Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Some Australian book reviews

I am going to include a review or two on my blog on a regular basis. As material by Australian Christians often remains under-highlighted by shops, this will be my main focus. I've always referred to reviews to help me decide whether or not to buy a particular book and I'm really looking forward to getting started. Today I'll begin with a novel and a book of devotions.

STREETS ON A MAP by Dale Harcombe
Abby, a successful singer in metropolitan Sydney, marries Joel and moves to Astley, the country town he was raised in. Feeling shunned by the locals and at a loss for things to do, she must get creative. Before long, Abby discovers that life in the small town holds more in store than she ever anticipated.

Astley turns out to be a paradigm of the wider world. Normal people lead lives of quiet heroism. Every day is full of noble gestures that may go unnoticed in the grand scheme of events, yet have the power and potential to change the lives of others. A deliberately lit fire, a baby's early delivery, a brand new business, the return of an estranged sister and a cold-blooded attack are just some of the issues dealt with in the story.

As the characters are all honest, regular, down-to-earth people, it's no stretch of the imagination for readers to see that we too, may be a source of huge blessings. It is a story of how small ripples may have more far-reaching effects in our sphere of influence than we may imagine. Beautiful reflections about relationships and the Australian lifestyle make "Streets on a Map" the sort of book that helps us to realize the value of what we have. I found myself refreshed with a renewed sense of optimism and contentment by the finish.

THANKFUL FOR DISHES by Narelle Nettelbeck
This is a book of 1oo devotions for busy mothers. Narelle Nettelbeck understands how worn out women can become as we try to juggle many different aspects of daily life at once. She also knows that the encouragement we need to fulfill our roles is sometimes a long time coming and has taken it upon herself to fill the gap. Each of these devotions is pure gold, never condemning but always convicting in a very gentle way.

They have also helped to transform my vocabulary. Things I once called "mundane" have now become "noble". It's a book that lives up to its title. I never thought I'd say this, but as I read I found that I truly was thankful for my dishes.

Next week I will review the following novels
Mary's Guardian - Carol Preston

African Hearts - Laura O'Connell

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My heart for "Best Forgotten"

"Best Forgotten" is my brand new fiction title. I've loved the challenge of writing every single one of my novels but in this one, I've tried to weave together elements of mystery, suspense and redemption in a way I've never done before.

A young accident victim wakes up in hospital and can't remember who he is. He finds that not only does he have nothing in common with his family but he develops an aversion to the person he used to be. He just can't understand or relate to the way he used to behave or the choices he made. The more he learns about himself, the more puzzled and upset he feels.

He finds out that his best friend had disappeared without a trace on the night of his own accident. The more he tries to investigate, the more likely it appears that he was involved in something really shady. And he's terrified that something bad is after him. So he's torn between wanting to find out and being terrified that he'll have to face horrible consequences when he does.

When you, readers, find out the mystery, hopefully you'll let out a dramatic gasp and cry out, "Oh wow, I never saw that one coming!" That was my intention, anyway :)

As a theme, I've been fascinated for a long time by the relationship between our thinking patterns and what we make of our lives. How much is a person's personality shaped by their sum of experiences? To what extent do the thoughts we choose make us into the people we are? Do the small, apparently random choices we make during our daily lives have the impact to come back when least expected and influence the rest of our lives?

I love it when a work of fiction not only entertains readers but changes us at the core too, by getting us to think about how what we've read within the pages may also have bearing on our own lives and apply to us. These are the stories we like to remember, lend to others and call really special. It's a quest I've tried to take seriously. Novelists have the responsibility to readers to offer the very best and that's what I hope I've achieved.

When you visit your local Koorong store, please remember to pick up "Best Forgotten" (I couldn't resist the chance to work in this pun.) It is also available from other good regional Christian bookstores. Please remember "Best Forgotten" when you're wondering what present to give a book-loving friend. Its plot and theme should be of wide general appeal. If you've ever read and enjoyed any of my books before, I'm appealing to you to get hold of a copy of this, because readers have a responsibility toward authors too. If Koorong don't make good sales, they will not buy any of my future titles :( That would make me very sad because I'd have to stop writing :( Hopefully it would make some of you sad too. But I won't worry about that happening because I trust people will remember "Best Forgotten" and my other titles too.

For Aussie and international readers alike, the book is also available directly from my website, www.appleleafbooks.com and also from Amazon.com.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ashes under the soles of our feet (Part 1)

"The Sun of Righteousness will dawn on those who honor my name, healing radiating from its wings. You will be bursting with energy like colts, frisky and frolicking. And you'll tromp on the wicked. They'll be nothing but ashes under your feet on that day." Malachi 4: 2-3, The Message.

Firstly, I don't think 'the wicked' is necessarily referring only to people or even spiritual forces who stand against us. Adverse circumstances which we hate - sickness, feeling hampered from moving forward into our personal mission, anything that causes us to feel downcast and unhappy, I can quite easily consider 'wicked.' Agents that cause it may be human, spiritual or a combination. Anything that takes away our joy can fit the description, for the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Secondly, whenever I am worn out, physically, mentally or spiritually, and take time to sit back and figure out why, I often discover I've been unconsciously thinking if I don't take certain actions, all will be lost! Hopes and dreams will gurgle down the plughole! Health will deteriorate. Children will go to seed and become undisciplined. I walk around feeling as if holding everything together depends on me. Imagine a person who sets their face, believing that they can walk into the heart of a cyclone with arms outstretched, attempting to ward it off single-handed. Or think of Atlas, walking forever hunched and bowed beneath the weight of the whole world. That describes my attitude at times.

It explains the ache in my shoulders and neck, trembling in my limbs, churning in my stomach and intense fatigue in my whole spirit. At times I am exhausted with a 'fighting' mentality I am not supposed to have. I know the Bible refers to Christians as 'mighty warriors' but that is in Christ, not in our own strength.

So I started to ponder the passage above from the Book of Malachi. We all know ashes collapse with the tiniest contact. We hardly need to touch them, let along pound, prod, bash and attack, as is our natural instinct. Not only do they immediately collapse but they disintegrate into such a fine, grey powder that nothing remains. They may appear to be deceptively solid. After a BBQ or camp fire has finished, we see rock-like structures in the cold embers retaining their shape, but when we touch them they disintegrate into fine ash. The solid appearance was merely an illusion.

So is this passage from Malachi telling us that the 'wickedness' we perceive in our lives, these problems may be the same? What an incredible feeling of release we should feel if this is true. How do we come to a place where we can laugh at daily problems that are a part of life and treat them as the ashes we are told they are?

That will be the subject of my next post (Part 2) Remember, I've resolved not to make my blog posts too long :D I'll catch you in a few days.