Two YA Authors to Read this Spring PLUS a Giveaway!

Spring weather in Florida is blissful and hints that summer is just around the corner! Maybe you have an official spring break, or maybe, you’re in my camp and don’t technically get one. Regardless, you can still hop in to some spring reading. If you’re a sunshine girl like me, I suggest grabbing a beach towel, some sun protection, and a book you’ve been wanting to read to enjoy the best of both worlds (in my case, Florida and fiction).

Perhaps you’ve finished your current read and are looking for something new. If you enjoy young adult fiction, here are two authors worth adding to your list. Also, be sure to scroll all the way to the end of this post, because there’s a chance to enter a spring giveaway of 30 books (including one of my own) and a grand prize!

Emily Golus

Today, Golus’ sequel to Escape to Vindor releases, and I’m excited to share my review of Mists of Paracosmia with you. When Golus invited me to be an advance reader, I said yes, even though I was in the middle of wedding planning.

Golus spins another page-turning fantasy adventure in this sequel. This time, instead of Megan translating to Vindor, her younger brother finds himself there. Arden has been bullied at school, and when he hears there are Samurai in Vindor, he thinks he’s found his chance to train and teach the bullies a lesson when he returns home. However, though his journey, he learns the qualities that make a real warrior and hero are sacrificial, not selfish. Plus, Vindor’s problems are much larger than his own, and somehow, he must find a way to help.

I loved how Golus developed the sibling relationship between Megan and Arden. While Arden is trapped in Vindor, Megan is desperate to find a way to get him back—and risks everything in the process. We also see a more mature Megan in this story as she is now in college and learning what true friendship, and perhaps romance, looks like.

The ending was well-foreshadowed and still offered a delightful surprise. Why do the mists destroy memories in Vindor, and who controls them? This fantasy, with its well-crafted world building and lovable characters, offers a clean, thought-provoking, and memorable story readers of all ages will enjoy.

Lisa Mayer

Mayer’s first book in the Aletheian Journeys, The Arrow Bringer, released in March, which happened to be my wedding month. I had planned to read the book during my honeymoon travels but finished before I left because I had to find out what happened to the characters!

From the opening sentence, I was invested in Evie’s story. She’s dying of leukemia yet about to embark on the most important quest of her life, one that will decide the fate of her people and her soul.

Mayer’s descriptions are so vivid that the scenes spring to life in my imagination. Her world-building is masterful, and she makes me genuinely care about the characters. This story very much reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia with its redemptive theme. From what I hear, there’s a sequel, and I’ll be watching for it.

Spring Giveaway

Now through May 4, you have the chance to win thirty books and a $100 Amazon gift card! I’ve partnered with other Christian fiction authors in this event, hosted by Celebrate Lit, and am offering one of my own books, a Kindle copy of The Revisionary, as one of the prizes. I’d love for you to take home some good reads and the grand prize!

Click the image below to enter the giveaway or learn more at the Facebook event.

Do you already have books lined up for your spring reading? If so, please share in the comments!




Two YA Authors to Read this Spring PLUS a Giveaway! – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)




Why the Resurrection Makes Forgiveness Possible

Have you ever struggled to forgive someone? Though we know intellectually that we should forgive because God forgave us, we sometime struggle emotionally to let go of hurts that others have done us. But she wronged me. You don’t know what he did to me.

I’m not excusing others’ behaviors and actions. More than likely, we all have felt some form of injustice. Perhaps we have knowingly or unknowingly injured someone as well.

But the point is not what people do to us but how we respond to them. We can’t control their actions, but we can control our response to it. When Steven R. Covey tells the story of Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankle, he explains this man’s discovery while undergoing unspeakable mistreatment in a concentration camp.

In the space between stimulus (what happens) and how we respond, lies our freedom to choose.

Frankle found that although he could not control what happened to him, he still controlled how he responded to it. Even though he was a prisoner, he discovered freedom that his tormentors could not take away from him.

Yes, freedom. Most of us will probably never experience a concentration camp like Frankle or a satellite prison like my heroine Portia in The Revolutionary. But we will find ourselves in hard situations where others wrong us. When we choose forgiveness as our response, we can drop the burden of bitterness and live in the light of God’s grace.

The cross and empty tomb

The cross and the empty tomb represent forgiveness at its ultimate triumph.

In the cross, we see Christ’s sacrifice for us and the unimaginable sin debt He forgave by willingly giving Himself to die for us. Not only did He die for us, but Jesus also experienced the excruciating pain of isolation from His Father. He took on the full wrath of God so that we wouldn’t have to.

Even though we didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness, He made possible a way for us to find it (John 3:16). Shouldn’t we then extend  generosity to others who perhaps do not “deserve it”? I like how Paul explains this challenge in Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (ESV).

In the empty tomb, we see His complete conquest and victory over death. I Corinthians 15:56-57 reminds us that the believer can know freedom from earthy constraints because of the resurrection. “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV). 

I think that victory extends to all aspects of our Christian lives, including the challenge of forgiveness. We can live victoriously when we let go of pain and hurt and truly forgive. 

Forgiveness made possible

In the words of C.S. Lewis, the resurrection makes forgiveness possible for this basic reason:

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

That’s the bottom line. What others have done may indeed be inexcusable, but we can forgive because God first forgave us.

Easter or Resurrection Sunday is a few short days away. Don’t carry unnecessary bitterness with you into this time of remembrance and celebration. Drop those weights at the foot of the cross and bask in the power of forgiveness, modeled perfectly for us through Jesus Christ.

~ Kristen


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Top 10 Best Reads from 2016

hello2017-1Top 10 Best Reads from 2016? But Kristen, we’re in 2017 now.

Yes, I know this post may seem late, but I spent the last week moving and everything that comes with it. Besides, there are 12 new months to fill with good books, which gives all of us some time to add a title or two to our lists.

My top picks are in no special order and range from fiction to non-fiction, from fantasy to historical romance to personal growth. You might just find one that fits your favorite genre or something that pleasantly surprises you. I did.

#1: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

Though written as a children’s book, The Hobbit is perfect for imaginations of all ages. Tolkein’s reluctant hero Bilbo Baggins bucks up his courage to go on an adventure and help the Dwarves reclaim their homeland from the evil dragon Smaug. Even if you’ve seen the movies with Martin Freeman, you should still read the book.

#2: I Dare You by William Danforth

I read this short book at least twice every year. Danforth develops the concept of a four-fold life, based on Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom (mentally) and stature (physically), and in favor with God (spiritually) and men (socially)” (NKJV, parenthesis added).

I once gave copies of I Dare You to my entire eighth grade class and share this book with friends whenever I can. It’s a must read for teens and adults who want their lives to make a difference.

#3: Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is my favorite author and continues to surprise me with his stories, which are so varied in nature. Till We Have Faces retells the tragedy of Cupid and Psyche from the perspective of Psyche’s jealous older sister. It’s a riveting read that reveals much about human nature.

#4: The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau

Several years back, this book dared me to leave a “good job” to completely switch careers and pursue my dream to be a writer. After a crazy journey, I have an online teaching job I love and will release my first book with Write Integrity Press in June.

Read Guillebeau’s book; it will dare you to face your fears, abandon your comfort zone, and reach for the moon. As the saying goes, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

#5: GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon

This book is my top pick for fiction writers. It has revolutionized how I plan my novels and helped me write tighter scenes. If you write fiction or want to write fiction, read it. The full title is GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction.

#6: Five Brides by Eva Marie Everson

If you know me well, you might be surprised a historical romance novel made this list. I’m surprised too, but I honestly couldn’t put Everson’s book down. Based loosely on a real-life story, the plot follows five roommates in Chicago who jointly buy one wedding dress they all plan to wear. Everson weaves their five love stories together into one page-turning tale which reminds us that everyone’s story is different.

#7: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Although I read this Holocaust story as a student, re-reading it as an adult moved me even more. If Corrie Ten Boom’s story doesn’t challenge your faith and redefine your limits of forgiveness and self-sacrifice, I don’t know what will.

#8: In His Steps by Charles Sheldon

Personally challenging and convicting, In His Steps challenged me to walk as Jesus walked in every aspect of my life and revealed how much I fall short. Growing up, I probably had a WWJD wristband like other teens my age, but anyone who wears one should read this book first. The plot of this fictional story surrounds a church that pledged to live as Jesus did for one year, based on the text of I Peter 2:21: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (NKJV).

#9: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Here’s another delightful tale by C.S. Lewis (a re-read for me)! It’s the prequel to the Chronicles of Narnia. So if you ever wondered how that magical wardrobe ended up in Professor Digory’s house or how the evil White Witch came to be in Narnia, this book is for you. Even if you’ve never read the Narnia series, I highly recommend The Magician’s Nephew as a standalone story.

#10: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

What are we making of life’s opportunities? Are we hoarding for ourselves or sharing with others? Are we so stuck in our routines that we fail to see the needs around us?

This classic tale convicts the Scrooge inside each of us. Christmas may be over, but the moral of A Christmas Carol is worth considering as we begin a new year.

What are your top book recommendations for 2017? I’d love to hear from you, so please share in the comments below. 

~ Kristen


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