Saturday, December 30, 2017

Favorite Books of 2017

This is always such a fun (and difficult) post to write. I read so many books (at my last count it was 80 books this year) and that means I enjoyed so many books! But, there were some that I loved more than others so I thought I'd share them here. I stuck with the theme most bloggers are and did my top 17 favorite picks! They aren't in any particular order but go from early in 2017 to the end.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Years Goal Planning

Recently, I wrote a blog post for Putting on the New talking about starting fresh in the New Year (you can read it here). As I wrote, it morphed into a more tangible thing for me. It was no longer about writing something in order to convince the readers of something but creating something helpful to use as a tool.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

One Enchanted Noel by Melissa Tagg | RE:View

One Enchanted Noel by Melissa Tagg was truly that: enchanting!

If fell in love with this series from the first novella and am so sad to see it end with this third installment! It's also a great way to get "back" to Maple Valley, a town I have certainly fallen in love with!

In this book, we get to follow the third sibling in the Renwycke family, Leigh. Finally getting a behind-the-scenes look into Leigh's life was definitely eye-opening! I won't say much here but I really loved how real Melissa crafted her to be. Her backstory isn't pretty, but it creates a whole character when pulled together with where she is today. And her quirks and love or organization got me right in the feels! You go girl!

And Seb Pierce...oh Seb. Yet another charming and snarky hero to fall in love with, *sigh*. And a cowboy to boot (pun totally intended!). He's charming but with a realness to his story as well that gives proof that no matter what we've said or done in the past, there is always a way for redemption.

Enter in some holiday magic, a twist of fate (aka: God's hand), and a whole lot of laughs and romantic tension and you're in for a serious treat with this amazing novella!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Young Adult Fiction SALE!

Those of you who know me know I LOVE me some Young Adult fiction! Well, I just found out two amazing things.

1) There is a promotional code for book purchases on Amazon right now (I believe it's the last day too!). GIFTBOOK17 will get you $5 off $15!

2) There are a TON of Young Adult fiction titles on sale right now!

I'm going to link several below - these are all paperback or hard cover. I don't know how long the prices will last but it's worth checking out!!! For some reason some are showing up as more than they are listed for on Amazon - when I added these most were below $10 so make sure you click through to check them out on Amazon.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Can't Get No Satisfaction | Finding happiness in the midst of wanting

This is probably something I'm sure we've all thought about already...but I felt the need to share it here.

Are you satisfied? 

I'm not talking about fake-satisfaction. Like when you tell yourself (sometimes forcefully) that you really should be satisfied in life. I'm talking about really, truly being satisfied in life. I'm asking myself this question too.

The reason I dare to ask this around Christmas time is the fact that there are so many things we can want. From the simple things like wanting a second (or third) cup of coffee or a new sweater, to the more complex things like wanting a new car, a new job, a new relationship... There is so much wanting going around.

Not all of that is bad. Sometimes wanting something new is good and can be a helpful push to get that thing--like working toward a new job or saving for a new car. But there is a type of dissatisfaction that can sink down into our souls and drain us. It's the type of deep-seated longing that tricks us into thinking things will be better if we had something else. Something more.

This dissatisfaction can show itself in pickiness: This thing isn't good enough. I want more of that thing. I'm not happy because I don't have >insert thing here<.
It can show itself in irritability: If only I had that job, that type of relationship, that new car, I'd be happier.
It can show itself in depression: I'll never get what I want/deserve. I hate my life because it doesn't look like >insert someone you envy<. Why be happy when I don't have anything to be happy about?

This is the dangerous type of wanting. The kind that creates a cavernous hole in our hearts that can only be filled by those out-of-reach things. Things that, dare I say, if we had them still wouldn't make us happy.

So, take some time to ask yourself...

  • What is it that I want?
  • Why do I want it? 
  • This is this something I should want? 
  • How can I be content without having it? 

Then, after you've made this list, take time to make a list of all the things you do have. Include some of these things too:

  • Who/what encourages me? 
  • Who is someone in my life I take for granted? 
  • What do I have that other's don't have?
  • Who is someone I know that appears satisfied? Why are they like that?
  • What basic things do I have that I take for granted?

This is no big revelation, many people will tell you to think about what you're grateful for, but you know why? Because it works! It's really hard to want want want when you realize all that you already have. It doesn't change your situation, but hopefully it will change your mindset.

Be grateful. 

Instead of focusing on what we don't have, let's focus on what we do have. Let this season encourage us to be grateful for what we have and to seek out ways to encourage others to be grateful as well. Let's seek a type of satisfaction that goes deeper than things.

What is something you have to be grateful about? 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen | Re:View

Teens in a fight against time and each other. A spaceship heading to a distant planet. A newly discovered race and a powerful substance that may be more dangerous that anyone knows.

Nyxia was an interesting read. I think, initially at least, I assumed there'd be a bit Now, don't get me wrong, the whole thing takes place in space, but the idea that the characters are on a spaceship is encapsulated in the back of your mind instead of something that really affects the plot.

I found the cast of characters varied and diverse (something I appreciated) and the main object of the plot to be pretty simple: make it on to Eden. Cue chaos, back-biting, competition, and a whole other slew of problems.

Emmett, the main character, was tough for me to pin down. I could understand and appreciate his motivation - coming from a rough neighborhood and wanting to do his best for his parents - but he was hard for me to connect with for some reason. Another thing that was a challenge was the pace. While I feel the book started off well and it kept the intrigue for a while, it became a little slow in the middle. It did speed up at the end, and captured my interest at the end.

I would say I could mildly recommend this to those to enjoy barely sci-fi novels or possibly more of an adventure/contemporary with a technological edge? Sadly, I anticipated a bit more of an epic story for all of the hype that surrounded this book and I really wanted to love it...but it just didn't make the cut for me. You may find you enjoy this more than me, which would make me nothing but happy :)

For my clean readers: There is language and one instance/mention of intimacy (that, in my humble opinion, did not need to be in the book at all) though no details were shared. There's also some violence. I'd probably say 16+.

My rating: 3.5*
Purchase: Nyxia

Book Description
(From Amazon

What would you be willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune?

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.


Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Making the Most of Your Time

I feel like every year November and December grow more chaotic. Is it just me? I mean...between trying to write for NaNoWriMo, my own writing work, photography, and then thinking about Christmas shopping, holiday parties, and...well, the list goes's overwhelming.

As I was going to pick up something from a friend the other day I started to think about how much I had to do that day. You know what I started to feel? Sheer panic. I mean, my list of "to-dos" grew by five items just in the space of a minute of thought. And the worst part? I knew there was absolutely NO way I could accomplish all the things on that list. Talk about defeating.

Even worse? I never seem to accomplish my to-do lists. I mean, never. This reality has me ending each day disappointed in myself and feeling a little a lot like a failure. It's like trying to scale a mountain that keeps growing. Or maybe the mountain is made out of sand? Let's go with snow, for the season. The snow continues to fall and you keep sliding back...further and further. I'm afraid that one day I'll stop and look around me and think...I didn't go up at all, just backwards.

After this moment of panic, I mentally slapped myself and started speaking some truth to "inner Emilie". I began to recount all the things I already had done that morning. It was a long list. Then I thought of what I could reasonably accomplish that afternoon. Again, it was more than I realized. And the kicker? I thought about what life would have been like a hundred years ago. I imagined a woman my age and what she'd have to accomplish. Her list was probably something like: gather eggs, milk a cow, make food, do laundry. For the WHOLE day. Forget a trip to the store, forget visiting friends, forget updating her multiple social media outlets...nope, her focus would be on the tasks in front of her and do what she could. Though, to be fair, I'm sure she didn't get everything done either.

That may seem like an odd thing to think of--well, I'm an odd person 😉 But, really, it helped me put a few things in perspective.

We hold ourselves to a standard that is unattainable (most days). Sure, our to-do lists probably look impressive and exciting, but what they are (if not made with reality in mind) is a ball and chain dragging us down to disappointment.
Putting our time in perspective is the only way we'll be able to end the day feeling accomplished.
I'm not good at this, I'll be the first to admit it, but I'd like to encourage you (as I encourage myself) in this season to make plausible to-do lists. You probably can't bake 3 different types of cookies, visit 9 friends, and write three chapters, all while doing laundry, posting on Instagram, and practicing for church choir. Believe me, I've tried this...

Instead, plan out 2-3 things you know you can accomplish each day. Do those things well, and save the rest for the next day. You may not get as many things done in a day, but I've got a feeling what you do get done will be done well. And you'll also end the day feeling much more accomplished.

What about you? Do you have any tips or tricks to ending the day feeling satisfied? Share in the comments below! 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Spread the Christmas Joy - Always

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time you'll know that I always do "Spread the Christmas Joy" here on my blog. I love it - I really do - but I've found myself without any time to organize something like that again this year. At least not in the way I did it in the years past.

Instead, I've decided to do something a little different. I'm going to focus on trying to blog more this month. Like--me, actually blogging! What a concept! I'm not sure what things will come out - some will be writing-focused, some social media posts, and some just thoughts on Christmas this year.

Emilie getting her Christmas tree
Me out getting our family Christmas tree!
As you can tell...I've already missed the first of December! But I think Christmas really isn't about getting things perfect so much as understanding who you are, what you've been given, and how truly beautiful the season can be if you stop and really see that beauty.

I will still do some giveaways this month - I've got some awesome books (doubles of the ones I already have) which means YOU all will get the chance to enter to win them.

But, aside from that, I hope that you'll enjoy this December on my blog. There'll be book reviews as I have time to read, book recommendations from my reading this year, and probably all manner of random thoughts and hopes for the future (as the end of the year always leaves me feeling introspective).

Lastly, as the part of my blog that is MOST important to me--I want to connect with YOU dear readers. I would love to hear from you via email, through Facebook, Instagram, or a comment here. Tell me what you're thankful for this season, what you're looking forward to in this coming new year, or maybe something you're thinking through during this holiday season. I'd love to hear any and all of it. YOU are why I write and why I have this blog.

In the mean time, check out my thoughts about feeling something this season over on the Putting on the New Blog, and have a lovely rest of the week!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Total Christmas Makeover by Melissa Spoelstra | Re:View

Are you looking to "makeover" your Christmas? Maybe you're like me and you weren't really sure what that means, but you know your busyness this Christmas isn't healthy? Either way, this book is the answer.

Melissa Spoelstra set's out to help us "makeover" our Christmas in this 31 day devotional that is perfect to read before, during, or after Christmas with an eye toward assessing our traditions and why we hold to them.

Going in to this book I wasn't sure what to expect but I loved that it said "practical approach" on the back cover. To me, there's nothing better than assessing something practically. Our lives are too bogged down as they are with what Christmas is "supposed" to look like. Lots of busyness, expensive gift purchasing, and a commercialized approach to the season, but Melissa gives another way.

Her suggestions, broken down into easily readable devotional chapters, are both heartwarming and actionable. She talks about how we can assess the things we currently do for the holiday's and focuses in on the fact that the traditions that stay should be those that honor Christ and the true meaning of the season.

I love that at the end of each section there are questions to help you think through what had been said and then a section called "A Practical Approach" at the end of each devotion.

I highly recommend this to anyone looking to dig deep into the reasons behind their traditions and business this season. It's an easy read and worth the time to readjust your focus to the One who truly is the reason for the season.

My rating: 5*
Purchase: Total Christmas Makeover

Book Description
(from Amazon)

In the bustle of the Christmas season, it can be easy to get swept up in all of the things to do. But it’s important to pause and remember that our priority should be to spend time celebrating Christ’s birth and not forget to invite Jesus to his own party.

Christmas is far more than a celebration of an event from long ago or a modern holiday centered around shopping. Mindfully take time to listen to how God continues to speak through the Christmas story as the Gospel narratives centered around the birth of Jesus provide encouragement and revelation concerning the love of God and his wisdom for us today.

In Total Christmas Makeover, author and Bible teacher Melissa Spoelstra provides a practical approach for you and your family to turn your attention toward God’s grace day-by-day as you prepare for Christmas. This 31-day devotional presents key scriptures, ideas to implement with each reading, and questions for reflection to guide you in rediscovering rituals, relationship, and rest to connect you more deeply with Christ this holiday season.


I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Bell Renshaw | Author Chat

It's December and you know what that means? Christmas movies and books ALL the time! I've got debut author Bell Renshaw visiting today and she's just released a sweet Christmas novella (which I got to create the cover for)! Check out her interview below and then go grab a copy of her release (it's only $0.99!) 

Annabell “Bell” Renshaw has always loved books and the power of a good story. She turned those passions toward writing at an early age, finding solace and adventure in made-up worlds when her mother would read to her as a kid. She’s grown up now, but still finds herself lost in those worlds. She believes in the power of a happy ending and the fact that--no matter what--love will always find a home. You can connect with Bell on her website:

Author Chat with Bell Renshaw

What prank would you play on your main character? 
In keeping with the Winter theme, I would probably find a way to ambush Hoyt with a snowball fight. Probably with a bunch of kids from Winter. How neat would it be to see him walk out of the Diner and get attacked by a bunch of children with snowballs!?

If your main characters were animals, what would they be? 
This is a tough question. I think Reba would be a horse because they are beautiful and strong creatures but can also be stubborn. For Hoyt, I think he would be a wolf. They are pack creatures (like how he loves his family) but they are also cautious and protective.

What is your favorite mode of transportation: plane, train, or car? 
While I like traveling by car and plane, I think train is my favorite. There is something very magical about slowing down and taking the train somewhere. I have a dream to ride a train cross-country and write. Fingers crossed it happens 😉

If you could morph two books together, which would you choose? 
Another tough question. I'd love to see a mashup of Sense and Sensibility and anything written by Melissa Tagg! Maybe a 6th book for her Walker Family series. (I suppose I didn't quite answer the question - teetee).

Cats or dogs or both? 

Which of your characters do you secretly have a crush on? 
I think you'd expect me to say Hoyt - and I sure do have a good-sized crush on him - but...I've got to say his brother Beau (the main character of the next novella in the series) is quickly becoming my favorite as I dive into writing his story during this Christmas season (hehe).

What's one thing you would like to impart to your readers about your books and being an author? 
This is my first release so I'm a little new to being an 'author' but I would say that the best part about all of this so far is sharing my little fictional world with the real world. Hoyt and Reba have become dear to me and to share their story with others makes my heart burst. As for my books, I always want them to be encouraging and (hopefully) something you want to share with others. This isn't about "my book" being shared, but more about the idea and the experience being shared. If someone can tell their friend about "this book they read" and then they can talk about it together, I see that as them creating community. That's really big for me. 

One Christmas In Winter 
by Bell Renshaw

Reba Farwell is finally getting a chance to live out her dreams. Sent to Winter, Montana to direct filming for a crucial, on-location shoot, she knows the next two weeks will make or break her career. And she could definitely use a break. As if that isn’t enough, she’s got a secret that none of her crew knows. All she’s asking for is two weeks of small town, Christmas beauty and a little bit of on-camera sizzle.

Five years ago, Hoyt Bradley’s heart and future shattered in one fell swoop that landed him back in Winter. Thankfully, making lemonade—or his father’s famous lemon meringue pie— out of lemons is what he does best. Running Bentley’s Diner has filled the gaps left in the wake of his heartbreak, even if it hasn’t healed him completely. Not wanting to relive memories of his rocky start in the film industry, Hoyt does his best to steer clear of the dreaded film crew, but Winter has a way of bringing people together.

After one fateful delivery and a score of icy bad luck, Reba finds herself in a bind and at the mercy of what Winter can offer. Will she pull the film together in time to salvage her name as a director? Or will the sparks flying off-camera create more of a distraction than she knows how to handle?

Come visit Winter, Montana in this Christmas Novella where the Christmas lights are always on and the snow falls most frequently when loved ones share a kiss.

Purchase: One Christmas in Winter 

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Monday, December 4, 2017

KJV Know the Word Study Bible | Re:View

Including Topic by Topic text, detailed introductions at the beginning of every book, and detailed notations and notes, this study Bible is truly a wealth of knowledge for anyone looking to study through the Bible.

At the beginning of every book there is something that says "How to Study" and then lists the book. I think it's such a fantastic idea because you can go into each book with a plan. It's too easy to look at the Bible of a bunch of verses rather than a cohesive book made up of smaller books. This portion of the Study Bible helps you to understand what questions to ask as well as what questions you'll find answers to in each book.

The next awesome feature is the "Study the Book" portions that break up portions of each book into sections/chapters with notes. For example, in Genesis the first instance of this breaks it up into Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 and talks about how "God declares everyone 'good!'". Including in the books as well are notes which include references to other scriptures in both the old and new testaments.

You'll find helpful, full-color maps, a concordance, and weights and measures diagrams. All helpful to further your study. Plus, the outside cover beneath the dust jacket is also beautiful! (See the photo below).

This Study Bible is incredible and would make an amazing gift for anyone who is already loves to study the Word or who is looking to dive in more deeply. I think the only thing of note is the fact that it is in the King James Version which, (to me) isn't always the easiest to read or understand. I think if you grew up with this version or are very familiar with it, this edition would be perfect for you!


My rating: 5*
Purchase: Know the Word Study Bible

Book Description

Gain a greater understanding of the Bible book by book, verse by verse, or topic by topic.

The study of God's Word can be easy and rewarding if you break down the Bible into easy-to-understand segments. The KJV Know the Word Study Bible offers three easy ways to begin studying Scripture and helps individuals transition from being a casual reader of the Bible to becoming a regular student of the Bible. You can choose to study the Bible book-by-book, verse-by-verse, or topic-by-topic; each path offers powerful insights that will help you develop a daily routine of Bible study.
The book-by-book series of notes leads you through the main points of each book of the Bible. The verse-by-verse notes help you to dig deeper into God's Word. The topic-by-topic articles, which cover 21 theological topics, guide you through a series of insightful notes and give you a thorough biblical understanding of each topic. With the beautiful and timeless text of the KJV translation, the KJV Know the Word Study Bible offers you choices of how to study Scripture and grow in your relationship with Christ.

Features include:

-King James Version Bible text
-Three easy approaches to study the Bible: 1. Book by Book; 2. Verse by Verse; 3. Topic by Topic
-Insightful introductions for each book of Scripture
-Words of Jesus in red
-Beautiful two-color interior page design
-Comprehensive list of theological notes
-Full-color maps
-8-point type size


I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.