A Plain Leaving by Leslie Gould


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Jessica Bachmann has been on her own for three years. She has a job that she loves, and a boyfriend she cares for. Her life is good enough that she doesn’t regret leaving her Amish community, despite the time it took to get over the pain of the separation.

Now, after the death of her father, she must return for the funeral. She struggles through her grief, as well as the painful reunion with her family, most of whom are anything but welcoming. She must also deal with the resurfacing emotions toward Silas, the love she left behind.

In the midst of it all, Jessica’s aunt tells her the story of Ruby Bachmann, an ancestor from the time of the Revolutionary War. Ruby was faced with hardships and hard decisions. Will Ruby’s story guide Jessica back to her family? Or will it reinforce her decision to leave?

This is the first Amish novel I’ve ever read, and I’m glad I gave it a chance. It’s very well written, and Gould does a good job of weaving the two stories together. There were a couple of times where I lost track of whose story I was reading. I don’t really fault the author for this. I think it was only in part due to the fact that the Amish community didn’t change much between the times of Ruby and Jessica. But it wasn’t a major confusion. It was more along the lines of “oh, wait… that’s right, Jessica has a car.”

Other than that (which I blame mostly on my lack of concentration as of late), the book is wonderful. If you’re looking for a clean, faith-inspiring read, this is it.

1) Overall Plot = 5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4.8
5) Overall Enjoyability = 4.8

Average of score 4.92 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

The Bullet Journal: To Plan or to Track?


I’ve tried a lot of ways to get myself organized with my writing. Not just in terms of keeping track of ideas and notes, but in terms of making myself sit down and get things done. I was using a Monthly/Daily planner for a while, but I eventually fell away from keeping it up. I was planning out my entire day by the hour, and I felt like it was too rigid for what I was trying to do.

Enter the Bullet Journal. I am brand new to this. I discovered it while looking for planner tips, and put off trying it for a long time because it seemed too involved. But the more I researched, the more I was drawn to how flexible and customizable it is. So, I finally gave in and purchased this lovely little journal.

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After looking at tips on what to put inside, I decided to keep mine very simple. I have lots of collections right in front, because I love lists, and it’s honestly how I best organize my thoughts.

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The logs, however, are where I cut back. I almost cut the monthly log, but the more I thought about it, it’s the daily log that is unnecessary for me. This journal will be purely for writing and reading. I work a full-time job, so I don’t do a lot of planning during the week as my schedule can vary if I suddenly need to stay an hour or so later at work. A weekly spread seemed to be more beneficial, so I came up with a layout I think will work for me, including a habit tracker.

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Unlike most weekly planners, I gave myself more space on the weekend, since this is when most of my writing will be done.

Once I had this in place, I sat to jot down a few tasks to get me started in the coming week, and I blanked. Doubt crept in that I’ll ever find something to truly work for me. Scheduling my writing tasks, at least in detail of what I need to do, just seems so burdensome. I think it’s partially due to the fact that this is my first novel, and I’m trying to take my blog in a new, broader direction. It’s unfamiliar territory. How can I plan the unknown?

As I stared at the blank Monday, I realized I shouldn’t try to plan. What I’ve decided to do instead is use this weekly spread to track what I’ve done. My monthly log with tell me specific items that must be accomplished. My habit tracker tells me what my priorities are. It’s my job to focus and do them, and I’ll keep track of my success with my weekly spread. Did I discover character details? Did I research a post for my blog? I’ll list everything I worked on when I finish for the day.

I’ll be doing this for a while, trying to get the hang of it. I don’t want to judge the progress too soon.

Do you use a bullet journal? How have you customized it to fit your needs?

You can learn about bullet journaling here.

 

Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman


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When Tara Parrish barely survives an attack from the Lone Wolf bomber, she decides the only person she can count on to keep her safe is herself. She runs, knowing that if the bomber finds her, he’ll finish what he started.

Agent Cal Riggins has spent months trying to catch the Lone Wolf to stop him from taking any more lives. He knows Tara can help him, and he finally tracks her down. Now he has three problems: convincing Tara to come back and help, keeping her safe, and fighting off the growing attraction and admiration he feels for her so he can successfully do both of those things.

This novel had me glued from page one. Tension on every page. It’s a romantic suspense that holds solid on both fronts.

I think my favorite thing about his story is that, being a terrorist bomber, it could have been very generalized. Sleeman avoided that by making the stakes super-personal and adding a psychological twist, as well as a running theme of not trusting God when it seems like He’s not there.

All-in-all, this is a great read.

1) Overall Plot = 5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average of score 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

Tethered by Brenda H. Cox


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Henrietta Hall Shuck married at seventeen, then sailed to the other side of the world with her new husband as a missionary in China. Through disease, heartbreak, poverty, and war, the Shucks remain determined to follow God’s leading and remain in the country, sometimes against the wishes of the mission board, until Henrietta becomes the first female American missionary to set foot on China’s mainland.

There is no denying that Henrietta Shuck’s life is fascinating. She is an example of what it is like to follow God’s will, even when it would be easier (even life-saving) to turn back.

But as a novel, Tethered misses the mark. Very little of the book feels like a novel. The parts that do are quickly interrupted by time-jumps, tidbits of future information, or information dumps. The book was obviously well-researched. I think it would have been much better as a non-fiction piece with a narrative feel, but still non-fiction.

1) Overall Plot = 4
2) Characters = 3
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 3
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average of score 3.5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Rescued Hearts by Hope Toler Dougherty


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When Mary Wade Kimball stops to help an entangled kitten, she’s pulled into the nearby abandoned house. Bound and gagged, she worries she will never escape when the leader of her two assailants returns from the store.

When Brett Davis discovers the kidnapped woman, he has a decision to make. He can allow this woman to be hurt, or he can throw three months of undercover work out of the window and get her out of there. But what will happen when the other two men give chase? And what do they do with the growing attraction between them?

I was very pleasantly surprised by this novel. The story pulled me in so that I couldn’t wait to pick up the book again. It’s mostly clean, with a few heated kisses and a couple of close calls with Mary at the hands of one of her assailants, but not vulgar by any stretch.

There’s also a great focus on leaning on God’s strength.

I definitely suggest this novel.

1) Overall Plot = 4.5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average of score 4.9 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe


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At fourteen years old, Dita is trying to adjust to life in Auschwitz as a Nazi prisoner when she’s approached by Fredy Hirsch. He is in possession of eight books, smuggled into the camp. To have them is illegal, and he wants Dita to be in charge of taking care of them. It puts her life on the line, in a place where life already means so little to those in power.

I love literature set during events of World War II and the Holocaust. It’s a period of time that has always torn at my heart and pulled at my interest. This novel is based on actual events from the life of Dita Kraus. Then, the fact that it was about books, too… I bought this book without a second thought. I wanted so much to love it, but I was disappointed.

While the story was moving along, it wasn’t bad. It held my interest and I wanted to know where it was going. The first problem came with the writing style. The original novel was written in Spanish, so I’m not sure if it’s with author or a result of the translation, but the writing felt like it was geared toward a younger audience than it should have been. It’s listed as juvenile fiction, but due to some language and adult themes I wouldn’t suggest it for younger than fifteen, and if felt like it was written for a younger age group at times.

My second issue came with the discussion of books. Iturbe often interrupts the flow of the story to describe the content of the books in the library, or books that Dita read before being sent to the camps. In some instances there are actual passages from other books. It really takes you of Dita’s story, and makes the book longer than necessary.

Dita’s story is definitely an interesting one, but I only got to page 124 before I decided it was taking me too long to get through it. Iturbe’s postscript is interesting, and he lists the resources he used for research. So, I may read more about this through those sources another time.

1) Overall Plot = 4
2) Characters = 3.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 2.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average of score 3.3 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Forever and Forever by Josi S. Kilpack


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Fanny Appleton is a lady of privilege. At nineteen years old, she is touring Europe when she meets Henry Longfellow, a recently widowed poet and author. He is drawn to Fanny. While she likes dancing and the social life her father’s accomplishments provides, she also enjoys language and the written word.

Henry is quick to fall in love, but Fanny remains distant. He is ten years older than she is, and from a lower social class. Despite her worries, Henry remains hopeful she will be his. But how long can that hope survive?

I’m kind of middle of the road with this one. I enjoyed reading it, and wanted to know what would happen between Henry and Fanny, but I often found it slow. The novel is based on the real romance between poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Frances Appleton, so the time spanning the novel was necessary to stick to the timeline, but I sometimes felt it could have been just a bit shorter.

Other than that, the novel is enjoyable, and an interesting read. As part of the Proper Romance series, this is a clean, faith-filled story.

1) Overall Plot =3.5
2) Characters = 4
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 3.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 3

Average of score 3.8 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Deliver Us From Evil by Robin Caroll


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U. S. Marshall Roark Holland is back on the job after a tragic loss. His assignment is to guard a donor heart being transported for a government witness who is comatose after being in the line of fire. When a blizzard causes the helicopter to crash, Brannon Callahan, a helicopter pilot who runs search-and-rescue missions in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, must find him and help save him and the heart. If she doesn’t, the witness will die, and a child trafficking ring will continue its operations.

The writing is good. There’s no question about that. Caroll makes you want to see what happens next, and has created distinguishable characters. That being said, I only got through the first five chapters.

This isn’t a reflection on the author, but my ability to read the content. I have a hard time reading books (or watching movies) where children are being hurt. There are chapters that are from the point of view of a child stuck in the trafficking ring, and while they are not overly descriptive (some things are left to the imagination), it is vivid enough that my stomach turned.

Had the chapters with the child not been included, or possibly done a bit differently, I probably could have continued with no problem. The action was done so that I could see this would be an engaging thriller, but I couldn’t get past the child. And that would be my one content warning.

Since I feel like I read enough to get the feel of the writer’s style and where the book was headed, I’ll use my ratings system, which still leaves the book with a nice score. I may try another book from Caroll in the future, but this one wasn’t for me.

1) Overall Plot =3.5
2) Characters = 4
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 4
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4.5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2

Average of score 3.6 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Will You Join Me On My Journey?


A couple of months ago I shared that I entered a writing contest as part of my plan to treat writing as a career and look for opportunities to be published. I’m still waiting on the results of that contest, but I want to share some things on my writing journey as a whole.

I shared last time about a Ko-fi account that I created that would allow my readers (you guys!) to help support me on my journey, and I am very grateful to have received a couple of sizeable (more than I would have ever expected) donations that have allowed me to purchase a few writing resources/tools (including Scrivener) and join the American Christian Fiction Writers. A membership in ACFW can mean great things for a writing career in terms of support and connections. I am thrilled that I was finally able to do this.

I also mentioned in that previous post that I was considering using Patreon as a way to get support, and I’ve done it (click the picture below).

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The great thing about Patreon is that I can set up donation tiers. Even the smallest amount helps, because those small amounts add up when more people give.

My tiers are $2, $5, $10, $15, and $25. At each level, you get a little something: from periodic updates about my writing, to being able to suggest topics for a blog post, to book giveaways. The more you give, the more you get.

This support means a lot to me. To be able to purchase the things I need to not just write, but move toward publication, is amazing. Another item I was able to purchase with the last donation through Ko-fi was The Christian Writer’s Market Guide. This one purchase can help me greatly with publication possibilities.

So, I’m asking for two favors.

  1. If you can, please become a Patron, at whatever tier is comfortable for you.
  2. Whether you can become a Patron or not, please spread the word. This post will be shared on Twitter. Please consider sharing it there. If you have a WordPress blog, please consider sharing this post to your blog.

One day, when I reach the publication of a novel, I’ll try to do something amazing for my supporters. For now, this is what I can offer in return for support that would mean the world to me.

Thank you all. God bless.

How to Be a Perfect Christian by The Babylon Bee


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What’s the key to being a perfect Christian? You need to remember that it’s all about you. In this guide, you’ll get tips on finding a church that caters to your beliefs and spiritual needs. You’ll learn how to keep your fellowship at the surface level so that no one learns enough about you to see what a mess your life really is. Best of all, you’ll learn how to use your Christianity as a tool to call out non-believers, vilify people who vote differently than you do, and protect your family from imperfect Christians and heathens.

In the satirical tradition of their popular website, The Babylon Bee has created something hysterical in its ridiculousness. This book pokes fun at the odd (and sometimes un-Christian) behavior and thinking of modern Christian culture.

The authors make sure to lace the mocking with traces of Biblical truth, which beautifully contrasts the objects of their humor. They even manage to proclaim the true gospel in the final chapter, though still in the form of satire.

Overall, this book is brilliant, and calls out the modern church on things that need to be called out.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5.

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

I received an advanced copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.