Book Review: Chances Are…

Happy Friday and last day of November!

If you’re trying to finish your reading goals before the end of the year and need a book suggestion, I’ve got one! Check out Traci Wooden-Carlisle’s Chances Are…


About the Book

It took a 15-second play to bring his career to a halt for the season.
It only took one second for her to bring his heart to a stop.

A bone shattering hit sidelines Antoni Cahill from his top spot as the Scranton Sparrows top-rated kicker, but he is dealt a crushing blow with the news of his grandfather’s passing. To keep his grandmother happy Tony helps her relocate to her childhood town of Chance, VA. His growing suspicion of her true physical health causes him to seek out a nurse/companion for her while he’s away. The woman standing on their doorstep may be exactly what the doctor ordered for his grandmother, but she takes his breath away.

For Meagan Rowe, Sweet Grove has been a place of refuge after the death of her twin brother. For years her decision to become a nurse practitioner was the only one that made sense, both to her heart and the financial preservation of her family. Her budding career and most recent client brings her face-to-face with the extremely handsome yet adorably awkward football star.

It could be a match made in heaven if she wasn’t forced to keep his grandmother’s true health a secret or if his foundation hadn’t failed to help her family in their most desperate time of need.

***Formerly ‘Love’s Bittersweet Beginning’ but with extended alternate ending***

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


My Thoughts

This was my first read of Ms. Wooden-Carlisle and it certainly won’t be my last. I picked this read up for a few reasons.

1) the cover. I’m a cover snob. I admit it and don’t feel any shame for it.
2) The hero is a football player. As an avid Dallas Cowboys fan, I had to know what this tale would be about.
3) I had never read this author before. I like trying new authors because I never know when I’ll find one who will enter my always read list.

I was happy that the cover didn’t fail me and revealed a wonderful story within. And football, yes there were football parts but it was not about that alone. And yes, I’ll be reading this author again.


About the Author

Traci Wooden-Carlisle began writing poetry and short stories as soon as she was able to form words on paper. She used that to create worlds, as well as, to communicate with God. A native of Los Angeles, California, she grew up attending United Methodist Church under the leadership of a pastor whose heart was for youth. Once she finished college at she found herself at a loss. She felt caught in the transition between childhood and adulthood. She surrounded herself with saints and volunteered her services as a graphic artist. Through the early-morning prayer, all night Friday prayer and 3-day shut-ins she started on her journey toward her most desired gift, an intimate relationship with God.

She enjoys writing stories that provoke thought and evoke emotions that draw readers into the lives of her characters. The messages in her books speak to her way before they speak to her readers.

Today, Mrs. Wooden-Carlisle lives in San Diego with her husband, David Carlisle. When she isn’t writing she assists people with their physical fitness, creates graphics and designs jewelry and swag for authors.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter


Post by contributor Toni Shiloh

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Book Spotlight: Santa’s Secret

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

I hope you’re in the Christmas spirit because I have a great book spotlight for you today: Santa’s Secret by Linda Leigh Hargrove.


About the Book

During the most wonderful time of the year, Chelsea Parker is struggling to find some Christmas spirit. Mistletoe and ‘Ho Ho Ho’ remind her of the man who left her at the altar two years earlier.

Can charming and successful Marc Waterman, the town’s newest businessman, help Chelsea heal from past hurts and find a way to love again? Or does he have too many secrets himself?

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


About the Author

Linda Leigh Hargrove blends suspense, humor, and faith into compelling stories about race and class in America. Her writings include three novels, two romance novellas, and two works of nonfiction.

Linda has taught workshops on fiction writing to adults and teens. To further help would-be writers realize their dreams of publication, she plans to launch “TheFaithToWrite.com” in Spring 2018.

She is a native of Washington County, North Carolina and currently resides near Charlotte with her husband and three sons. Connect with Linda on your favorite social media platforms.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter


Post written by contributor Toni Shiloh

Author Interview: R. Rushing

author-interview

Happy Monday reader friends! Today I am pleased to welcome R. Rushing to talk about her wonderful book, Seal of the Sand Dweller!


Q&A

Tell me why you write.

 Rushing: I write because I’ve been so moved by the great stories I’ve read. Storytelling can be such therapy and nourishment for the soul of the reader. Nothing is more powerful than a writer who tells a great story and leaves an imprint of hope in the reader’s heart.

What is your debut novel about?

 Rushing: Seal of the Sand Dweller is my debut novel about Joseph [known as Yoseph in story] of the Bible becoming vizier of Egypt. I investigate a set of plausible challenges he might have faced going from the position of a foreign Asiatic slave to vizier of one of the greatest and most sophisticated civilizations recorded in history.

What do you want readers to get from reading Seal of the Sand Dweller?

 Rushing: I want readers to step back from what they know about the story of Joseph and step forward again into his world and surroundings. I’d like people to respect and appreciate more his extraordinary set of circumstances and understand the challenges of his situation. Ancient Egyptians were not fond of foreigners. The elite class was a small but privileged group of nobles favored by the king. How would they feel about a foreign slave who suddenly became their vizier at the king’s decree?

What is your favorite part of your book?

 Rushing:  One of my favorite parts of the story is when Joseph attends a garden party after he is named vizier. The awkwardness of the situation still stirs my gut. A lowly Asiatic slave is suddenly dressed in high court fashion and invited to the king’s party. I wouldn’t want to endure the snickers and smirks of the jaded courtiers in attendance. Does anyone really take him seriously? He’s a curious novelty chosen on a king’s whim and very few take him seriously. Very few tolerate him in the long run or even believe he will last.

Yoseph and many (all?) of the other characters are depicted as people of color. This is accurate for the story and the time, yet most versions portray Joseph as white. When did this change in our culture?

Rushing:  Hollywood has a way of doing what is convenient for Hollywood. It is, however, sad and somewhat dangerous when storytelling can leave us feeling sated enough to sway us with more emotion than fact. I have yet to see Joseph portrayed as a man of color, who in reality was a lot closer to the equator than to the North Pole. We have only recently seen a truer take on the look of the Ancient Asiatic in films like The Nativity Story where at least Mary seems to be a woman of color and Risen where I celebrated the representation of Jesus as finally being portrayed as a man of color instead of a gorgeous Caucasian male with beautiful blue eyes.

Have you always loved Ancient Egpyt?

Rushing: Like most of the world, I am fascinated with the sophisticated and elegant yet brutal social structure and practices of Ancient Egypt. I have indeed always loved Egypt. Who could resist the intriguing pyramids, the mystery of the mummy, the exotic look of the wealthy with their intricately layered wigs and jewelry?

Tell us a cool fact about Ancient Egpyt that none of us know.

Rushing: It is a popular belief that horses were introduced by the Hyksos rulers during the second intermediate period, around 1700 B.C.E. However, horses were already indigenous to Africa and remains were found in Ancient Egypt as early 3100 B.C.E. So it is likely that the Hyksos rulers probably brought down a certain type of horse or introduced the horse and a popular style of chariot at the time which seemed to give them a bit more credit for introducing the horse to Ancient Egypt then they deserved.

I want book 2! When is it coming out? Please don’t make me wait 5 years!!!!

Rushing: Book 2, Harvest Of The Sand Dweller, is being stretched over the coals and should be out by this spring!

If you could hang out with any of the characters from your book, who would it be?

Rushing:  If I could hang out with one character from my book would probably be the king’s cupbearer Lord Hetnu. But I wouldn’t stand too close or beg his attention. Hentu is very exacting but emotional, very knowledgeable but prickly. He’s a character we hate to love, but life is easier with his approval.

What actors would you cast for a movie/TV version of your book?

Rushing: Well, throw Idris Elba in there somewhere, that’s for sure! However, I’d be happy to see a cast of black actors representing Ancient Egyptians for a change. It’s long overdue.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Rushing:  I think about writing…not kidding.

Anything else cool you are doing, writing-wise?

Rushing:  Yes! I’m delighted to be involved in Christian Authors Traveling Bookfair (C.A.T. Bookfair), a traveling Christian bookfair group that will be visiting local churches in my area to talk about writing. We donate a percentage of the profits and a free book each to the local congregation. We’ll have our first bookfair on December 2nd from 2-5 pm at Shenandoah Heights Baptist Church in Waynesboro Virginia. Meet us there if you can!

Wonderful! I know I’ll be there! Can’t wait to read book two! You really are an amazing author! Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview!

Read more about R. Rushing and her book, Seal of the Sand Dweller, below.


About the Book

R_Rushing_EbookA

Famine threatens the kingdom while neither priest nor sage can decipher the king’s Horus dream. The slave drawn from the garrison is a sand dweller, a vile Asiatic from beyond the northern borders of Egypt. His interpretation seems, at first, a desperate snatch at freedom, but when his words prove true, he is raised to inconceivable heights.

The courtiers of the king’s house are fascinated with the god-kissed Asiatic. But when Yoseph’s astute sense of order reveals extortion, the king must check the integrity of his administrators or remain a pawn of his own government.

Yoseph has paid the price for integrity. The first of heavy fines were exacted by jealous brothers, the next by his master’s lascivious wife. As vizier, he confronts corruption with the authority of a king’s seal.

And this time, integrity might cost him everything.

Enter the columned halls of the king’s house for the retelling of the biblical story of Joseph as you’ve never heard it before.

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


About the Author

r rushing author pic

If you’ve ever heard someone sniffing back tears in the movie theater during a Lord of the Rings battle scene, it might have been R. Rushing. She’s always had a penchant for majestic battles, soulish struggles, kingdom intrigues, and complicated romance.

R. Rushing reads the Bible with open-mouthed fascination. There’s enough political and kingdom intrigue, battles and conflict for a lifetime of lessons.

Rushing lives in Virginia with her husband, Ben, and loves to write fiction in the vein of compelling stories such as Ben-Hur, The Robe, and Voice in the Wind.

Seal of the Sand Dweller is her debut novel and the first installment in The Servant Ruler series.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Instagram

Author Interview: Elizabeth Byler Younts

author-interview

Happy Monday reader friends! Today I am pleased to welcome Elizabeth Byler Younts to talk about her wonderful book, The Solace of Water!


 

Q&A

What made you write a story with diverse characters?

Elizabeth: I didn’t set out with that as my mission or goal—I’d say it came to me. It was around 6 years ago that I saw in my mind’s-eye an Amish woman running through the woods to a non-Amish neighbor’s home. The neighbor was a distraught African American woman—I didn’t know much more than that for a long time. Then it just came little by little in layers: the alcoholic Amish husband, the child who died, the daughter with guilt over her lost brother, and the relationship between the Amish boy and the African American girl, and what water had to do with it all. It just came piece by piece.

Jessica: It always amazes me at how stories come to authors!

 

Can you tell us a little bit more about The Solace of Water?

Elizabeth: Besides the retail summary, ultimately this story is about unlikely friendship. It’s about 3 women who find each other in the midst of isolation and heartache and form a bond with one another that in the 1950s their social circles would not have considered a positive friendship. It touches on things that no one really wants to talk about—child loss, self-harm, alcoholism, and racism. But folded within all of that mess and sadness is hope.

Jessica: So many people today need to hear that there is hope. No matter what hand life has dealt you, there is hope.

 

Did you struggle writing these characters?

Elizabeth: I did! Their pain was so palpable and I cried often. I wanted to be authentic and honest about not just the diversity within their races, regions, and religions but within their pain and the reason for their isolation. There are so many things that cause us to feel different or be separate from our communities and I didn’t want to cheapen what they were in the midst of or their most obvious difference in their races. I wanted the reader to be able to enter into each character’s unique story. Each of them had such a beauty about them that I knew would be used for their spiritual and emotional healing. Their burdens were heavier because they loved so deeply and it can be hard to carry that as a writer and a reader.

It was challenging to make sure that every word and every plot choice was about the story and not about anything else. To overly simplify it—I tell stories. I tell stories about people who feel incredibly real to me and I intend to do it honestly and with the weight and beauty of the truth I believe in woven within the story.

Jessica: I like reading “real” stories. The characters are easier to relate to. 

 

What do you hope readers will gain from this story?

I don’t know if I can put my finger on that exactly since every reader is coming into the story uniquely… but what I can do is tell you what I’ve come away with and what I’ve gained. I’ve been deeply affected by the stories of Delilah and Emma and Sparrow. They have been traveling with me in my head for years and they became fixtures in my life. I have never written a book with the intention to teach someone or to prove some point, but often realize there’s something important for ME to learn. I learned that I’m not as good as I think I am and that I don’t seem to love well the person God is growing me to be—but instead I fight His chosen growth in me. I learned that bitterness will destroy everything it touches—always. I learned that withholding forgiveness is never worth it—never-ever. I learned that the person on the other side of that inflammatory FaceBook post that makes you want to “unfollow” them has a story behind that post—it’s usually worth hearing. I am learning to bite my tongue and listen and see what God wants from me once I’ve heard. I learned so much in writing this book and I’m still learning.

There’s a quote by L.M. Montgomery that says, “My pen shall heal, not hurt.” This was where my heart is in writing any book that I find at my fingertips. In walking with characters and entering into their burden or pain with them we can journey full circle in their shoes and maybe find some of our own healing. With healing comes learning, wisdom, and often repentance. That’s what I experienced in several areas in writing The Solace of Water.

Jessica: Thank you for sharing this. We all have things to learn in our lives, and how wonderful that God has blessed you with learning while you’re writing.

 

Which Diverse Reads are you most excited about putting on your TBR stack?

Elizabeth: You have an amazing list of Diverse Reads on your website and some of them are “new to me” authors. Since I love a good series, the two that especially stand out to me to add to my TBR stack are the Maple Run series by Toni Shiloh and Piper Huguley’s Milford College books. I love that you have put so much at a reader’s fingertips!

Jessica: Warning – do NOT read the Maple Run series hungry 😉 

 

What are you reading right now?

Elizabeth: I’m currently reading Peace Like a River by Lief Enger and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Enger’s is especially a beautiful and literary and both are pushing me to think outside of myself. I am drawn to literary fiction that is usually historical and to be led to consider a life that is different from mine. I am not an escapist reader so much as I like to be challenged, to think deeply, and to cry! I also like some non-fiction that can be a little random but must be thought provoking.

Jessica: I am intrigued! Thank you for visiting with us today!


 

About the Book

The Blurb: “After the loss of her young son, Carver, an African-American preacher’s wife named Delilah Evans moves with her family from Montgomery, Alabama, to Sinking Creek, Pennsylvania, for a fresh start. The last thing she could have imagined was becoming friends with Emma Mullet, a reclusive Amish woman.

Emma is fighting personal battles of her own and feels estranged from her small Amish community. The secrets that have kept her isolated from her own community serve to unite her in an unlikely friendship with Delilah.

Sparrow, Delilah’s eldest daughter, knows she is responsible for the death of her little brother. When tensions at home become unbearable, she seeks solace at Emma’s house, becoming the surrogate daughter Emma has always wanted. Sparrow, however, is hiding secrets of her own, secrets that could sever all ties to her safe refuge.

Life for these three gets harder when church and social issues confront them, causing rifts within Sinking Creek’s three distinct communities: whites, blacks, and Amish. When their carefully protected secrets come to light, there seems to be little hope for friendship, restoration, or even forgiveness. But when the unthinkable happens, Delilah and Emma find themselves looking into the mirror of their own self-deceptions and are forced to make a choice that will set the way of their future. ”

Links: AmazonB&NCBDGoodreads


 

About the Author

Elizabeth Byler Younts gained a worldwide audience through her first book Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl and is a RITA nominated writer. She is also the author of The Promise of Sunrise series. She has consulted on Amish lifestyle and the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect two award-winning television shows. Elizabeth lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and a cockapoo named Fable.

Follow: WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram

Saturday Discussion – Write a Story: National Novel Writing Month

Okay, folks,

I meant to write this post last week (and then again last night), but better late than never! November is National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo), and as one of the official Municipal Liaisons, I love to encourage people that if you have story burning inside you…a story that you’ve had brewing for months…years…decades maybe. This is the time to write it.

Go to the NaNoWriMo website to get started and sign up for free account and to start keeping track of your wordcount!

The goal of NaNo is to write a 50k-word novel in 30 days, which can be accomplished by writing 1,667 words per day for 30 days. Now…you’d have to double that to get it done by November 30th but if that story is calling out to you (or perhaps it is the Holy Spirit!), you can do it! If not, you’ll have at least 25k words of a book, which is much better than no words.

The cool thing is that all over the world, hundreds of thousands of people are attempting the same thing. In the Shenandoah Valley alone we’ve collectively written 1.5 million words since November 1st. I mean, it’s pretty awesome.

So, we talk a lot about diverse literature here. We need more out there. Especially if you are #ownvoice and have a story, let it be heard! Scream it from the…laptop! 🙂 We want to hear it!

Do you hate writing? That’s okay! Writers need readers, too. No pressure! I just think it’s a really cool thing to be a part of, an awesome way to meet neat people in your community, and good way to get words on the page.

Have you done NaNoWriMo? If so, tell us about it below!

Book Review: Deck the Shelves

Happy Friday, reader friends!

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK?!? Before we know it, Christmas will be here… which is a great segue into our book review for this week 😉

ABOUT THE BOOK

dtsKendall Jackson is the proud owner of Heartfalls’ bookstore, The Cozy Shelf. Her life is one straight out of the pages, except she’s missing that leading man. Although she has a crush on the handsome auto mechanic, Quinton Hendricks, Kendall wants an old-fashioned type of romance—the stuff swoon-worthy romance books are made of. But Quinton seems to need a little prodding.

Something about Kendall sparks hope in Quinton Hendricks that love could be his again. Only being abandoned by his ex-wife has made him cautious to the point of non-moving.

Can two people hesitant on second chances find love as they Deck the Shelves?

Right now you can find Deck the Shelves in the Comfort and Joy novella collection!

GOODREADS | AMAZON

MY THOUGHTS

If you’re looking for a sweet Christmas romance that celebrates books, this is the novella for you!

Kendall and “Q” are a cute match, and their secret ‘bookish’ notes that they leave each other throughout The Cozy Shelf bookstore simply delighted me. In fact, bookworms will find much to love about Deck the Shelves. From the charming bookstore setting to the literary quotes gracing each chapter – and the secret admirer notes – to the shout outs to various fave authors … this is a book for book nerds 🙂

Shiloh always writes wonderfully diverse and layered characters, and she has done so again in Deck the Shelves. While this is a lighter read with plenty of chuckles and grins, there is nonetheless a deeper spiritual theme woven into the fabric of the plot as well. In order to trust each other’s hearts (based on their past painful relationships), they each will first need to learn to trust God with the relationship.

A cute Christmas romance perfect for Hallmark movie fans and bookworms alike!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

tonishilohToni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian contemporary romance author. 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.

You can find her at http://tonishiloh.wordpress.com.

Follow: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram

 


posted by contributor Carrie Schmidt

Book Spotlight: Stand By Me

Happy Wednesday, reader friends!

Today, we’re shining the spotlight on Stand by Me which is a book written by Neta Jackson.


About the Book:

Sometimes the person you most need is the one least like you.

Kathryn Davies is a bright young woman from a prominent Phoenix family. But after making a leap of faith at a Christian music fest, dropping out of med school, and moving to inner city Chicago, her family all but disowns her.

When Kat discovers SouledOut Community Church, she longs to become a part of the multicultural church family. But her tendency to immediately say whatever she’s thinking steps on the toes of nearly everyone she meets—especially Avis Douglass.

Avis has a strong faith, is the principal of one of Chicago’s highest performing elementary schools, and is a founding member of SouledOut. But the country’s economic downturn has thrown both her and her husband’s jobs in question. And Avis hasn’’t heard from her youngest daughter in months—, an estrangement that gnaws at her every day. Where is God in this?

Kat’s flamboyant zeal for living a “radical” Christian life is a stark contrast to Avis’s more reserved faith. But in God’s timing, the two women discover they need each other in ways neither of them expected.

*Buy Stand by Me on Amazon.


About the Author:

Neta Jackson and her husband Dave are an award-winning husband-and-wife writing team, the authors or coauthors of more than 130 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies.

They are best known for Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series and its sequels, as well as their forty-volume Trailblazer series of historical fiction about great Christian heroes for young readers.

Neta and Dave raised two children as well as a foster daughter and are now enjoying all the “grands”!

The Jacksons are thankful for their multi-cultural church and neighborhood in the Chicago area, which provides the characters and setting for their novels.

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DaveNetaJackson/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson

Interview with Neta Jackson about her book “Stand by Me”

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Neta Jackson about her book Stand by Me.

Enjoy!


Interview with Neta Jackson about her book, Stand by Me:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book, Neta?

Neta: Actually, it was a comment from our adult son, Julian, who said I ought to write a novel about millennials who are all fired up to fix society’s ills and think they have the answers—but without the experience to know just how complicated real people’s lives are. Or something like that. At the same time, my readers were clamoring for “more” about the original Yada Yada Prayer Group characters. So I got this idea to bring a well-meaning idealistic white college student into SouledOut Community Church, who gets under the skin of our dearly beloved Avis—a wise, spiritually mature, African American leader and role model who nonetheless is struggling with some personal issues and has no patience for this know-it-all! Put them together and . . . fireworks!

Alexis: What is the significance of your story title, Stand by Me?

Neta: Without giving away the story, several of the characters in this novel struggle with personal conflicts and have to decide whether to push their rivals away . . . or find ways to stand together and support each other as brothers and sisters in Christ in the same church.

Alexis: Tell me about the SouledOut Sisters book series. What is the core message?

Neta: There are just two novels in the SouledOut Sisters series: The first is Stand by Me, which we are talking about here, followed by Come to the Table. The title of the series comes from the primary setting, SouledOut Community Church, a church merger of a black church and white church that happened toward the end of the Yada Yada Prayer Group series. Each of the novels has more than one “voice.” For example, in Stand by Me, there are two primary characters, Kat Davies and Avis Douglass, and the chapters go back and forth between their points of view. In Come to the Table, there are three primary voices sharing their points of view in different chapters.

As for the core message . . . life is messy and complicated, but we are a spiritual family in Christ, and if we hang in there and listen to one another and walk in each other’s shoes, God begins to do some amazing things in spite of our mess-ups!

Alexis: Why is it that you as the author of this story believe that, “Sometimes the person you most need is the one least like you?” Explain how that belief plays out in this fictional story world of Stand by Me.

Neta: Too often we in the church tend to categorize people either as “needy people who need to be ministered to” or “mature Christians who do the ministering.” But I believe that all of us have problems (even the long-time Christians), and all of us have spiritual gifts and life wisdom (even the newest Christian or person with seemingly big problems). If we humble ourselves and realize even the “neediest” person also has something to give, we may end up on the receiving end of just the encouragement or help we need from an “unlikely” source.

In this story, Avis and Kat are absolute opposites—and yet in the end, they each need each other in unique ways. The person who annoys Avis the most (Kat) ends up finding Avis’s missing daughter through her weird dumpster diving, and Avis fills a void in Kat’s life for the parents who have disowned her.

Alexis: Kathryn Davies is a leading character in Stand by Me. What makes her tick? What makes her heart smile? What role does she play in this story?

Neta: Kat comes from a wealthy, prominent Arizona family of physicians, and is under high expectations and pressure to follow in their footsteps. But the attractive young woman with the wavy dark hair and startling blue eyes doesn’t want to go to med school. She likes working with kids, and she’s interested in healthy food issues and how to solve world hunger. She shocks her family when she “finds Jesus” at a Christian Music Festival. But it’s the last straw when she drops out of her pre-med program at the University of Arizona and applies instead to a small Christian college in Chicago after meeting some young people from CCU at the music festival who feel like kindred spirits.

Kat is impulsive, energetic, and enthusiastic, has lots of ideas for improving hunger issues in the poorer areas of the city. After graduating with her master’s degree in education from CCU, she lands at SouledOut Community Church, along with several of her CCU buddies—and doesn’t understand why everyone at the church isn’t instantly on board with her ideas. Life gets complicated when she impulsively brings home a homeless mom and her little boy to the apartment she shares with her three “buddies” from CCU—especially when she discovers their identity. Her new “housemates” complicate her budding attraction to Nick, one of her best friends—but for the rest of that romantic tangle, you have to read Book Two in the SouledOut Sisters series (haha)!

Alexis: Why did Kathryn, whom you call “Kat” in this story, take a leap of faith at a Christian music fest and why did her faith leap cause conflict that resulted in making her family distant?

Neta: Kat was restless when she went to the music festival. She was on track to graduate from the University of Arizona in pre-med but realized she didn’t really want to go on to medical school—and she was drawn to all the young people who were excited about Jesus, a Jesus who cared about the poor, who gave His followers courage to be all-out committed to what they believed rather than simply climbing the corporate ladders of success. But as I mentioned earlier, Kat came from a family of prominent physicians in Arizona who had high expectations that she would follow in their footsteps. When she quit her pre-med program at UA and applied instead to a small Christian college in Chicago . . . well, she was a huge disappointment to her parents.

Alexis: Tell us about SouledOut Community Church. Where is it located in this story? What makes it special? Did you have a real-life inspiration for it?

Neta: SouledOut Community Church is roughly based on a multicultural, multiracial church in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. But the name actually comes from a bookstore in Canada where I did a book-signing—and I loved the name so much I asked if I could steal the name “SouledOut” for a church in my novels.

I placed my fictional church in a shopping center in one of Chicago’s northern neighborhoods. It first appeared in one of the last novels in my Yada Yada Prayer Group series—a merger of a black church and a white church (which is fictional). In the SouledOut series, I show some of the challenges and struggles such a merger creates, as well as the joys!

Alexis: What is it about the multicultural congregation that makes Kat feel like she belongs at this SouledOut Community Church? In what ways does Kat almost wear out her welcome?

Neta: Kat had visited this church as part of CCU’s Urban Experience program and wanted to share it with her friends. SouledOut excited her idealistic nature, black and white worshipping together. She and her friends had decided to live in the city for the summer and they wanted to find a church, so . . . why not SouledOut? They find an apartment to share nearby and jump into the church with both feet. But some of the church members get a little annoyed by Kat’s big ideas—especially Avis Douglass, one of the worship leaders. Everyone tries to be patient, but she manages to step on people’s feet—this suburban white girl, a new Christian, who sometimes has more enthusiasm than wisdom.

Alexis: Avis Douglass is also a leading character in Stand by Me, a woman of great faith in God. Tell us about her. What are her goals and passions in life? What makes her upset? What makes her happy? What role does she play in this story? However, she and her family are facing a trial that makes them wonder where God is in it. What role does faith in God play in this story?

Neta: Avis will be familiar to readers who have read the Yada Yada Prayer Group series. This attractive African American woman is an elementary school principal, mature, dignified, poised, well-educated, experienced—as well as deeply spiritual. She is the acknowledged leader of the Yada Yada Prayer Group which involves a multiracial group of women from several different churches and cultures. At SouledOut, she’s one of the worship leaders and Kat admires her a lot. However, Avis is also reserved and has little patience for this impulsive young woman who talks too much.

Unknown to many, however, Avis is having a crisis of faith because her youngest daughter left an abusive marriage with her little boy, and Avis doesn’t know what has happened to her daughter and grandson. They’ve simply disappeared. She struggles with God: Why has God let this happen? Why isn’t God answering her prayers? But God is gently opening her eyes that this annoying young woman is hurting, too, because of rejection from her family—and as her heart opens to Kat, she realizes that God is also using Kat to answer some of her prayers about her missing daughter.

Alexis: What is the moral of this story, Stand by Me?

Neta: Hmm. Just what the blurb on the book says: “Sometimes the person you most need is the one least like you?” I’m hoping readers will open their hearts to people they’re not naturally drawn to, realizing that that person may need them and that God might use that very person to meet a need in their life as well.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Neta! Do you have closing comments?

Neta: I’m hoping that readers who enjoy Stand by Me will also read the following SouledOut Sisters novel, Come to the Table. The story of Kat and Avis and others we meet at SouledOut—including Nick, Kat’s best “buddy,” who is falling in love with her, and Rochelle, Avis’s daughter, who is falling for Nick—gets complicated, even as God unravels the tangled web of relationships, inviting them “to the table” which represents the Body of Christ, which includes us all.

Thanks for the interview, Alexis! And thanks for your blog highlighting “diversity between the pages.”

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Sometimes the person you most need is the one least like you.

Kathryn Davies is a bright young woman from a prominent Phoenix family. But after making a leap of faith at a Christian music fest, dropping out of med school, and moving to inner city Chicago, her family all but disowns her.

When Kat discovers SouledOut Community Church, she longs to become a part of the multicultural church family. But her tendency to immediately say whatever she’s thinking steps on the toes of nearly everyone she meets—especially Avis Douglass.

Avis has a strong faith, is the principal of one of Chicago’s highest performing elementary schools, and is a founding member of SouledOut. But the country’s economic downturn has thrown both her and her husband’s jobs in question. And Avis hasn’’t heard from her youngest daughter in months—, an estrangement that gnaws at her every day. Where is God in this?

Kat’s flamboyant zeal for living a “radical” Christian life is a stark contrast to Avis’s more reserved faith. But in God’s timing, the two women discover they need each other in ways neither of them expected.

*Buy Stand by Me on Amazon.


About the Author:

Neta Jackson and her husband Dave are an award-winning husband-and-wife writing team, the authors or coauthors of more than 130 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies.

They are best known for Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series and its sequels, as well as their forty-volume Trailblazer series of historical fiction about great Christian heroes for young readers.

Neta and Dave raised two children as well as a foster daughter and are now enjoying all the “grands”!

The Jacksons are thankful for their multi-cultural church and neighborhood in the Chicago area, which provides the characters and setting for their novels.

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DaveNetaJackson/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson

Book Review: Love, Laughter, and Luminarias

Happy Friday, Reader Friends!

We’re bringing you another book review here on Diversity Between the Pages. This day Toni is sharing her thoughts on Jaycee Weaver’s Love, Laughter, and Luminarias. Have you had a chance to read it yet? If not, add it to your TBR pile!


About the Book

The Blurb: “Surprisingly successful action-suspense author Garrett Wilson is struggling to write a summer novel in December. That is, until he witnesses his best friend, Nina, chase down a shoplifter and realizes that maybe his tough, attractive heroine might not be based solely in fiction.

Geeky-chic Nina Trujillo finds herself contemplating a God she’s never believed in after her brush with danger taking down a thief. That one decision could change the whole course of her life, and quite possibly, her feelings for the one guy she’s never considered more than a friend.

When Nina dives head-first into a series of Christmas projects and ideas for new traditions, she drags Garrett along for the ride. Will her newfound courage and all the extra time together bring their feelings out into the open, or will Nina escape back into the comfort of her fandoms and lose him forever?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


My Thoughts

Y’all Jaycee Weaver is quickly becoming one of my must-read authors. I quickly jumped at the opportunity to read Love, Laughter, and Luminarias. First of all, the cover is gorgeous and inviting. Second of all the hero, Garrett, is a writer!

Y’all, I can’t remember how many books I’ve read where the hero is the writer but when it happens, I love the book. Every. Single. Time!

But besides the awesome aspect as a hero writer is the heroine. Nino Trujillo is fierce and I so want her to be my friend. We could talk comic books together and dreamy writer friends.

I loved how Ms. Weaver weaved the Christmas spirit through the book, Latino culture, and a swoony romance that will have your cheeks splitting with happiness. Be sure to pick this read up soon!

*I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. My review was not required not influenced.


About the Author

Jaycee Weaver lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her amazing husband, three daughters, a crazy shih-tzu, and a dwarf rabbit. When she’s not writing, she’s probably in hot pursuit of her 90 million other hobbies or shuttling the kids around. Jaycee loves to read books in multiple genres, drink too much coffee (honestly, when are they going to make the coffee IV a real thing?!), sing, take landscape and floral photos, sew, cook, bake, and craft nearly anything. She considers herself a recovering perfectionist and sometimes hot mess. She does her best to live her faith in action, being open, honest, and real; letting God be Lord over the good, the bad, and the ugly even when it’s hard.

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