Book Review: Grace and the Preacher

30659096“The Kansas community of Fairland anticipates the arrival of their new minister and in recent months, late in 1882, postmistress Grace Cristler has communicated with Reverend Dille via letters, answering his questions about the little town, and developing affection for the man who pens thoughtful missives.
 
Theophil Garrison grew up under the loving influence of his saintly grandmother but was roped into his cousins’ train-robbing plan. When they fail and are apprehended, Theo fled the scene, evading jail time. Now an angry cousin is out to avenge Theo’s duplicity, and he’s on the run. He encounters a fatally ill traveler–a minister. Seeing a way to keep hidden, Theo trades identities with the man, dons his fine black suit, carries a Bible, and prays that he’ll be accepted as Rufus Dille.
 
Once in Fairland, if Theo’s true identity is uncovered, what will be left of the world he has built for himself, Grace, and those in the town who have come to love and accept him?” (from Goodreads)

I picked this book up at the used bookstore because I had credit there and wanted to try a book by this author. It ended up being one of the best books I’ve ever taken a chance on. ❤

The book is FULL of great characters. It’s a slow story, slow as in rich, not boring. It has a total of two sweet, God-honoring romances in it. But those aren’t the main reasons why I love it.

God brought this book to me on the heels of two others that dealt with the idea of romance not being the end-all-be-all. I sometimes found her silly, but I identified with Grace’s hopes and fears and illusions so much! My dear Theo was wrong, but I still felt compassion for him. (And I loved who he became.) They both had to learn to put God first. To let Him fill them up and to let go of what they wanted and do the right thing. I needed that message. 😉 Eventually, the book’s title took on a double meaning that just blew me away. 😀

All the side characters were super. (Except, of course, the essential grumpy church member.) I want to be Aunt Bess when I grow up, and I ended up loving her Sam just from her memories of him. Seriously sweet man. Grace’s uncle was great too. I loved how much he strove to help Theo along, and his zeal for the Lord even at his age was inspiring. It was dearly darling when my sweet people talked through the door during the quarantine. I also fell even harder in love (if possible) when SPOILER ALERT! Theo returned Uncle’s Bible to Grace. END OF SPOILER! And don’t get me started on the ending. ❤

Just a note, there were a few hints at the “impropriety” of a single woman staying at a sick man’s house to take care of him, but someone else was there too and nothing happened.

Best quote: He could tell she didn’t want him to leave. He didn’t want to, either, but a distant clap of thunder told he’d be wise to get inside before the next rainstorm swept in. “I’ll come back tomorrow, an’ the day after that, an’ the next day, too, if you’re all still closed up in there. I’ll come to the back door an’ knock, an’ we’ll talk as long as you want.” “As long as it isn’t raining?” He grinned. This time he knew she was teasing. That was good. “I’ll wear a slicker.”

Altogether, this was a very cute book that blessed me with its deep message.

Coffee Lovers Book Tag

(Sorry I was radio silent on Friday, y’all. My church was hosting a great conference this weekend.)

A friend, fellow book blogger, and super cool author, Lydia Howe tagged me to do this coffee themed book tag. Thanks, Lydia! This looks like so much fun. 😉 And everyone, be sure to watch her extra fun vlog! 

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Confession: I’m a tea girl. And by tea, it’s pretty much just cinnamon tea or matcha chai tea. Whenever I visit our favorite Christian coffee shop, Starbucks, or brew myself a cup at home, that’s what I make. 😉 I have this gigantic maroon red mug I got for Christmas a year ago. It’s the perfect size for enough tea. 😀

I do love coffee shops, though. Coffee is one of the best smells, and it’s the perfect gathering place for a writers’ group.

Okay, now for the questions. 😉 I’ll quit rambling.

1. Black coffee–name a series that is tough to get into but has hardcore fans. I’ll be honest here, the Elsie Dinsmore series is that one for me. I tried the first two books, I believe, but I found how emotional Elsie was and how changeable her father was annoying. 😉 No offense to anyone who loves them. I do think it’s pretty cool how God has used these books to bless people!

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2. Peppermint mocha–name a book that gets more popular during the winter or a festive time of year. Hmm… This is a tough one. 😉 I’ll go with the book I always think of when I want something cozy or Christmas-y. Gift from the Storm by Rebekah Morris is a great home-y story of ordinary people being used by God. It’s really sweet. ❤

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3. Hot chocolate–what is your favorite children’s book? Aaaaaa, this question is too hard! I read quite a few children’s books and love nearly all of them. 😉 I think I’ll go with a picture book since that’s the most childrenish children’s book you can get. 😉 Audrey Bunny is a story of unconditional loving choice, and it’s illustrated by one of my all-time favorite artists. What’s not to love?

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4. Double shot of espresso–name a book that kept you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. (Side note, if I had two shots of espresso I would be awake for 100 years. Which would make me the opposite of Sleeping Beauty. More like a Beast.) I’m going with Crossroads as the book that had me so on the edge of my seat I almost fell off. It exhausted me, actually, but in a good way. 😉 So good.

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5. Starbucks–name a book you see everywhere. I see The Book Thief everywhere! Which makes me happy, happy. 😉 With some whiteout for language, it’s a good one. In fact, I think I blog about it way too much. 😀

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6. That “hipster” coffee shop–give a book by an indie author a shoutout. Hope Ann is one of my favorite indie authors, and I nearly died with delight (too dramatic?) when I found out her first three Legends of Light books were going to be compiled in paperback. Aaaah!!! I have my own copy now. ❤ This series is so good, y’all. The best of fantasy with themes that draw me closer to my Savior. May I present, Burning Rose

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7. Oops! I accidentally ordered decaf–name a book you were expecting more from. Trilogies have this terrible thing about them called “The Middle Book”. Someday, if I want to write a trilogy, I will write four books and throw away whichever book is too boring. But, back to the topic at hand… I enjoyed (with reservations) the Matched series, but the I found the middle book, Crossed, to be veeeerrrry slow, overly romantic, and generally boring. I’m still glad I read it, though, because some of the threads were important for the last book. 😉

8. The perfect blend–name a book or series that was both bitter and sweet but ultimately satisfying. I’m going with Wings of a Dream, a lovely book I was blessed to read this month. A good friend of mine sent it to me for Christmas, and I read it in a day. *sighs happily*

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There you go! Now I really want some tea and a good book to read. 😉 I tag Victoria Lynn at Ruffles and Grace and anyone else who would like to do this tag. (Bonus points if you make it a vlog. 😉 )

Have you read any of these books? What is your favorite hot beverage?

Short Story Review: Pioneer Horizon

37768930“A group of scientists and the Marines assigned to guard them are on the surface of planet Novus-147 assessing it for potential human colonization. When a deadly storm rolls in with no warning, they lose contact with the USS Calypso in orbit overhead. 

Will they survive? Will they be able to reestablish contact?” (from Goodreads)

Hooray for more Mydlands! Even though the stories about the Wyatt family (review coming soon!) are my very favorite, I enjoyed this glimpse into the rest of space. This story is written a little more technically, but since it’s first person perspective of an exploring scientist that actually worked perfectly. 😉 Adam was my favorite side character, but it was neat to see how the whole team interacted. I got happy shivers from that ending though. ❤

Best quote: “You know how people talk about sleeping with one eye open?” He shrugged and then headed for the rocks. “I’ll go first.”

Altogether, I enjoyed this story of pioneers in space. 😉

Story Switch

So… I finished the first draft of “Legend” last week!!! 😀 It came out around 14k words (just slightly longer than The Twin Arrows), but I anticipate that changing since I have a few scenes to cut and a couple others to extend. Right now it’s the very definition of raw material, but I’m excited to be this far in the process. XD In a few months, I will pull it out and start into draft two. 😉

Apparently going to the zoo is brilliant for gathering story ideas. (Who knew?) We had out of town relatives visiting this weekend, and they took us to the zoo. The combination of being outside on an overcast day and seeing so many exotic, fascinating things put me in a pretty creative mood. 😉 One thing I realized is that swamps are an underutilized setting for fantasy novels. (They nearly all take place in a forest of some type.) Someone needs to fix this. 😀 The alligators could be sooo scary. I also found an aspect of the plot for the novel I will be planning in my creative writing class. So exciting!!!

Since “Legend” is on the backburner, I’m returning to work on “Kiera”. I had already made it 1/3 of the way through the second draft in September, so right now “working” on it consists mainly of reading through it, writing notes, and getting back into the story. It’s rather fun, actually. 😉 (And I’m enjoying this reunion with my characters. ❤ )

I’d love your prayers as I work through this draft, especially that the message the Lord has laid on my heart would shine through clearly. 😉

 

Caring for My Creativity

I do some of the same things every day. Some because they are necessary to life (i.e. toothbrushing, eating, and answering emails) and others because I simply could never give them up (i.e. Bible reading, fiction gobbling, and story scribing).

While I dearly love stability and routine, sometimes my creative life falls into a rut. And inspiration goes waaaaaay down… down… down.

So, what am I doing to care for my creative brain this week?

  1. Shaking things up! I like to change my writing spot or medium. Lately, I’ve been writing in the corner between the couch and the wall or outside sitting on our swingset. If I’ve been using the computer for several projects (or a lot of homework), I like to switch to a notebook. Sometimes I pull out a piece of paper and half scribble/half doodle my thoughts to get those creative juices flowing! (Like I just did for this blog post.)
  2. Trying a new hobby (or rather, an old one I’ve forgotten). My main creative hobbies are almost all the same, but I’ve discovered that it’s always good for me to exercise my brain in other creative areas. That could mean writing poetry or making a baby quilt, drawing or knitting an afghan the size of the UK. When I realized this week that my brain was falling into a rut, I decided I needed a project. Today I bought some gorgeous scrapbooking paper at the craft store. I’m already scheming what to do with it. 😀
  3. Making some things back into play. Something my mom told me in a conversation this week made me realize that I’ve accidentally turned some of my favorite activities into work. I was complaining that I was behind on writing book reviews, but I realized that none of those books were ones I had committed to reviewing. I read them purely for pleasure but was holding myself to a standard of writing long, thoughtful reviews within a certain time frame. Basically, work. I found that the activities I would usually do to recharge had become work, leaving me with no refreshment. 😉 So I’m working on drawing lines for myself of what is work and what stays play. 😀

What do you do to spark inspiration and keep things fresh? Does answering emails really make the world go around?

Book Review: Together

33371246“Spring has come once again to the Triple Creek Ranch, but things aren’t all peaceful and sunny. Orlena’s attitude has even Jenelle wondering what to do, while Stephen struggles along in school and Norman faces the possibility of losing one of his ranch hands. Join the Mavrich family for a season of strangers, storms, and struggles.” (from Goodreads)

I received this book for my birthday earlier this year, which was a special surprise. 😀 Several things delayed my reading of it, but I finally got to crack it open and enjoy another season on the Triple Creek Ranch.

Jenelle and Norman were great as always, and Lloyd is my favorite of the regular ranchhands. I always enjoy the side characters in these books so it was neat to see some new developments in their lives. A new schoolteacher, maybe? *huge grin* And I am entirely delighted by the Mavrichs’ new neighbors. ❤

Throughout the series, Orlena has undergone some major heart changes. It’s been neat to see her SPOILER ALERT! struggle, surrender, and mature. I enjoyed her journey even more in this book since it hit very close to home. Following Christ is a day to day choice and relational setbacks occur when our relationship with Him isn’t right.

Stephen was such a sweetheart in this one. Probably my favorite character. (Although Marian is darling.) It hurt to see Orlena being so mean to him, especially since he’s still so afraid of consequences for getting in trouble. And, oh my, that ending!! It made the book a five star one for sure. SPOILER ALERT! I loved God’s proof to him that he couldn’t do everything on his own.

Best quote: “Do you want him to look at you and decide that if Christians are like you, than he doesn’t want to be one?” “No.” It was the faintest of whispers.

Altogether, this was a sweet and satisfying read! 😉

 

The Allegiance Blog Tour: Interview of Sarah Addison-Fox

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Today I’d like to introduce you to author Sarah Addison-Fox and her very sparkly dystopian book Disowned

allegiancebooktourmediaki-001Sarah, tell us a bit about yourself.
Well, I’m from New Zealand, I’m really silly a lot of the time. I love reading, and I’m a shameless fangirl when it comes to my favourite books. I have a wonderful husband who I met when I was 13 and I have two smashing children who we home-school. I write Christian Fantasy, usually chocka block with romance, action, and adventure. I tend to focus more on the characters, and the action than the world building and any magic I write into my stories all stems from my own views on God being our Creator.

What first made you decide you wanted to be an author?

I always wanted to be an author. From the time I was a little girl writing stories about princesses, to my late twenties and thirties when I studied writing and earned a Diploma in Fiction writing. I spent a long period of time thinking I wanted to write Romantic Intrigue.

It wasn’t until I was looking for faith building books for my daughter to read, that I stumbled onto Donita K Paul’s series. I loved how she wove faith into the story without it being too heavy handed, and of course the dragons were pretty cool! After that I searched out more like it, building a library of Young Adult books that my daughter could read when she was older. $1000 books later (postage to NZ is a killer) I found that not only did I like Fantasy but that I actually preferred it over other genres.

I spent about a year binge reading, then I got my Kindle as a gift, and discovered Tricia Mingerink’s Blades of Acktar series. That one series struck a cord, and made me start wishing I could write again. I kept reading everything I could find, but it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with MS, and for a week lost the use of my arm, that I realised time was short, and that I was being called to write. After that I fully committed to finishing a novel.

If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that I would publish my first novel Disowned, and go on to write seven more books before the year was out, I probably would have laughed in their face!

allegiancebooktourmediaki-002Would you tell us a little bit about the Allegiance series in general and Disowned in particular?

Disowned is the story of a slave girl, caught in the class system of her country. Even though her family have thrown her away, and she has spent her entire life thinking she is worthless, somewhere inside she still wants to find a better life and find a chance for freedom. The Allegiance series encompasses the trials Celeste and the Haynes family go through. In Dissemble I introduce two new characters who like Celeste are damaged by their pasts, and are seeking to find a life apart from what they’ve been dealt.

In essence the entire series could be summed up in three words. Freedom through faith.

What is your favorite aspect of the ordinary life God has blessed you with?

Every single day I can sit at the computer and write is a blessing to me. I keep saying I am living my God given dream. And I really am. Life is so short, and so fleeting. Writing infuses me with passion and stops me from dwelling on what might happen with my health. Writing and losing myself in my fantasy worlds for a few hours each day, makes me a better wife, a better mother and it helps me to reach out to the world and to hopefully be a blessing to others.

Any plans for further projects?

I’ve written two complete series now, and am currently writing the second book in a third series. The Allegiance series will be published first, with Dissemble set to publish early February. I’m aiming to publish the remaining Allegiance books every three to four months (depending on whether my beta readers are available!) then I’ll be publishing a more traditional fantasy series, set in a rainforest, with renegades, prophecies, legends and a few magical elements. I also intend to publish the series I’m working on right now, which is set in a plague ravaged country, with a corrupt King, mercenaries for hire, and superstitious warriors.

So, quite a few things on the horizon for this old Kiwi gal!

Thanks so much for having me Kate!

Connect with Sarah Addison Fox on her website, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. Buy the book on Amazon. 😉

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This blog tour was coordinated by Livy Lynn Blog.

 

Patience, Prayer, and Perseverance

No one said writing a first draft was easy. (If someone did, please tell me who they are so I can tell them I have tested this hypothesis and found it false. XD ) Especially when you’re a little short on time and energy. 😉

Bad first draft

I’m really, really, really trying to convince myself of this right now with “Legend”. 😉 As I’m nearing the end of the draft, I’m a little bit unhappy with how unperfect it is. 😀 I spent an afternoon scrawling in a notebook to get the plot more straightened out, but I can already tell that some chapters are gonna take a lot of revising. (Replacement even. 😉 ) But if I didn’t write this cringe-worthy first draft, what would there be to revise?

Tell yourself the story

It’s true! 😉 I just discovered 5/6’s of the way through the story that this whole time there were supposed to be stables for horses. Oh, okay. I’m moving on accordingly as if I knew this all along, and I’ll just put the stables in at the beginning when I write the second draft. I’m also discovering more about my main character and his motivations. Don’t get me wrong–I thought I knew what he was liked and even planned out his story, but he’s been surprising me some. 😛

Basically, it’s an exercise in patience, prayer, and perseverance. 😉 I’m also bribing myself with the fact that I’ll be able to work on “Kiera” again when this draft is done. (Bribes are really quite effective. 😀 )

Here’s an excerpt! 😀

Legend January excerpt

What do you think? Are you a writer? Do you sometimes struggle with bravely continuing a draft when it isn’t perfect? 😉

Short Story Review: Poison Kiss

34854999“Everyone knows that Sleeping Beauty’s curse is triggered when she pricks her finger on a spindle and that she is awakened by true love’s kiss … but what happens when the wicked fairy decides to switch things up?

Edmund didn’t mean to put Auralea to sleep, but now it’s up to him and the famous Puss in Boots to figure out how, exactly, a spinning wheel is supposed to wake her up.” (from Goodreads)

I enjoy clever fairytale retellings, but this one was even more fun since it was a mashup. New tales kept being brought in and woven together beautifully. 😉 I wasn’t sure at first where the story was going, but I ended up loving the message (and the banter)! I can’t tell what it is without giving too much away, but it was really important and more meaningful than I would expect from a fairytale. 😉 Just a note, it is a bit magical but really no more than would be expected of a classic fairytale.

Best quote: “What is it with putting princesses in towers?” asked Puss. “It’s…fashionable?” suggested the Enchanter.

Altogether, this was sweet, clever, and surprisingly meaningful! A great short read. 😉

The Library Book Trials

The library stretches out before me. Even the children’s section (my favorite spot) alone is filled with book after book, world after world, pages upon pages of stories to read. I browse up and down the shelves, singing the alphabet song in my head, looking for author’s names I know, and trailing a younger sister behind me.

Here are the books that came home with me…

Library better

Reached is the last in a slightly cliche but interesting YA dystopian series, and I kinda had to finish what I started. Into my stack it went. Paper Things was an absolute gamble with an intriguing synopsis. My mom discovered it for me, thinking it would be a “Kate book”. I always love The Nutcracker story, and the illustrator is one I recognize and enjoy. Dangerous is by the author Princess Academy and happens to be sci-fi–SIGN ME UP! And Gossamer is a sweet book I was looking forward to rereading.

These five books made the delicate selection process and had the honor of being added to my monstrous to-be-read pile.

But an even more crucial round of the library book trials awaited these brave titles. Opening them…

Dangerous looked so cool, I opened it up almost as soon as we got home. Not to read it yet, but to research a little more. I unhappily (but luckily) landed in the middle of a chapter long make-out scene that almost went farther. BOOM. Disqualified.

Four books still in the running, which one would I open first?

Reached, of course. I needed to see what happened to my characters, even if they were a little cliche. A day and a half later, I decided I liked it. It was actually a really good series wrap-up, and I was satisfied with the resolution of the love triangle. (Yes, there is one.) Congratulations, book. Kate liked you. It is still awaiting a review, of course. 😉 (Who wants to review a book when they could be reading one?)

What to read next? I had the beginning stages of the flu so there was a lot of spare time. Thank God for library books.

I didn’t quite feel like a re-read at the moment. And The Nutcracker looked like some excellent to page through with little sisters sometime. That left Paper Things. The “Kate book”, a story about a homeless little girl in foster care.

It had a few modern problems, but not as many as could have been expected. And it made me cry. *sniffles* So many beautiful characters, the importance of art, and a relatable narrator. A certified “Kate book”. (Review to come…)

Two more books! Only two left.

Oops, I got distracted, and I’m currently reading a free ebook by an indie author. 😀 It’s nice to know, though, that those two remaining library books are available to me when I need them. 😀

(This post was meant for Monday, but sadly… the flu. 😉 )