Friday, February 23, 2018

All the Lies We Cannot See

*parody of a book title I haven't read yet. 

Beliefs get firmly rooted in our head.

"I don't have enough time today."

"I can do it all."

"I'd be happier if I looked different."

"I can't say no to anyone."

"They had {my anger} coming to them."

"I have a right to be honest about my feelings."

"There's no way out of this sin. I'm stuck."

"I'm going to struggle the rest of my life."

All of them are ones I've believed at different times. Some seem like big beliefs; some seem like small ones. Everything on that list is a lie or a half-truth.  And there are so many more that I don't even know I'm thinking. This week I've been diving into a book about them. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wrote Lies Women Believe back in 2000. But after seventeen years, a new, updated and expanded edition has been released to include references to social media, new insights from her role as a wife, and even more of what she's learned since about walking with the Lord. I've never read the original edition, but I had the blessing of reading the updated edition this week, pouring over chapters in some days that I had off of odd jobs and events.

I have to admit, I started the introduction a couple of weeks ago, and it looked like it was going to be hard to go further. I didn't want anything I loved to have to go through painful surgery. But a review deadline forced me back to face it. The book has been full of the Holy Spirit and Scripture and truth. My reactions have been a strong rejoicing in grace and truth, with a couple of ouch moments which I still need to wrestle with. Here are some highlights of things I loved:

  • I loved how, in reading this book and another book by a Christian author, as well as enjoying some sweet devotional and prayer times, my soul and perspective feels sweeter and closer to God. I was going through a season of pride and slipping into a love of entertainment that wasn't leading me to healthy places. It feels joyful and right to be in a tenderer place. 
  • Reading it gave me a better perspective on praying and waiting through hard things. 
  • I started the chapter with sexuality a bit nervous as a single woman. It was kindly and appropriately written and gave me so much truth to plant deep. A person's ultimate longing with their sexuality is to be known, and while that is fulfilled differently in marriage than in singleness, I can be legitimately, intimately known by Christ and in appropriate relationships without sex. Also, I loved the section in that chapter about being an image-bearer and my identity in Christ, not in temptations. 
  • I need to wrestle with living a perspective that's about the glory of God and not about myself, my pleasures, my fulfillment. 

Nancy's book just came out on Monday. Each chapter ends with Scripture verses that counter specific lies we believe with truth. It's a great book to pull into your devotional time (I've been reading some Christian books along with my devotional time and loving it!) It's a good book to read slowly, to savor, to pray over, to allow to sink deep into your soul. It's beautifully packaged and gently, graciously written. And it's one I hope to be returning to. And it's one I'd love to talk about any time via email, text, or blog comment with any of you as well. It would be a joy.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher as part of a launch team. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Olympics Come to Avonlea

via Pixabay
I was off to bed the other night at the insane hour of near on midnight.

I love and hate the Olympics. I am so tired.

But it occurred to me on Sunday that I'd love to hear Mrs. Lynde and Deborah Jenkins talk about ice dancing. I mean, seeing those two precious pillar-of-the-church ladies watch performers with those costumes, especially the Latin dancing, just cracked me up so much.

And then I thought, why not? Let's make it happen. So I present to you, The Olympics Come to Avonlea.

deborah jekins isn't in avonlea, schuyler

i know. but that title, tho.

Scene: A cozy parlor, with wooden rocking chairs on a clean, wooden floor. Over the backs of the rocking chairs are folded hand-pieced quilts. The curtains are drawn, and there's a fire in the grate. Not a roaring fire. That would be a waste of wood. But a comfortable, economic fire that is doing its work creditably. Both ladies sit in cozy knitted shawls. Over Mrs. Lynde's lap is a quilt square she's piecing, and Deborah Jenkins has yarn and needles close at hand.

In front of them sits an antique wooden table with a modern black box of Babylon on it. The screen is currently blank. Miss Jenkins takes up a small rectangular wand lying on the table next to her and looks with furrowed brow at the buttons on the face of it.

Miss Jenkins: "Perhaps, Mrs. Lynde, if you will attend to this, I will attend to the tea kettle. I hear it in the kitchen."

She departs. Mrs. Lynde puts on her glasses and takes up the remote.

Mrs. Lynde: "I suppose this makes that great contraption work somehow. I never did hold to television. This red button looks like the gateway to evil. Downright sinful, that's what. For mercy's sake, it says ON."

She pushes the button and waits, leaning forward on her rocking chair in suspense. Miss Jenkins returns with a tea tray.

Miss Jenkins: "It is late to be observing this curiosity. I doubt any good comes from staying up past one's bedtime."

She shakes her head and lifts the teapot, but before she can pour it into the cup, a great blast of music comes from the screen and it turns on. Both ladies start.

Mrs. Lynde: "So that's what I heard coming from Alexander Randall's the other night. How does anyone keep this under control? It's enough to make a person deaf."

As soon as the commercial ends, the camera return to the ice, where a pair of dancers stand waiting for the music to start. Mrs. Lynde gasps. Miss Jenkins, in the act of pouring tea, freezes speechless.

Mrs. Lynde: "She's actually showing her legs. Well, things have come to a pretty pass with the current Prime Minister, make no mistake. I never thought I'd live to be ashamed of being a Liberal. I knew this country would go to ruin after the last election."

Miss Jenkins: "I am relieved Martha is in bed."

The music starts. As soon as she hears the opening notes, Miss Jenkins sinks into her rocking chair, cold disapproval in her gray eyes. The teapot is forgotten with the cups half full.

Mrs. Lynde: "I heard they have to travel all the way to South Korea. In my day, young women were content to live and die in the same place as their mothers and fathers before them. And they certainly wouldn't have bared their backs to the watching world. Why, I was at the Ladies Aid meeting and the minister's wife spoke of watching them. Things have changed, that's what."

The music ends. The pair leaves the ice, and the television cuts to commercials. Mrs. Lynde finishes pouring the forgotten tea. Mrs. Jenkins lays aside her knitting, at which she's been working furiously. She gets up and lights another candle, then blows out the first one to make sure they stay even in length. The dancing returns.

Mrs. Lynde: "The Yankees are all over the scoreboard. I'm not surprised they're involved in something like this."

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir stand waiting on the ice. Mrs. Lynde raises her eyebrows and removes her spectacles. Miss Jenkins purses her lips.

Mrs. Lynde: "Ruby Gillis would have been an ice dancer if she had been born later. If Canada wins a medal, I won't count the evening as a waste, but I'm not the same woman after what I've seen. If it gets out what I've sat and watched, I'll never face the Sewing Circle again. I never thought I'd actually have to hold my tongue about something."

Mrs. Lynde watches the dance spellbound until the commercials interrupt before the score is given.

Mrs. Lynde: Well, that's the last one. We'll find out who gets a medal next. I only hope it's the Canadians."

The commercials are over, and the ice dancing returns. Miss Jenkins placidly keeps her needles clicking in and out. She does not watch the television. Mrs. Lynde drops her quilt piecing and leans forward.

Mrs. Lynde: "I wish it was over. Lawful heart, I don't know how anyone can stand it. Of course, the Canadians will win."

Miss Jenkins, still knitting: "Speculation is the enemy of calm."

The score appears on the screen. Mrs. Lynde's quilt square drops to the floor.

Mrs. Lynde: "Well, they've won, and that's a mercy. The Canadians still do themselves proud, I'll say that for them. Though none of the world will hold together much longer when they're handing out medals for falling all over each other like that. If the heathen could see us now, they'd send back the missionaries, that's what. I'll hardly sleep a wink tonight."

Miss Jenkins: "I do not approve of this modern invention. It has evil tendencies."

Mrs. Lynde: "It's indecent if you ask my advice. I heard yesterday that Josie Pye's cousin's family watched the television every night and turned into the most shiftless housekeepers. I went to call there yesterday morning and I caught Ellen Pye actually bundling Monday washing into the kitchen cupboard. And this was on a Tuesday. The whole church knows what goes on behind those closed doors, believe me."

Mrs. Lynde pushes the red button, and the screen goes black. Miss Jenkins collects the tea things and replaces them on the tea tray. Soon after, the little house is tucked into a quiet slumber.

The next day, a modern television is carted away to the village to be sold.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Lost Castle {kristy cambron}

The Book  {description via Amazon}
Ellie Carver arrives at her grandmother’s bedside expecting to find her silently slipping away. Instead, the beloved woman begins speaking. Of a secret past and castle ruins forgotten by time. Of a hidden chapel that served as a rendezvous for the French Resistance in World War II. Of lost love and deep regret . . .

Each piece that unlocks the story seems to unlock part of Ellie too—where she came from and who she is becoming. But her grandmother is quickly disappearing into the shadows of Alzheimer’s and Ellie must act fast if she wants to uncover the truth of her family’s history. Drawn by the mystery surrounding The Sleeping Beauty—a castle so named for Charles Perrault’s beloved fairy tale—Ellie embarks on a journey to France’s Loire Valley in hopes that she can unearth its secrets before time silences them forever.

Bridging the past to the present in three time periods—the French Revolution, World War II, and present day—The Lost Castle is a story of loves won and lost, of battles waged in the hearts of men, and of an enchanted castle that stood witness to it all, inspiring a legacy of faith through the generations.

My Thoughts 
Where Kristy really shines, and what I love to see included in stories, is the five-senses details she uses to enrich her stories. Details show the craftsmanship--in things like violets and beautiful houses, in a mint dress and barrel roll curls, in Ellie's boots, the taste of a pear, and the furniture of a house. Houndstooth trousers. A fox brooch. Kristy lingers in the moments, using her knowledge of art to lovingly arrange the details of the scene, and I especially like the vivid life and heritage in the French country in Ellie's plotline.

It was cool to see little details weave through the three time periods, watching the legacy of the castle span through the centuries in objects and names. The beginning inciting incident was a great way to kick off the adventure, and the ending packed a lot of heart-feelings into the final climax.

If I could sum up this book in one word, I think savor would describe it perfectly. Life is savored here. Food and color and beautiful things are savored. Friends and family--people--are savored. And those are things I love to savor too.

This book was provided by the author. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

McConkey Press OTPs {valentine's day}

via Pixabay
I've complained quite often to various friends lately that I don't write romance well. I can write friendships well. Friendships are something I have always had and savored. They are a key part of my life. Romance is something that I've always been cautious with trying to feel. 

You write what you know.

But over the years I've observed other writers write love stories. I've watched movies and read books. And there are some beautiful ones to be enjoyed. I've also thought about my own characters and who they belong with. You know you're a crazy author when you pick a spouse for your character and know their marriage down to the communication problems and flaws they each bring to each other.

While writing romance is hard with a couple of characters I'm working on right now, I've already written a few couples that I love. The first two are already published. The third one probably will be in some form someday, but I have to get permission to reprint song lyrics first, which I'm hoping to work on this year. 


The only romance plot in War of Loyalties, and two people I have loved and cried over. 

Fav quote: 

Terry caught sight of Jaeryn’s  blonde passenger then, and his eyes lit up. He offered a hand over the side of the car and engulfed hers in a hearty shake. “I’ve seen you before.  Are  you  the  doctor’s  sister,  or  an  elf  come  down  from Ireland for a visit?”
She drew her hand back from his touch. “I am Pearl Dailey.”
Terry hefted her trunk out of the back and set it on the ground.  “Do you mind if I call you Acushla instead? You look like an Acushla.” 

Fav way they suit each other: cheery+protective {terry}, shy+sweet {pearlie} 

Main flaw: Probably Terry, mostly. *chuckles* 

i think the main flaw was the author, schuyler. let's be honest here. 

Fav things to do together: Hold hands, and take care of the people they love. 

OTP Songs: when you're with me {the afters} , if i could cry {paul byrom}, a whole new world {peter and evynne hollens} 


Fav Quote:

Frustration edged his voice. “I don’t think I belong here. I’m lost in this kind of work, and he isn’t helping.”

Her voice was low and fierce, though the fierceness was not for him, he knew. “You are strong and brave and kind. And you did what you thought you were supposed to do. If he does not want you here, then we will face him and show him that twenty years of bravery are too strong to be undone by three weeks of the war.”

Fav way they suit each other: They both have a deep love for home, healing, and kindness.

Main flaw: A tendency to hide from healthy disagreement and open communication of their feelings because they don't want to hurt each other and their marriage is incredibly precious to both of them.

Fav things to do together:
Kiss. ;) Raise children. Spend time in the evening relaxing after a hard day's work.

OTP songs: feels like home {damian mcgint

julian+cora lee williams 

The Caribbean novellas had the fun of a friendship trio without a love triangle. I thought about keeping it that way, but Julian and Cora Lee Williams (aka Roo) decided to dance together, which was the end of things as they had been. Friend Colby was cool with it.

but what about Colby, schuyler. he was part of this trio and then you left him out in the cold.

Fav Quote:
I knew what I wanted to give you for Christmas a long time ago. I think, in a strange kind of way, I’ve known ever since we danced together. But I decided to wait for a while to see if it was something you would want too.

Fav way they suit each other: Passionate about art/culture and seeking to know God better together.

Fav things to do together: Read Scripture. Listen to songs that mean a lot to them. Try yummy food at restaurants and coffee shops. Dance. ;)

Main flaw: I don't think they have any, so maybe that's it?

OTP Songs:
the dance {colm keegan}

victoria hathaway+mystery hero 
Victoria came about from a dare and a bunch of random pictures on Pinterest. She was glorious to write last year, but after a long hiatus publishing WoL, she's been more distressing than otherwise at the beginning of this year. I think it's part stage-fright as an author and part re-reading the first draft and finding it needs help. But I've found bits and pieces of inspiration lately, and maybe she just needs a bit more incubation and love. We'll get there together. 

Fav Quote:

Whoever said that love was not a conscious choice was a liar and a fool. She could feel the tide, pressing heavy against the wall of her common sense and future piece, foaming for entrance as his hand reached for hers and they stepped into the carriage. But she was her own woman now—there was no one to care what became of her, no one to be hurt by her choice. It was only her. And what a life to live, loving him.

Fav way they suit each other: They both love the pursuit of justice, and they can live separate from the world, content in introverted, passionate esteem for each other.

Fav things to do together:
Use their observation skills to uncover unspoken facts about the people around them, fight crime in the streets of London, and playing the violin.

Main flaw: They each have inner independence, either by choice or by necessity. One of them doesn't ask for help. The other doesn't need it.

OTP songs: lord m {victoria soundtrack}, a sky full of stars {pianoguys}


Angel is a Syrian-American currently employed by Peter as his female butler and right-hand aide in an undercover foreign operation. Angel is running from her heritage and Peter is running from inner demons of frightening obsessions he cannot understand. 

Fav Quote: There aren't any yet! I'm still in the early outlining stages. 

Fav way they fit together:
They find resources of iron courage, fulfilling purpose, and hope in each other that they're never going to find separately.

Fav things to do together:
Keeping Peter's business and household in order and painstakingly clean down to the smallest detail. Take part in undercover human rescue operations.

Main flaw: Peter thinks the only way he can stay safe is by isolating himself more and more into his own private existence. Angel is content to live a satisfying life without facing the pain of her people. And they're happy to be in their own perfect little world.

OTP songs: the sound of surviving {nichole nordman}

So, in looking at all this, maybe I can write romance. Maybe it just takes time to have the people I love come to life. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Flora and Ulysses {superhero squirrel}

At the beginning of a couple of weeks of glorious Olympic sporting celebrations, you just might be in the mood for a midwinter break. A midwinter break that has you curled up on Saturday mornings and midweek evenings watching sports you've never heard of before (especially if you don't watch sports.) Maybe you throw a random pan of brownies in the oven. Maybe you stand and salute the national anthem with your team.

And maybe, if you're watching a sport that just isn't catching your interest, you'll want to pick up a completely new book to pass the time: Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo

cover via Goodreads 
About the Book
When an ordinary squirrel gets sucked up into a vacuum, he emerges with superpowers--the ability to fly, and the ability to write poetry. Teaming up with Flora, comic book expert, cynic, and daughter of divorced parents, Ulysses starts his quest. But will he be killed or separated from Flora by their Archenemy just as their adventures are beginning? 

My Thoughts 
We were sitting by a woodstove in rocking chairs, soaking in a conversation about books and blogging, when a friend brought over a copy of Flora and Ulysses to show me. It's a fascinating book format--a children's chapter book written mostly in text and partly in comic book style, flipping between the two formats to tell the story. At the end of the night, her sister lent me a copy to take home. Superhero squirrel? This sounded enchanting.

The next day I curled up in bed and read like crazy, starting the morning with some Wodehouse and easing into Flora and Ulysses later on. But, while I can handle drama and kidnappings, murder and abduction, Dickens and dystopian, my brain doesn't always work with whimsy as fast as it should. Somehow it finds big, obvious, gut-wrenching emotions easier to categorize than the life and perspective of a child. Flora was hard to open my heart to at first. She didn't like her mother or adults, and while I can handle those emotions in adult books, when I read a children's book my flag immediately goes up. When I was a child, I was careful to recognize bad attitudes in books. This is Not How Good Children Behave. Which, I hasten to add, is true.

But Flora was a little more complex than that. I'm not sure which chapter it was, but when I picked up the book a second time, some days later, my brain finally clicked. Flora is hurting so badly because of her parents' divorce, and she hasn't talked about it, so all these toxic feelings and distrust of adults is trapped inside. Once I made my own self-discovery (not having read the back of the book, which would have explained it) I felt like such a bright little genius.

*pats smol schuyler*

After that, I found so much to love. A child's wounded heart finds comfort through comic books, all kinds of facts about what to do in crisis situations, and a little squirrel. She also finds companions in the neighbor lady, Mrs. T, and her nephew (ahem, great-nephew) William Spiver, who is carrying wounds of his own. (Also the apartment lady, who I felt creeped out by.)

And the squirrel. The squirrel is priceless. He's small. Loyal. Loving. Simple-minded. There's nothing much going on up there besides: Poetry. Food. Love for Flora. Do Great Things. Combine that with an inability to spell (Oh, glorious 'Squirtle'!) and you have the recipe for a furry companion that simply melts the heart. It's easy to get lost in the journey of Flora and Ulysses' fight against separation, Flora's unfolding friendships, and the mystery of why in the world William Spiver won't take his glasses off.

If you're in the mood for a Newbery Medal winner that throws in some tasty-sounding donuts for good measure, the tender adventure of Flora and Ulysses navigating their world of flaws and hurts might be just the thing to curl up with. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Song Unheard {spying + WW1}

Every so often a series premise comes along that has a little extra pop. When I first heard of Roseanna White's World War One series, it was the time period that attracted me. After all, there's not a ton of WW1 historical fiction out there. But street thieves being recruited as spies? Sign me up.

I read book one and really enjoyed it last year (see my review here) so when book two came up, I was really looking forward to it. A Song Unheard was absolutely five stars and full of all my favorite story elements.

If you enjoyed War of Loyalties and are in the mood for more espionage, this just might do the trick. ;)

The Book {description and cover from goodreads}
Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which make her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I—to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales.

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he's won—until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father's work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is in meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn't—that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.

My Thoughts
Book two had all my favorite things about book one and more added in for good measure. I enjoyed the characters in book one, but thought the spy plot struggled a little bit with continuity. This book brings the spying and drama to the next level in a really, really good way. The drama was complex and the build-up to the climax utterly satisfying--and I loved the twist with Lukas and Willa just before the build-up to the final climax.

I enjoyed the Belgian characters and the balance with which White dramatizes the villains and the heroes. Not all the heroes are good. Not all the villains are bad. The character of Gottlieb, a German officer, is especially nuanced, which brings me great joy as a reader. Also, I appreciated that Lukas's sins with flirtation in his past weren't really dwelt on in an uncomfortable way, and his attraction to Willa was less physical in nature (though still there). Lukas's fight to return to self-control and honor made him an endearing character. His friendship with Willa was natural and close, while the clashes added a spice that wasn't unnecessarily antagonistic or jarring.

The Christian faith journey was also super, super well done. I loved how some characters found faith early in the book, but others took longer and fought harder. It was sweet and convincing and coupled with the dramatic storytelling, just the thing I'd love to read a second time.

I loved how Willa thinks in music (always having some sort of tune humming through her life to guide her) and Lukas's sister Margot thinks in numbers, even praying in them sometimes. It was such a vivid, unique way to show how their minds worked in different genius talents, and it enriched the story so much.

I also really loved the scenes where Barclay was interacting with Willa in his kindness, leadership, goodnatured friendship, and teasing. I can't wait for book three to showcase Barclay more. (In fact, you can sign up for Roseanna's newsletter to see the cover of book 3 release soon.) His, Willa's, and Rosemary's commitment to family--even a family of pickpockets--is endearing, and the way you see their family grow in this story is nothing less than satisfying.

A Song Unknown is full of heart, ticking time bombs, love, spying, music, math, and a fight to hold on in the midst of war. I can't wait to read it again.

I received this book from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

PS. Stay tuned for thoughts on a heart-warming superhero squirrel story coming up later! 
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