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Unconventional

Unconventional by [Hebert, J. J.]

James Frost is an aspiring writer with huge plans, but life seems to have things laid out quite differently for him. Rejection letter after rejection letter, James begins to lose confidence, becomes increasingly filled with fury, and sees no way out of his destiny as a school janitor. His father’s offhand attitude about James’s future does nothing to help his morale. Then, James meets Leigh–a woman who could not be more different from him if she tried. A devout Christian always seeing the positive side in trying situations, Leigh brings about changes in James and sends him careening down a drastically different path of emotions and a newfound faith in Jesus Christ.

James and Leigh both shoulder great burdens and are destined to have found one another at this specific moment in both their lives. Hebert paints a grim picture of the life Leigh endures as a woman with overbearing parents who manipulate everything from her love-life to her own self worth. James, with all of his issues, is as much a blessing to Leigh as she is to him.

Hebert addresses warped body images in a realistic and tasteful manner as he highlights the relationship between Leigh and her mother. In addition, he draws James into the dynamic by having him gently override the damage created by Leigh’s mother. Nowhere is this more poignant than when James, in no uncertain terms, explains to Leigh that she is speaking her mother’s words and not her own. Everyone needs a James in his/her life–he an amazing voice of reason.

James is an amazing character on many levels. Hebert has gifted readers with a champion of free thinking while molding a character who is broken and in need of love and faith. As a reader, I was touched on more than one occasion by the descriptions of James’s poor health, his financial struggles, and his staggering lack of self confidence. Hebert certainly gives readers a main character for which they can both cry and cheer.

I was more than impressed with the turn of events in which James becomes a giver of strength and a builder of self-confidence. It is quite a stark difference from the outset of the book wherein James’s feelings are scattered and he’s falling toward depression. Meeting Leigh is just the tip of the iceberg; meeting Meranda completes the change begun by Leigh.

Hebert’s book is an unconventional literary approach to expressing Christianity. Readers do not often find text professing faith in Jesus Christ written in the form of a novel. Each of the stories surrounding James Frost’s life tug at the readers heart and doesn’t stop. James and Leigh are memorable and relatable. Hebert’s in-depth look into James Frost’s transformation is a testament to faith, love, and hope.

Pages: 334 | ASIN: B002QHVW1G

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Journey to Osm: The Blue Unicorns Tale

Journey to Osm follows the story of Blue, a young unicorn with a big destiny. Blue is part of a tribe of unicorns going extinct under the harsh rule of an evil sorcerer. A prophecy foretells that Blue will save them but when he is born without metal in his horn, and thus without magic, all hope is lost. When Blue comes of age at 12, he is faced with destiny but how can a magicless unicorn have any hope of saving his tribe?

The book is a fun and unique YA fantasy novel. I really loved the unicorn-centric view of the story. Unicorns are often left out or less significant in fantasy stories, and I think this is a waste of a fun and interesting creature. Author Sybrina Durant furthers this by taking an intriguing twist and really exploring the magic of the unicorns as well as what unicorn civilization looks like. I really loved the world she created with the metal symbol of magic and the hierarchy that creates and the different powers that the magical unicorns possess. With an evil sorcerer, a prophecy, a fight against good and evil, this all adds up to an imaginative and exciting fantasy world.

The plot of the book is that of the underdog character finding strength against evil. Blue is a very sympathetic character through this journey as he is young, sweet, and very strong-willed. From the very beginning of the book you can see how hurt he is that he doesn’t think he can save his people, reciting his mantra ‘No Metal, No Magic.’ But even with this, he does not give up. He trains hard even when he thinks there is no chance. This self-determination in the café of certain failure really endeared Blue to me as a character. Silubhra was also a character that I grew very fond of as she was so compassionate and kind. There are a lot of characters in the story, but I think the author did a good job of making them unique and interesting and I liked how we get to see multiple perspectives.

This book is an exciting fantasy story. Filled with adventure, magic, love, loss, hope, action, and destiny. The story came together well and kept me engaged in the plot from beginning to end. The book is a great read, particularly for young adult readers who love fantasy stories.

Pages: 353 | ASIN: B07LDKX25N

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That Loving Gesture

Gloria D. Gonsalves Author Interview

Gloria D. Gonsalves Author Interview

Jai the Albino Cow is a lovely children’s book that teaches kids how special it is to be different. What was your inspiration for this book?

During a holiday in Austria while hiking going uphill, I felt exhausted and lay down on a grazing pasture. A brown calf approached and licked my face. That loving gesture was indelibly printed in my mind.

Once back home in Germany, I had an idea to write a story about cows. I vividly remember that the story lead was going to be a female and her name is Gundula. The idea landed on a list I keep for children’s story topics. I wrote, “Once upon a time, there were three cows Gold Bell, Spotty and their sister Gundula. They lived with their mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Moo, in the alpine meadows of Nocky mountains. Gold Bell always wore…”

On another occasion visiting my home country Tanzania, I observed more cows in the pastures of Usambara Mountains. Soon after, the story idea developed further with themes from my motherland. I desired to create a main character who is female, different and also have her story address the topic of human diversity.

In some African countries, people with albinism have suffered and are still suffering from discrimination and other horrendous acts including being hunted for their body parts for magic potions by witch doctors. We can help solve this problem through stories which teach love and respect from an early age, such as in this book which uses a cow as the protagonist.

The book is told in both English and Swahili. Why did you want to tell this story in both languages?

My mother tongue Swahili is spoken not only in Tanzania but also in the neighbour countries of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique. The intention to have a bilingual story was with a hope that the message will have a great impact and reach many more, particularly in areas where albinos are maligned.

I loved the art in this book. It was both artful and bright. What was the art collaboration like with Nikki Ng’ombe?

Nikki is a daughter of a friend. Besides being acquainted with each other, she is very professional and delivers concrete results. We have worked together in another book project and already knew each other’s pace of work. She grasped quickly the vision I had for this book. I will certainly work with her again if not occupied by studies.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am currently proofreading a manuscript for a children’s Swahili book co-authored by Tanzanian writers. We intend to publish this year.

Author Links: Facebook | GoodReads | Website

Jai the Albino Cow: Jai Ng’Ombe Zeruzeru by [Gonsalves, Gloria D.]

Can an albino cow possess abilities to be admired by other cows?

Anjait (Jai) is Ankole cow who lived with her family in Kole Hills. Jai suffers from albinism. Other cows thought she was cursed. One day, Jai shocked other cows for doing something that no other cow did before. She also surprised them with a magical skill.

What is it that Jai did as the first ever cow? Will her actions and skill help bring love and respect to albino cows?

Get your copy now to find out the answers and reveal to your children the importance of showing kindness and respect to everyone, even if they look different.

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Given To Me By Spirit

Jon de Graaff Author Interview

Jon de Graaff Author Interview

Friends of the Tsar is inspired by your personal experiences and your family history. Why was this an important book for you to write?

The diversity of my knowledge, which was given to me by spirit, was something too important to have lay dormant. The knowledge I accrued from many camping and four wheel driving trips was gained through life and death situations I encountered. If, by getting this information out to the world could save just one life, then I will have had good reason to write it.

The many miracles that kept my family and I safe on these learning adventures were so profound in that they were logic-defying, and I thought what better way to tell of my miracles than through an Australian character who entertained the Zuckschwerdts, my grandparents, with the narratives while snowed in.

What were some things that you felt had to stay true to real life and what were some things you took liberties with?

I felt that the horrific conditions in which my grandparents were successful in decamping from Russia had to stay true to life, also their personality.

I took liberties with the negative aspects of their plight because it would have been too depressing for a reader to continue reading. Too many family members were murdered by the Bolsheviks.

I also wanted to honour them with an acknowledgement of their plight after which they were positive in the rebuilding of their future together.

I felt like faith and family were important in the book. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this book?

The pivotal themes I wanted to capture were miracles, spiritual awareness, hope, danger awareness in nature, remembering ones heritage, and faith and family.

What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?

My mother, on the other side, wants me to write children’s books. My previous vocation as artist allows me to illustrate the books myself, and my eagerness to encourage young people to speak up when put in danger, especially when dad’s driving is too scary, strengthens my resolve.

It won’t be until this time next year that a book would be ready for publication, should I decide to do so.

Author Links: Facebook | GoodReads | Website

Friends of the Tsar: Miracles from Petrograd to the Outback by [de Graaff, Jon]

1917–The Russian Revolution. Danger and chaos abound, and the aristocratic Zuckschwerdt and Orloff families are desperate to escape to safety. Enter Blue, an Australian cattle-breeder with a big heart. Blessed by a heap of miracles from the Outback and beyond, he shares his gripping adventures with the snowed-in families. Blue has survived everything from bushfires to crocodile attacks.

With wolves and winter nipping at their heels, the Zuckschwerdts prepare to depart for the lucky country. Plunged into hostilities and espionage in Petrograd, they make a break for the high seas, only to find themselves in a deadly game of bluff with a German U-boat skipper.

Blue is in a predicament of his own when three of the Orloff daughters fall for his red earth charms. Will he find true love with one of them? And will his Aussie anecdotes help the family understand that awareness and preparation can spell the difference between life and death? As miracles begin to unfold, the Russian refugees discover the power of faith.

Inspired by Jon de Graaff’s personal experiences and his grandparents’ family history, ‘Friends of the Tsar’ is a thrilling tale. Spiked with humorous twists, tragic turns, perilous encounters, and life-saving lessons of survival. It offers spiritual insights into forgiveness and unconventional love.

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An Invisible Child

An Invisible Child by [Ossen MSW, Lenore]

An Invisible Child is a story based on the heart wrenching experiences of Lenore Ossen. It tells the tale of her lonely and traumatic childhood, growing up with a mother suffering from mental illness; isolated and trapped away from the real world. Deprived of social interaction, friendships and even family relationships she tells the story of how she endured life living within the restrictive and peculiar rules set by her mother, living in a constant state of fear. She describes how at times she hated her mother, yet was constantly trying to please and make her mother happy.

The book is a chronological recount of her life, as she remembers it, with the help of notes her uncle wrote.  Her experiences range from sad, to strange and almost unbelievable. Some of the more disturbing experiences include her relationship with her father and her lack of life experiences.

Her lack of relationship with her father had an enormous impact on Lenore. She craved physical and emotional contact with him, but rarely received it. When he did show her affection, her mother was quick to put an end to it with cruel comments. Her uncle wrote in his notes that “George was a plain, simple fellow who wanted what all men want: a wife, a home, the love and affection of his wife and child. He had none of this.” Lenore’s chance at a relationship was further compromised when he moved out of the family home. All hopes ended when he died and disappeared from her life altogether -although disturbingly her mother did not tell her for over a year that he had died.

As she became a teenager she gained more self-awareness. Lenore became conscious of all the ‘normal’ life experiences she was missing out on. At 14 she had never been on the subway, never played with other children, never purchased anything in a store, never spoken on the telephone or handled money. She writes of her distress as she contemplated all the experiences she should have been having.

Although this is a shocking and heart-breaking story, it is also a story of hope. As she grows older, she slowly gains confidence. She pushes herself far beyond her comfort zone, and literally steps out of the apartment. Lenore attempts everyday tasks and teaches herself age appropriate skills for living in society. At times she makes mistakes, however she learns from these as any intelligent person does. She gains the courage and confidence to overcome her life of abuse, showing others that no matter what road you have traveled there is hope for your future.

Pages: 628 | ASIN: B01LXCKCE6

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Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge – Audiobook


Tiny Tim is all grown up, and everything he loves and holds dear has been ripped from him. Upon the death of his dear friend, Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim begins to question each of his beliefs and the very faith that had been instilled in his family with the love of Scrooge himself years ago. Tim, now an adult, is faced with the loss of another of his dear loves, Becky. As fate would have it, Becky is simultaneously suffering through the most trying time of her young life on the streets with her young son and no place to lay their heads. Just as fate intervened fourteen years ago in the form of Ebenezer Scrooge, fate lays its hand on upon Tim once more.

Norman Whaler has crafted a beautiful tale of faith, hope, and love in his sequel to Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge – Audiobook details the events surrounding and immediately following the death of an aged Ebenezer Scrooge. Tim Cratchit, once the young crippled boy benefiting from Scrooge’s change of heart in A Christmas Carol, is impacted most of all by Scrooge’s death.

From beginning to end, Whaler’s sequel to the beloved classic pays homage to the original plot and the beautiful transformation made by its key character, Ebenezer Scrooge. Though Tiny Tim, now all grown up, is the title character, he also exhibits a change of heart similar to that of Scrooge. Tim fights a battle within himself as he struggles to regain his faith. Whaler does a phenomenal job of adhering to the feel of the original book with his references to Scrooge’s character transformation. The reader watches as Tim fights a similar battle and, ultimately, wins with Scrooge’s help.

As a fan of the original tale of Scrooge and the Cratchits, I could not help but fall in love with the parallel story line and the magic of three as it again reared its head in Tim’s life. The sound quality and voice over is exceptional in this audiobook and delivers this lovely story in a clear and crisp manner. Scrooge’s reappearance from the afterlife is expected but quite fitting. Whaler has done Dickens proud with this quick read rich with character development and steeped with faith.

Duration: 1 hour 54 minutes | ASIN: B01NAJJLXP

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103 Simple Poems From One Simple Person

With a collection of singular point of view narratives the author, Mayne Leitzer, offers his first complete book of poetry; 103 Simple Poems From One Simple Person. The book is sectioned into chapters outlining the types of poems that follow, what those writings mean to the author, and how they came to be. The title is indicative of the style of writing, not the writer, as the poetry is fairly simple; using straight forward thoughts and uncomplicated prose to reflect on life’s complications. The story arc is more of a summation of personal perspective and reflection than a journey forward or illustration of action.

In penning “103 Simple Poems” Mayne Leitzer offers up self reflection, self deprecation, a heavy dollop of fundamentalist religious dogma, and more than a little bit of sadness and remorse, with a glimmer of joy and hope.

Many of his poems are jargon one could find on a motivational poster or greeting card, but that is not at all bad. Life can get messy and sometimes people need soft, plushy words to find comfort and solace. The reader will find many situations that they can relate to; lost love, death, pursuing success, loneliness, finding your destiny, conflict of conviction, etc.

However, there are many poems that can be divisive. Sex before marriage, gun control, abortion, prayer in school, Heaven and Hell, those types of things. The thoughts Leitzer lays out are organic in nature and not derived of a need to be quoted for inspirational prose or to start a deep conversation, but rather, just as he states; a need to express his soul at different stages in life.

Some poems showcase the more complex layers of his humanity that struggle to shine under the dominance of a narrow vision.  The Promised Land poem is thoughtful and embraceable. Not a Bad Day and One Moonlit Night lets out his optimistic side which he admits is not in his nature. Leitzer is honest about his mistakes and his struggle with alcoholism. His love poems are truly good; especially Seasons, A Smile and Rock A-bye.

There are a few grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors, which are distracting as is his zealous religious fervor, but his writings let the reader feel his authenticity and the last few poems wrap up nicely to summarize his goal and wishes for success.

This book uses simple and fluid style to expand peoples emotional depths but seemed content to keep its voice generalized. The individual writings have value no matter your religious leanings. At the end the reader will come away with some reflections of their own and maybe, quote a few lines for their own stages of life.

Pages: 124 | ISBN: 1425979149

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The Beauty of His Presence

The Beauty of His Presence by [Evans, J. Shannell]

The Beauty of His Presence by J. Shannell Evans is a forty day-daily devotional for Christians. Each passage includes Bible verses mixed with everyday scenarios to which the reader can relate more closely. After each passage is an open ended set of questions with a writing area that lends itself to daily interpretation and reflection. The book begins with verses and passages about Thanksgiving and Christmas. It delves into Jesus’s birth and death from the start then incorporates the roles of faith, prayer, fellowship, and more within its pages. The author incorporates her personal opinion and experience into the work making it feel more personal and real to the reader.

Evans has curated a nice flow of devotionals. One flows nicely into the next, while at the same time standing alone should someone get off track or skip around. The passages are concise enough that reading one a day would not be a daunting task at all, and many would likely be able to easily read several. They are simply written while still being engaging. The book could easily be used in a group Bible study or Sunday school group. The questions after each section would be good for facilitating group discussion. The daily “Create your own ‘Thought for the Day’” prompt will leave readers with personal food for thought that they can ponder on throughout each day.

I like that the voice of the writer is incorporated. Evans gives accounts of her personal experiences and struggles. This makes the book feel less stuffy and rigid. It makes lofty goals of being a so-called “good Christian” feel attainable. Her personal voice keeps the book light and friendly. It feels more like a conversation than a sermon, and that is comforting. The book keeps a positive, uplifting vibe throughout. The content is heavy at times, but manages to give a hopeful air encouraging a closer walk with God.

I think the substance of the book is on target for its intended audience. Readers will enjoy the relatable stories paired with the daily verses. Evans has put together a great body of work with this book. I feel that it will be a book that will strengthen Christian’s relationships with Christ. It will give hope and positivity to the most downtrodden of readers.

Pages: 206 | ASIN: B079K5BJQY

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The Gift of Tears – Trailer

Jacob is a healthy fourteen-year-old from Massachusetts, an athlete who lives and breathes for baseball, football & hockey, when he is stricken by an awful and mysterious illness. What begins as a typical childhood malady swiftly proves to be anything but routine. Jacob’s folks, Keith and Alethea, the busy parents of four other children, find themselves thrust headlong into the trial of their lives. Their entire world is suddenly torn asunder.

From his doctor’s office, Jacob is rushed by ambulance to an Intensive Care Unit. What began as an average-every-day cold has graduated to pneumonia. But this is no ordinary pneumonia. Three days later Jacob is on life support. Within a week, his death is all but imminent. Nothing can be done. Doctors struggle feverishly to solve the mysteries Jacob’s body hurls at them, while Keith and Alethea, shell-shocked by the suddenness of it all, lean on their faith and on the army of supporters who have come to their aid – to pray with them, to cry with them and to hope with them.

Jacob’s father, a faithful man, a Gulf War veteran and a career prison officer, has been hardened over the years and has lost some of his faith in the goodness of humanity. The outpouring of unfettered love and kindness that he experiences from his family, his friends and from strangers during Jacob’s ordeal, however, lifts him, nourishes him and opens his heart. Through social media, Jacob’s plight touches the hearts and draws the hopes and the prayers of thousands. The army becomes legions. It almost seems as if there is purpose in what’s happening. Somehow Jacob’s illness seems to serve as a vessel for love and for goodness in the hearts of people.

Weeks pass as the whirring machines stream life into Jacob’s ravaged body, which has been whittled to the bone by the sinister disease that attacked him. Jacob’s lungs are obliterated by the savage pneumonia, the likes of which the medical staff at the renowned Boston Children’s Hospital have rarely seen. All appears lost as his parents cling to the promise of their faith. Keith does what no parent should ever have to do as he writes his son’s eulogy in preparation for, and in acceptance of, the inevitable.

The love of Jacob’s Army, though, stretches across the country until it finds a deeply spiritual man half a nation away who contacts Keith to share a powerful experience which overcomes him when he prays for this groaning family, and this dying boy, who he had never met or known. Then…things change.

Take the incredible and heart wrenching journey with Jacob and his family through the pages of The Gift of Tears. Feel the love and the goodness in the human heart. Ponder the mystery of faith. Join the brotherhood of community and the fellowship of hearts. Experience the embrace of healing. Hold their hands. Love with them. Laugh with them. Cry with them.

Believe in hope. Believe in healing. Believe in miracles.

Believe.

Available to order wherever books are sold.

Skeins

Skeins by [Richa Gupta]

Skeins by Richa Gupta is the story of a large group of globe-trotting Indian women who take a trip to see the sights in Spain and Portugal. The women are similar in heritage, but vary widely in age and experience. Even though they are from the same general area, they also differ in culture and socio-economic status. As the women grow closer, they let each other into their personal lives. They confide in each other and share secrets, regrets, hopes, and dreams. However, it’s not one big happy slumber party. Some of the women find some serious trouble along their journey.

Overall, Skeins was a pretty easy read. The grammar and sentence structure is impeccable. I didn’t find any errors at all. If anything, there were only a few turns of phrase that only suggested that the author’s roots were different than my own. That’s not a bad thing.

If I have any complaint, it’s that the cast of characters was very large. I found it hard, at times, to keep the names of characters and their story lines straight. There seemed to be so much going on at once between all of the background stories.

I enjoyed the diversity of the characters. I especially enjoyed the diversity paired with the camaraderie that the women enjoyed. They came from all walks of life, different social classes, and different customs to form one big, instant family. They seemed to get along very well. They will make readers hope for these kinds of quickly formed but long lasting friendships.

Readers will also identify with the problems that the women face. They discuss the not-so-perfect aspects of their lives without giving the story too heavy of a feel. The story doesn’t bog down or get lost in their troubles. They simply state what’s going on in their lives, but characters don’t seem to dwell too much for the most part. For a story that deals with adultery, a crime ring, decades old grudges, etc., it is a decidedly uplifting tale. The women tackle their problems instead of becoming victims of circumstance.

I liked that Gupta showed the women as strong, powerful, and independent. None of them were “just a wife” or “just a mother.” None of them were leaning too hard on anyone but themselves. In a country where women aren’t generally in hierarchical positions, it was refreshing to see these women being so self-sufficient. Still, they walked the line between traditional arranged marriages and living their dreams, while sometimes doing both with one foot in each world. They seek out independence, their wildest dreams, and love all at once.

The book feels light-hearted in nature. I enjoyed that combination woven with real-life issues. I enjoyed the cultural journey following the women from India touring the Iberian Peninsula. The characters felt real. I’d love to see one of the characters step forward to star in a sequel.

Pages: 312 | ASIN: B07HP6ZPYM

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