“Lydia: Woman of Philippi” by Diana Wallis Taylor || Review

Before I get into my review of this book, I want you to know who the real Lydia of Philippi was – because I knew nothing about her. First, let me quote a passage from the book of Acts (Where Lydia’s story is briefly documented. She is first mentioned in Acts 16:13-15, as read here:
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatiranamed Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
The only other time she is mentioned is at the end of the chapter (Acts 16:40):
After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
Not a lot to go on, but I’ll fill in some of the background information. She was known as a dealer of cloth, clearly a wealthy and capable woman who may or may not have been a widow or free woman, and is widely considered to be the first documented European convert to Christianity.
 
This is another one of those cases where an under-appreciated, unknown, or often-overlooked Biblical figure has their story expanded on through the form of writing. I’m sorry, but I just LOVE that words have the power to do that. To give life and a deeper meaning to someone who might otherwise just be considered another name on a long list. To take the Bible’s already extraordinary message, and translate it to something that can be received by an wide audience.
 
 
Lydia: Woman of Philippi by Diana Wallis Taylor is an intriguing book about a Biblical figure that I had not always considered as important, interesting, or as a relatable example that I could look to in my personal walk with Christ. The thing is, when you add in the narrative that Taylor has created, combined with the cultural significance of the real Lydia’s actions, and of course the context surrounding the story, Lydia becomes an incredible Biblical heroine.
 
Taylor’s book reminds us of the importance of scripture. For the character of Lydia, having God’s word in her heart and repeating it to herself over and over again keeps her going. The LORD is her STRENGTH! I think that’s something that I rarely see in action. You can go to church, read the Bible, etc., but do you really hide God’s word in your heart, as a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path? Sometimes we forget just how powerful scripture really is.
 
Her journey to faith is unlike most we read about, because she already believes in God. No one has to convince her that there is a God, she must be convinced that there is a Christ.
 
Overall, a wonderful Bib. fic. read that left me craving more! (You can bet I went straight to Amazon after reading this, flooding my wishlist with a whole host of other books by Taylor). If you would like to hear more about this book, I HIGHLY recommend that you watch my video discussion of it. Don’t worry, all my videos are spoiler-free, so it’s perfectly fine for you to watch if you haven’t read Lydia: Woman of Philippi yet.
 
 
As always, thank you so much for taking the time to be here today. If you aren’t already, make sure you’re subscribed to my mailing list (I promise I won’t spam you!!!), subscribed to me on YouTube, and of course following me on Instagram, so that you can stay up-to-date on my life, chapter by chapter, page by page! Until next time,

“A Passionate Hope” by Jill Eileen Smith || Review

Have you read Hannah’s story in the Bible? Perhaps in Sunday school as a kid or in a sermon more recently as an adult? I’ve heard Hannah’s story a million different times, but I never connected to it until I read Jill Eileen Smith’s latest Biblical fiction novel, A Passionate Hope.
 
This book is exactly what it says it is: the story of deeply passionate people who never stop hoping for a miracle to happen.
 
Hannah, who was barren, waits patiently for God to grant her wish to have a child but not without some trials along the way. Having read this story, it’s only endeared me more to Hannah and I’ve learned so much just by reading this book.
 
For more details on my thoughts, I would love it if you would check out my video review of this book over on my YouTube channel! And of course, don’t forget to like this post, subscribe to my mailing list if you haven’t already, and go check out all of my other social media links (Instagram in particular: @jennavanmourik).
Thank you so much for stopping by today. Really, your support means the world to me and I’m so glad we’re on this literary adventure together!

“Keturah” by Lisa T. Bergren || Review

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren has been out for a while, and admittedly, it took me a while to cross it off my “TBR” list and move it over to my “Read” shelf on Goodreads.
 
Being that this is the first book I’ve read by Bergren, I expected that. I always struggle when trying to get used to new authors, their voices, and their different styles of writing. As a side effect of that, I rarely ever pick up a new author. I like to stick to my “auto-buy” authors. The ones I know, love, and trust. However, this one had a plot that I simply could NOT ignore. Plus, the setting?! Caribbean?! YES, PLEASE.
 
Here’s the summary for you:
“In 1772 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father’s estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage.
Although it flies against all the conventions for women of the time, they’re determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in the Caribbean, proper gender roles are the least of their concerns. On the infamous island of Nevis, the sisters discover the legacy of the legendary sugar barons has vastly declined–and that’s just the start of what their eyes are opened to in this unfamiliar world.
Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. She could desperately use an ally, but even an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend leaves her questioning his motives.
Set on keeping her family together and saving her father’s once-great plantation, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?”
 
The Caribbean is definitely on my travel-buckatlist and while I probably won’t be making a trip their anytime soon, I seriously enjoyed traveling there in my mind’s eye thanks to the wonderful descriptions by Lisa T. Bergren.
 
I felt like the first third of the book moved very slowl, and it took me a while to get hooked on the characters. There were so many, each with their own arcs and motivations. I think that’s where I struggled the most, but once I hit chapter 12, I was gone! So deep in love with Gray, Ket, Selah, Verity, and the rest of the crew.
 
Gray is a romantic interest that I did not like at first. In fact, I found him rather loathsome. Kudos to the author for making me go through such a range of emotions with this character! From being the bored and disinterested reader, to being the reader who cheers him on as he passionately pursues Keturah’s affection. That’s real growth, and I love that a book can do that.
 
Keturah is a strong character, but she obviously sets herself apart from the rest. She’s scarred, she’s a victim, and she doesn’t trust anybody. Still, she’s strong and determined to succeed on her own, regardless of her past.
 
The different plot twists and revelations had my jumping off my couch (an impressive feat, by the way).
 
I really appreciated how the author handled the topic of slavery in the novel. It was a very real part of life in the colonial West Indies, and while it would be easy to sugarcoat it (no pun intended) and present instead a love story set against the backdrop of a glorious sugar cane plantation, the author does no such thing. I mean, sure, it is a love story set against the backdrop of a recovering plantation, but the author deals with issues of racism and slavery skillfully and I admire that.
 
Overall, I really loved it and I especially loved the sisters’ relationships with each other. It was very sincere and authentic, and I really enjoyed that. I always love when a book manages to capture raw human emotion and actually portrays real life rather than just mere caricatures of such.
 
I stand by my opinion that this book moves a bit slowly, but I strongly encourage you to give it a chance nonetheless. I will definitely be picking up the sequel to this book when it comes out. Of course, I do hope that in the second installment the pace picks up a bit more and the other characters’ arcs are deepened, because I’m very interested in what will happen to Ket’s younger sisters.
 
I’m sure you will be too, if you read this book!
 
Thank you so much for stopping by today and taking the time to read this post. I know your time is valuable, which is why I urge you to sign up for my mailing list! That way, you’ll be notified if anything important hits the blog! You should also consider subscribing to my YouTube channel, and following me on Instagram. I post consistently on all my platforms about books, writing, and of course little snippets of my life here and there.
 
Until next time,

“Judah’s Wife” by Angela Hunt || Review

When you write a book that takes place in what we Christians call, “The Silent Years,” there’s so much room for creativity, freedom, and possibility in the story. Angela Hunt has, once again, not disappointed me.
 
Being that I know next to nothing about the Maccabees, or Judah Maccabaeus, I was quite happy to absorb the stories into my mind and relish each word on every single page throughout the novel, and fill in the gaps of what I did not know what the bit of fact mixed into the fiction
 
Of course, being completely unfamiliar with the story of Judah Maccabaeus, meant that I would be totally unprepared for the emotional and spiritual journey that I was about to embark on. The passion and the pain; the hope and the heartbreak.
 
One of the things I love most about Angela Hunt’s books is her ability to use multiple point-of-views to tell the same story. Two people can experience the same thing or have the same conversation, but take away completely different meanings from it. I may say something positive to you, but you might only hear the negative in my words, and vice-versa. Such is the case with Judah’s Wife.
 
Judah and his fictional wife Leah, like all couples I know, struggle to communicate. Anyone who has ever been too shy to approach a difficult subject, or left the room during a conversation preferring the silence to a difficult conversation, knows what I’m talking about. It can be difficult to converse with your spouse about something in your relationship, especially if it’s awkward or painful. Rifts in communication often result in errors in judgement. Such is the case here.
 
It doesn’t help that Leah has spent all her life under the thumb (or fist) of those who would curse her and abuse her. Surrounded by despair, she cannot even fathom why this “Judah the hammerhead” has yet to unleash his wrath upon her. Judah, unknowing of this, can’t even begin to understand why she is so reserved and withdrawn whenever they are together. All he wants is her love, and she doesn’t even know what that is. Will Leah ever discover what it means to love? Or will she be too late?
 
Oh, yeah, and did I mention that this entire novel is set during a terrible, terrible war? Judah, the captain and natural born leader, may always return victorious from the battlefield. However, whenever he returns home to his wife, he faces another kind of battle. No sword nor military training could possibly have prepared him from the wounds his wife would inflict upon him (both literally and figuratively).
 
A historical drama like none other, Judah’s Wife is a must read for all diehard Biblical fiction fans. It is the second part in Angela Hunt’s “The Silent Years” series, preceded by Egypt’s Sister and followed by Jerusalem’s Queen.
You can learn more by watching my video review on YouTube, subscribing to my mailing list so that you can be notified of every new post, following me on Instagram, “liking” me on Facebook, and of course, ordering a copy of Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt and see for yourself what lessons you might learn from the Maccabees.
 
Until next time,

“A Light on the Hill” by Connilyn Cossette || Review

Hello world! Have you read A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette? Because if you haven’t, you probably should. Or you could just continue to live in blissful ignorance of the pure genius this book is. Your choice.

BUT – before you make that decision, allow me to at least *try* and convince you of why you really, really, really need to read this book. Stat.

I discovered Connilyn Cossette after I had finished reading Mesu Andrew‘s books: The Pharoah’s Daughter and Miriam. I was on an Egyptian-Exodus-Moses-Biblical-fiction kick, so I didn’t hesitate to rush up to the checkout when I came across Cossette’s debut novel, Counted with the Stars
 
A Light on the Hill had been in my TBR for a while. Cossette is one of those auto-buy authors for me, so I’m always pre-ordering her stuff the second I hear its coming. That’s probably why when I received this in the mail that I was so surprised – I’d almost forgotten that I’d ordered it!
 
Before I get too deep in this review (because lets be honest, it’s going to get deep!!!), let me share with you the summary for this book:
Seven years ago, Moriyah was taken captive in Jericho and branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods. Now the Israelites are experiencing peace in their new land, but Moriyah has yet to find her own peace. Because of the shameful mark on her face, she hides behind her veil at all times and the disdain of the townspeople keeps her from socializing. And marriage prospects were out of the question . . . until now.
Her father has found someone to marry her, and she hopes to use her love of cooking to impress the man and his motherless sons. But when things go horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee. Seeking safety at one of the newly-established Levitical cities of refuge, she is wildly unprepared for the dangers she will face, and the enemies–and unexpected allies–she will encounter on her way.
 
Y’all, that summary does NOT do this book justice. At all. Whatsoever. Period.
 
“Horribly wrong???”
 
That’s the biggest understatement of the century. More like morally wrong. Dangerously wrong. FATALLY WRONG.
 
The stakes in this novel are higher than the walls that surround Moriyah’s city of refuge.
 
I would strongly encourage that before you jump into this book, that you read all of Cossette’s other books. Her Out From Egypt series is more like a prequel series. Think Star Wars, but better. Read her books in the order of publication – you’ll thank me later.
 
Now to the review:
 
Although I tried to enjoy this read, Cossette has done it again. Somehow managing to make two hundred pages of words seem like two. I sat down to read “just a little bit,” and a half hour later I was half way done with the book. Don’t get me wrong – I try to enjoy myself. To take my time. To savor every word. But the energy in her writing is undeniable.
 
I felt love, remorse, fear, and joy while reading this book. For an author to elicit in roughly twenty pages such a myriad of emotional responses in the reader is a remarkable feat and says something about the book itself.
 
Connilyn Cossette is building an empire with her books. It’s a thrilling saga, each book entwined with another, all building on top of each other. Like Twilight or the Hunger Games – but so, so much more. It’s a passionate narrative, driven by God, and filled with themes like: redemption, overcoming fear and anxiety, trusting on the Lord, building up and tearing down walls in our hearts, faith, and justice.
 
So much faith content. So much good storytelling. This book gets a 10/10 for me, and I don’t say that lightly. I strongly suggest you check out all of her work, and follow her as she continues to publish hit after hit.
 
The sequel to this book and the second in the City of Refuge series, Shelter of the Most High, will be released on October 2, 2018.
 
This book is so good, that I don’t even feel like putting in my usual “plugs” at the end of this post. I’m still so. incredibly. in. awe. However, necessity tells me that I have to, for posterity’s sake at least. Guys, I would love it if you would subscribe to my mailing list on this site. Don’t forget to subscribe to me on YouTube where I post weekly, and follow me on Instagram where I post daily for all the fun bookish news.
 
I’m Jenna Van Mourik, an inspired writer and inspirational fiction reader. Stay tuned for more in Christian fiction and Christian living! Until next time,

What It’s Like to Be On A Book Launch Team

Last week was SUCH an exciting week for me. There was so much anticipation and excitement that had built up for that moment. Not only was I launching a website AND blog! I was also gearing up for the launch of Roma Downey’s book: Box of Butterflies: Discovering the Unexpected Blessings All Around Us.
 
For those of you who don’t know, I had the opportunity to be a member of the launch team for this book. If you’re not aware of what that means, stick around, because I’m about to lay the entire process out for you and what my experience was while I helped promote this wonderful book!
 
Ok, so this story begins in mid-January. I follow Roma Downey on Instagram, so I was one of the first people to see her post about joining her launch team. The #linkinbio led me to an experience that I will NEVER forget.
 
The instructions in her post led me to a website with a simple application and questionnaire. Being an English/Writing major and a theology minor, I thought it might be a great opportunity to experience an aspect of my field, share a part of my faith, and celebrate Roma Downey. I’m a long time fan of Downey, and all of her productions including The Bible, Son of God, and Touched by an Angel.
 
In the application I wrote about my experience blogging about books via Instagram, my love for reading, my passion for my faith, and about my personal experience having met Roma Downey in 2011 (In keeping with the Irish theme, I was a wee lass back then!), growing up watching her on television, and how her work impacted me henceforth.
 
I hit submit, not expecting much. I figured it was an internet thing, probably chosen completely at random. Still, better to have tried than not to have tried at all.
 
You can imagine my surprise when an e-mail landed in my inbox, alerting me that I had been selected! I was so happy and excited! I’d never been “selected” for anything like this before so the whole process was new and wonderful!
 
At that point, all of the group members were given the link to a private Facebook group where we would interact, get to know each other, and discuss the book. This was one of my favorite parts! I “met” or rather, got in touch with so many different people from all over the world. What was especially nice about this forum was that because it was for the launch of a faith-centered book, many of the members were also faith-focused! It became more than a group, it also became a prayer chain and a place of encouragement. Quotes from Roma Downey’s book were posted side by side with Bible verses and lovely pictures of butterflies, which are a central theme for the book.
 
It took a while for the book to get out to us, but in the meantime we were all sent a handful of promotional images to share across all of our social media platforms, whether it was a blog, a FB page, an Instagram account, your Snapchat story, or Twitter. We were told to build the hype and share our excitement, which is exactly what we did.
 
When we did get our copies of the book, it came in the form of a digital file sent to our e-mail accounts. Our only instructions were to read the book as soon as possible and to post an honest review on any and/or all of our social media accounts, as well as sites like Amazon and Goodreads if possible (BTW, you can add me on Goodreads HERE).
 
I don’t know about everyone else, but I flew through the book. It was such a quick read for me, and it had so much inspiring faith content. Trust me, by the time you close the back cover, you’ll have wisdom in your head and Jesus on your heart for DAYS “when you walk down the road!” 😀
 
You can click around my blog to read my full review of Box of Butterflies: Discovering the Unexpected Blessings All Around Us by Roma Downey.
 
After that, we continued to receive updates from the Team Manager. We were continually sent posts and links to content they wanted us to share and promote, but besides that, we were free to work and review at our own pace. When we did review the book, we always shared the link to our review on the Facebook group’s page.
 
I was so surprised at how many creative people were apart of the team. Some people wrote or shared poems that made them think of the message written in Downey’s book, others made videos about the book, and some people (like me) took or shared stylized pictures! Everyone was working in their own way to create something that would make our collective effort worthwhile. TEAMWORK IS SO MUCH FUN!
 
And finally, the launch day! The day that we’d all been waiting for.
 
It was honestly my honor and privilege to be a member of the team, and it was an experience I enjoyed immensely. I hope to be a part of many more teams in the future, and maybe coordinate some of my own 😉 You never know folks!
 
You can watch my spoken review of Box of Butterflies here:
 
 
And my NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO about this same topic here:
 
If you liked this post, I would love it if you would subscribe today so we can always stay in touch and continue to discuss all things reading, writing, and living. Also, if you haven’t already, please order a copy of Box of Butterflies: Discovering the Unexpected Blessings All Around Us. This book is so lovely, and I know you won’t regret the purchase! Thanks for stopping by today!

“Sweet Briar Rose” by Lena Goldfinch || Review

“Sweet Briar Rose” by Lena Goldfinch – REVIEW

When Amber Holcomb reached out on Instagram looking for volunteers to read and review a short-and-sweet historical romance novel, I knew I had to jump at the chance!
 
So let me share with you a little bit about the book:
 
Colorado 1880
Once upon a time, Rose was a barefoot dreamer, carving whimsical creatures from the driftwood she found on the beach. However, after the death of her father, Rose finds herself cut adrift. So she decides to answer an advertisement to become the bride of a blacksmith in Sweet Briar, Colorado, bravely leaving behind the coast of Maine and her beloved sandy beaches.
Living in the shadow of the Rockies, Emmett Southerland is a bit of a hopeless romantic—and always has been. He’s been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the dark-haired beauty in the photograph he keeps over his heart. However, once Rose arrives, he finds himself snowed in with her during the worst storm Colorado has seen in twenty-five years.
This sweet mail-order bride romance very loosely reimagines the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty, complete with a satisfying happily-ever-after. Sweet Briar Rose is a short novel of approximately 42,000 words.
LENA GOLDFINCH is the Amazon-bestselling author of sweet historical western romance, inspirational romance, and books for teens. She’s always been a sucker for a good old-fashioned romance, whether it’s a novel or short story, young adult or adult, fantasy or realistic, contemporary or historical. Lena has been a finalist in several national writing contests, including the RWA Golden Heart and ACFW Genesis contests.
 
Are you sold yet? Because I was. Let me get into the review and break this book down for you. If the summary didn’t sell it to you, I will!
 
I received an e-copy of this book in mid-February, which made it extra fun to read because as I was sitting, curled up on the couch underneath a heap of blankets with the bitter cold wind hitting the side of my house, I was easily able to imagine Rose (the main female character), just as uncomfortable during a blizzard in the 1800s. The book captivated me and I was able to be instantly transported into their world as soon as I turned the page.
 
It’s a short book, lighthearted, and a quick read. Perfect to get into if you’re looking for a sweet, bubbly romance with all the feels to flip through in your spare time. I think the book had a slow, natural build. It didn’t feel rushed, which is great. That is, up until the moment about 70% of the way through when I couldn’t read the words fast enough!
 
The ending, absolutely satisfying, had an almost When Calls the Heart feeling about it. I should at this point remind you that while this book is not Christian fiction, it is clean historical fiction with a few faith references, but not a lot of deep faith content. It’s also a mail-order bride story; a trope that I’ve never previously explored, but enjoyed this time around and would recommend as an intro to the genre.
 
Heartwarming, sweet, sincere, and pleasant! Rose was very relatable for me, as she too is a creative individual who struggles from feeling blocked or uninspired. The romance between her and Emmett, while not without it’s clichés, was tender and sentimental. There were moments that made me laugh, moments that made me smile, and on occasion, moments that really had me exasperated and emotionally invested in the characters and their development.
 
If you are interested, Sweet Briar Rose by Lena Goldfinch released in March of 2018 from Indigo Road Publishing.
 
While I was sent a copy of this book, I can honestly attest to the fact that all thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own. The fact that I received an advanced copy has not, in any way, swayed or biased my views.
 
Thank you SO much for dropping by to read today’s post. If you like books too, you should consider hitting “subscribe” on your way out. This blog is ALL about books. Don’t forget to find me on my other social media platforms (YouTube and Instagram), where I consistently post about all things reading, writing, and living. Finally, if you have an idea for a post or have a book you would like me to consider reviewing, I would love it if you contacted me! You can do so through the contact form on THIS website, or you can email me at jennavanmourik@gmail.com
 
Thanks again, and I hope to talk to you another time soon!