Monthly Archives: January 2017

Book Review: Close to You by Kara Isaac

Title: Close to You
Author: Kara Isaac
Publisher: Howard Books
Published: April 2016
Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance

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

A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand.

Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in “happily ever after” ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree by guiding tours through the famous sites featured in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. By living life on the road and traveling New Zealand as a luxury tour guide, Allison manages to outrun the pain of her past she can’t face.

Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him—for his biggest business competitor—and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories. The one thing that stands between him and his goal is a know-it-all tour guide who can’t stand him and pegged him as a fake the moment he walked off the plane.

When Allison leads the group through the famous sites of the Tolkien movies, she and Jackson start to see each other differently, and as they keep getting thrown together on the tour, they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither expected to fall in love again, but can they find a way beyond their regrets to take a chance on the one thing they’re not looking for?

My Thoughts:

Fans of romantic comedies will love this debut novel. Such a fun read! Its situational comedy, quirky supporting characters, and witty banter had me grinning and chuckling, even as I got to know and empathize with the lead characters in their struggles and disappointments.

The unique backdrop of a Lord of the Rings themed tour in New Zealand sets this book apart from the start, and makes it quite memorable. There are some fabulous descriptions and details throughout the book, the kind that make me want to go on exactly this sort of tour.  Though I think I’d want to brush up on my LOTR trivia first….

But it’s the characters, their hurts, and their goals that carry the story. Both characters are likeable – Allison from the beginning, and Jackson as we get to know him better – and they each have some unfortunate emotional baggage to work through, and some growing to do. I enjoyed cheering them on along the way toward a charmingly romantic ending. Perfect for those readers of clean contemporary romance looking for a good chuckle along the way to happily ever after.

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

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, January 2017

Three for the Books, January 2017

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. This month for the first time, I’m also including links to some fabulous reviews by fellow bloggers, so you can check out what others are saying. 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

Still Life by Dani Pettrey releases this month from Bethany House Publishers. It’s Book 2 in the Chesapeake Valor suspense series. Available in print and electronic editions.

Featured Review: On the Madison’s Library blog, Madison writes, “I do love a good mystery and Still Life has so many wonderful twists, intriguing suspects, and really good, dark mystery.” Check out her full review of Still Life here.

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

Topping the Charts

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green appears on the Christian Book Distributors’ weekly bestsellers list. This historical romance is available from Bethany House in print and electronic formats.

Featured Review: The Fiction Aficionado blog describes this book as “beautifully written, in such a way that the words themselves fade into the background and you become immersed in the details and emotion of the story.” Click to read more of this review of The Mark of the King.

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

Cream of the Crop

The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck won the Christy Award for Contemporary Romance / Suspense in 2016. This first book in the Heart’s Bend series is available from publisher Zondervan in print, electronic, and audio editions.

Featured Review: Beckie at By The Book wrote, “Hauck is one of the best writers of contemporary romance around, but she really outdid herself with this novel. This book is definitely a must read!” You can find her full review of The Wedding Chapel here.

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

Audiobook Review: Priceless by Joel and Luke Smallbone

Title: Priceless
Author: Joel Smallbone & Luke Smallbone
Print Publisher: Worthy Publishing
Audio Publisher:
Narrator: David Atlas & Nora Hunter
Published: September 2016
Genre: Christian fiction, Contemporary, Novelization
Length: 8 hours, 5 minutes. Unabridged.

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

She’s Worth Fighting For

This novelization of a major motion picture (Fall 2016) by Joel and Luke Smallbone of GRAMMY Award-winning band For KING & COUNTRY is a powerfully compelling, suspense-filled love story that reminds us that no matter who we are, what we’ve done, or even how far we’ve gone astray, we are of infinite worth in God’s eyes.

The powerfully compelling novelization of the major motion picture by Joel and Luke Smallbone of the band for King & Country. James Stevens was, at one time, a good man with a great life. After the tragic death of his wife and losing custody of his little girl, James is at the darkest crossroad of his life. Angry, desperate, and unable to hold down a steady job, he agrees to drive a box truck on a shady, one-time trip cross country for cash—no questions asked. When he discovers what he is delivering is actually a who, the questions in his mind begin haunting him mercilessly. James becomes an unlikely hero who must fight to save the lives of two young women and finds himself falling in love with one of them. Can love, strength, and faith redefine his past and change the course of his future?

My Thoughts on the Book:

This book is quite an eye-opener on the subject of human trafficking in the United States. It tells the heartbreaking story of two young sisters trapped in a situation they never would have chosen, and the lengths to which an unlikely hero will go to help them escape. It also offers a powerful reminder that we are each priceless in God’s eyes.

The story itself was well told from multiple perspectives that draw readers emotionally into the story and help us to see the kind of thing that could be going on closer to home than we might think. While the subject matter can be difficult to face, I thought the authors dealt with it in a tasteful way, raising awareness without becoming overly graphic or explicit.

Suspense builds throughout the story as characters and readers become aware of what’s going on and as the stakes continue to rise, right up to an adrenaline-powered climax. The story ends with what I felt was an emotionally satisfying conclusion.

While the book’s description calls it a love story, the romantic element seemed to me to come a bit out of left field in the last chapter. The romantic in me would’ve liked to see that relationship develop a bit more on the page rather than between the chapters. But I can’t really complain, as the romance in this story really is secondary to the other plot elements and to the overall theme.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but would be curious to see how this story plays out on the big screen.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The audiobook features not one, but two narrators, which I think is a fabulous idea and works particularly well for this story. David Atlas reads the scenes told from James Stevens’ perspective, while Nora Hunter reads the scenes featuring Antonia and Maria. Each narrator did a great job of drawing me into the perspective of his or her viewpoint characters. The emotion of the story comes through in their voices, and the reading pace felt just right.

I was pleased to find this audiobook available electronically from my local library via Hoopla.

Quick Links: About the Audiobook | About the Movie | Author’s Site

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


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?