In Review... February 23, 2019

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


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

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

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Janine Rosche

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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

Mystery/Suspense
CONVERGENCE
Ginny L. Yttrup

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

Reviewer: Rebecca Maney

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

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

Reviewer: Katie Donovan

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

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

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

In Review... December 21, 2018

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


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

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

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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

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

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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

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

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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

Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Jessica Baker

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

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

Reviewer: Michele Howe

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Contemporary Young Adult
PRETTY IN PUNXSUTAWNEY
Laurie Boyle Crompton

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

Reviewer: Leslie L. McKee

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

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

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

In Review... November 2, 2018

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


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

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

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Contemporary Romantic Comedy
TEAL PAISLEY TIGHTS
Barbara Brutt

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

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Bookmarked Review

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

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

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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

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

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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

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

Reviewer: Leslie L. McKee

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Inspirational Young Adult/Dystopian
ENCLAVE
Thomas Locke

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

Reviewer: Kerry Sutherland

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

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

Give Audiobooks a Try!

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

So I eased myself into it.

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

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

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

A few of my personal favorite audiobook titles are:

Contemporary Fiction

True to You
Becky Wade

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

Dear Mr. Knightley
Katherine Reay

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

Always Watching
Lynette Eason

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

Historical Romance

The Lady and the Lionheart
Joanne Bischof

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

From this Moment
Elizabeth Camden

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

Young Adult

Lunar Chronicles
Marissa Meyer

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

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

Unblemished Trilogy
Sara Ella

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

Children

Hank the Cow Dog
John R. Erickson

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

HAPPY LISTENING!


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

In Review... October 19, 2018

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


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

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

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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Inspirational Children/Middle Grade
LEARNING TO FLY
Sandra Atkins

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

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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

Bookmarked Review

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

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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Inspirational Contemporary Fiction
INDIVISIBLE (A Novelization)
Travis Thrasher

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

Reviewer: Patsy Glans

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

Bookmarked Review

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

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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

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

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

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt

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

Bookmarked Review

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

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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

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

In Review... October 12, 2018

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From historical fiction to science fiction to contemporary romance and romantic suspense, we’ve got a little something for everyone!


Inspirational Historical Romance/Christmas
A TALE OF TWO HEARTS
Michelle Griep
Series: Once Upon a Dickens Christmas #2

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Griep exquisitely weaves a Christmas tale that would make Dickens proud. Escape to Victorian England this Christmas season within the pages of this book. Two hearts have collided, yet with a relationship rife with deception, are there any chances left for forgiveness or love? The author beautifully draws the reader in with intriguing characters, subterfuge, mysterious pasts, and the hope of second chances. Woven into the theme is the distinct truth of God’s forgiveness of the past and the promises of the future. Readers are sure to lose themselves in this fantastic addition to Griep’s Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series. (SHILOH RUN PRESS, Sept., 192 pp., $12.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Contemporary Romance
ALL MADE UP
Kara Isaac

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Isaac blends an outlandish media situation with heartbreaking medical realities when two former flames are unexpectedly reunited on the set of a “Bachelor” style reality television show. Although sparks certainly fly between small-town rancher Caleb and world-renowned make-up artist Katriona, an intimate and vulnerable wall of blame and bitterness continues to stand firmly between them. Eyebrow-raising bloopers provide ample levity as the characters reexamine their dreams, seek forgiveness, and learn to engage in honest communication. Bravo to the author for shining a light on the helplessness and loneliness of incurable medical conditions. This story reminds readers that it’s possible to have it all and still miss out on what matters most. Glamour, fame, and travel don’t fulfill a heart’s desire for family, faith, and love. (BELLBIRD PRESS, Sep., 446 pp., $13.99)

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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Inspirational Speculative Fiction
THE RELUCTANT DISCIPLE
Jim O’Shea

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While his popular new age news program exploring unexplained phenomena such as UFOs and ghosts is sits at the top of the rankings, host Ryan Kates is skeptical. One whose strongest belief—that there is no God—is about to be tested to the breaking point. Through a handful of characters, Jim O’Shea sets up the ultimate end game as prophesied in Revelation. Combining religious and Biblical history, a dash of science, intense—sometimes frightening—moments, and a plethora of deceit, The Reluctant Disciple serves as an unforgettable reminder that the final battle for every soul draws nearer. (AMBASSADOR INTERNATIONAL, Oct., 308 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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Inspirational Historical Fiction/Mystery
LADY OF A THOUSAND TREASURES
Sandra Byrd
Series: The Victorian Ladies #1

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Treasure, mystery, and romance are exquisitely intertwined in this Victorian Era story. Between the heart-pounding drama and the heart-stopping kisses, readers will lose themselves in this world of antiquities and love. See the beauty of trust and honesty played out on each page, and learn a lot of real history as well. Byrd allows the characters to tell their stories and readers to be swept into a different age. Any fan of Victorian fiction is sure to fall in love with this one. (TYNDALE, Oct., 464 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon

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All people want to believe what they wish to believe, but we must all eventually look to believe the truth, whether or not that’s what we wished.
— Lady of a Thousand Treasures

Inspirational Romantic Suspense
HIDDEN PERIL
Irene Hannon

Series: Code of Honor #2

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Irene Hannon’s romantic suspense is a balanced blend of heartwarming attraction, page-turning suspense, and pulse pounding climax. Readers will be inspired by the heroine’s warm, confident, and compassionate personality. Through her volunteer work with a children’s theater and the operation of her missions-funding fair-trade boutique, Kristen Dane is making a positive impact on the world. Although Detective Luke Carter is new to town and still processing his personal grief, he doesn’t deny the future possibilities a certain mutual attraction presents. His ability to focus on the case Kristen is indirectly involved in while keeping their relationship at a professional level requires an admirable level of integrity and self control. The hero is attractive, intelligent, and a modern-day knight in shining armor. While events surrounding the case seem to spiral out of control, the story reminds readers of the importance of solid faith and positive relationships. (REVELL, Oct., 416 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Beth Erin

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Inspirational Romantic Suspense
LETHAL TARGET
Janice Cantore
Series: The Line of Duty #2

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Written by a former law enforcement officer, the second installment of The Line of Duty series delivers suspense with a great dose of authenticity that seems all too real at times. With tensions in Rogue Hollow on the rise over the legalization of marijuana, police chief Tess O’Rourke has quite the battle to overcome, both professionally and personally.  When a recent murder seems to be tied in with the local drug supply chain, the chief will need all the help she can get, even if that means delving into her struggle with her faith. With believable characters leading the charge to a suspenseful plot that keeps you guessing, and the thoughtful inspirational message of grace and truth interwoven throughout, Lethal Target will leave you entertained and encouraged. (TYNDALE HOUSE, Oct., 416 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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Inspirational Contemporary Romance
THE TWINS’ FAMILY CHRISTMAS
Lee Tobin McClain
Series: Redemption Ranch #2

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Lily Watkins has an ulterior motive for becoming acquainted with Carson Blair and his daughters, but the secret she holds requires she keep this family at arms-length. A feat that grows more difficult as she spends time with two little girls, their father, and a wise veteran residing at her aunt’s Colorado ranch. Like Lily, readers will be drawn by two these adorable six-year-old sisters with big, but different, personalities and an even bigger Christmas wish. McClain combines the laughter, warmth, and togetherness of the holidays to the forefront with a stark reminder that the season isn’t joyous for everyone. In so doing, she skillfully draws readers into this heartwarming Christmas story, inviting them to sit at the table with characters who feel like long-lost friends and family. (LOVE INSPIRED, Nov., 224 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner

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Inspirational Contemporary Romance
A KITE ON THE WIND
Patricia Lee
Series: Mended Hearts #3

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Grief over his wife's death drove Monty, a marine scientist, to relocate with his eight-year-old twins. His children struggle with their own pain and are referred to Claire, a learning specialist who struggles with a heartache of her own. As the two adults work together to help the children, they discover healing for themselves and their hearts begin to soar. With endearing characters and a compelling plot, this story of restored hearts and love is a touching and inspirational addition to the Mended Hearts series by this author. (MOUNTAIN BROOK INK, Oct., 303 pp., $13.99)

Reviewer: Phyllis Helton

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

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

In Review... September 28, 2018

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Looking for a great book to read this weekend? Our reviewers are loving these picks!


Contemporary Romance / Novella
ROSE IN THREE QUARTER TIME
Rachel McMillan
Series: Three Quarter Time #2

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Rose in Three Quarter Time, a love letter to music, is one of those marriage of convenience romances that melts your heart with the beauty of love and the harmony of music. Like a composer, the author created a stirring story and, like a musical conductor, she directed the tempo and pulse of Rose in Three Quarter Time in perfect rhythm.  Readers will feel Rose’s excitement as a musician meeting the renown conductor Oliver Thorne, and they will understand Oliver’s plight in keeping Rose by his side, even towards the road of deception.  The question remains, is it deception to the world or just their hearts?  Though short in word count, this novella will satisfy readers looking for a quick read but will compel the reader to read it more than once. (Sept., 178 pp., $0.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt


Inspirational Contemporary Romance / Christmas
A CHRISTMAS BY THE SEA
Melody Carlson

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Each year readers look forward to Carlson’s Christmas stories - for her sweet Hallmark-Channel-esque plots and gorgeous covers that sets the mood for Christmas. In her latest holiday release, Carlson goes to the coast of Maine with young widow Wendy Harper and her tween son Jackson who are there to fix up and sell the cottage she recently inherited from her grandfather. All the characters (with maybe one exception) are multi-dimensional and relatable, but especially Wendy and Jackson and the emotional layers to their story - past, present, and future. A nice dash of romance (with a bit of easily-forgiven instalove because it’s Christmas!) accompanies the palpable chemistry between Wendy and swoony local craftsman Caleb Colton. This is a delightful story that can be enjoyed no matter what time of year it is, but certainly will call for a re-read next Christmas too! (REVELL, Sept., 176 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt


Contemporary Young Adult
WHITE AS SILENCE, RED AS SONG
Alessandro D’Avenia
translated from the Italian

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There is much more dimension to this coming-of-age story than might first appear. Hints of something deeper, something just out of Leo’s grasp, weave in and out of his stream-of-consciousness narrative (which the author captures perfectly). Various characters who cross his path, two in particular (Gandalf and The Dreamer, as he refers to them), gently nudge him to think beyond the surface, beyond the not-yet-mature reactions of a teenage boy, to the bigger picture of faith in God and what it means to be a friend. To Leo, white is ‘nothingness’ and silence and scary. Red is passion and love and life - and Beatrice, his unrequited crush. When white and red suddenly clash together in Beatrice, Leo has to quickly make some grown-up decisions. While the writing style may not be for everyone, it is brilliantly done nonetheless and isn’t afraid to tackle tough questions of life, death, and faith. (THOMAS NELSON, Sept., 272 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt


Inspirational Historical Fiction
HIDDEN AMONG THE STARS
Melanie Dobson

Gold Star Review

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Melanie Dobson captivates readers when the past collides with the present in this unique time-slip story of the Second World War. Written from several perspectives, the author explores a side of WWII that is not often featured. Forced into situations beyond their control, our characters must fight for survival in Nazi occupied Austria - including Max Dornbach, a kindhearted man with a fierce desire to protect those he loves. In present day, Callie Randall is determined to uncover the secrets of the past, spurred by the discovery of an old children’s book with unusual markings. Filled with intrigue and sacrifice, Dobson stirs a passion in readers for this era. A heartrending story combined with passion and hope, this time-slip story is not to be missed. (TYNDALE HOUSE, Sept., 416 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon


Inspirational Historical Romance
AN HOUR UNSPENT
Roseanna M. White

Series: Shadows Over England #3

Bookmarked Review

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Fans will adore the romance, suspense, subtle humor and delightful ragtag family of street orphans in this conclusion of the Shadows Over England series. Be prepared to swoon over the hero, a devoted big brother with a heart of gold, as he navigates the unfamiliar narrow path of a new believer while using his unique skill set as a former thief for the greater good during the height of WWII. Barclay’s fiercely protective nature and carefully honed street smarts make him an invaluable asset to his family, his nation, and his new neighbor. Cool and controlled Evelina fights for women’s rights and female independence yet she wasn’t prepared for a broken engagement (or her mother’s reaction) when her fiancée unexpectedly enlists and ships out to the front lines. Secrets, lurking dangers, and intriguing new technology bring Barclay and Evelina together in this story of home front heroes, family affection, and abiding faith. (BETHANY HOUSE, Sept., 416 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Beth Erin


Inspirational Romantic Suspense
A SECRET TO DIE FOR
Lisa Harris

Bookmarked Review

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Lisa Harris writes romantic suspense that is full of mystery and heart pounding suspense. Her new book focuses on the fear of cyber-terrorism that has an end of times feel. The budding romance between Grace and Nate was sweet. Both Grace and Nate are dealing with grief. Nate’s grief is wrapped in the cloak of PTSD which is what drives him. Living off the grid, Psychology, PTSD, Grief, Child loss, and Cyber-terrorism make up this very suspenseful, edgy romantic read. (REVELL, Sept., 336 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Andi Tubbs


Bookmarked Review

Inspirational Romantic Suspense
EXPLOSIVE FORCE
Lynette Eason
Series: Military K-9 Unit #6

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Wow! The Military K-9 Unit series continues to be edge-of-your-seat suspense, action, and romance. Eason’s installment starts out with a bang - quite literally - and the danger doesn’t let up until the very end. Even then, the underlying story arcs of the Red Rose Killer and the missing K-9s continue to linger in the air, promising more action and danger ahead. Nick and Heidi make a great team, with fun banter that brings brief levity when most needed. Nick’s love/hate relationship with Heidi (and all reporters) is tested in both extremes throughout this quick-read novel, and Gramps adds a few more chuckles with his wry observations of the situation. “Gotta find me a woman I don't like as much as you don't like that one.” Annie, Nick’s bomb-sniffing bloodhound, is a loyal partner and heroine in her own right. Eason excels at taking her characters on an intense quest for survival while still organically weaving threads of faith and humor throughout, and Explosive Force is yet another example of her talent. (LOVE INSPIRED SUSPENSE, Sept., 224 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt


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.

Back to School Reads for Moms, Kids, and Teens

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

For Moms

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

Devotional/Parenting

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The Better Mom Devotional
by Ruth Schwenk

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


Counseling/Psychology

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

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


Christian Living/Parenting

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

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


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

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


For Kids

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

Juvenile Fiction

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

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


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

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


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

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

Also available as a picture book


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

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


Middle Grade Fiction

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Learning to Fly
by Sandra Atkins
Grade: 4-6

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


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

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


For Teens

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

Young Adult/Devotional

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

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


Young Adult Fiction

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A Future and a Hope
by David Mathews

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


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Fawkes
by Nadine Brandes

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


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The Orphan’s Wish
by Melanie Dickerson

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


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