June Happenings

It’s that time of month AGAIN……(head’s up: this post has A LOT of Jane Austen/Jane of Austin gushing)

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on the bookshelf

I added more than a few books to the bookshelf in June. It’s going to be a busy summer! One fabulous just-because read being True to You by Becky Wade, others being Then There Was You by Kara Isaac, Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, and a neat Jane Austen Memoir compilation by some of her relatives. Other for-review copies include Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge, The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo, High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin, and On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Memorable Dads in Literature + #BookDadQuotes
  2. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid)
  3. Book Spotlight, Author Interview, & GIVEAWAY: My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. Gray

Screenshot_2017-06-15-22-48-28-1Most popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge
  3. The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

in the kitchen

I really, really want-to-make these olive oil chocolate chunk cookies I found on The Little Epicurean site. Soon.

20170626_150604 (800x450)did bake scones just this week from Hillary Manton Lodge’s recipe in Jane of Austin. Her recipe is for cranberries, but I happened to have fresh blueberries on hand and they worked just as well!

on the screen

Sense and SensibilityYet again, because of Jane of Austin, I re-watched the 1995 Sense and Sensibility movie. It had been way too long since I had watched it, and I appreciated it all the more this viewing. It is brilliantly cast!!! And the acting performances are wonderful, particularly that of Emma Thompson (I ❤ her).

Recently, I discovered the weekly travel show Born to Explore with Richard Wiese on a local TV station. So far, I’ve really enjoyed the episodes on Morocco, India, Uganda, and Cyprus.

around the web

Continuing with all the Jane Austen love this month, here are 3 wonderful articles by Hillary Manton Lodge:

Thanks to a Tyndale House Facebook post, I found these adorable little Lender’s Library Bookmarks — a free printable library-ish bookmark to keep tabs on your lent books.\

If you like “armchair adventures”, or traveling through reading, this is a “reading list road trip” from Bethany House Publishers of 2017 releases and their locations across the U.S. and globe.

 

Review: “Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility” by Hillary Manton Lodge

My Jane of AustinSisters. Tea. Texas transplants. Tacos. Music. Scones. A heroic yet humble veteran. BBQ. The crazy complexities of family…. ALL INFUSED WITH JANE AUSTEN. Hillary Manton Lodge’s new release, Jane of Austin, is a feast for the voracious reader and fan of contemporary romance and classic literature alike. A contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, this book delves deeper into the emotional complexities of Austen’s personas while maintaining a humorous and modern atmosphere.

FUN FACT: There are RECIPES at the end of some of the chapters of this novel! So, you won’t be hungry and bereft, as long as you have a functioning kitchen and small pantry nearby. Go ahead and buy some tea if you need it. And maybe the ingredients for scones or pie. You’ll thank me later.

 I read this book with some of my #bookbesties as an impromptu read-along on Twitter! If you’d like to see our Tweets and gushing, check out the hashtag #JofARAL.

About the Book

“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”―Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.

But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.

While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas.

In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn’t so far away.

Jane of Austin on Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I think it’s beneficial to know a few of the main points of Austen’s classic, Sense and Sensibility, a movie/series adaptation of it, or even some of her other works to fully appreciate the brilliant aspects of Jane of Austin. I’m not an expert by any means, but I greatly appreciated the nuances of the story more having seen the Sense and Sensibility film and read it a loooong while ago.

jane-of-austin

With Jane of Austin, Hillary lends her own originality to the structure of a classic. She maintains the focus of a sisterly bond, the story of uncertainty in the face of circumstance. But a new light is shined, in many ways: what if Marianne was just as emotional and dramatic, but an introvert? Elinor, still as logical and caring, an extrovert? And, how had Colonel Brandon’s previous life experiences shaped him into the quiet hero? What hardships had he endured for such perspective? These are just a few of the ways Jane, Celia, and Callum Beckett are brought into focus through Hillary’s lens, sharpening formerly overlooked elements and delightfully expounding on others.

This novel is distinctly Hillary’s voice, though. Having read her previous AMAZING “Two Blue Doors” series, I recognize the slight humor, sarcasm, and honesty of her tone. It pairs unbelievably well with the natural wit of Austen’s story for laugh-out-loud moments, especially when conversations between the sisters involve the youngest, Margot.

On that note, the sisterly dynamic is BRILLIANT! The extremes of such relationships are accurately shown… from the camaraderie and familiarity stemming from a shared history to the clash of personalities and disillusioned disagreements. Most of all, the moments of care and support of one another, the bond of family, and even the rhythm of working together were my favorite parts of seeing Jane and Celia together.

And oh, the romance! Callum Beckett is the ultimate selfless and steadfast hero. The familiar juxtaposition of Jane caring for Sean (the Willoughby character) is there, while Callum and his unrequited love plays out in a very plausible way. Callum’s veteran status and penchant for reading aloud just up the attractiveness. Oh, and have I mentioned he’s tall, dark, and handsome!? I’m still not sure why it takes Jane so long to notice ;).

Jane of Austin is a fresh and original twist that delightfully emphasizes the strength of family and home, which can sometimes be people instead of a place. This is the type of novel that ends with a happy sigh and a craving for tea and scones. I’m enamored with the way the combination of Hillary’s skill and a contemporary setting reveal how absurdly interconnected life and relationships can be — in a very Austen-Esque way.

Sincere and hearty thank you to the publisher/author for the complimentary review copy. This review is my honest and enthusiastic opinion.

About the Author

HILLARY MANTON LODGE is the author of Together at the TableReservations for TwoA Table by the WindowPlain Jayne,  and Simply Sara. Hillary Manton LodgeA graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Hillary discovered the world of cuisine during her internship atNorthwest Palate Magazine. Her next novel, Jane of Austin, will release June 13, 2017, from WaterBrook Multnomah. 

Over the years, Hillary’s novels have enjoyed critical success from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romantic Times and have reached readers around the world. In 2010, Plain Jayne was nominated as a Carol Award Finalist, and Simply Sara was an ECPA Bestselling book. In 2015, A Table by the Window was shortlisted in the INSPY Awards.

In her free time, Hillary often finds herself experimenting in the kitchen, attending indie concerts, and finding new walking trails. Formerly a resident of the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband now live near Memphis, Tennessee, along with their Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shiloh and Sylvie.

Book Spotlight, Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. Gray

Welcome! I want to wish the happiest of book birthdays today to author Tammy L. Gray for her new release, My Unexpected Hope, an inspirational contemporary romance. She has dropped by the blog today for an interview AND is graciously giving away a signed paperback copy of this new release here ony my blog! First, here’s a little more about the book…..

About the Book

My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. GrayAfter a year of grieving her divorce and living a life permanently stuck on pause, Laila Richardson is finally ready to have her own happy ending. Then a listing for a quaint cottage in another town answers her prayers for a fresh beginning—one that will bring her closer to her new boyfriend, Ben. Unfortunately, in her small town of Fairfield, Georgia, letting go of the past is virtually impossible. No one wants to see her move on, including the man who destroyed her heart to begin with.

Chad Richardson has spent years in misery but finally has his life on somewhat stable ground. When he learns his ex-wife is dating, he knows it’s time to go back and fight for the life he abandoned. Bolstered by his newfound sobriety, Chad has every intention of winning back the woman he loves, even if that means facing old demons that are waiting for him to fail.

Passions run deep as two souls searching for a second chance find the courage to let go of old patterns. Can they recognize that their dreams are still possible, even when forged from a broken past?

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write My Unexpected Hope?

Laila and Chad were first introduced in My Hope Next Door. I fell in love with their story and wanted them to have a happy ending. I also felt that divorce really hadn’t been explored much in Christian fiction and felt it should be.

What message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

I wanted to write a believable reconciliation while showing that the baggage we bring into a marriage impacts both parties and must be dealt with. I also wanted to show hope for addiction through Christ.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in this time period or place?

Time period and place wasn’t as much of a challenge as was the subject matter. Writing a hero who struggled with addiction was very difficult. I needed to show the realism of his life-long battle while also shedding light on how victory can be found in Christ.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Katie. She’s still one of my favourite female characters I’ve ever written and getting to show her in a new role as a mentor and friend, while still keeping that spunk she has, was a lot of fun.

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies? 

Yes, and it’s rather cliché for an author. I love to read. It’s what I do in my down time.

Reading isn’t too cliché, it’s the BEST hobby! 

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Unfortunately history has not been so kind to women, so I’m not sure my strong personality would fit in any historical time. But it would be very cool to witness the New Testament first hand.

What are you currently reading?

That answer changes daily! J But the most recent one I’ve picked up is Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han.

Thank you so much, Tammy, for taking the time to answer my questions! I (and my readers) love hearing about the themes and inspiration behind a story. I look forward to reading My Unexpected Hope soon!

About the Author

IMG_3789 small (1)Tammy L. Gray lives in the Dallas area with her family, and they love all things Texas, even the erratic weather patterns. She writes modern Christian romance with true-to-life characters and culturally-relevant plot lines. She believes hope and healing can be found through high quality fiction that inspires and provokes change.

Tammy is often lauded for her unique writing style within the inspirational genre, preferring to use analogies verses heavy-handed spiritual content. Her characters are real, relatable and deep, earning her a 2017 RITA award nomination in the Romance with Religious and Spiritual Elements category. Tammy currently has six published works available with the seventh, My Unexpected Hope releasing June 2017.

When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry.

Tammy L. Gray has lots of projects going on. For all the latest info, visit her website at http://tammylgray.com and sign up for her periodic newsletter.

Tammy says: I’d love to hear from all of you! Come join me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tlgraybooks or Instagram and Twitter (@tlgraybooks)

Giveaway

Now, on to the giveaway fine print! Giveaway is for one (1) signed paperback, U.S addresses only, please. Giveaway is open 1 week until 7/4/17, 11:59 pm. CT.

To enter, comment with a valid email address and answer one of these questions: What is one of your favorite contemporary romances? OR What is one tough subject you would like to see addressed in a novel?

Review: True to You by Becky Wade

In my little corner of the book blogging world, I saw several gushing reviews that touted the authenticity and adorableness of Becky Wade’s new release, True to You. When your #bookbesties ALL say it’s amazing, you read it at the earliest convenience. Well, as I expected, they were completely right!

About the Book

True to You.jpgAfter a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John’s already dating someone and Nora’s not sure she’s ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

Review

 

Attempting to put the beauty and fun of this book into words is close to impossible. It’s the kind of story that leaves you speechless in the happiest of ways.

Allow me to go all nerdy for a mintue…. this is kind of like #bookception. Nora is the ultimate nerdy bookish heroine: she works as a genealogist/librarian and caretaker of a village (!), bookshelves overflowing, a TBR list a mile high, a BBC drama and tea enthusiast. The ultimate opposites-attract situation plays out with John Lawson. A real-life hero as opposed to Nora’s typical book boyfriends, he rocks her world with his serious and quiet demeanor, heroic “Navy SEAL-type stuff” experience, and underlying EMOTIONS. Whew! Basically, John is classic book boyfriend material. But real life material for Nora. But still a fictional book boyfriend for we readers. Hehehe 🙂

True-to-You2-533x800One more quick note on these two! Nora is at once shy and confident, able to conduct herself with grace at all times. And her vocabulary is wonderful and smile-inducing! 🙂 John, well,…… I’d make peach cobbler ❤ with him any time ;).

Beneath the lovable quirks and humor found in these pages is a deeper story of growth, of finding identity in Christ, of His sufficiency and plan being greater — and sometimes far different — than we can imagine. Both Nora and John might have different backgrounds and insecurities, but their stories intersect with a beautiful and heartwrenching complexity.

Becky Wade’s skill in storytelling is obvious in the manner in which True to You unfolds. It begins with experiencing the everyday life of both Nora and John in a get-to-know them, fun, and humorous (Nora) way. As the story gets deeper and moves beyond the surface of these characters, the emotional stuff hits you out of left field as you begin to see the heart-longings of Nora and the protectiveness of John. It’s a most beautiful journey that made me laugh and cry with its poignancy. With the strong establishment of Nora’s sister in this book, I’m looking forward to more of this lovable family in the rest of the series!

True to You is book 1 in the Bradford Sisters Romance series. Check out my review of the (free) prequel ebook, Then Came You, here!

Review: The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

Screenshot_2017-06-15-22-48-28-1Take a step back in time with me today as we journey to 1927 Washington state and the beginnings of a majestic Mount Rainier National Park! The Road To Paradise kicks off a new series, “Vintage National Parks”, from author Karen Barnett and Waterbrook Multnomah publishers, featuring historicals set in different parks across America. For the outdoor or travel enthusiast, this is an “armchair” journey not to be missed!

About the Book

An ideal sanctuary and a dream come true–that’s what Margaret Lane feels as she takes in God’s gorgeous handiwork in Mount Rainier National Park.The Road to Paradise It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow.
 
But Chief Ranger Ford Brayden is still haunted by his father’s death on the mountain, and the ranger takes his work managing the park and its crowd of visitors seriously. The job of watching over an idealistic senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills seems a waste of resources.
 
When Margie’s former fiancé sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, the plans might put more than the park’s pristine beauty in danger. What will Margie and Ford sacrifice to preserve the splendor and simplicity of the wilderness they both love?
 
Karen Barnett’s vintage national parks novels bring to vivid life President Theodore Roosevelt’s vision for protected lands, when he wrote in Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter: “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

Review

This book is a scenic journey in itself that winds through rugged mountain landscapes, subtly treaded witty banter between the lead characters, and deeply carved lessons of faith.

It’s truly an experience reading it, with the setting and era as vividly portrayed as the hearts of Margie and Ford. Karen Barnett expertly expressed the awe, wonder, and respect one should have for Creation as a beautiful testament to God’s design and plan. (I want to vist Mt. Rainier now!!!!) Margie and Ford are an extension of that Creation, serving as examples and instruments of God’s expression; Margie through her reliance on faith and Ford through his discovery of the true source of strength.

Let’s talk about my favorite aspect of the story! I love, love, loved how Margie lived out her faith. And that it was an essential part of who she was, to the extent that she would not entertain a romance with someone who was didn’t share her beliefs and deep convictions.  While she never denied her attraction to Ford, she clearly made the call to witness where she could and let God lead Ford the rest of the way, if it was His will for them to be together like that. She stood her ground, and I was cheering her on! This is an important point of contention in real life, and it comes up sometimes in Christian fiction, but I just really appreciated the way it was handled by Karen in this particular story.

The Road to Paradise has a broad appeal with its moments of action and adrenaline-pumping adventure in the mountains, a sweet romance, an up-close “waltz” with nature, lessons in faith, AND a bit of an underdog-vs.-power-hungry rivalry story. The colorful side characters, including the wildlife, add great dimension and subtle humor. And, the “man-‘o-the-mountains” hero caught off-guard by love is a wonderful bonus! (Who doesn’t love a rugged, stetson-wearing hero?)

 

Sincere thanks to the publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah, and the author for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

 

Mini Review: “Then Came You” novella by Becky Wade

This novella kicks off the new contemporary “Bradford Sisters Romance” series as the prequel and introduction to the sisters’ parents. It’s the very first book I’ve read by Becky Wade, but I have a feeling it’s just the start of discovering a new favorite author. I read it in 1 sitting, and that is a feat for me, even considering how short it is. And, I’m already in the middle of True to You, book 1 in this series. It’s bookish perfection already!

About the novella: A leather-bound journal. A single father. A woman in pursuit of freedom.

Then Came You

Garner Bradford, heir to the troubled Bradford Shipping empire, doesn’t know much about babies. But he’s going to have to learn fast because he’s just become a single father to his newborn daughter. As he confesses through his journal entries, he’s not entirely sure how to keep a newborn alive, whether or not he’ll ever patch together his shattered heart, or how to forgive himself for his mistakes.

Career girl Kathleen Burke is wholly uninterested in settling down. She has big dreams, and none of them include Garner and his small hometown in Washington State. Yet she can’t seem to get her handsome boss out of her head or her heart. There’s something extraordinarily tempting about his beautifully sad green eyes. . . .

 

Told through journal entries, phone conversations, and letters, Then Came You is a unique, heart-stirring romance novella by acclaimed author Becky Wade.

My thoughts: Epistolary (letter) stories or novels are a rare treat. This little novella happens to combine a few different mediums to tell the story of two separate people and a few ups and downs in their lives as they eventually intersect and end in a romance. It’s comprised of journal entries, phone messages and conversations, and letters. Becky has a way with words! (So does Garner, for that matter, especially with 1 particularly romantic letter <3.) With these personal musings, the reader sees deep truths about the characters as they are revealed in time. This story didn’t shy away from the messiness of life or the reality of consequences, but instead embraced it and shined a subtle light of grace on the tangled beauty of it all.

By the way, this is a FREE, indie-released ebook, so go snag it today at your favorite retailer! You just might fall in love with these characters as quick as I did.

Find the book on Goodreads | Amazon

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Memorable Dads in Literature & #BookDadQuotes

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official topic is ~ Father’s Day related Freebiefavorite dads in literature, best father/daughter or son relationships, books to buy your dad, worst dads in literature, etc. etc.

Dads can offer that bit of wisdom you need to hear, the funny inside joke to brighten a moment, or the insight to looking at life in a new way. My dad was like that — ready to share his thoughts on the subject, if you sought out his opinion. And sometimes when you weren’t exactly looking for advice :).  Appropriately, this week’s topic leading up to Father’s Day is all about dads!

I had multiple ideas for this topic, but because it’s my blog, I decided to go with 2 different ones! First up, as in last month’s Mother’s Day Freebie, I’m listing 10 memorable dads in literature. I really *could* have just referenced the dads or father figures in each of those stories, from the “mom” list, but I decided to change it up and go with different books this holiday. Secondly, I’ve put together a few favorite book quotes from or about dads. Some of these match the 10 memorable dads in my list, too. Dads can offer that bit of wisdom you need to hear, the funny inside joke to brighten a moment, or the insight to looking at life in a new way. My dad was like that — ready to share his thoughts on the subject, if you sought out his opinion. And sometimes when you weren’t exactly looking for advice :).

10 Memorable Dads in Literature

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg1. & 2. Case and Logan Walker in the “Walker Family” series by Melissa Tagg

3. Ben King (and his father Chet) in Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

4. Reese Mitchell in A Twist of Faith by Pepper Basham

5. Charlie Lionheart (nontraditional dad) in The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

271385786. Devin Bressard in the “Told You” series by Kristen Heitzmann

7. Morgan Spencer in The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

8. Mr. D’Alisa in the “Two Blue Doors” series by Hillary Manton Lodge

To Win Her Favor9. Gilbert Linden in To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander

10. Mr. Woodhouse in Emma by Jane Austen

And….. #BookDadQuotes

“I am nothing without God,” he said. “And I don’t ever want to try to be.”

– Charlie Lionheart in The Lady and the Lionheart

“Sometimes in life, when what we want most is just beyond our reach… and the ground beneath us gives way, we must grab hold of the nearest branch.” He closed his eyes briefly, “And hang on.”

– Gilbert Linden in To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander

Over and above their love as father and daughter, they now had a common bond, a kinship that had nothing to do with blood. They were newspeople who loved the smell of ink and the demand of a deadline.

– from A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

“…having faith is the bravest thing we can do. It’s the unwavering confidence that God loves us. That although we can’t see the road ahead, we can see God.”

– Chet King in Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

There were no wracking sobs today, not like that day at the depot when he’d finally set free so many years of furrowed hurt. Let his dad encircle him with all the strength and comfort he’d pushed away since the day he’d left town. It has been an unshackling. A letting go.
Today was a holding on. To courage in the midst of fear. To faith in the midst of uncertainty.
To a father’s love he knew had never once wavered.

– from Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg