Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Author Interview: Amanda Barratt {history, love, daring}

Every so often an extra-special post comes along to My Lady Bibliophile, and this is one of them. Today I get to have an interview with my sweet British-loving, bibliophile friend, Amanda Barratt. Join us for a discussion of favorite Jane Austen heroes, tightrope walkers, and writing! 

Hi Amanda! *serves you tea and shortcake* Welcome to My Lady Bibliophile! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your new book release? 

*Accepts tea and shortcake happily.* I’m so excited to be joining you today, My Lady. Your blog is one of my favorite places to visit. :-)

I’m the author of six novellas published by Barbour, and my novel, My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York, released January 1st. It’s a story of daring and romance set against the backdrop of Victorian Buffalo and the beautiful Niagara Falls. I love British movies, Five Guys hamburgers, dark chocolate, my family, dear friends (of which you are one!), and am daily grateful for the saving grace of our Savior.

*Schuyler pops in for a hug.*  

Book or movie? – Book when I have brainpower. Movie, particularly an episode of I Love Lucy, when I don’t. :-)

You've written several Christian Romance novellas with Barbour. What makes this your favorite genre to write, and as a Christian author, why is story-telling important to you? 

While my novellas are classified as Christian historical romance, I like to think of them more as stories about people on a journey, struggling with heartache, decisions, and their relationship with God. Along the way, they fall in love, but that’s only a part of their story. I know from my own experience how important fiction can be in revealing truth and drawing a person closer to God. I also love being able to offer readers an alternative to my genre’s secular counterpart.

Sunshine or rain? – Both, probably. Lately, it’s been pretty dreary, so sunshine would be nice. But I love a rainy day as it always makes me think of my favorite British classics.

As you write about these special men and women falling in love, what is your favorite kind of couple to write about? (Personality, etc.) Do you have any favorite couples in literature? 

An element I particularly love to develop in my stories is sacrifice. Ultimately, the measure of love can only be tried when it is tested. I also like to write about heroes that show chivalry and honor toward the women in their life--mother, sister, friends, and special future wife.

Favorite couples in literature? Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood, John Thornton and Margaret Hale, Colonel McLlinn and Roxanna from The Colonel’s Lady by Laura Frantz, and Aric and Hadassah from For Such a Time by Kate Breslin. I also have a special fondness for Victoria and Lord Melbourne from the show Victoria, though they were never quite a couple. :-)

*Schuyler pops in for Melbourne fangirling.* 

Introvert or extrovert? – Introvert. Except around family and close friends.

Drew is quite the daring hero. Can you tell us a little bit about the Niagara daredevils who tried tightrope walking across the falls? 

Charles Blondin was undoubtedly the most famous. He performed his first stunt in 1859 to a crowd of thousands of onlookers who expected him to plummet to his death. He proceeded to perform many more times, where he achieved such feats as: carrying his manager across the Falls on his back, walking across the tightrope while pushing a wheelbarrow, crossing blindfolded, and going over on stilts. He survived all this and lived to old age, spending his later years at a house he built in London with the money he made at Niagara Falls, calling it aptly, Niagara House. Many others followed suit, attempting to achieve Blondin’s fame, but none ever succeeded. The only woman to cross Niagara Falls by tightrope was Maria Spelterini who did so in 1876, wearing peach baskets strapped to her feet.

Darcy or Knightley?  Darcy. Because, like Elizabeth, I adore his beautiful grounds at Pemberley. :-)

Thanks so much for visiting today, Amanda, and a huge congrats to you! It's a pleasure to hold your book and to know you as an author. I'm so excited to celebrate this release with you on My Lady Bibliophile! 

Keep scrolling to read more about the book, and check out my review of the story here! 

About the Author
ECPA bestselling author Amanda Barratt fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story – a spinoff of Jane Eyre. Now, Amanda writes inspirational historical romance, penning stories that transport readers to a variety of locales – from the sweeping coastline of Newport, Rhode Island, to the rugged landscape of Central Texas. Her novella, The Truest Heart, was a finalist in the 2017 FHL Reader’s Choice Awards.

A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she lives in the woods of Michigan with her fabulous family, who kindly put up with the invisible people she calls characters.

These days, Amanda can be found reading way too many books, watching an eclectic mix of BBC dramas and romantic chick flicks, and trying to figure out a way to get on the first possible flight to England.

Sign up for her author newsletter on her websitehttp://amandabarratt.net/

About the Book

Journey to Niagara Falls, New York, 1870

She avoids danger at all costs. He makes his living by rushing headlong into it.
Outwardly, Adele Linley’s trip to visit her American cousins is nothing more than a summer vacation. In reality, she’s the daughter of an English aristocrat with barely a penny to her name seeking a rich American husband.

Having grown up in an overcrowded orphanage, Drew Dawson is determined to make a name for himself. He’ll take any honest job to provide for his sister—even crossing Niagara Falls by tightrope.

Adele meets incredibly wealthy and pompous Franklin Conway who takes an immediate fancy to her. But she would truly like to marry for love. When she encounters the mysterious Drew in the garden, Adele is confused by her feelings for someone who is everything she is NOT looking for. Will they both stay the course they have chosen for themselves?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Why You Should Read Books that Challenge You

via Pixabay
In the early days of October, a group of American soldiers was under severe fire by German artillery. They were so surrounded that the backup they needed wasn't able to get to them. Shot at, starving, and desperate, they sent pigeons with messages to their allies to come and help them out. 

Then their allies started firing. Caught in the middle, being shot by fellow Americans, their position was unbearable. They needed it to stop. 

Enter Cher Ami. 

Cher Ami was the last homing pigeon they had. They held their final chance to get one more message out to their allies. So they attached a message to her leg and sent her flying back. 

On the way back, Cher Ami was shot by the Germans. One eye was blinded. Her breastbone was wounded, and one of her legs was hanging by a thread, partially severed. 

But Cher Ami kept on flying and made it all the way back. While they suffered a severe loss of numbers, the trapped Americans were saved. 

I learned this story while reading a diary I received about a WW1 soldier. In company with that diary, I also read a book about a particular WW1 battle, called Collapse at Meuse Argonne, by Robert Ferrell. 

I don't often read books about battles. I don't know about all the different terms that make up the troops. It's hard to keep the commanders' names straight, and geography is not in my top ten list of Things I'm Good At. 

i should have learned geography better when i was a little faun 

But reading the Collapse at Meuse-Argonne was fascinating. I learned about a battle I had no idea existed. I learned how sometimes people in charge make poor decisions in war, and what a sacrifice it is to fight. I learned that men with authority sometimes don't know how to handle it, and they can't foresee everything that's going to happen. I learned about the geography of this portion of France. And I really enjoyed it. 

Reading it also put me in mind of something I could blog about: why it's important to read books that are challenging. While this article's title might have given the idea of reading worldview books that challenge you, I was actually thinking a little lighter than that today. 

schuyler. are you sick? what is wrong? let's go deep here

Making a list of books to read this year? How about adding something that's not your normal fare? It's like trying a new food:
  • Maybe you don't normally read science (hand raised here). How about adding a science book to the list? This year I'm hoping to tackle The Evolution Handbook and another book called The Frozen Record, by Michael Oard. The Frozen Record is probably going to be hard to grasp, but like a hard-won trophy, I'd like to add it to my shelf. Years ago I read Buried Alive, which was part gripping account of one family discovering fraud in in the scientific world, and part scientific analysis of very boring skull angles. 
  • Don't read much nonfiction? How about adding five nonfiction books to your list this year? 
  • Try a book about nutrition, travel, or health. Thor Heyerdahl has great travel books. So does Bob Cornuke. 
  • What about adding a Christian apologetics book to your list? What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an, by James White is a fantastic choice. 
  • Haven't read a biography in a while? Eric Metaxas's 7 Men and 7 Women are great books with one biography per chapter to check out. 
  • Not sure what to start with? Ask your friend what their favorite hobby is, and check out a book about it to get started. 
Is there a purpose to reading a book that's challenging, especially if you're struggling to understand it? What if it feels like you're just putting in time, reading words on the page that don't really make sense to you? I think it has a purpose in the fact that it exercises your brain in areas that it hasn't been exercised before. When I only read what is easy and familiar, my world stays tiny. Sometimes the purpose of reading a tough book is not to grasp anything in it, but to practice persistence, discipline, and finishing what can be agonizingly confusing. 

It's kind of like exercise. This month my sis and I started a Pilates program, and it was tough. I'm trying to keep breathing how I'm supposed to while getting used to all these new ways of exercising. It's a lot to keep track of, and sometimes I feel lost. But if I keep on doing it....I get better at it. It doesn't feel quite so foreign after a while. I feel the elation of getting stronger at something.

Exercising the brain is the same thing. 

My next book I'm hoping to challenge myself with is Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi. It might not be as hard as I expect, and I hope it's not. But it's a weight I want my mind to lift. 

I never would have learned Cher Ami's story if I hadn't read something new to me. I'm so glad a friend sent it, and that I had the chance to slow down and savor it at the beginning of the year. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Belated Birthday for My Favorite Fandom {sherlock holmes}

via Pixabay
Sherlock Holmes and I go way back.

I think I started the first story at my aunt's house. Our home library had these delightfully hefty paperbacks (part one and part two) of the Holmes adventures, and I picked one up to bring it home. It felt like such a grown-up thing to be reading them. It didn't take long until I was a dedicated fan. I even put up with the hair tonic commercials on those delightfully vintage Ton Conway radio dramas that came from the library in cracked cassette cases.

It brings back good memories.

After my brother and I were past playing with toys together, we shared the Sherlock fandom for a long time. In my early teens I discovered the BBC radio shows, which made my Sherlock heart absolutely happy. The ones produced by Bert Coules were especially good; he could add extra lines and scenarios to the original stories that were so absolutely, quintessentially Sherlock that I loved them. Ask me about the eggs quote sometime. I listened to those for ages until I went through a phase where any language in books really threw me off the loop. I still don't approve of language in books, but I think I understand a little more of why it upset me so much (ask me about that sometime too, if you want). Even though my standards haven't changed, I think I'm at the point where I'd be comfortable picking them up again.

it's dangerous tutoring at your favorite library

I also went on to the Sherlock Holmes fanfiction novels. We would go into the city where my dad works and spend the day shopping before we hit highschool. At the end of the day we would go to the library, and I would comb the shelves for Sherlock books. I think I even picked up some sort of commentary-type book that pegged Watson as dying just after the first World War. As a staunch Watson fan, I was livid with rage. Interestingly enough, the two authors I liked the most were both women. The other series I loved was Rober Newton's fiction telling mysteries from the perspective of two children who knew Sherlock Holmes. (If you look it up, don't hold it against me. I haven't read them in years.) But the Sherlock fanfiction can be an iffy place to explore if you don't know the author, so I let that fall by the wayside eventually

My favorite long novels are probably A Study in Scarlet (young Holmes and Watson are absolutely Favorite Things Ever) and The Valley of Fear (gut-wrenching, which might Explain Some Things About Schuyler). The Valley of Fear fandom came about from listening to the BBC radio show, which added the Minstrel Boy in for theme music. I also loved The Three Garridebs (even though Americans get a bad rap) and The Illustrious Client. I read A Study in Scarlet the proper way the first time, but oftentimes when I re-read it, I'll start in the middle with all the backstory so I can get it out of the way and enjoy the mystery without interruptions. #protips Last night I read The Final Problem again (can you imagine if that story was released with social media? Trending topic.) I could feel the squeeze of emotion again as Watson closes with his tribute. Also, according to fandom mythology, Sherlock would have been 36 or 37 at that time. Fascinating, isn't it?

A few years ago I stumbled on the Jeremy Brett movie adaptations. This Christmas I rediscovered them through Brit Box. They are everything the old, classic, vintage Sherlock should be. (Though, while I haven't seen the new Sherlock, I'm totally not against modern retellings of a story either!) The fandom, the setting, Edward Hardwicke as a kind and intelligent Watson...While they consumed Brett's life in the making, he captured Holmes so incredibly, so authentically, that I love them deeply. Someday I'm going to spend $60 and get the set.

According to accepted legend, Sherlock Holmes was born January 6, 1854, and I knew I had to do a post in celebration. Yesterday, as I started drafting it, I wondered exactly why I loved Sherlock Holmes stories so much.

with schuyler, there has to be a reason 

I love an iconic friendship that feels real to me. Like it really, actually happened, and Baker Street existed with the pipe and the tobacco and the VR shot into the wall with bullet holes. I love how Sherlock and Watson balance each other's strengths and weaknesses. I love the drama in the mysteries. I love the emotion of friendship, shudder at the sorrow of loss, feel relieved at the joy of reunion. The Baker Street stories are an immersive world.

Beyond that, I don't know.

But the fandom is strong with this one.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Book Babies + Book Review

Over the weekend, I got a special picture with a friend of mine. It's a "book mama" picture--the two of us with our first full-length novels, released within just one month of one another!

It's a special celebration. Amanda and I have been able to chat writing, share coffee shop experiences, watch performances of Beauty and the Beast together, and chat about all things literature and history. She's a multi-published author with Barbour, with novellas ranging from elegant England to Texas towns. 

It's a joy to have her here today, and her novel, My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York, is the perfect book to kick off your 2018 Goodreads reading challenges. 

About the Book

Journey now to Niagara Falls, New York, of 1870 where...

She avoids danger at all costs. He makes his living by rushing headlong into it.

Outwardly, Adele Linley’s trip to visit her American cousins is nothing more than a summer vacation. In reality, she’s the daughter of an English aristocrat with barely a penny to her name seeking a rich American husband.

Having grown up in an overcrowded orphanage, Drew Dawson is determined to make a name for himself. He’ll take any honest job to provide for his sister—even crossing Niagara Falls by tightrope.

On a sightseeing trip to the Falls, Adele meets several eligible suitors. Incredibly wealthy and pompous, Franklin Conway takes an immediate fancy to her. But Adele would truly like to marry for love. When she encounters the mysterious Drew in the garden, Adele is confused by her feelings for someone who is everything she is not looking for. Will they both stay the course they have chosen for themselves?

My Thoughts 

Drew Dawson was a hero I really enjoyed. He's committed to providing for his crippled sister, Hope, and he has obstacles in his way, but even though he lives in the poor side of town, he has an upbeat, optimistic confidence in the face of his difficulties. He's the sort of character you'd want to bring your problems to, because even though he feels natural worry, he doesn't collapse in the face of difficulty. He'll meet it with a smile, a lot of hard work, and gritted teeth in hopes of a win. Drew is an honest, manly, caring friend, and comes across the page so naturally that I'd enjoy knowing him in real life. He makes not only a good friend but also strong husband material, ready to face the challenges of providing for a wife and family. I could picture him so clearly in my mind as a person, and I'm glad to have made his acquaintance. (Also, I think I'd be up for trying tightrope walking across the Falls.) 

I also loved Hope as a side character, and Delany. They were so fun, and they'd be just the type of friends you'd want to have over for a game night on New Year's Eve, or even share the hard things of life with when you need an encouraging word. 

The other thing I thought was incredibly well done was how Amanda carried through on theme. I heard her talk a little bit about it before I read the book, and I really liked the way she put it in her novel. Adele loves to be in control of her life, and the plot shows where her choices lead to, driving big story events forward one after another. When theme and plot in a book are inseparable, that's really good writing. The aftermath of Adele's choices held so true to someone trying to control their life instead of letting God control it. While I don't want to give away any of the story, I thought the progression to harder and harder consequences showed a lot of strength as an author. The story let Adele experience hard knocks and didn't protect her from the aftermath of those choices. It's so easyto give characters an easy out when they sin, but Amanda told the story with honesty and redemption. It convicts and comforts in the best of both ways. 

I couldn't put it down. I even ignored Pride and Prejudice when the family was watching it on the television. I think you'll really enjoy it just as much as I did. I received a review copy of this book from the author. All opinions expressed are my own. You can find your own copy on Amazon, or you can also enter the gorgeous giveaway on Rafflecopter to win a book package, including a bag with real vintage lace! 

To enter, follow the Rafflecopter link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e219c0731/

Add My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York, on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35398269-my-heart-belongs-in-niagara-falls-new-york?ac=1&from_search=true

Purchase on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074V225C2/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

6 Years of My Lady Bibliophile + 2017 Reading List

via Pixabay
I feel like a veteran now.

This last year, My Lady Bibliophile passed the 600 blog post mark. Life has changed since I started. I was seventeen, fresh out of highschool, and the whole world was before me.

Now my time is a little more regulated. But the love for the blog has remained. I am still so happy to getting review books (or buying them myself) and having a chance to percolate over subjects. This site is a chance to have a diary of sorts. My three or four one time journal entries fizzled out, but I can make lists and I can write blog posts, and that turns into a journal too.

I am twenty-three. Twenty-three is quite young, but it feels more experienced. Some of the rough edges have been knocked off over the years. I've come to understand and appreciate things I didn't understand with, agree with, or appreciate six years ago. I like to think it's a maturing. A broadening of perspective that life experience brings.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm conservative enough compared to what I was six years ago. But time, too, will bring more light and change on the things I believe and do now. It really doesn't have to be troubling. God takes good care of teaching his children.

Over these past six years, God has allowed me to keep writing through trips, odd jobs, a season of tough mental health, and a book release. Life brings changes, but this has remained a constant that I rejoice in. I love the friends who have been with me for all six years, and I love the new friends I am discovering.

Last year I mentioned a few goals, some of which happened and some of which didn't. We didn't do the Persuasion read-along, and we didn't do the blog redesign. But like a home with worn-out furniture and mismatched plates, I hope the company has been pleasant in spite of it. We did mark the Reformation 500, though--and one thing I didn't put on the list, but which happened anyway, was publishing War of Loyalties.

I am glad.

So: Now We Are Six. This next year, I'm hoping to read a couple of science books, a couple of biographies, and more childhood favorites that I didn't get to last year. I'm hoping to read some new releases and a stack of research books for War of Honor and the female butler story. I'd also love to dive into some books about Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen Victoria, and Lord Melbourne.

Maybe we can publish a novella about how Jaeryn got his crooked fingers. Maybe we can do a book read-along.

It's all in God's good hands.

With joy and gratitude, thank you all so much for visiting and filling this blog with company and love. I hope this little corner of the web will be an open gathering place of bookish love for many years to come.

2017 Book List

Most of these books are reviewed on the blog (you can find them by searching in the search bar on the right sidebar). And I'm excited to review a very special one (number 51!) on Friday, so be sure to be back for that!

1. The Pilgrim of Hate, by Ellis Peters
2. A Portrait of Emily Price, by Katherine Reay
3. Walking on Water, by Madeleine L'Engle
4. The Shattered Vigil, by Patrick Carr
5. Kilmeny of the Orchard, by L.M. Montgomery
6. The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery
7. No More Faking Fine, by Esther Fleece
8. Old Friends and New Fancies, by Sybil G. Brinton
9. The Book of Lost Tales Part 2, by J.R.R. Tolkien
10. A Time to Speak, by Nadine Brandes
11. Adorned, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
12. The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden
13. God and Charles Dickens, by Gary L. Colledge
14. How Should We Develop Biblical Friendship, by Michael A.G. Hayken and Joel R. Beeke
15. A Time to Rise, by Nadine Brandes
16-17. Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Neiquist (read twice)
18. Enjoy, by Trillia J. Newbell
19. The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley
20. Death Be Not Proud, by Suzannah Rowntree
21. A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
22. Raiders form the Sea, by Lois Walfrid Johnson
23. 7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness, by Eric Metaxas
24. The Invisible Friend, by Lois Walfrid Johnson
25. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
26. Never Unfriended, by Lisa Jo Baker
27. The Maggie Bright, by Tracy Groot
28. Where Treasure Hides, by Johnnie Alexander
29-30. The Lost Girl of Astor Street, by Stephanie Morrill (read twice
31. Outcast, by Rosemary Sutcliff
32. The Lady and the Lionheart, by Joanne Bischof
33. Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
34. The Shock of Night, by Patrick Carr
35. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
36. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham
37. Chasing Grace, by Sanya Richards Ross
38. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
39. To Get to You, by Joanne Bischof
40. The Girl Who Could See, by Kara Swanson
41. Ladies of the Reformation, by J. H. Alexander
42. Wings Like a Dove, by Christina Farenhorst
43. Weight of a Flame, by Simonetta Carr
44. Rescuing the Gospel, by Erwin W. Lutzer
45. War of Loyalties, by Schuyler McConkey (smile)
46. October, by J. Grace Pennington
47. Renee of France, by Simonetta Carr 
48. A Time to Die, by Nadine Brandes
49. Anne's House of Dreams, by L.M. Montgomery
50. Deadly Disclosure, by Meghan Carver
51. My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York, by Amanda Barrat
52. Katharina and Martin Luther, by Michelle DeRusha

Friday, December 29, 2017

Best of 2017

via Pixabay
This year has been a feast of reason. This post, however haltingly, is an attempt to look back on it all.

I read more books than I expected to (full list coming next week). And it's interesting to look back and remember the circumstances surrounding some of them. No More Faking Fine was begun on a night of distressed soul earlier in the year. August found me flipping through the gripping pages of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry while being driven past miles of Canadian fields. The famous trial in To Kill a Mockingbird was read in the family van during a day with morning and afternoon church services. The Blue Castle was read on my bed on a leisurely Saturday.

One of the themes winding through this year was just how much enjoyment I found in modern authors. I love classics so much, but historical fiction like Johnnie Alexander's WW2 drama Where Treasure Hides, Stephanie Morrill's 1920s mystery Lost Girl of Astor Street, and Joanne Bischof's 1800s circus tale The Lady and the Lionheart, provided a wealth of intrigue, character personalities I adored, and quality storytelling that provided much joy as I read them.

And another really cool theme for this year? The Reformation 500! While I haven't featured those books on my list below, Erwin Lutzer's Rescuing the Gospel and J.H. Alexander's Ladies of the Reformation helped me mark the occasion. I'm also almost through Michelle DeRusha's Katharina and Martin Luther--learning about Martin and Katie's marriage was truly a delight this year.

Those things have been mind-enriching and soul feeding. But there was one more cool thing--and that was to add a book of my very own to the literary world. War of Loyalties was a dream come true, and I'm so grateful to have this story and all of my fictional friends inside it available in paperback and Kindle. It's amazing to skim through it all, and hear the reactions of people reading it.

Below, as per tradition, I've done a round-up of favorite book reviews and articles from this year. There are thoughts on adulthood (The Blue Castle), thoughts on truth and homosexuality (A Room with a View), thoughts about Tolkien, about dealing with differing convictions among friends, and a couple of articles about love and The Young Victoria. There are also light-hearted posts about book deals and Schuylock and Hobbits. And there is a journey of thankfulness for the path the Lord blessed with War of Loyalties.

I hope you enjoy browsing through them. And don't forget to keep scrolling for the top books of the year!

Top Book Reviews
No More Faking Fine, by Esther Fleece
The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery
Adorned, by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
Death Be Not Proud, by Suzannah Rowntree
A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
The Maggie Bright, by Tracy Groot
Where Treasure Hides, by Johnnie Alexander
The Lost Girl of Astor Street, by Stephanie Morrill
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Top Articles
Of Frodo Baggins, Temptation, and Community 
How Writing Offers Healing 
How to Buy a Whole Book Series in One Afternoon 
Dr. Who, Beauty and the Beast, and How to Talk to Friends About it All 
Meet Schuylock
A Very Important Update About War of Loyalties 
The End of the Kickstarter Chapter in War of Loyalties 
How to Deal With Shame in Receiving Feedback
Happy Birthday to the Hobbits! 
The Young Victoria: What Young Love Should Look Like
On Queen Victoria and Eligible Young Men
Why Protestants Need to Understand Catholics 
The War of Loyalties Tour {my heart is filled with Thankfulness} 

Nonfiction of the Year

book cover via goodreads

Present Over Perfect

While I haven't reviewed this yet on the blog (thoughts coming January 2018), I picked this book for my favorite because of the amount of impact it ministered to my mind. Present Over Perfect hits me smack in the middle of a workaholic perfectionistic place and draws me back to a mindset of grace, love for the small gifts of life, and what my key priorities are. I've read it almost twice this year (hoping to finish it before January 1st) and while I'll add the caveat that I have some major theological and lifestyle differences with portions of it, the core of its heart is something I very much agree with.

Fiction of the Year

book cover via goodreads
The Lost Girl of Astor street was absolutely everything I had hoped it would be. I read it twice on ebook and found it in print copy earlier this month. The mystery is suspenseful, the characters are so endearing, and I absolutely loved Mariano and Piper's dynamic together. Containing the yummiest sounding pizza in print, it provided so much enjoyment that it's easy to remember this book as a favorite of 2017. I'll definitely be returning again and again.

Author of the Year

Tracy Groot

I actually started The Maggie Bright in 2016, but in 2017 I got my own review copy and read it.Tracy Groot's book charmed me instantly. It's variety of character personalities, testimony to the power of prayer (even through the perspective of unbelieving characters), the hilarious Shrew, and the beaches of Dunkirk all combined to give me a reading experience that captured the core of my fiction-loving heart. Her book is historical fiction just the way I like it, and I enjoyed not only reading it on my own but also reading it a second time this year out loud with my mom and sister. I'm officially sold on anything else she writes.

What were your favorite books from 2017? Do you have any special memories of reading books in certain places this year?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The 2017 Music Playlist

photo credit
For the last couple of years, I've posted a list of favorite songs I've discovered throughout the year on social media. This year, I looked at my list and realized all the thoughts I wanted to share were too long to put on a regular Facebook post--so I thought I'd bring it over here to chat about it in a little more detail.

Sharing favorite music sometimes feels like a vulnerable thing. But I like being honest about who I really am, even when it feels vulnerable. So this playlist is a journey of grief and hope, of tears and creativity, of deeply Schuyler. Most of these songs I get off Spotify, which is a great source for free music, but sometimes where they're on Youtube official channels I'll link to them.

Victoria Soundtrack // "Lord M"--Writing romance is hard for me. I mean, sometimes I can write it, but so far I've really struggled to write it in historical stories. I'm trying my dead level best, though--earlier this year I worked on writing a London murder mystery which required a romance plot. Whenever I flipped on "Lord M", the emotion of this short piece of music took the scene to the next level. So much so, sometimes I put it on repeat while I was writing. Whatever it takes to keep the mood. :)

Also, 2017 was so much better with Lord Melbourne in it. I don't crush on movie characters, but I do love his character.

The Afters // Live On Forever // Life is Beautiful (albums)--While I don't listen to heavy rock music, I do understand the extra energy music can provide when your mind is tired. When I discovered The Afters, I harnessed some of the adrenaline in their music as I was coming down to the final stretch of War of Loyalties. I'd heard one of their songs on October Baby. Their songs encompass what it means to celebrate and joyfully tackle the challenges of life--wonder, adrenaline, and a reminder of our joyful relationship with a powerful God make their music something I love cycling through my brain--like a fresh fountain of water.

Old Church Choir // Zach Williams--After watching the video that went viral with the little girl singing this song, we looked up the original and have been hooked ever since. It's an energetic, joyful song of celebration.

A Whole New World // Evynne Hollens--I never found a song for Terry and Pearlie from War of Loyalties, believe it or not, until I flipped on A Whole New World and realized that this described their relationship to a T. While the ideology isn't perfect, the warm fuzzies it gives me are addicting.

At the Beginning // Evynne and Peter Hollens--This is a song of love and beauty, sung by a husband and wife--it's joyful and romantic, and a piece of inspiration I've culled for a story with female butlers and Syrian refugees.

Nichole Nordeman //Every Mile Mattered (album)--Listening to Nichole Nordeman's CD was an experiment. I heard a couple of her songs and thought I'd like to try the whole CD to find out what it was like. After a sweet gift from a friend for my birthday, I slid the CD into the van player and mulled over the songs. My first instinct was that it was too contemporary. But as I gave the songs a second try, I found the lyrics deeply resonated. They explain what it's like to constantly fight a war with your mind and quest for perfection. They're almost a journal style, talking about the journey life is, and how God's grace surrounds it. "Listen To Your Life" encapsulates what it feels like to live in a busy, over-thinking brain. "Lean" captures how God doesn't need my performance--a theme that also crops up in my local Bible study's journey through Romans 8. Dear Me, the song that first got me hooked on Nordeman's music, is another piece I culled for inspiration for the female butler story, and got the Syrian refugee plot incorporated. I find myself reaching for her CD again and again as I'm driving places.

Danny Gokey // Tell Your Heart to Beat Again--2016 was a year of some familiar things dying and changing. The trauma from it was deep. Danny Gokey's song of fresh hope and a fresh start helped me find some peace with the new normal.

Tenth Avenue North //I Have This Hope // No One Can Steal Our Joy--Along the lines of Danny Gokey, these two songs from Tenth Avenue North provided an outlet for uncertainty and struggle. I love Tenth Avenue North's ability to provide songs of lament through the tough seasons of life.

Celtic Thunder Inspirational // May the Road Rise to Meet You // From the Ground Up--Celtic Thunder released their newest album just after my birthday (perfect timing) and since I'm a Thunderhead, and the songs looked fantastic, of course I got it. The themes of love and family in "From the Ground Up" never cease to give a warm feeling that family is good, and the gentle words of God's blessing in "May the Road Rise to Meet You" are a benediction I love to listen to again and again.

King and Country // Shoulders--I think it was YouTube who brought me across this gem. It showed up in the list of suggested videos, and I finally clicked on it. Again, I loved the theme of hope--of gentle shepherding and strength, which are things I'm always thirsty for.

What a Beautiful Name // Hillsong--Every summer there's a little tabernacle near a lake with padded wooden benches where we go to hear preachers. It's a Sunday of morning and evening services, a picnic lunch, and reading on a pretty incredible beach. Every year we walk in and sit on the same bench (unless someone beat us to it), and this year they sang this song there. I love the third verse--it's triumphant and victorious in a way that makes my heart sing.

The Streets of New York // Celtic Thunder, Ryan Kelly--There's one swear word in the first verse which is quick to mute (you can find the lyrics online to find out where). The rest of it is the perfect Irish song that always makes me think of Jaeryn Graham from War of Loyalties (even though the song itself has nothing to do with his life.)

Try // Mandy Harvey--I don't know much about Mandy Harvey's music, and I hadn't heard of her at all until an America's Got Talent video popped up on Facebook. I was hooked by the young woman who had gone deaf but still pursued her love of music. The golden buzzer moments make me tear up--(the costumes are pretty immodest, thus not good to make a steady diet of) The song itself, though, which you can find on Spotify, is a heartfelt song of struggle and determination.

The Sound of the Saints // Audio Adrenaline
It's another song of joy--it's easy for me to gravitate to the heavier songs, but listening to the joyful ones lift the spirits and keeps things in tune. It's overwhelmingly joyful, and easy to sing along to.

These are some of my favorites from 2017--I'd love to hear some of yours! Any favorite artists, albums, or songs that have kept you company this year?
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