In Review... February 23, 2019

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


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

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

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Janine Rosche

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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

Mystery/Suspense
CONVERGENCE
Ginny L. Yttrup

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

Reviewer: Rebecca Maney

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

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

Reviewer: Katie Donovan

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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... 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... 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... 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

In Review... December 28, 2018

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


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

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

Reviewer: Patsy Glans

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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

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

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

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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

Contemporary Amish Romance
SEASONS OF AN AMISH GARDEN
Amy Clipston

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

Reviewer: Kerry Sutherland

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Alysha Worthen

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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

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

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

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

Middle-Grade Books Review Round-Up

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

Bookmarked Review

Middle Grade Fiction
THE WILLOUGHBYS
Lois Lowry

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

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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

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

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Middle-Grade Historical Fiction
INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN

Thanhha Lai

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

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Bookmarked Review

Middle-Grade Contemporary Fiction
WONDER
R.J. Palacio

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

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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

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

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Bookmarked Review

Middle-Grade Fantasy
TUCK EVERLASTING
Natalie Babbitt

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

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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

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

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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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

War-Torn During The Holiday Season

Since I was a kid, I have always loved Christmas—not just the day, but the whole season. Even before I really knew God on a personal level, it was still about more for me than gifts and treats and a big dinner—it was family and fun and togetherness and laughter. For me, even now on a closer walk with God where I am intimately aware that we are celebrating the birth of the Savior, it’s still about those things. I really love the music, and the lights, and the excitement, and with four kids still at home, the magic. It is my very favorite time of the year.

But now, as with so many veterans, there is a darkness that can descend over the season if I let it. It wasn’t that long ago that Christmas, more than any other holiday, brought painful memories and images I’d worked hard to forget. For me, it brought thoughts of brothers I’ve lost, who aren’t home anymore with the wives and children they’ve left behind. I think of them every day, but I imagine the loss their families feel at this time of year and it tugs at me harder. For families still on active duty, it can be a very difficult time indeed. I say families, because it’s important to remember that it is not just the warfighter who sacrifices. In many ways it is so much harder a struggle to be the spouse or the children left behind during a deployment. Unlike other types of family separation, the family of a warfighter has the stress of worry and fear added to the loneliness and longing. While it is simple enough to pray about these fears, it is another thing all together to surrender them to God completely. And in the face of real tragedy and loss associated with wartime military service, it can be hard to find God in your situation at all. The horrors of war can bring questions hard to answer to warfighter and families alike. Where is God in all of this death and destruction? Why would He “let” this happen? Why can’t God bring us back together? How can God love me, after I’ve been asked to do the things I’ve done, and where was God in the horror I’ve witnessed?

Those were the feelings I was dealing with a few years ago when I decided that I felt called to write War Torn. I was already having much success with my writing, but I felt strongly that God was calling me to use the gift He has grown in me to serve Him and touch others. At the time, to be honest, I was still probably a long way from home myself. Writing this book was a journey of healing right along side my young protagonist Jake. And I later learned, my wife, Wendy, shared much in common with Rachel, his wife in the novel. Struggling with how to put it all together (in my mind I convinced myself I meant the book, not my own life) I approached Pastor Chris Bonham, the Senior Executive Pastor at Grace Family Church, where we had been attending for a few years by then. His friendship has proven to be such a blessing in my own journey, but his impact on the book was immeasurable. I’ve written before about the important message he shared with me in that meeting—about the loss of hope that occurred at the crucifixion and how those present with Jesus on the at day must have felt torn apart, full of hopelessness, perhaps even betrayed by God on that day. Because they didn’t have what we have now going into Easter—the knowledge that the resurrection was just around the corner and that through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, we can now have a personal, intimate relationship with God—they felt only the pain and loss and horror of that day. That conversation with Pastor Chris changed me and it also changed the framework of War Torn. Instead of writing about unanswerable questions, I learned that it is about surrender of those questions, along with the hurt and loss, to God. It is about finding our way to family and to our faith. It’s about hope.

So, what is Christmas, if not a celebration of the birth of that hope? War Torn is about redemption, and true redemption—and the marvelous release of pain that comes with it—was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. When God decided to come to us in the flesh, to take our failures on himself and sacrifice himself on a cross so that we could be in relationship with Him, our redemption was born.

It still hurts to know that there is grief in this season for the families my brothers left behind. It turns out, unlike my naïve interpretation of the scripture early in my walk, Romans Eight does not promise us freedom from pain or suffering. But it does promise us that, through the hope brought by a relationship with Jesus Christ, we can surrender our suffering and burdens to God and he will ease them—that he will even bring good from them. That is the hope that was born in that manger.

Christmas presents a unique opportunity to share that hope with others—those in desperate need of the hope found in the message of Jesus’ birth and life as well as his death and resurrection. If there are service members and their families in your community, reach out to them this season with that hope. If there are veterans in your community—and with nearly eighteen years of continuous war fighting that is nearly every community in our nation—Celebrate Christmas by bringing the hope of the risen Christ to those who have served and live near you. If your church doesn’t have a support group for these warfighters and their families, ask why. Maybe even help get one launched. If you don’t know how to start, that’s okay. Find us at www.wartornnovel.com and let us help you.

It is a season for giving, so give what matters most.

Merry Christmas.


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Navy veteran and Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestselling thriller author Jeffrey Wilson is a vascular surgeon who was completing his training when terrorists attacked America on 9/11. Already having served, Jeff immediately rejoined the active duty Navy and served as a combat surgeon with the Marines and then with an East Coast–based SEAL team and a Joint Special Operations Task Force, making multiple deployments. His experiences there—seeing things that cannot be unseen—sent him on his own journey exploring, and at times questioning, his faith, and are the inspiration for this novel. Jeff has also worked as an actor, a firefighter, a paramedic, a jet pilot, and a diving instructor.

Together with fellow Navy veteran Brian Andrews, Jeff writes the Amazon #1 bestselling Tier One series of military thrillers and (under the pseudonym Alex Ryan) the Nick Foley thriller series. Jeff is also the author of three award-winning supernatural thrillers.

Jeff and his wife, Wendy, are Virginia natives who, with their four children, Ashley, Emma, Jack, and Connor, call southwest Florida home. When not writing his next novel, Jeff still practices medicine and leads the Men’s Military Ministry at his church, where Wendy leads the Beautiful Moms Ministry, Emma sings on the praise and worship team, Jack works on the AV team, and Connor has volunteered in the children’s ministry.

Learn more at www.wartornnovel.com and www.andrews-wilson.com.

In Review... December 14, 2018

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Happy FRI-YAY! Can you believe how close we are to Christmas? Less than two weeks!! Enjoy these books while you take a break this weekend from shopping :)


Inspirational Historical/Western Romance
STAGECOACH TO LIBERTY
Janalyn Voigt
SERIES: Montana Gold #3

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Voigt continues her Montana Gold series with Con Walsh’s story, picking up a thread from the previous book and giving this layered hero his time to shine. Several storylines - which at first seem only tangentially related - converge on this Gold Rush setting, adding dimension to both the characters and the plot and keeping reader interest engaged from beginning to end. For her own part, Elsa Meier may be the most compelling heroine introduced so far in this series (which is saying a lot considering how engaging the previous two have been) - with grace and grit in abundance. Fabulous romantic chemistry, heart-in-your-throat adventure, and the promise of more to come make this a must-read for historical/western romance fans! (MOUNTAIN BROOK INK, Dec., 294 pp., $12.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Gold Star Review

Inspirational Historical Fiction/Romance
A BOUND HEART
Laura Frantz

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Frantz brings the Scottish Highlands to life in her newest historical fiction release. From exploring Scottish castles to being sent to Jamaica and on to colonial America, readers are treated to swoon-worthy romance and action-packed scenes full of adventure. Within these pages, a childhood friendship blossoms into a sweeping love story despite the difference in social class between Lark and Magnus – he, a landowner, and she, an herbalist and keeper of his bees. As with all of Frantz’s novels, her attention to research is flawless, filling the pages with breathtaking scenery, braided in biblical truths that will speak encouragement to reader hearts. A must read for historical romance fans. (REVELL, Jan., 400 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Andi Tubbs

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Historical Fiction/Romance
WITH THIS PLEDGE
Tamera Alexander
SERIES: Carnton #1

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There are certain events and heroic acts over the course of time which ought to be preserved in the memory of our collective history and Alexander honors Civil War Carnton’s residents and those they encountered with her grace, craft, and class. The atmosphere of turmoil, grief, and strife is palpable, yet the everyday living of life moves forward despite extraordinarily tragic circumstances. The author treats each historical and fictional character with reverent respect and maintains a sense of authenticity and raw humanity throughout. The bravery and sacrifice, courage and boldness embodied by this story will stir the reader’s pride in and compassion for mankind. This story of hope amidst tragedy is a must-read for fans of well-researched historical fiction and heartwarming silver linings. (THOMAS NELSON, Jan., 448 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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Inspirational Self-Help/Marriage
LOVE TALK: Speak Each Other’s Language Like You Never Have Before
Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott

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In their three-part newly revised and updated text, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, unpack the foundational reasons why communication is the lifeblood of any marriage and how each partner’s unique fears can hinder them from speaking the truth in love. The coauthors provide readers much in the way of personal examples from their own relationship, thus successfully encouraging others to keep at the task of “love talk” and making the authors’ advice so very relatable. Christians will value not only this jam-packed primer on all things communication related but will especially appreciate the Parrotts zeroing in on special challenges such as being married to a silent partner (including when silence is the best communication tool). Love Talk is just what the doctor(s) ordered for a happy, fulfilling marriage. (ZONDERVAN, Jan., 176 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Michele Howe

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Inspirational Contemporary Romance
HER COWBOY’S TWIN BLESSINGS
Patricia Johns
SERIES: Montana Twins #1

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Patricia Johns shows love and respect for the Montana land and people while sharing some of the dangers and hardships of daily life in her latest release. Country cowboy Casey Courtright and citified Ember Reed want the same ranch land for very different reasons. In exchange for Casey showing her the area, Ember agrees to help with the twin baby boys Casey is now caring for, not realizing it would scratch at old wounds. Both Casey and Ember will have to learn that compromise is sometimes the best choice and letting go of one dream opens the door to a bigger and better one - one that is God-ordained. That adorable cover and heart-melting cowboy-plus-babies plot will leave readers swooning for sure! (LOVE INSPIRED, Dec., 224 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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There’s faith in God to answer our prayers,” Bert said, “and then there’s faith in God when He gives us the unexpected.
— Her Cowboy's Twin Blessings

Inspirational Contemporary Fiction
MOONDUST LAKE
Davis Bunn
SERIES: Miramar Bay #3

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In the third book of Bunn’s Miramar Bay series, dysfunction takes a nasty turn in one family. Because of this, it’s not always a comfortable read. However, readers will be intrigued to discover, along with Buddy, the past his father never wanted him to learn. Buddy Helm and Kimberly Sturgiss, the church psychotherapist, work together to uncover the past as they prepare for the biggest struggle of their lives. Readers will enjoy getting to know Buddy; through all the anguish he has to endure, he is true to himself and wants to do the right thing. Fans of Nicholas Sparks and Kate Morton will enjoy this series. (KENSINGTON, Jan., 300 pp., $21.95)

Reviewer: Patsy Glans

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Inspirational Non-Fiction/Christian Living
TASTE AND SEE: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, & Fresh Food Makers

Margaret Feinberg

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Readers will embark on a culinary journey with popular speaker and author Margaret Feinberg’s latest release. Informative and surprisingly profound for what one may think is just a book about food, readers will experience the basic, yet essential, parts of how and what food brings to the table, both physically and spiritually. God is not only a foodie, but purposefully created and provided food for the world to taste and see His goodness. Taste and See will stir in readers a hunger for fellowship, God’s divine Word and actual food with biblical references, personal thoughts and easy recipes to enjoy. (ZONDERVAN, Jan., 192 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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Food really is God’s love made delicious, nutritious, and restorative. But we must learn to slow down and savor the delicate flavors and divine lessons.
— Taste & See

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 7, 2018

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Happy FRI-YAY! We hope you are staying warm and snug if you’re in the path of this weekend’s winter storm. A good rule of thumb is to keep 10 books on hand for every 1 person in your house, just in case you get snowed in! Here’s a batch to get you started :)


Inspirational Historical Fiction
THE PLUM BLOOMS IN WINTER
Linda Thompson
SERIES: Brands From the Burning #1

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This debut novel, inspired by a true story presents an emotionally compelling look at the complexities of defeat and the awesome power of forgiveness. As the author follows the often gritty journeys of an American Doolittle Raider and a Japanese woman through WW2, she gives readers an intriguing perspective from both sides of the war and enables them to put themselves in the characters' shoes. The contrast of prisons in different forms - not all of them with visible bars or easily escaped - further drives home the story's deeper meaning. Readers will like Linda Thompson's novel as she weaves long-ago facts into a roller coaster ride of emotions. Have a box of tissues at the ready for the unexpected turns that this road to forgiveness takes. (MOUNTAIN BROOK INK, Nov., 360 pp., $13.99)

Reviewer: Patsy Glans/Carrie Schmidt

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Inspirational Romantic Suspense/Christmas
HOLIDAY AMNESIA
Lynette Eason
SERIES: Wrangler’s Corner

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When Robin Hardy can’t remember the past six months, how can she possibly know Toby Potter is who he claims to be? Yet, the connection to the man is ingrained deeper than her memory because despite the edge of anger she feels toward him, she believes she can trust him. Toby has his own worries—keeping Robin alive and wondering when she will remember his betrayal. The action is intense, the stakes are high, and the law enforcement agents are abundant in Wrangler’s Corner. With little to go on as far as suspects for most of the book, Toby and Robin are forced into defensive mode. Lynette Eason masterfully blends tension, strong emotions, and a burgeoning romance that will leave readers engaged until truths are revealed. (LOVE INSPIRED SUSPENSE, Dec., 224 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Historical Fiction/Romance
SEARCHING FOR YOU
Jody Hedlund
SERIES: Orphan Train #3

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Be prepared for an epic journey in this conclusion of Hedlund’s Orphan Train series. Sophie’s long-awaited journey captivates as she travels on an unknown road to freedom and safety. Hedlund’s words sink into the heart and soothe the soul, causing readers to melt into the story. With irresistible passion, the power of truth, the strength of family, the truth that ‘family’ does not always mean blood, and a genuine faith thread that Hedlund is skilled at portraying, Searching for You is a perfectly balanced binge-worthy read. Historical Fiction lovers should put this one at the top of their reading list. (BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS, Dec, 352 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Historical Fiction/Romance
SO BRIGHT A HOPE
Amber Lynn Perry
SERIES: Daughters of His Kingdom #5

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Find adventure in the heart of the American Revolution in this riveting tale of romance and espionage. With unique perspectives given throughout the story, readers will be able to grasp a well-rounded view of the circumstances that throw British Captain Higley and the Patriot, Miss Whitney, together. An admirable woman, a dashing officer, Perry delivers a heated passion in the most tasteful of ways!  Filled with rich vocabulary, intriguing characters, and vivid details, readers will be glued to their reading chair as they uncover the secrets hidden within these pages. (LIBERTY PUBLISHING, Dec, 403 pp., $2.99 ebook)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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A room was not a room without a book.
— So Bright a Hope

Inspirational Split-Time Romance
WHO I AM WITH YOU
Robin Lee Hatcher
SERIES: Legacy of Faith #1

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Hatcher weaves a story of betrayal, forgiveness and faith in her latest novel. Readers can easily relate to Jessica and Ridley as strong yet flawed characters. Showing the importance of not taking situations at face value, Jessica and Ridley take the time to really get to know each other rather than judge each other based on circumstances. In this seamless time slip novel, Hatcher provides inspiration in each character’s growing relationship with the Lord, and prompts readers to reflect on their own journey. This story of loss and redemption is sure to win the hearts of contemporary and historic romance fans alike. (THOMAS NELSON, Dec., 320 pp. $15.99)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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Contemporary Romance (clean)
CHRISTMAS AT PRESCOTT INN
Cathryn Parry

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Parry gives a delightfully fun story that showcases the highs and lows of the business world. Set at the perfect time of year for miracles to happen, readers will witness Nathan and Emilie overcome their past and gain footing on a bright, new future. Nathan learns to balance good business decisions with those from the heart, with a little help from a young lad, a past love, and a loyal niece. Filled with wonderful characters and a picturesque setting, this charming Christmas story will warm reader’s hearts as they enter the holiday season. (HARLEQUIN HEARTWARMING, Dec., 384 pp. $4.99)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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Inspirational Contemporary Romance
A COWBOY IN SHEPHERD’S CROSSING
Ruth Logan Herne
Series: Shepherd’s Crossing #2

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Fans of small-town stories will fondly relate to the common challenges faced and unifying sense of home shared by folks who live in tight-knit communities like Shepherd’s Crossing, Idaho. Melonie, a driven and ambitious southern belle, is determined to make her mark on the world. She is a complex and compassionate character, reluctant to reconnect with the ranching culture, yet delightfully sassy. Jace’s work-ethic and compassion alone make him a winsome hero. With the tip of his authentic cowboy hat, the challenges he works through make Jace a genuinely swoon-worthy character. Herne skillfully uses the bold beauty’s arrival and an unexpected revelation to shake things up for the cowboy carpenter hero to engage minds and emotions with themes of adoption, identity, diversity, and integrity. (LOVE INSPIRED, Dec., 224 pp. $5.99)

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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Young Adult Fiction
GONE TOO SOON
Melody Carlson

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When favorite daughter Hannah dies in a terrible car accident, her family is left reeling. When Kiera discovers Hannah’s diary, she finds the perfect daughter was hiding some horrible secrets of her own and fears the family will be torn apart by grief and guilt. This book is raw, emotional and points to struggles even Christians can face. While the writing style may not be for everyone, this book would be an excellent read for young adults dealing with loss, anger and family issues. Recommended for readers 14 and up; parents may wish to pre-read so as to be ready to discuss. (WHITE SPARK PUBLISHING, Nov., 334 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Katelyn S. Bolds

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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 30, 2018

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Happy FRI-NALLY! We hope you have a marvelous weekend full of family, fun, and good reads! Here are some new reviews to get you started and keep your TBR list hopping…


Middle Grade/Historical Fiction/Christmas
BENJY AND THE BELSNICKEL
Bonnie Swinehart

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An exciting story for children this Christmas season, Benjy and the Belsnickel is reminiscent of the Little House books. With an engaging voice to capture the readers, the author weaves a tale of folklore that Benjy learns to heed - persuaded to behave as Christmas approaches for fear of a visit from the Belsnickel. Swinehart delivers a fun story that reminds children about the benefits of doing the right thing. Parents, too, will enjoy discussing the plot’s events with their young readers. (WHITESPARK PUBLISHING, Nov, 132 pp., $11.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Romantic Suspense/Christmas
COLD CASE CHRISTMAS
Jessica R. Patch

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Immediately from the first page, readers are dropped right into the suspenseful tension that remains a steady presence even to the last pages. A long-submerged car, skeletal remains and some other mysterious clues have Nora Livingstone determined to find out what really happened to her mother all those years ago. While Nora on the surface appears brash and cold at first, Patch slowly draws out the layers to Nora’s personality and in so doing uncovers her softer side, buried under years of hurt. Deputy Sheriff Rush Buchanan, however? The embodiment of swooniliciousness with some deep hurt to address too. Romantic chemistry sizzles between these two former flames even as Nora must fight for her life at every turn - and Rush must figure out how to protect her and his heart at the same time. A riveting thriller from beginning to end with a soul-deep message of grace, forgiveness, and true love. (LOVE INSPIRED SUSPENSE, Dec., 224 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Amish Fiction/Christmas
AMISH CHRISTMAS MEMORIES
Vannetta Chapman

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Just in time for Christmas, Vannetta Chapman’s new novel embodies the warmth the season awakens in us. Beautiful white snow, a warm fireplace, cozy blankets, family, friends and a story of love fill this short novel with heartwarming sweetness that reminds readers where home is. Lost and confused, Rachel is grateful for Caleb and his parents for saving her, but his traditional and conservative mindset annoys her to no end. However, together through Rachel’s amnesia, time may just open their eyes to God’s plan for each of them and for each other. (LOVE INSPIRED, Dec., 220 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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Inspirational Contemporary Romance
THE COWBOY’S MIXED-UP MATCHMAKER
Valerie Comer
SERIES: Montana Ranches #2

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Friends don’t let friends turn thirty… single.  As James and Lauren quickly approach their thirtieth birthdays, they separately remember the marriage pact they made as teenagers. And panic. Unable to stand the thought of the man she loves marrying her out of obligation, Lauren tries desperately to set James up with anyone else, while James regrets not making his feelings for Lauren known sooner. This sweetly romantic story is full of humorous miscommunication and tender longing. The reader will be touched by James' close-knit family and will hurt for Lauren due to the pressure and sharp criticism she receives from her mother. The Cowboy's Mixed-Up Matchmaker contains a compelling message about how we can know God's will for our lives. (GREENWORDS MEDIA, Dec., 213 pp, $0.99 ebook)

Reviewer: Phyllis Helton

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Nonfiction/Devotional
RESTORATION YEAR: A 365-DAY DEVOTIONAL
John Eldredge

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The approaching year is the perfect time for a fresh start, and that is what Eldredge hopes to provide for the reader with this new devotional book. In the introduction, the reader, whom Eldredge refers to as “friend,” is asked to consider how the new year can be different. Restoration Year is a great way to implement some changes, as well as provide a daily time with Jesus. Each devotion begins with a verse and ends with a reflection/action step or a prayer. Readings are encouraging and relatively short, so they’re easy to fit into a busy schedule. Males and females alike can enjoy this, as the topical themes are universal (including healing, friendship, hope, prayer, and Jesus’ love). (THOMAS NELSON, Dec, 400 pp, $19.99)

Reviewer: Leslie L. McKee

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Inspirational Historical Romance
THE LIEUTENANT’S BARGAIN
Regina Jennings
SERIES: Fort Reno #2

Bookmarked Review

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Genuinely heartfelt, this engaging plot and endearing cast bring Fort Reno to life! The combination of awkward discomfort and delicious tension between the artistic, determined spitfire and scholarly, masculine soldier is simply delightful. Readers will appreciate the masterful levity and authenticity Jennings incorporates into the tale as well as her compassionate, respectful depiction of the Native American tribes and their culture during the tumultuous time period of the Indian Territory. Themes of insecurity, communication, fear, respect, courage, faith and love ground this light-hearted story in truth and reality.

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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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... Thanksgiving Week

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We here at Hope By the Book hope those of you in the United States had a blessed & delicious Thanksgiving! Now that the busyness of the holiday and Black Friday are behind us, here is a new batch of reviews to help you find the best reads for your weekend!


Bookmarked Review

Devotional/Christmas
WHEN GOD CALLS THE HEART AT CHRISTMAS
Brian Bird & Michelle Cox

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Inspired by the hit Hallmark Channel TV show ‘When Calls The Heart’ (which is based on author Janette Oke’s popular book series by the same name), this beautiful devotional book is full of spiritual application from the show. It’s also warmly brimming with pictures from the show, recipes, and stories of Christmases past. Adding to the delightful tone of this book is the fact that most of the recipes and Christmas memories are contributed by ‘Hearties’ (the nickname for the show’s devoted fans) or people otherwise connected with the show’s production. Bible verses, prayers, and thoughtful questions at the end of each day’s devotional contribute to the book’s deeper meaning as well. A great gift idea and must-read for any fan of the show or the original novels! (BROADSTREET, Sept., 176 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Gold Star Review

NonFiction/Christian Living
IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY
Lysa TerKeurst

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Lysa TerKeurst, the New York Times bestselling author of Uninvited, has yet again written a heartfelt recounting of shattering disappointments and painful circumstances while also framing them for readers from God’s perspective. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way touches on the life-long question of the whys, matched with the innate desire to know all the answers and be in control. Challenging, engaging and insightful, the author’s easy and friendly style of writing will draw you in like close friends sharing their most intimate struggles. Additionally, the end-of-chapter reminders, Biblical references and reflections to ponder, make this book the perfect choice for individual use or small group study. More than a devotional or self-help book, readers will find personally relevant themes as well as encouragement to trust God in His promises, learn to let go and let Jesus “take the wheel” in their own lives. (THOMAS NELSON, Nov., 272 pp., $22.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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Using God’s truth as your fighting words will not change what you see, but it absolutely will change how you see.
— Lysa TerKeurst, It's Not Supposed To Be This Way

Inspirational Historical Romance
A DREAM FULFILLED (An O’Connor Christmas short novel)
Julie Lessman
SERIES: Daughters of Boston & Winds of Change

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Skip the mistletoe and warm your spirit with steamy kisses of wedded bliss from the queen of purposeful passion in this quick O’Connor Christmas read. Lessman’s refreshingly transparent take on marital discontent and reconciliation is loaded with tension over unmet expectations, compromise, and contentment. This story reminds readers of God’s sovereign plan for our lives especially as our own plans seem to blow up in our faces. The continuing O’Connor legacy of faith, love, and Irish tempers continues to thrive and delight fans with fresh new chapters in the lives of familiar and beloved characters. (JULIE LESSMAN, Oct., 188 pp., $2.99, ebook)

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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Inspirational Historical Fiction/Romance
THE LIBERTY BRIDE
MaryLu Tyndall
SERIES: Daughters of the Mayflower #6

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Taking readers to the seas, ships, and shores of the War of 1812, Tyndall weaves a romantic tale of espionage and intrigue that will keep readers guessing. Emeline and Owen are both layered characters with backstories to unpack, faith to wrestle with, and secrets to maintain, though Owen may take longer to warm up to for some readers. Emeline’s kind heart and inner strength in the midst of the horrors of war are a highlight of the story, as is the nearly-tangible romantic chemistry between hero and heroine. Divided loyalties - at least outwardly - complicate their growing feelings for each other and add further dimension to their relationship. Tyndall doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of the war or the truth of history, yet she also makes sure to wrap it all in hope, love, grace, and an incredibly touching example of deeply personal faith. (BARBOUR, Dec., 256 pp, $12.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Inspirational Romantic Suspense
MIND GAMES
Nancy Mehl
SERIES: Kaely Quinn Profiler #1

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Nancy Mehl’s new romantic suspense is full of heart-pounding plot twists, sizzling attraction, and deep insight into the mind. Readers will quickly fall in love with the strong heroine, Kaely Quinn. The daughter of an infamous serial killer, Kaely works for the FBI providing behavior analysis to profile and catch killers. She is dedicated solely to her job, having learned as a young girl not to trust anyone, especially men. But now that a serial killer has started writing poetry predicting the deaths of Kaely and others, she must learn to trust her handsome new partner--Special Agent Noah Hunter--no matter how much she’d rather go it alone. And the emotions she starts to feel toward him, well, those will just have to wait. They have to catch the killer before he targets his last victim--her. You won’t be able to put this book down. (BETHANY HOUSE, Dec., 336 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Katelyn S. Bolds

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Inspirational Suspense/Legal Thriller
CHOSEN PEOPLE
Robert Whitlow

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Warning: do not relax while reading this latest high-stakes legal thriller from Robert Whitlow. While it’s tempting to do so when the text slows in places (particularly in the middle), giving in to that temptation would ultimately be a mistake. The slower pace at times can be attributed to the author’s tendency to tell rather than show details of character and setting, but ultimately the choice works for his proven style. Intriguing international law combines with the continuing complex and charged dynamics between all faiths and cultures represented in Israel - as well as the masterful unpredictability of the plot - to keep readers riveted to the page, waiting to see how it all unfolds. And when it does, well, buckle up and remember to breathe! In the midst of all the intrigue and not knowing who to trust, a couple of touching faith threads weave straight through the story to the heart. (THOMAS NELSON, Nov., 448 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Inspirational Contemporary Romance/Christmas
THE RANCHER’S CHRISTMAS MATCH
Brenda Minton
SERIES: Mercy Ranch #2

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While there are plenty of sparks between Isaac and Rebecca (not always the good kind, though there are a plethora of those as well), the heart of Brenda Minton’s newest release lies in the wounds the characters carry. From Rebecca’s pain and heartache over her emotional rejections to every wounded veteran residing at Mercy Ranch, and to Isaac who carries both emotional and physical reminders of his trials, the scars are raw and affect the directions chosen and decisions made in the lives of this tight-knit community. During the Christmas season filled with some festive activities to put readers in the holiday spirit, this small Oklahoma town lives up to its name. What better place for a fresh start than in a place called Hope? (LOVE INSPIRED, Dec., 224 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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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.

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.

In Review... October 19, 2018

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From contemporary romance and women’s fiction to children’s titles and nonfiction, we’ve got a little something for everyone!


Children/Picture Book
THE COW SAID NEIGH!: A Farm Story
Rory Feek (illustrated by Bruno Robert)

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“The grass is always greener on the other side.” In Rory Feek’s The Cow Said Neigh! A Farm Story, each farm animal wants to be a different one by mimicking the sounds of the other. A great fun story with beautiful illustrations that will catch the attention of anyone who lays eyes on it, not just the little ones. Of course adults will grasp the all-too-relevant message of comparison and confusion, but little ones may just enjoy it for the silliness of the animals and the colorful pictures. Either way, it’ll be a story for emerging young readers to learn, for adults to enlighten, and definitely for all to enjoy. Also available as a board book. (TOMMY NELSON, Oct., 26 pp., $9.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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Inspirational Children/Middle Grade
LEARNING TO FLY
Sandra Atkins

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When a boy plays a trick on his younger sister, he learns very quickly the consequences of being mean. This story teaches a lifelong lesson to children about teasing and being mean to others. Taking something that someone loves and turning it against them can be so cruel and unfeeling. Thankfully, there is forgiveness from the Father. There is hope to overcome the fear that was instilled. The author’s writing style will engage young readers and speak to their hearts, although some of the plot choices are surprising. In this story, children, and maybe even parents, will learn the valuable lesson about actively being kind. (AMBASSADOR INTERNATIONAL, Aug., 56 pp., $8.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Inspirational Contemporary Romance
WHEN YOU LOOK AT ME
Pepper Basham
Series: Pleasant Gap #2

Bookmarked Review

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Musical camaraderie opens the doors to a quiet friendship as two kindred spirits discover the comfortable freedom of mutual understanding. Basham presents an unlikely heroine (a young Appalachian woman preparing to become a single parent following a brutal attack) and faithfully delivers the measured and respectful approach such a situation demands. The handsome and successful British composer hero is amicable despite his emotional baggage of betrayal and contentious family relationships. Awkward exchanges and social blunders further endear Julia and Henry to one another despite the undeniable challenges a relationship beyond their status as casual friends would incur. Readers will swoon over Henry’s sweet patience and care for Julia’s heart. Matchmaking, humorous culture clash, an old family mystery, and the birth of a precious babe will dance across the reader’s imagination with a rich musical soundtrack in this tale of healing, family, and love. (WOVEN WORDS, Oct., 296 pp., $11.99)

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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Inspirational Contemporary Fiction
INDIVISIBLE (A Novelization)
Travis Thrasher

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Based on the screen play by David Evans, Travis Thrasher has written a heart warming tribute to those who serve our country. Servicemen and servicewomen know there is a chance they may not come back from each deployment; when they do come home, they are changed forever. This novel highlights the courage they have to get out of the darkness and into the light with the help of a God who gives hope for everyone. Army chaplain Darren Turner and his wife Heather are deeply affected by Darren's deployment to Iraq, him by being a part of the conflict and Heather by battling to keep her fears at bay and take care of their children. Does time heal all wounds? Can having hope get them back to where they were before or will it be too much? Powerful and touching novel with a great message, inspired by true events. (THOMAS NELSON, Oct., 336 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Patsy Glans

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Devotional/Inspiration
YOU’VE GOT THIS (Because God’s Got You)
KariAnne Wood

Bookmarked Review

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Popular decorating and lifestyle blogger, KariAnne Wood (Thistlewood Farms) delivers an encouraging collection of 52 devotions. With a fun voice and authentically-relatable personal reflections, Wood encourages weary women with these quick but meaningful reads. She speaks right to the heart with Scripture, brief prayers, anecdotes, and application. Additionally, the aesthetic of the cover and interior page designs starts readers out, right from the beginning, with a smile. It’s a book that catches the eye and maintains that appealing connection throughout each day’s reading. Can be read ‘popcorn’ style - by heading to the topic that most appeals - or by meditating on one devotional a week all year. Versatile, engaging, and encouraging, this would also make a great stocking stuffer! (TYNDALE MOMENTUM, Sept., 224, $12.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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But here’s the thing: even when the situation looks hopeless, even when making the right choice looks hard with extra challenge on top, God’s got you.
— KariAnne Wood

Inspirational Non-Fiction/Relationships
NAVIGATING THE FRIENDSHIP MAZE
Michele Howe

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In this engaging book on friendship (the good, the bad, and the toxic), Howe helps readers navigate the labyrinth of relationships to find authentic friends that edify and point to God. She spends time defining Biblical friendship (and why it’s essential), discussing the kind of friend every woman needs, and coaching women on how to become a lasting friend to others. Each chapter is short and sweet, with thought-provoking personal stories, Scripture, quotes, reflections, and prayers. She also includes a ‘take-away action thought’ in each chapter, as well as ‘focus on friendship’ questions that make this a great choice for both small group study and personal reading. Easy to read and meaningful, there is much treasure to be mined here for readers who simply want to pan for gold or readers who want to dig deeper. (HENDRICKSON PUBLISHERS, May, 160 pp., $14.95)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Inspirational Women’s Fiction
AT HOME IN WISHING BRIDGE
Ruth Logan Herne
Series: Wishing Bridge #2

Bookmarked Review

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Herne’s compassion for people from all walks of life is unabashedly woven into the undeniable authenticity of her skillfully crafted stories. The genuine heart of this small-town community draws even its staunchest city-slicker residents as they grapple relevant, raw, challenging issues. Dedicated nurse practitioner Thea has an endearing combination of confident independence and sensitive vulnerability. While she and Dr. Ethan Bradenburg often experience frustration with one another, their biggest obstacle is their growing attraction considering the temporary nature of their positions. Wishing Bridge presents readers with a realistic cross-section of residents in a variety of ages, economic classes, cultural backgrounds, and professions. Grief, poverty, racism, foster care, accessibility of medical services, and human trafficking all play a role within the plot, yet the community, friendship, and sweet romance keep darker themes from overpowering the inspiring hope of faith. (WATERFALL PRESS, Oct., 304 pp., $12.95)

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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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.