Nicole Santana ~ Women of Faith and Fiction

Good morning! I’m excited to have a book reviewer with me this morning. For years, I’ve enjoyed reading Nicole Santana’s thoughts on the books. Let’s show Nicole some love and appreciation for all she does for readers and authors alike. Good morning, Nicole!

Personal

Who is Nicole?

I wear a lot of hats: I am a wife, a mother,  a sister to four brothers and one sister, a daughter, an aunt, a high-school English teacher, an avid reader, and a reviewer.  Reading is one way to center me so all these hats don’t weigh heavily on me. While it can get overwhelming, I do love all that God has put into my life!  I am a very blessed lady.

I teach AP English Literature and Composition, English 9 Honors Medical, and AVID 10 at Palmdale High School in Palmdale, CA. I currently finished my 15th year at PHS. It feels like only yesterday that I was a scared, brand-new teacher.  My how time flies.

Naturally, being an English teacher, I am teaching my 8-year-old a love for books! So far, so good.  She is my blessing and my miracle. She brings such joy to my days. God blessed me when He put Bella into my life!

You are one busy lady, my friend. 🙂 I know this next question has to be a tough one for you, but I’m going to ask because I want to know. Who is your all-time favorite character?

Professional

My all-time favorite character is Jane Eyre. When I was a senior in high school, my AP Lit and Comp teacher, Ms. Achiani, recommended that I read Jane Eyre. I devoured that book in days! I’ve since read the book about 10 more times. Jane’s character speaks to my soul. I have always been the odd one out. The black sheep so to speak. I’ve never really fit into any category, and I’ve never felt pretty. On personality tests, I’ve always tested HIGH as an introvert (my last personality test showed a 97% introvert rating), so I’m super uncomfortable around others. But, I feel deeply just as Jane does. And, I can be a little clueless about the feelings of others as Jane is towards Rochester. When I first read Jane Eyre all those years ago, I felt like finally someone got me. If Charlotte Bronte and I had been born the same time period, and we lived near each other, I think we would have been great friends.

Introverts are often misunderstood as aloof. Like you, I feel deeply. I just struggle with how to express that sometimes, so I say nothing at all. Tell me about your latest read.

I just finished reading More Than We Remember by Christina Suzann Nelson. Oh, my word is this an excellent novel. It’s a story that got under my skin, pierced my heart, and left me cheering. It made me talk; I may have bugged my husband every couple of hours with random thoughts and questions: what is forgiveness? What does grace actually look like? What if…? I absolutely adore when a book gets me thinking and makes stop in my reader tracks to have an immediate conversation. I truly loved everything about this book — the superb writing style, the endearing, multi-faceted characters, the conflicts, and the thought-provoking themes. I didn’t know who Christina Suzann Nelson was before reading More Than We Remember, but now I want to read everything she’s written and everything she will write!

READER: You can read Nicole’s review of More Than We Remember here.

The books that get me thinking are books I will read again and again. Moving on . . . What do you like or don’t like in a book?

What do I like in a book? I love it when books get me thinking. My most favorite genre is Historical romance because I love learning new and interesting things, and I love it when stories end happily. I know that life is hard and not all real-life stories end well, but that is why I love fiction. Fiction allows me to escape. When a novel is so well written and so captivating I’m transported to another time and place, that is one of the best experiences ever. I love novels filled with witty banter and timely themes. Books should make a reader wrestle with real-life issues, but they should also make you chuckle a little. The very best novels change the reader a little for the better. 

What do I dislike in a book? I can’t stand when an author doesn’t trust me to be smart enough to read his or her book and therefore explains everything to me. I feel offended. I’m more a show, don’t tell kind of reader. I also HATE when authors try to tell a Biblical story, but make it fit a modern agenda. God’s Word is sacred and we are commanded not to add or subtract from the Word of God in Deuteronomy 4:2. I get poetic license — creating dialogues and the such because we don’t have that information today — but to change the intent and context of the Bible is just wrong! I recently read a novel that tried to tell the story of Barabbas that made Biblical characters homosexual, put characters in places they clearly were not in, and changed up various parables that Jesus told. The author told me he was going for allegory, but he wasn’t. He completely changed up God’s Word to fit his agenda, and that is 100% wrong. Allegory is good, but not at the expense of God’s Word.

I agree with you, Nicole. We must be careful when writing Biblical fiction. Thank you for sharing your heart. Have you always wanted to be a reviewer? Where does your inspiration come from?

Inspirational

I have always wanted to work in the publishing world, but God had other plans for me. I have always loved reading and I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I never really knew how to express this love of mine. I’m not a creative writer. I don’t have any aspirations to be a novelist. In fact, that idea bores me to tears. But I love analysis writing. I love to sift through the creative writing of others and show the world how amazing their talents are. I started my blog, https://christianfictiongirl.blog/, three years ago because I realized that my talent for writing analytical pieces could be used to uplift and support Christian authors, and to encourage other readers. You see, I truly believe that God uses Christian fiction to plant seeds into people’s souls that get them questioning, searching, and eventually finding a relationship with Him. I believe that Christian fiction is more important now than it’s ever been. People are desperate to believe in something. I want that something to be God. I believe with my whole being that God whispered to my soul to begin my blog so I would use my talents to showcase novels in a way that would get people to pick them up and read. Perhaps there is something in the novel that gets people thinking and questioning and searching. Perhaps that novel gets people to pick up their Bibles. And, in all of this, God works on their hearts. I believe that God puts a call-to-action on Christian authors’ hearts, they write their novels, I read their works and then tell others how amazing their works are. Those who read my reviews then read these Christian novels and God works on them. It’s a beautiful ministry that means so much to me. And through it all, God is working on me, too! This is why I am inspired to write my reviews on my blog. When God calls, we have to answer even if the answer is a simple blog post!

I am so glad you answered that call, my friend! You do an excellent job. Last question . . . I believe it’s important to encourage each other in our daily walk.Would you share a word of encouragement with our readers?

The most encouraging thing to me about God is that He sees us. He is a God of love. He created us all specifically and on purpose, and He put us on this earth for very unique purposes. God did not put us here for trials and tribulations and then runs away from us so that we have to figure things out for ourselves. No! God is a God of relationships. He is constantly there for us. He knows what we are going through. When we cry, He cries. When we laugh, He laughs. This world tells us we are nothing — a mere number. But God, He tells us we are His kids and He puts His Name on us. I think that is amazing! The God who created the known and unknown universes loves us so much He wants a relationship with us. All we have to do is accept that relationship. 

Blessed be God, because He has not rejected my prayer or removed His steadfast love from me! (Psalm 66:20)

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Thank you so much for joining me, Nicole. And thank you for your dedication to your readers and authors! ❤

You see, I truly believe that God uses Christian fiction to plant seeds into people’s souls that get them questioning, searching, and eventually finding a relationship with Him. ~ Nicole Santana @bellesmoma16 @GailJohnson87 #Christianfiction #amreading

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Unwrapping Hope ~ Sandra Ardoin

I am privileged to be on Sandra Ardoin’s launch team for her latest release, Unwrapping Hope. Squee! I’m sure you’re going to love this one. Let’s get started!

Book Description

Phoebe Crain, an accomplished pianist, lives in near poverty to protect her five-year-old daughter from scandal. When Phoebe receives a handcrafted cigar box by mistake, her desperation to give the child something special for Christmas drives her to suggest a trade with Spence Newland, a man she views as no more principled than her daughter’s late father. But the more time she spends with the department store heir, the more Phoebe struggles to keep up her guard against him.

Spence believes the cigar box will help him gain a reclusive investor’s financial support for his proposed five-and-ten-cent stores, demonstrating his ability to manage the family fortunes. Yet he hesitates to bargain with a widow who mistrusts him for no apparent reason…until he meets a charming little girl at the train station who awaits the arrival of a prince.

Will a betrayal in Phoebe’s past and Spence’s unraveling plans derail their hope for happiness and keep a child’s fairy tale from coming true?

My thoughts

Novellas have been the perfect read for me this year. Even better were the historical Christian fiction stories. And Sandra Ardoin’s Unwrapping Hope didn’t disappoint. I loved her stories and her characters. All of them!

Ardoin drew me in with breadcrumbs bursting with promises and led me to the perfect ending. Along the way, I empathized with Phoebe as she struggled with the answers to her problems. I cheered for Spence as he chased his dreams. And in the middle of all this book love, I fell for a little sprite waiting at the train station.

Unwrapping Hope is a refreshing story of love, forgiveness, and mercy that you will not want to miss!

I received a copy from the author, but I pre-ordered my own Kindle edition. All opinions are my own.

5 Stars

Here’s that link:

Unwrapping Hope by @SandraArdoin is a refreshing story of love, forgiveness, and mercy! 5 stars #bookreview #newreleases

Vacation and Summer Reads

This week, I’m taking a few days off to relax with my daughter during her school break. She has four weeks left in her first year of medical assisting classes! I am so proud of her. It has been a wild year for my family as we’ve faced physical and spiritual battles. But God has been faithful through it all.

But enough about that. This post is about books. So what are you reading? Anything special? If not, I have a few suggestions. 😊

Read/Reading

No Longer Alone by Melinda Inman (Historical)

I’d love to see this on the big screen. Prentis’ and Avery’s love story is one I’m glad I didn’t miss.

A Love Most Worthy by Sandra Ardoin (Historical)

A delightful visit to Klondike country with Rance Preston and Hallie Russell. A story of hope, healing, and restoration.

A Southern Season: Four Stories from a Front Porch Swing by Eva Marie Everson, Linda Yezak, Claire Fullerton, and Ane Mulligan (Contemporary)

Haven’t finished it yet. But y’all! ❤ Just get the book.

Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection by Yvonne Anderson, Michael Ehret, Kimberli S. Mckay, Pamela S. Myers, Ane Mulligan, Chandra Lynn Smith, Linda W. Yezak (Contemporary)

Short sweet reads. Perfect for the beach, pool, or anywhere you can sit or stand. LOL.

Fully Committed by Dora Hiers (Contemporary)

A lovely surprise. Rand Tenneson wasn’t the average contemporary hero. A story of second chances.

In Hand

The One Year Experiencing God’s Love Devotional by Sandra Byrd

Soul Care for Writers by Edie Melson

Next on the List:

Jessie’s Hope by Jennifer Hallmark

Hedges by Jerry B. Jenkins

Salvation by Olivia Rae

On Eagles Wings by Lynnette Bonner

A Tamale Christmas by Linda Rodante

A Father for Bella by Jill Weatherholt

The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman by Carole Brown

So there ya go. I hope this week will find you buried nose-deep in a book or two. Until next week, stay safe and have fun!

Let me know what you’re reading this week and how it’s going so far? Good? Bad? Meh?

XOXO

Gail

ClicktoTweet: So what are you reading? Anything special? If not, I have a few suggestions. Relax. Read. Review.

Photo courtesy of Jill Wellington on Pixabay