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

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

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

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

In Review... December 21, 2018

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Happy last Friday before Christmas! Can you believe it?!? Here’s another batch of recommended reads for you when you’re ready to take a break this weekend :)


Historical Amish Romance
WHERE THE HEART TAKES YOU
Virginia Wise
SERIES: Amish New World #1

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An historical Amish debut and the beginning of a new series, this intriguing novel sheds light on the harsh realities faced by the earliest Amish settlers in America. By emphasizing their reliance on God and each other, the story allows these engaging characters to find a place in readers’ hearts. Greta is genuinely likable, despite her frequent cluelessness, and Jacob’s layered backstory adds further dimension to their current situation. Both hero and Heroine are headstrong, and romantic chemistry isn’t the only emotion sparking between them - the author does a good job of keeping both of these elements realistic and not over the top. Some of the editing could be a bit tighter (head hopping, telling vs. showing) but overall the charming plot, lovable characters, and inspiring history overcome these minor issues. Readers will chuckle, smile, swoon, and maybe even shed a few tears, and for sure they will be ready for another trip to the Amish New World. (ZEBRA, Dec. 288 pp., $7.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Bookmarked Review

Amish Contemporary Romance/Novella Collection
THE AMISH SWEET SHOP
Emma Miller, Laura Bradford, Mary Ellis

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Stock up on chocolate before diving into this sweet read or prepare to fight off chocolate cravings throughout! Each of the three stories in this collection have a distinct flavor, per each author’s unique style, but are all tied together through Beechy’s Sweets. “The Sweetest Courtship” by Miller is completely delightful, the perfect blend of wit, warmth, and romance as Jacob and Rose are thrown together with a little help from his mom Clara and a broken knee. Bradford’s “The Sweetest Truth” is a heartwarming story with humor and heart - as well as some sizzling romantic tension. Readers will embrace Sadie’s journey to accepting that she is still worthy of love, and they’ll fall head over heels in love with Amos in the process. “Noting Tastes So Sweet” by Mary Ellis doesn’t have quite the same tone as the other two, and it doesn’t have romance as a focus. Despite this - and a couple of continuity hiccups - it stands well on its own with layered characters and a compelling plot. (KENSINGTON, Dec., 304 pp., $15.95)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Children’s Picture Book
ABC BIBLE VERSES FOR LITTLE ONES
Rebecca Lutzer

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Young readers now have a fun and creative way to learn their ABC’s. Each page is filled with beautiful, vibrant illustrations that will catch the eye of any youngster. Each bible verse presented with the letter is in simple format for young readers to easily understand. Lutzer has provided a lovely, engaging book to introduce little ones to the bible and the Lord. Perfect for little ones, early readers, and even young Christians, this gem has a little something for everyone. (HARVEST HOUSE, Jan., 32 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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Inspirational Historical Women’s Fiction
WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS
Erin Bartels

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Debut Novelist Erin Bartels gives readers a compelling story that touches on the difficult topics of interracial marriage, social status, and generational secrets. Although living during different times, Elizabeth, Nora and Mary show similarities that stem far beyond their relation to each other. They each learn the importance of staying true to oneself, defying the odds, and going against the grain of societal pressures. 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. (REVELL, Jan., 392 pp., $9.99)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Historical Romance
FLIGHTS OF FANCY
Jen Turano
Series: American Heiresses #1

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Turano delivers a fresh new story that is filled with laughter, mischief, danger, and romance. Isadora Delafield, an American heiress of the Gilded Age, embarks upon a most peculiar adventure, for the safety of her future and her person. True to the author’s style, this book includes (more than) a few mishaps from the heroine as well as devious antics from the villain. The children will pull at heartstrings, the hero will steal all hearts, and when readers come to the conclusion of this story, they will be begging for more Turano adventures. Written with all the unique flavors of this author’s voice, Flights of Fancy is a light-hearted, fun-filled adventure every reader should experience. (BETHANY HOUSE, Jan., 368 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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A woman who doesn’t like chickens isn’t to be trusted.
— Flights of Fancy

Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Romantic Suspense
NORTHERN DECEPTION
Laurie Wood
SERIES: Heroes of the Tundra #1

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Readers are taken to the dangerous yet beautiful Canadian tundra in Laurie Wood’s debut novel. Packed full of action, romance, and fun, readers will find themselves holding their breath as Kira and Lukas dodge bullets, bombs and more. Woods also brings in a special-needs character, adorable Sophie, adding a much needed bright spot to a novel that is so full of suspense; readers cannot help but fall in love with her sweet spirit. The fierce protectiveness Lukas portrays will have readers swooning as he battles to save his beloved Kira from harm. Wood captures the reader’s attention from page one and doesn’t let go all the way to the end. (ANAIAH PRESS, Dec., 170 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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Inspirational Non-fiction/Christian Living
BRAVE LOVE: Making Space for You to Be You
Lisa Leonard

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Fans of the Lisa Leonard Designs jewelry line will find the founder’s memoir especially appealing. Leonard, remarkably one of three sets of twins, shares how strong a connection she feels to her twin sister Chrissie and describes an idyllic childhood, yet confesses she constantly struggled to be perfect in order to be loved. The author describes her early life, marriage, and how her business started and eventually developed into the multi-million dollar company it is today. Readers, however, will find themselves most connected to Leonard’s struggles as a mom to her oldest son, David, who was born with Cornelia de Lange syndrome, and how she worked through grief and shame in order to parent her son with confidence. Leonard’s ongoing theme throughout every chapter is that it takes courage to love and bravery to communicate what one needs most, giving readers much to contemplate. (ZONDERVAN, Jan., 256 pp., $22.99)

Reviewer: Michele Howe

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Contemporary Young Adult
PRETTY IN PUNXSUTAWNEY
Laurie Boyle Crompton

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Many people would love to have a do-over day, and that’s exactly what Andie gets as she starts her senior year … again and again and again. Can a true love’s first kiss stop the endless cycle and allow Andie to see tomorrow? Various social issues and cliques (though there is a lack of diversity) are addressed as Andie struggles to find where she fits in. This book is a blast from the past, which may make it more relatable for an adult audience vs. the targeted YA crowd, who may not understand the 80s movies references. While the characters acted and spoke like teens, they felt more like teens from a few decades ago vs. present day. There is some predictability, especially if you’re familiar with John Hughes’s movies, but it’s a quick, fun, enjoyable read overall. (BLINK, JAN, 304 pp, $17.99)

Reviewer: Leslie L. McKee

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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

In Review... November 16, 2018

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As Thanksgiving approaches, some of our reviewers are taking today to share reviews for books we’re thankful for, on “In Review” .


RACHEL DIXON

Kristy Cambron’s books always seem to find a way to sneak into the unexpected places of my heart and speak to the very depths of my soul. Kristy was one of my favorite authors long before I ever cracked the pages open on one of her books. Her heart for God and her heart for her readers has moved me and changed my perspective on life on more than one occasion. Her stories are filled with passion, faith, and love that is not only believable, but it is also tangible. The Lost Castle is her most recent release, and as of right now, my favorite of her stories. As I sit here just thinking about this story, I am moved to tears. That is how profoundly I was touched by her book. I am grateful to Kristy for writing from her heart, for writing the words God has given to her, and for sharing them with the world.

Gold Star Review

Inspirational Romance/Time-Slip
THE LOST CASTLE
Kristy Cambron
Series: A Lost Castle Novel #1

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A Time-Slip romance that will touch the depths of the soul. Three courageous women, three swoon-worthy heroes, and a castle that binds them all together. Travel through history to discover their connection in this story of courage, love, passion, and faith. Readers will be entranced by the beautiful imagery and storyline found on these pages. Cambron’s words breathe new life into her readers. A story that will change your life, The Lost Castle is one that shouldn’t be missed. (THOMAS NELSON, Feb 2018, 384 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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KERRY SUTHERLAND

I am so grateful for the stories that Amy Clipston brings to us, and even as I enjoy each new release from her, my favorite has been and remains The Beloved Hope Chest, which closes out her Amish Heirloom series. Each book before shared hints of what was to come in this tale about a mother who is steadfast and wise for the daughters who are the focus of the first three books, leaving readers like me waiting and wanting to know more about her life before her girls. It is always easy for us to think of our parents and grandparents as those who fulfill specific roles in our own lives, without thinking of them of individuals with lives of their own, lives that (believe it or not!) were full of life and emotion long before we came into the world. This story is a reminder of that, and also of the power of deep friendship, devotion, and patience as we await God’s plans for us to unravel.

Bookmarked Review

Amish Romance
THE BELOVED HOPE CHEST
Amy Clipston
Series: An Amish Heirloom #4

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Mattie’s story is truly a journey of joy triumphing through tragedy, of love hoped for and found, and of children raised in the light of a great, unexpected love. The three books leading up to the final story, of a mother with a past she has never felt necessary to disclose to her daughters but now, as they are grown and creating new families with their own husbands, she agrees to satisfy their curiosity and share her story. Clipston outdoes herself in this novel, with a heroine who suffers through heartbreak realistically and a hero who will wait for her forever, satisfying readers who long for romance that remains believable and a hard-won but happy ending that reassures and inspires. (ZONDERVAN, May 2017, 320 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Kerry Sutherland

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ANNIE STURT

Thanksgiving is upon us and I’m extremely grateful for many things. One thing I’m especially grateful for are the many great stories from many great writers. In Christian Fiction, I find the solace, the comfort and many times the right message at just the right time. On top of all that, there are those stories that provide the perfect laughing storm to give me joy. Author Jen Turano’s books never failed to put a smile on my face, or had more chuckling, and at times, laughing so hard, tears developed as well as an aching soreness on both my cheeks and my tummy. When all else fails, isn’t laughter the best remedy? As my favorite book of hers to date, this second book in “A Class of Their Own” series embodies a lot of what you’ll find in the author’s other books, great characters, great story and a good message.

Gold Star Review

Historical Fiction
IN GOOD COMPANY
Jen Turano
Series: A Class of Their Own #2

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A delightful story of misfits and opposites, bookworms and social decorum, Jen Turano’s In Good Company will entertain readers for many years to come. Readers find a kindred spirit in Millie Longfellow with her heart of gold, yet misunderstood intentions. A bookworm in the truest form, her dedication to learning a word a day mixed in with her mispresented antics to be the best nanny society has known, Millie deserves a special place in every reader’s heart. Add in a stuffy gentleman with three rambunctious wards, and a series of unfortunately hilarious events will knock readers off their seat in laughter. With humor, a bit of suspense, great characters and just the right amount of faith, In Good Company is good company to keep. (BETHANY HOUSE, June 2015, 352 pp., $15.00)

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.

In Review... November 9, 2018

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Need a good read this weekend? We’ve got you covered with our reviews of non-fiction, contemporary romance, historical romance, Amish fiction, a cozy mystery, and a picture book for kids!


Inspirational Non-Fiction/Spiritual Growth
THE SOUL AT REST
Tricia McCary Rhodes

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In this revised & updated version of an earlier release, Tricia McCary Rhodes invites readers to pause the chaos of everyday life and practice the discipline of prayer on a more personal, more intimate level. Calling it a ‘pilgrimage of the soul’, she provides a practical and spiritually-focused guide to hone one’s prayer life with the ultimate goal of greater fellowship with God and a soul at rest. Chapters are divided into ‘days’, and each day features a section called ‘Practicing Prayer’ which encourages readers to prepare their hearts and ‘press in’ closer to God. The author writes authentically, sharing her own individual experience and wisdom while also remaining zeroed in on God’s wisdom with solid Scripture. Asking readers to adopt the journey as their own, the questions are designed for soul-level contemplation and growth. A great resource for personal Bible study and/or small groups. (NAVPRESS, Nov., 288 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Inspirational Non-Fiction/Personal Growth
CHOSEN FOR CHRIST: Stepping Into the Life You’ve Been Missing
Heather Holleman

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For anyone who struggles to be noticed or gain deserved recognition, for anyone who is trapped in a hamster-wheel cycle of waiting for the right person or place or purpose to come along, Heather Holleman has written a book for you. Scriptural truth weaves throughout the author’s transparent insight and relatable examples/analogies, and her easy writing style gives the book a conversational tone. Of particular meaning is the truth that women (and men) get so caught up in trying to live out God’s plan for their lives yet they very often forget to invite God into the process. Thoughtful questions at the end of each chapter help readers apply what they’ve just read and ultimately take further steps toward the new reality of living chosen for Christ. (MOODY, Oct, 192  pp., $13.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Amish Fiction
A SEAT BY THE HEARTH
Amy Clipston
SERIES: Amish Homestead #3

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Priscilla’s bravery in spite of a life enduring abuse, as well as Mark’s willingness to listen to his heart and leave his bachelor habits behind, allow for an unexpected and engaging romance that is trademark Clipston. Appearances by beloved characters from prior series installments add depth and community to the struggle this couple faces and, as always, the author offers fascinating insight into the multi-faceted Amish world. Tackling jealousy, gossip, and abuse, this story shares the power of forgiveness and hope and. above all, faith in God’s Word and His promises. Reconciliation is key in Clipston’s storylines, and Priscilla’s ongoing efforts to maintain a relationship with her family without abandoning her fledgling self-respect is a reality some readers will recognize and appreciate. (ZONDERVAN, Nov., 352 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Kerry Sutherland

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Inspirational Cozy Mystery
WHERE THERE’S A WILL
Amy Rognlie
Series: Short Creek Mystery #2

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Amy Rognlie continues her cozy mystery series which will grab readers' attention at the first paragraph and will not let up until the last. The past, present and future are cleverly intertwined, starting with a long ago post card that arrives with no explanation and complicates Callie's plans to build a home for victims of trafficking. Adding to the already-intriguing mystery, a young woman arrives in town and raises even more questions. Who is she? Why do people feel as though they already know her? A dash of romance, a dose of faith, and a mix of skillfully-written mystery plot threads keep reader interest high and make this book hard to put down. (MOUNTAIN BROOK INK, Nov., 250pp., $10.99)

Reviewer: Patsy Glans

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Contemporary Romance (Clean)
CHRISTMAS WISHES AND MISTLETOE KISSES
Jenny Hale

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Calling all Hallmark Christmas movie fans! This is your next fave read. Endearing characters and a fairy-tale-esque plot combine with the charm of the holidays and a to-die-for setting in this sweet romance that’s perfect for curling up with by a roaring fire. Nick Sinclair is much like his grand estate house - empty and impersonal and in need of some Christmas magic. Enter Abbey Fuller and her adorable son Max, their love of Christmas, a house to be decorated, and some well-placed mistletoe. There’s a reason the Cinderella tale remains such a popular, timeless plot, and Hale takes everything beloved about this trope and adds her own style. Abbey and Nick’s story is less about the ‘prince’ rescuing the poor, mistreated woman and more about Abbey doing a bit of rescuing herself. Just in time for the holidays, this is a tender and uplifting romance with plenty of charm and Christmas spirit. (FOREVER, Oct., 368 pp., $6.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Contemporary Romance (Clean)
CHASING SOMEDAY
Crystal Walton
SERIES: Home in You #4

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This tender-hearted romance will delight Walton's readers through and through. A story packed full of drama, Livy and Chase are the perfect match for each other, even if they are too stubborn to admit it to themselves at first. Livy’s emotionally traumatic life has led to choices with repercussions she must deal with, but she also has to find forgiveness for herself and learn that she is worthy of a life filled with good things and happiness. Yet, along with the more sobering themes and the many truths that will speak to readers' hearts, there is also plenty of fun courtesy of Livy’s quirky personality and general clumsiness/awkwardness. After all, a woman who lives on caffeine is the best type of heroine. Chase's protective nature makes him an endearing aspect of the story as well, and he is sure to pop up on this year’s book boyfriends lists! (IMPACT EDITIONS, LLC., Oct., 249 pp., $13.95)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Historical Romance
ROMANCING THE BRIDE
Melissa Jagears
SERIES: Frontier Vows #1

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Read this marriage-of-convenience novel from the safety of your favorite swooning couch - and invest in a good air conditioner and some fans. Jacob is a yummy cowboy/marshal hero with a good heart and a surprisingly tender side. He also has a penchant for making Annie (and readers) blush with his winks and meaningful looks, a pastime he quickly comes to love the more time he spends with his reserved new wife. Jagears writes that balance between gentlemanly respect and simmering passion so well and perhaps never so skillfully as she does between Jake and Annie. Along with the sizzling romantic chemistry, the author also creates both a palpable tension and a comforting warmth that permeate the entire story from the first page to nearly the last. As Annie and Jake face one seemingly-impossible situation after another, hope and the power of Love remain at the ready. (UTMOST PUBLISHING, Oct., 410 pp., $12.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Children’s Picture Book/Christmas
THE WARM-HEARTED SNOWMAN
Sigal Adler
SERIES: Christmas Picture Books for Children #4

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An endearing story about kindness, friendship, and the Holiday Spirit, Sadler creates a beautiful world of magical winter fun to encourage these traits in children. Learning how to care for others and put their needs first is a timely and important theme, at Christmas and any time of the year. Gorgeous illustrations draw children in, and young readers will want to revisit this story several times to be transported to the imaginary world of talking snowmen and little rabbit friends. (SIGAL ADLER, Oct., 50 pp., $10.99)

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.

In Review... November 2, 2018

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For your weekend reading pleasure, we’ve got reviews for nonfiction, contemporary romcom, suspense, Amish fiction, and dystopian!


Inspirational Non-Fiction/Personal Growth/Memoir
THE VOICE
Sandi Patty (with Cindy Lambert)

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In The Voice, singer Sandi Patty shares her struggles with finding hers. As a recording artist, Patty only expressed herself onstage through music but there was a world of hurt, shame, and pain in all other areas of her life. She shares some difficult seasons and the truths she learned through them without offering excuses or justifications for her sin. In addition to her experiences, Patty encourages readers to find their own voices while emphasizing it won’t be easy but is worth it. At the end of every chapter, readers are provided questions and exercises to put the lessons into practice along with a scripture verse to reflect on. Despite some difficult topics which include sexual abuse, a broken marriage, food addiction, and more, Patty’s personality, sense of humor, and heart for broken people shine through the pages. The Voice is like sitting down with a friend for an update on life, complete with laughter, tears, and healing. (ZONDERVAN, Nov., 208 pp., $22.99)

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Contemporary Romantic Comedy
TEAL PAISLEY TIGHTS
Barbara Brutt

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Pleasing other people is Jadyn’s number one concern. But what is it that she wants in life? Creative, unique, and original, Brutt brings a breath of fresh literature in her debut novel. Real life issues can be found in this fun yet truth-packed story, and remembering to follow the passions God has placed in one’s heart is a lesson which benefits all. With a cast of characters spanning a wide variety, this story is sure to touch the heart and elicit many laughs along the way. Waltz into this perfect Fall read and lose yourself in the artistry of words. (VINSPIRE PUBLISHING, Nov., 370  pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Amish Fiction/Novella Collection
AN AMISH HOMECOMING
Amy Clipston, Beth Wiseman, Shelley Shepard Gray, and Kathleen Fuller

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Four brand new novellas by four of the top authors in Amish fiction equals a fabulous reading experience from start to finish! Clipston’s No Place Like Home features young widow Eva Dienner who returns home to her estranged parents with her young son; this is a sweet story with great romantic chemistry, a swoony hero, and layered emotions. In When Love Returns, Wiseman tells the story of Hurricane Harvey survivor and single mom Sarah Zook who has no choice but to come home with her young daughter; lots of dimensions to this story - with plenty of emotional conflict and long held secrets. Gray’s The Courage to Love catches readers up with fan favorite Irene Keim and the ways she’s moving on after a tragic death; the couple who have taken her in are delightful, and their son Marcus adds the right combination of conflict and romance. Finally, in What Love Built, Fuller heads back to Birch Creek with a story that reminds readers of the power of community and second-chances at love. (ZONDERVAN, Oct., 416 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Inspirational Contemporary Amish Romance
AN AMISH WIFE FOR CHRISTMAS
Patricia Davids
Series: North Country Amish #1

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Prolific author Davids starts a new series, set in Maine, with a fledgling Amish community and plenty of layers (and not just the outerwear needed for the stark cold and snow). The author’s trademark wit and charm are fully in place, and readers will fall in love with the endearing characters - particularly a dog named Sadie Sue who steals hearts just as much as she steals the show. Her relationship with Michael (who is recovering from PTSD) and with Jenny (the heroine’s little sister) are both so well-written that readers may find themselves wishing a dog like Sadie Sue would find them too. At the core of the story is Bethany Martin’s struggle to raise her siblings alone (particularly her troubled brother Ivan), her blossoming friendship with Michael, and Michael’s battle to overcome his PTSD. Well-written with a sweet romance and lovable characters, this is the perfect choice to get in the mood for Christmas and winter weather! (LOVE INSPIRED, Nov, 224 pp, $5.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Inspirational Amish Fiction/Romantic Suspense
AMISH CHRISTMAS EMERGENCY
Dana R. Lynn
Series: Amish Country Justice #5

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In Lynn’s latest installment in the “Amish Country Justice” series (#5), Nurse Alexa Grant has a stalker who has followed her across the country. He will stop at nothing to have her, but police officer Gavin, a determined hero, vows to keep her, and those around her, alive. Relationships develop at a natural pace amid the twists and turns of this romantic suspense. The mystery is solid, and sharp details, mixed with action from the get-go, keep the reader guessing. God’s grace and the importance of forgiveness are evident in the characters. (LOVE INSPIRED, Nov, 224 pp, $5.99)

Reviewer: Leslie L. McKee

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Inspirational Young Adult/Dystopian
ENCLAVE
Thomas Locke

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With all the lawlessness of a Wild West tale, this intense story is a stark look at a future where hope is rare and fear is rampant. Caleb, Kevin, and Zeke are young adults charged with the fate of others like them, known as ‘specials,’ and ultimately, ‘adepts,’ who have a variety of mental gifts that make them targets of the government as well as others want to control them.  Strong yet believably flawed characters and a snappy pace will keep readers eagerly anticipating chapter after chapter, and ultimately, wishing for more books. (REVELL, Nov., 288 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Kerry Sutherland

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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.