Monday, November 26, 2018

A Timeless Christmas by Alexis Stanton

This is my first book review for Hallmark Publishing and for this author. I’ve been looking forward to checking out their fiction.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Megan Turner is in love with the past. As a tour guide at a beautiful historic mansion, she tells visitors about its original owner, Charles Whitley. An inventor and businessman in the early 1900s, he rose from poverty to wealth…only to disappear without a trace.
Charles was always intrigued by the future. He just never expected to go there. But when he repairs a mysterious clock he bought on his travels, he’s transported to the twenty-first century, with his home decorated for Christmas and overrun by strangers.
Charles is determined to find a way back to his own era, especially when he learns about what happened after he left. But as Megan introduces him to the wonders of smartphones, pizza, and modern holiday traditions, they both feel a once-in-a-lifetime connection. Could it be that, somewhere in time, they belong together?

And now, my review:

I liked the premise for this story and the mansion location. I loved that it was set at Christmastime, when we can more readily accept a magical element. And I appreciated that this was published by a company that produces wholesome entertainment.

I was willing to suspend disbelief as I began this time-travel romance. But then there were some issues with the writing quality, especially the plot and the characterization. The hero too easily resigns himself to remaining in the future, which felt contrived for the sake of story. He doesn’t immediately try to get back, which would have been a logical longing (and goal) for him to have. Also, he’s selfish and unlikable. He doesn’t do anything noble, doesn’t take any steps in the first few chapters to help someone else or even consider someone else. I didn’t find him layered enough to see him as real or sympathetic. He came across as whiny and smug. Those elements would have been excusable if he’d been noble for even one moment in those opening chapters. Readers get that a character can be a mess in the beginning, and we hope for a satisfying character arc, showing how s/he changes. But we need one redeemable quality to help us care what happens to him/her so we keep reading.

So, I focused on the heroine’s journey. But her story line felt contrived as well. She too readily accepts his presence. She comes across as juvenile. I found her introspection telling, which meant I didn’t feel the emotions she felt. She wasn’t layered, so I couldn’t bond with her or relate with her. It felt contrived that she explained some elements of this future world to him, but not others. This read as author oversight. It’s logical that the hero would wonder about everything, rather than accepting most of it. The heroine believes he’s an actor, and she’s playing along. That premise wasn’t always adhered to, which felt contrived as well.

The premise here was promising, but the story didn’t hold my interest. I wanted to lose myself in it, but between the characters and the inexperienced writing, I couldn’t. 

All that said, I wish this author and publisher well. I’ll definitely try other books in the future as I enjoy Hallmark Christmas movies. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

MBI Blog Tour, Stop #11: Feeding our Creative Side

Welcome to Mountain Brook Ink's 2018 Holiday Blog Tour! We're so excited you've decided to join us on this journey of family, friends, traditions, and memories over the next month. You as our reader have done so much to pour into our lives, and this season we want to give back to you with insights into our lives and some giveaways. The more days you follow, share, comment, and engage with us, the more entries you'll have toward a Kindle Fire Grand Prize or one of three Amazon Gift Cards! (See below for the giveaway link!)

Annette crafting
Today, it’s my turn. Welcome to Net's Book Notes! My name is Annette M. Irby. I'm a writer, editor, and book reviewer. I'm also a creative. Let's get to it!

I don’t know about you, but the holiday season inspires me. I can still remember finger painting a harvest pumpkin during a fall elementary school class. I might have been in kindergarten. What fun to be covered in a smock while I dipped my fingers in the orange paint and spread the goopy color on the page. I can still feel it. Crafting is a tactile experience. It’s also a spiritual experience for me. 

Long ago, as I was pushing my daughter’s stroller home from the library, I found a flower petal next to the sidewalk. I wasn’t too familiar with pansies yet, but I knew I liked the colors on that petal. I saved it and during my daughter’s nap or playtime, I pressed the petal to a sheet of linen paper and inscribed a Scripture to the page to make a bookmark. I used laminating paper to hold it in place. I still have that bookmark somewhere. The petal never faded! 

Pansies on fall leaves
One of my Facebook friends, who is also a fellow writer, has written a book called Soul Care.* It’s non-fiction and addresses how we can become burned out in life from working hard without resting enough. She includes devotionals and craft ideas for letting ourselves relax and enjoy creating art. I’d lost touch with that part of myself. Lately, as I’ve been working through the book, and watching her online class, God’s been reminding me of that creative side.

I’m a journaler, and I created a journal just for this class. I can record what I’m thinking, what I’m creating, answers to her book’s prompts, and lists of ideas. 

Are you a creative person? 

One of the tabs in my journal is a list of Personal Permissions. On that page I list the areas that need to be addressed so I can give myself permission to be creative. Let’s say one of them might be: It’s okay to take time for creativity. Later, as I walk to the bus there are fall leaves on the ground. In my rush to get to the work I must accomplish, I could scurry right past. But in this season, I’ve been giving myself permission to slow down, notice the colors. Even—gasp!—pick up a leaf and bring it home. Once there, I take pictures of it, or lay it under paper, use a chunk of chalk and do a rubbing, or trace it. I wasn’t giving myself permission for those “silly” activities until lately, and you know what? It’s so exciting! There’s nothing silly or wasteful about it. I’m finally feeding, again, that part of myself that feeds the rest of myself.

Now, I take pictures or create art without (as much) guilt. ;)

Do you give yourself permission to tend to your soul?

Feeding our souls is not a silly endeavor. It’s not nonsense or childish. It’s necessary. And you can gather supplies at the dollar store, so it’s doesn’t even have to be expensive. Our local dollar store carries pads of paper, stickers, markers, glitter, paints, party favors (for decorating the page), etc. They even have frames so you can mount your work and enjoy it later. I like creating bookmarks, because I’m surrounded in books. But our finished creative projects don’t have to be usable to be useful. Creating is uplifting because it’s the process that matters, as well as enjoying the finished work.

I even found some $1.00 coasters that inspire me as I work. If you look closely, you might spy one of these in the photo of me above.

$1 coasters from the dollar store--artsy

Perhaps crafting isn’t your “thing,” but I’m guessing there is something in your life, something creative, that you’re passionate about. Something that, when you indulge your creative side, you might feel peace, joy, the fun of creating. You might even sense God’s presence while you are engaged in that activity. A sense of His smile. I’m also guessing that over time that creative pursuit began to feel less and less necessary and more and more secondary. That perhaps you excused yourself from doing that creative activity—it’s too expensive, it’s too time consuming, what good does it bring to the world, etc. So, you set it aside and worked harder on the hard work of life. And when you did, your soul started to go hungry. Maybe it’s time for a permission sheet in your own life—a list of quotes that let you know that creative activities can be a beautiful way of resting and feeding your soul. It’s time to pick it up again. 

How about it? Do you feel creative this time of year? The days are shorter. We spend more time indoors. Why not set aside some unhurried time and feed your soul through creativity? Cut out a pumpkin shape and smear some orange paint around? Fill in a cornucopia coloring page. Decorate a Christmas tree for your table or desk? 

Feed that part of you that feeds the rest of you. 

Happy creating, friends! 

Giveaway Information

A note: Kindle Fire can only be shipped within the US. Amazon gift cards can be won by anyone who can use an online gift card.Click the link below to enter!

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Up Next

Tomorrow's blogger is the owner and founder of Mountain Brook Ink: Miralee Ferrell! Check out her post on November 8th here:

Read on for more information about my books: 

The Washington Island Romance series is a part of Mountain Brook Ink's Finding Love In/On line. Here is more information about the latest book:

Finding Love on Bainbridge Island, Washington (book 2)

Finding Love on Bainbridge Island
Neither of them is ready for a relationship, but love may not give them an out.

Jenna-Shea Brown considers herself a broken therapist. Years ago, she witnessed something that caused PTSD. She can’t let her boss or her patients know about her battle. Who would want to trust her to help them, when she can’t help herself? She’s finally able to find a fresh start in her family’s beach cabin, but the renovations aren’t complete. Her parents have hired her ex-boyfriend to finalize them, but his negligence led to her being in the wrong place at the wrong time all those years ago.

Liam Barrett is trying to prove he’s nothing like his deadbeat dad. He’s working hard, yet still failing. Adrenaline and adventure offer him a diversion, but maybe he can’t escape his genes. He’d like to make things right with Shea, but he’s unsure if she’ll forgive him. Meanwhile, he’s challenged to forgive his father. He’s also worried about Shea and all these episodes she won’t explain. Now that they’re back in close proximity, he’s falling for her again. But can anything heal the past? 

You'll find humor and hope in this story of second chances.

Finding Love in Friday Harbor, Washington (book 1)

Finding Love in Friday Harbor
Will keeping his promise lead to another broken heart—or help them find love again?

Professor Mikaela Rhoades has a plan: she’ll encourage her students’ marine biology research through an exclusive program while helping an old family friend’s whale touring business stay afloat. The challenge is the tour captain is her first love and ex-fiancĂ©. Mikaela longs to help his family in the wake of his father’s death, but she’s keeping secrets. She’ll have to face her past and overcome her concerns about the future to make it through the summer.

Captain Hunter Cahill has taken over the family touring business after his father’s death. Unfortunately, he’s drowning in grief and debt. He’s hoping the incoming stodgy professor will help resurrect the failing business, but he’s not prepared when that professor turns out to be Mikaela, his former fiancĂ©e. To make matters more difficult, he’d promised his father to pursue her if she ever returned to the island single. The more time they spend together, the easier it is to keep that promise, though she still plans to leave at the end of the season. How much will it cost him to spend the summer romancing Mikaela?

Sail to the San Juan Islands for a summertime getaway in this story of healing and hope.

Please join my reader group on Facebook to keep up with the latest information. 

Book three (Finding Love on Whidbey Island, Washington) will be out next spring. 

Twitter: @AnnetteMIrby
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* (Edie Melson is the author of Soul Care. Learn more here and here.)

All photos (except book cover images and the top banner) copyright Annette M. Irby