What I Read in October

What I Read in October | Grace to Grow Blog

October turned out to be a good month for reading! My birthday was at the end of September, so I spent October reading all the books I bought with the Amazon gift card my grandmother gave me 😉 I read 10 books in all, so I’m not going to take the time to write a lot about each of them, but here are some quick recaps.

October New Releases: Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren and A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck

I was really excited about these new books by two of my favorite authors! Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren was everything I’ve come to expect from her: true-to-life characters with real, raw, struggles and problems; exciting action and adventure; a variety of multi-faced relationships; and sweet romance. A Royal Christmas Wedding was the fourth book in Rachel Hauck’s Royal Wedding Series, and it incorporated a lot of the characters from the previous books in the series, which I love! It’s a sweet story about a royal and an everyday American girl reconnecting and falling in love (obviously), and who doesn’t love a Christmas wedding?!?

From the Raleigh Harmon series by Sibella Giorello: The Rivers Run Dry (#2), The Clouds Roll Away (#3), The Stars Shine Bright (#4), and The Waves Break Gray (#6)

I think I mentioned last month that I read the fifth book in this series several months ago, and I was hooked! I had to find out the rest of the story (or stories), and I wasn’t disappointed. Raleigh Harmon is a great heroine, and while her story does involve romance, it definitely isn’t typical or predictable. Her relationship with her mom has always been rocky, and her work as an FBI agent and then (spoiler alert!) as a private-geologist-but-still-crime-fighter feels gritty and raw and real. I feel like I can’t quite put into words why I love this series so much, but I do!

From the Wings of the Nightingale series by Sarah Sundin: On Distant Shores (#2) and In Perfect Time (#3)

I’m not a big fan of most historical fiction, but I make an exception for Sarah Sundin! Her stories don’t feel dull or boring like some historical novels can, but they are rich with adventure, romance, and World War II drama. The Wings of the Nightingale series follows three flight nurses who were pioneers in their fields during WWII. I really enjoyed reading about all the places they went and things they saw, and getting more of a “first-hand” account of life on the front lines. This series really brings history to life!

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful by Susan May Warren (part of the Candy Cane Kisses Christmas novella collection):

I’ll admit it, I only bought this novella collection because of Susan May Warren, and I haven’t read any of the other stories (yet) 😉 Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful picks up where her Montana Fire series left off, and tells a story of healing, courage, and love for two of the smokejumpers we met in that series. Definitely worth buying the whole collection!

Destination Wedding by Jenn Faulk:

I first started reading Jenn Faulk’s books during my free trial of Kindle Unlimited, and I’ve gotten to enjoy her characters and her style of writing. This book gets into a second generation of characters; the bride and groom at the destination wedding were very young children in one of her previous books. It was fun catching up with them and their parents, and since you already know this book is about a wedding, there was also a sweet side story about the bride’s brother and the groom’s sister. Jenn Faulk is such a prolific author, she writes books almost faster than I can read them! I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

What have you been reading lately? Any favorites I should know about? 🙂

What I Read in September, Part Two // Susan May Warren Edition

I read so many books in September, I had to split them up into two posts! Half of them happened to be by the same author: Susan May Warren, one of my top three favorite authors of all time. She’s one of those authors whose new books I’ll always buy as soon as they come out, because I know I’ll love them! In September, I read the last book in the Montana Fire trilogy that came out this summer, and the first three books in the Deep Haven series that my grandmother gave me for my birthday.

What I Read in September, Susan May Warren Edition || Grace to Grow Blog

Burnin’ For You – Montana Fire trilogy #3

Plot: He’s loved her for years . . .Smoke jumper Reuben Marshall is harboring a deep regret—a split-second decision that cost the life of his crew boss in a fire. It’s a grief that has paralyzed him, kept him from moving forward. It’s mistakes, and regrets like this that keep him from pursuing his long-burning interest in Gilly Priest, their pretty, petite pilot. Not only is she not interested in dating a teammate, but she’s also the preacher’s daughter. And while Reuben’s not the chiefest of sinners, he’s no saint. Reuben feels like a buffalo next to her and worse, can’t seem to string two words together when she’s in his radar. He’ll just have to love her from afar…

Her dark secret keeps her from trusting . . .Gilly Priest has worked hard to carve out her niche as a female bomber pilot in the dangerous world of firefighting. Sure she’s small, but she’s made up for her stature in courage, grit, and the tenacity to face danger other pilots wouldn’t dare to confront. And yes, she’s noticed handsome Reuben Marshall—who wouldn’t? Dependable and strong, he takes up most of the space in the room. But Gilly’s dark secret won’t allow her close enough to talk to him, let alone let herself fall for him.

A race to rescue the people they love . . .When their smokejumper plane goes down in the northwestern Montana mountains, wounding their team, Gilly and Reuben are the only ones able to hike out to find help. But when their rescue mission turns out to be a fight for their lives against the terrain, a saboteur, and a forest fire, they discover they’ll have to put aside their fears and learn to trust each other. But will trust lead to igniting something they both long for…and fear? And can they save their team before tragedy strikes—again?

My thoughts: This conclusion to the Montana Fire trilogy was so good! Susan May Warren does a great job of mixing drama, adventure, and romance in her books, and this one was no exception. I loved getting to know Gilly and Reuben and seeing how their love story grew as they faced their fears and sacrificed to save their friends. Not your typical or predictable love story…you won’t regret the time spent reading it!

Happily Ever After – Deep Haven Series #1

Plot: Mona Reynolds knows exactly whom she wants to marry. The only problem is, he isn’t real.

Mona’s dream is about to come true. With the help of her best friend, Liza, she’s transforming an old Victorian house in the lovely lakeside town of Deep Haven into the Footstep of Heaven Bookstore and Coffee Shop. If only she could swing a hammer. Luckily for Mona, Joe Michaels — a handsome, mysterious handyman — agrees to help in exchange for rent in the apartment above her garage. But when disaster threatens her dream, Mona turns to her handyman for more than just household solutions and finds that some fairy tales have surprise endings. . . .

My thoughts: This book is an introduction to Deep Haven, Minnesota, which is also where Warren’s more recent Christiansen Family series takes place. I love that it’s about a woman starting a bookstore — that sounds like so much fun! Still, it’s not without its struggles, as Mona soon discovers. Enter Joe, the handyman with secrets that could change everything. This story is really well-written, with great characters and a plot twist that I didn’t see coming at first.

Tying the Knot – Deep Haven Series #2

Plot: EMT Anne Lundstrom is running from her past. But it’s about to catch up. She thought she’d escaped it when she moved out of the city and into the quiet town of Deep Haven. She certainly never expected to get roped into helping Noah Standing Bear run his summer camp for inner-city kids. Yet Noah has a charisma she can’t ignore, and romance is in the air. But when the very danger she was trying to escape threatens her peaceful haven―and her life―Anne must find the courage to face her fears and embrace the one man who can help her understand her past.

My thoughts: I loved the first book in the series, but I thought this one was even better! Anne moves to Deep Haven from the city, not realizing that a chance encounter from her past is about to change the rest of her life. This is a great story about how God can use our lives when we’re willing to trust Him with our fears and open our eyes to something beyond our own dreams and plans.

The Perfect Match – Deep Haven Series #3

Plot: Ellie Karlson is new to Deep Haven. As the town’s interim fire chief, she is determined to lead the local macho fire crew in spite of their misconceptions about her. But when someone begins setting deadly fires, Ellie faces the biggest challenge of her life. Especially when sparks fly with one of the volunteers on her crew: Pastor Dan Matthews. As Ellie battles to do her job and win the respect of her crew, she finds that there is one fire she can’t fight―the one Dan has set in her heart.

My thoughts: Pastor Dan and Ellie are characters you can’t help but root for, even when they seem to be at odds with each other. Ellie has a tough job to do as Deep Haven’s fire chief, and the men on her crew don’t all appreciate having a woman in charge. Dan was skeptical too at first, but he soon becomes her friend and confidante. They learn to see and love each other for who they are, rather than their preconceived ideas of how the other should act. It turns out to be a story with plenty of danger and mystery, but a sweet and touching ending.

If you’ve never read Susan May Warren’s books, now is a great time to start! I just noticed that this ebook, the prequel to her upcoming Montana Rescue series, is free on Kindle right now.  You can download that and then pre-order the first book in the new series, Wild Montana Skies, that’s coming out next Tuesday. (This post is not sponsored in any way; I just love her books!) I know I can’t wait to read my copy as soon as it comes in the mail! 

Have you read any of Susan May Warren’s books? Who are some of your favorite authors?

What I Read in September // Part One

One of my goals for September was to read four books. I didn’t read any non-fiction like I intended to, but I did end up doubling my goal and reading eight books! I wanted to write a recap and quick review of all the books I read, but I’m going to split them into two posts so I don’t overload you with one long post (although this one may still be a little long 😉 ). Here are the first four books I read in September.

What I Read in September, Part One || Grace to Grow Blog

Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter

Plot: Watching the love of his life fall for his brother was enough to send Riley straight to boot camp. But over a year later, he’s officially a marine, and Beau and Paige are no longer an item. When Riley’s tour in Afghanistan is up, he intends to confess his feelings to Paige and win his best friend’s heart once and for all.

But all that changes when an IED takes the life of a comrade and leaves Riley an amputee. Now he’s heading home, injured and troubled. His plans to win Paige are a distant dream. She deserves so much more than the man that’s left. All he can do now is put some healthy distance between them. But upon his return he discovers his family has arranged for him to stay with Paige.

Paige is a nurturer at heart and happy to take care of her best buddy. By all appearances Riley is adjusting miraculously well to his disability. But as the days pass, Paige begins to see that the smiles and laughter are just a mask for the pain he’s hiding. To make matters worse, her job is in serious jeopardy. The animal shelter that she’s poured her heart into has lost its funding, and she has three months to come up with the money needed to save it.

As the weeks wear on, Paige’s feelings for Riley begin to shift into uncharted territory. Why is she suddenly noticing his arm muscles and the way his lips curl at the corners? Will she be able to deny her feelings for another Callahan brother? And will Riley let his heart heal so he can let Paige in?

My thoughts: This was a good ending to the Summer Harbor series. It was nice to catch up with the characters from the previous two books and finally find out the answer to the “Paige and Riley” question that had been hinted at in the other books. The characters and the story are well-developed, and your heart aches for Riley as he struggles with the aftereffects of his time in Afghanistan. It was a little more predictable than the other books in the series, but it’s still an enjoyable read.

Sins of the Past by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason

Plot: In Dee Henderson’s “Missing,” a Wyoming sheriff is called to Chicago when his elderly mother goes missing. Paired with a savvy Chicago cop, the two realize her disappearance is no accident, and a race against the clock begins.

Dani Pettrey returns to Alaska with “Shadowed,” introducing readers to the parents of her beloved McKenna clan. Adventure, romance, and danger collide when a young fisherman nets the body of an open-water swimming competitor who may actually be a possible Russian defector.

Lynette Eason’s “Blackout” delivers the story of a woman once implicated in a robbery gone wrong. The loot has never been found–but her memory of that night has always been unreliable. Can she remember enough to find her way to safety when the true culprit comes after her?

My thoughts: Usually I’m not crazy about novellas, because there usually isn’t enough time to develop the story well. This book proved me wrong, though! I bought it primarily because I like everything by Dee Henderson, and I wanted to find out what happened in the prequel to Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series. Dee Henderson’s “Missing” was written in her typical style, including well thought out details and fascinating plot twists. It provided a good set-up for a new series, too! Dani Pettrey’s “Shadowed” kept me turning pages too, with an intriguing plot and a sweet romance. “Blackout” by Lynette Eason seemed a little far-fetched to me, but still worth the read.

Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello

Plot: When nobody talks… the stones cry out.

In the searing heat of a Virginia summer, two men plummet from a roof top to th sidewalk below. The victims are a white police officer and a young black man with a troubled past. Hundreds of people were at the scene, and yet nobody saw what happened. But when FBI agent Raleigh Harmon is assigned the case, she realizes they’re just not talking.

The Bureau wants a quick verdict, with or without the truth. And with tight-lipped witnesses, Raleigh has to rely on her training in forensic geology to uncover the facts. Working through her connections among the city’s most powerful families, along with trolling Richmond’s underbelly, Raleigh wants to see justice prevail. But can she solve the case before the city’s growing unrest rages out of control? And will her choices bring down everyone involved—including herself?

The first Sibella Giorello book I read was the fifth one in the Raleigh Harmon series, The Mountains Bow Down, when the Kindle version was on sale this summer. When I saw that this first book in the series was free on Kindle, I downloaded it right away! The plot is very relevant to current events, and I love the main character, Raleigh. She has a lot of trouble in her past and present that she has to deal with, but she still manages to be one of the most tenacious agents in the FBI. She refuses to give up on justice, even when she’s up against numerous forces trying to stop her. She’s a complex and relatable character; you can’t help but root for her. The focus on geology in crime-solving is fascinating, too; it’s not something that’s glamorous enough to be put on TV very often, but it brings a realistic dimension to the book. If you like suspense and mystery, or just Christian fiction in general, give this book a try!

Priceless by Joel Smallbone and Luke Smallbone with Nancy Rue

Plot: James Stevens was, at one time, a good man with a great life. After the tragic death of his wife and losing custody of his little girl, James is at the darkest crossroad of his life. Angry, desperate, and unable to hold down a steady job, he agrees to drive a box truck on a shady, one-time trip cross country for cash — no questions asked. When he discovers what he is delivering is actually a who, the questions in his mind begin haunting him mercilessly. James becomes an unlikely hero who must fight to save the lives of two young women and finds himself falling in love with one of them.

Can love, strength, and faith redefine his past and change the course of his future?

My thoughts: This book is based on the movie by the same name, produced by and featuring the Smallbone brothers of the band for KING & COUNTRY (they have a song out called Priceless too!), that is coming out in theaters this weekend. It’s a really intense book that deals with several difficult topics: death, drugs, jail, custody issues, and human trafficking. They handle these topics well though, and while it’s not appropriate for children, it’s not overly graphic or disturbing. It really sheds light on the issue of human trafficking and how girls can get into that situation, and you really feel for James, the main character, as he faces many difficult choices and opportunities to do the right thing. This is a well-written, thought-provoking book, and I’m sure the movie will be just as good.

What books have you read lately? Look for part 2 of my September reads later this week!

Blog-tember Day Twelve // Books, Books and More Books

Books, Books and More Books || Grace to Grow Blog

Today’s Blog-tember prompt is right up my alley! I’ve loved reading my whole life, and I have two bookcases and several boxes of books in the attic to prove it 😉 It’s always been my favorite way to learn something new, be inspired, or relax and have fun. I love going to bookstores just to browse the shelves and see what catches my eye, and my Amazon cart is always full of new books I’ve heard or read about. If only I had an unlimited budget…those books would be on my bookshelf instead of in an online shopping cart! 😉 So with that, let’s jump into today’s prompt: a book I recently read, one I’m currently reading, and one I want to read.

Books, Books and More Books || Grace to Grow BlogThe Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck. I know anything by Rachel Hauck will be good, so I pre-ordered this one and got it the day it came out. I wasn’t disappointed! This is a story about a veteran, Haley, trying to find her place back in her hometown after her military service and a failed relationship. She sets out to restore an old wedding dress shop with the help of her late best friend’s ex-fiance. Her story is intertwined with the story of the shop’s original owner, who ran the shop in the 1930s. They both faced challenges, with the shop and with growing into the women God made them to be. It was a heartwarming story involving two sweet romances, with a couple of plot twists that surprised me and made it hard to put the book down! This book also mentioned characters from her two most recent books (The Wedding Dress and The Wedding Chapel), but this is a stand-alone book. I very highly recommend it!

Books, Books and More Books || Grace to Grow BlogJust a Kiss by Denise Hunter. I’m currently reading this third book in Denise Hunter’s Summer Harbor series. I love that the series takes place in Maine, just a few hours north of where I live! It’s not often I read books that mention towns and cities I’m familiar with 😉 So far, this is shaping up to be another excellent book and a great conclusion to the series!

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The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee. I bought this one a few weeks ago, but haven’t started it yet. I’ve been dealing with some anxiety and uncertainty about the future, and I’ve often thought I just wish I could be happy. Here’s the publisher’s description of the book:

Would you like to be happier? No matter who you are or how you feel, chances are you would answer yes. And Jennifer Dukes Lee was no different. For years, she wrestled with a constant nagging sense that she wasn’t as happy as she could be. At the same time, she felt guilty for wanting something so “shallow.” After all, doesn’t God only care that we find joy in our circumstances? Or is it possible that God really does want us to be happy?

Determined to get answers, Jennifer embarked on a quest to find out whether our happiness matters to God and, if so, how to pursue it in a way that pleases him.

In The Happiness Dare, you’ll learn what she discovered, including how to:

Understand the five happiness styles and maximize yours

Overcome the four biggest obstacles that stand in the way of your happiness

Find your happiness sweet spot—the place, relationship, or activity that gives you the greatest sense of well-being

Discover what you can do in just five minutes a day to be happier

Will you take the dare?

Join Jennifer in the pursuit of your truest, most satisfied, and most faith-filled self.

I’m really excited to read this. One of my goals for this month was to make a dent in my stack of non-fiction books, and I think I’ll be learning a lot from this one! 

What have you been reading recently?

Looking for Lovely Review

Looking for Lovely Book Review |Grace to Grow Blog

Looking for Lovely book review | Grace to Grow Blog

From the publisher: “I want you to take every step of your life with excitement for where you are headed. And I want you to feel beautiful and confident as you do.”

But how? When the enemy whispers lies that you are not smart enough, pretty enough, or rich enough? Or you are too dumb, too loud, too quiet, too thin, too fat, too much or not enough? What if you don’t have what it takes to be who you really want to be?

 In Looking for Lovely, Annie F. Downs shares personal stories, biblical truth, and examples of how others have courageously walked the path God paved for their lives by remembering all God had done, loving what was right in front of them, and seeing God in the everyday—whether that be nature, friends, or the face they see in the mirror.

 Intensely personal, yet incredibly powerful, Looking for Lovely will spark transformative conversations and life changing patterns. No matter who we are and what path God has us on, we all need to look for lovely, fight to finish, and find beautiful in our every day!

Perseverance. It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? When things get tough, it’s easy to give up, to quit, to throw up your hands and say you’ve had enough…but that’s not what God wants for us, and that’s not what Annie Downs wants for herself–or for you.

I love to read stories, and that’s why I’ve always read a lot more fiction than nonfiction. But let me tell you, Annie’s new book Looking for Lovely is the perfect blend of stories and inspiration! She effortlessly weaves life lessons into stories from her life; she keeps you smiling, laughing, learning, and maybe crying, just a little. In Looking for Lovely, Annie tells stories about how God has been teaching her to persevere, to trust the path He has her on, to keep going and keep looking to Him when things get tough, to look for the lovely things in life that help us see the joy in the journey.

Looking for Lovely really spoke to my heart. I long to live a life of joy, even in the hard times. I want to learn to look for the lovely, beautiful bright spots God has put in my life, no matter how small or everyday, and to let them give me the courage to keep going. I want to be the person who lives life a little slower but a little fuller, savoring the richness of the little ways God shows Himself to me. Annie’s book is helping me see ways that I can look for my own lovely.

This book would be great for women in all stages of life, from girls like me in their early 20s to moms or single ladies in their 30s, 40s, or beyond. And this month, Annie has also released Bible study guides for students and adult ladies to go along with the book! You can buy it at Lifeway or Amazon, get a group of girlfriends together, and dig a little deeper. You won’t regret it!

 About Annie

Annie F. Downs is an author and speaker based in Nashville, Tennessee. Flawed but funny, she uses her writing to highlight the everyday goodness of a real and present God.

Annie is the author of Let’s All Be Brave, a book for men and women about the power we each have to make a difference on this planet. By weaving together personal stories, humor, and Scripture, she invites those reading to experience fulfilled lives with a God who made them on purpose and loves them deeply.

While she loves writing- books, blogs, articles, thank-you notes- Annie also enjoys traveling around the world speaking to young women, college students, and adults.

Annie is a huge fan of bands with banjos, glitter, her community of friends, boiled peanuts, and football games. You can catch up with her blog and her other projects at http://www.anniefdowns.com/.