The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey–4.5 stars

Billy Coffey is the author of four novels:  Snow Day (2010) Paper Angels (2011), When Mockingbirds Sing (2013) and The Devil Walks in Mattingly (2014).

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From his website:

“When you’re raised in small-town Virginia by a redneck father and a Mennonite mother, certain things become ingrained. And when you marry a small-town girl and have two small-town kids, all you want to do is pass those ingrained things along.

Like believing the best life is one lived in the country enjoying the pleasures it provides—summer nights beneath the stars, rocking chairs on the front porch, deer grazing in the fields. And believing that no matter how iffy life can get sometimes, there are some things that are eternal and unchanging.

But above all else, believing that in everything there is story waiting to be told.”

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BillyCoffey.com

If there’s one thing Billy Coffey knows how to do it’s write a story. His syntax is as compelling as the story itself.

How did I like this book? Not as much as I liked When Mockingbirds Sing.  And that’s not because it was poorly written. I think it’s because it was a heavy, emotionally-wrenching story. Which is probably what Coffey was going for. You definitely feel invested in the characters because he makes the weightiness of their guilt very real to the reader.

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BillyCoffey.com

Basically, the story is about a sheriff and his wife going through life carrying a load of guilt for something that they did in high school that resulted in a death. There’s another character that feels this weight as well. They do all sorts of things to appease the weight of their sin. They go through life unaware of available grace.

What I do like about Coffey books are the ghosts. Not in the Casper-sense. But metaphorically and perceptually. The mountains and hollows of Virginia are known for such things, and the setting for this book was perfect for the “ghosts” that haunt the characters of this book.

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BillyCoffey.com

I read all 385 pages in one sitting. It didn’t bore me and that says a lot about how well this book was written. I’m easily distracted when reading fiction and I like a story that keeps me engaged. This one did.

In some ways, Coffey’s writing in this book reminded me of Ted Dekker’s. I’ve not read all of Dekker’s books, but the ones I have read deal with supernatural issues similarly. If you like Dekker, I have no doubt you’ll like Coffey.

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BillyCoffey.com

I’m no expert, but I think if Coffey could have incorporated a few breaks of levity in the book, I might have enjoyed it more. Again, it was a heavy read emotionally. But if you like a book that grabs you by the collar and won’t let you go, a book you can’t stop thinking about after you put it down, you’ll like this one.

I give it 4.5 stars.

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Strong girls read

Stronggirlslogo2God never intended for women to be dumb.

That’s a mankind idea, not a God idea.  Societies and cultures of the past and present have treated women as chattel–property to be owned and kept ignorant.

But you don’t see that in the Bible. Jesus exalted the woman. He treated her as an equal. (There’s an excellent article about this here: Jesus Friend of Women.)

Why would God give women a brain if they weren’t to use it?

One of my favorite stories is the one in the movie, Yentl. It’s about a young Jewish girl who disguises herself to be a man just so she will be allowed to read books that only men are allowed to read.

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I put myself in her shoes and I think that if I’d been born in such a time, I may have gone to the same lengths to learn.

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Maybe you’re a girl and your thing isn’t books. Learn anyway by some other means. God has given you a talent for a reason and it’s not to sit idly by and wait for someone else to take care of you. Learn to take care of yourself. Waiting for a man to take care of you is the worst way to live your life and make your plans. And trust me. In this day and age? It’s probably not going to happen.

MjAxMy01YmVmODYyMzI3ZTEyNzlkYou are responsible to God for your own brain, talents, and gifts. It won’t be your spouse or boyfriend who stands before God and gives an account for how you lived your life–it will be you.

042811_PrinceCharming1If you do love books (like me), don’t stop reading. Read all you can. Especially God’s Word. Because there’s a lot out there to read that will lie to you. Don’t fall for it. The only way you’ll be able to know if it’s a lie or not is to balance it with God’s Word. Compare it to what God has to say and you’ll know the Truth. You’ll never be confused.

Be wise, Strong Girl. Be wise.

 Work hard so God can say to you, “Well done.” Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means.” 2 Timothy 2:15, TLB

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Erica’s Edition: Books, Books, Books!

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Today’s post is brought to you by my amazing intern, Erica Graphma! Take it away, Erica!

Everyone has that one thing they can just never say no to, right? Because I don’t want to feel crazy for knowing I have an addiction to something. What is that something you might ask? Books. It’s so hard to stop myself from buying books when I’m in a store by myself!

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I mean I don’t go into Barnes and Noble and buy everything I see because, let’s be honest, that would cost waaaay too much money. But I pretty much can’t leave Half Price Books without buying something and if I find something interesting at Goodwill or yard sales I can’t leave those either.

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It’s gotten a little worse for me recently too. This is because I’ve discovered that I like covers, so when I see a book I like with a really cool cover I want to buy it. This happened with the edition of Dracula I have and it will eventually happen when I find a copy of this cool edition of Farenheit 451 that looks like a match book. As you can imagine, buying multiples of books because I like different covers can be a strain on my bookshelf and my bank account!

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What’s even worse for my wallet is being a Harry Potter nerd. I saw the covers of the new US editions and made the choice to collect every single Harry Potter novel in every language it’s been published in. And let me tell you, that’s A LOT of books. I have had the original US editions since they came out, but since I’ve collected the first three UK children’s editions, two of the new US editions, and the Latin and Spanish editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. (The picture below doesn’t even include all of the different versions.)

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I don’t really go out and scour the web for every version I can find. I really enjoy the excitement of walking into a bookstore, seeing a book I don’t have, and snatching it up before anyone else can (even though there aren’t other people around ready to grab it.) As a struggling college student, this hobby of mine, or addiction if you think I should call it, is probably costing me a lot of money I should save for future purposes. But sometimes I really can’t help my love for being surrounded by books.

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Interview with debut author, Sandy Nadeau

Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to talented debut author, Sandy Nadeau!

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Thanks for joining us today, Sandy. Tell our readers a little bit about yourself!

I love to go on adventures, photograph them and write about them. My husband and I do a lot of four-wheeling in the back country of Colorado and we love to share those experiences with others by taking them up in the mountains. My background in writing includes a column I wrote for twelve years about our small mountain community for a local newspaper, I’ve also had several magazine articles published. Now I love to write novels about adventure, mystery, romance, but most importantly sharing God’s love. I am currently a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Vice President of the ACFW South Denver Chapter. I’ve been married for 37 years to my best friend, and we are loving life as grandparents to our nine month old grandson with a little girl on the way in May. We love to travel but we don’t get to do it as often as we’d like. Adventure awaits around every corner, over every hill and mountain. I go looking for it, every chance I get.

Describe your book.

Mandy Phillips loves life with her husband running an adventure ranch in the Colorado mountains, but when Mr. Shonee, their crotchety old neighbor, tries to stop them from building a kid-size old west town, their dreams of expansion are crushed.

Is Shonee just being a difficult neighbor, or is something more sinister going on? A discovery on the property of Colorado’s state mineral leads to more mysteries for the ranch, and then a teenage guest finds herself thrust head first into danger.

Mandy will have to rescue her, but who will rescue Mandy? Her faith in God is her only source to keep the guests safe, solve the mysteries surrounding her ranch, save her neighbor from himself, and discover the secrets of the Red Gold.

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Why should readers pick it up?

If they like adventure, if they like the mountains of Colorado, mystery, characters that got real bossy with their writer person…. Books are way to escape all the problems and worries we have in life. I wanted to write something that would entertain, take folks on a tour of Colorado in their mind’s eye, and maybe touch them in a way they didn’t see it coming.

How did your book come to life?

I joke about my characters taking over, but they did and I love when they do. I can sit and think about where to go with the plot and they surprise me by telling me the next step in their lives. It cracks me up. I can try to go one way, only to have the character plant their feet and refuse to move (keeping my keyboard still) until I give in and write it their way. I get really excited when that happens. I love the premise of Mandy and Jon’s story, their business, so it was easy for me to “see” it all. We just always wanted to run a ranch like this. Minus the dangers Jenny faces.

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

I love Mandy. She’s strong and gutsy. A bit reactionary. But Jenny, the teenager that gets herself into so much trouble, I really love her character. She’s impulsive and a handful, as most 13 year old girls can be. Mr. Shonee became near and dear to me too. He’s such a grouch. He was fun to develop. I’m quite attached to him.

How did you name your characters?

Do I have to admit this? My hubby’s name is Ron. Rhymes with Jon. Sandy and Mandy…well…it was a connection for me to live vicariously through the story since we never started our own guest ranch. *grin*

Are the characters based on people you know?

LOL See previous answer. Plus I have a daughter. And we’ve all met cranks like Mr. Shonee.

Why will readers enjoy your book?

It’s fun. It’s exciting and full of Colorado experiences. It’ll grab your emotions too.

Is anything in the book based on your own life?

The fulfillment of a dream through my characters. Well, at least the part about running a guest ranch. Maybe not the dangers and kidnapping. We get a lot of visitors since we are living in a destination state. We always take them up into the mountains four-wheeling to explore, find adventure, and hopefully wildlife. Now, possibly a few of our friends may have thought we were a bit crazy where we took them, but I will not give names.

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Photo (c) Sandy Nadeau

What is your favorite scene in the book?

Cookies with Mr. Shonee. You’ll have to read it to find out why.

Why Christian fiction?

A couple of reasons. It’s all I read, so it’s what I know. God is the most important person in my life. I want to share about a life that follows Him. To share what Jesus can do for a life. Some people think Christian fiction writers just preach to the choir. But I still find stories that help me get through a tough situation. Christian fiction in recent years has changed a lot. There are so many genres within it so there is something for everyone, without questionable themes, words you don’t care to read. Input equals output for me. I want to put the good stuff in to limit how much bad stuff comes out. It’s important to me for people to realize no matter what they’ve done, no matter how they’ve felt about God, about Jesus, they can still and always be welcomed to Him and be saved. I love the verse in Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Where do you write? (What’s your office like?)

Funny thing about my office. It was recently cleaned to its core. Literally. We had a leak in the shower up above my office. It’s not a good thing for a writer to have a constant drip on the keyboard. So out came the ceiling, the shower upstairs, part of the floor…yeah. It was special. But now, my office is cleaner and more organized than it’s been for twenty-five years. I found things I was missing!

What is your process? (Spreadsheets, Snowflake, Lists/Outlines, Seat of the pants?)

Hmmm….I start writing an idea and soon my characters become such bothers and they tell me what to write. So definitely Seat of the Pants. I’m trying to change. Really I am. But they won’t let me. And if they aren’t talking, I bang my head against my keyboard until I hear laundry calling.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Look for the adventures in your own life. That’s what keeps you going. Even the challenging things. What can you learn from it? As my tag line says, “Life is an adventure, created by God”. Enjoy every moment of that adventure. Too much can change and end and then you miss the party.

Oh, and I love dogs. I miss mine. The character of Barney, the ranch dog, is my Gus. He was that smart. He was a real gift. Dogs love so unconditionally. They are just great animals.

I can’t agree more. I have three dogs! How can we find you online? 

www.SandyNadeau.com

www.SandyNadeau.blogspot.com

Facebook: Sandy Nadeau, author

Twitter:    @SandyNadeauCO

Email:     Sandy@SandyNadeau.com

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Crime Writing for Beginners

I’m not a crime writer–yet. But I’m intrigued by the process. One of the reasons I’ve never seriously considered writing horror or crime is that my empathy level is far too high. I’m not sure thinking about such things for the length of time it takes to write a book would be good for my mental health.

head_brain_largeStill, I know it’s a tremendous skill to write such stories, and I have to admit, some of my favorite shows on TV include documentary detective shows such as Behind Mansion Walls and Snapped.

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And since I do enjoy reading great suspense, here’s a little help for those new to writing it:

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You can find more tips for crime writing at the above photo’s source: Crime Writing for Beginners

What’s your favorite genre to read or write?

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Pray for Isaiah today

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Isaiah with his special education teacher who comes by to help him with school work he’s missed. Jake, the wonder dog, is supervising.

Today my son, Isaiah, is having surgery to have his gall bladder removed. He has been out of school since October due to chronic diarrhea and nausea and vomiting.

All tests say nothing is wrong with him. The only thing they can find is a little sludge in his gall bladder.

So it’s coming out.

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https://www.etsy.com/market/get_well_soon_gifts

Can you pray with me and believe that he will be at peace? Anxiety is high in people with autism. And even though Isaiah is 19, he functions at about a nine-year-old level as he also has developmental delays.

Thanks for the prayers!

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Erica’s Edition: Spring Break Musings

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Today’s post is brought to you by my hard-working intern, Erica Graphman. Take it away, Erica!

Ahh spring break! The time away from school and work to refresh and prepare for the end of the year. Or not. While some of my friends are down in Tennessee and Florida are having fun, I am stuck (for lack of a better word) at home.

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I always imagine having time to relax and spend time with my family when I picture the long month and a half of school leading up to spring. Don’t get me wrong—I have spent lots of time with my family this break. In fact, that’s part of the problem with spring break this year! I’ve been so busy I haven’t really had time to complete any of the MOUNDS of work I have due the first two days after spring break is over.

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I went to an early screening of Divergent with my mom and brother because my mom won tickets (she’s insanely lucky at winning things like that) and I saw The Monument’s Men with my dad. Divergent was amazing, by the way! My little brother, who, might I add, never reads, came out of the movie saying he wants to read all three books.

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I thought that with everyone out of the house during the day, I would have plenty of quiet time by myself to work on the essays and reading and journals that I really really have to catch up on and finish. Somehow I neglected to remember that being home by myself means that I have to make my own lunch. Everyone else seemed to remember that though, and I got invited to lunch every day of the week. This lead to being gone during the day, and not having much time to do work in the evenings.

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I’m not sure how satisfied I am with the result of this spring break. I’ve spent a lot of time with my family and I’ve had a week of no work and no homework. As much as I’ve loved being home and not really having anything to do, I’m finding that I’m overly anxious to get back because I know how much homework I have to get done on Sunday. I find it odd saying I wish we did not have spring break and we just got out of school a week early. I think that might be illegal for students to say. Spring break has been great, but is it worth the extra stress the week classes start again will generate?

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Why I love my Kindle Paperwhite

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Source: Amazon.com

I jumped onto the digital reading bandwagon pretty early. I had the second kindle when it came out but drooled over the first one. I have the kindle app on my computer, iPad and phone and three other people in this house own kindle fires, I still have my original kindle and I just bought the kindle paperwhite.

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Paperwhite, left, is touch screen controlled. My old kindle model (right) was not.

Let’s see, that make a total of eight kindles — and all the same books are accessible on them because they are all from my own Amazon account.

I love that.

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Ready to go out of the box.

So why did I buy the paperwhite when I could read on my iPad?

  • The size. It’s a small little thing and fits almost weightlessly in my purse. My iPad is, frankly, heavy.
  • Because it’s small in my hand, it’s easier to read lying down in bed at night. Win! My hand doesn’t get tired at all. Even a print book is more awkward and heavier than this little device.
  • Even though it’s small, the font is still adjustable and easy to see.
  • The high resolution screen is excellent for reading and there’s no eye strain.
  • The battery life lasts a whole lot longer than the iPad. Depending on the light settings, it can last eight weeks! My iPad has to be charged twice daily even if I’m only using it to read. (I doubt it will last eight weeks when I’m using it as I read a lot more than the average person but we’ll see.)
  • It’s touch controlled. My old kindle wasn’t.
  • I’ll be able to read it in the sun. Can’t do that with an iPad. (This will make reading in the car so much better!)
  • Books download in a flash. I mean, it amazes me every time it happens!
  • The pages turn super fast. Much faster than on my iPad.
  • It’s nice having a device for the sole purpose of reading.
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Kindle cover, Amazon.com

I bought a purple cover for my Kindle and I love that when I shut the cover it shuts down the kindle. But when I open the cover it lights right back up right where I left off in a book.

I can’t stress enough that the size of this little beauty is what drew me the most. I have very small hands, and being able to hold it without any strain has been a lovely bonus.

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Source: Amazon.com

What’s your favorite reading device? Old school paper, or new school digital?

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Éirinn go Brách!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I adore St. Patrick. He’s one of my heroes. And was so long before I found out I’m part Irish.

st-patrickThe Irish in our family comes from my Grandma Grace Brown. I’m very excited to be part of the Irish excitement this year. This is the first year I’ve been able to confirm my Irish ancestry.

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Grandpa and me, great-grandma Grace Brown, bottom left. Do I look like an Irish lassie?

Now, to be honest, I’m a lot of other nationalities, too. There’s a rainbow of colors and nationalities in my family tree. But today, I’m Irish as Irish can be. And proud of it!

To celebrate my Irish-ness, here are some vintage postcards for you to enjoy. Just click to enlarge, right click, and save to your computer.

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Strong Girls Saturday: Helping trafficked women and teens

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No matter how strong a girl is, bad things happen. One of those bad things is human trafficking. Here are some statistics found on the Covering House website:

  • Human trafficking generates $9.5 billion yearly in the United States. (United Nations)
  • Approximately 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the United States. (U.S. Department of Justice)
  • The average age of entry into prostitution for a child victim in the United States is 13-14 years old. (U.S. Department of Justice)
  • A pimp can make $150,000-$200,000 per child each year and the average pimp has 4 to 6 girls. (U.S. Justice Department, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
  • The average victim may be forced to have sex up to 20-48 times a day. (Polaris Project)
  • Fewer than 100 beds are available in the United States for underage victims. (Health and Human Services)
  • Department Of Justice has identified the top twenty human trafficking jurisdictions in the country:” Houston• El Paso• Los Angeles• Atlanta• Chicago• Charlotte• Miami• Las Vegas• New York• Long Island• New Orleans• Washington, D.C.• Philadelphia• Phoenix• Richmond• San Diego• San Francisco• St Louis• Seattle• Tampa  (Department of Justice)
  • A pimp can make $150,000-$200,000 per child each year and the average pimp has 4 to 6 girls. (U.S. Justice Department, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
  • One in three teens on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. (National Runaway Hotline)

Teenage Problems, Social Issues and Bullying

To learn more about what you can do to help stop sex trafficking, check out these links:

In Your Light

Safe Horizon

Kim Purcell, author

Love 146

La Strada International

Salvation Army

CAST

Strong Girls make contributions to this world to make it a better, safer, kinder place. This is why we need Strong Girls. This is why we mustn’t allow ourselves to be victims. Others need our strength.

What will you do today to build your strong girl muscles?

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