Review: Returning Home by Toni Shiloh

~ About the Book ~

Jo Ellen Baker is shocked to find out that the boy who teased her mercilessly throughout high school, has returned to their hometown of Freedom Lake, and he’s missing a leg. When his mother asks her to renovate their carriage house to give him a place to gain his independence back, she wants to say no. But one look at him brings a rush of forgotten feelings.

Evan Carter can’t believe he has to return home and live with his parents. Every hope and dream he ever had dissipated in a car crash that cost him his leg. Stuck in a wheelchair, he’s forced to reexamine his relationship with God and the local carpenter, Jo Ellen Baker.

Will renovating his home open the door for a mended relationship, or are some wounds too deep to heal from?

Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Release date:  26 September 2017
Pages:  266
Publisher: Independent

Amazon US  //  Goodreads

~ Excerpt ~

Evan let out a whoosh of air. Jo Baker stood illuminated in the doorway by the sun’s light. He knew returning home raised the potential of running into his former classmates, but he never thought he’d see Jo again. He figured she’d be long gone by now. The last time he’d seen her, she’d had braces, frizzy hair, and big-framed eyeglasses and was walking across the graduation stage.
The woman standing before him now was a far cry from the awkward teenager he used to tease. It was obvious she fell into the late bloomer camp. Sure, she had dressed in a long-sleeve shirt and overalls, but her curves couldn’t be ignored. Her black hair had been swept into a ponytail. Was that the reason her cat-shaped eyes seemed more pronounced? Gone were the glasses and braces. Her copper-colored skin glowed and her cheeks held a rosy hue.
Was she wearing makeup?
He hid his surprise. He never pegged her as the type to wear the stuff. Despite her shockingly good looks, the venom in her facial expression couldn’t be ignored. Her rich brown eyes seemed to drill a hole right through to his soul. He froze at the shock of her anger. No one had ever glared at him like that. Especially since he had landed in a wheelchair.
“Good afternoon, I’m here to see Mrs. Carter.”
There was no mistaking the frost in the air. Jo’s voice had traveled into winter territory. It took every effort not to gape. He couldn’t believe it. She acted like she didn’t remember him. Acted like she didn’t see him in the stupid chair. Everyone stared at the chair. Everyone.
He puffed up his chest, trying to appear taller. If she wanted to cop an attitude, he could definitely oblige her. “And hello to you, Four Eyes. Although, I suppose I’ll have to find a new name for you.” He gestured to her face, referencing the lack of glasses. Hopefully the snide look on his face came across as strongly as he intended it to.
“Ah, still up to your old ways, I see. Why did I ever imagine you could have grown up?” She walked right past him as he struggled to move out of the way. He rolled backward and let go of the door, hoping the weight would close it.
He turned around and found her waiting impatiently. So, she did remember him. How dare she act as if seeing him in a wheelchair was an everyday occurrence.

~ Review ~

Well, the sparks sure do fly in this novel—once the frosty atmosphere lifts for long enough for them to light up, anyway! Jo Ellen Baker and Evan Carter seem to have enough angst in their lives without adding each other into the mix, but that’s exactly what happens when Evan has to return home and Jo is asked to do the renovations that will better accommodate his new situation. What’s more, neither of them is happy with God. Evan is angry about his accident, and Jo resents the fact that she’s lost the one person in her life who accepted her the way she is. And if her mother is an example of what God is like, Jo’s not interested in Him anyway.

Forgiveness and trusting God through the hard times are major themes in this story, both for Jo and Evan, and for some of the secondary characters. One of this novel’s strengths was the way in which the characters explored these tough issues through their Bible study group, only to discover that applying what they’re learning in their own lives isn’t always easy. Anyone else able to relate to that? 😉

Another thing I appreciated was that the focus wasn’t just on Jo and Evan’s relationship. There’s a lot of friction between Jo and her mother and sister (both of whom I could have happily strangled at various points in this story!) and Evan has to work through the emotional and physical struggles that follow his amputation. And, of course, the path to true love isn’t going to be smooth for characters as strong-willed and sparky as these two! But as they mature in their walk with the Lord, they also mature in their relationship with each other.

If you’re after a contemporary romance with flawed but relatable characters and strong spiritual growth, then this is your book.

I received a copy of this novel from the author. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.

~ About the Author ~

SONY DSCToni 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.

Connect with Toni:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Pinterest

Posted by Katie Donovan.


Author Interview: Chautona Havig and “Will Not See”

We’re welcoming Chautona Havig to Diversity Between the Pages today to talk about her latest release, Will Not See. This is the second book in Chautona’s Sight Unseen series, and it is best to read this series in order. You can learn more about the first book in the series, None So Blind, here. You can also read my review of Will Not See at Fiction Aficionado.

~ About the Author ~

ChautonaAuthor of the Amazon bestselling Aggie and Past Forward Series, Chautona Havig lives and writes in California’s Mojave Desert. With dozens of books to her name, Chautona spends most of her time writing, but when she takes the rare break, she can be found reading, sewing, paper crafting, or sleeping and dreaming of finishing the dozens of books swirling in her overly-active imagination at any given moment.

Connect with Chautona: 
Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter  //  Pinterest  //  Instagram

~ About the Book ~

When Vikki Jeffries wakes up in a Rockland hotel with no idea of who she is and why she can’t remember… well, anything, the Rockland medical community begins to take a closer look at what may have happened to cause a second case of inexplicable amnesia.

But for Vikki, this is more than a medical anomaly–it’s her life. What is she doing in Rockland, thousands of miles away from her home in Apache Junction, Arizona? Who is she? Why is no one looking for her? Or are they?

The secrets of a past she’s discovering she doesn’t want to know lay locked away in a memory that refuses to acknowledge their existence.

When Brandon Marana finds his neighbor struggling to open her front door, his quiet life becomes a race to protect Vikki and himself from people who are determined to find her.

He’s falling in love with her–but he shouldn’t. He’s a Christian. She’s not. But the more she depends on him to know who she is and learn why these things keep happening to her, the stronger those ties become.

Will Not See: Sometimes, the past needs to stay there.

Genre:  Contemporary Christian Fiction
Release date:  29 August 2017
Pages:  340
Publisher:  Wynneword House

Amazon  //  Goodreads

~ Interview ~

KATIE: Thanks for joining us at Diversity Between the Pages today, Chautona. Let’s start off by taking a little ‘flight of fancy’. Finish these sentences for me:

If I could visit any place in the world, I would visit…

Well, since I’m dying to write this cool book idea I have for an American who marries a Greek man and moves to a small Greek village with no knowledge of the language or customs, I’d definitely say that one.

Lol! Make sure you pack me in your suitcase. I have a feeling that would be a memorable trip!

If I could assign one household task to the fairies forever, it would be…

This is so easy it isn’t even funny.  Grocery shopping.  I hate all forms of shopping, but I loathe, despise, and abominate grocery shopping.  I’ve been working on trying to like it for almost twenty years now—ever since I heard a preacher say that if we MUST do something, we might as well learn to like it.

My seven-year-old LOVES doing the grocery shopping. Go figure! Maybe he’ll change his mind when he’s the one paying for it!

If I was a musical instrument, I would be a…

I’d say if I were an instrument, I’d definitely be a cello.  Besides being rather shaped like me (although I have a much shorter neck), as I’ve gotten older, my singing voice has deepened.  It also has a lot of volume.  Even when you play a cello quietly, it doesn’t whisper—ever.  Yep. I’m definitely a cello.

Oh my goodness! I think you might be my clone!

When I was a child, I wanted to be a…

I had it all planned out.  I’d own a yellow house with a white picket fence and a huge oak tree in the front yard.  I planned to have a collie, and I wanted it to have a genius name like “Inkling” or something. I would teach high school English for 9 months of the year and write over my full three months of summer break (stop laughing.  Even with teachers in my family whom I helped get ready for their classes every year… over summer), I existed in a dream world.

Then, in my spare time (again, stop laughing!) I’d edit during the school year.  This way I’d be able to write one book per year. I had chosen to eschew husband and children, not being interested in having those horrible creatures, you see.  Okay, there you can laugh. After all, I’m pretty sure God got the last one on that idea.  His plans were FAR different (not to mention superior) than mine. Nine kids and a husband later, I write four to six books a  year. Snort.

Bahahahaha! I had similarly idealistic dreams when I was growing up. Something about being a concert pianist, a lawyer, AND having ten children! 😂

My ideal place to read would be…

A “window seat hammock.” I want one so bad it isn’t funny.  Perfect window seat area… nice bay window perhaps… and then a hammock hanging.  Sun shining on my feet.  Balmy breezes flowing in.  Huge stack of books… Oh, wait. What did you say?

Who, me? I have no idea. Would you mind passing me one of those books while I make myself comfortable? 😉

Let’s discuss your Sight Unseen series now, and more specifically, Will Not SeeEach book in this series tells the story of someone who wakes up with no memory of who they are or of their life up to that point. What inspired you to make that the basis of a series?

Well, I tend to be a bit of a rebel, so part of it did have to do with wanting to do something different with a trope.  So instead of someone waking up after a car accident and having to work his or her way back from a blank slate (or doing a “Remember Sunday/50 First Dates” kind of thing), I wanted it traumatic-less.  Inexplicable.  And then what would you do with a clean slate when you knew you’d probably never get those memories back again?

You? A rebel? 😉 But I can see why the idea intrigued you.

Memory loss always seems like a tricky element to introduce to a story in my mind, from a point of view of making it realistic and consistent. How does memory loss affect Vikki in the book, and what kind of research did you have to do to make it believable?

Vikki’s memory loss was harder than Ella’s (from the first book). Ella had family to fill in her past and help her with things.  It also annoyed her because she wanted to be seen for who she’d decided to be rather than who she had been (she didn’t really like her former self when she figured out some things).  But Vikki has a completely different personality.  I really had to struggle to find people like her and study them—people who wouldn’t want to know the horrors of their pasts.

And what I discovered is that even those people would still want to know THEM.  Many I talked to were very connected to their own identities despite agreeing that if there were situations in the past that I’d created for Vikki, they wouldn’t want those details.  The only way I could make it believable was simply to ask.

My mind boggles at the thought of what it would feel like to be in Vikki’s position. It was one of the reasons I found the story so compelling!

Learning Vikki’s ethnic background is a little tricky, given she doesn’t know it herself! Could tell us a little bit about that background, and why it’s difficult for her to discover that background after she loses her memory?

She’ll learn a bit more in book three (if there is a natural place to share it). I know that she was removed from her mother at a very young age and placed into foster care.  I chose not to give her a permanent placement because she needed a logical reason to become who she was. My personal knowledge of people of color isn’t ethnically or culturally much different from me.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m on the west coast or if it’s because I’ve always lived in rather diverse places where most people become rather homogenous.  So that’s mostly why I put her in Apache Junction.  I didn’t see it as too implausible that, once on the streets, she might have been recruited by another runaway and then induced into one of the Hispanic dominated gangs.

So, she has a bit of street slang she has picked up, but since she spent time in the home of an educated family, her speech slips in and out of “street” from time to time.

Okay, so let’s think about this for a moment. You have an ethnically diverse character who’s not exactly sure of her heritage, and you need to write her in a way that avoids clichés and stereotypes. How exactly do you go about doing that?

Well, as I said above, my best choice was to put her in places that could “homogenize” her a bit so she didn’t turn into a TV cliché.  I was so worried about that.  For example, the blacks I know personally (I chose that word for a reason), have said they don’t care to be called “African-American.”  In the words of one man, “I’ve never been to Africa… you’ve never been to Scotland.  Why should you get to be ‘just American’ but I have to be defined by the location of ancestors that go way back?”

I think he makes a valid point.  So, I moved her in and out of enough homes that she identified as a part of whatever group she was in rather than a specific culture or race.  If I’d tried to write someone from the deep South, for example, I’d have under represented her or made her a horrible stereotype.  I really wanted to avoid that.

Whenever I started doubting myself, I actually thought of that man’s daughters and tried to imagine how they’d respond in the situation.  It helped.  A little.

I, too, know people who prefer to be referred to as black rather than African-American. In any case, I think you did a great job with Vikki. She really is her own person!

What inspired Vikki’s character? Was there a reason you made her an ethnically diverse character, or was that just an organic part of the character who presented herself to you?

I fought the ethnicity for a bit, if you want the truth.  I knew she’d be harder to write than another character I have in the works. I knew it would be crazy easy to get her wrong, but she demanded to have a voice.  She reminded me that I have friends of all colors, shapes, sizes, and intellects.  I needed to embrace her for who she was.  I’d never reject someone I met in the store, at a restaurant, or in church based on her color, so why would I do it in a book?

Good point. And it sounds exactly like something Vikki would say!

What do you hope readers take away from this series? (Besides the enjoyment of a riveting read, of course!)

If I can only show one thing through this series, it will be that we often hide from the truths of ourselves because of what we see there.  Well, Jesus’ blood has washed that ugliness away. It’s gone.  Isaiah tells us, and Hebrews reminds us that God won’t remember our sins anymore.  We need to let the blood of Christ be sufficient.  But being blind to them rather than repenting of them doesn’t do us any good.  Like any problem, we have to face them.  Lay them at the feet of the cross.  Step back. Revel in the beautiful work Jesus did there.  But we can’t do that if we refuse to acknowledge and repent of them.

This series really does explore that in a fascinating way. Thanks for chatting to us today, Chautona!

~ Sight Unseen Series ~

Interview by Katie Donovan.

Book Review: Chances Are by Traci Hunter Abramson

~ About the Book ~

Maya Gupta is a survivor. After escaping an impending arranged marriage in India as a teenager, she has thrived in America. But now she faces her greatest challenge yet—cancer has invaded her life, and unless she finds a way to participate in a clinical trial in Washington, DC, this may be one battle she loses. When Maya’s best friend Kari offers Maya the lifeline of a place to stay—her brother’s currently vacant DC apartment—the young woman eagerly accepts and goes to meet her fate . . .

Ben Evans’s plans have changed, and he’s heading home for some much-needed rest and relaxation during his off-season in the major leagues. Upon arriving at his DC apartment, however, Ben is shocked to find Maya—his sister’s friend, who he hardly knows—in residence. He soon finds himself trapped between protecting his above-reproach reputation and searching for a way to help a woman he is coming to admire. When Maya’s fight to survive her disease becomes more complicated than ever, she and Ben scheme an extreme solution to her predicament that tests to what lengths they’re willing to go together to save Maya’s life.


~ Excerpt ~

“Maya, I spoke with your father again today.” Dr. Schuster took a deep breath and blew it out as though trying to steel himself against the words he was about to say. “I’m sorry, but if you have no means of paying for your surgery, I don’t have any choice but to drop you from the trial.”
Maya didn’t try to fight back the tears that instantly sprang to her eyes. “Doctor, please. Please give me a little more time. I can come up with the money. I only need another week or so.”
Dr. Schuster sighed heavily. “I’ve already talked to the board, and they aren’t budging on this.” Before Maya could protest further, he added, “Since it’s the weekend, I can delay the paperwork, but if you can’t come up with some proof that you’ll be able to continue treatment after this trial by Monday morning, I’ll have to cancel your infusion.”
Maya lifted her hands to cover her mouth as she bit back a sob. Her mind raced with possibilities, but she knew that even if the credit card came through with a high limit, she would need at least one more to afford the additional living expenses to make it through an extra three months here.
Dr. Schuster clenched his teeth for a moment and then shook his head. “I’m sorry, Maya. I really am.”
“If I can’t come up with the money now, would I be able to get into the trial again in a few months?”
She sensed the doctor’s discomfort as he shook his head again. “If you were responding more quickly, I might be able to get you in, but the truth is that your cancer is probably more aggressive than we first thought for the results to be so slow. If you have to stop now, medically speaking your survival rate wouldn’t be high enough to readmit you to the trial.”
Tears continued to run freely down Maya’s cheeks, and she could no longer form words. The doctor put his hand on her shoulder and then took a step back. “I’ll check back on you in the morning. The nurse will be in to give you something for the pain in about an hour.”
Maya watched him make a quick exit and swiped at the tears on her cheeks. Sliding farther down in to the hospital bed, she curled up beneath the blankets, silently praying that somehow God would give her a glimmer of hope, some indication that her life might still have meaning.

~ Review ~

This is definitely a story that tugs at the heartstrings! Maya Gupta has a large tumour at the base of her skull, and her only hope of survival is treatment to reduce it to an operable size. Chemo and radiation have been unsuccessful, and the clinical trial in Washington DC is her last chance. But even that presents problems. She has no one who can stay with her during the treatment, the side effects of which are nausea, and extreme fatigue and muscle soreness. The one thing she does have going for her is the fact that her best friend’s brother doesn’t need his DC apartment, meaning she has somewhere to stay. Except… her best friend didn’t exactly get permission from her brother, and when he returns from LA much earlier than expected, suddenly Maya doesn’t even have accommodation anymore.

I confess there were a few times I begged Maya to just speak up for herself rather than trying to cope with everything by herself, but I could also understand how she would feel like she didn’t have the right (or the energy) to do so. For that reason, Ben nearly missed learning just how precarious Maya’s situation was, but once he knew, I loved watching the gentle growth of their relationship as he cared for her. And I can’t forget to mention Henry, hospital orderly of the year! What a gorgeous heart he had!

The challenges Ben and Maya face aren’t limited to the effects of Maya’s treatment. A desperate attempt to contact Maya’s family in India has unintended consequences and could see her deported, her financial situation is dire, and Ben’s growing popularity as a rookie in the major leagues makes it difficult to keep his relationship with Maya out of the public eye. And even if they manage to deal with all that and make it through the treatment, there’s no guarantee that the tumour will be reduced enough to operate safely.

The characters occasionally seemed a little too ‘nice’, and there was a tendency toward telling in some of the writing, but it was impossible not to get caught up in Maya’s story as she struggled to overcome the odds stacked against her.

~ About the Author ~

AuthorTraci Hunter Abramson was born in Arizona, where she lived until moving to Venezuela for a study-abroad program. After graduating from Brigham Young University, she worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years, eventually resigning in order to raise her family. She credits the CIA with giving her a wealth of ideas for suspense novels as well as the skills needed to survive her children’s teenage years. She has gone on to write a number of bestselling suspense novels that have consistently been nominated as Whitney Award finalists. She considers shoes an optional accessory which became evident when she won her first three Whitney Awards in 2013 (Code Word), 2014 (Deep Cover), and 2016 (Failsafe.) She currently lives in Virginia with her family where she enjoys sports, travel, writing, and coaching high school swimming.

Readers may wish to note that Ms. Abramson is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon), and the faith element in some of her novels is specific to that faith. There are no references specific to the LDS faith in “Chances Are.”

Review by Katie Donovan.



Book Spotlight: Beauty From Ashes by Alana Terry

Welcome to Diversity Between the Pages. Today I’m introducing you to a new series written by author Alana Terry, The Orchard Grove Christian Women’s Fiction series. This series will feature “standalone literary novels about real-life believers facing real-life struggles. You won’t meet perfect saints whose lives are faultless models of the Christian faith. Instead, you’ll meet a perfect God whose plans of redemption are far more glorious than what the mortal mind could ever imagine.

Beauty from Ashes is the first novel in this series.

~ About the Book ~

A baby was never part of Tiff’s plans. Especially not a sick baby in a NICU, struggling for life on a ventilator.

As days in the hospital turn to weeks, Tiff grows more and more convinced that God is punishing her for turning her back on him so many years ago. Or is it possible he’s working in the midst of her daughter’s bleak prognosis to draw Tiff back to himself once more?

The Orchard Grove books are a literary series of family-drama stories with realistic characters facing gritty issues that confront contemporary Christians today. Standalone novels from award-winning Christian fiction novelist Alana Terry, whose books “inspire without preaching at you,” these titles merge edgy Christian fiction, literary prose, and a God compassionate enough to look upon those who suffer and “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes … a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 60:3).

Amazon  //  Goodreads

~ Excerpt ~

Natalie’s sixteen weeks old, and I still don’t know what it feels like to nurse a baby. I’m positive it’s more comfortable than a breast pump or else the human race would have died out before we ever evolved past living in caves. I hated pumping, but at least it was something I could do. Something that only I could do is a better way to say it. I swear her grandmother jinxed her or something, because the whole time Natalie was in the hospital, she handled my breast milk just fine. Then we took her home, and within twenty-four hours, Patricia showed up on our doorstep, suitcases in hand. Four days later, Natalie was so uncomfortable the pediatrician told us to take her off breast milk.
I think Patricia was secretly thrilled about it all, really. Because now there isn’t a single thing I can do for my child that she can’t do better. She has her nurse’s training to thank, even though that woman hasn’t worked an actual nursing job since Bush was president. The first Bush, I mean, not the second.
That’s what makes me think about leaving sometimes. I know it’s the deadbeat thing to do, but given my family history, would you have expected me to stick around this long? If Natalie needed me, that would be different. Can you believe I waited sixteen days in the NICU just to see her open her eyes? And you know what? She didn’t even notice me. I was no different to her than any of the nurses in their colorful scrubs. When Jake holds her, I swear something clicks in that injured little brain of hers. She seems comfortable. Even tried to scratch his chin once. When I hold her, she’s completely oblivious. Even Patricia claims Natalie smiled at her. I’m sure she’s lying, because my child doesn’t smile. At anyone. But that doesn’t change the fact that my baby doesn’t even know I’m alive.
I had such high hopes for myself as a mom. I had it all figured out. I was going to stay at home for the first year or so. Maybe take in an extra kid or two for babysitting. I was going to give Natalie everything I never got at that age—a home, a sense of belonging, affection.
I remember laying around on bed rest, flipping through those mommy magazines and daydreaming about story time. That’s the one thing the articles always agreed about, even the older ones. Read to your kids from the day they’re born. I had the picture squared away in my brain. Me on the couch, with Natalie nestled up against me. In my imagination, we always read Dr. Seuss because honestly, I didn’t know any other kids books, but I was going to learn. I’d get a library card. Check out books there. And we’d cuddle and read, and it would do wonders for her development. Wonders for our relationship. That was the plan.
And now look what I’ve got. A kid who doesn’t even recognize me. A kid who can’t make eye contact. A kid who won’t even live to see her first birthday.

~ About the Author ~

Alana TerryAlana is a pastor’s wife, homeschooling mom, self-diagnosed chicken lady, and Christian suspense author. Her novels have won awards from Women of Faith, Book Club Network, Grace Awards, Readers’ Favorite, and more. Alana’s passion for social justice, human rights, and religious freedom shines through her writing, and her books are known for raising tough questions without preaching. She and her family live in rural Alaska where the northern lights in the winter and midnight sun in the summer make hauling water, surviving the annual mosquito apocalypse, and cleaning goat stalls in negative forty degrees worth every second.

Connect with Alana:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter

Spotlight by Katie Donovan.

Author Interview with June Foster

~ About the Author ~

cropped-June-and-her-kindle1An award-winning author, June Foster is also a retired teacher with a BA in Education and  MA in Counseling. She is the mother of two and grandmother of ten. June began writing Christian romance in 2010. She penned her first novel on her Toshiba laptop as she and her husband traveled the US in their RV. Her adventures provided a rich source of information for her novels. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. June uses her training in counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find the path to live godly lives.

Connect with June:  Website  //  Twitter

~ About the Book ~

Neonatal specialist Dr. Michael Clark is passionate about saving the lives of premature babies. But the pediatrics department at El Camino General can’t provide the care many of his preemies require. Now he wants to build a specialty hospital where he can better offer medical treatment for his young patients.

Tammy Crawford is an accomplished geriatrics RN who wants nothing to do with her sister Joella’s religious beliefs. She’s independent and doesn’t need anyone, including God in pursuing a new job as a nurse practitioner.

When she falls in love with the intriguing Michael Clark, she must reconsider her resolve to devote herself completely to her career and not become distracted by a romantic relationship. Now the obstacles are insurmountable. She’s in love with a man from another culture and a different race.

Michael acknowledges his growing affection for the beautiful nurse yet can’t ignore his brother’s deep racial prejudices.

Can two people who are as different as night and day find a life together?

Amazon  //  Goodreads

~ Interview ~

KATIE:  Welcome to Diversity Between the Pages, June! Before we talk about your book, let’s take a little ‘flight of fancy’. Finish these sentences for me:

If I could visit any place in the world, I would visit…

JUNE:  Israel. I’d love to visit the land where our Saviour walked on the earth. Years ago I had an opportunity to go to Israel. My husband was in Germany stationed in the US army, and I had accompanied him. Several of the teachers at the American school where I taught had signed up for a trip to Israel, and I had planned to go, but at the last minute, his tour of duty extension was denied, and we had to return to the US. But if a visit to Israel doesn’t come in this lifetime, it surely will in the next.

How unfortunate that you missed out on that trip. It would be an absolutely amazing place to visit!

If I could assign one household task to the fairies forever, it would be…

Definitely making up the bed every morning. It is the most boring, monotonous job I can think of. Bring on the fairies.

Oh, yes. And if you’re bringing in the fairies, you could get them to change the sheets every day too. How lovely to get into crisp clean sheets every night!

If I was a musical instrument, I would be a…

Piano. I tried to learn to play the piano as a girl, and couldn’t overcome the fear of performing at recitals. But I love the moving sounds of concertos, worship tunes, and even pop songs on the piano and admire anyone who’s mastered the instrument.

I can totally relate to that! I learned piano for many years, even went on to study a Bachelor of Music, but playing at recitals… *shudders*

When I was a child, I wanted to be a…

Teacher, like my mother and my aunt. But the crazy thing is, as an adult, I discovered several other professions I would’ve liked better. A physiologist, a linguist, or perhaps becoming an author at an early age instead of waiting to write novels in my sixties……

We really do have a limited view of the world by the time we’re expected to choose an occupation, don’t we. There are so many jobs I know about now as an adult that fascinate me, and I had no idea they even existed when I was finishing school and deciding what to do.

My ideal place to read would be… 

Oh, it’s gotta be on a beach in Hawaii with saltwater breeze and pounding waves. I’m ready to go now.

Aloha! Just let me pack my suitcase! 😃

I suppose we had better get down to business now. 🙂 What inspired you to write a story featuring an interracial relationship?

Racial tension, so prevalent in the US, has impacted me through the years but more so now since I know Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. In the past, discrimination against black people had always appalled me. I believe God created man in His image and is no respecter of persons. No one human is more valuable in His sight than another. Today, racial tension has cooled a bit, but I observe underlying tones of unrest, especially among young black men. God’s love for one another is sadly absent in much of our society.   

Since I am a contemporary romance writer, I not only write a love story, but use the platform to speak out on issues of our day. When I first thought about writing What God Knew, the Ferguson racial riots were going strong and in the news daily. This forced me to examine what I believe according to what I find in the Bible, and what God would say about this explosive matter. Hopefully, I was able to communicate it in my novel.

Those riots definitely prove that there is still unrest and deep-seated hurt; that it only takes a spark to fan everything back to flame. It’s such an important issue to be discussing.

Tell us a little bit about the main characters, Dr. Michael Clark and Nurse Tammy Crawford.

Dr. Michael Clark is an African-American pediatrician who saves lives of premature babies in the neonatal ward of El Camino General. His father, a retired army general, has always provided well for Michael, his bitter, prejudiced brother, his older sister, and his mother. Michael’s mom raised him to love the Lord, and he relies on prayer and the Word of God. His goal is to build a specialty children’s hospital where babies can receive better care than at El Camino General.

Nurse Tammy Crawford, a white geriatrics nurse, wants to better herself in the medical profession and become a nurse practitioner. After her mother died and father abandoned her, she must prove her self-worth. She doesn’t believe the fairytales her older sister holds dear—the stories about Jesus Tammy learned as a child. 

Wow. They sound like very contrasting characters.

What are some of the obstacles these characters face as a result of their racial differences?

In the story, spiritual truth is actually the primary obstacle Tammy and Michael face. Though they fall in love, Michael remembers the Word of God warns against unequally yoked relationships. When he discovers Tammy’s not a believer, a red flag glares.

But racial differences play a large part in the story as well. Michael’s brother, Darnell, is embittered against white people because of experiences in college. Too, he attended a liberal college that taught him blacks have always been oppressed by white people and need to rise up to the challenge. Darnell tries everything he can think of to break Tammy and Michael up, including lying to her about how his parents would never want their son to marry a white woman.  

When Michael regretfully goes against his Christian beliefs and spends one night with Tammy, she finds herself pregnant. After Darnell’s warning, Tammy believes Michael’s parents would never accept a child who’s only half black so she considers a deadly alternative.

Sounds like a compelling storyline!

When most people think of racism, they think of it as being directed towards black people rather than the other way around, but in this story, it is Michael’s brother who has deeply rooted racial prejudice. Why did you choose to take the less obvious approach with this story?

Writers are continually asking “what if?” I asked the question ‘What if an affluent black person was prejudiced against a white person?’ I figured it would make the story a bit more thought-provoking and place a twist on the novel, yet it would still convey the message in my heart. The principle is the same. Prejudice against anyone because of the skin color is wrong, white or black. 

It’s a great ‘what if’ to ask. I think in any case where there is a legitimate grievance, our most basic instinct is to return in kind, but it really just perpetuates the problem, doesn’t it. It will require people on both sides of the racial divide to choose love if we are to overcome racial tensions.

Did you need to do a lot of research in order to write about the tensions in an interracial relationship, or is this something you have observed from real life?

Both. I grew up in El Paso, Texas where racial tension among whites and blacks didn’t exist. Though my husband and I moved to the South, I lived in a small, Christian-oriented community where racial tension wasn’t evident. But what I learned from history books and observed on the national news sparked a flame in me.

I also did research, especially how racial issues have evolved through the years and how liberal colleges today seem to perpetuate this problem.

I had opportunity to interview a couple of amazing people. One was a single, black professor from Birmingham, Alabama who also loved the Lord. He said he felt that socio-economical factors would play a greater part in a bi-racial romance than the differences in race. A thought-provoking answer, in my opinion.

Another was a dear black woman I talked to for several hours at the VA hospital while we both waited for our husbands to have procedures. This woman was a devout Christian and said she felt poor, young black men are taught to hate and believe that whites have oppressed them. They tend to blame all their problems in life on race instead of trying to overcome their difficulties.

They’re both thought-provoking answers, aren’t they. It was great that you were able to incorporate those first-hand perspectives.

Overall, what would you like readers to take away from this story?

When a person accepts Jesus Christ into his/her life, he has opportunity to learn what God says. A person, white or black, born-again by God’s spirit is dearly loved and accepted into His eternal kingdom. Nowhere in the Word does it say God looks at skin color. As a matter of fact, He sees our hearts, not our outward appearance. There are many examples of biracial marriages in the Bible—Moses for one. When a person learns to love others the way the Lord first loved him/her, he finds meaning and direction in life, overcoming whatever the world throws in his path. God has a plan for every person on this planet, and we only need to ask Him for direction. I believe any conflict among humans is rooted in hate and the influence by the enemy of God.

The enemy loves to stir up hatred and conflict. Anything to take our eyes off God! I pray that your book will make it into the hands of readers who need to hear its message.

Thank you for chatting with me today, June.

Interview by Katie Donovan.

Book Spotlight: Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman

Welcome to Diversity Between the Pages! Today we’re spotlighting a new release by Varina Denman: Looking Glass Lies. This book features the boisterous blogger Shanty Espinosa, who runs the support group the main character, Cecily Ross, joins as she works to improve her self-image.

Shanty is of Asian/African-American descent and, despite being entirely fictional, has her own blog, Shame on Shanty, which is described as ‘a safe place to discuss shame, insecurity, and all those other mixed-up feelings.’

~ About the Book ~

A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations.

For most of her adult life, Cecily Ross has compared herself to other women—and come up short. After a painful divorce from her emotionally abusive husband, Cecily returns to her hometown of Canyon, Texas, looking to heal.

But coming home isn’t what she expects. In a town as small as Canyon, her pain is difficult to escape—especially with her model-perfect ex–sister-in-law working at the town’s popular coffee-shop hangout. With help from her father, a support group, and an old friend who guides her to see her own strengths, Cecily may have a shot at overcoming her insecurities and learning to love again.

The true test comes when tragedy strikes, opening Cecily’s eyes to the harmfulness of her distorted views on beauty—and giving her the perfect opportunity to find peace at last.

Amazon  //  Goodreads

~ Excerpt ~

Shanty placed her palms on the table. “I’ll share my story first, ’cause I’m not nervous about it.”
Her transparency made me uncomfortable.
“My issues go way back to when I was a little girl.” Her voice finally lowered. “My parents were both workaholics, never home, and they didn’t have much time for my sisters and me. Turns out I didn’t suffer too much from Mama’s absence, seeing as how I had older sisters to baby me, but it would’ve done me good to have Daddy in my life.” Her face lost its animation. “He’s gone now, but still, I wish I could just hear him one time, saying, Shanty, you’re beautiful, just as you are.” Then, suddenly, she snickered. “Course, I don’t know he wasn’t thinking that every day of my life, but that’s just it . . . I don’t know. I don’t know that he ever even noticed I was around, one way or the other.”
Nina patted her forearm.
“Thanks, darlin’.” Shanty fanned her face with her palm, drying her eyes. “I’m married to a loving man who tells me I’m a pretty little girl. That makes me laugh cause there’s not nothing little about me, but we have a good thing going.” She dabbed at a tear. “Anyhoo, now I write a blog about body shaming called Shame on Shanty. You girls should check it out if you haven’t already. There’s lots of good info on there, and a guest blogger every week—stories from all sorts of women. I try to keep it encouraging.”
My mouth must have fallen open, because Shanty looked at me and guffawed.
“I know it!” Her smile was back full force, and her bronze skin glowed. She really was pretty. “I know what you’re thinking, Cecily. Who would’ve thought little ole Shanty would end up a big-time blogger, but there you go. I’m not able to do as much online as I’d like, seeing as how I’ve got four kids underfoot, but I do what I can. And it’s rewarding for me. Makes me feel like I’m helping this crazy world a little. One woman at a time.”

~ About the Author ~

Varina DenmanVarina Denman enjoys writing fiction about women and the unique struggles they face. Her novels include the Mended Hearts trilogy: Jaded, Justified, and Jilted, as well as her latest release, Looking Glass Lies. She seems to have a knack for describing small town life, and her debut novel, Jaded, won the ACFW Genesis Contest, the BRMCWC Selah Award, and the INSPYs Bloggers’ Award for Excellence in Faith-Driven Literature.

Varina attended three universities over a span of five years, majoring in four subjects and earning zero degrees. However, she can now boast sixteen years as a home educator, volunteering in her local cooperative where she has taught numerous subjects including creative writing and literature. Varina lives in North Texas where she volunteers in local marriage and family ministry. She is represented by Jessica Kirkland of Kirkland Media Management.

Connect with Varina:  Website  //  Blog  //  Facebook  //  Twitter  //  Instagram  //  Pinterest

Spotlight by Katie Donovan

Book Review: The Bedwarmer’s Son by Caryl McAdoo

~ About the Book ~

What if Abel had killed Cain, but there was no jury of his peers?

In 1928 Georgia, a black man who kills a white man is automatically guilty, but the bedwarmer’s son, an ex-slave, is no normal black man. And the dead white man is his half-brother. Once his lily-white lawyer lady learns the truth, everything changes. Can she save him from swinging?

Will the bedwarmer murder the one she’s been bought to serve?

From the antebellum South, come travel the dusty trails of Jim Crowe Dalton, Georgia, with slave and master, saint and sinner. See if God is really big enough, if He truly cares about His children.

Amazon  //  Goodreads

~ Excerpt ~

The door closed behind Jasmine.
A faint hint of smoke mixed with the soft scent of whisky and lemons and honey she carried on the silver tray Mammy put the mug on. Like she was some fancy house slave bringing the master his night cap.
Bathed in shadows, next to the brick hearth, her new owner sat in a stuffed chair, staring at the dying embers. A patchwork quilt wrapped him like a cocoon.
She eased up next to him and extended the tray. “Your hot toddy, sir.”
He turned toward her. “What did you say, girl?” His words poured out slow as sorghum on a freezing cold morn.
The tone in his voice sent shivers up her back, and a pesky woodpecker thumped against her chest. “Your drink, sir.”
Mister William didn’t look nearly as old as she thought he would. Pasty though; she had that right.
“Mammy fixed your toddy, and I got it right here for you, sir.”
“Oh.” He stared at her for a double fist full of her heartbeats before he finally nodded. Still didn’t take his toddy. “Who are you?” His question came as one word, and it took her a minute to get them separated and understand.
“Jasmine, sir.”
He nodded. “Oh. Yes. Now I remember.”
“Yes, sir. Your toddy, sir?”
“Mama told me all about you at supper.” He extended his hand and lifted the mug from her tray, but she didn’t move a muscle. Stood there holding that tray as steady as an old oak. After a sip, he held it to his chest and returned to his ember watching.
“Would you want me to put another log on, sir? It be a mite chilly tonight.”
Taking another sip, he reached down and retrieved a brown jug, the kind they put corn squeezin’s in. The man couldn’t be half as old as Miss June. The words of the old woman waiting outside the door wormed their way up, her baby boy.
So…this man was Miss June’s son. No wonder old Mammy wanted Jasmine to be nice to him, being his wet nurse and all. Probably raised him more than his own mam.
But that didn’t make any difference. She would kill him dead if he laid a hand on her.

~ Review ~

The Bedwarmer’s Son is a historical fiction novel with a few story lines woven through it. The primary story is that of Billy Sinclair, the son of cotton plantation owner William Abel Sinclair and his bedwarmer, Jasmine. Now in his seventies, Billy is about to go to trial for the murder of his half-brother, Jamieson Sinclair. But it’s not so much a question of ‘Who pulled the trigger?’ as whether a coloured man has the right to defend his life, even if the threat comes from a white man. Many at this time in history would have said not.

The second story is that of Billy’s mother, Jasmine, beginning from the time she arrives at Three Springs Plantation. Billy shares the story with his lawyer, Alice Parmalee, in order to help her prepare his defence, but it is actually told from Jasmine’s point of view as a step back in time. It’s an intriguing story that highlights some of the difficulties faced by an interracial couple prior to and following the Civil War, and while readers may not be comfortable with some of the choices made by the characters, the story is also realistic about the consequences of those choices and the difficulties they create—Billy’s situation included.

For young white lawyer Alice Parmalee, it’s a case that tests not only her legal mettle, but also her belief that faith in an invisible, all-powerful God is ludicrous. Her growing attachment to both Billy and his grandson, Will, only heightens her anxiety that she won’t be able to successfully defend Billy’s case.

The story was engaging, but I did feel as though some aspects developed a little simplistically: for example, the growing relationship between Alice and Will, and Alice’s beliefs regarding God. There was also a scene toward the end of the novel concerning Billy and his now-deceased brother Jamieson that I felt stretched credulity in order to wrap things in a nice neat bow.

Readers may also wish to be advised that there are 10 occurrences of the ‘n’ word used in reference to a black person (and not just by white characters). Due the way the story develops, this is mainly confined to the first half of the novel.

* Tomorrow’s open discussion will be on whether it is appropriate to use racial slurs in fiction. We’d love to you come and join the conversation.

~ About the Author ~

Caryl McAdooBorn in California, Caryl McAdoo got to Texas in time to celebrate her first birthday. As a Dallas seventh grader, she remembers a homework essay on ‘What will you be doing in 2000?’ Looking into the future, Caryl saw herself as an inter-galactically famous author, streaking from planet to planet signing books. She laughs, “But I didn’t start writing again until the late ’80s, then was so blessed to find the DFW Writers’ Workshop in ’93.”

Her first book debuted ’99, then for the next nine years, she averaged a title a year from four presses: two non-fiction, four novels, and three mid-grade chapter books. In March 2014, her first historical Christian romance Vow Unbroken debuted from Howard Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. In the three years since that release, she has published more than ten novels.

For every good blessing – including ten children (four by birth, six by marriage) and sixteen grandsugars – she gives God the glory. Caryl lives a country-life with Ron, her high school sweetheart husband of forty-seven years, and two grandsons in the woods a few miles south of Clarksville, Red River County seat, located in far Northeast Texas.

Connect with Caryl:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter

Author Interview with Terri J. Haynes

Welcome to Monday’s author interview. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing one of our very own contributors: Terri J. Haynes!

~ About the Author ~

Terri HaynesTerri J. Haynes, a native Baltimorean, is a homeschool mom, writer, prolific knitter, freelance graphic artist and former Army wife (left the Army, not the husband). She loves to read, so much that when she was in elementary school, she masterminded a plan to be locked in a public library armed with only a flashlight to read all the books and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As she grew, her love for writing grew as she tried her hand at poetry, articles, speeches and fiction. She is storyteller at heart. Her passion is to draw readers in the story world she has created and to bring laughter and joy to their lives.

Terri is a 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest finalist, and a 2012 semi-finalist. She is also a 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist. Her publishing credits include Cup of Comfort for Military Families,, the Secret Place Devotional, Vista Devotional, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Terri holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology, a Master’s degree in Theological Studies and a certificate in creative writing and graphic design, meeting the minimal requirements of being a geek. She and her husband pastor a church where she serves as executive pastor and worship leader. Terri lives in Maryland with her three wonderful children and her husband, who often beg her not to kill of their favorite characters.

Connect with Terri:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter

~ About the Book ~

Special Agent Will Anderson is counting the days before he transfers from the D.C. Human Rights squad of the FBI, but he’s leaving behind everyone he loves. He is asked to interview a victim of suspected human trafficking, a simple task, but finds himself deeply involved in the case. Social rights activist, Savannah Elliott, has made a fresh start in Washington, D.C., but a routine consultation on a D.C. Human Rights case brings her face to face with a terror from her past. As Will and Savannah struggle to solve the case, they are forced to face choices, some they’ve buried for years. Will their decisions, past and present, bring them love and safety or will they lose everything, including their lives?

Amazon  //  Goodreads

~ Interview ~

KATIE:  Well, I suppose I can’t really say ‘Welcome to the blog’, since you’re one of our contributors, but thanks for letting me interview you, Terri. If I can just go back to your bio for a moment, homeschool mum (sorry—mom!), executive pastor, worship leader, freelance graphic designer, prolific knitter… That’s a lot of balls to juggle! How do you carve out writing time in the midst of all that?

TERRI: My secret is scheduling writing time. Because I am so busy, there is no carving out time. If I waited until I was free to write, it would never get done. My prime writing time is 9-10 pm and sometimes later. I also strive to make the most of every minute of my time. For instance, I live in DC metro, the land of traffic. So instead of just sitting in my car for an hour or more, I go to my local Panera and use that time to write until the traffic dies down. I also work in spurts. I have plotted two story ideas in one weekend. When I get into the zone like that, I find that I can get quite a bit done.

KATIE: Sounds like a smart move! I hate rush hour, and I’m sure my little home city has nothing like the traffic in DC metro. Your first full-length novel, Love Simplified, features a professional matchmaker who ends up with on a reality TV show, while Captured delves into human rights and trafficking. They’re pretty divergent topics! Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?

TERRI: My ideas come from all over the place. The world is full of ideas. Captured was inspired by a news story. I got the idea for Love Simplified from a television show about a relationship specialist. I have an extremely active imagination, and I think I could turn anything into a story. I have notebooks full of ideas, some of them sparked from the littlest things. I guess that means I will never be without book ideas.

KATIE: Lucky you! Unless they’re all clamouring to be written at once, I suppose! So is there a particular genre that you feel most at home in, either reading or writing?

TERRI: I am all over the place in both areas. I work in a bookstore, so I try to read broadly. My personal goal is to have a book recommendation in every genre. But if I had to narrow it down, I read more YA and historical. I’ve recently added culturally diverse sci-fi. I read a great Middle Eastern dystopian novel and a sci-fi short story by a Nigerian author. As far as writing, I lean towards romantic suspense and contemporary romance, but I have several historical, YA, and sci-fi ideas floating around in my head.

KATIE: I’m a bit of a genre-hopper myself, and I love your aim of having a book recommendation in every genre! Talking specifically about Captured for a moment, both of the main characters in this novel come from non-Caucasian backgrounds. What is their ethnicity, and how did that shape your characters?

TERRI: Both of my characters are black (it is my personal preference to be referred to as black). (KATIE: Good to know! I don’t know about others, but I’m never 100% sure of the best term to use.) It’s hard for me to think about how their ethnicity shaped them because they just are. In the past, I had editors, other writers, and readers tell me that the characters in Captured weren’t black enough. I still don’t understand what that means. There are many shades of brown in the world. I do believe that when there are black characters in a book, there is an expectation for them to be urban. Will and Savannah are professionals, just like I am and many other black people are. Yes, there some urban characters in the book, but race wasn’t the driving factor. I wanted to tell a story where anyone from any racial background could identify with the story. I wanted them to identify with Will’s desire to have something he couldn’t and Savannah’s desire to be free from her past. Those things happen to every culture, every race, and all people. It is a universal story. Captured isn’t a race story. It’s a people story.

KATIE: Great answer! And isn’t that the aim of all good literature? To find those elements that are universal to humankind and explore them in unique settings and situations? So, aside from an enjoyable reading experience, what do you hope readers will take away from Captured?

TERRI: The core message of Captured is to pay attention. Human trafficking is a serious problem in the US. But one has to wonder how traffickers can operate in the world unseen. I believe that, culturally, our focus is on ourselves. Very often, people are hurting and heartbroken all around us, but we are so self-centred that we don’t see it. And when we do see it, we don’t do anything about it. This behaviour is especially disturbing when it involves believers. There are many needs in this world that only Christ can fix. But how will that happen if Christ followers don’t have the awareness or the compassion to change the world? And I’m not only talking about the starving children halfway across the world. I’m talking about the hungry children right in our neighbourhoods and churches. Not only the marginalized and oppressed around the world but what about the people in our workplaces, our classmates or fellow church members? Do we see them? We should, because they are all around us. The scriptures say Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw Israel scattered, hopeless, and without a shepherd. We, His people, should also be so moved.

KATIE: So true! It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of our own lives, but imagine what an impact we could have if we all committed to being more aware of those in need around us. That’s a great message.

Let’s lighten thing up a little to finish: If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?

TERRI: I’ve travelled a bit in my life, so I’ve seen some great places in the world like the Caribbean and Western Europe. I really loved Germany and St. Thomas.  But I would love to go to Italy, rent a villa, and eat as much great Italian food as I could handle.

KATIE: Oh yes! Pretty much anywhere in Europe would be A-okay with me! If you could assign one household task to the fairies forever, which one would it be?

TERRI: Cooking! I can cook but dislike cooking with a passion. I would rather clean bathrooms than cook. Besides, bleach and I are great friends.

KATIE: Hmm. Well, I’ll certainly let you keep the bleach. I’d definitely take the cooking! If you were a musical instrument, what would you be?

TERRI: As a singer, I consider myself an instrument. And I don’t think I would want to be another because my instrument, my voice, is always with me. I don’t have to lug around equipment. As long as I have a song in my heart, I have music.

KATIE: Beautiful! Isn’t singing a wonderful gift from our Creator? (And as a singer myself, I really should have thought of that! Lol!) What’s next for Terri J. Haynes, fiction author?

TERRI: Taking over the world. Just kidding. I’m not even sure I would want it once I took it over. My goal is to finish two manuscripts this year. I’ve finished one and am currently plotting another. I am also planning to another Brea Sutton novella to release later this year.

KATIE: Hahahaha! I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t want the responsibility of this world on my shoulders either. But it sounds like you’re on track with your writing goals! Thanks for chatting with me today, and God bless. 🙂

Interview by Katie Donovan

Inconceived (Sharyn Kopf) – Review

~ About the Book ~

Realizing you’re a spinster is one thing; understanding what that means and how to handle it is another. And it would seem Jolene, Uli, and Catie still have a ways to go before they truly comprehend what God is trying to show them not only in their desire to marry but in their longing to have children of their own.

As one relationship ends and another begins, Jolene Woods realizes she needs to finally deal with the guilt and regret of her past if she’s ever going to move on. And so she embarks on a journey she hopes will bring forgiveness … but may, in fact, only lead to more regret. Did she forever destroy her chance to be a mother in her youth?

Uli Odell has her own journey, though it’s more of an escape from the pain and embarrassment of a broken engagement. She ends up at her mother’s home in Iowa, separated from her friends and desperate for money. But there are some problems she just can’t run away from.

Though Catie’s heart is in a stronger place since she met God on a mountain three months ago, she still doesn’t have answers to many of her questions. Then the possibility of an unhealthy relationship and the reality of a life-altering medical diagnosis make her wonder if she’s figured out anything at all.

As their lives head off in different directions, each of these friends will need God—and each other—to find their way to healing.

Amazon  //  Goodreads

~ Excerpt ~

Sometimes all I want is a chance to start over. Not just with recent mistakes but with life. A series of potential do-overs scrolls through my brain as I add more concealer to cover the bags under my eyes—a natural consequence of a nightmare-filled sleep before the alarm went off at 6 a.m. so I could get to Easter breakfast on time.
Once again I had that dream. The one I’ve had periodically for most of my life, with minor variations. Always the baby crying. Lost. Pleading. And me, desperate and searching and powerless to do anything about it.
Much like thirty years ago. Only I wasn’t powerless. Just ignorant and immature and confused enough to destroy my own child. Twice. And now…
Stop it, Jolene.
But I can’t. The truth of my choice has haunted me for so long, but lately the grief has hit me with such force, I feel it compelling me to action. If only I knew what action that should be.

~ My Review ~

You may remember I did a book spotlight a couple of weeks ago for the novel Spinstered, by Sharyn Kopf. (If you missed it, you can find it here.) Today I’m reviewing the second novel in the series, Inconceived, which continues the stories of Catie, Jolene, and Uli: three over-forty women who are still unmarried and wondering what, if anything, they’re supposed to do about it. I do recommend that you read Spinstered first, and I will try to avoid giving spoilers for that novel in this review!

The first thing that struck me about this series was the engaging first person narrative that drew me straight into the heart and mind of each of the three characters. Regardless of how different my own circumstances are, it created an immediate emotional connection with these women that has only strengthened as I have walked through their stories with them, sometimes smiling at their wry observations and sometimes aching for the honesty and vulnerability they shared directly with the reader.

While there are developments in the stories of all three women over the course of the novel, Inconceived focuses more on Jolene, a not-so-young woman of Caribbean descent who grew up in a large family in the South. She runs Cocoon House (a home for women who are transitioning out of prison life), so she’s used to dealing with other people’s emotional baggage, but her own emotional baggage caught up with her at the end of Spinstered and she can’t run away from it any more. It takes her on a poignant journey—more so because of who walks it with her—and was a beautiful way of working through the emotional and physical repercussions of the choices she had made in her youth. If you are inclined to be an empathetic crier, you may want to have a tissue or two on hand!

I should add I was no less engaged in the developments in Catie and Uli’s lives, both of whom are still struggling in different ways with their spinsterhood and their desire for a husband. Regardless of whether the reader has been in similar circumstances as these women, at the core, their struggles are universal: Is our happiness found in God, or in our circumstances? Have we wandered away from God in our attempt to satisfy our needs outside of Him?

The final novel in this series is yet to be released, but I will be eagerly awaiting the conclusion to these women’s stories. I’m fairly hopeful for at least one wedding in there!

~ About the Author ~

sharynSharyn Kopf didn’t discover her voice until she found a way to turn grief into hope. For her, that meant realizing it was okay to be sad about her singleness. In doing so, she was finally able to move past her grief and find hope in God.

It also meant writing about the heartaches and hopes of being an older single woman. She published her first novel, Spinstered, in 2014, and a companion nonfiction version titled Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40 in 2015. Her work has also appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Splickety Love magazine.

Besides writing and speaking, Sharyn is an editor and marketing professional. She loves to connect with readers and singles on Facebook or email and has plans to start a monthly newsletter soon. In her spare time, she enjoys goofing off with her nieces and nephews, making—and eating!—the best fudge ever, long hikes through the woods, and playing the piano.

Connect with Sharyn:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Girls Night In (blog for single, over 40 women)

Review by Katie Donovan

Book Spotlight: Spinstered by Sharyn Kopf

Today’s featured book spotlight is the first in a three book series by Sharyn Kopf following three women—Catie, Jolene, and  Uli—and their struggle with singleness. Jolene is of Carribbean descent, but grew up in the South, and although the second book in the series develops her story more fully, it begins here, in the first book of the series.

~ About the Book ~

Three friends. Three stories. Three women trying to figure out how they ended up over 40 and still single. Committed to her job and pushing fifty, Catie Delaney has almost given up on her dream of love and marriage. Maybe, she tells herself, she’d be happier just embracing her singleness. Maybe that’s been God’s will all along. Catie’s friends, Jolene and Uli, have their own struggles with men, careers, and family. Then into this mix of feminine angst walks Brian Kemper-the latest GWP (Guy With Potential) to join their church’s singles group. But just as something seems about to happen between him and Catie, her world falls apart. With their hearts on the line, these three friends search for hope . . . and find it in unexpected places.

Amazon  //  Goodreads

~ Excerpt ~


This is my day off, for heaven’s sake. The Lord’s Day. A day of rest. So why I’m spending it trudging up the side of a cliff is beyond me.
First, Tess and Catie sprinted ahead like gazelles toward a mountain stream. Brian was in a deep conversation with Doug and Lindsay, with Uli tagging along, followed by Scott and Ellen. And I trailed in the back like a caboose.
There’s a joke about the size of my booty in there somewhere.
Now, Brian seems completely entranced by Catie, and I’m still bringing up the rear. I see my red-haired friend glance over at our GWP (Guy With Potential), a look of complete shock on her face. What on earth are they talking about? I’d love to chat with Uli, who’s huffing along next to me, about what’s going on a head of us. But, Lord have mercy, I’d rather breathe at the moment.
I really can’t stand hiking. We’re human beings not mountain goats. A drop of sweat slides down the back of my neck. The climbing shoes forced on me by life in Colorado are beyond ugly. There’s grit in my teeth from the dust we’re kicking up, and I’m wheezing like an asthma patient without an inhaler. Not to disparage asthma patients. My younger brother has asthma. Still, this is no way to make an impression, good or otherwise.
But I hang in there because I refuse to let a pile of rocks come between me and Mr. Possibility.

~ About the Author ~

sharynSharyn Kopf didn’t discover her voice until she found a way to turn grief into hope. For her, that meant realizing it was okay to be sad about her singleness. In doing so, she was finally able to move past her grief and find hope in God.

It also meant writing about the heartaches and hopes of being an older single woman. She published her first novel, Spinstered, in 2014, and a companion nonfiction version titled Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40 in 2015. Her work has also appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Splickety Love magazine.

Besides writing and speaking, Sharyn is an editor and marketing professional. She loves to connect with readers and singles on Facebook or email and has plans to start a monthly newsletter soon. In her spare time, she enjoys goofing off with her nieces and nephews, making—and eating!—the best fudge ever, long hikes through the woods, and playing the piano.

Connect with Sharyn:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Girls Night In (blog for single, over 40 women)

Book Spotlight by Katie Donovan