1 John: A Devotional On Love, Obedience, and Side Effects of Salvation by Nicole Hanson

This short devotional is unique in that it includes original watercolor paintings by the author. Each of the 23 chapters begins with a painting, an exhortation to read the selected verses from 1 John from a bible version that is easy for the reader to understand, followed by the author’s commentary and journal prompts. 

I enjoyed the addition of the painting and the journal prompts. However, I would have liked to have seen a place where readers could write their responses or thoughts about the biblical reflection posed by the author. This would reinforce the idea that not words but action is the basis for faith-based behavior. 

I was also curious as to why the author chose to include the exhortation to read the bible verses being discussed but not include them in the book itself. Since I was curious, I decided to check about copyright laws and scripture. 

While the King James Version of the Bible is in the public domain in the U.S., most other translations are under copyright, which means there are restrictions for quoting from them. Additionally, although the King James Version is in the public domain in most countries (except for the U.K.), it may not be the easiest translation to read for some people. As a result, readers may be more comfortable reading a selected passage from a version of the Bible that they are more familiar with and find easier to understand, which is undoubtedly why the author suggested it.

As with any text citation, properly attributing a Bible quote is essential. While requesting permission can be time-consuming, it’s sometimes a necessary step to ensure legal compliance. However, in this case, the book only focuses on 2-4 verses from 1 John in each chapter, so it’s unlikely that the snippets would make up more than 25% of the text. That being said, the author says she is using the New Living Translation (NLT) for the scriptures. The copyright holder of that particular translation, Tyndale House Publishers, gives permission for up to 500 verses in a book as long as it’s not 25 percent of the book nor the entire bible book.

 Regardless, 1 John: On Love, Obedience, and Side Effects of Salvation by Nicole Hanson would make a nice addition to any bible study, whether in a group using the journal prompts and author’s commentary as a platform to open discussion or individual biblical contemplation.

I received an ARC from the author for this review.

Author Feature — Nicole Hanson

Today’s Author feature is Nicole Hanson from Rochester, Minnesota, author of 1 John: On Love, Obedience, and Side Effects of Salvation.

When I started writing, it was for fun and to make my sisters and cousins smile. Then, in High School, around 2010, I began writing devotional thoughts for others on my blog. Adults at church began asking when I would write a book, but I shrugged it off. I thought I needed to accomplish more before publishing, I thought I needed more experience under my belt and more candles on my birthday cakes. 

Over the years, I’ve realized those were excuses. But then I became busy with marriage, ministry, and work. In 2021, I knew it was time to write a book. It would be a devotional straight through my favorite book of the Bible (1 John), and it would include my paintings as visual cues. But between all the things vying for my attention, there wasn’t much room for research, study, and writing. I wrote whenever I could carve out time, and the book slowly began to form. 

In 2022, I was blessed to have the whole summer off. In a matter of a month, I finished the book, and the paintings, and figured out self-publishing!

My book, 1 John: On Love, Obedience, and Side Effects of Salvation, is a 23-day Christian devotional. Each day’s reading includes a scripture to read, my devotional thoughts, an application question, and one of my watercolor paintings that makes the concept from scripture more concrete and memorable. We journey through the whole letter of 1 John, exploring the themes of love, obedience, and “side effects” of our salvation. 

I am currently writing a book that will help Christians remember what God says He is faithful to do. This one will take more time, I believe, because I am reading every book of the Bible, looking for God’s promises of faithfulness. I have time set aside each week for study and writing. Those interested may sign up for book updates here: subscribepage.io/tehcMf 

The best writing advice I’ve ever received is to write the first draft and don’t expect it to be good, but to revise and edit until it’s great! This has been helpful for me because I tend to want the first draft to be publication-ready, and that’s simply not realistic.

Love on Thin Ice 3 – Healing by Vallean Jackson

Love on Thin Ice 3 – Healing by Vallean Jackson is the third book in the Love on Thin Ice series. 

Briefly, the main characters and their relationships are as follows:

Keiontay believed that Ginger’s daughter was his but discovered that Kaleigh was Tarven’s child. Keiontay fathered Nolan with Nova but has not stepped up to the plate as a father. Morgan is Keiontay’s nurse and allows him to stay with her as he recovers from a stab wound.

Nova is doing the best she can for her son, Nolan. Omar is interested in becoming a permanent part of their family, but Nova hesitates to let him in.

Tarven and Keiontay were best friends until Ginger revealed that her daughter was biologically Tarven’s and not Keiontay’s. Tarven is working on creating a family with Ginger. However, Ginger is obsessed with Keiontay, suffering from depression and making life difficult for Nova. 

The most interesting aspect of this book for me was the level of introspection the characters were capable of. Keiontay and Tarven both could see that their behavior stemmed from incidents in their upbringing. Nova and Morgan were also able to understand the origin of the seemingly irresponsible actions of these men. These intertwining relationships illustrate the adage, “hurt people hurt people.” 

As the theme for this third book in the series is “healing,” the characters make transformative observations about their behavior. Some are able to make reparations, while others, although acknowledging the hurt they have caused, decide to move on without apology. 

This book has several explicit sex scenes and deals with domestic and drug-related violence, so it may not be for everyone. Additionally, because of the amount of introspection, sections can be confusing if you haven’t read the previous books in the series, although Love on Thin Ice 3 – Healing can be read as a stand-alone.

I received an ARC from the author.

La Misión Ártica por Minda Gomez

La Misión Ártica por Minda Gomez el segundo libro de la serie Las aventuras de los niños Martinez (Martinez Kids Adventures). En este libro, Diego, Rico y Araceli se entretienen en el LAAAARGO viaje de Minnesota a Ciudad Juárez con las gafas de realidad virtual de su vecino inventor Don Toño. Sus hazañas refuerzan los valores de cooperación, responsabilidad, constancia y ánimo.

Cuando la familia llega a su destino, el lector puede echar un vistazo a algunas de las costumbres y comidas tradicionales mexicanas que se encuentran en las áreas cercanas a la frontera entre EE. UU. y México. Las aventuras continúan a través de las gafas de realidad virtual en el viaje LAAAARGO de regreso a Minnesota.

El libro termina con la receta de atole de avena de Tita y la canción de la piñata, ¡que siempre es una gran canción para cantar!

La versión en inglés (The Arctic Quest) contiene una lista traducida de las palabras en español utilizadas en el libro con una guía de pronunciación. La versión en español (La Misión Ártica) hace lo mismo con el término en inglés que contiene. Como beneficio adicional, este libro de la serie contiene algunas palabras inuit para un mayor aprendizaje del idioma. Las ilustraciones hacen que la lectura de este libro de capítulos sea aún más agradable.

Leer más sobre la autora aquí.

Recibí una copia de revisión avanzada del autor.

March 2023 Writing Challenge Update

After a stellar start to the year, February was a flop. I did not get any of the writing projects I had in the lineup completed.

I started working on the Shopping in Rural Mexico editing and found that I will need to retake a good portion of the pictures again. What was good enough for a blog post is certainly not clear enough for a print book. So I’m moving this project to the simmer setting on the stove. I didn’t even look at the other books in the series.

Instead, I’ve been revamping my website. My goal is to get everything under one roof, so to speak. Teachable raised its prices to use the platform to the point where it’s not profitable for me to continue using it. Teachers Pay Teachers blacklisted some of my Women of the Bible printables because someone found them offensive. So I’ve taken my toys and gone home, literally. And now I need a new place to display my wares.

It has been a frustrating experience with the WooCommerce and PayPal plug-ins so far. I hope to finish up in March. You can see the new storefront on the homepage. Pardon the dust while I get it all set up. 

I also spent part of the month trying my hand at networking. As an introvert, this is waaaayyy out of my comfort zone, but if I want to find the right readers for my books, well, I’m going to have to come out of my shell a bit more. Of course, networking is a long game, so I don’t know if my efforts will bear fruit for a bit. I guess it’s a start, though, right?

I am also going to switch back to the herb books as a focus for March. I have four herbs to research to finish the first draft of Herb book #4. And hey, it’s my writing challenge, so I can do what I want to (It’s also my birthday month, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my 50th than by researching a new plant.)

Mountains, Radio Waves, and a Love Letter: Days of Adventures on the Evergreen Ranch by Shinji Yoshikawa

In 2018, Shinji Yoshikawa, a Japanese ex-pat living in Mexico City, decided that since his family was away during Christmas, he would travel out of his comfort zone and visit a place he’d read about in a magazine. He had no idea about the adventures that awaited him. 

El Rancho Evergreen is located in San Isidro Chichihuistan near San Cristobal, Chiapas. It is run by an American, Samuel, a French woman named Stephanie, and their two multicultural daughters, Zoe and Cheyenne. To get there, our fearless traveler took a smooth plane ride to Tuxtla Guiterrez, the nearest airport, which he slept through, then a bumpy and uncomfortable bus ride he did not sleep through. Finally, his voyage culminated in a shared taxi ride to his destination, which was neither comfortable nor uncomfortable. 

The author’s adventures are sprinkled with humor as he thoroughly enjoys his vacation, even when things don’t go exactly as planned. For those that have not experienced ex-pat life in Mexico, he shares some tidbits about Mexican culture, such as no central heating systems, the rarity of on-time transportation schedules, and the reality that the nearest wi-fi signal is quite a hike up the hill and by the big tree which you can climb to improve your reception. 

I’d have to say that my favorite part was Yoshikawa’s description of Christmas Eve with his host family and other guests. Despite being shy and retiring, the author voluntarily added to the festivities by borrowing a guitar and singing in three languages. What a memorable experience for everyone!

Although Yoshikawa’s high-jinks amused me greatly, there were some writing issues that could be improved upon. As the author’s first language was Japanese and his second Spanish, this English version had multiple vocabulary and word use errors, punctuation mistakes, and a few things that, well, just got lost in translation. Another pass-through by an editor for some additional spit polish and shine would not be amiss here. 

Any world or armchair traveler would love this book, which amounts to a travelogue. It isn’t a long read. After all, the author’s visit to El Rancho Evergreen lasted just four days. Nor is it a tedious read, as many travel stories can be. Yoshikawa pokes fun at his own expectations and finds that the road less traveled is delightful in its own way. 

So if you enjoy a good travel story, Mountains, Radio Waves, and a Love Letter: Days of Adventures on the Evergreen Ranch by Shinji Yoshikawa will make your day!

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can see my review HERE.

Featured Author — Minda Gomez

Today’s featured author is Minda Gomez, who writes bilingual children’s chapter books about the multi-cultural Martinez family! She lives with her husband and three kids in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Martinez Kids Adventures are a children’s chapter book series centered around a bicultural Mexican-American family. Rico, Diego, and Araceli Martinez are three spunky bilingual siblings who live in Minnesota with their Mami and Papi.

In The Secret Door, the family discovers that their next-door neighbor, Don Toño, has developed an invention that will transform them into animals through virtual reality, simply by walking through a secret door. They travel to the forest as squirrels, the coral reef as marine animals, and the Mexican rainforest as spider monkeys. In each adventure, they make new animal friends and learn lessons that can be applied to their lives. 

In The Arctic Quest, the Martinez family is driving to Mexico to visit family for Christmas. Along the way, the kids are transported to the Arctic and turned into animals through special virtual reality sunglasses that allow them to fly, swim, and communicate with other animals. Through new challenges and friendships, they learn important lessons through their adventures. Upon arriving in Mexico, they experience a rich, warm Navidad celebration that they will never forget.

The Martinez Kids Adventures are available online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other online booksellers. Links to the books can be found at my website, www.mindagomez.com.

The Martinez family is modeled after my own cross-cultural family. My husband lived in Mexico until we got married, so Spanish language and culture are an integral part of our family’s dynamics. Over the years I have made it my goal to find quality bilingual and cross-cultural books. I have come across very few books about families that look similar to mine, so it has been a joy to represent them in exciting, wholesome stories.

In addition, I wanted to represent the code-switching and natural flow between Spanish and English that takes place in a bilingual family. Spanish words are incorporated into the dialogue in context in the English book, and a glossary is available for referencing meaning and pronunciation.

My husband and I worked together on the Spanish translation of the books. English words are also incorporated into the dialogue. 

These books are tributes to the beauty of language, culture, food, and family. Spanish words are scattered throughout the story in context, offering an opportunity for readers to learn.

I want these stories to draw families together with intriguing stories that activate the imagination and inspire meaningful conversations. It is also a goal that my readers will grow in their appreciation for their own traditions and those of their neighbors.

When I wrote my first book in the summer of 2021, I did not know anything about the world of publishing, and basically had to figure it out as I went along. I did not have any idea what this would grow into, or all of the areas in which I would have to learn new skills.

One of the most challenging skills was learning to illustrate digitally on an iPad. I have always loved art but did not have experience with this medium. It has been very rewarding to develop in this area, and I find the illustration process to be incredibly engrossing. Hours can go by as I am working on one project, and it may feel like it’s only been a short time. 

The marketing process has been challenging for me as well, as I do not have any formal training in this area. I have been thankful for the way people so generously share their knowledge online. 

Currently I am working on my third chapter book, which is in the editing process. I am also working on a spin-off picture book based on one of the animal characters from my current work in progress. I work during the chances I can find between the responsibilities of parenting and my full-time teacher job. It is my goal to release these books by this summer, but that time is flexible. That is the beauty of self-publishing; my deadlines can adapt to my life.

The best writing advice I’ve ever been given is do it because you love it. I want to keep doing this because it is something I enjoy. If it starts to feel like a chore, I need to take a break. That’s the benefit of doing this for myself and not as my full-time job. Currently it brings me so much joy that I can’t imagine stopping.

You can connect with Minda here:

New Release from C.E. Flores

I’m tickled pink, well maybe green, that El boticario mexicano: Remedios herbales tradicionales para el resfriado y la gripe has been released! In celebration, both the English and Spanish ebook versions are FREE for the next few days. 


Love herbs? Don’t forget about the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.

The Secret Door by Minda Gomez

The Secret Door/La Puerta Secreta by Minda Gomez introduces young readers to the Martinez children, Rico, Diego, and Aracela, and their fantastic adventures. In this short chapter book, we can enjoy their treetop, ocean, and rainforest exploits via the neighbor’s virtual reality system (hidden behind that secret door) as they learn about the values of contentment, honesty, and wisdom. 

Minda Gomez is also the book’s illustrator. Her drawings are vibrant and entertaining. She also did the Spanish translation along with her husband, Moises Gomez. According to the author, the Martinez family is based closely on her own multicultural family, which made it fun to write because she knew the characters so well. The family’s creative neighbor Don Toño is a combination of the author’s actual neighbor and her suegro (father-in-law), although she admits that neither is the inventor of the fabulous VR door featured in the story. 

In the English version, there is a guide to pronouncing the characters’ Spanish names and two and a half pages devoted to Spanish/English translation and phonetic pronunciation of the Spanish terms. The Spanish edition defines the English words, and a pronunciation guide is included. Additionally, readers are directed to www.mindagomez.com to hear the English pronunciation. 

Finally, both versions include a section on Mami’s Spicy Turkey Quesadillas, a recipe even kids could prepare to round out the adventures. 

I received an ARC for reviewing purposes.