Tag Archives: women’s fiction

Top 10 Tuesday — New To Me Authors

2 Jan

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday theme is 2017 New-To-Me Authors. As often as can, I try to include on my reading list authors I have not read. It’s easy to stick to the tried and true, but you really miss out on some wonderful books if you don’t expand the horizons a bit. I am sure that many of the authors on my list will be familiar names to my readers, but I had not read them before 2017. My bad! 😉 How about you? What new author did you read and love this year?

 

Top New To Me Authors of 2017

Karen BarnettThe Road to Paradise

Christine DillonGrace in Strange Disguise

Michelle Griep12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Debra E. Marvin The Case of The Clobbered Cad

Joanna Davidson PolitanoLady Jayne Disappears

Dina L. SliemanDauntless

Amy K. SorrellsHow Sweet The Sound

Ann Marie StewartStars in The Grass

Claire WongThe Runaway

Which new-to-you author did you discover in 2017?

 

 

 

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Audiobook Review: The Christmas Angel Project

4 Dec

Five women from different walks of life have become close friends through their book club — enjoying one another’s company even more than they enjoy the books. So when the leader of the book club unexpectedly passes away on the cusp of the Christmas season, the four remaining friends are stunned. They relied on Abby for inspiration and motivation. She was the glue that held them together, and they’re sure that without her the group can’t continue.

When the group gathers “one last time” to open a bag Abby’s husband gives them, they find Abby had made each of them an angel ornament for Christmas, crafted especially for each woman and accompanied by a sweet and personal note. Inspired by their beloved friend, together Cassidy, Louisa, Grace, and Belinda decide to commit themselves to becoming Christmas Angels to others in need. Each woman will use her life situation and talents to reach out and help others in her own unique way — little knowing that her own life and her relationships will be changed forever.

 

Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller”. Her novels range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors, etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including Romantic Time’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita and the Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog. To find out more about Melody Carlson, visit her website at http://www.melodycarlson.com/.

 

My Impressions:

What kind of legacy will you leave? That is the underlying theme of Melody Carlson’s The Christmas Angel Project. Carlson, known as the queen of Christmas novellas, has another hit with this book. She takes her characters on a journey from grief to hope as she explores how people can use their talents and dreams to make a community a better place.

Four women — Cassidy, Louisa, Grace, and Belinda — find themselves lost and rudderless following the death of their friend, Abby. Abby has befriended, encouraged, and basically loved on all four, and they find themselves unsure how they will get through the next days and weeks leading up to Christmas without her. Although members of the same bookclub, the women feel disconnected from each other without Abby. That is until they receive an unexpected gift from their dear friend.

The Christmas Angel Project is all about finding purpose within the framework of one’s gifts, personality, and passions. Each character built on what they had already developed in their lives and used it to reach out to others in unique and meaningful ways. The projects each woman undertook — veterinary care for the elderly, art classes for the grieving, decorating Habitat homes, and a fashion show for high schoolers — brought dignity, self-confidence, and hope to those they touched. The characters all had fears, self-doubt, and feelings of unworthiness common to all. I liked that about them. They were real women with real struggles who decided to focus not on themselves but on others. And that is what Abby had done in her life, and that is the legacy she left for the four to continue.

I listened to the audiobook of The Christmas Angel Project and was at first put off by the narrator’s voice. Her timing was great, but she made several of the characters sound older than they were. But as I got more and more involved with the story, her voice disappeared and the women emerged.

A heart-warming read for the Christmas season, The Christmas Angel Project gets a recommended rating from me!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

Top 10 Tuesday — Winter TBR

28 Nov

Although winter is officially a few weeks away, it is never too early to make a list for those long evenings when only a cup of something warm, a cozy chair and afghan, and a good book will do. Here’s my Top 10 Winter TBR — including review books and book club selections. Looks like I have a lot of good reading ahead! For more reading lists for the long winter months, check out The Broke And The Bookish.

 

Top 10 Winter TBR

The Gift of Christmas Past by Cindy and Erin Woodsmall

Guilt by Association by Heather Day Gilbert

The Heart Between Us by Lindsey Harrel

Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman

In This Moment by Karen Kingsbury

Life on The Porcelain Edge by C. E. Hilbert

A Passionate Hope by Jill Eileen Smith

A Song of Home by Susie Finkbeiner

Stars in The Grass by Ann Marie Stewart

Vanishing Point by Lisa Harris

 

What’s on your winter TBR list?

 

 

Book Review: Grace in Strange Disguise

24 Nov

Physiotherapist Esther Macdonald is living the Australian dream, and it doesn’t surprise her. After all, her father has always said, “Follow Jesus and be blessed.” But at twenty-eight, her world shatters. Everyone assures her God will come through for her, but what happens when he doesn’t? Has she offended God? Is her faith too small? So many conflicting explanations. Will finding the truth cost her the people closest to her heart?

 

 

Christine Dillon was born in Australia but grew up in Asia. She now works in Taiwan as a Bible storyteller. Her book Telling the Gospel Through Story was voted 2013 Outreach Magazine’s Resource of the Year in Evangelism and continues to inspire innovative and engaging Bible storytelling. Believing in the beauty and power of story prompted her jump into fiction. Grace in Strange Disguise was runner-up in the Athanatos Christian Writing Contest. Christine loves reading and keeps sane by cycling, swimming and hiking. You can find out more about her at http://www.storytellerchristine.com.

 

My Impressions:

Christine Dillon’s debut novel, Grace in Strange Disguise, opens with a diagnosis of cancer for main character Esther. As shocking as that is, her novel takes Esther through a journey that tests her not only physically, but spiritually. It is, in fact, the spiritual journey that touches the reader the most. Well written, with a main character that quickly grabs the reader’s imagination, this novel is a blessing in many ways. And it is a highly recommended read!

Esther is the only daughter of a pastor of a mega-church in Australia in the early 1990s. His prosperity gospel has attracted many followers. But his strong personality brooks no questions or confrontations. So when Esther is diagnosed with cancer at the age of 28, her father preaches prayer and faith. And if she is not healed that means she is at fault — lack of faith or unrepented sin. Esther’s struggle is lonely and discouraging until she is shown a different way of looking at her faith and her perception of Jesus.

Characters are strong in Grace in Strange Disguise — both those the reader can relate to and to those you just want to shake! 😉 Even though the book is told in the third person, the reader sees deep inside of Esther’s character — her fears, doubts, preconceived attitudes, and in the end, the hope and peace she finds. As Esther’s cancer treatment progresses, she grows stronger and stronger in her faith. One special character introduces her to a unique way of learning about God — storytelling. And for those who follow the Master Storyteller, it really makes sense. Dillon has developed this in her own life as well. Esther’s story is far from over — there are more books planned for this series. But for her (and the reader) the message is clear — Abraham didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t know how long the journey would take. He only knew the one whom he was following. Was she willing to do the same?

While Esther faces heartbreak and heartache in Grace in Strange Disguise, she gains so much more. I look forward to more from Christine Dillon.

Highly recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

 

Giveaway at Christian Shelf Esteem

Interested in reading Grace in Strange Disguise? Want to win a free copy? Check out Amanda Geaney’s Giveaway. Hurry, the giveaway ends on 11/30/17.

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Thankfulness Edition

21 Nov

I have been a nag, bully, proponent of Christian fiction for some time now. Not only can you be sure of a clean read, but you get a book that encourages, enlightens, or just plain entertains. It’s no surprise — God is the master storyteller! And when you have an author who wants to bring glory to Him, then you are sure to have a winner. So when the folks at The Broke And The Bookish set this week’s theme as Books I Am Thankful For, I knew I would have a hard time sticking to just 10. I decided to pick the books I have read in 2017 that made me think, taught me something, or were a joy to read. I kept the list to an even dozen. To find out what books other bloggers are thankful for, click HERE.

A Dozen Books I Am Thankful For

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti

Ghost Heart by Lisa Harris and Lynne Gentry

Home at Last by Deborah Raney

How Sweet The Sound by Amy Sorrells

The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton

A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner

A Time to Stand by Robert Whitlow

True to You by Becky Wade

Why The Sky Is Blue by Susan Meissner

Yankee in Atlanta by Jocelyn Green

 

Book Review: How Sweet The Sound

30 Oct

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.

Amy Sorrells is an award-winning author and occasional poet writing words of hope for a hurting world. Amy got her start in journalism, has written for medical publications, and enjoyed a three year stint as a weekly op-ed columnist for her town newspaper. A graduate of DePauw University, Amy lives with her husband and three sons in central Indiana.

 

My Impressions:

I am leading a weekly Bible study called Faith And Fiction. My group studies a story in the Bible and an accompanying novel that is a re-telling or is inspired by the scripture. While it was easy to find novel from the Biblical fiction genre, I wanted to include a variety of genres to show how scripture is timeless and to give those in the study a wide variety of reading experiences. I hit a home run when I chose How Sweet The Sound by Amy Sorrells. While not a strict re-telling of 2 Samuel 13, it was inspired by the heart-breaking events that took place between Tamar, Amnon, and Absalom. If you are not familiar with this tragic time in David’s family, then get out your Bible and dig in. Then get Sorrells novel. It provides a different slant — one with the hope that God can give to the crushed and broken-hearted.

How Sweet The Sound is set in a small South Alabama town; a town where everyone knows everybody and their business. But not always their secrets. The Harlans are a leading family with a very prosperous pecan business and a matriarch, Princella, who rules her family and the social scene of Bay Spring. But a family tragedy that cannot be hushed up explodes, with tragic consequences.

How Sweet The Sound is told from two different first person points of view — young teenager, Anniston, who is trying to make sense out of the tragic circumstances of her life and Comfort, a young woman whose voice remains silent to almost everyone around her. The two characters are instrumental in describing the true nature of the other characters and their relationships. The shocking topics of incest and sexual abuse are explored in an honest, yet careful way. Nothing is sensationalized, but truths are exposed to the light of day. While most of the story revolves around the Harlan family, I loved how Sorrells revealed the abusive stories of others in Bay Spring. Beautifully written, the novel is hard to read because of the topic, but also wonderful to read as it develops the hope that God promises to those who most need it. That was what our group liked most. The Biblical record of Tamar’s tragic life left us unsatisfied. Yet Sorrells’ novel showed that even in the depths of depression, despair, and desolation, God’s power shines through. It is was our hope that Tamar also was able to communicate with her Abba.

While the novel revolves around an uncomfortable and weighty subject, it was a wonderful reading experience. How Sweet The Sound was first published in 2014, but has been re-released this Fall.  It is an amazing debut from an accomplished author. I am looking forward to reading the other books by Sorrells that are available.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

If You Liked Child of The River . . .

29 Sep

By The Book read Child of The River by Irma Joubert in September. An excellent book, the novel explored the real life results of Apartheid in South Africa. If you liked this novel and want to explore more like it, then check out the following books. All are well-written glimpses into life in South Africa.

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton.

Cry, the Beloved Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.

 

 

 

The Girl from The Train by Irma Joubert. 

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families — so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

No Greater Love by Kathi Macias

Forbidden romance, an unlikely martyr and an even more unlikely hero. Orphaned four years earlier when their parents, active in the African National Congress (ANC) movement against apartheid, were murdered, 16-year-old Chioma and her 15-year-old brother Masozi now live and work on an Afrikaner family’s farm.

When Chioma and Andrew, the farm owner’s son, find themselves attracted to one another, tragedy revisits their lives. Chioma escapes to join an ANC rebel band in her effort to survive and gain revenge for her family and culture. When cultures clash in life-or-death struggles, Chioma must choose between violence and revenge, or forgiveness and selfless love.

Loosely based on historical events and set near Pretoria, South Africa, in the violent upheaval prior to ANC leader Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 and his ascendance to the presidency of South Africa, this story of forbidden romance produces an unlikely martyr who is replaced by one even more unlikely.

The Road to Home by Vanessa Del Fabbro

South African journalist Monica Brunetti had it all — promising career, loving family, marriage-minded boyfriend. Then a life-changing encounter landed her in a hospital bed next to gregarious Ella Nkhoma, whose wit and caring challenged Monica’s worldview. Their remarkable friendship would lead Monica far from the gated white suburbs, and toward a parting that left both women transformed–and Monica the mother of two sons.