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

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

TALKING TO CALIPPA CUMBERLAND: BLOG TOUR BOOK REVIEW

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

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

ONE CHRISTMAS EVE

Front cover of the book, Talking to Calippa Cumberland

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

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

UTTERLY COMPELLING AND DEEPLY PLEASING

Back cover of the book, Talking to Calippa Cumberland

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

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

WHO ARE WE TALKING TO?

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

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

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

The book set against a Christmas scene

A FABULOUS CHRISTMAS GIFT

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

photo of the author

SPECIAL OFFER

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

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

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

BOOK REVIEW: ALL SAINTS? BY ELLIE CARTER

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

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

Clever Title

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

Raw and real, and relatable

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

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

Well done Ellie Carter on your debut!

*Romans 1:7

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

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

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

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

THE TRIALS OF ISABELLA M SMUGGE: BLOG REVIEW

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

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

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

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

And the new mum observations…

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOK REVIEW: LOVE FROM SIENNA by JOY VEE

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

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

Keeping it real

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

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

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

Happy Launch Day!

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

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

Christian Writer, Faith, Forgiveness, Healing, Lessons from life, New Author, Seeing as God sees, The Word of God, Uncategorized

CAN I SEE CLEARLY?

Last Sunday I stood up to preach in front of a real life congregation for the first time in a very long time. It felt like a milestone moment, and it was a joy – gazing out at those lovely faces, half- hidden by masks, and seated in their socially distanced seats. Except that I could not see them. Yes, some of them were a long way away and I definitely felt the distance standing on my own at the far end of the hall, with just the lectern for company. But I couldn’t see their faces (or their reaction to my message!) not just because of the masks, but because of my glasses. I have reached that age where to see the words on the page in front of me requires glasses. That means that when I wear them I see very little else in focus. So then started the little dance – glasses on to read the Bible, glasses off to see my listeners, glasses on to check my notes, glasses off…. You get the picture. Finally I gave up and put the glasses down, choosing to rely on my memory and the prompting of Holy Spirit, rather than my notes, so that at least I could interact with those dear people who had made the effort to be there, sanitised and all.

I was preaching from Luke 5, the story where four friends bring their paralysed friend to Jesus for healing, and have to make a hole in the roof to lower him into the crowded house, so as to get him to Jesus’ feet. I have always loved that story; I can remember hearing it in Sunday school and always being very concerned about the hole in that poor homeowner’s roof, and whether they minded? And who fixed it after? In a lovely book that I am reading to review at the moment, the author uses this story as a beautiful picture of how much we need our friends when we find ourselves unable to help ourselves, or even to pray for ourselves. (More on that next week!) For today I wanted to bring another message from the story.

That man had an obvious problem that everyone could see. His friends knew it, the crowds knew it, anyone who had ever known him knew it – he could not walk. Nobody needed glasses to see that. Yet when Jesus looked at him He saw something that nobody else could see. The paralysed man had a greater need; he carried a greater burden than his disability – he carried the burden of guilt. Jesus looked into that man’s eyes and told him that his sins were forgiven, and then, and only then, He addressed the more visible problem and healed the man physically. That man went away whole in more ways than one.

On Sunday I only had to put my glasses on to see, and be able to read the Word of God clearly. How wonderful if it were as easy as putting on glasses to be able to read people and situations in the same way as Jesus did. To see in clear focus what was really going on below the surface. The truth is, that it is possible to see as Jesus sees, because as His believers, His Spirit lives in us. I just have to remember to ask Him to show me how He sees, and not rely on what my flawed human eyes can perceive. As the words from this song put it….

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love Like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am For Your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity
*

*from ‘Hosanna’, by Brooke Ligertwood. Hillsong UNITED

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 mediaeval 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.

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