Saturday, November 30, 2013

Monthly Reflections (#23) ~ November

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Monthly Reflections, where we take the time to reflect on the previous month.

My goals for November were...

Finish 16 books, including:
☑2 fairy tale retellings
Read a Q, X, and Y book to finish the A to Z Reading Challenge
☑Read a "number" book to finish the What's in a Name Reading Challenge

Books read:




Favorite Read This Month:

I don't know if I have a favorite read. The only book I gave rated 5 stars this month was The Transfer (which is a really short but interesting read for fans of the Divergent series), so I'll pick that one as my favorite.

Reviews:


Special Posts:

2014netgalleychallenge

I signed up for this reading challenge. Check out my post here: 2014 Netgalley Reading Challenge

I signed up for this read-a-thon! My post: End of the Year 2013 Read-a-thon #ReadingCram Sign-Up!!

My thoughts on November:

I'm pleased with what I read this month and that I reached my goal of 16 books! :)

Looking ahead:

I'm going to really try and finish most of my 2013 reading challenges - only have three unfinished challenges, but the one (50 States Challenge) I know I won't be able to finish in time, so I'm going to concentrate on the other two.

My goal for December:

  • Read at least 16 books
  • Read a Q, X, and Y book to finish the A to Z Reading Challenge
  • Read Six Library Books/Audiobooks


If you want to do your own Monthly Reflections, feel free to grab the button and post about it on your blog, then leave a comment with the URL - otherwise, please share your thoughts in a comment!

Now it's your turn! What did you accomplish in November, what do you hope to accomplish in December?
Friday, November 29, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up (November 29th) and Giveaway Winner!!


Weekend Wrap-up is where I share what I read this past week, am currently reading, and hope to read this coming week, and (when applicable) the current giveaways/giveaway winners. Occasionally I'll post some other stuff as well.

Feel free to join along and post your own Weekend Wrap-up on your blog/site (if you do, please leave the link in a comment so I can stop by) or, in a comment, share what you've accomplished (reading-wise) this past week. :)

 What I've read this week:



What I'm currently reading:

Fiction:


Audiobook read:


Nonfiction:


  What I hope to read next week:

Ten Plagues

I want to finish the books I'm reading and, if I have the time, start/finish a couple of these books.

Reviews posted this week:


Current Giveaways



Giveaway winner!

Book Giveaway!
The winner is...

Linda!*

*Winner has claimed their prize.
~

There you have it, that is what I'm reading this week! What about you?
Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Check Out Tyndale's New Site - Tyndale Direct!

Hey everyone! Tyndale House has a new site called Tyndale Direct. Here's a little about it in their own words:

"Introducing TyndaleDirect.com where you'll find special offers, gift suggestions and a selection of our favorite devotional titles—direct from the publisher at great prices. Plus, keep an eye on the Deal of the Day page—just in time for holiday gifting!"

 Right now you can get 25%-50% off special products and free shipping!


Cover Reveal with Giveaway: Until That Distant Day!!


Paris, France
1792

Colette DeMer and her brother Pascoe are two sides of the same coin, dependent upon one another in the tumultuous world of the new Republic. Together they labor with other leaders of the sans-culottes to ensure freedom for all the downtrodden men and women of France.

But then the popular uprisings turn bloody and the rhetoric proves false. Suddenly, Colette finds herself at odds with Pascoe and struggling to unite her fractured family against the lure of violence. Charged with protecting an innocent young woman and desperately afraid of losing one of her beloved brothers, Colette doesn’t know where to turn or whom to trust as the bloodshed creeps ever closer to home.
Until that distant day when peace returns to France, can she find the strength to defend her loved ones . . . even from one another?
Coming April 25, 2014

____________

EXCERPT FROM THE STORY:

Until That Distant Day
Opening of Chapter 1
I was born believing that the world was unfair and that I was the person to make it right.
One of my earliest memories is of Papa setting me atop a nail keg in the forge; I could not have been older than two at the time.
“Colette, give Papa a kiss,” he said, tapping his cheek.
“Why?”
“Come and sit on my knee.”
“Why?”
My response to every order was the same, asked with genuine curiosity. I did not understand why his watching friends chuckled. Why should I press my lips to Papa’s sweaty, prickly cheek? Why should I hop down from the keg, where he had just placed me, and run to sit on his knee, a most uncomfortable perch? I felt justified in requesting a reason for each abrupt order, yet he never bothered to give me one.
Mama, when thus questioned, provided an answer in the form of a sharp swat. This I could respect as definitive authority, although the reasoning behind it remained dubious.
My little brother Pascoe was born believing that the world was his to command. As soon as he acquired his first vocabulary word, “No,” he and I joined ranks in defiance of established authority.
Many impediments cluttered the path of destiny in those early years: parents, thirteen other siblings, physical ailments, and educational difficulties. And as we grew into adulthood, more serious matters intervened, even parting us for a time. But I will speak more of that later. For now, let me assure you that, no matter the obstacles thrown in our way, our sibling bond seemed indissoluble; the love between us remained unaffected by any outside relationship.
Pascoe and I were young adults when revolutionaries in Paris threw aside the tyranny of centuries and established a new government based on the Rights of Man. From the seclusion of our little village in Normandy we rejoiced over each battle fought and won; and when our local physician, Doctor Hilliard, who had first mentored then employed Pascoe for several years, was elected as deputy to the National Assembly from our district, a whole new world opened at our feet.
My story truly begins on a certain day in the spring of 1792, in the little domain I had made for myself in the kitchen at the back of Doctor Hilliard’s Paris house. Perhaps it wasn’t truly my domain, for it did not belong to me. I was merely the doctor’s housekeeper and could lay no real claim. Nevertheless, the kitchen was more mine than anything had ever been, and I loved that small, dark room; especially during the hours when sunlight slanted through the bubbled-glass kitchen windows, making bright, swirling shapes on the whitewashed walls, or each evening when I arranged my latest culinary creation on a platter and left it in the warming oven for the doctor to discover whenever he arrived home. That kitchen was my home. Not the home I had grown up in, but the home I had always craved.
On that particular day, however, it did not feel the safe haven I had always believed it to be. Loud voices drifted down from the upper floor where the doctor and Pascoe were in conference, disturbing my calm. When I closed the connecting door to the dining room, the angry voices drifted in through the open kitchen windows. I couldn’t close the windows; I might smother of heat. Yet I needed to block out the sound, to make it stop.
So I slipped a filet of sole into a greased skillet and let it brown until golden on both sides. The hiss and sizzle did not quite cover the shouting, but it helped. Then I slid the fish onto a waiting plate lined with sautéed vegetables fresh from my kitchen garden; and I topped all with an herbed wine-and-butter sauce. A grind of fresh pepper finished off my creation.
But my hands were still trembling, and I felt as if something inside me might fall to pieces.
Pascoe often shouted. Shouting was part of his fiery nature, a normal event. He shouted when he gave speeches at section meetings. He shouted about overcooked meals or inferior wines. He shouted when his lace jabot refused to fall into perfect folds.
But never before had I heard Doctor Hilliard raise his voice in anger.
Doctor Hilliard was never angry. Doctor Hilliard never displayed emotion. At most, he might indicate approval by the glance of a benevolent eye or disapprobation by the merest lift of a brow. Yet there could be no mistaking the two furious voices overhead. I well knew Pascoe’s sharp tenor with its sarcastic edge; but now I also heard the doctor’s resonant voice crackling with fury.
I managed to slide the hot plate into the warmer alongside a crusty loaf of bread and closed the door, using a doubled towel to protect my shaking hands.
Behind me the connecting door was flung open, and Pascoe burst in as I spun to face him. “Gather your things; we are leaving,” he growled. His eyes blazed in his pale face, and the jut of his jaw allowed for no questions. He clapped his tall hat on his head as he passed through the room.
I donned my bonnet and sabots and picked up my parasol. “What has happened?” I asked just above a whisper.
“I’ll tell you once we are away from this house.” His lips snapped tight. His chest heaved with emotion, and he grasped a portfolio so tightly that his fingers looked white.
I could not recall the last time I had seen my brother in such a rage.

____________


AUTHOR BIO:


Jill Stengl is the author of numerous romance novels including Inspirational Reader's Choice Award- and Carol Award-winning Faithful Traitor, and the bestselling novella, Fresh Highland Heir. She lives with her husband in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin, where she enjoys her three cats, teaching a high school English Lit. class, playing keyboard for her church family, and sipping coffee on the deck as she brainstorms for her next novel.

BOOK PAGE:


Check out the book page for Until That Distant Day.


GIVEAWAY:

Jill is offering an enormous bundle prize of ten print novels and novellas, including her award-winning Faithful Traitor, several novella collections, and her three-book Longtree series. These will all be autographed! (US and Canada only, please.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I will not be choosing or announcing the winner, as I'm not hosting this giveaway, just sharing it.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Top Ten Bookish Things I'm Thankful For


Top Ten Bookish Things I'm Thankful For

I haven't done a Top Ten Tuesday post in a while, but after seeing the topic this week on Abbi's blog, Christian Novels, I decided this would be a great post to do - what with Thanksgiving being this Thursday. :)

In no particular order, here are the top ten bookish things I'm thankful for:

1. Goodreads.com ~ This is such a great site to keep track of what I'm reading and connect with fellow readers. :)
2. Kindle ~ This makes it easy for me to read eBooks and I love my Kindle! 
3. The Library ~ I love how I can read books from here that I otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity/money to read.
4. Review books ~ For the same reasons as #3. 
5. Audiobooks ~ I've been reading a lot more audiobooks recently and love them! It's so convenient to just pop on my headphones and listen to a book when I otherwise wouldn't have had the time to sit and read.
6. Blogging Friends ~ I'm "met" many fellow bloggers/readers since starting this blog and love chatting and sharing books with them. :) So fun!
7. Friendly authors ~ I love when an author takes the time to reply to an email and/or chat on social media. I understand authors have busy schedules, so it's extra special when they take the time to respond back. :)
8. Inexpensive/Used books ~ For the obvious reasons. I'm able to purchase some of my all-time favorite books, which I otherwise wouldn't be able to afford.
9. Series ~ For letting readers get more stories with the same characters. :)
10. Giveaways ~ It's always fun to win a much anticipated book and/or book related thing.

That's my top ten. What's yours?
Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: For Love Or Loyalty by Jennifer Hudson Taylor


For Love Or Loyalty by Jennifer Hudson Taylor
The MacGregor Legacy: Book One
Abingdon Press / 2013
Find on: Amazon, Goodreads

About the book:
Can Malcolm MacGregor exact his plan for revenge, even if he dooms an innocent woman in the process?

To atone for her father’s evil, Lauren Campbell agrees to help Malcolm MacGregor. By the time she realizes she’s the bargaining price to free Malcolm’s mother from indentured servitude, it’s too late.

Malcolm MacGregor only wants to free his family and exact revenge against Duncan Campbell. As the pride and joy of Duncan’s life, his daughter Lauren is the perfect answer, but during the voyage to America, her faith continues to witness to Malcolm. He becomes enraptured with her, and upon their arrival, discovers he’s sold her into a fate worse than death. Now Malcolm has the dilemma: free his family or rescue Lauren? Time is short and with little means, he needs a miracle.

Book Trailer:


My rating:
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My thoughts:

For Love Or Loyalty was a great book. While I liked the first half, it was the last half that I found very good and thrilling! I liked how the story wasn't predictable and I was really surprised by some of the things that happened in the book.

The writing style took a little bit for me to get used to, especially the Scottish language, but that made the story feel more real. I really liked the characters, but don't think I have one favorite.

Overall, I liked For Love Or Loyalty a lot and look forward to reading the next books in this series. If you enjoy historical romance I think you'll like this book and recommend it.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention/review it on my blog. I was not required to give a positive review, only my honest opinion - which I've done. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.*

End of the Year 2013 Read-a-thon #ReadingCram Sign-Up!!

The End of the Year 2013 Reading Cram will run from Dec. 9th-22nd

My goal is to read 8 books. I'm so excited about this read-a-thon and hope I'll be able to get a good chunk of books off my TBR pile.

Did you sign up for this read-a-thon? Feel free to leave the link to your post in a comment below.

Friday, November 22, 2013

FIRST: The Preacher's Wife by Brandi Boddie

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Realms (October 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Brandi holds a juris doctorate from Howard University School of Law and a BA in political science from Youngstown State University. Her love of writing and research has led her to work that includes case management for the Office of the Attorney General in Washington DC and teaching assignments for elementary and secondary students. When she is not working on a story, Brandi enjoys hiking, fencing, and swing dancing. She loves spending time with her family, which includes a cocker spaniel who aspires to be a food critic.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

During the hot, windy summer of 1870 in the burgeoning prairie town of Assurance, Kansas, Marissa Pierce is fed up with her abusive boss. She longs to start a new life and is growing weary of convincing townsfolk that she is most certainly not a prostitute.

Civil War veteran and preacher Rowe Winford arrives in town intent on leaving the tragic memories of his deceased family behind. Although Rowe has no plans to fall in love anytime soon, the plans of God rarely match those of man.

Faced with adversity and rejection from the town and Rowe’s family, can Marissa overcome her past, renew her faith, and experience the life of love that God has planned for her?


Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: Brides of Assurance (Book 1)
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616388439
ISBN-13: 978-1616388430


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chapter 1

July 1870, Kansas Plains

What did I get myself into? Rowe Winford carried his three large valises from the passenger train to the station wait area. He had arrived in Claywalk, Kansas, sooner than he expected. Then again, he had been daydreaming the entire trip, from the carriage ride in Richmond, Virginia, all the way west on the tracks of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.
So this was to be his new home, away from the war reformations, away from the bittersweet memories of his late wife, Josephine, and their stillborn son. The land seemed to engulf every living thing in its wide-ranging vastness. He felt like a tiny speck upon the face of the green, rolling earth.

“Over here, sir.” A tall, lean man in rugged canvas trousers, work shirt, and Stetson hat waved him over to the other side of the wait area. A small schooner and horse awaited him.

“Welcome to Kansas, Rev’ren.” The man’s white teeth flashed in his tanned face as he grinned. “We wouldn’t have expected you this early if you hadn’t sent that letter. I’m Dustin Sterling.” He stuck out his hand. “My friends call me Dusty. David Charlton sent me to come get you and take you to our lil’ town of Assurance down the road.”

Rowe shook his hand. It was rough with calluses. He guessed him to be a horseman or rancher of sorts. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dusty. My name is Rowe Winford, but how did you know I was the new minister?”

He pointed to Rowe’s overcoat and gray trousers. “Clothes don’t get that fancy in these parts. I knew you must be one of them city preachers back East.”

“Richmond.”

“Yep, I was right.” He picked up Rowe’s valises and hoisted them into the schooner. “Well, you’ll get used to this place soon enough, if you have the mind to.”

Dusty drove him away from the train station. The trip toward the “lil’ town of Assurance down the road” turned out to be more along the lines of sixty minutes. Rowe passed the time taking in the nearly treeless plains and the endless open sky. To his left and right he found himself surrounded in a sea of green grass.

“We just got rain last night, after a dry spell.” Dusty chatted amiably along the way about the land. “You have to watch out for the July wind.”

“Wind? There’s barely a breeze out.” As the words escaped Rowe’s lips, a sudden gust blew in his face. He grabbed hold of his hat before it flew from his head. “Where did that come from?” He coughed as the wind forced air down his throat.

Dusty chuckled. “Some say the devil’s in the wind. That’s how come it knocks you off your feet.”

“Well, as long as we can keep him in the wind and out of town, things should be alright.”

The wiry man cast him a wry glance. “’Fraid you might be getting here too late then, Rev’ren’. The devil’s come and set up shop in Assurance. And, sadly, business is sure boomin’.”

“What do you mean?”

Dusty shook his head. “There’s a saloon run by a businessman named Jason Garth. He can get a man to part with his wallet faster than a rattler strikes your heel. His girls help, with their short skirts and paid services.”

“You mean prostitution.”

Dusty shrugged. “I went to the dancehall before it got bad the last year or so. I haven’t been lately, but you’ll hear things. You’ll get your fill of gossip in Assurance.”

Rowe thought about the people who hired him. “What about the church? Haven’t they tried to put a stop to what the saloon is doing?”

“They grumble mostly. Folks here believe they shouldn’t sully their hands with the things of the world. Much easier to judge from a distance, I suspect, but I’m just a hired worker.”

“Aren’t you also a town citizen?”

He shook his head. “I’m all the way from San Antone. David Charlton hired me to tend his cattle, but I used to drive longhorns up here to the railroad.”

“Well, it sounds like the people of the church don’t want to confront corruption.”

The cowboy gave him another look. “Maybe that’s why they hired you.”

Rowe chewed on the inside of his jaw. His first position as head of a church. An apathetic one, from what Dusty implied. He could prove himself by going after the saloon and its seedy practices, but what would be harder, doing that or convincing the church to get their hands dirty along with him?

“Get thee clothed, heathen woman!” A man yelled down at her from the raised dais of the town square. “Thou art the scourge of this fine land, with your harlot’s garments!” He shook his fists.

“I’m not a harlot. I’m just a saloon and dancehall girl.” Words she had repeated all too often.

Marissa Pierce recognized the man as a traveling speaker, clutching his worn Bible to his chest. She hurried along the edge of the main road toward the bank, doing her best to hide her face from the disapproving looks from several of Assurance’s finest and upstanding populace.

They would be right to judge me if I was an evening lady, she thought. I wish they knew the truth.

She walked faster, adjusting her headpiece in a selfconscious attempt to push down the high feathers. Jason Garth, proprietor of the town’s only saloon, sent her out on a last-minute errand while she was getting dressed for the weekly Wednesday Night Revue. The money had to be deposited in the bank before it closed today, he stressed. Well, he could have let her know that earlier, before she changed into the tawdry costume!

More than a few men eyed her in her knee-length ruffled skirt and soft-soled dance boots peeking out from her coat. She knew a number of them as patrons. Those walking with wives, mothers, or another respectable woman had the presence of mind to avert their gazes.

“Have you no shame, lady of the night?” The orator cried in the profession’s flowery prose.

“More than you’ll ever know,” she muttered.

Marissa kept her back straight and face forward, tightly gripping the leather money satchel that held the saloon’s illbegotten earnings. Would that she could put a stop to the corruption and leave the shady establishment today, but soon she would be away from it all. Her saloon contract with Jason was about to end, and she had some money saved for room and board.

She considered her investment in a small share of the general goods store in Claywalk that was up for sale. If she received all the money due her, it would be enough to live off of until she found employment in the nearby town.

A rush of excitement surged through her as she contemplated a new life elsewhere. She would be free, in a respectable position where no one knew of her horrible past.

Marissa slowed her steps as a schooner rolled down the street. A dark-suited man seated atop peered about curiously, shielding his eyes from the afternoon sun.

“That must be our new preacher.” Linda Walsh, the town’s young seamstress, walked up beside Marissa. Always eager for conversation, Linda would speak to anyone who stopped to listen, as Marissa had learned since coming back to Assurance a couple years ago. “We weren’t expecting him for another two weeks. I wonder what made him take off from home so fast.”

Marissa groaned at the thought of meeting another preacher. Every preacher she came across had turned her away once they discovered her profession.

She watched the small schooner pull up to the local inn. She recognized the driver Dusty Sterling seated beside the other man. Dusty hopped down and tethered the horses. The man in black stepped onto the dusty curb. His recently polished boots gleamed.

“Fancy one, he is,” Linda continued. “I hear he comes from a city somewhere in Virginia.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“It was in the paper a month ago. Our advertisement for a new preacher was answered from a man back East.”

Marissa focused again on what was in front of her. The traveler indeed looked foreign to the prairie. Not a hint of travel dust stuck to his long, black frock coat and four-inhand necktie, probably changed into just before departing the train. His gray pants were new and expertly tailored. He removed his hat briefly to wipe his brow, and Marissa saw the dark, wavy hair cropped close to his head.

“He doesn’t have a wife or children with him. Such a shame.” Linda clucked her tongue. “He’s a handsome fellow, for certain.”

Marissa agreed with her on that. He must have stood over six feet tall, with broad shoulders and a powerful build. The man’s profile was strong and rigid, his square jaw and straight nose a true delight for the eyes. Assurance’s former preacher, Reverend Thomas, did not look like this.

“Would having a wife and children make him a better preacher?”

Linda tossed her a look. “That’s got nothing to do with it. One ought to be settled down at a certain age, wouldn’t you say so? Instead of running wild with the barmen?”

Marissa absorbed the sting of emotional pain. Anything she said in response would not sway Linda or anyone else’s notion that she was just a beer-serving streetwalker. She put on a polite stoic face. “I’m sure the ladies of this town will clamor for his attention. Will you excuse me, Miss Linda? I should be going.”

She left the seamstress just as Dusty carried the new preacher’s valises inside the inn. The preacher moved to follow then stopped short, pausing for Marissa to walk past. Marissa saw his blue eyes widen and take in her entire form, from the feathered hat on her head to the dainty-heeled boots on her feet. By his expression she didn’t know whether he admired or disapproved.

His lips settled into a firm line of what looked to be distaste, and she got her answer.

The preacher hadn’t been there for an hour and already she drew out his scorn. Marissa returned the stare until her image of him blurred with beckoning tears.

He jolted from his perusal. His low, straight brows flicked. “Good day to you, ma’am.” He amiably tipped his hat to her.

She paused, not used to being addressed in that fashion. Kindness was in his greeting, not the sarcasm she normally heard from others. Marissa tilted her head to get a clear look at him. His eyes were friendly, calm deep pools. The rest of his face, with its strong, angular lines, remained cordial.

“Good day,” she replied, hoarse. Awkwardness seized her person. Marissa hastily continued on her way to the bank.

Rowe stared after the brightly costumed woman, not noticing Dusty come from the inn until he stood in front of him, blocking the view.

“Your cabin by the lake is still bein’ cleared. The Charltons will pay for your stay here since they don’t have room at the farmhouse.”

“That’s kind of them, Dusty. Who is that saloon woman? I hoped she didn’t think me impertinent for stepping in her path.”

Dusty squinted in the distance. “Oh, Arrow Missy? She’s a dancer down at Jason’s.”

Dancer. That explained the light-stepping gait. “Why do you call her that?”

“She’s got a sharp tongue and even sharper aim with the drinks. That is, before I stopped going there.” Dusty scratched his chin.

“I think I upset her. She looked sad.” Rowe studied her shrinking form as she went inside the bank. She was a lovely young woman, tall and raven-haired. Her features carried an exotic lilt. He guessed her to be in her early twenties.

If he wasn’t the one who caused her to be upset, then what made the tears brim in her eyes?

“You carrying that last bag in, or you want me to do it?”

Rowe picked up his valise. “I’ve got it, Dusty.” He went inside the inn, glancing one more time in the direction of the bank, his mind still on the melancholy woman with the dancing boots.