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.”

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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.

 

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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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!

A Change of Fortune- Jen Turano

I recently discovered a new author. I’m kind of excited about this one and I can not wait to get even more of her books. Jen Turano is an accidental writer, finding her niche when she began writing along with her young son. She is a historical-Christian-fiction-romance writer. Say that five times fast. I thoroughly enjoyed every ounce of this book from start to finish.

Miss Eliza Sumner is a woman on a mission, one scorned woman to be exact. As English aristocracy, her family fortune was swindled by their seemingly trustworthy accountant. She has tracked him down and followed this man across the pond to New York City.

Mr. Hamilton Beckett is a widower with two endearing children. He is wealthy, good-looking and a bit brooding. Life is a bit monotonous and business deals are falling out from under him left and right. He is doing the best he can considering his circumstances. At a dinner party held by the Watsons, he meets the family’s quirky and entertaining governess is it a twist of fate and just what he needs?

Mr. Zayne Beckett is the younger brother of Hamilton Beckett. Charming, business-minded and much less broody than his brother, Zayne is off-limits to the world of women…or so he says. He too has the pleasure of being invited to the same dinner party as Hamilton and meets the unique and intriguing governess. Will she pull him out of his world of dating or help turn his world upside down?

Miss Agatha is the oldest of the three Watson daughters. She does everything to avoid her mother’s scheming, matchmaking ways, including feigning illness to avoid her parent’s dinner party. She is an aspiring and succeeding writer…unbeknownst to her doting and very proper parents. Pairing up with the new governess, Agatha engages on an adventure not even her creative mind could create.

I am a sucker for a good romance. I am a sucker for a good historical romance. I liked how she entwined a bit of mystery and managed to make everyone’s story intertwine. It was nice to be able to read and know that I wouldn’t be coming across awkward sex scenes. The struggle with faith that Eliza and Hamilton go through compared to the faith of Agatha and Zayne was great contrast and real. How often do we go through valleys of faith while those around us seem to be growing and blooming in their own? It is hard to praise God through the storm, not to be cliché.

I had a sneaking suspicion within the first chapter how everything was going to work out- but the actual getting there is always my favorite part. When an author can get my heart rate up with excitement and anticipation, when an author can make me giggle and laugh at the antics of the characters, when I groan and shake my head feeling their own embarrassments and mistakes-when authors can make you connect and feel their people- THAT is a good book.

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Edgar Allan Poe Mysteries

Disclaimer *This post is not about Poe theories like how he died, his mental state etc. It is about his mystery short stories.*

SAY WHAT!? Yeah, that’s right. Poe wrote mystery stories. Ya know what else? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based his infamous mystery short stories off of Poe’s. :O Yes, for you literary nerds out there, you recognize Sir ACD as the creator and author of Sherlock Holmes. When it comes down to it, Poe was the creator of the mystery short story. It is here he also beautifully executes two of the main short story requirements:

1-2 Main characters that are static. There’s no time for them to change in a short story.

1-2 Locations, usually just one. Again, no time to run around the world in 1-10 pages.

I will admit, until I took my detective literature class in college, I had no idea Poe wrote mysteries. Everyone knows The Tell Tale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pendulum….all of his morbid horror works. Of course there’s the occasional poem. I was fortunate enough to find a Poe Anthology that includes all 3 genres of writing. Though we only read two or three of his mystery shorts in class, I have continued to read them.

Better than any CSI, Bones, Sherlock or any other mystery series on TV nowadays. The Murders in the Rue Morgue- DID NOT SEE THAT COMING! How in the world he came up with that kind of crazy twist is beyond me. The Murder of Marie Roget is actually based on the real murder of Mary Cecillia Rogers in 1841. Do some research, it’s quite an interesting story and was HUGE in the news when Poe wrote it.

Even if you don’t necessarily like Edgar Allan Poe, it’s ok. Thankfully, he had multiple skill sets and talents. If you like a good mystery, sit down with a Poe and a good cup of tea, you won’t be disappointed!

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Spellbound Trilogy- Nikki Jefford

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A friend of mine posted this on Facebook the other day. It’s funny because it is so true. I spent high school, and most of middle school reading Shakespeare and classics- ya know, the stuff adults read. It’s like I somehow went from reading children’s books to adult books and missed young adult somewhere in my rush to grow up. Now that I’m going to school to be an English teacher with a 7th-12th grade certification, I’m going backwards. I want to be able to competently converse and suggest books to my students. This series is part of that attempt.

The Spellbound trilogy is, obviously, a set of three books. Rarely do I get through a series if it has more than this. I lose interest, lose track of when books are coming out, I find something better….really it’s just a thing.

Thankfully, the Spellbound series has no vampires. Or werewolves. Or goblins. Or dragons. Just witches and warlocks. I can deal with that. Graylee Perez is your average everyday junior in high school, except, she has an evil twin- Charlene. They, along with their mother and deceased father, are all magical. Kind of in a Harry Potter, general way. They can levitate, some can heal, go invisible, telepathy-ya know, generic magic stuff.

Until Graylee dies. Suddenly. And nobody knows why. But then she comes back to life. In her sisters body. She, along with her mother, sister, and a few different members of their coven must figure out how to bring her back, to her own body, or uh, at least a body that isn’t in the ground decomposing.

Follow Graylee Perez and the rest of her magical world through these three, entertaining easy reads! I would definitely recommend these to my high school students who like a twist of the magical, a wee bit of romance, a dash of mystery, and some serious problem solving. Oh, and the book covers are STUNNING!

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Me Before You- Jojo Moyes

Having found a treasure of iTunes gift cards, I instantly got on and looked for books. I have book commitment issues so I downloaded a bunch of “samples” before I really committed to spending money on a book. I read a few samples and created a word document to jot down some notes so that when I went back to make my purchases I could look back at my notes and decide what was worth the money. I know, ridiculous but I’m obnoxious that way.

I’m new to Jojo Moyes. I saw her 3 NYT Best Seller books, One Plus One, The Girl You Left Behind and Me Before You, pop up on Pinterest. I decided to add it to my list of potentials.  Me Before You has been nominated for Book of the Year at the UK Galaxy Book Awards. Me Before You has since gone on to sell over 3 million copies worldwide. After reading it, I can see why. I got through the sample for Me Before You and I instantly bought the book.

Before doing some research on her, I instantly knew she was English- the whole lingo and setting of the story gave her away. Having just been to Northern Ireland this summer, it was easy to imagine the landscapes she described and for me to keep up with the words. BUT, for the book.

I had no idea what I was getting into. I read the book preview iTunes provided and read the sample. Nothing really prepared me for what I was reading. It was tough to read sometimes. Louisa Clark was a relate-able character for me. Through a series of events, she becomes the caretaker of a once viral, active 35 year old quadriplegic, Will. My great-grandmother has vascular dementia. She essentially has tons of mini strokes, slowly but surly destroying her synapses and her memory. She hasn’t known who I am for over a year now. We have found, that when dealing with a situation, particularly a person who is in such a predicament like my great-grandmother, that sometimes, the best way to get through them is to laugh. If you don’t laugh and you stop and think about what is really happening, all you can do is cry. Somehow, whether she knew it or not, Moyes got me through this book by doing just that. The snarky, sarcastic, snapping between Will and Lou is what kept me from sobbing. By the time I got to the end, literally, I cried just a few tears.

This is a relatively controversial book. Anytime assisted suicide is brought up, people freak out. It’s not a euthanasia story like Of Mice and Men, but a story of choice. A story of struggle. A story of quality of life. A story of love, sacrifice, growth, acceptance, and living fully. Somehow, the lessons brought forward far outweighed the shock of what the pages contain.

This would be a great book club book. There is enough to talk about for at least a solid week. There is character development, the struggle and discussion of assisted suicide, consequences, choices, love- the list goes on. Thankfully, though the idea of love and romance was in the book, it was not gross or over done. It was just enough to fulfill my girlie side without destroying and imposing what the book was about. If you want a book that makes you think, makes you assess life and makes you thankful for the life that you have- read this.

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For more on Jojo Moyes and her books, check out her super pretty and easily navigated website http://www.jojomoyes.com/.