Saturday, November 11, 2017

Vintage Jane Austen Blog Tour | Review + Giveaway!



Welcome to the Vintage Jane Austen Blog Event! I'm excited to share about this neat series with a clever premise and inspiration from an author we all know and love. ♥ (Especially following after our most recent Jane Austen read-along!)

In this post you'll learn all about the series, including the descriptions for each book. You'll also find an event schedule, a fun Amazon giveaway, and my review of Bellevere House. Let's open the door and stroll right in...

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What would it be like to see Elizabeth Bennet in 1930s clothes? What if Emma Woodhouse was the daughter of a car dealership owner? What if Marianne Dashwood was seeking to become a movie star in the golden age of film?

The Vintage Jane Austen series explores the world of Jane Austen, set in 1930s America. Five authors took on Jane Austen’s five most popular novels and retold them set in the Depression era, remaining faithful to the original plots. As an extra bonus to the series, there is a collection of short stories that were inspired by Jane Austen. Which of these books do you most want to read?


Emmeline by Sarah Holman (Emma): 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.


Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant (Sense and Sensibility): Canton, Ohio, 1935. Ellen and Marion Dashiell’s world crumbles when their father is sent to prison. Forced to relocate to a small town, what is left of their family faces a new reality where survival overshadows dreams. Sensible Ellen, struggling to hold the family together, is parted from the man she’s just learning to love, while headstrong Marion fears she will never be the actress she aspires to be. When a dashing hero enters the scene, things only grow more complicated. But could a third man hold the key to the restoration and happiness of the Dashiell family?


Bellevere House by Sarah Scheele (Mansfield Park): It's March 1937, and Faye Powell couldn't be happier. After moving to live with her uncle, a wealthy banker, she's fallen into the swing of life with his exuberant children—including Ed. The one she'll never admit she's in love with. But she hadn't reckoned on the swanky Carters getting mixed up in that vow. Ed seems to be falling for charming, sweet Helene Carter. And when Faye's cousin BeBe trusts her with a secret about Horace Carter, Faye is in over her head. Will she betray the confidence BeBe's given her? Will she lose Ed to Helene? The days at Bellevere House are crowded with surprises and only time will tell how God plans to unravel Faye and Ed's hearts.


Perception by Emily Benedict (Persuasion): Upstate New York, 1930. Thirteen years ago, Abbey Evans was persuaded to break off her engagement to a penniless soldier headed to the front lines of the Great War. A daughter of one of America’s wealthiest families could never be allowed to marry so far beneath herself. But Black Tuesday changed everything. With her family's prominence now little more than a facade, Abbey faces the loss of her childhood home. As if that weren’t enough, the only man she ever loved has returned after making his fortune—and he wants nothing to do with the young woman he courted before the war. With the past forever out of reach, the time has come for Abbey to decide her own fate, before it is too late…


Presumption and Partiality by Rebekah Jones (Pride and Prejudice): Coming soon… A retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in 1930s Arizona.


Second Impressions: Jane Austen's stories have inspired writers for generations. In this collection, they inspire fiction across the genres! From the English Regency to the American 1950s, in Houston or a space freighter, fairy-tale land or a retirement center...Austen's timeless characters come to life again.

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Event Schedule
Visit these blogs to find interviews, book reviews, and much more


November 5
Review of Emmeline - Once Upon the Ordinary
Review of Bellevere House - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Series Spotlight - A Real Writer’s Life
Interview with Kelsey Bryant - Resting Life
Series Spotlight - Kelsey’s Notebook

November 6
Interview with Sarah Holman - J. Grace Pennington
Review of Emmeline - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Mini Reviews and Interview with Sarah Scheele - Deborah O’Carroll
Interview with Rebekah Jones - Livy Lynn Blog
Review of Suit and Suitability - Resting Life

November 7
Interview with Kelsey Bryant - J. Grace Pennington
Review of Perception - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Review and Interview of Perception - Purely by Faith Reviews
Review of Second Impressions - The Page Dreamer
Series Spotlight - Finding the True Fairy Tale

November 8
Interview and Review of Suit and Suitability - Once Upon the Ordinary
Review of Suit and Suitability - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Review of Perception - A Brighter Destiny

November 9
Series Spotlight - God’s Peculiar Treasure
Review of Second Impressions and Suit and Suitability - Ordinary Girl, Extraordinary Father
Interview with Rebekah Jones - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Series Spotlight – Christian Bookshelf Reviews

November 10
Review of Suit and Suitability - With a Joyful Noise
Series Spotlight - Liv K. Fisher
Review of Second Impressions - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Review of Perception - She Hearts Fiction
Interview with Sarah Holman – Rebekah Ashleigh

November 11
Series Spotlight - Reveries Reviews
Review of Suit and Suitability - Faith Blum
Interview with Sarah Holman - Kaylee's Kind of Writes
Interview with Hannah Scheele - Peculiar on Purpose
Review of Bellevere House - Seasons of Humility You are here!

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Giveaway!

As part of this special blogging event, the authors are giving away a $25 Amazon gift card. Enter to win below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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My Review of Bellevere House

I confess this is a somewhat difficult review for me to write. There were some aspects of the story and characters I didn't like...but let me start with some positive points.

Bellevere House is interesting! There is a lot going on, and while the titled house serves as the main stage for the book's happenings, there's also a bit of travel woven through the plot. With such a large cast of characters, there are activities and shenanigans going on all over the place. You're not likely to get bored as you follow Faye and her cousins and acquaintances.

And while I don't entirely care for how faith is portrayed overall, I do feel a good intent is there. There are some lovely thoughts like this in these pages...
The silver light twinkled on the blue waves like thousands of diamonds set adrift by God's generous hand. Diamonds must be nothing to One who held all the riches of heaven. He could spread a few million on the seas.
The struggle to share one's faith, to make it feel "relevant" in an age when many see it as a fairy tale, is a real one, and it's a brave topic to address against this backdrop of a world between wars. I also admire that the story brings up the importance of love and grace.

I think where the book really faltered for me was in its transitions (or lack thereof). Perhaps if I was more familiar with Mansfield Park (it's a book I haven't read yet, but hope to soon!), I would have had an easier time following the plot. Even still, nothing felt fluid—from the conversations to the events, and even to the characters' growth and transformations. Between the large cast and the constant happenings, everything felt chaotic. And how things came together in the end didn't seem authentic to how the characters had been portrayed.

There isn't much to admire in the book's hero, at least from what we're told of him. The heroine speaks now and then of her faith, but it feels like something added on rather than something that influences her to be strong in all areas of her life. (But perhaps that is truly authentic, and a sober reminder of how easily we lose sight of what we claim is most important to us.) I do like Uncle Warren, though, and the way his presence provides order amid the chaos.

I was shocked by some of the things the other secondary characters did without any apparent reaction from anyone else. (That might have been for humor's sake in some instances, although I didn't find it humorous when one character slapped another, and no one seemed to care.) I also don't see how two characters' "happily ever after" is a path to be applauded or admired in how it's approached.

So...perhaps this book wasn't quite for me. But on the flip side, this story could provide a lot of discussion topics! And it makes me want to read Mansfield Park to understand the original plot and characters better.

This is certainly an interesting retelling, and I think the series is a really fun idea, especially with multiple authors coming together to tell these tales in their own unique ways. :)

*With thanks to the Vintage Jane Austen group for providing me with a free e-copy of this book.*

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cover Reveal + Logging History + Giveaway! | On Eagles' Wings by Lynnette Bonner

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Lynnette Bonner to the blog! She has prepared a brief post on logging in days gone by (for all you fellow history fans out there!). Keep scrolling after the article to be among the first readers to see the cover of her upcoming release...and then keep scrolling for details on how to enter for a chance to win an e-copy. Sweet deal, no? :)

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Nope, not the new cover! ;)
This is book 1 in the Wyldhaven series.

By Lynnette Bonner

The small logging community of Wyldhaven, the setting for On Eagles’ Wings, sits in the rugged mountains of Washington State at the cusp of the twentieth century. Wyldhaven is a logging town, and some of my research about early logging practices has been fascinating.

It is not often realized that the mid-19th century gold-rushes that took place across the West, and particularly in California, had a major impact on the logging industry. Mines had a steady need for the supply of good lumber. Lumber shored up tunnels, it fueled boilers used at the mines, and it was used to build extensive canal systems and dams to divert water. The Pacific Northwest supplied much of this lumber. Logging was the most important industry in Washington for decades. Sadly, in the early years heedless practices nearly destroyed many forests. However, over time logging companies realized the need for sustainable logging practices.

In the growing west, logging was very much a small-town enterprise. Settlements would spring up around a forested area. Quickly-constructed camps would be built nearby for the loggers to live in. And the cutting would begin. Along the coasts, boats would be used to ship the timber to California, or wherever else it was needed, but the inland towns had a harder time transporting their logs and lumber until the railroad network spread significantly.

Logging men were often hardened and profligate. No logging town of any size existed without a saloon, and with few other places to spend their money, men gathered to gamble, drink, and fight. This ensured that any town that wanted to encourage the settlement of families had need of a lawman.

Logging was also a very hazardous and bloody occupation. Men could be injured by saws, axes, hatchets, or snapping chains. They could be crushed by falling trees, rolling or tumbling logs, oxen or horses, or wagon failures. These dangerous conditions required that any operation that cared about their employees would have a doctor on hand to treat the workers.

I could go on and on about the early trials and history of the logging industry, but to keep this post short, I will stop there.

Wyldhaven has both a sheriff and a doctor. Sheriff Reagan Callahan was the main hero in book one, Not a Sparrow Falls. And Doctor Flynn Griffin is one of the main characters in On Eagles’ Wings. I hope you will enjoy reading about him and all the other characters in this new book!

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And here's the cover for On Eagles' Wings, book 2 in the Wyldhaven series!


So pretty! I love the golds and blues, and how this cover begs you to read the book during the Christmas season. The candlelight promises a hopeful story and stands out beautifully against the dark background. But I do believe the expression on the heroine's face suggests some difficulties along the journey...

About the Book

Take the next stagecoach to Wyldhaven, where the coffee’s perked hot, the sheriff likes his apple pie fresh from the oven, and adventure invariably waits just around the next river bend. 

Boardinghouse owner Dixie Pottinger has done her best to avoid the attractive Dr. Griffin. But now that her mother-in-law is sick and he’s going to be coming around more to care for her, Dixie knows she must inform him about her past. She works up her courage and feels great relief when she finally tells Dr. Griffin that she’s a married woman…maybe…if her husband, Steven Pottinger, survived the bullet put into him before she fled.

Dr. Flynn Griffin can’t believe he’s been having feelings for a married woman! His honor requires that he immediately put those feelings to rest. As for the man who had abused Dixie so badly that she retreated into hiding… If he was still alive, he better never show up in Wyldhaven, because Flynn had plenty of ideas on how to teach the man lessons in gentlemanly conduct.

Little does Flynn know that Steven Pottinger is about to become his patient. Gravely injured by an accidental gunshot, Steven lies on the brink of eternity. Never in all his life has Flynn been tempted to break his Hippocratic Oath.

Until now.

Learn more and pre-order at LynnetteBonner.com/OEW

Giveaway!

One commenter will receive a free eBook copy of On Eagles’ Wings when it becomes available. Please include your email address in your comment so we can contact you if you win!*

Lynnette's Question for You: What historical profession do you admire the most?

*A winner will be chosen on November 9 and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Note that the prize will not be emailed until the book's release.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pride & Prejudice Read-Along | Conclusion



Welcome to the final discussion for the Pride & Prejudice read-along!

Today we're going to discuss chapters 7-19 of volume 3. If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Pride & Prejudice read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up on some reading, you're welcome to check in later this week or whenever you're ready. :)

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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Pride & Prejudice Volume III: Chapters 7-19

Discussion Format: One favorite quote, some general impressions, and three questions for each week's reading.

Favorite Quote

"I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun." ~ Mr. Darcy

General Impressions

Minus a few bumps in the road, this section of the story was all uphill in the best of ways for the Bennet family. It's been a long journey of growth and hardship and starting over, but what a happy conclusion this turned out to be! :)

While I might wish to know this sweet side of Mr. Darcy even better, he has certainly proven himself to be a worthy Austen hero. His care for Lizzy, his aid to her family, and his newfound humility all do him great credit. I love seeing his honesty about his character (both the good and bad aspects of it), his willingness to admit his faults, and his desire to be a better, kinder, more patient man. ♥

And I'm delighted by his relationship with Lizzy. Isn't that the best, how two people who had so many misunderstandings and so much awkwardness between them could fall in love and have such an easygoing openness between them? I love how Lizzy asks Mr. Darcy all kinds of questions, and how the two of them can talk of the past and find an even greater hope for the future. Not to mention, I love this line about Georgiana's observations:
At first she often listened with astonishment bordering on alarm at her [Lizzy's] lively, sportive manner of talking to her brother.
Too cute!

In this conclusion to a brilliant story, pretension is cast aside in favor of true joy and a deeper look at the worth behind the title or lack thereof. I love that we get a glimpse into the "happily ever after" for each character. Basically, I just keep saying how much I love it all, don't I? :)

Discussion Questions

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

1. Which character's words or actions shocked you the most in this section (in a good or bad way)? How would you have responded if those words or actions somehow affected you?

2. How would you describe the main moral of the story? Is there a lesson or reminder that especially stood out to you by the end?

3. Which aspect of the final chapter made you smile the most?

Final Note

Friends, I think this might just be my favorite Jane Austen book now. ♥ So far I've read Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Emma, and this one. They all have been delightful in their own ways, but there really is something about this story—the cast of characters, the twists and turns of the plot, the great dialogue, and the admirable growth—that has especially endeared it to me.

It's been a pleasure reading this book with you, and I've so enjoyed your observations! I have the next Austen book in mind for a future read-along, Lord willing...and I plan to review a retelling of it in a couple weeks for a special blog tour. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Food for Financial Thoughts | Review of Money Problems, Marriage Solutions



About the Book

It's not just about the money... 

Arguments about money are by far the top predictor of divorce, says Sonya Britt, a professor at Kansas State University. “It's not children, sex, in-laws, or anything else. It's money—for both men and women."

Satan seeks every means possible to destroy marriages, and creating conflict around finances is one of his favorite tactics. But there is more to money problems than not sticking to the budget. Chuck and Ann Bentley reveal the underlying issues of financial and relational discord—and show how it robs couples of joy, intimacy, and marital satisfaction.

Money Problems, Marriage Solutions presents seven keys to peace in marriage and helps couples unite and conquer to resolve financial issues together. Through real-life stories, a solid foundation from Scripture, and practical steps for application, this book gives a plan for getting back on the same team. Here is a clear and lasting way forward for couples struggling with money problems.


My Rating

Spring

My Review

I think Money Problems, Marriage Solutions is what it claims to be. The book includes stories, a chapter of application steps, and a big-picture look at the heart of the issue behind financial struggles.

It's an easy read, not too long or in-depth. I appreciate how the seven keys all come together to help you see what needs to change in your thinking, relationship, and attitude before you should focus too much on the practical side.

I confess there are some things that frustrate me a bit. It would have been nice to have more depth in terms of Scripture study and providing context. And perhaps because the main author of the book is the husband—and a CEO—there are some things I don't overly relate to in his stories and approach to life.

One example, in particular, bothered me. I don't think it was the author's intention, but to me it came across like he was quick and eager to accept a gift for himself but much more reluctant to accept a gift someone wanted to give his wife. Perhaps I paid way too much attention to how the juxtaposed stories were written, but it didn't sit well with me.

Granted, we all struggle with selfishness, and the author does try to make it very clear that he had a long growing process before he and his wife arrived on the same page about finances. That honesty is admirable.

Overall, I think this book provides some good food for financial thoughts. It's pretty straightforward and almost like an extended Crown Financial Ministries pamphlet, as the author often directs you to their resources. But it includes some helpful reminders and tips, and it gives you a good starting point for further thought and work.

*With thanks to Moody Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book.*

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Pride & Prejudice Read-Along | Week 4



Welcome to Week 4 of the Pride & Prejudice read-along! You can learn more about the read-along schedule in this invitation post. (We're reading 2 chapters a day.)

Today we're going to discuss chapters 12-19 of volume 2 and chapters 1-6 of volume 3. If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Pride & Prejudice read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up on some reading, you're welcome to check in later this week or whenever you're ready. :)

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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Pride & Prejudice Volume II: Chapters 12-19 and 
Volume III: Chapters 1-6

Discussion Format: One favorite quote, some general impressions, and three questions for each week's reading.

Favorite Quote

"Elizabeth was shocked to think that, however incapable of such coarseness of expression herself, the coarseness of the sentiment was little other than her own breast had formerly harbored and fancied liberal!"

General Impressions

True character really comes to light in this section...

Mr. Darcy tells all in his letter, and then reveals a change in his attitude and interactions with Elizabeth when she visits Pemberley with her aunt and uncle. He displays forgiveness, care, and kindness.

Elizabeth begins to realize her own prejudice and the unkindness lurking in her heart. She opens her mind to the words of those who know Darcy and Wickham best, and she shows tenderness to Georgiana by seeing behind the "proud" mask to the fear and shyness beneath.

Jane is as sweet as ever, taking care of her aunt and uncle's children while they go off with her sister on vacation, and then displaying hope and love in the face of scandal and pain.

Mr. Bingley is also as sweet as ever, showing through his conversation and thoughtfulness that Jane and Elizabeth have been on his mind and heart during their time apart.

Miss Bingley sadly attacks Elizabeth (verbally, behind her back) and shows little to no cordiality upon their reunion. Her selfishness and pride leak through her actions and words.

Mr. Wickham and Lydia have run away together, with no guarantee of marriage or commitment, and no thought of how their choice would affect others.

Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet both show selfish tendencies. The narrator and Elizabeth come down rather harshly on Mr. Bennet in chapter 19 (volume II) for the way he views his wife and the way he chooses to hide among his books rather than lead his family. Meanwhile, Mrs. Bennet is quick to seek folly and blame others for the consequences, thinking too much of frivolity and little of propriety.

Mr. Collins...well, his letter in chapter 6 (volume III) really says it all, doesn't it? He may think he made a narrow escape, but I think Elizabeth's the one who can claim that victory.

And now we just have one more week of reading to go! But there is still a lot to be resolved. Lydia and Mr. Wickham are nowhere to be found... Mr. Darcy has disappeared, and his relationship with Elizabeth is a mystery to onlookers... Jane and Mr. Bingley obviously care for each other, but are still separated... And the fate of the Bennet family hinges on a marriage.

Discussion Questions

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

1. Who do you think has changed the most since the beginning of the story? What are some examples of how he or she has changed for the better or for the worse?

2. What are your impressions of Pemberley (Darcy's home), including the appearance, the location, and the people who work/live there?

3. If you were a Bennet daughter and got word of Lydia's disappearance, do you think you'd respond more like Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, or Kitty?

Join us next Tuesday for our final discussion! 
(Vol. III: Ch. 7-19)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Working with You | My Return to Editing and Writing



Happy Monday, friends!

As you might already know from this post last month, I am now living in Montana with my husband, Josh. Because of this move and this new season in my life, I have returned to freelance editing!

The image above shows a sampling of books I've edited. I especially enjoy working with fiction, including Christian fiction and young-adult stories. But I'm also available to hire for other genres and nonfiction projects!

And due to my line of work these past three years as a content writer for a Christian book publisher, I have experience writing book descriptions and other marketing copy. So if you're in need of a writer to help you in those areas, I'd be honored to work with you.

To learn more about me, my services, and pricing, please visit my new website:


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Some of you may recall that I also used to host/organize blog tours back when I was previously freelancing. Out of curiosity, is that something you'd be interested in hiring me to do? Or is that something you'd enjoy participating in as a blogger?

And one final note: I do plan to continue writing my own books as an indie author, Lord willing. :) While I'm not quite at a point to give a possible publication date, Where Trains Collide is definitely on my radar and something I've started revisiting. I believe that's the next story I'd like to share with you all, and I'd certainly be grateful for your prayers for focus, commitment, and guidance in completing this novella. ♥

Thank you all for your support and encouragement!

Friday, October 20, 2017

New Historical Fiction from Miranda Atchley | Tour + Giveaway



Have you met Miranda Atchley of A Real Writer's Life?  She's a fellow indie author and an awesome friend, and I'm excited to join her in celebrating the release of the third book in her Abi Hensley series, which comes out in a week! Keep reading to learn more about the book and a fun giveaway. And please do leave Miranda a comment! :)

About The Book 

After enduring the first World War, most of the world is hoping to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and move forward in the year 1919. Yet for Abi Hensley, the happiness she felt upon the end of the war has been short lived. Grief stricken from the passing of a dear friend, she cannot seem to overcome the loss. Amidst her grief, she is also struggling with her writing, something that has always been a comfort to her. In light of these circumstances, she finds herself questioning many things in her life for the first time.

Can Abi get back to all that she loves and look forward to things to come?

Releasing October 27, 2017!

About The Author 


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


Giveaway!


Three winners will each receive a Kindle download of the book Of Things To Come. The giveaway begins October 20 and ends October 28. The giveaway is open internationally. Must be 18 or older to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Abi Hensley Series 

Catch up on the series by checking out the first two books!



Blog Tour Dates 

10/20 Amber at Seasons of Humility → You are here! :)
10/21 Julie at My Favorite Pastime
10/22 Grace at She Hearts Fiction
10/23 Amada at ASC Book Reviews

Thank you for checking out the tour!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Pride & Prejudice Read-Along | Week 3



Welcome to Week 3 of the Pride & Prejudice read-along! You can learn more about the read-along schedule in this invitation post. (We're reading 2 chapters a day.)

Today we're going to discuss chapters 21-23 of volume I and chapters 1-11 of volume 2. If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Pride & Prejudice read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up on some reading, you're welcome to check in later this week or whenever you're ready. :)

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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Pride & Prejudice Volume I: Chapters 21-23 and 
Volume II: Chapters 1-11

Discussion Format: One favorite quote, some general impressions, and three questions for each week's reading.

Favorite Quote

"Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love a little now and then. It is something to think of, and gives her a sort of distinction among her companions." ~ Mr. Bennet

General Impressions

How interesting that when last we left Elizabeth, she had just turned down a proposal from Mr. Collins...and now we end this section with her turning down another proposal. But it's hard to blame her when neither of the offers are very appealing, given the information she knows and the assumptions she has made.

I must admit it's rather telling that Elizabeth is so willing to forgive Mr. Wickham for seeking a more profitable match, while she holds it very much against Mr. Darcy for having concerns about making a match with her. And her conversation with Jane suggests she also cannot imagine Charlotte making a match that would benefit herself materially at the expense of mutual love and respect. I'm not quite sure what to make of all that, to be honest!

I think I have to agree with Elizabeth's aunt: "Take care, Lizzy; that speech savors strongly of disappointment." By excusing Wickham and thinking of him in only a friendly manner (wishing him the best), she would certainly put distance between herself and any personal disappointment or hurt. Not that I can blame her! I feel like I understand. But it's in her lack of grace toward Charlotte (mostly just at first) and Mr. Darcy that is difficult to accept.

Difficult to accept, perhaps, but also easy to understand. She's a fallible human being who wants the best for her family and friends, and isn't as eager to see her perceived enemies in a forgiving light.

It makes her relatable. Elizabeth is like a fierce friend to commiserate with; whereas Jane is the one who inspires and motivates someone to grow in love and compassion. I suppose in some ways I wish Jane were more open with her feelings, but I definitely do admire her for wanting to make "allowances" (as it says at the end of chapter 1, volume II) and think the best of others.

As for the other characters... Well, the group at Rosings is an odd bunch. Fitzwilliam seems nice enough. I feel sorry for Anne in some ways, but she doesn't seem eager to break free from her mother's shadow or reach out to others. I like that Elizabeth and Darcy don't encourage Lady Catherine in her rudeness.

And Mr. Darcy still hasn't won me over. ;) But he's had his favorable moments! Like when he shows affection for his sister, and when he listens to Elizabeth even when he's angry and suffering. (In chapter 11, volume 2, it says at one point "he listened without attempting to interrupt her." I feel like that says a lot, especially in that context.) He's awkward and proud, but I'm looking forward to seeing more to him in future chapters.

Discussion Questions

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

1. In chapter 1 of volume II Jane tells Elizabeth, "Let me take it in the best light"—referring to the situation with the Bingleys. Do you admire Jane for her way of approaching life, or do you think she's too naive? Is it better to always think positively, or are there times when it's more harmful than good?

2. Pick a character from this section of reading and imagine yourself having a conversation with him or her. How would it go? What would you talk about, and how would you respond to this person's attitude and manners?

3. How would you respond to Mr. Darcy's proposal in this section?

Join us next Tuesday for our fourth discussion! 
(Vol. II: Ch. 12 - Vol. III: Ch. 6)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Pride & Prejudice Read-Along | Week 2



Welcome to Week 2 of the Pride & Prejudice read-along! You can learn more about the read-along schedule in this invitation post. (We're reading 2 chapters a day.)

Today we're going to discuss chapters 7-20 (Volume I). If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Pride & Prejudice read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up on some reading, you're welcome to check in later this week or whenever you're ready. :)

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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Pride & Prejudice Volume I: Chapters 7-20

Discussion Format: One favorite quote, some general impressions, and three questions for each week's reading.

Favorite Quote

"Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion." ~ Jane Bennet

General Impressions

We met some infamous characters in this section, including Mr. Wickham and Mr. Collins. But before I talk about them, I have to say how very much I love Mr. Bingley. He's not perfect, but his attentiveness to Jane is the sweetest. :) He defends her family; he sees to her (and their) needs; and he displays such affection in the ways he talks about Jane and how often he talks to her.

Following this, I have to say I'm still delighted by the sisterly bond between Jane and Elizabeth. I think it's the best how happy Elizabeth is for Jane, and how it changes her mood and perspective simply to think about her sister's joy and prospects. I love that! It definitely makes Elizabeth a better heroine in my eyes.

While Jane was in the spotlight quite a bit at the beginning, Elizabeth is now center stage...surrounded by Mr. Darcy, Mr. Wickham, and Mr. Collins. Such very different possibilities in suitors!

I'm still torn about Mr. Darcy. The fact that his full story remains secret makes him mysterious but not someone I can fully sympathize with. Despite knowing what's to be revealed (at least from a movie adaptation), I think his mannerisms and slightly stoic ways still keep me from liking him a great deal. I appreciate that Elizabeth is making him smile more, and I like that his affection for her keeps his temper in check. And I know he has a vastly different personality than Bingley... But his pride certainly presents a barrier to my own affections at this point.

I wonder what I would think of Mr. Wickham if I didn't already know the plot. He's charming, I'll give him that...but his eagerness to put down Mr. Darcy does him no credit, even if he were telling the truth. And while he seems to favor Elizabeth with his attention, it's hard to tell at this point if he actually has any feelings for her.

As for Mr. Collins...well, I have to admit I thought it funny that he's described as "tall" and "heavy-looking," when he's presented as the exact opposite in the 2005 movie adaptation! And I confess Mr. Bennet's amusement in Mr. Collins's behavior is pretty hilarious. ;) I'm glad the narrator provides a description of why Mr. Collins is the way he is...it helps to understand his strange behavior and odd mix of personalities. It feels like he means well, to the limited extent of his self-knowledge, but I think he needs some parental honesty, someone to show him how to be a little more self-aware about his pride and annoying speeches. One would hope that a clergyman would have a deeper understanding of humility...

One other thing I wanted to note was how I've been surprised by the context of some popular quotes. For instance, I didn't realize that Caroline Bingley was the one who said, "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!" (When she very clearly has little enjoyment in it.) And instead of Elizabeth saying this line (like in the 2005 movie), it's Mr. Bennet who asks Mr. Collins, "May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?" Interesting!

Discussion Questions

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

1. Which quote or scene made you laugh/smile the most?

2. Mr. Darcy is often silent: in social settings, in his feelings toward Elizabeth, and in defense of his side of Wickham's story. Do you think his silence is "golden" (a wise choice), or do you think he should have been more vocal in these chapters?

3. How would you respond to Mr. Collins if he proposed to you?

Join us next Tuesday for our third discussion! 
(Vol. I: Ch. 21 - Vol. 2: Ch. 11)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Adventure on the Sea with a K9 Spy | Review of May Saves the Day



About the Book

AMBUSHED!

Undercover missions are challenging, especially with a sinister chef and a Cheetah on deck.

Agent May returns, working incognito to protect young delegates of the international Mastermind contest as they travel from Tallinn to St. Petersburg and beyond.

An elite K9 Squad and Cassidy, an unforeseen Schnauzer ally, join her to fend off Falcons and skilled Russian spies... Leading to a situation she hoped never to encounter.


My Review

Have you met May the K9 Spy? She's a talented pup who's growing in her skills and having lots of great adventures!

This series for middle-grade readers (and those who simply enjoy a good story starring our animal friends) continues with Book 4, May Saves the Day: Situation in St. Petersburg. Most of the story takes place at sea, and between the setting and the unique cast of characters, there are plenty of new things for May and her readers to learn. Some of the spy terminology might go over the readers' heads...but then again, I love how this story reminds us how smart kids can be and how much potential they have. :)

These books would be great to read aloud with an elementary-age child; May's point of view really stands out that way, as you hear the curiosity, enthusiasm, and energy in her tone. May is always coming up with new ideas, thinking about the case from new angles, and impulsively giving her all to track down leads.

As for May's friends and foes, this book is chock-full of them! There's a Cheetah on the prowl, fellow spies (but whose side are they really on?), the ship's crew, and kids from different countries. Those kids are incredibly smart, but they still have some important lessons to learn about working together, showing humility and compassion, and persevering in the face of hardship and disappointment. Great things for all readers to contemplate, as well!

Join May and the delegates she's duty-bound to guard as they discover old history and new ways of seeing the world. There are some intense moments for young ones (danger is definitely present, and the bad guys aren't always spared), but the adventure and discussion points are worthwhile. And, as with other books in this series, the illustrations add to the unfolding drama...while showing May's cute side. ;)

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-copy of the book.*

Want More May?

Connect with the K9 spies on Facebook!

Read my reviews of Book 1 and Book 2 by clicking on the covers below...



Thursday, October 5, 2017

Halloween Book Pick | Review of These Vicious Masks



About the Book

England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they're not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.


My Review

I've had this book on my shelf for a little while now, and I thought it would make a good October read. These Vicious Masks definitely has its fill of danger, creepiness, and twists! But what I also loved was the thread of humor, courtesy of the snarky heroine, the blithe Mr. Kent, and some funny secondary characters (see last paragraph of the review for a side note).

All is not fun and games, though. Be prepared for drama, lots of revelations, and intense scenes and situations. While I certainly wouldn't categorize this as a "horror" story—it's much too tame for that that, evidenced by the fact I was able to read it—this young-adult novel does have a darker side to foil its lighter elements.

The historical setting adds to the shadowy backdrop: bleak London streets and alleys, spooky houses, and places where polite society shouldn't be seen. Although the characters and their attitudes sometimes feel too modern for that setting. (But I will add how surprised I was to find and read a book titled Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow by Jerome K. Jerome, copyrighted 1890, in which those "idle thoughts" felt quite modern and relatable—and sometimes hilarious. Definitely an intriguing read. :) But I digress.)

These Vicious Masks has a great cast of characters and a plot that holds your attention. And while I didn't absolutely fall in love with it all, I did appreciate the points it makes and discussion it raises about having a "gift" and being brave enough to use it for good.

Side note: I enjoyed the "Swoonworthy Extras" at the back of the book! (I read the paperback.) You get some funny insights into one character's sister and a butler. #TuffinsFTW

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Pride & Prejudice Read-Along | Week 1



Welcome to Week 1 of the Pride & Prejudice read-along! You can learn more about the read-along schedule in this invitation post. (We're reading 2 chapters a day.)

Today we're going to discuss chapters 1-6 (Volume I). If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Pride & Prejudice read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up on some reading, you're welcome to check in later this week or whenever you're ready. :)

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

~ ~ ~

Pride & Prejudice Volume I: Chapters 1-6

Discussion Format: One favorite quote, some general impressions, and three questions for each week's reading.

Favorite Quote

"There are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement." ~ Charlotte Lucas

General Impressions

Characters truly have their own distinct persona between movies and books, don't they? In these first few chapters, I've really enjoyed getting to discover different sides and depths of the familiar characters in Pride & Prejudice.

So far, Elizabeth hasn't stood out to me all that much. She seems rather likable, if not entirely remarkable (at least, as little as she's been described so far!). I like that she holds her own, and I especially like seeing the bond between her and Jane. It's really sweet how much she cares about Jane's happiness, and how defensive she is of Jane's introverted ways.

Jane really shines at this point. I love the way Lizzy describes Jane's attitude: "To take the good of everybody's character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad—belongs to you alone." I appreciate Jane's kindness in how she views and judges (or, refrains from judging) others. Between her gentle ways and her loveliness, Mr. Bingley was bound to fall in love. :)

Speaking of Mr. Bingley...he's definitely made himself much more appealing in these first few chapters than Mr. Darcy has. But I suppose that's the point: the "first impressions" (First Impressions being the original title of the book) are quite unfavorable for him, but they don't tell the whole story. As Mr. Bennet says (in jest to his wife, but with underlying truth in it):
A fortnight's acquaintance is certainly very little. One cannot know what a man really is by the end of a fortnight.
I'm not quite sure what to make of my first impressions of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Mr. Bennet is rather funny and charming, although it's hard to tell (so far) whether or not he truly has affection for his wife. I prefer to take this line...
The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest.
...to mean that he really cares about making Mrs. Bennet happy, even if he likes to have a little fun at her expense in the process. ;)

Then there is Charlotte Lucas. She seems very jaded, but also wise to the ways of her world and what survival looks like within it. I think what she says about love needing encouragement is a good point even today. We all long for a sign that the person we love shares our feelings. Sometimes, when we have a crush, we can make up those signs. (I think I did a fair amount of this in years past!) But we still look for clues and long to know we're not alone in what we feel. It gives us the courage to reach out.

Discussion Questions

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

1. Which character do you most relate to at this point in the story? Whose worldview/personality most resembles yours?

2. Ponder Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth's first impressions of each other. Might the story have been very different if they had each responded differently at (and after) that first ball?

3. What do you think of the portrayals of marriage/courtship so far? Charlotte claims, "It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life." Do you agree or disagree?

Join us next Tuesday for our second discussion! 
(Vol. I: Ch. 7-20)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Book Tag, Deals, and More! | Fun with Flowers



Over on my author blog, The Heart's Spring, I'm hosting a "Fun with Flowers" bash this week. :) Here's what's happening so far:
  • eBook deals on The Heart's Spring series (including a freebie!)
  • a quick, flower-themed book tag (you're invited to join!)
  • a stroll through visual gardens (all about the pics!)
The fun will continue through Friday, and I'd love to see you over there! 

P.S. Speaking of exciting activities, don't forget the Pride & Prejudice read-along starts on Sunday! You can get all the details HERE.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Waves of Gratitude | Our Wedding Day

A wedding is such a wild, wonderful thing.

Leading up to the event, there are so many questions to answer and choices to make. So many little details that are somehow supposed to fall in place.

And somehow, they do. :)

Our wedding day was everything I hoped for, with waves upon waves of love and beauty and joy...


Getting ready with my bridesmaids and family was crazy, fun, and so sweet! My "something borrowed" was a pearl necklace that my grandpa gave to my grandma, which my mom let me wear for the occasion.



My bridesmaids, dad, and I trekked down four flights of stairs and across a parking lot to get to the ceremony location. This picture of my bridesmaids and I on the balcony, with my dad poking his head out of our hotel room, is one of my favorites. ;)


Josh's childhood pastor married us, which made the ceremony extra-special.


It was so surreal, preparing to walk into that room and exchange vows with the man I love.



And here we are at the start of our journey, our vows sealed with a kiss. ♥


The venue was simply gorgeous. Driftwood Shores took my dreams for the site and made them tangible. The colors, the lights, the decor, and of course the view...all were perfect for our little beach-themed wedding!


While I didn't taste nearly as much as I wanted to of these desserts, the cake and cupcakes lovingly crafted by The Frost Queen were delightful. :)


My dad and I love to dance, and we chose to dance to "Beyond the Sea" by Bobby Darin in memory of my grandparents and their love story.


I love this picture of Josh with his grandma. The reception was such a treat, to be able to visit with the family and friends who joined us on the coast.


The Holcomb family ♥



The Stokes family ♥



Josh with his great group of groomsmen. :)


I adore my husband's smile, more than words can say!


My beautiful sister was my maid of honor, and she gave the sweetest toast ever at our reception. 


It was a precious gift to have these dear friends by my side that day.




I blame it on Pinterest...but I really wanted to get in the waves and have our awesome photographers take some pictures. ;) 






Best of all, my darling husband patiently and sweetly joined me for a photo session on the beach. 








On this day, World Gratitude Day, I look back on July 15th with so much thankfulness in my heart for the people who gave so much of their time and support to make our wedding beautiful. And I'm so especially grateful to be the wife of Josh Holcomb, a man with adventure running through his veins, dedication and care showing in his work, and love overflowing from his heart. God is good and gives such good gifts. ♥

Photo credit (all photos): Leah Banick Photography