Books reviewed prior on this site prior to March 2019 were provided to me, at no charge, by the publisher, or by the author, in exchange for an honest review. I have received no further compensation for these reviews. Reviews beginning March 2019 come from a variety of sources: advanced copies, library loans, and my own purchases. All reviews are my honest opinions.

December 21, 2018

Secrets at Cedar Cabin {Colleen Coble}

secrets at cedar cabin colleen coble
Running for her life in the wake of her mother’s murder, Bailey Fleming escapes to the only place she can think of—a remote, dilapidated cabin in Lavender Tides. Intending to finally get to the truth behind the lies of her past, Bailey only finds more questions when bodies are discovered near her cabin hideout along with traces of a dangerous human trafficking ring. In an unlikely partnership with FBI agent Lance Phoenix, Bailey races to understand the mystery surrounding her life and circumstances before the murderer tracks her down.

Meanwhile, Lance is determined to rescue his sister, Ava, who was abducted after running away from home as a teenager. An unexpected lead brings him to the remote cabin, and he wonders if Bailey—with her suspicious past and strange connections to his sister’s case—is really who she claims to be and if she can somehow lead him to Ava.

Filled with Colleen Coble's custom blend of suspense and romance, Secrets at Cedar Cabin takes us back to the evocative landscape of Washington's coast where nothing is quite as it seems.

My Thoughts:
When you pick up a Colleen Coble book, you know you are going to get a story filled with drama and suspense with a sweet love story mixed in. This book fit that expectation just perfectly and I loved it for it.

I did not read the first two books in this Lavender Tides series, but this book worked well as a stand-alone and I had no trouble getting to know the characters and the necessary backstory to make sense of the big picture story. I immediately felt drawn to Bailey and the grief she must feel with the loss of her mother and the threat on her own life. As the story progresses and we begin to discover secrets of Bailey's life - and as she discovers her entire life history has been a lie - my heart just went out to her and I wanted nothing but for her to have a perfectly happy ending in her life.

I also felt drawn to Lucas and his instinct to immediately protect Bailey from the unknown and the danger she would find herself in. The determination in his pursuit to find his sister made him the type of character you hoped would find his happiness in life as well.

I appreciate Coble's ability to take each of her characters and have them find their way back to God no matter the circumstances they are faced with. She does it in such a natural way that does not seem preachy, and I love the message that comes from those relationships.

If you are a fan of Colleen Coble you will love this book. If you have never given her a read, pick this one up and prepare to fall in love!

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December 7, 2018

The Wondering Years {Knox McCoy}

the wondering years knox mccoy
When you hear the phrase pop culture, you likely think reality television, boy bands or Real Housewives of various cities. While these are elements of popular culture, they aren’t all it has to offer. Pop culture may not cure diseases, topple political regimes, or make scientific breakthroughs, but it does play a vital role in the story of humanity.

In fact, it’s pretty hard to define the human experience without it. And it’s impossible to create pop culture without the human experience. Popular podcaster Knox McCoy understands this, and so do the tens of thousands of listeners who tune in to hear him talk about pop culture every week on his wildly popular podcast, The Popcast with Knox and Jamie.

In The Wondering Years, Knox explores this idea of connecting popular culture to his own experiences. Through hilarious yet poignant stories, he reflects on how pop culture has helped shape his life and carve out the foundation of his faith. While the three cultural tentpoles—the South, the Church, and Sports—defined many aspects of his East Tennessee upbringing, it was pop culture that most definitively influenced Knox and his sense of the world at large.

Through books, television, music, and movies, Knox found many of the answers he was searching for about God and the universe and why we are all here. The Wondering Years is a hilarious look back at the key influences that shaped Knox’s formative years and his faith, a reminder of our own encounters with pop culture that have shaped each of our formative years and continue to influence us today.

My Thoughts:
Once upon a time I discovered Knox McCoy's podcast, The Popcast, and discovered a huge appreciation for his amazing pop culture combined with a fast wit and the ability to turn unlikely occurrences into something meaningful in life. This book embodies every one of those characteristics in the most refreshing way.

As someone who finds themselves completely fascinated with pop culture, but also has a love and desire for Jesus, I appreciate Knox's ability to combine these two worlds in a relevant way. His story-telling is hilarious and brings back so many memories of growing up in the 80s and 90s. Yet he finds a way to take each of his memories and use it as a method of getting to Christianity and how it also plays out in his life.

I laughed out loud through many pages of this book, nodded my head in agreement, and found myself in awe of some of the connections he was able to make. I appreciated every aspect of this book and know I will find myself flipping through it again and again in the future. I am proud to have it as an addition to my bookshelf.

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November 30, 2018

Who I Am With You {Robin Lee Hatcher}

who i am with you robin lee hatcher
Jessica Mason isn’t looking for love when she meets Ridley Chesterfield. Instead she is still reeling from the tragic, unexpected loss of her husband and daughter—and awaiting the arrival of her unborn child. Harboring the secret of her husband’s betrayal, her pain is deeper than anyone knows.

Ridley Chesterfield is hiding out in Hope Springs, Idaho, avoiding a political scandal and the barrage of false media headlines that have tarnished his good name. The last thing Ridley wants is a relationship—but when fate leads Ridley to form a friendship with his reclusive and pregnant neighbor, he wonders if this small-town hideout might be more of a long-term destination. 

When Jessica begins to read her great-grandfather’s Bible, she finds a connection with a man she never knew. Somehow the verses he marked and the words he wrote in the margins open her heart to healing. And as Ridley and Jessica help each other forgive the people who have wronged them, they must decide if the past will define them or if they will choose to love again.

My Thoughts:
I did not know this was the beginning of a new series, and I admit my feelings about the book completely changed once I picked up on this little fact.

This book features two stories - one present day, and one set during the Great Depression. The characters have so much in common though. A young love, destroyed for various reasons, and characters who turn to God to ask for help in putting their lives back together.

I thought this book was well written and the characters developed in a very deep manner. I loved watching the love between Jessica and Ridley develop, but I loved, even more, watching Andrew work so hard to save his marriage and provide for his family during the Great Depression. I thought his love for God, his love for his wife, and his determination were a perfect example of the type of men this world needs today. I loved watching his faith carry him along in every decision he made.

I also loved when Jessica decided to get back to life and face the truths present in her marriage before her husband and daughter died. Once she made that tough decision, I really appreciated the woman she became and her willingness to let Ridley into her life.

I look forward to reading the following books in this series. I know Andrew's story is going to continue and I cannot wait to see how it merges into the present day.

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November 23, 2018

Heart Land {Kimberly Stuart}

heart land kimberly stuart
A story of reconnection, lost love, and the power of faith, Heart Land follows a struggling fashion designer back to her small Iowa hometown as she tries to follow her dreams of success and finding true love.

Grace Klaren has finally made her dream of living in the Big Apple and working in the fashion industry a reality. But when she’s unexpectedly fired and can’t afford the next month’s rent, Grace does something she never thought she’d do: she moves back home.

Back in Silver Creek, Iowa, Grace is determined to hate it. She rails against the quiet of her small town, where everything closes early, where there’s no nightlife, where everyone knows each other. She’s saving her pennies and plotting her return to New York when she almost runs over a man who’s not paying attention at a crosswalk. It turns out to be Tucker, her high school sweetheart whose heart she broke when she left ten years ago. They reconnect, and Grace remembers why she fell for him in the first place.

And her career begins to turn around when she finds a gorgeous but tattered vintage dress at a flea market. She buys it, rips it apart seam by seam, and re-creates it with new fabric, updating the look with some of her own design ideas. She snaps a picture and lists the dress online, and within a day, it sells for nearly $200. Suddenly, Grace has her ticket out of here.

But Grace can’t fight her growing feelings for Tucker. Sometimes when they’re together, Tucker paints a picture of what their future could be like, and it feels so real. And when she finally gains the funding to move her new business back to New York, Grace must decide where home really is—will she chase her long-held New York dream, or find a new dream here in the heartland?

My Thoughts:
Being unfamiliar with both Kimberly Stuart or her work, I picked this book strictly based on the cover (I tend to do that often). The result was my picking out one of my favorite books of the year.

This book centers on Grace, a girl after my own heart trying to make a name for herself in the big city of New York. Grace has lost her purpose in life, her home and her roots, and her relationship with God. As one can imagine, it makes for a tough go of it.

I was completely touched when Grace returned to her hometown and was immediately embraced by Gigi and all the people who knew her growing up. She was not judged, but rather she was loved on and welcomed home with open arms. As someone who also left for the "big city" and returned home, it felt like familar ground.

I loved watching Grace and Tucker fall in love all over again. I knew when she broke his heart the second tie she would have to come back to him. They were such a perfect match, I could not imagine either being happy with someone else.

My heart cringed as Grace returned to New York and found herself chasing success over happiness once again. But watching her walk right back to God and her roots made my heart leap with joy.

As I cried through the last chapter of this book - both happiness and grief for the characters - I made a note to put Kimberly Stuart on my must-read list. Her writing style and storytelling is beautiful and makes for such a great book.

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November 16, 2018

Wait for Me {Susan May Warren}

wait for me susan may warren
Pete Brooks can't believe he's waited an entire year for Jess Tagg to return to Montana, only to have her break his heart by getting engaged to her ex-fiancĂ©. Worse, a series of mistakes on the job have cost lives, and Pete isn't sure he wants to continue to work in Search and Rescue. Maybe if he can just get over Jess, he can figure out how to move forward. 

EMT Jess Tagg has returned to Montana to finally give her heart to Pete, but it seems he's no longer interested. When a terrible fight between them sparks an impulsive decision, she finds herself crashed on the side of a highway along with Esme Shaw. And just when she thinks things couldn't get any worse, she and Esme are taken captive and into the untamed Montana wilderness—with murderous intent. 
Now Pete and the other PEAK Rescue Team members are in a race against time, the elements, and the actions of a vengeful man. Pete will have to use everything he's learned to find Jess and Esme—and pray that his past mistakes don't cost him the life of the woman he can't stop loving.

My Thoughts:
This has been one of those series that keeps you on the edge of your seat as you travel from one roller coaster to the next. But this final book? It far exceeds the drama and suspense of what we are accustomed to the PEAK team experiencing.

Pete has returned to Montana with all the hope in the world that Jess will not be there. But when Jess does show up, it gets a little complicated.

One high-speed chase, a wreck, and a crazy adventure in the woods later, and we all remember why we fell in love with this series.

But the real gold in this book is watching Pete and Jess evolve as they find their way to each other and discover their true feelings. And watching them turn it back to God is just the icing on the cake.

This is a great stand alone book, but do yourself a favor and get the whole series if you haven't already.

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November 9, 2018

Storm Front {Susan May Warren}

storm front susan may warren
A tornado has destroyed a small Minnesota community and among the missing are not only a group of students but PEAK Rescue team leader Chet King. Ty Remington will stop at nothing to rescue his mentor, not even when the girl he loved--and lost--walks back into his life. But Brette needs his help more than he knows, despite her stubborn determination to push him away. And when he gets a second chance, loving her just might cost him more than he can imagine.

A blogger for Vortex Storm Chasers, Brette Arnold didn't expect her adventures to land her in the same place as Ty, the guy who she walked--no, ran--from over a year ago. She had her reasons--good ones. The kind that tell her that falling for him again would only lead to heartache. But Ty isn't the kind of man to give up--not on the missing students, or on her.

Life and love hang in the balance in Susan May Warren's breathless story of holding on to hope during a deadly summer of storms.

My Thoughts:
What a read! I have loved this series from the very beginning, and just when I think a book has peaked (haha) above the rest the next one comes and blows them away.

We have watched Ty wrestle with the pains of his past, and I wondered if he would ever find his happy. Without giving details, I will tell you if you love Ty you will love this story.

But this one has so much more going on. As the team travels to Duck Lake to pick up the pieces left behind after a tornado, we get to meet such amazing people and watch them intertwine their lives with the members of the PEAK rescue. I wept with them as they believed their loved ones had died. I rejoiced as hope came alive in the community.

But in the end, it is Ty finding his life calling from God that makes this story just perfect. Knowing that God has a purpose for each of our lives is so reassuring and this book just highlighted that so perfectly.

This one ended in a cliffhanger and I cannot wait to open the final book in this series and see how it will unfold.

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November 2, 2018

On Magnolia Lane {Denise Hunter}

on magnolia lane denise hunter
Pastor Jack McReady has secretly carried a torch for Daisy for two long years. She’s a member of his congregation, after all, and she’ll never see him as more than a trusted counselor. Jack’s best friend Noah has taken every opportunity to encourage his lovesick friend, but when Noah catches wind that Daisy has joined an online dating site, he takes matters into his own hands and orchestrates a meet-cute of the most unconventional kind.

Owner of the local flower shop, Daisy Pendleton is content with her small-town life, but she’d sure like someone to share it with. After several disastrous first dates, she’s about to give up—and then she finds a seemingly wonderful man online. Daisy gets to know TJ through a series of messages but finds herself spending more time with Pastor Jack outside of the church at the same time. What she doesn’t know is that her online prospect and Jack are one and the same. 

Just as Daisy’s love life starts to look promising, a mysterious woman appears in town. Daisy is faced with a revelation about her family that turns her world upside down, and she looks to both TJ and Jack for help.

Jack must find a way to reveal himself as her online suitor without breaking her heart and losing her trust. As Daisy faces Jack’s betrayal, she’ll have to learn to extend grace to herself, her family, and the man she’s grown to love.

My Thoughts:
I don't think I can resist a love story from Denise Hunter. The way she brings to live characters I always fall in love with brings them together in ways I would never have imagined, and then makes them a part of your life to the point you can't forget them. This book followed that plan perfectly and I am so happy about it.

We have met Pastor Jack in earlier books in this series, and I just love Daisy. I could not wait for them to fall in love. But, of course, it is never that easy! I thought the way Jack "chased" after Daisy was so typical for a timid guy, but I really wanted to shake him and tell him how badly he was messing everything up. I could not put this book down until I knew if he was going to fix the ways he had messed this up.

When Julia entered the town, I knew immediately she was going to be a twist to make Daisy's life not as perfect as we all thought it was. I thought it was a clever way to use the characters to show just how much God can do in showing us how to forgive and move on.  I loved the relationship Daily and Julia created, and the way Daisy's mom finally came around in then.

This has been such a fun series and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet small-town romance.

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October 26, 2018

No One Ever Asked {Katie Ganshert}

no one ever asked katie ganshert
When an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors, the lives of three very different women converge: 

Camille Gray--the wife of an executive, mother of three, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fundraiser--faced with a shocking discovery that threatens to tear her picture-perfect world apart at the seams. Jen Covington, the career nurse whose long, painful journey to motherhood finally resulted in adoption but she is struggling with a happily-ever-after so much harder than she anticipated. Twenty-two-year-old Anaya Jones--the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge's top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she's stepped into. 

Tensions rise within and without, culminating in an unforeseen event that impacts them all. This story explores the implicit biases impacting American society, and asks the ultimate question: What does it mean to be human? Why are we so quick to put labels on each other and categorize people as "this" or "that", when such complexity exists in each person?

My Thoughts:
I have heard so many amazing things about this book, but even I was not prepared for just how good it is. This one grabbed both my heart and my mind and make me start thinking about my life in a way I never have before - or maybe never wanted to before.

This story merges the lives of three women living very different lives until the decision of a school board throws them all together. Unfortunately, my life probably most closely resembles that of Camille Gray, and the further I got into this book, the more I wanted to change this.

Camille and her family live in their own happily ever after, oblivious to the lives of those around them - especially the black people. Although they believe they are non-judgemental and open to everyone, they quickly learn that is not the case. On more than one occasion Camille found herself terrified about the way her family began to integrate with the new kids in school.

Jen and her husband have grown up in a mostly white world, and feel they have made strides in expanding their culture when they adopt a black child into their family. Jen quickly realizes she knows nothing about the culture or the world she must now raise her daughter in, but I appreciated how she went out of her way to learn what she needed to do to make sure her daughter has the best life possible.

And Anaya, a black teacher suddenly thrown into the midst of a white school district, doing her best to prove herself and care for her family. I loved this character and her willingness to put herself out there to better the lives of those around her - no matter their skin color or background. I thought she grew more than anyone throughout this book and I loved seeing her life evolve based on the choices she made.

I thought this was an amazing book with a great story and the ability to make you examine your life in a different way. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. Pick up a copy today and make sure your library has it on their shelves as well.

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October 23, 2018

I'm Back {And So Excited}

I'm back!! It has been almost a year since I took a hiatus from this book blog, and I can honestly say it was great for me. I had gotten myself so bogged down into book reviews that I could not enjoy any of the books anymore.

In this past year, I have browsed the library, transitioned to all ebook reading, and found my way back. I've read all the genres and realized my love is for Christian fiction, and Christian fiction is what I want to read.

I'm back with a new name - Karen Reads. I'm also on Instagram at karenreads and on Facebook under the same name.

What will be different? Other than the name, you will see fewer reviews. I cannot allow myself to get overscheduled like I was. My goal this time around is four to six books per month. That allows me sufficient time to spend time with my family, binge some Netflix, and read non-review books as well.

I am excited to be back, and I hope the Christian fiction book community welcomes me back with open arms.