Monday, March 19, 2018

Winter Have-Read List & Much More

Hello there! There are so many updates, so I will just jump right to it! First off, I have decided to do my first ever NaNoWriMo-ing by joining up for Camp NaNo this April! I'm really excited, but also very nervous. I set myself a small word count, but I'm only trying to make a comfortable habit, not knock myself out at this point. I will be working on Ember, and I think it would be incredible if I could at least make it half-way through this story by month's end.

Secondly, I am thrilled to share with you the cover reveal for Tricia Mingerink's next story. This one sounds like a lot of fun, and I know she put a great deal of effort into it so it is definitely a labor of love. 
It's a beautiful cover and I think it's going to be a great read. The release date is set for May 28, 2018, and you can learn more about it here, at Tricia Mingerink's website

Finally, I am obligated to share with you my usual Have-Read list, and I hope these books inspire you and that you try them for yourself!

Ilyon Chronicles #4 Exiles by Jaye L. Knight
I'm dying for the next one. There's no spoilers here, but it does end on a cliff-hanger. By this time in the series, we are well-acquainted with our MC and supporting characters and Knight takes us on a wild journey with them. I was seriously concerned for Daniel's life, and riveted wondering who might change... and who might not. Kyrin has grown up so much, and her worries are different than they used to be. I loved the depth we get into with each character this time.

A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller
This wasn't the devotional I had thought it would be. It didn't give me nice lists or "you should do this differently" or "start making that a habit". Instead, Miller weaves his own experiences into it to show you how his life was shaped by prayer. He gently guides the reader to an understanding of making prayer part of life, not just something you do intermittently in life. Like all devotionals, I took my time in reading it, but that really seemed to suit its pace anyway. It is the kind of book you need to read slowly and digest, so if you're looking for a fast and short book, you may want to consider something by Lydia Brownback, or perhaps Najapfour's lessons (below).

The Folkestone Files #1 War of Loyalties by Schuyler McConkey
I have so much to say about this one. First, because I know Schuyler, and I think she's grand. Second, because I read this and I think it's fantastico. It's long, but it is full of suspense, adventure and mystery. Ben is so nice, you can't imagine him being anything but sugared up, but he surprised and amused me when he is pushed beyond his breaking point, between morals and relationships, and forced to make difficult decisions. I enjoyed the complicated relationships between the characters, and their individual personalities were vivid, intriguing and warming.

The Gospel-Driven Tongue by Brian G. Najapfour
You can read my short-but-sweet review on Goodreads and it can be purchased from Amazon. The best way to compliment an author is by reviewing them on sites like this that help to promote the book. (Let me know if the links do not work, please.) Copied below is my short review on both Goodreads and Amazon.
"I really enjoyed this book. It was written very clearly and simply, but it was also thorough and deep. It is thought-provoking and convicting, and I think it would make an excellent book for a Bible study because it also includes chapter questions to help you apply the lessons. I thought it was well-organized to also help the reader digest the information and includes an abundance of Scripture references."

Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin
I have just finished this one with a Bible Study group, and it was very good. I enjoyed the in-depth study of Matthew 5-7, reading it all at once and then taking it apart daily. My only two criticisms would be that some of the questions seemed repetitive in places, and it was a difficult task to begin each study chapter by re-reading all three Bible chapters in one morning. Working full-time means that in order to do something like that, I need to split it up into manageable chunks throughout my day which I found really defeated the purpose of reading it all at once. It was less stressful and more enjoyable to me when I felt free to take my time on a small section of verses. Otherwise, I appreciated this study and learning alongside a wonderful group of women.

Well, that's about it! I hope that you have a wonderful Spring. I'd love to hear what you are reading in the comments below. I am always open to new suggestions, fun reads or devotionals alike. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Marching In... Like a Prayer Warrior

Ah, so here is March, that lion-like month which enchants us and irritates us equally as much, because we see spring ahead yet can't quite reach it. I promise my Spring Have-Read List mid-month sometime (after the first day of spring).

I have been thinking over the last few days and weeks what a blessing it is to be surrounded by friends, and what it means to be a part of a covenant family. 2017 was a rough year for me, I'm praying that 2018 is much better, by far, and trusting that God will continue to provide for me. He already has, too.
I was supported in prayer by so many, and in turn I know each close sister in Christ has their own struggles. I pray for them, too. You really don't know what someone is going through when you meet them. I've learned that everyone experiences their own pains in life. You can't measure their pain to yours, or yours to theirs. Your pain is yours, their pain is theirs. If you are compassionate and listen, sometimes you are blessed with the opportunity to be included as a prayer warrior for your friends- what an honor that is! It becomes a wonderful honor when you realize you have prayed so often and so deeply for one another that you realize these people are family. Family is not just defined by blood, but by the likeness of our hearts, and proven by the giving of ourselves to others. I know who those who care are not by what they have said to me, but what they shown to me.
I can honestly say that my family has grown significantly greater year by year. This past year, my family grew and continues to grow, but it had some losses, too. I realized how exceptionally blessed I am to have a church family; I learned that a lot of people had been praying for me, and I don't know If I'll ever have the time or the words to express gratitude for that to every single one of them. I may not even know who all of them were. It makes me deeply sad that there are people out there who can't imagine what it is like to have a God-centered family this grand and this great. I can't imagine what it must be like not to have one at all.
So I guess this is a thank you for some of you (you know who you are) but it is also a call-to-action for others if you don't have these things. While technically 2018 has already begun, we're still experiencing winter, and there are so many chapters yet to read in so many books. Spring is on its way, offering a chance at new beginnings, new endings, new events, new family. I'm planning to tackle all of them with a prayer warrior's heart, open hands and listening ears.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hello! Jemma's Birthday, Scrivener, and New Fish

 As usual, I've gotten quite behind on social media. :) I figured it was time to pop in for a hello. I am still pleased to have snow yet this February, but you can be assured that I will probably tire of it come March, which is just around the bend. 
Speaking of February though, I mentioned last time that we celebrated Mittens' birthday in January and that means Jemma gets a birthday cake, too. (She may not eat it.) Since it is easy to remember and close enough, I picked February 14th as her birthdate, and plan to make a purple cake this weekend for the niece and nephew's benefit. (Also because it is fun. There are always plenty of excuses for cake.) Jemma has endless reserves of energy and is the most affectionate, but also the most expressive cat we have had. This yarn-thieving rascal has endless reserves of energy. She is jealous for attention always and plays fetch. If you don't play when she wants you to, she goes through your pockets for hairties -this is a little awkward when visitors come- and meows incessantly. Jemma enjoys "helping" anybody with their projects or chores and is there wherever you go. She also demands a strict routine and diet, due to her sensitive stomach and dramatic, expressive nature. We put up with it because she makes us laugh and smile. 

I've been puttering about Scrivener when I can, which I downloaded in January. *does little happy dance* I am ever so grateful to Emily Hayse for her help, and eagerly waiting to hear news about her ink baby... yes, more books are on the way! I don't know yet how I like Scrivener because  my time on it has been limited, so I haven't even fully explored all of its features. I did transfer Ember over, and made it somewhere near or past Chapter 5? (I don't know how to count chapters in this stage, so I'm just making this number up off a rough estimate right now.) 

I also bought too female bettas, which Jemma finds amusing. They are named Indigo (left) and Isla (right).

 In between Scrivener, fish, realizing I made it about 1/4- 1/3 of the way through my quilt and accomplishing other very important life-things, there was the mythical creatures exhibit at VanAndel, which was intriguing. My only criticism is that there could have been more dragons. There can always be more dragons. "You musn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling." (Inception) And more cake.

*P.S. I forgot to mention that Connie VanHuis' book Stable Help now has a sequal! I have yet to read it, but I really enjoyed her first book. She writes short little stories about her horses and compares them to us and Christ. It is easy to read and the stories are all from her real-life experiences. My favorite one is the one where her horse jumps the fence to be with her, which she likens to how we should feel about spending time with our Savior.
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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Amarylis News & Other Things of Importance

Semi-finalists have been announced today over at If you'd like to read the short stories and vote, I encourage you to do so! Unfortunately, I was not among the semi-finalists, and therefore Amarylis is not open to public voting. While this is a little disappointing, I am glad for the experience and enjoyed the hard work that I put into it. Connie VanHuis was a wonderful help, giving both critical aid, advice, and mounds of encouragement in the process. I am grateful to Sarah Diehl for all the in-between editing as well. I'm not a short-story person, and this was a tough competition for me, but also a good one to try out on!
Thank you everyone for your prayers and encouragement. I would like to make it available to you who prayed for me and Amarylis, and so I will pray about the best way to share it with everyone. I will let you know soon so that I don't keep you all on a cliff-hanger too long.

Also of great importance is, of course, reading. I am in the midst of War of Loyalties and already terribly curious about whatever it is Jaeryn is up to! Please remember that the best thing you can do for your favorite books is to review them on both Amazon and Goodreads. Help Schuyler out by reviewing her book as soon as you finish devouring it!

I have a lot to say in this post, so I apologize that it's so long! On a less literary note, here are some other things that I am up to.

This past weekend I also participated in Logos, which is a Young Adult retreat for ages 18-30 put on by the RYS (Reformed Youth Services). I highly recommend this weekend. They have two a year, one in August and another in January. This particular Logos was bittersweet for me as I have now "aged out," but it was a nice way to finish off this experience. I was not alone, there were a few of us who had to say goodbye. I will see many of them again, but for others, there is distance between us and I do not know what the future will bring. I am beyond thrilled for those who begin new futures, and look forward to celebrating with them. There were lots of tears on that last morning after singing verses of God Be With You Til We Meet Again. Logos taught me a lot, and I am so grateful for it. I was terrified to go at first, and so I put it off for a long time. I thought it would be very intimidating, because it is a singles retreat, and that was just awkward sounding. I am also a completely, ridiculously awkward introvert, and the idea of meeting tons of people all at once sounds like scary chaos. But I decided to be brave and give it a try, and I'm so glad I did. It was nothing like I thought it would be. There was minimal "clique-y-ness", I felt so welcomed and included by so many people. I was not alone in feeling awkward about meeting new faces, and it was very freeing to socialize with so many people with similar foundations in faith. It was definitely exhausting to have three or four days of non-stop socializing, but I regret none of it. I was blessed deeply by Ed DeGraaf, the speakers carefully chosen over the years, and leaders who generously included and cared for everyone.

Third, because she is dear to us and we love our sleepy, sweet Mittens, I wanted to share that January is officially Mittens' Gotcha Month. We can't remember the exact date or year, but it's been roughly sixteen good years with us. This sweet, beautiful kitty showed up on our doorstep when it was becoming cold outside, and since she had white paws and my mother said she was going to need mittens to stay warm this winter, we started calling her Mittens. We put up flyers and took her to the vet to have her scanned for a microchip. Nobody called for this beautiful brown cat with piercing blue eyes, a white spot on her nose and soft, thick fur. So we got her shots and brought out the litter box and made her a part of our family. She just loves to roll outside on the porch and sleep all day. Mittens has a sneaky, clever, quiet way about her. Her favorite foods include popcorn and shrimp, but she always just loved food (though in her old age it takes some coaxing to get her to finish her dish). She loves belly rubs, and is usually quite relaxed and gentle. I plan to make a cake for after Sunday dinner to get the kiddos in on the celebration for sixteen years with our beautiful, sweet Snowshoe kitty.
We love you, Mittens!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Happy New Year! The Countdown Begins: 7 Days...

Hello all! I hope your New Year's celebrations were fantastic, and that your Christmas was joyful. I spent Christmas Day at home with family after a lovely morning service at church. I am thankful to Rev. Johnson for his message to us on that day, and the praises that the kiddos sang afterwards. God has blessed me with a great church family. We will miss Rev. Najapfour in the new year, but pray for his family as they strive to serve the Lord in study and the Philippines (D.V.) one day in the future.
On New Year's Day, we took a winter hike with a dear friend and enjoyed the sparkling landscape with all our senses- touch and smell, sight and sound. I love snow. One of my favorite verses in the wintertime is Proverbs 31:21, "She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet." Isn't that a lovely verse?

On the last day of the year, I finished Exiles by Jaye L. Knight, and on the first day of the year I began War of Loyalties by Schuyler McConkey. This was not planned, but I'm so glad it did work out, especially since I've been struggling to get through books for over a year now. (It took me a month to finish Exiles, this is not exactly normal for me.)

Today marks one week until Amarylis will be public! Is your tea ready? Have you slippers nearby? I can't believe that in seven days something I wrote will be public. This is actually, seriously terrifying. But also exciting. I really can't decide. Voting will begin (for Michiganders only, sorry) on the day it will be released, January 9, at Since I've never done this before I don't know exactly what it will look like but when I know I will share with you all so you can find the links to read some of the short stories.

An apologize is also in order to anyone who is signed up on my mailing list and received an email that you already received. It seems, because I am not technological, that I chose a setting in MailChimp to have an email sent on a recurring monthly basis. Oops. I hope that I have fixed that.

Enjoy the snow and have a great week!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Fall Have-Read List

Alas, I meant to post this yesterday since it was the First Day of Winter officially but I had a lovely deviation from my plan for the day. The deviation was to spend the afternoon with my mother and grandmother at the Fredrick Meijer Gardens. They have an incredible train display this time of year, with buildings from all over Grand Rapids built in miniature out of sticks, dried leaves and all sorts of plants. There are also trees decorated in different themes that represent many countries around the world. Both are impressive, and children are highly amused by the train track. It's a great outing, and if you get a membership, you can visit Fredrick Meijer any time you want, which means you can do to the Christmas displays, the butterflies in March, walk the trails in summer, and attend the craft shows in the fall.
I have been trying to improve my reading, and did somewhat better than last year but I'm still far behind what I should be. I used to have the time to just devour books, but without a set schedule in my life, this has been so much more difficult than it ought to me and I have been missing out on a lost of great books. I did read some really fantastic novels though!

Ilyon Chronicles #3: Samara's Peril by Jaye L. Knight
Samara's Peril (Ilyon Chronicles #3)
What a surprising addition to the Ilyon Chronicles! There were many twists in here I did not expect at all, and some surprising elements to the plot as well as characters. I appreciated this genuinely original approach, and applaud Knight for staying true to the world and placement of her characters. It was sweet to see relationships strengthen and grow throughout the story, and each character also emerged not just stronger individually, but also spiritually and as a team. I'll bet she had a blast writing Kaden and those dragons! You just can't go wrong with dragons! I think I will stop here for fear of telling you too much. Just go read it for yourself!

A Study in Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
You're not gonna be too happy with me for this, but in all honesty this was not my most favorite thing to have read this year. Sorry. I really like Sherlock, but for my first Sherlock Holmes story, it was a rough start. I liked it at first, but that bit in the middle with the Mormons and the Ferriers, well, it lost my interest. It was a clever story, but changing moods and scenes so abruptly totally through me for a loop and I did not finish the book with that delightful, tingly excitement like I just read the best thing ever! I know, I am a terrible Sherlock fan for thinking this.

A Scandal in Bohemia, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I really liked this one! It was a lot of fun, and didn't take long at all to read. If you haven't tried reading Sherlock Holmes, you should!

The Lady Janies #1: My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand
I was not sure how I was going to like this one. I have great admiration for the strong woman who became queen for a (debatable) length of only nine days. It was Mary, Bloody Mary, who threatened to behead her if she did not recant her Protestant faith and accept Catholicism, but the learned young woman refused. Though her ending is tragic, her life of faith is remembered. So, when I picked up this book, at first I was pretty irritated that they flippantly fictionized her life in such a way (erasing all mention of Protestant/ Catholic tension and substituting it with a strange magic that allows people to become animals). However, I also applaud creativity (as long as it is not at the expense of God's Holy Word), and as a story, I do think it was well done. The prose was intriguingly fresh and modern despite that it takes place in the 1800s, the characters well-developed and redeeming. Most of them were open to growth and learning, even if they tried not to be. The world was vivid and new, also intriguing in light of the fact that it's not set in a "new" place or time. I would still prefer a historial fiction piece on Lady Jane any day, that at least attempts to preserve a picture of her as a strong Protestant, but this was a fun, new world to explore.

I also tried something different in order to attempt multi-tasking: I listened to audio recordings of Rudyard Kipling in the hopes that I could finish another classic and some crochet Christmas Stockings at the same time. Although listening to books is still not my preferred method of digesting written words, I think I might try it again sometime. I just need to be sure not to choose long books.
I finished all three of the Mowgli stories from The Jungle Book as well as The White Seal. I wish I had read them when I was a child, because I think I would have been enchanted by them at that time.

What books stood out to you this past autumn? Have you read any of these and what were your thoughts? I'd love to know if anyone else read these same books and has an opinion on them, too!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

War of Loyalties is now Available for Purchase!

I am so excited about this book and can't wait to get my hands on it. I've yet to read it, but I have read other pieces that Schuyler has written and she has a wonderful way with words. Some of us have followed and prayed for her since before the manuscript was finished, and here it is, 100 years from when if would have taken place. (How cool is that?)

Book Description: 
April, 1917. A ring of German spies threatens the coastal town of Folkestone, England. Newly-recruited agent Ben Dorroll must uncover which British citizens are traitors to their country. When his first attempt at espionage falls prey to a trap laid by German sympathizers, the security of the British Secret Service is threatened. Feeling lost in a strange country and aching for a steady place to call home, he wants to resign and go back to his American medical work. But when he learns that his family identity holds the key to capturing the spy ring, Ben has no choice but to unite with the mysterious Jaeryn Graham so that the truth can be discovered. 

In the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, Jaeryn Graham's British colleagues look warily on his Irish background. Always up for a challenge, he thinks his new mission in the Secret Service should be an opportunity to prove his prowess. But after encountering death and alienating two agents, he finds the road to victory isn't as easy as he thought. Unless he can win the loyalties of his newest assistant, Ben Dorroll, his secret ambitions and his perfect success record will be destroyed.

Does that sounds like something that interests you? Follow the link below for a chance to win your copy of the first of the Folkestone Fellowship novels, War of Loyalties by Schuyler McConkey. 

 War of Loyalties is officially available for purchase on Amazon now, and when you're finished reading, a review is always appreciated, dear readers! You can also review it on Goodreads. If you like a novel, the best way to show your appreciation for that author is by reviewing and sharing on social media. 

About Schuyler

Schuyler McConkey is a writing teacher, book reviewer, and ministry leader living half of her life in happy fellowship with her family and spending the other half in angst-filled fictional worlds. She is passionate about classic, Dickensian stories and characters who encounter deep struggles touched by grace. Irish music, British movies, and chai lattes provide the fuel for her dreams.