Belonging, Book Review, christian fiction, Christian publishing, Christian Writer, Faith, God in control, New Author

BOOK REVIEW: ‘To Belong’ by Judith Galblum Pex

I have never visited Israel. It’s been a long held dream to do so, and maybe one day that dream will become reality. I hope so.  I would love to walk in the steps of the prophets and patriarchs, and especially of Christ Himself. But I know that it is possible to have a romanticised view of The Holy Land. Israel throughout it’s history has been a place of conflict and clashes of culture.  A land unsure of its identity. It is no different today. But if I never get to visit Israel at least I can thank Judith Galblum Pex for taking me there with the words of her novel.

Front cover of 'To Belong', showing a white woman holding two black children in her arms

The need to belong

To Belong tells the fictionalised story of a mother, Tamar, a Messianic Jew, and her husband, Steve, a Canadian immigrant. They live in the Israeli city of Eilat; Tamar a nurse and Steve a Diving Instructor. Within their close community of family, friends and neighbours we are introduced to Hungarian Holocaust survivors, an escapee from strict orthodoxy, modern day Jews struggling to live out their faith, and those genuinely seeking Jesus. We also meet Sudanese refugees that have fled the war in their own land to find refuge in Israel. The author has lived in Israel many years herself, and her understanding of the different beliefs and cultures that have to exist together, and clash so often, in a land that is a draw to so many different nationalities and faiths, is clearly demonstrated.

Tamar, the main character, carries her own scars from a childhood separated from her parents in a Kibbutz school. What she wants more than anything is a big family of her own. Here she hopes to find her fulfilment and her place of belonging. Her prayers are seemingly answered when she comes across two sick and abandoned Sudanese children in the line of her work . Following the leading of God, she and Steve take in the children, adding them to their family of two young teens. To Belong tells the story of how Tamar and Steve, their children and wider family, welcome Mary and Joey into their lives. It is a story of highs and lows, and learning to trust God through it all, and the children flourish, until the day that Tamar’s dream of a having them forever is seriously threatened.

A well told story

Judith Galblum Pex tells the story well, and we get emotionally involved in the lives of her characters. She also introduces other individuals who are searching for their own sense of belonging. Tamar’s sister who has tried running away from her parents faith. Yossi, the young man scarred by his orthodox upbringing. Estie, drawn to this Jesus loving family and a western boyfriend, worried about offending her Jewish parents. The plight of the Sudanese refugees is also well told. It made me go away and read up more about how Israel dealt with the refugees that flooded in across their borders.

photograph of the beach at Eilat, showing blue sea, white sand and palm trees, with mountains in the distance.

Eilat

But I think the thing I loved most about ‘To Belong’ is the authors setting. Eilat is described so well, it’s spectacular beaches, coral reefs and marine wildlife. The mountains, wadi’s and deserts that surround this oasis. The heat and the flash floods The warm sea to swim in and the beach to relax on. The people, the tourists, and the lifestyle. If I ever do get to go to Israel, Eilat will definitely now be on my itinerary!

Thank you Judith Galblum Pex for opening my eyes to better understand a people and land that I already hold close to my heart.

About the Author

Photograph of the author, Judith, on the beach at Eilat.

Judith Pex was born in Washington, D.C. and lived there until she was 18 years old. She lived 3 years in Alaska and then spent a year backpacking through Europe before landing in Israel in 1973. Judith fell in love with Israel, the Bible, and John from Holland (in that order).
     After marrying and living with John for a year in the U.S., they immigrated to Israel in 1976 and have made it their home since then. They have 4 grown children, 10 biological and 4 foster grandchildren.
     Judith and John have been running a hostel/guest house/ drop-in centre for 37 years called the Shelter Hostel, and John is the pastor of the non-denominational, multi-cultural Eilat Congregation.
You can find out more about Judith here: www.judithpex.com

To Belong by Judy Galblum Pex, published 1st Sept 2022 by Cladach Publishing. Is available to purchase via www.amazon.com in paperback and kindle editions, or direct from the publisher at www.cladach.com.

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, 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

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

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