Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill

Hey, friends! It’s no secret how much I love books. You can usually find me in the middle of one of these activities:

  1. Reading a book
  2. Talking about a book I’m reading
  3. Talking about a book I want to read.

Plus, English majors tend to be really into stories, so I call it using my bachelor’s degree.

Anyway, today I want to share about a brand-new book I read a few weeks ago: Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill. I’ve shared about several of her books on the blog over the years (The Lost Girl of Astor StreetThe Revised Life of Ellie SweetThe Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet, and Throwing Stones), so it’s an honor to get to do it again!

First, I’ll share the book’s synopsis, then I’ll post my review and info about the author andhow you can get a copy! Happy reading!

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About the book:

When Evalina Cassano and Taichi Hamasaki are torn apart by the events following the attack on Pearl Harbor, they must fight if they want any hope of returning to one another before World War II steals their future together. Within These Lines is one unflinching, haunting, historical novel you don’t want to miss; perfect for fans of Monica Hesse, Ruta Sepetys, and Elizabeth Wein.

Evalina Cassano’s life in an Italian-American family living in San Francisco in 1941 is quiet and ordinary until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. Despite the scandal it would cause and that inter-racial marriage is illegal in California, Evalina and Taichi vow they will find a way to be together. But anti-Japanese feelings erupt across the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Taichi and his family are forced to give up their farm and move to a Japanese-American internment camp.

Degrading treatment makes life at Manzanar Relocation Center difficult. Taichi’s only connection to the outside world is treasured letters from Evalina. Feeling that the only action she can take to help Taichi is to speak out against injustice, Evalina becomes increasingly vocal at school and at home. Meanwhile, inside Manzanar, fighting between different Japanese-American factions arises. Taichi begins to doubt he will ever leave the camp alive.

With tensions running high and their freedom on the line, Evalina and Taichi must hold true to their ideals and believe in their love to make a way back to each other against unbelievable odds.

My Thoughts: 

IMG_8177.jpegIn December 1941, Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor, officially bringing the United States into World War II. As fear spread through the nation, the U.S. government forced Japanese Americans to leave their homes, jobs, friends, and lives behind and enter internment camps. 

Set against this historical backdrop of turmoil, fear, and racism, Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill tells a heart-rending, yet beautiful story of love that perseveres, even when all else is against it. 

Though Evalina Cassano and Taichi Hamasaki are fictional, their lives pulse with such compelling authenticity that you forget – even if for a moment – they’re characters in a novel and not living,breathing souls. 

Yet their story of hope in the face of utter darkness and their courage to fight for what is right is inspiring. Even though this story takes place many decades in the past, it rings with timeless truths about the dangers of letting fear dictate our decisions, and reminds us of the value and dignity of all human life. That’s a message as needed today as it was in 1942. 

This story gripped me from page one. By the time I read the final line, I’d not only learned more about our country’s history – and events that did affect real people – but I was also reminded of the importance of acknowledging the truth of where we’ve been so that we can  live justly and love our neighbors today. 

I believe that’s a testament to the power of stories like Within These Lines. 

About the Author: 

Stephanie Morrill Low ResStephanie Morrill lives in Overland Park, Kansas, with her husband and three kids. She is the author of The Lost Girl of Astor Street, The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book, and the Ellie Sweet series. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, GoTeenWriters.comTo connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out StephanieMorrill.com

 

Within These Lines is available from all major book retailers.

Uncategorized

God Breathes

Something shifts
on the sixth day.
God spun the universe
into being by His Word.

But now
He bends down,
breathes life into dust.
Love into smallest substance.

Breath into flesh
meant to fill the earth
with beating hearts,
breathing lungs,
songs of praise.

But in the breadth of a breath,
teeth sink into pride.
Tasting glory,
swallowing mortality.
Baring souls
bearing shame.

The One who
set earth on its path
calls prophets to proclaim
the God-breathed Word.

He’ll crush the head,
snuff the breath
of the serpent of death
by His own death.

Mighty God is on His way.
Mysteries of the ages
will unravel
in the swaddling cloths
of a child.

But first,
centuries
of aching,
waiting,
longing.

 

Silence.

 

A virgin
overshadowed
by sovereignty,
conceiving divinity.
Accepting a plan
to usher in
The Promise.

A girl carrying
the King of Kings,
breathless
as all of history contracts
in a single moment.

On the manger floor
a baby enters the world
to save the world
and the Hope of the World
inhales oxygen.

Breath of life
from the Bread of Life
declaring life
to all who were condemned
to death.

The Son of God takes
a first breath
in a barn.
An infant’s cry
splits the skies
and breaks the silence.

The Word made flesh
bends down,
into the dust
to serve those He made
from dust.

A splintered cross
displays the One born
King of the Jews.
A man nailed to
beams and struggling
to draw air.

God breathes
one final time.
The earth quakes,
darkness falls.

The Lord of all
gives it all.
The Lamb slaughtered
for the sins of the world.

Three days in a grave,
lifeless.
Until lungs inhale
oxygen.

 

God breathes.

 

Something shifts
on the third day.
God spun the universe
into being by His Word.

But now
He conquers death.
Once-for-all battle
in a grave.

Breath of life
from the Bread of Life
declaring life
to all who were condemned
to death.

A promise of
a future restored,
a King to reign
on a throne forever.

Recorded on pages
passed down
through generations
as an invitation
to believe in
a God who breathes.

 

 

 

Christmas, Uncategorized

From the Beginning

Their mouths are still sticky from the fruit when God goes for a walk in the garden.

They hide behind leaves, leaving behind friendship with their Creator in exchange for deception.

What was good and pure and holy moments ago is now a source of shame.

“He’s coming! Hurry! Hide!”

“Adam, where are you?”

“Stay quiet. Maybe He won’t see us.”

“Adam, come out.”

They slowly step out from the maze of trees, the man made from dust and the woman made from his side. Space now between them.

“I heard you coming and I hid because I was afraid and naked.”

“Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat the fruit I told you not to touch?”

The man glances over at the one sculpted from his own flesh and bone. “This woman you gave me. She told me to eat it.”

She dips her head, letting her hair curtain her face.

God turns to her. “What did you do, Eve?”

“That serpent tricked me.”

The serpent lurks in the shadows, his eyes gleaming.

God sees him and says, “Because you did this, you are more cursed than any other creature. For as long as you live, you will slide on the ground, eating dust. I’m putting hostility between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

***

The first chapter of the true story of the world is beautiful. Breathe deeply and you can smell the sweetness of the flowers. Listen carefully and you can hear a brook trickling through the garden. Tilt your head and feel the warmth of the afternoon sun on your face. Taste the pure, clean air.

Then turn the page. Feel the chill race down your spine as the serpent wraps himself around the tree. Let your nose burn as you inhale the aroma of the freshly-bitten fruit. Feel your eyes open wide as you realize your humanity. Feel shame flood your face as you realize God is coming.

The story is now stained with sin. Darkened by deception. Hiding and lies are a part of the plot, and the earth is cursed.

But notice.

Even in the curse, there is a promise.

He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.

It’s called the Protoevangelium: The First Gospel. The first time we learn that rescue will come.

Eve’s offspring will crush Satan. It will be a painful, long journey, but He will come to overcome evil. Thousands of years will drag on as the consequences of that garden choice spiral deeper and deeper into darkness.

But then, after centuries of prophets declaring this is not the end, Eve’s consequence is lived out in the body of a young woman. With great pain, a baby is born.

In a small town, in a room where animals sleep, the Offspring breathes for the first time. His tiny heart beats wildly and color fills His face as His skin meets the chill of the outside world.

They wrap him tightly in strips of cloth and they lay him in a feeding trough because there’s nowhere clean for them to go.

The baby gradually falls asleep.

The enemy lurks in the shadows, but the promise will not be broken.

Every scraped knee the baby will feel as he grows, every bloody nose, every time a bully taunts, the promise remains.

And then one day, it will look like the curse wins, like the serpent’s offspring has crushed the woman’s offspring for good.

They strike him and spit on him. They strip his clothes from him, and a crown of thorns crushes his head.

“If you were really God, he would save Yourself!”

“Let’s see what kind of King you are now!”

“Don’t you have angels who could come down to help you?”

Then they stretch his arms across wooden beams and drive nails into His hands to hold Him in place.

They raise the cross.

His heart breaks.

He dies.

For 3 days, He is lifeless. Cold. Unmoving.

Then…

Life pumps through His veins, His heart beats, and He crushes the enemy’s head.

The promise wins.

Way back in the garden, we had a taste of what would come.

Now death, shame, and fear are defeated.

Through one man, death entered into the world. Through another, life.

Through one woman, pain entered the world. Through another, the promise.

His name is Jesus.

Come out of hiding and come to the One who paid the price your sin demanded. He gave His life so we would never have to experience death or be forever separated from Him.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned…Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come.

But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.

And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.

For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.” – Romans 5:12-19

This was the promise from the beginning.

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Uncategorized

Summer Book Recommendations

If you’re a bookworm like me, you look forward to reading by the pool or with your toes in the sand at the beach. You get excited about reading for fun, and you basically inhale any good story you can get your hands on.

But you may find yourself 1) Overwhelmed by all of the choices or 2) Not sure where to find a good book. So I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you. These are books I’m constantly recommending. They’re all YA, which means the main characters are teens and the dialogue is quippy and honest.

So here’s five books/series I keep going back to whenever I want something fun to read.

After you browse this list, leave a comment with your own recommendations! I’m always  looking for the next good book!

1. The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

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I posted about this one a few months ago, so click here to read my thoughts on it! It’s a must-read if you’re into the 1920’s, mysteries, and a touch of romance.

2. There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. JonesImage result for there you'll find me

I’ve read this one probably four or five times, and I’m about to read it again. It takes place in Ireland and is told from the perspective of Finley Sinclair – a flawed and funny narrator with some big-time heartache to work through. I love this one not only because of how Jones makes the beauty of Ireland come alive on the page, but also because of the realistic/relatable narrator, humor, and message of redemption.

3. The Selection series by Kiera Cass

Image result for the selection series

I read the first three books awhile ago, and recently read the final two in the series. Now I’m reading my way through a novella collection that lets you peek into the lives of some of the supporting characters. Set in a world post-America, the series is like a teen version of The Bachelor with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Plus, there’s nothing in them that’ll make you squirm or want to wash your eyeballs. Kiera Cass is a brilliant storyteller, and you’ll find yourself wishing there was a sixth book in the series.

4. The Christy Miller series by Robin Jones Gunn

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Or, let’s be honest, anything by Robin Jones Gunn. The Christy Miller series began before I was born – back in the late 80’s – and they’re still going strong. Follow Christy from the summer she turns 15 into adulthood. The most recent book in the collection (pictured above) just released, and I inhaled it in one evening. Plus, a couple of Christy’s friends get their own series, and they’re all so good. This is one of my all-time favorites.

5. The Merciful Scar by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue 

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For a more serious, yet deeply moving story, The Merciful Scar is a must-read. Heartbreak and pain are interwoven with messages of hope, redemption, and mercy. It’s beautifully written with a narrator whose story will grip you.

I reviewed this one when it released a few years ago, so click here to read more.

Uncategorized

Currently…

Happy beginning of summer, friends! Unless it’s not summer break for you yet. In that case: HANG IN THERE, BUDDY!

I just finished my second year of seminary. One more year, and I’ll have a Master’s Degree! I also recently had that quarter century birthday, so now I’m solidly in the mid-twenties and that’s something.

Since it’s been a while, I thought I’d do another “currently” post to summarize some of what’s been going on recently. After you read this, let me know what you’ve been up to in the comments section – I’d love to catch up!

Watching…

  • Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I believe this is my fifth time through (don’t even get me started…), but it’s my mom’s first time watching it. She finished up the original series this Spring, so I’m watching the new episodes with her.

Reading…

  • Fiction! I went to the library with a friend last week and came home with a stack of YA novels. I have my favorites I usually re-read in the summer, but this year, I’m trying not to do that. There’s just so much to read, and I’ve been buried in books for school all semester. I’m about to start reading The Heir by Kierra Cass since I read The Selection series last summer.

Drinking…

  • Hot peppermint tea with almond milk. Guys, this has become part of my nightly routine. A woman in my Bible study group at church introduced me to this, and I’ve been hooked. You put your teabag in a mug, then pour in a little almond milk, then add the hot water. Give it five minutes, stir, and voila. It’s amazing. It also makes me fall asleep, which is why I save it for the evening.

Preparing…

  • For my sister Abby’s wedding! We’ve got bachelorette shenanigans going down this weekend, then the wedding in a couple of weeks! It’s gotta stop raining around here so I can not be super pale in that bridesmaid dress…

Discussing…

  • Wedding stuff. Abby’s, not mine (if it were my wedding you would’ve known before now, for sure).  There’s a lot of wedding discussions going on right now.

Traveling…

  • To Europe in a few weeks with some friends! I’ll share more about that later, but my flights are booked, my passport is waiting, and I am SO EXCITED!

Praying…

  • About what’s next after grad school. I know what my heart loves, and I know what I’m called to do, so I’m asking the Lord to direct my steps in the right direction.

How about you? What are you watching/reading/praying about/etc.?

Uncategorized

The Sound of Emeralds Birthday Blog Tour & GIVEAWAY!

unnamed.jpgToday I have the privilege of participating in The Sound of Emeralds birthday blog tour, as we celebrate The Sound of Emerald’s birthday!

The Sound of Emeralds is the third book in the Steadfast Love series by Rachelle Rea Cobb – click here to read my post about the other two books in the series!

In this post, you’ll get a peak into Emeralds, learn more about the author, and have the opportunity to enter a giveaway for a chance to win all three books in the series!

Let’s get started…

About the Steadfast Love Series

In 16th-century Europe, the Reformation rages between Protestants and Catholics.
Gwyneth, half-Dutch, flees from England to Holland to escape the man who murdered her parents. When he follows her there and insists he came to rescue her, will she trust this man called Dirk? When tragedy strikes, will their steadfast love erode?

About The Sound of Emeralds 

Image result for the sound of emeralds rachelle reaWhat once was blazing hatred has turned to lasting love, but could the union of a wild heart with that of a lady ever result in more than heartache? With the help of an old friend with uncertain loyalties, Dirk inches ever closer to clearing his name. Gwyneth throws her faith into good tidings and the promise of a future as a family. But an old evil comes to call, just as tragedy rips apart a fledgling truce. Enemies from the past and grief for the future threaten to tear asunder what God had brought together…

As the date of Dirk’s trial approaches, his fate and his family hang in the balance. Will he be proven innocent of Gwyneth’s parents’ murders—or separated from her forever? How much pain does it take to erode a love steadfast?

Find The Sound of Emeralds on…
Amazon Paperback: http://is.gd/F53u5R
Kindle: http://is.gd/F53u5R
Barnes & Noble: http://is.gd/RguS9l
Books a Million: http://is.gd/NdMWGr
Goodreads: http://is.gd/zRI9dg

About the Author

Times gone by snatch Rachelle Rea Cobb close, so she reads and writes aboutRachelle Rea
years long ago– her passions include the Reformation, Revolutions, and romance.
Rachelle wrote the Steadfast Love series during college. Five months after she
graduated, she signed a three-book deal with her dream publisher, WhiteFire. She’s
a homeschool grad, Oreo addict, and plots her novels while driving around her dream car, a pick-up truck. In June 2016, she married a man with the same name as her fictional hero, and they live happily ever after in Small Town, South. She is also the author of Write Well, a guide for writers, which released on March 4th!

Author Links 

Interview with the Author

1. When and where did you first get the idea for the Steadfast Love Series?

A song I was listening to on the radio inspired the title of the first book. So I wrote Diamonds, but when I finished it, I realized to my great frustration that the characters weren’t done with their story, even though I had been quite adamant that I would write a stand-alone novel. But the story wasn’t finished, so I kept writing.

2. Readers often pick out favorite quotes from a novel. Do you have a favorite of your own from The Sound of Silver?

Yes! In fact, my friend Mindy, a calligrapher, even created a beautiful piece of art from one of my favorite quotes: “Within the pages of books one’s heart can be revealed.”

3. Can you tell us what first drew you to writing Inspirational Historical Romance?

My first exposure to the genre came when I read Heartsong Presents novels when I was twelve. Those small books introduced me to how much I believe in the power of story, especially love stories set in times gone by.

4. I saw on your website that you also write reviews, articles and offer editing services. What’s one of your favorite things beyond writing novels that you enjoy?

Editing is such fun! I daresay I enjoy editing a page full of my own (or others’!) words just as much as I enjoy splashing words onto a blank page. I recently released my first nonfiction book, Write Well, which is a short ebook designed as a guide writers!

Enter the Giveaway! 

Displaying Emeralds.pngEnter using the Rafflecopter form below to signed copies of ALL THREE of Rachelle’s novels. The whole series, signed!

International friends, this giveaway is open to continental U.S. addresses only (sorry!). But do still enter, because one international winner will also be chosen to receive all three e-books.

Follow the link to go to the giveaway:  a Rafflecopter Giveaway

Thank you, friends, for stopping by today! Go ahead and grab your copies of the Steadfast Love books, and you’ll be all ready for reading by the pool this summer :)
– Anna

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

The Lost Girl of Astor Street Clue Hunt: Clue #16

Hey, friends! If you’re looking for the next piece of the puzzle in The Lost Girl of Astor Street Clue Hunt, you’ve come to the right place!

Not sure what this is about? Click here to get started! (There’s a prize involved!)

Stick around for my review of the book, more info about the story, and clue #16!

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“I am many things, Detective Cassano, but safe isn’t one of them.” – Piper Sail

My Review 

Q: What do you get when you mix a strong female protagonist, the Roaring 20’s, and the Chicago mafia scene?

A: The Lost Girl of Astor Street, a story that will immerse you in the world of Piper Sail as she tries to solve the mystery of what happened to her best friend. Hold onto your cloche – it’s a wild ride.

The 1920s are fascinating. Flappers, jazz, speakeasies, and the likes of Al Capone all color this time period. And that’s where you’ll find Piper Sail, a tenacious eighteen-year-old determined to find answers to all of the secrets swirling around her.

Stephanie Morrill brings Piper’s world to life through vivid description and a keen eye for historical detail. The story grabs you and won’t let go, but the setting of 1924 Chicago – both the glamorous and the gritty – is enough to keep you reading. Even the dialogue is reflective of the time period.

The characters are unique and well-developed, and the plot will keep you guessing as you try to solve the mystery alongside Piper.

Lost Girl gives readers a perfect blend of suspense, humor, and romance throughout the story, which is realistic yet doesn’t include any iffy language or content.

I’m a big fan of all of Morrill’s books, but she outdoes herself with this one. It’s become one of my favorites, and I highly recommend it. I hope this isn’t the last we hear from Piper Sail!

“To love anyone is to risk.” – Piper’s father

About the book 

Lydia has vanished.
Lydia, who’s never broken any rules, except falling in love with the wrong boy. Lydia, who’s been Piper’s best friend since they were children. Lydia, who never even said good-bye.
Convinced the police are looking in all the wrong places, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail begins her own investigation in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. With the reluctant help of a handsome young detective, Piper goes searching for answers in the dark underbelly of 1924 Chicago, determined to find Lydia at any cost.
When Piper discovers those answers might stem from the corruption strangling the city—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.
From the glitzy homes of the elite to the mob-run streets of 1920s Chicago, Stephanie Morrill’s jazz-age mystery shows just how far a girl will go to save her friend.

About the author

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Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids.

Website: www.stephaniemorrill.com
Facebook: facebook.com/StephanieMorrillAuthor
Twitter: @StephMorrill
Instagram: @StephanieMorrill

The clue 

Are you ready for the next clue? I thought so!

Clue #16 is…

NOT

There you go! Good luck on the rest of the hunt!

Blog stops

Here’s the complete list of stops along the clue hunt! Make sure you stop by each blog to collect all of the Lost Girl clues and be entered to win the prize!

Clue 1: Stephanie Morrill
Clue 2: Some Books Are
Clue 3: Gabriella Slade
Clue 4: Page by Page, Book by Book
Clue 5: Pens and Scrolls
Clue 6: Singing Librarian Books
Clue 7: Heather Manning
Clue 8: Annie Louise Twitchell
Clue 9: Noveling Novelties
Clue 10: Kaitee Hart
Clue 11: Classics and Craziness
Clue 12: Zerina Blossom
Clue 13: Rebecca Morgan
Clue 14: Keturah’s Korner
Clue 15: That Book Gal
Clue 16: Anna Schaeffer
Clue 17: Hadley Grace
Clue 18: Lydia Howe
Clue 19: Ramblings by Bethany
Clue 20: Matilda Sjöholm
Clue 21: Lydia Carns
Clue 22: Broken Birdsong
Clue 23 & Clue 24: The Ink Loft
Clue 25: Roseanna M. White