Sorry, too many hours listening to an audio book with a British narrator has made me feel inclined to be a bit more posh on the blog… anyone want a scone? 😉
I’ll keep this post short and sweet; I’ve had an idea for some time to curate and sell a Christian Fiction book subscription. Here’s what I have in mind: each month, I would put together a package (for each subscriber) with either
A. One brand- new Christian Fiction book (not necessarily a recent release, but an unused copy)
B. Two pre-owned Christian Fiction books, in good used condition
One specially chosen additional surprise. This would be something small, along the lines of but not limited to:
a devotional or short Bible study book/ a Bible verse memory card set / Bible highlighters/ a small candle/ a few specialty tea samples / a set of pretty washi tapes / etc
All wrapped up in pretty tissue and ribbons, perhaps. 🙂
I’m hoping to get some feelers out to see if this is something that fellow readers would be interested in; that said, don’t feel you have to commit to anything! However, if this sounds appealing to you, I’d love to hear your comments. With the price of shipping rising, I would need to ask for roughly $20 a month in order to make a profit, and I’m concerned that might be prohibitive for some. Is there anything that would make the subscription more valuable to you? What kind of items would you be interested in seeing? If this isn’t up your alley, could you imagine a friend purchasing a subscription, or gifting one to someone else? What questions would you need answered? Alternatively, would a book-only subscription, (which could be sent media mail and would therefore be less expensive) better suit your fancy? I cherish your thoughts!
Merry Christmas (Eve) everyone! I really should have posted yesterday, but I have a quiet moment now and thought perhaps you might enjoy seeing a rather large pile of books I added to my collection!
Do you have any favorite thrift store memories? I just recently stopped by a local used bookstore that uses their proceeds to do some really great things in our community. Anyways, somebody who lives around here must like Christian Fiction as much as I do because some really fabulous books always seem to find their way (through donation) to the religious section of the store.
I started out with about half this many books at the checkout counter, only to find out all.fiction.in.the.store.is.half.off.
So of course I went back and grabbed some more (I mean, at an average price of $3 a book before discount, whyever not???)
Everything they sell is in wonderful condition, so every cent is worth it. And bonus? My mom bought at least as many more books as a gift for my dad, and guess who’ll probably get to read them all when he’s done? Hooray for book-sharing, haha!
I hope your Christmas festivities are warm, fellow readers, and that you know Christ better this coming year; praise Him for coming, praise Him for all He sacrificed, praise Him for keeping His promises then and the hope we have in trusting Him now.
I’ve been looking for another great audio book to follow All Manner of Things, as well as trying to get to know a new app I downloaded through our library called RBdigital. The app seems to focus primarily on media, so I’ve been excited to see if they have a good selection of Christian fiction audio to listen to. Of course, whenever I look up Christian fiction in nearly any library app, I end up running into a lot of works by Lynn Austin, who is very loved and prolific in the genre.
In what struck me as an almost comic mirror of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I ended up “tasting” a few chapters of three different Lynn Austin books, and here are the results:
The first book I checked out was Wonderland Creek.
This will be great, I thought to myself. It’s about a book lover who works at a library. I ought to be able to relate. Unfortunately, I found myself immediately disliking the protagonist. While Austin was probably setting the stage for character growth, I think perhaps she made this young woman a little too flawed; Lynn may have been better off revealing some of the redeeming sides of her heroine early on. I feel as if Austin was trying her hand at Austen— Jane Austen– style humor, but it felt absurd rather than clever. I work at a library, and even so, I don’t think I’ve ever met a book lover so obsessed with their hobby that they would read during a funeral service for someone they knew. Like Goldilocks, I quickly decided this one wasn’t for me.
The next book I tried was Candle in the Darkness, book one of the Refiner’s Fire series. Ahhh. This is the Lynn Austin I know and love. From the very first words, this is compelling historical drama. I listened to this for about half an hour, but something was still not quite… satisfying. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve read this series before many years ago; or maybe I’m not in the mood for the heartache and conflict of a full-blown Civil War story. At any rate, I decided to set this aside to “cool down”, so to speak, and I’m sure I’ll come back around to it eventually. Which led me to…
I’d had my eye on All Things New for a while, and I finally gave it a proper try. Mmm, that delicious feeling when you find just what you were craving. Of course, I’m only one chapter in… but so far this is lovely. This is set just after the Civil War, a time period I’m unfamiliar with. Will the main characters ever be able to leave behind their racial prejudice? Will they rebuild their Southern home? Will the former slaves choose to stay on, or will they go start new lives somewhere else?
Have you read any of these three books? Should I give Wonderland Creek a second try? Sometimes a first impression is misleading. And since we’re talking about Goldilocks, what was your favorite childhood fairy tale?
Some of you may already know that I do not receive free books to review from Christian fiction publishers such as Tyndale or Bethany House, but I thought it might be interesting to share with you why that is! Before I get started, let me just mention– in the spirit of kindness–that I’m in no way bashing fellow bloggers who do sign up for freebies. I don’t think it’s morally wrong; it’s just one choice I’ve made in the quest to try to make my blog unique, and my content of the highest quality!
With that out of the way, let me back up and clarify a little. “What’s this?” I hear a few people say, as they scratch their heads in confusion. “Book reviewers can get free books?”
They can! Many publishers will happily send book reviewers free promotional books by mail or digital copies to download. Depending on the publisher, to receive the items you may have to agree to write a review or the novels may have no strings attached whatsoever. Publishers/authors figure you love reading, so the odds are good you will read and post about the item. This helps them get the word out to interested parties, who will go on to purchase their releases.
So why won’t I accept free books from these companies? Here are a few reasons I’ve come up with:
1. It forces me to be more choosy about what I read.
If I have to actually pay for the book, or hunt it down at the library, I tend to do a little research first. I might look it up in Goodreads or on other websites, carefully read the synopsis, look up the author, etc. I feel that this helps me to weed out items that aren’t as likely to truly interest me or be quality content for the blog, and that in turn I hope translates into a higher number of excellent books being shared with you!
2. I never have to worry about being biased. (Or looking like I am.)
I can’t help but feel it could be hard for me, personally, to not be the slightest bit biased towards companies that send me free items. Wouldn’t it be pretty easy to start favoring books from, say, Tyndale, because I feel as if they care about me and give me free books? There are plenty of great bloggers of excellent moral character who don’t have an issue with it, but I love the peaceful simplicity of knowing I have a lot of Tyndale books covered on this blog because I just happen to like a lot of Tyndale books –and there’s no other reason.
3. I don’t have to be concerned about covering a diversity of publishers.
This kind of ties in with the previous reason, but not all publishers have an equal amount of marketing money, and that equates to different levels of promotional products. As it is, I can be pretty fair about buying or getting Christian Fiction from a variety of different publishers, rather than getting lots of books mailed to me from just one or two. I think this gives all the authors and publishers a fair chance, as opposed to relying on free books (which would often be from the larger publishers.) If at any point I buy more often from any particular publisher, it will likely be because of the quality of their products, and I think that’s a worthy reason.
4. It makes me more relatable.
Ultimately, my blog is for all of you, fine friends! And most of you have to get your books the regular, ho-hum ways. If I get my books the way you do– by spending hard earned money, downloading library apps on slow home wifi, or hinting shamelessly to friends and family about favorite authors before my birthday (haha)–hopefully I will connect with you more deeply. In addition, I like to think I’ll be more critical and thoughtful as I read the item than I would be if I invested nothing into it.
But wait… there’s one time I DO accept free books.
It’s only happened once so far, but I was recently contacted about doing an interview with a popular Christian fiction author I have reviewed before on this blog. She is releasing a new book some months from now, and her team sent me a digital copy to look at before the interview (if I wanted to.) Basically, the book isn’t available to the general public yet, so there is no way for me to get my hands on it the normal way… and while I would normally wait for it like everyone else, I think utilizing this gift would help me prepare a better interview with the author. Circumstances such as these, where I need to read the book soon for some reason and yet have no other options open to me at the moment, are the only cases where I plan to deviate from my policy! 🙂
How do you feel about book bloggers getting free books? Are there any good points I missed, or alternatively, downsides to my policy? Thanks for brightening my Monday by stopping by!
Around the book-blogging community I’ve seen something called Dream Casting. Oh, don’t worry– it’s not some sort of pagan bedtime ritual! If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s casting in the sense of choosing someone for an acting role. Basically, you take a novel or other work you would really like to see translated to film, and then pick actors you think would suit the parts. One benefit is that you get to see how other people imagine the characters would be fleshed out (literally) and if you haven’t read the book, you get a snapshot of the dramatis personae (and no, I didn’t know what dramatis personae were either, until I looked the phrase up today!)
I think it would be a lot of fun to try this out on my recently reviewed favorite, Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson. Let’s get started:
Hidden is a dual timeline story, so I think I’ll begin with the WWII era characters. First up: Annika Knopf.
This was probably the easiest casting choice I made; actress Sophie Nelisse suits my vision of an innocent, good-hearted Annika perfectly. She might be just a bit too old now, since she’s 19, whereas Annika is supposed to be around 16, but I think it would be pretty easy to make Nelisse look a little younger.”Aging down” older actresses has certainly happened before. Miss Nelisse was a phenomenal actress in The Book Thief, another WWII story, and has proven she could easily handle the emotional and touching moments in Annika’s life.
Next up, Luzia Weiss!
It was much more difficult for me to find someone I liked for the part of this elegant, musically gifted Jew. Also a tad bit old for the role, I settled on Odeya Rush (who is currently 22.) In truth, Luzia was more of a delicate and young Natalie Portman in my mind… but obviously Natalie Portman is way past playing this character at 38 (maybe she could be Luzia’s emotionally distraught mom?)
Odeya is an Israeli-American actress, and I didn’t even know that until I looked her up recently after remembering her performance in The Giver. Moving along to the male protagonists:
Max Dornbach is the all-around good guy. Faithful, altruistic, and brave (plus he likes animals!), it’s not hard to figure out why Annika is crazy about him. Levi Miller is 17 and I think came across as instantly likable in A Wrinkle in Time last year… so I’d enjoy seeing if he is up to the task of portraying a more mature role and a wider range of emotions as Max. Max is described as having hazel eyes, but I don’t think that’s especially critical to his character.
Lastly, rounding out the menfolk, is Hermann.
Hermann Stadler is the quietly noble and “ordinary” handyman. Eventually he ends up the groundskeeper of Schloss Schwansee, the lakeside castle setting of most of the story. I took a lot of liberties choosing Tom Holland for this part, and truthfully I would still be open to other ideas. After all, Tom is not blonde (dye work?), tall, or stocky. That said, I think he has a very relatable, kind, and humble appearance, and that’s what I really wanted for Hermann. I actually haven’t seen Holland’s Spider-Man movies, but I’m sure he’d draw lots of obsessive fan-girls to the theater, so that’s great, right?! (haha) Of course, my first pick wasn’t really an option:
Wow, this post is getting long! Zipping forward to modern day–>
Callie Randall is a 30 year old children’s book lover who owns and runs the Magic Balloon Bookshop with her sister. There’s a sense of sadness about her, but the stripey socks she wears to read to the neighborhood kids suggests to me that she has a slightly quirky side too. Callie isn’t particularly fond of traveling, and seems fairly content spending her free time with her nephews and the rest of her family. I can’t say I’ve seen Saoirse Ronan in anything other than City of Ember, but she seems quite talented, and she’s since been nominated for three academy awards.
Lastly, for Professor Josh Nemeth, I chose another Josh– Josh Dallas.
Of course, I could have just gone with Ryan Gosling, but I’ve never been a fan… sorry. Josh Dallas did a fine job as a father and true love in Once Upon a Time, and he looks very professor-y in glasses (so there, Ryan!)
Well, what do you think of my choices? If you haven’t read the book, does this dream cast make you want to? Which character/actor choices surprise you the most? Would you watch the movie? Thanks for visiting the blog and hope you had a little fun with me today!
Hello book friends! You haven’t seen me in a while! I’m not going to apologize, because these last weeks have been full, happy, lovely ones for me with family—a birthday party, time with my nieces, a rabbit show (really!), ordering pizza, encouraging sermons from my Pastor, joyful choir practices, and sitting on the front step listening to light rainfall. Of course there were a few down moments in there too—sore throats and such—but overall I am just full to the brim with all the restful, joyful feelings of spring and new growth right now. I hope you are too, and ultimately whether you are going through rough times or good, “…may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 5:13)
I’ve just finished the book Black by Ted Dekker: the story of a man who is torn between two equally compelling realities. Thomas Hunter—the protagonist– wakes up in one world whenever he falls asleep in the other, and to quote the back cover, “…in both, catastrophic disaster awaits him….may even be caused by him.” My feelings about this novel are almost as starkly mixed as Hunter’s dual lives. I found myself on a teeter totter of excitement/love versus frustration/dislike as I worked my way through it.
I really enjoyed the sheer creativity of Dekker in Black. The entire concept is new and fresh… and interested me right away. Which of Hunter’s “dreams” is the “real” world? One is decidedly modern and realistic, the other is a sort of fantasy/allegorical land filled with strange creatures and characters. Dekker didn’t hold anything back when he created this other world, as every description is full of color and imagination. There’s almost a touch of the quirkiness of Alice’s Wonderland, but with much more meaning, thought, and truth behind every element.
Conversely, there were times when I felt the storyline was bogged down with repetitive or excessive writing. Occasionally imaginative steered into ridiculous or distracting, and many of the supporting characters felt wooden. I came across someone else’s thoughts on Black (I’m not sure where) and the reviewer said they wished that Dekker had written the book later in his career when he had more writing experience under his belt– and I tend to agree. I think that the book has a lot of promise but needed additional editing and polishing.
I plan on reading the next book in the series, Red, and reserving judgment until then. If Black was just the rocky start of setting the scene for all the shining potential of the premise, then I may yet end up with a favorite series in my hands. 🙂 Cross your fingers for me!
This week I want to have a little fun (who am I kidding, I’m always having fun!) and match up titles I’ve read with various teas I adore. You’ll get to know me a little as I pair up blends with books! This is easier done than explained, so let’s get started…
Constant Comment— A well-known and popular flavor.
I think most if not all Christian fiction readers know Lynn Austin! I’m going to particularly mention her Refiner’s Fire series because I think it was one of the first Christian fiction series I was introduced to. It was so long ago that my mom actually marked pages I should skip because she wisely felt some passages of the Civil War story were too intense/mature for me at that age. Even so, some of the happy moments from the books are still with me, particularly heartwarming scenes between two sisters.
Raspberry iced tea—an easy, sweet read
Love’s Long Journey, by Janette Oke. I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge Janette Oke fan, but there were a few here and there that remind me of iced tea. Pleasant and refreshing, this one is probably my favorite. 🙂
Earl grey—a classic I love
I don’t know if An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott constitutes a classic, but Little Women does—so I’m going to list them both. I love Little Women because I see a little of myself in each of the four sisters; I love An Old-Fashioned Girl because I see someone I would like to be more like in Polly. And of course the romances are beautifully crafted.
London Fog—a recent discovery I think will become a lasting favorite
I’m in the middle of Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke and I have a really good feeling about it. I think she may end up a favorite author; Secrets She Kept and Band of Sisters both look promising.
Blueberry Herbal—something I’ve been wanting to try but never seem to get around to
Maybe the Circle series by Ted Dekker. The series is so well-known I feel as if there’s probably very little I could say about it that hasn’t been said already, so I’m hesitant. I’d still like to see if I enjoy it… and I’d kind of like to get into a good series.
Hot Chocolate—something I loved as a child but haven’t read in a long time
A little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett… someone just reminded me of this book recently, and I remembered how I must have read it three times at least. I also loved The Secret Garden; when I was little, after finishing it, I went out and found myself a nook near the woods and would try to grow and tend my own secret hideaway! Many a sapling birch died after being “transplanted”, haha. It started my love of perennial flowers which continues until now. We just pulled a very worn but beautiful copy of the book for replacement at the library and I called first dibs on it if it happens to go to our book sale. Here’s hoping it will be mine soon!
I love book photography. I think, deep down, I kind of want to be great with a camera… to be that person with a fancy DSLR running around capturing beautiful moments and posting them to Instagram with vague inspirational quotes and matching emojis.
As much as I may like the idea of being that person, however, motivation and inspiration seem to elude me, haha. But while nature photography can feel daunting and picture-perfect family moments (complete with great lighting) are difficult to capture, book photography is a simple, creative way to share what you’re reading AND be artistic. Plus, who doesn’t love a stunning book cover?
But if you’ve spent any time looking at Instagram (particularly #bookstagram) you’ll start to notice that certain props and elements get overused. A lot. So for those of you who might want to try your hand at snapping a pic of that hardcover you finished, here is a helpful list of items to be aware of and possibly avoid using too much.
First, a disclaimer: I’ve used most of these personally! I’m not trying to bash anyone here, I’m just poking a little fun at myself and book lovers in general. In fact, I’ve purposely chosen real examples I LOVE just to show that you can utilize these props successfully and creatively. Please feel free to try whatever you like in your book photos. 🙂 Many thanks to Abbi at adventuresofaliterarynature for letting me share her gorgeous IG work–follow the link to see so much more!
Okay, here we go…
1. THE CANDLE.
I’m 90% convinced you won’t even be allowed to post on bookstagram unless you own at least one candle. Maybe all these people have eyestrain from reading too much and need the extra light?
2. THOU MUST HAVE COFFEE.
If coffee is not readily available (shame on you) tea is an acceptable alternative. Just make sure it’s in your finest china. ‘Cause that’s what we all get out when we laze around in our pajamas reading.
3. THE TWINKLY LIGHTS.
If you have twinkle lights AND candles, you get bonus points. But truly, isn’t this book wreath stunning?
Mostly blankies. I’m starting to see a pattern… something to do with being cozy…
5. STACKS WITH MORE BOOKS.
Shelves, piles, between bookends, wherever–as long as there are lots of books! You can’t have too many!
Well, that’s all for today, friends and book lovers… hope you had a good chuckle with me and maybe I’ll see you here or on Instagram. 🙂 What’s your favorite candle scent, and which of the elements listed above do you like best?
Science fiction. Final frontiers, colorful characters, thrilling and imaginative challenges to overcome… I love it. But where’s the Christian Science Fiction? I realize it’s more difficult to write because so many of the common constructs of science fiction do not fit within a Biblical worldview, but it can be done. As a teen, for example, I read a lot of the Daystar Voyages series by Gilbert Morris. There was plenty of space travel, conflict, and even an “Intergalactic Academy”, but he removed the evolutionary worldview common to science fiction. Aliens were replaced with humans who had colonized other worlds generations before–and looked unusual due to limited gene pools and environmental factors.
And C.S.F. doesn’t have to be on such a large scale or set extremely far in the future; another book I’ve read, Offworld by Robin Parrish, tells the (invented) story of a team of astronauts who return to Earth after the first manned landing on Mars.
But I’ve had a difficult time lately finding titles I deeply enjoy in this genre. My most recent attempt has been The Shadow and Night by Chris Wailey. I’ve read about 140 pages so far, and it presents the vastly far future. A what if? story, it imagines what the universe would be like if there was no sin (but it’s not heaven and Christ hasn’t returned yet.) At some mysterious point (I’m not far enough in to know more), God seemingly decided to give humanity a reprieve from sin, and has been holding Satan back… so literally everyone in existence serves and worships God. The main characters spend every day exactly as we wish we would– praying, praising God, working hard to better other’s lives; but everything begins to change when one person tells a lie. Sin begins to spread to others, and the protagonist is at the epicenter of it all.
It’s a great exploration of multiple ideas; what might it look like to live in a truly Godly society? How does sin spread, and what are its consequences? Without sin, how would different personality traits express themselves (e.g. talkative/quiet, funny/serious)? How seriously should we take sin? All this against a backdrop of space travel and terraforming.
Unfortunately even with so many great concepts the pace is extremely slow. As I mentioned earlier, I’m 140 pages in, and I still feel as if nothing has happened! The dialogue goes on and on, repeating information that was previously covered…altogether I’m struggling, to say the least. There are two more books in the series (The Lamb among the Stars trilogy) so maybe it’s just taking a long time to set the stage. I really hope that’s the case and things will warm up soon, because this is one book I really want to love.
The Christy Awards Gala came and went (and life flew by for me—did anyone miss the lack of a Monday post these past two weeks?) I’ve got two books underway and hope to have a new review up in seven days (ah, the troubles of a book reviewer who also happens to be a slow reader!) That said, the Christy award winners might be a good place to find something new in Christian fiction to enjoy. Here are some of my first thoughts and impressions about the winning entries.