The Paris Winter, book review

The Paris Winter, book reviewThere is but one Paris. ~ Van Gogh

The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson

About this book: (from the publisher) Maud Heighton came to Lafond’s famous Academie to paint, and to flee the constraints of her small English town. It took all her courage to escape, but Paris, she quickly realizes, is no place for a light purse. While her fellow students enjoy the dazzling decadence of the Belle Epoque, Maud slips into poverty. Quietly starving, and dreading another cold Paris winter, she stumbles upon an opportunity when Christian Morel engages her as a live-in companion to his beautiful young sister, Sylvie.

Maud is overjoyed by her good fortune. With a clean room, hot meals, and an umbrella to keep her dry, she is able to hold her head high as she strolls the streets of Montmartre. No longer hostage to poverty and hunger, Maud can at last devote herself to her art.

But all is not as it seems. Christian and Sylvie, Maud soon discovers, are not quite the darlings they pretend to be. Sylvie has a secret addiction to opium and Christian has an ominous air of intrigue. As this dark and powerful tale progresses, Maud is drawn further into the Morels’ world of elegant deception. Their secrets become hers, and soon she is caught in a scheme of betrayal and revenge that will plunge her into the darkness that waits beneath this glittering city of light.

About the author: Imogen Robertson writes historical fiction from her home in London, where she lives with her husband, a cheesemonger. She studied Russian and German at Cambridge, and was a TV director before turning her hand to writing.

Genre: Fiction/Historical

How I’d judge this cover to suit the story: Richly evocative, just like its story.

If this book were a movie, I would rate it: R for occasional profanity (mostly mild but gets a little bolder toward the end)

Reminds me of… The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro, The Memory of Scent by Lisa Burkitt, The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

You’ll want to buy this book if …you are an artist or Parisienne at heart

Would I read another by this author? Although dark historical fiction is not my usual choice, Imogen Robertson certainly knows how to spin a chilling tale.

This story matters… as it demonstrates how great risk and determination are often required to achieve what we want most in life.

My take: From its first pages, The Paris Winter features complex storytelling with a swirl of multifaceted characters who may or may not be all they seem. It’s finely researched and layered with beautiful details. And the way the author portrays the bleakness of a Paris winter… I shiver just to recall it.  

For all of that it has going for it, though, I struggled to find a character to really latch onto. Maud at first seemed the most obvious choice, and later Tanya. But identifying with characters is a highly subjective matter, and for whatever reason, neither of these completely clicked for me.

All the same, this is a well-titled and darkly imaginative tale about the City of Light, and I don’t want to suggest that my own preferences will necessarily be your own. The Paris Winter could be just the escape you’re looking for this season.

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


Q&A with Imogen Robertson, author of The Paris Winter

Q&A with Imogen Robertson, author of The Paris WinterIt’s my pleasure today to welcome Imogen Robertson, whose latest novel, THE PARIS WINTER–a lush historical fiction–releases today. I’ll have the privilege of reviewing it on Story Matters later this week, but for now, I’d like turn the focus to this imaginative writer, who graciously allowed a little Q&A.

Imogen, welcome! Please tell us something about yourself. .

Right! Well, I was born in Darlington which is a market town in the North East of England and went to school there until I was 16. I have two older brothers and my Mum and Dad still live in the same house where we were born. It’s full of books, photograph albums and bits of antique furniture my father bought while he was a furniture remover. I spent two years at a public school in Cheltenham, then studied German and Russian at Cambridge. I was a TV director for about ten years before I got my first book deal and I live with my husband – who is a cheesemonger – in south London. I play the cello, read, and binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy and Criminal Minds.

 What sparked your interest in writing THE PARIS WINTER?

Q&A with novelist Imogen Robertson

I came across some photographs of my grandmother taken while she was traveling around Europe just before the First World War. I also found one of her sketch books and the idea of a woman from my part of England traveling to Paris to train as an artist took shape from there.

What makes you the best person on the planet to tell this particular story?

It did come out of my head, so I’m not sure who else could tell it! I can’t draw and my brothers are both excellent artists so I’ve always been fascinated by the process of painting and the way visual artists see the world.

Beyond that, Maud [a main character] and I are both quite stubborn and willing to take risks to do what we want in life. There are elements of my family history in Maud’s – though her father is pure invention. There is mention of a lady doctor living in Darlington towards the end of the novel. That’s actually my Great Aunt, Constance Charlotte Robertson. I’m wearing one of her rings as I type.

What have you learned in the process of writing this story?

I learned a lot about how artists were trained during the period and the different currents in the art world of the time. I also learned about a remarkable woman called Ada Leigh who spent many years looking after English and American girls who had found themselves destitute in Paris. She deserves a book of her own.

What would you do differently the second time around?

An impossible question! I suppose every writer wishes they could have solved the problems that come up in writing a novel more quickly and with less pain. It’s a strange feeling when you’ve been bashing your head against some plot issue for weeks and then suddenly the solution just seems to arrive and you wonder why you couldn’t see it before. I have a terrible feeling that the pain is part of the process though.

When people read THE PARIS WINTER, what do you hope is their biggest takeaway?

I’d love them to think of Maud, Tanya and Yvette as people they know and care for. I’d love readers to feel like they have a memory of Paris at that time and of those people, rather than the memory of reading a book.

Why does *story* –as an art form, as a means of human expression—matter to you?

Story is how human beings see the world, and how we understand it. We create our own every day and absorb the stories of other people. There is no older or more universal art form.

What brings you the greatest encouragement—both as a writer, and as a person?

Notes from readers. It’s a wonderful thing when you hear from someone who has enjoyed your work and inhabited a world you created. It makes me feel as if what I’m doing is worthwhile and it gets you through the tough times. I’m not sure if I can distinguish between myself as a person and as a writer! Having a loving and understanding husband and family is a gift beyond price, of course

Do you have another story waiting to be told? If so, can you give us a teaser?

There are so many stories I want to tell. The difficult thing is deciding which one to write next. I think I’ve just decided which the new one is going to be, but it’s only a whisper at the moment so I shall have to stay quiet until it gets stronger.

Thank you, Imogen–it’s been a pleasure.

Postscript: Friends, which book-worlds have you once inhabited that linger, even when the story is finished? Would love to hear from you today.


Rare Bird, book review

Rare Bird, book review“I see holiness in giving and receiving love when there is absolutely nothing that can be fixed, and when there’s no exit strategy in sight.” ~ from Rare Bird: a memoir of loss and love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson (p. 105)

About this book: (from the publisher)

On the other side of heartbreak, a story of hope rises. 

On an ordinary September day, twelve-year-old Jack is swept away in a freak neighborhood flood. His parents and younger sister are left to wrestle with the awful questions: How could God let this happen? And, Can we ever be happy again? They each fall into the abyss of grief in different ways. And in the days and months to come, they each find their faltering way toward peace.

In Rare Bird, Anna Whiston-Donaldson unfolds a mother’s story of loss that leads, in time, to enduring hope. “Anna’s storytelling,” says Glennon Doyle Melton, “is raw and real and intense and funny.”

With this unforgettable account of a family’s love and longing, Anna will draw you deeper into a divine goodness that keeps us—beyond all earthly circumstances—safe. This is a book about facing impossible circumstances and wanting to turn back the clock. It is about the flicker of hope in realizing that in times of heartbreak, God is closer than your own skin. It is about discovering that you’re braver than you think.

About the author: (from the publisher) Anna Whiston-Donaldson holds a master’s degree in English from Wake Forest University. She taught high school English and photojournalism for six years. Currently, she is popular blogger and manages a Christian bookstore. She lives with her husband, Tim, and daughter, Margaret, in suburban Washington, DC. She blogs at An Inch of Gray.

Genre: Non-fiction/Memoir

If this book were a movie, I would rate it: R for language, PG-13 for everything else–but with a huge disclaimer. Yes, this book contains cussing. But those words–every one of them–absolutely belong here. This story could not be told with any kind of integrity without them.

How I’d judge this cover to suit the story: Perfection

Reminds me of… Sober Mercies by Heather Kopp (who, not coincidentally, helped birth this memoir); various work of Anne Lamott

Will especially appeal to… women whose encounter with grief has been up close and personal

Would I read another by this author? Oh my. Yes.

This story matters because it offers hope to the despairing, courage to those discouraged–from a mom who’s been there (and arguably still is)

My take: I am surely not the only mom to engage in a love-hate tussle with this memoir. 

On the one hand: a beloved son’s shocking death. A young mom’s grief. The tattered remnant of a family barely holding it together. The knowledge that if it could happen to them, it could happen to any of us. Ugh. HATE.

On the other hand: miraculous signs and wonders. “Pockets of peace.” God’s undeniable, tangible comfort and love. A community joined in beautiful grief and remembrance. Hope that life does indeed carry on. Healing happens. For all of us. Wow. LOVE.

Though this book came highly recommended to me (and is now a most deserving NYT Best Seller), I cannot say it was an easy memoir to read. It’s about love and loss, after all–the love of a mother for her son, and the horrific loss she endures when he dies suddenly on her watch. The boy’s name is Jack, and he has a younger sister named Margaret. At the time of his death, Jack had just started 7th grade, Margaret 5th.

Those who know my family will immediately spy the similarity: I have a beloved boy named Jack in 7th grade. His younger sister, Madeline, is in 5th.

There were other connections too. The boy-in-the-book Jack’s life verse was Luke 1:37–For nothing is impossible with God. It’s a piece of Scripture I know very well. It was my own anchor verse in the hope-filled months leading up to our Jack’s miraculous conception. More superficially, there is also the fact that the author’s family lives in suburban D.C., mere miles from where I myself once lived. Familiar territory, that.

So you can see why it might be a tough read.

But so, so worth it.

I did have to put it aside about halfway through. I was feeling low–not because of the book, I don’t think, but just down-ish for my own reasons, and reading about Anna’s anguish wasn’t helping me any. But I had no intention of putting it down for good, and when I did pick it up again a few days later, I found it hope-filled and encouraging. In fact, in the very next pages I read at least three gems I marked for savoring, simple yet profound observations like, “It is in the telling and retelling that we work our way through painful territory and gain insight” (p. 103). And “Some people who reach out express a fear that they are overstepping…I thank each one with a grateful heart, because she might be the exact person I need in this one lonely moment” (p. 104).

Anna Whiston-Donaldson is a woman who likes to write, and she uses this gift to usher in not only her own healing, but others’ as well. Beautifully written, poignantly told, this is one memoir you won’t want to miss.

[Tweet “Beautifully written, poignantly told, a memoir you won’t want to miss. Rare Bird by Anna Whiston-Donaldson @ConvergentBooks @aninchofgray”]

Excerpted from Rare Bird by Anna Whiston-Donaldson Copyright © 2014 by Anna Whiston-Donaldson. Excerpted by permission of Convergent Books, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions are mine. 

After words: I must thank my dear friend Paula for putting me onto this book. She wrote me the day after she read it herself, saying, You have to review this one. Paula is the mother of five boys herself–none of them named Jack, but still, five times the reason I have to be afraid of this story. But she was right–I did have to review this one. It’s one of those that you want every mom to read so that she can be encouraged–literally, to find courage to mother, which is quite possibly the most frightening calling on earth. Anyway, Paula penned a lovely review at Barefoot, her beautiful blog, where she writes regularly about living life vulnerable to God. Check it out.


A Birthday, a Story, & a Recipe

A Birthday, a Story, & a RecipeToday is my mom’s birthday. She doesn’t care for the spotlight, but I couldn’t let the day pass without sharing a short story about her here.

One of the things I remember best from all my growing up years is the way Mom made our house a home. No easy feat, given that we changed houses (and coasts) every two to three years following Dad’s naval career.

But no matter our location, Mom’s cheerful, “I’m here” presence remained a constant. She was a stay-at-home mom of the best sort. She sang when she cleaned house. (I never do that, no matter how good my mood.) She sewed my prom dresses. And decorated my room pink. She arose early every morning to cook my dad, brothers and me a hot breakfast, and hand-packed our lunches for school. And when I came home, she was always, always willing to hear my stories, no matter how mundane.

She was the first to show me that my stories mattered.

And usually, while I told my stories (yes, the conversation tended to be a wee bit one-sided), she cooked dinner.

Some good moments, those. Because then I knew that not only did my stories matter…I did too.

One of my all-time favorite said dinners was Cheddar Chowder. (It still is.) Whenever I found this simmering on the stove, regardless of whatever else my day had held, I knew life was good.

I still do.

So thanks, Mom, for being there. For making yummy soup. And for listening to my stories–then and now.

MOM’S CHEDDAR CHOWDERA Birthday, a Story, & a Recipe

1 potato, diced
4 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 c. water
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk
2 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1-2 c. cooked ham, cubed

Add vegetables to large sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, simmer until veggies are tender. Do not drain.

Meanwhile, in separate large pot, make white sauce with butter, flour, and milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. When thickened, add cheese–stir until smooth. Add ham and un-drained cooked vegetables.

Serve with warm, crusty bread or blueberry muffins (my fave–that recipe for another day).

Serves 6-8.

After words: And you? Would love to hear some of your favorite mom memories. And recipes too, if you’d care to share. :)


Spotlight on Kim Galgano, author of The Chance to Choose

Spotlight on Kim Galgano, author of The Chance to ChooseI’ve been awaiting this moment for a very long time: the chance to introduce Kim Galgano, founder of Chicks with Choices, and her brand-new book, The Chance to Choose: Become Who You Were Meant to Be One Choice at a Time, which releases TODAY.

To celebrate its release, Kim is offering a signed copy of her book to one lucky reader on my blog. Just leave a comment for your chance to win.

In addition to being a blogger and now an author, Kim is a gifted speaker–gifted, I tell you: insightful and funny and authentic. I love hearing her speak! She is a trusted confidante and purveyor of hope. She’s also the devoted wife to Adam and mom to three beautiful kids. On top of all that, she happens to be one of my dearest friends.

And now, in her own words…

HER STORY

Spotlight on Kim Galgano, author of The Chance to ChooseI grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and graduated with a Communications degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. My dream was to direct award-winning movies, but God had a different plan. Today I help direct women toward better decision-making through my business, Chicks with Choices™. Watching real women authentically move from chaotic undeciders to confident choosers is much more exciting than a movie.

One day, over 15 years ago, while brushing my teeth, God whispered that I had a story to tell. Twenty-one years of pathetic choices and then an encounter with Jesus in the middle of a field, while on an internship in India, is a bit riveting. I’ve always felt that my first book should be more than just a redemption story, yet I was clueless how to pull that off. What pointed me in the right direction was advice from a seasoned editor, who suggested I develop a decision-making formula. Eventually the Lord directed my attention to Jeremiah 6:16 and a decade later The Jeremiah Method™ is introduced in The Chance to Choose.

[Tweet “Chance to win #TheChanceToChoose. Author Kim Galgano’s book launch today! @chickswchoices”]

I strongly believe that Christianity needs authentic voices unafraid to be raw instead of polished. Globally, we need individuals who can mesh the intangible ideas of faith into the everyday muck of life decisions. God has called me to be an open book for this purpose.

What would I do differently in writing my book the second time around? Nothing. Because one thing I did do right…I did not run ahead of God. Sure, it took over a decade to accomplish this work, but I can say in confidence that I walked behind Him the entire journey. I’m really thankful for that. And I would never change the painful process of writing this story because I am changed. I have learned how to persevere, first and foremost. I can’t count how many times I wanted to give up, but to come out on the other side of exhausting self-doubt is a gift I’ve given myself. I’ve learned that Jesus sits at the bottom of our deepest pain, ready to embrace any lingering shame or sorrow and that I have a responsibility to use my story for others who haven’t gone to that place yet. I’ve learned that if I win or lose in this endeavor, at least I jumped out the boat and I’m fully in the game. I’ve learned that risk has no guarantees, but we must walk behind God and go where He leads regardless of the unknown.

WHY HER STORY MATTERS

When people read The Chance to ChooseI hope their biggest takeaway is that Jesus is real. He is not an idea. He is not a benefit in an otherwise shallow life. He IS life.

After that, I hope my reader will know that she is empowered to make choices and that each decision can lead her toward a life she never imagined. I pray she sees her choices as more than what she learned from her family or religious habit; that God fashioned a unique and adventurous path which He walks with her.

Finally, I pray that each reader will find community after the final page. Our modern lifestyle pulls us away from authentic relationships. We are isolated as we browse through pseudo-connections on social media, which leave us lonely, jealous, anxious and scattered as we ping-pong between increased choices. Now that The Chance to Choose is complete, I will focus my energies toward the development of CoffeeHouse Chats™–a safe place for people to connect. (For more information, visit me here.)

Right now, The Chance to Choose is sold exclusively through my online store. Within the next week, I will have several eBook versions available, but not before this interview posts. Readers can learn more about this by connecting with me through the various options listed below.

AFTER WORDS

Me: Thank you, Kim! Such a privilege to have you here today. By the way, how can readers be in touch with you?

Kim: I’d love for your reader to be in touch with me! Not for a pat on the back, but for an opportunity to connect with a new friend, and to know that Jesus Himself helped a situation through the power of story and the written word! It would be a wonderful privilege to connect with one of your readers, so that I can celebrate them. The best way is to email me at: kimgalgano@chickswithchoices.com.

Here are some other opportunities:

Read my blog at: www.chickswithchoices.com/blog (be sure to register if you want to receive the blog directly to your email account. And I won’t inundate your inbox! I blog once a week.)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/chickswithchoices

Twitter: www.twitter.com/chickwchoices

Pinerest: www.pinterest.com/chickswchoices

Instagram: www.instagram.com/kimgalgano

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/kimgalgano

Thank you, Kathy! May I close by encouraging you in your work and commending your readers on finding you and the service you provide. Yes, story matters! I’m so thankful for people like you who help us remember this on a regular basis.

Me: :)


I Have Seen God, book review

I Have Seen God, book review

I Have Seen God: The Miraculous Story of the Diospi Suyanu Hospital in Peru by Klaus-Dieter John

About this book: (from the publisher) The miraculous founding of a top class hospital for some of the world’s poorest people.

Klaus-Dieter and Martina John–both brilliant, talented, and highly qualified doctors–turned their backs on lucrative careers to follow their dream to open a first-rate medical facility for the Indians of the Peruvian Andes, some of the world’s poorest people. The Peruvian Andes natives suffer appallingly from the diseases of poverty and, although they make up approximately 40 percent of Peru’s population, are ignored by the authorities.

Having studied at the universities of Harvard, Yale, and Johannesburg during his training as a surgeon, Dr. Klaus-Dieter John together with his wife, Dr. Martina John, a pediatrician, developed a concept for a modern hospital in the Peruvian Highlands.

Turning down other offers, including a professorship, they set themselves the task of raising the millions of dollars needed. God opened the hearts and consciences of individuals and companies to create not just a health center, but a fully equipped hospital. Their story and vision has captured attention around the world and today they have the backing of 180 corporations and 50,000 private supporters.

The hospital’s name, Diospi Suyana, means “we trust in God” in Quechua, the native language of the people it serves. It is a testament to their experience that with God the impossible can happen. The incredible conviction and profound faith of the Johns will refresh your heart and stir your spirit.

About the author: Klaus-Dieter John studied at the universities of Harvard, Yale, and Johannesburg during his training as a surgeon. He and his wife Dr. Martina John, a pediatrician, have dedicated their lives to the establishment of the hospital in Peru.

Genre: Non-fiction/Biography/Memoir

Reminds me of… He Walks Among Us by Richard and Renee Stearns; Guideposts magazine

Will especially appeal to… Christians who are inspired and encouraged by true stories of God’s faithfulness.

This story matters… as it shows why it pays to put faith in a big God to accomplish extraordinary things through ordinary people.

My take: Before it came to the U.S., I Have Seen God was a bestseller in Germany, the author’s native country. This edition was translated into English by a Brit, which was then further massaged for an American audience. The care in translation makes this an easy read, and short chapters speed the reading along. 

Probably because fiction is what I love to read, I was hoping for more of a fiction-like feel: more colorful descriptions, more telling of the story through dialogue and character development–what might be described as creative non-fiction. That said, I acknowledge my personal bias and am quick to say that the story itself is engaging–as, of course, are the real people involved. And the photographs are a value-added plus.

[Tweet “The miraculous founding of a top-class hospital for some of the world’s poorest people: Don’t miss this book! http://bit.ly/136F1S1″]

You can see what other Litfuse bloggers had to say by clicking here.

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

After words: True stories of God’s miraculous work encourage ordinary Christians in everyday faithfulness. What are some others you’d recommend?


The Silent Sister, book review

The Silent Sister, book review“I’d never expected to lose nearly everyone I loved by the time I was twenty-five.” ~ from The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

About this book: (from the publisher) Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager.  Now, over twenty years later, her father has passed away and she’s in New Bern, North Carolina cleaning out his house when she finds evidence to the contrary.  Lisa is alive.  Alive and living under a new identity.  But why exactly was she on the run all those years ago, and what secrets are being kept now?  As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family.  Riley must decide what the past means for her present, and what she will do with her newfound reality.

About the author: Diane Chamberlain is the international bestselling author of twenty-two novels. She lives in North Carolina with her partner, photographer John Pagliuca, and her shelties, Keeper and Cole.

Genre: Fiction/Contemporary/Mystery/Women’s Fiction

If this book were a movie, I would rate it: R for language

How I’d judge this cover to suit the story: Thumbs up.

Reminds me of… Five Days Left, The Accidents of Marriage, The Husband’s Secret

Will especially appeal to… readers of contemporary women’s fiction who enjoy strong characters and a good dose of mystery woven into the plot; readers who are musicians themselves.

Would I read another by this author? Yes, for her skill as a storyteller, though the values portrayed in her books don’t always match mine.

Why this story matters… for its take on love, loss, and the bond between siblings.

My take: Who doesn’t love a gripping page-turner? I certainly do, and this one is that. Besides, it possesses so many things I enjoy in quality women’s fiction: an appealing main character, for one. Lots to like and identify with in Riley. It’s also inhabited by an intriguing cast of complex supporting characters. Verniece, Danny, Jeannie. Each offer their own surprises, many of them moving in quite unexpected directions. One particular stroke of genius is the addition of Danny, who provides a marvelous dark foil to Riley’s sweetness. Each character bring texture and depth to the story. 

Plotting is also top-notch, filled with the twists and turns I love to find in contemporary fiction, the kind where the answer to one mystery pops up questions for more. Again–bravo.

I was disappointed, however, when the story led into one of the main character’s realization she was lesbian. My heart sank as I saw this coming, so tired am I of stumbling over this loaded issue in my fiction. I was also disappointed in the moral squishiness of the ending. I can’t say much more about that without giving it away, but it left me unable to wholeheartedly embrace the conclusion.

Still, The Silent Sister is a riveting read, with enough controversy to generate loads of juicy book club discussion.

Thanks to She Reads and St. Martin’s Press for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.

After words: The Silent Sister is the She Reads November pick of the month. See what other reviewers are saying about at SheReads.org.


Deanne Wilsted, author of Untangling the Knot, guest post

Deanne Wilsted, author of Untangling the Knot, guest post

Today on Story Matters I’m delighted to introduce up-and-coming author, Deanne Wilsted–who also happens to be a recent transplant to the Seattle area. She has a few books to talk about here, plus one to giveaway. So keep reading, and be sure to enter her Rafflecopter contest at the end of this post.

Deanne, welcome!

Thanks so much, Katherine, for having me on your blog. I am such a fan of your posts and your book reviews! [Editor’s note: Many thanks for the kind words. :) ]

I write a blog called, Overheard at …. Usually they are snippets of conversations I overhear while writing at Starbucks. So I have huge respect for others who keep things fresh and interesting.

It’s probably also why I love being asked to join you today. I was thinking the other day about what people might overhear me say, and I realized it is probably all about my writing. So I’m thrilled I get to talk about my favorite topic. Story truly does matter for the window it shines into our hearts. And now is a great time to be an author because so many stories get to be heard.

I grew up with a mom who was an English teacher. So, yeah… I didn’t ever get to use words like ‘yeah’. It’s also taken me a long time to not say sorry to the computer whenever Microsoft Word automatically corrects my fragment sentences.

Now I live in Seattle with a husband who supports my writing, a dog who steals time from my writing, and a daughter who has taken the place of my mom and now corrects my writing.

I write stories about Journeys Inspired by Love – So usually you’ll find me taking my characters to interesting places. It also means IDeanne Wilsted, author of Untangling the Knot, guest post take them to places inside of themselves. Untangling the Knot, is a contemporary women’s fiction novel with lots of romance. The characters in this one made me cry—their lives were so poignant. In fact, I learned the hard way to never do my writing at Starbucks when I was PMSing. Because this story is set in a Catholic Church, with the church wedding coordinator, Gabriella, as the female lead, I got to overhear lots of advice from God on what my characters should be doing. Some of my favorite scenes in this book came after a lot of prayer. One scene in particular, where Gabriella compares creation to a crouton, well, it reminded me that God has a wonderful sense of humor.

My own favorite place to journey to in the real world is Italy! Sneaky fact about writing- authors get to write off research expenses on their taxes. Untangling the Knot has a bit about Italy… but my new book, Molto Mayhem is set entirely there. It’s filled with fun characters, beautiful descriptions of place, yummy scenes with food, and a journey by my main character to learn about embracing love.

You can’t find Molto Mayhem on the shelves yet, but you can help me get it there. I was thrilled when Molto Mayhem was accepted by Inkshares Publishing and set up for the funding stage. Inkshares selects only those projects they think will succeed, helps them raise money for all of the services required to publish a book, and then handles all of the publication, distribution, and publicity much as a large NY publisher would. They are backed by Ingram, the largest distributor of books worldwide, and for their covers they work with the design company who does all of the Chronicle Books. So I know once I reach my funding goal that my book is going to be amazing.

If you click here you can find out more about Inkshares and my project.  You can also pre-order, which will help bring Molto Mayhem to life. This also gets you a recipe derived from a scene in the book, Uncle Gianni’s Caciocavallo, Caramelized Onion and Roast Beef Sandwich. :)

[Tweet “Support Molto Mayhem on Inkshares + free recipe from the book! @dwilsted”]

I am sincerely grateful for anything you can contribute towards the project’s success.

I won’t tell you yet where my next journey takes me. I’ll just hint that in this place the natives use words like ‘queue’ and ‘loo’ and ‘bloody’ and the story may have something to do with two very well-known, literary figures from this country.

Thanks for letting me share this journey with you. You can find me at all the normal places:

Twitter – @dwilsted
Facebook
My website and blog

Here’s to many Happy Journeys Inspired by Love!
Deanne

Postscript: Thank you, Deanne, for sharing your story from the heart.

Friends, for more of Deanne and her writing, you may read here for a review of Untangling the Knot from the Catholic Sentinel. And for a chance to win Deanne’s e-book Untangling the Knot, enter here. Contest ends November 3. Good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway.

 


An Unseemly Wife, book review & giveaway

An Unseemly Wife, book review & giveaway“Much as I love Aaron, and I do down to my very toes, I find myself resentful of being stampeded. This unwifely resentment so hard to admit even to myself…” from An Unseemly Wife by E.B. Moore

About this book: (from the publisher) 

Not all journeys come to an end…. 

1867. Ruth Holtz has more blessings than she can count—a loving husband, an abundant farm, beautiful children, and the warm embrace of the Amish community. Then, the English arrive, spreading incredible stories of free land in the West and inspiring her husband to dream of a new life in Idaho.

Breaking the rules of their Order, Ruth’s husband packs up his pregnant wife and their four children and joins a wagon train heading west. Though Ruth is determined to keep separate from the English, as stricture demands, the harrowing journey soon compels her to accept help from two unlikely allies: Hortence, the preacher’s wife, and the tomboyish, teasing Sadie.

But as these new friendships lead to betrayal, what started as a quest for a brighter future ends with Ruth making unthinkable sacrifices, risking faith and family, and transforming into a woman she never imagined she’d become….

About the author: (from her websiteE. B. Moore grew up in a Pennsylvania fieldstone house on a Noah’s ark farm.  The red barn stabled animals two-by-two, along with a herd of Cheviot sheep. After a career as a metal sculptor, she returned to writing poetry. Her chapbook of poems, New Eden, A Legacy, (Finishing Line Press, 2009) was the foundation for her novel, An Unseemly Wife both based on family stories from her Amish roots in Lancaster. E. B. received full fellowships to The Vermont Studio Center and Yaddo.  She is the mother of three, the grandmother of five, and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Genre: Fiction/Historical

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

How I’d judge this cover: Perfect

Reminds me of… The Outcast by Jolina Petersheim 

Will especially appeal to… fans of unflinching historical fiction, especially that which depicts American pioneers of the nineteenth century.

Would I read another by this author? Yes. Though I didn’t particularly *enjoy* this story, I admire this writer’s incredible talent. The teaser she provides for her second novel makes it sound even more intriguing than the first. 

This story matters because it provides a hard look at  how easy it is for us to judge one another–and the great risk that lies therein.

My take: Don’t be fooled by the cover. This is not your typical Amish novel. If you pick it up hoping for a nice, pat ending with the uplifting spiritual message found in most so-called Bonnet Fiction, you will be disappointed. If you hope to find a complicated, layered novel of beautiful prose and an unflinching examination of the human heart–well then. Let’s talk.

While Ruth is as Plain a heroine as you might find, her feelings and relationships are anything but simple. Her very human-ness is what drew me into her story. That, and the aforementioned beautiful prose–it’s hard not to admire this book simply because it’s so well written. Nonetheless, it is on the whole a dark tale, at times so bleak I was sure I wouldn’t find any hope in it. 

And yet–there is. True, the ending did drive me a little nuts, but I liked it. It’s the sort of conclusion made for animated discussion among book club members.

Thanks to New American Library for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.

After words: Intrigued? Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy for yourself. Might be the next pick for your book club.


Spotlight on Kathi Macias, author of The Singing Quilt

Spotlight on Kathi Macias, author of The Singing QuiltI so appreciate what Kathi Macias is all about. She’s a woman passionate about Jesus first and foremost. This makes her passionate about things He cares about…social injustice, for one. So she uses the gifts He gave her to write stories about things that matter. Stories that aim to change people’s hearts, and thereby change the world.

Today I’m delighted to welcome Kathi back to Story Matters.

She is the multiple award-winning author of nearly 35 books, including the Quilt series, the Freedom series, and Extreme Devotion. Her devotionals reach hundreds of thousands—through the Christian Civic League, Black Christian News, Latino Christian News, Christians in Recovery, and crosswalk.com. A popular speaker, Kathi also loves outreach to prison and homeless ministries, and aiding the persecuted church globally. A mother and grandmother, Kathi and husband, Al, live in California.

About The Singing Quilt  (from the publisher) Jolissa Montoya believes God is calling her to work with the disadvantaged childrenSpotlight on Kathi Macias, author of The Singing Quilt in her inner-city neighborhood. There’s only one problem: The children wouldn’t be able to understand her. Jolissa suffers from a speech impediment and has a thick accent because Spanish is her first language. Ridiculed through much of her youth, she is quite shy and reticent to speak. She is convinced that what God has spoken to her heart is impossible. Impossible, that is, until one day when her confidante shows her a quilt—a quilt that depicts the life of a courageous woman. Can another woman’s courage move her to try the impossible and step out and follow God wherever He leads her?

The Singing Quilt is set against the backdrop of the life of Fanny Crosby, who in addition to writing hundreds of songs was also a well-known public speaker and active in Christian rescue missions despite her disability. Readers will be inspired not to let fear or a disability prevent them from answering what they think is God’s impossible call.

And now from Kathi, in her own words…

Her story

The Singing Quilt is the third and final book in The Quilt Series from New Hope Publishers. Each of the three books (The Moses Quilt, The Doctor’s Christmas Quilt, and The Singing Quilt) are stand-alone books and can be read in any order. What ties them together is their quilt theme: each is a contemporary story told against the background of a quilt that depicts the life of a famous American woman in history whose faith and courage continues to inspire and change lives even today.

Each book has its contemporary story built around a particular social issue: The Moses Quilt deals with inter-racial relationships; The Doctor’s Christmas Quilt deals with abortion; The Singing Quilt deals with verbal abuse and overcoming physical or emotional handicaps. I have always been passionate about writing about such topics because I believe God’s Word speaks to each of them as nothing else can. I also wanted readers to see how the faith and courage of someone in history can still impact lives today.

The biggest event that brought me to this point in my ministry was coming face to face with Jesus Christ in 1974. Prior to that, having come of age in Southern California in the ‘50s and ‘60s, I was naturally social-issues-focused. I wanted so much to make a difference in the world but didn’t have a clue how to do that until I became a believer. Because I’d had a passion to write since I was a child, it seemed a natural next step to become a Christian writer, though it took years to mature enough (both spiritually and in my writing) for that to happen. And, of course, I naturally incorporated my other passion—for social issues—into the mix.

Why her story matters

What have I learned along the way? How much I don’t know. Seriously! The more I learn about the Lord’s faithfulness and power, the more I realize I don’t know and can’t do—apart from Him. As I move through these senior years of my life, I know I only want to do what He has called me to complete while I’m here on this earth—all for His glory. The rest is just fluff anyway.

When people read The Singing Quilt I hope they will understand that they don’t have to allow their past to control their future, that God can heal any hurt and restore any loss. Some years ago I received the greatest compliment ever about my writing. It came from a young man of 17 who had just read one of my books (No Greater Love, set in South Africa in 1989 and dealing with the issue of Apartheid). He said, “Mrs. Macias, I just want you to know that your books make me want to lead a noble life.” And that is what I hope and pray will be the inspiration of all my books.

As for the future, I have no idea what God has left for me between now and when I “graduate to heaven,” but whatever it may be—writing a bestseller or praying for someone or anything and everything in between—my hope is that I will do it in obedience to His calling so that when I finally go home I will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” How I long for that day! But until then I must be about my Father’s business.

Readers can connect with me on Facebook (under Kathi Macias or Kathi Macias author) or Twitter (@alandkathi) or Pinterest (under Kathi Macias), but the best is probably via my website (www.kathimacias.com or www.boldfiction.com). They can browse my books, watch the accompanying videos, sign up to receive my monthly devotional newsletter, or click on “contact” and send me a personal note, which I promise to answer.

Postscript: Thank you, Kathi! And special thanks to Don at Veritas Communications for putting me in touch with Kathi and supplying her biographical information.