Tackle Reading - A Guest Post from Kathryn Starke

Tackle Reading: A Book & Movement to promote a love of literacy with a passion for football-a partnership supported by the NFL! 

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Kathryn Starke, national urban literacy consultant and author, wrote Tackle Reading, a popular reading resource published by Creative Minds Publications. The book has motivational tips, engaging activities, and inspirational stories written by 45 contributing writers including NFL athletes. It’s used in teacher book clubs and PD across the country and nominated for the book list of Books Every Teacher Should Read.

To bring the book to life for children, Starke partnered with fellow literacy leader and author Michelle Staubach Grimes to kick off the annual Tackle Reading day, held each March to celebrate Read Across America and national reading month. NFL athletes coast to coast spend the day reading to their local elementary schools. Thanks to corporate sponsorship and charitable giving, we are able to donate children’s books to classrooms across the country on this special day.

Find Out: How the Minnesota Vikings help Tackle Reading Across America

Check Out Our story in Read it Forward and Publisher’s Weekly NFL Players Inspire Kids to Read Coast to Coast

Read the Story Monsters Magazine feature: Kathryn Starke Scores a Touchdown with Tackle Reading

Tackle Reading “180”-a reading model to help schools achieve literacy success any time of the school year

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How Anyone Can Participate in Tackle Reading Day:

1-Any school across the country can participate on #TackleReading day (next date: March 1, 2019) by implementing any of the ideas (football themed books, cooking, etc.)  from this link.

2-Any NFL athlete can join our team to serve as a guest reader by contacting the Community Relations department of your NFL team or emailing Kathryn Starke, founder of Tackle Reading, at info@creativemindspublications.com

3-Any individual, business, or organization can sponsor a #TackleReading event in a local school of your choice and help give the gift of reading and books to children and classrooms.

4-Note: Tackle Reading assemblies, teacher PD, book club discounts, and family or community literacy events are available all year long at a discounted cost when using the code word: #TackleReading. Email info@creativemindspublications.com to inquire and book for your school.

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Love is in the Air

Love has definitely been in the air at Hope by the Book this month. Then again, if you’re a reader like me, love is always in the air! You see, I have a confession: I LOVE to read about romance. And I say confession because, honestly, sometimes admitting that feels like confessing to an embarrassing habit. Anyone relate?

Depending on who you talk to, admitting you read romance novels could inspire mental images ranging from covers with alpha heroes who seem to have squandered their entire clothing budget on gym fees right through to bonnet-wearing heroines and long prairie grass. Many view it as a frivolous genre or assume the only reason to pick up a romance novel is for a little bit of vicarious titillation. I mean, even Christian readers can be heard enthusiastically discussing book boyfriends and swoony kisses, right? But ask them to recommend their all-time favourite romance novel and you’ll find Christian romance readers are looking for much more than fluttering pulses and swoony kisses. I know because I did exactly that this week in a popular Facebook group, Avid Readers of Christian Fiction.

Admittedly, asking readers to name just ONE favourite romance is akin to asking a mother to name her favourite child, but ask I did. Time and again, readers mentioned stories that demonstrated the sacrificial nature of love, challenged them to evaluate their own faith and trust in God, and showed how God draws us near and heals us—the ultimate romance.

So what are some of these books? And more importantly, how can you fit them into the 2019 Hope by the Book Reading Challenge?

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  • Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers – As one of the best-selling Christian fiction novels of all time, it’s hardly surprising that Rivers’ retelling of the Biblical story of Hosea and Gomer, set in 1850s California, was mentioned by several readers as being a favourite. Avid Reader Jean Ray Richardson described this as “One of the best books I have ever read about sin and redemption.”

    two-word title
    written in 1950-1999
    2018 ECPA Bestseller

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  • The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof – A much more recent title that received several mentions is Joanne Bischof’s multi award-winning The Lady and the Lionheart. Rel Mollet of Relz Reviewz says that, while Charlie Lionheart is handsome and charismatic, “it is his life-changing sacrifice that will render your heart more than once.” This one will suit readers who are looking to complete additional levels of the challenge.

    CAROL Award Winner (“+ more for voracious readers” category)
    author’s surname begins with B (“+ even more for insatiable readers” category)
    INSPY Award Winner (“+ even more for insatiable readers” category)
    five-word title (“+ even more for insatiable readers” category)

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  • True to You by Becky Wade – This novel not only won the 2018 Christy Award for Contemporary Romance, but was also named 2018 Christy Award Book of the Year. True to You features a bookishly smart heroine, a quiet, honourable hero, and some wonderful chemistry between the two, but Avid Reader Joy R Tiffany adds, “[Becky Wade] always takes her characters through powerful Jesus moments that leave me evaluating my own faith and trust in Him.”

    author’s surname begins with W
    three-word title (“+ more for voracious readers” category)
    INSPY Award Winner (“+ even more for insatiable readers” category)

Happy reading!

Looking for more HBTB Challenge book suggestions? Make sure you check out our challenge shelves on Goodreads!

Taking Your Part in the Conversation

To me, a great novel says something. Beyond having compelling characters or page-turning plot elements, a great novel makes a point of some kind. It has something to say to the world. It might be as simple as “Love conquers all,” or “You can never go home again,” or “Do unto others.” Or it might be a far more complex statement about human nature or political systems or whether there is a God. But one thing that all great novels have in common is that they have something to add to the Conversation.

You may not be surprised to learn that someone who thinks this way—namely the writer of this article—was an English major in college. It’s such a delightfully impractical degree. Why would anyone get a degree in a language they already speak? Surely others have their own reasons, but my reason was that I loved to read and I wanted to teach others to love to read. I thought I’d be a professor and take my place as another happy cog in the futile wheel of teaching students literature so they could teach students literature so they could teach students literature.

Of course, that oversimplifies things a bit too much, don’t you think? As an English major studies poetry, plays, short stories, and novels she is learning plenty of “useful” skills: how to read a text closely, how to identify subtext, how to interpret symbols, how to think critically, how to defend one’s position on an issue. But that’s not why one becomes an English major. One becomes an English major because one wants to be part of the Conversation.

The Conversation I’m talking about is that time-bending, mystical union between writer and reader. That magical transference of thought from one mind to another over miles and over oceans, over years or decades or centuries. A writer speaks onto the page and sometime later a reader listens.

John Donne opines on the nature of love in the 16th century and 450 years later a brokenhearted man finds solace.

In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe exposes a generation of Americans who preferred to look the other way to the horrors of slavery and ten years later President Lincoln is said to have said upon meeting her, “So this is the little lady who started this great war.”

In post-war Britain, George Orwell puts pen to his fears about humanity giving up freedom in exchange for safety, and in 21st century America his words ring out from countless memes shared on social media.

Personal or political, quiet or inflammatory, satirical or sentimental, the Conversation continues through the ages as new books are written and new readers are born. What a privilege that despite our own obscurity we can speak with the likes of William Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison.

As it turned out, I went into publishing rather than academia, into the realm of creation rather than critique. I am adding my own thoughts to the Conversation, which will carry on without me after I die. So when I write, I want my novels to say something. Something about what it means to human, what we lose when we ignore the past, what it takes to forgive, what we gain when we love each other anyway.

I don’t regret getting a degree in a language I already spoke. Because all the while it was allowing me to speak to countless people I would never have the chance to meet. And those people have become some of my closest friends and greatest teachers.


Erin Bartels has been a publishing professional for more than fifteen years. Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. A freelance writer and editor, she is a member of Capital City Writers and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and is former features editor of WFWA’s Write On! magazine. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son, Calvin, and can be found online at www.erinbartels.com. We Hope for Better Things is her first novel.

In Review... February 23, 2019

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Happy Saturday! Here’s our latest batch of book reviews, just in time for the weekend to get started!


Young Adult Romance/Fairy Tale Retelling
THE WARRIOR MAIDEN
Melanie Dickerson
SERIES: Hagenheim #9

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In this fantastic retelling, Dickerson brings to life a completely new aspect of the medieval era. Mulan’s ability to find her own strength and reliance in God, even though she is continually surrounded by warriors, death, and battles, is admirable and encouraging. This story is packed with the truth that, no matter the circumstances, God is working behind the scenes to work everything out for His glory. Dickerson also weaves a gentle and sweet romance into the story for these two precious and fierce war heroes. Discover castles, battles, beliefs, and injustices alongside Wolfgang and Mulan and let their story speak encouragement and truth. (THOMAS NELSON, Feb, 320 pp., $17.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Bookmarked Review

Non-Fiction/Christian Living
RELATIONAL RESET: Unlearning the Habits That Hold You Back
Dr. Laurel Shaler

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Dr. Laurel Shaler tackles the biggest threats to relationships by combining modern counseling practices with scripture and biblical wisdom. Her conversational style, relatable examples, and moments of humor ease the reader into examining difficult matters such as insecurity, anger, fear, envy, blame, etc. While this book focuses on relationships, it also encourages self-care for the individual and healthy boundaries. With special insight into the complex world of technology and social media friendships, it has a modern feel. Each chapter ends with practical questions, challenges, and a prayer, leaving an impact long after the final page. (MOODY PUBLISHERS, Feb., 176 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Janine Rosche

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Bookmarked Review

Non-Fiction/Christian Living
DEVOTEDLY: The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot
Valerie Elliot Shepard

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Affectionately narrated by their daughter, Devotedly exposes the hearts of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot through their letters and supplemental journal entries, poetry, and photographs. During times of waiting, wondering, and wanting, these two paragons of faith lean heavily into God’s word and promises, always seeking his will first. The honesty and intimacy Jim and Elisabeth shared—including misunderstandings, admonishments, struggles, prayers, dreams, and words of encouragement—reveal their differences as well as their humanness. From the simple recounting of daily activities to an acknowledgement of their love and attraction for each other, this peek into this true-life love story speaks to the romantic in everyone while setting the standard for a God-centered relationship between a man and woman. (B&H BOOKS, Feb., 304 pp., $19.99)

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

BUY ON AMAZON

The practice of saying ‘I love you’ has become so commonplace and cheap that it has caused untold misery by dashing one’s hopes and damaging one’s heart if there is no determination to marry as a result.
— - Devotedly

Mystery/Suspense
CONVERGENCE
Ginny L. Yttrup

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In the blink of an eye, life can change forever. Unfortunately, psychologist Denilyn Rossi knows this better than most. Having been the victim of a vicious crime, Denilyn has rebuilt her life one painstaking step at a time, only to wake up reliving her worst nightmare again. This hair-raising story is both clever and confusing, as it paints a terrifying picture of psychopathic behavior, utilizing parallel character voices and intersecting time lines. Ginny Yttrup may consider herself new to the suspense genre, but this novel is guaranteed to have every reader sitting on the proverbial edge of their seat up until, and including, the very last scene.  . . .back on the river where it all began. (SHILOH RUN PRESS, Mar., 320 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Rebecca Maney

BUY ON AMAZON


Contemporary Romance
WHEN HE FOUND ME
Victoria Bylin
SERIES: The Road to Refuge #1

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Victoria Bylin is known for writing contemporary romances that tackle tough issues and bring healing and restoration to broken characters, and the first book in her Road to Refuge series is no exception. When He Found Me weaves together the stories of an injured pro baseball player (Shane) who’s disillusioned with God, his estranged, alcoholic sister (Daisy), and a single mother battling HPV—the virus that causes cervical cancer (MJ). Bylin shares her characters’ struggles with a balance of authenticity and compassion that shows destructive behaviours for what they are even as she points readers to the hope that can be found in Christ. Readers will warm to Shane and MJ’s friendship from the start, and some last minute danger will have readers holding their breath until the final resolution. Note: References to issues such as abortion and domestic violence are non-graphic, but may still be triggers for sensitive readers. (VICTORIA BYLIN, Mar., 360pp., $0.99 ebook)

Reviewer: Katie Donovan

BUY ON AMAZON


Gold Star Reviews are for those books that are just truly in a class by themselves. Given rarely.

Bookmarked Reviews are for those books you'll definitely want to put on your 'keepers' shelf! Given sparingly.

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

SPECIAL EXCERPT: In Sickness and In Health

Here at HBTB, we believe our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health is so important. In his newest book, In Sickness and In Health: The Physical Consequences of Emotional Stress in Marriage (Harvest House, Feb. 19), Dr. David Hawkins, draws on more than 30 years as a counselor and explores with his two sons—an internist and a surgeon - the effects relational stress and trauma can have on our bodies. We’re pleased to bring you a special excerpt today, courtesy of the publisher.

ABOUT THE BOOK

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Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? 

When you first met your spouse you probably had a physical response to the emotions you felt. You’d get butterflies in your stomach, your heart would race, and your palms would sweat. So why is it that after you’re married, it’s so hard to make the connection between your physical health and your emotional well-being when you’re facing relational stress?

If your emotional pain feels physical and your physical pain feels emotional, your marriage may be making you sick—literally. Join Dr. David Hawkins and his sons, an internist and a surgeon, as they explore the effects relational stress and trauma can have on our bodies. You will learn to . . .

  • recognize the link between emotional and physical pain

  • embrace the power of choice to become empowered by hope

  • find a path forward to ultimate restoration and regain your life

No matter what kind of pain you’re experiencing, or how long your health has been in decline, you don’t have to stay stuck. Discover hope and healing when you take control of your life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

With more than 30 years of counseling experience, David Hawkins, PhD, has a special interest in helping individuals and couples strengthen their relationships. Dr. Hawkins’ books, including When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You and Dealing with the CrazyMakers in Your Life, have more than 350,000 copies in print.

EXCERPT

A number of years ago Christie and I built our dream home, only to discover it was not a dream and certainly didn’t feel like a home. Complications in building, the size of the home, and the location turned out to be disquieting for us. So we went on a search to find home once again.

What began as a challenging task soon turned into an adventure, something both Christie and I like to do. We enjoy house hunting, and this was no exception.

After finding several homes that suited our tastes but not our pocket-books, our Realtors, Mike and Robin, took us down a twisting and turning “Alice in Wonderland” lane to the water’s edge.

“It’s small,” Mike said, smiling. “But the view of Seattle is to die for, and David, you can practically launch your kayak from your front door. Can you handle that?”

Mike and Robin unlocked the door and stepped aside, allowing us to enter and take in our first glimpse of this 1920s cottage. While our former home was large and pretentious, this cottage screamed, “Come live in me!”

Simple and charming, the home seemed just the right size. This was the penultimate cottage on the lane, complete with sitting area facing the water, stone fireplace, and cozy bedroom upstairs.

“Yes, we know it’s small,” Robin said. “But it’s just the two of you now. This cottage wraps itself around you like a warm blanket. What do you think?”

We could not hide our enthusiasm. It was wonderful. This cottage said, “I will hold you. I will take care of you. You can feel safe here.”

Almost everything felt wonderful. Almost.

“Where can I do my writing?” I asked Christie anxiously when we were alone. “And what about my piano?”

“You can write there in front of the window overlooking the water,” she said, pointing to the sitting area. “Your piano will fit nicely against that wall.”

We bought that cottage, even though I wasn’t convinced. Then we went through growing pains—first adding a study onto the end of the house where I could do my work, and then changing the upstairs inglenook into a full master suite. We dreamed our cottage into a new, lovely home that fully met our needs. We needed a place that would fully hold ourselves—and it would.

Like Goldilocks, we had been in a house far too big and then moved into a cottage too small. Through awareness and compromise, we created something “just right.”

Christie and I are blessed to live where we live. We are delighted with our small home, nestled amid towering pine, fir, and cedar trees. With a small patch of beachfront, I’m able to kayak out to drop my crab pots or sail my small dinghy while Christie walks along the beach collecting beach glass. We can be ourselves, at peace and at home.

 A Home for a Self

My story is about finding our true selves, which is rarely an easy task. It is about finding a place for your Self to be well, sometimes an even more difficult journey. It’s about knowing what you feel, think, and want so you can go about getting it—aspects of our Self many lose when in a troubled relationship.

Not only must you have a home for your Self, but you must rediscover a Self that feels like home. Not only must you find a place you can settle into and decorate as you wish, but you must also go about the work of being at home within yourself. You must go about the work of healing from the harm that has occurred from troubled or troubling relationships. Finding a place outside yourself and within your Self to be at peace is what this chapter is about.

Our cottage became that place for Christie and me—a place for us to regain our peace. The large, modern house we thought would be perfect was anything but. What we had designed and built turned out not to be a haven for us. Though not right for us, it was a perfect place for the next owners. As in the Goldilocks story, our cottage is now just right—not too big and not too small.

In a manner of speaking, a house is a perfect metaphor for your Self. With many rooms, your Self has many different parts with different needs at different times, and you must become familiar with them. To fully know your Self you must create an emotional space filled with peace and safety. This sacred space holds your Self.

So far this book has emphasized that relationship stress can make you sick. This same stress can damage not only your physical well-being, but your Self, your core personhood. It is important that you learn to know and discover your Self, to recognize how you have been harmed.

You cannot heal what you do not understand. You cannot heal what you cannot feel. You cannot know what you need unless you spend considerable time and energy exploring exactly who you are and cultivating an awareness of the stress you are experiencing.

Taken from In Sickness and In Health by Dr. David Hawkins. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Harvest House.

What Reading (and Writing) Books Means to Me with Elizabeth Goddard

Happy Thursday! Today’s installment of What Reading/Writing Books Means to Me is brought to us courtesy of Elizabeth Goddard, popular author of romantic suspense - including her new book NEVER LET GO which released February 5, 2019 from Revell Books.


What Reading (and Writing) Books Means to Me

by Elizabeth Goddard, Author of Never Let Go

As a novelist, I know that I wouldn’t be a writer if I weren’t also an avid reader. Add to that, the two activities could be considered interchangeable, at least for me. As I write a novel, I’m also discovering the story. Discovery is what books are all about.

The love of reading and the books we read shape us early on, that is, if we’re inspired to read at a young age. They allow us to escape to new worlds never explored or that will never exist. We learn new perspectives through the eyes of characters whose lives we’ll never live.

For instance, most of what I know about World War II, I learned by reading historical novels such as Bodie Thoene’s Zion Covenant series (Brock Thoene is a historian so I trusted the history). I learned to love horses by reading Black Beauty and books like it. I grew to love romance and romantic suspense when I got hooked on gothic novels written by Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, and the Bronte sisters.

I love the smell of a new book, the feel of it as I hold it in my hands. Like scents ignite memories long buried or music reminds of special moments, books make me think of my childhood and all things good.

Most of all, books remind me of my mother. She loved to read and brought books from her childhood into her own home when she married. Titles such as My Friend Flick, Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and countless more filled the bookshelves. Those books remained on the shelves for decades until all four walls of a room became bookshelves filled with new books, and the pages in my mother’s hardbacks turned yellow with age.

My mother was an avid reader and I learned to love books from her, often spending my entire summers reading some of my favorite books more than once. This activity ignited the desire to write my own stories, and my mother encouraged me in that as well. I’m grateful that I became published while she was still alive, so she could see the fruit of what she inspired in me. She passed away a couple of years ago, and I dedicated Never Let Go to her. I hope to pass down to my own children and grandchildren the same gift she gave to me—the love of reading, the joy of books, and for some, even the passionate drive to write novels.

Books have inspired me, changed me, given me hope, taught me, and carved out the path I walk every day on my journey to create more books.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Goddard is the bestselling, award-winning author of forty novels and counting, including the romantic mystery, THE CAMERA NEVER LIES–a 2011 Carol Award winner. Four of her six Mountain Cove books have been contest finalists. Buried, Backfire and Deception are finalists in the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense, and Submerged is a Carol Award finalist. A 7th generation Texan, Elizabeth graduated from North Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and worked in high-level software sales for several years before retiring to fulfill her dreams of writing full-time.

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

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The case may be cold, but things are about to heat up.

Forensic genealogist Willow Anderson is following in her late grandfather's footsteps in her quest for answers about a baby abducted from a hospital more than twenty years ago. When someone makes an attempt on Willow's life to keep her from discovering the truth, help will come from an unexpected source.

Ex-FBI agent--and Willow's ex-flame--Austin McKade readily offers to protect the woman he never should have let get away. Together they'll follow where the clues lead them, even if it means Austin must face the past he's spent much of his life trying to forget--and put Willow's tender heart at risk.

Why I Write (and Read) Christian Romance

“I write inspirational romantic comedy.”

And then I wait with bated breath. Why? Because I get a variety of reactions when I tell people this. And for some reason, real people look at you funny when you say that you talk to imaginary people, so I thought this response sounded more…uh, normal than saying that I giggle with glee when I devise the perfect plan to get my bickering couple to spend more time together, consequently ushering them down the road of Happily Ever After. And if romance isn’t your thing, that’s fine! God made all of us different, so celebrate your God-given uniqueness! But my thing is experiencing a mob of butterflies on a sugar high in my gut when the hero and heroine finally kiss! 

I am a dreamy romantic, and I always have been. I find the romance in reading or writing at my favorite coffee house. My husband’s hugs are just as swoony as his surprise trips to the bookstore. I’ll read almost (there are exceptions!) any story or genre if there’s at least a thin romantic thread. Romance and love are all around us, every single day! Romance is a billion-dollar industry and leading genre for a reason – we connect to it on a soul level!

With my newest novel releasing last week on Valentine’s Day, I have been thinking about why I love Christian Romance. This is what I found in that cluttered, anti-KonMari place known as my mind:

1.  I love the kissing!

Okay, I’ll be honest… I wait for that first kiss (and the next one…and the one after that…) between Mr. and soon-to-be Mrs. Right. I happily sigh and grin, and sometimes I need smelling salts! I love that Christian Romance is sweet, sizzling, and safe all at the same time! 

2.  I love the fight!

No, not the fighting… (Although, I probably have too much fun writing the scenes of back-and-forth bickering.) I mean that I love seeing Prince Charming and Lady I’m-More-Than-Just-A-Pretty-Face fight for each other, for love, for the chance to see what God has in store for them! When trauma threatens to crush a marriage, this is a message of hope. When a family is broken and hurting, this is a message of hope. When we are lost and alone, this is a message of hope. Knowing that God has put people in our corner who will fight for us and with us is a powerful thing. Knowing that we are called to fight for our loved ones is just as empowering. But when a story can remind me that God is fighting for me, that’s beautiful! Without fail, I always see this message of hope in Christian Romance, giving me hope on the days I want to fail myself into a vat of chocolate and devour the whole thing.

3.  God created it!

Love and romance were created by God, and this always blows my mind in an obvious sort of way. These beautiful and sacred treasures have been around since the very beginning! It’s not something invented by greeting card companies. It’s not something to shame, ignore, or forget. And it is NOT a waste of time! They are gifts that He created for us out of His love for us, and they should be celebrated and enjoyed! No other genre does this better than Christian Romance, though her subgenres are pretty awesome! With this truth in my heart, I will happily continue to immerse myself in the romantic world of the bookish.

Because He created each facet for me to enjoy.


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V. Joy Palmer is the author of Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations, Weddings, Willows and Revised Expectations (her newest release), and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is also an avid blogger and co-founder of Snack Time Devotions. In her spare time, Joy is an unprofessional chocolate connoisseur/binger, and she loves acting crazy and drinking coffee with the teens she mentors. When Joy isn't urging the elves that live in her computer to write, she's hanging out with her husband, their adorable baby girl, and their socially awkward pets.

A Few of My Favorite Reads with Rebecca Maney

Happy Tuesday! At Hope By the Book we are trying out some new regular features here on the website, and today’s guest - avid reader Rebecca Maney - is kicking off our “A Few of My Favorite Reads” feature!

A Few – Emphasis on Few - of My Favorite Reads

by Rebecca Maney

Does anyone else have a brain that insists on processing information with pictures? Any topic, any time, any place? Mine does. So, when picturing my favorite reads, imagine a plush fireside chair blanketed with my Dallas Cowboys throw (I just had to say that); a cup of steaming hot chocolate just a blind reach away. Cozy. Comfortable. Captivating.

What sort of books fit into this idyllic scene? The ones that are read over and over and over again . . . just because. The ones that I run to when I want to hear the conversations of trusted friends, the ones I slip into without uttering a word or making a sound. They beckon me.

They are . . .

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Remembered by Tamera Alexander

Oh my! The witty banter between Jack and Veronique should be written into a textbook. They argue uncontrollably and love unconditionally.

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Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter

Not only do I smell those mountain apples ripe and ready for the picking, but I let the story nourish my soul, reminding me that life is precious and forgiveness is offered generously by the author of life everlasting.


The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

Above all that we can ask or think, His eye is truly on the sparrow . . . prayer is more powerful than a mighty ocean wave. Why do we forget that?

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The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

Maybe it is because I grew up traipsing along mountain trails (having a father who was a Boy Scout leader will do that to you), but my five senses immediately engaged in this story; the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and even gentle touches combined to convey the desperation of survival and the magnificence of miracles.


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Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade

Who doesn’t crave a good love story now and then between two unlikelies, perfectly imperfect for each other until it’s all on the line? Meg and Bo are two of my forever friends.

 

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Rebecca Maney is a graduate of Bryan College with a degree in Christian Education, and is currently serving at the First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gastonia, North Carolina as the Director of Children's Ministry. With nearly 28 years of experience in her field, she has had many opportunities to use her love of reading and writing in creative ways across the generations. A wife, mother of four "nearly" grown children, and grandmother to four beautiful grandchildren, Rebecca has been able to return to her love of reading and more recently reviewing, with a renewed passion for the "beauty of story".


What are some of your fave reads? Share on social media & tag us on social media @hopebythebook using the hashtags #hopebythebook #myfavereads

The Ultimate Happily Ever After

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Romance is a funny thing. Christian romance can be even funnier. Questions about ‘how far is too far’ and ‘is this (historically) appropriate’ and even ‘should Christians read fiction’ crop up every now and again, making this author pause, reflect—and keep on writing.

I write Christian romance. I hope my stories entertain, and that people enjoy the historical details and the elements of romance I include. Most of all I hope people respond to the faith message. Because I believe ‘Christian’ and ‘romance’ aren’t mutually exclusive, and that Christian romance should be the epitome of romance stories.

The Bible is full of romance, with stories of marriages, stories of wooing. God Himself is depicted as a bridegroom, longing for His bride (the church). Here in Australia I grew up singing about Jesus, the ‘Lover of My Soul.’ God is into love. Hello, God IS love!

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But more than the thudding hearts and scorching kisses we so often see portrayed in today’s world, I enjoy (and endeavor to write) stories that show the reality of love. The practicing of forgiveness. The need for patience. Choosing to trust and not fear. Sacrificing selfish ambitions. These are the godly components for love, aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and those qualities often read at weddings from 1 Corinthians 13. These are the real drivers of ‘true love,’ far more than how passionate a kiss might be.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been married for over 21 years now, and with four children, I believe in passion :) . But more important than that, our marriage has meant learning to love in a way that means swallowing pride, keeping anger checked, learning to compromise. My husband and I are definitely not perfect, we’re still learning what real love looks like.

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In this Instagram-perfect, happiness-hungry, disposable world such things can seem peculiar. In a world of TV bachelors and ‘social experiment marriages’ and celebrity divorce, people who live promises of ‘until death do us part’ can seem extreme. Our world needs stories that reflect God’s ways, that hint of the Divine Romance, and show God’s principles, principles that may at first seem counter-intuitive, but ultimately lead to peace and joy and hope.

I love how God can use fiction to draw people to His truth, how these godly principles can make people pause, reflect, and maybe even repent. My books have been called ‘defiantly Christian,’ so it surprises me when non-Christian friends tell me they have enjoyed my novels. I hope (and pray) that God will continue to use my fictional romances to wash away the dirt of the world and help people see Him just a little bit more. Not that I have all the answers, but I know that God does.

Romance might be a funny thing, something that evokes a wide range of responses from Christians and not-yet Christians, but I think it’s wonderful that God can use our stories to woo readers to Himself. I pray my readers may find the ultimate Love of their life, the Lover of their soul, the One who demonstrates what true love looks and feels and sounds like, the One whose story never ends, and in whom is found the ultimate happily-ever-after.


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Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked part-time as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher. Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Visit her website for more information.

Carolyn’s books, The Making of Mrs. Hale (a Gold Star review) and A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh, are featured in the Launch & Spring issues of Hope By The Book magazine.

SPECIAL EXCERPT: Relational Reset

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! Today, we’re excited to bring you an adapted excerpt from Relational Reset by Dr. Laurel Shaler, which released February 5, 2019 from Moody.

ABOUT THE BOOK

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Are your relationships all that you want them to be?

Do rough patches ever catch you by surprise, causing you to think Why is it so hard right now? Why is there tension? Was it something I did? Despite our best intentions, we all have blind spots—bad relational habits that are keeping us from enjoying our relationships fully. And since relationships stand at the center of all we do, if we can learn to do relationships even fractionally better, every aspect of our lives improves. Whether you struggle to overcome past wounds, insecurity, blame, or envy, it’s time to reflect on your relational habits and reset.

An experienced counselor, Dr. Laurel Shaler is passionate about helping women thrive in all of their relationships. Relational Reset will reveal unhealthy patterns that may be holding you back, give you practical steps for improving your relationships, and help you find your ultimate security and identity in Jesus Christ. When you reset your relationships, you honor God, yourself, and the ones you love.

What are you waiting for? Get started today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DR. LAUREL SHALER is a national certified counselor and licensed social worker. She is an Associate Professor at Liberty University where she serves as the Director of the Master of Arts in Professional Counseling program. Dr. Shaler writes and speaks on the intersection of faith, culture, and emotional well-being, and is the author of Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits that Hold You Back and Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and Overwhelming Life Events. She and her husband, an officer in the Navy Reserves, have one daughter and live in South Carolina. Learn more and contact Dr. Shaler at www.drlaurelshaler.com.

EXCERPT

In 2004, my husband and I were spending our first Valentine’s Day together as a married couple. Not realizing that February 14 is one of the restaurant industry’s busiest nights of the year (we were young, after all), we neglected to make reservations for dinner. Unconcerned, we got dressed up and headed out for dinner. As we drove around the city we kept encountering packed parking lots and wait times that were far too long, and Nick became increasingly hungry and angry—yep, hangry. In a moment of exasperation, my usually calm, patient, and accommodating husband declared, “If we don’t find someplace to eat now, we are going to Wendy’s!” Well, of course, that was not going to do for this young bride of six months. A fast food restaurant on our first Valentine’s Day? I don’t think so. What followed was a very unpleasant conversation—okay, argument—about where we should eat. Thankfully, within a few minutes, we passed by a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant tucked away in a strip mall. My husband pulled in without a word. After parking the car, we walked in silence, and were both relieved to know there was no wait. We were seated immediately, and before the bread basket hit the table Nick broke the ice. His apology led to mine, and we were both quick to forgive each other for the spat that took place during our dinner search. We went on to enjoy a delicious Italian dinner that night and ate at this restaurant frequently until we relocated out of state. We never fail to chuckle over how we almost missed out on a lovely first Valentine’s Day because of a silly fuss.

That silly fuss could have become something much worse. Without one of us being willing to apologize first and the other being willing to quickly forgive, it would have. People often mistakenly think that forgiveness is a feeling, but it is actually a choice. We make the decision whether to forgive. In Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother who sins again him. “Up to 7 times?” he asked. Jesus answers “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” In other words, forgiveness should be endless. I get it – it’s much easier to forgive when someone has apologized. That made it easier for me on that Valentine’s night many years ago. Yet, we have to accept that we will not always receive an apology, and we have to decide whether or not that will be a condition for our forgiveness. John MacArthur said this: "To make conditionality the gist of Christlike forgiving seems to miss the whole point of what Scripture is saying. . . the emphasis is on forgiving freely, generously, willingly, eagerly, speedily -- and from the heart.  The attitude of the forgiver is where the focus of Scripture lies, not the terms of forgiveness." I say we err on the side of forgiveness (recognizing that this is not the same as reconciliation).

Since 2004, Nick and I have enjoyed many more Valentine’s Days together. A big part of our relationship has been learning to say “I’m sorry” a lot, and forgiving one another even more. The forgiveness and grace we are able to offer each other does not come from our own strength. If that’s what I relied on, I might still be upset that my husband wanted to take me to a fast food restaurant for our first Valentine’s Day! Our strength to forgive can only from the Lord. We should forgive others as He has forgiven us.

Adapted from Relational Reset by Dr. Laurel Shaler (©2019). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

10 Reasons Why Book Boyfriends Make the Perfect Valentine's Date

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1. A book boyfriend is schedule-friendly! Your date with your book boyfriend will begin exactly when he fits into your schedule. He'll stay up late with you if you like. Or, without a single complaint, he'll let you nod off at nine p.m.

 

2. He's location-friendly. He'll meet you anywhere you are. He'll travel with you on the subway on your way to work. He'll join you on the sofa at your parent's house. He'll fly on a plane with you. Sail on a cruise with you. Keep you company on your beach chair when your toes are buried in the sand.

 

3. He's extremely romantic. Especially if you select a book boyfriend who originates within the pages of a romance novel. My heroes frequently make big sacrifices for their heroines while saying things like, "I'll always love you. As long as there's an earth and a sun. Longer. I will love you."

 

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4. A book boyfriend can break the constraints of time. It's a wee bit hard to date a Regency era duke or a Viking or a Civil War soldier these days. But not if he's a book boyfriend!  Imagine spending your Valentine's day wearing a ball gown, dancing a waltz in the arms of a Viscount.

 

5. Any food you eat with him while inside his story world is calorie free!

 

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6. You don't have to clean up after him. At all. Ever. Book boyfriends don't leave socks on the floor or dirty dishes on the counter.

 

7. Your book boyfriend looks the way you want him to look. Yes, the author has provided you with a few details about him. But thanks to the powers of your imagination, you can envision him in your mind's eye exactly the way you prefer.

 

8. Book boyfriends are larger than life!  Go on a Valentine's date with a billionaire rancher. A European prince from the 1700s. A pro football player. A single father who's also a famous country singer.

 

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9. He's memorable. If you choose your book boyfriend wisely, chances are that he'll carve his name onto your heart and you'll remember him fondly for years and years to come.

 

10. You can count on a happy ending!  He may be flawed and he's likely to make mistakes, but by the end of your time together, he'll have redeemed himself. You're guaranteed to part from your book boyfriend with a happy sigh and a smile.

 


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Becky Wade is a California native who attended Baylor University, married a Texan, and settled with him and their three children in Dallas. She’s the Christy and Carol award winning author of the heartwarming Christian romances included in the Porter Family series and the Bradford Sisters Romance series. Visit her website!

 

When You Fear That the One Who Has Swept You Off Your Feet Has Dropped You

I returned to the critical care waiting room on the neurosurgery floor and saw, through the glass, my mother-in-law’s smile and thumbs-up. My heart flooded with relief as a smile broke across my face. I knew my husband had survived his second brain surgery in four years.

In that moment, I did not think of our starkly different personalities or the fact that my love language is quality time and his love language is hunting. Really, I didn’t think of anything but the fact that I love my man.

In that moment, he could do no wrong.

Two days later, I was so grateful that his severe post-craniotomy headaches had eased, and his appetite returned, that I offered to get him cold-pressed juice, omelets . . . coffee. He teased me and said I would flip the breaker to the whole hospital just to dim the lights in his room, or I would pay $3,000 and walk through snow to purchase the fizzy drink he craved. It was true (well, maybe not the snow part). I would have done anything for my husband because the trial of brain surgery had blurred everything but love.

The day after we returned home, however, my vision returned to normal.

My husband is a minimalist except when it comes to undershirts and camouflage. He likes smooth surfaces and clean, white lines. I like color and texture and plants.

This morning, I ate breakfast and left the plate on the table. The leftover yolk would have congealed, but my husband was so kind and rinsed it off. At lunch, I ate a salad and left the container on the counter. I also left a wet diaper on the living room floor, which I forgot to take back to the diaper genie in the nursery.

My husband commented on these things, and I snapped out the fitted sheet and began folding it (which you probably shouldn’t do if you’re already frustrated). I snapped out the pillowcases. I began folding towels. And then I took off, cleaning baseboards and wiping down walls. If he wanted a clean house, by George, he was going to get it.

My husband, in his recliner while recovering from brain surgery, started laughing.

“Can’t there be a balance?” he said.

But he knew the answer to his own question. Part of the reason he married me is because I am an all or nothing kind of gal. Part of the reason I married him is because he is an all or nothing kind of man. When we’re all in, even the harshest of trials cannot stop us. And here we were, getting annoyed with each other because we had different ways of keeping house.

Marriages are often formed between starkly different personalities because we’re drawn to strengths that offset the places where we’re weak. But over time, those stark differences can clash instead of complement, and you find yourself wondering if the one who swept you off your feet really wishes he would have dropped you.

But then, when we focus on love, every perceived “fault” or difference blurs. Did I care about our differences when I saw my mother-in-law’s thumbs-up through the waiting room window? No. Did I wish he liked my red gingham tablecloth instead of surreptitiously stuffing it into the storage cupboard? No.

In that moment, all I cared about was him: my dryly funny man, who drives me up the (very clean) wall and makes me laugh till my sides hurt.

Let’s focus on love, my friends. Love is the greatest commandment because, when we focus on it, every surface fault blurs.


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Jolina Petersheim is the highly acclaimed author of The Divide, The Alliance, The Midwife, and The Outcast, which Library Journal called “outstanding . . . fresh and inspirational” in a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. That book also became an ECPA, CBA, and Amazon bestseller and was featured in Huffington Post’s Fall Picks, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and the Tennessean. CBA Retailers + Resources called her second book, The Midwife, “an excellent read [that] will be hard to put down,” and Booklist selected The Alliance as one of their Top 10 Inspirational Fiction Titles for 2016. The Alliance was also a finalist for the 2017 Christy Award in the Visionary category. The sequel to The Alliance, The Divide, won the 2018 INSPY Award for Speculative Fiction. Jolina’s non-fiction writing has been featured in Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Digest, Today’s Christian Woman, and Proverbs 31 Ministries. She and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but they now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their three young daughters. Jolina’s next novel, How the Light Gets In, a modern retelling of Ruth set in a cranberry bog in Wisconsin, releases March 2019.

In Review... February 8, 2019

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Are you ready for the weekend? What’s the weather like where you are? No matter what it’s doing outside, we know you’re happy to curl up with a good book. Here’s our latest batch of reviews to help you out :)


Bookmarked Review

Contemporary Romance
ONE THING I KNOW
Kara Isaac

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This captivating novel is one that readers will not be able to put down. Isaac masterfully displays the fight of good versus evil, and the trials that come from dishonesty. Rachel and Lucas have chemistry that cannot be denied, which gives way to a toe curling kiss that will leave readers breathless. Secrets have a way of coming out, and Rachel and Lucas have to learn how to forgive not only each other, but themselves and their loved ones. One Thing I Know is sure to touch hearts, brings smiles, and remind readers of the need to rely on the Lord to do the things that cannot be done otherwise. (HOWARD BOOKS, Feb. 384 pp., $11.00)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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Historical Fiction
THE SEAMSTRESS
Allison Pittman

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As France is ready to explode in rebellion from the tyranny of the nobility, young Émile Gagnon takes in two young cousins to keep them from starving. This moving tale of the seamstress who makes a brief appearance in A Tale of Two Cities shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of France at a desperate turning point in her history. As the girls grow to womanhood they are faced with the choice of what to heed: the gentle voice of their protector calling for them to fix their eyes on God, or, that of the debonair insurgent crying out for revolution. Readers can expect to be swept away by this powerful narrative and experience this tragic time in history through the eyes of the cousins, Laurette and Renée. With a strong message of the grace of God, The Seamstress brings the conflict of the French Revolution to life in a vivid, insightful manner. (TYNDALE HOUSE, Feb., 480 pp., 14.99)

Reviewer: Phyllis Helton

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Children’s Board Book
DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES: A Silly Bedtime Story
Bob Hostetler; illus. Mark Chambers

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Silly and lilting and adorable in every way, this new children’s book from Bob Hostetler is sure to be a hit with children and parents alike! With clever reverse psychology, the cute rhymes beg children to keep those eyes open when, of course, the goal is to actually get them to fall asleep. Hostetler’s words (and wit) and Chambers’ whimsical illustrations follow the natural world (moon, stars, animals, etc.) as they settle down to sleep, creating a soothing speech pattern that lulls children to dreamland. It might be a ‘silly bedtime story’, but it’s also creative, fun, and intentional. A must-have for every child’s book collection… and one that parents may find themselves even after their kiddos have long gone to sleep. (THOMAS NELSON, Feb., 20 pp., $9.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Inspirational/Historical Fiction/Mystery
LADIES OF INTRIGUE
Michelle Griep

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Embark on three tales of intrigue in this novella collection from Award-Winning author, Michelle Griep. With the same high quality and standard of story that Griep is well known for, readers will easily get lost in this compilation. Along with sweet romance, these stories have a dash of mystery woven through as well. These are quick-paced stories that can easily be read in one sitting. Ladies of Intrigue is the perfect winter-day read. So curl up and get ready to uncover a few secrets with three admirable heroines. (BARBOUR BOOKS, Jan, 288 pp., $12.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Gold Star Reviews are for those books that are just truly in a class by themselves. Given rarely.

Bookmarked Reviews are for those books you'll definitely want to put on your 'keepers' shelf! Given sparingly.

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

What Reading Books Means to Me with Rachel Scott McDaniel

Happy Monday! At Hope By the Book we are trying out some new regular features here on the website, and today’s guest - author & avid reader Rachel Scott McDaniel - is someone you need to meet! Her debut novel, Above the Fold, releases December 2019 and she’s bringing us the first installment of “What Reading Books Means to Me” .


What Reading Books Means to Me

by Rachel Scott McDaniel, Author of Above The Fold

Have you ever considered the power of story? How is it possible that words on a page can refresh a wearied soul or bolster a feeble heart? It’s just a conglomeration of sentences and paragraphs. Just a book. Yet within the boundaries of Chapter One and The End lies the potential of something remarkable. What if I told you it holds the capability of bringing to life that which is deemed dead?

Ten years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom who wrote Christian romance during my kiddos’ naptimes. Then something occurred in my family that challenged my secure little world. My three-year-old daughter was diagnosed autistic. I wish I could say that I donned my super cape and stood as Faith Woman, but the truth was, I struggled. Everything came to a screeching halt. I closed my laptop, stopped reading Christian fiction, and only concentrated on surviving the day. The following decade was spent focusing on caring for my kids and reorienting myself to life. My daughter was significantly progressing, overcoming delays which were branded insurmountable. Slowly, my brittle faith strengthened, but I allowed my dream to collect dust in the corner of my heart.

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One day, my sister-in-law mentioned a contemporary romance she’d read by some novelist named Rachel Hauck. At that point, I had been so far removed from Christian fiction—hadn’t browsed the inspy aisle at Barnes and Noble, hadn’t fangirled any authors on Facebook, hadn’t even cracked open a book in years. Not to mention, I hadn’t written a single word in my own story. I completely detached myself from my dream—that aspiration which had once sparked my soul. So on a whim, I snagged To Catch A Prince from the local library, yet I was inwardly skeptical. After all I’d experienced, did I even believe in such a thing as happily-ever-after? But the unexpected occurred in the form of me binge-reading the book, taking in the layered characters and absorbing the vivid prose.

Then it happened.

Somewhere between the pages, the dormant ember ignited. The love of story returned. The only way I can explain it is that I had a “God-nudge.” A pivotal mark on my soul where I knew what had to be done. I dug out my laptop and opened my manuscript. It’d been so long that I nearly forgotten what I’d written. I started creating again and immersed myself into the world of storytelling. Before long, I had the entire novel completed and from then on, the dream unraveled before my eyes. That particular story had won a national contest. I signed with an agent and within a year, I’d landed a book contract.

What would’ve happened if I never had picked up that book? Would my lifeless dream have been revived? I’m not certain. But one thing I do know is the power of story. It can fortify what is frail. It can liven what is dull. So what does reading books mean to me? Simple. Reading is—and always will be—a game changer.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Rachel Scott McDaniel is an award-winning Christian romance writer. She hopes to inspire the mind and refresh the soul with words infused with faith and heart. Because she could never resist a good mystery, suspense and intrigue routinely sneak into her stories. She currently enjoys life in Ohio with her husband and two children. You can find Rachel at her online home RachelMcDaniel.net or on all major social media platforms.

Look for her debut novel - ABOVE THE FOLD - coming December 2019 from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas!

In Review... February 1, 2019

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Our idea of a Super Bowl is a big tub of chocolate for reading snacks ;) Here’s our latest batch of reviews!


Historical Fiction
THE SKY ABOVE US
Sarah Sundin
SERIES: Sunrise at Normandy #2

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Brought together by the war, two Americans find themselves on foreign soil preparing for D-Day. While the characters are different from what I have come to expect from Sundin’s recent books, her elegant style of weaving words into a story of love and redemption remains the same. A steady paced story building up to the climax of D-Day, there are many things to learn about WWII within these pages, including types of aircraft and the Red Cross. This is the second installment of the Sunrise at Normandy series, and the books really are best read in order. (REVELL, Feb, 384 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Contemporary Romantic Suspense
COLD DAWN
Susan Sleeman
SERIES: Cold Harbor #7

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Susan Sleeman continues to write inspirational romantic suspense with enough thrill and danger to capture any true romance and suspense fan. In Cold Dawn, Sleeman reaches back into the world of Blackwell Tactical and allows the groups' teamwork to help solve Andy's, a friend of Samantha Willis and Matt Griffin, death. Using police procedural research and knowledge, she creates deep dimensional plot lines to keep the tension pumping. Her applicable characters jump off the page, making readers want to read the series from the beginning to understand all the dynamics between them. The predictable romance has depth and illustrates how trust can conquer fear. With all the tension, romance, and the hunt for justice, this makes for an entertaining and informative read. (EDGE OF YOUR SEAT BOOKS, INC, Jan., 314 pp., $3.99)

Reviewer: Kelly Bridgewater

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Bookmarked Review

Historical Fiction
BETWEEN TWO SHORES
Jocelyn Green

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History collides with fiction in this remarkable story. Catherine Stands-Apart is an admirable heroine as, by taking charge of her own life and her own story, she changes the course of history. This can be a difficult and emotional read with possible triggers due to the setting of this story (violence and abuse) but these are handled with grace. Catherine’s growth in her faith is an excellent reminder to believers that our faith should be ever expanding, ever growing. Through this unique perspective on the French and Indian War, customs, and loyalties, readers will discover a new view of history. Reading this story was like watching a sunrise, the shift from darkness to light, an overwhelming burst of life and color. As rhythmic as rowing a bateau along the river, readers will spend many a sleepless night alongside Catherine Stands-Apart fighting for freedom and for what is right. Green has created a masterpiece of literature with beautiful imagery and vocabulary as her medium. (BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS, Feb, 416 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Contemporary Amish Fiction
MENDING FENCES
Suzanne Woods Fisher
SERIES: The Deacon’s Family #1

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Fans of Fisher’s Stoney Ridge books will be delighted at this return to familiar characters and story threads introduced in previous books that now get a chance to shine. (And before anyone wonders, yes HANK LAPP IS BACK TOO.) When readers last saw Luke Schrock, his life was a mess of his own making, and most people in Stoney Ridge had given up on him. As his story picks up in this new series, the tough love that deacon Amos Lapp and bishop David Stoltzfus show to the newly-rehabbed (again) Luke is as inspiring as Luke’s own determination to change. Of course there is much laughter to be had as well, from the usual sources in Stoney Ridge and from poor Luke’s sincere but misguided attempts at redemption. Izzy’s plot line is also very compelling - and responsible for a couple of gut-punches along the way. While some threads are tied up by the end of this first book, there are others which are waiting to be fully played out and promise some emotional moments ahead. (REVELL, Feb., 330 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Non-Fiction/Spiritual Growth
WHEN LIFE DOESN’T MATCH YOUR DREAMS
Jill Eileen Smith

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This non-fiction release - a concise study of twelve Old Testament women - from novelist Jill Eileen Smith offers women compassion and encouragement in the face of regrets, disappointment, betrayal, and more. Drawing on her years of experience in bringing Biblical people to life through fiction, she invites readers to walk a mile in these women’s shoes and explore their disappointments and the choices that impacted their lives. With gentle wisdom, Smith also leads readers to consider how they can learn from women such as Eve, Rachel, and Zipporah, and grow their trust in the Lord no matter what circumstances they find themselves in. Brief discussion questions at the end of each chapter make this an ideal resource for small groups or individual study. (REVELL, Feb., 224 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Katie Donovan

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Contemporary Amish Romance
HER AMISH CHILD
Lenora Worth
SERIES: Amish Seasons #2

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This second installment in Worth’s “Amish Seasons” series is reminiscent of the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi. Raesha is shocked to find baby Dinah on the doorstep of the house she shares with her mother-in-law Naomi, whereas Josiah Fisher, in town to sell his family homestead and look for his missing sister, wonders if Dinah is his niece. Some parts are a bit redundant (such as multiple reminders of why Josiah is in town), but the flawed characters are relatable and the pace steady in this sweet read. Second chances and new beginnings are key themes that are likely to resonate with readers. While this is part of a series, it can stand alone. (LOVE INSPIRED, JAN, 224 pp, $5.99)

Reviewer: Leslie L. McKee

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Contemporary Romantic Suspense
BREACH OF TRUST
Rachel Dylan
SERIES: Atlanta Justice #3

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The author closes out her Atlanta Justice trilogy with the fast-paced thriller one would expect after the first two books in this legal series. Despite the similar predictability of the opening sequence to a television drama, Breach of Trust smooths out into an investigation within a murder trial filled with intrigue and dubious characters. As danger lurks behind a seemingly simple open-and-shut murder, corporate lawyer Mia may realize too late the implications it has to her current corporate case. While unexpected romance blossoms with private investigator Noah, Mia and readers alike will not know who to trust as they embark on finding the truth behind both cases. One thing for sure, this is one suspense-filled legal thriller that will keep readers guessing. (BETHANY HOUSE, Feb., 304 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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Gold Star Reviews are for those books that are just truly in a class by themselves. Given rarely.

Bookmarked Reviews are for those books you'll definitely want to put on your 'keepers' shelf! Given sparingly.

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

Change. New. Unknown.

Change. New. Unknown.

What kind of emotions do those words stir in you? Do you feel a bubble of excitement rising? Or maybe your stomach just sank and the blood drained from your face? Maybe your response was somewhere between those extremes, or maybe you’re wondering what the context is. After all, the context could make all the difference, couldn’t it?

Read More

Books That Have Shaped Me with Laura Frantz

Happy Wednesday, dear readers! At Hope By the Book we are trying out some new regular features here on the website, and we adore today’s guest - author Laura Frantz - who is bringing you the first installment of “Books That Have Shaped Me”.


Books That Have Shaped Me

by Laura Frantz, Author of A Bound Heart

More than anything, reading has taught me how to write. It didn’t hurt that I was raised on the lap of my reading teacher mom who early on inspired me with countless books. As I grew, my reading tastes settled and sharpened. Looking back, three books stand out as shaping me. My hope is that they’re already on your reading radar…

 
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THE BLUE CASTLE

Move over, dear Anne with an e! Though I’m an avid Anne of Green Gables fan, I’m most smitten by her creator’s The Blue Castle. Within its novella-length pages, Lucy Maud Montgomery makes the endearing Valancy Stirling shine and breathes life into the most heroic yet un-heroically named Barney Snaith. With her signature wit, wisdom, and perfect pacing, The Blue Castle has been called a ‘forgotten book,’ incorporating enchanted woods, a cabin turned castle, and a ‘chase contentment’ theme. It’s one of those rare novels I’ve read more than once. For an added look at the author’s inner life, L.M. Montgomery’s complete journals are also extraordinary.

A few favorite lines:

“All that supported her through the boredom of her days was the hope of going on a dream spree at night.” 

“His eyes, which she had always thought brown, now seen close, were deep violet – translucent and intense…”

 
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 A LANTERN IN HER HAND

Another shaper is A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich. Epic in spirit, we meet within its pages the pioneer Abbie Mackenzie Deal with her unquenchable courage. Reading this classic is like looking at landscape photography through the author’s astonishing, evocative prose. Equally memorable is Aldrich’s Song of Years. Tissues required!

A few favorite lines:

“You are so much a part of me, that if you were taken away, I think it would seem that you just went on with me. And I’m sure if I were the one taken, I would go on with you, remembering all you had been to me.”

 
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LOVE’S PURSUIT

Lastly is Love’s Pursuit by Siri Mitchell. Rich in historical detail and a unique setting, the novel’s Puritan heroine is wonderfully complex, and her unconventional hero might well make this a Christian classic in time. The novel has a literary vibe I love and since I shy away from formulaic writing, her remarkable ending is heart-stopping and layered with meaning.

A few favorite lines:

“I am not good. I merit no favor, deserve no grace from God. There is nothing I can do to coax God to save me. Nothing I can do to deserve to whisper in God’s ear, to feel His eye upon me. There is no work that I could accomplish that would place God in my debt or coerce Him to act on my behalf. But still, He does it.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Frantz is a Christy Award winner and the ECPA bestselling author of several books, including The Frontiersman’s Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, The Colonel’s Lady, The Mistress of Tall Acre, A Moonbow Night, The Lacemaker and The Ballantyne Legacy series. She lives and writes in a log cabin in the heart of Kentucky. Learn more at www.laurafrantz.net.

Her newest book A Bound Heart (Revell, Jan 2019) is getting rave reviews as well!

"Equally suspenseful and heart-wrenching, Laura Frantz's A Bound Heart takes readers on a journey that begins in the misty isles of Scotland and crosses oceans to the sun-drenched plantations of the New World, with finely drawn characters who rose from the pages to quickly capture my sympathies. From start to finish, A Bound Heart is an absorbing, tenderhearted story about the grace of second chances." - Lori Benton,author of Many Sparrows and the Christy Award-winning Burning Sky

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

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Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning–together.

Laura Frantz’s prose sparkles with authenticity and deep feeling as she digs into her own family history to share this breathless tale of love, exile, and courage in Colonial America.

SPECIAL EXCERPT: Brave Love

Here at HBTB, we are all about making space for you to be YOU. After all, that’s why we created this magazine - to celebrate books & the reading life. It’s one reason we’re excited about Lisa Leonard’s new book Brave Love, releasing today (January 29) from Zondervan! We’re also excited that we have a special sneak peek excerpt to share with you today ;)

ABOUT THE BOOK

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When Lisa Leonard said her marriage vows, she was determined to be the best wife she could be. When her first son was born with a severe disability, Lisa promised herself she would always be the mother he needed. When she began her jewelry business, Lisa committed to giving it her all.

Over the years, the exhaustion of trying to be the perfect wife, mother, and businesswoman took its toll. Lisa knew it wasn’t working. She wanted to change things, but how? Everyone depended on her. So she kept going, kept pushing, kept trying to prove she could do it all.

Until one evening, in tears and desperation, Lisa realized that she could no longer be everything to everyone. Somewhere along the way, she had lost herself.

In Brave Love, Lisa shares her story of finding truth and wholeness in the midst of life’s competing demands. Brave Love is about what it means to be human, how it feels to be broken and afraid, and what happens when we dare to love deeply. Join Lisa on a journey where you will discover you are worthy and lovable just as you are. You don’t have to try harder or be better. You don’t have to prove yourself and you don’t have to make others okay. In this freedom you will find more peace and more joy. Most importantly, you will learn that as you stop trying to be everything to everyone, you will love others better.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa is the founder of and designer for Lisa Leonard Designs. With Lisa’s creativity and her husband Steve’s vision, together they turned her hobby into a multi-million dollar company. Today they employ more than 150 people in three countries reaching around the world.  Lisa is a popular jewelry designer, blogger and speaker, sharing her story around the country. Lisa and Steve partner with non-profit organizations and ministries to protect the vulnerable and serve those in need. Lisa, Steve, and their sons David and Matthias live on the Central Coast of California. They love slow mornings, good coffee, chocolate chip pancakes, and adventure. Lisa’s favorite things are treasure hunting at local thrift stores, dabbling in photography, and having heart-to-heart conversations over coffee.

EXCERPT

One sunny Saturday when David was less than a year old, Steve and I decided to splurge and go to Baja Fresh for lunch. We couldn't really afford to eat out, but we needed to get out of the house. I gathered diapers and food for David in a bag while Steve strapped our still tiny baby into his car seat, and we drove the short mile and a half to the strip mall for lunch. Steve parked and then pulled David's car seat out of the car, with David still buckled inside. He was cozy and happy in his little seat.

At the restaurant, we turned a high chair upside down to hold him and his car seat while we ate. If we were lucky, David would stay contentedly in his car seat while we ate. As I got David sit­ uated, Steve went up to order food-two steak burritos with rice and beans. I gave David a little kiss on the forehead and looked over toward Steve. Near him were two boys, about eight and ten, laughing and pointing at David. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it seemed that they had noticed David's small hand with only two fingers, and they were nudging each other and gawking.

My cheeks flushed bright  red and my heart shattered  into a thousand  pieces.  I wanted to climb under the table and hide. I wanted to grab David and run far away where no one would ever be mean to him. I wanted to protect him from a life in which the kids at school called him names and excluded him from their activities. Instead, I sat motionless as shame threatened to swal­low me whole. But then a spark of bravery ignited somewhere inside me.

No, no, no! I am not ashamed of my son. Yes, he has only two fingers on his left hand. Yes, he is different. But he is amazing, and he is mine.

My first instinct was to grab those kids by their collars and scream, "How dare you laugh at my son! You are awful, terrible kids!" But in my heart, I knew. They didn't understand David. They had probably never seen a baby with seven fingers instead of ten. They were probably scared, so they were making fun of what they didn't understand.

Slowly, I unstrapped David from his car seat and carried him over to where the boys were now sitting with their parents. As I approached, I could see the look of terror on their faces. They probably thought they were about to be in big trouble. But instead, I calmly looked at the boys and said; "Hi, I'm Lisa, and this is my son David. I saw that you noticed him, and I wondered if I could answer any questions for you." They looked back at me with blank expressions.

"Hello," the parents said warmly. "Thanks for coming over. He's adorable. How old is he?" They were incredibly kind.

We chatted for a minute or two while the boys stared blankly at David and me. Then I walked back to our table with my head held high and my chin quivering. It was terrifying, but I had been brave. I thought my heart would break when I saw those boys pointing and laughing at David, but I took a deep breath in and realized that my heart wasn't broken. I had been afraid that shame would swallow me up, but where was shame now? I didn't feel any shame at all. I felt pride.

I learned something about myself that I hadn't known when we left the house just a few minutes earlier. I wasn't powerless. I didn't have to sit by and let shame swallow me up. I didn't have to fear other people's opinions or  judgment.  I could stand  up; I could be brave; I could speak my mind.

My chin was still quivering when Steve came back to  the table with our burritos. With tears in my eyes, I told  him  what had happened. I looked at David, who was snuggled back into his car seat, and I felt overwhelmed with love for him. Maybe, just maybe, with a little bit of bravery, we could change the world, one conversation at a time.

Taken from Brave Love: Making Space for You to be You  by Lisa Leonard. Copyright © 2019 by Lisa Leonard. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

In Review... January 26, 2019

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Looking for some good reads this weekend? Here’s our latest batch of reviews!


Non-Fiction/Spiritual Growth
WHAT IF IT’S TRUE: A Storyteller’s Journey with Jesus
Charles Martin

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Taking the same storyteller’s heart that has made his novels so soul-deep meaningful - and channeling it into a non-fiction platform - Martin challenges readers to see Jesus on a more personal level than ever before. Bringing scenes from Jesus’ life, death and resurrection vividly to life, this prolifically talented author also shares his own struggles and progress on the journey with an honest and authentic voice. Sometimes raw, sometimes almost graphic (while maintaining a tasteful tone), each chapter aims right at the soul and hits its mark every time. This is a book that readers will be tempted to devour in one sitting but would be best savored and reflected upon slowly, allowing the sensory visuals and profound truths to fully sink into the heart. (THOMAS NELSON, Jan., 320 pp., $24.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Bookmarked Review

Historical Romance
A RETURN OF DEVOTION
Kristi Ann Hunter
SERIES: Haven Manor #2

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Hunter continues to dive deep into the written world of nobility and their secrets in the second book of the Haven Manor series. As Daphne’s haven - and secret - threatens to implode with the arrival of a marquis with an obvious connection to her past, readers will be roped into the emotional thread and the ironically unpretentious storyline. Sincere and genuine, the author skillfully incorporates wit and depth amid the intricacy of emotions in both the storytelling and the dialogue. What at first seems like a simple romance novel in fact blossoms into a profound story about finding the courage to forgive and to move forward. (BETHANY HOUSE, Feb. 2019, 400 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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Remember that your pride isn’t as valuable as you think it is. Keeping it might cost you more than you
could imagine.
— A Return of Devotion

Inspirational Historical Romance
A DESPERATE HOPE
Elizabeth Camden
SERIES: Empire State Novels #3

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Camden excels at taking little-known bits of history and bringing them vividly to life, particularly those actions that dramatically changed the lives of those immediately affected and the world as we know it. In her Empire State novels, she has done exactly this, and the third novel again keeps readers riveted, this time to the early stages of New York’s aqueducts - and the towns in its path. The people of Duval Springs tug at the heartstrings as they valiantly do whatever it takes to save their beloved community in the face of imminent domain. Alex and Eloise’s relationship - from childhood friendship to first romance to distant strangers - leaves readers with plenty of swoony moments as they slowly find a new footing, and the growth in each of their characters warms the heart. A dash of suspense adds a different kind of tension, rounding out the novel with something for everyone. (BETHANY HOUSE, Feb, 352 pp., $29.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Amish Suspense
AMISH SAFE HOUSE
Debby Giusti
SERIES: Amish Witness Protection #2

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Giusti’s latest is part two of the Amish Witness Protection continuity series, but it can be read as a standalone. Julia and her family find themselves in the crosshairs of a local gang, and the witness protection program is their only hope of staying alive, though they didn’t expect to find themselves in an Amish community with Abraham, who is leery to give his heart away again. While there are a few lulls midway through the book, the action keeps the reader hanging on through the twists and turns. Romance takes a bit of a backseat to the suspense in this non-typical Amish-themed tale that will have the reader questioning just what price Abraham will pay to keep his charges safe. (LOVE INSPIRED, Feb., 224 pp, $5.99)

Reviewer: Leslie L. McKee

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Gold Star Review

Time-Slip Romance/Women’s Fiction
THE SECRETS OF PAPER AND INK
Lindsay Harrel

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Harrel delivers a wonderfully unexpected and skillfully executed adventure of love, loss, and healing. The ebb and flow of perspectives between two modern-day women and the life of a mysterious Victorian woman mesmerizes and captivates. While each woman’s life is individually compelling, when intricately stitched together into the same tapestry, the result is unforgettable and breathtaking. Book lovers will be right at home in (or perhaps envious of) the quaint and cozy Cornwall bookstore and intrigued by the historical journal’s mystery. The author champions the soothing balm of friendship and community, all while exuding a spiritual strength, hope, and irrefutable faith-based identity in the face of brokenness, desperation, and betrayal. (THOMAS NELSON, Feb., 336 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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On the outside, I was a simple woman, with a simple life. I did not, however, have simple dreams.
— The Secrets of Paper and Ink

Western/Historical Romance
HEALING HEARTS
Sarah Eden
SERIES: Savage Wells #2

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Eden weaves fact and fiction effortlessly into the pages of this story where readers will get the chance to explore the repercussions and influences of mental health in the 1870's. While many of the situations are the same as we face today, the knowledge and treatment were primitive at best and make for some intriguing reading. Miriam is a heroine that makes her own mark - plucky, defensive, and independent - and she will go to any length to protect her past. With a communication mix-up that adds levity to the story, this sweet romance will seep into the heart. The descriptions of the Wyoming Territory of 1876 are vivid and bright; for example, Eden paints pictures in a way that allows readers to feel and hear the wind blow across the open plains.  (SHADOW MOUNTAIN, Feb, 336 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Patsy Glans/Rachel Dixon

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Juvenile Nonfiction
LIES GIRLS BELIEVE: And the truth that sets them free
Dannah Gresh

As readers on the precipice of adolescence help a new friend with questionable situations that arise after Gresh addresses common misconceptions, a foundation of truth is formed. From topics of boys, family, friendships, appearance, and more, each lie is combated with biblical truth in this conversational, colorful, and interactive manual. In addition, readers are given the tools to identify other lies in their lives and counteract them by seeking out God’s word and talking to their parents or a trusted mentor when questions arise. Gresh equips girls ages 8-12 by offering ways to identify “sticky” feelings and talk about difficult topics with their parents or mentors. The companion book, A Mom’s Guide to Lies Girls Believe, allows mothers to follow along with their charges as they seek out answers to some of today’s most common lies. (MOODY, Feb., 176 pp., $12.99)

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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You become the most beautiful to God when you get excited about wearing things like kindness, helpfulness, and cheerfulness, rather than some cool new shoes, or a great lip gloss.
— Lies Girls Believe

Gold Star Reviews are for those books that are just truly in a class by themselves. Given rarely.

Bookmarked Reviews are for those books you'll definitely want to put on your 'keepers' shelf! Given sparingly.

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE