Wednesday, 12 December 2018

My Top Ten Reads for 2018


If you’re pedantic and fussy about details, you will notice that my list includes more than 10 books. I’ve read more than those listed, but I couldn’t leave any out from this list. I won’t say anything if you don’t.
These titles are presented in no particular order of preference. Read them all!

Searching for Healing – From the New Age to Jesus by Julie Mellor
 published by John Mellor Ministries
This powerful testimony walks the reader through the author’s search for healing, and the many New Age practises she tried to find it. As an atheist, she had no intention of ever considering God or Jesus as an option, but the Holy Spirit had a way of bringing her to face what she had been ignoring—her need of the true healer.

Sitting at the Feet of Rabi Jesus – How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith by Ann Spanger and Lois Tverberg
 published by Zondervan (also Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus and Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus)
This trio of books make fascinating reading. As western Christians, we often read the Bible through our post-millennial, Western lens, and we often misunderstand what it was that the Jewish listeners of the First Century would have heard. Highly recommended reading as part of your Bible study.


Hell on the Doorstep – Hope beyond Black Saturday by John and Jan Graham with Meredith Resce published by Golden Grain Publishing
While I am technically the story editor, and minor contributor to this work, it is not my story. The day Jan Graham first shared it with me I said to her, ‘you have to write a book’. Neither John nor Jan are writers, and so I helped them craft this biographical account of how they responded when the Black Saturday bushfires were on their doorstep.


Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar
Published by Tyndale House Publishers
This is the third novel by this author that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed. Tessa Afshar writes Biblical Fiction and it is outstanding. Land of Silence tells the story of the woman who had suffered for 12 years from bleeding and was healed, but that part of the story is not revealed until near the end. Most of the story introduces us to her and her family, set in First Century Jerusalem. The characters are engaging, and the plot well crafted. I highly recommend this author.


All Made Up by Kara Isaac
Published by Bellbird Press
This is the second novel I’ve read by this Kiwi author. Always want to support our regional Christian fiction authors—but it wasn’t a trial. I’m not a particular fan of the reality TV shows, though I’ve been known to watch an episode or two. This novel is set in the middle of a reality romance show – Falling for the Farmer. Set in Australia, and then out to Toowoomba Qld. If you like light romance, you’ll like this.



The Catching Kind (Brew Ha Ha series) by Bria Quinlan
Published by Rogue Giraffe Books
I really enjoyed the wit of this writer. Bad boy athlete is forced into a media-stunt with sweet-heart author, posing as a couple. His popularity is supposed to gain her visibility in the media, her much-loved clean-teen romance is supposed to gain him respectability. Then they are supposed to call it quits…but you know what is bound to happen.

A Name Unknown (Shadows Over England series) by Roseanna M White
Published by Bethany House Publishers
I read a number of Roseanna White’s books this year. Roseanna was one of our sponsors for last years’ Omega Writers’ Conference, so I thought I’d best check her out. I was not disappointed. This particular novel set at the start of World War One, is a bit ‘Downton Abby’ in nature. Roseanna has historical novels set both in England and in the USA. I’ve really enjoyed her writing so far.

With you Always (Orphan Train Series)  by Jody Hedlund
Published by Bethany House Publishers
This is also not the first novel I’ve read by this author. I’ve read a number set in medieval England, but this one is set in the frontier years of the US. The days when the railroad is pushing further west, and railroad towns are popping up. The main character is the eldest sister of a family of orphans, living in poverty in the slums of New York. She applies and is chosen to head out to a new railroad town to take on a job, forced to leave her siblings behind. Lots of drama and romance ensues.


Regency Brides series by Carolyn Miller (Miss Serena’s Secret, Winning Miss Withrop)
Published by Kregel Publications
I love the fact that one of our Australia authors is making waves in the international market. Carolyn’s work stands up as good as, and sometimes better, than anything you will read from the US market. I have her books on pre-order, so that will tell you how much I enjoy them. Besides, I’m an Austen tragic. What’s not to love about well-written Regency Romance. And Carolyn writes well.

Unhinged by Amanda Deed
Published by Rhiza
Amanda Deed is a solid Australian writer, and her work is set in Colonial Australia. This series, ‘Unnoticed’ and ‘Unhinged’ is a unique idea, where Amanda has taken the classic fairytales and set them in Colonial Australia. ‘Unhinged’ has another fascinating twist. Her retelling of Beauty and the Beast – our beast does not have a physical deformity, but Amanda has chosen to explore the drama of a man who experiences periods of dark depression—and in an era where mental illness was not understood or treated well.

To Say Nothing of the Dog (S.F. Masterworks) by Connie Willis
Published by Bantam Books
I’m not even sure how I came to buy this book, as it’s not in my usual Christian Fiction or Christian inspiration field, but I loved it. It is a time travel for a start with, and you will know I enjoy time travel from my own novel ‘For All Time’. But this was funny, quirky, and kept me on the edge for the whole book. Scientific time travel in the future, sent two people back to live in the past to solve a mystery. Oh the things that could go wrong, and the knock-on effects for future events. I loved it.

This list has been compiled by me - Meredith Resce - author and avid reader

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

My Top 10 Reads for 2018

By Iola Goulton @iolagoulton



What are your Top Ten Reads for 2018?

Every year I volunteer to write a Top Ten post ... and every year I regret it. How can I possibly condense a year of reading into ten books? Last year I decided to cheat a little, and posted only my top ten contemporary Christian romance reads.

I'm cheating again this year. I've already posted my five favourite new-to-me authors, and my top five romance read. So today's post (which is cross-posted on my website) is my top ten Christian reads, excluding romance.

Strategem by Robin Carroll


An excellent thriller with a unique hook: a woman dies playing an escape room-type game designed by her husband, which makes him the prime suspect. He didn't do it, so who did?

Click here to read my review.




Shadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels


An infertile woman working in a pregnancy support clinic is counselling the woman pregnant to her unfaithful husband ... only none of them know it. A gripping novel which explores those problem areas where there are no right answers.

Click here to read my review.

Grace in the Shadows by Christine Dillon

Grace in the Shadows is a poignant and thought-provoking novel from Australian author and missionary Christine Dillon, one that is designed to challenge our thinking at the same time as giving us a good story with great characters.

Click here to read a review by Fiction Aficionado.



Life After by Katie Ganshert


What would you do if you were the sole survivor of a train accident that killed twenty-two people ... but you can't remember it? That's the premise of this gripping and emotional novel.

Click here to read my review.

The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrell


The recipient of a heart transplant meets the donor family, and is challenged to get out and live the life she has been gifted ... by ticking off the donor's bucket list, the 24 things she didn't get to do before she died.

Click here to read my review.



Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson



A powerful dual-timeline stories connecting a rare book, a second-hand bookstore, and pre-World War II Austria as Hitler comes to power and begins his persecution of the Jews. Plenty of twists and tragedy.

Click here to read my review.

Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin

Charles Martin novels always pack an emotional punch, and send down the rain is no exception. Yes, there's a slow build, but the payoff is more than worth it in this exploration of love, loyalty, and family, a story of sacrifice and second chances.

Click here to read my review.



No Less Days by Amanda G Stevens

David Galloway can't died. He's tried, but he can't. He's always thought he was alone, but he's watching TV one day and realises that he isn't alone ... Yes, No Less Days isn't your typical Christian fiction. It's more like Forever meets Highlander, part science fiction and part urban fantasy.

Click here to read my review.

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

Savannah's husband of twenty years has left her for another woman, the children are in boarding school and college and don't need her, so she does what any sensible woman would do: she runs away. It's a tough yet touching story about what women do when life disappears.

Click here to read my review.



Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate


I seem not to have reviewed this (probably because I bought it, and I'd already filled my reviewing schedule with review copies). It's a dual timeline story, with the past timeline telling the story of a family that is broken when the five children are stolen, shipped off to an orphanage, and adopted out. It's a compelling story, made all the more compelling and horrifying by the knowledge it's based on the real-life scandal of Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Home Society.

Conclusion

As I was compiling this post, I realised what all these novels have in common: a great hook.

Yes, they all also have great characters, a strong plot, and excellent writing, but so did a lot of the novels that didn't make the list. These are the novels that have lived in my memory long past reading them and writing the review ... and that's because of the hook.

Characters placed in unusual and often difficult situations, and being forced to work through issues and problems most of us will never face. Because that's the attraction of fiction: the way story can teach us how to deal with things in the real world.

So what's the hook for your work in progress? What challenges do you give your characters?

What about you? What are some of the best novels you've read this year? Do your choices have a theme, like mine did?


About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).

Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, and currently works as a freelance editor. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, two teenagers and one cat. She is currently working on her first novel.

Monday, 10 December 2018

December 2018 New Releases



Three Dummies in a Dinghy Edited by Claire Bell, James Cooper and Mark Worthing (Morning Star Publishing, October 2018) 


Three Dummies in a Dinghy is the third instalment of the Stories of Life series.
In it, ordinary Australians share their extraordinary stories of faith and life. Some tales are humourous, others are entertaining and upbeat. But not all are happy stories. Many writers describe how they were found by a loving God in the midst of doubts and great suffering, and the circumstances don’t always get easier. But the message still comes through loud and clear that God is faithful, near and active in the lives of ordinary people.
We discover that there are unsung heroes of all kinds among us. With their encouragement we can open our eyes a little wider, see more clearly, and trust more deeply in the boundless kindness of our Lord.
Link to buy





Deadly Misdirection by R J Amos (independent release, 23 November 2018) 

Coffee, hot cross buns, and … murder?
The anticipation of a five day break and the unexpectedly warm Easter weather makes Alicia eager to get going on her home renovations, despite the fact that she has absolutely no experience and is more at home with a test tube than a paintbrush. She is determined to get ahead with her laboratory preparations so that she can leave early and make the most of the Easter break.
That is, until she discovers the dead body of a student in a car outside the chemistry building.
Now all she wants to do is find out why Eloise died and not lose her job in the process.
Come and join Alicia and her friends Jan and Nate as they solve another cosy mystery in the delightful small town of Kingston Beach, Tasmania.
Get it now.

Amazon link





Second Chances by Carol Ashby (Cerrillo Press, November 26 2018) 


Must the shadows of the past destroy the hope of the future?

In AD 122, Cornelia Scipia, proud daughter of one of Rome's noblest families, learns her adulterous husband plans to betroth their daughter to the vicious son of his best friend. Over her dead body! Cornelia divorces him, reclaims her enormous dowry, and kidnaps her own daughter. She plans to start over with Drusilla a thousand miles away. No more husbands for her. But she didn’t count on meeting Hector, the widowed Greek captain of the ship carrying her to her new life.

Devastated by the loss of his wife and daughter, Hector’s heart begins to heal as he befriends Drusilla. Cornelia’s sacrificial love for Drusilla and her courage and humor in the face of the unknown earn his admiration…as a friend. Is he ready for more?

Marriage to the kind, honest sea captain would give Drusilla the father she deserves…and Cornelia the faithful husband she’s always longed for. But while her ex-husband hunts them to drag Drusilla back to Rome, secrets in Hector’s past and the chasms between their social classes and different faiths erect complicated barriers to any future together. Will God give two lonely hearts a second chance at happiness?


Amazon link




Friday, 7 December 2018

The Richest of Foods

By Cindy Williams | @nutritionchic 




Last Christmas was special. My whole family gathered together at our childhood home – a place of great beauty, good memories and peace. We dragged the dining room table and chairs to the end of the lawn and sat under the red flowers of the Pohutukawa tree dining on the richest of foods.

Afterwards, we lazed on the lawn in the sunshine enjoying the satisfaction of a good meal, enhanced by our body pumping out endorphins, the natural opioids often called the ‘feel-good’ hormones. Our body and souls were satisfied.


The loneliest day


This Christmas, some will eat the richest of foods and yet still their soul will be starved: those who have wealth but no wisdom, fame but no faith; those who are grieving or lonely or in families of anger and abuse. For some, Christmas day is the loneliest day of all.

As authors we can suffer that dryness of soul – as we stare at a blank screen, as we read yet another rejection, as we resist that cruel thought: ‘You’re wasting your time.’

'My soul will be satisfied with the richest of foods' Ps. 63:5 


Psalm 63 gives the solution to all whose soul is in a ‘dry and weary land.’ It tells us to praise God, lift up your hands to Him, and sing songs of praise. In a time of distress, when we are awake with anxiety through the watches of the night, remember God and praise him - even if you don’t feel like it. It is not called a ‘sacrifice of praise’ for nothing!

If you set your mind to do these things, the word of God promises you will be satisfied as with the best Christmas meal ever.

May you be richly blessed this Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.


 About Cindy Williams 


With degrees in Nutrition, Public Health and Communication Cindy worked for many years as a dietitian for sports teams, food industry, media, and as a nutrition writer and speaker.

Her first novel, The Pounamu Prophecy, was short listed for the 2016 Caleb Prize. She writes stories of health, history, food and faraway places at www.nutritionchic.com.

Cindy lives in Sydney with her husband and son, writing stories of flawed women who battle injustice... and sometimes find romance.




Thursday, 6 December 2018

Book Review | The Making of Mrs Hale by Carolyn Miller

Review by Iola Goulton @iolagoulton



We first met Julia Hale in Winning Miss Winthrop, when Julia ran away to Gretna Green to marry Thomas Hale in defiance of her family's wishes.

But, as the old saying goes, "Marry in haste; repent at leisure." 


Julia is left destitute after her husband disappears. Six months later, she has sold everything she can and has no choice but to return to her friends and family in London and ask for help. They are pleased to welcome her home, believing she is either an abandoned wife or (possibly) a widow. They are less pleased when Thomas Hale returns home ...

This means The Making of Mrs Hale follows one of the lesser-used romance tropes: a married couple falling in love. Or perhaps they are rediscovering their love, as Julia clearly still has feelings towards Thomas and vice versa. But Julia has to fight to keep what she has—a marriage to a man she loves.

There is also an exciting suspense thread. Thomas is concerned his ending up in a Spanish prison may not have been an accident. This threatens him, Julia, and their attempts to rebuild their relationship while surrounded by disapproving family members.


I have always been a big Regency romance fan, and Carolyn Miller has established herself as a leading author in the Christian Regency genre. Her research is spot on, yet never gets in the way of the story (I wish this was universal, but I find there are more authors who think they can write authentic Regency than actually can).

In contrast, Carolyn Miller consistently comes up with realistic yet detailed plots. 


She fills her novels with realistic, complex characters facing issues that are true to the historic period, yet resonate with modern readers. Her novels are also definitely (and perhaps defiantly) Christian. They're not just "clean". Her characters are forced to evaluate themselves and their relationship with God, which is a refreshing contrast to a lot of the fiction being published by CBA publishers. Overall, I recommend Carolyn Miller and The Making of Miss Hale to anyone looking for genuine Christian Regency fiction.

Thanks to Kregel Publications and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).

Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, and currently works as a freelance editor. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, two teenagers and one cat. She is currently working on her first novel.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Hope Beyond Black Saturday

We are approaching the ten year anniversary of Australia's most devastating bushfire, Black Saturday. For the past six years I have been living in the community who faced the destructive beast that tore families, towns and countryside apart. The last couple of years around early February, I have noticed how survivors, who literally escaped the flames with the clothes on their back, have become emotional as they remember the horror of those months in February 2009.

Last year, I sat with one of my friends and she told me again about how they responded. Jan Graham, and her husband John, were not in the fire zone, but were on the very edge, and on the Monday of the fires, Jan went to the local relief centre. The streets were packed with people—emergency services workers, locals trying to find out if there was anything they could do, and survivors—all massed together in a sea of confused and hurting humanity.

Jan Graham asked the question: "What can I do to help?"
This question sparked a response that turned into a three year journey of relief work for her and her husband, as they literally walked with the survivors through the pain and grief of loss.

This year, I encouraged Jan and John to write this story.




Jan was adamant this not be another bushfire story, as, she said, there are many published accounts. Rather, she hoped this would be an account that helps Christians and community to understand how urgent is the call of the gospel for the broken, needy, widow and orphan.

I helped Jan and John frame their story, and added a few pieces of my own to investigate the biblical call to action on behalf of the least of these.

Hell on the Doorstep is available in paperback from Koorong Books or Amazon for $18.99
or you can download a copy for $5.99 to your table or reading device.

The key themes you will see coming through are: the answer has to be yes; and it will get messy.

As always, thank you for your support, and if you could find time to post a review from your purchasing website, we would appreciate it.


Meredith Resce is author of 18 fiction titles, including the popular Heart of Green Valley series.

Please read more about Meredith on her website: www.meredithresce.com

Or follow her on facebook @MeredithResce

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Tuesday Book Chat | 4 December 2018 | Iola Goulton

From Iola Goulton @iolagoulton


It's Iola here. Welcome to our ACW Tuesday Book Chat where we encourage book lovers to answer our bookish question of the week.

Today's question is: 


Hmm ... tough question. So many books. I want all the books. And I tend to buy them when they are released or on sale or when they catch my attention through the year, so I don't exactly have a Christmas wish list. Just a general wish list (and a wish that I could stop adulting long enough to read them all).

Join the conversation in a comment on this post or in a comment on the blog post shared in our Australasian Christian Writers Facebook Group. Or, if you're feeling wordy (like me), write a blog post and link to it in the comments.

Let's chat!