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

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Wanderer Reborn’ by Natasha Woodcraft

The Wanderer Reborn: Book 2 in The Wanderer series

I was absolutely thrilled to be invited to kick off the Blog Tour for Natasha Woodcraft’s much anticipated second novel. The Wanderer Reborn. Natasha burst on to the Biblical Fiction scene earlier this year with her debut novel, The Wanderer Scorned. In her first book she set out to retell the story of Cain and Abel and did so with such godly imagination, that even though we know the outcome of that familiar story, it was a riveting read. You can read my review of The Wanderer Scorned here.

Image of front cover of The Wanderer Reborn, showing a young girl with dark hair and eyes, against a background of barren hills and a moody sky.

The Wanderer Reborn is a sequel, picking up the story after Kayin kills his brother Havel. It explores the grief, loss, and anger brought about by one of the most famous crimes in history. How does a family recover from the loss of two beloved sons? Especially when one has taken the life of the other? Is forgiveness and reconciliation possible? How would you react? Natasha explores all these themes with great sensitivity.

Grief, loss, forgiveness and reconciliation

The story is focussed on Awan, Havel’s twin sister. On one fateful day, Awan loses the two men she loves most in the world. The book describes her grief and loss, how the years go by and she watches her siblings grow up and experience the things that she once dreamed of. Bitterness threatens. And then one day God asks her to embark on a physical journey, which will also become a journey of forgiveness and reconciliation. Confronted by temptation and her own sinful nature, Awan realises the power of forgiveness, and that nobody Is beyond the scope of God’s great love and redemptive power.

This is an imaginative and evocative retelling of a story that scripture only hints at in Genesis 4 and yet is utterly compelling and so hope-filled. It drew me in from the very start and left my soul deeply encouraged. The descriptions of the early earth are believable, the characters sympathetic, and the message is eternal – that there is hope for everyone, even the worst of criminals, and that the scorned one can be reborn to new life.

Composite image of the front cover of the book against a background image of cliffs lake and trees.

Highly recommended

Image of author, Natasha Woodcraft

Although there is no scriptural basis for the story of hope retold here, The Wanderer Reborn is so full of the love, mercy and grace of God. It is also full of scripture, as yet again, the author uses her song writing skill to convert familiar passages of lament and praise into songs that Awan sings. It is a beautiful book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Except that – I would encourage you to read the first book first, to get the whole redemptive story.

The Wanderer Reborn will be officially published on 3rd December and can be pre-ordered now direct from the author at natashawoodcraft.com/books/

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, was published by Instant Apostle on 22 July 2022

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

Book Review, Books, christian fiction, Christian publishing, Christian Writer, Faith, Forgiveness

BOOK REVIEW: The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge, by Ruth Leigh

The book, The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge, displayed with scented candles, flowers and soft material as background.

Image of author, Ruth Leigh

I am thrilled to be invited to take part in the blog tour for The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge, the third book in Ruth Leigh’s Isabella M Smugge series. Thrilled because like many others I have been longing to read another witty, well written book from this author’s extraordinary imagination, and to catch up on Isabella’s progressing story.

But I am also thrilled because now that Ruth has become a dear friend, I have been privileged to watch from the side-lines as this book was written. She herself would admit that it has been a hard book to write, and only exists because God enabled her. With the help of lots of prayer and encouragement from others. I have seen some of the pain this book has caused in being birthed. So to see it delivered safe and whole has brought joy to my soul!

Laugh out loud funny

As in her previous books Ruth has done an amazing job in creating Isabella’s world. She has spent hours researching what things are trending in the world of those who care about these things. The book is funny. There are laugh out loud moments, with hysterical hashtags and clever references to things ‘on trend’. Like this dig at the ever developing trend for giving paint colours pretentious names, that made me giggle,

‘We are staying in a smart twin ensuite room painted in Belle Peinture’s top selling shade, Gauzy Gutter’

Gauzy Gutter’? Perfect nonsense. Brilliant!

Deeply Moving

Apart from being funny, this book is also deeply moving and the story engrossing. There is no doubt that Isabella M Smugge is changing. Oh, she is still a renowned social media influencer, with a bestselling book series, and blogger awards galore. Her elegant home is still being featured in magazine photoshoots and she has numerous companies clamouring to engage her to endorse their products – from teething rings to self plumping pillows.

Back cover of book with blurb description

But her life in reality is definitely less glamourous. Now she is a single parent to four children, including hormonal pre-teens and a teething infant. Issy’s mother, with whom she has a fractious relationship, is now also residing with them following a stroke. Add to that a cheating husband trying to wheedle his way back in, her arch enemy Lavinia Harcourt still causing trouble, and a plethora of other family dramas and secrets coming to light. Life is far from dull, and not always in good ways. Our heroine has to admit she can’t do perfect anymore – not alone anyway.

Thankfully the village community she once looked down her nose at has now become her place of refuge. Her fellow school mums, the vicar and his wife, the church community, they are all there to help, support and understand. What’s more Isabella has found the joy of giving and serving. The scenes where she shepherds a flock of nit-ridden angels for the church nativity, and runs around with hairspray and bun nets as a dance show chaperone were hysterical, but also strangely moving. This is a new and more selflessly genuine Isabella, doing things she would once never have dreamt of doing.

Changed by Love

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this third book is Isabella’s growing personal experience of God. The church draws her, the Holy spirit touches her, and prayer becomes more natural. Isabella finds herself learning to forgive, wanting to rebuild broken relationships, becoming a much more empathetic and insightful person, and even finding the strength to address some of her own past demons.

‘At church… I once again found myself a sobbing mess, just because they sang a hymn we had at Daddy’s funeral. Honestly! I tried to pull myself together but I was as if something huge and slippery and uncontrollable had risen from the very depths of my being and was calling out for attention…’

Front cover of book against a background of cut flowers

I have had the pleasure of being able to blog review all three of Ruth Leigh’s ‘Issy’ books. The first, my first ever book blog review, on The Diary of Isabella M Smugge, you can read here. The second, on The Trials of Isabella M Smugge, you can read here. Do you have to read the first two #Issy instalments to enjoy the third? No. But why wouldn’t you? The books are so funny, so entertaining, but also so relatable. I would encourage you to read them all. But for me the third is definitely the best one yet. Why? because I really love what Ruth has done with Isabella’s character, turning her from a self absorbed snob into a open hearted, kind and generous individual. Can a person be changed like that in real life? Actually yes. Faith- filled friends and a loving God can do that for a person.

I have to admit I didn’t like Issy much at all in book one. By book two, I had warmed to her considerably, but still wouldn’t have had much in common with her. By the end of book three I loved Isabella. I wanted to spend time with her, laugh and cry with her, and get to know even more of the real person beneath all the fluff. Which is why I really hope there will be a book four. Over to you Ruth!

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 of Joy Margetts

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

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

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