Monday, December 31, 2012

Welcome, 2013!

As I've probably said on this blog many times before, I love a new month and a new year! I'm the kind of girl that derives much pleasure from flipping the calendar page over to the next month. And this year I have a happy, lovely Disney calendar featuring Thomas Kinkade's artwork hanging by my bed:


I'm looking forward to enjoying those pictures all year long!

Blogging in 2013

What else am I looking forward to in 2013? Well, I'm excited to announce that I will be hosting the Contentment Reading Challenge again! I started the challenge in 2011, Katie from Legacy of a Writer was kind enough to host it in 2012, and now it's back at "Seasons of Humility" for its third year! Click on the page link in the upper right hand corner (or at the beginning of this paragraph) to learn more and to sign up, if you're interested!

As for other 2013 posts, while I can't say for sure what the days will bring, I'm hoping to cut back on the review books I request (in the past I have tended to go WAY overboard on my requests)... So the idea is that there will be 2 to 3 full reviews a month. That will force me to pick the books I really want to read, as well as open up more time for re-reading for the Contentment Reading Challenge (as well as catching up on my TBR stack!). =)

But for those of you who follow me on Goodreads or Shelfari, you know how I generally don't review the books I don't have to review? Well, my hope is that by reducing the pressure of writing so many longer reviews, I can share some mini reviews of books, movies, and music!

I was inspired by Juju's "Wham-Bam Reviews" at Tales of Whimsy. I love the idea of two-sentence reviews that share general impressions of various items without taking a ton of time to put together!

To keep the "seasons" theme here, I'm going to call those posts "'Season'-ed Snack Size Reviews." The "season"-ed part comes into play because I'll still be giving my seasonal ratings along with the mini book reviews. There might also be some mini music and movie reviews thrown in, "unseasoned." ;)

Hopefully, there will also be some personal posts and other non-book stuff occasionally on the blog, as well!

One Day of 2013 at a Time

The year 2012 was full of great joys and lots of challenges for me. One of the big things I had (and will still have) to keep learning over and over again is trusting in God. One year ago today I made "to trust God" my New Year's resolution (you can read that post HERE), because I knew that with college graduation would come some important questions about my future, as well as some worries and uncertainties.

This year I have some resolutions I'd like to try and generally keep regarding exercising, getting my driver's license, reading, and writing. But I think the most important thing I need to resolve to do, through God's grace, is still to trust Him - to wait on Him, to believe that His eternal perspective is much better and broader than my limited one, to rest in the moment, and to do what He would have me do each day and not worry so much about what I can't know right now.

There's a lot I have to work on, but God is so good, patiently walking beside me one step at a time! No matter what 2013 brings, I truly am blessed.

Blog Design

Lastly, I always enjoy changing the blog design for each new season (thank you, Ashley, for giving me that idea back when I started the blog!). I love this particular background from Scrappin' Blogs, because it shows the cold and calm of winter as well as the bright and blooming hope of new seasons to come. I took the header picture on a walk at Corban University last winter, and it, too, shows the starkness of winter in contrast with lightness and brightness.

I look forward to celebrating this winter season and this new year with you here at "Seasons of Humility"! Thank you all for your friendship through the seasons! God bless!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Favorite Reads of 2012

It's that time of year again! I love sharing some of my favorite reads each year, and hearing about yours, as well. =) This year saw me expanding my reading horizons a little bit more...and I discovered some absolute gems!

Now, last year I only mentioned my favorites that were published that year, but this year I'm listing my 10 favorite books that I read in 2012, starting with #10:


This story has its cheesy moments, but I still adored it! I love historical romances set in the American West, and this one won me over with its humor and fun plot twists and sweet romance (with an utterly heart-warming ending, might I add!). What's more, the silliness of certain situations doesn't permeate the whole story - it has just the right balance of hilarity and seriousness, which I really enjoyed! You can read my full review HERE.


  Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty made its way onto my "Favorite Books of 2010" list, and it's little wonder that another of her books ended up on this year's list. Her stories are beautifully written and wonderfully thought-provoking. The Messenger is full of turmoil and uncertainty - and growth. You can read my full review HERE.


Sundin also made another of my "favorites" list (2011) with Blue Skies Tomorrow. She is so talented at crafting stories that incorporate detailed research, great characterization, and wonderful symbolism! I especially connected with the hero and heroine in With Every Letter, and even though this story doesn't have as much action, I loved the plot. You can read my full review HERE.


A beautiful cover and an interesting blurb had me eager to read this - and I was enchanted by it! From my review: "It's an exquisite story with wonderful characters that addresses courage, true wealth, and the distinctions between justice, mercy, and grace." You can read my full review HERE.


Fast-paced this isn't, but the story is so grand and moving that it blew me away. Towards the end of the book I was emotionally engaged at a very high and frustrating level... Definitely a powerful Titanic and WWI read! You can read my full review HERE. (I also have to mention that her other 2012 release, Band of Sisters, is also magnificently written and powerful. You can read my full review HERE.)


This slot is actually for all three of the "Phantom Island" books released so far, as I read all three of them in 2012 and they all go together. What a truly delightful discovery this series was for me! I read author Cory Oakes' review of the first book, Windchaser, on Goodreads, and it prompted me to contact Krissi Dallas to see if I could review her books. Little did I know that I was starting such an amazing and awesome adventure (and meeting a new, dear author friend)! These books really engaged me, and I had a hard time stopping once I got started reading each one. You can read my review of Windchaser HERE, Windfall HERE, and Watercrossing HERE.


This book snuck onto this list at the last moment, as I waited to read it until Christmastime. I didn't write a full review, but here's what I noted about the book on Goodreads and Shelfari: "Incredibly good pacing, fascinating setting, wonderful characters... A story that intrigued me, surprised me, and impressed me in many different ways. Enthralling!" So many dark twists and turns, but also surprising tenderness. 


The empathy. That is what really stunned me about this book - how deeply I felt for the heroine and how much her story moved me. I was really crying towards the end! You can read my full review HERE. (I also want to mention that I really loved Camden's early 2012 release, The Rose of Winslow Street. You can read my full review of that book HERE.)


The "Tales of Goldstone Wood" series is so beautiful, and Starflower is my favorite so far. Such a powerful theme and such a great adventure with some absolutely wonderful characters (especially Eanrin!). You can read my full review HERE. (I also loved Moonblood, which was released earlier in 2012 - both that one and Starflower made me cry!)

 #1 Entwined 

 The imagery. The imagination. The heart. I didn't write a full review for this book, but here's what I noted on Goodreads and Shelfari: "Fascinating, moving, intense, enchanting, unexpected story about love and grief, family and understanding. Wonderful characterization and descriptions. A beautiful story from cover to cover!"

~ ~ ~ 

And there you have it! We all have different tastes, but I hope you are blessed by these stories like I have been if you ever pick them up (or perhaps you've already enjoyed them!). I'd love to hear your favorite reads of 2012! And if we're not already friends on Goodreads or Shelfari, feel free to connect with me at one (or both!) of those places, so we can continue to compare and share great reads. =)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Wishes

Wishing you all a Christmas full of...

the beauty of the season,

the magic of life,

the adventure of imagination,

the warm embrace of loved ones,

and the joy of God's Presence.

Merry Christmas, and may God bless you all!

(Pictures are of a few of the Hallmark ornaments on our Christmas tree, and of the nativity set my grandparents passed on to me this year.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Writers Alley Guest Post and Giveaway!



I'm at The Writers Alley blog today, sharing some thoughts on editing and offering a HUGE giveaway! If your story is ready for some editing, I'm giving away any one of my editing packages. That's right - the winner will get a FREE editing package, up to a $550 value (according to my current prices for my freelance editing services)!!! I'm really excited to work with someone on his or her story, and to have someone try out my editing services. =)

To enter the drawing, head on over to The Writers Alley and leave a comment with your e-mail address. You'll find all the details for the drawing, as well as my thoughts about the benefits of editing (perhaps you'll be surprised!), here:


I hope to see you there!!

With thanks to Casey Herringshaw for offering to host me, and for giving me the opportunity to share some thoughts on editing as well as spread the word about my new business!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Review of Keowee Valley

Before I get to the review, I think it's important for me to note that this book is *probably* not one that most of my regular readers would pick up. Keowee Valley is a secular historical romance novel, and it includes more explicit content than the books I normally review here. I found out about the book through an author friend who commented on how she had started her ARC of the book and was really enjoying it. This prompted me to request an ARC of my own, which Katherine Scott Crawford graciously provided. My author friend later e-mailed me to warn me of the sexual content she came across as she continued reading, which helped me know that there would be several scenes to skip along the way.

While I'm uncomfortable with the extent of the sexual content in this book, I still found it to be an intriguing and well-written historical romance. If edgy Christian fiction sometimes steps too far for you, or you generally read only Christian fiction because you prefer "clean" reads, then I wouldn't recommend this book to you. But if you occasionally read secular fiction and you enjoy historical romance, then read on...

Here's a description of the book from Goodreads:

"Spring, 1768. The Southern frontier is a treacherous wilderness inhabited by the powerful Cherokee people. In Charlestown, 25 year-old Quincy MacFadden receives news from beyond the grave: her cousin, a man she’d believed long dead, is alive—held captive by the Shawnee Indians. Unmarried, bookish, and plagued by visions of the future, Quinn is a woman out of place… and this is the opportunity for which she’s been longing.

Determined to save two lives, her cousin’s and her own, Quinn travels the rugged Cherokee Path into the South Carolina Blue Ridge. Defying her furious grandfather and colonial law, she barters for leverage against the Shawnee with a notorious Cherokee chief—and begins building a daring new home in the Keowee River Valley, a fiercely beautiful place.

But in order to rescue her cousin, Quinn must trust an enigmatic half-Cherokee tracker whose loyalties may lie elsewhere. As translator to the British army, Jack Wolf walks a perilous line between a King he hates and a homeland he loves.

Together they journey across the Appalachian Mountains and into the heart of Cherokee country. They encounter wily trappers, warring Indians, British soldiers, desperate settlers, and a contested backcountry on the brink of changing forever.

When Jack is ordered to negotiate for Indian loyalty in the Revolution to come, the pair must decide: obey the Crown, or commit treason…."


My Rating

Spring

My Review

Imagine an independent young woman eager to build a home for herself on land that is both achingly beautiful in its wildness and freeing in the familiarity it breeds. Imagine a community composed of those of all different ages and all different backgrounds - all looking for a refuge and a new start. Imagine a place where visitors come and go, danger lurks in the woods, and the sheer grandeur of nature astounds. Imagine a place from which to embark on a life-changing adventure. Imagine a place to long to return to after facing the uncertainties of new frontiers and a society on the brink of chaos.

Welcome to Keowee Valley.

Wonderful imagery and characterization combine to make this pre-Revolutionary War story a great read. Quinn is an interesting heroine who has dreams/visions of future events. She is very independent, very strong (in some ways), and very caring. Not only does she leaves Charlestown in order to find her cousin, but also to buy land from the Cherokee where she and others can build homes and share the responsibilities of caring for the valley.

We meet many interesting characters who decide to take Quinn up on her offer. We also meet Jack Wolf, a tracker whom Quinn sends in search of her captive cousin. The characters are endearing and intriguing, from the settler's children who look up to Quinn to Jack's tall and silently protective brother, Ridge Runner. The whole cast makes Quinn's adventures and endeavors engaging to read about.

Back to Jack... He's the sort of hero one would expect with this sort of novel, with his own unique quirks and handsome traits. He is the son of a Cherokee man and a white woman. He has dark blond hair and green eyes, an Irish accent, and a warrior's build. Yes, romance is inevitable in a story with a pretty, stubborn heroine and a hero like that!

Regarding the romance, I offer a caution. There is sexual content in this story, including a few "bedroom" scenes. The way the story is divided up into scenes, I'd say it's fairly easy to skip over the explicit content without taking away from the gist of the plot. However, even being aware of this content and determined to skip over it, it's easy to still come across some references to nudity (etc.)... So, just realize that, while this is historical fiction and not entirely focused on the romance, the romantic element is heavy.

Keowee Valley is epic as it shares Quinn's dreams and the obstacles she, Jack, the Cherokee, and the colonists have to face as war looms. The plot contains a lot of tension and interesting events, but the nature of the story makes it more of a slow read. And the ending... Let's just say that while there is resolution in some ways, many questions remain. For those looking for an imaginative and romantic fictional snapshot of the pre-Revolutionary War era, with an emphasis on the characterization, you might consider visiting Keowee Valley.

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

Note: I read an ARC of the book, so any edits made to the final version of the book that were not in the ARC would not be taken into account in this review.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Review of Rapunzel Untangled

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

"Rapunzel is not your average teenager. For one thing, she has a serious illness that keeps her inside the mysterious Gothel Mansion. And for another, her hair is 15 feet long. Not to mention that she’s also the key to ultimately saving the world from certain destruction.

But then she meets a boy named Fane, who changes all she has ever known, and she decides to risk everything familiar to find out who she really is.

Filled with romance, adventure, and mystery, Rapunzel Untangled is one story you won’t want to put down. Discover the true meaning of love and friendship in this modern twist to the classic fairytale."

While that synopsis is pretty intriguing all on its own, here's the blurb the publisher shared on NetGalley:

"Told that she must be indoors at all times, Rapunzel feels trapped in the huge mansion where she lives. But when school demands allow her access to the Internet, she discovers Facebook and becomes friends with Fane, a local teenager who changes her whole world. This story will have you entangled from beginning to end."

I may not be a huge fan of Facebook, but that modern, quirky twist on the fairytale caught my attention!

My Rating

Fall/Spring

My Review

With such a promising premise - a fairytale retelling where the hero and heroine meet via social media - I couldn't resist giving Rapunzel Untangled a try. And I found it be quite an enjoyable read, one that trapped me in Rapunzel's world through the majority of the early morning hours!

I love that Rapunzel and Fane meet early on in the story, and most of the plot centers around their interactions. Yup, I love a good romance! Fane is a great hero - thoughtful, funny, protective, generous, and always ready to chat through Skype or come to the rescue at the sound of a text message being received. He comes across as very true-to-life regarding his immaturity (albeit adorable immaturity) and his cocky, teenage-boy-ness. Yet his heroic qualities really shine, making this a well-mixed blend of YA fiction and happily-ever-after romance.

Towards the beginning, when the plot focuses on Rapunzel learning about the outside world and falling in love with Fane, I was completely enthralled. The mystery of Rapunzel's "back story" remains vague for a while, and the suspense that comes with that is built up well. How the ending comes about, though, was what kept me from loving the book. Mostly, it's a lot of creepy and bizarre and mystical all tangled up together, without a compelling, believable, or (in my opinion) fitting conclusion.

I can't say how closely this story parallels the original fairytale, but I did notice some parallels with the Disney movie Tangled, and I'm not sure exactly how much of that was because these two retellings were drawing from the same fairytale. But Rapunzel Untangled is definitely unique in its YA re-imagining, and the sweet romance - due to Bennett's great characterization - is all its own. The ending of Tangled, however, left me with a much lighter and more gratifying feeling than the ending of Rapunzel Untangled. The messages in this book about seeking the truth and finding love (not just romantically, but also in a familial sense) are great. The message about the triumph of inner strength/power didn't really go over so well with me.

Note: I am happy to say that this is actually a rather "clean" read. The sexual content goes no farther than kissing (and some mild innuendos), and there isn't really any foul language to note. But the references to witchcraft (etc.) are a bit troubling, so proceed with caution. (There isn't anything super "graphic," but it's there, nonetheless.)

*With thanks to Cedar Fort, Inc. and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC e-galley of this book in exchange for sharing my honest opinion.*

This book will be released February 12, 2013.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Review of Starflower

Here's a description of the book from Bethany House:

"The Black Dogs Are on the Hunt, But Who Is Their Prey?

When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps fairest Lady Gleamdren, the Bard Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission... and a race against his rival for Gleamdren's favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.

But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his story entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren's rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her rescuer?"

My Rating

Summer

My Review

With daring descriptions and exquisite emotion, Stengl continues to fascinate and inspire with her fourth installment in the "Tales of Goldstone Woods" series. Earlier this year, Moonblood (the third installment) moved me to tears and enchanted me, and it became my favorite of the series. But then Starflower came along with its powerful themes, epic quests, and unique look at familiar characters... It took a little bit of time for me to become completely enthralled, but once I was in, this book blossomed into my new favorite. And yes, I cried again!

The "Tales of Goldstone Woods" is very intriguing in its cyclic nature. It's very eternity-oriented, what with the Wood Between and the various faerie realms that aren't governed by time (at least, not how mortals would define it). It all begins with the story of Una and Aethelbald in Heartless. Then one of the secondary characters gets a chance to share his back story and his perspective of the events of Heartless in Veiled Rose. The events of Veiled Rose continue in Moonblood. But Starflower takes a very different turn by going back about 1,600 years in order to tell the tale of Eanrin and Starflower.

And yet, the jumping back and forth in time isn't as complicated as it sounds. (The non-linear approach reminds me a lot of C.S. Lewis' concept of the "Unbounded Now" - the idea that God is not bound by time, but rather everything is as "now" to Him.) While the perspective changes in each story from character to character, the focus - the overarching theme - does not. Each story is beautifully and uniquely crafted, and each story explores different facets of faith, but the message of love is wonderfully, marvelously the same.

All that to say, I highly, highly recommend that you read all of the books in this series. I think it is best enjoyed in order, but even if it isn't read in order, I think all of the books have so much to offer combined. Starflower was all the more meaningful to me because I had already "met" Eanrin and Starflower, and because I wanted to know what past events brought them to such a mysterious and hidden-emotions-filled future.

Coming back to this particular installment, I fell in love with the adventure. Stengl takes her readers through such exotic and evocative fantasy realms! The imagery is lovely and clever, and the romantic undertones, hints of humor, and intense chase scenes all come together to make this book such an ultimately engaging read. And the "Hound of Heaven" theme... Wow! This genre might not be every reader's cup of tea, but I admire Stengl's God-given talent of weaving such emotive literature, and I was deeply impacted by the questions and truths this story stirred in my heart.

I long for more of Eanrin and Starflower's story, and I eagerly await the release of Dragonwitch. Stengl's stories just keep getting better and better!

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

The Hound of Heaven

In an author's note at the back of the book, Stengl talks about how "The Hound of Heaven" - a poem by Francis Thompson - inspired one of the main themes of the book. I highly, highly recommend reading the poem in its entirety HERE. It's heart-breaking, convicting, and utterly beautiful.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Review of Ring of Secrets

Here's a description of the book from Harvest House:

"This exciting romantic spy novel from Roseanna M. White combines fascinating cloak-and-dagger secrets with a tale of love and intrigue during the Revolutionary War.

Winter Reeves is an aristocratic Patriot forced to hide her heart amid the Loyalists of the City of New York. She has learned to keep her ears open so she can pass information on British movements to Robbie Townsend, her childhood friend, and his spy ring. If she's caught, if she's hung for espionage…well, she won't be. Robbie has taught her the tools of the trade: the wonders of invisible ink, drop locations and, most importantly, a good cover.

Bennet Lane returns to New York from his Yale professorship with one goal: to find General Washington’s spy hidden among the ranks of the elite. Searching for a wife was supposed to be nothing more than a convenient cover story for his mission, but when he meets Winter, with her too-intelligent eyes in her too-blank face, he finds a mystery that can’t be ignored.

Both believers…and both committed to a separate cause. Will their faith in God lead them to a shared destiny or lives lived apart?"

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

Ring of Secrets is one well-choreographed masquerade, but the high stakes and the desperate situations make the story anything but a party for Winter Reeves. Longing to make a difference for her father's cause, Winter endures abuse from her grandparents, overtures from high-society men who don't understand her true nature, and suspense brought about by her role as a spy as she delivers messages via her childhood friend, Robbie. But as her life becomes more and more complicated - and dangerous - Winter must decide how far she's willing to take her act, and how much of her heart she's willing to give to the men vying for her affections.

Historical romance is generally my genre of choice, especially when it comes to Christian fiction. So White caught my attention with Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland - a story set in the early years of the United States that is intellectually stimulating, sweet, and well-written. But Ring of Secrets might just have one-upped that story in my book, as White injected more excitement and intrigue into this story! There are some great twists, great romance, and great historical tidbits (with an author's note at the end that tells the fact vs. the fiction), all tied together with an emphasis on God's overarching plans and provisions for our lives.

Rings of Secrets showcases some interesting characters and an engaging romance. Fans of the Christian historical romance genre, the American Revolution era, and authors like MaryLu Tyndall and Maureen Lang, should find this to be an enjoyable read!

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

Note: This book will be released March 1, 2013.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Review of Right Where I Belong

Here's a description of the book:

"Natalia’s about to discover her place in the world . . . and it’s not following in her father’s footsteps.

After watching her father jump from one marriage to the next, Natalia has completely written off love. And when her father divorces his third wife—the only one who has been a mother to her—Natalia is ready to write him off too.

 Needing a change of scenery, Natalia leaves her home in Spain and relocates with her stepmother to sun-soaked Florida. But she didn’t realize just how far a new school, a new culture, and a new lifestyle would push her out of her comfort zone.

One of her biggest surprises comes from Brian, a pastor’s son with an adorable smile, who loves God with a sincerity that astounds Natalia. She doesn’t want to fall for him, but she can’t seem to avoid him long enough to get him out of her mind.

Love is the last thing Natalia wants. Even so, God has her right where she belongs."

My Rating

Spring

My Review

With just enough elements of the story of Ruth from the Bible to make the connection, Right Where I Belong is a unique YA retelling that should find a place to belong in the hearts of Christian YA fiction fans. I think it's a bit easier to relate to than First Date, McGee's debut novel and an Esther retelling that features a girl unwillingly forced into the spotlight and onto a reality T.V. show.  

Right Where I Belong features Natalia, a girl who follows her soon-to-be-divorced stepmother to Florida, leaving her homeland of Spain and trying to grow in her new faith. But learning to fit in, dealing with her stepmother's grief and bitterness, and figuring out what to do about her feelings for her pastor's son make the move quite challenging.

While the basic storyline of Ruth becomes rather clear in the beginning, I love that McGee made this more of an "inspired by" story rather than a strict modern-day retelling. This is a story about finding one's place in the world - about discovering one's passion and opening one's heart to God's leading, while figuring out how to respond to the expectations of parents and society (a theme that hit home for me!). Some of the characters have more of a supporting role than a deeply explored, multi-faceted role, and there isn't a whole lot of suspense in this story. But for a gentle YA romance and a faith journey that takes some unexpected but understandable turns, Right Where I Belong is a sweet read that can pave the way for further discussion or application.

*With thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishing through the Booksneeze program for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Friday, December 7, 2012

Celebrating Crafts and Christmas ~ Winners!



I've had such a fun time "Celebrating Crafts and Christmas" with you all this week! Huge thanks to all of this week's guests: Christy Janes, Abigail and Maggie Vogts, and Casey Herringshaw. It was awesome to hear about your crafts and the talents God has given you!

Our guests offered some gifts this week, and with the help of the "List Randomizer" on Random.org, here are the winners: 


 Bookmark hand-crafted by Christy: Jill Stengl


CD featuring music by The Vogts Sisters: Anonymous (Knusbaum@mchsi.com)


Bracelet hand-crafted by Casey: Bluerose

Congratulations to all of the winners! E-mails have been sent to the winners, and they have through the weekend to respond before I choose another winner.

I hope you all have a great weekend! Anybody have any crafts (of any kind) they'll be working on? =)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Celebrating Crafts and Christmas + My Review of Princess of the Silver Woods

A while ago I agreed to be part of a blog tour today for a book I read through NetGalley. So today we get to celebrate the craft of writing! Gotta love a good story!

But I also wanted to offer a sort of giveaway of my own. My freelance editing business is still trying to get off the ground - starting a new business is a slow process, it seems! If any of you are into the writing craft, this "giveaway" is for you!

Giveaway: If you have a short story, novella, or novel that could use some editing, I'd love to help! To any writer who e-mails me and mentions this post ("Celebrating Crafts and Christmas") today, I'm offering 25% off any of my "Winter" packages! (You know I love the "seasons" theme! The "Winter" package is for those who have completed a first draft of their story.) If your story does not currently fit in that package, I'm offering a 10% discount on any of my other packages ("Fall," "Spring," or "Summer").

This is a one-day only thing, since I'm announcing all of this week's winners tomorrow. Even if you're not sure what package your story fits into, all you have to do is e-mail me today and let me know you're interested in talking further about this in order to lock in the discounted price. You will not be required to use my services, should you decide (after we talk and before I get started) that I'm not the right editor for you.

Check out the various package options for Editing Through the Seasons HERE, and feel free to contact me through my website's contact form HERE. (And please note that the package prices do not include shipping costs, as I make my comments and marks on hard copies and not on computer files.)

I look forward to hearing from you!! And now for that review...

Here's a description of the book from Goodreads:

"When Petunia, the youngest of King Gregor's twelve dancing daughters, is invited to visit an elderly friend in the neighboring country of Westfalin, she welcomes the change of scenery. But in order to reach Westfalin, Petunia must pass through a forest where strange two-legged wolves are rumored to exist. Wolves intent on redistributing the wealth of the noble citizens who have entered their territory. But the bandit-wolves prove more rakishly handsome than truly dangerous, and it's not until Petunia reaches her destination that she realizes the kindly grandmother she has been summoned to visit is really an enemy bent on restoring an age-old curse. The stories of Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood get a twist as Petunia and her many sisters take on bandits, grannies, and the new King Under Stone to end their family curse once and for all."  

My Rating

Spring

My Review

Jessica Day George creatively combines fairy tales and legends in this exciting conclusion to her "Princess" series! The story begins with Petunia - the youngest of the twelve dancing princess - in a beautiful red cape being waylaid by thieves with wolf masks, and races on with her interactions with Oliver - a young Robin-Hood type who charmingly bumbles his way into kidnapping Petunia and then becoming her protector. There are plenty of twists in this story, as Petunia is forced to ask herself who the real "wolves" are. Can this "princess of the silver woods" outsmart her pursuers and find victory in the battle for her heart?

This is my second experience with a Jessica Day George book, and I think the more enjoyable of the two. (The other book being Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow.) Her creativity really shines in this story, and this hero has more of his own personality. Oliver is definitely the character who won me over the most - his sweetness, his protective nature, his sense of responsibility, his naivete, and basically his big heart, all add up to an adorable hero.

As for Petunia, she's a strong heroine who doesn't take any guff and who is more than willing to fight against the evil plaguing her family. She kind of surprises me in some ways - not always acting the way I might expect the youngest of twelve to act. (But I guess I wouldn't really know what to expect, in reality!)

The rest of the cast of characters has some hits and some misses. Rose and Galen are wonderful - Galen, especially. He's an awesome big brother to the girls (and a caring husband to Rose). Many of the other sisters who didn't have their own stories in this series are mostly names to me. And some of the villains come across as rather "cardboard."  (Of course, I didn't read the other two books in the series, so maybe readers who read the whole series will feel a closer connection to the secondary characters in this installment.)

Princess of the Silver Woods doesn't completely satisfy as a stand-alone, although it's still an enjoyable read. (Thankfully, having read Entwined by Heather Dixon, I was slightly familiar with the tale of the "Twelve Dancing Princesses," so that made it easier to get swept into this third part of the bigger story, I imagine.)The suspense and the sweetness are great, although the style marks it as more of a quick read than a grand piece of literature. But if you're looking for a fun, fast, fairy-tale-inspired read, then Princess of the Silver Woods delivers!

*With thanks to Bloomsbury Children's Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book and share my honest opinion.*

Note: This book will be released December 11, 2012.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Celebrating Crafts and Christmas with Casey!

The "Celebrating Crafts and Christmas" blog party continues with another Etsy shop owner - Casey Herringshaw!

Many of you book bloggers out there know Casey through Writing for Christ... The Audience of One, Casey's personal blog. That's how I first "met" Casey. But I've also had the pleasure of meeting her in person (as shown in the above picture!) - along with the pleasure of being one of her jewelry customers!

Casey is a sweet, talented, and creative person, and her jewelry sparkles just like her personality. =) I've bought some of her pieces for myself and for family and friends, and I've been quite pleased with the quality and the colors of her jewelry! (You can click on the various jewelry pictures throughout this post to go to those pages on her online shop and do some shopping!)

Keep reading to learn more about Casey's crafts - and about her fun giveaway!

***

Amber: Welcome, my friend! One Dictionary.com definition of the word “craft” is: “an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill…” How did you get started in the jewelry “craft,” and what special skills does your craft require? 

Casey: I got started in making Bug’s Beads when the owner of the company decided she didn’t want to keep upon the time it took to make all the bracelets and necklaces as her daughter was leaving for college. For me, taking the jewelry was a step out of my comfort zone because I not a crafty person, but slinging beads on a wire, fortunately, doesn’t take a great deal of talent and I can play with colors and patterns to my heart’s content. =)

Amber: Sounds like a good deal to me! Please share one of your favorite Etsy shops/jewelry businesses. In what ways does it inspire you to keep working on your craft?

Casey: I think definitely Denise’s Jewelry Designs. I’ve bought a couple things from her and love her innovative style and performance. It takes patience to build a store on Etsy, so I’m slowing working towards at least a consistent business with a well-crafted product.

Amber: What do you hope to share through your craft?

Casey: Fun. Joy. A smile when you put a bracelet, necklace or pair of earrings on. I know it’s only jewelry, but sometimes just that little bit of “pretty” makes a day more cheerful. I know I’ve had days like that. I love to see my jewelry go all across the country—it’s a unique style that points right back to the designer, something I love about it!

Amber: Very nice!

So, your personal blog URL includes the phrase “enjoying the writing craft.” Could you share a little with us about this other craft of yours? 

Casey: I love to write Christian romance with strong women’s fiction elements and share the joy of love and life with other readers. So far, I haven’t had the chance to actually share my writing with the public, but I hope someday, Lord willing, I have that chance. I’m currently writing a story about a hopeless romantic on the journey to find her prince charming and discovering every day is worth living as though it were your last.

Amber: Sounds great!

Since the Christmas season is upon us… Will you be doing something special this season that involves your craft (either your jewelry business or your writing)? 

Casey: I plan to do a big Christmas Bazaar that is always held the first Saturday of December here in my hometown. A great many people come out for this craft bazaar and I love to put together special orders specific to the person’s style and request. Makes me happy and =).

Amber: These next two questions are "just for fun": What is your favorite color? 

Casey: Oh purple, definitely! ;-)

Amber: Bracelets, earrings, or necklaces? (Which is your favorite to wear and/or make?)

Casey: LOL! All three. I love to wear jewelry, whether made by me or someone else. Though I have to admit…I feel a mite undressed when I don’t have on a pair of earrings. Just doesn’t seem right. ;-)

Amber: So fun to host you, Casey! Thank you for joining us!

***

Extras!

Find Casey on:

Giveaway! 

Casey has generously offered to give away a hand-crafted bracelet to one of my readers! The bracelet is size "Large" and measures 7" long.

To enter, just leave a comment with your e-mail address. Please note that you must have a U.S. mailing address in order to enter the drawing. A winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Friday, December 7th.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Celebrating Crafts and Christmas with The Vogts Sisters!


I'm very happy to introduce today's guests for "Celebrating Crafts and Christmas" week -  
The Vogts Sisters! 

If you've been following my blog for a while, you're probably aware of my love of bluegrass music. (You can read more about it HERE.) And if you've been following my blog since the beginning, you might recall the day I hosted author Deborah Vogts for the "End of Summer Bash" in 2010. Well, imagine my excitement when I discovered Deborah Vogts' daughters are bluegrass singers/musicians! They recently released their first CD, Old Time Noise.

Keep on reading to learn more about these talented sisters - and about their giveaway!

***

Amber: Welcome, Maggie and Abigail! One Dictionary.com definition of the word “craft” is: “an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill…” How did you get started in the music “craft,” and what special skills do each of you contribute to your band?
  • Maggie: I don’t really see myself as a craftsman (craftswoman?) – simply because I haven’t put as much work toward our singing as a true craftsman would. I tend to give more time to school projects, and look upon the music as a de-stresser. Abbey provides most of the instrumentals. Once in a while I dare to bring out the fiddle or guitar or the harmonica (the last of which is a new addition). Mostly I sing harmony, because I’m not a very good player. Not that that means I’m a good singer. I’ve also written a few songs, three of which are on our new album. 
  • Abigail: I started taking guitar lessons from one of our pastors in 2009 after receiving a acoustic guitar for a Christmas present from our parents. Pastor John Stubenrouch insisted that I sing as I learned each song . . . and well, gracious, I’ve been singing ever since. Then about a year ago, Maggie and I started singing harmony together for fun. Our folks loved it (but mom and dad love everything we sing.) We decided to try our songs out on the rest of the world when we participated in the Katy Days Got Talent competition in Parsons, Kansas last May. And we made it to the final round—which amazed us. We entered a few more competitions and did well, which brings us to where we are now. We released our first CD, Old Time Noise, this past November. I’m currently learning to play the mandolin and fiddle, which I love. 

Amber: It sounds like you two have been doing very well for yourselves! I love that your passion - as well as your humility - shines. =) 

Please share one of your favorite singers/musicians/bands. In what ways does he/she/it inspire you to keep working on your craft? 
  • Maggie: We really like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, as well as Alison Krauss. Really, our singing together (as willing participants) began with Gillian Welch’s “Down Along the Dixie Line” from The Harrow and the Harvest. When I first heard it, I cried. That was that. Alison Krauss is an artist we’ve known of for a long time, but we rarely touch her songs. Why bother? She has angel pipes. And she makes me cry. That seems to be the key – if someone can make either of us cry (usually me…), we tend to love them. 
  • Abigail: Two bands come to mind—the Wailin' Jennys and Alison Krauss (with Union Station)—just because they’re awesome. We aren’t necessarily inspired, but rather humbled when we hear such bands. They just aren’t from Earth . . . they’re aliens. It’s good to be humbled, and thankfully, we are often.
Amber: Definitely good to be humbled! I think it's also good to acknowledge the talent God has given you as you give Him the glory with it. =) And I'm also a fan of Alison Krauss! 

So, what do you hope to share through your craft? 
  • Maggie: Just love for good music. We realize there are going to be a lot of people who don’t like this style. But there will be those who appreciate it – the stories and the heartbreak and the loss. Good stuff. 
  • Abigail: An appreciation for good music, because it seems that today’s standards of music are shamefully low. It’s very easy to like a song because of its melody, while the words are TERRIBLE. So we are always careful of that in our music. All in all, it’s not about us, it’s about God’s glory, not our own. 

Amber: Good stuff, indeed! Do either of you have any other crafts you enjoy?
  • Maggie: Again, I don’t consider myself a craftsman because I haven’t dedicated a lot of time to the activities. However, I have hobbies – writing, riding horses, making documentary-like videos. 
  • Abigail: I really enjoy photography and drawing portraits. I also love to read and write, and of course there’s the music… 
Amber: Since the Christmas season is upon us… Will you be doing something special this season that involves your craft?
  • Maggie: Apart from the upcoming concert? Nothing that I’m aware of. Oh, we’ll probably sing a lot at home – just for fun. 
  • Abigail: We’ll be opening for Jimmy Fortune and T Graham Brown at an upcoming concert this weekend, and after that we’re just going to enjoy the Christmas season and probably go caroling.

Amber: Sounds great! And singing just for fun is nice. =) Do you have a favorite Christmas song?
  • Maggie: Impossible! "Silent Night" is somewhere at the top, though. 
  • Abigail: I don’t really have a favorite song. But I love hearing and singing the old Lutheran Christmas hymns that I’ve grown up with. Maybe "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come," or "The First Noel," or "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."
Amber: Thank you both so much for taking the time to answer my questions and visit with us today!

***

Listen!

Here are some samples of their lovely music:

"Cotton Waltz" ~ Written by Maggie Vogts

"Rainy Days" ~ Written by Maggie Vogts

Giveaway!


The Vogts Sisters have generously offered to give away a physical copy of their CD, Old Time Noise!

To enter, just leave a comment with your e-mail address. Please note that you must have a U.S. mailing address in order to enter the drawing. A winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Friday, December 7th.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Celebrating Crafts and Christmas with Christy!

Welcome to the first day of Celebrating Crafts and Christmas, a blog party dedicated to - you guessed it! - crafts and Christmas! Get ready for some inspiring interviews and great giveaways this week!

Today's guest is Christy Janes! I first "met" Christy through book blogging. Southern Sassy Things - her lovely and creative book blog - was always a fun place to visit! Christy has recently turned her online focus from books to jewelry... And I am now one of Christy's satisfied customers! I've bought a necklace for myself and various pieces for family and friends as gifts, and I am quite pleased with the quality and beauty of my purchases.

Be sure to take a look at her Etsy shop, Belle on a Budget. (You can click on the various jewelry pictures throughout this post to go to those pages on her online shop and do some shopping!) Read on to learn more about Christy - and about her awesome giveaway!

***

Amber: Welcome, Christy! One Dictionary.com definition of the word “craft” is: “an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill…” How did you get started in the jewelry “craft,” and what special skills does your craft require?

Christy: All my life, I’ve had my hand in something “crafty!” When I was growing up, I remember my mom spending hours at the sewing machine making all kinds of beautiful dresses for me to wear during my baby, toddler, and early childhood years. Once I became a teenager, she gave me a sewing machine of my own, and began to teach me, what is now, almost a lost art. I cherish those early training years because that was also about the time I started to learn many other hand crafts.

Jewelry, however, didn’t come along until I was an adult. The complete story can be found HERE, but in a nutshell, it all started with some prodding from a few co-workers back in 2006. They knew that I spent my lunch time hours either reading or working on cross-stitch (or some other portable craft), and asked if I could whip up something quickly for Valentine’s Day for everyone to wear. A trip to Hobby Lobby and a few cute jewelry items later…well, that was all she wrote!

As far as skill goes, anyone with a good eye for matching colors, textures, shapes, etc. could easily find themselves fascinated with making jewelry. It’s something I love to do for hours on end, and the feeling I get when a piece comes together in the most perfect way…I tell ya, it’s pure bliss. :o)

Amber: Love your enthusiasm! 

Please share one of your favorite Etsy shops/jewelry businesses. In what ways does it inspire you to keep working on your craft?

Christy: Honestly, there are several Etsy shops I visit, and it would take quite some time to list them all! Each shop has something different which makes the whole of the Etsy website just fascinating for people who like unique, handmade items. What is always eye-catching are those shops whose photos are just so clear and crisp, and allow their item(s) to be the star. Maybe one of these days, my puny photos will be in the same league…they always seem to be a work-in-progress!

Amber: I enjoy browsing the photos you post - especially the ones with books as props! ;) 

What do you hope to share through your craft?

Christy: The one thing I constantly strive for is to be the best I can be, and do it to the glory of God, because without Him, I wouldn’t have the talent to begin with. In addition to that, I want to share that jewelry can be cute and affordable, yet be well-made. The budget-conscious side of me is always looking for a bargain, and after a few years of knowing what supplies to look for, where to look for them, and then, a good dose of patience while I wait for them to go on sale, I can’t in good conscience charge a fortune for something that didn’t cost me a fortune to begin with. Also, I take the time to make sure that every piece I finish looks the best it possibly can with quality materials. If I’m not happy with the finished product, then I take it apart and start again.

Amber: That's great! Do you have any other crafts you enjoy?

Christy: Well, as I mentioned above, I’ve dabbled in a bit of everything from sewing to cross-stiching, but jewelry has really become my crafting passion. I’ve been eager to expand my knowledge here lately, and want to start learning some different techniques as well as creating other jewelry items besides the ones I currently have in my shop.

Amber: Since the Christmas season is upon us… Will you be doing something special this season that involves your craft?

Christy: I usually make a few gifts for family members, and this year will most likely be no exception. The inspiration hasn’t quite hit yet for what those items will be, and it better hurry because time’s a wastin’! Seriously…can you believe we’re already at DECEMBER?!

Amber: Definitely crazy! 

Now, these next two questions are "just for fun": What is your favorite color?

Christy: Oh, forevermore it will be blue. It can be bold and regal, but also calming and peaceful. My favorite shade would be Williamsburg blue. *sigh*

Amber: Bracelets, earrings, or necklaces? (Which is your favorite to wear and/or make?)

Christy: Wow, that’s kinda tough because I wear and make all of them! Earrings are the most versatile to wear, especially for my day job. On the other hand, necklaces are probably my favorite to make, although sometimes, they have a mind of their own (kinda like how authors describe their characters, ya know?). :o)

Amber: Hehehe, very fun! Thank you so much for joining us today, Christy!

***

Extras!

Find Christy on:
Christy has offered a coupon code, which any of you can use at her Etsy shop! Just type in this code at checkout:
  •   NewBelle10  
Giveaway!


Christy has generously offered to give away a hand-crafted bookmark to one of my readers! The winner can choose any one of the three color options (as shown above) - blue, purple, or pink.

To enter, just leave a comment with your e-mail address. Please note that you must have a U.S. mailing address in order to enter the drawing. A winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Friday, December 7th.