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
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


Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Romantic Suspense/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


Amish Fiction/Christmas
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


Inspirational Contemporary Romance
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


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


Inspirational Historical Romance
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


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

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

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

Tis The Season: An Advent Devotional Roundup

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Review... 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

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


Gold Star Review

NonFiction/Christian Living
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


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


Inspirational Historical Fiction/Romance
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


Inspirational Romantic Suspense
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


Inspirational Suspense/Legal Thriller
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


Inspirational Contemporary Romance/Christmas
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


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

Back to School Reads for Moms, Kids, and Teens

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

For Moms

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


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The Better Mom Devotional
by Ruth Schwenk

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


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

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

Christian Living/Parenting

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

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

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

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

For Kids

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

Juvenile Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also available as a picture book

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

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

Middle Grade Fiction

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Learning to Fly
by Sandra Atkins
Grade: 4-6

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

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

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

For Teens

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

Young Adult/Devotional


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

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

Young Adult Fiction

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A Future and a Hope
by David Mathews

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


by Nadine Brandes

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

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The Orphan’s Wish
by Melanie Dickerson

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

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