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.

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

Feeding the Temple

Feeding the Temple

Feeding the Temple: Books that inspire a healthy living.

The Bible says our bodies are God’s temple and that His spirit dwells in us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). How do we keep our bodies healthy with all the fast food and genetically modified stuff out there? Then there’s also those situations that is out of our control like illnesses or food allergies. What can we do about that?

Read More

Spring 2019 New Releases: Our Editors' Must Read Lists

With a new year comes a new season brimming with new books just waiting to be read. How do you narrow down the list?? Well… you don’t. In fact, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth when we tried (and that was just me).

But HBTB’s fearless editors (and me) finally managed to list our 10 most anticipated reads for January-April 2019…. each. Because we can only do so much narrowing down, people!! And while some lists overlap a lot, we are all different readers with different tastes, so hopefully there’s something on these lists that will appeal to you too!

ANNIE

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Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano
Weddings, Willows and Revised Expectations by V. Joy Palmer
The Memory House by Rachel Hauck
Sweet on You by Becky Wade
Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano
A Return of Devotion by Kristi Ann Hunter
The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright
Deadly Isle by Dani Pettrey
The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson
Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill

Bonus: (Carrie’s note - this is totally cheating. Just saying. LOL)

  1. Settle My Soul by Karen Ehman & Ruth Schwenk

  2. The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

  3. A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz


BETH

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My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge by Pepper Basham (plus Finding Ever After a February novella collection by Pepper Basham, Rachel McMillan, Ashley Clark, and Betsy St. Amant)
A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz
Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano
With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander
Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron
Brunch at Bittersweet Café by Carla Laureano
Weddings, Willows, and Revised Expectations by V. Joy Palmer
Of Fire and Lions by Mesu Andrews
Daughters of Northern Shores by Joanne Bischof
Code of Valor by Lynette Eason and The Unexpected Champion by Mary Connealy are sharing my final spot because I still need to read the previous book for each series!


CARRIE

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first … i’m going to go with ‘everything the other three said’ ;)

plus…

One thing I Know by Kara Isaac
Winning the Cowboy’s Heart by Karen Rock
A Rancher to Remember by Karen Rock
Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes
The White City by Grace Hitchcock
Cat Got Your Crown by Julie Chase
Mending Fences by Suzanne Woods Fisher
How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim
Fame, Fate and the First Kiss by Kasie West
Louisa on the Front Lines by Samantha Seiple


RACHEL

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Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill
Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron
In the Shadow of Croft Towers by Abigail C. Wilson
The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright
Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green
Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin
The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson
Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano
Daughters of Northern Shores by Joanne Bischof
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

ADD THESE TO YOUR TBR

Hope By the Book is now on Goodreads! Check out our 2019 Most Anticipated Reads shelf to add these titles to your TBR pile too!! And don’t forget to join us in our 2019 Reading Challenge! Click HERE to get all the deets.

SPECIAL EXCERPT: Rewired

Here at HBTB, we love amazing stories so of course we love Rewired by Dr. Ajay K. Seth - which just released January 8, 2019 from Thomas Nelson. It’s a true story about “an unlikely doctor, a brave amputee, and the medical miracle that made history.” And we love that we have a special sneak peek excerpt to share with you today since reading is kinda what we do around here ;)

ABOUT THE BOOK

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A raccoon bite on the arm doesn’t seem that serious, but it soon becomes a life-or-death medical crisis for Melissa Loomis. After days of treatment for recurring infection, it becomes obvious that her arm must be amputated. Dr. Ajay Seth, the son of immigrant parents from India and a local orthopaedic surgeon in private practice, performs his first-ever amputation procedure. In the months that follow, divine intervention, combined with Melissa’s determination and Dr. Seth’s disciplined commitment and dedication to his patients, brings about the opportunity for a medical breakthrough that will potentially transform the lives of amputees around the world.

Rewired is the inspirational, miraculous story of Dr. Seth’s revolutionary surgery that allows Melissa to not just move a prosthetic arm simply by thinking, but to actually feel with the prosthetic hand, just as she would with her natural arm. This resulted in what others have recognized as the world’s most advanced amputee, all done from Dr. Seth’s private practice in a community hospital, using a local staff, and with no special training or extensive research funding.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Ajay Seth is an orthopaedic surgeon in North Canton, Ohio, whose education includes the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Medical College of Wisconsin, the Ohio State University, and Allegany General Hospital. Dr. Seth is working on advancements in prosthetics with Johns Hopkins University, in relationship with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and through his company, Bionic Miracle, LLC. He and his high school sweetheart, also a physician, are raising two children. (Besides being a surgeon, he serves as the physician on call for the Canton Regional SWAT team, training the thirty-six members, and providing medical care during raids and calls around the city.)

EXCERPT

Twelve hours earlier, I’d been so sure of myself. After doing something hundreds of times, we start to think we’ve seen all there is to see, and that we know all there is to know. But I’d been taken by surprise, and I couldn’t take back my bold promises. You can’t unring a bell once it’s been rung

I could have doubled down on my promise: She’s still not going to lose that arm! I’ll come back and wash it again in a few days, and there will be no bacteria by that time. Everything will heal, folks.

But I knew that wasn’t the truth. The truth was this was the most challenging case I’d ever been presented with since I’d started in orthopaedics—not in relation to technical skill, but because of the still-unknown but powerful, ravaging bacteria confronting us.

I looked at David and gave him a sad-but-honest answer to his question about saving his sister-in-law’s arm. I said, “I don’t know.”

I paused, letting them take in those words, then continued, “I don’t know if she’s going to lose her arm now. But I can tell you one thing: I will work day and night and do everything I possibly can do to see that she keeps it.”

I think they all had some idea of the seriousness of the situation. What we didn’t discuss was the possibility that the infection might continue its journey from Melissa’s wrist to her shoulder and points beyond. I’d made it clear that now the bacteria had an outlet, a place to disembark.

They asked more questions, and I fielded them. We all shook hands, and I hugged Michelle—a worried sister—and told her everything was going to be okay.

Doctors work to heal the body, but a surprising share of our work involves nurturing the spirit. We do all we can to reassure people everything will come out all right, but we always walk that tight line between offering comfort and avoiding harsh reality. The best practitioners find ways to provide an honest prognosis with genuine hope and encouragement. And we hope people understand we’re not God; there are situations we simply cannot master, battles against infections and diseases we cannot win.

I hoped and prayed this occasion was not one of those.

I walked out of the room and down the hallway, into the post-anesthesia care unit. I looked at the clock. By now my family was out of church. They’d surely watched the door, expecting me to walk in at any moment, so they could gesture and show me where they were sitting. I hadn’t made it, but they’d understand. They knew that in the world of surgery, all other bets are off.

To my surprise, Melissa was already awake and resting comfortably. I walked up to her bed and said, as gently as possible, “Melissa, we operated on you for about ninety minutes. Longer than we initially expected because there was more infection there than we thought. It’s a challenging situation, but you’re going to be all right.”

I didn’t yet realize what kind of patient Melissa was. You don’t have to break things to her gently; she has an inner constitution of iron. As I finished saying my piece, Melissa replied, “I hope you got all that raccoon bacteria out of my arm.”

“I looked and I looked, Melissa, and I can tell you I couldn’t find any raccoon left in that arm. I beat every single one of those bacteria out of there.

She smiled, and I was pleased with the conversation. This wasn’t the best time to give her a foreboding preview of what was next. She had twenty-four hours to prepare for the current condition of her arm. Her family would be the ones to talk with her first because they knew her best. I could fill in the details afterward.

Soon I’d changed back into my street clothes and was heading to my car. It was 11:30 a.m. I dialed my wife. “What happened?” she asked.

“Long story,” I said. “Short version: I have an arm to save. It’s in terrible condition, but I’ve got to save it.”

Taken from Rewired by Dr. Ajay K. Seth Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.

In Review... January 11, 2019

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Are you hunkered down for the big winter storm? Either way, do you need some ideas on what to read? Check out our 2018 Staff Picks and this week’s batch of reviews!


Inspirational Suspense
NEVER LET GO
Elizabeth Goddard
SERIES: Uncommon Justice #1

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Readers are in for a treat with this sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense novel. Between the romantic tension, surprising twists and turns, and constant danger, there is no time for readers to pause until they reach the end. Goddard presents a common theme throughout the book – not everything is as it seems. Willow’s stubbornness puts her into some tough situations, but thankfully for readers, Austin McKade has been hired for help. Austin has his own demons to face, but watching him sort through them and become more open with Willow in the process will have readers cheering for this destined-to-be-together couple. Austin’s brother Heath is a swoony secondary character that will have readers begging for more by the end. Thankfully his story is coming next! (REVELL, Feb., 368 pp., $10.99)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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Bookmarked Review

Amish Romance
THE AMISH CANDYMAKER
Laura V. Hilton
SERIES: The Amish of Mackinac County #2

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Readers may want to invest in a big bag of gourmet chocolate or their favorite candy before indulging in this latest sweet-with-a-little-sass-mixed-in story from Laura V. Hilton. The author delves deeper into Agnes’s personality, a character previously a little difficult to connect with, and delivers a heroine who is engaging and very easy to like. Isaac will weaken knees with his winks and flirty behavior, and like Agnes he becomes even more likable as more of his story is revealed. Delightful banter and swoonworthy kisses between the two, as well as the adorable scenes with Isaac’s young charges, will leave a perpetual smile on readers’ faces from start to finish - even though a few tears may be shed as well. Another delicious visit to Hilton’s Mackinac County, in more ways than one! (WHITAKER HOUSE, Feb., 256 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Inspirational Historical Romance
THEIR WYOMING COURTSHIP AGREEMENT
Stacy Henrie
SERIES: Sheridan’s Sweethearts #3

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Sweet and heartwarming, this is a light and entertaining story that readers will delight in from cover to cover.  This novel intricately brings to life what it’s like to live in a Wyoming town in 1902 and the hardships of building up a small business in such a town. The author also beautifully highlights the timeless struggle of people comparing themselves to others - and realizing everyone is special and can succeed in their own and unique ways.  The story of an old and beloved friendship that blossoms into a romance when least expected also plays a large role in capturing the attention of readers.  A fabulous combination of history, friendship, and romance, this splendid book is sure to enthrall readers. (LOVE INSPIRED HISTORICALS, Feb, 288pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Sydney Anderson

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Inspirational Contemporary Romance
WEDDINGS, WILLOWS AND REVISED EXPECTATIONS
V. Joy Palmer

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When Apryl Burns’s life is turned upside down, she finds herself required to work with Chance McFarland, the man she has claimed as her nemesis. Apryl’s big personality includes a humorous sarcastic streak, stubbornness, a love of potato chips, and a fiery temper, but also love for family and a vulnerability which makes her likable. The debates between her and Chance are heated and passionate, foreshadowing what a less tumultuous relationship between them could entail. Palmer includes several fun pop culture references, a few discussions of superheroes, and a bonus romantic storyline for Apryl’s twin sister in this book, but also the challenges of remaining loyal to family when goals and dreams don’t align and leaning into God when storms of change arrive. (WHITEFIRE, Feb., 217 pp., $15.99 )

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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Inspirational Historical Romance
THE ALAMO BRIDE
Kathleen Y’Barbo

SERIES: Daughters of the Mayflower

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The author’s love of Texas history shines from cover to cover with all the drama and action readers would anticipate from a story touting a connection to the Alamo. Ellis is an engaging and independent heroine. Her knowledge of herbs and healing, fierce love of her family and home, and willingness to boldly and courageously do anything in her power to protect and defend them are just some of the many layers which make Ellis such an endearing character. Clay embodies the swoony hero vibes with integrity and vulnerability as his complex mission is compromised by both injury and his distracting attraction to Ellis. Matters of trust, subterfuge, loyalty, and love muddy the waters as they weigh their contributions to the greater good against their individual desires, hopes, and dreams. (BARBOUR, Feb., 256 pp., $12.99 )

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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Children’s Picture Book
QUINN’S PROMISE ROCK
Christie Thomas

With beautiful, soft pictures and the constant reminder of God’s care over us, young readers will treasure this picture book by Christie Thomas. In a world full of anxiety and fear, adults and children both can be reminded through the gentle guidance of father owl that there really is nothing to fear at all. God loves everyone and strives to keep them safe. The fun examples will entertain young ones, while also teaching the depth of God’s love. Although written for the benefit of young readers, older readers will also find themselves comforted with the knowledge of God’s love as they read. (HARVEST HOUSE, Feb., 32 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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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

Bookish Resolutions: Be a Read-Aloud Family

Making Time for Books and Family

 Beginning new traditions can be refreshing...but sometimes we don’t know where to begin. Here are a few ideas to incorporate into your everyday routine.

 Read Aloud Revival

Sarah Mackenzie’s book, The Read-Aloud Family is a book to help us connect with our kids and help prepare them for the future, all through reading books aloud together. With tips and encouragement for families with kids of all ages. But how do we get started?

 

The Bed-Time Story

I don’t know about you, but when bed-time rolls around I am READY to have some peace and quiet. There are days when my husband and I have to force ourselves to slow down and honor the bed-time story routine that we have established.

Recently we have been reading a little bit of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone each night. We have the illustrated edition which both kids (and us adults) absolutely love. Reading together before bed has become a good way for us to come together at the end of the day, put all electronics aside, calm down the rambunctious children, and focus on a good story.

Whether you set a time limit, chapter limit, or pick a short story book or two, I encourage you to give this a try.

 

Lunch Reading

The curriculum that we use for our homeschooling (BookShark) incorporates the reading aloud of several books throughout the school year. This is one of the reasons I decided to go with them in the first place. Every day we read a portion of the current book, discuss the vocabulary, talk about what might happen next, ask questions about the setting and people, and we do all of this while the boys are eating lunch.

I have found that this is a really good way to include my youngest (who isn’t quite school age yet) in our daily classroom routine. Whether you are using a curriculum that incorporates reading aloud or not, you can easily begin reading aloud during lunch. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend Little House in the Big Woods or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

 

Morning Devotions

A new tradition that we are starting in our home, thanks to a little inspiration from Jessica Smartt’s Memory-Making Mom (watch for my review of this incredible book in our Spring issue), is morning devotions. Now, this is something that I have tried and failed, to do for the past couple of years. The boys were antsy, I was too busy trying to organize the rest of the day, nothing we did made it stick.

And then, I had an “Ah-ha” moment while reading Smartt’s book and I decided to give it another go. Freshly baked muffins, “tea” in fancy cups, candle, flowers, and devotions. And do you know what? It was a huge success. I am super excited to continue this on a daily basis.

 

Juggling the Age Differences

Luckily, my two boys are pretty close in age. Although, while one is beginning to get a decent grip on reading, the other can’t tell his colors apart yet. So what do you do when you have an extremely varied age range?

 

The Toddlers

This is an easy age for reading aloud. Although reading the SAME book again for the 17th time that day can get a little rough. Why not take a jaunt over to the library and select a couple new board books to try? Or check out Usborne’s That’s Not My… series. These are some of my all-time favorite toddler books! Sensory, repetition, and OPTIONS! You can have the same style of book in so many different editions, it’s glorious.

 

Beginning to Read

Like I said earlier, my oldest is just on the edge of getting a good grip on reading. Plainly put, we are in the excruciating period where it takes a painfully long time for him to get through 1 line. But do you know what? I don’t care how long it takes him, because HE IS READING!!! We do use a lot of the I Can Read! books for schoolwork, but my personal favorite is the My First Reading Library. It gets the parent/teacher involved in the reading as well. I read a page, he reads a page, and repeats. It is nice because the stories are able to use a broader range of vocabulary than if he were required to read the book in its entirety. “Cat sat. Cat ran. Cat ran and sat.” type of stuff. 

 

The Older Kids

I have very distinct memories of sitting around the living room and reading together as a family. We would each take turns reading a chapter and then pass it on to the next family member. We read The Chronicles of Narnia in this fashion and other stories. Looking back, I suppose I should have read-aloud more as a child/teen to help with pronunciation. Because even now, there are several words that I can spell, give you a definition of, and use it in a sentence, but I can NOT say it out loud correctly.  Like “memoir” and “regularly” (and no, I did NOT just practice saying those out loud).

 

Reaping the Benefits

Do you want to know what is the most wonderful thing as a bookish parent? Seeing your children cherish and adore books just as much as you do. And what better way to encourage their love for literature than by reading aloud together on a regular basis.

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Neither of my parents would be considered “bookish” but somehow, through the reading aloud together, Wishbone, and a never-ending penchant for curiosity, I have become THE book nerd of the family. Is it worth taking the extra time to read aloud together? Absolutely!

Do I see a difference in the way my kids speak? YES! My oldest used the word “nearly” in a sentence the other day. He used it correctly and was very intentional about using it. I can only attribute it to the variety of vocabulary he receives on a daily basis.

Do my kids beg to read books? YES! Is their favorite place to go, the library? YES! And through read aloud together, we are preparing them, nurturing them, and instilling a love for books that will be lifelong into those tiny little hearts of theirs.

 

Get Started Today

Sarah Mackenzie has the Read-Aloud Revival 31-Day Challenge active on her website right now. Sign up for free and jump into reading-aloud today!

In Review... January 4, 2019

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Happy New Year! Here’s the first batch of reviews for 2019, just in time for your weekend reading pleasure. Want some other great reads? Check out our 2018 Staff Picks!


Inspirational Juvenile Non-Fiction
BOLD AND BLESSED
Trinitee Stokes

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For young readers who have big dreams and some big doubts, this book will help teach that God is bigger than anything the enemy tries to do. With the author’s laid back and open writing style, the reader will feel they are having a one-on-one conversation with her. Going behind the scenes into her hectic life, this Disney Channel star shows us how to live for God even in the spotlight, inspiring young readers to live for God where they are in life. (ZONDERVAN, Dec., 224 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Alysha Worthen

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Inspirational Contemporary Romance
HER COWBOY INHERITANCE
Danica Favorite
SERIES: Three Sisters Ranch #1

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This small ranching-town romance is a heartwarming retreat! Leah and her sisters are the type of folks who make plans for a lemonade stand when life’s truckload of lemons gets a flat. These ladies are resourceful, and they don’t let the tough stuff keep them down. Leah’s two adorable young sons are the joy of their mommy’s and auntie’s lives and providing them with a secure and happy home is top priority. Big-hearted, handsome, and helpful, cowboy-next-door Shane manages horses and cattle with more ease than the sometimes-prickly and always-independent females next door. His genuinely charming nature is sure to melt readers’ hearts as Shane goes above and beyond his neighborly duties to protect Leah and her boys. This sweet story inspires confidence in faith, trust, and second chances. (LOVE INSPIRED, Jan., 179 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Beth Erin

BUY ON AMAZON


Inspirational Historical Romance
THE SONGBIRD AND THE SPY
J'nell Ciesielski

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In a world ravaged by war, how can there be hope in the darkness? Ciesielski opens the doors to a setting of WWII not yet fully explored by other authors of this genre, allowing readers to discover the intricacies of occupied France in a new and fresh way. With enough secrets to last a lifetime, readers will be on the edge of their seats, cheering on the heroes. The story wraps up nicely, albeit a bit quickly as there were still details that felt like they still needed to be explored. Action-filled and captivating, readers who enjoy books with espionage, war, and romance should definitely read this one. Get lost in time in this moving story of faith, freedom, and love. (SMITTEN HISTORICAL ROMANCE, Dec, 327 pp., $12.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

BUY ON AMAZON


Inspirational Cozy Mystery
THE COFFEE CLUB MYSTERIES
Darlene Franklin, Cynthia Hickey, Elizabeth Ludwig, Dana Mentink, Candice Prentice, Janice Thompson

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Six different ladies. Six different mysteries. One small town. Each mystery, told in first person, is written by a different author and focuses on a different amateur sleuth from the town's book club. Every author's individual style is evident, but all six stories flow nicely together, leaving no plot holes. From murder to stolen money, the whodunits all put lives and businesses in danger, and not all of them are easily solved. While the characters could have used some more depth/layers, the quaint shops on Main make a tempting fictional town to visit - minus the sudden rash of crime, of course! Readers who enjoy Joanne Fluke might enjoy this collection of mysteries, too! (BARBOUR, Feb., 448pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Alysha Worthen

BUY ON AMAZON


Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Children’s Picture Book
LOVE MADE
Quina Aragon

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Beautiful, bright illustrations by Scotty Reifsnyder perfectly accompany Aragon’s sweet text, the combination of both sure to draw and hold young readers’ attention. The story of creation carries through from the world to a small child, and the text (as told to the child) emphasizes the bond of love in both. Encouraging and worth-giving, this is a colorful, gorgeous rendering of the beginning of the world and God’s creativity, zeroed down to the start of each young life. Children will love the pictures, and parents will love the text. A perfect match! (HARVEST HOUSE, Feb., 32 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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And Love loved so much that Love made us, Love caused creation.
— Love Made

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 - We Hope For Better Things

Here at HBTB, we are super excited about another debut novel - We Hope For Better Things by Erin Bartels - which just released January 1, 2019 from Revell. We’re also super excited because we have a special sneak peek excerpt to share with you today!

ABOUT THE BOOK

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When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request--that she look up a relative she didn't know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos--seems like it isn't worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.

At her great-aunt's 150-year-old farmhouse, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.

Debut novelist Erin Bartels takes readers on an emotional journey through time--from the volatile streets of 1960s Detroit to the Underground Railroad during the Civil War--to uncover the past, confront the seeds of hatred, and discover where love goes to hide.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

“Bartels is not afraid to tackle adversity, and does so gracefully and poetically. We Hope For Better Things will easily gain favor from readers, and leave them wanting more. “ —Hope By the Book

"We Hope for Better Things has it all: fabulous storytelling, an emotional impact that lingers long after you turn the last page, and a setting that immerses you. I haven't read such a powerful, moving story since I read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school. This book will change how you look at the world we live in. Highly recommended!"--Colleen Coble, USAToday bestselling author of the Rock Harbor series and The View from Rainshadow Bay

"A timely exploration of race in America, We Hope for Better Things is an exercise of empathy that will shape many a soul."--Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials

"Storytelling at its finest. Erin Bartels delivers a riveting story of forbidden love, family bonds, racial injustice, and the power of forgiveness. We Hope for Better Things is a timely, sobering, moving account of how far we've come . . . and how much distance remains to be covered. A compulsively readable, incredibly powerful novel."--Lori Nelson Spielman, New York Times bestselling author of The Life List

"In this powerful first novel . . . Bartels successfully weaves American history into a deeply moving story of heartbreak, long-held secrets, and the bonds of family."--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

EXCERPT

“Just out of curiosity, why was this stuff at a police station? What are these pictures of?”

Linden looked at his father, who looked down at his plate as if the answer were written there in the smear of coney sauce.

“They’re from the ’67 riots.”

I felt my heart rate tick up, scooted back up to the table, and leaned in. “Did you bring them?”

“Denny didn’t think I should.”

“Why not?”

“Because of that,” Linden said. “Because you weren’t interested until you knew what they were, and I knew it would play out this way.” He turned to his father. “Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I say she’d only be interested in getting her hands on the photos?”

I sat back, trying to play it cool, trying to put that approachable-yet-intelligent smile back on my face. “Why shouldn’t I be? I’ve built my entire reputation on exposing corruption and neglect in this city. Photos of historic significance left to rot in a police station are just one more symptom of the larger problem. And I’m working on a big piece right now on the riots. Those photos have never been published—I assume. I’m sure the Free Press would pay handsomely to have the privilege of sharing them with the world.”

Linden pointed a finger in my direction. “There! There it is! Just like I said.”

Mr. Rich placed a hand on his son’s forearm. “Okay, okay. Just calm down and let me talk a moment.”

Linden withdrew the accusative finger and leaned back on his half of the seat, his million-dollar foot stretching out past my chair, blocking me in even as I knew he must want me out.

His father looked at me with tired eyes. “Miss Balsam, I’m burdened. I been carrying something around for fifty years that I got to let go of. This camera and those photos have to get back to Nora. Not to the paper, not to a museum or a library. To Nora. Now, I can’t take them. But you could. Are you willing to just look into it? Do a little poking around to see if you’re related like we think you are? And if you are, would you be willing to make contact with her? Kind of ease her into the idea slowly? These photos will stir up a lot of hard memories for an old lady. But I know it in my heart—the Lord laid it on my soul—I need to get these to her.”

One of the most important lessons I learned in my first couple years as a professional journalist was not to get emotionally involved with a story. There was simply too much heartbreaking stuff you had to write about. To let yourself empathize with the boy who was being bullied or the man who had lost his business or the woman whose daughter had been abducted, when there was nothing you could do to help the situation beyond making a voice heard—it was just too heavy a burden to bring home with you every night. So I built up a wall around my heart and stayed within it at all times when it came to work.

But there was something about this man’s eyes, the crooked lines on either side of his mouth suggesting he had found as much to frown at in life as to smile about, that chipped away at that wall.

I tapped my finger on the table. “Why do you have them if she’s the one who took them?”

“She didn’t take them. My uncle did. But he’s gone. They belong to her now.”

“Why?”

“She’s his wife.”

An interracial couple in the 1960s? This was getting interesting. Maybe I could work this into my larger series of articles about the riots and the time surrounding them. It had a great human angle, a larger cultural-historical angle, a connection to a beloved NFL player. I could even frame it as a personal family story if I truly was related. The question was, would I have the time? I still hadn’t been able to crack the protective shield around Judge Sharpe, the white whale of my investigative series, and time was running out.

“Okay, let’s say I am related to her. I still don’t know her and she doesn’t know me, so why would she even listen to me?”

“Miss Balsam, do you believe in God?”

The question caught me off guard. “Yes.”

“Do you believe he works all things together for his glory?”

My parents believed that. My sister did. I had once. Before I’d seen just how chaotic and messed up and out of control the world was. If journalism had taught me anything, it was that we were all just out there flailing and stumbling through a minefield of dangers and predators and dumb blind chance. But it was obvious that Mr. Rich believed God had given him a task—return these items—and that he would get no rest until the task was completed.

Instead of answering his question, I asked one of my own. “Why don’t you just ship it to her?”

“No, that ain’t the way.”

I waited for a logical reason why not, but clearly none was forthcoming.

“Would you just look into it?” he said.

Those beseeching brown eyes tugged a few more bricks out of my wall.

“Sure. I’ll look into it,” I said.

Mr. Rich nodded and slid a business card across the table. I avoided Linden’s sharp gaze as I pocketed the card and squeezed out of my chair.

“It was so nice meeting you,” I said. “Thanks for lunch.”

I walked out into the windy, sun-drenched afternoon, handed a dollar to the homeless guy who paced and mumbled a few yards from the door, and headed down the street to the old Federal Reserve building, which had housed the shrinking Free Press staff since 2014, and where a pile of work awaited me.

I tried to concentrate on the unending march of emails marked urgent in my inbox, including one from my editor—My office, ASAP—but my mind was spinning out all the directions this new story idea could go. This was decidedly inconvenient because I needed to focus.

I’d been stalking Judge Sharpe through his affable and unsuspecting son Vic for months, and I finally felt like a break was imminent. Vic had texted me last night to set up a meeting after he, in his words, “discovered something big I think you’ll be interested to know.” I had to get these photos off my mind for the moment, and the best way to do that was to get the research ball rolling.

I slipped out to the stairwell and pulled up Ancestry.com on my phone. A few minutes and thirty dollars later, I was clicking on little green leaf icons that waved at me from the screen. I found my parents and then began tracing my father’s branch back to the family tree. Grandfather Richard, Great-Uncle Warner, and ping, just like that, a great-aunt born Eleanor Balsam.

Taken from “We Hope For Better Things” by Erin Bartels. Copyright © 2019 by Erin Bartels. Used by permission of http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/revell.


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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.

Introducing the Hope By the Book 2019 Reading Challenge!

Do you like making lists? I do. And I’ll let you in on a not-so-well-kept secret: My favourite kind of lists are book lists! Even when I was a child I enjoyed making lists of all the books by my favourite authors. And oh, the satisfaction when I could cross another one off my list because it had taken up residence on my bookshelf.

As a book blogger and reviewer, I get plenty of opportunities to make bookish lists, but one of my favourite lists of all is the one I begin making at the end of each year listing all the new releases for the following year. Once I’ve done that, I can begin on my favourite list of all: my TBR!

Despite being my favourite list of all, it’s not an easy one to compile. For starters, there are so many wonderful new releases each month it’s impossible to read them all, even if I devote myself solely to reading new releases. Then there are the books that released the previous year that I didn’t get around to, the books I hear other readers raving about—and, of course, I want to make sure I have variety in my reading diet: different genres, a mix of non-fiction and fiction…

Are you beginning to feel a little overwhelmed?

Take a few deep breaths. Ready? Breathe in…two…three…four, and out…two…three…four. Feeling better? Feel free to keep taking those deep breaths while I share some good news with you!

Here at Hope by the Book, we understand how traumatic it can be to maintain a healthy bookish diet. That’s why we’ve created the Hope by the Book Reading Challenge for 2019. It’s perfectly tailored to meet all your bookish nutritional needs while giving you the freedom to choose the books you read!

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Here’s how it works.

There are three levels to the challenge: Avid Reader (2 books per month), Voracious Reader (1 extra book each month), and Insatiable Reader (2 extra books per month). You choose the level that best suits your reading appetite. So if you class yourself as a voracious reader, for example, you would choose two books from the Avid Reader list each month, plus one additional book each month from the Voracious Reader list.

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Each month, we’ll be talking about the challenge on the blog, sharing some book suggestions and encouragement. And make sure you watch out for us on social media as well. We’ll be using the hashtag #HBTB2019reads, and we’d love for you to do the same so we can see what you’re reading!

Want the whole reading challenge as a PDF? Download it HERE!

Here’s wishing you a blessed and bookish 2019!

In Review... December 28, 2018

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Happy Friday after Christmas! We hope you had a wonderful time with loved ones and moments to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday. As you look ahead to the new year, here’s another round of book reviews to inspire your TBR list! A fabulous batch this week - several bookmarked reviews for you!


Inspirational Historical Romance
THIS HOMEWARD JOURNEY
Misty M. Beller
SERIES: Heart of the Mountains #5

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In the fifth installment of Beller’s Heart of the Mountains series, she addresses the problem of addiction (rampant even in the 1800's) in a truthful manner, without being graphic. It is refreshing to see a strong female lead with backbone, and Rachel Gray is full of grit and determination to keep herself and her son safe while traveling through the wilds of Montana. While Seth Grant made some bad decisions in the past, he is now a understanding and more approachable person. The description of the Canadian mountains is picturesque, and it is enjoyable to see the interaction between Rachel and Seth during the journey. (MISTY Y M. BELLER BOOKS, INC. Oct., 306 pp., $14.95)

Reviewer: Patsy Glans

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Romantic Suspense
CODE OF VALOR
Lynette Eason
SERIES: Blue Justice #3

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An intense beginning followed by an action-filled plot sequence keeps readers riveted in this third book in Eason’s Blue Justice series. What had been a quiet lake-side vacation for Detective Brady St. John turns into a deadly game of protection of Emily Chastain, a woman with a complex past, after several attempts on her life. Readers will enjoy the fast-paced development and unraveling the layers of mystery surrounding the case and, more specifically, the characters. With twists and turns, plus the involvement of a network of law enforcement and medical teams, each chapter of Code of Valor will entertain readers with visual imagery, while impacting them with themes of perseverance, self-image and love. Thrilling and captivating, Code of Valor makes its mark for romantic suspense readers. (REVELL, Jan., 336 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Contemporary Romance
THE RANCHER’S UNEXPECTED BABY
Jill Lynn
SERIES: Colorado Grooms #2

Fans of “older brother’s friend” or “childhood crush” romance tropes will especially enjoy this delightfully heartwarming ranching duo and the sweet baby bringing them together. Their journey through grief and regrets inspires tears, laughter, and gratitude. Emma’s crush and her resulting anti-stalker self-talks are stiff competition for Gage’s brand-new dad skills and unexpected (and assumedly forbidden) attraction to his friend’s little sister in the levity department. These authentic characters reflect the everyday attraction and connection forged through life’s less than glamorous yet essential pursuits such as housecleaning, cooking, and caring for little ones. Emma’s genuine love of children and compassion for others brings balance and contrast to Gage’s determination to avoid any and all relational entanglements. Lynn skillfully crafts a story that lingers within the heart while championing second chances, forgiveness, priorities, and love. (LOVE INSPIRED, Jan., 224 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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...she believed in love with a capital L—the conquer-anything kind.
— The Rancher's Unexpected Baby

Inspirational Non-Fiction/Evangelism & Ministry
LOVE WHERE YOU LIVE: How to Live Sent in the Place You Call Home
Shauna Pilgreen

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Part memoir, part instruction manual, and part encouragement, Love Where You Live challenges readers to live out the great commission wherever they call home. Whether handing out free pizza to the neighbors, interceding for the people she sees but hasn’t yet met, or raising their children in a community of faith, Shauna Pilgreen and her family strive to make intentional, authentic connections in a city that thrives on individual expression. It’s not always easy.  The author expresses genuine honesty as she shares some of the challenges and hard conversations she had with God when He called her family from a small southern town to San Francisco. Yet, her joy is evident in the connections she’s made and the faith that is forming in some of the people she’s met in her city. This book is a call to action for all believers to see where God has planted them as a mission field. (REVELL, Jan., 272 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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If those who live near us are to know we are Christians by our love, it must be on display.
— Love Where You Live

Contemporary Amish Romance
SEASONS OF AN AMISH GARDEN
Amy Clipston

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These heart-warming stories of four ‘garden couples’ continue the author’s tradition of well-written sweet romance with a glimpse of realistic difficulties in relationships. They might be young, but these characters learn quickly that compromise is key and faith must be absolute, both in each other and in God. Young adult readers will enjoy the relatable perspective of these young people, who are still managing the difficulties of growing up as they navigate both their new romances and their places in the Amish community. Service to an elderly neighbor and the homeless in their area is a priority for them as well, and Clipston integrates their collaborative efforts with their personal growth flawlessly. (ZONDERVAN, Jan., 386 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Kerry Sutherland

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Bookmarked Review

Contemporary Amish Cozy Mystery
KAPPY KING & THE PIE KAPER
Amy Lillard
SERIES: An Amish Mystery #3

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Kappy King, her word-of-the-day calendar (and the rest of her endearing quirks), her English sidekick Edie (and Edie’s special needs brother Jimmy - and their endearing quirks), and hunky detective Jack Jones return with all the wit and warmth readers have come to expect from this series. Kappy is genuine and completely lovable, and the author’s portrayal of her is heartfelt if a bit delightfully tongue-in-cheek at times. Her sidekick Edie - Kappy’s direct opposite at least outwardly - provides the perfect counterpart, and this dynamic duo (along with Jimmy) may soon take over Jack’s job if he isn’t careful. The well-plotted case will appeal to cozy mystery fans - even if they aren’t a fan of Amish fiction. Lillard’s dry sense of humor, engaging characters, and on-point comedic timing are ideal for those looking for a book that makes them smile from the first page to the last. (ZEBRA, Dec., 352 pp., $12.95)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Romantic Suspense
SECRETS AT CEDAR CABIN
Colleen Coble
SERIES: Lavender Tides #1

Murder, mystery, mayhem and more! With villains who hide in plain sight, and heroes who don't, readers will quickly fall deep into the reading rabbit hole that is Colleen Coble's newest story. In fact, this book will be almost impossible to set down as Coble handles hard topics such as murder and human trafficking with decorum and ease. With a striking writing style, the author beautifully blends the lives of multiple characters whose every strength and flaw is utilized to create a masterpiece that will linger in readers’ minds long after the book is finished. Awesome read! (THOMAS NELSON, Jan, 352 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Alysha Worthen

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Suspense/Time-Slip Fiction
THE CURSE OF MISTY WAYFAIR
Jaime Jo Wright

The past and present collide in this time-slip suspense, weaving the lives of two women together in a high-intensity thriller. With emotions running wild, readers will get lost in this story from the very first page. While there are several elements that may be triggers for some readers, Wright presents these aspects tastefully and respectfully. One poignant takeaway is the concept that if the secrets of the past are never brought to the surface, history is doomed to repeat itself. Even more importantly though, Wright reminds us that to find true identity, we must first seek The Creator. Prepare for a mystery transpiring through time that will stimulate the senses. (BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS, Jan, 384 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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We weren’t created to find our identity in life. We were created to discover our Creator. In doing so, our identity is defined.
— The Curse of Misty Wayfair

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

Middle-Grade Books Review Round-Up

It’s been a long time since we editors of Hope By the Book have been middle-graders, so when we wanted to know what some of the best middle grade books were right now we turned to someone in this age bracket :) Felicity Younts is the daughter of author Elizabeth Byler Younts, and we’re thrilled to have her on board the HBTB team. Today, she rounds up a few of her favorite reads to share with us…

Bookmarked Review

Middle Grade Fiction
THE WILLOUGHBYS
Lois Lowry

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An unforgettable story with the most unconventional plot! The Willoughbys introduces the reader to parents who don’t particularly like their children and children who don’t particularly like their parents and do what they can to get rid of each other—but don’t let that scare you off! In the midst of the hilarity there is a message of hope laced throughout that will make this book a family favorite. While the plot is outlandish it offers readers sibling loyalty and perseverance through hardships. The Willoughby children and the adults that eventually love them create the kind of unconventional family that could even bring a tear to Lemony Snicket’s Count Olaf’s eye. A special story by beloved and award-winning author Lois Lowry is a perfect read-aloud for the whole family. (HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY, Mar 2008, 176 pp., $6.29)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Middle-Grade Historical Fiction
THE GAWGON AND THE BOY
Lloyd Alexander

From Award winning Lloyd Alexander comes one of his lesser-known books, The Gawgon and the Boy, a coming of age story about an eleven-year-old boy who must be tutored by his unusual great aunt who he calls The Gawgon (referring to a mythological monster). The Boy learns more than dry academics and the two comrades travel to places near and far and even in other times through their imaginations. They form a friendship no one would’ve expected. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You will love The Gawgon and the Boy. It makes for a wonderful read aloud, too! (DUTTON JUVENILE, May 2001, 256 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Middle-Grade Historical Fiction
INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN

Thanhha Lai

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The protagonist’s distinctive voice offers the reader a profoundly important perspective from a little girl who finds herself as a Vietnam refugee. The Hà family flees their homeland during the Vietnam war only to find that arriving to America brings them an entirely new set of unexpected challenges. This award-winning book is masterfully written in free verse—which moves the story along uniquely and quickly. Readers will cherish the family love and perseverance. (HARPER COLLINS, Jan 2013, 288 pp., $8.99 )

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Bookmarked Review

Middle-Grade Contemporary Fiction
WONDER
R.J. Palacio

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Wonder is a thought-provoking and realistic story about the hardships of a boy, Auggie, born with birth defects that greatly affect his facial features. He’s been generally protected from the all-seeing-eyes of the public until he attends middle school. The reader will hear the unvarnished thoughts and feelings not only from Auggie but his older sister and a few of his friends. Wonder is a story about the strengths and weaknesses of the human heart and friendships when put to the test. (KNOPF BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS, Feb 2012, 320 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Middle-Grade Contemporary Fiction
A LONG WALK TO WATER
Linda Sue Park

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This gut-wrenching story, based on actual events, takes the reader deeply into Sudan. The dual timeline story joins the physical walks for water and refuge with the mental walks of sorrows and burdens in the young lives of two children during different times in Sudan’s tumultuous history. One thread is about a boy who must run from everything he knows because war is at his doorstep—he’s faced with soldiers, alligators, and even lions. The second is about a girl who must walk eight hours a day just so her family can have clean water. This NYT Bestseller is a take-your-breath-away story. (HMH Books for Young Readers, Oct 2011, 128 pp., $7.99)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Bookmarked Review

Middle-Grade Fantasy
TUCK EVERLASTING
Natalie Babbitt

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This fairytale-like story will bring readers on a timeless journey. While Tuck Everlasting is placed in a realistic and historical setting it is laced with the magic of eternal youth. Young Winnie is ripped from her quiet, boring life by a rogue family with an over 100 year old secret. Her adventure, the fountain of youth, a jail-break scheme, a little romance, and perhaps the luckiest toad in the world all together form a fantastical tale. Like a tall glass of cold water on a summer’s day—the reader will be left wanting more and yet will be fully satisfied at the same time. A wonderful read alone or read aloud. (SQUARE FISH, Aug 2007, 160 pp., $7.30)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Middle-Grade Fantasy
THE MYSTERIOUS HOWLING
Maryrose Wood
SERIES: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1

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This hilarious and mysterious story, noted to be worthy of the Lemony-Snicket fans, will soon be a family favorite. When Penelope, new governess and graduate from Swanburne Academy for Bright Females, arrives to Ashton Place she learns that her three charges are children who were found in the woods—aptly named Alexander, Cassiopeia, and Beowulf. Their academics become secondary to learning to eat and speak properly, and—for goodness-sakes—to stop chasing squirrels! This first installment of the series offers laugh-out-loud and tender moments—and a lot of howling. The hefty amount of intrigue about other characters also helps to keep the pages turning and a quick click to buy book 2. (BALZER & BRAY, Apr 2015, 288 pp., $6.99)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Andy Stanley's call to Irresistible faith

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Andy Stanley founded Atlanta-based North Point Ministries in 1995, and today NPM has six churches in the Atlanta area and a network of over 70 churches globally, serivng almost 118,000 people every week. Stanley himself is the author of more than 20 books and, as the host of Your Move with Andy Stanley, his seven million messages each month are reaching viewers and listeners across the globe. Stanley’s newest text, Irresistible, seeks to inform and equip Christ followers to rid themselves and their local church bodies of the anemic version of Christianity which the author believes has undermined today’s believer’s credibility and evangelistic effectiveness. Stanley felt compelled to write on this topic at this time because he was concerned about the next generation’s faith – a generation who has unlimited access to misinformation about faith, the Bible, and Christianity.

Stanley writes, “The rise and influence of the New Atheists have shifted the playing field. In response, students and grads aren’t opting for atheism. They are opting for ‘I don’t know anymore.’ Why? Well, they tell us. They don’t ‘believe’ anymore. They don’t know what to believe anymore. Christianity appears indefensible and untenable in our scientific digital world. But atheism isn’t appealing either. So more and more folks are stepping into what they consider the neutral zone of ‘I don’t know and don’t pressure me to decide.’” In his text, Stanley argues that the faith this next generation has abandoned was a “straw man” version to begin with. The author believes that many individuals have placed their faith in a “text-based version, not the original, event-based version” and thus the need for rethinking what the foundation of the Christian faith originally was and, still is today.

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Stanley cites three main reasons why today’s culture so easily resists Christianity unnecessarily. The author explains, “Christians and our fatally flawed approach to defending and talking about our faith. In the world where people recognized and revered the Bible as a sacred, trustworthy book, it was enough to leverage it as our basis for faith, but those days are long gone. The church has not adjusted. The church hasn’t even responded.” Stanley invites readers to rediscover and embrace the version of faith as presented in the New Testament book of Acts. Stanley cites, “Their faith was based on an event – the resurrection of Jesus.”

Not content to leave Christians wondering how to bridge this gap between an anemic version of Christianity versus a robust, passionate one that will be irresistible to Christ followers as well as non-believers, Stanley shares how today’s believer can become change makers in their communities. Stanley states, “Christianity becomes less resistible when Christians love like they have been loved. I refer to this as the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as God in Christ has done unto you. Christianity becomes less resistible when we shift the foundation of our faith from a true book to a verifiable event. Christians don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead because the Bible says so. Our case is way better than that. We believe Jesus rose from the dead because Matthew said so. Mark said so. Luke said so. John said so. James, the brother of Jesus, came to believe so. Peter said so. And last and least…according to him anyway…Paul said so. And Paul said so about three years after the actual event.” And because they said so, today’s believer can go out and live and love like these early apostles.