Tag Archives: Valerie Fraser Luesse

Top 10 Tuesday — Geographical Titles

13 Sep

Happy Tuesday! Surprise, surprise! I am actually sticking to the topic today. It was fun looking back at the books I’ve read to find titles (and covers!) that could be found on a map, albeit a fictional one. 😉 Many genres are represented. I hope you find a book to love!

For more geographical titles, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top 10 Geographical Titles

Blackberry Beach by Irene Hannon

Bookshop by The Sea by Denise Hunter

Bride of A Distant Isle by Sandra Byrd

The Deadly Shallows by Dani Pettrey

The House at The End of The Moor by Michelle Griep

A Light on A Hill by Connilyn Cossette

On The Cliffs of Foxglove Manor by Jaime Jo Wright

A Silver Willow by The Shore by Kelli Stuart

Under The Bayou Moon by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin

Top 10 Tuesday — Summer-y Book Covers

12 Jul

Happy Tuesday everyone! Summer is indeed in full swing, and what better way to celebrate than with some summer-y book covers. I have a dozen for you to choose featuring what I think of when I hear the word summer. There are covers with summer foods, weddings (bonus points for those set at the beach), front porches, and of course those with summer in the title. I hope you find one to love.

For more summer-y covers, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Summer-y Book Covers

High Cotton by Debby Mayne

The Sweet Life by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Truelove And Homegrown Tomatoes by Julie Cannon

Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth Vogt

To Have And To Hold by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

Almost Home by Valerie Fraser Luesse

The Memory House by Rachel Hauck

The Summer House by Lauren K. Denton

On A Summer Tide by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson

Summer Plans And Other Disasters by Karin Beery

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.

Top 10 Tuesday — Titles with Names

1 Feb

Happy Tuesday everyone! Who knew there were so many book titles that feature names? That’s the prompt for this week’s TTT. I didn’t have to go far in my reading log to find some great books. I have included a few older titles to go along with new-ish releases. There are lots of genres too — something for everyone.

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

Top Book Titles with Names

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Belinda Blake And The Snake in The Grass by Heather Day Gilbert

Burying Daisy Doe by Ramona Richards

For The Love of Joy by Janet W. Ferguson

Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren

Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse

My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

Saving Mrs. Roosevelt by Candice Sue Patterson

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: Under The Bayou Moon

9 Sep

Valerie Fraser Luesse has done it again! Each successive book by her has been my new favorite. I have another one in Under The Bayou Moon, a post-WWII historical novel that fully captured a wonderful place in America. All the details on the book and my thoughts are below.

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.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the author of four novels set in the South: Christy Award winner Missing Isaac (2018), Almost Home(2019), The Key to Everything (2020), and the upcoming Under the Bayou Moon (August 2021), all published by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. An award-winning magazine writer, Luesse is perhaps best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she wrote major pieces on the Mississippi Delta, Acadian Louisiana, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on the recovering Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, photographed by Mark Sandlin, won the 2009 Travel Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. Luesse earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Auburn University and Baylor University, respectively. She is a native of Harpersville, Alabama, and lives in Birmingham, where she is the senior travel editor for Southern Living. Find her online at valeriefraserluesse.comfacebook.com/valeriefraserluessebooksbakerpublishinggroup.combookbub.com/authors/valerie-fraser-luesse; and goodreads.com

My Impressions:

Valerie Fraser Luesse is a masterful writer of Southern historical fiction. Focusing on the middle years of the 20th century, her books bring to life the paradoxes of the South. The power of community is a strong theme in her books, but she does not shy away from the prejudices and injustices that plagued the part of America that claims my heart. In her newest novel, Under the Bayou Moon, Luesse travels back to post-WWII Cajun country. I am a big fan of Louisiana — it is one of my favorite places to visit, and I felt like I was set right down in the midst of small town Bernadette with its loving, fiercely independent, and thorougly cajun/creole residents. Bernadette is in Bayou country — houses are on stilts on the edge of the swampy inlets, adults and children get to town, work, and school via fishing boats and pirogues. I can’t say it enough. Luesse brought the place and time to life for this reader. The story of Ellie and Raphe, an Alabama schoolteacher and a cajun fisherman, is charming. The two are characters I came to love and will never forget. There’s romance, suspense, danger, and a bit of magic involved in their story. If you ever visit the bayou, I promise you will be on the lookout for a white alligator! 😉 Luesse does not sugarcoat the history of the region, however. The plan to rid Louisiana from the cajun culture was real. I’m just glad that as in the book, the politicians did not succeed!

Filled with all the flavor of a very special region, Under The Bayou Moon is a must-read. I loved it all — the beautifully detailed setting, the endearing characters, and the uncovering of an important history. This book is very highly recommended!

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

First Line Friday — Under The Bayou Moon

6 Aug

With her debut novel Missing Isaac, Valerie Fraser Luesse became a must-read author. Each successive book has been a treat. I am excited to feature the first line of her latest book, Under The Bayou Moon. Can’t wait to read it!

Here’s the first line:

Raphe Broussard was just a boy when he first saw it — glimpsed it, at least.

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.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the author of four novels set in the South: Christy Award winner Missing Isaac (2018), Almost Home (2019), The Key to Everything (2020), and the upcoming Under the Bayou Moon (August 2021), all published by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. An award-winning magazine writer, Luesse is perhaps best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she wrote major pieces on the Mississippi Delta, Acadian Louisiana, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on the recovering Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, photographed by Mark Sandlin, won the 2009 Travel Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. Luesse earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Auburn University and Baylor University, respectively. She is a native of Harpersville, Alabama, and lives in Birmingham, where she is the senior travel editor for Southern Living. Find her online at valeriefraserluesse.com; facebook.com/valeriefraserluessebooks; bakerpublishinggroup.com; bookbub.com/authors/valerie-fraser-luesse; and goodreads.com

Top 10 Tuesday — Incomplete Sentences/Complete Thoughts

18 May

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday challenge is to list books with titles that are complete sentences. Looking at my shelves I didn’t find any, but I did find books with titles that convey a complete thought. With all our social media shorthand, I thought they would fit into today’s topic pretty well. The genres of these books vary, so there is something for everyone. I hope you find a title to love!

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

Top Titles with A Complete Thought

Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese

The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Miracle in A Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas

More Than We Remember by Christina Suzann Nelson

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green

Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin

Wait for Me by Susan May Warren

When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser

Top 10 Tuesday — Lovely Book Hometowns

30 Mar

I have always been a small town girl, at least in my heart. I grew up in a large-ish town, but as an adult found myself enjoying small town living. I like less traffic, feeling a part of a community, and knowing people when I shop, dine, or recreate. I am aware of the pitfalls of small town life, (people knowing your business at number 1 😉 ), but still prefer to live in my small town. It was great raising children here too!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about favorite book settings that you could live in. It’s no wonder that I chose small towns, both real and fictional.

In what book setting would you like to call your hometown?

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

Top Book Settings I Could Live In

Blackberry Springs, Alabama — where newcomers can find family, awesome swimming hole

Chawton, England (post-WWII) — it’s where Jane Austen lived!

Edisto Island, South Carolina — southern coastal town, great seafood restaurants, nearby Charleston

Hope Harbor, Oregon — beautiful landscape, interesting mix of new and long-time residents, quirky taco truck owner, engaging seagulls

Maryville, Mississippi — great neighbors, a chance to get involved in the community

St. Simons Island, Georgia — coastal town with a small town feel, artsy, community commitment to important issues

Three Sisters Island, Maine — quirky and independent citizens, wonderful family vacation camp

Top 10 Tuesday — Best of 2020

29 Dec

Who knew that 2020 would be such a difficult year? It started out all bright and shiny with the birth of my first grandchild, then a landslide of a lump and a biopsy in February pointed to breast cancer. My surgery and the good news of no chemo or radiation was followed by 15 days to crush the curve. We all know where that went. While life became a bit more normal in June here in Georgia, this year has been filled with anxiety and grief. I am certainly ready for a brand new year!

While I am glad 2020 will soon be in the rearview mirror, I did read A LOT OF GREAT BOOKS this year. I couldn’t whittle the list down to 10, but I did confine it to an even dozen. And that was hard! As always my favorites span a variety of genres — historical, suspense, romance.  I hope you find a book you will love.

For more best of the best lists, head over to That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

 

Top Books of 2020

 

Collision of Lies by Tom Threadgill

The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck

The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

 

The Last Year of The War by Susan Meissner

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan

Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton

The Mulberry Leaf Whispers by Linda Thompson

 

The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White

State of Lies by Siri Mitchell

Stay with Me by Becky Wade

The Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner