What I have been reading: winter

Here is a selection of books that I’ve read over the last few months – including those I saved for the Christmas holidays to enjoy at a relaxed pace.

pete-greig-dirty-glory-highDirty Glory
By Pete Greig

I have read Pete’s previous books, so was eagerly anticipating this one. The follow on from Red Moon Rising, which charted the first five years of the 24-7 Prayer movement, this book picks up where that one left off and comments on the subsequent 15 years.

Pete is extremely honest in this book, in which he shares the struggles, miracles and insights both he and others in the 24-7 team have learned.

This is a real faith-building book, as it is full of inspiring stories – often in the unlikeliest of places. As Pete himself said: ‘There are stories in this book that will fry your noodles!’

Pete talks about how they have remained faithful to their calling through extremely difficult times, such as his wife’s illness and those moments when pioneering was no longer exciting. He also shares some of his insights into what prayer actually is, and how important it is to be real with God.

I learned a great deal from this book, laughed and cried – and bought it for friends for Christmas. It’s definitely a life-changer.

listening-to-godListening to God
By Joyce Huggett

Another book on prayer, this is a classic that I had never actually read before. Pete Greig actually endorsed the 30th anniversary edition that I read – saying that there are many books on talking to God but few about listening to Him. That is so true, and I found Joyce’s disarming honesty about her own journey so helpful and compelling.

Joyce offers much practical advice for anyone who is stirred to journey further with God, to understand how to better listen to Him. This is another book I would recommend to anyone who hasn’t read it before.

becoming-reverend-front-cover-hi-res-imageBecoming Reverend
By Matt Woodcock

This is an amusing, heartfelt, honest – and sometimes irreverent – book charting Matt’s journey from journalist to vicar. Written in diary form, the reader journeys with him, as he expresses all the highs and lows of following his calling – and what that means for him and his family. (Some may be offended by his opinion of ‘vicar school’, as he calls it – just a little warning!)

At the same time as attending theological college, Matt and his wife were struggling with infertility, and the failure of IVF. The book includes the gut-wrenching pain they went through – as well as the soaring celebration when they finally got pregnant and then gave birth to twins (although there were still struggles to come).

Being married to a pastor myself, there were moments that really resonated with me. If you like quirky, comedic but also really honest writing then I would suggest you might like to try reading this book.

barefootBarefoot
By Sharon Garlough Brown

Wow. Just wow. I LOVE Sharon’s writing, having already devoured her previous two titles in the ‘Sensible Shoes’ series that this is a part of. I really feel like I know the four main characters, Mara, Hannah, Charissa and Meg and so was desperate to find out what happened next in their intertwined lives.

Sharon is a spiritual director, and she uses the fictional stories of these four women to share real wisdom and insight into journeying with God through the real ups and downs of life. She tackles issues such as divorce, unfulfilled dreams, dealing with the difficult choices a daughter has made and makes the characters so ‘real’ in their responses. As they each discover spiritual exercises for themselves, Sharon also provides further details for the reader – I have found those really helpful.

It is actually some of the dialogue between characters and God, or with each other, that have affected me most profoundly – I have written out quotes from them in my journal and go back to them time and time again.

If you haven’t already read Sensible Shoes, the first in the series, start there – and then devour the three books just like I have. This is definitely the most spiritually forming and instructing set of fiction books that I have ever read. I am excited (but also saddened as it means the series is coming to an end) that there is one more book to come.

knowing-annaKnowing Anna
By Sarah Meyrick

This is a really interesting and unusual book, which starts just at the moment when the title character dies of cancer. She asks her close family and friends to embark on a pilgrimage after her death, and we pick up the story as they begin walking the Pilgrims’ Way towards Canterbury. Each one has memories and aspects of themselves that they wrestle with, and the various chapters focus on different characters. The priest that is leading them offers up reflections for their moments of silence each day, and the way that the individuals respond to that provides much more depth to the story.

This isn’t the sort of book I read usually, and I was intrigued by it. I found I turned the pages quickly, eager to find out what happened. There were a few elements that I found slightly unnecessary, but that’s just a personal thing (such as the language, and certain parts of people’s stories). But, overall, it was a book that kept my interest, and also made me think.

sinister-student-photoSinister Student
By Kel Richards

This is one that I saved to read during the Christmas holidays, as it seemed like a nice light read. I loved the fact that the main characters included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. It is a murder mystery – and I discovered that it is one of a whole series of books with C.S. Lewis acting as an aide to the police’s investigations.

I did enjoy this book, but I was actually a little put off by the sub-plot. All the way through, the other main character, Morris, who is an atheist, had an ongoing debate with the others about how gruesome he felt the cross is as a symbol for Christianity. Now I’m all for writing fiction that subtly addresses issues of faith so that it reaches a wide audience, but this was not subtle at all and I found myself annoyed when it interrupted the flow of the story. If a Christian like me is annoyed by it, I cringed to think how those who do not share my beliefs may respond to this aspect of the book. Better than I did I hope! I had intended to check out the rest of the series – but I’m now in two minds about doing so…

alabastarAlabaster
By Chris Aslan

One of the discoveries that I have made, since I started reviewing books and therefore am sent a whole variety of genres, is that I enjoy biblical fiction. When I first started reading this book, I thought it was based in biblical times, and had used biblical stories as inspiration. It took me a while to realise that it was a retelling of an actual biblical story! Having realised, I then wasn’t sure about the back story that has been created. It is very imaginative, but I’m still hesitant. I definitely empathised with the characters, and the book did give a different perspective that challenged my preconceived ideas and made me look at the story afresh. So, in that sense, I guess the book has done its job. It’s certainly beautifully written and I was fully immersed in the story, eager for free moments to read more.

 

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End of the Roadie

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This is the third D.I. Costello book that I have read, and yet again Elizabeth has created a fun, well-paced mystery, detective book. This time the murder happens backstage at a concert, so we enter the world of musicians, roadies and ticket touters.

The characters are likeable and interact so well with one another that you can really begin to imagine their lives. I love the banter between the main characters, and the fact that Elizabeth shows them at home as well as at work. I saved this book to read on holiday, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t quite see the ending coming this time, which was very refreshing.

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I’m always fascinated to hear how other authors work, and so am thrilled Elizabeth has agreed to answer a few questions about her writing methods for this, the first day of her official blog tour:

 

This book is part of a series – did you have the ideas for all of the titles before you embarked on writing the first one, or has the series developed over time? 

I only had the first one at the beginning. That was the one set in Wimbledon: Game, Set and Murder. I’d had some help from Ali Hull of Lion Hudson, publishers, on the editing and writing style. It was from Ali that I heard of Lion Hudson’s plans to ‘go mainstream’ with a new imprint: Lion Fiction, and I asked her whether I should present my novel. In fact she sent it to Tony Collins, the commissioning editor of the new imprint, on my behalf. He looked at the synopsis and first chapter and got back to me within the hour asking two questions: 1, did I plan to use the protagonist again? And, 2: Could he read the whole manuscript? This was the furthest I’d ever got with an agent or publisher before and I was just so excited. Of course I told him that I planned to use the protagonist again. I was very struck by his long-term view, even at that early stage. I whizzed off the entire manuscript to him and the rest is history. Dead Gorgeous, the second novel in the series was originally called Not Just a Pretty Face but Tony Collins didn’t really think it worked. I plucked Dead Gorgeous out of the air and sent the idea to him thinking I was about to begin a very lengthy back-and-forth of suggested titles and rejections but he emailed me back almost immediately saying he liked it and we stayed with it. I’m really pleased. I think it’s a lovely title. End of the Roadie was Tony’s suggestion. We’d had a lot of back and forth on the title and couldn’t come up with anything. I think End Of The Roadie is pretty neat.

It has been great to see how the main characters have developed and interact with one another over the three titles you’ve written so far. I find myself really connecting with them, wanting to know what happens to them and how they deal with everyday home life as well as their work. How have you felt that connection with your characters – do they seem to take on a character of their own (ie have they gone in directions you didn’t first envisage) or did you have a clear idea of what you wanted them to be like and what situations you would put them in before you started each new book?

I do feel a connection with my characters but I only have a loose idea of how they’re going to develop. I didn’t really know, before I found myself writing it, that Patrick’s daughter was going to move back home. (SPOILER ALERT!) This is mooted in the first novel in which she doesn’t appear but she moved in at the beginning of the second book and now she’s become one of the regular characters. I don’t really have much of an idea of how Patrick and Angela are going to develop. I do remember once, in a piece on the Association of Christian Writers website that someone, in giving advice to crime writers said: avoid clichés, not all detectives are alcoholic divorcées. So I’m very pleased to make Angela a happily married woman. Patrick is an ex-DI and he’s useful as a kind of back-up to Angela as well as her husband.

Do you have a particular place you like to write in? And do you have a particular writing schedule – are you quite disciplined about setting aside a certain amount of hours each day, or when you are in the midst of writing a new book does it simply take over and envelop your days until you are done?

I write wherever I am, so long as I’ve got a pad and pen or a PC to hand.  I’ve written while working on switchboards (when I was a telephonist), I’ve written on the beach and, of course, at the kitchen table. I tend to write more in the afternoon but it’s not a rigid timetable and I’ll write in the morning if I feel so moved. I only do about 1,00o words a day, give or take, and generally know when I’ve reached the end of that day’s session, at which point I stop until the next day.

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The paperback and Kindle version of End of the Roadie are available here. Lion Fiction are also running a special offer promotion on the Kindle version of Dead Gorgeous, which you can purchase here.

If you like light-hearted, well-written murder mysteries, I would thoroughly recommend this series.

Author interview with Fiona Veitch Smith: part 1

Having been captivated by Fiona’s latest novel, The Jazz Files, I was delighted when she agreed to an interview. I’ll warn you up front that it is long, but so fascinating and full of honesty and advice for writers and aspiring writers alike that I simply couldn’t cut it. So please do read this and tomorrow’s instalment for a behind-the-scenes look at how Fiona’s new crime series has been birthed and crafted – and what life as a writer is like for her.

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Congratulations on an intriguing, fast-moving novel. This is the first book in a series – could you explain how your publishing deal came about?

I hope you’ve got a cup of tea in hand, this is a bit of a long story … I was hired by Monarch (Lion Hudson) around four years ago to ghostwrite a biography. They took me on because a few years before that I submitted a non-fiction idea to them which they turned down. Although they didn’t want the book, they liked my writing style and kept me in mind for the ghostwriting project. However, after nine months working on it I came to the conclusion that the man who the book was about had made up much of his story. I told Monarch and they cancelled the contract.

Lion Hudson – and, in particular, Tony Collins, one of the commissioning editors there – felt awful that the contract was cancelled and asked if I had anything else they could look at because they really wanted to work with me. The only other thing I had in the pipeline at the time was a historical novel set in the 1st century against the background of the early church. At the time the Lion Fiction imprint was being launched and they asked to look at it.

It took them eighteen months – and two rewrites from me – to decide that although they liked the book, they felt it was too ‘Christian’ for their market. Again they asked me if I had anything else. Well I didn’t; nothing written anyway. But I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth so I started mulling over some new ideas.

My research of what Lion Fiction was already publishing told me that crime mystery series were something they were interested in. So I came up with the idea of a reporter sleuth set in the 1920s and submitted the idea to them. They liked the idea and the outline but weren’t prepared to go to contract without seeing the whole book.

So I had to write it. It took me six months. I submitted it – plus some ideas for the rest of the series – and they finally offered me a contract. Phew! So the moral of the story is … don’t give up. These things can take a looooooong time to come to fruition. I’m so grateful they stuck with me and I thank Tony Collins for believing in me as a writer for so many years.

Do you have all the ideas for the whole series already set out, or is it an evolving process?

It’s an evolving process. I deliberately started the series in 1920 so I had ten years for my heroine to have adventures before it became a series set in the 1930s – whether she, the publisher or I are game for another decade, is a decision for the future. However, I had it in mind from the beginning to set the book against real historical events as they unfold through the decade. Which events still have to be decided, but I do have a basic structure in mind.

About halfway through writing the first book I knew that I wanted to set the next one – which has now been written – against the diaspora of White Russian refugees in the wake of the Russian Revolution. I know too where the third book will be set and am starting my background reading on that now. I have an inkling of Book 4, but have not made any firm decisions yet. The story and background of Book 2 were decided because one of the characters of Book 1 was a Russian and it gave me scope to delve a bit more into his back story. Also, I found a faux Fabergé Egg in a charity shop, which gave me the idea for the main plotline.

The same with Book 3 – it’s linked to the back story of another character. So a tip for writers considering writing series: have a broad dramatis personae of colourful characters. They may only play a bit part in the first book but could be developed down the line.

The Suffragette movement is still at the forefront of your characters’ minds. Your main character, Poppy, is one of the young women who were forging their own careers in traditionally male-dominated worlds. Why did you choose to set the series in that era?

After my first self-published novel, The Peace Garden, I discovered I was attracted to the mystery genre. The book started as a literary novel but soon drifted towards mystery. And as I have a degree in history and I love reading historical mysteries, it seemed to be a natural fit. But why the 1920s? Well I originally conceived of it set in 1912. The day before I received the rejection for my 1st century historical and the request for another proposal, I had been to visit the grave of the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison in Morpeth. It was the centenary of her death and I had just used her as an example of women acting out their faith (she was a Christian) in a talk I gave to my church’s women’s ministry. The pastor’s wife suggested we visit Emily’s grave and lay flowers. There is a picture of me at her grave on www.poppydenby.com under the ‘Suffragette’ link.

The next day I received news that Lion had rejected my 1st century novel. I was naturally very upset after all the work I’d put into it, but heartened that they wanted more. As I was praying and asking God to guide me as to what to write next, my eye was drawn to a book on my bookshelf called Unshackled by Christabel Pankhurst. It’s a first-hand account of the women’s suffrage movement.

It suddenly dawned on me that I should write about a suffragette reporter sleuth. (Why a reporter? Well I was formerly a journalist … but that’s another story). So I started planning the novel. However, the period just didn’t seem to fit. The clothes were boring, the music was boring and frankly, my character might have been feisty but she was downright dowdy. I felt the same writing her as I did playing Sheila Birling in an am-dram production of An Inspector Calls. But what I wanted to feel was like I felt when I played the delightful Maisie in Ken Russell’s The Boyfriend (a high school production – pic again on www.poppydenby.com). I had also just started learning to play jazz clarinet and was listening to music from the 1920s. I began to conceive of shifting my story to the 1920s and having my main character an inheritor of the legacy of the Suffragettes.

Just like Poppy I worked as a journalist in the 1990s and inherited the freedoms won by the brave women of the 1960s and 70s. Once I made this shift I immediately felt an emotional connection with the character and the period. And the rest, as they say, is history.

How did you research the historical content of your novel? 

I read a number of non-fiction books about the period, which are listed at the back of The Jazz Files and also on the www.poppydenby.com website. In addition to this I went down to London for a few days and walked up and down Fleet Street and King’s Road – key locations in the novel – to get a feel for the place and travelled the same routes that Poppy would travel on bus and train. I spent two days in the British Library reading newspapers from 1920 – particularly the Daily Mail and The Times. Some of the news stories that appear in the book were genuine articles from the time. I also went to the Suffragette exhibition and fashion exhibition at the London Museum. Some of the outfits that Poppy and Delilah wear in The Jazz Files were exact replicas of outfits I saw there. In addition I researched what was playing on the theatre scene in 1920 as well as cinema and music. The songs played in chapter 3 of the book were all actually played in 1920. These are small details that most people won’t notice but it gives me great pleasure to get these things right. I also like to think it adds a touch of authenticity that readers will feel if not know.

To purchase The Jazz Files, please click here.

What I read over the summer

July and August were fun-filled months in which I spent many happy moments with my family. While on holiday, I was also able to squeeze in a little bit of extra reading time. Here’s my thoughts on the books I read…

Pastor's Wife, The_Figures_newThe Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman

I had just read a review that slated this book when I received it. But, for me, it was refreshing to read a book by a woman who understands the unique situation us pastor’s wives are in. If anything I was impatient with the first chapters, thinking, yes, yes, great truth but it’s for everyone. I wanted to get to the parts that were specific to pastor’s wives. And what she said I mostly agreed with. I say mostly as there were a few bits I wasn’t sure I would wholeheartedly go along with. But, overall, it was an encouraging book.

9781910786000Naturally Supernatural by Wendy Mann

I love the fact that Wendy Mann is so honest and down-to-earth. She’s a ‘normal’ person who has been on a journey with God, discovering how to live supernaturally everyday. She is happy to share it all – the times when she’s seen breakthrough and the times when fear has stopped her from stepping out. I had a real longing to experience more of what Wendy was sharing and, after reading this book; I was left with the feeling that I too can learn how to live naturally supernatural.

Time to Shine MDP

Time to Shine by Mel Menzies

I don’t often get a chance to read fiction so I made sure that I saved this particular book for my holiday so I that I could take my time and really savour it. I have to say I’m glad I did, as I found this book gripping – really well written and the characters very well constructed.

The only thing I wasn’t sure of was the title – it seemed a little twee. That is, until I read the quote it comes from – I won’t give anything away but it is brilliant. I heartily recommend this book.

JesusrightwhereyouwanthimJesus right where you want him by Phil Moore

Phil Moore’s latest book explores some of the age-old arguments people give against believing in Jesus – and what Jesus himself said about them. I found this to be a confidence-building book, as it equips us to handle those difficult questions people might throw at us (as well as issues we may be wrestling faith ourselves). He covers subjects such as suffering, judgment and religious violence. This is definitely a book to delve into.

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Gagging Jesus by Phil Moore

In this, a previous book, Phil Moore unpacks 15 things that Jesus said that we seem to wish he hadn’t. We certainly don’t hear them preached about often. They are the type of subjects that can get us hot under the collar – and arguing amongst ourselves. From pornography and masturbation through to anger, hell and divorce, Phil pulls no punches as he explores what Jesus really has to say on these life issues. Provocative and challenging, this book will certainly get you thinking.

diggingfordiamondscover

Digging for Diamonds by Cathy Madavan

Cathy Madavan has such a wonderful personality and her wit and wisdom really shine through her book. As women we so often need reminding of the beautiful facets to our beings, including our identity, strength, character and purpose. Cathy does this so well, generously opening up her own life to us in the process. She also provides great biblical insight and poses deep questions to get the reader pondering. This is a gem of a book 🙂

What I’ve been reading: May and June…

I’ve decided to create another category on my blog in order to share my thoughts on the books I’ve been reading. As a book reviewer and interviewer I love receiving a range of complimentary titles, and I thought it was about time I highlighted a few of them for you. Some of them will be titles I’ve been reading for work purposes (in order to interview the author for example, or to research a subject area) while others have simply caught my eye. So here’s a selection of titles that I’ve read in the last couple of months.

savor cover

Savor by Shauna Niequist

This is a daily devotional that covers a whole year, so I’m certainly not finished with it yet, but it has been a real welcome addition to my time with God each morning. While Shauna covers general everyday life issues (parenting, friendship, self-image etc) with great honestly and integrity I’ve been especially encouraged and enriched by the comments she makes about being a writer. It almost makes it feel like I’ve pulled up a chair at her kitchen table and she is openly sharing the things most on her heart. I’d definitely recommend the book – and it would also make a lovely gift. It includes some extra little touches – some of her favourite recipes. I’m always a sucker for some of those 🙂

the hole in our holiness coverThe hole in our holiness by Kevin DeYoung

I really get a lot out of Kevin’s books, and definitely wanted to read this as, when I first stumbled upon it, I was writing a set of Bible study notes on holiness (for CWR’s Inspiring Women Every Day – due out in 2016). The book is a very clear, challenging, truth-filled look at why we seem to miss the mark on holiness so often. With a loving but balanced approach, Kevin reminds us that the point is not to be legalistic nor should we be ambivalent about sin, but that, through Jesus, all of us can be holy. The mystery of how grace and holiness work together is beautifully described in this book.

chosen coverdesired coverChosen and Desired by Ginger Garrett

I have to confess I picked these up when they were free Kindle downloads. Ever since reading Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love I’ve been exploring other fiction that retells biblical stories. Of course, there is a plethora of such books out there and some are much better than others. Ginger has a great imagination and really transports you into the lives of Esther and Delilah in these two books. There was certainly much that made me think, although I didn’t always feel that the portrayals were as I would have imagined them. I enjoyed the Esther book – Chosen – more than Desired, although the latter interestingly moved between Delilah narrating her own story and Samson’s mother sharing hers.


ultimate justice cover kicking tree coverThe Kicking Tree and Ultimate Justice by Trevor Stubbs

Described as fantasy adventure fiction these books are part of the White Gates Adventure series and are aimed at people aged 14+. I have read them in order to interview Trevor (the interview will appear in the Sept/Oct issue of Families First magazine). I have to admit I don’t know a lot about fantasy fiction, and it isn’t a genre that I would have chosen to read from. However I was fascinated to see how Trevor would provide the ‘spiritual heart’ that he says is in his books. The first story is based around two young people from different worlds that travel through mysterious white gates that transport them to different places. Once they meet, they find that each time they are transported it is for a particular reason; the Creator has chosen them to help others. I know my 15-year-old niece loves fantasy fiction and so I was interested in passing them on to her. While reading, I did wonder if the books are a little basic, naïve even, when compared to something like The Hunger Games trilogy, which I know my niece has read (I’m making no comment about that fact!). However I will give them to her, as I’d like to hear what she thinks of them. I do also like the way that Trevor has managed to really inject the big questions of life into his writing, such as what makes us human?, why do we suffer?, as well as tackling issues such as justice, power and free choice. Even with my reservations, I have to admit I was eagerly turning the pages to find out what happens!

Celebrating World Book Day

My kids have gone to school today armed with their favourite book to share with their class. It got me thinking about how I can celebrate World Book Day, so I want to share with you a few of the books that I have read recently, which I have enjoyed and been impacted by. The rest of the family have joined in too – while this is a fairly long blog post I hope there’s something in here for everyone to enjoy on World Book Day 🙂

The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst

This was written by the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Its full title is The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. As a busy working mother, pastor’s wife and worship leader my life can seem an unending ‘to do’ list. I think our culture perpetuates the myth that we always need to be doing (or at least be seen to be doing!). But God has been talking to me about that recently, nudging me gently to take stock, learn to prioritise and say no in order to spend time with Him – and find my ‘best yeses’. As soon as I opened this book it felt like it could have been written just for me – it resonated so deeply and the illustrations were of situations I could relate to directly.

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Lysa explains the idea behind the book: ‘In the Spring of 2013, I sat down with 100 women from across America ranging from early twenties to retirement. I asked them their deepest needs and desires, challenging them to name the real struggles they face in striving to live well and follow Jesus.

‘The answer that surfaced over and over: feeling overwhelmed and empty in not knowing how to make wise decisions in the midst of endless demands. As I listened to them I thought, “me too”. I knew this was the next issue I must tackle in my writing.’

There is a LOT of wisdom within the pages of this book about the reasons behind why we always feel the need to say yes, and why saying no is so important. I hope that I remember and implement as much of the advice as possible as I know it will do me – and those around me – good. I heartily recommend this book if you regularly feel overwhelmed by the pace of your life.

Forgetful Heart by Lucy Mills

A fellow member of the Association of Christian Writers, I had already come across Lucy’s writing in other forms so was intrigued to see what her first book would be like. The subject matter already had my interest as I know I have a forgetful heart (as well as mind!), and that it can be difficult to connect with God in our busy, distracted world.

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Here is Lucy on the inspiration behind the book: ‘There were three main threads that came together to inspire and form Forgetful Heart. One was a recognition of my own spiritual forgetfulness, a confession of my own weakness. Another was the result of exploration – reading through scriptures that called on the people of God to remember him, not to forget the One in whom they found their very identity. The third thread was a fascination with how our minds work, how we retain and retrieve information. Together, these wound themselves into an idea that would not let me go. The book had to be written, regardless of whether anyone else cared to read it. I needed to make that journey.’

I love the way that Lucy writes with real honesty but also allows the grace of God to shine through the book. Unpacking what our memories are, why they are important, what causes us to forget and how we can learn to remember God, she definitely takes us on a journey – through her own experiences and those of biblical people. Each chapter ends with a poem she has penned herself – a beautiful touch and a great way of helping us to make things personal too as so many read like psalms or prayers. She also provides the reader with questions to ponder. There is a real richness to this book, and I am convinced it is one that I will come back to time and time again.

And now for something completely different…

A Killer’s Countdown by Wendy Jones

Wendy is the webmaster of the Association of Christian Writers and also provides information for Christian ebook downloads on Facebook. I have gotten to know her via these forums over the past few years. When her debut novel came out towards the end of last year I was excited to read it, especially as I know it is the type of book that I enjoy but very rarely go out of my way to get hold of. For the majority of time, my reading consists of reading non-fiction Christian books ‘for a reason’ – to review, for research, to help me develop, to help me lead others, and so it was refreshing to read something purely for pleasure, which I knew I wasn’t supposed to be learning from! 😉 It is the first in a series of books about Detective Inspector Shona McKenzie. She is new to the job so has something to prove – which she does in admirable fashion.

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Wendy explains why she chose to write crime fiction: ‘I have been a lifelong reader of mysteries and also enjoy writing. So my writing a murder mystery was a natural progression from that. I wanted to write a crime book that could be read by anyone so avoided the swearing and sex which is in so many books these days. That doesn’t mean the book isn’t realistic as it is gritty and somewhat gruesome in places. Although I am a Christian the book isn’t overly Christian but written for a crossover market.’

Wendy paints a great picture of DI McKenzie’s life as a detective within the Scottish backdrop (she had obviously done her research into the subject), as well as building tension perfectly. Even once you know who the killer is, the cat and mouse game has you turning pages more and more quickly as the suspense grips you. If you like crime / detective stories I would recommend you get hold of this book, as I’m sure you’ll enjoy it immensely.

My family’s choices…

My son, age 6, loves The Book with No Pictures because it makes parents say silly stuff when they are reading it to their kids. The premise of the book is the explanation it gives of how books work: ‘Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say’. Such as: ‘my head is made of blueberry pizza’. Yes, this book brings lots of giggles to our house – thanks to their auntie who bought it for Christmas 🙂

topz secret diaries

My daughter, age 9, loves the whole Jane Blonde series. A young girl, she becomes an agent and, along with her friends and her family, try to stop her evil uncle Copernicus. The books are about her missions.

She also loves the Topz Secret Diaries. Topz is the daily Bible reading notes produced by CWR, which she also enjoys, and the books focus on particular characters – revealing their secret thoughts about friends and God as well as details of their everyday lives in diary form.

A recommendation from my husband: The Father Heart of God by Floyd McClung. This is a well known classic, which he read again recently while preparing for our Father Heart of God preaching series. It really brought home how fundamental it is to be assured of, and secure in, the Father’s total love and acceptance.

A final word from me…

There is a wealth of reading material out there – and so much treasure to discover. For instance, drawing on books I read more than a few months ago: of the novels I love (actually I ‘devour’) CF Dunn’s ‘The Secret of the Journal’ series; I also found Sisters of Lazarus by Paula K. Parker a refreshing take on a familiar subject. I was challenged and undone by Krish and Miriam Kandiah’s book on adoption and fostering Home for Good, and spurred on and encouraged by Chine Mbubaegbu’s Am I Beautiful? (a book I edited a couple of years ago, but which is definitely staying on my shelf for my daughter to read in her tweens). I laughed and learned through Rob Parsons’ new book The Wisdom House, thoroughly agreed with Philip Yancey’s Vanishing Grace and have also gleaned so much from Jeff Lucas’ latest title, which I have had the privilege of editing recently (called There are No Ordinary People it is due out in May).

As someone who reviews books it gives me such joy to feast my eyes on the piles of books I have waiting for me to dive into – I’m thrilled to have received Cathy Madavan’s first book Digging for Diamonds this morning – I just know that’s going to be a good one 🙂 So, whether you are an avid reader or not, can I encourage you to pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read today and get stuck into it?!

Happy World Book Day x