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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Book Spotlight: Seal of the Sand Dweller

Happy Sunday, Reader Friends!

I hope you’re ready to learn about some epic Biblical fiction, because Seal of the Sand Dweller is just what the Biblical scholar called for! R. Rushing has forged a tale so entrenched in Ancient Egyptian culture that you will feel like you’ve been transported and are watching Yoseph (i.e. Joseph) and the other characters interact in front of you. So, without further ado, I give you…Seal of the Sand Dweller


About the Book

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

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

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

And this time, integrity might cost him everything.

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

Links: AmazonGoodreads


About the Author

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

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

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

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

Follow: WebsiteFacebookInstagram


Post written by contributor Allison K. García

Author Interview: R. Rushing

author-interview

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


Q&A

Tell me why you write.

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

What is your debut novel about?

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

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

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

What is your favorite part of your book?

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

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

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

Have you always loved Ancient Egpyt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you do when you are not writing?

Rushing:  I think about writing…not kidding.

Anything else cool you are doing, writing-wise?

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

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

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


About the Book

R_Rushing_EbookA

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

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

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

And this time, integrity might cost him everything.

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

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


About the Author

r rushing author pic

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

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

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

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

Follow: Website, Facebook, Instagram

Author Interview: Elizabeth Byler Younts

author-interview

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


 

Q&A

What made you write a story with diverse characters?

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Did you struggle writing these characters?

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

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

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

 

What do you hope readers will gain from this story?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

What are you reading right now?

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

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


 

About the Book

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

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

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

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

Links: AmazonB&NCBDGoodreads


 

About the Author

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

Follow: WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram

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 Review: The Fate of the Watchman by Chad Pettit

Happy Friday! Today I am going to introduce you to a small yet hard-hitting book by an author I met on Twitter.

About the Book

Fate of the Watchman by Chad Pettit – Book Review, Preview

Lester Sharp is a workaholic, obsessed with the success of his business and oblivious to the world around him. All of that changes when a peculiar stranger comes into his shop asking for food and help. Lester soon finds himself on an impossible journey around the world to bear witness to some of the greatest tragedies a person can know, all frozen in a single moment of time.

In this challenging and gripping novel, debut author Chad Pettit, delivers a supernatural, pulse-pounding adventure in which Lester Sharp is in for the longest second of his life and learns lessons to last a lifetime.

GOODREADS | AMAZON

My Thoughts

The Fate of the Watchman is like looking into a mirror reflecting my soul. Seeing things through Lester’s eyes and knowing that I want to be oblivious to the world around me as he was is a little painful. I know that I’m not as bad as he is in some areas, but not as bad doesn’t mean that I don’t have a long way to go.

The language used is simply beautiful. Having read the author’s bio, I know that he is an English teacher and imagine the continual exposure to the Classics has influenced the way he converts his thoughts into stories. Be sure to take a look at the preview of the book below to get a feel for the way each chapter begins. Wonderful!

This is a challenging book. In a Christmas Carol-ish manner, Lester gets a glimpse of people and events around him. Yet instead of watching with a view of how people perceive him, as happened with Ebenezer Scrooge, he sees the calamities in the world he has shut his eyes against. Things that are hard to look at. Things we all wish we could ignore so they would simply go away.

I like to think of myself as a compassionate person, yet reading this story has me re-evaluating my response to pain and evil around me. Hiding and pretending it doesn’t exist doesn’t make it disappear. I appreciate the way the author showed some ugly things and yet didn’t dwell on them so much to make them impossible for me to read. He handled this with tact and discretion. I was also so thankful for the way I was not left without hope or feeling depressed. I became introspective about my need to be more extrospective. There’s some irony for you!

The Fate of the Watchman shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to finish. I read it more slowly than some other stories of similar length as I read and re-read passages to absorb what was happening. My recommendation is to find a day you can spend a few hours reading and go through it all at once. Leave some time for contemplation when you are done, then pray and ask the Lord what this means in your life and what, if anything, He would have you to change. This is a great book!

About the Author

Attach5869_20180710_061547.jpg

I was born and raised in Oregon but have lived most of my adult life in Central Texas. I spent ten years in the Army, which included two combat tours to Iraq. I have been everything from a Lab Technician to a Taekwondo Instructor to finally settling down as an English Teacher.

I went back to school when I was thirty-three and earned my Bachelor of Arts in less than three and a half years. Being a writer has been my dream since I was eight years old, so starting that journey back to college was a major step along the way to making that dream come true. I definitely could not have made it without the support of my amazing wife and four boys.

CONNECT: Website | Facebook | Twitter  | Instagram | Amazon

Book Review: Cheyenne Sunrise by Janalyn Voigt

Thank goodness it’s Friday, y’all. Are you looking forward to the weekend?

Well, if you’re looking for a good read to pass the time, check out today’s book review for the second book in the Montana Gold series!

About the Book

cheyenne sunriseCan a woman with no faith in men learn to trust the half-Cheyenne trail guide determined to protect her?

Young Irish widow Bry Brennan doesn’t want another husband to break her spirit. When she and her brother Con join a wagon train headed to Montana Territory, Bry ignores her fascination with Nick Laramie, the handsome trail guide.

Nick lives in an uneasy truce between the settlers and his mother’s tribe without fully fitting in among either. With no intention of dragging a woman into his troubles, he stifles his yearning for Bry.

The perilous journey throws the two together, leaving Bry no choice but to trust Nick with her life. Can she also trust him with her heart? Answering that riddle forces Bry to confront her unresolved questions about God’s love.

Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, Cheyenne Sunrise explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west.

GOODREADS | AMAZON

My Thoughts

“What else can I do but cling to my Savior?”

Voigt is a new author to me, and this book in particular examines our propensity to judge an entire race or people group based on the actions of a few. It also explores intricacies of an abiding faith, even when life is falling apart.

Bry Brennan and her brothers know what it’s like to be lumped into a single group and judged for their heritage. Yet they must wrestle with the same tendencies when they are introduced to Nick Laramie, the trail guide for the wagon train Bry is on with her brother Con. Born to a French father and a Cheyenne mother, Nick is rejected by both worlds.

Nick’s struggle is tough to read about (in a good ‘this is stretching me’ kind of way) because he is a man of character, yet people so easily assume the worst about him. White people and other Native Americans are guilty of making him not welcome in either culture.

What I loved most about this story was that it was so much more than a token “overcoming the barriers and attitudes toward a mixed-culture romance”.  That aspect is certainly an element in their story, no question. But the author takes us on a deeper journey, refusing to romanticize the history of the time and presenting an authentic picture of life as they would have known it, no matter how much we might want to turn away from the reality. Yet, even as she paints a raw portrayal of racism, grief, and tragedy, she also frames it against the backdrop of grace and the perfect love of a Savior who is for all.

About the Author

Janalyn-Irene-Voigt-1-300x300Janalyn Voigt is a writer and professional speaker with a photography habit and a passion for travel. Her unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. She is represented by Sarah Joy Freese of Wordserve Literary.

An inspirational, motivational, and practical speaker, Janalyn teaches on a variety of topics, including the writing craft, social media management, and branding. She has presented at the Northwest Christian Writers’ Renewal Conference and the Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference as well as for local writing groups, at book events and libraries.

CONNECT: website | Facebook | Twitter

 

 

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!

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.

website | Facebook | Twitter

Author Interview: Jaycee Weaver

Welcome to another week of diverse Christian reads here at DBP! Today, we’re kicking things off with an author interview. Jaycee Weaver is the author of Whatever Comes Our Way, the second book in her Everyday Love series.


q&a

Why do you write stories with diverse characters?

Jaycee: The world is a big, beautiful, multi-colored place. Why wouldn’t we want to represent the beautiful tapestry of cultures and peoples in fiction the way they are in reality? At least, that’s how I think.

I’m an overly avid reader, and I firmly believe that fiction readers tend to learn empathy well because they are always putting themselves in other characters’ heads. That makes fiction a perfect vehicle for reaching people’s hearts and showing them that we are all just human beings. While we might have different values or traditions or cultural identities that set us apart from others, ultimately, we are all humans who love and live on the same planet. We are children of the same God, which means we should honor one another and treat each other with love and understanding.

With that, I felt led to set my books in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I live. It’s not a place very well represented among all the big cities and fictional small towns, but it’s a wonderful place that holds my heart. There is absolutely no way I could set stories here without being willing to represent all the different facets of our culture. Hispanics outnumber every other people group here, so it’s just logical to tell stories that involve characters of Hispanic descent. I have always been fascinated by the culture, food, language, and love of family I experience in this state.

Beth: I couldn’t agree more with your thinking! 

Tell us a little bit about your latest series. 

Jaycee: The Everyday Love series is about regular people in everyday situations. I love that I can showcase my city and all of the many things I love about it!

What Could Be, the first in the series, is about a college student named Brynn who is trying to figure out what it really means to follow God’s will. She has all of these massive expectations for herself, some good, some unrealistic, and it isn’t easy for her to let go of the preconceived notions she’s grown up believing. Josh Davis is a single father who has rededicated his life to Christ. He’s drawn to Brynn and her innocence, but the things that pique him also make him second-guess himself. As their friendship develops, they really have to figure out if maybe God has a bigger plan for them than they thought possible.

Whatever Comes Our Way is actually my personal favorite of the two (so far). Gina Hernandez has some fairly deep-rooted issues. She’s a bundle of contradictions sometimes, but she has a heart for taking care of other hurting people. Jaydon Bennett is a reformed pastor’s kid, now a youth pastor himself, who has a painful past of his own. The two immediately share a strong connection, but while they are trying to navigate this new relationship, Jaydon comes across a family in crisis. Their experiences just might make them the perfect people to help do the Lord’s work in their lives.

Beth: Oh, these stories sound like they’re right up my alley!

Describe Gina.

Jaycee: I have to admit, I really adore Gina. She was raised by a single mother whose partying ways put her at risk and led to a whole slew of issues including severe anxiety, a distorted body image, and an overdeveloped sense of personal responsibility. By nature, she’s determined and strong-willed, with a bit of snark and sass, but she’s also a natural caregiver. Her first-generation immigrant grandparents helped raise her early on, and their loving influence is what has helped her get past the damage her mother inflicted unaware.

My heart when writing her story was to really get at the heart of some of the ugly things that happen to people in this fallen world, but how a loving God takes those things and makes something beautiful from them. Gina has to learn to trust, and Jaydon makes it easy. My favorite stories are those that take heavy issues and make them not feel so heavy. I want to be inspired, to reaffirm my undying belief that God will never leave us to deal with things on our own and that we are never too far gone. Ever. So that’s how I tried to write Gina.

Beth: Gina sounds like a great character! 

What do you hope readers will gain from your story?

Jaycee: I think I pretty much summed it up already. My prayer is that readers will finish my books inspired and uplifted, maybe even with a renewed sense of hope for their own lives. I hope readers connect to my characters and think, “Whoa, that’s me. I’m not perfect, I’m not always a ‘good Christian,’ but God still loves me.” I don’t want to write white-washed fiction where everybody is living a perfect faith walk, because the reality is, even Christians struggle with sin and fall short. We need hope that the Lord can still use us and show Himself in our everyday lives because LOVE is what draws us to Him.

Beth: Yes, yes, yes!!! I’m so excited about reading your stories, friend!

Who are some of your favorite authors of “diverse reads”?

Jaycee: I’ll be honest. I don’t go into a book specifically hoping it’s “diverse”. I go into it hoping it’s authentic, with characters from lots of different walks of life.

But when I consider authors that come to mind right off the bat who represent diverse characters? Definitely Toni Shiloh, for one. I get so hungry when I read her Maple Run series! Sarah Monzon is another of my favorite writers, as is Chautona Havig. Belle Calhoune is one I haven’t read in a while but used to. Jenn Faulk is one of my most favorite authors because I just love her voice. I know quite a few of her characters have been from Africa and Japan, and she also features several missionary characters. I could easily list another three dozen writers I follow whose books I voraciously devour, but I think I’ll quit here. HAHA!

Beth: We share several favorites! 

What book are you reading right now?

Jaycee: Oh, now that’s so hard to answer, because it will change four times between writing, submitting, publishing, and someone reading this! If you look at my GoodReads profile, it will tell you I’m loving the Once Upon a Laugh collection, still trying to finish the Timeless Love collection (I’m a moody reader with historical), the Yesterday’s Mail collection, but also All the Way to Heaven by Becky Doughty. That’s way more collections than I normally read at once, but so many good ones have been in my TBR pile for entirely too long!

Beth: I can completely relate!  Thanks so much for visiting with us, Jaycee! 

 

about the book

Gina Hernandez is no stranger to hard work. She’s got three jobs to prove it. Trauma in her teens may have left her with severe anxiety and some body image issues, but no one can say she’s not a fighter. Her life has never been easy. It’s what’s made her strong.

Then she meets youth pastor Jaydon Bennett, a gentle giant with a big beard and an even bigger heart—though it does have a few scars. He’s never doubted God could bring him the perfect woman, he just never thought He really would. Until Gina.

When Jaydon encounters a troubled teen whose family is in crisis, he and Gina have to figure out if maybe the painful pasts they’ve been dealing with just might equip them to help this hurting family.

Goodreads | amazon

 

about the author

Jaycee Weaver lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her amazing husband, three daughters, a crazy shih-tzu, and a dwarf rabbit. When she’s not writing, she’s probably in hot pursuit of her 90 million other hobbies or shuttling the kids around.

Jaycee loves to read books in multiple genres, drink too much coffee (honestly, when are they going to make the coffee IV a real thing?!), sing, take landscape and floral photos, sew, cook, bake, and craft just about anything (can we say Pinterest?).

She considers herself a recovering perfectionist and sometimes hot mess. She does her best to live her faith in action, being open, honest, and real and letting God be Lord over the good, the bad, and the ugly even when it’s hard.

website | facebook | twitter | instagram | pinterest

 

Don’t y’all just want to be Gina’s friend and learn all about her story?!
I’d love to meet her grandparents too! Be sure to say hi to Jaycee in the comments.

 

interview by Beth Erin