Fresh Joy – review

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Fresh Joy: Finding Joy in the Midst of Loss, Hardship and Suffering by Heidi McLaughlin


My rating: 5 of 5 stars


When the sudden and unexpected death of a partner hit Heidi McLaughlin for the second time, it would not have been surprising if she’d have become bitter and joyless. But she was determined not to end up that way. Fresh Joy is her story—the first-person account of a woman who goes from a trauma-shattered state of shock to an expansive place of joy.

Along the way she takes us past milestones of unanswered prayers, regrets and “if onlys,” accepting a season of loneliness, appreciating God’s refining process, and more. McLaughlin skillfully weaves details from her story with the spiritual principles she teaches. Each chapter also contains many practical ways to deepen joy.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on hearing from God. McLaughlin writes,

“I never before thought to ask God a question and then, with pen poised, wait for his answers. This discipline of listening for God’s voice and writing down his answers opened up a whole new God dimension for me” (Chapter 12).

McLaughlin goes on to suggest several doable ways we can nurture our relationship with God by listening and so enhance our joy.

McLaughlin’s style is an easy mix of storytelling, teaching, and challenging her readers. The topical nature of each chapter, along with the concluding sum-up neatly contained in the acronym STOP would make this book great for study and discussion groups. This book would be especially helpful for those who are newly grieving the loss of loved ones—and the rest of us, who have no idea what challenges to joy lie ahead.

I received a copy of Fresh Joy as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

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Behind Her Name – review

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Behind Her Name by Eunice Cooper-Matchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


You would never know from the confident look of the woman sitting at the bookstore table signing books for her fans, that Sage Bush was still trapped in her traumatic childhood. But she was. In Behind Her Name, author Eunice Cooper-Matchett explores, with wonderful story telling, the secretive world of bullying and its devastating effects.

The familiar Canadian setting (small town Alberta), a cast of complex and interesting characters, combined with the author’s exploration of serious themes like bullying, forgiveness, trust, and how to answer the age-old question, why does God allow evil in our lives, are aspects of this well-written book that make it more than just another entertaining tale. Oh, and I loved the unique way the author had Sage handle times of stress and overwhelm—with poetry!

Fans of Christian contemporary romance won’t want to miss this special offering!




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Discover Your Hidden Self – review

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Discover Your Hidden Self: Opening the Door to Who You Really Are! by John Murray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It is for a time when crisis hits that John Murray has penned the helpful volume Discover Your Hidden Self: Opening the Door to Who You Really Are! In it he uncovers problem areas that may hinder us as we face life-altering challenges of health, relationships, and unpredictable turns of events that are inevitable. The goal is to help us gain calmness and serenity whatever comes our way.

In twelve chapters Murray tackles relevant subjects like grappling with suffering and unfairness, harnessing the power of thoughts and attitudes, extending forgiveness, finding significance and contentment, and being neighbourly. Throughout he sprinkles stories of people who have faced these issues and achieved success at overcoming them.

A penultimate chapter on life’s spiritual side lifts the reader from looking for help only within themselves to establishing a relationship with God—the God of the Bible–for wisdom, courage, strength, and support through life’s perplexities. Here’s a favourite quote from this section:

“Someone once said, ‘Adversity introduces a man to himself,’ which has an element of truth to it, but I think it should read, ‘Adversity introduces a man to his faith.’ In our adversity, in the midst of our emotional turmoil, our faith becomes real or it proves non-existent” – page 82 (Kindle edition).

Murray’s insights are wise and his tone is warm, sympathetic, and encouraging.

This book would be a great read for when you’re in the middle of a trial, or before, to be prepared for when that next challenge comes your way

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Under the Cloud (free Kindle Edition)

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I’m looking forward to today and attending my first-ever virtual writing conference (Inscribe Fall Conference)!

In gratitude for all the writers and writing mentors (from Inscribe and other writing groups) that have helped and encouraged me through the years, I’ve arranged a free download of my latest novel, Under the Cloud – Kindle edition.

GET IT FREE – September 25 and 26th…

Blood Ties – review

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Blood Ties by Tracy Krauss



My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In Blood Ties, Book 2 of Tracy Krauss’s Three Strand Cord series, we again get involved in the lives of Stella, Tempest, and Cherise.

College-educated Stella returns to her ranch home in Texas to find both ranch-hand brothers in love with her.

Dirk, Cherise’s brother, falls for Tempest but when she doesn’t reciprocate, this rich sometime-playboy decides to volunteer at a Mexican orphanage (maybe this new leaf will convince Tempest that he really has changed).

Cherise, meanwhile, gets involved in a relationship with one of Stella’s friends but, unable to face hurting him due to her track-record of short-term serial romances, decides to join Dirk at the orphanage. There, confronted by the superficiality of their lifestyles the siblings, Dirk and Cherise, are challenged to look for deeper meaning and purpose.

A mean-spirited computer hacker in Texas and suspected drug activity out of the orphanage add danger and suspense to this contemporary romance.

Though some of the shenanigans of Cherise and others would put this book (and the series) into the edgy category, the message of God’s love and ability to change hearts, desires, and actions comes across loud and clear. That dual focus makes the series relatable to contemporary young people, Christian and non-Christian.

I received a copy of Blood Ties as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review.




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Three Strand Cord (review)

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Three Strand Cord by Tracy Krauss

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The friendship bracelets that Stella, Cherise, and Tempest braid for each other in elementary school come to symbolize the ties that bind them long past their school days. However, when they meet again as young adults, their varied interests, experiences, social status, and temperaments have set them on vastly different paths. This makes for lots of conflict as their loyalties to each other compete with good sense, ethics, and even self-preservation.

Cherise, the rich bad girl of the trio, traps her girlfriends and others in a net of trouble when she decides to do whatever it takes to follow her latest boyfriend to Italy. Meanwhile Tempest, the professing Christian of the three, struggles with her part in Cherise’s deception, which involves living a lie of her own.

Krauss’s romantic suspense is well-written, has interesting characters, lots of action, many surprises, and Christian spiritual elements throughout.

I received a copy of Three Strand Cord from the author for the purpose of writing a review.




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More books arriving this week!

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Under the Cloud has been out just a little over two months. In that time, I’ve distributed a box of paperbacks but another shipment is on its way, scheduled to arrive later this week.

Reader response is gratifying! Here are some comments, gathered from reviews:

“Zamri’s story explores themes that are as relevant now as they were then, for example identity, coming of age, disappointment, doubt, and faith.” – Elma Schemenauer (Amazon.ca review)

“The story was so engaging I really did not want to do anything else until it was finished” – Ed Hird (Amazon.ca review)

Under the Cloud was an absolutely beautiful story.” – Deborah L. Kelly (reader email).

If you’d like a signed copy, I’d be delighted to send one to you
(Book: $20; Postage $5.34 all prices CAD). Email me.

Calm Before the Storm (review)

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Calm Before the Storm by Janice L. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The year is 1914. All is idyllic on the Hildebrandt’s Succoth estate in Crimea—but for the death of mother. This has left the well-to-do Hildebrandt family (father Heinrich, children Katarina [16], Maria [14], Peter, Nicholas, and Anna) wifeless, motherless, and without a teacher. Enter Johann Suderman, a young teacher from the Mennonite Molotschna Colony, whom Heinrich soon employs to tutor the youngest children.

The beginning of World War I together with growing tensions between the land-wealthy Mennonites and their poor Russian neighbours heightens suspense and brings a sense of foreboding. Through Johann’s Russian friend Paul Tekanin we see Bolshevism and the revolutionary movement take root. The Hildebrandt’s and Johann’s connections of family and friends in the Molotschna Colony make us privy to premonitions of change coming there as well.

A blossoming romance, that ripens like the sweet fruit of the Succoth orchard, ramps up emotional interest. Watching characters flesh out gradations of spiritual faith, from rote religion to a deeply personal relationship with God, challenges us to examine where we are in the practice of the faith we claim to have.

Calm Before the Storm is beautifully written. Characters are believable and sympathetic (even the not-so-favourite ones). Dick does a great job of placing us in the setting with masterful broad-brush descriptions of the landscape to fine-painted details of cottage and barn. I could all but taste the familiar foods—the zwieback, rollkuchen, borscht, and cracklings of my youth—which load the tables of these forefathers and foremothers.

Calm Before the Storm is a wonderful read for any lover of historical fiction and a must-read for the student of Mennonite history. I can’t wait for the release of Book 2, Eye of the Storm, hopefully later this year.


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Beyond the Purple Sky – review

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Beyond The Purple Sky by Eunice Cooper-Matchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


In dramatic scenes fueled by an informed imagination, Cooper-Matchett takes us into a little-known time in Israel’s history. The Jews are in exile in Babylon. Zerubbabel—a brilliant Jewish lad and companion of Nebuchadnezzar’s successor Belshazzar and sister Belshalti-Nanner, is being groomed for service to Babylonian royalty.

However, Zerubbabel also feels the tug of his Jewish heritage. We follow him as he matures to adulthood and is challenged with the ultimate assignment—to lead his people back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. The cost is great and the pursuit of his divine destiny—predicted by prophets Daniel, Zechariah, and Haggai—tests him to the core even as it highlights God’s intricate plan for His people.

Matchett’s writing is tight, her story-telling taut and filled with Middle Eastern sights, sounds, smells, and machismo. Beyond the Purple Sky is a good read!




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Project completed!

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I’m excited to announce that my second novel, Under the Cloud, a continuation of the story begun in Destiny’s Hands, is now available from Amazon in paperback and ebook editions!

Here’s the cover (designed by Glynis and Amanda Belec of Angel Hope Publishing):

And the description, from the back of the book:

Fifteen-year-old Zamri lives in the shadow of her brilliant brother Bezalel. While he crafts the gold and bronze articles for Tabernacle worship, all she can look forward to is a life of women’s work—work she finds uninteresting and confusing. But no one can keep her from dreaming. She imagines becoming a leader among women like her hero Miriam. That all changes when the dashing Pallu wins her heart.

Trek through the years of exodus with Zamri as, within the strictures of Israel’s patriarchal society, she grows into mature womanhood. Discover with her how dreams need never die, indeed can come true in the most unlikely ways.

Yes, the seven and one half-year project has finally been completed! My first entry in the notebook where I kept the journal of this book is dated January 7, 2013. Interestingly, it’s almost exactly eight years since I launched Destiny’s Hands (I received the boxes of books of that title on July 4, 2012).

Receiving boxes of product will probably not be the case with Under the Cloud, as I have been unable to place an order for author copies with Amazon. They are not shipping author copies to Canada during the Covid-19 pandemic *sigh.*

However, they do send out purchased paperback copies to Canada, and of course the Kindle edition is available as an instant download.

If you decide to purchase, I hope you enjoy. Then would you be so kind as to write a review—on Amazon, or your blog, or wherever? That would be hugely appreciated!