Sunday, December 20, 2015

My Review of Carry Me Home



About the Book

Finella Mayfield hates two things: liars and thieves. And she’s determined to marry a man who’s neither. Chasing her dead father’s dreams, the twenty-year-old English bride arrives in Australia in 1875 for an arranged marriage. Anticipating her future as village preacher’s wife, she records her thoughts in her Everlasting journal.

But instead of her fiancé, Finella is met by Shadrach Jones, a poor farmer sent to collect her from the busy Melbourne pier.

This is not what her father planned. And it’s only the beginning of the unraveling of Finella Mayfield—the bride with no groom.

All Shadrach Jones longs for is rows of mustard and chicory. He’s busy growing a farm near the Phillip Island fishing village of Cowes, and caring for Molly, his simple sister. Far from the brutal life they remember with their ex-convict father, Shadrach’s building something new.

But he’s also made a promise to a dying friend. To collect and marry the English girl destined to never be a preacher’s wife.

Can Shadrach convince Finella she has a future with a farmer? Can he convince himself, knowing his family secrets will haunt their future?

Carry Me Home—Book 1 in the Blue Wren Shallows series. An Australian historical romance set in the pioneering era of the 1870s, on Victoria’s majestic Phillip Island.


My Rating

Spring

My Review

From the drama of the Australian coastline to the drama of fledgling (and unexpected) love, Carry Me Home offers a vibrant addition to the world of inspirational historical romance. The writing is rich with descriptions of wild, treacherous, and beautiful scenery and feelings.

The road to love is a rough one in this story where the heroine is out of her element physically and the hero is out of his depth emotionally. There's a lot of head-butting as Finella and Shadrach walk down the path set before them—to the tune of one step forward and two steps back more often than not. It's enough to frustrate a reader to no end, while still cheering them on, of course!

I felt sorry for each main character in turn, as these two and Shadrach's sister, Molly, face a lot of hardships. But those difficult circumstances certainly held my attention as I followed them through stormy weather, sickness, competition, and the haunting of past demons. I admired the bond formed between Finella and Molly, as well as the moments when tenderness couldn't help but prevail between Finella and Shadrach, despite their concerns and bouts of anger.

Realizing what you really need and appreciating who others really are requires a long journey, indeed...but it's a vastly rewarding venture. Historical romance fans will find a lot to love in this Love Comes Softly-esque story with some unique twists derived from the coastal farm setting.

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


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wrapping Up The Bartered Bride Blog Tour...



Happy Saturday-Before-Christmas, everyone!

Today we're wrapping up The Bartered Bride blog tour. It's been wonderful to see all the great reviews and to partner with such kind and supportive bloggers. :) Lena and I would like to thank each and every one of you who posted, commented, and spread the word! You guys are the best. #AwesomeReaders

For a refresher, be sure to check out the launch post for this tour. It includes a sweet excerpt from the book and information about Lena (the author). And here's the lowdown on the book one more time...

About the Book

COLORADO 1880

Jem Wheeler has always been a survivor. He just wants to make a fresh start in Colorado Springs after the loss of his wife. But then he happens upon a young mute woman being sold off to the highest bidder. He wasn’t looking for a mail-order bride. He wasn’t looking to rescue anyone either. But desperate circumstances can drive a good man to do things he hadn’t planned on doing...

When Jem steps into Annie’s life, she’s not expecting anyone to save her. Mute from birth, she’s just using all her wits to survive. All she’s ever really wanted is a family of her own. For someone to see her. To look at her long enough to hear the things she can’t say.

Can Annie finally break through the silence to win Jem's heart?

Get Your Copy Today!
Paperback | Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBooks

Reviews

Here's what readers are saying about this marriage-of-convenience story...

The Bartered Bride was lovely. I was reminded why I put others of Lena Goldfinch's books on my favorites list. Her writing was good, her plot complicated and enjoyable, and her characters deep and like-able. ~ Zerina Blossom's Books

I delighted in the unique characters, historical details, and engaging plot of this well-told story. ~ Buzzing About Books

I just finished reading The Bartered Bride this morning. I grabbed my Kindle first thing after I woke up because I had wanted to finish reading it before I got up that day. It was really a sweet, inspirational and interesting read. ~ Sunnie Reviews

This was such a sweet story. I loved how Jem swooped in to Annie’s rescue. ~ My Favorite Pastime

It was hard to put this book down. I wanted to find out what happened to everybody! ~ Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections

I immediately fell in love with Annie and felt for her struggles, and so badly wanted to give her the opportunity to share what she was thinking and feeling.... An excellent addition to the series, and a great romance to add to your collection! ~ The Librarian's Bookshelf

There's not only romance, but danger, drama, excitement, horrific crimes, and lessons learned. I found myself sighing dreamily one moment, then breathless with fear the next. ~ A Writer's Heart


Winners!

Ready to find out the giveaway winners? Drumroll, please!

Grand Prize Winner ($25 gift card + all three ebooks in The Brides series)...
Jackie M.!

Second Prize Winner (Paperback copy of The Bartered Bride)...
Heather O.!

Third Prize Winner (All three ebooks in The Brides series)...
Julie P.!

Congratulations, you three! Be on the lookout for an email regarding your prizes. :)

More from Lena

While that concludes The Bartered Bride blog tour, this doesn't have to be the end of the story! You see, Lena has a lot of wonderful books available—everything from sweet fantasy romances to ghostly little stories and more historical romances in The Brides Series. You can learn more about her books on her website. Be sure to follow her Amazon page for updates, as well!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2015



As difficult as it can be, I still love putting together "favorites" lists. There's just something satisfying about seeing your book darlings all lined up together. :) And I'm so happy to say that I believe this is my most diverse list yet in terms of genres! I believe a lot of that can be credited to recommendations from friends. (Thank you, #BookBesties! ← Awesome hashtag by Rissi.)

Sadly, there are a lot of new releases I still need to read, but maybe they'll make it onto next year's list! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy browsing some of the books I loved reading this year - and I hope you'll share some of your favorites, too!

P.S. Be sure to check out the main link-up for this week's Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish.

#10 Tie: The Enchanted Books

Both of these books were vying for a place on the list, so I couldn't resist putting them together! I mean, Five Enchanted Roses and One Enchanted Christmas? They were destined to share the limelight. ;) Five Enchanted Roses is a collection of Beauty & the Beast novellas, and One Enchanted Christmas is a contemporary romance novella. Each of these books is incredibly creative and a lot of fun to read. You can read my review of Five Enchanted Roses HERE. And as for One Enchanted Christmas, which I finished reading the other day, I'll just say that I love Melissa's writing, I relished the adorable romance, and I appreciated the lesson about learning to trust God's work in the lives of our loved ones. All great reads!

#9 Ain't We Got Fun by Emily Chapman & Emily Ann Putzke

This one snuck up on me! You know those stories you just want to hug because they're so endearing? This was one of those for me. I enjoyed the sisters' growth and adventures immensely. You can read my full review of this Great Depression-era epistolary novella HERE.

#8 Rook by Sharon Cameron

Sharon Cameron is the author of another series that made my favorites lists in 2012 and 2013 (The Dark Unwinding and A Spark Unseen). So it was a given that I would pick up Rook - which is a different sort of read, but man, did it hold my attention! It's a futuristic world in which history repeats itself. Quite violent, but very engrossing and thought-provoking, with an intriguing little romance, too. You can read my review HERE.

#7 The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst

I had the privilege of hearing Lysa speak on the topic of marketing, and I was really impressed by her wisdom and heart. I ended up going out and buying The Best Yes and the Made to Crave Devotional. Both are excellent and encouraging nonfiction reads. Lots of great food for thought! 

#6 Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade

Definitely my favorite of Becky Wade's contemporary romances! I loved the unique premise and personalities in this delightful story of second chances. You can read my full review HERE.

#5 Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

I've long been a devoted fan of the Disney version of Tuck Everlasting, but this was the year I finally read the book - which I greatly enjoyed! There's something incredibly thoughtful and charming about both versions of the story. You can read my thoughts (and some great quotes) HERE.

#4 Winter by Marissa Meyer

Oh goodness...how long we waited for this book!! And it was every bit as satisfying as it should be. I might have to reread the series to determine whether this one or Scarlet comes out the winner of my utmost affections, but let's just say I was quite happy with this EPIC (and I do mean EPIC) conclusion to this futuristic fairy-tale series. Might I add that Winter and Jacin completely stole my heart??

#3 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Some of my very favorites of favorites this year were books I read entirely on the recommendation of Twitter friends. (Special thanks to @rachkmc, @Katherine_Reay, and @flowersquiet, especially!) This  book was one I read after reading my top favorite of the year, and it was recommended as another amazing epistolary novel. I was not disappointed in the least. I truly savored this read over dinners at Shari's - its cast of characters and the island of Guernsey claimed my heart.

#2 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

It's probably blasphemy not to put this book in the #1 slot. ;) Technically, this wasn't a first-time read for me... I read it once before, back in high school when I most definitely did not appreciate this book as I ought to have. Is it too shameful to admit that I think a lot of it went over my head back then? But I'm so, so grateful that the release of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman (which I haven't read) prompted me to pick up this book again. I read it on the way to Disneyland this past summer, and I found myself completely caught up in the story and moved by the portrayals of humanity. So much has been written about this novel, in much more eloquent words than what I can convey in a short list post, but I'll just say that I finally understand why this book is so highly acclaimed and beloved.


#1 Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

So much joy and laughter and charm and innocence and wisdom is packed into this fictional collection of letters. It's a read-in-one-sitting story that captured my heart - twice already this year. I found my lovely edition at a used book store and had to pick it up after the recommendation of those wonderful Twitter friends. ♥ I read it the first time at a friend's house, and the second time at a lighthouse bed and breakfast. I imagine this story will continue to warm my heart in days to come.

* * *

Honorable Mention

A Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese

This poor book fell through the cracks, as I read it after I announced my favorites of 2014, but before 2015 officially began. I have to mention it now, though, because I marked it as a favorite back then and found it to be a delightful Christmas romance. I'm thinking a re-read might be in order at some point. :) 

Other 5-Star Reads from 2015:
For more bookish fun, check out my Goodreads stats and my Shelfari shelves!

Which books stole your heart this year?

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Art of Savoring


There is a fine line between overindulgence and stinginess - and I tend to hop back and forth over it rather than walk that lovely line.

Can you relate?

There are several cookies left from my day of baking...so I should just finish them all now. (Somehow I seem to think this will take care of the problem, when it only makes me want to bake/buy more sweets!)

There are several books I've started on my Kindle...so I should read or skim them all now in order to start fresh.

There are several new movies I just bought...so I should watch them all this weekend. Because, why not?

Not that it's bad to enjoy life and the blessings we have! But I feel like I haven't been all that successful at developing the art of savoring things. 

It's a funny sort of dilemma. To learn to live as if each day were your last, while also living with respect for the future. 

Sometimes I want to eat it all, read it all, watch it all, buy it all, do it all now. No matter the consequences, be they extra pounds or a deep-seated dissatisfaction caused by rushing through life and biting off more than I should chew in one sitting. 

Of course, on the other end, I have my shelves of unread books. Books that I want to savor someday, and so I buy more and more and put off what I have, never cracking open the spines or opening that first digital page on my Fire tablet. 

As much as I'm glad to have stories to anticipate, what good are shelves full of books if I never get around to reading them, all while collecting more that I'll never get around to reading?

I want to find that fine line hidden somewhere in the grass that's grown wild in my heart. 


I remember finding it when I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I took my time reading that story, bringing it with me to savor on some of the nights I ate out. 

OK, I might have rushed a little more through the end. ;) But all in all, I loved taking my time, delighting in the experience of letting the story unfold bit by bit.

Of course, some books are meant to be a marathon rather than a leisurely stroll. Take Winter by Marissa Meyer, for example. I dare you to take your time reading that one over a series of weeks! 

I suppose it boils down to attitude, as most things do. 

We don't know what tomorrow will bring. Our lives are a vapor (James 4:14).

But then, God has "made every thing beautiful in his time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). 

Consider this passage: "To every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him. For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?" (Ecclesiastes 8:6-7). It does often leave us miserable, doesn't it? To try to determine the right timing for something...to wait for God's perfect timing. It's really, really hard not to know things.

So we don't know how much longer we have - if today will be our last day. 

Should we eat all the cookies now? Should we finish all the books and movies today because tomorrow might not come?

I often find that eating just one more sweet...and just one more...doesn't make the experience any better. Same with rushing through a book that ought to be savored.

And yet, putting everything off until tomorrow only means that I likely won't enjoy it at all. 

Isn't it funny how tomorrow never really comes? Life is really just a string of todays.

I'll end this rambling post with a quote from Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (A. Because this book is wonderful and I'm so glad I've read it twice so far. B. Because I'm glad I got to watch the live streaming of the Daddy Long Legs musical last week, which was also wonderful.)
It isn't the great big pleasures that count the most; it's making a great deal out of the little ones - I've discovered the true secret of happiness, Daddy, and that is to live in the now. Not to be forever regretting the past, or anticipating the future; but to get the most that you can out of this very instant....

Most people don't live; they just race. They are trying to reach some goal far away on the horizon, and in the heat of the going they get so breathless and panting that they lose all sight of the beautiful, tranquil country they are passing through....

I've decided to sit down by the way and pile up a lot of little happinesses.


I'm still learning the art of savoring, but I hope that even just the act of writing this post will push these reminders further into my soul and dig that fine line a little deeper across my heart.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

My Review of It Took a War (Audiobook)


About the Book

In 1861, 16-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.




My Review

I was truly impressed with the presentation of this story as an audiobook! The narrator did a phenomenal job, even singing songs from the American Civil War era a capella (and pulling it off quite wonderfully!). There were instances where the two main characters, Joe and Lucas, really came through the narrator's voice, and I greatly enjoyed being so effectively immersed in the novella - even if the subject matter itself had its difficult and tragic moments, given the wartime backdrop.

The story's characters were well-drawn, and the scenes showed a wide range of snapshots from life leading up to and during the Civil War. While the characters had their frustrating flaws, and some complete turn-arounds seemed to come about with little prompting, it was overall intriguing and satisfying to step into their lives. Time seemed to jump a little quickly, in a bit of a jarring way, in the second half of the book, but perhaps a second listen would help in either solidifying my opinion or changing my mind... (I confess it can be easier to get distracted with an audiobook than with an ebook or hard copy!)

From script to "acting," this was a marvelous performance. It's a well-researched tale, one that provides an endearing glimpse into a family struggling to find themselves and understand one another through the difficulties of war. In a little over three hours, it's like experiencing an epic play outside the theater. All you need to do is pause halfway through for an intermission. :)

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a complimentary audiobook download in exchange for my honest opinion.*


Bonus: Read my interview with the author of It Took a War for a special behind-the-scenes look at the story!

*Sharables created by the author.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

My Review of With This Ring?: A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry

About the Book

Sometimes Love is Found in the Most Unexpected Places! 

Love isn't always a fairy tale, and it doesn't always go as planned. Sometimes the best stories, though, are the ones that are the most unexpected. Join Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Melissa Jagears for novellas that celebrate the power of love to triumph . . . even when circumstances go awry!

The Husband Maneuver
When ranch foreman Daniel Barrett seems ready to leave her life forever, Marietta Hawkins decides to grab the reins on their relationship. But to have any hope of maneuvering him into a proposal, she has to act fast or risk losing him completely.

Her Dearly Unintended
Josiah Huckabee just wanted to make sure Katie Ellen Watson was safe, but when the only bridge to her farm is washed out, the two find themselves alone. Alone, that is, until a menacing stranger appears. Maybe by pretending to be newlyweds, they'll save their reputations - but can pretending to be in love turn into the real thing? 

Runaway Bride 
Hired to help Carrie Halsey escape from a dangerous man intent on making her his wife, Big John Conroy never expected the job to interrupt his solitary Texas Ranger life. But now that he's promised to keep Carrie safe, he discovers he may just want to make a few more promises.

Engaging the Competition
Harrison Gray and tomboy Charlotte Andrews have been rivals for years. With Charlotte intended for someone else, it seems they'll never settle their differences until an accident changes things completely. When Charlotte breaks Harrison's glasses - without which he's nearly blind - she must help with his teaching position, and working together forces these former adversaries to reconsider everything.

Releases January 5, 2016!

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

This novella collection will make you LOL with the cute and ridiculous situations these couples find themselves in! These stories are a lot of fun, and I especially enjoyed the first two.

The Husband Maneuever by Karen Witemeyer: 5 stars and pure Western romance bliss! Such a cute story about true romantic heroes, cleverly told by the talented Karen Witemeyer. I enjoyed the fiction-within-fiction excerpts from the dime novel Dead-Eye Dan and the Outlaws of Devil's Canyon, which start out each chapter. And the ending - the proper one - is priceless. This is such a sweet novella with some fun romantic tension between a girl with a very relatable crush and a guy with a protective streak as wide as Devil's Canyon. *swoon*

Her Dearly Unintended by Regina Jennings: This was my second favorite story in the collection. It's a little odd and quirky, but pretty darn adorable! I really loved the sass between Josiah and Katie Ellen, and I appreciated the way Josiah matured and Katie Ellen opened up to some important life lessons.

Runaway Bride by Mary Connealy: Fans of Mary's work will certainly enjoy this novella, especially since they'll recognize this vast cast of characters. This was probably my least favorite of the collection, but it was still a lot of fun. It's trademark Mary: lots of spunk and sass, and characters on the run, fighting enemies together, getting into arguments, speaking their minds, and denying inevitable attraction.

Engaging the Competition by Melissa Jagears: The unique hero in this story stood out to me, with his weak eyesight and strength of mind. There's some good chemistry and sweet romance between the female rancher and male schoolteacher. I admit that the heroine wasn't my favorite (got on my nerves a bit), and the competitive theme felt a bit much at times, but still a nice novella to round out this enjoyable and heartwarming collection.

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

New from Lena Goldfinch: The Bartered Bride (Blog Tour + Giveaway!)



It is with great pleasure that I announce the start of The Bartered Bride blog tour!

Read on to learn more about this highly anticipated Western romance, its author, and an exciting giveaway...

* * *

The Bartered Bride is the third book in The Brides series, following the story of Jem from The Unexpected Bride (novel) and Sleigh Bells and Mistletoe (short story). If you haven't  yet read the first two books, you're in for a treat! But since The Bartered Bride is quite a separate story, taking place years later, you can also read it as a stand-alone. I know how hard it is to wait when you're really excited about a new release! :)

Now, who is Lena and what's this new book all about? So glad you asked!

* * *

About the Author (AKA My indie-author mentor and dear friend)

I'm sure many of you are already familiar with Lena's name. She's no stranger around here. ;) I've worked with Lena on several of her books, editing and hosting blog tours. And Lena is the designer behind my own lovely book covers! If you've seen any of my paperbacks, she also formatted the interiors of those for me.

Here's the official scoop on this friend of many talents:

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.

You can connect with Lena on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. (And don't forget to follow her on Amazon to stay up-to-date on all her book releases!)

* * *

About the Book (AKA The endearing and romantic sequel to The Unexpected Bride)

COLORADO 1880

Jem Wheeler has always been a survivor. He just wants to make a fresh start in Colorado Springs after the loss of his wife. But then he happens upon a young mute woman being sold off to the highest bidder. He wasn’t looking for a mail-order bride. He wasn’t looking to rescue anyone either. But desperate circumstances can drive a good man to do things he hadn’t planned on doing...

When Jem steps into Annie’s life, she’s not expecting anyone to save her. Mute from birth, she’s just using all her wits to survive. All she’s ever really wanted is a family of her own. For someone to see her. To look at her long enough to hear the things she can’t say.

Can a rescued bride who can’t speak communicate her love for a grieving widower and his little girl? Will her love ever be returned?

* * *

Enjoy an Excerpt!

Jem took the apple core from his daughter and passed her one of the remaining crackers with a piece of cheese on it. Mae munched that down and looked to him immediately for another, the last one.

He gave it to her, then showed her his empty hands.

She frowned. “More?”

“No more,” Jem said, and showed her his empty hands again, making a bigger gesture out of it, as if the little girl was accusing him of hiding some.

If Annie weren’t so intent on eating her share of cheese and crackers she might have smiled at the sight of them, one of the most dangerous men she’d ever seen sitting side by side with that tiny little girl. They made quite a mismatched pair.

Mae looked over at Annie, at the last cracker in her hand and the last bit of cheese.

Annie gulped down the mouthful she was chewing. She looked down at the last of her meal and back at the little girl. To her shame, she didn’t want to give up her last cracker. She could barely remember the last meal she’d eaten.

“That’s Annie’s food,” Jem admonished the little girl. “You’ve had yours.”

Mae bit her lip. She glanced down at her lap, then back at Annie again.

I can share, Annie attempted to tell Mae with her eyes alone. She snapped her cracker in half—simply unable to bear parting with the whole thing—and passed it across to the little girl. Mae took it and popped the whole thing in her mouth, making Annie smile.

“Mae!” her father said.

She looked at him wide-eyed, her mouth full of cracker. “Whaf dafdda?” she said, muffled, spraying a few cracker crumbs onto his trousers.

He closed his eyes briefly and brushed them off. “You didn’t have to give her any,” he said to Annie, “but thanks.”

Annie grunted, her way of saying she didn’t mind that much. She looked down quickly and finished her last bit of food. The crackers had been crispy and the cheese silky and smooth. They’d tasted like heaven.

“You must be thirsty,” he said. “Do you mind sharing?”

She shook her head and automatically lifted two fingers.

“Two’s no?” he asked.

She nodded, pleased, and lifted one finger. She’d grown up sending signals through the floor of the Ruskins’ house, one stomp for yes, two for no. It came natural as rain now.

“And one’s yes,” he said, catching on quick.

Annie drank deep when he passed her the flask of water, amazed he’d let her drink from it. She tried her best to pour it down her throat without touching her lips to the flask, so he wouldn’t regret giving it to someone so dirty. She wished she could tell him thanks, but after Mae had her fill and he took his own swallow, he was back under his hat, likely going over the events of the day.

How he’d stuck himself with her.

How he probably regretted even stepping off the train at the last stop.

She couldn’t say she blamed him.

She hadn’t much wanted to marry a stranger herself.

Get Your Copy Today!

* * *

Tour Schedule

This is just the first stop on this Western book tour, so put on your boots and hop onto your steed, 'cause we're takin' off! ;) 

Tuesday, December 8th (Today!)
Wednesday, December 9th
Thursday, December 10th
Friday, December 11th
Saturday, December 12th
Sunday, December 13th
Intermission

Monday, December 14th
Tuesday, December 15th
Wednesday, December 16th
Thursday, December 17th
Friday, December 18th
Saturday, December 19th
  • Tour conclusion and announcement of winners here at Seasons of Humility
* * *


Giveaway!

In celebration of this auspicious occasion...Lena is giving away some awesome prizes!
  • Grand Prize: $25 gift card (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, or Google Play—winner’s choice) + all three ebooks in The Brides series (Open internationally)
  • Second Prize: Paperback copy of The Bartered Bride (Open to US residents only)
  • Third Prize: All three ebooks in The Brides series (Open internationally)
To enter these drawings, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Winners will be chosen after the end of the blog tour (December 19, 2015).

a Rafflecopter giveaway Good luck to all in the drawings, and please do join me in congratulating Lena on this mighty fine accomplishment! :)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Litfuse Publicity Blog Tour: A Thousand Shall Fall


About the Book

A story of love, hope, and healing set in the midst of the Civil War

Nineteen-year-old Carrie Ann Bell is independent and spirited. The only thing she really fears are the Union soldiers fighting against her Confederate friends. When her youngest sister runs away from home, brave Carrie Ann is determined to find her and bring her back. Disguised as a soldier, she sets off–only to find she’s fallen into the hands of the enemy.

Her childhood friend Confederate Major Joshua Blevins has warned her against these Yankees: they’re all devils, ready to inflict evil on unsuspecting young women. When Colonel Peyton Collier arrests her for her impersonation of an officer, it seems to confirm all her fears.

Soon, though, she finds herself drawn to the handsome, gallant colonel. He rescued her, protected her, and has been every inch the gentleman. Carrie Ann discovers that her foe has become her ally–and more than that, someone she could love. But the arrival of Joshua in the Union camp as a spy will test her loyalties. Will she protect someone who has been like family or be loyal to this stranger to whom she wants to offer her heart? When her world is being torn apart around her, whom should she trust?

Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, A Thousand Shall Fall is framed around compelling characters and a very romantic setting in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Andrea Boeshaar’s extensive research guarantees historical accuracy and romance genre enthusiasts and Civil War buffs alike will enjoy the Christian perspectives on actual historical events.

My Rating

Spring

My Review

A Thousand Shall Fall begins with an author's note promising that a lot of research went into this historical fiction series. And it shows! Throughout this first installment you'll find plenty of tidbits about the American Civil War (from pertinent facts mentioned in dialogue to telegrams and article snippets between some chapters).

I confess there were times facts and explanations felt a bit forced or crammed in to the narrative and dialogue. I think this partly led to some conversations coming across as stilted, in combination with the formal tone the characters sometimes took with one another. Of course, it helps for the reader to be aware of the historical context, and formal dialogue has its place in such a story! I just think these things can sometimes play a part in keeping the reader from becoming fully engaged.

But that's not to say I didn't find this story interesting. The scenes were well-paced, the cast of characters varied in personality and motives, and the romance led to some charming moments. I enjoyed following Carrie Ann on her adventures and misadventures; she's a character with a lot of spunk, which serves her well in the dangerous situations she finds herself in. And Colonel Peyton Collier, well...for the most part he proves himself to be a worthy match for Carrie and a likable hero.

Overall, did I find this book intriguing? You bet! Was I pleased with the way certain plot elements played out? Not entirely. And I didn't find myself as emotionally invested as I would have liked to have been, especially for a story set during a very heart-wrenching time in US history. But fans of Civil War fiction with a bit of sweet romance and a dash of suspense should find this to be a pleasing read.

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

About the Author

Andrea Boeshaar is the cofounder of American Christian Fiction Writers and runs “The Writer’s ER,” a coaching service for writers. She is the author of thirty published works, including Threads of Faith, a finalist in the Inspirational Readers Choice Awards. Andrea is also the author of a popular devotional and regularly blogs on a number of sites.

Find out more about Andrea at www.andreaboeshaar.com.

To Learn More: click HERE

Blog Tour: Check out reviews from other blog tour participants HERE.

Giveaway!

Andrea is celebrating the release of A Thousand Shall Fall with a Kindle Fire giveaway!

400 - a thousand shall fall 
One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of A Thousand Shall Fall
  • A Kindle Fire HD 6
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 10th. The winner will be announced December 11th on Andrea's blog.

a thousand shall fall-enterbanner

Friday, November 27, 2015

Epic Black Friday Sale on Christian Indie Books + Audiobook Giveaway!


http://www.indiechristianbooks.com/ 

Happy Black Friday, friends!

I'm thrilled to be participating in an exciting sale lasting today (November 27th) through November 30th with a bunch of other Christian indie authors! (You can check out the site with all the deals HERE.) We're offering everything from package deals on paperbacks, free shipping on paperbacks, $.99 ebook deals, and FREE ebooks. Pretty sweet, right?? 


You'll find my books on the eBooks Only page. My two historical novels are on sale for $.99, and my shorter stories (historical short stories and contemporary novellas) are FREE. So...you could get all my ebooks for less than $2! Would love for you to be able to pick up any you're missing - or to give the free ebooks a try if you haven't read any of mine yet. :)

And of course, I hope you'll browse all the other fab deals on the site! 

If you can't decide where to start your browsing, check out this fun tool:

(Which Indie Christian Books Should You Read?)

It's so awesome to see deals from friends like...
And there are many other books in various genres to check out!

To recap, here's the official word on the deal from our wonderful event organizer Leah E. Good:
In honor of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a group of independent Christian authors banded together to offer over seventy discounted books on Nov 27-30. There's literally something for everyone. Every single book listed on Indie Christian Books is on sale in one or more ways. Find discounted paperbacks, dozens of books offered with free shipping, $0.99 ebooks, package deals and more. Even if you have a budget of $0, new reading material awaits you. Don't know what to pick? The fearless Indie Christian Books team created a quiz that will generate a book list perfect for you! Check it out! 

One last thing: I'm also giving away 5 promo codes for the How a Star Falls audiobook! This is a one-day only giveaway that's open to everyone and anyone with access to Audible.com. The audiobook is narrated by Patrick Wilson Mahaney (@patrick_mahaney) - and I think Patrick did a fantastic job of capturing Derrick's voice. :)

Want to learn more about the audiobook/story and listen to a sample? Click HERE. And enter to win a FREE copy through the form below...

A note on the Ebooks Only page: All books are listed as "Sold Out." This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click through to the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good for her fabulous work organizing this sale! Gloria Repp for completing the time-consuming job of uploading book info to the sale website, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

For the Love of Pinterest (A Storyboard Party)

When I heard that author friend Elisabeth Grace Foley was planning a Pinterest Storyboard Party, I was all on board that train - no looking back!

You see, Pinterest has played such a large role in my story brainstorming process. At first, it was more of a way to try to convey visually what I had already created, but now the process has evolved to the point where I'm pinning visual inspiration before and during the writing process. It's a combination research and motivation tool, from pinning helpful articles and reference pictures to beautiful quotes and character look-alikes.

Today's event is sort of a "show-and-tell," as Elisabeth put it. :) Below you'll find glimpses of my projects that are already out there and ones that are to come. (Be sure to click the top/title of the widgets to see all the pins.) I'd absolutely love to hear if a certain board or pin intrigues you!

And if you're a writer with a storyboard(s) of your own, I hope you'll link to it/them in the comments section, so we can hop over to Pinterest and take a peek!

* * *

Amber's Storyboards (in Alphabetical Order)

Bellflower | Short Story

A retelling of Beauty and the Beast in an 1880 mining town

Highlights: Really love these actor picks for Annabelle and Jacob (Robin Wright and Randall Batinkoff). Also, some of the Beauty and the Beast images are so fitting!

Follow Amber Stokes's board Bellflower | Short Story on Pinterest.

Bleeding Heart | Novel

An inspirational Western romance about five bleeding hearts on a profound journey

Highlights: Lots of personal photos mixed into this board for my debut novel. And there are some absolutely perfect (and poignant) quotes that fit the theme of the story. (Bonus: You'll find a personality quiz tucked in there, too!)

Follow Amber Stokes's board Bleeding Heart | Novel on Pinterest.

Fairy Slippers | Short Story

A retelling of Cinderella in an 1888 redwood lumber town

Highlights: Lovely fairy-tale-esque pictures and some cool pins of the fairy slipper orchid.

Follow Amber Stokes's board Fairy Slippers | Short Story on Pinterest.

Forget Me Not | Novel

An inspirational Western romance about remembering the good amid heartbreak

Highlights: Gorgeous scenery shots - and a pic of a young John Cusack as Harry in The Journey of Natty Gann (that's definitely a highlight!).

Follow Amber Stokes's board Forget Me Not | Novel on Pinterest.

How a Star Falls | Novella

A new adult contemporary romance about a girl who claims to be a star (not the Hollywood kind!)

Highlights: Beach, stars, and romance - need I say more? I think the mood of this board really worked its way into the story.

Follow Amber Stokes's board How a Star Falls | Novella on Pinterest.

Morning Glory | WIP

An inspirational Western romance set in Oregon and featuring Myghal from previous books in the series

Highlights: This board feels like a reflection of different points in the brainstorming/writing process. It's a little all-over-the-place, showing the spurts of direction and the aimless wandering through inspiration. Hopefully this will all come together at some point!

Follow Amber Stokes's board Morning Glory | WIP on Pinterest.

When Frozen Days Melt | WIP

A young adult contemporary romance featuring younger sister Chloe (from How a Star Falls)

Highlights: The overall tone of the board - it's just so happy, dontcha think? I like the fashion pics, the yummy ice cream images, and the glimpses of home.

Follow Amber Stokes's board When Frozen Days Melt | WIP on Pinterest.

Where Trains Collide | WIP

A new adult contemporary romance featuring middle sister Trisha (from How a Star Falls)

Highlights: Autumn and trains - two of my favorite things! I want to hug this board. ;) Also, the scene from The Office (for some reason, it makes me happy every time I glance through the board) and the cool GIF pin at the bottom.

Follow Amber Stokes's board Where Trains Collide | WIP on Pinterest.

While You're Awake | Novelette

A contemporary re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty with a barista and a freelance editor

Highlights: Cute German shepherd pics and interesting facts about honey bees.

Follow Amber Stokes's board While You're Awake | Novelette on Pinterest.

Bonus!

I'm deeply inspired by music. To discover some of the musical inspiration behind these stories, check out the "soundtrack" boards:
(Note: The other stories have some music pins mixed in with the other pins on the main boards.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How a Star Falls...Once Again (New-Cover Reveal and Anniversary Party!)




It's Derrick and Brielle's one-year anniversary! (Well, OK, that might not be the case in the timing of the follow-up novella, but we're talking about non-fiction years vs. fiction years. ;)) And I'm so excited to celebrate the occasion with a fun giveaway (see end of the post) and the reveal of the book's new cover...

Don't they make such a sweet couple??

The Many Faces of Derrick and Brielle

My wonderful designer and friend, Lena Goldfinch, was the one who suggested that the cover for How a Star Falls might need an update, so it could better match my other contemporary covers. While I truly loved the original - a case of the egg before the chicken; that is, the cover coming before the story - I could see how branding my books by design would be a very good idea. Not to mention, I'm all for a cute couple cover!

See how nice they all look together?

The first two are available now; Where Trains Collide is up next!

Brielle and Derrick, Ava and Keegan, and Trisha and Paul. I love these models that represent them! (By the way, each of these stories is a standalone, although the characters in How a Star Falls and Where Trains Collide are connected. Confused yet? You're welcome. ;) *insert a bit of author sass*)

Anyway, the model photo we landed on for How a Star Falls was not the first one we tried on for size. Here's a peek at some of the cover comps Lena put together for me (with watermarks, since these are just examples of what we could do after purchasing the desired image):

(Click image to enlarge.)

Lena and I discovered a lot of really sweet couple photos that seemed like they could fit these characters! Before finding the photo for the cover on the right, I really liked the comp in the middle. It had the right "feel" to me - the scene and the mood and even the general appearance of the characters. But then Lena stumbled upon a cover "twin" that was much too close in appearance, so we bid that couple farewell.

I found that fourth comp quite darling, but it just wasn't quite right for the story. It sure is a pretty picture, though!

The couple on the left came very close to gracing the final cover. The general appearance was right, and the night scene with the added star was the perfect touch. But I felt a little unsure about the guy... I just didn't picture Derrick in an outfit like that, and he looked a little too young for Derrick's 24 years. The couple just felt more YA (young adult) than NA (new adult), getting ready for prom instead of life during/after college. ;)

So I kept looking...and then we found them.

Derrick and Brielle.

I was afraid the lack of a nighttime background would create a disconnect, but Lena reminded me that the sun is a star. ;) And really, it's not about the straightforward imagery in this case. This couple, this scene, created the right mood and portrayed the characters and their personalities brilliantly. 

Brielle looks so sweet and lighthearted and innocent.

Derrick looks so quiet and caring and enchanted by Brielle.

Lena described the atmosphere perfectly with the word "ethereal." 

And hey, Brielle even bears a slight resemblance to her previous counterpart, dontcha think?



About Derrick and Brielle's Story

Sweet New Adult Contemporary Romance Novella 

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.

This novella is available in the following formats: 
Paperback ($6.99)
Kindle ebook ($.99)

Note: As of right now, the audiobook and Kindle formats of the book have been updated with the new cover. The paperback will maintain the previous cover for the time being.


Giveaway Time!

Fill out the form below to enter to win one of three prizes from some of my favorite Etsy shops! The prizes are…

Why these prizes? The earrings include stars, which fit this occasion for obvious reasons. ;) The compass is a reference to a song mentioned in the story: “If My Heart Was a House” by Owl City (you can listen HERE). And the cards are a little teaser for my next contemporary romance, Where Trains Collide. (Let’s just say the hero’s nickname is Paul Bunyan. Can you guess the heroine’s nickname?)

Note: Giveaway is open to US residents only due to shipping costs. 

Cover Reveal Participants

As always, I'm so very grateful to my "Gems" for spreading the word about my bookish news!

If you'd like to join my street team, Amber's Gems, you can sign up HERE. And feel free to send me an email at amberstokes@corban.edu if you'd like to review an e-copy or audiobook copy of How a Star Falls!


Here's a list of the lovely gems participating in the anniversary party:

P.S. My designer is gearing up to release a sweet new historical romance novel next month! You can learn more and pre-order The Bartered Bride HERE. (And if you're a blogger, you can sign up to participate in the blog tour HERE.)

Thank you for helping me celebrate this occasion! I'd love to hear your thoughts on the new cover or anything else about this post/story!