For Etania and the peoples of Tamnarae, a new danger is lurking. Jazel is bent on seeking revenge, and no one will be safe until she is defeated once and for all. Desperate to hunt her down, Etania’s father pleads for her assistance and Etania reluctantly agrees. Accompanied by her suitor, Keyel, and a charming young prince, the company sets out on a quest that will decide the fate of the land. But Etania is keeping a secret, and should she share it with the wrong person, it could derail their hunt for Jazel, fracture her relationships with those she loves most, and leave the fate of Tamnarae more uncertain than ever. Etania’s calling is certain, but her ability to trust the One who gave it to her is yet to be decided…
It’s not often that a main character’s journey so closely mirrors your own. Etania is fully aware of her calling, yet she struggles both to fully trust that it’s possible for her to live it out and to not try to do so in her own strength. At so many points, her strengths and weaknesses resonated with me, as a reader, in such a powerful way. The reason I don’t find this surprising is that one of M.H. Elrich’s greatest strengths as a writer is to weave realistic characters with flaws, eccentricities, and God-given gifts.
It is nearly impossible not to find pieces of yourself in Etania, Keyel, or even Zaden. The result is a powerful story of learning to surrender and trust, to fully embrace your God-given calling with your whole heart so that others can be inspired to do the very same. After reading Etania’s Calling, there is no doubt that M.H. Elrich has courageously embraced her own gift, and every reader who picks up this story is going to be better for having read it.
I’m very much looking forward to the Daughters of Tamnarae series continuing and am so grateful for the opportunity to read this book. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.
What books have you read and enjoyed lately? Share any recommendations in the comments! I’m always looking for new books to read. If you’re an author, please don’t be shy about suggesting your own stories!
Today, I’m overjoyed to share my book review of Earth Quaking, by fellow author and friend, H.A. Pruitt! I’ll let the review speak for itself, but this is not an adventure that you’re going to want to miss.
The adventure through Anelthalien continues…
Four young heroes – Kindle, Tad, Ella, and Andrew – are making their way through unfamiliar country. Dangers surround them, and their quest to save Anelthalien and put an end to the evil throne feels more impossible and uncertain as the days pass.
But it’s not only their quest that the heroes are uncertain of…
One of them is hiding something, and, before long, shadows of suspicion begin to cloud their vision, their purpose, and their ability to trust one another. Like me, I suppose you’re wondering: if the four heroes can’t overcome their own doubts and learn to trust again, what hope does the land of Anelthalien and its people have?
Earth Quaking is a stunning exploration of that struggle we all face between doubt and faith. Kindle, Tad, Ella, and Andrew are four of the most real, endearing, and well-written characters you’ll find between the covers of a book. After reading Earth Quaking, I cannot choose my favorite; I love them all and see a little of myself in each of them.
And, perhaps, that’s part of the wonder of Anelthalien. You go there for a good story and a thrilling adventure, only to discover pieces of yourself that you’ve been missing, that you thought were gone for good.
So, if you’re looking for the courage to endure impossible circumstances…
If you’re longing to reclaim the hope you need to place your trust in someone again…
If you need help to remember that things really do happen for a reason and at the perfect time, even when we don’t understand why…
Open the pages of Earth Quaking.
Anelthalien is waiting, and it’s that rare fantasy world where hope comes alive and faith begins to flourish again.
I wouldn’t wait a moment more to explore it.
You can start your adventure through Anelthalien in book one, Anelthalien, and then continue the journey in Earth Quaking.
Here’s a little more about the author, H.A. Pruitt:
“H. A. Pruitt is the author of the Christian fantasy book Anelthalien. Anelthalien is a portal fantasy that readers say reminds them of The Chronicles of Narnia.
“H.A. Pruitt is a pastor’s wife who teaches two Bible studies and wrote the recovery program for the church they serve. Her mission in all she does is to listen to, obey, and glorify God. She has always enjoyed art, using her imagination, and writing and is enjoying God using those abilities to shape her into an author. Also, she really loves her guinea pigs . . . all 14 of them.”
This week is a week of bookish holidays! Yesterday was Read-A-Book Day and tomorrow, I’ll be celebrating International Literacy Day on Instagram by sharing one of the books that I read again and again (and again) as a kid. I hope you’ll join me!
Welcome to the next behind-the-scenes peek at the making of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves!
Let’s pick up the adventure where we left off, shall we?
Once I started jotting down story notes and ideas, I knew a very different story from the one I’d first imagined was taking shape.
Chip’s friends – Riley and Sara – disappeared as God helped me see that this was an adventure that Chip had to set out on alone (at least, at the start 😉)
But what was the point of the adventure?
I still didn’t know, until I read a beautiful devotion early one morning.
Prayers are instantly noticed in Heaven…. Oftentimes a poor broken-hearted one bends his knee, but can only utter his wailing in the language of sighs and tears…. He may only look up with misty eye; but ‘prayer is the falling of a tear.’ Tears are the diamonds of heaven…”
Oh, when I read that, I knew God was telling me something. But He wasn’t finished speaking just yet…
Our God not only hears prayer but also loves to hear it… wherever there is a heart big with sorrow, or a lip quivering with agony… He marks it down in the registry of His memory; He puts our prayers, like rose leaves, between the pages of His book of remembrance, and when the volume is opened at last, there shall be a precious fragrance springing up therefrom.”
I was captivated. I now knew what the title of this unexpected story was meant to be, and, while I didn’t know what would happen to Chip along the way, I began to understand where the adventure was leading him.
God is spectacular, isn’t He?
He knew the shape and breadth of this story, and He patiently led me, revealing bits and pieces of it at the perfect times.
This is part of what I love most about being a writer. At the end of the day, I’m not the one creating these stories. God is the Author. He knows every word of these tales, and He’s given me the privilege of being the first reader, the one who gets to put pen to paper as the Creator of the universe takes the time to tell me a story.
I’m so thankful for this indescribable gift.
Next week, we’ll explore the unexpected way God gave me character names and how the heart of this story kept taking shape!
If there’s anything you’d like to know about the making of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves, please share in the comments!
And don’t forget to add Chip on Goodreads and please leave a review once you’ve finished reading!
I’m overjoyed to welcome Kimberly Duffy to the blog today! She shares what drew her to writing historical fiction, how struggles with grief and doubt wove their way into her stories, and what’s in store for her next book, Every Word Unsaid!
This interview was such a delight, and I hope you enjoy!
Grief and doubt are topics we often dance around, but you confront them with a remarkable honesty and courage. What led you to address both in A Tapestry of Light?
I have always struggled with fear. Some of my earliest memories are of OCD flares (which I was diagnosed with post-partum after my second child was born) and I can’t think of anything that scares me more than losing a loved one. As a reader and writer, I process through story. Through imagination and words. As someone who suffers with OCD, it is nearly impossible for me to turn those thoughts off. They are relentless, coming at me with a ferocity that sometimes has me paralyzed. They are graphic and disturbing. And for brief moments, when my breath is coming short and shallow and my heart is twisting, I think, “How would I survive this if it was more than intrusive thoughts?”
So I pour it all out in my stories. I live vicariously through my characters. I watch them suffer and struggle and, ultimately, discover they can survive. And that offers me a bit of hope. We’re resilient. We’re created for more than this place, these bodies, even the love we’ve discovered here.
And doubt…it’s something I’ve struggled with for about a decade. I have no idea where it came from. No idea what triggered it. My faith walk is split into the before and after—before, when I was certain of everything I’d been taught, and after, when nothing was as it should be. I deconstructed—that’s a buzzy word. Deconstruction. Thankfully, I didn’t wallow in the shards of my shattered faith. I cut myself loose of all the extraneous stuff that had nothing to do with Christ. Like Ottilie, I protected that fragile, single seed. And every time I found myself doubting, questioning, I said, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” It was enough. For YEARS. And then I began reading through the Bible. I filled myself with the word. I read apologists and great minds like CS Lewis and Chesterton. And eventually, the doubt began to flicker. It didn’t completely extinguish—every once in a while it is fed a little bit of oxygen—but mostly it leaves me alone.
Unfortunately, I felt very alone the entire time of my struggle. No one was talking about it. No one was addressing it. It was dismissed. And I don’t want any other Christian who struggles with it to feel as though they have no one walking beside them.
What first drew you to writing historical fiction?
I love history. I spent six months in tenth grade digging deep into the ancient Etruscans. Another six months in Ancient Rome. A good part of my 11th grade year researching everything I could on the Civil War. Most days, I shoved aside my history textbooks in favor of historical narratives, autobiographies, classic literature (I never studied a moment for any of my history exams yet I got a nearly perfect score on the AP test. I’m a big believer in learning history through what Charlotte Mason called “living books”.) I spent a bit of time scared of writing historical fiction—choosing instead to write contemporary romance—but my love for it eventually won out and from the moment I typed the first line of A Mosaic of Wings, I didn’t look back (or forward?) I love that people don’t really change. The same things we want and struggle with today are the same things they wanted and struggled with a hundred years ago. Human nature is fairly constant and, as a woman and mother of three girls, I’m fascinated by the amazing things women achieved in times when it was nearly impossible to step outside expected social norms and carve a path for themselves.
Historical fiction is an extremely popular genre. What do you think gives historical figures and events such a unique ability to speak into our present-day experiences?
I think there’s a comforting kind of familiarity that’s tempered with enough differences—enough years—to give us a bit of distance. It’s like seeing someone you know in the same stage of life dealing with something adjacent to your own personal struggles. It’s not exactly the same so you can comfort yourself by saying, “Well, that’s not happening, at least” but it’s close enough that you can watch and see how they handle it. Learn from their experience.
The descriptions in your novels are so stunning. What helps or inspires you when trying to bring a certain location or period to life for readers?
Thank you! I work hard to immerse my readers in every scene. I want them to feel and taste and see and hear everything my characters do. I’m lucky that I write during a time when photography was becoming more widely available and there are a ton of photographs available online. Especially when I was researching for Tapestry, there were so many of Kolkata during the 1880s-90s. I could see the streets, houses, fashions. I spend a lot of time collecting images in Pinterest boards and searching them for any detail I can add that will lend an engaging sensory detail to my stories. I also read a lot written during the time I’m writing. There’s no contemporary essay or article or book that can replace the authenticity of actual personal accounts.
What are you currently reading? Do you have certain books that you’re always recommending?
Currently I’m reading two nonfiction health books (I’m usually reading a health book of some sort) and trying to work through my TBR. I got super behind while I was on deadline. I just finished The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel which was fantastic. I started The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch (her books are always very engaging) yesterday and am planning on finishing up doing a read aloud of The Hiding Place with my older two girls soon. I can’t say there’s any particular book I recommend all the time because it just depends on who is reading and what they enjoy.
Can you share any details with us about your next book?
I’d love to! Every Word Unsaid releases November 2, 2021 and it’s about Gussie Travers—globetrotting, adventure seeking, unintentional trouble making photographer who, through no fault of her own, creates a scandal and escapes to Poona, India—landing right in the middle of a bubonic plague epidemic. There’s an adorably geeky doctor hero, fun scenes set in some of India’s most beautiful cities, and a heroine who, no matter how hard she tries, can’t seem to escape the reach of the words that chase her.
Thank you so much, Kimberly, for doing this interview and offering such thoughtful, heartfelt answers!
Do you want to see wonder sweep away the chill from even the most bitter days?
After a devastating loss, Penelope Grace longs for nothing more, but a persistent shadow clings to her family, draining them of hope and the desire to fight.
Desperately, she tries to revive their sense of wonder, until, on the bleakest of nights, she is robbed of all she holds dear.
Yet, hope isn’t lost, and Penelope Grace finds herself following an unexpected friend through the freshly fallen snow, hoping for the restoration of all she has lost.
But the fight for wonder is just beginning, and the battle promises to grow more dark and fierce.
So, the question remains…
Will Penelope Grace hold onto wonder? Will she help those she loves do the same?
And what of you, dear reader?
When wonder is slipping through your fingers and the nights are cold and dark, will you allow despair to claim you?
Or will you see the glimmer of the sun on the snow and begin to understand how winter can be the springtime of the soul, if only you’ll let it?
The answers await you under snow-laden boughs, on a winter carousel, covered in snow.
I’ll meet you there ❄🎠
If you’d like to receive a unique, manuscript copy of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, I would love to share it with you!
This special edition of the story is done in beautiful manuscript form, printed on paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland, giving readers a unique, collector’s first edition.
Welcome to an excerpt from Installment the Seventh of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, in which a reminder is given of the meaning of wonder.
It would take them near a week to reach Svarthol, and Penelope felt her nerves grating against each other when she thought of all that time. She wondered how many of their neighbors and friends had also fallen prey to the wasting freeze, and she burned with anger at the way Denagon had perverted the beauty of winter into something that could only be understood as unforgiving and brutal.
There is a harshness to winter, it is true, but there is also a stillness that prepares the way for new life. To acknowledge one and reject the other is to rob winter of all its fullness and remarkable grace.
Yet, hearts often grow dismayed during the long stretches of winter nights; Penelope Grace watched it happen to those she loved and had fought against the sharpness of despair herself. She felt a growing desire to defend, not only the beauty of winter itself but also the hearts of all who struggled to find joy during this time of year. She wanted to fight against Denagon’s attacks and keep him from succeeding in his destructive work.
Uncle Alex had said she was created to weave joy and delight – wonder – into people’s lives, and now, when so many lives were at risk of freezing straight through, could she do any less than what he said? No matter how impossible, she must try, and with this thought fueling her, Penelope Grace walked purposefully through Ellura, hardly seeing the beauty of the world around her through the first day of travel.
Aira watched her closely. She feared what determination might do to the girl, for she had seen for herself the way that a desire to save could undo a human. But she held her tongue for the moment, watching still, but patiently.
On the second day of their journey, she separated from the company, believing that a particular grove was nearby and that such a place might spark something different in Penelope’s heart. By evening the wolf returned, her supposition proven right. As the sky darkened and countless stars winked into sight, Aira and Penelope left the campsite and wound their way through the forest.
“Aira, where are we going?” Penelope asked, wanting only to rest after two days of unfamiliar exertion.
“Hush, child,” the wolf replied, her tone kind but firm. “You’ll scare them off.”
Penelope Grace tried her best to remain silent from that point on, but the snowy ground had turned to hoar frost beneath her feet, and each footfall betrayed her with a loud crunch. Despite her own difficulties, Aira somehow had no trouble walking silently through the snow, and Penelope thought to herself how grateful she was that the wolf was not her enemy.
After some time, they came to the edge of a small grove, one that Penelope would have certainly missed for the trees were quite close together in this part of the forest. Carefully now, she tiptoed to the edge of the grove and peered beyond the branches, hurrying to stifle an awestruck gasp as she did so.
The plants, grass, and trees themselves – every inch of this wintry grove – were all covered in beautifully crisp frost. This sanctuary in the heart of the forest was cloaked in blue light, though Penelope Grace could not find its source; it seemed to emanate softly from everything and everyone present as if they were reflecting the light of a silver-blue sun.
At first, she could not discern details, but soon Penelope noticed beautiful small figures gliding through the air.
She thought that frost fairies populated the grove, but when she leaned down to quietly ask Aira, the wolf corrected her. “Snow sprites. Similar in nature, but with a beauty quite their own. Now, look.”
Penelope edged as close as she dared to the smallest of gaps in the trees where she might see the snow sprites more closely. To her delight, several were beginning to swirl through the snow as they circled the grove, and they flew quite close.
Each snow sprite wore beautiful, deep blue gowns, etched with frost and shimmering with the clearing’s light. Their hair was silvery-white, and their skin a pale blue. There seemed to be hundreds of them, and as they all flew about the grove, they began to hum the most enchanting tune.
You can almost hear it, can’t you? Like the melody from a favorite music box that you can’t quite remember, but nevertheless, remains with you.
Penelope listened, not daring to make a sound.
The snow sprites slowly gathered around a frozen pool in the center of the grove. The sound of their melody stayed soft as each took their turn in gliding across the pool’s frozen surface, leaving behind a precise etching in the ice. As every snow sprite made their simple contribution, they left the grove behind them, and they continued in this way until the frost-covered sanctuary stood empty.
Penelope looked questioningly at Aira, and the wolf gave her a slight nod, indicating it was safe now to enter the grove. She stepped carefully through the small gap and approached the pool, gasping to see the impossibly intricate snowflake traced into its icy surface.
“Their winter dance is a yearly tradition of the snow sprites. They travel from all across Ellura to make their contribution to the snowflake.”
“It’s beautiful, Aira. But why do they do it?” Penelope asked.
The wolf looked up at her intently before answering. “It is a celebration to honor the One who made them, to rejoice in the delight and wonder of being created.”
Aira fell silent, but then met Penelope’s gaze earnestly. “You see, Penelope Grace, it is not so much that you are living in wonder. It is Who you are living in wonder of.”
At this, the wolf turned, and Penelope Grace followed, feeling once again the conviction that she had just heard words that were worthy of remembering.
What are you in living in wonder of, reader?
Join us this Friday for the next installment of Penelope’s adventures.
This week, I have the privilege of sharing my review of The Awakened by Richard Spillman. I can’t think of enough good things to say about this novel! You can read my full review (and grab a copy for yourself!) below.
“Perhaps faith really is trusting that something meaningful lies beneath the surface of the senseless, that purpose exists in the randomness of life, that joy is independent of your circumstances….”
Lazarus, who goes by L, has been holding onto faith for 2,000 years. As an Awakened – one whom Jesus resurrected from the dead – his purpose is to faithfully serve God as he takes part in the spiritual warfare raging around the world.
Demons, known as UDs, who have taken up residence in human bodies, are everywhere, and they want nothing more than to distort and destroy the image bearers of God, proving once and for all that humans are irredeemable.
Though L is growing weary, he refuses to give up. But the battle is growing more complicated. More often, L wonders if the end times are approaching and if he is equal to the task appointed to him.
Still, with the help of a few unexpected, but not unwelcome, friends, L finds that his faith is rekindling, and he is more certain than ever before that the Light has overcome the darkness.
But the battle isn’t over yet…
With heart-pounding action and believable characters that quickly feel like old friends, Dr. Richard Spillman has created a story that is resonant, fast-paced, and timely, not to mention impossible to put down. Reminiscent of Frank Peretti’s novels, The Awakened is full of suspense and the timeless truth that, even in the midst of so much uncertainty, there is a steadfast Hope we can rely on.
You can purchase a copy of The Awakened at Barnes and Noble or Bookshop, a wonderful site that supports independent booksellers with every purchase! It is also available on Amazon.
Be sure to leave a review on Goodreads! Reviews are a great way to support authors.
Later this week, I’ll be sharing an interview with the author, Richard Spillman!
This week, I’m thrilled to share The One with the Scraggly Beard by Elizabeth Withey with you. This illustrated children’s story is well worth the read. Though the words are few, they are rich and sure to stay with you for a long time to come.
Sometimes, the right words for a book this wonderful come slowly. The story’s events are seen through the eyes of a young boy who is overflowing with questions about someone he calls The One with the Scraggly Beard, a homeless man who sleeps beneath a nearby bridge.
Readers might expect a little boy to be full of questions, but what sets him apart is his ability to really see someone whose life is so unlike his own, while also possessing the innocent courage it takes to understand that they aren’t so very different from one another after all.
Elizabeth Withey and illustrator, Lynn Scurfield, have bravely crafted a story that will fill readers with the longing to recapture all that’s best about a child’s heart and the willingness to ask the hard questions and truly see painful realities.
Read this one aloud with your children. Your family won’t soon forget it, for The One with the Scraggly Beard is one of those rare books that will simultaneously leave your hearts broken for the hurting and put the pieces back together with the hope that, one day, as love and empathy flourish, the pain of all those sleeping under bridges tonight will be healed.
You can connect with Elizabeth Withey on Twitter and Lynn Scurfield on Instagram
And for more wonderful stories, connect with Orca Books on Facebook
This weekend, the next installment of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves will be available! If you’d like to catch up on past installments, you can do that here.