How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

My Top 15 Books of 2021

Although I haven’t appeared very often on my blog this year, I do still regularly read and write. And so I couldn’t ignore the tug that every December exerts on me to make my top 15 list of books read throughout the year. I read more individual titles in 2021 than the past several years: 65. But according to Goodreads, the number of pages was virtually the same as last year, which apparently means I read a slew of shorter books. That makes sense because I didn’t read as many classics this time around. If you’re curious about my whole list, you can find my year in books HERE.

And now, on to the list … which, as usual, was very hard to rank!


The Heir of Redclyffe

by Charlotte Mary Yonge

This was the longest book I read in 2021. My friend Sarah and I read it as part of our monthly classic buddy read. Published in 1853, it’s a fairly normal sentimental Victorian novel, but with an extra layer of depth because several of the characters were heartfelt Christians who openly discussed their faith, and there was a beautiful redemption arc. Read my full review HERE.


Mercy Undeserved

by Kristina Hall

Book 2 of the Moretti Trilogy, this tense historical novel set in the 1920s kept me flipping ebook pages. I really appreciated the message and how the main characters were depicted; they were new believers, and the way they learned to trust God while still struggling with their old nature was impactful as it wove into the suspenseful plot: running for their lives from gangsters. Read my full review HERE.


Hannah Coulter

by Wendell Berry

I’ve heard a lot about Wendell Berry and determined that this year I would read one of his Port William novels. Hannah Coulter is a lovely contemplative novel about an elderly woman in rural Kentucky looking back over her life, spanning most of the twentieth century. Read my full review HERE.


Irena’s Children

by Tilar J. Mazzeo

For the past few months, I’ve been on a research kick about World War Two and the Holocaust. Irena Sendler, a social worker active in the Polish resistance against the Nazis, has fascinated me ever since I heard of her. She is one of the “Righteous Among the Nations,” named by Yad VaShem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial. She and her allies within the resistance rescued 2,500 Jewish children in Warsaw. This information-dense biography not only gave me a deeper appreciation for Sendler; it set me on a sobering train of thought: What would I have done? Read my full review HERE.



by Tara Westover

I didn’t expect to like this modern-day memoir as much as I did. Westover’s story is intriguing; raised in a survivalist family in rural Idaho, she educated herself, went to college, and excelled despite her lack of formal schooling and family support. I was drawn in by her masterful writing and her classic underdog story. Read my full review HERE.


Three Men in a Boat

by Jerome K. Jerome

Three men and a dog take a boating expedition on the Thames, and everything hilariously goes wrong from there. This 1889 British novel is nothing profound, but it’s one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, and at that point in my year, I really needed to laugh. It will always hold a fond place in my heart for that gift. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


Before We Were Yours

by Lisa Wingate

Wingate’s powerful novel is a dual timeline narrative, telling the story of five siblings in the 1930s taken from their parents by the Tennessee Children’s Home and adopted out to separate families. Decades later, a successful career woman and daughter of a South Carolina senator discovers this terrible history and its repercussions in the present day. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


The Rosemary Tree

by Elizabeth Goudge

All of Goudge’s books are beautiful, but this one seemed exceptionally so. There’s much that this mid-twentieth-century English story encompasses; mostly it’s about a minister and his family and the various troubles and sorrows that they encounter and overcome. Goudge always leaves me feeling uplifted. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Anyone who is an ardent fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder will enjoy this beautifully printed early version of her beloved series. Not only does it contain the Pioneer Girl manuscript that she tried to get published before fictionalizing and expanding it into the stories we know today; it also gives extensive commentary in the margins and other explanatory notes. Since I published a Little House–inspired novella last summer, this book meant a lot to me. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


Dr. Thorne

by Anthony Trollope

I enjoy almost every thick Victorian novel I read, but not every one becomes a cherished favorite. However, Dr. Thorne did! The love story, the twists and turns, the characters, the satisfying plot, and the humor all combined to make a lovely read that was hard to put down and left me with a book hangover. See my full review HERE.


The Meaning of Marriage

by Timothy Keller

As the title suggests, this book provides meaningful and realistic insights into marriage. Besides the practical advice, it also gives a beautiful picture of what marriage means in God’s economy. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


North and South

by Elizabeth Gaskell

I reread North and South this year and loved it just as much as before. This is another classic that my friend Sarah and I read together. Published in 1854, this novel shows Gaskell’s writing at its finest—her deep characters, her development of tension, and her sympathetic grasp of all sides of an issue. The story deals with the clash between mill owners and their workers in northern England, through the eyes of a mill owner and a young woman from the south with a tempestuous relationship that develops into something more. Read my full review HERE.


The Zion Covenant series

by Bodie Thoene

I’ve read four of this six-book series so far, and though some parts are tough to get through, they tell the harrowing, disturbing, yet important story of the lead-up to World War Two in Europe. I relish Thoenes blend of tension, character development, and descriptive details that bring history to life. Find the first book on Goodreads HERE.


If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat

by John Ortberg

With humility and humor, Ortberg encourages readers to put their faith into practice, trust God, and follow His calling for their lives. He addresses fear and other hindrances people encounter when they seek to draw closer to God and His plan. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


The Life You’ve Always Wanted

by John Ortberg

This eye-opening book explores “spiritual disciplines” and how they can help you live a more fulfilling and dedicated Christian life. I’ve really enjoyed reading Ortberg because he offers deep, meaningful truths in an easygoing style that makes me sit up and take notice, even when I feel convicted. Read my full review HERE.

What were some of your favorite books that you read in 2021?

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Black Friday - Cyber Monday Weekend Sale

I'm a little late in sharing this, but hopefully many of you have already seen the news on my Facebook page, my newsletter, or from another indie author. 



Yes, a massive ebook sale with over 300 titles! All my ebooks are on sale for 99 cents. Browse the website and stock up on all the reading material you could want. All the books are clean, so you can't go wrong. I've already snagged some books I'm really excited about reading. Prices are good through Monday night.




Thursday, November 4, 2021

New Release and Review Opportunity

Happy fall! Even though it's already November, the hot season in my area of Texas feels like it just ended and the real fall season has begun. And as the cozy part of the year begins, I have some publishing news of my own to share! Remember A Very Bookish Thanksgiving? Several of the authors in that collection are releasing their novellas individually this month in time for the holiday. We'd love to have your help on the launch team. You can get free review copies, exclusive interaction with the authors, and even some special thank-you goodies for your participation.

Sign up HERE.

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon




Friday, October 15, 2021

Sustainer's Smile Blog Tour

Sustainer’s Smile by Erika Mathews is here! I’m excited to share this new novel with you because life is an issue dear to my heart, and it’s the heart of this book. This post includes snippets, a character spotlight, and a giveaway!

Learn the Basics

It’s Book Four of Truth from Taerna but it can easily be read as a standalone.

  • It’s a prolife novel.

  • It tells the story of Liliora Ellith, who makes peace with her past and discovers her future among the cradles of Taerna’s unwanted babies, born and unborn.

  • It’s a kingdom adventure fiction novel.

  • It’s clean and family-friendly, though it’s recommended for teens and up due to dealing with the issue of abortion. 

  • Its launch date is October 21 but it’s available for preorder right now!

View or Buy Sustainer’s Smile on Amazon


Read the Snippets

Liliora shook her head. “If Adon Olam wants it, I will not listen to my fears.” Yet tears welled up even in the words, and she felt her heart failing her. 

Character Spotlight: Rita

Age at the time of Sustainer’s Smile: Early 20s
Personality: ESTP

Height: 5’ 8”
Hair: dark blonde

Eyes: dark blue


About Rita

Rita has been a friend of Liliora’s for many years. Rita lives in Frydael with her parents, and she loves Frydael’s social life. As children, Rita and Liliora went on many adventures together, and both shared similar ideals and dreams for the future. As they grew older, however, Rita felt like she was growing up faster than carefree, innocent Liliora. Now Rita’s trying to land a job so that her old-fashioned parents will allow her to marry the love of her life—but things aren’t as easy as she wishes.


Author Note

Every main character needs a friend, and Liliora was no exception. In telling Liliora’s story, several elements required someone else to be involved. There were things that simply wouldn’t work for Liliora to be directly involved in—and that’s where Rita came in. She proved to have a mind of her own, and her stubbornness and Liliora’s mildness melded together beautifully. And once she brought in her fiancĂ©, he added a whole new element to the plot.


Sustainer’s Smile Excerpt


“Tying yourself down, even without a husband of your own.” Rita sighed dramatically. “Why do I even bother to come here asking you to have fun with me? Clearly your priorities are elsewhere.”

“Because I’m your friend?” Liliora quirked an eye­brow. “And friends have fun together?”

“Yes,” Rita agreed. “Remember that time we stopped up the creek and the water flooded the neigh­bor’s chicken pen? Or that time that your brothers stole our dolls and hid them in the orchard? Or when we made a nutmeg cake and fed it to Deen Penson, and he thought it was ginger and almost spit it all over the table? Now that was fun! And all the planning and scheming before­hand, and the messages, and…”

“I remember.” Liliora sighed. 

“Or when we went on the youth hayride? That was back when I didn’t know Trig very well at all. I was so awkward…”

“I remember,” Liliora repeated. 

“I want to have adventures like that again,” Rita stated wistfully. “Those were the days. Carefree, excit­ing…”

“We can’t be children forever, Rita. We have work to do. Work for life. For survival. For betterment of those around us…”

“Nonsense! Leave the work to others, who don’t mind it.” Rita swept to her feet, tossing her hair behind her shoulders. “We ought to enjoy life while we can. Surely Adon Olam would want that.”

“I think we do enjoy life when we’re living in Him,” Liliora replied slowly. “Even if what we’re doing seems boring or mundane. Normal work still needs to be done.”

“But I have no patience for it,” Rita retorted. “So come on. Are we going to have some fun today or not?”


See the Blurb

Suffering suffocates her soul. 

How can she ever smile again?

A helpless newborn…that’s exactly how twenty-four-year-old Liliora Ellith feels in her efforts to speak up on behalf of the youngest members of Taerna’s pleasure-driven society. Her tender heart for the defenseless and deep aversion to conflict throw Liliora’s soul into turmoil when tragedy opens her eyes to the quiet yet heartrending war on Taerna’s babies—both born and unborn. Adon Olam’s Word coupled with a secret in her own past fuel her determination. All she wants is to make peace with her past and discover her future among the cradles of unwanted babies. However, the challenges ahead of her threaten to send her spiraling into hopeless depression time and again. Saving innocent lives from the crush of the destroyer and raising a generation in the ways of Adon Olam seem more impossible than ever. At the very end of herself, will the sufferings of her and her babies prove to be anything less than the catalyst for complete disaster?

Enter the Giveaway

Win a signed paperback of Promise’s Prayer (Truth from Taerna #1) and other fun prizes! Enter here.

Find the Rest

There’s a bookstagram/blog challenge, author interviews, character spotlights, and more!

Add to Goodreads

View or Buy Sustainer’s Smile on Amazon

See the Rest of the Prolife Tour

Friday, July 30, 2021

Visiting De Smet

 A Very Bookish 4th of July has been out for almost two months, and now this limited-time collection has just one month left! 



Recently, I returned to the land that inspired my Fourth of July novella, Prairie Independence Day. The corn stood tall and thick, the soy formed low, leafy bushes, and the untamed prairie grass waved in the wind. In the mornings, a sometimes soft, sometimes strong, but always constant wind tempered the sun’s heat, but the afternoons turned quite sultry. I had a lot of fun visiting my friends who live in eastern South Dakota, but one of the highlights was our trip to the Ingalls sites in De Smet, which I wrote about in Prairie Independence Day.

They were almost exactly how I remembered them. A few details were different, but nothing of much consequence. (Sadly, the changes were mainly due to the pandemic, which I did not include in my novella.) Out on the homestead site, it was still incredible to touch Pa’s cottonwoods—planted in the 1880s—and walk inside the dugout, the claim shanty, and the wooden house representing the types of homes the Ingalls family lived in at one time or another. I loved thinking about how they walked this very land under my feet. Just like Chandler Ivey in my story, I enjoyed the covered wagon ride to the one-room schoolhouse and the one-room church. There were demonstrations and antique objects that helped bring the books to life, such as the hay twists Pa and Laura had to make during The Long Winter. And then in the town of De Smet, I loved imagining them inside the Surveyor’s House (featured in By the Shores of Silver Lake) and the Third Street house (where every member of the immediate family except for Laura lived at some point).


The Cottonwoods

 The Claim Shanty
Inside the Claim Shanty

The Dugout

Inside the Dugout

Ma's Little House

The Covered Wagon

If you’re a Little House fan and you’re ever in eastern South Dakota, visit the Ingalls Homestead Site and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes! And if you'd like to read about my first visit to De Smet, way back in 2013, here are the blog posts:

"The Slough of Delight"

"The Little House Stage"

"One Last Little House Post (I Think)"

P.S. If you haven’t gotten a copy of our limited edition novella collection yet, here is the link to check it out!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

This post is written in memory of Eric Carle, children’s book author and illustrator extraordinaire, June 25, 1929 – May 23, 2021.

The other day, I opened up a few of my favorite childhood picture books. 

Draw Me a Star by Eric Carle

Simple Pictures Are Best by Nancy Willard and Tomie dePaola 



Round Trip by Ann Jonas



A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert and Anita Lobel

On Market Street by Anita Lobel and Arnold Lobel

I’ve always enjoyed my family’s collection of picture books. My mom didn’t thin them out as we kids grew up. Instead, she kept them (ostensibly) for the grandchildren … though in reality, neither she nor I could bear to part with them.

Now that I work at a preschool, children’s picture books are a regular part of my life again. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the job. Although reading a particular picture book for the first time as an adult isn’t usually as wonderful as it is in childhood, I can enjoy it vicariously when I see the toddlers’ thrill. I’m on the hunt for my own copies of …

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood


You Are Special by Max Lucado

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

But books I knew in my childhood are different. I was sad to hear that Eric Carle had recently died. He was one of my favorite illustrators, and we have a sizable stack of his books. (Do you know how he did his art? He painted tissue paper and cut it into shapes to form pictures! Look it up on YouTube sometime.) And Tomie dePaola! He was another icon of my childhood, gone for over a year now. Reading their books and others I loved as a kid transports me back in time, back to when I was savoring them and being absorbed in the world their pictures and simple words created. Nothing else can take me back like that, not even childhood movies or toys.

Draw Me a Star is particularly significant to me now because of how it beautifully links the work of an artist with God’s creation, ending with the artist as an old man who lived out his days and flew into the night sky with a star. Rest in peace, Eric Carle.

One of these days, I plan to do a post (or a series) on the memorable books of my growing-up years, but to finish this one out in honor of Eric Carle, here is a list of just his that I own:

Draw Me a Star

Today is Monday

Dragons Dragons & Other Creatures That Never Were

Animals Animals

Treasury of Classic Stories for Children

Pancakes, Pancakes!

A House for Hermit Crab

Rooster’s Off to See the World

The Tiny Seed

The Mountain That Loved a Bird

The Mixed-Up Chameleon

The Lamb and the Butterfly

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Have You Seen My Cat?

The Grouchy Ladybug

A Color of His Own

The Foolish Tortoise

Did you enjoy any of these books I mentioned when you were growing up?