Sunday, December 29, 2013

Another Year Gone... {Top Thirteen Books of 2013!}

Wow! I can hardly believe another year has gone by and that 2013 is almost over! It has been SUCH a great year for the blog and I have all of you, my dear readers, to thank for that.

Ah, 2013. Even when I think things can't get any better they do. That's just how my God works. {Rom. 8:28} Don't take this to mean I don't have growing pains, because I do. And when I do, I have made a habit of leaning on the One Who holds me in His hand. He is my Peace. He is the One I trust. {John 14:27} In this past year, He picked up my broken pieces and called me to forgive. He repaired the broken vessel I had become and called me to trust. He molded me into something new and called me His own. {2 Cor. 5:17} He is my Rock and my Refuge, to whom I owe everything.

2013 has been another busy year filled with memories and friends, new and old, and of course, family. I've been stretched beyond my capabilities in ways I would not have expected in 2012. It's been a year of healing, forgiveness, growth, and happiness, and that's just my personal life! In the past six or so months, God has blessed and continues to bless this blog in ways I couldn't anticipate.

Moving forward, I'm eager to see what this new year brings. I look forward to meeting more people, more bloggers, and talking with more authors. I look forward to expanding my blog posts to include more snippets of my life. I look forward to sharing more of my writing journey in the months to come. But most importantly, I look forward to shining my light. If 2013 was a great year, I cannot begin to imagine what 2014 will bring!
So, to close I bring you my top thirteen favorite books released this year (in no particular order). All of these books are marvelous and I love all of them in different ways. Some as a writer, others as a reader, and the rest simply as a human being. ;-D

  • My Hope is Found by Joanne Bischof
  • Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck
  • Icing on the Cake by Janice Thompson
  • Love in a Broken Vessel by Mesu Andrews
  • Captives by Jill Williamson
  • Anomaly by Krista McGee
  • Whispers from the Shadows by Roseanna White 
  • Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering
  • Stranded by Dani Pettrey
  • Glittering Promises by Lisa T. Bergren
  • The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill
  • Return to Me by Lynn Austin
  • Dear, Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

I pray that in the coming year you will be blessed. Thank you so much for reading. :-)

Friday, December 20, 2013

{Book Review:} It Had to be You by Janice Thompson

6973753My Review:
A funny conclusion to a great series!

Ah, at long last I made time for the last book in the Weddings by Bella series and it was so worth it! I have a new appreciation for seeing the Rossi/Neeley clan in Thompson's latest series, Weddings by Design. I would hate thinking that It Had to be You was my last chance to spend time with this crazy family. I might have read slower. Thankfully though, it isn't. :-)

In this enjoyable wrap-up we get to read about the moment all of us have been waiting for since Fools Rush In, Bella and DJ's wedding! I have loved every moment watching the two become close friends while they dated/courted. That's how romance should be portrayed.

As far as complaints go mine are minor. Everything after Rosa and Laz's wedding seemed rushed and it didn't flow with the rest of the book for me. Other than a couple winks at the honeymoon, Thompson kept the book very clean. I easily recommend this one to anyone who's read the previous two books or enjoys a clean rom-com. :-)

I purchased this book, no review required.

Back Cover:
Bella couldn't be happier that her long-feuding Aunt Rosa and Uncle Lazarro have finally admitted their love for one another and are getting married. Their forties-style wedding is sure to be a night to remember. But when the Rossi house begins to fill up with family from Italy--and an old mobster from New Jersey--life starts to get complicated. Will Lazarro's friend from the past drive the happy couple apart once more? And will Bella ever have time to think of her own rapidly-approaching wedding amidst the chaos?

Full of laugh-out-loud humor, plenty of Italian passion, and a bit of Texas gumption, "It Had to Be You" is the satisfying conclusion to an entertaining series.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cave Secrets of the Pterodactyl! {Guest Post!}

Hey everyone! I have something special prepared for you all today. A friend of mine recently had her children's book, Cave Secrets of the Pterodactyl, published. Below is a wonderful guest post from Aidyl Ewoh. Enjoy! 
About Cave Secrets of the Pterodactyl:
Traveling with her parents brings Lydia, daughter of explorer and singer Buddy Davis, plenty of adventure and mystery - from hidden clues in bookstores to cave paintings deep underground.

About the Author:
Whether she’s building life-sized models of dinosaurs with her adopted family, trying her hand at cooking at a private retreat, or living in a barn, author Aidyl Ewoh (aka Lydia Howe) seems to have adventures follow her wherever she goes. Check out her book, Cave Secrets of the Pterodactyl and find out more about her at her Blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Answer to the True or False question from the last stop: False! 

Hey y’all! I’m here today with my character, CJ Carter from my book, Cave Secrets of the Pterodactyl. If you’ve never read a character interview before, this might be a little weird at first, but it’s something that authors often do to help others, and themselves, get to know their characters better. So hang on tight and here we go!

Hey CJ, it’s good to have you here today! I know you’re a brilliant kid and that this interview will be loads of fun. Can you start out by telling us a little bit about yourself?  
Might I start out by expressing my gratitude at your considerate words, Miss Aidyl? I thank you kindly. My name is CJ Carter and I suppose the actual motivation for requesting my presence here is because I’m Lydia Davis’ friend and confidant. Perchance I should tell you about her instead, therefore? 

Um, well, I’ve already done an interview with Lydia. Today we want to hear about you. 

What information are you desiring to obtain? 

Ah, um, that’s a good question. Why not tell us your age, about your family, that kind of thing. 

I am the oldest of three children and am 13 years old. I-

Thirteen years old? I’m sure that’s a bit hard for some of our readers to comprehend. Do you always use such big words? 

A vocabulary, no matter who possesses it, is always in need of refinement and extension. Therefore I strive to speak in terms which are easily understood by the laymen and yet bring out the most in any given subject. 

Hey, everyone! Lydia Davis here. I thought I’d better jump in here and help CJ out. He really is fun, no matter what he sounds like!

Lydia, would you satisfy our spirit of inquiry by expounding on your most erupt and informal assault into our interview? 

Sure, easy enough. Sometimes you use such big words that no one understands them, and I didn’t want people to leave thinking that you’re a stuffy kid that always has his nose in a Algebra book. 

I do habitually and almost unfailingly have ‘my nose in a book’ as you put it. Although I most often chose Biology or Chemistry over Algebra. 

Not always CJ, and you’re making yourself sound boring. Which you aren’t. 

Boring? Do you mean to say that not everyone finds studying about the molecular structure of -

Yes, CJ, I’m afraid that is what Lydia’s trying to say. Sorry about that, and I’d be happy to listen to you after this interview is over. For now though, why don’t we focus on you, not science. Can you tell us about where you live? 

Yes, ma’am. So far I’ve spent the formative years of my life growing up in Maine. Our family will be transferring to Kentucky in the eminent future though, so we can be in close proximity to the Creation Museum.

Yea! It’s going to be so much fun having y’all live so close! 

Thank you for your notable joy. You are a true friend. 

Thanks, CJ. 

Why don’t you tell us about Isaac and Annie? Too bad they weren’t able to join us today. 

All right, Miss Aidyl. Isaac and Annie are my siblings, ages seven and six. Isaac is fond of adventure and has a rather active imagination that visualizes escapades wherever his feet trod. Annie is, well, shall we say more, girly, and although a thrilling adventure might not frighten her too much, the fear of peril and risk keep her in check. 

Sounds like your mother has her hands full. And while we’re on that subject, can you tell us about your parents? 

It would be my delight. My parents are Jim and Melissa Carter. My Father is a speaker for Answers in Genesis and has far more knowledge about the Bible and history of the world than most other mortals to walk the earth. 

Is he as smart as you are, CJ? 

I beg an explanation of you, Miss Aidyl.

Oh right. That’s not really a fair question to ask you. Lydia, can you answer this one for us? 

Sure! Although Uncle Jim is really smart, I don’t think he would be considered a genius like CJ is. He doesn’t use such big words all the time either. 

I daresay, this is a rather interesting interview. Discussing my father’s intellect? Is that average procedure? 

Um, no. I guess you’re right again, CJ. Ok, so why don’t you tell us about your mom? 

My mother is so very kind and gentle. She has taken in hand to teach her children at home, a gift for which I will be forever grateful for. 

Wow, your mom must be a pretty amazing woman to homeschool you! I can’t even imagine! Well, I would love to hear more but our time’s over for today. Thanks for stopping by CJ and Lydia!

It was our pleasure.  

For your chance to get a free book and Wal-Mart gift card, check out THIS post!

To find out the answer to today's True or False question and read about how I got involved with AiG, check out THIS blog tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

{Book Review:} The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill

18741771My Review:
The exciting, long anticipated, sequel to The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is out!

Technically, it came out a few months ago, but I didn't get a chance to read it until recently. Anyway, I don't exaggerate when I say I couldn't put my ereader down. Okay, so I did. But only because I was dragged from the house to go somewhere. Once I came home it was me, the ereader, and the recliner for the next couple hours.

I am amazed, yet again, at the strength of Ellie's voice. She's sounds so real. She sticks out. Ellie is a character I'd love to spend a day with. Something else I adore about her, is her stubbornness. She doesn't like giving up. I wish I could elaborate on this, but that would spoil the fun. ;-)

After the first book released, there was some debate about Ellie's suitors. I think many people may find themselves surprised when they read The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet, in a good way, of course. I know I was. I enjoyed this book so much more than I could have imagined, and it certainly is a new favorite. This is probably Mrs. Morrill's best yet!

I'll draw the review to a close now, because I think if I went on I might spoil something. Hehehe... Fans new and old will love, love, love, this new Ellie Sweet story. I recommend to ages fourteen and up.

I purchased an ebook copy of this book, no review required.

Back Cover:
For once, Ellie Sweet has it all together. Her hair now curls instead of fuzzes, she’s tamed the former bad-boy, Chase Cervantes (she has, right?), and her debut novel will hit shelves in less than a year. Even her ex-friends are leaving her alone. Well, except for Palmer Davis, but it can’t be helped that he works at her grandmother’s nursing home.

Life should feel perfect. And yet, it’s not that easy. Ellie’s editor loves her, but the rest of the publishing biz? Not so much. And they’re not shy about sharing their distrust over Ellie’s unlikely debut.

Ellie has always been able to escape reality in the pages of her novel, but with the stress of major edits and rocky relationships, her words dry up. In fiction, everything always comes together, but in real life, it seems to Ellie that hard work isn’t always enough, the people you love can’t always be trusted, and the dream-come-true of publishing her book could be the biggest mistake she’s made yet.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Thankful Heart

I know what you're thinking. Thanksgiving was last month! I realize that, however, being thankful should not be limited to one month or one day of the year. It should be an every day practice.

This time of year is frustrating for me. The push to buy, buy, buy gets old fast and it seems to double in intensity every year. I can't walk into a store or turn on the TV without being bombarded by it. This year especially I see parents sharing their woes on Facebook, because their kids don't need anything yet they feel an obligation to get something. Why have we let materialism take over a holiday intended to celebrate Jesus's birth? How does Jesus's birth equate to buying gifts for others in the first place?

Being thankful is becoming a lost habit in our culture. This should be a time spent with family, thankful to just be with one another. It's about fellowship, putting down the electronics, eating amazing fattening foods, and playing games. It's a time not about giving or getting, but treasuring the moment and loving those around you.

I'm thankful for living near my cousins and grandparents. I'm thankful for my family in general. I'm thankful for my friends both online and in person. I'm thankful to be breathing, to be healthy. I'm thankful to be free. I'm thankful for my sweet dog, Joy. Most of all, I'm grateful that God sent His Son for me and for you.

It's hard to believe another year has gone by. As we prepare to welcome 2014, I pray that this new year will be filled with joy and blessings for you all.

What are you thankful for? 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

{Book Review:} Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish

My Review: 
Stones for Bread is an enchanting, emotional, story about Liesl McNamara.

Written in first person present tense, we get an intimate look at Liesl's introverted personality and the events that led to who she is presently. All this while we watch her change and bloom and overcome her traumatic past. Liesl isn't like the many characters I meet on a weekly basis, she stands out. She loves her routine and likes the amount of control she has over her business. She likes certainty. In this aspect at least, I can relate to her.

This is going to sound strange, but this book reminds me of the movie Chocolat. Not because of the characters or even the setting, but because of the heart and soul of making bread passed down from mother to daughter on Liesl's mother's side. In Chocolat, Vianne and her daughter, Anouk, open a chocolate shop. The recipe Vianne uses has been passed down in her family for ages. Chocolat and Stones for Bread are very different in all other ways, but the familiar legacy is similar. I really liked that.

Throughout the novel, Parrish offers us Liesl's recipes. I loved this! In fact I plan on trying Cecilia's chocolate bread soon. I don't normally say this, but I felt like I learned quite a bit about the art of bread making. Parrish gives us this information without boring us, something that could be a big concern for some people. Will I, personally, put it to use? I'm not sure.

I recommend this book to readers sixteen and older for self-harming and a suicide (I'd say more on this, but... spoilers!). Parrish weaves Christianity into this story in a fabulous, unexpected way; especially because Liesl was never a big church goer at the beginning of the story.

I received this book from Booksneeze in return for an honest review of my opinions, which I have done. Thanks!!

Back Cover:
A solitary artisan. A legacy of bread-baking. And one secret that could collapse her entire identity.

Liesl McNamara’s life can be described in one word: bread. From her earliest memory, her mother and grandmother passed down the mystery of baking and the importance of this deceptively simple food. And now, as the owner of Wild Rise bake house, Liesl spends every day up to her elbows in dough, nourishing and perfecting her craft.

But the simple life she has cultivated is becoming quite complicated. Her head baker brings his troubled grandson into the bakeshop as an apprentice. Her waitress submits Liesl’s recipes to a popular cable cooking show. And the man who delivers her flour—a single father with strange culinary habits—seems determined to win Liesl’s affection.

When Wild Rise is featured on television, her quiet existence appears a thing of the past. And then a phone call from a woman claiming to be her half-sister forces Liesl to confront long-hidden secrets in her family’s past. With her precious heritage crumbling around her, the baker must make a choice: allow herself to be buried in detachment and remorse, or take a leap of faith into a new life.

Filled with both spiritual and literal nourishment, Stones for Bread provides a feast for the senses from award-winning author Christa Parrish.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

{Book Review:} Living Separate Lives by Paulette Harper

18524878My Review:
A heartfelt novella that displays the sad realities of the world we live in, but through the perspectives of four Christian women at different stages in their faith.

I still can't get over how short novellas are and in the case of Living Separate Lives, Harper left the story on a cliff making me wish it was longer! Though I did not have much of a chance to really know Candace, Tiffany, Jordan, and Kaylan in the short time I spent with them, I did get a feel for each of their personalities, struggles, and so forth. Harper does an excellent job of bringing a realistic feel to her characters and their circumstances. As for Harper's writing, at times it felt like we head jumped and the sentences didn't always flow.

I can't say much more without giving away a few central points, but I will caution my younger readers. Living Separate Lives deals with adult issues such as infidelity and mention of attempted suicide. I hope there will be a follow up to this novella, because I would read it.

I received an ebook copy of this novella in return for an honest review of my opinions, which I have done.

Back Cover:
Four Friends, One Secret and The Weekend That Changed Their Destiny 

Candace Walker, Kaylan Smith, Jordan Tate and Tiffany Thomas have their share of sorrows but neither of them realizes how deep the sorrow goes. What happens when they agree to meet for a weekend of relaxation in beautiful Napa County? Which one will leave the same or worse?
For Candace Walker life has left her battered and bruised. Kaylan Smith has struggled with prejudice from her in-laws. Bitterness is trying to raise its ugly head, after fifteen years of marriage, Jordan Tate’s husband calls it quits. And for Tiffany Thomas dealing with rejection has never been one of her greatest qualities. 

Will a secret destroy their relationship and bring the sisterhood to a complete halt? Will they be able to forgive and allow God to mend that which might be torn?