Month: June 2017

My Favourite Reads for June 2017

Book Recommendations June 2017 (and Giveaway Winners!) 

My Favourite Reads for June 2017. I’m usually a contemporary romance fan, but this month features three historical titles, one of which is pure thriller.

But first, our giveaway winners!

Two weeks ago, I reviewed (raved about) Then There Was You, the new release from Kara Isaac, and offered two giveaways.

The winner of the paperback was Susan.

The winner of the Kindle was Stacy.


You have both received an email from me asking for your details so I can forward your prize. Please respond by 7 July 2017, or I’ll select another winner. If you haven’t received the email, then contact me through the form on my Contact page.

And now for my book recommendations for June:

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

Sweetbriar Cottage is a standalone novel by Denise Hunter, the story of a couple who thought they were divorced but aren’t. When trapped together in a snowstorm, they have to reconsider their preconceptions and decisions. I loved Sweetbriar Cottage for the illustration of the importance of unconditional love … and the challenge in putting that into practice.

Click here to read my review of Sweetbriar Cottage, and click here to find out more about Denise Hunter.

Unnoticed by Amanda Deed

Unnoticed is a Christian Cinderella story set in 1870’s Australia. I loved the unique way the author told the story, especially in the backstory she gave the characters … and the way she showed how we are products of our choices as much as of our environments.

Click here to read my review of Unnoticed, and click here to find out more about Amanda Deed.

Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M Dickson

Grounded Hearts is set in World War II Ireland, a unique setting in terms of time and place (at least, it’s not a setting I’ve come across before in Christian fiction). Ireland was neutral in World War II, so it’s the story of a Canadian RAF pilot downed in Ireland, and the efforts of a local midwife to get him to safety in British Northern Ireland. I loved the historical context, and the irreverent Irish humour.

Click here to read my review of Grounded Hearts, and click here to find out more about Jeanne M Dickson.

Enemy Action by Mike Hollow

Enemy Action is a murder mystery set in London at the height of the Blitz. It’s the third book in The Blitz Detective series, but can easily be read as a standalone novel (I haven’t read the earlier books in the series, but now I want to). It’s a great mystery with lots of twists and turns, and an authentic British voice.

Click here to read my review of Enemy Action, and click here to find out more about Mike Hollow and The Blitz Detective series.


What were your favourite reads for June 2017?

books I’m looking forward to reading

Bookish Question #13: What Books are you Looking Forward to Reading?

It’s the end of June (already!), which means we’re halfway through the year. I’ve read a bunch of books, but there are still more books to read. There are always more books to read.

Here are the books I’m looking forward to reading (click on the covers to buy on Amazon):

Books from Debut Authors

Count Me In by Mikal Dawn

An accountant as a heroine? I don’t think I’ve seen that before, so I’m looking forward to finding out Allegra’s story.

Someplace Familiar by Teresa Tysinger

I’ve heard good things about Someplace Familiar. It’s a debut novel, and the start of a series. Well, it’s best to start at the beginning, right?



Books I Own But Haven’t Read Yet

(Don’t judge me. You have a mile-high to-read pile as well. Don’t you?)

Finders Keepers by Sarah Monzon

Finders Keepers has just won the Selah Award, and I’ve read (and reviewed) the sequel, but somehow haven’t managed to read this yet.

 The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo

I love Amy Matayo’s writing and the way she shows authentic faith in a real world. And the cover …

My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L Gray

My Unexpected hope is the sequel to My Hope Next Door, which is a RITA finalist, and was one of my top picks for 2016. So I have to read it, right?

The Wayward Heart by Nerys Leigh

The Wayward Heart is the third book in Nerys Leigh’s unique mail order bride series—unique in that each of the stories in the series is happening at the same time, so you can read the series in any order.


Books I’m Waiting For

Ghost Hunter by Lisa Harris and Lynne Gentry

Ghost Hunter is a suspense novel set in Tanzania and the United States. That’s all I know about it. But it’s by Lisa Harris, which pretty much guarantees a winner.

Ghost Hunter releases in August 2017.

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden

I love the way Elizabeth Camden melds new-to-me historical research with faith and romance.

A Dangerous Legacy releases in October 2017.

The Captivating Lady Charlotte by Carolyn Miller

Regency romance is one of my favourite romance genres, and it’s great to see more Christian authors in this space.

The Captivating Lady Charlotte releases tomorrow! I can’t wait! Well, I can. Because I have to. But you know what I mean.

An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

More Regency romance, from award-winning Kristi Ann Hunter. I’ve read and enjoyed every one of her books so far, so I have no doubts about this one. And the cover is gorgeous.

An Inconvenient Beauty releases in September 2017.

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan

Legal suspense. What more do I need to know?

Legal Proof releases in September 2017.


What book or books are you most looking forward to reading in the second half of 2017?

Have you judged a writing contest?

Bookish Question #12: Have you ever judged a writing competition?

Last week I talked about some of the awards for Christian fiction.

One of these is the INSPY Awards, which are judged by book bloggers and reviewers. I was privileged to be chosen as a judge for the General fiction category in 2015. It was a difficult job to pick a winner from five brilliant finalists, all of which were great books.

I’ve judged other writing contests as a first-round judge, including the Omega Writers CALEB Prize, and the Romance Writers of New Zealand Koru Award. I’ve also judged the Romance Writers of New Zealand short story competition, and the Genesis and First Impressions Awards from American Christian Fiction Writers.

Being a first-round judge in a contest for published books is a lot less pressure.

I read the book, complete my scoresheet, and send it off to the contest coordinator. They have the job of collating the feedback from the different judges and selecting the three or five highest-scoring books to make the final round, then coordinating the final round judges to pick the eventual winner.

Judging a short story contest is fun.

There is a strict word-count limit, so I know roughly how long each entry is going to take. It has to grab me quickly, and present a beginning, a middle, and an end all in that short word count (e.g. 1500 words—shorter than the average book chapter). It takes real skill to write a good short story!

I think the hardest is judging a contest for unpublished writers.

That’s because a good judge gives feedback on the entry. Good feedback—on what works, and what doesn’t. This can be difficult and time-consuming, but I think it’s important to do the best job I can because the entrant will be using the feedback to improve his or her novel.

Yes, it’s definitely easier to judge a published contest, where you only have to score!

Have you judged a writing contest?

What did you enjoy about the process? What was the hardest part?

Giveaway | Then There Was You by Kara Isaac

Book Giveaway: Then There Was You by Kara Isaac

Introducing Then There Was You

Kara Isaac is my favourite Kiwi Christian author … although Kiwi Christian authors is a very short list. So perhaps it’s better to say that she’s one of my favourite authors of contemporary Christian romance, and one of the reasons I love her work is because of the Kiwi angle. But I’m also biased because I edited Then There Was You, which means I got to read it before most people. Bonus!

Then There Was You is her third novel, following Close to You, and Can’t Help Falling. It has some minor characters in common with the previous books, but it’s a standalone novel. It starts in the States, moves to Sydney, and also has some scenes set in New Zealand (yay!).

Here’s the Amazon description:

Paige McAllister needs to do something drastic. Her boyfriend can’t even commit to living in the same country, her promised promotion is dead on arrival and the simultaneous loss of her brother and her dream of being a concert violinist has kept her playing life safe and predictable for six years. Things need to change. A moment of temporary insanity finds her leaving her life in Chicago to move to Sydney, Australia. There she finds herself, against many of her convictions, as a logistics planner for one of Australia’s biggest churches, and on a collision course with her boss’s son.

Josh Tyler fronts a top-selling worship band and is in demand all over the world. But, in the past, his failed romantic relationships almost destroyed both his reputation and his family. He’s determined to never risk it happening again. The last thing he needs is some American girl tipping his ordered life upside down. Especially one who despises everything he’s ever worked for and manages to push every button he has.

When Josh and Paige are thrown together to organize his band’s next tour, the sparks fly. But can they find a way to bridge the differences that pull them apart? Or will they choose the safety and security of what they know over taking a chance on something that will require them to risk everything?

Giveaway Time!

I’m biased. But I loved Then There Was You—it’s her best novel yet (and I hope there will be many more). Paige was intelligent, funny, and vulnerable, and a great match for the more flamboyant Josh. Who, of course, is everything she never wanted in a man.

And vice versa.

Then There Was You releases next week. The ebook is currently on special for $3.99 (which will increase after release), and there is also a paperback. I’ve already ordered my copy!

I’ve also ordered an extra copy to give away … New Zealand postal addresses only. Sorry!

I’ll also give away a Kindle version to someone not lucky enough to live in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Both contests close at midnight on 26 June 2017 (New Zealand time), and I’ll announce the winners two weeks from today, here on the blog.

If you can’t wait that long, you can click here to pre-order Then There Was You from Amazon.

To find out more about Kara Isaac, click here to visit her website.

Do You Read Award-Winning Books?

Bookish Question #11: Do You Read Award-Winning Books?

I’ve loved reading ever since I was a child. (Raise your hand if that sounds familiar!)

Most of the early books I read were from Scholastic, courtesy of the Lucky Book Club brochures that were delivered to school every few months. Mum would usually buy us a book out of the brochure. I also found many books from the brochure in the school library.

When I was about ten, I noticed that many of my favourite books had a picture of a medal on the cover—the Newbery Medal. I learned that if I was looking for a book, that medal often indicated a book I’d like.

Then I grew up, and grew out of Newbery Medal-winning books. Were there adult equivalents? My mother bought The Bone People by Keri Hulme, the first book by a New Zealand author to win the prestigious Booker Prize (back before it was sponsored by Man Group). She didn’t like The Bone People—she couldn’t get past the non-standard punctuation.

I think that put me off searching for adult equivalents to the Newberry Medal.

Now I read mostly Christian fiction, and I find there are a huge range of awards for Christian books, fiction and non-fiction. I enjoy following the fiction awards:

I find these four contests routinely have finalists and winners I enjoy—so if a book makes it to that coveted finalist position, I’m willing to give it a try even if I know nothing about the book or the author.

The Christy, Carol, and INSPY Awards all have several genre categories, and a first book category. I love checking out the lists of finalists in my favourite genres.

How many of the books have I read? Which did I like? Which would I pick to win?

I do find myself adding several books to my to-read pile. Sometimes I wonder how and why I missed them when they were first published.

So yes, I do read award-winning books, but only from the Christian contests I trust.

What about you? Do you read award-winning books?

Book Review: Unnoticed by Amanda Deed

 5 – 9 May 2017
is Introducing
Unnoticed by Amanda Deed
(from Rhiza Press, 1 March, 2017)
About the Book:
Book Cover - Unnoticed by Amanda DeedPlain Jane O’Reilly is good at being unnoticed. Detested by her stepmother and teased by her stepsisters, Jane has learned the art of avoiding attention. That is until Price Moreland, an American with big dreams, arrives in her small town.
Does she dare to hope someone might notice her?
However, Price Moreland may not be the prince that the whole town thinks him to be. Was his desire to be a missionary a God-given call, or just a good excuse to run from his past?
Complete with an evil stepmother, a missing shoe and a grand ball, Unnoticed takes the time-old Cinderella fairy tale and gives it an Australian twist.


Author Photograph - Amanda DeedAbout the Author:

Amanda Deed has penned several Australian Historical Romances, including The Game, winner of the CALEB Prize for Fiction in 2010. She resides in the South Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne with her family, where she works full-time in her local church office.

Outside of work and family, Amanda loves to write stories filled with intrigue and adventure using her favourite themes as a backdrop: Australia, heritage, romance and faith. Her books include UnnoticedEllenvale GoldBlack Forest Redemption and Henry’s Run. For more information, go to

My Review of Unnoticed by Amanda Deed

An Excellent Australian Historical Cinderella Story

Book Cover - Unnoticed by Amanda DeedUnnoticed is a Cinderella story, although there were also hints of Pride and Prejudice in the characterisation of Mr and Mrs O’Reilly—at times, Mrs O’Reilly made Mrs Bennett seem astute and intelligent, and Mr O’Reilly made Mr Bennett seem like an attentive father.

Jane O’Reilly is our Cinderella figure, the unloved daughter forced to take second place to her stepmother and stepsisters—all ugly in attitude if not in looks. The description of Jane brings to mind a young Nicole Kidman, so she’s far from the Plain Jane people call her. But she doesn’t see that. She also doesn’t see that beauty is as much about who we are on the inside as on the outside, nor does she understand that God sees her and loves her for who she is. She doesn’t have to be beautiful.

Prince Charming is Price Moreland, an American who has left the country of his birth with noble intentions to bring the gospel to Australia. At least, that’s what he tells himself. But he’s soon distracted by Jane, who he thinks of as anything but plain. It’s good to see a romance where the hero and heroine both have personal faith journeys.

What raised Unnoticed above other fairytale retellings was the way the character histories were woven in. Not just for Jane and Price, but for Mrs O’Reilly (and her sister, the family cook), and Mr O’Reilly. It showed their neglect and mistreatment of Jane wasn’t because of any wrongdoing by Jane, but was a product of their own backgrounds. I especially liked the way I didn’t feel manipulated into feeling sorry for Jane’s parents.

The writing was solid, although there were a few places where it wasn’t as strong. But these are insignificant in the face of an excellent fairytale retelling with a unique historical Australian setting.

Thanks to ACRBA and Rhiza Press for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Amanda Deed at her website, and you can read the introduction to Unnoticed below:

Bookish Question #10

Bookish Question #10: What books did you read in school?

I’m sure we can all remember being reading in school.

One of my earliest school memories is the teacher reading out loud classics novels such as The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I’d recently been given the book for my birthday, so I enjoyed following along in my own copy as the teacher read aloud from the school copy.

Later, in intermediate and high school, we’d have to read assigned books. This never bothered me—I was always a keen reader—but a lot of the books weren’t novels I’d have chosen to read myself. Yes, expanding our literary horizons was probably the point.

I think my favourite English reading assignment wasn’t a book at all, but a poem: The Man from Snowy River by Banjo Patterson.

I’m not a big poetry fan, but I loved the rhythm of the poem, the way I could almost feel the horse galloping along beside me as I read the words.

We read this in fifth form (our equivalent of sophomore year), in preparation for School Certificate. School C (as we called it) was the set of national examinations we sat at the end of the year. If we didn’t pass, we couldn’t progress to sixth form in that subject. It was a big deal.

One of the School Certificate questions was always to compare and contrast a piece of literature with the movie version. This meant we got to watch the movie version of The Man from Snowy River, starring Kirk Douglas and Tom Burlinson.

I remember reading The Great Gatsby, although I remember nothing about it. We read Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I loathed it because of the requirement to find theme and symbolism rather than simply reading and appreciating the story. And we read the compulsory Shakespeare: Macbeth and Othello.

What about you? What books do you remember reading in high school? What did you like … or loathe?

June 2017 New Releases in Christian Fiction

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Contemporary Romance:

Engaged by Julie Arduini — Trish Maxwell returns to Speculator Falls with egg on her face and apologies to make as she tries to determine what’s next, especially when around paramedic Wayne Peterson. (Contemporary Romance from Surrendered Scribe Media)

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter — When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down. But when Josephine drives out to Noah’s North Georgia cottage to deliver the corrected papers, they are trapped there during a snowstorm. Things couldn’t get worse…until they are forced out into the storm and must rely on one another to survive. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Zondervan])

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac — Would you give up everything for a life you hate with the person you love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

An Encore for Estelle by Kimberly Rose Johnson — A former A-list actress seeks to redeem herself in the most unlikely of places—a children’s theater. The writer/director didn’t anticipate a famous actress would ever show interest in his musical much less him. Will their pasts pull them apart or join them together? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

The Cowboy’s Baby Blessing by Deb Kastner — When Ex-soldier Seth Howell suddenly becomes guardian of a two-year-old, he needs Rachel Perez’s help. Though she is gun-shy about relationships, this handsome cowboy and his adorable son break through. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Finding Love by Toni Shiloh — Delaney Jones is putting her life back together after widowhood when in walks Army soldier, Luke Robinson. Luke had a part in the death of Delaney’s husband–will his secrets widen the gulf in their relationship or will he finally find absolution? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)


Cozy Mystery:

The Copper Box by Suzanne Bratcher — When antiques expert Marty Greenlaw comes to Jerome, Arizona to search for a copper box she believes will unlock the secrets of her past, deadly accidents begin to happen: someone else wants the copper box, someone willing to kill for it. (Cozy Mystery from Mantle Rock Publishing)


General Contemporary:

Coming Home – A Tiny House Collection by Yvonne Anderson, Michael Ehret, Kimberli S. McKay, Pamela S. Meyers, Ane Mulligan, Chandra Lynn Smith, Linda W. Yezak  — Tiny houses are all the rage these days, but what can you do with something so small? Here are seven stories about people chasing their dreams, making fresh starts, finding love, stumbling upon forgiveness, and embarking upon new adventures in tiny houses. (General Contemporary, Independently Published)

Katie’s Quest by Lee Carver — Katie Dennis hopes for fulfillment as a single missionary nurse after the death of her fiancé. She trusts God for a new direction, but she’ll never fall for a pilot again. (General Contemporary, Independently Published)


Historical Romance:

A Sweetwater River Romance by Misty M. Beller — Rocky Ridge Stage Stop Manager Ezra Reid is put in a difficult situation when two ladies show up on his remote doorstep seeking refuge, one of them being Tori Boyd, the mysterious correspondence partner writing him letters for over a year now. Tori refuses the most proper solution to their circumstance—marriage. But when danger follows, it will take a lot more than luck to ensure Ezra’s heart is the sole casualty. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin — In German-occupied Brussels, a WWI nurse struggles to keep two life-threatening secrets. She’s in league with the British Secret Service, and she’s harboring a wounded British pilot. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands Romance Collection by Susan Page Davis, Susanne Dietze, Darlene Franklin, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Gina Welborn — Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Captain’s Daughter by Jennifer Delamere — When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater presenting the most popular show in London.

A hand injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can’t wait to leave behind.  (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M. Dickson — Set in WWII, an Irish woman must choose between her heart and her freedom when she finds a downed combatant pilot. (Historical Romance from Waterfall Press)

Mail Order Sweetheart by Christine Johnson — Singer Fiona O’Keefe must make a wealthy match to support her orphaned niece. Musically talented Sawyer Evans is a self-made, but not wealthy, sawmill-manager. Unwilling to live off his father’s railroad fortune, can Sawyer prove to Fiona he’s the man she needs when she’s already determined to mail-order a rich husband? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Freedom’s Price by Christine Johnson — On a quest to find her mother’s family in Louisiana, Englishwoman Catherine Haynes enlists a dashing Key West man seeking revenge for his own family. When an incredible secret comes to light, she and Tom will face a choice. Can they relinquish their dreams to step forward in faith? (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

Sutter’s Landing by Betty Thomason Owens — Still reeling from tragic losses, Connie and Annabelle Cross face life with their signature humor and grace, until fresh hope arrives on their doorstep. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)


Romantic Suspense:

Hidden Legacy by Lynn Huggins Blackburn — When someone threatens the baby she’s adopting, Caroline Harrison must rely on Detective Jason Drake, the man who once broke her heart, to figure out why. If Jason wants a chance at a future with with Caroline and her son, he’ll first have to help them outrun a hit man. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Weaver’s Needle by Robin Caroll — Pitted against each other to recover a map to the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, two recovery specialists follow the trail to Arizona. But someone doesn’t want them to find the map. . .or the mine. They must work together despite their mistrust and growing attraction, to save themselves. (Romantic Suspense from Barbour Publishing)



The Revisionary by Kristen Hogrefe — Revisionary or Rogue? To rescue her brother, Portia might have to break every rule in the book she set out to rewrite. (Speculative from Write Integrity Press)


Women’s Contemporary:


Redemption’s Whisper by Kathleen Friesen — Desperate to escape her past, a suicidal young woman flies from Toronto to a Saskatoon pastor’s home, the only people who may be able to help her. If only someone could love her, in spite of all she’s done. On the flight, she meets a young man torn between seeking affirmation in the big city and helping his parents in Saskatoon. Can these two troubled souls gain the peace they need—and in the process, find love? (Women’s Contemporary from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])


Young Adult:

All Things Now Living by Rondi Bauer Olson — Her whole life Amy has been taught the people of New Lithisle deserve to die. When she falls for Daniel, she determines to save him.  (Young Adult from Written World Communications)