Book Review, Children's fiction, Christian Writer, God in control, God's faithfulness, Lessons from life

BLOG BOOK REVIEW: OLIVER’S SECRET by Eleanor Watkins

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

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

God answers Prayer?

Image of back of Oliver's Secret with synposis.

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

Learning important things

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

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

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

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

Image of the author, Eleanor Watkins

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


Joy Margetts is new to blogging, and new to being published. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

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

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

TALKING TO CALIPPA CUMBERLAND: BLOG TOUR BOOK REVIEW

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

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

ONE CHRISTMAS EVE

Front cover of the book, Talking to Calippa Cumberland

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

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

UTTERLY COMPELLING AND DEEPLY PLEASING

Back cover of the book, Talking to Calippa Cumberland

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

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

WHO ARE WE TALKING TO?

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

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

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

The book set against a Christmas scene

A FABULOUS CHRISTMAS GIFT

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

photo of the author

SPECIAL OFFER

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

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

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

BOOK REVIEW: ALL SAINTS? BY ELLIE CARTER

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

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

Clever Title

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

Raw and real, and relatable

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

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

Well done Ellie Carter on your debut!

*Romans 1:7

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

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

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

Book Review, Books, Christian Writer, Faith, Forgiveness, 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.