Book of the Month

Shaken by Kariss Lynch.jpg
This is my book of the month pick. It is the debut from a talented young author, Kariss Lynch. I had the honor of meeting her recently at the ACFW Conference in St. Louis, MO. Kariss began her writing career in third grade when she created a story about a magical world for a class assignment. Chasing her dream into college, she received a degree in English at Texas Tech University and fell in love with writing faith-based fiction about characters with big dreams, adventurous spirits, and bold hearts. Kariss is a diehard Texan, born and bred in Dallas, where she now works as a writer for a local communications ministry.

Released February 4, 2014, this book is, at its core, a love story. But once you start reading, you realize that it's so much more. Lynch's gifted prose grabs you from the first page. After Kariss describes her inspiration for the story, you will find my review of Shaken.

Kariss: I was substitute teaching in a third grade classroom in Lubbock, Texas as the kids worked on a writing assignment in Spring 2010. Stories kept rolling in from the Haiti earthquake, and I couldn't get the images out of my mind. As I sat at the teacher's desk, I picked up a pen and wrote a scene of a young nurse standing in the midst of Haitian rubble, lost and questioning the goodness of God in the midst of catastrophe. How many of us haven't wondered why God allows awful things to happen to seemingly innocent people?

I put the scene away, assuming I would turn it into a short story at some point. At the end of the semester, I moved back to Dallas and signed up for a weekend writing class with DiAnn Mills. I had to bring three chapters of a novel, so I found the scene, knocked out three chapters, and showed up for my first day. Where I saw three chapters, she saw a book. Over the next six months, she worked with me and encouraged me as I honed my writing craft. And in that time, I finished Shaken. I always wanted to write but never thought I would until I was married with kids. But one of my mentors challenged me with a piercing question: "Why not now? What are you waiting for?" One book turned into an idea for a three book series, so I began pitching my idea at conferences.

I went to the Write for the Soul conference in 2010 with a still unfinished manuscript and met an editor from Charisma House at dinner. She had a similar degree, and I wanted to talk to her about possibly becoming an editor. She ended up asking me about my book, so I pitched it as practice, knowing they weren't looking for the kind of content I was writing. She graciously offered encouragement and challenge. I finished the novel later that year. The next year, I revisted the conference with a completed manuscript. The editor remembered me and asked me to come pitch again. I pitched to her and Sarah Joy Freese, the woman who became my agent later that year. And signed a contract in January 2012. The rest has been a whirlwind of deadlines, marketing, book covers, and writing.

There was a time right before I began substitute teaching when I questioned the Lord's goodness and sovereignty. I was doing good things and involved and growing. Why didn't He choose to bless me according to my plans? Good grief, if I knew the journey He would take me on over the past few years, I never would have doubted. His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not mine. They are light years better!

Looking back at this journey, I cannot claim credit for ANY of it. He orchestrated every step! Over the course of the last few years, my life verse has become Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Being still didn't mean passively standing by. I constantly prayed that the Lord would align my heart with His, and then I moved forward in faith. He doesn't promise to give us what we want. He does promise to use us if we are obedient and faithful, and again, that isn't always in a way that is comfortable. But He gets so much glory! Like Kaylan in Shaken, I've had to wrestle with God's goodness. But I realized His character is consistent and true, even when I don't understand.

Shaken isn't the end of Kaylan and Nick's journey. Prepare for Shadowed, coming March 3, 2015, and Surrendered in Winter 2016. In Shadowed, Kaylan and Nick are back in California, putting the events of the earthquake behind them. While Kaylan struggles to learn what it takes to love a warrior, Nick is off on another mission with his SEAL team as they fight to catch a terrorist. But a secret lurks in the shadows, threatening Kaylan and Nick's relationship and their lives. Will their love survive the darkness? Pre-order now on Amazon and find out on March 3!

My Review

Kaylan Richards just graduated from the University of Alabama and is ready to start her adult life… just not in the way her family anticipated. She did not expect her biggest regret, Navy SEAL Nick Carmichael, to be in attendance when she made the announcement that she was going to Haiti with her friend Sarah Beth instead of pursuing a career as a dietician. Nick had chosen the military over her. She is willing to give him a second chance, however, as she sees a vulnerability in him that did not exist a few years ago. Nick and her family are surprised by her decision to leave, but Kaylan feels the “road less traveled” is a God-ordained trip. She will spend six months working with the impoverished and malnourished, giving her a chance to use her education while truly seeing God at work.

Kaylan and Sarah Beth arrive in Haiti, prepared to work with the Hands and Feet organization. Kaylan is not prepared for what she encounters, including the battle of religions that is evident after meeting Eliezer, the local voodoo priest. A massive earthquake changes everything for Kaylan, and she feels abandoned by God. Nick’s SEAL unit is deployed to the area and they bring her home, where she refuses to discuss the life-changing event. Will Nick be able to convince Kaylan that God is her stronghold and that He hears her cries? Will she be able to return to Haiti to finish what she started?

Lynch’s debut grabs the reader from the first page. The story is broken into four parts, alternating between Alabama and Haiti. At its core, this is a love story. But in reality, it is so much more. Lynch paints beautiful scenes filled with vivid details, making it easy for the reader to envision events that many in the Western world will never experience personally. The dialogue is gripping, allowing the reader to feel a part of Kaylan’s heartaches and joys.

Lynch has a number of takeaways, including: “I don’t have to be completely qualified or equipped to help; I just need to be faithful,” “Decisions that change the course of your life are rarely easy,” and the reminder that change (whether big or small) only occurs one person at a time.

The story is well-researched, and the characters well-drawn. It is realistic, has a strong faith message, and is identifiable, because we all have doubts regarding whether or not God hears us. A preview of Book #2 is included.

Want to learn more about Kariss Lynch?

I love connecting with readers! Visit me at karisslynch.com and share your story with me. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for book details, my random thougths, and what the Lord is teaching me through this crazy writing journey. I write romance, but the heart of the story delves so much deeper. I hope you will journey with me!

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