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

Bible, Christian Writer, Connected to God, God speaks, Holy Spirit, Medieval Fiction, pilgrimage, The Word of God

GOD SPEAKS, DOORS OPEN

Last weekend we had the absolute ‘joy’ of being able to spend time with some lovely friends. Joy (yes she shares my name) and I met online around 18 months or so ago, connected by our writing and our heart to share kingdom truth through fiction. It was so good to finally meet face to face. And to spend hours, yes hours, talking about our writing, plans, ideas and dreams. It was good to meet Joy’s Ukrainian husband. And to get the smallest of insights into the reality of what the conflict means for his people, and for God’s people in Ukraine. To pray for them and with them.

Image of a couple standing together on a headland, with the sea, sky and a small island behind them

For part of the weekend we offered a tour of some of the places the pilgrims visited in my recently released novel, The Pilgrim. We had a wonderful day, retracing the steps of Brother Hywel, albeit in reverse. The day was punctuated with exclamations of, ‘This is where Hywel raised his hands to heaven in praise,’ ‘This is where Hywel took the boat to Bardsey Island’, ‘This is where Hywel knelt and encountered Jesus.’ Except of course Hywel was not real! We had to keep reminding ourselves of the fact. It still felt very much like we were walking in the footsteps of many, many pilgrims.

GOD SPEAKS

In both of my books, The Healing and The Pilgrim, I try to demonstrate how much God wants to speak to us personally. That might be through other people, it might be through things we experience or observe, it might be through dreams or prophetic words, it is always through the filter of His Word. This last weekend God spoke to me really clearly.

The day before our pilgrim tour, Joy had been challenging me about how I saw my writing. How did I weigh it against other things I believed God had gifted and called me to do? She spoke about my published novels as perhaps being the means of God opening up other things for me, like ‘handles on a door’ perhaps. The following day, as we progressed around our tour, something began to happen that was really quite strange.

DOORS OPEN

Outside of a small stone church with door ajar

I have visited the little ancient stone church at Pistyll many times, and it has always been locked. I have had to peer through cloudy windows to get a glimpse of the interior, and based my descriptions of it in my book on similar churches I had seen. On this day, however, we found the door unlocked, and stepped inside to find sweet smelling rushes on the floor and a simple altar, just as I had imagined it.

inside of a small simple stone church, with rushes on the floor and a simple altar table with a wooden cross.

Then we visited the great church of St Bueno at Clynnog Fawr. The church that stands on that site is a 15th century pilgrim church, but part of it was built over a much more ancient church – dating back to the 6th century. Whenever I have visited before, that part of the church has been behind locked doors – three of them! Now I think you are going to guess where I am going with this.

When we first entered the church the first door was indeed locked, but at some part during our visit we suddenly realised it had been unlocked. And the next one, and the one after that! We stepped through each open doorway in growing excitement, until we were standing in the very spot where pilgrims had worshipped for centuries. As I stood taking it all it, just so thankful for God’s goodness, some words came to my mind and I spoke them out,

‘Whatever door I open remains open, and whatever door I close remains closed’

I knew it was scripture, if in paraphrase, and later I found it in Rev 3:7-8

‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. ‘

Man walking through open church doorway into a whitewashed chapel

GOD SPEAKS AND MAKES IT PERSONAL

Now I know that those words were written to the church in Philadelphia, but taking into consideration what Joy had already said to me, and the strange co-incidences of finding doors opening everywhere we went, I knew in my spirit that God was speaking to me. A new excitement has filled me since; I know He is about to open up doors for me that I thought were shut. I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I have an idea, and I think it might well involve collaboration with my friend Joy.

What made it even more special was that God spoke to me in the very same places as He spoke to my imaginary 13th Century pilgrim, Brother Hywel. God speaks! And I have no doubt that He will find the right time, the right place and the right way to speak to you too. Be ready!

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

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, 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

CHOOSING HOPE, Christian Writer, Faith, God in control, God's faithfulness, Healing, House renovations, Lessons from life, New Author, Thankfulness

Destructive Disappointment

Image of water dripping through top of window frame

If you’ve been reading my blog for while, you’ll know that we have had some major renovation work done on the house. It has been stressful at times; it has also been incredibly exciting, and we are so pleased with the changes, and so, so thankful. But there have also been disappointments and frustrations. This last weekend as high winds and rain lashed the house, one of the new windows sprung a leak. Disappointment? Definitely. We had new windows put in specifically because the old ones weren’t keeping the weather out!

Disappointed valentine

I’m writing this on Valentine’s day, but I have refused to do a Valentine’s themed post. Partly because Valentine’s day has been a source of disappointment for me over the years. I waited in hope and excitement every year for a card to plop on to the doormat. It never did. I have only ever received one card, from the hubby, and that was in our first year of dating. He doesn’t do traditional romantic gestures and it took me a while to reconcile myself to that fact. Does he love me? Unquestionably. Does he show me in a million other ways, every day? He does. But Valentine’s day continued to be a disappointment for a good while.

Unanswered prayer?

Image of a sky bright with the setting sun above a silhouetted castle, and a calm sea.

This last Sunday I went forward for prayer for healing at the end of our church meeting. Why did I do that? Because I live with a long term health condition that there is no known cure for in medicine, and lately I have felt my symptoms worsening again. Because I believe in miracles and a God who heals. Because I believe in the promises God has given me. Because I have seen Him heal miraculously, sometimes even when I have been praying for people myself. So I went forward for prayer with faith, but as I sat being prayed for, all sorts of negative, unhelpful thoughts bombarded my mind. And although the prayer prayed was lovely and faith- filled, I came away feeling no better. In fact I have felt worse since. I think disappointment is playing a part.

Destructive disappointment

Disappointment can be so destructive. It can cause our faith to falter. If I gave into disappointment it might mean that I never go forward for prayer again. So what do I do with my disappointment? Well with the window leak, we contacted the builders and ask them politely to sort it! Likewise I can take my disappointment about seemingly unanswered prayer back to the Healer. I can pour out my disappointment to Him, put it all back into His hands. He knows and understands and doesn’t condemn me for feeling disappointed. As I speak to Him, read His words, listen, He invariably encourages me with a whispered word, or a promise renewed.

Image with lovehearts and the text of Jeremiah 31:3

As for Valentine’s day. It is no longer a disappointment. Because it is only one day out of 365. And every day of the year my husband faithfully cares for me, serves me, encourages me, and loves me unconditionally. So it is with God. The moments of disappointment are small, set against His overwhelming faithfulness to me. His love, protection, provision and guidance. His mercy and grace. His empowering and comfort. His presence through it all. The daily blessings. When I start to thank Him for all of those, the disappointment dissipates. I know that I can trust Him, and His timing. I know He is good. I’ve proved it over and over. And I won’t stop going forward for prayer.


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

Bearing Fruit, Christian Writer, Connected to God, Faith, imitating Christ, Lessons from life, New Author, The Word of God

IMITATE WHAT IS WORTH IMITATING

I have a new part time job. It’s only one day a week, but it gets me out of the home. It’s not paid – well not with money anyway – but it is so worth my time and energy. It leaves me physically exhausted but with a heart filled fit- to- burst and with experiences and memories that are beyond value. What is it? Grandchild care.

photo of baby sitting playing with blocks

Yes, a few weeks ago my daughter returned to work after the birth of her boy. And my new job started. And I’m absolutely loving it. My grandson and I are beginning to develop an understanding, and he is getting more and more used to me being his chief care giver for those few precious hours. I just need a lie down when I get home. (How did I ever do it 24 hours a day when my kids were young??!)

LEARNING BY IMITATION

Our boy is at that lovely stage, where he is not yet verbal, or indeed mobile, but is alert and learning all the time. He watches and listens – and imitates! He knows that the TV remote and the big black screen are related and loves grabbing said remote and pointing it in the right direction!! Put the block into the box and he takes it out. Take the block out of the box and he puts it back in. He smiles when you smile, and his latest trick? Blow a raspberry and he blows one right back.

It is quite sobering to be reminded just how much children learn by imitation. But isn’t it true of all of us? Even as grown ups we can easily learn how to speak, behave, think even, from the people we associate most with. That’s why we have to be so careful that those who we choose to spend our time with are those whose speech, attitudes and actions are encouraging and edifying. It’s easy to become imitators, even when we don’t mean to be.

IMITATE CHRIST

coloured in sunflower with the text 'plant in me a desire to know and follow you'

It also follows that if we want to imitate Christ, be more like Him in our speech, actions and attitudes, then we need to spend time with Him. We can do this by walking with Him through the gospel accounts. Or by sitting quietly in His presence. Or by talking to Him about the things that concern us, and even asking Him about the things on His heart. It is so good for us to do this. And good for the people who want to be around us. For it follows that the more we imitate Christ, the better influence we will be on those who imitate us.


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