Saturday, July 18, 2015

The State of Affairs by Deena Peterson




No, I didn't write a book.  But hopefully that headline grabbed your attention.  I'm throwing in my two cents on the publishing industry, specifically the CBA.  I've been reading a lot from agents, authors and publishing houses.  Thought it would be a good time for a blogger/reviewer to chime in.

Hope you all have on your steel toed boots, because I've already stepped on my own ten digits while processing my thoughts.  Here goes....

I've been blogging and sharing book reviews on a regular basis for the last 9 years.  When I first got my blog up and running, I mostly wrote reviews about books I had purchased and enjoyed.  My mother and best reading buddy had passed on to Jesus and I needed an outlet.  So 'A Peek at My Bookshelf' was born.

Soon after I started reviewing, I began to connect with other bloggers.  Through a chain of events, I found out about a blogging group where independent reviewers of Christian fiction gathered to pool their reviews and receive copies of new releases for free in exchange for the publicity.

I thought I'd died and gone to heaven (not literally, but everyone is allowed a bit of hyperbole now and again).  Then I found another group, and they offered all kinds of Christian books for review.  My blog (and my mailbox) exploded.  My kids were impressed by my now "work", and I was in book heaven.

Over the course of a few years, I've noticed a significant change in the industry.  Whereas before I could send an email to a publisher or representative and request a title I was interested in, that possibility began to blow away.

Bloggers were everywhere, and the market became saturated with reviews and opinions.  This was good, because more connection were made and more friendships forged along the way.  But it did limit what was now available in terms of a review in exchange for a book.  What once was a great and inexpensive marketing tool now morphed into a powerhouse industry.

Publishers created networks.  Reviewers could sign up as members, produce their stats for their reviews, and in return obtain a book for review.  Supply was limited, and most times you could only request one title at a time.  This became the new way to keep in reading material.

Then along came this little site called NetGalley, a clearinghouse for advance electronic copies of all kinds of genres and titles.  When NetGalley added the Kindle feature, once again I felt I'd entered the pearly gates of reading (again, a touch of hyperbole).  And again the industry exploded with blogs and reviews and critics (oh my!)(that wasn't hyperbole--that was sarcastic wit).

Another change I noticed in the publishing industry was the switch to what I call "safe stories".  Mostly Amish and tender romance, it seemed the books I personally found engaging were no longer a part of the CBA experience.  Many of my favorite edgier authors lost contracts or went independent so they could write the stories they believed in.

For myself, I saw this as an error in judgment.  It was freeing for me to know I could purchase the latest gritty crime thriller and not have to worry about a sexual component or coarse language.  But those stories went mainstream or extinct.  This worked to limit the reading audience to almost nothing but the traditional Christian reader.

These two trends have ultimately led to a crisis of sorts within the industry.  And our authors are suffering the most from the change.  Several big name publishers are no longer printing fiction, with Abingdon Press being the most recent to fall.  This means that 1) fewer titles are being published; 2) primarily the big, established names are on the shelves of the Christian bookstore; and 3) the days of a free book are soon to pass away into that good night.

And, quite frankly, it breaks my heart.

Don't misunderstand me.  I read a ton of books, so free titles are always highly appealing to me.  As it is, even with all of my freebies I spend a chunk of cash every month.  But if I had a dollar for every post, comment, article, opinion or lament about people asking for free copies of novels I'd be able to invest in another dozen shelves for my reading material.

The avenues for publication are narrowing.  Even going with the self-publishing route, authors still pay a hefty price.  The dollars normally allowed for publicity and promotion just aren't available any longer.  Many have to rely on word of mouth, which requires reviewers, which requires free books, which eats into the author's bottom line.

See the vicious cycle?  And going mainstream isn't always the answer.  Although it would be very refreshing to just go into a bookstore and see books and not 'fiction and literature' on fifteen shelves with two dedicated to 'inspirational fiction'.

I write all of this to get reviewers like myself to stop and take stock of what we are asking of the creative souls who bleed their imagination onto paper for our education, entertainment and flat out enjoyment.  Are we possibly asking too much?

I don't know how aware you are of industry trends, but now, thanks to Amazon, authors sometimes don't even receive proper payment for their work.  Pay by page, or some other such rot is what I've gotten wind of.

So, maybe it is time to dust off the old library card.  To break down and purchase a gift card for less expensive ebooks.  Or to just be willing to put our money where our mouth is and to purchase more than we ask for at no cost.   To do more than just post a five sentence review.  Something that truly demonstrates our love and appreciation for the authors who keep us in stories and keep reviewers in business.

I have no idea what the answer is.  I know what I'd like to see.  I'd like to see less complaining and judging when an author pushes the envelope with the story he or she is telling.  You don't like it?  Fine, mention it so readers know it is there, but don't lynch the author.  I'd like to see more thoughtful, well crafted reviews.

Even five lines are enough if they are well thought out and constructed.  Most letters of appreciation rather than request.  Maybe even a network of reviewers who are willing to cough up postage in order to share the freebies and get more mileage from a galley or an ARC.

And sign up on NetGalley.  Write reviews.  Give consistent feedback (I myself am bad in this area, but I'm working on it).  Because exciting things are still happening in our industry.  YA fiction is set to explode and be far better than the general market offerings.  Today's novels are a bit edgier and more real to everyday 'living on this dirtball life', with a resounding message of hope in Someone bigger.

So, I guess that's it.  Try not to hurt me too much.  I just love books, I love the ones who create these imaginary peoples we all love, and I love you, the reader.  Maybe, if we are more aware, and we work together, we can get the industry pumped up again. 

The talent is out there, readers.  We just have to shine the light on it.

Happy Reading!

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Dead Dog Like Me by Max Davis



About the Book:

Megachurch pastor Nick Gregory's life is falling apart. His wife is filing for divorce. His congregation is questioning his leadership. His faith is nearly nonexistent. It goes down hill from there. When he regains consciousness after a horrific car crash, Nick realizes he is no longer in his hometown or even in the twenty-first century.

Transported back in time to 800 B.C. and into the body of King Saul s grandson Mephibosheth, Nick must quickly adapt to a completely different way of living. Can the experience of living as a another broken man, desperate for God s healing, bring healing to Nick himself if he can ever get back home?

A novel of adventure, redemption, and outrageous grace, Dead Dog Like Me takes you back in time to know more deeply a God who never changes, a God who lavishes you with His love.

My Thoughts:

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect with "Dead Dog Like Me".  Even the title sounded vague and esoteric.  But a dear friend couldn't stop raving about Max Davis' new novel, so I decided to take a peek.

Last night, around 8 PM, I cracked the cover of "Dead Dog Like Me".  Around 1 AM I finished my game of "just one more chapter", and if I'd been wearing makeup, it would have been demolished.  I am SO in love with this book!

Anyone that really knows me knows my passion for books.  I can have 50 titles on my To Be Read shelf, and I'll still want to make a trip to the bookstore to see what's new and what I don't have. So, yeah...I read a lot.

It takes a special, over-the-top powerful story to get me to say this: EVERYBODY NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK!  So sorry...got a little excited there.  But seriously, if I had the money, I'd purchase a copy for at least every single pastor in the United States, every missionary, every person in ministry, and every person who loves someone in ministry.

Which means everybody.

Pastor Nick Gregory has a genuine passion for God and for His work.  But, like most of us, when the ministry efforts became productive and the people kept coming, it went from His work to his work.  Unfortunately, that tends to lead to family needs taking a back seat on the bus called ministry.

When everything in Nick's life falls apart, God steps in to put the pieces back together His way.  The story is painful, very real, and left me in tears pretty much every other page.  In fact, I was about 2/3 done and I had to go out and hug my husband and tell him how much I loved him and his heart for God.

Being married to a pastor, I get it.

The snarky, judgey, critical nose in the air of the church body is evident in "Dead Dog Like Me", and it brought me to tears.  I recognized myself in those characters.  As the "gotta find a chink in the armor of God" media army descended, I recognized myself in that swarm.

And as Abbi Gregory reached her breaking point....I saw myself in her as well.

If anything, you've got to read this book for Deuce alone!  He was my favorite character of all!  My thanks to my friends at Wynn-Wynn Media for my complimentary copy of "Dead Dog Like Me" in exchange for an honest review.

Please, don't miss out on "Dead Dog Like Me".  Highly, highly recommended.  In fact, "Dead Dog Like Me" is on my Top Ten Reads of 2015!

Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Last Con by Zachary Bartels



About the Book:

Former con man Fletcher Doyle is finally home after six years in the pen. He’s working a menial job, regaining his bearings in the world, and trying to revive his relationships with his wife and twelve-year-old daughter. No easy feat.

But when Fletcher and his family go on a mission trip to Detroit—in the company of the condescending church leader who also happens to be his landlord—Fletcher finds his old life waiting for him. Within hours of arriving in the city, he’s been blackmailed into doing a job for a mysterious criminal who calls himself The Alchemist.

A series of relics hidden by the Knights of Malta, as ancient as they are priceless, are in the sights of The Alchemist. What he needs is a gifted grifter with a background in ecclesiastical history . . . what he needs is Fletcher Doyle.

Between hiding his reawakened criminal life from his wife and trying to hide her from their relentless landlord, Fletcher is ready to give up. But when his family is drawn into the dangerous world he can’t shake, Fletcher is forced to rely on his years in the game to save the only people who mean more to him than the biggest con in history.

My Thoughts:

Attention all fans of Leverage, The Sting, The Italian Job, or The Librarians!!!!!

This is a book you MUST. NOT. MISS.  Zachary Bartels exploded on the fiction scene with his debut novel, "Playing Saint".  Now, his sophomore novel is head and shoulders one of the best of the current offerings today.

Imagine you are a career criminal in the art of fraud.  You finally get convicted, do your time, and then try to redeem your family's trust.

But then, the deal of a lifetime comes by you, and it's for good, not for evil.  What do you do??  That's the basic premise of "The Last Con".  Yes, there is some ancient church history, cloaked in 'Da Vinci Code' type mystery. 

But, oh, the twists!  The turns!  The mind-bending loop-di-loops!  My heart races through the entire book, and it was better than any thrill ride you can find.  What a movie this would make! 

For now, it's a true movie for the mind, and one you do not want to miss.  My thanks to my friends at NetGalley for an advance copy.  This one is so good I plan on getting my own, even though I received a copy in exchange for my review.

Highly, highly, highly recommended.

Seriously.

Why are you still here??  Get thee to a bookstore immediately!

Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hidden Identity by Carol Post




About the Book:

When Meagan Berry is caught on camera rescuing a senator, she knows her cover's been blown. After faking her death, she's spent months keeping her identity hidden from an abusive ex-fiancé. Now he's on her trail in remote Cedar Key, Florida.

Officer Hunter Kingston knows Meagan's running from something, but he can't imagine anyone wishing harm on the pretty artist. Then an intruder breaks into Meagan's house, and Hunter promises not to leave her side.

But when evidence from the crime scene doesn't add up, Hunter wonders whether he should trust Meagan. Yet he will have to put his faith in this mysterious beauty if they both want to live to see another day.

My Thoughts:

True confession:

I stopped reading Love Inspired a while back.  But, only because there's just So.  Much.  Good.  Stuff.

When I was asked to review a couple of new titles, I was honored.  And wow, am I glad I said yes!  Love Inspired Suspense has grown really intense!

Carol had me from the first few pages, and it was another round of "Just One More Chapter" for me.  Gripping, thrilling and fast paced, with excellent character building and sequence of story.

Don't you just get kind of twitchy when you KNOW someone's hiding something but you can't put your finger on it??  Yeah, that's what Meagan does to Hunter, but he handles it much more professionally than I would.

It is no exaggeration that this is a true life or death story.  If a certain someone finds Meagan, she's certain to die.  It's Hunter's job to find the truth and to protect her from harm.  And, of course, sparks fly between the two while they are on the run.

Between this book and the last two I've read, I do believe I'm hooked on LIS novels once again!  And that is a very good thing.

My thanks to Carol for a complimentary copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.  I honestly recommend "Hidden Identity"!


Happy Reading!

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Along the Broken Road by Heather Burch



About the Book:

Armed with only a journal and a promise, soldier Ian Carlisle returns home to fulfill his friend’s dying wish: to find the man’s daughter and read her his journal, one page at a time. The woman he finds in River Rock, Missouri, is just as warmhearted, artistic, and feisty as her father described.  Ian had fallen in love with Charlee McKinley before he even met her, but he has no idea if she’ll ever return his feelings. Charlee loved her father—but she didn’t like him very much. Regimental and strict, Major Mack never approved of his daughter’s choices. So when a down-on-his-luck soldier arrives on Charlee’s doorstep, she’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but not her heart.

It isn’t until he starts reading to her that the beautiful, touching words begin to unlock something deep inside. But when Ian reveals a secret that shakes Charlee to her core, will she close herself off to love out of fear?

My Thoughts:

Heather Burch exploded on the writing scene with her critically acclaimed "Halflings" trilogy, earning her positive attention from YA readers everywhere.  As a reader, I enjoyed that series.  As a woman, I'm in love with her new contemporary novels.

Heather is a phenomenal writer, and her gift of storytelling reflects a finely honed craft.  "Along the Broken Road" introduces us to Charlee McKinley, a broken woman just struggling to find safety and belonging.  If she doesn't, she runs.

We also meet Ian Carlisle, a man who, unbeknownst to Charlee, served under the command of her father, Major Mac McKinley.  Ian is on his final mission for his commanding officer, and a huge part of that mission is to teach Charlee how to stop running.

In honor of her mother's memory, Charlee opens and runs an artists' retreat for an eclectic group of four: a crotchety old painter, a man who prefers kilts over trousers, and two adorable elderly sisters with quirks of their own.

The characters are delightful, and story is gripping, and the romance...well, it gets a bit heated, so be warned.  But it doesn't cross over into the immoral, just kind of kisses the boundaries quite a bit.  But the relationships between these imaginary people will speak to your heart, and quite possibly bring healing to your broken areas.

I'm excited for this series, and can hardly wait for big brother Jeremiah McKinley's story, which will release next year.  Plus, Charlee has four brothers, so oh, the stories Heather can tell!  My thanks to my friends at NetGalley for my advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

"Along the Broken Road" is highly recommended, with a warning about intense kissing.  But I still highly recommend this book!

Happy Reading!

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith by Barnabas Piper



About the Book:

God is infinite, beyond our understanding—yet He chooses to reveal Himself in ways that spark questions rather than settling them all.Instead of making Himself smaller, God invites us into a larger faith.

One that has room for questions, victories, failures, and mystery.

Because belief in an infinite God by finite humans is an act of exploration ... a process of learning—and then embracing—what we can’t learn but can trust.Discover the God who not only desires our belief but actually welcomes our curiosity

My Thoughts:

Every Christian needs to read this book.  Every non-Christian needs to read this book.  Every person on this planet needs to read this book.  And I thank God that He inspired Barnabas Piper to write this book.

The building block for the entire book is a simple verse found in Mark 9:24, where a father goes to Jesus for healing for his son.  He confesses to Jesus this: "I believe.  Help my unbelief!"  I've always loved that verse.

Barnabas builds the case that belief and unbelief are both a part of the life of a believer.  God isn't threatened by our unbelief.  In fact, He welcomes it.  He understands it.  And He will help us with our unbelief if we are honest about it, and bring it to Him.

I found Barnabas to be refreshing and very wise.  If reading a book by his father, John Piper, is like drinking from a fire hose, then a book by Barnabas is like drinking from a water fountain with really, really good water pressure.

He addresses the verse that states "You believe?  Good for you!  Even the demons believe and they shudder!"  If you think about it, the demons probably understand far more about God and His Word more than any of us do.

Barnabas explains exactly what it means to believe.  And his book is filled with quotes from well-respected men and women of the faith, as well as smart dead guys.  Sorry is that offends you, I learned it from my pastor husband.

My thanks to my friends at David C. Cook for my advance copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This is one of the books that makes me wish I was independently wealthy and could hand out to everyone who come across my path.

So, in other words, highly recommended!

Happy Reading!

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Difference of a Year by M.J. Wilson




About the Book:

The day after graduation is considered the beginning of adulthood. Jenny Hammond is embracing her newfound independence by moving into a new apartment with her best friend after securing her first job. Life is perfect, that is until it gets hard. An unexpected tragedy will push her to an emotional edge. Conflicts at work could end up costing her the job she loves driving her closer to that edge. As she struggles to hang on she finds that the hand reaching out to her belongs to the one person she never would have expected to lean on.

Discovering that becoming an adult brings with it hope and despair, love and loss, and weakness and strength. Will she be able to navigate through all the challenges blocking her path before all is lost? Will she find a way to move past her insecurities to allow in the one person who might be able to help heal her heart and find a way to start living again. Can she come to terms with all the changes a year can bring?

My Thoughts:

"The Difference of a Year" by M.J Wilson grabs the reader's attention from the first few pages.  I was laughing along with her delightful characters from the start.  When they hit rough times, I cried along with them.

And Ryan made the exact same impression on me that he made on Jenny...and he grew on me the exact same way he grew on Jenny!!  Now, that's some great writing, folks!.

I had planned on reading a few chapters, then finishing the next day.  Instead, I ended up playing one of my favorite games: the "Just One More Chapter" game that leaves you bleary eyed in the morning but oh, so satisfied in your imaginative heart.

My thanks to M.J. for providing me with a copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review.  How's this for honest?  I loved "The Difference of a Year" so much, I searched her on Amazon and bought two more of her books when I was in Chapter Two of "TDOAY"!

"The Difference of a Year" is ideal summer reading, and is highly recommended!

Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Expert Witness by Rachel Dylan




About the Book:

DANGEROUS TESTIMONY

Minutes after testifying in a murder trial, sketch artist Sydney Berry is almost killed in a drive-by shooting. United States Marshal Max Preston saves her life then whisks her away to safety. She's his first protected witness, and he'll do everything in his power to keep her safe.

But Sydney doesn't want to hide from danger. She is determined to finish her testimony and put a killer away. With potential suspects coming from all corners, Sydney will have to trust Max with her deepest secrets—and her life.

My Thoughts:

Wow!  For a pocket sized book, this packs an intense punch!!  Rachel Dylan is guaranteed to make a name for herself in the inspirational marketplace!

The action pops off the page, and Rachel hits us with it in the first few pages.  Sydney's life is in the cross hairs of a vicious gang, and the only one who knows about the threat is US Marshall Max Preston.  Problem is....Max is a newbie Marshall.

At every turn, somehow plans are leaked and an attack proves to be imminent.  Are they dealing with a mole in the department, or is the gang that good at digging up information?  Is this tied to Sydney's case, to her iron clad testimony?

Or is something else going on?  Who really wants Sydney--and Max--dead?  Can Max protect her, or is he still too new and in over his head?

Rest assured, all of the questions get answered, but you won't know the whole plot if you don't make it to the end of the book.  And Rachel's intense writing guarantees you will want to reach the end, and quickly.

Be prepared for a late night of reading fun!  My thanks to Rachel for sending me an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.  "Expert Witness" is highly recommended.  Watch for this one to release in September 2015!

Happy Reading!

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Monday, June 29, 2015

London Tides by Carla Laureano




About the Book:

Irish photojournalist Grace Brennan travels the world’s war zones documenting the helpless and forgotten. After the death of her friend and colleague, Grace is shaken.

She returns to London hoping to rekindle the spark with the only man she ever loved—Scottish businessman Ian MacDonald. But he gave up his championship rowing career and dreams of Olympic gold years ago for Grace ... only for her to choose career over him.

Will life’s tides bring them back together ... or tear them apart for good this time?

My Thoughts:

Carla Laureano is a multi-talented author, and I adore everything she writes!  I've read the first book in this series as well as her first novel in the fantasy fiction genre....and she is just so good at telling a story that captivates and moves the reader.

Grace is so broken, your heart will ache for her.  Ian is so wounded and confused you can't help but pray for him....and HE'S NOT REAL!  "London Tides" is the kind of book you don't want to begin after 8 o'clock, unless you like playing the "Just One More Chapter" game.

The characters are well developed and nestle into your heart's imagination, intent on staying with you a good long while.  The setting is gorgeous described, and it adds to the story instead of bogging it down.

Carla knows the delicate balance between description and action, and she balances both beautifully.  An added bonus: Andrea and James are back from "Five Days in Skye", and play a pivotal role in the story of Grace and Ian's story.

Something else Carla does very well: she puts you in the character's shoes, allowing you to learn more about those who bring us stories from the front lines and the cost on their souls to do a job well done.  I see foreign correspondents differently now, and view them with more compassion.

"London Tides" also tackles the idea of sacrificing your dreams for another person, examining the benefits and the cost of letting go.  Ian needed divine wisdom in his decision making in order to benefit himself as well as Grace.

My thanks to David C. Cook for my advance copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  "London Tides" is highly recommended.  In case you were wondering, "London Tides" can be read as a stand alone novel, but why not invest in "Five Days In Skye" and get even more enjoyment out of your reading?

I invested in both stories, and I'm all the richer for my reading!!


Happy Reading!

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Reservations For Two by Hillary Manton Lodge





About the Book:

A culinary concoction of taking chances and finding love in the most delectable places 
 
Food writer-turned-restaurateur Juliette D’Alisa has more than enough on her plate. While her trip to Provence might have unlocked new answers to her grandmother’s past, it’s also provided new complications in the form of Neil McLaren, the man she can’t give up.

Juliette and Neil find romance simple as they travel through Provence and Tuscany together, but life back home presents a different set of challenges. Juliette has a restaurant to open, a mother combating serious illness, and a family legacy of secrets to untangle – how does Neil, living so far away in Memphis, fit into to her life?

As she confronts an uncertain future, Juliette can’t help but wish that life could be as straightforward as her chocolate chip cookie recipe. Can her French grandmother’s letters from the 1940’s provide wisdom to guide her present? Or will every new insight create a fresh batch of mysteries?

My Thoughts:

May I just say, I adore this author and her work!  Hillary is among my favorite "must read" storycrafters, and her newest series is simply delicious reading.  "Reservations For Two" is a second serving of delightful reading and intriguing recipes.

Both literary fans and foodies will adore this book.  Juliette is on a mission to uncover the truth about her family legacy.  Armed with only a photo and a hunch, she travels overseas to visit her roots and to find the truth.

Neil is her enthusiastic travel companion, and he wants to be in her life permanently.  He's passionate, engaging and loyal, and he loves Juliette with his entire heart.

Kind of.

What can you do when your life is on one coast and hers is thousands of miles away?  Can a long-distance relationship sustain love?  And will Juliette's new dream of co-owning a restaurant with her family come to fruition?

Hillary is a master storyteller and an iron chef.  Her recipes will have your mouth watering, and her prose will have your eyes tearing.  She writes with passion, emotion, and intrigue at her fingertips, and infuses her stories with life and love and faith.

I'm so thrilled with both "A Table By The Window" and the follow up novel "Reservations For Two".  This new book deepens the mystery surrounding Juliette's family history, tightens the bonds of her family tree, and explores how one can be in love....yet still be searching for that one undeniable feeling that trumps all others.

Don't miss this new and fresh series by Hillary Manton Lodge.  Highly recommended!

Happy Reading!

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren




About the Book:

Mortified after her semester abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough for the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her new place mean leaving home behind?


My Thoughts:

I must disclose something to you, my reading friends:  I have yet to read a novel by Susan May Warren that didn't end up an outstanding reading experience.  But I must also admit, I absolutely adore the Christianson Family Series far more than any other series she has crafted.

Do not make the mistake of labeling this series as romantic fiction.  To do so would not even come close to describing the message of the books.  Yes, romantic elements are a part of the stories.  But only a part.  To capture the essence of Susan's novels, one must go deeper in describing them.

It's best to call these books real life fiction, which on the surface seems like an oxymoron, or a paradox.  But trust me.  Susan breathes such power into her characters and her words that these novels read like biographies of living people.

So, when Amelia feels as if she has failed in her grand adventure of life, expect to feel defeated as you read along.  When Roark comes half way across the world to prove himself to Amelia and her family, expect to feel challenged and a bit treasured.

And when Seth throws out his chest and tries to stake his claim on Amelia's heart, prepare to feel defensive, conflicted, and torn.  Whatever emotion Susan has written into the story, you can be assured you will feel it to the very marrow of who you are.

Something else Susan does that makes this series so powerful is her continuity. We met Darek and Ivy in the first novel, and we spend time with them in every story, and they remain real and alive as if we'd just visited over dinner last week with them.

The same goes for the other Christianson siblings: Eden, Caspar, Owen, Grace, Darek and Amelia are all present and accounted for in each new novel.  "The Wonder of You" has Amelia in the spotlight, but be prepared to learn a lot more about Grace and Max, our spotlight couple from another previous book.

I don't even have to think about it when Susan has a new book releasing.  Before the ink dries on the page, I've pre-ordered my copy and eagerly await a captivating and engaging story.  In fact, I'm kind of sad that Owen's story will close the chapter on this amazing and perfectly flawed clan.

Do yourself a favor, and put all of The Christianson Family novels on your "to be read" shelf, and prepare for an incredible reading journey.  You won't want to move away from Deep Haven once you're done.

I may have to look into buying a home in that little town.  "The Wonder of You" (and previous books) is highly, highly recommended.

Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Gifting by K.E. Ganshert





About the Book:

"If science is right, then I am crazy. And crazy is dangerous."

Tess Eckhart has always felt things nobody else can feel. Then the Ouija board incident happens at a high school party. Her complete freak out sends her family across the country-next to a nationally-renowned facility for the mentally ill. Worried Tess suffers from the same illness that tormented her grandmother, her parents insist she see a psychiatrist.

But Tess is more concerned about fitting in at her new school, and hiding the fact that she's seeing a therapist at the Edward Brooks Facility. She's used to whispers and stares, but when it comes to Luka Williams, a reluctantly popular boy in her class, she's unused to a stare that intense.

Then the headaches start, and the seemingly prophetic dreams that haunt her at night. As Tess tries to hide them, she becomes increasingly convinced that Luka knows something-that he might somehow be responsible.

But what if she's wrong? What if Luka Williams is the only thing separating her from a madness too terrifying to fathom?

My Thoughts:

Oh.  My.  Word.

I am SO EXCITED for the YA genre in the inspirational fiction market!  We've got some stellar authors crafting the most amazing fiction, and K.E. Ganshert is on my Top Ten Must Read list with her debut offering, "The Gifting".

"The Gifting" begins a trilogy of YA novels that take the reader to the edge of imagination, where true speculative fiction lives.  Tess has an unusual ability that makes her life absolutely miserable.  We've often dreamed of the possibility of knowing the future; take it from "The Gifting" that a gift like that is NOT a blessing...

....it feels more like a curse.

Starting over as a new student in high school is tough, but when it's in the middle of the year and your brother can't seem to forgive you for the part you played in the move....yeah, it's brutal.  Throw in being an oddball, and you've got a recipe for bullying and shunning.

Enter Luka Williams.  He's handsome, mysterious, and a loner.  So when he attaches himself to Tess, rumors begin to fly and everything they do is observed and investigated for possible damaging gossip fodder.

Mix in the ability to see beyond our own reality, and you've got one of the hottest new YA books in today's marketplace.  I've loved Katie Ganshert's contemporary fiction, but this....this is pure gold!  I can hardly wait for the next book in this amazing new series.

I purchased a copy for my Kindle Fire, and devoured it quickly.  You can find a copy of "The Gifting" at booksellers everywhere, and you can find it online.  Whatever you do, do not miss out on "The Gifting"!

Highly, highly recommended.

Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Remedy by Serena Chase



About the Book:

PURPOSED by birth. DESTINED by prophecy. REVEALED by Truth.

Now, her time has come.

Having come to terms with her long-hidden identity, Princess Rynnaia E'veri is ready to take her rightful place. But before she can join her father at Castle Rynwyk, she must endeavor to fulfill a 200-year-old prophecy and defeat the Kingdom's ancient enemy, the Cobelds.

Joined by her faithful knight, Sir Julien de Gladiel, and a gifted group of friends, Rynnaia must trek a dangerous path through canyons, forests, and into the very depths of a mountain where, if the prophetic scrolls prove correct, she will face an unknown foe, alone. Treacheries will be discovered, sacrifices will be made, friends will be lost, and love will be tested, but if even one line of the riddled prophecy is misinterpreted, Rynnaia will fail . . . and the Kingdom will fall.

Beginning at the point THE RYN ended, THE REMEDY concludes an epic re-imagining of the classic Grimm fairy tale, Snow White & Rose Red, but the Eyes of E'veria series is only beginning

 . . . Book 3: The Seahorse Legacy (May 2014) begins an adventurous retelling of the classic Grimm tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and an epic scope that will conclude the second 2-book set of the Eyes of E'veria series when Book 4: The Sunken Realm releases in 2015.

My Thoughts:

When I fall so deeply in love with a debut novel, especially in a genre such as fantasy, I always pause before picking a sequel.  In the back of my mind I always wonder if the second can be as epic as the first.  After all, the second novel is often the bridge book in a series, and can sometimes be the slowest of a series.

Well, I'm very pleased to let my readers know that "The Remedy" by Serena Chase is not only AS good as "The Ryn"....it's even BETTER...and that was as close to impossible as a task can be!

This second novel is a whopping 524 pages, but you will feel as if you've blinked and you've reached the last chapter.  Sweeping, epic, and stellar with memorable characters and a gripping tale that will have you playing "just one more chapter" until the wee hours of the morning.

Serena also lays foundation for the next two novels in this huge and wonderful story arc.  Even greater things are ahead for our beloved group of fantasy friends...and Serena has promised two more novels to wrap up the story in a fairly nice and tidy bow.

My only issue with this fantasy series is I WANT THE NEXT TWO NOVELS NOW!!!  And yes, "The Seahorse Legacy" is already available, but I'm no dummy.  I'm waiting until "The Sunken Realm" is closer to release date, because I already know I won't want to wait.

My favorite fantasy series of the year (which would literally be 2014, but I'm late to the reading party), and most definitely in my top five fantasy reads EVER, which includes The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter (as well as Jill Williamson's "Blood of Kings" and Laini Taylor's "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" trilogy).

So get reading, friends!  You're in for an epic feast for the imagination with "The Remedy".  Trust me...this is a thing I know!

Happy Reading!

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt




About the Book:

Wedding bells and storm clouds collide in the first engaging novel in a brand-new series about destination weddings, the power of love, and the possible mishaps and missteps that happen on a couple’s journey down the aisle to “I do.”

Paramedic Vanessa Hollister has put her adolescence behind her, including the unwanted label of being the new kid in town over and over again, thanks to her father’s military career. She’s overcome what her mother called “the biggest mistake of her life” and is planning an elegant destination wedding in Destin, Florida with her new fiancé.

But will the reappearance of her first husband from her what-were-you-thinking teenage elopement disrupt her dream of an idyllic beach wedding?

As a professional storm chaser, Logan Hollister is used to taking risks. However, a reckless decision during the last tornado season has him questioning the future of his team, the Stormmeisters. Coming face to face with his ex-wife eight years after their divorce compels him to confront his greatest regret: losing Vanessa. Does their past give him the right to interfere with her future?

A fast-moving, powerful hurricane throws Vanessa and Logan together as they evacuate to a storm shelter along with other residents of the Florida Gulf Coast. Forced to spend time together, the pair battles unexpected renewed feelings for each other.

Vanessa and Logan are faced with a choice: Should they accept, once and for all, their teenage marital mistake? Or is God offering them a second chance at happily ever after?

My Thoughts:

To quote the younger generation:  Oh, the FEELS!!  I absolutely adore this new book by Beth K. Vogt, and I'm so looking forward to more in her new Destination Wedding series!

To be completely honest, I wasn't sure if this was a book for me when I first started.  See, Vanessa was already engaged to marry a guy, and I didn't really like the guy much at all.  But by the time Vanessa landed in Florida to begin plans for her destination dream wedding, I was hooked...

...that all began in chapter two, so I wasn't a hesitant reader for very long.  And trust me when I tell you that Beth knows her way around a great story...I have a feeling she didn't care much for Vanessa's current fiancé either!

Logan....oh my word.  How dense can one man be?  I just wanted to reach into the book and shake some sense into his ever lovin' storm chasin' head!  For a guy who likes risk and adventure, he sure did chicken out on our girl years ago.

Turns out Mr. Adventure Storm Chaser has regular old feet of clay, and he gets told on soon after Vanessa arrives.  Hilarity ensues, but don't forget to keep the tissues nearby.  Beth had me grinning and laughing on one page, and then tearing up so much I couldn't see by the next scene.

And the ending...oh, that ending!  Talk about exquisite...talk about emotional power....talk about TRUE romance....OH, THAT ENDING!!  It took me almost a full 30 minutes to get through the last two chapters...I kept having to put the book down to dry my eyes.

Yup, this book is a keeper and a half, and if you know of any young women seeking love and romance, give them a copy and tell them to look for a guy like Logan: flawed, but oh so teachable!  I had to run out and hug my husband once I'd finished reading the book...

....because, yes, I got myself a Logan:-)

Thank you to my friends at Howard Books for my complimentary copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I cannot recommend this book enough to you.  I do believe this one goes on my Top Ten Reads for 2015!



Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Justified by Varina Denman



About the Book:

In a small Texas town ruled by gossip, Fawn Blaylock believes others are justified in condemning her untimely pregnancy. Stifled by guilt, she yearns for grace while the local football coach treats her with gentle respect.

Justified perfectly captures the rhythm and romance of life in a small town, telling the unforgettable story of a woman searching for renewal, a man looking beyond what others see, and a community torn between judgment and love. It is the unforgettable story of broken dreams, second chances, and relentless hope.

My Thoughts:

Varina Denman won my heart with her debut novel, "Jaded".  She has sealed the deal with her sequel, a book more powerful and more captivating than the first.  "Justified" is a book you must not miss this year.

Fawn Blaylock was a member of the "let's scorn Fawn and her mom" group.  Now life has turned upside down for her and she's on the receiving end of the judgment, shunning and scorn.  Can anyone get close to Fawn without dealing with the fallout of associating with her?

True, it was Fawn's choices that put her in such a precarious position, but don't we all make mistakes, bad calls in judgment, and...sin?  Then who are we to sit on our moral high horses when we find broken people in our midst?

Sometimes I fear the church either takes "judge not unless you're willing to be judged" too far...but she also goes on the "pass judgment bandwagon" so many times she should have a lifetime pass to ride.  (hopefully you got the wit in that last statement...if not, just move along, nothing to see here...).

Thankfully, God forgives us all and He enables us to have the faith to ask Him for His forgiveness.  My heart ached for Fawn in "Justified"...and believe me, that took some powerful writing, because I couldn't stand her in "Jaded"!

Oh, what a difference a sequel can make! 

For such a tiny, one horse town, Trapp, Texas packs a lot of mystery and small town secrets.  Surprises and Varina's specialty, and she has a few in store for readers in "Justified".  My thanks to my friends at David C. Cook Publishing for my complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Honestly, make Varina Denman and her "Mended Hearts" series a must-read on your list.  And prayer your daughters might one day find real life men like Dodd and JohnScott!

"Justified" releases June 2015, which gives you plenty of  time to read "Jaded", available now at booksellers everywhere!


Happy Reading!

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Ryn (Eyes of E'veria) by Serena Chase





About the Book:

Centuries ago, an oracle foretold of the young woman who would defeat E'veria's most ancient enemy, the Cobelds. But after two centuries of relative peace, both the prophecy and the Cobelds have been relegated to lore--and only a few remain watchful for the promised Ryn.

Finally, a child is born who matches the oracle's description, but a Cobeld curse accompanies her birth. Led to believe they succeeded in killing the prophesied child, the Cobelds emerge from hiding with plans to overtake the Kingdom.

But the child survived.

Secreted away and called "Rose" for the first nineteen years of her life, Rynnaia E'veri has no idea of her true identity until a chance meeting with an injured knight reveals not only her parentage and true name, but the task assigned her by the oracle: discover the Remedy that will destroy the Cobelds' power.

Now, her time has come.

Offered the assistance of pirates, scribes, storytellers, a young woman who died centuries ago, and the knight who is quickly working his way into her heart, Rynnaia is fortified with friends. But if the Ryn is to complete her task, she must come to terms with not only who she is, but for whom she must be willing to die. For the kingdom's survival depends on her.

THE RYN begins an epic re-imagining of the classic Grimm fairy tale, Snow White & Rose Red, which concludes in Eyes of E'veria book two: THE REMEDY.

...but the Eyes of E'veria series is only beginning.

My Thoughts:

Epic.

Exquisite.

Sweeping.

Inspiring.

Destined.

Yeah, if I had to sum up the experience of reading "The Ryn (Eyes of E'veria)" by Serena Chase, those would be the words I'd choose.  I'm a bit late to discovering the magnificence of this fantasy series.

I'd seen reviews, and I'd purchased my Kindle copy.  But I had other books to read, other reviews to write, and fantasy isn't my genre of choice.  Honestly, I believe God had me delay, because there is no way on earth I'd be able to read "The Ryn" without knowing the sequel was already released!

The dialogue is crisp and witty.  The action is well paced and exhilarating.  The characters are well developed and beloved.  And the story...

...oh, the story!

"The Ryn" has earned a place among some of the greatest works of fantasy that our world has ever read.  Elements of Tolkien, Lewis, L'Engle, Rowling and so many others can be found within the pages of "The Ryn".

What makes this book destined to be a classic is the subtle but powerful allegory.  Readers will close the covers with a richer, deeper understanding of God, His Word, and His Son.  Sacrifice will have a richer, deeper meaning.  And the characters...oh, the characters!

Lady Rose and her company lift from the pages and remain in your heart long after you finish reading.  I truly cannot say enough about how swoony and glorious this book is.  I'm eager and ready to dive into the sequel...but I shall wait a bit.

I still need to digest this banquet of words and images that my imagination has feasted on for the last few hours.  Run, do not walk, to purchase a copy of "The Ryn (Eyes of E'veria)" as quickly as you can, then lose yourself in the pages of one of the most epic, exquisite, sweeping, inspiring and destined novels of our time.

Yeah, I said it.  And I'm so thankful Serena wrote it.

Happy Reading!

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Found and Lost by Amanda G. Stevens




About the Book:

When Violet DuBay's friend Khloe confides that her dad is a Christian, it's the one secret Violet can't keep. Turning in Khloe's dad to the Constabulary is her duty. Her decision becomes an opportunity to infiltrate the Christian resistance; but as she gets to know Marcus, Lee, and the others, she's compelled to question the things her society has taught her about God and His followers.

Clay Hansen persuades his family to join him at an underground church meeting and brings Violet, his teen daughter Khloe's best friend. That night, the church is raided. He and his wife escape, but in the chaos, he loses Violet and Khloe.

How can he find them with the Constabulary monitoring his every move? If the God who once spared Khloe won't intervene, Clay will have to save her himself.

My Thoughts:

This is the second novel in Amanda's 'Haven Seekers' series, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one!  "Found and Lost" picks up near the end of "Seek and Hide", and brings back favorite characters Marcus and Lee.

Seen as the head of the resistance, Marcus continues to shoulder the heavy responsibility of protecting true believers from the con cops.  When Khloe and her best friend Violet get separated from Khloe's parents, it's Marcus who finds them and takes them to safety.

But it seems a spy is in their midst, and the house church from the first novel is now under arrest and undergoing re-education.  With nothing but government approved bibles available, how can anyone find the truth?  God will make a way if people truly seek Him.

The action is evenly paced and "Found and Lost" gives us another side to the conflict between the government and Christianity.  Families are torn apart and lives are stretched to the breaking point as each person must decide what to believe...because to believe in Amanda's world is a choice between life and death.

I look forward to the next novel in this dystopian series that sends a chill down my spine.  Be warned: it can be a very dark story, but Amanda gives us just enough glimmers of hope to keep the pages turning.

My thanks to my friends at David C. Cook Publishing for my advance copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  "Found and Lost" is most definitely recommended.



Happy Reading!

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