Tuesday at Ten: FAITH

Tuesday at Ten is a weekly link-up at Karen Courcy’s blog, Finding the Grace Within.  There’s a new prompt word each week, and we just write as we’re moved and share what we’ve written.  Check out this week’s link-up here, and join us on Facebook, too!

This week’s word is FAITH.

Faith.  Such a small word, such a big concept.  Merriam-Webster defines it as “strong belief or trust in someone or something” or “belief in the existence of God:  strong religious feelings or beliefs.”  But to those of us who are Christians, faith is something else entirely.

Faith

Faith – real, convicting, life-sustaining faith – is something I’ve often struggled with.  Growing up, my mother made sure that she and I made it to church, but my dad didn’t go with us.  I knew he was a Christian, but he grew up in a different denomination and wouldn’t go to the church my mother and I attended.  He read his Bible a lot, and liked to discuss the finer points of some pretty deep theological questions, but I don’t ever remember hearing him talk about seeking God’s will for a situation, or praying for help with a difficult decision.  I don’t doubt that he did those things, I just never saw them.  He was a farmer.  He did a pretty good job at it.  We weren’t rich, but I never lacked for much of anything.  Given the nature of how he earned his livelihood, I’m sure he prayed for the weather to do the right things at the right time, for his crops to grow well, and for the market not to fall.  But I never saw that.  I just saw his hard work and sweat and effort.  So while I grew up in a Christian home, I didn’t grow up in one where our faith was something that was visibly discussed and exercised and lived out.

I made the decision to accept Christ as my Savior when I was eight years old, at a revival in our church.  For me, it was always a more logical thing.  It just made sense to me.  But I never really felt like I had a heart-deep faith that impacted every area of my life.  I was always pretty self-sufficient.  I didn’t seek God’s guidance on college major or graduate degree or profession.  I never really figured on getting married, so when I met someone and it turned serious, God and I never talked about whether marrying this man was the right thing to do.  I didn’t feel Him pulling me in any particular direction on any of that (probably because I wasn’t paying attention), and it never even really occurred to me that God would be interested in, or have an opinion on, what I should do with my life.

As I grew older, when problems hit, my first impulse wasn’t to pray.  My first thought was, wow, what can *I* do to fix this?  (Note:  Intelligence does not give one the ability to “fix” everything, but that didn’t stop me from trying.)  When new jobs came along, I didn’t ask God if that was where He wanted me.  I looked at the salary, the benefits, and tried to figure out if that was the best I could do, if that would meet our family’s needs.  Oh, sure, if I was looking for a job because I’d lost a job, I prayed a lot about that – asked God to open up a door quick, but I never gave much thought to whether the next door that opened was the one He had in mind for me.  I did what seemed best to me, and any praying I did about any of it was along the lines of, “God, please help me out of this mess,” and then I’d blindly charge ahead with what I figured should be done without waiting for His answer.  (I’m telling you, “It seemed like a good idea at the time” is going to be my epitaph.)

But as I’ve grown older, life has changed.  The man I married when I was young fell in love with someone else.  We went our separate ways, and I found myself a single mom to a preschool boy.  I was miserable in a lot of ways, and in my foolishness, I turned away from the faith I’d grown up with.  I quit going to church.  I dabbled in things, religion-wise, that my mother would most assuredly not have approved of.  And then the wheel turned, and things changed, and I realized that was a foolish pursuit.  It hit me hard that I needed to ask God’s forgiveness and go back to the beliefs of my childhood.

I got married again.  Gave birth to my second son.  Financial miseries stemming from my first marriage were ongoing.  Lost a house.  Lost a job.  But even though there were challenges aplenty, we weren’t overwhelmed.  Things were scary, things were difficult, and I learned that it’s not true that God won’t give us more than we can handle.  My whole life, I had handled things, or tried to.  God let a bunch of stuff come into my life that I couldn’t handle, waiting to see if I would give it to Him.  And to a large degree, I did, although my control-freak tendencies made it (and continue to make it) hard for me to let go and be completely hands off.

Fast forward to now.  If you’ve read my blog for a bit, you know that last year was not great from a financial standpoint.  (Seems like our issues are always about the money.  I find that highly ironic, given that my dad was frugal to the extreme.  But that’s  another thought for another day.)

A couple of months ago, I felt like we needed to check out a church closer to our home.  The one we’d attended since we moved here is a lovely church, and we didn’t feel compelled to leave it so much as we felt like we couldn’t really get connected, couldn’t really meet needs (or even know about them) when just about all logistics allowed us to do was make it to church on Sunday mornings.  So we made our first visit to the new church the first Sunday in January.  The pastor spoke on tithing.  (We’ve had a couple people tell us since that they figured we might run off when that was the very first topic we heard talked about!  LOL  Nah, takes more to run us off than that.)  He challenged the congregation to tithe – the full tithe – for three months.  And I felt that that was something we really needed to do.

Now, we’d worked our way up to doing okay with giving most of the time.  Not always the ten percent the Bible refers to, and we struggled with staying consistent with it when life happened and we felt like we just couldn’t do it one week or another.  But this challenge hit me hard.  From a worldly  perspective, it’s crazy to even consider giving ten percent of our income each month when we’re still playing catch-up from my stint of unemployment, when we can’t be sure of being in the black until the next paycheck, when we’re working on a loan modification to keep our house (which we prayed about before we bought it, but again, another topic for another day).  But God’s economics and doing God’s will often don’t make sense from the world’s perspective.  We thought, can we afford to do this?  Well, no.  But can we afford not to do this, if it’s what God wants us to do?  Well, no.  So we’ve prayed.  We’ve had people bring up the subject of tithing, unbidden, and tell us what a difference it makes to them.  And who walks up to the new people in church and brings up the subject of money?!  No one, unless it’s God prompting them to do so.

He says to bring in the whole tithe, test Him.  We’ve never consistently given our whole tithe.  But you can’t outgive God, right?  I’ve been over that before, and I’m being challenged to believe it.  We’re testing, and right now, that’s just about the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever taken.  And I’m learning that faith isn’t just saying you believe and having your backside in a seat at church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.  Faith is scary.  Faith is hard.  Living out your faith often makes people question whether you’re doing the right thing, or whether you’ve just gone right off your rocker.  And right now, in the midst of this challenge, I hope my faith is growing just a little bit stronger as we give back to God what is His and wait on Him to meet our needs.

 

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A new year, a new conviction

Not a resolution, but something God has laid on my heart.  Really out of left field (and doesn’t it seem like He often gets our attention from a direction we don’t expect?).

Lately I’ve been doing product reviews, thinking perhaps that would be a way to earn a little extra income for the family.  Lately, too, I’ve had the opportunity to read blogs written by Godly ladies who are inspiring me with their words and their faith.  And it came to me that product reviews aren’t the direction I need to take.  That’s not what I want my blog to be devoted to.  Whatever God may bless me with, it won’t be through me promoting other people’s stuff.

Now don’t misunderstand.  I have nothing against blogs who focus solely or heavily on reviewing things.  There are a bunch of bloggers out there who do product reviews and who do it very well, and I’m thankful for those blogs.  They’re fun to read, they can help me make decisions on whether it’s worth it to try a particular product, and I wish them all the continued success in the world.

But me?  That’s not the path I need to go down.  Not right now, maybe not ever.  That’s not why I started this blog, and it’s not why I’m going to continue with this blog.  Whatever God lays on my heart to share, I want whoever reads my ramblings in my little corner of the blogosphere to read them without feeling like I’m trying to sell something.  And if one person is blessed by what I write, if I make one person think about something in a new way, if I help one person through a dark time, then I will consider that all the success I need.  I may never know what impact my words have, and I may feel like I’m talking to myself a lot of the time, but that’s okay, too.  God can use my goings-on as He sees fit, and whether I know the outcome isn’t what’s important.

So.  No more product reviews except for finishing the couple I’ve already committed to (although I may talk about the reopening of my little Etsy shop on occasion, but that’s a labor of love!).  I’ll still write about books I like, whether I get them for free to review or whether I find them on my own.  But no more of these reviews where I’m trying to earn money by doing it.

New year, new conviction, and I’m going to listen to that small voice.  Hope y’all come along for the ride.  :-)

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Book Review: Jack Templar Monster Hunter, and what do you do for a reluctant reader?

Jeff Gunhus had a son who was a reluctant reader.  Much like my own Thing One, he was a lot more interested in all things electronic (although I suspect Mr. Gunhus’ son wasn’t having quite as challenging of a time in school as Thing One has on occasion).  So what did he do to encourage his reluctant reader to pick up a book more joyfully?  Wrote a book pretty much guaranteed to draw him in.  That book was Jack Templar Monster Hunter.

Jack Templar BookJack “Smith” is a not-quite-14-year-old boy.  He’s being raised by his Aunt Sophie, since his mom died when he was born and his dad,  a soldier in some “special branch” of the Army, had been killed when Jack was younger.  We meet him the day before his 14th birthday, when he’s starting to notice strange things happening.  He’s stronger, faster – and then there’s the creepy guy who tells him that his change has begun.  What change?

That same day, Jack learns that he is not Jack Smith, but Jack Templar, descended from a long line of monster hunters – monster-hunting royalty, if you will.  Tomorrow is his 14th birthday, the day he comes into his powers, and that means he’s now fair game.  The monsters will be coming – for him.  He’s always known about monsters in a general sense, sure.  Who doesn’t?  But he’s about to get to know them better.  Much, much better (and way more than he wants).

The story takes place in one day, and a lot happens in that one day.  There are more turns (left, right, and otherwise) than the Indy 500, and at times I wasn’t sure that good *would* win out (and who says it does?  Read it for yourself and find out!).  I read a lot of young adult books, and I like Jack Templar.  (His nose-picking friend T-Rex, however, wasn’t my favorite.)  I read books for enjoyment, and I enjoyed this one enough that I want to get the next couple of books in the series to see where things go.

Mr. Gunhus’ reluctant reader was hooked.  When I received a copy of this book for review, I was really hoping that Thing One would give it a try.  I figured if he’d get started on it, the story would pull him in and he might actually – gasp! – enjoy a book!  Alas, my reluctant reader did not take to Jack Templar like the author’s son.  He wouldn’t even give it a try.

Why does he not like to read, you ask?  Honestly, I don’t know.  He’s seen the behavior modeled – I read, his dad reads, Brian reads.  He’s asked me before why I like reading so much, and I’ve tried to explain it to him, to no avail.  I think we have more books in our house than anything else, and every spare section of wall has a bookcase on it.  I’ve read to him since he was very young, and he always enjoyed having me read to him.  He’s got an excellent vocabulary, and he’s a good reader – it’s not that he *can’t* do it.  It’s just not his thing like it was (and still is) mine.  He prefers his adventures to be on the screen with a video game, rather than in his own internal landscape.  So I can’t tell you that this was a raging success for us and that my unwilling reader grabbed this book and never put it down (or even finished it in fits and spurts).

Thing Two LOVES to read (and, like with Thing One, we’ve read to him since he was too small to even hold up a book), so we started reading Jack Templar together when older brother wasn’t interested.  I think the monsters were just a little too much for him – he’s only 5, and we didn’t get much past the intermission (where Jack warns the reader, yet again, that reading the book is putting him or her in grave danger, and precautions must be taken).

Jack Templar Monster Hunter Review

When he’s a bit older, we’ll give it another shot, though.

Don’t let my experience (or Thing Two’s grumpy face) dissuade you, though.  If you’ve read my blog at all, you know my kids are just weird sometimes.  LOL  This is a book with good guys, bad guys, monsters, weapons, fighting, friendship, loyalty, and maybe even a small smackerel of romance.  I think it would be an enjoyable read for most middle-school kids (and if your kids have to get Reading Counts points like mine does, have them ask their English teacher how many points it would be worth – more than a few, I’d think!).  I’m certainly going to look up the rest of the series, even if my kids won’t.

I received a free copy of this book for review from Tomoson.com.  All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone, and I don’t recommend things that I don’t think my readers would benefit from or enjoy.

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An update and a lot of praise!

Rejoice in Hope

Wow, it’s been a while since my last substantive post, hasn’t it?  2014 certainly brought many opportunities for me to learn how to “pray without ceasing”.  While I may not have welcomed the events, being more mindful of talking to my Lord can only be a good thing.

I can only blame my lack of blogging lately on the fact that I’m now gainfully employed.  Woo hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I loved the flexibility of being at home, but I never did find a way to make it pay the bills (or even come close, if I’m honest), and with the boys home in the summer, doing work from home became much more challenging.  My hat is off to the moms who find ways to balance work and home from home, and who find ways to make whatever financial contribution their families need without having to take a job outside the home.  I had a really hard time with that balance, and I found myself pushing work back into what should have been family time.  Me, I was very thankful to return to the workforce, both to get bills paid and to focus on work when it’s work time and home when it’s home time.

I interviewed for my current position the early part of September, and I started September 29.  Let me just say, I love love love love my new job.  I enjoy what I’m doing (I’m a court reporter for a State agency), and I really like my co-workers.  I feel like I’ve been there for ages, not just a few months!  I told Brian I thought this was the first job I’d had in a long time where I like both my co-workers AND the work I’m doing!  It would be nice if it paid a little more, but as long as we get the bills covered, we’ll call it good.  I am beyond thankful for this opportunity that God has opened up for me.

Thing One survived his first round of middle school mid-terms.  His inclusion/study skills teacher is a gem, and he wouldn’t be making it without her and without his study skills class.  I know he wanted to give band a try, and I’d love that, but he *needs* the study skills class right now.  He’s enjoying Christmas break and Xbox time, and he is most definitely not looking forward to going back to school in a week.

Thing Two has lost his first tooth (at FIVE!!!!  How did that happen?!)

First Lost Tooth

It was a bottom tooth, and kind of hard to get a good picture of the spot where it went missing.  He’s become quite the reader, and it’s a challenge to find good books for him.  Books that are designed for his age group he dismisses as too babyish, and we’ve moved on to some of Thing One’s books – right now, we’re working our way through the Origami Yoda books.  If you’ve got suggestions for a 5-year-old who’s an advanced reader, please share!  He’s being tested for gifted at school.  I’m not really sure you can determine at age 5 if he’s truly gifted, or just bright and more advanced than his peers.  But if they test him and that gets him resources that keep him from being bored (and keeps him out of trouble – a bored Thing Two is a mess waiting to happen!), then I’m all for it.

Brian is still working at the zoo.  He’s still good at it, and he enjoys it.  It’s nice for us to both have jobs we like.  Today is his birthday.  As he says, he’s now nine-twentieths of a century old.  :-)

So yeah, there have been some challenges this year, to put it mildly.  But we’re healthy, we’ve got a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs and food on the table, and as I look back at 2014, I have to pause and give God thanks for all the many ways He’s blessed us.  Not financially – out of work for eight months can’t be called a financial blessing in ANY way!  But being blessed doesn’t equate to being financially well off.  He’s kept us in our house, He’s kept us healthy, we haven’t needed any major vehicle repair, we have family and friends who’ve prayed for us and encouraged us and helped us wherever they could.  And most of all, He sent His only Son to live among us and give his life for us so that we could receive the best gift of all, eternal life.  Compared to that glory that is to come, the troubles we deal with here are small potatoes.

Ready to see what 2015 has in store, and wishing everyone a peaceful and Happy New Year!

 

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Product Review: Valentia Even Glow Serum, Vitamin C 20%

Valentia Even Glow Serum Review

 

I recently had an opportunity to review Even Glow Serum from Valentia Skin Care.  I’d heard a lot about how Vitamin C products are supposed to benefit your skin, prevent signs of aging, make your skin brighter, etc., but I’d never tried it for myself.  I’m not getting any younger, and my skin has started to get some darker patches as I’ve gotten older, so I figured I’d give it a go.  I will own that I was a bit skeptical, as I’ve generally been of the opinion that as long as my face is clean and moisturized, that will be sufficient, so I didn’t go into this expecting great things.

The serum has a pleasant citrus fragrance.  I only needed three or four drops to cover my face and neck, so the bottle will last a while.  It didn’t feel tacky or sticky when I applied it, and I let it dry before using my moisturizer, like the instructions said.

I’ve been using it for somewhere between three and four weeks now.  It hasn’t made me look twenty years younger, nor did I expect it to.  However, I’ve noticed that the texture of my skin feels smoother (I don’t ever wear makeup, so that’s not attributable to foundation or powder), and my blotchy age patches are less noticeable now than they previously were.  I don’t know for sure that I’ll always use the Vitamin C serum – I’m not necessarily that dedicated to adding extra steps to my face care routine.  But I have been pleased with the Even Glow Serum, and if you’re looking to make your skin feel a little smoother and have a more even tone, I think this is worth your money and your time.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers, and all opinions are mine and mine alone.

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Book Review: The Magical Jump of Smallfridge

Magical Jump Review

I had an opportunity to read and review The Magical Jump of Smallfridge.  I thought Thing Two might enjoy it, being as how he really likes to read.

The Magical Jump of Smallfridge tells the story of a little boy with a big imagination! Smallfridge likes to jump on his bed, and he likes to jump high.  One night he jumps so high, he goes all the way into outer space!  He visits the moon, stops by some different planets, and even has dinner while he’s in space.  He has adventures around the galaxy before landing gently in his own bed for a good night’s sleep.

The story is told with a sense of childlike wonder, and the illustrations are bright and colorful, a perfect accompaniment to the text.  The one distraction I found were a couple of references that I didn’t understand, the Canadarm and ringette.  Apparently those are Canadian things, and I’m a U.S. reader, so that explains why those things didn’t ring a bell with me.

I read the book with Thing Two.  He’s 5, and he’s a crazy good reader.  He didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped.  I think he thought it was too easy for him. I enjoyed reading it with him, though, and I think my grandniece and grandnephew, who are a little bit younger, would like it.  I’d recommend it for reading with pre-readers or beginning readers.

I did receive a free copy of this book to read from Tomoson in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.

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Book Review: Nowhere to Turn

I jumped at the chance to review Nowhere to Turn by Lynette Eason.  Wow, I’m so glad I did!

Nowhere to Turn Cover

This book tells the story of Dani Harding and her son Simon.  Just as Dani is poised to make a break from her abusive husband, FBI agent Kurt Harding, he is killed.  Dani can’t really feel anything other than passing regret and a whole lot of relief that Kurt is dead, and she thinks her life can now really begin.

This is not to be, however.  Kurt’s brother, Stuart, has always had a thing for Dani.  Now that his brother and his competition is out of the picture, he wastes no time showing her – rather forcefully – how interested he is.  Add to that the fact that Kurt was involved in things she didn’t know about, and took something very important to someone.  That someone now thinks Dani has this item, and the insanity begins again.

Dani turns to Operation Refuge to try to reclaim safety and life for herself and Simon.  Her case is in the hands of the capable Adam Buchanan, but even with the precautions he and his team take to try to keep Dani and Simon safe, the hits just keep on coming.  Who is behind this?  What is this mysterious person looking for?  Will life ever be settled and calm for Dani?

I haven’t read the first book in the Hidden Identity series, but if it’s as wild a ride as this one, I’ve got to get a copy.  This is a humdinger of a book.  The suspense starts early on and just builds to the end of the book.  (And what happens there?  I’m not telling – go read it and find out!)  The characters were believable, and I think Simon was my favorite.  He’s deaf, but that doesn’t slow him down, and his age doesn’t keep him from having his mom’s back and trying his best to improve the situation.

This was a super quick read for me – I wanted to see what happened next so much, I could hardly put it down!  If you enjoy suspense with a hit of romance, go grab this book.  Available on Amazon, and just a lot of fun to read.

DISCLAIMER:  I was provided a free copy of the book for review purposes.  However, the opinions expressed in this review are mine and mine alone.

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Book Review: A Light in the Wilderness

I had the opportunity to read A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick recently.

Light in the Wilderness Cover

Her novel tells the story of three women, how their paths cross, and what they mean to each other.  Two of them, Letitia and Nancy, are moving from Missouri to the Oregon Territory to forge new lives.  Letitia is a freed slave, and Nancy is a woman who befriends her.  The third, Betsy, is a Kalapuya woman living in the Oregon Territory.

Letitia is at the heart of the story.  As a freed slave, her papers showing that she is free are very important to her.  Free or not, though, many people still see her as little more than property.  Davey Carson, the Irish immigrant cattleman who’s facing struggles of his own, is someone who sees her as a person, and he and Letitia are able to build a relationship.  Letitia and Nancy meet when Letitia assists at the birth of one of Nancy’s children, and a friendship is forged.  Betsy lives in the Oregon Territory, and we first meet her teaching the ways of her people to her grandson, so that the knowledge will not be lost.

Letitia and Nancy strike out with their families for the new opportunities to be had in Oregon, and they’re able to give each other support and encouragement along the way.  Letitia meets Betsy after she and Davey settle in Oregon, and a friendship is formed there as well, as Betsy and Letitia learn how they can help each other.  In her friendships, Letitia is truly free to be herself, with no regard for color or social station.

That’s what struck me the most about this book, the friendships between the three women. Letitia faced difficulties in the world of men, and Davey, the man she loved, let her down at times, but it was her friendships and her faith in God that sustained her.   That’s such an important thing for me to remember as I go through my days, and I’m glad that this novel reminded me of it.

I didn’t even realize this was based on historical events until I got to the end, I’m embarrassed to say!  It’s made me want to learn more about that period of history, because it’s not something I know a lot about. I’m going to have to do some more research.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in historically based fiction and anyone who’s interested in a good book that draws you in and makes you feel like you know the characters.  It’s available on Amazon.com.

DISCLAIMER:  I received a free copy of this book for review purposes.  However, all opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.

 

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Five-Minute Friday: Begin

Welcome to Five-Minute Friday!  We’ll be moving from Lisa-Jo Baker‘s blog over to Heading Home with Kate Motaung.  But it’s still a bunch of great writers, given one word to write about for five minutes.  Check out some of the other blogs that are participating!

Today’s word:  BEGIN.

Brian had brought home a men’s devotional book from church several weeks ago, and I picked it up this morning and flipped through it.  In doing so, I came across this quote:

“Jesus measured spiritual maturity by fruit.  And fruit implies seasons.  And though we only harvest fruit in one season, we need all four to produce it.  Winter is as necessary to bearing fruit – to deep spiritual maturity – as spring or summer is.  I think most Christians miss this – and the seasonality of the heart in general – because the idea that darkness, sadness, stillness, and unproductivity might be a necessary condition for bearing fruit collides with our reigning paradigm, the spirituality of busyness and giddiness.” – Mark Buchanan

Interesting.  And as I rolled that around in my head, I thought about my own winter.  The one I’m in right now.  The one that is beginning to feel like it will never, ever, ever end.  Perhaps this dark, difficult time is necessary for me to grow, for whatever seeds God is planting in my heart and soul to germinate, so that my life can yield glorious fruit according to His timetable and not my own.

So I take a breath, put aside my impatience and my self-pity, and wait hopefully on the Lord.  Because even when the woods are deep and dark, the promises remain, and one day the light will break, and I’ll know that spring is about to begin.

Image from superbwallpapers.com

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The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall – Author Interview and Giveaway!

HesitantHeiress I had the opportunity recently to read Dawn Crandall’s debut novel, The Hesitant Heiress. Being a fan of both historical fiction and Christian fiction, I jumped at the chance to be a part of her book release team.

{About The Hesitant Heiress} After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy disappearing before her very eyes. Now the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: marry within the year to inherit her grandmother’s fortune. Amaryllis reluctantly takes part in her aunt’s society, intent on getting to the west coast on her own… and without a husband.

Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, whose father not only had a part in her expulsion, but whose ominous presence has haunted her dreams for a decade since her mother’s tragic death. Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been managing her life isn’t who she thought at all.

I absolutely loved this book.  Romance, suspense, action, mystery, characters you love, characters you hate, characters you want to punch in the nose – it’s got all that and more!  Interested yet?  Read on.

Picture with Quote

Amaryllis Brigham is a young woman who’s known some difficulties in life, having lost both her parents to tragic circumstances.  She’s working toward her dream of someday opening her own music academy, studying at the Boston Conservatory.  But that, too, is turned upside down when she’s summarily expelled from the school.  She goes to live with her aunt (who’s quite a character and not always what one would expect from Boston high society!), and learns that she stands to inherit a rather sizable amount from her grandmother – but only if she marries within a year.

Amaryllis is determined not to be married, and she is also determined to hang on to her dislike of Nathan Everstone (based largely on her belief that his father, Bram, is responsible for a lot of the problems she’s faced, including her dismissal from the Boston Conservatory).  Nathan doesn’t come across the way she’d expected, though.  He’s constantly surprising her with things he says and the way he acts toward her.  She realizes she’s starting to fall in love with him, but fights it every step of the way.

This was such an enjoyable book to read.  I felt like I was part of high society Boston as I read.  It just drew me in and made me want to read more.  The characters are very engaging and felt almost like friends by the end of the book.  I wanted to punch Nathan in the nose when he left town unexpectedly after saying he’d stay for a while.  It threw Amaryllis for a loop (whether she wanted to admit it or now), and I did – I just wanted to sock him for the way he was acting.  I wanted to reach into the pages and have a little girl talk with Amaryllis and tell her if she didn’t let Nathan know how she felt, she was going to miss out on a good thing.  (Did she figure that out?  Read the book and see!)  Really, really a delight to read.  I can’t wait for the next two books in the Everstone Chronicles (to be released in November 2014 and February 2015)!

The Hesitant Heiress will be released on August 1.  As she prepares for the release date, Dawn kindly took time to answer some questions for me about the book, her writing career, and life in general.

When did you know you wanted to pursue writing as more than just a hobby?

Ever since I was young, the idea of writing a “real book” has appealed to me. Writing was my favorite thing to do in school. I didn’t read much as a child because I had a difficult time finding books I liked. I remember ALWAYS checking and rechecking Beatrix Potter books out at the Public Library. It wasn’t until high school and college that I found books that I actually enjoyed—most of them were classics. And that was when I decided I wanted to someday write a book. However, even though I’d sporadically thought about it on and off again since college, I never wrote a word for the longest time. Partly, because I have ADD and took medication for it from the time I was seventeen (which I am thankful for—otherwise, I would never have had a chance to graduate from college!) until I was in my early thirties. When I stopped taking the medication, it was like a flood of ideas came at me and I had to sift through them all to find what I was truly looking for. It was in 2010 that actually I started writing The Hesitant Heiress as a hobby. I didn’t really have a choice about when it became “more than a hobby.” My husband had insisted that I attend the 2011 ACFW conference in St. Louis… and then I had two agents offering to represent me by Thanksgiving.

What does a “typical” day of writing (if there is such a thing!) look like?

I don’t have “typical” anymore because I have a four month old son! Before I got pregnant, however, I would have two or three 8-10 hour long writing days a week in which I’d completely immerse myself in the story. Having ADD actually helps with this, since the main problem with ADD is that the person who has it really only wants to pay attention to one thing… and my one thing was this book. How did you come up with the characters’ names? I actually had Amaryllis Brigham named way back in college. She was just a name at the time, but I knew someday I would write her story. I chose Nathan as the hero’s name because my husband’s name is Jonathan. I also had the name Everstone picked out back in college.  

Amaryllis plays the piano in the book.  Do you play any musical instruments?  If so, which one(s)?

I don’t play any instruments, but I do adore classical music. What was the easiest part about writing the book?  What was the most challenging? When I remember coming up with the chapters and scenes in The Hesitant Heiress, I recall having so much fun that it never felt difficult! I was writing it for myself, and having fun was my primary goal. Getting into the heart of my main character is also really fun and easy once I’m in her head. The most difficult part is always wrapping everything up at the end! I try to thread so many things together throughout my books that getting them all tied up tidily at the end takes some extra time.

If you’re in a slump and the words just won’t come, what do you do to get them flowing again?

I go back and read parts of the book I’ve already finished, I’ll sift through the photographs I have saved of my “story world,” and I’ll THINK THINK THINK things over and over. Sometimes I need to pre-write a scene a couple different ways before landing on the way I really need to make it.

I’m a mom trying to work from home, so I know from experience that it’s tough to keep working time from taking over what should be family time.  Now that you’re a new mom, how do you keep family time and writing time balanced?

Since I’ve only had four months to figure this out… I actually haven’t yet.

If a friend asked you for suggestions for a good book to read, what would you recommend (other than your own work! :) ) and why?

I would suggest Lori Benton’s debut novel, Burning Sky. I read chapter one online when it came out and immediately went out and bought it. I loved it! It was so different and amazing! And it just won THREE Christy Awards! So I’m definitely not the only one who thinks so!

Where would you go on your dream vacation?

I would spend a whole summer on Mount Desert Island visiting Acadia National Park’s rocky coast! There’s a reason I couldn’t help but write the coast of Maine in my book! I love it there! (Lisa’s note:  After reading the book, I’m ready to go on a trip to Maine!  It sounds delightful, and I’ve never been.)

How can readers connect with you online?

Facebook: facebook.com/DawnCrandallWritesFirst

Book Review Blog: APassionforPages.blogspot.com

GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/dawn_crandall

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dawnwritesfirst

Email: dawncrandallwritesfirst@gmail.com

Twitter: @dawnwritesfirst

I mentioned the giveaway, right?  Here it is!  Dawn will be giving away a prize pack for each of the six weekends of the book tour (now through the end of August).  To be entered, just comment on this post and leave your e-mail address.  No e-mail address, no entry.  :-)  You’ll be entered into each weekly drawing and then into the grand prize drawing at the end of the tour.  Winners will be announced on Dawn’s blog, www.dawncrandall.blogspot.com.  (Please note:  I have to approve comments before they show up, so if you don’t see yours right away, don’t panic.  :) )

THE FIVE WEEKLY PRIZE PACKS: a $10 Amazon Gift Card, an eBook of The Hesitant Heiress, a mug with all three book covers and a moleskin journal.

THE GRAND PRIZE (at the end of week six): a Kindle Fire, a $10 Amazon Gift Card, an eBook of The Hesitant Heiress, a mug with all three book covers and a moleskin journal.

Good luck, and happy reading!

Dawn Crandall {About Dawn Crandall}   A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming published, he let her quit her job in 2010 in order to focus on writing The Hesitant Heiress. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary. Apart from writing books, Dawn is also a first-time mom to a precious little boy (born March 2014) and also serves with her husband in a premarriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter. The Everstone Chronicles is Dawn’s first series with Whitaker House. All three books composing the serieswere semifinalists in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Writing Contest, the third book going on to become a finalist in 2013.

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