Past Forward – A Book Review

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I know! Two book reviews in two days. Haha, I totally didn’t plan to do that, but I’m okay with it.

Past Forward is not a new book, but it is one of my favourites. When I saw it up for a Tour run I was very quick to sign up.

Past Forward was the first book I read by Chautona Havig, and since then I have devoured ALMOST all of her books! There are a few I have yet to get to. I actually gifted myself a Kindle Unlimited membership for April so that I could just read more of her books, hah. Does that make me obsessed?

Ms Havig does not write to unsaved people, she writes to Christians, and as such you will rarely see the a Gospel message in her books, but you will see much to convict you and encourage you in your walk with the Lord. This book was no exception.

The book begins with the death of Willow’s mother and her entry into the “real” world. She’s spent her entire life living on a farm with no interaction with the world around her. Although the subject of the book can seem far-fetched to us who are used to living with electricity and electronics, it’s also a subject that appeals to people: living a simpler lifestyle, making everything yourself, and having a simple faith that is unsullied by the world. Some of us dream of such a utopia but in our culture often see no way to garner that for ourselves.

Willow begins to learn that her mother keeping her sequestered on the farm was perhaps not the best idea. As she sifts through the many journals her mother left behind, she begins to put together a picture of why her mother chose to walk away from all the friends and family she knew to live alone with a baby, the struggles that made up her world, and the questions she faced as she raised Willow alone.

With the help of Chad (the police officer who befriends her) and his family, she learns to start interacting with people outside her little world. Her faith begins to grow as it is stretched and questioned.

I wouldn’t recommend having a man stay in a house with a single woman – but I think the author did a really good job touching on this subject of Willow needing protection, while also having Chad and his family wrestle with the ethics of it.

This book continues to remain one of my favourites. I think I’ve read it 3 times. If you know my family, you know my daughter’s name is Willow, and yes, I named her after this character. Ms Havig first released this as a serial and I finished reading this book about a month before she was born and, although we had chosen a name already, I begged my husband to change it, hah. And I’m so glad I did, because Willow fits her so well! The series was later released in book form.

I hope you’ll check out this book, and Chautona Havig’s other books as well.

About the Book

Book: Past Forward

Author: Chautona Havig

Genre: Christian Fiction, Romance, Suspense

Release Date: April 19, 2017

Past Forward Cover

Alone without friends or family to comfort her after the death of her mother, Willow Finley’s idyllic life is over—and just beginning.

The Finley women’s lives, while rich and full, aren’t easy. rejecting electricity and many other modern conveniences, they live purposefully and intentionally–alone and isolated from the world around them.

When Willow Finley awakes on a hot summer morning, she is unprepared for the grief that awaits her. Jerked from a life of isolation with her mother, Willow learns what alone really means when she finds her mother dead.

From the moment Willow arrives in the police station with her startling announcement, Chad Tesdall fights the friendship he knows he can’t avoid.

The Past Forward series opens with Willow’s life-changing discovery and gently guides the reader through aspects of her life–the past weaving through the present and into the future. Experience her first morning in church, her first movie, and the culture shock of her first trips to the city. A birthday party and a street faire add welcome diversion from butchering, canning, and the beating of area rugs. Disaster strikes. Will she choose to continue her simple life, or will an offer in the city change it all? Find out in this first volume.

Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Author

Chautona

Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her on the web and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.

More from Chautona

How Did My Weird High School Years Inspire This Book?

December 1985. The time had finally come. After two months of living in a run-down motel in Rosamond, California, we were finally moving to our own place. Seventeen miles away.

Just off Highway 58, outside Mojave, California (about the place that Alton Gansky’s, Distant Memory opens), a huge billboard loomed. For the curious, it’s still there today. Aqueduct City.

For the record, there was no city. There still isn’t. Just a dirt road or three. Oh, and the aqueduct. In fact, that’s eventually how we got our water—stole it from the California aqueduct.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

At the edge of all those parcels lay our new land. Twenty-two acres of desert sand, creosote, sage, and a tiny, baby Joshua tree at the end of our long, U-shaped dirt driveway.

I took out that sucker with my first attempt at backing down the drive. It looked like a snake had slithered back and forth across the sandy strip of cleared dirt, and somehow I managed to run over the foot-high tree. It wasn’t often I managed to shock my mother speechless. That was one time. I now have mad back-upping skills. Thought you oughtta know.

On that land, my parents put an 18’ travel trailer.

We hauled in water in 55-gallon drum barrels—first from a friend’s house and later from that aqueduct. It was several miles closer. One of those barrels ended up on top of the trailer for showers. The water pressure depended on how full that sucker was. Navy showers? Ever had one? It goes like so:

  • Turn on water.
  • Make one slow turn under the water to get all wet.
  • Turn it off.
  • Lather up.
  • Shampoo hair.
  • Turn on water.
  • Turn off.
  • Work conditioner into hair.
  • Turn on water.
  • Turn off.
  • Get out.
  • Try to stop your teeth from chattering.

For the record, that chattering is no joke. When it’s twenty degrees out there, water gets cold. And we had no way to heat it.

Our plumbing also included a shovel. For… um… other plumbing needs. Winter was the worst and the best time for the call of nature. Worst because, well, 40 mph winds and twenty-degree weather. Best, because no snakes.

We used Coleman propane lanterns, a propane refrigerator (that sat outside our door), and eventually, a gas-powered generator. Once a week, Dad would fire that thing up so I could iron my church clothes. #darkages

For the curious, summer was blistering hot.

No fans (except for stiff cardboard we used arm-power to operate). No air conditioner. Not even a swamp cooler. Mom and I would go into town and read at the library when we just couldn’t take another minute in 112-degree desert heat. She’d drive me to Lancaster so I could go sit in an air-conditioned movie theater and watch another movie. If it came out in 1986 or 1987 and wasn’t pure smut, I probably saw it. Out of self-preservation.

Before long, I’d been relegated to the “porch.” That consisted of a redwood lattice “patio” enclosure in front of the trailer door. (For those who haven’t figured it out yet, I was the dictionary definition of “trailer trash” in some people’s books.) That space was eight feet wide and sixteen feet long.

I had a twin bed out there. When winter came, dad made sleeping out there more bearable by heating huge rocks in one of those 55-gallon drum barrels and wrapping them in old quilts. That went at the foot of my bed to keep my feet warm.

If only the wind hadn’t blown sand into my hair every night…

What does all of this have to do with Past Forward?

Just this. People have often asked why Willow would choose to live without electricity. Some have said you couldn’t live only five miles outside of town and be so isolated and reclusive.

I disagree.

We did it. By choice. Because it’s who my father is. And of all of my characters, Kari Finley, Willow’s mother, is the most like my father. The way Kari taught Willow? That’s exactly how Dad used to teach me—by making it a natural part of life.

I didn’t know it when I wrote the series, but Past Forward really does show exactly what kind of life my father would have chosen to live if he’d ever really considered it. The self-sustaining work, the emphasis on beauty, the isolation—all of it shows the kind of man I call Dad.

If you’d asked me as a kid what I thought of living out there in Mojave, I would have said I hated it. Not only that, I would have believed myself. But if you’d talked to me for a while, you would have figured out that I said that because I was expected to. No one thinks you’ll like living with almost nothing, in the middle of nowhere, especially as a teenager.

Looking back, though, I actually I liked it. Dad. Mom. Me. And Boozer, our dog. I’d tell you about her, but that’s a story for another day. Yeah, I liked my life there “out on the property,” as we called it.

Except for the Mojave green rattlesnakes. Not a fan of those. Not then or today.

Just sayin’.

Blog Stops

Through the Fire Blogs, May 15

A Reader’s Brain, May 15

Godly Book Reviews, May 16

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, May 17

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, May 17

Blogging With Carol, May 18

Inklings and notions, May 18

Bigreadersite, May 19

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, May 19

All-Of-a-kind Mom, May 20

Texas Book-aholic, May 20

Aryn The Libraryan, May 21

Quiet Workings, May 22

Retrospective Spines, May 22

Inspired by Fiction, May 23

Carpe Diem, May 24

For Him and My Family, May 25

janicesbookreviews, May 25

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, May 26

Rebekah’s Quill, May 27

Inspiration Clothesline, May 28

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Chautona is giving away a grand prize that includes a complete paperback set of Past Forward & a custom Past Forward Lavender Lemonade candle!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/e319/past-forward-celebration-tour-giveaway

Blue Sun – Book Review

Blue Sun by [Abrey, Tracy]

A week or so ago I mentioned Blue Sun on my Facebook page.  I hope you guys took advantage of it’s price (free at the time) – although from what I’ve seen on Amazon this book is still a really good price as e-books go (especially for one of good quality).

Genny Hazard is experiencing twinges of bitterness as her plane touches down on the Isle of Man in the British Isles.  Uprooted from her home in the States at the beginning of her senior year of highschool, she still can’t help but be impressed that her dad is working on alternative energy for the isle.

However, from the moment her plane lands, Genny finds herself enshrouded in a mystery that includes stalkers with a disturbing red tattoo, a mysterious castle that no one can get to, and mythology that makes her question her scientific beliefs.

I’ll admit I was extremely skeptical about the book as I started reading.  And, in all honesty, the only reason I picked it up was because it was free last weekend – and I knew the author.  If I hadn’t known Ms. Abrey I would probably not have started reading it at all.  Fantasy is not really my genre when it comes to books, but with this one I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised.   I only had a few moments of “Really???”  I find folklore fascinating but I don’t dive into the world of fairies as reality.   However, I thought Ms. Abrey did an amazing job of weaving the two together without creating an unrealistic world.

Minus the “flying humanoid” and the “blue glow” mystery (I can’t give away that part), I found the book very believable on a whole and I like reality.   The essence of the book is fantasy, though, and you will find that it is really based on that.

One thing that I really liked was how Tracy Abrey wove the Bible into it without making it weird.  I honestly wondered how she could mix the two, Bible and mythology, but I think she did an amazing job of weaving the two together without causing you to question her theology.   My mom (originally from Ireland) always cautioned me about pagan folklore and it’s Satanic origins so I was expecting to feel a little awkward about that, but I found that Ms. Abrey really stayed away from that aspect, even though, at times, I thought she was heading that direction.   I think that’s one of the things that really made me want to keep reading.  I was trying to find fault with what she had written so I could feel justified in not having read it over a year ago when Ms. Abrey first contacted me about it.  I know, that’s terrible!

This book was a really great read and would be a good option for those looking for good books for their older teens (it is published as young adult fiction).

About the Author:

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Tracy Abrey has been passionate about writing since stating in her second grade  “school days” book that when she grew up she wanted to write books. Earning a BA in English literature and French from Houston Baptist University and having taught high school English as she pursued her MA in English literature at DePaul University, her childhood passion has morphed into an adult career focused on young adult urban fantasy. Tracy has lived in Canada, France, and England and currently resides in the US with her husband and two children.

On a personal note: Ms. Abrey used to babysit me when I was a young girl and our families attended the same church.  One of my favorite memories of her is of her taking my name and putting it into a song (that belongs to the ’80’s, trust me) and coming up with Manda Panda.  That nickname has stuck with me since she started it so many years ago and it never fails to make me think of her every time someone calls me that.

Although we didn’t stay in touch as much as we would have liked, our families still managed to maintain a thread of contact, visiting with them in the States and even attending Ms Abrey’s wedding.  Facebook made that thread a little thicker and I have enjoyed seeing her progress as she wrote this book and the sequel.

In relation to this book, Tracy told me, “It was important to me in the creation of this series to provide a clean, but still riveting story for teens (and adults!) who deserve an exciting read that isn’t inundated with sex and swearing.”   THAT, to me, is a great thing for ALL books.  I definitely look forward to reading more from her in the future and can’t wait to start Book 2 in the Blue Sun Series (Dark Waters)

You can check out Ms Abrey’s website at:  tracyabrey.com

Find her books on Amazon.com – For Americans

 Amazon.ca  – For Canadian

Carol and the Belles – A Christmas Story Review

Have you ever read a story that resonated with you?  Where you felt you could live in that story?  A couple years ago I found a free book offer on Amazon for a book serial called Past Forward.  Are you familiar with serials?  Years ago newspapers used to print serials and every week you would get the next installment of a story.  Amazon serials work on the same premise, although authors don’t have to post weekly.  But, the author of this particular serial, Chautona Havig, works hard to keep her stories moving.  Past Forward still remains my favorite book to date and I even named my daughter after the main character.  I felt like I could have been her.

Since that first book, I have read almost all of Chautona’s books, from the Regency Files (think spy-type novel), to Aggie’s Inheritance (want to know what living with a house full of kids is like?), to the Hartfield Mysteries (you guessed it: mystery).  She also has a number of stand alone novels.  I balled through A Bird Died (a true story about her grandson).   Most of her books go on sale for $1 or FREE at some point or another and I love that she just wants readers to have good content.  She also has a good editor and I have never had an issue with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, etc, like many other “free” books on Amazon.

Some of her books I LOVED (like Past Forward and Hearthland) and some I didn’t enjoy so much (the main character in Noble Pursuits seemed a little too perfect).   However, that being said, I really like how she creates characters with real spiritual problems.  She gives us something to think about in each book, something that challenges us in our walk with the Lord.  She uses people from every walk of life and different religious affiliations to teach us not to judge a book by it’s cover.   Her current serial, Hearthland, is bringing a number of very different characters together but I love that they worship together, talking about salvation (one of the main characters comes to know the Lord through the testimony of a couple of the other ones), and encouraging struggling Christians to turn back to the Lord.  She totally twists the “religious” stereotypes that many of us carry around and encourages us to think the way the Lord did in regards to others.

A couple months ago Chautona Havig offered some of her readers the opportunity to read her books while she was writing them, give her feedback, and write reviews at the end.  It was neat to see her process as she worked through a novel (although I am so not patient in waiting for the installments!!!!).

Carol and the Belles - A Christmas Story Review

Carol grew up in an orphanage in Romania, and Chautona shares some of the struggles that this character went through.  Michal grew up in America with a loving family.  The two meet through letters when they are 9 years old through a pen pal program.  They remain fast friends until, many years later, Carol is given the opportunity to travel to America to work with Ralph at Hearthland in the artisan store.  the two pen pals meet and many more lessons are learned as they work through misunderstandings and the true meaning of love.

You will love the play on words that Chautona has created here, as well as the lessons in chivalry, honesty, and bravery that her characters portray.

I really enjoyed this book and it’s relationship to the Hearthland series (second on my list of favorites next to Past Forward).  You will love the twists and turns this story takes and will be surprised at how it ends.  Chautona Havig truly is a gifted writer.  If you’re looking for a great Christmas read this season, I heartily recommend Carol and the Belles.

Happy Reading. =)

Anchored – A Message of Grace

I had the privilege a few years ago to meet a little baby born at about 23 weeks.  It was an incredible experience and her mother and I have remained good friends since.  Reading this book brought back so many memories and even opened my eyes to more of what the mother and father went through during this time.  This book is about fighting.  Fighting to find hope, fighting to hold on to that hope, and fighting for a mother’s foothold in reality.

Kayla Aimee gave birth to her daughter, Scarlette, at 25 weeks.  After 155 days in the NICU, Kayla Aimee tells her story of how she and her husband survived those tumultuous days and hours.  For those of us with healthy children it is hard to fathom the pain and anxiety that such a stay in the NICU elicits in a parent.  Kayla Aimee tells us everything she felt through those moments while adding humour to keep the book from being depressing.

This book talks about the struggles she went through with her husband and the days she didn’t even want to talk to friends on the phone.  The moments of fighting for her daughter’s life and those moments of fighting for her marriage.  Kayla Aimee gives us an amazing glimpse in to what it is like for hundreds of mothers around North America and the world, who have similar struggles.  She also gives us ways we can help them, be an encouragement and pray for them.  With great humour she talks about the things one should not say to a mother with a baby in the NICU.   And she talks about how the Lord brought her back from the pit of despair to a place of hope.

I know that parents with babies in the NICU and those of us with healthy babies can all benefit from reading her story.  Giving hope to the hopeless and learning to be a blessing to those parents.

But God – Bible Study Review

I love having a community of women where I can bounce ideas off of them and have them do the same to me.  Brenda Ruse has been a huge encouragement to me in my endeavor to find good material for devotionals.  Last week I shared a book that I was privileged to read and glean from.  This week I am able to share a Bible study that Brenda herself read and wrote up for me to share with you all.  I would love to get my hands on it as she has spoken quite highly of it.

BUT GOD – Question Mark or Exclamation Point?

But God - Bible Study Review    #QuietWorkings

Author: Lorraine Strohbehn and Brenda Strohbehn

Versions of Bible used: KJV in this study; daughter, Brenda may use other versions in her blog, but you don’t need to use those or read them for this study

What I liked or learned:

This study was phenomenal in studying passages of Scripture containing the phrase, “But God.” At the end of each chapter, there’s a section of application called, “Petals from the Basket,” name taken from Brenda’s blog – explanation in the Preface The chapters could each be divided up over several days – so much is packed into each one. 2 chapter study on Joseph – Genesis 50:20 Contentment – Psalm 73:26 Pleasing God, not men – I Thess. 2:4 2 chapters: We were to We are – Galatianas 6:14 Thankful Heart – Romans 6:17 Moses – Net, fire, flood – Psalm 66:10-12 Trials and Temptations – Death of a Dream – I Corinthians 10:13

What I didn’t like or areas where author was weak:

I found the size of the book a bit cumbersome – hard to hold in your lap but perfect to use on a table – would like to see them reduce the size from 8.5 x 11 to a thicker book of maybe 6×9

Level of spiritual maturity needed for this study: mature believer, yet within a class or Bible study setting a new believer could glean much from this – need to also know how to look up references in Scripture; illustrations are easy for most to grasp

Background of author: wife and daughter of Dr. Ben Strohbehn – very fundamental in preaching and testimony

Another great Bible study for Christian women – one to help us learn about our Bible and about the great God we serve.

For more titles check out the link above: Devotionals for Women

Brenda Ruse

Brenda has been a pastor’s wife in the Maritimes for many years.  She currently teaches at a local Bible Institute and is involved in women’s ministries in her church.