Vote Books 2020!

Driving around my town yesterday, I had this enlightening thought: what if we had commercials, flyers, and even yard signs…promoting our favorite novels? Wouldn’t that be fun?

From there, of course, I thought of a few “campaign slogans” or platforms for my favorite classics. Two of my coworkers, Brooke and Rachael, also contributed some good ones. Enjoy!

Debate tonight: watch Gandalf and Harry Potter argue about the proper role of magic systems in fantasy novels. (Lucy Pevensie moderates.)

Don’t Reelect Goodnight Moon – It’s time to kick the incumbent out of office and replace it with an actual story. We the people don’t even know what mush is or why kids would want to say goodnight to it. It’s time for bedtime story reform.

If you’re looking for the truest gentleman on the ballot, look no further than Charles Bingley. He is charming without effort, innately good without ulterior motives, and will take care of his people when they fall ill. [Disclaimer voiceover] This slogan not written by Bingley, who would never say such nice things about himself. Vote Bingley.

“If women were allowed to vote, we’d soon see a blessed change.” – Rachel Lynde, endorsing Anne Shirley’s campaign (Good news, Mrs. Lynde! We can now!)

[Unflattering picture of Regency-era man, with voiceover] Edward Rochester has lied to us all. His secrets, crazy ex-wife, and propensity for dressing up as a gypsy to manipulate people mean he’s not the right man for the job. Vote for character. Vote for George Knightley.

[Image of candidate standing on stump] I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees. Don’t vote for another, and save all the leaves.

Love is not all a woman is fit for—we have minds, and talent, ambition. Vote for a clever and natural leader. Vote Jo March.

Elect Shakespeare 2020: Wherefore aren’t thou voting yet?

The election is afoot. Once you eliminate the impossible candidates, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the will of the people. Vote Sherlock Holmes.

Old Yeller. Where the Red Fern Grows. The Giving Tree. These tragedies have marked the current administration of children’s books for decades. We’ve all been caught in the Charlotte’s Web of lies. The Sad Children’s Book Party is against everything we value. Vote yes to Proposition 22: “Let the parent/animal/tree live!”

No wrongdoing shall go unpunished—even the smallest of them. Help decrease crime. Do not forget my name at the polling place. Do not forget me. Vote Javert.

Your turn! Contribute a novel-based slogan, or just tell us which fictional character you’d vote for. (Please, no actual, serious political discussion…this one’s just for bookish fun.)

First Line Matching Game

Time for a game, everyone! We have seven (!) new releases from Bethany House this month, so I thought it would be the perfect time to play a round of…Match That First Line!

The rules are simple. I have a list of first lines below, then a list of titles. No searching for any of them online, now, or even looking up back cover copy to find a character’s name. Just give your best guess matching all of them together.

First Lines

  1. “Bella Eden had always known when it would happen—the day before her eighteenth birthday.”
  2. “I did not feel like celebrating.”
  3. “The incessant knocking on her condo door made Layla Karam grumble as she threw off the covers.”
  4. “Wax Mosby was living a life that was going to kill him.”
  5. “Cow manure spewed from the burst pipe and rained down on him like retribution.”
  6. “I want this job.”
  7. “Olivia Rosetti turned up the volume on the radio in the empty parlor.”

Titles

A. The Kissing Tree by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Amanda Dykes, and Nicole Deese
B. Forever by Your Side by Tracie Peterson
C. A Haven for Her Heart by Susan Anne Mason
D. The Shepherd’s Wife by Angela Hunt
E. Her Secret Song by Mary Connealy
F. The Sowing Season by Katie Powner
G. Backlash by Rachel Dylan

Think you might know the answers? Highlight the white text in the brackets to test yourself. You can comment with how many you got right! (No prizes, this is just for fun.)

Answers: [1A, 2D, 3G, 4E, 5F, 6B, 7C]

Five Fall Book and Beverage Pairings

Welcome to autumn, readers! Here in Minnesota, leaves are changing, people are hauling out their packed-away long-sleeved clothes, and coffee shops are bringing out all of their fall beverage menus. It’s the perfect time to sip a hot drink and read a good book.

Obviously, not everyone’s weather looks like this (shoutout to our international friends who are going into spring), but if you’re preparing for some cozy reading time as temperatures drop, here are some suggestions for the perfect drink-book pairings.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

This classic of autumnal flavors will put you in a seasonal mood at one sniff. This coffee drink takes the chill off of even the most gloomy and rainy of fall days.

Genre: Romance

Why: Can’t we all use a little heartwarming goodness in our lives? Romances and their happy-ever-after endings are also classics for a reason.

Recommendation: Love and a Little White Lie by Tammy L. Gray

 

Cold Apple Cider

Genre: Mystery or suspense

Why: You’ll need to cool off after getting your heartbeat up reading about chase scenes, mistaken identities, and crime, right? What better way than this apple-orchard favorite?

Recommendation: The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

 

Hot Apple Cider

Why does apple cider get mentioned twice? First, because it’s clearly the superior fall drink. Second, because hot and cold apple cider are two entirely different beverages. Hot cider feels like a sweater right out of the dryer, warm and comforting.

Genre: Historical

Why: Hot cider reminds us of barn-raisings or other old-timey goodness, a drink perfect for nostalgia and learning about the events and people of the past.

Recommendation: A Portrait of Loyalty by Roseanna M. White

 

Cinnamon or Chai Tea

This is the perfect mix of classy-yet-cozy, especially combined with an elegant teacup. It doesn’t water down the fall flavors, though, and usually comes with a kick of caffeine too.

Genre: Contemporary or women’s fiction

Why: You’ve got sophisticated tastes, and like a little complexity in your reads—but still plenty of hope.

Recommendation: The Sowing Season by Katie Powner (releases in October)

 

Hot Chocolate

Is there anything more fun than a rich mug of cocoa, preferably sipped in front of the fireplace? We don’t think so. Especially if you add marshmallows.

Genre: Christmas novella

Why: Come on. We know you’re putting peppermint in this hot chocolate and listening to a playlist with some carols sneaking on it. Just admit it and go full-on holiday cheer.

Recommendation: An Ivy Hill Christmas by Julie Klassen

 

Do you think your go-to genre matches the drink pairing above? Feel free to recommend a book in one of these categories too.

Add a Word, Ruin a (Pandemic) Book

Inspired by this cartoon, the Bethany House fiction team rewrote a few classic novels to better fit our current season.* Since everyone has extra time on their hands, why not make the literary greats more relevant by one tiny little change to the title? Here’s what we mean…

One Hundred Years of 2020 Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A Tale of Two Quarantines by Charles Dickens

Not On the Road by Jack Keroauc

Sense and Sanitation by Jane Austen

Charlotte’s Web Classroom by E. B. White

Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Year by Judith Viorst

Oh, the Places You Won’t Go! By Dr. Seuss

To Kill a Social Life by Harper Lee

The Lord of the Masks by J.R.R. Tolkien

Twenty-Twenty by George Orwell (JUST AS BAD)

But why stop there? Thinking about it, we realized we could update a few Bethany House titles as well.

From a Social Distance by Tamera Alexander

Before I Zoom Called You Mine by Nicole Deese

A Dangerous Cough by Elizabeth Camden

Until the Restrictions Fall by Connilyn Cossette

A Faithful Virtual Gathering by Leslie Gould

Stuck Together (in Quarantine) by Mary Connealy

A Cure Unknown by Roseanna M. White

A Most Inconvenient Mask by Regina Jennings

A Mosaic of Germs by Kimberly Duffy

For Such an Unprecedented Time by Kate Breslin

A Uncommon Skype Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

A Conspiracy of Conspiracy Theories by Ronie Kendig

Outbreak by Davis Bunn (wait, that’s actually the real title…)

We hope you’ve enjoyed our little exercise in re-writing books. May all of your reading be healthy and occasionally hilarious!

(*This is all totally tongue-in-cheek and not intended as actual, serious pandemic commentary. Except if your takeaway is that books are great for social distancing, because they are.)

Okay, your turn, readers! Add or change a word to modify a book to make it more COVID-relevant. Then share it in the comments.

Beach Reads: Books with the Ocean on the Cover

It’s summertime, and while you may not be going to the beach this year, all it takes is a book to bring the beach to you! There are several out there (because who wouldn’t want the ocean in the background if it makes sense for the story?), but here are a few of our recent ocean covers:

 

The Killing Tide by Dani Pettrey

Since the series focuses on a Coast Guard Investigation team, an ocean close-up makes perfect sense, and the way it’s shown in this dual-exposure image is breathtaking.

 

Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes

The ocean against a starry night sky framed by rocky cliffs, with the added bonus of a mysterious ship, makes this cover stand out, especially since a nautical mystery is at the heart of this tale.

 

Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette

The soft colors and muted lines of this cover make it so I can practically smell the sea salt with our main character as she stands by an unusual backdrop for biblical fiction.

Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

There is so much drama to this ocean with the crashing waves and windblown hair! Definitely the most epic-looking ocean in this lot, appropriate for the fantasy genre.

The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis

An Amish woman in a very non-traditional setting lends this simple, elegant cover an intriguing angle, evoking the charming Cape May setting at a glance.

Verity by Lisa T. Bergren

Since the hero of this story is a ship’s captain, the heroine’s look back at a prominent port in the background of this colonial island-set book is perfect to represent the story.

How about you, readers? Can you think of a novel you’ve enjoyed with a prominent view of the ocean?

Pandemic Reading Danger Levels

Everyone on the Internet seems to be posting charts and graphs meant to keep us safe from the latest outbreak. And I don’t know about you, but I just can’t relate to all of the activities they mention. Going to a party? Who has time now that my TBR pile is above my head…and growing? Going grocery shopping? Nope, the latest book mail just got dropped off on my porch. Watching a movie in the theater? Sorry, but the book is always better.

Because of this, I created a chart to help readers like me determine their risk level for various activities. I hope it helps you as we navigate these contagious waters.

(And yes, this is fully tongue-in-cheek. Shockingly, none of the books on my TBR stack are medical ones.)

May your 2020 continue to bring you many books and the social distancing required to read them all!

Six Dangers of the Reading Life

Some might look at us readers tucked into our cozy armchairs or stretched out on our beach towels with a book in hand and think the book lover’s life is an easy one.

Oh, no. That’s where they’re wrong. If you’re a seasoned reader, I’m sure you’ve realized there are multiple pitfalls and perils that dog the reader’s every step—I mean, page. Here are a few of them, arranged in order of approximate danger level.

Papercuts

Oh, the indignity of that sharp slice of pain, when all you wanted to do was lovingly turn those beloved pages. It’s a wound that cuts deep, even though it cuts shallowly. This is especially common in suspenseful books, when you’re trying to turn pages quickly to see what happens next.

Tip for Combating This Danger: Apply a generous amount of self-pity, then blame your least favorite character in the novel for directly attacking you. This should dull the pain and allow you to move on. If this is a frequent peril, consider using an e-reader instead. Or wear gloves or a handful of thimbles.

Mild Disdain from Other Readers

You know who they are. They’re the ones who demand everyone think their book club pick was flawlessly brilliant. The ones who post scathing one-star reviews on your favorite books and tell you to your face how “predicable and trite” they are. The ones who brag about having completed 99 of the “100 Classic Novels to Read Before You Die” list…and they only haven’t gotten to Les Misérables because they’re working on their French so they can read it in the original language. If you venture into the bookish world, be warned: you’ll be sure to encounter these critics and naysayers and their superior looks.

Tip for Combating This Danger: Amazingly, if you simply don’t care what these readers think about you, your favorite author, or your go-to genre, they have no power to ruin your day. Poof. Gone. I mean, I’m all for challenging yourself and occasionally reading outside your comfort zone, but part of the beauty in the world is that we all have different tastes and preferences. There are books out there for anyone, but not every book is for everyone, and that’s more than okay; it’s great!

(Also, the disdainful readers just approved of the fact that I used a semi-colon. They like semi-colons.)

Spoilers

My sister informed me last week that she was reading a kids’ mystery to put in her classroom. When a new character was introduced, she saw, in the margin of a library book, a scrawled, “HE IS THE KIDNAPPER,” rendering the next two hundred pages useless. Can you imagine such dastardly devilry? And at such a young age! But it’s not only tiny troublemakers you have to watch out for here. Indiscreet Amazon reviews that dump the entire plot before your curious eyes, accidentally openings to the wrong page, and excitable friends who just can’t help themselves all fall into this category. Watch out, or you’ll tumble into the Abyss of Knowing, and you’ll never get out.

Tip for Combating This Danger: Pre-order books you don’t want spoiled, and then isolate yourself until you’ve turned past the last page as an extra precaution. A bunker would be nice, if available. And if you’re one of those deluded people who read the ending of a book first…I’m sorry, there’s no help for you.

Natural Forces

This is a broad category, encompassing everything from the force of gravity pulling your cracker crumbs into the binding of the book from which they will never escape to sudden rainstorms when you’re reading outside, forcing you to securely swaddle your book in your hammock and flee a mile back to your vehicle, soaking wet and completely bedraggled while the book remains dry. (If you think both of these are based on personal experience…you’re right.)

Tip for Combating This Danger: There are innumerable forces and factors that might try to keep you from your book or ruin your reading experience (carsickness on a road trip, an unsealed coffee cup lid, library pandemic shut-downs), so it’s hard to give a one-size-fits-all solution. The only advice I can give is: be vigilant. Threats to reading are everywhere.

Emotional Exhaustion

Whether you keep the tissue box handy because you’re reading a tear-jerker or just because you hate to say goodbye to beloved bookish friends, the best stories will sweep you up into the characters’ trials and triumphs…and sometimes leave you with a post-book emotional hangover.

Tip for Combating This Danger: Take a deep breath. Then share the book with a friend, gush about it online, thank the author, or otherwise transfer those emotions to the real world. Don’t bother reminding yourself that the characters and their worlds aren’t real; this is no fun and also probably won’t help.

Suffocation by Collapsed TBR Pile

You know how it goes. Your favorite author has a new release, so you order it. Your book club coordinator hands you the novel for next month. Your friend is just dying to talk to you about the latest thriller. A stunning cover practically leaps off the shelf at you when browsing at a bookstore. There’s that one movie adaptation, and of course you have to read the book first. And the next thing you know, the delivery driver knows you by first name and is friends with you on Goodreads, and your house looks like some kind of towering literary maze of madness. If you venture among the stacks of tomes, you could get crushed, especially if you try to pull out a title from the bottom. Will it ever all get read? Who can say?

Tip for Combating This Danger: Keep an emergency whistle around your neck so you can call for help if needed, or find some sort of reinforced steel supports to maintain your stacks of worthy novels. (What, did you think I was going to tell you to read the books you have before buying or checking out more? What do you think this guide is, a humor piece?)

 

Sometimes it feels like the whole world is trying to keep you from your book, but we know that true readers will prevail! Together, we can watch each other’s backs, fight against obstacles to reading, and finish “just one more chapter.”

We’re sure we forgot a few perils, reader. What do you think are the most dangerous parts of living in the book world?

Bethany House Reading Road Trip 2020

It’s time for…your guide to some between-the-pages travel all over the country and the world! Especially this year, with restrictions and extra caution, we know lots of readers are excited to escape to a different place by opening a favorite author’s novel (or, even more fun, one by a new-to-them author). The list below includes Bethany House books from July 2019 to June 2020.

This year, for the first time, Oregon is our winning state for most locations. Yay, Pacific Northwest! (This is partly because both Susan Sleeman and Christina Suzann Nelson wrote books set in their home state, which we love.) Not a state, but Washington DC is also getting a lot of love this year, with four books set there. Check out all the rest of these locations, touring them alphabetically.

Alaska: Forever Hidden by Tracie Peterson and Kimberly Woodhouse

Colorado: Aiming for Love and Woman of Sunlight by Mary Connealy

Georgia: Stay With Me by Becky Wade

Idaho: Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese

Illinois: Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green

Iowa (And Missouri): Dead End by Nancy Mehl

Minnesota: A Song of Joy by Lauraine Snelling

Montana: Hope’s Highest Mountain by Misty M. Beller

Nebraska: Fire Storm by Nancy Mehl,

New Hampshire: A Perfect Silhouette by Judith Miller

New York: Diamond in the Rough and Storing Up Trouble by Jen Turano

North Carolina: The Killing Tide by Dani Pettrey, When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser

Oklahoma: The Major’s Daughter by Regina Jennings

Oregon: Seconds to Live by Susan Sleeman, More Than We Remember by Christina Suzann Nelson, Secrets of My Heart and The Way of Love by Tracie Peterson

Pennsylvania: The Timepiece by Beverly Lewis, An Amish Christmas Kitchen novella collection by Leslie Gould, Jan Drexler, and Kate Lloyd

Texas: At Love’s Command by Karen Witemeyer

Washington DC: The Spice King and A Gilded Lady by Elizabeth Camden, End Game by Rachel Dylan, A Single Spark by Judith Miller

West Virginia: When Silence Sings by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Wisconsin: Echoes Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright

Multiple Stop Trips

New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, and Arizona: Serving Up Love novella collection by Tracie Peterson, Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, and Jen Turano

England, Texas, West Virginia, and Washington: The Christmas Heirloom novella collection by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade

California, Texas, Kansas, New York, Montana, etc: What Comes My Way by Tracie Peterson

Maryland, Russia, Israel, Bahamas, Greece, Turkey, Cuba, Burma, Egypt, Angolan Coast, Botswana, Italy, and aboard a ship on several seas: Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig

Maryland, Virginia, New York, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Horn of Africa, China, Italy, Taiwan, France, Afghanistan, Netherlands, and Belgium: Kings Falling by Ronie Kendig

Outside of United States

Canada: The Brightest of Dreams by Susan Anne Mason, The Runaway Bride by Jody Hedlund, Unyielding Hope by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

England: The Bridge to Belle Island by Julie Klassen, A Pursuit of Home by Kristi Ann Hunter, On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White

India (and New York): A Mosaic of Wings by Kimberly Duffy

Israel (modern day Palestine and Israel): Until the Mountains Fall and Like Flames in the Night by Connilyn Cossette, King’s Shadow and Daughter of Cana by Angela Hunt

Babylon, Israel, and surrounding kingdoms (modern day Iraq and Israel): The End of the Magi by Patrick Carr

West Indies (modern day Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis): Selah by Lisa T. Bergren

Fantasy Realms

Cry of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

For even more reading travel, check out our lists from 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015.

Is there a setting you wish authors would feature more often? Tell us in the comments!

Seven Musical Instruments on Book Covers

Tomorrow, May 22, is National Buy a Musical Instrument Day, and to celebrate, I thought it would be fun to highlight some Bethany House books that keep musical instruments front and center. Some of the main characters inside the pages are professional musicians and music teachers, others are amateurs. Either way, I hope you enjoy this collection, especially if you play an instrument yourself.

 

A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White

Both violin and bow are visible on this cover (barely), and we love how the instrument draws your attention to the thoughtful gaze of the Edwardian protagonist (and vice versa).

 

Morning’s Refrain by Tracie Peterson

Each book in Tracie’s Alaska Song series has a fun use of close-ups of instruments to frame the main scene, and we love the glint of silver from this flute.

 

Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

This music instructor character doesn’t want to take on a teaching job, but we love the class the ornate piano adds to this historical romance cover.

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander

Not only does this lovely Belmont mansion novel have a violin, but it also showcases a lovely orchestra performance hall in the background. You can almost hear the music!

 

Return to Me by Lynn Austin

Let’s go all the way back to ancient musical instruments for this shofar, a horn used in Old Testament times. Maybe not one you’d perform with today, but still cool, especially in silhouette!

 

The Fiddler by Beverly Lewis

The difference between a violin and a fiddle is in how its played, and this particular fiddle plays an important part in the Amish community during the story.

 

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

So, this piano needs a little TLC, but you can almost hear its haunting melody on this atmospheric cover, can’t you?

What other covers can you think of that feature musical instruments, readers? And what instrument, if any, do you play?

Make Your Home Into a Library in These Seven Easy Steps

This week is National Library Week, but since most libraries around the country are closed (or doing curbside pickup), I thought of an alternate way to celebrate. You, yes you, can pay homage to every reader’s favorite location by creating a temporary library in your home. Here are the simple steps to accomplishing this.

One: Name your library.

Honestly, library names are probably the least creative aspect of their existence. Usually, it’s the town/community followed by “Library,” which is great for clarity, but not for hinting at the epic wonder just beyond their doors. When naming your library, I suggest the following process:

The [Column 1] [Your Last Name or Street Name] [Column 2] [Column 3]

Column 1

Astounding
Literary
Incredible
Maze-Like
Vast

Column 2

Treasure Trove
Knowledge Repository
Novel Archive
Reader Haven
Book Fortress

Column 3

Of Unending Merit
From Ages Past
To Preserve Wisdom for the Future
Portal to New Worlds
With Volumes Untold

 

Two: Choose a librarian.

The job qualifications are that this person must be patient, organized, and know basically everything, from where to find books for a school report on termites to the title of that one mystery a patron saw last year with yellow on the cover. Memorizing the Dewey Decimal system is optional, but recommended.

 

Three: More books. More bookshelves.

A pandemic is a great time to stock up on essential reading supplies. (If you’re an ebook reader, we love you and your method is totally valid, but possibly lacking in the “homey library aesthetic” department.) If a member of your household questions your new practice, it’s time to bring out your “There’s No Such Thing As Too Many Books” speech. (I hope you have one. If not, let me know and I’ll let you borrow mine, just know there’s an interpretive dance with lots of frantic gestures at the end of paragraph five.)

 

Four: Create your own library card.

In fact, make an application process. I always thought it was crazy that the only thing you had to do to get access to the knowledge of the ages was live in a community. Such unfathomable riches should only lie at the end of an arduous quest! My suggested questions for an application include:

  • Please describe your treatment plan for the care and keeping of paperbacks, in detail and with footnotes.
  • How often, if ever, have you: left a book out in the rain? Colored/written in a book (childhood counts)? Folded a page to mark your place? Lost a library book by leaving it on top of your family’s car at a rest stop in Georgia and driving away, then crying for a half hour afterward until your mom told you it would find another reader? (Maybe that one’s just me.)
  • If we tallied up your past overdue fine history, how many minutes/hours/days in Disney World could we buy once it reopens?

 

Five: Create fun programs.

On the basic Storytime level, I am 100% in favor of reading books out loud, whether you have kids or not. (My friends and I are reading a P. G. Wodehouse novel over Zoom right now. Our British accents are terrible, and the entire experience has been fantastic.) But you can up your game by imitating the library’s craft nights, guest speakers (get everyone in your home to teach the rest of the household a “skill”), writing contests, puppet shows, and rocket launches. (What, your library hasn’t started those yet? I figured it was about time since they do just about everything else…)

 

Six: Promote reading in every way you can.

Whether you recommend books to friends or donate to a Little Free Library in your neighborhood; if you encourage an author or give kids page-turners for Christmas; whenever you leave a review or join a book club; every act of literary citizenship is something your real library would approve of.

 

Seven: Be traditional, yet cutting-edge; scheduled, yet flexible; focused, yet versatile; organized, yet welcoming; and generally helpful and accessible to all kinds of people in all stages of life.

You can do that, right? Because libraries sure do!

 

In all seriousness, as I think about everything libraries are to us, it makes me more excited for the day when they’ll be open again. If you’re a librarian, thank you for all you do to serve our communities! We’ll see you soon.

In the meantime, I’ve got to open up the Vast France Avenue Book Fortress of Unending Merit.

 

Using our handy tool, what would you name your in-home library?