Bethany House Reading Road Trip 2019

Time for your guide for planning a summer road trip. First stop: a bookstore or library! If you’ve ever wanted to travel but didn’t quite have the budget to get to all the locations you’d like, you can explore new places through the pages of some of our books. To make it easy for you, we’ve listed all the settings for Bethany House novels published from July 2018 to June 2019 below.

Need more suggestions, or want to find a specific state not listed here? Check out our archives from 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015. Enjoy, readers!

Alaska: Under the Midnight Sun by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

California: In Dreams Forgotten and In Times Gone By by Tracie Peterson

Florida: A Simple Singing by Leslie Gould (also set in Pennsylvania), The Lady of Tarpon Springs by Judith Miller

Georgia: Breach of Trust by Rachel Dylan

Illinois: Caught by Surprise by Jen Turano (also set in New York), Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin, Searching for You by Jody Hedlund

Maine: Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes

Maryland: Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey

Minnesota: A Season of Grace by Lauraine Snelling

Missouri: Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

Montana: When You Are Near and Wherever You Go by Tracie Peterson

Nevada: The Reluctant Warrior and The Unexpected Champion by Mary Connealy

New York: A Desperate Hope by Elizabeth Camden

Oklahoma: The Lieutenant’s Bargain by Regina Jennings

Pennsylvania: The First Love and The Tinderbox by Beverly Lewis, Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano, A Faithful Gathering by Leslie Gould

Texas: More Than Words Can Say by Karen Witemeyer

Washington: Sweet on You by Becky Wade

Wisconsin: The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond and The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

Bonus! Novella Collections (aka Multi-Stop Trips)

Since these were all set in different locations, we thought we’d break down all of them for you.

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

Illinois, Maryland, and South Carolina: The Cost of Betrayal by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, Lynette Eason

Outside the United States

Canada: The Best of Intentions and The Highest of Hopes by Susan Anne Mason, Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green, A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund

England: An Hour Unspent and The Number of Love by Roseanna White, The Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen, A Return of Devotion by Kristi Ann Hunter, The Artful Match by Jennifer Delamere

France: Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin (also set in Spain)

Gambia: Outbreak by Davis Bunn (also set in other countries in West Africa)

Israel: Jerusalem’s Queen by Angela Hunt

Nevis: Verity by Lisa Bergren

Russia: Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig (also set in Ukraine, France, Republic of the Congo, and more)

Sicily: Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette (also set in ancient Canaan)

Other Realms

Because the only way you can get to these fantastic settings is through the pages of a book.

Mark of the Raven and Flight of the Raven by Morgan Busse

What’s one place you’ve only “visited” through the pages of a book but feel you know well?

Six Organization Systems for Bookshelves

It’s time for spring cleaning again, and in addition to monotonous tasks like dusting the ceiling fan or exploring for moldy lumps in the back of the fridge, many households like to take these next few weeks to get organized…and for readers, that includes their bookshelves, stuffed with old favorites and to-be-read volumes alike.

Want to join in, but need some options for what your shelves could look like? We’ve got you covered. Here are the top ways we’ve seen shelves put in order.

The Color Spectrum

Description: In a display worthy of an art museum, these shelves are laid out in rainbow order, with books within one color usually subdivided by shade.

Bonus points if: you call those colors names like “blushing rose” or “pale aquamarine” instead of “pink” and “blue.”

Preferred by: Instagrammers, the artsy crowd, people who think normal bookshelves don’t look pretty enough to take up a full wall.

Downsides: Better memorize the spine color of your entire personal library so you can find titles when needed. Also, what do you do with brown, white, and black books? Put them at the end? Put prettier book cozies/jackets over them so they don’t mess with the color scheme? Burn them?

The Dewey Decimal

Description: A topical organization where books on a similar subject are grouped together. Classic novels here, biographies there, books with an angsty YA protagonist who just can’t choose between two drop-dead-gorgeous guys who are madly in love with her on the middle shelf, etc.

Bonus points if: You actually use the ordering numbers of the Dewey Decimal system to order your categories.

Preferred by: Lovers of nonfiction or those who have niche interests, organized people who can’t quite commit to alphabetical order because it seems like too much work.

Downsides: There’s the issue of what to do with the lonely books that don’t fit into any category…and how to describe a book’s location to anyone but yourself.

The Alphabetical Association

Description: Ordered by author’s last name (or, more uniquely, by title). No exceptions.

Bonus points if: you can order everything without once humming the “ABC Song” under your breath.

Preferred by: The ultra-organized crowd, people who want everything in its proper place.

Downsides: If you follow this too strictly, you’ll put series out of order, and you actually have to remember who wrote each book to find it. Much like a spice drawer, though, the more use a bookshelf gets, the harder it is to maintain this system.

The Staged Array

Description: This is a carefully curated collection of tomes, fiction and nonfiction, designed to be impressive to guests in your home. Have you read all (or any) of the books? Not necessarily. It’s all about appearances. Overachievers can switch out certain books based on the interests or political/theological makeup of the crowd coming over.

Bonus points if: you have a multi-volume leather-bound set of something that actually looks like you’ve read it.

Preferred by: Front-room bookshelf owners, people who never did the assigned reading in high school but still wrote solid essays anyway.

Downsides: Someone who loves one of your display books might try to engage you in a detailed conversation, blowing your cover. Beware! At least have some profound quotes underlined so you can refer to them in a pinch.

The Kid-Proof Structure

Description: If it can be chewed, it goes on the bottom shelves. Chapter books round out the middle, and if it needs to be preserved for any length of time, put it at least three feet about the head of the tallest child. Any valuable/rare/sentimental books go in a fire-and-drool-proof safe until the kids are off to college.

Bonus points if: the board books are arranged in order of raggedness.

Preferred by: Parents who want their kids to love books, but not love to destroy books. (It’s a fine line.)

Downsides: Easy access to books you’ve had to read aloud hundreds of times, possibly forgetting about beloved favorite books stored way up on the highest shelf.

The Haphazard Free Spirit

Description: Order? Who needs it? Books are arranged however they best fit, with most recently-read books usually occupying the outside layers or most accessible shelves. Sometimes series are together, sometimes the series might be in three places, including behind the TV console. On a good day, all the spines are facing out, but we can’t make any promises.

Bonus points if: you regularly tell people to “just explore” when they can’t find the title they’re looking for.

Preferred by: Me, and also people who, like me, find the restrictions of organization too confining to our creativity (or who are too lazy to keep a set order maintained).

Downsides: Why, none at all, of course! Things like disorganized books jammed in every nook and cranny and giant stacks that could crush you at any moment just add to the adventure of reading. Right?

So, readers, tell us: how do you organize your books? One of these methods, or another one entirely?

The Golden Pages Awards

Thinking about the Oscars recently, I wondered what it would look like if there was a bookish award ceremony. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a red-carpet event to recognize all the individual components of our favorite books?

Welcome to…the Golden Pages Awards, a completely made-up, just-for-fun chance for you to recommend some of your favorite fiction books to readers. I created a number of specific categories in a Facebook album (ones that probably wouldn’t make their way into any serious award ceremony), and you can head over and recommend books by commenting on each certificate, or by “liking” others’ suggestions. No need to choose Bethany House books. Any books you’ve enjoyed are welcome!

There won’t be an official winner ceremony, but if you want a list of books to check out, be sure to stop by and see what your fellow readers are buzzing about!

Most of the “nominations” will be happening in the Facebook album, but if you don’t have Facebook, feel free to comment below with a title that you’d give a five-star review.

Looking forward to see what you come up with, readers!

5 Justifications For Having More than 30 Books in Your House

Are you ready to spark some joy? Then come along as I give you the perfect response to anyone in your life who has been watching that Marie Kondo Netflix show “Tidying Up and Losing Your Soul By Giving Away All Your Books.”

I’m pretty sure that’s the title, based on the Internet. My social media feed has exploded with memes mocking this preposterous notion:

While what Kondo actually said is that she keeps her personal book limit to around 30 volumes, if you’re a booklover seeking justifications for keeping a significantly larger dragon horde of literary treasures personal library, you’ve come to the right place.

Full disclosure: my name is Amy Green, and I work for a book publisher. I love authors and books and being gracefully disorganized. (That is totally a thing. It means the chaos around you is reflective of a life so full and rich that it defies structure…and dusting.)

To be fair to Marie Kondo, I can imagine a scenario where 30 volumes might possibly be a good standard. Like if you have a fully-loaded Kindle. And live in a tiny house. Next door to a library.

Otherwise, if you’re feeling guilty for double-stacking your shelves, I have a response for you. Since Kondo created a whole method of cleaning based on a rearrangement of her name, the KonMari method, allow me to present the GreAm method. (Slightly less catchy, but whatever.)

It is rigorous—you must be willing to defend your right to a full bookshelf with logic and determination. It is holistic—in that I’m basically telling you to keep your whole library. And it is aimed at inner peace—because there’s nothing as peaceful as being surrounded by books. So let’s begin.

One: Books spark joy.

Am I using the organizational maven’s own mantra against her? Why yes, I am.

Do you know what brings me joy? BOOKS! Adventures to times and places I’ll never visit in the “real” world, deep journeys into hope and heartbreak, thrilling escapades where someone won’t get out alive but I probably will, somewhat-confusing classics I had to read for school that made me a better person even if I didn’t appreciate them at the time…I love them all.

I mean, it’s great to have a few travel mementos that bring a smile every time you look at them, don’t get me wrong, but books contain whole worlds—the lives and journeys of beloved friends we’ve admired and empathized and learned from. The joy quotient is just through the roof. Libraries and bookstores spark so much joy that they might as well be actual infernos of happiness. (Is that a little Fahrenheit 451? Maybe. But you get the idea.) And if your house just happens to resemble a library or bookstore…all the better!

Two: Books are super tidy.

A book is the tidiest object I can possibly imagine. Think of those crisp white margins, the uniform edges, the perfectly straight lines of text.

Also, the KonMari method is apparently really big on folding things. There is a precise method for how to fold tea towels and fitted sheets and the jingle-bell-bedecked Christmas socks you only wear once a year (hey, it’s all about the joy, don’t judge). Thankfully, your personal library is all about folding. Book terminology time: a “signature” is a group of pages (in multiples of four) folded together and glued to the spine of an average paperback book. Books are essentially collections of tiny, neat little folds. See? Tidy in the extreme.

Three: Books are not clutter.

Dictionary.com informs us that clutter is “a disorderly heap or assemblage.” I have a very simple solution. We can create a piece of furniture, similar to a display case, that allows you to line up your books in an orderly fashion.

We’ll call it a “bookshelf.” No clutter? No problem.

(And those escapees that end up stacked and piled around your house? Those are educational and aesthetic home décor accessories. Clearly.)

Four: Kids’ books would have to be included in that total.

Imagine you have the American household average of 2 children. This, out of 30 books, would give them approximately an allotment of 15 books from the total, so 7.5 books each. (Sorry, but this is the math, people…be glad I didn’t use the real average of 2.3 children. We can pretend the .5 book is the bafflingly popular Goodnight Moon and leave it at that.) Please imagine reading the same 7.5 books to your toddler over and over and over until the words are ingrained in your head like an ancient liturgy and you have visited the triumphs and travails of the pirate/princess/anthropomorphic cuddly animal so often that they feel like a member of the family…

Wait. Actually, this is pretty much what happens to parents anyway, even if you have a mountain of books available for your little one, so I guess we can throw out this reason and move on to…

Four, Second Try: Marie Kondo has written multiple books.

Does this directly relate to why you can feel perfectly fine owning more than 30 books? No. But I’m throwing it in here for the sheer irony of it. I can’t determine the exact number of unique titles by Kondo because of translations and digests and journals, but there are at least 3 (10% of her household quota), with probably more to come. Is it unreasonable for an author who has made a living from the book industry to tell people to get rid of their books? Well…not technically, but it is a little amusing.

Five: Books can talk back.

One part of the KonMari method that some people find either freeing or really eccentric is the practice of thanking your belongings as you release them to a better place (like the Goodwill donation bin).

Hey, I talk to inanimate objects, mostly malfunctioning technology, all the time, I can get behind that. But books are made of words and therefore the only things that can respond to me. Like, when I yell at the character, “What do you think you’re doing?” it might take him a few chapters, but he usually tells me. And when I flip through the pages of a book to thank it for its service, inevitably I’ll notice that one hilarious or meaningful scene that always got to me…and start skimming…and then reading…and then I move the book out of the donation pile for good and it’s never going back, sorry, I just can’t do it.

If minimalism requires book-lite living, well…who really needs to be tidy, anyway?

What books you own would make your”Top Thirty” list? Just as an exercise, of course…

What Kind of Reading Challenge Would You Like to See?

Now that Christmas is over, I’m starting to look ahead to January, which for me means:

  • several weeks of crossing out 2018 before remembering the actual year.
  • bringing a massive stash of tea into the office to survive the winter.
  • getting excited about new releases from Jaime Jo Wright, Tracie Peterson and Kimberly Woodhouse, and Jen Turano.
  • …and, finally, creating our annual Bethany House Reading Challenge.

But before I do, what are your thoughts, readers? Is there a particular kind of challenge you’d like to see? Here are some example:

  • A list of categories (“a book with an animal in the title,” “a book whose cover is mostly blue,” etc.) that you can check off.
  • One challenge per month instead of everything all at once, with a corresponding Instagram challenge for anyone following us there.
  • A setting challenge to motivate you to read books set in other states, countries, and eras.
  • Some other creative idea.

Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear what you’d prefer. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

8 Things Guaranteed Make Readers Happy

Last month, we talked about reader pet peeves—those annoyances that really make us mad—but this week is the fun part. Here are some things that will make any reader want to do a happy dance. Enjoy, share your own ideas in the comments, and pass along to a reading friend…or maybe a friend or spouse who doesn’t quite “get it.”

One: Reader-to-Reader Understanding

Whether it’s checking in constantly with a friend to see if you can finally gush about your favorite novel with someone else or sharing those relatable memes on social media about books, the need for more books, or the need for less feedback from people who think you have enough books already, readers love to be understood. And who can understand them except other book-lovers?

This is also present in a more negative way when you need to vent with someone who agrees that the movie adaptation falls dramatically short of the book or that so-and-so *must* get together with what’s-his-name in the sequel or you will riot.

My Happy Reader Level: 4-6 depending on the depth of my need for reader empathy.

Two: Canceled Social Events or Obligations

Okay, so this isn’t always true—readers like people too—but every now and then it’s nice to have an unexpected evening to curl up with a good book. So don’t feel too bad if you have to unexpectedly change plans…chances are your reader friend will hang out with a party of fictional characters instead.

My Happy Reader Level: 2 most of the time, occasionally 4 (sorry, I’m an extrovert).

Three: Casual References to a Classic Novel

Whether you’re name dropping Big Brother or Mr. Darcy or sneaking in something a little more obscure and hoping someone else will be a kindred spirit and pick up on it, it’s fun to see nods to some of the literary greats. And for the record, if you say, “Speak, friend, and enter” when I knock on your door, you better believe that we will be friends from then on if we weren’t already.

My Happy Reader Level: 6, with an 8 for references to lesser-known favorites

Four: Overhearing Strangers Talk About Books

You know you feel a small sense of kinship when you spy someone in the dentist office reading a favorite novel or you hear someone in the library two shelves over recommending a beloved kids’ book. Whether you respond to the stranger or not, it’s fun to know that there are lots of readers out there in the wider world. My favorite example of this happened a few years ago while in line at a Subway at the Minneapolis airport. Two traffic control employees were making small talk behind me that went like this:

Guy: So, you’re more of a Shakespeare girl, then, huh?
Girl: Yeah, my favorites are Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet.
Guy: I gotta be honest: I didn’t read any of them in school when we were supposed to. What’s the draw?
[Girl proceeds to summarize the plot of R&J, to exclamations of surprise from the guy—“You’ve gotta be kidding. Why didn’t he check to make sure she was dead?” etc. While girl moves on to the difference between comedies and tragedies, guy smoothly pays for girl’s sandwich. Girl feigns protest, guy gallantly says it’s the least he can do for the literature lesson.]

If you do not find this heartwarming and adorable, I don’t think you are really a reader.

My Happy Reader Level: 9 for this story, 6 normally. I can’t help it; I love eavesdropping.

Five: Finding a Character Who is Like You

Spotting your name in a book is always fun (although apparently my first and last name was once the victim of a gristly murder, so that’s unfortunate), but personality traits and physical quirks are always delightful too. You know, like: “What! A heroine with different-colored eyes! I thought I was the only one” or “This character’s stress-shopping for housewares online is the most relatable thing ever.” The only downside is realizing that the person you would be best friends with doesn’t actually exist in real life. Bummer.

My Happy Reader Level: 4, when I’m not the murder victim.

Six: Recommendations of an Amazing Book

Whether you let someone know that a bestseller actually earned the hype or you suggest a “hidden gem” that very few have discovered, a couple of spot-on recommendations and you’ll be a reader’s friend for life. There’s a special excitement when you love a book from a new-to-you author and then find out that the author has a book list of a dozen more already published. Backlist party!

My Happy Reader Level: 7, with occasionally bouts of 9 and the rare 11 for a Top Ten recommendation.

Seven: Beautiful Libraries and Bookstores

Okay, let’s be honest: pretty much all libraries or bookstores, but the ones that are cozy or grand or delightfully interactive are especially fun to visit. (If you’re ever in Minneapolis, be sure to check out Wild Rumpus.)

Just make sure you have some time if you take a reader into one of these sacred spaces…there’s no such thing as a “quick peek.” Unless by “quick,” you were measuring in hours instead of minutes. Possibly days…

My Happy Reader Level: Base of 3, with my happiness rising a level for every 15 minutes I get to spend there.

Eight: Book-Shaped Presents

Am I the only one who, as a kid, purposely scoped out the haul under the Christmas tree to set aside, with great glee, the smooth, rectangular ones with just the right heft to be a book? It got to the point where my parents were wrapping books in shoeboxes just to maintain an element of surprise. There are other perfectly serviceable present options out there, of course, but how else can you gift wrap an entire world? Nothing else quite measures up, in my opinion.

My Happy Reader Level: 7, unless I actually open those presents and find out it’s a stationery kit or cookbook or something. (Nothing against cookbooks, they’re just not straight-through reads, and also feel slightly unattainable.)

What else is guaranteed to make you happy, readers? Or which one of these on the list have you experienced lately?

8 Things Guaranteed To Make Readers Angry

There are certain topics and actions that will almost universally set all booklovers off. Oh, some will have different levels of anger—see my handy scale below—but if you’re a dedicated reader, you probably share some of the same pet peeves and irritations with your fellow bookworms.

I’m Amy Green, fiction publicist here at Bethany House, and I’ve noticed a few trends in reader posts on social media about what readers really hate. Let’s all rant together now, shall we? (It’ll make us feel better.)

One: Spoilers

This happens most often in online reviews, but pity the real-life friends who start with an innocent discussion of the main premise of a book and then, wham! Out of nowhere, a major spoiler from the last half of the book or beyond. “It’s very touching, just don’t get too attached to So-and-So…” “My favorite part is when you find out that What’s-His-Name is the father.” “It’s so clever how the Thingamajig you see in the first chapter ends up being the missing artifact all along.” You get the idea.

How, HOW, does this happen, people? Fellow readers should be aware of the fun of discovery and not want to ruin that for others. Maybe it’s just over-excitement? Whatever the reason, when in doubt, apply the Green Family Rule (originally applied to boring monologues recounting dreams at the breakfast table, also good for descriptions of books and movies): you get two sentences to describe the plot. That’s it. Use ‘em wisely.

My Angry Reader Level: 2 if I wasn’t going to read the book anyway, 6 if I was.

Two: Covers that Don’t Match the Character

Occasionally this is objective—the main character’s hair or eye color is wrong, the dress is from 100 years too late to be accurate, there is no mention of a dog in the book despite its prominent place on the cover, and so on.

Other times, it’s subjective: “There is no way the hero looks like that!” “That just isn’t how I pictured the town in my mind.” “Um…what’s with that color?” We all have our likes and dislikes, and not every cover is going to check all of our boxes, especially if we have a vivid imagination and a careful attention to detail. The ones that really get it wrong, though, are likely to be a constant annoyance to readers.

My Angry Reader Level: 3. That’s decreased a lot since I started working in publishing. Now, I know: A. often the book isn’t fully written before the cover is complete, B. there may be a marketing reason behind something I wouldn’t have chosen, and C. designers are very busy people and may occasionally make a mistake or not have access to the exact right model or image. These things make me less mad, but I still completely understand when readers grumble.

Three: Movies that Don’t Match the Book

The level of outrage for a bad adaptation will vary from person to person. Most will find themselves somewhere within the following categories:

The Purist: “Where was the carriage scene from page 193? Why does the duke have only two sons instead of five? Two of my favorite lines were not quoted verbatim, and don’t even get me started on how the Incident of the Plum Pudding was handled! Here is a detailed list, chapter by chapter, of what was wrong with this movie. I DEMAND ACCURACY.”

The Peacemaker: “A screenplay just can’t be as detailed as a novel, but it was lovely to see my favorite characters brought to life. There are a few things I’m sad were left out, but overall I think it kept true to the spirit of the original. And it will probably get a lot more people to read the book, too!”

The Permissive: “Meh, so only a few plot points were the same and the moral of the story is the opposite of the author’s original intent and there were five new major characters. No big deal. It was fun! You’ve got to judge the book and the movie totally separately.”

The Illiterate: “This was based on a book? Do people even read books these days?”

My Angry Reader Level: 3-11 depending on how much I loved the original story. (Like, Netflix, I’m telling you right now, if you mess up your upcoming Narnia series, Aslan and I are coming for you. And let me remind you, in case you haven’t read the source material enough WHICH YOU SHOULD: he’s not a tame lion.)

Four: Phony or Irrelevant Reviews

Whether they’re bots or trolls or people who are just confused, some one-star reviews on Goodreads or retail sites skew the system. I’m talking things like: “Package was ripped open” or “not the large print version” or an all-caps rant about a totally different book with a similar title. All the real reviewers out there have to cringe—and there isn’t usually a good way to pull those reviews out of the running.

My Angry Reader Level: 4. I’m always bothered, especially on behalf of my authors, but I try to keep in mind that no one actually looking at the reviews will take them seriously and that the overall star-rating impact isn’t going to be huge.

Five: Insulting Comments from Non-Readers

Whether it’s picking on your favorite genre, bringing up the fact that characters are not “real people,” or delivering the classic, “You have too many books” line (as if those five words make sense in that order under any circumstances), sometimes readers can get pushed over the edge. Maybe it was just a joke, but beware, especially if the comment was interrupting said reader in the middle of a book.

And it goes the other way too, readers, so no making fun of non-bookworms. (Open-mouthed incomprehension and confusion is probably inevitable, though.) Anything that implies “I am superior to you because we don’t share the exact same preferences” should be avoided.

My Angry Reader Level: 1-6 depending on the person’s intention. And mostly I’ll calm down and recommend a book I think they’d like instead of wasting time being mad.

Six: Long Hold Lines

You’ve just gotten a glowing recommendation from your friend about the newest book you have to try. Hurrying to the library website, you click “Place a Hold”…only to face the cheery pop-up, “Congratulations! You are 63rd in line for this title.”

Turns out, saying, “I don’t want your congratulations, I want my book!” does nothing to move the line along faster. Nor does refreshing the page every other day (or hour…or minute…). You secretly suspect there are people out there who keep the book unread the full two weeks just to look impressive on their coffee table, and others who are doling out quarters in overdue fines to hold theirs even longer out of pure spite, but without proof, you’re stuck waiting just like everyone else. (And hoping the book doesn’t arrive for checkout the day after you’ve left on a week-long trip and can’t pick it up.)

My Angry Reader Level: 5, but mixed with sadness. I try to tell myself it’s no one’s fault, that I should be happy others are discovering a good book…but waiting is hard, guys.

Seven: “Wrong” Ending Choices

Whether it’s the unexpected death in the last few pages (you and your tissue box were just not prepared) or the love triangle that resolves in the exact opposite way it should have (don’t they realize they were meant for each other?), sometimes we don’t think authors made the right call with their endings.

This can include all kinds of categories, from agree-to-disagree preferences to “where on earth did that come from and was the editor asleep on the job?” moments. Sometimes, readers are pretty sure they could have written a more satisfying last chapter, if only the author had asked them.

My Angry Reader Level: Usually 2, occasionally 4. For the most part, I remember that authors have put a lot of thought into these endings and usually have Very Good Reasons for their choice even if it’s not the conclusion I was hoping for. Every now and then, though, I come across something that is not just unexpected, but blatantly out-of-character or contrived or factually impossible. That will move me up a few notches on the irritation meter, but I also recognize that deadlines and writers’ block exist and not every book is going to be a consistent winner.

Eight: Book Vandalism

They’re out there, breaking the spine of an unpurchased book at Barnes & Noble, inking up half of a school-assigned novel in highlighter and then donating it to a thrift store, folding down corners of library books to mark their spot. They are the ones who will (gasp!) hold a book over their head to protect themselves from the rain instead of stuffing the book inside their coat. They walk among us, lurking in the shadows of bookloving spaces everywhere.

I call them…the Book Vandals.

Now, all of us have accidentally damaged a book at least once in our life. (Picture seven-year-old Amy crying as she peels a soggy Stuart Little off the playground slide where she left it. It was a traumatic day.) That’s not what I’m talking about here.

No. This is serial, unrepentant destruction of books, especially those that don’t belong to you. That, true readers know, is unacceptable.

My Angry Reader Level: 8. Unless you’re two years old and left unsupervised with a crayon box, there are no excuses here, people. (And if you’re two years old and reading this blog, you’re enough of a prodigy to know better.)

If you liked this list, follow the blog so you won’t miss next month’s post about “8 Things Guaranteed Make a Reader Happy.” (That way you can tag a friend or spouse to give them ideas….)

Which of these are high up on your Angry Reader List? Are there any I missed?

Which Dresses Match These Book Covers?

I can’t tell you how many times readers have commented on some of our authors’ covers to say, “Wow! I wish a dress like this was around today, because I’d totally wear it.”

Well, just for fun, I thought I’d search some fashion websites for dresses that look like they could have been inspired by book covers. So if you want to imitate the “look” of your favorite novel, you know where to go.

Would you want to wear this one in the swamps of Louisiana? Probably not. But this empire dress has an updated version of the pattern-overlay in gold, plus that bow mimicking the lace-up back of the original design. Add a little lace, and you might feel a little like Julianne Chevalier from The Mark of the King.

The color here is nearly spot-on and the Victorian-inspired details in both are fun, but what really makes this teal lace dress the twin for The Heart’s Appeal is that it’s called “London Exquisite Elegance,” the same setting as the book!

If you love the art-deco look of the early 1900s, this cranberry maxi dress is the one for you. The beadwork on both shares the same intricate style, though you might want to invest in some jewelry for the modern outfit…just make sure it’s not going to involve you in a plot of intrigue like the jewels in The Reluctant Duchess!

This mint formal gown has the fun layers and elegance of the one on With Every Breath. And, let’s be real, the heroine on the cover is breathless because she’s literally finding the cure for tuberculosis, whereas the modern model probably just can’t breathe in a dress that fits like that.

This midi dress has the same causal feel of its counterpart a century before, with a similar V-neckline…and while the modern dress might have a higher hemline, it’s also advertised as a yachting dress, so she and the heroine of Out of the Ordinary have a lot in common.

You’d need a lot of daring to pull off this bright red flare dress…just like the scheming protagonist of A Match Made in Texas. Here, the bow on the bustle becomes a bow-tied neckline, but it’s got all the bold style of the original.

The plaid on the trim of With You Always translates to a larger print in the 21st century skater dress, but the collar and silhouette are similar, and both seem like they’d be comfortable and stylish for travel (probably not by train, though).

Okay, readers, which of these dresses is your favorite? (Authors, this might be a fun game to play on Facebook with your fans to find photos of “lookalike” fashion!)

10 Things Not to Say to a Reader

This post isn’t for my fellow readers. We share the same struggles, like having way too many books that need to be read and yet still longing for our favorite authors to write a little bit faster.

No, I’m writing this for the people who wouldn’t classify themselves as dedicated readers, but who know and love at least one. If you’ve ever made a casual comment to a book lover and received an angry comeback, glare, or snarl accompanied by the reader clutching a book tighter and you don’t know why…read on. (If someone posted this on Facebook and tagged you…definitely read on.) Here are a few things you should never say to a true lover of books.

One: “You spend too much money on books.”

Listen, I get it. You’re advocating for a sensible book budget. But let’s start with the fact that the standard for “sensible” is probably set by those average people in statistics who read 1.5 books a year. (Who are these people, I ask? How do they survive?) Which is to say…it’s significantly too low. Come on, we’ll spend $4 on a Valentine’s Day card. That’s about 6 cents per word, compared to $0.0002 cents per word for your average full-price paperback, and you get hours of entertainment and re-reading pleasure. What a deal! Also, chances are good the reader in question makes regular trips to the library for a while before blowing all their savings splurging on the occasional bookstore trip. So they’re trying. Probably. Maybe.

Two: “Oh, you’re reading [TITLE]? I loved how [major ending plot twist].”

NO. Don’t even consider it. What sort of a monster are you? Even if you’re just joking and saying something implausible, like their latest Western romance ends in a nuclear apocalypse where everyone dies, this is still a bad idea. That might still be too much of a shock for a true reader’s heart to take. Better not to risk it.

Three: “I see you have a [genre] novel there. I only read real books.”

Um…okay, so we all have different tastes in books, and if you prefer literary biographies on Italian Renaissance stonemasons, whatever. That’s cool. But try not to imply that other readers are shallow or uninformed or otherwise less-than because their Goodreads list is very different from yours. General rule: mocking/belittling something that another person enjoys is not very endearing.

Four: “Don’t you have enough books already?”

This may be well-intentioned, especially if the reader in question lives among large mountains of unread books that could fall at any moment and crush the cat in an avalanche of TBR tomes. But a better alternative would be, “Don’t you need another bookshelf already?” (The answer is probably yes. Start that Christmas list early.)

Five: “The problem with fiction is that it’s just a bunch of made-up lies.”

I could insert lots of quotes from great writers like C. S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle about how fiction is capable of revealing truth, often better than any nonfiction. But if you genuinely believe that fiction is a paperback falsehood collection, I probably won’t be able to change your mind. Maybe you just haven’t read a novel that connects with you, one where the dialogue is almost a transcript of things you’ve said—or wished you’d said—and you turn the last page thinking that now you can understand others more deeply. I hope you find that book soon…and in the meantime, pass me another bundle of made-up lies.

Six: “Shouldn’t you be [insert household task or project here] instead of reading?”

Some people have the strange idea that dust, which accumulates seconds after being cleared off, should be regularly removed from all horizontal surfaces in a home. And that there are only so many times you can re-wear clothes before laundry becomes a code-red need. Or that meals should occasionally come from the oven rather than a delivery vehicle or microwave. To which I say: priorities, people. Unless your to-do list contains something about smuggling nuclear codes, the stakes are probably higher in whatever book your loved one is reading. Just leave them alone. The dust will still be there after they’re done with the last chapter.

Seven: “What’s your favorite book?”

Maybe a few rare readers out there have a ready answer, but this can be a paralyzing difficult decision for most. The key to this is editing the question to make it more specific. Try “What have you read this month that you’ve enjoyed?” or “Do you have a genre that you gravitate toward?” or “What is your favorite historical novel set in Nebraska between 1860 and 1873 that features a seamstress, a mysterious illness, and a loveable horse?” Those are all questions readers can answer without feeling disloyal to dozens of other beloved titles that will stare at them accusingly as soon as they look back at their shelves and remember all the ones they didn’t have time to list.

Eight: “So, one of your hobbies is reading? Cool. I haven’t read a book since I got out of high school/college and they stopped requiring them.”

Wow. Okay. We know that not everyone is a reader. No judgment here. But an announcement like this might shock your reader friends so deeply that they will be unable to do anything but stare in bewilderment, leading to a long, awkward pause while they try to decide whether or not you’re joking and think about how to respond. Kind of a conversation-killer.

Nine: “That movie was great on its own. I don’t need to read the book.”

Since there are exceptions to everything, I’m sure I can think of a movie adaptation that was better than the original book. [Thinks. Thinks more. *crickets*] Anyway, regardless, the book will always be different than the movie, just because of what it’s able to do in exploring the inner lives of the characters that a screenplay just can’t give you. If you enjoyed a movie, it’s worth at least trying the book. And if you didn’t enjoy the movie, don’t necessarily blame the book—they might be totally different. (And sure, readers can sometimes be snobbish about this, but for good reason. We’ve had our dreams crushed too many times by high expectations and sub-par adaptations. Underneath that bookish superiority is a broken heart. Tread lightly.)

Ten: “Those people aren’t actually real, you know.”

Yeah, we know. Most of the time we can sort our real friends from our fictional ones. (There are exceptions, especially for long ongoing series.) But it is still perfectly and completely justified to expend emotions—tears, rants, joyful exclamations—on the ups and downs of people who don’t actually exist. Like, at a certain point if things go too far, you might need to intervene, but mostly it’s better to ask, “Oh, what happened to your characters today?” Especially if there are tissues balled up on the carpet, giving you two options: either be sympathetic or run.

Okay, readers who shared this with the non-readers in your lives: which of these would you least like to hear? Can you think of anything that I left out?

5 Signs That You’re a Booklover

Today on our blog, we have a special guest: Serena Hanson, a life-long reader and our Bethany House summer intern. She’s got some great ways to diagnose your addiction to books. See how many apply to you!

You know you’re a Booklover if you show these common symptoms:

1. You suffer from distraction.

When you’re in the middle of a good novel, it can be very difficult to focus on ordinary tasks. It can be a small, nagging sensation in the back of your mind that you’re missing something. Or it can be full-blown obsession over getting home to find out how in the world the main character is going to get out of the mess he’s in. Either way, it is very distracting.

2. You are unable to stop reading.

If you find yourself constantly thinking, “just one more chapter,” you’re a Booklover. Once you start a novel, it’s almost impossible to stop. You may find yourself looking at the clock, only to think: “Sure, it’s one in the morning, but I need to know if his message was in time to save his love from her kidnapper!” Or you might walk around the house unable to tear yourself away from the book in your hands, bumping into doorframes and answering in monosyllables whenever anyone speaks to you. Many Booklovers have also been known to burn their dinners by attempting to read and cook at the same time.

3. You get book hangovers.

Have you ever finished a good novel and felt like you can’t quite adjust back to reality? You walk around for the next few hours or days in a slight haze, irritable, slightly depressed, and just not yourself. The fact is, you’re not yourself. Part of you is still stuck between the pages of that novel. You haven’t fully returned to this world yet.

4. Friends and family members notice that you talk to yourself.

Okay, you’re not actually talking to yourself. You’re talking to book characters. The novel gets exciting, and you just can’t contain yourself. I know that I’m definitely guilty of this one.

If you have said any of the following to a printed page, you are a prime candidate for a Booklover diagnosis:

  • “Nooooooo!”
  • “Can’t you see that it’s a trap?”
  • “He’s lying to you! She doesn’t love Randall. She never did!”
  • “Wow buddy, even I saw that coming.” Or, vice versa: “Oh my goodness! I never even guessed!”
  • “Get in there and tell her how you feel!”
  • “Shoulda listened to me five chapters ago and you wouldn’t be in this mess.”
  • “So beautiful.” *sniff sniff* “I knew this day would come.”

5. You experience random outbursts of crying.

Other people might look at you in surprise, but you know that your tears are completely justified. The protagonist’s brother has just died, or two lovers have parted never to see each other again, or the faithful golden retriever fell off a cliff trying to save a baby, or any number of horrible things! Seriously, they should have a warning label on books: “May cause tears and/or the desire to drown your sorrows in chocolate.”

If you have two or more of these symptoms, you should seek advice at your local bookstore immediately. There is no known cure for this condition, but don’t panic. It is very common and is not life threatening. In fact, some even say that it enhances your life (and if they do, they’re probably Booklovers themselves).

Okay, readers, time to share: which Booklover symptom do you relate to most?

I’m Serena Hanson, the summer fiction intern at Bethany House Publishers and a confirmed Booklover. I’ve loved stories since before I can remember, from my mom reading me board books about raisins and strollers to devouring full-length novels as I grew up. As a girl, my favorite pastime was sitting in a hammock I made out of a bed sheet, reading whatever new book I’d found at the library.