Author Interview: Jacqueline Freeman Wheelock

Happy Monday, Diverse Reader friends!

Today I’m sharing an interview with Jacqueline freeman Wheelock. She’s stopped by to talk about her upcoming release, In Pursuit of an Emerald. Let’s get started!


About the Book

The Blurb: “All ex-slave Violette McMillan ever wanted was to see her troubled daughter Emerald grow up to be a better person than Violette has been, so when Benjamin Catlett, an old acquaintance, asks her to become his bookkeeper in 1869, in a business that is sinking due to southern backlash during the Reconstruction era, she agrees. But when his arrogance surfaces, their goals collide, and Violette wonders if she might be forced to renege at the expense of her daughter’s future education.

Benjamin Catlett is plagued by his past as a free man of color whose African American father was a slaveholder. Renouncing his father’s way of life, he moves to Natchez hoping to quietly atone. But his new hire, Violette McMillan, and her flirtatious teenage daughter, Emerald, test the limits of his good intentions one time too many, offending his straight-laced upbringing and tempting him to fire Violette.

Will the Lord who tugs at the heart of both Benjamin and Violette prevail in solidifying their efforts to tolerate each other and finally affirm the love already blossoming in their hearts?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you for joining me today on Diversity Between the Pages. Tell us, what inspired you to write In Pursuit of an Emerald?

Jacqueline: I love wandering in and out of the antebellum homes of Natchez, Mississippi, and as an African American, it is impossible for me not to wonder what the lives of the house slaves of those home were like. What were their hopes? Their latent dreams? Their flaws? Their squabbles among themselves? Those were the questions that pricked my curiosity about Violette, the main character in In Pursuit of an Emerald, as she emerged significantly in my debut novel, A Most Precious Gift. Subsequently, those questions about Violette are pursued and answered in In Pursuit of an Emerald.

Unlike A Most Precious Gift, its sequel, Emerald, is set several years after the Civil War, but I think the idea of Violette, the “bad girl” in A Most Precious Gift, having her own story was always embedded in my subconscious. Although she was villainous in MPG, there were sympathetic reasons for her schemes, and since God is in the business of turning villains into Christ-followers, I never totally gave up on her. I think I always needed to try to vindicate her.

Toni: I love when a character can be redeemed. What made you decide to visit the Reconstruction era?

Jacqueline: For many African Americans of the mid-to-late 19th century, the huge sigh of relief after the war turned into a gasp of horror as certain embittered members of the Confederacy set out to revoke the rights of ex-slaves through terrorism and unconscionable legislation. I thought it might be interesting to pursue a character who—recent freedom and its attendant perils notwithstanding—could never truly accept her liberation based on the assumption that her past sins preempted her right to emancipation.

Toni: Wow! I couldn’t imagine thinking like that. What kind of research did you have to do, to ensure the novel was authentic?

Jacqueline: Due to research for A Most Precious Gift, much of the Emerald, as relates to setting, was already in place. But as the story evolved, I had to augment what I knew about blacks who owned slaves during the antebellum period, and I had to refresh my knowledge of the origins and spread of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as the opportunists (carpetbaggers) collapsing upon the South after the war.

Toni: What message do you hope your readers will leave with after reading In Pursuit of an Emerald?

Jacqueline: Violette’s guilt centers on the lie she is living insofar as her daughter Emerald is concerned, a lie which has resulted in producing a troubled adolescent. I want to leave an impression of the importance of godly parenting with its attendant call for rules, love, and truth as the ultimate foundation for daily living. I also, via the hero, try to restate the depth of harm slaveholding inflicts not only on the slave but the slaveholder as well, no matter his or her color. Finally, though Violette thinks her goal is to gain the respect of Emerald, it is the priceless jewel of self-worth, so often lacking in the slave mentality, that she is searching for. This inner search for one’s value is what I hope to emphasize—a jewel which slave descendants still pursue today.

Toni: Yes! The jewl of self-worth is priceless. As you may know, there has been recent talk about adding diversity to the reading culture. How do you think In Pursuit of an Emerald will impact this discussion?

Jacqueline: Too often, I believe, people think of slaves as slavery itself, that is, a collapsing of all its victims into one abused body. Hopefully, the book underscores not only the general and collective struggle of ex-slaves during the Reconstruction era but the predicaments which they as individual people with individual problems incurred, including the so-called free man of color who often found himself enslaved to one degree or another.

Toni: Oh, this sounds like it’ll be an excellent read! How about some personal questions? What is the first book that made you cry?

Jacqueline: That’s a hard one, but I think it was The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Growing up is an unavoidable experience, and unto this day, I recall the pain of the child in that book as he struggled toward the realities of life in his coming of age.

Toni: Coming of age books can often be tear jerkers. Who are your three must-read authors, and why do you read their works?

Jacqueline: Another hard one, but I’m going to narrow it to Christian fiction writers I’ve read during the last decade. I have thoroughly enjoyed Ginny Dye, especially her Bregdan Chronicles that dare to tackle the racial history of America with both gentleness and truth. Also, I am a fan of Laura Frantz and B. J. Hoff. All three ladies have forever impressed me with their talent for weaving history into a riveting fictional narrative that stirs the heart and makes one want to do something worthwhile.

Toni: I’ve read Laura Frantz. Her writing is poetic. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Jacqueline: Both. In the back of my mind, I am always writing, and when I get a chance to put what I’m thinking about on paper, it is nothing short of exhilarating. But after several hours, I start to feel exhausted. Depleted. Brain-busted! At that point, no matter that I would like to continue, I must stop and do something “other than”—usually read someone else’s fiction.

Toni: Reading is my go to as well. And last, do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Jacqueline: Love what you write. Believe in its message, and make sure it indeed has a message no matter how lighthearted or poignant. For whatever period of time readers gives to your book, that’s time gone from them forever. I feel they are owed some takeaway.

Toni: Beautifully stated. Readers, do you have any questions for Ms. Wheelock?


About the Author

Jacqueline Freeman Wheelock is a multi-published author whose works range from short stories to a memoir of growing up during and after integration. Wheelock has been a member of several writers and critique groups and is currently a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, an organization which has afforded her valuable instruction and opportunity toward publication. An avid reader and former high school and college English teacher, her first novel, A Most Precious Gift, debuted in 2014 via Mantle Rock Publishers. The sequel, In Pursuit of an Emerald, debuts in August of 2017. Jacqueline and her husband Donald reside in Madison, Mississippi and have two adult children and two beloved granddaughters.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

 

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Open Discussion – Missing Diversity in Sub Genres

Happy Saturday, Diverse Reader Friends!

Thanks for hanging with us at Diversity today. I’m sorry we didn’t have a discussion post the last two Saturdays. My brain took a hiatus. 😉 Thankfully, it’s back and I have a new topic to talk about.

Here’s the question: where are all the diverse characters in genres other than romance? I’m talking genres like Speculative fiction (which encompasses sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian, etc.), mystery, historical, suspense, thrillers, young adults?

We’ve featured some authors who write in the historical genre and I’m thankful for them. Nothing bothers me more than the absent of people of color from historical times. But I rarely see ethnic main characters in these other genres. Have you?

What can we do to get more diverse characters in these genres? If you’ve read a Christian fiction book in these sub categories that lead with an ethnic character, give the book a shout out!

 

Book Review: Finding Love by Toni Shiloh

About the Book

FindingLoveDelaney Jones has finally started to pick up the pieces of her shattered life after the death of her husband, Parker.

Just as life enters a new normal, in walks Army soldier, Luke Robinson.

Just when she makes the decision to trust him, life deals her a heavy blow.

Sergeant First Class Luke Robinson can’t get over his part in the death of Delaney’s husband. In hopes to assuage his guilt, he offers to lend a hand.

Only, he never counted on the feelings she evokes with just a smile. Will his secrets widen the gulf or will he finally find absolution?

Series: Maple Run #2
Publisher: Celebrate Lit
Release Date:
June 28, 2017
Pages: 197

GOODREADS | AMAZON

My Thoughts

I’ve been eagerly waiting for a return to Maple Run ever since I read Buying Love. (Some of that may have been cravings by proxy for the delicious food, too. Don’t judge.) And Finding Love definitely was worth the wait! I’m also pleased to report that I did not want to purse whomp Delaney’s momma as much as I did in Buying Love. 😉 

The characters in Finding Love are diverse and layered with Delaney and Luke each bringing emotional baggage to the table. After the death of Delaney’s husband Parker, her life for all intents and purposes stopped too. So did Luke’s. Delaney, because she doesn’t know how to go on without Parker. Luke, because he feels responsible for Parker’s death.

The meeting of their hearts results in a swoonworthy romance, yes, but also some soul-searching that all of us can apply to our own lives too. Delaney is scared to fall in love with Luke, a soldier still on active duty, “because if it ended up with her receiving another set of widow’s benefits, she would be crushed.” She – and Luke both – must wrestle with this truth (and its application):

“God was the keeper of her heart, keeper of her entire being. She needed to let God hold her heart.”

Bottom Line: This second visit to the quaint community of Maple Run is even better than the first! Mouthwatering food, a swoon-inducing hero (complete with dimples and military uniform), adorable/hilarious children, and a compelling heroine (complete with a great family and a yummy restaurant) – just one of those elements would be reason enough to love Finding Love. All of them together, plus a tender story of second chances and trusting God? Yes please!

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. This review first appeared on Reading Is My SuperPower.

About the Author

tonishilohToni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the president of the ACFW Virginia Chapter.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST


Review by Carrie Schmidt

Book Spotlight: Who Killed My Husband? by Michelle Stimpson

Happy Wednesday, friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages for the latest book spotlight. Today, we’re featuring Michelle Stimpson’s Who Killed My Husband?

About the Book

The Blurb: “Ashley Crandall finally convinced her husband, Allan, to attend the Christian men’s retreat…but he ends up dead there. What happened to him on the campgrounds? Who would want to kill Allan? And why are the detectives pointing fingers at Ashley? In her quest to solve the mystery and clear her name, Ashley will learn something about her husband that she didn’t want to know and something about her Christian faith that shifts her life.

This short work by national bestselling, multi-published author Michelle Stimpson is packed with emotion, suspense, and a her signature way of weaving hope into a story – always a hit with readers who enjoy faith-based reads.”

Links: Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, Google, iTunes

About the Author

Michelle Stimpson is an author, a speaker, and an educator who received her Bachelor of Science degree from Jarvis Christian College in 1994. She earned a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2002. She has had the pleasure of teaching elementary, middle, and high school as well as training adults. In addition to her work in the field of education, Michelle ministers through writing and public speaking. Her works include the highly acclaimed Boaz Brown, Divas of Damascus Road (National Bestseller), and Falling Into Grace. She has published several short stories for high school students through her educational publishing company, Right Track Academic Support Services, at www.wegottaread.com. Michelle serves in women’s ministry at her home church, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, in Dallas, TX. She regularly speaks at special events and writing workshops sponsored by churches, schools, book clubs and other positive organizations, and she has taught writing classes at the University of Texas at Arlington. Michelle lives near Dallas with her husband, their two teenage children, and one crazy dog.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter

Spotlight put together by Toni Shiloh

Book Review: Healing Love by Jennifer Slattery

TGIF, Diverse Reader Friends!!

I hope you had an awesome week and are ready for the weekend! Today, I’m sharing my review for Jennifer Slattery’s latest noel, Healing Love. Let’s get started!


About the Book

The Blurb: “A news anchor intern has it all planned out, and love isn’t on the agenda.

Brooke Endress is on the cusp of her lifelong dream when her younger sister persuades her to chaperone a mission trip to El Salvador. Packing enough hand sanitizer and bug spray to single-handedly wipe out malaria, she embarks on what she hopes will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But Brooke is blindsided by the desperation for hope and love she sees in the orphans’ eyes. And no less by the connection she feels with her handsome translator. As newfound passion blooms, Brooke wrestles with its implications for her career dreams.

Ubaldo Chavez, teacher and translator, knows the struggle that comes with generational poverty. But he found the way out – education – and is determined to help his students rise above.

When he agrees to translate for a mission team from the United States he expects to encounter a bunch of “missional tourists” full of empty promises. Yet an American news anchor defies his expectations, and he finds himself falling in love. But what does he have to offer someone with everything?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


About the Author

Author, speaker, and ministry leader Jennifer Slattery writes for Crosswalk.com and is the managing and acquiring editor for Guiding Light Women’s Fiction, an imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She believes fiction has the power to transform lives and change the culture. Healing Love is her sixth novel, and it was birthed during a trip she and her family took to El Salvador that opened her eyes to the reality of generational poverty and sparked a love for orphans and all who’ve experienced loss.

Her deepest passion is to help women experience God’s love and discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she travels with her team to various churches to speak to women and help them experience the love and freedom only Christ can offer. When not writing, editing, or speaking, you’ll likely find her chatting with her friends or husband in a quiet, cozy coffeehouse. Visit her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and connect with her and her Wholly Loved team at WhollyLoved.com.


Review

What I love about Jennifer Slattery’s work is that she always tackles unusual subject matter. You can see she has a heart for all people when you read her writing. I loved that about Healing Love.

Brooke and Ubaldo both have preconceived notions about each other’s culture. I like how they had an opportunity to see deeper than surface level. It’s a reminder that we all have a back story and issues we’re struggling with. Add to that, the backdrop of El Salvador and you have a great diverse Christian read.

But Brooke and Ubaldo aren’t the only ones with a voice in Healing Love. Fatima, a girl struggling to see God in her life, is given a voice as well. I loved that authenticity she added to the book. I could picture her working hard in El Salvador and wondering “what’s the point?”

This book definitely deals with romantic love, but it goes deeper and shows us the power of God’s healing love.

*I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. This review is my own, honest opinion.


Review by Toni Shiloh

Book Spotlight: Finding Home by Stacy Hawkins Adams

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages.

Today, we’re featuring Finding Home which is a book written by Stacy Hawkins Adams.

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About the book: 

 What happens when you’re so desperate for things to go your way, that anything goes? Jessica Wilson Arnold is a superstar professional speaker whose husband and friends fret about the strain of her ambitions, while she hungers for more.

When a medical crisis and some poor decisions bring her fast-track success to a screeching halt, Jessica is forced to admit that her life isn’t as perfectly packaged as advertised. Her quest to restore her health and prioritize what matters most leads her to a crossroad. Will she revive her faith and learn to love herself and others more deeply, or cling to a path that threatens disaster?

Jessica’s desperate choices and gripping fear will take readers on a literary ride that’s both shocking and familiar, mostly leaving them rooting for her to win big – with family, faith and finding her way.

Book purchase links: Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Kobo

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About the Author: Stacy Hawkins Adams is an award-winning author, journalist and writing mentor whose fiction and nonfiction enlightens readers while helping them find confidence in their own stories. 

She has penned nine faith-based novels and one devotional book. She also serves as a parenting columnist for a Virginia-based newspaper and blogs for the Huffington Post on social justice issues.

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family. Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

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Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires

Author Interview: Cara Luecht- Soul’s Cry

Good Monday. It’s time for another author interview. Today, we’ll get to know Cara Luecht.


About the Book

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Ione has everything she’d wanted with her busy shop filled to the brim with sumptuous fabrics, gossiping debutants, and a neatly increasing profit margin. Not to mention the unexpected attention of a man who doesn’t know her past.
And then the letter dropped from the mail slot onto to lush carpet. He was back. And the abuse, the shame, rushes in, reminding her of how unworthy she really is.
Miriam also has everything she’d wanted—and with a baby on the way, for the first time in her life, she has everything to lose. When she’d been alone, the future had held promise, but now with her life full, it also holds fear.
Unwilling to risk a vision of loss, Miriam stops painting what will be…right before Ione needs it most.

Available on Amazon


About the Author

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Award winning author, Cara Luecht, lives in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin with her husband, David, and their children. In addition to freelance writing and marketing, Cara works as an English Instructor for a local college. Cara graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Currently, Cara is studying for a Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary.

http://www.caraluecht.com/

https://www.facebook.com/author.cara.luecht/

 


Interview

Terri: Thank you so much for joining us today. Soul’s Cry is the third book in the series, but Ione is introduced in a previous book. Did you always know that you wanted to tell her story?

Cara: I always knew I wanted to write Ione’s story. In fact, I had some trouble when I first began writing the series, because I wanted to go deeper into Ione’s character than I was able to as she was supposed to be a supporting character in Soul Painter. I’ve looked forward to writing Soul’s Cry for a while.

Terri: Soul’s Cry seems to be a strong finish to your Portraits of Grace series. And all three stories have very different heroines. Did you find it difficult to write outside your race? How did you overcome those difficulties? 

Cara: I found it very difficult to write outside my race, but not because I didn’t feel I could connect to Ione; rather, because I was intimidated by the idea of making a mistake. Also, the current dialogue about whether or not a white person should even try to write an African American character messed with my mind a bit.

I remember one particularly difficult point when I realized that one of the African American characters needed to identify as African American. This seems a silly problem, no one goes around thinking “I’m white” or “I’m black,” but we all carry inner dialogues. For example, my own inner dialogue might question if a white person should try to write a novel from the perspective of a minority. See what happened? In my thought process, I identified myself as white.

One of my African American characters was thinking about another, and the thought came up about success despite racial barriers. But no one would say something in their head, like “gee, racial barriers really didn’t hold him back!” That would be silly. The inner dialogue needed to be more natural. Consequently, my character needed to self-identify—but how would an African American in the 1890s do so? Would they use the word Negro? Black?

To get to the bottom of this problem, I enlisted the help of an African American friend who also happens to be a student of literature. She helped me, but in the end, I think I made this more of a problem than it needed to be, simply due to my own insecurity.

There were a lot of these kinds of moments in writing this book. I think one of the reasons is that I consider it such a privilege to have a publisher who trusted me to write outside of my race in a market that is not famous for its diversity.

Terri: I greatly appreciate your dedication not to make a mistake. It shows that you care about your African American readers. There is a quite a bit of buzz about diversity in the Christian publishing industry. In particular, books with African Americans on the covers being less appealing. What was your reaction when you first saw the cover and why do think it was important to have Ione on the cover?

Cara: Because I am white, I will never know what it feels like to grow up in a culture where I am not represented. And frankly, I can’t even believe that this is a question that we still have to deal with. It’s the 21st century, for Pete’s sake. How is it even possible that this has to be a question? And that it is a huge question in the CHRISTIAN industry…there are no words…

But it’s true. I was beyond grateful to publish this book with a company who was willing to take the risk (even saying that makes me angry). They never questioned that Ione needed to be on the cover, and even though I know there will be some readers out there who look at her picture, and then look at my white face on the back of the cover, and then roll their eyes because I wrote outside my race, I am proud of her, and of my publisher (Roseanna White did a beautiful job designing the cover!).

If you’ll forgive a longer answer, I’d like to tell you a bit more…The racism that is inherent in this conversation goes beyond what people can see. Behind the scenes, finding the model for Ione was difficult. There was never a question that an African American woman would be on the cover, but when time came to sort through potential pictures, and to find (modern) models in Victorian dress (so that we could have a cover in full color), the only options that came up with the search terms “African American Victorian Women” were women dressed in Burlesque fashion.

I was appalled.

There was a thriving, wealthy, African American society in most urban areas of this time period. In fact, if you google “African American Victorian woman 1890,” you will find all sorts of vintage examples of beautifully dressed women. While they didn’t make up the majority of the population, they were there. However, they have been forgotten to history because they didn’t match with the imagined picture of people who had recently come out of slavery. The black and white photos prove they existed, but there is so little need for this picture in modern times, that the models are almost non-existent.

The truth is, many in the African American community were well-educated, wealthy, and making a substantial difference in the lives of the people in their communities.

In addition to writing, I teach college English at a technical college. When I made this inadvertent discovery, I couldn’t help but wonder how different the lives of my students would have been had the been shown a picture of their ancestors that they could have been proud of– people who stood as historical role models instead of the only photos being of slaves.

We have so much work to do.

Terri: I totally understand the challenge of finding African Americans for cover art. Many people don’t realize that is a real problem. It is a small step to the work that needs to be done in the Christian publishing industry to diversity. Ione is presented as a strong woman who will do whatever she needs to provide for her family. How hard was it to relate to her?

Cara: Ione is the woman I would hope to be if I ever found myself in a situation like hers. She found herself in dire circumstances, but she never lost sight of the priority of looking after others.

We hear all the time about women who end up the victims of trafficking, and sometimes what they go through is so brutal, they end up addicted to drugs just to deal with the pain. Ione, in my mind was different. She was victimized, she had to deal with the guilt and the fall-out from some of her decisions, but it never destroyed her. It never stole the part of her that tells her, even in the most horrendous of circumstances, that she can still help others.

I think Ione taught me that in order to be effective for those we love, we need to feel that we have value…otherwise what do we have to give? With Ione, I created a picture of someone who was hurt unimaginably, but never lost sight of her own value. I relate to her in that I aspire to be like her.

Terri: Ione is an inspiring woman in her strength and love for her family. She is also a talented seamstress. What research did you have to do gain insight on her craft?

Cara: My family has always been crafty, and while I am not a seamstress, I am familiar with sewing. I also love to look at photos and drawings of vintage dresses. Additionally, because of my love for historical fiction, I think that this time period, along with the clothes, customs, etc., is forever a part of my imaginary world.

When I write, I do so with a running movie in my head. That way, I write about what I see and hear and smell. Most of my research is done at the beginning of the project, because if it wasn’t, I’d never be able to develop the movie.

Terri: I also have met few crafts that I didn’t like. I’m sure all your research would make an interesting Pinterest board. If you could write in another genre, what would it be or have historicals completely captured your heart?

Cara: I might try science fiction or even apocalyptic fiction. Actually, I’ve started playing with a steampunk. But I love historical. When I read, I want to be transported to another world. Same thing goes with writing. In order to keep my attention, it needs to be something that I can build in my mind. Every time I try to write contemporary, I just get bored with it.

Terri: I’ve always loved Steampunk. I don’t think it’s gotten all of the attention it deserves. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Cara: I never even thought about it until I was in my 30s. I was not one of those people who grew up knowing what she wanted to be. In fact, I’m pretty sure I will never figure out what I want to be when I grow up😊 When I look back, though, I realize that I always read like a writer, and I always loved literature.

Terri: Flexibility is essential when God is leading you. What’s next for you?

Cara: I’m working on another historical set in Colorado in the 1860s. I will amp up the suspense in this one. That being said, I am not progressing as quickly as I would like because I am also in school working toward my Masters of Divinity. At some point, I am hoping to tackle some non-fiction.

Terri: God speed with the degree, and we look forward to reading your new series. Thank for chatting with us.

Book Review – Dance from Deep Within

Happy Friday, Reader Friends!!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages. I’m excited to share my review of D.L. Sleiman’s Dance from Deep Within. You may remember I did an interview with her early this month. Check it out here if you haven’t read it already.


About the Book

“Despite her conservative Muslim heritage, Layla Al-Rai longs for a chance to earn her degree in engineering and perhaps even…dare she dream…to choose her own husband. But young women from her background rarely enjoy such freedoms. When she finally talks her parents into letting her attend college, she is drawn to fellow twenty-something students, Allie and Rain, over a class project.

Allie, the blonde ballerina, faces her own struggles as she deals with an ex-fiancé and a church she had hoped to leave behind. Rain, the bi-racial hippie chick, longs for something to believe in, but her questioning could cost her the love of her life.

When Layla’s childhood sweetheart reenters her world, it seems her dreams might become real. Until everything falls apart. When she meets truth face to face, will she find the courage to accept it even if it requires the ultimate sacrifice?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Review

I loved the premise of this novel when I first read the blurb. Normally, I don’t read the blurb, but I did for the purpose of this blog. 🙂

The lives of Rain, Allie, and Layla are authentic, believable, and fraught with life issues. I loved how Ms. Sleiman didn’t force salvation on the characters. All of their reactions were very realistic to me.

I appreciated exploring the hippie culture that Rain grew up in. It’s not something I know a lot about. I also loved Rain’s character. She cracked me up and at times broke my little heart. I can’t wait to see her in any sequels. (There will be more, right?)

I enjoyed Allie’s character. Her quite faith was refreshing, but not without trials. My heart ached for her and wanted so much for her to have closure. I LOVED the ending for her.

Layla. *sigh* I knew I would like her character from the get go. She has a quite strength that is undeniable. Her faith journey tugged at my heart. I wanted to pray for her, but remembered she wasn’t real. Still, there are those who are living her life and that brings me to my knees.

Overall, this book has greatness in spades. In the diversity department, 5 stars. Can’t get more diverse than a Christian, Muslim, and hippe. In the faith department, 5 stars. Seriously, any time you have a Christian overcoming untruths, a hippie searching for truth, and a Muslim looking at Christianity, you know the faith element is going to be off the charts. There’s also romance sprinkled in that makes me happy. All in all, a must read!

*Much thanks to my local library to adding to my book reading habit.


About the Author

Award-winning author, Dina Sleiman, writes stories of passion and grace. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Selah Awards, and her cross-over YA novel, Dauntless, won the 2016 Carol Award in its genre from the American Christian Fiction Writers. Also look for her books, Love in Three-Quarter Time, Dance from Deep Within, and the rest of her Valiant Hearts series with Bethany House Publishers including Chivalrous and Courageous. Dina serves on the editorial board for WhiteFire as well, and during the day she utilizes her writing talent with the humanitarian organization Operation Blessing International. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest


Review conducted by Toni Shiloh

Book Spotlight: The Samurai’s Heart by Walt Mussell

Hello, reader friends! I first discovered today’s featured book through the Kindle Scout program when I had the pleasure of reading the first several pages of this intriguing story. The book is now available for preorder so be sure to reserve your copy!

 

About the Book

Japan, 1587. Sen must find a husband to marry into her family’s swordsmith business. She seeks a Christian husband, though Christianity is banned.

Enter Nobuhiro. Third son of a high-level samurai, Nobuhiro fled his harsh father and apprenticed himself to a swordsmith. He yearns to prove his worth.

They seem an ideal match. But for Sen, the choice is faith or family. For Nobuhiro, choosing a Christian ends any reconciliation with his family. Can love be forged from the impossible?

goodreads | amazon

 

About the Author

Walt MussellWalt Mussell lives in an Atlanta-area suburb with his wife and their two boys. He works for a well-known corporation and writes in his spare time.

Walt primarily writes historicals, with a particular focus on Japan, an interest he gained during the four years he lived there. He refers to his work as “Like Shogun, but the heroine survives.”

Outside of writing, his favorite activity is trying to keep up with his kids. As they are both teenagers, this is proving more difficult each day.

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Isn’t this a unique setting for Christian fiction?! I’m so excited!
Share your thoughts on this setting, story, culture, etc.

Spotlight post by Beth Erin

Summer Diverse Christian Fiction Reads

Looking for a book before heading to the beach or your favorite summer vacation location? Or maybe you’re looking for a read to devour on your staycation. Whichever the case, diverse Christian fiction is a great choice. Here are some titles to enrich your summer reading:


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Cherish You So (Savannah Sweethearts Book 4)

Jan Thompson

Blurb:

Having come to terms with his disability, business empire heir Dante Dupree has it all, but Nadine Saylor is too busy to be impressed with his accolades, and too busy to fall in love. Yet, love keeps knocking on her door…

Dante’s Dream…

Billionaire bachelor Dante Dupree has arrived. Living with paraplegia, he now has a state-of-the-art wheelchair to handle his disability, and a private jet to take him across the world to buy up smaller companies for the Hot Dupree global hot sauce empire. And the best news yet for his career: He has been handpicked to be the next CEO of Hot Dupree, Inc., and he’s going to inherit a fifth of the multi-billion-dollar family fortune. He has it all.

At the end of an international business trip, Dante stops in Savannah for merger talks and to visit his pregnant sister. Exuberant and on top of his game, single and free, the center of attention among ladies, and recently voted one of the top ten most eligible young billionaires in the world, self-confident Dante suddenly finds himself in a predicament he cannot solve: he’s in love.

But he can’t get her attention. She is not impressed at all with his accolades.

Nadine’s Norms…

Nadine Saylor is busy, busy, busy. Her job as a virtual assistant to clients traveling through six or seven time zones keeps her on her toes around the clock. The last thing she needs right now is Dante Dupree flinging signals and invitations at her, even though he did look handsome in his Lagerfeld tuxedo at his sister’s wedding eleven months ago.

Nadine keeps telling herself that her calendar is full. There’s no room for romance. Dante can go find someone else to be his Flavor of the Month.

When one of Dante’s professional problems intersects with Nadine’s personal predicament, they find themselves thrown together to sort out these chapters of their lives. Has God put them together in this place for such a time as this?

Goodreads


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A Royal Reunion

Viola Mae Holt

Blurb:

Girls like her don’t get to be Cinderella…

Emi Adebayo is a servant’s daughter. On the island of Yedan that means she has no social rank. She knows that aspiring above her station only leads to disappointment. It’s hard not to hope though when the one thing she wants is the love of the prince.

His Royal Highness Prince Taiwo of Yedan takes his duty to his country seriously. Nothing distracts him. That’s true until the only girl he’s ever wanted comes back into his life.

Despite the friendship they once shared, Emi and Prince Taiwo come from two different worlds. Disapproval, judgment, and shame caused her to run from him once. When they meet again, can they find love or will fear keep them apart?

Find out in this prologue novella set in the Royals of Yedan universe.

Goodreads


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click to go to Goodreads

Mourner’s Bench

Sanderia Faye

Blurb:

At the FirstBaptist Church of Maeby, Arkansas, the sins of the child belonged to the parents until the child turned thirteen. Sarah Jones was only eight years old in the summer of 1964, but with her mother Esther Mae on eight prayer lists and flipping around town with the generally mistrusted civil rights organizers, Sarah believed it was time to get baptized and take responsibility for her own sins. That would mean sitting on the mourner’s bench come revival, waiting for her sign, and then testifying in front of the whole church.
But first, Sarah would need to navigate the growing tensions of small-town Arkansas in the 1960s. Both smarter and more serious than her years (a “fifty-year-old mind in an eight-year-old body,” according to Esther), Sarah was torn between the traditions, religion, and work ethic of her community and the progressive civil rights and feminist politics of her mother, who had recently returned from art school in Chicago. When organizers from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) came to town just as the revival was beginning, Sarah couldn’t help but be caught up in the turmoil. Most folks just wanted to keep the peace, and Reverend Jefferson called the SNCC organizers “the evil among us.” But her mother, along with local civil rights activist Carrie Dilworth, the SNCC organizers, Daisy Bates, attorney John Walker, and indeed most of the country, seemed determined to push Maeby toward integration.
With characters as vibrant and evocative as their setting, Mourner’s Bench is the story of a young girl coming to terms with religion, racism, and feminism while also navigating the terrain of early adolescence and trying to settle into her place in her family and community.

Goodreads


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A Rebel in Jerico

Mini Milan

Blurb:

After years of preparing for marriage, Catalina Santé is interested in little more than making a good match. And why not? She’s young, beautiful, educated… everything a wealthy man should want. However, a tragic accident will leave her with less than a marriage proposal— she’s fighting for her very life! Matthew Martin spends most of his time just trying to fit into American society. It’s one of the reasons he became a deputy. Willing to risk it all in order to protect Catalina, he can’t imagine what that entails… until she’s abducted and sold to a Mexican saloon, where a border battle rages between two towns. Can love and faith survive in such a harsh place? Will Matthew even be able to save Catalina?

Goodreads


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The Soldier’s Suprise Family

Jolene Navarro

Texas state trooper Garrett Kincaid is a lone wolf—until he becomes an instant father of two young children. The former solider never knew he had a son…or that his little boy has a baby sister with nowhere to go. His landlady, lovely widow Anjelica Ortega-Garza, offers to help, and suddenly Garrett’s life is all about nap schedules and baby bottles and trying to make his traumatized son smile. Falling for Anjelica isn’t part of the plan. Yet even Garrett can’t deny that love has begun building a family of four right around him.

Goodreads

Need more suggestions? Check out our Diverse Book Recommendations page.

Happy reading.