Beyond the Politics, Check Your Heart

I figure it’s time for me to pause from book and movie blogging to say something to my blog readers, and anyone else who’s listening.

I see what’s happening in the United States. Not just what’s happening in America but what’s happening with Americans.

A country isn’t merely a place. A country is the people in that place. And, no, things aren’t just a little heated or uncomfy in America at present. We’re in a crisis. Not only does human crisis bring out the best or the worst in people, but it sets the stage for what kind of people they’ll be, going forward.

Trust and believe, you don’t become something deeply and drastically different overnight. It happens little by little—a day by day process. It’s a good thing when you’re aware of how you’re changing, how you’re evolving, when you’re intentional about it, and you wake up at peace with what you’ve become and are becoming. But it’s a sad thing when you wake up one day, look in the “mirror,” and realize there isn’t much true honor in what you’ve turned into. When you realize, somewhere along the line, in the middle of all the noise, you became too accustomed to tuning out your conscience.

With every discussion or dispute you hop into, you’re becoming something. With every catchy meme you jump on and share around on social media, you’re becoming something. With every voice you choose to agree with, every voice you choose to disagree with, and every voice you choose to disregard, you’re becoming something.

So my encouragement to everyone reading this is to stop and check to honestly see what you’re becoming. Not merely the person you say you are or want to be, or who you are when your friends are around to concur with your opinions, or who you are when you’re busy arguing with folks to prove a point. I mean for you to check on you. Not just to check on the immediate or loudest stuff in your brain, but to check on your heart. Deep down.

Don’t blindly allow this time of crisis to turn you into something you’ll regret or be ashamed of, years down the road. Don’t get so caught up in noise that you miss the present opportunity to work on your character, to become a better human being.

Don’t just know your politics. Check on that heart of yours.

 

Rough Days for Reviews, and My Encouragement

All the Book Love

As it happens with anything and anyone else, some days are harder than others for an author. On the marketing side of things, there’ve been some recent rough days in many an author’s neck of the woods, particularly where one crucial area of book marketing is concerned: book reviews.

There’s been an uproar (a recurrent one?) and much speculation as the online book reviews of more authors and reviewers have been disappearing. (Here are samples of the uproar and speculation, in case you’ve been out of the loop.)

I understand what all of the fuss is about, particularly for independent authors who work hard to get book reviews. Yes, the couple of handfuls of precious reviews I’ve been able to gather for my own books are the result of hours and hours, months and months of searching and querying, reading the review policies of anywhere from 600 to 700 book reviewers and bloggers, individually contacting about 300 whose preferences and requirements I met, getting “Yes, I’ll review your book!” responses from about half of those, and resulting in what I have so far.

Please excuse my inexact numbers. I’ll admit that the closer I got to 1,000 reviewers, fatigue set in, and I started losing track of the count, even with my recording all the data. 🙂 I had to get back to reading and writing to regain my strength.

And speaking of reading and writing, reviewing parameters have the potential to get sticky for a bookworm who loves writing books as much as reading and reviewing them. I mean, once someone writes a book, any other book that person reads from that day forward is “another author’s” book. That’s a whole ‘nother subject.

Anyway, in the midst of these rough days, I’ve had to recall the dear memory of once finding a novel that saved my life. The author wrote it long before I was born, and there’s no way she or her publisher could have known anything about Nadine C. Keels and what Nadine would be going through when she happened to find the book on a shelf, decades down the line. And I have no idea what difficulties the author or publisher may’ve had to overcome to get that book out into the world.

But God and the orchestration of His universe had a way of making sure the right book from the right author got into this reader’s hands at just the right time. I believe I’m not at all the only reader that has ever happened to, and it makes me trust that the same will ultimately happen for the books I’ve written for others.

Nope, this encouragement isn’t very scientific, but when I’m putting everything I am and everything I’ve got into writing and planning and publishing and marketing and all, and another uproar or obstacle in the process arises, I have to remind myself of why I think it’s worth it to keep at it, even when favorable results are hard to come by and seem minimal. There are so many uncontrollable factors anyway, factors that go into when, where, and why a book sells, and once it’s sold, if it’s actually read.

So, as a reader and an author, I’ll keep doing what I can, change or improve what I can, try not to stress too much over what’s out of my hands, and remember all the books that have gotten into my hands at the right time, despite what the obstacles may have been.

*Oh! And if you’re a reader, do know that the reviews you write mean so much and are a great help to the authors you love to read.*

 

Clara’s Wish by Beth Shriver

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. The Booketeria provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Four Silver Stars

Clara's WishClara’s Wish: An Amish Christmas Romance by Beth Shriver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve not read much Amish fiction, not being sure if the sudden proliferation of the subgenre was just a fad or if it would prove to truly be a substantive staple in Christian Fiction.

Still, I reasoned that an Amish story might lend itself well to Christmas as a theme, and Clara’s Wish does just that. It’s a warm, simple, nostalgic, uplifting novel dealing with both loving and painful family dynamics, the clash and reconciliation of cultures, the discovery of romance, and the comfort of Christmas.

I sometimes felt as if I was missing something while reading. Certain details were given out of order, some ideas and issues broached but left underdeveloped, and the way the characters kept evading on some topics didn’t enhance or further the plot. I thought there would be more to introduce Clara as a person, given the book’s title, but perhaps the point was in Lizzy and Zack’s mutual love for Clara and not so much for the reader to really get to know her. Also, the dialogue was somewhat difficult to follow at times, either with paragraph breaks that made it unclear who was speaking or with different characters’ words running into each other in the same paragraph (some of which I presume must’ve been a typesetting/formatting issue.)

Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed this novel for its portrayal of faith, hope, and redemption, and I consider it to be a worthy Christmastime read.

 

Surprised by Love by Julie Lessman

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

Surprised by LoveSurprised by Love by Julie Lessman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

A historical romance set in early 20th Century San Francisco (complete with cable car rides!), Surprised by Love is firstly heroine Megan McClare’s tale. It’s an “ugly duckling” story of sorts–although that expression doesn’t wholly fit to me, as the discarding of eyeglasses, the use of hair color, and the covering of freckles with makeup doesn’t physically change a person, and chubbiness doesn’t make a person ugly. But I think the true transformation is this former wallflower’s decision to leave the wall, and Meg’s compassion for marginalized women and children in her city is what I find most admirable about her.

This novel is full of convincing, comradely, occasionally awkward relationships and fun banter, and it also includes powerful themes of forgiveness, hope, and what it means to move from selfish love to unconditional love.

There’s a fine line between creating tension and going back and forth in a novel, between clarifying reinforcement and unneeded repetition, and the lines are blurred at times in this story. Also, on the most minor note, blushing is overused; heat creeping into someone’s cheeks or stealing up another’s neck seem to be the characters’ go-to reactions to many of their experiences and conversations.

Yet, love is what gives this novel its strength: romantic and familial love, love for humanity, and God’s love. Overall, an enjoyable read.

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Surprised by Love is third in The Heart of San Francisco series.

Love at Any Cost (The Heart of San Francisco, #1) Dare to Love Again (The Heart of San Francisco, #2)