Thursday, June 11, 2015

Amazing Grace - blog tour!

I am thrilled and honored to be a part of Faith Blum's blog tour for her book release of Amazing Grace - with both an interview and book review! I hope you have some spare minutes, because we had fun making this blog post a long read! :) First, let's learn a little about Faith.

1) When did you begin writing?
 I think I’ve pretty much been writing since I started school, but I think I got more serious about it around age ten. And I’ve been writing stories every since. Some are really good and some are really bad.

2) What inspired your Hymns of the West series?
 A picture and a contest. A homeschooling magazine we got had a short story contest. I was too old for it and there was no way I could keep the story down to 1500 words, but I decided to write it anyway. When it was done, it had a lot of problems and I set it aside to work on someday. Then another contest, sponsored by the Women of Faith conference, came around for a novel and I decided to polish up my book.

I didn’t win the contest, but I was a semi-finalist and that spurred me on to independently publish my book. Originally, I didn’t intend it to be a series, but then a beta-reader asked me what the next book was about and his simple question got the wheels in my brain turning. The idea that spurred my book into a series is actually going to be book #5 and I keep coming up with more ideas so I have no idea how long the series will be.

3) How do the hymns play a role in your series (if this isn't a spoiler)?
 The hymns kind of provide the theme for each of my books. In A Mighty Fortress, one of the themes is trusting in God to lead us and guide us. Making Him our refuge. Be Thou My Vision is about having God give us a vision for our lives and asking Him for wisdom for that vision. Amazing Grace is about…you guessed it, God’s grace. It also has a theme of God’s redemption.

4) What have you found to be the most useful resource for researching the Western time period?
 The internet and other fiction and non-fiction books. If I need to just check a fairly well-known fact, I’ll do a quick search on the internet. Some things I have gotten from reading Louis L’Amour or Janette Oke, and go by my memories from them.

5) What is your goal/vision in writing?
 To encourage and challenge Christians in their walk with God and to hopefully reach a few non-Christians with the gospel as well.

6) Do you find yourself using struggles, victories, and spiritual lessons that you have personally experienced to help teach lessons in your books?
 Definitely! With this last book, it seemed like God was beating me over the head with the lesson of His grace.

7) What would you say to encourage a young Christian writer?
 Don’t rely on your feelings. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says: “‘The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? ‘I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.’”

You won’t feel like a Christian all the time. If you have truly repented of your sins, you are born again and you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Trust God, He is always faithful.

8) Have there been any Scripture verses that God has really used to encourage you in your writing/publishing journey?
 First Corinthians 10:31: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

9) Who do you find encourages you most in your writing journey?
 My family, one of my sisters in particular, and my friend, Andrew. They at least try to act interested when I talk about my writing and sales.

10) When not writing, what are three of your top favorite things to do?
 Play piano, play games with my family, and read.

A few extra questions (that you can answer in just one sentence if you'd like)
~Which author has inspired you the most in your writing?
Louis L’Amour. He’s not Christian, but he writes clean Westerns.

~What are some of your favorite books to read?
How many do you want? ;) The Holy Bible, Never by J. Grace Pennington, Ride the River by Louis L’Amour, The Short Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Resistance by Jaye L. Knight, The King’s Scrolls by Jaye L. Knight, This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti, Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti, and anything about Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That’s just a few, of course.

~What is one of your favorite Bible verses?
That is hard! I think James 1:5-8 (I know, it’s more than one, so sue me): “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

~What is one of your dreams?
To get married someday and have children of my own.

~What is your salvation testimony?
I prayed with my mom at the age of four and have been growing in my salvation ever since.

~Anything else about you or your writing that you'd like to share?
Not that I can think of. Thanks for having me, Amanda!

Now about the book! :) 
Because if you're like me, finding new reading material is just fun!

Caleb hurried to the post office. He had to get in and out before his sister finished at the general store. “Any mail for the Stuarts?” he asked the postmaster.

The postmaster took a lazy look at him over the top of his eyeglasses and gave a heaving sigh as he turned around to check. “Yep. Somethin’ from Ohio and somethin’ from Montana.”
Tapping his foot, Caleb waited until the large man put the letters lazily in his hand. As he left he wondered why Anna had written someone in Montana and who she knew in Montana. It was really none of his business, but he was still curious. He folded the Ohio letter in half and stashed it in his back pocket. It would get wrinkled, but at least Anna wouldn’t know about it.

As Caleb struggles through some inner battles, he secretly starts a correspondence with a widow and her daughter. Their unabashed faith in God convicts him and increases his inner struggles.

Unable to find a steady job, Maggie places an advertisement to become a mail-order bride. Her daughter, Rachel, is her motivation and encouragement, but if Maggie doesn’t find a job or husband soon, Rachel might not survive through the next year.

Can Caleb learn to trust God despite his past? Can Maggie and Rachel hold onto their faith despite all their trials? What will happen when they meet in person?

My review:
Stories about mail-order brides always intrigue me. Not being very romantic, I'm not really sure why (maybe it's the history or unusual concept); but I was happy to realize that Amazing Grace incorporated the story of a mail-order bride and found the first portion of the story very interesting as it bounced between several correspondents.

As the story progressed, I got to know Caleb, Anna, Iain, Maggie, Rachel, Miles, John, James, and Toby, and enjoyed following their story. There is definitely a strong Christian emphasis in the story (which I appreciate) and a lot about seeking God for His direction in your life.

Though the third book in this series, I was glad that I could just jump in and read it -- from what I understand, reading the former books would have given me a more rounded story, but it was enjoyable as a stand-alone.

A few things I really appreciated:
~I appreciated how Miles would just break out into prayer during tough times.
~I appreciated the realistic conclusion that though we may present man with the Gospel, we cannot force him to accept it. Though I almost didn't want to read it, it is very true that some people, though we witness to them, we may never know in this life whether or not they accepted that Gospel for their own.
~I appreciated that the salvation message was very clearly presented.

A few things that I was hesitant about:
~I will admit that I was very cautious in reading about a Christian woman corresponding with and practically courting an unbeliever. Though it turned out well (and it was very clear that Maggie was not the reason for Caleb's profession of faith), I know that such is not always the case. It is easy for our emotions to run away with us and a Christian girl might hope for the same results as Maggie and Caleb, and before she realizes it, gets swept into an unbiblical marriage. This is pretty much the main point that I cringed in reading the book. I think the author handled the situation well, with the characters bathing the situation in prayer and getting godly counsel, but at the same time, would caution girls not to take Maggie's story as their pattern for courtship/dating.

Some of my favorite quotes:
"Hold that thought. I have a ring to buy."
(I'll admit, this one had me laughing out loud [which doesn't happen often while I'm reading] and my family had to know what was so funny)

"My caution to you is to not get so caught up in the romance you lose sight of God. God should always come first in any relationship."

"As good as she may be for him, it is never good to go contrary to God's will and in this case, His will is very clear."

 About Faith:
An avid reader, Faith Blum started writing at an early age. Whether it was a story about the camping trip that summer or a more creative story about fictional characters, she has always enjoyed writing. When not writing, Miss Blum enjoys reading, crafting, playing piano, Captaining on the Holy Worlds Historical Fiction Forum and playing games with her family (canasta, anyone?).
As a history enthusiast who has been fascinated for years with the Old West, Faith has endeavored to create a clean, fun, and challenging Western story. Faith lives with her family on a hobby farm in the Northern Midwest, where she enjoys the many cats they have.
You can find Faith on her Website, Blog, Facebook, and Twitter

See where else Amazing Grace has appeared on the web here.


Faith Blum said...

Thank you for posting the interview and review, Amanda! I had a lot of fun reading your review!

Amanda T. said...

Anytime, Faith! :) I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for visiting my blog! :)

"For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?" Psalm 56:13

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