Book Spotlight: Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman

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

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


~ About the Book ~

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

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

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

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

Amazon  //  Goodreads


~ Excerpt ~

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


~ About the Author ~

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

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

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



Spotlight by Katie Donovan

Book Review: When God Made You

Book title: When God Made You

Author: Matthew Paul Turner

Illustrator: David Catrow

Number of pages: 48

Book blurb:

YOU, you… God thinks about you.

God was thinking of you long before your debut.

From early on, children are looking to discover their place in the world and longing to understand how their personalities, traits, and talents fit in. The assurance that they are deeply loved and a unique creation in our big universe is certain to help them spread their wings and fly.

Through playful, charming rhyme and vivid, fantastical illustrations, When God Made You inspires young readers to learn about their own special gifts and how they fit into God’s divine plan as they grow, explore, and begin to create for themselves.

‘Cause when God made YOU, somehow God knew

That the world needed someone exactly like you!

Amazon ~ CBD

~*~

My Thoughts:

When God Made You is a children’s book written by Matthew Paul Turner and illustrated by David Catrow.

The text of the book is neatly organized into clusters of two to four sentences, give or take with splashes of color that decorate each page like paint on a canvas created by an imaginative child.

Turner writes well for his target audience. The story is delightful, happiness is its tone and creativity is a key feature emphasized on every page. The little Black girl who is the main character in this story looks lovely. She bounces from page to page, always engaged in an everyday activity that she makes extraordinary through her active imagination and passion for life.

It’s the joy shown by the little girl that keeps the reader turning the page to find out where she’s going next. The reader may happily join the precious child on her daily adventures and be delighted by the activities.

The illustrations by Catrow are noteworthy. The reader can tell that he knows his target audience well because the pages are filled with splashes of color that does not follow the rules of staying in between neat and orderly lines. These colorful, vivid images are what children love. The fanciful illustrations remind me of a splash park for kids where they are allowed to play without boundaries and get water everywhere.

Just from the cover of the book that’s based in green with hints of pink, blue, yellow and orange with the little girl posed as if she’s diving into the deep end of a pool while also spreading her wings (arms) to fly, the reader can tell that they are in for a wild and fun ride.

The story starts in what looks like a living room where the girl is curled up on a couch with a book, her cat and dog positioned faithfully on either side. It progresses to her getting ready to go outside. She rides her bicycle into town and spends time painting the sidewalk with street artist then she goes on an imaginative adventure with the artist, fueled by their creativity. The author uses these scenes to express to the reader that God gave them the gift of creativity and loves to see the products of their imagination.

Children may relate to this little girl’s love for creativity and art. What kid doesn’t like drawing pictures or playing with crayons? This book will encourage kids to be more creative and it will also teach them about God’s unconditional love.

The author does a delightful job of creating a story that’s creative, bold and beautiful. He packs it with a powerful message of how much God loves children and it emphasizes the fact that the Master Artist (God) enjoys creating art with His creation (such as the little girl featured in this book).

The author accomplishes his goal of helping children discover how their unique persona and talents fit into their world. He makes it easy for children who read this book to know that God loves them dearly.

I’d recommend this book to parents who want their children to realize their worth at an early age.

~*~

Bio according to author’s official website (with a few sentences edited out for this blog):

Matthew Paul Turner is a best-selling author, writer, storyteller, photographer, speaker, and blogger. As one of the most influential progressive Christian voices in media, Matthew has been featured on The Daily Beast, CNN, Washington Post, Yahoo!, USA Today, The New York …and many more.

What sets Matthew apart from today’s throng of open-minded Christian authors is a talent for combining thoughtful, often opinionated commentary about a variety of faith-related topics with poignant, spot-on wit and self-deprecating insight. Lauded by Publishers Weekly as “one of Christianity’s fresh voices” and revered by some as the “Christian David Sedaris,” Matthew writes what many people are thinking and unwilling to say aloud.

But commentary and humor aren’t this gifted writer’s only talents. Matthew has a sincere heart for the marginalized and relentless dedication to truth-telling. This passionate spirit motivates him to share rich stories that would often otherwise go unshared.

As a writer and photographer, Matthew has traveled extensively with World Vision to places.

Matthew and his family live in Nashville, Tenn. Connect with Matthew on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Author Interview: Melissa Storm

Today, we’re featuring Melissa Storm. She’s an author with a passion for creating characters about people who are underrepresented in the book world and real-world society. Her newest release, Love’s Promise, is the focus of today’s interview feature.

About the book:

Kristina Rose Maher wants to know why fairytales never happen for fat girls. Certain that diner cook Jeff, handsome and fit, will never want her as more than a friend, she stuffs down her attraction to him. But when she finds herself facing a life-altering weight loss surgery, she discovers she’s willing to do whatever it takes to embrace life—and love—to the fullest.

Jeffrey Berkley can’t bear the thought of losing the friend he’s only just beginning to realize matters so much to him… no matter what size she is. But he is also terrified that helping her reach for her dreams will also mean finally reaching for his own—and letting down his family’s legacy in the process.

Both Kristina Rose and Jeffrey must learn to love themselves before they can find a way to make a promise to each other. Will they finally be able to lay their heavy burdens at the Lord’s feet, and trust him to bring the happily-ever-after they both crave?

Don’t miss this sweet tale of faith, love, and gastric bypass–get your copy of Love’s Promise today!

Purchase the book: Amazon, B&N, Kobo

Author bio: Melissa Storm is a mother first, and everything else second. Her fiction is highly personal and often based on true stories. Writing is Melissa’s way of showing her daughter just how beautiful life can be, when you pay attention to the everyday wonders that surround us.

Melissa loves books so much, she married fellow author Falcon Storm. Between the two of them, there are always plenty of imaginative, awe-inspiring stories to share. When she’s not reading, writing, or child-rearing, Melissa spends time relaxing at home in the company of her four dogs, four parrots, and rescue cat. She never misses an episode of The Bachelor or her nightly lavender-infused soak in the tub. Because priorities.

The Interview:

Alexis: Why did you write this book?

Melissa: Love’s Promise is deeply personal for me. I don’t think I’ve ever written as much of myself into a character as I did Kristina Rose. As a former gastric bypass patient and someone who has struggled with body image issues my whole life (and still does), I wanted to write a romance that was every bit as much about self-love as romantic love.

Alexis: What’s the special meaning behind your title, Love’s Promise?

Melissa: Love’s Promise is about the promise we must make to ourselves, and how when you start respecting your commitments to your own life you can truly unlock a better and happier world!

Alexis: The heroine in your story, Kristina Rose Maher, desires to know “why fairytales never happen for fat girls.” Talk about the reasons why she believes that to be true. Share her personal journey.

Melissa: Kristina Rose lives in the same small Texas town she grew up in. All her friends are thin and fair. As the only overweight woman in her friend group and one of the few racial minorities in the town, she’s kind of written off the chances of ever having her own love story. She develops feelings for a long-time friend but thinks he would never, could never want her in return.

Alexis: Jeffrey Berkley is the hero of your story. Describe his looks, personality, character flaws and passion for his work as a diner cook.

Melissa: Jeffrey is handsome and fit. He likes to take long runs with his Newfie, Toto, and loves preparing healthy, creative meals. His main flaw is that he never considers what he wants and lives his life by trying to please others. In this way, despite their physical differences, Kristina Rose and Jeffrey face the same struggles of not really loving themselves. They take the journey toward self-acceptance together even though they start at very different points.

Alexis: Why does Kristina think that her being fat equates to the “fact” that Jeffrey will never love her more than a friend?

Melissa: Like so many women, Kristina Rose can’t see her own beauty and therefore assumes others can’t see it either. I think that’s a problem most of us face whether we find ourselves too fat, too thin, too anything. It’s like we reject ourselves before others have the chance to do it for us.

Alexis: What is the turning point for Kristina?

Melissa: She has her first bout of dumping syndrome following her bypass surgery—imagine the most nausea you’ve ever felt and multiply it by 100. She blames herself even though it’s extremely common after surgery. Jeffrey comforts her and makes her promise that she’ll start treating herself the way she treats others, since she is on the same team as her body. It’s a struggle, but now that she realizes how unfair she so often is to herself, she begins to make progress in turning that attitude around.

Alexis: What does Jeffrey think of Kristina when he first meets her? What does Kristina think of Jeffrey?

Melissa: This is a friends-to-lovers story. Jeffrey and Kristina Rose have known each other since high school and been great friends ever since they both began working at the local diner. They’ve just always been there for each other, but don’t realize their friendship has turned to love until the prospect of possibly losing Kristina on the eve of her surgery makes Jeffrey realize how much he cares for her—and that’s much more than as a friend.

Alexis: What role does faith in God play in this story?

Melissa: The role of faith is huge, and the message really comes out when Kristina Rose attends the sermon of her best friend who is also the youth pastor of their church. Self-doubt is a form of fear, and ultimately both Kristina Rose and Jeffrey must learn to trust in God in order to also trust in themselves.

Alexis: As a White author, was it challenging for you to write about a hero and heroine who are both African-American? If so, describe the challenges. If no, explain why.

No, it really wasn’t. It gave me a chance to think about how the characters’ lens might differ from my own. But that’s what authors do with every single character they write. We have to become a different age, gender, personality, set of experiences each and every time—especially for deep point of view books like I write.

Alexis: Why are you passionate about telling Kristina and Jeffrey’s story?

Melissa: Because it’s one so many of us can relate to and hopefully find hope in. All my stories are about finding light in dark times, and the world needs that now just as much as ever.

Alexis: What advice do you have for White authors who want to write about characters of color (African American, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, etc.), but are not quite sure how to tell their story?

Melissa: Be authentic, period. Remember that no matter the background, each character is more defined by their unique personality and experiences than just their race, just their gender, just their creed. Develop the whole character. Be open to learning, and don’t resort to stereotypes. A character should be a three-dimensional being living in your two-dimensional world. Give your character life.

Alexis: You’re passionate about telling the stories of everyone, regardless of their race. Have you always been this way? If not, what was the inciting incident that set you on this hero’s journey?

Melissa: Yes, I have always been drawn to multicultural fiction both as a writer and a reader. I grew up in a poor, mostly non-White area, and for years was the only White girl around. I was bullied, teased, and didn’t have any friends until late in elementary school. I know how it feels to be outcast simply based on appearances and prejudices, and it sucks.

At the same time, all that time by myself and with my books in those formative years was amazing for my self growth and creativity. I don’t regret it as an adult, but I was an incredibly lonely child—and that’s still having been a member of America’s dominant society. I still saw myself represented on TV, in magazines and books. I can’t imagine how isolating it must be to feel alone on all levels, especially for a child.

More recently in life… My first husband came from India. We were together for eight years, and for eight years I lived and breathed that culture. As such, Hindu culture makes it into my stories most often, but I also enjoy exploring characters from other walks of like too.

Currently, my wonderful soulmate (second) husband and I are in the process of adopting a child—or possibly children—from Bulgaria. They are of Romani descent, a culture which has been discriminated against widely throughout history. The Romani children are frequently adopted to America, because the rampant racism in Europe makes it difficult to find homes there. We are enjoying learning about their beautiful culture and their shared history with the Jewish people of Europe, and we are also teaching our three-year-old daughter as we learn.

I simply cannot image a life without full color. Our differences make us unique, and they make life exciting!

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

Melissa: Thank you for the thoughtful interview questions, Alexis. I am so pleased that I am able to bring this story into the world and hopefully help others who struggle with the same self-esteem issues I faced growing up and even as an adult. Fiction entertains, yes, but I also hope mine means something special to those who read it.

~*~

Connect with Melissa:

Website ~ www.MelStorm.com

Facebook ~ www.Facebook.com/MeetTheStorms

Instagram ~ www.Instagram.com/MeetTheStorms

Pinterest ~ www.Pinterest.com/MelStormAuthor

Twitter ~ www.Twitter.com/MelStormAuthor

YouTube ~ www.MelStorm.com/YouTube

~*~

Links for Love’s Promise:

Book Trailer ~ https://youtu.be/qBLm9Im_vsk

Read the First 3 Chapters ~ http://www.melstorm.com/SpecialPreview