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Beyond the Hills: Book review and author interview

Review copy

Contents of this post

Introduction

Blurb

My review

Interview with Maressa Mortimer

Bio of Maressa Mortimer

Blog tour schedule

Introduction

This post is part of the blog tour for Beyond the Hills, which is being launched on 18 June 2021. In my review of Maressa Mortimer’s first book in The Elabi Chronicles, Walled City, I mentioned that I cared enough about the characters to want to read the next book. The opportunity to join the bog tour arose and I read the .pdf file of the book on my phone before a review copy arrived in the post! Beyond the Hills may be ordered from the author’s website or bookshops worldwide and will also be available as a Kindle edition.

The blurb

Macia Durus, daughter of the well known Brutus Durus AMP, works hard to achieve a life of honour and prestige in her beloved Elabi. When a so-called “friend” challenges her priorities, Macia’s confusion threatens her carefully constructed plans. And her decision to investigate a forbidden book could have serious consequences for Macia as well as her family, turning their lives upside down.

My review

The scene has changed from the end of Walled City and the main character of that book is a mostly invisible influence on this second instalment. Macia was a minor character in Walled City.

Much of the story is told through her thoughts and actions. The growing influence of the forbidden book and the consequences introduce excitement and suspense. The differences between life in Elabi (the Walled City) and beyond the hills are demonstrated well through the actions and words of characters.

There is hardly any recapping of the events from the first book. The social hierarchy and strange manners may be inferred from the narrative. However for maximum enjoyment and understanding, I recommend reading the books in order of publication.

Although I am not a film buff, I wondered whether this series would make a good film. It is exciting enough, although Macia’s thought-life might be difficult to include in a film.

What the forbidden book is may be gleaned from the text. It would also be possible for readers to access the parts referred to in the story.

Interview with Maressa Mortimer

I asked Maressa some questions about writing the series.

In Walled City Gax experiences culture shock. To what extent did you find British culture different from that in your native country, the Netherlands?

As time went on, I realised there were more and more differences, some subtle, some more obvious. My main struggle has always been missing the Dutch straight forwardness, as well as the speed at which things are done (like lovely smooth roads), although this comes with a lot of pressure as well. Because Dutch society is so efficient, everyone needs to be fast and efficient, so even working on the tills of a supermarket means you have to be very quick. Some people with learning difficulties can really struggle under the pressure.

Although you have created an imaginary world as the setting for The Elabi Chronicles some of the places there have similarities to our own world either at present or in the past. Were you influenced by other books you have read and did you have to do a lot of research?

I was completely new to world building, and simply designed a world that I would like to set a book in. For visuals, I used a world from Sims3, and I decided to make the food Roman (hence the garum and fish oils mentioned in the book, as well as other foods). I decided to have it set in the southern hemisphere, and thankfully, my editor is from Australia, so she corrected my timings!

Physical fitness is a requirement of citizens of Elabi. I wondered which sports you participated in as a youngster. Did you enjoy sport?

P.E. lessons in the Netherlands are mainly gymnastics and team sports. I did do a year of Taekwondo when in college. I used to cycle a lot, and went to Arnhem with friends, which was a 50 kilometre round trip.

When do you expect to publish the next volume in the series? Is it going to be a trilogy?

It will at least be a trilogy, with a book about Downstream. I have started plotting it already, but will probably make it my NaNoWriMo project!

(National Novel Writing Month is November.)

Bio

Maressa Mortimer is Dutch but lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, England with her husband and four (adopted) children. Her debut novel, Sapphire Beach, was published December 2019, and her first self published novel, Walled City, came out on December 5th 2020, followed by Viking Ferry, a novella. Beyond the Hills is the second book in The Elabi Chronicles, and will be released on June 18th 2021.

Maressa is a homeschool mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. She loves writing Christian fiction, as it’s a great way to explore faith in daily life.

June Blog/Book Tour Beyond the Hills Schedule

7th  Sophia Anyanwu

8th Lydia Jenkins

9th Patricia Leslie / @Patricialeslee (instagram)             

10th This post!

11th Katy Simpson Thrive With Live Video (Instagram)              

12th Tendayi  Olga              

Week 2

14th Victoria Kay (Instagram)

15th Claire Musters

16th Liz Carter and on the More Than Writers‘ blog         

17th Joy Margetts

18th Book Launch Facebook Live @Vicarioush.ome

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Book review and author interview: Not Knowing, but Still Going

This post is part of the blog tour for Jocelyn-Anne Harvey’s book Not Knowing, but Still Going (NKBSG) with the strap-line, ‘A buoyant hope for uncertain times’. It includes a book review and author interview. You may also wish to read posts for Day 1 and Day2 of the blog tour. Links to later posts: Day 4, Day 5, Day 6 and Day 7.

Not Knowing, but Still Going was published by Instant Apostle on 21 April 2021. It is available in paperback or Kindle editions.

Neatly packaged review copy


Jocelyn-Anne Harvey has taken the story of Noah and the flood as her starting point for this book, focussing on how life would have been for the four women in the ark. There are three strands to the book. The first is the Bible. The second is how life is for people at present with the uncertainties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The third is aspects of the author’s life, which illustrate the way God works. The three strands are spun into a seamless narrative. I was reminded of part of the verse Ecclesiastes 4:12:

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Cover: Not Knowing…

NKBSG is well-written and asks many questions of the reader. After each chapter there are contemplations and journaling exercises. These are well thought out and refer to other passages of scripture besides Genesis (the book where the story of Noah is told). The Psalms feature strongly, but we are taken on a journey all the way from the creation story in the first book of the Bible, Genesis to the last book, Revelation.

Although NKBSG is written for female readers, men might also learn from it. Noah is a major character after all.

I enjoyed this book and found much to ponder on. Its publication is timely as people try to pick up their lives after the pandemic.

Jocelyn-Anne Harvey has answered some questions I put to her about writing this book.

At the beginning of the book, you described how an event in 2008 near where you live was part of the inspiration for this book, and at the end you mention the encouragement you had to continue writing stories about Noah. Did pursuing a Creative Writing MA course increase your confidence in your ability as a writer?

Firstly, thank you for reading the Acknowledgements; well spotted about the MA encouragement I had for the Flood stories! I think in the sense of increasing confidence whatever we do to develop our writing muscle helps our ability. This could be anything from reading a writing blog, learning online or chatting with fellow writers. However, I think for me the discipline of postgraduate study and regular deadlines helped me to progress.

It was good to have the opportunity to dive deeper, read lots and especially workshopping –we had small groups where we both gave and received feedback for pieces written during each module. There were many times when I didn’t feel ‘good enough’ or made comparisons. But receiving positive feedback from my peers and lecturers did give me a confidence boost.

Through hindsight’s lens I’ve realised how my writing has developed since completing the Masters. I don’t think you’re fully aware when you’re caught up in the learning environment, but when I look back I can see the progress I’ve made. And I’m still balancing that tricky area of confidence and writing. I don’t think we can ever be completely confident as writers and perhaps that’s a good thing. In one way the wobbly area of doubt drives us to continually improve but what we don’t want is that doubt to stop us from picking up the pen or stop us from getting the pleasure that writing brings. I’m so glad that irrespective as to how I feel about my writing I can take confidence in the Lord and who I am in Him.

While you were writing NKBSG were you still travelling to work each day?

No, thankfully I didn’t have a commute while writing NKBSG neither was I working. For me, lockdown gave me opportunity to have the writing time. I commuted throughout my MA but wrote short stories, poems or flash fiction. I’m not sure whether I’d have been able to have had the focus to work on a longer manuscript whilst travelling up to London. Though having said that, maybe if I’d have had the impetus to write NKBSG then I would have done. It’s all about the timings with our writing work, isn’t it? As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 there is a season and a time for everything. I trust the Lord knew the time for my book to be written.

All writers are encouraged to read. Apart from the Bible, what are your favourite books?

I’m glad you mentioned the Bible because I always want to say that first when anyone asks me this question. There are so many favourite books I could choose. This is tricky! But the immediate books that come to mind are:

The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. I love Anne’s character and how Montgomery throughout the series shows her growing up and becoming a woman. Since childhood I’ve also identified with the main protagonist because ‘I’m an Anne with a e’ too!

The Rose Revived by Katie Fforde. Some books I can only read one time but this is a book I return to at least once a year. The story is so comforting like a bowl of chicken soup. And though I may know what’s coming next, I always find I’m surprised or pick up something new. Perhaps it’s because we change as we grow so our reaction to a book does too.

Cookbooks. Any kind from Mrs Beeton to Mary Berry. I love food and when you read Not Knowing, but Still Going there is even a section about eating. I often read cookbooks at bedtime but don’t have the time to make all the dishes the next day!

It might sound a bit strange to have an author say cookbooks are one of her favourite books but when you read a recipe closely there is quite an art to the way words have been used. You can learn a lot from thinking about how instructions have been described to the figurative language used to bring the cooking process and dish alive – Nigella is a great example of this.

Thank you, Jocelyn-Anne. We share some of the same tastes in literature. It is a long time since I read Anne of Green Gables, but I still remember the scene where she used a swear word and how she felt afterwards. I hope NKBSG has similar lasting impressions on its readers.

Jocelyn-Anne Harvey

Author bio – Jocelyn-Anne loves the Lord, learning and literature. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester, and her flash fiction has been published. Having taken the leap from her senior HR role in the UK Government, Jocelyn-Anne can identify with those walking through uncertain times, and she is passionate about supporting others through theirs and helping them develop. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in a coffee shop with friends, exploring coastal paths or trying out recipes.

If you’d like to connect with Jocelyn-Anne Harvey search for her on Facebook and Instagram.

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The Healing by Joy Margetts

This post includes a book review and a short interview with the author, Joy Margetts.

The Healing, book and reverse of postcard

The Healing, book and reverse of postcard

It was a real privilege to read The Healing: Will a monk’s habit help unlock his true identity? before its official publication date in advance of the blog tour of which this post is part. Joy Margetts’ debut historical novel is published by Instant Apostle and is already available from Joy Margett’s website and in bookshops from tomorrow (19 March 2021). If you order direct from Joy Margett, you will be the owner of a signed copy!

When I read a book, I prefer not to know too much about it in advance. I skipped the page of endorsements and the back cover until I had read to the end of the story.

Unusually the Author’s note and Historical notes appear at the beginning. I found this helpful. And (as in most of my favourite books) a map is included. The story begins with a mystery. Who is telling the story? What has happened? It is compulsive reading.

Passages of scripture intersperse the chapters. Scenes in the book are described vividly. At the end of chapter 2, I had tears (of joy) in my eyes. By early evening on the day I received my copy, I had only about 50 pages left to read. I decided I couldn’t wait until morning to learn the outcome of this fascinating story. (I found it very satisfactory!)

I was interested to read some familiar verses from the Bible in The Passion Translation, which I have not read. It brings out the meaning in a fresh way.

A longer passage of scripture, which appears in the body of the text, rather than between chapters, is Psalm 139 – a psalm, which has been special in my life. The characters discuss what it means in the context of their own lives before one of them makes an important decision.

Having footnotes rather than having to turn to the end for additional information is helpful.

The names of the main characters were chosen with care for their meanings, which are woven seamlessly into the story.

The Healing is a book I shall return to in the future.


Author interview

Photo of Joy Margetts

Joy Margetts

Joy Margetts has answered some questions I put to her about writing the book.

Joy, I often wonder how much of an author’s own experience is included in their books. One of your characters had not always lived in Wales. Is that an experience you share?

It is. I was born and raised in the south of England. But I have always had a deep and abiding love for Wales. My grandmother was Welsh, and we visited South Wales when I was small. I was introduced to North Wales when my sister attended university in Bangor. My husband also knew the mountains of Snowdonia well, being an amateur climber. We visited together when our children were very young, never believing that within a year we would actually be living here. A surprise job transfer and we moved from Oxfordshire to Gwynedd. It was like coming home. I love my adopted homeland.

[There is] the natural beauty of course, but also the rich spiritual history of the place. Wales is a land of ancient pilgrim paths, old churches and abbeys and of course of great revival history. I have been here over twenty years now, and like Philip in the book, I have found my healing here.

It is unusual especially nowadays to include so much scripture in a novel. Why did you decide to do this?

I love the Word of God. I love studying it and have the joy of teaching it also. But scripture is more than just words on a page. I believe that God speaks through His word. He speaks to each one of us personally, by His Spirit. When I was going through my own difficult time, I began to rely more and more on the Word of God. I had to read it every day, even when concentration was difficult. My experience was, and still is, that God speaks just what I need to hear through His word, and that I am strengthened, spiritually, emotionally and physically through reading it. The promises of the Bible gave me hope, and I chose to trust in them, even when my circumstances seemed to contradict them. There is so much scripture in ‘The Healing’ because these are some of the verses, and truths, that helped me in my own journey. My prayer is that they speak to and help those who read them also.

I echo your prayer for your readers.

I know many people say Psalm 139 is their favourite. Do you have a favourite Psalm?

That is a really difficult question! I have so many favourites. Psalm 139 is wonderful of course. Psalm 91 and Psalm 27 are also great Psalms to remind yourself of how God cares for us, protects us and provides for us, especially in difficult times. My favourite at the moment is actually Psalm 119, which might seem strange, as it is the longest Psalm in the Bible. But it has some wonderful verses that I can really relate to about how God’s word gives us life, revives and restores us, and is a light to our paths, and a promise for our future. That is my experience. His word has done those things for me in my healing journey.

Thank you, Joy, for sharing your insights. I also love the Bible and the Psalms are special. I look forward to reading more from you.


If you’d like a preview of this book everyone should read, the publisher has made this possible here.

Blog tour

The blog tour for The Healing began on  11 March. The links are below in case you’d like to read more.

11 March Maressa Mortimer Vicarious Living

12 March Claire Musters (Joy explains the background to the book and her own story.)

13 March Wendy H. Jones Bookaholic

14 March Penelope Swithinbank

15 March Ruth Leigh Big words and Made- Up Stories

16 March Liz Carter More than Writers (The blog of the Association of Christian Writers) and on her own blog.

17 March S.C. Skillman

Paul Alkazjari’s review on Goodreads

19 March Limitless-horizon

20 March Faithful steps