Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tuesday Tip: All Together or Altogether?

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be posting about some common words that can be confusing.

All together means everyone together or everything included. 

All together there are six kids coming to the party.

Altogether means completely, all things considered, or on the whole. 

I don't think you've been altogether honest with me.

Monday, April 29, 2019

"Whose Waves These Are" by Amanda Dykes

My review...

I'm not a fan of overly romantic stories, so I was a bit hesitant to read this. But, as I love books pertaining to WWII, I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did. It's more a book about love (and the various types) than a romance story. Themes of grief, loss, hope, and healing are also key.

The story is told in alternating POVs, which is something I really enjoy. Rich details combine to create beautiful prose that pull the reader in. The cast of characters is quite enjoyable, and I love the way Dykes portrayed God's light in the storm. Both time periods were well-developed, which isn't always the case in time-slip novels. This emotional story will likely stick with the reader after the final page.

One of my favorite quotes is: "Lift your head, brave one. This life is a storm, no doubt about it. But oh, the One who holds the waves, who holds our hearts. What it is to think of facing the storm in His hands, wrapped in a love that is fathoms — infinite fathoms — deep."

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, but I wasn't required to leave a positive review.

About Amanda...

Amanda Dykes is the author of Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale, the critically acclaimed bicycle story that invited readers together to fund bicycles for missionaries in Asia. As a former English teacher, she has a soft spot for classic literature and happy endings. She is a drinker of tea, a dweller of Truth, and a spinner of hope-filled tales, grateful for the grace of God loves extravagantly.

Friday, April 26, 2019

"Shine the Light" by April McGowan ... and a GIVEAWAY!

WhiteFire publishing has graciously offered to give away a copy of this new release (for US residents: choice of hard copy or e-book; for all other residents: an e-book). You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends May 3, 2019. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information.) 

Back cover copy...

Shannon is out to save the world one caring act at a time. She’s stood by her best friend, Amber, through their whole lives—especially when Amber lost her sight. She has an active outreach ministry to the homeless and disenfranchised. And she’s even let down her guard long enough to let a boyfriend, Justin, into her life.
Her life has settled into a pleasing routine of teaching, freelance photography work, quiet dinners with Justin, and taking Amber on treks to find new subjects for her visionary paintings.
But when a man from her past shows up, her secure world crumbles into triggered PTSD episodes that threaten everything she relies on. Will she be able to overcome these old memories, or will her past crush any hopes she had for a future? 

My review...

I loved the first book in the series (Hold the Light), so I was anticipating the sequel. The characters are relatable and will be familiar if you’ve read the first book, but the story could still make sense if you haven’t. Themes of healing and love are key. Shannon’s story demonstrates Christ’s love for those who may be different or suffer challenges (physical or mental). Homelessness, addiction, and PTSD are addressed in a compassionate manner. While Shannon didn’t have an easy childhood (as she grew up in the foster care system), she never doubted that God loved her.

There are some secondary characters who play minor, yet important, roles. They represent those in society that are often overlooked, such as the mentally ill, homeless, or those battling addiction. It’s heartwarming to see that they are not overlooked by Shannon … or God. Many of the characters remind the reader that we never truly know someone just by looking at them from the outside. While I didn’t like this book quite as much as the prior one, I still found it to be a satisfying and enjoyable sequel.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

About April...

April McGowan loves to read and write inspirational fiction. She and her husband, two children, and her ‘mews’ (three cats!), live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. April is a member of Oregon Christian Writers, the Christian Author’s Network, and American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not writing, homeschooling her son, or playing board games, you might find her at her drum kit, imagining she’s on a world tour. Hey, it could happen.

Where you can find her online...

website:      www.aprilmcgowan.com
Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAprilMcGowan/
Twitter:       https://twitter.com/aprilkmcgowan

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

"RES-Q Tyler Stop" by June McCrary Jacobs (JustReads Blog Tour)


Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for RES-Q Tyler Stop by June McCrary Jacobs with JustRead Publicity Tours!


Title: RES-Q Tyler Stop  
Series: Tyler Stop, Book 1  
Author: June McCrary Jacobs  
Publisher: JMJ Story Stitcher Books  
Release Date: April 22, 2019  
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

It's the summer of 1968 in Sonoma County, California, and eleven-year-old Weston Gregg and his nine-year-old sister, Wendy, are looking for fun things to do during their summer break from school. When they discover some abandoned rabbits, they hatch an idea to make a positive difference for animals and people in their small town of Tyler Stop.

They decide to form 'Rescue Each Species-Quickly', or RES-Q Tyler Stop.

There are challenges to face as they move forward into their new venture, including standing up to someone who is targeting Weston's friends for being different and a painfully bad decision.

Will Weston have to handle these issues on his own or will he learn to accept the advice and wisdom shared by some important people in his life? Join Weston and his family and friends as they share some adventures and learn and grow together in RES-Q Tyler Stop.


"Adventure has no end in this tale, where a heart for animals inspires and surprises await around every bend. . . . The characters and the situations they face come across realistic, and the scenes develop naturally. Not only does the author keep a nice paced plot rolling along but adds interesting and practical information about animals and ways to handle certain situations along the way. It makes for a fun mix of fiction and fact.

This appears to be the first book in the series, and I’m eager to see where the RES-Q Tyler Stop adventures will head to next." ~ Tonja Drecker, Author of Music Boxes

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository


JUNE:  Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today, Leslie. I'm excited to chat with you and your readers.

LESLIE: You're very welcome! I'm happy to have you here. Can you tell us the "story behind the story"? (What led you to write this book?)

JUNE:  A few years ago I began seeing bumper stickers on cars in our city with a large paw print and the saying, 'Who Rescued Who?' It got me to thinking about what kind of story I could write about a grass roots style, small-scale animal rescue. The manuscript idea went through several incarnations from a contemporary family story then to a contemporary inspirational romance then to a historical inspirational romance. None of those seemed quite right, so I set aside the story for a few years. Once it occurred to me that as a former teacher and literacy mentor I had something to offer as a children's author, I wrote the story as a middle-grade historical adventure which eventually evolved into this book.  

LESLIE: What message do you hope readers takeaway from RES-Q Tyler Stop?

JUNE:  This story is set in the summer of 1968 in Northern California. One of the authors who read the book commented to me she was glad I set the story in 'simpler times'. The 1960s were filled with turmoil and tragedy in our nation, but I agree with her about those times being simpler in that kids made their own fun back then. They did not rely upon technology, electronic devices, and video games to keep themselves occupied. There were television and feature films, but children relied on their own imagination and books, art supplies, dolls, toys, and sports equipment to learn new things, create, and enrich their lives.

With all of that said, I hope readers will enjoy taking a peek into the past to see what the previous generations did for childhood fun. More importantly, I hope readers will learn some valuable lessons from the history of the native peoples of Northern California I presented in the book. I would also be pleased if young readers learned about kindness and compassion toward animals and people from the examples set by the main characters in RES-Q Tyler Stop. Finally, I hope they will learn to appreciate and respect nature, wildlife, and our earth. 

LESLIE:  What can you tell us about your next project?

JUNE:  I am currently working on Book Two of this Tyler Stop series. I do not have a title yet, but readers can expect to see the main characters enjoying some new adventures and challenges in the next installment! 

LESLIE: What's something about you that might surprise your readers?

JUNE:  Middle-grade readers may be surprised to learn how much I still enjoy reading children's literature at my age! I read at least as many children's fiction and non-fiction books each month as I do adult literature—usually more. When I attended a library book sale earlier this month I ended up buying copies of some of my old childhood favorites which had worn out or had been given away without my knowledge. I purchased new copies of treasured books such as Heidi, Black Beauty, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at the sale. I can't wait to read them all over again with my 'adult' eyes.

It's interesting to me that sometimes when I am checking out middle-grade books at the library or someone in a waiting room sees me reading a children's book they'll comment, "It's weird that you're an adult and you read kid's books." I just smile and tell them I love children's literature, so I read it. If they only knew that I write, review, and blog about children's books, too! 

LESLIE: What advice do you have for aspiring MG authors?

JUNE:  This is a good question, Leslie. I would start off by telling aspiring middle-grade authors to READ, READ, and READ some more middle-grade books. Specifically, read in the particular genre in which you are interested in writing. For example, I love historical fiction and always have, so I spend my time reading awesome historical middle-grade books such as Wolf Hollow and Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk, Dash and Code Word Courage by Kirby Larson, Winnie's Great War by Lindsay Mattick, Strongheart by Candace Fleming, and Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban. I also reread a lot of books which were originally written in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s such as the Beverly Cleary books, The Boxcar Children series, Trixie Belden and the Hardy Boys mysteries. Reading books written during your chosen time period will get an author in the proper frame of mind for writing historical fiction.

Secondly, and this is the most difficult even for a veteran author, never give up. The publishing business is extremely competitive and there are a lot of obstacles to overcome to become a success by whatever means you use to gauge your success as an author. Set reachable goals for yourself and persevere.

Finally, try to meet some other authors who write or aspire to write in your chosen genre. I belong to some online groups with warm and welcoming individuals who are graciously willing to listen and offer advice to their peers. We share ideas and bounce thoughts off of each other. This community atmosphere has been helpful in my transition from 'inspirational romance writer for adults' to 'middle-grade author'. 

LESLIE: What sort of adventure would you have participated in when you were Weston's age (11)? 

JUNE:  I belonged to the Girl Scouts from age seven up through junior high. I was fortunate to be able to go on many adventures with my various troops from camping, to visiting the Oakland Museum, attending an Oakland Athletics baseball game, to taking a bus trip to Disneyland. I still enjoy visiting new places—touring historic homes and museums, walking around botanical gardens and parks, exploring the Pacific Coast. I consider an adventure to be anytime you venture out of your home base, or comfort zone, to see or learn something new! 

Thanks so much, June, for taking the time to share a bit with my readers. All the best with your book!


 'RES-Q Tyler Stop' is June McCrary Jacobs's first middle-grade book. June is a retired elementary school teacher and literacy mentor who is fond of California history and children's literature. She especially loves to write, read, and blog about middle-grade fiction and non-fiction on her 'Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic' blog.

In addition to writing inspirational romance books and stories for adults {A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom, 2013; Robin's Reward, 2015; Handmade Hearts, 2019}, June's original sewing, quilting, and stitchery designs have been published in over one hundred books, magazines, and on sewing industry blogs in the past decade.

When she's not writing, reading, blogging, or sewing, June enjoys cooking, walking, visiting art and history museums, and touring historic homes and gardens.

One of her most memorable and thrilling childhood adventures was her ride in the Goodyear blimp as it floated over Long Beach, California. She can still remember the people on the beach waving to her as she zoomed past them.


CONNECT WITH JUNE: Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Goodreads Blog | Amazon


(1) winner will win
  • $20 Amazon gift card (US/International)
  • Signed Paperback Copy of RES-Q Tyler Stop (US only) or Digital Copy (International)
Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight April 22, 2019 and last through 11:59 pm April 29, 2019. US only. Winners will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Writing Prompt Wednesday

If you're feeling stuck in your WIP (work in progress) or just want to shake things up a bit, here's something different to try today:

With sadness, she realized they needed some time apart...

Happy writing!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Monday Motivation

"Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it."
— Lou Holtz

Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

"Convergence" by Ginny Yttrup ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Ginny's publisher has offered to give away a print copy of the book. (US ONLY). You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends April 25, 2019. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.) 

A mother propelled by love.
A stalker bent on destruction.

Uhrichsville, OH—Christian fiction veteran, Ginny L. Yttrup, is back with a new psychological thriller set on the rapids of California’s raging rivers. Convergence, releasing March 2019 from Shiloh Run Press, follows the stories of Denilyn and Adelia—and the dangerous man bent on murder that threatens them both.

Psychology professor Dr. Denilyn Rossi contends that the past is either a shadow that haunts us or a force that propels us. The choice is ours, she tells her students. What she doesn’t tell them is that her own past is a shadow she can’t seem to shake. Adelia Sanchez, however, has embraced Dr. Rossi’s teaching by allowing her past to propel her as she seeks to entrap the man who stalked and brutally attacked her. When Denilyn’s past and Adelia’s present converge at the Kaweah River, a dangerous man bent on destruction threatens them both. Will he uncover the secret Deni and Adelia have fought so hard to protect?

My review...

Psychology professor Dr. Denilyn Rossi was attacked in the past, and she fears her stalker has returned. She is good at advising her students that their past can either haunt or propel them, but Deni isn’t so great at following her own advice, especially when suspicious events increase. Is she losing her mind, or is someone out to get her?

Vivid imagery, unexpected plot twists, and an intriguing story line combine in the author’s first attempt at a suspense novel. It certainly shows promise. Overdetailing does slow the pace in some spots. There are three timelines, which was interesting, but it was a bit confusing to follow on occasion. It took a few chapters to pull me in, but things picked up midway through. It was nice to watch Denilyn’s character grow and remind the reader that it is possible to break free from the fear cycle. Spiritual themes are woven throughout, but they are not overwhelming.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher and NetGalley, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

About Ginny...

Ginny L. Yttrup is the award-winning author of Words, Lost and Found, Invisible, and Flames. She writes contemporary women's fiction and enjoys exploring the issues everyday women face. Publishers Weekly dubbed Ginny's work "as inspiring as it is entertaining." When not writing, Ginny coaches writers, critiques manuscripts, and makes vintage-style jewelry for her Esty shop, Storied Jewelry (etsy.com/shop/StoriedJewelry). She loves dining with friends, hanging out with her adult sons, or spending a day in her pajamas reading a great novel. Ginny lives in northern California with Bear, her entitled Pomeranian. To learn more about Ginny and her work, visit ginnyyttrup.com.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tuesday Tip: Torturous or Tortuous?

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be posting about some common words that can be confusing.

Torturous means very unpleasant or painful

It was a torturous decision, but he left his job.

Tortuous is marked by repeated twists or turns. 

The country streets are narrow, tortuous, and inaccessible to trucks.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

"The Memory House" by Rachel Hauck ... and a GIVEAWAY! (Read with Audra blog tour)

About the book...

When Beck Holiday lost her father in the North Tower on 9/11, she also lost her memories of him. Eighteen years later, she's a tough New York City cop burdened with a damaging secret, suspended for misconduct, and struggling to get her life in order. Meanwhile, a mysterious letter arrives informing her she's inherited a house along Florida's northern coast, and what she discovers there will change her life forever. Matters of the heart only become more complicated when she runs into handsome Bruno Endicott, a driven sports agent who fondly recalls the connection they shared as teenagers. But Beck doesn't remember that, either.

Decades earlier, widow Everleigh Applegate lives a steady, uneventful life with her widowed mother after a tornado ripped through Waco, Texas, and destroyed her new, young married life. when she runs into old high school friend Don Callahan, she begins to yearn for change. Yet no matter how much she longs to love again, she is hindered by a secret she can never share.

Fifty years separate the women but through the power of love and miracle of faith, they each find healing in a beautiful Victorian known affectionately as The Memory House.

My review...

I love time-slip novels, so I was excited to read this one, especially as I’ve read and loved many of Hauck’s books. In this case, the story follows Beck Holiday (modern day) and Everleigh Callahan (1950s). Generally, I’m drawn to one story line a bit more than the other, but that wasn’t the case with this story, as I loved them both. The ladies live in different times, but both deal with fears, loss, and challenges. Hauck weaves them together seamlessly, and one special house connects them to create a wonderful, heartwarming tale.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

About Rachel...

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal best-selling author.

Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times Book Reviews. She is a double RITA finalist, and a Christy and Carol Award Winner.

Her book, Once Upon A Prince, first in the Royal Wedding series, was filmed for an Original Hallmark movie.

Rachel is been awarded the prestigious Career Achievement Award for her body original work by Romantic Times Book Reviews.

A member of the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers, she teaches workshops and leads worship at the annual conference. She is a past Mentor of the Year.

At home, she's a wife, writer, worship leader, and works out at the gym semi-enthusiastically.

A graduate of Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) with a degree in Journalism, she is a former sorority girl and a devoted Ohio State football fan. Her bucket list is to stand on the sidelines with Ryan Day.

She lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.

You can find Rachel online at:

Website:       www.rachelhauck.com
Twitter:        @RachelHauck
Instagram: @rachelhauck

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Friday, April 12, 2019

"Courting Mr. Emerson" by Melody Carlson ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Melody's publisher has offered to give away TWO (2) print copies  of this book (US ONLY). You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends April 19, 2019. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.) 

Q&A with Melody...

Q:  What was your inspiration behind your two main characters, who are so different at their core?
A:  The old adage "opposites attract" was tugging at me, perhaps because my husband and I are opposites in some ways. I grew up somewhat of a free spirit in a hippie town, whereas my husband came from a fairly traditional upbringing and wanted to be a cowboy. But over the years (forty!),we've learned to give and take--and to appreciate our differences.

Q:  What makes this book different from your others?
A:  I don't usually write about older characters, although I find them rich and layered and charming. The idea of finding romance at this later stage of life is different too. But I really enjoyed the experience and would welcome the opportunity to do more.

Q:  Courting Mr. Emerson is about getting a second chance at love and life. Why did you want to write about these messages?
A:  I absolutely love the idea of second chances. Who doesn't appreciate an occasional do-over? I like to think that at any age or stage of life, anyone can have a second chance. Whether it's a new job, a new home, a new friend, or even a new soul mate, it makes for a good story. And I think the best kinds of second chances include a spiritual element. This story contains all of those ingredients.

Q:  What do you hope readers gain from this book?
A:  For starters, I hope this story will simply offer an enjoyable break. Beyond that, I hope the characters will enlarge the way readers view themselves and the people around them. Finally, I hope readers will feel encouraged and uplifted when they finish the story.

Q:  What's next on your writing to-do list?
A:  I'm just starting the third book in a World War I series. (Book 1, Harbor Secrets, is just out, with book 2 coming soon.) The Legacy of Sunset Cove novels contain elements of suspense and history and are set on the Oregon coast.

Thanks for taking the time to share a bit about your story with my readers, Melody!


George Emerson didn't need anybody. Or so he told himself as he carefully shaved with his straight-edged razor, just like he always did seven days a week at exactly 7:07 each morning. George knew that most men used more modern razors, but this silver implement had been left to him by the grandfather who'd helped raise him. Wiping his razor across a soft terry towel, he stretched his neck to examine his smoothly shaved chin in the foggy mirror. He could see better with his reading glasses,but after so many years of the same routine, George felt certain the job was done right.

As he closed the bathroom window, shutting out the humming “music” of his overly friendly neighbor, George wondered if there was some polite way to avoid Lorna Atwood this morning. She’d been puttering around her yard for the last ten minutes, and George felt certain it was in the hopes of catching him on his way to work.

As he replaced the cap on his Barbasol shave cream and returned his razor to its chipped ceramic mug, a pinging in the kitchen told him that the coffee was done. The automatic-­timed coffee maker was one of the few modern perks that George had been talked into a few years ago. But, as with most electronic devices, he still didn’t fully trust the fancy machine. What if it got its wires crossed and decided to make coffee in the middle of the night?

George peeked out the kitchen window as he filled his stainless steel travel cup with steaming coffee, only to see that Lorna was now sitting on her front porch. He slipped two thin slices of whole wheat bread into the toaster, removed a hard-­boiled egg from the fridge, and poured himself a small glass of grapefruit juice. This was his standard weekday breakfast. On weekends he’d sometimes fry or poach himself an egg or, if feeling particularly festive, he might stroll over to the Blue Goose Diner and splurge on pancakes and bacon, which he’d leisurely consume while reading the newspaper. 
Although it had probably been more than a year since he’d indulged in that.

But today was Friday, and by 7:27, George’s breakfast was finished, his dishes washed. With his travel mug refilled and briefcase in hand, he locked his front door, checked to be sure it was secure, then checked again just in case. Lingering for a moment, he pretended to check his watch, glancing left and right to be sure Lorna wasn’t lurking nearby.

The sun seemed high in the sky for late May, but that was only because he’d never fully adjusted to the late-­start days that Warner High had implemented last fall. Although it had disrupted his internal time clock, George had to admit that students seemed moderately more awake with an extra hour of sleep.

“Hello, Mr. Emerson,” Lorna Atwood chirped merrily.

She popped out from the shadows of her front porch like a jack-­in-­the-­box in Lycra. “Lovely day today, isn’t it?”

He peered up at the cloudless sky then nodded an affirmative. “Looks like a good one, for sure.”

“Especially for this time of year in western Oregon. Last year it rained all the way through May and June.” She hurried over to him with a hot pink coffee cup in hand. Had she coordinated it to match her lipstick? “Now, you didn’t forget about my invitation, did you?” Lorna looked hopeful.

George feigned confusion then tapped the side of his forehead. “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Atwood, but I realized that I do have other plans for tonight. I hope you’ll please excuse me.”

“Oh, well.” Her smile remained fixed. “Perhaps another time. With summer round the corner, we should have plenty of chances to get together. I’ll just have to take a rain check from you.” She peered upward. “Speaking of rain checks, I heard it’s supposed to cloud up this weekend. Maybe I can collect on mine then.” She winked.

George forced a polite smile as he tipped his head and continued past her small yard. Her lawn was in need of mowing again. Hopefully he wouldn’t have to remind her of her rental agreement and that she was responsible for her own landscaping chores. The little yellow bungalow, owned by him, was nearly identical to the one he lived in—­except his was cornflower blue. His grandparents had helped him to invest in these little neglected houses in the late eighties, back when real estate had been ridiculously low. He’d purchased the first bungalow for his own use shortly after acquiring his teaching position at the nearby high school. Since he had no interest in driving, it had made sense to live within walking distance of his work. And he’d been employed at Warner High ever since.

With the help of his grandfather’s handyman expertise, George had spent weekends and evenings fixing up his little blue house. It provided a good distraction from the dreams that had not gone as planned. Perhaps that was why his grandparents had encouraged him to take on three more little houses—­to divert him from his pain and to keep him occupied. Of course, they wisely called it a “good investment.” Plus it proved a clever way to increase real estate values in his neighborhood. Buying derelict properties had seemed a bit reckless at the time, especially since residents were fleeing urban neighborhoods, flocking to the “safety” of the suburbs. But in the past decade, the trend had reversed. People returned to town, and rentals in his neighborhood were at an all-­time high. His three rental bungalows, just one block away from downtown, never went unoccupied nowadays.

Mrs. Atwood, his most recent tenant, had been overjoyed to get in. Although she’d only been here a few months, George soon learned to exercise caution when engaging with her. The gregarious divorcée could “chat” nonstop if given the opportunity. He suspected her husband had fled in order to attain some peace and quiet, although Mrs. Atwood claimed to be the victim of her ex-­husband’s “midlife crisis.” To be fair, she wasn’t bad looking—­just talked too much. And tried too hard.

George had performed some minor repairs on the bungalow shortly after she moved in. Grateful for his “improvements,” she eagerly invited him for dinner. When he declined, she insisted on baking him her “famous cherry pie.” He pretended to appreciate her gesture, but the overly sweet and syrupy pie wound up in the trash since George wasn’t big on desserts. Just the same, he penned a polite thank-­you note and taped it to the clean pie plate that he discreetly placed on her porch very early the next morning. But since then, her efforts to befriend him had only intensified—­and, short of rudeness or dishonesty, he was running out of excuses to decline.

George was no stranger to feminine attempts to befriend him, and over the years, he’d learned to take women’s flattering attentions in stride. It wasn’t that he was devastatingly handsome—­he might be getting older, but he wasn’t delusional. Even in his prime, back in the previous millennium when his students had nicknamed him “Mr. Bean,” George had been aware that he was no Cary Grant. The comparison to the quirky BBC character may have been meant as an insult, but George hadn’t minded.

He actually kind of admired Mr. Bean. And George knew the kids’ teasing was the result of his buttoned-­up attire. His response to kids dressing like gangbangers had been to step it up by wearing nappy ties and sports coats to school—­an attempt to lead by example. Not that it had worked. But it was a habit he’d continued and, despite his fellow teachers’ preference for casual dress, George liked his more traditional style. Ironically, it seemed the ladies liked it too. At least they used to, and ones like Mrs. Atwood apparently still did.

Now that he was in his midfifties, George suspected that women like Mrs. Atwood weren’t attracted so much by his appearance as by his availability. It had never been particularly easy being a bachelor. Sometimes he’d suspected someone had pinned a target to his back. But as the years passed, many began to refer to him as a “confirmed bachelor.” Truth be told, George didn’t mind the confirmed part—­it sounded better than being committed.

“Good morning, Mr. Emerson.” Jemma Spencer waved to him as she bounded up the front steps to the school. “Isn’t it a gorgeous day!”

“It certainly is.” George politely opened the door for her, waiting as the younger woman went in ahead of him. Jemma was new at Warner High. Fairly fresh out of college, she was energetic and strikingly pretty—­and, like most of his fellow teachers, young enough to be his daughter. “And how are things going in the Art Department, Miss Spencer?” He paused to show his ID badge at the security check.

“The natives are restless.” Her dark brown eyes sparkled as if she were restless too.

“Yes, with only six days left of school, you have to expect that. Especially on a warm, sunny day like this.”

“I think I’ll take my students outside today,” she confided as they continued toward the main office together, “to draw trees or flowers or clouds or butterflies or whatever. Maybe they’ll just stare off into space, but hopefully it’ll get the ants out of their pants.”

He chuckled. “You’re a brave woman.”

“Not really, it’s just that I’m kinda antsy too.” She winked as they turned down the hall by the office.

“I’m counting the days until summer break.”

“Any big plans?” he asked with mild interest.

“My boyfriend and I are going to Iceland,” she declared.


“Iceland?” a male voice called out from the faculty room. “Did someone say Iceland? I went there for spring break and it was fabulous. Want to see my photos?”

Suddenly many of the younger teachers were talking at once, sharing phone photos, eagerly recounting travel experiences, talking about the lure of Iceland or other exotic locales, and bragging about various offbeat plans for their upcoming summer. In the past, George might’ve engaged in this sort of enthusiastic banter—­even sharing some of his own travel stories—­but since he’d made no plans for the upcoming summer . . . or the past several summers for that matter, he kept his mouth closed and simply collected papers from his mailbox and checked the staff bulletin board. Then, without looking back, he quietly exited the noisy faculty room.

As he walked toward the Language Arts Department, George felt old. Not in a stiff, sore, achy sort of way—­although he knew the spring had been missing from his step for some time now. He felt old as in outdated—­like the dinosaur of Warner High. It was no secret that he was the oldest teacher on staff, or that the administration had been encouraging him to retire the last couple of years. But now he was nearly fifty-­five, which sounded dangerously close to sixty, and budgets had been cut once again. His principal knew she could save money by hiring a less senior language arts teacher. George had resisted her in the past. But this year, he’d caved.

After a bad bout of flu last winter, George had given in, announcing that this would be his last year to teach. And now, in less than a week, he would be officially retired after more than thirty years. Not that anyone appeared to put much value on experience nowadays . . . or even care that he would soon be gone.

More and more, George had begun to feel invisible at this school, as if each year diminished his presence. Even the students looked right through him at times. Not that it was so unusual for a teacher to be ignored. As an English instructor he was accustomed to his students’ general lack of interest in academia. He tried to impress upon them the need for good writing skills—­and sometimes they got it. But thanks to this electronic age, which he detested, there was a complete disregard for spelling and grammar and structure. As hard as he’d tried to make his favorite class—­English literature—­relevant and appealing, most of his students didn’t know the difference between Chaucer and Shakespeare. Even more, they didn’t care.

He sighed as he clicked the pass-­code pad numbers beside his classroom door. He remembered a time when no doors were locked inside of campus. Now everyone had pass-­codes for everything. Security cams and uniformed police abounded—­so much so that he sometimes felt like he was teaching in a prison. And to be fair, some of his students might be better off in a prison. He flicked on the fluorescent lights then walked through the stale-­smelling classroom. Not for the first time, he wished the high windows could open and get fresh air in here. He’d raised this issue before, pointing out how it might actually help to wake the students up. But thanks to budget challenges, no changes had been made.

As George punched the number code into his office door, he remembered what this school had been like back in the dark ages—­back when he’d been a student in this very building, back when dinosaurs roamed freely. What a different world that had been. Although the building, which was new and modern back then, hadn’t changed much.

But then some things never changed. Over the years he’d observed that teens from every decade bore striking similarities. Peel back the veneer of current trends and fashions and you’d usually discover a frustrated mix of rebelliousness and insecurity. To be fair, his generation had been no different. He remembered the late seventies well. His class had its share of druggies and dropouts and slackers, yet his peers, even all these years later, felt more real to him than today’s youth. Of course, it was possible that his memory was impaired by his age, but when he looked back he saw an authenticity that he felt was missing from kids nowadays.

Maybe it was because his generation hadn’t been plugged into all these electronic gadgets and devices . . . pads and pods and phones that were attached at the hip of all his students. Even though the school had a policy of no personal electronics during class time, most of the students managed to bend the rules. It really made him feel crazy at times. What happened to connecting with your friends by looking into their faces while conversing? Or using a phone and hearing a real voice on the other end? He didn’t understand these shorthand messages they exchanged, with bad grammar and silly little pictures. And the complaints he got when he explained a letter-­writing assignment to his class! You’d think he’d asked them to gouge out their eyeballs—­or to destroy their mobile phones.

He’d recently looked out over a classroom only to feel that he was gazing upon a roomful of zombies. It was as if they were all dead inside—­just empty shells. He knew he was old-­fashioned, but he honestly believed that computer technology had stolen the very souls of this generation. Of course, this had simply confirmed what he knew—­it was time to quit.

My review...

George is a teacher preparing to retire. Willow is a free-spirited artist looking for a college recommendation for her grandson. George is set in his ways and doesn’t like change. Willow is spontaneous. They seem to have little in common, yet they can’t help being intrigued by each other. Could it really be true that opposites attract?

I read a lot of books, and very few have older lead characters. I love that the author decided to do this in her latest release, as it was a refreshing change. I’ve read a number of books by Carlson in the past, and, while this wasn’t my favorite, I still found it to be a quick, enjoyable read. I found the characters, including the secondary ones, relatable and well-utilized. (And I LOVED that there was a character named Leslie 😊 )I had expected a bit more of a faith element than I found. The pace in this story was a bit slower than I’m used to in romance books, but it did seem realistic and the relationship development didn’t feel rushed. I think everyone could use a Willow, and even a George, in their lives. While there are a lot of lighthearted moments in the book, there are things that may cause the reader to pause and reflect, as well.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

About Melody...

Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women, and children. That's a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a "storyteller." Her novels range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in my Flip-Flops), but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, True Colors, etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She's won a number of awards (including Romantic Times' Career Achievement Award, the Rita, and the Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog. To find out more about Melody Carlson visit her website at http://www.melodycarlson.com/

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Writing Prompt Wednesday

If you're feeling stuck in your WIP (work in progress) or just want to shake things up a bit, here's something different to try today:

He wanted her job and it would be easy enough to...

Happy writing!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Sunday, April 7, 2019

"Made for This" by Jennie Allen

My review...

I’ve never read anything by this author, but I really liked the description (as well as the cover) of this book, so I was excited to have the chance to review it.

I love that this book is interactive! It’s designed to be used over the course of forty days, and there are passages, scripture verses, and reflection questions/activities for each day. Real stories and Biblical connections are used for each passage. I haven’t completed the book yet, as I’m spending more than a day on each reading/activity. It’s perfect for someone who wants a book that will make them think about their own story along the way.

Lots of people likely wonder about their purpose, and this book is designed to help the reader discover what God wants to accomplish in their life. I wish I’d received this prior to Lent, but it can be done at any time. Allen shares her own journey while encouraging the reader to answer and explore some challenging questions in order to find out their unique purpose. The book is divided into four sections: The Prayer, The Call, The Threads, and The Future. If you’re looking for a book that (may) pull you out of your comfort zone but encourage and inspire you, this is a devotional book to check out.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy as part of the HarperCollins BookLook Bloggers program, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

"Exceptional You!" by Victoria Osteen

My review...

I’ve read a number of books by Joel and Victoria Osteen, so I was excited to read Victoria’s latest. I’m always encouraged by them, and this one didn’t disappoint.

Exceptional You focuses on how we see ourselves versus how we should see ourselves: through God’s eyes. To Him, we are anything but ordinary. We’re exceptional and a masterpiece, expertly gifted by Him.

The book is written so you feel that you’re chatting with a friend, sharing stories and encouraging one another. The book is organized into seven sections:

·        Know That You Are Chosen
·        Lift Up Your Eyes
·        Keep Your Memory Box Full
·        Travel Light
·        Love Well
·        Live in the Now
·        Power Up

Each chapter ends with bullet points (“Exceptional Thoughts”) highlighting key items from the chapter. Personal stories, Biblical examples, and Scripture verses are woven throughout. Overall, it provides the reader with a lot of food for thought. I have numerous notes that I’ll return to when I need a dose of encouragement, as there are so many solid nuggets of truths in this book, many of which remind the reader that words have power.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

·        “Where you’re going is much more important than where you’ve been.”
·        “You cannot undo your past, but you can do something about your present.”
·        “Don’t let your own voice of doubt drown out the voice of God.”
·        “Take your worry list and make it your prayer list.”
·        “You have something to offer that no one else can give.”
·        “The happiest people are those who appreciate the blessings in their lives and don’t underestimate their value.”
·         “Life is fragile. Find reasons to be grateful. They are always there is you look for them.”

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

About Victoria...

Victoria Osteen is the co-pastor of Lakewood Church, the New York Times bestselling author of Love Your Life, and the host of a national weekly radio program, Victoria Osteen Live, on Sirius XM's Joel Osteen Radio. She is an integral part of each service at Lakewood as well as the "Night of Hope" events across the U.S. and abroad. She lives with her family in Houston, Texas.