My Top 5 Books for Black History Month

My Top 5 Books for Black History Month

Happy Black History month, y’all! I thought I’d share some of my favorite books that have exposed me to culture and history through the power of story. 😉

And as a person with Jewish heritage, I know what it can feel like to have all the available stories reduced to your greatest historical traumas, so I tried to include little-known time periods or books centered on Black joy for a breath of fresh air. 😉

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker

I really enjoyed Hidden Figures (and researched the true story afterward), so I was delighted to come across this beautiful picture book biography of Katherine Johnson. I enjoyed the look into her childhood, the amazing illustrations, and the timeline in the back that shared even more details of her life than either the book or movie could fit. I think this is a great introduction to an American hero and inspiring woman. 😉

The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda Woods

This was my first introduction to WW2 history outside of European wars, resistance fighters, or homefront stories. The racism and challenges Black GIs faced after coming home from war shouldn’t have shocked me but set in this “idyllic” little town from the perspective of a privileged main character, everything was put into stark perspective. This was definitely a tougher read, but I credit it with “gently” introducing me to less well-known Black history and making me realize there was a lot more I needed to research.

Empowered: How God Shaped 11 Women’s Lives by Catherine Parks

We’ve all heard about Joni Eareckson Tada, Corrie Ten Boom, and Elizabeth Elliot, women of faith who’ve made a great impact on the world and our history, but this collection of short biographies took it even further, including and focusing on Black and Asian women whose stories often go untold. I really enjoyed reading about their lives and how God worked so powerfully through them. I also found all tough topics to be addressed respectfully and age-appropriately, so this is definitely one that could be great for young readers.

The Trouble With Love by Toni Shiloh (and sequels)

I discovered this romance novel mainly through the adorable covers and a desire to read more diversely. I fell completely in love with this swoony, creative world, the strong female friendships that took center stage (sometimes even over the romance!), and the deep spiritual themes that were naturally included. Let’s just say I binged the series as it released and am now a forever fan. 😉 *has one of her newest books sitting on my shelf and another pre-ordered* 😉

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

I found this book totally by accident when I stumbled upon the author’s Instagram and completely fell in love with the aesthetic. The second book was just releasing, so I of course hunted down the first and gobbled it up. It’s seriously cute and completely lives up to the nerdiness of the cover. A writer MC? With a soft, baker boy love interest? Sign me up! The representation of her anxiety actually helped me recognize and accept my own, so I’ll be forever grateful for that. I have the second book her from the library, and the author’s latest has me severely tempted. 👀

For more book recommendations, check out Toni Shiloh’s Instagram reels and this blog post by Nadine Keels.

Do you have any favorite books about Black history or Black joy? Recommend them in the comments. 😉 My TBR thanks you.

Meet Kellyn Roth // Interview

Meet Kellyn Roth // Interview

Today I’d like to welcome back author Kellyn Roth! Kellyn, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi there! I’m Kellyn Roth, though you’re welcome to call me Kell. I’m a Christian historical women’s fiction and romance author who loves writing about the dark places where hope shines brightest—because, after all, God is a God of hope!

About me personally—I live in the Pacific Northwest with my nerdy husband, Matthew, and hopefully soon, our puppy, Stanley. (Right now, he’s staying with my parents, who own his parents, until we can figure out renting situations.) Oh, and we have a fish, but he keeps pretending to die, so … we’ll see how long Philip Harriot, The Duke of Ridgewell, services. *winces*

Anyways, I love writing and reading—I love a lil’ bit of hiking (not hardcore, but it looks like hiking if you squint)—I love getting into weird conversations with my friends—and I love Keira Knightley. Well, okay. Love may be a strong word. But I LIKE her. And I will die on the hill of … well, I won’t mention the most controversial movie adaptation ever. Let’s not start a fight today on someone else’s blog, eh? 😉

Congrats on your novel A Prayer Unanswered! May we have a brief introduction?

Of course! This is book 5 in my series, The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy, though if you want to, you can just think of it as book 3 in Alice’s series. I even have a handy graphic to illustrate this point!

The series is about two sisters, of course, named Alice and Ivy. They live in Victorian England, and throughout their lives, they experience a variety of complicated but fairly everyday situations. This series is my heart project. I love tackling tough topics in a sensitive, godly way through my characters.

The stories do feature tough themes. A Prayer Unanswered is not a safe read for those struggling with infertility or child loss (though I guess that means it’s not a safe read for me? … I guess it just depends on the individual!). But I keep praying that God will use my writing in the way He sees best, and I do my best to be sensitive and yet realistic in my portrayal of the tougher subjects.

Back in 2019, you rebooted the first two books of The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy and since then there have been three more books released. Can you tell us more about your journey with this series and future plans for it?

Well, there’s been a lot of rebooting, certainly! However, I’m finally releasing new projects, and that makes me super excited! I’m so glad to have the first five books out…

But I have five more to do, not counting spin-offs.

Thankfully, I’ve structured the series to have several entry points. You can just read the Alice stories — or just read the Ivy stories — or you can join in at book 3 and read about their adult lives — or you’ll eventually be able to hop in at any of the spin-off series and just keep going from there.

So there’s definitely a lot going on!

For now, I’ll be releasing book 6 (Ivy’s story) this autumn—and after that, I’ll be setting the main series aside for a time to work on a spin-off!

More details to come soon. 😀

What led you to write in this genre? What do you enjoy most about it?

You know, I’m never sure! My mother definitely gave me a thorough grounding in history as a child, and I definitely have always loved this type of story. However, it’s a combination of things.

Loving the old-fashioned world. Enjoying a place where all the debates about this and that (except for the bigger world matters) are largely concluded by now, leaving me to sort through opinions and thoughts of the time with a certain level of detachment. It’s also interesting for me to try to mimic, as carefully as I can, the way people actually would’ve thought back then—because in some ways it’s different, but in a lot of ways, it’s the same.

In terms of what I write once I’ve settled on the setting, I like to write about emotional and deep topics because I really need to sort through them myself. It helps me to think deeply and process the real-world applications of the things I theoretically know.

Besides, I struggle to understand people, to have empathy, to relate on a deeper level to the human beings around me. And through writing, I explore different personalities, relationships, etc. People often ask me how someone practical and no-nonsense can write romance; I say that I write it well (or decently well) because God has given me the gift of being able to break things down and analyze them. If you know how people work, you can write just about anything they do with a level of reality—and that’s ever been my goal!

If you know how people work, you can write just about anything they do with a level of reality—and that’s ever been my goal!

What is your favorite way you’ve seen God work in a seemingly ordinary moment?

God has come through for me so often in unexpected ways. Usually, He figures out my job situations for me before I have to, which is super nice. I just have to have patience and leave Him room to work!

Another thing is that He really came through for me for my launch last summer. I was getting married in a couple weeks and put so little effort into marketing … and yet somehow, my book did really well. It gave me so much faith that I am in the place I need to be, and God is going to do what He will with my gift of writing … whatever that looks like!

Thank you so much for coming!

Thank you for having me! It was so fun!

Follow Kellyn on her Blog // Instagram // Goodreads

In celebration of her newest release, Kellyn Roth is giving away (1) paperback copy of A Prayer Unanswered, (1) bracelet, and (1) locket.


(All images except header image provided by Kellyn Roth and Jen’s Author Assistance)

My Jewish Identity & Mini Review

My Jewish Identity & Mini Review

(This was meant to be a review, but the book was too good and I read it too long ago, so I went a little off-topic and mostly talked about my own experiences. 😉)

I’ve always known I was Jewish (on my mom’s side, so technically completely Jewish–it’s cool like that), and I’ve grown up with more of the traditions and culture than your average person.

But in the last three years it’s meant a lot more to me. I discovered it would be possible for me to immigrate to Israel if I wanted. I learned more Yiddish words, and we celebrated Chanukah again for the first time in a while. I grew concerned with ideological threats to Israel and have started keeping track of their news. I even research our Ashkenazi genetics for fun because they’re pretty weird. 😂

In all of this, it’s actually become harder to read Jewish books. The Holocaust, aka the main topic of all our books for some good reasons, has become more personal and yet not… We already lived in the US, we didn’t lose anyone close that I know of, and all our backstories are pretty average.

I feel a connection to Israel, to the Jews lost or forever changed by the Holocaust, to the holidays and history and working hand of God, but it feels presumptuous to allow myself this. It’s hard to fit in anywhere, so I carefully walk a line between loving and ignoring this heritage.

Broken Strings by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer is one of the few books that has made me feel most at home. It’s a story not focused (for once) solely on WW2 or the Exodus or the other handful of topics Jewish characters get. The main character is an American Jew learning more about her complicated heritage (sound familiar? 😉) while getting to rehearse a school play of The Fiddler on the Roof (a.k.a. the greatest piece of Jewish media of all time and a huge favorite of some relatives I never got to meet). Let’s just say my nerd heart was happy, and I enjoyed the quiet, natural discussions of healing, diversity, and loving all people. Truly satisfying.

Book Review: The Dollhouse Magic

Book Review: The Dollhouse Magic

“Lila and her little sister Jane have long admired the dollhouse in the window of Miss Whitcomb’s house down the street. Since Daddy lost his job, the girls can only dream of owning a dollhouse as grand. One day, Miss Whitcomb invites them inside, and a warm friendship soon develops. But after a devastating incident, how will the girls continue to find hope in a time of need?

Set during the Great Depression, The Dollhouse Magic by Yona Zeldis McDonough, and illustrated by Diane Palmisciano, is heartwarming chapter book that proves that friendship is indeed a magic all its own.” (from Goodreads)

Happiest of happy sighs. ❤

I spent a great deal of my childhood wishing for a dollhouse book that didn’t include murder, magic, or other drama. Just dolls.

This book immediately took me back to that time in life and was such a lovely, enjoyable experience. The main characters had a sweet, wholesome family life and a beautiful friendship with an older lady in their community. Also, the dollhouse and its occupants were surprisingly detailed for how short the book is, and my little girl heart ate up every word. 😉

The ending was bittersweet and hopeful. ❤

Altogether, I enjoyed this very much and immediately added it to my list of favorites. I look forward to sharing it with my younger sisters.

Book Review: A Name Unknown

Book Review: A Name Unknown

“Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

Peter Holstein, given his family’s German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a historian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered.

But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors’ scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he’s more than his name?” (from Goodreads)

I’d seen the hype surrounding this book when it first released, but after a little research I decided it was likely not my cup of chai tea.

Fast forward to last Christmas when Mikayla, a.k.a. one of my best friends, sent me this book and the next. Our reading tastes line up super often, so I decided it was time to give it a second look. I think I actually asked her a few questions about the book before starting it, I was so nervous. XD

Guys, the CHARACTERS. Sorry to shout, but they were so well written. My life situation is more similar to Rosemary’s and my beliefs are in line with Peter’s, so it was sooo interesting how the author made me feel for and completely understand both of them. And I ate up the writing style. The story was slow but in a good way. 😉 I appreciated the themes as well and how quietly, gently, and truthfully the Gospel was intertwined into the story. It also showed a side of World War I that I haven’t heard much about before, so that was quite interesting. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was mentioned!!)

Also, I need a cave of books, please. I loved how bookish the entire thing was, and the letters element was especially fun. ❤ The author perfectly captured what it’s like to have a story on the brain. There were a few times when Peter was brainstorming/completely lost in a story that I had to laugh. XD Rosemary’s family was the best! The way they teased each other and their fierce loyalty and large family dynamic reminded me so much of my own family.

I was so emotionally invested in the story and the characters’ secrets catching up with them, that the ending did feel a tiny bit like a letdown. It seemed to resolve a little too easily. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that lovely last scene, but I would have loved just a little more talking things out. 😉

The main reason I was shy of this book was because the main character is a professional thief/con artist. That is a huge element of the book, but as my friend assured me, it is shown as wrong and is resolved. 😉 There were also a couple uses of very mild, Victorian-era swear words.

Altogether, I very much enjoyed this book. I’m glad there’s a sequel since I’m still concerned for and interested in hearing about the rest of the family. 😉

(Thanks so much, Mikayla! <3)

Book Review: Perception

Book Review: Perception

“Upstate New York, 1930. Thirteen years ago, Abbey Evans was persuaded to break off her engagement to a penniless soldier headed to the front lines of the Great War. A daughter of one of America’s wealthiest families could never be allowed to marry so far beneath herself. But Black Tuesday changed everything. With her family’s prominence now little more than a facade, Abbey faces the loss of her childhood home. As if that weren’t enough, the only man she ever loved has returned after making his fortune – and he wants nothing to do with the young woman he courted before the war. With the past forever out of reach, the time has come for Abbey decide her own fate, before it is too late…” (from Goodreads)

I haven’t read the Jane Austen novel this is based on, but I have read and greatly enjoyed a modern adaptation of it, so I was definitely looking forward to this one. (Bonus–it’s written by Emily Ann Benedict who wrote the fabulous Father Christmas books. 😀 )

The setting in this was very strong and quite interesting. The characters were wealthy enough not to feel the Depression too much, but there were constant reminders. It was also neat to see how World War I and the slowly brewing second world war affected everyone so much. I sometimes forget that these huge historical events were so close together, and this book made that very real.

Abbey (love the spelling) was a great character, loving, sturdy, and capable, and accurately nervous about some things without being over the top. 😉 And when she made up her mind, it was for sure made up. Her delight over her business with Sam was very fun to see. I loved Freddy as well. He never seemed to fall into the “moody just because” cliche some romance guys do, and it was neat to see him slowly, tentatively thaw. Rosaline and the Mitchells were nicely complicated characters, and I loved Hudson.

The themes in this were less strong than I’m used to, but I liked seeing the story play out and the hints of God working through their circumstances were nice.

Just a note, a sideplot included SPOILER ALERT! murder, blackmail, and lying. There was also one instance of someone saying God’s name either as an exclamation or in address to Him, but it was unclear.

Best quotes: Abbey relaxed, grateful not only that someone had thought to throw a party for her, but that she had been able to escape attending.

The house that had once been like a family member was now a stranger. Her heart broke, in the way a child’s heart does when he realizes his imaginary friend is just that. Losing this place felt like losing her foundation.

Altogether, this was an enjoyable read!

Book Review: Dead Letter

Book Review: Dead Letter

For the first time, Madeline has permission to meddle.

Something’s not adding up in the Wintherwood, Ohio bank, and Madeline’s there to figure out why.

Sent by the Rockland Pinkerton’s office to investigate shady banking practices, Madeline finally has the opportunity to try out all her developing detective skills. From her new disguise to an assumed persona, complete with non-existent fiancé, Madeline takes on embezzlement in Wintherwood, Ohio.

Now, to find the culprit and get back to Rockland before Amy arrives, before Mrs. Barnes gets any sicker, and before Russell writes her off as a hopeless, heartless girl.

As Madeline figures out what’s happening, even Mr. Flint begins to lose confidence in her. How will she prove who is taking the money and why–especially after her primary suspect ends up dead?” (from Goodreads)

Sometimes the best books are the hardest to review… This book was a gamechanger for Madeline in every way possible, and it absolutely wrecked me. ❤

I looooved the mystery in this one! Madeline got to try her hand at some “real” detective work complete with a cover story and DISGUISES. She did a brilliant job, and the letters between her and her fake fiance were especially hilarious. It was really interesting, though, to see the true-to-Madeline character growth that came about from this escapade… I especially loved her realization of how easy it had been for her to lie and how it would be spiritually unhealthy for her to continue in that type of work. That’s not something you see often. 😉 And her general thoughts about her relationship with God always feed me so much. 

There were a couple adorable romances between side characters in this one. Evie’s was especially heartwarming. ❤ Amy’s seems really fantastic as well. Speaking of Amy, she is exactly the great friend I’ve expected her to be, and I look forward to seeing more of her. Oh, I also loved the free library (eek!), and Aunt Louisa’s spying had me internally giggling. If only Madeline knew! XD

But the parts the wrecked me… oh, wow. A certain burned letter and the loss of a dear sweet character I didn’t even realize I loved so much brought me to tears. And Russell, oh my dear, Russell! 

Just a note, there was some miscellaneous immorality, feelings of unsafety around a certain man, and some medical details related to there being no treatment at that time for Type 1 Diabetes. (My heart. 😦 )

Best quotes: He’d talk to her, listen to her; he’d forgive, and so would she. It was their way. 

My most memorable headline to date, and Russell isn’t here to tease me about it.

Altogether, this was great–if emotionally hard–read, and I can’t wait for the next book. 😉

Picture Book Review: Pies from Nowhere

Picture Book Review: Pies from Nowhere

“Georgia Gilmore was a cook at the National Lunch Company in Montgomery, Alabama. When the bus boycotts broke out in Montgomery after Rosa Parks was arrested, Georgia knew just what to do. She organized a group of women who cooked and baked to fund-raise for gas and cars to help sustain the boycott. Called the Club from Nowhere, Georgia was the only person who knew who baked and bought the food, and she said the money came from “nowhere” to anyone who asked. When Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for his role in the boycott, Georgia testified on his behalf, and her home became a meeting place for civil rights leaders. This picture book highlights a hidden figure of the civil rights movement who fueled the bus boycotts and demonstrated that one person can make a real change in her community and beyond.” (from Goodreads)

I just read this picture book at the library, and it brought tears to my eyes. THIS right here is how you change the world. I’m so glad to have discovered this historical figure. Great illustrations too. 😉

Something Old, Something New (Cover Reboots!)

Something Old, Something New (Cover Reboots!)

Confession time: the cover of a book really does influence what I think about it.

But that’s okay.

It’s just like the frosting on the cake influencing how you think of the cake, right? Or the wrapping paper heightening your excitement for the gift inside…

Book covers are probably my top visual art form. I collect my favorite covers on a Goodreads shelf (or in a computer file), browse through covers on Goodreads and at the library, and enjoy just how perfectly the cover goes with the book inside it.

Because 900% of the time, the book cover is pretty much perfect. Then there are just a few times where the cover gets a reboot and I suddenly realize that now it’s perfect.

Like with this series…

I loved the first cover (especially that bent paper corner ❤ ), but the new one is so much more on point for the genre, has the adorablest fonts, and I’m a fan of the drawn style.

Or like with this one…

…where I actually can’t decide between them and find both pretty perfect. 😀 I own the second of these two, especially since the sequel is adorable in that edition.

Today, I’m excited to share cover reboots for the first two books in The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy series by Kellyn Roth. Take a look at this. 😀

Editions #1, #2, and #3. Look at the difference!!

Seriously, I love this so much. 😀

When I first read The Dressmaker’s Secret three or four years ago, it was with the first edition cover. It’s super exciting to see how this series has evolved, especially since the new covers reflect updated insides too. 😀

So, what do I love most about the new covers?

The greenness! ❤ We need more green books, honestly.

The tagline. Wow.

People! I love covers with people on them.

I can guess right of the bat that it’s historical fiction now, so that’s a plus. 😀

It has a similar feel to the first book but at the same time, it’s all its own.

I can already feel how lonely the MC might be in this book just from looking at it.

There is ivy growing on the fence. Ivy, y’all.


They’re certainly pretty awesome. 😀 Congratulations to Kellyn on these lovely covers! Follow her blog for release dates and more book details. 😀

And tell me, do you have a favorite cover makeover?

Book Review: Fine Print

Book Review: Fine Print

“Budding detective, Miss Madeline Brown, has gained quite the reputation for “meddling” in the circa 1900 city of Rockland. With two successful “cases” under her belt, it was only a matter of time before she found something new to interest her insatiable curiosity. 

This time, however, the “curiosity” found her. 

Challenged by Edward Gastrel, to prove her deductive prowess, Madeline embarks on riddling out the puzzle of a journal left to him by his grandfather. If she can decode the contents, the local gentleman may find himself in the possession of something quite valuable. 

As usual, however, things aren’t as they seem, and Madeline finds herself in a race against more than time and ambiguity.” (from Goodreads)

Kindle Unlimited is a dangerous thing. I gobbled up book three in just a few days. 

This one was quite the twisty mystery because there were two (or even three) intertwined mysteries between the treasure hunt, the secret passageways (?), and ascertaining Edward’s true character. I especially loved the treasure hunt, and Madeline and Russell were adorable with the blueprints. (Though they were adorable in general.) Their conversations about Bible reading and the Book of Ruth (Russell, your Knightley heart is showing) were very thought-provoking. 

While this mystery was less complicated/important than the first two, it really showed more of Madeline’s character growth, especially as she learned to trust her intuition and the concerns of those who loved her best. (Peters was a great side character, by the way.) And she turned her hand a little bit to matchmaking as well which is fun. XD 

Just a note, there are some allusions to a man SPOILER ALERT! being a playboy with a house floor plan to facilitate it, themed art, and inappropriate treatment of his employees. There were also some pretty lurid stories of his past crimes.

I lost all my highlights, but the banter was amazing as always. 😉

Altogether, I enjoyed this and was a happy “bookzombie” for a few days. 😉