Monday, July 22, 2019

Experience Small-Town Refuge | Review of Welcome to Last Chance



About the Book (from Revell)

She's learned you can't count on anyone—but she didn't count on landing in Last Chance.

The red warning light on her car dashboard may have driven Lainie Davis to seek help in the tiny town of Last Chance, New Mexico, but as she meets the people who make this one-horse town their home, it's her heart that is flashing bright red warning lights. These people are entirely too nice, too accommodating, and too interested in her personal life—especially since she's on the run and hoping to slip away unnoticed.

Yet in spite of herself, Lainie is increasingly drawn into the small-town dramas and to a handsome local guy with a secret of his own. Could Lainie actually make a life in this little town? Or will the past catch up to her even here in the middle of nowhere?

(through July 31, 2019)

My Rating

Spring

My Review

Last Chance is a fictional town worth visiting, populated with a caring cast of characters. While the plot isn't a big page-turner, Lainie's journey and the growth of her relationships with different people in the town are definitely engaging. There's a subtle suspense element that makes itself known now and then; the romance is a little more prominent but pretty gentle; but the faith and friendships end up taking center stage in a sweet way. :) I would have liked a little more from the ending, rather than jumping straight from the climax to the epilogue, but overall I was satisfied with the story and enjoyed experiencing the changing seasons in a small town in New Mexico—and in the life of a young woman who finds refuge there.

*With thanks to Revell for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.*

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Bright New Paperback Edition! (How a Star Falls)

Back in 2015, I revealed the new cover for How a Star Falls. (You can check out the story behind the updated cover HERE!) The ebook and audiobook editions of the book each got a makeover as a result, but because of the extra effort required to update a paperback, that edition remained unchanged for years. I just never made it a priority to pursue that update...until this year!

And truly, all the credit goes to my wonderful friend and designer, Lena Goldfinch. She's the one who did the work and took the time to make this happen, not only updating the front cover, back cover, and spine, but also freshening up the interior formatting for the paperback and ebook with shooting-star dividers and a classy look. :)

What do you think?






Each book I've published is special to me for different reasons, but this project was just so much fun! Every stage has been a blast, from dreaming and writing to working with the designer (Lena!) and the audiobook narrator...and seeing Derrick and Brielle's story come alive in new ways. :) I loved including things that mean so much to me and bring back dear memories, from my home county to the dancing to the music references to the ocean. And I enjoyed writing from Derrick's perspective!

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Purchase your own copy today on Amazon!

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So far, four of my six books are available in paperback format, and Lena did an absolutely lovely job on all of them. Here are the other three...

Forget Me Not (Amazon)

Bleeding Heart (Amazon)

Where Trains Collide (Amazon)

For those who prefer to hold a book in your hands—and have covers match in style, as How a Star Falls and Where Trains Collide now do—I hope you'll enjoy adding this latest update to your shelf!

P.S. I'm currently running a giveaway on Instagram for a chance to win one of two copies of this refreshed paperback, along with a cross bookmark! Check it out HERE.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Sweet But Not Simple Historical Romance | Review of Under a Blackberry Moon



About the Book
(from Revell)

Which wilderness is more treacherous--the one she must cross to find her home . . . or the one she must traverse to find love? 

Just a few days after she gave birth alone in the northwoods, a recently widowed young Chippewa woman stumbled into a nearby lumber camp in search of refuge from the winter snows. Come summer, it is clear that Moon Song cannot stay among the rough-and-tumble world of white lumbermen, and so the camp owner sends Skypilot, his most trusted friend, to accompany her on the long and treacherous journey back to her people.

But when tragedy strikes off the shore of Lake Superior, Moon Song and Skypilot must depend on each other for survival. With every step they take into the forbidding woods, they are drawn closer together, until it seems the unanswerable questions must be asked. Can she leave her culture to enter his? Can he leave his world to enter hers? Or will they simply walk away from a love that seems too complicated to last?

Get swept into a wild realm where beauty masks danger and only the truly courageous survive in a story that will grip your heart and your imagination.

Available Now!

My Rating

Spring

My Review

I confess this is one of the books that sat unread on my shelf for far too long. Part of me wonders if maybe I would have enjoyed it a little more if I had read it closer to the time I read the other two books in the series years ago... Perhaps a stronger memory of the characters and some of the backstory would have been nice.

Still, I found Under a Blackberry Moon to be an interesting read with a sweet (but not simple) romance! Based on the description of the book, I think I had a somewhat different idea of the main course of the plot compared to what actually happens. I wasn't expecting a secondary character to have a primary role through the first half of the book, and some of the scenes with that secondary character create an odd mood.

But I appreciate the various twists and how even when the plot changes direction, love and survival still play key roles in different ways. I also appreciate the history and what led the author to include certain elements in the story (as revealed in the author's note at the end). I like how the characters are forced to make difficult decisions about what's practical, what's important, and what's worth the sacrifice.

I feel like the story isn't quite as cohesive as I might wish... Different historical and relational elements take center stage at times, so the plot feels a little scattered in focus. But then again, real life can feel that way! While I didn't feel super emotionally invested in the characters and their choices, I still found myself intrigued by the story and eager to know how it would all unfold. It's a compelling journey!

*With thanks to Revell for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book, which I won through a giveaway. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.*

Want More?

Check out my reviews of other Serena B. Miller books:

The Measure of Katie Calloway | A Promise to Love
Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio | An Uncommon Grace

Monday, May 27, 2019

Left with Much to Ponder | Review of Your Future Self Will Thank You



About the Book
(from Moody Publishers)

Why can't I control my anger? Or stop overeating? Or wasting time online? 

Why can't I seem to finish my projects? Or make progress in my spiritual life? 

Why do I fall for the same stupid temptations over and over again?

When we fail, its easy to make excuses or blame our circumstances. But let's face it: the biggest enemy is usually the one staring back at us from the mirror every morning.

We lack self-control.

Self-control isn't very popular these days. We tend to think of it as boring, confining, the cop that shows up and shuts down the party. But the truth is that people who cultivate this vital virtue lead freer, happier, and more meaningful lives. After all, our bad habits—from the slight to the serious—bring a host of painful consequences. Ultimately, they keep us from becoming the people God created us to be.

Your Future Self Will Thank You is a compassionate and humorous guide to breaking bad habits and growing your willpower. It explores Scripture's teachings on how to live a disciplined life while offering practical strategies for growth based on the science of self-control. Whether you want to deepen your spiritual life, conquer an addiction, or kick your nail-biting habit, this book will help you get motivated, stay on track, and achieve your goals.

Sure, self-control is hard, but it doesn't have to be that hard. Get the help you need to be freer, happier, and more productive. Your future self will thank you!

Available Now!


My Review

This book has given me a lot to think about: strategies I want to implement, truths I want to remember, attitudes I want to change. It's a lot to take in, and the trick is to figure out how to apply the information in a way that will stick. Because, as this book makes perfectly clear, we are weak and prone to stay in our ruts, taking the easy way with the habits we've already established. That's definitely true for me!

I greatly appreciate both the practical guidance and the biblical perspective in Your Future Self Will Thank You. In chapter 7, there's a really great discussion about why self-control matters since we're saved by God's grace and sustained by His power. In chapter 3, the author provides some helpful insight on the temptations Satan presented to Jesus and Jesus's response. And chapter 8 sadly resonates with me as it addresses the very real issue of technology (especially social media) and its affects on our time and self-control.

The meat of this book has to do with willpower and habits and approaching those things with right reasons and a view of our need for God's strength. It's eye opening to realize just how much our habits determine our days...and to face what might be feeding those habits we wish we didn't have.

I like that these pages don't promise an easy way forward. Change is hard, and good habits aren't easy to establish (nor are bad habits easy to break). Finishing this book won't automatically change your life or make you feel like you've won the battle. But it's a great tool in that it makes you want to examine your own routines and consider what you need to change (and how you might begin doing so) in light of God's goodness and power.

*With thanks to Moody Publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.*

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Helpful Support and Suggestions | Review of Homeschool Bravely



About the Book
(from Moody Publishers)

Quiet the voices of "not good enough" and step courageously into guilt-free homeschooling

Many homeschool parents have a long-term relationship with self-doubt. "Did I make the right decision?" "Could someone else do this better?" "Am I robbing my kids of something by not sending them to 'regular school'?"

What if there's a better way? 

Not a 3-step technique or a shiny, new curriculum, but a change in perspective that transforms the way you plan, teach, and homeschool?

Homeschool Bravely teaches you to see homeschooling as a calling, helps you overthrow the tyranny of impossible expectations, and guides you through the common bumps in the road, including how to:
  • juggle school and parenting with toddlers at home 
  • teach a struggling learner 
  • plan with the end in mind 
  • accept your own limitations without feeling guilty 
  • stay the course even in the face of criticism 
Reclaim your hope, renew your purpose, and transform your homeschool. Because the truth is: God will use every part of your homeschool, even your fears, faults, and failures, to weave good plans for your kids.

Available Now!


My Review

I'm personally not in the trenches of homeschooling right now, but I could see how this book would be like a big sigh of relief for those who are! It's full of encouragement and good reminders about keeping the journey in a far-reaching, even eternal perspective.

I was never homeschooled myself, but it's something we're considering as an option for any children we may have someday—hence my interest in this book. :) I like that Homeschool Bravely celebrates freedom: the freedom found in trusting God's sovereignty over our children's lives, the freedom to pursue education in a way that works for each family, and the freedom to let kids explore their interests and cultivate a love of learning in unique ways.

There were some great suggestions in these pages for teaching and working with kids of various ages and levels, especially when some kids are old enough for school and others aren't quite there yet. And there are some great words of advice about keeping homeschool plans focused, simplified, and meaningful.


Certainly not surprising, based on the title and topic, this book centers around homeschooling and defending its value. So while it does talk abut how defensiveness isn't needed and fighting about educational choices isn't productive, this book is definitely for those who believe homeschooling is the best choice for their family. If you're a homeschooling mom or definitely plan to be one, you'll find lots of support in these pages. If you're on the fence, you might not get a super balanced view between the various options, but I realize that's not the purpose of this book. :)

One of the appendices is titled "Questions to Ask Before You Start Homeschooling," and I confess I had hoped it would provide some sort of questionnaire for self-assessment; whereas, it's actually a list of questions to ask other people about their homeschooling experiences before you take the leap yourself. Which can still be quite helpful, for sure! Just not exactly what I had personally hoped to find.

All in all, though, Homeschool Bravely is a nice resource, especially for those who have already started on the homeschooling journey or are planning to begin soon. There are some neat tips to ponder and a lot of encouraging words about keeping the focus on God and His sovereign work in the life of your family.

P.S. The cover is really cute, and the design of the pages within is visually appealing!

*With thanks to Moody Publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.*

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Looking for Audiobook Reviewers for a Short but Sweet Romance (How a Star Falls)

Hi, friends!

You might already know that How a Star Falls is available in audiobook format. :) I once had a list of audiobook promo codes that I had started to share but then lost track of in an old email inbox... But now Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) has provided an easier way to share and keep track of new promo codes, and I'd love to offer them to any readers who would like to listen and review!


Title: How a Star Falls

Genre: sweet contemporary romance

Length: approximately 2 hours

Narrator: Patrick Wilson Mahaney
(He does such a great job of conveying Derrick's character!)

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.

Listen to a sample:


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If you're looking for a sweet little story to listen to on your next drive or while working around the house, I'd love to share How a Star Falls with you! Even if you've read it before as an ebook or paperback, it's a lot of fun to hear Patrick give voice to Derrick. :)

Interested? Send me an email (amberstokes@corban.edu) or leave a comment with your email address, and I'll send you a promo code so you can download a FREE digital copy of the audiobook and then leave your honest review on Audible. Thank you so much for considering!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

A Spring Adventure in Glacier National Park

In April, Josh and I had the pleasure of bringing some great friends along on an adventure in Glacier National Park. We were reminded of a few important things:

1. Just because it's raining or hailing or sleeting (or any combination of these) doesn't mean you can't have a wonderful time outdoors. In fact, sometimes it adds to the experience! So, even if the spring weather doesn't seem all that promising, there's still much joy to be had in God's beautiful creation. (But having good gear wouldn't hurt either!)

2. Going beyond where you've been before, trying a new trail, can lead to some incredible views and memories.

3. Bears are best seen from the warmth and safety of the car. :) That's how I've enjoyed watching them so far, and I'm totally fine with that!











Josh spotted this guy on the way to Polebridge, along the North Fork Road. Of course we had to stop at the Polebridge Mercantile for some treats after our hiking and wildlife sightings. :) 

Hope you have also had a lovely start to spring, full of memorable moments with friends and loved ones!

*Group photos included courtesy of Desiree Winters