Category Archives: Book Reviews

“Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” by Nabeel Qureshi

Nabeel was raised in a devout American Muslim family. When he became interested in defending Islam when challenged by a Christian friend in college, he began a journey toward the cross. What I found most compelling was the fact that he found Muhammed’s life to be one of the turning points.

In the video below, he also speaks to the Muslim belief that God only speaks through dreams, an element I used in Misdirect.

A very well written book that also has a study guide for small group, homeschoolers or devotional time.

Summary:

In Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, now expanded with bonus content, Nabeel Qureshi describes his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity, complete with friendships, investigations, and supernatural dreams along the way.

Providing an intimate window into a loving Muslim home, Qureshi shares how he developed a passion for Islam before discovering, almost against his will, evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and claimed to be God. Unable to deny the arguments but not wanting to deny his family, Qureshi struggled with an inner turmoil that will challenge Christians, Muslims, and all those who are interested in the world’s greatest religions.

Engaging and thought-provoking, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus tells a powerful story of the clash between Islam and Christianity in one man’s heart?and of the peace he eventually found in Jesus.

“I have seldom seen such genuine intellect combined with passion to match … truly a ‘must-read’ book.”—Ravi Zacharias

 

 

“The Girl Who Could See” by Kara Swanson

Today I’m pleased to introduce my friend and very talented fellow author, Kara Swanson, whose newest book, The Girl Who Could See, releases this week and has already earned some five star reviews. I asked Kara some questions about the story, and I’m sure you agree it sounds like a great read. Definitely on my TBR!

Bev: Tell us a little about yourself.

Kara: I’m 20 years old, and I spent the first sixteen years of life in the Jungles of Papua New Guinea, as the daughter of Christian missionaries. When I was 17, I coauthored and published a fantasy novel called Pearl of Merlydia. Now, a few years later, I’m releasing my own novel, The Girl Who Could See.

Bev: What inspired you to write “The Girl Who Could See”?

Kara: The inspiration for my stories usually comes in vague ideas, or a character pops into my head, or from the lyric of a song. The inspiration for TGWCS however, was not nearly so vague. Two sentences appeared in my thoughts that had me desperate to find out what story lay there:

They say every child had an imaginary friend. Mine never left.

Bev: Tell us how you came up with the beautiful cover, and what the images mean.

Kara: That cover is the brilliance of my designer, Jenny at Seedlings Design Studio (). She is fantastic to work with and so talented! I gave her the basic details about my novella and what themes I pictured being shown on the cover, and after some back and forth, we had the basic comp down for what you see! Then Jenny finessed it, and voila!

The cover has a combination of several images overlaid and sculpted. We’re seeing it all through Fern’s (my main character) silhouette. The idea was to show the contrasting worlds that Fern sees, by having them displayed through her. Looking through her eyes, if you will.

Fern is basically treading this thin line between modern LA and a parallel world that is a desolate wasteland. Little does she know, by opening a “rift” between these two worlds, she is letting something into hers. A creature that wants to destroy earth, just as it has destroyed the other world.

Bev: Is there a Bible verse that the story centers around?

Kara: Not necessarily, as this is speculative fiction. However, there are several spiritual themes/allegorical undertones, including blind faith, trusting in the impossible, accepting the existence of a savior the rest of the world refuses to believe exists, and self-sacrifice. Is this going to be a series?

Bev: Is this going to be a series?

Kara: Nope! It’s a stand-alone novella. However, I have tossed around the idea of doing an accompanying novella from the perspective of my main character, Tristan. The cover would be similar, but with a male silhouette instead of a female one, and with the landscapes switched. Her city world shown through his face, and his desolate world on the bottom. It’s just an idea at this point, though!

Bev: What are you working on next?

Kara: I have about six different novels that are either finished or in revisions. One of my favorites of those is called Skyridge. It’s an urban fantasy/paranormal about a girl who is the daughter of a fallen angel, born with wings on her back and a destiny to destroy the world on her shoulders—but she has other plans. It follows her journey away from the darkness of her heritage, and to join the very creatures she’s been bred to hate: the angels. 😀

Thank you so much for having me, Bev! It’s been such a pleasure <3

Bev: God bless, Kara, keep writing for Him!

***

Here’s the official summary of The Girl Who Could See:

All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.

Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.

As the daughter of missionaries, Kara Swanson spent sixteen years of her young life in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate with characters dropped suddenly into a unique new world, she quickly fell in love with the speculative genre. At seventeen, she released a fantasy novel, Pearl of Merlydia. Her short story is included in Kathy Ide’s 21 Days of Joy: Stories that Celebrate Mom. She has published many articles, including one in the Encounter magazine, and she received the Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer award in 2015.

You can find Kara around the ‘net at Facebook, on her blog Read, Write, Soar, on Instagram, and Pinterest.

Bev out.

To order your copy, click on the link:

First Fruits- The 3T Challenge

If you’re looking for a book to challenge your walk with Christ, I suggest you check out First Fruits by Bran Duncan. Even though it’s fiction, First Fruits reads very real, as a pastor focused on numbers realizes his own faith walk could use some work. The challenges he faces transform him as he puts into action his own advice to serve God with time, talents, and treasures for a transformative faith.

Summary

Pastor Patrick Spakes is a huge success in the eyes of the world. He’s the husband of a beautiful wife, and dad to two healthy kids, and leads a large growing church. It appears he’s living a happy and blessed life, but appearances can be deceiving. Serving the church has drained him to the point his family feels abandoned.

Christy Spakes loves her husband but feels tired and lonely as her husband makes the church his priority.

Deacon Joe Smith loves the power and prestige he has acquired in his church being best friends with the church’s pastor.

What happens when the popular Pastor of a growing church is faced with a crisis of belief? When life spirals out of control where will he place his faith? How will his well-to-do congregation respond to the challenge of sacrificing for God? First Fruits is the inspiring story of what happens when everyday people are challenged to give their very best to God.

“I am so excited after reading First Fruits! I feel very humbled and blessed to be influenced by the simplicity and power of this story, and the open doors it allows for the working of God’s Spirit in my life, and in the life of the church I attend. Not since reading “In His Steps” as a teenager have I been so touched and move and inspired by a fiction book. I bought 4 more copies for leaders in the church I attend to read!” ~Pastor Tony Ellis

Bev out.

20 Short Ones

20 short ones

 

20 Short Ones by Dan Salerno  is a short story collection that focuses on human relationships. E-reader version – $1.99 on Amazon.

Each story is peopled with a new cast, usually just two or three characters, exploring a new friendship or beginning a romance. Salerno has sprinkled in many details that enrich the experience, such as lively bantering dialog and settings he’s described with intimate knowledge and a full range of senses. The stories are light in topic, but make you think about how the baggage of families, organized religion, and influences of culture impact our abilities to connect with one another.

Salerno draws from popular culture and literature, and because he casts each story with different characters and settings, none seem stale or cliche.

My only hesitation about the stories are that Salerno wrote them in a style that’s not used often these days. His use of the omnicient point of view takes a few paragraphs, if not a story or two, to settle into. I can understand his choice, though, because it’s an efficient way to quickly delve into each person’s inner dialog and backstory. And in the short amount of time and space you get with a short story, an author needs to include enough backstory and information about each character so you quickly get to know them, as Salerno’s been able to do. However, because of this style POV, it’s occasionally tough to determine who is speaking or thinking. That said, there is still a lot to like in this collection. After a few minutes adjusting to his style, I found myself absorbed and turning the pages to find out more about each intriguing situation and how the new relationships progressed.

If you like short stories, I recommend you check out 20 Short Ones. And keep an eye on this author, I predict he’ll be bringing us many more enriching stories and collections.

Summary:

20 Short Ones takes you from Northern Ireland to New York and places in-between. Each story offers a snapshot experience and an opportunity to emotionally relate to the age-old mystery of how friendships (romantic or otherwise) happen.

Meet Dan Salerno:

Dan SalernoDan Salerno has traveled to Northern Ireland five times and to Japan (once) on mission trips. This was before he lived in New York City for eight years, earning a master’s degree in social research while working for the National Coalition for the Homeless. After that he worked and lived at the Catholic Worker’s Joseph House near the Bowery, before moving back to the Midwest.

 

 

Bev out.

Lent Devotional – .99 for a limited time

 

alan_balmer smaller version

Preparing for Resurrection Sunday? Here’s a devotional you’ll want to consider, on sale for .99 from  2/14-2/17.

The 40 Day Lent Vocabulary Word Devotional pairs uncommon words with a verse or passage from the Bible. Specifically, the goal of this devotional is so you’ll understand more clearly the life, ministry, and teaching of Jesus Christ including His death, burial, and resurrection. At the end of each daily devotional, you’ll get the “Bottom Line for the Day” that has specific takeaways for you to apply for that day, and really for a lifetime.

Here’s a sample:

Day 6

Word for the Day:

ganef [gah-nuh f] noun

  1. a thief, swindler, crook, or rascal. ganef. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/ganef (accessed: January 7, 2017). The concept of this word includes a thief, crook, or scoundrel.

Scripture for the Day:

Luke 23:33-43 (NASB95)

33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. 34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. 35 And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” 38 Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ?  Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

Devotion for the Day:

The salvific work of Jesus Christ couldn’t be stopped while He was suffering in anguish on the cross. Grace was even extended to the thief on the cross next to Jesus. The man on the cross admitted that he was receiving the punishment, in the form of death, justly for what he had done. In spite of his past, when sincerely trusting that Jesus was the path to heaven, the thief was granted grace by Jesus. At the end of this thief’s physical life, he was extended the forgiveness, grace, and mercy that all of humankind should partake. Today, I’d like for you to reflect on those people in your sphere of influence who you may have written off because of their past. Their past may have made you believe that they are a throwaway person; similar to the way the thief on the cross was treated. The important thing to remember is that it’s never too late for someone to give their life to Jesus Christ. You may very well be the person who needs to reach out to that “throwaway” person who is racing through your mind right now.

My challenge to you for today is to reconsider with whom you might need to share the message of Jesus Christ. Are there people in your sphere of influence who you’ve written off as unreachable? Jesus doesn’t have that perspective; He died that all would have an opportunity to come into a relationship with Him. Don’t delay in taking the opportunity to reach out to this person or persons for Jesus Christ.

Bottom Line for the Day:

The ganef (thief) on the cross next to Jesus was granted salvation as he realized and recognized his physical and spiritual condition; imploring Jesus for what he knew he needed. Take the time now to consider who you may need to reach out to in order to share the lifesaving message of Jesus Christ. You may be the only one who can reach this person for the Kingdom of God.

 

End of Sample

 

Bible Origami

Bible Origami

Origami based on Biblical stories is such a great idea. When our son was four years old and waiting to have a broken arm set in the ER, a pediatric nurse calmed him by folding a paper crane, and presented him with it. We still have it to this day and it reminds us of the nurse’s kindness on an otherwise stressful day.

The author of Bible Origami, Todd Huisken, suggests that kids can do origami while sitting in church instead of fidgeting. To me though, folding paper is a form of fidgeting so I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I do like the concept of teaching the art while drawing on stories from scripture. He’s included designs from the Old Testament including Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the Whale, the Ark of the Covenant, and from the New including a fishing boat, a dove, and fishes and loaves.

Huisken has indicated the levels of difficulty from 1-3, and the drawings are good and relatively easy to follow, but after fooling around with a couple of levels, I think the activities are better suited for a group situation than expecting a child to be able to follow the directions on their own until they’re adept at the task.

“Did you know” trivia accompanies each design and I can imagine homeschoolers, Sunday school teachers, and grandparents would find origami a great way to teach and also spend some going over the Bible concepts in a visual way. If you’ve never folded before, I suggest practicing first before introducing the activity, but I think all ages will really enjoy the craft that’s also a beautiful art.

I really like the concept and recommend Bible Origami .

 

Sharing Jesus with Muslims in America

Sharing Jesus with Muslims

 

As God is in the business of answering prayer, it was no coincidence that the request for a review landed in my inbox recently. In a sec, you’ll understand where I’m going with this.

I’m nearing the end of my latest manuscript, and while I won’t spend time on it here cuz I don’t want you getting weary hearing about it, I’ll just say it’s going to be a doozy and it’s kicking my proverbial writer’s behind to the curb, y’all.

But I will tell you like all my books, there’s a faith theme, because when all is said and done, that’s probably the only thing that’s going to get us out of this world alive. Can I get an Amen?

So let me tell you about this book I was asked to review.

It’s a doozy, too.

While we all debate open or closed borders and who’s right and who is wrong, the real question should be, “how do we treat our Muslim neighbor?” Because if you don’t already have a Muslim friend or neighbor, you probably will soon. You don’t have to traipse across the Sahara  >cough< may or may not be a hint about my WIP, to find them.

Abu Daoud has written a stunningly well organized, well researched and cited book that walks a Christian through how to befriend and answer their Muslim friend’s questions about Jesus. It comes from experience, which is important because the Qu’ran teaches about Jesus so before we go off spouting what may be either silly or offensive, knowing how a Muslim thinks about Him will help immensely.

And this book lays it all out there.

I read it in a couple of days, and feel like I have a good foundation, and yet I also was inspired to learn more.

And I suggest you pick up a copy as well, because understanding a culture and religion we only hear about or shy away from because we’re uncomfortable won’t do anyone any good at all.

Here’s just a hint of how you will be challenged and informed in Sharing Jesus:

  • “Most Muslims in the United States have no idea what Christians actually believe. Muslims are from locations where the gospel is hardly available, and they will not come to know the gospel without the efforts of American Christians.” Kindle location 380
  • Did you know most Muslims believe all westerners are Christians, and because of that they attribute everything, and I mean all the bad stuff too, as being acceptable to Christians? Better to call ourselves “followers of Jesus” or “a follower of the way.” Kindle location 985
  • The Qu’ran quotes the Bible, but some Muslims claim the Bible has changed, and yet one can compare the two and see it hasn’t, which actually validates the Bible’s claims. Location 1083
  • Muslims do not have the same understanding of religion that most secular folks in the West do. They do not believe that religion needs to be hidden away in churches or homes.” Location 1516

Your own faith will be increased and perhaps even challenged in places, and I know your understanding of what Muslims believe will be. It’s not too academic or clunky, it flows well, and has many references so you can check their work and learn more. The author told me there is a video and study guide coming, so stay tuned for updates about that.

Grab a copy and be prepared to speak gently and with respect to every tribe and nation. (Bev’s paraphrase)

Here’s the publisher’s summary of Sharing Jesus with Muslims in America:

“The Muslim population in the United States is growing quickly, and there are no signs of this growth slowing down. So how should Christians respond? With fear? With tolerance? By ignoring Muslims? Or with boldness, hope, and the Good News of Jesus Christ, clearly the biblical answer. For centuries the church did not go to Muslims with the gospel because Christians thought it was too dangerous or too difficult. Now God is bringing Muslims to America where Christians can lead them to Christ. But when I share this opportunity with churches around the country, I’m asked, “But how? How do I meet Muslims? How can my church make the connections?” This book seeks to answer those questions and more. If you are a Christian, I hope you will open your heart to God’s plan for Muslims in your community. You can start by reading this book.”

Bev out!

 

 

 

Grace in the Flames

Graceintheflamescover

Grace in the Flames (Inspy Contemporary Fiction)

 by Michelle Massaro

From Bev: Recently I read a debut novel that I had to share with y’all. You know how it is when you read the first few pages of a new-to-you-author and you’re not sure if a) the writer has any chops, and b) the story will grab your attention? Well, I have to tell you that Michelle DOES have mad writing skills and this story had my attention from the first few pages. And more than that, it was a real CPID* sleep stealer. Here’s the back cover teaser, and a sample scene, plus some Q&A with Michelle.

 And be sure and sign up for her newsletter because she’s got another one coming out soon!

Good job, Michelle!

*can’t put it down

GRACE IN THE FLAMES

Three people. One God of grace.

John Douglas thought he knew the future God had for him–raise a family and grow old with his bride, Hannah. But then a deadly house fire incinerated his faith, destroying the man he’d been.

Worship leader Jenni Dupont conquered her demons years ago and has the scars to prove it. But temptation strikes when her world is shattered, and this time she’s not sure if God can carry her through.

Bar waitress April Johanson lives with the secret trauma of an abusive past. Desperate to stay off the streets of Vegas, she’ll do whatever is necessary to pay the rent.

When their lives intersect, God will ask them to do the impossible. To love Him even if…

  • What would you say is/are the major themes explored in your book? I always say the main theme is surrender. Second to that is divine love.
  • What do you hope readers take away from this story? That our relationship with an Almighty God is not measured by how comfortable our circumstances are, but that despite the trials we face, God is real, and He loves you.
  • Do you have a favorite character? I actually love them all! Over the years, they’ve all come so alive to me and it’s hard to pick just one. I’ve come to identify with each of them in different ways. April’s story in the initial drafts was always captivating for me and I relished returning to her scenes. But as time went on, I really got close to Jenni as well. I was always drawn to John and the way he looks out for others. They’re all my favorite!
  • Sometimes authors slip in cameos of people they know in real life, or tuck other little gems into the pages of their story. Are there any fun Easter eggs hidden in your book? Yes! Two of my kids’ names are sprinkled in—Katy and Brandon—and I also slipped in mentions of a few other real-life friends: Chris Bowen is one, as well as Pastor Barry. And the dog, Sadie, is based on my childhood dog Sammy! I love doing stuff like this and will probably always find ways of placing people into my stories. It’s so fun!
  • What’s next for you? I’m releasing a book called Better than Fiction in a few weeks. (facebook.com/betterthanfiction2016) It’s a two-in-one—contemporary women’s fiction and historical romance—set in my hometown of Corona CA in 1916, during the height of its famed road races. I co-wrote this story with April W Gardner over the past several years and we are releasing it in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the final Road Race. The contemporary side features an author struggling with feeling invisible in her marriage, who then finds her heart wandering toward a male friend—one she sees as ideal, attentive, spiritual, and attractive enough to base her fictional hero on. The historical side features a romance between a hotshot racer and a female mechanic.
    While creating a fictional romance between her 1916 heroine and a reckless racecar driver, a novelist falls prey to an emotional affair with the man who inspires her handsome hero.
  • What is the best/hardest thing about indie publishing? Retaining complete control is a good feeling, but the hardest part is learning to market so readers know I exist.
  • How can readers best support their favorite indie authors? We need reviews. There is a minimum threshold of reviews needed to be considered for various promotions, and indies have a bigger challenge when it comes to crossing that barrier.
  • Could you tell us about your journey to publication? In 2007 I was inspired by Stephanie Myers’ story of writing her books during her kids’ swimming lessons that I sat down at my screen determined to get an entire story written. I had no clue where to start such a monumental task so I started searching online for guidance. I ended up finding a NaNoWriMo board, and the Snowflake Method, both of which were so helpful in those early days. I wrote and rewrote this story multiple times over the next 8 years, learning the craft, attending conferences, finding mentors and critique partners. In 2012 the manuscript was a Genesis finalist under the original title, Beauty for Ashes. I rewrote the story again, sent it around to the big pub houses, and got great feedback. But it was not ultimately picked up. I finally decided last year to go ahead and release my baby on my own. Ultimately, I think this was the best choice for me for this title. It’s so near to my heart that I’m glad I have all the control in the final manuscript, the cover, etc. and it was time
  • When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing? I love musical theater and old Rogers and Hammerstein movies, hanging out with my teens watching Once Upon A Time (though it isn’t what it used to be, we’ve bonded over the show. Plus, everyone says that my husband looks like Neal Cassidy,) and I recently WON a karaoke contest singing What I’ve Been Looking For from High School Musical with my hubby at our church’s Valentine’s Day dinner. =)
  • Can you share a favorite scene/line from your story? Grace in the Flames is a weighty book, but there are definitely some lighter scenes full of fun and romance. This excerpt makes me smile. The hero works at a home improvement store and our couple have just begun moving from friends to something more when this scene takes place:

Once outside, he took her hand. “If you have an hour to spare, there’s something I want to do.”

She stopped while he got out his keys. “Like what?”

“You’ll see.” He released her hand for her to climb into the car, then waited till she was safely settled to close her door.

When they pulled up to their destination a few minutes later, Home Depot was the last place she expected to see. She shut her door and looked over at John, who wore the expression of a child on his way to Chuck E Cheese. “So…what are we doing here?”

He shrugged. “I used to love Saturday mornings building stuff with my dad. Come on.” He held his hand out and she took it, letting him lead her into the home improvement store. Strangest date ever.

When they’d stepped through the doors, John paused, lifted his face, and inhaled deeply. “Ah…smell that?”

“Saw dust and paint fumes?”

“No. Creativity.”

He led her toward the back center of the store where long tables had been set up. Small squares of wood lay on them, and tools, and her eyebrows came together. “What’s this?”

“Our Saturday morning project.” He grinned then grabbed a work apron from the table, slipped it over her head, and reached around her waist. His nearness made her head pound, and he smiled down at her as he secured the apron ties, giving them a little yank. She stumbled into him and her hands flew to his chest as she steadied herself.

They both froze. “Sorry,” she whispered up at him.

“Don’t be.” His hint of a smile made her heart skip a beat, then she followed his gaze down to where her hands were still plastered against his…very firm chest.

Red faced, she withdrew them and inched backward with a shaky smile. Her legs would not hold her up much longer if she didn’t get some distance. She pivoted toward the table and busied herself examining its contents. “So…how do I help? What do you need?”

“Well, first, you won’t be helping…you’ll be building. And second, you’ll need this.” From somewhere under the table, he produced a hammer and held it out to her with both hands.

She stared down at it. “It’s pink.”

He smiled. “Yep. And it’s yours.”

“You…bought me a hammer?”

“You’re welcome.”

She poked out her lips and nodded, then wrapped her fingers around the handle. “Thanks.”

Definitely the strangest date ever.

MichelleMassaro

MICHELLE MASSARO writes contemporary fiction soaked in grace. She makes her home in Southern California with her husband of over two decades and their four children. She’s dabbled in homeschooling, teaching Creation Science, and leading worship. When she isn’t tinkering with words, Michelle enjoys old Rogers and Hammerstein movies, making kefir, and Sudoku. A new lipstick and a good French roast always make her happy.

Michelle’s contact information:

NEWSLETTER: eepurl.com/bPQL0T

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MichelleMassaroBooks

Twitter: @MLMassaro

Instagram: @MichelleMassaroBooks

Website: www.michellemassarobooks.com

Amazon purchase link: http://amzn.to/1Y8EcPA

Better Than Fiction Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BetterThanFiction2016

Thanks for having me, Bev!

Bev: You bet, thanks for visiting, and keep up the good work!

Bev out.

 

 

Saddle up for adventure and discover some good books

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Armchair adventure anyone?

What you, the followers of this blog have told me, is that you really love two things: finding out about new books, and hearing from the authors, so have I got a treat for you today! This one is jam packed with both of those, and more!

If you’re anything like me, summertime beckons a good old-fashioned adventure. But when you just can’t get out there yourself, there’s always a way to live through others, right?

Or course I’m talking about reading a well-told adventure book, and boy have I got three gems for you! They’re all a bit different: one’s on horseback, two are on foot, but all three tackle iconic trails most of us would never have the opportunity to experience except through reading about them. Stay tuned to the end because there are some additional books you won’t want to miss finding out about from my guest author, Jackie Parry.

A penniless adventure

The first, Free Country, A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain, is by George Mahmood. George and his buddy set off only in their underpants (the British Union Jack pattern makes an eye-catching cover, y’all) to prove that A) Brits have a dry, hilarious and often unexpected sense of humor, and B) their fellow countrymen can be willing to go along with even the most off-beat requests, such as offering up a spare pair of trousers, a bicycle and/or some hot pub grub. “Tricycle with that cup of tea, fella?” Yes, this is NOT a hike I’d recommend to just everyone, especially with the bare, and I do mean bare…minimum. But George and Ben, who set out to cycle the “End to End”, from England’s Land’s End to John O’Groats in Scotland, accomplished it. So toss off your clothes and join the fellas, and I promise you won’t regret reading along.

Barley Mow

A typical pub where George and Ben might have washed dishes in exchange for a meal. (They would have been wearing pants by now.)

Next is Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, by Ben Montgomery.

grandma-gatewood

I stumbled on, see what I did there… this gem that wasn’t written by Emma Gatewood herself, but compiled by Ben Montgomery in a page-turning recount of the first woman who walked the Appalachian Trail alone. He read her cryptic journal, postcards and letters and newspaper articles, and interviewed her children and grandchildren. He weaves in her early years, and wow, now I know why she sought solitude in the woods. Yikes.

Emma packed less than $200, a blanket, some bouillon cubes and a few other items. One day, Grandma Gatewood, as she was called by the media, got up one day, told her 11 kids she was “going for a walk,” and disappeared into the woods. She was eventually tracked down by some journalists who got wind of her…yeah…so she began sending postcards home to a not-so-surprised family because as you can surmise, they already knew she was built of some strong stuff. Well, you’ll have to read the rest for yourself. Like the part where she wears tennis shoes instead of hiking boots and sleeps on piles of leaves instead of sleeping bags. (“too heavy” she said) OMG. Just read this.

DW Garden path

Only a few miles was this well-groomed when Emma walked the ACT. An article she’d read made it sound like this was what she could expect. Not. That’s why they say she saved the ACT. Her journey led to a huge overhaul for which we can all thank her.

In case you missed it, Bill Bryson’s iconic, A Walk in the Woods is a hilarious and honest account of his time on the ACT. Now a movie starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, we have many ways to armchair experience this hike on steroids.

And the final one, and most HIGHLY RECOMMENDED book of this trifecta is:

A Standard Journey, 5 Horses, 2 People and 1 Tent, by Jackie Parry, who along with husband Noel, adopted, trained and conditioned five former race horses to ride the Australian Bicentennial Trail.

ASJ cover

A Standard Journey is more than a story of a couple adopting horses and deciding to tackle the Australian bush, it shows how we continue to discover new strengths in each other through the most dire circumstances.

Strength, determination. Yep, it’s all there. I’m the MOST excited about this one because, as you know, I grew up riding, and would have given my first bridle to go on this trip with Jackie and her husband Noel. I was so fascinated when I finished that I immediately contacted Jackie and asked her if she could stop by and visit with us, as she’s quite busy and already off on another madcap adventure, of which I’ll let her tell you about in a bit. This isn’t her first book and she promises me it is NOT her last, because she is not only out there killing it, guys, she’s a terrific writer.

Everyone, I’d like you to meet Jackie! (from here, Bev’s comments in red) 

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Jackie Parry, tacked, packed and mounted up, ready for Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail. “Be an encourager, there are far too many critics in the world already.” JP

What’s your latest news, and how has the book been received?

It’s all happening at once. I released A Standard Journey in June, and I’m thrilled to be sharing it with readers worldwide.

I donate 50% of my profits from this book to horse/animal charities, but more importantly large charity organisations around the world are buying up my book (at a reduced rate) in order to sell at fund-raisers.

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All “the boys” as Jackie calls them, were former Standard Bred race horses, which had to be retrained for packing and trail riding.

Win-win! Who will enjoy this book?

This story will resonate with anyone who enjoys reading about ordinary people achieving truly extraordinary things, it’s also for adventurers (whether armchair or not!), and animal lovers too.

There’s plenty of humour and humbleness in there too, I’ve written it with searing honesty, and pull no punches when it comes to talking about the mistakes we made.

Hey, I resemble that armchair adventure remark! What are some favourite lines?

“We won’t even have a sink!’ I said, clutching the metal sides of our kitchen basin lovingly.”

‘That’s okay, we’ll use a billabong.’ My bearded bush-husband said.

and

“Are you kidding?’ said Noel. ‘You want me to take on a horse called Psycho Stevie?”

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L-R: Spirit, Dom, Stevie, Charlie and Ned. (and Noel astride…Stevie the Pyscho?)

“I waded in, knowing I was in danger, if Dom panicked I’d end up under him. But that didn’t stop me. I grabbed his head and tugged his nose out of the water so he didn’t drown.”

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That’s trust. Or exhaustion. Both?

“My scared boy was no longer a coward, he was leader.”

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The boys ready for the trail.

How long did it take you to write ASJ?

I took many notes during the journey – horrid, scribbled, shaky notes. I managed to decipher these, and I suppose all up it took about a year to put together into a coherent story. I wanted to craft the story just right – as perfect as I could get it. Horses are a great passion of mine, the boys in the story won my heart, and this story is incredibly important to me.

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The boys had frequent vet checks and the best of care along the way, as you can tell by how sleek they were.

How would you describe your writing style?

Honesty is my first thought. I don’t think about it too much, how I write is who I am, ie how I sound every day. There’s no pretense. I like to show the good and the bad, and reveal who I am – warts and all! I think we all have our own demons and mine are readily revealed! I find the line between sanity and insanity is a fine one. Not everyone will admit that.

Tell  us what else you’ve written and what’s in the future.

Of Foreign Build – From Corporate Girl to Sea-Gypsy Woman was launched at the end of last year and I am incredibly proud of how well it is doing and the wonderful reviews. My story has won the 5* Readers’ Favourite Award and many excellent write ups in 5star-shiny-webinternational magazines. This is the story of losing one man and falling for another, while trying to figure out who I am, and sailing around the world.

Cruisers’ AA (Accumulated Acumen) was the first book I published(with my husband Noel). It is for anyone who wants to set sail – runaway – live on a boat; or, indeed, if you are already cruising and want to learn more. It covers every aspect of living on a boat, from health, to beauty, to maintenance, to pirates, to navigation…..

Next: The title is still to be determined: After we sailed around the world on our thirty-three foot boat, and before the horse-trail riding, Noel and I purchased a sailboat in America. We wanted to experience the bejewelled Pacific Ocean again. This time we sailed further south to Easter Island, Pitcairn, The Gambiers, etc. It should have been an easier trip in a bigger boat, and with many miles experience under our belts. Instead the oceans were a struggle, and tested our fortitude. I had one of my most terrifying nights on that trip and many struggles to overcome.

Here’s Jackie in front of a canal boat she and Noel recently refurbished. OK, now we want to read about THAT.

What’s great about being an author?

Connecting with like-minded people; the readers who have made contact, are amazing. My first memoir, Of Foreign Build has inspired so many people to write to me with beautiful letters about their lives and experiences. My story has helped many people too, and it’s wonderful to hear about it.

Of Foreign Build is a deeply personal story about life in general and how to survive it, and steer the path you want – that resonates with a lot of people. I love hearing from readers.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing at school. Yes, we had to, but I loved it! During my ‘office-based-career’, I helped put together the corporate magazine. When Noel and I were sailing I wrote thousands of articles for magazines and naturally progressed into books. Being an ordinary woman who’s living an extraordinary life inspired me. Plus, I just can’t seem to stop writing.
What books have most influenced your life most?

A Fortunate Life by Albert Facey and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, not just because of their titles. (Note the similarities to mine!) I study books as I read them. These two books influenced my writing career. I learned from these authors, writing does not need to be flowery and tricky – it needs to be concise and clever.

What book are you reading now?

A Capable and Wide Revenge by Glen Barrera; it is leaving me short of breath, so much happens. Not only is it a thrilling read it is smart writing too. He has characters you are happy to invest in, scenes which are as vivid as if they are playing out in front of you.

Are there any new authors that have your interest?

Yes, lots!

Mark Fine, author of The Zebra Affaire, an incredible story of a thrilling fusion of suspense and romance in exotic, yet brutal apartheid South Africa.

Rachel Amphlett, she’s on her fourth or fifth book now, I recently read her latest Mistake Creek, it kept me up all night, completely breathless!

Val Poore has written Harbour Ways and African Ways amongst others, I have read one of her books and can’t wait to read more.

Rochelle Carlton caught my eye with a beautiful romantic story set in New Zealand. Romance isn’t my usual choice, but this book is so beautifully written I couldn’t put it down.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Keep at it. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it. It is a marathon not a sprint and the entire process will take longer than you think. Try to write every day, if you can’t then read, learn, research (that part never ends!). Remember too, once you have published your book, you then have to learn to become a marketing professional! People won’t buy your book unless they know about it.
Anything else to share with you readers before you have to go?  

Thanks for all your support, it is amazing and so appreciated. Please do write (contact information is below) and tell me what you think. Can I help you? Let me know, I am happy to discuss marketing, writing, life!

Also, take a look at the links there to photo albums of our travels on the horses and on board our boats. Plus all the goodies from Cruisers’ AA on navigation etc.

Jackie it’s been so much fun, thanks for visiting. Your projects and words of  encouragement are so inspiring. I hope you keep entertaining us and seeking new adventures. You’ve definitely inspired me, and expanded my TBR list, that’s for sure! I hope you’ll visit again when the next book is published.

Bev out!

Jackie’s bio:

Addicted to travel, adventure and writing, Jackie doesn’t sit still for very long. Originally from the UK she is now an ‘adopted’ Australian. She’s sailed around the world one and a half times and trekked in the bush with five rescued horses for several months. She has also trained to become a professional maritime captain and teacher. Currently she is exploring the European canals on a 1920s Dutch barge with her Australian husband, Noel. She’s written about her sailing and horse trekking escapades, and there is still more to come. Jackie donates 50% of proceeds from her horse trekking book A Standard Journey5 horses, 2 people, and 1 tent, to help rescue more horses.

Contact information to Jackie Parry links to her books and blog.

Author blog: www.jackieparry.com

Travel blog: www.noelandjackiesjourneys.com

Horse Charity/Donations: http://helpinghandforhorses.weebly.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jackie.parry.7543

Travels: https://www.facebook.com/NoelAndJackiesJourneys

Horses: https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-the-love-of-horses/1048526295173146

Amazon book links

A StandardJourney: http://geni.us/1j9w

Of Foreign Build: http://geni.us/ipq

Cruisers’ AA (accumulated acumen) – http://geni.us/3sKJ

Twitter

https://twitter.com/NandJJourneys

https://twitter.com/StandardJourney

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7157763.Jackie_Sarah_Parry?from_search=true

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jackieparry7543

Full photo album of A Standard Journey: http://goo.gl/1QgMp2

Full photo album of Of Foreign Build: http://jackieparry.com/of-foreign-build-photo-album/

Full photo album of Cruisers’AA: http://jackieparry.com/pics/

InD’Tale Magazine Reviews “The Kaleidoscope”

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Five gold stars

“Harold Donaldson is brilliant with computers and at a complete loss as to how to deal with people. Separated from his wife, he decides to prove to her that he is not the boring, unambitious man she thinks he is. In his attempt to be promoted at work, he starts interacting with those around him by following a step-by-step guide that somehow results in him becoming the custodian of a beautiful kaleidoscope. It changes his life in a way he never expected: the kaleidoscope is no ordinary toy. It can allow the user to catch a glimpse of their future, and soon Harold’s simple attempt at a promotion stirs up an old conspiracy involving his father and sends him on a journey of self-discovery that will change everything.

A rare combination of philosophical, mystery and thriller, with “The Kaleidoscope” author B.K. Nault has created some of the best character growth this reader has seen in a long time. Harold is disconnected from people, unable to understand them or be understood because of his family and his past tragedies, and yet by the end of the novel he goes from flat and boring to deep, friendly, loveable, and interesting. The mystery that unravels around the Kaleidoscope is well written and unravels in a way that leaves the reader both thinking and guessing. The bit of romance Harold finds as well, will make the reader smile and cheer at the end. “The Kaleidoscope” should be on every reader’s must-read list!”

Sarah E. Bradley

Crowned Heart

Ind’Tale Magazine awarded “The Kaleidoscope” the Crowned Heart of Excellence