The Perfect Gift for Book Lovers: December 2016 New Releases

As you glance at our December new releases, you may well find yourself asking: were red and green intentionally dominant colors on these lovely covers? (The answer is no, but hey, it works!)

Or you might just find yourself asking how you can get ahold of one as soon as possible because they look so good. (You’d be right on that one!)

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Here’s a quick overview and sneak peek at each title. Click on the cover if you’d like to read an excerpt.

For the Record by Regina Jennings

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Main character: Betsy Huckabee, a curious and charming writer in small-town Missouri.

Plot: Betsy Huckabee dreams of being a big-city journalist, but first she has to get out of Pine Gap. To that end, she pens a romanticized serial for the ladies’ pages of a distant newspaper, using the handsome new deputy and his exploits for inspiration. She’d be horrified if he read her breathless descriptions of him, but no one from home will ever know. . .

Recommended as a gift for: Readers who love witty dialogue, fast-paced romances, or Western settings.

Other people say: “This is such a delightful read with an adorable romance and a fun and entertaining storyline. . . . The interactions and dialogue between the main characters are sheer perfection. The mystery and drama with the hero’s backstory and the masked marauders keep the momentum of the story going at a nice pace and allows for no dull moments. There is so much to love here in this little gem, it is easily one of Jennings’ best.”—RT Book Reviews

If this book were wrapped for Christmas, it might look like this:

I could see either of these cute, old-fashioned-but-still-fun holiday designs fitting For the Record.

I could see either of these cute, old-fashioned-but-still-fun holiday designs fitting For the Record.

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen

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Main character: Jane Bell, a determined and gracious noblewoman-turned-innkeeper.

Plot: The lifeblood of the village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. When the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane, becomes the reluctant owner. With a large loan due, can Jane and her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, find a way to save the inn—and discover fresh hope for the future?

Recommended as a gift for: Anyone who appreciates BBC series, Jane Austen, or fascinating characters.

Other people say: “Klassen launches a heartwarming new series set in the Regency era that delivers everything fans of gentle historical-romance novels could ever want, including a beautifully realized English village setting, a memorable cast of characters, and charming hints of love for more than one of the residents of Ivy Hill.”—Booklist

If this book were wrapped for Christmas, it might look like this:

Something about this just said "classy British read" to me.

Something about this just said “classy British read” to me.

Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig

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Main character: Cole “Tox” Russell, a loyal and courageous paramilitary group leader.

Plot: When an archaeological dig unleashes a centuries-old virus, paramilitary operative Cole ‘Tox’ Russell is forced back into action. With the help of archaeologist Tzivia Khalon and FBI agent Kasey Cortes, Tox searches for answers—and becomes entangled in a web of deception. As the team races to stop a pandemic, a secret society counters their every move.

Recommended as a gift for: Men or women who enjoy pulse-pounding thrillers.

Other people say: “Kendig keeps the tensions high and the pace lightning fast, with military action scenes worthy of Vince Flynn. Especially noteworthy is watching the character development of elite modern warriors forced to confront and accept ancient history, faith, and supernatural power. Kendig fans will love this opening novel in her new series.”—Publishers Weekly

If this book were wrapped for Christmas, it might look like this:

Black because secret operations and danger...and is that mistletoe? Because Tox does have a heart of gold.

Black because secret operations and danger…and is that mistletoe? Because Tox has a heart of gold.

Are you hoping for any books this year for Christmas? Which ones? (I put To Kill a Mockingbird on my list, because I realized to my shock I didn’t actually own a copy.)

Happy Thanksgiving from Bethany House

This Thanksgiving Day, the start of an often-crazy holiday season, I hope you’re able to take a little time for rest. For peace. For prayer and unhurried conversation and good food and laughter.

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If it’s been a long November, dwell on these words from Jesus. They’re as true today as they’ve always been: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”—Matthew 11:28-29

Happy Thanksgiving! As always, I’m grateful for compelling stories, authors seeking to write truth and grace, and readers like you who never fail to encourage me. Blessings on your celebration today!

Author Roundtable: What We’re Thankful For

With Thanksgiving coming up next Thursday, I decided to ask our five authors who have books releasing in November and December a few questions about gratitude. Enjoy! (And be sure to pray for them…these months are especially crazy with a book release added to normal holiday busyness.)

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Amy: What is one “small thing” you’re thankful for, not necessarily the larger blessings like family or freedom?

Ronie Kendig: I’m really thankful for the many vibrant colors of fall, which reminds me of variety (people, foods, idiosyncrasies, flavors) and that everything has a season.

Patrick Carr: I’m thankful for my co-workers’ quirky senses of humor

Regina Jennings: I love my little creamer that I got as a wedding present. I use it every Saturday morning to hold the hot syrup when I’m having my coconut pancakes. It’s the perfect size and it feels genteel.

Nancy Mehl: I love to lie in bed at night and listen to my husband and my dog snore lightly. To know they’re there and I can reach out and touch them makes me feel safe and thankful.

Julie Klassen: With a deadline approaching, I’m thankful coffee doesn’t have calories!

Amy: What is a favorite verse that comes to mind regarding gratitude, thanksgiving, blessings, or the goodness of God?

Ronie Kendig: “Enter his gate with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”— Psalm 100:4

Patrick Carr: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”—Romans 8:28

Regina Jennings: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” – James 1:17 (NKJV)

This verse reminds us that everything good is a gift from God, but the best gift is that He does not change. Other gifts might age and wear out, but God doesn’t grow old, weak, or out of date. His goodness is eternal.

Nancy Mehl: “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”—Matthew 19:26.

It comforts me to know that no matter how dark things look, or how difficult a situation seems to be, God can deliver me and bring victory. Knowing this makes me want to jump and shout and praise my wonderful Heavenly Father!

Julie Klassen: As a mother of teenagers, I admit I sometimes worry. When I do, I am thankful for the reminder in Philippians 4:6 (NLT): “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

Amy: How do you remind yourself to take time to be thankful during the start of a busy holiday season?

Ronie Kendig:  I immediately lower my expectations—of myself and of others—about what should be done or given, and I focus on what’s important: friends and family.

Patrick Carr: I focus on the fact that being WITH is far more fun than buying FOR.

Regina Jennings: The one aspect of the holidays that I dread is shopping. How do I turn that around? While at the mall or the shops, I just look around at all the stuff and think how grateful I am that our needs are met. It’d be awful to actually need everything that crowds those shelves. Contentment is the gift that makes other gifts unnecessary.

Nancy Mehl: We try to find someone to bless during Christmas, and this helps to remind us what Christmas is all about. But honestly, since my husband and I moved to Missouri to be near our son, his wife and now our two grandsons, it isn’t hard to be thankful. Being around them makes us so grateful to God for His wonderful blessings!

Julie Klassen: I don’t always remember to, so this blog post is a good reminder to be thankful. Thanks!

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Your turn readers: what’s one “small thing” you’re thankful for?

Six Reasons It’s More Fun to Discuss Books Than Politics

There’s a time and a place for giving opinions on election results, of course, but here at Bethany House, we think any time and place is a good one for talking about books! Here’s why:

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One: Bringing up a favorite suspense writer or discussing the merits (or lack thereof) of a fictional hero isn’t likely to fill the room with awkward silences and irritated subject changes at holiday dinners. (Unless your family really hates books. If so, I’m sorry! Stop by the blog on Thanksgiving and we can chat about Anne of Green Gables or something.)

Two: Fewer lies, more truth. Okay, a novel is technically a lie in that it is about people who are not real and scenarios that did not happen and words that were not spoken. But given that it boldly announces that fact and that every person coming to a novel is aware that it is fictional, I don’t think that really counts. And anyway, you can learn a lot about truth from fiction, and can’t we all use a little more of that?

Three: Even a terrible book has an ending point, so you can complain about it while knowing that it probably won’t have a lasting impact on your life. (Other than making you wince every time you glimpse a picture of the cover online.) Also, you can throw it across the room if you want!

Four: The most heated arguments when discussing books are about things like charming rogue cowboy vs. witty British gentleman, series vs. standalones, face on the cover or not.

Not that those issues aren’t important…but I like the low stakes and fun tone that those “debates” have even with the most opinionated readers among us. Sometimes it feels a lot easier to “agree to disagree” about whether or not Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre is a jerk or if speed reading is a good idea than it is to graciously disagree about policies and platforms.

Five: If someone happens to vote the same way as you, you probably don’t have much else in common with that person. There is a chance you don’t even like each other.

Whereas if someone also loves your favorite book, there is a chance you should be best friends. Or at least you’re in for a delightful conversation (“Could you believe it when…” “What do you think will happen to him in the sequel…” “Favorite character?”), the likes of which non-readers can only wish they were a part of.

Create real connections. Talk about books.

Six: A political “party” doesn’t always seem like much of a party. But a reader party is always going to be a good time. (So thanks, readers, for dropping by the blog! I love having you.)

Time for a poll of our own! Vote on the three races mentioned in reason four. (Charming rogue cowboy or witty British gentleman, series or standalones, face on the cover or not.) Which side will you take?

Prayer for Authors: November 2016

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Prayer

Authors with Books Releasing in November:

Patrick W. Carr
Nancy Mehl

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.–1 Peter 1:6-7, ESV

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For the support of family and friends during a busy release month.
  • For peace and direction when making choices related to writing career changes or next steps.
  • For those who are seeking God (even if they don’t know it yet) to get a clearer picture of the Christian faith through these books.

During this month of giving thanks, I’m grateful for wonderful books and authors…as well as readers like you who come alongside us to pray!

Introducing Our November 2016 New Releases

The two Bethany House titles that released this week have vastly different settings, themes, and genres, but they have one thing in common: I can recommend them both to readers who enjoy a great story. Want to give them a try? Click a cover to read an excerpt.

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Fatal Frost by Nancy Mehl

Summary: When U.S. Marshal Mercy Brennan is assigned to a joint task force with the St. Louis PD, she’s forced back into contact with her father and into the sights of a notorious gang. Mercy’s boss assigns her colleague—and ex-boyfriend—Mark to get her safely out of town. But when an ice storm hits and the enemy closes in, can backup reach them in time?

First Lines: “The seemingly deserted street was lined with empty houses, their windows as blank and vacant as the eyes of those who had become casualties in St. Louis’s war on heroine. Deputy U.S. Marshal Mercy Brennan gazed out the window of the black van as cold tendrils of rain slid down the darkened glass next to her, reminding her of tears.”

Favorite Character: Tally! Yes, this is partially because sidekick characters get some of the best lines, but his faith and mentor-like relationship with Mercy were both very compelling dimensions to his character. Add to that a great backstory that came up at all the right moments and a very real internal struggle about whether to continue on in law enforcement, and he’s someone you can’t help but root for.

Other Unbiased People Say: “An out-of-control roller coaster of a romantic suspense novel! The first book in the DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE series has something for every fan of the genre. . . . The characters are smart, cunning and know how to use their wits to get them out of tight situations. The plot is fast paced and is not standard or run of the mill. Nancy Mehl has raised the bar with her new series.” (RT Book Reviews)

Recommended for: This series follows U.S. Marshals, a career I knew very little about, and Nancy’s real-life research shines in tense situations that could be something you hear on the evening news, so anyone, especially romantic suspense fans, who enjoy learning something new would love this book. Fans of Dee Henderson will enjoy finding a new author while they wait for her next release. Once you start, you might find yourself postponing sleep to keep going until the last page to find out what happens!

 

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The Shattered Vigil by Patrick W. Carr

Summary: Despite their recent victory, Willet and the rest of the Vigil discover the continent is still far from safe. When unseen assassins begin targeting the Vigil and their gift and his associates scatter, Willet must find a way to defeat this latest threat alone.

First Lines (from the villain’s POV): “Darkness fell within the storyteller’s room, the pain and light of day diminishing, though the heat remained, absorbed and surrendered from countless clay walls and tiled roofs. Nightfall. He relished the dying of the light, the way the sun that blinded him slid beneath the horizon with all the desperate clinging of a drowning child.”

Favorite Character: Can I pick all the urchins? Seriously, the young apprentices who each travel with a member of the Vigil are complex and wonderful. Fess absolutely stole my heart, Lelwin broke it, Mark has an interesting faith struggle, and Rory is hilarious and could easily be the hero of a future series in his own right. (Also, not an apprentice, but if you can read this book without falling in love with little Aellyn, you are heartless.) Far more than an amusing subplot, these young people raise the stakes and give the story added depth.

Other Unbiased People Say: “Carr grips readers from the very beginning, creating suspense that doesn’t let go. Readers are fascinated by Willet and empathize with his struggle in doing what is right when the path is not clear, and every way he turns is filled with danger. Well timed, surprising and intense, this book does not disappoint.” (RT Book Reviews Top Pick)

Recommended for: Anyone who reads fantasy (though there are parts that would be too intense for younger teens). But even if you don’t typically read fantasy, I’d recommend you give this one a try, if only for the amazing characters and thought-provoking insights on faith that you’ll find in the pages. (You should read The Shock of Night first for background, since this one builds on the plot of the first in the series.)

Who was a favorite secondary character from a book you recently read?

Books of the Future: Let’s Make Predictions

Whenever a magazine writes an article on Christian fiction, they always ask someone at Bethany House to give an answer to this question: what is the future of the genre?

Of course, they’re looking for sensible things like which categories are seeing growth, what trends might be next, and if we’ll expand, shrink, or keep our number of titles the same in upcoming years.

But every time, I’m tempted to give them a more unexpected answer: daydreams and imaginings of what the near-distant future of book publishing might look like. Here are some of my ideas…be thinking of yours to put in the comments!

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This post was inspired by this comic. (He’s got lots of other great bookish comics here.)

Video Features: Imagine reading along…and seeing a short video clip pop up, narrated by the main character. I can see this working really well for parts of Conspiracy of Silence (maybe a mission log from Tox or other members of his team), but it would be neat to give us a picture the settings of some historical novels as well. And every Author’s Note at the back could be the author personally giving a thank-you to people involved with the book.

Hologram Pop-up Books: I have a weakness for really beautiful pop-up books, but they haven’t really crossed over into the adult Christian fiction market (for obvious reasons). But holograms would make it easy to create a cost-effective pop-up book that could still contain a lot of text—certain scenes would just unfold before you in charming, vintage cut-paper style. Top of my list for this one would be Roseanna White’s Ladies of the Manor series. The estates and intrigue would make for some lovely, dramatic scenes, not to mention…those dresses!

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Scratch-and-Sniff Books: Like those stickers you got in elementary school that smelled like bubblegum, these pages would bring a previously unexperienced dimension of the novels to life with a puff of fragrance appropriate to the scene. A soon-to-be-released book I just read that did a great job describing smells was Jocelyn Green’s The Mark of the King: “The smoky scent of cheese braided itself with the spicy steam lifting from the teacup on the desk and cinched a noose around Julianne’s empty stomach.” “A breeze whistled through the shade, stirring the smell of decomposing leaves and warm, fallen cypress needles.” “While Paris on the Seine was fragrant with café au lait, fresh bread, leather, straw, and wine, New Orleans here by the Mississippi smelled of fish, coffee, corn, bear grease, and eau-de-vie, a cheap variety of brandy.” Hmm. Maybe that’s why a scratch-and-sniff book hasn’t already been invented yet…not all smells are pleasant ones.

Treasure Hunt Books: Okay, this is an unrealistic amount of work, but I’ve always dreamed about a book with codes/puzzles embedded in it where the reader could solve a mystery in real time. Think something like geocatching, but probably through the Internet so it would be accessible to readers everywhere. Something like: the first word of every chapter leads you to a website, where you have to type in a code from a themed crossword puzzle, then call a phone number where the answering machine gives you the ISBN of an Agatha Christie novel…and so on until you reach the resolution. Although Drew and Madeline, of Julianna Deering’s mystery series, wouldn’t know what a website was, I could see the two of them headlining an interactive hunt like this, since they’re already experienced sleuths.

Even though technology and methods of reading might change, one thing will remain the same: readers will always need a good story.

What do you think the books of the future might look like? Any currently published books you’d love to see as a pop-up book or one of the other future options mentioned?

Ask BHP: What’s Your Favorite Thing About Christian Fiction?

I’m excited about today’s Ask BHP. I was secretly hoping someone would ask this question at some point: “What is your favorite thing about Christian fiction? And what do you dislike?”

For time’s sake, to get a list of my pet peeves in Christian fiction (or, in some cases, any fiction), just take the following points and reverse them. That way I can spend the whole blog addressing the first question with examples from some of the books I’ve recently read and enjoyed. (And yes, I picked four things I like about Christian fiction, but hey, I’m writing this blog so I get to make the rules.)

Me with fall colors, because nothing says seasonal office decorations like piles of books.

Me with fall colors, because nothing says seasonal office decorations like piles of books.

Christian fiction doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Are there novels on heavier topics where humor would be totally out-of-place? Of course! But I love that Christian fiction isn’t somber or dull, and that some writers dedicate books or entire writing careers to making people laugh.

For me, Melissa Tagg’s delightful rom-coms hit right on my sense of humor, for others, Mary Connealy’s comedy and cowboys or Jen Turano’s zany turn-of-the-century romps are just their style.

It’s a good feeling to laugh out loud, especially when the fun is clean and hope-filled. We all need it, and I’m glad that Christian fiction provides it.

Christian fiction challenges me to think and change.

Maybe not everyone reads fiction for this reason, but I appreciate a book that takes a little thought. For example, I loved Jill Williamson’s King’s Folly because it helped me think biblically about subjects like idolatry, justice, and systemic evil (big-picture evils like racism, sex trafficking, poverty). Obviously, the book was a fantasy novel with engaging characters and a page-turning plot, but it also made me think, and I appreciated that.

Another one coming up in January that I just finished is Jocelyn Green’s The Mark of the King. Not only did I learn about an entirely new historical setting—French colonial Louisiana—but several scenarios had me wondering, “What would I do if I were in this character’s place?” Any book that makes me think that—I’m in. Continue reading

Fictional Postcards: October Bethany House Books

Sometimes setting can be a great reason to pick up a book—we all love the escape of relaxing in a famous travel destination or the adventure of exploring a region or country where we’ve never been in person. This month, we had such a great variety of real-life locations that I decided to show you postcard-worthy pictures of each. (You can click on the cover to read an excerpt.) Enjoy!

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This story takes place after the Exodus, when the Israelites journeyed into the wilderness and met God at Mount Sinai. There’s debate by scholars on the location of Mt. Sinai itself, but here are a few shots of what the mountains and wilderness of the area looks like.

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For more pictures, check out Connilyn’s Pinterest board.

from-this-day-forward Continue reading