Tag Archives: speculative fiction

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

Top Ten Tuesday — Forgotten TBR

9 Jun

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday prompt is books you have added to the TBR, but can’t remember why. I remember why I have purchased a book, I just don’t always remember it is on my shelf! 😉 Last week I got new carpeting in my office/library which caused me to move a whole lot of books off the shelves. This made me reorganize all the shelves that fill rooms all through my house. A big, but enjoyable, task. The double parked books kept many hidden from view. It was like Christmas finding gems I didn’t remember I had. I limited the list to the proscribed 10 — yes I had more than that!

Do you have any books on your shelves and don’t know why?

 

For more TBR confessions, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

10 Forgotten Gems on the TBR Shelves

 

Blood Sisters by Melody Carlson

After losing her family, Judith Blackwell seriously considers ending her life … until a mysterious letter captures her attention. Opening the envelope, she is shocked to discover the obituary of Jasmine, her childhood friend. Shaken out of her valley of darkness, Judith journeys to her hometown and uncovers more than she bargained for. When she confides the truth to a handsome detective, they form a plan that will save the community … or trap them in the heart of danger.

A riveting novel, Blood Sisters demonstrates how God brings His own from the edge of darkness into His incredible light.

The Cairo Brief by Fiona Veitch Smith

Intrepid reporter sleuth Poppy Denby is invited to attend the auction of the Death Mask of Nefertiti. The auction is to be held on the country estate of Sir James Maddox, a famous explorer and Egyptologist. Representatives of the world’s leading museums will be bidding on the mask which was found, in Egypt, under murderous circumstances. Poppy and her colleagues from The Daily Globe, who are trying to stay one step ahead of their rivals from The London Courier, dismiss rumours of an ancient curse. But when one of the auction party is murdered, and someone starts stalking Poppy, the race is on to find the killer before ‘the curse’ can strike again.

Death at Thorburn Hall by Julianna Deering

Drew Farthering arrives in idyllic Scotland for the 1935 British Open at Muirfield hoping for a relaxing holiday, but he soon finds a mystery on his hands. Lord Rainsby, his host at Thorburn Hall, fears his business partner may be embezzling and asks Drew to quietly investigate. Before Drew can uncover anything, Rainsby is killed in a suspicious riding accident.

Thorburn Hall is filled with guests, and as Drew continues to dig, he realizes that each might have had a motive to put Raisnby out of the way. Together with Madeline and Nick, he must sort through shady business dealings, international intrigue, and family tensions to find a killer who always seems to be one step ahead.

The First Gift by Ruth Logan Herne

Kindergarten teacher Kerry McHenry is nobody’s fool. She sees her own tough upbringing in the face of a poverty stricken child and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to make things better.

At the same time, she finds herself torn between a commitment-phobic doctor and Phillipsburg’s widowed deputy sheriff, a complicated man who is still angry with God.

As the stakes grow higher and the characters’ lives intersect in unexpected ways, each will face a true test of faith—and come face to face with indisputable evidence of God’s love.

The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club by Wanda E. Brunstetter

As Amish widow Emma Yoder contemplates the task ahead, her thoughts center on one: What if she fails? Longing to remove a burden from her family by becoming self-sufficient, Emma has offered to hold quilting classes in her home. But when she sees the patchwork of faces assembled for the first lesson, her confidence dwindles as doubt takes hold.
 
There’s Star Stephens, a young woman yearning for stability; Pam and Stuart Johnston, a struggling couple at odds in their marriage; Paul Ramirez, a widower hoping to find solace in finishing a quilt; Jan Sweet, a rough and tough biker doing creative community service; and Ruby Lee Williams, a preacher’s wife looking for relaxation amid mounting parish problems.
 
While Emma grows to realize her ability to share her passion for quilting and her faith, the beginning quilters learn to transform scraps of fabric into beauty. And slowly, their fragmented lives begin to take new shape — some in unexpected ways — with the helping hands of each other and the healing hand of God.

An Irishwoman’s Tale by Patti Lacy

Far away from her Irish home, Mary Freeman begins to adapt to life in Midwest America, but family turmoil and her own haunting memories threaten to ruin her future. It takes a crisis in her daughter’s life — and the encouragement of Sally, a plucky Southern transplant — to propel Mary back to the rocky cliffs of her home in County Clare, Ireland.

 

 

Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker

When Cohen Marah steps over his father’s body in the basement embalming room of the family’s funeral home, he has no idea that he is stepping into a labyrinth of memory. As the last one to see his father, Cohen is the primary suspect.

Over the next week, Cohen’s childhood memories come back in living color. The dramatic events that led to his father being asked to leave his pastoral position. The game of baseball that somehow kept them together. And the two children in the forest who became his friends–and enlisted him in a dark and dangerous undertaking. As the lines blur between what was real and what was imaginary, Cohen is faced with the question he’s been avoiding: Did he kill his father?

In Light from Distant Stars, master story weaver Shawn Smucker relays a tale both eerie and enchanting, one that will have you questioning reality and reaching out for what is true, good, and genuine.

The Long Journey Home by Sharlene MacLaren

After divorcing her abusive husband, single mother Callie May is still nursing the scars of a
painful past. The last thing she needs in her life is another man, so she’s less than thrilled
when a handsome but brooding stranger moves into the apartment across the hall.
Dan Mattson may be attractive, but his circumstances certainly aren’t: a former church
pastor, he abandoned his flock in Michigan and fled to the Chicago suburbs after the death
of his beloved wife and baby daughter in a tragic automobile accident. Embittered by his
loss, Dan turns his back on God.

Callie mistrusts men, and the angry Dan often gives her good reason to. Both are weighed
down by the scars and disappointment in their pasts. When Callie’s ex–husband shows up to
wreak more havoc in her life, Dan finds himself coming to her defense—and facing his own
demons in the process. Will Dan and Callie be able to get past their baggage and give love
another chance? Can they come to see life’s apparent tragedies as part of God’s perfect plan?
Can the power of God change their hearts and mend their hurts?

Sidney Chambers And The Shadow of Death by James Runcie

It is 1953, the coronation year of Queen Elizabeth II . Sidney Chambers, vicar of Grantchester and honorary canon of Ely Cathedral, is a thirty-two-year-old bachelor. Tall, with dark brown hair, eyes the color of hazelnuts, and a reassuringly gentle manner, Sidney is an unconventional clerical detective. He can go where the police cannot.

Together with his roguish friend, inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney inquires into the suspect suicide of a Cambridge solicitor, a scandalous jewelry theft at a New Year’s Eve dinner party, the unexplained death of a jazz promoter’s daughter, and a shocking art forgery that puts a close friend in danger. Sidney discovers that being a detective, like being a clergyman, means that you are never off duty, but he nonetheless manages to find time for a keen interest in cricket, warm beer, and hot jazz-as well as a curious fondness for a German widow three years his junior.

With a whiff of Agatha Christie and a touch of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, The Grantchester Mysteries introduces a wonderful new hero into the world of detective fiction.

The Unquiet Bones by Mel Starr

Hugh of Singleton, fourth son of a minor knight, has been educated as a clerk, usually a prelude to taking holy orders. However, feeling no certain calling despite a lively faith, he turns to the profession of surgeon, training in Paris and then hanging out his sign in Oxford. A local lord asks him to track the killer of a young woman whose bones have been found in the castle cess pit. She is identified as the impetuous missing daughter of a local blacksmith, and her young man, whom she had provoked very publicly, is in due course arrested and sentenced at the Oxford assizes. From there the tale unfolds, with graphic medical procedures, droll medieval wit, misdirection, ambition, romantic distractions and a consistent underlying Christian compassion.

 

Which of these books would you read next?

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Reasons to Love Speculative Fiction

19 May

I am a very eclectic reader. I will read just about any genre. I do have some exceptions, but since I read Christian fiction almost exclusively, I don’t have to worry about some of the more explicit scenes/language that can crop up. 😉 While my time is spent mostly in reading real life stuff, whether contemporary or historical, I do like a good speculative novel as well. So what is speculative fiction?

Speculative fiction: a genre of fiction that encompasses works in which the setting is other than the real world, involving supernatural, futuristic, or other imagined elements.

The speculative fiction genre includes allegory, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, time travel, alternate history, dystopian fiction, etc. While the general market has lots of speculative fiction, there is not as much published in the Christian market, so you have to look for it. Enclave Publishing is one imprint that publishes spec fiction exclusively and is a good place to go to get your fix or to get you started on a new adventure in reading. Note: while the definition of spec fic states that the settings of the book are other than real world, I think some of the best examples of the genre take the real world and pull back a curtain that keeps us from seeing the whole picture. Those books use creative elements to help us process and imagine those things we just can’t see.

For my Top 10 Tuesday post, I have included the reasons I like spec fiction, as well as some suggested books for you to check out. Hope you enjoy!

Top Reasons to Love Speculative Fiction

 

Takes you to another world.

Prophet by R. J. Larson 

Ela Roeh of Parne doesn’t understand why her beloved Creator, the Infinite, wants her to become His prophet. She’s undignified and bad-tempered, and at age seventeen she’s much too young. In addition, no prophet of Parne has ever been a girl. Worst of all, as Parne’s elders often warn, if she agrees to become the Infinite’s prophet, Ela knows she will die young.

Yet she can’t imagine living without Him. Determined to hear the Infinite’s voice, Ela accepts the sacred vinewood branch and is sent to bring the Infinite’s word to a nation torn apart by war. There she meets a young ambassador determined to bring his own justice for his oppressed people. As they form an unlikely partnership, Ela battles how to balance the leading of her heart with the leading of the Infinite.

The Story Peddler by Lindsay Franklin

Selling stories is a deadly business

Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories—she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down . . . and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers . . . and they’re after her too.

Allows you to travel in time and space.

The Bright Empires Series (5 books) by Stephen Lawhead

It is the ultimate quest for the ultimate treasure. Chasing a map tattooed on human skin. Across an omniverse of intersecting realities. To unravel the future of the future.

Kit Livingstone’s great-grandfather appears to him in a deserted alley during a tumultuous storm. He reveals an unbelievable story: that the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legend or the weekend hobby of deluded cranks, but pathways to other worlds. To those who know how to use them, they grant the ability to travel the multi-layered universe of which we ordinarily inhabit only a tiny part.

One explorer knew more than most. Braving every danger, he toured both time and space on voyages of heroic discovery. Ever on his guard and fearful of becoming lost in the cosmos, he developed an intricate code — a roadmap of symbols — that he tattooed onto his own body. This Skin Map has since been lost in time. Now the race is on to recover all the pieces and discover its secrets.

But the Skin Map itself is not the ultimate goal. It is merely the beginning of a vast and marvelous quest for a prize beyond imagining.

The Bright Empires series — from acclaimed author Stephen R. Lawhead — is a unique blend of epic treasure hunt, ancient history, alternate realities, cutting-edge physics, philosophy, and mystery. The result is a page-turning, adventure like no other.

Makes you think about the supernatural world.

The Chair by James Rubart

When an elderly lady shows up in Corin Roscoe’s antiques store and gives him a chair she claims was built by Christ, he scoffs. But when a young boy is miraculously healed after sitting in the chair, he stops laughing and starts to wonder. Could the chair heal the person whose life he destroyed twelve years ago?

As word spreads of the boy’s healing, a mega-church pastor is determined to manipulate Corin into turning over the chair. And that mysterious woman who gave him the piece says it’s Corin’s destiny to guard the chair above everything else. But why?

Desperate, he turns to the one person he can trust, a college history professor who knows more about the legend of the chair than he reveals.

Searching for the truth about the artifact, and the unexplained phenomena surrounding it, Corin soon realizes he isn’t the only one willing to do anything to possess the power that surrounds The Chair.

Gives fresh perspective on everyday life.

The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings

Lost luggage can ruin any trip. But what if it could change your life?

A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her perfect sister’s perfect house before her niece’s wedding.

A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job.

And a young artist pursuing his father’s sports dream so he can keep his own alive.

When Gillian, David, and Michael each take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave.

 

Gives you a little (or a lot) of thrills and chills!

The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey

For the three people tortured by their secret complicity in a young man’s untimely death, redemption is what they most long for . . . and the last thing they expect to receive.

It has been twenty years since Philip McBride’s body was found along the riverbank in the dark woods known as Happy Hollow. His death was ruled a suicide. But three people have carried the truth ever since—Philip didn’t kill himself that day. He was murdered.

Each of the three have wilted in the shadow of their sins. Jake Barnett is Mattingly’s sheriff, where he spends his days polishing the fragile shell of the man he pretends to be. His wife, Kate, has convinced herself the good she does for the poor will someday wash the blood from her hands. And high in the mountains, Taylor Hathcock lives in seclusion and fear, fueled by madness and hatred.

Yet what cannot be laid to rest is bound to rise again. Philip McBride has haunted Jake’s dreams for weeks, warning that he is coming back for them all. When Taylor finds mysterious footprints leading from the Hollow, he believes his redemption has come. His actions will plunge the quiet town of Mattingly into darkness. These three will be drawn together for a final confrontation between life and death . . . between truth and lies.

House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker

Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker—two of the most acclaimed writers of supernatural thrillers—have joined forces for the first time to craft a story unlike any you’ve ever read. Enter House — where you’ll find yourself thrown into a killer’s deadly game in which the only way to win is to lose . . . and the only way out is in. The stakes of the game become clear when a tin can is tossed into the house with rules scrawled on it. Rules that only a madman — or worse — could have written. Rules that make no sense yet must be followed. One game. Seven players. Three rules. Game ends at dawn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Books I Loved, But Rarely Talk About

14 Apr

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is an interesting one — books loved, but not talked about. I am always talking books, but are there some that get neglected because it has been years since I read them, or they fit in a genre that my friends don’t read? I’m not sure the reason, but I am here to rectify the matter! 😉 Have you read any on my list? Did you love them too?

For more books deserving of a conversation, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Top 10 Books I Loved

 

Bad Ground by Dale Cramer

Poignant and thought provoking, this is a down-to-earth, sometimes humorous novel filled with suspense, action, redemption, and even romance. Seventeen-year-old Jeremy Prine decides to honor his mother’s dying wish and seek out his estranged uncle who was badly burned in the accident that killed Jeremy’s father. He ¹nds the man working as a hard-rock miner in the south, an extremely dangerous occupation. His uncle seems a bitter and lonely man, but Jeremy senses more beneath the surface. Against his uncle’s wishes, Jeremy takes a job as a miner and soon his young faith is tested by his rough and gritty co-workers, the threat of danger . . .  and the possibility of love.

The Baker’s Wife by Erin Healy

Before Audrey was the baker’s wife, she was the pastor’s wife.

Then a scandalous lie cost her husband a pastoral career. Now the two work side-by-side running a bakery, serving coffee, and baking fresh bread. But the hurt still pulls at Audrey.

Driving early one morning to the bakery, Audrey’s car strikes something — or someone — at a fog-shrouded intersection. She finds a motor scooter belonging to a local teacher. Blood is everywhere, but there’s no trace of a body.

Both the scooter and the blood belong to detective Jack Mansfield’s wife, and he’s certain that Audrey is behind Julie’s disappearance.

But the case dead-ends and the detective spirals into madness. When he takes her family and some patrons hostage at the bakery, Audrey is left with a soul-damaged ex-con and a cynical teen to solve the mystery. And she’ll never manage that unless she taps into something she would rather leave behind — her excruciating ability to feel other’s pain.

A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr

The Fate of the Kingdom Awaits the Cast of Stones

In the backwater village of Callowford, roustabout Errol Stone is enlisted by a church messenger arriving with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Eager for coin, Errol agrees to what he thinks will be an easy task, but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he’s joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.

Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom’s dynasty nears its end and the selection of the new king begins–but in secret and shadow. As danger mounts, Errol must leave behind the stains and griefs of the past, learn to fight, and discover who is hunting him and his companions and how far they will go to stop the reading of the stones.

The Church Ladies by Lisa Samson

Competition for church members in Mount Oak has reached a furious peak. When tragedy strikes one of their hometown sons, the church women are drawn together through compassion. The Church Ladies is a contemporary tale illustrating how women can have a major impact on the church. Through friendships that reach beneath surface level — and trials more severe than simple — they unite with common purpose: to pray, share, and comfort. Slowly, the community of believers learns that the church grows when it is rooted in love. Characters you’ll laugh and cry with, in situations every woman will instantly relate to, light up this page-turner about a miracle that could happen anywhere.

The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffee

For the three people tortured by their secret complicity in a young man’s untimely death, redemption is what they most long for . . . and the last thing they expect to receive.

It has been twenty years since Philip McBride’s body was found along the riverbank in the dark woods known as Happy Hollow. His death was ruled a suicide. But three people have carried the truth ever since—Philip didn’t kill himself that day. He was murdered.

Each of the three have wilted in the shadow of their sins. Jake Barnett is Mattingly’s sheriff, where he spends his days polishing the fragile shell of the man he pretends to be. His wife, Kate, has convinced herself the good she does for the poor will someday wash the blood from her hands. And high in the mountains, Taylor Hathcock lives in seclusion and fear, fueled by madness and hatred.

Yet what cannot be laid to rest is bound to rise again. Philip McBride has haunted Jake’s dreams for weeks, warning that he is coming back for them all. When Taylor finds mysterious footprints leading from the Hollow, he believes his redemption has come. His actions will plunge the quiet town of Mattingly into darkness. These three will be drawn together for a final confrontation between life and death . . . between truth and lies.

Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy

Riveting Race against the Clock to Save a Young Woman’s Life

A storm the size of Texas brews when Gloria Powell and Kai Chang meet in a Dallas hotel. They have come to discuss the future of Lily, the daughter Gloria adopted from China and the sister Kai hopes to reclaim. Kai is a doctor who had to give up her little sister during the Cultural Revolution and has since discovered that an inherited genetic defect may be waiting to fatally strike Lily. Gloria’s relationship with her daughter is tattered and strained, and the arrival of Kai, despite the woman’s apparent good intentions, makes Gloria fearful. Gloria longs to restore her relationship with Lily, but in the wake of this potentially devastating diagnosis, is Kai an answer to prayer. . .or will her arrival force Gloria to sacrifice more than she ever imagined?

The Reluctant Prophet by Nancy Rue

At age forty-two, Allison Chamberlain is still making a half-hearted attempt to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. Although she has been a pew-sitting member of a church for seven years, “prophet” has never been on the short list of possible careers.

Then one Sunday Allison senses a divine nudge to buy a Harley motorcycle and go wherever it takes her. Soon she is wondering if she is called to present the reality of Christ to one of society’s darkest corners — and challenge her own church to look beyond their fears.

River’s Song by Melody Carlson

Following her mother’s funeral, and on the verge of her own midlife crisis, widow Anna Larson returns to the home of her youth to sort out her parents’ belongings, as well as her own turbulent life. For the first time since childhood, Anna embraces her native heritage, despite the disdain of her vicious mother-in-law. By transforming her old family home on the banks of the Siuslaw River into The Inn at Shining Waters, Anna hopes to create a place of healing — a place where guests experience peace, grace, and new beginnings. Starting with her own family . . .

The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser

The Singleton family’s fortunes seem unaffected by the Great Depression, and Perri–along with the other girls at Atlanta’s elite Washington Seminary–lives a carefree life of tea dances with college boys, matinees at the cinema, and debut parties. But when tragedies strike, Perri is confronted with a world far different from the one she has always known.

At the insistence of her parents, Mary “Dobbs” Dillard, the daughter of an itinerant preacher, is sent from inner-city Chicago to live with her aunt and attend Washington Seminary, bringing confrontation and radical ideas. Her arrival intersects at the point of Perri’s ultimate crisis, and the tragedy forges an unlikely friendship.

The Sweetest Thing tells the story of two remarkable young women–opposites in every way–fighting for the same goal: surviving tumultuous change.

Uncharted by Angela Hunt

When a group of college friends reunites for a trip to the Marshall Islands, they find themselves stranded on an uncharted island unlike any they’ve seen in the vicinity. They list their priorities—find water, food, and a way off the island — but the place itself opens their eyes to realities beyond their comprehension. Six friends accept one invitation and take an unexpected journey that changes their lives forever.

 

Top 10 Tuesday — New to Me Authors

14 Jan

2019 was a great year for reading! I discovered a number of new and exciting authors. Discovered, as in I read them for the first time. Some of the authors had been published before and some had debut releases. (Some I met in person last year — squee!) You may be familiar with some or all of them, but in case you aren’t, they are all recommended by me. I look forward to more great books to discover from these authors.

 Hope you discover a new author too!

 

For more bookish discoveries across the blogosphere, visit That Artsy Reader Girl.

Amanda Barratt — My Dearest Dietrich

Erin Bartels — We Hope for Better Things

Victoria Bylin — When He Found Me

Cathy Gohlke — The Medallion

Janet Ferguson — The Art of Rivers

Lindsay Franklin — The Story Peddler

James Hannibal — The Gryphon Heist

Kristi Ann Hunter — A Defense of Honor

Tara Johnson — Engraved on The Heart

David Rawlings — The Baggage Handler

Linda Thompson — The Plum Blooms in Winter

Abigail Wilson — In The Shadows of Croft Towers

 

What new author did you discover last year?

 

Book Review: The Baggage Handler

11 Nov

 

There is no doubt why The Baggage Handler won the 2019 Christy Award for First Novel. It is excellent! You ARE going to want to read this!

When three people take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, their lives change forever. 

A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job.

A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister’s house before her niece’s wedding.

And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive.

When David, Gillian, and Michael each take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave.

In this modern-day parable about the burdens that weigh us down, David Rawlings issues an inspiring invitation to lighten the load.

 

David Rawlings is an Australian author, and a sports-mad father-of-three who loves humor and a clever turn-of-phrase.

Over a 25-year career he has put words on the page to put food on the table, developing from sports journalism and copywriting to corporate communication.

Now in fiction, he entices readers to look deeper into life with stories that combine the everyday with a sense of the speculative, addressing the fundamental questions we all face. That starts with his debut novel – The Baggage Handler – a contemporary story that explores one question: What baggage are you carrying?

 

My Impressions:

I had heard a lot of great things about The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings, so I was thrilled to get the chance to read this debut novel. The buzz said it is a parable, and it certainly is. This book made me dig deep into my own attitudes, expectations, experiences, and insecurities — the baggage that is part and parcel of who I am. Insightful, thought-provoking, and a real conversation starter, this book gets a very highly recommended rating from me.

It all begins with three people with lost baggage. Each is facing struggles at the end of their plane rides, and the experience of searching out their lost baggage is not pleasant. Add an enigmatic baggage handler who forces them to face their real selves, and you have a riveting look into what people carry around with them and their inept means of dealing with it. The characters Rawlings created are well-developed, not the stereotypes often found in parables. They were very real and relatable from the opening chapters. Did I see myself in any of them? Maybe. 😉 The baggage they carry, often unrecognized or not of their choice, includes envy, unforgiveness, and unworthiness. The doubts and fears each exhibit come from the depths of the human experience. And that is what makes The Baggage Handler so powerful — its universal message. A light is shown on what we all need to deal with. The setting of the baggage facility is masterfully depicted — you’ll see when you read the book. Not everything is resolved in the way I would have liked, leaving me feeling both hopeful and sad. But isn’t that how it is in real life as well?

Perfect for a book club discussion ( you will want to talk about this book!), The Baggage Handler is a must-read! I cannot wait for more from Rawlings.

Very Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

Book Review: Synapse

21 Oct

About The Book

Book: Synapse

Author: Steven James

Genre: Thriller, Sci-Fi

Release Date: October 8, 2019

Thirty years in the future, when AI is so advanced that humans live side by side with cognizant robots called Artificials, Kestrel Hathaway must come to terms not just with what machines know, but what they believe. Is hope real for them, or merely an illusion?

Soon after experiencing a personal tragedy, Kestrel witnesses a terrorist attack and is drawn into a world of conspiracies and lies that she and Jordan, her Artificial, have to untangle. With a second, more brutal attack looming on the horizon, their best chance of stopping it is teaming up with federal counterterrorism agent Nick Vernon.

But the clock is ticking — and all the while, Jordan is asking questions that Artificials were never meant to ask.

Deftly weaving suspense and intrigue into a rich, resonant tale that explores faith and what it really means to be human, Steven James offers us a glimpse into the future and into our own hearts.

Synapse is an unforgettable, gripping story of dreams shattered, truth revealed, and hope reborn.

Click here to get your copy!

My Impressions:

A futuristic techno-thriller that explores questions as old as time, Synapse will keep you on the edge of your seat. I found Steven James’ latest novel a mind-bender as I sought to process the interactions between Artificials (cognizant robots), Naturals (humans), and Plussers (specially-augmented humans) and the search for terrorists with varied agendas and motives. The basic premise is simple — Purists (those who oppose the spread of technology) are out to prevent a leading tech company from unleashing new advancements — yet this book has so many twists and turns along with thought-provoking questions on God, that its complexity requires a careful reading. Readers will find themselves questioning the technology that makes our lives easier, and in turn, as a couple of characters state, reflecting on the distractions that keep us from thoughts of eternity. I especially found main character Jordan, a cognizant robot with free will, intriguing. In Jordan, James has created a machine that feels, thinks, and aspires to what humans should. See, I said mind-bending. The novel is action-packed, and will appeal to those with a preference for the thriller and dystopian genres. And the faith messages shared will certainly make any reader re-think any conceptions they have on the goodness of God in a fallen world.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Celebrate Lit and Thomas Nelson for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

About The Author

Steven James is the critically acclaimed, national bestselling author of sixteen novels. His work has been optioned by ABC Studios and praised by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, the New York Journal of Books, and many others. His pulse-pounding, award-winning thrillers are known for their intricate storylines and insightful explorations of good and evil. When he’s not working on his next book, he’s either teaching master classes on writing throughout the country, trail running, or sneaking off to catch a matinee.

 

 

More from Steven

“James is a pro at creating suspense.”

Criminal Element

 

“stimulating tale…thrilling story of greed and corruption”

Publishers Weekly STARRED review

Read my op-ed on robots and faith in the New York Times

 

I grew up reading and loving science fiction stories. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of artificial intelligence, but as I’ve thought about it over the years, I’ve realized that our lives are not based just on what we know, but also what we believe. So, I started asking myself, “What would the world look like if machines developed artificial belief?” Within a few decades, advanced AIs might very well have consciousness and self-awareness. At that point, what will they choose to believe about the meaning of live, God, and the afterlife?

All of these questions were in my mind as I wrote Synapse, a story that takes place 30 years from now in a world very much like our own. This is a cautionary tale with implications that are both chilling and revealing and I think that if you like suspense, you’ll love this near-future thriller.

Steven

Learn more at stevenjames.net

Facebook and Twitter: @readstevenjames

Buy the book: https://www.tnzfiction.com/synapse-a-novel/

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 8

Just Your Average reviews, October 9

Emily Yager, October 9

amandainpa , October 10

Wishful Endings, October 10

Just the Write Escape, October 11

Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections, October 11

Pause for Tales, October 12

Mary Hake, October 12

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 13

For The Love of Books, October 13

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Hallie Reads, October 15

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Remembrancy, October 16

Through the Fire Blogs, October 16

Simple Harvest Reads, October 17

Texas Book-aholic, October 18

Rebekah Jones, Author, October 18

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A Reader’s Brain, October 20

Inklings and notions , October 21

By The Book, October 21

Congratulations 2019 Carol Award Winners!

29 Sep

The winners of the 2019 Carol Awards have been announced. Congratulations to all the talented authors!

 

Contemporary

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

 

Historical

The Solace of Water by Elizabeth Byler Younts

 

Historical Romance

A Light on A Hill by Connilyn Cossette

 

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright

 

Novella

MissTaken Identity from The MissAdventure Brides Collection by Kimberley Woodhouse

 

Romance

Just Let Go by Courtney Walsh

 

Romantic Suspense

Hidden Peril by Irene Hannon

 

Short Novel

The Rancher’s Surprise Daughter by Jill Lynn

 

Speculative

The Mark of The Raven by Morgan L. Busse

 

Young Adult

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

 

Debut

The Story Peddler by Lindsay Franklin

 

 

2019 Christy Award Finalists

19 Sep

Here are the finalists for the 2019 Christy Awards. A top honor in Christian fiction, you can be sure of an excellent read when choosing one of these books. Congrats to all the talented authors!

 

Contemporary Romance

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano

Falling for You by Becky Wade

Wait for Me by Susan May Warren

 

First Novel

The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings

Engraved on The Heart by Tara Johnson

The Plum Blooms in Winter by Linda Thompson

 

General Fiction

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

Send Down The Rain by Charles Martin

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

 

 

Historical

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano

Of Fire And Lions by Mesu Andrews

The Seamstress by Allison Pitman

Shelter of The Most High by Connilyn Cossette

 

Historical Romance

A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander

 

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

Called to Protect by Lynette Eason

Every Wicked Man by Steven James

Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

 

 

Short Form

A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock

Falling for Grace by Janet Ferguson

Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter

 

Visionary

Mark of The Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Shivering World by Kathy Tyers

The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick W. Carr

 

Young Adult

The Crescent Stone by Matt Mikalatos

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson