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

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

Book Review, Books, Children's fiction, Christian Writer, Faith, God's faithfulness, Lessons from life

BOOK REVIEWS: ‘They Whisper About Us’ and ‘The Letters She Never Sent’ by Joy Vee

One of the pleasures of being a blogger who reviews books is being able to read books designed for children and teenagers, as well as those written for adults. I am particularly thrilled to once again be able to recommend two new books by Joy Vee*. They Whisper about Us, for readers 13+, and young adults and The Letters She Never Sent for readers 8+. The two books are written as companion books taking two different slants on the same story, and can be read separately or together. Each is written in a way that is age appropriate for the readers they are designed for, but as an adult I thoroughly enjoyed both!

We live in uncertain times. What we read and see on the news is deeply unsettling and frankly unbelievable. The publication of Joy’s books could not be more timely. If nothing else they might help younger readers make some sense of what is happening in Ukraine right now, and the history behind it.

They Whisper About Us

They Whisper About Us is set in two different times and places, focussing on two young girls of similar age. One is a promising ballerina, dancing for the Kirov Ballet in 1960’s USSR, the other a modern day teenager trying to work out what life is all about. What connects the two is a battered old tea tin full of letters written in Russian, and a pair of old ballet shoes, found deep inside a store cupboard in a theatre in Lincoln.

As the story and the mystery of the connection between the two unfolds, we are drawn into the not so distant past; a world of fear and uncertainty, where to be different is to be treated with suspicion. In the modern day the author deals well with the angst of teenage insecurities and family dynamics, as well as touching on themes of aging and dementia with sensitivity. The characters are engaging and the description of places and events believable.

It is a faith based book but the Christian message is subtly done, and completely in context. I would not hesitate to give this book to a non believer, but it would also challenge and encourage Christian readers too. The storytelling is great with its twists and turns, leading to a satisfactory ending. Although there may be some unanswered questions and that is where ‘The Letters She Never Sent’ comes in.

The Letters She Never Sent

This shorter book tells the story of Amy-Hope and her surprising new friend. Amy-Hope loves dancing, loves her dog Cosmo, and deals with the upheaval of the separation of her parents by writing in a diary. When her dad moves into a new house, Amy-Hope discovers she shares her love of dancing with the strangely shy, elderly lady, Mrs P, who lives next door.

The Letters She Never Sent’ takes the form of Amy-Hope’s diary entries, alternated with letters written by Mrs P to a long lost brother; letters that she will never send. The effect is to beautifully describe in intimate detail the developing friendship between the two main characters, their interactions and the growing realisation of how much they can help one another to make sense of the things that happen.

I loved both books but this one was really special. Joy Vee deals with big issues, such as fear and anxiety, in a really gentle way and there is an overriding feeling of hope throughout. The ending is lovely. It is also a faith based book, and deals with faith themes in an accessible way that only enhance the storytelling.  

Both books are available separately in paperback and kindle versions, or can be bought as a hardback omnibus edition. They are available to purchase online, or via the author direct at www.joyvee.org.

*Joy Vee lives in the UK, with her husband and two children. She is married to a Ukrainian, and lived in Ukraine and Russia for 7 years. Her first book for children, ‘The Treasure Man‘ was published by Instant Apostle in 2020. She has since published several more books for children.

About me:

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, Christian publishing, Christian Writer, Faith, New Author, Publishing

BLOG BOOK REVIEW: ‘They’ll Never Read That’ by Tony Collins

Image of front cover of 'They'll Never Read That'

I never expected to become published author. It came late in my life and was surprising and terrifying all at the same time. I wrote a novel and it got published, and at the time I had absolutely no experience or understanding of the publishing world. My publishers had to hold my hand and guide me through the whole process, and they were patient and kind, while maintaining utmost professionalism.

Around this time I found the Association of Christian Writers, and a group that met via Zoom weekly (this was right in the middle of lockdown craziness). Here I found a group of lovely writers who were more than happy to chat, and answer my questions, and share funny stories, and generally encourage. One of the people I met was Tony Collins. I was a bit awestruck at first, when I realised how he had spent his life in publishing, the authors he knew personally, the books he had helped to publish. But Tony was generous and kind with his advice.

Imagine my delight when he announced he was publishing a book based on his experiences in Christian publishing. I could not wait to see it in print. And now I have the absolute delight in being able to review it and recommend it to you.

How to make mistakes in publishing’

Image of back cover of 'They'll Never Read That'

They’ll Never Read That’ has the subtitle ‘How to make mistakes in publishing’. It is Tony’s story and he does not gloss over the difficulties he encountered, both in his professional and personal life. He tells the tale with a gentle and engaging humour, and it is a compelling read. The publishing world might seem like a glamorous one on the surface, but it is far from that in reality. It is hard slog, and not always rewarding. It can even be heart-breaking at times. I did not know this. Now I do, and I am grateful to Tony for opening my eyes.

On the other hand, there are amazing successes, and achievements to be genuinely proud of. I turned the pages of Tony’s book and discovered time and time again, that he had been instrumental in publishing some of the books that have been influential in my life and walk with God. From the English version of the NIV Bible, to ‘Killing Fields, Living Fields’ by Don Cormack, and ‘The Heavenly Man’ by Paul Hattaway/Brother Yun. I also have Tony to thank for the publication of the ‘Freedom in Christ’ course by  Steve Goss, which has been transformational in my life and in the lives of many that I know.

A love for books

Image of the author, Tony Collins

Tony Collins has worked for several of the biggest Christian publishing houses in the UK, including Lion Hudson, Monarch and SPCK. He has published hundreds of books and turned down thousands more (let’s not mention Joni!) That he loves books is without doubt, but what comes across is that he also appreciates authors. He understands the work that goes in to produce a book, the frustrations and the joys. Now that I have read his book I have a much greater appreciation for publishers – in particular the individuals who dedicate themselves to each stage of  the publishing process – the people who work so hard to ensure that we have great quality Christian books at our fingertips.

Tony’s book is a must read for anyone who is interested in the Christian book world. Whether you are aspiring writer, an already published author, or just a reader. It is a great read, written by man honest about his failures, and yet propelled by his faith in God to take risks, over and over again. It is a brilliant expose of all that publishing books entails and a celebration of the life of a man who loves his involvement in it. I commend it to you wholeheartedly.

They’ll Never Read That: How to make mistakes in Publishing‘ by Tony Collins was published by Sarah Grace Publishing in Feb 2022. RRP £9.99 ISBN 9781912863983

Joy Margetts is new to blogging, and new to being published. 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, Christian Writer, Connected to God, Faith, God speaks, God's faithfulness, Holy Spirit, words of comfort

Blog Book Review: God Speaks: 40 letters from the Father’s Heart

GOD SPEAKS?

Front cover of God Speaks: 40 letters form the Father's Heart. Hard cover book with decoration in two shades of green

For too many years I believed that God only spoke to special people. Like the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament Apostles. Of course I was taught that God speaks through the Bible, and through the words of those preaching His word. But I could not expect Him to actually speak to me personally. Not in a heart whisper, not in a thought, not in a dream or vision, and definitely not in an audible voice. After all, how could I trust that what I was hearing was actually from God?

Fast forward to my forties, and to the radical work of the Holy Spirit in my life. As I opened my heart and life to the gifts and anointing of Holy Spirit, and began experiencing Him in a fresh way, I discovered that actually I had been hearing Him for years. Not just in the written Word, but in my heart also. He had used the words of others, lyrics of songs, and even creation to speak to me, and He still does. But what about if I actually wanted a two way conversation with Him? Isn’t that what prayer is supposed to be?

LETTERS FROM GOD

I then discovered journaling. Encouraged by others, I began to not just write down my thoughts and prayers, but to also ask God what He thought. And I began to write down what I believed He was saying to me. And do you know it was always loving, always encouraging and always biblical! This kind of journaling has seen me through some of the toughest times, and is still part of my regular prayer life. Which is why I was thrilled to be asked to review Ruth O’Reilly Smith’s Devotional Journal, ’God Speaks: 40 letters from the Father’s Heart’*.

The minute the book arrived I knew I was going to love it. It comes as a handy- sized hardback, printed in two beautiful colours. Inside there are forty ‘letters’ from God. Each is accompanied by scriptures, prayer prompting questions, and space to write down your response. These personal ‘letters’ are indeed straight from the Father’s heart, and as I have discovered, are loving, encouraging, comforting, and completely scriptural:

Image of inside pages of book showing prayer questions and space for writing
Image of inside of book, showing one of the letters and a verse from the Psalms

Day 10: 

‘When your heart faints, I will sustain you. When you think you’ve failed, know that, in me, you are victorious. Let the voices of doubt and despair be stilled. Hear only my voice. I am with you until the end of the ages.’                             Deuteronomy 31:8

FOR LENT OR FOR ANY TIME

Ruth began asking God to speak at the beginning of Lent 2020, just before that first scary lockdown set in.  Writing her letters from God daily for forty days sustained her through those weeks and now she has chosen to share them with us, in a time that is just as uncertain and fear -filled. That there are forty devotions means it lends itself to being used for Lent, but it could as easily be used at any other time. I cannot recommend it enough, if you need encouragement and comfort, or to just discover what it means to truly hear God’s voice for yourself.

I am going to use the devotional myself this Lent, starting today. I can’t wait to go deeper, and I know it will be a blessing. What an absolute privilege to be gifted with this resource, and what an absolute joy to know that the Father is speaking. To us, His beloved ones:

Day 29:

‘As certain as the rising sun, so certain is my love for you morning by morning…

As vast as the heavens that stretch out before you as far as the eyes can see, so are my care and compassion for you. Not one star is out of place. I see all. I know all. And I love you completely…’

Psalm 57:10.

Image of the back cover of God Speaks.

*Ruth O’Reilly Smith currently hosts a radio show with United Christian Broadcasters on UCB2 called ‘This Is My Story’. The Bible has been key to Ruth’s growth as a Christian and she is passionate about communicating God’s heart through His word. Ruth’s website can be found at www.ruthoreillysmith.com.

‘God Speaks’ by Ruth O’Reilly Smith is published by Authentic Media, ISBN 9781788932226.


Joy Margetts is new to blogging, and new to being published. 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, Children's fiction, Christian Writer, God in control, God's faithfulness, Lessons from life

BLOG BOOK REVIEW: OLIVER’S SECRET by Eleanor Watkins

Front cover image of Oliver's Secret showing a black and white cat with  a frame of green leaves

Eleanor Watkins has written over 45 books, very many of them for children and young adults, so I was honoured to be asked to be a part of the blog tour launch of her latest book for 6-8 year olds, ‘Oliver’s Secret’. If I still had school-age children at home, I would love to be able to introduce them to the books of Eleanor Watkins. I’m sure they would enjoy her storytelling with a gentle faith message, as much as I enjoyed this one. I was pleased to be asked to review her latest book, and you don’t have to have small children to enjoy a book written for children, now do you?

God answers Prayer?

Image of back of Oliver's Secret with synposis.

Oliver’s Secret introduces us to Claire and her family. Claire is lonely. She has moved with her family not only to a new home, but also to an entirely new country where she knows no-one. She has left her friends and all that is comforting and familiar behind. Claire is worried about very many things: about whether she will make new friends, about how her new school and church will be. But most of all she would love a pet, specifically a cat, of her own. Especially as the house her family have moved into has a built in cat flap. So Claire prays and asks God for a cat. Almost immediately, and to her great surprise, a large black and white fluffy cat meanders through the cat flap, and quickly infiltrates himself, both into Claire’s heart and her family’s home.

Learning important things

Over the next few weeks, as she makes new friends and starts her new school, Claire has to learn some important things. That friendship has to be worked at and everybody has secret fears. That God doesn’t always answer prayer in the way we want Him to. That sometimes we have to make difficult decisions and do the right thing, even when it hurts. And most of all – that cats like to wander, and that they keep very big secrets!

Line illustration of a little girl curled up with a cat on a sofa
I

Oliver’s Secret is a great story with characters and animals that children will love. It is produced to be dyslexic friendly, and also beautifully illustrated by Josh Williams. It contains a mystery as well – what exactly is Oliver’s secret and what will Claire and her new friend Eliza do when they find it out?

There are helpfully some questions at the back of the book, designed to make the reader think more deeply about the things Claire experiences. A great resource for family or Sunday school discussion.

It is a truly lovely book with a faith-filled message, and I can warmly recommend it. Even if I am more of a dog person myself!

Image of the author, Eleanor Watkins

Oliver’s Secret by Eleanor Watkins is published by Dernier Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-912457-43-4 / £7.99 It is widely available in bookshops and online, or via the publisher’s website at https://dernierpublishing.com/product/olivers-secret/


Joy Margetts is new to blogging, and new to being published. 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

Belonging, Book Review, Books, Christian Writer, christmas, Faith, Forgiveness, Grief, Seasons of life

TALKING TO CALIPPA CUMBERLAND: BLOG TOUR BOOK REVIEW

Christmas is coming! I know, I’m beginning to panic a bit too – it’s less than a month to go and I don’t feel in any way prepared for it! I am however praying that this Christmas will be a good one; a celebration of family and fun, a ray of light in the dark winter days, a time full of joy and hope. It will be wonderful, yet again, to tap into the true meaning of Christmas and look beyond the festivities to the One who came to bring the joy and hope, and dare I say it, fun!

I love Christmas. I treasure the memories of Christmases past and truly look forward to this one, especially as it is my first as a grandparent! But for many, Christmas isn’t a time for celebration, and may not carry those happy memories. For many, Christmas is a stark reminder of loved ones lost, of childhood traumas, of heartbreak and of the relentless passing of the years. It can be an acutely painful and lonely time.

ONE CHRISTMAS EVE

Front cover of the book, Talking to Calippa Cumberland

Chick Yuill has drawn on that reality in his latest novel, Talking to Calippa Cumberland and I am absolutely thrilled to have been included in the blog tour. It all starts one Christmas Eve in 1976. A small child shopping with her mother in a department store hears the tannoy announce that there is a little girl lost and crying for her parents. For 3 year old Lori Bloom that lost child stays in her heart and imagination. The name she thinks she has heard is ‘Calippa Cumberland,’ and Calippa becomes her imaginary friend, someone she can talk to and confide in, someone who perhaps understands her. Because the truth is that Lori Bloom is herself lost.

As chapter follows chapter we follow Lori’s life through a snapshot of subsequent Christmas Eves. We journey with her into her teens and into adulthood, as she discovers painful secrets, faces betrayal, suffers heart-breaking loss, and makes life choices with complicated consequences. All the time she is confiding in her faceless friend, Calippa Cumberland. All the time searching for someone who understands and someone she can finally, fully trust.

UTTERLY COMPELLING AND DEEPLY PLEASING

Back cover of the book, Talking to Calippa Cumberland

The book is utterly compelling. I read it in almost one sitting. Chick draws Lori’s character so well, and describes the things she goes through sensitively and convincingly. It is not a maudlin book, but it is real and raw in places. The story brings tears to your eyes and a lump to your throat, but also the odd smile and nod of understanding. It covers subject matters that are not uncommon, things that many of us can relate to in some degree. You find yourself rooting for Lori, hoping that she will ultimately find what she is looking for.

She does find good friends, and one in particular has a lasting and positive effect on her. Not to divulge any spoilers. Let’s just say things definitely get better for Lori, and she comes to terms with much of what life has thrown at her in a deeply pleasing way.

WHO ARE WE TALKING TO?

I was unsure at first of the device Chick used to let us hear Lori’s deepest thoughts. Is it strange to have an imaginary friend, even in adulthood? Is it strange to write notes to them pouring out your soul? Well as one of the characters in the book says…

 ‘every night before I sleep I have a conversation with someone I can’t see, who many people tell me is a figment of my imagination and whose existence I can’t prove…’

What Lori is doing, is what many of us do in praying and journaling. Except of course, for those who know Him, Jesus is no imaginary friend. Talking to Calippa Cumberland is Christian fiction, and the message of the gospel is there subtly throughout, but is never forced down your throat. I found myself yearning for Lori to meet the one person she could completely trust and pour out her thoughts, fears and feelings to. The One who could make the lost child feel found again, and forever secure.

The book set against a Christmas scene

A FABULOUS CHRISTMAS GIFT

I loved this book, and Chick writes so well, especially as he convinces us that he knows what it feels to be like a woman with definite female issues to contend with! And I salute his encyclopaedic knowledge of Christmas Number Ones! I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially seeing as Christmas is just around the corner. This book would make a fabulous gift to anyone who loves a well written and beautifully told story based around Christmas. And perhaps is also a book not just for Christmas…

photo of the author

SPECIAL OFFER

As a special offer, Chick is offering readers of this blog, a signed paperback copy of the book for the discounted price of £9.00. To avail yourself of this kind offer, and to bless the author, contact him via margaretyuill@martyart.co.uk  before 4th December and quote the code joysblogg

Talking to Calippa Cumberland by Chick Yuill, was published by Instant Apostle (22 Oct 2021), ISBN 1912726483, RRP £9.99, and is available from all the usual places.

Belonging, Book Review, Books, Christian Marriage, Christian Writer, Faith, Forgiveness, God's faithfulness, Healing, Lessons from life, Seasons of life, Thankfulness

BOOK REVIEW: ALL SAINTS? BY ELLIE CARTER

I love reading new books by new writers, who like me have been brave enough to put their writing out there. Which is a very scary thing, believe me. I especially love books that are very definitely inspired by God, with a great faith message, that is lightly handled and wrapped up within a gripping fictional tale.

All Saints? Is one of those books and I am very happy to recommend it. I’ve seen it described as Christian chick lit, but I wouldn’t label it such, as it is such a good observation of everyday life, that I think it would appeal more widely. If you have ever been involved with church, if you have ever had to deal with real life challenges and heartbreak, if you are a man or woman with questions about faith, then you will find things to relate to in this book.

Clever Title

All Saints?’ is a clever title. It refers to the Parish Church that sits at the centre of the tale, but as the story also follows three Christian women connected to the church, it explores just how saintly each really is. Of course the Bible might describe all believers as ‘saints’, but how we live out our lives is often far from deserving of the title, and that is normal! Sophie is the church minister’s wife, juggling handling a difficult adopted toddler and also trying to support her husband in his role, whilst being a good friend to the others. She also has deep wounds related to her struggle with infertility that resurface when her friend Hayley announces that she and her husband are also unlikely to be able to conceive naturally. Hayley is desperately unhappy and makes a decision that has devastating effects for all of them.  Lucy is single, and feeling bypassed, calling out to God for a man to love her. It seems God has answered her prayers. Her journey is heart-breaking.

Raw and real, and relatable

All Saints? is raw and real in places, shocking even, but it is also heart-warming, as the bonds of friendship, and the love of God, see these three friends, their partners and families work through their issues together. That it is set around a church, works brilliantly.  For anyone like myself, who has grown up immersed in church life, the different (odd) people that make up the congregation, the funny little incidents, the frustrations and the joys are all so recognisable. The green cup/blue cup mix up made me laugh – I’ve seen something very similar happen myself, and can even picture those ‘church’ cups and saucers. The open day where half the village come because it’s free – and none of them actually then come to church as a result, had echoes of many ‘failed’ outreaches I’ve been part of. The rich parishioners who think they should run everything, including the minister, but would rather raise money selling jam than donate money themselves to repair the pot-holed driveway, also made me smile knowingly.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, reading it in a couple of days, and becoming quite invested in all of the main characters. It does cut quite close to home at times, but also talks about faith matters in a gentle and non threatening way.

Well done Ellie Carter on your debut!

*Romans 1:7

Ellie Carter has walked the path of infertility. She and her husband are now blessed with two adopted children. If you would like a personally signed copy of All Saints? please bless the author by contacting her direct at elliecarterauthor@gmail.com.

She is offering the book at a discounted price of £7.00, including postage, to anyone who contacts her as a result of this post.

All Saints? was published by Instant Apostle on 19 June 2020, ISBN 1912726211, RRP £8.99

Book Review, Books, Christian Writer, Faith, Forgiveness, God in control, Lessons from life

THE TRIALS OF ISABELLA M SMUGGE: BLOG REVIEW

In February of this year I wrote my first ever blog book review. The book was The Diary of Isabella M Smugge, Ruth Leigh’s debut novel, and it had me gripped from page one. At first it seemed Ruth had created a monster; Isabella M Smugge was not an entirely likeable character, with her self absorption, and seemingly shallow, artificial Instagram- ready life. But the book was funny, easy to read, and so well written. And Isabella was actually a much more complex character than first thought. The book had some real poignant moments amongst the funny one-liners and ludicrous scenarios, and not to give anything away, as Isabella’s perfect life began to disintegrate around her, I found myself truly sympathising with her.

The Trials of Isabella M Smugge picks up from where The Diary left off, with it’s frustratingly clever cliff-hanger ending. Isabella is now faced with the reality of a very different life to the cosy one she was used to. Yes she still has the sprawling Georgian house with extensive gardens, the indoor swimming pool, the paid help, designer wardrobe, writing success and an increasing Instagram following. But personally her life is not so rosy. And as her year progresses it doesn’t get any easier. Isabella learns the hard way, that the people you really need around you are the ones who genuinely care about you, not necessarily the people who you thought added value to your life.

This book is funny on almost every page. There are laugh out loud lines, clever hashtags, and cringe- making observations. For me the subtle funny lines were the best…

Would the world stop spinning if I didn’t write the long awaited piece on spontaneity?’

And the new mum observations…

‘…he (the baby) responds well to hoary British rockers Deep Purple, likes a bit of early Led Zeppelin, and has even nodded off to AC/DC. I made the mistake of trying a bit of Coldplay last week, which led to frenzied howling. You can’t win them all.’

Amongst all the humour this book is also authentic. Isabella’s thoughts and emotions, her heart-breaking real-life challenges, her sheer exhaustion at juggling the needs of family, friends and work demands – are all well written and relatable. The author takes us with Isabella on her journey of rediscovering her true self. She shows us her growing emotional vulnerability, and describes her increasing awareness of a God she can believe in. I loved this aspect of The Trials, and I think for me this makes it even more of a triumph than the first book; which was certainly a hard act to follow. Well done to Ruth Leigh for weaving matters of faith, real love and forgiveness so seamlessly into a compelling contemporary work of fiction.

‘It’s been two years since we upped sticks and left everything we knew to come up here. Two years of ups, downs, joys, sorrows, gain and loss. Sitting in church on Sunday morning, I closed my weary eyes and drank in the peace all around me. I find restoration and healing in the kindness and compassion that waits for me here.’

If you enjoyed reading The Diary of Isabella m Smugge I encourage you to get your own copy of The Trials as it does not disappoint. If you haven’t yet met Isabella M Smugge then do yourself a favour and get hold of both books! You can order direct from the author at www.ruthleighwrites.co.uk or find the book for sale in all the usual places. Keep writing Ruth; we need Isabella #3!

The Trials of Isabella M Smugge is published by Instant Apostle, 22 Oct 2021. RRP £9.99.

Book Review, Books, Christian Writer, Faith, Forgiveness, New Author, The Word of God

BOOK REVIEW: LOVE FROM SIENNA by JOY VEE

Joy Vee and I met online. As a new author who had been through the same process as I of having her first book unexpectedly published by Instant Apostle, we made a connection. We shared so much in common, most especially our desire to write fiction that carried the message of the Kingdom. To produce books that not only entertained, but spoke deep into people’s hearts, revealing the love of the Father, and drawing them to Him. From this first contact we have developed an open, loving and prayerful relationship that has strengthened us both. So it is a great delight for me to recommend her book to you.

I was delighted when Joy announced that she had written a follow- up book to her first, The Treasure Man. Whilst my books are aimed at adults, Joy writes for children. And does it so very well. Love from Sienna is a beautiful book, dealing with powerful spiritual truths in an accessible and meaningful way. As a  sequel to The Treasure Man it continues to tell the story of Sienna and her family as they learn those truths through everyday experiences. The storytelling is wonderful, the scenarios believable, and the biblical teaching handled so well, particularly for the age range it is intended for. It is aimed at 7 -11 year olds, but I read this as an adult and it spoke to me. I know it will speak to children just as powerfully. At the end of the book are questions relating to each chapter, a great aid for family discussions perhaps.

Keeping it real

I love that Joy does not shy away from dealing with difficult life situations, or painful emotions in her books. Even writing for children has to be honest and real. Sienna and her family know from experience that not everything is wonderful in life, that people can hurt and disappoint, and situations arise that cause fear and grief. But they come to see, in all of this, the need to forgive. They learn that forgiveness is powerful, freeing, and can be a means of blessing to all concerned.

As the title hints, in Love from Sienna, Sienna also learns how to communicate with God by using a journal, writing down her thoughts and asking difficult questions. It becomes a real help to her. To encourage other children to try it for themselves, Joy Vee has produced a Love From Sienna Journal. This can be purchased separately through her personal website. I have a copy and it is great. Bible verses and quotes from Joy’s books head up ‘bullet’ style blank spaces for writing and drawing.

Love from Sienna can be read as a standalone book, but if you haven’t read The Treasure Man, I encourage you to buy both. They would make perfect gifts, especially with the Journal thrown in. All three are available from the author at www.joyvee.org

Happy Launch Day!

Love from Sienna launches officially today,17th Sept, and is published by Broad Place Publishing. It retails at £ 6.99 and the journal for £5.99.

The book is available to purchase via Amazon and Eden Books, but why not bless the author by visiting her website and buying direct.