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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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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

Tis The Season: An Advent Devotional Roundup

The Thanksgiving turkey is either in the trash or the freezer (hopefully) at this point, and we’ve officially entered the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Christmas music plays 24-7, Santa is ringing bells at every Walmart and mall entrance, and even the Hallmark Mysteries channel has been taken over by non-mystery Christmas movies. (I’m a little bitter about that one, in case you couldn’t tell haha!)

IT’S CHRISTMASTIME!!!

My favorite season, but also one of the toughest holidays for many people. Even if you’re not hit by stress, anxiety or depression as some are this season, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the shopping and baking and wrapping and decorating - to the point that we lose sight of the Reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

The devotionals in today’s roundup are especially designed to keep our eyes on Jesus and the Gift the world was given when He came to earth as a baby - the Son of God coming to redeem His children.

The first place we have to start is Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift series of books for personal reading and for family advent devotions.

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (Tyndale, Sept. 2013) - The popular blogger/author introduces readers to The Jesse Tree tradition, tracing the lineage of Jesus with each day’s gorgeously profound devotional reading.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (Tyndale, Nov 2014) - Beautifully illustrated, this 2016 ECPA Christian Book Award winner involves the whole family in The Jesse Tree advent tradition with Scripture, activities, and daily devotionals - all with children especially in mind. SEE INSIDE

The Wonder of the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (Tyndale, Nov 2017) - Voskamp takes ‘the greatest gift’ series one step further with this darling pop-up Jesse Tree book. Behind the twenty-five doors at the tree’s base are exquisitely designed ornaments that coordinate with the previous two books’ devotionals (though it also includes its own devotional booklet)

Continuing on with resources for families and kids, here are some of the best books out now:

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones (Zonderkidz, Mar 2007) - While not specifically an advent devotional, this IS a must-read for adults and children alike. Specific to this holiday season, the publishers have provided a free, downloadable advent reading plan for this precious book. You can grab that HERE

Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski (New Growth Press, Sept 2014) - Machowski guides families through advent with activities, songs, and stories that encompass the gospel message from Biblical prophecies to Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection and anticipated return.

The Way to the Manger by Jeff & Abbey Land (B&H Kids, Oct 2018) - Beautiful, appealing illustrations accompany the Advent devotions that point to our Savior. Space is provided for families to keep a record of their answers to questions, to create a journal keepsake of sorts for years to come.

When Will It Be Christmas? by Carol Garborg (Worthy, Sept 2016) - Bright & colorful, this advent devotional provides daily Scripture, discussion questions, stories, and activities for families to keep their focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

More interested in something for your own personal quiet time? Check out these great devotionals!

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus by Asheritah Ciuciu (Moody, Oct 2017) - This is a great book geared for either personal or family devotional time. Through 4 weeks of advent, she focuses on a different name of Jesus each week and provides daily reflections as well as suggested activities and service projects.

Jesus Calling for Christmas by Sarah Young (Thomas Nelson, Sept 2018) - With 50 selections from Young’s Jesus Calling devotionals, this beautiful collection keeps readers’ hearts in tune with Jesus during the busy holiday season. Also contains gorgeous seasonal images & Scripture.

Sacred Questions by Kellye Fabian (NavPress, Nov 2018) - While not strictly an advent devotional (it goes all year), it also provides a fabulous selection of devotions just for Advent (in a separate section) to help readers truly reflect on the meaning of Christmas.

21 Days of Christmas compiled by Kathy Ide (Broadstreet, Sept 2015) - Daily readings crafted by various authors specifically for fiction lovers, this is a lighter read than most on the list but provides a quick, refreshing reminder of our Savior and His birth.

Are you an adult who still loves to color? (Who isn’t?!? Bring me some colored pencils!) These devotional coloring books may be more your cup of tea…

All is Bright by Nancy Guthrie (Tyndale Momentum, Oct 2016) - This coloring book comes with 31 days of devotional insight from Guthrie, as well as bonus activities and even some kid-friendly coloring pages too!

Drawn into Christmas by Lisa Bogart (Worthy, Oct 2016) - Color your way through Christmas as you absorb these meaningful devotionals, Scriptures, hymns, carols, traditions, and personal stories!

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... October 26, 2018

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From contemporary & historical romance and romantic suspense to children’s titles and nonfiction, we’ve got your weekend reads covered!


Inspirational Contemporary Romance/Christmas
LONE STAR CHRISTMAS
Jolene Navarro
Miniseries: Lone Star Legacy #3

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When a tough bull-riding cowboy spends the holidays with his kid brothers, the wall blocking the soft parts of his heart slowly melts away. Facing the ghosts from his past and finally putting to rest the animosity between his founding family and the rest of the town may be a job too big to handle alone. He can wrangle a bull, but kid brothers? That's a whole different arena. Hallmark Christmas movie lovers will fall in love with this sweet romance. Family, love, forgiveness, and healing are the main aspects of this story. A quick read and Christmas themed, this is a great story to read during the upcoming holiday season. (LOVE INSPIRED, Nov., 224 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Inspirational Contemporary Romance
ON MAGNOLIA LANE
Denise Hunter
Series: Blue Ridge Romance #3

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Hunter caps the final installment of her Blue Ridge Romance series with a story of unsuspected romance toppled by revealed secrets extending to grace and the wisdom of forgiveness.  Trying to get Daisy to see him as more than a figure of authority, Pastor Jack hides behind the anonymity of internet dating. When Daisy starts to fall not only for Pastor Jack’s alter ego, TJ, but also Pastor Jack himself, things get a bit complicated.  Add in a life-changing family secret, and we have ourselves a hot mess. Despite the kerfuffle our characters are in, the author’s writing is splendid in laying the foundation for grace, building anticipation toward a climax when redemption is the only answer, and leaving readers satisfied and inspired. (THOMAS NELSON, Nov., 320 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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...sometimes you just have to extend a little grace to people. Not because they deserve it - but because we don’t deserve it either.
— On Magnolia Lane

Inspirational Romantic Suspense
IN TOO DEEP
Lynn H. Blackburn
Series: Dive Team Investigations #2

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Dive into Lynn Blackburn's newest thrilling read, where trust and loyalty are tested continuously. Readers will be hooked from the beginning when a message from the grave reveals there might be more deep-rooted evil going on in this small town than first appears, even as people turn a blind eye to it. Though this book deals with tough topics such as human trafficking, the author lightens the mood with lovable, witty characters who bring a bright side to the bleak situations. Blackburn also wonderfully captured the dynamic of friends who are more like family. (REVELL, Nov., 352 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Alysha Worthen

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Bookmarked Review

Children’s Picture Book
HOLES IN THE SKY
Patricia Polacco
Grades 1-4

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For everyone who fell in love with Miss Eula in Polacco’s touching 1992 release Chicken Sunday, she’s back in this prequel story set just after Trisha’s family moves into the ethnically diverse neighborhood. As well as opening up important discussions about loss and grief, Holes in the Sky paints a beautiful picture of a multicultural America where people embrace each other’s differences and commonalities. Polacco’s signature illustrations elevate the story even further, with a richly drawn focus on African American and Russian Jewish cultures. The plot and the characters settle right in the heart and make this delightful book one for the keeper shelf! (G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS, Sept., 48 pp., $18.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Inspirational Historical Romance/Novella
ENCHANTING NICHOLETTE
Dawn Crandall
Series: The Everstone Chronicles #5

Bookmarked Review

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Fans of Crandall’s Everstone Chronicles will be delighted to re-enter the realm of the Everstone family. With impeccable imagery, this short story will entice readers with the beauty of the Gilded Age. Romance to touch the innermost crevices of the heart, faith that moves the soul, and a hero unrivaled, this is a story that should not be missed. Don’t forget to visit the rest of the Everstone family in the rest of the series as well. (WHITAKER HOUSE, Oct., 176 pp., $12.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Inspirational Non-Fiction/Christian Living
ODD(LY) ENOUGH
Carolanne Miljavac

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Social media sensation and inspirational speaker Carolanne Miljavac pens an unyielding letter to readers in Odd(ly) Enough: Standing Out When the World Begs You To Fit In.  Authentic and relatable, it hits home with the many physical and emotional issues one faces from anxiety to abuse, self-doubt to depression and fear to grief.  Yet, in all that, the author encourages readers to see beyond the pain and find solace, strength and courage to let go and let God. Her coaching style of writing may not appeal to all, but her voice is true and honest, inspiring those that see themselves in her to strive to find their own voice. (SHILOH RUN PRESS, Nov., 224 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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How could you ever know just how strong you are if your strength has never been tested? How could you know that you can do hard things if everything is easy?
— Odd(Ly) Enough

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.

Give Audiobooks a Try!

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A year and a half ago, I was NOT a fan of audiobooks. Let me tell you! I turned up my nose at the thought of someone else reading these books to me. But, I have a secret for you. I am a slow reader. So when my reading schedule started to overrun every aspect of my life, I finally caved. It was a learning curve, not gonna lie. I am such a visual learner that retaining anything strictly via audio, was near impossible.

So I eased myself into it.

I started listening to books for which I already had the print copies. Following along with the narrator as they read. Pretty soon, I could listen to a book while I did the dishes, and I felt so much more accomplished by the end of the day.

Today, I am encouraging you to give audiobooks a try, too! I will give you a heads up, it may take some trial and error before you find narrators and/or genres that you mesh well with. Fantasy novels, with 5,000 main characters can be really hard to follow along with if you are reading the story for the first time. I have also found audiobooks to be extremely useful when there is a book that I want to re-read but can’t fit it into my “print book” schedule.

There are several different services for audiobooks: Audible, SCRIBD (my personal favorite) and the public libraries use Libby among others.

A few of my personal favorite audiobook titles are:

Contemporary Fiction

True to You
Becky Wade

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now. (BETHANY HOUSE, May 2017)

Dear Mr. Knightley
Katherine Reay

Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain. (THOMAS NELSON, Nov 2013)

Always Watching
Lynette Eason

When it becomes clear that popular psychiatrist and radio personality Wade Savage has a stalker, his father secretly hires Elite Guardians in order to protect his son. But when Wade's bodyguard is attacked and nearly killed, agency owner Olivia Edwards must step in and fill the gap. (REVELL, FEB 2016)

Historical Romance

The Lady and the Lionheart
Joanne Bischof

Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. (MASON JAR BOOKS, Aug 2016)

From this Moment
Elizabeth Camden

Stella West's artistic talent made her the toast of London, but when her beloved sister dies under mysterious circumstances she abandons everything and heads for Boston. With single-minded determination she fights to pierce the ring of secrecy surrounding her sister's death. (BETHANY HOUSE, June 2016)

Young Adult

Lunar Chronicles
Marissa Meyer

A forbidden romance.
A deadly plague.
Earth's fate hinges on one girl . . .

CINDER, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. (SQUARE FISH, Jan 2012)

Unblemished Trilogy
Sara Ella

Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength? (THOMAS NELSON, Oct 2016)

Children

Hank the Cow Dog
John R. Erickson

The popular Hank the Cowdog series is based on the humorous antics of the canine Head of Ranch Security. In the first book, Hank and his little buddy, Drover, set out to solve a series of baffling murders on the ranch. Is Hank a suspect? An Outlaw? Can he clear his good name? (VIKING JUVENILE, 1980)

HAPPY LISTENING!


Rachel Dixon enjoys reading, reviewing books, and sharing her passion for literature at www.bookwormmama.org. She's a virtual assistant and shares the small-town life with her husband and children.

Discovering the Awesomest Daddy Ever with Lisa & Missy Harper's new book for kids

“God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” Psalm 68:6a (NLT)

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If you haven’t already become acquainted with author & Bible teacher/speaker Lisa Harper, you are really missing out!

“Hilarious storyteller” and “theological scholar” are rarely used to describe the same person, but Lisa Harper is anything but stereotypical! A gifted communicator, she writes and speaks using colorful pop culture references that connect the dots between the Bible era and modern life. Lisa holds a Masters of Theological Studies with honors from Covenant Seminary.

If you follow Lisa Harper on social media (@lisadharper) , you are already acquainted with her precious daughter Missy. Her joy is effervescent and you can’t help but smile along as she dances with delight over Mexican food or praise music or just life itself.

The mother-daughter duo have a lot to dance about! Their journey to becoming a family was not easy - Lisa fought for over two years to adopt the little girl. Missy’s own health journey has also been a tough road - when Lisa adopted her, she was dying of HIV, tuberculosis and cholera. But today her progress is ‘nothing short of a miracle’. You can learn more of their touching and inspiring story through the video below.

Their new children’s book Who’s Your Daddy is based on a real-life conversation that Lisa had with her daughter, after a little boy at school asked Missy that very question.

Missy has lived with her new mommy ever since she was adopted from Haiti. But when someone asks little Missy a BIG question—"Who's your daddy?"—she starts thinking and learning a lot about daddies.

Missy could be sad that she doesn't have a "skin" daddy who can make her pancakes and take her to soccer practice. But through lots of talks with Mommy, Missy realizes that she DOES have a Daddy! In fact, no matter what our family looks like, we all have the same amazing Daddy; and Missy can't wait to tell everyone about the Daddy who loves us more than all the stars in the sky.

Told mostly through a mother-daughter conversation, this sweet story is careful to affirm relationships with the good, strong daddies here on earth, but it is also comforting for children who might be struggling due to divorce or the loss of a father.


What inspired you to write this sweet story?

Lisa: I was inspired to write “Who’s Your Daddy?” after an experience Missy had in kindergarten. Not long after I’d brought her home from Haiti, a little boy in her class innocently asked her that very question after noticing I was the only parent who came to parents’ day at their school. Since I'm a single parent, my parents divorced when I was five years old, and my dad was missing from a big chunk of my childhood, I’m especially aware of potential bruises on the tender hearts of children who experience the absence of an earthly father, whom we call “skin daddies” in the book.

Who is this book for? What need does it meet?

Lisa: First of all I have to confess that asking an author who their book is for is like asking an essential oils rep who should slather on their wares! EVERYBODY! Seriously, I do think Missy’s story will appeal to and encourage all kids because even if they’re blessed with a present and engaged dad, no parent is infallible (I had to apologize to Missy for raising my voice yesterday and have to send myself to timeout on a regular basis!). Therefore, I believe ensuring every child’s emotional scaffolding is built on the perfect love and permanence of our Heavenly Father is critical for their identity and emotional security.

Have you always wanted to write a book for kids? How was the process of writing it the same and also different from Bible studies and trade books?

Lisa: While I read voraciously and habitually perused children’s classics like “A Wrinkle in Time” long before becoming Missy’s mom, it wasn’t until I began reading to her that I considered attempting a project for a younger audience. And frankly, I knew I was in over my head before typing the first word because children’s books typically contain less than 1,000 words while an adult non-fiction work is typically more than 40,000, and brevity has never been one of my strong suits! Thankfully, my daughter/co-author is not nearly as verbose, and we had an incredible editor who helped tame my tendency to be a total windbag.

How did you chose the illustrator? (Olivia Duchess)

Lisa: I told our editor that my stylistic preference was whimsical yet realistic and while I liked the work of every artist she suggested, I was especially fond of Olivia’s work. She’s very gifted and is based in London, which also happens to be one of my favorite cities in the world!

What do you hope kids learn from the story?

Lisa: That they are never alone because Daddy God is always with them, and His love for them will never fade or fail, no matter what.

How do you hope parents, grandparents, and other adults use it with their kids?

Lisa: I hope this book will help facilitate safe conversations between kids and adults about topics that often seem to be, at least from a child’s perspective, scary and/or off-limits. Hopefully, this tiny tome will not only help kids lean further into the waiting arms of their Daddy God, but it will also help deepen their relationships with their parents, grandparents, extended family, or caretakers through honest and loving dialogue.

Back to School Reads for Moms, Kids, and Teens

The school year is officially upon us. Early mornings, school car lines, homework, homeschool work, and endless rounds of caffeine. We've found promising titles for everyone's bookshelf to kick off the new school year right

For Moms

We have our work cut out for us, raising little humans. Whether you have toddlers, high-schoolers, homeschoolers, or an empty nester, a mother never stops pouring into their child’s life. We need to feed our brains too. With encouragement, scripture, and life. Here are a few books to help you do that.

Devotional/Parenting

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The Better Mom Devotional
by Ruth Schwenk

As a mom, you always want to give your best to your family. The Better Mom Devotional will help you focus who you are becoming rather than what you are accomplishing. Find freedom from mom-guilt, the myth of perfection, and the endless to-do list of motherhood, and step into your greatest adventure yet: becoming The Better Mom. (ZONDERVAN, Oct. 2018)


Counseling/Psychology

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It's Momplicated: Hope and Healing for Imperfect Daughters of Imperfect Mothers
by Debbie Alsdorf and Joan Edwards Kay

Whether your relationship with your mom has been wonderful or stressful, redeemed or broken, close or nonexistent, it’s one of your life’s most important and defining connections. Its effects have probably followed you into adulthood.It’s never too late to love, never too late to heal, and never too late to trust God to turn the pain in your story into a redemption song. (TYNDALE MOMENTUM, Sept. 2018)


Christian Living/Parenting

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The Brave Art of Motherhood: Fight Fear, Gain Confidence, and Find Yourself Again
by Rachel Marie Martin

This book is part encouragement and part rally cry for moms everywhere who have gotten lost within the pages of their own story, undervaluing all they do every day and exchanging the beauty of who they are for a Pinterest-perfect illusion. It gives you the tools you need to overcome fear, loneliness, and inaction. By drawing on anecdotes and lessons from her own life, Rachel empowers moms to forget their past mistakes, celebrate what they've already accomplished, and dare to be real about their struggles. (WATERBROOK, Oct. 2018)


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Prayers for the Battlefield: Staying MomStrong in the Fight for Your Family and Faith
by Heidi St. John

Prayers for the Battlefield is a collection of prayers and reflections to help you stay strong through the daily challenges of motherhood. Whether you’re a new mom or a soon-to-be empty nester, Heidi St. John writes Scripture-filled and Spirit-infused prayers for every season of motherhood, helping you raise God-fearing children who will live out their love for Christ and make a difference in our world. (TYNDALE MOMENTUM, Sept. 2018)


For Kids

Reading to our children is so important. Even if they are too young to fully comprehend what is being said, it is crucial for us to read to our kids every single day. Here are a few new books for you and your children to check out.

Juvenile Fiction

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Night Night, Sleepytown (Board Book)
by Amy Parker & Virginia Allyn
Grade: Preschool - K

The sun is sinking low, and Sleepytown is ready to say, “Night night!” Join bestselling author Amy Parker and award-winning illustrator Virginia Allyn in the latest Night Night adventure through Sleepytown, the charming little village where residents are drifting off to dreamland, just like your little one is sure to do. (THOMAS NELSON, Aug. 2018)


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The Gift that I Can Give (Picture Book)
by Kathie Lee Gifford and Julia Seal
Grade: Preschool - 3

Help your children discover that they don't have to wait until they are grownups to make the world a better place! The Gift That I Can Give helps children find unique ways to make a difference today in the lives of those around them. The beautiful new picture book was written by Kathie Lee Gifford and illustrated by Julia Seal (THOMAS NELSON, Oct. 2018)


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The Cow Said Neigh! A Farm Story (Board Book)
by Rory Feek & Bruno Robert
Grade: Preschool - 3

The Cow Said Neigh! is the story of some peculiar farm animals who wish they were like other animals on the farm. The cow wants to run free like a horse, the sheep wants a snout like a pig, the dog wants to be inside like the cat. Soon the entire farm is in chaos! With silly farm animal sounds, clever rhymes, and adorable art, The Cow Said Neigh! will have kids of all ages laughing out loud as they celebrate the unique strengths in each of us. (THOMAS NELSON, Oct. 2018)

Also available as a picture book


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Austin Plays Fair (Picture Book)
by Tony Dungy and Lauren Dungy
Grade: K - 3

Austin loves playing flag football for the Trentwood Tigers. There is only one problem. His team has lost six games in a row, and he doesn’t like losing. At his next game, Austin’s teammate has a plan to trick the other team. It works, but Austin knows his team cheated to win. Coach Tony and Coach Lauren remind Austin the most important thing about football isn’t winning—it’s playing fair. (HARVEST HOUSE, Aug. 2018)


Middle Grade Fiction

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Learning to Fly
by Sandra Atkins
Grade: 4-6

Learning to Fly is the heart-warming story of a boy coming-of age. It is the story of mistakes made and lessons learned. On becoming a teenager, Sam feels that he is now old enough and wise enough to exert his authority over his sister, Cassie. When he attempts to teach Cassie a lesson, the result is a disaster. In the end, an owl teaches them both that when you fly high you must be careful. When something goes wrong in life, you might have a long way to fall. (AMBASSADOR INTERNATIONAL, Oct. 2018


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Daisy's Search for Freedom (The Searchers Book 1)
by Bertha Schwartz
Grade: 4-6

It’s the 1850s and Daisy, a slave girl from Alabama, leaves behind everything she has ever known and strikes out alone on the Underground Railroad. Daisy’s search for freedom leads her deep into the woods. Along the way she is joined by Simon, a four-year-old boy and his pet kitten. Pursued by dogs, uncertainty, and a slave tracker determined to capture them by any means necessary, Daisy starts to wonder if she will ever be safe again. Does Jesus care about runaway slaves lost in the woods? (AMBASSADOR INTERNATIONAL, June 2018)


For Teens

As our children grow it is imperative that their books grow with them. Here are some books that will relate to your teenager and vice versa :)

Young Adult/Devotional

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Priceless: Who I Am When I Feel…
by Jen Barrick and Linda Barrick

Teens and tweens have a reputation for letting their emotions get the best of them, so much so that we often wonder if our families (and the world) wouldn't be better off if these young women we love could feel just a little less. But as Linda Barrick discovered, these emotions play an important role in the spiritual lives of young women, and, when they learn to direct them rightly, their feelings can be a powerful force for good in their lives, homes, and schools (MOODY PUBLISHERS, Oct. 2018)


Young Adult Fiction

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A Future and a Hope
by David Mathews

Caleb Sawyer expects his senior year at Baxter High to go just as he planned. He’s a member of the football team, is active in his church, has a great job, and loves hanging out with his friends at the local diner. But then he crosses paths with Ellie Thompson, the mysterious new girl in town. Ellie has a fiery personality and a tragic past. Caleb’s obsession with her leads them both on adventures full of opportunities and challenges. (AMBASSADOR INTERNATIONAL, Oct. 2018)


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Fawkes
by Nadine Brandes

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England. Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th-century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death. But what if death finds him first? (THOMAS NELSON, July 2018)


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The Orphan’s Wish
by Melanie Dickerson

Growing up in an orphanage, Aladdin meets young Lady Kirstyn, whose father is the powerful Duke of Hagenheim. Despite the difference in their stations, their childhood friendship grows into a bond that time and opposition cannot break. But that isn’t enough to erase the shame of being forced to steal as a small child—or the fact that he’s an orphan with no status. If he ever wants to feel equal to his beautiful and generous friend Kirstyn, he must leave Hagenheim and seek his fortune. (THOMAS NELSON, June 2018)


Rachel Dixon enjoys reading, reviewing books, and sharing her passion for literature at www.bookwormmama.org. She's a virtual assistant and shares the small-town life with her husband and children.