Tag Archives: Susie Finkbeiner

Top 10 Tuesday — All The Feels

15 Feb

Have you ever read a book that you absolutely loved, but had a difficult time putting all the feelings into words. Yeah, me too. This week I am featuring books that had everything — knock-out plotting, relatable characters, truths galore, made me think, kept me pondering. These are the ones I struggled reviewing. I’ve given you an even dozen — I hope you find a new favorite book!

For more TTT fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Books With All The Feels

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.

The Church Ladies by Lisa Samson

Competition for church members in Mount Oak has reached a furious peak. When tragedy strikes one of their hometown sons, the church women are drawn together through compassion. The Church Ladies is a contemporary tale illustrating how women can have a major impact on the church. Through friendships that reach beneath surface level — and trials more severe than simple — they unite with common purpose: to pray, share, and comfort. Slowly, the community of believers learns that the church grows when it is rooted in love. Characters you’ll laugh and cry with, in situations every woman will instantly relate to, light up this page-turner about a miracle that could happen.

The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffee

It has been twenty years since Philip McBride’s body was found along the riverbank in the dark woods known as Happy Hollow. His death was ruled a suicide. But three people have carried the truth ever since—Philip didn’t kill himself that day. He was murdered.

Each of the three have wilted in the shadow of their sins. Jake Barnett is Mattingly’s sheriff, where he spends his days polishing the fragile shell of the man he pretends to be. His wife, Kate, has convinced herself the good she does for the poor will someday wash the blood from her hands. And high in the mountains, Taylor Hathcock lives in seclusion and fear, fueled by madness and hatred.

Yet what cannot be laid to rest is bound to rise again. Philip McBride has haunted Jake’s dreams for weeks, warning that he is coming back for them all. When Taylor finds mysterious footprints leading from the Hollow, he believes his redemption has come. His actions will plunge the quiet town of Mattingly into darkness. These three will be drawn together for a final confrontation between life and death . . . between truth and lies.

Hidden Among The Stars by Melanie Dobson

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.

Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambithat connects her to Annika’s story . . . and maybe to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she’s built for a chance at answers, adventure, and maybe even new love.

The Last Year of The War by Susan Meissner

In 1943, Elise Sontag is a typical American teenager from Iowa — aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.
 
The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.
 
But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.
 
The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question.

Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot

England, 1940. Clare Childs knew life would change when she unexpectedly inherited the Maggie Bright―a noble fifty-two-foot yacht. In fact, she’s counting on it. But the boat harbors secrets. When a stranger arrives, searching for documents hidden onboard, Clare is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation that could shed light on Hitler’s darkest schemes and prompt America to action.

Across the Channel, Hitler’s Blitzkrieg has the entire British army in retreat with little hope for rescue at the shallow beaches of Dunkirk. With time running out, Churchill recruits civilian watercraft to help. Hitler is attacking from land, air, and sea, and any boat that goes might not return. Yet Clare knows Maggie Bright must answer the call―piloted by an American who has refused to join the war effort until now and a detective with a very personal motive for exposing the truth.

The fate of the war hinges on this rescue. While two men join the desperate fight, a nation prays for a miracle.

Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse

There was another South in the 1960s, one far removed from the marches and bombings and turmoil in the streets that were broadcast on the evening news. It was a place of inner turmoil, where ordinary people struggled to right themselves on a social landscape that was dramatically shifting beneath their feet. This is the world of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s stunning debut, Missing Isaac.

It is 1965 when black field hand Isaac Reynolds goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama. The townspeople’s reactions range from concern to indifference, but one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his unlikely friend. White, wealthy, and fatherless, young Pete McLean has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac. In the process, he will discover much more than he bargained for. Before it’s all over, Pete — and the people he loves most — will have to blur the hard lines of race, class, and religion. And what they discover about themselves may change some of them forever.

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

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?

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox

Present Day. After tragedy plunges her into grief and unresolved anger, Sarah Ashby returns to her childhood home determined to finally follow her long-denied dream of running Old Depot Grocery alongside her mother and grandmother. But when she arrives, her mother, Rosemary, announces to her that the store is closing. Sarah and her grandmother, Glory Ann, make a pact to save the store, but Rosemary has worked her entire life to make sure her daughter never follows in her footsteps. She has her reasons–but she’ll certainly never reveal the real one.

1965. Glory Ann confesses to her family that she’s pregnant with her deceased fiancé’s baby. Pressured into a marriage of convenience with a shopkeeper to preserve the family reputation, Glory Ann vows never to love again. But some promises are not as easily kept as she imagined.

This dual-timeline story from Amanda Cox deftly explores the complexity of a mother-daughter dynamic, the way the secrets we keep shape our lives and the lives of others, and the healing power of telling the truth.

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Betty Sweet never expected to be a widow at 40. With so much life still in front of her, she tries to figure out what’s next. She couldn’t have imagined what God had in mind. When her estranged sister is committed to a sanitarium, Betty finds herself taking on the care of a 5-year-old nephew she never knew she had.

In 1960s LaFontaine, Michigan, they make an odd pair. Betty with her pink button nose and bouffant hair. Hugo with his light brown skin and large brown eyes. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. Slowly, they will learn to trust one another as they discover common ground and healing through the magic of storytelling.

Award-winning author Susie Finkbeiner offers fans a novel that invites us to rediscover the power of story to open the doors of our hearts.

The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser

Mary Swan Middleton has always taken for granted the advantages of her family’s wealth. But a tragedy that touches all of Atlanta sends her reeling in grief. When the family maid challenges her to reach out to the less fortunate as a way to ease her own pain, Mary Swan meets Carl — and everything changes. For although Carl is her opposite in nearly every way, he has something her privileged life could not give her. And when she seeks his help to uncover a mystery, she learns far more than she ever could have imagined.

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.

If You Liked . . . The Edge of Belonging

31 Jan

My book club read The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox this month. It is a novel with themes of belonging, worthiness, and identity. We haven’t discussed it yet due to the virus that shall not be named, but tomorrow we will. From conversations with individuals from my group, I think we will have a great conversation.

My recommendations if you too liked Cox’s book include novels that explore discovering missing pieces from the past. I hope you find another great book to love.

Let It Be Me by Becky Wade

The one woman he wants is the one he cannot have.

Former foster kid Sebastian Grant has leveraged his intelligence and hard work to become a pediatric heart surgeon. But not even his career success can erase the void he’s tried so hard to fill. Then he meets high school teacher Leah Montgomery and his fast-spinning world comes to a sudden stop. He falls hard, only to make a devastating discovery–Leah is the woman his best friend set his heart on months before.

Leah’s a math prodigy who’s only ever had one big dream–to earn her PhD. Raising her little brother put that dream on hold. Now that her brother will soon be college bound, she’s not going to let anything stand in her way. Especially romance . . . which is far less dependable than algebra.

When Leah receives surprising results from the DNA test she submitted to a genealogy site, she solicits Sebastian’s help. Together, they comb through hospital records to uncover the secrets of her history. The more powerfully they’re drawn to each other, the more strongly Sebastian must resist, and the more Leah must admit that some things in life–like love–can’t be explained with numbers.

The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family–but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

Out of The Water by Ann Marie Stewart

Irish immigrant Siobhan Kildea’s impetuous flight from a Boston lover in 1919 leads her to a new family in an unfamiliar Montana prison town. After a horrific tragedy impacts her children, her land, and her livelihood, Siobhan makes a heart wrenching decision – with consequences that ripple for decades to come.

Mysteriously linked to Siobhan is Genevieve Marchard, a battlefront nurse in France who returns stateside to find the absence of a certain soldier is her greatest loss; Anna Hanson, a music teacher who tucks herself away in a small Washington town, assuming her secrets are safe; and Erin Ellis, who thinks she and her husband won the lottery when they adopted their daughter, Claire. 

These interconnected stories, spanning three continents and five generations, begin to unravel in 1981 when Claire Ellis sets out to find her biological mother.

With puzzling suspense, unforgettable characters and uncanny insight, Out of the Water is an intoxicating novel of motherhood, secrets, and the profound ramifications our decisions have. Readers will be left wondering: ultimately, is it always better to know the truth?

When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser

Could she ever share the secret of The Awful Year? 

There is one story that novelist Josephine Bourdillon shirked from writing. And now she may never have a chance. Trapped in her memories, she lies in a coma. 

The man who put her there is just as paralyzed. Former soldier Henry Hughes failed to complete the kill. What’s more: he never received full payment – funds that would ensure surgery for his son. 

As detectives investigate disturbing fan letters, a young but not-so-naive Paige Bourdillon turns to her mother’s turbulent past for answers. Could The Awful Year be worse than the one they’re living now? 

Set against the flaming hills of North Carolina and the peaceful shores of the Mediterranean Sea, When I Close My Eyes tells the story of two families struggling with dysfunction and finding that love is stronger than death.

Top 10 Tuesday — Best Books Read in 2021

28 Dec

I read a lot less books in 2021 than I did in previous years. Some of that was by design, and some was because, well, life. But fewer books did not mean less enjoyment — I had a lot of great reading experiences! Limiting my list to 10 is too hard, so I have split the books into categories: historical, time-split, contemporary and suspense. There should be something for everyone!

For more Best of The Best in 2021, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Best Books Read in 2021

Contemporary

Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese

Let It Be Me by Becky Wade

When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser

Historical

The Barrister And The Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson

Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton

The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner

A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy

Under The Bayou Moon by Valerie Fraser Luesse

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

Suspense

Burying Daisy Doe by Ramona Richards

Everywhere to Hide by Siri Mitchell

Lights Out by Natalie Walters

Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill

Never Miss by Melissa Koslin

Port of Origin by Lisa Harris and Lynne Gentry

Time-Slip

The Dress Shop on King Street by Ashley Clark

The London House by Katherine Reay

Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox

Book Review: The Nature of Small Birds

18 Aug

I am never disappointed in a book by Susie Finkbeiner. Her stories are told with such heart. Every book becomes my most favorite, and The Nature of Small Birds is no exception! It is very highly recommended!

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family–but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

Susie Finkbeiner is a story junkie. Always has been and always will be. It seems it’s a congenital condition, one she’s quite fond of.

After decades of reading everything she could get her hands on (except for See the Eel, a book assigned to her while in first grade, a book she declared was unfit for her book-snob eyes), Susie realized that she wanted to write stories of her own. She began with epics about horses and kittens (but never, ever eels). 

It takes years to grow a writer and after decades of work, Susie realized (with much gnashing of teeth and tears) that she was a novelist. In order to learn how to write novels, she read eclectically and adventurously (she may never swim with sharks, but the lady will jump into nearly any story). After reading the work of Lisa Samson, Patti Hill, and Bonnie Grove she realized that there was room for a writer like her in Christian fiction.

Her first novels Paint Chips (2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (2014) have contemporary settings. While she loved those stories and especially the characters, Susie felt the pull toward historical fiction.

When she read Into the Free by Julie Cantrell she knew she wanted to write historical stories with a side of spunk, grit, and vulnerability. Susie is also greatly inspired by the work of Jocelyn Green, Rachel McMillan, and Tracy Groot.

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (2015), Finkbeiner’s bestselling historical set in 1930s Oklahoma, has been compared to the work of John Steinbeck and Harper Lee (which flatters Susie’s socks off). Pearl’s story continues with A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (2017) and A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (2018). 

What does she have planned after that? More stories, of course. She’s a junkie. She couldn’t quit if she wanted to.

My Impressions:

When I open a novel by Susie Finkbeiner I always know that I will be swept away by wonderful storytelling. Her latest book, The Nature of Small Birds, is an example of her finest writing. I was immediately captivated by a small town family who lived and loved large. The book is told in three first person points of view in three different decades. Sound confusing? It isn’t! Each character has a distinct voice, and the time in which each story is set is easily recognizable. What I imagine was very daunting to write, comes together well to show a complete picture of the family. Inspiration for the story was the Babylift program following the fall of Saigon. It is an integral part of each thread, but it’s not all this book is about. Complex themes of belonging, identity, and faithful love are explored in such a natural way that the reading of this book was effortless. I just could not put it down! All the characters are going to stay with me a long time. Real, with flaws fully on display, they are a microcosm of the world at large and our own individual struggles, prejudices, doubts, regrets, and hope. My words are certainly inadequate to describe this book (common for me when a book really touches my heart), so I will leave you with this — Read. This. Book!

Beautifully and skillfully written with unforgettable characters, universal themes, and just a darn good story, The Nature of Small Birds is very highly recommended.

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

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

Giveaway! — The Nature of Small Birds

28 Jul

Not sure how it happened, but I ended up with TWO copies of The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner. The mix-up is now your gain, because I am giving one copy away to one of my readers. Just leave a comment to be entered. (US only please.) The winner will be randomly picked August 18. Good luck!

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family–but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

Susie Finkbeiner is a story junkie. Always has been and always will be. It seems it’s a congenital condition, one she’s quite fond of.

After decades of reading everything she could get her hands on (except for See the Eel, a book assigned to her while in first grade, a book she declared was unfit for her book-snob eyes), Susie realized that she wanted to write stories of her own. She began with epics about horses and kittens (but never, ever eels). 

It takes years to grow a writer and after decades of work, Susie realized (with much gnashing of teeth and tears) that she was a novelist. In order to learn how to write novels, she read eclectically and adventurously (she may never swim with sharks, but the lady will jump into nearly any story). After reading the work of Lisa Samson, Patti Hill, and Bonnie Grove she realized that there was room for a writer like her in Christian fiction.

Her first novels Paint Chips (2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (2014) have contemporary settings. While she loved those stories and especially the characters, Susie felt the pull toward historical fiction.

When she read Into the Free by Julie Cantrell she knew she wanted to write historical stories with a side of spunk, grit, and vulnerability. Susie is also greatly inspired by the work of Jocelyn Green, Rachel McMillan, and Tracy Groot.

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (2015), Finkbeiner’s bestselling historical set in 1930s Oklahoma, has been compared to the work of John Steinbeck and Harper Lee (which flatters Susie’s socks off). Pearl’s story continues with A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (2017) and A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (2018). 

What does she have planned after that? More stories, of course. She’s a junkie. She couldn’t quit if she wanted to.

First Line Friday — The Nature of Small Birds

23 Jul

Happy Friday everyone! I am so excited to share the first line of Susie Finkbeiner‘s newest novel, The Nature of Small Birds. I have never met a Finkbeiner book I haven’t loved and am sure this one will be just as great. Have you read it yet? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Here’s the first line:

No matter how the world has changed over the course of my life, somehow crayons still smell the way they did when I was a kid.

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family–but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

Susie Finkbeiner is a story junkie. Always has been and always will be. It seems it’s a congenital condition, one she’s quite fond of.

After decades of reading everything she could get her hands on (except for See the Eel, a book assigned to her while in first grade, a book she declared was unfit for her book-snob eyes), Susie realized that she wanted to write stories of her own. She began with epics about horses and kittens (but never, ever eels). 

It takes years to grow a writer and after decades of work, Susie realized (with much gnashing of teeth and tears) that she was a novelist. In order to learn how to write novels, she read eclectically and adventurously (she may never swim with sharks, but the lady will jump into nearly any story). After reading the work of Lisa Samson, Patti Hill, and Bonnie Grove she realized that there was room for a writer like her in Christian fiction.

Her first novels Paint Chips (2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (2014) have contemporary settings. While she loved those stories and especially the characters, Susie felt the pull toward historical fiction.

When she read Into the Free by Julie Cantrell she knew she wanted to write historical stories with a side of spunk, grit, and vulnerability. Susie is also greatly inspired by the work of Jocelyn Green, Rachel McMillan, and Tracy Groot.

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (2015), Finkbeiner’s bestselling historical set in 1930s Oklahoma, has been compared to the work of John Steinbeck and Harper Lee (which flatters Susie’s socks off). Pearl’s story continues with A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (2017) and A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (2018). 

What does she have planned after that? More stories, of course. She’s a junkie. She couldn’t quit if she wanted to.

Top 10 Tuesday — Reasons to Love Fiction

6 Jul

While I say I am an eclectic reader (I read almost all genres), I do limit myself to fiction. Why? I love a good story. And with my advanced years 😉 I need to make sure I read books I enjoy. It’s like eating dessert first! Today’s Top 10 Tuesday prompt is Why I Love Reading — I hope you like my reasons and the books that go along with them.

For more Top 10 Tuesday fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Why I Love Reading Fiction

I love a good story.

The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck

Stories That Bind Us By Susie Finkbeiner

I love history.

The King’s Mercy by Lori Benton

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

I want to learn about different cultures.

Farewell, Four Waters by Kate McCord

A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy

Fiction makes me more empathetic.

Facing The Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti

Moments We Forget by Beth K. Vogt

I love a good mystery.

Miranda Warning by Heather Day Gilbert

Prince Edward’s Warrant by Mel Starr

Why do you love reading?

Top 10 Tuesday — Anticipated Books of July – December 2021

29 Jun

Can you believe that half the year is already gone?! 2021 is going so much better than last year — we’ve had a lovely wedding, fun times with family and friends, and no health issues to concern us. Add on top of that the great books published this year, and 2021 is looking to be a banner year. 😉 I am behind on reading so I am not sure I will get to all the books on my list this year, but I am sure going to try!

For more anticipated books, head over to That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Anticipated Books of July — December 2021

The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner (July)

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family–but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

The Chase by Lisa Harris (July)

US Marshal Madison James may not be sure who shot her three months ago, but she does know one thing–it’s time to get back out into the field. When her partner, Jonas Quinn, receives a message that a federal warrant just came in on a man connected to a string of bank robberies, Madison jumps at the chance to get back to work. What she and Jonas find is a bank robbery in progress that’s gone wrong–and things are about to get worse.

For these bank robbers, it’s never been just about the money. It’s about taking risks and adrenaline rushes, and getting caught is not part of the game. When the suspects escape, Madison and Jonas must hunt them down and bring them to justice before someone else–someone close to them–gets hurt . . . or worse.

From Seattle to the San Juan Islands, bestselling author Lisa Harris takes you on a nonstop chase where feelings are complicated and failure isn’t an option.

Woman in Shadow by Carrie Stuart Parks (July)

A woman off the grid.

Darby Graham thinks she’s on a much-needed vacation in remote Idaho to relax. But before she even arrives at the ranch, an earthquake strikes. Then a barn on the edge of town is engulfed in flames and strange problems at the ranch begin to escalate, and Darby finds herself immersed in a chilling mystery.

A town on fire.

More fires erupt around town, and a serial arsonist sends taunting letters to the press after each. As a forensic linguist, this is Darby’s area of expertise . . . but the scars her work has caused her are also the reason she’s trying to escape her life.

A growing darkness.

As the shadows continue moving in, pieces of the town around her come into sharper focus. To make it out alive, Darby must decide if she can trust the one man who sees her clearly.

The Barrister And The Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson (August)

As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes has witnessed firsthand the danger of only the wealthy having their voices heard, and he’s a strong advocate who defends the poorer classes against the powerful. That changes the day a struggling heiress, Lady Madeleine Jameson, arrives at his door.

In a last-ditch effort to save her faltering estate, Lady Jameson invested in a merchant brig, the Padget. The ship was granted a rare privilege by the king’s regent: a Letter of Marque authorizing the captain to seize the cargo of French traders operating illegally in the Indian Sea. Yet when the Padget returns to London, her crew is met by soldiers ready to take possession of their goods and arrest the captain for piracy. And the Letter–the sole proof his actions were legal–has mysteriously vanished.

Moved by the lady’s distress, intrigued by the Letter, and goaded by an opposing solicitor, Snopes takes the case. But as he delves deeper into the mystery, he learns that the forces arrayed against Lady Jameson, and now himself, are even more perilous than he’d imagined.

Under The Bayou Moon by Valerie Fraser Luesse (August)

Restless with the familiarity of her Alabama home, Ellie Fields accepts a teaching job in a tiny Louisiana town deep in bayou country. Though rightfully suspicious of outsiders, who have threatened both their language and their culture, most of the people in tiny Bernadette, Louisiana, come to appreciate the young and idealistic schoolteacher as a boon to the town. She’s soon teaching just about everyone–and coming up against opposition from both the school board and a politician with ulterior motives.

Acclimating to a whole new world, Ellie meets a lonely but intriguing Cajun fisherman named Raphe who introduces her to the legendary white alligator that haunts these waters. Raphe and Ellie have barely found their way to each other when a huge bounty is offered for the elusive gator, bringing about a shocking turn of events that will test their love and their will to right a terrible wrong.

A master of the Southern novel, Valerie Fraser Luesse invites you to enter the sultry swamps of Louisiana in a story that illuminates the struggle for the heart and soul of the bayou.

The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham (September)

Will the magic of Christmas bring these two newlyweds closer together, or will the ghosts of the past lead them into a destructive discovery from which not even a Dickens’s Christmas can save them?

Mistletoe is beautiful and dangerous, much like the woman from Lord Frederick’s Percy’s past, so when he turns over a new leaf and arranges to marry for his estate, instead of his heart, he never expects the wrong bride to be the right choice. Gracelynn Ferguson never expected to take her elder sister’s place as a Christmas bride, but when she’s thrust into the choice, she will trust in her faithful novels and overactive imagination to help her not only win Frederick’s heart but also to solve the murder mystery of Havensbrook Hall before the ghosts from Frederick’s past ruin her fairytale future. 

Once Upon A Wardrobe by Patti Callahan (October)

“Where did Narnia come from?”

The answer will change everything.

Megs Devonshire is brilliant with numbers and equations, on a scholarship at Oxford, and dreams of solving the greatest mysteries of physics.

She prefers the dependability of facts—except for one: the younger brother she loves with all her heart doesn’t have long to live. When George becomes captivated by a brand-new book called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and begs her to find out where Narnia came from, there’s no way she can refuse.

Despite her timidity about approaching the famous author, Megs soon finds herself taking tea with the Oxford don and his own brother, imploring them for answers. What she receives instead are more stories . . . stories of Jack Lewis’s life, which she takes home to George.

Why won’t Mr. Lewis just tell her plainly what George wants to know? The answer will reveal to Meg many truths that science and math cannot, and the gift she thought she was giving to her brother—the story behind Narnia—turns out to be his gift to her, instead: hope.

Shiloh by Lori Benton (October)

December 1795
A year has passed since Ian Cameron reluctantly sent his uncle’s former slave Seona and their son, Gabriel, north to his kin in Boston. Determined to fully release them, Ian strives to make a life at Mountain Laurel, his inherited plantation, along with Judith, the wife he’s vowed to love and cherish. But when tragedy leaves him alone with his daughter, Mandy, and his three remaining slaves, he decides to return north. An act of kindness on the journey provides Ian the chance to obtain land near the frontier settlement of Shiloh, New York. Perhaps even the hope for a new life with those he still holds dear.

In Boston, Seona has taken her first tentative steps as a free woman, while trying to banish Ian from her heart. The Cameron family thinks she and Gabriel should remain under their protection. Seona’s mother, Lily, thinks it’s time they strike out on their own. Then Ian arrives, offering a second chance Seona hadn’t dared imagine. But the wide-open frontier of Shiloh feels as boundless and terrifying as her newfound freedom—a place of new friends and new enemies, where deep bonds are renewed but old hurts stand ready to rear their heads. It will take every ounce of faith and courage Ian and Seona can muster to fight for their family and their future . . . together.

Every Word Unsaid by Kimberly Duffy (November)

Augusta Travers has spent the last three years avoiding the stifling expectations of New York society and her family’s constant disappointment. As the nation’s most fearless–and reviled–columnist, Gussie travels the country with her Kodak camera and spins stories for women unable to leave hearth and home. But when her adventurous nature lands her in the middle of a scandal, an opportunity to leave America offers the perfect escape. 

Arriving in India, she expects only a nice visit with childhood friends, siblings Catherine and Gabriel, and escapades that will further her career. Instead, she finds herself facing a plague epidemic, confusion over Gabriel’s sudden appeal, and the realization that what she wants from life is changing. But slowing down means facing all the hurts of her past that she’s long been trying to outrun. And that may be an undertaking too great even for her. 

Lights Out by Natalie Walters (November)

CIA analyst Brynn Taylor developed a new program to combat terrorism, and she invited members of foreign intelligence agencies to America to foster cooperation between countries. Now one of them, Egyptian spy Remon Riad, is missing.

Jack Hudson has been working for the Strategic Neutralization and Protection Agency (SNAP) for almost nine years and takes the lead in hunting down the missing spy. But he isn’t at all pleased to find out Brynn is involved. It’s hard to trust a woman who’s already betrayed you.

Every lead they follow draws them dangerously deeper into an international plot. Kidnapping, murder, explosions, poisoning–the terrorists will do anything to accomplish their goal of causing a digital blackout that will blind a strategic US military communications center and throw the world into chaos.

Can Brynn surrender control to a man who doesn’t trust her? And can Jack ever get over what she did to him? The fate of the world–and their hearts–hangs in the balance.

Top 10 Tuesday — Summer TBR

15 Jun

It is definitely summer here in the sunny South. High temps are in the 90s, and I am melting on my morning walks! But that’s what I signed up for! We endure in the air conditioning and under the umbrella next to the pool. And a good book to take you away is always welcome.

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday list includes some of the books I am reading this summer. My TBR list is short, but I will be reading more than is on my current list — I am keeping my options flexible this summer. For more fun summer reading, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Books on My Summer TBR

The August surprise selection for By The Book is Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan. We are excited to read this dual timeline novel set in one of our favorite cities.

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaskitogether, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.

A small group of my friends formed IWBC (Interesting Women Book Club — for the books were are reading and of course us 😉 . The Only Woman in The Room by Marie Benedict fits that bill. I am going to lobby hard to read it, but if I get outvoted, I am still going to read this intriguing book.

Her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to marriage with an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything else, she overheard the Third Reich’s plans while at her husband’s side and understood more than anyone would guess. She devised a plan to flee in disguise from their castle, and the whirlwind escape landed her in Hollywood. She became Hedy Lamarr, screen star.

But she kept a secret more shocking than her heritage or her marriage: she was a scientist. And she had an idea that might help the country fight the Nazis and revolutionize modern communication . . . if anyone would listen to her.

A powerful book based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece that celebrates the many women in science that history has overlooked.

My daughter is reading C. S. LewisSpace Trilogy. She gave book 1, Out of The Silent Planet to my husband, and I downloaded it from Audible (it was included in my subscription). I am hoping our 4th of July celebration will include the 1st Family Book Club. Wish me luck! I had a hard enough time getting my kids to read certain books when they were kids. Now that they are adults . . . .

Out of the Silent Planet is the first novel of the Cosmic Trilogy, considered to be C.S. Lewis’ chief contribution to the science fiction genre. The trilogy concerns Dr. Ransom, a linguist, who, like Christ, was offered a ransom for mankind. The first two novels are planetary romances with elements of medieval mythology. Each planet is seen as having a tutelary spirit; those of the other planets are both good and accessible, while that of Earth is fallen, twisted, and not known directly by most humans. The story is powerfully imagined, and the effects of lesser gravity on Martian planet and animal life is vividly rendered.

Two review books are up for July — The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner and The Chase by Lisa Harris. I can’t wait to dig into both of those books.

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family — but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

US Marshal Madison James may not be sure who shot her three months ago, but she does know one thing — it’s time to get back out into the field. When her partner, Jonas Quinn, receives a message that a federal warrant just came in on a man connected to a string of bank robberies, Madison jumps at the chance to get back to work. What she and Jonas find is a bank robbery in progress that’s gone wrong — and things are about to get worse.

For these bank robbers, it’s never been just about the money. It’s about taking risks and adrenaline rushes, and getting caught is not part of the game. When the suspects escape, Madison and Jonas must hunt them down and bring them to justice before someone else — someone close to them — gets hurt . . . or worse.

From Seattle to the San Juan Islands, bestselling author Lisa Harris takes you on a nonstop chase where feelings are complicated and failure isn’t an option.

What are you reading this summer?

Top 10 Tuesday — Favorite Audiobooks

1 Jun

Over the weekend a friend asked for audiobook recommendations. As a big fan, I had a few recommendations — I had to stop myself! 😉 Since this week’s Top 10 Tuesday is a Freebie, I thought I would share some of my favorite audiobooks. The stories are great and the readers are excellent, capturing just the right pacing and accents needed to make the experience enjoyable. Whether you have a road trip planned or need something to help while away the hours next to the pool or beach, or if you need something to help get thought an exercise routine or boring chores, all on my list will fit the bill.

Do you like listening to audiobooks?

For more Top 10 Tuesday fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Ten of My Favorite Audiobooks

A Bridge Across The Ocean by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of The War by Susan Meissner

Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton

The Number of Love by Roseanna White

Perennials by Julie Cantrell

State of Lies by Siri Mitchell

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

The Summer House by Lauren K. Denton

An Uncommon Woman by Laura Frantz

When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser