Posted in About the Book

Melissa and Rose’s Wardrobes

If you’ve read my third novel, Out of the Ashes, you would have met my newest heroines, Melissa Lowe and Rose Forrister. If you haven’t officially met them, I’ll introduce you to them next month. This month, I want to take you on a tour of their wardrobes. I’ll show you a selection of dresses that are featured in the book as well as some clothing that they might have worn because the best part of historical fiction are the clothes! 😉 Enjoy!

12We’ll start with Melissa Lowe. When I pictured Melissa, I pictured her in lots of blues, mostly because it was a certain someone’s favorite color. 😉 Here are a few dresses I used in the novel. 

Melissa 1This is something I had in mind when Melissa bumped into Ralph for the first time.

Melissa 4 Here’s Melissa’s wedding dress.

And here are three other dresses from Melissa’s wardrobe.


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Are you ready for a peek inside Rose’s wardrobe? Here we go! I pictured lots of purples or rosy colors on Rose. 

Rose 3

Here’s a pretty example of one of Rose’s day dresses.

Rose 5

Here’s another example of Rose’s day dress. If memory serves me correctly, she wore this on one of her strolls with the Colonel.

And here are three more samples from Rose’s wardrobe.

If you had the chance, would you borrow clothes from Melissa or Rose? 

If you haven’t had your fill of Victorian fashion, check out these posts:
Claire Harper’s Wardrobe
Sally Chandler’s Wardrobe
Ladies’ Fashion on the 1800s
An Inside Out Look at Ladies’ Fashion in the 1860s
Godey’s Fashion Adult Coloring Book Review
Civil War Fashion Adult Coloring Book Review
Getting Dressed: A Collection of Historical Dressing Videos

 

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Posted in Book Reviews

GIVEAWAY!! Plus Author Interview and Book Review: A Holy Passion by Alicia G. Ruggieri

228“My heart begins its slow crescendo at the news. Mr. Brainerd – my Mr. Brainerd – has come at last.”

After a few scant years of solitary missionary work among the American Indians on the colonial frontier, David Brainerd has been forced off the field once more by his terminal illness. A man who has sacrificed every earthly comfort for the sake of Christ, he takes refuge in the home of Reverend Jonathan Edwards, eminent Great Awakening theologian and pastor… and the father of a young woman named Jerusha. 

Unbeknownst to David, Jerusha Edwards has nurtured an affection for him since she met him long ago. Their renewed acquaintanceship challenges Jerusha to understand the meaning of selfless, Calvary love. Yet does such love demand too great a sacrifice for her to make?

Told with an emphasis on the known facts of Jerusha and David’s relationship as well as his missionary undertakings, this novel carefully embellishes the historical record, weaving a bittersweet tale of romantic, holy devotion.

 

I’ve packed a great deal in this blog post for you. A Holy Passion is a fiction book based on non-fiction events and characters. You’ll find my interview with the author, my review, and a giveaway for a paperback copy. Enjoy! 

My Interview with Alicia G. Ruggieri:

What was your inspiration for A Holy Passion?
My husband, Alex, and I used to live in Rhode Island, and we liked to take weekend jaunts exploring interesting places in New England. One time, a few years ago, we stayed at an old inn that had named its rooms after historical inhabitants of the town in which it was located. Our room was named after a young woman who had been captured by American Indians during a raid. At the time, I mentioned to Alex that I’d like to write a novel about that young woman. Well, I didn’t end up writing about her, but the idea of writing a colonial-era story got stuck in my mind for good. Sometime after that, I remembered a little book on my sister’s bookshelf: The Life and Diary of David Brainerd. I had never read the book, but I’d read a brief history of his life somewhere else and found him admirable. I also remembered that the biographer had mentioned that it was possible that the resolutely-unmarried missionary had entertained a romantic relationship with Jonathan Edwards’ daughter, who cared for him on her deathbed. Well, at that, the wheels of my writerly mind began turning… So that was the start of it!

How much research went into this novel? Did you research before or during the writing process?
As I started this project, I wanted to be sure that I accurately represented the people depicted in it (most of them are real people that we will meet in heaven someday), and so I really tried to delve deeply into both secondary and primary sources. The novel includes a list of some of the sources I used. Though most of the research was book-based, one of the fun parts of the research included traveling to Yale in New Haven and to Northampton, Massachusetts, to see the actual places Brainerd would have seen.
My research for this novel began well before the actual writing started and ended… Has it ended? 🙂 The fun – and sometimes heart-stopping – part of writing historical fiction is that there’s always something new to learn and another side to the story that you can explore.

Are there any books you’d recommend for us to read to learn more about David Brainerd?
If you only read two books on David Brainerd, read his Life and Diary. Alongside it, read David Wynbeek’s Beloved Yankee. Wynbeek’s book will make the Diary come to life for you. It’s out-of-print, but it’s the best and most readable adult biography of Brainerd available, in my opinion.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about these people?
One of the things that surprised me was the legacy that Brainerd left. This man died unmarried and childless; never graduated from seminary; and most of his work on the mission field, with the exception of the Crossweeksung revival, appeared a failure. He spent most of his own spiritual life in deep discouragement, and his body basically fell apart by his late twenties. This doesn’t sound like the kind of man who leaves a great legacy, does it?
Yet, over and over, I found Christians since Brainerd’s death who pointed back to him as their spiritual father, as the one who passed the torch to them, through his honest, God-seeking diary and through his life’s example of incredible endurance, made possible only by dependence moment-by-moment upon the Holy Spirit. Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and Henry Martyn are just a few of these who were encouraged as a result of Brainerd’s life and work.

Could you relate to any of them? In what way?
Oh, yes! That’s one of the things that drew me into the story and kept me writing… These “characters” are real – they existed – we can go and visit their graves – and their experience of the Christian life was also real. In Hebrews 12:1, the Bible talks about how we have a great cloud of witnesses, those who have gone before us. We can look at their testimony and know that God’s testimony in His Word is true. We can see how they lived and how they died, and we can pattern our own lives after theirs, as John Wesley, leader of Great Awakening in England, advised that we do.
One of the specific things that really encouraged me was the honest way in which Brainerd describes his lifelong, severe battle with discouragement/depression as a Christian… and the way that he continued to persevere through it. Before I read his diary, I had heard it described as somewhat bleak because of the way Brainerd often wishes (literally) for death to come or continually relates his hopelessness that God will ever use him. That is true; his diary is the account of a man who went through significantly more “demon-possessed valley” experiences, as Oswald Chambers describes them, than mountaintop ones. However, as a result, reading Brainerd’s diary centuries later, I felt a spiritual kinship with and encouragement from this man who pressed on, despite the dark clouds that would not lift, despite the seeming lack of measurable spiritual progress. I find myself now remembering his example when discouragement loom, remembering to take heart, take hope in God, and to press on, not in a fake kind of joy, but in a determined belief that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)
Another way that I found I could relate to them was through Jerusha’s struggle to let Brainerd go. How often have we prayed for something before God, all the while with our spiritual hands tightly gripping that thing or person, refusing to let God take it or them and do what His loving will is with them or it? I know that has often been the case with me.

What was the biggest obstacle to writing this novel?
The sheer feeling of inability that often overcame me in the midst of the writing. Above all, I didn’t want to misrepresent these people in any way, and sometimes, especially in the beginning of the writing, I wasn’t sure how to form David’s character. God mercifully led me to write this in first-person, present tense, from Jerusha’s perspective, and seeing David from Jerusha’s eyes helped immensely.

What are you hoping the reader will get out of it? 
Well, the thing that made the greatest impression on me during the writing of this was the message that flames brightly from David’s life – and Jerusha’s – more than 250 years after their deaths: Hold nothing back from Christ. Give up lands, houses, relationships, and ambitions, if they distract in any way from the high calling we have in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is worth all of it, and more. In his day, David was unusual, peculiar, because of his total commitment. We are each called to this. We are called to it in a day of innocent indulgences and diversions; we are called to it when sleep is so appealing, yet we know that God wants us to plead before His throne; we are called it when the compromise the world asks of us is so small, so seemingly insignificant.
Growing up, my mom often said in response to a Christian dilemma of what to do or not to do, “Count the cost. The cost is high.” And it is. We would do well to ask ourselves daily, as Brainerd did, “Am I counting the cost?”
So, if nothing else, I hope that readers will be inspired by David and Jerusha’s story of doing just that – counting the cost – that they will be inspired by it to do likewise, to think of their own lives in light of eternity.

Light and Quick Questions:

Do you journal?
Oh, dear, I am such a delinquent journaler! 🙂 Yes, but not consistently. I like to journal my prayers sometimes because I often can express myself better in writing than in speech.

What’s the one thing (besides God and family/friends) that you don’t think you could live without?
Stories, in some form, of course! 🙂

Do you write in the morning or evening?
Usually in the morning, but when I’m on a deadline, I will write any time.

Do you think you would have been a patient nurse like Jerusha?
I think genuine, God-given love makes any of us patient, so I have a feeling that any one of us could have been patient as Jerusha was, if we loved David as she did.

What is one of your favorite old hymns?
Oh, there are so many good ones, but one of my favorites is Charles Wesley’s “Arise, My Soul, Arise.”

 

Here are my thoughts on A Holy Passion: 

What I Loved: A Holy Passion is a fiction novel based on real events and real people. From beginning to end, it’s clear the author spent a great deal of time researching everything from the lifestyle, disease, conflict, and down to her best perception of the characters’ real personalities. Naturally, there are areas where she’d have to fill in the blanks with her imagination, but her imagination felt as real and as plausible as the tidbits of facts that were woven in.
The bulk of the novel is told through the first person, present tense. This is a style that I find harder to wrap my mind around. I knew the story would be worth persevering and I’m grateful that I did. After the first couple of chapters, the present tense became rather natural to me, and I no longer tripped over it.
I found it delightful to meet up with big names and events that have been passed down through Christian circles for the last two centuries. And it was refreshing to get to meet two of these people who I have never heard of before now. The romance is at first relatable and entertaining. It’s not hard to understand Jerusha’s feelings as she anticipates David’s appearance and, later, his attention. But the further the story moves, the deeper and more awe-inspiring the romance becomes. From a historical standpoint, you’ll learn a great deal about tuberculosis, evangelism among the Indians, and some of the conflict surrounding the Great Awakening.
But the highlight of the novel is truly the spiritual content. Alicia brings David’s biggest desire for living a dedicated life of service to Christ and through evangelizing the lost to bear on the reader. It was the type of message, through the type of means, that will weigh on my heart, and help to bring me back to the basics, for a long time to come.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving A Holy Passion 5 stars. I recommend it to those who enjoy Christian Fiction, especially those looking for novels based on real believers. Also for those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction and those looking for more novels about the 1700s.

~ I received a copy from the author. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one. 

 

Giveaway Info: 

The author is generously providing a paperback copy to one of my readers. Follow the link to enter the giveaway!

*Continental U.S. residents only due to shipping costs, but an ebook version can be provided for international readers.

*Giveaway ends Sunday night, May 20th. This blog post will be updated on Monday, May 21, 2018 to announce the winner. If a response is needed and the winner doesn’t claim the prize within 7 days, a new winner will be selected.

CONGRATULATIONS: JoAnna Gommensen!! You’re our winner!!
*Expect an email from either me or Alicia.  

 

Posted in Christian

God Doesn’t Hand Out Crutches

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What is a spiritual crutch?

A spiritual crutch is anything you turn to for comfort, for peace, or for security.

Looking at that basic definition, we may not be quick to say that we use spiritual crutches. By that definition, these crutches sound an awful lot like a false god and we know better than to worship lifeless idols. Don’t we?  But let’s look a little deeper at what they are and see if we don’t have a pair of worn out crutches sitting in our room.

Do you ever turn on the tv in order to find something to distract you from your troubles? The tv has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you ever grab a book to read in order to hide from issues surrounding you?
A book has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you ever create art: paint, draw, knit, color, etc. to escape and unwind?
Art has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you exercise to deal with the things you can’t handle in life?
Exercise has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you eat in order to better handle a bad day?
Eating has become a spiritual crutch.

Clearly, we could go on and on for days but I think you get the point, and maybe by now you even have your finger on the spiritual crutch or crutches in your life.

Why are spiritual crutches wrong?
Spiritual crutches are a problem for the Christian because we are trusting in something to woo us back into our happy places instead of relying on the Living God to do what He said He would do.

Have you noticed that spiritual crutches look an awful lot like hobbies? So…are hobbies sinful? Are we to give up the things that give us pleasure?
Hobbies are not sinful. I believe the Lord gives us desires and talents and allows us to enjoy them. And why wouldn’t He? He gave us taste buds to enjoy food. He gave us the sense of smell to enjoy the wonders around us. He gave us sensual pleasures to enjoy the duty of procreation.
He often showers us with delightful add-ons just because He can and it pleases Him to do so. So what’s the problem with these hobbies-turned-crutches?

The problem is when you turn to your pleasures instead of God when you’re going through difficult times. The problem is when you reach for your “fix” instead of your God.
How often do we say something like, “I’m having a terrible day but a good cup of coffee will make it all better.” Or we might turn up the radio and drown out the sorrows. Let the base rock the tension out of our shoulders.

The problem is not in the things. It’s in our placement of these things. Here’s a good example:
I’m around readers through several social platforms, and I’ve heard this dozens of times. They’ll say something like, “I can’t concentrate on this book I’m reading. It’s a great book, but I have so much going on at home (dog died, sister is in the hospital, child ran away, and they lost their job). I just want to get into a book and get lost. But I can’t and I’m frustrated.”
Of course, they’re frustrated!! Why wouldn’t they be? They’re trying to cover the gaping hole in their heart with a Looney Tunes band-aid! It doesn’t work that way. We don’t work that way. We weren’t created for this at all.

The Lord is our safety net. He is our perfectly sized, never falls off, medicated band-aid. The truth is, you don’t need anything else. You don’t need a backup plan. You don’t need God and that cup of coffee. You don’t need the smell of paints and a little Scripture.

You need to put your focus on Christ and only Christ.
Recite scripture to yourself and see how quickly your day turns around. No need to spend $3.99 for yummy calories.
Sing praises and hymns and watch your mood shift from night to day. You won’t even have to use a bookmark or recharge your kindle.
Read the Bible and notice how clarity floods your soul. You won’t even have to pull out your art supplies.
Pray to the God who is always listening and see how quickly peace enters in. There’s no need to hit the gym again on your way home.

It’s not that hobbies are bad. It’s that we often accept them in place of something so much greater. I’m not suggesting that you stop enjoying things you love. But I am saying that the next time life overwhelms you, turn to God first. Let Him heal you in a way that only He can. THEN enjoy all the extra stuff. You can’t empty your mind by numbing your mind and that’s what these crutches offer. Instead, empty your mind by handing over everything that is bugging you. Hand it over in prayer and turn those prayer requests to praises.

How can I be so sure that God can heal me, mend me, and turn my attitude and my perspective around? Here is just a sampling of what God says in His Word:

Psalm 121: 1,2
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 120: 1
“I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.”

Psalm 71:1, 5, 14, 23, 24
“In You, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame…For You have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth…As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more…My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You-I whom You have delivered. My tongue will tell of Your righteous acts all day long for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.”

Psalm 62:5-8
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”

Psalm 54:1, 2, 4
“Save me, O God, by Your name; vindicate me by Your might. Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth…Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.”

Psalm 42:5
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

Psalm 28:6, 7
“Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.”

In the face of such evidence, how can we continue to turn to a donut for comfort? All we ever have need of is hidden in Christ. Let us remember this the next time we reach for a crutch. After we have been healed and our hearts are whole, we can enjoy our hobbies. But as believers, we have to stop letting our hobbies become the crutch that allows us to hobble through our day. We were never meant to hobble.

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Posted in Book Reviews

How to Use Social Media to Help Your Favorite Author

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I’ve recently found myself in Amazon’s Reviewer Jail, and I’ve learned that I’m not alone in here. This “jail cell” is getting rather crowded. I’m not about to tell you that honest reviews are no longer valid or that we authors don’t care about them or don’t need them. That just isn’t true. But what I do want to focus on are the various ways you can share the work of your favorite author, or the enjoyable novel you’ve been reading, without sharing a review. I hope this list gives you new and easy ways to get active. And for my fellow cellmates, I hope it brings you a new area to focus on now that Amazon has taken away your ability to review on their site.

First of all, for many authors, Amazon is not the only place where you can leave your honest review. Traditionally published novels will also sell on sites such as Christianbook.com and Barnes and Noble. For the self-published author, you’d have to ask since many, myself included, are published solely through Amazon. However, no matter which publisher your favorite author works with, you can always leave your honest review on Goodreads.com. Membership here is free, and you’ll find many book-loving people to share your thoughts with there.

If you blog, you can share your review link on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. Since Facebook allows limitless wordcounts in a single post non-bloggers can leave their full review on their wall as well as several book-focused groups within the site.

But I promised you some non-review related things, so here we go . . .

Recommendations:
Honest to goodness, personal word of mouth will go a long way. That doesn’t mean you mindlessly recommend every book. You want to be personal about it. Be sincere. Be authentic. Here are some ways to do that:
1) Post the book’s link on your wall and tag a friend who you think will be perfect for that book. Be sure to let them know why you think they’re a good fit. If you or your friend are the shy type, you could always private message the link and info.
2) There are several book-loving groups on Facebook. Readers in these groups are often looking for something new to read. It’s only a matter of time before someone is looking for something you’ve already read and can recommend.
*If you’re a Christian Fiction reader on Facebook, Avid Readers of Christian Fiction would be a great place to start.  Another happening group is Celebrate Lit Community Forum.
3) Recommend your favorite new read to your book club.
4) Request your favorite author’s books at your public and/or church library.
5) Goodreads has a super easy way to recommend a book with a single click to your Goodreads friends. If you’re a member, be sure to use this feature.
6) Don’t forget, Goodreads also has many groups, most of which are divided into genres. There are lots of ways to share your favorite books there.

Share:
1) One of an author’s main promos is running a sale or freebie offer. When you hear of the sale, be sure to share it! This helps your fellow book friends and your favorite authors. Don’t be afraid to tag or private message your friend when you know that particular book is a great fit for them.
2) And again, don’t forget your book-lovers groups. Several groups allow sale/freebie links.
3) When you find your favorite author offering a giveaway, don’t be stingy. Share the giveaway link on your wall!! Tag a friend. Don’t leave it just on your wall, but share it with your favorite readers’ group as well.
4) Another major promo for an author is a Facebook party or live chat. You’ll be doing them a great favor by inviting interested friends to their party and sharing their party link on your wall. *Again, don’t annoy your friends by inviting them to a party they won’t enjoy. Only invite those who you truly think will be interested.

Novel Quotes:
Probably second to the recommendation of a trusted friend is hooking a potential reader with a quote from the novel. Here are a few ways to do that:
1) Many readers share the first line of the novels they read. Maybe that could be your new first step when you start a book is to share the first line with your friends on Facebook, or Twitter if the line is short enough.
2) Personally, I’m a big fan of the last line of the first chapter. You could shake things up a bit by sharing that line instead. Or share both on separate days.
3) I’ve seen a group of bloggers posting the first line of a novel. They call it First Line Fridays. You might consider hopping on board with them or starting your own ring of bloggers.
4) Share one of your favorite lines after you’ve finished the book. Share on your wall or at the end of your review.
*Just be sure not to share any spoilers!!
5) Many authors put together their own graphics with favored lines from the novel. When you see one, share it! Or if you’re crafty, put one together yourself and share it with the author. You can also pin these graphics on Pinterest.

Personal Novel Pics:
There is nothing more recognizable than the book’s cover. So show off the book you’re reading. You can take the picture of the physical copy or your e-reader with the cover on the screen. Here are a few ideas, but the possibilities are endless.
1) Selfie with the book
2) Take a pic at your child’s practice
3) While reading on your lunch break
4) Outside on a sunny day
5) Inside on a rainy day
6) Sitting on the sofa beside your comfy blanket
7) On the table beside your cup of tea or coffee
8) Your stack of TBR books
I’ll stop there but suffice it to say that readers LOVE to see pictures of books. I promise, they’ll enjoy your pics no matter where you take them. You could take a new pic with each book or make a habit by taking a pic of what you’re reading once a week.

Give it Away:
You can’t beat sharing a book by giving it away!
1) Buy a copy as a gift for a friend who would enjoy it.
2) Donate your copy to your public or church library.
3) Host a giveaway on your blog or social site.
* Just remember that you are NOT allowed to give away Advanced Reader Copies. How do you know if your copy is an ARC? If you received a copy BEFORE the book was released whether through the publisher, author, or some other review program: You most likely have an ARC. They are trusting you NOT to share this copy and to leave an honest review wherever you review books. When in doubt, just ask!

Book Awards and Games:
Here are some other fun and simple ways to share your favorite author’s work.
1) Nominate or vote for the novel on a Goodreads list. These lists get a LOT of traffic. Being visible here could mean a lot to your favorite author, even if they don’t get the highest number of votes. Again, don’t vote willy-nilly. There are so many variations of lists, so it shouldn’t be hard to find an honest fit for your favorite novel.
2) At the end of the year, month, or season, share your top reads with your friends. You can post this on your blog or on your favorite social media site. Be sure to let the author know that you selected them as a favorite. They’ll appreciate it, I promise.
3) Cover games. Again, the most recognizable aspect of a book is the cover. Playing a little game with the cover would give exposure and have fun with your friends at the same time. Maybe pit two covers against each other to see which is the favorite. Or cover up the cover photo and leave one small spot visible and see which of your friends could guess the cover first.

Send a Note:
Okay, so this last suggestion doesn’t spread the word about the novel, but it does spread the love. Consider sending the author a note. You never know what that might mean to them. God may just use you and your humble message to encourage them during a hard week.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any suggestions that I didn’t include?

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction Friday

Spring Review Update

I can’t believe how fast the months are zipping by!! When I set out at the beginning of the year, I had purposed to squeeze in more books from my backlist. As it turns out, I’m falling behind. Between all the great new releases to keep up with and the extra writing time, I’m having a harder time working in 2 novels from my backlist. I’ve decided that I want to continue with the Backlist Review posts but I’ll be grouping 2 or 3 months together. But the good news is that the more time I spend writing, the books I can add to your TBR list. 😉 So here’s a quick look what I’m working on and some of the books on my lists.

Here is just a sampling of the New Releases that I’m looking forward to getting my hands on. Are any of these on your wishlist as well?

 

And here’s a small sampling of the books on my Backlist. Have you read any of these yet, or are they sitting on your TBR pile still?

 

And here’s a small peek into what I’m working on. Aside from these 4 known drafts, I’m also working on 4 new drafts as well. But I’m not releasing any info on those just yet so stay tuned to hear the latest. You’ll hear the news first on Facebook.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: First Impressions by Debra White Smith

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First Impressions: A Contemporary Retelling of Pride and Prejudice

Lawyer Eddi Boswick tries out for a production of Pride and Prejudice in her small Texas town. When she’s cast as the lead, Elizabeth Bennet, her romantic co-star is none other than the town’s most eligible–and arrogant–bachelor.

My Thoughts: It was interesting to see how the story could have played out in the 21st century. And I really enjoyed the angle Smith brings to the story by having them act out the Pride and Prejudice play. There were some elements of the original story that I felt like were very creatively translated into the new story. But I also felt like there were some elements that were either forced or flat out uncomfortable. For me, one of the more disappointing areas were the characters’ view of marriage. I know in the original, Mr. Bennet has a great deal of disdain for his silly wife. But for me, to have Mr. Boswick have such open and unrepented disdain for his wife while claiming that the only reason he isn’t divorced is because he’s a Christian had me feeling like a Christian’s responsibility in marriage was misrepresented.
First Impressions was a solid retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It was a light, entertaining read whether you’ve read Austen’s famous novel or not.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving First Impressions 4 stars and recommend it to Contemporary Fiction fans or those who enjoy Austen retellings.

~ I received a copy from Net Galley. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own. 

 

Posted in History

Quotes from General Lee and General Grant

In celebration of the anniversary of Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox earlier this month, I thought we’d take a look at some famous quotes from both generals. You could certainly spend all day reading the various quotes from each man. There was so much that I wanted to share. Words on army life, each other, honor, life, God, country, etc. But I chose to keep it short and sweet. Enjoy!

244Robert E. Lee:

“I have been up to see the Congress and they do not seem to be able to do anything except to eat peanuts and chew tobacco, while my army is starving.”

“It is good that war is so horrible, or we might grow to like it.”

“I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself.”

“The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”

“Never do a wrong thing to make a friend or to keep one.”

“I like whiskey. I always did, and that is why I never drink it.”

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*I picked up these mugs in Virginia three years ago. I love the quotes and the graphics. The front side shows a picture of the general. But what I love most are the signatures. The one on the left is Grant and the right belongs to Lee. 

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Ulysses S. Grant:

“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.”

“My failures have been errors in judgment, not of intent.”

“I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.”

“Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.”

“I know only two tunes: one of them is ‘Yankee Doodle’, and the other isn’t.”

“I don’t know why black skin may not cover a true heart as well as a white one.”

I hope you enjoyed this small sampling of both men. Let me know which quote was your favorite or any that surprised or inspired you. 

Posted in About the Author, Christian

My Testimony

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I’ll be celebrating a birthday this month, so I like to take time each year to share another special birthday: my conversion story. 

I attended a church program when I was seventeen. At the end of that program, I believed that God was dealing with my heart so I walked down the aisle, spoke with someone, and prayed a prayer.

But that’s it.

I left there feeling excited over the choice I had made that night, but that excitement never carried over into the rest of my life. Over the next five years, I would continue living life my way. I made no efforts to attend church after that night and felt no need to be baptized. I continued life with my filthy mouth, wicked thoughts, and sexual sins. I knew these actions were wrong, but it didn’t bother me enough to quit. I can remember my aunt trying to talk some sense into me. She tried to tell me that a Christian couldn’t continue in their sin like I was doing, but I believed that I knew better. “You don’t know my heart,” is what I would tell her. And it’s true, she couldn’t see my heart, but she could see my fruit…or lack thereof.

Better still, God could see my heart and He knew all too well that I was continuing in a life of rebellion, all while claiming that I was saved.

Five years later, I noticed a great stirring in my heart. I longed for the things of God and in time, He would lead me to a church. I began faithfully attending this church, all while trying to hold tightly to my sins. I would attend almost every Sunday, but my life had yet to change.

My pastor was preaching through Romans during this time and it seemed like every single sermon held the same theme, “No Change = No Salvation.” I’m near positive that he said those same words in every sermon at some point, or at least that’s what the Holy Spirit was bringing to my attention.

During this time, I began to doubt my salvation. I remembered the feeling that I had that night when I was seventeen and I walked down the aisle and when I prayed. I remember the excitement. I remember the jitters. But I never remembered forsaking my sin and myself. I don’t recall a day after that when I would purposely choose God’s ways over my own. No change = no salvation. These words echoed through my mind so often. And it would be these words that would be the theme of my testimony. One night, while listening to the latest sermon from Romans, I finally admitted the truth: I had never changed, therefore I’m not saved and will go to hell. I had finally come to grips with the truth and would finally turn my whole life over to Him.

After this moment in my life, I could see a serious change taking place. It didn’t happen all at once, although there were some things that did fall off at the moment of conversion.  For the most part, I would be growing in stages. This is something the Bible calls, sanctification. Sanctification is a life long process. The thing about being saved is that you WILL go through sanctification. After only a few months, I could see a change taking place.  A few months later, even more change.  Every so often when I would stop and look back over my life, it wasn’t hard to find evidence of the changes that were taking place.

How could I change? Because Christ now lived in me, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.” It’s the strangest thing, but the things that I used to love, I was growing to hate, and the things that I had once hated, I was growing to love. It was impossible for me to hate my sin while I lived in darkness, just like it was impossible for me to have the Spirit of God living inside of me and not change into His image. Although I have come a long way in my walk, I feel that I must clarify that I do and can still sin. But when I do, I no longer love it. When I sin, it literally grieves the Spirit within me. To put it plainly, it feels dirty; it feels wrong. Remember, sanctification is a life-long process. No one will reach the end until they reach Heaven.

A few years later, the devil would attack my assurance. He would begin to plant doubts in my mind. You see, most Christians can tell you exactly when they were saved. Many know the date, time, place, and some can even remember what they wore. But I knew none of these things. There were several moments of brokenness and sincere prayer, so  I’m not sure which one was the “one.” For about two years, I would struggle and doubt. And I can tell you honestly that it was the most miserable time in my life.

One Sunday during the altar call, a member of our church came forward and announced that she needed to be saved. She had believed herself a Christian all this time but knew something was off. At that moment, I had the courage I needed to come forward and announce that I had doubts and I was ready to get this settled. I came forward and was counseled by two ladies from our church. They both did a wonderful job trying to help me see, but it was something that I would have to continue to wrestle with on my own. For the next 36 hours, there was a great battle raging inside of me.

I began by searching my life for fruit. What proof did I have of being saved? I searched long and hard. I knew that the most common ideas of Spiritual fruit were actually works. Things like church attendance, tithing, and service. I could claim all of those things and I believe the scriptures teach that each Christian should be growing in these areas, but I also knew that these works could be faked, so I didn’t dwell there. I searched deeper, looking at things like repentance, conviction, and growth in the areas that other people could not see.
When I had a sinful thought, did I feel conviction?
Was I willing to repent of the tough stuff, even when no one else would know that I was involved in such sins?
Did I grow in the deeper, more hidden areas of my life?
I walked away confused because I had such strong doubts and yet as far as I could tell, I passed the test. I knew that if I were to plead my case to any person, I would be able to convince them that I was in fact saved. But I didn’t want to convince someone else, and I didn’t need another person to confirm me. I wanted God Himself to confirm once and for all that I was His. My prayer at the end of the night was simply this: Lord confirm me. I felt like Jacob in that hour, clinging to His robe crying out, “Either confirm that I’m Yours or save me! But I’m not leaving until You do one of them!” Jacob, too, refused to let go until God blessed him.

The next morning, I felt led to pick up a book that my pastor wrote titled, Genuine Conversion. In this simple booklet, he breaks down what it means, or rather what it looks like, to be saved. He compares what the Scriptures actually teach with what common belief says. It’s a simple read which lists what conversion DOES NOT look like compared to what it DOES look like based on the Bible.  In the end, he included a quiz to help the reader understand what kinds of fruit are growing on the limbs of their trees. I went through this same book that morning and there were two things that seemed to be repeated on every page.

1: Matthew 7:17-20 A bad tree can not produce good fruit

2:1 John 2:3-6 I can KNOW once and for all that I’m saved and never doubt again.

First, the verse Matthew 7:17-20: “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” This verse appeared so often in the short book that it became all the more clear. Not only can you know if you are saved by the fruit on your tree, but a bad tree (which I assumed that I was, till proven saved) cannot produce good fruit, just like a good tree can not produce bad fruit. I searched and searched. I took the quiz.  I begged God to show me my own heart and I was finding ample proof from all around that I was saved.

Second, First John 2:3-6: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” This verse came in and helped me to see that I can know the truth about my salvation. That God actually wants me to know. It’s not His way for believers to doubt. I walked away that morning understanding that I was saved. But this would not be the end of Satan’s attack. He had one last ploy.

Now that I was certain of my salvation, Satan then tried to keep me quiet about it. By twisting Scripture, he reminded me that “pride goes before a fall” and it would be best for me to enjoy my salvation, but just don’t tell anyone else about it. His reasoning was that if I stood up and announced that I had security, what if these doubts resurfaced further down the road and I was proven wrong next time? How embarrassing would that be?! I had to admit, he had a point. And being my enemy, he knew my weakness was my pride. I didn’t want to tell everyone what I had discovered, only to be wrong and have to renounce it. I stood in my bathroom and prayed, “What if these doubts come back? What will prove me next time?” I felt the Spirit speaking to my heart saying, “The same thing that proved you today will prove you tomorrow.” And at that moment Satan’s hold on me was finally shattered.

I cannot tell you the amount of peace that flooded my heart from this moment on. I know I’m saved, not because I can remember the moment I prayed a prayer, but because I have ample proof of being sanctified every day since then. I don’t remember the day I was justified, but I have intimate memories of being sanctified, and, therefore, I can KNOW that I will one day be glorified. The devil doesn’t sanctify and God doesn’t change a person before He saves them. God proved my relationship with Him was real by reminding me of all the changes He had made in my life.  He doesn’t work out of order.  First he justifies, then He sanctifies, and later He will glorify! Satan’s attempts to keep me quiet about my testimony only showed me how powerful my testimony really was. I love to share it now!

If you have any questions or comments, you can email me privately or chat with me below.
If you are interested in getting a copy of the Genuine Conversion book that I read through (which I highly recommend), please don’t hesitate to ask. I would love to send you a copy free of charge!

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

204Challenging perceptions of discrimination and prejudice, this emotionally resonant drama for readers of Lisa Wingate and Jodi Picoult explores three different women navigating challenges in a changing school district–and in their lives.

When an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors, the lives of three very different women converge: Camille Gray–the wife of an executive, mother of three, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fundraiser–faced with a shocking discovery that threatens to tear her picture-perfect world apart at the seams. Jen Covington, the career nurse whose long, painful journey to motherhood finally resulted in adoption but she is struggling with a happily-ever-after so much harder than she anticipated. Twenty-two-year-old Anaya Jones–the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge’s top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she’s stepped into. Tensions rise within and without, culminating in an unforeseen event that impacts them all. This story explores the implicit biases impacting American society, and asks the ultimate question: What does it mean to be human? Why are we so quick to put labels on each other and categorize people as “this” or “that”, when such complexity exists in each person?

What I Loved: From page one, you’re pulled into this real-to-life story. Everything from the situations to the characters to Ganshert’s writing style came across as real. It’s almost hard to explain. But there’s something about her writing style that makes you feel like you’re coming home. It’s relatable. And there’s such a natural atmosphere on the page that is both enchanting and consuming.
I don’t believe this is a novel that you can pick up and read in one sitting. Or at least it wasn’t for me. It was something more solemn. Something that deserved more time and contemplation as you read. Oh, it’s entertaining to be sure. But it’s not the sort of fast-paced entertainment that leaves you feeling light and airy. It’s the kind that sticks to your ribs and changes you from the inside.
Ganshert has done an amazing job and I think this will be a lasting favorite for me.

Rating and Recommendation: I highly recommend it to those who enjoy Christian Contemporary Fiction or those who are looking for fiction that deals with real-life issues. I’m giving it 5 stars.

~ I received a copy from the publisher. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green

200Lacemaker Vivienne Rivard never imagined her craft could threaten her life. Yet in revolutionary France, it is a death sentence when the nobility, and those associated with them, are forced to the guillotine. Vivienne flees to Philadelphia but finds the same dangers lurking in the French Quarter, as revolutionary sympathizers threaten the life of a young boy left in her care, who some suspect to be the Dauphin. Can the French settlement, Azilum, offer permanent refuge?

Militiaman Liam Delaney proudly served in the American Revolution, but now that the new government has imposed an oppressive tax that impacts his family, he barely recognizes the democracy he fought for. He wants only to cultivate the land of his hard-won farm near Azilum, but soon finds himself drawn into the escalating tension of the Whiskey Rebellion. When he meets a beautiful young Frenchwoman recently arrived from Paris, they will be drawn together in surprising ways to fight for the peace and safety for which they long.

What I Loved: From the very first chapter, I recalled just why I love Green’s writing so much. She has a way of bringing history, romance, action, and God’s truth together in one enthralling package. A Refuge Assured was a ride from start to finish. The pages kept turning with tension lurking around every corner.
I appreciate how she brings the harsh realities of life to bear on the characters without discrimination. For more sensitive readers, they would like to know that Green has a bit more of a graphic nature. A Refuge Assured deals with some difficult violence in the first few chapters but things mellow out into a more comfortable level. Don’t mistake me, I wouldn’t say it was outside of Christian Fiction bounds, but, for those who are uncomfortable with violence, especially those who are unfamiliar with the realities of the French Revolution, some of those scenes may come as a shock to you. I wouldn’t say Green glorified in the violence but she did bring the reality of it to the reader’s attention.
The spiritual aspect was on the lighter side and only really came into focus at the end of the novel. However, the characters often sought God throughout their trials.
The romance was endearing. But I’d say it was the history that really took center stage. I’m fairly new to the French Revolution so there were new details to learn here. From the start, I felt like I was able to view history through the eyes of someone who walked through it, and that’s what Historical Fiction should do for the reader. One of the rare aspects of the French Revolution was how it colored things here in America. I found this very interesting and learned a great deal about my early country.

Rating and Recommendation: I highly recommend it for those who enjoy general Historical Fiction, fiction featuring the French Revolution or Post American Revolution, and for the Christian Historical Fiction fan. I’m giving it 5 stars.

~ I received a copy from Net Galley. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for my review.