Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Book Review: Lost and Found, by Sarah Jakes

Like every girl, Sarah Jakes dreamed of a life full of love, laughter, and happy endings. But her dreams changed dramatically when she became pregnant at age fourteen, a reality only compounded by the fact that her father, Bishop T.D. Jakes, was one of the most influential megachurch pastors in the nation. As a teen mom and a high-profile preacher's kid, her road was lonely. She was shunned at school, gossiped about at church. And a few years later, when a fairy-tale marriage ended in a spiral of hurt and rejection, she could have let her pain dictate her future. 

Instead, she found herself surrounded by a God she'd given up on, crashing headlong with Him into a destiny she'd never dreamed of. For the first time, she shares her captivating journey. Unflinchingly honest and deeply vulnerable, Sarah's story is a vivid reminder that God can turn even the deepest pain into His perfection.

But more than a memoir, "Lost and Found" offers hope and encouragement to women of all ages who, like Sarah, find themselves wandering the detours of a life--and shows that no matter how lost they feel, they, too, can be found.


To be honest, I picked this book up out of mere curiosity. I always ponder how people in situations different than mine handle what has been given them. I gather inspiration for my faith from the testimony of others, and I love the truth and grace and strength of God that can be found in these stories.

Before this book, I'd never heard of the Jakes family. I don't know if that's because I'm Canadian or simply because I don't have as wide a church base or knowledge, but whichever it is, I was able to come from a perspective that was fairly unaffected. 

But I didn't stay unaffected. This memoir is heart-wrenching, to say the least. Sarah is very open and honest about her sins, her need for forgiveness. She doesn't try to dismiss her behaviour, she simply tries to explain events leading up to certain situations. And in one part, she actually apologizes to a woman she hurt. While some might argue that she's merely trying to make herself look better, the point of the book is that she's not better than anyone else. As I said before, she doesn't try to hide the fact that she sinned. She doesn't glorify it, but she does make it clear that she is imperfect.

And I loved her for it. This is a great book; you truly get to see someone grow in their relationship with Christ. Even when you think things are going to be all right, she makes another mistake and you're left gritting your teeth. But also wanting to be there beside her, because you see how hurt she is and how much she desires pure love and affection.

When she finally is "found", it's refreshing: it's not because she's finally with a good Christian man who's saved her from herself. It's not because she's become perfect. It's because she's finally WITH GOD. It's the real thing, not the romantic ending of a story book--at least, not with a "Prince Charming", as Sarah says in the book.

Basically, if you enjoyed the movie Juno but did not agree with its morality, here is a Christian, TRUE LIFE version of that same tale. And my, what a tale it is!

Four stars for the book, but Five stars for this girl! Sarah Jakes, you have my deepest respect.

I received a copy of this book from the Bethany House Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for the opportunity!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Book Review: Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge

Image and summary from
Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.


Wow. This book...All right, ever since I heard about it before it came out, I wanted to read it. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite fairy tales, in all its various incarnations, and Greek mythology? What's not to love!

It's difficult to discuss this book, because none of the characters are what they seem. So I'm going to warn you now, there may be SPOILERS in this review.

One thing I adored was Hodge's writing; it packed a lot of punches and really forced you to ponder "the nature of humanity", so to speak. I liked how she delved into something I've often thought about in relation to superhero myths. Heroes are always saving the "innocents", right? Well, Hodge points out that, in reality, there are no "innocents". The people who come to bargain with the Gentle Lord, such as Nyx's father, are just as much monsters as the Gentle Lord himself. Because it's all about motivation.

Though the book's setting is rather Greek and therefore outside the Christian sphere, I noted a lot of similarities to Christian beliefs. How we "cannot pay for our own sins" (a line almost straight from the book); loving others despite their made the book spear my heart.

I have a thing against bad boys. I don't like it when heroines end up with them. However, Ignifex isn't just a bad boy. And the book had me falling for him alongside Nyx. That's all I can reveal--the book takes his character and completely sideswipes you by the end. And Nyx herself isn't some naive young woman being taken advantage of by a more experienced bad boy. No, she is the "cruel beauty" as much as Ignifex. Their relationship reminded me *SPOILERS FOR ANOTHER BOOK SERIES* much of Gen and Attolia's from Megan Whalen Turner's "The Queen's Thief" series--a HUGE compliment considering Eugenides is a major fictional crush and Attolia is such a sad, sweet, complicated mess of a woman that I just want to hug and heal.

Suffice to say, I adored this book, mainly for the twisted, complex relationship between Nyx and her husband. However, I also want to point out that this book was written in the darker, more mature vein of fairy tales. While there is nothing of an explicit nature, there is a husband/wife relationship going on, with all the bells and whistles. There is talk of murder, affairs, and demons are the antagonists of this book. So if any of that content would put you off, this may not be the book for you. I would say this book is best suited for older teens and up. 

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Short Story: The Forest of Shadows and Souls

Happy Saturday, dear readers! Following the tradition of many other bloggers I very much admire, I've decided to share with you a little short story I wrote a few years back--very rough and unpolished, but there are ideas in it that I love writing about. The desperate nature of humanity, guilt...redemption. I hope you enjoy it--it's rather eerie, if I do say so myself. 

From Pinterest

Rebeka B.

The village lies on the north side of the Forest of Shadows and Souls. No one visits there, and no one leaves there. Not even the oldest villager can remember when the Forest appeared, but all remember the day the first child wandered in and never came back.

That was long ago, and her name is long forgotten, as are the names of the many children who followed her. And not just children. Young men and women, the elderly and the weak – something about the trees and their deceitful whispers draws people in.

Only one girl has ever entered its depths to return.

Her name is Salome.

At least, that is what people think.

“Mary has disappeared! What if the Shadows have gotten her?”

“Go to Salome. She can bring her back.”

“My father has wandered off.”

“Salome will find him. She’s the only one who can. She knows the Shadow Forest better than anybody.”

And she does, but at a price.

“Where does Salome live?”

“In a little hut at the edge of the village. She lives there with her sister, Rose. Be careful, though. She’s a bit odd.”

“No wonder, after what she must have gone through to survive that wretched place.”

Yet the villagers always come, not pausing to wonder how their endless demands might affect the girl whose memories never end in sleep. She stands by her door every day, waiting. Because she knows that even when she fails, she is their only hope. Even when all she can bring back is the tattered red hood of a vanished child, she still offers closure.

“Why do you do it, Salome?” her sister asks. “It kills you. You look horrible.”

Salome turns her head, a faint smile tugging her lips. Once she might have been beautiful, but now you have to squint to see what men once saw. A full mouth has tightened and thinned, deep blue eyes have been worn down by restless nights. Her white-blonde hair now lies under her bed in a box.

When Salome does not answer but for that enigmatic smile, Rose remarks, “You haven’t been the same since you returned from the forest.”

Who ever is? But then, who has returned? Salome shrugs and rubs her bald head, the roughness of returning hair scratching against her palm. It is Velnian tradition that a woman must grow her hair until she weds. Salome is wed to her duty.

She is wed to her guilt.

Rose sighs over this. She often wishes her older sister could flirt and smile like any other girl. Beyond this village, there is no existence for them. Why deny yourself the little pleasure life affords? “You need a man to lighten you up,” she says, puttering about the kitchen.

Salome does not flinch. When she first returned from the forest, Rose’s remarks upset her. Now she knows they are as empty as the cooking pot – as empty as her heart.

“Rose?” she asks.

“Yes?” The younger girl drops onto a bench, flipping out her hair and staring at Salome expectantly. If she wishes for some light-hearted banter, she will be disappointed.

“Do you know why the Shadows want the villagers?”

Rose’s face darkens. Yet there is a curious light to her eyes as well – fear masked by questioning. Salome can tell. It has been one of the effects of the forest; she sees things differently – how shadowed the world is instead of enlightened. Shadows do not exist because of sunlight, but the sun was created to counteract the shadows. Shadows are everywhere, even where sunlight cannot reach. “Why?” Rose breathes.

Salome shivers. She has not told this to anyone. It weighs on her, burdening her with a secret too vital not to share. “So the shadows may become human.” There. It is out of her. She gasps for breath, feeling like a traitor, and yet not traitorous enough.

Rose sits up. “Why would they want to do that?”

“To gain souls. Shadows might live forever – but one day the world will end, and they will with it. Human souls last beyond the end of the world – into the next life and beyond.” Her body tingles with the thrill of truth. She’s had these words memorized since before she learned to talk.

Rose stares at her hands. “They’re monsters.”

Salome winces. “Not all of them.”

Rose inhales sharply. “They took Mother and Father.”

“Yes,” Salome says carefully. “But do you not feel sorry for them, a little? One day they will be extinguished.”

“Oh really? What about the ones who stole Mother and Father’s souls? They’ll still exist! It’s Mother and Father who will perish!” Rose begins to sob.

Salome stands still, waiting for the weeping to pass. Part of her whispers to embrace the girl crying on the bench, but she pushes it away. A knock echoes through the hovel, and with a sigh of relief, she walks to the door.

“Salome?” She glances over her shoulder at Rose’s question.


“Did the Shadows hurt you very much, when they captured you?”

Salome stiffens. The truth wheedles her, pricks her with shame. Murderer. “Yes,” she says. Her voice cracks. She clears her throat and opens the door.


The forest towers over Salome’s head. She is not afraid of the trees, of the monsters lurking beneath their leaves. What frightens her are the memories wafting through the air – the screams, the pleas, the struggle of a maiden to keep her life.

Already she sees the girl’s ghost wafting through the trees, a strand of mist trapped in this world. Her soul, and body with it, has been stolen, keeping her here until the world ends and she along with it.

As always, she approaches as Salome enters the woods. Deep blue eyes watch as Salome dodges shadows and tries to pick up an old man’s trail. But she is distracted by the white-blonde hair trailing down the ghost’s back, fluttering in a breeze.

The ghost smiles that enigmatic smile and rubs her head.

Salome straightens, chills creeping up her spine. “I’m sorry,” she says. “But I can’t give it back.”

The ghost says nothing. But the leaves stir in the wind, whispering, Murderer.

Salome flinches. If she had known that the longer Shadows remain human, the more vulnerable they become, she may never have ventured to steal the ghost’s soul. To steal the true Salome’s body.


The ghost flickers, and Salome whirls around.

Rose stands there, a torch in her hand and a dagger dangling from her fingers. “You forgot your…” Her eyes widen. Salome realizes she can see the ghost, can see what was once her sister. In that moment, Rose knows the truth. Salome’s knees buckle with relief. The time of pondering death and clinging to her miserable existence is at an end. No longer must she float between salvation and life.

Now she can decide. She chooses salvation, if such a thing is possible for a monster. Her body hits the ground and she closes her eyes. The last thing she sees is the glimmer of a dagger hovering overhead. The last thing she hears is a scream. What she does not see is another shadow rising from the ground, waiting for its chance.


The village lies on the north side of the Forest of Shadows and Souls. No one visits there, and no one leaves there. Not even the oldest villager can remember when the Forest appeared, but all remember the day the first child wandered in and never came back.

That was long ago, and her name is long forgotten, as are the names of the many children who followed her. And not just children. Young men and women, the elderly and the weak – something about the trees and their deceitful whispers draws people in.

Only two girls have ever entered its depths to return.

One’s name was Salome. Now nobody knows where she is. One day she went into the forest and never came back.

The other’s name is Rose.

At least, that is what people think. But leave them with their thoughts, because often it is too painful to dig into the truth. If they did, they might know what is obvious to you and me, dear readers: Often only the shadow of a person is left to tell the tale.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Cover and Title Reveal: The Newest Fairy Tale Contest Hosted by Rooglewood Press

Rooglewood Press is delighted to introduce their second fairy tale novella contest—

Five Enchanted Roses
a collection of “Beauty and the Beast” stories

The challenge is to write a retelling of the beloved fairy tale in any genre or setting you like. Make certain your story is recognizably “Beauty and the Beast,” but have fun with it as well. Make it yours!

Rooglewood Press will be selecting five winners to be published in the Five Enchanted Roses collection, which will be packaged up with the gorgeous cover you see displayed here. Perhaps your name will be one of the five displayed on this cover?

All the contest rules and information (how to enter, story details, deadline etc.) may be found on the Rooglewood Press website. Just click HERE and you will go right to the page.

Rooglewood Press’s first collection, Five Glass Slippers, is available for pre-order now and will be released on June 14. Do grab yourself a copy and see what these talented writers have done with the timeless “Cinderella” tale!

Now... the cover....

This cover illustration was rendered by Julia Popova, “ForestGirl.” You can find out more about this gifted artist on her website:


Post this on your blogs, spread the word! Let's make this contest even bigger than the last one!