-be needs...but it doesn't let me off the hook from doing the hard work of turning to God again and again to help me love well.

I believe my favorite chapter in terms of how insightful and convicting I found it to be is "Unmasking Counterfeits: How Disordered Attachments and Addictions Thwart True Desire." Not exactly a lovey-dovey topic! But so important to address. This chapter discusses different kinds of addictions, noting that we all have the propensity to become addicted to something, and outlines the stages in a very clear, eye-opening way. But this section is not without hope, as the author balances compassion with a real look at the cost of sin.

I'd say that word—balance—is something that stood out to me about this book as a whole. It doesn't ask us to deny our own needs or identity; yet it also doesn't back down from asking us to be willing to change, grow, and open our own hearts.

Some other chapters I especially liked are found in the first half of the book, ones that discuss the expectations we bring to marriage and how we should handle our disappointments. I found myself underlining different quotes and lines throughout the book. Lots of great food for thought, and lots of great examples from Christian couples!

In some ways I think Making Marriage Beautiful could be a bit more readable in terms of word choice, and there are so many big topics addressed that it feels a little overwhelming. But I know the truth is that marriage really is a big commitment, and it would be worrisome if doing it right didn't feel a little overwhelming. ;) The author's analogy at the end brings it all together as she encourages readers to persevere in the hard but worthwhile endeavor of allowing God to work through us and our spouses to make something beautiful.

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion, to be shared during the Litfuse Publicity blog tour.*


About the Author

Dorothy Greco and her husband, Christopher, have spent their entire twenty-five-year marriage helping men and women create and sustain healthy marriages. They have served numerous churches in the Greater Boston area for thirty years. Dorothy's writing has been featured in Relevant magazine, Christianity Today, Sojourners, and Her.meneutics. She is a regular contributor for Gifted for Leadership, Today's Christian Woman, and Start Marriage Right. The Grecos have three sons and live near Boston.

Litfuse Tour Page: click HERE

Monday, February 13, 2017

Lena Goldfinch’s Sweetheart Blog Tour + Giveaway!


Celebrate Valentine’s Day with some sweet historical romances!

I’m excited to share about the latest book release and an awesome ebook deal from my author friend Lena Goldfinch. :) And don’t miss the fun giveaway at the end of the post!

THE BRIDES SERIES

A former tomboy resolves to be the perfect lady for her new husband. A mute struggles to break through the silence to win her rescuer’s heart. A shy advice columnist develops a secret crush on her most devoted correspondent. The Old West holds challenges galore for these brides…but true love is a worthy reward.

Book 1 | The Unexpected Bride {Buy Now}
Book 2 | Sleigh Bells & Mistletoe {Buy Now}
Book 3 | The Bartered Bride {Buy Now}
Book 4 | Only the Heart Knows {Buy Now}


NEW: ONLY THE HEART KNOWS

(Too Tall) Mandy MacKenna is secretly the voice behind Ask Mack, an advice column for men, addressing all matters ranching-related. And she’s secretly in love with “Banks,” one of her most devoted correspondents. But whenever she’s around him, she can barely bring herself to make eye contact with the man.

Adam Booker is a banker-turned-rancher who’s struggling to make his way after he inherits his uncle’s place. If not for Ask Mack, he would have surely floundered by now. But the ranch is only one of his problems, because the woman he has a romantic interest in—a natural beauty by the name of Mandy MacKenna, daughter of the region’s wealthiest rancher—seems less than interested in him. 

A sweet but convoluted romance of secrets and revelations ensues...

Kindle | Nook | Kobo | Google Play | Paperback {You can read a cute excerpt on Amazon!}


SWEET DEAL: THE UNEXPECTED BRIDE

For a limited time, get book 1 in the series for only $.99 in ebook format! Sale ends 2/20.

Kindle | Nook | Kobo | Google Play


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lena Goldfinch writes sweet historical western romance / inspirational romance and books for teens. She’s always been a sucker for a good old-fashioned romance, whether it’s a novel or short story, young adult or adult, fantasy or realistic, contemporary or historical. Lena has been a finalist in several national writing contests, including the RWA Golden Heart and ACFW Genesis contests. She enjoys life in a quiet, small town with her husband, two kids, and two very spoiled Black Labs. 

Amazon | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Twitter | Website

GIVEAWAY

Indulge your love of books with a $25 gift card to Amazon.com OR Barnes & Noble (winner’s choice!) and all four ebooks in The Brides Series. (If you already have the series, you can surprise a friend by gifting the ebooks to them!) To enter for a chance to win, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Prism Book Tour: The Outlaw's Secret

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

The Outlaw's Secret
by Stacy Henrie
Christian Historical Romance
Paperback & ebook, 288 pages
February 7th 2017 by Love Inspired Historical

Lawman in Disguise

Getting taken hostage by a gang of train robbers wasn't in dime novelist Essie Vanderfair's plans, but interviewing these men could make her career soar. Especially since the gang includes legendary outlaw Tex Beckett, better known as the Texas Titan. Tex is famed for his protection of women and children, so she'll be fine…right?

Keeping the gang in line was hard enough before a stubborn, beautiful writer interfered. Now Tex is scrambling to keep Essie safe, to gather evidence against the gang and most of all to hide his dangerous secrets. First, that he's a detective working undercover. And second, that he's not the Texas Titan at all, but Tex's twin brother, Tate Beckett.


My Review

After reading and thoroughly enjoying The Express Rider's Lady {you can read my review HERE}, I was definitely on board for another fun trip through the West with a Stacy Henrie book. While I didn't fall in love with this story quite as much, I still found it to be an entertaining ride!

Essie is quite the spontaneous soul, and a bit of suspension of disbelief is required to not question her choice of traveling with a gang of outlaws for the sake of book research. But I do like how Essie's interviews give the reader (and Essie herself) insight into the outlaws and their stories. It's a great reminder that we're all human. We all face challenges and make choices (right or wrong) that take us down the road we're on, for better or worse.

On the romance side, it's fun to watch Tate/Tex and Essie dance around each other, both mistrusting in turn and each fiercely determined to follow their own goals. Their journey includes moments of danger, threats to budding feelings, and a few twists. (Although I wouldn't have minded a little more speed, excitement, or romantic tension in the plot. But that might just be me being a little too picky after how much I remember enjoying The Express Rider's Lady!) The writing style is engaging, and this cast of characters makes for an interesting exploration of the "wild side" of the Old West.

*With thanks to Prism Book Tours for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Stacy Henrie is the author of western romances and the Of Love and War series, which includes Hope at Dawn, a 2015 RITA Award finalist for excellence in romance. She was born and raised in the West, where she currently resides with her family. She enjoys reading, road trips, interior decorating, chocolate, and most of all, laughing with her husband and kids. You can learn more about Stacy and her books by visiting her website at stacyhenrie.com.

Tour Giveaway

- 1 winner will receive print copies of LADY OUTLAW and THE EXPRESS RIDER'S LADY + $10 Amazon Gift Card (US only)
- 1 winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card (open internationally)
- Ends February 18th

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I Said Yes with All My Heart

On March 18th, he smiled at me. A virtual smile through eHarmony, followed up with some multiple-choice questions. I was intrigued enough to respond...and when he later answered some open-ended questions I chose for him, I was smitten. This was a man of faith, a humble man who could see God at work in his life and express his insights well through writing.

We spent the next two months falling in love through our words. Emails. Texts. Phone calls. Skype sessions. Handwritten letters.

Memorial Day weekend arrived...and so did Josh, standing there in person for the first time at the airport. I was worried I might not recognize him. I needn't have been. :)


We spent our Saturday out at the coast, walking a trail, sitting by a waterfall, and visiting my favorite lighthouse. We were awkward. We didn't quite know how to navigate the newness of finally being together. But we learned, and it was as sweet and silly and emotional and wonderful as a first real date ought to be.

Then summer came, and with it a series of delightful visits. Vacation with my family in the high desert of Central Oregon. Trips to see him in Washington. Trips to see me.

We meandered through a garden. Explored a lava cave. Went on hikes. Canoed under the stars. Enjoyed a festival with friends. Took a road trip down the coast, viewing a couple more lighthouses along the way.


We experienced some great highs and some tough lows through the summer and into the fall. Quite the new adventure, falling deeper in love while still being hundreds of miles apart. But God has been there through it all, reminding us what love means...showing us new levels of humility...growing us closer together as the seasons changed.

We talked about marriage, about a forever commitment. We spent Thanksgiving together with some of his relatives, with so very much to be grateful for, even in an in-between time.

He completed another difficult quarter of school with success, getting closer and closer to realizing his dream of being an airplane mechanic. And right after his last class before Christmas break, he hopped in his car to head south, trying to beat a winter storm on his way to surprise me with a visit he had been secretly planning for months.

The storm beat him instead.

That evening he called me, devastated that his plans had fallen apart. But God gave us a Christmas miracle early this year. :)

Despite the snow and ice covering the roads, Josh made it safely back home the next morning. We both knew it would be too dangerous for him to try to drive down to see me. He didn't give up, though. He had been able to book a seat on a flight that afternoon...a flight that kept getting delayed as the weather continued to conspire against us.

The odds were high that he would get stuck in an airport overnight, but he got on the plane regardless. And in an answer to prayers, his second flight was delayed long enough for him to make the connection!

We had dinner that night with dear friends of mine who hosted Josh for the weekend. And the next day, Josh was able to carry out his special plans with another outing to the coast.


We had breakfast in a restaurant by the ocean. Took a walk along the beach. Browsed some favorite little shops. And finally made our way to that favorite lighthouse of mine, the one we visited together back in May.

On a trail above the lighthouse, Josh got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said yes with all my heart!

So now we're entering a new season, one full of uncertainties and newness and incredible possibilities as we start to plan our wedding and our new life together. But God has brought us to this place, and we trust Him to watch over us in all the days and adventures to come.

I couldn't ask for a better companion for the journey. ♥

Thank you, friends, for letting me share my story with you. :) I hope you all have a beautiful Christmas full of reminders that God is at work and very near!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Litfuse Publicity Tour: Waiting for Wonder



About the Book

What if, in this waiting, God is calling us to more? 

It’s easy to believe God when a promise is new. It’s hard when the years pass and nothing changes. It’s even harder when desperation strikes, your plans backfire, and still God does not fill the emptiness. But what if, in this waiting, God is calling us to more?

Join author Marlo Schalesky on a unique, contemplative journey to reveal the wonder that is often missed when we find ourselves struggling to wait well. Walking through the life of the biblical character Sarah, one who knows what it means to wait, you will discover a glimpse of God’s character that will give you strength to keep hoping and praying for the desires of your heart.

Waiting for Wonder is a journey into the heart of God where you will wrestle with personal questions, think deeply about God’s true character, and learn to appreciate His divine work as you discover your own path to the promised land. Recapture your hope, restore your soul, and renew your vision of a wondrous Savior when you learn to live on God’s time.


My Review

I think the best thing about this book is the perspective it offers. There are some gems throughout these pages, beautiful thoughts that remind us of the real, unexpected rewards of waiting and the peace of knowing God is in control in the long "in between" seasons.

The truth is that all of life is an "in between" season, and I love the chapter that discusses how "arrivals" on earth can't live up to all we expect them to be. As the author notes, what we're longing for isn't a place so much as a Person. (I love that!) When we focus on growing our relationship with God, learning to trust in Him more and love Him deeper, then the waiting times are full of promise and meaning.

There's a lot to encourage your heart in this journey through the life of Sarah (from the book of Genesis) and in the stories the author shares from personal experiences. I do admire the creativity of the book's layout, how there are fictional takes on Sarah's defining moments to add more emotion to the lessons, and how the highlights of Sarah's story offer some interesting takeaways.

I think there is a bit of a problem in using Sarah's life as a template. Our own journeys might look quite different than Sarah's. We weren't all given the same sort of promise she and Abraham were given, and there are longings we have that might be fulfilled in vastly different ways or never really fulfilled in this world.

Granted, I don't think the book is necessarily suggesting we expect the same results as Sarah received. :) But I do think it's good to be cautious in how we apply her story and what we take from it. And I also confess that the poetic nature of the writing in this book makes it feel a bit repetitive at times.

Even still, this is an uplifting read that points to an amazing God who works in perfect timing, blesses us in bigger ways than we often look for, and lovingly, amazingly joins us in the wait.

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion, to be shared during the Litfuse Publicity blog tour.*

About the Author

Marlo Schalesky is an award-winning author of ten books, including Wrestling with Wonder: A Transformational Journey Through the Life of Mary. A regular speaker and columnist, she has also published nearly 1,000 articles in various Christian magazines, including Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman, In Touch, and Marriage Partnership. Marlo lives with her husband, six young children, nine horses, two dogs, five cats, two parakeets, ten rabbits, two chinchillas, three hamsters, and a bunch of fish in a log home in Salinas, California.

Litfuse Tour Page: click HERE

Giveaway!

Be encouraged to find strength and hope in Marlo Schalesky's new book, Waiting for Wonder. Journey into the heart of God where you will wrestle with personal questions, think deeply about God’s true character, and learn to appreciate His divine work as you discover your own path to the promised land. Recapture your hope, restore your soul, and renew your vision of a wondrous Savior when you learn to live on God’s time.

Learn the true purpose of waiting on God and living on His timeline and enter to win Marlo's giveaway.

waiting-for-wonder-400 
One grand prize winner will receive:
  • Two copies of Waiting for Wonder (one for you and one to give to a friend)
  • A KEEP Collective watch set (with a band and watch)
waiting-for-wonder-collage 
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on December 23. The winner will be announced December 27 on Marlo's blog.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Creative Fairy-Tale Retellings with Thought-Provoking Alterations | Review of Once



About the Collection

Six fairytales you thought you knew, set against a tapestry of historical backgrounds.

A lonely girl plots revenge in the shadow of a mountain. A stolen princess fumbles a century backward. A dwarfish man crafts brilliant automatons. A Polish Jew strikes matches against the Nazis. A dead girl haunts a crystal lake. A terrified princess searches a labyrinth. A rich collection of six historically inspired retellings, Once is a new generation of fairytales for those who thought they'd heard the tales in all their forms.

Featuring the novellas of Elisabeth Grace Foley, Rachel Heffington, J Grace Pennington, Emily Ann Putzke, Suzannah Rowntree, and Hayden Wand.

Available Now!

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

Creative fairy-tale retellings. A group of fabulously talented indie authors. Diverse historical settings and rich characterization. The Once collection has a lot going for it!

I love that each story offers its own unique reading experience...

The Mountain of the Wolf is a very atmospheric Western, with dangers from more than one kind of wolf and a tender, romantic twist.

She But Sleepeth takes lots of turns and raises some interesting what-if questions about the course of history, the things we value most, and the dreams that don't come true.

Rumpled offers an emotionally authentic journey from an ordinary life to a happily-ever-after with a steep cost. I think this might be my favorite of the collection (although it's tough to choose!) because of the powerful lessons learned and the satisfying way everything comes together.

Sweet Remembrance is a tough, bittersweet read, gently told, with past and present scenes tightly interwoven.

Death Be Not Proud kept me guessing, and I confess that I'm still not quite sure I understand exactly how it all went down and why certain characters acted the way they did. ;) But the great writing and the intense suspense certainly held my attention! This story might require more than one read to fully appreciate.

With Blossoms Gold has really sweet main characters, a cat companion, an epic quest, and some wonderful character growth. A lovely tale that solidifies my admiration for this author's writing style and skill.

All in all, this collection offers plenty of variety in its stories, from tone and setting to the type of ending. If you enjoy fairy-tale retellings with strong characters and thought-provoking alterations, you should find much to love in Once.

*With thanks to the authors for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC of the book. This review is my honest opinion.*

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Behind the Scenes of Intermission with Serena Chase (Author Interview + Giveaway)


I'm pleased to welcome author Serena Chase to "Seasons of Humility"! I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions regarding her latest release, a contemporary young-adult romance titled Intermission. (You can read my review and learn more about the book HERE.)

Enjoy the interview, and don't forget to enter the tour-wide giveaway at the end of the post!

* * *

Amber: How exciting that you’ve made the leap into contemporary fiction, Serena! What was one of the hardest things about switching genres—and something you found especially enjoyable/rewarding about the journey? 

Serena: While writing the first draft of this book, I was also revising The Ryn and The Remedy, the first two books in my Eyes of E’veria fantasy series. Because this was a different genre, based in a contemporary, “real” world, it was actually kind of a relief, a necessary break from the fantasy world, to escape back into reality—if only a fictional one, haha—to work on it.

Amber: What is your history with musical theatre? And do you have a favorite Broadway production? :) 

Serena: I’ve always loved musical theatre. When I lived in Kalona, Iowa as a child, I started taking dance at age five. When an ecumenical children’s choir started up in town a couple of years later, I signed up. Our children’s choir performances always had some aspect of drama—speaking roles, narration, that sort of thing—and my first “big” role was as the narrator of one of the Christmas productions.

When I was in sixth grade, the local high school was seeking elementary students (sixth grade was still considered part of the elementary back then!) to play pickpockets/Fagin’s boys in Oliver! I tried out and made it! I had one line, reporting to Fagin what I managed to steal that day: “Nose rags.” Ha! 

We moved to a new town when I was in eighth grade. In high school I played a nameless teen in Bye Bye Birdie as a freshman, a pickpocket in Oliver! (again!—but this time I had a different line and sang in a trio) as a sophomore, and then was cast as “Liesl” in The Sound of Music as a junior and as “Ruth” in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as a senior. The summer between my junior and senior years, I played “Lily,” an angel who comes to earth as a valley girl, in a Christian musical organized in another town, and as an adult I’ve participated in church and community theatre productions, playing roles like “Margie” in State Fair and “Eliza Doolittle” in My Fair Lady.

I love live theatre, but since it’s usually a 3-5 hour drive to get to a show (and touring season is generally winter—not a great time to plan a road trip in Iowa!) I don’t have the opportunity very often. *sadness* Of all the shows I’ve seen over the years, Les Miserables is my favorite. There are honest tears in certain scenes. The movie was okay, and yes, I own it, but the energy and emotion of a live performance cannot be duplicated.


Amber: I love seeing where some of the scenes and character inspiration for Intermission came from (based on the connections between your experiences and your story)! :) Thank you for sharing!

What’s one of your dreams you wished you had pursued earlier—or at all? What’s one of your dreams come true?

Serena: Hmm. I wish I would have been more confident and would have performed more in college, when I lived in Nashville. This little, small-town fish was suddenly tossed in a big pond of super talented fish, and...it was very intimidating!

One of my dreams-come-true has nothing to do with performance. At 22, I was told I might never have kids due to advanced endometriosis. The fact that I have two beautiful daughters, ages 19 and 15, is my best ever dream come true.

Amber: That’s so wonderful, Serena!

What encouragement would you give to someone who feels their dream is impractical? 

Serena: “Practical” is not the stuff of joy. Chase joy.

Amber: To conclude our interview, is there a fun behind-the-scenes story you can share with us? 

Serena: The current cover, which I absolutely adore, was designed by Jenny at Seedlings Design Studio, who is wonderful to work with. But by the time I discovered her, I had already paid one designer to create a cover I could not, would not use. (A cover for which one friend’s response was, “Is it a book about a stripper?” NOT what I was going for!)

That first designer—who was twice as expensive and shall rename nameless—refused my input, refused to change his initial concept, but only added (horrible) elements that looked totally cut-and-paste to try and placate me. The story would be *almost* funny now, except it was a very expensive learning experience with this moral: Even if the respected, online cover-art-judging folks hand a designer an award, it doesn’t mean they’re right for YOU. The fact that my bad experience led me to Jenny and Seedlings Design Studio, however, is the silver lining! She is amazing.

Amber: I’m happy that story has a happy ending! :) The final cover is simply gorgeous! Thank you for joining us today, Serena!


Find Intermission:

Giveaway!

From the author: Five winners will receive a signed paperback (or a Kindle copy, if preferred) of Intermission. One Grand Prize winner will receive a signed paperback (or a Kindle copy, if preferred) of Intermission, plus a $40 Ticketmaster gift card.

Enter the giveaway using the form below!

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