Book Review: Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman

TGIF!! Hope you’ve had a great week! Today, I’m sharing my review of Varina Denman’s Looking Glass Lies. Have you read it?


About the Book

Blurb: 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.

Links: Amazon, B&N, Goodreads


Review

Looking Glass Lies is a poignant read that will transform the reader. Cecily Ross struggles with her self-image. I think everyone can identify with that issue. I loved how Varina Denman tackled the subject. She laid it all out, exploring every nook and cranny of this issue. She also included a diverse group of secondary characters.

Shanty is half-Black and half-Asian. Her husband is from Latino descent. Shanty is the one who motivates and encourages Cecily to love herself just the way she is. I loved her character and I love that she has her own social media page.

If you’ve ever struggled with self image, please read this book. It will encourage you and help you see that God created you just the way you need to be.


About the Author

Varina 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.

Follow: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest 

Book Review: Vivir el Dream by Allison K. Garcia

Happy Friday, diverse reader friends!

I’m excited to share my review of Vivir el Dream by Allison K. Garcia. You may have remembered I interviewed her Monday as we discussed her debut novel. Before I share my review, let’s check out the book.


About the Book

“Linda Palacios crossed the border at age three with her mother, Juanita, to escape their traumatic life in Mexico and to pursue the American dream. Years later, Linda nears college graduation. With little hope for the future as an undocumented immigrant, Linda wonders where her life is going.

Tim Draker, a long-unemployed businessman, has wondered the same thing. Overcome with despair, he decides to take his own life. Before he can carry out his plan, he changes course when he finds a job as a mechanic. Embarrassed about working at a garage in the barrio, he lies to his wife in hopes of finding something better.

After Juanita’s coworker gets deported, she takes in her friend’s son, Hector, whom her daughter Linda can’t stand, While Juanita deals with nightmares of her traumatic past, she loses her job and decides to go into business for herself.

Will the three of them allow God to guide them through the challenges to come, or will they let their own desires and goals get in the way of His path?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Review

Vivir el Dream gives us a realistic glimpse into the immigration struggle in the Hispanic community. Ms. Garcia weaves a tale giving the reader three view points.

Linda Palacios is an undocumented college student. Brought to the United States at the age of three, Virginia is all she knows. It’s her home and the community she lives in helps define her identity.

I loved how Ms. Garcia explored the prejudice and ignorance the outside world has regarding immigration. I loved getting to know Linda and see her strengths. She taught me so much.

Ms. Garcia also gives us the view point of Juanita, Linda’s mother. You get to see the reasons behind her decision to immigrate across the Mexican border into the U.S. My heat ached for her as bits and pieces of her story were slowly shared.

And Tim. I struggled between empathizing with his plight and being extremely annoyed (that’s the nicest thing I can say) about his prejudice and ignorance of the Latino community. As a fellow writer, I admire the depth Ms. Garcia went through creating his character. You can see the stereotypes that others believe through his eyes. I think he’ll be the eye opener for readers. Will they see similar prejudices and ignorance?

Vivir el Dream really made me think about the truth of “walking a mile in someone’s shoes.” This is a must read for all who want to understand another culture and widen their views.

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


Review by Toni Shiloh

Author Interview: Vanessa Riley-Unveiling Love

Good Monday. Today we are featuring Vanessa Riley, who gives a poignant interview about race in Regency fiction.


About the Book

51Da6q+ZHyLWinning in the courts, vanquishing England’s foes on the battlefield, Barrington Norton has used these winner-take-all rules to script his life, but is London’s most distinguished mulatto barrister prepared to win the ultimate fight, restoring his wife’s love?

Amora Norton is running out of time. The shadows in her Egyptian mind, which threaten her sanity and alienate Barrington’s love, have returned. How many others will die if she can’t piece together her shattered memories? Can she trust that Barrington’s new found care is about saving their marriage rather than winning the trial of the century?

Free 1st Episode: http://amzn.to/1JLYkPj

The full collection- all 4 episodes: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H0K1C6I


About Vanessa

18361682_1556265021064836_1172928820_nVanessa Riley worked as an engineer before allowing her passion for historical romance to shine. A Regency era (early 1800s) and Jane Austen enthusiast, she brings the flavor of diverse peoples to her stories. Since she was seventeen, Vanessa has won awards for her writing and is currently working on two series. She lives in Atlanta with her military man hubby and precocious child. You can catch her writing from the comfort of her Southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

You can find her at http://www.VanessaRiley.com or http://www.facebook.com/ChristianRegency

www.vanessariley.com

https://www.facebook.com/VanessaRileyAuthor

http://www.twitter.com/VanessaRiley

http://pinterest.com/regencymaid

https://www.instagram.com/govanessariley


The Interview

Terri: You write historical diverse Christian Fiction. In the past, this genre has been stories of slaves and plantations. Unveiling Love shows diverse characters in places we won’t normally see them. Why did you choose this aspect of history over the more traditional slavery point of view?

Vanessa: I think there are a great many authors who focus on the history of diverse cultures within the United States. Many awesome books tell stories about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and The Great Migrations. Yet, most think of the black or African race as having a very narrow historical path. Many believe we were Kings and Queens (1500 BC) in Egypt. Then nothing and reappeared as slaves in America causing a war in 1865. There is a great deal of history occurring in many more places than Egypt and America that fills that span of over 3000 years. The missing timelines are rich in culture but are rarely are showcased in Christian Fiction. When I look on the bookstore shelves, no one lived in the void. Yet, we survived and thrived. I am called to tell these stories, the ones that show love lasts and overcomes.

Terri: I love the statement “missing timelines.” It is very true. As I read your book, all I kept thinking of was the movie Belle (2013). It was wildly popular because it was based on a true story and quite frankly, a part of history frequently overlooked. What are some of the surprising historical facts your research has uncovered about people of color?

Surprise isn’t the word. I think shocked and appalled might be more apt. There were ten thousand free black living in London during the time of Jane Austen. In 1772, the pivotal Somerset Case gave the enslaved rights setting the ground work for ending slavery. By 1833, slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire including its colonies. This occurred before a single shot was fired in the Civil War. I didn’t learn this in elementary school or even high school. My world changed taking an elective course in Western Civilization. I was disturbed as the impact of the whitewashing of history slapped me soundly in the face. Little brown girls and boys grow up thinking that the past was full of hate for them, not the accomplishments, not the times when love won. How does that impact their future when hate seems more prevalent today as they can be targeted for nothing more than driving while being other?

Terri: I completely agree about the way our history is framed for us. Pain is plentiful, and acknowledgment of accomplishments are few. How important is being historically accurate when in comes to characters of color? Or do you prefer to create worlds where diverse characters are the norm?

Vanessa: That question is a sore spot. When you tell a fuller narrative, a story that is different from what you heard growing up, many think you’ve made up stuff. They call all your fact checking and cross-referencing historical fantasy. Maybe they forgot, don’t care, or don’t know that Jane Austen wrote about a mulatto heiress in Sandition (1817). In this story, Lady Denham, who is a part of the upper class, tries to get her impoverished nephew to marry the money, the little blackamoor rich girl. Would Jane Austen write about things that had no possibility of occurring? I do not know, but I do know that no one today would question Austen’s right to do so. Austen was a contemporary author writing about her times, not a fantasy author.

I write what I am passionate about and that is showing that love survived. It cannot be bound by ignorance or ignored because it makes someone uncomfortable. It shouldn’t be put away because it disagrees with the lies we tell ourselves.

Terri: When I first met you at a writer’s conference a few years ago, I was fascinated by the fact that you were writing diverse historical Christian fiction. I distinctly remember thinking, “I need to watch her career because she’s found an amazing niche.” Was I right? Have you found a niche that other Christian authors haven’t explored?

Vanessa: I followed the normal path. I was traditionally published in 2013 with Madeline’s Protector, a heroine of Spanish decent. Then, I signed with an agent with an earlier version of Unveiling Love. I thought this was it. I am breaking through, but a funny thing happened. The CBA houses weren’t interested. A funnier thing happened. A few ABA houses requested the full manuscript. They loved my voice, they loved the story, but they said “we can’t reach the Christian market.” I lived in a catch twenty-two world.

I began to question myself. I wrote a great story? Think so. I had great agent? Check. I was with a well-respected agency? Check. Then, what were the traditional ABA and CBA houses saying? Were they saying drop faith from my stories or change the complexion of my characters to get a sale? I don’t know but it wasn’t a good spot to be. I searched the depths of soul, and decided not to sell it. I heard very clearly, “tell your stories,” not change your stories or stop telling stories.

I decided to go Indie. In 2015, I published The Bargain, a story of a formerly enslaved woman who discovers her faith as she helps save Port Elizabeth, a British Colony in South Africa. Hundreds of thousands of books in the hands of my readers later, I have not looked back. Bless you readers.

Terri: That’s fantastic that you found readers. That is an encouraging feeling after rejection. How did you get the idea for Unveiling Love?

Vanessa: I do a lot of research, and I found this area in Vauxhall Gardens called the Dark Walk, an isolated area where girls would walk away from their chaperones to meet with their sweethearts. That tidbit made me wonder about what happens when things went awry. During the Regency, the woman be found at fault even if the man had taken liberties. The London world would shame her as if it was her fault. That started the writing wheels turning. Those elements were the genesis for Unveiling Love.

Terri: What is your favorite historical TV show or movie and why? If you say the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colon Firth, we’ll be friends forever.

Vanessa: Yes, the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colon Firth is the best thing ever. I own the DVD. When I come home from a stressful day, I will put the 5-hour movie on to escape. Last year, I watched it at least 75 times.

Terri: We are now friends for life! Tea party or coffee shop?

Vanessa: This is tough, but I think I like coffee shops more.

Terri: Tough choice, but there is nothing like a cozy coffee shop. What’s next for you?

Vanessa: In August, No Hiding for The Guilty is released. What if super heroes were mortals and they lived and loved in the Regency? That is the premise a group of Regency authors tackled for The Heart of The Hero series releasing this summer. No Hiding for The Guilty is now on pre-order.

In January, The Bittersweet Bride, part of the Advertisements for Love Series with Entangled Publishing will release. This series focuses on three Blackamoor heiresses who need quick marriages of conveniences. They place advertisements in the Morning Post. Of course, foolishness, romance, and a bit of mayhem follow. It will be a story that people of faith and Regency lovers will enjoy.

Terri: Thank you so much for joining us. Praying Godspeed on all your future endeavors. Here’s to many more happy readers!

Author Interview: Leslie Sherrod- Man of My Schemes

It’s time for our author interview. This week we feature Leslie Sherrod, author of Man of My Schemes.


About the Book 

41dSs+ypECL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Having a fake boyfriend comes with a real price. It started with her co-workers and then spread to her sister-friends at church: the “must-have-a-man-marriage-baby-family-right-now-because-you’re-not-getting-any-younger” fever. Tired of the merciless prying and invasive questions about her lack of a love life, thirty-four-year-old Berry Jenkins comes up with an elaborate plan to convince everyone she has finally landed the man of her dreams – she fakes it. However, her foolproof conspiracy to pretend she’s met the perfect beau turns out to be proof of foolishness as her scheme of a made-up relationship spirals out of control. Only a miracle will save Berry from her fairytale fantasy turned nightmare reality, which only worsens as her web of lies begins to unravel. Facing exposure, Berry fears that the trap she’s created for herself is too messy, too tangled – and maybe even too deadly – for her chance at love to survive.

Buy links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo


About Leslie Sherrod

ljs picLeslie J. Sherrod, MSW, LCSW-C, LICSW, is the author of seven faith-based novels that speak to the hopes and dreams of diverse women. The recipient of the SORMAG Readers Choice Award for Christian Author of the Year (2012), Leslie has a Masters in Social Work which has allowed her to be a therapist and service provider for preschoolers, pregnant women, teens, seniors, and church folk, among other clientele. Her work has been featured in Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library Writers LIVE! Series, as well as on local CBS and NBC television affiliates. She has been a guest on both national and regional radio shows and podcasts, including The Mother Love Show (LA Talk Radio) and AOL’s Black Voices. Leslie has received a starred review from Booklist and has contributed to several blogs and devotionals.

Leslie lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her husband and three children. As both a writer and a social worker, Leslie tackles matters of current social significance, including mental health and wellness, healthy relationships, and spiritual growth – with the unique backdrop of page-turning, satisfying suspense and heartwarming humor. With a talent for drawing on raw emotions and painting vivid and meaningful imagery with her pen, her books have been welcomed at book club meetings, literary events, and church groups around the country.

Links:

www.LeslieJSherrod.com

Facebook & Twitter: @LeslieJSherrod

Buy: http://bit.ly/LJSOnlineBookstore


Interview

Terri: I am very excited that you’re joining us today to talk about Man of My Schemes. How did you get the idea for this book?

This was not a book I planned to write. The main character, Berry, showed up in my imagination as I was plotting a different story. However, Berry’s voice was so loud and distinct, the other story I was working on got washed out. She demanded attention for her plight, and I gave in. I could hear Berry’s sense of humor, her annoyance with everyone’s concern with her love life, and her willingness to go to outrageous lengths to maintain a fake relationship. Once this character took shape in my mind, what she did and how she did it easily came together.

Terri: Characters do that sometimes. We try to resist, but they just take over. I’m glad Berry pushed her way into your mind and into print. Your other books feature strong female leads. How is Berry different?

Berry is young, and – dare I say – a little immature. She’s missing some introspection that I think comes from life experiences, lessons learned, and having good girlfriends to keep you straight! I like Berry, though, because I think there is much to learn from her about how we can let others’ perceptions control us. Once a negative thought gets planted in our heads that shapes how we see ourselves, it is not difficult for that thought to take root and bear fruit of detrimental actions. At heart, Berry has not learned to simply love and accept herself as she is, without needing a relationship to define her identity or purpose. Berry’s personal growth does come, I believe, but not before a zany wallop of a ride.

Terri: Man of My Schemes is a fun read, but in a way, it is like a single woman’s manifesto. Did you intend for the story to give single Christian women a voice through Berry?

I wanted to give voice to any woman who feels like she has to continually explain or defend her relationship status. I wanted to give voice to any woman who feels like she’s been trying her value and self-worth to societal standards of love and romance. I wanted to encourage awareness that esteem and worthiness are not dependent on who you are with or how others see you. You are special and awesome and worthy because of Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Terri: That is a great message for all women to hear. How much did the African-American church culture this culture shape your portrayal of Berry? Do you think this story would have worked in another culture?

I write out of the experience I know, and that experience includes fried chicken, green beans, potato salad, red punch, and coconut cake church dinners. It includes rousing sermons, youth choirs, and building funds; church mothers, peppermint candy, and solemn-faced deacons in Cadillacs. My experience also includes community, fellowship, encouragement, and strength; teaching, empowering, praying, and faith. Berry’s story is told in the context of the community in which she lives, moves, breathes, and has her being. While the general themes of romance and relationships could be set in any culture, the nuances of Berry’s church community help define how she experiences these themes. For example, her natural hair journey, the setting of a perfect date, even what characteristics would be valued in her imaginary boyfriend, have roots in the struggles and realities of the culture she knows.

Terri: Yes, and the story is well rooted in that culture. It adds perspective and context to the book. Berry goes through great lengths to keep up appearances. What lesson would you like to pass on to readers who are a little or a lot like Berry?

Fakeness and lies never lead to happy endings, and once a lie starts, the more complicated it gets to keep it going. We all know this. However, sometimes there’s a disconnect in knowing this and living it out as we get caught up in trying to present our lives as perfect to everyone around us. And keeping up appearances goes well beyond romantic relationship status. Look at social media where perfection abounds. We offer status updates to people who are minimally involved in our lives. If we get consumed with putting up perfection, it’s easy to get sidetracked from focusing on what matters: being genuine, so that others’ can be genuinely blessed by our presence in their lives.

Terri: That is a very timely message. Many women get caught up in keeping up with the next women not realizes their competing with someone who is not who they appear to be. Since Berry was such a fan of social media, what’s your preferred social media site and why?

 I am most active on Facebook, but that’s a low key active. I post pictures that make me happy and the occasional status update. I’ve shared some honest challenges I’ve faced, offered encouragement, and, of course, given updates about my books. However, I read through my Facebook feed all the time. I bookmark articles, laugh at videos, and smile at my friends’ successes and celebrations. While I do have a couple of other social media accounts, Facebook has been the most engaging for me.

Terri: I’ve totally become more of a Facebook stalker lately. Berry travels a bit in the book. Tell me about your ideal vacation.

I love to travel, and if I can’t physically go somewhere, I will research details and let my imagination transport me there. I tend to include different cities and states – even countries – in my stories, and Berry’s story is no different. While my year does not feel complete if I do not have at least one trip to somebody’s beach, I’ve found that I most love trips that take me to cultures and experiences that are different from my own. My ideal vacation has a lot of food to sample, a cultural and/or historical feature to visit, a Groupon deal to take advantage of, and some downtime to absorb it all. And a little water to dip in never hurts! I love planning trips with my family and friends and am incredibly grateful for every single opportunity I’ve had to make a trip out of my beloved Baltimore. From kayaking on a bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico, to meandering through the French Quarter in New Orleans, to enjoying a food tour in South Beach, to exploring the Port Lucaya Marketplace in the Bahamas, to admiring the artwork of Venice Beach vendors in California, I’ve learned that my ideal vacation is one that connects to all my senses and leaves me feeling inspired.

Terri: Yes, water never hurts a vacation unless it’s torrential rain. What’s next for you?

Okay, big confession. After writing and having published seven novels over the past ten years, I’ve spent the last year working on…. nothing. I think I’ve needed this break to re-focus and re-energize my writing goals and dreams. I will gladly be transparent and say that this writing journey has not been the easiest. I’ve come close to quitting completely many times. I would like to be able to tell you that I am working on a new novel, or that I’ve finally started the children’s book I want to do along with my artist husband, or that I’ve finally uploaded some of my short stories onto Amazon. Truth is, I’m fervently seeking clearer direction on what to work on next. My continual prayer is that God gets the most glory from whatever gifts and talents He’s given me. I am excited about pursuing Him and am confident that I’ll have writing clarity soon. Until then, I’ll keep picking up my pen, pecking on my keyboard, practicing my writing skills, playing around with plot ideas, polishing up my dialogues…. Prayerfully waiting for the next work to take firm shape. Check back with me soon and I’ll share whatever comes out of this season. Thanks!

Terri: I understand.  Everyone needs reenergizing in our lives. Well, whatever is next, I certain that God will lead you. Thank you so much for being here today. 

 

Open Discussion: Reading in Color

letstalkI have had many conversations with my fellow believers about diversity in Christian fiction. I try to be open and honest in my conversations, but more than that, I make sure to listen.

I feel that changes in Christian fiction regarding diversity will originate with readers. I believe that once we the readers make our voice heard the industry will hear and respond. However, as I talk to Christian fiction readers, I am constantly trying to accesses what are the prevailing thoughts about diversity in Christian fiction.

In my listening, I found that reader’s responses fell into two camps. Of course, every person didn’t fall perfectly into one or the other. But for the most part, the response fell in or near two mindsets.

The first I call color-blind readers. Great writing and intriguing characters are enough to move them to by, but they might not buy because there are diverse characters in it. That alone is enough to motivate them to support diverse authors even if it wasn’t their initial intention.

The second are every nation, every tribe readers. They seek out books that feature diverse characters. Those characters are their driving motivation. These readers are most likely to note when diversity is missing from a novel.

Both camps have legitimate reasons why they approach diversity in Christian fiction the way they do. Which are you and why? Share your comments below.

Book Spotlight: The Amish Princess by Patrick E. Craig

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!!

Today, I’m sharing a new Book Spotlight post, The Amish Princesss, by Patrick E. Craig. It’s Book 2 in the Paradise Chronicles. Have you read it? If not, this is the perfect opportunity to learn more.

Let’s get started!


About the Book

33305844Opahtuhwe, the White Deer, is the beautiful daughter of Wingenund, the most powerful chief of the Delaware tribe. She is revered by her people–a true Indian princess. Everything changes when the murderous Delaware renegade known as Scar brings three Amish prisoners to the Delaware camp. Jonathan and Joshua Hershberger are twin brothers that Scar has determined to adopt and teach the Indian way. The third prisoner is Jonas Hershberger, their father, who has been made a slave because he would not defend his family. White Deer is drawn to Jonathan but his hatred of the Indians makes him push her away. Joshua’s gentle heart and steadfast refusal to abandon the Amish faith lead White Deer to a life-changing decision and rejection by her people. In the end, White Deer must choose between the ways of her people and her new-found faith. And complicating it all is her love for the man who can only hate her.

Links: Amazon, B&NGoodreads


About the Author

pcraig2aBest-selling author Patrick E. Craig is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful songwriting and performance career in the music industry to follow Christ in 1984. He spent the next 26 years as a worship leader, seminar speaker, and pastor. In 2011 he signed a three-book deal with Harvest House Publishers to publish his Apple Creek Dreams series. His current series is The Paradise Chronicles and the first two books in the series, The Amish Heiress and The Amish Princess, were published by P&J Publishing . Patrick and his wife Judy make their home in Idaho and are the parents of two adult children and have five grandchildren. Patrick is represented by the Steve Laube Agency.

Post created by Toni Shiloh