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Saturday, December 10, 2022
About the Book
Book: Take My Hand
Author: Kristen Hogrefe Parnell
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release date: December 5, 2022
Don’t find us. We’ll find you.
Trauma therapist Kaley Colbert needs a vacation from her job, and a ski trip with her church singles’ group seems like the perfect way to unplug. But while in the mountains, she learns that her last client was murdered hours after their meeting, and she wonders if the notes she’s receiving from a possible stalker hold a more sinister warning.
On the trip, ex-boyfriend and entrepreneur Reef Mitchell wants to give their relationship another chance, but Kaley questions if his past and priorities could ever mesh with her life. When her client’s underworld connections catch up with her, she has no choice but trust Reef to help her stay alive, solve her client’s mystery, and bring the killers to justice.
Kristen Hogrefe Parnell writes suspenseful fiction from a faith perspective for women and young adults. Her own suspense story involved waiting on God into her thirties to meet her husband, and she desires to keep embracing God’s plan for her life when it’s not what she expects. Kristen’s books have won the Selah Award and the Award, among others. An educator at heart, she also teaches English online and enjoys being a podcast guest. Kristen lives in Florida with her husband and baby boy. Visit her online at KristenHogrefeParnell.com.
More from Kristen
Real-Life Inspiration for Fictional Suspense
Mark Twain said, “Write what you know.” I certainly took his advice with the setting of my romantic suspense novel, Take My Hand. Beech Mountain, North Carolina is part of my own story in a special way. While my husband James and I were dating, our church group planned a ski trip to Beech Mountain, much like the one Reef and Kaley embark on in my story. Born and raised in Florida, I had never seen fresh snow fall, let alone attempt to ski in it. Writing Kaley’s frustration with the learning curve is something I came by honestly.
James taught the other new skiers and me the basics, and I felt so special to be his girlfriend and have such a thoughtful date. Later, when my writing imagination kicked in, I began to wonder, “What if James and I hadn’t been dating but had broken up? How awkward would that experience have been?” Awkward on steroids. Then the suspense lover in me began to spin the story of Kaley and Reef as well as a celebrity villain that no one would suspect. And so, this story was born.
But my experience with Beech Mountain didn’t stop with a ski trip. After James and I had been dating for just over a year, he planned a surprise engagement trip to—you guessed it—Beech Mountain. Since my Sunshine State doesn’t offer fall foliage, James invited some friends and me on a fall hiking trip. Though I wondered if he might pop the big question, I wasn’t sure, and my best friend wasn’t budging with any clues. One of our late afternoon hikes took us to Wiseman’s View, a stunning overlook of the mountains and canyon below. I was cold, craving hot chocolate, and ready to head back to our cabin, but James wanted to show me one more vista and “get a picture.” With my best friend recording the moment, James dropped down on one knee, spoke the sweetest words, and asked me to marry him—to which I happily said yes!
Now, Beech Mountain is one of our favorite road trip destinations as a married couple. With the arrival of our baby boy this summer, we are anticipating future family trips which will no doubt provide new inspiration for writing material. I look forward to sharing more stories in this series that revolve around Beech Mountain and the friends who come together and grow in their faith as they face life’s dangers and adventures.
This has been a fun book to read with a mixture of suspense, faith and a little romance. Finally Kaley is taking a well deserved vacation. She is joining her church group to go skiing. It sounds like a lot of fun except for one tiny problem. Her ex-boyfriend will be on the trip as well. Little does she know that Reef will not be the problem on this trip.
Reef is excited to go skiing and hopes at some time to maybe be able to clear the air with Kaley. You can sense that he still has feelings for her so he needs to try his best to make amends so they can both enjoy the trip. I like how Reef doesn’t pressure Kaley at all and is a real gentleman around her.
Someone thinks Kaley is hiding information and is willing to do anything to get it. What was suppose to be a nice time with friends turn into danger as Kaley turns up missing. Reef is sure that something strange is going on and gets the others involved to help find her. I loved the suspense and how the group stepped up to find Kaley.
Kaley’s job may have put her in danger when she meets someone else’s client right before she leaves for vacation. What did this person tell Kaley that has put her on the radar with the mob? Why does a famous person who just won an Oscar kidnap Kaley her and fly her back to Florida? The author had me on the edge of my seat as the twists and surprises kept me guessing as what was to come next.
The story has a great message of faith and trusting Him when you are in trouble. The ending is adrenaline charged and full of surprises. I am hoping that the author is planning another book to follow up on these characters.
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion.
Genre: Nonfiction, documentary narrative on biblical trauma healing
Release date: November 15, 2022
In She Seems So Normal: Shatter the Plastic Princess, Embrace Authentic Faith (Brookstone Creative Group, 2022), author Leigh Mackenzie draws from scriptural expertise as a former Bible research assistant for megachurch preachers and personal experiences as a childhood sexual abuse (CSA) trauma and military rape assault survivor to speak openly and courageously about biblical trauma healing
Release date: November 15, 2022
In She Seems So Normal: Shatter the Plastic Princess, Embrace Authentic Faith (Brookstone Creative Group, 2022), author Leigh Mackenzie draws from scriptural expertise as a former Bible research assistant for megachurch preachers and personal experiences as a childhood sexual abuse (CSA) trauma and military rape assault survivor to speak openly and courageously about biblical trauma healing.
As a sermon research assistant at a multisite midwestern megachurch, Leigh Mackenzie shared her love and talent to delve deeply in Scripture and extract original perspectives on teaching and personal application for her preaching team.
Known as “The Church Girl Writes” (one of 2017’s Pureflix’s Top Christian Mommy Bloggers), her professional work regularly appeared in Christian Standard magazine on subjects ranging from child trafficking and church core values to thrift store ministry and the attributes of Hannah.Her Bible study questions for The Lookout magazine, one of the nation’s oldest Bible study guides for adults, and online communion meditations for Christian Standard equipped leaders for ministry. She also has written devotional material for The Upper Room.
Catch Leigh (rhymes with “bee”) narrating “She Seems So Normal” on her podcast, reflecting on her own trauma healing journey, shattering the plastic princess, and embracing authentic faith. Follow her on IG xoxo_leighmackenzie and FB @LeighMackenzie.
Loving audiobooks and sunshine, Leigh and husband Christopher passionately explore the world, eating ethnic food, and enjoying good wine together. With a son in computer sciences at UIC and an Ethiopian daughter attending high school, the Mackenzies delight to reside in Chicago, IL with rescue dogs, Scout Charles and Louie Vuitton.
Ministry Goals: Embrace, Encourage, and Empower trauma survivors to heal biblically, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
More from Leigh
What inspired you to start a podcast and publish a book on biblical trauma healing? Why now?
I held my breath watching the Olympic gymnasts’ abuse testimony before Congress, bracing myself against a PTSD episode of my own in response.
Epstein, Cosby, McCarrick, R. Kelley… names representing mankind’s disturbing sin reverberated within me. Many survivor stories remain deeply hidden, scarring the souls of the abused and their abusers. Questions arise: How could this happen? Where was God?Is Jesus enough?
At the time, I felt like there weren’t a lot of hopeful, non-triggering stories containing solid answers from a biblical, medical, or community standpoint of healing. It was frustrating, so in December 2021, I began my indie-publishing odyssey.
She Seems So Normal: Shatter the Plastic Princess, Embrace Authentic Faith is a documentary narrative of a journey to unearth long-hidden, heinous childhood sexual abuse. As a megachurch biblical researcher for preachers, I was the picture of “put together, Plastic Princess” on the outside, but inside I was dying, believing the enemy’s lies, and wondering what’s wrong with my faith. When I stepped away from the grave of fearful rule-following legalism and into the gardens to embrace authentic faith, I found avenues of recovery and restoration for anxiety, trauma, and shame with Jesus, mentors, prayer warriors, therapists, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Can we start a church movement of welcoming messy stories and accepting transparent instead of perfect so you can feel free to #ShowYourCrown, too? I think we can.
Who supported you through your valley of trauma therapy?
There were so many who prayed and supported me in this process, giving me courage and hope and, at times, a swift kick in the fanny to keep me going. I can’t name them all, but you’ll see how Dr. Michele Novotni, my family, and Allison Harris rallied around me through the horrors of the cemetery to bring me into the gardens of God’s delight and rest.
Friend and mentor Dr. Michele Novotni was my “old ox” leading, encouraging, and energizing me throughout EMDR therapy, helping me process post-session, developing coping strategies, and grounding me in faith with prayerful intercession.
Then there was my unbelievable little family… my faithful husband, Christopher, and our incredible kids, who unreservedly offered pickle jars, lullaby songs, and cooking lessons on clarifying butter for baklava… but you’ll have to read the book to understand.
Another friend in church leadership, my magazine publisher’s wife, Allison Harris, told me to write through this season (this is all her fault!) and supported me through prayer as I courageously marched into the trauma therapy that helped resolve my underlying issues for long-term PTSD, panic attacks, nightmares, suicidal ideations, and eating disorders (all of which are common symptoms as a result of sexual abuse).
Wait, do you have a legit recipe for Baklava?
Yes, but you’d have to torture me to give up our friend’s family recipe! It’s SOOOO good. And I’ve suffered enough trying to make it… ha-ha.
Tell us about some cool extra features you included in She Seems So Normal.
Writing a sensitive book about sensitive subject matter, I passionately wanted to provide more multimedia resources for getting the help, support, or knowledge survivors, family, friends, or pastoral staff might need while reading. So I’ve sprinkled QR Codes throughout the book instantaneously linking people to online sites. You’ll also see little crowns with numbers corresponding to 60 podcast episodes where I’ve narrated and commentated my post-writing thoughts. BONUS: I included interviews with a couple key players you’ll not get inside the book because I wanted you to hear other voices of my champions, not just mine.
Isn’t it enough to just pray and have faith that Jesus will heal you? What role did the medical community play in your journey?
When I accepted Jesus Christ, I tried my best to clean up my act. Heck, I even stopped cussing and getting drunk! From Bible study and praying to leading small groups and serving funeral dinners, everything I saw other respectable Christians doing I began copying to act normal, becoming like a “Plastic Princess.” I served till the cows came home; I was just so thankful Jesus saved my soul from hell.
You can put lipstick on a pig, but that doesn’t make her a lady. For years I wondered what was wrong with me, why I didn’t always have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I begged Jesus to forgive me, to heal me, to rescue me from myself, wondering secretly, Was I even saved?
Severely traumatized and needing professional medical help, my therapist and other doctors helped me find peace with my past abuse by unravelling abusive grooming cycles to reveal my true identity in Jesus Christ. Along with the glorious work of the Holy Spirit, they played a valuable part in sweeping up the shattered pieces of Little Me, Middle Me, and Teen Me to make me whole and serve the Lord once again.
Who should listen to the podcast or read “She Seems So Normal”?
Many women silently endure the after-effects of trauma, so I am writing
for the 1 in 3 women in the U. S. who have experienced “sexual violence.”
for the suffering Christian who may question her salvation or be losing
hope that Jesus is big enough to heal her, who has limited outlets to begin exploring
these topics (mental health wellness, predatory grooming, suicidal ideation, sexual abuse) except between the covers of a book. She may look the picture of “put together”
on the outside but on the inside, she is dying, believing the enemy’s lies, and
wondering what’s wrong with her faith.
The podcast and book are also for FAMILY, FRIENDS, and CHURCH STAFF looking for ways to support and understand those in their lives who have been traumatized.
Are you working on other projects?
Yeah, I’m jazzed and honored to be co-authoring with the amazing Randy Petersen on two projects. The first, Stories Not Shared on Sundays (and Why We Feel Like Imposters In Church), will combine modern stories of Church people with many lesser-known, uncomfortable Bible stories (and their messy characters!) not normally preached in a 52-week sermon schedule to help churches create more authentic, transparent environments with a broader acceptance and understanding of those who aren’t “perfect” for them to encounter a Savior who is.
As an extension of his work for the American Bible Society’s State of the Bible in America, we are also in the beginning planning stages for The Five Major Cultural Shifts the Church Has To Make To Be Relevant based on research and statistics over the last ten years by ABS about the state of faith, the church, and Christian culture in America.
There are a few other books in the works, too, about parenting across two generations written with my Gen Z son; a few evangelistic death stories; and “The Rest of the 23rd” as well.
I was not looking forward to reading this book because I knew it would trigger me in many ways. However it was so important for me to finish the book and hear from another person who has experienced trauma like me. Many of us think we are the only ones out there who have gone through sexual abuse, but sadly there are more than we realize. I appreciate the author’s insights and how she used scriptures and Biblical stories to illustrated that with Jesus we have hope.
Like her, I thought people would protect me especially my parents. How wrong I was. It was like a fake happy family when in public, but the most dysfunctional family behind closed doors for me. Who did I have to save me if my own parents wouldn’t? After all they were part of the abuse so why would they? After many years I found my answer. God was there every moment, taking my pain and surrounding me with His grace and mercy.
The author explains the feelings of abandonment, anger and rejection as some of the feelings she went through on her journey. I discovered that she also had an eating disorder like me. It was a tool I used to try to cope with things and also for me it was to punish myself. Oh yes I felt guilt every time I was abused.
I appreciate how the author is candid and shares experiences that were painful and emotionally traumatic. I love how she includes verses at the end of every chapter for readers. I am very thankful she addressed mental health and how the Body of Christ doesn’t quite understand it. There are scriptures about renewing your mind and I know that one well. As the author explains, God gave her coping gifts. I never thought about this before. He allowed her to “forget people’s faces, fierceness and strength.
The book is heavy at times with real emotions and trauma that the author walked through. I liked how she had a supportive husband and friends that surrounded her as she went through this healing. We may see on the outside that someone looks fine, but beneath that face is pain that is hard to describe. Thank you for writing a book that encourages others and gives us hope as we walk our own journey to healing.
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit.The review is my own opinion.
Genre: Christian Women’s Fiction with Elements of Romance
Release date: April 29, 2022
With their lives in a free fall, three women gather for their 40thhigh school reunion. At 57, is it too late to make a fresh start?
Suzanne – After spending most of her adult life working as a traveling trainer for an airline, untethered and mildly content, Suzanne feels a stirring in her heart for a seemingly perfect guy. But when she abruptly loses her job, she lands in surprising new territory.
Rachel – Seeking distraction in the wake of her husband’s sudden passing, Rachel helps organize her class’s first reunion in 40 years. Stunned by an old friend’s shocking secrets, she struggles to learn forgiveness as she tiptoes into her new-found freedom.
Marla – After selling her thriving business, Marla revisits high school friendships and her mysterious past. Seeking family and a renewed purpose, she adds her marketing expertise to the group’s strategy for revitalizing the blue-collar town that brought them back together.
Chris Posti’s writing experience comes in a variety pack: novelist, nonfiction author, newspaper columnist, blogger, freelancer, and business writer. She was self-employed for 30 years as a career and executive coach. She once lived in a tiny town similar to the Western Pennsylvania setting of “Falling Apart, Falling for You.” Her latest book, “Before You Write your Novel: What to Know from the Get-Go” was launched on July 25, 2022.
More from Chris
If you’re over the age of 50, you’ve probably noticed the female protagonists in most novels are younger than you. Yet the lives of older women are filled with challenges, changes, growth, fun, and even romance. They want to read about characters they can relate to. That’s precisely why I wrote “Falling Apart, Falling for You.”
All women, but particularly women 50+, will identify with three women whose lives are in a free fall when they reunite for the first time since high school graduation. The story is fun, clean, and wholesome, with plenty of reality and just a little bit of wine and a few beers.
Suzanne, who is divorced and dating the seemingly perfect guy, abruptly loses her job as a traveling trainer for an airline. She’s convinced it’s due to age discrimination, and even her normally disagreeable daughter concurs.
Rachel loves her rosary, cooking, and daily routines, but when she suddenly becomes widowed she must learn to support herself by running the family gas station. Her son Pete is eager to help, and so is her widowed neighbor Frank.
Marla has been known to have a fling, but in fact, it’s her business she’s in love with. After an offer to sell makes her an instant multi-millionaire, she celebrates too hard and lands in a hospital. Now, she needs to find a new purpose in life.
This is the first book in a series of three.
A big cheer from me on finally finding an author that writes a story about women over fifty years old. These type of stories are few and far between. It was easy to relate to the characters because they each had realistic problems and faced their feelings of growing older. Not everything turns out the way we hope for but as we get older we can appreciate some of what life has given us. The three main women in the story bring problems, friendship and laughter along the way.
I liked how we get ready with the women for their fortieth class reunion with apprehension. Of course they don’t look like they use to, and some have failed relationships but I think what was important was these three women supported each other and encouraged each other to be proud of who they are now.
I loved how the author gives us a peek into each woman’s struggles and how they find that their relationship with God is lacking. The story gives us illustrations of being happy with who we are, asking for forgiveness and finding joy in little things. We see three friends come together to lift each other up, allow each other to grown not only in their own strength but in their faith. Some of the subjects in the book such as divorce, alcohol, adoption and affairs could be a trigger for some readers. The author handles these in a graceful way and shows how the characters deal with them through faith.
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion.
Genre: Children’s (Young chapter book, middle grade reader) Christmas Story
Release date: July 25, 2022
Every Thanksgiving, the Oddball Ornaments are pulled out of the attic and hung on the tree to enjoy the holiday season with the humans. Last Christmas, the Oddballs learned that “Turkey Day” and “Box Day” weren’t about them but about a special Baby. This Christmas, the Oddball Ornaments can’t wait to learn more about this special holiday. But when a new ornament is hung on the tree, they find themselves left with even more questions than before. What does a drummer boy have to do with Christmas? In this heartwarming story for children of all ages, the Oddball Ornaments will see how Christmas is all about love and forgiveness and how God can take a broken family and heal hurting hearts.
Terry Overton obtained her Ph.D. in Psychology and her Ed. D. in special education. She taught in public schools and was a school psychologist and a professor before retiring in 2016. She began her second “career” after retirement and now writes Christian fiction books and devotionals and hopes to share the Christian worldview through her writing. Her novels, middle grade readers, and picture books seek to entertain readers through the travel experiences and characters included in her books. She currently resides in Laguna Vista, Texas, near the Texas-Mexico border. She enjoys Biblical history and general Bible studies, writing, and enjoying family and friends. She has seven grandchildren and one great granddaughter.
More from Terry
This is the second book of the children’s Christmas series: Oddball Ornaments. The whole idea came to me while looking at the ornaments of my tree one year and wondering, “If they could talk to each other, what would they say?” In both books, the ornaments are alive and can hear their humans, but the humans cannot hear the ornaments talk. It was fun to write these characters and to help teach these imaginary friends lessons about Christmas and forgiveness.
This is the perfect story to help young children understand about the birth of Jesus. The author brings the story to life with the oddball ornaments. They each have unique personalities and bring joy to each other. I could picture them on the tree talking and watching the family as they placed decorations around the tree.
This year the oddball ornaments are excited once gain to be out of their dusty boxes in the attic and displayed on the Christmas tree. It is fun to read how the ornaments talk to each other and are curious about Christmas. I loved how the author explained about traditions that different families have during Christmas. The ornaments were excited to learn all this new information.
The story explores forgiveness and gives examples of how forgiveness is for everyone. There is a part in the story that made me cry. I won’t give that part away but it is a great example of true forgiveness. The ornaments were shocked at first but when the Angel explained they rejoiced. A great story of the birth of Jesus, celebrating Christmas and learning bout forgiveness.
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion.