Book Review: The Day The Angels Fell

I love YA literature even as an adult. Authors have freedom within the genre to do so much more than with books marketed for adults in most cases.

I don’t know if this is because the audience is more willing to suspend disbelief or more open to new ideas, but there’s more for a writer to play with that still has a greater chance of being published. That said, Christian fiction has been in a YA drought for a while.

I was worried that works like Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and L’Engle’s beautiful works were past us. Instead, there are romance primers for girls and next-to-nothing for boys and that’s been the case for many years now.

So imagine my relief and excitement when I heard about Shawn Smucker’s debut novel The Day The Angels Fell.

Smucker’s magical realism novel explores themes of death, good vs. evil, friendship and family. He tells the story of Sam, a twelve year old boy whose mother has just passed in a freak accident in his place. Immediately he decides that he must go on a quest to find the mysterious Tree of Life he’s heard from mysterious characters in town and his best friend, Abra, is along for the ride with him.

Smucker’s writing is clean and his voice is strong. I loved the images he colors his scenes with and his characters are complex and relatable. I was right along with him the whole way.

I often find that contemporary childrens and young adult literature in CBA gets quite preachy or at least harps on the “moral” far too much, but this is not an issue with Smucker’s novel. His themes are clear, but have such a depth. He trusts his audience and I think that will be appreciated by young readers and adults. He—and his characters, for that matter—don’t talk down to the reader. He’s pacing alongside the whole while with some truly profound insights tucked naturally within the story. I was often sent racing from the couch for a pen to underline some absolute gems. (See the meme below!)

I would recommend The Day the Angels Fell to fans of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and L’Engle’s a Wrinkle in Time.  At turns dark and others heartwarming, Smucker’s world is original, heart-wrenching, and profound.

Pick up your copy here!

Book Review: Dark Matter

Total honesty: I’m reviewing this book because someone needs to read it so I can talk about it with them.

It’s that good.

I have been trying to broaden my reading horizons by reading genres I’ve shied away from in the past: sci-fi, memoir, philosophy—namely things I found intimidating as a young reader.

Pulling up my big girl pants at last, I have certainly found some of my new favorite books as a result. Case in point:

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

After I finished this relentless sci-fi thriller, I flipped back to the copyright page to see if it was a first edition. I was and I honestly contemplated asking the library if I could buy their copy because it’s good enough to be worth something some day. (Jury is still out on if I’ll buy it from the library. It smelled like cologne which was weird…)

The book centers around Jason Dessen, a college physics professor and family man who once had the potential to be a great scientist, but gave it up to raise his son alongside his beautiful wife who gave up a promising art career to do the same.

After celebrating the scientific achievement of an old college roommate who has eclipsed him professionally, Jason is on his way back home and is kidnapped. His abductor drugs him and keeps asking him if he is happy with his life or if he has any regrets. Jason is drugged and falls unconscious.

Once he wakes, he finds he has never been married to his wife, his son was never born, and he’s made scientific strides far beyond what he thought was possible. I don’t want to spoil anything more, but I promise that the stakes only get higher and the plot even more engaging.

Crouch moves fast, spinning a truly original plot with healthy doses of suspense and humanity. He delves into physics in a way that is graspable, interesting, and tightly intertwined in the plot. (He had me interested in physics—a near miracle!)

Dark Matter takes you in and doesn’t let you go, so don’t start this unless you’re ready to devote pretty much every free moment to it.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the sci-fi genre and Dark Matter has certainly helped with that. If you read it, let me know! I’m dying to discuss with someone!

The White Feather Murders: Q&A with Rachel McMillan

I am so excited for this week’s post because I’ve had a major woman crush on Rachel McMillan for about a year now. Her debut novel The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder was such a pleasure to read and both sequels were equally—if not more—satisfying.
Her latest release, The White Feather Murders is in stores now and was the perfect vacation read! (Just in case you still haven’t figured out what you’re reading this summer!)

What inspired this story and characters of the Herringford & Watts series?

It really came in the most unusual way. My agent was having no luck when shopping my first book (a romance set during the Halifax explosion in 1917). Nonetheless, a lot of editors liked my style and asked if I had anything else. My agent, returning from a conference, said “everyone seems to be looking for romantic suspense. You love Sherlock Holmes. What about a female Sherlock?” I thought it sounded like a fun challenge. Then, I just holed myself into a favourite coffee shop for a weekend and brainstormed. I have a full notebook of things. I wanted to play on Doyle’s original name for Sherlock, Sherrinford, so Merinda became Merinda Herringford and I wanted to play on Watson so Jem Watts was born. I figured the girls needed some guys and Jasper Forth was born as a police constable and possible love interest for Jem. But…no! Jem needed someone who would completely shake her well-bred world. A muckraking reporter (who became Ray DeLuca) would be the perfect way to highlight the immigrant experience in Toronto during the early 1900s. He would also be the perfect “so-wrong-it’s-right” across-the-tracks romance for lady-like Jem. Once I had the characters, I needed to figure out WHY Jem and Merinda dressed in bowlers and trousers (for I was always most certain that they did), and a night in the Toronto archives led me to learning about Toronto’s Morality Police and how women were arrested for vagrancy and thrown into reformatories. Everything else stemmed from there….

Your stories are very grounded in place—Toronto is practically a character. How were you able to step back in time in your own town and really bring it to life?

I have always been obsessed with Toronto. Really, this series is a love letter to Toronto which remains the most multi-cultural city in the world. For me, it really was peeling back the curtain to imagine what the city streets would have looked like in Jem and Merinda’s time. Of course, many of the buildings and areas mentioned are around today; but giant skyscrapers counter them. Luckily, Toronto archives has a wonderful (and I mean wonderful) collection of thousands and thousands of photographs from the city in this period. Photographs, maps, the trolley and streetcar lines…everything was there for me to take around and compare. After that, it was just using my imagination. Some places were easier than others, of course, depending on the preservation and restoration. For example, the Elgin and Winter Garden theatres which I use a lot still very much look the same. As does Casa Loma, the inspiration for Pelham Park in The White Feather Murders.

You tie up a lot of loose ends in The White Feather Murders. What was most challenging and what was most joyous in ending this era of Herringford & Watts?

For me, the most challenging part of the entire series was the word count. Harvest House really wanted to try something new for our Netflix culture—shorter word counts, interspersed novellas—easy peasy. But packing history and character development into a book that would be shorter than most historical novels was a super big challenge for me. Luckily, I used footnotes and epigraphs and snippets from the Hogtown Herald, etc., to try and give myself some room to colour in what I couldn’t spend word count on in fuller description. Another challenge was saying goodbye. Not forever, but for now. I lived and breathed these characters for two and some years. When I wasn’t writing a novel, I was editing a novella and drafting another book in the series. They were everything. They really are some of my best friends because I was so immersed in them.  While I cannot see myself closing the door on Jem and Merinda forever (they still need to go to PEI! They still need to visit Benny in the Yukon!), setting them aside has been a challenge. I love them so much.

As for joyous moments, finally seeing that end scene with Jasper and Merinda in print. That epilogue with the two of them was the first scene I wrote before I even started on Bachelor Girl’s Guide. I always knew I wanted a scene like that and I love the way the book ends and I hope readers do, too! 😉

What character in the H&W series was the most fun to write? (And I’m disqualifying Hamish. We can talk about him shortly.😉)

Merinda. By far and away Merinda. Merinda was easy. Merinda just showed up with a voice and an attitude and her terrible trippings into amateur detection. I love her. I also really love any scene with the four leads. And Ray and Merinda standing off is a favourite. But, Merinda is so fun to write. When you create a character like Merinda, you really have the world as your oyster, because she can say and do the most unexpected things. I’m laughing about her right now.

You’re a fellow writer with a day job. How do you strike that balance? How do you orient your days to write?

Yes! True story: unless you have a husband to support you or are JK Rowling, you are most likely going to have to have a job while writing books, lol. The Herringford and Watts series had very tight deadlines, so any time I wasn’t at the office, I was working. Evenings and weekends and holidays are Godsends to writers who work. I would set weekly goals and I would stick to them. I have a subway commute to work, and I often read over what I wrote the night before and get some editing done. When it comes to concurrently marketing, I use my lunch hours at work for social media, interviews, guest blogs, etc. I can’t say it was always easy and I was often sleep deprived; but it was so worth it. My new series has somewhat more breathable deadlines.

What books, movies, music, etc. feed you as an artist?

OH! This is such a fun question. It’s no secret to anyone who follows me on social media that I am a broadway obsessed nerd. I listened to a lot of Titanic(musical) and Ragtime and Newsies while crafting Jem and Merinda’s world. I am such a voracious reader but I love historical fiction that has a super captivating and unique voice… that just pings with personality. A few loves are The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley and the Horatio Lyle series by Catherine Webb. Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series and Deanna Raybourn’s novels are the types of book worlds I aspire to create with my mysteries. In inspirational fiction, I have been so inspired by Lynn Austin and how she advocates for women heeding to God’s calling beyond the domestic sphere. Fire by Night and A Woman’s Place are both very influential to me. I don’t know if it feeds me as an artist, but my favourite film of all time is Master and Commander. I just love how it captures a 21 book series I love (by Patrick O’Brian) into 2.5 hours. I love historical films and books that capture the essence of a time period.

You’ve been talking a lot about Hamish via social. Is there anything you can tell us about his story? (Dying to meet him!)

Hamish DeLuca is really special to me. He’s Jem and Ray’s son and he’s completely the opposite of Jem and Merinda. When his cousin Luca Valari invites him to Boston for the summer to help open a new night club, Hamish never dreams that he will be tugged into the city’s underworld….and even a murder scene. He pairs up with ex-New Haven debutante Regina (Reggie) Van Buren and has to balance his attempts at deduction with his growing feelings for his “Girl Friday.” I think what sets Hamish apart is that he suffers from an anxiety and panic disorder: things that in the 1930s during his adventures were grossly misdiagnosed. In order to spare himself primitive treatments like shock therapy and mercury pills, he is forced to try and hide his hand tremors and panic attacks. (For readers of White Feather Murders, you can see how Hamish inherited a bit of this nervous disposition from his father). I hope readers will enjoy reading about a slightly different beta hero: a guy who has a heart of gold, is fiercely loyal, but is just a little bit shy. And, like Toronto in Herringford and Watts, Boston takes a starring role. The 30s is so fun and noir-ish!

What advice would you give to any yet-unpublished writers out there?

a.) don’t be married to your first manuscript. It might not be the one that gets you in the door. Be malleable. I write in a genre unexpected to me because I was willing to follow a market trend to get my foot in the traditional publishing door.

b.) always have something in your back pocket. While your book is on submission with agents or editors, start writing something else. Editors and agents want to see that if one book isn’t working, another might just be right to fill a hole in the marketplace.

I have an ongoing blog series called The Bible College Spinster where I explore the thoughts and struggles of happily single young women in churches or communities where they are the minority. Any thoughts, encouragement, or empowerment for my fellow “spinsters”?

I love that you talk about this; because this is such a big theme in my Herringford and Watts books. I once told a friend that I felt so out of place in church circles (unmarried, no kids, no boyfriend), that I might as well have been an Edwardian woman in trousers. With the current statistic of twice as many single Christian women than men, it may well be a certainty that you don’t end up marrying: either by choice or circumstance. Personally, I never thought I would make it to my 30s without marrying; but largely this was because my formative years were filled with the Church rhetoric that we should “pray for our future husbands.” Setting the expectation that marriage and families are the driving trajectory in a woman’s life can lead her into a ton of insecurity in her adult life when things may not fall into place. I would say that you don’t need to pray for your future spouse; but you do need to pray for your future.   I would also encourage women to recognize there is nothing in the world they cannot do without a husband or boyfriend. Instead of waiting for a partner to take that trip you have always wanted to go on, save up and go by yourself. Every woman, I think, should travel on her own at least once in her life. Take a journal and a book and go. Instead of waiting for a partner to go to that concert or play you really want to see, take yourself on a date. There is a lot of freedom in being single. Do I wish I would wake up and find my own Ray DeLuca around the corner? Absolutely! But I am not going to put my life on hold for that. And neither should any woman.😉

What question do you wish would be asked in blog Q&As and what is your answer to that question?

WOW! This is so cool and I have to say I have been asked some amazing questions over the course of the series. Including this Q and A! But I’ve never been asked what my first book was. And so I will tell you. My first book was written when I was 9 or 10. It was set in Switzerland. It starred a captured milk maid named Lahna who alone with her mouse Burly were trapped in the palace for a crime they didn’t commit. It also starred two twin brothers—both princes—one the evil Bradley and the other the good white knight Christopher. They both fought for Lahna. I bought a hard-bound book from the dollar store and copied it out in my best printing. And drew castles and mice. It was clearly legendary, LOL

You can buy your own copy of the Herringford & Watt’s series here (Book 1, Book 2, Book 3). Her book with Thomas Nelson releases summer 2018.

Book Review: The Imperfect Disciple

If you haven’t realized that the unifying theme of all of my blog posts is that I do not have my act together, well…then you probably haven’t been poking around here for very long.

When I ran across Jared C. Wilson’s latest release, The Imperfect Disciple, I knew immediately that this was a book I needed to read. “Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together,” the subtitle boasts. Yeah…might as well have titled it, “The Stuff that Jesus Has Been Trying to Tell Lex for A Long While Now.”

Wilson writes with a straight-to-the-point style that is at turns both humorous and heart-wrenchingly honest. Reading this book was like having a late-night talk over beers with a friend who pulls no punches.

I do things that I know are bad and I avoid doing things that I know are good. This makes me imminently unqualified to write one of those awe- some, take-the-next-hill, “be the change you want to see in the world” books on discipleship churned out ever-presently by the evangelical leadership-industrial complex.

But on the other hand, it makes me uniquely and distinctly qualified for the hope Paul offers in response to the crushing predicament bemoaned by Romans 7.

His premise of the book comes out of Romans 7 and 8—namely Romans 7:15, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Wilson digs into this tension and does not let it go, bringing to light the full hope of Romans 8.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking so far about discipleship and worship and how I do—or don’t do—both. The Imperfect Disciple hits on the honesty we need as we figure out how to live out our faith!

Living in light of the gospel is often messy because we are broken people trying to work out the reconciliation we’ve been given with God—the holy creator of the universe! As Wilson describes it, our relationship with Jesus is like bringing home a fiancé who is “a much better catch than anybody, including yourself, ever thought you’d end up with.” (Seriously, this is his writing style. I laughed often while reading—couldn’t hold it in!)

We are broken and so in need of saving—saving that has only be done! Now we partner with the spirit in the work of sanctification. We surrender to what God is working out in us so that we may look more like Jesus. This is a daily putting on of the gospel. This is a daily reminder of the story that I have been grafted into. It is getting down on my knees, getting in the word, and accepting the great, expensive grace lavished upon me like it’s cheap.

How often I forget. How often we let ourselves become desensitized to what Jesus has done and the spirit is doing. Wilson’s book was a refreshing, honest reminder. I loved this book!

Here’s the heart of it: “Jesus is looking specifically for the people who can’t get their act together.” That you and me. And that is why so many of us need Wilson’s message.

I’ll leave you with one last nugget from the book to think on:

You and I come to Jesus looking for some kind of pick- me-up, and Jesus offers his flesh. We come looking for Jesus the life coach when what we really need is his glory. We need to behold him.

This is really the point of following Jesus—to become like him. And in order to become like him, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, we must behold his glory.

Purchase your copy here

What’s on Your Summer Reading List?

I could review a book I’ve read…OR I could share with you what some lovely bookish ladies in my life are reading this summer. I am so excited about what is on my reading list for the next couple months and I knew a few people who would be equally excited about their own list.

The following are the five books on the summer reading lists of a series of folks in the writing and publishing world! I have linked to all of them so can check out these titles and add them to your own list! Don’t forget to share about your summer reading list in the comments!

Gina Dalfonzo

Editor of BreakPoint.org and author of One By One, one of the titles on my own list

Chris Jager

Fiction buyer at Baker Book House

Amelia Rhodes

Author of Pray A to Z

Hint: She’s working on a follow up to Pray A to Z. Get excited for that!

Lindsay Gustafson

Owner of Apricot Services

Ann Byle

Freelance writer and author

Rachel Watson

Journalist with The Grand Rapids Business Journal

My own list

Literate human

Baker Book Houses’s Summer Reading Program

Summer reading programs are not just for kids anymore! Baker Book House has become one of my favorite spots to do work in Grand Rapids and they are offering a great summer program for kids, but an even better one for grown ups!

If you’re in the West Michigan area, stop in and pick up their brochure. If you read 6 books that fall in one of the many categories in the brochure between now and August 26, you will receive a fantastic ceramic travel mug and FREE coffee in that mug for the rest of the year. I’m not kidding, people! Just for reading books! (Jury is out if coffee can be substituted with tea, but regardless, I want the mug!)

Don’t forget to let me know what you’ll be reading in the comments below!

Book Review: At Home in the World

When trying to hunt for my vacation reads, I was at a loss of what to bring in the non-fiction category. I always bring both a fiction and non-fiction book when I travel. My only requirement is that I have to be able to read it in a distracted state—during airport people-watching, or driving to the next destination.

I discussed my predicament with my friend and boss and she instantly had a title for me. She was on the launch team for Tsh Oxenreider‘s latest release At Home In The World and she could not say enough good things about it.

My friend and her family lived abroad as missionaries for a time and is very well traveled, so with that stamp of approval, I was so down for a good travel memoir.

Tsh’s story is so intriguing to me.

She and her husband made a pact shortly after their third child was born that they were going to take their family on an around-the-world trip once the youngest could carry his own pack. They made good on that promise and Tsh document’s their journey in this fantastic book.

For nine months, the Oxenreider’s ventured through Asia, down to Australia and New Zealand, over to Africa, and then up through Europe. Tsh describes both the adventurous explorations of their trip as well as the everyday things they needed to do to keep their family rolling on their trip—schooling, booking the next leg of the journey, replacing lost flip-flops.

All through the book, she unpacks the tension between feeling wanderlust and the urge to stay home. She is ultimately trying to discover what is home and what does it mean to live in a world we are ultimately told is not our home.

Oh, how I felt her quandary! So often, I’m dreaming up that next trip, but while I am traveling, I often find myself longing for a good book and tea at home. I think about how to capture the place I am in order to bring pieces of it home to my people. I think many of us simultaneously carry the urge to explore and belong.

I so appreciated how Tsh described her predicament post-college and even as a young parent. All of her friends got married, but she didn’t want to because she wanted to see the world. Once she was married with children, she and her husband found that that didn’t take away their wanderlust. They still wanted to venture out and explore the world—just now with children.

I decided I wanted to travel before settling down, but the more places I go, the more places I discover I have yet to see. Travel only brings a desire for more travel. This is something I will probably always desire.

And like Tsh, I will also always desire a cozy night in with an engrossing novel and my wool blanket. This is a tension many of will wrestle and I think Tsh unpacks it well.

Reading this book was like being on the trip alongside them. I was amazed, I cried, I added all sorts of locations to my must-see list and I could not put this book down even though I was in the midst of my own traveling adventure.

You need to add At Home in the World to your summer reading list stat!

Friday Favorites: May 2017

Something to try: Healthy Farm Girl Deodorant

I am continually on a quest or find natural health and beauty products that work. Something I’ve always been trying, but failing to find something that works? Natural deodorant.

Your average deodorant has dangerous chemicals and there is nothing good that can come from antiperspirant. After trying a salt stick (messy and fairly ineffective even after a month) and Tom’s (had a mystery ingredient I was allergic to—nothing like a rash in your pits!) I had all but given up on my search.

And then a lovely blogger friend of mine introduced a deodorant line in her natural beauty product store.

This stuff is amazing! I’ve worked out, danced at concerts, ran the streets of Grand Rapids to make a meeting on time and have smelled great all the while. I highly recommend this product. Even after 24 hours of travel on vacation, I still smelled fresh. (-ish, because let’s face it, plane grime is a real thing.)

My scent is wildflower, but I can’t wait to lemon grass vanilla. There are also some more masculine scents for the bros out there!

Order yours here!

Something to drink:Adagio Tea

The lovely folks from Adagio Teas gave me an opportunity to write about their great teas and products. I have been in tea-drinker heaven! I have greatly enjoyed the quality of their teas and the passion they have poured into telling people about their product.

Check out their line of teas! They even have fandom teas for all my nerd friends out there.

Something to read: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

My dear friend Kelsey and I made reading lists for 2017 based off the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2017 challenge this January. One of the categories on my list was A Book from a Genre I Usually Avoid. For me, that is sci-fi. (Don’t hate me!)
It’s no secret that I get the same buzz off a Penny & Sparrow album that I do off a great novel. On their latest release Let A Lover Drown You is the song “Gold”. The song was inspired by the novel Red Rising by Pierce Brown. I had fallen in love with the song and was intrigued to read the story behind it.
It’s a kind of complicated plot to synthesize, (not to read—enthralling to read) but basically Darrow, a red, discovers—at the expense of everything he holds dear—that his life as a pioneering miner under the surface of Mars is instead slavery to a higher cast, the golds. To bring retribution to the death of his wife, Darrow is disguised as a gold to infiltrate their system and bring it down from the inside. I could NOT put this book down. Loved being surprised and thoroughly sucked in by a genre I’ve neglected.

Something to watch: This. PLEASE!

Working in social and digital media day in and day out, I see a lot of people doing it right. I see a lot of people doing it wrong.

Basically, if you’re on Snapchat or Insta, feel free to have your videos vertical. If you’re anywhere else, PLEASE! For the love of all things holy, make sure you’re filming horizontally. I die a little any time I see a vertical video on a non-vertical platform.

Also, this video is just plain hilarious.

Something to listen to: Addendum

Penny and Sparrow and Corey Kliganon released an EP together last week and it’s wonderful. They combine two of their songs into one new one and the result is fabulous, adding a layer to the original songs while maintaining something wholly original.
It’s available on Noisetrade and the proceeds go to Music and Memory.
Download here!

Book Review: Think Again

I am not great at many things. I am okay at many things, good at even fewer, but “great” can only be reserved for a very limited number of abilities on my resume.

Over-thinking may be the only thing in that category.

Yes, I can use overthinking to my advantage. It can help in being prepared, trying to see situations from every vantage point, building fictional worlds in my writing.

Mostly it’s just a hindrance.

My neuroses lead to massive amounts of over-thinking, which I try to overcome through introspection and the cycle continues until I have thoroughly beaten myself up and have begun to loose touch with reality.

So when I read the description for Jared Mellinger‘s debut book Think Again, I knew I had to get my hands on it.

“I’ve written to help those who know the burden of introspection, and who find themselves worn out from looking in.”

Think Again was a gentle wake-up call to the subtle self-focused, self-diminishing thought patterns that have been sucking me dry for years. When I have noticed a sin-pattern in my life, I have often thought that if I observed and thought on my behavior long enough, I could change it.

But this is not how God works! Sanctification does not happen through my own power or introspection. It happens through time with the Lord, looking at Christ as my mirror.

“We know ourselves by gazing away from ourselves.”

Think Again was short, easy-to-grasp, and powerful. I recommend it for introverted over thinkers as well as those close to introverted over thinkers. Mellinger’s humor, reliability, and direct writing style are such an encouragement in a topic that could be condemning. The book comes in at around 167 pages, so this would be a great book to take to the beach this summer, or commit to read with a friend and discuss over coffee.

I greatly enjoyed the book and hope to see more from this author in the future.

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Trail of Crumbs

After a not-so-long wait that couldn’t end soon enough, the sequel to A Cup of Dust is out and ready for readers! (Please note that I did not review Cup as it released during the hiatus…) A Trail of Crumbs lives up to every ounce of anticipation.

Susie Finkbeiner’s historical fiction series centers on Pearl Spence, a young girl growing up in the dust bowl during the great depression.

A Trail of Crumbs picks up exactly where Cup left off—Palm Sunday—known in the dust bowl as Black Sunday.

I won’t give anything away, but tragedy strikes the Spence family,  sending them reeling both emotionally and across the country. We watch Pearl grow up as the Spences settle into a new community in Bliss, Michigan. (Go MI!)

The story is told in first person from Pearl’s perspective. The author uses Pearl’s child thoughts to build suspense and speak honestly in the ways an adult narrator could not. Her literary sensitivity is demonstrated not only in the point-of-view, but also in her subtle use of symbolism and sensitivity to the emotional pitch of a scene.

There where so many times when reading when I could’t guess where the author was headed, but I was thrilled to be along for the ride. Bliss felt so real and the characters reminded me of people I know. It was a pleasure to read.

Finkbeiner’s fourth novel leans into territory that Christian fiction rarely does and I am so grateful for it! Her honest story is relatable and real—something so many readers are craving.

Her storytelling risks are something I want to see more of in an industry that has been so scared to make any big moves. Readers aren’t looking for pretty people’s pretty stories to be wrapped up with a nice Jesus bow in the end. Instead, we are looking for mess, ambivalence, and most importantly hope. These are what our lives are made of. These are what make fictional stories interesting and true. Finkbeiner provides all three in spades—especially hope.

Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of A Trail of Crumbs! There are multiple ways to enter both by plugging into both Susie’s and my social media pages. Only those within the US are eligible (Sorry, Canada!) and only one winner will be chosen. The giveaway runs from today (April 14, 2017) to next Friday (April 21, 2017).
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It should be noted that the publisher gave me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

It should also probably be noted that the author and I spend an inordinate amount of time together being neurotic. Her neuroses results in good novels. Someday hopefully mine will do the same…For now it just lends itself to obsessive Parks & Rec watching…

Where is ‘Here’?

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After that last post, you may have walked away with a question:

“Uh, Lex? How is ‘being present’ a resolution?”

Great question!…I’m still figuring that out.

Aren’t we always trying to figure out where were at and how best to be there? Arrival is a lie, I’m learning. (Except not really, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to arrive at 42. That’s when I’m gonna get the ever-elusive “it”…I hope.)

We so often have these visions of what our lives are supposed to be in some distant yet not-so-distant future and we’re striving for “there.” But what about “here”? What about what’s in front of you right now?

I want to be rooted to here and to now and to invest in what has been placed before me. I’m just trying to figure out what that is.

Three weeks into a new job and new season, I’m still trying to figure out what life looks like, let alone how to dig into it deeper. Here is are a few things I do know:

I want to invest in people

For over a year, I have had a really deep longing and growing restlessness surrounding community. This is my second year of refraining from leading a high school girls small group. That’s a hard thing for me, but I knew when I stepped down that I was being obedient. I am feeling the tug to feel elsewhere, but that call is not quite clear yet.

I have more time in this new chapter and passions that have grown in ways I did not expect. I want to invest in young adult women who are trying to find their footing. I want to see singles thrive in the church, investing in their community in rich ways. I want to see women my age feel empowered to use their gifts to build the kingdom because God does not give us gifts he does not intend to be used, regardless of gender. I want to see women move through college, their job searches, their singleness, their friendships and relations with great purpose.

These are abstract and lofty wants. So how does that come to be?

I have many more shrugs than I do answers, honestly. But I do know that I have so many friends that are in this twenty-something stage of shrugs and I have been given two ears to listen with. I have a table to gather people around to enjoy a meal and each other’s company. I have a heart for books and discussions and love to host. These are just small things, but they are what I have to offer.

I trust fruit comes of our desires and our offerings.

I want to invest in my craft

I finished the first draft of my novel.

This is huge and I’m excited about this, but this is by no means the finish line.

I have taken January off from writing to rest a little, but that doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything. I have been reading like a crazy woman since New Year’s Day and I’m loving it. (Also, if you’re looking for recommendations, the top of my list are this, this, and this.)

Once this month is over, I’ll be printing off the manuscript and reading as a whole for the first time. I’ll start making my edits and preparing it for a string of first readers. I’m excited, but also nervous because this is farther in the process than I’ve ever been. This is further out in the gray reality than I’ve let myself get as an artist. It is risk and that is terrifying, but freeing all at once.

This is an investment in my craft that I am dedicating myself to this year and we’ll see how it goes.

I want to invest in the word

I’m learning there is nothing better I can do for those in my life than to be invest in the word.

The plan is to make regular time for silence and refocusing. To be grounded in God’s higher thoughts than reliant on my lower ones.

 

This is a year for growing up and giving out. I am so excited to see where it may lead.

What are you striving toward this year?

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