Book Review: The Plum Blooms In Winter

Happy Friday! Today we’re looking at a debut novel from Mountain Brook Ink that looks at both sides of The Doolittle Raid in 1942 (a US air raid on the Greater Tokyo area during WW2) – the pilots and the victims.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Thompson-1PlumBloomsSMALLA Prostitute Seeks Her Revenge–In 1942, Miyako Matsuura cradled her little brother as he died on the sidewalk, a victim of the first U.S. bombing raid on Japan. By 1948, the war has reduced her to a street-hardened prostitute consumed by her shame.

A WWII Hero Finds His True Mission–Dave Delham makes military aviation history piloting a B-25 in the audacious Doolittle Raid. Forced to bail out over occupied China, he and his crew are captured by the Japanese and survive a harrowing P.O.W. ordeal. In 1948, he returns to Japan as a Christian missionary, determined to showcase Christ’s forgiveness.

Convinced that Delham was responsible for the bomb that snuffed out her brother’s life, Miyako resolves to restore her honor by avenging him–even if it costs her own life. But the huntress soon becomes hunted in Osaka’s treacherous underworld. Miyako must outmaneuver a ruthless brothel owner, outwit gangs with competing plans to profit by her, and overcome betrayal by family and friends–only to confront a decision that will change everything.

GOODREADS | AMAZON

MY THOUGHTS

The Plum Blooms in Winter is the kind of novel that isn’t easy to read because it shines a light on some of the darkest, most evil shadows of humanity. It exposes what fear, desperation, and bitterness will drive people to do to one another. The circumstances in which both Dave and Miyako find themselves, respectively, are brutal and raw and you may be tempted to look away at times to leave them a bit of dignity.

Yet at the same time it celebrates the power of God’s grace to begin the work of redemption and restoration. Hope shines brighter than the darkness – in a thousand little ways and a few really big ones. Though neither Dave nor Miyako acknowledge God right away, His hand is nevertheless obvious to readers who do know Him.

The author mentions at the beginning of the novel that she made the choice to include common derogatory terms of the day toward the Japanese as an accurate representation of the history she was portraying. And while these are difficult to read, they are used as sparingly as possible and do drive home the appalling attitudes of the time period. This disparity – between the debasing words and the God-given high value of the people being spoken of – is seen so clearly as Miyako is first met as a school girl racing to protect her little brother from the air raid and then as a young woman who sacrifices all she has left to afford her father’s medical care yet is still so dearly loved by her Heavenly Father.

Note: I did wince at the author’s choice to write some English words phonetically as the Japanese would have said them. To me, this negated some of the value & honor she had given back to the Japanese citizens (as opposed to military personnel) in her portrayal of them.

Overall though this is an extremely powerful novel of the extremes that war, prejudice, fear, and desperation can lead to. The compelling and emotional story shows that, deep inside, our hearts all beat the same – no matter what our race or ethnicity – and that God’s grace follows us into the deepest pit whether we’ve dug it ourselves or it’s been dug for us.

I VOLUNTARILY REVIEWED A COMPLIMENTARY COPY OF THIS BOOK.
ALL VIEWS EXPRESSED ARE ONLY MY HONEST OPINION.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

linda thompsonLinda Thompson stepped back from a corporate career that spanned continents to write what she loves-stories of unstoppable faith. Her debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter, is an A.C.F.W. Genesis award winner. Linda writes from the sun-drenched Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, a third-generation airline pilot who doubles as her Chief Military Research Officer, two mostly-grown-up kids, and a small platoon of housecats. When Linda isn’t writing, you’ll find her rollerblading-yes, that does make her a throwback-taking in a majestic desert moonrise, or dreaming of an upcoming trip. She and her husband recently returned from a tour of Israel and Jordan. Next up: Wales.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

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Interview with Cathe Swanson about her book “Hope for the Holidays”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Last November, we did a spotlight on Cathe Swanson’s Christmas story Hope for the Holidays. Today, Cathe is back and this time, we’re asking questions about her same book.

Enjoy our interview with Cathe Swanson, author of Hope for the Holidays!


Interview with Cathe Swanson about her book,  Hope for the Holidays (Great Lakes Collection):

Alexis: What about the holiday season inspired you to write this book?

Cathe: Christmas brings out the best and worst in communities, so there are always stories to tell. The first Unity Plenkiss book, Snow Angels, was too short to include all of the characters’ Christmas stories. I especially wanted to talk about Tally, a homeless vet with PTSD, because she is so real to me – vulnerable but trying to get and maintain control of her life.

 Alexis: What is does your book title, “Hope for the Holidays,” mean?

Cathe: Christmas can be an emotional season, with pressures and sad memories as well as great joy, fun, and peace. In Chicago, the short winter days are cold. Maly Park is an aging Chicago neighborhood with a diverse population. There are elderly people who’ve lived in the same house through blessings and losses, peace and wars, left behind when their children grew up and left home. There are veterans, women in crisis, children in unstable homes, and other people facing challenges. It’s not just a matter of money – like us, they need love. They need community. The Unity Plenkiss and the church – The Blessed Church of the Sacred Lion and Holy Lamb – provide warmth and encouragement for everyone. Hope!

Alexis: I love the cover art for your book! It is beautiful and captivating! Was it challenging to find a cover photo that featured your hero who is Black and your heroine who is White together sipping what looks like a latte or hot chocolate? Share your cover design story with details like who created it and if it was expensive.

Cathe: Yes, it was hard! There aren’t enough stock photo options for people of color, and finding the right search terms was complicated. I spent an entire day looking at all the major stock photography websites for the right people. In the end, my cover designer, Chautona Havig, had to patch together the image, bringing the couple closer together across the table and fading out the crowded background. This would be a great business opportunity for a professional photographer!

Alexis: As a White author, did you find it difficult to write a hero of color? Why or why not?

Cathe: I didn’t find it difficult to write about Micah, because he just seemed to be “Micah” – a man conflicted over his spiritual gifts vs. his current responsibilities. He came from a suburban Christian home.

I am aware of the limitations of my experience and understanding, and I do worry about “doing it wrong” when I write about characters of markedly different cultures, so I follow the age-old advice and “write what I know.” The adult people of color I know lead lives similar to my own, so that’s how I envision Micah. I live on campus at a treatment center for boys who’ve been in trouble with the law, so my teenage characters might – in a very general way – reflect some of the attitudes and history of the boys here. I realize that Micah’s racial heritage is part of who he is, and he must have experienced racial conflict in his life, but my Christmas novella has a limited scope and setting, and I didn’t explore all of that.

Alexis: Did you do any research when writing this interracial romance between Carrie and Micah? Share details and advice on how you made it work.

Cathe: There are a few interracial relationships in my family and more among our friends and in our church, so I just portrayed it as naturally as I could. In real life, it’s challenging for some people, but it wasn’t really a problem for Carrie and Micah because of her upbringing as a missionary kid in a Black family.

Alexis: What advice do you have to other White authors who may want to write about characters of color in their fiction stories for CBA but are hesitant or scared to do so?

Cathe: If you are going to write a story with significant cultural conflict or issues, get advice from people who have a real understanding of those things. I have found that when I say, “I’m an author writing a book about…”, people are usually happy to share information and help me understand things.I use the Tumblr blog “Writing with Color” for research and advice. It’s a great, helpful website, but it’s also very intense. When I read about all of the mistakes that I can make, I get paralyzed – too scared to write anything at all!

Whatever their skin color, just write about people – real human beings with realistic backstories. If you are worried about something, pray about it. My first goal is to glorify God in my writing, so I write from my own experience, ask for help when I have questions, and just do the best I can.

Alexis: Would you like to see more stories that feature interracial romances, published by CBA? Why or why not?

Cathe: Certainly. I like to read stories with characters who reasonably represent the demographics of their environment, and interracial romances aren’t at all uncommon anymore.

Alexis: Let’s talk more about the romance elements in your story. What is it about Carrie that makes Micah want to pursue a romantic relationship with her?

Cathe: Carrie is energetic and overflowing with good ideas. She can be bossy, but her good intentions shine through. Her childhood, growing up as a missionary kid in the Congo, made her both savvy and naïve. She listens to people. Micah was able to tell her how he felt without being afraid she would judge him.

Alexis: What is it about Micah that tugs on Carrie’s heartstrings and inspires her to give him a chance?

Cathe: Micah – besides being charming and handsome – wants to take care of his people. His congregation may exasperate him, but he feels a great sense of responsibility for them. He won’t leave them to pursue his own dreams until he has provided for their future leadership.

Alexis: Your story’s opening scene is hilarious and your couple’s meet cute is sweet! What were Carrie and Micah’s first impressions of each other?

Cathe: Carrie is startled by the theft of her long-awaited treat and Micah’s intervention. She’s embarrassed by her reaction, and he’s embarrassed by the behavior of his parishioner, but they find each other fascinating.

Alexis: Why is Carrie eager to organize and improve the Unity Plenkiss Community Center?

Cathe: She’s a capable girl and doesn’t like to see resources wasted. She sees great possibilities for the Unity Plenkiss and knows she can make a real difference, but she’s also eager to prove that she’s an intelligent adult – not Roy’s little sister, who only got the job because he recommended her.

Alexis: What kind of pastor is Micah? Describe his leadership style.

Cathe: Micah is very, very conscientious and feels responsibility for everyone in his church. At the same time, he feels like they manage just find on their own.

Alexis: Has Micah always had a big heart for people and has Carrie always had a passion for organization? Explain.

Cathe: Micah’s faith is solid and transparent, and he’s a lively preacher, but his heart is in teaching, not pastoring. He wants to help people but believes he lacks the skills to connect and help them one-on-one.

Carrie has always been sensible and worked hard, as a missionary kid in a poverty-stricken region. Learning to work efficiently made it easier. She gets frustrated now with disorganization.

Alexis: Did you self-publish this book or was it traditionally published? Explain why you chose that publication path for this book and give advice for aspiring authors.

Cathe: I think an author’s personality is the biggest factor when choosing which publication route to take. All my books are independently published. I like the control this gives me over my work and marketing, but it’s a lot of work.

If you like group projects and working with a team, conventional publishing might be a better choice.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this book?

Cathe: I want them to remember the humanity of the individual characters, and how each one of them needed dignity.

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

Cathe: Thank you for letting me talk about my book. Hope for the Holidays is one of my favorites.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Newly arrived from her home in the Congo and armed with a brand-new degree in nonprofit management, Carrie Strough is eager to organize and improve the Unity Plenkiss Community Center. Unfortunately, no one wants to be organized, and only Micah Neresen, the charming and handsome pastor of the local church, is interested in her plans. Or is he just interested in her?

With a cast of lively and eccentric characters including a homeless vet with PTSD, a con man, an elderly couple with an over-the-top Christmas display, a feisty committeewoman with a past of her own, and a police investigation, Micah and Carrie wonder if there is any hope for the holidays this year!

Book Purchase Link: Amazon


About the Author:

Cathe Swanson lives in Wisconsin with her husband of 32 years. They enjoy spending time with their family and being outdoors, kayaking, hiking, birdwatching and fishing, but summer is short in Wisconsin, so it’s important to have indoor hobbies, too. Cathe has been a quilter and teacher of quiltmaking for over 25 years, and she enjoys just about any kind of creative work, especially those involving fiber or paper.

Her family is growing steadily; she and her husband had three sons, and those boys all grew up and married delightful women and started producing grandchildren: four boys and three girls so far!

The long Wisconsin winters are perfect for writing and reading books! Cathe enjoys writing stories with eccentric characters of all ages. Her books will make you laugh and make you cry – and then make you laugh again.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, BookBub, Amazon, Newsletter


Book Review: Deck the Shelves

Happy Friday, reader friends!

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

ABOUT THE BOOK

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

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

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

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

GOODREADS | AMAZON

MY THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

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

Follow: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram

 


posted by contributor Carrie Schmidt

Book Spotlight: Stand By Me

Happy Wednesday, reader friends!

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


About the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

*Buy Stand by Me on Amazon.


About the Author:

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

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

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

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

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson

Book Spotlight: Burden of Proof

Hello, readers! Today’s featured book spotlight is shining on a romantic suspense title which is on my wishlist.


about the book

Reeling from a negotiation gone wrong, FBI Special Agent April Ramos is caught off guard when a frazzled young woman shoves a crying baby into her arms, then disappears. Worry for the child’s safety quickly turns to fear when a man claiming to be the girl’s father abducts them at gunpoint. April puts her hostage negotiation skills to use to learn more about who she’s dealing with: Jason Snyder, a fugitive accused of murder.

As Jason spins a tall tale about being framed for the killing of his business partner, April must sort through his claims to find the truth. A truth that becomes all the more evident after April overhears a conversation between Jason and the local sheriff and realizes something more sinister may be happening in their small town of Sweet Briar, Texas. But aligning herself with a known fugitive to uncover the burden of proof could cost April her job . . . or worse, her life and the lives of other innocent people.

Goodreads | amazon | Christianbook

 

about the author

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

website | facebook | twitter | instagram | pinterest

 

Will y’all be adding this book to your wishlist, reader friends?

 

Spotlight by Beth Erin

Book Review: This Courageous Journey by Misty M. Beller

Happy Fri-nally, friends! Are you as ready for the weekend as I am?!?

Well if you’re looking for a great diverse read for your weekend plans, I’ve got another recommendation for you!

About the Book

this courageous journeyAs the fifth daughter in a family of nine children, Noelle Grant has spent her life working to be unique. Her love of stories helps define her goal—to be known around the country as one of the top news correspondents of her time. And what better way to uncover sensational stories than to travel through the mountain wilderness to visit the brother she hasn’t seen in years? The trip comes together perfectly as she plans to journey with family friends who will be settling in the same area. Her first inkling that things may not be as perfect as planned comes in the form of the mountain man they hire as their guide for the final leg of the journey.

When Daniel Abrams agrees to guide the small group of easterners along his usual journey northward to the Canadian mountains, his gut tells him he’s making the wrong decision. But if he doesn’t take them, who will? The man in charge refuses to consider turning back. As they start out, Daniel can’t help but notice the woman traveling under the care of her friends. Though she appears too genteel to last long in these mountains, she soon reveals a strength that draws him more than he should allow.

As the dangers of this wilderness become more than the group bargained for, Noelle is faced with the choice to delay her journey northward or proceed alone with the man she’s come to trust against all reason. She never imagines her decision will place her—and the man she loves—in a situation more hazardous than any story her imagination could conjure.

GOODREADS | AMAZON | B&N

My Thoughts

Misty Beller has quickly become one of my favorite historical romance authors. While I didn’t start reading her books until this Heart of the Mountains series, I can’t kick myself too much because that just means I have her backlist waiting for me to discover and enjoy next!

In This Courageous Journey, book #4 in the Heart of the Mountains series, we meet Simeon’s little sister Noelle Grant (don’t worry though – you can definitely read this as a stand alone too) and her group’s wilderness guide Daniel Abrams. As in each of these Heart of the Mountains books, the journey through the Canadian Rockies is treacherous and gives me a new appreciation for those who braved the often-fatal terrain to forge a new life. These characters and their courage – knowing that, while Noelle and Daniel are fictional, there were real people who endured these journeys – is so inspiring.

Daniel in particular is a complex character with many dimensions to his backstory. Namely, in his heritage and how he wrestles with the nuances of that history. Beller has framed this character well – with all the various layers that make Daniel uniquely himself. The way he relates to the various people they meet along their journey – and how he guards himself even among people he trusts – is further testament to the cultures and complexities that make up his history.

Tucked away in the adventure and romance is a gentle thread of faith that has a two-fold message. One is that God is with us, even when things seem to be getting worse instead of better. He’s there. He’s good. And He loves us dearly. The other part of the thread is a tender reminder that the way we see ourselves, even the way others see us, is a pale – and often inaccurate – reflection of the strength and worth God sees when He looks at us. And since we are never outside of His watch, our truest self is held there in His heart for us to find as we know Him (and ourselves) better along the journey.

Bottom Line: If you have not yet discovered this edge-of-your-seat, heart-in-your-throat series you are really missing out. I experienced the whole gamut of emotions while reading This Courageous Journey – moments that had me gasping out loud in shock, sighing in (sometimes very short-lived) relief, swooning at the passionate kisses and love, and even nearly praying for their safety. That’s how invested I was in this story and the characters that Beller has so skillfully crafted. Adventure, humor, romance, and faith are all a part of this riveting novel which is not to be missed!

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.
Review first seen, in part, on ReadingIsMySuperPower.org

About the Author

misty beller.JPGMisty M. Beller writes romantic mountain stories, set on the 1800s frontier and woven with the truth of God’s love.

She was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.

CONNECT WITH MISTY:  website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

This Courageous Journey is on tour right now with CelebrateLit – follow along HERE for a chance to win a gift card!

Book Review: Unbound by Grace

Hi, reader friends! Today’s review features a book which was spotlighted here a few months ago and I highly recommend it!

About the Book

Tori Bishop has carved out a safe circle of friends who know nothing of her privileged status. But when she’s roped into attending a glitzy fundraiser, she brings along strong and steadfast Derek for support. As long as her secret stays safe, she never has to question his motives.

Derek Miller wants his life to count for something, to make a difference—especially in the life of Tori Bishop, the spunky smart-mouth who loves razzing him. But if his prison record comes to light, she’s sure to take off running.

When Tori and Derek get involved in building a local women’s shelter, the extra time together stirs more than an ember of attraction. Haunted by the fear of exposure, each must wrestle with the chains of their pasts to experience freedom, love, and the full depths of God’s grace.

goodreads | amazon

 

My Thoughts

Michelle Massaro has done it again and this story was worth the wait! Tori and Derek are both believers yet they are deceived by fear and the lies they believe about themselves. Whether we come from poverty or plenty, our past experiences shape us. I loved reading their banter and the way they came to a more accurate understanding of their polar economic circumstances. Exposing our prejudices is the only way we can rectify them.

Unbound by Grace contains some delightfully swoony kisses and yet, my heart was also challenged and encouraged by the faith thread in the story. This novella is an excellent choice, I highly recommend it and I am patiently anticipating more work from this author!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was under no obligation to post a review. The opinions expressed are my own.
This review first posted on Faithfully Bookish.

 

About the Author

Michelle Massaro writes contemporary fiction soaked in grace. She makes her home in Southern California with her husband of over two decades and their four children. She’s dabbled in homeschooling, teaching Creation Science, and leading worship.

When she isn’t tinkering with words, Michelle enjoys old Rogers and Hammerstein movies, making kefir, and Sudoku. A new lipstick and a good French roast always make her happy.

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This book is currently touring with Celebrate Lit.
Check out the giveaway on Faithfully Bookish!

Review by Beth Erin

Interview with Neta Jackson, about her book “Where Do I Go?”

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

Today, we’re talking with Neta Jackson about her book “Where Do I Go?”

Enjoy the author interview!


Interview with Neta Jackson about her book “Where Do I Go?”

(Yada Yada House of Hope Series, Book 1):

Alexis: Did you co-author this book with your husband? Why or why not?

Neta: The Yada Yada House of Hope series is written by me but Dave was very instrumental in brainstorming the idea for the book, reading and editing my chapters. He also helped me with Chicago research, walking around the areas where the story takes place, finding the “tunnel walkway” where Gabby’s husband Phillip was mugged . . . THEN, the rascal, Dave stole one of my secondary characters and made him the primary character in two novels he wrote to parallel the House of Hope series! (More about that later.)

Alexis: Why did you write this book?

Neta: At the end of The Yada Yada Prayer Group series, the prayer group got involved in a women’s shelter, and that situation just begged for more stories! Also, at the time I was volunteering at Breakthrough Urban Ministries women’s shelter in Chicago and I was deeply moved by all the different “stories” of the women there. I wanted readers to get to “know” the kinds of situations where women might end up in a shelter—many of them not so different than us. So the House of Hope series was born. I added a new main character, who met some of the original Yada Yada characters who were volunteering there to give this series continuity to the original series.

Alexis: What is the significance of your story’s title?

Neta: One time I spoke at a women’s conference on the same stage as Dottie Rambo, who wrote the song, “I Go to the Rock.” I loved that song, and realized that the words totally captured what I was trying to convey in the House of Hope series—when you don’t know where to go, when you don’t know who you can lean on, or talk to . . . you go to the Rock. Which is what Gabby Fairbanks had to do when her life fell apart. The words of that song actually became the titles for each of the books in the series!

Here’s the song, sung by Whitney Houston in the movie, The Preacher’s Wife: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOu7bis3We0

Alexis: How is hope found in “the last place you look?”

Neta: Who would have thought that a chance meeting with an elderly “bag lady” would lead to a job at a women’s shelter, which in turn would become a shelter for Gabby Fairbanks when her privileged life and marriage fell apart, which in turn became a place of hope as God turned disaster into an amazing opportunity to bless many others. God can use anything and anybody to bless us—and that goes for each of us as well!

Alexis: Tell us about Gabrielle Fairbanks. What role does she play in this story? Describe her character, hopes, and failures.

Neta: Gabby is a free spirit, a “down home” girl from North Dakota, when she meets a handsome young man on a trip to Paris who “sweeps her off her feet.” But it’s not long till Gabby ends up feeling caged in her marriage, playing second fiddle to a man who is all about succeeding in business with little regard for Gabby’s needs. They move to a penthouse in Chicago, where she feels totally alone, her only “friend” being a helpful older doorman in their building until she meets an odd “bag lady” whom she takes to a local women’s shelter. In spite of her husband’s objections, she applies for a job there as program director, a way to use her gifts and college training. The job energizes her spirit but becomes a thorn in her already stressful marriage.

Alexis: Why is Gabrielle searching for “real purpose” in her life?

Neta: She’s a wife, but only an ornament to her husband’s career. She’s a mother, but even her boys are away at a posh boarding school. She doesn’t feel needed or wanted or useful. She’s dying inside.

Alexis: What is the Manna House Women’s Shelter? Describe its significance.

Neta: Manna House is an emergency women’s shelter that can only house homeless women for 30 days, not meant for long-term housing. But they need a program director to fill the days with helpful and meaningful activities—a role that Gabby has the skills and training to fulfill.

Alexis: How does becoming a program director for the shelter help Gabby?

Neta: Gabby sees an opportunity to fill the emptiness in her life and throws herself into her new job. What she doesn’t expect is how the various staff and volunteers and even the “guests” at the shelter also bring her into a deeper and meaningful relationship with Jesus.

Alexis: What is the most major conflict in this story?

Neta: When her husband Philip gets fed up with his wife’s “new life” apart from his schedule, his needs, his wants, and he kicks her out of their penthouse and his life with nothing! Now she’s the one who is homeless with nowhere to go.

Alexis: What was the most challenging part of this story to write?

Neta: Gabby and Philip’s dysfunctional marriage was challenging for me to portray throughout the book because my own marriage is so different. I have a wonderful, loving, supportive, godly husband, praise God! But I do have close friends who have or had difficult marriages, with whom we have walked through painful times in their lives that I drew on in order to portray the Fairbanks’ marriage.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this book?

Neta: The answer to the question in the title: When you face challenges in your life, whatever they might be, even if you feel as if your whole life is falling apart, when you don’t know what to do or where to go, you go to the Rock of your salvation, who is Jesus Christ. He is your shelter, your comforter, your friend, your salvation, and He will never, never leave you nor forsake you.

Alexis: If you could step into your story as a licensed counselor, what would you tell Gabrielle to help her make the best decision when her husband gives her an ultimatum?

Neta: Whoa! This is the hardest question of all! (And I’m not a licensed counselor.) I do know that marriage is all about compromise, even making sacrifices for the good of one’s partner . . . but at the same time, I don’t believe a wife’s personhood should be squashed, and God doesn’t bless that either. Verbal abuse is as unacceptable as physical abuse. Sometimes we have to do what we need to do to stay sane, to stay alive—even if it means a separation. You make reasonable compromises if you can. Get counseling together if you can. But if your partner refuses to meet you halfway, you PRAY and ask God to make it clear what you need to do. Stay? Separate? Divorce? Finally, be at peace about your decision.

Alexis: What do you as the author, love the most about this story? Why?

Neta: I love the fact that God sometimes uses the most unlikely people to encourage us, to show us God’s truth, to be the person God uses to make a difference in our life. A doorman? Harry Bentley was there for Gabby, and (in the rest of the series) became a treasured friend. Lucy the bag lady Gabby “saved” her at the beginning of the book, but it was Lucy who “saved” Gabby at the end. I love seeing the surprising ways God works! (This truth permeates the Gospels, both in how Jesus related to “the least of these” and also in His teachings.)

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Neta! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Neta: Yes! Speaking of Harry Bentley, the doorman . . . my husband decided there was a lot more to Harry’s story that didn’t come out in Where Do I Go? So like I mentioned at the beginning of this interview, he stole that character and wrote two parallel novels with Harry as the main character that parallels the House of Hope novels! Harry became such a beloved character to our readers in Harry Bentley’s Second Chance and Harry Bentley’s Second Sight, that he and his (eventual) wife anchored a whole new series that Dave and I wrote together called: Windy City Neighbors (five novels).

Also, at the end of the House of Hope series (four novels), there are still some questions about what happened to Lucy the bag lady. So Dave and I together wrote a stand-alone novel about her life called Lucy Come Home, starting from her life as a teenager and catching up all the way to where readers meet her in House of Hope—and beyond. Some readers have called Lucy “the best one yet!”

You can check out these House-of-Hope-related novels on our website: www.daveneta.com

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Sometimes you find hope in the last place you look.

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband sixteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip’s ambition, Gabby longs for the chance to find real purpose in her own life.

A chance encounter with a homeless woman suddenly opens a door she never expected. The women of Manna House Women’s Shelter need a Program Director–and she has the right credentials. Gabby’s in her element, feeling God’s call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn’t like the changes he sees in her. But she never anticipated his ultimatum: quit your job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of our sons.

In this moment, Gabby’s entire foundation shifts. She must find refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday worship: “Where do I go when there’s no one else to turn to . . . I go to the Rock I know that’s able, I go to the Rock.”

For everyone who loves the best-selling Yada Yada Prayer Group novels comes a brand new series sprinkled with familiar faces and places from the Yada Yada world. It’s the perfect novel to start with–or to meet friends from past Yada stories.

Buy Neta’s book on Amazon.


About the Author:

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

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

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

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

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson

Book Spotlight: Where Do I Go?

Happy Wednesday, reader friends!

Today, we’re shining the spotlight on Neta Jackson’s book Where Do I Go?


About the Book:

Sometimes you find hope in the last place you look.

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband sixteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip’s ambition, Gabby longs for the chance to find real purpose in her own life.

A chance encounter with a homeless woman suddenly opens a door she never expected. The women of Manna House Women’s Shelter need a Program Director–and she has the right credentials. Gabby’s in her element, feeling God’s call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn’t like the changes he sees in her. But she never anticipated his ultimatum: quit your job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of our sons.

In this moment, Gabby’s entire foundation shifts. She must find refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday worship: “Where do I go when there’s no one else to turn to . . . I go to the Rock I know that’s able, I go to the Rock.”

For everyone who loves the best-selling Yada Yada Prayer Group novels comes a brand new series sprinkled with familiar faces and places from the Yada Yada world. It’s the perfect novel to start with–or to meet friends from past Yada stories.

Buy Neta’s book on Amazon.


About the Author:

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

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

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

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

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson

Author Guest Post: Matt Mikalatos

Happy Monday, friends! Today, Matt Mikalatos is sharing why diversity is so important – in life and in fiction. His newest book The Crescent Stone features diverse characters, humor and an intriguing fantasy world.


Diversity – Why We Need Each Other

by Matt Mikalatos

When I first started writing my fantasy novel, The Crescent Stone, I knew a key theme was going to be about privilege and ethnic diversity. My main character, Madeline Oliver, was well-off, white, well-educated, attractive and intelligent . . . privileged in nearly every way you can be in our culture. She did not, however, have great health: she had a terminal lung disease, and even though she was young she was dying.

One of her classmates, Jason Wu, had fewer of the same privileges, but still was doing pretty well for himself. He had a personal tragedy in his recent past that he was working through, and had decided he would only tell the truth no matter what happened. He would, in fact, volunteer the truth when it wasn’t strictly necessary.

In my first few chapters, the plan was to keep Madeline as the main character, and Jason as one of a host of other characters around her in her journey. But it became clear, part of the way through, that we needed Jason’s point of view, too. Madeline by herself wasn’t seeing everything she could.

My editor suggested making Jason and Madeline both point-of-view characters, with alternating chapters, and I agreed to try it. The book came alive in a new way! Here are three things I noticed as I wrote the novel this new way.

  1. Diverse points of view help us to see things we miss.

Early in the novel, Madeline and Jason are walking through a tunnel that leads them into a magical world called the Sunlit Lands. In the first draft, from Madeline’s point of view, we’re told how the tunnel gets increasingly older . . . from concrete to brick to very old brick and eventually to stone walls. When I retold the same moment from Jason’s point of view, he noticed something that Madeline had not: Chinese characters etched into the oldest bricks. Jason stopped to think about something that never occurred to Madeline: who built this place? He stopped and read some of the names etched there, and he talked to Madeline about his own ancestors, who had come to the United States and worked on things like building the railroads. This was something that Madeline missed completely, and I, as her author, didn’t notice until I was writing as Jason. That was a weird feeling!

  1. We learn best in diverse settings.

Madeline and Jason arrive in the Sunlit Lands to discover that the people of the Sunlit Lands are dizzyingly diverse . . . not just the “magical races” of other creatures, but also a variety of ethnicities and nationalities from Earth. Madeline’s roommate is a Syrian Christian, and Jason’s two roommates are Hawaiian and Native American. As Madeline works to unravel the mystery of the Sunlit Lands, each of these people contributes along the way. If it had been (like my favorite fantasies of my youth) all white British kids, they would likely never discover the answer to what is happening in the Sunlit Lands, because it wouldn’t occur to them to ask.

  1. We make better decisions with diverse advisors.

Once Madeline realizes what is happening in the Sunlit Lands, she’s struck with a nearly impossible choice . . . one that requires either enormous sacrifice or the harm of many other people, or possibly both. I don’t want to include any spoilers, but through the relationships and help of the people with her, she’s able to find a third choice . . . a hard decision, still, but something that lets her be true to herself without harming innocents. She wouldn’t have found that path on her own, because she wouldn’t have seen it.

In the “real world” we need each other, too. Our diverse points of view and experiences help us to see the world, to learn better, and to make better decisions.


About the Book

the crescent stoneA girl with a deadly lung disease . . .
A boy with a tragic past . . .
A land where the sun never sets but darkness still creeps in . . .

Madeline Oliver has never wanted for anything, but now she would give anything just to breathe. Jason Wu skates through life on jokes, but when a tragedy leaves him guilt-stricken, he promises to tell only the truth, no matter the price.

When a mysterious stranger name Hanali appears to Madeline and offers to heal her in exchange for one year of service to his people, Madeline and Jason are swept into a strange land where they don’t know the rules and where their decisions carry consequences that reach farther than they could ever guess.

GOODREADS  | AMAZON | B&N

About the Author

matt miklatosMatt Mikalatos writes books (surprise!). In the past, Matt worked as a high school teacher and a comic book clerk, but currently focuses on nonprofit work devoted to helping people love one another despite their differences.

He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife, three daughters, two unicorns, a gryphon, a dragon, and three brine shrimp.

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