Welcome to the 2016 book club

I think when you hear the same message from more than three people, you should take it seriously. And I’ve heard that several of you want more book suggestions and more opportunities for book discussions.

Finally, I think I’ve figured out how to do that for you.

Here’s what it will look like:

  • On the first day of every month I’ll host a three-book giveaway. Each month one person will win, and the package will include a children’s book, a novel and a non-fiction book. Look for these giveaways on the Simply Faithful Facebook page.
  • On April 15, June 15 and Aug. 15 I’ll host a book giveaway where six people will win a copy of the same book. Those people will be asked to discuss the book on the Simply Faithful Facebook page so the rest of us can determine if we might like to read it, too. Then, I’ll capture that discussion and share it here so it is easy to find for everyone.
  • In the fall, I will select a book for us all to read. I’ll interview the author and you’ll all have a chance to chat live with him/her on social media. This year, if the author is comfortable with it, we may offer live streaming on Facebook so you can see the author, too, while you are asking questions. (Yes, just like the Jetsons!)
  • I’m working on creating a monthly newsletter that will include suggestions for living a life of faith, free printables and book suggestions, along with Q&As with talented authors. If you are interested in receiving those newsletters, just slip your email address in the box on the bottom left.

Let’s try it. Sound good?

P.S. Feel free to share your book recommendations with me – especially for the fall. Thanks!

Summer books: Two Steps Forward

Sharon Garlough BrownEditor’s note: This is the final piece in a series of four author interviews.

I first fell in love with Sharon Garlough Brown’s story in Sensible Shoes – a work of fiction full of spiritual truths. That book introduces readers to four strangers who meet at a spiritual retreat center and begin to learn the value of community and of spiritual practices like walking a labyrinth and praying the examen.

Hannah is a pastor on a forced sabbatical. Meg is a widow haunted by her past and struggling with an empty nest. Mara has experienced a lifetime of rejection and now is in a difficult marriage. And Charissa is a graduate student who desperately wants to do what is right.

Their stories continue in Two Steps Forward, which releases in October and offers plenty of truth of its own.

I feel like your characters in Sensible Shoes became my friends, and I’ve been wondering about how they are all doing. Are they all included in the sequel? If so, do they share the spotlight like they did before – or does this book focus in on one character in particular?

Yes, Two Steps Forward follows the stories of each of the four main characters in Sensible Shoes. It picks up right where Sensible Shoes ends, with Meg on the plane to England.

In your first book, we saw how each character had struggles and spiritual lessons. What are some of the issues we’ll see them deal with in the sequel?

One of the differences with Two Steps Forward is that the characters are no longer participating in a retreat together. So the question is, what will they remember (or forget) about what they’ve learned, especially when life falls apart? The primary theme of Two Steps Forward is persevering in hope and trusting that somehow in the midst of the mess, Jesus comes to reveal his presence. Since transformation is a slow and non-linear process, you’ll see the characters wrestling with some of the same issues they struggled with in Sensible Shoes: perfectionism, anxiety, rejection, grief.

One of the things I enjoyed about Sensible Shoes was that it combined a great fiction piece with solid spiritual practices that I could put to use in my daily life. Is there more of that in this book?

Yes! Though Two Steps Forward does not contain teaching handouts like Sensible Shoes, the spiritual disciplines are embedded and integrated into the story. You’ll get to watch how the characters are practicing the disciplines they’ve learned. A study guide is included at the back of the book, with opportunity to engage with reflection questions and spiritual disciplines.

Summer books: Secrets She Kept

Cathy GohlkeEditor’s note: This is the second in a series of four author interviews.

I’ve enjoyed three of Cathy Gohlke’s novels and am anxious to read Secrets She Kept, which releases in September. Read her answers below for a sense of why she’s one of my favorites.

I know you do extensive research for your novels and this is your second one that is set in Nazi Germany. What is it that intrigues you about that time period? What is it that we can learn? 

It has fascinated, even frightened me that an entire nation was swept into a passion while persecuting an entire group of human beings. Why didn’t more Germans stand up to Hitler and his degrading Nuremberg laws? How did intelligent people step onto such slippery moral slopes, losing their moral and spiritual compass, ultimately losing their ability to stop the monster they’d enabled? Can such superior racist attitudes be prevented in the future, and what are the warning signs? Do we see them in our society? If the answer is yes, what can we, as individuals, do about that?

One of my favorite things about your writing is that your characters struggle with faith and mature in their understanding of God. What are the struggles in this book? 

Secrets She Kept is my first time split novel.

Lieselotte, the young woman in Nazi Germany, needs love, acceptance and a purpose, but the cost for each of these is greater than she knows. When everything is taken from her, who will she be and what will she believe?

Hannah, Lieselotte’s grown daughter of the 1970s, longs for a connection with her estranged mother. Only after her mother’s death does she discover her family’s tragic wartime past. Hannah struggles to understand their actions and is desperate to redeem the tragedy of those actions. But, can any person redeem the deeds of another? Can one person forgive the deeds of another? Must children bear the consequences for the sins of their parents?

What makes this book different than your last book – and from most other books about Nazi Germany? 

Saving Amelie probed the consequences of the eugenics movement popular in Nazi Germany and around the world. It also asked why the church and German people did not stand against Hitler. 

Secrets She Kept explores questions of guilt, redemption and forgiveness of enemies as well as of those with whom we are in close relationship. It asks, how do survivors of war reclaim their lives? How do we respond when we, or someone in our family, have been responsible for something tragic—something that destroyed the life of another? These questions bring the aftermath and the results of war crimes and desperate acts home to us. Secrets She Kept reveals that the root causes of war do not disappear with victory or defeat, and when a nation is conquered, its ideologies do not necessarily or immediately change. Consequences of war cannot be swept away as if they do not exist—not in the current generation nor the next.

A summer reading series for July

IMG_4055I walked in to the church a bit nervous mainly because I’m used to the process of writing where I can cross my words out and try again before anyone knows my mistake. But these were women who had read my words in the newspaper already. They wanted to hear them. From me.

We talked for the better part of an hour and then the questions came. Some about my family. Others about my writing process. Then, at the end, we talked books. They wanted specifics. Titles. Names of authors. These were women who read, and read seriously.

They are the inspiration for what you’ll see in my columns for the month of July. I’ll share three books that are next in my personal queue today, and then each of the following four weeks I’ll share interviews with authors of new books that I know you’ll really enjoy.

Today my bookmark is on page 10 of Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Joy, Beauty, and Adventure – Right Where She Is. It’s written by Sarah Mae and releases in August. It promises to be “for the woman who knows she can’t uproot her life to discover herself and her longings, but who desperately wants to uncover them so she can get unstuck.”

Next in line for me is Brave Enough: Getting Over our Fears, Flaws, and Failures to Live Bold and Free by Nicole Unice. It also releases in August and asks tough questions like, “Is fear holding you back from becoming your best self?”

“Bravery doesn’t have to mean cliff diving out of your comfort zone,” the synopsis says. “Life is about being brave enough – for yourself, for God, for your tasks, and for your calling – right where He’s placed you.”

After that, I’m hoping to start reading the Believe series by Randy Frazee. The premise is to encourage readers to think, act and be like Jesus. The study includes scripture, life application questions and books for all ages so an entire congregation (or family) can work through it together.

What are you reading? Remember I’m hosting the Simply Faithful Book Club starting Oct. 8 so email me at markettagregory@yahoo.com to share your book recommendations.

A conversation with Sharon Garlough Brown

Sensible Shoes Sharon Garlough BrownWe were so thankful to have Sharon Garlough Brown, author of Sensible Shoes, spend time with us on Facebook as part of the Simply Faithful Book Club. She is full of wisdom and grace, so I wanted to capture that conversation for you here.

Click on the comments button (the one that looks like a speech bubble) to read along… Be blessed!

Your summer must-read (Join us?)

Sensible Shoes #6453Like most people, I enjoy a good book, but I don’t like to take time to weed through the mediocre ones. That’s why I love recommendations from friends.

And that’s why this summer’s Simply Faithful book club pick is “Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey” by Sharon Garlough Brown ($18, IVP Books). A friend suggested it, and I read it and fell in love.

Now, I can’t wait to discuss it with you and introduce you to the author during a Facebook chat in August.

Brown does a masterful job of introducing us to four strangers who meet at a spiritual retreat center and begin the difficult work of unmasking themselves. Hannah is a pastor on a forced sabbatical. Meg is a widow haunted by her past and struggling with an empty nest. Mara has experienced a lifetime of rejection and now is in a difficult marriage. And Charissa? She is a graduate student who desperately wants to do what is right.

They all wrestle with faith in such a true-to-life way – a way I often don’t see in Christian fiction – and that’s the real gift of this book. Brown, who has a master’s of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and is a pastor and spiritual director with the Evangelical Covenant Church, paints faith as a relationship that grows and stumbles and strengthens, as something more than merely a subplot to life.

She also weaves in scripture and spiritual practices, like walking a labyrinth and praying the examen, so readers come away with tools to draw closer to God in their own, non-fiction lives. In fact, at www.sensibleshoesclub.com Brown offers a free 80-page companion guide to the book, which essentially serves as a 12-week devotional.

In the next few weeks I’ll share more about the author and your chance to chat with her. In the meantime, what do you say? Will you join us for the Simply Faithful book club?

The best books remind teens the Bible isn't boring

Dear readers,

When my oldest son says he can’t wait for the next book in a series, I pay attention. And this series by Christa Kinde? Well, my loves-to-read boy loved every book and wanted more. So, I asked the author how she got her ideas and what books she would recommend. (You can find a photo album of teen books on the Simply Faithful Facebook page, and — also on Facebook — I happen to be giving away The Threshold Series, courtesy of Zonderkidz.)

Now, Christa…


Prissie Pomeroy never gave much thought to invisible things

until the day she met a boy she shouldn’t have been able to see.

I’m often asked why I chose to write about angels. Supernatural things never fail to capture the imagination, so I borrowed a little from what the Scriptures tell us, pondered the possibilities, gave the details a tiny twist, and let the story take flight. The result is a four-book adventure about a girl who takes three very important things for granted—her family, her friends, and her faith. God catches Prissie’s attention in a miraculous way, proving He knew her needs even before she did.

Why do I write for tweens and teens? Maybe because I have five of them at home! While it’s true that I write the kinds of books I love to read, I’m also conscious of the imprint stories can leave. My childhood reading list shaped my desires and influenced my decisions. I’m grateful to God for the good books that found their way into my hands. Because they’ve read my stories, my kids have collapsed into giggles, grabbed for tissues, cheered for right choices, and learned what’s dearest to their mother’s heart.

In my opinion, the best books remind us that the Bible isn’t boring, church isn’t a chore, prayer connects us to our Maker, and Christians will stand out. Bible stories are given an interesting twist in the six-volume Passages series by Paul McCusker. Lovers of fantasy would enjoy the 10-volume Seven Sleepers series by Gilbert Morris. And a story I’ll never forget is The Heart Reader of Franklin High by Terri Blackstock.

To learn more, visit ChristaKinde.com and watch for monthly story installments at  Christian Fiction Online Magazine.

The importance of teen literature, day 1



Dear readers,

This is the first of a three-part series on the importance of great literature for tweens and teens. Today I have the pleasure of turning this space over to a wise friend — one who gives much thought to the power of words and to the preparation of hearts. Lisa…

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

~Philippians 4:8 KJV

With twin boys who will soon cross the 15 year mark, I am constantly on the lookout for good reading material. The boys have always been voracious readers (we joke that our decorating style is Modern American Book, complete with shelving in every room), and through the years we had no problem finding great literature for our boys. Right up until they hit the tween and teen years.

That’s when we found out we’d have to really keep an eye out for good books. Because many books written for middle and high schoolers tend to focus on typical teen problems like identity, boy-girl relationships, drug use and bullying, they often introduce worldly concepts in the spirit of informing curious minds.

And while I have no problem with books dealing with issues, as a parent I really prefer to be the one influencing my kids. If I hand them books loaded with kids making risky choices or books that approve of ungodly behaviors, I feel as if I am condoning those practices. That’s why we’ve been really careful with what our kids read.


Lisa Tiffin

As my boys got older, I often pre-read books.Eventually I started skimming or spot checking books as well as scouring summaries and reviews. Now I trust my guys to choose their own books. We’ve discussed issues together, talked about what is appropriate and what isn’t. We’ve even discussed how to ignore small issues or to separate personal beliefs from an author or character’s point of view.

The reward? Boys who stop reading when they feel a book is too graphic, ungodly or over the top. In other words boys with wisdom and maturity to make their own good choices.

I’m not saying all my choices would be the same as the next person’s, but what I am saying is that it’s important for us to be involved and engaged in our children’s interior lives. It’s important to steer them toward what is right and good and worthy.

Providing our kids with worthy reading, discussing what is right and wrong and talking about why a book measures up or doesn’t is vital. Because that is how our kids will grow and mature as readers and as young men and women of faith.

Lisa Tiffin is a freelance writer and author who lives with her family in Upstate New York. In addition to numerous articles published in The Democrat & Chronicle as well as many local and national magazines, Lisa has authored literature study guides and several short stories for kids and adults. She is also the author of Theft of the Star Tracker, the first in a series of novels geared toward readers ages 8 to 14. Learn more at www.lisatiffin.com.



‘Jackson Jones’ offers laughs and lessons

To hear Jenn Kelly tell it, it was a very fancy wedding where you had to stand through the whole thing. Somewhere amid all the pomp and circumstance her gaze fell upon a woman with hair piled high. (No, think higher than that.)

The woman was maybe 5 feet tall and looked like she usually carried a small dog with her. She was probably mad that the dog couldn’t come to the wedding, Kelly thought. But wait!

Maybe she was carrying her dog… in her massive hair.

That’s how it started, this idea to write about a boy who falls into his great aunt’s hair and discovers a whole new world of elves and bubble-gum chewing crubbies. A book about a boy who – like many of us – doubts himself a little too much and has to be reminded that the Author has a plan and a purpose for him.

“I want readers to know that life can be funny and amusing, and they are indeed loved,” said Kelly, author of “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish” ($12.99, Zonderkidz).

And somewhere between crazy Chapter 37 “In Which We Learn about the Book, the Author, and Fred the Turtle” and Chapter 38 “A Chapter that Is Not Nearly as Long as the Last One” we find gems like this one, where Jackson has had a glimpse into the future. He has improved at baseball, become a professor and won a prestigious writing award.

“So, what I saw in the mirrors, that was true?” he asked. 

“Unless you see yourself differently from the truth,” she said softly. “Unless you forget.”

Lines worth underlining.

This time all of the books in the Simply Faithful book club touch on purpose, on remembering who we are and whose we are. I hope you’ll join us and encourage the young readers in your life to give these books a try. They’ll also have the chance to ask their own questions and chat live with Kelly at 7 p.m. Dec. 3. We’ll meet online at the Simply Faithful page on Facebook.

“Jackson Jones” is written for elementary students but my almost 14-year-old laughed at some of the chapter titles, and the book practically begs to be read out loud to a classroom.

“That book is me to a T,” Kelly said. “That’s how I talk. Anyone who reads it knows me… ish.”

Jackson’s adventures continue in “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, a Troll, and a Rather Large Chicken” and Kelly has more adventures in her head, ready to escape on paper.

I can’t wait.

Meet Jenn Kelly

Photo courtesy of Jenn Kelly

Learn more about author Jenn Kelly at her Website: www.JennKelly.com. You can also find her page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Look for @JennKellyauthor.

Readers have the chance to chat live with her at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 on the Simply Faithful Facebook page.


About the Simply Faithful book club

For about a year Marketta Gregory, author of the Simply Faithful column, has invited readers throughout the Rochester community to join her in reading and discussing books with spiritual themes. So far, the community has read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp and “Rooms” by James Rubart. The current selections – all four – were chosen to encourage younger readers to participate in the conversation. They are:

  • “Who Built the Stable?” by Ashley Bryan ($16.99, Simon and Schuster).
  • “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish” by Jenn Kelly ($12.99, Zonderkidz).
  • “Replication [The Jason Experiment]” by Jill Williamson ($15.99, Zondervan).
  • “Graceful: Letting Go of your Try-Hard Life” by Emily P. Freeman ($12.99, Revell).