Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"A Quiet Extrovert"

I like people. I'm an introvert—oftentimes insecure and socially awkward. Have a hard time talking in front of crowds or being the center of attention in general. But ...

I love meeting new people.

I long to make new friends.

I adore big gatherings—where I'm surrounded by people (and at least one trusted friend) but am not pressured to be involved. I can visit at my own pace.

I am thrilled when I talk to random people in town; it makes life feel interesting and full of hope.

I thrive on devoted relationships and deep conversations.

I've done quite a few personality tests, one of which is found at 16personalities.com. There I was labeled "TheAdvocate", an INFJ personality. An introvert. But interestingly enough, people with this personality type are often known as "quiet extroverted types".

I'm very passionate about books, writing, and literary characters; and I need my own space sometimes, but ... I feel I will wither up and die inside without real companionship and community.

While living on the west coast, a distant cousin approached me wanting to form a friendship. I was actually a little amazed that she wanted to get to know me; and delighted, of course! We got together several times and talked easily, having lovely times. Even though I think we were both pretty nervous to meet each other in person!
Later, I met one of her nieces at a young people’s event. We talked the whole evening about blogging, writing, and different topics—and I thoroughly enjoyed myself!
Then I met three more of her nieces (we’re all around the same age, more or less) and had an absolutely amazing time visiting with them.
I was surprised and quite happy to find out how much I had in common with all five young ladies, and it was just so fun to get to know them and start forming friendships. I had so missed that companionship—having people who actually understood certain trials you were going through, struggles you faced, or quirks you just thought no one else could relate to! *smiles*

Another moment that stood out to me while living on the west coast was when another one of my cousins quoted to me from one of my favorite books (one of her favorites too!), when I was sick. I always find myself remembering that particular happening because it felt very special to me, what with how important books are to me. For me, it was a moment of true connection and friendship. ^_^ Peoples, when you connect with me through books, it means a lot. *smiles*

Currently, I’m back at my family’s house with my parents and siblings. I do miss my older brother, relatives, and new friends on the west coast, but it feels right to be where I am at this time.
  • Investing in the lives of my six younger sisters & brothers.
  • Talking and spending quality time with my mom.
  • Devoting time to my writing project.

But I struggled for many weeks, wondering about finding that companionship outside my family here. And guess what? I felt the faithfulness of God last Saturday when my mom, sister, and I met with another mom and her oldest daughter (from my family’s homeschool group). We sat at Chick-fil-A eating waffle fries and drinking half-unsweetened-tea-half-lemonade (*wink*), and talking for hours. Talking about books, and other such things, mind you. *grins* After that visit, I felt more refreshed and hopeful than I had in a long time.

And, I’m planning to go to Bible study at my family’s church for the first time. I’m really excited!

So what is the point of this post? Well, I suppose to just give you a little glimpse into my life, and thoughts, and feelings.

And let you know that I love to connect with you! Having a blog has been such a blessing, in that I get to bond a little bit with so many readers and writers and other such folk!

(Share my blog with others! *smiles*)

So, I am an introvert—but I love people. Companionship means everything to me.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cover Love #25

I looked back, and realized I've done 20+ of these "cover love" posts ... so here's another one for you! *grins*

Favorite cover, my friends? Most anticipated release? Why?

Just the Way You Are {A Pleasant Gap Romance #1} by Pepper D. Basham

Expected Publication: April 2017

Exiles {Ilyon Chronicles #4} by Jaye L. Knight

Expected Publication: May 2017

The Splash of Lady Harriett {Tanglewood #3} by Rachael Anderson

Expected Publication: August 28th, 2017

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden

Expected Publication: October 3rd, 2017

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Expected Publication: October 3rd, 2017

The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Expected Publication: November 2017

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage {Tales from Ivy Hill #2} by Julie Klassen

Expected Publication: December 2017

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Book Review: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

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Title: The Agency: A Spy in the House

Author: Y.S. Lee

Series: A Mary Quinn Mystery #1

Genre: Historical/Spy Novel

Audience: Young Adult


Introducing an exciting new series! Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this diverting mystery trails a feisty heroine as she takes on a precarious secret assignment.

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past.

**4 stars**

An interesting mystery story! I enjoy a good mystery in an intriguing historical setting - such as the Victorian era, in this case. *smiles* And though they were rather rude and infuriating at times, I do like both Mary and James and want to see more of them! There was a smidgen of romance, but mostly arguing, between our two main characters.

Some minor language and misuses of God's name. Also, mentions of mistresses and affairs. If I ever collected this series, I'd have to do a bit of whiting-out. Nothing extreme though.

I look forward to reading the next book in THE AGENCY series by Y.S. Lee!

Book Review: Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden

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Title: Until the Dawn

Author: Elizabeth Camden

Series: Standalone

Genre: Historical

Audience: Adult


A volunteer for the newly established Weather Bureau, Sophie van Riijn needs access to the highest spot in her village to report the most accurate readings. Fascinated by Dierenpark, an abandoned mansion high atop a windswept cliff in the Hudson River Valley, Sophie knows no better option despite a lack of permission from the absent owners.

The first Vandermark to return to the area in sixty years, Quentin intends to put an end to the shadowy rumors about the property that has brought nothing but trouble upon his family. Ready to tear down the mansion, he is furious to discover a local woman has been trespassing on his land.

Instantly at odds, Quentin and Sophie find common ground when she is the only one who can reach his troubled son. There's a light within Sophie that Quentin has never known, and a small spark of the hope that left him years ago begins to grow. But when the secrets of Dierenpark and the Vandermark family history are no longer content to stay in the past, will tragedy triumph or can their tenuous hope prevail?

**4.5 stars**

Oh my, this was really good! 4.5 stars! Until the Distant Dawn by Elizabeth Camden was a little hard for me to get into, but I ended up loving it! Such a poignant theme! Soul-touching. It was interesting, mysterious, humorous, and profound. The faith aspect touched my heart. Sophie made me smile. Ratface made me laugh. *grins* Quentin made me think. And Peiter was just a really sweet boy. There were themes of intrigue, forgiveness, and faith. The romance was fairly light. One or two brief scenes involving a kiss. I really appreciated how most of that played out!

Overall, it was a unique historical read that left my heart joyful and gave me satisfied feeling! ^_^

Book Review: Emmaline by Sarah Holman

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Title: Emmaline

Author: Sarah Holman

Series: The Vintage Jane Austen #1

Genre: Historical/Retelling

Audience: Young Adult - Adult


What if Jane Austen’s Emma lived in America in the year 1930?

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

Will she help Catarina find the man of her dreams? Why is her father acting so strangely? Will the downturn affect her life, despite her best efforts?

**3.5 stars**

Emmaline, a retelling of Jane Austen's Emma, was an enjoyable story—interesting, and ultimately so sweet.

The first book to release in a series of Jane Austen inspired fiction set during the vintage era, Emmaline takes us back to the 1930s and the Great Depression while also providing all the memorable moments from the classic Emma.
Emmaline Wellington is busy trying to find a wealthy match for the sweet, German girl she’s become acquainted with. But she also never misses a chance to spar with her longtime friend and neighbor, Fredrick Knight. He isn’t so sure about her escapades, while Emmaline is confident of her match-making skills. But things are about to change. The future is unsure for many where finances are concerned … and even more uncertain when it comes to romance.

I did love finding all the familiar “Emma scenes”! Though I don’t actually read much for Jane Austen novels, I love the movies based on the books and have watched three different versions of Emma! I thought Sarah Holman did a great job bringing this classic tale to life in a whole different era. It was a fun retelling, for sure. All the characters came to life in a little different way. I found I was quite fond of Geraldine’s character by the end. ^_^ I also really appreciated the Christian theme and the lessons learned throughout the book.

Though I missed the balls and early 1800s etiquette, all in all it was a unique rendering of the beloved Regency story. I’m excited for the rest of the books from THE VINTAGE JANE AUSTEN series to come out! I believe fans of Jane Austen will certainly enjoy! (By the way, gorgeous covers!)

I received a copy of Emmaline from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Book Review: The New Recruit by Jill Williamson

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Title: The New Recruit

Author: Jill Williamson

Series: The Mission League #1

Genre: Contemporary/Spy Novel/Speculative

Audience: Teen - Young Adult


Forced to choose between military school and a Christian spy organization, skeptic Spencer Garmond signs on with the Bible geeks. But before he even boards the plane for Moscow, Spencer realizes this is no Bible club.

These guys mean business.

Stumbling onto a case involving a gang of homeless boys, a chilling tattoo, and the always beautiful Anya Vseveloda, Spencer struggles to find the faith needed to save the Mission League from enemy infiltration.

**4 stars**

Well, this wasn't bad at all! *grins* The New Recruit by Jill Williamson isn't my first choice of read, but I ended up quite enjoying it. Our main character, Spencer, was hard to like in more than one way; but he had some great character development through the course of the book.

Spies. Secrets. Action. Danger. Growing. An interesting group of teens on a unique adventure. I look forward to seeing what happens next!

Book Review: Anomaly by Krista McGee

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Title: Anomaly

Author: Krista McGee

Series: Anomaly #1

Genre: Dystopian/Science Fiction

Audience: Young Adult


Thalli has fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds left to live. The toxic gas that will complete her annihilation is invading her bloodstream. But she is not afraid.

Thalli is different than others in The State. She feels things. She asks questions. And in the State, this is not tolerated. The Ten scientists who survived the nuclear war that destroyed the world above believe that emotion was at the core of what went wrong—and they have genetically removed it from the citizens they have since created. Thalli has kept her malformation secret from those who have monitored her for most of her life, but when she receives an ancient piece of music to record as her community’s assigned musician, she can no longer keep her emotions secreted away.

Seen as a threat to the harmony of her Pod, Thalli is taken to the Scientists for immediate annihilation. But before that can happen, Berk—her former Pod mate who is being groomed as a Scientist—steps in and persuades the Scientists to keep Thalli alive as a test subject.

The more time she spends in the Scientist’s Pod, the clearer it becomes that things are not as simple as she was programmed to believe. She hears stories of a Designer—stories that fill her mind with more questions: Who can she trust? What is this emotion called love? And what if she isn’t just an anomaly, but part of a greater design?

**4.5 stars**

4.5 stars! I really, really liked Anomaly by Krista McGee, and am super excited to finish the ANOMALY series! This is a Christian dystopian/science-fiction tale (which I love!) It's intriguing, raw, unique, and thought-provoking. There's also a heartfelt, beautiful journey to finding truth.

The dystopian world, the characters, the plot ... all so well done. I definitely had the feels while reading Anomaly. It drew out my emotions and made me think about what the world would be like without emotions. Without free will. Without the ability to question or fight back.

I can hardly wait to reconnect with Thalli and her friends and continue this mind-boggling, futuristic story!

Book Review: Waking Beauty by Sarah E. Morin

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Title: Waking Beauty

Author: Sarah E. Morin

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling

Audience: Young Adult


The rescue wasn't going at all how he planned. Prince Arpien intends to gain a throne and the sleeping beauty's heart with a single kiss that wakes her from the evil fairy's curse. But kissing the princess is only the beginning of a series of unforeseen obstacles: man–eating bugs, deadly spindles, talking lapdogs, and fiery pickles. The sleeping beauty is the biggest complication of all. Princess Brierly is beautiful and Fairy–Gifted, but also ... daft. After one hundred years of sleep imprisonment, Brierly refuses to believe this rescue is anything more than a tantalizing but doomed dream. Arpien is drawn to the vibrancy beneath Brierly's indifferent exterior. Can they reclaim her kingdom? Do they dare trust in the Prince of the old tales to help them battle the evil fairy who cursed Brierly? What is the price of waking beauty?

**4 stars**

Now that was a huge book! Waking Beauty by Sarah E. Morin is a fairy tale retelling, of the epic sort. It was unique and humorous, while spinning an intense, thought-provoking tale that pierces straight to your heart. While the writing was not, personally, my favorite style, I did love the fairy tale-ish-ness of this thick novel; the fantasy world was great, and more than one scene brought me to tears. The Christian allegory woven into Waking Beauty was profound indeed. Because of the more narrative way the story went about, it got a little long at times for me; but Sarah E. Morin wove so many amazing thoughts and lessons in here ... challenges and encouragement. And some sweetness. ^_^ When I finished reading, I wanted to hug the book (and characters).

Oh, and Arpien was fabulous. All his labeled bows were quite entertaining. And his heart is truly loyal and heroic.

There were a couple, fairly brief, moments that it got violent/gruesome. That would be my one caution. Otherwise, Waking Beauty is great fairy tale with some powerful Truth woven in the core of it.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Book Review: Sparrow by Mandy Fender

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Title: Sparrow

Author: Mandy Fender

Series: Defier #2

Genre: Dystopian/Science Fiction

Audience: Young Adult


The fight has only just begun ... 

Lennox Winters is guilty. She stood in defiance against the Regime when no one else would. Now, she must train to become a Sparrow and fight for what she believes. 
When the war breaks out in her hometown, she is forced to decide whether she will obey orders or rebel against the authority she respects. Either way, she must protect those she loves most, no matter the dangers.

As she navigates new territory with her loyal best friend, she’ll risk her life, and even her soul, for victory. 

In war, sacrifice is inevitable. 

Is her faith enough to get her through the fire?

**4 stars**

Sparrow is the exciting sequel to Defier: The Girl Who Stood by Mandy Fender! These books are Christian dystopian, action-packed and faith-filled!

Lennox Winters is now a Sparrow soldier, living in a protected base along with her friend, Sky, brother, Oliver, and other resisters. The Regime is still hard at work, spreading their evil across the world. Time is running out. Lennox and her friends must find Lennox and Oliver's mother's locket, embedded with a secret chip, and destroy the Regime's plan.

Sparrow is a story of faith and sorrow. Evil and victory. I love how Many Fender always points back to God and relying on His strength. Lennox and the others must learn to trust God with everything - their lives, and the lives of those they love. Beautiful theme of faith and hope and trust.

We get some dystopian technology and whatnot, which is always fun for me! The genre of dystopian is almost like a form of fantasy. Authors imagine what our world could be like in the future, and make up all kinds of weird and interesting things. *grins* So that was enjoyable.

There's action and battles. Pain and fear. Some characters we love get hit hard. Things are so very uncertain ... but Sparrow ends on a note of hope and determination. Things are not over. Lennox will not stop fighting. God is still on the throne.

I look forward to reading book three, the conclusion to the DEFIER series, Conqueror!

I received a copy of Sparrow from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Book Review: An Elegant Facade by Kristi Ann Hunter

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Title: An Elegant Facade

Author: Kristi Ann Hunter

Series: Hawthorne House #2

Genre: Historical

Audience: Adult


Lady Georgina Hawthorne has worked tirelessly to seal her place as the Incomparable for her debut season. At her first London ball, she hopes to snag the attention of an earl.

With money and business connections, but without impeccable bloodlines, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere. When he first encounters the fashionable Lady Georgina, he's irritated by his attraction to a woman who concerns herself only with status and appearance.

What Colin doesn't know is that Georgina's desperate social aspirations are driven by the shameful secret she harbors. Association with Colin McCrae is not part of Georgina's plan, but as their paths continue to cross, they both must decide if the realization of their dreams is worth the sacrifices they must make.

**5 stars**

Oh my goodness, I loved this book! An Elegant Facade is book two in the HAWTHORNE HOUSE series by Kristi Ann Hunter; and is it ever a worthy sequel!

Lady Georgina Hawthorne isn't the most likable young woman, I admit. She's on a desperate hunt for a suitable husband, and comes across as selfish and vain. Colin McCrae provides some humor as Georgina swishes about, dressed all in white, trying to win the man who has eyes for her sister.
It's only later in the book that we learn just why Georgina's search is so desperate. And that's when the real adventure begins ...

An Elegant Facade tells a good bit of the first book, A Noble Masquerade's tale - only from Georgina and Colin's perspective this time. Have read the first book not too long ago, it was fun to see those familiar scenes through a different pair of eyes! *grins*

Colin was great! Witty and funny. But good, a gentleman for sure. I love how seriously he took his faith ... how he leaned on God. One of my favorite aspects of the story was how he put God above all. He wasn't willing to marry a woman who didn't share his faith because his relationship with God was so important to him.

As I mentioned above, Georgina wasn't a lovable character. But as the story progresses, we see some awesome character development and life-changing moments. Truly, my favorite thing about this book was our main character's journey. It was so incredible! And Kristi Ann Hunter brought it about flawlessly. Everything was real and believable and soul-deep; and by the end I was rooting for a character who, at first glance, didn't seem to have any redeemable qualities. It was truly a sight to behold.

The romance was darling. Slow, and not overpowering the story, but oh so sweet and worth the wait in the end. So yes. Beautiful. And I would say An Elegant Facade was less "romance-y" than the first book ... I'd recommend to about sixteen and up.

All in all, an amazing Regency romance. I can hardly wait to read more by Kristi Ann Hunter! An Uncommon Courtship, I await thee! *winks*

Book Review: Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot

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Title: Prelude for a Lord

Author: Camille Elliot

Series: The Gentlemen Quartet #1

Genre: Historical

Audience: Adult


An awkward young woman. A haunted young man. A forbidden instrument. Can the love of music bring them together ... or will it tear them apart?

Bath, England—1810

At twenty-eight, Alethea Sutherton is past her prime for courtship; but social mores have never been her forté. She might be a lady, but she is first and foremost a musician.

In Regency England, however, the violin is considered an inappropriate instrument for a lady. Ostracized by society for her passion, Alethea practices in secret and waits for her chance to flee to the Continent, where she can play without scandal. 

But when a thief’s interest in her violin endangers her and her family, Alethea is determined to discover the enigmatic origins of her instrument ... with the help of the dark, brooding Lord Dommick.

Scarred by war, Dommick finds solace only in playing his violin. He is persuaded to help Alethea, and discovers an entirely new yearning in his soul. 

Alethea finds her reluctant heart drawn to Dommick in the sweetest of duets ... just as the thief’s desperation builds to a tragic crescendo ...

**5 stars**

Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot was so, so good! I'm in love with Regency era novels! This book had amazing characters, tender romance, intrigue & suspense, deep emotions, authentic faith, and a generous musical theme. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Lord Dommick was certainly a "Mr. Darcy" type character, which I loved! ^_^ I also loved Alethea Sutherton, our other POV character. Such a stirring, poignant tale. The parts about violins and soulful music were captivating. The faith theme came more at the end, but it built up to it throughout the book, and reached a beautiful crescendo - so meaningful.

There were a couple kisses exchanged, a bit about a marriage of convenience, and some mentions of scandals. I would recommend to 18 and up.

Overall, this read was so worth it! I eagerly wait to read more by Camille Elliot! I dearly hope Prelude for a Lord is not the only book in this series, THE GENTLEMEN QUARTET. Write stories for Ian and Ravenhurst, please, Camille! *smiles*