Gods & Kings by Lynn Austin

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The nation of Israel is governed by bloodthirsty leaders consumed by greed and overwhelmed by their lust for power. All of the hope for the nation of God rests in the young prince, who is as conflicted and confused by what to do, as he is about which gods to worship. 

Right away, the book pulls you into the horrors of King Ahaz’s reign with chilling detail. The book itself is full of passionate characters, clinging to whoever and whatever they can in order to survive in the dangerous political and social climate, and stay sane amongst the madness that they are forced to endure every single day. Loss after loss dims their world which grows darker day by day with every tragic occurrence. 

All of the characters were so entertaining to read about! Some of them (don’t worry, no spoilers) were hard to say goodbye to, but others, I can’t wait to hear more of! I’m glad that the story has only just begun, and that I have the entire series already waiting on my bookshelf just for me to binge-read!

This book is a phenomenal story that shows that there are more sacrifices that the characters need to make than the sacrifices which according to the Law require bloodshed. As if rising from the ashes, the ending of this story is triumphant and a riveting end to the first part of Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings series. I look forward to reading the rest of this series, and as a long time fan of Lynn Austin’s writing, I have no doubt that the next books will be just as exciting and heart racing as this introduction was!

Although I haven’t finished the series, I would highly recommend this book to everyone and especially fans of Biblical fiction. Nobody writes it like Lynn Austin writes, and she writes it BEAUTIFULLY! Be sure to subscribe to this blog for more book reviews like this, and don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel where I post videos discussing all things bookish and my Instagram, where I post book recommendations and other things related to books and writing, every. single. day. As always, happy reading!

Until next time,

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The Christmas Remedy by Cindy & Erin Woodsmall || Review

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Nothing heals the soul better than a good book, and that’s exactly what A Christmas Remedy is. A little bit of medicine for the soul!

This new-to-me co-author duo have crafted a story so unique, and full of so much hope – perfect for the impending holiday season! The story follows Joshua Smuckers and Holly Zook, Holly being a young woman who doesn’t quite fit in to her very traditional Amish community.

Holly has a deep calling to bring health care to her people, but it’s taken her a lot to get to a point where the people trust her and the local pharmacy. When a horrible health-scare mysterious incident occurs at the pharmacy, the doubt of her people and the doubt of the Board of Pharmacy threaten to undo all of her hard work.

To get to the bottom of it all, Holly must team up with Joshua, the young man who’s offer of a relationship she’d denied some time before believing that there was no way she could have a relationship and fulfill God’s calling for her life, given the strict rules of her faith.

As they work together, their feelings for one another only grow stronger, but there are still old wounds that need to be treated. Misunderstandings about matters of the heart need strong medicine, and there’s no better place to fulfill that prescription than Greene’s pharmacy. In the end, the characters have more to celebrate on Christmas day than just good tidings and cheer!

Personally, I’ve never really delved into the Amish fiction world. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this book which blended both the Amish community and the outside world so well. I very much identified with Holly’s feelings of being a misfit and not knowing where she belonged. Throughout the story she wrestles with conflicting emotions and messages about God’s will for her life, and I think that’s something that we can all relate to at some point or another.

The novel deals with themes of trust, brokenness, grief, and fear in a way that is so hopeful, and so perfect for the magical holiday backdrop of the story! Christmastime is a time where we celebrate the hope that is Jesus Christ, who is a light of hope for all of the characters involved in this story. I loved how each arc blended together to create a timeless tale of forgiveness, the Amish way!

* Note: while I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, that has in no way affected my opinions or rating of the book itself. Thank you.

This is one book you’ll want to have on your reading list for Christmas vacation! Until next time,

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NaNoWriMo: It’s not you, it’s me!

IMG_6170Oh, NaNo! I had such high hopes for us together, but I promise, it’s not you. It’s me.

It’s only day two of NaNoWriMo, and I’m already wayyy behind. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing everyone else’s progress reports, encouraging posts, and check-ins… But for me? Well. I really don’t have any progress to report!

I said from the beginning that I was only “loosely committing” to NaNoWriMo, but it’s hard not to feel discouraged when I haven’t put any words down on paper. But you know what? I physically can’t put any words down on paper right now.

Before I go on, I guess I should probably explain to you all just exactly WHAT #NaNoWriMo is. NaNo or NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, which happens EVERY year in the month of November. People all over the world commit to writing an entire novel in a month. Sounds great in theory, right? Yeah. That’s about where it ends. Once you’ve signed up for NaNo, you’ve signed up for a whole month of stress, sleep deprivation, and eye strain from staring at the blinking cursor for far too many hours in a row.

Okay, I’m probably over exaggerating a little bit. NaNo is a great thing! I love that so many people love books and writing so much that we’ve dedicated an entire month to it! And I love how this event really brings the writing community together… For reals! There’s an entire official website for NaNo where all of the NaNo participants to chat, connect, and track their progress until they “win” (winning for most people means writing 50,000 words in thirty days) at the end of the month! People have even created Facebook groups for a similar purpose. Others do live videos on platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc. It’s a big deal! And like I already said, I love it!

But I also said earlier, right now, I currently can’t put any words down. Yes, I’m aware, you’re reading a blog post full of words, but these words are… More like a therapeutic journal for me than anything else. It’s easy for me to write here because I know I’m writing to all of you! My fellow book-loving, writer friends! You guys understand me and I don’t have to worry about structure here, meeting a word count, or whether or not I’m using the right tense verb for an action or the appropriate dialogue tags… Ah, the writer’s life.

The reason I’m having such a hard time is that I’ve been SO BUSY. If you follow me on Instagram you probably know from my stories that I spent all of last week in California for some family things. I went to a celebration of life for my grandma who passed earlier this year, I spent a lot of time with my cousins, parents, and loved ones, and I was otherwise just busy all of that week! I came back the day before Halloween, and I could already tell that all of the flying and running around had gotten to me. The next day was Halloween, which is a whole sugar rush of a different kind of craziness, and Piper (my toy Australian Shepherd) just started obedience school so training her has become kind of a priority. Still think I’m not busy? I’ve also got college work that just needs to be done, house stuff to take care of, and of course time that is reserved to be spent with my wonderful husband who loves me and supports me in everything I do and I couldn’t do any of it without him.

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So, I’m busy. You get the picture right? Well, all of that business has caught up to me and now I have an awful head cold. I guess you could say I’m literally not in the “head-space” for writing! My eyelids feel like the way about five million pounds and when I’m not sniffling, I’m sneezing! The thought of trying to write something for my WIP right now is just… too much.

So, these first few days of NaNoWriMo, I’ve been taking it easy. I told myself when I committed to this that it would be low-key, but it’s still difficult to see everyone else “running” this marathon so to speak, and me just sitting on my couch curled up under a blanket.

An AuthorTuber that I love recently did a video. Actually, she’s doing an entire NaNoWriMo series of videos on her YouTube channel, where she talks about comparison. When it’s NaNoWriMo, and everyone you know is posting how today they wrote thousands and thousands of words, and you’ve barely written a hundred, it’s easy to be discouraged. Yes, NaNo is a great opportunity to write 50,000 words. But more importantly? NaNo is just an opportunity to write! Something, anything. The whole point of this month is to celebrate writing, not to stress yourself out over making a word count. Even though I’ve been saying that all along I still need to remind myself.

Here is Bethany Atazadeh’s video (the one that I mentioned above) about comparison and getting discouraged during NaNoWriMo:

Actually, here is my own video that I also did recently sort of tackling the same topic:

I guess I need to take a bit of my own medicine! LOL!

Basically, I just wanted to send a message to everyone participating in NaNo. If you didn’t write 2k today, if you didn’t write 2k yesterday, and you don’t think you’ll write 2k tomorrow, that’s okay! That doesn’t mean you’re failing at ANYTHING. You are still an author. You are still a writer. Your word count does not determine your validation. Use this month for what it’s meant to be used for! Celebrating your love of writing! Not stressing yourself out so much to the point where you hate writing with the fiery burning passion of a thousand suns.

I’m still going to try to write this month! I’m still going to keep encouraging all my other friends who are also participating in NaNo! But I’m also going to stop when I want to stop, not push myself if I just don’t have it in me, and give myself a break when I need one. Because my success is not defined by a little digitized number at the bottom left hand corner of my screen. Sure, I want to write 50k, but at the end of the day, whatever I have written is still a success! Even if it was only ten words, that’s still winning in my book! And for all of you participating in NaNo as well, remember that you are working at your own pace. Nobody’s life is the same as your life! Nobody’s schedule is the same as yours! Don’t compare, just enjoy the ride and enjoy the process.

(And maybe spend a lot of time in December editing! Haha!)

Until my next post,

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Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer – Review

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This book combined my love of book-loving characters and the old West days! I mean, come on, doesn’t that cover just scream Belle from Beauty and the Beast? However, I’ve got news for you – the love interest in this book is certainly no beast, but together, they face a few!

A bit from the back cover, to give you some context:

Adelaide Proctor is a young woman with her head in the clouds, longing for a real-life storybook hero to claim as her own. But when a husband-hunting debacle leaves her humiliated, she interviews for a staid governess position on a central Texas sheep ranch and vows to leave her romantic yearnings behind.

When Gideon Westcott left his privileged life in England to make a name for himself in America’s wool industry, he never expected to become a father overnight. And five-year-old Isabella hasn’t uttered a word since she lost her mother. The unconventionality of the new governess concerns Gideon–and intrigues him at the same time. But he can’t afford distractions. He has a ranch to run, a shearing to oversee, and a suspicious fence-cutting to investigate.

When Isabella’s uncle comes to claim the child–and her inheritance–Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect Isabella from the man’s evil schemes. And soon neither can deny their growing attraction. But after so many heartbreaks, will Adelaide be willing to get her head out of the clouds and put her heart on the line?

Bookish, day-dreaming school teacher, and a well-bred Englishman who runs a Texas ranch and looks after a five-year-old little girl. These two characters are an unlikely match, but in my opinion, they’re absolutely perfect for each other. The humor I’ve come to know and love in Karen Witemeyer’s books was present from the very beginning. The unconventionality of the way the two characters meet is adorable and made me grin from ear to ear. Even with all of those heartwarming conversations and giggle-inducing encounters, there’s still a good amount of drama and depth.

A murder plot is the most abridged version of this story’s conflict, but there’s so much more happening between the lines. I was deeply moved by the growth of both of the main characters, as well as the spiritual content weaved throughout. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of sweet romance, historical fiction, and just good reading in general! It’s pages are full of smiles, tears (both happy and sad), and inspiring faith messages!

This book is easily going down as one of my favorite love stories! It’s going on my bookshelves to be displayed proudly for all to see. Although, my collection of books is probably nothing compared Adelaide Proctor’s, whose own collection of books I’d love to explore and obsess over with her anytime!

What is your most recent add to your book collection? Have you read Head in the Clouds? I’d love to hear what you thought of it, or what other books you’d recommend!

Until next time,

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Fall Favorites – 2018!

A few of my favorite things from this Fall, the best of them all! Books, candles, and ALL of the things!!!

IMG_7344 There are so many things to love about this season and time of year. Now, hear me out, I know that this is completely insane. Fall is what really? A time where pretty much all plant life dies and decays by turning into various shades of red, orange, and brown until ultimately the leaves wither into nothingness in preparation for the coming harshness of winter. Still, there’s nothing more magical than the latter months of the year in my opinion. As crazy as it sounds, fall to me means rebirth and rejuvenation! Those darkening leaves and cool breezes? I find them beautiful.

Maybe it’s because of my allergies that I associate springtime with a general feeling of death, but we’ll save that for another post!

As you can see, I LOVE fall. Or have you not gotten that message yet? Here are a few of the things that have been making my fall-time even more beautiful!

  1. Karen Witemeyer Books – Every fall, I normally settle in with my blankets, a candle, and the entire When Calls the Heart collection (AKA, the Canadian West series). Something about Canada and historical fiction just screams fall to me. While I haven’t gotten around to my annual reread of When Calls the Heart, Karen Witemeyer’s books have been a great alternative for filling all of my historical fiction needs!
  2. Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette – One of my favorite things about this fall has been being apart of the launch team for this book, getting to read it and promote it! It’s a fantastic read and I’d recommend it to anyone! Conni is, and probably always will be, a Biblical fiction queen!
  3. CANDLES – Ok, we’re book nerds. We love reading. But you know what makes reading instantly better? Every. single. time.??? Reading near an open flame. A cozy candle, bonus points if it’s pumpkin or cinnamon scented, makes reading all the more enjoyable during these cold, rainy evenings. Just make sure you read a safe distance away from your candle. I shouldn’t have to say this, but JUST IN CASE, this is your friendly reminder that books are made of paper, and they can and WILL burn if they come into too close of contact with fire!!!
  4. WRITING – True. I write all of the time. But there’s something about falling back into a chair, staring pensively out the window watching the storms ensue, and tapping a pencil on the crisp, blank pages of a notebook. In those moments, we authors have ultimate power.

Of course, there’s more. Isn’t there always more? Be sure to watch my Fall Favorites YouTube video on my channel for even more wonderfully fall-ish recommendations! Tis the season to be… fall-y? Whatever. Just watch the video! And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss a single update or bookish review/recommendation! Until then,

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Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette || Review

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You shouldn’t be surprised, I loved this book! But more on that later. First, allow me to share with you the summary of what this book is about. Then I can tell you all EXACTLY why it is so brilliant! P.S. – keep reading until the end for a few words from the author herself!

The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan.

Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a City of Refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood and chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past.

As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Will they break free from the shackles of the past in time to uncover the betrayal and save their lives and the lives of those they love?

40417708_1910724655902606_8390603793993039872_oShelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette is the latest book in her Cities of Refuge series, a continuation of her previous series, Out From Egypt. It remains just as captivating and compelling as her previous four novels, without losing any of the creative spark that made her writing so unique and refreshing in the first place!

In the novel, Sofea comes to the land of Canaan, a land where she knows no one, does not speak the language, and is surrounded by strange and unfamiliar customs and rituals all to please a god that she has never seen and can find no idols of anywhere in the house.

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Meanwhile, Eitan, a side character from A Light on the Hill, struggles with the demons of his past. As his feelings for Sofea only deepen as they learn more about each other and get to know one another, the dark secrets of his past begin to cast shadows on his newfound happiness.

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Still, he and his family try their very best to be the light that Sofea so desperately needs to give her new hope and move her from a place of fear and depression, to a place of refuge and joy. The king of joy that only God can bring.

Danger, traitors, pirates, and murder plots ensue, each bringing their own obstacles to Sofea and Eitan’s path as they try to build a love that transcends language.

Like each of this book’s predecessors, it tells an intriguing story which shines a light on a part of the Bible and Old Testament history that we don’t otherwise often hear about. I think that’s what makes Connilyn Cossette’s books so entertaining, that they are so new and unique compared to other works in the Biblical fiction genre. Unless you are a Biblical scholar, you might not have known about the Cities of Refuge in the Bible, but Connilyn Cossette chose to make them the setting for her series. Time after time, she brings to life otherwise forgotten worlds and passages, and each time she does so, she succeeds with incredible triumph.

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This book was deep, hopeful, encouraging, exciting, and it was also entertaining! The things that Sofea so often misunderstood about the Hebrew culture and customs were almost comical, in a sad sort of way. Watching her experience that world and God for the first time was an amazing experience, as was the rest of the book.

I cannot recommend this book (and the previous books by this author) ENOUGH! You should definitely get a copy and consider reading the entire series if you can. You will not be disappointed.

While I did receive a copy of this book for review as a part of being on the book launch team for Shelter of the Most High, all opinions expressed are my own. This did not affect my rating of the book in any way.

BONUS Q&A WITH THE AUTHOR, CONNILYN COSSETTE:

Connilyn Cossette was kind enough to give all of us bloggers on the launch team the opportunity to ask her any questions we would like, in exchange for some general answers we could all share. Being the curious reader I am, I was quick to fire away with questions about the next book in the series, the writing process, and what we can expect to see from her in the future. Here are a few of those questions and answers, JUST FOR YOU!

  1. Is Sofea and Eitan’s story finished, or will we see more of them? The next book, Until the Mountains Fall, opens about 8 years after Shelter of the Most High, so you will definitely see what Eitan and Sofea are up to. I won’t spoil anything about their appearances but I will say that it made me so happy to revisit them and to “see” their love story through the eyes of a grown-up Malakhi (the hero of UTMF).
  2. The cities of refuge in the Old Testament isn’t a topic we hear about a lot in church, how did this play into your research? Did you find it easier or more difficult to portray what life would be like for your characters in such a place?
    That is very true. I knew pretty much nothing about them either but there is research out there, albeit sparing, from Christian and also Jewish Rabbinical sources that helped me fill in some gaps which I then just blended with what I know about God and about the plan of salvation that fits so perfectly into the Cities of Refuge pattern. As I began to “flesh out” the City of Kedesh in my mind it honestly became a real place in my head, so it’s not difficult to place myself there and envision what my characters see. When I went to Israel and drove near the place where the actual city once stood (or at least across the valley from it) it was kind of surreal to blend my “fictional” Kedesh with the actual landscape.
  3. How did you come up with the topic for this story? Well, in the beginning it was an off-hand comment by my husband’s best friend that I actually laughed off at first and then began to realize was a completely cool premise! But I can’t really tell you what that comment was because it’s a major spoiler! But I also did some research about the Bronze Age and found out there was a real problem with pirates back then and knew I had to weave them in too. The original plot idea was very different and involved more pirates and even some ancient drug trade (yes, there was such a thing) and ended up being a tangled mess that didn’t make much logical sense, so I am really pleased with how it all came together…eventually.
  4. Do you relate particularly well to any one of the characters in this book? Why or why not? I always find little ways I relate to many of my characters but in Shelter of the Most High I think perhaps I connected the most with Eitan’s struggle with recurring self-condemnation. In order to avoid spoilers I won’t say exactly how he handles these issues but I think for me, and for many other followers of Jesus, I have a habit of bringing up my past sins and beating myself over the head with them, even though His grace is sufficient and I have no need to wallow in condemnation any more. If we are in Covenant with Jesus through his blood then we have been freely forgiven, so we must stop letting the Enemy whisper in our ear that we are not worthy. Eitan goes through the process of trying to “earn” forgiveness for something he had already been given grace for and I am guilty of doing the same thing at times. His journey was a great reminder to me that I am already free, so I need to stop acting like a slave to my past!
  5. Was there anything interesting that happened during the writing of this book (or that made its way into the writing of this book) that the average reader wouldn’t pick up on? The biggest change for me was traveling to Israel. I went from having to rely on the internet and Google Earth for my experiences of the Land to getting the opportunity to see and feel and taste and touch and smell those places for myself. It shifted my understanding of the “smallness” of the country and how close everything in the Bible is in relation to one another and gave me a wealth of sensory detail to layer into my stories. I’d already written Shelter of the Most High when I went there but during editing I was able to tweak and expand due to my firsthand experiences. It was life-changing in many ways.
  6. Is there any particular message (that isn’t obvious) that you would like your readers to get out of this book? As I began writing the Cities of Refuge Series I came to the realization that the places God set up as sanctuaries for those convicted of manslaughter (Joshua 20) were a wonderful picture of the Body of Christ and how the Church should relate to the world. Our congregations should be a haven for the hurting, a place of safety and provision for those who are suffering, a place where the teaching of the Word (Torah) is central, a gathering of redeemed people who appreciate the grace and mercy they’ve been given, and a light on the hill to the weary and heavy laden. Throughout the series you’ll see cities of refuge like Kedesh where these principles are upheld and valued and others that have became more focused on wealth, power, self-righteousness or have slidden into idolatry and compromise. History shows us that these cities of refuge were kind of a blip on the timeline, in fact scholar think that many of the 48 cities designated for the Levites by Moses were never even settled. If the Church wants to have an impact on the culture around us, instead of the other way around, we would do well to pattern our congregations after these places of perfectly balanced justice and mercy.

Shelter of the Most High releases on October 2nd, and you do NOT want to miss it! As another special surprise, my video discussion/vlog review of this book will also be going live on October 2nd as well, to celebrate the official release! Make sure you are subscribed to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss it!

Until next time,

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Pearl in the Sand || Review

 

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Pardon the generic stock photo above, but BookTubeAThon 2018 totally DESTROYED ME (as I predicted it would), and I’m only just now catching up on reviews!

Since I did read a fair amount during the BTAT, rather than just doing one giant wrap-up post, I thought I would go ahead and take the time to review each book individually, and give them all the bookish love they deserve. Let me tell you, the first book I will be reviewing from BTAT REALLY deserves all the love!

Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar is a Biblical fiction novel which centers around the life of Rahab the prostitute who hid the Israelite spies in her home and was rewarded for this act by being spared by God when the walls of Jericho came crashing down. After this tremendous event, Rahab decides to join the Israelites and worship the One True God. But even after experiencing all the things that God has to offer her, she still struggles with the idea of redemption. Can God ever really redeem her?

You and I both know that the answer to that is yes, for we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but we all saved by grace and through faith in our Savior. But, as a born again Christian, those words are often a lot easier to say than they are for someone who is only just discovering what faith is and means to them to believe. That’s why I loved this book so much!

It isn’t often in Christian fiction that someone really *struggles* to accept God. In a lot of books I’ve read (not all, but quite a few), it seems like the characters have on single “A-ha!” moment and from then on, all of their problems are miraculously solved. Don’t get me wrong, this can happen. God works in amazing ways! But for many people that I know, and even for myself, faith is so much more of a journey than it is a single sentence or paragraph. One sentence may be the catalyst that prods us to dig deeper into our faith and our relationship with God, but we will always be searching for more of Him and trying to understand more.

This book is that journey. Tessa Afshar has written a powerful, deeply moving narrative based on the story of Rahab, unlike any other I have seen before. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is just discovering what Biblical fiction is, or who has been a long time Biblical fiction fan! People have been recommending this author to me for MONTHS, so it’s about time I started recommending her books to you too!

Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel where I posted a casual book discussion video, filled with all of my thoughts on this one in particular! Until next time,

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