Worlds Beneath {blog tour + giveaway!}

I read K. A. Emmons' first book, The Blood Race, after winning it in a giveaway last year, and it was amazing. So naturally, when asked if I would participate in the blog tour for Worlds Beneath, I enthusiastically signed up! Read on for my thoughts on this powerful sequel, followed by a chance to win your own paperback copy of The Blood Race (believe me, this is a journey you want to take).

I used to think that seeing was believing, but now, as I struggle to stay alive below the ravine, I begin to realize that - good or bad - I will see whatever I believe.

“Who are you, Icarus, that the earth opens its mouth to receive your blood?” Sensei’s words were my last thoughts before I fell into the bottomless ravine, plunging toward my own death, and bringing about Hawk’s at the same time. Or so I thought.

I woke up underwater. I awoke in a strange and unfamiliar world, filled with maze-like forest, shadows, and nightmares seemingly as vivid and dangerous as reality. I had no idea who I was, or how I got there - I couldn’t remember anything, until I remembered her: Hawk. The other half of my soul. 
--from Goodreads

Book Review

In a word: powerful. Worlds Beneath picks up right where the first book left off, and it's at least as good - no "soggy middle syndrome" that many trilogies suffer from! It's a gripping, nail-biting story with beautiful prose. I found it to be rather unpredictable, like a puzzle that slowly, haltingly came together. Themes of faith, hope, and finding courage support a beautiful, subtle allegory that contrasts human nature with the seemingly upside-down love of God.

The plot is brilliantly woven and full of vibrant, real characters with wonderful depth and raw emotion. Amid the tense action, thought-provoking dialogue and text often had me slowing down to savor the book. The characters remain much the same as in the first novel, with Hawk still mysterious and yet familiar, though we are given a more complete backstory for some of them. I love it.

Powerful, gripping, thought-provoking, beautiful.

5/5 leaves

About the Author: K. A. Emmons

When she’s not hermiting away in her colorfully-painted home office writing her next science fiction, passionate story-teller and adventurer Kate Emmons is probably on the road for a surf or hiking trip, listening to vinyls, or going for a power run. Emmons’ debut novel The Blood Race is the first book in her YA science fiction/fantasy thriller series. Get connected with Kate on your favorite social platform, and be sure to check out kaemmons.com!

facebook | goodreads | instagram | twitter

Giveaway Time!

If you haven't yet read book one, The Blood Race, and would like a chance to win a paperback copy, enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below! Both books are also available for purchase at the following links: The Blood Race and Worlds Beneath.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Livy for coordinating this awesome blog tour!


reading slowly {bookshelf love}

About six weeks ago, I challenged myself to read 10 books in 10 weeks, and more than halfway through, I've read far fewer than half the books on my list. I'm laying partial blame on the 800-plus-page mammoth of a book (Island of the World) that I'm slowly working my way through. I also read a library book almost immediately after starting this challenge, so that didn't help either. In any case, here's the updated list, with one lonely mini review.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Dragon Winter by Niel Hancock
Song in the Silence by Elizabeth Kerner
Planted by Leah Kostamo*
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Island of the World by Michael D. O'Brien*
A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers
An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
*In progress.

Song in the Silence
by Elizabeth Kerner

Lanen Kaelar has spent her life being told just how wrongheaded and foolish she is by her entire family. When Lanen's father dies, she chooses to leave her abusive relatives and search out the great dragons she has always dreamed of, though she knows what she seeks may not be real. (from Goodreads)

Although a bit slow in the beginning and somewhat predictable, this book soon became captivating and engaging. I loved Lanen and her fellow characters, as well as the excellent world building. The Kantri (dragons) were brilliantly written, with a unique culture and language. A weird romance with an interesting resolution contributed to the lack of a perfect rating, but overall, I found this to be a very good read.

4/5 leaves


bookshelf love: 10 books in 10 weeks

A few years ago, I proposed that we show our neglected bookshelves some love and created the Bookshelf Love reading challenge. The idea was to read books that you already own and possibly clear some space on your over-loaded bookshelves in the process. Having become hopelessly addicted to the library (especially now that there's one within walking distance), I haven't read any of my own books in far too long, so I decided to resurrect this challenge once again.

If you would like to join me, check out the guidelines at the bottom of this post, and leave a link in the comments to your blog, Facebook page, or wherever you plan to post updates. For even more details, here is the original original post.

This time around, my goal is to read 10 books in 10 weeks, though this is a rather loose goal. In other words, I'm going to see how many of these books I can read by the end of June, with the understanding that I probably won't get through all of them. There are some heavier books on this list, including a few nonfiction, and only two fantasy novels. With that in mind, I may make a trip or two to the library for a lighter novel to read somewhere in the middle. Although, who knows? Maybe I'll surprise myself.

Since I am already bending the rules (they are just guidelines, after all), I do not plan to follow #7 and get rid of any unread books at the end of the challenge, though I might sell or donate some of the ones I do read. I have this interesting habit of moving frequently, and books are heavy. Anyway, here is the list:

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Dragon Winter by Niel Hancock
Song in the Silence by Elizabeth Kerner
Planted by Leah Kostamo
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Island of the World by Michael D. O'Brien
A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers
An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor

1. Choose a time frame for your challenge.
2. Select a stack of unread books from your shelves/piles/boxes/book hoard.
3. Post a photo and/or list of the books on your blog or social media, along with the chosen time frame.
4. Use the challenge image in your post (if posting on a blog) and link back to the original challenge page.
5. Leave a link to your post in the comments on the original challenge page, so you can be added to the list of participants.
6. Read, read, read!
7. Donate, sell, give away, or recycle any books still unread at the end of the challenge.

*I use this term, and not "rules," intentionally. Make this challenge your own! It is typically helpful to choose a time frame for a reading challenge, though, and no cheating on #2!!! If it causes too much stress or you just can't bear to part with your dearly beloved books, you can forego #7.

1. Serena (poetree) -- 10 weeks, 10 books (Apr. 19 - Jun. 30)


top 20-ish books of 2017

This may seem like an odd post for April, seeing as how most everyone else advertised their 2017 favorites in December and January. But I've been putting a lot of time and energy into my editing business over the past few months and let this dear blog fall by the wayside. And since I haven't posted any book reviews in a while, I decided to smoosh all of my favorites from last year into one tidy list. In no particular order, here are my top books of 2017:


Little Flower by Ted Oswald
Admittedly, though I gave it a 5/5 rating, all I wrote in my reading journal about this novel was, "Amazing, as usual." Ted Oswald is a gifted writer with a talent for making the reader feel truly present in his stories. This newest novel, set in India, is a gripping story about an elderly nun, a young prostitute, and a murdered man. How is that for attention-grabbing?

There Is a Land by Ted Oswald
Another book by Oswald, this second novel in the Libete Limye Mystery series is told from Libete's point of view but from two different points in time. Both suspenseful and poetic, it brings Haiti and the people who live there to life. (Start with Because We Are.)

Raj by Gita Mehta
Beautiful descriptive wording in this novel makes the story of India's independence interesting and accessible, in addition to the fact that it is told through the perspective of a single protagonist. I loved following Jaya's story, even though it wasn't always happy.

Breed of Giants by Joyce Stranger
This clean, romance-free horse story for adults is a beautiful tribute to Shire horses and the people who keep this draft breed alive even in modern times. (Full review here.)

Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
Even if you don't typically read graphic novels, I highly recommend this fun, unique fantasy with nods to classic fairy tales. There are two large volumes, but make sure you read the updated edition of the second volume, as the original ends rather abruptly. (Full review here.)

Bronze by B.B. Shepherd
Bronze is an engaging YA horse story with well-written descriptions and mental health themes. Though a bit cliché, I also thought it was very realistic and overall found it to be an addicting, light read. (Full review here.)

Exiles by Jaye L. Knight
This list would be woefully incomplete without Jaye L. Knight's latest book! I love the relationships in Exiles, as well as the introduction of new places and cultures (and really big trees). After a comfortably slow start, this novel is filled with lots of action and some really tense moments. If you haven't read any of the Ilyon Chronicles yet, you definitely should--it's one of my absolute favorites. (Click for reviews of books 1, 1.5, 2, and 3.)

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
One of Kingsolver's many excellent novels, this book contains themes of relationships, conservation, nature, science, rural communities, and church. Nothing has an easy answer, and no one is perfect--life is complex and messy. Everyone has a story. Everything is connected.

The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
These first two books about the young witch Tiffany Aching are so, so funny! The second novel is a little creepy, and both are surprisingly, subtly wise.

The Dragon Quartet by Marjorie B. Kellogg
This fantasy/sci-fi crossover is both entertaining and relevant. It has compelling characters, interesting cultures and landscapes, a brilliant weaving together of times and places, and settings eerily parallel to our own. And dragons, of course!

The Girl from Everywhere duology by Heidi Heilig
I love all of the characters and relationships in this wonderful mixture of cultures, myths, and history. These books contain plenty of twists and turns and poor decisions and witty conversations, and I highly recommend them.

The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson
Something of a cross between the movie Leap Year and a Barbara Kingsolver novel, this book contains beautiful Irish landscapes, refreshingly believable characters, and a poetic story. It is a narrative of both people and place, and I love it.

Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb
This is a great conclusion to the wonderful Rain Wilds Chronicles, a fantasy quartet that I highly recommend to all dragon lovers. (Full review here. If you haven't read the first three books, start here. And then read book two. And so on.)


The Freelancer's Bible by Sara Horowitz
With tips on everything from setting up your desk to paying taxes, this truly is The Freelancer's Bible. I read a library copy cover-to-cover, and now I wish I had my own copy. If you are new to freelancing, this book is definitely worth a read.

A Journey with Mark by Marek P. Zabriskie
This is an excellent book for personal study of the Gospel of Mark. Although it is meant to be read at any time of the year, I found that it works very well as a Lenten devotional.

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown
With a subtitle of "Eat Well on $4 a Day," this cookbook includes everything from shopping tips to suggestions for oatmeal mix-ins to a crustless quiche recipe. I first discovered the free downloadable PDF version and loved it so much that I later purchased the updated paperback. The recipes are simple, practical, and customizable.

Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau
I cannot even begin to tell how much I love this book. It is soul food, brain food, a brutal critique of humanity and beautiful portrait of simplicity with stunning descriptions that lend themselves well to being read aloud.

The Subversive Copyeditor by Carol Fisher Saller
A great resource for beginning copy editors, this little book is informative yet doused with wit. Although mostly about professional relationships, it also contains some tips on technique as well as a helpful section in the back that points to additional useful resources.

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
This book provides a fascinating, inspiring, remarkably relateable look into C.S. Lewis's youth, from his childhood in Belfast, Ireland, to his studies at Oxford. It's a book to savor. If you're a fan of Lewis, this is definitely a must-read.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
This is a wonderful overview of Pakistan's recent history as well as a compelling story of Malala Yousafzai's incredible experience.


In all, 2017 was an excellent reading year. I could have added a few more books to this list, and I did combine two books into one entry several times. So really, my top books of last year make up about half of what I read, since my grand total was 51 books. Hopefully 2018 will be just as good . . . I'm off to a decent start!

Have you read many good books yet this year? Share your favorites below!


planted {spine poetry}

we make the road by walking
an altar in the world
a thousand splendid suns
keepers of the covenant


a few Irish (and British) books for St. Patrick's Day

In previous years, I attempted to shed some light on the real person behind the very green, often raucous holiday called St. Patrick's Day (here and here). However, I have finally read enough Irish books to compile a small list of recommended St. Patrick's Day reads. So here you go:

Patrick: Son of Ireland | Stephen R. Lawhead
I'll start with the obvious choice. Although Lawhead's writing style tends to be a little dark for my taste, I enjoyed this informative work of historical fiction about the life of spoiled, wealthy Succat Morgannwg and his journey to become Saint Patrick.

Only the River Runs Free | Bodie & Brock Thoene
Another historical novel, Only the River Runs Free contains vividly painted characters that help bring a story involving the tension between Irish Catholics and Protestants to life. It also makes a good Christmas read, being set on Christmas eve in 1941. I wrote a brief review of it two years ago.

The Shadow Things | Jennifer Freitag
Here is where I cheat a bit, as this novel is actually set in southern Britain. My reasoning is this: St. Patrick was born in Britain, and this novel had a similar feel to Patrick. This beautiful novel has a riveting plot and very well-written characters. And, to quote my full review, "The introduction of a loving God provides a beautifully stark contrast to the fear-motivated paganism, which, while I can say nothing to the historical accuracy, was explained well."

Surprised by Joy | C.S. Lewis
This book provides a fascinating, inspiring, remarkably relateable look into C.S. Lewis's youth, from his childhood in Belfast, Ireland, to his studies at Oxford. It's a book to savor. If you're a fan of Lewis, this is definitely a must-read.

The Princes of Ireland | Edward Rutherfurd
At 778 pages, this epic novel may seem daunting, but don't let its wonderfully massive size scare you away (actually, that's partially what drew me to it!). The Princes of Ireland paints a beautiful, sweeping image of ancient Ireland through well-written stories encompassing major events and popular legends. Far from dry and dense, it will suck you into its pages.

The Crows of Beara | Julie Christine Johnson
If contemporary fiction is more your style, this one's for you. Something of a cross between the movie Leap Year and a Barbara Kingsolver novel, this book contains beautiful Irish landscapes, refreshingly believable characters, and a poetic story. It is a narrative of both people and place, and I highly recommend it.