Book review: ‘The Beloved Daughter’ by Alana Terry

A few months ago I interviewed Christian fiction author, Alana Terry (click here). Alana wonderfully sent me a copy of her book, The Beloved Daughter, and over Christmas I finally had the opportunity to read it. I was absolutely blown away!

Alana Terry book coverFrom the back cover:

In a small North Korean village, a young girl struggles to survive. It is  her father’s faith, not the famine of North Hamyong Province, that most  threatens Chung-Cha’s well-being.

The Beloved Daughter follows Chung-Cha into one of the most notorious prison camps the  contemporary free world has known. Her crime? Being the daughter of a  Christian.

My review:

This book completely opened my eyes to the persecution of Christians in other countries, such as North Korea. The story of Chung-Cha was tragic, as well as hope-inspiring. The book is written from the first-person perspective of Chung-Chain the style of a letter. I found out several chapters in that it was, in fact, a letter.

The descriptions of Chung-Cha’s experiences in the prison camp were gritty and horrifying. Most people would find the events that happen to Chung-Cha and others in the camp to be very disturbing – how could humans do such brutal things to one another? It is a story of great evil, but also the power of the love of Christ that brings light in the darkness.

Alana did a terrific job with telling this story. Each chapter of this book has a different theme, linked to a verse in the Bible, which worked really well. I felt emotionally connected with the characters in the story and, being a mother, I was sobbing by the end of the book. The story was so powerful.

The only down-side I see with this book is that some readers may find the descriptions of the sexual depravity in the prison camp very confronting. I think Alana has dealt with this difficult topic sensitively, however, I wouldn’t recommend this book to younger readers for this reason.

My rating:

5 out of 5 stars

To see my ratings system, click here

I’m pleased to announce that Alana has a second book coming out in this inspirational suspense series – Slave Again.

She escaped a North Korean prison camp only to find herself enslaved again.

Mee-Kyong endured a childhood fending for herself in a North
Korean prison camp. When she finally flees across the border into China, Mee-Kyong must draw upon all her survival skills. Does Mee-Kyong have the cunning she needs to escape the world of abuse and shame into which she’s been sold? Can she manage to save both herself and the innocent child under her protection?

About the Author:  Alana Terry is a homeschool mom, pastor’s wife, and Christian author. Her debut novel, The Beloved Daughter, has won awards from Women of Faith and the Book Club Network. The Beloved Daughter was a number one bestseller in Christian suspense on amazon. Her next novel, Slave Again, is due out this summer.

Giveaway Time! Alana is giving away free copies of her next release to anyone who makes a donation to Liberty in North Korea, an organization dedicated to rescuing refugees who escape North Korea. She’s also giving away a mini kobo e-reader and several copies of Slave Again, so be sure to enter the giveaway below!

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Interview with Author Alison Stanley

Curious to know more about my writing journey? – see E.A West’s interview with me here.

The West Corner

Please welcome author Alison Stanley to The West Corner! We swapped interviews, and I’m happy to have her here today. If you want to check out my interview on her blog, you can find it here.

Without further ado, let’s get to Alison’s interview.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Alison Stanley author photoI have been married for 8 years (time flies!) and I have two delightful little girls who are 6 and 4 years old. We live in Sydney, Australia.
I work full time, and I’m also studying this year. Some people think I’m crazy!
In my spare time, I enjoy writing novels. I also love to read. I have too many hobbies and not enough spare time 🙂

Please tell us about your latest release.

My latest book, Trust Me Twice, is an inspirational romance book based in Australia. The story follows Alana Johnston, a talented interior designer, who returns…

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Book Review: ‘Worth the Wait’ by Laura Jackson

From the back cover:

9781938708268Ellie Lansing has a picture-perfect life with a close-knit family and the perfect boyfriend. But her world is suddenly knocked off center when her drool-worthy boyfriend cheats, and her always-has-it-together mother is diagnosed with cancer. Ellie doesn’t get it. She always does the right thing—doesn’t God owe her a happy life? Through her heartache, Ellie learns that sometimes what seems like the end is really just the beginning and that what God has for us is always worth the wait

My review:

When Laura Jackson was looking for some early reviewers for her début novel, Worth the Wait, I read the synopsis and eagerly volunteered. I’m a fan of YA Christian romance, even though I’m in my thirties now, and I had high expectations of this book.

I’m pleased to say that it was an enjoyable read – a book I wish I’d read in my teenage years. The main character, Ellie, had a picture perfect life with a dream boyfriend, but when she returns home from a summer in Nantucket, she notices things with Dylan have changed. As the truth comes out, Ellie finds herself struggling for answers. Thankfully, God puts the right people in Ellie’s life who help her navigate through this dark period and realise that despite being rejected, she is valued by God and worth the wait.

The book deals with common issues for teenagers, such as premarital sex, binge drinking and schoolyard gossip, from a Christian world view. Laura’s writing reminded me a little of Melody Carlson’s books.

For a first novel, I thought Laura did an awesome job. There were some scenes, mainly towards the beginning, that felt were a bit rushed and it would have been nice to dwell in them some more, but overall, the book moved at a good pace. Most of the twists and turns in the plot didn’t take me by surprise, but I didn’t mind.

I felt that the characters of Ellie, Dylan, and Joshua were built very well, and the romance elements were sweet. The descriptions of how Ellie felt when her mom was diagnosed with cancer were spot on – I speak from experience as my mother went through the same thing when I was a teen.

The book had strong spiritual themes of finding contentment in God and waiting for God’s best – I think these would encourage not only teens, but adults as well.

Recommended for teens, young adults, and the young at heart who enjoy a romantic Christian read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for my honest review.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

To see my ratings system, click here

Interview with author Laura Jackson

Today, I’m interviewing Christian author Laura Jackson about her new book and how she became a writer.

2013-07-08 23.15.16-1 (2)Me: Hi, Laura. You must be excited, having recently published your first novel. How long has it been since you began your writing journey?

Laura: Not very long but forever, I guess. I remember writing as a kid, and I wrote some in high school for fun. I taught middle school language arts, so I wrote with my kids. When I became a librarian, I missed writing with my students. So, I started writing a book. The first attempt was so bad I quit in the middle. Worth the Wait is my second attempt.

Me: What have been the highlights and lowlights in your experience so far?

Laura: I’m new at this, so I don’t have a lot of experience. I got an early review from a reader I’ve never met. She wrote about how much the book affected her even though she’s an adult.

The worst thing is just seeing my “baby” covered in red ink from the editor. It was so discouraging for just a minute, and then I dived into it and enjoyed making it better.

Me: I can relate to that – seeing the track changes in a manuscript is disheartening, but once you get into it, it is exciting to see how much better it will be. How long did it take you to write Worth the Wait?

Laura: I wrote Worth the Wait during NaNoWriMo 2012. I did over 50,000 words that month and then added to it the next two months. The book I’m working on now is going so slowly…maybe because I was editing Worth the Wait, working on marketing, etc in addition to my fulltime job as a librarian.

Me: As a librarian, you must come across a lot of books. Do you have a favourite author/s?

E.A West: I love reading just about everything. I love the Pigeon books by Mo Willems to my library kids. Have you read them? SO FUNNY!

YA—I love Jenny B. Jones, Sarah Dessen, and Ally Carter.

Romantic Suspense—Dee Henderson, Irene Hannon, Dani Pettrey.

Chick Lit—Kristin Billerbeck, Erynn Mangum.

I could list a ton more, but those are my favorite.

Me: That is a great selection. Thanks for the tips! Can you tell us a bit more about Worth the Wait?

9781938708268Laura: Ellie Lansing has a picture-perfect life with a close-knit family and the perfect boyfriend. But her world is suddenly knocked off center when her drool-worthy boyfriend cheats, and her always-has-it-together mother is diagnosed with cancer. Ellie doesn’t get it. She always does the right thing – doesn’t God owe her a happy life? Through her heartache, Ellie learns that sometimes what seems like the end is really just the beginning and that what God has for us is always worth the wait.

Me: That sounds fantastic. I’m already hooked 🙂 What kind of readers do you think would enjoy your book?

Laura: Christian teens as well as older women. I’m 33, but I love YA. It’s always my first choice for reading although lately, a lot of it seems really dark. I hope Worth the Wait will be an encouragement to teens to wait for God’s best…not just about sex but about every aspect of their future.

Me: I’m sure it will be. I also enjoy reading YA, even though I’m in my thirties too – we must be young at heart! Now that you are out of your teenage years, looking back, what advice would you give to your teenage self?

Laura: Focus less on boys! I was boy crazy. My poor parents!

Me: A great piece of advice! I’m sooo not looking forward to when my daughters are that age. Thanks for visiting my blog today, Laura. I hope God uses your book to touch many hearts.

Laura: Thanks so much!

Author bio:

Laura Jackson loves books – reading and writing them. A life-long reader, Laura studied English in college and taught 7th grade language arts before earning her Master’s degree and becoming a school librarian. Now, she spends her days sharing great books with kids and her evenings writing books about teenage girls discovering God and His plan for their lives.

http://authorlaurajackson.blogspot.com/

Worth the Wait, a Christian YA novel, was released on 4 February 2014.

Find it on Amazon: Worth the Wait on Amazon
Find it at Barnes and Noble: Worth the Wait on BN.com

 

The only one to stop

RockEditWhen Jesus was on earth, he spoke in parables – stories with a hidden spiritual meaning that was only revealed to some. I think it is cool that Jesus was a storyteller. One of my favourite stories is the one about the Good Samaritan, which can be found in Luke 10:25-37.

I wrote the following song /poem when I was 19, telling the story of the Good Samaritan from the perspective of the man who was injured. I came across it today when I was cleaning the house and it took on a whole new significance…

The Only One To Stop

Verse

I know I shouldn’t have come here alone

when the thieves intercept me on my way home.

From what I’ve heard, I’ll be lucky if I survive.

They steal my clothes, take my money too,

then beat me until I am black and blue

I lay on the ground, waiting for help to arrive.

Chorus

I’m helpless, and stuck on the ground.

It’s getting late and there’s no-one around.

I’m crying in pain, will anyone hear

as my body lies bleeding

and the darkness draws near.

Verse

I lift up my eyes and see a priest,

a man of religion, my chance for release.

I can’t say a thing, but my eyes speak for my heart.

But he doesn’t stop, he walks on by

He crosses the road and I want to know why

a man of religion, would dash my hopes apart.

Chorus

I’m helpless, and stuck on the ground.

It’s getting late and there’s no-one around.

I’m crying in pain, will anyone hear

as my body lies bleeding

and the darkness draws near.

Verse

Are those footsteps I hear, the sound of crunching sand?

Above my body stands a Levite man.

I beg him to stop, but he’s already passing me by.

Where’s the compassion and the care

that these holy men boast of everywhere.

With his nose upturned, he won’t even look in my eye.

Chorus

I’m helpless, and stuck on the ground.

It’s getting late and there’s no-one around.

I’m crying in pain, will anyone hear

as my body lies bleeding

and the darkness draws near.

Bridge

A Samaritan man comes along

He picks me up, his arms are strong.

Why doesn’t he just leave me there?

It doesn’t make sense that he would care.

Verse

With trembling lips I begin to cry.

He sees the affliction in my tear streaked eyes.

Why did he stop, when I would have left him to die.

Is there someone he knows? Someone up there.

A God he believes in, who taught him to care,

compelled him to stop when he saw the fear in my eyes.

Final chorus

My enemy, how could he be

the only one to take pity on me.

I want to find that man and ask him why

he was the only one to stop, while the others passed by.

* * *

I could never tell this story as well as Jesus (see Luke 10:25-37 – click here), but I hope this different perspective on the story of the Good Samaritan highlights that, as Christians, the way we treat people we find unpleasant or difficult to love can have an eternal impact.

There was a beggar woman near my work. I walked past her every day for several months, wondering what her story was. I felt sorry for her, but I was too concerned about my own comforts to ‘get involved’. I did give her a $2 coin once, thinking it might ease my guilt, but it only made me feel worse. Where do you begin with helping someone like that? Would any effort I made to help her be rejected? What would others think? I would be relieved when she wasn’t standing in her usual spot, begging, as I wouldn’t have to go through the internal turmoil of wanting to help, but not wanting to help enough.

I feel ashamed about my attitude. Especially when I’ve seen in the news that a homeless woman matching her description died recently from horrific burns. I can’t be certain it is the same woman, but it has been several weeks since she has graced her usual spot outside the building with her plastic cup in hand. I feel terrible knowing that I could have shown love to her by stopping and having that conversation that I only ever had with my conscience.

Reading back over this song, I can learn a thing or two from my 19-year-old self. I pray that, with God’s strength, next time I feel Him tugging on my heart to help someone in need, I’ll have the strength of character to be like that Samaritan man.

Signature2

Book Review: ‘Be Still My Soul’ by Joanne Bischof

From the back cover:

Pretty Lonnie Sawyer is shy and innocent, used to fading into the background within her family, and among the creeks and hollows of the Appalachian hills. Though her family is poor and her father abusive, she clings to a quiet faith.  But when handsome ladies’ man and bluegrass musician Gideon O’Riley steals a kiss, that one action seals her fate.

Her father forces her into a hasty marriage with Gideon—a man she barely knows and does not love. Equally frustrated and confused by his new responsibilities, Gideon yearns for a fresh start, forcing  Lonnie on an arduous journey away from her home in Rocky Knob.

Her distant groom can’t seem to surrender his rage at the injustice of the forced matrimony or give Lonnie any claim in his life.  What will it take for Gideon to give up his past, embrace Lonnie’s God, and discover a hope that can heal their two fractured hearts?

Gideon only ever cared about himself. Now that Lonnie is his wife, will he ever be worthy of her heart?

My review:

This was the first book I’ve read by Joanne Bischof. I rarely buy hard-copy books these days (e-books are easier to carry around) but from the reviews I’d read from other bloggers, I really wanted to have this one sitting on my shelf. Be Still My Soul is Bishof’s début novel and she has done a fantastic job.

I quickly found myself drawn into the book and the setting, initially appalled by the way Lonnie was treated by her father, and then by Gideon.
I really hated Gideon, the ‘hero’, from the start of the book and I felt like Bischof would have to perform a miracle to get me to like him again, but she did just that. By the end of the book, to my surprise, I was cheering for him.

I didn’t feel like I got to know Lonnie as well as I would have liked – maybe if there was more reflection on her background, the way she related to her mother, her relationship with God, her likes/dislikes. Having said that, there are two more books in the series, so hopefully Lonnie’s character is developed some more in these.

The plot moved along at a swift pace, with many conflicts and heartbreaking moments. I was really pleased that there was a satisfying ending to the story, although I know I’m in for more angst with book #2 from reading the back cover.

The spiritual element of this book was present throughout, with references to God and verses from the Bible. I liked how Lonnie’s relationship with her aunt was a source of strength and reminded her to trust that God’s eyes were upon her. I look forward to seeing how the future books build on Gideon’s developing faith.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful story and I will definitely buy the next two books in the series to see how Gideon and Lonnie trust God as they face the challenges before them.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

To see my ratings system, click here

Interview with author E.A West

Today, I’m interviewing Christian author E.A West about her writing process and her books.

BattlefieldOfTheHeartMe: Hi, E.A. Thanks for joining me on my blog. I’ve just finished reading one of your books, so it was great to have the opportunity to ask you some questions about yourself and your stories. First up, how long have you been writing, and what do you love about it?

E.A West: Hi, Alison. I started writing my freshman year of high school. A creative writing class I was in required us to create a fictional character and write a short biography for him or her. I created a cat-owning hippie for the assignment, but I wanted to know more than the short biography told me. Ideas began flowing, and I’ve been creating characters and writing their stories ever since.

I absolutely love coming up with unique ideas for characters and plots and seeing where it takes me. Outlining and I have never gotten along well, so I’m what they call a pantser (I write by the seat of my pants). That allows me to watch the story unfold as it happens. Sometimes the characters take over and go in an unexpected direction, but that’s just part of the fun of writing.

Me: That sounds like a lot of fun. Most writers I know are avid readers. What do you like to read? Do you have any favourite author/s?

E.A West: I’m an eclectic reader. If a book catches my interest, I’ll read it regardless of genre. I do prefer clean fiction to the racier stuff out there and try to avoid books that contain sex scenes and foul language. Beyond that, I’m not picky about genre. I do enjoy a good thriller now and then, as well as romance, mystery/suspense, historical, non-fiction, and the occasional sci-fi or fantasy. I don’t really have an all-time favorite author, but I can always count on Sigmund Brouwer, Terri Blackstock, and Max Lucado to produce books I’ll enjoy.

Me: It is good not being limited to one kind of genre. I imagine this would influence your writing too. How do you come up with new ideas for your own books? What inspires you?

E.A West: My ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. I was once inspired by part of a scene in an episode of Bonanza. Conversations, books, movies, music, even just a passing comment somewhere can trigger my imagination and send me down the road of “what if…?”

Me: One of the main characters in your book Battlefield of the Heart suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). What prompted you to want to write about this disorder?

E.A West: With Battlefield of the Heart, my inspiration came from a few years of a nearly constant flow of news reports, documentaries, interviews, etc. concerning the War on Terror, veterans, and the effects of PTSD in combat vets. After a while, my imagination took all of that information I’d absorbed and started putting together Danny Flynn, the hero of the book.

When I started thinking about writing a book with vets going to college, I realized it was the perfect opportunity to share a deeper look at a disorder nearly everyone has heard of but few know much about. Since the prevalence of PTSD ranges from 11-20% in those who have served
in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I knew that what life with PTSD looks like was something that needed to be shared.

It also offered an opportunity to help combat the stigma of seeking help for mental health issues that was extremely prevalent in the military at the time I started writing the book. Thankfully, that stigma isn’t nearly as strong now as it was then, but there’s still a long way to go before it’s commonly accepted that PTSD isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you have survived something traumatic that affected you deeply.

Me: It definitely opened my eyes to what sufferers of PTSD, and their loved ones, might experience. What kind of readers do you think would enjoy Battlefield of the Heart and your other books.

E.A West: Anyone who enjoys sweet and/or inspirational romance. Many of my books would also appeal to those who are curious about a side of life they may never experience themselves (i.e. autism, PTSD, etc.).TheKeyToCharlotte_w5071_300

Me: Thanks so much for sharing with us today. Before I let you go, I have one final question – what one piece of advice would you give to your teenage self?

E.A West: Stay strong and hold on to your faith. No matter how difficult life gets, those two things will get you through. Also, don’t be afraid to speak up for what you believe in. Not everyone will agree with you and some may even ridicule you, but more will respect you for standing up for your beliefs.

Author bio:

EAWestProviding journeys of hope, one story at a time. E.A. West, award-winning author of sweet and inspirational romance, is a lifelong lover of books and storytelling. In high school, she picked up her pen in a creative writing class and hasn’t laid it down yet. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, knitting, and crocheting. She lives in Indiana with her family and a small zoo of pets.

Find out more about books by E.A West on her Amazon author page (http://amazon.com/author/eawest) or the books page on her blog, which contains links to
various retailers (http://thewestcorner.wordpress.com/books).

Connect with E.A. West in the following places:

FTWB_NewCover_300 TrustOfTheHeart_coverImperfectBeauty-200x300