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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Favorite Book Covers – Historical

Today on my YouTube channel I’m starting a new SERIES. Yes, that’s a series of videos that I’m absolutely positive you book lovers will adore! I was inspired by my friend Alysha from the blog For The Love of Christian Fiction, who has done a similar series over on her YouTube channel, to share my favorite book covers of all time.

HOWEVER, I quickly realized that there were way too many for just one video. Like her, I’m going to be publishing several, separated by genre. All of them will be going up in this coming week. There are three parts, and as you know, I post to YouTube on Wednesdays and Fridays. One video went up today, another will go up on Friday, and the final video will be going up next Wednesday!

I can’t wait for you all to see them, but for now, here’s the first video in the series featuring my favorite HISTORICAL FICTION book covers!

Up next, Biblical fiction, followed by contemporary! I hope you all enjoy watching this series as much as I enjoyed filming them. Don’t forget to hit the like button if you enjoyed the video, and subscribe to my YouTube channel if you haven’t already. It really does help a creator out and enables them to bring you more of the content you love! #SupportGoodContent #SupportGoodBlogs

Until next time,

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“Jerusalem’s Queen” by Angela Hunt

IMG_7008Jerusalem’s Queen is the latest installment of Angela Hunt’s “The Silent Years” series, and what I believe is the series’ crowning glory.

From the back cover,

Born in the small village of Modein, a town made famous by the warrior Maccabees, Salome Alexandra knows better than to harbor grand dreams for her future. She pales in comparison to her beautiful older sister, and though she learns to read at an early age, girls are not valued for their intellectual ability. But when her father and sister are killed, John Hyrcanus, a distant relative, invites Salome and her mother to live with his family in Jerusalem, where her thirst for knowledge is noticed and indulged.

When her guardian betroths her to a pagan prince, she questions HaShem’s plan. When Hyrcanus finally marries her to a boy half her age, she questions her guardian’s sanity. But though Salome spends much of her life as a pawn ordered about by powerful men, she learns that a woman committed to HaShem can change the world.

Maybe I’m just the person who almost always likes the sequels and the remakes better than the originals, and maybe that’s an objectionable opinion, but you can’t deny that progress comes with the passage of time. I have enjoyed this book’s predecessors Egypt’s Sister and Judah’s Wife, but I must say this third book is by far my favorite.

I was able to listen to the audiobook version of this through Audible, and it was SO compelling. I felt just as unsure as Salome Alexandra did in the story with each turn of the page and closing of the chapters. This book definitely kept me guessing what was going to happen next, and, like all of the other books in the series, has motivated me to dig deeper into my own personal Bible study to find where the fiction meets fact.

I am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

Like. Literally.

I can NOT wait for more!!!

If you liked this book too and you want me to keep making more reviews, then be sure to share this one and invite others to follow my blog! Also, let me know what release your anticipating! If you’re like me, there’s a thousand books that you’re just waiting to be released in stores. Honestly, you’d better order the books in this series STAT because you won’t want to miss anymore of Angela Hunt’s books!

King’s Shadow by Angela Hunt, Book #4 in the Silent Years series, releases August 6, 2019.

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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