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5 October 2015

ACRBA Review: Same By Katrina Roe

5 - 9 October
is introducing


(Wombat Books 1 July 2015)


Written by: Katrina Roe
Illustrated by: Jemima Trappel

About the Book:
When Uncle Charlie comes to visit, Ivy keeps her distance. He seems different from other people she knows. Can Uncle Charlie find a way to show her that he is not so different after all?
Same is a touching true story about love, acceptance and finding common ground.
Katrina Roe’s debut children’s book Marty’s Nut-Free Party was shortlised in the Speech Pathology and CALEB awards. Same helps a child relate to what is actually the same, in someone who seems so different.
About the Author
Katrina Roe is an author and radio presenter. 

Most recently she was host of the morning show on Sydney’s Hope 103.2 radio ( before leaving to have her second baby. 
Katrina also has a successful parenting blog ( 

Marty’s Nut-Free Party was her first children’s book, followed by Emily Eases herWheezesEmily was listed as a notable book by CBCA in 2015. Same is her latest book, and is scheduled for release in July 2015.
Katrina has also contributed to two inspirational anthologies, All Creation Sings: Psalms of Everyday Christians and a book about miscarriage called In God’s Hands: Overcoming Miscarriage in a Broken World.

In 2009, she completed her Masters in International Relations, just for fun!  Katrina also likes kayaking, bushwalking, reading novels, taking holidays, listening to music and hanging out with friends.  She’s adamant that tea should always be made in a pot and she has a definite weakness for soft cheese.
She lives in Sydney with her three young daughters and her husband Chris.

Jemima is a Sydney-based artist and illustrator who enjoys riding her bicycle. Like many illustrators she was born holding a pencil and uses it frequently to bring words to life. 

She decided to make a career out of her passion, and in 2012, after five years at the College of Fine Arts and the University of NSW, she emerged with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (with honours), a Bachelor of Arts (a combined degree) and the ability to converse in French.
Same by Katrina Roe, is her first book with Wombat Books. Prior to this, Jemima illustratedWonderfully Madison (2013 – winner of the children's book category in the Caleb awards that year) and Fearlessly Madison (2014) by Penny Reeve (published by Youthworks Media). She is also the illustrator of the short comic, A friend in need, by Karen Bielharz (part of the self-published Kinds of Blue anthology, 2011), and is the linework artist for the short animation Money Tree (2011), written and directed by Hawanatu Bangura. 

My Review

Same is a lovely picture book about a small child who is afraid of Uncle Charlie because of his huge electric wheelchair, but comes to realise that while he might look different, they are the same. It’s a short but touching story, made all the better by the fact it shows they key point rather than labouring the point by telling.

However, when it comes to picture books, it’s not enough to have a good story. The illustrations have to be excellent, to earn and keep the attention of the listening child. The illustrations in Same are beautiful, a real strength.


2 October 2015

Giveaway: All Our Empty Place by Alicia G Ruggieri


All Our Empty Places - Book Two in the “A Time of Grace” trilogy – by Alicia G. Ruggieri


In 1935, when the bank calls in her mortgage, Sarah Picoletti – now a penniless widow – finds herself and her children on the brink of homelessness. Sick at heart, she plans to beg her brother in New Jersey to take her family in.

Then Doctor Samuel Giorgi knocks on her door. Godly and well-off, Sam seems to have put the careless ways of his youth behind him, and he also appears to have one desire: to make Sarah his wife, two decades after he broke their engagement.

However, nothing prepares Sarah for the storm that breaks once she makes her decision. Everywhere she turns, the errors of her former choices confront her, insisting on her inferiority and the irreparable brokenness of her past. Sarah begins to wonder if Christ really can bring true redemption or if He is limited by her frailty.

Meanwhile, her daughter Grace faces new challenges in her own life. When her relationship with Paulie changes unexpectedly, Grace realizes that she must make a decision with the potential to alter both of their futures.
Compassionate and intensely poignant, All Our Empty Places paints the portrait of a mother and daughter with broken pasts, who dare to step into a future overflowing with the grace of the Cross.


Alicia G. Ruggieri writes Christ-centered fiction that speaks of redemption. She received her B.A. in Communications and History from Rhode Island College and lives with her husband and their emotionally-disturbed pug on the New England coast.

To learn more about Alicia and what she likes to read, visit our Friday Fifteen feature!


Twitter: @aliciaruggieri


All Our Empty Places (A Time of Grace, Book 2) –
The Fragrance of Geraniums (A Time of Grace, Book 1) – ON SALE for $0.99 through October 31, 2015 –


One winner will receive – a signed softcover of All Our Empty Places; a mug with 2 Corinthians 12:9 inscribed on it; Caramel Apple Biscotti; and Harvest Spice Pumpkin White Hot Chocolate mix. (Open to U.S. residents only due to shipping costs.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

30 September 2015

Reading Challenge: It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist

A book I own but have never read

Amazon Description

Gambling everything—including the family farm—Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the fair’s Machinery Hall makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?

My Review

It Happened at the Fair followed the pattern of Gist’s other recent novels, in that it’s more “clean fiction” than “Christian fiction”, and I’m sorry to see this (although at least this didn’t have the world’s worst sex scene, which is what her next book boasted. Authors, if you’re not comfortable writing a sex scene, don’t. A bad sex scene isn’t going to win you any readers, but may well lose you some).

There were other issues. I don’t like the “other woman” (aka the man can’t make up his mind) plot. There were a lot of misspelled words, meant to illustrate Cullen’s hearing problem. While I can see what the author was trying to do, I found it irritating. The novel seemed to end too quickly, partly because I could feel there were a lot of pages left, but these were actually the author’s notes (she did a lot of research, and it was excellent. I really enjoyed reading the notes).

The pictures of the Fair at the beginning of each chapter also annoyed me … not because of the pictures, but because the captions underneath turned out to be chapter spoilers (as an aside, she used these in Tiffany Girl  as well. I read that on my Kindle, and they were even more annoying on the Kindle than in the paper book).

The historical aspects of the Fair were interesting: automatic fire extinguishers, the Cold Storage fire, the debate between teaching deaf children lipreading vs sign language, the discrimination against the deaf. But being interested in the historical aspects isn’t enough. That’s not why I read fiction.

Deeanne Gist used to be one of my favourite authors because of her combination of excellent research, excellent writing, great plots and characters, and her ability to write Christian fiction that challenge the norm of “Christian fiction”. But while her last few books have been competent, they haven’t been memorable in the way books like A Bride Most Begrudging or Courting Trouble were memorable. The result, I’m sorry to say, is that she’s no longer a must-read author for me—one really good book out of the last four isn’t enough, not when her early books were all hits. I might read and review her next book, but I’m not going to buy it.

It’s not that It Happened at the Fair is a bad book. It’s not. It’s just not excellent or outstanding or memorable or a book I want to make all my friends read, and her early books were all those things.

This book counts towards my 2015 Reading Challenge as a book I own but had never read.

28 September 2015

Review: The Trespasser by Karen Cossey

One of my freelance editing clients!

As some of you know, I’m a part-time freelance fiction editor, and I edited The Tresspassers which makes this a slightly biased review.

It’s set in England, near Plymouth, where Logan trespasses on an exclusive country retreat to climb a cliff … and is caught by the imaginative Meeka, who is escaping from the Mines of Certain Doom and Death, and her father, Captain Blackbeard. Logan is pleased to make a new friend, especially one as interesting and adventurous as Meeka, but they soon find themselves getting a little more adventure than they had bargained for. Well, the West Country has long been known as pirate country. There are secrets hidden in those caves …

The Trespassers is a fast-paced adventure story with a healthy dose of comedy (illustrated by Meeka’s extensive vocabulary and penchant for made-up words). There is plenty of conflict, with a good balance between the external adventure conflict and Logan’s internal journey, and an underlying theme of family belonging. It’s not specifically Christian fiction, but it’s definitely written from a Christian world view and would make a great read-aloud story for school-aged children, or a read-alone story for middle grade readers.

25 September 2015

Friday Fifteen: Sara Goff

Today I'd like to welcome debut author Sara Goff to Iola's Christian Reads. Sara has recently released her first novel, I Always Cry at Weddings, and she's here today to share her favourite 15 authors. Welcome, Sara!

I grew up in a hundred-year-old house with bookshelves lining every wall of the downstairs level, floor to ceiling. You could almost believe that the house was constructed of books, dusty books, I might add. Living with those titles day in and day out reminded me of the books I had read, the emotions they invoked and the lessons I took away. It’s something we’ve lost in the digital age, where books are filed out in cyber space or deleted with a click of a button. Now, recalling 15 of the most influential stories I’ve read is like pulling them off their bookshelves. The characters and themes come alive inside me yet again!

1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway has been my favorite author since high school. As an icon of WWI expatriate writers, he popularized the term Lost Generation, which captures that feeling of displacement and worthlessness I imagine we have all experienced at some point in our lives. I appreciate the headstrong women in his novels, especially at a time when women's rights, responsibilities, and respect in society were still new. But what really draws me to Hemingway's books is his writing style--succinct, subtle, and yet rich in tone and meaning. I wish he were alive and still writing today.

2. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

I don’t enjoy Faulkner's writing, but I admire his nerve, writing from a place within himself that few people can fully understand. In my twenties, I went through a Faulkner phase, reading his books, looking up one obscure word after another. Well, it was the worst thing I could've done for my own writing, as obscure words started sneaking into my story, totally confusing and foreign to my characters.

3. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I love reading about London during the Industrial Revolution, especially through the fatherly eyes of Charles Dickens. My mother read The Christmas Carol to me every December 24th until I was in high school!

4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This was the first book I read on my own in my pre-teens and will forever associate Jo March’s coming of age with my own feelings of freedom and independence.

5. Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout

In a shocking story, Strout finely, delicately, and absolutely captures the evolving relationship between a mother and a daughter. She taught me to write between the lines.

"Write between the lines". I love that phrase - it's definitely what turns an average novel into a great one!

6. Three Junes by Julia Glass

A deep and brilliant look at humanity. Reading Glass is a lesson on characterization.

7.--9. What is the What by Dave Eggers

I'm interested in the plight and resilience of people, and especially children, innocently caught in the middle of war. Though I can't relate to or understand their struggle, I want to listen to their stories. Two other books I have great respect for in this category are Kenan Trebincevic and Susan Shapiro's The Bosnia List and Elie Wiesel's Night.

10. Heaven's Prey by Janet Sketchley

Sketchley, in my opinion, is the boldest, most talented Christian fiction writer out there. And Heaven's Prey is packed with proof . . . and suspense.

11. Twilight of the British Raj series by Christine Lindsay

Beautiful writing. I could stop there. Lindsay is a master of creating setting, and when you're exploring lush and wild India during the British Raj, that's what you want! She also effortlessly weaves contrasting plot lines that represent India in flux.

I thought this series was excellent, especially the final book.

12. They Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti

When I need reminding that stories show; they don’t tell, I turn to They Almost Always Come Home. In her story about a middle-aged couple facing a marital slump, with the wife at home and the husband lost in the wilderness, Ruchti keeps you deep in the action.

13. & 14. Lost in Siberia by Ian Frazier and Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

These authors make me laugh. Frazier makes me think mostly, but he’ll drop in his humor, in just the right places, and be both funny and thought provoking.

15. The Cheer Leader by Jill McCorkle

The Cheer Leader (1984), one of McCorkle’s earliest novels, portrays the angst weighing on Jo Spencer in her teens, and how that stress finally brings her down in her twenties when she goes for the wrong guy in college. The story has lingered with me since I read it years ago and is, in part, behind Lift the Lid, the charity I founded, which encourages students to use the power of writing to shout, This is what I’m dealing with! Listen to me! I mean something! I’m grateful for McCorkle’s inspiration and look forward to reading her latest novel Life After Life.

Thanks, Sara! It's always interesting to find out what authors like to read, and to pick up a few ideas ...

About Sarah Goff

Sara Goff recently moved to Darien, Connecticut with her husband of 14 years and their two sons after living in Sweden and then London for nearly seven years. I ALWAYS CRY AT WEDDINGS, her debut novel about figuring out life and finding love in New York City, was recently released by WhiteFire Publishing. A part of the proceeds from the book will go towards her educational charity Lift the Lid, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Visit for more information on the charity.

~ Places to Connect with Sara ~