recent inspirational nonfiction reads

This summer,  I made a goal to read at least one nonfiction book a month, and it has been a treat! I picked up a few books on sale that turned out to be gems, so sparkling and truth-filled that I bought the paperback versions immediately. Here’s what I read this summer:

Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker

From the publisher: Starting with that guarantee from the most faithful friend who ever lived—Jesus—this book is a step-by-step guide to friendships you can trust. It answers the questions that lurk under the surface of every friendship—What are we afraid of? What can’t we change? What can we change? And where do we start?—with personal stories and practical tips to help you make the friends, and be the friend, that lasts.

Ever since I found that first Lisa-Jo Baker article, I’ve called her my Internet BFF, the older sister who has gone before with all the wisdom that helps us feel not alone. She tackles today’s friendship, celebrating community among women and showing us how to be the friend our friends need.

Get it here: http://amzn.to/2viXaOq

Wild & Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan

From the publisher: Wild and Free is an anthem and an invitation in equal parts to find freedom from the cultural captivity that holds us back, and freedom to step into the wild and holy call of God in our lives. With fresh biblical insight tracing all the way back to Eve and a treasury of practical application, Jess and Hayley reveal how women today can walk in the true liberty we already have in Jesus.

I loved this book and highlighted a truth bomb on every page. These women really know their Scripture and urged me to dig deeper to explore the way culture has shaped women and the way God intended us to be. Perfect for women who have ever felt like they are too much and not enough at the same time.

Get it here: http://amzn.to/2uZf460

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

From the publisher: In Chasing Slow, Erin turns away from fast and fame and frenzy. Follow along as she blazes the trail toward a new-fashioned lifestyle—one that will refresh your perspective, renew your priorities and shift your focus to the journey that matters most. 

Since I loved Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect, I didn’t know what I was going to take away from this book. But it’s much more of a memoir-style — and her voice. Wow. The writing style is filled with gorgeous metaphors and clever turns of phrase. She illustrates what she learned about grace and surrender in a beautiful, artful way.

Get it here: http://amzn.to/2w6o7lR

Coming this fall: I’ve gotten to take a sneak peek at these books coming out in the fall. From reconcilation and peace to reclaiming holiness over cheapened grace, I promise you won’t want to miss them!

Shalom Sistas by Osheta Moore

In Shalom Sistas, Osheta Moore shares what she learned when she challenged herself to study peace in the Bible for forty days. Taking readers through the twelve points of the Shalom Sistas’ Manifesto, Moore experiments with practices of everyday peacemaking and invites readers to do the same. From dropping “love bombs” on a family vacation, to talking to the coach who called her son the n-word, to spreading shalom with a Swiffer, Moore offers bold steps for crossing lines between black and white, suburban and urban, rich and poor. What if a bunch of Jesus-following women catch a vision of a vibrant, whole, flourishing world? What happens when Shalom Sistas unite?

More here: http://amzn.to/2uZioOz

Dance Stand Run by Jess Connolly

Dance, Stand, Run is an invitation to the daughters of God to step into the movements of abundant life: dancing in grace, standing firm in holiness, and running on mission. Through story and study, Jess casts a fresh vision for how to live into your identity as a holy daughter of God, how to break free of cheap grace and empty rule-keeping, and finally, how to live out your holy influence with confidence before a watching world. Spoiler alert: it’s a beautiful thing.

For anyone longing to take their place in what God is doing in the world, Dance, Stand, Run will rally your strength, refresh your purpose, and energize your faith in a God who calls us to be like Him.

Check it out here: http://amzn.to/2ujSvqY

What have you enjoyed reading this summer?

{book review} The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Deese

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Today I want to tell you about a gorgeous book I just finished that comes out TODAY! There I was, trying to finish writing my novella, when this story came and knocked my socks off. “Unputdownable” is the proper adjective I would use.

About the book:

Rayne Shelby has spent her entire life trying to earn the approval of her high-powered family, with the hope of one day managing her late grandfather’s prestigious Idaho lodge. But when she makes a mistake that puts her future in jeopardy, she faces an impossible choice: defy her family or deny her dream. The only way to fix the mess she’s created is to enlist the help of her neighbor, Levi, the apprentice of her family’s greatest enemy. And if Rayne gets caught crossing the divided property lines, the consequences will be irreparable.

Levi Harding has never forgotten the August night he shared with Rayne when they were teens—or the way she later rejected him. Despite his warring instincts, he can’t ignore her plea for help or the spark that’s ignited between them. But now, as wildfires bear down on their town and family secrets are revealed, their newfound alliance might just go up in smoke.

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My review:

Jiminy. Nicole Deese has truly become one of my must-read authors, and just when I think her stories can’t be any more artfully written, the layers of story and complexity (and chemistry!!) of her characters so masterfully executed, the next story releases.

I loved The Promise of Rayne, couldn’t put it down (like I said), and credit the author for her ability to make readers empathize with these characters in such a rare way. More books, please!

Buy it here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | IndieBound

{book review} Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Y’all, I’m enchanted.

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I finally read Like Never Before, the second book in the Walker Family series by Melissa Tagg, and am now a good way into the first book in the series on my Kindle because 1) I’m invested in this fictional family and 2) reading out of order is how I roll sometimes. {I accidentally read the Ashley Stockingdale series by Kristin Billerbeck — one of my all-time favorites — out of order on my honeymoon.}

After seeing the author post about this book on her social media, my curiosity marched my booty all the way to Barnes & Noble, where I proceeded to impulse-buy it. Friends, it did not disappoint.

What you need to know:

  • The story features a political speechwriter/widower dad hero + a quirky, charming reporter heroine. Excellent chemistry there.
  • A small-town newspaper that’s “hemorrhaging money” is what brings them together: He’s the new owner who inherited the dying paper (and the seemingly obvious interested buyer) and she’s the editor who is desperate to save it for the small town that’s welcomed her into their arms.
  • You know I’m a sucker for this, but the hero and heroine both have a lot of baggage in their past to work through to get to each other. The spiritual arc is very strong and important!
  • It’s an inspirational contemporary romance, but there’s an angle for history buffs, too!
  • The fictional town – Maple Valley, Iowa – is super charming in a Stars Hollow kind of way.
  • You will want to become an honorary member of the Walker Family.
  • Melissa Tagg not only has a gift for writing descriptions, but her prose sparkles with clever turns of phrase.

I can’t wait to see what else happens with the rest of the Walker clan and am eagerly awaiting the next in this series, starring a couple I’ve taken the liberty of amalgamating BecKit!

If your interest in Like Never Before is piqued, I’m giving away a copy here.

Have you read anything good lately?

summer book recommendations

Book Recommendations

My proverbial nightstand is ridiculously stacked. After a few years of minimal reading, I’ve been bitten by the bug with no regrets! There are SO many good books that have come out lately that this just scratches the surface.

Now that I’m out of my editing cave, I will be sharing more recommendations with my fellow book nerds. 🙂 Since it’s what I write, I read a lot of inspirational titles and want to spread awareness that there are some top-notch reads in that industry. I primarily go with contemporary romance, a little YA, and a touch of fantasy, but most of everything is fair game here — inspirational and general market — so don’t be surprised if you find a few curveballs.

As a busy working wife-mama-writer, you know I don’t have time to read anything except that which captivates me until the very end! So, if you need something good this summer, look no further than this variety of titles:

My Sister’s Book!!!

I know it LOOKS like I’m biased, but trust me on this one. If you follow me on social media, you’ve heard me talk about how proud I am of Kara and Close to You! Her stunning romantic comedy debut fuses moments of laugh-out-loud humor with poignant plotlines set in the unique New Zealand backdrop of the Lord of the Rings movie set. I would recommend this book not only to those who love all things Middle Earth, but to anyone who loves a heartwarming love story and characters so fun and real that you can’t help but root for them!

Something Thrilling

When I saw Laura McNeill had a new book, I was immediately intrigued — especially when I saw her background in journalism. Her work is different than her publisher’s usual (Thomas Nelson), and Sister Dear is no exception. A woman’s just been released from prison after being wrongfully accused, hoping to reconnect with her family and the daughter she barely knows after years of lost time. A murder mystery, broken family, twisted small town dynamic, and characters harboring chilling secrets make for a page-turning psychological read. The author deftly maneuvers multiple points of view that will keep readers on their toes for sure!

For Curiosity’s Sake

When the latest contemporary romance from Melissa Tagg, Like Never Before, released, you’d better believe I packed up my little cub for a trip to the bookstore! Why was I so eager to get my hands on it? Because the author has been raving about her hero in this inspirational contemporary romance on social media, so you’d better believe I was curious. With a premise that includes single dad, reporter heroine, and failing small-town newspaper, how can you go wrong?

Something Sherlockian

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan: If you love Sherlock Holmes — or just adventure and clever writing in a historical setting —  you’ll love the Herringford and Watts Mysteries. The story takes place in 1910, where our heroines Jem and Merinda are sleuthing in the streets of Toronto instead of behaving and preparing for marriage like most girls their age. Readers will love being a third wheel to their adventures — and want Merinda to be a “bad influence” on them, too — as they become embroiled in solving murders with these strong female characters. McMillan lends a strong voice laced with humor and intrigue in this unique, incredibly intelligent addition to the inspirational fiction market.

 

Something Anticipated

If you know anything about my reading tastes, you know I’m a huge fan of Becky Wade! Her One and Only is filled with romance, a touch of suspense, and satisfying closure for a beloved fictional family. I love the interesting way the author spun the dynamic between bodyguard/protective agent Dru and the NFL superstar she’s protecting, Gray, and the unique voice this story had in the scope of one of my favorite series.

(If you’re new to Becky Wade, start with My Stubborn Heart or the first in the Porter Family Series, Undeniably Yours.)

Short and Sweet

The books in the Love Inspired line are about 60-75% the length of the average inspirational romance novel, making them perfect for a beach/pool day, flight, or rainy weekend! But Jill Lynn’s Her Texas Family is definitely heavy on good, clean romance. Set in a small Texas town, it tells the story of Lucy, who immediately clashes with the widower doctor who hires her, Graham — but makes an instant connection with his daughter. Lucy’s fun-loving nature brings much-needed joy to their lives, but meddling forces that try to keep them apart make for intriguing conflict in this well-written novel.

Do any of these sound intriguing to you? What are you reading right now?

{book review} a season to love by nicole deese

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After pledging to read 15 books in 2015 and reading no more than 6, I have learned I have to steal reading time to get it to happen — and I’ve already tied that in the first 2 months of 2016.

Yet I found myself devouring the inspirational contemporary romance, A Season to Love by Nicole Deese, walking on the treadmill until my feet were about to fall off + using a napping baby in my backseat as an excuse to hide and read. I don’t say that lightly! Disclosure: I received an electronic copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Here’s what it’s about (according to Amazon):

At this point in her life, bravery is not a trait Willa Hart would readily claim. She believes her seven-year-old daughter, Savannah, who never knew her father and successfully tackled chemotherapy, is truly the courageous one. Yet after Willa has a fateful encounter with handsome young doctor Patrick McCade, her outlook—and her view of herself—begins to change.

Patrick, a thrill-seeking world traveler and temporary resident of Lenox, Oregon, sets out to show Willa the value of adventure, even within her tiny town. But just when their friendship shows signs of turning into something more, Patrick’s life as a traveling doctor calls him back. Will his last days in town signal the end of their journey, or will Patrick and Willa find the courage to transform a single season into a lifetime?

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This book tackles some hard themes: grief, struggle with control, staying true to the passions God has called you to when things are pulling you in multiple directions. And that’s what I love about it! The author is a friend of mine, and I’ve loved watching her identity and talent grow with each book she’s published. Her prose is beautiful, her ability to capture emotion powerful, and her characters authentic with real struggles and real redemption.

About the author (according to Laurie):

Nicole

Aside from her amazing author skills, Nicole is wife to a handsome giant, wonderful mother to two boys, purveyor of swoon-worthy Pinterest boards, and recent Idaho transplant whose home has a stellar view. She is generous, has shown so much grace through the trials in her life, and shares my love for Ben Rector music and La Croix sparkling water. I’m so glad we sat next to each other at an awards banquet 🙂

surprised by motherhood {part 2} + giveaway!

In part 1 posted yesterday, I talked about the big breakthrough in my motherhood journey. How two years ago, God reached down and reminded me in a desperate moment that He would always be strong for me.

The next morning I discovered Lisa-Jo Baker.

At that point, she still went by The Gypsy Mama. I can’t remember which post I read first, but through the blurry haze of my first refreshing ugly cry on her behalf, I added her blog to my Google Reader (RIP) because she showed me that the messy equation of soaking soiled onesies, eating cold dinners, and feverishly typing work with one hand added up to something beautiful. Something I could be proud of. A purpose that requires a lot of bravery and comes with so many more honors than “just a mom” could ever do justice.

Two years later, when I found out Lisa-Jo was coming out with a book, I pre-ordered it immediately. Barnes and Noble sent it a few days before its April 1 release date, and I gobbled it up in a day. Surprised by Motherhood isn’t a story of an unexpected pregnancy like some may believe by the title. It reveals the hope and beauty of a role that gloriously can’t be predicted and requires always staying on your toes.

The book tells Lisa-Jo Baker’s story from a child growing up in South Africa to a motherless girl of 18 who swore she’d never have children to a fulfilling international career to the redemption she found in changing her mind about kids. She’s honestly one of the best writers I’ve ever come across, sometimes reading like a Toni Morrison novel but mostly like she’s translating sheet music directly from the deepest truths of the mama-heart in ways the mind couldn’t otherwise comprehend.

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She reminds readers that, whether working mom, stay-at-home mom, work-from-home mom, blue mom, green mom, women have the tremendous capacity to love children intentionally and still have goals and dreams. That women whose dreams have always only been to have children are just as brilliant and brave.

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I love her story for the same reason I loved literary realism in undergrad — her descriptions bring magic to my parallel life in an encouraging, inspiring way. Because buried in the dishes piling in the sink, staring at the grocery store tile with a fistful of 3T cotton, and brushing out tangles are the milk-drunk smiles, whispered “I love you, Mom”s, and creative expressions of a huge, individual personality packaged in a tiny body you helped to create.

IMG_3888It’s above all, a story of hope and encouragement. A glimpse of wholeness and holiness in the imperfection. I’d give it away to all of my friends if I could, but for now, I’m giving away one copy. It was snatched out of my mailbox less than a week ago, gently read by appreciative eyes, and you can find out if it’s yours on Friday! Here’s how:

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

{book review} what writers can learn from Becky Wade

Welcome to my first book review! Well, my first since my college newspaper days when I injected these big literary words in some farfetched attempt to sound intellectual. All I can do when I look back on that period of my life is shake my head. Just no.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Becky Wade and her latest release, Undeniably Yours.

“Oh, you’re looking for a fun summer read? BECKY WADE!”

“Please allow me to interrupt your conversation to tell you that I loved that book, too!”

Yes, I’ve been that girl.

So, what can we learn from Becky Wade? Is it her engaging voice, page-turning action, and lovable characters? Yes, but that’s not what this is about.

This is about writing a stellar debut novel with glowing reviews. And then following it up with another that blows your debut out of the water. 

In my research and talking to other authors, today’s editors really like new writers to have at least two completed manuscripts because some authors will show so much promise and then turn out to be “one-hit wonders.” If you didn’t catch my drift earlier, Becky Wade is not a one-hit wonder.

I loved her debut, My Stubborn Heart. In fact, I accidentally bought it twice during a long reading hiatus because it jumped out to me on the bookstore shelf on two separate occasions. But when I won a copy of Undeniably Yours, I read it in an entire sitting–I couldn’t stand the suspense.

The book tells the story of Meg Cole, who inherits an oil empire after her father’s unexpected death, and the manager of her father’s racehorse farm, Bo Porter. Because it makes sense on paper, Meg wants to shut down Bo’s operations and extinguish his dreams. But she doesn’t count on him being smolderingly dreamy (hunky cowboy, anyone?) and he doesn’t count on developing a fierce protective instinct for her.

I’ll spare you the back flap copy rendition of the plot and just tell you that it’s the deeply layered characters that will keep you turning the pages, the perfectly-timed development of their romance that doesn’t seem predictable, and conflict and even suspense around every corner.

So, the moral of the story (I’m learning) is to follow your debut novel with an electrifying second. If you’re writing a series, don’t exhaust your bag of tricks with the first. Continue learning the craft, playing to your strengths and working hard on your weaknesses. Ask yourself how you can up the ante in your follow-up manuscripts and deliver unforgettable characters and page-turning conflict.

Because someday, it will be important that you reward the readership you built during your first book release so they’ll keep coming back for more!