Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Book Spotlight: The American Dream of Braven Young by Brooke Raybould

About the Book:

In this fun and wild ride, readers are introduced to Braven Young, a ten-year-old boy who just wants to play catch with his dad. But his dad is always busy working to ‘save America’ whatever that means.

While waiting up to see his dad, Braven dreams about being completely free in Washington D.C. Finally, he can do whatever he wants and the National Mall is now his playground. But soon things start getting out of hand and Braven realizes that with great freedom comes great responsibility. As Braven’s American Dream begins to spiral out of control, he starts looking for the one person that can help him...his dad.

Purchase at: Amazon.

More About the Book:

(GASTONIA, N.C.) February 2022 – Good & True Media is honored to announce the February 2022 release of The American Dream of Braven Young, the first picture book written by Instagram sensation Brooke Raybould of @thesouthernishmama.

Motivated by a mission to celebrate and teach children American values, The American Dream of Braven Young (February 2022; ISBN 9781737079651) takes readers on a journey to discover the meaning of freedom through a thrilling fictional adventure story.

Since 2018, Raybould has been sharing her insights as a wife and mother of four boys with an audience that has grown to almost 240,000 people on Instagram.

Her experience of raising a family in Washington D.C. has provoked many questions and conversations about American values with her own children, giving Brooke the inspiration to write The American Dream of Braven Young.

The American Dream of Braven Young tells the story of a boy named Braven Young who begins to question what his dad, a U.S. Senator, does all day long. Braven asserts that if he were “free to do whatever he wanted”, like his dad, he would make different decisions. This leads Braven on an adventure to understand and define the meaning of “freedom.” Braven falls into a dream that lands him in Washington, DC. He, along with all children, are granted their wish: freedom to do anything they please! Along this journey, Braven discovers that freedom is much more than what he thought it was. Freedom is not about doing whatever you want; it is a responsibility to do what is right.

As Raybould explains, “My hope in writing The American Dream of Braven Young is that young children and families can learn about and celebrate American values. While America is not perfect, it is an extraordinary place and stands for ideals that can serve as building blocks to a meaningful life!”

The American Dream of Braven Young highlights the importance of American values in a story that will excite and captivate young minds.

Publication Date: February 2022
Author / Illustrator: Brooke Raybould / Juan Manuel Moreno
Imprint: Good & True Media
ISBN: 9781737079651
Price: $16.95
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 56
Ages: 6-10

About the Author: 

Brooke Raybould was born and raised in Orange County, California. She attended The University of Southern California, where she graduated with a degree in Business Administration. In 2016, Brooke went on to receive her MBA from Georgetown University in Washington D.C., where she currently resides with her husband Ryan and their four boys. Despite her many achievements, this chapter of her life as a “mama” is her favorite one yet! For nearly 5 years, Brooke has been documenting and sharing her joy-filled journey through marriage and motherhood with what has grown to be almost 240,000 followers on her Instagram page, @thesouthernishmamaThe American Dream of Braven Young is her first book. Her hope is that it will inspire children to cherish and uphold American values, no matter their background. For more information, visit https://www.thesouthernishmama.com/
About the Illustrator: 

Juan is originally from Buenos Aires. As a young boy, he was always drawn to creating images. His first “job” was to color his newborn brother’s head in bright felt pens. He spent most of his childhood years living in the countryside and cultivating his passion for painting. After studying graphic design, he lectured at the university and worked as an in-house illustrator for different studios with clients ranging from Warner, Disney, Conspiracy and Scholastic. In 2003, Juan and his wife, Patricia decided to travel the Americas and ended up living in different countries. In 2006, they finally crossed the pond and decided to stay in Barcelona, where he started a career as a freelance illustrator.

About the Publisher:

Good & True Media is the children’s book imprint of Good Will Publishers, Inc. Good & True publishes a boutique list of books, all of which are told upon a Christian foundation and aim to inspire children's imaginations through works that promote classical virtues and wholesome examples of the moral life. For more information, visit www.goodandtruemedia.com or https://www.instagram.com/goodandtruemedia/.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Book Review: The Samurai's Honor by Walt Mussell

About the Book:

Duty can come at any age.

Japan, 1577.

Younger daughter of the area's most prominent swordsmith, Sen's life is marked with jealousy, curiosity, and love. Jealousy that her older sister, Haru, gets to marry her father's handsome apprentice. Curiosity about her father's important customers. Love from a family that is planning her next step to adulthood. 

But when a high-ranking samurai visits her father to order a sword, Sen's curiosity gets the best of her. She and her sister find themselves eyewitnesses to a murder and on the cusp of a plot that seeks the samurai's demise. Will Sen's curiosity lead to her own death?

My Thoughts:

I read The Samurai’s Honor by Walt Mussell from beginning to end in a single afternoon. This short story introduces Goami Sen, a character that captivates with her curiosity and youthful zest. Her relatable mishaps and internal narrative brought me deeply into her experiences and mindset. Though events progressed quickly and I wanted to draw the story out longer (because my natural inclination is toward longer novels), the story read well and thoroughly entertained.

I enjoyed The Samurai’s Honor by Walt Mussell. This short story of Sen’s childhood piqued my interest and I’m looking forward to more of Sen’s story in The Samurai’s Heart

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Book Spotlight: A Shadow on the Snow by JPC Allen

About the Book:

Nineteen-year-old Rae Riley can barely believe her gamble paid off. After spending seven months investigating the identity of her father and whether he tried to murder her mother, Rae has been accepted by her dad, Sheriff Walter “Mal” Malinowski IV, and his immediate family with open hearts. And for the first time in her life, Rae is making friends, jamming with three cute cops who play outlaw country music.

But someone is leaving Rae threatening notes, reminding her of her late mother’s notorious past when Bella Rydell wrecked homes and lives during the few years she lived in rural Marlin County, Ohio. Fearing the threats will make Mal and his family reject her, Rae investigates the mystery on her own. But her amateur sleuthing may cost her the father she’s always wanted when the stalker changes targets and takes dead aim at Mal.

Content warnings: brief mentions of suicide. 

Purchase at: Amazon


My mood crashing like a linebacker had tackled it, I stepped out into the lot, the snow falling so thick it was like an active fog.

Where was Devon? How long had I been standing here?

Peering at the entrance to the lot and the street running past it, I fished my phone from the pocket of my vest. Devon had sent me some texts that I hadn’t heard ping. How could I have missed—I thumbed to settings. I still had the ringer on vibrate from last night when my trap had gone up in flames.

My muscles snapped to attention as numbness stole over my skin.

Could I make it? I’d walk in the opposite direction from the one I’d take to my apartment, nearly eliminating the chance of the stalker finding me.

Transferring the bags into my right hand, I freed my left one in case I slipped. My breath led the way in rapid puffs as I followed the tracks Jill’s car had made.

At the sidewalk, I glanced up the hill. And dropped the bags.
A figure, backlit by the streetlamp, stood at the corner.

Spinning, I fell to my knees. I snagged the bags and, stumbling across the lot, reached

the guardrail at the opposite side.

I scrambled over it and fell five feet down the retaining wall into the little yard behind an empty building. Panting, I raised myself into a hunched stance and ran, scrambling over snow-encrusted chunks of crumbling asphalt.

Please, Father. It can’t end like this.

Behind the deli, I slipped, and the urn rolled out of its bag. I squinted against the flakes. No silhouette. Nobody.

I needed to get out on Main Street and head for Mal’s office. I slapped piles of snow until my palm smacked the urn. I shoved it into a bag and ran into the alley beside the deli. A streetlight illuminated the end that came out on Main Street, welcoming me like a lighthouse.

Bent under the weight of my backpack, I struggled toward Main Street, gripping and regripping the sagging bags.

A figure ran across the entrance to the alley.

My throat closed as my feet froze to the icy pavement.

What ... what do I do?

Wheeling, I fell against the deli’s rough brick wall and glanced back. No one was coming down the alley. He hadn’t seen me.

I slipped and slid behind another empty building and the antique shop, heading for the raised parking lot behind the newspaper office. At the retaining wall for the lot, I threw my bags over the guardrail, then grabbed it, and heaved myself up. And slipped back down.

Ripping off my backpack, I looked behind me. Had he come down the alley from Main Street? Without any light shining between that alley and me, I squinted against the pouring snow.

Yes. Something dark was moving along the dumpster by the deli.

I hurled my backpack over the rail, then myself, and fell, panting, in the fresh snow.

Had he seen me? He couldn’t have seen me. Should I hide here or run out of the lot and onto Sugar Street?

My phone vibrated. I fumbled it out of my vest pocket. Maybe Devon could call the cops. If any were available.

“Devon.” I stole a glimpse over the guardrail. The shadow was moving down the slope of the alley, heading to where it came out on Elm Street.

“No, it’s Mal. Are you home?”

“Dad!” I screamed into the phone.

The figure whipped around.

About the Author:

JPC Allen
started her writing career in second grade with an homage to Scooby Doo. She’s been tracking down mysteries ever since and has written mystery short stories for Mt. Zion Ridge Press. Her Christmas mystery short story, “A Rose from the Ashes”, was a Selah-finalist at the Blue Ridge Mountains Writers Conference in 2020. 

Online, she offers tips and prompts to ignite the creative spark in every kind of writer. She also leads workshops for tweens, teens, and adults, encouraging them to discover the adventure of writing. With deep roots in the Mountain State, JPC is a lifelong Buckeye. A Shadow on the Snow is her first novel. Follow the clues to her next mystery on her pages @ jpcallenwrites on Facebook and Instagram, her website, JPCAllenWrites.com, and her author pages on Goodreads, Bookbub, and Amazon.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Book Spotlight: Fled for Refuge by Kristina Hall

About the Book:

Title: Fled for Refuge

Series: Refuge, #1

Author: Kristina Hall

Genre: Christian Dystopian/Suspense

Publication date: 01/24/2022

Tyranny. Betrayal. Risk.

Tony Dorence works security for a little country church mostly untouched by America’s downward spiral. Untouched, that is, until a car smashes through First Baptist’s front doors and the driver threatens the congregation. Though Tony thwarts the driver’s intentions, this seemingly random event sets off a chain reaction that endangers his sister, Merri, and everyone involved with First Baptist.

Merri Dorence, though not a believer, supports much of what First Baptist stands for. As Tony’s world is shaken, she too is dragged into the turmoil.

As everything falls apart around them, will Tony and Merri crumble beneath the pressure or flee to the only One Who can provide them refuge? 

Excerpt (Scene 1):

A black sedan slammed through First Baptist’s front doors and wrapped around the concrete pole supporting the ceiling.

Metal squealed. Wood squeaked. The sermon carrying through the entryway speakers cut off, and the door on the right teetered from its hinges and crashed to the ground.


Tony Dorence shoved away from the far corner of the entryway, pulse hammering at the base of his neck. Stupid driver, drunk on a Sunday morning. Couldn’t even keep it on the road.

And the last thing First Baptist needed was an influx of officers from the Federal Centralized Police Force.

He strode to the driver’s door. Of course the Honda would have windows tinted dark enough to conceal the idiot’s face.

But when he got that door open—

A sledgehammer crashed into his chest, and he slammed to the ground. Air rushed from his lungs. Another force punched his right arm. Two shots echoed around him, and black spots invaded the entryway.

Hit. He’d been hit.

He had to get up. Had to get to his gun. Had to—

The driver’s door swept open.

A man dressed in black stepped out, picked his way over plastic and splintered wood. Headed for the sanctuary doors, his back to Tony. And he gripped a handgun. “More. I need more.”


This wasn’t going down. Not on his watch.

Tony shoved to his feet and reached for his Colt .45. Fire ignited in his upper right arm, licked into his shoulder and down to his fingers. No way could he get it cocked with his arm like that.

And the guy was way too close to the sanctuary doors.

He fumbled his gun from his holster with his left hand, lunged, and slammed it over the man’s head.

The guy fell to the ground in a crumpled heap, gun still in his hand.

Tony kicked it out of his reach, then shoved his own gun into his holster. Warmth trickled down his right arm. He fought for a sip of air, and black wavered at the edges of his vision.

No. He couldn’t pass out. Not before he restrained this guy.

He dropped to his knees beside the man, secured his wrists and ankles with zip ties as best as he could with his left hand, and patted him down. No other weapons.

Steam hissed from beneath the car’s crumpled hood.

The car. Were there other addicts in it?

He struggled to his feet, pulled his gun, and jerked open the back door. A stupid move given his .45 was no more use to him than a club.

Yet the car stood empty of all but a few fast food bags and syringes.

He gasped a couple of hard breaths, and the pain in his chest morphed into a deep, pulsing ache.

Hit. He’d been hit. If not for his vest …

The entryway took a slow spin.

Not now. Not yet.

He walked close to the sanctuary doors. Muted voices seeped out, some heavy with panic. “Everything’s under control. I need a couple of guys out here while I check the perimeter.”

Shaking started in his gut and spread through his arms and legs.

Using the toe of his dress shoe, he shoved the man out of the way of the sanctuary doors.

Craig Lansky, First Baptist’s preacher, hurried out, followed by Wes, the older of the two deacons.

Wes closed the door behind them, and both men stilled in front of the doors, eyes wide.

The color washed from Craig’s face, and his jaw tightened. “You’re hit.”

Yeah, and blood soaked a good portion of his suit coat sleeve. “I’ll deal with it later. You got your 9 mil?”

Craig gave a short nod.

Tony extended his gun to Craig. “Cock that for me.” He took a slow breath and gritted his teeth. He’d have a bruise the size of his fist on his sternum come morning.

Craig cocked the gun and handed it back to him. “What happened?”

Tony tipped his head to the man restrained on the ground. “He drove his car through the doors, fired a couple of shots at me. While I was down, he headed for the doors. Think he’s some kind of addict.”

If he’d gotten to those doors …

He rounded the car. “Stay here. I’ll check outside.”


He stilled at the edge of the doorway and turned. The entryway spun. “Yeah?”

Craig ran his hand through his brown hair. “One of the visitors called the police. They’ll be here in about fifteen minutes.”

The last thing they needed were government cops swarming the church.

“All right. I’ll check fast and get back in here. We’ll talk.”

Glancing right and left, he stepped into the all-too-peaceful spring day. No traffic whizzed by on the two-lane country road twenty feet from the church’s decimated doors. He rounded the corner. No black Hondas with tinted windows lurked in the parking lot among the ten cars belonging to the churchgoers.

The only suspicious car was a crumpled mess in the church entryway.

He should’ve seen that coming a mile away. His carelessness had almost gotten people killed.

He tightened his grip on his gun, and completed his circuit of the small church. Nothing differentiated it from any other old country church save for what Craig preached from the pulpit. Truth. A rarity when people had lie after lie shoved down their throats and clamored for more.

He stopped out of sight of the church doors. No use getting more lead thrown his way. “I’m coming back in.”

“C’mon.” Craig’s reply came clear and steady.

Tony strode into the entryway and slumped against the wall. Pain throbbed through his arm. The addict still lay motionless on the ground.

Craig smoothed his hand down the front of his suit coat. “You must’ve hit him pretty hard.”

He fumbled to engage his gun’s safety. No easy thumbing it on as he did with his right hand. “Everything’s clear outside.”

Craig pulled open the right sanctuary door, and Wes strode into the sanctuary. “I’ll get Merri to bring the first aid kit out if you think it’s safe for her.”

Tony nodded. “As safe as it ever is.”

About the Author:

Kristina Hall is a sinner saved by grace who seeks to glorify God with her words. She is a homeschool graduate and holds a degree in accounting. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, arm wrestling, lifting weights, and playing the violin.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Book Review: The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water by Erin Bartels

About the Book:

The best fiction simply tells the truth.
But the truth is never simple.

When novelist Kendra Brennan moves into her grandfather's old cabin on Hidden Lake, she has a problem and a plan. The problem? An inflammatory letter from A Very Disappointed Reader. The plan? To confront Tyler, her childhood best friend's brother--and the man who inspired the antagonist in her first book. If she can prove that she told the truth about what happened during those long-ago summers, perhaps she can put the letter's claims to rest and meet the swiftly approaching deadline for her next book.

But what she discovers as she delves into the murky past is not what she expected. While facing Tyler isn't easy, facing the consequences of her failed friendship with his sister, Cami, may be the hardest thing she's ever had to do.

Plumb the depths of the human heart with this emotional exploration of how a friendship dies, how we can face the unforgivable, and how even those who have been hurt can learn to love with abandon.

Read an excerpt from The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water by Erin Bartels on the publisher's website.

My Thoughts:

I read The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water by Erin Bartels in short sittings. From beginning to end, this emotional story brims with sorrow, regret, and questions. The beautifully written prose and first-person point-of-view (POV) drew me deeply into Kendra’s perspective and search for truth, but the heaviness of the story’s issues kept me from reading the novel quickly.

The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water captured the murkiness of life, a place where things are gray and broken. The novel takes a hard look at many issues without offering standard “Christian-ese” solutions. The story weighs the cost of the telling the truth, examines broken relationships, asks what constitutes consent for sex, and probes the darkness of sexual assault.

The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water rates as an edgy story within the Christian Fiction market, not only because of the issues it tackles, but also because of graphic scenes (molestation and rape) presented on page with enough detail to make any reader uncomfortable. The heartbreaking experiences of Kendra’s teen years mirror the reality of this broken world filled with survivors of sexual assault. I appreciated the compassionate author’s note in which Erin Bartels shares a bit of her own experience and gently encourages those who have experienced sexual assault.

I recommend The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water by Erin Bartels to brave readers who desire a complex story. As hard as this novel may be to read, it brings awareness to the effects of sexual assault and the need for healing.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

January 2022 Reads & February 2022 TBR

My January 2022 Reads:
  1. The Ice Swan by J'nell Ciesielski - ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

  2. A Heart Adrift by Laura Frantz - ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - Read my review

  3. The Lady's Mine by Francine Rivers - ⭐⭐⭐⭐- Read my review.

  4. Stone by Ronie Kendig. - ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - Read my review.

Expected February 2022 Reads:
  1. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend - Currently rereading this amazing book. I've found it so helpful every time I've read it.

  2. Drawn by the Current by Jocelyn Green.

  3. In Search of a Prince by Toni Shiloh.

  4. Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn- My local book club's selection for February.

  5. The Samurai's Honor by Walt Mussell.

  6. The Samurai's Heart by Walt Mussell.

  7. The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water by Erin Bartels - Currently reading.

What will you read this month?