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Book Spotlight: Almost Gone

21 Mar

As a busy book blogger I cannot read and review every book that comes into my house. *sigh*  Spotlights help get the word out about books that I have no idea when I will get read. These books are ones I know many of my readers would be interested in, so I don’t want them to be neglected. Almost Gone by John and Mackenzie Baldwin is one such book. Check out the blurb and author info, and then decide if this book is one you’d like to read.


This is the never-before-told, riveting true story about a teenage Christian girl who was seduced online by a charming young Muslim man from Kosovo, and her father who ultimately worked with the FBI to save her from disappearing forever.

The Baldwins were a strong Christian family, living in Plano, Texas. When their seventeen-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, met Aadam in a random-match online chat room, she fell for his good looks, his charm, and his respectful conversation. He told her he lived in New York, and they began an online friendship.

But over the course of a few months, Aadam revealed that he actually lived in Kosovo and had only pretended to live in New York so Mackenzie would keep chatting with him. The more attached she became to Aadam, the more detached she became from her family.

John and Stephanie, Mackenzie’s parents, had no clue what was behind their daughter’s change in personality, her surprising interest in Islam, her suddenly modest dress, and her withdrawal from friends and family. When Mackenzie’s attachment to Aadam increased even more and they became “engaged,” she started making plans to secretly fly to Kosovo where she and Aadam would be married.

But twenty-five days before Mackenzie was scheduled to fly to Kosovo, John found out about his daughter’s dangerous plan when three of her friends came forward. John contacted the FBI, and asked for help. Though the FBI did not believe Aadam was trying to radicalize Mackenzie, they were concerned about his intentions, as that part of Kosovo was known for sex-trafficking, human-trafficking, and citizenship frauds. Kosovo was no place for an unaccompanied, naïve teenager to secretly travel and marry a stranger she knew only through online chats. Within the limited time remaining before Mackenzie’s departure, John and Stephanie had to confront Mackenzie and stop her before she would be lost to them forever.

Told from the viewpoint of both father and daughter, Almost Gone follows Mackenzie’s network of lies and deceit and her parents’ escalating bewilderment and alarm. More than a cautionary tale, this is the incredible story of unconditional parental love, unwavering faith, and how God helped a family save their daughter from a relationship that jeopardized not only her happiness, but also her safety.

John Baldwin is a deacon and has served in many ministries at Parkway Hills Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. He also serves on the board of directors for High Adventure Treks for Dads and Daughters and Dads and Sons (HATS). This organization promotes father/daughter and father/son communication, leadership, and relationships through shared adventures such as white water kayaking, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities. By day, John is a business technology consultant working with the largest credit card banks.

Mackenzie Baldwin is a college student pursuing a double major in Psychology and Child Development. She is adventurous, enjoying activities such as rock climbing, camping, backpacking, and water sports. She is scuba certified and as a certified skydiver, she has made more than fifty solo jumps.

(A big thank you to Howard books for a complimentary copy of this book. I did not read this book, so this post is not intended as a review or recommendation.)


Top 10 Tuesday — Surprise Endings

13 Mar

This week That Artsy Reader Girl is challenging bloggers to list books that surprised them. There are so many options for this theme, but I chose a few books that had endings I never saw coming. Those that changed my perspective on all that went before. These were endings that prompt the reader to go back and explore the book again. If you are looking for a wonderful novel, then I highly recommend all of these.

Find out what surprised other bloggers HERE.


Top Books That Surprised Me


The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey

Everyone in Crow Hollow knows of Alvaretta Graves, the old widow who lives in the mountain. Many call her a witch; others whisper she’s insane. Everyone agrees the vengeance Alvaretta swore at her husband’s death hovers over them all. That vengeance awakens when teenagers stumble upon Alvaretta’s cabin, incurring her curse. Now a sickness moves through the Hollow. Rumors swirl that Stu Graves has risen for revenge. And the people of Crow Hollow are left to confront not only the darkness that lives on the mountain, but the darkness that lives within themselves.

Dogwood by Chris Fabry

In the small town of Dogwood, West Virginia, Karin has buried her shattered dreams by settling for a faithful husband whose emotional distance from her deep passions and conflicts leaves her isolated. Loaded with guilt, she tries to raise three small children and “do life” the best she can. Will returns to Dogwood intent on pursuing the only woman he has ever loved―only to find there is far more standing in his way than lost years in prison. The secrets of Will and Karin’s past begin to emerge through Danny Boyd, a young boy who wishes he hadn’t survived the tragedy that knit those two together as well as tore them apart. The trigger that will lay their pain bare and force them to face it rather than flee is the unlikely figure of Ruthie Bowles, a withered, wiry old woman who leads Karin so deep into her anger against God that it forces unexpected consequences.

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

When a blizzard strands them in Salt Lake City, two strangers agree to charter a plane together, hoping to return home; Ben Payne is a gifted surgeon returning from a conference, and Ashley Knox, a magazine writer, is en route to her wedding. But when unthinkable tragedy strikes, the pair find themselves stranded in Utah’s most remote wilderness in the dead of winter, badly injured and miles from civilization. Without food or shelter, and only Ben’s mountain climbing gear to protect themselves, Ashley and Ben’s chances for survival look bleak, but their reliance on each other sparks an immediate connection, which soon evolves into something more.

Days in the mountains become weeks, as their hope for rescue dwindles. How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever? Heart-wrenching and unputdownable, The Mountain Between Us will reaffirm your belief in the power of love to sustain us.

Not in The Heart by Chris Fabry

Truman Wiley used to report news stories from around the world, but now the most troubling headlines are his own. He’s out of work, out of touch with his family, out of his home. But nothing dogs him more than his son’s failing heart.

With mounting hospital bills and Truman’s penchant for gambling his savings, the situation seems hopeless . . . until his estranged wife throws him a lifeline—the chance to write the story of a death row inmate, a man convicted of murder who wants to donate his heart to Truman’s son.

As the execution clock ticks down, Truman uncovers disturbing evidence that points to a different killer. For his son to live, must an innocent man die? Truman’s investigation draws him down a path that will change his life, his family, and the destinies of two men forever.

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, a life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942. When the Japanese Imperialist army invades the Southeast Pacific, and his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings. But he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about his frail, troubled mother—a woman he barely knows.

Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap his father and brothers left behind. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.

When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.

Velma Stil Cooks in Leeway by Vinita Hampton Wright

As the town’s chief cook and part-time janitor for Jerusalem Baptist church, Velma Brendle has never done anything more outstanding than putting on a good meal at Velma’s Place, the one restaurant in Leeway, Kansas, but she takes good care of her customers, neighbors, and friends. However, in the midst of these two jobs, Velma’s husband stops talking, Cousin Albert comes to live with her, and she finds herself dealing with the town’s problems. As memories of past troubles plague her, she grows weary from even the tasks she loves the most. Old Sunday School lessons take on new meanings, and new problems illuminate trials Velma thought were long over. In sudden leaps of faith and moments of tragedy, Velma and all those she loves journey toward facing their sins and finding forgiveness.


What book surprised you?


Top 10 Tuesday: First Lines

6 Mar

Today I am recycling because that is what busy bloggers do when they are short on time and inspiration! 😉 This week That Artsy Reader Girl is challenging bloggers to list their Top 10 Favorite Book Quotes. I’m a slacker when it comes to keeping a journal filled with the wonderful nuggets I find in the pages of a book. But as I thought about the topic, I couldn’t help but think how it is the first lines that I almost always remember. I haven’t read (or rather re-read) Rebecca in a long while, but I can still quote that memorable first line — Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Another wonderful weekly meme I participate in is First Line Friday hosted by Hoarding Books (their tagline is it’s not HOARDING if it’s BOOKS — great, huh?). It has been lots of fun discovering new books and authors through first lines. So today, I will share some first lines from books that were fabulous reads. I hope that you find your next great book today!


Top First Lines

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey

Christy by Catherine Marshall 

Melody of The Soul by Liz Tolsma

Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Oath of Honor by Lynette Eason

A Passionate Hope by Jill Eileen Smith

Rule of Law by Randy Singer

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano

A Song of Home by Susie Finkbeiner

Stars in The Grass by Ann Marie Stewart 


What’s your favorite book quote?


First Line Friday — Undercut by Heather Day Gilbert

2 Mar

Every Friday bloggers are posting the first lines (or 2 or 3, hee hee) of the book closest to them — First Line Friday! I’ve had so much fun discovering new books and authors through this weekly meme. To join in, all you have to do is grab the nearest book, post its first sentence in the comments of this post, and then head on over to Hoarding Books to discover more great first lines. Now, we are very flexible in this, so if another line grabs your fancy, by all means share that one (or 2 or 3! 😉 ). The more the merrier with books!


This week, my first line comes from the very talented mystery author, Heather Day Gilbert and her novella Undercut, the second installment in the Hemlock Creek Suspense series.


Marine sniper Isaiah (“Zane”) Boone is home from Afghanistan with more than a few ghosts. Try as he might to settle back into civilian life in small-town West Virginia, he can’t escape the conviction he’s being followed. Both Zane’s ex-wife and his psychologist claim he’s paranoid, and he can’t prove he’s not. Hoping to outrun his misery, he sets his romantic sights on the irresistible Molly McClure. A successful wedding coordinator at the illustrious Greenbrier Resort, Molly has had plenty of wealthy men willing to open their wallets and hearts for her. But when Zane strides into the upscale Greenbrier lobby with his lumberjack boots and his troubled eyes, the attraction she’s felt since high school reawakens — and she’s willing to go way out of her comfort zone to pursue it. When Molly becomes an innocent target, Zane realizes too late that his malevolent stalkers are very real. As a net of vengeance tightens around them, Zane gears up for a fight to the death…and Molly has just one chance to prove she can be far more than a pretty face. Book 2 in the Hemlock Creek Suspense series by Grace award-winning, INSPY-longlist nominated author Heather Day Gilbert.

To purchase, click HERE. (It’s only $2.99 on Kindle!)

Heather Day Gilbert, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather writes Viking historicals and contemporary mystery/suspense. Publisher’s Weekly gave Heather’s Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is “an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership.”

Find Heather on Pinterest (heatherdgilbert), Instagram (@heatherdaygilbert), Twitter (@heatherdgilbert), and Facebook (heatherdaygilbert). You can find all her books at

Top 10 Tuesday — Do You Re-Read?

27 Feb

Once upon a time I re-read books. You know those books that speak to the heart, that make their way deep inside a reader. But once I became a book blogger, I rarely had time for anything other than the latest shiny book that made its way into my mailbox or Kindle. I can’t say no to the new books, so I have no time to savor yet again the old. But that doesn’t mean I don’t take them out and look at them. So here is a short list of Books That Should Be Re-read (this list is not exhaustive; we are limited to 10, don’t you know). Do you agree? If you haven’t read them yet, put them on top of your TBR List. That way they’ll make their way to your Re-Read List quicker. 😉

To find out what books other bloggers re-read, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 10 Books That Should Be Re-Read

(or read as the case may be)

Burning Sky by Lori Benton

Christy by Catherine Marshall

The City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey

Dogwood by Chris Fabry

The Girl from The Train by Irma Joubert

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Watching The Tree Limbs by Mary DeMuth

Water From My Heart by Charles Martin

What books do you re-read?

Can’t Help Falling Close To You Tour!

27 Feb
Welcome to the Can’t Help Falling Close to You Tour!



Title:  Can’t Help Falling
Author: Kara Isaac

Publisher:  Howard Books
Release Date:  October 11, 2016
Genre: Inspirational Contemporary Fiction 


A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England.

Emelia Mason has spent her career finding the dirt on the rich and famous. But deep down past this fearless tabloid-reporter façade, there’s a nerdy Narnia-obsessed girl who still can’t resist climbing into wardrobes to check for the magical land on the other side. When a story she writes produces tragic results, she flees to Oxford, England—home to C.S. Lewis—to try and make amends for the damage she has caused.

Peter Carlisle was on his way to become one of Great Britain’s best rowers—until he injured his shoulder and lost his chance at glory. He’s determined to fight his way back to the top even if it means risking permanent disability to do so. It’s the only way he can find his way past failing the one person who never stopped believing in his Olympic dream.

When Peter and Emelia cross paths on her first night in Oxford, the attraction is instant and they find common ground in their shared love of Narnia. But can the lessons from a fantasyland be enough to hold them together when secrets of the real world threaten to tear them apart? Cobblestone streets, an aristocratic estate, and an antique shop with a curious wardrobe bring the world of Narnia to life in this inspiring and romantic story about second chances.

Title:  Close to You
Author: Kara Isaac
Publisher:  Howard Books
Release Date:  June 1, 2016
Genre: Inspirational Contemporary Fiction 
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? 
Author photos copyright of Jenny Siaosi.
Kara Isaac is an award-winning writer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where her career highlights include working in tourism as Private Secretary for the Prime Minister. She loves great books almost as much as she loves her husband and two Hobbit-sized children.

CONNECT WITH AUTHOR: Website | Facebook | Twitter 
Just Commonly

Kara Isaac is graciously offering (1) winner a choice of either all (3) of her books in ebook format or (1) signed copy of a choice of one of her books in print format, PLUS a bar of New Zealand chocolate. (Opens internationally). 


Terms & Conditions 

One winner in the U.S. will be randomly generated through Rafflecopter within 3 days of close of giveaway.  Once announced, the winner has 48 hours to send mailing information notification email or risk forfeiture of the prize.  Due to shipping costs, only US mailing addresses will be win physical items. 

Prize is courtesy of Kara Isaac.  Kara Isaac and JustRead Publicity Tours reserves the rights to terminate this giveaway at any time, and are not responsible for lost prizes in the mail.

Thank you for your participation.

Top 10 Tuesday — Books Left Unread *sigh*

20 Feb

This week That Artsy Reader Girl is challenging bloggers to come clean about their TBR lists. She wants us to get real about the books we have said we want to read, but (secretly) have decided not to. Oh the horrors of a I No Longer Want To Read List! I have lots of books that have sat on my shelves for far too long. But I won’t give up on them, at least not yet. But I am afraid that at my advanced age (57), I may not have enough time left to get to them all. I am sharing a few books that I thought would make my reading world complete. They are long, and I so wanted to read them. But yet they sit gathering dust and yellowed pages. So while I am not ready to declare them officially off the TBR List, their fate is unsure. Let me know if you have read any of them and why I should keep them.

To check out other bloggers who have abandoned hope as well, click HERE.

Top Books I Am Struggling to Keep on The TBR List


Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor

Acclaimed as the greatest novel ever written about the War Between the States, this searing Pulitzer Prize-winning book captures all the glory and shame of America’s most tragic conflict in the vivid, crowded world of Andersonville, and the people who lived outside its barricades. Based on the author’s extensive research and nearly 25 years in the making, MacKinlay Kantor’s best-selling masterwork tells the heartbreaking story of the notorious Georgia prison where 50,000 Northern soldiers suffered – and 14,000 died – and of the people whose lives were changed by the grim camp where the best and the worst of the Civil War came together. Here is the savagery of the camp commandant, the deep compassion of a nearby planter and his gentle daughter, the merging of valor and viciousness within the stockade itself, and the day-to-day fight for survival among the cowards, cutthroats, innocents, and idealists thrown together by the brutal struggle between North and South. A moving portrait of the bravery of people faced with hopeless tragedy, this is the inspiring American classic of an unforgettable period in American history.

Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace

Ben-Hur is one of the best selling books of all times. This poignant novel intertwines the life stories of a Jewish charioteer named Judah Ben-Hur and Jesus Christ. It explores the themes of betrayal and redemption. Ben-Hur’s family is wrongly accused and convicted of treason during the time of Christ. Ben-Hur fights to clear his family’s name and is ultimately inspired by the rise of Jesus Christ and his message. A powerful, compelling novel.



Oh, Kentucky by Betty Layman Receveur

Sixteen-year-old Kitty Gentry and her family came to Fort Boonesborough to farm the rich land. But when fierce Shawnee attacked the white settlers, the horrified young Kitty was forced to seek refuge within the walls of the fort. There her real life as a founding mother of Kentucky began — a life in which she would surive tragedy and hearth-wrenching grief and find the all-encompassing passion of great love as the burgeoning territory became a state . . .



The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd

The saga begins in pre-Christian Ireland with a clever refashioning of the legend of Cuchulainn, and culminates in the dramatic founding of the Free Irish State in 1922. Through the interlocking stories of a wonderfully imagined cast of characters — monks and noblemen, soldiers and rebels, craftswomen and writers — Rutherfurd vividly conveys the personal passions and shared dreams that shaped the character of the country. He takes readers inside all the major events in Irish history: the reign of the fierce and mighty kings of Tara; the mission of Saint Patrick; the Viking invasion and the founding of Dublin; the trickery of Henry II, which gave England its foothold on the island in 1167; the plantations of the Tudors and the savagery of Cromwell; the flight of the “Wild Geese”; the failed rebellion of 1798; the Great Famine and the Easter Rebellion. With Rutherfurd’s well-crafted storytelling, readers witness the rise of the Fenians in the late nineteenth century, the splendours of the Irish cultural renaissance, and the bloody battles for Irish independence, as though experiencing their momentous impact firsthand.

Tens of millions of North Americans claim Irish descent. Generations of people have been enchanted by Irish literature, and visitors flock to Dublin and its environs year after year. The Princes of Ireland will appeal to all of them — and to anyone who relishes epic entertainment spun by a master.

Sacajawea by Anna L. Waldo

Clad in a doeskin, alone and unafraid, she stood straight and proud before the onrushing forces of America’s destiny: Sacajawea, child of a Shoshoni chief, lone woman on Lewis and Clark’s historic trek — beautiful spear of a dying nation.

She knew many men, walked many miles. From the whispering prairies, across the Great Divide to the crystal capped Rockies and on to the emerald promise of the Pacific Northwest, her story over flows with emotion and action ripped from the bursting fabric of a raw new land.

Ten years in the writing, Sacajawea unfolds an immense canvas of people and events, and captures the eternal longings of a woman who always yearned for one great passion — and always it lay beyond the next mountain.