Friday, July 21, 2017

The Book Review Programs I'm Part Of

via Pixabay
If you've been around My Lady Bibliophile for any length of time, you know that I sometimes review books that I receive from publishers. I found some of these programs through blog posts on the interweb, and because that was so helpful for me, it might be helpful for some of you as well.

Book review books are really special. They're completely free and can be in ebook or print copies, though many programs are really generous and give you a choice of which format you prefer most. Keeps all the bibliophiles happy. ;)

Many of them let you choose books at your own pace. For instance, if you get a monthly newsletter of options to choose from, you don't have to choose a book from every list--if nothing piques my interest, I'm free to pass by until next time. I generally have to read the book in somewhere between 30 or 60 days, and post an honest review to my blog and an online retailer site (like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.). I also generally post it to Goodreads because I like Goodreads and I like posting there.

Here are the programs I'm in currently:

Waterbrook Multnomah--Blogging for Books 
I've gotten books like Walking on Water and Chuck Black's Cloak of the Light from this group. This blogging program has several publishing groups (Christian, Catholic, and maybe secular, I'm not sure?) linked together, so lots of times I just go straight to the "Faith" tab and work from there, since that's what I'm most likely to be interested in. They also have books by Jody Hedlund and other well-loved authors to choose from. Waterbrook has selections posted on an online website that you can select from.

Bethany House Blogger Review Program
Who wouldn't love choosing from Bethany House? Patrick Carr, my favorite modern fantasy author, comes from there, as well as books by Michael Phillips, Kate Breslin, and my newest choice, Roseanna White's A Name Unknown. They also have nonfiction selections to choose from. Bethany House titles can be chosen from monthly email newsletters.

Moody Newsroom 
Moody has great titles as well--I've really enjoyed 20 Things We'd Tell Our Twentysomething Selves, by Peter and Kelli Worrall, and Adorned, by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Moody has a website and a newsletter, and so many solid, biblical titles.

BookLook Bloggers
I love BookLook Bloggers as well. BookLook bloggers is the program for Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, and Westbow Press, the self-publishing arm of Thomas Nelson. I've gotten so many great titles from them like No More Faking Fine and Uninvited, and I'm always excited to peek around their choices.

Tyndale Blog Network
While I've only requested a couple of books from Tyndale so far, I am really excited about the original, beautiful qualty of Christian fiction I've seen from their shelves lately (June Bug by Chris Fabry and Where Treasure Hides, by Johnnie Alexander, both of which we found at used book sales). So far I've enjoyed Tracy Groot's The Maggie Bright from Tyndale's blogger program, and I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more of their books.

It's really easy to sign up for these programs--all you have to do is fill out an application and send it in for approval. I'm a US blogger, so I'm sure international readership may make a difference with availability, especially of print copies. But it's worth looking into!

Pro tip: It's so easy to forget which day I received a book on, and that leaves me scrambling around for emails of shipping notices and taking a wild guess. One thing I did with my latest book, which I'm hoping to do with others, is to jot down the date I received the book in the front cover, and then I'll know without a doubt. Saves stress. ;)

Have I missed any? Are there other programs I should sign up for? Are there any you'd like to try out from this list? Have a great weekend, and happy reading! :D

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

200 Years of Jane Austen Legacy

200 years ago, on July 18, 1817, the most beloved romance author possibly of all time passed away.

She left behind her six completed novels, two of which were still unpublished. In the two hundred years since then, a plethora of book editions, movies, and Jane Austen paraphernalia has been created. While Austen never married herself, she peopled her literary world with characters that have never left our consciousness. She is forever fixed as an enduring classic.

I first became acquainted with her when I was a young thing. Every Sunday night we would pop popcorn, and us little kids would sit on bean bags a family friend made while we ate supper and had a movie night. My parents brought out the Pride and Prejudice set back when we watched VHS tapes. I met my second Jane Austen movie, Sense and Sensibility, when my dad and brother took a day trip to Chicago. Since the youngest sister was still taking naps at the time, my mom got out that movie and I met Eleanor and Marianne. It was the beginning of a Jane Austen appreciation that hasn't ended since. Our family has seen almost all of the more recent Jane Austen movies (except the extremely iffy 1990s Mansfield Park, and the two Northanger Abbyes). They've left an undeniable fingerprint on our lives, and quotes from each adaptation are embroidered permanently into our vocabulary.

Watching the movies (I should read the books more, but I don't) has given us so many impromptu lunchtime discussions about life and personalities.We've debated over which of her villains was the worst, laughed countless times at Mr. Collin's proposal, and tried to imitate his wave to Charlotte in the Collin Firth P&P. I've taken the character quizzes (always gotten Eleanor Dashwood) growled in wrath over the horrible jabs of Lucy Ferrars, and even recently, thought about the ins and outs of Elizabeth Bennett's relationship with Wickham (that's a blog post for another time).

We've listened to the soundtracks, taken a Jane Austen movie & costumes class, and curled up with the movies countless times for rewatching when we're tired and want something to relax with. If I had to choose her favorite novels, I think I would automatically go for Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey--but if I had to choose the novel that tugs my heartstrings, it would definitely be Sense and Sensibility. The credits music to the 2007 Sense and Sensibility will forever be dear to my heart.

She is a lady I would have loved to be friends with. I can't write like her to save my life, and I honestly don't know a lot about her personal life. But our whole family has been enriched by her fictional legacy, and I'm so glad that God gifted the world of British literature with her stories.

What's your favorite Jane Austen story/movie/moment in the films? 

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Rambling, Friday Writing Chat

via Pixabay
Will you indulge me while I chat with you today? Most times I do a formal post, but sometimes I like to relax and let my hair down, and talk about books as if we were sitting across from the table from each other. So let's pretend we have London Fog in a couple of mugs (because I really, really want to try one) and talk about writing.

War of Loyalties Editing
Lately, I'm curled up in the chair, or on my bed, or in a lawn chair in our backyard, editing. After a few initial tears of terror and despair, the Lord has been good, and I have been happily, steadily working on productive changes to make War of Loyalties tighter and better. I like to think that if nothing else, I've at least kept Spotify in business. This editing process has been different to the others, because I haven't been able to listen to music with lyrics while I work. Celtic Thunder withdrawals have been nonexistent, however, and I'm really excited about some beautiful soundtracks I'm discovering and rediscovering.

Whenever something is going well, my melancholic side always wonders why, and what I am doing wrong. Somehow, the idea of struggle, tears, and hard labor feels more comfortable than the idea of being at peace and filled with joy. I have no idea if those emotions will return during this whitewater rafting process of publishing, but the Lord was reminding me that joy and peace are a gift from him, and I don't have to lash myself into distress. Peace does not equal pride if I am leaning on the Lord and seeking him for guidance. Pride still wants to rear its ugly head, but I want to pray against it, to pray for wisdom, and to pray that this project would be edited so it can bless those who read it.

New Story Ideas
During this editing season, I also have been learning about a bunch of random things that are slowly, cohesively turning themselves into a story idea. (Code named C Story, currently.) I've always been split between writing historical fiction and modern fiction (I really love both). So C Story, whenever it is written, will be modern day fiction. It was inspired by some of the latest American political happenings (full of dramatic fodder, those) as well as--I'm not sure what? There is a moment of tinder and spark that creatives never tire of, when a story is born and the inspiration for it just takes off running in your mind. So a potent combination of American politics, a study on modern-day servants, and lots of Dude Perfect and Peter Hollens on YouTube ended up sparking a novel idea. (You can laugh.)

However, the most tragic moment was when I got a piece of further inspiration for it that I lost. I still don't know what it was. But I was praying that the Lord would help me remember that piece of inspiration, and just the other night, I felt like he gave me something just as good or better to replace that lost puzzle piece. Something more visionary, that I honestly am super excited about. I'm still figuring out the specs of it, but I want this story to be an antidote to a couple of books/movies that have come out in recent years about mental illness+suicide. I hope it will have modern day Dickensian vibes, lots of drama+intrigue, and an in-depth look at a character warring with mental illness. (Plus be about 80-100K in length, much shorter than War of Loyalties and its sequel. Also, I hope this book doesn't have a sequel. I want it to stand alone.)

I am so, so excited about this story's potential. It's the honeymoon phase of an idea where everything is starry and bright and a vista of possibilities stretches out before me. There will be time enough later for the reality of the writing trenches. Right now, I'm just enjoying having something precious to imagine every once in a while, and dream about for the future. Because it's the dreams that keep everything fresh, you know?

This book excites me. It's one I want to start right away, but I'm giving it time to grow first (plus, working on publishing a book, so now is not the time to get distracted.) I bought a pack of lined paper at the dollar store yesterday just to treat myself, and when I'm ready, I'm going to pull out the pink zip binder that saw me through War of Loyalties and probably hand write the first draft of this one. I might even dabble in it on vacations, just for fun. Realistically it'd be closer to 2019 before I could finish the first draft, and the Lord might direct or re-direct by then.

But for now, while I edit War of Loyalties in the lawn chair in our backyard, I let the idea of future things light up around me like the little fireflies that keep me company. Because the writing life is not only about present faithfulness, but also about future vision.

Do you love the moment when a story is born? What story ideas are you working on right now? Is this summer easy or hard in your writing life? Tell me all! 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Never Unfriended, by Lisa Jo Baker


I'm cooking up a post on character observations about Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I've been super impressed with some things I've discovered lately, in company with a book I've been reading about being an adult. But while I do that, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about a fantastic book that's been kept waiting in the review queue for far, far too long.

Never Unfriended, by Lisa Jo Baker.

The story behind the story is just as cool as the book itself. I clicked on an Ann Voskamp post one day and saw Never Unfriended featured there. There were some questions about friendship swirling around in my mind, and I thought this book might have some answers. By the time I scrolled to the end of the post, the pre-order goodies were so pretty, I was sold. So I pre-ordered this book without a giftcard, which is like a red-letter event. And it was totally, totally worth it.

The Book [official description from]

In a world where women can unfriend each other with the swipe of a finger, how do we find friendships that we can trust to last?

As the community manager at the website since 2010, Lisa-Jo Baker has had the chance to engage hundreds of conversations with women about friendship. She’s learned that no one can make us quite as unsure about ourselves as another woman. And nothing can wound as deeply as unkind words from a friend. While we are all hungry for friendship, it’s the fear of feeling awkward and being rejected, left out, or hurt (again) that often keep us from connecting.

But what if we knew we could never be unfriended? Would we risk friendship then?

Starting with that guarantee from the most faithful friend who ever lived—Jesus—this book is a step-by-step guide to friendships you can trust. It answers the questions that lurk under the surface of every friendship—What are we afraid of? What can’t we change? What can we change? And where do we start?—with personal stories and practical tips to help you make the friends, and be the friend, that lasts.

My Thoughts
Lisa has a warm, conversational style that not only gives you a lot of good advice about friendship but also makes you feel like you're sitting in a lawn chair next to her, watching kids play and visiting together.

(I know, I don't have kids. So I'd just be the college-age kid coming over to visit.)

It's a welcoming, mothering book that makes you feel safe and held and cared for. Lisa talks about a lot of tricky topics and gives some really helpful advice. Friendship PTSD. What to do when your friends process in a different way than you do. How to deal with jealousy in a safe way that doesn't end up wounding your friend more. How time heals a lot of things, and a lot of times you just need to hang in there and not give up. How to have a guilt-free friendship that gives each other space when life is busy. How to give the benefit of the doubt. How to be a friend to yourself.

These topics were by turns maturing, healing, and helpful to read about, and the whole way Lisa wrote it made me feel very, very loved. My mom and I have both read this book and enjoyed it. Lisa's notes section alerted me to another book that I think will be helpful and maturing to consider. And I love the beautiful wooden photo frame with printed quotes that came with it. It was entirely worth the pre-order--something that could be called a lucky chance but was not a chance at all. It was an unexpected, happy gift from a good Father, and Never Unfriended is well worth the read. If any of those topics above sound like ones you'd like to explore further, then this book is worth checking out.

(By the way, this isn't a review copy. I just really enjoyed it! You can find a free sample of the first two chapters by giving your email address here, or you can find the entire book on Amazon.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Outcast, by Rosemary Sutcliff

cover via Goodreads
You run out of words for Rosemary Sutcliff after a while.

She is the king's feast of the reading world. Her prose is stunning every single time--and I really wish her books were in every literature program and book list around the world. Not only does she combine moving plots and sympathetic characters, she also has a suburb knack of capturing the smallest details without bogging down in them.

I've already discussed The Shield Ring and The High Deeds of Finn MacCool in other places. Today, we're here to talk about her historical fiction, Outcast.

The Book
When a boy is found washed up on the shore after a shipwreck, a British native takes him into their tribe. But the child is Roman, and some people aren't so sure about this new addition to their community. Grudgingly, they give him a spot amongst them as he trains for manhood. But when hardship strikes the tribe, Beric is blamed as a curse. Cast out from family, friends, and home, Beric attempts to return to his own British people.

There, too, he finds he is an outcast. Kidnapped into a word of slavery and injustice, Beric's chances of finding his place in the world of men are slim to none. Was he born to be shut out from his fellows? And will he ever find a place to call home?

My Thoughts 

Beric's childhood is a really vivid part.  From the time he comes to them as an infant, lashed to his parents in the storm to the time when he is cast out and forces his dog to stay behind. I loved his passion before the fire when the clan men are going to bar him from joining the training with the other boys. Sutcliff starts the story with a gentle, constant rhythm that pulls you in and keeps you turning pages.

Justinius is #charactergoals. He made me cry (reading whilst we were riding in the car) and I love him with all the love. He's manly and gentle and kind and stalwart in the face of duty. For him alone, this book is worth reading, but coupled with all the grandness that is Rosemary Sutcliff, he's the crowning gem in a box of gourmet chocolates.

There was a brief point where I didn't think the emotion was drawn out properly, when Beric had to make a final choice and fight a major battle. I thought the choice was made too quickly, and the battle should have been captured in a shorter span of time, but perhaps that was due to a slightly disjointed reading at the end.

But the end, in all its bittersweet glory, felt just right. If you've read Sutcliff, and like her, you'll definitely want to read Outcast. It's a story of wandering, injustice, and a tenacious hold on life that is not to be missed.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

4th of July Book Sale

Every year on Independence Day, people cook out, watch fireworks, and go to parades. 

I go to the 4th of July book sale. 

no kidding, schuyler. i would never have guessed. 

Last year, I missed our traditional book sale due to an absolutely spectacular vacation--but this year it was back to tradition, and while I normally go with my mom and sister, this year I happened to go solo. 

finding parking, tho. turn signals are important, friends. otherwise you go on windy roads trying to turn around. 

While I forgot the ideal water bottle and sunscreen, I did have a totebag to hold the books. And money. Always money. It's fun when you know that part of your paycheck is going for books. Let it be known I was $1 under budget, which I thought showed Grand Self-Control. 

Seventeen new little paper friends. Here's what I found: 

Around the World In 80 Days, Jules Verne
We only owned this on audiobook, which is terrible because it's such an awesome story. Mistake rectified. 

Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend 
I'm reading a library copy, but it's good enough to have my own. More articles on this book forthcoming. 

The Jungle Books, Rudyard Kipling
I've read book one on Kindle. Now on to book 2. 

Dogwood, by Chris Fabry
We're reading Fabry's June Bug aloud right now, and it's fantastic. An absolutely creative story premise that  I can't wait to find out the end of. I'm looking forward to more of his fiction. 

The Silmarillion, by J.R.R Tolkien
I own a really nice hardback, but I thought a paperback I could use without kid gloves and travel with would come in handy. 

The Dean's Watch, Elizabeth Goudge. 
I've heard grand things of her, and can't wait to dive in. 

Holmes for the Holidays--various
I checked these out from our local library years ago, and heartily enjoyed them. Absolute fun to have them in my own collection. 

The Bourne Supremacy, by Robert Ludlum
Bourne sounds super cool--I've heard of the movies and didn't know they were books. Caveat--I picked this book up because it was $1 and have no clue about its merits or the appropriateness of its content. So stay tuned for a more informed review. 

At Home in Mitford, A Light in the Window, These High Green Hills, and Out to Canaan--Jan Karon
Four novels in the Mitford series. Best modern fiction ever.

Pigs Have Wings and Brinkley Manor, by P.G. Wodehouse 
Unfortunately, I already know the story of Brinkley Manor, which was kind of disappointing because I like fresh Jeeves stories. But tis all right. 

Flame of Resistance, The Brother's Keeper, Stones of My Accusers, by Tracy Groot 
After Maggie Bright, I'm picking up every Tracy Groot I can get my hands on. And Flame of Resistance comes recommended, so yay! 

This is what I'm most excited about....

The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Steadman
Not only is the cover beautiful, but I've heard good things about this novel, and I can't wait to discover it. 

Signing off, folkies. It's been a good day. What did you do for the 4th of July? 
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