Summer Reading Mission

Hello, Bookish friends!
How is your summer? I trust you’re getting to enjoy lots of spectacular stories!
What am I reading, you ask? Funny you should mention it. This summer, I’m taking part in the Fangirl Initiative’s Summer Reading Mission! I was delighted to put this challenge together, and I’m quite excited to share it here, albeit two weeks into the challenge. Oops.
summer reading mission
Anyway, the rules are simple: Read one book for each category below, until at least ten prompts are completed. If the mission is accomplished by August 30, there’s going to be a fancy certificate and bookmarks to download. Head over to the Fangirl Initiative to read the fully detailed post.
I shared part of my reading list in that original post, but since then, I’ve shuffled it around. I’m still not completely settled on this selection, but as of now, my summer reading plans are as follows:

Read a book…
  1. Written by an author with your first name (or the same first or last initial as you.)
    I’ll be reading Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, because not only is her name Sarah, she spells it with an H. Oh, and the book looks pretty awesome too.
  2. With a color in the title. I’ve already completed Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard this summer. You can read my review of it here. 
  3. That’s been sitting on your shelf for more than a year. I’m going to finally read Grave Consequences, the second book in Lisa Bergren’s Grand Tour series. I loved the first novel, Glamorous Illusions, and I’m shocked that I haven’t finished the other two books yet.
  4. That is historical fiction. I have a review copy of In Good Company by Jen Turano. It’s set in 1882, and just from the first few pages, I can tell I’m going to enjoy it.
  5. You picked for the cover. Another review copy is fitting into this spot- The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. Maybe I picked it for the title as much as the cover, but it looks like such a touching, whimsical story and I can’t wait to get into it. (Although I have a few other books to finish beforehand.)Cover Collage 1
  6. That’s first in a series. I’m completely late to the party, just like I was with the Harry Potter series, but I’m going to read the Lightning Thief and start the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.
  7. Involving time travel. Somehow, the only books I can think of featuring time travel are the River of Time novels by Lisa Bergren. And even though this post, 14 Reasons You Should Read the River of Time series, makes me want to reread them, I think I’ll be skipping this prompt for now. (Much as I miss my medieval Italy… And my favorite fictional guy.)
  8. Featuring a love triangle. I admit, love triangles can either be really entertaining or really annoying. From the back cover, I gather that there’s one in Defy by Sara Larson. Since I’m super interested in the rest of the story, it just works out for this challenge that there’s a love triangle, too.
  9. Set in the future. My current favorite futuristic books are the Remnants series, by Lisa Bergren. Although they’re dystopian, they put a fresh spin on the genre. I did a full review here. Since I technically finished these books in the spring, I’m not going to count them towards my summer reading. I’ll be reading Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson for this category instead.
  10. With more than 400 pages. I’m finishing the Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd for this category. I’m not crazy about it, but I’m too far and curious to quit now.
    Cover Collage 2
  11. Narrated by a guy. I keep changing my mind about whether to read Hood by Stephen Lawhead, The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, or Eragon by Christopher Paolini… Or I could just continue reading the Percy Jackson series for this category. So many options.
  12. Retelling a fairy tale. I picked up a copy of the Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson for this prompt. It’s a retelling of Cinderella, and although Cinderella isn’t my favorite fairy tale, it’s a story I love nonetheless.
  13. That is a classic. I planned on reading Jane Austen’s final work, Persuasion, but since I’m currently reading Harper Lee’s “new” release, Go Set a Watchman, I’m going to list that one here. It didn’t fit anywhere else, but since I’m not going to give up reading, I want some credit. Technically, I don’t know if it counts as a classic yet, seeing as how it was just published… But by virtue of To Kill a Mockingbird and Harper Lee, I proclaim Go Set a Watchman an instant classic.
  14. Outside your usual favorite genres. I hardly ever read contemporary, and I also don’t read books with romance as the main plot. Since I’ve been seeing it everywhere, I checked out a copy of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. I surprisingly enjoyed the first chapter, mainly for writing style and characterization. We’ll see what my thoughts are at the end.
  15. Recommended by a friend or fellow fangirl! There are too many books that fit this description. If I don’t read Eragon for prompt #11, I may fit it in here. Since the rules require I only read 10 books, though, I may not even get this far.

Cover Collage 3

Have you read any of these books? What’s on your summer reading list? If you need some ideas, why not jump in on this mission? 🙂

I’m off to read another chapter! (It would be kind of embarrassing to fail at the mission I assigned everyone else.)

Happy reading!

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A Friend in Me: Book Review & Blog Tour

A Friend in Me bookHave you ever read a book and felt as if you were seated across from the author in a café, having a heart-to-heart chat over a steaming latte? That’s exactly the warm feeling A Friend in Me by Pamela Havey Lau gave me.

As noted on the cover, the book focuses on “How to be a Safe Haven for Other Women.” I expected it to speak primarily to older women on the subject of mentoring younger ones. Although I don’t fit that criterion- I’m the youngest in my church’s women’s ministry- the topic still interested me. I work with youth, especially the girls, so I was hoping some of the principles in this book could be applied to mentoring junior high and high school students, not just adult women. And if this book was a guide for older women to befriend younger ones, I wanted to see if I found the concepts relevant as a younger woman.

In these pages, I discovered so much more than I expected.

Pamela writes with deep sincerity and compassion. She offers gentle guidance, much-needed reminders, and a kind challenge to rethink some attitudes and assumptions. Although this book may have been intended more for women further ahead in life, I gleaned a great deal even as a college age girl. This book isn’t solely about mentoring; it’s really about how to be a true friend to the women around us.

Pam’s insights on being understanding, prayerful, and present are shared with such grace and wisdom. She isn’t afraid to tackle the tough issues, but even uncomfortable subjects are handled tastefully. True friendship is messy and awkward, and Pamela is fully aware of that. She doesn’t try to formulize or offer a quick fix. She acknowledges how broken we are, and then helps us see how Jesus calls us to share that brokenness and help one another become whole in Him.

This book presents friendship in a light I never considered. I love people but I’m an introvert through and through. I avoid depending on others, and have long held the mindset that Jesus is the only haven I need. Although He is the ultimate shelter, I neglected to see the refuge that can be found in friendships with other godly women. Reading this encouraged me to pursue deeper relationships, rather than refusing to be vulnerable and staying at a shallow level. My appreciation for the godly women who have invested in me from their experiences was renewed as I went through this book. It even inspired me to find someone to invest in, rather than making excuses and keeping to myself.

Pam also addresses some struggles I’ve faced on my own. Through her words, I felt healing and acceptance. As I turned each page, it was as if she was sitting on my sofa, listening to my heart and helping me to hear God’s. Each story she tells carries the powerful reminder You are not alone. I intend to read over this book again later with a highlighter to mark all the little nuggets of gold.

This would be a wonderful book to read with a friend or a women’s group. Even if you pour a cup of coffee for one, and read it by yourself like I did, you will feel friendship radiating through every word. This book offered me a haven at a time I needed it, and it’s one I’ll return to.

So brew a cup of coffee or tea and settle into your favorite arm chair with A Friend in Me. Whether you’re close to my age, or further ahead in life, I truly believe there is something in this book for every woman. After all, we all need friends in each other.

I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Pub group in exchange for my honest review. This post is part of the blog tour for A Friend in Me. Be sure to check out the main page here for other reviews and more information and resources!

What I Learned in April

April

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever feel ready to write one of these posts. Each one proves that another month has come to an end. Each time I sit down to type one, I feel like the calendar has played a trick on me. Because how in the world are we more than a third of the way through this year?! It’s really not possible, but here I am staring at the month of May. And here I am, wondering what I did with April… What did I learn?

Writing these monthly reflection posts helps me to pause and figure that out. I already covered the first portion of April, in a post earlier this month.

So here’s what I learned in the rest of April.

  • Independence isn’t everything. I think a lot of us take pride in being self-sufficient; that drive for independence even shaped an entire nation. For my own part, I can take this a little too far. While I’m good at working with a team to get a job done, I try to shoulder the entire burden when it comes to my own life. Shamefully, I haven’t even allowed myself to lean on God. I’ve clung instead to my independence; my stubborn, desperate need to be in control. Needing anyone has felt like a liability. It’s caused me to shy away from relationships; to keep a safe distance from being, heaven forbid, dependent. But you know something? Independence has a downside. Sometimes I can barely stand, let alone on my own. When God formed the first human life, He didn’t stop there. He made more life, and connected those lives to each other and to Him. We were never meant to exist in isolation… Not from each other, and surely not from Him.
  • Memories are complicated. The mind is amazing, and how our past is tucked away there fascinates me. It’s incredible how the slightest thing, be it a scent or a sound, can yank one of those memories from storage.
  • Emotions take a long time to heal. Even when they do, I don’t think they’re ever the same as before they were broken. I also think that’s okay. Life won’t ever be the same as before; it seems natural that I won’t be exactly as I was, either.
  • Everything cycles through seasons. Some seasons seem to stretch on and on; others speed by. Every season has a downside. Winter is too dark and cold; I’m allergic to spring; summer can be oppressively hot at times, and fall is another round of allergies. Yet they all have upsides, too. It depends where we look. Such are the seasons of life. No matter how long they last, they do eventually change, leaving us to face another new season, mixed with ups and downs. The trick is not to wish for what’s behind us, because eventually this will be behind us, too. (Most of this post is a list of reminders for me!)
  • I like metaphors a little too much at times. See above section about the seasons.
  • In the midst of my life changing, my writing life has changed too. I’ve developed different habits, some of which I’m going to need to reshape. As I shared in another post, I haven’t felt truly ready to write, because I haven’t had the energy for my story. Now I realize it’s not just about energy. Stories preserve pieces of us, especially when we are the ones telling those stories. Every time I open my document, I’m transported back several months. I see a different person in those pages, and I’m having trouble reconciling her with the girl I feel like now. It’s almost like trying to be a co-author, except I’m attempting to team up with my past self. I have a few solutions to try my hand at, even if they may seem like temporary setbacks.
  • Don’t despise small beginnings. Even mighty redwood trees sprout from tiny seeds, buried in dirt. My dreams, towering as I imagine them to be, are little more than sprouts right now. They’re still closer to the humble earth than the vast heavens. But they are growing. And so am I, even when it’s just a meager start.

Small Beginnings

And because I’ve been almost mainly serious on the blog for a while, here are a couple of random, fun things I also learned in April. 🙂

  • Loki and I could take over the world together. I know, we just talked about small beginnings. World domination doesn’t fit that description. But I found a random quiz, and apparently Loki is the villain I would work best with. I didn’t need a test to tell me that… Now I just need to figure out if I should be worried what this says about me.
  • Speaking of quizzes, I put one together for the Fangirl Initiative last week. It was to see “Which Avengers Man is Your True Love?” I didn’t expect such a response, but it became extremely popular! That was a pretty fantastic feeling, and I learned that I’m not the only one who likes quirky little quizzes! Though it’s possibly cheating to take my own quiz, I did and confirmed something. Captain America would be my match! It makes sense, given my love for vintage things… 😉Avengers Quiz
  • Wishes do come true! Ever since I first experienced the music of the Phantom of the Opera, I’ve wanted Josh Groban to sing it. Particularly the song, All I Ask of You. And this week it happened. Since his new album released, I’ve had that one track on loop. I make no apologies. If you haven’t heard it yet, listen to it and enjoy four angelic minutes. You’re welcome.

What did you take away from last month? If you write reflection posts like this, drop a link in the comments! Much as I enjoy sharing my learning, I like reading about yours even more. If you want to read some other Learning posts from April, take a look at the link-up on Chatting at the SkyAnd be sure to check out the rest of that inspiring blog- it’s one of my favorites.

May your May be marvelous!

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Love & Link-Ups: A Post for Fun, Fiction & Valentine’s Day

Happy (late) Valentine’s Day, dears! I’m never quite sure how to feel about this holiday, as a single girl. Should I buy myself chocolate? Pretend it’s not a holiday? Celebrate “Singles Awareness Day” instead? (No. I hate that term. It makes singleness sound like a disease, which is it not.) Actually, I like to spend Valentine’s Day celebrating… love. Shocking, isn’t it? But just because I’m not in a romance of my own, doesn’t mean I have no one to love. Today, I enjoyed the blessing of my family’s love, the love in my friendships, and the boundless love of the Savior. It’s love that has lasted me for years and years, and has no end in sight.

Of course, I’m not anti-romance by any stretch. I may roll my eyes or grumble about the occasional couple and all the posts with photos of flowers, but I’ve been a hopeless romantic since I first watched Sense & Sensibility at age seven. My favorite love stories tend to be just that: stories. As a writer and a romantic, it often fascinates me reading through a fictional couple’s story. True, there are plenty of romances I don’t care for, but when I find a couple I deeply care about, I must follow their story.

In the world of fans, there’s a special language for this situation. It’s called shipping, which essentially means wanting or supporting two characters in a relationshipBelieving two characters are perfect together means they are your one true pairing. In honor of Valentine’s Day, and the fact that many fans are more interested in fictional relationships, I’m linking up with the Fangirl Initiative on this subject.

It was so fun collaborating on this link-up with my fellow Initiative agents Sky and Jaime. Together, we came up with 14 questions to celebrate February 14 and our favorite fictional pairings. You can read the full link-up post, and find out how to join, here or by clicking the image below. If you’d like to hear about my chosen couple, read on!

It’s a wonder I haven’t mentioned the River of Time Series by Lisa T. Bergren before. They are my favorite young adult books, some of my favorite fantasy novels, and they include the story of one of my favorite make-believe couples.

If you haven’t read them, I recommend two things: 1) You read them and 2) You don’t read the rest of this post until then. I’m going to spoil some of the love story in answering these questions, and I’d hate to ruin the romance for you. And the series is so fantastic, it’s worth experiencing firsthand. Then we can discuss it! (Online book club, anyone?)
River Tribe

If you have already read these novels, don’t mind spoilers, are too curious to stop reading this post, or you don’t plan to read the books (though I could write a review that would change your mind), I will now come to the link-up questions and my answers.

cover collage

My chosen couple is Evangelia (Lia) Bettarrini and Luca Forelli. They start out as secondary characters in the series, but they were instantly stars for me. I loved watching their stories unfold, especially towards the latter half of the series when Lia becomes a main character. I’ll contain myself from writing a book report, and stick to the 14 questions shared on the Fangirl Initiative.

  1. What is their current relationship status, and how did they meet?
    “Current” depends on which book you’re reading. By the end of the series, they are officially husband and wife. They met when Lia and her sister Gabriella accidentally traveled back in time to Medieval Italy. The sisters were separated, and it was actually Gabi who met Luca first. He and his cousin, Marcello (spoiler: Marcello and Gabriella make a marvelous match as well!) help Gabi find her sister, Lia. Luca and Lia instantly have a connection, and become great friends through the early part of the books.
  2. Why do you want them to be together? What makes them better together? They know how to be a team. Their relationship is romantic, but it’s so much deeper than that. They understand each other and respect their differences, using them as strengths rather than weaknesses. They can survive without the other, but they thrive together. 
  3. What song(s) remind you of them? I would say “I See the Light” from Tangled. (See question #12 for more on that.)
  4. How would they divide household chores (cooking, cleaning, etc.)? Being nobility in Medieval Italy, they have servants, so neither one has many chores. If they did, Lia would likely attend to most of them. Though Luca would do just about anything his lady asked him to. (With some teasing complaints tossed in.)
  5. What would this couple argue most about, and who is most likely to compromise? They tend to argue about their different ways of handling situations. They’re protective of each other, and sometimes overly so, which causes a bit of conflict when one starts to feel smothered. Fortunately, both are good at compromising, so it all evens out. 
  6. What interests do they share? Archery, riding, art, spending time with family, and laughing together.
  7. Are they introverts, extroverts, one of each? Lia is an introvert, and Luca is an extrovert. In some relationships, this could cause friction, but in theirs it lends more balance.
  8. What would their first date be like? (If they’ve already had their first date, describe their ideal date.) I would imagine a picnic in a sunny spot, perhaps by a river. (This IS the River of Time series, after all.)
  9. Do they get along with each other’s families? Yes, completely. Since his cousin marries her sister, they really are all one big, happy family.
  10. In what ways do they drive each other crazy? In what ways do they drive other people crazy together? See answer #5 for one way they drive each other crazy. I think it also drives them crazy that it’s hard to stay mad at one another. They drive other people crazy with their inside jokes, and earlier in the story, their resistance to actually forming a relationship. Or maybe that last one just drove me crazy. 😉
  11. Where would they go for their honeymoon/a romantic getaway? Sienna, or perhaps Normandy.
  12. Do they share any similarities to classic romantic couples? (I.E., Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Beauty and the Beast) Maybe it’s too soon to consider them a “classic” couple, but Luca and Lia remind me of Flynn and Rapunzel from Tangled in many ways. Hence the song that I chose for them (#3)
  13. What would their “celebrity couple” name be? (I.E., Brangelina) I really can’t think of anything, considering their names both begin with the letter L. Lucia? Liuca? This is harder than I expected.
  14. Where do you see this couple in 10 years?​ Happily married and with several adorable children, some of whom are outgoing and spontaneous like Luca, some quiet and sweet like Lia. And I imagine this couple will continue to fight for justice as needed.

Who are your favorite fictional couples? Have you read any unforgettable love stories? Did you celebrate this Valentine’s Day?

Lots of love!

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