Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

229In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin’s practiced pen with this powerful new series.

What I Loved: When I think WWII fiction, I immediately think Sarah Sundin. She’s become such a staple in the genre and for a good reason. I’ve come to expect from Sundin a well-rounded story, loveable characters, clean romance, solid Christian message, along with rich and vivid historical details. The Sea Before Us is one such novel.
The history lover in me enjoyed an up-close look at part of the planning that went into D-Day. I found the map-building process to be enlightening. I also enjoyed another look at the life of an Englishmen during the later years of the war.
Much of the naval details fly over my head, but I can appreciate Sundin’s research and attention to detail. It’s clear that she put a great deal of work into this novel.
One of the things I always praise in a Sundin novel is her characters. She has a way with creating humble Christian characters. There were some solid threads on forgiving yourself, selflessly serving others, being who God created you to be, and trusting Christ with things you can’t control.
From page one, she starts off with a gripping backstory of three brothers that will be the foundation for the entire series. I can’t wait for the rest of the series to discover what happens with the other two brothers!

Rating and Recommendations: I highly recommend this one to those who enjoy WWII fiction, Christian Historical Fiction, or Christian War fiction. I’m giving it 5 stars.

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Posted in Book Reviews

Cover Wars: 2017 Christian Fiction Release Edition

Yay!! It’s time for another round of Cover Wars!! The game is simple. Vote for your favorite cover in each category. I’ll update the post to show the winners when the votes stop rolling in. 

Gold Dress: Two lovely dresses but which is your favorite: The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron or The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green?

 

Nerdy Gals: Take your pick between these beautiful covers: A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White or Grace and the Preacher by Kim Vogel Sawyer.

 

Pearls: Two more stunning close-ups, but which is your favorite? A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden or High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin?

 

Dressed for the Ball: The dresses and the covers keep getting lovelier. Which is your favorite: Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano or A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander?

 

Regency: 2017 brought several new Regency novels. But which of the two is your favorite cover: A Dangerous Engagement by Melanie Dickerson or A Stranger of Fellsworth by Sarah E. Ladd?

 

I’m asking you to pick your favorites, but I’m not sure I’m able to decide. Lol Alright, I’ll force myself to play along. 😉 
Gold Dress: YIKES this is hard! I’m going to go with Cambron because of the splash of color brought to the cover with the red roses. 
Nerdy Gals: I love them both, really. But I’m a sucker for the printed words on the cover, so I’ll go with Sawyer on this one. 
Pearls: Another impossible to pair to choose between, but after much deliberation, I’m going to have to say Breslin. It was a favorite of mine from the moment I saw it. 
Dressed for the Ball: Both are stunning, especially their backdrops, but I really like Turano’s all white cover. 
Regency: Ahhh How to choose between the soft yellow or the mysterious blue? Both are gorgeous and both draw me in, but I’m always smitten by a night scene, so I’ll go with Dickerson. 

Now it’s your turn! 

**Winner’s Announced. 
You’re always welcomed to leave your opinions, but I’ll no longer update the poll. 

Gold Dress: The Mark of the King wins 8 to 2
Nerdy Gals: Grace and the Preacher wins 6 to 4
Pearls: A Dangerous Legacy wins 6 to 2
Dressed for the Ball: Behind the Scenes wins 7 to 1
Regency: A Dangerous Engagement wins 6 to 3

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: April and May’s Backlist Reviews: 3 in 1

New releases are great! And there are some wonderful new releases out so far this year. But I enjoy picking up something new from the something old section. These are the books I read from my backlist collection this month.
*All links lead to Goodreads unless otherwise stated.

278Daughter of the Regiment by Stephanie Grace Whitson:

Irish immigrant Maggie Malone wants no part of the war. She’d rather let “the Americans” settle their differences-until her brothers join Missouri’s Union Irish Brigade, and one of their names appears on a list of injured soldiers. Desperate for news, Maggie heads for Boonville, where the Federal army is camped. There she captures the attention of Sergeant John Coulter. When circumstances force Maggie to remain with the brigade, she discovers how capable she is of helping the men she comes to think of as “her boys.” And while she doesn’t see herself as someone a man would court, John Coulter is determined to convince her otherwise.

As the mistress of her brother’s Missouri plantation, Elizabeth Blair has learned to play her part as the perfect hostess-and not to question her brother Walker’s business affairs. When Walker helps organize the Wildwood Guard for the Confederacy, and offers his plantation as the Center of Operations, Libbie must gracefully manage a house with officers in residence and soldiers camped on the lawn. As the war draws ever closer to her doorstep, she must also find a way to protect the people who depend on her. 

Despite being neighbors, Maggie and Libbie have led such different lives that they barely know one another-until war brings them together, and each woman discovers that both friendship and love can come from the unlikeliest of places.

My Review and Rating: From one Civil War fan to another, this one is a gem! I enjoyed the new-to-me perspective of a woman’s role in a regiment. Whitson introduces 2 memorable characters for me: Noah, and Hero, the dog.
There were a couple of Catholic “praying to the saints and/or to Mary” moments, but the rest of the religious content followed a general Protestant angle.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one from start to finish!
I give it 5 stars!

 

279A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell:

The elegance of Madame Forza’s gown shop is a far cry from the downtrodden North End of Boston. Yet each day Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana enter the world of the upper class, working on finery for the elite in society. The three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream–and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times. Julietta is drawn to the swarthy, mysterious Angelo. Annamaria has a star-crossed encounter with the grocer’s son, a man from the entirely wrong family. And through no intent of her own, Luciana catches the eye of Billy Quinn, the son of Madame Forza’s most important client. Their destinies intertwined, each harboring a secret from their families and each other, will they be found worthy of the love they seek?

My Review and Rating: Spectacular sums up my thoughts on this one! From the very beginning, Siri stepped outside of the norm with the use of an old-fashioned narrator. And I loved every single minute of it!! I can imagine some readers probably complained because technically Siri was “head-hopping” by modern standards. But I found it to be absolutely charming. I will say this: I listened to this one in audio. I can imagine that I might have tripped over the narrator just a bit if I had read it in physical form. But in audio (which FYI the lady reading the book did an excellent job!!) having a narrator seemed quite natural since you typically listen to someone tell a story more than you read it in that format.
The story itself was fantastic. But I will note that the religious content was highly Catholic for those who wish to know. There were some solid themes on the consequences of sin and rebellion as well as God’s forgiveness woven throughout the story. There were lots of Catholic traditions and beliefs sprinkled throughout as well.
I not only urge you to add this one to your TBR list, but I vote you grab the audio version if you can so you can enjoy the Italian accents. She’s certainly one of my favorite audio narrators to date. It’s a 5 star book for me!
*Link will take you to Amazon so that you can preview the audio version.

 

334

Dear Mr. Knightley (Audio Version) by Katherine Reay:

Samantha Moore is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore. But life for the 23-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction.

An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor calling himself Mr. Knightley offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress. As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

I have actually reviewed this one before so you can catch my original review here. But if I’m reviewing it again, it must be among my favorites. 😉 I had the chance to get a copy of the audio version and decided that I would enjoy hearing the story all over again. I’m really enjoying it just as much as I had when I read it the first time.
In terms of the audio version, I’m only giving it a 4.5 stars. The narrator has this slight whine to her voice that pops up from time to time. It’s the type of thing that bugs me to listen to. Everyone will have different narrator preferences so you’ll want to preview the audio for yourself. But the annoyance was enough to keep from being head over heels in love but not enough to keep me from listening to a beloved story.
*The link I provided in the title will take you to Amazon where you can preview the audio.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: English Through the Ages

305

Lists words, grouped by subject, that were in use in different time periods, including prior to 1150, and in increasingly smaller ranges to the present.

They didn’t offer much of a description, so let me help you out:

This is one of those gems that, as a historical author, I wish someone had told me about sooner. Not only is it helpful, but it’s flat-out fun to read. Ok, I just admitted to having fun reading a dictionary. I’m aware of how that makes me look, but I don’t care. Lol Did you know they were using the word “kicks” for shoes by 1905?! Or “rock” as another word for diamond? Or that “groovy” was in use by 1945?

As with any book, there could always be more information or more words added, but this is a great overview of a wide variety of words, subjects, and eras. Here’s the breakdown:

Eras:
1150
1350
1470
1500
1550
1600
1650
1700
1750
1800
1825
1850
1875
1900
1910
1920
1930
1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
The way the eras work, is they’re showing you words that were in use BY that particular era. So if you wanted to know what new words were commonly used in 1955, you’ll look under 1960.

And here are the categories they cover in each era: 
Geography/Places
Natural Things
Plants
Animals
Weather
Heaven/Sky
Energy
Time
Age/Aging
Mathematics
Measurement
The Body
Physical Description
Medicine
Everday Life
Shelter/House
Drink
Food
Agriculture/Food-Gathering
Cloth/Clothing
Fashion/Style
Tools
Travel/Transportation
Emotions/Characteristics
Thoughts/Perception/The Mind
Love/Romance/Sex
Family/Relations/Friends
Holidays
Games/Fun/Leisure
Sports
Professions/Duties
Business/Commerce/Selling
The Workplace
Fiances/Money
Language and Speaking
Contractions
Literature/Writing
Performing Arts
Music
Education
Religion
Society/Mores/Culture
Government
Politics
Life
Death
War/Military/Violence
Crime/Punishment/Enforcement
The Law
The Fantastic/Paranormal
Magic
Interjections
Slang
Insults
Phrases
General/Miscellaneous
Things
Description
Colors
Actions/Verbs
Archaisms

There’s an Index in the back where you can look up a word and find where it falls in the timeline. They tell you if the word is a noun, verb, adjective. With some words, they offer a brief explanation and other words, they believe to be self-explanatory (although, I’ve found some that I would have liked an explanation for.)
The book is helpful in showing you when a word is first documented, but it doesn’t show you how it faded from use or reappeared years later. Take the word “groovy” for example. They claim it was in use by 1945 and yet we know it as a word from the 1970s.
Overall, this a great book to have on hand. Even if it doesn’t address ALL your questions, it’ll address many and/or make for a great conversational piece later.

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Engaging Mr. Darcy by Rachel John

233“Angry people are not always wise.” – Jane Austen

After a standoff in the pizza parlor, Elsie Bennet has decided Fitzwilliam “I-Throw-Fitz” Darcy is the worst customer she’s ever encountered. Also the best looking, but that’s beside the point. She’s horrified to discover Will is not just passing through her small town, he’s her new neighbor.

Will Darcy has all the money and time he could ask for, and yet life never seems to meet his expectations. When his best friend, Charlie, starts dating Jane Bennet, Will becomes their unhappy third-wheel. The solution? Bring along Jane’s sister, Elsie, a girl who challenges him, makes him laugh, plagues his thoughts, and unfortunately, hates his guts.

Will might control a lot of things, but he won’t control her. Elsie’s already been warned away by her new friend, Jeff Wickham, who found out the hard way that Will is not someone to be crossed. Things would be so much simpler if she was attracted to Jeff. But she’s not. She’s attracted to Will, and the tug-o-war between her mind and her heart is going to drive her mad.

A modern day take on Pride and Prejudice with all the characters you know and love.

What I Loved: I was first smitten with the cover, then the concept. But from page 1, I was taken in by Rachel’s world and writing style. Rachel John was a new author to me. I found her to be refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable.
As for the story … Engaging Mr. Darcy is the best contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice that I’ve read. Her translation of the events and characteristics of Austen’s infamous story were spot on. They were creative, yet natural. While I’m familiar enough with the original story to know what to expect, the story wasn’t completely predictable.
This is slightly different from my normal read in that it wasn’t a Christian novel. But it IS a clean novel. There wasn’t anything offensive here.

Rating and Recommendation: I loved Engaging Mr. Darcy and recommend it to Jane Austen fans or those looking for a clean contemporary read. I’m giving it 5 stars.

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof

332

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of Nineteenth-Century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

What I Loved: I loved this one!! From the very beginning, I was hooked. I liked the mountain setting, and the addition of the KKK was a treat for this historical fan. I was a little wary about the focus on brewing and consuming hard cider. Bischof is an author that I was eager to pick up without having fully read the description, so I wasn’t prepared for this. But by the end of the book, I was satisfied with the way she handled it. I thoroughly enjoyed the love story and the love triangle was a nice touch.
For me, the highlight was Thor. It’s rare to have a hero with a disability, so he stood out to me right away. I think she did a great job displaying his form of communication, as well as his struggles (both with alcohol and communicating), and his strengths.
Sons of Blackbird Mountain is the first of a series, and I can’t WAIT to see what Joanne has in store for us next! There are certainly some redeemable characters left to look forward to.

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving it 5 stars and recommending it to Historical Christian Fiction fans or those looking for a stand-up hero with a real disability.

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

*Sons of Blackbird Mountain releases on July 3rd, so be sure to add it to your TBR or Wish list. This link will take you to Goodreads.

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.


7

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

 

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

3

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?