In May, I signed up for Blogging for Books! I get books in the mail for review purposes and give an online review in exchange. For my first one, I signed up for "Jane of Austin" by Hillary Manson Lodge, a new-to-me author.
About the book:
“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience - or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.” ― Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.
But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.
While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas.
In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn't so far away.
I read the first chapter online and expected to love it. I'm nuts about hot teas, and loved the whole tea-shop aspect. However, in the end, it fell flat. It's published by a Christian publisher, but not billed as such in the summary; thus, the sole reference to faith is that one character wishes to go to seminary and start a church plant; the MC, Jane, doesn't even ask if the dashing man who comes to their rescue is a believer or not, which obviously should be one of the first things a Christian girl should ask a man who asks her out.
I liked the sister parts, though after the fun of the trip, the plot itself seemed to lose focus. I expected it to be more concerned with the tea shop part, but it wasn't. The recipes were also a fun part, though the tip about "not using boiling water" doesn't apply to black tea...for teas like Assam, you want to bring it just to the boil and then use the water. Also, her "tea farm" of tea plants was unrealistic; she has enough plants to fill the back of a pickup truck bed, which might be enough to supply one tea drinker's moderate habit, but definitely nowhere near enough to support an online business or a tea shop.
What dropped it below three stars for me was two instances of potty humor and one gay reference ("their clientele in CA was women and gay men")...as a gal in a tea-shop-attending family with regular guys, it's quite insulting to think that the only guys who use tea rooms are gay. I actually know a young military man who takes his buddies to tea shop outings because they discovered the best sweets are there. I don't know if I was more offended by a gay reference by a Christian writer, or by the stereotype about men.
Thanks to Blogging for Books for my free review copy.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
Sunday, April 16, 2017
One year ago, "The Sound of Emeralds" was published. I'd read "The Sound of Diamonds," the first book in the trilogy, a few weeks previously, and looked forward to finishing the story of Gwyneth and Dirk. I didn't expect it would take me this long to finish reading the three, but my reading habits are notoriously moody and disorganized, and even when I love characters, I have been known to leave them in the midst of their trials for far too long while getting sidetracked on a different genre.
In this case, it was distinctly my loss. My choice to pick up a bit of lighter fare instead of facing the deep, heartfelt troubles that Gwyneth and Dirk did in book two was the comfortable choice at the moment, but in no way do I have an excuse for letting the book sit longer once the comfort reading was out of the way. However, it definitely played out well in the end, because in March I blazed through "The Sound of Silver" and dove straight into "The Sound of Emeralds" without even pausing for another book in between. Two benefits: getting to count this book in a March titles challenge, and having the story fresh in my mind just in time for the April anniversary blog tour.
I really appreciated the view of marriage in this book. Though it isn't all thorns or flowers, it's a balance of both. Most newlyweds have nowhere near this amount of trouble to face, but the emotions of love and pain were so well balanced. Wow. I know very well that I wouldn't be brave enough to throw quite this many hurdles at characters I loved, though Rachelle pulls it off so well!
I also truly loved the Christian message in the book. What does it mean to trust in Jesus alone for salvation? Where did that leave her Catholic friends? Many people just show the conversion moment and not the struggles afterward to find out what this Christian life really means, and I appreciated that message in this book.
Well, friends! Rachelle is hosting a giveaway on her blog for the trilogy, so if you live in the US be sure to head over and enter the drawing. Also visit her page to read the other stops along the way for this super-exciting birthday blog tour!
And, before I go...Happy Resurrection Day to all of you!
Monday, February 6, 2017
|Synopsis for "Taylor's Story" (working title)|
Copyright 2017, Hannah Gridley
Thus far I haven't shared any of my writing projects on this blog. I loved this idea so much that I simply couldn't pass it up; it's a companion story to another book I'm working on, a contemporary fiction piece tentatively called "Ellie" (obviously needing some good titles, here...) and also connected to a romantic comedy featuring Ellie's sister and the sister's husband (yes, there's a story there!) and one featuring Stephanie, a member of David Grayson's team as featured in this synopsis.
My biggest reservation is that this group of stories is so diverse in genre. It's a challenge trying to tie an action/spy story in properly with Ellie's story as a suburban housewife, and the other two shorter romantic comedies. At first I fought it and tried to stick only with Ellie, but the other characters were clamoring for their own time in the spotlight and a trifling little thing like genre wasn't going to keep them from telling their stories. And when story is speaking during NaNoWriMo, you have no moment to ignore it, so I've written sizable chunks of these stories already.
For those of you who can't read my scribble (this was written in haste during the announcements portion of a work conference), here's the typed version:
Taylor Martin loses all his buddies in a helicopter crash while on a training mission. Because of international circumstances, he cannot contact his family or return home. How's a man to find a future after he's been shut out of his past?
David Grayson, an international top-secret agent for America, is seeking to reconcile his Christian beliefs with his tasks in intelligence work. At the same time, as he seeks to lead his team safely in growing danger, he realizes the reality of a threat from within--and the whole team faces certain death if he can't uncover and defeat it.
(Copyright 2017 by Hannah Gridley)
So...what do you think?
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Well, sweet readers, I have made several resolutions this year, and I intend to do my level best to keep them.
1. Last year I failed at my intention on reading the Bible every day. I won't say how badly, but it was bad. To keep myself inspired, I bought a new Bible, so all my markings will be fresh. Ivory pages and references and large print...very nice. While Christmas shopping, I found this 365-day devotional journal. It has quotes, poems, or scriptures for each day, along with space to write whatever I please.
For example, here is a part of a quote from yesterday..."How could I be anything but quite happy if I believed always that all the past is forgiven, and all the present furnished with power, and all the future bright with hope?"—James Smetham
Now that gave me a whole different perspective about New Years. I've heard an incredible amount of complaining about 2016, as though it was an apocalyptic disaster for all involved. While it was tough in some respects, it wasn't my worst year ever. First thought: I am a sinful human bought with the blood of God Himself. He told me in the Bible that the world is a place of sin, but that He was sending His Holy Spirit as a Comforter while He went to prepare a place for us in Heaven with Him. Now, He never promised us a perfect earthly life, never promised rest or riches or earthly honor. He did promise to draw us closer to Himself.
Who am I to complain when I have to re-evaluate my way of life, when everything breaks, when my back hurts and my hands drop things and my phone loses its signal? These things were never intended to last forever. Each day I need to be reminded of that, and I hope I do not lose sight of that as often this year as I did last.
2. Reading 200 books this year. Last year I aced this...except, I bought more. My TBR is ready to slide and and bury me. (Ah, yes, I know there are worse ways to go...). This year, I want a healthy balance. 99% of my reading last year was fiction. This year, I have decided to read at least one nonfiction book per month.
3. Paying down debt. Most of this was car repairs. I got rid of the main culprit, which had no excuse to be gulping so many dollars at its age, only to have the "new" one I got, which caused me absolutely zero trouble and has 4WD for wet or icy roads, actually develop mold in the back floorboard. Yowza. Almost 3K to remediate.
4. Giving more. Yes, I mean dollars. Americans as a whole are giving less to charitable, and especially are bad at giving tithes to their home churches. I have no right to complain if I am not doing it myself.
5. Not neglecting my blog! I'm setting a goal of posting at least once a month, if not more often.
Have you set any resolutions this year?
Friday, September 30, 2016
A Heart Most Certain, by Melissa Jagears
This book was such a delightful read! Here's the review I wrote for it:
When the author asked if I'd be willing to be an influencer for her new book, I jumped at the chance...because I'd already loved the novella set in this town, and I really liked Lydia and her fascination for books.
It was a delightful moment to get this in the mail and realize what sort of enjoyment I was in for! I'd just gotten it started, though, when a sickness and death in the family brought my intelligent-reader brain to a halt. There was no way I could create a nice, reasoned review...so now, this is embarrassingly late!
I savored so many details in this story. My favorite part was Lydia's passion for good reading, something I obviously share with her. I was very impressed that Jagears didn't only include known classics of today (which is an author pet peeve of mine, as it is unrealistic) but mentioned others such as Laura Jean Libbey, a popular writer of the day who is mostly forgotten today. +1 for that detail!
The little working details were all there, too, careful as worldbuilding in a fantasy (which, indeed, does share many characteristics of a recreation of a historical world). Lydia's good dresses were handmedowns; many of her gowns show careful mending. This in particular is delightfully refreshing, as many heroines are portrayed with lavish and perfect wardrobes. For certain scenes, the horses and carriages/conveyances are mentioned, with a few words of why certain styles are suited to rich men/poor men/etc.
Well, then...the hero. I suppose if you've read the back cover, you're pretty sure who he turns out to be. The town's most famous miser is a hero in disguise, only--best part--he doesn't think he really is. A fine man content to hide his qualities under a disguise? One who prefers to help fallen women than to hurt them or censure them? Well, it makes for good reading.
I'll stop here, lest I betray too much of the content...but I love it, and if you enjoy history, or just-right romance, or a good bit of page-turning suspense, be sure to give this book a try!
Thanks to the author for my free copy.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
About three months ago, I took the plunge and started my own group on Goodreads. I wanted a place to talk about the older novels I read, and it seemed that there weren't a lot of groups that even talked about public domain novels at all, much less regularly. I'm in a Christian fiction group that I love dearly, and wanted the same feel when talking about some other loves, the forgotten novels of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
I'd put it off for awhile, not sure how many other people would be interested. But I ended up emailing some friends to see if anyone was interested, and with a group of five people who were, I decided to go ahead and start it.
Above is one of the pictures I took for the design. There are many beautiful pictures available online, but I did not have time to research the copyright status of each one, so I decided to take my own. It was fun and simple to play around with books! I couldn't quite get the angle I wanted just with books, but adding the teacup gave it a special little zing, and I added it happily.
So, three months in, I am having lots of fun. My friends were very helpful giving tips and helping get some good books on the bookshelf. There are now over 25 members, and so far it hasn't been more than a couple of days between activity.
It does require some time investment, naturally. I set up several pages and spent a number of hours putting suggestive posts in, to give an idea of what each section was for. It's so rewarding, though, to see people beginning to invest their personality, instead of just following mine!
All said, I'm really glad I started the group, and so pleased with the people who have supported it and posted and brought it a step closer to being a thriving literary group like I hoped to find. Thanks so much, guys! Every single post, every book added to a shelf, warms my heart! :)
Thursday, May 19, 2016
A dogwood from
April and May have been very busy months for me. I did Camp NaNo in April (this time I had a "cabin" with friends...much more fun!) and completed my modest goal of 10,000 words just under the wire.
Reading has suffered some, but I've compensated this month by trying out some Librivox books more seriously than before. I give any narrator about five minutes, and if it's enjoyable I listen on; if not, I've decided to give myself full permission to move on to the next one. It's been a good way to get some stories heard while busy filing, etc.
On the last week of April, after much vacillation about whether or not to do it, I started my own group on Goodreads. I called it "Vintage Gems" and it's all about the older books I've loved for so long. Today the eighteenth member asked to join! I'm so excited to see what comes of it.