Thursday, November 29, 2018

Cindy's Christmas Past, Present, and Future | Yes, Carol...It's Christmas! Blog Tour


In honor of Cindy Vincent’s novella, Yes, Carol…It’s Christmas!—a fun modern-day reimagining of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with its ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future—Cindy is going to visit Christmas past, present, and future in today’s tour post. Enjoy!

Christmas Past

When it comes to Christmas Past, one of my favorite memories is from Christmas 1988, when my husband, Rob, and I were still dating and just a few months from getting engaged. That year, his Christmas present to me was one of the most special he has ever given me.

So what was this treasured gift? Diamonds, emeralds or rubies? Nope. He gave me a computer program. MS Word, to be specific. On the surface, it doesn’t sound all that exciting, does it? Especially since I didn’t even own a computer. Back in 1988, computers weren’t so prevalent like they are today, and not everyone had one.

But Rob did own a computer, an Apple Macintosh. (And yes, it was a pretty big hint that he bought me a computer program to use on his computer someday, considering we had a long-distance relationship at the time!) But here’s the rest of the story.

Only months before, I went through my employee evaluation at work, and my boss asked what my long-term goals were. Of course, I listed all the usual things, but I also told him that I wanted to write books. It wasn’t a big leap in my mind, since I’d enjoyed writing fiction as a child, and later, my college professors had encouraged me to write professionally. Thankfully, my boss responded with encouragement, too, and I left his office feeling elated.

Then I ran smack dab into a whole lot of discouragement. When my colleagues asked how my meeting had gone, I told them about my goals. Much to my horror, my much older colleagues (mostly with Ph.D.’s) treated the idea like it was a joke. After all, I was only in my twenties at the time and merely had a master’s degree. What could I possibly know about writing a book? To make matters worse, after I mentioned the idea to friends later, I got a pretty lukewarm reception from them, too. 

With so much negative feedback, I immediately started to wonder if my dream of authoring books was too outlandish and beyond my abilities. And for a while, I actually listened to those naysayers. That was, until Christmas morning when I unwrapped my present from Rob—a computer program. A program he thought I would need when I wrote my first book. In other words, my soon-to-be husband not only gave me a huge vote of confidence, but he also gave me the practical application to achieve my goals. It was just the encouragement that I needed, and it also let me know that he was the man for me. We got engaged less than a month later.

Christmas Present

Every year at Christmas, it always seems like there’s a mad rush to get all the decorations out. I put up three inside trees every year, and plenty of other inside embellishments as well. But the biggest show for us takes place outside, in our front yard. And this year, we’re expanding our Griswolds-style light show. We’ve got three controller boxes hooked to a computer, and the lights are choreographed to music. Here’s a picture of last year’s lights.


And here’s a picture from a couple of years ago. (Yes, we often win the neighborhood light competition!)


Otherwise, for once, we’re just looking forward to a quieter Christmas season than normal. Instead of hosting a party this year, I think we’ll have some friends over for dinner and maybe take some time to relax and contemplate the reason for the season. Sometimes it’s just nice to slow down and gaze at the stars.

Christmas Future

To look forward to Christmas Future, I want to start by looking back. Specifically, to the old black-and-white movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Within the story, you’ll note that celebrating Christmas and wishing people “Merry Christmas” was commonplace during that era. Much like it was when I grew up in the 1960s and 70s. But over the last few decades, I’ve seen a decline in the celebration and open expression of Christmas, with a debate on whether people should even wish each other “Merry Christmas” or not. In fact, here in Texas, our governor signed into law something that was dubbed the “Merry Christmas Bill,” making it legal for teachers and other school employees to continue to say, “Merry Christmas,” without fear of being fired. To me, it’s pretty sad that such a bill might even be necessary.

So . . . when I look to Christmas Future, I know in my heart that I want to do all I can to help preserve the traditions of Christmas, so that future generations can know the joy I have known, as we celebrate Christ’s birthday during this very special season.

How about you? 

Cindy and I would love to hear a favorite memory, your plans for this holiday season, or a dream you have for a future Christmas! Also, don’t forget to enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a “party in a box”! (See the tour introduction post for more details.)


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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Cindy's Christmas Party Tips: Part 1 | Yes, Carol...It's Christmas! Blog Tour


The blog tour for Yes, Carol...It's Christmas! continues with the first of three posts featuring Cindy's Christmas party tips. Since the heroine of her novella is a former party host, it's a perfect topic for the tour—and so timely for this season!

Today, discover some delightful decorating tips...

Cindy’s Christmas Party Tips
Part 1: Decorating

Ah, Christmas . . . Just the mere mention of the name can bring back all kinds of wonderful memories for those who celebrate the season. In fact, many of us take a wonderful trip down memory lane every year when we decorate our trees, with each ornament bringing back thoughts of old friends and parties and times gone by.

Needless to say, Christmas is steeped in tradition, so it’s important to keep that in mind when hosting your own Christmas party. And while holiday decorating styles come and go, there are some things that are so iconic and so completely associated with Christmas that they will immediately make partygoers feel the joy and warmth of the season.

A Christmas tree, of course, is just one of those items, and I’d suggest having at least some kind of tree in your home for a party. Thankfully, you have tons of options to choose from—big, small, wide, narrow, real, artificial, tinsel, and on and on. Whatever you like, you’ll pretty much find it’s available. It’s a good idea to display your tree where all the party guests can see it and maybe even have their moment of basking in the beauty and lights of a decorated tree.


Considering you’ll have guests who really take the time to look at your tree, be careful about the kinds of lights you use for decorating it. LED lights are the modern thing, but frankly, most of those lights are just too bright for comfortable viewing. Especially if you have the room lights down low during your party. Instead, it’s better to stick with the old-fashioned incandescent lights, which aren’t so vivid and are more comfortable to look at. To add interest to your tree, don’t forget to add a strand or two of blinking or running lights, which will typically appear to keep time to any music you might have playing.

Here’s a photo of a dress-form tree that I made, and not only is it a great conversation starter, but it’s also much easier to create than it looks.


I simply took the top section of an old mannequin and put it on the bottom half of an old Christmas tree. (I believe I found both items at a thrift store.) Then I sewed a bustier for the mannequin top, though you could easily just pull a piece of fabric around for a top, and either glue, pin, or staple it in place. I added marabou (fake feathers) and other sparkly trim that can be found at a craft store. Once I had that in place, I plumped out the branches of the tree bottom, to create the skirt. I wound two strands of lights—one red and one white—through the branches. Finally, I used a glue gun to attach varying sizes of fake poinsettias to the outer branches. If you want more of a “tree” look, you can glue on fewer flowers. But I wanted a more concentrated look, so I actually glued 200 flowers onto my tree.

Twinkle lights are also one of those iconic items that practically scream . . . or rather, blink . . . Christmas. Because let’s face it, what other time of year would you put strands of lights around your home? And the best part is, you’ll actually get more bang for your buck with a strand of lights than most other decorating items.


This year, I’ve especially enjoyed these little micro-lights that I found at Costco. You can get a pack of four for around $10, and they’re battery operated, so you don’t need a plug-in nearby. These little lights really do pack a punch and light up a nice area for their size. They also come with a multi-function feature, so they can blink, fade, and even change colors. They’re especially beautiful when placed around clear glass.


Using lights to decorate are also wonderful symbols of the season, as it evokes the concept of light out of darkness. It also exemplifies that most beautiful sight of all—the star in the night sky over Bethlehem, on that very first Christmas of all!

And now, be sure to join us tomorrow (November 29th) for my second post on Christmas party entertaining at another wonderful blog, My Favorite Pastime. See you there!

Let the Party Continue!

We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. How do you like to decorate for Christmas? What do you enjoy seeing at a Christmas party?

Don't forget to enter the giveaway below for a chance to win your very own "party in a box"! (See the introduction post for more details.)


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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Visiting My Christmas Past, Present, and Future | Yes, Carol...It's Christmas! Blog Tour


With December 1st only a few days away, it’s almost time for me to pull out the wreath for our door, the tree for under our stairs, and all the little decorations that make our house just a bit more festive for this most delightful time of year. :) I can’t wait!

In honor of Cindy Vincent’s novella, Yes, Carol…It’s Christmas!—a fun modern-day reimagining of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with its ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future—I’m going to visit Christmas past, present, and future in today’s tour post.

The Past
A Favorite Christmas Memory 

On December 10th, two years ago, my boyfriend and I spent the day on the coast. It was a Christmas miracle that he even made it for a visit—you can read more of the story HERE. After having breakfast with a beach view and walking around cute and festive Old Town, we drove to Heceta Head Lighthouse. As we looked down on the lighthouse from a trail, my boyfriend proposed and became my fiancé. :)

We then made our way back down to the bed-and-breakfast (what used to be the lightkeeper’s home), which was all decked out in its Christmas finery, and indulged in some cookies and a bit of Christmas cheer to conclude our memorable coastal outing.



I do so love that bed-and-breakfast, and it really is lovely dressed up for the holiday season! If you’d like to make their Christmas open house part of your plans this year, you can learn more HERE.

The Present
Plans for This Christmas 

As far as family goes, it’s just Josh (my husband) and me in this part of Montana. So if our Christmas this year is like our holiday last year, it will be simple and sweet, the two of us combining some of our favorite traditions. :)

One tradition Josh enjoys is baking and decorating Christmas sugar cookies. His family has a delicious recipe that calls for a bit of orange zest, which makes the cookies extra special.



I’m sure we’ll make more of these yummy cookies this year! I actually used the recipe for making Halloween cookies not too long ago…but I’m excited to make a bigger batch, with enough to munch on and share. :)

One tradition I enjoy is decorating the Christmas tree. My parents have a rather large artificial tree, and when I was growing up, it was a fun event to fill it with all sorts of Hallmark ornaments and other meaningful decorations. The tree even rotates, so guests can see everything and try out the interactive ornaments that speak or light up or play music.

Josh and I have a lovely little artificial tree a dear friend gave me when I was living on my own in Oregon. And happily, it fits perfectly under our stairs! The branches can hold quite a few ornaments, too, so I’m looking forward to once again adding some cheer to this spot in our main room.



The Future
Dreams for Christmas…Someday 

I have so many wonderful Christmas memories, and I hope to make even more with Josh and any children we might have someday. :) I want to pass along some of my parents’ and Josh’s parents’ traditions and create some more of our own. My deepest hope for Christmas future, should kids be part of the picture, is to pass along a love for Jesus and a desire to celebrate His coming to earth with reflective, joyful, grateful, and generous hearts.

As for a whimsical dream… If Josh and I were to ever own and run a bed-and-breakfast someday, I think it would be delightful to decorate the rooms and building, serve extra treats throughout December, and gather around a fire in the sitting room as we swap Christmas memories with our guests and maybe even hand out a few little gifts. It would be so warm and cozy! :) 

How about you? 

Cindy and I would love to hear a favorite memory, your plans for this holiday season, or a dream you have for a future Christmas! Also, don’t forget to enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a “party in a box”! (See the tour introduction post for more details.)


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Monday, November 26, 2018

Welcome Christmas with This Festive Novella Blog Tour! | Introduction Post


With Thanksgiving 2018 now a memory and December less than a week away, it's time to deck the blogs with Christmas posts! I'm thrilled to be the coordinator for this tour on behalf of author Cindy Vincent. :) Yes, Carol...It's Christmas! is a contemporary novella that reimagines A Christmas Carol with a former party host as the heroine. Keep reading to learn more about the book, Cindy, the tour schedule, and the tour-wide giveaway...


About the Book

As the top salesperson for Pfunn Party Supplies, Carol Frost doesn’t exactly know how to have fun herself these days. Though she wasn’t always such a humbug. Once upon a time, she was famous for hosting Christmas parties that were filled with everything from laughing guests and luscious hors d’oeuvres, to artfully iced sugar cookies and creatively decorated Christmas trees. To top it off, she even wrote a bestselling book that became the authoritative tome on Christmas party entertaining at the time—The Complete, Total, Ultimate, Everything-You-Might-Possibly-Want-to-Know Guide to Hosting the Best Christmas Parties Ever.

Yet that was long ago, before her life changed and she stashed her tinsel and twinkle lights away once and for all. And while Carol soon learned to settle for her boring but comfortable existence, an old friend knows that Carol isn’t really living up to her potential. An old friend who . . . well . . . now enjoys her eggnog in the afterlife, you might say. To goad Carol into going back to her former party-hosting ways, said friend sends three of her specter pals to pester Carol. Then, much to Carol’s annoyance, she is visited by the Ghost Hosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future on a plane filled with plenty of holiday revelers. And though Carol only wants to be left alone, the Ghost Hosts have other plans. Instead, they take her on an adventure that wasn’t exactly on her itinerary . . . or printed on her ticket stub. From that moment on, Carol’s life will never be the same. Provided, of course, she survives the jingle-bell rollercoaster of a ride and makes it home in time for Christmas . . .

Available now!


About the Author

CINDY VINCENT, M.A. Ed., was born in Calgary, Alberta, and has lived all around the US and Canada. She is the creator of the Mysteries by Vincent murder mystery party games and the Daisy Diamond Detective Series games for girls. She is also the award-winning author of the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Caper novels and the Daisy Diamond Detective series. She lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and an assortment of fantastic felines.

The Tour Schedule

Monday, November 26 
Tuesday, November 27 
Wednesday, November 28 
Thursday, November 29 
Friday, November 30 
Saturday, December 1 


Giveaway!

Put together your own best-ever Christmas party with this fun “party in a box” giveaway! Enter for a chance to win a package with the following prizes: a signed copy of Yes, Carol…It’s Christmas! by Cindy Vincent, two Betty Crocker sugar cookie mixes, two cookie cutters, a four-pack of sprinkles, a strand of Christmas lights, and two glass ornaments. Due to shipping costs and varying international laws, this giveaway is open to US residents (age 18 or older) only. Void where prohibited. Good luck!

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

An Adventure with Drama and Rekindled Hope | Review of The Liberty Bride



About the Book (from the Daughters of the Mayflower website)

War Forces a Choice Between Love and Country

A trip home from England to Maryland in 1812 finds Emeline Baratt a captive on a British warship and forced to declare her allegiance between the British and Americans. Remaining somewhat politically neutral on a ship where her nursing skills are desperately needed is fairly easy—until she starts to have feelings for the first lieutenant who becomes her protector. However, when the captain sends her and Lieutenant Owen Masters on land to spy, she must choose between her love for him or her love for her country.

Releases December 1, 2018!

My Rating

Spring

My Review

The Liberty Bride harks back to some of MaryLu Tyndall's earlier historical romances, particularly her Surrender to Destiny series, which is set in the same era. (One of the books is even referenced in the author's note.) And as with those novels, I enjoyed this new adventure with its tension and drama and rekindled hope.

Most of the first half of the story takes place at sea (albeit not far from land). While life aboard a British naval ship is quite different from the chaotic, dangerous atmosphere this author portrays aboard pirate ships in other books, there are still moments of violence, fear, and intrigue for this story's heroine, Emeline.

Then the plot shifts to land, bringing a few new characters and challenges to the fore. I love the way the hero, Owen, shines in this part—Emeline too! Their kindness and desire to do the right thing make for some sweet scenes in the midst of trying to outwit their enemies.

Some elements feel a bit too perfectly aligned or a little inauthentic in what some characters say and do. I wouldn't say this is my favorite MaryLu Tyndall book—although I think my tastes have changed somewhat over the years. Still, this story's conclusion is heartwarming, and fans of inspirational historical romance with some excitement (as well as fans of this author's style) should find The Liberty Bride very enjoyable.

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

My Reviews of Other Books in This Series...
The Mayflower Bride (#1)
The Captured Bride (#3)
The Cumberland Bride (#5)

Monday, November 19, 2018

A Journey with Interesting and Surprising Turns | Review of The Cumberland Bride



About the Book (from the Daughters of the Mayflower website)

Love and Adventure Are Discovered on the Wilderness Road

In 1794, when Kate Gruener’s father is ready to move the family farther west into the wilderness to farm untouched land, Kate is eager to live out her own story of adventure, like he did during the War for Independence, and to see untamed lands. And she sets her sights on learning more about their scout, Thomas Bledsoe. Thomas’s job is to get settlers safely across the Kentucky Wilderness Road to their destination while keeping an ear open for news of Shawnee unrest. But naïve Kate’s inquisitive nature could put them both in the middle of a rising tide of conflict. Is there more to Thomas’s story than he is willing to tell? Is there an untapped courage in Kate that can thwart a coming disaster?

Available Now!

My Rating

Spring

My Review

The Cumberland Bride takes some interesting and surprising turns that really engaged me as the story progressed. Starting off, I was curious about the set up, the characters, and the coming journey, but I wasn't sure if this story would stand out. While it didn't wind up a favorite for me, I still quite enjoyed it and found myself eager to keep reading—especially after the halfway point.

Kate is a sweet character, and she won me over with her resiliency and gentleness. Her obsession with learning Thomas's history feels a little odd at times, and she seems to get into trouble or sticky situations rather often (although it's nice in that it forces Thomas and Kate to actually spend time together).

Thomas...left me with conflicted feelings. His first impressions are ones of coldness and apathy, and I don't know if he ever fully claimed my heart. But he's forced to open up as the plot picks up, and I do like how he confidently steps into the role of hero in later scenes.

Despite a few tumbles and points of tension in the first half, this book begins in a quieter way as the family's journey unfolds. But when Kate and Thomas find themselves in some serious danger, watch out! Historical romance fans like me will find it hard to stop reading.

The way one character from later in the book is portrayed feels a bit inauthentic to me...perhaps out of character or somewhat modern? And some things feel a bit rushed toward the end. But it's quite clear from the author's notes that she did her research, and overall, I enjoyed this fictional journey along the Wilderness Road.

P.S. I love when the cover is tied into the story, and I was quite satisfied with the scene in which the cover model's outfit makes an appearance! :)

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

My Reviews of Other Books in This Series...
The Mayflower Bride (#1), The Captured Bride (#3)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Grateful for Beautiful Moments...and the Motivation to Find Them

I'm grateful for the way my husband helps me find beautiful moments. His sense of adventure and his love of God's creation make him eager to get outdoors much more often than I would normally be motivated to do on my own. On a quiet Saturday, it feels inconvenient to pack up layers of clothing and prepare for a nearly hour-long drive. But even while not feeling the best himself, Josh prepared a thermos of hot apple cider for me and drove us to Glacier National Park, where we experienced the incredible, fleeting moments of sunset beneath the mountains...







A few other people also enjoyed the alpenglow from this little stretch of shore by Lake McDonald. It was neat to share this moment, to know we were all savoring the grandeur and beauty God had provided on a cold, clear Saturday evening.

As you can imagine, I'm grateful I didn't stay home. :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Fate and Fortune Blog Tour | Two Reviews + Gift Card Giveaway

On tour with Prism Book Tours


Fate & Fortune
(Fate & Fortune #1)
Robin Daniels
YA Contemporary Romance, Duology
ebook, 279 Pages

Bryce has liked Paige since they were little but has never had the guts to act on his feelings. Paige is devastated over being dumped by her long-time boyfriend and can’t seem to move on. They’re stuck in a rut, until fate decides to pull them out.

Both Paige and Bryce are talked into seeing a fortune teller at the annual Summer’s End Carnival. Neither of them buys into the mysticism, until the psychic’s predictions start coming true. Now, the most bizarre things are happening and there isn’t a clear explanation. Each of them must figure out if they’re the subject of an elaborate hoax or a bigger plan forged by destiny.

*This book is part one of two. Books should be read sequentially.

Review

Fate & Fortune (especially when followed up by its companion Kismet & Karma) is so fun! Reading the first part of this young-adult love story is like watching someone perform a magic trick... You know something's up, but you can't quite figure out how they pulled it all off. And you don't have to know the answers to enjoy the crazy, quirky, and entertaining ways Bryce and Paige are drawn together.

This is a fairly clean read in terms of content (minus making out), but this duology does include a fair amount of crude humor and innuendo. Also, as is probably clear from the title and description, there are references to fate, fortune telling, magic, and tarot cards. While all this is included with a rather light-hearted flair, if any such references bother you, this might not be the series for you.

But if you're looking for a high-school story filled with an endearing group of characters, their antics, and some romance, you'll find a lot to enjoy! The author has a very readable and engaging writing style, and I love the early setting of a small-town fair, as well as the odd but fun ways the romance plays out for the main characters. Fate & Fortune is a cute and entertaining YA read!

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

Kismet & Karma
(Fate & Fortune #2)
Robin Daniels
YA Contemporary Romance, Duology
ebook, 270 Pages

Bryce and Paige belong together, but they’ll never make it happen alone. When inspiration strikes in multiple ways, a friend decides it can’t be a coincidence; it’s a call to action. With a little luck, the help of fate, and the matchmaking plan of the century, Bryce and Paige just might get their happy ending.

You heard Paige and Bryce’s version of the story in Fate & Fortune. Now join Eric, Amy, Cody, Kennedy, and Genie to see how things really went down.

***This book completes the series. Book one can be read as a standalone, but book two cannot. Fate & Fortune should be read first.***

Review

As noted in the description, this story's pacing and puzzle of scenes probably won't be all that enjoyable unless you've read book one. But if you liked Fate & Fortune, then Kismet & Karma is a fun companion story! I believe it's best to read one right after the other.

As with book one, this book contains crude humor, innuendo, and perhaps (in some ways) a bit stronger emphasis on fate, which I feel a little saddened by. But the star attraction of the show is the characters—the crazy group of friends who all care so much about one another despite their snarky ways of interacting and their various personalities. While book one focused on Paige and Bryce, this book invites you to get to know the rest of the group and their own trials, dreams, and schemes.

I enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at the plot of Fate & Fortune, as well as the complete conclusion you don't quite get in book one alone. There's a particular scene near the end (not quite the last) that's especially delightful in terms of setting, romance, and friendship. As part two of a clever duology, Kismet & Karma is a charmer!

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

About the Author

Robin Daniels

The most important thing to know about me is that I'm basically a sixteen-year-old trapped in an adult's body. It's why I feel such a great connection to all of my characters and why I love to write romantic comedy. The kid in me just wants to be goofy. Besides being a writer, I'm a wife, mother of five, volleyball enthusiast, and home-decorating guru. My list of favorites includes: reading, Christmas, pedicures, dessert, steak, Arizona winters, and most importantly, Diet Coke.

Tour Giveaway!


1 winner will receive a $50 Amazon e-gift card
Open internationally
Ends November 21, 2018

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Let This Creative YA Novel Whisk You Away | Review of The Enchanted Sonata



About the Book (the author's website)

Clara Stahlbaum has her future perfectly planned: to marry the handsome pianist, Johann Kahler (ah!), and settle down to a life full of music. But all that changes on Christmas Eve, when Clara receives a mysterious and magical nutcracker.

Whisked away to his world—an enchanted empire of beautiful palaces, fickle fairies, enormous rats, and a prince—Clara must face a magician who uses music as spells…and the future she thought she wanted.

The Enchanted Sonata, a retelling of The Nutcracker Ballet with a dash of The Pied Piper, will captivate readers of all ages.

Available Now!

My Rating

Spring

My Review

I absolutely adored Entwined by Heather Dixon, so I was excited for another book by her with such a promising premise. And it truly is a charming story!

First of all, the way the story is told is very clever and fun, a story within a story with plenty of adventure and surprises. Second, Heather excels at imaginative descriptions, and this book is full of them—from the way Nutcracker is portrayed to the grandeur of the train and city to the delightful candies and cozy rooms in Polichinelle's. (Now there's a fictional business I'd love to visit!) Third, just like with Entwined, the characters are quite lovable, especially the two main ones.

I'm not sure if the review e-copy I read was final or not, but it did feel somewhat unpolished. I would say that the story is a little like a toy soldier marching—a bit clunky in some plot pieces, but also a bit too neat in how some of the plot is resolved. While it may feel less polished and impactful than how I remember Entwined, the way this story unfolds and then gets tied together is still sweetly satisfying.

I really enjoyed Clara's journey, how she matures and what she learns about the nature of love and dreams worth pursuing. Heather's writing is fun and engaging and very distinctive, and The Enchanted Sonata is a lovely new presentation from her. Let the music whisk you away in this creative young-adult tale that balances some intense topics with a light voice—a great choice for the holidays.

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

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Enchanting Nicholette Blog Tour | Novella Review + Jane Austen Giveaway


Welcome to the JustRead blog tour for Enchanting Nicholette, a new novella and the fifth book in the Everstone Chronicles series by Dawn Crandall! Keep reading to learn more about the story, the author, my thoughts, and a tour-wide giveaway. :)

About the Book

In this captivating novella by Dawn Crandall, Nicholette Everstone is already a widow at the age of twenty-two: her husband was murdered on their wedding day. She has just returned to Boston after two years of mourning in Europe. Although her husband was loving, the marriage was an arranged one, and Nicholette would like to wed again—this time for love...and to someone safe.

As she acclimates to life in Back Bay again, Nicholette meets someone she can’t help but fall for. But when she learns of the danger and sacrifices Cal Hawthorne takes on for the safety of others, will her heart be strong enough to keep her fears of “what if” at bay?

Add to Goodreads

About the Author

Dawn Crandall’s debut Gilded Age Victorian romance, The Hesitant Heiress, was a 2015 ACFW Carol award finalist in the debut category and received the 2015 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the 2015 Write Touch Reader’s Choice Award, and the 2015 Romancing the Novel Reader’s Choice Award. Her follow-up novel, The Bound Heart, received the 2016 Laurel Award from Clash of the Titles. Dawn earned a BA in Christian Education from Taylor University. She’s been balancing books and babies lately as her two sons were both born as the four books of her Everstone Chronicles series were being released from Whitaker House from 2014 to 2016. Dawn lives with her husband and two young sons on a hobby farm in her hometown in northeast Indiana.


My Review

Dawn Crandall has created an intriguing cast of characters and a voice all her own in the Everstone Chronicles. It was a pleasure to return to her realm of historical romance and reacquaint myself with the setting, characters, and style in this sweet novella!

Enchanting Nicholette is a lovely little read featuring tender but passionate romance and a heroine clumsily but sincerely attempting to find her place in a life that isn't at all what she once expected it to be. Nicholette's character didn't always enchant me... She's more sober than her friends and isn't necessarily warm and friendly, but I think it's hard not to feel a bit frustrated when you're in one person's point of view and privy to all their thoughts, whether rude, over-the-top, or commendable. Still, I like how she allows herself to rethink things, and how she opens up in some ways over time. It's hard not to cheer for her as she wrestles with fear and hope.

I would have liked a bit more natural balance between the serious side of the story and the romance, as sometimes (especially in one particular scene) it feels like flicking a switch. One moment, serious talk; the next moment, flirting. I would say the romance takes up more page time and focus than the revelations and their implications. But I think, with this story being on the shorter side, the spotlight is meant to shine on the couple and their road to love, rather than featuring what else is going on or might happen in their lives.

This novella is charming, with an epilogue that has everything fans of the series could desire. I've read the first three books but haven't read the fourth...and this story's references to that fourth book (The Cautious Maiden) definitely have me curious about what I've missed! Suspense moves backstage in this fifth installment, but if you're looking for a light, engaging historical romance to round out a unique series, Enchanting Nicholette definitely fits the bill.

*With thanks to Whitaker House through JustRead Publicity for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.*

Tour Giveaway!


One winner will win:
  • A print copy of Enchanting Nicholette 
  • A library card zipper bag 
  • Two pairs of Jane Austen socks 
  • Two hand-poured candles 
  • A historically accurate soap from Austen’s time 
  • A Jane Austen set of playing cards 
  • A set of Jane Austen notecards 
  • 6 magnets with Jane Austen quotes 
(US mailing addresses only)

Enter via the Rafflecopter form  below. Giveaway will begin at midnight on October 29, 2018, and lasts through 11:59 pm on November 12, 2018. Void where prohibited by law. US addresses only. Winners will be notified within a week of the close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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Follow along at JustRead for a full list of tour stops!

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Friday, November 2, 2018

A Southern Season Blog Tour | Review of Four Novellas + Book Giveaway


Welcome to the JustRead blog tour for A Southern Season, a new novella collection! Feel free to sit for a bit and learn more about the book, these authors, my thoughts, and a tour-wide giveaway. :) 

About the Book

Four seasons. Four stories. Each one set in the enchanting world of the South. These are the kinds of stories your grandmother told you from a front porch swing.

Ice Melts in Spring by Linda W. Yezak
When Kerry Graham's boss forces her to return to the Gulf of Mexico where her husband drowned years ago, she feels only spring's chill and not the warmth of the Texas sun. Can the joy of a reclusive author and the compassion of a shrimp-boat preacher thaw Kerry's frigid heart?

Lillie Beth in Summer by Eva Marie Everson 
With the untimely death of his wife, Dr. James Gillespie believes God has abandoned him. He also believes he's never met anyone like the young widow Lillie Beth, whose beloved Granny lies dying at home, and who sees a God who sweeps hope through a farmhouse window. Can a young woman whose husband died in Vietnam restore a faith that is all but dead?

Through an Autumn Window by Claire Fullerton 
Because her larger-than-life mother, Daphne Goodwyn, is dead, forty-year-old Cate returns to Memphis with one thought in mind: Something always goes wrong at a Southern funeral. But surrounded by the well-mannered society that raised her, the nostalgic rites of a three-day, autumn mourning bring the unexpected gift of the end of sibling rivalry.

A Magnolia Blooms in Winter by Ane Mulligan
With Broadway stardom within her reach, Morgan James returns home in winter to help an old friend. Maybe it s just nostalgia, but when she sees him again, an old flame rekindles. When she's called back to NYC to take the lead in a new musical, will fame be worth losing the man she loves?

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About the Authors


Eva Marie Everson (Lillie Beth in Summer) is a multiple award-winning author and speaker. She is the president of Word Weavers International and the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference and North Georgia Christian Writers Conference.

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Claire Fullerton (Through an Autumn Window) is the author of Mourning Dove, Dancing to an Irish Reel, and A Portal in Time. She is a transplanted Southerner from Memphis now living in Malibu, California.

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Ane Mulligan (A Magnolia Blooms in Winter) writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She's an award-winning, multi-published novelist and playwright, who believes chocolate and coffee are two of the four major food groups.

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Linda W. Yezak (Ice Melts in Spring) lives with her husband and PB, the original scaredy cat, in a forest in Deep East Texas, where tall tales abound and exaggeration is an art form. Author of several novels, novellas, and short stories, she is best known for her award-winning Circle Bar Ranch series.

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My Review

This is quite a unique collection of novellas with a good amount of variety. Three of the stories feature some romance alongside other relationships, which I always enjoy! And three of the stories feature a contemporary setting, while the other is set during a time of somewhat recent history. I love the different seasons and when that theme is featured in literature, so that was also a plus for me.

Ice Melts in Spring by Linda W. Yezak: I've read another story by this author (Give the Lady a Ride), and I enjoy her style! This particular story has a lovely setting, a loyal dog, and an intriguing author character who has a lot of wisdom and lessons on love to impart to the main character. It's heavy on faith, light on romance. I didn't really get to know or care about the hero much, and the resolution felt a bit rushed. But I really liked the main character's journey, her honest questioning, and the mystery element to her current project.

Lillie Beth in Summer by Eva Marie Everson: This might be my favorite story of the bunch because it's so fascinating and has an unusual romance. Like with Linda, I've read another book by this author (Chasing Sunsets), and she's a great writer. This is the historical novella in the collection, set during the Vietnam War, and it has a bit of Christy flair. Again, I would say the romance resolves rather quickly...but it's tricky when the majority of the plot centers on a very short period of time. Still, it's sweet and pretty satisfying.

Through an Autumn Window by Claire Fullerton: This is the non-romance story, featuring a married couple but highlighting some quirky (yet relatable) family dynamics. The plot is a bit odd in that the whole focus is on a funeral (and all the other elements of laying a loved one to rest), and the starring relationship isn't really clear right away (unless you remember the back-cover description), especially with the various flashbacks. Again, everything feels resolved a bit too quickly and neatly; it's hard to imagine someone doing such an unexpected and fast about-face. The best part of the story is probably the descriptions; it's definitely a moody, vivid read.

A Magnolia Blooms in Winter by Ane Mulligan: This has got to be the cutest story in the collection! I really liked the main character, her mom, and the charming town she grew up in. The main plot about directing a play at her home church is fun to read, especially once the "villain" undergoes a few changes. ;) The romance tries to be a driving factor, but it doesn't feel like the main thing in most of the chapters, and the hero and heroine don't spend a ton of time together. The plot also tries to cover a lot of ground in the few pages allotted to it. Still, it's a fun and very sweet way to round out the collection.

A Southern Season doesn't really focus on swings, as the subtitle might suggest, but it definitely does a lovely job spotlighting a Southern flavor and the varying moods of the seasons. A lot of the stories seem to reach their happily-ever-afters a bit too easily, but I would say their strength is in their main characters. They'll surprise you sometimes, show you some hidden depths, and make you interested and invested in this season of their lives.

*With thanks to Firefly Southern Fiction through JustRead Publicity for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.*

Tour Giveaway!

One winner will receive a print copy of A Southern Season, signed by all four authors! (US only)

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight October 30, 2018 and last through 11:59 pm November 5, 2018. US only. Winner will be notified within a week of the close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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Follow along at JustRead for a full list of tour stops!

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