Shadows of the White City

It’s a cloudy spring day here in Kentucky and I’m sitting by my open door with rapidly cooling coffee, singing birds, and peaceful piano music. The perfect setting for sharing my favorite read of 2021 with y’all, right?

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 400
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Title: Shadows of the White City
Fiction

ABOUT THE BOOK

The one thing Sylvie Townsend wants most is what she feared she was destined never to have–a family of her own. But taking in Polish immigrant Rose Dabrowski to raise and love quells those fears–until seventeen-year-old Rose goes missing at the World’s Fair, and Sylvie’s world unravels.

Brushed off by the authorities, Sylvie turns to her boarder, Kristof Bartok, for help. He is Rose’s violin instructor and the concertmaster for the Columbian Exposition Orchestra, and his language skills are vital to helping Sylvie navigate the immigrant communities where their search leads. 

From the glittering architecture of the fair to the dark houses of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, they’re taken on a search that points to Rose’s long-lost family. Is Sylvie willing to let the girl go? And as Kristof and Sylvie grow closer, can she reconcile her craving for control with her yearning to belong?

Why I Choose this Book

 Will I ever not want to read a Jocelyn Green book ASAP? Probably not. Her writing is beautiful, and even if I don’t like the setting or plot, I still enjoy how she weaves the storyline so convincingly and pulls me into the book. 

What I Thought about the Book

The first book in the saga – Veiled in Smoke – was set in a place that I don’t enjoy reading about (Chicago), during a time period I don’t like reading about (the Great Fire), and yet I still ended up enjoying the book because Jocelyn’s writing is amazing. Going into Shadows of the White City I expected some of the same, aka, not enjoying the setting but being wrapped up in the writing. 

But, ohhh, was I wrong. This story may have changed my mind about books that are set in Chicago because I enjoyed it so thoroughly it gave me a new appreciation for the city. It takes place in 1893 during the World’s Fair, and was incredibly interesting to read about. Jocelyn does a fantastic job of weaving historical facts into her stories without making it feel like she’s cramming information into her books. For instance, in this book, one of the main characters gave tours at the World Fair, and sometimes we as the reader got to go along and experience it with the guests. Such a brilliant way to write the cool facts into the story.

Not only did we get to see the intriguing setting of the World’s Fair, but there was a compelling plotline and interesting, and multi-layered characters to round out the reading experience. At the beginning of the book, I was a bit unsure of how I would enjoy the large time gap between Veiled in Smoke and this one, but Jocelyn pulled it off magnificently well and wrote a book whose main character was a middle-aged woman in such a way that she felt relatable. 

There weren’t any characters whose point-of-view I disliked reading from, which is rare for me when it comes to a book with multiple POV. Each of the characters who we got to follow had compelling stories – from Sylvie with her need for control to Rose with her hunger for answers. Kristof was delightful and sweet and I could feel his pain as he tried to figure out the correct way to be a good brother. 

The exploration of lost and pieced together families, cultures colliding, the danger of the era, and a lack of answers kept me from putting down the book. I wanted to read more, more, more. When I got to the end of the story and all the pieces had slid into place I was thankful that I’d gotten to go along for the literary adventure. It’s my current favorite of 2021.

Conclusion 

This book is the second one in the saga, but it can easily be read first or as a standalone. (If reading it first, it will give a few spoilers.) I enjoyed the story a lot and can’t wait to read Jocelyn’s next release.  

Rating 

I’m giving Shadows of the White City 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a copy of the book so I could post this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Six Internet Tools for a Writer

The internet today is a wealth of information that makes an author’s life so much better. There are so many tools available and most of the time they’re readily available, free, and exactly what’s needed to help craft a winning story.

Here’s a list of Six Internet Tools for a Writer that I’ve found to be immeasurably helpful:

Pinterest

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If you have a hard time keeping physical settings to stay the same, or randomly have your character be blonde-haired and blue-eyed one day and dark-skinned with curly black hair the next… Well, then creating a board that reminds you exactly what everyone and everything looks like can be extremely helpful.

I personally skim over far too many details when I read, and therefore I don’t generally add enough setting and people-y details to my stories. Therefore, I’ve been working at figuring out exactly what everyone and everything looks like, and then sticking to it with pictures to keep me on track.

Note: Be careful what you search for especially when trying to find characters, to ensure you don’t come up with inappropriate pictures.

Grammarly

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My mom told me for months I should get Grammarly before I finally did the smart thing, paid attention to what she was saying, and downloaded the free version of Grammarly. The free version of Grammarly checks everything I write online, and among other things showed me how many typos and mistakes were slipping through my proofreading and into my blog posts. Y’all put up with a lot from me.

I have yet to check a whole book with Grammarly, and will probably buy the pro version before I do that, but I do check scenes, blog posts, emails, and many other little day-to-day writing-ish things. It’s fairly mindblowing to me how much Grammarly provides for free.

Go Teen Writers

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Yes. I’m really talking about this site again because I can’t hype it enough. It doesn’t matter what age you are if you want a website that’s clean, encouraging, helpful, and honest? Well, you don’t have to look any further.

An added plus for if you are a teen: They have a fantastic Facebook group for writers. I joined it when I was a teen and am really not sure where I’d be on my writing journey today if it wasn’t for the connections, encouragement, and feedback I received there. Also, they have contests and that’s pretty epic.

Book Reviews

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I’m not sure how many hundreds of hours I’ve spent over the years reading book reviews of books I know I’m never going to read, but the count is probably high. Amazon, Goodreads, and I are great friends. Often times when I’m sick, tired, or just need a breather, instead of pulling up a book to read I hop onto Amazon or Goodreads and browse book reviews. (Review blogs are also a great place to do this.)

Why?

There’s nothing like reading someone’s feedback on a book to help me figure out what’s popular in today’s society. This is especially helpful when it comes to popular books I know I’ll never read because of content they contain. (Although, there are a lot of books that I don’t even read reviews for if the content is bad enough.)

I also enjoy knowing what people do and don’t like in stories and then pondering what they said and figuring out if I should apply it to my books somehow. For instance, one day years ago I read in a review how the reader really enjoyed the food references the author made because, ya know, food is helpful for staying alive. This made me realize that I didn’t hardly ever mention food in my stories and I should remedy that.

This is also a great way to see what people are tired of reading. It doesn’t help to read a few reviews, but when you read dozens and then hundreds of them, you begin to see a pattern about what’s trending.

Sample Chapters

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There are far more books out there then any of us will ever be able to read. Therefore, sometimes instead of reading a book, I’ll go on a kick where I read sample chapters on Amazon.

This is something I generally do when I’m either really tired, sick, or in need of a good book. I’ll get on Amazon and start browsing. Amazon has this nifty little feature where it recommends similar books to you, so find one good story and a dozen others will pop up.

Sample chapters are incredibly interesting for a multitude of reasons, the main ones being:
1) You can learn what to do and not do to grip the reader from the first page
2) You invest ten minutes to get to know a new author and decide if they’re worth pursuing by requesting their book at the library or buying a copy
3) You’ll read new ideas that you never even thought of, but since you don’t know how it plays out you don’t have to worry about plagiarizing
4) You’ll get a broader idea of what’s on the market today
5) You’ll learn how to write better and more interesting characters
6) You begin to see what types of books and genres are intriguing to you

Google

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And of course, Google. Where’s a better place to find all the answers to writers dilemmas like How do you spell sesquipedalian? What are the signs of Scarlet Fever? When were the five greatest floods in the history of Montana? And all that type of jazz.

So there you have it, folks, Six Internet Tools for a Writer.

One more pro tip that I’ve been realizing is ever so true when it comes to writing and the internet: Have Internet Times and Non-Internet Times. This is essential for staying focused, orderly, and productive. If you sprinkle Googling, Pintersting, and the like throughout your dedicated work time then you’ll lose precious time and efficiency. Instead, what you can do is separate your writing times, editing times, and plotting times.  It really does make a difference.

Currently
Setting: Walking on the treadmill (I walked almost two and a half miles while writing this)
Listening to: Spotify on shuffle 
Random Fact: As a kid, I had to write a book report every week – it was good practice to becoming a book reviewer
Question of the Day: Do you ever read book reviews for books you don’t want to read? 

Where to Find Free Books

Yesterday I was telling a friend on Goodreads about the different sites and publishing companies where I get books free in exchange for reviews. By the time my comment was nearly the size of a blog post, it occurred to me that y’all might find the information helpful, too. So, here’s a slightly expanded version of what I told my friend. 

Pretty much the only requirement you have to have in order to sign up for these programs is to have a blog that you update regularly. Some sites require a certain amount of followers, others ask about your page views per month, and others just want to know how consistently you blog. 

In 2016 I reviewed 44 books that were given me for free in exchange for review, and in 2017 so far I’ve reviewed close to 10, and have multiple more on their way. It’s a lot of fun and helpful for authors, bloggers, publishers, and readers alike.

So, without further ado, here are the review sites I work with….

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Litfuse

I really, really like this site! I signed up with it near the beginning of last year (if I recall correctly…) and I’ve requested more books from them than all the other sites combined. Litfuse send emails out with information about the book they have up for review, and if you’re interested in the book it literally takes like one minute to request the book (you have to fill in your blog info, etc…). Then they’ll email you if you’ve been chosen as one of the people to review it. If you’ve requested a physical copy of the book they make sure to mail it to you in plenty of time to read it by the deadline, cause this is one review program where you have to pick a day to review the book on, and then stick to that day. 

Moody Publishers  

With this review site you go straight to their website and request a book (or sometimes they allow you to request up to three at once). Before I started using Litfuse I used Moody Publishers a lot

One time I either lost a book that they had sent me, or else they didn’t send it (I still don’t know). But, when I asked them about it they graciously just sent another one – no questions asked. (I did explain that I might have lost it and offered to buy a replacement copy.) Anyway. They’re really nice to work with. 

Baker Publishing Group  

They (if I remember correctly) send out a non-fiction and fiction email each month with the books they have up for review. It’s generally just a few books to choose from, but very easy to request from if you’re interested. 

BookLook  

This was the first review site I joined – waaaayyyy back when. I haven’t used it in a while because I’ve been overloaded with books anyway, but they generally have a pretty good selection. In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to go do some book “shopping”…. 

Tyndale Blog Network 

I think this is another one of those sites where they just send out an email every month with fiction and an email every month with non-fiction. (Sorry! I kinda get the different review places I work with confused….) 

Net Galley

I haven’t requested a book from here for a while because I have had questionable books from them in the past (meaning books I wasn’t comfortable with reading), so I figured it wasn’t really worth it when I had so many other review sites to work with. They do have a pretty big selection, though. 

Authors

After you’ve reviewed for a while it’s not uncommon for authors to ask you about personally reviewing their books. I rarely do that though, because I’d feel pretty bad if I disliked the book when it had personally been handed to me by an author. 

And… those are the review sites/publishers I work with. If y’all have any questions I’d be happy to try and answer them. 

What are some review sites that y’all have worked with? Which is your favorite? 

11 Reasons Why Reading for Review is the Best Thing Ever

Receiving books in exchange for reviews is such a win-win-win-win situation that it’s pretty much one of my favorite things.

I became aware of the concept several years ago and right away looked into figuring out how I, too, could convince publishers to send me their lovely books. It was a lot easier than I had imagined, but also carried a weight of responsibility I wasn’t totally ready for. I requested books from time to time, but it wasn’t until the beginning of this year that I decided to take book reviewing seriously. And it’s been glorious.  Here are some reasons why:

  1. You’re helping the publisher. The publisher is helping the author. The author is helping you. The book is helping readers. And the cycle continues. It’s literally a win for everyone involved. Getting the word out about the book? Check. Helping others know why it would or wouldn’t be a good fit for them? Check. Starting up discussions? Check.
  2. “Shopping” for books without having to spend money on them is not only fun, but it makes you feel like you’re part of a club. And the feeling of belonging is pretty cool.
  3. If you’re not incredibly organized then it’s easy to forget what books you’ve requested and when they’re supposed to arrive. That means checking the mail each day is a treat, cause you never know when you’ll have a package. Or three. Or five.
  4. Filling up a bookshelf with books you’ve received solely in exchange for reviews is rather satisfying.
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  5. Goodreads. Now I suppose you could be logical and say that Goodreads isn’t only for people who read books in exchange for reviews, and that’s true. BUT! I haven’t talked about Goodreads nearly enough on Noveltea, and I highly recommend it, so it’s on the list. (By the way, Goodreads is a fantastic book review site, in case you wondered. You should check it out.)
  6. Writing book reviews is helpful for so many reasons. For instance it helps you remember the books you’ve read, especially if you read a lot. It also helps you actually think about what you’re reading. And what you learned from certain books. And if so-and-so is an author you’ve appreciated in the past. PLUS it helps other people find out about books. Really, I don’t think there are any downsides to reviewing. And, if you’re gonna be reviewing books anyway, why not get them straight from the publisher?
  7. Reviewing recently-released books is one of the coolest things ever, because when you find a book that’s worth freaking out over, you can help get other people excited about it, too. (Like Life Creative, which was so good I not only blogged about it, reviewed it, gushed about it on Goodreads, but I also emailed someone and told them all about it.) Also, if you like a book enough, you can always go and support the author by buying a copy and hosting a giveaway. Or giving it as a gift to someone.
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  8. ARCs. (Advanced Reader’s Copy) I’ve literally wanted ARCs for years. I’ve read about them on other people’s blogs. Watched vlogs about them. Read reviews of them. Seen pictures. And maybe drooled a bit. In reality though, I wasn’t quite sure how to  get my own ARCs. Then low in behold, one day I opened a package and there, staring back at me, was a lovely, delightful, stunning ARC. And my happiness escalated.
  9. Blogging about books is rather wonderful. And book reviews. I realize not everyone likes them (Sister: Lydia, why do you post book reviews? I mean, no one reads them, right?), but I have a very fond place in my heart for book reviews. Even if I’m not planning on ever reading a certain book, I can still learn a fantastic amount about books, readers, and writers, all from a simple review. I may or may not sometimes spend hours at a time reading through reviews to get a better idea of what books are out there, and what readers appreciate.
  10. After you’ve reviewed a book, it’s yours. That means you can do whatever you want with it (except for ARCs). You can host giveaways, sell the books, give them as gifts, or keep them. From my lack of giveaways y’all can safely assume I keep most of the books I get for review. I do sometimes give them as gifts though. And, I also let people borrow them.
  11. Sometimes you get to connect with the authors. And connecting with authors is one of the coolest things ever. Especially if you’re also an author.

Did I leave anything off the list, fellow reviewers? What is Your favorite part of receiving books in exchange for reviews? To non-reviewers: Do you enjoy reading book reviews? Why or why not?

AND! Don’t forget to enter the giveaway I’m currently hosting. Remember, you can get new points each day! {Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway Here.}