Monthly Recap: February 2014

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It’s February 28th, which means it’s time for a recap! February was a weird month for me- didn’t read much, or post as often as I would have liked. I’m looking forward to a (hopefully) fresh re-start this March! Here’s what happened around here during the month of February.

Books I Read:

Book Reviews:
The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen
Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck

Discussion Posts:
Valentine’s Day Giveaway [closed]
Novella Trend: Read or Skip?
Book Lending 101

Guest Post: Jamie over at Books and Beverages interviewed me on her blog! Go take a look! (I also wrote a short post to link readers to her blog)

Favorite posts from around the blogosphere:
Stacy @ A Novel Life invited 6 bloggers to share their blogging advice
Juju @ Tales of Whimsy wrote a review of Dear Mr. Knightley
Rissi @ Dreaming Under the Same Moon reviewed Princess Ever After
Jamie @ Books and Beverages wrote about the debate between e-readers vs. paperback books

Book Lending 101

I learned the hard way that lending books is never a good idea. It’s fun to recommend your friends and family books, but leave it at that. I’ve lent my books on 3 separate occasions and it has never ended well.

I know what you’re thinking, “I love when I recommend a book to someone and they actually read it!”  It’s satisfying to know someone took your recommendation to heart. But, tell them to get it from the library or buy it. Because every time you lend a book, one of two things happen: 1) You never get it back, or 2) you get it back ruined.  This always happens for this reason: other people don’t love books the way you do. They don’t understand how important your books are to you. Especially ones you recommend. I mean, those are the best ones, right? You wouldn’t recommend a bad book, now would you?

Let’s get to my stories, shall we?

Incident #1: A Valley of Betrayal by Tricia Goyer

When I was in high school, I lent this book to a good friend of mine after I finished reading it myself. She kept it for a few weeks, and finally brought it back to me, UNREAD, saying she didn’t have the time to read it. And the worst part? The cover was creased and the edges were scuffed.

No big deal, you say? I beg to differ. I was very upset, for it was a favorite of mine at the time.

Incident #2: Even Now/Ever After by Karen Kingsbury

One of my close friends in college was reading a series written by Karen Kingsbury, so we were discussing her book one day. I mentioned that I had a two-in-one book by the author, and she asked to borrow it. She kept it for OVER A YEAR, and when graduation was quickly approaching and the book was nowhere to be seen, I asked for her to return it to me. Several times. I finally got it back, again UNREAD. And the cover was creased. Sad day.

Incident #3: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This incident is by far the worst. Jane Eyre is my favorite classic. I have read it several times, and even got a special edition of it recently (so nice, a hardback cover with fancy artwork, see here). I lent this book (the copy pictured above, not the nice one) to my mother, of all people. Did she read it? Yes, she did! I was very happy about this. However, I was not happy about the condition in which she returned it. You see, she read the book TO DEATH. Literally. The book was no longer attached to the cover. A very large portion of the pages where completely DETACHED from the spine. Very sad day. (This is my mom. (no hard feelings, Mom. I love you.))

So, let’s review.

I have had three experiences in which I have lent a book to someone and it has not come back to me in the same condition. Granted, I got the books back, but it is painful to see your books look as if they have been abused and neglected.

The moral of the story?

Learn from my experience. Recommend, don’t lend.

Have you lent books to your friends/family? What has been your experience? Share the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Review: Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck

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Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck
The Royal Wedding Series, Book 2
Zondervan, 2014

“Because once you know who you really are, you can’t go back to who you thought you were”(266).

Summary:
Regina Beswick is in the car restoration business, and is loving life. But her life is turned upside-down when Tanner Burkhardt, Hessenburg’s Minister of Culture, arrives with the revelation that she is the long-lost princess of Hessenburg. He has come to bring Regina home, but will she come with him?

My Thoughts:
To be 29 years old and think you know who you are, only to be blindsided by a hidden, yet life-changing truth, must be unimaginable. Regina knows who she is. She is content and satisfied with her life. When she learns that she is a princess, her whole world is thrown into disarray.

Regina is overwhelmed by the unbelievable truth that she is indeed the princess and the only one who can save her country. She is torn between wanting to take her rightful place and the fear of what that would truly mean for her. She is conflicted between the life she knows and the life she is meant to live.

Will she have the courage to embrace the truth of who she is and fulfill her destiny?

The message to embrace your calling can be found in the pages of this novel. When God reveals his calling for each of our lives, will we have the courage to do what he asks of us?

After reading this novel and Once Upon a Prince, I’m beginning to see a series arc that is focused on answering the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” This story may be set in a fairytale-esque setting; however the issues and the life choices the characters are faced with are real. Princess Ever After is a wonderful addition to The Royal Wedding series, but Once Upon a Prince is still my favorite.

Rating: 4 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

My reviews of other books by Rachel Hauck:
The Wedding Dress   •  Once Upon A Prince

Guest Post on Books and Beverages

Hello everyone! Just dropping in for a moment today to share my guest post over at Books and Beverages. Jamie invited me to participate in her Blogger’s Edition of 4 Questions, and I am thrilled to be over on her blog today.

She asked some hard questions that really made me think and reflect on my life. So go check it out, and comment over on the post! I’ll be stopping by to interact with you over there.

And if you don’t follow her, you need to. She’s awesome.

So what are you still doing here? Click this link to go to my guest post!

Review: The Dancing Master

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen
Bethany House, 2014

My Thoughts:

When I read the premise of this book, I immediately thought of ‘Footloose.’ There are undertones in this story that remind me of the movie, however The Dancing Master is able to distinguish itself as a solid novel distinct from the movie.

The town of Devonshire is shrouded in secrets and mystery. When Alec Valcourt arrives with his family, he is surprised to learn that dancing is not allowed. How can he support his family if his skills and profession is unnecessary in this town? And why is dancing not allowed?

But these are not all the secrets that surround the town; these secrets run deep and are hidden from scrutiny. And what about Alec? He and his family seem to have their own past that they wish to keep hidden.

With so many secrets threatening to come to the surface, will the truth ever be spoken?

All the mystery surrounding the town and people of Devonshire is intriguing. The many unknowns of this book are withheld from the reader until the very end, when things slowly begin to be revealed.

Alec’s character was hard-working, strong, and caring. He persevered and was devoted to his family. Julia’s character was reckless and flirtatious. It was difficult to feel for her for a majority of the book. However, Alec is able to see past her outward appearance. He understood that her behavior was a façade, and beneath it, Alec saw her insecurities and her vulnerable heart and cared for her.

The mystery is what brings this story to life. Julie Klassen writes a beautiful story filled with complex characters in this Regency era novel.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

*I was provided a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

Novella Trend: Read or Skip?

Recently novellas have become a popular trend in the publishing industry. With so many novellas and novella collections being released, I thought we could take a look at the trends in the industry today.

What are the pros and cons of novellas?

Pros:

  • The shorter length of the novella allows new readers to be introduced to an author that they have not previously read, without having to commit to a full-length novel. This gives authors the opportunity to gain new readers.
  • Novellas that are written as an extension of previous works or follow characters that readers already know and love have a built-in readership. Readers are often eager to learn more about the characters they are invested in, and novellas give them that opportunity, while also allowing the author to enhance an already established world.
  • Novella collections give authors the chance to collaborate on ideas and form a novel together, weaving a common theme throughout. This also gives the reader a chance to read several new authors together, or even several authors together that they already love.

Cons:

  • Many readers are cautious, even skeptical, to read novellas because they prefer full-length novels. Novellas can sometimes be over before they ever really begin.
  • Certain aspects, such as character development, are difficult to achieve in the short length of a novella. Another aspect that is difficult to achieve with such a small word-count is believability of the plot, situation, and outcome of the story.
  • Some readers question the necessity of these add-ons to what would otherwise be a stand-alone novel. Is this extra information vital/important? Will it have any impact on what will happen in the full-length novels this author writes?

Types of Novellas

Oh, you thought that a novella was just a novella? Nope! Novellas take several different shapes in the marketplace today.

The Novella Series

In the first picture, featured above, you can see the Year of Weddings novellas. This novella series is from Zondervan. Every month, they will be publishing a novella from a different author as e-books. Eventually, these novellas will be published in volumes of Winter, Summer, Spring, and Fall weddings, respectively. Each novella in the series is a stand-alone and is written by a different author, and together, they share a common theme (weddings). To find out more about this series, you can click here to see which authors are involved in this project and what their novellas are about.

Novella Collections

There are also novella collections being published. Typically, this is four authors who each write a novella with a common theme or plot, and together, these novellas make up a full-length novel. This may include the same setting or certain characters making an appearance in each novella within the novel.

The Stand-Alone Novella

The stand-alone novella is an independent story that is neither connected to a full-length novel by the author, nor is it a part of a collection. These are seen from well-established authors who are writing in-between novels.

The Connecting-the-Dots Novella

Yet another way the novella is making an impact on the market is by allowing authors to write shorter-length stories that expand upon previous novels. Some authors are beginning to write novellas that connect their full-length novels together. A good example of the Connecting-the-Dots Novella is Kim Vogel Sawyer. She writes stand-alone novels that are all set in different time periods, yet, somehow, she finds a way to connect them through her novellas. Now, I have no idea how she figured that one out, but if she can do it, don’t tell me it’s impossible! To find out more about how her stories connect, click here to read Kim’s words about the process.

This is NOT an exhaustive list

I hope I was able to give a good overview of the world of novellas, but this is not an exhaustive list. There is so much more out there!

Personally, I choose novellas the same way I choose novels: who wrote it, what is it about, and do I like the cover?

With that criteria in mind, I am looking forward to Jody Hedlund’s e-novella, coming out later this year, which will introduce readers to her upcoming lighthouse series. Authors Sarah Sundin, Tricia Goyer, and Cara Putman also have a Christmas novella collection, titled Where Treetops Glisten, which will be released at the end of the year.

What do you think?

With all that said, what are your thoughts? Pros and cons of novellas? What helps you decide whether you will read or skip a novella? If you are already familiar with the author? Or if the novella is based on characters from a novel you read and loved?

Share your opinions!

Valentine’s Day Giveaway!

Hello, my lovely readers! Valentine’s day is almost here! And in the spirit of the month of love, I’m having a giveaway!

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The two books I am giving away are:

  • The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd
  • The Miner’s Lady by Tracie Peterson

Rules of the giveaway:

  • Winner will be chosen randomly, and will have 48 hours to respond to my email with their address in order to receive their prize. If there is no response, another winner will be chosen.
  • US residents, 18 and older are eligible (only ship to US address in one of the 50 states).
  • No purchase is necessary.
  • Odds of winning are based on number of entries.

All you have to do to win is comment on this post, and you will be officially entered. If you want extra entries, here are a few more ways to win (don’t forget to comment here and let me know about your extras):

  • Share on Twitter or Facebook. You can use this tweet: Want to win 2 books in celebration of Valentine’s Day? You can win here! http://wp.me/p30YfE-pP via @BooksandWindow5
  • Follow Bookshelves and Windows on Twitter

Giveaway ends 2/15/14 at 11:59 pm (PST).

UPDATE: Winner is Mary Koester. Congratulations!

Monthly Recap: January 2014

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Can you believe January has already come and gone? It’s been a busy month, so take a look at what’s happened around the blog!

Books I Read:

     

Book Reviews:
A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist
A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander
The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E Ladd
Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden
The Doctor’s Lady by Jody Hedlund

Discussion Posts:
The 1/2 Star Rating
Are Star Ratings Always Necessary?

Favorite posts from around the blogosphere:
Jamie started a new website, and it’s awesome! Go check it out! (and this, and this one, too)
Leah reviewed Burning Sky by Lori Benton
Lydia’s TBR list for 2014 is amazing!

How was your January?