Do you have a Bible collection? I certainly do. My dear late husband once told me I was a Bible junkie or at the very least had an issue with collecting them. He agreed that was in reality not a problem because I used them. Depending on the situation, a unique Bible type or version might be needed.
Have you ever heard of verse mapping scripture? Recently a friend invited me to new group she had started just for that. I baffled. What is this new to me study method? My mind jumped to cross-referencing and the Scofield Reference Bible. Wrong! Verse mapping is nothing close to that.
It is a method to really jump into a scripture and dig deep into its meaning. Discovering not only the author and year it was written, but how and to whom. Defining some of the English words back to the original Greek or Hebrew is eye opening. That is one of my favorite parts of the verse study.
There is a plethora of help on-line for beginnings. Many sites have free downloadable forms. The above is from outuponthewaters.com. I have found some instructions, templates, and other resources. Basically, all you really need is a journal or notebook, set of colored pens, and Bibles. If you only have one Bible, the Internet provides other translations.
Using Colossians 3:23, above is a comparison of just a few different translations. They are very similar yet slightly different. Verse mapping makes note of that.
If you are drawn to scripture and learning like I am, this might be for you. Everything I read said to pray first for guidance. Shouldn’t we do that anyway? Then choose your scripture. From here you will need a template or blank page to begin.
This is a new journey for me, and I have found it exciting. There are a few verses in the Bible that I do not fully grasp. Those scriptures will be on the top of my list to map. What verse would you like to really learn?
I would love to hear from you. Are you a verse mapper? Would you share any tips with us? Tell us how it has increased your faith or changed your walk.
“Trail to Forgiveness” by author Cheri Swalwell is the third book in her Contemporary Christian “The Redemption of Green Pines” series. I have read and enjoyed the other two, but this one is by far my favorite of the three. It is a powerful story that really moved me.
This is the story of Youth Pastor Jace, a widower with children still struggling to life a normal life. It is also the story of Holly, a Youth Ministry volunteer. Holly has loved the children for years and wants nothing more than to help them through this harrowing time. There are so many secondary characters and storylines, too.
The book immediately caught my attention from the beginning. It had so much action and mystery. I was invested in the story and the lives of the characters. With real life trials and consequences, this is a story which could happen to one of our friends. The Christian life is not white-washed but portrayed in realistic scenarios with well rounded, lifelike characters. God is glorified throughout the story and many questions are answered.
I love author Swalwell’s easy, storytelling style. Her fiction and non-fiction flow easily at a smooth pace. This book did as well. Modern issues are tackled with eyes wide opened. I appreciated that things that confront people in today’s world are brought to light through Christian eyes. Some of these unsavory actions are heartbreaking and have stayed with me long after finishing the book.
After reading this novel, I wanted to be a better person and to help others more. Lessons on forgiveness, trust, love, redemption, and bullying are broached with emotional resolution. These characters became like friends as took the journey with them. I think this would make an enlightening group study or book club choice.
There is mystery, light romance, drama, and family situations in this poignant, faith filled book. If you like family series, this one is perfect for you. I would recommend reading the books in order because the story builds. This book gets a 5 star rating and a high recommendation from me. A copy was provided by Celebrate Lit but these are my honest words.
About the Book
Book: Trail to Forgiveness
Author: Cheri Swalwell
Genre: Women’s Contemporary Christian Fiction
Release date: March 9, 2021
Even though he knew most of the pictures and accusations were planted, and false, people’s perceptions of what happened is what would decide Jace’s fate, not the facts themselves.
When it comes to dating, Holly has never settled…and she’s not going to start now with something as important as marriage. Jace lives with the weight of failing his wife, Simone, and refuses to repeat history. So, when Holly and Jace tentatively move toward a dating relationship, they know it won’t be as easy the second time around.
Rumors and lies about an affair spread in the church which could jeopardize Jace’s career and their reputations. In the midst of their own problems, they discover an even bigger threat trying to destroy the youth group.
What happens when evil is allowed to spread unchecked? It takes the skills of an undercover cop to reveal the sinister plot seeking to gain control of the entire church.
Will Holly and Jace find God’s trail to forgiveness…or are some actions deemed unforgiveable?
If you like wholesome fiction with a faith-filled message, step out with Trail to Forgiveness, Book 3 of The Redemption of Green Pines series today…to find out if Jace’s career and their love can survive.
Cheri Swalwell is a Christ follower who thoroughly enjoys her calling to be a wife, mother, writer and speaker, in that order. Cheri loves to encourage people through her fiction series and many nonfiction books including devotionals, Bible studies, and compilation books. For a full list of books visit www.cheriswalwell.com. If you want to sign up to her newsletter to stay updated on all the latest news, you will also receive a free gift as her way of saying thanks for joining! To read one of her many articles on life from a Christian perspective, visit her blog at http://www.cheriswalwell.com. She loves to interact with her readers, so send her an email at clSwalwell99@gmail.com. You can “like” her on Facebook as well here or join Heart Speaks with Cheri Swalwell, a private Facebook group where we encourage each other and share life together.
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Journey Back Home, Book 2 in The Redemption of Green Pines, was supposed to be a stand alone book. When I finished writing it, I realized there was so much more to the community of Green Pines, and also so much more to Holly. Who was Holly? Why was she able to help Jace through his grief? What brought her to Green Pines?
As a result, I wrote a prequel to Journey Back Home, sharing with readers Holly’s story which became Book 1, Adventure’s Invitation. That book shares the backstory of Holly and her family and I highly recommend reading it. It will make Trail to Forgiveness, Book 3 in The Redemption of Green Pines, that much more meaningful when you get to spend more time with Holly’s family!
Trail to Forgiveness picks up literally two hours after Journey Back Home ends. God unfolded the storyline as I was writing it. While Jace and Holly are busy dealing with false rumors and a church that wants to fire him, Noah and his friends are dealing with members of the youth group who are out to get them too. Thankfully, though, Officer Dave, now a new believer, sticks around and helps Jace and Paul uncover what’s happening. It’s not what you think … but worse!
Also in Trail to Forgiveness, we get to discover more about the foursome who works for Holly, former youth group members of Jace: Addie, her best friend Wynn, Zane and his sidekick Owen. Not only are there secrets circulating in the youth group, but Wynn has some strong secrets of her own.
Pre-order Book 4, Road to Freedom, to discover what secrets Wynn’s been hiding from Holly, her mentor, as well as her friends. Is Zane hiding something from Wynn also?
There is so much more to discover about the community of Green Pines. I hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as I do!
Rahab’s Courage by author Naomi Craig is a captivating retelling of Rahab’s story from the book of Joshua in the Bible. I am very skeptical when it comes to Biblical Fiction because some stray too far from the truth. When that starts to happen, I am finished reading. This one was wonderful and did not disappoint.
Author Craig has penned Rahab’s story in such an inviting way that I was immediately invested. It did not matter that I knew the story well. I could not put this well written novel down. With vivid descriptions, biblical accuracy, and well researched details, I was transported back in time. I was able to get a new perspective on this story.
This is the story of Rahab, a prostitute in Jericho. It is a story of faith, love, hurt, and redemption. One thing that stuck out to me was the age that the author assigned to Rahab. In my mind it was far from what I imagined so I had to read the Biblical account again. Her age is not specified.
The author’s writing style is pleasing. The story flowed along at an even pace. She is definitely gifted. The characters were relatable and much as I expected the actual ones were like. Rahab was tough and yet vulnerable at the same time. My heart hurt for the things that she had gone through. This novel helped me see her in a different light.
The tension and attraction between Rahab and Israelite spy, Salmah, made this romance sizzle. The faith element was inspiring. Old Testament people had a true, strong faith. It made me question the strength of mine. I loved that this book moved me in that way. Nathan was the other spy. His character was written with kindness and caring.
I highly recommend this breathtakingly beautiful view of Rahab and her journey to God. The Epilogue was especially touching so I enjoyed this novel from beginning to end. It would have been nice to have discussion questions for a reading group. Lovers of Biblical fiction will thoroughly enjoy reading Rahab’s Courage. I do agree with the author that this should be for older readers:
“Please use caution with younger readers or if this is something that would act as a trigger for you. If this book were a movie, it would have a rating of PG-13. Naomi Craig, Author”
My rating is 5 out of 5 stars for this stunning retelling. I received a copy from Celebrate Lit, but these are my honest words. Grab a copy for yourself. You will be entertained, inspired, and edified.
About the Book
Book: Rahab’s Courage
Author: Naomi Craig
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Release date: August 17, 2021
A scarlet cord tethers one ruined woman to the salvation of mankind.
Harboring two fugitives in a city slated for destruction, Rahab has one small chance of escape. In exchange for their safety, she bargains for her own. Their agreement rewards her courage, and she flees Jericho and a life of prostitution for a new life among the people of Israel. Never again will she have to depend on anyone—especially men.
Except Salmah won’t take the hint.
High ranking soldier and leader of the tribe of Judah, Salmah is determined not to repeat his parents’ mistakes. He will keep the Lord’s commandments. Rahab’s growing faith fits right in with phase one of his plans: find a wife who loves the Lord and settle down in the new land.
Rahab finds shelter and meaning in the Lord’s ways until her past comes back to haunt her. As her new faith is put to test, she finds herself alone. Isn’t that what she’d always wanted?
With her courage waning, only the Lord can turn Rahab’s life around again, but will He do it before she loses everyone and everything that really matters to her—to her heart?
Naomi writes Historical Fiction set in Bible times. She lives in a small town in the south-eastern mountains of Arizona She is an avid reader, Pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom.
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Matthew 1:4b-6a (NKJV)
Nahshon begot Salmon. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king.
On the brink of war and conquering the Promised Land, The Israelites stand fierce and determined, ready to see God’s victory. This time they will not waiver. This time, obedience will be their theme. But it wasn’t always that the Israelites stood with resolve as strong as Jericho’s impenetrable walls.
Rewind forty years. The Israelites have just been delivered from slavery in Egypt. 12 spies were sent into the land and brought back a good report. There were bountiful crops peace and giants.
Nahshon, as the leader of Judah (Numbers 2:3), should have been influential in his tribe’s decision to trust the Lord—especially since Caleb one of the two who trusted, was from Judah. Yet nobody believed. They all grumbled. So instead of what should have been a quick journey, it took forty years.
And the entire generation couldn’t enjoy the benefits of trusting God and His promise.
He sees the penalty of his father’s disobedience. It shapes his life he adheres to the ways of the Lord. Plague after disobedience hardens his resolve. He will obey the laws of the Lord so it will go well with him in the new land.
So what is a man with this moral stature doing with a Canaanite? A harlot? Every sordid detail that makes up Rahab goes against his moral fiber.
Faith that was spoken about all the way into the New Testament. Rahab steps out in sacrificial faith to a God she doesn’t yet know, for strangers who have no reason to trust her.
As such, the Lord honored her faith. As He does when you and I step out on that limb because we’ve felt that stirring in our soul.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
Not only did the Lord spread His mantle of protection over Rahab, He also saw fit to include her in the lineage of His Son, Jesus.
Rahab’s Courage is a love story. A story of stepping out in faith. Of changing expectations of yourself and others. Of how the Lord can redeem and use any who are willing to put off the old and become that new creation.
***The scripture is clear that Rahab is a harlot. Due to the nature of this life, this story addresses prostitution, rape, and post traumatic stress. Please use caution with younger readers and if these subjects would act as a trigger for you. If Rahab’s Couragewas a movie, it would have a rating of PG-13
The Wrangler’s Ready Made Family by author Lacy Williams is a Christian historical romance and Book 15 in the Wyoming Hearts Series. Even though it is part of a series, it can easily be read as a standalone. It is a rather short book which can be read quickly.
This is the story of Susie, Gil, and their marriage of convenience. They met on a stagecoach and are thrown together through an unfortunate situation. Susie has little money, a toddler, a defensive heart, and is very pregnant. Gil is a wealthy, handsome, very ill man. Put those two together and you have a recipe for a marriage of convenience. I was immediately invested in their story.
The characters are believable and realistic. I enjoyed the banter between Susie and Gil. The author has a nice writing style, but I would have liked more depth or details. She included some twists, surprises, and lessons that we all need to remember on forgiveness, love, truthfulness, trust, opening our hearts, redemption, and open communication. There were family and marital issues that were resolved in an inspirational manner.
While it was a good story that held my interest, it left me confused and wanting more. The story flowed along at a nice pace until the end where it felt rushed. The closing chapter was a totally different storyline than the other ones. It was like a preview to the next book. I wanted to finish reading about Gil and Susie, but their story was totally dropped in the last chapter.
I would recommend this book to historical fiction readers. Go into it knowing the last chapter is not really part of Susie and Gil’s story and you will not be disappointed. With some changes this could be a great book. Right now it gets a rating of 3.5 out of 5. A copy was provided by Celebrate Lit but these are my honest words.
About the Book
Book: The Wrangler’s Ready-Made Family
Author: Lacy Williams
Genre: ChristianHistorical Romance
Release date: August 10, 2021
Susie is a desperate young mother with another baby on the way. Her late husband left her nothing but his bad reputation. She has no money and is too ashamed to return home to her family. When she is trapped alone during a snowstorm with a stranger and the baby coming, her only choice is to rely on him.
Boone came west to find healing for his tuberculosis. He never expected to find himself trapped with a lost young widow. Or how fast he could fall for her and her two little ones. But it doesn’t take long for his secrets to come to light.
After everything she’s suffered in the past, can Susie ever trust another gambler?
Lacy Williams wishes her writing career was more like what you see on Hallmark movies: dreamy brainstorming from a French chateau or a few minutes at the computer in a million-dollar New York City penthouse. In reality, she’s up before the sun, putting words on the page before her kids wake up for the day. Those early-morning and late-night writing sessions add up, and Lacy has published fifty books in almost a decade, first with a big five publisher and then as an indie author. When she needs to refill the well, you can find Lacy birdwatching, gardening, biking with the kiddos, or walking the dog. Find tons of bonus scenes and reader extras by becoming a VIP reader at http://www.lacywilliams.net/vip .
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The Kindness of a Stranger
I don’t know about you, but I love watching videos where something is going wrong and a stranger steps in to save the day. Dog caught in the Thames and can’t get out? Stranger wades into the water to save him. Someone in line at the grocery store and doesn’t quite have enough money for their needed groceries? Stranger steps in and pays the difference.
I have a story like that of my own. My children like to play at our neighborhood park after school pick-up. Everything seemed normal until it was just about time to go and my eight-year-old daughter walks up with a nosebleed. I haven’t carried a diaper bag in two years and I have no tissues in my purse. I’m trying to keep tabs on my four-year-old because she’s running around, oblivious to anything else going on. My two older kids are off with friends and I can’t see them but I can hear their voices nearby.
And several moms who were also watching their kids play at the park rushed over to help me. One mom had gauze in her daughter’s backpack because her daughter sometimes gets nosebleeds at school. Another mom had baby wipes so I could wipe off my daughter’s hands. Another mom rounded up my four-year-old so I didn’t have to worry about her while I was taking care of the older one. I left the park *not* in a complete panic because these moms that I don’t know took care of me. They didn’t have to. But they stepped in simply because I needed help.
That’s what happens in The Wrangler’s Ready-Made Family. After experiencing a stagecoach crash and being snowed in and stranded together, hero Gil Hart shows his true colors by helping Susie, a young mother with a baby on the way. Susie’s been burned before and this is maybe the *only* situation that would’ve allowed her to open up and see Gil for who he really is. Of course, that’s only the beginning of the story. If you’d like to give it a try, you can use Amazon’s Look Inside feature to sample the book.
The Prayer Warrior by authors by Traci Wooden-Carlisle and D. Tina Batten is a phenomenal story and should not be missed! It is a powerfully moving contemporary tale of spiritual warfare based on real-life circumstances. Anyone who reads this fabulous book will glean greater insight into prayers as well as spiritual warfare.
This mesmerizing story is a powerful Christian tale of spiritual warfare among everyday life. Set in a Christian school with struggling teens, their wonderful counselor, Ms. V., provides sage advice and effective prayer support. The situations are presented from her point of view. The characters are believable and relatable. I loved the inspirational message that was woven throughout the story beginning on the first page. I was invested in the book and prayer warrior immediately. This was a true page turner.
The authors did an excellent with their melded writing style. The story flowed smoothly. I could imagine it being played out like a movie. It was so interesting and followed what I have been taught about spiritual warfare. In some ways it reminded me of The Prayer Room because it talks about a powerful subject that can change a person’s life.
This novel will definitely stick with you long after you finish reading it. Give yourself time to process its powerful, mighty message. The authors have included dual endings that are both engaging. I highly recommend this novel. It would make a great movie and will surely end up on the big screen soon. I gladly rate it 5 out of 5 stars.
I recommend this for everyone. Small church groups or reading groups will benefit by discussing this in a cozy setting. I can think of many people that would like to see this under their Christmas tree. I received a copy from Celebrate Lit. All opinions are my own, honest ones.6
About the Book
Book: The Prayer Warrior
Author: D. Tina Batten and Traci Wooden-Carlisle
Genre: Christian Fantasy
Release date: March 25, 2021
There is a thin line between the natural and the spiritual realm.
Ms. V., a humble servant of the Lord, has been placed on assignment at Center of Hope Christian Academy.
By day, she serves as a trusted counselor for students, giving them a safe haven to pour out their innermost feelings while providing professional and honest truth wrapped in a firm kindness and love that inevitably draws them closer to Jesus. Not to be outdone, the faculty also bends her ear from time to time.
By night, Ms. V. enters the spiritual realm and takes her place on the battlefield as one of God’s faithful prayer warriors. She wields her whispering sword, slicing through the enemy’s plans to bind the precious hearts under her charge. Her assignment’s burden on her physical body is taxing, but can she withstand the strain and remain victorious? Saving souls is her true mission, but at what cost?
Readers are in for a journey of spiritual intrigue and biblical insight as they experience the ramifications of each character’s life-altering decision.
“Tina” Batten is a loving mother, wife, sister, daughter and Mima to her grandchildren. She is a gifted visual storyteller who is passionate about bringing encouraging messages of inspiration and hope to the world.
Tina Batten, a writer for over eighteen years of various dramatic works of performing art via stage, and film, encompasses unique ways of creating fascinating story concepts that touch the heart of most who view or read her work. She is both honored and thrilled to have teamed up with long-time friend, sister in the gospel and co-author Tracy on this phenomenal collaborative book project. With such a humble heart and desire to bring people together in love and unity, Tina Batten will continue her work as a visual storyteller spreading the good news of Jesus Christ one project after the other.
As Always, D. “Tina” Batten gives God All the Glory!
Traci Wooden-Carlisle began writing to publish in 2011 and enjoys writing stories that provoke thought and evoke emotions. Her desire is to draw readers into the lives of her characters and share messages of God’s love, His faithfulness and peace. The messages in her books speak to her way before they speak to her readers.
Traci lives in San Diego with her husband, David. When she isn’t writing she does some light traveling or assists people with their physical fitness, creates graphics, designs pretty things for her jewelry business and swag for authors.
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The Backstory of the Prayer Warrior: Two authors, Two Thousand Miles Apart, One Supernatural Story
I used to believe writing wasn’t a team sport. With a few Christian fiction titles in my backlist, I believed there was truly only enough room for God’s message and my writing style in a book. From January 2019 to March of 2021 I was proven wrong.
Tina Batten and I, Traci Wooden-Carlisle met in 2004 at a performance and praise showcase Sister Batten produced. As a liturgical praise dancer, I performed in her showcase and we became fast friends.
Over the years we would support each other on goals reached, such as Sister Batten’s film success and my books, even when Sister Batten moved to the other side of the country.
At the end of 2018 the Lord prompted me to give Sister Batten a call. It felt like more than a greeting to see how she and her family were doing and by the time we finished talking we had committed to seeking God for an idea for a story we could write together and what message He wanted us to share.
When we came back together at the beginning of the next year, we merged our storytelling, fiction writing skills and desire to share God’s message of encouragement and perseverance. We spoke on the phone every Sunday afternoon for months, discussing the previous week’s writing, before a family emergency on my side forced us to take a short break. When we resumed our calls, it was as if no time had passed.
A year later, amidst a few tears and a great deal of praise to God, we completed The Prayer Warrior and I was more than proud of what we were able to accomplish.
The Prayer Warrior is the story of a Christian School student counselor who allows the Holy Spirit to guide her when listening and discussing issues with the students, and sometimes staff, she counsels. At night in her dreams, she is led to war in the spirit and finds that some of the battles she wages against demonic forces affect her waking world and the people she interacts with daily.
There are a lot of twists and turns with a few big surprises, especially after one strenuous battle.
One of our hopes is that readers come away from reading this book with a greater sense of encouragement, empowerment and understanding that the line between the spiritual and natural realm is thinner than most of us realize. Prayer is powerful and it truly changes our lives and the lives of those around us.
The Dollmaker’s Daughter by author Izzy James is a Christian historical novel. This is the second book by author James in her Revolutionary War series and features Amity Archer, sister of Field Archer, the hero of her previous work, “The Shopkeeper’s Widow.” The tale behind this story is quite unusual and revolves around a magical stone. The “Horeb Stone” is reported to be a magical stone. Many people are after it, but only the dashing and honorable protagonist Simon Morgan has it.
The year is 1776, and budding journalist and exquisite storyteller, Amity, desires to interview soldiers and families for her upcoming stories. She is in the colonies where all of the action is. Her father agrees that she may accompany him on his journey to Williamsburg. He secures a friend of the family (Amity’s old boyfriend) to escort her and her aunt to parties and to the mountains.
This remarkable story is noteworthy on many levels. The war is not front and center, although it is certainly present. Early experiments with electricity are related, as well. Amity’s friendship with Lucy, who was purchased for her, is as unfathomable to most people in that era.
I love the author’s style of writing. She immediately grabs my attention and has me invested in her unusual story and characters. It is evident by her descriptions that she has visited the area and done extensive research. I thought her characters were believable and relatable. Their conversations sounded true to the 1770s. Because of the “magical” stone element, this book has a strong faith message. The author does not want to mislead anyone. It is important to me that Christian Fiction point readers to the truth and not fill them with fiction when it comes to their daily walk. Therefore, I did further research to enhance my understanding.
The love story is very sweet, and the premise of a magical stone interesting. There are no study or discussion questions at the end of book, but there are many things that will provide a lively group discussion. There is a short devotional that includes a question. I thoroughly loved this idea. It would make a fun book club selection.
I highly recommend this to lovers of historical and inspirational fiction. The Dollmaker’s Daughter gets a 5 star. Rating from me. A copy was provided by Celebrate Lit but these are my honest words.
About the Book
Book: The Dollmaker’s Daughter
Author: Izzy James
Genre: Historical Romance
Release date: July 16, 2021
Forgetful scientist Simon Morgan lost his chance with Amity Archer ten years ago. He knows there is no hope…until a sea captain trades a meal for an ancient stone reputed to have the power to give him his heart’s desire. Immediately after pocketing the stone, Simon runs into Amity. Did the ancient artifact cause this chance encounter or was it mere coincidence?
Like her favorite travel writer Mrs. Peabody, Amity Archer yearns for adventure, but she’s horrified when her father asks Simon Morgan to escort her on her first real adventure.
With Amity’s Aunt Clementine as a buffer between them, will Simon be able to prove that his love for Amity is real? Can Amity show Simon that her love for him has nothing to do with a so-called magical rock?
Izzy James lives in coastal Virginia with her fabulous husband in a house brimming with books.
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I am a Geographer by degree. So maps and the shapes of the earth fascinate me. It keeps me looking at the ground. Where I live in Virginia we still travel the imprint of colonial roads. Former villages have been swallowed by large urban areas, but the land is still there. Amity Archer travels these roads on the adventure to love in The Dollmaker’s Daughter.
It makes The Dollmaker’s Daughter special to me. I have traveled the roads Amity and Simon cover many, many times. The research for this book kept me up nights reading true accounts of traveler and taverns in colonial times.
The Last Gasp, by author Chautona Havig, is the first book in the new Ever After Mysteries series. This Christian mystery, romance is a fairytale retelling. Author Havig has blended Cinderella with some mystery, 1920s Hollywood, and inspirational faith to produce a uniquely fabulous story.
This is the story of Gary Prinz, a popular leading man, and Lucinda, a showcase theater cigarillo girl. Gary has decided to quit making movies so he can go to Bible College. Cinda does not realize that he is a movie star. One night they are both at the scene of a crime and his identity is revealed to her. This is the beginning of a wonderful mystery that had me turning pages and guessing who was guilty.
I found the dialogue sounded authentic and flowed seamlessly. One of my favorite things about a Havig book is its faith element. This particularly one did not disappoint me. I enjoyed the faith element that was generously woven throughout the story. There were surprises and twists that kept me guessing as I read. Tucked into the story were little nods to the fairytale, too.
This was a fun, entertaining, inspirational read. I highly recommend it. A book club would have a blast dissecting and discussing this one. The Roaring Twenties are a little wild for young teens, but I think sixteen and above would be fine reading this. It gets a 5 star rating from me. I received a copy from Celebrate Lit, but these are my honest words.
At the pinnacle of his Hollywood career, Garrison Prince’s reign ends tonight.
As plain old Gary Prinz, he can pursue his Bible education, buy a bungalow in Pasadena, acquire a few chickens, and marry the girl of his dreams. He just never imagined trading the silver screen for a pulpit would wreak such havoc.
A cigarillo girl, Lucinda Ashton spends her days with her boyfriend, Gary, and her evenings selling candy and “gaspers” to the Hollywood elite at the Taj Mahal Theater.
However, when gunshots ring out just as intermission begins, Lucinda finds herself smack-dab in the middle of a brouhaha that leaves three dead, and no one has a clue why.
All the police know is that the evidence points to Lucinda as the killer and Gary as the intended target.
Four new friends, one young orphan, and a potluck of clues that don’t seem to fit anywhere leave the police baffled, Lucinda in fear for her freedom, and Gary ready to trade in his acting shoes for gumshoes if it’ll save his “Cinda.”
The first book in the Ever After Mysteries combining beloved fairy tales and mysteries, The Last Gasp. This Cinderella retelling blends a murder with enough crime and story clues to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Author of the bestselling Aggie and Past Forwardseries, Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her at chautona.com and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.
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What Beautiful, Unexpected Parallel Did I Find Writing this Mystery?
I bought it at Pic-n-Save when I was eleven—an 8.5×11 paperback book of traditional fairy tales. I learned another side of the age-old stories that you don’t see from Disney. Rapunzel? Yeah. That was the story about the queen who was craving rampion (a salad vegetable) so much that she promised to give up her child for it. Rampion—Rapunzel. It’s a thing.
It’s also where I learned Cinderella’s name as “Aschenputtel.” Look, those Brothers Grimm were… well, they were German and that should explain everything. “Puttel” just sings of German, doesn’t it? That tale was also a bit gruesome. The one sister cut off her big toe to make the shoe fit because her mother said, “You won’t have to walk anywhere if you’re a queen. Who needs it!” So the idiotic girl did. Same for the other sister and her heel. Seriously, didn’t she learn from her older sister?
Oh, and it’s the one where mother and stepsisters get their eyes picked out by birds. It reminded me of Proverbs 30:17. “The eye that mocks a father and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.”
Talk about bringing Scripture to life for kids there. *Gulp*
True confession, our kids used to sing that verse to the tune of “All Hail the Pow’r of Jesus’ Name.” You should have heard the lusty voices of our children in our Grand Marquis station wagon (may the wonderful beast rest in peace) singing, “The ravens shall pick out his eyes and eeee-agles eeee-eeaat the saaaammmme!”
Cinderella—I mean, Aschenputtel—really wasn’t my favorite story, though. I liked other stories from other books. Like the Ten Brothers—a Chinese folk tale. You know. Fairy tale.
Know which fairy tale I liked even less than Cinderella?
The Little Mermaid. Seriously, I didn’t like the original (Sorry Mr. Andersen… I just didn’t), and I can’t stand Disney’s. But when we first began planning the Ever After Mysteries, I knew which one I wanted to do. The Little Mermaid had everything going for it. Houdini and a water tank. Can’t you just see it? It would have been great. But a friend asked who was writing about the “cigarillo girl” (as I mention in THIS post), and well… the rest is history. Or at least, it’s set back in history.
But there’s one truth I discovered as I wrote this mystery.
Mystery… that’s a good word for this truth, actually. Cinderella is a beautiful picture of Jesus as our prince. We can be His bride and put on the shoe He has fashioned only to fit us, or we can try to snatch it up and make it suit our wills and hold our overgrown egos (work with me here). He takes us out of our ragged, dirty lives and brings us home… to Him. To His Father.
Is there anything more beautiful? I don’t think so.
In The Last Gasp, Gary knows Cinda long before she knows him—truly knows him. He loves her just as she is. Is it a perfect retelling of the beauty of Christ’s love for his church? Not hardly. It wasn’t intended to demonstrate that relationship at all. But there are tiny nuances that do. And that’s pretty cool.
The Scarlet Pen by author Jennifer Uhlarik is Book 12 in Barbour Publishing’s the True Colors Crimes series. Each book in this series is based on an unbelievable true crime.The books are all so different, but every one of them has captured my interest and kept me turning pages to see what would happen next. This one was just as riveting.
This is the story of Stephen Dee Richards and his childhood friend Emma Draycott. After having been apart for a few years they run into each other at church. After a brief period of becoming reacquainted they decide become engaged. Emma has always felt sorry for Stephen and stood up for him, but is that love?
Strange things begin to happen in places where Stephen has visited. Secret Service Agent, Clay Timmons, is called in to investigate. When he meets the Draycott family he is enamored with Emma, but she is engaged to the ever traveling Stephen. This historical account takes place in the 1870’s and spanned about three years. The characters are realistic and relatable.
The author has done an excellent job bringing this story to life. I became invested in it and the characters early in the book. This macabre story was unbelievable at times, but the author lists the facts in her notes. Even though the subject matter is not for the faint of heart, author Uhlarik skillfully and discreetly handled it with her deft pen. I was grateful for the minimum use of details. After the story is an Author’s Notes section, information on the author, and a preview of another of the True Colors Crime books.
There are many timeless life and spiritual lessons incorporated in this novel. Some of the first are about trusting your parents and God, not gossiping or telling someone else’s story, and being honest. There were no discussion questions, but this would make a nice reading group selection. There is so much to discuss! I highly recommend this for older teens or young adults and above because of the subject matter. It gets a 5 out of 5 star rating from me. A copy was received from the publisher, but these are my honest thoughts.
About the Book
Book: The Scarlet Pen
Author: Jennifer Uhlarik
Genre: Christian Historical Suspense
Release date: July 2021
Engaged to a Monster
Book 12 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History
Enjoy a tale of true but forgotten history of a 19th century serial killer whose silver-tongued ways almost trap a young woman into a nightmarish marriage.
In 1876, Emma Draycott is charmed into a quick engagement with childhood friend Stephen Dee Richards after reconnecting with him at a church event in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. But within the week, Stephen leaves to “make his fame and fortune.” The heartbroken Emma gives him a special pen to write to her, and he does with tales of grand adventures. Secret Service agent Clay Timmons arrives in Mount Pleasant to track purchases made with fake currency. Every trail leads back to Stephen—and therefore, Emma. Can he convince the naive woman she is engaged to a charlatan who is being linked a string of deaths in Nebraska?
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a preteen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a BA in writing, she has won five writing competitions and was a finalist in two others. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenage son, and four fur children.
More from Jennifer
Hello, Readers! For all who might never have read one of my stories or come across me, it’s great to meet you! I’m a wife, a mom, a (young!) grandma, and an author—among many other things. My author tagline is “Where Grit Meets Grace.” If you’re familiar with my writing at all, you’ll know that most of my stories at least touch on a bit of the difficult side of life. Death, abandonment, war, addiction, or who knows what else you might find. The Scarlet Pen is no different.
Given that this novel is the final installment in Barbour’s True Colors series, the story revolves around a true crime from history—in this case, the murders of serial killer Stephen Dee Richards—AKA the Nebraska Fiend. Anytime you’re dealing with someone so depraved as he, you’ll find plenty of “grit” to write about. But that’s only half of my tagline. Remember, it’s “Where Grit Meets Grace.”
While I love a story that delves into difficult topics and, in some cases, pushes the characters right to the edge of what they can handle, I also love a truly redemptive story. When I was asked to write for this series, the ideas that drew me the most were the ones that had something redeeming in the actual history. There were plenty of interesting historical killers I could’ve chosen where I could have manufactured a positive, even happy ending through the fictional characters in the book. In the case of Stephen Dee Richards, there was no manufacturing needed. The “grace” part was already written. The end of Stephen’s story is precisely why I chose to write about him. I hope you’ll find it as though-provoking and compelling as I did. Happy reading!
A Sojourner Christmas by author Linda Brooks Davis is a Christian historical novella. Set in the end of 1923 in a Western Texas town named Winters. I was immediately intrigued by the cover and title of this book. Usually I prefer historical novels set earlier, but this one did not disappoint.
Blossom Evans is a feisty character that has a career in journalism on her mind. Everywhere she goes she has her camera, pen, and pad ready for the next news story. She has traveled via covered wagon in a small family caravan to relocate. I enjoyed her family and its diverse personalities. The characters were realistic and believable.
The story has a captivating plot which is full of life and spiritual lessons. It hurt my heart to read about the prejudice and hatred in some hearts. The author has included that, danger, twists and turns, and history in her story.
This is a short novella that could be read in one sitting. The author has earlier books that provide the back story on these characters if you haven’t read them. I highly recommend this. It isn’t just for Christmastime. You will enjoy it any time of the year. It gets a 4 star rating from me. I received a copy from Celebrate Lit but these are my own words.
About the Book
Book: A Sojourner Christmas
Author: Linda Brooks Davis
Release date: March 17, 2021
She relinquished her childhood home. Abandoned her former life. And set off for a faraway valley that’s touted as magical. As an aspiring newspaper reporter, Blossom Evans expects to find plenty of material with which to carve out a career.
But alarming tales about the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas abound. Barely tamed, rugged brush land. Mexican bandits. Wildcats, rattlesnakes, and tarantulas as big around as dinner plates. Where will she find the courage to face—and overcome—such foes, even for her dream career?
The first hint of an answer lies in the sleepy little West Texas town of Winters. An unexpected conflict is brewing, one that could launch a reporter’s career—or crush it before it begins. How will Blossom be lured into the fray? And where will she find the temerity to confront this particular brand of evil? It’s Christmas Eve 1923, and Blossom Evans is about to discover what’s she made of.
Linda Brooks Davis was born and reared on a farm in Raymondville, a small Rio Grande Valley community in the southernmost tip of Texas. She retired in 2008 after forty years as a special educator and administrator and now writes inspirational historical fiction from her home in San Antonio, Texas. Readers may contact Linda through her website, http://www.lindabrooksdavis.com.
More from Linda
Something to Write Home About
“People don’t come better than the Pyles,” my mother would often say about her mother Ella’s family. And I believed her.
Years ago—1967 to be exact—Mother finally convinced me to put pen to paper and tell the Pyle family tale about their winter of 1923-24 migration from central Oklahoma to the southernmost tip of Texas. In covered wagons. The process turned me into a family history buff.
My mother was our family’s “keeper,” and she passed the moniker to me. Fortunately, I now share her interest in our Pyle ancestors’ backstories. I delight in finding treasures—photos, stories, anecdotes, and documents—from our family tree.
At the present time, I’m going through trunks, bins, and boxes of family mementos that extend into the nineteenth century and even further. Each item sparks dreams of what forebearers’ lives truly might have been. What were their secret longings and loves? What dreams did they withhold from others? What tragedies did they endure, and how did they survive them?
One Pyle dream that became reality was migrating from central Oklahoma to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in the southernmost tip of Texas. They had heard stories about soil so fertile and climate so ideal that the area was called the Magic Valley.
Land developers in the Valley were as busy as bees in citrus orchards, doing all they could to convince folks in the Midwest to buy land in the Texas Magic Valley, and the newcomers came. Among them, my mother’s Pyle clan. In the deep winter of 1923-24, the Pyles sold their land and belongings and acquired 8 covered wagons and the horses to pull them. On December 17, 1923, they headed southward toward their dreams.
On Christmas Eve a week later, the family arrived in Winters, Texas, a windswept community south of Abilene in West Texas where ranchers and farmers populated the countryside. Since the advent of the train and automobile, cross-country travel in covered wagons had become an oddity. And the Pyles did feel a bit odd—especially when someone mistook them for Gypsies and bought the Pyle children Christmas presents.
Fast-forward sixty years. My mother possessed a crusader streak and rarely hesitated before acting on it. Fifty years after the wagon trail adventure, she acted—without hesitation—when a young farm worker told her someone was involved in the drug trade on her land.
Soon she knew the sound of the engine and general description of the car that crept down the dirt road past our house in the dark of night for no apparent reason. Mother, the Super Sleuth, wanted to share the make and license number with the local police, so she and the young farm worker devised a plan.
On the appointed night, the same car inched past our house, around the corner of an adjoining twenty-acre parcel. Mother and her partner headed, stooped and trembling, across a dark field of cotton toward the now distant red taillights of the suspicious car.
“I need to get close enough to find the make of the car and the license number,” Mother said as she drew near the car, which had stopped in the middle of the dirt road. As she raised up, another set of headlights flashed down the road, and she flopped onto the dirt cotton row. But the second set of headlights brightened their hiding place like the noonday sun.
“Follow me,” Super Sleuth whisper-shouted to her compadre. Both tumbled into a drainage ditch that separated the field from the road. Out of sight—but terrifyingly near danger—the pair dug their fingers into the damp soil and pressed their faces into the slimy growth, praying no one would see them. And that no creepy creature would attack.
Several men, some blinding white in the lights and others black as tar in the shadows, met in the space between the two idling cars and made their exchange. Mother peeked above a prickly weed and caught the makes of both vehicles. And she and her partner memorized partial plate numbers.
Thankfully, the drug dealers went their separate ways, leaving Super Sleuth and her partner to make their way back home. In the pitch-black night. Across acres of growth that snatched at their cotton skirts. Amid clusters of swarming insects. And through strips of undeveloped land that harbored rattlesnakes.
Trembling from the adrenalin surge but armed with tidbits of important information, the two piled into Mother’s car and raced to the Sheriff’s Office. She submitted a report about the incident, complete with the cars’ identifying details, and returned home so grateful not to have been discovered that she fell into a deep sleep.
I drew upon these memories for the writing of A Sojourner Christmas. The McFarland clan does, indeed, set out across country in a team of covered wagons as my Pyle relations did. And they pull into Winters, Texas on the twenty-fourth of December 1923, just as my Pyle forebearers did. They were mistaken for Gypsies and were surprised with Christmas presents from the townsfolk, as are the McFarlands.
While in Winters, Blossom Evans entangles herself in a dangerous affair, one that my Super Sleuth mother would have joined if she could. I can imagine Mother and Blossom heading out across a windswept field in pursuit of bootleggers in 1923. Or drug dealers in 1983. Or …
I hope A Sojourner Christmas meets Mother’s heavenly approval. I hope the same for readers.
The Walnut Creek Wish by award winning author Wanda E. Brunstetter is a Christian Amish contemporary, romance, fiction. This is the first book in the Creektown Discoveries series. In it we meet Amish antique store owners Orley and Lois Troyer and struggling married English couple Jeff and Rhonda Davis.
The author takes on real life issues in this novel. Her characters will face personal and marital issues that most all of us have faced. If we have not, we know some family or friends who have. True to her unique style of writing, Brunstetter weaves life and inspirational messages throughout her story. I became invested in the characters and what was happening in their life. I rejoiced when they were happy and became sad when they were. The faith messages of turning to God, trusting Him, and the power of prayer were encouraging.
Two of my favorite things are that after her tale concludes, the author treats readers to recipes we have read about previously and a list of questions for group or individual study. This book would make a nice choice for a reading group. It gets a 5 star rating from me. A copy was received from the Publisher but these are my honest words.
About the Book
Book 1 in the Creektown Discoveries Series from NYT Bestselling Author Wanda E. Brunstetter
An Antique Store Becomes a Place of Healing for Broken Hearts
Welcome to Walnut Creek, Ohio, where Orley and Lois Troyer own an antique store they call “Memory Keepers.” Though knowledgeable in antiques and their repair, their real talent is in mentoring folks who are hurting and don’t even know it. Enter Jeff, a restaurateur, and Rhonda, a hotel manager, who recently moved to Amish country for the slow pace, but the change of scenery puts even more stress on their already strained marriage. Will an antique sled be the last straw, or will it lead to unexpected revelations and the fulfillment of dreams?
About the Author
New York Times bestselling and award-winning author, Wanda E. Brunstetter is one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre. She has written close to 90 books translated in four languages. With over 10 million copies sold, Wanda’s stories consistently earn spots on the nations most prestigious bestseller lists and have received numerous awards.
Wanda’s ancestors were part of the Anabaptist faith, and her novels are based on personal research intended to accurately portray the Amish way of life. Her books are well-read and trusted by many Amish, who credit her for giving readers a deeper understanding of the people and their customs.
When Wanda visits her Amish friends, she finds herself drawn to their peaceful lifestyle, sincerity, and close family ties. Wanda enjoys photography, ventriloquism, gardening, bird-watching, beachcombing, and spending time with her family. She and her husband, Richard, have been blessed with two grown children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.