From My Bookshelf – #indiecember

This one isn’t a book review.  It’s a fun idea that I stumbled onto while cruising Twitter and I just had to share!

Megan Tennant, an independent author herself, has created a month-long reading challenge that she calls Indiecember – you can read all about it on her website HERE.  If you are a social media user, you can also find information by searching #indiecember.  The idea is simple – you read books written by independent, self-published authors and try to earn a bingo on Megan’s cleverly designed Bingo board.

I LOVE this idea!  Thanks to the abundance of computer technology available to the general public, authors no longer have to wait to catch the eye of a big name publisher.  Self-publishing is a viable option for those writers who are eager to share their work with the public.  (And from what I hear, self-publishing ensures that you don’t have to edit your original story to please the publisher – you can leave as you always intended it to be!).

So who’s in?!  I started my first book on Sunday – Prophecy of Three: Book One of the Starseed Trilogy by Ashley McLeo (check her work out HERE) – and I’m nearly done with it.  It’s THAT good!

Grab the bingo board from Megan’s website, find a new possibly-favorite author and get reading!

From My Bookshelf – Rise of the Mystics

As I said in a previous post, I was given the opportunity to be an Advanced Reader for Ted Dekker’s newest 2 book series, Beyond the Circle.  Book 1 was title “The 49th Mystic”.  Book 2, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, was “Rise of the Mystics”.  Here’s my review (it’s a rather wordy one!) –

First of all, you will definitely need to start with “The 49th Mystic” for this book to make sense. “Rise of the Mystics” picks up in the middle of Rachelle’s story and you will be more than a little confused and lost if you don’t read the books in order!

From a strictly “storytelling” perspective, this series is Ted Dekker at his best! There were times I had to put the book down and catch my breath. Other times I stopped reading because I could tell that what was about to come was going to place the characters I had come to love in a precarious, even dangerous position and I wanted to avoid the stress for a moment! But ultimately this story is about identity. As I, the reader, followed Rachelle’s path to finding the five seals, I was challenged to examine everything I had been told about matters of faith. I wasn’t just reading about Rachelle’s journey to finding the five seals. In my own heart, I took the journey with her. Yes, I enjoyed the story, the characters . . . all of the necessary pieces are there that make this a quality novel. But as a woman of faith myself, I was impacted at a personal level in ways I didn’t expect. This one will stick with me for quite some time!

This book will challenge you to look at how you define yourself – what things/people/titles do you hold most dear? What would be left of you if all those identifiers were taken away? How would it impact your life if you could truly cease to fear what others might to do your earthen vessel, knowing that they can never harm who you truly are?

“Rise of the Mystics” will challenge you to redefine your concept of the word “fear” and how it contrasts with a real, unconditional love that is pure, untouched by frustration, and never dimmed by the actions of others. This statement, written as though Rachelle herself had said it, sums up what impacted me most in this book – “One thing was certain: the power of Christ made manifest was far, far greater than anyone, even the most devoted follower, could imagine.”

Dive in and see for yourself.

**Side note – Those who enjoy study guides should check out “The Way of Love”, also written by Ted Dekker. This Bible study (with a companion journal!) addresses the same concepts covered in the novel from a more personal application approach.

The Lady’s Gamble (by Abby Ayles)

The Lady's GambleThis is not the first novel I’ve read by Abby Ayles, but it is, hands down, my favorite.

In many period romance novels, the story focuses on the eldest unmarried daughter in a family and her prospects for marriage. But the “The Lady’s Gamble” the story focuses on Regina, the youngest daughter who sets out to save the family after her father loses everything in a gambling loss.

To put it quite simply, I adore Regina. Coming from a childhood marred by the loss of her mother, Regina grows up believing she is unattractive, undesirable, and an embarrassment to her four older, prettier, more talented sisters. The truth is far different than what Regina perceives and it is only through an unexpected friend and a love that she fears is unrequited that Regina begins to see the truth. All of this occurs while she is secretly being taught to gamble by the devastatingly handsome Lord Harrison, a relationship that his friends assume is a romantic one.

Beyond the central storyline, I love that Ms. Ayles touches on the sacrifices that we make for all types of love. Lovers don’t marry because he is dying and has a brother who can inherit the estate after he passes while she will never need to worry if a future suitor is interested in her or the wealth she inherited from her late husband. A “bastard child” endures harsh treatment by the nobility because he is devoted to his father and will not leave him. Regina risks public humiliation to win back the family estate from the man who won it from her father. Ms.Ayles even touches on the difficulty faced by Lady Cora, Regina’s chaperone, who tries to keep her attraction to other females from becoming a widely known fact among “proper society”. Even Lord Harrison put his own reputation on the line, earning money through gambling so that he could restore the estate that his father had lost almost entirely.

The love story is beautifully written – Ms. Ayles knows how to enchant her readers! – but my favorite part of the story is watching young Regina blossom. Once she is no longer living as “the baby of the family” she discovers that not everyone is offended by her quick wit, there are those who find her funny and intelligent, and that she has a real talent for playing cards and reading people. It is her growth and increased confidence in herself that makes this a truly wonderful read.

The Lady's Gamble

Not Really Cheating

I started my 2016 Reading Challenge last night. 

I know, I know it isn’t 2016 yet so this may look like cheating. But I intend to be done by Christmas 2016 so I’m not really giving myself any extra time by starting now. And with the weirdness of my schedule, I need to take advantage of the stretches of time that aren’t crazy busy. 

I have crossed two off my list – 

A graphic novel – for this one I read Part I of “Maus – A Survivor Tale” by Art Spiegelman. It’s the real life story of Art’s conversations with his father, Vladek who survived the horrors of Auschwitz. Spiegelman depicts all the characters as animals – the Nazis are cats, the Jews living in Poland (Vladek’s native country) are mice, and those who are neither Jews nor Nazis are portrayed as pigs. When the mice try to disguise their ethnicity, they even put on pig masks. The story is personable and powerful. The author includes the conversations between him and his father and discusses, with an understandably tentative touch, his mother’s suicide. The author doesn’t hide the challenges in his relationship with his father nor the friction between Vladek and his second wife, Mala. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. I’ve read many books about Nazi Germany and World War II but personal stories like this always captivate me. If there is any criticism to be had, it’s that this book is catalogued as Juvenile Non-Fiction. Not Young Adult, Juvenile. It was in the “kid’s” section of the library. There is some language and while the depictions of violence are not extremely graphic, the book seems better suited to a young middle schooler – maybe as young as 5th grade. As for me, I’m glad I included it in my reading list!

“A book you can finish in a day” – Went to a favorite author for this one. Mostly because I have read some of her stuff in a day and was fairly certain I could do it again! “Sizzlin’ Sixteen” by Janet Evanovich. Truth be told, I need to get caught up on this series anyway and this challenge helped me move one step closer! I’ve been a fan of Evanovich’s writing and unforgettable characters for quite some time and this book did not disappoint. 

Reading Challenge

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions.  I find it a touch difficult to promise that I will consistently do something every single day, 365 times in a row.  Wait . . . 2016 is a leap year so make that 366 times in a row.  But I do set goals for myself for the year.  Sometimes I reach them, sometimes I get close and have to keep working and sometimes I fail completely.  No big surprises there.

This year, among some other personal goals that will remain my private info for now, my middle daughter, Margaret, and I have decided to capitalize on our shared love of all things “book” and take on a unique reading challenge – the 2016 Reading Challenge can be found by clicking on the link (see how “2016 Reading Challenge” is underlined?  Click on that!).  I’ve seen many reading challenges – from the generic “pick the number of books you will read this year” to the slightly insane “read a different book every week in the new year” (who has time for that?!) – but this one is by far the most unique and therefore very appealing!  The list includes everything from “A book that was written at least 100 years before you were born” to “A book from Oprah’s Book Club” and even includes “A book you know will bring you joy.”  There is no stipulation about not reading books you’ve read before – as a matter of fact, you are SUPPOSED to read “A book you haven’t read since high school” – so you are free to revisit old favorites.  But I promise you, it will stretch you into new genres.  It includes poetry, political memoirs, an autobiography, a book by a celebrity, a book by a comedian, sci-fi, romance, classics, bestsellers, books others recommend, a book from the library, a book less than 150 pages, a book at least 600 pages long . . . even a book with a blue cover!  There are 40 books on this list so it’s still a pretty daunting task.  But I’ve started my list and have some fairly short ones on there so I should be okay.  I’m excited to get started.  Won’t you come be a part of the fun?  Click on the link above and print off your list (comes out ready to be cut down into a bookmark!) and see what new favorites you can find!

P.S.  The daughter that is participating in the challenge with me is keeping her own blog about her New Year’s “resolutions” – she’s a pretty fantastic writer so you should check her blog out HERE