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

SPECIAL EXCERPT: Relational Reset

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! Today, we’re excited to bring you an adapted excerpt from Relational Reset by Dr. Laurel Shaler, which released February 5, 2019 from Moody.

ABOUT THE BOOK

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Are your relationships all that you want them to be?

Do rough patches ever catch you by surprise, causing you to think Why is it so hard right now? Why is there tension? Was it something I did? Despite our best intentions, we all have blind spots—bad relational habits that are keeping us from enjoying our relationships fully. And since relationships stand at the center of all we do, if we can learn to do relationships even fractionally better, every aspect of our lives improves. Whether you struggle to overcome past wounds, insecurity, blame, or envy, it’s time to reflect on your relational habits and reset.

An experienced counselor, Dr. Laurel Shaler is passionate about helping women thrive in all of their relationships. Relational Reset will reveal unhealthy patterns that may be holding you back, give you practical steps for improving your relationships, and help you find your ultimate security and identity in Jesus Christ. When you reset your relationships, you honor God, yourself, and the ones you love.

What are you waiting for? Get started today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DR. LAUREL SHALER is a national certified counselor and licensed social worker. She is an Associate Professor at Liberty University where she serves as the Director of the Master of Arts in Professional Counseling program. Dr. Shaler writes and speaks on the intersection of faith, culture, and emotional well-being, and is the author of Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits that Hold You Back and Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and Overwhelming Life Events. She and her husband, an officer in the Navy Reserves, have one daughter and live in South Carolina. Learn more and contact Dr. Shaler at www.drlaurelshaler.com.

EXCERPT

In 2004, my husband and I were spending our first Valentine’s Day together as a married couple. Not realizing that February 14 is one of the restaurant industry’s busiest nights of the year (we were young, after all), we neglected to make reservations for dinner. Unconcerned, we got dressed up and headed out for dinner. As we drove around the city we kept encountering packed parking lots and wait times that were far too long, and Nick became increasingly hungry and angry—yep, hangry. In a moment of exasperation, my usually calm, patient, and accommodating husband declared, “If we don’t find someplace to eat now, we are going to Wendy’s!” Well, of course, that was not going to do for this young bride of six months. A fast food restaurant on our first Valentine’s Day? I don’t think so. What followed was a very unpleasant conversation—okay, argument—about where we should eat. Thankfully, within a few minutes, we passed by a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant tucked away in a strip mall. My husband pulled in without a word. After parking the car, we walked in silence, and were both relieved to know there was no wait. We were seated immediately, and before the bread basket hit the table Nick broke the ice. His apology led to mine, and we were both quick to forgive each other for the spat that took place during our dinner search. We went on to enjoy a delicious Italian dinner that night and ate at this restaurant frequently until we relocated out of state. We never fail to chuckle over how we almost missed out on a lovely first Valentine’s Day because of a silly fuss.

That silly fuss could have become something much worse. Without one of us being willing to apologize first and the other being willing to quickly forgive, it would have. People often mistakenly think that forgiveness is a feeling, but it is actually a choice. We make the decision whether to forgive. In Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother who sins again him. “Up to 7 times?” he asked. Jesus answers “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” In other words, forgiveness should be endless. I get it – it’s much easier to forgive when someone has apologized. That made it easier for me on that Valentine’s night many years ago. Yet, we have to accept that we will not always receive an apology, and we have to decide whether or not that will be a condition for our forgiveness. John MacArthur said this: "To make conditionality the gist of Christlike forgiving seems to miss the whole point of what Scripture is saying. . . the emphasis is on forgiving freely, generously, willingly, eagerly, speedily -- and from the heart.  The attitude of the forgiver is where the focus of Scripture lies, not the terms of forgiveness." I say we err on the side of forgiveness (recognizing that this is not the same as reconciliation).

Since 2004, Nick and I have enjoyed many more Valentine’s Days together. A big part of our relationship has been learning to say “I’m sorry” a lot, and forgiving one another even more. The forgiveness and grace we are able to offer each other does not come from our own strength. If that’s what I relied on, I might still be upset that my husband wanted to take me to a fast food restaurant for our first Valentine’s Day! Our strength to forgive can only from the Lord. We should forgive others as He has forgiven us.

Adapted from Relational Reset by Dr. Laurel Shaler (©2019). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

In Review... February 8, 2019

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Are you ready for the weekend? What’s the weather like where you are? No matter what it’s doing outside, we know you’re happy to curl up with a good book. Here’s our latest batch of reviews to help you out :)


Bookmarked Review

Contemporary Romance
ONE THING I KNOW
Kara Isaac

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This captivating novel is one that readers will not be able to put down. Isaac masterfully displays the fight of good versus evil, and the trials that come from dishonesty. Rachel and Lucas have chemistry that cannot be denied, which gives way to a toe curling kiss that will leave readers breathless. Secrets have a way of coming out, and Rachel and Lucas have to learn how to forgive not only each other, but themselves and their loved ones. One Thing I Know is sure to touch hearts, brings smiles, and remind readers of the need to rely on the Lord to do the things that cannot be done otherwise. (HOWARD BOOKS, Feb. 384 pp., $11.00)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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Historical Fiction
THE SEAMSTRESS
Allison Pittman

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As France is ready to explode in rebellion from the tyranny of the nobility, young Émile Gagnon takes in two young cousins to keep them from starving. This moving tale of the seamstress who makes a brief appearance in A Tale of Two Cities shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of France at a desperate turning point in her history. As the girls grow to womanhood they are faced with the choice of what to heed: the gentle voice of their protector calling for them to fix their eyes on God, or, that of the debonair insurgent crying out for revolution. Readers can expect to be swept away by this powerful narrative and experience this tragic time in history through the eyes of the cousins, Laurette and Renée. With a strong message of the grace of God, The Seamstress brings the conflict of the French Revolution to life in a vivid, insightful manner. (TYNDALE HOUSE, Feb., 480 pp., 14.99)

Reviewer: Phyllis Helton

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Children’s Board Book
DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES: A Silly Bedtime Story
Bob Hostetler; illus. Mark Chambers

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Silly and lilting and adorable in every way, this new children’s book from Bob Hostetler is sure to be a hit with children and parents alike! With clever reverse psychology, the cute rhymes beg children to keep those eyes open when, of course, the goal is to actually get them to fall asleep. Hostetler’s words (and wit) and Chambers’ whimsical illustrations follow the natural world (moon, stars, animals, etc.) as they settle down to sleep, creating a soothing speech pattern that lulls children to dreamland. It might be a ‘silly bedtime story’, but it’s also creative, fun, and intentional. A must-have for every child’s book collection… and one that parents may find themselves even after their kiddos have long gone to sleep. (THOMAS NELSON, Feb., 20 pp., $9.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Inspirational/Historical Fiction/Mystery
LADIES OF INTRIGUE
Michelle Griep

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Embark on three tales of intrigue in this novella collection from Award-Winning author, Michelle Griep. With the same high quality and standard of story that Griep is well known for, readers will easily get lost in this compilation. Along with sweet romance, these stories have a dash of mystery woven through as well. These are quick-paced stories that can easily be read in one sitting. Ladies of Intrigue is the perfect winter-day read. So curl up and get ready to uncover a few secrets with three admirable heroines. (BARBOUR BOOKS, Jan, 288 pp., $12.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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

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

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

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

SPECIAL EXCERPT: Brave Love

Here at HBTB, we are all about making space for you to be YOU. After all, that’s why we created this magazine - to celebrate books & the reading life. It’s one reason we’re excited about Lisa Leonard’s new book Brave Love, releasing today (January 29) from Zondervan! We’re also excited that we have a special sneak peek excerpt to share with you today ;)

ABOUT THE BOOK

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When Lisa Leonard said her marriage vows, she was determined to be the best wife she could be. When her first son was born with a severe disability, Lisa promised herself she would always be the mother he needed. When she began her jewelry business, Lisa committed to giving it her all.

Over the years, the exhaustion of trying to be the perfect wife, mother, and businesswoman took its toll. Lisa knew it wasn’t working. She wanted to change things, but how? Everyone depended on her. So she kept going, kept pushing, kept trying to prove she could do it all.

Until one evening, in tears and desperation, Lisa realized that she could no longer be everything to everyone. Somewhere along the way, she had lost herself.

In Brave Love, Lisa shares her story of finding truth and wholeness in the midst of life’s competing demands. Brave Love is about what it means to be human, how it feels to be broken and afraid, and what happens when we dare to love deeply. Join Lisa on a journey where you will discover you are worthy and lovable just as you are. You don’t have to try harder or be better. You don’t have to prove yourself and you don’t have to make others okay. In this freedom you will find more peace and more joy. Most importantly, you will learn that as you stop trying to be everything to everyone, you will love others better.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa is the founder of and designer for Lisa Leonard Designs. With Lisa’s creativity and her husband Steve’s vision, together they turned her hobby into a multi-million dollar company. Today they employ more than 150 people in three countries reaching around the world.  Lisa is a popular jewelry designer, blogger and speaker, sharing her story around the country. Lisa and Steve partner with non-profit organizations and ministries to protect the vulnerable and serve those in need. Lisa, Steve, and their sons David and Matthias live on the Central Coast of California. They love slow mornings, good coffee, chocolate chip pancakes, and adventure. Lisa’s favorite things are treasure hunting at local thrift stores, dabbling in photography, and having heart-to-heart conversations over coffee.

EXCERPT

One sunny Saturday when David was less than a year old, Steve and I decided to splurge and go to Baja Fresh for lunch. We couldn't really afford to eat out, but we needed to get out of the house. I gathered diapers and food for David in a bag while Steve strapped our still tiny baby into his car seat, and we drove the short mile and a half to the strip mall for lunch. Steve parked and then pulled David's car seat out of the car, with David still buckled inside. He was cozy and happy in his little seat.

At the restaurant, we turned a high chair upside down to hold him and his car seat while we ate. If we were lucky, David would stay contentedly in his car seat while we ate. As I got David sit­ uated, Steve went up to order food-two steak burritos with rice and beans. I gave David a little kiss on the forehead and looked over toward Steve. Near him were two boys, about eight and ten, laughing and pointing at David. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it seemed that they had noticed David's small hand with only two fingers, and they were nudging each other and gawking.

My cheeks flushed bright  red and my heart shattered  into a thousand  pieces.  I wanted to climb under the table and hide. I wanted to grab David and run far away where no one would ever be mean to him. I wanted to protect him from a life in which the kids at school called him names and excluded him from their activities. Instead, I sat motionless as shame threatened to swal­low me whole. But then a spark of bravery ignited somewhere inside me.

No, no, no! I am not ashamed of my son. Yes, he has only two fingers on his left hand. Yes, he is different. But he is amazing, and he is mine.

My first instinct was to grab those kids by their collars and scream, "How dare you laugh at my son! You are awful, terrible kids!" But in my heart, I knew. They didn't understand David. They had probably never seen a baby with seven fingers instead of ten. They were probably scared, so they were making fun of what they didn't understand.

Slowly, I unstrapped David from his car seat and carried him over to where the boys were now sitting with their parents. As I approached, I could see the look of terror on their faces. They probably thought they were about to be in big trouble. But instead, I calmly looked at the boys and said; "Hi, I'm Lisa, and this is my son David. I saw that you noticed him, and I wondered if I could answer any questions for you." They looked back at me with blank expressions.

"Hello," the parents said warmly. "Thanks for coming over. He's adorable. How old is he?" They were incredibly kind.

We chatted for a minute or two while the boys stared blankly at David and me. Then I walked back to our table with my head held high and my chin quivering. It was terrifying, but I had been brave. I thought my heart would break when I saw those boys pointing and laughing at David, but I took a deep breath in and realized that my heart wasn't broken. I had been afraid that shame would swallow me up, but where was shame now? I didn't feel any shame at all. I felt pride.

I learned something about myself that I hadn't known when we left the house just a few minutes earlier. I wasn't powerless. I didn't have to sit by and let shame swallow me up. I didn't have to fear other people's opinions or  judgment.  I could stand  up; I could be brave; I could speak my mind.

My chin was still quivering when Steve came back to  the table with our burritos. With tears in my eyes, I told  him  what had happened. I looked at David, who was snuggled back into his car seat, and I felt overwhelmed with love for him. Maybe, just maybe, with a little bit of bravery, we could change the world, one conversation at a time.

Taken from Brave Love: Making Space for You to be You  by Lisa Leonard. Copyright © 2019 by Lisa Leonard. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

In Review... January 26, 2019

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Looking for some good reads this weekend? Here’s our latest batch of reviews!


Non-Fiction/Spiritual Growth
WHAT IF IT’S TRUE: A Storyteller’s Journey with Jesus
Charles Martin

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Taking the same storyteller’s heart that has made his novels so soul-deep meaningful - and channeling it into a non-fiction platform - Martin challenges readers to see Jesus on a more personal level than ever before. Bringing scenes from Jesus’ life, death and resurrection vividly to life, this prolifically talented author also shares his own struggles and progress on the journey with an honest and authentic voice. Sometimes raw, sometimes almost graphic (while maintaining a tasteful tone), each chapter aims right at the soul and hits its mark every time. This is a book that readers will be tempted to devour in one sitting but would be best savored and reflected upon slowly, allowing the sensory visuals and profound truths to fully sink into the heart. (THOMAS NELSON, Jan., 320 pp., $24.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Bookmarked Review

Historical Romance
A RETURN OF DEVOTION
Kristi Ann Hunter
SERIES: Haven Manor #2

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Hunter continues to dive deep into the written world of nobility and their secrets in the second book of the Haven Manor series. As Daphne’s haven - and secret - threatens to implode with the arrival of a marquis with an obvious connection to her past, readers will be roped into the emotional thread and the ironically unpretentious storyline. Sincere and genuine, the author skillfully incorporates wit and depth amid the intricacy of emotions in both the storytelling and the dialogue. What at first seems like a simple romance novel in fact blossoms into a profound story about finding the courage to forgive and to move forward. (BETHANY HOUSE, Feb. 2019, 400 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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Remember that your pride isn’t as valuable as you think it is. Keeping it might cost you more than you
could imagine.
— A Return of Devotion

Inspirational Historical Romance
A DESPERATE HOPE
Elizabeth Camden
SERIES: Empire State Novels #3

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Camden excels at taking little-known bits of history and bringing them vividly to life, particularly those actions that dramatically changed the lives of those immediately affected and the world as we know it. In her Empire State novels, she has done exactly this, and the third novel again keeps readers riveted, this time to the early stages of New York’s aqueducts - and the towns in its path. The people of Duval Springs tug at the heartstrings as they valiantly do whatever it takes to save their beloved community in the face of imminent domain. Alex and Eloise’s relationship - from childhood friendship to first romance to distant strangers - leaves readers with plenty of swoony moments as they slowly find a new footing, and the growth in each of their characters warms the heart. A dash of suspense adds a different kind of tension, rounding out the novel with something for everyone. (BETHANY HOUSE, Feb, 352 pp., $29.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Amish Suspense
AMISH SAFE HOUSE
Debby Giusti
SERIES: Amish Witness Protection #2

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Giusti’s latest is part two of the Amish Witness Protection continuity series, but it can be read as a standalone. Julia and her family find themselves in the crosshairs of a local gang, and the witness protection program is their only hope of staying alive, though they didn’t expect to find themselves in an Amish community with Abraham, who is leery to give his heart away again. While there are a few lulls midway through the book, the action keeps the reader hanging on through the twists and turns. Romance takes a bit of a backseat to the suspense in this non-typical Amish-themed tale that will have the reader questioning just what price Abraham will pay to keep his charges safe. (LOVE INSPIRED, Feb., 224 pp, $5.99)

Reviewer: Leslie L. McKee

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Gold Star Review

Time-Slip Romance/Women’s Fiction
THE SECRETS OF PAPER AND INK
Lindsay Harrel

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Harrel delivers a wonderfully unexpected and skillfully executed adventure of love, loss, and healing. The ebb and flow of perspectives between two modern-day women and the life of a mysterious Victorian woman mesmerizes and captivates. While each woman’s life is individually compelling, when intricately stitched together into the same tapestry, the result is unforgettable and breathtaking. Book lovers will be right at home in (or perhaps envious of) the quaint and cozy Cornwall bookstore and intrigued by the historical journal’s mystery. The author champions the soothing balm of friendship and community, all while exuding a spiritual strength, hope, and irrefutable faith-based identity in the face of brokenness, desperation, and betrayal. (THOMAS NELSON, Feb., 336 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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On the outside, I was a simple woman, with a simple life. I did not, however, have simple dreams.
— The Secrets of Paper and Ink

Western/Historical Romance
HEALING HEARTS
Sarah Eden
SERIES: Savage Wells #2

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Eden weaves fact and fiction effortlessly into the pages of this story where readers will get the chance to explore the repercussions and influences of mental health in the 1870's. While many of the situations are the same as we face today, the knowledge and treatment were primitive at best and make for some intriguing reading. Miriam is a heroine that makes her own mark - plucky, defensive, and independent - and she will go to any length to protect her past. With a communication mix-up that adds levity to the story, this sweet romance will seep into the heart. The descriptions of the Wyoming Territory of 1876 are vivid and bright; for example, Eden paints pictures in a way that allows readers to feel and hear the wind blow across the open plains.  (SHADOW MOUNTAIN, Feb, 336 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Patsy Glans/Rachel Dixon

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Juvenile Nonfiction
LIES GIRLS BELIEVE: And the truth that sets them free
Dannah Gresh

As readers on the precipice of adolescence help a new friend with questionable situations that arise after Gresh addresses common misconceptions, a foundation of truth is formed. From topics of boys, family, friendships, appearance, and more, each lie is combated with biblical truth in this conversational, colorful, and interactive manual. In addition, readers are given the tools to identify other lies in their lives and counteract them by seeking out God’s word and talking to their parents or a trusted mentor when questions arise. Gresh equips girls ages 8-12 by offering ways to identify “sticky” feelings and talk about difficult topics with their parents or mentors. The companion book, A Mom’s Guide to Lies Girls Believe, allows mothers to follow along with their charges as they seek out answers to some of today’s most common lies. (MOODY, Feb., 176 pp., $12.99)

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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You become the most beautiful to God when you get excited about wearing things like kindness, helpfulness, and cheerfulness, rather than some cool new shoes, or a great lip gloss.
— Lies Girls Believe

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

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

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

Soul Care: Making a Personalized Discipleship Plan

We’ve been talking about self-care here on HBTB this week. Did you catch the Feeding The Temple and Bookish Pampering Essentials articles? Today, author Dana Allin is here to chat about his new book SIMPLE DISCIPLESHIP (NavPress, Jan 8) and how we can personalize our own discipleship.

4 Elements of a Personalized Discipleship Plan

by Dana Allin

I was regularly meeting with a man who wanted to grow in his own discipleship. He had taken our Discipleship 360° Assessment and felt that he needed to grow in the area of generosity. This included being generous with his finances, but he also wanted to be generous in the way he related to others; for example, being more willing to give of his time and to forgive. The challenge he faced was how to grow in this area. He knew he needed more than simply sermons on the topic—he had heard plenty of those. He needed a more comprehensive approach to growth. I introduced him to the four dimensions of developing a discipleship plan that I learned from LeaderSource SGA (www.leadersource.org). In my book I call these the four directions to look when developing a personalized discipleship plan.

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Look up to God: We need to rely on the Lord to develop in our discipleship. This probably seems obvious, but it is easy to think that we can simply grow in our own power and ability to execute our plans. The reality, however, is that we need to look to the Lord for His example and strength. This young disciple who wanted to become more generous needed to do more than budget to give of his finances and his time. He needed to engage with the Lord in such a way as to experience the depth of the Lord’s generosity in his life. As part of his discipleship plan, he scheduled time in the morning and evening to reflect on the Lord’s provision and love during that day and within his life as a whole. He took some personal retreat time to fast and rely on the Lord’s provision and to immerse himself in Scriptures about the Lord’s generosity. He also prayed daily for strength to recognize opportunities to be gracious toward others.

Look down to truth: When we read Scripture, we are looking down. First and foremost we look down to God’s Word to give us guidance and instruction. We might also look to other books or resources, which, while not the ultimate truth, give helpful insight in the areas where we are trying to grow. The man who wanted to grow in generosity planned to read the Gospels over a two-month period and reflect upon the ways in which Jesus was generous or called us to be generous. He also picked up a devotional book that focused on living a sacrificial life.

Look right to others: God has not called us to walk the path of discipleship alone but has given us the community of believers to support, nurture, and challenge us to grow. We need to involve others in our plans of discipleship. The man seeking to grow in generosity enlisted the help of people close to him. They prayed for him to mature in this area, and they had permission to call him out when they saw him not living generously and to ask him questions on how his plan was progressing. One of the greatest benefits for this man was to have his wife and others lovingly give him real-time feedback and support. 

Look left to experience: God gives us experiences that help develop the qualities and characteristics that we need. Many of these experiences happen to us unexpectedly, and we need to be ready for them. We can also actively plan experiences that will help us develop in our discipleship. This man built in a few experiences that would help him grow. He first made sure that he intentionally gave of his time and attention to others every week. This may have meant engaging with a talkative, needy person at work or within his extended family. He also built in opportunities to give financially: Not only did he commit to tithing, but he also sometimes skipped going out to eat or to the movies and used those finances to bless others.

It takes significant time to make and follow a plan that will help you grow, but it is absolutely crucial to have such a plan. Growth in discipleship doesn’t happen quickly or by accident, but with a personal and comprehensive plan, you can see tremendous growth.


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Rev. Dr. Dana Allin is synod executive for the Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO). Dana formerly served as the president of the board of ECO, the pastor of Indian River Presbyterian Church in Fort Pierce, FL, and the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Lakewood, CA. He is an associate certified coach with the International Coach Federation. He lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Beth, and their three children, Micah, Peyton, and Piper.

SPECIAL EXCERPT: Rewired

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

ABOUT THE BOOK

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

EXCERPT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Review... January 11, 2019

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


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

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

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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

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

Reviewer: Sydney Anderson

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

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

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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Inspirational Historical Romance
THE ALAMO BRIDE
Kathleen Y’Barbo

SERIES: Daughters of the Mayflower

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

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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

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

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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

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

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

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

BUY ON AMAZON

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

Andy Stanley's call to Irresistible faith

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

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

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

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

In Review... December 21, 2018

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


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

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

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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

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

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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

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Debut Novelist Erin Bartels gives readers a compelling story that touches on the difficult topics of interracial marriage, social status, and generational secrets. Although living during different times, Elizabeth, Nora and Mary show similarities that stem far beyond their relation to each other. They each learn the importance of staying true to oneself, defying the odds, and going against the grain of societal pressures. Bartels is not afraid to tackle adversity, and does so gracefully and poetically. We Hope For Better Things will easily gain favor from readers, and leave them wanting more. (REVELL, Jan., 392 pp., $9.99)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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

Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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

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

Reviewer: Michele Howe

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Contemporary Young Adult
PRETTY IN PUNXSUTAWNEY
Laurie Boyle Crompton

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

Reviewer: Leslie L. McKee

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

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

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

In Review... 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

Tis The Season: An Advent Devotional Roundup

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

IT’S CHRISTMASTIME!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Review... 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

A Storyteller's Heritage

Pull up a chair. Maybe by the flickering firelight or cozied up on the couch, knees covered by a multi-colored quilt. The sound of a crackling fire or the quiet hum of a coffee pot (no Keurig here) percolates in the background, wafting its warm scent through the room to mix with the smell of peppermint and the residual aroma of a recently cooked meal.

Now, we’re ready.

It’s time to hear a story.

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I grew up surrounded by stories – one of the wonderful biproducts of an Appalachian heritage. We love stories. The closer I get to the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it brings back such wonderful memories of sitting by my granny’s side and listening to her unravel centuries of stories passed down through the generations to the next.

It was remarkable to hear her trace lives back to some of the first people who found their way into the valleys and ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia and western North Carolina. I know many of us can look up ancestry online, but this was different. Granny didn’t just have a name and a date of death, she had these people’s stories. From horse thieves to Irish lore to war sacrifices all the way down to a simple shop keeper in a small town nearby. Story creates a connectivity that spans years because it binds us in our humanity, but also in our search for hope and beauty in world that can leave us in want of both.

In Appalachian, family story meant something. It bound you to the culture and the people, beyond the names. It gave you a sense of identity. Even now, when I travel back home, people will know me as “Oh, you’re Peggy’s grand young’un or “Oh, your Jay and Ginger’s girl.”

It’s a sense of belonging, a connectivity that weaves me to the people in the past through a shared legacy of pain, fears, struggles, triumphs...and people. History is drawn into the present as a reminder and a guide.

The beauty of this is that it creates a deep understanding of belonging and a fierce loyalty of family and heritage. It helps us recognize our small part in a bigger story. We are one piece in a grand unraveling of family through time.

Interestingly enough, whether we’re Appalachian or not, we are all part of a great story. God’s bigger story of redemption. And we can read about our family history in the Bible – the pain, fears, failures, and triumphs. We can see how God’s fingerprints of salvation create a grand legacy of which we are a part. Our spiritual heritage places us into a family story of eternity.

Just like the stories of my ancestors, both good and bad, create in me a sense of belonging to my Appalachian culture, the tales of men and women in the Bible tie us to our godly culture. The Hope Dwellers. The Mountain Movers. The Faith Finders. The Healed Broken. The Wall Climbers and Truth Speakers.

We’re often defined by our culture…and what a culture we have.

Your story matters because it’s one piece of God’s beautiful book of redemption and you have a part to play that He’s uniquely designed you to play in the greater span of eternity.

What a legacy! What a hope!


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As a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pepper Basham enjoys sprinkling her Appalachian into her fiction writing. She is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family.