Happy Monday!

I’m honored to be guest hosting this week for Literacy Musing Mondays — a fun, regular link-up I’ve enjoyed over at the internet homes of Mary HillAshley Hales, Leslie, and Tami!

While I’m only guest hosting this week, you can join them every Monday with a literacy-related post by clicking here!

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Confession: I’m not a history lover. I’m terrible with remembering dates and details and who fits where.

I don’t love history, but I’ve grown to love historical fiction.

Why? It makes history come alive. It picks me up and plonks me down in the middle of a different era, and gives me eyes to see.

Rather than viewing historical events as an outsider looking in, historical fiction invites me to step into the scene and become part of it. It paints color into an otherwise black and white page.

Writers of historical fiction hold tremendous power. They possess the ability to carry me back in time and make the past come alive. The otherwise flat records are rounded out and given new dimension with the portrayal of warring emotions, complex conflicts and imperfect resolutions.

Best of all, historical fiction helps me remember. It sews details together and wraps me in the finished garment.

As a homeschooler, I love the way historical fiction draws my kids in. They learn so much and refer back to books time and time again as reference points relating to certain historical periods and events.

I’m so grateful to the authors who work so hard to research and animate history for the benefit of readers like me.

My two favorite historical fiction authors are Susan Meissner and Lynn Austin.

Some of my favorite Susan Meissner books:

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard (Read my review here.)

 

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Secrets of a Charmed Life (Read my review here.)

 

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A Fall of Marigolds

 

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Lady in Waiting

 

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Some of my favorite Lynn Austin books:

 

Gods and Kings (and the entire Chronicles of the Kings series)

 

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Candle in the Darkness (and the entire Refiner’s Fire series) (Get the first book in this series FREE on Kindle by clicking here!) 

 

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While We’re Far Apart

 

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Here are some of my favorite historical fiction chapter books I’ve read aloud to my kids:

The Golden Goblet

 

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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

 

 

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The Great Wheel

 

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Now let’s ….

Meet Your Hosts

Ashley @Circling the Story
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Leslie@Forever Joyful
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Mary @Maryandering Creatively
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Tami @ThisMomsDelight
Blog/Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/Instagram/Google Plus
 


Now, it is time to link up to the Literacy Musing Mondays hop! You will have until Saturdays at 12 p.m. now to link up! So come back often. :)

 

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Linkup Rules:

  1. Include a link back or the blog hop button linked to this hop on your posts.
  2. Link up the urls to your posts not to your blog.
  3. Please remember this is a family-friendly linkup. Although we believe in the right for adults to read whatever they want to read, we prefer to read wholesome posts that feature literature that edify and uplift families. We reserve the right to delete any posts that are not family friendly. We love all kinds of literature and genres including family-friendly inspirational romances, fantasy, or science fiction. We do not welcome anything with excessive violence, sexual content, or cursing. These posts will be deleted.
  4. We also want to be loving community by supporting one another. Please make a point to do this this week! Visit the post next to yours and at least one other blogger’s post of your choice! I want to see lots of clicks on everyone’s posts. I know as a blogger, you know how it feels not receive comments, right. Spread the comment love this holiday season. 🙂 Remember it is also nice to follow them on their social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Follow your hosts and co-hosts on their social media.
  6. Tweet about the link up too.

Share your literacy-related posts below! 

 

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Happy New Year!

I’ve missed you!

We took two weeks off from our regular Five Minute Friday gatherings, and it’s SO GOOD to be back!

Thank you for all who prayed and commented on my final FMF post from last year, when I shared that I had been sick. I was quite severely ill for 20 days, then upon my recovery, I promptly slipped on Michigan ice, split my head on a brick step and got to ride in an ambulance to get internal stitches and five staples in the back of my head.

Staples are still in, but I’m back in action, celebrating God’s gracious protection in the past month, and SO EXCITED to kick off another year of Five Minute Friday with all of you!

Thank you to all who filled out the survey at the end of last year, as well! I got some great feedback and suggestions. Much appreciated!

I’ll share some of the ideas in coming weeks, but in a nutshell, here’s what I learned:

  • You love the Twitter party on Thursday nights (psst .. if you don’t already join us, stop by #fmfparty on Thursdays from about 8:30-10pm EST!)
  • You want a Facebook group! I think this is a great idea, and am thinking and praying through how to make it work.
  • Some of you who link up in the second half or near the end sometimes feel left out or unnoticed. I think this is totally fixable! Maybe we could all commit to coming back on Sunday or Monday to click around one or two blogs we haven’t seen yet, to read and leave some encouragement?
  • Some of you wish you could get the prompts via e-mail. Good news! You can! Just enter your e-mail address in the box on the sidebar (or at the end of this post) where it says, “Join the Mailing List!” and voila! Prompts directly in your inbox every Friday at 7am EST.

If you missed the survey, feel free to drop me an e-mail or leave a comment here with any input on how we can make Five Minute Friday even better!

To celebrate the new year, I’ve got a few special deals just for you, plus a super fun giveaway!

Let’s get started!

First off, if you’re looking to rock your blog in 2016, I highly recommend the brand new Fistbump Media University!

 

Fistbump Media University Ad

 

They’ve opened a fantastic resource just for bloggers like us, and are offering an inaugural special! Plus, if you sign up to receive e-mail updates from the Fistbump website, you can get 50% off your first month!

Click here for more info!

 

Fistbump Media University coupon

 

Have you chosen One Word for 2016?

The fabulous Krafty Kash is giving a 20% discount to anyone who wants to order one of four products using their One Word for the year! So fun!

Customize one of the following with the word or verse of your choice!

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One Word Necklace

One Verse Necklace

One Word Bracelet

One Word Mini Pendant Necklace

Use code ONEWORD16 at checkout for 20% off; valid through January 18th!

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Finally, I’m so excited to be able to give away a SIGNED COPY of Susan Meissner’s newest historical novel, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard!

Read my review here, then enter to win in the Rafflecopter giveaway below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you ready to write? Personally, I’m feeling rather rusty after two weeks off, but let’s give it a go. If it turns out awful, I’ll just blame the staples in my head. 😉

This week’s prompt is:

FMF :: First

 

Setting my timer for five minutes and … GO.

 

It’s the first Five Minute Friday gathering of 2016. The first month of the year. The first chapter of twelve that will be penned into this book called 2016.

It’s the first time anyone in the history of always has experienced this particular year.

Many of us wait with bated breath to see what God will unfold. What gifts await. What joys.

And sometimes we’re so focused on then that we breeze right past the now.

We can forget that every morning is a brand new page. A brand new opportunity to express our gratitude to God, to love others, to bring Him glory.

First is full of hope. 

Every time God wakes you up, you get a fresh chance to serve. To honor. To obey.

Mornings aren’t always my friend. Beginnings aren’t always smooth. Sometimes the starts are bumpy and my neck jerks back at the jolt of it all.

But if I’m buckled into the right seat and holding on to the right wheel, God will steer me exactly where He wants me to be. The road may be narrow, and I might not see what’s beyond the horizon or even that next bend, but I know my God, and I know He drives well.

 

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Don’t forget to enter to win a signed copy of Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner! Giveaway open to residents living in the U.S. or Canada only.

And if you think of it, stop by on Sunday or Monday to click around and comment on some of the later posts linked up!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Have you ever pushed the limits of a friendship?

Ever held onto a secret for a really long time? Decades, even?

Have you ever deceived someone to get what you wanted?

Ever held onto something too tightly, afraid to let it go?

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All of these aspects of life come into play in the new novel, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard.

In her latest work of historical fiction, author Susan Meissner takes us back to Hollywood during the filming of Gone With the Wind. She weaves two story lines — one present day, one during the late 1930’s era — with a hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara as the common link.

The two main characters, Violet and Audrey, form an interesting and complicated friendship. Will it stand the test of time? Will their dependency upon each other make their relationship stronger, or cause it to crumble?

Will their goals and aspirations in life spur one another on, or stand in each other’s way?

 

“A lovely, well-crafted story that peeks at a fascinating moment in cinematic history and examines the power and vulnerability of sincere friendship.” – Kirkus Review

 

Below is an interview with author Susan Meissner. Enjoy this glimpse into Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

 

Where did the idea for Stars Over Sunset Boulevard come from?

I’ve only read Gone with the Wind once, but I’ve probably seen the movie a dozen times. There’s something about those characters, the cinematography, the costumes and that sound track that have always wooed me. I’ve wanted to set a story on the 1939 movie set of this film for a long time; I knew it would provide a detail-rich environment. Gone with the Wind is not very often described as being a story about friendship, but the more I’ve watched the film version, the more I’ve seen how complex Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Hamilton’s relationship was. I long wanted to explore how these two characters seem to be polar opposites but are actually both fiercely loyal and unafraid of making hard choices to protect what they love. I knew I could use Scarlett and Melanie’s fictional friendship as a template for telling a story about two studio secretaries who, like Scarlett and Melanie, are not as different from each other as we might first think.

 

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What is the story about, in a nutshell?

Christine McAllister owns a vintage clothing store on West Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. When the iconic curtain-dress hat worn by Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind ends up in her boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner takes the reader on a journey to the past.

It’s 1938 and Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Los Angeles after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart. She lands a job on the film-set of Gone with the Wind and meets the enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires start to collide. What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

 

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What would you especially like readers to take away from Stars over Sunset Boulevard?

I hope the theme that will resonate most is that love and fear can sometimes feel the same, though they influence our choices differently. When I have a decision to make that involves another person, fear often motivates me to choose what’s best for me. But love motivates me to choose what is best for the other person. Fear urges me to hang on to what is mine, while love can actually lead me to let go. My hoped-for takeaway from the novel is the idea that when you hold something you love tightly to your chest for fear of losing it, you actually risk crushing it.

 

Thank you, Susan — for the interview, and for another wonderful book! 

To order Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, click here.

 

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Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of eighteen books, including Secrets of a Charmed Life, a 2015 Goodreads Choice Award finalist, and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. She and her husband make their home in Southern California.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Affiliate links used in this post.

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I read some fantastic books in 2015. Really, really good. So grateful for the brave, faithful writers out there who sit down and put in the work for our benefit.

My goal was to read a book a month, and I rounded out the year with a grand total of 16 books. Not many compared to some, but I’m satisfied.

Here are the books I read in 2015:

 

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Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves by Trillia Newbell {Review & Video Author Interview}

Such a helpful, biblical resource for all who battle with various fears, anxieties, and insecurities.

Until We All Come Home by Kim de Blecourt {Review}

A page-turning, suspenseful account of one family’s harrowing journey to adopt from Ukraine.

Dragons and Dirt: The Truth About Changing the World – and the Courage it Requires by Dalene Rayburn {Review}

One of my favorite books I read this year. So much wisdom and food for thought on a wide range of topics and issues. A short read, but full of gems.

 

Three more nonfiction titles

 

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker

This is the first Jen Hatmaker book I’ve read. There are a few chapters I wish I could mass produce and distribute all over the country. I didn’t write a review, but my friend Bronwyn wrote a good one here.

Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are by Deidra Riggs {Review & Video Author Interview}

Inspiring and motivating. That’s how I would describe this debut book by Deidra Riggs.

Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong {Review}

Encouraging words for all who have experienced change.

 

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Nobody’s Cuter Than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship by Melanie Shankle {Review}

A funny and heartfelt tribute to friendship among women.

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have by Annie Downs

I underlined copious amounts of this book. So many challenging words; highly recommended.

Dance with Jesus: From Grief to Grace by Susan B. Mead

Susan Mead kindly sent me a copy of this book, and I read the whole thing in one evening. It’s a quick read, but a moving testimony of a mother who has found grace in the midst of grieving the loss of her son.

Fiction: 

Three fiction titles

 

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner {Review}

Beautifully written historical fiction about two sisters during the London Blitz of World War II.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

I adored this debut novel by Katherine Reay. A series of letters written by a Jane Austen-loving journalism student to her anonymous benefactor. Captivating and cleverly written.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

This latest novel by Susan Meissner releases on January 5th, 2016! I was privileged to read an advance copy of this story set in the Hollywood period when Gone With the Wind was filmed. Review coming soon. Pre-order now by clicking here!

 

On Writing:

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On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig

A wonderful resource for writers. I was challenged and guided in my personal writing life, and had such fun leading a six-week online discussion on this book with several other writers. Catch up on the discussion here. I’ll be referring back to this book many times in the years to come.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

This book is pure gold. Natalie cuts right to the chase in this no-nonsense, down-to-earth book that will make you want to pick up your pen and write like crazy. She covers all the bases and then some.

 

Christmas: 

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The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp

Another gorgeous book from Ann Voskamp. This one offers daily Advent readings which carry the reader through biblical history, starting with Adam and Eve. So much spiritual food here; definitely worth reading at any time of the year, not just Christmas.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional by Asheritah Ciuciu

My friend Asheritah wrote this wonderful resource focusing on the names of Jesus. I read it aloud to my kids to start each of our homeschool days in December. Again, this book could be read and benefited from at any time of the year, not only during Advent.

 

 

Still busy reading:

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Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough by Kristen Welch

Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose by Emily Wierenga

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

 

Related Post: My Top 14 Books of 2014

What are you reading now? What do you hope to read in 2016?

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

 

It’s your turn! I’d love to see what you read this past year. Either share a direct link to a blog post using the InLinkz button, or type your list of titles into the comments below!

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Here we are, in the middle of another November. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you’re likely sipping hot cocoa and ready to curl up in front of the fireplace with a good read. Am I right? Who doesn’t love a great book on a cold, blustery day?

 

Fiction Favorites

Here’s a compilation of some of my favorite fiction titles and authors, new and old. Go ahead and add them to your holiday shopping list. Then come back and tell me which ones you enjoyed best! Happy reading!

 

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My review of Susan Meissner’s book, Secrets of a Charmed Life, is the most-clicked book review I’ve ever written. People find it every day. Secrets of a Charmed Life was also nominated in GoodReads’ Top Historical Fiction books of 2015. Read my review here.

I’m so excited to be reviewing Susan’s latest novel, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, which is now available for pre-order and is set to release in early 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay was fantastic. I’ve recommended this book so many times, and each person who read it has come back and told me they loved it. I can’t wait to read Katherine’s newest novel, The Bronte Plot, which just released this past month.

Katherine Reay titles

 

You can’t go wrong with Lynn Austin. I’ve enjoyed every book of hers that I’ve read, including the Chronicles of the Kings series, the Refiner’s Fire series, and several stand alone books. Get A Candle in the Darkness for FREE on Kindle by clicking here!

 

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Randy Singer is a fantastic suspense novelist. If you’re looking for John Grisham-like books, check out titles like The Justice Game, By Reason of Insanity, and Fatal Convictions.

Emily Wierenga’s debut novel, A Promise in Pieces, will make you smile and sigh and maybe even cry. Beautifully written. AND — the paperback version is only $5.98 right now! Read my review by clicking here.

 

 

My favorite Francine Rivers book is The Last Sin Eater. I was also really moved by Redeeming Love and The Atonement Child.

 

 

 

I had the privilege of attending two writers’ conferences in October, and heard some fantastic talks given by the names listed below. Can’t wait to dig into their work!

Fiction authors I’m eager to read:

A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner (pst .. the Kindle version of this book is currently FREE! Click here to get your copy!

Blur, the first book in a trilogy by Stephen James

Playing Saint and The Last Con by Zachary Bartels

Maggie Bright and other titles by Tracy Groot

 

What are your favorite fiction reads? Share in the comments below!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.