Book Review: Harvesting Hope by Lisa Howeler

How can I put into words all that I loved about this story (and, to be perfectly honest, every book I’ve read by Lisa Howeler)? These stories always seem to find their way into my hands at the perfect time.

Sometimes, it’s that I’m going through the same thing as a character, like wrestling with guilt or shame. Other times, her books touch on something I’ve gone through in the past and the story and characters manage to shine new light and perspective on my experiences.

Lisa writes real, flawed, and beautiful characters. They are reflections of ourselves and of the people we know, and it’s a source of comfort and encouragement every time I get to spend a little time with them in Spencer Valley. This was a wonderful continuation of the story, and I’m really looking forward to reading book three and any other books to come.

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You can find Harvesting Hope, as well as the other books in the Spencer Valley Chronicles, on Amazon.

If you’d like to connect with Lisa, head over to any of these places:

Facebook

Instagram

Lisa’s Blog

Goodreads

Speaking as a fellow author, it’s so fun and encouraging when we get to connect with the people who have enjoyed our books, so be sure to follow along on Lisa’s writing adventures!

And once you’ve read her books, please leave a review on Goodreads. It will make her day!

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Up Next…

Next week, I’ll be sharing my review of The Innkeeper, a fantastic Christmas story (loosely inspired by A Christmas Carol) by Keaton D. Winter. This is a story that I’ll be re-reading year after year, and I’m really looking forward to sharing my review with you!

Speaking of Christmas, I think I might do a post about my favorite books to read at Christmas time!

Currently Reading…

Water Falling by H.A. Pruitt (cue my to-do list gathering endless amounts of dust until I’m finished)

and

Hunter by Joanna White (this one has been on my TBR for a long time, and I’m so excited to finally dive into it!)

What about you? What books have you read and loved lately? I’m always looking for recommendations, so please share in the comments!

The Best Fantasy Books to Reignite Your Sense of Wonder

I am so excited to be part of Shepherd, a fantastic website for readers that features authors, their books, and books they love!

I created a list of the best fantasy books to reignite your sense of wonder (after all, that’s what Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel is all about 😊)

It would mean so much to me if you would check out the list! Some of my very favorite books are featured and it was so fun to share more about why these stories are so important to me.

One thing I want to mention! There is a purchase link for Penelope Grace in the list. If you’d like to buy a copy, click the button that says Direct! The story is only available on Etsy, not on Amazon or Bookshop!

And while you’re there, check out Shepherd’s bookshelf of magical realism!

Thank you to everyone who has bought and reviewed Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel! I’m so grateful for each of you, and I’m praying that the story encourages you and anyone you share it with!

While you’re exploring the Etsy shop, check out the bookish treasures that would make for some lovely stocking stuffers 🎄

Keep an eye out this week for my review of Harvesting Hope by Lisa Howeler!

Alexandria

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Putting Holes in the Darkness

I recently read the most beautiful story about Robert Louis Stevenson.

One night, when Robert Louis Stevenson was a small boy, his nanny called him to come to bed. Oblivious to her summons, he was staring at something outside his nursery window. The nanny walked over, stood at his shoulder, and inquired patiently, “Robert, what are you looking at?”

The little boy, without taking his eyes away from the window, exclaimed in wonder as he pointed to the lamplighter who was lighting the streetlamps, “Look, Nanny! That man is putting holes in the darkness!”

You and I may not be able to change the world, but surely each of us can put a hole in the darkness!

The Joy of My Heart, Anne Graham Lotz

As soon as I read this story, I started thinking back on all of the remarkable books I’ve read over the last few years by my fellow authors and how much their stories matter.

In Anelthalien and Earth Quaking, H.A. Pruitt invites us into a world that is altogether different, where the characters reflect our own struggles and strengths and unexpectedly remind us that no part of our story can erase the purpose that God has uniquely prepared for us.

Whether you’re reading The Cottonwood Chronicles, Peregrine, or Astrid and the Marble Tower, Erica Richardson’s books are full of stunning and much-needed reminders that you never go unnoticed or unseen by God, no matter how small, insignificant, or different you might feel.

Lisa Howeler’s books, like A New Beginning or The Farmer’s Daughter, remind us that grace is real and that the insecurities we feel and the mistakes we make don’t disqualify us from receiving it.

M.H. Elrich’s Daughters of Tamnarae series reassures us that our worth is set in stone and showcases the delight God takes in weaving us into His grand story of love and redemption.

The first book in the Hope on the High Seas series, Free by Careena Campbell, reminds each reader who picks it up that pure faith, though it might be scoffed at, is true strength, and that the more we walk in step with God, the more fully we’ll get to know Him and the hope He offers.

Effie Joe Stock’s books, like Child of the Dragon Prophecy or Aphotic Love, confront the most intense emotions with a courage and boldness that can’t help but inspire her readers. Each page is a reminder that, just like her characters, you are brave enough to experience anger, grief, and pain without being defeated by them.

In Starganauts, C.E. Stone takes readers on a journey through the most crushing grief and uncertainty and displays God’s faithfulness in the midst of it. The whole story is a beautiful reminder that hope is possible even in the most intense battle and that victory and joy are waiting on the other side of it.

There are so many more authors and stories that have inspired me than I have room to share in one post, but I am so grateful for the chance to experience each and every one of these stories.

With every word you type, you are all putting holes in the darkness, reminding us how fragile the night really is when it comes up against God’s radiance.

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You can check out all of these wonderful stories at the links above! If you have any book recommendations, share them below. I’m always looking for an excuse to add another bookshelf to my library 🙂

Alexandria

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Adventures in Junk Journaling!

For the past few months, I’ve been exploring the world of junk journaling, and it’s become one of my favorite creative projects! I thought it would be fun to share my progress 🙂

One of the things I love about junk journaling is the way it takes items that people might otherwise consider to be trash.

Things like torn paper, old cardboard, bits of twine or lace.

Things that people take one look at and think, “Unusable. Past the point of usefulness or worth.”

These broken things become part of a bigger piece of art, and suddenly, they’re striking and beautiful and inspiring.

The more time I’ve spent making this junk journal, the more I’ve realized how the process mirrors God’s careful fashioning of us.

He takes these broken pieces that make up our lives, unafraid of their sharper edges, and He remakes them into something radiant and new.

Suddenly, we’re beautiful. Suddenly, we’re part of a bigger, God-fashioned work of art, and we get to see how those pieces we thought were useless come together to make the artwork precisely what it was meant to be all along.

When I discovered this craft, I never anticipated the way God would use it to help me know Him better, but I am so grateful He did.

What’s something unexpected that God’s shown you lately?

I’m heading back to junk journaling and writing for now, but I’ll be back here on Friday to share a writing update and my review of Starganauts by C.E. Stone!

Alexandria

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An Interview With C.D. Hulen

I’m so excited to share my interview with C.D. Hulen as we continue to celebrate the recent release of his sci-fi novel, Abort!

Read on to learn more about the inspiration for Abort, C.D. Hulen’s advice for fellow indie authors, and his thoughts on how to include a powerful, faith-based message in novels!

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I really enjoyed reading your novel! What inspired the story of Abort?

Thanks so much! Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what inspired me, outside of God of course (as all things work according to His will). This particular story concept came to me almost fully formed, which wasn’t super common for me. I thought it would make a good book, so I wrote down the idea and then promptly forgot about it for about 6 months. But obviously, I found it again, and here we are. 

One common pro-life argument that is used to confront abortion is that of comparing unborn children to people in a coma who are going to wake up (both are dependent on others, neither are highly responsive, and both are in their respective states for a limited amount of time, i.e., the person in a coma will wake up and the child will be born). This particular argument was definitely an inspiration. After the initial stages of writing, I drew inspiration from other sources, such as my Christian faith, my Dad’s suggestions, Ray Comfort’s videos on abortion, and Paul Washer’s articulation of the gospel, in order to add more depth to the story.

Throughout the story, Mason wrestles with divided loyalties and the distinction between right and wrong. Was he a difficult character to write? What do you think makes characters like him so compelling?

Definitely one of the most difficult things about writing Mason was keeping the reader from being completely disgusted by him. What he’s trying to do is terrible, and readers generally don’t want to root for that, so it was a struggle to balance the sympathetic aspects of his character without excusing his actions. I think his relatability and understandability help make him compelling. Although the reader hopefully won’t agree with his mission, they can understand why he’s doing it, and can relate to the many trials he faces on the HS10.

Christian sci-fi isn’t a genre that I, personally, hear much about, and it was exciting to read your novel! What about sci-fi do you believe uniquely positions the genre to share a faith-based message?

There’s definitely not much Christian sci-fi in mainstream media—none in film that I’ve seen, and not a ton in literature. But anyway, I think science fiction can be uniquely poised to tackle current issues as well as delve into compelling allegories. The concept of Abort was perfectly setup for a science fiction setting—I didn’t even consider another genre! I also believe that with science fiction you have something that Fantasy can struggle with—a real presentation of the gospel. This can be done in contemporary and historical fiction for sure, but fantasy generally relies heavily on gospel allegories if it wants to approach the Christian theme (Jesus). Science fiction has the privilege of dealing with the real thing.

What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced as a self-published author and what enabled you to overcome them? Do you have any encouragement to offer fellow writers who want  to follow that same route?

I think the battle against anonymity has been the hardest. I can learn how to write good prose, design a book cover, and develop compelling characters, but as an author who started with zero platform, it’s been challenging. I think what’s to be learned is that it’s all up to God. If He wants the book to go far, it will. If not, it won’t. I have to hold my dreams loosely, trust His plan, and be faithful. If the marketing of this book has taught me anything it’s that God is in control.

A note of practical advice for writers: keep writing, keep getting feedback, and write again. It’s a long slog sometimes, but the more you do it, the better you get. And if you’re a Christian who is writing fiction, don’t tack your faith onto it. What I mean is that the gospel isn’t an afterthought, so if you’re a Christian and writing a story, don’t force the gospel into it, allow it to permeate the entire thing. Don’t sprinkle the gospel onto your story, soak your story in the gospel. All or nothing. Don’t be afraid to be preachy but tell a good story, make it real, and give it over to God.

Can you share any details with readers about your current or upcoming projects?

Well, I don’t want to share too much, but I’ve always got story ideas in my head. People who’ve followed me for a while know that I’ve wanted to write a musical, as well as refurbish and finish my historical fantasy trilogy. I also have some more Christian sci-fi stories brewing which address the current issues of the woke church and Christless conservatism. All that to say, I’m not sure what I’ll do yet, but whatever it is, I want God to be glorified.

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Thank you so much to C.D. Hulen for joining me for this interview!

You can connect with him on his website, Instagram, and Goodreads to stay up-to-date on his writing journey!

Abort is available on Amazon.

Alexandria

What Makes It Hard To Believe?

What makes it hard for you to believe that God hears and cares about your prayers?

For me, it’s the waiting. It’s so hard, isn’t it?

Like the impatient anticipation of waiting for a flower to bloom, waiting for a prayer to be answered or a longing to be satisfied is so difficult.

It can feel long and painful and desperate.

Hopeless.

As if God is silent or indifferent to our prayers.

But I don’t believe He is.

Still, we wrestle and we wonder.

Much like a young rabbit named Chip, who’s desperate to know if his cries are heard.

Who isn’t satisfied to sit still and just wonder.

Who’s willing to brave the most dangerous and thrilling of adventures to find out what he’s most desperate to know:

Does God hear our prayers? Do they even really matter to Him at all?

Wouldn’t you like to know the answer, too?

Follow the link in my bio to join Chip on a marvelous adventure through the land of Almea and find the answer for yourself…

The Kickstarter project for Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves is 47% funded!! Hurray! 

There are just 14 days left to reach my goal, and I would so appreciate your support!

If 25 people gave $50, we could reach the goal and bring Chip’s adventure to readers together!

Will you help me?

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported and encouraged me! I’m thankful for each one of you!

Waiting for the adventure to begin,

Alexandria

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A Colorist’s Delight!

Calling Colorists of All Ages!

Did you know that Chip’s adventure isn’t really complete until you bring it to life with colors?

I’ve drawn the illustrations, but now it’s your turn, friends!

Whether you’re coloring crazy or picking up a glitter gel pen for the very first time, an adventure is beginning, and it all starts with you!

Head to the Kickstarter to join Chip as he travels through the land of Almea, searching for a great treasure and the answer to his prayers!

And an enormous thank you to my sweet mom, Penelope Grace, fellow author Erica Richardson and her sweet kiddos, and fellow author Niki Florica for bringing my illustrations into such brilliant color!

I’m so thankful for all of you! ❤

What Do You Treasure?

What do you treasure?

This old perfume bottle that belonged to my grandma, Mary, is something that my family carefully protects.

Not because the bottle is expensive, but because the woman who wore the perfume and the memories we have of her will always be dear to us.

We treasure it because we love her.

Have you ever wondered what God treasures?

Have you ever dared to believe that, perhaps, He treasures each of our tears like priceless perfume?

That He carefully preserves each one of our prayers, lovingly keeping track of every single one?

I know a young rabbit, daring and adventurous enough to wonder and to follow an unfamiliar path to find the answer.

Will you follow him?

The Kickstarter for my illustrated children’s book (with pictures to color!), Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves, has just 24 days left.

I’m longing to share this story with you.

I’m longing for your confidence in God’s heart for your prayers to be restored.

And if you’ve ever felt that longing, or known someone who has, will you join me on this new adventure? I would so appreciate your help.

Alexandria

Giveaway: Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves

🌹GIVEAWAY!!🌹

Lots of exciting things are coming to 21:25 Books this week! A new story, a Kickstarter, & lots of bookish gifts!

To celebrate, I’m giving away a hand-painted, watercolor bookmark for my second book, Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves!

Head to Instagram (@2125Books) to enter!

The Kickstarter launches this Thursday, and I can promise that there are some wonderful adventures ahead 😉

The Details:

Giveaway ends Wednesday at midnight.
U.S. only. Void where prohibited. This giveaway is not affiliated with WordPress.

Winner will be announced via Instagram on Thursday!

Wishing you many bookish adventures,

Alexandria

Interview With Niki Florica

Welcome to the final week of Author Spotlight Month!

I had the privilege of interviewing Niki Florica! She has some great insight to share about balancing a passion for writing with a day job, what inspires her to pen the stories she does, plus a special shout-out to H.A. Pruitt!

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Niki Florica is a passionate writer, blogger, and daydreamer who finds joy in Jesus, her Underwood typewriter, and in her daydreams-turned-stories. Driven to inspire her fellow young adult readers with plots that enchant, convict, and shine with Truth, Niki is dedicated to capturing that Truth in the fantastical. She plans to dive deeper into creative writing and literature in her university studies . . . unless, of course, she finds Narnia first.

There are so many genres to write in. What made you choose Christian fantasy? What do you think makes this genre unique/important?

I don’t think of myself as a writer of Christian fantasy as much as a Christian writer of fantasy . . . in other words, I dream of shining Truth to those who don’t already have it, in places they don’t expect to find it. 

I’ve had a heart for the fantastical since before I was old enough to recognize it, dreaming of Peter Pan and Narnia, getting lost in my own imagination, finding God in faraway places. I think we all want to be transported beyond the ordinary, but what’s amazing is that Truth can be brought to life in those far-off worlds in dazzling ways. God isn’t limited by physical reality—He can meet us in our imaginations just as easily. When fantasy meets Truth, it brings us closer to the wonder and creativity and greatness that is God . . . and by knowing Him there for a little, we can know Him better here . . . to paraphrase good ol’ C.S. Lewis.

Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to balance their dream of writing with a day job?

It’s so different for everyone, but I’d say: find a time that works for you, offer it to God, and don’t panic when things come up that take temporary priority. God knows our dreams, and He’ll bring them to fruition in His time if that’s part of His plan, so relax, focus on living for Him first and foremost, and find a system that allows you to enjoy writing, not to see it as an extra heap of stress. I often use writing to take “breaks” from work throughout the day, so I have a reason to make time for it—for my own sanity! Whether your sweet-time is late nights, early mornings, or lunch breaks, there’s no perfect formula. Just write when you can, and entrust it (and your dream) to God!

Supporting indie authors is so important. What are some ways that readers can do that?

Anything you can do to give an indie author extra exposure is a huge support! Bookstagram is a great way to do that—if readers are like me, they fall in love with book covers before they even meet the stories—but book reviews, social media shout-outs, and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth are all great ways to support. 

If you want to go the extra mile, I strongly believe in personal connection. Authors don’t just need support for their books, they need support as people. If you loved their book, find a way to reach out and tell them. Engage meaningfully with their social media posts if you can. Be the person who lets them know—sometimes on days that they may really, really need it—that what they’re doing is worthwhile.

Are there any indie authors whose books you would recommend readers check out?

I know she’s already been featured this month, but I am just so inspired by H.A. Pruitt and her novel, Anelthalien. Seeing the passion she pours into her story and how God is using her gifts to glorify His name is just incredible. She inspires me as a person and as an aspiring author, and a project filled with that much Godly love is bound to be truly powerful!

What are you currently reading?

I’m waiting for Brandon Sanderson’s new Stormlight Archive novel, but I may wait until the end of the semester to dive into that adventure—or risk binge-reading right through exams.

Are there any current projects that you can share with us?

Yes! Thanks to NaNoWriMo 2020, I’m currently knee-deep in a contemporary YA standalone novel—a complete departure from anything I’ve tackled so far. It was partially inspired by the newest Little Women film (I still haven’t gotten around to finishing the book—I know, I know!) and it’s inspiring me to take a break from fantastical creatures to tap into something simple and intimate. The story follows a cluster of small-town, slightly-Irish teens—a girl, her two brothers, and the almost-brother-but-maybe-something-else neighbour boy—and how their love for each other is threatened by the space creeping in between them. Each character expresses themselves differently (which is fun for me) and they all struggle with something unique that they feel the need to bury, hide, or fight on their own. I’m already so in love with this little gang and so invested in their healing. Even people who love each other deeply can exist lightyears apart, but God can make a family out of strangers and constellations out of stars, and I can’t wait to see Him breathe His healing power into this story.

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You can follow Niki on Instagram, YouTube, and her blog!

That’s all for Author Spotlight Month! A huge thank you to all the authors who were kind enough to participate: H.A. Pruitt, Richard Spillman, Lisa Howeler, and Niki Florica! Go read all their wonderful stories 🙂

Next week, we’ll be going somewhere new, to a home nestled on a quiet, cobblestone street, where a young girl is holding tightly to wonder…

I hope you’ll join me on her adventure.

Alexandria