Monday, October 31, 2011

Hallowe'en Party

Even though this episode of Poirot first aired during the summer, I think this is a good time to share my thoughts! It's a Halloween-themed mystery...

Series XI, "Hallowe'en Party"

Synopsis from the PBS Masterpiece website: "I saw a murder once...I did! I did!" boasts a clumsy, disliked girl at a Halloween party. For this, she is ridiculed and dismissed. But before the party's end, she is dead, snuffed out in an apple-bobbing tub. Party guest Ariadne Oliver — never again to consume another apple — summons her old friend Hercule Poirot for help and the gallant sleuth is only too happy to oblige. With the dubious help of the grisly old village witch and the wildly speculative mystery writer Oliver, Poirot must investigate old sins and discover the connections between a years-old stabbing, a Russian au pair, and a forgery to unmask a dangerous killer, all before another corpse surfaces. Adapted by Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) and based on the novel by Agatha Christie, Hallowe'en Party stars David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, ZoĆ« Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver, and Deborah Findlay (Cranford).

My Review:

Hallowe'en Party is a creepy murder story, replete with relationship issues and tragedies. If you're looking for a fun-but-scary movie to watch this Halloween, this approximately 90 min.-long episode is probably not the ticket. However, if you're looking for an intriguing murder mystery with some serious overtones, then perhaps you should give this a try for Halloween or any other time of the year!

David Suchet plays the part of Hercule Poirot marvelously. Extremely intelligent and a touch proud, he is also understanding and gentle, with remarkable insight into motivations. It's a pleasure to watch him put all the pieces together and ultimately share his Halloween story of a puzzle solved, which begins (of course!) with the line, "It was a dark and stormy night..."

What is unique about this Halloween-themed movie is that Poirot views horrific or macabre stories at Halloween as missing the point. He claims that Halloween is a time to honor the dead and light a candle for them, rather than glorify the gruesome. Whatever our thoughts on Halloween, it's refreshing to watch a movie that steps away from the idea that gory deaths are entertaining, and rather reminds the viewer that violence and suffering are issues to be contemplated with much gravity and not "mockery," as Poirot puts it.

So while the Halloween theme of the movie may make you want to grab some candy, Poirot also gives the viewer some food for thought to chew on when all is said and done.

In Other Halloween News...

I'm off to a Halloween party with friends this evening, dressed up as Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean (in a Disney dress, not her pirate regalia - a little bit of "fancy" can be fun!). May you all stay safe and have an enjoyable Halloween night with friends and/or family! If you're wearing a costume or going trick-or-treating (etc.), I'd love to hear about your plans!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Twitter and a Creative Endeavor

Well, I did it. After reading Bluerose's recent Twitter/Facebook post, I decided I'd try my hand at tweeting! I've actually been tweeting for The Borrowed Book on the days when I post on that blog, but now I've created two of my own accounts.

Two, you ask?

Yes, two.

I created an account for me as a writer/blogger/etc. So for my friends here at Seasons of Humility, if you have a Twitter account, I'd love to connect with you! You can find me HERE.

What's the second account for? That's the "creative endeavor" mentioned in this post's title. One of my new favorite authors, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, has recently started a blog for her cat Minerva Louise called Chronicles of the Evil One. If you are a cat-lover, you will love this blog! Too funny!

I loved the idea of having a plain-old fun blog that would also serve as creative writing practice. I even created a new blog just to mess around with the idea (and then promptly deleted it...). But when I started messing around with Twitter, I thought, Why not create a plain-old fun Twitter account with that same purpose in mind? Then I won't have to come up with full blog posts...

So that's what I did!

Some of you may recognize the cat below from a previous post:

This is my windowsill kitty. Ain't he sweet? And he's very low-maintenance, being stuffed and all...

You have no idea how many girls have come by my room the 2+ years I've been here at Corban University, asking me about my cat and telling me how they thought he was real. Well, he's quite the popular attraction here in the Balyo dorm! So I've given him his own Twitter account, where he can share his observations on college life from his strategic position overlooking the back parking lot and various walkways. You can find The Dorm Cat HERE. Hopefully he'll bring a smile to your face! =)

See you on Twitter! (And I hope you don't mind all these links, LOL!)

Fall Friday: More Fun to Come!

Despite the fact that fall is just flying by like a leaf on the wind, there's still some fall fun in store in the blogosphere! Here's a peek at some upcoming attractions:

Book Swap!

Only two more Contentment Reading Challenge update posts left! We've had two book swaps this year, and I've enjoyed hearing the positive responses to these events. So how 'bout one more go-around? Stop by on Wednesday (November 2nd) next week for another book swap! Start preparing your lists - one for books you're willing to swap and another one for books you're looking for - and I'll see you then!

The New and Improved BB

Just to recap, I post weekly on a blog called The Borrowed Book. It's an awesome place for writers and readers alike to gather and find writing tips, book spotlights and other book news, author interviews, giveaways, and more! I'd really, really love to see more visitors over there, especially as we're working on some new features and a new look. Interaction is what makes blogging so much fun, and it would mean a lot to me if you'd pop in every now and again to see what we've got going on!

Author Elizabeth Ludwig's new feature is called "Field Trip Fridays." She is uber talented, and her videos are both informative and interesting. Check out her first Field Trip Friday post and see if you don't agree with me!

As for me, I post on Mondays, and my new feature is called "Where the Past Meets the Present." I even made a nifty button to celebrate! ;)

These posts will include anything from comparison posts between classics and modern books (or reviews of classics), to intriguing historical facts-sharing that writers can incorporate in their stories, to writing advice garnered from reading classic literature. The ambiguous title allows me a little wiggle room, which I hope will translate into more creative posts that will be helpful and enjoyable to readers and writers alike! I'll also continue to post some books reviews/spotlights off and on, as well. So come on over and visit us at the BB!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Review of Out of Control

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

"Rafe Kincaid controls everything in his life... until he meets Julia.

Julia Gilliland has always been interested in the natural world around her. She particularly enjoys studying the fossils and formations in the magnificent cave near her father's house. The cave seems plenty safe--until the day a mysterious intruder steals the rope she uses to climb out.

Rafe Kincaid is a man used to being in control--of himself, his brothers, and his family's ranch. The last thing he expects is to find a woman trapped in the cavern on his land--or to be forced to kiss her!

Rafe is more intrigued by Julia than any woman he's ever known. But when their developing relationship threatens a reconciliation with his brothers, will Rafe have to choose between his family and this new love that could heal his troubled heart and secure his happiness?"

My Rating: Fall/Spring

My Review:

Mary Connealy is the queen of sassy, stubborn heroines and protective, equally stubborn heroes - which makes her books just plain fun to read! Romantic tension abounds and is often "out of control" when it comes to Rafe and Julia. But it's not just the sparks that are "out of control," because Connealy throws a hidden family, quirky brothers, and fossil-hunting into the mix. Not to mention a really creepy villain and constant misunderstandings between the hero and heroine... You just have to approach a Connealy book with the expectation that if things aren't "out of control" by the end of the first chapter, you're probably not reading a Connealy book!

For entertainment value and a book that's difficult to put down, Out of Control is the image on the "Wanted" poster - and your reward for that discovery is paid in fast-paced chapters and humorous scenes. The emphasis on the hot and cold imagery (especially for Rafe) is neat, as is the cavernous setting (where Julia get's so easily side-tracked, much to Rafe's chagrin!). As far as depth, however, I was left with more uncertainty than inspiration. Perhaps there was a bit too much that seemed "out of control," with little solid foundation left for pervading meaning amid all the hullabaloo.

All in all, though, if you're looking for a smile and a laugh you should have no problems finding it in the caves in Out of Control. The book is one fun and crazy ride!

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

Book Trailer:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Review of Asenath

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

"Two Destinies...One Journey of Love

In a humble fishing village on the shores of the Nile lives Asenath, a fisherman's daughter who has everything she could want. Until her perfect world is shattered.

When a warring jungle tribe ransacks the village and kidnaps her, separating her from her parents, she is forced to live as a slave. And she begins a journey that will culminate in the meeting of a handsome and kind steward named Joseph.

Like her, Joseph was taken away from his home, and it is in him that Asenath comes to find solace…and love. But just as they are beginning to form a bond, Joseph is betrayed by his master’s wife and thrown into prison.

Is Asenath doomed to a lifetime of losing everything and everyone she loves?"

My Review:

Patricio brings something unique to the current biblical fiction banquet - a focus on an often over-looked and very unfamiliar character. Asenath was the woman who became Joseph's wife, and little is said about her in the Bible. Patricio takes the limited references to Asenath and creates a detailed story that gives a new perspective on the account of a man sold into slavery by his own brothers and ultimately used by God in a powerful way to save many people.

While the book is intriguing, it didn't fully capture me. This is an historical novel, yet it feels very much like a modern one in the way the characters act, what they say, and how certain situations are portrayed. The writing is a bit stilted and not completely engaging. And as a warning to sensitive readers, there are a couple of swear words, some violence, and some references to sexuality (nothing too explicit, though).

That being said, Asenath still holds the reader's attention with interesting relationships and events throughout the book. It's thought-provoking to see the familiar story of Joseph through the eyes of the woman he married. While Joseph is an integral part of the story, as the title suggests this book is really about Asenath and the sorrow, pain, and love that shaped her life in this one fictional account. Patricio has crafted a creative debut novel topped off with a sweet ending that could serve as a good catalyst for further discussion/contemplation of Joseph's and Asenath's lives.

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

Note: Since this was an Advance Reading Copy, some changes might have been made to the final edition which would not be taken into consideration in this review.

Book Trailer:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Litfuse Blog Tour: Baby, It's Cold Outside

Here's a description of the book:

"Hope finds the hopeless when a storm hits.

It's Christmas weekend 1949, and despite the threat of a storm, the townspeople of Frost are determined to continue their holiday traditions, if only as a means to forget the war that they had all just suffered through. But the suffering hasn't ended for Dottie Morgan who lost her only son in the war. She's preparing to wallow in her isolation for the weekend, when Violet, nearly a spinster at age 29, dares to make a request that will force Dottie to publicly revive the memory of her dead son.

When a storm traps the two women at home with a strange young man who has an unbelievable confession and a neighbor with more to do with Violet's past than she would like, no one can predict how this Christmas will give them all a second chance.

Read an excerpt here and find out the story behind the novel.

My Rating: Summer

My Review:

Where do you go when it's cold outside - when the winds of despair rage and the snow of uncertainty and doubt piles up? Susan May Warren paints a beautiful portrait of hope in the concept of the Storm House. Weaving warm and freezing imagery throughout the book, Warren slowly, gently creates a story full of the simple but astounding truth of God's love as especially celebrated at Christmastime.

Warren's books thrive on emotional intensity, and Baby, It's Cold Outside is further proof of her skill. Her characters are flawed and needy - just the kind of people who could use a Christmas miracle to shake their hearts out of a cold coma. From sweet little Arnie with his big imagination, to two couples in need of a second chance at love, all brought together by a blizzard, the stage is set for a comforting yet unique Christmas story. Add in a few tissues for those heartwarming gusts of emotion, and the package is complete!

If you're looking for a story full of love to get you into the holiday mood, this book is it! The song references along with the contrasting blizzard/cozy-home descriptions had me listening to Christmas music despite the fact that it's not even Halloween at the time I'm writing this - a testament to the fact that you should reserve some time to stay inside with this book this winter, when oh, Baby, It's Cold Outside!

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

About the Author:

"Susan May Warren is an award-winning, best-selling author of over twenty-five novels, many of which have won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, the ACFW Book of the Year award, the Rita Award, and have been Christy finalists. After serving as a missionary for eight years in Russia, Susan returned home to a small town on Minnesota’s beautiful Lake Superior shore where she, her four children, and her husband are active in their local church.

Susan's larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!)

A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at:"

To Buy the Book: click HERE

Blog Tour Schedule: Check out all of the other review scheduled by clicking HERE.


Warm up to Christmas early this year with Susan May Warren's Baby, It's Cold Outside! To celebrate the release of her new Christmas book with Summerside Press, she and the publisher are giving away a Kindle Fire and hosting an early Christmas Party on Facebook!

Read what the reviewers are saying here.

One festive winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire

  • Baby, It's Cold Outside by Susan May Warren
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below!

But, wait there’s more! Join Susan May Warren on 10/27 for merriment and a few early Christmas presents at her Baby, It's Cold Outside Christmas party! Grab your Christmas sweaters, socks and pj’s and join Susan and a few friends for a fireside chat about her recent books (Heiress & Baby, It’s Cold Outside), holiday traditions, favorite Christmas recipes, a trivia contest and more! Invite your friends and don’t miss the fun!

RSVP here and we'll see you on October 27th at 5 PM PST / 8 PM EST!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday for the Military: Moving Quote

“I hold the door to the post office open for a weathered man in a wheelchair. He is gracious, thanking me. One leg is missing, and just as I notice this, I see the sticker on the back of his chair: VIETNAM VETS.

My thoughts jumble as an ache brews in my heart. I think of war and how it destroys, divides, and damages. I see the faces of those in the refugee camp and those who found their names on The List and are now in America. I want to tell this wounded soldier that I am sorry for his loss and for the abandonment he may have felt upon his return. I want to say other things, but right now I'm just honored to hold the door for him.”

~ From A Wedding Invitation by Alice J. Wisler

Click HERE to read my review of this wonderful book!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Coming Soon: 2nd Annual LFY Blog Party!

October is swiftly racing by, and soon November will be upon us. After that it will be December - time for Christmas preparations and, of course, the "Love Finds You" Blog Party! I'm very excited to be hosting this event again, as we had such a blast last year!

Did you miss last year's festivities? Or perhaps you'd like a chance to reminisce? Click HERE to read the party posts from December 2010 (be sure to scroll down)!

As of right now I have five wonderful guests lined up for this event, and there will be fun and prizes galore! Want to find out who two of the guests are? Take a look at the blog button I created for the party:

The background is a bit obscure, but if you look at the Summerside Press website I think you should be able to figure out who's book it is...and she's going to be one of our guests!

Now click on this blog button in the sidebar (not the one in the post). One of our guests' lovely covers is gracing the party page! (Note that the party page will be updated with more specific information in the coming weeks.)

Want to help spread the word? Just grab the button in the sidebar (using the code below the button) and share it on your own blog! If you leave a comment here letting me know that you've done this, you can have 2 extra entries in the main prize package drawing to be announced on December 4th!

Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fall Friday: Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland with my Shakespeare class, and we had an absolute blast! I loved it so much - from chatting in the car during the 4-5 hour drive (one way), to seeing two superb plays, to enjoying the sunshine and lovely fall colors in the quaint town of Ashland!

Since we did get to see nature's beautiful fall display, I thought it would be fitting to share some of my pictures from the trip with you today:

Walking down an Ashland street - what a gorgeous view!

Off to the park!

A pretty pond complete with ducks!

Pretty pond = photo opp! Short people in front - meaning that's me in the black. ;)

The courtyard in front of two of the theatres, I believe. We got to see a play in the Angus Bowmer theatre, and another one in the New Theatre. It would be so neat to see a play on the Elizabethan (outdoor) stage, but alas, summer is over!

Plays of the day - Friday, October 14th!

Thursday night we saw Measure for Measure (one of Shakespeare's darker comedies). It was a modern version that still used the Shakespearean script - complete with fabulous props/sets, Latin American music, and great acting! On Friday we saw Julius Caesar, which was powerful and quite intense! I'm glad I didn't see either of these when I was younger, as both included some mature themes. But the acting and the whole productions - wow!!

Hope ya'll are enjoying the fall! ;)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Review of Wonderland Creek (CFBA Tour)

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Wonderland Creek
Bethany House (October 1, 2011)
Lynn Austin


For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Extended family is also very important to Austin, and it was a lively discussion between Lynn, her mother, grandmother (age 98), and daughter concerning the change in women's roles through the generations that sparked the inspiration for her novel Eve's Daughters.

Along with reading, two of Lynn's lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published twelve novels. Five of her historical novels have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 for excellence in Christian Fiction. And two of her inspirational fiction books were chosen by Library Journal for their top picks in 2003, and 2005. One of Lynn's novels has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.


Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But happily-ever-after life she's planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend, Gordon, breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real world. Then to top it off, Alice loses her beloved job at the library because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression.

Fleeing small-town gossip, Alice heads to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to the library in the tiny coal-mining village of Acorn. Dropped off by her relatives, Alice volunteers to stay for two weeks to help the librarian, Leslie McDougal.

But the librarian turns out to be far different than she anticipated--not to mention the four lady librarians who travel to the remote homes to deliver the much-desired books. While Alice is trapped in Acorn against her will, she soon finds that real-life adventure and mystery--and especially romance--are far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Wonderland Creek, go HERE.

My Rating: Spring/Summer

My Review:

Once upon a time a friend gave me the opportunity to visit The World's Fair in Chicago, as well as experience some quirky intrigue and sweet romance, by letting me borrow her copy of A Proper Pursuit. When the opportunity arrived to read Wonderland Creek, I dived in and discovered another great story that let me meander Kentucky trails during the Great Depression and find all sorts of crazy adventures.

Both of my experiences with Lynn Austin's work have been quite enjoyable! Wonderland Creek is a book that holds up a mirror and gives you a chance to examine your own book-worm lifestyle (if you're anything like the heroine and me) - but be careful! When you step through the mirror you might just discover an unusual world where you shouldn't be too quick to judge or too quick to assume you know all there is to know. Sweet surprises are in store when Alice visits Wonderland...Creek, that is!

Wonderland Creek explores the joys of life and loving as the heroine discovers that living life can be more exciting than reading about it (believe it or not!). Don't worry, though - the blessings of books are also shown throughout the story. This book doesn't shy away from some serious questions about the realities of hardships, and yet it remains fun and unique in what seems to be traditional Austin style. Go ahead and visit Wonderland Creek - I think you'll be glad you did!

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Review of Love on the Line (CFBA Tour)

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Love on the Line
Bethany House (October 1, 2011)
Deeanne Gist


After a short career in elementary education, Deeanne Gist retired to raise her four children. Over the course of the next fifteen years, she ran a home accessory and antique business, became a member of the press, wrote freelance journalism for national publications such as People, Parents, Parenting, Family Fun, Houston Chronicle and Orlando Sentinel, and acted as CFO for her husband’s small engineering firm--all from the comforts of home.

Squeezed betwixt-and-between all this, she read romance novels by the truckload and even wrote a couple of her own. While those unpublished manuscripts rested on the shelf, she founded a publishing corporation for the purpose of developing, producing and marketing products that would reinforce family values, teach children responsibility and provide character building activities.

After a few short months of running her publishing company, Gist quickly discovered being a "corporate executive" was not where her gifts and talents lie. In answer to Gist’s fervent prayers, God sent a mainstream publisher to her door who licensed her parenting I Did It!® product line and committed to publish the next generation of her system, thus freeing Gist to return to her writing.

Eight months later, she sold A Bride Most Begrudging to Bethany House Publishers. Since that debut, her very original, very fun romances have rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere. Add to this two consecutive Christy Awards, three RITA nominations, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

Her latest releases, Beguiled, Maid To Match, and Love on the Line are now available.

Gist lives in Texas with her husband of twenty-eight years and their border collie. They have four grown children. Click here to find out the most up-to-the-minute news about Dee.


Rural switchboard operator Georgie Gail is proud of her independence in a man's world ... which makes it twice as vexing when the telephone company sends a man to look over her shoulder.

Dashing Luke Palmer is more than he appears though. He's a Texas Ranger working undercover to infiltrate a notorious gang of train robbers. Repairing telephones and tangling with this tempestuous woman is the last thing he wants to do. But when his stakeout puts Georgie in peril, he realizes more than his job is on the line.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love on the Line, go HERE.

My Rating: Spring/Summer

My Review:

Looking for a wonderfully entertaining historical romance that you won't want to put down? Say "hello" to Love on the Line! From a heroine with a big heart for birds to a hero with a nest full of secrets, Gist has written an intriguing story with some edgy romance and some historical fun that will have you flying through the pages.

Georgie's career as a switchboard operator is interesting to read about and makes for some humorous scenes involving the gossipy townsfolk, as well as some cute scenes between the hero and heroine as they search for ways to really communicate with each other. While the hero's career isn't quite as unusual in Christian historical romance, the historical background to the story overall (as discussed in the author's note at the end of the book) is indeed unique.

Love on the Line is a clever, engaging book - a real treat for historical romance fans!

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

Note: Since this was an Advanced Reader Edition, some changes might have been made to the final edition which would not be taken into consideration in this review.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Contentment Reading Challenge: October

Can you believe we're already halfway through October? Fall sure is a busy season, and the days just keep flying by! I have nothing new to report for this challenge, unfortunately - I've been reading plenty of books, but they've either been new ones for review or textbooks and such for school. Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in another re-read or two before the year ends!

For this month's update, I have a few questions for you:
  • How are you doing on this challenge? Have you been able to re-read any books since the last update?
  • Do you have any ideas for a possible end-of-year celebration for this challenge, whether we completed the level we aimed for or not? What would you like to see here on the blog to commemorate our re-reading - giveaways? author interviews? games? prizes? (Not sure yet what I'll be able to put together, but I'd love to hear your thoughts!)
  • Is this something you would like to participate in for 2012? If for some reason I'm not able to commit to hosting the challenge, is there someone who would be interested in taking over for next year?
Thank you for any input!

P.S. Is there anybody out there with a talent for making buttons that might be willing to help me? I'm gearing up for the "Love Finds You" blog party I'll be hosting in December, and I'd love to have a button for the occasion! (Renee Ann did such a fabulous job with the button last year!) No worries if you're too busy - believe me, I know how that goes! ;) Just thought I'd ask!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Review of The Merchant's Daughter

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

"An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice.

Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf's bailiff—a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past.

Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger.

Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart."

My Rating: Spring

My Review:

This engaging historical romance combines elements of some well-loved stories to make it an enjoyable read! Intentional or not, this book brought to mind Jane Eyre (Mr. Rochester and Jane), North & South (the BBC version, as I haven't read the book), and Disney's Beauty and the Beast (I confess to being more familiar with Disney's version than any other adaptation). I could go into detail about the scenes and characters that brought these great romances to mind, but it will be much more fun for you to read the book and see for yourself!

Like Dickerson's first novel The Healer's Apprentice, this book is sweet and just plain fun to read! Her interpretation of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale is unique enough to stand on its own and yet familiar enough to make the connection. The added faith element is inspiring - a good reminder of the blessings we have in being able to read Scripture for ourselves. Sometimes it flowed very well, but sometimes faith seemed almost forced into scenes in an unnatural way, especially towards the end. That is to say, it's great to see belief in God interwoven throughout the story, but sometimes it's included with a "preachy" and "out of the blue" feel.

While the first page or so seems a bit stilted - like the story coming to life in fits and starts - it didn't take long for this book to draw me into the past and into a tummy-tingling love story that emphasizes humility and beauty from within. For those who love the age-old Beauty and the Beast story, there's much to love in this new twist!

*With thanks to Zondervan
and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.*

Note: This book will be released November 2011.

Book Trailer:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Laughter and Tears - Women of Faith Conference

Oh, what an emotion-packed experience the Women of Faith Conference in Portland, Oregon was! From tons of laughter to some unavoidable tears, last weekend had it all!

Now the question is, "Where, oh where, to begin?" Well, let's start with the first part of the event. The Friday morning/afternoon sessions were "General Audience" seating, meaning that we could sit wherever we wanted (or wherever we could find room!). Here's the view from our first seats:

The Rose Garden arena? Yep, it's pretty big! Those large screens you see were really nice, though, for such a high-up perspective as ours.

These first sessions were all about Patsy Clairmont and Andy Andrews - speakers and authors that I had never heard or read before. Both of them were my mom's and my favorite speakers of the weekend. Oh my goodness - Patsy Clairmont!! Here's what the Women of Faith website has to say about her:

Pint-sized dynamo with larger-than-life stories

That just about sums her up! ;) She is absolutely hilarious, but also absolutely real and inspiring.

Here are some of the things I wrote down from her various talks:

~ When you wake up in the morning, say these 3 things: "Yes" (to God's plan for the day), "Thank you" (for this new day you've been given), and "No" (you can't do it all, so you have permission to say "no" to the things that will complicate your day).

~ Pride = "bad helium"

~ People can't bring stuff out of you (ie: the worst) that isn't already there.

~ "God has designed us with a will that is stronger than our emotions."

~ "Sarcasm is anger that has gone underground and come up in a clown suit."

Don't you just love her already? =)

So what about Andy Andrews? Here's what the website has to say about him:

A masterful storyteller with an inspiring message

He really did have some inspiring things to say, and here are a few of the notes I took:

~ What's one investment you can control? Reading. Don't think of it as $20 for a book - think of it as $20 for learning from someone's life.

~ By the very virtue of us sitting in the stadium (or now - sitting in front of a computer), breathing - we have more to come!

~ Fear is the misuse of the creative imagination God gives us.

There were some other fabulous speakers, as well! One quote I just had to write down from Sandi Patty goes like this:

~ "It's not that God said 'no' to my dream, it's just that He said 'yes' to a dream I didn't yet know about."

How beautiful is that??

Now, remember how I said that Friday morning/afternoon was "General Audience" seating? Want to see the perspective from our reserved seats Friday night/Saturday morning?

In case you're wondering, that's the back of Casey's head 2 rows in front of me! ;) And that's the stage right there!! We were seriously that close!

Here are a few more pictures from last weekend that you might enjoy:

Like Casey remarked this summer when we first met: we're both on the same side of one computer screen! ;) It was so fun to have a sleepover in the hotel Friday night with Casey and her mom!

Here's the four of us in the "concourse" - the area circling the actual arena, where all the of the booths and food shops were. From left to right: my mom (Brenda), me, Casey, and Casey's mom (Sue).

My mom and me with our box lunches on Saturday!

Overall, the conference was a blast! It was such a blessing to have this mother-daughter respite from our busy lives and to be moved and inspired by the speakers, music, and just being together with good friends and dear family. My mom was so sweet to come up from California just for the weekend, and we had a wonderful time together! We stored up special memories full of laughter and tears to look back on fondly in days to come, and we were reminded of important truths of God's love.

*With sincere gratitude to Women of Faith through the BookSneeze program (Thomas Nelson publishers) for providing me with two tickets - one for me and one for my mom - to attend the Women of Faith Conference in Portland, Oregon in exchange for posting about my experience.*

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Litfuse Publicity Blog Tour: Along Wooded Paths

Here's a description of the book:

"All she wanted was a simple Amish life . . . But now Marianna Sommer finds herself depending on Englisch neighbors. Although proud of living apart from the world, she and her newly relocated Amish family have discovered that life in the remote mountains of Montana requires working together.

As Marianna begins helping those different from herself—and receiving their help—her heart contemplates two directions. She’s torn between the Amish man from Indiana whom she has long planned on marrying and the friendly Englischer who models a closer walk with God than she’s ever seen before.

Who should have young Marianna’s heart? What is God asking her to sacrifice? Her traditions? Her community? The answer is found along the wooded paths.

Find out about book 1, Beside Still Waters, HERE.

My Rating: Spring

My Review:

In this second installment of a sweet yet serious series, Tricia Goyer has hooked me with the bait of a complicated love triangle! Despite the inherent sorrow that comes from the eventual "odd man out," love triangles are addicting to read about because of the heightened tension and the longing to know the end result. That is certainly the case in this series - I'm ready for book 3, Beyond Hope's Valley, so I can finally see who Marianna picks, and why she picks him!

From the lovely, peaceful cover until the last page, this book has a hopeful innocence to it that is quite charming. As with the first book in the series, I enjoyed watching the characters grow, especially in their spiritual understanding. This book is an encouraging and engaging read.

There are a few quirks that gave me pause - such as the occasional use of words such as "wouldna" and "wasna" which I've always thought of as more of a Scottish flavor than Amish. And I wanted to see more depth to Aaron's character besides just his apparent love for Marianna. From his actions in the first book, he didn't quite win me over, and despite the brownie points he earned in this book, I'm hoping that readers get more of his background and insights in the next part of the story.

All in all, though, this new Amish series is intriguing and will leave you wanting to find out what happens next!

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

About the Author:

"Tricia Goyer is the author of thirty books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.

For more about Tricia and her other books visit"

To Buy the Book: click HERE

Blog Tour Schedule: Check out all of the other review scheduled by clicking HERE.

Facebook Party:

Come to a Facebook Party and Live Author Chat!

Tricia is celebrating the release of Along Wooded Paths with a Fabulous Facebook party on October 18th. She'll be giving away prizes and a sneak peak at the next book in the Big Sky series.

Then during the second half of the party she'll be hosting a LIVE AUTHOR CHAT on her website and announcing something BIG! CLICK the button (below) to RSVP for the party - then go here to sign up for the Live Author Chat.

Along Wooded Paths Party

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Review of A Wedding Invitation (CFBA Tour)

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Wedding Invitation
Bethany House (October 1, 2011)
Alice Wisler


Alice was born in Osaka, Japan in the sixties. Her parents were Presbyterian career missionaries. As a young child, Alice loved to walk down to the local stationer's store to buy notebooks, pencils and scented erasers. In her room, she created stories. The desire to be a published famous author has never left her. Well, two out of three isn't bad. She's the author of Rain Song, How Sweet It Is, Hatteras Girl and A Wedding Invitation (all published by Bethany House).

Alice went to Eastern Mennonite University after graduating from Canadian Academy, an international high school in Kobe, Japan. She majored in social work and has worked across the U.S. in that field. She taught ESL (English as a Second Language) in Japan and at a refugee camp in the Philippines. She also studied Spanish at a language institute in San Jose, Costa Rica.

She has four children--Rachel, Daniel, Benjamin and Elizabeth. Daniel died on 2/2/97 from cancer treatments at the age of four. Since then, Alice founded Daniel's House Publications in her son's memory. This organization reaches out to others who have also lost a child to death. In 2000 and 2003, Alice compiled recipes and memories of children across the world to publish two memorial cookbooks, Slices of Sunlight and Down the Cereal Aisle.


After returning home from teaching English at a refugee camp in the Philippines, Samantha Bravencourt enjoys her quiet life working at her mother's clothing boutique in Falls Church, Virginia. When she receives an invitation to a wedding in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, she looks forward to reconnecting with her college friend. Instead her life collides with Carson, a fellow teacher and the man who broke her heart, and a young Amerasian refugee named Lien who needs Samantha and Carson's help to find her mother before Lien's own wedding. When the search for Lien's mother reveals surprising secrets from the past, Samantha must reevaluate her own memories and decide whether to continue to play it safe or take a risk that could change her life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Wedding Invitation, go HERE.

My Rating: Summer

My Review:

One word that describes Wisler's work is authentic. That's not to say there aren't traditional elements of fiction in her books, but rather that her characters and their emotions/thoughts are real, broken, and beautiful.

Rain Song was the first book I read by Wisler, and I found it to be a story with a rainy-day atmosphere all its own that left a dear impression on my heart. While I also enjoyed Hatteras Girl, it didn't impact me in the same way. And then came A Wedding Invitation.

Despite the fact that A Wedding Invitation is difficult to compare to Rain Song because of their different plots, I must say that A Wedding Invitation moved me and blessed me with a heroine who reminded me so very much of myself. I'd be hard pressed to say which book I like better, so let's just say that I love both of them very much!!

The situations, settings, and surprises in A Wedding Invitation are so unique and engaging. Wisler writes in a first-person-present style that flows softly through the pages, including sweet but vivid imagery mixed in with all of the emotions. From the mother's clothing shop in Washington D.C. to Dovie with her monarch butterflies and loveable boarders, and even the flashbacks to the heroine's time in the Philippines, this book is a treat to read. So many lines deserve to be savored and remembered.

And that heroine! Her story really resonates with me. This book with its inspiring themes and gentle embrace is one to cherish and keep on the shelf to revisit and ponder again and again.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Touch of Fall

I love this time of year, and thanks to a shopping excursion with my mom this past weekend - along with a couple of decoration items I brought up with me when I first moved in - I was able to add a few touches of fall to my dorm room. I thought I'd share the fall cheer with you!

The cat is a year-long, school-career-long attraction in our dorm room. ;) (It may look real, but it's not!) The little scarecrow mouse is from my decorations box, and the little pumpkin is one my mom grew in her garden!

I just love this "God's Creation" calendar! The pictures are beautiful, and the October photo is no exception! The "Bless Our Family" pumpkin is from my decorations box, and the "Cozy Autumn Vanilla" fragrance mist is from Bath & Body works.

I just love this! The pumpkin is another one from my mom's garden, the "Spider Cider" lotion is from Bath & Body works (50% off Halloween items!), and the bejeweled purple spider is one my grandparents gave me once as a teasing gift due to my strong dislike of spiders. ;) But don't they just look too cute together?? Oh, and the book-like box is an item my mom got me this summer from Michael's, and it's a constant fixture there on top of my mini fridge.

And what says fall more than some colorful stacks of books? ;) Yay for reading!

Hope you all are enjoying the season! Have any of you decorated your homes for the occasion?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Revell Blog Tour: The Measure of Katie Calloway

Here's a description of the book from Revell:

"Her heart seeks sanctuary in the deep woods. But will trouble find her even here?

The Civil War has ended, but in Katie Calloway's Georgia home, conflict still rages. To protect herself and her young brother from her violent and unstable husband, she flees north, finding anonymity and sanctuary as the cook in a north woods lumber camp. The camp owner, Robert Foster, wonders if the lovely woman he's hired has the grit to survive the never-ending work and harsh conditions of a remote pine forest in winter. Katie wonders if she can keep her past a secret from a man she is slowly growing to love.

With grace and skill, Serena Miller brings to life a bygone era. From the ethereal, snowy forest and the rowdy shanty boys to the warm cookstove and mouth-watering apple pie, every detail is perfectly rendered, transporting you to a time of danger and romance."

My Rating: Spring/Summer

My Review:

Serena Miller caught my attention with her first book, Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio. She created a unique story full of wonderful and interesting characters. It is my great pleasure to pass on the word that her new historical romance, The Measure of Katie Calloway, is another winner!

I am in complete and utter agreement with the last couple of lines of the back cover description. Miller writes with such delightful detail, which is one of the best parts of this book. The post-Civil War Michigan lumber camp comes to life in a very vivid sort of way - both calming in its seclusion and natural beauty, as well as intense in its difficulties and pain.

And Miller showcases another intriguing cast of characters! While Katie Calloway takes the spotlight with all that she learns and in all the ways that she grows, there are also some lovable, frustrating, and deep secondary characters. Like in her first novel, the hero is a mysterious, brooding sort who turns out to be quite a loveable guy!

The Measure of Katie Calloway is a well-rounded and well-worded historical romance - just the ticket for these longer fall nights!

*With thanks to Revell Publishing for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

“Available October 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Want to read my review of Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio? Click HERE!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Women of Faith Conference: Here I Come!

Tomorrow my mom and I will be heading up to Portland bright and early for the Women of Faith Conference! It was an honor to receive two free tickets in exchange for blogging about my experiences - and I'm sure I'll have plenty of those to share with you next week!

I just love that I can attend a Women of Faith Conference with some absolutely dear women of faith - my mom, our own blogging buddy Casey, and Casey's mom. I know we'll have a blast!! I've never been to one of these conferences before, but I've heard some good things about them. In the coming days be looking for my first-timer thoughts, as well as what I've learned and what's blessed me. =)

Hope you all have an amazing, faith-filled weekend!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Review of Kiss of Night

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

"Centuries ago, Raphael was a blasphemous knight who fought in the Crusades purely for his own mercenary benefit, and to satisfy his taste for killing. Now, condemned for his evil passions and hypocrisy, he wanders the earth a vampire, cursed with first-hand knowledge of the supernatural world he once denied existed. The powerful relic he still possesses from his days as a Crusader has been stolen by a rival vampire who has recruited an army of soulless underlings to aid him in spreading evil. At the time he learns this, Raphael has been hunting this vampire for nearly a century, and it seems the final battle is destined to take place in Prague.

For help in this quest, Raphael must enlist the aid of two humans, David and Susan, who suddenly find themselves immersed in a world they never imagined, entangled with supernatural forces they can’t control. Susan, in particular, finds herself conflicted as she struggles with her inexplicable attraction to Raphael. In the end, both Susan and Raphael will be called upon to exercise courage and faith, and in the process, the question What would happen if a vampire truly accepted God? is answered."

My Rating: Spring

My Review:

Doesn't it feel as if vampires have taken over the media? From books to movies, vampires seem to be wildly popular. And the views on their legend appear to be as varied as these new stories about them.

I freely admit that I'm no connoisseur of vampires. My recent reading involving them is mostly limited to three books: Dracula by Bram Stoker, Plain Fear: Forsaken by Leanna Ellis, and this one (Kiss of Night). I must say that I find it quite interesting that both of the latter books mentioned the former. I really enjoyed Dracula myself, and apparently it is the book that people generally think of when it comes to vampires. In the cases of Forsaken and Kiss of Night, characters talk about Stoker as having lied or not told the whole truth about vampires for some reason or another. I find that intriguing, if nothing else!

Anyway, Kiss of Night offers a unique perspective on vampires. In Forsaken, Ellis depicts vampires as completely evil, using a Phantom of the Opera theme to create sympathy for the characters, but also to show the madness of the vampires and the importance of the choice everyone must make between Light and darkness. But in Kiss of Night, vampires aren't shown as totally depraved. They are shown as redeemable people who are "cursed" so that they might have time to see the error of their ways and repent, if they so choose.

Viguie addresses some tough issues in her book - such as postmodernism and its ramifications on society's views of morality (more gray than black and white) - and I admire her courage in writing such a story. I can't say as I prefer her approach to the legend of vampires, and I really don't agree with her use of certain verses of Scripture out of context, but I like her overall theme of good vs. evil.

Viguie is a good story-teller. The setting descriptions are engaging and the romance is very enjoyable. There are some super-cute scenes between the heroine's cousin and one of the heroes, and there are some touching and thrilling scenes between the heroine and the vampire hero. There's also plenty of action, and even some humor thrown in (for example, "We say that kryptonite is Superman's garlic").

The story ends on a great (albeit frustrating) cliffhanger, and the prologue is just as mysterious as the epilogue when all is said and done, marking this book the beginning of an exciting trilogy. Even though I wouldn't say I've caught "vampire fever" (I haven't watched or read Twilight or anything like that!), I can understand a bit more why their legend is so powerful. The symbolism of blood and the horror of the "undead" can make for some fascinating and meaningful stories!

*With thanks to FaithWords and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*