Friday, December 29, 2017

My Favorite Books of 2017

As 2017 comes to an end, I decided to look back over the books I've read this year (close to 250 ... and still counting!) and choose my favorites. Some of the books I really enjoyed aren't releasing until 2018, so I'll keep those on hold for next year. I've sorted my list into three categories: Christian Fiction (which I've read the most of, so it's a bit longer), Mainstream Fiction, and Nonfiction. Hopefully you'll find something from my list to add to your TBR pile. (The books are in no particular order.)

Christian Fiction

Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer (click for my review)

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan (click for my review)


Hold the Light by April McGowan (click for my review)

When  Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks (click for my review)


The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck (click for my review)

   Life After by Katie Ganshert (click for my review

  A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti (click for my review)

  Sound of Fear by Marta Perry (click for my review

 Inherited: Unexpected Family by Gabrielle Meyer (click for my review


Plain Retribution by Dana R. Lynn (click for my review)

Mainstream Fiction


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (click for my review

 Pretty, Nasty, Lovely by Rosalind Noonan (click for my review)


Assaulted Caramel by Amanda Flower (click for my review

 Asylum 54.0 by Nadege Richards (click for my review

  Bless Her Heart by Sally Kilpatrick (click for my review)


A Woman Overwhelmed: Finding God in the Messes of Life by Hayley DiMarco (click for my review)


Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World by Max Lucado (click for my review)

   Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies to Transform the Way You Think, Feel, and Live by Tracie Miles (click for my review)

I Am: A 60-Day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is by Michele Cushatt (click for my review)

Unshakeable Trust: Find the Joy of Trusting God at All Times, in All Things by Joyce Meyer (click for my review)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

"Missing Isaac" by Valerie Fraser Luesse

My review...

This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I found the title to be a bit misleading. I expected there to be a much larger focus on Isaac and his disappearance. However, the focus seemed to be centered a bit more on Pete and Dovey. Things did come together, for the most part, as the story went on.

The book takes place in Alabama in the 1960s, and it deals with subjects such as segregation and Christianity. While there is not a deep biblical element, it is woven throughout the story. There are a number of characters, which made it a bit hard to follow at times, and it took quite a few chapters for me to get into the story line. The dialogue is realistic, and the setting is nicely detailed. This is the debut book by the author. I did enjoy the writing style, so I would likely check out future books.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy as part of the Revell Reads Blog Tour program, but I was not required to leave a positive review. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tuesday Tip: Fewer vs. Less

Are you confused as to when to use fewer instead of less? Both words are the opposite of more, but they are used differently. Fewer is used with "count" nouns, and less is used with "mass" nouns.

So, just what are "count" nouns and "mass" nouns? Let's take a look:

Count nouns are used with things that can be counted, such as:
- Steve was trying to lose weight, so he decided to eat fewer candy bars each week.
- The company is now better organized, so fewer meetings are required.

Mass nouns are used with things that aren't counted individually, such as:
- She drank less coffee this month than she did last month.
- If I could spend less time at work, I'd have more time to read.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Jesus, The Reason for the Season

I wanted to take a moment to wish you a blessed holiday season. Thank you so much for visiting my blog over the past year. I've enjoyed sharing reviews, writing tips, and inspirational posts with you, and I look forward to spending time with you in 2018.

Please enjoy this devotion I wrote as a reminder of the true reason behind the holiday season.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
    1 Corinthians 13:13

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of the season at this time of year—decorating, shopping, and attending parties. Feels like a non-stop to-do list. Society puts the spotlight on these festivities. While there is nothing wrong with participating in and enjoying these activities, it’s important for us to remember the reason for the season: Jesus and the hope His birth brought to earth.
Paul wrote in today’s verse a reminder of what is most important, both at the holiday season and in general: love.

Love is kind, even when you feel frazzled.
Love is patient, even when the lines are long.
Love helps others, even if it makes you a few minutes late.
Love doesn’t envy, even when the neighbor’s light display is better.
Love will endure, beyond the holiday season.

So, take a moment to breathe and focus on the meaning behind the typical celebrations. Keep your focus on the big picture: Jesus.

Lord, I don’t want to just go through the motions and miss the reason behind the holiday season: love — for each other, as well as Christ’s love for us.

Leslie L. McKee

Friday, December 22, 2017

"Still Waters" by Lindsey P. Brackett ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Lindsey P. Brackett has graciously offered to give away an electronic copy of this new release. You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends December 30, 2017. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information.) 

A word from Lindsey...

There is irony—or rather perfect timing—in writing a post today to answer Leslie’s question, “How did this story come to be written?” The answer is all tied up in the loss of my maternal grandmother 27 years ago this week.
Not until I became an adult and mother myself did I appreciate the strength of my own mother during the Christmas of 1990. The loss of my grandmother—Grandmommy White Hair we called her—happened suddenly and unexpectedly only three days before Christmas. Now, I am the age my mama would have been then, and I marvel that my memories of that Christmas, while including the sadness of a funeral and the purchase of my first black dress, aren’t colored with heavy grief. They carried on—her and her sister and brother—perhaps for us, the children. Perhaps for themselves. Perhaps, because in her stubborn stoic way, my grandmother would have not wanted plans interrupted for her sake.
When I wrote Still Waters I allowed myself to imagine and build upon a life I had known briefly. I relied heavily on the dim memories I have of Edisto summers and family dinners and Christmas gift exchanges to round out my picture of who the grandmother figure in my story—Nan is her name—would become.  I hoped to create a woman of strength and dignity but with a bold stubborn streak that might cost her dearly.
A woman who, when I read over these pages, lets me breath life into my Grandmommy White Hair once again.
People ask me all the time how long it took to write this book. I suppose the truest answer is 27 years. From the moment she left this earth, I’ve wondered how I could recapture her spirit. My earliest pen to paper moments from this story are jottings from my college days, but I didn’t actually start forming a book until 2007. A few chapters here and there—and a long time locked away in a computer file before I dusted it off after the loss of another grandparent.
This time my paternal grandfather passed away from cancer one week after Christmas. It was January 2014 and I found myself realizing keenly that our time is precious. So I did the one thing that gets a book written—I put myself in a chair for a little bit each day, typing in the midst of motherhood until I was done.

 I’m grateful to Leslie for hosting this little bit of my story today. I’m beyond humbled by those of you who have told me what Still Waters—and its themes of home and forgiveness—have meant to you. Thank you for reading and loving Nan, despite her habit of keeping secrets.   

My review...

Cora Anne Halloway has big plans which include graduate school. They do not, however, include returning to Still Waters, which is the last place she wants to go. Yet when her grandmother insists that she spend the summer there, Cora reluctantly agrees. For most people, the location is picturesque. For Cora, there are haunting memories, such as her grandfather’s death, the decline of her parents’ marriage, and a tragic drowning, for which she feels responsible. Cora is even less impressed to find Tennessee Watson helping her grandmother with repairs on the cottage. He wants to restore his friendship with Cora, and he would be interested in being more, if she would let him. Will Cora be able to make peace with her past?

It is hard to believe this is Brackett’s debut novel. It is a story full of faith, family, and forgiveness. The characters are engaging and relatable. I particularly enjoyed Nan, who, at times, reminded me of my own grandmother. The setting is beautiful, and there are numerous heartwarming scenes. While some plot points are a bit predictable, it does not take away from the enjoyment of the story overall.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy, but I was not required to leave a positive review.

About Lindsey...

Award-winning writer, Lindsey P. Brackett just writes life--blogs, columns, articles, and stories--in the midst of motherhood. A blogger since 2010, she has published articles and short stories in a variety of print and online publications. She writes a popular bimonthly column for several local newspapers in which she meditates on small-town southern life.

Her love of family ties and southern places prompted her first novel, Still Waters, a Lowcountry story about the power of family and forgiveness. Thanks to her four kids, in her home you'll find wet towels, lost library books, and strong coffee.

Connect with her at, where she just writes life, on Facebook at, on Twitter at @lindsbrac, or Instagram @lindseypbrackett.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Writing Prompt Wednesday

If you're feeling stuck in your WIP (work in progress) or just want to shake things up a bit, here's something different to try today:

Write about your favorite part of the holiday season.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

"The Psalms & Proverbs Devotional for Women"

My review...

This devotional book is a compilation of devotions by a number of women based only on Psalms and Proverbs. The imitation-leather cover is beautiful, though mine did feel a bit slippery to hold. Perhaps that will change with use. Scripture is from a few different Bible versions (NKJV, ESV, NIV, CSB, NASB, and HCSB).

As with most devotional books, this would make a nice addition to a daily Bible-reading play, as the devotions are short, taking no more than a few minutes to read. The readings are numbered vs. adhering to the calendar year, so the reader can feel comfortable starting it at any time during the year. Each devotion begins with a title and verse, followed by the devotional message, and ending with a short prayer. Each one also contains lines for personal reflection.  The readings tend to be a bit more “instructive” than in some devotional books, as the focus seems to be on teaching. However, there are many personal stories from the writers’ lives, so there is likely to be something relatable for most, if not all, readers. The font is a bit small, so that could be a problem for some readers. Perhaps a large-print version will be released at some point.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy as part of the B & H blogger program. I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday Motivation

"In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard."
— John Grisham

Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Takeover Thursday with Bethany Turner ... and a GIVEAWAY!

I want to extend a warm welcome to Bethany Turner. She's giving away a hard copy of her book, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck (US ONLY). You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends December 21, 2017. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information.) Now, here's Bethany...

We’ve all heard it said that ignorance is bliss. After my experience in getting The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck written and published, I feel as if I need to add a little something to that.

Sometimes, ignorance is an asset.

When I began writing The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, I was really just having fun. I had previously self-published a general market women’s fiction series of books which I believe had reached about seventeen readers. (Okay…I’m exaggerating. It may have been more like fourteen.) Those books were written as stress relief. I was managing a bank which was going through its second merger in about a year, and writing had become the outlet I had never known that I needed. I didn’t originally have any intent, or even desire, to publish. As far as I was concerned, the beginning of my writing endeavors was also going to be the end of my writing endeavors.

But then a funny thing happened. I discovered that I loved to write. And then I discovered that I needed to write. And then, the most unexpected thing of all: I discovered that I could connect with the Lord in a way I never had before, if only I would listen to Him and follow His guidance as I worked to put words down on the page.

And then…The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck. I had walked away from my banking career, convinced that God was calling me to something different. It was terrifying and adventurous and thrilling and…did I mention terrifying? But it was also so very freeing. Despite the career uncertainty (and the financial uncertainty which accompanied it), I had never been more certain in my life that I was doing the right thing. I didn’t know what the future held, but in the present, God was telling me to write. The idea for The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck came in a moment, the first chapter was there within hours, and the first draft was there within six weeks.

I didn’t know that Contemporary Christian Romance was a bit of an underdog genre, and that Contemporary Christian Romantic Comedy was even less prominent. I didn’t know that first person POV was generally considered less likely to garner interest. I didn’t know that my chances of getting traditionally published without an agent, a platform, or a clue what I was doing were extremely unlikely. (Well, okay…I guess common sense may have given me an idea there.) All I knew was that I was striving with all my might to go where the Lord was leading.

How often do we mess up the question because we think we know the answers? How often do we neglect to even ask the question for that same reason? Answering for myself, I’d have to say all the time. Seriously. All the time! I feel God leading one way, but I give other people’s answers for them. And when I do that, the answer is almost always, “No.” But for whatever reason, as I was writing The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, I finally paid attention as God told me, “Wait. Just wait. Don’t try to figure it out. I’ve already got it all taken care of. Trust me.”

I don’t believe that my journey to publication is typical, and I am certainly not trying to minimize the importance of studying the craft, making connections, building a platform, etc. That is all incredibly important, and I am continually striving to improve in all of those areas. But I do believe that sometimes the Lord uses the nontraditional path, the unexpected breakthrough, the against-the-odds story to remind us that He has the answers to the questions that we sometimes neglect to ask. To remind us that we don’t know it all, and that we absolutely do not know better than He does.

Sometimes we just need a reminder that as we strive for success and try to soak up every bit of information we can, our greatest asset just might be ignorance.

My review...

Sarah Hollenbeck is trying to find herself after going through a divorce. She joins a book club and decides she wants to become an author. Under a pseudonym, Sarah writes steamy romances and quickly becomes highly popular. Along the way, she becomes a Christian, which causes her to re-think her current career and path in life. When attending a new church, Sarah literally runs into the pastor, a widower with a small daughter, and they are immediately drawn to one another. Is it possible for them to have a future together? Will Sarah need to choose between her career and love?

This wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is definitely different than other books I have read in this genre. Parts of it were a bit slow to build up, and a few things seemed to happen a bit too quickly. However, overall, it was a highly enjoyable read. While I liked Sarah, her best friend Piper was perhaps my favorite character. She provides stability, support, and is the voice of reason throughout the book.

The story is written in first person POV (Sarah’s) and has a chick-lit feel to it. Turner’s writing style is very fluid, and it is easy to engage with the well-developed characters. Some of Sarah’s struggles are quite realistic for a new Christian trying to figure out how to move beyond their past. While there are a number of serious scenes, there are a lot of humorous moments, as well. The spiritual theme wasn’t quite as strong as I was expecting for this genre, but the elements were smoothly woven throughout.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

About Bethany...

Bethany Turner is the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. A former VP/operations manager of a commercial bank and a three-time cancer survivor (all before she turned thirty-five). Bethany knows that when God has plans for your life, it doesn't matter what anyone else has to say. Because of that, she's chosen to follow His call to write. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.

Where you can find Bethany online...

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"Isaiah's Daughter" by Mesu Andrews

My review...

This is a fictional tale based on Isaiah’s life. Woven throughout the story are biblical prophecies, in addition to a beautiful romance.

Andrews has a way of writing that brings the characters to life. She is a master storyteller of Biblical fiction, as her books seem to bring the Bible to life.  It is wonderful to see God moving through the life of his prophet, Isaiah, who is realistically flawed. Details are beautifully done in this heartfelt story. It is easy to see God’s hand at work throughout the events taking place.

I enjoyed the fact that there is a list of characters at the front of the book and that it notes which ones are fictional vs. those actually in the Bible. It helps the reader piece together the facts throughout the story. I also like the incorporation of Scripture verses at the beginning of each chapter. If you’re a fan of Biblical fiction, this is one book you will want to check out.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

About the author...

Mesu Andrews

Photo of Mesu Andrews


Mesu Andrews is the award-winning author of Love Amid the Ashes and numerous other novels including The Pharaoh’s Daughter and Miriam. Her deep understanding of–and love for– God’s Word brings the biblical world alive for readers. Mesu lives in North Carolina with her husband Roy and enjoys spending time with her growing tribe of grandchildren.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday Tip: Specially vs Especially

Can specially and especially be used interchangeably? Let's take a look at their meanings:

Specially means to "in a special or careful manner." For instance:
- The dress was specially designed for her wedding.

Especially means "particularly." Such as:
- Pizza, especially with pepperoni, is Susan's favorite food.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"You Are Beautiful" by Ashley Reitz

My review...

Have you ever felt you weren’t enough or were overlooked? Unfortunately, it’s a feeling that’s all too common in today’s society, with standards that are often impossible to live up to in many cases.

Reitz is a model, but her book shows that she didn’t live a perfect, problem-free life. She lets the reader see the struggles she faced for years, including weight issues and deep-seated insecurities. In this book, she wants the reader to walk away knowing one thing: You are beautiful!

Reitz addresses a number of topics, including confidence, beauty, a positive body image, and the impossible pursuit of perfection. She wants the reader to listen to what God is saying to them instead of focusing on society’s message.

This book is geared a bit more for teens or young adults, but it contains truths which are relevant for women of any age. Reitz explains biblical confidence, which can only be found in God, and she encourages the reader to put their self-worth in the hands of God vs. other people.

Each chapter ends with a section called “Beauty Box,” which is a summary of the chapter, as well as a time for reflection. The book contains lots of personal stories woven throughout, along with Bible verses and is a quick read, overall. Reitz presents her story in an easy-to-absorb way, and it is full of encouragement, as though listening to a good friend share advice.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of the FirstWords Blogger Program. I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

Friday, December 8, 2017

"All Things Now Living" by Rondi Bauer Olson (LitFuse Blog Tour) ... and KINDLE GIVEAWAY!

All Things Now Living Rondi Bauer Olson

While on a scavenging trip with her father, Amy is accidentally trapped in New Lithisle in Rondi Bauer Olson's All Things Now Living. At first her only goal is to escape, but when she meets Daniel, a New Lithisle boy, she begins to question how less-than-human the people of New Lithisle are. Amy's feelings grow even more conflicted when she learns she didn't end up in New Lithisle by mistake. Her father is secretly a sympathizer. Time is running short and Amy has to decide if she will bring the computer program her father wrote to his contact or save herself. Installing the program could prevent the dome's collapse, but if Amy doesn't find her father's contact in time, she'll die, along with everyone else.

Stay up all night reading this thrilling new book from Rondi and enter to win a Kindle Fire!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of All Things Now Living
  • A Kindle Fire
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on December 14. The winner will be announced December 15 on the Litfuse blog.

Amy believes that the aegis (an electromagnetic dome) must fall and that anyone living inside is someone who is “less than human” due to gene modification (with pig genes) done in hopes of gaining immunity to the swine flu. After her father disappears, she is left to face dangerous conditions alone. That is, until she meets Daniel, who is a genetically modified elder. He goes against everything she believes, but she must rely on him if she wants to survive and escape the authorities, inside and outside the dome.

The story takes place in a futuristic setting after a plague has hit. There are two different groups of people, and both have very different survival methods, which are based on their religious principles. One group believes their best option is to stay under the dome where they can be protected from disease through experimentation with animal genes. The other group feels it is best to live in the wild.

Let me start by saying that this is the author’s debut novel, and it is the first book in the series. Some parts seem a bit over the top or cliché, and there were some inconsistencies. The romance angle developed way too quickly, and the story, overall, was confusing for me to follow at times. The book starts out a bit slow, but the pace does pick up as the story unfolds. A bit more backstory would have been helpful in some instances. Perhaps some of these issues will be addressed and fixed in the second installment.

As a fan of shows such as Under the Dome, I looked forward to reading this book. The premise seemed interesting and different from what I normally read. I was also intrigued by the fact that this was a Christian YA dystopian. However, it did not quite live up to my expectations.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy as part of the LitFuse blogger program. I was not required to leave a positive review.

About the author:

Rondi Bauer Olson is a reader and writer from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where she lives on a hobby farm with her husband, Kurt. She has four grown children, works as a nurse, and also owns a gift shop within view of beautiful Lake Superior.
Find out more about Rondi at