Category: Book Recommendation

Book Recommendations May 2017

Book Recommendations: May 2017

Thes best books I read and reviewed in May 2017. This was a good month!

The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser

The Long Highway Home is a unique combination of fact and fiction. Elizabeth Musser draws on her own missionary experiences working with refugees to deliver a story that hits home in terms of the trials refugees find in pursuing safety.

Click here to read my review.

Click here to find out more about Elizabeth Musser.

Read more

Book Recommendations for March/April 2017

Book Recommendations: March/April 2017

The best books I read and reviewed in March and April 2017. Definitely recommended!

The Memory of You by Catherine West

Catherine West is known for her thought-provoking women’s fiction. The Memory of You is certainly thought-provoking, but it had a lot more of a romance thread than I’d expected. Hey, that’s a good thing!

Click here to read my review, and click here to find out more about Catherine West.

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti

I’m not usually a fan of the unlikable “hero”, but Joseph grew on me … once he grew a brain. It’s amazing how fast otherwise intelligent me can jump to wrong conclusions. Cynthia Ruchti is to be congratulated for a compelling novel examining love and hope.

Click here to read my review, and click here to find out more about Cynthia Ruchti.

If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock

This thriller is the sequel to If I Run, and the novels should definitely be read in order. Each story is complete in itself, but there is an overarching plot across the series.

But if you’re one of those people who can’t stand the wait for the next novel, you might want to put off reading this until the next in the series is published.

Click here to read my review, and click here to find out more about Terri Blackstock.

Catch of a Lifetime by Candee Fick

This is an older book, but new to me (and the first time I’ve read anything by Candee Fick as well. It’s Christian New Adult, set in a college football environment, and I loved the way the author wove faith and football together. She also avoided stupid or vapid characters—something that seems all too common in other books I’ve read in this genre.

Click here to read my review, and click here to find out more about Candee Fick.

What Christian fiction have you read recently that you recommend?

Book Recommendations January/February 2017

Christian Fiction January February 2017

I’m still playing catch-up on my book recommendations. Today I’m covering the best books I read in January and February of 2017, and I’ll be back in two weeks with my top picks for March and April.

What’s unusual about my list this is that the books are four different genres, but none of them are my usual favourite—contemporary romance.

An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

An Uncommon Courtship is the fourth book in Kristi Ann Hunter’s award-winning Regency romance series. It focuses on the forced marriage of Lord Trent and Lady Abigail, and their ability to try and turn an awkward situation into a real marriage. I especially enjoyed the fact they were both strong Christians, which gives the plot added depth. Click here to read my review.

Maybe It’s You by Candace Calvert

Maybe It’s You is the third in her Crisis Hope medical drama series, and it’s a strong finish. It’s not a light drama—Sloane has a damaged past, and she’s learning to trust God for her future. I thought this was a real strength of the novel. The romance and suspense didn’t hurt! Click here to read my review.

As an unrelated aside, I got to meet Candace Calvert last month! She and her husband took a cruise around New Zealand and docked in my home town. If you’re ever lucky enough to be cruising around New Zealand, let me know when you’re in Tauranga or Mt Maunganui so I can take you for coffee!

Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering

Murder on the Moor is the fifth in the Drew Fathering series, and I think it’s the best yet. The whole series is a must-read for fans of historical mystery novels from authors like Agatha Christie. Murder on the Moor sees Drew and Madeline visiting Yorkshire to investigate the murder of the local vicar. Excellent. Click here to read my review.

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

Long Way Gone is a modern retelling of the story of the Prodigal Son, set against the backdrop of the Nashville music industry, and in high-country Colorado. Everything about it was outstanding, from the opening line to the end. You can read my review at Australasian Christian Writers, and you can find the book on Amazon.
Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

What are the best books you’ve read so far this year?

My Top 10 Christian Novels of 2016

I’ve missed a few of my monthly book recommendation posts, so I’m going to catch up over the next few weeks. This week I’m covering the top 10 Christian novels I read last year, in a post originally published at Australasian Christian Writers in December 2016.

How many of my Top 10 Christian novels have you read? What did you think?

Every year I write a post of the top ten novels I read, and every year I struggle. How to condense a year of reading into just ten books? In 2016, I decided the only way I could do it was to stick to novels published in 2016—cutting non-fiction and novellas.

So here are my Top Ten Christian Novels published in 2016 (in alphabetical order. It was enough trouble to narrow them down to ten without having to rank them!):

Since You’ve Been Gone by Christa Allan

Since You’ve Been Gone starts with a twist on a cliché: a groom who doesn’t show up to the wedding, and a bride-to-be who is left to work out why. The obvious is soon discovered (he’s dead in a car wreck), but that doesn’t answer the important questions … Click here to read my review.

Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin

An excellent dual timeline story from Lynn Austin, showing the difficulties faced by early American settlers, and their determination to succeed. And their faith. Click here to read my review.

The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall

This is the fourth novel in The Everstone Chronicles, and it’s as good as the rest. Don’t worry—you don’t have to read them all. But you’ll want to. Excellent historical romantic suspense. Click here to read my review.

Quote from Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin

Intermission by Serena Chase

Intermission isn’t Serena Chase’s first novel, but it’s the first one I’ve read—an excellent Young Adult novel with some valuable lessons about God and obedience. Click here to read my review.

Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac

Kiwi author Kara Isaac has actually released two books this year: Close to You, and Can’t Help Falling. While I’ve read and enjoyed both, Can’t Help Falling is definitely my favourite. Click here to read my review.

A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears

A Heart Most Certain looks like a typical romance novel set in the American West in the late 1900’s—a sweet romance between two almost-perfect characters. Bland, predictable. But it’s anything but, and that’s what makes it so good. Click here to read my review.

No One’s Bride by Nerys Leigh

I love a good mail order bride story, and this one was excellent. Even better, it’s the start of a series and I’m already holding the date to review book two. Click here to read my review.

The Thirteenth Chance by Amy Matayo

Everyone has been telling me I need to read Amy Matayo’s work. I finally did, and everyone was right. She’s brilliant—real characters with real strengths and failings. I’ll certainly be reading more. Click here to read my review.

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L Rubart

No, I didn’t include this simply to include a token male author (although I do read a lot more female authors than male). James L Rubart is an excellent writer of almost-speculative fiction. I say ‘almost’ because we serve a God of miracles, so who is to say these things couldn’t happen? Click here to read my review.

On the Edge by Theresa L Santy

On the Edge won the FaithWriters 2013 Page Turner Contest … and it certainly was a page turner. I’ll be watching for more from this debut author. Click here to read my review.

Although my choices are a mix of contemporary and historical, American authors and authors from England and New Zealand, they all have one thing in common. No, they’re not all romance novels (although yes, most are).

No, the one thing they all have in common is flawed characters doing their best to become better people.

Just like we all do in real life.

Book Review: Catch of a Lifetime by Candee Fick

I’ve watched a lot of American football* on TV. I’ve read The Blind Side and seen the movie. I watched and enjoyed Friday Night Lights. I’ve even attended one college game (in Hawaii), and a couple of pro games for my ‘local’ pro team (the San Francisco 49ers).

But I was lost for the first couple of chapters of Catch of a Lifetime. I’m not sure whether this was an intentional decision to throw the reader in the deep end (in the same was as Cassie was), or whether it was just me.

*I lived in London for ten years, where ‘football’ was a game played with a round ball, aka soccer. I’m from New Zealand, where we have rugby football and rugby league. None of the players wear helmets, and their protective gear consists of a mouthguard and duck tape around their ears. And what US referees penalise as unnecessary roughness, we call a fair tackle.  

Whatever.

If you start reading this and find the first couple of chapters difficult, don’t let that put you off. The story definitely grabbed my attention in Chapter Three, and never let up until the last page. And this from someone who would rather read than watch football. (Yes, the college game I attended was fun, but my personal highlight was seeing the marching band).

Onto the story …

Cassie has come to Colorado to get her Master’s degree. She has a part-time job with the college football team as a physical therapist, helping players recover from injury. She also works as an academic advisor, helping ensure the players get the necessary academic grades to keep playing.

I know this wasn’t the point of the novel, but I learned a lot about what goes on behind the scenes in a college football team.

The biggest eye-opener was the amount of money that must go into football programmes. Pro sports didn’t really exist when I was at university, and we certainly didn’t worship the top players the way some of the characters in Catch of a Lifetime appeared to be worshipped.

But college football was just the backdrop for an excellent romance novel with themes of forgiveness and not judging others.

Cassie isn’t happy about being assigned to the football programme. We soon find out why, but I’m not going to spoil it for you. It doesn’t help that the first players and coaches she meets seem to reinforce all the negative stereotypes she believes about student athletes.

Reed is the assistant coach she runs into the most often, because his players seem to have the most injuries and academic issues. There is an immediate attraction, but also the potential issue of a student dating a member of staff. Reed was a great hero—a kind and caring Christian who looked out for the players on his team as he coached them in football, and tried to mentor them in life.

Catch of a Lifetime has plenty of action, both on and off the field.

I thought the way this was blended with Cassie’s spiritual journey was excellent. She’s clearly a Christian, but not to the point of it being preachy. Instead, she and Reed face the struggles common to many dating Christians, and they do it with class.

Overall, I enjoyed Catch of a Lifetime a lot more than I expected based on the first two chapters. I’ll certainly watch out for more novels from Candee Fick. And maybe even some more football novels.

Recommended for readers looking for a Christian New Adult novel with intelligence, action, and romance.

Thanks to the publisher and Reading Deals for providing a free ebook for review. Find out more about Candee Fick at her website, and read the introduction to Catch of a Lifetime below:

Introducing Intermission by Serena Chase (and a giveaway)

Today I’d like to introduce Serena Chase, and her new Young Adult novel, Intermission: 

We are starlight on snow. The reflection of something already beautiful—absorbed, reflected, and remade into something . . . more.

And this kiss . . .

This kiss is everything I’ve needed to say . . . and longed to hear.

Intermission by Serena ChaseSixteen-year-old Faith Prescott eagerly awaits the day she will exchange her small Iowa hometown for the bright lights of Broadway, but her success-driven parents want her to pursue a more practical career, labeling “artsy” people—including their daughter—as foolish dreamers worthy of little more than disdain.

When Faith meets nineteen-year-old Noah Spencer she discovers someone who understands her musical theatre dreams . . . because he shares them.

Faith’s mother despises everything about Noah—his age, his upbringing . . . even his religious beliefs—and she grasps at every opportunity to belittle his plans to study theatre and pursue a stage career. When those criticisms shift further toward hostility, resulting in unjust suspicions and baseless accusations, an increasingly fearful stage is set for Faith at home, where severe restrictions and harsh penalties are put in place to remove Noah Spencer from her life.

But Faith has never connected with anyone like she has with Noah, and no matter how tight a stranglehold her mother enforces to keep them apart, Faith will not give him up. Behind the curtain, Faith’s love for Noah continues to grow . . . as does her determination to hold on to her dreams—and him—no matter how high the cost.

Intermission is a heart-wrenching contemporary YA romance set against a backdrop of musical theatre and family drama. With coming-of-age themes that honestly explore gray areas of moral dilemmas, this novel traces the path of one talented teen girl as she crosses painful thresholds of first love, faith, and betrayal to take the necessary steps toward adulthood, independence, and the dreams that set her heart on fire.

I’ve just read Intermission, and I loved it. Click here to read my review at Australasian Christian Writers. 

And there’s a giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Advance Praise for Intermission

“FINALLY someone has written a YA for all of us musical theater nerds! Intermission will pull you in like a big Broadway show with its swoony romance and a heroine you can root for. Serena Chase brings the theater world alive with this tale of first love, family drama, and a character who’s searching for her place in this world.”

Jenny B. Jones, award-winning author of I’ll Be Yours and the Katie Parker Production series

“This book sings! A masterfully written story that broke my heart one moment and had me cheering for the main character the next. If you’re looking for a stunning and emotional read, look no further than Serena Chase’s Intermission.”

Heather Burch, bestselling author of One Lavender Ribbon and the Halflings series

“A multifaceted coming-of-age love story that explores the depth of self-doubt, difficult family dynamics, and a faith built in the midst of heartache. Beautifully-crafted prose with a timely message.”

Nicole Deese, author of the Love in Lenox series and The Promise of Rayne

Intermission is a singularly captivating YA novel. It delivers a wistful holding of breath while exploring the emotions experienced in the gap between what happened before and the hoped-for promise of what might happen after. This book, as with all the very best coming-of-age stories, will resonate with readers of all ages as it encourages us to come out from behind the curtain, step into the spotlight, and have the courage to live without masks.”

Sandra Byrd, author of A Lady in Disguise, and the London Confidential series

Intermission is both heartbreakingly real and poignantly hopeful. Dipping her pen into issues of faith, friendship, and family, Chase had me holding my breath and experiencing the highs and lows as if I was personally involved in Faith and Noah’s lives. Brava!”

Jill Lynn, author of Falling for Texas

Intermission is a love story for the heart and the spirit. You’ll fall head over heels for Faith and Noah!”

Lorie Langdon, author of Gilt Hollow

Intermission by Serena Chase

About Serena Chase 

SERENA CHASE is the author of the critically-acclaimed Eyes of E’veria series and a regular contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog. A lifelong performer who sometimes speaks in show tunes, Serena lives in Iowa with her husband Dave, teen daughters Delaney and Ellerie, and a 100-pound white Goldendoodle named Albus, who is the biggest star of her Instagram account. Connect with Serena Chase by visiting her website and signing up for her newsletter, “like” her official Facebook page to stay up-to-date on new release news, and enjoy her sometimes poignant, but more often chuckle-inducing random observations of life on Twitter.

 

 

 

What did you read in October 2016? (And a giveaway)

October has been a busy month for me—what about you?

But there’s always time to read another novel. Housework vs. reading. No contest.

I’ve had the opportunity to read more great Christian fiction. Yay! But I’ve now got two more favourite authors, Amy Matayo and Christa Allan, and they have a whole bunch of books I haven’t read (oh, no!).

I also love Lynn Austin (I think I’ve already read most of her books), and Kiwi author Kara Isaac (I know I’ve read both her published books). And I’ve got a giveaway below … so keep reading.

Best Christian Fiction October 2016

Here are links to my reviews:

 

Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac (click here to read my review)

Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin (click here to read my review)

The Thirteenth Chance by Amy Matayo (click here to read my review)

Since You’ve Been Gone by Christa Allan (click here to read my review)

 

What was the best book you’ve read in the last month?

 

Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to Narelle, who won a Kindle copy of My Hope Next Door by Tammy L Gray (click here to buy your own copy).

Congratulations to Joan, who won a Kindle copy of An Aussie Summer Christmas (click here to buy your own copy).

Joan, I’ve emailed you twice: I need you to check and confirm your email address for me (you might need to check your promotions or spam folder).

And a New Giveaway!


I’d also like to give away a Kindle copy of Can’t Help Falling to one lucky reader.

Click here to enter.

When you enter, make sure you check your email promotion and spam folders—if you don’t confirm your email address, you won’t know if you win. And remember, share the giveaway: the more you share, the more chances you have of winning.

Book Recommendation: Chasing the Wind by Pamela Binnings Ewen

Chasing the Wind … an exercise in futility?

Amalise Catoir is a second-year associate with the firm of Mangen & Morris in New Orleans in 1977. She has just returned to work after several months recovering from an accident that left her a widow. Amalise is assigned to Project Black Diamond, working for property magnate Bingham Murdoch to develop a new hotel in the city. She has also realised she is in love with Jude, her best friend since childhood, but thinks he is falling for her Rebecca, her co-worker.

There is a vague feeling that all is not as it seems, particularly regarding Bingham, the man behind the deal to build a hotel and casino on a piece of prime New Orleans real estate. Interspersed with the main plot were a series of flashbacks to 1975 Cambodia, chilling scenes with a woman named Samantha Barlow rescuing a small boy and trying to escape Phnom Penh before the Khymer Rouge arrive.

The story is told from several different points of view. The style seems remote at times, but it works. Chasing the Wind is very well-written, with characters that drew me in, and a tightly-woven suspenseful plot with some very interesting twists (one I saw coming, one I did not). This is one of those books that I think would be worth re-reading, as that way you could catch the nuances and clues to the ending.

My one complaint is that between the lawyers, bankers and property tycoons, there were too many male characters with middle class names, and I found it difficult to keep them all straight in my head. Fortunately, the major characters have memorable names, so it didn’t matter that the others all blurred into one.

Chasing the Wind is an interesting insight into women in the professions (and working in general) in the 1970’s. Smoking in the conference room, long lawyer lunches, asking the woman to fetch coffee and donuts, a reference to a single mainframe computer, and research in libraries and on microfiche readers. Other scenes have the secretary clacking away on her typewriter and sending documents down to the typing pool. It reminded me how much working life has changed in a  short time with the introduction of computers and the internet. Recommended.

Thanks to B&H Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing a free book for review.
You can find out more about Pamela Binnings Ewen at her website, and you can read the introduction to Chasing the Wind below:

Edited: I have just been browsing on Amazon, and have found that Chasing the Wind is the sequel to Dancing on Glass, which appears to be the story of Amalises’s marriage. It appears that the stories are quite different: while this is  a romance within a legal thriller, the first book seems to be a story of a disintegrating relationship. Knowing there is an earlier book makes some of the oblique references to the past more understandable, but Chasing the Wind can easily be read as a stand-alone story.

Book Review: The Thirteenth Chance by Amy Matayo

Another great novel from my new favourite publisher

Amazon Description

Baseball star Will Vandergriff knows any number of women who would happily pretend to be his girlfriend. In a last-ditch effort to restore his good standing with his team’s higher-ups, he enlists the help of his neurotic, goody-goody neighbor. Schoolteacher Olivia Pratt might be a bit quirky and a bit of a loner, but she’s a lot more inviting than she knows. Will hopes that bringing her to his next game might revamp his reckless reputation and help get his career back on track. The only problem? The plan works a little too well. Not only do the higher-ups love Olivia, but Will plays his best game yet. Suddenly his losing streak is a thing of the past, and Olivia is his new good-luck charm. Will feels anything but lucky.

After years of keeping the world at bay, Olivia Pratt is pulling off the ultimate performance—not only reluctantly posing as Will’s girlfriend but also insisting that she’s oblivious to his major-league appeal. But she can only lie to herself for so long. Being by Will’s side feels good. Really good. Maybe it’s finally time to make a pitch for everything she really wants—and to find out just how exhilarating love can be.

My Review

The Thirteenth Chance is written in first person, from the points of view of Will and Olivia. That’s an interesting choice—most books I read are in third person point of view, and a lot of readers prefer that. Also, few authors can pull off alternative first person viewpoints (the worst have both characters sounding exactly the same).

But Amy Matayo can and does, and I liked it. Using first person gave an insight into both Olivia and Will’s personalities. Olivia has issues. Big issues. She grew up feeling second-best, because her brother was an up-and-coming baseball star, and everything the family did came behind his sport commitments. But something happened, she no longer speaks to her brother, her father abandoned them, and she has an everlasting hatred of baseball and everything associated with it. Which doesn’t bode well for her relationship with Will, her new next-door neighbour.

Will has issues as well, although his are perhaps a little more predictable. He’s a lad, who keeps getting media attention for the wrong (female) reasons, who isn’t playing well, and who needs to clean up his game (in more ways than one). Enter Olivia, the perfect temporary girlfriend …

Several people have recommended Amy Matayo to me.

They were all right. Her writing is excellent—she’s funny and clever and all those things I like in contemporary fiction. Her characters are real people with real problems, who grow and change as the novel progresses. The story was engaging and moved along at a good pace with no slow patches. Overall, it was close to perfect.

In fact, the only thing missing for me was the Christian aspect.

Although The Thirteenth Chance is published by Waterfall Press, Amazon’s Christian imprint, there was no faith aspect to the novel at all. This isn’t necessarily a weakness, but if you’re looking for fiction with a Christian thread or theme, then The Thirteenth Chance isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a fun contemporary romance with no sex or bad language, give this a chance.

Recommended for fans of authors like Christa Allen, Sally Bradley, Tammy L Gray and Tammy L Gray.

Thanks to Waterfall Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

Review: Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

Romance in Scotland: What more could you want?

Andrea Sullivan may have sabotaged her career with that last potential client. Now, as punishment, she has to convince TV chef James MacDonald, owner of three Michelin-starred London restaurants, that her company is perfect to help him renovate and market the family hotel he has inherited on the Isle of Skye. She has just a few days, and her job is on the line.

There is an immediate attraction when Andrea and James meet, but Andrea wants nothing to do with men, and especially wants nothing to do with a client. James has his own problematic romantic history, not to mention an even more problematic relationship with his brother, who owns one-third of the hotel.

I found all the characters to be intelligent and likeable, and I was especially impressed by the research. I’ve not been to Skye but I’ve lived in London and visited Scotland, and Five Days in Skye made me feel I was there. I had to laugh Andrea’s reaction to James calling her ‘love’. It’s a common term, particularly in the hospitality industry.

Right, love?

This is a Christian novel, but the Christian element is somewhat understated. Both Andrea and James come from rural backgrounds where the Christian faith was an integral part of the family. But both have abandoned that faith, yet realise on Skye that perhaps they need to pursue God once more.

Five Days in Skye has it all: an excellent opening, a funny first meeting between Andrea and James, intelligent lead characters who are both successes in their chosen careers, excellent attention to detail, and the Isle of Skye, a beautiful and unique setting. And the last line is a beautiful illustration of the eternal romance between us and God. Recommended for romance lovers.

Thanks to David C Cook and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Carla Laureano at her website, and you can read the introduction here: