Book Review: Fallen Leaves by Tessa Emily Hall

If you’ve followed me on my blog and social media enough, you know that I love Tessa Emily Hall’s blog and her books, Purple Moon and Unwritten Melody.  I’ve read both books multiple times and honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I just can’t get enough of Tessa’s writing voice and the characters she creates.

So when I got my hands on an ARC of Fallen Leaves, the sequel to Purple Moon, I was thrilled. And work went neglected while I cozied up with coffee (which sadly wasn’t from Brewer’s) to continue Selena’s story.

Being from a state where the trees never change into fall colors, this book makes me long for real fall, but the cover more than makes up for that. Isn’t it gorgeous?


Selena Taylor thought her only worry this fall was starting her junior year at a new arts school in North Carolina, miles away from home. But when she finds out her mom could graduate from rehab sooner than expected even worse, she could work for her former nothing-but-trouble boss—Selena’s determined to create a new life for them. Back in her childhood Kentucky hometown.

Step one? Track down her dad and brother that she hasn’t seen in eight years. Her anxiety is put to the test, though, when she unveils a truth that could threaten her dreams. Add to that an art competition that pushes her outside of her comfort zone and a girl who seems determined to come between Selena and her hopeful boyfriend.

Soon Selena must decide whether or not to continue her search for her dad and brother. But is there any hope that the ruins of her broken family could be resurrected? And how could God possibly have a purpose in the midst of these changing seasons?

First of all, I can’t begin to say how much I loved this book. Fallen Leaves is a book that is better than its predecessor, Purple Moon, already in itself a superb book. I could hardly put it down, wanting to know what happened next with Selena.

Tessa’s writing is magnificent; the way she weaves together words is beautiful. Tessa makes the scenery come alive in a way you don’t normally find in present day books. You really feel like you’re in Brewer’s Coffee Shop (which, by the way, I really want to work in) or viewing the Blue Ridge Mountains — something I’ve yet to see in my life but Tessa makes me feel like I have.

Fallen Leaves was an excellent continuation of Selena’s story. I liked the new side of Whitney we got to see and how kind Aunt Kori was. I have a thing for kind aunts so I got a kick out of this and hope we get to see more. The plot was tight and firm—there weren’t any plot holes. Everything flowed well with Selena’s search for her father/brother, the art competition, to Kentucky, where the story left off. 

I adored Madaleigh, a new character we get to see in Fallen Leaves. Her spunk and kindness are endearing, and the wisdom that she gives Selena was often what I needed to hear myself. 

So all in all, I really, really, loved this book. It’s come at a time when I needed it most and I can’t wait to own a hard copy (or two!) of my own.

You can pre-order Fallen Leaves here



Tessa Emily Hall writes inspirational yet authentic books to show teens they’re not alone. Her passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as an Associate Agent at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of Tessa’s first teen devotional, COFFEE SHOP DEVOS, will release with Bethany House in 2018. She’s guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating her art journals, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website: 

You can find Tessa here: 



Rebecca Morgan

Book Review: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot…

Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.

English Folk Verse (c.1870)


When I was in my last two years of high school, I read a variety of books on the history of England, starting with the invasion of Julius Caesar. To say I had the time of my life was an understatement. I remember quite a bit of what I read, including one thing:

There was a lack of books on the Gunpowder Plot.

I’ve always been fascinated with the story, and any books I’ve found since that day I devoured. 

The BBC Sherlock episode, The Empty Hearse, that featured, the Gunpowder plot? Loved that episode. 

So, when I heard Nadine’s book was going to be about it, I was thrilled. The fact that it was a historical fantasy? Pish-posh. That mattered not. Nadine is a top-notch writer and a wonderful human being, so I knew anything she wrote would be good.

If you don’t know what went down on that cold night over four hundred years ago, I’ll keep my mouth shut, because that’ll spoil the ending.

Can we first talk about how gorgeous the cover is?? Okay, on to the review. 



From the back cover:

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th-century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot–claiming it will put an end to the plague–Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.



  • With only 440 pages, you wouldn’t think you’d have time to form attachments with all the many characters, but you do. Robert Catesby, the group’s charismatic leader, even leaves an impression on your heart. Each of the plotters has a story, a reason for fighting for what they believed in, and whether you’re on their side or not, you’re touched.

  • Many people have said that Thomas was whiny or self-righteous, but I found him to be far from that. Fawkes can be said to be a coming of age story, as Thomas forms his own thoughts and beliefs despite what others would have him to believe. I loved seeing him grow as a character.   

    The bond between Guy Fawkes and his son Thomas was also an emotional ride and just. Gah. Go read the book.

    Okay, enough on Thomas. Emma was cool too. There’s been a lot of posts and books recently about how women need to be meek and quiet and sit at home. Seeing warrior woman Emma was nice and I loved it.

  • I loved the attention to detail that Nadine gave. You felt like you were sneaking out of London with Thomas, roaming the market with him and Emma, or at the Duck and Drake, plotting with the plotters.

  • There’s really a lot to unpack in 1605 England: feuds between Catholics (Keepers) and Protestants (Igniters), religious persecution, race, and freedom. Woven into this is “color power,” which is the ability to control certain things based on the color of your mask. For example, brown mask wearers can control dirt, blue mask wearers can control water. It’s simple to understand, and I liked that.

    Everything is woven together so perfectly I legit found myself wondering why we didn’t have color power anymore. ***this is what happens when you stay up till one in the morning to finish a book. ***

I cried at the end. Because the ending is that powerful. Fawkes is so much more than a story about the Gunpowder Plot.

It is a story of truth.

Of love.

Of sacrifice.

That God is with us.


You can find Fawkes here.


91q9KosGMvL._US230_NADINE BRANDES once spent four days as a sea cook in the name of book research. She is the author of the award-winning Out of Time Series and Fawkes (July 2018) Her inner fangirl perks up at the mention of soul-talk, Quidditch, bookstagram, and Oreos. When she’s not busy writing novels about bold living, she’s adventuring through Middle Earth or taste-testing a new chai. She and her Auror husband plan to live in a Tiny House on wheels. Current mission: paint the world in shalom.


Have you read Fawkes? What did you think? Let’s chat in the comments!

Rebecca Morgan

Journaling – The Right (or Wrong) Way to Do It

Journaling for me has always been hard. Not hard as in finding the right journal (there are dozens of pretty choices out there) but hard as in actually writing. I would make a entry, and in three months make another one.

And that’s just not how journaling is supposed to work, right? You’re supposed to journal every day, even if you do something as unromantic as put butter on your toast.

I did that, and the pages of my journal would be so boring IT MADE ME CRY.

Or my journal ended up looking like a scrap book, filled with quotes, word definitions, poems and much more. And dang it, wasn’t journaling about recording when you were in the depths of despair, and when life was a perfect graveyard of buried hopes?

My friend, let me spare you hours of agony and worry and let you in on a secret I wish I had learned years ago.

**beckons you closer**

There isn’t a right or wrong way to journal. There’s only one way:

The way that works for you.

So today, I’m going to show you how I write in my journals, because there are several.

Are you imagining me saying this in a Mr. Collins’ voice, bragging about Rosings’ many staircases? (because I am. Yes, I am a nerd)  


1. The Poem Journal



I was inspired to start this by my friend, Addison. I started it in January of this year. Whenever I feel the Longfellow in me coming out (which believe me, isn’t very often) I just whip out my British journal, and I feel like an Englishman as I write out poems with my fountain pen.


2. The Word Journal


You can see my original post on this journal, here. I love words, and since Ravenclaws are witty and love to learn, this journal is perfect for this.

3. My Life

Isn’t this cover amazing??


This is where I record my frustrations, hurts and disappointments. It’s where I also try to list a few things I’m grateful for, because no matter what I’m going through, there is also something God is blessing me with. 


4. The Bible Journal

This is a journal gifted by a friend, where I record God’s promises, truths, and a thought or two from my Bible study. If I had to pick a favorite, or rescue one from a house fire, this would probably be my choice. 


5. The Quotes Journal

My grandmother bought me this one (doesn’t it look like a letter when you turn it sideways??) This is where I record quotes that stick out to me. Though I must admit, I’m bad about actually writing in this one. It’s easier to just click pins on Pinterest.😊



6. The Ideas Book 

This is where I record book and blog post ideas. Tolkien scribbled down, In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit, on a scrap of paper, but I would have lost that piece of paper, so I have a book to hold those opening lines of books that may one day become famous.

These beauties are here empty, just bursting with potential. That porg one is going to have to be used for something extra special for many reasons, and because, porgs.




There isn’t a right or wrong way to journal. Journaling is about you, recording your life story. It’s about processing your emotions, life, and writing down the beauty you see in the world. 

I like to look at it this way: journey and journal both start with the same five letters: J-O-U-R-N-. 

Journaling is all about the journey.


So how about you ? How do you journal? 

Rebecca Morgan


From the Ashes ~ An OYAN Summer Workshop Reflection Post

I started out writing this post as a summary of what I learned last week at the OYAN workshop. After all this is a writing blog, right? That’s what would make the most sense for me to share.

I had my notes beside me and my fingers on the keys and the words wouldn’t come.

I thought something was wrong with me, but while I stared at my computer screen, God laid on my heart what to blog about this week.

To be honest with you, I didn’t want to share it, because it felt too personal. But God kept pressing on my heart the need to share it with you. So here we are.

Days before I was to leave for workshop I lost a loved one. Someone who ever since I was a young girl would give me a Coke and start spinning a tale and set a spark to that deep thing within me that loved telling stories.

But it was more than his loss that left me aching. Over the past two years I’ve lost other family members and I’ve felt at a loss as to why. I wasn’t angry at God, but I wanted to know why, why couldn’t my family get a break?

I was thrilled when I discovered the theme for the summer workshop was From the Ashes. I have long loved the story of the Phoenix. The idea of a creature rising from the ashes, into something beautiful and new has long held a special place in my heart.

There are countless stories and songs of being reborn from the ashes; the riddle of Strider from The Lord of the Rings, “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North. Doubtless we as a culture are enamored with the story of the Phoenix. I have even heard one pastor say that when we accept Christ as our Savior, we rise from the ashes of our past life into a Phoenix , into something new, beautiful, and pure. 

In the immortal words of Aslan, things never happen the same way twice, and I didn’t go into this workshop expecting to be changed as I was last year, or the year before that. I knew a core-shaking awakening wasn’t what I needed.  All I knew was that I was exhausted, mentally and physically. And that I was hurting. 

Instead I got to campus way too early looking for something to cling to that was beautiful. So I sat there, afraid I was annoying everyone, wondering, waiting, watching, in that calm before the storm, in that silence when everything waits with bated breath to catch a glimpse of what’s about to happen.

And I found wonder and beauty in a sweet girl named Jenna who has become a dear friend. It was Luke, Christina, and Adrienne, who are some of the dearest people I know. 

It was the small everyday moments that were sparks to my ashes, those moments that come and go so fast you almost don’t notice them. 


It was the joy in giving away Apple Butter

It was sitting outside on the grass talking with friends.

It was getting notes in my journal.

It was being in a circle of friends.

It was walks to the secret playground and pretending we were ordering burritos.

It was sitting in a hallway reading excerpts, making them sound like a romance read.

It was getting soaked by sprinklers at midnight and the screaming that ensued.

It was Mr. and Mrs. S just being themselves, pouring out the love they have for us.

It was watching a friend lead a class and getting a free book out of it.

It was a gift from a mother who took care of me that week.


Since coming home from the workshop with my health seemingly in tatters, those moments are still my sparks to ashes. And with God by my side, maybe I can rise from these ashes of grief and despair into something beautiful.



How to Drive a Story Forward — Follow These 5 Steps – Guest Post by Tessa Emily Hall

I wrote the first version of my debut novel, PURPLE MOON, when I was fifteen years old—and at the time, I wrote the story for fun. For my eyes only. Because of that, I didn’t have much of a plan in place for the plot. When the story was complete, I had a best-selling author review the manuscript—and although she complimented my writing, she told me the plot was lacking. My main character needed a goal.

It was the first time I’d heard of such a thing. Why did Selena need a goal?

I soon discovered that every main character in every good story has a goal. It’s the journey that the character takes in attempt to reach this goal that pushes the story into motion.

I returned to my manuscript and implemented a new goal—and I soon began to see the plot of PURPLE MOON take on its full form. It was no longer a story that followed Selena’s day-to-day adventures; rather, each scene held purpose. Each chapter was built into the framework of this journey toward Selena’s goal and drove the story forward.

So what’s the secret? How can you apply this concept to create stories that your readers won’t want to put down?

Start by following these five steps…

1 – Establish an inner desire and external goal.

If you’re a character-driven novelist like I am, it might be difficult to decide on a plot goal for your main character. But guess what? If you know your character inside and out, then you most likely already have the material necessary to uncover their external goal.

First, pinpoint your character’s inner desire. To find hope? Love? Acceptance?

From there, you’re going to create an external goal that will take her on a journey toward attaining this inner desire.

2 – Pull smaller goals from this over-arching goal.

If you want to keep the momentum flowing, then it’s important that each scene pushes the story forward. It’s difficult to do this throughout the duration of a novel-length project—unless your character has smaller goals to reach that are connected to the over-arching goal.

But don’t make it too easy for your character! It’s the struggle that will spark tension amongst the pages, and it’s this tension that will keep readers sitting on the edge of their seats.

That brings us to our next point…

3 – Make it rain.

Think about it: Do you like to read stories about characters who have everything good going for them? I doubt it.

When the character struggles against forces (and people) that keep her from reaching inner and external goals, then the reader will continue flying through the pages, eager to see if the character survived (figuratively—and literally, too, in some genres!).

4 – Create high stakes—both physical and emotional.

Sure, your character might have a goal—but is it important? Why does it matter to your character? What will she lose if she doesn’t reach this, and what will she gain if she does?

It’s these high stakes that will cause your readers to care for your main character. And when your readers care, then you’ll most likely have them hooked for the rest of the journey.

However, if you create stakes, then you need to understand your character’s motivation…

5 – Understand your character’s motivation.

Your readers will need to know why the character is compelled to reach this inner and external goal.

For example: If your character is a 17-year-old girl who is searching for acceptance, then maybe the external goal could be that she’s hoping to find her first summer romance.

Why is this important to her? What’s the motivation?

Maybe her parents are distant and have never shown her the love that she craves. Plus, if she gets a summer romance, then she could prove to the bullies at school that she isn’t a misfit—and perhaps she could finally make friends during her last year of high school. (Simple story structure, but you get the idea!) It’s this motivation that will create a plot that is realistic rather than simply formulaic.

Now, before I begin on a new project, I do this prep work before writing the entire story rather than afterwards.

Doing this gives me the opportunity to create stories that my readers can’t put down—stories that invite them to join in on an adventure. And no, you don’t have to be a plot-driven novelist to achieve this kind of magic!


# # #

Is it hard for you to develop a plot for your stories? Do you have any other advice for driving a story forward?



Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show teens they’re not alone. Her passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as an Associate Agent at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of Tessa’s first teen devotional, COFFEE SHOP DEVOS, will release with Bethany House in 2018. She’s guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating art journals, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website:


Rebecca Morgan.png


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