Fall Fiction Favorites!

My to-be-read pile for fall is about twenty books deep–I’ll be kind and resist talking about all of them. But there are a handful written by my favorite authors that I’ve been impatiently waiting for and now they’re almost here!

Steven James has quickly become one of my favorite storytellers. He writes intense, complex thrillers that leave you on the edge of your seat from word one. This fall he has two new novels coming out!

In Opening MovesBowers Files Series prequel (Signet Select, September 20120 release), James takes the readers back in time with FBI Agent Patrick Bowers, back to the murder mystery that’s haunted him throughout the series. I look forward to gleaning more insight into what make Patrick Bowers tick.

Description: FBI agent Patrick Bowers’ first major murder investigation begins in Milwaukee, 1995. In a city still reeling from the crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer, a woman’s body is found with the lungs removed. Local cops think a Dahmer copycat is on the loose. But Patrick Bowers, working as a homicide detective for the Milwaukee Police Department, sees from the timing and location of the crime that this is not a copycat at all, but a killer with an entirely different agenda.

Then Steven James introduces his readers to a brand new protagonist, Jevin Banks, in Placebo, Jevin Banks Series #1 (Revell, October 2012 release). I don’t doubt that this new series will be just as riveting as the Patrick Bowers series.

Description: While covertly investigating a controversial neurological research program, exposé filmmaker Jevin Banks is drawn into a far-reaching conspiracy involving one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms. After giving up his career as an escape artist and illusionist in the wake of his wife and sons’ tragic death, Jevin is seeking not only answers about the questionable mind-to-mind communication program, but also answers to why his family suffered as they did. Rooted in ground-breaking science and inspired by actual research, Placebo explores the far reaches of science, consciousness, and faith. Readers will love this taut, intelligent, and emotionally gripping new thriller from master storyteller Steven James.

Now if you’re not into highly-detailed thrillers, then I’d recommend Borders of the Heart (Tyndale House, September release) by Chris Fabry.  Fabry has won two Christy’s and was a finalist once. He’s an author who delves deeply into the heart of multi-faceted characters. He tells his stories with rich, musical prose that you want to savor like fine chocolate. I’ve no doubt Borders of the Heart will be equally as beautiful as the rest of Fabry’s novels.

Description: Desperate to escape haunting memories, J. D. Jessup travels from Nashville to Tucson and volunteers on an organic farm. The hardened landowner has one prevailing rule: If J. D. sees an “illegal,” call the border patrol. But when an early morning ride along the fence line leads him to a beautiful young woman named Maria, near death in the desert, his heart pulls him in another direction. Longing to atone for the choices that drove him to Tucson, J. D. hides her and unleashes a chain of deadly events he could never have imagined. Soon they are running from a killer and fighting for their lives. As secrets of their pasts emerge, J. D. realizes that saving Maria may be the only way to save himself.

I do have to throw in one debut author–I’m guessing we’ll want to have tissues handy for Kathy Harris‘s novel, The Road to Mercy (Abingdon, September 2012 release).

Josh Harrison, a contemporary Christian singer, and his wife Bethany face a difficult decision that also tests their faith. A rupture in Beth’s carotid artery leaves her on the brink of death even as she’s pregnant with their first child. While Dr. Ben Abrams urges her to terminate the pregnancy to save her own life, she and Josh step out on faith and decide to carry the baby to full term.

During the next few months, Josh struggles with his faith, Beth hides a secret that may destroy their marriage. She also discovers a decades-old connection to Dr. Abrams that could change his life forever.


And how can I not mention our very own Shannon Vannatter?! Her sixth book, Rodeo Ashes, releases this month for Heartsong Presents book club members, and it will be available to the public in September. Yeah Shannon! Of course since I’m her critique partner I already know it’s another heart-tugging romance that Shannon excels at. I can’t wait to hold the published copy in my hands!

Description: Lacie Gentry, a young widow and mom, is struggling with the aftermath of her husband’s tragic death. When she bumps into former classmate Quinn Remington, her future is undecided. She accepts a job teaching kids to ride at Quinn’s neighboring ranch, hoping to revitalize her life with an old pastime but soon sees in Quinn a chance to move forward with new love…if she’s ready.

It’s been years since Quinn has seen lovely Lacie Gentry—the girl he always admired in high school but never came close to dating. By the time they met, Lacie was engaged to rodeo star Mel Gentry then happily married. Now Lacie’s closer than ever. The attraction is still there, but so is a secret that might end any chance of romance.

Can they rise from the rodeo ashes?

There are sooo many more, but I’ll stop for for now … well, not without giving a handful of others a quick mention.

What books are you looking forward to reading this fall?


In Search of Scintillating Covers

Brendianna Jones Anderson here, writing from the wilds of Minnesota where I’ve run from ginormous rolling snowballs and have dug my way out of dangerous garter snake pits all while searching for the elusive scintillating book cover.

Okay, okay, a bit dramatic, I know, but isn’t drama what we want when searching for books? Aren’t we looking for the cover that hints of escape and adventure? Something that removes us from our little universe and gives us a greater sense of the world around us?

I have been on a search for the book cover that catches my eye, the one that compels me to pick up that book and check out the description. The greatest difficulty in this process was turning off my bias meter (the one that immediately discounts genres I don’t typically read) so I could scan shelves for covers that grabbed my attention.

This search has taken me down several paths, but two were the most fruitful.

I scanned the latest Christianbook.com spring fiction catalog solely looking for what provoked a second glance regardless of genre. Several jumped out at me, but these three really tell a story with their cover:

GONE TO GROUND by Brandilyn Collins.

First off, I LOVE the color. The vibrant red is definitely gaze-grabbing. But then I looked closer and saw that drip of blood hanging from a petal. Gives me goosebumps! There’s no doubt I will pick up this book and read the back cover.

Amaryllis, Mississippi, resembles the flower for which it’s named—bright with southern hospitality. But poison lurks in its center. A serial killer is responsible for five unsolved murders. And now the blood of a sixth stains the town. Three terrified women are sure they know who the perpetrator is—but they all suspect a different man. Who’s right?

THROUGH RUSHING WATER by Catherine Richmond. This entire cover hints of mystery: a foggy lake, the woman gazing off into the distance … I want to know her story. What is she looking at? Regrets? Hardships? I have to find out!

Elegant and educated, Sophia Makinoff is sure that 1876 is the year she’ll wed congressman Rexford Montgomery. But he proposes to her roommate instead! Humiliated, Sophia signs on with a foreign missions society to go to China—but ends up with the Dakota Territory Indians. Can she find a purpose in God’s plan?

THE TELLING by Mike Duran. Another cover that gives me the chills. The shadowed mountains, scraggy dessert, the lettering, the raven. Right away I think of Edgar Allan Poe and, as a Poe fan, I’m going to pick this book up and look deeper.

Zeph Walker had abandoned his prophetic gifts—until detectives ask him to explain his own murder. During the bizarre investigation, Zeph discovers that early miners in Death Valley accidentally unearthed a sacred site where spiritual and physical forces converge. Can Zeph overcome his own despair in time to seal the ninth gate of hell—before evil finds him?

I couldn’t leave my hunt for the perfect cover to an internet search so I headed to my local Christian bookstore and took along my book-loving and very astute daughter. Together we scanned the fiction racks for covers that stood out. We picked out several that warranted a second look, but we had one problem: the majority of books showed only their spine. That sent us on a new trajectory.

Looking beyond the author’s name, we sought attention-grabbing spines. Several intrigued us including Burn by Ted Dekker and Erin Healy, Ten Plagues by Mary Nealy, Book of Days by Jim Rubart, and Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry. (I should have brought my camera to the store because I discovered it’s very difficult finding pics of book spines on the web.)

Chris Fabry’s ALMOST HEAVEN jumped out at me because of the mandolin pictured on the side. That was an immediate attention grabber for this music lover. Don’t you love how the mandolin wraps around to the front? The foggy mountains in the background indicate story setting. Just from the spine, I know I’ll give this book a closer look.

Billy Allman is a “hillbilly genius.” Folks in town say he was born with a second helping of brains and a gift for playing the mandolin—and was cut short on social skills. But there are two things they don’t know—he’s troubled by a brutal secret, and an angel is determined to set things right!

As for why those particular spines stood out, color was top on our list. We both gravitated toward bright colors. Shadowing was also important as it hinted at mystery. The title, font, and color indicated genre. A small picture depicting the story was a great  help. The spines that were merely a title on a colored background were easy to ignore. If you look at the spines of our own Lorna Seilstad and Shannon Vannatter‘s books, you’ll see their spines tell a story too.

I love spines that hint at drama. What about you? When you go to a bookstore, what on a spine captures your attention? The lettering? Color? Shadowing? Title? Author? What will compel you to pull that book from the shelves to look a the cover?

For me, it’s a combination of all of the above.

This is Brendianna Jones Anderson signing off after a successful spine-tingling search for scintillating covers.


Christmas Reading Wish List

Oh the weather outside is frightful,

But the fire is so delightful,

And I have chocolate to eat,

So I’ll read! So I’ll read! So I’ll read!

Can you think of anything better than snuggling beneath a fleece blanket in your favorite chair, a lit fireplace warming the air? You’ve got whipped-cream-topped hot cocoa in one hand and a novel in the other? Nope. Nothing’s better than that. Especially here in Minnesota where the temperatures sink below freezing for months at a time.

The hard part is choosing a book. There are so many good ones out there, I could spend the entire winter in that cozy chair. But, for you, I’ve narrowed down my Christmas reading wish list to two.

With Dickens you’ll sing a song

When Scrooge says he is wrong.

So I’ll hum and I’ll tap a beat

While I read! While I read! While I read!

A MARRIAGE CAROL by Chris Fabry & Gary Chapman (Moody Publishers 2011) — One of my favorite new authors is Chris Fabry (June Bug, Dogwood, and Almost Heaven). I can’t wait to read his and Gary Chapman’s version of the Dickens’ classic.

Jake and Marlee, a typical couple, are about to call it quits. Over time they have drifted apart; the sparks are dead. Marlee is convinced she married the wrong man and Jake feels tied down to the wrong woman. Jake is distant and tired of being controlled while Marlee is tired of being the only one trying to the save their marriage.
They go to bed Christmas Eve, in separate rooms, each rationalizing…life is too short to be miserable…love shouldn’t hurt like this…their marriage must end for happiness to return.
But their lives are about to take a turn. The ghosts of Marriage Past, Marriage Present, and Marriage Future reveal to Jake and Marlee how past choices, present realities, and their potential future might look if they do not change their “stories.” Jake and Marlee experience a Christmas gift that will radically change their thinking and cause them to look at marriage not for what they can get out of it but for what God can do in and through their marriage.

That O. Henry, he makes me cry

In The Gift of the Magi.

So keep the tissues handy

When you read! When you read! When you read!

PAPER ANGELS: A NOVEL by Jimmy Wayne & Travis Thrasher (Howard Books 2011) — Travis Thrasher is probably the king of writing across genres. And he does it well. So, it’s no surprise to see him tackle a Christmas book along with country singer/songwriter Jimmy Wayne. I look forward to reading this one too. (I may even keep a box of tissues close.)

Kevin Morrell is a forty-three-year-old husband and father who runs a successful design and marketing firm that’s crashed into the suffering economy. Attempting to navigate the busyness of the mall at Christmas, Kevin is humbled when he stumbles across the Salvation Army‘s Angel Tree Project. His wife insists that he take a paper ornament.
The name on the ornament is Thomas Brandt, a fifteen-year-old still reeling from the implosion of his family—from years of verbal abuse from an alcoholic father to a mother who finally left him behind, only to find herself and her children penniless and struggling. The only thing has allowed Lynn to survive is her faith. Thomas shares that faith, but he also wonders why God has seemingly abandoned them.
This is the story about a man and a boy one December. A man whose life is changed by a simple expression of kindness, and a boy who takes that expression of kindness and shows the true meaning of Christmas.

If that doesn’t convince you to keep tissues handy, check out this music video by Jimmy Wayne: Paper Angels.

What’s on your Christmas reading wish list? Do you have any favorites from past years?

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If you leave a comment on our Hot Reads posts between November 21 & December 2, your name will go into a drawing for Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh. For more details, click here.