Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, January 2017

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the January 2017 edition of the Christian Fiction Book Club Connection. Thanks for stopping by! Whether you’re a pastor or ministry leader thinking of forming a book discussion group at your church, a current member of a book club, or simply a fan of Christian fiction hoping to connect with other readers, you’re in the right place. Please consider subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss future posts.

Today I’m providing information on Christian fiction discussions scheduled to take place around the web this month. I’m also featuring a handful of recently released Christian fiction titles for which a discussion guide is available, either included in the book itself or on the author’s or publisher’s web site.

Online Discussions Coming Up This Month

The ACFW Book Club‘s January selection is Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig. You can subscribe to the group’s e-mail list now, by following the instructions on their Web site, to be sure not to miss any announcements or discussion questions.

By the Book is an in-person book discussion club that has introduced an online Facebook-based discussion option. To join in online, like the By the Book Facebook page, and be sure to check back there periodically for any discussion that may not have made it into your news feed. January’s selection is What Happened on Beale Street by Mary Ellis.

For January, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron AND A Twist of Faith by Pepper D. Basham. Grab your copies and head on over to the discussion forum to check in with others who are in the midst of reading these books.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title per month. The selection for January is Hannah’s Choice by Jan Drexler. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Jamie of the Books and Beverages blog hosts a monthly Inklings discussion series for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction, the title for the month of January is Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis. The discussion is planned for January 19, 2017.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

The Devoted by Suzanne Woods Fisher (October 2016, Revell, Amish Fiction)

The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep (October 2016, Shiloh Run, Historical Romance)

Child of the River by Irma Joubert (October 2016, Thomas Nelson, Historical Coming of Age)

The Candidate by Lis Wiehl (October 2016, Thomas Nelson, Political Thriller)


So, friends, what have you been reading lately? Any titles you’d recommend for book club discussions?

My Top Ten Most Anticipated Reads of 2017

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Happy New Year to my fellow book enthusiasts!

I must confess, I intended for this to be a Top Ten Tuesday post when I made my list. But when I went back to look at this week’s prompt from The Broke and The Bookish, I realized I’d misread the prompt, and more closely approximated the prompt done on December 13th. Oops!

I went back and forth on whether to redo my list to focus on the “Top Ten 2017 Debuts I’m Excited For” (as prompted) or whether to go with the list I’d already written. In the end, I decided the list I really wanted to share were my top ten most anticipated reads for the first half of 2017, whether debut or not. So…that’s what I’ve done. And I’d love to hear about the books you’re looking forward to in 2017 as well… debut or not. :)

Without further ado, the upcoming releases I’m most looking forward to:

Moving Target by Lynette Eason
Elite Guardians, Book 3
Contemporary Suspense from Revell
Releasing January 2017

Still Life by Dani Pettrey
Chesapeake Valor, Book 2
Romantic Suspense from Bethany House
Releasing January 2017

Maybe It’s You by Candace Calvert
Crisis Team, Book 3
Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House
Releasing February 2017

Recruits by Thomas Locke
First in a new series.
Science Fiction from Revell
Releasing February 2017

To The Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden
Historical Romance
From Bethany House
Releasing February 2017

A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner
A Novel of the Great Depression
Historical Fiction from Kregel Publications
Releasing March 2017

Life After by Katie Ganshert
Contemporary Fiction
From WaterBrook
Releasing April 2017

Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon
Hope Harbor, Book 3
Contemporary Romance from Revell
Releasing April 2017

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti
Contemporary Fiction
From Abingdon
Releasing April 2017

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber
First in a new series.
Science Fiction from Thomas Nelson
Releasing June 2017

Are any of these upcoming releases on your To Be Read List? What are you most excited about reading in 2017?

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Christian Fiction Books and Audiobooks of 2016

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My blog post today is based upon this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt provided by The Broke and the Bookish – Top 10 Best Books of 2016. I decided to limit my list to Christian fiction books and audiobooks that were both released in 2016 and read by me in 2016. There were some really fabulous stories released this year, so as you can probably imagine, it wasn’t easy to choose!

Step by Step by Candace Calvert.
Contemporary romance from Tyndale House.
Book 2 in the Crisis Team series.
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Site

Far and Near by Amanda G. Stevens.
Speculative fiction from David C. Cook.
Book 4 in the Haven Seekers series.
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Site

The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry.
Historical Fiction from Tyndale House. Audio from Recorded Books.
A great choice for book discussion groups.
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Author’s Site

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore.
Contemporary Mystery from Tyndale House. Audio from Oasis Audio.
A great choice for book discussion groups. Review to come.
Quick Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Author’s Site

Sea Rose Lane by Irene Hannon.
Contemporary Romance from Revell. Audio from Recorded Books.
Book 2 of the Hope Harbor series.
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Author’s Site

Priceless by Joel and Luke Smallbone.
Contemporary Fiction from Worthy Publishing. Audio from christianaudio.
A novelization of the movie by the same name. Review to come.
Quick Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Author’s Site

Always Watching by Lynette Eason.
Romantic Suspense from Revell. Audio from Tantor Audio.
Book 1 of the Elite Guardians series.
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Author’s Site

Close to You by Kara Isaac.
Contemporary Romance from Howard Books.
A debut novel by a talented new author. Review to come.
Quick Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Site

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa.
Mystery / Suspense from Revell. Audio from Oasis Audio.
Book 1 of the Coffey and Hill series. Review to come.
Quick Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Author’s Site

Fraying at the Edge by Cindy Woodsmall.
Amish Fiction from WaterBrook Multnomah. Audio from Recorded Books.
Book 2 of The Amish of Summer Grove series. Review to come.
Quick Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Author’s Site

So those are my top ten reads of the year for 2016, though I know there are lots more fabulous books out there that I haven’t had the chance to read yet, including some on my must-read-soon list. Which were your favorites this year?

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, December 2016

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The monthly “Three for the Books” post is where I feature new (Hot Off the Presses), best selling (Topping the Charts), and award winning (Cream of the Crop) Christian fiction books. I select one title to feature in each category, as well as providing links to where you can browse additional newly released, best selling, and award winning titles. Have you read any of these featured titles? Any others you’d like to give a shout-out? Comments are always welcome!

Hot Off the Presses

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen releases this month from Bethany House Publishers. It’s the first title in a new Regency series by this Christy-award winning author. Available in print, electronic, and audio editions.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More New Releases

Topping the Charts

A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury appears first on the December 2016 ECPA Christian fiction bestsellers list. This contemporary Christmas story features beloved characters from the author’s Baxter Family series. It is available from Howard Books in print and electronic formats, with an audio edition available from Simon & Schuster Audio.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Best Sellers

Cream of the Crop

Jaded by Varina Denman won the INSPY Award in the Debut novel category for 2016. This contemporary Christian romance is first in the Mended Hearts series, which is available from publisher David C Cook in print and electronic editions.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Award Winners

Book Review: One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg

Title: One Enchanted Christmas
Author: Melissa Tagg
Publisher: Independently Published
Published: December 2015
Series: Enchanted Christmas Collection, #1
Genre: Romance, Christian Fiction, Christmas
Length: Novella

About the Book: (from the author’s Web site)

Last December, mystery author Maren Grant had the most perfect night of her life. On a glimmering winter evening, she got to watch the photo shoot for her very first book and ended up on a magical date with the cover model himself – Colin Renwycke.

Fast forward one year. This December, with a looming deadline, restless spirit and her creative spark long since gone, Maren is desperate to get unstuck. And she can’t get Colin out of her head…or his year-old open invitation to spend a couple weeks writing at his family’s farm.

Drew Renwycke never planned to come home and take over the Renwycke family farm. But he’s spent too many years watching his siblings unravel, including his brother, Colin, after one terrible family mistake. If moving to Maple Valley, Iowa, renovating an old farmhouse and switching careers is what it takes to put the Renwycke family back together, he’ll do it.

But his simple plan upends when a scrappy author lands on his doorstep. And she just might be the key to coaxing his brother home. But what if he wants her all to himself? Drew will have to choose between his Christmas wish and the enchantment of a holiday romance that just might be the happy ending they all long for.

My Thoughts:

This is such a fun and light-hearted story, perfect for the Christmas season! And there’s a sequel that just released this year that I’m excited to read too – One Enchanted Eve.

Short as this novella is, the characters feel remarkably three dimensional. We spend time in both Drew’s and Maren’s heads, getting to know their thoughts, fears, hopes, and dreams. But what makes this novella unusual and extra-fun are the bits of entertaining commentary interjected periodically by the author/narrator. A few brief examples:

“Um, no, guys. He liked her. That’s why he said she could stay. But go ahead, Drew. Tell yourself whatever you want.” (Chapter 4)

“Oh, this is good. Let’s backtrack…” (Chapter 5)

I love the friendly, casual voice used in this commentary. And the humor incorporated as we’re whisked from one scene to another on our way to a meaningful conclusion.

This novella stands on its own just fine, but from what I’ve heard, if you’ve read Melissa Tagg’s Walker Family series, the setting and some of the characters in this one will be familiar. I’ve been meaning to read that series…thinking it may be time to bump it up my TBR list.

I purchased this ebook, and was not expected to write a review, but I wanted to. :)

Quick Links: About the Book | About the Series | Author’s Site

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, December 2016

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the December 2016 edition of the Christian Fiction Book Club Connection. Thanks for stopping by! Whether you’re a pastor or ministry leader thinking of forming a book discussion group at your church, a current member of a book club, or simply a fan of Christian fiction hoping to connect with other readers, you’re in the right place. Please consider subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss future posts.

Today I’m providing information on Christian fiction discussions scheduled to take place around the web this month. I’m also featuring a handful of recently released Christian fiction titles for which a discussion guide is available, either included in the book itself or on the author’s or publisher’s web site.

Online Discussions Coming Up This Month

The ACFW Book Club will be doing something a little different for the month of December. Rather than choose a book for discussion at this busy time of year, the group is arranging for authors to offer giveaways on the discussion list. You can subscribe to the group’s e-mail list now, by following the instructions on their Web site, to be sure not to miss any announcements or discussion questions.

By the Book has been run as a local in-person book discussion club for years, but has just recently introduced an online Facebook-based discussion option. To join in online, like the By the Book Facebook page, and be sure to check back there periodically for any discussion that may not have made it into your news feed. December’s selection is Finding Riley by Dan Walsh.

For December, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Falling Like Snowflakes by Denise Hunter AND A Patchwork Christmas Collection by Judith McCoy Miller, Nancy Moser, and Stephanie Grace Whitson. Grab your copies and head on over to the discussion forum to check in with others who are in the midst of reading these books.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title per month. The selection for December is Amish Christmas at North Star by Cindy Woodsmall, Mindy Starns Clark, Emily Clark, Amanda Flower, and Katie Ganshert. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Jamie of the Books and Beverages blog hosts a monthly Inklings discussion series for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction, the title for the month of December is Bilbo’s Last Song by J.R.R. Tolkien. The discussion is planned for December 21, 2016.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

Unblemished by Sara Ella (October 2016, Thomas Nelson, Young Adult Fantasy)

Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon (October 2016, Revell, Romantic Suspense)

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin (October 2016, Thomas Nelson, Contemporary)

Love Bears All Things by Beth Wiseman (October 2016, Thomas Nelson, Amish Romance)


So, friends, what have you been reading lately? Any titles you’d recommend for book club discussions?

Seven Christmas Themed Reads for 2016

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It’s that time of year again, when we start shopping, decorating, and planning for the Christmas season. At my house, we’ve already hung the mistletoe, and we’re looking forward to picking out a Christmas tree soon, but the list of things to do between now and the 25th feels… long.

And yet, busy as this time of year can get, I love a good Christmas story to help me slow down and appreciate the joy and meaning of the season. With that in mind, I’ve been browsing the impressive selection of Christmas stories newly available this year in Christian fiction. You might say I’ve been, um… making my list and checking it twice. 😉

If you’re groaning over that one, sorry. I get it, but I couldn’t help myself.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of the titles that have made my I-hope-I-can-find-time-to-read-it list. And I’d love to hear which titles you’re excited about this Christmas season.

Sleigh Bells Ring: Four Contemporary Romance Novellas by Sandra D. Bricker, Lynette Sowell, Barbara J. Scott, and Lenora Worth (Gilead Publishing. Available in print and electronic formats.)

Publisher’s Description: Santa Claus is coming to town, and so are the Tucker sisters. Never mind a pony. The Tucker girls have inherited their father’s horse farm for Christmas. Make that a run-down horse farm. It needs some serious TLC in order to make it sell-ready. Joanna knows that by recruiting her sisters and one handsome ranch hand they can fix up the place and even celebrate one last Christmas while they’re at it. However, to Isabella, returning to their home in Kentucky bluegrass country for Christmas seems like an impossible hurdle. Can her Chicago boyfriend make life merry and bright again? One thing’s for sure: nothing is peace on earth for Sophia as a new beau brings up old wounds. And when the fate of the horse farm is put in jeopardy because Amy accidentally fraternizes with the enemy, tensions rise. But it’s not like the land developer stole Christmas . . . just her heart. Can the Tucker sisters have themselves a merry little Christmas?

A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck (Zondervan. Available in print, electronic and audio formats.)

Publisher’s Description: Avery Truitt aches for true love—the kind she once shared with Prince Colin. Can she dare to hope for happily ever after, or is a fairy-tale ending beyond reach? College volleyball star Avery Truitt has not seen her former flame, Prince Colin of Brighton Kingdom, since he suddenly pushed her away five years ago. But now, the sadness of losing her father and the joy of her sister Susanna’s pregnancy have brought Avery back to Brighton just in time for Cathedral City’s enchanting Christmas season. Avery knows she can’t avoid seeing Colin—now the Kingdom’s most eligible bachelor—whether or not her heart is ready to relive the pain. But seeing him again might bring her the closure she needs after all this time. When Colin finds himself at the center of a centuries-old Brighton tradition, he must decide whether to follow the path laid out before him or follow his heart to the only woman for whom he would ring the Pembroke Chapel Bell. Can Colin convince Avery to meet him at the chapel on Christmas morning—as tradition dictates—or will Avery run back to her St. Simons home and pursue a coaching career as planned? In the fourth installment of the Royal Wedding Series, New York Times bestselling novelist, Rachel Hauck, weaves a charming story of holiday romance as two broken hearts seek the love they once knew.

A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury (Howard Books. Available in print, electronic, and audio formats.)

Publisher’s Description: From #1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury comes A Baxter Family Christmas, a life-changing story of love and hope featuring the Baxter family. Whether you’re meeting the Baxter family for the first time, or finding them all over again…A Baxter Family Christmas will leave fingerprints on your heart forever. Two years have passed since the terrible car accident that took the life of John Baxter’s daughter, Erin, her husband and three of their four daughters. Prompted by grief, and missing his daughter, John has invited a stranger for Christmas Eve dinner—Kendra Bryant, the transplant recipient who now has Erin’s heart. In light of their father’s idea, Ashley and her brother Luke don’t think it’s right. They want to protect their ten-year-old niece, Amy—the only surviving member of the accident. But John is determined and believes meeting this woman is something his deceased daughter would want. At the same time, Maddie West, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Brooke Baxter West, is praying for meaning this Christmas. Could she find it in a newfound friendship with a boy she never expected to see again? Maddie believes in miracles, especially at Christmastime, but this is a stretch even she can’t imagine. Meanwhile, Kendra Bryant has been struggling these past few years to find purpose in the tragedy that gave her a second chance. She believes the invitation to see the Baxters and witness their unwavering faith in God can instill peace and happiness back into her life. Heartwarming and touching, filled with love and redemption, A Baxter Family Christmas brings together two families in the aftermath of loss and in the midst of an unfolding love story, all with the help of one very special child.

Starring Christmas by Rachel McMillan and Allison Pittman (Independently Published. Available in electronic formats.)

Publisher’s Description: Starring Christmas features two Christmas novellas by beloved novelists in one set! Falling for a Christmas Star by Rachel McMillan. Sam Medina has finally made it. A last minute casting change finds him en route to Toronto to star in the latest entry of the Serendipity Network’s annual Christmas movie extravaganza, My True Love Gave to Me. Finally, he will have the chance to shake off his reputation for supporting roles as the best friend or kind-hearted barista and prove that he is leading man material. Merry Strathford is too busy for love. When she’s not pursuing a tenure track position in Medieval Women’s studies, she’s serving plum pudding lattes at the Holly and the Ivy Café. Thus far, the only romance in her life occurs when she falls under the spell of her favourite made-for-TV movies. That is, until Sam Medina walks through the coffee shop door. Suddenly, both Sam and Merry are living the romance of a Serendipity movie. But life isn’t all snowflakes and sugar plums and real life —and relationships—are far from cookie cutter shortbread. Lone Star Christmas Lights by Allison Pittman. Mari Medina is in love…with her neighborhood. She’s converted her historic ancestral home into a cool coffee shop and party space, with an apartment upstairs big enough to share with her mother. It’s a comfortable, safe existence, even if it lacks the spark to fuel her unsuccessful attempts to break into the world of writing romance. Still, she’s always on the lookout for a new taste to bring to her patrons. Larsen Clarke had everything that comes with a successful career: a luxury apartment, a flashy sports car, and his pick of society women. When hardship strikes his family, he gives it all up, trading for a room in his brother’s home, and a venture into creating craft beer. He’s traded his expensive suit for a plaid shirt, and the only risk he’s willing to take involves bold Texas-based brew. When Mari and Larsen meet, it’s a collision of retail and romance. She’s looking for a story, he’s looking for himself. Together, they just might find a little lone star magic.

Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti (Worthy Inspired. Available in print and electronic editions.)

Publisher’s Description: Alexis Blake has one chance to land her own show on the Home Project Network and nothing, not an uncooperative client, a job site without indoor plumbing, or a challenging videographer, is going to stand in her way. Elsie, at seventy-plus, is far from the ideal client, but she knows exactly what she wants her fieldstone house to look like, and no designer can tell her otherwise. Gabe Langley, the man with the camera, is caught in the middle and it is his wisdom and warmth that just may be the bridge that will bring these two women together. Can they restore more than just a house and bring about special, almost lost forever Christmas memories?

One Enchanted Eve by Melissa Tagg (Larkspur Press. Available in electronic formats.)

Publisher’s Description: A delightful Christmas romance about finding the perfect recipe for love. After years of mistakes and regret, Colin Renwycke finally has a plan: Hone his baking talent at the Denver Culinary Institute and embark on a new career as a pastry chef. If he’s lucky, he might even manage to earn back his family’s respect. But despite his skills in the kitchen, Colin’s a mess in the classroom and his ongoing disasters are proving too much for his prickly instructor. If he loses his spot at the school, he’s out of backup plans. Culinary school instructor Rylan Jefferson has the chance to reclaim her dream of running her own bakery. But she only has until Christmas Eve to come up with the perfect recipe to impress an eccentric investor. She has no time for holiday parties or family plans . . . and especially not for the unruly student baker who couldn’t follow a recipe if his life depended on it.  But Colin has the one ingredient Rylan needs most—talent. Lots of it. And when he makes a proposal that just might solve both their problems, Rylan can’t say no—even if it does mean traveling all the way to Iowa. It just might be that the snow-covered plains and a charming small town full of postcard Christmas cheer are exactly what her hungry heart needs . . . along with a man who is much more than he seems.

Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful by Susan May Warren (SDG Publishing. Available in print and electronic formats.)

Publisher’s Description: She kept him alive in his darkest hour… CJ St. John never dreamed his epic summer as a smokejumper would end with a harrowing plane crash—one that crushed his pelvis and rendered him nearly an invalid. He wouldn’t have made it through the dark night of pain and danger without brave fellow smokejumper Hannah Butcher. In fact, if he were to admit it, he probably fell in love with her that night. He gave her the courage to reach for her dreams… Hannah Butcher had dreamed of being a smokejumper for years—but dreaming and doing are vastly different. During rookie camp, she would have given up if it hadn’t been for CJ St. John urging her on. She probably fell in love with him then—but especially when he held her hand and kept her calm during their terrifying survival. A winter storm awakens their memories—and fears… When Hannah discovers that CJ plans on skipping out on their mutual friends’ wedding, she knows he’s been lying to her about his recovery—and determines to give him the same stubborn encouragement he’s given her by forcing him to attend. But when a blizzard detours them, and worse, they’re run off the road, they’ll have to face their darkest fears to survive. A Christmas story about the miracles that happen when the weather outside becomes frightful. Note: If you picked up this title in the Candy Cane Kisses Christmas Anthology, this is an extended version! Discover how CJ and Hannah fell in love…and continue their story after the storm is over!


So, did any of these titles make it onto your Christmas reading list? Any other Christmas themed titles you’re excited about? Please share in the comments. :)

Book Review: The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry

Title: The Promise of Jesse Woods
Author: Chris Fabry
Publisher: Tyndale House
Published: July 2016
Genre(s): Christian Fiction, Coming of Age, Book Club Fiction

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

The summer of 1972 was the most pivotal of Matt Plumley’s childhood. While his beloved Pirates battle for back-to-back World Series titles, Matt’s family moves from Pittsburgh to Dogwood, West Virginia, where his father steps into the pulpit of a church under the thumb of town leader Basil Blackwood. A fish out of water, Matt is relieved to forge a fast bond with two unlikely friends: Dickie Darrel Lee Hancock, a mixed-race boy, and Jesse Woods, a tough-as-nails girl with a sister on her hip and no dad in sight.

As the trio traipses the hills and hollers, Matt begins to fall for Jesse, and their promises to each other draw him deeper into her terrifying reality. One night, the wrath of the Blackwoods and the secrets of Jesse’s family collide, and Matt joins Jesse in a rescue that saves one life and ends another . . . and severs the bond of their friendship.

Years later, Matt is pulled back to Dogwood and to memories of that momentous summer by news of Jesse’s upcoming wedding. He could never shake the feeling that there was more to the story of that fateful night, and he’s determined to learn the truth behind the only promise Jesse Woods ever broke.

My Thoughts:

This thought-provoking coming of age novel is told from the point of view of Matt Plumley, who is a 14-year-old boy in one timeline, and a young adult in the other. Over the course of the novel, the reader is right there with adolescent Matt in the 1972 portions of the book, experiencing a life-changing summer along with him. But we’re also accompanying an older Matt in 1984 as he returns to his childhood home on a journey back to understand what happened that summer and whether he can fix it. The two timelines merge well to create the perfect blend of immediacy and hindsight, as the timelines build on each other on their way to the story’s pivotal moment.

Populated by quirky and memorable characters, and featuring an emotionally poignant storyline, realistic dialog and beautiful prose, this story is a keeper. Book clubs in particular will appreciate this book for the wealth of discussable topics it addresses and the excellent discussion questions included in the back of the book. But it’s the little unexpected and vivid details scattered throughout the book in dialog, description, and characters’ observations that really drew me in to the time and place and made the book stand out for me.

This is the second book I’ve read by this author (see my review of the audio edition of Not in the Heart). I have to say I’ve been impressed by both books, and plan to seek out more of his work.

Thank you to Tyndale House for providing a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, November 2016

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The monthly “Three for the Books” post is where I feature new (Hot Off the Presses), best selling (Topping the Charts), and award winning (Cream of the Crop) Christian fiction books. I select one title to feature in each category, as well as providing links to where you can browse additional newly released, best selling, and award winning titles. Have you read any of these featured titles? Any others you’d like to give a shout-out? Comments are always welcome!

Hot Off the Presses

Intermission by Serena Chase releases this month, in fact I believe today’s the day. It’s a contemporary YA coming-of-age romance featuring musical theater and family drama from the popular self-published author of the Eyes of E’veria series. Available in print and electronic editions.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More New Releases

Topping the Charts

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore appears fourth on the November 2016 ECPA Christian fiction bestsellers list. This contemporary mystery is the fiction debut by the New York Times Bestselling author of numerous nonfiction books and Bible studies. It is available from Tyndale House in print and electronic formats from Tyndale House, with an audio edition available from Oasis Audio.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Best Sellers

Cream of the Crop

Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke was highly decorated this year. It won the Christy Award, the Carol Award, and the INSPY Award in its categories for 2016. This work of historical fiction set partly during World War II and partly in more modern times is available from Tyndale House in print and electronic editions, and from Recorded Books in audio format.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Award Winners

Book Review: Far and Near by Amanda G Stevens

Title: Far and Near
Author: Amanda G Stevens
Publisher: David C Cook
Published: February 2016
Series: Haven Seekers, Book 4
Genre: Christian fiction, Speculative

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

Marcus, Lee, Austin, and Violet are starting over. Texas is supposed to be their sanctuary. But the Constabulary isn’t ready to relinquish their worst offenders, legal jurisdiction or not. They’ve sent agents in undercover, and Marcus is the assigned target of one who has personal reasons to bring him back dead or alive.

Marcus and Lee are ready to be whole again, to secure a home here—together. But wholeness and home might not mean what they thought. Stopping the Constabulary hunters will require more than Marcus knows how to give, and God is about to use him again in a way he doesn’t expect.

Enemies, emotions, the past, the future—everything must be faced in the quest for a true haven.

My Thoughts:

I’ve loved this series from the start, so it’s somewhat bittersweet to reach the end of this final book. I’ll miss Marcus, Lee, Violet, and Austen, and yet I’m happy to see them find some resolution and healing, even as a few things are left realistically open-ended.

If you haven’t been following this series, you really do need to read it in order, so check out my reviews of Books 1, 2, and 3. And suffice it to say that this series really is worth the time investment to read it. Seriously. What are you waiting for? You’ve got some catching up to do! 😉

This installment rejoins our characters in the newly sovereign state of Texas, trying to build a new life for themselves in relative safety, away from the constabulary. Except that the constabulary may not be as far away as our heroes and heroines would like. And wow, have they got a lot of issues to work through. But can you blame them after all they’ve faced up to this point?

Our (already beloved) characters take center stage in this book, as they continue to grow and mature in their faith. And in the process, they have to confront their worst fears and do things they never thought they could, before they can reach the happy ending they so desperately want. There’s more romance in this book than in the earlier ones, but it’s subtle and understated, in just the way you’d expect from Marcus and Lee if you’ve been following this series and getting to know them. Sigh. Let’s just say that the ending is all I could have hoped for them, and leave it at that for now, shall we?

Book clubs will find a lot to discuss here on issues like religious freedom, trust, and building relationships. And readers who enjoy a meaty story with thought-provoking what if scenarios, and relatably flawed characters need to read this series. It’s easily among my favorites.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary electronic copy of the book for review purposes.

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