Saturday, May 4, 2019

Review + Tour GIVEAWAY: Shine the Light by April McGowan

About the Book

Shannon is out to save the world one caring act at a time. She’s stood by her best friend, Amber, through their whole lives especially when Amber lost her sight. She has an active outreach ministry to the homeless and disenfranchised. And she’s even let down her guard long enough to let a boyfriend, Justin, into her life.

Her life has settled into a pleasing routine of teaching, freelance photography work, quiet dinners with Justin, and taking Amber on treks to find new subjects for her visionary paintings. But when a man from her past shows up, her secure world crumbles into triggered PTSD episodes that threaten everything she relies on. Will she be able to overcome these old memories, or will her past crush any hopes she had for a future?

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Thoughts

Most people weren’t heartless to the plight of the downtrodden,
but they felt helpless, so they didn’t help.

Shine the Light by April McGowan is a powerful, emotional, and gripping story. A depth of raw realism runs through it, and it’s exquisitely written with great character depth. It focuses on relevant and timely themes not often found in Christian fiction, for which I am very thankful, as I often long for this type of story. I have not yet read the previous book, Hold the Light, which would have given a more in-depth reading experience, but this book definitely can stand alone.

On one level, Shine the Light is a well-written, engrossing story that captured my attention from the beginning and thoroughly entertained – but it’s so much more! This author doesn’t shy away from dealing with difficult issues that touch most of our lives or the life of someone we know in some way – abuse, homeliness, PTSD, mental illness. The title is so fitting, because this story beautifully shines the light not only on the individuals themselves, but the devastating effects on the things that we take for granted – livelihood, security of food and shelter, home, relationships with family and friends.

As in the first book, the friendship between Shannon and Amber is key. These two delightful young ladies are sisters of the heart, who always had and always will have each other’s backs. I was easily drawn to Justin, and while I understood her reasons for pushing him away, I yearned for Shannon to open herself up and simply trust. This is a great quote that captures that “something special” in their relationship … Justin’s voice reverberated with gentleness. So much so it shocked her. In his deep aqua eyes, she saw a flash of warning mixed with a dare. And something else that scared her more than anything. Determination.

Shine the Light is a story that will stay with you and just possibly change the way you think or interact with the homeless. I can identify with Shannon’s passion and hope to be more like her … “Homelessness overwhelmed her some days, but doing nothing was more abhorrent to her than doing something.”

Shine the Light reminds us that God is always with us through the most difficult of times and that the forgiveness He commands can often be a process. I loved this story of hope and grace, and look forward to many more stories from April McGowan.

Highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

About the Author

April McGowan loves to read and write inspirational fiction. She and her husband, two children, and her ‘mews’ (three cats!), live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. April is a member of Oregon Christian Writers, the Christian Author’s Network, and American Christian Fiction Writers. 

When she’s not writing, homeschooling her son, or playing board games, you might find her at her drum kit, imagining she’s on a world tour. Hey, it could happen.

More from April

Writing About Tough Subjects—with Hope 

I began writing over twenty years ago. And technically I wrote long before that as well. But those pieces were ‘just for fun.’ However, as I look back on my short stories, blog posts, and now my published work, there’s a definite theme: overcoming. Overcoming childhood abuse, overcoming an abusive marriage, overcoming loss—physical and emotional. And those overcoming stories were not about overcoming through our own strength, which is so often flawed and lacking, but by relying on the One who can heal us from every wrong, every hurt, and every loss. 

After my first novel, Jasmine, I asked my readers what they’d like me to focus on in my next books—what subjects were overlooked in fiction today? The overwhelming consensus was adoption, loss, and mental illness. 

As a contemporary fiction author, I stay current on social issues, so that wasn’t a huge jump for me. My readers saw a gap, and I did, too. 

Not that it’s wrong to simply read for entertainment—shoot, I do! But I’ve always loved gripping stories with people I could identify with who were overcoming obstacles I’d faced, or watched a loved one face—stories that offer real hope in the face of tragedy. 

So I began my journey. In book one of this series, Hold the Light, I wrote about sight loss and adoption. I wrote about best friends who were solidly there for each other in the face of great hardship and pain. And in book two, Shine the Light, I’m doing the same—with a twist. 

There’s a lack of representation and writing concerning mental illness and how it affects the sufferer and those around them. There is a stigma that is significantly changing, but it’s something we’re still hesitant to discuss. Myself and many I know are deeply touched by this issue, and I think we’re long past due letting those that suffer from mental illness and their families know that they are not alone. Or if they are, that they don’t have to be. 

Book two, Shine the Light, is about Shannon’s life. Her love for the downtrodden, the lost, and the injured. Her passion for the underdog. How she became the stalwart friend she is to Amber in Hold the Light, the obstacles she’s overcome, and those she has to continue to grapple through with God’s help. 

As with all of my books, I’ve vetted this story with people who have faced these situations and am very careful to respect their stories as well as staying true to my characters. I hope you’ll dive in and find Shannon to be a deep and real and identifiable character. I hope you’ll discover in her a friend. 

I know you’ll grow to love her as I do. 

The giveaway: Many of my books are set in Portland, Oregon, and as a celebration of that, I’m offering a giveaway celebrating two of my favorite things about the city: Powell’s books and super good coffee! Also cats…but I can’t give one of those away in a contest! Well…I could try, but I’d probably fall in love with it and never send it to you…so for now, books and coffee!


To celebrate her tour, April is giving away a grand prize of a $20 Powell’s gift card, a Powell’s coffee mug, and Stumptown coffee!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into giveaway! Click the image above or the link below to enter.

Blog Stops


  1. This sounds like such an interesting series. Thanks for your insightful reviews. I wouldn't have chosen these books to look into because I'm a cover person, and the covers don't "speak" to me, but your review interested me. Thanks, Carole.

    1. Thank you so much, Kim. Covers can definitely draw me to a book, but it was the description in this case. Reading is so very subjective, but I'm very glad to have discovered McGowan's writing. Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts, as always.

  2. This sounds really good—ty for the giveaway.

    1. McGowan is a new author that I will delight in following, Kara. Hope you're able to try her books soon.

  3. This sounds like a great read and I really enjoyed reading about it!

    1. This is a really good book and I hope you get to read it soon, Angela.