Get Your Joy Back, book review

Get Your Joy Back, book reviewAn invitation and a promise for weary Christian parents of special needs kids from a parent who’s been there.

Get Your Joy Back: Banishing Resentment and Reclaiming Confidence in Your Special Needs Family by Laurie Wallin

About this book: (from the publisher) “It isn’t the long day of monitoring a child’s precarious health or being hyper-vigilant about her mood and mental health challenges that weighs parents down; it’s the wishing that things were different. . . . Resentment, not the intense care they must provide their child, is the parents’ greatest stressor and source of pain.” —Laurie Wallin

Parents of specials needs children are exhausted. They’ve done all the research, consulted all the experts, joined support groups, gotten counseling, fought for the best life for their children. Often just caring for their children’s needs and attempting to maintain a home maxes out parents’ mental, emotional, and spiritual reserves.

Laurie Wallin knows firsthand the difficulties of this journey. With Get Your Joy Back, she steps forward to make a bold, audacious claim: in the midst of this long-term, intense task, it is still possible to have an abundant life, full of joy. The key to radically changing daily life and restoring joy to the weary is forgiveness. Wallin gives parents a lifeline to find that restoration, pulling them back to shore when they feel like they’re drowning.

This book is full of practical, biblical insights and strategies to shed the resentments that leave Christian special-needs parents themselves spiritually, emotionally, and socially drained. Wallin meets readers right where they are, sugar coating nothing, but addressing issues with honesty, humor, and–above all–hope.

 

About the author: (from Litfuse Publicity) Laurie Wallin strives every day to live out her message for families: that no matter the challenge, in Jesus they can have joy and confidence. She is mom to four girls, two of them with mental and developmental special needs. She has been a certified life coach for over a decade, and is a regular speaker at women’s events and retreats, a popular blogger, and the author of “Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful.”

Genre: Religion/Christian Life/Family

First impressions: Yay for the image of a carefree mom, right down to the pigtails, and for the promise of a less-stressed life.

Why I read this book: Because I can use a little more joy as I parent my special needs child.

Reminds me of…Get Back Up: Trusting God When Life Knocks You Down by Sheryl Giesbrecht

Will especially appeal to… moms of special needs kids who are seeking faith-based help.

This book matters because… it encourages frazzled, worn-out moms to remember to care for themselves in the midst of raising challenging kids–starting at the very heart of the matter.

My take: I have a child who lives on the special-needs spectrum. Perhaps you didn’t know that about me, but I do. I won’t say a lot about it for my child’s sake, but we received a diagnosis five years ago (after suspecting it for a few years before that), and the condition has had a fairly significant effect on our lives–especially when it comes to school. Compared to the average mom, I spend far more hours advocating for my child, as well as providing encouragement and homework help. The unrelenting challenge takes its toll.

So I was very ready to hear what kind of help this mom might offer.

Perhaps what surprised me the most, and what I liked best, is that Laurie Wallin begins and ends her book with the notion of forgiveness. I admit, this is not what I was expecting, but she makes a valid case that the best…even the only…way to get one’s joy back is to practice forgiveness. Whom are we forgiving? Ourselves, our spouses, children, community…God.

And then there’s the matter of grace.

“How we see ourselves in this role of parenting children with special needs and whether or not we learn to grieve the big and little things well comes down to one word: grace.

Grieving what we should have done sooner, might have done better, could have discovered earlier, or would have tried ‘if only…’–all of it needs to be wrapped into this one attribute of God.

Grace.”

Aha.

I also applaud (loudly) how she encourages moms to dream. I’m all over that. Too often dreams get buried under the mundane and the stress. But Laurie suggests a way out from under. She also encourages soaking our minds in the truth. Changing the way we think, based on God’s truth as revealed in His Word, so that we may then change how we feel. I also appreciate her focus on marriage, and that she bases all of her ideas on Scripture, which she quotes directly, frequently.

Will this book do as promised? After reading it, will get your joy back? I’d say that depends on how much you’re willing to accept Laurie’s guidance. I also think it might depend on where your child falls on the “special needs” spectrum because that will affect how deeply you can relate to what she’s saying.

I do have to say that where Laurie really won me over was in her final pages where she offers her readers a free, 30-minute coaching session to move them toward confident, joy-filled living. I take this as an author who is not content to merely keep her readers at arm’s length, but to be there for them, personally, to show them on a better path.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity and Kregel  Publications for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.

After words: You can see what other Litfuse reviewers are saying here.

Do you have a special needs child or know a mom who does? (I’m quite sure the answer to at least one of those is yes.) What encouragement would you offer her–or yourself–today?


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Mercy Snow, book review

Mercy Snow, book review

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker

About this book: (from the publisher) In the tiny town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire, the paper mill dictates a quiet, steady rhythm of life. But one day a tragic bus accident sets two families on a course toward destruction, irrevocably altering the lives of everyone in their wake.

June McAllister is the wife of the local mill owner and undisputed first lady in town. But the Snow family, a group of itinerant ne’er-do-wells who live on a decrepit and cursed property, have brought her–and the town–nothing but grief.

June will do anything to cover up a dark secret she discovers after the crash, one that threatens to upend her picture-perfect life, even if it means driving the Snow family out of town. But she has never gone up against a force as fierce as the young Mercy Snow. Mercy is determined to protect her rebellious brother, whom the town blames for the accident, despite his innocence. And she has a secret of her own. When an old skeleton is discovered not far from the crash, it beckons Mercy to solve a mystery buried deep within the town’s past.

About the author: (from the publisher) Tiffany Baker is the author of The Gilly Salt Sisters and The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, which was a New  York Times and San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. She holds an M.F.A. (creative writing) and a Ph.D. (Victorian literature) from UC Irvine and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children.

Genre: Fiction/Women’s Fiction

Why I read this book: As a She Reads reviewer, I chose it (one of their four Books of Winter selections) because I was intrigued by the setup, the mystery, and the promise of conflict between two strong, female characters. Also because the author was new-to-me and she had the earmarks of an author I would enjoy.

First impressions: I was immediately drawn to the evocative cover, although in the end, I’m unclear as to which character is depicted here. The story’s first pages captured me with its lyrical prose.

If this book were a movie, I would rate it: R–just barely. Sparse profanity, mostly mild.

Reminds me of…Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Will especially appeal to… fans of Ann Patchett, Kim Edwards, Anita Shreve, Sarah Addison Allen

This story matters because…of its vivid, nuanced portrayal of the triumph of justice, redemption, and yes, mercy.

My take: Right from the start I was captivated by this story’s tone, perhaps the surest indicator for determining whether I will enjoy a story. With every page, my interest and admiration for this writer’s skill grew as her prose seemed infinitely lyrical, reeling me in deeper and deeper into her tale.

“Tonight there was a cold snap whipping in the air…[Her breath] made a spirited cloud to rival the size of her head.”

“The color was an orange so zesty she was tempted to lick it.”

“The jangle of the phone broke up the puddle of still air spread between them.”

These lines spooled out over a span of just three pages (56-58)–and this is just a sampling. Every detail of this story is meticulously played, each word richly original, and the characters marvelously complex–especially the increasingly layered June. Add to that a powerful use of metaphor–and a touch of the supernatural–and you have a novel you won’t soon forget.

Though ultimately the story of Mercy Snow is more hopeful than happy, I know I will look forward to reading more from this breathtakingly gifted writer.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.

After words: See what other She Reads reviewers are saying, here. And if you act fast, you can still get in on the chance to win all four of their Books of Winter.

Also–I mentioned tone as one of the key indicators determining whether I’m going to like a book or won’t. What determines a novel’s likability for you? Characters, plot, setting, style, genre…?


To: You; Love, God, book review

To: You; Love, God, book reviewEmbrace God’s Love Every Day

To: You; Love, God: A Year of Daily Guidance and Inspiration Straight from the Source by Will Bowen

About this book: What if God sent you a personal, daily message to remind you that he is present, that he loves you, and that things are going to work out?

Will Bowen’s To You, Love God is a collection of life-changing messages straight from the source. Simple yet deeply moving, this 365-day devotional speaks to you directly with the wisdom, love, and compassion of God.

Begin each day with a deep awareness of God’s presence:

Come with me.
I am walking just ahead of you-always in sight,
never more than a pace or two ahead.
Here I am. Take my hand.
I have amazing things to show you.
Love, God

About the author: (from the publisher) Will Bowen is an ordained minister and an internationally bestselling author of several books. He is founder of A Complaint-Free World, which has touched the lives of more than ten million people in 106 countries. Will is in high demand as a keynote speaker; he lives with his family near Kansas City, Missouri.

Genre: Religion/Spirituality/Meditations

Why I read this book: for encouragement.

First impressions: I like the size of the hardback book–about two-thirds the size of a typical hardback, which makes it convenient to store and carry. I also like the clean lines of its cover design, but I do question the subtitle. More on that in a moment.

Reminds me of…Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young; Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

Will especially appeal to… millennials and seekers

This book matters because… it encourages God’s people to expect His voice, everyday in many ways.  

My take:  I have mixed feelings on this one. I’ll say from the start I believe this book requires some discernment, and because I also believe it’s particularly suited to new(ish) believers, I’m not sure that’s a match. My fear is that it could be easy to slip into a belief that this book is inspired in a way that no book beyond Scripture is. That’s why I hang up on the “straight from the Source” part of the subtitle. Um, no. It’s not.

However–I can see the arguments mounting–how is this any different from other spiritual self-help books in which we do believe God has spoken His hope and encouragement to the world through the people who wrote them? Well, here I have to refer to something the author says in his introduction. (I’m sorry I can’t quote it directly, but the publisher doesn’t allow any reproduction of their copy, even in reviews, without prior written permission, and I didn’t get my ducks in a row in time for that.) If you’ve read Bowen’s story on how this book came about, you will know that he began sending daily emails to his congregation as a way to keep them inspired and spiritually plugged-in throughout the week. He signed each email: Love, God.

Now–I don’t have a problem with this as the recipients would know these pithy and inspirational notes (which are compiled in this book) are not really from God. But when Bowen began getting pointed questions from his congregants as to who was writing these notes, he insisted on maintaining the facade, replying that God wrote them. (See page 3 of the Introduction.)

It’s there that for me the line gets blurred.

I think it would have helped if each message referenced its Scriptural source, so that readers could easily verify the veracity of the message.

Nevertheless, there are parts of this book that I can embrace. The author notes that God’s children often need frequent reminding that we are secure and loved by God. True. And that after getting our tanks filled on Sunday, we often suffer as we go about our business the rest of the week by the environment of negativity we live in. Also true.

I do admire Bowen’s poetic approach, and I can commend many of the inspirational messages, especially the ones that pertain to worry and control.  Oh, how we need to be reminded of God’s loving faithfulness. (Or is it just me?)

All in all, I’d say this tome has its merits but should be handled with care.

Thanks to Convergent Books for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.

After words: Have you read Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling? Some might question why I approve of that one (it too speaks in first person as if from a divine point of view) while taking  umbrage with To: You. I think it’s in the way the author presents the message, including the fact that Young always supports her meditations with Scripture, with direct quotes, but perhaps I’m splitting hairs. Thoughts?


Queen Sugar, book review

Queen Sugar, book review

Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile

About this book: (from the publisher) When Charley unexpectedly inherits eight hundred acres of sugarcane land, she and her eleven-year-old daughter say goodbye to smoggy Los Angeles and head to Louisiana. She soon learns, however, that cane farming is always going to be a white man’s business. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley struggles to balance the overwhelming challenges of a farm in decline with the demands of family and the startling desires of her own heart.

About the author: Natalie Baszile has a master’s degree in Afro-American Studies from UCLA, and an MFA from Warren Wilson Program for Writers, where she was a Holden Minority Scholar. An early version of Queen Sugar won the Hurston Wright College Writer’s Award, was a co-runner up in the Faulkner Pirate’s Alley Novel-in-Progress competition. Natalie grew up in Southern California and lives in San Francisco with her family.

Genre: Fiction

Why I read this book: for the opportunity to read a work of literary fiction from an African-American perspective.

First impressions: I was drawn to the cover, which makes me think of long, hot, Southern summer days and offers the promise of love. It speaks to me of both grit and romance.  

If this book were a movie, I would rate it: R. For occasional but startling profanity, and some mature themes. 

Reminds me of… Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Will especially appeal to… readers of literary fiction with Southern themes of race and place.

This story matters because…it provides an illuminating look into contemporary Southern life.

My take: Okay, here it is: at first I couldn’t get into this novel. With the likes of O, The Oprah Magazine, Joshilyn Jackson and Karen Joy Fowler raving about it, it left me wondering, What am I missing?

So I persevered, and I’m mostly glad I did. It gave me a new glimpse into today’s South, and it felt particularly relevant as, unlike so many big books on black/white relations (The Help, Calling Me Home), this one is written by an African-American woman. (Another notable exception: The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson, also recently reviewed here).

I also have to say I was initially put off by a particularly foul profanity–which I’ll add was the first of its kind I’ve ever encountered in my reading. And seemed unnecessarily gratuitous. It certainly served to let me know I was in for a fairly gritty read. That said, the foul language was not vanilla-spread. It came and went, and for the most part was reasonably appropriate. Although I still say it wasn’t absolutely necessary. It rarely is.

Anyway.

Here’s where it gets better. Queen Sugar has plenty to recommend it: its sense of place. Its true-to-life characters. It’s portrayal of family. Oh my–yes. It reveals in a loving but no-holds-barred way how complex and heartbreaking, yet how ultimately necessary and redeeming family relationships can be.

Oh, and I have to say I found the very last line particularly satisfying.

Thanks to Penguin Books for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.

After words: This isn’t the first time, nor (I’m sure) will it be the last when I raise the issue of profanity in my reading. I personally am by no means a anti-profanity kind of reader so long as it’s appropriate to the story, although I will say that I prefer it mild and rare. What are your thoughts?


Best of Blogging ~ Edition #1

Best of Blogging ~ Edition #1

Some of you have heard my story about how blogging has grown on me. I came into it, um, shall we say…reluctantly. You can read  more about that here if you like, but in the meantime, I’m here to say I’m over that now. I enjoy this gig of mine, and the best of the best of it is connecting with you.

I also appreciate the chance it gives me to connect with other bloggers. So here are a few of the blog posts I’ve found over the last month or so that I’ve especially enjoyed. I hope you will too. And if you do pop over, give these bloggers a little love, won’t you? There’s nothing bloggers like better than to hear from their readers. Best of Blogging ~ Edition #1

Giving  Your Teenager Grace @ Barefoot: Living a Life Vulnerable to God by Paula. (click on post title to go there) I could have chosen just about any post by Paula from the last half-year or so, but I chose this one, even though it’s longer than usual, because it’s a great example to show how she writes about faith and family with such humility and vulnerability. It might just take your breath away. I also picked it because I have a new-ish teen of my own, and another quickly on his heels, so I take an especial interest, soaking up her wisdom and perspective.
Best of Blogging ~ Edition #1Unbelievably Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies @ Deliciously Yum! by Kathi. I stumbled onto this midwest blogger’s blog when I went in search of a recipe for Gingerbread Muffins last December. The ones I found on her site were so good, and I so liked her sweet, friendly vibes, that I went back for more. I recently surprised my kiddos with these surprisingly good-for-you cookies for their after-school snack. A hit! Best of Blogging ~ Edition #1

Causebox by sevenly, a.k.a.The Greatest Thing Ever @ Books and Beverages by Jamie. On this (as on so many things) I agree with Jamie 110%. I won’t say much more about it here as Jamie does it so well herself (and I also have a sneaking hunch I’ll be talking it up myself in future posts). You gotta check this out.

Best of Blogging ~ Edition #1And while we’re over in Jamie-land, I also have to mention Little Letters|Edition #6 @ She Laughs with Dignity: a blog about beauty, faith and mischief–Jamie’s other site. These posts about life’s small pleasures never fail to make me smile.

And finally for now, A Sneak Peek at my New Book by Lysa TerKeurst: Leading Women in the Best of Blogging ~ Edition #1Adventure of Faith. I so love the way this woman writes and mentors women in a deeply real and personal way. I have yet to read a book of hers that hasn’t resonated into the far reaches of my soul and shaped me into a better Jesus-loving woman. I just finished her most recent book, The Best Yes, and consider it great news to know that a new book is already underway.

So now your turn: Which blog posts have you loved lately? Do share! 

The Best of Blogging ~ edition #!P.S. Go ‘Hawks! ;)


Spotlight on Made in the USA by Alisa Jordheim

Spotlight on Made in the USA by Alisa Jordheim

Friends, here’s round two of our discussion this month about the tough topic of sex trafficking–important because as I noted before, it is rampant, it is evil, and children we know and love are at risk. January is national Human Trafficking Awareness month, and today I am privileged to introduce to you Alisa Jordheim, Executive Director of Justice Society and author of Made in the USA: The Sex Trafficking of America’s Children.

About this book: (from the publisher) Made in the USA: The Sex Trafficking of America’s Children is a compilation of five true stories of adults (4 woman & 1 man) trafficked as children. Each story is preceded by an overview of the type of trafficking the story addresses and followed up by a statement from the survivors themselves.  The purpose of the book is to provide insights on how American children are taken captive and often coerced to remain in a lifestyle of commercial sexual exploitation.  All profits from the book will be distributed to nationally recognized agencies providing either preventive or restorative service for child survivors of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking.

Spotlight on Made in the USA by Alisa Jordheim

Alisa Jordheim, author of Made in the USA and Executive Director of Justice Society

Alisa, welcome. Please tell my readers a bit about yourself: your background, interests, family, and where you live. Also, how did you become involved in the anti-trafficking movement?

I was born and raised in North California, lived all over the U.S. and currently reside in the Dallas area. I love the out-of-doors, travel, and any kind of new adventure or food. I became involved in the movement in 2006, through an unusual experience.  During a solitary walk while on vacation I had two visions. The first was of slaves in the bottom of a ship and then the image switched to that of a young girl tied to a bed.  Both visions were fleeting and very unexpected.  The subject of human trafficking was not on the public radar, so I wasn’t familiar with the issue and certainly didn’t know what to do with the visions.  I occasionally pondered the visions and about a year later felt it was time to take action regarding them.  My first step was to study the subject of human trafficking and find an organization to volunteer with.  The volunteer opportunity led me to facilitate the development of a safe-home for sex-trafficked minors.

One of your main purposes in writing Made in the USA was to spotlight the proliferation of human trafficking right here—in our country, in our towns, in our very neighborhoods. How do audiences generally react to this truth revealed?

Some folks are reluctant to believe it is an issue, while the majority are intrigued at first and then horrified and/or angered when they hear the stories.   Having personal experience working with survivors allows me to share (selectively, due to confidentiality) some of what I have experienced first-hand. This allows me to answer questions from a “first hand” perspective.

In writing Made in the USA, you enlisted several writers who each told a different survivor’s story. Why did you choose this method instead of writing it all yourself?

I believe stories told in the first person draw a reader in a profoundly personal way, which was important to keep the reader committed to finishing out these tough personal accounts. That said — just how does the same person write five stories in the first person and give each one its own personal flavor?  That was the dilemma, and I’m just not that good a writer. The solution was to solicit five young writers that I personally knew and trusted to join me on the journey.

I have to be honest: Made in the USA is perhaps the hardest book I’ve ever read. I heeded the advice you offer in your introductory chapters and took breaks between chapters, and still it was tough. You pulled no punches in telling the brutal truth. Why was this necessary?

Yes ma’am. Imagine what it was like for us as a team to write it. :)

There are a number of movies that depict a small segment of experiences that trafficking survivors endure. While these movies are entertaining, they do not give an accurate picture of the experiences of most trafficked children in the U.S..  The intention of Made In the USA is to de-glamorize the issue of sex trafficking and provide an accurate and thorough picture for those interested in providing preventive or restorative care for trafficked children. I will say, for those called, it is soooo worth it!

Made in the USA focuses on the supply—or victim—side of the human trafficking equation, exposing the problem, identifying those who are most vulnerable, and preventing future cases. What about the demand side, the men who buy sex. What do you say about that?

Not much at this stage, as I really haven’t done much research on the subject.  I do, however, believe our hyper-sexualized culture is as much an influence on buyers as it is on the children being lured.

I’m thankful for Part III of your book, in which you offer hope for how ordinary people can help put a stop to this heinous industry. For my blog readers, what is one action they can take today to make a difference?

1) Share the post. While a pat answer, it is probably the most effective action to bring awareness on the issue. 2) For those with teenage children (especially daughters) speak openly about the issue and make them aware in a way appropriate for your family dynamic.

Thank you so much, Alisa, for sharing your passion for justice. May you be strengthened as you serve out the Justice Society mission: Hate Evil. Love Good. Do Justice. It’s been a privilege to host you here today.

After words: Friends, want to make a difference? Read Made in the USA. Listen to these two 30-minute Focus on the Family podcasts, Human Trafficking: What You Need to Know. If you live in Washington state, check out Washington Engage and sign the Not In My City declaration against human trafficking. If you live in the Seattle area, you can attend the educational forum March 9, 6:30p.m. at the Kent Senior Activity Center to learn how cultural grooming creates vulnerabilities for trafficking. (I plan to be there, so be sure to say hi.) I also encourage you to connect with Alisa online via Justice Society to stay up to date.

Finally, I’d like to hear from you. How do you think ordinary people like you and I can help to end this scourge?


The Winter Sea, book review

The Winter Sea, book review

The Winter Sea by Di Morrissey

About this book: (from the publisher) Escaping an unhappy marriage and an unsatisfactory job, Cassie Holloway moves to the little Australian coastal town of Whitby Point. There she meets the Aquino family, whose fishing business was founded by their ancestor, Giuseppe, an Italian immigrant, some ninety years before. Life for Cassie on the southwest coast is sweet as she sets up a successful restaurant and falls in love with Giuseppe’s great-grandson Michael. But when the family patriarch dies, a devastating family secret is revealed which threatens to destroy her dreams. Cassie’s future happiness now rests with her quest for the truth.

About the author: (from her Amazon page) Di Morrissey is one of the most successful authors Australia has ever produced. She trained as a journalist, working in the media around the world. Her fascination with different countries; their landscape, their cultural, political and environmental issues, forms the inspiration for her novels. Di is a tireless activist for many causes: opposing large-scale development and commercial food chains into Byron Bay NSW, fighting gas and mining intrusion into sacred lands in the Kimberly, and stopping massive and unnecessary power lines intruding into the Manning Valley NSW. Di also established The Golden Land Education Foundation in Myanmar. Di lives in the Manning Valley, NSW.

Genre: Fiction/Contemporary Women*

If this book were a movie, I would rate it: PG

First Impressions: The alluring, atmospheric cover, along with the intriguing synopsis, told me this could be lovely winter read–the kind you cozy up with while nuzzled inside a warm afghan and sipping a cup of your favorite steaming beverage. In fact the cover is so appealing that as I was carrying it around, one woman saw it and commented that it looked like a good book. I agreed. But then I had to tell her that while I was only a few chapters into it, the story wasn’t measuring up to my expectations.

Reminds me of…Ember Island and Lighthouse Bay by fellow Aussie Kimberley Freeman

This story matters… as it explores how our family’s past can affect our personal future–if we let it.

My take: This novel contained the most meandering beginning I’ve read in a long while. The first 100 pages were backstory. In these pages, I had a hard time discerning plot, and there was no tension to speak of. The only thing driving the story forward was my curiosity to see how it would all plug in to the rest of the tale.

When the story did finally reach the contemporary story-line, it picked up a bit–but it was still too much telling and not enough tension for my taste.

Di Morrissey is apparently known for her strong delivery of “place,”, and judging by this novel (the first of hers I’ve read) I would agree. If you enjoy novels that take you into a different world and immerse you there, you might find this one appealing.

All in all, I felt as if this was a novel I might have read (and probably enjoyed) 20 years ago. The style seemed to me outdated. That said, I feel a little ridiculous with my critique given that Morrissey is multi-multi published (over twenty titles to her name) and a much beloved novelist in her homeland. But there you have it. Reading pleasure is nothing if not subjective.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.

After words: * So here’s where I talk about this novel’s categorization. The publisher’s choice (Fiction/Contemporary Women) baffles me–though I do also acknowledge that this one’s rather genre-defying, which is perhaps why they settled on what they did. It contains a significant historical fiction thread alongside the contemporary one. (And I found the split a bit clunky.) I would also define it as more romance than women’s fiction by tone and style.

My question to you: Can you name a recent book that seemed not to fit its genre? Do tell.


Q&A with Katariina Rosenblatt, sex trafficking survivor & author of Stolen

Q&A with Katariina Rosenblatt, sex trafficking survivor & author of Stolen

Friends, we’re talking about a tough topic today, but one that is so important and becoming increasingly relevant. Sex trafficking–in particular the trafficking of children–is not an issue any of us can choose to ignore or downplay any longer. It is rampant, it is evil, and children we know and love are at risk.

This month is national Human Trafficking Awareness month, which makes it the ideal time to spend some time discussing the issue. Today I am privileged to introduce to you Katariina Rosenblatt, author (with Cecil Murphey) of Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor.

Kat, welcome. Stolen is a great title for your book. When I first picked it up, I assumed it would refer to your being snatched or stolen away from your family and sold into prostitution. Instead, your story reveals that you became a prostituted teen right under your parents’ noses. To me, Stolen refers to your stolen childhood, stolen security, stolen self-image and self-worth. How else is your title appropriate for this book?

Stolen refers to my stolen innocence and identity. I became what others wanted and in the process lost a part of myself. American society is experiencing a scourge of stolen innocence as we give up so much for so little in return. We need to teach our sons and daughters to protect the value of their sexuality and to be aware of predators.

One of the more remarkable aspects of your story is the way God rescued you—many times—from your dangerous lifestyle. What does this tell you about who God is?

This tells me God is greater and more powerful than any enemy could ever be. Greater is He who is in me than he that is in the world. Understanding this truth in my life has empowered me to go into the deepest darkest places within myself and allow God to bring healing. In turn, this has led to me helping to rescue others Q&A with Katariina Rosenblatt, sex trafficking survivor & author of Stolencaught in a life of sex trafficking.

The other remarkable thing—which you comment on yourself—is how many times you fell prey to human trafficking due to your extreme vulnerability as a child. Based on your experience, what do you want parents and teachers and school counselors to realize?

Parents and teachers must realize that things are not always as they seem. Our tendency is to trust and this can easily lead to our being naive. Trafficking is a crime that occurs beneath the surface and often right under our noses. We have got to be wise. We must ask the right questions of our children. This has nothing to do with trusting them and everything to do with recognizing the dangers they face.

This wasn’t an easy book to read, and I can’t imagine it was an easy one to write. For those who might feel squeamish about reading your story, how would you encourage them to do it anyway?

This is a difficult topic. I don’t expect everyone to have a feel-good experience. Certainly it will educate and inform. There is plenty of story, some bad and some redemptive. For women caught in sex trafficking the end is rarely good.  Some of the tips for law enforcement have already led to rescues. Parents, teachers, ministers, counselors – I just want them to be aware and understand the kind of pain this exploitation leads to. There is something all of us can do to end trafficking but it starts with knowing what trafficking is. It starts with reading this book and learning how to identify the signs.

What is the biggest thing you hope your readers take away from your book?

I hope they grasp how deep and how wide is the love of Christ. If there is hope for me then there is hope for anyone. This life story is proof of God’s existence and desire to redeem any situation.

Thank you so much, Kat, for sharing your life and your heart. It’s been an honor to have you here today.

After words: Friends, want to be better informed? Read Stolen. Listen to these two 30-minute Focus on the Family podcasts, Human Trafficking: What You Need to Know. If you live in Washington state, check out Washington Engage and sign the Not In My City declaration against human trafficking. If you live in the Seattle area, you can attend the educational forum March 9, 6:30p.m. at the Kent Senior Activity Center to learn how cultural grooming creates vulnerabilities for trafficking. (I plan to be there, so be sure to say hi.) I also encourage you to connect with Katariina online via Facebook to stay up to date.

Finally, I’d like to hear from you. Did you know this is happening today in our schools, to our children?

And stay tuned. Next week, we’ll hear from Alisa Jordheim, author of Made in the USA–The Sex Trafficking of American’s Children.


Q&A with Heather Day Gilbert, author of Indie Publishing Handbook + Giveaway

Q&A with Heather Day Gilbert, author of Indie Publishing Handbook + GiveawayAt the start of the new year, with many of us being especially mindful of new goals and resolutions, I thought it would be fun to feature another handbook aimed at helping writers realize their dreams. I’m delighted to welcome back Heather Day Gilbert, who is not only a gifted writer but a valued friend.

Heather, welcome! Please tell us something about yourself, including your background, some family details, your interests and hobbies, where you live.

I grew up in a very close family in the West Virginia mountains. I recently moved back to the family home here. I homeschool two of my three children, so I don’t really have a lot of hobbies, but I do enjoy working in flowerbeds and shooting (that seems incongruous somehow! ;) ). I have wonderful in-laws in upstate New York, and in-law relations is a recurring theme in my books.

Why did you write this book?

Since I decided to indie (independently) publish my debut novel in 2013, I’ve talked to so many authors who are considering the same route. There are several questions I run into frequently, and I thought it would be handy to write a simple guidebook for those pondering indie publishing. This is more of a “newbie” guide, but it does include advice seasoned indies can take away, too, such as tips on marketing, etc.

What has surprised you the most about indie publishing?Q&A with Heather Day Gilbert, author of Indie Publishing Handbook + Giveaway

I’m four books into it (one of those was my great-aunt’s memoirs), and every book, I learn something new. For instance, marketing is an ever-shifting landscape. But the most surprising thing…I guess it’s the sense of freedom I finally feel. Before, I was tied to my e-mail, waiting for word from my agents on how the publishers responded to my submission (and many times I was waiting over a year for that word). Now, I can move forward and get my books out to the readers I have. It’s like a tremendous burden has finally lifted.

What’s the one best piece of advice from your book?

The best advice I could ever offer is don’t rush the process. Once you decide to indie publish, it’s easy to go gangbusters and forget to make sure your ducks are in a row, such as edits, cover art, formatting, and marketing. Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher covers each of these steps and offers advice on how to make sure your book is ready to roll.

What has being an indie author revealed to you about yourself?

I have always pushed very hard to get my books out, even before I was indie publishing. I knew I had to be my own biggest advocate, even when I had agents who believed in my works. Now that I’m indie publishing, it’s all on me. Sometimes I do get tired, but I also have the satisfaction of offering a finished product I oversaw, start to finish. I wouldn’t say I’m stubborn, but I am very goal-oriented and strong-willed. That’s something I already knew before indie publishing, though (and so does my family! LOL).

 

What’s your hope for the future of indie publishing?

Oh wow, great question. I have been so pleased, just in the last year, to see reviewers willing to read indie books and to champion up-and-coming indie authors (thank you for being open to indies, Katherine!). I feel indies are reaching niches and genres readers are hungry for. I’ve also seen more CBA (Christian Book Association) contests open to qualified indies in the past year. I’m hoping the days of equating an indie book with poor quality are behind us. So many skilled authors have gone indie–many have even left traditional publishing to do so. My hope is that indie books will soon be carried in bookstores and libraries, offering a greater selection to readers.

How can readers be in touch with you and buy your book?

I’m all over the web! My home site is heatherdaygilbert.com, and here are my other links: Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Amazon

You can find my Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher here.

Thanks for inviting me to visit, Katherine! And thank you again for supporting indie authors.

About this book: (from the author) Are you dreaming of your own career as an independent author and self-publisher?

This concise handbook covers the four key elements every self-publisher must oversee for successful book publication: (1) editing, (2) creating cover art and blurbs, (3) formatting and uploading books, and (4) marketing. Focused advice will help you maneuver these key elements, whether you outsource or learn to master them yourself.

You’ll also find a bonus section with practical tips from seasoned independent authors.

Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher is your one-stop for basics on everything you need to get started and excel as an independent publisher.

About the author: HEATHER DAY GILBERT has independently published four books. Her debut novel, God’s Daughter, has remained on the Amazon Norse Bestseller list and Amazon Norse Top-Ranked list for over one year. Her contemporary mystery, Miranda Warning, is the successful start to the Murder in the Mountains series.

After words: I caught up with Heather again for one more question. Since it’s been making headlines, I wanted to get her thoughts on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited feature, which lets readers to pay a monthly fee (I believe it’s $9.99), which then allows them unlimited access to as many Kindle e-books as they can read. Here’s what Heather had to say:

“Kindle Unlimited is sort of a mixed bag for indie authors. For instance, let’s say I’m selling my Kindle book at $3.99. Usually with that, I keep 70% royalties, which works out to $2.73-ish. But when that same book is LOANED via Kindle Unlimited, I only receive whatever Amazon is paying ALL indies, so maybe $1.30.

What I’m hearing is that indie authors are simply writing shorter books they can price lower, since KU is only offering a lower payment anyway. But every author’s experience is different. Some love KU because they are making MORE per book than usual with it. Some love the added exposure. I tried branching into Nook and Kobo with my e-books, and it just didn’t garner as many sales as I was getting in KU loans, so I went back to Kindle Select (exclusively Kindle for e-books). I will probably change my strategy if I ever have a first-in-series book that goes permafree (permanently free), because THAT I will want to be free on as many platforms as possible.

Basically, when you go with Amazon, you understand there are perks for going with them exclusively, but they can also change things up any time they want. They did that not long ago with ACX (Audible–the audiobook branch of Amazon), when audiobooks that were priced at $17+ were suddenly being sold via Whispersync for $1.99. I still feel that is a huge loss to narrators and authors, but Amazon is trying to reach the widest audience possible with the ultra-low prices.

Because Amazon made it possible for me to BE an indie author, I try to adjust. But authors are definitely scrambling to determine if Kindle Unlimited is worth it for them.”

Friends, would love to hear from you. Is Kindle Unlimited something you would subscribe to? And have you read any good indie books you’d like to recommend? Oh, and Heather has generously offered a copy of her e-book to one commenter today–to keep or give to a writer in your life!