Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Return to the White Island: Firetrap Cover Reveal!

It's two weeks till Christmas, and here's an early gift for fans of young-adult fantasy and the awesome Phantom Island series by Krissi Dallas: a cover reveal for the much-anticipated fifth installment!!

Every now and then you might see me gush about these books on this blog, but you can find my full reviews on The Borrowed Book blog:
After years of suspense, it's thrilling to share the title, cover, and description for book 5...

My Thoughts

Okay, the cover designer (Kristen McGregor of Astrea Creative) did a fantastic job of continuing the look of this series in an epic way! This cover definitely shouts, "The Phantom Island series is back and bigger than ever! Boom!" The rich colors and active symbolism hold lots of promise, and I love how the text and main illustration go from silver to gold (which suggests that this book won't be broken up into two, I believe, as the first two elements were? But I'm not 100% certain about that. Either way, it's very clever and looks great!). I just love the design of this whole series. ♥

About the Book

A year has passed, but the Island hasn't forgotten...

As Whitnee Terradora stands on the cusp of her eighteenth birthday, all she can think about is getting through graduation without tripping, boarding that cruise ship, and finally, for crying out loud, snagging her first real kiss with Caleb. Forget that she still hasn't decided where to go to college and that the future intimidates her more than she will admit.

It's the eve of the Guardianship Festival, and all Gabriel can focus on is getting through the next five days of tribal blessing rituals across the Island, making an historically powerful speech at the opening ceremony, and successfully avoiding any more assassination threats. His determination remains intact even when he is unexpectedly separated from Eden, his personal advisor and confidante. Surely he can handle leadership of the festivities without her.

But the Island has a different plan. And neither Whitnee nor Gabriel is prepared for—or happy about—the moment their two worlds collide again. Prophecies unravel, friendships are challenged, and attraction ignites as the dark underbelly of the Island reveals itself in this long-awaited fifth installment of the Phantom Island series. For more updates, visit

About the Author

Krissi Dallas loves pop music, mismatched socks, and fried chicken. She lives in Texas with her husband, two strong-willed boys, and two grumpy old Yorkies. She enjoys hanging out with her family and friends, educating her junior high prep school students, and serving in her church and community. The rest of her time is given to daydreams and writing.

Connect with Krissi: 

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Note from the Author

The Phantom Island series includes Windchaser, Windfall, Watercrossing, and Watermark—all of which are available and would make fun Christmas gifts! [Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Author's Shoppe] The fifth book, Firetrap, releases in 2020. Stay tuned at for updates.

You can read the first chapter of Firetrap HERE

WARNING: The first chapter contains spoilers for the first four books in the series!

Monday, December 9, 2019

A Fast Read Full of Warmth and Charm | Dear Author (Nonfiction) Blog Tour


About the Book

Think your words might not matter? Think again. Words have the power to change lives, especially when they are used to create meaningful stories. In this collection of letters, bookish fangirl Laura A. Grace addresses topics related to every writer’s journey. From “character conversations,” to embracing one’s unique writing style, to celebrating a release day—there is a letter for every author no matter where they may be in sharing their story with others. 

Dear Author includes six illustrations by Hannah S.J. Williams.


My Review

Specifically encouraging to fantasy fiction authors but surely able to bring a smile to all authors and readers alike, Dear Author is a sweet little read that celebrates the writing and publication journey. I love the format of this book, the quick letters that are full of enthusiasm and gratitude. Authors can read them all together for a big morale boost or go straight to the letter that speaks to their current joy or struggle—like a book birthday or a delayed publication date or the bittersweet conclusion to their series. And fellow avid readers/fangirls will find a kindred spirit in Laura and plenty to relate to in these thoughts!

Basically, this book is full of warmth and charm, written with a voice that speaks to its author's unique personality and interests while still capturing general reader feelings. And the handful of illustrations are so adorable, with a little unicorn "Easter egg" in each one. Dear Author is a fast, happy read and a delightful "ode" to the work of novelists.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.*

About the Author

Laura A. Grace had a lifelong dream of getting to know authors behind the covers of her favorite reads. Little did she know that one day she would become an author too! Now an avid book blogger at Unicorn Quester and writer of clean, Christian manga, Laura creatively balances her passions of supporting indie authors and feeding her readers new stories. In between, she wields plastic lightsabers with her children and binge-watches anime with her husband. Join her quest to find wandering unicorns for your favorite authors at!


Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, December 2nd
Tuesday, December 3rd
Wednesday, December 4th
Thursday, December 5th
Friday, December 6th
Saturday, December 7th
Monday, December 9th
Tuesday, December 10th
Wednesday, December 11th
  • Video Book Review: Janeen Ippolito
  • Book Review & Guest Post “Embrace Your Inner Fangirl: Three Easy Ways to Support Authors (That Don’t Require Reviewing or Purchasing Books)”: Wounded but Hopeful
Thursday, December 12th
Friday, December 13th
Saturday, December 14th

Monday, December 2, 2019

Literary Christmas: Clara's Soldier and One Enchanted Eve (Christmas Novellas)

A Literary Christmas: Reading Challenge //

Yay for the start of December! Last night I finished reading Clara's Soldier, and even though this novella and One Enchanted Eve weren't on my original list for the Literary Christmas challenge (hosted by In the Bookcase), I thought I'd still share some quick thoughts. :) 

I picked up these Kindle ebooks while they were free on Amazon recently, and I enjoyed both! It was fun to try out some additional Christmas reading material, and these are well-written stories.

Clara's Soldier by Brittany Fichter
(currently $2.99 for Kindle)

Learn more about the book on the author's website. 

My knowledge of The Nutcracker is rather limited, but even the little elements I'm familiar with made this a neat retelling. Clara's Soldier is a bittersweet post-war story, a historical that takes an interesting turn late at night on Christmas Eve. When I started the story, I found the writing style engaging and the main characters endearing. But then when the story took that interesting turn, I found the plot rather strange and confusing, making me wonder if I wanted to "soldier on." I did, and I'm glad. :) While those mid-story scenes can be somewhat hard to follow, the novella as a whole is thoughtful and sweet, focused on commitment and compassion and hope. A clever, different, and romantic little read for the holiday season.

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One Enchanted Eve by Melissa Tagg
(currently $1.99 for Kindle)

Learn more about the book on the author's website.

It's been a while since I read the first novella in this collection, but this second installment is a lot of fun while featuring the author's trademark small-town atmosphere as the main setting. Being a big fan of Food Network and what I've seen of The Great British Baking Show (earlier seasons), I enjoyed the baking angle to this story! While I wasn't completely wowed by what Rylan produces in the kitchen, I was charmed by her growth and how she opens up. There's some seriousness in the midst of the bantering between her and Colin, some big decisions and revelations for both of them to make. The turn-arounds and progress seem to happen in a rather short amount of time, but such is the satisfying nature of a novella. :) I especially liked how the story celebrates family, and I found this to be a happy-but-not-without-difficulties Christmas-season read!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Next Read-Along Options and a Personal Update

Happy last day of November! Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. :)

I've been thinking ahead to the next read-along and hoping it might work in January, after the busyness of the holidays. And I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Which of these books would you prefer to read and discuss together to kick off 2020?

by Johanna Spyri

by Catherine Marshall

I think either book could work well in the month time frame. Let me know in the comments section if you have a preference!

This might be the last read-along for a little while, as Josh and I are gearing up for a big life change...

We're thrilled to be expecting our first child in March! A baby girl we can't wait to meet and hold and raise and love. ♥ She's already a cherished member of our little family!

I'll be entering my third trimester of pregnancy in December, and as long as everything continues to go smoothly, I think January could be a great month for one more read-along. Not to say that there won't ever be more necessarily! But I imagine things will be a little uncertain around here as we adjust to a new rhythm and figure out a new schedule.

I'm not really sure what my blogging or writing will look like in the days to come. I know I've left stories unfinished (like Maya's story) and a book idea unpublished (Morning Glory), and I'm so sorry to have started and marketed projects like that without following through at this point. :( I confess I haven't really worked on stories in quite a while, and I have no idea if/when that might change.

I don't want to say I'll never return to writing or publishing books! I'm just unsure. And I want to be better about not publicly celebrating a book without having done the hard work of writing beforehand. I've craved the excitement and attention that comes with a new idea or a new cover, and I've let down my readers by getting ahead of myself and making promises I haven't kept. For that, I sincerely apologize to you all. ♥

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I'm grateful for each of my reader friends and all those I've met around the blogosphere! And I hope to continue chatting about books and life together. :) Speaking of, I'd love to hear about how the holiday season is going for you, what books have recently made an impression on you, or any life updates you'd like to share!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Literary Christmas: The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall (Plus a Kindle eBook Freebie!)

A Literary Christmas: Reading Challenge //

Happy Friday, friends! I finished reading my first book for the Literary Christmas Reading Challenge (hosted by In the Bookcase) last night, so I thought I'd share some quick thoughts. :)

Learn more about the book on the author's website.

I wasn't 100% sure whether or not I had read The Sound of Sleigh Bells before...but it definitely felt like a new experience either way! I really liked the length of it (almost 200 pages in hardcover format)—not too long to be a quick seasonal read, but also not super short. As the story got started, I was concerned about the role of deception, how it might be treated like it's no big deal if the ends justify the means. But given Cindy Woodsmall's deeper writing, I shouldn't have assumed that would be the case! I'm grateful for the way the story ultimately confronts different kinds of lies and celebrates the freedom of truth.

This isn't a lighthearted Christmas read; it begins in the spring and ends in the winter, and it tackles a painful emotional journey along the way. The heroine's personality and coping mechanisms sometimes rubbed me wrong, but she's still a likable character beneath that, and it's hard not to love the hero. All in all, I found this to be an engaging book with sweet characters and a hard-won romance.

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In other Christmas novella news, yesterday I discovered that one of Melissa Tagg's holiday reads is FREE for Kindle right now! I really enjoyed the first novella in the series, One Enchanted Christmas, which I included on my Favorite Books of 2015 list. So I was excited to snatch up the second novella. :) Here's a graphic the author shared on Facebook, indicating the deals last through November 24, 2019:

One Enchanted Christmas (book 1): $.99 for Kindle
One Enchanted Eve (book 2): FREE for Kindle
One Enchanted Noel (book 3): $2.99 for Kindle

Happy Christmas reading, everyone!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Literary Christmas Reading Challenge 2019 (Signing Up and Sharing My List!)

I found out about the Literary Christmas Reading Challenge through Hamlette (author Rachel Kovaciny) at her blog The Edge of the Precipice. (Thank you for posting about it, Rachel!) I've had plans to read/reread a few Christmas books this year, and I thought it would be fun to join this lovely challenge and highlight the books I'm revisiting.

Also, isn't the banner so pretty and festive??

The challenge is hosted by Tarissa at In the Bookcase. Here are the details:
  • Pick a Christmas book (or more than one!) to read or reread this holiday season.
  • Sign up by posting about the challenge on your blog or a social media account.
  • Link your post to Tarissa's main challenge post HERE.
  • Post about the book(s) you read and link up those posts, too, to share the book love!
The challenge takes place November 8 through December 31, 2019. You can learn more and find all of Tarissa's challenge posts at In the Bookcase.

Tarissa is also hosting a really neat giveaway for US residents! You don't have to participate in the challenge to enter, but you can get extra entries in the drawing if you do. :) Click the image below to check it out...

Here's what I'm planning to read for the challenge:

The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall

I actually started reading this the other day, so I'm already through a couple chapters. :) My uncle gave me a copy last year, I believe, and this is one of those books that I'm not quite sure if I've read before or not... I have read a few other books by this author, which I've enjoyed, and whether this is a new-to-me read or an old-but-not-terribly-familiar friend, I'm looking forward to continuing this story!

A Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese

This book basically made my favorites list for 2015, although I technically read it in 2014. Here's what I said back then: "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."

So, here we are! It's been about five years, so I think a reread is definitely warranted. :)

This was my introduction to the delightful Cindy Vincent and her books back in 2013, and I loved it! I enjoyed editing this little gem, which features two lovable cat detectives, and then hosting a blog tour for the book. This year I'd like to revisit this precious installment of the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Capers and experience the Christmas charm once again.

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I don't plan to write full reviews of these books, but I'm hoping to at least share a few thoughts and highlight the stories again during the challenge!

Don't forget, if you'd like to participate in the challenge, check out In the Bookcase. I'd love to know if you sign up and what Christmas books are on your reading list this year!

*Banner and giveaway image are from In the Bookcase.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Final Discussion ~ Christy Read-Along

Welcome to the seventh and final discussion of the Christy read-along! ♥ If this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can view the schedule in this invitation post.

Today we'll be discussing chapters 40-46. If you've already read these chapters, you can share your thoughts in the comments section below or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Christy read-along tag.) If you still need to catch up on the reading, you're welcome to check in whenever you're ready. :) We're happy to have you join us whenever you can!

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Christy: Chapters 40-46
Discussion format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes*
  • "I knew that I belonged here, helping these mountain people. There was nothing I wanted for myself, I just wanted to give."
  • "What I didn't understand then was that they were training their wills in the only way a will can be trained—by practicing giving up what we happen to want at the moment."
  • "Relationships can be kept intact without compromising one's own beliefs."
  • "By then I was a bit wiser and had learned that there's only one way to give advice to the young: give it, and then be perfectly unconcerned as to whether they take it or not. God alone is capable of managing other people—even our own children."
  • "Every one of us belongs in some kind of ministry." 
  • Is Miss Alice really saying that David can't love me—or anyone—until he has given himself and his love away to God?
  • "I offer back to You this love You gave. It's all I have to give You, God. Here are our lives—hers and mine—I hold them out to You. Do—with us—as You please."

General Impressions

I confess I'm not quite sure what to say about this book's conclusion! As with the rest of the story, there are plenty of thought-provoking lines and moments. The theme of giving oneself, of living in "ministry," of loving without holding back—definitely challenging and inspiring. I'm not 100% satisfied with how the plot ends, but as a whole, this book has been engaging to read and discuss, and it's definitely a compelling story. :)

When I finished the book, I found myself wanting answers. I shared a few links in the first discussion post, and I'll re-share a couple here in case you want to visit them again, now that spoilers aren't an issue:
I found it really interesting to check out the comments section for that first link too! 

It's intriguing to know that Catherine Marshall's mother married a pastor and had a short engagement, which is what might have happened in the book...but then didn't. With David's state at the end of the book, I'm not disappointed that he and Christy didn't get together. It's not that I believe people need to be in a perfect spiritual state in order to get married. Far from it! That's not possible; we always have room to grow, and it's wonderful when marriage itself is a place where people can do that. But I believe it's important to have a foundation of faith beforehand, and I don't think David had that. He was still searching. He even said (on page 551 in my copy), "I have to stand my ground and find myself right here." So...yeah, I don't think his character was quite ready to start a loving relationship with Christy. (As suggested in the second to last quote in the section above.)

But then there's Dr. MacNeill. And I don't know exactly how to feel! Of course, my romantic heart enjoys a happily-ever-after. :) I really liked Dr. MacNeill in the show, and I think overall I liked his character in the book too. (If you're also a romantic, here's a link to a little music video someone put together featuring scenes from the show: It Is You (I Have Loved) [Christy/Neil]

Yet...I feel like his prayer and conversion, as much as I'm glad for them, were too sudden, too convenient to the story. Only a couple chapters before the end, Dr. MacNeill said, "Prayer, Alice, isn't going to change the course of typhoid" (page 540 in my copy). This was right before Christy became bedridden. Of course, his interactions with Christy and Miss Alice might have been on his heart and mind for some time without the reader really knowing it, but I think it would have been helpful to see him somehow wrestling with his faith more before that last scene. Like I said, I'm glad for what happened! I just wish it hadn't been tacked on at the end without more basis in the rest of the story.

Also, as much as an open-ended conclusion can be compelling, so much seems left unsaid. It's a climactic last chapter, but I think I would have enjoyed an epilogue or something to share just a bit more about what happens after Christy's illness. There were undertones of romance throughout the story, but it wasn't necessarily the central element, so it feels a bit odd to have the end be about the romance rather than about the mission and the people of the Cove or even more about faith apart from a romantic relationship.

Okay, apparently I do have a lot to say about the book's conclusion! :) While these last chapters left me wanting more or something a little different, I still really enjoyed the book overall. And I know that as much as I've been complaining about the focus on romance, I'm the one who's been going into detail about my thoughts in that regard, rather than talking about the other stuff that happened! 

I'm inspired by all the sacrifices in these last chapters. With sickness running rampant, the people at the mission gave so much of themselves to care for others, even someone like Lundy who didn't appreciate their efforts. It's so sad his seemingly small act of rebellion with eating eggs was his undoing. :( And yet, Christy and Miss Alice and Ida and Opal were so dedicated in their care of him to the end.

I was impressed by Ruby Mae's husband, his willingness to do whatever necessary to help his wife, even at such a young age. And then there was Christy and her small but meaningful kindnesses to Bessie and her family. And the truth about Tom's death, and how there seemed to be a mending there between families. 

This last section was not all sunshine and roses, that's for sure! (Although there was sunshine and flowers in the last chapter!) But there were shining moments in the midst of much pain and fear and darkness. I have another of Catherine Marshall's books, Julie, on my shelf, and I'm curious to maybe read another story by her at some point.

Discussion Questions

Answer any or all three of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. Which story of sickness, whether hopeful or heartbreaking, affected you the most?

2. Were you satisfied with the conclusion of the story? If so, what did you like most about these last chapters? If not, what do you wish might have been different?

3. What was your favorite part about Christy? Do you plan to read other books by Catherine Marshall, either fiction or nonfiction?

Thank you so much for joining the Christy read-along!
It's been a pleasure discussing the book with you. ♥

*Catherine Marshall, Christy (New York: Avon, 2006), 500-501, 504, 506, 507, 546, 547, 558.