I Have Issues by Jelly Valimont Book Review

I’ve been searching. For weeks. For months. I was searching and looking. I was on every blog, Pinterest, Stumble Upon, Google, Facebook groups- you name it, I was searching. I am engaged to a pastor. Being engaged to a pastor means that one day, in the very near future, I am going to be….a pastor’s wife! I had a brief moment of panic. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN!? How am I supposed to do everything? What does everything entail!? How can I be the best wife, pastor’s wife, ministry partner, (future) mother, teacher, and all of the other things we’re expected to be?

Let’s get real here, I am the farthest thing from perfect there is. I grew up in the church, but I am not a pastor’s kid, missionary kid, or any of the like. My mom was head of hospitality, my dad was a trustee, and we did music and vacation Bible school. I went to school to be a high school English teacher. I’ve been blessed with wonderful pastor’s wives in my life over the years, but becoming one myself was never really a “thing.” But, I have quickly learned in my 23 short years of life that God laughs at our plans.

This book fell into my lap. It was exactly what I had been searching for, delivered in the mail. Definitely a moment of God saying “Ya know what? You are earnestly looking, searching, and seeking for something to help you grow, and I know just the thing, I Have Issues by Jelly Valimont!”Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 4.53.47 PM.pngUpon opening the package, I was already in love. There are super cute shoes on the front, and anyone who knows me also knows that I have just a bit of a shoe problem. Jelly Valimont is a pastor’s wife who also searched for “Being a Pastor’s Wife for Dummies” and came up short. It’s not quite a how-to manual, but she did the next best thing! Using her own experiences, the Word of the Lord, and just general common sense (seriously, it’s amazing how much of ministry is just common sense), she crafted a nicely packaged help guide for the “partners in ministry.”

This book reads like a conversation with a friend over a good strong cup of coffee. Each section is named after shoes, or some aspect of the shoe. From there she relays a short story or anecdote that goes along with the shoe theme and topic of the chapter. Her humor, vulnerability, and honesty, take you through the many areas and processes of being in ministry.

I hate writing in books. I think it has something to do with being told not to write in my Bible as a child that’s carried over to regular books. I’m now fine with underlining, taking notes, and even Bible journaling, but I still hesitate to write in regular books. When I first sat down to read this book, I grabbed my pen. I knew that I would want to highlight some “good stuff.” Below, you will find a few of my personal favorite quotes and nuggets of wisdom.

“…be pleasing to God- not the church, the church board, or the women’s ministry leaders.” (9)

“One of the problems with not taking time to recoup is that it produces a very high sense of frustration when you cannot accomplish tasks because fatigue will not allow you to.” (15)

“Doing the work of the ministry or living the Christian life by completely relying on yesterday’s revelation alone, will eventually cause you to burn out and be counter-productive.” (56)

“Successful marriages are developed using the same components as successful ministries: much prayer, planning, and action.” (88)

“Our busy-ness is not a sign of our righteousness or Godliness.” (125)

“The best way to help people is to love them and build relationships first.” (157)\

“Life is not about how high you can climb or how fast you can run, but it is about how well you can bounce.” (172)

“When a tragedy comes, it is not the time to go ‘Bible dipping’ for the right things to say.” (184)

I Have Issues is about more than issues in marriage, in the church, in motherhood, or even life. It is about being a partner, a helpmeet, a woman of Christ, a leader, and a lover, within our families, our churches, and the body of Christ. If you are preparing to step into ministry, have recently entered, or have been in it for decades, this book is for you. Every pastor’s wife could get something out of this book, whether it is advice as a newbie, or a refreshing reminder of how to take care of yourself and take control of your life back. 41s1LYw5l2L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThank you Jelly for seeing a need, listening to God’s prompting, and filling the hole so many of us have been searching for!

I Have Issues is available on Amazon.

Follow me on Instagram @brunetteswithbrains to keep up with the latest posts, books and news!

PS Be on the look out for my author interview with Jelly in the coming weeks!

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Finding an Old Friend

The title may be misleading. This is very metaphorical. Having been an English ed major, general book worm, and readaholic, an old friend to me is usually a good book. Though I’ve graduated I’ve been subbing everywhere and anywhere I can. Monday, I had the joy of being a librarian for the day. Sitting in a very nice middle school library, I got the itch to walk around and stretch my legs.

As I made my promenade through the shelves and around the room, I came across a dear friend. A friend that helped lead me to where I am today. A friend that I hadn’t seen in a number of years; that brought back all of the memories of the first time I saw it, all of the feelings of wonder and questions that I had.

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It’s part of the Royal Diaries series, the same people who do the Dear America books. Elizabeth I, Red Rose of the House of Tudor. I was fortunate enough to grow up 2 blocks away from the library. I read through the entire Princess Diaries series and the Dear America books. I’ve also read all of the Magic Treehouse books. Though I love them dearly, none of them compared to this. Something about this book struck a chord. Sitting on the front porch of our little house, in the sunshine of summer, I was infatuated.

Fast forward 16 years and now I’m teaching. I’ve taught freshmen about Queen Elizabeth I twice during pre-reading for Shakespeare. I’m preparing to take the history praxis. I am encouraging students to read, hoping that one of them will find “the book.” The one that turns their life upside down. The book that years after they have me, they’ll see on a shelf, or their own child will bring home, and they’ll remember. I hope they will think “I remember you, hello my dear, old, friend.”

The Power of a Praying Wife-Part II

At the beginning of February, I started the book/devotional The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. Three days in I wrote a post about how much I was loving it. Now that I have read all 31 chapters, I was not disappointed. For those of you who are thinking “But you’re not married!” Let me direct you to the first post HERE, where I explain why I’m doing this.

It’s always been hard for me to do daily devotionals. I end up getting sucked in and just reading large chunks at a time. It took a few days to discipline myself to only do one chapter a night. Once I had set a schedule, it was easy to keep it. It was the last thing I did every night before I went to bed. The few times I accidentally forgot my book whilst traveling, I was super annoyed and felt like my day just wasn’t complete! Now that it’s done, I am fervently trying to pick my next one!

As I read, I realized that the majority of the devotions and prayers could and do apply to not only my better half, but my father and brother as well. I must say, it’s been quite a blessing and eye opening seeing how the power of prayer is working in their lives and they don’t even know it! Along with each (very) short chapter, Omartian provides guided prayers that go with that chapter. In the beginning, I definitely used those guided prayers. As I went through, and “learned how to pray” in accordance with the chapter, I found that I didn’t rely on them as much. The words would already be there.

Though the point of this was to pray for my fiancé, I ended up praying for the other men in my life, and my general prayer life has gotten better. I was setting aside very specific time every night to pray. I have become more bold in my prayers. I have become more consistent. I am conscious of the answered prayers around me in a way I wasn’t before. This is the kind of book that helps establish a routine and shows you how to pray for your husband in ways you never thought of before. It’s the kind of book that I know that I will revisit for years to come, and will pass on to friends through the many seasons of life.

If you are almost married or have been married for 60 years, this book is for you. If you have a solid prayer life or are seeking to help deepen it, this book is for you. If you are already a Stormie Omartian fan, having read her other prayer devotions, then this book is for you.

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For more of Stormie’s books and about her, check out https://stormieomartian.com/ You can also Like her on Facebook and follow her on instagram @stormieomartian.

The Power of a Praying Wife- Part I

I am not a wife. At least, not yet. However, like most future brides, I’m sure there is some fear. NO I AM NOT RUNNING AWAY! Am I sure that Ethan is my better half? Absolutely. Do I think there is anyone else in the world who could put up with me forever? Nope. Is there any one else I would rather drive crazy with my crazy? Not a chance. He compliments who I am as a person with his own stellar qualities. So why am I afraid?

Because being a wife is scary! Being a “modern Christian” wife is doubly scary. Not only are we supposed to be Proverbs 31 women, but we’re supposed to have careers too. If you read Proverbs 31, that woman’s life and job WAS being a house mom/wife. Talk about some pressure. How are we going to delegate chores? Cooking? Cleaning? How are we going to balance church, careers and a family!? Am I going to be able to do enough? Will I be able to balance everything? Will I be enough?

I don’t remember where I saw this but about 2 years ago I read this statement “Pray to be the wife your future husband is praying for,” and it changed my heart. We are taught that God will send us the perfect man, we just have to pray for it. As girls and women, it is important to remember that moms and boys are praying for future wives like you’re praying for a husband. I encourage you to get into the Word and look at who YOU need to be. Be the woman a man would want to marry. Get your heart, attitude and actions in alignment. Little did I know 2 years ago that God was really preparing me and changing me to be the woman I needed to be for the most incredible, kind, encouraging and perfect man I could ever imagine!

I wrote that about two weeks before Ethan pulled off the best surprise ever by asking me to be his wife. I’ve graduated college and Ethan is finishing up his masters. We’re both working, but kind of in limbo. I’m subbing; and as a theology major, his job options are kind of limited. We are trying to make decisions balanced between the fact that we are getting married, but we aren’t actually married yet. We have NO idea where the Lord is leading us or what we are doing. We just know that we are supposed to be together and are taking it one day and one step at a time, together.

My answer to all of this? Buckle down, start taking my own advice, and the advice of millions of people before me- start praying! I had been looking for a new devotional and settled on The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. She has written a number of books, and this one is part of her “Power of Praying” series.

Again, I’m not a wife. I’m a “I’m almost a wife so that counts for something RIGHT!?” I’m 3 days in. I started a day early since February is short, and I will have to either read 2 in one day, or go a day into March for the length of this study. This is what I’ve learned so far:

  1. That advice that I came across two years ago, is SO important. It is important to pray that the Lord work in your life to prepare you to be a good partner, and continue to pray it! Just because you find a man does not mean that you should stop! You will continue to grow, change, and face new challenges together and as an individual. Praying that God continues to work in you and make you the best team-mate is imperative. With His help, you CAN balance, do, and be, everything you need to be for your best friend, and for yourself.
  2. Not knowing what or how to pray just means you need to think outside of the box. I have been praying for direction, for jobs, for encouragement…the typical things. And they are fine! Those ideas are all chapters in the devotional. But other things like: faith, self image, his walk, his reputation, his purpose- these are all things that we as wives, and almost wives, can pray for as well. If you still aren’t quite sure HOW to pray for these things, Stormie provides sample guided prayers at the end of each chapter. She also includes what she calls “Power Tools,” which are Bible verses that go along with each focus. They might be my favorite part! *Prayers and Power Tools are available in newer copies that include new content, or separately in a book on their own.*
  3. Praying for your husband is one of the most important things that you can do in your relationship. If there is a problem, changing a man will not happen without His help. If things are going well, you should still pray for guidance, wisdom, and continued blessings. Don’t forget to thank God when things are good. The power of prayer can literally move mountains. In the first chapter, she refers to prayer as the ‘ultimate love language.’ “We want to be on the same path together. We want to be deeply compatible, lifelong companions, and have the love that lasts a lifetime. Prayer, as the ultimate love language, can make that happen” (27).

Geez. Only 3 days in, and I’ve already taken in so much. I will never be a perfect wife. Try as I might, we will have a pile or two of laundry. Dishes may get left in the sink now and again. I won’t always remember to clean the hair monster out of the tub. But I know that just by praying, and making the conscious effort, that God will change me, mould me, and bless me so that I can be the best partner, team-mate, peanut butter to his jelly, and wife that I can be. I can not wait to see what mountains are moved at the end of these 31 days.

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For more of Stormie’s books and about her, check out https://stormieomartian.com/ You can also Like her on Facebook and follow her on instagram @stormieomartian.

To keep up with my own progress through the devotional, and find out what else is happening on the blog, follow me on instagram @brunetteswithbrains.

 

Look At Me! I’m Organized!

STUDENT TEACHING HAS STARTED! Last week I got into my classroom for the semester. I have my own little desk, book-case and corner that’s ALL MINE! I can’t even begin to tell you all how excited I am and what it has taken to get here. Everything the last 4 years has led to this! I am in a wonderful school district, with a co-op that I LOVE.

Yesterday was my first day, and I finished moving in. Here is what my little corner looks like thus far.

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The front of my desk is rocking bead buddies and stained glass projects my summer school kids did this summer. If you can’t tell, the stained glasses are Beauty and the Beast themed.

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Recognize that pot? See how I made it HERE! Miss Swenda is written and facing front towards the students. “Called Equipped Prepared” is a reminder just for me! Cinderella’s glass slipper and the Disney princess cup are from a bridal shower I was at a few weeks ago.

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I am really proud of these drawers. Yes, I have an entire drawer of snacks. I have a schedule that gives me the ability to snack every few periods. I regret nothing. My other drawer holds my tea, binder clip collection, stationary, and other rando things.

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I have a nice little bookshelf to keep all of my stuff. Obviously, it’s full of classics and the majority of the Folger Shakespeare Library collection. My brother hooked me up with Dancing Groot and Albus Dumbledore and I certainly couldn’t leave them at home! Bob my Philadelphia Flyers Gnome has a place of love as well. One of the best things I learned from my previous co-op was unit binders. You can see the stack of them to the right of the above picture. For each unit, I have created a binder. Over the years I have and will continue to collect handouts, projects and general things to go with the different units. IMG_7189

The cool part of having a mom that has been working in schools for so long, is that she has some pretty fun decorations and ideas. Ma hooked me up with these cute little fall leaves. Together, we came up with “What Miss Swenda is reading…” The top leaf has the name of the book. The bottom leaf lists the author, genre, number of pages and style. I am currently reading Dracula by Bram Stoker. It falls into sci-fi/fiction/historical, has 414 pages and is written like diary/journal entries, letters and newspaper clippings. For different holidays/months I will have different shapes to show my what I’m reading. As an English teacher, I feel it’s important to show the kids not only that I am reading, but also give them a glimpse of who I am through my reading.

We have some awesome projects planned for the kids this year- I can’t wait to share some of them right here! 🙂

Paddy Eger Author Interview

Summer has become synonymous with reading and author interviews it seems. I am so excited to finally be interviewing and including West Coast author Paddy Eger to the group!

PE– Paddy Eger AS– ME

AS- I am so excited to finally be interviewing you! Your book 84 Ribbons was one of my first books to read and review last summer. You set the bar quite high for the rest of my summer reading. I am thrilled to say, you have once again set that bar! You are also now my farthest author interview/guest blogger all of the way out on the West Coast! Thank you for taking the time to chat.

AS Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have any thing in particular you like to have with you? Tea, specific music, candles, outside etc…

PE I’m one of those people who sits at a desktop to work. I have my cup of tea nearby and sip it when I’m   thinking about little problems or celebrating a well-written paragraph. Usually I prefer a quiet space,            except when I’m writing about ballets my dancers are preparing to perform. Then I play the music and often find professional ballet companies YouTube videos to watch. That really inspires me!

AS You are a Washington native. How do you think the environment influenced your writing?

PE Since I live in rain country, it’s easy to spend my time writing. I like including weather and our                landscape as part of my setting since I love the salt water, the mountains and our forests. For my ballet trilogy, I’ve based in here where I grew up.

AS In 84 Ribbons, book one of the ballet trilogy, I wanted Marta to step away from her comfort zone so I        sent her to Billings, Montana. Of course, I had to explore that area so my geography was accurate. I             even stayed on an older B&B to get the feel of living in a boarding house setting. I also drove around town and spotted a large house that could become Marta’s residence. I had fun drawing the floor plans of the various locations Marta visited.

PE In When the Music Stops, book two in my trilogy, I take Marta and her mom to my favorite ocean                 beach, Kalaloch. They share an important conversation there and I’m able to introduce readers to               that stretch of Washington beach as well.

AS Writing was not your first career, teaching was! How do you think that has impacted your writing? Was it a difficult transition?

PE I’ve always loved words: their sounds, the way they feel on my tongue and how writers use those same 26 letters in such creative ways. Among my ‘wordy’ past times are reading, word searches and writing my impressions of the world around me. I was one of those test-takers who loves essays and groaned at being put into selecting True-False boxes.

I taught primary grades most of my career. Reading with kids, playing word games and also reading aloud to the class made me happy. I still work in classrooms helping students with writing so you see, I didn’t completely leave teaching.

AS You do have educational work published. When did you realize that you might actually have a knack for writing fiction and go for it?

PE For several years I lead training for classroom volunteers so I needed to create my curriculum. That       was my first attempt to write a book. I enjoyed crafting the book so I went on to create accompanying          materials. About that same time, I friend of mine, who is a well-known author, invited me to take her    writing class. I needed a piece of fiction. Since I’d danced and still had interest in ballet, I decided to       write about a young dancer who wanted to become a professional.

My writing was adequate, but I knew little about writing fiction so I slaved through the class. When a   book agent met with me, she said she saw potential in my writing. That’s when I felt I might be able to create a short book. I was wrong. Turns out with over three hundred pages in my first book, I wasn’t done with my story. Once I realized I had more to say, I knew the writing bug had bitten me.

AS What steps did you take to make it happen? Education, workshops, networking etc.

PE My friend’s workshop got me started writing, but I knew I needed to learn more so I attended a local conference, Write On The Sound, joined a critique group and read articles and books on the craft of writing. I continue working to better my writing by attending classes and have added a second critique group. I write and read blogs and articles, network with writers and follow several writing information sources looking for ways to improve myself. It’s a full-time job!

AS How much of Marta, Lynne, Bartley and the others, come from your own experiences in the dance world?

PE– I tried to give my female leads my love of classical music and ballet. Since I danced for seventeen years, I know many of the basics of ballet; class warm up sequencing, performance issues and understanding the late 1950s when I also danced. I never had the opportunity to dance professionally, but I knew the types of issues dancers’ faced then (and now) from people I spoke with and biographies I read. Professional dancers assure me I’m correct in addressing the issues I’ve taken on in my ballet stories.

AS I just finished reading When the Music Stops but also read 84 Ribbons, which I LOVED. I know how hard it is to write a review on a sequel, but how difficult was it writing a sequel?

PE Writing a sequel was easy since I wasn’t done telling Marta’s story when book one ended. I always knew my story’s arc; I just didn’t know all the details when I started book one. Marta’s story came to me as a title with a rough outline in one day. Characters started popping up (some uninvited) and wanted to be part of my story, so I let them in. I feel they added depth to Marta’s life.

AS *SPOILER* Marta has a few love interests between the two books. How did you decide whom she ended up with? I really, really, liked Sam. I couldn’t tell you why, but I was disappointed that she doesn’t pick him! haha

PE I liked Steve. He fell in love with Marta almost from the moment he met her. I know he was a pain at      times, but I wanted him to end up with Marta. I liked their opposites: she barely finished high school                   while he was completing college when they met, he was spontaneous while she was guarded and        cautious.

When I started book two, I didn’t know what other guys would step into her life. I had great fun              writing Dennis (the jerk!) but knew that was not going to work! Then Sam appeared and I liked him a          lot. The more time he appeared, the harder it was to dump him, but I promised Steve he’d prevail.

AS The next installment follows Lynne across Europe. Have you ever had the chance to travel to some of her stops?

PE Lynne story is totally based on places I visited on trips to Europe. Actually it was on one trip while I was writing 84 Ribbons that I decided Lynne needed a book and I started writing notes to myself about what I enjoyed in the small villages especially. As Marta’s brash sidekick, I wanted to share here story. She seems so upbeat and together when she’s in books one and two. In Letters to Follow-A Dancer’s Adventure, book three, we’ll open the curtain on her life and also tie up loose ends for Marta.

AS What is the best advice you have been given as a writer thus far?

PE Write, write, write. Sit down every day and write. Like all skills, you need to practice, practice, practice. Most of what you write will be questionable; some will be worth keeping. For now, save it all. Tidbits of ideas often lead to inspiration later on.

ALSO: Anna, I want to thank you for interviewing me. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my books and main characters. After spending so much time together they feel real to me. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Thank you for writing reviews for both 84 Ribbons and When the Music Stops. Hearing what readers think of our stories help us develop our craft.

To learn more about Paddy and her writings, visit her website http://www.paddyeger.com. You can also find her on Pinterest, Good Reads, and Twitter.

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Author Interview With Carrie Turansky

Carrie Turanksy, author of The Governess of Highland Hall, has been gracious enough to answer some question for me! You can read my review of The Governess of Highland Hall here!

CT- Carrie Turansky   AS- ME

CT- Hi Anna, thanks for inviting me over to your blog!

AS- Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for me! I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Governess of Highland Hall and can’t wait to keep reading the rest of the Edwardian Brides series! I stayed up until 3 am the other night after I sent my email to you, to read it! I will just jump right in here.

Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have any thing in particular you like to have with you? Tea, specific music, candles, outside etc…

CT- I have a corner desk in our dining room that serves as my office. Sometimes I sit at the desk to write, but I often take my laptop and sit in other more comfortable places around the house. I also like to sit outside on our back patio when the weather is nice so I can enjoy a view of my garden while writing. To block out noise and provide inspiration, I to listen to instrumental music or movie soundtracks while writing. I have some favorite Pandora stations that I listen to as well. I’m a tea drinker, so you’ll find me drinking a cup of Earl Grey in the cool weather, and when it’s warm, I like to enjoy iced Passion Tazo tea.

AS- Faith takes a relatively important role in your books; what made you decide to incorporate that aspect into your writing? Did you find that it hindered your opportunities at all?

CT- My faith is central to who I am, so it is natural for me to include faith elements in my novels. I believe God’s Word has practical answers and wisdom for any problem or circumstance we face. Good stories include conflict and problems that the characters have to overcome, so I like to think of how God helps me or others I know through similar issues and include that in my novels to encourage readers. I hope they will see faith and God’s work in their lives in a new light when they read one of my books. There is a need for well-written stories that include faith elements, and there are publishers who come from that perspective and are looking for authors who can write inspirational stories.

AS- What is the best advice you have been given as a writer thus far?

CT- Keep learning and growing as a writer. Read widely and write every day or as often as you can. Connect with other writers and those in the publishing industry to glean from them and learn all you can. Attend writers’ conferences. Keep writing and never give up.

AS- What training/education do you have when it comes to writing?

CT- I have a degree in fine art from Oregon State University and graduate diploma in Bible from Multnomah University. My training for writing has come through attending writers’ conferences, reading writing craft books, networking with other authors, being in critique groups, and writing.

AS- You are a Oregon native, which is cool because I lived in Washington State for a time, but are now in New Jersey, right across the river from me in Pennsylvania! Neither are very close to England. Where did your interest in England come from?

CT- I’ve always loved history and reading classic novels, many which are set in England. I homeschooled my five children and read many historical novels aloud to them. All that stirred my interest in writing historical fiction. In 2012 I attended a conference and asked an editor what type of book she was looking for. She said she’d love to see a story set in England during the same time period as Downton Abbey since that series was just becoming popular. She even suggested the heroine be a governess and the hero have a brooding personality with a secret past, reflecting some elements from Jane Eyre. I loved the idea, but I wasn’t sure I could write a story set in England in the early 1900s. It’s hard enough to write a story set in the US in a previous time. But I had a good friend who had just published a book set in England in 1912, and she encouraged me and gave me several research books. I jumped into the research and fell in love with Edwardian England.

AS- I truly appreciate your love of Edwardian England, since I am a bit of a time period snob myself. What about that era drew you in and made you decide to set your series in that time?

CT- When I started researching the time period I watched both seasons of Downton Abbey and a lesser-known series called Manor House. Manor House is an English reality series where people take on the roles of servants and wealthy, titled family members and live on an English country estate like they did in the Edwardian period. The division of the classes is very interesting. The homes, fashions, and lifestyle are fascinating, but there are many modern inventions that make that time period similar to today – trains, cars, telephones, etc. It’s a great time period, and there aren’t too many authors writing books set then, so it was a good time to do it.

AS- I just finished reading The Governess of Highland Hall, the first book in your Edwardian Bride. Where did your inspiration for these characters come from?

CT- The heroine, Julia Foster, is inspired by missionary Amy Carmichael, who traveled to India and served the Lord there for many years. I took pieces of Amy’s back-story and wove them together in my imagination to create Julia. There is also the influence of Jane Eyre’s story in the hero, heroine, and some of the situations in the book.

AS- I love your author website, it’s one of the best I’ve seen. The recipes that you have to go along with your different books are a great touch! Where did you get the idea and the recipes!?

CT- Thanks for your kind words about my website. I love to cook, so I enjoy including food in my books. I thought it would be fun to share those recipes with my readers, so I added them to my website. Some of the recipes are family favorites, so that’s a special nod to my family members.

AS- You are a very busy author/mom/grandmother/speaker/writer/gardener and involved in ministry! How in the world do you keep it all straight? Do you have a super awesome planner that we should all invest in? Where do you find the time to write!?

CT- I am blessed to be at the stage of life where it’s just my husband and I at home, so that frees me up to plan my days and spend a good amount of time on writing. But my life is more than writing. My family, our ministry, and my friendships are all important to me. I try to start each day spending time in God’s Word, writing in my prayer journal, and making a list of goals for the day. When I am working on a book I set a weekly word count goal, and that helps me finish my books on time.

Great questions, Anna! Thank you!

I love to connect with readers on Facebook, Pinterest, and through my website. I send out an email newsletter every other month to share book news, recipes, book reviews, and encouraging articles. I also blog at my website. The sign up for the blog and newsletter are on the home page of my website: http://carrieturansky.com/

Blessings and Happy Reading!

-Carrie

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Along with visit Carrie’s website, you can also find her on instagram @carrieturansky to keep up with what she is reading, writing, her beautiful gardens and travels! She is also an active Pinner with some great stuff!

The Governess of Highland Hall- Carrie Turansky

I have a Pinterest problem. Like….a 16,000 pins Pinterest problem. In the midst of pinning, I pinned the book Daughter of Highland Hall, by Carrie Turansky. She happened to see that I had pinned the book and commented on it. One thing led to another, and I ended up buying the first book in her Edwardian Brides series, The Governess of Highland Hall. I then read the whole thing in a few hours, it just happens….

Julia has spent the last 12 years in India, the daughter of two missionaries. She has returned home to England with her family due to her father’s poor health and she must find a job. As luck would have it, a local family with two young women as their wards and two children are in need of a governess. Though she has never been a governess, or helped polish young ladies for their debut into society, she has a great work ethic, experience with children and a steadfast faith in the Lord to help her through.

Nothing beats a good romance to help kick off summer reading. There were a few webs of love spun and woven together throughout the course of the book. Some were able to weather their storms while others were not so lucky. Either way, when an author can make me fall in love with the characters, that’s really all that matters.

The story takes place in Edwardian England, very Downton Abbey. These are two of my other favorite things, England and a time period piece. There is an added air of romance to the culture and lives of people from that time and place. There have been many days where I wish some of those ideologies were still prevalent, I think our literature and culture would be a better place.

Turansky has an eloquent ability to make the words come alive off of the page. Her vivid imagery and detail made this book an absolute joy to read. My favorite scenes were Christmas, as she described the Christmas tree, swags with bows and cinnamon and the decorations. I could smell the cinnamon and fresh-cut tree right in my room. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I had just been smelling holiday candles at the Yankee Candle Outlet the other day….but I’d rather give the credit to her.

Her characters are quirky, honest, intriguing, real, mischievous, relatable and fun. I am a very interactive reader, it is not uncommon to hear me yelling at the characters as I go. More than once did I find myself laughing, rooting for, and shaking my head at the antics and choices of the members of the family and household. Julia Foster was a very endearing main character that was a perfect counter to the Darcy-ish William Ramsey.

If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you should read this book. If you want a light summer read, you should read this book. If you are a sucker for a romance, you should read this book. The second book in the series, The Daughter of Highland Hall, is currently available. The next book, A Refuge at Highland Hall will be available October 20, 2015!

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When the Music Stops- Paddy Eger

84 Ribbons was my first read and book review for NetGalley. You can find that review HERE.

I have waited ALMOST an entire year for the sequel When the Music Stops by Paddy Eger. It was well worth the wait. I read the entire book in one sitting today…my Kindle app says that it took me about 3 hours. I am obviously off my game reading that slow. haha.

Since it had been a while between books, it took me a little bit to re-acquaint myself with the characters, but it was not really much of an issue. Being a sequel, it is REALLY hard to talk about the book and what choices are made and how Marta continues on her journey without giving anything away. I mean, I can’t tell you about her relationship with Steve, I can’t tell you about her professional dance career choices, I can’t tell you about teaching- I CAN’T TELL YOU ABOUT ANYTHING! It is insanely hard to write a review on a sequel. They don’t teach you how to do this in college.

In typical Anna Reading Fashion, I had at least 3 mini-meltdowns where I shook my iPad in my hand going “GAHHHH DON’T DO THAT! PICK THIS NOT THAT!!!!” Eger easily kept me on my toes throughout the book. I actually thought I had guessed the ending, told my mom, got to the ending and was pleasantly surprised that I was WRONG! This is a very important fact because reading has been dry for me of late. You can read about THAT soap box HERE. So kudos and thank you Paddy for throwing me off of my book predicting game!

There are a few tweaks I would have done, had I written the book. There is a build up with her addiction to diet pills. I was expecting a different outcome with the issue. It was such a huge part of the first book and even in the second, it was a steady line in the plot. I was just disappointed for some reason.

I got kind of annoyed with Steve. I mean, he was a nice guy and everything, but I felt like her relationship with him had way too many issues for it to all end the way that it did. I’ll say it, I am 100% team Sam all of the way. 

I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. She could have easily continued on a bit longer and I would have been completely satisfied. After having invested so much into these characters, I didn’t want the book to end. One minute Marta is dancing; the next she is sending a wedding announcement. I needed an in-between, an epilogue….SOMETHING to feed my curiosity!

Reading these two books has made me wish I’d never left dancing. I also rarely have the itch to find an adult class and sign back up the way I have with these books. It was like I was able to live vicariously through Marta with the barre exercises and pirouettes. I loved this book for the same reasons that I did the first, the ballet, the time period component and the ability to so easily relate to the characters. I played field hockey for 10 years. After walking off of the field my senior year of high school, I really had not had the opportunity to play since. Last summer I had the chance to play on my mission trip in Northern Ireland and the feeling was remarkable. I understood Marta in a way that so many others can easily identify with as well. For a time, it was like the music had stopped in my own life. I was unsure of how to fill my time and space. But, as Marta, I learned how to adapt.

I have already recommended both books to a few of my dancer friends since finishing the second installment just a few short hours ago. Though I am sad that the third installment will not focus on Marta and her adventures, I am super excited to follow Lynne through her next steps in life in Letters to Follow (Coming Soon). Both 84 Ribbons and When the Music Stops would be perfect additions to any summer reading list, for girls of (almost) any age!

To learn more about Paddy, her other works, upcoming pieces etc, visit her website at http://www.paddyeger.com.

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Jen Turano Author Interview

Last night I posted my book review of Jen Turano’s A Change of Fortune, the first book in her Ladies of Distinction series! I was inspired by my writing for the media class to incorporate more author interviews. If there is one thing I have learned recently, it is that most authors are more than willing to answer a few questions. Why are more people not reaching out to do this!?

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Oh yeah, and she’s s so pretty! 🙂 Below is my mini interview with Turano-

AS- Me!

JT- Jen Turano

AS-Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have any thing in particular you like to have with you? Tea, specific music, candles, outside etc…

JT-When I’m writing a first draft, I’m most productive if I stay in my office and work on my big computer with the large screen and enormous keyboard. After that, I can move around the house with my laptop to do edits, although I’m not a writer who enjoys going to coffee shops to write – there are just far too many distractions and I’d never get anything done. I really don’t have any specific rituals when I’m writing. I just set a goal for the day, usually word count, and I don’t stop writing until I reach that goal.

AS-You are an Ohio native, but have moved around a bit. Do you think the different environments have influenced your writing?

JT-I don’t think the different environments influenced my writing as much as the different people I’ve encountered have. Most of my characters are inspired by real people I’ve met over the years, and most of those people have been rather quirky. If I’d have lived in one place all my life, I wouldn’t have met so many fabulous friends, and I’d have far less ready material tucked away in my mind to pull out when needed.

AS-Writing was not your first career, in fact, you found writing quite unusually. When did you realize that you might actually have a knack for this and go for it?

JT-As many readers know, I started writing because of a rather horrible series my son and I were reading together when he was in the third grade. We decided we’d try our hand at creating a book together, and armed with his wild suggestions (because he was your typical little boy back then) I wrote a fantasy called “Fanglers” that was filled with creatures and completely ridiculous scenes that my son suggested. I really didn’t consider sending it out to anyone until my son’s librarian asked to read it. I ran the PTO at the school so everyone knew me which is why I really had no choice but to hand over the story – especially since librarians can be somewhat scary. I was then pleasantly surprised to discover she enjoyed it. However, that’s when I learned my first important lesson – people who know you, are not the best people to critique your work. When I did send the manuscript out to a few agents, I was quickly informed that my craft needed a ton of work, but since it was somewhat pleasant, using my brain again, I just started writing a lot, and different genres at that. I knew I was doing something right because I got suggestions back from agents/editors, and then I finally signed with an agent and she very kindly sold my work to Bethany House.

AS-I truly appreciate your love of The Gilded Age, since I am a bit of a time period snob myself. What about that era drew you in and made you decide to set your series in that time?

JT-Growing up, I read mostly Regency when I’d read a romance, but a few years back, I read a non-fiction book about Alva Vanderbilt and realized how absolutely fascinating The Gilded Age was. This was truly a time in our history when we can see the rise of the New York Socialite, and see the influence of American heiresses. Since I have a background in fashion, I love being able to use the old department stores for scenes every once and a while, and don’t even get me started on the interior of the mansions that began springing up on Fifth Avenue. With my latest series, I’ve been adding in a touch more history to the storylines, mostly because there are just so many cool things about The Gilded Age. I’ve even set a story in Newport for the sheer reason that I wanted to set the scene in one of the “cottages” that were in such demand during the summer social season.

AS-I just finished reading A Change of Fortune, the first book in your Ladies of Distinction Where did your inspiration for these characters come from?

JT-Odd as this may seem, I was actually thinking about walking away from trying to get a book published because I’d had some disappointing news regarding a different manuscript. Because I was in a bit of a gloomy mood, I decided I’d clean the house because…well, that’s sure to perk a girl up, and while I was scrubbing the shower – the entire Ladies of Distinction series popped to mind. I knew everything – the characters, the storylines, you name it, it was all there. But, because I’m a little weird about cleaning, I couldn’t simply stop and start writing, so armed with a pad of post-it notes, I continued on to another room, scribbling down ideas as I cleaned, and then I started writing “A Change of Fortune” the next day. I’ve come to the belief that my inspiration for this series definitely came from above because I really was ready to throw in the towel and go back to fashion after being a stay-at-home mom for so many years.

AS-Faith takes a relatively important role in your books, and you’re obviously published by Bethany House; what made you decide to incorporate that aspect into your writing? Did you find that it hindered your opportunities at all?

JT-I felt there was a distinct need for more clean romances in the market – books that a mom would not be embarrassed to share with her teenage daughter if you will. Because of that, and because I’m comfortable with my faith and talking about God, it was a logical choice for me to turn to the inspirational market. Do I feel it’s hindered my opportunities? That’s difficult to say. My books do get banished to the dark and sometimes gloomy Christian section in the large bookstores instead of being shelved in romance, but…with every new release, more readers find me, so…I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

AS-A Most Peculiar Circumstance, was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Romance for 2013, what did it feel like to have that recognition that you had not only been accepted as a writer, but people were truly enjoying your work!?

JT-It was a huge surprise, as well as an honor, but, quite honestly, it completely freaked me out. Writers are an odd lot, and we dwell on all sorts of nonsense, mostly what will happen if we can’t produce another fun book, and then…readers will hate us and they’ll never buy another book again, and…well, the neurosis goes on and on. That’s what happened to me when Booklist was so kind as to really like my book. I was sure I’d never be able to produce something even remotely close to “A Most Peculiar Circumstance” again and then I’d just have to go back to being a buyer for a department store. I’ve calmed down a touch since that book was released – although I do still get super nervous when I have a new book coming out because it’s always all about the reader, and I really don’t want to put out a book that readers find disappointing.

AS-What is the best advice you have been given as a writer thus far?

JT-Keep producing new work and don’t read your reviews – especially on Goodreads because, wow, people can be mean.

To learn more about her books visit http://jenturano.com/category/books/

To learn more about the Gilded age and why she loves it so much, check out her posts here!

Follow her on Facebook to keep up with new books, book giveaways, other articles on Jen and her work and just to see what she’s up too!