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

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