Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2014



Since everyone's posting about their favorite books of the year today via the Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish), this seems as good a time as any to share my list! :) I'm going to cheat a little, though, and give the top 14 for 2014. I've read over 80 stories this year, so while I've tried to give an order to this list, just the fact that they're on the list makes them fabulous! The ones near the end were just especially awesome to me for one reason or another.


#14 Dash and Cinder by Bridget Ladd

This is a very recent read for me, and I was totally impressed by the novella! I learned about it from Anne Elisabeth Stengl's blog, when she shared about some of the other Cinderella retellings that didn't make it into the Five Glass Slippers anthology but had gone on to be indie-published. This particular retelling is very vivid and packs such an epic feel into so few pages. I went on to purchase The Lotus Effect and very much look forward to reading a full novel by this author.


#13 Awakening by Tracy Higley

I've been a fan of Tracy's historicals for years now, and this fascinating blend of genres was so mysterious and enthralling. I ended up reading it all one Saturday afternoon/night!


#12 Five Glass Slippers (Anthology)

I had the pleasure of working with Anne Elisabeth Stengl (editor/publisher) and the five authors of this anthology to promote this book via a blog tour. It was a blast! And happily, I very much enjoyed reading the collection of winning retellings. Each one was very creative, and a few in particular swept me away. You can read my full review of the book HERE.


#11 Dinosaur Boy by Cory Putman Oakes

My lips are sealed on this one, as it releases February 3, 2015, and that's when my review will be posted. But let's just say this middle-grade story is awesome! And this is coming from a girl who mostly reads romance novels.


#10 Pilgrimage of Promise by Cathy Bryant

This story wasn't so much a favorite on the "fun" side of the list. But as far as emotional impact goes, it had to be included. Such a poignant romance! You can read my full review HERE.


#9 A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Kara of Flowers of Quiet Happiness brought this book to my attention, and I'm so glad she did! It's an enchanting middle-grade read. I read it around the time of a big life transition (moving, taking a new job, etc.), and its sweetness and cleverness offered such happy and comforting moments of reading.


#8 Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

This fantasy romance is another one that blogging friends really put on my radar, and wow. What an intense, intriguing romance! I wouldn't say it's for everyone due to the premise of the story and the darker elements, but I found it to be a completely engaging and thought-provoking read. I can't wait for Rosamund's next release!


#7 Cress by Marissa Meyer

This futuristic sci-fi (?)/fantasy series continues to delight me! I believe Scarlet remains my favorite of the series, but I've thoroughly enjoyed each installment, and I'm psyched for the two Lunar Chronicles books releasing in 2015. You can read my snack size review of Cress HERE.


#6 The Thief by Stephanie Landsem

Absolutely wonderful biblical fiction. From the setting descriptions to the characterization to the unfolding of the plot... It's really, really good. I'm eager to see how Stephanie's next release turns out. You can read my full review of The Thief HERE.



For me, this book is right up there with Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz. Rich, romantic, and epic historical fiction. You can read my full review HERE


#4 This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof

Joanne's novella has so much heart and soul - but in an understated, quietly poignant style. This historical tale is unflinching, honest, and beautiful. You can read my full review HERE.


#3 The Seahorse Legacy by Serena Chase

So...this is the kind of book that makes you want to curl up into the fetal position when you finish because you know you have to wait way too long for the conclusion. I'm hoping, hoping, hoping that Book 4 of this fantasy romance series releases in early 2015, because I am SO ready to find out what happens to these characters! And you can never have too many pirates...or too much of Serena's writing. ;) You can read my full review HERE


#2 Thorn by Intisar Khanani 

Like Cruel Beauty, I wouldn't recommend this book to all of my blog readers due to its darker nature. But man - what a story! Thought-provoking, powerful, unique, raw. You can read my snack size review HERE.


#1 This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

I read a lot of really wonderful, creative stories this year. So why did I list this as #1? While it's hard to say for sure what really stood out as my favorite, I'm naming This Is What Happy Looks Like because...well...it made me happy! It wasn't a "wow" book, but rather an "aww" story that offers such a great blend of authenticity and whimsy. This style is kind of the direction my own writing is taking in the contemporary realm, and Jennifer E. Smith is a fab example of how to rock the YA/NA contemporary romance genre. I still need to finish reading her latest novel, but I have no doubt it will be an enjoyable experience once I really give it my attention. You can read my full review of this book HERE.

* * * 

This has been a great year for books! Seven of the titles I listed were indie-published, and I love that a combo of traditional and indie avenues produces such a grand variety of stories for us to enjoy. I'm totally looking forward to what 2015 has in store on the publishing front!

If you're curious about some of the other books I read in 2014, you can see my Goodreads stats or view my "I've read" shelf on Shelfari.

Tell me, what books made your favorites list for 2014?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Meet the Author of It Took a War (Interview + Giveaway)

It's my pleasure to host a fellow indie author on this, the release date of her debut! Please welcome historical fiction author Emily Ann Putzke.


Emily Ann Putzke is a 19-year-old Christian homeschool graduate and history lover. Besides writing historical fiction, she enjoys photography (especially photographing her nieces and nephew), reading, spending time with her family, Civil War reenacting, traveling and a good cup of coffee. She resides in New York State, where she drinks in the beautiful autumns and tries to endure the long winters.

Connect with Emily:
Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

* * *

Amber: Congratulations on the release of your debut, Emily, and welcome to “Seasons of Humility”! What sort of battles did you have to face as a writer to reach this place of publication?

Emily: Thank you so much for hosting me, Amber! The biggest battle I had to face was fear. I’ve always wanted to be a published author but once I started pursuing it, I was definitely afraid of what people would think and wondered if my book was good enough. I prayed a lot, repeated Jeremiah 29:11 over and over in my head, and felt that publishing my book was what God wanted me to do.

Amber: Fear seems to be a common battle among authors. You're certainly not alone! It sounds like you've found an effective and admirable way to combat it, though. :)

Your blog bio states that you’ve done some Civil War reenacting. What role did those experiences play in the story-writing process? Can you share how you got involved in reenactments?


Emily: Civil War reenacting definitely played a part in the writing process! We reenactors wake up to Reveille, just like my characters do. We eat food cooked over the fire, sleep in tents, wear authentic clothing, and do our hair in 1860’s style. We sit around the fire at night, smell the sulfur from the guns, and our heads rattle from the loud artillery and guns going off.

After seeing my first Civil War reenactment in 2009, I really wanted to reenact. It wasn't until 2012 that I actually started. A reenacting family I know took me under their wing and got me hooked on reenacting!

Amber: I'm fascinated by reenacting and role-playing. That's awesome that you've found a way to get involved! You also have a love for photography. How has that passion intertwined with the indie publishing process?

Photos by Emily Ann Putzke

Emily: I love storytelling through my photography, so that plays a part in writing books. I love the quote, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” ― Dorothea Lange. Photography helps me notice small details, lighting, and facial expressions that result in descriptions I can visualize for writing.

Amber: Very cool!

This being the holiday season, I'm curious, how might your main characters, Joe and Lucas, celebrate Christmas in their day and age? And what’s one of your favorite Christmas traditions?


Emily: For Joe and Lucas, they would be away from home on Christmas during the war years. There are accounts of soldiers putting Christmas trees outside their tents and decorating it with hardtack and pork. Their families might have sent them Christmas packages. Soldiers were homesick. Families tried to be cheerful, but they were missing their husbands, brothers, and sons. Here’s an excerpt from a Christmas poem called Christmas Night of ’62 written by Confederate soldier William Gordon McCabe.

There's not a comrade here tonight
but knows that loved ones far away 
on bended knees this night will pray: 
"God bring our darling from the fight." 

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is going to church on Christmas Eve, then coming home and watching A Muppet Christmas Carol with my siblings until 2 in the morning. =)

Amber: Can readers expect more Civil War stories from you in the future?

Emily: I would love to write more Civil War stories in the future! However, the next book I’m working is a historical fiction about a German resistance group during WWII.

Thanks again for hosting me, Amber!

Amber: That's great to know you have another war story in the works. And thank you for being with us here today, Emily. Happy book birthday to you!

* * *

About the Book

1861 - Sixteen year old Joe Roberts leads a mundane life as far as he’s concerned. His world spins in the same circle each day: working at his family’s store, taking his sisters on boyish escapades and bickering with his rogue of a cousin, Lucas. Joe can’t understand why his mother allows Lucas to live and work with them after all the pain he caused their family. When war is declared, Joe is quick to join up and become a soldier with the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers, but war is nothing like he imagined. To make matters worse, he must endure having Lucas in the same regiment. Can Joe put the pain of the past behind him? Forgiveness is easier said than done.

Purchase the Book
Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)
CreateSpace
Smashwords

* * *

Giveaway!

In honor of this occasion, Emily is giving away some awesome prizes! Hit the arrow buttons on the Rafflecopter form below to browse, and enter via the form to get your name in the hat. Giveaway is limited to US residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Prettiest Paperback: The Novella Arrives!

Happy December and a very merry Christmas season, friends! I hope you all are doing well and enjoying some heartwarming Christmas movies and catchy Christmas songs. :)

I feel like I'm playing one massive game of catch-up during my free time...and shiny new books keep distracting me. Now I need to make time to actually read some of the new stories on my Kindle! This quote definitely seems to apply:

Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them...
~ Arthur Schopenhauer

And this one:

When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.
~ Desiderius Erasmus

I might also add, "And Christmas decorations!"

But that's a different post. Not that my apartment is bursting at the seams with trimmings, but I'm quite happy with my tinsel, candles, etc.

Back to books...

I got a very exciting package today!

 Behold the beauty! :)

I ordered a few copies of How a Star Falls, and since I never ordered a proof copy, this is my first time seeing the novella in person. And oh my! I couldn't be happier with Lena Goldfinch's design and formatting.

The epic front cover...


The stunning back cover...


And the colorful spine, which I adore!


It's so strange to think that around this time last year, I was psyched about the cover but had no clue that the story within would turn out the way it did. How much can change in a year, and how wonderful the twists and turns in our tales can ultimately be. It's a tremendous blessing to sit in my own sweet little apartment, staring at a copy of a book that came about after experiencing uncertainty, moving away, and looking back on God's bounty and faithfulness.


Well, to wrap up for now, here's a reminder that you still have 12-ish days to enter the How a Star Falls book blast giveaway (prize = $50 Amazon.com gift card or PayPal cash). And if you read the novella for the blog tour, I'd so appreciate any reviews on Amazon!

Hopefully talk more soon about bookish and Christmas-y things!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Conclusion of the How a Star Falls Blog Tour!

I'm always blessed by the friends and bloggers I get to work with for blog tours. And I'm doubly blessed to have the people who supported my historicals so kindly assist me in spreading the word about my first contemporary! No fallen star has ever received a warmer welcome in the blogosphere, to my way of thinking. ;)

Just as a reminder, How a Star Falls is now available in both Kindle ($1.99) and paperback ($6.64) formats! Read on for more end-of-tour news...
  
(I'm including some quote cards for How a Star Falls throughout the post, which were created in the pre-order phase using PicMonkey. If you've read my new novella, do feel free to share a favorite quote in the comments section! I'd love to hear what lines stood out to you.)


Winners!

We have three winners for this blog tour, and I'm very excited about the prizes. Hope the winners are, too! You can read/see more about the prizes in the initial tour post and in my updates post. Now, drumroll please...

The winner of Remember Sunday (DVD) and a signed copy of my novella is...
Amber M.!

The winner of An Airplane Carried Me to Bed (CD) and a signed copy of my novella is...
Hannah B.!

The winner of the seaside necklace, star earrings, and a signed copy of my novella is...
Maxie A.!

Congratulations to all of the winners, and thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway and commented on the tour posts! Winners, be sure to check your inboxes and respond to my email in order to claim your prizes. :)

P.S. If you would like another opportunity to win a paperback or Kindle copy of How a Star Falls, Rissi's giveaway is open for a few more days!


Writing Update

There really isn't a whole lot to report this time around on my other writing projects, as work and the promotion for this book have been keeping me busy! But keep your eyes on my Pinterest boards for my Secret Future Writing Project and Secret Future Writing Project 2, if you'd like to see what ideas are currently swirling around in my mind for upcoming stories. 

And don't forget to sign up for the quarterly Seasons of a Story newsletter to stay in the loop via email!


Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Shantelle, Jaye, Serena, Julie, Meghan, Laura, Amber, Britney, Faye, Meagan, Miranda, Kara, Rachelle, Courtney, Carissa, Rissi, Jansina, and Brooke. I'm so grateful to each one of your for your time, enthusiasm, and encouragement as you've helped me promote How a Star Falls. ♥

A very happy and joyful Thanksgiving to each one of you! May you be surrounded by hope, loved ones, and yummy food. :) 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Quick Blog Tour Updates

Hello, friends! I just wanted to let you know that I now have images for the missing How a Star Falls blog tour giveaway prizes. Here's the full cover for the paperback version of the book (available now on Amazon for $6.64!):

Designed by Stone Lily Design

And for the jewelry prize pack, in addition to the star earrings pictured in the original post, the winner will receive this lovely seaside necklace:


Designed by Belle on a Budget
(The three starfish are perfect!)

Want to enter to win these prizes and more? Visit the blog tour announcement post HERE!

Also worth nothing:
Thank you all for celebrating this release with me! Hope you're enjoying the tour so far, and have a bright and shiny weekend. :)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Review of This Quiet Sky

Here's a description of the book:

There is nothing extraordinary about Tucker O’Shay’s dreams. 

Go to college. Become president. Fall in love.   

And pretend like he has enough time to get it all done.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah Miller doesn’t expect anything out of the ordinary when she begins her first day at the one-room-school house in her new hometown of Rocky Knob. But when she meets seventeen-year-old Tucker O’Shay—the boy with the fatal illness who volunteers to tutor her in algebra—she finds herself swept up in a friendship that changes the way she sees the world and a love that changes her life.

You can purchase the novella now on Amazon.

My Rating

Summer

My Review

Sarah and Tucker's story floats through the heart with all the tender poignancy of a falling autumn leaf. Their friendship blooms sweetly, brightly. Grows into something as passionate and brilliant as the summer sun. And culminates in a season where beauty coexists with that which fades, causing bittersweet thoughts of that which lasts.

This Quiet Sky is a gentle but bold take on young-adult historical fiction. Penned in Bischof's signature descriptive and heartbreakingly heartfelt style, this novella is both unique and familiar—different, but also with that feeling of coming home to something meaningful.

Step with Sarah into the one-room schoolhouse. Meet Tucker, another irresistible hero with a blend of human vulnerability and endearing self-confidence. Get to know their families and the lasting lessons they all learn about life, hope, and love.

One conversation and the epilogue felt a little drawn out to me, as their impact might have hit that much harder had they ended sooner. However, the last paragraph before the epilogue pierced me through, and I'm glad that there was an epilogue and so many wonderful scenes and lines that made this such a touching read.

Atmospheric, memorable, honest. Like savoring a dream or happy recollection while gazing up into the quiet sky.

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


View more poignant pins and book extras HERE.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

3...2...1... How a Star Falls Has Launched!



I'm so excited to introduce Derrick and Brielle to the world—the stars of my first new-adult contemporary romance novella! (Pun intended, naturally!) This project represents several firsts for me, actually: first published contemporary story, first book I offered for pre-order, and first time I hired another blogger to help with the marketing. While I'm still hosting my own blog tour, I wanted to try out a book blast with Kathy of I Am a Reader. So feel free to hop on over to her site to enter the $50 gift card giveaway! (But please do come back, as we'll be having lots of fun here, too. :))

Have I told you all how much fun I had writing this story? Seasons really are so important with my writing, and How a Star Falls fully came together this fall, after a lot of transitions in my life. It was such a blessing to look back at the home I love and the places God saw me through. And it was a blast to pen something more whimsical and modern in nature while touching on some of the deep questions new adults tend to ask. (Well, at least this new adult did!)

Here's the official blurb, in case you haven't seen it yet:

How does a star fall? 
Quickly. Completely. Unexpectedly. 

Derrick Knolane escapes to Trinidad Head most evenings, avoiding his apartment and planning for the day he'll break free of Humboldt County. Working in a music store might be fine for a while, but it's far from the goal he had in mind when he got his college degree. Not to mention the fact that his roommate is a jerk and his family won't stop trying to run his life.

Then Brielle falls into his world.

She claims to be a star. Not from Hollywood, but from heaven. He thinks she's crazy. Certainly delusional. Yet, he can't just leave her alone on the cliffs. So he takes her home.

And his whole world falls apart.

A heartfelt and fanciful contemporary romance novella, How a Star Falls explores the uncertain season of new adulthood and shows that sometimes the worst inconveniences make for the best miracles of all.

Purchase on Amazon 

The story is currently only available for Kindle, BUT a paperback version is in the works and is very close to completion! And let me tell you, it's going to be a cutie. :) A little novella with a gorgeous cover, wouldn't you agree? (S/O to Lena Goldfinch for another amazing design!)

Speaking of the paperback, would you like to win a copy? Well, let's get on to the details about the tour then!

Schedule

Tuesday, November 18th
Wednesday, November 19th
Thursday, November 20th
Friday, November 21st
Saturday, November 22nd
Sunday, November 23rd
Monday, November 24th
Tuesday, November 25th
Wednesday, November 26th
During the tour, you'll also find fun behind-the-scenes posts at The Heart's Spring.

A Special Starry Giveaway!

I'm really happy with how this giveaway came together. :) Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of all the prizes just yet, as one of them is still being crafted (a seaside-themed necklace) and the other is still in production (the paperbacks, which are simply awaiting the cover design and approval before they can be ordered). However, here's a glimpse of most of the prizes:


The signed books are pretty self-explanatory. Although I will add that they'll be a darling 5x8 size!

The DVD is Remember Sunday, which has become one of my favorite movies. Why that movie for this giveaway, though? Let's just say shooting stars and comets play a large thematic role in the story, and they even mention Orion—Brielle's constellation! Plus, the heroine (played by the girl from Tuck Everlasting) is a new adult, feeling at a standstill in life. The choices she makes and the questions she and Zachary Levi's character ask all tie in really well with How a Star Falls.

The CD is An Airplane Carried Me to Bed by Sky Sailing. Derrick mentions this band (Owl City's alter ego) in the first chapter of the book, and he listens to a song from the CD titled "Brielle." That song and the sound of the whole CD fit beautifully with How a Star Falls.

The lovely jewelry is crafted by Christy of Belle on a Budget. The star earrings are pictured, but there will also be a beach-themed necklace as part of that prize package. I'll hopefully be sharing a picture of that later this week!

The prizes are divided into 3 packages, as shown on the Rafflecopter form. Please note that this giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only due to shipping costs. Good luck to everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
P.S. Now is the perfect time to get caught up on my other books, if you're missing any! Bellflower (the short-story collection) is FREE for Kindle through Friday, and Forget Me Not is on a Kindle Countdown Deal through next Monday. Happy reading, friends, and thank you so much for helping me celebrate this occasion!