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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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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Book Spotlight: Becoming Us by Robin Jones Gunn

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About the Book:

From the author of the best-selling Christy Miller and Sisterchicks series comes a refreshing novel that celebrates the gift of friendship.

Five young women, including beloved Gunn characters Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen, gather for a simple Christmas party and soon become unlikely best friends. Told from the viewpoint of Emily, a timid young mom going through a difficult season of life, the regular gatherings provide the much needed community she’s longed for. As the women begin sharing their life stories in Becoming Us they are endeared to each other and find ways to challenge, encourage, and help each other become the nurturing mothers they wished they’d had when they were growing up. They see themselves as Haven Makers and unite to be remembered for what they do and not for what was done to them.

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Haven’t heard of the Christy Miller series? (psst… It’s okay! Until I started book blogging, I’d never heard of them either! Shh! Don’t tell!) What rock have you been living under! The Christy Miller series is a series of books following – you guessed it – Christy Miller, from her whimsical teenage years, through college, and all the way through adulthood as she face’s life’s challenges and embraces its many blessings. There are TWENTY, yes, you read that right, TWENTY books in the series, so if this kind of thing sounds like something you’d enjoy, you’ll be able to enjoy it for a longgg time!

 

About the Author:

Robin Jones Gunn has written over 100 books with sales of over 5.5 million copies sold worldwide. She and her husband have two grown children and live in Hawai’i.

Her best-selling Father Christmas novels have been made into 3 Hallmark Movies. Get a behind the scenes look in her book, “How My Book Became a Movie”.

Robin’s best-selling, award winning novels include the Christy Miller series for teens as well as the Sierra Jensen and Katie Weldon series. The characters in these series continue in Christy & Todd: The College Years, The Married Years, The Baby Years and in The Haven Makers series. More details at http://www.ChristyMiller.com

The Glenbrooke series by Robin features 8 gentle love stories and her Christy Award winning Sisterchicks(R) novels are a book club favorite. Her popular non-fiction titles include “Victim of Grace”, “Praying For Your Future Husband”, co-authored with Tricia Goyer and “Spoken For”, co-authored with Alyssa Joy Bethke.

Becoming Us, the blending of new characters and the continuation of old favorites, releases May 7, 2019. So… SOON! Head on over and purchase a copy at this link.

There are sooo many new, fantastic releases coming up this year and I can’t wait to share about all of them with you!

Until next time,

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P.S. – I received a copy of this book from Waterbrook & Multnomah, in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinions, all thoughts are my own.

Favorite Book Covers of ALL TIME

If you aren’t subscribed to my YouTube channel then there is a very good chance that you didn’t see my latest book series, called “Favorite Book Covers.” The idea is pretty self-explanatory. A list of my favorite book covers. Although, I didn’t come up with this video series idea on my own. Alas, I have to thank Alysha from the blog For the Love of Christian Fiction, who is a both gifted genius of a blogger and a glittering gem of a friend!

I shared the first part of this series on my blog but I never got around to sharing the others. Since I didn’t have a blog post yesterday (Sorry! So far I’ve only been able to maintain my blogging schedule every other week, without problems! Moving to CA has definitely caused my life to go a little bit crazy…), I thought I’d remind you that I’ve got this content on my YouTube channel for you to enjoy instead.

  1. Favorite Book Covers in HISTORICAL FICTION:
  2. Favorite Book Covers in BIBLICAL FICTION:
  3. Favorite Book Covers in CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN FICTION:

Y’all. I love book covers. So much.

REMINDER: I’m SOOOOoooooOOOOO close to reaching TWO. HUNDRED. SUBSCRIBERS. on my YouTube channel, so if you could make sure that you’re subscribed if you haven’t already, that would seriously help me out. Thanks in advance! I plan on doing something special when I finally reach that goal 😉 😉 😉

Until next time,

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How to Write a Book: My First Writing Series

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WOW! First of all, a humongous thank you to all of you who have shared such wonderful responses to my first writing “series” on my YouTube Channel. For those of you who DON’T know, I started a new posting schedule. I post new book reviews here on my blog on Mondays, book-fun videos on my channel on Fridays, and writing videos to my channel on Wednesdays (Get it? Writing? Wednesdays? WRITING WEDNESDAYS? Ok. Enough fun with alliteration).

For my first few writing videos, I did a series on how to write your book. That is, how to plan to write your book. You know I’m a big outliner. I need all the details planned out! Lot’s of you guys ask me about my process, because you’re interested in outlining as well.

I finally shared it with you! The first three major steps of how I’ve outlined my book and book series, PLUS FREE DOWNLOADABLE TEMPLATES available for YOUR use! Just head on over to the RESOURCES page here on my website and you’ll find downloads for character profiles, outlines, and more!

Here’s the series all in one place, just in case you’d like to get started now, as you’re reading this:

  1. How I outline my books (video + template):
    1. Video:
    2. Template Download: Click HERE to download the FREE template for outlining your novel.
  2. How I profile my characters (video + template):
    1. Video:
    2. Template Download: Click HERE to download the FREE character profile template.
  3. How I created my series “bible” (video + template):
    1. Video:
    2. Template Download: Click HERE to download the FREE template for creating a series bible.

I hope these resources help you all, and if you have any requests for future content, please let me know. Until then, happy writing!

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Review: True by S. E. Clancy

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You all know about my *near* obsession with Biblical fiction. Let’s face it, the genre dominates my blog! No shame in that, everybody has their favorite books, tropes, genres, character types… You name it!

Now, you also know that I struggle with the contemporary genre. Like, a lot. I know a lot of AMAZING contemporary authors, I’ve read and loved some truly inspired works of contemporary fiction, but it’s not my go to. It’s also not the genre I immediately gravitate towards, so I’m very picky when it comes to which contemporary stories I will and won’t pull off the shelves.

So why this contemporary? Well, when S.E. Clancy reached out to me on Instagram and asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing her contemporary retelling of Rahab’s story, True, I was intrigued! I’ve only ever read one other contemporary retelling of a Biblical story, and I LOVED it. Ever since I’ve been trying to figure out why more of this unique sub-genre doesn’t exist! When I heard the plot of the novella, how could I refuse? It was exactly what I was looking for!

And let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint. Even in only a hundred pages, the redemptive power of God is abundantly clear. The symbolism, the characters, the message of faith and the grace of God are found all throughout.

Like others have said, the limited number of pages is anything but a weakness for Clancy. The author gives each page – no, each paragraph – a purpose. Even though it’s a story you know, I guarantee you’ll be flipping the pages waiting to see what happens next.

Interested in exploring this genre for yourself? Pre-order True today!

Until next time,

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*Disclaimer – I received a copy from the author, for the purpose of reviewing. This has in no way affected my opinions. Also, this book is a contemporary retelling of Rahab, the prostitute from the Bible whose faith in God saved her during the battle of Jericho. Readers should be advised that this book deals with and alludes to heavy topics and thematic elements that have to do with prostitution and war.