Friday, 31 December 2010

Relz Top 10 of 2010

2010 has been another fabulous reading year for me and determining my Top 10 continues to be a challenge with so many great books read over the year.

131 reviews were posted at Relz Reviewz this year, 115 by me and 16 by my friend, Tracy. These are the ones that moved, inspired, challenged and/or entertained me the most of the books I reviewed this year.

I'd love to hear your favourite books of 2010 ~ please share!

Nightshade by Ronie Kendig

The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund

Almost Forever by Deborah Raney

Code Triage by Candace Calvert

Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar

Within My Heart by Tamera Alexander

Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

Blaze of Glory by Jeff Struecker & Alton Gansky

Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart

Rooms by James L Rubart

Special Mentions

When the Devil Whistles by Rick Acker

Driftwood Lane by Denise Hunter

Licensed for Trouble by Susan May Warren

Deliver Us From Evil by Robin Caroll

Double Shot by Erynn Mangum

The Cool Woman by John Aubrey Anderson

Then there were the INSPY finalists in the Thriller/Suspense/Crime category which you can check out here along with books I loved but haven't yet or didn't review but I need to stop somewhere. If you are looking for books to read, I hope these lists inspire you :)

Thank you to all my readers who drop by my blog ~ I appreciate every one of you :)
Relz Reviewz is going on hiatus for a couple of weeks as I spend time with my family over our summer holiday period.

Wishing you a fabulous New Year and a peaceful and inspired 2011.

Open Giveaway ~ Ronie Kendig's Digitalis

Don't miss this fabulous giveaway from Ronie Kendig ~ fill in the entry form below for your chance to win!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Character Spotlight ~ Colton Neeley & Piper Blum

Colton & Piper

Ronie Kendig is a brilliant writer whose books continue to amaze me! Combining action, adventure, emotional depth and authenticity, great characterisation and a love story that will touch your heart, you simply can't go wrong. Her latest Digitalis is all that and more.

Enjoy this insight into Colton and Piper:~

Brief physical description

Colton – 6’2”, 225 lbs, but all muscle, dark brown hair, blue eyes. A cowboy from his southern charm to his black Cattle Baron.

Piper – 5’11”, lean build, very “willowy”, with long blond hair and green eyes. There is nothing complicated about her, save her past.

Actor/famous person

For Colton, I think John Cena, and for Piper…maybe one of the sweeter images of Gwyneth Paltrow, with her long, straight honey-colored hair.

Strengths and weaknesses

Colton – His strength is his belief in God, and his weakness is his tendency to hold back for fear of failing and getting hurt.

Piper – Piper’s strength is grace, and her weakness is her sweetness, which puts her in precarious situations.

Quirk (if any)

Colton’s quirk…when he gets frustrated or flustered, he tends to slip into his cowboyisms, which irritate him all the more, making him do it even more. :)

Your inspiration for the character

My inspiration for Colton…is the classic cowboy with some fire in his belly but more charm that he knows what to do with. Colton just leapt to life when the Nightshade series opened up, and he’s been a backbone for the group ever since.

I knew when I crafted Colton it would take a lady of grace and strength to win this guy over, and thus, Piper emerged from anonymity at Hastings Department store.

Background to the story

Former Force Recon soldier, Colton “Cowboy” Neeley is recovering from two months in captivity and enjoying his role as Nightshade’s sniper that affords him time to both recover and be with his little girl.

Piper Blum is hiding in the US from assassins who want her and her family—and the secret her father holds—to disappear permanently.

When the killers bring the war to Colton’s home and murder his father, he’s ready to end this once and for all. Nightshade is activated and propelled straight into the heart of the Holy Land to snatch-and-grab her father and bring the secret he holds to light.

Thanks Ronie ~ always a great spotlight from you. Colton is one of my all time favourite characters ;-)

Relz Reviewz Extras

Reviews of Digitalis & Nightshade

View the book trailer

Visit the Discarded Heroes website

Visit Ronie's website and blog

Buy Ronie's books at Amazon or Koorong

FamilyFiction Magazine ~ January, 2011 Edition

The third issue of FamilyFiction's digital magazine is now available. Enjoy author profiles and news columns for all genres and special articles of interest.

Check out my profiles on Jen B Jones and DiAnn Mills together with book updates in the Historical and Romance News & Notes.

All the genres and columns are still there but the magazine has been shortened. What do you think? Is it easier to manage or do you miss the more detailed issues? Be sure to drop by FamilyFiction's Facebook page and give your feedback.

Be sure to drop back here towards the end of the month to read my FamilyFiction Plus posts where I will share my interviews with Jen and DiAnn in full.

Enjoy the entire magazine here :)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Character Interview ~ Piper Blum from Ronie Kendig's Digitalis

Introducing Piper Blum, a women with a deadly secret which will lead Cowboy and his Nightshade team to the Holy Land in search of answers.

Enjoy getting to know her!


So a cowboy keeps coming to your store and buying towels! Did that worry you at all?

Mercy, no. Have you seen him? He’s big and muscular, but those eyes and that smile told me right away the guy had a tender side. And really, though I never let on, I could see his nervousness. It was adorable—but don’t tell him I said that. He’s got his pride.

You have a secret that could mean death if it is discovered – how do you live with that?

If I don’t live with it, someone will die because of it. Each day I am alive, the greater the hope that the end will come, right? Keeping that secret, living a life of deception, goes against everything I believe it, yet even God required things of David that most would abhor these days. We do the best we can, yes?

Which of Colton’s many fine qualities appeals to you most?

His quiet, impenetrable strength. To me, that is like a warm fire on a cold night—I just want to curl into that and relax.

Will he ever get you wearing a Stetson?

A hat? No, I don’t think so. I’m not big on hats of any kind, in fact, as you can see by my long, straight hair, I like things as simple as possible—no fuss. But if it makes Colton happy…

When Colton and his daughter McKenna are together, what do you see?

Pure love. The same love that Yeshua shows for us, yes? The kind of love that would do anything in the world to protect and to provide for the other. He’s an amazing father, and you can see without much thought that he loves his daughter.

You’ve met each of Colton’s team and I know you are a great judge of character ~ what do each of them bring to the table?

Oh, wow. I’m not sure that I’m really the right person to answer this question, but, here are my thoughts:

Max – formidable determination to see things done

Colton – the balance and symmetry to the rest of the team

Griffin – Keen intelligence and awareness—there isn’t a thing that man misses

The Kid – Laughter and ingenuity, he sees a lot and figures his way around.

Azzan – focused, intent, dedicated

Canyon – he’s quiet but I can see a lot going on behind those eyes yet he keeps his thoughts to himself.

Dighton– I am not sure on him, he kept to himself, but he seems to bring a good strength to the group while also being a bit enigmatic.

Thanks Piper ~ say hi to Colton :)

Relz Reviewz Extras

Review of Digitalis

Interview with Colton

Visit the Discarded Heroes website

Visit Ronie's website and blog

Buy Ronie's books at Amazon or Koorong

Giveaway and interviews with Syd, Dani & Kazi to come....................

Character Interview ~ Colton Neeley from Ronie Kendig's Digitalis

In celebration of the release of Digitalis, I'm reprinting this post from earlier this year. Enjoy!

Colton "Cowboy" Neeley
from Digitalis

Former Force Recon Sniper, Colton Neeley loves his family, his horse, his team and God with the same devotion he showed in defence of his country. While he would probably prefer to be mucking stables than answering probing questions about himself, he's a good sport, so here's our interview.

Over to you, Colton:~

Rel: Why th
e Marines for a cowboy such as yourself?

Colton: was the nearest recruiting office? Nah, seriously, my heroes from Nam were Force Recon, so I wanted that--wanted to be like those heroes.

What are three of the most important abilities for a sniper?

Not sure it can be nailed down in three, to be honest. I see five things that are vitally important to a successful mission. Stealth, observation, marksmanship,
fieldcraft (stalking, cover and concealment, etc.), and loads of patience.

Ask the other boys of Nightshade to describe you and share, please.

Dawg, you sure know how to make a guy squirm. Isn't this my interview? All right, all right. I'll never live this down if i don't. Here's what they said:

Max: Colton is a fortress of strength. But his obsession with Hastings Department store has me worried.

Griffin: He's a solid man, one you can always count on, no matter the fight, home or abroad. A fire buddy in the truest sense of the word.

I admire the man. War tried to sink him, but he fought the current, got solid footing. Wish we all could.

The Kid: just when you think you know a man, he dumps you in a river. At least the guy can laugh when it's needed. But I see him grounding the rest of us with his Bible and his wisdom. He's the type of guy you want to be when you "grow up."

Fix: the man has faith, and to me, known as Fix because of my crucifix, that's important. He knows where he's going when his number's up, so he's not afraid to face the fight. That's the type of man I want to fight with.

Fess up, what was it about Piper that first caught your eye?

Have you seen her? She's incredible. And it's not the looks that sealed the deal for me, but the one thing that I couldn't pin down right off yet pulled me the most, was the strength of character that youcan see clear as day in her eyes. Even when I got her in face, she remained undaunted. I like a woman like that, who can stand up and not back down when she believes in something. It's admirable.

The Kid hides your Stetson ~ how do you deal with him?

Sic Max on him? ::chuckles:: Naw, that wouldn't be a fair fight. But it's a Resistol Cattle Baron, and even though the Kid could cough up the dough, I paid good money for that hat and I'd be right ticked if something happened to it. But then again, things aren't important. People are--it's a lesson I'm trying to learn.

Firefox is one of the other females in your life - tell us about her?

Now see there? You're talking my language. Firefox is an incredible animal. Swift, beautiful, gentle--well, in her own way. We have an understanding. My pop says I have a way with animals, and Firefox and I sort of grew up together.

What is your favourite thing to do with your daughter McKenna?

Anything. Mickey's a breath of fresh air in this messed up world. My mom says kids are God's way of saying the world should go on...and with Mickey in it, I reckon she's right.

Any tatts?

Nah, never saw the point. Although the Kid's been threatening to return the favor Legend and I paid him and have me inked some night. To that, I just reminded him I'm rarely caught off guard.

You're a sweet man, Colton ~ thanks for stepping up!

Relz Reviewz Extras

Interviews with Max, Griffin & Canyon

Visit the Discarded Heroes website

Visit Ronie's website and blog

Buy Ronie's books at Amazon or Christianbook

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Digitalis by Ronie Kendig


Former Force Recon soldier, Colton “Cowboy” Neeley is recovering from two months in captivity and enjoying his role as Nightshade’s sniper that affords him time to both recover and be with his little girl.

Piper Blum is hiding in the
US from assassins who want her and her family—and the secret her father holds—to disappear permanently.

When the killers bring the war to
Colton’s home and murder his father, he’s ready to end this once and for all. Nightshade is activated and propelled straight into the heart of the Holy Land to snatch-and-grab her father and bring the secret he holds to light.

My endorsement:~

Ronie Kendig's debut novel Dead Reckoning set the bar high, Nightshade popped over the top and Digitalis clears it with air to spare! Ronie Kendig has stamped herself as the premier author of romantic thrillers in Christian writing today. Digitalis, the sequel to the brilliant Nightshade, is nothing short of a cinematic experience in written form. With the relentless action of The Bourne Identity, the electrifying chemistry of Speed and the emotional punch of A Few Good Men, Digitalis is a stomach clenching, all consuming thrill ride as the Nightshade Black Ops team is attacked on mission and at home. Ronie's incomparable ability to express the emotional depths of her characters sets her stories apart. From Colton's debilitating PTSD episodes, Griffin's aversion to new blood and Piper's fear for those she loves, Digitalis bleeds authentic desolation, passion and devotion. Then there's The Kid, the youngest member of the team whose smart mouth provides the perfect humourous release just when you thought you couldn't take the tension any more. And if you think I'm overstating it, read Digitalis and I promise to refrain from saying, "I told you so". ;-) Bring on Wolfsbane and Firethorn!

With thanks to the author for my copy for endorsement

Relz Reviewz Extras

View the book trailer

Review of Nightshade

Visit the Discarded Heroes website

Visit Ronie's website and blog

Buy Ronie's books at Amazon or Koorong

Giveaway to come....................

Monday, 27 December 2010

Coming soon to Relz Reviewz

With Christmas over, I start thinking about the new year and what fun things it will hold in terms of my blog and the books I can't wait to read. I will be taking my blogging hiatus shortly to spend time with my family while they are home from school and on a break from study but wanted to share some of the great things that will be happening at Relz Reviewz over the next few days and into 2011.

I'll be celebrating the release of Ronie Kendig's Digitalis, a brilliant military thriller with a love story you won't want to miss, with giveaways and interviews with the female lead characters in each of the four book Nightshade series, a character spotlight and more. The fun begins tomorrow!
On December 31st, I'll post my Top Ten Reads for 2010 and look at some of the books I can't wait to read in 2011. Have a think about it because I would love for you to share your top 10 (or less).

In 2011, my character spotlights will be back every Monday and Thursday, giving you behind the scenes insight into the characters created by your favourite authors. I can't wait to share with you spotlights from:

Michael Phillips' Angel Harp
Jen B Jones' Save the Date
Lisa T Bergren's Waterfall
Robin Caroll's In the Shadow of Evil

Richard Mabry's Diagnosis Death

Ginger Garrett's Wolves Among Us

Ronie Kendig's Wolfsbane

Linda Windsor's Thief
Ginny Yttrup's Words

Jeff Nesbit's Oil
Laura Frantz's The Colonel's Lady
Julie Lessman's A Heart Revealed

and many more........

Author interviews, giveaways and plenty of reviews are in the pipeline together with FamilyFiction Plus, additional material from my interviews as FamilyFiction's Romance and Historical Correspondent.

Looking forward to sharing a book loving 2011 with you!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Wishing you...

...a peaceful and joyous Christmas Day

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Jim Rubart talks about Book of Days...

Check out Jim Rubart talking about his January release, Book of Days. I have had the privilege of reading it and Jim has again pulled of an intriguing premise which will have you pondering the underlying layers of this story.

Look for my review with giveaways in the New Year!

The winner of Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho is....

Abi B ~ congratulations!

An email is on its way to you :)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Man's Heart by Lori Copeland


Jules sacrificed marriage to tend to her ailing father. Now Pop is gone, Cruz hates her, she's caring for her deceased friend's children, and her sister is furious that she's been disinherited---all while Jules is struggling to save her father's drought-stricken potato farm.

How much can one woman bear? Can she ever win back Cruz's heart?

My take:~

Lori Copeland's experience and talent carries this book about a woman who has jilted her man not once but twice, in favour of researching potatoes! Lori makes a potentially predictable story interesting by making Jules the one with commitment issues and the desire to pursue her career and Cruz, ready to settle down. The conflict between them both is realistic given Jules' rejection of Cruz and the life he offers and thankfully isn't resolved in a simple fashion. The relationship between Jules her sister is a highlight as the chalk and cheese siblings discover an affection for each other as they bond over the young children in their care. Lori's fans will enjoy this contemporary tale of love lost and rediscovered.

With thanks to Wynn~Wynn Media for my review copy

Relz Reviewz Extras

Character spotlight on Jules Matias

Visit Lori's website

Buy Lori's books at Amazon and Koorong

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Coming soon from Jeanette Windle and Tyndale House

I've been anticipating Freedom's Stand, the sequel to Veiled Freedom, for over a year now so it is fantastic to see it is on its way. My book club members will be very happy I have chosen it as a selection for next year. No doubt it will be an enthralling and challenging read.

Jeanette's books are must reads!

Freedom's Stand by Jeanette Windle

Jamil renounced a life of jihad when he encountered the life-changing message of Jesus Christ, but villagers and authorities in the hills of Afghanistan respond with skepticism . . . and even violence.

Relief worker Amy Mallory is shocked by the changes in her organization—changes with dire implications for the women and children under her care. And concern for her former assistant, Jamil, weighs heavily on her heart.

Former Special Forces veteran Steve Wilson faces off against the riots and corruption of Kabul's upcoming election. He's looking for something that will give his life purpose but is confident that he won't find it in Afghanistan.

All three are searching for love and freedom in a country where political and religious injustice runs rampant. But when religious freedom becomes a matter of life and death, they discover that the cost of following Jesus may require the ultimate sacrifice.

June, 2011

Monday, 20 December 2010

Character Spotlight ~ Janice Thompson's Kat Jennings & Scott Murphy

Kat & Scott

Janice Thompson is back with a new romantic comedy series that is sure to delight. Enjoy this look "behind the scenes" at her leading couple from the first book, Stars Collide.

Brief physical description

Here’s a paragraph from the book to describe my heroine Kat Jennings, lead actress on the sitcom “Stars Collide”:

I slipped on the comfy ensemble and gave myself another glance in the mirror. Not bad. I added a bit of jewelry and stood back, examining my appearance. My long blond hair was pretty enough, I supposed, and I’d received more than one compliment on my high cheekbones and tall, slender physique. Oh, if only I could change these green eyes to a lovely shade of blue and get rid of the splattering of freckles that still plagued me. Whose nose and cheeks were covered in freckles at twenty-seven?

Here’s a description of my hero Scott Murphy, lead actor on the sitcom “Stars Collide” (from Kat’s point of view):

My gaze darted across the crowded studio to Scott Murphy, my love interest in the sitcom Stars Collide. He raked his fingers through that gorgeous, dark, wavy hair of his and flashed an encouraging smile. Scott continued to tease me with a smile. Oh yes, this certainly made things easier. His baby blues never left my eyes. I prayed they never would.

Actor/famous person

I envision Kat looking a bit like Kate Hudson

I envision Scott looking a bit like Patrick Dempsey:

Strengths and weaknesses

Kat has a lot of insecurities, in spite of her popularity on “Stars Collide.” She struggles with feelings toward her deadbeat dad, who dropped out of her life when she was a youngster. She’s the sole caregiver for her grandmother (the aging Hollywood star, Lenora Worth), and is very, very protective of her. (Lenora is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and tends to be a bit on the wacky side. Lenora is also known to embarrass Kat publicly without meaning to.)

In spite of his stardom, Scott is a down-to-earth kind of guy. He’s loyal to family and to Kat.

Quirk (if any)

Kat is easily embarrassed about having to kiss Scott for the first time in front of a live TV audience. Scott’s not as embarrassed…just very anxious. Just as they are about to kiss for the first time, the lights go out in the studio. As a result, the kiss is shared in the dark, in total privacy, which makes both of them very happy. They love being sitcom stars, but neither wants to make their private life public. That’s why Kat goes into a bit of a panic when her grandmother tells the paparazzi that she and Scott are engaged when they’re really not.

Your inspiration for the character

Kat: I loved the idea of creating a character, who, in spite of her stardom, still struggles with insecurities. Kat has the ideal life—she lives in a mansion in Beverly Hills, has a great job as a television star and is lovely, inside and out. However, she still battles issues related to the death of her mother, and struggles with the absence of her father. She’s also got a fight or flight mentality, (more flight than fight, usually).

Here’s a scene from the book to emphasize that point:

“What are you going to do?” Athena asked as she gestured for me to sit next to her.

“After I move to the remotest regions of the Amazon, or before?” I asked as I took a seat. “Because I feel pretty sure I won’t have to deal with any of this when I’m living in the rain forest.”

“You’re moving to the jungle?” she asked, her brow now wrinkled in confusion.

I slapped my head. “No, goofy. I already live in the jungle. I’m moving to the Amazon, where the natives are friendly and the only headhunters are the kind that eat you for dinner. I’ll be safe there. Safer than I am here, anyway.”

She chuckled. “Okay, I get it. You’re worked up. I’m not saying I blame you, exactly. I guess this is pretty embarrassing.”

“You can say that again.”

She’d just started to when Scott stuck his head in the door and smiled.


Scott: He hails from Alma Arkansas, the spinach capital of the world. Scott is definitely a fish out of water in Hollywood. Like Kat, he has to learn how to balance his faith and his stardom on the sitcom. Here’s a scene that tells the reader a little about Alma:

“Alma is the spinach capital of the world,” Nancy explained. “We even have a statue of Popeye on Main Street. So trust me when I say we all have the show memorized.”

“Impressive,” I said. And the fact that Alma was known for its spinach certainly explained Scott’s muscular physique.

As if reading my thoughts, he flexed his arm and grinned. “I ate more spinach when I was growing up than any kid should be allowed to by law.”

“That explains it then.” I winked and his cheeks turned red.

Background to the story

Stars Collide is a story within a story—about two sitcom stars who are in love on their show. . .and in real life. If you want to know how and why I decided to write this Hollywood-driven tale, I’ll have to take you back to the summer of 1978, when my father moved our family to Los Angeles so that he could get into the movie business. At that time, I was just a young Texas girl—a wide-eyed wannabe who felt like a fish out of water in the Hollywood world of glitz and glam. My dad had an idea for a movie, but didn’t want to write it, so he handed the project off to me. Thus began my (tentative and terrifying) writing career.

Our co-authored screenplay (Liar’s Moon) went on to be produced as a movie in the early ‘80s, starring a young kid named Matt Dillon. I moved back to Texas, and eventually started penning inspirational novels, primarily romantic comedies. However, a piece of my heart has always clung to that wonderful summer in L.A., where doors first opened for me and possibilities seemed endless. Watching my father work as a producer laid the foundation for my whole career as a writer. And becoming a member of the Screenwriter’s Guild at the tender age of 19 gave me the tools I needed to offer readers a glimpse into this magical world called Tinseltown.

When I first came up with the idea for Stars Collide (and the rest of the books in the “Backstage Pass” series) I wanted to pay tribute to my father, who passed away in ’06. If he hadn’t pushed me to co-author that screenplay back in L.A., I wouldn’t be a writer today. I knew that I needed to craft a story he would love, so, of course, I set it in Hollywood. And it had to have a few twists and turns, because my father taught me early on that careful plotting makes for an exciting story! I could think of no greater place to set my tale than smack-dab in the middle of a Hollywood sitcom, so that’s what I did. Kat and Scott (who play the characters of Angie and Jack on the sitcom) are in love. . .both on set and off. But neither has the courage to tell the other, (at first, anyway).

The “Backstage Pass” series takes the reader on a fast-paced ride through the sometimes-crazy, sometimes-serious world of Tinseltown, where the rich and famous aren’t always as they appear on-screen. The first book in the series (Stars Collide) is about the lead actress in the fictional “Stars Collide” television sitcom. Book two (Hello! Hollywood) is about the head writer on the sitcom. Book three (yet unnamed) is about the female director of the sitcom.

I did my best to portray both Old Hollywood and new in this fun new series, leaning on several of the great films from days gone by as inspiration. I hope my readers enjoy the stories as much as I enjoyed penning them!

Thanks Janice ~ can't wait to be entertained by this story :)

Relz Reviewz Extras

Reviews of It Had to Be You, Fools Rush In and Swinging on A Star

Character spotlight on Bella & DJ

Visit Janice's website

Buy Janice's books at Amazon or Koorong

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Interview with Jennifer Davis ~ Founder of Beaded Hope

This post has taken me way too long for which I apologise! The final instalment in my book club's interview with Cathy Liggett, author of Beaded Hope and Jennifer Davis, founder of Beaded Hope. Here Jennifer shares about her passion for the women of Africa and the organisation she founded to empower these women to support themselves and their families.



RBC: Is the Beaded Hope organisation a full time job for you?

Jennifer: Well, that really depends on the time of year. Right now, with the Christmas season upon us, Beaded Hope is definitely a full time job for me. We are crazy busy with home shows, holiday events and online sales. It’s a good time of year. Then when you add in the addition of speaking engagements that Cathy and I have scheduled it becomes an even busier time. The busier we are the more we can bless the ladies of Mamelodi with jobs which, of course, is our goal!

When I travel to South Africa it is always a full time job prior to the trip, during the trip and just after I return. I always say that even though a trip may only last 10 days it takes an additional 2 week prior and 2 weeks after to get all the work done.

The beauty of Beaded Hope, though, is that often times the summer months are slower which allows me the luxury of spending more time with my boys while they are home on their summer break.

What are some of the challenges that the organisation faces?

Oh gosh, where to start. Well, certainly there are the challenges of time and distance. South Africa and Cincinnati are half way around the world from each other and there is either a 6 or a 7-hour time difference depending on the time of year.

Then there are the language and cultural differences. South Africa has 11 different official languages (one of them IS English). While all of the ladies who work for Beaded Hope speak multiple languages they don’t always speak English and, unfortunately, that’s the only language that I speak. I am learning words along the way but the trouble is that South Africans are so accustom to speaking multiple languages that they often mix a single sentence with work from 2 or 3 different languages. So, for me to focus on learning only one of their languages is difficult since they use many at the same time! Ugh!

I can say that I just returned from South Africa in September and I found that I could listen to a conversation that the ladies were having and actually understand what they were talking about even though I couldn’t understand the individual words. This was quite a revelation as I was able to jump into conversation (in English, of course) where in the past I was always in the dark. A little bit of progress. J

Cultural history and difference can be a huge challenge. All the South African ladies who work for Beaded Hope have lived the majority of their lives under the rule of Apartheid (which only ended in 1994). They have grown up in an environment that is beyond my comprehension. Even with the stories they share with me about their childhood, I find it difficult to imagine what their lives were like.

So, when I am in South Africa I work diligently to break down some of the cultural barriers that exist. I always great the ladies with hugs and kisses to show them how much they are loved. I do little things like hold the door for them (rather than expecting that they hold it for me). During meetings I can sometimes be found sitting on the floor so that I purposefully place myself beneath the ladies that I am meeting with. On my last trip to South Africa I ran a 3-day workshop with the ladies and every day I served them tea and cakes. These are all small things that I am doing in an effort to break down the barriers of apartheid and to let the ladies know that I view them as equals, not servants.

In the US the biggest challenge is simply getting the word out. Once people learn about Beaded Hope they are very interested and supportive of what we are doing but increasing awareness has definitively been a huge challenge.

Do you receive orders from around the world, as well as the US?

As of right now we only ship to the United States. But just yesterday (seriously!) I approached our web developer and asked him what it would take to setup international shipping from the website. Keep your fingers crossed!

Has Beaded Hope (organisation) achieved what you thought it would?

Hmmm. This is a tricky question. I have both an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in business and I spent 13 years in the corporate business world where I learned that to be considered a successful business (according to generally accepted standards) you must (deliver your product or service) on time, be on (or preferably under) budget, and record a profit at year-end. These are valid measures of success and I certainly use them to evaluate Beaded Hope’s annual performance. However, after working with the women over the last five years I have come to understand that sometimes how you measure success is difficult to define. I wrote the following blog post nearly two years ago and still today it is key to how I measure Beaded Hope’s success:

    When my husband, Mark, and I traveled to South Africa in October of 2006 we hired two new ladies to work for Beaded Hope. Nelly and Betty came to visit us on one of our first days in South Africa to present their work and see if we would be interested in hiring them. We reviewed their work (it was beautiful) and placed an order with them. At the end of the week they came back and presented their completed order.

    As we always do, we paid Nelly and Betty on the spot for their work. But then, much to our surprise, they both jumped out of their seats, shouted, danced and sang. Words fail me every time I try to describe this scene; the best I can do is to say that they were nothing short of ecstatic.

    When they settled down enough to speak (in English) they turned to us and said, “Now we will have bread on our table.”

    Mark and I were stunned at their response to simply having bread on their table but also thrilled that we could help them.

    Later that evening, we shared this experience with a native South African who asked “You know what that means, don’t you?”

    Yeah, bread on the table, that’s a good thing, right?

    “No,” he said. “It means that they will invite their family and their friends and they will ALL have bread on their table tonight.”

    You see, when South Africans have been blessed, they naturally share that blessing with others. The Beaded Hope artists naturally share their success with those around them.

    Today, when people ask me how many people Beaded Hope affects, it’s hard to give a number.

    The easy answer; we employ four dedicated artists and sub-contract out special orders to around six more artists.

    But this answer is inadequate. For each day’s worth of food that we provide, through employment, there are many family members, friends, orphans, shut-ins, who also get to share their bread.

    What I once thought was a very linear relationship,


    is actually exponentially more impactful than I can measure.

So, back to your question, has Beaded Hope achieved what you thought it would? The answer is: NO! Despite the small size of Beaded Hope and the slow growth (typical measurements of success) we have actually accomplished things that I never could have imagined and we have had a positive impact that is far more than I could ever dream up!

What impact has the book had on the Beaded Hope ministry?

Cathy and I had a blossoming friendship before she wrote the Beaded Hope novel but now we are bound by a common passion and mission: to bless the women in South Africa just a tiny bit as much as they have blessed us. The book has enabled us to reach out a whole new group of people, women especially, who want to make a difference in the world and want to have hope in the good of all people. Because of the book we have seen orders for Beaded Hope merchandise come in from all over the country. This, obviously, is a huge blessing. But we have also received an outpouring of notes and emails from people who have been touched by Cathy’s words. This too is such a blessing to the Beaded Hope organization and the ladies of South Africa.

Have the women of Beaded Hope read the book? What was their feedback about “their” story?

On my last trip to South Africa, in September, I was able to take each of the ladies a copy of the final book. They were so thrilled to have an actually copy of their own. Mrs. Tshabalala, whose picture is on the first page of the book, was overwhelmed that someone so far away would care so much and do so much to bless the women of South Africa.

With that said, I don’t know if any of the ladies have read the book. I am certain that some of the ladies will never read the book since they don’t speak English. Mama Peggy and Mighty, who are both very well educated women, work so hard for their community that at the end of the day they come home exhausted and fall into bed. So, it wouldn’t surprise me if they just never quite have the time to read the book.

But the fact that Cathy thought so much of the women and wrote a book inspired by them is not lost on the ladies. They love her for loving them and, honestly, that’s the most important thing.

How can people make a difference to those living in poverty?

Love this question and I’m certain that I could write about it for days :-)

For starters it is important to recognize that poverty is a component of nearly every major issue in the world. With hunger comes poverty. With AIDS comes poverty. With unemployment comes poverty. With civil war comes poverty. You get the idea. Poverty is at the heart of everything.

Mama Peggy said to me once “poverty in South Africa condemns our minds; we think we need to live on handouts.” This is so profound and true. Poverty has taught people to live on handouts rather than find a way to prosper. I believe that rather than offering a handout to someone in need we should teach a skill, encourage, nurture and empower them. If we do this then they can go on to be change agents in their own community.

Once we understand these two components of poverty then it’s time to take action. To me, there are three key ways to do this. First, find an organization that is working to make a difference in the world of poverty. Research it. Learn as much as you can about what they do, how they do it and why they do it. Then begin to look for a place that utilizes your talents and get involved. If that means filing papers at the office of a local soup kitchen then go do it! It doesn’t matter whether what you do is large or small, it matters that you are involved and working on having an impact on the world.

Secondly, be wise about how you spend your money. Don’t buy from a big national chain just because that’s what you’ve always done. Look for companies (big or small) that are directly or indirectly working on having a positive impact on the world. Can you find a t-shirt company that bases their business on providing a fair wage to employees? Can you find a retail store that clearly defines how they give profits to charities? Can you find a boutique that supports marginalized artists from around the world? Can you find a company that has a business strategy that is entirely based on being fair, equitable and empowering? Shop with these companies! I know it sounds like work but I bet you all can find at least one company that meets these criteria (or other criteria that you come up with!).

Lastly, keep talking about it. Nothing will change in the world of poverty if people aren’t aware of what’s going on. When the opportunity presents itself, talk with your family, friends and co-workers about what you see going on in the world and how it just isn’t okay with you to sit back and watch.

Please share a highlight of your work with Beaded Hope

Another question that I could write about for days :-)

On a personal level, Beaded Hope has blessed me with the fulfillment of a life-long dream to go to Africa. I have had a heart for Africa for as long as I can remember and Beaded Hope has enabled me to fulfill that dream. I once heard a missionary say that every person has a place in the world that is their home but it typically isn’t where they live. This rings so true for me. When I am in South Africa I am home, it is the place that nurtures, inspires and feeds me.

I have watch my husband and children grow into a place where they all think that the work of Beaded Hope is “normal” and they can’t imagine that I would be doing anything else. My oldest son, who is now 12, has insisted for years that he wants to go to South Africa. I love that Beaded Hope has given him a perspective of the world outside of himself and that he has grown into a child who is passionate about helping others, all because of Beaded Hope.

Because of Beaded Hope I have had the opportunity to develop friendships with so many people who bless my life. People like Cathy who come and offer their talents to help Beaded Hope, people like Mama Peggy and Mighty who are life-long girlfriends, and people from all over the world who also have a passion for making a difference in the world. I am blessed with amazing friendships because of Beaded Hope.

I have been on safari and witnessed a male lion walking right next to our jeep on his way to see his pride that was resting in the grass just around the corner. Now that’s just plan cool.

On a spiritual level, I have seen the power of being obedient to God when he calls you to action. I have witnessed His hand in the work of Beaded Hope because we have said “yes” and were willing to do what He asked us to do. I have come to see many of the things that make God’s heart break and have felt my own heart break at the same time. I know that I am to be God’s hands and feet and do His work on earth, however he calls me to do it. So, I suppose you could say that Beaded Hope has strengthened my commitment to God.

On a business level, I have seen the impact that Beaded Hope has made on the individual lives of the ladies in South Africa. I’ve watched them grow into employees who are capable, dedicated and committed to Beaded Hope.

I think one of the biggest highlights of working on Beaded Hope has been all the individuals and organizations that have come alongside of us and offered their talents and services in support of our mission. We have partnered with numerous companies included a warehousing and order fulfillment company, a professional photographer, a creative design firm, a bag company, an advertising agency, an art gallery, several churches and numerous individuals. This list goes on and on and it is truly humbling to see all these people step up and support Beaded Hope.

Lastly, because of my work with Beaded Hope I have been invited on numerous occasions to speak to the Social Entrepreneurship students at Miami University. These students are studying ways to combine a social cause into a successful business model. It’s so wonderful to see the creativity that they have and to think about the possibilities for their future, and the future of the world.

Wow, ladies! What an amazing set of questions. Thank you for taking the time to ask such great questions and thank you, especially, for allowing Cathy’s book to touch your hearts. I am so incredibly blessed to be a part of the Beaded Hope journey and to be friends with the ladies in South Africa. I hope that you felt just a bit of the love and joy while ready Cathy’s words.

As they say in South Africa, you are blessed!


Thank you, Jennifer ~ what an amazing journey you have been on! Appreciate all you do and your passion for others :)

Relz Reviewz Extras

RBC Book Club interview Part 1 and Part 2

Review of Beaded Hope

Visit Cathy's website and blog

Visit the fabulous Beaded Hope website and online store

Buy Cathy's book at Amazon or Koorong

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