In the Bookcase


2015 reading plans are a-stirrin' already...

As the year draws to a close, I've gleefully discovered many 2015 reading challenges popping up on all the book blogs. I already have a few personal reading goals in mind for myself in 2015, and am signing up for challenges that match these goals.

Here's what I'm planning for myself...

(1) Finish a few series that I've been reading "for years".

(2) Dig into my hoard of free ebooks that I've collected.

(3) Catch up on any books I've received for review.

Do you have reading goals for 2015 too?

Now, for the challenges...

I'm putting together a list of the challenges I'm taking on with other bloggers. You might like to join some of these too!

Winter 2014-2015 COYER Sign Ups
This challenge fits me exactly! It lasts until March, and will rouse me to get caught up on some of those free ebooks that are just sitting on my Kindle. (Sounds like there will be fun prizes involved!)

I'll be tackling Mt. Ararat in 2015! Not climbing it though. This lingo just specifies that I'm aiming to read at least 48 books from my TBR piles. (Yes. The plural noun "piles" means exactly what it says.)

In 2014, I had taken on Peggy Ann's Scottish reading challenge, and enjoyed it so much that I'll be joining her again this next year! The goal is to read books written by a Scottish author, or about or set in Scotland. Again, I'm taking on the The Highlander level, aiming for 8 books that fit these categories.

Now for the "fun" challenges! "Where Are You Reading" interests me greatly because of its unique idea: Keep track of everywhere you travel in 2015... via the books you read. Oh, yes! Why have I never done this before?

LASTLY, this list couldn't be complete with a library challenge. I use a variety of resources from my local library, and every month I'm either reading books, ebooks or audiobooks from my library. For this challenge, I'm going to tackle the highest level, 28+ checkouts from my library (aka, Going Pro).

So that's what I'm reading in 2015. Can't wait.


Favorite Finds #49 {2 Giveaways + DIY Intrigue}

Here's a week's worth of interesting and genius things I've found online...

Be sure to check out my holiday giveaway prizes!!

Giveaway: Christmas Cupcake Ornament Trio

{Pixel Berry Pie Designs}

On my Etsy blog, you can win your choice of 3 cupcake ornaments from Pretty Witty Cupcakes! Open to US & Canadian residents. // PIN IT //

Giveaway: Handcrafted Turquoise Zuni Earrings

{Pixel Berry Pie Designs}

I'm also offering (for your chance to win!) this enchanting pair of earrings from the CarolesArt shop. Open to US residents. // PIN IT //

Travel Memory Boxes

{Iowa Girl Eats}

Yes. Aren't these boxes gorgeous? // PIN IT //

Upcycling Old Boat Into Bookshelf

{Upcycle Us}

A rowboat turned bookcase. Mind blown. Need this. NOW. // PIN IT //

Recipe: Holiday Chalkboard Sugar Cookies

{A Turtle's Life for Me}

What a unique cookie idea! // PIN IT //


Book Review: A Wreath of Snow

A Wreath of Snow A Wreath of Snow
A Victorian Christmas Novella

written by Liz Curtis Higgs

224 pages, adult fiction
published in 2011

5 Star Rating 5 Star Rating 5 Star Rating 5 Star Rating 5 Star Rating

My Review...

What does Christmas represent? Love for one another. Cheer. Birth of new things. Reconciliation with the old things. Brilliance. Joy and festivities. Our Savior.

A Wreath of Snow embodies all these thoughts as one, wraps the whole in a swatch of elegant paper wrapping, and ties it up with a bow of twine.

Allow yourself the privilege to read the first paragraph and see if you are drawn into the story as much as I immediately delighted in the author's way with words.

"In all her twenty-six years, Meg Campbell had never been this cold. Shivering inside her green woolen coat, she passed the crowded shops of Murray Place as the snow fell thick and fast. She could only guess when the next train would depart for Edinburgh. Why had she not consulted her father's railway schedule posted by the kitchen door? Because she left Albert Place in tears. Because she left without even saying good-bye."

Doesn't it draw you in?

Displaying a capture of a moment in time, A Wreath of Snow includes only a couple of fateful days in 1894 for Meg Campbell and her family. My!--what an interesting story that can take place in such a small span of time. In Stirling, Scotland, the Campbells at Albert Place intended to enjoy a wonderful Christmas together; events go awry when Meg's brother, Alan, expresses his discontentment from years of suppressed bitterness. When a frosty outpouring from the skies leaves the train tracks blocked, Meg can't escape her brother's sharp words and family's disgruntlement. While running from the strong feelings, she runs right into a stranger who carries secrets and remorse under his winter coat, instead of holiday surprises. Only a provincial meeting could start the healing that all are needing to feel the Christmas spirit.

I felt riveted through the duration of the entire book. Liz Curtis Higgs has a way with words -- she brings them to life, right on the page before your eyes. In fact, during a certain passage in the book, she summarizes the character of a newspaper reporter in the same way I'd like to describe her, if you will. When Higgs writes, she possesses "the hands of an artist whose medium [is] words." (In the book, this phrase stood out to me so well, that I just had to return it as a compliment back to the one who penned the words.) The dialogue is very realistic, and the Scottish inflections are so natural. I also enjoy how the author tastefully weaves scriptures and tidbits of Christian faith directly into the story, so that it strengthens the main plot.

"For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth." The stationmaster splayed his hands. "It would seem the Almighty wanted snow on Christmas Eve." No one could take umbrage with that statement. Not even Alan.

As you read, you'll find it is thoroughly Victorian on every page, in each breath the characters disclose. By this statement, I mean that the gentlemen are true gentlemen, the ladies and true ladies, everything is absolutely prim, proper, and "just so". Traditions and morals are of the utmost importance, and woe upon any who dares to disregard the elegant way of doing something. Yes, the story is perfectly, marvelously Victorian.

Definitely one of my favorite books I've read all year long.

A sequel should be in order, one would hope.

"It was winter; the night was very dark; the air extraordinary clear and cold, and sweet with the purity of forests.... For the making of a story here were fine conditions." (Robert Louis Stevenson)

See this review on Goodreads and Amazon.


Author interview with Lydia Howe! {Action Kids’ Club}

Hey readers!

Author, Lydia Howe, is visiting with me on the blog today as part of a tour for her NEWLY PUBLISHED BOOK! I'm so proud to be a part of her book promotion, and am excited to share the author interview, where I got to ask Lydia some questions about her writing and her life. Check it out below!

Here's Lydia for more details...

Today is one of the final stops in the blog tour stop celebrating the release of the first book in the Action Kids series, Action Kids' Club. Read the post from yesterday at this blog.

The answer to yesterday’s quote puzzle is: If you really want to do something you’ll find a way... If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. -Jim Rohn

Today I’m really excited to have an interview to share with y’all! Tarissa kindly agreed to interview me, so take it from here, Tarissa!

The Interview...

Alright, let's start this interview, Lydia! Where did you gather the ideas behind Action Kids’ Club?

I got the idea for the success principles while attending a John Maxwell conference when I was eighteen. The story idea came along slowly when I thought of things that I would have enjoyed getting to do as a kid.

Is there a message in this book that you want readers to grasp?

Yes! That you’re never too young to grab ahold of opportunities and run with them. A lot of kids (and adults!) seem to think that it’s for kids to waste their childhood years. I don’t advocate kids growing up too fast, but I do think there’s a lot they can learn while still enjoying being a kid.

That's a strong message, Lydia, one that that I believe in too. Did you base any of your characters off someone, or where did you find ideas for your characters?

Grandpa Don and Grandma Vickie are based off of my parents, so that was fun. I kinda imagined my cousins a little bit while writing the kids, but they were mostly freelance.

How long did it take you to write this first book in the Action Kids series?

Well... That’s a hard question to answer. The actual first draft of the book? About a week. I've been mulling it over in my head, working on characters, coming up with ideas, taking notes, etc... for the past four years.

What inspires you to write middle grade fiction?

I pretty much read every book I could when I was a middle grader and I think that’s when my love of reading really got developed. I've always thought that the years 8-12 were really important and I wanted to be a part of them for other kids because I am so grateful for the authors who I read during that time. In fact, I still like reading middle grade books!

I too feel that the ages 8-12 are important for developing a child's education, and find that the books written for that age group are often the best quality. When you’re not writing, what are your other hobbies/favorite activities?

Of course I like reading a lot (I’m on my 95th book for the year), and I enjoy walking, swinging, hanging out with my family, cutting grass, cooking (that’s what I do for my non-writing job) cracking my nine-foot-bull whip and traveling.

You had the opportunity to do some traveling this past year. What is the farthest place from home you've ever been?

I am very blessed to have had the opportunity to go to Asia this spring and spend a month in Indonesia. That’s pretty much as far away from home I can get while staying in the world.

(Lydia Howe in Asia)

You're obviously a book-lover, Lydia! Of all the books you've read in 2014, which title has become a new favorite?

Oh! This is a very good question! One I’m not even sure I’d be able to answer... I didn’t read nearly as many middle grade books as I normally read, but one of my favorites was Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek which was a book I got free in exchange for a review. Some day I want to read more in the series.

Which author(s), past and present, do you look up to the most?

Oh wow. Another great question! One of my all-time favorite authors is Catherine Farnes. I read her books over and over again and every time I’m amazed at how much I enjoy her writing style. I dream of one day getting to meet her.

Do you have your next book project planned yet?

I have a ‘continuing’ project that I've been working on all year, but other than that I haven’t started anything else. I have a lot of ideas going around in my head and I just have to weed around them and figure out which one is the most important for me to run with next.

Would you like to share your favorite quote?

One of my very favorite quotes is: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” - Jim Elliot

Lydia, I love that quote from Jim Elliot too. It's one of my personal favorites! That concludes our interview... It has been a blast learning more about you!

Readers, here's the rest that author Lydia Howe wants you to know...

Here’s your quote puzzle for today. Figure it out and leave the answer in the comments section and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a great prize! And, check out my blog to find out about the $50 gift card I’m giving away!

(Answer Key)




Wkh fohduhu brx duh derxw zkdw brx zdqw, wkh hdvlhu lw lv wr pdnh lw kdsshq. -Don Howe

Make sure you check out my blog blog tomorrow for the answer to the quote puzzle and the last stop on the blog tour. Thanks for stopping by!

About the Author: 
Lydia Howe (aka Aidyl Ewoh) is a twenty-something adventurous author who enjoys hiking in the mountains of Asia and South America, building life-size models of dinosaurs, taking road trips across Europe and cooking for large crowds.

Lydia grew up in a barn and has always dreamed of living in a tipi. She is trained as a John Maxwell coach and her passions include self-development and Christian apologetics One of her life-long dreams was realized when her first book, “Cave Secrets of the Pterodactyl, was published by Answers in Genesis in 2013. Her second book, “Action Kids’ Club” was published in November of 2014. Find her online at her Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Action Kids’ Club Back Cover Blurb: 
Twelve-year-old Olivia Hall’s dream of a friends' club ends when she finds out her family is moving. Her parents assure her it's a good thing, opening a new world of possibilities for the Halls. But going from ‘miss popular’ to ‘the new girl’ won’t be easy, and Olivia is not convinced.

Soon she begins to realize that although her life has suddenly changed, there's plenty of adventure to keep her on her toes. From making new friends at Forward Focus, to hanging out at the world-renowned Kids Zone, to meeting the curious head chef, she discovers that there's much more to life - and her new surroundings - than she ever imagined. How will she make the most of these new opportunities? Or will she let them slip away?

Check out Action Kids' Club!


Book Review: Shadow

Shadow Shadow

written by Michael Morpurgo

288 pages, children's fiction
published in 2010

5 Star Rating 5 Star Rating 5 Star Rating 5 Star Rating 5 Star Rating

My Review...

"Shadow" is one of my favorite reads of the entire year!

A young Afghan boy tells the harrowing tale of his and his mother's escape from their war-torn home country. The Taliban are relentless in their attacks across Afghanistan, leaving many citizens fleeing to live in caves for shelter. Even there, they are not safe. The one and only bright light in Aman's life is a foreign dog that becomes attached to the boy, and he to it.

However, the entire book is not Aman's alone. The author deftly weaves 3 different characters' points-of-view together, so that the reader can take in the bigger picture. Matt, a British boy tells his own part of the story too, of his friendship with Aman in the schoolyard. Also, Matt's grandfather reveals his portion to the reader, giving you the full overview.

Aman, imprisoned in a detention center, along with his mother, desires to become free in England. But no one will listen to his story. Except for one person.

The reactions and emotions are what create this book. The poignancy and feeling the tale is suffused with will not soon be forgotten.

I don't think there is enough of this type of literature available for young readers. (Even though the book is written at a middle-grade reading level, adults will easily be drawn into the unique story).

See this review on Goodreads and Amazon.