Tag Archives: general fiction

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 โ€œThis Elegant Ruinโ€ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

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.)

Top 10 Tuesday — New-To-Me Authors in 2022

24 Jan

Happy Tuesday! Today bloggers are sharing new-to-them authors from 2022. I love discovering new authors. Often their books become must-reads. A few of the books may be debuts, but by and large, the authors on my list have other books to their credit. More great books to read! ๐Ÿ˜‰

For more new authors, visit That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top New-To-Me Authors in 2022

Among The Innocent by Mary Alford

The Blackout Book Club by Amy Green

Driving Force by Kate Angelo

Firefly Diaries by C. C. Warrens

Honor’s Refuge by Hallee Bridgeman

In Search of A Prince by Toni Shiloh

A Light on A Hill by Connilyn Cossette

The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar

Operation Joktan by Amir Tsarfati and Steve Yohn

Shadows in The Mind’s Eye by Janyre Tromp

When The Day Comes by Gabrielle Meyer

Where The Blue Sky Begins by Katie Powner

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 — The Best of 2022

3 Jan

Today’s post is a look back at the best books I read in 2022. I read a lot of great books, so this post was hard to write. How do you distill down to just 10 books out of 80+? I gave it a go, using my rating system to search for those that could be included on my list. The genres vary, but all are outstanding. I hope you find one to love too.

For more bloggers’ lists, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Best Books Read in 2022

All That It Takes by Nicole Deese

The Blackout Book Club by Amy Lynn Green

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

The Lady’s Mine by Francine Rivers

The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar

The Premonition at Withers Farm by Jaime Jo Wright

Then Sings My Soul by Amy K. Sorrells

When The Day Comes by Gabrielle Meyer

When We Were Young And Brave by Hazel Gaynor

Best Book of The Year

Where The Blue Sky Begins by Katie Powner

Top 10 Tuesday — Most Recent Additions To The NetGalley Shelf

27 Dec

Despite my TTT post last week listing all of the books I would love to have Santa pre-order, I have yet to receive them. My immediate family hasn’t had Christmas together yet, but I don’t anticipate any book gifts in my future. Most of them think I have enough books already. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I have been diligently adding to my NetGalley shelf and those are the books I am spotlighting today. I have quite the range of great books. Hope you find one to love!

For more book shelf additions, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Ten Most Recent Additions to My NetGalley Shelf

Body of Evidence by Irene Hannon

Broker of Lies by Steven James

The Cairo Curse by Pepper Basham

Daughter of Eden by Jill Eileen Smith

The Metropolitan Affair by Jocelyn Green

A Novel Proposal by Denise Hunter

The Sound of Light by Sarah Sundin

The Weight of Air by Kimberly Duffy

What Happens Next by Christina Suzann Nelson

The Year of Jubilee by Cindy Morgan

Top 10 Tuesday — Dear Santa, Load Me Up With Pre-Orders

20 Dec

This week bloggers are talking about the books on their Christmas Wishlists. This year I would love for Santa to load me up with pre-orders. Sort of like a fruit of the month club, but way better! A brand new book arriving in my mailbox or on my Kindle over the next few months would warm my bookish heart! My list includes my favorite authors across genres. I hope there’s one you’d like to include in your letter to Santa.

For more bloggers’ Christmas hopes and dream, visit That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top 10 Pre-Orders I Would Love From Santa

The All-American by Susie Finkbeiner

Counter Attack by Patricia Bradley

He Should Have Told The Bees by Amanda Cox

In This Moment by Gabrielle Meyer

The Lies We Believe by Lisa Harris

Under Fire by Lynn H. Blackburn

The Vanishing at Castle Moreau by Jaime Jo Wright

The Weight of Air by Kimberly Duffy

Windswept Way by Irene Hannon

The Words We Lost by Nicole Deese

Top 10 Tuesday — Thankful Freebie

22 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving week! That is how I am framing it, because my family began the festivities last Saturday with an extended family lunch. This week I will have all my kiddos and their families (including my beautiful one and only grandchild) at our home in the beautiful north Georgia mountains. We certainly do have a lot to be thankful for. In the past I have posted about books featuring families, books that helped make me the reader I am today, and all kinds of bookish goodies I am thankful for. Today’s TTT features one book from each month so far this year that I am thankful I had the opportunity to read. Spanning a variety of genres, the books featured well-developed characters, just the right setting for my mood ๐Ÿ˜‰ , action, and well-told, engaging stories. I hope you find a book to love!

For more thankful bloggers, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Books I Am Thankful For

January — A Light on The Hill by Connilyn Cossette

I used this novel as a part of my Faith And Fiction Bible study of sanctuary cities. What a wonderful resource to draw from.

February — Bride of A Distant Isle by Sandra Byrd

An “oldie” but a goodie, I loved going back to Victorian England in this novel.

March — In Search of A Prince by Toni Shiloh

Toni’s unique setting and fairytale nod to Princess Diaries was a delight.

April — All That It Takes by Nicole Deese

Women’s fiction/romance that touched my heart.

May — The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar

English translation of Escobar’s moving novel set in WWII-era France.

June — Fatal Code by Natalie Walters

An unputdownable romantic suspense is just what I needed to kickstart my summer reading.

July — Sea Glass Cottage by Irene Hannon

What is a summer without a visit to Hope Harbor?!

August — Bookshop by The Sea by Denise Hunter

Another winner of a summer read. A small beach town and a bookshop, what’s not to love?

September — Every Word Unsaid by Kimberly Duffy

An exotic location, an independent and exasperating heroine, timely message.

October — The Lady’s Mine by Francine Rivers

A feel good read that sparked a lot of great conversation with my book club.

November — Where The Blue Sky Begins by Katie Powner

The best book I have read all year!

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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

Book Review: Where The Blue Sky Begins

10 Nov

Where The Blue Sky Begins is the first book I’ve read by Katie Powner, but it will not be the last! Probably the best book I have read all year, this general fiction novel touched my heart in so many ways. And I laughed and cried and laughed again. It is wonderful. Read. It!

Sometimes the hardest road of all is the road home.

When confident and handsome Eric Larson is sent to a rural Montana town to work in the local branch of his uncle’s financial company, he’s determined to exceed everyone’s expectations, earn a promotion, and be back in Seattle by the end of summer. Yet nothing could prepare him for the lessons this small town has in store.

At forty-six years old, eccentric and outspoken Eunice Parker has come to accept her terminal illness and has given herself one final goal: seek forgiveness from everyone on her bucket list before her time runs out. But it will take more courage than she can muster on her own.

After an accident pushes Eric and Eunice together, the unlikely pair is forced to spend more time with each other than either would like, which challenges their deepest prejudices and beliefs. As summer draws to a close, neither Eric nor Eunice is where they thought they would be, but they both wrestle with the same important question:ย What matters most when the end is near?

Katie Powner is an award-winning author who lives in Montana, where cows still outnumber people. She writes contemporary fiction about redemption, relationships, and finding the dirt road home. Katie is a mom to the third power (biological, adoptive, and foster) who believes every child deserves a loving family. Visit http://www.katiepowner.com.

My Impressions:

Oh. My. Goodness! There are so many words to express just how good Where The Blue Sky Begins by Katie Powner is. But of course, this is one review where I will struggle to get them all out. Here are a few — beautifully written and plotted, quirky characters you will love, a setting that feels like home, and a message that resonated deep in my heart. This general fiction offering is probably the best book I have read all year!

Eric Larson is sent by his uncle to a small Montana town to work in his company’s local financial services business. Eric, bless his heart, believes he has it all to make the office successful and to win his position on the 10th floor of the corporate headquarters. Eunice ( pronounced You-Niece and that’s important) is the next door neighbor who blackmails him into driving her to make peace with those she believes she has wronged. Eric believes he is doing the eccentric woman a favor, but Eunice is who helps shape him into the man he becomes by the book’s end. Along the way there’s a crazy chicken, some wise home health nurses, an octogenarian receptionist, some clients in need of financial help, and a thrift store owner that impart important lessons to both Eric and Eunice. This book made me laugh and laugh and then cry and then laugh again. Powner creates a wonderful balance between life’s joys, absurdities, and grief. It is wise and deeply moving. And I regretted turning the last page.

Where The Blue Sky Begins will be on my best of 2022 list, and will be on yours as well as soon as you read it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ What are you waiting for?

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Bethany House Publishers for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Spotlight On The 2022 Christy Awards!

3 Nov

The Christy Award Finalists 2022 JustRead Blog Blitz

Welcome to the Blog Blitz for The Christy Award Finalists organized by ECPA and hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours! We extend our sincere and enthusiastic congratulations to The Christy Award 2022 Finalists!

The Christy Award Finalists 2022

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

All That Really Matters Bookshop by the Sea Husband Auditions

All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)
Bookshop by the Sea by Denise Hunter (Thomas Nelson Publishers)
Husband Auditions by Angela Ruth Strong (Kregel Publications)

FIRST NOVEL

All That Is Secret Recorder Sugar Birds

All That Is Secret by Patricia Raybon (Tyndale House Publishers)
Recorder by Cathy McCrumb (Enclave Publishing, a division of Oasis Family Media)
Sugar Birds by Cheryl Grey Bostrom (She Writes Press)

GENERAL FICTION

The Letter Keeper The Secret Keepers Old Depot Grocery Under the Magnolias

The Letter Keeper by Charles Martin (Thomas Nelson Publishers)
The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox (Revell/ Baker Publishing Group)
Under the Magnolias by T. I. Lowe (Tyndale House Publishers)

HISTORICAL

Between The Wild Branches Drawn By The Current The Widows Of Champagne Yours Is The Night

Between the Wild Branches by Connilyn Cossette (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)
Drawn by The Current by Jocelyn Green (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)
The Widows of Champagne by Renee Ryan (Love Inspired)
Yours is the Night by Amanda Dykes (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

As Dawn Breaks Hope Between The Pages Shadows Of Swanford Abbey Until Leaves Fall in Paris

As Dawn Breaks by Kate Breslin (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)
Hope Between the Pages by Pepper Basham (Barbour Publishing)
Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)
Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin (Revell/ Baker Publishing Group)

MYSTERY/SUSPENSE/THRILLER

Aftermath On The Cliffs Of Foxglove Manor The Barrister And Letter Marque

Aftermath by Terri Blackstock (Thomas Nelson Publishers)
The Barrister and the Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)
On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor by Jaime Jo Wright (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)

SHORT FORM

A Texas Christmas Carol False Pretense Mr Nicholas

A Texas Christmas Carol (in Under the Texas Mistletoe) by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)
Mr. Nicholas: A Magical Christmas Tale by Christopher de Vinck (Paraclete Press)
False Pretense by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press)

SPECULATIVE

A Time To Seek Dark Intercept Recorder Windward Shore

A Time to Seek by Tracy Higley (Stonewater Books LLC)
Dark Intercept by Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson (Tyndale House Publishers)
Recorder by Cathy McCrumb (Enclave Publishing, a division of Oasis Family Media)
Windward Shore by Sharon Hinck (Enclave Publishing, a division of Oasis Family Media)

YOUNG ADULT

A Gentle Tyranny Realms of Light Shadow

A Gentle Tyranny by Jess Corban (Wander, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers)
Realms of Light by Sandra Fernandez Rhoads (Enclave Publishing, a division of Oasis Family Media)
Shadow by Kara Swanson (Enclave Publishing, a division of Oasis Family Media)


TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive print copies of The Christy Award finalist titles from one category of their choice!

The Christy Award 2021 Finalists JustRead Giveaway

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight November 3, 2022 and lasts through 11:59 PM EST on November 10, 2022. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE


REGISTER FOR THE CHRISTY AWARD 2022 EVENTS

Art of Writing on November 17, 12:30-5 pm at Lipscomb University in Nashville $99
A conference for writers, storytellers, and publishing curators.

The Christy Award Gala on November 17, 7-9 pm at Lipscomb University in Nashville $89
Celebrate this year’s finalists and winners with authors, editors, publishers, and readers!

Bundle the Art of Writing Conference & The Christy Award Gala $139

REGISTER

The Christy Awardยฎ is a program of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) and is the foremost award honoring and promoting excellence in Christian fiction since 1999. For more information about ECPA, visit ECPA.org. For more information about the Christy Awards and Art of Writing conferences, visit ChristyAwards.com or email TheChristyAward@ecpa.org


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours