Review: In the Shadow of Sinai by Carole Towriss

IMG_8732I can honestly say that I just finished In the Shadow of Sinai moments ago, and am writing this book with a smile on my face. I really enjoyed the story and I enjoyed Bezalel’s journey.

Before I share my review, here’s the back cover synopsis in case you didn’t know what the book was about. If you did, feel free to skip ahead!

About the Book:

Bezalel is a Hebrew slave to Ramses II. An artisan of the highest order, Ramses has kept him in the palace even when all other Israelites have been banned. Bezalel blames El Shaddai for isolating him from his people.

When Moses and Aaron appear one summer, and El Shaddai shakes Egypt to its core, Bezalel must reexamine his anger. Over the course of the next year, Bezalel’s life becomes intertwined with those of an Egyptian child-slave, the captain of the guard, and especially a beautiful young concubine.

When spring arrives, all of them escape with the young nation of Israel. But that’s only the beginning…

Of course, there were a few things that I didn’t personally connect with. For one thing, this book is, for the most part, from a man’s perspective. Most of the major characters are all men, and sometimes I had trouble connecting with them, their struggles, and their voices. That being said, I did enjoy the female characters. In particular, Bezalel’s Imma (mother) and later in the book, Meri. The relationship between Meri and Bezalel developed a little bit too quickly for my personal taste, but I thought in the end it was sweet and they were a good couple.

It took me a long time to finish this book (a week and a half total, which is long for me, as I’m typically a fast reader). I think that this is in part due to how much of the book is set in Egypt in proportion to how much of the book actually takes place after the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea. The parts set in Egypt took up a lot of the book and in my opinion lagged quite a bit. At the end, I understood why they were there for character development reasons, but it did feel like it took a really long time for the story to actually develop. Once the Israelites were out of Egypt though, that’s when it really got interesting for me.

This book had a LOT of research in it. I learned all kinds of little details about daily life during the time of the Exodus, the food, the descriptions of the land, the customs, etc. If you enjoy that in Biblical fiction, then this book is definitely for you! I usually don’t like being “bogged down” with a lot of details and historical facts that seem to just be “thrown in” to a story to make it appear more realistic, but the way Towriss writes really makes the setting comes to life.

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I enjoyed reading about Sinai, the receiving of the Ten Commandments, the manna, and all the other adventures that the characters experienced on their way to Israel. I also enjoyed Bezalel’s character development and story during this part, as it felt like towards the second half of the book he showed real growth. In the beginning, I had honestly wondered if he would ever change. However, in the end I loved the lessons he learned about peace and trusting in God. Overall, it was a good read. It might not end up in my top ten, but I would still recommend it and plan to read more books by this author.

I gave this book a 3/5 stars because I liked it, but I think there is room for improvement, which is exactly why I will be reading more books by Towriss in the future.

Happy reading everyone!

 

Review: The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

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Hey everybody and welcome back to another book review! I’ve been kind of slacking lately, in terms of the gap of time that occurs when I read a book and when I actually get around to posting my thoughts about that book. It doesn’t help when I’ve read like… three books in one week! I know, it’s the exact opposite of a book club and you’d think that it would be a great thing, but I’m reading faster than I can review. Hopefully, we can change that.

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck was a book I knew I HAD to read after meeting the author, Bethany Turner, at CFRR. If you don’t know what CFRR is, CFRR or Christian Fiction Readers Retreat is an annual retreat for authors and readers to get together and talk about the thing we have in common: BOOKS.

Anyways, Bethany Turner’s sense of humor was so great in person, I knew I had to read her books. It was either that, or spend the rest of my life in a humorless void.

About the Author:

Bethany Turner is the award-winning author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, which was a finalist for The Christy Award. When she’s not writing (and even when she is), she serves as the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.

For more, visit www.seebethanywrite.com.

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is a complicated story, so let me just share the blurb with you now before we get to deep into my thoughts:

About the Book:

“Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.

With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn’t afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.”

Copy of No Matter that Rivkah had fled Kedesh, lied, ... and who knows what else,This book was hilarious in a laugh-out-loud way, and I’m totally not saying that just because it was full of references to ALL OF MY FAVORITE T.V. shows. Totally.

The plot really intrigued me because I had never before seen anything like it in the Christian Fiction genre, but I thought it was extremely important for the author to tackle. Sometimes we can look at Christianity as being this easy, goody-two-shoes lifestyle that’s all butterflies and rainbows – newsflash, it isn’t. And this author writes about all of those difficult realities with such humor and wit, yet still full of positive, faith-filled messages. Between the laughs and giggles, there’s room for some serious, heart-changing conversations.

*I don’t think that this book is for younger audiences. If you’ve read the blurb, you may understand why. Some of the subject matter is a bit “mature,” if you will, and I know that I have lots of younger followers out there, which is why I’m advising you to “read responsibly” and maybe keep this one on your TBR for a few years.*Copy of Copy of We Love You A Latte!

Even so, I think that this story was fun, thoughtful, and an enjoyable read. My only detractor was that I felt like Sarah Hollenbeck could, at times, sound a little bit like a “broken record” if you will. Sometimes, her behavior felt a little bit repetitive, but that’s life also. Sometimes as Christians, we know the right thing, but we continue to do the wrong thing. In the book, I think it was just the character’s voice that kept putting me off.

Piper on the other hand, Sarah’s friend, was so real, so down to earth. She kept me rooting for Sarah the whole way through! And that ending… *swoon*

This is definitely a contemporary romance novel in the Christian Fiction genre that I don’t think you’ll want to miss!

Until next time you guys,

Happy Reading!

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Inside the Museum of the Bible: A Biblical Fiction Lover’s Dream!

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As many of you may know, I have had the privilege of visiting the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C., not one, but TWO times. My first visit was in the summer of 2018 when I went with my mom, and the second was with Alysha from the blog For The Love of Christian Fiction during our trip to CFRR (Christian Fiction Readers Retreat) this past April of 2019. Both times have been amazing, powerful, and truly life-changing experiences, both for myself as a Christian, and as a Biblical fiction reader and writer.

So for today’s blog post (since I’m constantly talking about this wonderful museum anyways) I thought I would take you guys “inside” the museum and show you some of my favorite aspects of it. You’ll see pictures from both of my trips (the red dress/denim jacket combo is from 2018, and the OTHER red dress is from 2019 – and no, I didn’t do that on purpose. Total coincidence!).

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I never did manage to get a good picture of the OUTSIDE of the museum, mostly because if I backed up any further I would have fallen into the street, but I have to admit, even from the small bit of the entryway you can see, it’s a striking building. The golden “pages” on either side of the door are stunning if you catch them in the right lighting.

The museum itself is SIX floors, plus a basement which houses their temporary/traveling exhibit. Before I go into further detail about each of the floors I would like to point out that this museum is non-denominational, and strictly a museum on the history of the Bible (how/when/why/for what reason it was written, how it was translated, and how it came to be in our hands today). It is not a museum on Christianity itself, the spread of Christianity, or even about the ancient Israelites. This is something the employees will tell you and explain very nicely when you visit. One of the biggest criticisms that I’ve heard about the museum is that people were “waiting for the moment when they would show exhibits on how the Bible saves lives, has impacted Christianity, etc.” It’s not that the people behind the museum aren’t Christians or don’t support Christianity, it’s that their desire is to draw people in to learn about the history of the Bible itself without turning people off or away based off of denominational beliefs. They may even hope to reach people who aren’t Christians or who don’t know the Bible, merely by inviting them in to study the history of the Bible itself, and allowing God to speak through the history.

And trust me you guys, the history alone is enough to make you shed a tear or two and turn your eyes heavenward to say to God, “Wow. All of this – for Your glory.” Honestly, it’s nearly impossible to walk away from the exhibits without thinking anything else, and without praising Him for all He has done and for the miracle that the Bible is so widely accessible today, even when historically people tried to destroy it, hide it, or keep it from those who needed it most. Every time I visit I feel so blessed afterwards to live in a country where I can read the Bible, purchase one in a bookstore, download one on my phone, and worship God in church freely. It’s an incredible blessing and one I don’t think we should ever take for granted.

Now, onto those six floors I was telling you about:

  1. The Grand Hall – this is where you purchase tickets, see a traveling exhibit or two, and pick up a souvenir shirt or theology book from the gift shop (Yep. You can bet I’ve spent LOTS of time in the gift shop).
  2. The Impact of the Bible – This floor’s exhibits focus exactly on that, how the Bible has impacted nations, cultures, countries, and people of all different backgrounds.
  3. The Stories of the Bible – Here we are! Getting to my favorite floor! More on this one later, since I have LOADS of pictures.
  4. The History of the Bible – Pretty self explanatory, but as you can probably guess, this floor’s exhibits show the history of the Bible; how it was written, how it was shared, how it was translated, and how it became the Bible we know today.
  5. Special Exhibits + The World Stage Theatre
  6. Manna Restaurant + Views of D.C. – The top floor of the museum is pretty much a full side of windows which gives you an INCREDIBLE view of the Capitol mall, which is great if you just want to see it all and aren’t super into walking (more like hiking) to each monument, plus a restaurant where you can grab a meal or two. This museum is huge so you may need a snack break at one point – LOL!

All that, plus the basement, and you can see why it would be fairly easy to spend an entire day just at this one museum! Even though I’ve been TWICE, I feel like I’ve still only scratched the surface of what the museum has to offer.

I’ve spent the most time on floors 3 and 4, because that’s just what I’m typically the most interested in. Because of that, that’s where all my pictures are from, and what I’ll be talking about in this post.

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Beginning with floor 4, the history of the Bible, this exhibit is so interesting because of all the artifacts, replicas, and informational videos that it has to offer. It’s expansive, honestly, and as many of my friends and family have said, it’s the kind of place that I could move into and be perfectly happy living in for the rest of my life.

And you want to know what my favorite part of this floor is?

OK, I’ll tell you. 🙂

Have any of you guys ever heard of the Drive Thru History documentaries? Well, if you haven’t, you should click that link and look them up because they’re pretty incredible. They’re hosted by Dave Stotts, and he discusses all kinds of Biblical history as he literally drives around places like Rome, The Holy Land, the Middle East, stopping at historical sites to explain the significance of them. They’re full of humor, nuggets of information, and are super easy to understand – pretty much designed to give you a basic summary and tour of all the sites mentioned in the Bible (He also has a series on the East Coast of America documenting Revolutionary American history if that’s something else you’re interested in).

Well anyways, my grandma used to show me his documentaries *ALL THE TIME* growing up. They’re perfect for middle school and high school students because they’re so engaging, entertaining, and don’t get too bogged down with details, dates, and the other typical history-book stuff that might make a kid fall asleep in class. I was low-key David Stotts’ biggest eleven-year-old fan.

Not. Even. Kidding.

SO – when I found out about the Drive Thru History theatre at the Museum of the Bible I screamed. Literally. I think I scared the person giving us a tour.

Because I have to, here’s some pictures of me trying not to uncontrollably squeal in front of the giant poster of Dave Stotts, my unofficial middle school history teacher, and THE FAMOUS Drive Thru History jeep. Because. Reasons.

Basically, Dave Stotts did a, what I believe to be an exclusive for the museum, mini-documentary guiding you through all the significant locations to the history of the Bible. If you go to the museum and are on the fourth floor, I highly suggest you start your tour of this floor with this experience, because it really is an intro to what the rest of the floor is all about.

Ok… *CUE THE DRAMATIC MUSIC*

Here’s where the REAL fangirl in me comes out.

Floor 3.

The Stories of the Bible.

So, here’s the thing, as a huge fan of the Bible (I mean, obviously) and of Biblical fiction, my biggest dream has always been to visit the Holy Land and other significant Biblical locations (that’s probably why I liked the Drive Thru History documentaries so much, now that I think about it). I loved The Prince of Egypt movie as a kid, and longed to go to Egypt to see the pyramids. I adored listening to the character “Mr. Whitaker” from Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey series tell the Bible stories about Jesus’ life, crucifixion, and resurrection, and always wanted to visit Israel and see those places for myself. I would read my children’s Bible version of Paul’s life and ached to see the Roman cities where he preached the gospel. While I plan to visit there someday, it’s just not the most accessible place to get to. Air fare, travel costs, planning an overseas trip like that, isn’t realistic for me right now, nor was it when I was eight-years-old.

If the Museum of the Bible had existed then, I would have been the happiest kid on the planet.

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The person who gave us a tour called the “World of Jesus of Nazareth” experience a “Christian Disneyland” if you will, and that’s exactly what it is. They took the third floor of the museum and built a replica of what Nazareth might have been like in Jesus’ day.

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You walk in and you are instantly transported to another time, and another place.

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Lights, ambient sounds, and actors dressed in Biblical garb really sell the experience that you actually are walking around in what could have been a first-century Palestinian village.

You can enter a house and see what a typical kitchen looked like, learn how food was prepared, and see what kinds of foods would have been served at a meal or feast.

You can visit the sheep in the “fields” or pose for a photo-op doing hard manual labor.

And what may be my favorite part of all – you can visit a synagogue and see how the Torah might have been read at assemblies, and pose in front of a scroll yourself (although historically, I probably wouldn’t have been the one reading from the scroll!).

As you can see, the reason I love this experience so much is because it makes the Holy land “accessible” if you will, to those who might not have the means to travel overseas, but are in the area of Washington D.C. or can afford to make a trip a few states away. I am still looking forward to the day I get to visit the Holy Land, but for now, this experience will satisfy me.

And for real, you guys, it’s basically my version of Disneyland!!!

Finally, my last favorite experience that I want to share with you guys is called “The Hebrew Bible Experience” – but I can’t share any pictures because they are prohibited in this exhibit. This is a walk-through attraction which uses video, audio, fog, special effects, music, lighting, displays, and more to quite literally walk you through the Old Testament. You begin in the garden where you learn about Adam and Eve and the Fall of mankind, you are taken to Egypt to experience the pain of slavery, you walk in between the waters of the Red Sea as Moses leads the people to freedom, and so much more.

You guys, I can’t even begin to describe this experience. To prove it, I even texted Alysha seeking help:

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She’s telling the truth. The entire walk-through experience had me whispering ALL ABOUT my emotions. I had chills up and down my spine. Several times I was moved to tears. AND I’VE SEEN IT TWICE!!!

It doesn’t get old… I’m quite literally speechless. The only thing I can say is…

Powerful.

It truly is powerful.

The entire museum really is powerful.

So that sums up my Museum of the Bible experience! If you ever get the chance to visit this museum, are ever in the D.C. area, I highly recommend that you do. Even if you’re not a fan of Biblical fiction, it’s still a wonderful experience that truly brings the Bible to life.

Until next time,

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Book Review: Until the Mountains Fall by Connilyn Cossette

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I have been waiting on PINS and NEEDLES to finally share this review with you guys. Okay, well, maybe not pins and needles (more like couches and pillows, because… Comfort). But you guys! I am finally sharing with you all of the thoughts on Until The Mountains Fall, the latest installment of the Cities of Refuge series by Connilyn Cossette, and it was so good I’m not even sure if I can accurately describe it. Nevertheless, I shall try!

Plus, stay tuned until the end of this post for some exciting updates about videos I will be posting to my YouTube channel in celebration of the Until the Mountains Fall release on July 2, 2019.

About the Author:

Connilyn Cossette is the CBA bestselling author of the Out from Egypt and Cities of Refuge series. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, was a finalist for the 2017 Christy Award, INSPY Award, and the Christian Retailing’s Best Award. She lives with her husband of twenty-one years and a son and a daughter who fill her days with joy, inspiration, and laughter. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.

Now, if you don’t already know what this book is about, then be sure to catch the summary. This is a wonderful Biblical fiction release and a fantastic series that you should definitely check out!

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 7.20.11 PM.pngAbout the Book:

Recently widowed, Rivkah refuses to submit to the Torah law compelling her to marry her husband’s brother and instead flees Kedesh, hoping to use her talents as a scribe to support herself. Without the protections of her father, Kedesh’s head priest, and the safety of the city of refuge, Rivkah soon discovers that the cost of recklessness is her own freedom.

Malakhi has secretly loved Rivkah for years, but he never imagined his older brother’s death would mean wedding her himself. After her disappearance, he throws himself into the ongoing fight against the Canaanites instead of dwelling on all he has lost. But with impending war looming over Israel, Rivkah’s father comes to Malakhi with an impossible request.

As the enemies that Rivkah and Malakhi face from without and within Israel grow more threatening each day, is it too late for the restoration their wounded souls seek?

You guys. One of the things that I love about Biblical fiction is the hopeful thread of God’s faithfulness which is almost always woven throughout the story. If hope is a thread, then this book is a magnificent tapestry. This is by far one of the most redemptive, uplifting, powerful Biblical fiction novels I have ever read.

Copy of We Love You A Latte!-2If not the most.

This book really showcased the power of love; familial love, a father’s love, romantic love, and the love of God. I so enjoyed watching Malakhi mature from boy, to young man, and to hero. His maturity and honor, even when his honor and respect were not deserved, was refreshing in a main male character.

Although it took me a while to grow to love Rivkah, a few chapters in I was fully invested in her character and in her plight. Her struggle with submitting to God’s will even when His plans were unknown, and later, her struggle with guilt and resentment towards herself when she realized all she had lost by relying solely on herself and not on trusting others and having faith were incredibly relatable.

No Matter that Rivkah had fled Kedesh, lied, ... and who knows what else,AND YOU GUYS. THAT TWIST ON THE VERY LAST PAGE THOUGH.

*I would highly, highly, HIGHLY suggest that you read A Light on the Hill BEFORE picking this book up if you don’t want a major spoiler. Just saying.*

Finally, the story and plot of this book showcased redemption and healing like none other. I enjoyed how this book was a loose re-inventing of the Prodigal Son parable, a story which I have often related with and in different times of my life, have identified both with the son himself and with the jealous brother. While this book is not a Biblical fiction retelling of that story, the parable remains an influence on the plot and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Seriously you guys, this series gets better and better the more books that are released. The first two books in this series are called A Light on the Hill and Shelter of the Most High, both of which I have reviewed previously on the blog. Until the Mountains Fall was a beautiful story, and my favorite in the series by far. I am already marking my calendar for Like Flames in the Night, which will be the final book in the series. I’m expecting an EPIC conclusion!

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Until the Mountains Fall releases on July 2, 2019 and you can pre-order/purchase it by clicking THIS LINK.

You also still have time to read this AND all the other books in the series before Like Flames in the Night releases in 2020. If you’re looking for something to binge this summer, this series is it! Fast-paced, action packed, and FULL of powerful narratives of God’s faithfulness even in the darkest of times.

Now, on to the fun stuff!

You guys, I have TWO fun videos coming to my YouTube channel in celebration of this exciting release! Both are pre-recorded, so if you hear me talking about how my “review will go up soon” just know that I filmed these before I wrote this review!

The first super fun video coming is a READING VLOG! You all loved my last reading vlog for Of Fire and Lions by Mesu Andrews, so I had to bring you one for Until the Mountains Fall! This video goes live on June 21, 2019, so if you’re reading this that means that you can already click over and watch it!

The second video in my series honoring Until the Mountains Fall‘s release is a BOOKS & COOKS video and the second episode in my BOOKS & COOKS series. It’s a series I occasionally do on my channel trying to re-create historically accurate recipes based on or inspired by books. For this episode, I’m attempting to recreate a Lentil Stew inspired by the stew Moriyah made, (and later a stew made by Rivkah) in the Cities of Refuge series. This video will release next Friday, June 28, 2019. Subscribe to my channel to make sure you don’t miss it.

If you’d like to watch the first episode in the BOOKS & COOKS series, making crepes inspired by The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel, then you can certainly watch that in the meantime.

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WHEW!

We finally made it to the end!

That’s all for reviews and announcements this week, you guys. I really hope that you enjoyed reading this review and that you’re as excited about this book as I am. Don’t forget to pre-order/purchase Until the Mountains Fall if you’re interested or add it to your Goodreads TBR.

Keep an eye out here on the blog for more book reviews (subscribe via e-mail if you’d like them delivered straight to your inbox!) and don’t forget to check out those super fun videos as they release as well.

Congratulations to Connilyn Cossette on her release! And until next time,

Happy reading!

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Book Review: One Summer Note by Cleopatra Margot

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Hey everybody! Today I’m bringing you a NEW book review for Cleopatra Margot’s latest release in her Faith to Love series, One Summer Note. This is the sequel to Christmas with Cocoa, which was a charming contemporary Christmas story that I reviewed earlier on my blog. Before we get into THIS review however, let me share with you a little bit about the author.

IMG_1495About the Author:

Cleopatra Margot resides with her family in a small, rural Nebraska town. She and her two siblings are homeschooled, and they consider their dad as the substitute teacher. Since Cleopatra was little, she has loved to write. She has written four full novels, and One Summer Note marks the third to be published.

Times spent with family to play cards/games, eat yummy food, and laugh ’til you cry are held near to her heart.

All of Cleopatra’s novels follow the “criteria” of 1 Corinthians 13:13— “Faith,

Hope, Love. The greatest of these is Love.”

And now for a little bit about the book (because I know that’s the reason you all came here)…

About the Book:

Raelynn “Rae” Masey is moving to Believe, Nebraska, to open up a new coffeeshop. Luke McKay has experienced a devastating loss, and put the Closed sign on his heart for good. But as they work together to bring Rae’s coffeeshop to life, they realize just how much common ground they share. Will the bond Rae and Luke forge be able to overcome past hurts, withstand a father’s questioning and, ultimately, heal both of their hearts?

If this sounds like the kind of book that you would enjoy, then read on for all of my thoughts! And also don’t forget to check out the book trailer for One Summer Note:

Now, finally for the review!!!

One of the things I really loved about this book was the main character of Luke McKay. His sense of humor, wacky metaphors, and gentleman-ly personality was fun to read about. Sure, he’s got some troubled times in his past, but he really grows from those experiences and you can tell how they’ve shaped him into the man he is by the end of the book.

Raelynn was new to me! The McKay siblings previously appeared in Christmas with Cocoa, and I grew to love their family. Just like Rae is skeptical in the book of whether or not she’d be accepted in the fictional town of Believe, I was skeptical of how she’d fit in with the family I’d adored in the previous novel. HOWEVER, Raelynn’s character was such a “Rae” of sunshine in the story, and she was a great addition, as well as a great character to balance Luke’s character. The two characters pushed each towards growth in their faith, and it was interesting to read how their relationship developed.

FrontCoverI’m not going to spoil the ending, but Hallmark movie heroes beware! They have serious competition with Luke McKay. He knows how to pull off a huge surprise and sweep a girl off of her feet, and I think if you enjoy cute, clean, contemporary fiction, there’s a good chance this story will sweep you off of your feet too!

While Christmas with Cocoa is still my favorite of the currently released Faith to Love novels, this was a fun sequel. Not only did I enjoy getting to know Luke McKay and Raelynn Masey, but I also enjoyed seeing how Nate and Robin’s lives have changed since the first book. My personal rating for this one is 3.5/5 stars, because I would have enjoyed reading more about Raelynn’s backstory and how she manages to be so positive all of the time, as well as learning more about her family. Overall, it was a good book and even though contemporary isn’t always my genre of choice, I think fans of the genre would have a good time reading it.

This is a great book to have in your beach-bag this summer as you take your vacations, curl up under the hot summer sun and escape reality for a while to the fictional town of Believe, Nebraska. Those looking for sweet inspirational romance, a little bit of mystery, and a happy ending will find it in One Summer Note.

You can purchase One Summer Note at this link.

You can also find Cleopatra Margot on Instagram and her website.

Happy reading everyone!

Until next time,

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Author Interview: Eliza Noel, Author of Dawn Chandler

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Hey everybody and welcome back to the blog, Reading, Writing, and Living for Jesus! Today I am super excited to be bringing you an interview with author Eliza Noel, whose debut middle grade novel, Dawn Chandler, is releasing THIS WEEK. I had the opportunity to send Eliza an e-mail and ask her about all-things-Dawn, but before we get into that let me give you an introduction to the wonderful author and share all the details about the book and where you can pre-order it!

IMG_1489About the Author:

Eliza Noel is a home school graduate with passion for Jesus, people, and literature. Growing up, her favorite books were always Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, and Pride and Prejudice. Around age twelve she wanted to read something with positive values in a modern setting, but couldn’t find what she was looking for. So she wrote it.

When not doing something book-related (reading, writing, blogging, bookstagramming), Eliza works at her day jobs, spends time with her many younger siblings, longboards, has coffee with friends, eats chocolate, and listens to music. California is home, but she would like to travel more and feels she could learn to be content anywhere.

You can follow her writing journey and see snippets of her everyday life on elizanoelauthor.blogspot.com or by following @elizanoelauthor on social media.

Alright, blogging Jenna has to interrupt here because those were some of my favorite books when I was growing up too!!! 😀 Anyways, back to your regularly scheduled programming…

About the Book:IMG_1490

Dawn Chandler likes the way her life is— or was. She liked going to the mall with her best friend, excelling at middle school, and attending church with her family. Typical life for a twelve-year-old in the city of Fresno.

When Dawn’s parents announced they were going to homeschool her, on her birthday no less, she felt like her world was falling apart. Normal kids are supposed to go to school, not read books at home. To make matters worse, they may be leaving the only home she’s ever known.

What are her parents thinking?

Before making the final moving decision, the Chandler family visits Lone Pine, a small town between Mt. Whitney and Death Valley. While there, Dawn and her siblings become acquainted with their eccentric great uncle, explore the new area, and meet a large homeschooling family. All of this makes the ‘vacation’ more bearable. Still, Dawn isn’t sure if she can make the move and leave everything she’s familiar with behind.

Can Dawn learn the values of faith, family, and contentment?

Okay, now for the fun part! The interview!!! I hope you enjoy the questions and answers! Since I know I have a variety of people who follow my blog (both readers and writers) I tried to balance out some reader-questions as well as some writing-questions. Without further ado, *que the fun intro music* here is the interview!!! You’ll find my questions in bold, and Eliza’s answers in italics.


 1. Tell me about the title character, Dawn Chandler. Are you similar to her in any ways? Different? Dawn is a twelve year old girl who loves her friends and isn’t a fan of change. I’ve been told that she’s the sassier version of me, hahaha. I personally don’t think we’re that similar, but our life experiences are. Kinda. Dawn lives in Fresno and is possibly moving to Lone Pine. I lived in Lone Pine then moved to Fresno around the same age. I think I took the change a bit better than she did 😉 I’m also very much a people-person and I don’t see that in Dawn quite as much. Aw, haha! Well it’s super cool that the story was partly inspired by some real-life experiences, even if you and Dawn do react differently to those! 

2. What made you choose to write her story and set it in Lone Pine? I guess I chose to write Dawn’s story because I wanted to look at my situation (moving from a small town to a big city) from a different viewpoint and see what would happen if I changed things. It’s set in Lone Pine because, like I said, I used to live there. After moving, it took me years to stop missing the charming small town atmosphere and the fond childhood memories I had made there. Writing this book helped me deal with my homesickness and it also came quite naturally because I know the town so well. That is such a great story, and I think it’s incredibly inspiring that your writing helped you work through those emotions. I’d like to think that your book might fall into the hands of a girl experiencing the same thing, and hopefully bless her as much as writing it blessed you!

3. Your book cover is GORGEOUS! Can you tell me about the cover design process? Thank you, I think so too! I messed around with different cover ideas on my own way before I was ready to publish. When it came time to have an official and professional looking cover I messaged a few different art accounts on Instagram. The three things I knew I wanted were a cute drawing of Dawn, at least some Lone Pine scenery, and beautiful hand-lettering. I found several talented artists who could do one or two of those things, but not all three. Eventually, someone recommended Liza Proch so I texted her to see if she was interested in doing it- she was! After that I chose what size the cover needed to be, wrote a description of what I thought I wanted, and sent Liza pictures I found on Pinterest for inspiration. She sent me about a total of three different drafts. Each draft had slight changes, hair color, mountains, fonts…eventually, it was perfect! I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s definitely PERFECT and truly represents the genre.

4. I believe you are self-publishing (correct me if I’m wrong), what are some challenges you’ve faced? Yes, I am! You’re correct. Underestimating how much time various aspects are gonna take, silly formatting mistakes that took me forever to figure out the easy fixes, and the fact that the whole process can feel a little lonely sometimes. I’m still glad I chose this route though! That’s great! I think we’re all a little guilty of underestimating how much time something will take, even outside of writing and publishing, but it’s lovely that you have such a great perspective on it.

5. What are some advantages about self-publishing? What have been some of the best parts of the process? An advantage would be being in control. I hired an editor (Abigayle Claire) who made it so much better than I could have ever made it, but ultimately the decisions were left to me. Same with the cover. I was able to get exactly what I wanted. One of the best parts of the process has been reading the advanced reviews! It’s so rewarding to know people are actually enjoying my story now. Woohoo for great reviews!!! It sounds like the self-publishing path was and is perfect for you.

6. How did you decide that you wanted to write inspirational/Christian fiction? I typically categorize it simply as children’s fiction, but Dawn is a Christian and she grows in her relationship with God. As a Christian I want everything I do (writing included) to glorify my father in heaven. I can’t imagine writing a story without God in it. That’s a great answer! I definitely feel the same way. 🙂

7. How did you incorporate faith into Dawn Chandler? This was something I struggled with a little bit. In an earlier draft, the reader didn’t know much about Dawn’s faith until towards the end when she was suddenly acting like a fairly mature Christian. I did want to show growth, but I didn’t want it to be so sudden. I ended up going back through the beginning and adding a few prayers and thoughts about God here and there to help fix that. I don’t know if that necessarily did, but I hope it answered your question! Oh yeah, definitely! It’s especially interesting hearing about your writing process and how those aspects changed in the various drafts. 

8. Finally, what is your favorite chapter that you wrote in Dawn Chandler, and without spoilers, why is that your favorite? What should readers be looking out for? Any funny/endearing moments? Sweet scenes or surprises? I can’t wait to hear what people say about it! The prologue is actually one of my favorites. It’s the only part not told from Dawn’s perspective. It portrays the craziness of a Sunday morning in a large family. Several of my beta readers said it was truly relatable. I was happy to know my family wasn’t the only one like that, haha! I also especially enjoyed the playful banter that takes place between the main characters and the good old-fashioned fun they have in a chapter about sledding. You can actually read an earlier version of it on my blog here: https://elizanoelauthor.blogspot.com/2019/01/snow-daydawn-chandler-series.html Ooohhh I can’t wait to read it! Yep, you’re definitely not alone! XD I’m ALL FOR the relatable, big family moments!!!

Thanks so much for interviewing me, Jenna! I loved answering all your questions and I’m honored to be featured on your blog ❤ Of course! Congratulations on your upcoming release! I hope we get to see you here on my blog again someday!!!


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Alright, y’all! If you’re ready to pre-order Dawn Chandler, then here is the link to do so!

You can also enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win!!!

I hope you guys take the time to check out this book and support an indie author. If you or someone you know (a mom, a sister, a friend) may enjoy reading this book then please consider sharing it with them. This truly sounds like a wonderful story and a charming start to a great new series for young girls.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and if you’re new here (referred from a friend, or heard about my blog as a part of the blog tour for Dawn Chandler) then it would mean the world to me if you’d pop your e-mail address into that subscription box and subscribe to my blog so you never miss a new post. I’m an inspired writer and an inspirational fiction reader who posts about all things reading, writing, and living for Jesus. If that sounds like your thing, then I’d love to have you a part of the RW&L family.

Until next time,

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Reading, Writing, and Living for Jesus

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Today I felt like it was time for a “proper” introduction post… More than a year after I started blogging!

*Technically* I’ve done an introductory post, but I think that’s just a “blog” thing in general. Your first post you introduce yourself and your blog and what its going to be about, despite the fact that your blog isn’t really about anything yet because you haven’t written it! Yep, I did one of those posts. While it served it’s purpose then of being THE FIRST BLOG POST, I don’t think it really captured the essence of what I want my blog and my platform to be about. So why not do an introduction now, now that I actually have something to introduce?

And if you’ve already been following me for a while, then stick around and read on anyways! You might learn something new about me or the history of my blog that you didn’t already know!

Here goes nothing…

In January of 2016, a lot of things happened to me. I got my first job, I realized that in a matter of months I’d be going away to my first semester of college, I had to start *actually* trying to learn to drive because when I moved to Arizona I was going to need to be able to get myself from the college campus to the nearest Starbucks, preferably legally and without accident.

More importantly however, I began to seriously develop my love for writing. And when I say develop, I mean hone my craft. Start learning and absorbing everything I could about drafting, editing, the publishing industry. I even started writing my own book that year, but it was merely a side-project that I was somehow still convinced would never be more than a hobby.

Well, well, well… A little over a year later, in the spring of 2017, I typed “THE END” on my first novel – if you can even call it that. I’ll spare your the boring and even gruesome details of its plot (it wasn’t good). But that feeling of finishing it was exhilarating, and I knew I wanted to write more. More importantly, I wanted to be published.

I started following “Authortubers,” which are, as the name implies, authors who are also YouTubers and make helpful tutorials and videos about the writing and publication process. Of course, one of the first things that many of these author tubers will tell you is that if you want to be noticed, you need to have a platform.

So, in the summer of 2017 I was even busier. I was getting married, moving to a house in Arizona, getting ready for another year of school, and in the midst of all of this, I made the crazy decision to buy a domain name because there’s no time like the present to start pursuing your dreams.

I didn’t actually launch my blog though. I bought a notebook and started writing down all my ideas, goals, hopes, dreams, anything that came to mind when I thought about “my platform.”

The first thing that I actually did, was create an instagram. I started posting mini book reviews and bookstagram photos, and making friends in the community. Then, after a few months in the spring of 2018, I finally felt confident enough to “go all in.” I set up my website, drafted some blog posts, filmed some YouTube videos – the whole package!!!

When it came around to creating a “brand” I’d always heard that your brand, your tagline, your blog name, whatever it is, should be to the point and specific. It should tell people who you are, what you do, and what makes you unique. I tried to come up with all kinds of crazy names. Stuff that rhymed, stuff that had alliteration, stuff that was catchy.

I felt like I didn’t have a “specific” enough brand. I didn’t want to be just a book blogger. Just a writer. I also wanted to share personal things as well. But every “rule” seemed to say that you had to pick one to be your niche. That’s when I realized… Jesus was the one theme that ran throughout all aspects of what I wanted my brand to be. So that’s what my brand became.

Reading, Writing, and Living for Jesus by Jenna Van Mourik.

So I’d like to introduce you to my blog, which serves exactly that purpose. To share the books I love, Christian Fiction mainly, that contain stories which share and spread God’s love. To write and promote my writing, in which I hope people will also find that same theme of God’s love running throughout. And finally, to share my life, whatever adventures it may contain, and to share how I do my best to live every day according to the way the Bible tells me.

If you like Christian Fiction, this is the place for you.

If you like writing, writing advice, and all the fun creative things that come with that hobby, then this is the place for you.

If you’re interested in my life, love pictures of cute puppies and ranting about little things like crunching leaves in the fall, blowing dandelion dust in the spring, going swimming in the summer, and playing in the snow in the winter, then this is the place for you.

If you love God, this. is. the. place. for. you.

I would be thrilled if you would subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already, and if you are subscribed, would you mind sharing this blog with a friend you think would also enjoy reading? It would make my day.

Of course, if blogs aren’t necessarily your thing, then let me remind you of all the other ways you can keep up with me and my “reading, writing, and living.” If you enjoy watching fun and sometimes humorous videos (i.e. vlogs, book reviews, challenges, and writing tutorials), then you might love my YouTube channel.

For artsy bookstagram photos featuring books you love and probably one to many props leaned up against a monochromatic background, you’ll love my Instagram.

And to keep up with me on a day-to-day basis, then check out my Twitter and my Facebook.

Thanks so much for stopping by and for taking the time to read this ramble-y and somewhat long-winded introduction, even if it did come a little late! I really do appreciate each and every one of you.

Until next time,

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