Friday, June 22, 2018

A Time for Adventure | Blog Tour + Author Interview + Giveaway


I have the pleasure of participating in the tour for my friend Miranda Atchley's new historical novel, A Time for Adventure! In this post, you can read the fun description for this book, join me for an enjoyable chat with the author, enter an ebook giveaway, and find out how to snag a free e-copy of another historical novel by the author. It all starts here...

About the Book

The year is 1921, and after years of dreaming, Abi Hensley has set out to travel through Europe. Along with her friend Meg Clery, Abi travels from the rich historical sites in England to the gorgeous green landscapes of Ireland, visits an abandoned castle in Scotland, and roams through the chic streets of Paris. Along the way, they meet a myriad of interesting people, encounter familiar faces, and see things they’ve only ever dreamed of.

Yet their time in Europe isn’t without its challenges. While in Ireland, Abi joins Meg in spending time at her family’s farm. There, they find that the Clerys are overwhelmed by the demands of their farm. In light of this, the family must make some hard decisions; choices that could change the course of their lives forever.

One thing is for certain: Abi’s tour of Europe will most definitely be a time for adventure.

Pre-order for $.99! (Releases June 26th)

About the Author

Miranda Atchley loves books of all sorts, but she has always had a special place in her heart for historical fiction. Writing is her favorite thing to do, and she has published four historical novels and three contemporary young adult novels. Her novel A Castle in the Sky was a finalist for Read Free.ly’s The 50 Best Indie Books of 2016. She also writes the blog A Real Writer's Life. When she isn't writing, you can usually find Miranda with her head in a book, taking a walk, or watching Downton Abbey at her home in Arkansas. Read Miranda’s blog and subscribe to her mailing list at: arealwriterslife.blogspot.com


Author Interview

Amber: Welcome to Seasons of Humility, Miranda, and congratulations on your new release! :) If you could travel to any of the places Abi visits in Europe, where would you most want to go? What would you do while you were there?

Miranda: All the countries Abi visits in Europe (England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy, and Switzerland) are on my list of countries I’d like to visit someday. But there is one place in particular that I knew nothing about before I wrote this book that really stands out to me: Bern, Switzerland. It sounds like a really interesting city and the pictures I looked at during the writing process are beautiful. (If you’d like to see some of those photos, you can visit my pin board at: https://www.pinterest.com/mirandaatchley/a-time-for-adventure/) I would love to visit this storybook city and see the medieval architecture and the Swiss Alps during the winter.

Amber: What a lovely board! Bern looks like a great place to visit.

What have you enjoyed most in writing about Abi’s adventures over the years in this four-book series? Has Abi’s journey mirrored your own as a writer or otherwise?

Miranda: There are many things I enjoy about writing Abi’s stories. For one thing, I admire her because she’s a very brave and interesting heroine. She wasn’t afraid to chase after her dreams and do things that weren’t expected of women in the late 1910s/early 1920s. She drove a car, moved across the country on her own, and marched with the suffragettes. Her journey as an author has been different from mine in many ways, mainly because she went the traditional route, whereas I self-publish. Yet I can relate to her because we’ve both struggled with writer’s block, yet we both love writing deeply and have a great appreciation for the written word.


Amber: You’ve written both contemporary and historical novels. What is the hardest part about switching to a historical genre? What is the most rewarding part of the process?

Miranda: The hardest part is definitely the research end of things. There is a lot more fact checking involved in writing historical fiction than I had ever considered before I started writing this series. The most rewarding part is that I get to write in a genre that I love and have enjoyed reading for a long time. There’s just something about historical fiction that I love so much; the style of the writing, reading about the way things were in the past, and, of course, those outfits!

Amber: I totally hear ya! I enjoy reading and writing historical fiction, but the research can be daunting. Speaking of reading... What are your favorite classic novels and why?

Miranda: That’s a tough one! It’s hard to choose, but I think I have it narrowed down to five:

  1. Anne of Green Gables–This book will always have a special place in my heart.
  2. Jane Eyre–There are so many lines that jump out at me in this book ("I am no bird; no net ensnares me") and I admire Jane greatly. She was a brave and noble heroine. 
  3. The Blue Castle–Valancy Stirling is one of the best heroines ever, and no one could spin a line like L.M. Montgomery. 
  4. Daddy-Long-Legs–It was one of those books that I couldn’t put down and has really stuck with me. Jean Webster was another author who was full of wit and wisdom! 
  5. Sense and Sensibility–I love Pride and Prejudice, but there’s just something about Elinor and Marianne Dashwood’s sister relationship that stands out to me and causes this book to nestle a special place in my heart. 

Amber: Love your choices and explanations! You picked some of my favorites too, like Anne of Green Gables and Daddy-Long-Legs. All such great stories!

How about your series? Will Abi’s journey continue? If so, can you give a hint at what she’ll be facing next?

Miranda: It certainly will! I have begun the fifth, and at this time final, book in The Abi Hensley Series. In this book, Lily House Press will be developing into a full-fledged publishing company as Abi and her business partner, Mr. Sanders, begin accepting manuscripts from potential authors. Also, the family of Abi’s former maid, now secretary and dear friend, Meg Clery, will play a big role in this book. I’m particularly excited for readers to meet Meg’s sister, Fiona. I think you’ll like her. ;)

Amber: Sounds like a grand finale for the series! Thank you so much for visiting today. :) It's been a pleasure to host you!

eBook Giveaway

To celebrate the release of A Time For Adventure, Miranda Atchley will be giving away three Kindle editions of the book! The giveaway is open internationally. Must be 18 or older to participate. Ends at 12:00 a.m. on June 26th.

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Free eBook!

Also in celebration of this release, the Kindle edition of Of Things To Come (The Abi Hensley Series, Book 3) will be free to download June 22-26. Grab your FREE copy HERE!


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

An Enthralling and Satisfying Fantasy | Review of The Electrical Menagerie + Tour + Giveaway


About the Book

The Electrical Menagerie, one-of-a-kind robotic roadshow, is bankrupt.

Sylvester Carthage, illusionist and engineer, has the eccentric imagination the Menagerie needs to succeed creatively—but none of the people skills. Fast-talking Arbrook Huxley, meanwhile, has all the savvy the Menagerie needs to succeed commercially—but none of the scruples.

To save their show, Carthage and Huxley risk everything in a royal talent competition, vying for the chance to perform for the Future Celestial Queen. In this stardust-and-spark-powered empire of floating islands and flying trains, a shot at fame and fortune means weathering the glamorous and cutthroat world of critics, high society, and rival magicians—but with real conspiracy lurking beneath tabloid controversy, there’s more at stake in this contest than the prize.

Behind the glittery haze of flash paper and mirrors, every competitor has something to hide…and it’s the lies Carthage and Huxley tell each other that may cost them everything.

"Dazzles from start to finish. In Carthage and Huxley, Sherlock and Watson fans will find another dynamic duo whose ready wit and sizzling banter (and inevitable personality clashes) never fail to delight. You'll be calling for an encore performance."
Gillian Bronte Adams, author of The Songkeeper Chronicles

"The stuff that fandoms are built on."
Kyle Robert Shultz, author of Beaumont & Beasley


My Review

"I already love the writing! Pretty sure this is going to be delightful :)"
—My Goodreads status update at 5% through the book

How I felt upon starting the book is how I felt on ending it: delighted with the writing! While there are "romantic" moments showing up here and there through some of the story, this is not a romance...and yet, I still loved it. Imagine that!

The Electrical Menagerie has it all: imaginative performances, incredible robots, mystery and danger, a variety of fascinating settings in a familiar (but also unfamiliar) world, and two great heroes running the show. I loved the humor mixed in with poignant observations on being human. I enjoyed the adventure, following Carthage and Huxley's show and the subterfuge going on behind the scenes. The characters, with their issues and talents and unique personalities, keep you guessing and hoping, and there's so much to love about the stars of the book stage (with their mentoring sort of friendship) and their mechanical butler.

This story just feels so satisfying. The character growth, the enthralling descriptions, the brilliant reminders, the way the story ends with closure but plenty of room for more adventures...it comes together beautifully. If you enjoy steampunk and fantasy that doesn't feel too far "out there" to grasp (and definitely hits home), The Electrical Menagerie is a winner! Complete with clever, relatable characters and a journey perfect for those with wide imaginations and creative hearts, this thought-provoking story will surely bring down the house.

*With thanks to the author and Unicorn Quester for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC of this book.*

About the Author

Mollie’s first job was with a major theme park, where she operated a roller coaster, fixed parade floats, and helped Scooby-Doo put on his head. Now, Mollie is a movie producer and the author of character-driven science fiction/fantasy novels for adults who never outgrew imagination. Her favorite things include Jesus, dinosaurs, and telling cinematic stories that blend glitter and grit.


Book Giveaway

Explore the world of The Electrical Menagerie by entering to win this Celestial Isles prize pack, which includes: "High Victorian" playing cards by luxury playing card company Theory11, handmade galaxy mug by DeVita Designs, Science & Engineering Themed Pocket Notebook Set by CognitiveSurplus, and a tin of Electrical Menagerie themed tea (over a $50 value)! (US only.)


Click HERE to enter!

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, June 4th
Tuesday, June 5th
Wednesday, June 6th
Thursday, June 7th
Friday, June 8th
Saturday, June 9th
Monday, June 11th

Monday, June 4, 2018

Where the Train Took Us on My Birthday

My new novella's birthday (Where Trains Collide released yesterday!) was also my birthday...and how perfect is it that my husband, Josh, surprised me with train tickets to celebrate? :)


On Friday, Josh and I checked the mail, only to find an odd letter addressed to me from the "Glacier National Park Birthday Club." I opened it, was a little leery of the potential scam, and then discovered the letter was actually from Josh. :) Enclosed was a boarding pass for a train trip on Saturday to and from East Glacier. So sweet!!


It was such a delightful day! We boarded the train in Whitefish, Montana, and enjoyed the morning sunshine and gorgeous views during the two-hour trip to East Glacier. The train winds along the river during much of the journey and skirts the southern boundary of Glacier National Park. And now that it's spring (going on summer), the tree-lined path is green as can be and so lovely!


Josh had arranged for us to pick up a rental car in East Glacier when we arrived, and we spent most of the day enjoying the incredible sights in the Many Glacier and St. Mary areas of the park...


The Many Glacier Hotel is beautiful and has the most amazing backdrop!



We saw so much wildlife! 
Josh is scoping out a moose and her baby across the lake.





One of my favorite memories from the day was our hike to Apikuni Falls. It was quite steep, uphill almost the whole way there...but the views and the waterfall (and the cute critters!) were the best. Then we got to hike downhill the whole way back. ;)





Josh was able to get a pic of both of us at the falls. ♥





We actually saw a grizzly bear and her cub!! 
Thankfully, we were able to safely view them from the car. :)

In the St. Mary Lake area, we got a view of Wild Goose Island (above), Sunrift Gorge, and Baring Falls.







I couldn't have asked for a better birthday adventure, and I'm so grateful to my thoughtful husband for planning it out and making this a weekend to remember. ♥

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Blog Tour Begins... | Where Trains Collide


The day is here! It's been over two and a half years since I released a new book, but this little novella is finally available. :) Thank you so much for stopping by to celebrate the release of Where Trains Collide with me!

I'm honored and thrilled to have some wonderful bloggers helping to spread the word this week, and I hope you'll check out their posts (and maybe check out the novella, too, if you like sweet romance!). There's also a gift-card giveaway to add to the fun!


About the Book

Inspirational Contemporary Romance Novella 

Two hearts racing in different directions will meet where trains collide.

Burned out and disillusioned with her chosen career path, Trisha Knolane gives in to impulse and hops on a train bound for Oregon, eager to escape the stress of college for a few days. But what begins as a fun little adventure takes an unexpected turn when she discovers that her ex-boyfriend is also on board.

All her hopes and dreams had once centered on Paul Benson. Now, when Trisha doesn't know where her current track will lead, Paul’s reappearance in her life only complicates matters and sparks difficult questions.

Questions that could change the course of her life.

A heartfelt and thought-provoking contemporary romance novella, Where Trains Collide faces the uncertain season of new adulthood head on and shows that sometimes a path of broken dreams can lead to life’s best destination.

Purchase for $.99 on Amazon! | Add to Goodreads


Author Bio 

Amber Holcomb (Stokes) is an indie author and freelance editor living below the majestic mountains of Montana with her adventurous husband. Previously, she worked in marketing for a Christian publisher for nearly three years. Her passion for books compelled her to earn a bachelor’s degree in English and now fuels her work with words in this new season of life.

You can learn more about Amber’s books at www.SeasonsofaStory.blogspot.com.

Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

Giveaway!

In celebration of this new novella, enter for a chance to win a $15 Amazon.com gift card! Giveaway is open internationally (to anyone age 18 or older who can receive an Amazon gift card via email). Void where prohibited.

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Blog Tour Schedule

June 3
Book Spotlight | My Favorite Pastime
Book Spotlight | A Real Writer’s Life

June 4
Author Interview | My Favorite Pastime

June 5
Review + Travel Story | My Favorite Pastime
Review + Author Interview + Travel Story | Meagan Davenport

June 6
Review | Carissa’s Bookshelf
Review | The Green Mockingbird

June 7
Author Interview | Unicorn Quester
Review | Chosen Vessels
Review | Heidi Reads…
Review | Christian Bookshelf Reviews

June 8
Review + Deleted Scene | Flowers of Quiet Happiness
Review | Liv K. Fisher


Friday, May 25, 2018

Sense & Sensibility Read-Along | Discussion 3



Welcome to the third and final discussion of the Sense & Sensibility read-along! If this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can learn more in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss Volume III. If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Sense & Sensibility read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up, you're welcome to check in whenever you're ready. :)

Let's go!

~ ~ ~

Sense & Sensibility: Volume III

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes

  • "The Colonel is a ninny, my dear; because he has two thousand a year himself, he thinks that nobody else can marry on less." [LOL]
  • "Your indifference is no apology for your cruel neglect of her. Do not think yourself excused by any weakness, any natural defect of understanding on her side, in the wanton cruelty so evident on yours." [Go, Elinor!]
  • "You ought not to speak in this way, either of Mrs. Willoughby or my sister. You have made your own choice. It was not forced on you. Your wife has a claim to your politeness, to your respect, at least. She must be attached to you, or she would not have married you. To treat her with unkindness, to speak of her slightingly is no atonement to Marianne." [Preach!]
  • "The whole of his behaviour," replied Elinor, "from the beginning to the end of the affair, has been grounded on selfishness.... His own enjoyment, or his own ease, was in every particular, his ruling principle."
  • "Marianne's affliction, because more acknowledged, more immediately before her, had too much engrossed her tenderness, and led her away to forget that in Elinor she might have a daughter suffering almost as much, certainly with less self-provocation, and greater fortitude."
  • "She almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease." [Aww!]
  • "His heart was now open to Elinor, all its weaknesses, all its errors confessed, and his first boyish attachment to Lucy treated with all the philosophic dignity of twenty-four."
  • "Her family had of late been exceedingly fluctuating. For many years of her life she had had two sons; but the crime and annihilation of Edward a few weeks ago, had robbed her of one; the similar annihilation of Robert had left her for a fortnight without any; and now, by the resuscitation of Edward, she had one again." [LOL]
  • "If Edward might be judged from the ready discharge of his duties in every particular, from an increasing attachment to his wife and his home, and from the regular cheerfulness of his spirits, he might be supposed no less contented with his lot, no less free from every wish of an exchange."
  • "In Marianne he was consoled for every past affliction;—her regard and her society restored his mind to animation, and his spirits to cheerfulness; and that Marianne found her own happiness in forming his, was equally the persuasion and delight of each observing friend. Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby."

General Impressions

To start on a random note, I've found it very entertaining how often the word "monstrous" has been used in the book. Should we bring that back? "I'm monstrous happy you've joined me in this read-along!" LOL

Now, this volume was a very interesting one! Some things happened that I expected from my familiarity with the 1995 movie adaptation, like Marianne's sickness and who ended up with whom. But I was shocked when Willoughby came back on the scene. I thought his time in the story was over!

I have to agree with Elinor's opinion that selfishness seemed to rule all of Willoughby's choices, even (and perhaps especially) in him coming to confess his feelings for Marianne and share his side of the story with Elinor. Why? His desire for pity and empathy frustrated me, as well as his disregard for the damage he'd done to others beyond his own "sorry fate" brought on by it all. His story did little to stir my compassion, I confess. He ruined the life of a young lady (although I'm not saying she's completely guiltless based on what little we know), and yet he only seems to care about the loss of his own happiness...which he threw away because of greed. Just...ugh!

I'm not sure if this is awful to admit, but I think I prefer the way the movie left out some of these things that seem to "wrap up" the story a little too neatly in the book. We don't always get answers in this life. We don't always get to know what the other person was thinking or why someone did what they did or what they really felt for us. I wonder if it really did all that much for Marianne to know of Willoughby's confession, or if it wouldn't have made much of a difference in the end to her own peace of mind and future happiness.

Anyway, there's my two cents (or more) on the Willoughby stuff!

On a lighter note, I loved the humorous misunderstanding between Elinor and Mrs. Jennings. Just goes to show the danger in "filling in the blanks" when you overhear something. ;) It was too cute how long that dragged out, Mrs. Jennings thinking Elinor was going to marry Colonel Brandon and have Edward officiate, while Elinor was only charged with giving Edward the good news about Colonel Brandon's offer. Good times!

Speaking of Colonel Brandon... I can't quite decide whether the movie depiction or the book depiction of his relationship with Marianne is more romantic. Perhaps they're both "equally" so in different ways. I love the way the movie shows Colonel Brandon spending time with Marianne, reading to her and reaching out to her in the way he knows will touch her heart. I think the movie has a bit more focus on his love for her, but perhaps I'm too fixated on one scene, haha! Meanwhile, I adore the quote I included above about Marianne's love for Colonel Brandon. I think it's incredibly romantic that in finding joy in making him happy, she fell in love with him more and more. And I love that Austen is honest about feelings taking time to change and develop, but showing that ultimately Marianne was true to her nature and gave her whole heart to the man she married. I only wish that their marriage felt a little less forced by the desires of everyone around them. It's still sweet, though. :)

I'm also happy for Edward and Elinor, and I love that Marianne and Elinor get to live on the same property with no apparent jealousy on Elinor's part given their different stations. It's one big happy family and a delightful ending!

Discussion Questions

Feel free to answer one, two, or all three of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. What did you think of Willoughby's confession? Did it change your mind about him in any way?

2. Which character ended up surprising you the most based on what we knew about them at the beginning and where they ended up by the last page?

3. Whose "happily ever after" did you most enjoy reading about? (That is, which character's story brought you the most satisfaction? It doesn't have to be about romance. :))

Final Notes

On the cover...

According to Wikipedia, "tempest in a teapot" is another phrase for "storm in a teacup." And I can't help but wonder if that's what's depicted on the cover of my edition of Sense & Sensibility... (Perhaps they mention it in the foreword I didn't read; not sure!) Merriam-Webster defines "tempest in a teapot" as "a great commotion over an unimportant matter." Perhaps it's a commentary on the "great commotion" made over wealth in the book? Or Marianne's extremely dramatic response to Willoughby's betrayal? I have no idea, but it's fun to think about! In any event, I do really love this pretty cover for the book. :)

Anyone have an interesting cover for this book they'd like to chat about?

On Jane Austen's books...

It's so crazy to think we've read all the main works of Jane Austen together through read-alongs here these past few years! I know I've asked this before, but in case you've reevaluated or want to share, do you have a favorite or a "ranking" for Austen's books? I think mine goes like this:

Pride & Prejudice
Northanger Abbey
Persuasion
Sense & Sensibility
Emma
Mansfield Park

I'm really not quite sure where Northanger Abbey fits... It was the first of Austen's books I read, I believe, and I have such a fondness for it, especially because of the BBC adaptation that made me fall in love with Henry Tilney. ;) I'm not sure the book is necessarily better than Persuasion or even Sense & Sensibility; I just love the story!

On the movie...

Is anyone else super eager to watch an adaptation of Sense & Sensibility now? I really want to rewatch my copy of the Emma Thompson version. :) I've thought about hosting a watch-along, but I confess I'm not sure I'm quite up to figuring out the day/time and tweeting that much right now... However, if anyone wants to keep the conversation going about the book or any movie versions you watch, please do keep using the #SASreadalong hashtag on Twitter! Or you can tag me @SeasonsHumility. :)

On thanks and future read-alongs...

And finally, many, many thanks to all of you, whether you've participated in one read-along or all of them, or even if you simply checked out the posts. I'm so grateful for your friendship, the chance to chat about these books, and the motivation to finally read them! I hope you've enjoyed it all. ♥

I won't mention any dates yet or anything, but I do think I would be interested in hosting more classics read-alongs in the future! I ran a poll on Twitter a while back, and between those results and my own interest, I think Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery might be the featured book for the next read-along. What say you?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Sense & Sensibility Read-Along | Discussion 2



Welcome to the second discussion of the Sense & Sensibility read-along! If this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can learn more about the schedule in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss Volume II. If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Sense & Sensibility read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up, you're welcome to check in whenever you're ready. :)

Onward!

~ ~ ~

Sense & Sensibility: Volume II

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes

  • "She wept for him, more than for herself." [I love Elinor's heart here!]
  • "I was young once, but I never was very handsome—worse luck for me. However I got a very good husband, and I don't know what the greatest beauty can do more."
  • "Colonel Brandon, who had a general invitation to the house, was with them almost every day; he came to look at Marianne and talk to Elinor."
  • "Elinor drew near, but without saying a word; and seating herself on the bed, took her hand, kissed her affectionately several times, and then gave way to a burst of tears, which at first was scarcely less violent than Marianne's." [Such a loving, sisterly bond they share!]
  • "Elinor, affected by his relation, and still more by his distress, could not speak. He saw her concern, and coming to her, took her hand, pressed it, and kissed it with grateful respect."
  • "She felt the loss of Willoughby's character yet more heavily than she had felt the loss of his heart."
  • "It was a matter of great consolation to her, that what brought evil to herself would bring good to her sister."
  • "Elinor was much more hurt by Marianne's warmth, than she had been by what produced it; but Colonel Brandon's eyes, as they were fixed on Marianne, declared that he noticed only what was amiable in it, the affectionate heart which could not bear to see a sister slighted in the smallest point."
  • "I really believe, he has the most delicate conscience in the world; the most scrupulous in performing every engagement, however minute, and however it may make against his interest or pleasure. He is the most fearful of giving pain, of wounding expectation, and the most incapable of being selfish, of any body I ever saw." [If only you knew how much, Marianne...]
  • "Because they were fond of reading, she fancied them satirical: perhaps without exactly knowing what it was to be satirical; but that did not signify." 

General Impressions

This volume brings the cast to London, with all its hope and all its sorrows. We discover Willoughby's true character (so awful and odious!), as well as that of many others (I wrote "ugh" in the margin several times for Lucy and once for Robert).

I'm still torn about our heroes. Edward has barely stepped onto the page, and he still seems cowed by outside forces. But I suppose the way he shines the brightest is in his contrast to the darkness of Willoughby's character; if nothing else, he doesn't take his commitments lightly, nor does he act on selfish or impulsive whims.

And as for Colonel Brandon, as much as I don't want to agree with Mr. Dashwood, it's hard not to think that some sort of romance could blossom between him and Elinor. She's the one he interacts with the most of the two sisters; he obviously appreciates her tender heart and her graciousness to him. I'm not really sure what draws him to Marianne beyond her looks and his compassionate nature, although I suppose he's mentioned his preference for passion and liveliness. And I loved the moments at the dinner party with the Ferrarses when he noticed Marianne, appreciating her love for her sister and being concerned about her tears.

Elinor and Marianne are such thoughtful sisters—Elinor weeping with Marianne, and Marianne rejoicing with Elinor (even though she isn't aware yet of why it would be better to weep with her). While Edward is not the kind of man Marianne would fall in love with, she loves him as a brother for her sister's sake, and her affection for him is the sweetest.

I won't say much about Willoughby... I'm just glad he's out of the picture, and I feel sorry for his wife (and certainly Marianne and Eliza). He acted so abominably in so many ways!

Lucy is grating on my nerves. Just...ugh! I do want to sympathize with her in some ways; obviously, she feels insecure in Edward's affections and wants to cling to their engagement. But her utter selfishness and unkindness in the way she treats Elinor (and even Edward, really) is simply awful. She's so focused on herself and securing her own place, rather than showing compassion toward Elinor or love toward Edward. I admire the way Elinor navigates all this with dignity and grace, even if she sometimes gets fed up with Lucy's shenanigans.

As much as Mrs. Jennings can be a bit too pushy and not really understanding, I do like her, and I wish Marianne would try a little harder to see Mrs. Jennings's good intentions. But Fanny...and her husband...and Mrs. Ferrars...and Robert...yikes! These characters are not a good combination. So much selfishness!

I miss the beauty of the countryside and the warmth of Barton Cottage. I think I'm about as ready for Elinor and Marianne to leave London as they are. :)

Discussion Questions

Feel free to answer one, two, or all three of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. Which hero holds the most appeal for you so far, Edward or Colonel Brandon? What draws you to his character?

2. Which scene in Volume II tugged on your emotions the most, either positively or negatively? (Was it Willoughby's letter? Colonel Brandon's revelation? Edward's arrival? Or some other moment?)

3. Imagine yourself in Elinor's shoes for this trip to London. Do you think you would have responded the same or differently to Marianne's situation and Lucy's company?

Join us next Friday for our third and final discussion! 
(Volume III)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

After Blog Tour + Book Giveaway


I've read two stories by Savannah Jezowski so far: When Ravens Fall and "Wither" in the Five Enchanted Roses anthology (my review). Her writing is awesome, and "Wither" ended up being my favorite story out of that collection! While I'm not reviewing After today, I still wanted to share about Savannah's latest release. :) Enjoy...and don't miss your chance to win a copy of the book!

About the Book

“Some people might say that there are worse fates than death. In some worlds, perhaps that may well be the case. But in mine, it would be a lie. There is no greater horror than that which comes after death.”

On the streets of an ancient city, with creepers wandering at will and a mysterious assassin leaving corpses all over Pandorum, a young Spook with a dark secret will do anything to keep his brothers safe, even from forces that threaten to tear them apart from within. While others are searching for impossible cures from outlawed Spinners, Conrad Ellis III does not believe in fairy tales and miracles. But when he discovers a strange girl with shrouded ties to the Assassin, Eli is forced to leave the streets he loves and travel into the very heart of Pandorum in order to save a member of his family. With his health failing and the danger escalating, there is no escaping the inevitable truth.

Today, he may hunt creepers. Tomorrow, he just might be one.


About the Author

Savannah Jezowski lives in a drafty farmhouse in Amish country with her Knight in Shining Armor, a wee warrior princess, and two English Springer Spaniels. She is the author of When Ravens Fall and The Neverway Chronicles. Her work has been published in Ray Gun Revival, Mindflights and in the student publication of Fountains at Pensacola Christian College. She is also a featured author in Five Enchanted Roses from Rooglewood Press and Mythical Doorways from Fellowship of Fantasy. She likes books, faeries, writing hats and having tea with her imaginary friends.


Book Giveaway

Explore the world of After by entering for a chance to win a signed paperback from the author! (US only.)

Click HERE to enter!

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 14th
Tuesday, May 15th
Wednesday, May 16th
Thursday, May 17th
Friday, May 18th
Saturday May 19th
Monday, May 21st

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

People and a Place to Cheer For and Cherish | Review of Sons of Blackbird Mountain



About the Book (from Thomas Nelson)

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of Nineteenth-Century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

Available July 3, 2018!

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

Joanne Bischof excels at creating vivid atmospheres for her stories, and the setting, scenery, and emotions in Sons of Blackbird Mountain are rich and beautiful. I loved getting to know Aven, the three Norgaard brothers, their housekeeper, and the characters who either waltz gently or march harshly in and out of the orchards. There is a sweetness to most of the interactions, and you can't help but love the characters—hardships, weaknesses, and all.

I absolutely adore autumn and apple orchards and fresh apple cider; I have such fond memories from childhood of enjoying these things. So it makes this story extra delightful to experience the season of harvest with the characters, to read depictions of the trees, the names of the apples, and the joy of that first sip of apple cider.

But mixed in with the innocent moments are difficult struggles with fear, lust, uncertainty, and addiction to hard cider. None of the characters are spared from the painful realities of life and the hate or selfishness of others. I appreciated reading about the sacrifice, the tested faith, and the wrestling with sin and sorrow.

Toward the end, I did feel like a few big events seemed to happen rather close together; it felt like a lot of emotional upheaval for the main characters to face all at once. I wonder if a little bit more time between things might have been warranted...but I suppose life sometimes works that way in both the things we choose and the ones we can't foresee.

I also would have liked a bit deeper of a glimpse into Haakon's character earlier in the story, as Thor really steals the spotlight from the beginning. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. :) His character is compelling, charming, and intriguing, and readers will love following his journey, as I did.

Sons of Blackbird Mountain is another fresh and heartfelt historical novel from an incredible author, and she's brought together people and a place to cheer for and cherish.

*With thanks to Thomas Nelson through NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.*

My Reviews of Other Joanne Bischof Books...
Be Still My Soul {Cadence of Grace, Book 1}
Though My Heart Is Torn {Cadence of Grace, Book 2}
This Quiet Sky {YA historical novella}

Friday, May 11, 2018

Sense & Sensibility Read-Along | Discussion 1



Welcome to the first discussion of the Sense & Sensibility read-along! I'm excited to be reading this book with you, and I'm eager to hear your thoughts. :) If this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can learn more about the schedule in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss Volume I. If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Sense & Sensibility read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up, you're welcome to check whenever you're ready.

Let's dive in!

~ ~ ~

Sense & Sensibility: Volume I

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes

  • "It is enough;" said she, "to say that he is unlike Fanny is enough. It implies every thing amiable. I love him already." [LOL]
  • "At first sight, his address is certainly not striking; and his person can hardly be called handsome, till the expression of his eyes, which are uncommonly good, and the general sweetness of his countenance, is perceived. At present, I know him so well, that I think him really handsome; or, at least, almost so."
  • "Colonel Brandon alone, of all the party, heard her without being in raptures. He paid her only the compliment of attention; and she felt a respect for him on the occasion."
  • "I am afraid," replied Elinor, "that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety."
  • "She dispersed her tears to smile on him, and in her sister's happiness forgot for a time her own disappointment."
  • "It is not every one," said Elinor, "who has your passion for dead leaves." [LOL]
  • "My loose cash would certainly be employed in improving my collection of music and books."
  • "What! you thought nobody could dance because a certain person that shall be nameless is gone!"

General Impressions

It's so fun to be engaged in another Jane Austen novel! So far, I'm really enjoying this one. I confess I have the actors from the 1995 adaptation (Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and others) in my head; I believe that's the only movie version I've seen so far, and the acting was wonderful! It's easy to match the personalities between the movie and book.

One thing stands out to me as "better" in the movie (at least from what I've read in the book so far), and that's Margaret's role. The youngest sister seems barely present or even necessary to the story in the novel, but in the movie, I think she plays a really cute role. I guess it's because we can actually "see" her on screen, whereas she's hardly there on the pages. But I love the sort of brother-sister relationship she and Edward have in the movie. :)

Anyway, I should focus on the book!

I love how Marianne and Elinor really seem to get each other, even if they don't often agree and their methods/thoughts clash. Their sisterly bond is evident in how they care for each other's feelings and future happiness.

The Dashwoods' new home and the surrounding countryside sound lovely! Even though the company they're forced to keep is rather pushy and boisterous, I think it's nice that they've been so thoroughly welcomed and aren't ostracized.

As for the rest of the characters we've met so far... I liked Edward's first impressions, but I wish he were bolder, and what we're learning of him from Lucy (as much as she can be trusted to be honest about) doesn't paint him in a great light. He seems sweet, even in his interactions with the whole family, but his dour attitude, lack of ambition, and secrecy aren't always appealing.

What to say about Willoughby? It's hard to put aside what I know about him from the movie, but I can say that I don't like his careless ways toward others. He seems a bit like Frank Churchill (from Emma) in that regard, and he's encouraging an unkind, disrespectful side of Marianne. Also, the abrupt way he left the Dashwoods (with no real excuses) hardly seems promising.

Colonel Brandon hasn't revealed much of himself to readers, although I do love how (in contrast to Willoughby) it's noted that he cares about the feelings of others. He's perceptive and thoughtful, and even though he's been "rejected" by Marianne so far, he's not spiteful.

I'm eager to read more about the brewing drama, although I feel so bad for Elinor after her discussion with Lucy at the end of Volume I. I don't know if Lucy necessarily understands Elinor's feelings for Edward...but in any event, she's definitely behaving in a self-absorbed and melodramatic way, and I wish she would leave poor Elinor alone. Granted, if there really is an engagement and feelings on Lucy's part, I can understand her wanting to make clear her claims to Edward. But still...she's being very unkind about it, going on and on as she does, even if she's not intending to be unkind and doesn't realize the extent of Elinor's attachment.

Discussion Questions

Feel free to answer one, two, or all three of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. So far, do you relate more to Elinor or Marianne? Do you find it more important to act properly and rationally, or do you prefer to speak your mind and express your true emotions?

2. Imagine you're invited to tea at Barton Park and have to make conversation with Sir and Lady Middleton and Mrs. Jennings. What would you talk about? How would you survive the afternoon? :) (Feel free to round out the imaginary occasion with other guests of your choosing, like Colonel Brandon, Willoughby, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, or the Miss Steeles.)

3. How would you respond to Lucy's revelations at the end of Volume I if you were Elinor? Would you keep Lucy's secret from everyone? Would you continue to remain "friends" with Lucy?

Join us next Friday for our second discussion! 
(Volume II)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with My Favorite Color on the Cover


Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is "Books with My Favorite Color on the Cover." I love the cooler colors (green, blue, and purple), and purple has been a favorite of mine since I was young. :) I'm going to feature several purple books I enjoyed and several purple books I'm looking forward to reading...

Purple Books I Enjoyed


#1: Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof (my review)

#2: Windchaser by Krissi Dallas (my review)

#3: Recalled by Cambria Hebert (my fave read of 2013, and one of my faves of all time!)

#4: The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd (my review)

Purple Books on My TBR


#5 The Crown by Kiera Cass (Not 100% sure I'll read this one... I don't know if this series is quite for me. But that cover!! So gorgeous. And I'm wondering if I'll prefer the setup for these last two books as compared to the first three, of which I only fully read one.)

#6 Under a Blackberry Moon by Serena B. Miller (I won this book on Goodreads...back in 2013. Eep! Still looking forward to reading it, though!)

#7 You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith (I read a couple of her books and really enjoyed them. So, I ended up with several more on my TBR that I haven't quite gotten into yet. Maybe the mood will strike again!)

#8 The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal (Another book that's been on my TBR for about five years. But it does look good!)


#9 Ellie and the Prince by J.M. Stengl (This one and its novella prequel are on my Kindle, and I can't wait to read them! I really enjoyed The Little Siren, an ebook you can get for free when you sign up for the author's e-newsletter.)


#10 A Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier (I recently found out about this one as an audiobook through the author's e-newsletter, and when Audible sent me a free credit out of the blue, I chose this book. The cover and title are so delightful, and I'm excited to listen to this audiobook!)

* * *

What's your favorite color?
Which books on your shelf 
feature your favorite color on the cover?