Have you ever pushed the limits of a friendship?

Ever held onto a secret for a really long time? Decades, even?

Have you ever deceived someone to get what you wanted?

Ever held onto something too tightly, afraid to let it go?

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All of these aspects of life come into play in the new novel, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard.

In her latest work of historical fiction, author Susan Meissner takes us back to Hollywood during the filming of Gone With the Wind. She weaves two story lines — one present day, one during the late 1930’s era — with a hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara as the common link.

The two main characters, Violet and Audrey, form an interesting and complicated friendship. Will it stand the test of time? Will their dependency upon each other make their relationship stronger, or cause it to crumble?

Will their goals and aspirations in life spur one another on, or stand in each other’s way?

 

“A lovely, well-crafted story that peeks at a fascinating moment in cinematic history and examines the power and vulnerability of sincere friendship.” – Kirkus Review

 

Below is an interview with author Susan Meissner. Enjoy this glimpse into Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

 

Where did the idea for Stars Over Sunset Boulevard come from?

I’ve only read Gone with the Wind once, but I’ve probably seen the movie a dozen times. There’s something about those characters, the cinematography, the costumes and that sound track that have always wooed me. I’ve wanted to set a story on the 1939 movie set of this film for a long time; I knew it would provide a detail-rich environment. Gone with the Wind is not very often described as being a story about friendship, but the more I’ve watched the film version, the more I’ve seen how complex Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Hamilton’s relationship was. I long wanted to explore how these two characters seem to be polar opposites but are actually both fiercely loyal and unafraid of making hard choices to protect what they love. I knew I could use Scarlett and Melanie’s fictional friendship as a template for telling a story about two studio secretaries who, like Scarlett and Melanie, are not as different from each other as we might first think.

 

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What is the story about, in a nutshell?

Christine McAllister owns a vintage clothing store on West Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. When the iconic curtain-dress hat worn by Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind ends up in her boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner takes the reader on a journey to the past.

It’s 1938 and Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Los Angeles after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart. She lands a job on the film-set of Gone with the Wind and meets the enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires start to collide. What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

 

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What would you especially like readers to take away from Stars over Sunset Boulevard?

I hope the theme that will resonate most is that love and fear can sometimes feel the same, though they influence our choices differently. When I have a decision to make that involves another person, fear often motivates me to choose what’s best for me. But love motivates me to choose what is best for the other person. Fear urges me to hang on to what is mine, while love can actually lead me to let go. My hoped-for takeaway from the novel is the idea that when you hold something you love tightly to your chest for fear of losing it, you actually risk crushing it.

 

Thank you, Susan — for the interview, and for another wonderful book! 

To order Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, click here.

 

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Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of eighteen books, including Secrets of a Charmed Life, a 2015 Goodreads Choice Award finalist, and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. She and her husband make their home in Southern California.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Affiliate links used in this post.

Yesterday we were treated to a guest post by Deidra Riggs, author of Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are.

 

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Today, I have the opportunity to share a video interview with you, as well as my own review of Every Little Thing, PLUS offer a giveaway from Baker Books and Dayspring! Such a great week!

Firstly, allow me to introduce the lovely Deidra:

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Deidra Riggs is the author of Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are (Baker Books). She is managing editor at The High Calling, and a monthly contributor to (in)courage.

Deidra and her husband live in Lincoln, Nebraska. They are the proud parents of two adult children, and happy inhabitants of an empty nest.

Follow Deidra on her blog, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.​

 

 

I had such a wonderful time recording the following video with Deidra. She is the real deal.

Listen below as Deidra shares words of wisdom and encouragement for all who question their significance in this life:

 

As you can see from this quote I read in the interview, Deidra cuts straight to the heart in her book:

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These are difficult questions. Questions worthy of a long pause and serious, soul-searching reflection.

In fact, the whole book will make you stop and think long and hard about how you view your own purpose and influence in this world.

In her book, Deidra tackles subjects including fear and trust, obedience, significance and surrender, and what it means to live out the gospel.

She weaves biblical examples throughout the chapters, illustrating from Scripture how we can relate to the characters in the Bible and glean from their experiences with God.

One thing I appreciated about Every Little Thing was how easy it was to read. I found myself caught up in Deidra’s storytelling as if she were sitting across from me at a coffee shop. She is engaging and easy to relate to. In spite of the many challenges it poses, this book is inspiring and motivating, not burdensome. It left me feeling bolstered and spurred on to pursue the good works that God has planned in advance for me to do.

If you’re questioning your significance in this world, this book is for you.

If you wonder whether your life is making a difference, this book is for you.

If you doubt that your small contributions have any impact whatsoever — read this book, and be encouraged.

 

Favorite quotes (warning: there are many!):

“Could it be that the biggest obstacle to receiving grace is refusing to admit our deep and aching need for it?”

“We build trust in God by taking one small step in his direction and finding out he will always be there to catch us.”

“Many times God’s invitations are not at all what we’d expect them to be.”

 

“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”

 

If you missed Deidra’s guest post on God in the wilderness, click here. Here are a few of the many lines that struck me from that chapter:

“As much as we want to resist it, in the wilderness of our lives, God works to transform us more and more into the image of his Son and a reflection of his character.”

“When we’ve allowed the wilderness experience to strip us down to ‘simply me,’ we are just the right size for God’s big plans.”

“God walks every step of the wilderness journey with us, and he shapes us as we make our way through.”

 

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The chapter entitled, “Breathlessness” was one of my favorites.

What are you striving for? What lies have you believed from the world about grasping for significance and meaning in this life? What do you need to release and surrender in order to find true significance in Christ?

 

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As you can see from the many quotes above, you probably shouldn’t read this book unless you’re prepared to be both challenged and changed — in a good way.

 

ViBellalogoIn conjunction with the release of Every Little Thing, Deidra has partnered with ViBella Jewelry, a fabulous fair trade company that employs artisans from Haiti and Mexico. ViBella’s mission is to bring hope and healing to the artisans, their families, and their communities.

Here’s one piece featured in the Every Little Thing collection. It’s called the Alexandra Bracelet

 

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ViBella also has the Kyla bracelet, which is available here:

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And that’s not all! There’s a giveaway!

Baker Books, publisher of Every Little Thing, and Dayspring are offering a copy of Deidra’s book PLUS this beautiful Everlasting Light Shine necklace to one winner!

 

Click here to order the necklace from Dayspring.com while it’s still on sale.

Enter the giveaway by using the Rafflecopter widget below. Giveaway closes at midnight EST on Sunday, November 29th, and is only open to those with a U.S. mailing address.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. 

 

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My arms shook as I lifted them to the clothesline, attempting to hang wet laundry out to dry.

I could hear my heart beating in my chest as my eyes darted left and right.

I was convinced someone was going to jump over the wall into our rental property.

Just like the day before.

My eyes kept going back to the wall where the burglar had crouched the previous morning, after he smashed the window next to our back door.

Broken glass was still scattered on the ground.

My pulse would not slow down.

The fear was suffocating.

It tightened in my chest and caught my breath in its grip.

I had watched the same thing happen to a few different friends. They each had post-traumatic fear symptoms that lingered for months after being mugged on the streets of Cape Town.

Fear is a crippling enemy.

It breaks us down with a breath and brings us to our knees.

The question is, what do we do once we’re down there?

In her new book, Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves, author Trillia Newbell urges readers to turn to God and His Word.

Trillia believes that the Lord is the one who can give us the peace that passes understanding — even in the face of fear.

I agree — not only because the Bible says so, but because I’ve experienced it myself.

Standing outside at my clothesline the morning after our attempted robbery, I knew I had a choice. I could let fear get the best of me … or I could ask God for help.

By His grace and with His help, I chose the latter.

My fears didn’t dissipate instantly. My pulse didn’t immediately slow to a regular rhythm.

But He helped me stay out there in my backyard when I was tempted to go back in the house. He helped me sleep at night when the glass was still broken and the wind howled through the house.

He stilled the raging storm for His disciples, and 2,000 years later, He stilled my fearful heart.

 

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Trillia Newbell, author of Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart CravesI received a review copy of this book from Moody Publishers, and it was such a delight to meet Trillia via video.

Click the video below to be encouraged by Trillia’s words of wisdom and vibrant personality. You’ll see that she is a woman who loves God and His Word.

 

 

 

As I mention in the interview, one thing that pleasantly surprised me about this book was the broad coverage of the topic of fear.

Before I started reading, I anticipated the pages to address issues such as a fear of death, fear of loneliness, fear of sickness, etc. What I didn’t expect was to find a whole section on the fear of man.

Trillia’s dealings with the fear of man were some of my favorite parts of the book.

She admits her own struggle with this common temptation to care too much about what other people think: “I loved the praise of people and hated the idea of doing wrong.”

She hits the nail on the head when addressing current trends: “Social media has a way of pulling out the fear of man. We check to see who has ‘liked’ our post or picture, fearing what we write, hoping to be noticed.” Does that sound familiar?

These lines hit me right between the eyes:

“Tragically, you and I deny Christ every time we care more about what others think of us than of what God has already declared. Every time we seek man’s approval and praise, we say to the Lord that His sacrifice was not enough.”

 

The sweet cure for our fear of failure

 

Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves is full of biblical encouragement: “The sweet cure for our fear of failure is the gospel, which reminds us of our limitations and weakness and our need for a Savior…. All our imperfections are perfect in the sight of God because of Jesus.”

Trillia concludes with a chapter entitled, “Growing in the Fear of the Lord.” This is the answer to overcoming earthly fears — to possess a reverent fear of the Lord.’

 

God began  the work   in you, and He

 

I especially appreciated Trillia’s emphasis on God’s work and His grace. Referring to Philippians 1:6, Trillia writes:

“The Christian is not left to grow on her own. God began the work in you, and He will finish it. He will teach you to fear Him. The work of growing in the Lord will culminate in a complete, joy-filled, perfect fear of the Lord on the day you see Jesus. You can and should actively seek this growth, by the grace of God, knowing that nothing you do will earn your righteous standing before the Lord.”

Amen.

 

No matter what fears you fight against — whether it’s the fear of a burglar breaking into your house or the fear of other people’s opinions, Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves is a helpful, biblical resource. It is full of rich, gospel content and points readers to the One who has overcome the world and all its fears.

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trillia-home2-620x360Trillia Newbell is the author of Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves (2015) and United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (2014). Her writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine, The Gospel Coalition, and more. She is currently Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. Along with writing, she is pursuing her M.A. in biblical counseling from Southern Theological Seminary. For fun, she enjoys group fitness (she used to be a fitness instructor!), cycling, and listening to a variety of music. Trillia is married to her best friend, Thern, they reside with their two children near Nashville, TN. You can find her at trillianewbell.com and follow her on twitter at @trillianewbell.

 

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Related articles: Living in Fear and How to Defeat Fear through Faith

 

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Maybe it’s because I’ve met the author personally.

Maybe it’s because the child she fought to adopt in this riveting book happens to be in my son’s class class at school.

Or maybe it’s just because the account is utterly captivating in its own right.

Whatever the reason, I was completely taken by this woman’s story — a harrowing, true story of dedication and commitment to adopt her son from Ukraine.

In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days.

Until We All Come Home: A Harrowing Journey, a Mother’s Courage, a Race to Freedom by Kim de Blecourt drew me in from the first page. When the de Blecourt family embarked on their international adoption journey, nobody could have imagined all that they would have to endure.

With each chapter, they hit more and more roadblocks and setbacks. It was a spiritual battle as much as it was a battle with the Ukranian government. As I read the countless hardships and difficulties they faced, all on foreign territory, I was convinced that I would have given up. I would not have had the strength to persevere to the end. When I confessed this to Kim, she said, “It was all God. I would have said the same thing, that I couldn’t have done it. God was what got me through.”

What Kim and her husband Jahn thought would be a short jaunt across the ocean to adopt a child turned into an eleven-month-long nightmare. Jahn eventually had to resume his work in the States, leaving Kim alone in a non-English speaking country to continue the adoption process. Though he returned for two different visits for court appearances, Kim was largely on her own.

Until We All Come Home is the powerful testimony of God’s provision in the midst of a complicated web of corruption and spiritual warfare.

Once she finally returned back home with her newly adopted son, Kim realized the full effect that her experience had on her body, mind and spirit. She says she came home a different woman. After receiving counseling, Kim was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, so severe and traumatic was her prolonged experience.

By God’s grace, Kim has now recovered and is active in promoting adoption and the cause of orphans worldwide.

You can find Kim at her website, on Facebook or on Twitter.

 

Order Until We All Come Home now.

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.

Teach a child to read, and you’ve unlocked a world of knowledge and unlimited possibility.

As a homeschooler, I’ve got a soft spot for children’s books, and particularly books that help my kids better understand the Bible.

This new book, Get to Know Mary, by Nancy I. Sanders is one such book.

It’s a “full-color biography for kids,” and is part of a series of “Get to Know” books published by ZonderKidz.

I read the book to my second-grader and found it to be very well laid out and informative.  It includes a wealth of facts and useful graphics and images, including maps and real-life replicas of ancient artifacts. The book is easy to read, visually appealing and even has vocabulary definitions at the bottom of most pages.

One critique I would have is that some of the material is speculative, not established fact.  The author does her best to give a rounded picture of Mary’s life by filling in gaps that Scripture does not necessarily specify, such as statements like, “Most likely, Mary bought clothes for the family there” or “Mary probably bought fruits, vegetables and olive oil from the marketplace.”  While this can be helpful to give a broader understanding of what Mary’s life could have been like, I think it’s worth mentioning to those reading the book that some of these details are assumptions and not concretely known.

Also, perhaps one more note: There is one image of a work of art entitled ‘Christ on the Cross between the Virgin and St. John,’ which shows Jesus being crucified.  In the picture, there is blood dripping down Jesus’ body and down the wooden cross.  Just mentioning that as a “heads up” for those parents who might have particularly sensitive children.

Overall, I appreciated the content of this book and found value in having the Scripture portions that include Mary condensed into one resource.  I would recommend this biography for families, and look forward to reading more books in this series.

 

Note: I received a free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers, in exchange for my honest review.