Friday, December 29, 2017

The Jane Austen Fun Begins Anew | Get Ready for the Mansfield Park Read-Along!

Just a few more days until 2018 begins...and what better way to start the New Year than by reading a Jane Austen novel with friends? :) The featured book this time around is Mansfield Park.

Here are the read-along details...

  • We'll read 12 chapters per week over 4 weeks (for a total of 48 chapters).
  • Discussions will take place here on Wednesdays (the 10th, 17th, 24th, and 31st).
  • You can start reading on the 3rd, or feel free to begin right away!
  • Use the hashtag #MansfieldReadAlong on Twitter to share in-the-moment thoughts and favorite quotes. 

Together we've read Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Emma, and Pride & Prejudice. It's been such a blast to discuss these books with you! Now I'm looking forward to diving into Mansfield Park with a lovely copy gifted to me by a sweet friend. Will you be reading a hard copy or an ebook?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

How Will You Celebrate Advent Next Year? | Review of Unwrapping the Names of Jesus

About the Book

Most Christians agree that Christmas is all about Jesus, yet most of us spend little time preparing our hearts to celebrate Him. Why is this? Partly because we don't know how.

In Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, Asheritah Ciuciu leads readers through the four weeks of Advent (Hope, Preparation, Joy, and Love). Each week:

  • Begins with an interactive family devotional that equips readers to celebrate Advent together
  • Offers five daily reflections that focus on that week's name of Jesus
  • Includes suggestions for fun-filled family activities or service projects

This devotional can be used by readers in their own personal worship times or as a tool to engage in family worship during the busy holiday season. Either way, participants will gain a greater sense of awe and wonder at who Jesus is.

By focusing on the person and character of Jesus throughout the Advent season, readers will prepare their hearts so that when they admire the live nativity, sit in the candlelight service, or wake up on Christian morning, they can join the faithful who sing from the bottom of their hearts, "O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!"

Be Prepared for Next Christmas!

My Rating


My Review

I enjoyed having a new Advent devotional to go through with my husband this year! The size, feel, and look of this book are lovely, perfect for keeping out in plain view throughout the holiday season. And I think it's a great concept, to daily go through the names of Jesus in preparation for celebrating His birth and who He is as our King and Savior.

As for the content, there are some good thoughts to ponder and creative (and fun!) ideas for families to act on what they've been learning together. I don't recall a whole lot of moments where something struck me in a powerful way...although the reading on "Jesus Is the Truth" has some really neat perspective to offer.

It's possible that reading the book aloud to someone else kept me from focusing and thinking as deeply as I ought to have done. Perhaps I would feel more impacted by the devotions if I read them on my own, or if I took more time to dwell amid the pages, look up all the suggested verses, and respond to the challenges. Still, there are important reminders in here, and this book does encourage daily thoughts of who God is.

The structure isn't my favorite... You have to be thinking and counting ahead to make sure you start the book on time to finish by Christmas. And while there are readings for each weekday, there aren't any for the weekends. However, if you choose to do the interactive candle lighting sections with your family, those can take place on Sundays, and the weekly activities can be done on Saturdays (or anytime during the week), as the author suggests in the introduction.

I have another Advent devotional that has daily readings for the whole month of December, and I believe I prefer that layout, especially if you're using the devotional on your own. But I think the layout for Unwrapping the Names of Jesus could be really fun for a family who's interacting with all the different components of the book.

All in all, this is a unique and meaningful take on Advent, and I appreciate that it points to the greatness and love of Jesus. The devotional is especially geared toward families and encourages participation. It's a book that will be nice to have on hand and perhaps read through again some future Christmas season!

*With thanks to Moody Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book.*

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

'Tis the Season of Stories: A Christmas Gift for Returning Clients and the Blogger Team

Hello, friends! I hope this Christmas season has been full of stories for you: ones you're reading, ones you're writing, and the one you're living. :)

If you've been writing a story, I'd love to assist you on the journey! I'm currently freelancing under my married name, offering both editing/critiquing and marketing services.

And here's my gift to you: If you're a returning client (someone I worked with under Editing Through the Seasons in 2012-2014) OR if you signed up as part of the team of bloggers who are willing to participate in future blog events (you can still sign up HERE!), I'm offering discounts...

Take 20% off your first marketing project (blog tour, cover reveal, or book description) and/or 10% off your first editing project (critique or copyedit).

I'm so grateful for such supportive friends, and I'd love to work with you again or in new ways! And as the New Year approaches, this is the perfect time to move another step forward with your publishing goal. Let's take that step together!

Merry Christmas to all my blogging friends!

Just for fun: I've been taking lots of pics of myself using my camera's timer feature as I've been updating my website. Here are some bloopers... ;)

Sleeping? Meditating?

Eek! Too eager to check the photo, I suppose. ;) 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Snack-Size Reviews to Savor

Only one week to go until Christmas! I've been savoring some sweet Christmas short stories and novellas, and I wanted to share about them so you can enjoy a last-minute treat too. :)

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Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale by Amanda Dykes
Rating: Summer

All the rumors you might have heard are true...this is a lovely little tale! Only a few characters are featured, and yet the author weaves their lives into a braid of tender emotion, loss, and hope. The setting is unique and described beautifully, definitely perfect for Christmas Eve dreams. And I love the inspiration behind it all: the desire to spread the deepest love through bicycles. It has my own wheels spinning, making me want to touch lives in unique ways with what I have right now.

Wrapped in Red by Meghan M. Gorecki
Rating: Spring

Wrapped in Red is all about family, hope, and healing. It's a fun contemporary novella, but not without its difficult parts, including a prickly heroine with a wounded heart that longs to love again. I enjoyed the sweet side of Christmas in the city, and the ending is thought-provoking and inspiring. 

Rating: Spring/Summer

This modern-day reimagining of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is clever, funny, and entertaining. How Carol ends up being whisked away to face her past, understand her present, and see the direction of her future is quite clever. The "Ghost Hosts" have such funny and unique personalities! (The scenes they bring to life keep the reader eager to turn pages.) And yes, this story all about Christmas parties is as entertaining as one would hope it to be—while conveying a heartfelt message and culminating in a charming ending.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book.*

What Dreams May Come by Alana Terry
Rating: Spring

Knowing this has its main basis in reality makes the romance extra sweet! The story unfolds slowly, taking its time to share how the two main characters ended up in such a tragic situation, far apart and unable to see how anything could change. I like how the tension feels authentic and the heroine's love and loyalty are so strong. This is a bittersweet but inspiring tale about trusting God with the dreams He gives and opening your heart to hope again.

How Gretchen Stole Christmas by Tracy Joy Jones
Rating: Spring/Summer

Fun and full of heart! How Gretchen Stole Christmas starts out with a young woman eager to surprise her family for Christmas...but quickly takes a surprising turn that brings an old flame into the picture. I really enjoyed reading about Gretchen's big family and seeing how she reacts to a crazy situation. The ending is perfect for a Christmas romance, and I love the way the heroine's eyes are opened.

*You can get this e-novella for FREE this month (December 2017) when you subscribe to the author's newsletter!*


Seaglass by Kara Swanson
Rating: Spring/Summer

This isn't a Christmas read, but it is another freebie that is oh-so-lovely! A bit of fantasy churns through the pages of this simple little story, but the message shimmers bright for real-world readers. I love the imagery and what the two main characters come to see about living life.

Thanks to Juju of Tales of Whimsy for the inspiration regarding mini reviews!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

More Blog Tours, Anyone?

For all my fellow book bloggers out there, I'm gathering a list of people who might be interested in participating in future blog tours and cover reveals. :)

I recently shared about my return to freelance editing in this post, and it's my hope to return to more marketing as well. But I need your help!

No commitment is required; I simply need to know if you'd be interested in receiving emails from me when blog-event opportunities arise. :)

Here's a sampling of the type of books I've hosted blog tours for in the past:
If you like to review and/or feature books with heart on your blog, I would love to have you join the team by filling out the form below! And if you're an author looking for someone to help share your book with the blogging community, I'd be delighted to work with you.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Gorgeous Historical Fiction Cover Reveal | Amongst the Roses by Meghan M. Gorecki

Happy Tuesday, friends! Lots of exciting bookish things going on today. :) Earlier I shared my top 10 books of the year in this post. And now I get to tell you about a dear blogging friend's upcoming release—and share the pretty-as-a-peach cover that goes with it!

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Book 1 in The Keystone Legacy Series by Meghan M. Gorecki 

Releases April 12, 2018 

The War Between the States shakes Margaret Bryant out of her comfortable upper-class life when her father enlists in the Army of the Potomac. Despite being safely ensconced above the Mason-Dixon Line in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Margaret finds her strength tested by opposition from familiar faces and Confederate threats. Will she let a young man from a lesser station into her heart even as war rages ever nearer to the home front?

Restless Connor Doyle sees the war as a way to escape from his family’s farm and his identity as a poor Irishman’s son. His brother, Adam, torn between duty to country and his family, enlists alongside Connor. Adam dares to hope in a future with Margaret when he begins a courtship correspondence from the war front. The two brothers make a vow to protect one another at all costs, but when faced with death and destruction from all sides—will they be able to uphold it?

The three bloodiest days in America’s history bring these three together at Gettysburg and tragedy’s cruelty threatens to tear two hearts apart—and bring two unlikely allies together.

My Cover Thoughts

Isn't this cover absolutely lovely?? I adore the color scheme and the whole layout. The writing across the backdrop, the font of the title, and the beautiful dress speak to the historical nature of the story. And the scenery is just gorgeous, with the trees and roses golden in the light. There's a sense of expectation and hope in the bright colors, although the woman's expression suggests sorrow and hardship along the way. It's a perfect cover for the genre, and definitely one that draws me in! :)

About the Author 

Meghan M. Gorecki is an author of inspirational fiction about what God can make beautiful from the ashes of history, and hearts. A lover and avid studier of people, times gone by, and fiction, she has been writing since childhood and now houses her books under Northern Belle Publishing. Coffee and red lipstick color her days as a redhead from a box, alongside her treasured tribe of family and friends in her beloved hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Connect with her on social media and at her blog/website at:

Northern Belle Publishing 

P.S. Too impatient to wait till April? Snag Meghan's Christmas novella, Wrapped in Red, today for just 99 cents!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2017

There are still a few weeks left in 2017, and there's a good chance I could discover another favorite between now and then... But given today's topic from The Broke and the Bookish, and assuming many other bloggers will be sharing their favorites today too, I'm making a list that's worth checking twice. ;)

I confess I didn't read a ton of books this year; I believe it was only a little over 20 or so. But I experienced a lot of favorites in my own life, like getting married and moving to a beautiful new place. So, no regrets! But of the books I read, here are some I quite enjoyed...

Top Five Fiction

#5 Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

It was hard to narrow down the fiction list. The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay and Yes, Carol...It's Christmas! by Cindy Vincent were worthy contenders (and ones I recommend!). But given my love for the historical romance genre (especially fun Westerns by Karen Witemeyer), I'm including this one. :) Whether it was my life at the time or the fact I was reading this on my Kindle, it was slow going at the beginning, but the ending sure had me hooked, and there were lots of things to love about this story. You can read my full review HERE.

#4 The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

I liked the style and structure of this story, with characters from past and present. It was a fun read, especially a few months before my own wedding. :) 

#3 Illusionary by Desiree Williams

This was an engaging contemporary/fantasy read, and I especially loved the ending! A strong finish has a big bearing on how you feel about a book, don't you think? You can read my full review HERE.

#2 Ten Thousand Thorns by Suzannah Rowntree

This retelling of Sleeping Beauty is SO good. The setting and style make it unique, and the characters and dialogue make it meaningful. You can read my full review HERE.

#1 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I suppose this an obvious choice. :) Pride and Prejudice just might be my favorite Jane Austen tale so far! It was great to read this book for the first time with a few friends for our read-along this October. The characters, their growth, and the plot all made this a delightful read. It's lighthearted, but also has a lovely depth. 

Top Five Nonfiction 

#5 Making Marriage Beautiful by Dorothy Littell Greco

I read several marriage books this year, and this one has some great points. I think a lot of what I've read tends to blend together...but from my review (which you can read HERE), I know I found some helpful thoughts in this book. :) 

#4 Wait and See by Wendy Pope

More than anything, I appreciated how this book provided a way to record my waiting journey. I liked the prompts and the journaling space, and the writing itself was simple but engaging. 

#3 Cherish by Gary Thomas

When I don't review a book (and sometimes even when I do!), it's a little tricky to remember months later what you specifically liked about it. I believe I found a lot of great food for thought in this one (I tend to use that phrase a lot... *self-conscious grin*), and I liked the theme of it. As with Making Marriage Beautiful, I gave this book 5 stars. :) 

#2 Letters to My Daughters by Barbara Rainey

Another marriage book! ;) What makes this one extra special (besides the fact that it was a sweet gift from a dear friend on my wedding day ♥) is the artistic angle. I like the letter format, and I love the creativity in comparing different aspects of marriage to different artistic pursuits. 

#1 Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson

Is it funny or fitting to give a book on humility the #1 spot? ;) I just finished this one, and I'm glad I read it in time to include it on this list! Humble Roots is a beautiful exploration of humility and how it can affect every area of your life. I highly recommend it! You can read my full review HERE.

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While I didn't read a lot this year, I did read some really great books. Of course, I have many more on my TBR, and who knows how many of those could have ended up on this year's favorites list? It's my hope to read a lot more of the books I already own next year! I have no doubt there are some true gems on my real and virtual shelves waiting to be discovered. :)

What have been your favorites of 2017? 
What books are you hoping to get to in the New Year? 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Poignant Perspective Drawn from the Land | Review of Humble Roots

About the Book

Feeling worn thin? Come find rest.

Nestled in the simple rhythms of rural life, taking cues from forsythia, milkweed, and wild blackberries, Hannah Anderson meditates on the pursuit of peace and its natural companion, humility.

Part theology of incarnation, part stroll through fields and forest, Humble Roots reveals how cultivating humility—not scheduling or increased productivity—leads to true peace. By remembering who you are and Who you aren't, you can discover afresh your need for God and the rest that comes from belonging to Him.

So come. Consider the lilies of the field, and learn humility from Christ Himself.

Available Now

My Rating


My Review

Humility is a theme that intrigues me, challenges me, and surprises me. Given that the word "humility" is even in my blog title, it's probably little wonder that I requested this book for review. And friends, I wasn't disappointed in the least.

Humble Roots covers a wide landscape of human experiences, everything from taking care of our bodies to tending our talents and facing the reality of death. I loved the imagery of this book and how it reminds the reader in a gentle but honest-to-goodness way that we were formed from dust, and it's only the gracious breath of God within us that gives us this amazing, beautiful gift called life.

Some chapters impacted me more than others, but throughout this book there is a whole garden full of food for thought. I loved that some of the topics and discussions fed into real-life conversations with my husband. I also loved that the writing style felt down to earth, broad and meaningful in scope but still authentic and personal. I think my favorite chapters are "Returning to Our Roots" and the four chapters in Part Three.

This book is one of my favorites of the year, and one I could see myself rereading or at least referring to again. It's poignant, and it offers perspective that can touch your soul and help you understand how Jesus embodied humility—and how He wants to lead you along the humble dirt path. As Hannah Anderson reminds us, there is rest and truth and hope to be found in seeing ourselves as we really are and trusting God for all He is.

*With thanks to Moody Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book.*