Tag Archives: general fiction

2019 Inspy Award Winners!

29 Jun

Congratulations to the 2019 Inspy Award Winners! What a talented group. The Inspys are a blogger-based awards program, so you know that these books are definitely reader-approved. I hope you find your next great read!

 

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

Falling for You by Becky Wade

Debut Fiction

Among The Poppies by J’nell Ciesielski

General Fiction

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

Historical Romance

The Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof

Literature for Young Adults

The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker

Mystery/Thriller

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright

Speculative Fiction

Mark of The Raven by Morgan L. Busse

 

Reading Road Trip — Michigan!

24 Apr

Today’s road trip takes us to Michigan, a state I have not had the pleasure of visiting except in books. Named after the Great Lake it is a state with lots of contrasts — big urban centers and beautiful lakeside communities. French explorers first came to the area in the 17th century and it was the site of conflict for settlement and progress. The Wolverine State is unique in that it is made up of two peninsulas. I haven’t read a lot of books set in Michigan, but I want to remedy that. I welcome your recommendations. In the meantime, I hope you find a book to enjoy from my list.

 

Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund

Michigan Territory, 1814 “A voyageur and a young woman swept up in a time of upheaval and dangerdiscover firsthand the high price of freedom.” The British Army has taken control of Michilimackinac Island and its fort, forcing the Americans to swear an oath of loyalty to the crown in order to retain their land. Pierre Durant is a fur trader who returns after being away from the island for years, only to find the family farm a shambles and those he cares about starving and at the mercy of British invaders. Torn between the adventurous life of fur trading and guilt over neglecting his defenseless mother, Pierre is drawn deeper into the fight against the British–and into a relationship with Angelique MacKenzie, a childhood friend who’s grown into a beautiful woman. She now finds herself trapped by the circumstances of war and poverty, and the cruelty of her guardian, Ebenezer Whiley. As tensions mount and the violence rages on, Pierre and Angelique must decide where their loyalties rest and how much they’ll risk for love.

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island by Carrie Fancett Pagels

Although the Winds of Mackinac Inn has been in her mother’s family for generations, Maude Welling’s father refuses to let her run it without the guidance of a husband. So she seeks to prove her worth and independence by working incognito as a maid at the Grand Hotel.

Undercover journalist Ben Steffans, posing as a wealthy industrialist, pursues a story about impoverished men chasing heiresses at the famed hotel.  While undercover, he becomes attracted to an intriguing maid. By an act of heroism Ben endears himself to the closed-mouthed islanders — including Maude — and he digs deep for his story.

But when scandal threatens, will the growing love between Maude and Ben be scuttled when truths are revealed?

We Hope For Better Things by Erin Bartels

When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request–that she look up a relative she didn’t know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos — seems like it isn’t worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.

At her great-aunt’s 150-year-old farmhouse north of Detroit, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.

Debut novelist Erin Bartels takes readers on an emotional journey through time — from the volatile streets of 1960s Detroit to the Michigan’s Underground Railroad during the Civil War — to uncover the past, confront the seeds of hatred, and discover where love goes to hide.

Just Let Go by Courtney Walsh

For Quinn Collins, buying the flower shop in downtown Harbor Pointe fulfills a childhood dream, but also gives her the chance to stick it to her mom, who owned the store before skipping town twenty years ago and never looking back. Completing much-needed renovations, however, while also competing for a prestigious flower competition with her mother as the head judge, soon has Quinn in over her head. Not that she’d ever ask for help.

Luckily, she may not need to. Quinn’s father and his meddling friends find the perfect solution in notorious Olympic skier Grady Benson, who had only planned on passing through the old-fashioned lakeside town. But when a heated confrontation leads to property damage, helping Quinn as a community-service sentence seems like the quickest way out — and the best way to avoid more negative press.

Quinn finds Grady reckless and entitled; he thinks she’s uptight and too regimented. Yet as the two begin to hammer and saw, Quinn sees glimpses of the vulnerability behind the bravado, and Grady learns from her passion and determination, qualities he seems to have lost along the way. But when a well-intentioned omission has devastating consequences, Grady finds himself cast out of town — and Quinn’s life — possibly forever. Forced to face the hurt holding her back, Quinn must finally let go or risk missing out on the adventure of a lifetime.

The Last Con by Zachary Bartels

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

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

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

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

 

Top 10 Tuesday — First 10 Reviews

23 Apr

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday challenge, First 10 Reviews, kind of made me cringe. I started blogging almost 10 years ago, and those early reviews . . . . Well, I’m not sure I want them anywhere but buried deep in my archives. LOL! I wrestled with how to put this post together. Should I do the first 10 of 2019 instead? Nope! I’m going to share the reviews of my favorite books from my first year of blogging. Hopefully you’ll see I have grown! 😉 Looking back I see that I was offered outstanding books to review. Maybe you will discover an oldie but goodie to read!

To discover other bloggers first reviews, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top 10 First Reviews

Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry  — Almost Heaven sings to the soul like none other I have read this year.

By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson — Whew! What a great adventure!

A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin — This book, set at the beginning of America’s entrance into the war, is a novel of hope in the bleakest times.

For Time And Eternity by Allison Pittman For Time And Eternity is a fast-paced read that you just can’t put down.

Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs  — Here Burns My Candle is a timeless, can’t-put-it-down novel you’ll love.

Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos — If you want a glimpse of who the real Jesus is, pick up Matt’s book. When you’re done, get quiet and get to know Him.

No Greater Love by Kathi Macias —  The story of God’s love transcends events, making this book a testament to God’s power in individuals’ lives.

The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead — I found Lawhead’s newest offering an exciting and thought-provoking read.

Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren — Warren delivers a message of God’s love and grace in a quiet way that speaks louder than the evil and violence of the world.

The Waiting by Suzanne Woods Fisher — I found even in the tragic events and clashes and conflicts presented in this novel, an expression of peace — the peace you can only find in God.

If you liked Delayed Justice . . .

29 Mar

Delayed Justice by Cara Putman was a hit with my book club. Although the subject matter (sexually abused children) was difficult to read, we all felt the author handled the subject with sensitivity. Suspense is probably our favorite genre, but I thought I would recommend books from other genres that also deal with sexual abuse. All the stories are told with grace and portray a spirit of light and hope in the darkness. I hope you find a book that you will love.

How Sweet The Sound by Amy K. Sorrells

Wealth and etiquette can hide a lot of things in the South, as the esteemed Harlan family of sleepy Bay Spring, Alabama, knows. But behind the gentle facade of white pillared porches and acres of cultivated pecan orchards, family secrets smolder.

Young Anniston Harlan cares little for high society and the rigid rules and expectations of her grandmother, Princella. She finds solace working the orchards alongside her father and grandfather, and relief in the cool waters of Mobile Bay.

Anniston’s aunt, Comfort Harlan, has never quite lived up to the family name, or so her mother Princella’s ever-apparent scowl implies. When she gleefully accepts the proposal of her longtime boyfriend, Solly, a flood tide of tragedy ensues that strips Comfort of her innocence and unleashes generations of family secrets, changing the Harlan family forever.

While Comfort struggles to recover, Anniston discovers an unlikely new friend from the seedy part of town who helps her try to make sense of the chaos. Together, they and the whole town of Bay Spring discover how true love is a risk, but one worth taking.

Watching The Tree Limbs by Mary DeMuth

Watching the tree limbs keeps resilient nine-year-old Mara Weatherall from the pain of General’s daily attacks – attacks he warns her to keep secret, or else. In the small world of 1979 Burl, Texas, all Mara really has are the tree limbs, a lumbering Aunt Elma, her boyfriend Officer Gus, the bully General, and her new best friend Camilla who rhymes maddening snatches of truth. Mara needs to escape General’s advances and find out who her real parents are before those who would want to destroy her succeed. Will she recognize redemption through Zady the Jesus-loving housekeeper, Denim the clandestine town prophet, or Mr. Winningham her new guardian whose quiet rage masks even deeper secrets?

 

Words by Ginny Yttrup

A child whose silence holds the truth captive. An artist whose work speaks the agony of her past. When drawn together, will they let the truth set them free?

Ten-year old Kaylee Wren doesn’t speak. Not since her drug-addled mother walked away, leaving her in a remote cabin nestled in the towering redwoods, in the care of a man who is as dangerous as he is evil. With silence her only refuge, Kaylee collects words she might never speak from the only memento her mother left behind: a dictionary.

Sierra Daw is thirty-four, an artist, and alone. She has allowed the shame of her past to silence her present hopes and chooses to bury her pain by trying to control her circumstances. But on the twelfth anniversary of her daughter’s death, Sierra’s control begins to crumble as the God of her childhood woos her back to Himself.

Will Kaylee and Sierra let the truth set them free?

Reading Road Trip — Louisiana

27 Mar

The next stop on my reading road trip is Louisiana. I love to visit this state. It is a big gumbo of people seasoned with history, mystery, and romance. Louisiana is unique from the rest of the 50 states. Its local government is organized by parishes rather than counties, a throwback to when the French owned this part of the US. Louisiana’s beginnings spice up their language, culture, and cuisine. And don’t forget Mardi Gras, celebrated not just in New Orleans.

I’ve chosen a variety of books set in Louisiana. They include historicals, romances, women’s fiction, and mystery/suspense. It was hard to keep my list under control, so look for a future road trip back to the Pelican State. Enjoy the reading road trip!

The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo

Can a former privateer and a determined heiress find lost treasure in 1725?
 A brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees.



Pasts Collide in New Orleans when a Treasure Goes Missing
. The last time New Orleans attorney Jean-Luc Valmont saw Maribel Cordoba, a Spanish nobleman’s daughter, she was an eleven-year-old orphan perched in the riggings of his privateering vessel proving herself as the best lookout on his crew. Until the day his infamy caught up with them all and innocent lives were lost. Unsure why he survived but vowing to make something of the chance he was given, Jean-Luc has buried his past life so deep that no living person will ever find it—until a very much alive and very grown up Maribel Cordoba arrives on his doorstep and threatens all he now holds dear. 



What The Bayou Saw by Patti Lacy

The past can’t stay buried forever Rising author Patti Lacy’s second novel exposes the life of Sally, set amid the shadows of prejudice in Louisiana. Since leaving her home in the South, Sally Stevens has held the secrets of her past at bay, smothering them in a sunny disposition and sugar-coated lies. No one, not even her husband, has heard the truth about her childhood. But when one of her students is violently raped, Sally’s memories quickly bubble to the surface unbidden, like a dead body in a bayou. As Sally’s story comes to light, the lies she’s told begin to catch up with her. And as her web of deceit unravels, she resolves to face the truth at last, whatever the consequences.

All’s Fair in Love And Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie’s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.But when Lucas Brannen, Kat’s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.

As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself — her — is suddenly in danger of slipping away.

The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat’s senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.

Test of Faith by Christa Allan

Elle Butler has managed to hold on to her politically-driven husband and her secrets until the unexpected happens. When one phone call rips her world apart, Elle will have to decide if the truth is worth the consequences. Especially when it threatens to destroy the world she’s so carefully built around her life and her marriage.

 

 

 

 

Darkwater Secrets by Robin Caroll

A murder investigation uncovers sordid secrets and haunting mistakes

The Darkwater Inn stands tall and proud in the French Quarter, the hub of New Orleans. Bourbon Street is bustling, and General Manager Adelaide Fountaine has her hands full with a hotel at capacity. She, along with everyone else, is shocked when a body is found: a hotel guest stabbed with a kitchen knife.

Detective Beau Savoie, Adelaide’s childhood friend, is on the case. As Beau digs into the victim’s past, he unearths a shocking connection between Adelaide and the murdered guest. Beau is hurt that his friend—the woman he’s quietly loved for years—kept the truth from him. To make matters worse, the stress of the investigation has sent Adelaide right into the comforting arms of her coworker Dimitri. But Beau can’t press Adelaide too hard . . . he’s keeping secrets of his own.

Can Adelaide and Beau afford to hide from the truth with a killer on the loose?

Whispers of The Bayou by Mindy Starns Clark

Miranda Miller wasn’t looking for the news the day the letter came. But, trying to survive in troubled circumstances, she welcomes the chance to change her location for a period of time. The letter informs her that her grandparents’ estate is finally about to become hers. She immediately heads down to Louisiana and the old house by the bayou. There Miranda finds secrets that lead to life-changing revelations.

This suspenseful story reminiscent of old Gothic tales has a complex mystery and a vivid sense of the Deep South. It shows how God can take the darkest circumstances and use them to light a bright path leading to the future.

 

 

Where do you want to read next?

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Outstanding Audiobooks

26 Mar

I listen to audiobooks while I walk in the mornings. I find it helps engage my mind while I automatically traverse the very familiar roads in my neighborhood. Because I pack my reading schedule with review books, I rarely read a book just because. Audiobooks help fulfill that need. My list today, Outstanding Audiobooks, consists of the most recent books I have listened to and loved. A variety of genres are represented, so there should be something on the list for just about everyone. They were excellent choices, both for content and the reader’s excellent portrayal of the characters. I don’t hesitate to recommend them to other audiobook fans.

To find more great audiobooks, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Top 10 Outstanding Audiobooks

 

Falling for You by Becky Wade

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green

A Time to Stand by Robert Whitlow

Why The Sky Is Blue by Susan Meissner

Audiobook Review: No One Ever Asked

25 Mar

Challenging perceptions of discrimination and prejudice, this emotionally resonant drama for readers of Lisa Wingate and Jodi Picoult explores three different women navigating challenges in a changing school district — and in their lives.

When an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors, the lives of three very different women converge: Camille Gray — the wife of an executive, mother of three, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fundraiser — faced with a shocking discovery that threatens to tear her picture-perfect world apart at the seams. Jen Covington, the career nurse whose long, painful journey to motherhood finally resulted in adoption but she is struggling with a happily-ever-after so much harder than she anticipated. Twenty-two-year-old Anaya Jones–the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge’s top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she’s stepped into. Tensions rise within and without, culminating in an unforeseen event that impacts them all. This story explores the implicit biases impacting American society, and asks the ultimate question: What does it mean to be human? Why are we so quick to put labels on each other and categorize people as “this” or “that”, when such complexity exists in each person?

Katie Ganshert was born and raised in the exciting state of Iowa, where she currently resides with her family. She likes to write things and consume large quantities of coffee and chocolate while she writes all the things. She’s won some awards. For the writing, not the consuming. Although the latter would be fun. You can learn more about Katie and these things she writes at her website http://www.katieganshert.com.

 

My Impressions:

If you want a book that will challenge your attitudes, convictions, and, yes, secret prejudices, then you will want to read No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert. Inspired by the real life state takeover of a Missouri school district and the ensuing uproar that followed, Ganshert’s novel is full of characters that will touch your heart, make you angry, and perhaps cause you to reexamine your own choices and beliefs. I found this novel not only to be a well-written and thoughtful look at the hidden and not so hidden middle America, but one that offers hope and healing in the face of anger, fear, and broken relationships. This one is a highly recommended read.

There are three main characters in No One Ever Asked. Camille epitomizes the oh-so put together wife and mother whose smugness about her perfect life is brought down in humbling ways. Anaya is an eager young woman of color who wants to make a difference in her own community, but feels she has sold out to teach in a majority white school district. Jennifer is a struggling new mother to an adoptive daughter whose past trauma and current cultural challenges make Jennifer feel disconnected to her daughter. All three women are presented in a realistic way — there’s no sugar coating of their inner turmoil. In fact, I loved the revelation of their very private thoughts. None are perfect, and I found some of their struggles hit close to home. Amidst the angst, Ganshert gives the reader glimpses of hope, and healing comes in unexpected ways. At the end of the book, I felt I was leaving friends. Specific to the audiobook — the reader had a great sense of timing and gave each woman (and other characters) a distinctive voice, not only in accent, but in tone as well.

No One Ever Asked was a book that will make you stop and think. It is also one that demands discussion. Grab some friends and read this book together. The ensuing conversation may just lead to growth for you and your friends as well.

Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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