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Book Review | Death at Thorburn Hall

Death at Thorburn Hall
Drew Farthering Mystery #6
Julianna Deering

Bethany House Publishers | November 7th, 2017
Clean, Christian Fiction; Mysteries; Historical

Drew Farthering finds a new mystery on his hands when he arrives at Thorburn Hall in Scotland for the 1935 British Open. His host, Lord Rainsby, asks Drew to investigate a suspected embezzler--then dies in a suspicious accident the next day. However, the house is full of guests with potential motives. Can Drew discover the killer among them?

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WARNING: Possible Spoilers

{The Basics}
Yet another cozy mystery from Julianna Deering (DeAnna Julie Dodson)!  This lovely novel is the sixth in a series of stories featuring the amateur sleuth, Drew Farthering, and his merry band of friends.  Together, there's nothing their joint minds cannot detect.  If you haven't yet stumbled upon these delicious novels, find the first one here --> Rules of Murder. . .

Drew, his wife Madeline, his best friend Nick, and Nick's timid girlfriend Carrie, find much more than they bargained for at his distant cousin's estate of Thorburn Hall.  They were extended an invitation by the lord and lady of the house to see the 1935 British Open, a golf tournament.  But their vacation is soon interrupted by an unexpected death, and too many suspects, and far too many questions.

Drew is the kind of gentleman who is polite and easy to talk to.  He is extremely observant of events and circumstances pertaining to them, and has a discerning eye when it comes to a person's character.  This aids him in his detecting.  While he doesn't go looking for trouble, trouble always seems to find him.

Madeline is very supportive of her husband, Drew, and is a great encouragement to him.  I love their relationship!  It is sweet and loving, and they are open and honest with each other, even in times of high-stress.  Every couple has their trifles, but it was so nice to see how Drew and Madeline worked as a team, and how they each compliment the other.  (A beautiful example of a healthy marriage!)

A woman makes to attempt suicide, and Drew does everything in his power to stop her.

{Spiritual Content}
While faith is not so obvious as to be thrown in your face, it is quite evident in the actions of our main characters.  Drew and Madeline pray often, and witness to those around them, but not in a Bible-thumping, outrageous way.  They shine the Light by living in the Light.

Mention of characters attending church.  A couple characters send prayers to God for protection or in the midst of frustration or relief.  One character briefly witnesses to another on their hospital-bed, sharing their faith in a simply, honest way.

A man falls to his death riding horseback.  We "see" his body from where he landed and note that his neck is at a grotesque angle.  It was suspected as a tragic accident, but later it is learned that his saddle had been sabotaged.  Another man is poisoned.  Two men are shot in the chest (one lives).

A woman makes to throw herself from the rooftop in an act of suicide.  <-- [SPOILER: She had planned it so she would land on the balcony eight feet below and escape. . .]

(There is an entire subplot underlying this tale, but to explain would give it away.  You'll just have to read it!  It's early in history, but there is much talk and political debate regarding a certain Mr. Hitler and his doings in Berlin. . .)

{Lanuage; Alcohol & Drugs}
None.  Other than the narration stating that a character shouted "foul epithets" in their direction or some such description regarding language that was never spelled out.

Several characters smoke cigarettes all throughout the novel.  One in particular does so CONSTANTLY.  You later learn it's part of their personality and them giving in to unhealthy habits and stress.   A man is poisoned by a wine bottle.  Men share beers, cider, and information in a local pub. 

{Love-y Content}
Madeline and Drew are married, and they would love nothing more than to see Nick and Carrie the same.  Needless to say, they encourage them throughout.  Again, their own relationship is so very sweet and genuine--refreshing to read of in the world we live in now.  They embrace and kiss every now and then.  Nick and Carrie are often seen together, hugging or kissing the other's cheek.  

A woman is rather brazen and bold in her dating a much older gentleman--for show.  Another spoiled woman falls for a golf-caddy and they have brief trysts in the stable. . . regardless that her parents did not approve of the young man.  The scene is never described, we see only the result of it in tufts of hay on the woman's clothing and hair (mainly her back).  [Apologies, but it must be mentioned.  Just know there's never anything vulgar described.  We merely learn of the sin afterward, and are cautioned about such character.]

As usual, this was a great mystery with a twist.  I admit it doesn't take much for me to be fooled and never learn of the actual culprit until it's revealed in the end, but still, I was rather surprised although I should have realized sooner.  I love those kinds of stories! They keep you on your toes and make you want to read all the way to the end.

I've enjoyed every Farthering mystery I've read.  If you are looking for a good, clean novel to read on a snowy day, look no further.  :]

ages 16+

[I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.]

How I Survived NaNo as Just a Participant

December has arrived! And with its coming, my first ever NaNo has passed.  

I did not emerge a "winner," but you know what?  I'm alright with that.  :]  Really! I am.  Admittedly, I'm a little disappointed - sure.  But I am content that I actually WROTE nearly every day (19,657 words total - *COUGH*).  The word count truly doesn't matter.  It's your reaction to the result of your diligence and perseverance at the end of this fun 30-day challenge.  

There were many evenings where I found myself stressing out over the realization that I wasn't going to possibly be able to make it to 50k, no matter how much tireless effort I put into it.  But thanks to my dear husband and his encouraging and uplifting words, I pressed on, wrote on the days I could, and had fun.  What it all boils down to is this: your attitude when December 1st rolls around.  You can either be a complete and utter failure in whether you wrote 500 or 49,500 words, OR you can be a winner no matter your word count.  I speak to the those who gave their best but didn't make it to 50k, but I also speak to the winners who reached that goal and even went above and beyond:
Well done, each of you!!

Did you have fun?  Did you give your best to achieve the goal?  And if you did not make it to 50k, will you continue through this month of December in order to at least finish the first draft?

For me, I desire to finish the first draft of Noya by the end of December.  I find that it assists me greatly to have a deadline to go by - otherwise, I procrastinate horribly and nothing gets done.  Can anyone relate??  BUT my writing is not a top priority as this past month of November has taught me.  What with the completion of a church drama finishing up the first week of November, followed by a two-day catering gig, a trip to New England to share Thanksgiving with my hubby's family, and then caring for said hubby when he came down with a nasty head cold - Life tends to take top tier on my everyday list of to-dos.

Despite reality butting its uber-cumbersome head in my rather peaceful way, I'd like to share three things that helped me survive my first NaNo, even though I did not reach 50k, and what I've learned on this wild ride.

Ever heard of the Five Love Languages?  Well, one of mine is Words of Affirmation (Encouragement).  I don't know where I would be in life without my friends and family, who have encouraged me over the years and expressed their pride and love to me.  The same goes for my writing.  I could not write a single word, or progress any further in a story, without the encouragement I receive from my husband, family, and friends (bloggy friends included!).  I can literally say that's how I've survived this NaNo and not wilted into a soggy mess of tears with a cloud of failure hanging over me.  My husband, Evan, was so gracious to me during those thirty days, especially when he did not fully understand at first why I so wanted to do it.  Writing is a passion and something I truly love to do.  I don't know what lays in store for the future with Noya, but I do know it's not over yet!

Have you ever noticed just how much power words possess?  NaNo may have passed, but life goes on.  As you continue in your story, whether that's editing or completing your first draft, don't forget that encouragement goes a long way.  Are you one who has difficulty sharing your stories with others?  Maybe that's the little nudge you need to plow ahead.  Share! And welcome the feedback - good and critical.  That's what will grow you as a writer.  And what will add to your characters!

Encouragement is necessary in everything.

So. . . Unfortunately, I am one who procrastinates, however unwillingly. . .  This could be with ANYTHING - be it cleaning the shower, reading my Bible and devotions, or making the time to write every day.  I'm not saying that I intentionally procrastinated with NaNo this year, but there were several evenings where I collapsed into bed exhausted - void of strength in fingers and mind to type out enough words to add to my word count.  Other evenings, I would sit simply wondering where to begin next.  I know I wrote several chapters that I may never use in the final draft, but at least I wrote something, right?  "Never underestimate the power of piffle, my girl.  I expect even the strong-minded. . .shan't be able to resist it forever." (Drew Farthering, Death by the Book)

Diligence plays a huge part in the art of novel-ing.  Ask any author!  One must put in the effort and the TIME to see progress.  There may be times where you simply sit and think about the story for a good fifteen minutes before anything finds its way to the keyboard.  To say the least, that happened with me a couple different times.  But if I was patient and allowed my mind to find the will and creativity that lurks just beneath the surface (a writer's mind can be simultaneously awesome and scary), the words came!  I was very pleased on my wordiest day when I wrote a little over 3k on the long, sixteen-hour drive back home from New England.  (Normally, I tend to get a little carsick when writing or reading in an automobile. . . I know, it's a CURSE.  But for some reason, I dished out that many words on the ride and, needless to say, was exceptionally pleased.)  

"Failure is never final or fatal, as long as you fail forward."
- Robert Petterson -

Come November, I set my eyes on the distant, ultimate goal of 50k, but I decided early on (rather, before the challenge began on November 1st) to have a slight change in goal.  And that was to have FUN, no matter the outcome.  Ever since my senior year of high school, when my siblings and I took a writing class hosted by my now-mother-in-law (I do believe God has a sense of humor), I discovered a passion for writing.  I suppose I'd always had a desire to write stories, thanks to my own love for books, their authors, and inspiration to create my own worlds.  But it wasn't until that class that I actually learned how.   Don't get me wrong, I knew English grammar and spelling and all that it entails, but that class was an enlightening, eye-opening one for me.  And it was that same year that the idea for my official WIP, Safia, came to be.  {Thank you, Mama Char, for teaching my siblings and I!}  With all that said, I was determined to enjoy this NaNo, give my best, and see what would happen.  A writer's mentality is dreadfully important, y'all.  You have to know what you desire, see the ultimate goal, and PURSUE it.  I may not have done so 110%, but I did have fun, and am itching to finish my faerietale retelling.

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As mentioned above, I'm hoping to complete the first draft of Noya by the end of December.  If/when that happens, I want to make a point to take at least a month off before beginning the editing/re-reading process.  I believe it would give me the space and ability to come at it with fresh eyes and mind.

With that said, here's what I've learned since starting NaNo:
    • I've learned a great deal more of my characters and their personalities.  
    • I've dabbled with the unpredictable and it's blown the story into a whole new level. . . I mean, things I wouldn't even THINK of putting in a story of mine, I've kind of haphazardly thrown in. . .
    • I've learned in Fantasy, you can do ANYTHING. (Is the vague-ness killing you yet??)
    • I've learned to expound on the point of views of three different characters.
    • I've fallen in love with my Griffin, Baradil. *^ _ ^*
    • I've found the Beast is such a tragic, temperamental sort of character who (I hope) readers will love.
    • I've learned again and again that I still have SO MUCH to learn about this thing called writing.
    • But I've learned to enjoy the entire process.  And I'm not yet done!

If you've made it to the end, I salute you, O Ye Who Has Persevered!  Did you partake in the NaNo challenge this year?  Will you next year?  I hope to, but who knows what life has in store.  For now, I shall be content to write on my own and in my own time.  But what of you? What was the one thing you've learned this NaNo?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. . .

Happy week, y'all!  Talk soon.  :]

Book Review | The Book of Amazing Stories

The Book of Amazing Stories
90 Devotions on Seeing God's Hand in Unlikely Places
Robert Petterson

Tyndale | October 3rd, 2017
Devotionals, Historical People, Mini Biographies

You may have thought you knew the lives of famous people--such as Martin Luther King Jr., Howard Hughes, Mother Teresa, Muhammad Ali, Ronald Reagan, Susana Wesley, and many more. But, in The Book of Amazing Stories, you'll know so much more about Ronnie's faithful church-going single mom and William's early days as a humble shoemaker's apprentice. You'll marvel at how God used the lives of these ordinary people to change the course of human history.

Life makes the strangest sharp turns and, sometimes, U-turns. Robert Petterson--popular speaker, storyteller, and author--has been a student for his entire life of what God is teaching us through those real-life U-turns. In this book, he compiles 90 amazing stories that teach lessons you won't easily forget.

Each devotional ends with a compelling and hopeful take-away--a thought about what the story reveals about life and God.

Be amazed. Be encouraged. Learn the lessons God is teaching through people's lives.

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            This book is amazing.  I learned so much about people who founded the United States of America, others who made a huge impact on cultures, and others whose mistakes we can learn from.  

            Each day features a story about some person in our world history, with facts you may or may not have known about them or their families.  It ends with an inspirational quote or moral to each story, as well as a Bible verse which relates perfectly to each tale and circumstances.  

          Did you know that President Ronald Reagan's mother was a diminutive washerwoman who worked herself to the bone every day to nurture her two sons, and still found time and energy to serve hot food to prisoners in the jailhouse?  Or that a little mousy girl named Agnes, who felt called by God to be a missionary after her mother exhausted herself in finding a husband for her, would eventually become one of the most admired women in the world: Mother Teresa?  Or what about a selfish, embittered general whose name would go down in America's history as synonymous with the word traitor -- Benedict Arnold, George Washington's favorite general?

          And so much more!  If you enjoy history and the people who have made or destroyed it, then you will love this devotional.  Read a chapter a day for 90 days, or as a normal book!  Not all of the stories here are filled with happy endings.  But that is the point of history, right?  To learn from the mistakes and to find hope and faith amidst the losses and the victories as well.

I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  :]

Deep in NaNoWriMo | Beautiful Books

Soooo. . . I've unintentionally been under blogger silence for the past -- er, two weeks?  Yeah.  Basically, Life kinda barged in.  My old home church hosted a drama presentation that my family and I have been involved in from the start maybe ten seasons ago.  It went on over the course of two consecutive weekends, and lemme tell ya: we were exhausted by the time it was past.  And even afterwards, my sisters and I did not find any time to rest due to a catering job the following Monday & Tuesday.  But both the drama and the catering gig went extremely well.  Lives were changed, God is good, and the food awesome as usual.  :]

And here I am today!  Enjoying my one out of two days off from work at the office, cleaning house, catching up on laundry, and OH YEAH 

We are basically HALFWAY THROUGH NANO, guys.  Halfway through November!! Thanksgiving Day is just over a week away, and Christmas is practically around the corner.  O_O  Did you sign up for the chaotic insanity marvelous challenge of NaNo?  I did!  And, while I'm not quite up to par on my word count, I've had a blast writing every day.  (Why don't I actually do the writing thing without the accountability of story challenges?  Oh yeah, I 'spose it's because I'm a kind of procrastinator. . . heheh)

Well, today, I'm jumping into the link-up hosted by Skye and Cait:  Beautiful Books!

Read on if you are interested in my faerietale retelling titled Noya.  Hopefully, you'll regret nothing.  :]

Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?
          I would say I'm doing quite well all considering.  In signing up for NaNo, I was completely unprepared & last minute.  But this is so the challenge I needed in order to get somewhere with my story.  As to the story itself, it's progressing.  And surprising me along the way.  I keep having these ideas of throwing in random stuff/things that I would NEVER think of doing ever.  Maybe I'll go along with it, or maybe not.  Still not sure at the moment.  My goal right now is to write as much as possible.

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?
          Wellllll. . . Technically, the following paragraph is the first I've written beginning with NaNo.  But this story was in my head, and already underway, when NaNo began, so it's not the FIRST sentence/paragraph.

          Noya stole away to the shoreline. Part of her was excited at the thought of a new adventure. But the more logical, practical side of herself felt rather frightened and sad. Meyrn was the only home she had ever known.

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?
          Oh my.  I love Noya, of course, as she's the MC.  But I've attempted to flesh out some minor characters as well.  With the exception of Noya, we read from the point of view of two other characters: the Beast, and one of her brothers -- Brom.  I LOVES Brom.  He's like the older brother I never had. But the Beast's character is growing on me as well!  He's gonna be one of those sarcastic, temperamental guys. . .

          With a growl he had not intended, he gestured for her to follow, “Come.”
          Spinning on his heels, he walked ten paces before he turned to find her standing stock still. Excellent. He'd frightened her. Again.
          “Come,” he tried again, this time hoping his voice sounded a great deal softer than it felt. She followed, much like when she had first arrived. Like an obedient little pup.
          What was wrong with him?
          Oh, that's right. He was no generous host with a gift for hospitality.
          There was only a Beast.

Oh-ho-ho!  Such horrible self-pity this Beastie has.  *cackles*  Can't wait for the redemption! 

What do you love about your novel so far?

          It's my own personal retelling of my all-time favorite faerietale, Beauty & the Beast.  'Nuff said.

Aaaaaaaaannnnnnnddddd. . . it's pure Fantasy!  With ELVES.  And Griffins.  And maybeeee a dragon. . .

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?
          Oh yes!  But I'm usually pretty good at catching them before continuing too much further down the written road.

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?
          Wow.  I've never really thought about this. . . (Probably because I've never actually completed a story. . .)  I'd have to say the Middle, because it's usually chock-full of juicyness.  Right smack in the middle of the action and what characters are made of.  Am I right?  But I also enjoy writing the Endings.  Simply because they have the triumphs, redemption, and peace that the characters lived, died, sweated, and bled for -- making it all worth it in the end.

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!
          I try to keep my water on hand.  And my browser ready, just in case I need a Pinterest visual of a character, place, building, etc. And then I try to exit said Pinterest as quickly as possible to continue my story and pursue the goal of upping my word count for the day.  Not really any specific snacks, although Reeses peanut butter cups have been my one weakness as of late. . . 

          The only time I've found best for me, on the days I work especially, has been in the evenings.  I take from 8:00-10:00pm (and sometimes till 11:00) to write as much as possible.  If I don't get my sleep, I'm basically a sloth come the morn. . . (Plus, I have a hubby now who also needs his sleep.  Though there have been nights where he'll stay up reading while I write, and I'll finish up, snuggle under the blankets, and he's STILL reading.  It's nice to have a man who enjoys his books as much as I!)  :]

          No photo. . . Sorry.  But I usually crash on the couch.  Hmmm. . . no music either, really.  I get distracted way too easily.  But when I am in the mood, I'll pull up YouTube movie soundtracks.  How to Train Your Dragon is a fave for writing anything

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?
          I definitely need encouragement.  And my hubby has been just that.  As well as my blogger/writing buddies!  Couldn't do it without y'all.  Seriously.  One of my love languages is Words of Affirmation.  If I didn't have your encouragement, I'd be a wailing mess.

          Regarding privacy. . . Well, I used to be very secretive with my stories.  It was hard to share with my family what I was working on, because I was afraid of what they might think.  But over the years, that has changed and I crave the feedback!

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?
          My ultimate goal:  PUBLISHING.  I don't know when it will happen.  I don't really know IF it will happen.  But that will always be my goal.  My life has taken on many new and exciting chapters, and who knows exactly what's to come?  I've found that when the words are tough in coming, and I would rather just lay down and read or surf the web, I remind myself of my current goal of reaching 50k and then the ultimate prize of publication.  Others have accomplished this.  Why can't I?? 

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?
  1. Have fun.  No matter what!  I've had to remind myself to do this.  Even if, by the end of November, my word count is quite a bit under 50k, I want to be able to say I've had a blast and my story has progressed considerably.
  2. Aim high & aim for the goal.  There's no shame in reaching for the high expectations.  But there is in how you react regarding whether or not you've made it.  I don't want to consider myself a complete failure if there's not 50k words written by November's end.  But if I aim straight for it, and give my best, then I can say with all my heart, "Well done.  That was great fun!"
  3. Go for the unpredictable.  Try it!  That's what makes a great story.  No need to explain further. :]

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So.  How's your NaNo progressing??  What are your personal writing goals?  Are you participating this year?  And if so, what is your story about?  I welcome comments!

Oh & by the way, what do you think of this new design??
I know I've changed designs rather recently already, but the other one just had too many glitches I couldn't think straight.  Extremely pleased with this one.  Thank you, Etsy!