In 2005, Allison starting blogging to track the ups and downs of living life as an artist.
Today, she blogs to share our Infinitely More adventures in music and ministry! 
Read, comment, share! 

Book Review: Come Back To Me, by Jody Hedlund 


Historical Fiction meets Time Travel? 
Yes, please!

Welcome to my latest book review:

Come Back to Me, by Jody Hedlund

By the way, how's your reading going in this season? Some people haven't been able to read a thing since the pandemic hit. Others, like me, can't devour books quickly enough! But, I digress...


Come Back to Me introduces us to Marian Creighton - a super-smart, fact-based, workaholic research scientist. Marian has a limited social life, a sister she adores, and a complicated relationship with her father. Marian's mother tragically died from an incurable genetic condition, the same condition that now ravages her sister's body. Marian's scientist father had abandoned traditional research to pour himself into a search for a mythical cure with ties to a particular stream of holy water and the Biblical Tree of Life. When Marian accidentally ingests a few drops of the water, she finds herself coming face to face with the Middle Ages, the Peasants' Revolt, and a handsome knight.

This book was so much fun to read! It's actually my first time travel book, and I loved the blending of science fiction with historical fiction. One of the things I love most about historical fiction is leaving the book to deep dive into the real historical facts. I knew very little about the Peasants Revolt of 1381, so it was fascinating digging into that chapter of history.

I also loved these characters! Seeing modern, scientific, feminist Marian navigate the rough, superstitious, patriarchal world of the Middle Ages was fantastic. The danger and challenges of this fish-out-of-water story always felt grounded and realistic. I don't want to reveal too much about Marian's mysterious knight - Jody does a perfect job of unfolding his story!


Come Back To Me blends themes of history, science, faith, romance, 
and mystery to create a true romp of a book!


Jody Hedlund is so prolific! 
Her website is filled with lots of extras and bonuses for her many novels. 
You can find videos and even a free preview of Come Back to Me on her site:

http://jodyhedlund.com/books/come-back-to-me/





Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Book Review: Writers on Writing, by Kimberley Payne 

 

Last year, I joined Inscribe Christian Writers' Fellowship to be part of a national writing community. 

In addition to finding lots of writing opportunities and inspiration, it's also been a great way to discover new books! 
When Kimberley Payne started talking about her new book, I knew I wanted to read and review it.

Writers On Writing - Interviews With Writers of Faith is a collection of writer profiles compiled from the Koinonia community. This Medium-based publication features "stories by Christian writers to encourage, entertain, and empower you in your faith, food, fitness, family, friendship, and fun." The editors have been hosting interviews with their 350+ contributors to provide a "snapshot into the lives of writers of faith." This collection features 35 interviews from this series.


The writers represent a wide spectrum of ages, backgrounds, nationalities, and experience levels. Their common ground is a love of both writing and the Gospel.

Each writer was asked such questions as: 

- What inspires you? 
- What do you like most/least about writing?
- How do you balance professional time with personal time?
- What makes you unique?
- How is your faith reflected in your writing?

Owing to the original online format, many of the answers to these questions are quite short. This isn't a collection of long form essays on writing. It is, however, a wonderful collection of writer profiles, emphasizing the diversity and passion of Christian writers. The answers are straightforward and honest. You can easily read the whole book in a day, or read an interview a day for a month's worth of inspiration. Some will connect with you more than others (as is the case in any collection), but every interview has some gem that you'll want to underline and bookmark for further reflection.


I think this would be an especially fantastic book for the newer writer of faith - 
either for the writer to buy, or for a supportive friend to offer as a gift! 


You can learn more about Kimberley Payne at https://www.kimberleypayne.com

You can follow the Koinonia community at https://medium.com/koinonia 



I was offered a complimentary e-copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. 

Book Review: On The Cliffs of Foxglove Manor, by Jaime Jo Wright 


Friends, I have discovered a new genre of novel:

Historical-Creepy-Ghost-Story-Sleep-With-Your-Nightlight-On-Christian Fiction!

On The Cliffs of Foxglove Manor, by Jaime Jo Wright, is spooky, Romantic, and enthralling Gothic tale! 


We open in 1885 (I feel like half the books I've read in 2021 open in that decade!) and meet Adria - a broken young woman, sent on an impossible quest by her domineering father. We also meet Foxglove Manor - a haunted, secret-filled mansion perched on the cliffs of Lake Superior. 

Our second timeline is present day. Kailey and her autistic brother, Jude, have their own history with Foxglove Manor. They arrive at the front door to work and live in the private-manor-turned-nursing-home with a secret mission to unravel their own complicated past. 

What follows is an epic tale inspired by the real-life legends of missing and smuggled Confederate gold. The past and present storylines weave together to tell a wild and gripping mystery inhabited by engaging characters. Jaime Jo's writing hits a great balance between poetic, romantic descriptions and nail-biting, page turning urgency.


I read this book on our front porch in the middle of a heat wave. 
In an ideal reading world, I'd read it by a stormy lake, with a cup of hot tea in my decanter...

Wherever you find yourself, pick up a copy of On The Cliffs of Foxglove Manor 
and let yourself be swept away!


Jaime Jo is really fun to follow on social media, and her site is filled with all kinds of treasures. 
For On The Cliffs of Foxglove Manor, she's created a whole page of videos, image downloads, 
and even a FREE book club kit!

You can access all the freebies here:






Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.




Book Review: Yours Is The Night, by Amanda Dykes 


 I literally turned the final page, 
looked at my husband, and said, 

"I want to turn back to page one 
and start this book all over again..."


So, yes, you're about to read a ga-ga lovesick review for
Yours Is The Night. 


I was so excited when I found out Amanda Dykes was about to release a new historical fiction! Her 2020 release, Set The Stars Alight, was one of my favourite books of last year. I also loved her 2019 seaside tale, Whose Waves These Are. I'm so thankful to the folks at Nuts About Books for sending me an advance copy of Yours Is The Night!

We open with an unusual ceremony - choosing the casket for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A fascinating, brief moment in history, that quickly spins us back in time to the trenches of WWI. 

We're introduced to five vibrant and diverse characters who meet in the final year of the war. Matthew - the "horse whisperer" who has never really had a home. Jasper - the professional soldier with a heartbreaking past. Henry - the reporter tasked with sharing the war with the world back home. George - the unspiritual chaplain who would do anything to avoid the front. And Mireilles - the "Angel" who brings hope to the hopeless, while struggling to find a path for herself. 

When Mireilles is found hidden in the depths of the woods, the soldiers are tasked with delivering her to safety. Our friends embark on a journey that will challenge their notions of duty, love, self, God, and friendship. 

Yours Is The Night has everything I love about a great novel! Every aspect, from story to characters to dialogue, is fantastic. The history feels authentically researched and executed. Our characters take turns narrating different chapters in first person. Each voice is unique and distinct. It's a wonderful narrative device, giving us a fully-rounded perspective of the story and relationships.  


Amanda is somehow able to weave together the genres of romance, historical fiction, spiritual journey, road trip, and buddy movie to create a novel that rings true on every emotional level.


And her writing is just breathtaking! I turned down pages and underlined countless sentences simply because I love the way they are written. I read most of the book on my front porch, and I kept having to lift my head to remind myself that I was safe in the sunshine of my neighbourhood and not smothered in the chilly darkness of the trenches. 


I wasn't kidding, either - 
I did finish this book and debated just turning back to page one 
and starting over again. It's that good! 

Yours Is The Night honours the sacrifice of the men and women 
who fought in The Great War by telling a fictional story that captures 
the essence of their very real experience. 

It's somehow both escapism and realism, and it's truly wonderful. 


In addition to her site, Amanda has a great social media presence. Her Facebook page is filled with all kinds of images and behind the scenes info from her WWI research. You can check it all out here:

https://www.facebook.com/authoramandadykes


Amanda showing some "trench art" - a feature in Yours Is The Night.
Taken from her Facebook page.


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.



Book Review: Redeeming Power, by Diane Langberg 

Confession time: 
It took me a long time to read this book, but it was more than worth it. 

"Redeeming Power: 
Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church" 
by Dr. Diane Langberg

What a title! I love the combination of the words Redeeming and Power - it was the rest of that title that I found so intimidating. I don't know anyone working in the Church who hasn't, at one time or another, felt the pain of someone in authority acting abusive, myself included.

I knew this was going to be a hard read. 
I was right, but simply put, what an incredible and important book. 

Langberg's focus isn't simply on the abuse of power, but specifically, abuse perpetrated by Christians in leadership and the Church as an institution. These opening lines set the tone:


"Power can be a source of blessing, but when it is abused, untold damage to the body and name of Christ, often in the name of Christ, is done."

 

From here, Langberg explores three main areas:

- Power Defined
- Power Abused
- Power Redeemed

It probably doesn't surprise anyone that Power Abused is the longest and most extensive section of the book. Throughout these chapters, we explore physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuses perpetrated by individuals and systems. All the abuses are based in misused power, and many are defined by gender, race, and economic or social status. These are truly difficult chapters to read. For some, these chapters may trigger difficult memories. For others, the chapters may inspire a "me too" moment of solidarity.

Langberg's writing is full of compassion and conviction. She pulls no punches. There's no softening to make the truth more palatable. And for her, there's one clear solution: look to God. Not the God of our own making. Not the God in our own image. The One God, who created us all in His image, and Jesus, who modelled how to lead and love without prejudice or restrictions.

Throughout my personal reading, certain stories resonated with my own experiences. But as someone in church leadership, I also tried to challenge myself: Am I being an empathetic leader? Are my prejudices and privileges affecting my leadership choices? How can I make sure my use of power reflects the love of God?


I highly recommend Redeeming Power, especially to those in church leadership.
It will make a powerful choice for a book club, Bible study, or recovery group. 

I pray this book is both a source of healing and a challenge for each of us.


Diane Langberg's site is full of additional resources, like videos, podcasts, and a blog. 
You can learn more about Redeeming Power and Langberg's valuable work with trauma victims, caregivers, and clergy at:

https://www.dianelangberg.com



Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.



Book Review: Rocky Mountain Restoration, by Lisa J. Flickinger 

Today, I'm excited to bring you a different kind of book review: 

I'm reviewing a trilogy!

As I've shared on other posts, I'm a member of InScribe Christian Writers' Fellowship. A few months ago, members were sharing their upcoming summer releases. I don't have a release, so I offered reviews.

Lisa J. Flickinger took me up on my offer. 
I didn't know if I had the time to read a whole series, 
but she had me at "Historical Fiction!"

Today, I'm reviewing Lisa's latest release, 
Rocky Mountain Restoration
from her Rocky Mountain Revival Series. 

Our saga begins with Rocky Mountain Redemption and Rocky Mountain Revelation. Both are set in the late 1800's in a Rocky Mountain logging camp. I'd never read a story set in this environment before, so I was excited to learn more about the setting and how it would affect the lives of our characters. I loved the details of the forest, the rhythm of the camp life, and the dangerous work required of the loggers. 

Each book of the trilogy is a love story, set against the social challenges and constraints of the late Victorian era. We meet our protagonists early in the stories, so we immediately know who's going to fall in love with whom. What makes it so charming is how Lisa tells the story. She alternates point of view, so in one chapter we feel our heroine's thoughts and actions, and in the next, we feel our hero's. By writing in this style, we get a complete perspective on each character, allowing us to fully understand his and her struggles, challenges, and passions. 


You can definitely read each book independently, but if you read all three, you'll meet familiar characters, and better understand some of the social and emotional dynamics.

Rocky Mountain Restoration is the third chapter of this series, and it takes us on a whole new adventure! This time, we leave the rough and tumble world of the logging camp for the genteel life of steam ship travel. We meet our new cast of characters as they cruise up the coast of British Columbia. This new world is decadent, class-based, and dramatic. Think Downton-Abbey-at-sea!

I love ocean stories, so this new setting was so perfect for me - very different from the logging camp, and so full of wonderful, historical detail. You can fully imagine the world of the ship, the dynamics between the characters, and the tension caused by living in such tight quarters.


There are two things I particularly appreciate about Lisa's writing:

One, she deals appropriately with the restrictions of the era. The Victorian times were strict. Certain etiquette was required of men and women, and those rules were heightened by class. Lisa's characters live and make their choices in that world; we never see them trying to live by today's social rulebook.

And two, her characters aren't afraid of their faith. Some have it, some question it, some have lost it, but none are afraid to talk about it. This is also appropriate to the era, when most people of this particular society would have been raised in church. These books are more overtly "Christian fiction" than most of the books I review, but the scenes of faith were never preachy, and often very moving.

If you're looking for a lovely escape to a very different world, 
I recommend tucking yourself away in a cozy reading corner with the whole 
Rocky Mountain Revival Series

Oh, and make sure you grab a snack! All of our characters are connected to the food and service industry. Between the ship's homemade egg rolls, the logger's bacon-and-egg breakfast, and the constant mention of homemade donuts, these books made me hungry! Oh, did you know loggers get something called "second lunch"??? Me neither, but I'm thinking of starting it as a family practice in our home... 


You can learn more about Lisa J. Flickinger and the Rocky Mountain Revival Series at

http://www.lisajflickinger.com





 

No Clear Path to Reopening for Musicians 


For months, I’ve been terrified of “The Gap”
that time between the world returning to normal and musicians returning to work.


For the last decade, my husband, Gerald Flemming, and I have toured Canada with our inspirational duo, Infinitely More. Each year, we pack our car with guitars, gear, and CDs to bring live music from St. Catharines, ON, to every corner of the country. We’ve performed thousands of events, recorded 8 studio albums, and racked up a handful of national music awards.

That was, until 2020. We spent our first weeks of lockdown cancelling concerts, including our 10th Anniversary Cross Canada Tour. Lost income, lost creativity, lost community - it broke our hearts.

We pivoted to creating videos and teaching online lessons. We received a Canada Council for the Arts grant to take our 10th Anniversary Tour online. We partnered with the Anglican Diocese of Niagara to create our “Lenten Musical Calendar”. We started to work on our 9th studio album. 
We did our best to stay creative and connected.

17 months later, lockdowns are lifting. Vaccinations are happening. 
Businesses are reopening. Everyone is excited about the return to normal.

But for musicians, we find ourselves firmly in “The Gap”.

You see, there’s no clear path for a full-time professional musician to “reopen”. 
We’re not like other businesses. There won’t be a day when the government announces, 
“And today, artists can return to work!” 


The pathway to our re-opening is layered and complicated:

We need venues to open, but live music isn’t restricted to clubs and theatres. Thousands of performances happen in churches, parks, libraries, seniors homes, and other community spaces. Most of us can’t make a living until all venues open at full capacity.

Did you know that many concerts at churches, community centres, and even theatres are fully or partially staffed by volunteers? Before they can host a concert, venues will need to recruit volunteers, create a safe work environment, and provide special training for ever-changing restrictions and guidelines. 

For a Christian duo like Infinitely More, we need to follow the lead of local churches. Many of them still aren’t gathering in person. Some have lost members and resources along the way. It will take a period of time for them to regroup and settle into a new normal before they can take on an “extra” event like hosting a concert. 

Most full-time musicians travel. We need to consider the safety of hotels, planes, public washrooms and dine-in restaurants, in Canada and across the border. Many of us find accommodations with friends, family and billets. How comfortable will any of us feel staying in someone else’s home and eating at their table? 

The insecurity of long-range planning is a new issue. Venues of all shapes and sizes had to cancel all their 2020 programming. Many are hesitant to put events on the books until things are easier to predict. As you can imagine, this varies across the country, complicating the already-complicated world of touring. 

There’s the issue of money. How will heavy and unpredictable tour finances play out in a post-pandemic economy? Will venues be able to pay fees or guarantee ticket sales? Will audience members have extra cash for tickets or merchandise? 

As venues cancelled events last year, many artist bookings were simply deferred to 2021. That means that concert series and other commercial and community venues already have their performers secured for this year, and won't have openings for another full year.


Which leads to the most complicated part of the equation: booking events is a long game. 
There’s often a 3-12 month gap between booking a concert and the actual performance. Assuming any of us can get back to our 2019 numbers, both in terms of fees and performance schedule, that still means a 3-12 month gap before we can earn a full-time income.


This is “The Gap” I fear. 

And this is “The Gap” where we, and all full-time musicians, now find ourselves. 


There are fantastic groups on all levels working to ease this transition, create safe venues, and advocate for financial support. We’re grateful for their commitment.

As things start to open up, there’s a genuine excitement in the air. People are anxious to leave their homes, travel, and attend events. We’re hoping this means full audiences who are eager to buy tickets and CDs. 


But the simple truth is this: 
Being an artist is hard anytime, and this season has been uniquely difficult. 


Every day, social media contains yet another post by a talented musician “announcing” their new career in real estate or bookkeeping. Artists are regularly sharing testimonies of lost creativity and productivity. Our arts community has suffered and is suffering. Many won’t survive. I worry for the career artists who can’t see the next chapter, and the new artists who can’t even write their first page. 

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it’s now going to take a village to reopen the performing arts industry. We’ll need financial support for individuals, venues and organizations. We’ll need a vaccinated country that’s not living in fear of disease. We’ll need committed staff and volunteers who can safely support live performances. And we’ll need artists who are physically, emotionally, psychologically, creatively, and financially healthy.

As artists, all we want to do is make art and share it with the world. 
Art is never complete until it’s shared with an audience. 
Trust me when I say, we can’t wait to perform for you! 

Let’s hope it can happen soon ... 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *  
   

Want to help Infinitely More in "The Gap"? 

Please visit our STORE to purchase music or make a donation. 
Please CONTACT us to book live or online concerts, workshops, and worship services.



 

Guest Blogger! 

Today, I'm the guest blogger for Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship.

You can find my post HERE




Book Review: A Tapestry of Light, by Kimberly Duffy 

One of my 2021 Reading Challenges was to read a book 
"based in a country I've never read about."

Can you believe I'd never read a novel set in India??

I'm so happy A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy 
was the book to fulfil that challenge!

A Tapestry of Light opens in 1885 Calcutta. Our heroine, Ottilie, has already seen more than her share of hardship, and today is no different. We meet her at her mother's funeral. At only 20, Ottilie now bears responsibility for her grandmother and her young brother. Her physical strength and her faith in God are barely holding up.

But Ottilie has a special talent - beetle-wing embroidery. Yes, you read that correctly. Actually embroidery with beetle wings! If you love handicrafts like me, all the descriptions of this specialized artistry will make your heart swoon! I spent hours googling and drooling over photos...

Embroidery becomes a theme and a metaphor throughout this incredibly lush and romantic book. 


Beetle-wing Embroidery
Source: Wikipedia 
Ottilie is both British and Indian, simultaneously belonging to both and neither. When her family's British past shows up in an unexpected way, Ottilie must make hard decisions about her family's future. What entails is a journey through cultures, class, and racial tension. I really don't want to give away any plot points, so I'll just say I loved the way Ottilie's story unfolded! The plot kept me fully engaged, without ever sacrificing detailed descriptions of cities, clothing, and countryside. The characters are engaging and beautifully developed.

Kimberly does a great job of putting us in a very tactile world. We can taste the Indian spices, hear the sounds of the neighbourhood, and feel every breath of weather. In full disclosure, I know very little about British/Indian history. I found myself looking up words like "Cawnpore" and "Nana Sahib", but isn't that part of why we love historical fiction? The best historical fiction doesn't just give us a great story - it gives us a unique and personal glimpse into history. More often than not, we get to experience chapters of history - usually about women or the disenfranchised - that rarely make it into the history books.


At 400+ pages, A Tapestry of Light is a hefty read, but worth every moment. I loved the world of the book, the characters, the artistry, the Victorian sensibility, and yes, the beetle-wing embroidery!

Brew yourself a cup of tea, visit your local Indian bakery for a dish of rasmalai, 
and allow A Tapestry of Light to transport you to another time and place. 


Here's an offer you don't hear every day: 

If your book club is discussing one of Kimberly's books, 
she'd love to join you via Skype or Zoom! How cool is that???

For more info, please visit Kimberly's site:

KimberlyDuffy.com


This contemporary artist shares details of her creation HERE. 



Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.