Whatchya Readin’ Wednesday #4

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Welcome to Whatchya Reading Wednesday! I’m joining Becca from The Becca Files in a fun post where each week we showcase what we are currently reading.

This week, I am reading:

Children of the Stars

by Mario Escobar

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Amazon

What are YOU reading this week?

If you would like to join Whatchya Readin’, check out Becca’s blog site by clicking HERE. Scroll to a Whatchya Readin’ post for info.

Welcome to Isaiah’s Legacy Blog Hop — STOP #16

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1 Week ~ 24 Blogs ~ 3 Incredible Prizes!

Learn a little about Isaiah’s Legacy and enter multiple giveaways while picking up CLUES at each stop. Compile all the clues, submit the final PHRASE at the last stop, and you’ll be entered to win one of 3 Grand Prizes

What are the prizes? They’re completely unique to the winners!

Mesu will contact each winner personally to chat about what they would most like to see in Israel, and then she’ll SHOP for just the right gift while touring Israel, March 6-19! She’ll then purchase a personal and memorable gift specifically chosen for each of those three winners and ship them to each one when she returns. How fun is that?!

How does the Scavenger Hunt & Blog Tour Work?

  • Begin at Stop #1. At the end, you’ll find a CLUE and a link to the next stop. Progress to each stop IN ORDER.
  • Collect all the clues—in order—and submit the full phrase at the last blog stop in the Rafflecopter form. Every stop has a clue, so be sure not to skip any along the way!
  • You may enter the final giveaway only once and win only one grand prize. 
  • The Hunt begins 2/19/20 at noon EDT. The deadline for entries is Tuesday, 02/25 at midnight Eastern.
  • For best results, hunt through our list using Chrome or Firefox as your browser (not Explorer).

There is NO RUSH to complete the hunt—you have a whole week! As you visit each blog, it’s our hope that you get to know Mesu’s BFF team and discover the heart behind Isaiah’s Legacy.


Greetings!

75640634_10156797956076824_3453505781633122304_oMy name is Nicole Santana. Isaiah’s Legacy is the second book I’ve helped promote on Mesu’s BFF team. I love Mesu’s depth of research and the way she brings Biblical figures to life. To learn more about me and the books I review, click HERE.

Want to dig deeper into God’s Word about the king in Isaiah’s Legacy? CLICK HERE to check out the FREE downloadable Bible study on Mesu’s website.

When Mesu asked what topics team members wanted to share on our blogs, I chose a Q+A because after reading Isaiah’s Legacy I had some serious questions I needed answered. LOL!

Q+A — Gifts, Plans, & Dreams

When did you know that writing was your gift?

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Mesu & Shannon

I knew writing was my gift after writing my fifth book, The Pharaoh’s Daughter. I even remember the exact moment the realization dawned. I was sitting across the table from my editor (Shannon Marchese, pictured), and she started talking about a bunch of technical, writing gobble-dee-gook. Protagonist, antagonist, pacing, tension, etc. I stopped her and said she needed to speak in laymen’s terms because I had no idea what she was talking about! 

I just write the stories from my heart. I’m reminded how much I still have to learn about the craft of writing at every writer’s conference I attend. Feelings of inadequacy still whisper in those dark moments of doubt. I’m still amazed anytime I’m nominated for an award. It all feels very surreal. So, when I say writing is my gift, I really mean that. Without the Lord’s intervention each time I sit down at my keyboard, I couldn’t even write a Facebook post!

What inspired you to write Isaiah’s Legacy?

For years I’ve loved the name Hephzibah because it means the Lord’s delight. She was mentioned as Manasseh’s mother, which made her King Hezekiah’s wife (2 Kings 21:1). Bearing those two roles meant she was married to Judah’s most righteous king and was mother of Judah’s most wicked ruler. Talk about torn!

At the time of my research, my daughters were in the midst of their difficult college years. It was as difficult for me to accept my girls being adults as it was for them to transition from college to the adult world. I tried to imagine how hard it would have been for Hephzibah (Zibah) to adjust to her twelve-year-old son becoming king—having authority over her. Yikes!

Not only did he have all authority, but he used it to lead their nation into pagan worship, destroying everything Zibah and her husband had built. Yet somehow she remained God’s delight. Whoa. I wasn’t very delightful when dealing with my young adult girls. I wanted to delve more into Zibah’s maternal heart, to write her story. Isaiah’s Daughter and Isaiah’s Legacy were born.

Isaiah’s Legacy has some seriously dark stuff in it, how did you stay in a positive mindset?

Most writers need to “go deep” to write new content. We can edit with little interruptions here and there, but in order to write the first draft, we need uninterrupted, large chunks of time to immerse ourselves in the characters and their stories. 

That’s great if it’s a happy little romantic comedy, but for most of us, it’s an emotional roller coaster. Isaiah’s Legacy was even more challenging because Manasseh’s journey into sin was so evil. I oftentimes spend 12-14 hours a day in front of my laptop when creating the first draft. It’s intense. But I couldn’t do that with Manasseh’s story. Not with the research or while writing. I had to break it up with light-hearted activities to purposely draw my mind back to God-honoring things.

It was actually a very revealing process. When I reached the places I needed a break, I realized those were the spots my readers would also need a break. Even knowing Manasseh finds redemption in the end isn’t enough to keep someone reading unless we have heavy doses of HOPE sprinkled in along the way! It was necessary for me—and my readers—to keep writing and reading in order to reach the absolutely awe-inspiring grace we see in Manasseh’s salvation.

It was worth every dark word to write those scenes of redemption! I wrote the last two chapters sobbing and praising the Lord. I’ve never experienced anything like it! All praise to the one, true God!

We women wear a lot of hats. How do you successfully juggle all of your hats?

Wow—did you have to say “successfully?” LOL! I juggle them, but sometimes I’m not sure how successfully. I’ve confessed to several people that 2018 was a tough year. Three rough drafts, two book releases, twin grandbabies, and a career change for my hubby—never been closer to a rubber room in my life.

In 2019, we rebuilt our marriage and have vowed to stay off the gerbil wheel. I adore my readers and love sharing God’s Word through my books, but my family is more important. In 2020, we’re adding things back to our schedules carefully, talking through each commitment and making sure it fits the overall plan of our priorities.

Better communication with my husband and others in my household has been crucial. Sabbath rest is a MUST—absolutely no work on Sundays now that we’re no longer in vocational ministry (including no social media or email). I try to be at my computer by 9am, check SM and email only twice a day, and stop working by 6pm. It doesn’t always work, but it’s at least my goal.

When I begin writing the next book project (when we return from Israel), I’ll do some crazy writing weeks, but they’ll be the exception instead of the norm.

What’s one Biblical story you haven’t tackled yet that you’d like to one day write about?

I’ve always said I plan to write only one New Testament story—ever. It will be my last book for two reasons: 

  1. It will be the most emotional journey I’ll ever tackle.
  2. I won’t want to look at any rankings, reviews, or reader feedback on it.

I want to write about Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and her relationship with Him after He begins His ministry. The ups and downs. The fears and (yes) disappointments. The joys and unspeakable sorrow. The awe and absolute worship from one who knew Him like no one else. 

To do it well will take at least a year of research (perhaps more), and I’m not finished with Old Testament characters that fascinate me yet. Mary will come someday. Not yet. And, frankly, no publisher will touch it. I’ll likely publish it myself. Someday. Thanks for asking.

Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to write down your CLUE before clicking to the next stop.


Here’s Stop #16 Stuff!

The clue to write down: me

Welcome to STOP #17

Bookmark STOP #1 so you can check the tour schedule and get back on track if at any point you get lost or find a broken link.

Enjoy the hunt!

Isaiah’s Legacy (2020) — Release Day + My Thoughts + A Giveaway

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About the Book

wp-1577170850482.jpgBook: Isaiah’s Legacy

Author: Mesu Andrews

Genre: Biblical Fiction

Release Date: February 18, 2020

The drama of the Old Testament comes to life as Judah’s most notorious king ascends to the throne in this gripping novel from the award-winning author of Isaiah’s Daughter.

At eight years old, Shulle has known only life in a small village with her loving but peculiar father. When Uncle Shebna offers shelter in Jerusalem in exchange for Shulle’s help tutoring King Manasseh, Judah’s five-year-old co-regent who displays the same peculiarities as her father, she’s eager to experience the royal court. But Shulle soon realizes the limits of her father’s strict adherence to Yahweh’s Law when Uncle Shebna teaches her of the starry hosts and their power.

Convinced Judah must be freed from Yahweh’s chains, she begins the subtle swaying of young Manasseh, using her charm and skills on the boy no one else understands. When King Hezekiah dies, twelve-year-old Manasseh is thrust onto Judah’s throne, bitter at Yahweh and eager to marry the girl he adores. Assyria’s crown prince favors Manasseh and twists his brilliant mind toward cruelty, beginning Shulle’s long and harrowing journey to discover the Yahweh she’d never known, guided with loving wisdom by Manasseh’s mother: Isaiah’s daughter, the heartbroken Hephzibah. Amid Judah’s dark days, a desperate remnant emerges, claiming the Lord’s promise, “Though we’re helpless now, we’re never hopeless–because we serve El Shaddai.” Shulle is among them, a girl who becomes a queen through Isaiah’s legacy.

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My Word and have not denied My Name” (Revelation 3:8).

Isaiah’s Legacy by Mesu Andrews is an outstanding novel. This story allowed me to confront real, heavy darkness. It held a mirror up and showed me some of my deep fears and personal, spiritual failures. This beautiful story led me back into my Bible to really study God’s Word on a man I have always judged as irredeemable. I failed to ever see Manasseh as redeemable until after I dealt with some of the spiritual failings Isaiah’s Legacy showed were in my heart. This novel is a phenomenally hard story to read — it’s got a lot of ugliness and sin illustrated, but it is a remarkable testament to God’s redemptive love. No one is ever too far gone to be saved. As 1 Peter 4 states, love covers a multitude of sins and God’s redemptive love can cover anything.

This novel follows three main characters — Zibah, Shulle, and Manasseh — over the course of some of Judah’s most tumultuous times during Manasseh’s reign as king. One thing that is insanely clear is that women had almost zero control during this time. It was so frustrating to read because I struggle so hard with my own powerlessness. In today’s day and age, I see so much bad. I hear bad, misguided thinking. There is so much deception that common sense and logic have almost totally gone by the wayside. And, I have no power over any of this craziness. In this, I can relate to Zibah and Shulle 1000%. I find that I often ask God WHY a lot, and then I spiral because my tiny mind cannot understand God’s plan and I start to fear, doubt, and worry. In Isaiah’s Legacy, there is this glorious moment where in a fit of complete powerlessness Zibah loses her emotional cool after a very bad incident with her son, Manasseh, and she starts to ask a million WHY questions. Yaira, Zibah’s best friend and sister-in-law, pulls Zibah to her and lovingly scolds her: “Why questions lead only to doubt. Only who questions build faith.” I can personally attest to the truth of this statement. In my frustration and powerlessness, I always retreat to why questions, and then inevitably spiral out of emotional control. But, I’ve been working really hard lately to stop asking why and to speak Truth. My new mantra is “God is the BOSS!” As soon as I take myself away from the why focus and focus on the Who, I calm down and that sense of powerlessness disappears.

wp-1577170850466.jpgI began this review with a verse from Revelation because this one verse kept popping into my brain as I was reading Isaiah’s Legacy. As I was dealing with and confronting my own sense of powerlessness, and fears and doubts were popping up left and right, I didn’t want to spiral. So I took up my “God is the BOSS!” mantra. In the moments of peace that settled on me after I cried out that God is the BOSS, Revelation 3:8 would pop into my head and I would focus on the fact that Jesus “knows.” He knows my powerlessness. He knew Zibah’s and Shulle’s powerlessness. Nothing gets past God. This realization struck me like a ton of bricks and brought real peace. Part of being powerless is a frustration that truth isn’t seen. That injustice and ugliness and deprivation aren’t being seen. But when Jesus says in Revelation 3:8 that He knows we’re powerless it means He sees and nothing has gotten past Him, including one bit of bad. It also means that Jesus has a plan because He is the BOSS! Our job is to wait, to keep His Word, and to never deny His Name. In this command, Jesus has given us all something to hold onto. He has made us part of the plan, and He’s given us a choice. We can choose to wait, keep His Word, and never deny His Name, or we can go our own way. In this, Jesus has given us power. Isn’t that amazing?!

There is no way to do Isaiah’s Legacy justice in a review. It’s just too good a story to put into words. Isaiah’s Legacy is masterful and must be experienced. I highly recommend this novel. Reading Isaiah’s Legacy will change your life for the better!

I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the publisher, WaterBrook Press, via NetGalley. I have also received a review copy of this novel in paperback form from the author. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.


GIVEAWAY

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I am giving away ONE (1) paperback copy of Isaiah’s Legacy by Mesu Andrews. My giveaway begins today, 2-18-20 at 5:00 am (PST) and ends on Saturday, 2-22-20 at 12:00 pm (PST). To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***Please Note: Open to Continental U.S. mailing addresses only.*** One winner will be notified via email at the end of the giveaway and will be announced here on this page. For full giveaway disclosures and policies, click HERE.

Mission Hollywood (2019)

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About the Book

wp-1581653479680.jpgBook: Mission Hollywood

Series: A Red Carpet Romance #1

Author: Michelle Keener

Genre: Christian Contemporary Romance

A Hollywood bad boy. A pastor’s daughter. What could possibly go wrong?

Movie star Ben Prescott arrives back in Hollywood after causing a scandal with his ex-girlfriend in Rome. Chased through the airport by paparazzi, he jumps into a limo hoping for a quick getaway. Instead, he finds Lily Shaw, a pastor’s daughter, and preschool teacher. When the paparazzi capture a photo of the two of them together, Ben’s agent demands that he do whatever it takes to keep the story from hitting the gossip pages . . . even volunteer to work at Lily’s church.

Sparks fly as the movie star and the pastor’s daughter work side by side. When Lily accompanies Ben to the premiere of his latest movie, Hollywood takes notice. Under intense media scrutiny and pressure from the movie industry, Ben must risk his career to follow his heart, but Lily wants the one thing he doesn’t have — faith.

Mission Hollywood is an inspirational story about love, faith, and second chances.

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

Mission Hollywood by Michelle Keener is such a good read. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute, and now I am very much looking forward to book #2 in this series, Made in Hollywood, set to release this March.

wp-1581653479665.jpgThere really is so much to love about Mission Hollywood. The plot is awesome. I adore plotlines where the popular guy falls for the seemingly-insignificant girl. When the hero realizes how special the heroine really is my heart does all kinds of happy flutters, and, boy, did my heart flutter like crazy with this book. I really enjoyed the cast of characters in this story, and I found Ben and Lily to be endearing and relatable. I rooted for both the entire read! And, I very much appreciated Ben’s journey to faith in Christ. Many times, Ben asks the tough God-questions: Why does God allow bad things to happen to those who love and honor Him? How can I trust God when I haven’t been able to trust humans? How can God love me, a sinner, when I’m nothing more than a commodity to society? All amazing questions, questions I’ve even asked myself. What I really love is that Lily and her pastor-father, Evan, sometimes are not able to answer Ben satisfactorily because many times the only way we can get clarity on issues like these is to go directly to God. Trusting God with our questions may not always elicit the answers we seek — at least not here on Earth — but it will allow us a peace we cannot achieve without God. Watching Ben make his way to this truth was my favorite aspect of this very enjoyable, well-written novel.

Mission Hollywood is without a doubt a must-read story. I highly recommend this novel. If you are looking for a well-crafted contemporary romance with timely themes, then Mission Hollywood is the book for you!

I won a free copy of this novel in a 2019 giveaway hosted by Katie at Fiction Aficionado. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Memorable Monday #73

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Welcome to Memorable Monday! The purpose of Memorable Monday is to showcase an influential book read in the past that still sticks with you today. This fun Monday morning post is hosted by the lovely Becca at The Becca Files.


This week, I am featuring:

Sweet Melody

by Heidi McCahan

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Amazon

Sweet Melody is an excellent contemporary romance that I enjoyed from start to end. It reminded me of the very best Hallmark films — the ones where the storyline is highly engaging, the chemistry between the hero and heroine is fierce and palpable from their first meeting, the kisses are sweet and swoon-worthy, and the ending is so satisfying you just can’t help but sigh. I highly recommend this sweet novel.

Click HERE to read my full review.

About the Book

When a struggling bakery owner is rescued by a wannabe songwriter with hidden culinary talents, they discover they can make sweet harmony … if they can only learn to work together.

Rhett Foster longs to change the world with his music, yet he can’t even finish writing one song. Battered by a string of failures and disillusioned, he returns home to Portland, Oregon. While he desperately wants to create a chart-topping hit, his dad mandates a new mission: move to coastal vacation hotspot Seabrook, Washington and expand the family’s successful restaurant chain.

In danger of destroying her late parents’ legacy if she doesn’t diversify her menu, Lindsay Carmichael will try anything to save her bakery. But with a tiny budget and an injured employee who can’t work, she has no choice but to sink the last of her savings into buying a dilapidated food truck and hiring Rhett as a part-time barista. What she doesn’t know is that the handsome songwriter has a secret … one that could destroy her business and her heart.


NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!

Share a book you’ve read in the past and explain briefly why it’s so memorable to you in the comments below.

If you would like to join Memorable Mondays, check out Becca’s blog site by clicking HERE. Scroll to a Memorable Monday post for info.

A Kiss is Just a Kiss (2017)

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About the Book

wp-1581822587098.jpgBook: A Kiss is Just a Kiss

Series: The Kissing Test Book #1

Author: Melinda Curtis

Genre: Clean Contemporary Romance

A perfect day…

Beck O’Brien is a financial whiz with a passion for horse breeding and today he’s getting married. Maggie is the perfect bride. She’s steady when he’s volatile, kind when he forgets to be and forgiving of his long hours. She’s everything Beck wants in a bride.

Until Kitty steps in…

Kitty Summer is certain that her sister Maggie is making the biggest mistake of her life. Beck O’Brien doesn’t love Maggie, but Maggie refuses to listen to reason. If Kitty can’t tell Maggie she’s making a mistake, then maybe she can show her. There’s only one way to prove that Beck is the right man for Maggie.

Can he pass The Kissing Test?

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

wp-1581822587126.jpgEvery now and then I crave a book that is a simple escape, that makes me smile, and that leaves me sighing in reader satisfaction. A Kiss is Just a Kiss by Melinda Curtis is exactly the sweet, clean romance I needed this Valentine season. Coming in at just under 100 pages, this novella is the perfect blend of hijinks, humor, character revelations, and super cute romance. The characters — Kitty, Beck, and Grandma Dotty (who, herself, is a tad dotty) — are wonderful and endearing. I’ve read several reviews online from readers who were not a fan of Kitty’s kiss test, but I didn’t have an issue with this aspect of the plot. Is it realistic? No. Should we all start doing the kiss test in our everyday lives? Absolutely not. But for a fictional setting, I found it pretty hilarious. My most favorite moment in this sweet story is when Beck realizes that the right woman for him would be the one who picks up his phone call even when she is mad at him. What an excellent thought. It made me think about my husband. And you know what? Beck is correct. An excellent clue that signifies one is part of a real, hearts-on-the-line relationship is when one picks up the phone even when he or she is mad at the other. Overall, I give A Kiss is Just a Kiss two hearty thumbs-up, and I cannot wait to read the second book in this series, And Then He Kissed Me.

I purchased a copy of this novella in eBook form from Amazon on January 17, 2020. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

The Blue Cloak (2020)

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About the Book

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Book: The Blue Cloak

Series: True Colors #5

Author: Shannon McNear

Genre: Historical Romantic Suspense; True Crime

Release Date: February 14, 2020 (eBook), March 1, 2020 (paperback)

Based on real events beginning in 1797 — Rachel Taylor lives a rather mundane existence at the way station her family runs along the Wilderness Road in Tennessee. She attends her friend’s wedding only to watch it dissolve in horror has the groom, Wiley Harpe, and his cousin become murderers on the run, who drag their families along. Declaring a “war on all humanity,” the Harpes won’t be stopped, and Ben Langford is on their trail to see if his own cousin was one of their latest victims. How many will die before peace can return to the frontier?

Click HERE to pre-order/purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

Shannon McNear is definitely one of my most favorite authors ever. I’ve said it in previous reviews, I will say it again: McNear cannot write a bad story if she tried. With that said, I struggled with The Blue Cloak. Not because it’s a poorly written novel. It’s actually superiorly written. I found The Blue Cloak highly engaging and fast-paced. I didn’t struggle with the characters per se. In fact, I’ve never rooted harder for a character than I did for Sally Roberts … er, I mean Sally Harpe (you’ll understand once you read this story). And, I didn’t struggle with the themes. They are timely and seriously thought-provoking. In all honesty, I 1000% recommend The Blue Cloak. McNear took a supremely ugly topic and penned an honest, historically accurate story that ends with grace and hope. And yet, I still really struggled. The ugly is so ugly, I find myself at a loss for how to reconcile Sally’s horrific experiences with the notion that God has a plan for good for His people.

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Genesis 50:20 is the famous verse where Joseph tells his brothers, “…You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”. When I read Joseph’s story I totally get this verse. When I look backward, I can easily see God’s hand orchestrating Joseph’s story and keeping him from great harm. Joseph does endure sad, rough moments, but God is there. After reading Sally’s story in The Blue Cloak, and looking backward, I’m struggling so hard to see God’s hand. I can see it clear as day for almost every other character, but I just can’t for Sally and that scares me. What does this say about me? Is my faith in God fake? Can I only see God’s hand when things are rosy and sunny and good? OR, are there just some stories we won’t understand until we get to Heaven and God explains them to us? I know God is good all the time. I know He is pure, perfect love. But today I don’t understand how He allows certain things. How do we stay faithful when very, very, very bad things happen to good, innocent people? I feel like knowing the answer to this question is pivotal, but today all I can do is go to God and tell Him that I am struggling to understand. Today, I’m a little angry, a lot brokenhearted, and downright unsure. I will have to take all these feels to God and let Him help me sort them out.

A true testament of a novel’s amazingness is how it sticks with a reader well after the final page had been turned, and how that novel forces a reader to wrestle with complex topics. Well, The Blue Cloak must be one of the MOST amazing novels ever because I will never forget it, and I’m definitely wrestling with some tough emotions and facts. As I stated earlier, I highly recommend this novel, but understand that reading this story may very well wreck your heart. I had ALL the feels with this one!

I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the publisher, Barbour Books, via NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.