Giveaway: World of the Innocent

Love. Enduring belief. And the meaning of innocence–based on a true story.
World of the Innocent by Nadine C. Keels

“Just WOW. This book totally blew me away. It’s in my top five of ‘the most romantic books I’ve ever read.’” ~Valerie’s Musings

Find the giveaway for this book in the Faith, Hope, and Book Love group on Facebook.
Giveaway ends March 2, 2018.


Favorite Reads 2017

I received complimentary copies of most of the books I mention here in exchange for honest reviews, which you’ll find in the posts I’ve linked to.

I wait for these awards all year! As my blog is all about hope and inspiration, these are the books that most fit that bill for me in 2017 and that I highly recommend to fellow readers. You’ll find them listed in a pretty eclectic order.
*And to the authors of the winning books, if you’d like a medal for making the list, see the bottom of this post.*

Meals from Mars: A Parable of Prejudice and Providence by Ben Sciacca

Christian Fiction/Contemporary Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Two men, two different walks of life, and a dangerous gas station incident that links their paths. Before reading it, I wondered if this “parable” might be the kind to preach a social message hard without being a good novel. But I needn’t have worried. There’s some beautiful imagery, humor, and, yes, the ideas in this novel are blatant and barefaced, but not at the expense of story or believable characters. The book raises questions without trying to tell the reader exactly what to think, and it doesn’t sugarcoat or tie up its message in a nice, neat bow on its way to bringing hope. I think many Christian readers, especially in the United States, would do well to read this timely novel.

Home by Ginny L. Yttrup

Christian Fiction/Women’s Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Forty-nine-year-old Melanie checks out of reality through her writing; only this time, she can’t. Nothing against readers who enjoy decidedly melancholy fiction, but I have a hard time with women’s fiction novels that feel like page after page of dry gloom, killing me softly as I read. This novel, however, dug through dark, tough issues in a way that softly gave me life. Yes, I, a writer, tend to be partial to books and movies that get real about writers. But this novel gets real, period, in a style that isn’t sparkling but is still engaging. It’s a beautifully written story that gave me a “God is here” experience that I don’t get with all books. And, yes, I loved it.

The Dog Who Was There by Ron Marasco

Christian Fiction/Biblical Fiction

★★★★★ from me

A courageous dog, Barley, bears witness as the greatest story ever told unfolds. No, this isn’t a book about a dog who follows Jesus around everywhere, but He ultimately does fit in this account that centers on brave and lovable Barley’s journey. Seriously, even though animal tales aren’t my usual thing, Barley’s poignant story put tears in my eyes at least three different times. While there’s a simple, storybook feel to the characters, there’s genius in the novel’s layering and delivery. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to be a better person, and that says a lot.

Illusionary by Desiree Williams

Fantasy/Young Adult Fiction

★★★★★ from me

For Kamryn, this rescue mission in the Land of Ur is more than it appears to be…  Awe. Some. Ness. I wasn’t ready. I mean, the book starts out cute and funny, and then the parallel world escapades begin. I was stopped in my tracks in places, sometimes with a single, spoken word. “Heal.” “Hope.” And before and after a crucial twist, this story presents an assortment of wonderfully woven themes: growing up and innocence, grief and illness and regret, finding out who you really are and what you’re capable of. True bravery! It’s a fantasy tale like The Chronicles of Narnia in that it’ll speak to you on multiple levels if you have the ears to hear it—but whether you go to those other levels or not, it’s still a darn good adventure.

Without Warning by Joel C. Rosenberg

Christian Fiction/Thriller

★★★★★ from me

J.B. Collins fears the president, Harrison Taylor, won’t take decisive action against a major threat before it’s too late. Even as riveted as I was to the J.B. novel that precedes this one, I don’t think a thriller has ever left me at such a level of shaken speechlessness when I finished it. I was punched in the soul by this book, and though I’m not much of a political or doomsday kind of person, the story had me inhaling the pages in fewer sittings than I’d normally take for a novel of this length. I’d highly recommend it to any other ChristFic fans who can stand a solid punch–’cause there’s nothing like being punched in the soul by love.

The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma


★★★★★ from me

In my book reviews, I normally don’t make a big point of the author’s race or gender. Nevertheless, I’ll note that this book, which is directed toward a Christian audience, was written by a white man. And, yes, a lot of people—especially white people—should read it. The fight for racial equality in the United States isn’t something any one race should be fighting for alone. This book has so many compelling points, including the need not to merely do acts of justice, but to become just. The author also includes action points, so readers won’t be left with a problem without any idea what to do next. If you think racial issues are “just politics” or not something that Christians should be too concerned about, I’d encourage you all the more to read this.

Black, White, Other: In Search of Nina Armstrong by Joan Steinau Lester

Christian Fiction/Young Adult Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Finding her place as a biracial teen is becoming so difficult… What a story this is about family and friendship, injustice and unrest, legacy and identity. I’ll admit that Nina’s attitude sometimes got a few head shakes from me, but she also has great moments of protectiveness and dry humor. I appreciate different points raised in the story, including how so many of us (no matter our “color”) are really more mixed than we know, and about how slavery is not merely something that happened back in the past, in one country. Whether you’re an inspirational fiction fan or not, a young adult fiction fan or not, I’d recommend this as a worthwhile and moving read.

Can I Be Frank? by Rob Wyatt


★★★★★ from me

Father Francis, a young, Catholic priest, wants to be helpful, but he trips and splashes himself into the soup. Not literally, but, you know. This novel has a healthy helping of moments that are downright hilarious. But it also packs a substantive story that addresses church business and politics, the immigration dilemma in the United States, and a young man who just wants to be “plain old Frank” while “Father Francis” expectations are weighing on his shoulders. Fans of humorous fiction that looks at serious issues should get a kick out of this novel.

Loving Luther by Allison Pittman

Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Katharina von Bora, a nun, desires something more than a cloistered life as she begins reading the words of an excommunicated priest: one Martin Luther. Now, although this book contains a love story, it’s not a romance novel. Neither is this book “about” the Protestant Reformation, so much. Rather, this is the compelling story of a woman who loves God, longs for liberty, and eventually faces life outside the convent walls. It would’ve been easy to spring for too much drama and overdone characters during such a tumultuous period in history, but here, the writing style is nuanced, with emotion that isn’t flashy but runs deep. I’d highly recommend this novel to fans of historical ChristFic—especially those who are already familiar with Katharina and Luther and who’d be interested in a different approach to their love story.

The Ramona Quimby Series by Beverly Cleary


Fiction/Children’s Books

★★★★★ overall from me

Let’s hear it for the adventures and challenges of an everyday, unforgettable girl: Ramona Geraldine Quimby! This was my all-time favorite series as a child, which I had the abundant pleasure to reread this year as an adult. (With the exception of the “new” last book in the series, Ramona’s World, which hadn’t been written yet when I was little. I’m now glad to have read it for the first time!) I–and countless other readers out there, for plenty of years–just “get” Ramona so well, with her plights and joys, her many laugh-out-loud moments and her heart-tugging moments. There’s a fine art to writing excellent stories for children, tales with humor and substance that are accessible at any age. Cleary’s clear understanding of human nature, from children to grownups, is what has made her books so classic.

The Herringford and Watts Mystery Novels by Rachel McMillan


Christian Fiction/Historical Mystery

★★★★★ overall from me

*2017 Favorite Cover Picks*

A lady detective duo investigates murders in Toronto, Canada and the United States in the early twentieth century. I’ve also read the three Herringford and Watts novellas, which include a couple of non-murder mysteries. (FYI: I’m on the lookout these days for mystery writers who can indeed write about more than murder! 🙂 ) Having read all of these books, I can say that the mysteries alone aren’t the elements that have most drawn or impacted me. There’s so much more in these novels about history, about immigration, about the need for social reform, about love, about friendship, about the tension between the duty to one’s family and the call of one’s professional passion. The layers, the splashes of humor, the four central characters I couldn’t get enough of, and the threads of poignancy and heartrending moments woven into the stories have made me quite a fan of this author.


And that wraps up another (calendar) year of great reading for this book lover!

Entries for 2017’s Favorite Reads giveaway are now closed, but comments on the post are remaining open.


Also feel free to check out some of the other reading I’ve enjoyed this year, a coming of age romance series, When It’s Time. (That’s right. After my author self writes ’em, my bookworm self reads ’em.) The series begins with Love Unfeigned.


Congratulations, authors, and thank you for writing your books! If I’ve selected yours as a Favorite Read this year, you’re welcome to a complimentary medal to display on your website, blog, social media–wherever you wish. Click the image below and contact me to receive a full size PNG medal. (The lined watermark will be removed, of course, and the medal will include the year on it, 2017.) Thanks again!


Favorite Covers 2017

I received complimentary copies of some of the books I mention here in exchange for honest reviews, which you’ll find in the posts I’ve linked to.

I’m not strictly a “judge a book by its cover” kind of reader, as I’ve found and have read some wonderful books with covers I didn’t particularly care for. 🙂 Still, I have an appreciation for cover art as a part of the reading experience, and here are covers I particularly liked from books I’ve read this year! They’re listed in the order I read them.
*And to the authors of these books, if you’d like a medal (one for you and/or for your cover artist) for being on this list, see the bottom of this post.*

The Last Operative by Jerry B. Jenkins

Christian Fiction/Suspense

Jordan Kirkwood wants to end his NSA career, but a new national security threat might end his life first. The dominant silhouette on this cover is simple but striking, as is the way the title cuts through the blacked-out man with the image’s background colors. It all effectively sets the reader up for danger and intrigue.

Unveiling Love: Episode I by Vanessa Riley

Christian Fiction/Regency Romantic Suspense

A fight for truth in English courts, and a fight for light in a tenuous marriage. It’s not the most common thing to find Regency ChristFic featuring characters of color–just one reason why this cover can make readers stop and take a second glance. The vivid imagery, lighting, and visual drama are superb, right in line with the story’s themes, with fine typography to match.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Christian Fiction/Historical Mystery

They’re sure Wren Lockhart holds the secrets of the late, great Houdini–but she has secrets of her own. This image could have been taken right out of a vaudeville show, with text and embellishments that are doing a lot without going overboard. The cover has a whimsical, but not silly, flair, and it keeps the different, contrasting colors at a minimum, giving each color a chance to draw the eye.

Remember Typhon by Kimberly A. Rogers

Science Fiction

Commander Gavril may (or may not) live to regret taking Zenia, a communications expert, along on this rescue mission. Oh–and don’t forget Zenia’s cat. Zenia in the foreground and the arc of an illumined planet behind a hint of the spaceship in the background give us a total sci-fi feel: distinct, vibrant, and out-of-this-worldly.

Heartfelt Cases One, Two, and Three by Julie C. Gilbert

Christian Fiction/Suspense


Special Agent Julie Ann Davidson and her partner, Patrick Duncan, begin the action in this FBI series. The overall tone of the covers may be my favorite for contemporary suspense reads: City Lights at Night, so to speak. The darkness is obvious while the light stands out, bold and electric. I also appreciate how each of these covers fully commits to a different tint, and the three colors look good together. Pretty much makes it impossible to want to read only one of the books and not the others.

The Herringford and Watts Mysteries by Rachel McMillan

Christian Fiction/Historical Mystery

*with a 2017 Christmas Book Pick*



This series brings us the adventures of a female detective duo in early twentieth-century Toronto. As for the delicious covers–historical mystery feel in the images, embellishments, and typography? Check. Six designs in flawless harmony with each other? Check. And, yeah, those silhouetted images around the borders represent the various mysteries’ themes, major and minor. Quite a bit of fun to gradually learn the reasons behind the images, the further you get into the stories.

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym


They steal much more than a wooden instrument when they steal Min Kym’s violin. Both the choice to picture the author’s headshot by half and to make it a grayscale one are great choices for this memoir. Then, my favorite aspect is the middle of the cover: a violin ripped out of the image and now GONE, just as the author’s thoroughly cherished instrument is ripped from her life. Spot-on imagery.

Weaver’s Needle by Robin Caroll

Christian Fiction/Romantic Suspense

Finding a stolen map to a legendary gold mine could be deadly for recovery specialists Landry and Nickolai. This cover has a sense of adventure and danger, but it isn’t dark. You can almost feel the blaze of the dry and scorching sun in the intriguing and well-layered design that screams “romantic suspense.”

The Calling of Emily Evans by Janette Oke

Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

Emily will go answer the call for mission work, even if it means going alone. Here’s a cover with a gentle, historical, painted feel. It’s subtle, but you can see the heroine’s determination. She’s not merely ambling along with a bag hanging at her side, but she’s holding her suitcase with purpose. Hence, she doesn’t look lost while she’s heading toward her “calling.” I prefer the original covers of a lot of ChristFic novels, oftentimes for (but not limited to) sentimental reasons. But I think this lovely cover is quite an improvement over its original one, as well as the other few that followed before this.

Egypt’s Sister: A Novel of Cleopatra by Angela Hunt

Christian Fiction/Biblical, Historical Fiction

Chava’s girlhood friend becomes Queen Cleopatra in this novel set during the biblical “Silent Years.” The novel’s heroine is accurately depicted here as she looks on at the growing, queenly legend before her, away from her. The rich colors and textures as well as Cleopatra’s visual domination gets the job done, perfect for attracting the novel’s target audience.

Hold the Light by April McGowan

Christian Fiction/Women’s Fiction

Art is Amber’s passion, so how can she handle going blind? This book cover excellently captures the brilliant essence of the story: a lone woman, possibly depressed, slowly approaching the edge or end of something, headed toward obscurity—obscurity that’s full of light. With attractive and telling text that takes up most of the image while taking nothing away from it, you couldn’t style this cover more fittingly.

The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

Amelia has little choice but to go and see if her late fiancé’s parents will accept or reject her–and her son. Here’s another example of a cover that’s totally on point for the audience it means to reach. The design is soft, bright, and Christmassy, with a touch of nostalgia added in. Makes you want to have yourself a merry little Christmas, even if it includes a wistful sigh.

Wonderful, aren’t they? My applause to the artists who gave these books such a great look!

Entries for 2017’s Favorite Covers giveaway are now closed, but comments on the post are remaining open.


Also feel free to check out another book that has one of my favorite covers this year, World of the Innocent, a contemporary love story.


Congratulations, authors, and thank you for writing your books! If yours has one of my favorite covers, you’re welcome to a complimentary medal to display on your website, blog, social media–wherever you wish. Click the image below and contact me to receive a full size PNG medal. (The lined watermark will be removed, of course, and the medal will include the year on it, 2017.) If you know the artist who designed your cover, feel free to pass on the word about the award. The artists are welcome to display the medal as well. Thanks again!


Giveaway: Love Unfeigned

“Everything didn’t have to turn out perfect. I just wanted you there.”
Love Unfeigned by Nadine C. Keels

“I think this story qualifies as a visual masterpiece… Keels’s work would fit right in with the classic masters of the genre.” ~Rabid Reader’s Reviews

Find the giveaway for this book in the Faith, Hope, and Book Love group on Facebook.
Giveaway ends October 12, 2017.