Tag Archives: Erin Bartels

Book Review: Everything Is Just Beginning

31 Jan

I don’t usually look at other reviews before writing my own. I don’t want to cloud my thoughts or inadvertently steal other’s ideas. You know like writing a song and using a sitcom jingle. 😉 Does that last statement intrigue you? Now you know you have to read Everything Is Just Beginning. The newest novel by Erin Bartels is a mix, just like the musical styles of the band main characters Natalie and Michael put together. It took me a bit to get into, but I sure am glad I read this book. It will be with me for a while.


Michael Sullivan is a talented lyricist and a decent guitarist, but since he was kicked out of his band (and his apartment), he’s not sure he’ll ever get a record deal. Living with his loser uncle in a beat-up trailer and working a dead-end job, Michael has little reason to hope for a better future. Until the invitation for a swanky New Year’s Eve party shows up in the mailbox. It’s for his uncle, with whom he shares his name, but his uncle is going out of town . . . 

On the effervescent night of December 31, 1989–as the Berlin Wall is coming down, the Soviet Union is inching toward democracy, and anything seems possible–Michael will cross paths with the accomplished and enigmatic young heir to a fading musical dynasty, forever altering both of their futures. 

Award-winning novelist Erin Bartels enchants with this story of two lonely souls who have exactly what the other one needs–if they could simply turn their focus from what is ending to what is just beginning.

ERIN BARTELS is the award-winning author of We Hope for Better Things, The Words Between Us, All That We Carried, and The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water. Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in The Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest and her poetry has been published by The Lyric. She lives in the capital city of a state that is 40% water, nestled somewhere between angry protesters on the Capitol lawn and couch-burning frat boys at Michigan State University. And yet, she claims it is really quite peaceful.

You can find her on Instagram @erinbartelswrites and Facebook @ErinBartelsAuthor.

My Impressions:

Everything Is Just Beginning by Erin Bartels kind of defies definition. Set in 1989, it could technically be an historical novel, yet while there are plenty of references to the era, it’s more supportive than a main part of the book. It could be a coming of age story, since Michael, the voice of the book is young and certainly grows up a lot. It could be a love story as Michael and Natalie go from friendship to maybe something more. But I think above all it is a good story well-told. Music is the central core — Michael wants to be a rock star and takes advantage of a party invitation to get gain connections. What he actually gets is connectedness. The relationships in the book are beautifully spotlighted in the quest for getting a band together. But it’s not a novel about the band. It’s a novel about lives lived with purpose or not. Brokenness in many forms is discussed, along with the grace extended to give those who are broken a place to heal and grow. To offer up forgiveness when none is deserving. Now, I am not really a music person — I can’t carry a tune or read music. I often listen to talk radio over the music channels. But Bartels pours so much of the emotions found in music into this book. Including the lyrics of the songs within the narrative exposes the depths of Michael’s soul, of Natalie’s grief, and gave me an understanding of their stories, that prose could not convey. It really, really works, creating a touching story to think about long after it is finished. And if you are a music person, you will be thrilled with the QR codes in the back of the book that let you in on some playlists and the music played by the band. I’m even going to check it out 😉 .

While Everything Is Just Beginning started out a bit slow for me, I am so glad I kept at it. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough towards the end. Complex characters and beautifully fleshed out themes make this one a highly recommended read.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

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

First Line Friday — Everything Is Just Beginning

20 Jan

Happy Friday! I am having an excellent reading year! Next up for me is Everything Is Just Beginning by Erin Bartels. I haven’t read all of her books, but the ones I have are excellent. This looks to be no exception!

Here’s the first line:

I never wanted to live at my Uncle Mike’s.

Michael Sullivan is a talented lyricist and a decent guitarist, but since he was kicked out of his band (and his apartment), he’s not sure he’ll ever get a record deal. Living with his loser uncle in a beat-up trailer and working a dead-end job, Michael has little reason to hope for a better future. Until the invitation for a swanky New Year’s Eve party shows up in the mailbox. It’s for his uncle, with whom he shares his name, but his uncle is going out of town . . . 

On the effervescent night of December 31, 1989–as the Berlin Wall is coming down, the Soviet Union is inching toward democracy, and anything seems possible–Michael will cross paths with the accomplished and enigmatic young heir to a fading musical dynasty, forever altering both of their futures. 

Award-winning novelist Erin Bartels enchants with this story of two lonely souls who have exactly what the other one needs–if they could simply turn their focus from what is ending to what is just beginning.

Top 10 Tuesday — Books With All The Feels

15 Nov

Happy Tuesday! Today I am sharing books that have ALL the feels. You know, the kind of book that grabs your heart and won’t let go. The kind of book it is sometimes awkward to read out in public. 😉 There was a particularly heart-rending Christmas book I listened to on my morning walks. If any of my neighbors happened to look out their windows as I walked by, they witnessed me laughing hysterically and crying uncontrollably all in one circuit of the neighborhood. Embarrassing! If you want a book that will create emotional havoc in your life (kidding, not kidding), take a look at my list. (It’s cool how the covers and titles compliment each other in a completely random fashion.)

For more bloggers with emotional reactions to their reading choices, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Books With ALL The Feels

Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese

Before I Saw You by Amy K. Sorrells

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar

The London House by Katherine Reay

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox

The Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

Where The Blue Sky Begins by Katie Powner

2020 Christy Award Nominees!

8 Oct

Well, my TBR list just got bigger! So excited for the 2020 Christy Award nominees. I have read some of these books (and they are great), and now have many more to get on with. A big congratulations to all the talented authors!

Contemporary Romance

Just One Kiss by Courtney Walsh

Now And Then And Always by Melissa Tagg

Sweet on You by Becky Wade

First Novel

A Long Time Comin’ by Robin W. Pearson

The Means That Make Us Strangers by Christine Kindberg

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes

General Fiction

All Manner of Things By Susie Finkbeiner

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes

The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels

Historical

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson

My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt

Historical Romance

The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin

The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White

The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

Echoes Among The Stones by Jaime Jo Wright

The Girl Behind The Red Rope by Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker

Smokescreen by Terri Blackstock

Short Form

A Christmas Haven by Cindy Woodsmall and Erin Woodsmall

A Flood of Love by Tracie Peterson

Intrigue A La Mode by Regina Jennings

Visionary

Cry of The Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Hidden Current by Sharon Hinck

The Story Raider by Lindsay A. Franklin

Young Adult

The Means That Make Us Strangers by Christine Kindberg

The Piper’s Pursuit by Melanie Dickerson

The Winter King by Christine Cohen

Top 10 Tuesday — Kindle Deals

7 Apr

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday prompt is Books I Bought Because . . . . Books come into my house in a variety of ways — shopping bags from local bookstores, Amazon delivery, NetGalley, and book mail from publishers and PR groups. Yes I am at risk of a book landslide, but I still request and buy. Because of this I look for deals as well. That’s where my Kindle comes into play. Ebooks come on sale (or for FREE) for a number of reasons, and I am quick to jump on them. It may be a favorite author’s book that I have missed, or an author I have wanted to try, or it might be a book club selection that is currently on sale. That’s why my Amazon cloud is full too. 😉 Below are the last 10 books that came into my house because of deals on Kindle ebooks. Since I am an eclectic reader they represent a number of genres.

Do you search for book deals?

To find out why other bloggers beg, borrow, and steal buy books, head over to That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

The Last 10 Book Deals for My Kindle

Carry Me Home by Dorothy Adamek

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon

Irish Encounter by Hope Dougherty

Living Lies by Natalie Walters

Nobody by Creston Makes

A Scarlet Cord by Deborah Raney

A Search for Refuge by Kristi Ann Hunter

The Wind Will Howl by Sibella Giorello

The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels

 

Top 10 Tuesday — New to Me Authors

14 Jan

2019 was a great year for reading! I discovered a number of new and exciting authors. Discovered, as in I read them for the first time. Some of the authors had been published before and some had debut releases. (Some I met in person last year — squee!) You may be familiar with some or all of them, but in case you aren’t, they are all recommended by me. I look forward to more great books to discover from these authors.

 Hope you discover a new author too!

 

For more bookish discoveries across the blogosphere, visit That Artsy Reader Girl.

Amanda Barratt — My Dearest Dietrich

Erin Bartels — We Hope for Better Things

Victoria Bylin — When He Found Me

Cathy Gohlke — The Medallion

Janet Ferguson — The Art of Rivers

Lindsay Franklin — The Story Peddler

James Hannibal — The Gryphon Heist

Kristi Ann Hunter — A Defense of Honor

Tara Johnson — Engraved on The Heart

David Rawlings — The Baggage Handler

Linda Thompson — The Plum Blooms in Winter

Abigail Wilson — In The Shadows of Croft Towers

 

What new author did you discover last year?

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Top Books Read in 2019

31 Dec

It is always hard to compile a best of list every year. I read a lot of really good books in 2019. A. Lot. But in going back through the archives, I found the following eleven that captured my imagination, touched my emotions, and made me think about my world and myself long after I closed the cover. The books are a mixed bag of genres — speculative, allegory, dual timeline, contemporary, and historical — so basically something for every taste. I hope one grabs your interest and you find a great read! (The links are to my reviews.)

For more Best Books of 2019 lists, visit That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Best Books Read in 2019

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings

Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green

The King’s Mercy by Lori Benton

 

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

The Plum Blooms in Winter by Linda Thompson

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

The Secrets of Paper And Ink by Lindsay Harrel

 

A Silver Willow by The Shore by Kelli Stuart

The Story Peddler by Lindsay Franklin

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green

 

 

 

2019 Christy Award Finalists

19 Sep

Here are the finalists for the 2019 Christy Awards. A top honor in Christian fiction, you can be sure of an excellent read when choosing one of these books. Congrats to all the talented authors!

 

Contemporary Romance

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano

Falling for You by Becky Wade

Wait for Me by Susan May Warren

 

First Novel

The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings

Engraved on The Heart by Tara Johnson

The Plum Blooms in Winter by Linda Thompson

 

General Fiction

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

Send Down The Rain by Charles Martin

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

 

 

Historical

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano

Of Fire And Lions by Mesu Andrews

The Seamstress by Allison Pitman

Shelter of The Most High by Connilyn Cossette

 

Historical Romance

A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander

 

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

Called to Protect by Lynette Eason

Every Wicked Man by Steven James

Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

 

 

Short Form

A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock

Falling for Grace by Janet Ferguson

Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter

 

Visionary

Mark of The Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Shivering World by Kathy Tyers

The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick W. Carr

 

Young Adult

The Crescent Stone by Matt Mikalatos

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson

 

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Out of The Comfort Zone

3 Sep

This week on Top 10 Tuesday we are talking books that took us out of our comfort zone. I generally think of new genres when hearing out of comfort zone reads, but today I am going to highlight books with difficult subject matter. The books on my list are beautifully written and touched my heart, but were definitely not light and easy reads. They focus on the difficulties of life — the things we hope never to experience. Why read books like this? To challenge, to inform, to engage our sympathies (and empathy), to make us uncomfortable. But lest you think these selections are going to leave you feeling worse than when you started them, please know they are filled with grace and redemption. If you haven’t read some on my list, I hope you find one that will speak to your heart.

For more out of comfort zone reading, head over to That Artsy Reader Girl.

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

When Annie Jacobson’s brother Mike enlists as a medic in the Army in 1967, he hands her a piece of paper with the address of their long-estranged father. If anything should happen to him in Vietnam, Mike says, Annie must let their father know.

In Mike’s absence, their father returns to face tragedy at home, adding an extra measure of complication to an already tense time. As they work toward healing and pray fervently for Mike’s safety overseas, letter by letter the Jacobsons must find a way to pull together as a family, regardless of past hurts. In the tumult of this time, Annie and her family grapple with the tension of holding both hope and grief in the same hand, even as they learn to turn to the One who binds the wounds of the brokenhearted.

Author Susie Finkbeiner invites you into the Jacobson family’s home and hearts during a time in which the chaos of the outside world touched their small community in ways they never imagined.

Before I Saw You by Amy K. Sorrells

Folks are dying fast as the ash trees in the southern Indiana town ravaged by the heroin epidemic, where Jaycee Givens lives with nothing more than a thread of hope and a quirky neighbor, Sudie, who rescues injured wildlife. After a tragedy leaves her mother in prison, Jaycee is carrying grief and an unplanned pregnancy she conceals because she trusts no one, including the kind and handsome Gabe, who is new to town and to the local diner where she works.

Dividing her time between the diner and Sudie’s place, Jaycee nurses her broken heart among a collection of unlikely friends who are the closest thing to family that she has. Eventually, she realizes she can’t hide her pregnancy any longer―not even from the baby’s abusive father, who is furious when he finds out. The choices she must make for the safety of her unborn child threaten to derail any chance she ever had for hope and redemption. Ultimately, Jaycee must decide whether the truest form of love means hanging on or letting go.

How Sweet The Sound by Amy K. Sorrells

Wealth and etiquette can hide a lot of things in the South, as the esteemed Harlan family of sleepy Bay Spring, Alabama, knows. But behind the gentle facade of white pillared porches and acres of cultivated pecan orchards, family secrets smolder.

Young Anniston Harlan cares little for high society and the rigid rules and expectations of her grandmother, Princella. She finds solace working the orchards alongside her father and grandfather, and relief in the cool waters of Mobile Bay.

Anniston’s aunt, Comfort Harlan, has never quite lived up to the family name, or so her mother Princella’s ever-apparent scowl implies. When she gleefully accepts the proposal of her longtime boyfriend, Solly, a flood tide of tragedy ensues that strips Comfort of her innocence and unleashes generations of family secrets, changing the Harlan family forever.

While Comfort struggles to recover, Anniston discovers an unlikely new friend from the seedy part of town who helps her try to make sense of the chaos. Together, they and the whole town of Bay Spring discover how true love is a risk, but one worth taking.

Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar

Before Christ called her daughter . . .

Before she stole healing by touching the hem of his garment . . .

Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.

No physician can cure her. No end is in sight. Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body . . . and soul?

Lead Me Home By Amy K. Sorrells

Amid open fields and empty pews, small towns can crush big dreams.

Abandoned by his no-good father and forced to grow up too soon, Noble Burden has set his dreams aside to run the family farm. Meanwhile, James Horton, the pastor of the local church, questions his own calling as he prepares to close the doors for good.

As a severe storm rolls through, threatening their community and very livelihood, both men fear losing what they care about most . . . and reconsider where they truly belong.

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

For fans of bestselling World War II fiction like Sarah’s Key and The Nightingale comes an illuminating tale of courage, sacrifice, and survival, about two couples whose lives are ravaged by Hitler’s mad war yet eventually redeemed through the fate of one little girl.

Seemingly overnight, the German blitzkrieg of Warsaw in 1939 turns its streets to a war zone and shatters the life of each citizen — Polish, Jewish, or otherwise. Sophie Kumiega, a British bride working in the city’s library, awaits news of her husband, Janek, recently deployed with the Polish Air Force. Though Sophie is determined that she and the baby in her womb will stay safe, the days ahead will draw her into the plight of those around her, compelling her to help, whatever the danger.

Rosa and Itzhak Dunovich never imagined they would welcome their longed-for first child in the Jewish ghetto, or that they would let anything tear their family apart. But as daily atrocities intensify, Rosa soon faces a terrifying reality: to save their daughter’s life, she must send her into hiding. Her only hope of finding her after the war — if any of them survive — is a medallion she cuts in half and places around her neck.

Inspired by true events of Poland’s darkest days and brightest heroes, The Medallion paints a stunning portrait of war and its aftermath, daring us to believe that when all seems lost, God can make a way forward.

My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay

Right up until the day they burned the church, I thought I understood things. You know… God, people, myself. Life. Then, suddenly, I understood nothing except that we had to run. And that we might never make it home.

When eighteen-year-old Cori signed up for a mission trip to Indonesia she was mostly thinking about escaping her complicated love life, making new friends, and having fun on the beach.

She never expected a civil war to flare up on the nearby island of Ambon.

She never expected violence to find them.

And she never expected that seven teenagers would be forced to flee into the hazardous refuge of the mountains on their own.

Now, haunted by blood and fire, Cori and her teammates must rely on each other to survive.

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

Challenging perceptions of discrimination and prejudice, this emotionally resonant drama for readers of Lisa Wingate and Jodi Picoult explores three different women navigating challenges in a changing school district — and in their lives.

When an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors, the lives of three very different women converge: Camille Gray — the wife of an executive, mother of three, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fundraiser — faced with a shocking discovery that threatens to tear her picture-perfect world apart at the seams. Jen Covington, the career nurse whose long, painful journey to motherhood finally resulted in adoption but she is struggling with a happily-ever-after so much harder than she anticipated. Twenty-two-year-old Anaya Jones–the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge’s top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she’s stepped into. Tensions rise within and without, culminating in an unforeseen event that impacts them all. This story explores the implicit biases impacting American society, and asks the ultimate question: What does it mean to be human? Why are we so quick to put labels on each other and categorize people as “this” or “that”, when such complexity exists in each person?

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request–that she look up a relative she didn’t know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos — seems like it isn’t worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.

At her great-aunt’s 150-year-old farmhouse north of Detroit, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.

Debut novelist Erin Bartels takes readers on an emotional journey through time — from the volatile streets of 1960s Detroit to the Michigan’s Underground Railroad during the Civil War — to uncover the past, confront the seeds of hatred, and discover where love goes to hide.

When The Heart Sings by Liz Tolsma

Natia has a secret, and she’s hiding him right beneath her captor’s nose . . .

The Nazis have forced Natia and Teodor from their Polish farm to a labor camp. When the couple is separated, Natia is chosen to be the housekeeper for the camp’s overseer, and Teodor is sent to work in the factory. Despite the strict camp rules — and the consequences for disobeying them — Natia finds a way to communicate with Teodor by sending messages through song as she passes Teodor’s dormitory.

The stakes get higher when Natia finds a Jewish orphan on the overseer’s doorstep. She is determined to protect the boy and raise him as the child she and her husband were unable to bear — but if her German captors discover how much she’s hiding, both she and Teodor may pay the ultimate price.

Top 10 Tuesday — Best Book Friends

13 Aug

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads my TTT posts, but I decided to do things a little differently than the suggested prompt. This week, bloggers are asked to list characters that would make for best friends in real life. Sounds like a great topic, I just wouldn’t couldn’t come up with characters to list. 😉 So instead, I asked my real life book-loving friends for their favorite genres and topics and came up with recommendations for them. This exercise really was so much fun, but also challenging. All of the women are part of my book club and are avid readers, so I looked hard for books that I didn’t think they had read yet. I thought I knew what they liked, and for the most part I did. But there were a few pleasant surprises. You will find that we are an eclectic bunch, reading across genres. I hope you will also find a book to love.

For more BFF Fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Reading Recommendations for My Book-Loving Friends

Beth

Beth and I have a lot in common. We definitely clicked the first time we met. I finally persuaded her to join our book club, and I think she likes it. 😉 She inadvertently read ahead on our selection list, but loved the mistake! She is now a fan of Janice Cantore.  Here are a couple of books in the same vein.

Always Watching by Lynette Eason 

The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have more than just skill and prowess in common–they’re also all women. When it becomes clear that popular psychiatrist and radio personality Wade Savage has a stalker, his father secretly hires Elite Guardians in order to protect his son.

But when Wade’s bodyguard is attacked and nearly killed, agency owner Olivia Edwards must step in and fill the gap. Olivia’s skills are about to be tested to the limit as Wade’s stalker moves from leaving innocent gifts at his door to threatening those closest to him. Olivia has the feeling that she’s next on the list. And to complicate things even further, she realizes that her heart may be in as much danger as her client.

Bestselling author and fan favorite Lynette Eason drops readers right into the action in this fast-paced new series with a unique twist. Readers will love these strong female characters who put it all on the line to save lives.

The Real Enemy by Kathy Herman 

Brill Jessup would rather work than deal with the bitterness she feels about her husband Kurt’s infidelity. They’ve made a fresh start with Brill taking a job as the new police chief in a small East Tennessee town. Kurt is genuinely contrite and making every effort to show his commitment to Brill. Meanwhile Emily, their nine-year-old, is being the perfect little girl, as if she can make everything okay again. So why can’t Brill get over this anger? Work presents the perfect distraction as rumors and superstition are running rampant in the wake of the disappearances of seven people in seven days. As fear rises in the community, Brill works desperately to solve the mystery . . . until it threatens her family and she is forced to confront the real enemy.

Carrie

Carrie may be 20 years younger than me, but we have a real connection that goes beyond our love of books. A super-teacher, Carrie is an enthusiastic advocate for reading in and out of the classroom. She likes suspense with twists, turns, and a touch of romance. She also enjoys historical romance set in the 1800s to the early 1900s. Hope she hasn’t read these yet!

The Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello

When nobody talks, the stones cry out

In the searing heat of a Virginia summer, two men plummet from a roof top to their deaths on the sidewalk below. One of them was a white police officer. The other, a black man with a murky past. Hundreds of people stood on the sidewalk below, yet nobody will say what happened.

The FBI wants a quick verdict — with or without the truth — and sends in rookie agent Raleigh Harmon.

Between the tight-lipped witnesses and the secrets hidden among the city’s most powerful families, Raleigh’s forced to use her forensic geology skills to uncover the truth.  But can she solve this case before the city’s simmering rage burns out of control?

With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

In the shadow of the nation’s capital, Kate Livingston’s respectable life as a government worker is disrupted by an encounter with the insufferable Trevor McDonough, the one man she’d hoped never to see again. A Harvard-trained physician, Trevor never showed the tiniest flicker of interest in Kate, and business is the only reason he has sought her out now.

Despite her misgivings, Kate agrees to Trevor’s risky proposal to join him in his work to find a cure for tuberculosis. As Kate begins to unlock the mysteries of Trevor’s past, his hidden depths fascinate her. However, a shadowy enemy lies in wait and Trevor’s closely guarded secrets are darker than she ever suspected.

As revelations from the past threaten to destroy their careers, their dreams, and even their lives, Trevor and Kate find themselves in a painfully impossible situation. With everything to lose, they must find the strength to trust that hope and love can prevail over all.

Dionne

Two elementary-aged kids and a preschooler keep busy mom Dionne hopping! She finds time to read between her kids’ activities and church responsibilities (she’s a talented accompaniest on the flute). Her favorite genres are historical fiction set during WWII and chick lit with a bit of romance thrown in. I think the following are perfect for her.

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

For fans of bestselling World War II fiction like Sarah’s Key and The Nightingale comes an illuminating tale of courage, sacrifice, and survival, about two couples whose lives are ravaged by Hitler’s mad war yet eventually redeemed through the fate of one little girl.

Seemingly overnight, the German blitzkrieg of Warsaw in 1939 turns its streets to a war zone and shatters the life of each citizen — Polish, Jewish, or otherwise. Sophie Kumiega, a British bride working in the city’s library, awaits news of her husband, Janek, recently deployed with the Polish Air Force. Though Sophie is determined that she and the baby in her womb will stay safe, the days ahead will draw her into the plight of those around her, compelling her to help, whatever the danger.

Rosa and Itzhak Dunovich never imagined they would welcome their longed-for first child in the Jewish ghetto, or that they would let anything tear their family apart. But as daily atrocities intensify, Rosa soon faces a terrifying reality: to save their daughter’s life, she must send her into hiding. Her only hope of finding her after the war — if any of them survive — is a medallion she cuts in half and places around her neck.

Inspired by true events of Poland’s darkest days and brightest heroes, The Medallion paints a stunning portrait of war and its aftermath, daring us to believe that when all seems lost, God can make a way forward.

The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide and living with her parents in her small Minnesota hometown, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal — complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb — a friend from her years in and out of the hospital — reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

Jane

Jane has a real servant’s heart. She takes care of her grandkids, regularly checks-in on her mother and in-laws, and is a big behind the scenes help at our church. In her spare time, she loves thrillers, especially if they are unpredictable. She also favors books with a Mitford-esque feel. Both Redwood and Baumbich should fit the bill.

Proof by Jordyn Redwood

Dr. Lilly Reeves is a young, accomplished ER physician with her whole life ahead of her. But that life instantly changes when she becomes the fifth victim of a serial rapist. Believing it’s the only way to recover her reputation and secure peace for herself, Lilly sets out to find — and punish — her assailant. Sporting a mysterious tattoo and unusually colored eyes, the rapist should be easy to identify. He even leaves what police would consider solid evidence. But when Lilly believes she has found him, DNA testing clears him as a suspect. How can she prove he is guilty, if science says he is not?

Dearest Dorothy, Are We There Yet? by Charlene Ann Baumbich

For the legions of readers who enjoy books that celebrate life’s simple pleasures, eighty-seven-year-old Dorothy Jean Wetstra and her beloved farming town of Partonville, Illinois, will become instant favorites. In this hilarious, touching series, Charlene Ann Baumbich introduces readers to Dearest Dorothy, who tools around town in a 1976 Lincoln Continental nicknamed “The Tank,” plays bunco regularly with her pals, and grabs a stool at Harry’s counter often enough to stay on top of the latest-breaking news—which she is often creating. In the series debut, Dearest Dorothy, Are We There Yet?, Dorothy faces a decision that may change her town forever, and her gift for shaking things up comes in handy. In the second book, Dearest Dorothy, Slow Down, You’re Wearing Us Out!, the town’s irresistible cast of characters is back in full swing as they confront some of the many surprises life sends their way. So pull up a chair and get ready for fireworks, laughter, and we’ll-get-through-it-all-with-faith friendships.

Janice

Janice is a great-grandmother, but her reading tastes are definitely not your grannie’s fiction! She likes thrillers and doesn’t shy away from disturbing scenes or topics. I recommend 2 from Steven James for her. 

The Rook by Steven James (we read The Pawn for book club years ago)

An arsonist has struck a top-secret research facility at a key US naval base. But it’s not just a random terrorist attack. These people were after something specific. When Special Agent Patrick Bowers is called in to investigate, he is drawn into a deadly web of intrigue and deception. With his own criminology research being turned against him and one of the world’s most deadly devices missing, Bowers is caught up in a race against time to stop an international assassin before it’s too late.

Full of fast-paced action and mind-bending plot twists, The Rook is an adrenaline-laced page-turner that will keep readers up all night. Book 2 in the Bowers Files, this riveting look into the criminal mind is the perfect follow-up to James’s well-reviewed The Pawn.

Placebo by Steven James

One man must uncover the truth — even when others will stop at nothing to keep it buried. While covertly investigating a controversial neurological research program, exposé filmmaker Jevin Banks is drawn into a far-reaching conspiracy involving one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms. Jevin is seeking not only answers about the questionable mind-to-mind communication program but also answers to his own family tragedy.

Rooted in groundbreaking science and inspired by actual medical research, Placebo explores the far reaches of science, consciousness, and faith. This taut, intelligent, and emotionally gripping new thriller from master storyteller Steven James will keep you listening late into the night.

Laurie

I have known Laurie for over 20 years. She was one of the first members of my book club, and we have shared tears and laughs along the way. A dealer in antiques and vintage articles, it should come as no surprise that she likes mystery/suspense featuring old houses that hold secrets.

Chateau of Echoes by Siri Mitchell

Suddenly widowed in a foreign country, Frederique Famer did what any girl would do: She bought a castle. She just never imagined that its mysterious fifteenth-century owner would hold the keys to her second chance at life.

She opens a bed-and-breakfast, hires a capricious graduate student, and gets talked into hosting a handsome American for an extended stay. Little does she know, she’s unwittingly concocted a recipe for intrigue, romance, and possibly disaster.

A Sound Among The Trees by Susan Meissner

A house shrouded in time.
A line of women with a heritage of loss.

As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak —  and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.

Martha

Oh the places we’ve been and (hopefully) the places we’ll go! Martha, her husband Jeff, and my husband and I have been traveling buddies for the last 3 years. We have had so much fun, especially with Martha’s globe-trotting expertise along. She loves a good story with smart characters, regardless of genre. Here are two for her.

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner 

When Annie Jacobson’s brother Mike enlists as a medic in the Army in 1967, he hands her a piece of paper with the address of their long-estranged father. If anything should happen to him in Vietnam, Mike says, Annie must let their father know.

In Mike’s absence, their father returns to face tragedy at home, adding an extra measure of complication to an already tense time. As they work toward healing and pray fervently for Mike’s safety overseas, letter by letter the Jacobsons must find a way to pull together as a family, regardless of past hurts. In the tumult of this time, Annie and her family grapple with the tension of holding both hope and grief in the same hand, even as they learn to turn to the One who binds the wounds of the brokenhearted.

Author Susie Finkbeiner invites you into the Jacobson family’s home and hearts during a time in which the chaos of the outside world touched their small community in ways they never imagined.

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels 

When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request–that she look up a relative she didn’t know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos — seems like it isn’t worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.

At her great-aunt’s 150-year-old farmhouse north of Detroit, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.

Debut novelist Erin Bartels takes readers on an emotional journey through time–from the volatile streets of 1960s Detroit to the Michigan’s Underground Railroad during the Civil War–to uncover the past, confront the seeds of hatred, and discover where love goes to hide.

Pat

Pat is retired from her days of being an elementary school principal, but she has not retired from education. Now she’s teaching teachers to be all they can be. Pat reads across genres, but her favorite is contemporary fiction that tackles real-life issues a la Jody Picoult and Kristin Hannah. Here are two for her. 

Before I Saw You by Amy K. Sorrells

Folks are dying fast as the ash trees in the southern Indiana town ravaged by the heroin epidemic, where Jaycee Givens lives with nothing more than a thread of hope and a quirky neighbor, Sudie, who rescues injured wildlife. After a tragedy leaves her mother in prison, Jaycee is carrying grief and an unplanned pregnancy she conceals because she trusts no one, including the kind and handsome Gabe, who is new to town and to the local diner where she works.

Dividing her time between the diner and Sudie’s place, Jaycee nurses her broken heart among a collection of unlikely friends who are the closest thing to family that she has. Eventually, she realizes she can’t hide her pregnancy any longer ― not even from the baby’s abusive father, who is furious when he finds out. The choices she must make for the safety of her unborn child threaten to derail any chance she ever had for hope and redemption. Ultimately, Jaycee must decide whether the truest form of love means hanging on or letting go.

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

Sometimes we’re allowed to glimpse the beauty within the brokenness . . .

Savannah Barrington has always found solace at her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, and it’s the place that she runs to when her husband of over twenty years leaves her. Though her world is shaken, and the future uncertain, she finds hope through an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, and a man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove to Savannah that she is worthy of love.

But soon Savannah is given a challenge she can’t run away from: Forgiving the unforgivable. Amidst the ancient gardens and musty bookstores of the small town she’s sought refuge in, she must reconcile with the grief that haunts her, the God pursuing her, and the wounds of the past that might be healed after all.

Where Hope Begins is the story of grace in the midst of brokenness, pointing us to the miracles that await when we look beyond our own expectations.

Tina

Tina is another long-time friend — 20+ years. She is retired now, but she was once in the Air Force and part of an all-female flight crew! She and her husband, Vic, are also gun safety instructors. She is our go-to resource on accuracy in our suspense reading. Tina loves romantic suspense novels plus the dual-time novels by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould. Here are two recommendations for her. 

The Killing Tide by Dani Pettrey

When one Coast Guard officer is found dead and another goes missing, Coast Guard Investigative Service special agent Finn Walker faces his most dangerous crime yet. His only clues are what little evidence remains aboard the dead officer’s boat, and the direction the clues point to will test Finn and the Guard to their limits.

When investigative reporter — and Finn’s boss’s sister — Gabby Rowley arrives, her unrelenting questions complicate an already volatile situation. Now that she’s back, the tug on Finn’s heart is strong, but with the risks she’s taking for her next big story, he fears she might not live through it.

Thrown together by the heinous crime, Finn and Gabby can’t ignore the sparks or judgments flying between them. But will they be able to see past their preconceptions long enough to track down an elusive killer, or will they become his next mark?

Hidden Among The Stars by Melanie Dobson 

From the award-winning author of Catching the Wind, which Publishers Weekly called “unforgettable” and a “must-read,” comes another gripping time-slip novel about hidden treasure, a castle, and ordinary people who resisted evil in their own extraordinary way.

The year is 1938, and as Hitler’s troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family’s summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker’s daughter, who is eager to help the man she’s loved her entire life. But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika’s feelings and puts their entire plan―even their very lives―in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.

 

What books would you recommend for your book-loving friends?