Secrets and Lies has a 5-year anniversary this month.
To celebrate I’ve dropped the ebook price to 99 cents until Nov. 17. If you haven’t read this one, now’s the time. Or tell your friends.
Secrets and Lies has a 5-year anniversary this month.
To celebrate I’ve dropped the ebook price to 99 cents until Nov. 17. If you haven’t read this one, now’s the time. Or tell your friends.
If you’re on Facebook, you’re invited to the Transformational Christian Fiction Lovers party. Because people can “attend” from all over the world, the party will stay “open” until the next day to take time zones into account.
What’s Transformational Fiction? In this case, it’s fiction that involves characters transforming spiritually. Join 8 featured authors with 9 Christian novels, and maybe win a prize!
On November 4, the party starts at 6:00 pm EST/5:00/4:00/3:00 (time zones are EST/CST/MST/PT). That’s 7:00 pm Atlantic Time, and I know this because I’m the first host. I’d love it if you’d stop by and say hi.
Click here to sign up, and Facebook will remind you and convert it to your own time zone.
Beholding and Becoming, by Ruth Chou Simons (Harvest House Publishers, 2019)
“The most ordinary days become extraordinary places of transformation when we hope in Christ instead of our circumstances… No circumstance is too ordinary or too forgotten for God to meet us there in worship. His transforming grace turns our ‘everyday ordinary’ into a holy place of becoming.”Beholding and Becoming, page 221
This delights me, because I hear an echo of Brother Lawrence’s call to practice the presence of Christ. It makes such good sense: the closer we are to Jesus, the more we abide in Him, the richer life becomes. The more like Him we become.
Subtitled “The Art of Everyday Worship,” Beholding and Becoming is a lovely hardcover gift book. Each of the 16 sections is lavishly illustrated with soul-resting art and gentle text. Sections are divided into “Beholding” a key truth about God and “Becoming,” where readers are invited to apply what they’ve read to daily life.
Stopping to appreciate the artwork helps readers to slow down and absorb the text. The art incorporates symbolism (explained in a glossary—don’t worry if you’re not visually intuitive) to reinforce section themes.
I’ve marked a number of key passages for further thought. The sections that spoke to me most personally looked at smallness (held in God’s greatness) and at redefining failure and success (the author declares, “Faithfulness is success” [page 111].
These, and other themes addressed in the book, are common to many people in these crowded, don’t-slow-down days. Beholding and Becoming is a meditative invitation to dare to slow down and consider who God is—and what difference that can make in our lives.
Ruth Chou Simons is the author of GraceLaced, another beautiful hardcover gift book, and she is the founder of the GraceLaced ministry. For more about the author and her work, visit gracelaced.com.
[A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.]
Melancholy or sanguine? Introvert or extrovert? Director or connector? Analytic or expressive? Enneagram 2 or enneagram 7?
If you’ve ever taken a personality test, some or all of these terms may be familiar to you. (I love taking quizzes. I’m pretty sure I can chalk it up to my personality type.)
Introverts and Extroverts
Maybe the most familiar terms are introvert and extrovert—and the more recently coined ambivert.
While there is much literature and more than a few GIFs that explain what it means to be an introvert, it really clicked for me when I discovered how introverts and extroverts recharge.
Typically, spending time with people drains an introvert and energizes an extrovert.
An introvert isn’t necessarily shy and reserved. They may enjoy spending time with family and friends. They may love to be out and about. But there comes a time, they have to spend some time alone. Otherwise, they will feel completely depleted.
On the other hand, an extrovert may be exhausted, wanting nothing more than to curl up on the couch and spend the evening reading a good book or binge-watching Netflix. However, if they have to go to a function, they may very well be the last one to leave. Time with people whose company they enjoy can be even more energizing than an evening on the couch.
As an extrovert “on steroids”, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the introverts who call me friend. Trust me, I know how annoying I can be. <grin>
We must learn to appreciate those with different personality types. God has made us unique and we need one another.
I think it’s humorous that I am the only extrovert in my family. My husband, daughter, and two sons are all introverts. My firstborn may technically be an ambivert, but he definitely falls on the introvert side of centre. For the most part, he would be happy spending the majority of his time at home with his wife and their six guinea pigs.
Connectors, Inspectors, Directors, and Reflectors
Not only is it a good thing to know your own personality type. It is also helpful to know your spouse’s. In my case, I have been married to an amazing man for over 35 years, an amazing man who couldn’t be more different from me.
As I mentioned, he is an introvert.
Dave is also a reflector, while I’m a connector.
Reflectors “take time to listen to others, making them feel seen and heard; drop what [they’re] doing to help someone in need; and exude a sense of calm confidence that helps others relax when their around.” (Exhale … p. 119)
Connectors “make everyone feel welcome, wanted, included; exude an upbeat, optimistic mood; and enjoy taking center stage.” (Exhale … p. 116)
Of course, people rarely fit neatly into a particular box, but we have definite leanings.
I first learned about this test from Cheri Gregory and Amy Carroll, the hosts of the Grit ‘n’ Grace Podcast and the authors of Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not, Love Who You Are, Live Your One Life Well.
(Don’t let the title mislead you. This is not merely a self-help book written to make readers feel good about themselves. These ladies truly love the Lord and want each of their readers to discover who God made them to be.)
Expressives, Analytics, Drivers, and Amiables
I learned about these personality types from Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory, in their book You Don’t Have to Try So Hard: Ditch Expectations and Live Your Own Best Life.
Sometimes, you only have to read the list to find out where you fit.
While I try to be amiable, I definitely qualify as an expressive. Our top emotional needs are “attention, affection, and approval.” Our God-given assets include being having a good sense of humor, being good on stage, and having a sensitive heart. Our potential liabilities include being a compulsive talker, scaring people off, and being too happy for some people. (You Don’t Have to Try So Hard … pp. 43-44)
And thankfully, my hubby is an amiable. I’m not quite sure who else could put up with my compulsive talking and over-the-top happiness.
Amiables need “respect, self-worth, and harmony.” They have “low-key personalities; are calm, cool, and collected; and are happily reconciled to life.” They may be indecisive, shy, and compromising.
Take a personality test and encourage someone close to you to do the same.
As you learn more about yourself and those closest too you, you will be better able to appreciate the strengths and extend grace when it comes to the areas of potential weakness in yourself and others.
Typically, spending time with people drains an introvert and energizes an extrovert. (click to tweet)
Appreciate others’ strengths and extend grace when it comes to areas of potential weakness. (click to tweet)
Steph Beth Nickel is a communicator who seeks to Nurture and Inspire in her many eclectic endeavours: editing, writing, podcasting, etc. Steph coauthored Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Steph and Deb are working on a follow-up, tentatively titled Keep Looking Up. Steph is also a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio. You can connect with her on Facebook or via email.
Love and Other Mistakes, by Jessica Kate (Thomas Nelson, 2109)
I wanted to read this book because of the snappy quotes I’d seen on social media. I thought it was a romantic comedy. Instead of a fun-but-shallow read, I was delighted to discover characters I could care about, depth of plot, and spiritual insights.
Yes, the basic setup looks like it’ll be simple romantic comedy: Natalie ends up working as a nanny for her single-dad ex-fiancé who’s suddenly back in town, and the way they reconnect is definitely comedic. But then there are layers of family and relationship turmoil, both current and long-standing. There are health concerns. And forgiveness issues.
Australian author Jessica Kate’s debut novel delivers realistic, imperfect characters and situations, some fun cultural references, and some thoughts for readers to chew on after they’ve finished. The ending is satisfying without tying up all the messy threads into a pretty-but-fake bow.
[Review copy from the public library.]
Unwrapping Hope, by Sandra Ardoin (Corner Room Books, 2019)
In the fall of 1986, Phoebe Crain supports her mother and her 5-year-old daughter on her scant earnings as a small-town piano tutor. It’s a long way from the concert stage, but it lets her hide from a past that’s left her bitter.
Spence Newland the Third, owner of the local department store, represents everything she’s come to despise and distrust—or does he? Her daughter, Maura, discovers his kindness.
In this historical romance, Phoebe and Spence each have past hurts that threaten to keep them from discovering a future that would bring young Maura the father she’s been wishing for.
Unwrapping Hope is a prequel novella that leads into Sandra Ardoin’s Widow’s Might series. The Widow’s Might circle is a group of widows in the town who, whether rich or poor, meet for support and to knit scarves etc for the nearby orphanage.
The author does an excellent job of setting the scene and the atmosphere, and I found the historical details interesting. I don’t think of this specifically as a Christmas story, but it does run through fall and finish on Christmas Eve. So while it can be enjoyed any time of year there might be an extra resonance in the season leading up to Christmas.
At the same time, she would eat the crow she already smelled cooking. [Kindle location 257]
Years ago Phoebe had seen a similar look in the mirror. If she could go back in time, she would shatter the glass. [Kindle location 378]
Verbenia was the durable thread that kept the emotions of each member of the [Widow’s Might] circle from unraveling. [Kindle location 412]
Enduring Dreams, the next book in the Widow’s Might series, releases in 2020. For more about historical romance author Sandra Ardoin and her books, visit sandraardoin.com.
[Review copy provided by the author. Opinions are my own.]
There’s a print book giveaway this month for Hidden Secrets. Unfortunately, it’s only available in continental US and Canada, but if that works for you, check it out at The Suspense Zone. There are a few other suspense giveaways at the same link, for continental US residents only. [Giveaways end October 31, 2019]
And Susan Sleeman from The Suspense Zone also interviewed me. You can check out that conversation here.
If, by chance, you’re a NetGalley reviewer or if you know someone who is and who enjoys mystery/suspense, Hidden Secrets is available there during the month of October. Link: NetGalley. I’m really excited about this chance to get the book in front of some new-to-me reviewers.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you I’ve dropped the price of the ebook version of Unknown Enemy to 99 cents USD ($1.32 CAD and the equivalent worldwide). It’s available for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Apple, so please let your mystery/suspense-reading friends know! International buy link: Unknown Enemy.
The Red Journal, by Deb Elkink (The Mosaic Collective, 2019)
At 50, Libby has lived with her grandmother since childhood and is mourning Gram’s recent death. Her lifelong dream is to own her own home, away from the tenement where she’s been raised. She also longs to recreate Gram’s signature soup recipe—perhaps in hopes of restoring the sense of home Gram provided.
Her friend, Sibyl, is about 10 years younger and likes to think she’s found her security in spirituality and sensuality. Sibyl is convinced she knows what Libby needs while having no understanding of her friend’s grief.
Paige is a young woman working at the Laird Mansion Museum in the next state, pushing to finish her research paper before her baby arrives. She’s obsessed with finding a more personal side to the now-deceased MDM Laird and with clearing his name of hints of scandal.
The Red Journal is a carefully-imagined novel for the literary, even scholarly, reader who likes to chew over a novel and tease out its depths. Libby and Sibyl are each searching for sacred spaces in their own ways, and the heart of MDM Laird’s manor is another sacred space.
The story begins with Libby and Sibyl en route to visit the Laird Museum, and alternates this present with the recent past leading up to the journey. I would have found it an easier read in a linear timeline. Movement between multiple timelines is often done, and I’m not sure why it didn’t work for me here. It might be the short distance back in time, or the short duration of the “present” museum tour itself. Breaking the tour into sections may highlight the journey to the heart of the manor, and I’ve seen other readers commenting on enjoying the “dance” between timelines.
As well-written as each scene is, the novel felt long to me. I don’t think we needed as much of Libby’s soup-making and apartment-packing, Sibyl’s travels, or even as much depth in Paige’s research. I wonder, in fact, if the story needed Sibyl’s point of view at all. Possibly any key information in her scenes could have been introduced through Libby’s observations. As with a good soup, condensing could have strengthened the flavour, and readers would have still been able to observe two women’s very different searches for sacred space.
The novel also includes journal excerpts, perhaps to give readers extra clues to tease out the full story before Libby discovers it herself.
Sibyl’s point of view scenes often share rich memories of exotic travels, which will appeal to readers who love to travel (and armchair travellers). Her mashup of various spiritual beliefs shows its hollowness but might still sound appealing enough to lead seekers astray.
On the other side of belief, MDM Laird’s Bible-based faith has a few mentions and there’s some reference to God as “Father” near the end. The faith thread has enough hints for people who know their Bibles—even MDM’s name, Moses David Melchizidek—but biblical literacy is not a given for most mainstream readers.
I appreciated the chance to read about 40- and 50-year-old protagonists, as well as the (fictional) historical character MDM Laird’s exemplary relationships with the Native Americans he invited to dwell on his estate. His focus on keeping their families together was a refreshing counterpart to the true-life travesties imposed by both American and Canadian governments.
Deb Elkink is a skilled, award-winning author who writes at a deeper level than I can easily plumb. I’ve had to work harder than I like to figure this one out, and I’m not sure I have it yet. I think the concentric layout of the Laird Mansion Museum estate somehow connects with the choice of narrative structure, circling back upon itself.
The Red Journal has a strong sense of place, in the unfolding history of the land around the manor and in Sibyl’s vividly-rendered exotic travelogues, which feel like the author has visited in person. Although the characters sometimes frustrated me, I appreciated the ending.
Deb Elkink has also written The Third Grace (a novel) and Roots and Branches: The Symbolism of the Tree in the Imagination of G.K. Chesterton (nonfiction). For more about the author and her work, visit debelkink.com.
[Review copy from my personal library.]
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton — To keep her orphaned sisters together, Mahlah must seek what has never been granted to girls, an inheritance of God’s Promised Land. (Biblical from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])
Hiding from Christmas by Alice K. Arenz — No matter how hard she tries, Maddie Kelley can’t seem to fit in at Ornamental, a company founded by her great grandfather and his best friend. Now, after yet another screw-up, she’s been sent into the “enemy’s” camp—two hours away from home for the next two months. A punishment or a blessing? Her life is turned upside down when the mundane turns unexpected, and she finally discovers where her heart truly lies. (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romances [Winged Publications])
Practically Married by Karin Beery — Ashley Johnson moved to northern Michigan to finally meet her fiancé face-to-face, but she arrived in time to attend his funeral. With no home back in Ohio, she decides to stay in what would have been their house, except his cousin Russ lives there too, and Russ has never heard of Ashley. To complicate matters, her fiancé accidentally willed her the family farm house. Eager to please everyone and desperate to disappoint no one, she proposes a marriage of convenience that could solve her and Russ’ problems, if they can get past her aunt, his sisters, and an ex-girlfriend. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)
Once Upon a Christmas by Andrea Boyd, Mikal Dawn, Toni Shiloh, Angela Ruth Strong, and Jaycee Weaver — Embrace the magic of the Christmas season with these contemporary twists on timeless tales. Upon a Dream: A rare sleeping disorder keeps Talia from performing, but when Philip recognizes her gift, he’ll do whatever it takes to see her onstage. Claim My Heart: Li Na and Colin Wen face off in a Mulan-esque courtroom battle where the real win might be losing their hearts. A Snow White Christmas: Sheltered heiress Amala White flees her conniving stepmother’s plans and finds refuge with a handsome orchard owner and his seven quirky uncles. Christmas Ella: Reality TV meets Cinderella story when a location director is swept off her feet by a rising star. A Splash of Love: Las Vegas glitz meets Land of Enchantment culture in A Splash of Love, a modern twist on the Little Mermaid. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
The Twin Bargain by Lisa Carter — A mutually beneficial temporary arrangement…But can they keep it strictly professional? Nursing student Amber Fleming couldn’t be more stunned when ex-marine Ethan Green makes an offer: he’ll babysit her twin girls if she cares for his injured grandmother. Amber knows it’s temporary. Ethan isn’t one for roots—or their hometown. But his steadfast caring has her wanting more than friendship. And with help from Amber’s mischievous twins, can they risk becoming a forever family? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
The Amish Christmas Matchmaker by Vannetta Chapman — With her wedding business thriving, Annie Kauffmann could never leave her beloved Amish community. So when handsome Amish cowboy Levi Lapp tries to convince her father to move the family to Texas, she must put a stop to it. If Annie finds Levi a wife, he might forget his dream of moving…but can she keep from falling for him herself? (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Sara’s Gift by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Christmas is the season of giving, but Sara isn’t sure she is up to the task. Playing secret angel in high school was fun, and now, years later, Sara has the opportunity to do it once more on a bigger scale. She enlists the help of Gabe, her long-time best friend, to come up with a deserving recipient. But something is off with Gabe—he’s more attentive than usual.
The Christmas season has put Gabe in a reflective mood. His evaluation of his life has left him lonely and wanting more. But can his heart have its desire? That’s up to Sara. Can these two long-time best friends navigate their changing relationship, or will the romance Grinch steal their Christmas joy? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Their Christmas Prayer by Myra Johnson — Searching for a new start, Pastor Shaun O’Grady can’t wait for his next foreign missionary assignment…until he begins working with Brooke Willoughby on the church’s Christmas outreach program. Even as they clash over program specifics, Shaun and Brooke are drawn to each other. Now Shaun’s not sure where he belongs: overseas for his ministry, or at home by Brooke’s side… (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Her Amish Holiday Suitor by Carrie Lighte — Lucy Knepp has no time for heartbreaker Nick Burkholder…until a pretend courtship means she can finish her embroidery for a Christmas fund-raiser in peace. Nick’s arrangement with the too-reserved Lucy is the perfect cover while he repairs the cabin his brother damaged. But once Nick sees how vibrant Lucy really is, can he prove himself—and show their love is for all seasons? (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Chasing Dreams by Deborah Raney — Reconsidering her dream of law school, Joanna Chandler finds promise in a possible wedding planning career—especially when she meets wedding DJ Lukas Blaine. But there’s more to Luke than meets the eye. The angry young boy he’s been mentoring has lost his mother and become Luke’s ward. How can Luke possibly find the time to start a new relationship or saddle someone else with a wounded child? He may have to let go of the woman of his dreams–and crush her dreams at the same time. (General/Contemporary from Kregel Publications)
Unwrapping Hope by Sandra Ardoin — When Phoebe receives a handcrafted cigar box by mistake, her desperation to give her daughter something special for Christmas drives her to suggest a trade with Spence Newland, a man she views as no more principled than her daughter’s late father. But the more time she spends with the department store heir, the more Phoebe struggles to keep up her guard against him. Spence believes the cigar box will help him gain a reclusive investor’s financial support for his proposed five-and-ten-cent stores. Yet he hesitates to bargain with a widow who mistrusts him for no apparent reason…until he meets a charming little girl at the train station who awaits the arrival of a prince. Will a betrayal in Phoebe’s past and Spence’s unraveling business plans derail their hope for happiness and keep a child’s fairy tale from coming true? (Historical Romance from Corner Room Books)
Hope’s Highest Mountain by Misty M. Beller — Ingrid Chastain travels readily with her father to deliver vaccines to a mining town in the Montana Territory. But after a tragic accident leaves her alone and injured, Ingrid finds rescue in the form of a mysterious mountain man who tends her wounds. Micah Bradley gave up his own medical career after unintentionally bringing home the smallpox disease that killed his wife and daughter. With Ingrid dead set on trekking through the mountains to deliver the medicine as soon as she’s well enough, he has no choice but to accompany her through the treacherous, snow-covered Rocky Mountains. The risk-laden journey ahead will change their lives more than they could have known. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])
Aiming for Love by Mary Connealy — Josephine Nordegren is one of three sisters who grew up nearly wild in southwestern Colorado. She has the archery skills of Robin Hood and the curiosity of the Little Mermaid, fascinated by but locked away from the forbidden outside world–a world she’s been raised to believe killed her parents. When David Warden, a rancher, brings in a herd much too close to the girls’ secret home, her older sister especially is frightened, but Jo is too interested to stay away. David’s parents follow soon on his heels, escaping bandits at their ranch. David’s father is wounded and needs shelter. Josephine and her sisters have the only cabin on the mountain. Do they risk stepping into the world to help those in need? Or do they remain separated but safe in the peaks of Hope Mountain? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])
Lessons on Love by Susanne Dietze, Rita Gerlach, Kathleen L. Maher, and Carrie Fancett Pagels — Step back into the classroom alongside four new teachers who face unexpected tests. In 1840 New York, Gilda’s religious beliefs are challenged. In 1870 Kansas, Mary helps ostracized immigrant children. In 1894 Michigan, Jesse discovers an unlikely friendship. And in 1904 Virginia, Margaret wants to make controversial changes. Will these tests teach the teachers about faith and love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
The Silver Lode by Suzanne J Bratcher — A dying child and a seventy-year-old cold case draw historian Paul Russell and antiques expert Marty Greenlaw into a desperate search for the silver lode, a rich deposit of silver and gold one person considers worth murdering to keep. (Mystery from Mantle Rock Publishing)
Deadly Commitment by Kathy Harris — When Danielle Kemp walks out of her downtown Nashville condominium, she gets the eerie feeling that someone is watching her. She’s convinced that the homeless man outside her building is stalking her. But after learning the real identity of the intimidating stranger, she faces something even more threatening?the truth about her fiancé. (Romantic Suspense from New Hope Publishing)
Cold Pursuit by Gayla K. Hiss — A December tour of Yellowstone National Park sounded like the perfect escape from Faith Chandler’s problems at home—until she discovers her tour guide is her jilted childhood sweetheart, Jake Mitchell. (Romantic Suspense from Mountain Brook Ink)
Legacy Restored by Robin Patchen — She’s a new Christian working to take down an art thief and murderer. He’s a grieving artist who refuses to let another woman die needlessly. When their desires clash, will it lead to hostility… or fireworks? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)
Heart of a Royal by Hannah Currie — Brought to the palace as a newborn, the royal life bestowed upon Mackenna Sparrow was never meant to last forever. With Princess Alina engaged to be married, Mackenna’s presence as companion is no longer required and, like it or not, she must return to the birthright which should have been hers – that of a commoner. But not everyone at the palace wants her gone. When the truths she’s based her life on start crumbling as fast as her future, will she find the courage to trust, both herself and the prince she’s fallen in love with? (Young Adult from WhiteFire Publishing)
Going Back Cold, by Kelley Rose Waller (Versive Press, 2019)
On the one hand, Going Back Cold is a science fiction novel about a small group of scientists based in Antarctica experimenting with faster-than-light technology. But it’s also an exploration of the different ways people grieve.
In year one of the four-year research and development project, Dr. Jane Whyse discovers she’s pregnant with her second child. After the baby girl is stillborn, Jane, her husband Dr. Lucas Whyse, and their young son Sebastian continue work on the project. Both committed Christians, Jane and Lucas find their faith shaken. Lucas is working through his grief, but Jane appears trapped in her anger. Her research soon becomes her obsession.
The science is intriguing (I can’t say I understood it, but I expect that in science fiction). The observation of a small group of people interacting in a closed environment is interesting, too. The Whyses’ grief is instructive for those who haven’t experienced a significant loss—and I expect it’s affirming for those who have. And the ethical dilemma Jane’s obsession unleashes could come from near-future headlines.
Negatives: This is Christian fiction, and I was surprised to find the occasional mild profanity, as well as some crude comments. (Yes, I know some Christians swear, but it always catches me off-guard in real life and in books.)
Positives: There are some delightfully geeky references, and Jane and Lucas are transparently honest with God about their grief.
Jane was determined to have her family cake and eat the career, too. [On bringing their young son with them to the research base. Kindle location 268]
Good luck seeing God in me. I’m broken and failing when I try to rebuild. There aren’t words for where I am, none that make sense anyway. But I believe it. I will believe it. And I trust You. God, it hurts, but I trust. I will believe. [Lucas’s personal log. Kindle location 1941]
Kelley Rose Waller has also written The Senator’s Youngest Daughter. For more about the author and her work, visit kelleyrosewaller.com.
[Review copy provided by the author. My opinions are my own.]