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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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tender Love, Raw Emotions, and Powerful Perspective | Review of Intermission

Join me in offering a well-deserved round of applause to Serena Chase and Intermission, her foray into the world of contemporary young-adult fiction! I'm excited to share my review (along with the author's giveaway!) on this, the novel's official release day. :)


About the Book

Sixteen-year-old Faith Prescott eagerly awaits the day she will exchange her small Iowa hometown for the bright lights of Broadway, but her success-driven parents want her to pursue a more practical career, labeling “artsy” people—including their daughter—as foolish dreamers worthy of little more than disdain.

When Faith meets nineteen-year-old Noah Spencer she discovers someone who understands her musical theatre dreams . . . because he shares them.

Faith’s mother despises everything about Noah—his age, his upbringing . . . even his religious beliefs—and she grasps at every opportunity to belittle his plans to study theatre and pursue a stage career. When those criticisms shift further toward hostility, resulting in unjust suspicions and baseless accusations, an increasingly fearful stage is set for Faith at home, where severe restrictions and harsh penalties are put in place to remove Noah Spencer from her life.

But Faith has never connected with anyone like she has with Noah, and no matter how tight a stranglehold her mother enforces to keep them apart, Faith will not give him up. Behind the curtain, Faith’s love for Noah continues to grow . . . as does her determination to hold on to her dreams—and him—no matter how high the cost.

Available Now!

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

While I'm nearly a decade older than Faith (the heroine) at the start of Intermission, certain themes of her story profoundly resonated with me. I have limited experience in the world of theater, and I didn't grow up with the same struggles Faith faces at home. But the ache of waiting, wondering, wanting...the eagerness to fast-forward life and the fear of what might be lost in life's intermissions...these are trials of a sort that many of us can relate to and remember, no matter our current stage.

The structure of Intermission is brilliant, clever, and poignant. In Act I, I enjoyed watching Faith and Noah's relationship unfold. The sweet moments. The tender introduction to romance. The way they inspire each other—not only in their career dreams, but (more importantly) in their acts of love and integrity.

In these scenes, real questions arise, the kind we really ask: What does it mean to obey God and honor my parents? Are my prayers genuine? Why did God bring me to this place of blessing, only to press pause or take me through more pain?

Seeing Faith (and Noah) wrestle with these questions moved me. And—as with all great fiction—it comforted me to spot reflections of my own feelings and uncertainties within these authentic characters.

As for that intermission and the act and conclusion that follow, I leave it to you to discover where the plot leads. I'll just say there are some twists in store. That's usually the case in life, isn't it?

With some beautiful descriptions mixed in to raw emotions, Intermission is a powerful read for those longing for hope, encouragement, and perspective in the midst of relational strife or difficult delays.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC of the book.*

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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Emma Read-Along: Conclusion (and Apology!)


Dear Friend,

I am sincerely sorry for the missing Week 3 discussion and the delayed Week 4 discussion! While things were a little busy on my end a couple of weeks ago, and I was out of town the weekend before last, I shouldn't have taken this long to catch up, especially as the hostess of this read-along. :( 

Thank you for being so kind and patient with me! I do look forward to exchanging thoughts on the last half of Emma. I hope you've enjoyed the book, even if the read-along wasn't as well-organized as it ought to have been!

Sincerely,
A Humbled Hostess

~ ~ ~

Welcome to the last discussion of the Emma read-along!

Today we're going to discuss Vol. II: ch. 11-18 and Vol. III. (If your copy isn't divided into volumes, then this should translate to ch. 29-55.) If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Emma read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up on some reading (believe me, I know how that goes!), you're welcome to check in later this week or whenever you're ready. :)

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

~ ~ ~

Emma Volume II: Chapters 11-18 &
Volume III

Discussion Format: Favorite quotes, some general impressions, and four questions.

Favorite Quotes
  • "Is Mrs. Stokes to be trusted? I doubt it." ~ Mr. Woodhouse
[I admit, it was funny seeing my last name pop up unexpectedly in the book!]
  • "There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart." ~ Emma
  • "It seemed as if there were an instantaneous impression in her favour, as if his eyes received the truth from her's, and all that had passed of good in her feelings were at once caught and honored."
  • "What did she say?—Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does."
  • "My Emma, does not every thing serve to prove more and more the beauty of truth and sincerity in all our dealings with each other?" ~ Mr. Knightley
  • "I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other." ~ Emma
[LOL]
  • "She was in dancing, singing, exclaiming spirits; and till she had moved about, and talked to herself, and laughed and reflected, she could be fit for nothing rational." 
General Impressions

Goodness, so much happened in the story since the last discussion! We left off when Frank Churchill and Emma were planning a ball...

I won't share my thoughts on every event of the second half of the book (although, fellow bloggers, you're more than welcome to go into more detail than me!). I will simply start by saying Emma has quite the happy ending! Three couples end up together exactly as they should, every concern is dealt with or set aside, and the characters get to enjoy the freedom of the truth finally coming to light. :)

That seems to be a major theme, the idea that there is much relief in having no more secrets. Openness is praised (Mr. Knightley admits, "I love an open temper") - whether that be honesty and forthrightness in one's speech and manners, or the "truth and sincerity in all our dealings" that Mr. Knightley believes Emma has also learned to desire.

While we see Emma retains her sassy personality by the end of the story, and she still loves attention, there does seem to be a seed of humility planted inside her. She and Mr. Knightley both admit to having changed, to being willing to see another person's point of view and claim that they were wrong about certain things. I love that. :)

(As a side note, can I just say that Mr. Knightley's terms of endearment for Emma at the end of the book make my heart melt? I love how he continually calls her "my Emma." ♥)

And I will say this for the book above the two adaptations I've seen: The book gave me more reason to like Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. Was Frank Churchill childish and immature? Yes. Yes he was. And was Jane aloof and not always easy to get close to? Yes. Yes she was. Yet, I couldn't really help but like them as Emma and Mr. Knightley came to do so. Frank Churchill's obvious affection for Jane is pretty cute, and he is definitely a charmer. And the way Jane and Emma came to be friends as the truth was revealed was really quite sweet. I certainly couldn't help feeling bad for Jane! But hey, it all turned out all right. ;)

(That scene at the end where Frank Churchill teases Jane and makes her involuntarily smile from across the room? Precious!)

As for Harriet... Well, I don't really feel like I came to know much more about her in the latter half of the book. But I'm happy for her and Mr. Martin!

All in all, I don't think this is my favorite of Jane Austen's books that I've read... It's long; it goes into a lot of detail about circumstances and situations; the characters can be a bit frustrating; and everything seems to get tied up so neatly at the end. (It's probably silly for a romantic to complain about that last point, I suppose!)

But I will say that, in a way, I liked how flawed the characters were. I liked how truth and openness brought about much happiness. And I liked the cute and clever lines and scenes that made the story fun. I'm glad to have finally read this book! :)

Discussion Questions

Feel free to answer one, two, three, or all four of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. What did you think of Mr. Elton's choice in a wife? And do you believe Mrs. Elton truly cared about Jane Fairfax?

2. Which scene of the story stood out to you the most? Perhaps one that made you chuckle...or one that melted your heart...or one that made you cringe with embarrassment.

3. Were you content with the matches that were made by the end of the story? Do you think everyone ended up in the right relationships?

4. Have you read any other Jane Austen novels? If so, which is your favorite, and how does Emma rank on your list?

Final Note

Once again, I truly apologize for the way the read-along fell apart toward the end! Thank you for sticking with me and joining me in this read-along. :) It's always a treat to discuss Jane Austen's books with you all! *hugs*

Friday, October 21, 2016

Lena Goldfinch's YA Triple Trick-or-Treat Cover Reveal + Giveaway


In  celebration of Lena Goldfinch’s upcoming release, HAUNTING JOY: BOOK 2, she’s revealing three brand-new book covers! The two HAUNTING JOY books are light paranormal stories, and SONGSTONE is a fantasy romance. All three books are sweet—and slightly spine-tingling—young adult reads, perfect for cozy autumn nights!


HAUNTING JOY: BOOK 1 

“A sweet and charming ghost story that completely won me over.” —Lena Coakley, Witchlanders 

Joy’s new dress has a secret—one with a little supernatural history, one that’s a little more than she expected.

It all starts one ordinary afternoon, when seventeen-year-old Joy tries on some thrift-store clothes. The little white dress fits perfectly. Trouble is, now it won’t leave her alone. Soon Joy is swept up in an extraordinary journey to help a ghost complete some unfinished business.

If only that didn’t involve Joy driving through dangerous intersections...
Or calling up her high-school crush, Nick...
Or getting stuck in a cemetery after dark.

Just how much is Joy willing to risk to uncover the truth?

Purchase:


HAUNTING JOY: BOOK 2 

Joy’s story continues with another ghost, this time a boy who seems intent on disrupting her senior year…

Coming soon!


SONGSTONE 

“An original fantasy world inhabited by superstitious tribal nations and intriguingly developed characters.” 
—Serena Chase, USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog 

A dark, twisty tale of sorcery, tummy-tingling romance, and adventure, inspired by the folklore of New Zealand's Māori people.

Kita can meld song into stone—a skill called “storytelling,” which is greatly honored in a world with no written word. But Kita is slave to a sorcerer who practices black magic using drops of her blood. She fears he’ll use her beautiful gift for a killing spell, so she conceals it. Yet each day, his magic tightens around her neck like a rope.

Then Pono, a young journeyman, arrives from the other side of the island. He’s come to fulfill a pact between their villages: to escort a storyteller back to his village. Finally, in Pono, Kita sees her one slim chance at freedom—and she’ll risk her life to take it.

Purchase:


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.



GIVEAWAY

No tricks with this giveaway—just a treat for three lucky winners! Each winner will get a copy of one of Lena’s featured books (winner’s choice): Haunting Joy: Book 1; Haunting Joy: Book 2; OR Songstone.

Note: Paperback copies are only available to winners who are US residents. Ebook versions are available to all winners. 

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PERSONALITY QUIZ

Discover which hero from Lena’s YA books is your dream hero! Possible results include Nick from Haunting Joy, Pono from Songstone, Rundan from The Language of Souls, Jovanni from Aire, and Troy from Take a Picture.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Special Silver Book Birthday + Giveaway

Join me in wishing a happy book birthday to the second book in a poignant, dramatic, and romantic historical fiction series by Rachelle Rea Cobb! :) This two-week celebration includes an awesome giveaway too! So please read on to learn more about this series and to get your name in the drawing...

* * *


ABOUT The Steadfast Love SERIES 

In 16th-century Europe, the Reformation rages between Protestants and Catholics. Gwyneth, half-Dutch, flees from England to Holland to escape the man who murdered her parents. When he follows her there and insists he came to rescue her, will she trust this man called Dirk? When tragedy strikes, will their steadfast love erode?


ABOUT The Sound of Silver (Book Two)

The stalwart saint and the redeemed rebel. One fights for faith, the other for honor…

After Dirk rescues Gwyneth from the Iconoclastic Fury, she discovers that faith is sometimes fragile—and hope is not as easy as it may seem. Gwyneth continues her quest to learn more about the love of God preached by Protestants she once distrusted.

Meanwhile, Dirk’s quest is to prevent his sullied name from staining hers. Will his choice to protect her prove the undoing of her first faltering steps toward a Father God? Once separated, will Dirk and Gwyneth’s searching hearts ever sing the same song?


Read my thoughts on The Sound of Silver (Book Two) and The Sound of Diamonds (Book One)!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Times gone by snatch Rachelle Rea Cobb close, so she reads and writes about years long ago—her passions include the Reformation, Revolutions, and romance. Rachelle wrote the Steadfast Love series during college. Five months after she graduated, she signed a three-book deal with her dream publisher, WhiteFire. She's a homeschool grad, Oreo addict, and plots her novels while driving around her dream car, a pick-up truck. In June 2016, she married a man with the same name as her fictional hero, and they live happily ever after in Small Town, South.



GIVEAWAY 

Enter using the Rafflecopter form below to win a beautiful necklace created by Baubles, Beads and Stuff and your choice of any one of Rachelle’s three books (the series begins in Book One, of course, but in case you have one or two of her books already, Rachelle will gladly send you the next one to read!). 

International friends, the paperback & necklace giveaway is open to continental U.S. addresses only (sorry!). But do still enter, because one international winner will also be chosen to receive an e-book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Emma Read-Along: Week 2 Discussion


Welcome to Week 2 of the Emma read-along! You can learn more about the read-along schedule in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss Vol. I: ch. 15-18 and Vol. II: ch. 1-10. (If your copy isn't divided into volumes, then this should translate to ch. 15-28.) If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Emma read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up on some reading, you're welcome to check in later this week or whenever you're ready. :)

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

~ ~ ~

Emma Volume I: Chapters 15-18 &
Volume II: Chapters 1-10

Discussion Format: One favorite quote, some general impressions, and four questions for each week's reading.

Favorite Quote

Serious:

"[Emma] listened to [Harriet] and tried to console her with all her heart and understanding—really for the time convinced that Harriet was the superior creature of the two—and that to resemble her would be more for her own welfare and happiness than all that genius or intelligence could do."

Funny:

Miss Bates: "Do come in. Who do you think is here?—Miss Woodhouse and Miss Smith; so kind as to call to hear the new pianoforte. Do put up your horse at the Crown, and come in."

Mr. Knightley: "Well...for five minutes, perhaps."

Miss Bates: "And here is Mrs. Weston and Mr. Frank Churchill too!—Quite delightful; so many friends!"

Mr. Knightley: "No, not now, I thank you. I could not stay two minutes. I must get on to Kingston as fast as I can."

[Rather showing your hand there, aren't you, Mr. Knightley? ;)]

General Impressions

I've seen both the 1996 adaptation of Emma as well as the PBS Masterpiece miniseries version, and I confess that one of the really nice things about finally reading the book is achieving a better understanding of the little intrigues and nuances of the plot. The "Mr. Dixon" drama between Emma, Frank Churchill, and Jane Fairfax didn't quite make sense to me before. Now I think I have a better grasp of the situation, and I'm sure I'll get an even clearer picture of it all over the next two weeks.

I think I'm with Mr. Knightley in regards to Frank Churchill. Mr. Churchill seems to be acting more like a boy than a responsible man—a boy who likes playing mind/heart games and enjoys attention. And I'm over it. :P

To me, it seems Emma is genuinely torn between a true care for Harriet and the Martins, and a strong belief (i.e.: pride) in her own correct assessment of the proper outcome. I wish Harriet wouldn't be so easily swayed by her friend... I wish she could make up her own mind in this, while still showing respect for the thoughts and advice of others. It's painful to read about the interactions between Harriet and the Martins! There's such an obvious longing on both sides for things to have turned out differently. *sigh*

All in all, this was an interesting section to read, and I do like the complexity of all the characters, their quirks, strengths, and weaknesses. And if it isn't too improper to say this, I do admit it's rather fun reading Miss Bates's lines out loud, in a very rushed and frenzied manner. ;)

Discussion Questions

Feel free to answer one, two, three, or all four of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. Has your opinion of Emma changed at all during this past week's reading? What stood out to you most about her words and thoughts regarding Harriet, Mr. Elton, Frank Churchill, and/or Jane Fairfax?

2. What are your first impressions of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill? Do you find one more intriguing/mysterious than the other?

3. Which character do you admire the most at this point?

4. If you were a character in this book, which character do you think you'd most like to be matched with from what we know about everyone so far? [I'm thinking romantically, but you can also say who would be your best match as a friend or relative. :)]

Join us next Sunday for our third discussion! 
(Vol. II: Ch. 11-18 & Vol. III: Ch. 1-6...OR Ch. 29-42)

UPDATE: Discussion post will likely be a few days late... My apologies!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Charming Story with a Dash of Danger | Review of The Silent Songbird



About the Book

Evangeline longs to be free, to live in the world outside the castle walls. But freedom comes at a cost.

Evangeline is the ward and cousin of King Richard II, and yet she dreams of a life outside of Berkhamsted Castle, where she might be free to marry for love and not politics. But the young king betroths her to his closest advisor, Lord Shiveley, a man twice as old as Evangeline. Desperate to escape a life married to a man she finds revolting, Evangeline runs away from the king and joins a small band of servants on their way back to their home village.

To keep her identity a secret, Evangeline pretends to be mute. Evangeline soon regrets the charade as she gets to know Wesley, the handsome young leader of the servants, whom she later discovers is the son of a wealthy lord. But she cannot reveal her true identity for fear she will be forced to return to King Richard and her arranged marriage.

Wesley le Wyse is intrigued by the beautiful new servant girl. When he learns that she lost her voice from a beating by a cruel former master, he is outraged. But his anger is soon redirected when he learns she has been lying to him. Not only is she not mute, but she isn’t even a servant.

Weighed down by remorse for deceiving Wesley, Evangeline fears no one will ever love her. But her future is not the only thing at stake, as she finds herself embroiled in a tangled web that threatens England’s monarchy. Should she give herself up to save the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

Releases November 8, 2016!

My Rating

Spring

My Review

For fun and easy reading, I can always count on Melanie Dickerson's books! And I always enjoy trying out each new fairy-tale retelling.

The Silent Songbird is a retelling of The Little Mermaid. While you won't find the ocean starring in this tale, you will find a water rescue and a heroine (Evangeline, or "Eva") with a beautiful singing voice.

Eva is an interesting character. At times I found her a bit immature, which made it hard to really dive deep into her story and cheer her on. But she is supposed to be rather young, and her insecurities have a way of making her endearing in time, especially combined with her innocence and moments of insight and growth.

The hero (Wesley), on the other hand, pretty much swept me off my feet. ;) Granted, he's not perfect, and he has his own moments of immaturity and obliviousness. Still, I found him to be quite sweet. His family's interactions are touching...and especially fun to read about if you're familiar with one of Dickerson's earlier books, The Merchant's Daughter!

While The Silent Songbird didn't turn out to be a favorite, it met my expectations for an entertaining historical read with generally charming characters and a good dash of danger.

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

Other Melanie Dickerson Books I've Reviewed...
The Healer's Apprentice | The Merchant's Daughter | The Fairest Beauty | The Princess Spy | The Golden Braid | The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest | The Beautiful Pretender {Possibly my favorite so far!} | A Spy's Devotion {Regency}