June 29, 2019

The INSPY Awards :: 2019 Winners

 The INSPY Awards have official winners for 2019! I am quite privileged to participate as an Advisory Board member and have the honor of sharing the joy with all of you today.

The judges for each category did a wonderful job of parsing down the shortlist. And without further ado....let's get to the winners! :)

2019 INSPY Award Winners


Falling for You by Becky Wade is what good Inspirational Fiction is made of. Readers will relate to Corbin and Willow and their personal struggles as the two work through the mystery and come face to face not only with each other, but with their faith. The story pace is balanced; the romance between Corbin and Willow, peppered with light-hearted and sweet moments, is one of great depth. Falling for You is a layered romance of mystery, struggle, and vulnerability that reflects our relationships with each other and God.

Meet Becky! A Conversation with Becky Wade


Though it’s a debut novel, Among the Poppies exhibits all the right elements a memorable story needs; charming and emotional in equal parts. The spunky heroine refuses to give up on anyone, which is just one of the qualities we love best about her;the swoony hero who never backs down from his duty as a soldier will win your heart over from the moment you meet him. Set during the tumult of WWI, J’Nell manages to weave good into a novel that doesn’t shy away from the conflicts and horrors of its setting. Those who enjoy Downton Abbey or historical fiction will find an inspired and romantic story inside the pages of Among the Poppies. It’s a solid debut that tugs on the heartstrings and stays with its reader.

Meet J’nell! A Conversation with  J’nell Ciesielski


Katie Ganshert stepped into risky territory to bring us all a gripping novel with a much needed message for today. The multi-perspective view opened the doors to a more powerful story with deeper connections to the characters within. The characters faced a whole spectrum of emotions as they were forced to examine their views toward the people around them once they infringed upon their way of life. It develops a deeper sense of empathy for the readers as they step inside the shoes of others and examine their own biases they may or may not know they’ve held. A relevant story for current times, this is a novel not easily forgotten.

Meet Katie! A Conversation with Katie Ganshert


Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof is a novel that offers a unique and touching story of loss, redemption, love, and family. Rustic cabins, apple orchards, freshwater ponds, and wooded hillsides allow the story to grow richly from the landscape of its Appalachian setting even amidst the hurt and uncertainty of life in the South in the years following the Civil War. The well-developed characters are simply captivating and abound with authenticity and vulnerability. Their insecurities, their fears, their needs, and their desires are wholly believable, heart-wrenching, and inspiring. The opportunities, the choices, and the trials that the characters endure are intricately developed, and from them there unfolds a story that is thoroughly enriching and endearing.

Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a novel that artfully balances hope and despair, perseverance and struggle, and faithfulness and uncertainty. With unflinching skill, the author explores raw emotions, painful experiences, and deep hurt. Yet, this journey through and beyond despair and heartache is significantly strengthened and uplifted by meaningful moments of grace and gentle reminders that hope, restoration, healing, and reconciliation are made possible through God’s mercy, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a thoroughly breathtaking novel. Bischof’s writing style is achingly beautiful and utterly immersive strengthened by a lyrical quality that is quietly profound. Within every word and phrase there is deep meaning, real truth, and thoughtful purpose. Carefully detailed, descriptive, insightful, and moving, this remarkable story is certainly one to be savored. We, the judges, wholeheartedly agree that Sons of Blackbird Mountain is truly worthy of the 2019 Historical Romance INSPY Award.

Meet Joanne! A Conversation with Joanne Bischof


Shawn Smucker’s The Edge of Over There combines atmospheric prose, compelling characterization, and imaginative storytelling to invite YA readers to ponder the spiritual and physical implications of death—a theme that gets to the very heart of the Christian faith. There is a pervading sense of mystery and suspense as the story unfolds, and Abra and Leo must sort truth from lies and friend from foe as they search for the Tree of Life and consider whether immortality on this side of “Over There” is a gift or a curse. The high literary quality of this thought-provoking read made it a stand-out among this year’s YA selections.

Meet Shawn! A Conversation with Shawn Smucker


All three of us were quickly hooked within the opening pages that doesn’t let up until the end.  Each timeline contains its own mystery, which keeps the story simmering with suspense regardless of which time period is being read about. We thoroughly enjoyed how the two time periods connect, and how the main characters in each time period are from the same family line. The spiritual thread of the power of offering grace and receiving forgiveness is significant through both time periods which adds to the strength of this story.  The Reckoning kept us on our toes, kept us guessing, and had us turning the pages at amazing speeds, all while offering the most important lesson of all – knowing Jesus. It’s our privilege and honor to award the winner of the 2019 INSPY Mystery/Thriller Category to The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond.

Meet Jaime! A Conversation with Jaime Jo Wright


It is our honour to recognize Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse as the INSPY Award winner in the Speculative category. While we enjoyed every novel on the shortlist, Mark of the Raven captured us with its powerful storytelling. Busse subverts the Chosen One trope by giving readers a conflicted and complex protagonist in Lady Selene. She feels fated to follow her family’s legacy, yet she has just learned how awful it really is and debates how or if she can rebel against it. The themes of sacrifice, unity in diversity, discovering one’s identity, and learning to use one’s gifts intertwine to weave a magnificent story full of twists and surprises. Busse’s world-building is extraordinary. She explains all the fantastical elements through the story in magnificent fashion, showing rather than telling, enabling readers to become fully and naturally immersed in the world she has created. We eagerly await the continuation of the series!

Meet Morgan! A Conversation with Morgan L. Busse

We’d like to thank our judges for their hard work and careful consideration of each title. Another successful year for the INSPY program has come and gone –  thank you to everyone who helped make this possible.

Congratulations to the winners and all of the nominated authors!  You can meet our shortlist authors by searching the ‘2019 Author Interview‘ tag.

June 26, 2019

Cover Reveal :: Just One Kiss by Courtney Walsh

Hello, my lovelies! Just a quick check in to let you know about the newest book coming from the wonderful Courtney Walsh. She happens to be one of my go to authors for characters I know I'll connect with, so.... You know I'll definitely be reading this one. :)

Without further ado, let's get to the loveliness, right??

SO pretty, am I right?! I love the colors and the sweetness. Definitely makes me even more excited for this one!

So go preorder today and anticipate right along with me, how about it?

About the Book

He broke her heart. Now, he’s back, and he’s determined to show her what they had isn’t over. . . and he can prove it with just one kiss.

Single mother Carly Collins likes predictability. However, when her son Jaden’s health is threatened, her neatly controlled world is tossed into a tailspin. Nothing is certain anymore, especially her feelings for Josh Dixon, Jaden’s father, her first love and the man responsible for shattering her heart sixteen years ago.

When Josh Dixon walked out of Harbor Pointe, he left behind his only shot at a real family. Now a successful tech mogul, the town rebel has found a cause—ensure his son’s recovery and prove to Carly and Jaden that he’s not the same guy he was back then.

Carly and Josh are forced to wade through messy emotions and questions that have gone unanswered for years, which would be easier if not for the pesky feelings, every bit as strong and impossible to ignore as they ever were.

Will forgiveness win, giving Carly and Josh a second chance at love . . . or will the past prove too much to overcome?

A small town romance about first love second chances and how our most beautiful life might look nothing like we planned.

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Forty-Five

More reviews! I told you I've been doing a lot of reading. I guess if you go eight months with very little reading for pleasure, once you get to do it again that literally becomes your life. Not a bad life either, let me just say. :) I hope all is well for my lovely reader friends!

On to the reviews then...

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine 
by Gail Honeyman
So different than what I was expecting, but wow. This is an excellent read! I was pretty blown away by how very much I loved Eleanor and her quirkiness. I admit, she had to grow on me, I didn't totally love her at first. But it wasn't long until she had found her way into my heart and there she stayed until the final pages. Such a wonderfully written story about brokenness and how Eleanor claws her way out into light and life again. And Raymond? That man is just an incredible friend. Definitely planning to read this one again soon!

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
So much cute! I loved Olive. I really did. She and Ethan have fabulous chemistry right from the start. Even if that start is pretty "hate-filled". From the memories of their unfun meet cute to the natural feel of their slow build up to romance, I laughed so many times. And simply enjoyed their journey to finding the love of their lives in each other. A quirky set up to get them in the same place at the same time (Maui for the win!), I so completely adored watching these two fall in love.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
This is so quintessentially Sarah Dessen and I cannot believe it took me so long to finally read it! I love Ms. Dessen's way of writing characters who I connect with and relate to. I understood Sydney's grief and uncertainty, even if she didn't fully understand herself. Her journey to finding who she is, without constantly being in the shadow of her older brother, while simultaneously learning to stand on her own two feet...ah I just got her. I loved all the side characters too, especially the Chatham's. Another wonderfully imperfect family that I fell in love with! And Mac? Yeah, I'll just go swoon a bit over him, shall I? Such a wonderful story! :)

Interlude by Chantele Sedgwick
Characters who are dealing with grief are ones who I understand so well these days. I loved Mia and the way she chose to do all she could for her sister while she is still living, even though she knows that Maddy could very well die soon. Along her journey, a boy enters her pathway and yes, the cute inevitably follows. :) But this isn't just a story with a sweet romance, this is all about Mia figuring out her own strength. As well as proving just how amazing she is to everyone around her! I loved her journey and am definitely planning to read more of Ms. Sedgwick's stories!

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
I went into this one expecting a cute romance, but I found so much more depth and sweetness than I expected! I mean, yes, the romance between Tiffy and Leon is super adorable, don't get me wrong. But there is much going on underneath the surface of these characters and one must be willing to see beyond the sweetness into their hearts. Hearts that are broken and uncertain and on a journey to discovering their own tenacity. I loved it! I loved Tiffy and Leon's notes and texts. And the slow build up over the course of their story. And I loved watching as their individual trajectories bring them into each other's orbit until they become so sweetly entwined in each other's lives. Very worth reading, friends!

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
This was fun! It wasn't perfect, but it was certainly a lot of fun to read. I enjoyed all the references to romcoms because I recognized so many of them! :D I do admit that Annie wasn't my favorite character ever, but I definitely got invested enough in her journey that I wanted her to find her happy ever after. Drew was pretty adorable! I also wasn't a fan of the way the author chose to break up the cute couple towards the end, but okay. I rolled with it and enjoyed the story overall! It certainly made me want to go on a romcom-watching-binge soon. I shall have to get on that.

Act Like It by Lucy Parker
I've had this one on my radar for quite some time, but had forgotten about it until the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog reminded me. I'm so glad I tried it! Lainie and Richard and their adventures together make for fabulous chemistry. But I loved the natural way their romance developed. They began to see beyond the initial facade each wears in public and then proceeded to fall in love. Cuteness galore! Now I am off to see if I will enjoy the rest of the books in the series...see you when I see you! ;)

The Kiss of a Stranger by Sarah M. Eden
This had just the right amount of sweetness to keep me in enthralled. Catherine and Crispin were pretty adorable together. Yet, there were times I also felt I got a little whiplash as Catherine seemed a bit inconsistent. I didn't always understand her reactions and that frustrated me. But overall I could overlook it and just enjoy the journey of these two characters finding all they could ever want in each other. A sweet and charming read.

June 25, 2019

Bookish Finds in Thailand

Hello, my lovelies! So yeah. I did get to visit a few bookshops while I was in Thailand. Of course I did. And it was DELIGHTFUL. Naturally. ;)

One full day back in December, I took my rented motorbike and headed out with about three or four different bookshops pinned on my google maps. It such a glorious day, traversing the city going from bookshop to bookshop. I did do a few coffeeshop breaks in between, of which I will gladly share about another time (because Chiang Mai, Thailand is THE coffeeshop city in the world. I think there are literally close to a hundred or perhaps more and no, that is not an exaggeration. Coffeeshops are everywhere. And that's delightful too. :).

The above sign was in a bookshop where they had other signs that said NO PICTURES. Humph. So I surreptitiously snapped that one and didn't stay long. Any bookshop that doesn't want to share it's goodness with the world...well...that's not a bookshop I want to patronize very badly. Anyhoo. They did have quite a large collection of used and new books. A good mix of Thai and English language books too. But I didn't find anything I had to have, so off I went to find other places.

Not the same day, but on a different day...I found these GLORIOUS Jane Austen's...and it was all I could do not to take them home with me. But alas, by this time it was getting closer to time for me to go home and I knew my luggage space was going to be fairly limited. I just about cried to leave them there. Only I couldn't cry. Because I was with friends. And they'd have thought it bizarre if I'd've cried about leaving books in a bookshop. So I snapped a photo so I wouldn't ever forget the pretty! *all the heart eyes*

(Also, those were the only ones they had. No Pride & Prejudice or Northanger Abbey to be found. Trust me. I looked.)

SO much fun to see two of my favorites in Thai! And those covers... Aren't they gorgeous?!?! *sigh* I was sad to leave those there as well...

And this, my friends....is a coffee shop. Yep. A coffee shop. It was open 24 hrs and was awesome. Filled with all sorts of books everywhere! For school, we had solitude days where we went out by ourselves and worked on assignments. This become one of my favorite spots for such a day... I happily spent hours surrounded by books and drinking my mochas! Happiness indeed. :D

It was located at the very top most floor of a mall, so the views out the windows were amazing. But it was the inside I was most concerned with. All those books...!! ;)

*happy sigh* Doesn't it look amazing?! I agree. :D It was certainly a happy spot for me.

I happened to go on a trip down to Bangkok and one day while we were walking the streets, I happened to spot this little shop. There were at least two other aisles that looked just like this. TONS of books. Alas they were all in Thai so I couldn't read a single one. But it was still fun to "get to know them" a bit! :)

ALL the pretties!! The above two photos are actually from my very first adventure out to try and find a bookshop. Thankfully a new Thai friend had pity on me and showed me this spot...since I was still a bit terrified of trying to find my way out and about all by myself. Clearly, I got braver as time went on...but this first trip was wonderful even if I did have to have a travel buddy with me. :)

Amen and amen.

June 24, 2019

Movie Quote Monday :: Persuasion

Anne: Charles, please assure Captain Wentworth and Captain Harville that we hope to see them tonight.
Charles: That was understood.
Anne:  No, I don't think so. They must come, do you hear? You'll see them again. Promise me you'll mention it.
Charles: Mention it yourself. Frederick, which way are you going?       
Frederick: I hardly know.
Charles: Are you going near Camden place? If you are, take Anne to her father's door. She's done for this morning and I'm eager to see a gun, like that double-barrel of mine you once shot with.
Frederick: I shall have time to take her, Charles.
Charles: Thank you.

*He leaves*
Frederick: I tried to forget you. I thought I had.

Oh friends. I hadn't watched this movie in quite a long time, but I stumbled upon this awesomely fun podcast the other day. These ladies talked about all the reasons why they did and didn't like both the 1995 and 2008 versions of Persuasion. And while listening, I was persuaded (see what I did there? Of course you did! ;) to watch the 1995 version again.

Oh my goodness! I am now completely convinced of this version's superiority! I mean, I always knew it was better, but I still rather liked Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth (because, yes, he's rather nice to look at, I freely admit it! :) from the 2008 version. But Ciaran Hinds.... Oh my stars, that man has a way of looking at Anne...!! *swoon* The podcasters mention how they noticed he never looks at her in the beginning of the movie and they were right! He looks just over her head or just past her, but never in her eyes. Until Lyme. And then he notices. Oh man does he ever notice. From there on out he holds nothing back and just stares at her... Ah my heart!!

Anyway. You're not here to listen to me gush about how Wentworth looks at Anne. (Although surely you agree with me, right?? ;) Mainly, I simply had to come over here and put it out there officially. The 1995 Persuasion is DELIGHTFUL. There is so much of the book within each scene that the filmmakers clearly understood the perfection of writerly awesomeness they were working with. And so refused to make any horrific and terrible and awful and horrifyingly, glaringly wrong choices when it came to adding or changing things up! (I'm looking at you, 2008 Persuasion filmmakers...humph.)

I will admit, that I'll probably still occasionally watch the 2008 version, purely for the pretty of Rupert of course. And there are some wonderful scenes in it. But overall, I have to officially hand the trophy of best version to 1995. WAY superior. (And I can now even admit that Ciaran is awfully handsome as well. A few years ago I'd've never in my dreams have admitted that. But I stand corrected. And happily! ;)

What about you? Have you seen both versions? Did you enjoy both versions? Or no....? Tell me, tell me! I'd love to chat about Persuasion with someone again! It's been much too long...

June 23, 2019

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Forty-Four

Hello again! It's Sunday and I am here to chat about a couple non-fiction reads I read recently-ish. But first, I hope all is going well for you? I am hoping to get some fun posts up soon about all the awesome bookshops I found in Thailand! I figured that was worthy of showcasing around these parts. :) I wanted to get my reviews caught up before doing so, but I hope you will anticipate all the fun adventures I want to share about soon! So hang in there for more reviews and we shall get there! Promise. :)


Looming Transitions 
by Amy Young
After all my adventures overseas, I knew in preparing to go home again, it might just be helpful to get some advice from someone who's been there. This was a very practically-written book filled with good info and suggestions for hanging in there when things are hard. Because let's face it, transition and change are NOT easy things to go through. (Totally worth doing, but not easy!) I appreciated Ms. Young's relatable way of writing. So all in all, I'd say this was perfect for what I needed at the time. :)


Why I Hate Green Beans 
by Lincee Ray
This one I read purely to get a good laugh in and goodness did that ever work! I howled, friends. Literally howled with laughter! To the point that my dear father, who was in the other room, began to wonder if I was going crazy. :D Ms. Ray certainly has quite a hilarious and fun outlook on life! She's also not had an easy time of it always, but I appreciated her ability to see humor in even the toughest places. If you simply need a little pick me up with a giant laugh or two, give this one a try! Meanwhile, I believe I shall see if I can't get her second book, I could use another laugh or two. :)

June 22, 2019

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Forty-Three

Hello, my lovelies! So I've been reading up a storm since I've been home from Thailand...but you know what I haven't done? Gotten many reviews written about all the books I've been reading. Yikes! So not cool, right? (Okay, so y'all probably don't care either way. But I do! So there. ;)

Anyhoo! Here there be reviews. And lots more probably coming soon! Be on the lookout, friends.

36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You 
by Vicki Grant
I read this when I was in need of some mindless and cute romance to distract me from all the stress of my homework and studies. And I totally got what I wanted! This isn't a perfect story by any means, but it does have a pretty adorable romance once you get past the first not-meet-cute. It made me laugh, roll my eyes a few times, as well as swoon over the sweetness by the time I got to the end. A quick and easy read that's entertaining and perfect for the summertime! :)

Match Me If You Can by Krista Phillips
Ms. Phillips is an author that is guaranteed to make me laugh as well as swoon! She just knows how to write humor that I totally get. :) Plus her characters are always put into situations that are either a) hilarious or b) relatable or both! In this case, I've never been to a matchmaking resort, so chalk this one up to being hilarious. And sweet! Ava and Sean are simply adorable together. Which means you should read this one and see for yourself. Trust me.

After the Tide by Lindsay Harrel
This one is super short, but also super adorable!! If you're in need of a really quick reason to smile, then I highly recommend it. Ms. Harrel clearly knows how to write an engaging romance that'll only make you wish it were a whole lot longer.

Sanditon by Jane Austen 
& Juliette Shapiro
Y'all know I am always a sucker for another Jane Austen story. I've read a couple other Sanditon stories and was curious where Ms. Shapiro would take these characters. The results? Not bad, but not perfect either. Still. I enjoyed it anyway! I just love Charlotte Heywood. I really do. She and Sydney Parker are quite fascinating characters. And I will read just about any story that puts them together in the end! (Also, I truly wish Austen had been able to finish this one herself because I would dearly love to know how she would've ended it. Alas...)

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
I knew going into this book that things were going to be a bit different, whatwith the "choose your own adventure" premise. But it was certainly a whole lot more imaginative and interesting than I was expecting! The set up is intriguing and then we get to the pivotal moment which hinges on Jane's decision. Each option that comes next is fascinating, especially when we go into each one with information that Jane doesn't have about other characters thanks to the previous choice. I confess there were a lot of weird moments that I skimmed through pretty quickly, but it was awfully unputdownable at the same time. A fun ride while I was on it, but sort of forgettable once I was finished...

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Fun! But crazy. But fun! That was my exact thoughts when I finished this story late into the night. I could not put it down once I began. Ms. Thorne most certainly knows how to write pretty unforgettable characters! Lucy and Joshua and their hate-to-love romance are just....yeah. Delightful! I laughed at their silly office games of one-upping each other. But I seriously adored their inability to not be aware of the other at all times. Swoony and fun. And crazy. But fun! :)

Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright
Of course, Ms. Wright had me at Jane Austen in her title. I loved Emma! I was a bit afraid when I started it that she might become a cliched type of heroine in stories like these, especially when the love triangle begins. But I was pleasantly surprised to realize that Emma knows her own heart pretty well, which made the love triangle not much of a triangle. (Hallelujah!) She knows pretty quickly on which guy she chooses, as do we. And the journey to getting both of them on the same path at the same time is a lot of fun! There were a few moments that made me grimace, but overall a very enjoyable story.

The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews
While I have a couple blogging friends who have gushed over Ms. Matthews stories for a good while now, I confess to having tried a couple and not really been able to get into them. Except for A Holiday by Gaslight which is just DELIGHTFUL. And I finally found another that I loved! Yay! With a bit of Beauty and the Beast vibes going on, Sylvia and Sebastian's romance is awfully adorable. Even when Sebastian is being an idiot. :) Sweet and fun, this is one you need in your life, reader friends. Especially if you adore reunited lovers tropes.


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