Christmas Surprise! – Top 10 Book Picks of 2017

Each year, I publish reviews for about 52 books or so here at the Books and Biscuits Blog.  However, I’ve never attempted to rank them beyond the ratings I post on Amazon, GoodReads, and similar websites.  To celebrate Christmas and the end of the year, I put together my inaugural (hopefully annual) list of my top 10 favorite books from 2017.

While I have given more than 10 books 5-star reviews, these are my absolute top picks.  The remainder are listed below as “honorable mentions” for their 5-star rankings.  These books are listed in alphabetical order, as I really had no ability to rank them beyond a top 10 grouping.  Enjoy

Tamera Alexander. A Note Yet Unsung. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

As a musician, I could not get enough of this beautiful book by Ms. Alexander!  She manages to expertly wrap up one of her much-loved series, while leaving her readers wanting even more of her stories.

Tamera Alexander. To Wager Her Heart. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

2017 was a big year for Ms. Alexander!  She wrapped up two series, as well as releasing the prequel novella for her next one.  To Wager Her Heart is one of my favorite books by Ms. Alexander, as a direct result of her in-depth historical research and focus on several almost unknown stories and topics.  The Fisk University connection is particularly fascinating!

Lynn Austin. Where We Belong. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Where We Belong may be one of my favorite releases from Ms. Austin in the past ten or so years.  Her research into the lives of her characters is absolutely incredible, especially as she shows their faith and personality in the presence of momentous historical situations.

Kristi Ann Hunter. An Inconvenient Beauty. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Ms. Hunter wraps up her first published series this year with An Inconvenient Beauty.  Throughout the series, I wondered how she would pull off a worthy novel for the quiet and complex main character, but she pulled it off!

Kara Isaac. Then There Was You. Bellbird Press, 2017.

I’ve read Ms. Isaac’s other books, but Then There Was You is by far my favorite one!  She left me laughing and crying along with memorable characters in this twist on a fish-out-of-water story.

Joanna Davidson Politano. Lady Jayne Disappears. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2017.

Ms. Politano makes one of the most impressive debuts of the year with Lady Jayne Disappears.  Initially, I was hesitant to read this novel, as the summary seemed rather dark and depressing.  However, Ms. Politano expertly writes this story with faith and joy that permeates a unique storyline.

Melissa Tagg. All This Time. Middletown, DE: Larkspur Press, 2017.

What can I say about this novel, other than the fact that it wraps up Ms. Tagg’s Walker Family series.  Anyone who follows Ms. Tagg on her blog knows her personal love of her characters and stories, which permeates her stories.  With a flair for romantic comedy, Ms. Tagg’s works consistently end up on my must-read list every year.

Becky Wade. True to You: A Bradford Sisters Romance. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

2017 seemed to be a year of authors either wrapping up series or beginning new ones.  Ms. Wade’s previous series was incredibly strong and I wondered if she could pull it off again.  True to You proved that Ms. Wade is brilliant at writing enjoyable contemporary Christian fiction, even as she builds an entirely new cast of characters.

Roseanna M. White. A Name Unknown. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

A Name Unknown came out of the blue for me, as I was not a huge fan of Ms. White’s previous works.  With the beginning of a new series, Ms. White manages to create a fascinating set of characters and situations that pulled me in from the very first chapter.  After this book, I am eagerly anticipating the chance to review her next novel, which is due out in January of the new year.

Karen Witemeyer. Heart on the Line. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Last, but certainly not least, Ms. Witemeyer always makes it onto my list of favorite authors and books.  She consistently brings a quirky set of characters to life, while remaining true to the best of the historical Christian fiction genre.  I particularly appreciate the sense of humor that she always brings to her story, as I found myself gravitating toward lighter storylines over the past year or so.

Honorable Mentions:

I hope that all of you have a blessed Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Review: Heart on the Line – Karen Witemeyer

Karen Witemeyer. Heart on the Line. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

The summer marathon of new book releases continues!  This week, I’m thrilled to feature Karen Witemeyer’s most recent release, Heart on the Line.

Heart on the Line builds upon a set of characters and events first introduced in Ms. Witemeyer’s No Other Will Do, based in the fictional women’s colony of Harper’s Station, Texas.  While all of the women of Harper’s Station have their own reason for escaping their previous lives, Grace Mallory faces a direct threat on her life if she is ever discovered by those who murdered her father.  However, she has finally found peace and built a life for herself as the town’s telegrapher.  After hours, when the telegraph lines have otherwise gone quiet, she communicates with a fellow Texas telegrapher, Amos Bledsoe.  During one of their Morse code-based conversations, a late-night message arrives warning Grace that her location has been discovered by those who seek her.  While Amos has led a quiet life as a talented telegrapher and bicycle enthusiast, he rushes to his anonymous friend’s aid.  After arriving in Harper’s Station, he soon discovers that his fellow telegrapher may be the one person who can overcome his quiet nature and turn him into a daring man of Texan-sized legend.

As the second book in Ms. Witemeyer’s Ladies of Harper’s Station series, fans will eagerly welcome the return of this bunch of quirky and loveable characters.  Grace and Amos’ story fits perfectly into the collection of Ms. Witemeyer’s heroes and heroines, even as their quieter personalities set them apart from so many others found in the genre.

Overall, I found myself absolutely loving Heart on the Line!  Ms. Witemeyer always writes with an engaging and humorous style.  However, she manages to reach a new high with Grace and Amos’ story, as she builds upon her previous novel that first introduced the town of Harper’s Station and the delightful characters who live in and around the town.  Without having to include extensive introduction of those elements, Ms. Witemeyer is able to create an incredibly tight and enjoyable storyline.  The backstory of Harper’s Station also provides the perfect setting for the unique relationship between Grace and Amos, as they serve as foils of other characters living in the town that played a greater role in the previous novel.  In addition, Heart on the Line features an equally compelling secondary storyline and set of characters that make the novel feel more complete and complex, yet approachable for all readers.

Fans of Ms. Witemeyer’s previous novels, especially No Other Will Do, will definitely want to read Heart on the Line.  Additionally, readers who particularly enjoy Christian historical fiction with humorous elements will also find this novel to be well worth adding to their must-read piles.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of Heart on the Line!

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Review: No Other Will Do – Karen Witemeyer

Karen Witemeyer. No Other Will Do. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

It’s been another crazy week here at the Books and Biscuits Blog.  Fortunately, my copy of this week’s featured book arrived three weeks early!  As Ms. Witemeyer is one of my favorite authors, I’m thrilled to be able to share this review with all of you. :)

Karen Witemeyer releases No Other Will Do, with a different take on her traditional western-style romance.  As a child, Emma Chandler “rescued” Malachi Shaw, offering him a home away from the streets of his youth.  Years later, Mal has become a successful explosives expert for the railroad, working in the far reaches of Montana.  However, Emma sends an urgent message requesting his help.  Along with her suffragette aunts, Emma created a women’s colony in Harper’s Station, Texas.  The community offers a haven for women who are seeking a fresh start, oftentimes after being widowed or abused.  Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with Emma’s mission, as several strange men threaten the women harm if they remain in Harper’s Station.  Mal offers the perfect solution, as Emma knows she can trust him to defend the community.  Together, Emma and Mal renew their childhood partnership to ensure justice, even as they find that their feelings have greatly matured over the years.

Ms. Witemeyer writes a compelling and unique tale that will capture the hearts and imaginations of her readers.  With high stakes and a great cast of characters, No Other Will Do serves as a highlight of Ms. Witemeyer’s writing career.

Overall, I absolutely loved reading No Other Will Do!  Ms. Witemeyer is at her absolute best in this Western-style tale with a feminine twist.  This novel very much reminded me of Deeanne Gist’s Courting Trouble and Deep in the Heart of Trouble, with a tad bit of Elizabeth Camden’s strong female characters thrown in for good measure. :)  No Other Will Do proves once again what makes great Christian historical fiction: great characters, imaginative plots, and good, clean fun!  The town of Harper’s Station and the people who live there are among some of the book’s highlights.  As a result, I’m absolutely thrilled that Ms. Witemeyer is already writing her next book to also take place in the same town.

Fans of Ms. Witemeyer’s work will absolutely want to read No Other Will Do!  Likewise, fans of great Christian historical fiction will also want to read this book, especially fans of Deeanne Gist and Elizabeth Camden.  The novel’s Western/Texas setting and fun-filled story will definitely draw in readers.  Additionally, Ms. Witemeyer’s relatively light style and fast pace make it particularly approachable for a broad audience.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of No Other Will Do!

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Amazon – No Other Will Do

Review: A Worthy Pursuit – Karen Witemeyer

Karen Witemeyer. A Worthy Pursuit. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2015.

In case anyone has been keeping track, it’s been a very busy couple of months here at the Books and Biscuits Blog. It seems as if every week brings several new books that head my way to be read and reviewed. Fortunately, I’m excited to do this work and share my favorite finds with all of you. :)

Karen Witemeyer’s latest novel, A Worthy Pursuit, follows Charlotte Atherton, a teacher at the Sullivan Academy for Exceptional Youth. When the school unexpectedly shuts down, she heads to her family’s home with her adopted daughter, Lily, and two other children who have nowhere else to go. When Lily’s grandfather discovers her disappearance, he sends tracker Stone Hammond across Texas to find his granddaughter and the teacher who stole her away from him. However, Stone never anticipated Charlotte and the legal proof she holds that confirms her guardianship of Lily. In a high-stakes race against time and a series of bounty hunters, Stone and Charlotte take the children on a journey to evade discovery long enough to finally find the evidence required to keep Lily safe for a lifetime.

With a cast of exceptional characters, A Worthy Pursuit stands out as one of Ms. Witemeyer’s most ambitious novels yet. Stone brings the epic hero of nineteenth-century dime novels to life, while Charlotte personifies one of Ms. Witemeyer’s most mature and talented leading ladies. Likewise, the abilities of Charlotte’s students prove that secondary characters can truly make a novel extraordinary in their own right.

Overall, I was exceptionally pleased with A Worthy Pursuit. Ms. Witemeyer consistently depicts independent and intelligent female characters, particularly within her last several novels. Likewise, she presents increasingly complex, outside-the-box stories and subjects that push the boundaries of traditional Christian historical fiction. A Worthy Pursuit relies on Ms. Witemeyer’s ability to develop a fast-paced, yet elaborate, story that feels realistic, while exploring the oftentimes humorous aspects of her characters and their interactions with one another. All together, the novel illustrates the continued evolution of Ms. Witemeyer’s storytelling, while revealing numerous possibilities for further development of characters and settings for use in future novels.

Fans of Ms. Witemeyer’s earlier works will definitely love A Worthy Pursuit. Additionally, readers who enjoy the books of Deeanne Gist and Cathy Marie Hake will particularly appreciate Ms. Witemeyer’s stories and characters. With Ms. Witemeyer’s increasing emphasis on intelligent female characters, fans of Elizabeth Camden may also be curious to try A Worthy Pursuit, as well as Full Steam Ahead. At 352 pages, the novel remains consistent with the length and general style of Ms. Witemeyer’s other novels.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of A Worthy Pursuit!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – A Worthy Pursuit
Christianbook.com – A Worthy Pursuit