Friday, December 13, 2019

Holiday Book Buying Guide - Non-Fiction

Time to wrap up this series! I'm not traditionally a big non-fiction reader, but thanks to listening to a lot of audiobooks as I exercise, I've broadened my horizons quite a bit in the last year. 😀 And since we all know those people who only read non-fiction--or just those who enjoy it in addition to fiction--of course we need some ideas on books to buy for them too!

Love Does and Everybody Always
by Bob Goff

Love Lives Here
by Maria Goff

I'm listing all three of these together because I love the full picture they give you together. I read the first two of these last year, but I didn't get around to listening to Love Lives Here until this year. All three are high on my list of recommended reading! The Goffs have done some amazing work, and more, they have an amazing outlook on what it really means to walk in Christ's love. I'd call them life-changing for sure. They're all written with wit and humor, but they convey some of the most series messages we'll ever hear--that loving others as Christ loves us isn't optional, and when we do it, we change the life at a time. READ THESE BOOKS. And they make fabulous gifts!

Love Does
Everybody Always

 Big Magic
by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is not a Christian book. Just stating that upfront. There's some language in it, and some of the ideas are decided not Christian. That said--it's an amazing look at creativity, and one I'd recommend for artists of any sort. The title comes from the idea that there's something she calls literally-magical about ideas--the way they move from person to person, insisting on finding an outlet at a given time. Ever notice how people have similar book ideas, even though they've never talked? Or movies? Yeah, that's the "big magic" she's talking about. I left this book with some new takes on the creative process and its place in the world that I know are going to stick with me. Really great read (or listen).

All these^ non-fiction books by C. S. Lewis

How's that for a title? LOL. Seriously, we bought this box set of C. S. Lewis's non-fiction that includes The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, A Grief Observed, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, Abolition of Man, and The Four Loves. I've read about half of them thus far and am fully convinced that Lewis was one of the most brilliant thinkers of the last century (not that this is news to anyone, of course...). This box set, available from various retailers in the $25-40 range, would make a fabulous gift for anyone who enjoys theology/philosophy books in general, but they're also super approachable for people like me who usually prefer fiction! Lewis has a very accessible writing style and is clearly talking to everyday people, not seminary students. Highly, highly, highly recommended.

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War
by Joseph Loconte

Fans of J. R. R. Tolkein, C. S. Lewis, and history in general will enjoy this look at how these two men were not only shaped by their experiences in World War One, but how they, unlike most of their contemporaries, took those experiences and let God use them to draw them closer to Him and end up shaping generations of people through their books. I loved learning more about how these two became friends and encouraged one another, and also to see how faith played a role in their lives. I'd never really examined the backdrop of their writing--a world that had gone cold to religion after the horrors of the Great War--but this book painted it for me in vivid light. I read it primarily as research for the world in which my books are set, and also because I admire both men as writers. It was a fascinating read.

Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science 
of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life
by Rory Sutherland 

My husband had heard about this book as a great one for studying marketing, and he enjoyed it so much that I listened to our audio version too--and loved it. If you're involved in any sort of business, this is a fantastic read about thinking outside the box when it comes to marketing and promotion. It's full of practical advice and tons of real-world examples and, best of all, filled me with ideas as I was listening to it. And that's the sure sign of a good book on this subject! I really enjoyed listening to the audio version, read by the author, as his personality and dry English humor come shining through. I am SO a fan of that, LOL. Definitely a fun one for anyone looking for some fresh ways to bridge the gap between consumer and seller!

How to Win Friends and Influence People
by Dale Carnegie

This is my most recent read (or listen, as the case may be) in non-fiction, and I find myself thinking of its precepts ALL THE TIME. The idea of this book is to revolutionize the way we interact--specifically in the workplace, but it applies to family life, church life, and pretty much every other place we find ourselves dealing with other people too. This is an old book, originally published in the 1920s, but it's been updated a bit here and there with some added modern examples. I absolutely loved every minute of it and plan to read it out loud to my kids in the next year, because it's full of life-lessons that just can't be beat. I find myself thinking constantly now about how I can change my approach to people to better communicate with them. This is really a must-read for everyone!


Rachel's Picks

The Brave Art of Motherhood: Fight Fear, Gain Confidence, and Find Yourself Again

by Rachel Marie Martin

I am not a huge fan of nonfiction typically. But this book really got me. SO many important and incredible insights, encouragement, and truths. Definitely recommend it to all moms!

Memory Making Mom
by Jessica Smartt

This book is INCREDIBLE! I love LOVE traditions and making my home and family come together and make memories together. And I really appreciate that Jessica emphasizes that we don't need to do EVERYTHING suggested...but to try 1 or 2 things and go from there. check it out! Because it's incredible!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Holiday Book Buying Guide - Contemporary Fiction

Time to get back to book recommendations! This week I want to focus on contemporary fiction, and then I'll wrap up the series on Friday with non-fiction.

Contemporary Fiction

Hold the Light and Shine the Light
by April McGowan

The second of these books released last spring, and while you could read them independently, they're related, with best friends for heroines. Each book tackles hard subjects, but in a way that shows how God really shines through them. In Hold the Light, Amber is an artist who learns she's losing her eyesight. What do we do when everything we thought was important is stripped away? Paired with a beautiful love story, this one was one of my favorites--so when April said she was writing best-friend Shannon's story too, I couldn't wait! And was totally blown away. Shine the Light highlights the homeless problem that Portland faces in a way that shows love along with reality, and also touches on PTSD and mental health issues. Most of all, though, they're just fabulous stories with characters so real you'll think of them at odd times forever after!

Hold the Light
Shine the Light

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations and Weddings, Willows, and Revised Expectations
by V. Joy Palmer

Oh. My. Gracious. If you need a good laugh, look no further than these books! Gilmore Girls meets Say Yes to the Dress in these wedding-themed, snarky-voiced contemporary romances full of coffee addicts and potato-chip-obsessed heroines, and the men lucky enough to snag their hearts. The heroines are all best friends and roommates, so it's super fun to follow them into "their stories"--In book 1, Izzy is a bridal consultant in her aunt's bridal salon; in book 2, we actually get two romances as twin sisters Apryl and Courtney (reluctantly) accept the challenge of reviving their beloved grandmother's antique shop, giving it a wedding-venue focus. So. Much. Fun!

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations
Weddings, Willows, and Revised Expectations
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | READ

The If I Run series
by Terri Blackstock

This series actually finished up in 2018, but they remain some of my absolute favorite romantic suspense novels EVER, and the fact that you can buy the whole set makes them perfect for gifting. =) The storytelling is stunning, action-packed and thrilling, and the character development just left me thoroughly impressed. It's hard to make the "romance" element as strong as I'd like it to be in romantic suspense novels because of how much action there is, but Terri Blackstock did a stellar job, building it over three books. Love these stories!!

Mind Games
by Nancy Mehl

This has to be one of the most unique reads of my 2019. The premise is that our heroine, a young FBI profiler, is the daughter a serial killer who was caught when she was a child. Needless to say, she has a few issues--and a burning need to catch others like her father. She's legally changed her name, but her family's past seems to be catching up to her when a new serial killer emerges and is pointed directly at her. A serial killer who clearly knows who her father was. Definitely a must-read!! The next book in the series just came out, and it's my January book club read. I'm so looking forward to it!

A Secret to Die For
by Lisa Harris

This was another romantic suspense that left me thoroughly impressed. Lisa Harris writes a savvy heroine who holds her own against the bad guys she kind of inherits--she's a psychologist, and one of her patients turns up dead...and has left her in possession of what the bad dudes are after. In addition to great characters, the plot of this one seriously makes you think.

Rachel's Pick

Bradford Sisters Series
by Becky Wade

Sisters! Each with a challenge to overcome, a charming (and swoony) hero, hidden secrets, faith, redemption, and LOVE! Becky Wade's series swept me off my feet and I am so in love with this family! There is even an accompanying Christmas story!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Word of the Week - Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Today's Word of the Week--a revisit of a post from 2014--is less a word and more the etymology of a story. Because my kids asked me after I went through the original St. Nicholas story with them, when Rudolph came about, and I had no clue.

As it turns out, our beloved reindeer was an invention of a writer named Robert L. May, who was hired by the Montgomery Ward company to create an original piece of work for their annual children's coloring book. May devised Rudolph in some opposition. The publishers didn't like the red nose idea. Red noses were associated with drunkards, which certainly wasn't the image they wanted to portray. But when May had his illustrator friend create a cutesy deer character (they decided actual reindeer weren't cute enough so went with a more familiar-to-Americans white-tailed variety) with a beaming red nose, the powers-that-be relented--and the story took off to amazing success. The original poem was written in the meter of "The Night Before Christmas."

The song we all know and love was written a decade later, by the author's brother-in-law. It remained the all-time best selling album in the country until the 80s!

The stop-motion animation version that I grew up thinking was the only Rudolph story worth watching, LOL, came about in 1964. Though very popular, this movie apparently doesn't stick very accurately to the original poem. Which now makes me want to look up the original and see what's been changed!

So there we have it. Our history of Rudolph. 😀

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thoughtful About . . . Written on Our Lives

A couple weeks ago, my church watched Mom's Night Out--a rather hilarious Christian movie that we all thoroughly enjoyed. In one scene, the heroine's little girl is drawing on the walls with markers--Mommy ends up putting frames around some of them rather than painting over them, which was adorable.

The next day, as I thought about that scene, my mind traveled back to my own days of small children and wall art. I honestly thought we'd escaped the writing-on-the-walls danger with Xoe--never did she do such a thing when she was young enough not to know better.

Then we started teaching her how to write.

For months afterward, we'd find her name scrawled on EVERYTHING. Walls. Counters. Cabinets. Dressers. Toybox. She would just walk around with a pen in her hand and put her name on absolutely any surface she found.

As I remembered those days, I smiled. Not because it was so funny at the time. But because as I thought of it, I also thought of that command God gave us--that His law should be written on our hearts.

Have you ever wondered what that should look like?

I think it looks a lot like a five-year-old with a pen in her hand and new knowledge filling her. Everything we touch, everything we see, everything we encounter should be a new opportunity for sharing that knowledge. For practicing the faith. For reveling in all He's given us. Every blank surface should be an opportunity for showcasing how much we love Him.

If His word is written on our hearts, then we should also be scrawling His glorious name all over our lives.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Word of the Week - X-mas

1922 ad in Ladies' Home Journal

Advent is upon us, so I figured I'd go back to my practice of sharing holiday-themed words each Monday. I think I've used pretty much all of them at some point or another, but I'll try to highlight ones I haven't looked at in a while, at least! This one I originally shared in 2012. =) (And if there's one you're curious about and want me to look up, just let me know!)

I remember, as a child, writing stories and assignments for school around this time of year and occasionally using the abbreviation "X-mas" for Christmas. I remember teachers telling me not to use abbreviations in my assignments, and I remember someone else (can't recall who) telling me not to use that one for Christmas because it just wasn't right to take Christ out of Christmas (or something to that effect) and replace it with an X.

So in my middling years, I refused to use it, thinking it somehow mean to Jesus...then later I actually learned where it came from. 

Pretty simple, really. The Greek word for Christ is Χριστός. You might notice that first letter. Our X, though it's the Greek "chi." No paganism here, no dark, dastardly scheming to remove Jesus from his birthday. Scholars started this as a form of shorthand. The first English use dates to 1755 in Bernard Ward's History of St. Edmund's College, Old Hall. Woodward, Byron, and Coleridge, to name a few, have used it to. And interestingly, similar abbreviations date way back. As early as 1100, the form "Xp̄es mæsse" for Christmas was used in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

So. It's still an abbreviation and oughtn't be used in formal writing and more than w/ or b/c, but it's also perfectly legitimate as what it is. Always nice to discover something like that. =)

Friday, November 29, 2019

Black Friday & Cyber Monday Should Mean BOOKS!

Do you brave the crowds for Black Friday shopping? I've done it a few times, but I admit it--I'm not a shopper. I hate crowds, and I'm not a browse-until-you-find-something-for-someone kind of girl. I'm instead a think-of-exactly-what-you-want-and-hunt-it-down kind of girl. Which means the online shopping options suit me really well. 😉 I do especially love that I can support small businesses online, so I love the Cyber Monday thing.

So of course, now that I have stores of my own online, I want to offer deals. 😀 Especially since I'm a firm believer in BOOKS AS GIFTS!!!!! (Why yes, that DOES deserve capitals and exclamation points, LOL.) And, just sayin', signed books make especially great gifts in my humble opinion.

If you have books on your to-buy list this year, please feel free to use these coupon codes!


20% Off + Free Shipping on Orders over $50
Coupon Code: Christmas2019


 20% Off + Free Shipping on Orders over $50
Coupon Code: HollyJolly2019

Don't forget that READ offers gift cards too!
And we're super excited to announce membership subscriptions at READ!

Join now and you'll get to choose 2 of these FIVE options for the December e-books, including my Giver of Wonders!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since it's Thanksgiving week, I'm taking a break from normal blogging (and focusing on getting A Portrait of Loyalty, the last book in the Codebreakers series, revised and turned back in). But first I wanted to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving!

This year has had its challenges (they all do, right?), but I have so many things to be thankful for. For a God whose grace and mercy go so far beyond anything I could comprehend. For a family that is full of love and sarcasm (which I adore, LOL). For the continued opportunity to write and publish.

I also just want to say how grateful I am for those of you who read my books and my blog. It's been about a year since I began sending out my blogs in my newsletters each week--it was totally an experiment at the time to see if it would work, and I've been blown away by you guys. 

Sometimes we writers feel like we're just typing words into a vacuum. That they don't really matter, that we're isolated and alone. But every week I now get replies to the words. Replies that let me know I'm still writing for a purpose beyond my "have to." So thanks. Thanks for inviting me into your inbox. Thanks for actually taking the time to read what I've written. Thanks--SO MUCH--for taking the time to reply. Every time you do, you light up my day. Seriously.

On Friday, I'll be posting a coupon code to my store AND to WhiteFire's store for Black Friday / Cyber Monday, so if you've got books on your shopping list, be sure to check out those coupons! And have a Thanksgiving full of, above all, the awareness of who God is and His incredible love for us!

What are you especially thankful for in 2019?