Bible, Blog Tour, Book Review, Books, christian fiction, Christian Writer, New Author, The Word of God

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Wanderer Scorned’ by Natasha Woodcraft

The first murder

Most people have heard of the story of Cain and Abel. The story of two brothers, one good, one bad, born at the beginning of time. Murderous Cain killed his brother Abel, because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not his. But is that the whole story? You can read the story in Genesis 4, but it doesn’t tell you much more than that. Except that Cain is confronted by God and cursed to be a fugitive, forced to leave his home and family behind.

Front cover of 'The Wanderer Scorned' featuring a close up of the face of a man half hidden in darkness, with sad eyes.

In ‘The Wanderer Scorned’ Natasha Woodcraft has done something few of us would dare to do. She has taken this story and, using her imagination, created a backdrop for a crime that has been condemned for millennia. Her starting point is ‘why?’ Why did Cain, a man who knew and heard God, murder his brother? Was it just a fit of jealousy over a misjudged sacrifice, or did it go much deeper than that? The story she creates makes Cain a human being just like any one of us. Exploring the idea that every human being has within them the capacity to do dreadful things, under certain circumstances, driven by wrong emotions, past hurts and long carried pain.

The Effect of the Curse

Genesis 3 tells us that Adam and Eve broke covenant with God, and were banished from the garden and His presence and protection. At that moment mankind became cursed – with physical and emotional pain, with negative emotions that they had never known before. Guilt, shame, distrust, jealousy, anger, misunderstanding and lust to name a few. At the same time the earth itself was cursed – with thorns and weeds, predatory animals and insects that could desecrate harvests. It was into that cursed world that Cain and Abel were born. The Wanderer Scorned shows Adam and Eve, themselves outcasts, trying to navigate this new reality and carrying the guilt of what their sin would mean for all of mankind, including their own offspring.

The front cover of 'The Wanderer Scorned' superimposed on a desert scene, with the words 'a tale of love, hate, faith and doubt: obscured by centuries of rumour'

Great descriptive writing

Natasha Woodcraft has done an amazing job in describing what the earth might have looked like then and how Adam and his family might have lived in it, dealing with every new experience as they come across it. The way the family grow in their understanding of how to make the most out of creation’s bounty rings true. She extends the timing of the events of Genesis 2-4 over many, many years, and adds additional children, including a twin sister for Abel.

Her greatest skill is in her characterisation. Cain (Kayin) is a very real, and strangely sympathetic character, whilst Abel (Havel), the ‘good’ brother, although kind and godly, also has the ability to irritate! The author is very careful not to excuse what Cain did, but what she does is very cleverly construct a plausible set of causative factors for his act. We experience Cain’s grief, anger, jealousy and mistrust, but we also see him loving his family, serving them well, and working hard to get the best out of the land. The serpent too has a major role.

Engrossing and Enjoyable

I found it an engrossing and enjoyable read. I loved the references to Elohim, and to the time in the garden before the fall, which Adam and Eve bring to her story in their memories. The story also includes beautiful songs of praise, written by the author, based on the words of the Psalms.

I believe Natasha Woodcraft has done an amazing job in fictionalising a really difficult biblical story, in a way that makes you think, and consider the very nature of humanity. The Wanderer Scorned is the first of three books retelling Cain’s story, and I am very much looking forward to reading the next one.

Ask the Author!

Image of the author, Natasha Woodcraft

I was curious as to how and why Natasha chose to write this book, and about the songs she included, so I asked her!

I understand that you believe God put it on your heart to write Cains’ story, and that He inspired you in the writing of it. Can you explain a bit more about how you actually wrote The Wanderer Scorned?

Wow, great question! It’s tricky to say, ‘God inspired me to write,’ isn’t it? It sounds like I’m claiming some kind of authority, but really, I’m not. I woke up early one morning with an idea; It was a complete surprise to me. So, I prayed (really, God?), read the Bible (the first six chapters of Genesis), then sat down and started writing. The first words I wrote were, ‘It all started with the banishment.’ They are still where Kayin’s story starts!

I think what God put on my heart that morning was communicating that Cain was a bad person, yes, but so am I. It’s so easy for me to judge other people: I have to constantly repent of this. Writing from Kayin’s point of view was a spiritual journey, an exploration into both his character and God’s. Giving Cain a voice enabled him to ask all those questions I sometimes keep bottled up. (Was God fair in His dealings with Cain? Why would he reject his sacrifice?) Also, it was an acknowledgement of the fact that, given the right set of circumstances, I might be capable of what he did, which is a harrowing thought. Oh, how I need Jesus!

People have lots of very strong opinions about the early chapters of Genesis. I spent a lot of time researching, reading and revising, trying to pitch something realistic and challenging but not offensive. I hope I succeeded.

There were several times when I ‘got stuck’. At these times, I prayed, and then I opened the Bible. I remember vividly the night I found Psalm 50: it was a game-changer. Suddenly, in that Psalm, I saw everything I needed to complete Kayin’s story; it was a real gift from God. I also often find inspiration from walking. I wrote the prologue in my head when walking my dog around a lake – then quickly ran home to scribble it down before I forgot it!

The Wandered Scorned has two songs written out in full, which you have written music to and recorded. Where can people find these?

It does! They are on my YouTube channel, which you can find here.

‘The Wanderer Scorned is available now in both paperback and eBook. Visit www.natashawoodcraft.com for more information on Natasha’s books, songs and to follow her personal blog.

Image showing kindle and paperback versions of the book

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021, and her second ‘The Pilgrim‘ in July 2022. Her books are works of historical fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life; stories of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Bible, Blog Tour, Book Review, Books, christian fiction, Christian Writer, Forgiveness, Medieval Fiction, pilgrimage, The Word of God

A Pilgrimage of Forgiveness

Image shows a stained glass window depicting medieval pilgrims, with a copy of The Pilgrim book in the foreground

Today is day 8 of the blog tour to celebrate the release of my second novel, The Pilgrim, on Friday of this week. Our dear writer friend LIZ CARTER was due to post a blog today, but sadly is not well enough to do so. Liz had asked me to write a guest blog on how the subject of forgiveness is explored in the book. So here is the text of the blog I wrote for her. I hope it blesses you.

Understanding and accepting forgiveness

The idea for my second novel The Pilgrim came from a scene in my first, The Healing. In it, Brother Hywel reveals to Philip a bit of his own history, his secret guilt. How a youthful indiscretion set into motion a series of devastating consequences for people he cared about deeply. He does so to illustrate to his younger friend how powerful forgiveness is in bringing about transformation in our lives.

So in fleshing out Brother Hywel’s story, The Pilgrim inevitably became a story of one man’s journey to understand and accept forgiveness. Fairly early on in the story he is offered forgiveness by the man he has hurt and betrayed. At this point in the story Hywel is still Hal, not yet having entered monastic life.  As his friend, Cenred, is dying, he tells him that he has forgiven him, but then goes on to say this:

‘I have but one thing to ask you in return.’

Hal lifted his eyes to meet those of his friend. ‘Anything! I will do anything. Tell me what I must do.’

The desire to put things right, to somehow negate the pain and grief his actions had caused this man, was so overpowering.

‘Forgive yourself.’

Hal was confused, and also disappointed. Was there not something else he could do? What Cenred was asking was impossible.

He felt a squeeze on his hand again. Cenred had closed his eyes, but seemed determined to say more.

‘I must commend myself to God’s forgiveness soon. You will find God will forgive you also, if you come to Him truly repentant. But, Hal, accepting that you are forgiven and forgiving yourself… those are the only ways that you will be able to walk free… of the guilt and pain you are bearing now.

‘You are so young, Hal, and there is so much good you can do with the rest of your life. But to do so you must be free. It is what I desire most for you. What I long for.’

The grace gift of God

Image of a large cross, dark against a blue sky with sun rising above a cloud

Although he struggles to embrace the enormity of those words when they are spoken, Hywel does eventually come to understand them. It takes an encounter with God at the foot of the Cross, and a personal revelation of God’s mercy and grace, for him to realise the extent of the forgiveness on offer to him. Still he has to accept it for himself, receive it as the grace gift it is – a gift still offered freely by the cross of Christ for each one of us who willingly responds to Him. 

Hywel’s journey continues. For to truly know freedom, to truly become the man God has called him to be, he must forgive himself. He hears the stories of two of his travelling companions. Both have experienced the burden of living with guilt, and both in their own ways have come into a new understanding of the power of forgiving self. As Hywel struggles to come to that point himself, so I believe we all can struggle with forgiving ourselves.

Forgive, as you have been forgiven

In His story of The Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18 : 21 -35) Jesus taught that we ought to forgive as we have been forgiven. Forgiving others is not always easy, but perhaps we feel more inclined to do so when we understand how much we have been forgiven by God. But what if Jesus meant His words to apply to forgiving ourselves also? Forgive yourself, as you have been forgiven.

I think we sometimes feel we have to continue to carry the guilt for the things we are ashamed of, long after God has forgiven us. That somehow we are serving some sort of penance by doing so. But that is not living in the grace of God. If He has forgiven us then there is no more to pay – the Cross has done it all. Guilt and shame can continue to keep us burdened and bound, and self-condemnation is a favourite tool of the enemy to keep us from living in the freedom that God’s forgiveness offers us.

Scripture says if I belong to Christ, then I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1) If God does not condemn me, than neither should I condemn myself. We need to be truly repentant for our mistakes, of course, but once we have come to the Cross and received His forgiveness, it is a done deal. Accepting and receiving God’s forgiveness means letting go of our guilt and self-condemnation once and for all. Whether it be in a small stone church, or a wind- swept mountain top, or in a monastery guest house – there will come a time when we, as Hywel and his fellow pilgrims did, need to forgive ourselves and walk free of our burdens.

Joy Margetts is a published author and blogger. Her books are works of Christian Historical fiction. Set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, they tell stories of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

Image shows a garden table and chair, with the view of the sea beyond. On the table is a copy of the book, The Pilgrim, and a vase of mulitcoloured flowers.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle on 22 July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Bible, Christian Writer, Connected to God, Faith, Grief, House renovations, Lessons from life, prayer, Seasons of life, Thankfulness, The Word of God, Worship

FILLING IN THE CRACKS

We have been renovating the house for over a year now. Bit by bit, we are completing rooms: when time, energy and finances allow. We have recently finished (almost) our lounge. We were particularly pleased with the rich teal blue paint we painted the walls with. It is a soothing calming colour, warm and yet bright, and frames the sea views beyond our windows wonderfully.

Image shows steps leading downed into lawned garden with field beyond, and blue sea and sky in the distance.

Damp patches

Teal Blue paint above window showing damp patch

Living by the sea is amazing, but it also means our house is at the mercy of the wind and rain. The price we pay for our stunning views is crumbling, cracked rendering on the front wall of our house. After a recent rain storm we realised the weather had permeated the render, and damp patches had formed in the newly painted window reveals. It was deeply frustrating to say the least.

So last weekend my husband took to the cracked render and used a thick gloopy substance to fill in the visible cracks in the render. Is this the perfect solution to our damp problem? No of course not. If we had the money we would have the whole of the front of the house re-rendered – banishing the old cracked render to the skip. But it is just not possible at the moment. We have to wait for the complete solution. But in the meantime, filling in the cracks will (hopefully) prevent further damp damage to the inside of the house.

Filling in the cracks

Outside view of top of window with cracks in the render above

Filling in, or ‘plastering over’ the cracks has negative connotations. We use the term to describe concealing surface problems rather than dealing with the root issues. But when the only solution to the root problem is in God’s hands and timing, there are times when filling in the cracks is all we can do. And it can really help to protect and prevent further damage.

Life is full of cracks. As a family we have experienced our fair share. Life happens. Things come against us that damage us and threaten us and leave us vulnerable, and crying out to God. I am a believer in miracles. I have seen God do so many and I have experienced them myself. But sometimes the truth is that we have to wait for our complete solution. Sometimes the healing isn’t immediate, the broken heart isn’t quickly mended, the breakthrough not obviously apparent.

Strengthening Ourselves

just like our complete re-render will solve our water ingress problem long term, in the same way I believe God the Redeemer will make all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He has promised to work all things out for our good (Romans 8:28), and to finish what He has started (Philippians 1:6). Those are things we can anchor our hope in. In the meantime… we can actually do our bit to fill in the cracks.

We can use things that strengthen ourselves in the Lord. A thankful heart. Worship, even when it is difficult. Reading and trusting His Word. Praying, and pouring our heart out to Him. Loving others well. Being obedient to His ways. Declaring His truth and promises over our cracked situations. All these are really effective in protecting ourselves spiritually and emotionally. And effective in preventing further heart damage. I for one, just now, am grateful for these tools He has put in our hands.

Joy Margetts is a published author and blogger. Her books are works of Christian Historical fiction. Set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, they tell stories of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle on 22 July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Book Review, Books, Children's fiction, christian fiction, Christian Writer

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Tommy’s Mummy is Sad’ by Celeste Majcher and Elri Jacobs

Text on back cover of book. @tommy is a little green frog, who has a happy little life until he notices how sad his mummy is. It makes him sad too, and he decides to try and help his mummy not to be sad anymore.
Front cover of 'Tommy's Mummy is Sad' showing cartoon of a green frog on a white background.

As soon as I saw that this book was being published I knew I needed to get a copy. It is a children’s book, no age specified, but the language and the pictures seem to be applicable to younger children, perhaps 3 years upwards. I actually think it could be valuable for children of all ages, and for adults who care for children too, because it deals with a difficult subject in an accessible and honest way.

Parental Depression

Post Natal Depression, indeed depression of any kind, is more prevalent than we want to admit. It still holds a stigma, and it is misunderstood and not talked about enough. It is particularly difficult for children to understand. I didn’t realise how much Post Natal depression can affect a family until I went through it myself. And my children and my husband had to walk through it with me.

Image of page from book with cartoon photographs and the words: 'He thought he was the reason why she was always so sad'

So to know someone had written a book specifically to help children to deal with the effects of parental depression, was amazing. There was nothing out there when we needed it. No way of adequately explaining to our children why I was sad. And most importantly that it was not my children’s fault that I was sad, nor that they had to feel like it was up to them to make me happy again.

A delightful little story

Image from inside book showing green frog licking his lips, a plate of food and a bottle of sauce.

Celeste sensitively addresses all these issues, within a delightful little story about a green frog named Tommy, and his efforts to help his Mummy to not be sad any more. Tommy has a happy little life but he knows something is wrong with his mummy and it makes him feel really anxious.

The story tells us what he tries to do about it, and how he and his mummy come to a place of understanding –  that anxiety and depression are real things, that they can talk about their feelings with each other, andt that it doesn’t change the way they love one another.

I loved this book. The illustrations by Elri Jacobs are stunning and the writing is so good. I got my daughter (now a mum herself) to read it and she agreed that it really is very well done. Today she understands why I was sad when she was small. But it would have been really good to have a resource like this one to read with her then.

God the Healer

Image form inside book with the words: 'It is not your job to make me happy.'

God is Healer and Redeemer. My depression is long gone, and any trauma suffered by my children because of my post natal depression is also healed. But I still wish this book had been around all those years ago. I believe this book could be a real blessing to families everywhere.

My favourite quote from the book, is what Tommy’s mummy says to him and what I would say to my children too.

You help me every day by being who you are and who God made you to be. I am so proud of you and I am so happy to be your mummy.’

Well done Celeste Majcher. Tommy’s Mummy is Sad is a fabulous, heart warming, hope-filled little book, dealing with a hugely important subject. I hope it is the first of many Little Green Frog books.

Image from inside the book, giving child friendly definitions of the words Anxious and Depression

Celeste Majcher is an author, vicar’s wife and mother of 5. She is a South African expat, now living in Scotland. You can find her and her books at https://celestemajcher.co.uk/ Or follow her on Social Media @themajcher7

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Blog Tour, Book Review, Books, Children's fiction, Christian Writer, Jenny Sanders, New Author

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Magnificent Moustache and other stories’ by Jenny Sanders

Front cover of book. Gold titles on a red background with line drawings of characters from the stories.

A book of funny stories for younger readers, that will also make adults snigger.

I am so thrilled to be included in the book blog tour for this fabulous new book from Jenny Sanders. I have known Jenny for a while, as a fellow author. She has written seriously good devotional non-fiction, and is known for her desire to encourage others to grow spiritually. And to get women together in community to support each other. She is wise and godly… and I have discovered that she is funny too. Very funny.

Entertaining, Clever and Funny

That becomes ever more apparent in this wonderful collection of stories that she has written and produced for children. Inspired by the stories she made up for her own children, and with no nasty surprises or scary characters. They are just jolly, affirming, and entertaining throughout. I was amazed at her ingenuity. Her imagination knows no bounds, her writing is laugh out loud funny, and very, very clever. Even her choice of language, names and characters makes you smile. There is a definite sense of the ridiculous through all of her stories. And who doesn’t love that?

Front and back cover of the book.

Six Ingenious Stories

In this collection there are six complete stories, each about 5000 words long. The title story is that of Lord Clanville-Smythe and his dangerous moustache obsession. Then we have the tale of a tea catastrophe that leaves the Queen high and dry. We meet a poor fellow who literally goes to the ends of the earth to lose his ridiculous name. And we are involved in the challenge of finding an ingenious way to revitalise a failing biscuit business. The fifth story describes what happens when technology takes over a kingdom trapped in a bygone age. And finally, in the last story we get an plausible (sort of) explanation for the red dragon that features on the flag of Wales.

Each story has a very satisfying happy ending, and is beautifully illustrated by the creative talent of Amanda Young. Although not overtly Christian stories they have integrity and a discernable moral undertone. They are just delightful! Young readers will enjoy expanding their imagination and indeed their vocabulary reading these extra-ordinary tales. They would also make excellent bedtime story material – I challenge you, if you are the one to read them out loud, to keep a straight face!

So if you like your stories funny, imaginative, gentle and endearing. And if you particularly enjoy a little bit of the ridiculous, you will love these stories. Oh, and your children might enjoy them too… Well done Jenny!

Image of Author, Jenny Sanders
Jenny Sanders

The Magnificent Moustache and other stories

Published by: The Conrad Press. ISBN number: 9781914913853. Available as an e-book or as a paperback. Purchase on Amazon or order at all good bookshops, or purchase direct from the author for £9 +p&p

You can find the author in the following places:

Facebook: Jenny Sanders – writer https://www.facebook.com/dancingthroughchaos/?ref=pages_you_manage

Instagram: @jennysanderswriter  https://www.instagram.com/jennysanderswriter/

Blog: Dancing Through Chaos https://dancingthroughchaos.wordpress.com/about/

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Bible, Casting our care on Jesus, Christian Writer, Connected to God, God's protection, The Word of God

LOVINGLY HELD

Small child standing, his face lit by the sunlight through a window

It is a blessing and a privilege to be actively involved in our grandson’s young life. He is just one year old and seems to love being with us. We care for him regularly to enable our daughter to work, and it is a joy. We bend our creaking limbs to get down on the floor to play with him, we run to catch him when he makes an unexpected move towards the stairs, we laugh at his antics when we try to feed him, and wonder at how he is constantly growing and developing his character. When he is finally tired out he will happily come up on to a lap, especially if his favourite TV programme is put on. He sits watching and suddenly he relaxes back against you and his hands go up to fiddle with his ears, and you know he is getting sleepy.

The most wondrous thing is how much he trusts us. He feels completely safe, he leans back and lets himself be loved. He has no worries or anxieties in that moment. He is lovingly held.

LEANING IN

It made me think about my relationship with my heavenly Father. There are times when we do things together, times when He feeds me, times when He steps in to protect me. But perhaps the most precious moments are when I just allow myself to sit in His presence. To lean into Him, to allow myself to rest and let the anxieties fall away.

As my grandson grows older, inevitably he will learn to be more independent. Learn more about life, learn to worry and become less trusting. I hope that is a few years off yet. We as adults have lived long enough to know there are many reasons to worry, and that we just can’t trust everyone. But God still calls us to come to Him as a small child. Psalm 131: 1-2 says this:

Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes  lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.

 Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me. (NKJV)

I like how The Passion Translation translates the Psalm:

Lord, my heart is meek before you.
    I don’t consider myself better than others.
    I’m content to not pursue matters that are over my head—
    such as your complex mysteries and wonders—
    that I’m not yet ready to understand.
 I am humbled and quieted in your presence.
    Like a contented child who rests on its mother’s lap,
    I’m your resting child and my soul is content in you.
 O people of God, your time has come to quietly trust,
    waiting upon the Lord now and forever.

LOVINGLY HELD

Small child on the lap of an older man

The truth is, that unlike a small child, we have to make the conscious decision to stop and put it all down, to not be overwhelmed by our anxieties. We have unlimited access into God’s presence (Hebrews 4:6). And just as Jesus sat with His disciples and let John lean back against Him (John 21:20), so His desire is for us to lean into Him and trust Him completely. To rest back and relax into the safety of His protection. To allow ourselves to be lovingly held, if just for a while.

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Blog Tour, Book Review, Christian Writer

Book Review: Illustrated tales of Warwickshire by S C Skillman

Image of front cover of Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire

I enjoy reading and reviewing new books. On this blog you will find most of my book reviews are for Christian or faith- based books. And the vast majority have been fiction titles (for all ages). But apart from being a Christian who loves to read, I am also mad about history. If you hadn’t already guessed! I particularly enjoy history linked to tangible things – like buildings and landmarks. I also love stories handed down through generations. So it was a real pleasure to be asked to read and review Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire by S C Skillman.

Extraordinary History

It is a lovely book, full of fascinating tales and attractive photos, many taken by the author. There are tales of strange happenings and handed down folklore, but there are also stories of real human beings who left their mark on history, and these are what attracted me most. For example, you can read about the first man to be killed by a sniper’s bullet on English soil, and the village pub that became a black market hub during WWII. I enjoyed the absurd story of the nightclub owner, who bought a stately home and its estate to raise his pigs and never once lived in the house. And I would love to see Hiron’s hole for myself!

Footsteps of the Bard

Image from inside book

Warwickshire is undoubtedly associated with Shakespeare, but I was surprised to discover how many other literary greats, and proponents of the Arts were influenced by the county: from JRR Tolkien, to Lewis Caroll, from Larry Grayson to the actress Sarah Siddons.

I have visited Stratford on Avon in the footsteps of the Bard, more than once. Other than that, Warwickshire is not a county I am overly familiar with. But the book brings it to life as a place with a rich and varied history. I suspect even residents of Warwickshire would learn new and interesting things about it from S.C. Skillman’s stories.

Every one of the tales included has obviously been very well researched, and the author has also drawn on first hand accounts and oral history which adds depth. As well as interesting facts, the stunning architecture and beautiful countryside of this quintessential English county is well illustrated throughout. I found it an enjoyable and enlightening read.

Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire by S C SKillman, published by Amberley, 15th April 2022. Available from all good booksellers, Paperback RRP£15.99 ISNB 9781398110939

Link to the book here https://www.amberley-books.com/illustrated-tales-of-warwickshire.html

For more information on the Author https://scskillman.com/

This book review is part of the official blog tour.

Image of blog tour banner

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Bible, Capacity to care, Casting our care on Jesus, Christian Writer, Connected to God, God's faithfulness, prayer, Seeing as God sees, The Word of God

HEART CAPACITY

I’ve been thinking about capacity lately. Not how much rich food my stomach can hold – rather my heart capacity. How much emotion can I realistically handle before it overwhelms me? Particularly the negative and stressful stuff. I think this is a thing that varies greatly from person to person. Like the capacity to parent – some people can have five children of their own and then foster more. I knew my limit would be two. I was right. And they survived – just!

Baby with his grandad

Moments of overwhelm

But our capacity to care can also been greatly influenced by own health and emotional strength. It dominated my thoughts particularly one recent weekend when I was feeling physically lousy, my elderly parents contracted Covid, my baby grandson was also poorly, and my daughter had a birthday celebration. To top it all the dog required a visit to the vets. I made the comment to my husband that perhaps we weren’t designed to have the capacity to worry about four generations of family at once. Which sounds awful now that I read it back. I love still having both of my parents around, and both of my parents- in- law too. And I love being a parent and a grandparent. It was just one of those moments of overwhelm. Not knowing where, or on whom I should be expending my emotional capabilities. Who needed my support most? And why wasn’t I able to give more? Yep. Let’s add guilt to the emotional load.

God’s heart capacity

We used to sing a song in church that had the tearjerking line ‘break my heart for what breaks Yours’. I struggled to sing it then, and I struggle with the truth of it now. Yes, we are called to be compassionate, to see the needs of others, to care as Jesus cared. But I for one, know that my heart capacity would break far before God’s heart would. There is no way that I could take on all the cares of the world like our Saviour does. Do I really want to be so totally overwhelmed that I am in fact useless to anybody?

The news is heart-breaking at the moment. The sufferings of ordinary people thrown into war. The plight of refugees, and not just the ones from Ukraine. The ongoing spectre of Covid. The mess in government and the economy. I have to admit I can’t watch the TV news. The tipping point for my overwhelm runs too close to the surface.

Jesus: my heart’s release valve

 many pink hearts on a white background with the text 'Let not your heart be troubled'

And then I remind myself of Jesus’ words, just hours before He was betrayed and crucified for the burden of the world’s cares.

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me                    John 14:1

We can use all sorts of self -care methods to prevent emotional overload, but actually Jesus gives us a very simple one. He says, ‘give the trouble to Me’.

casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.                       1 Peter 5:7

Our hearts have a release valve, when they feel close to bursting, and it is Jesus. Things are far easier to bear if we share them with Him. That’s the beauty of prayer.

Enlarge my heart

I am reminded of another scripture also

I will run the course of Your commandments,
For You shall enlarge my heart.                                                 Psalm 119:32

The context might actually be speaking of a capacity for wisdom and understanding here. But I also believe that God can enlarge the capacity of out hearts. Perhaps not to breaking point, as the song used to go. But perhaps to make us more aware of the needs of others, give us more understanding, more compassion, more capacity to give. I could do with that. Perhaps it is good then to pray ‘enlarge my heart, God.’

Large gold heart on white background with the text 'Enlarge my heart, God'

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Book Review, Books, Children's fiction, christian fiction, Christian Writer, Faith, Forgiveness

BOOK REVIEW: BURROWED by MARESSA MORTIMER

I was thrilled to be asked to participate in the blog tour for the latest book from my prolific author friend Maressa Mortimer*. Burrowed is a full – length novel, designed primarily for teens and young adults, but equally suitable for all adults to read.

Front cover of Burrowed. Black text on an image of red tulips floating above a grey sea

Daydreaming in words

Maressa describes her stories as daydreaming in words. She writes because the stories in her imagination just have to be put down on paper. As a result we get to have an insight into her extra-ordinarily imaginative brain, and to read stories that are told with an immediacy that keeps you gripped. You live each moment with the characters, wondering what is going to happen next. Wondering if the author knew when she was writing it!

Burrowed is an fantastical adventure story. It has two main characters, teens who live on the imaginary Island State of Ximiu. The island has being going through major changes, and those changes are still happening, perhaps too quickly. You get the sense that things are quickly getting out of control, so much so that when more sinister things start to happen the people in charge don’t know what to do about them. In fact they seemingly are doing nothing.

Believable characters and topical issues

Apart from telling a good story Maressa has done a great job creating characters that are believable and empathetic. Jasira is the bold and brave, inquisitive and questioning daughter of the Island’s female leader. Her male friend Ilori, is wheelchair bound, a more sensitive soul prone to poetic outbursts, but with a genuine faith in God. Together, with two new unexpected allies they set out to solve the mysteries of the things that have been going missing from the island – cars, asphalt, energy – and some things that are much more precious.

It is an engaging tale, and you are definitely drawn in. Towards the end it becomes harder and harder to put down, as the action becomes increasingly dramatic. But Burrowed is more than a good fantasy adventure story. It deals with topical issues such as climate change and the costs of going green, and autocratic government dangerously tainted by lies and deceit. It also describes a state religion that has become increasingly godless. All things that resonate with the reader.

Image listing the blog sites on the official blog tour

Emotive and dramatic

The book also sings with hope – woven throughout are references to faith, and the power of God to answer prayer. Themes of loss, grief and sacrificial love are also beautifully handled. As is the growing relationship of trust and dependency among the main protagonists. It is heartbreakingly emotive at times, edge of the seat dramatic at others.

Burrowed is a great book. And it needs a sequel. What happened to Jasira and Ilori next? Will the Island’s government survive and change for the better? What really happened under the surface and did anyone survive? And where on earth did Xandra’s sister go?

Time for some more ‘burrowing’ I think!

Image of Maressa Mortimer

*Maressa Mortimer is Dutch but lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, with her husband and four (adopted) children. Maressa is a home-school mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. Her debut novel, Sapphire Beach, was published in December 2019,  followed by two self-published YA novels, Walled City, and Beyond the Hills, and a novella, Viking Ferry.

Burrowed was released on 22 April 2022.  All Maressa’s books are available from her website, www.vicarioushome.com, Amazon or through local bookshops.

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Christian Writer, Easter, Faith, New life

EASTER SNAPSHOTS

I have had to become used to using social media. It is a tool for sharing about me and my books, but I don’t always like it. I wanted so much to share about the real meaning of Easter this year, but I had to come up with a way of doing it that didn’t alert the anti-Christian algorithms. After all , what’s the point of sharing my faith if nobody sees the posts?

So I thought outside of the box a bit, and decided to be subtle. To draw people in with everyday images and thoughts, rather than the overtly Christian ones that you might normally see at this time of the year. I don’t know how successful they have been, but they have been seen. By hundreds of people I don’t know. These are the images and words I have posted over the last few days. What do you think?

Image of a table set for dinner, with food, plates and glasses

THE LAST SUPPER

You’ve planned a celebratory dinner. And invited all your closest friends.

You know one of them has already gone behind you back to the authorities

And the others will turn their backs on you when it all kicks off….

But still you laugh with them and love them to the end    

              ( JOHN 13)

A lakeside grassy spot with trees and a blue sky

GETHSEMANE

We all need those places we can escape to

Places where we can breathe, rest, listen, find peace

Until they are forever tainted by anguish and betrayal   

Gethsemane 

(MATTHEW 26)

A judges' gavel resting on a book

GOOD FRIDAY

The verdict handed down. Guilty goes free, innocence condemned

Hate wins. But Love triumphs!

Innocence condemned so that the guilty can go free!     

(JOHN 19)

EASTER SUNDAY

Today the story will be slightly less subtle. I want to shout it from the rooftops, but this will have to do. My Redeemer LIVES!

The garden tomb in Jerusalem framed with flowers

She didn’t come to put flowers on Your grave, or to see the gardener

She came, shrouded in grief, and found an empty tomb. A discarded shroud

A familiar voice?

Fear fled, hope ignited, and NEW LIFE began.

(JOHN 20)

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com