Called to Speak – Disabilities & Chronic Illness

As part of the blog hop for Nadine Brandes upcoming novel A Time to Speak, we bloggers were called to speak out on issues that were close to our hearts.

For me, this meant focusing on an area that is as close to my heart as my mother. My brother. My husband. And my own brain.

Disabilities. Whether they are physical, neurological, or even the result of chronic illness, they profoundly affect the way many people live. While Americans live in a culture that supposedly promotes inclusiveness and tolerance, ultimately even the idea of having a disability is often a taboo subject, especially for adults.

Having a disability marks you as someone who needs help when everyone else doesn’t. Someone who is incapable of being normal. Someone who will never quite fit in, because physically, neurologically, or due to illness, you just cant.

A disability makes you…

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A Time to Speak – A Review

So you know, I received a free copy of A Time to Speak from the wonderful Nadine Brandes in exchange for my honest review. My review of this book has not been effected in anyway by receiving this copy, nor the numerous plates of cookies offered to me by the author. 

(Nadine, if you’re reading this, a batch of snickerdoodles would make my week go sooo much more smoothly. Just saying.)

“I’ve been robbed of my death. A date was set, a coffin prepared, a grave dug in the earth…”

Parvin Blackwater, A Time to Speak

Parvin Blackwater was dying. Her government issued clock said so. And she was ready.

It was her time to die…but she didn’t.


Nadine Brandes’s new novel, A Time To Speak, delivers an exciting and powerful story, continuing Parvin Blackwater’s harrowing journey which began in A Time To Die, as she fights the tyrannical grip of the USE (United State of the East) and wrestles with God to discover what the rest of her life is supposed to mean.

Much like another “hungry” dystopian heroine (whose name might rhyme with Batniss Beverdean), Parvin Blackwater returns home saddled with a strange mix of unwanted celebrity, PTSD, and new found responsibility. She barely has time to recover from the life shattering events at the end of A Time to Die before she is forced to defy the USE in order to help the ones she loves. And the adventure doesn’t let up until the last page of the book.

A Time to Speak pulls off a rare trick among sequels by holding on to the flavor of the original story while taking the characters in exciting new (and at times very very cold) directions and continual raising the stakes. And it does all this without getting convoluted or bogged down in endless plot lines.

1Where book one saw Parvin accept exile to protect her the life of her brother, book two forces her to accept a Moses-like role of leading her people as the heavy fist of the USE comes down on the citizens of her village.

Book one sent our heroine beyond the protective walls of society into the “wild West”, but this second installment drags her to the High Cities of the East where she comes face to face with the twisted ruling council of the USE.

Where Parvin’s appeals to God in book one where mostly “complaint” prayers as she slogs through the more unpleasant stretches of her journey, book two shows Parvin mature in her faith and grow better at listening for and hearing God’s voice. This is an especially excellent feat because even as a Christian, I tend check out when stories get preachy. But Parvin’s prayers feel real, as does God’s voice when He speaks. Even the timing of when He chooses to speak (or not to) feels very much like my own interactions with the almighty.

And while romance is not a selling point for me, some readers will enjoy seeing Parvin navigate her feelings for a certain tall, dark, and handsome young man. Guys, you needn’t worry. The romance never gets too sappy and it never distracts from any of the action.

In short, if you enjoyed A Time To Die, then you will not be disappointed in the least by the further adventures of Parvin Blackwater and company.

You can learn more about Nadine and her Out of Time series here:

And if you’re looking for great Scifi/Fantasy stories, you need to check out Enclave Publishing. They’ve published Nadine’s books and a bunch of other great series that you’re sure to love.

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Called to Speak about Racism

I almost didn’t write this post.

I’ve always kept my Blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, and everything else in the safe awkward nerdy corner, where I’m free to make a cutting commentary on the casting rumors about the latest Marvel comics film.

But sometimes we’re called to speak on things bigger than ourselves. Things we don’t understand. Things that scare us and open us up to ridicule.

So as part of a Blog Hop to promote Nadine Brandes newest novel, A Time To Speak, I’m choosing to speak out…about racism.

“[Satan] always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse.” 

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Images Courtesy of Pexels.comI grew up in a town without racism.

It was one of those scary things we learned about in history class. We learned about the Emancipation Proclamation and Martin Luther King and I generally took all that to mean that racial discrimination was a thing of the past.

Sitting there surrounded by a classroom full of kids who looked just like me, why should I have thought any different?

Going to college shoved me out of my little white bubble into a new wide world with people from all corners of the country and the world. Between classes, the dorms, and my church, I met more black people in that first semester than I had my entire life up to that point.

I got used to my new environment, forming lots of good friendships with people across all races. But I tended wall up when topics about race came up in conversation. Partly because I didn’t hold particularly strong opinions on the matter, but my silence was motivated by fear as much as anything. My rural conservative opinions didn’t always line up with those of my inner city black friends and, not wanting to sound like the judgmental white guy, I erred on the side of keeping my mouth shut…for years.

But the events of the last three years, the racial upheaval that’s come after the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and too many others, have pushed my heart in a different direction. Those tragedies, along with the continued call on my church to pray for racial reconciliation, have forced me to recognize the need to take further steps in my understanding of what racism in America really looks like.

Those steps don’t involve getting online to see the fallout of the latest protest or counter protest. Nor do they involve getting in arguments over Facebook over whether or not police officers are really trustworthy.

My first step on this journey involved my friend Cornelius, some high quality breakfast foods, and a big pot of coffee.

I talked with my friend, who grew up on the south side of Chicago and lived in St. Louis for a spell, and asked him what racism looked like for him where he grew up. I asked him where he saw racism in his daily life here in Southern Illinois. We talked about Ferguson and institutional racism and the American church’s failure to promote unity among brothers and sisters in Christ. (And at one point we talked about women too, but that’s a topic for another time.)

We sat on my front porch and talked for hours, barely scratching the surface, but giving me plenty to talk about.

My default reaction to one of these tragedies is still to come out on the side of the police, but I’m can’t help empathizing with the families who’ve lost loved ones either through police shootings, gang violence, or other violent acts.

I still believe that a man or woman needs to work for a living, but it’s plain to see that there are literally millions of families in genuine need of a helping hand.

And while I know that racism is not nearly as rampant as it was fifty years ago, it’s clear that our journey toward Dr. King’s mountain top is far from over.

I hope these words have challenged you. Please comment if you want, but leave the hate at the door.

A better option would be to find an open Saturday morning and sit down for a meal with someone you know who doesn’t share your politics. Break bread together and take time to ask some really difficult questions. It’s doubtful you’ll come up with the answer to world peace over sausage links and ranch potatoes, but honest talk spoken with love is far more effective than hate speech and far better than silence.

[So…awkward transition here, but this post is part of a Blog Hop promoting Nadine Brandes new novel A Time To Speak. I highly recommend you keep scrolling to read more about the book. I’m not getting paid to promote anything, I just really enjoy Nadine’s books and think you would to.]

atimetospeak5-663x1024What happens when you live longer than you wanted to?

Parvin Blackwater wanted to die, but now she’s being called to be a leader. The only problem is, no one wants to follow.

The Council uses Jude’s Clock-matching invention to force “new-and-improved” Clocks on the public. Those who can’t afford one are packed into boxcars like cattle and used for the Council’s purposes.

Parvin and Hawke find themselves on a cargo ship of Radicals headed out to sea. What will the Council do to them? And why are people suddenly dying before their Clocks have zeroed-out?

Book Two in the “Out of Time” series.

Read about the first book, A Time to Die, here

You can learn more about Nadine and her Out of Time series here:

And if you’re looking for great Scifi/Fantasy stories, you need to check out Enclave Publishing. They’ve published Nadine’s books and a bunch of other great series that you’re sure to love.

A Time to Die – A Review

51+0GidPH4L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_One Year.

That’s all Parvin Blackwater has left.

Then she dies.

Author Nadine Brandes’s debut novel, A Time to Die, pulls its readers into a Dystopian world in which all citizens are assigned a clock at birth, showing each person exactly how long the have to live. To the second.

Parvin’s time is almost up…and she’s determined not to waste it.

A review I saw described A Time to Die as “dystopian fiction…with hope”. And this is the critical component that makes this book more than just a good read. Parvin’s journey illustrates that even when we are come face to face with death, our lives still matter and that those moments are often the time when God chooses to use us in the most powerful ways.

Granted, Parvin’s journey is hardly a stroll through the park. In the race against her own clock, Parvin is harassed by cruel government agents and ultimately leaves her home, left alone against wolves, assassins, the raw elements of nature, and learns the ropes in the trader city of Ivanhoe, which feels like a re-imagination of Bartertown from “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.”

To use a phrase that the cool kids are using these days, “the struggle is real” for Parvin. Very real. So much so in some sections, that I probably wouldn’t recommend the book for reader’s younger than 12 depending on the sensitivity of the child (parents should make their own judgments). But Parvin’s resilience and the story’s strong faith elements help balance the narrative, guiding it away from the “doom and gloom” of many of Young Adult novels.

Central to this hopeful atmosphere for the book, is Parvin’s own faith in God, which is excellently shown throughout the book. Brandes lets us in on Parvin’s prayer life as she endures her trials. And the best part is that a lot of Parvin’s prayers sound like my own. Fear prayers. Whining prayers. Sarcastic prayers. A Time to Die handles its faith elements better than nearly any other Faith based book I’ve ever read.

The story itself is magnificently crafted, with complex, well developed characters. Several tropes common to the dystopian genre are implored (the brave young heroine, the brooding but handsome hero, the twisted calculating government official), but the story leads these tropes into new and exciting territory.

The only complaints I have toward the book come mostly near the end, where several abrupt plot twists happen right before the last pages, leaving the reader with a knot of unresolved emotion in their chest and a slew of nagging questions which go unresolved until the second book.

Maybe that’s a valid complaint. Maybe not. In either case, the story takes its reader on a fantastic ride which leaving them itching for the next book in the trilogy.

Fortunately for you, book two just so happens to come out next week. Be on the look out for my review of A Time to Speak here in the next few weeks.

If this looks like your kind of book, you should saunter on over to for more awesome Faith based SciFi/Fantasy titles.