Tag Archives: general fiction

Top 10 Tuesday — Most Read Authors

7 Jul

The week’s Top 10 Tuesday prompt is authors I have read the most books by. I am tweaking a bit with a list of the authors my book club loves — the ones we always read whenever they have a new book release. I have included two of my favorites from each author. I hope you find one to love from our list.

For more favorite author recommendations, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Top Book Club Favorite Authors

 

Terri Blackstock

 

Elizabeth Musser

 

Francine Rivers

 

Dan Walsh

 

Robert Whitlow

 

Cindy Woodsmall

 

 

Who is your favorite author?

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Key to Everything

2 Jul

Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the heroic but reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. A tragic accident shows Peyton the depths of his parents’ devotion to each other but interrupts his own budding romance with the girl of his dreams, Lisa Wallace.

Struggling to cope with a young life upended, Peyton makes a daring decision: He will retrace a journey his father took at fifteen, riding his bicycle all the way to Key West, Florida. Part declaration of independence, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will bring him more than he ever could have imagined — namely, the key to his unknowable father, a reunion with Lisa, and a calling that will shape the rest of his life.

Through poignant prose and characters so real you’ll be sure you know them, Valerie Fraser Luesse transports you to the storied Atlantic coast for a unique coming-of-age story you won’t soon forget.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

My Impressions:

The first two books by Valerie Fraser Luesse were all I could hope for in novels that tell wonderful stories filled with engaging characters and a great sense of place and time. I chose The Key to Everything without even reading the blurb, that was how assured I was of liking it. And I did! In fact I loved it. I may even have a little book hangover — I just can’t let this book go. It gets my highly recommended rating.

The Key to Everything is a coming-of-age story set in 1947. This was a time of great hopes, but with the lingering aftereffects of war. I especially liked that Luesse set the novel as a journey in old Florida. While I grew up many years after this story is set, I did experience Florida before the advent of Disney. It was a time of small coastal towns, kitschy motels, and sometimes crusty fish camps. The book brought back those memories and more, with many things I didn’t know before. Peyton’s journey on the saddle of a bike allows the reader to experience the small things that made the Florida of that time special. The characters are wonderfully drawn — I came to love Peyton and all those he met along the way. Peyton is a remarkable character, fearless in his desire to find his own way. I loved how he learned about his father’s dreams and aspirations, along with his disappointments and compromises. This knowledge helped to determine Peyton’s own path. The Key to Everything is a quiet book, yet it has some very big moments that are not shouted, but seep into the reader’s heart. This beautifully told story will stay with me a very long time.  I also think that the novel would make a great choice for book clubs. I know I really want to talk about it!

I wish I could do more justice to this book. Just let me leave you with one more thought — read this book! You will be so glad you did.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Revell for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Congrats to The 2020 Inspy Award Winners!

29 Jun

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Inspy Awards! The Inspy’s hold a special place in my heart — I judged for them for several years. But it is the Inspys’ continued high standards in seeking to identify the best in inspirational fiction that distinguishes this award. This year’s winners are truly deserving. If you need a great book to read, this list should fit the bill.

2020 Inspy Award Winners

 

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano

 

Debut Fiction

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes

 

General Fiction

How The Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim

 

Historical Romance

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz

 

Literature for Young Adults

Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan

 

Mystery/Thriller

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

 

Speculative Fiction

Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker

Audiobook Review: The Jane Austen Society

24 Jun

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people ― a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others ― could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, Natalie Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.

 

Natalie Jenner is the author of The Jane Austen Society, a fictional telling of the start of the society in the 1940s in the village of Chawton, where Austen wrote or revised her major works. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie graduated from the University of Toronto with degrees in English Literature and Law, and has worked for decades in the legal industry. She recently founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.

 

My Impressions:

I heard about The Jane Austen Society from a number of sources, but it was my bookish friends who raved about this book that made me give it a go. I love Jane Austen, as well as all of the re-imaginings and variations on her books and life. This novel seemed to be one destined for me. I chose the audiobook version because I have lots to do this summer and need to squeeze my pleasure reads into any available time I can find. So I listened while I walked, cooked, and managed other chores and errands. I flew through it! It captured my attention and imagination immediately. So, thanks to all who recommended it.

The book is a fictional account of a small group of people who want to preserve Jane Austen’s home and legacy for future generations. The characters are extremely varied, having little in common except for the impact Austen has had on their lives. Jenner creates an ensemble cast that you will take into your heart. I can’t even say I have a favorite among them — the main characters are all so wonderful. The story details a good deal of sadness, disappointments, regrets, and heartaches. I admit that I was wondering if I was ever going to get to anything happy. 😉 If you feel that way too, stick with this book. You won’t be sad or disappointed. Although you don’t have to be an Austen fan to enjoy this book, it just might prompt you to pick up those unread novels. There are plenty of references to Austen’s books and parallels between Austen’s characters and Jenner’s. True Janeites are apt to swoon. 😉 It is really hard to believe this is a debut novel. The complex construction, plotting, and heartfelt storytelling are masterful. And the epilogue? Brilliant!

One thing to note: this is a general market book, so there is some adult language and situations that some may find offensive. I am not a fan of the use of a certain word, but it was used sparingly and by a particularly odious character. Richard Armitage is the narrator — he does a great job with the variety of voices.

Recommended (with adult language/situation warning)

Audience: adults

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Top Ten Tuesday — Summer TBR

16 Jun

This summer I am going to play catch-up with my reading. I have some new releases I have scheduled to read, but there are some books that I have missed. My reading will be a mix of physical books, ebooks, and audiobooks — I read just about anything in all formats!

What are you reading this summer?

For more bloggers’ summer reading lists, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Top 10 Books on My Summer TBR

The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey

When an accident claims the life of an oil-rig worker on the first drilling platform off the North Carolina coast, Coast Guard investigators Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are sent to take the case. Tensions surrounding the oil rig are high and the death has everyone on edge. Environmental activists are threatening to do whatever it takes to stop the structure from being completed, while rumors are being whispered about ancient curses surrounding this part of the ocean.

Mounting evidence shows the death may not have been an accident at all. Was he killed by one of the activists or, perhaps more frighteningly, a member of his own crew? Rissi and Mason have to sort through not only a plethora of suspects, but also their own past and attraction to each other.

Just as the case seems like it’ll break open, worse news arrives. A tropical storm has turned their way and soon they’re cut off from any rescue–and right where the killer wants them. It’s a race to discover his identity before he eliminates the threat they pose.

A Dream within A Dream by Mike Nappa and Melissa Kosci

Trudi Coffey only realizes that she hasn’t seen Samuel Hill in weeks when the FBI shows up asking questions about him. After a strange encounter with an armed man demanding her help and an attack by a member of the Boston mob looking for someone named Dream, Trudi manages to find Samuel–or rather, he finds her. He’s made some pretty powerful enemies, but right now his full attention is on protecting Dream from the mob. Because Dream has something they want–the map to the location of artwork stolen from the Gardener Museum during the infamous 1990 heist.

With danger closing in from all sides, Trudi and Samuel will have to call on all of their allies to keep Dream safe and discover the identity of the people who have been hunting down Samuel. The real questions are whom can they trust? And who will make it out of this thing alive?

The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the heroic but reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. A tragic accident shows Peyton the depths of his parents’ devotion to each other but interrupts his own budding romance with the girl of his dreams, Lisa Wallace.

Struggling to cope with a young life upended, Peyton makes a daring decision: He will retrace a journey his father took at fifteen, riding his bicycle all the way to Key West, Florida. Part declaration of independence, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will bring him more than he ever could have imagined–namely, the key to his unknowable father, a reunion with Lisa, and a calling that will shape the rest of his life.

Through poignant prose and characters so real you’ll be sure you know them, Valerie Fraser Luesse transports you to the storied Atlantic coast for a unique coming-of-age story you won’t soon forget.

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson is abandoned by her fiancé and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

Historical romance favorite Laura Frantz is back with a suspenseful story of love, betrayal, and new beginnings. With her meticulous eye for detail and her knack for creating living, breathing characters, Frantz continues to enchant historical fiction readers who long to feel they are a part of the story.

Life After by Katie Ganshert

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.

Not by Sight by Kate Breslin

With Britain caught up in WWI, Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, has declared himself a conscientious objector. Instead, he secretly works for the Crown by tracking down German spies on British soil, his wild reputation and society status serving as a foolproof cover.

Blinded by patriotism and concern for her brother on the front lines, wealthy suffragette Grace Mabry will do whatever it takes to assist her country’s cause. When she sneaks into a posh London masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice, she never imagines the chain of events she’ll set off when she hands a feather to Jack.

And neither of them could anticipate the extent of the danger and betrayal that follows them — or the faith they’ll need to maintain hope.

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Betty Sweet never expected to be a widow at 40. With so much life still in front of her, she tries to figure out what’s next. She couldn’t have imagined what God had in mind. When her estranged sister is committed to a sanitarium, Betty finds herself taking on the care of a 5-year-old nephew she never knew she had.

In 1960s LaFontaine, Michigan, they make an odd pair. Betty with her pink button nose and bouffant hair. Hugo with his light brown skin and large brown eyes. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. Slowly, they will learn to trust one another as they discover common ground and healing through the magic of storytelling.

Award-winning author Susie Finkbeiner offers fans a novel that invites us to rediscover the power of story to open the doors of our hearts.

The Summer House by Lauren K. Denton

Lily Bishop wakes up one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated, but a flyer at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community provides a refuge while she contemplates her next steps.

Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago — just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw.

Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets. Lily soon finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins—a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over — and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.

Neither Lily nor Rose is where she expected to be, but the summer makes them both wonder if there’s more to life and love than what they’ve experienced so far. The Summer House weaves Lauren K. Denton’s inviting Southern charm around a woman’s journey to find herself.

Then Sings My Soul by Amy K. Sorrells

1904, Chudniv, Ukraine. Playing hide-and-seek in bucolic fields of sunflowers, young Jakob never imagines the horrific secrets he will carry as he and his brother escape through genocide-ridden Eastern Europe.

1994, South Haven, Michigan. At age 94, time is running out for any hope that Jakob can be free from his burden of guilt.

When Jakob’s wife dies, he and his daughter, Nel, are forced to face the realities of his worsening dementia―including a near-naked, midnight jaunt down the middle of main street―as well as emerging shadows Nel had no idea lay beneath her father’s beloved, curmudgeonly ways.

While Nel navigates the restoration and sale of Jakob’s dilapidated lake house, her high school sweetheart shows up in town, along with unexpected correspondence from Ukraine. And when she discovers a mysterious gemstone in Jakob’s old lapidary room, Jakob’s condition worsens as he begins having flashbacks about his baby sister from nearly a century past.

As father and daughter race against time to discover the truth behind Jackob’s fragmented memories, the God they have both been running from shows that he redeems not only broken years, but also the future.

The White Rose Resists by Amanda Barratt

The ideal of a new Germany swept up Sophie Scholl in a maelstrom of patriotic fervor — that is, until she realized the truth behind Hitler’s machinations for the fatherland. Now she and other students in Munich, the cradle of the Nazi government, have banded together to form a group to fight for the truth: the White Rose. Risking everything to print and distribute leaflets calling for Germans to rise up against the evil permeating their country, the White Rose treads a knife’s edge of discovery by the Gestapo.

Annalise Brandt came to the University of Munich to study art, not get involved with conspiracy. The daughter of an SS officer, she’s been brought up to believe in the Führer’s divinely appointed leadership. But the more she comes to know Sophie and her friends, the more she questions the Nazi propaganda.

Soon Annalise joins their double life — students by day, resisters by night. And as the stakes increase, they’re all forced to confront the deadly consequences meted out to any who dare to oppose the Reich.

A gripping testament to courage, The White Rose Resists illuminates the sacrifice and conviction of an unlikely group of revolutionaries who refused to remain silent-no matter the cost.

 

Reading Road Trip — West Virginia

10 Jun

Although more and more things are opening up, it is still a bit daunting to travel. Where to eat, where to sleep, where to use the bathroom 😉 ? My husband and I caught the travel bug a few years ago and are itching to get going again. This year our travel will be closer to home until we can better figure out the logistics. But in the meantime, you and I can can travel anywhere in a book. I love that no matter where I am physically, I can be somewhere else lost in the pages of a great novel. This week’s Reading Road Trip is taking me to West Virginia. I have only been there once on a school trip with my youngest son. I would love to go back to this beautiful mountain state. I have listed a few books that I hope will bring that region to life for you. If you have any more recommendations for West Virginia reading, I would love to hear them! (Note: although all of the books that are listed by Chris Fabry are set in the fictional town of Dogwood, WV, they are all standalones.)

 

Reading Road Trip — West Virginia

 

An Uncommon Woman by Laura Frantz

Unflinching and plainspoken, Tessa Swan is not your typical 18th-century woman. Born and bred on the western Virginia frontier along with her five brothers, she is a force to be reckoned with.

Quiet and courageous, Clay Tygart is not your typical 18th-century man. Raised by Lenape Indians, he returns a hero from the French and Indian War to the fort that bears his name, bringing with him Tessa’s long-lost friend, Keturah, who disappeared from the settlement years earlier.

Determined to avoid any romantic entanglements as fort commander, Clay remains aloof whenever he encounters the lovely Tessa. But when circumstances force Clay’s hand–and heart–the stage is set for one very private and one very public reckoning.

Miracle in A Dry Season (Appalachian Blessings series, book 1) by Sarah Loudin Thomas

It’s 1954 and Perla Long’s arrival in the sleepy town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle.

Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as a bachelor…until he meets Perla. She’s everything he’s sought in a woman, but he can’t get past the sense that she’s hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla’s unique gift divides the town in two, bringing both gratitude and condemnation, and placing the pair in the middle of a storm of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith.

Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry

Billy Allman is a hillbilly genius. People in Dogwood, West Virginia, say he was born with a second helping of brains and a gift for playing the mandolin but was cut short on social skills. Though he’d gladly give you the shirt off his back, they were right. Billy longs to use his life as an ode to God, a lyrical, beautiful bluegrass song played with a finely tuned heart. So with spare parts from a lifetime of collecting, he builds a radio station in his own home. People in town laugh. But Billy carries a brutal secret that keeps him from significance and purpose. Things always seem to go wrong for him.

However small his life seems, from a different perspective Billy’s song reaches far beyond the hills and hollers he calls home. Malachi is an angel sent to observe Billy. Though it is not his dream assignment, Malachi follows the man and begins to see the bigger picture of how each painful step Billy takes is a note added to a beautiful symphony that will forever change the lives of those who hear it.

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 Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry

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.

Miranda Warning (A Murder in The Mountains series, book 1) by Heather Day Gilbert

Child of the Appalachian mountains, Tess Spencer has experienced more than her share of heartache. The Glock-wielding, knife-carrying housewife knows how to survive whatever life throws at her.

But when an anonymous warning note shows up in her best friend Miranda’s mailbox — a note written in a dead woman’s handwriting — Tess quickly discovers that ghosts are alive and well in Buckneck, West Virginia. Hot on a cold trail, she must use limited clues and her keen insight into human nature to unmask the killer . . . or the next victim might be Tess herself.

Tinged with the supernatural and overshadowed by the mountains’ lush, protective presence, this twisting psychological mystery is the first in A Murder in the Mountains series.

No Filter (Barks And Beans Cafe Cozy Mystery series, book 1) by Heather Day Gilbert

Welcome to the Barks & Beans Cafe, a quaint place where folks pet shelter dogs while enjoying a cup of java . . . and where murder sometimes pays a visit.

Fed up with her go-nowhere job, newly single Macy Hatfield moves back to her small hometown in West Virginia. She joins forces with her brother Bo in his crazy new venture — the Barks & Beans Cafe, which caters to dog lovers and coffee drinkers alike.

When a golf instructor is murdered at the nearby spiritual center, Macy winds up adopting his Great Dane. Just after Macy finds a mysterious message sewn under the dog’s collar, her Dane is dognapped. She launches into a relentless search for her newfound canine friend, but along the way, she digs up a cruel and confident killer.

Out of Circulation (Hemlock Creek Suspense, book 1) by Heather Day Gilbert

Katie McClure always dreamed of becoming an FBI agent like her father, but an injury has permanently sidelined her as a librarian in her rural West Virginia hometown. Katie’s peaceful life is torn apart when armed men burst into the library, targeting her. Her fears mount after a break-in at her apartment, and she reluctantly accepts an offer of protection from Ace Calhoun, the Manhattan bodyguard who rushed to her aid against the library invaders.

But Ace didn’t show up in Hemlock Creek by accident. Even as he hides his true motives for protecting Katie, he’s pulled in by her indomitable courage and her undeniable attraction to him.

With the Russian mob breathing down her neck, the clock is ticking for Katie to find out what happened to a bank stash that went missing years ago. To her dismay, she discovers her father was not the man she believed him to be . . . and neither is Ace.

 

Where will you read next?

 

Happy Release Day — Stories That Bind Us

2 Jun

Happy release day to Susie Finkbeiner! Her newest historical novel, Stories That Bind Us, is available today. I was first introduced to Susie in A Cup of Dust, a novel set during the Dust Bowl. I love that she sets her novels in pivotal times in American history. Her meticulous research and well-drawn characters make the past come alive for the modern reader. Her last book, All Manner of Things, was set during the Vietnam era. Stories That Bind Us is an especially timely read. Set in the 1960s, it features two very different main characters that are suddenly a family. I love that the title emphasizes unity. All the details are below — hope you are as eager to read it as I am

 

Betty Sweet never expected to be a widow at 40. With so much life still in front of her, she tries to figure out what’s next. She couldn’t have imagined what God had in mind. When her estranged sister is committed to a sanitarium, Betty finds herself taking on the care of a 5-year-old nephew she never knew she had.

In 1960s LaFontaine, Michigan, they make an odd pair. Betty with her pink button nose and bouffant hair. Hugo with his light brown skin and large brown eyes. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. Slowly, they will learn to trust one another as they discover common ground and healing through the magic of storytelling.

Award-winning author Susie Finkbeiner offers fans a novel that invites us to rediscover the power of story to open the doors of our hearts.

Susie Finkbeiner is a story junkie. Always has been and always will be. It seems it’s a congenital condition, one she’s quite fond of.

After decades of reading everything she could get her hands on (except for See the Eel, a book assigned to her while in first grade, a book she declared was unfit for her book-snob eyes), Susie realized that she wanted to write stories of her own. She began with epics about horses and kittens (but never, ever eels).

It takes years to grow a writer and after decades of work, Susie realized (with much gnashing of teeth and tears) that she was a novelist. In order to learn how to write novels, she read eclectically and adventurously (she may never swim with sharks, but the lady will jump into nearly any story). After reading the work of Lisa Samson, Patti Hill, and Bonnie Grove she realized that there was room for a writer like her in Christian fiction.

Her first novels Paint Chips (2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (2014) have contemporary settings. While she loved those stories and especially the characters, Susie felt the pull toward historical fiction.

When she read Into the Free by Julie Cantrell she knew she wanted to write historical stories with a side of spunk, grit, and vulnerability. Susie is also greatly inspired by the work of Jocelyn Green, Rachel McMillan, and Tracy Groot.

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (2015), Finkbeiner’s bestselling historical set in 1930s Oklahoma, has been compared to the work of John Steinbeck and Harper Lee (which flatters Susie’s socks off). Pearl’s story continues with A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (2017) and A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (2018).

What does she have planned after that? More stories, of course. She’s a junkie. She couldn’t quit if she wanted to.

 

If you liked . . . Promised Land by Robert Whitlow

1 Jun

Every month I try to recommend some books for readers who liked our book club selection. It isn’t always easy. Listening to Anne Bogel’s podcast, What Should I Read Next, I gained some new insight. Books don’t have to be identical, but they do need to contain what resonated with the reader, whether theme or element. I listened to my book club’s reasons for liking (or not liking) Promised Land by Robert Whitlow. They liked the interactions of the married couple, the cultural nuances depicted, the international settings, and the spiritual disciplines of the main character, but didn’t like that the book was short on action. Taking all that into account I have come up with the following recommendations. Hope you enjoy!

 

For Cultural Differences and Societal Issues

The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser

Sometimes going home means leaving everything you have ever known. When the doctor pronounces “incurable cancer” and gives Bobbie Blake one year to live, she agrees to accompany her niece, Tracie, on a trip back to Austria, back to The Oasis, a ministry center for refugees that Bobbie helped start twenty years earlier. Back to where there are so many memories of love and loss. Bobbie and Tracie are moved by the plight of the refugees and in particular, the story of the Iranian Hamid, whose young daughter was caught with a New Testament in her possession back in Iran, causing Hamid to flee along the refugee Highway and putting the whole family in danger. Can a network of helpers bring the family to safety in time? And at what cost? Filled with action, danger, heartache and romance, The Long Highway Home is a hymn to freedom in life’s darkest moments.

 

For Legal Wrangling

Rule of Law by Randy Singer

What did the president know? And when did she know it?

For the members of SEAL Team Six, it was a rare mission ordered by the president, monitored in real time from the Situation Room. The Houthi rebels in Yemen had captured an American journalist and a member of the Saudi royal family. Their executions were scheduled for Easter Sunday. The SEAL team would break them out.

But when the mission results in spectacular failure, the finger-pointing goes all the way to the top.

Did the president play political games with the lives of U.S. service members?

Paige Chambers, a determined young lawyer, has a very personal reason for wanting to know the answer. The case she files will polarize the nation and test the resiliency of the Constitution. The stakes are huge, the alliances shaky, and she will be left to wonder if the saying on the Supreme Court building still holds true.

Equal justice under law.

It makes a nice motto. But will it work when one of the most powerful people on the planet is also a defendant?

 

For Marital Relationships and Edge of Seat Suspense

State of Lies by Siri Mitchell

Someone wants Georgie Brennan dead. And the more she digs for the truth, the fewer people she can trust.

Months after her husband, Sean, is killed by a hit-and-run driver, physicist Georgie Brennan discovers he lied to her about where he had been going that day. A cryptic notebook, a missing computer, and strange noises under her house soon have her questioning everything she thought she knew.

With her job hanging by a thread, her son struggling to cope with his father’s death, and her four-star general father up for confirmation as the next secretary of defense, Georgie quickly finds herself tangled in a web of political intrigue that has no clear agenda and dozens of likely villains.

Only one thing is clear: someone wants her dead too. And the people closest to her might be the most dangerous of all.

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Opening Lines

26 May

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday challenge was kind of a snap for me since I also participate in First Line Friday hosted by Hoarding Books. I just went through the archives and selected some of the most attention getting opening lines. I hope you find one that grabs you!

For more opening line fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

 

Top 10 Opening Lines

2020 Inspy Award Nominees

13 May

Congratulations to the 2020 Inspy Award Nominees! What a great bunch of authors and books. So if you are wondering what to read next, here’s your list!

Recognizing the need for a new kind of book award, the INSPYs were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith. (Inspy.com)

 

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano 

Sweet on You by Becky Wade

Just One Kiss by Courtney Walsh

 

Debut Fiction

Heart of a Royal by Hannah Currie 

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes

Shadow Among Sheaves by Naomi Stephens 

 

General Fiction

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner 

How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim 

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay 

 

Historical Fiction

The King’s Mercy by Lori Benton

Until the Mountains Fall by Connilyn Cossette

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz

 

Literature for Young Adults

Evermore by Jody Hedlund

Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill

Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan

 

Mystery/Thriller

The Wind Will Howl by Sibella Giorello

Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

 

Speculative Fiction

Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Brand of Light by Ronie Kendig

Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker