around the world {book haul}

Funny how I plan to read books already on my shelves, and somehow end up with a stack of new ones. . . . Three of these were gifts (one to my husband), and one was an impulse buy. The three that are mine each take place in a different country, so I look forward to adding them to my Reading the World list!

The Hundred Secret Senses
by Amy Tan

I don't know much about this book other than that it's about a Chinese-American family and involves both countries. My mother-in-law gave it to me when I saw her in Texas for a wedding a few weeks ago, having already read and enjoyed it herself. It's perfect shape and well-loved look makes me want to pick it up and start reading immediately!

Island of the World
by Michael D. O'Brien

The sheer size of this massive hardcover, plus an intriguing title and beautiful cover, led me to pick it up in a thrift store and refuse to leave without it. Island of the World centers around the life of a boy who grows up during World War II, and the summary promises a novel just as beautiful and haunting as the cover (which, by the way, was created by the author . . .).

Blessed by Thunder
by Flor Fernandez Barrios

While in Texas, we "happened upon" a used bookshop, and my mother-in-law offered to buy each of us--my husband, his brother, and myself--a two dollar book from the sale racks on the sidewalk. I chose this Cuban memoir, about a woman who grew up under the rule of Fidel Castro.

Rogue Lawyer
by John Grisham

This is obviously my husband's choice from the used bookshop, and I have no idea what it's about, nor any intention of reading it. So why did I include it in the stack? Good question. . . .

From the Editor's Desk {Tip of the Week}
don't dangle participles!

Incorrect: While editing the manuscript, the doorbell rang and interrupted her.

The doorbell certainly wasn't editing the manuscript, so this should be rewritten to make clear that the "her" mentioned at the end of the sentence was doing the editing.

Correct: While she was editing the manuscript, the doorbell rang and interrupted her.
Also correct: While editing the manuscript, she was interrupted by the doorbell ringing.

Need an editor? Check out www.serenaedits.com.
I offer copyediting and proofreading services for everything from blogs to books!




I'm super strict about giving Thanksgiving its place in the spotlight before moving on to Christmas, but I wanted to share this with you all before Advent begins.

I've been searching for that perfect Advent devotional for years--one that chronicles the Christmas story from beginning to end without sappy/boring/unrelated anecdotes stealing the limelight. I've found countless books that include cute little stories that only sort of relate to the daily scripture readings, and scripture readings that only sort of relate to Christmas. Anticipation? Check. Hope? Check. The birth of our Savior? Eh, that shows up on Christmas day. Maybe. That perfect Advent devotional doesn't seem to exist--or, if it does, I haven't found it yet (if you have, let me know, please!).

So, I finally created my own. It's cobbled together with Old Testament prophesies listed in Halley's Bible Handbook for the weekday readings and pieces of the Christmas story for Sunday readings. I struggled to stretch the selections through Epiphany, so the passage for January 6 is Jesus' baptism, which apparently is what some churches celebrate on Epiphany, as opposed to the visit of the magi.

I must also note that I am not a Bible scholar, so this is by no means a "perfect" Advent devotional. I might discover partway through that it's not worth using, or I might decide to tweak a few things and try again next year. In any case, having spent several hours putting this together, I decided to share it.

I recommend reading the notes and cross-references in a study Bible as you read each day's passage(s), or consulting a concordance or handbook like Halley's Bible Handbook (if you have this one, check out the section between the Testaments on prophesies about Christ). If you decide to use this list of readings, please send me comments, questions, and suggestions for improvement!

Click here to view the 2016 Advent devotional!
Please print double-sided to save paper (this is best done from the preview page that loads directly from the link--opening the document in Google Docs will mess up the formatting, unfortunately. . . .)


The Unexpected Dragon {book review}

The Unexpected Dragon
by Mary Brown

Raised in a pleasant one-room cottage a discreet distance from the village, Summer had a secure and industrious childhood. . . . But her cozy, predictable life changed suddenly when, at the age of 17, she was orphaned. Left with a small dowry of foreign coins and a ring said to be made from the horn of a unicorn, she planned to head for the nearest large city where she'd hire a marriage broker and be married straight away.

It wasn't long, though, before her journey began to get strange. The ring she'd slipped on wouldn't come off, and soon she became aware that her perceptions were heightened. Most startling of all was her new ability to speak with animals. The dog Growch was the first, but she hadn't reckoned on the ragtag lot of creatures that followed, all needing her help. -from the inside cover


Before I begin, I should explain that The Unexpected Dragon is a single volume containing books two through four of a series (book one is a prequel, from what I gather): Pigs Don't Fly, Master of Many Treasures, and Dragonne's Eg. As such, it is delightfully massive.

Summer is a wonderfully imperfect, bumbling protagonist. Her thoughts, actions, and appearance are all very realistic. However, I found it hard to like her at times, and Growch quickly became my favorite character . . . until the flying pig came along. I love the dynamics between the main characters—the relationships Summer forms with her menagerie.

This quirky, captivating, unpredictable book consists of one adventure after another, and yet they're all part of one journey.

Although it was odd at first to realize that The Unexpected Dragon is set in Europe, like a fantasy/historical fiction crossover, I soon grew to appreciate it. The narrative accurately portrays Summer's travels as bringing her into contact with many different places, cultures, and religions, and I found this refreshing.

I also love Summer's lack of tolerance for abuse or violence of any kind against any living creature, from pigeon to slave. She recognizes and respects the fact that everyone has their own story and their own motivations.

I noticed quite a few typos in the first two books (Pigs Don't Fly and Master of Many Treasures), and there is a lot of premarital sex, but thankfully nothing graphic.

Although I adored the third book, Dragonne's Eg, I'm hesitant to review it for fear of giving away too much. Suffice it to say this final installment also includes incredible characters and fantastic settings, and it provides a wonderful conclusion to the series.

But what about the dragon?! Well, given that the title is The Unexpected Dragon, to tell you about the dragon would be to ruin the unexpectedness of it all!

4/5 leaves

From the Editor's Desk {Tip of the Week}

Although bemused seems to have taken on the meaning of wry amusement, the primary definition is to be confused or bewildered.

You might be bemused by the definition of bemused.

Need an editor? Check out www.serenaedits.com.
I offer copyediting and proofreading services for everything from blogs to books!



butterfly leaves {poetry thursday}

butterfly leaves try to fly
from the shrub that they cling to
but their wings are not yet dry
so they flap, flap, flutter, and tremble
in the wind
'til the winter snows set them free



Sometimes I read a blog post and just think, wow. And I wish everyone in the world would read it, and feel that warm prick inside to wake them up as it did me. Sometimes it's a poem, others a rambling essay, or maybe photos or a simple list. In any case, here are a few of those posts that have made me feel inspired.

the practice of giving thanks | trembling but roaring {a poem}
if places were people no. 3 | She Laughs {a poem}
The Ultimate Diverse Reading List | Read Diverse Books {a list}
Magic by Any Other Name | Jenelle Schmidt {an essay}
Throw Pillows | The Goodness Revolt {photos & an essay}
You Don't Have To Travel To Find Yourself | A Portrait of Youth {an essay}
Dear Girls | Princess Faith {an essay}
fire | Down by the Willows {a poem}

Where have you found inspiration lately?

From the Editor's Desk {Tip of the Week}
allude/elude/illude--which one?

Ah, homonyms! Whatever shall we do with them? Here are the definitions for allude, elude, and illude, so you won't confuse them again!

Allude: to refer to something indirectly
Elude: to avoid capture
Illude: to deceive

She alluded to her elusion of the man who had illuded her.