Thursday, 1 September 2016

Book Review: No One's Bride by Nerys Leigh


Review by Iola Goulton


Mail Order Bride—from a British Author 


I was immediately intrigued when Nerys Leigh emailed me asking if I’d like to review No-One’s Bride, a Christian mail order romance story set in the American West in 1870. I do love a good mail order bride story—but it’s not something I typically see from British authors. Actually, I don’t get a lot of review requests from British authors at all, and I think Nerys is my first from someone with Welsh origins. Okay, I’m making that assumption because my daughter is Cerys (also a Welsh name), and the only Nerys I’ve ever met had Welsh parents. It’s possible her parents named her for Star Trek character Kira Nerys …

Anyway, onto the review


I was initially impressed because the email was exactly targeting on the kinds of books I like to read: Christian fiction, specifically, Christian romance. And I do like a good mail order bride story. Almost as much as a good marriage of convenience story …

I asked Nerys if she could send me a sample so I could decide whether or not No-One’s Bride was something I’d like to read and review. She obliged by sending me the whole book (hey, that was easier than the first couple of chapters), and I’m grateful she did because I read the whole novel in an afternoon, interrupted only to feed the family (who can be positively unreasonable sometimes. Expecting me to feed them).

Orphan Amy Watts lies when she agrees to become a mail order bride. She has no intention of marrying Adam Emerson, the bank and post office clerk from a tiny town in Northern California. She only knows she wants to go to San Francisco—as far away as possible from her rich, influential and lecherous New York employer.

Adam has prayed for God to bring him a wife, and he is overjoyed at his first sight of Amy—she is beautiful. He’s also pleased to find out she’s a likeable person—until she confesses that she doesn’t want to marry him. But she’s going to do the honourable thing and stay in town long enough to pay him back the money he spent in bringing her here.

While Amy was a great character and I fully understood her motive for her inappropriate behaviour, it was Adam who caught my attention. He’s the perfect gentleman, the perfect romance hero (if he has a fault, it is perhaps that he has no faults. Hey, it’s 1870 and the guy can cook and do laundry!).

I very much liked the Christian content—Adam and Amy each had a strong Christian faith, and this showed consistently throughout the book. I thought the writing was strong, especially for a debut author, and I especially liked the humour sprinkled throughout:



Amy was one of five mail order brides delivered to the tiny town of Green Hill Creek, and I think the remaining novels in the Escape to the West series will be the stories of the other four women.

Overall, No One’s Bride is an excellent debut novel, and I’m now looking forward to the next book in the series—Sara’s story. And waiting for Jo’s story because of what wasn’t said …

Recommended for fans of Christian historical romance from authors such as Mary Connealy, Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Carol Cox, Jen Turano and Lucy Thompson.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. If you'd like to learn more about Nerys Leigh, pop over to Iola's Christian Reads tomorrow for an interview.

It's release week and I'm feeling generous ... leave a comment today, and I'll pick one commenter to win a Kindle copy of No One's Bride. Winner will be chosen 10:00 am Monday 5 September, New Zealand time. 


About Iola Goulton


I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at www.christianediting.co.nz to download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more atwww.iolagoulton.com.

You can also find me on:
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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

DEVOTION: (In)Secure



The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with loving kindness." Jeremiah 31: (NASB) 


I tend to do a lot of travel, both domestically and internationally for work. And I love it. Really love it because I get to see new places and meet new people and people are fascinating, aren’t they? I could sit and people watch for hours, which I often do, choosing to do majority of my writing in cafes because you know, coffee. And coffee is manna from heaven, just in liquid form, so how can you pass that up? But I digress, so let’s get back to the people.

On my various trips I’ve been able to observe people in their natural habitat and the one thing I encounter almost everywhere I go is insecurity. A lot of people are insecure, and I mean A LOT of people. It doesn’t matter their background or whether they are rich, poor, tall, short, an executive or a cleaner, insecurity has managed to hook its claws into so many people and put doubt into their hearts and minds. It’s sad. It’s also very familiar because for so long, that was me. Occasionally, it still is me.

Growing up, I wasn’t really good at any one thing. I didn’t do great at school, wasn’t good at sports, wasn’t creative and found that friends came and went. I was never super cool or someone that drew a crowd. Am I amusing? Yes. Quirky? Yes. All-round awesome chic? Most definitely. (My modesty and humility is mind blowing, I know) but I was never that girl that stood out in a crowd. Throw in the absence of a Prince Charming (I’m convinced he is stuck in a tree somewhere trying to rescue some injured bird because he is just amazing like that), and it all made me feel somewhat lacking.

But then, Jesus.

It took me a while to really grasp God’s love for me. I still struggle with it, and I probably always will, but I’ll take it. I’ll take it because it is where my insecurity quietens down. In His love, I find my worth and identity. Where society tells me that I need to look a certain way, His love tells me that I am beautiful as I am. Where the world tells me that I need to act in a certain way, or achieve wealth and prestige, His love tells me that I need just be still because I have inherited all the riches of the earth through Jesus. Where the world, and occasionally the church, tells me that I am incomplete until I’m married and have my own family, He tells me that His love is more than enough for me. And it is. His love is more than enough.

Do I still get insecure? Yes. I think we all do, really, because some voices are louder than others and at times those voices, the ones that try to convince us that we need to fit the mold, are really loud and they make it hard to hear His gentle whisper. But all we need to do is sit still at His feet, and wait. He will turn up. He always does and when He does, His love will wash away everything else. We just need be still, lean in and listen to His sweet, quiet voice.

We all wear different, and at times multiple, hats; mother father, sibling, spouse, writer, publisher, editor, cashier, carer, receptionist, and so on and so on. The list is endless and each hat comes with it's own demands; each hat brings with it an insecurity of some sort that starts to niggle it's way into our thoughts. And that is okay, let it come, but let it go just as quickly. Let it go and hold onto the truth, and that is that you are His Masterpiece and you are enough. You are His beloved and He smiles down from Heaven at you.

So here is my prayer for you, for me, for all of us; I pray that we feel God’s love in a new and profound way, a way that changes us from the inside out. I pray that His love just overflows into our heart and spirit that we can’t help be be overwhelmed. And I pray that as we receive His perfect love, we can’t help but go forth and pour it out onto a world that is hurting and broken.


My Photo

Leila Halawe is a Sydney based coffee loving nonfiction writer and blogger. She has published a short devotional, Love By Devotion, shares her life via her blog page Looking In. You can connect with her via Facebook at Leila Halawe Author and via Twitter at Leila Halawe


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Why Social Media? Part 2

In Why Social Media? Part 1 we talked about the individuality of social media and today I’d like to explore how we can utilise our social media presence for sales.

As we talked about in Part 1, social media works because we bring our individual selves to the social media table. It’s here that we get to share our thoughts, plans, achievements and even our businesses.

As soon as we include business we have to tread carefully, just as we would when we’re sitting at a dinner party with friends. Just as we might figuratively roll our eyes at that friend who seems to monopolises the conversation with their new business we have to understand that the same applies within our social media circles.

We are generally more than happy to support our friends and this is obvious as we ‘like’ and ‘share’ each other’s stories through social media. When our friends have businesses we often recommend them to others and as a community we support worthy causes just as easily.

The level of relationship that we have with that friend at the dinner party dictates whether we are annoyed by them discussing the status of their passion or happy to hear how things are going and decide how we might support them or even buy from them.

Within our social media circles it works the same. We want to hear from our friends but less interested to be bombarded by businesses who only want to sell something! This notion of selling suddenly becomes relative.

If a friend sells gym bags and we buy one, do we feel as if they were ‘selling’ to us? Likely not but we might feel that way if that same friend sends us a generic email every day telling us that we should buy one.

Our presence on social media allows for countless opportunities to sell our products or services but the key point is that our aim should be to sharing (selling) ourselves.

Our business page or profile page, depending on which way we have decided to brand our product, must seek friends first.

Gather friends, invite interested people into your social media friendship circle, share about your life, your dreams, your writing, your books, your services, what causes you believe in and even what you 
stand for.

Casually interested people become interested, interested people become friends, friends support each other and that support turns into sales.


Kathy Smail, after her family roles, is a Communicator who loves the impact of words and is 
working on a novel, when she can drag herself away from reading. Her previous role as the Social Media Manager for a national retailer and various roles in Corporate Affairs, Marketing, Human Resources and Learning & Development has fed her passion for getting the message across. 


She can be found chatting:
Facebook: Kathy Smail Social Marketing Business
Twitter: @KathySmail
Instagram: kathysmail_social_marketing
The Web: www.kjs.com.au

Monday, 29 August 2016

Why Social Media? Part 1

Social Media is a gift!


It can be an incredibly rewarding gift but can often feel awkward and clunky like a toddler trying to wear their mother’s high heels, even with the big grin on their face.

Social media gets a bad rap for making us feel as if we have to manage something akin to trying to dress that wriggling toddler however, embracing the ‘why’ of social media before the ‘how’ can be incredibility liberating.

So ‘why’ social media?

Let’s look at what it is. Social media is a ridiculously broad term for many hundreds of sites, platforms and apps which enables users to connect, engage, and share information.

It’s important that we make the point that promotion or sales are not necessarily the reason why most of us use social media. One could argue that social media platforms are all about self-promotion and the popularity for selfies as well as the rise in photo sharing, particularly of staged meals photo would likely support that thought.

Some 1.57 billion people are listed as having a Facebook profile and that doesn’t include the many pages that we also own. These may be for businesses, charities, community groups or for a group of friends who like to keep in touch in a quieter space.

Quieter spaces are hard to find in our busy world but social media gives us space to be ourselves, or a version of ourselves (if we wish, but that’s another article!). We get the chance to show off our children, connect with like-minded people across the world, argue a point, learn from others, increase our areas of influence and do it all from our couch. The Sensis Social Media Report for 2016 shows us that 26% of Australians check their social media sites more than 5 times a day and another 24% at least once a day. So half of us are using social media sites every single day.

I’d like to suggest that the ‘why’ of social media is that our platforms are an extension of us- our hearts, our dreams and our lives. We are individuals connecting with other individuals. A spider’s web of connecting fibres across the world to places that we might only ever dream of travelling to.

The more connected that we are to others, the more influential we become and the more influenced we can be.

It’s the power of influence that is the ‘why’ of social media.

In Why Social Media? Part 2 we’ll talk further about how to use the ‘why’ of social media turns into sales on social media.

Kathy Smail, after her family roles, is a Communicator who loves the impact of words and is 
working on a novel, when she can drag herself away from reading. Her previous role as Social Media Manager for a national retailer and various roles in Corporate Affairs, Marketing, Human Resources and Learning & Development has fed her passion for getting the message across. 


She can be found chatting:
Facebook: Kathy Smail Social Marketing Business
Twitter: @KathySmail
Instagram: kathysmail_social_marketing
The Web: www.kjs.com.au

Friday, 26 August 2016

More than just Comic Relief


I shared another version of this post on my own blog some time ago. I thought I'd share it here too.

What are your feelings toward the characters whose role seems to be mostly to provide comic relief? In older times, they would have been known as jesters, clowns and fools. Nowadays, they tend to be laughed off, when readers say something like, 'He was good for a few moments of light distraction, but the hero was far more complex.' Well, today I want to suggest that these guys and girls provide far more than we ever give them credit for.

Late last year, I read a YA philosophical novel by Jostein Gaarder, entited, The Solitaire Mystery. As part of the fantasy element, an island populated by a deck of cards comes to life. Members of the four suits tend to stick together and automatically assume the roles they're born to fulfill, such as baker, confectioner, gardener or silversmith. Only the joker stands apart, wandering around the island freely, since he doesn't really belong anywhere specific. This guy is one of the sharpest and most admirable characters in the story. He doesn't really fit in to his society, but decides he wouldn't really want to anyway. He would have to sacrifice his freedom of observation, and give up his habit of forming his own conclusions about the nature of the world, and that would be too high a price for him to pay.

Being treated with contempt or brushed off by others is something the joker has learned to just shrug off as part of the deal. In the part of the story that takes place in the normal world, the young hero's Dad collects jokers from decks of cards. In several instances, he taps random card players on the shoulders and asks if they'd mind giving him their jokers. In many cases, they say, 'Sure,' and hand them over without another thought, as they're deemed fairly worthless. Hans Thomas' Dad flips through his impressive collection and tells his son, 'You do get people thinking you're weird, but it's well worth it.' Then Hans Thomas realises that his intelligent, philosophical and original Dad identifies with the joker in the card decks. He decides, 'I want to be a joker too.'

As I read the book, I realised I've probably always known this deep down. Shakespeare knew it too, as his variety of jesters and fools show. There's Falstaff, Touchstone, Puck, Costard, Feste, and the list goes on. Even though other characters in the plays disparage and insult them, it's clear that their wit is sharp as knives and they see things others miss.

The day I finished reading 'The Solitaire Mystery', I was watching the Adelaide Christmas Pageant on TV with my youngest son. As I switched my attention between the TV screen and the book, the behaviour of the clowns stood out to me with fresh significance. They rush around, weaving between floats, having fun and generally making people smile. The kids in the audience grin at them, but probably don't get the significance of the ancient tradition the clowns are part of. Those guys are free to roam along the length of the pageant course, taking in more sights than other story book characters who are stuck with their own floats. They are just like the joker on the island. Their weird get-up, the bright, frizzy hair, floppy shoes and painted faces no doubt originally set them aside as weirdos and non-conformists. The fact that it's become their universally recognised uniform may show that deep down, we all hanker for their free spirited lives.

Now that my eyes were opened for it, I came across more blasts from popular culture, emphasing all this. Think of the lyrics of John Lennon's 'Fool on the Hill'. It says, 'Nobody wants to know him, but the fool on the hill, sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head, see the world spinning round.'

For anyone who wants to get serious about studying their Bible, it doesn't take long to figure out that many of the Old Testament prophets were regarded by others as jesters, clowns and fools. Think of Ezekiel, lying on his side and cooking over his coals of dung, or Jeremiah, buying real-estate in a doomed city and writing prophecies the king burned without a thought. Since they knew that was how they were regarded, it doesn't seem sacrilegious to compare them to the other fools I've been talking about. In fact, mentioning them might even bring a sort of holy dignity to the role others have held in the centuries since.

When he was 16 years old, I took my oldest son to an appointment with his allergist at the hospital, and a couple of free-roaming clowns from the Starlight Foundation decided to make a spectacle of him in the waiting room. While he face-palmed, they went through the motions of writing out a little postcard for him.

'Now, how do you spell Logan?'

'Just the usual way,' he mumbled.

They shouted out across the huge waiting room, 'Hey, is anyone else here called Logan? Are there any Xs or Zs or Qs in it? We know he's a teenager, and teenagers are smarter than us, so we've got to get it right.'

In the end, even he had to laugh.

So here's to smart fellows like them, who are not really fools at all, but astute and far-sighted, often with more real insight and wisdom than the average person. I enjoy it when authors are smart enough to weave them into their plots. I wouldn't mind being a joker either.

Free image courtesy of Pixabay
 


Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, you may like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review where she also interviews other authors.

 

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Book Review Kingdom of the Air by C.T.Wells


Blurb

It's 1940. The Battle of Britain has begun. A young Messerschmitt pilot is shot down over Dartmoor. He tries to evade a manhunt, knowing that if he is captured by the British, his war will be over. But when Josef Schafer falls into the hands of a sinister agent of the Special Operations Executive, his troubles have only begun. He is returned to occupied France having made an impossible deal with the British. As the air war escalates, Josef is in danger in the sky and on the ground. His allegiances are tested as he is torn between loyalty to his Luftwaffe comrades and a French woman whom he is compelled to serve. The stakes are high. Whoever controls the sky above the English Channel will decide the fate of nations.






My Review

I found this story well written, gripping and fast-paced. It was interesting to read a totally different genre to my usual list of ‘to reads’.  I’m not usually a war story fan, but this book has much to recommend it. The main character is a Nazi, so I was impressed by the author’s ability to make Josef a young man I could empathise with and like. The morality and conflicts of war are handled very sensitively and evenly, so that it is easy to feel the pain and struggle of people on either side of the battle, and also to grasp the truth of evil residing in both sides.

Being a fan of historical fiction, I liked the grounding of this story in real events, and even though the events and issues involved in a world war are hard ones to reflect on, they are certainly issues to be learned from.  I think the author handles this well. There is quite a lot of detail about airplanes, air battles, bombing and combat scenes, which suggests an impressive amount of research or knowledge by the writer. While I found myself hurrying though some of those pages, I couldn’t help but feel the fear and tension that this aspect of war evokes, and thought it was appropriate for the story. War scenes are naturally going to be emotive, but these were not overly graphic and were compelling parts of the story.
While this is not a typical romance, in fact far from it, there is a love story at the heart of this story, one which has a great influence on the main characters’ behaviour and future, and one which begs a sequel. Those who prefer to read romances with all the usual elements might be disappointed. Josef does not meet Giselle, a French woman committed to the resistance movement, until halfway through the book. Nevertheless, Giselle is a complex and engaging young woman and the relationship between these two, while unlikely given their loyalties, is one that I found intriguing and touching. The internal conflicts are as real and well written as the external ones.

This could not be called an overtly Christian novel, but the issues raised and the decisions which have to be made by the characters, will cause a reader to question their own values and attitudes. I thought this a very positive aspect of the writing. 

I look forward to a sequel to this story and would recommend it to anyone interested in historical issues, and in deep, life-changing conflicts. I’m not at all surprised that The Kingdom of the Air was winner of the Caleb Prize for Unpublished Fiction in 2014 and winner of the Clive Cussler Adventure Writer's Competition. 



Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Her earlier novels Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream have been re-released by EBP.  Next of Kin, was released by Rhiza Press in 2015 and the sequel, Beyond the Fight, was released in April  this year. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, FB author page or Amazon author page.    




Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Back to the beginning?


I’ve struggled with this post – struggled with my purpose, my pride, my willingness to be completely open. But this is all I have.

A few months ago I knew why I write; 
Because it is a ministry and God uses it.  My greatest joy is in seeing the ‘God moments’ when people are drawn to Him in any way. 

Dedication to my friend
Like the school acquaintance I dedicated my first book to. My protagonist was based on her. After reading the novel she went from being a skeptic to having the beginnings of faith in God and praying daily.

But my husband became unwell and last month was diagnosed with a rare brain disease. That same friend with her newfound faith rang me up, drunk, in tears.
‘How can you believe in God now?’ she demanded amidst a few other choice words. ‘You’ve given your whole life to Him and this is what He does to do. What kind of God is He, if He even exists?’

The rant continued as I tried to give calm, quiet answers. 
‘Don’t be angry with God on my behalf,’ was all I could beg her. ‘I have peace. Rob has peace. God helps us grow stronger through things like this.’

Visiting Rob in hospital in July
‘But Rob’s going to die!’

‘We all are. But if we know Jesus we live forever with Him. Rob’s looking forward to that.’

‘So you’re saying you don’t care if your husband dies and leaves you with those four kids who need their Dad?’

‘No, I’d be completely devastated. But I’ll have God and I have peace that it will all be okay.’

‘Well you’re stupid, Jen. I can’t understand it. It makes no sense. ‘

‘I know it doesn’t make sense in our human thinking. God’s peace isn’t something we can understand. It goes deeper than our understanding.’

She couldn’t get it. She swore at me, insulted me, and with words that cut me to the core, she turned her back on God. And my heart broke. 

What is the use? Have I failed?
The joy I had at the way God had worked and used my books was shattered. Wasn’t the message in them clear enough? - the message that God allows suffering for a reason and that He loves us unconditionally? Where had I gone wrong? Had God ever used my books at all, or would all my readers come to the same point of disbelief in a crisis?

More than human minds comprehend
Then once again God reminded me of the bigger picture. I thought I was writing so people could come to know and love God. What if it is so much more than that?

I thought of Jesus. The people of the day thought He was there to be an earthly king and rescue them in the way they understood their need to be rescued. But God’s plan was so much greater.

So much more than expected!
I have to stop looking at what God does through my human eyes and values. His ways are not my ways, nor His thoughts my thoughts. Just as my friend was thinking with human perspective, so often I do, too.

I thought I’d come so far, but I’ve gone back to the beginning. With my husband’s illness I can no longer continue my work as a primary school chaplain and don’t have the money to self-publish any more. I write because I’m feeling broken and writing to me is like breathing. I need a big, deep breath of fresh air. I need to pour it all out to God and once more let my writing be my relationship with Him, not my ministry FOR Him.

Hiding my mouth at 12
Psalm 62:8 (NIV)
‘Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.’

- For me, this is how it began. A broken, lost, misunderstood teenager who could never find the words when face to face with someone; who found God there, ready to listen as she wrote and poured her heart out to Him. 

And He is here again. Closer than ever before, sharing my heart, my hurts, my life. In the brokenness He is there. In the confusion, He makes sense. In my fear He brings me peace. When will I learn to walk this closely with Him in the times of joy and perceived achievement in ministry? Why does it take heartbreak to return me to my first love – to the shelter of His arms?

I write because He is alive!
I don’t know the answers, but I do know He loves me just as I am. He loves me enough to be there when I fail, when those I wanted to draw to Him turn their backs, when it hurts, … always, forever. I am His and I will continue to pour my heart out to Him, for He Is my refuge. I write because I breathe, and I breathe for Him, because He is alive and He loves me no matter what.
And my story, God’s story, isn’t finished yet. Maybe I haven’t gone back to the beginning … maybe I’m somewhere in the middle at the crisis point. All I know is that the end will be satisfying and greater than I can ever imagine.

This is my prayer for you and for me; In our short time on this earth, may every word that flows from our hearts and out our mouths or onto paper or screen, bring us closer to our Saviour Jesus and fill Him with joy.


Jenny Glazebrook lives in the country town of Gundagai with her husband, Rob and 4 children along with many pets. She is the published author of 7 novels, 1 traditionally published, and 6 self published. She writes because words burn within her. She is an experienced inspirational speaker and loves to encourage others to walk closer with God and hear His voice each day. She has a Diploma of Theology and has been a CALEB finalist 3 times.
For more information go to her website: www.jennyglazebrook.com