Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: The Winter TBR

I love that some of my blogging friends participate in the weekly "Top Ten Tuesday" meme, which encourages me to participate. Once in a while I see others posting about a topic that catches my eye, and I have to share my own list. :) 

This week's theme is "Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR." (You can read the original post or link up your own post HERE.)

On My Shelf (or Desk, or Nightstand):

#1 The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas

I requested this one for review from Bethany House Publishers. The premise, the cover, and the mood of this story spoke to me, and I'm looking forward to reading it! It promises to be sweet and thoughtful. 

#2 Yes, Carol...It's Christmas! by Cindy Vincent

I greatly enjoy novellas and Cindy's work! I've had the pleasure of editing a few of her stories, but this one is brand new to me. It sounds like a really fun story to get me in the Christmas mood...even more so than I already am. ;)

#3 East by Edith Pattou

I'm quite ashamed I haven't read this one yet. I was given a copy by a dear friend, and I should have read it many months ago! So this is definitely high on my list to finally finish this winter, and judging by the premise and setting of the story, it's the perfect season to savor it. :) 

#4 What Light by Jay Asher

I believe I bought this one with a gift card last winter, and it's definitely the time of year to actually read it! The description, the cover, the recommendations from friends...yep, this promises to be a sweet treat for the holidays. :)

#5 The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

It's these wintery covers that beg me to read them now, haha. ;) Plus, in this case, I do love me an engaging Denise Hunter story! This one sounds like cheery chaos, and I'm hoping I'll get to it in the next couple of months.

On My Kindle:

#6 The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse

Everyone seems really excited about this series, so of course I jumped on the bandwagon and requested a review copy from NetGalley. So, the plan is to read it before its February release. There are a lot of great authors contributing to the series, and I'm happy for the chance to read the first book. :) 

#7 Wrapped in Red by Meghan M. Gorecki

I recently joined dear friend Meghan's Belles & Roses Street Team, and I'm excited for all she has planned for 2018! In the meantime, this sweet little book has been sitting on my Kindle too long, and I ought to read it ASAP. Again, perfect time of year to do so!

#8 Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale by Amanda Dykes

Yet another Christmas novella that's sitting on my Kindle, deserving to be read! Based on ratings and reviews, I have no doubt this will be a lovely tale, indeed.

#9 What Dreams May Come by Alana Terry

All these gorgeous wintery covers!! Seriously, so pretty. :) And this book, while fiction, is based off the author's own love story. It sounds meaningful and intriguing, and I hope I won't let it sit forever on my Kindle!

#10 A Twist of Faith by Pepper Basham

I recently won the second book in this series in a giveaway (woohoo!), and I know it is beyond time that I experience a Pepper Basham story. So I figure I should probably start with the first book before diving into the second. :) Bet it will be awesome!

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There are lots of other books on my shelves (physical and virtual), and I hope these aren't the only books I read during the winter season. But these are certainly ones I'd like to read sooner rather than later! So tell me, friends, what books are on your TBR list? Have you read any of the above?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Beautiful Fairy Tale with Unique Style | Review of Ten Thousand Thorns

About the Book

Princess Morning Light meditates in a hidden temple surrounded by ten thousand thorns. Guardian of a long-lost sword skill, the princess is destined to wake after a hundred years to return justice to All-Under-Heaven.

Or so legend says.

As the Vastly Martial Emperor extends his brutal domination across the world, rebel leader Clouded Sky flees the capital for the safety of his martial sect at Wudang Mountain. Meanwhile, the renegade martial artist Iron Maiden seeks a hero to awaken Morning Light. As bounty hunters and imperial guards close in, Clouded Sky must determine who he can trust - and who may be planning to betray him.

An action-packed retelling of Sleeping Beauty in the style of a Chinese martial arts epic! Novella, approximately 39,000 words.

Releasing November 30th!

My Rating


My Review

This story is beautiful... Epic, yet sweet. Profound, yet fun. Challenging, yet comforting. Ten Thousand Thorns is a version of Sleeping Beauty that has a life, message, and style all its own. I loved it!

I will say that the unique style of this book could possibly make it slightly difficult to follow at times. A lot of words are capitalized, and the names of techniques/stances/titles are often long and different (but also clever!). Please don't let that deter you, though, because this story has so much to offer—and once you get used to the wording and dialogue, it's engaging.

The main characters are so fascinating. Clouded Sky is relatable in his recognition of how little he knows and how incapable he feels in fighting evil and standing up for what is truly right. And Iron Maiden is the mysterious martial artist with a different approach to combat and thoughts that make both Clouded Sky and the reader ponder their own motivation, drive, and heart.

Ten Thousand Thorns is populated with other intriguing characters, littered with twists and challenges, and permeated with an underlying sense of honor and warmth. I love fairy tales, especially new retellings that leave me with something more. This story reminded me that we must make important choices in our life, and we need to make them with courage and a reliance on a strength beyond our own—the strength God offers us. As Iron Maiden says,

The martial skill is important, but so is the ocean-embracing vision and the reliance on Heaven.

I've read a couple other novellas by Suzannah Rowntree, but this is my favorite so far. I look forward to reading more of her work, and I definitely recommend this novella that packs a powerful punch!

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-ARC of the book.*

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Fun and Reflective Journey | Review of The Austen Escape

About the Book

Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues—particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

Available Now!

My Rating


My Review

This was one of those reads where I succumbed to "peer pressure"...in a good way. :) Online friends were planning a read-along, fellow bloggers seemed so excited about this release, and I wanted to join in the fun. Plus, I knew from reading more by this author that she is talented in creating characters with flaws, heart, and a need to dig deep within life's struggles.

The Austen Escape has such a great cast of characters. It's not that I always approved of their choices or behavior, but that I felt drawn into their world. I think Mary, the heroine, is quite fascinating with her career in a tech-heavy sphere but having buried passions for music and Jane Austen's books. And her relationships are quite complicated, as, like many of us, she doesn't always say what should be said or see what ought to be seen. Still, she cares and has the capacity to change, which makes her relatable all the same.

I loved the older couple who are part of the English "escape." Helene and her husband are dears, and I adore how their love for each other is so palpable. They each want the other to be happy and understood, and their interactions with the rest of the group are really sweet.

As for the main "escape," it's fun to get some Austenland vibes, but with a very different sort of tone. Things are a little more somber, a little more reflective, in Mary's experience at Braithwaite, although there are lighthearted moments. I enjoyed the descriptions of the place—inside the house and on the grounds—and I liked how things take a turn when more characters are added to the mix.

As for the Jane Austen references, I confess they're both familiar and yet have a different Reay-flair. There are some moments that made me happy with what they meant, and others where it felt like an inside joke I wouldn't understand. Perhaps that's more my problem, as I still have a lot of Austen lingo and depth to learn. :) But I think it does make the story a bit less accessible, feeling a little more like it's intended for others who know every line and every character of Austen's stories.

I also feel a bit torn about the ending...wanting more, and yet not. It's both neatly wrapped up, and yet a bit rushed, perhaps? Questions are answered, and yet I'd love just a bit more time and space for resolution regarding the relational side of things. (Not saying the book should be longer, necessarily, as the length is great!) Still, it's a satisfying and challenging ending, and I like that it brings the story full circle.

The Austen Escape provides what it's title offers, but like all escapes, there's a time when you should go home and face the choices that affect everyday life. This novel allows both the characters and the reader to enjoy the journey...and the return.

*With thanks to TNZ Fiction and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC of the book.*

Other Katherine Reay Books I've Reviewed...
Lizzy & Jane

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Vintage Jane Austen Blog Tour | Review + Giveaway!

Welcome to the Vintage Jane Austen Blog Event! I'm excited to share about this neat series with a clever premise and inspiration from an author we all know and love. ♥ (Especially following after our most recent Jane Austen read-along!)

In this post you'll learn all about the series, including the descriptions for each book. You'll also find an event schedule, a fun Amazon giveaway, and my review of Bellevere House. Let's open the door and stroll right in...

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What would it be like to see Elizabeth Bennet in 1930s clothes? What if Emma Woodhouse was the daughter of a car dealership owner? What if Marianne Dashwood was seeking to become a movie star in the golden age of film?

The Vintage Jane Austen series explores the world of Jane Austen, set in 1930s America. Five authors took on Jane Austen’s five most popular novels and retold them set in the Depression era, remaining faithful to the original plots. As an extra bonus to the series, there is a collection of short stories that were inspired by Jane Austen. Which of these books do you most want to read?

Emmeline by Sarah Holman (Emma): The talk of stock market crashes and depression isn’t going to keep Emmeline Wellington down. Born to wealth and privilege, Emmeline wants nothing more than to help her new friend, Catarina, find a husband. Emmeline sets her sights on one of the town’s most eligible bachelors, but nothing seems to go right. Even her friend and neighbor Fredrick Knight seems to question her at every turn.

Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant (Sense and Sensibility): Canton, Ohio, 1935. Ellen and Marion Dashiell’s world crumbles when their father is sent to prison. Forced to relocate to a small town, what is left of their family faces a new reality where survival overshadows dreams. Sensible Ellen, struggling to hold the family together, is parted from the man she’s just learning to love, while headstrong Marion fears she will never be the actress she aspires to be. When a dashing hero enters the scene, things only grow more complicated. But could a third man hold the key to the restoration and happiness of the Dashiell family?

Bellevere House by Sarah Scheele (Mansfield Park): It's March 1937, and Faye Powell couldn't be happier. After moving to live with her uncle, a wealthy banker, she's fallen into the swing of life with his exuberant children—including Ed. The one she'll never admit she's in love with. But she hadn't reckoned on the swanky Carters getting mixed up in that vow. Ed seems to be falling for charming, sweet Helene Carter. And when Faye's cousin BeBe trusts her with a secret about Horace Carter, Faye is in over her head. Will she betray the confidence BeBe's given her? Will she lose Ed to Helene? The days at Bellevere House are crowded with surprises and only time will tell how God plans to unravel Faye and Ed's hearts.

Perception by Emily Benedict (Persuasion): Upstate New York, 1930. Thirteen years ago, Abbey Evans was persuaded to break off her engagement to a penniless soldier headed to the front lines of the Great War. A daughter of one of America’s wealthiest families could never be allowed to marry so far beneath herself. But Black Tuesday changed everything. With her family's prominence now little more than a facade, Abbey faces the loss of her childhood home. As if that weren’t enough, the only man she ever loved has returned after making his fortune—and he wants nothing to do with the young woman he courted before the war. With the past forever out of reach, the time has come for Abbey to decide her own fate, before it is too late…

Presumption and Partiality by Rebekah Jones (Pride and Prejudice): Coming soon… A retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in 1930s Arizona.

Second Impressions: Jane Austen's stories have inspired writers for generations. In this collection, they inspire fiction across the genres! From the English Regency to the American 1950s, in Houston or a space freighter, fairy-tale land or a retirement center...Austen's timeless characters come to life again.

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Event Schedule
Visit these blogs to find interviews, book reviews, and much more

November 5
Review of Emmeline - Once Upon the Ordinary
Review of Bellevere House - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Series Spotlight - A Real Writer’s Life
Interview with Kelsey Bryant - Resting Life
Series Spotlight - Kelsey’s Notebook

November 6
Interview with Sarah Holman - J. Grace Pennington
Review of Emmeline - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Mini Reviews and Interview with Sarah Scheele - Deborah O’Carroll
Interview with Rebekah Jones - Livy Lynn Blog
Review of Suit and Suitability - Resting Life

November 7
Interview with Kelsey Bryant - J. Grace Pennington
Review of Perception - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Review and Interview of Perception - Purely by Faith Reviews
Review of Second Impressions - The Page Dreamer
Series Spotlight - Finding the True Fairy Tale

November 8
Interview and Review of Suit and Suitability - Once Upon the Ordinary
Review of Suit and Suitability - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Review of Perception - A Brighter Destiny

November 9
Series Spotlight - God’s Peculiar Treasure
Review of Second Impressions and Suit and Suitability - Ordinary Girl, Extraordinary Father
Interview with Rebekah Jones - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Series Spotlight – Christian Bookshelf Reviews

November 10
Review of Suit and Suitability - With a Joyful Noise
Series Spotlight - Liv K. Fisher
Review of Second Impressions - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Review of Perception - She Hearts Fiction
Interview with Sarah Holman – Rebekah Ashleigh

November 11
Series Spotlight - Reveries Reviews
Review of Suit and Suitability - Faith Blum
Interview with Sarah Holman - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Interview with Hannah Scheele - Peculiar on Purpose
Review of Bellevere House - Seasons of Humility You are here!

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As part of this special blogging event, the authors are giving away a $25 Amazon gift card. Enter to win below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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My Review of Bellevere House

I confess this is a somewhat difficult review for me to write. There were some aspects of the story and characters I didn't like...but let me start with some positive points.

Bellevere House is interesting! There is a lot going on, and while the titled house serves as the main stage for the book's happenings, there's also a bit of travel woven through the plot. With such a large cast of characters, there are activities and shenanigans going on all over the place. You're not likely to get bored as you follow Faye and her cousins and acquaintances.

And while I don't entirely care for how faith is portrayed overall, I do feel a good intent is there. There are some lovely thoughts like this in these pages...
The silver light twinkled on the blue waves like thousands of diamonds set adrift by God's generous hand. Diamonds must be nothing to One who held all the riches of heaven. He could spread a few million on the seas.
The struggle to share one's faith, to make it feel "relevant" in an age when many see it as a fairy tale, is a real one, and it's a brave topic to address against this backdrop of a world between wars. I also admire that the story brings up the importance of love and grace.

I think where the book really faltered for me was in its transitions (or lack thereof). Perhaps if I was more familiar with Mansfield Park (it's a book I haven't read yet, but hope to soon!), I would have had an easier time following the plot. Even still, nothing felt fluid—from the conversations to the events, and even to the characters' growth and transformations. Between the large cast and the constant happenings, everything felt chaotic. And how things came together in the end didn't seem authentic to how the characters had been portrayed.

There isn't much to admire in the book's hero, at least from what we're told of him. The heroine speaks now and then of her faith, but it feels like something added on rather than something that influences her to be strong in all areas of her life. (But perhaps that is truly authentic, and a sober reminder of how easily we lose sight of what we claim is most important to us.) I do like Uncle Warren, though, and the way his presence provides order amid the chaos.

I was shocked by some of the things the other secondary characters did without any apparent reaction from anyone else. (That might have been for humor's sake in some instances, although I didn't find it humorous when one character slapped another, and no one seemed to care.) I also don't see how two characters' "happily ever after" is a path to be applauded or admired in how it's approached.

So...perhaps this book wasn't quite for me. But on the flip side, this story could provide a lot of discussion topics! And it makes me want to read Mansfield Park to understand the original plot and characters better.

This is certainly an interesting retelling, and I think the series is a really fun idea, especially with multiple authors coming together to tell these tales in their own unique ways. :)

*With thanks to the Vintage Jane Austen group for providing me with a free e-copy of this book.*

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cover Reveal + Logging History + Giveaway! | On Eagles' Wings by Lynnette Bonner

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Lynnette Bonner to the blog! She has prepared a brief post on logging in days gone by (for all you fellow history fans out there!). Keep scrolling after the article to be among the first readers to see the cover of her upcoming release...and then keep scrolling for details on how to enter for a chance to win an e-copy. Sweet deal, no? :)

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Nope, not the new cover! ;)
This is book 1 in the Wyldhaven series.

By Lynnette Bonner

The small logging community of Wyldhaven, the setting for On Eagles’ Wings, sits in the rugged mountains of Washington State at the cusp of the twentieth century. Wyldhaven is a logging town, and some of my research about early logging practices has been fascinating.

It is not often realized that the mid-19th century gold-rushes that took place across the West, and particularly in California, had a major impact on the logging industry. Mines had a steady need for the supply of good lumber. Lumber shored up tunnels, it fueled boilers used at the mines, and it was used to build extensive canal systems and dams to divert water. The Pacific Northwest supplied much of this lumber. Logging was the most important industry in Washington for decades. Sadly, in the early years heedless practices nearly destroyed many forests. However, over time logging companies realized the need for sustainable logging practices.

In the growing west, logging was very much a small-town enterprise. Settlements would spring up around a forested area. Quickly-constructed camps would be built nearby for the loggers to live in. And the cutting would begin. Along the coasts, boats would be used to ship the timber to California, or wherever else it was needed, but the inland towns had a harder time transporting their logs and lumber until the railroad network spread significantly.

Logging men were often hardened and profligate. No logging town of any size existed without a saloon, and with few other places to spend their money, men gathered to gamble, drink, and fight. This ensured that any town that wanted to encourage the settlement of families had need of a lawman.

Logging was also a very hazardous and bloody occupation. Men could be injured by saws, axes, hatchets, or snapping chains. They could be crushed by falling trees, rolling or tumbling logs, oxen or horses, or wagon failures. These dangerous conditions required that any operation that cared about their employees would have a doctor on hand to treat the workers.

I could go on and on about the early trials and history of the logging industry, but to keep this post short, I will stop there.

Wyldhaven has both a sheriff and a doctor. Sheriff Reagan Callahan was the main hero in book one, Not a Sparrow Falls. And Doctor Flynn Griffin is one of the main characters in On Eagles’ Wings. I hope you will enjoy reading about him and all the other characters in this new book!

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And here's the cover for On Eagles' Wings, book 2 in the Wyldhaven series!

So pretty! I love the golds and blues, and how this cover begs you to read the book during the Christmas season. The candlelight promises a hopeful story and stands out beautifully against the dark background. But I do believe the expression on the heroine's face suggests some difficulties along the journey...

About the Book

Take the next stagecoach to Wyldhaven, where the coffee’s perked hot, the sheriff likes his apple pie fresh from the oven, and adventure invariably waits just around the next river bend. 

Boardinghouse owner Dixie Pottinger has done her best to avoid the attractive Dr. Griffin. But now that her mother-in-law is sick and he’s going to be coming around more to care for her, Dixie knows she must inform him about her past. She works up her courage and feels great relief when she finally tells Dr. Griffin that she’s a married woman…maybe…if her husband, Steven Pottinger, survived the bullet put into him before she fled.

Dr. Flynn Griffin can’t believe he’s been having feelings for a married woman! His honor requires that he immediately put those feelings to rest. As for the man who had abused Dixie so badly that she retreated into hiding… If he was still alive, he better never show up in Wyldhaven, because Flynn had plenty of ideas on how to teach the man lessons in gentlemanly conduct.

Little does Flynn know that Steven Pottinger is about to become his patient. Gravely injured by an accidental gunshot, Steven lies on the brink of eternity. Never in all his life has Flynn been tempted to break his Hippocratic Oath.

Until now.

Learn more and pre-order at LynnetteBonner.com/OEW


One commenter will receive a free eBook copy of On Eagles’ Wings when it becomes available. Please include your email address in your comment so we can contact you if you win!*

Lynnette's Question for You: What historical profession do you admire the most?

*A winner will be chosen on November 9 and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Note that the prize will not be emailed until the book's release.