Of Fire and Lions

291867: Of Fire and Lions Of Fire and Lions

By Mesu Andrews / WaterBrook

Mesu Andrews masterfully shares a great story with us. Characters come to life as if you’re going through their day with them. The dialogue flows easy and the family dynamics are so realistic. The scoundrels and evil doers say and do just enough to make them loathsome. Some readers don’t care for books filled with ancient Babylonian names. There is quite a roster of them in Of Fire and Lions, but don’t let it be an obstacle to this recent release. The character list at the opening is a great resource.

The starting point for this book is the Bible’s Book of Daniel. There are some gripping events that are accurately told in this historical fiction book. Three Jewish exiles survive a fiery furnace. Lions with insatiable appetites take no action, even though Daniel is sealed inside as easy prey. As you walk through these events with the characters you are drawn into an epic story that gives you new insight into the Babylonian Empire. Andrews’ research leaves no stone unturned.

Of the author’s three most recent releases, I have to say Miriam was my favorite. I read Isaiah’s Daughter and enjoyed it. Miriam was a Christie Award finalist two years ago, and Isaiah’s Daughter won the top award in historical fiction last year. This newest release, Of Fire and Lions, covers a lot of ground. Seventy years of captivity to be exact. A consistent, impressive story thread throughout the story is Daniel’s rock solid faith in his one true God. He remains steadfast despite being surrounded by a culture that is is hostile to his beliefs. This is captivating enough, but the transformation of some of the fictional characters is just as gripping.

In her author notes, Mesu Andrews writes that she hopes her fiction will drive readers to Scripture to delve deep on Daniel and the experience of the exiles. I know I turned to Ezra to look further into the historical record of Sheshbazzar and his role in the return to Jerusalem.

My goal was to finish this book by its release date. I was on track until I found myself savoring the book and not wanting it to end. This behavior is familiar to all readers who just don’t want to have to say goodbye to a good book. I received an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. #OfFireandLions #NetGalley

Between Two Shores

219085: Between Two Shores Between Two Shores

By Jocelyn Green / Bethany House

When you finish a Jocelyn Green book there’s a feeling of sweet satisfaction because reading one of her books is always time well spent. Her research is wonderful. Catherine Duval is the protagonist. She is the daughter of a Mohawk mother and French father. Her skills as a trader allow her to succeed as an entrepreneur. The label “HERstorical Fiction” would match with Between Two Shores. The female characters, Catherine, Bright Star, and Thankful show us a path to joy despite heartache and disappointment. Their emotional strength is remarkable. Between Two Shores immerses us in daily life on the St. Lawrence River during the French and Indian War of 1754 – 1763.

You’ll warm to the characters and walk with them through their trials. Each one has a gripping story to tell. The characters are courageous and deeply touched by the ravages of war.  This time period was a pivotal moment in the history of the North American continent. The emphasis on the multiculturalism of this area is fascinating. Green accurately portrays each community’s point of view and doesn’t shy away from covering the harsh realities of the times.

Initially I was a little slow to catch on to the back and forth motion of the beginning storyline since only 15 years separated the two points in time. Once I had this straightened out, it was full steam ahead. At the story’s close, I was researching trips to Old Quebec City and the Huron-Wendat Museums in this area.

Green’s word choice is so impressive. The sentences are inventive in construction. Her vivid descriptions convey the setting with originality. At a book’s close, I always look over my Kindle highlights. These highlighted sentences were beautiful to read even when extracted from their context.

I loved The Mark of the King, an earlier book by Jocelyn Green. I consider this newest release it’s equal.

I received an ARC’s digital edition of this book from Bethany House Publishers. This is my honest review in exchange for the digital copy.

Thoughts on Writing

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”

[The Guardian, 25 February 2010]” 
― Hilary Mantel

Each morning, I start my day by grading eggs. Jumbos, Extra Large, and Large… all cleaned, sorted, and nestled into their boxes. Typically while I work, I listen to classical music. It’s a pleasant way to start the day. I’m entirely focused on a task that can be accomplished. I love to leave the egg room with the empty baskets stacked and egg cartons full. Lately, instead of listening to my favorite string masterpieces, I hear only the annoying buzz-like static from the radio. Change was needed. I remembered my Audible  library. All the books had a theme. Words to inspire writers. The quote above was mentioned in the audiobook titled “The Successful Author Mindset” by Joanna Penn.

Now I’m listening not just in the egg room, but also back at home. During meal prep, it’s on. At clean-up, still listening. It’s peppered with many great quotes from successful writers and sound advise.

January taught me many lessons about patience and the nuances of managing  your work life as a creative. I had set a goal to go all in as a freelance writer. I’m fully aware of the sea change in publishing since I last earned a living as a writer.  Print was still king back then. I decided if I could do it before, I could do it again.  I was especially counting on freelancing to carry me through January.  One long, cold month.

As it so often happens, my plans took surprise twists and turns. One interview failed to get scheduled when I hoped, so the entire process was delayed two weeks. It tried my patience to wait. A significant hiccup happened in another larger project, that caused me to fret that the contract might not get approved at all. Another article submitted for a “fuzzy” deadline is still sitting in an editor’s inbox, waiting for feedback and acceptance.

I realized I can’t just decide on a goal and then make it so. The creative life rarely tracks on strict timetables. I can live with this for now since I’m still building and getting some momentum around my writing projects. I have found each chapter in “The Author’s Mindset” to be so refreshing.  You can learn more about this book and the author Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn or by listening to her podcast.  Whether you’re blogging, self-publishing, or just trying to expand your portfolio in the writing world, this is a great resource.


Thrive in Retirement

291829: Thrive in Retirement: Simple Secrets for Being Happy for the Rest of Your Life Thrive in Retirement: Simple Secrets for Being Happy for the Rest of Your Life

By Eric Thurman / WaterBrook

Pre-Order at ChristianBook.com until 2/16/2019

Mind your Three P’s in retirement, and you’ll thrive. That’s the message from Eric Thurman, author of the new release Thrive in Retirement. The three P’s are Purpose, Pleasure, and Peace. Thurman gives us a book that is excellent in both content and style. This is not a stuffy book, weighted down with statistics, charts, and graphs. From first to last, it’s studded with high interest anecdotes and quotes. The research referenced in Thurman’s book is current and well matched to his claims.

Thrive in Retirement is agreeable to read even though the subject matter might be hard for some people to think about. We would all love to hold back time if we could, but no such luck. As Thurman points out, this third season of life is new territory. A stage that can last decades. There’s no reason the years after full-time employment need to be viewed as a time of “slow decline”. Thurman maps out a route to success that will help people maintain a positive outlook, discover a good sense of purpose, and find peace.

His writing on maintaining good mental health is stand out content. Thurman points out that despite changing work conditions, individuals should stay connected in communities to enjoy good mental health.

When people think of retirement, financial considerations first come to mind. Thurman addresses this aspect of retirement and then goes so much further. Money is just one part of retirement. He encourages people to consider their status in five vital categories. These categories are mind, body, relationships, soul, and finances. Proactive effort in these five areas will yield positive outcomes and increase well being.

Thurman’s book is a self-help book with many take-away messages. Ironically one of the most memorable has to do with avoiding selfish thoughts and putting others first. He writes, “When we think of others,and give of our time and talents, we receive more than we give.” Altruism spares a mature adult from a host of evils like as isolation and feelings of being irrelevant.

I received a complimentary ARC of this book from Waterbrook in exchange for my honest review.

Heart of Alaska Series Book 3

219252: Under the Midnight Sun #3 Under the Midnight Sun #3

By Tracie Peterson & Kimberley Woodhouse / Bethany House

I read the first and last book in the Heart of Alaska trilogy.

Now I’m compelled to find Book 2 and read the series in its entirety. The setting grabbed me first. The characters enjoy the majestic Alaskan outdoors with plenty of hikes and riverside walks. Then there’s the bustling activity level at the Curry Hotel. The cast of characters wins you over immediately. You’ll just want to keep reading to find out how things turn out for them.

Just this week, I was reading the devotional publication titled Our Daily Bread. The verse at 1 Thessalonians 5:15 was featured: Here it is: “Always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” NIV When I read that I thought, “Wow…. this describes how the main characters in “Under the Midnight Sun” behaved exactly. They rallied around each other and offered words of encouragement when needed. When more than a listening ear was needed, they met that need. Sometimes babysitting was needed. At other points, characters tied on aprons and helped prep meals for the Curry Hotel’s many guests. At the story’s close, we see Thomas and Allan go above and beyond to protect Tayler, and allow her to keep working in a job she loves. The generous characters who thought of others thrived. While the unsavory types who were selfish and driven by unworthy ambitions fared miserably.

The authors, Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse, state at the opening, that this last installment is dedicated to telling Thomas’ story. What a story! We first met Thomas when he was an awkward, young orphan taken in by the Curry Hotel Staff. His mix-up’s and bungled attempts at completing tasks caused eyes to roll and many snickers. In Book 3, Thomas is a mature and caring man. You’ll love how his story ends. Tayler is a smart sophisticated young woman who is blazing her own trail. She is a protagonist to hold in high regard; one that is most deserving of a happy ending!  At the conclusion, some story threads come together as expected. More than a few resolve in a manner that will catch you by surprise.

I read an advanced reader’s copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

We Hope for Better Things

734913: We Hope for Better Things We Hope for Better Things
By Erin Bartels / Revell

Wow! Outstanding! A must read…. I am recommending this book with five stars. It’s a split-time novel with three (that’s right 3 !!!) different settings. It’s the goal oriented, determined women who tie all plot lines together. These ladies dare to trust and follow their heart. Each demonstrates courage and does not shy away from making tough choices. They make some decisions that are charged with emotion and bring on hard times. But they face their circumstances with bravery.

The first character we meet is present day Elizabeth Balsam, a journalist who calls Detroit home. A quest sends her to the country home of her great-aunt, who is now elderly and living alone in a Civil War era home. During the 1860’s, individuals seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad found their way to this house. As the story progresses, more and more details from this early tumultuous time period are revealed.

The plot stirs your heart and lays bare all the emotional hurts caused by racism. First during the Civil War Era, then in the streets of Detroit in 1960’s. As you read, you will call to mind the title and realize how well suited it is for the plot. Truly…. “We Hope for Better Things!” At the conclusion, it’s likely you will be thinking… “We hope people will demonstrate a greater capacity to love one another and show kindness. We hope people will speak out against bullying and racism. We hope people will seek out ways to build communities and encourage others. We hope not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

This is Erin Bartels’ debut novel. You’ll find yourself so engrossed in the storyline you keep reading “just one more chapter” long into the night.

I received a copy of this book from Revell – a division of Baker House Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

American Omens: The Coming Fight for Faith

Click on cover to pre-order this book at Christianbook.com.

291785: American Omens: The Coming Fight for FaithAmerican Omens: The Coming Fight for Faith
Author: Travis Thrasher / Multnomah

Travis Thrasher is a successful multi-genre writer with a new release expected for early 2019. American Omens: the Coming Fight for Faith is set in 2038. While it’s technically 19 years into the future, some of the plot seems underway already.

All the time I was reading it, I kept thinking of specific people I know who would delight in this book’s futuristic plot. These readers are my acquaintances who are tech savvy, love IoT (Internet of Things) and consider the possibilities of artificial intelligence with great enthusiasm. American Omens will be a must read for those who love to ponder the pros and cons of technology. The LC’s or robotic life companions are noteworthy details in the book, as wells as the SYNAPSYS form of communication and on demand interactive wall-screens.

The main theme throughout the book is the persecution and yes sometimes elimination of Christians. It’s a post-Christian world in 2038 and those in authority are determined to keep it this way. A remnant of Christian characters work to reverse this condition. A showdown is staged in Chicago where unrepentant residents ignore the warnings and suffer disastrous consequences.

A good measure of the dialogue and plot will resonate favorably with readers who are mature Christians. Words shared by key characters like Hutchence and Will are likely to stir the heart and cause heads to nod in agreement. At the conclusion, their journeys finish in a satisfying fashion while simultaneously sharing truths that are in alignment with Biblical truths. The end shows these characters more receptive to following God’s will and demonstrating trust, even when things aren’t going smooth.

There is much to think about in this book. The erosion of individual privacy and censorship run throughout the story. For me I had been on a steady diet of historical fiction, and was interested to read a selection from another genre. The characters are certainly very memorable. There are some fun references to art and music sprinkled throughout the story that keep you thinking. The Orwellian theme draws you in from beginning to end. American Omens: The Coming Fight for Faith will find its way into the hands of many readers and spark a lot of discussion.

I received an ARC of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review.