Ramblings

Christian Fiction Subscription?

Hello ladies and gents!

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)

OR

B. Two pre-owned Christian Fiction books, in good used condition

PLUS

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

AND ALSO

a bookmark

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!

Ramblings

Goldilocks and the Three Books

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:

Too Cold….

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.

Too Hot…

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…

Just Right?

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?

Ramblings

Why I Don’t Accept Free Books from Publishers…and the One Time I Do!

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!

Ramblings

Tea and a Tome

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 CommentA 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.

***Tea-less bonus!***

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!

Ramblings

The One I Really Want to Love

shadow&night2

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.

shadow&night1

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.

 

Ramblings

Awards Ceremony Ramble

aeroplane-air-travel-aircraft-249581Everyone has wanted an invitation at one time or another. As a child, maybe some of you watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and wondered what it would be like to find a golden ticket. Or perhaps you waited expectantly for your best friend to call you over for a sleepover.

A few days ago I received an email…

YOU ARE INVITED: Two events honoring Christian fiction on November 7in Nashville

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association is hosting their annual Christy Award Gala as well as an Art of Writing Conference, and I was asked to attend!

Granted, I think this email is generically sent out to hundreds of book reviewers who express interest, and it’s not even free ($99 for both events) but I still had a little bit of child-like wonder opening up that email and imagining what it would be like to go.

If you haven’t heard of the Christy Awards before, they are given out each year to recognize novels of excellence written from a Christian worldview. Like the Academy Awards only for fiction written with a Christian worldview, various new books are nominated each year in different categories (romance, historical, suspense, etc.) and the winners in each division are announced at the Christy Awards ceremony. This year’s featured speakers include Francine Rivers and Charles Martin, bestselling authors–among others.

While I don’t really think I’ll be able to spend money on tickets to Nashville next month, I will be very excited to see which books are finalists (and which ones win.) I’ve been known to look through lists from past years (take a look at wikipedia’s here, covering 2000-2014) to get reading inspiration. My Hands Came Away Red is just one of the great books I’ve discovered!

Will you be going to the Christy Gala? Would you want to?

Ramblings

Hoopla vs. Overdrive for Christian Fiction Readers

blur-book-stack-books-590493

I don’t know about you, but since none of my rich uncles have decided to die and leave me untold fortunes (I don’t think I even have a rich uncle) I’m always open to exploring affordable ways to get my hands on books and audio books! Recently I’ve been trying two apps my local library subscribes to, hoopla and OverDrive.

If you haven’t heard of them before, basically both apps are designed to give library patrons access to thousands of free ebooks, audiobooks, and more. If your local library subscribes to these two popular “vendors”, all you need is your library card and a device to get started.  Each app is a little bit different though, so today I’m going to share a few of the pros and cons I’ve noticed as I’ve tried them out, particularly in regards to downloading/streaming Christian fiction.

First off, hoopla.

Your library pays a small fee every time you borrow an item through hoopla, which means the vendor is motivated to have a really good variety of books available in the hopes you will find what you want and digitally “check it out.” As a result, the selection on here is fantastic– even with the less popular Christian fiction genre.  I’ve found semi obscure books like Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, for example, or the futuristic The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley. Personally, the selection alone makes this app my favorite of the two options we’re looking at today! Some other thoughts:

  • There’s no way to search “Christian Fiction” and just see a mix of that genre, which makes it more difficult to discover new titles and authors.
  • I can’t find any way to recommend titles be added to the collection if they don’t have what I want.
  • All the books I’ve looked at have a loan period of 21 days.
  • You can “favorite” an item to come back to it later if you don’t want to borrow it now
  • At the end of the loan period the item is “returned” and removed from your device if you downloaded it
  • Limited borrows (may not be an issue depending on your library.) Through my library I am allowed to check out up to five items per month.

OverDrive

Each library or school that utilizes OverDrive picks the digital content they want for their users, so the selection available to you may be far better or worse than mine. More than likely, this is directly correlated with budgeting, so in my case I’m not surprised that it’s difficult to find anything but the most well known Christian fiction authors. On the upside, you can recommend an item for purchase and will be emailed if the item is added to the collection. Also:

  • In a roundabout way I can search Christian fiction; after bringing up a Christian fiction title and then clicking on it for more info the app lists the genres it falls into. From there I can click “Christian fiction” to see a selection of similar items
  • There are only a certain number of digital copies available of each book—so you might have to wait by putting the item on hold
  • Haven’t had any troubles downloading this to any of my android devices, including old nook
  • Like hoopla, there are limited borrows allowed. I’m not sure if this varies by library, but for me the limit is 7 items per months.

Both apps are worth looking into if you haven’t used them before. If you have, which do you prefer? What did you like (or not?)

 

 

Ramblings

Sneak Peek and Ramble, Hind’s Feet on High Places

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Recently I’ve been reading an old allegory by Hannah Hurnard called Hind’s Feet on High Places. Similar to Pilgrim’s Progress in ways, the main character (named Much-Afraid) is traveling up a mountain with the help of the Good Shepherd, hoping to someday make it to the High Places. Along the way she learns lessons and encounters various interesting characters. Continue reading “Sneak Peek and Ramble, Hind’s Feet on High Places”

Ramblings

A Handful of Children’s Picture Books

I have a slightly different (and more colorful!) review post for you today! I thought I’d take a rabbit trail into children’s picture books and see if I could find any with good Christian messages you could add to your collection or check out from the library. Being an Auntie myself, I’m always bringing a few hardcovers home to read to my nieces and nephews, but it’s difficult sometimes to find any with Biblical messages. Here are a some brief thoughts on what I’ve come across lately!

Continue reading “A Handful of Children’s Picture Books”