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.”

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!

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.

Change-of-Fortune

The (Book) Struggle is Real

It’s mid February. I’ve gotten close to 30 new books since New Years. My wall-length bookshelves that house both my books and my mug collection are laden. The books are progressively kicking the mugs out-of-the-way. That is a problem all unto itself. But there’s another issue. I. Have. A. Major. Problem.

10407758_10205732124367468_4671440219716674028_nThis is what happens when I find a cart of free books. It might have been below zero out, I may not have been able to feel my toes or hands and I may have had slobber rolling down my face because I had a Bridge Street Chocolate espresso marshmallow stuffed in my face.

The fact that my local gently used book store has $1 book carts, by 2 get 1 free does NOT help my cause any either. I just keep telling myself….”They’re for my classroom. They’ll help my students. They are helping to build my future.” And by building my “future” I mean, building my future library room…and one day my future office at a university somewhere.

But I have this problem. I have all of these books, and well…thank goodness I’m not blowing my bank account to get them because well….none of them are grabbing my attention.

I’ve been a book-worm for as long as I can remember. I had to start wearing glasses in middle school because as a child I hid under blankets with small, dim, key chain flash lights to read Magic Tree House. My parents were always encouraging my reading habits, reading to me as a child, always getting me at least one book from the cool Scholastic Book Fair at school even though money was tight, and still getting me books for Christmas now as a 22-year-old. To be fair, many of my obnoxious reading habits have come from my father, he’s just a bit better at hiding them. I have a whole pin board that is nothing but books, book lists, and book sayings.

I created a Net Galley account last summer and I LOVE IT! Free books and all I had to do was read them and review them; but so many of them were so bad I couldn’t even finish them. Obviously they didn’t get the best reviews in return. I have made great connections with a few of the authors that I did review and enjoy like Brielle Skye, author of Solitude of a Birdcage. But those connections with both the literature and the authors are so very few and far between.

In the past 2 months, with my massive literary additions I have read 3 of them to completion and even those were a struggle. Why?

For a while I thought, well it’s got to just be the literature. Comparatively to even 10 or 20 years ago, it is SO much easier to have a book published and put out there. eBooks have made becoming an author easier than ever before. This can be a good thing and a bad thing…for obvious reasons. It’s kind of like American Idol. For years friends and family tell someone they are an amazing singer in order to avoid hurt feelings, and these poor people stand up on stage and sound like they are dying, wailing cows. The same happens with writing. People are told that they are great writers, some may have even gone to school for English or writing…but that doesn’t mean that they are good.

My other thought-standards are low. With books like Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey and a multitude of other books being PUBLISHED no wonder there is so much crap out there. I’m not just talking content wise either. Anyone with any kind of English grammar/writing sense can tell you that some of the best-selling books in the last 10 years are some of the most poorly written books they have read in their life. People are not only reading this stuff and enjoying it, but asking for more like there is no problem with any of it. They have no idea that they are reading poor “literature.” The term is being used quite loosely here. They make money, so they continue to be published because people aren’t standing up and saying “STOP WE WANT THE GOOD STUFF!”

Maybe I’m just all read out. I’ve read so many books over the years that it is rare that a book ends differently than I expect. I usually have a solid guess of what is going to happen and how the characters are going to get there about 20 pages in. The excitement of “what is going to happen next,” seems to have disappeared for me. Is this my fault? Have authors gotten together, come up with a story equation, plugged in their own “details” and continue to write the same story with different names? My favorite- Nicholas Sparks. The same story over and over with a few variations, like names, diseases, and occupations. Here is a chart that has been floating around as an example-

summary_imageThis makes me feel better, that maybe I’m not as crazy as I thought I was about this theory.

I think that somewhere in my heart, I know that all of the above reasons are reasons why I am struggling. I also think that they are all contributing factors to what I am now calling “book depression.” This is very different from a Book Hangover– symptoms and other info are included in the linked post. Book depression is a deep sadness, a fear that it is going to be a very long time before you read a good book again. It’s longing for a book that you’re not sure even exists. I want to read something inspiring, something hopeful, something unexpected, something relatable, something real. I want a story with dynamic characters, with a strong plot, with antagonists and protagonists. I want something that doesn’t involve werewolves or vampires or dystopian society. I want a book with proper sentence structure, lacking comma splices, and with bright, vibrant language.

I want to fall in love with words on the pages of the book in my hand. I want to yearn for more and hope there is at least a sequel. I want to read again.

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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