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: The Writing Desk – Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck. The Writing Desk. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

Following a bit of advice from one of the Christian authors that I regularly review, I upgraded my Kindle to better handle its near constant use.  As I’ve discovered over the last several months, reading paperback books can be fairly tricky with a newborn, but an e-book reader works great one-handed!  The Writing Desk happened to be the first novel that I read with my new e-book reader and I can honestly say that the technology has significantly improved from what it was four or five years ago.

In The Writing Desk, Tenley Roth comes from a long line of accomplished authors.  After losing her father, she writes an unexpected bestselling novel inspired by his life.  With an upcoming deadline for her sophomore novel, she soon finds herself facing a severe case of writer’s block.  Escaping her life in New York, Tenley travels to Florida to assist her mother through her cancer treatments.  While there, she meets Jonas Sullivan and his family, as well as finding some much-needed inspiration in the form of a writing desk in her mother’s library.  The desk’s owner was once an author herself.  Growing up in the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn was forced to choose between social success and love.  In the face of family disapproval, Birdie turns to her storytelling abilities, finding that God’s will for her life does not look like the typical romance story of her age.  Birdie and Tenley’s respective journeys as authors come together across time, as deceptions fall away in the face of truth.

Fans of Ms. Hauck’s previous contemporary novels, including The Wedding Dress and The Wedding Chapel, will be delighted with this newest release.  The Writing Desk continues Ms. Hauck’s style of intertwining stories from the past and present, even as they reveal timeless themes and challenges encountered by her characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Writing Desk!  While Ms. Hauck’s previous novels, specifically The Wedding Shop, The Wedding Chapel, and The Wedding Dress, have been well received, I honestly enjoyed The Writing Desk even more.  Both the contemporary and historical components of the story were absolutely riveting, with a tight writing style accessible to all readers.  Ms. Hauck is definitely in the top tier of authors that I review and this book was an absolute delight to read.  The Gilded Age storyline was well worth the effort and extra research that Ms. Hauck admits in the author’s note that she had to put into it.  That historical plotline was strong enough that she could have easily turned it into a stand-alone book.  However, it will definitely reach and be greatly appreciated by an even wider audience when combined with the contemporary storyline.

Readers who have previously enjoyed Ms. Hauck’s novels, especially The Wedding Shop, The Wedding Chapel, and The Wedding Dress, will be absolutely thrilled with The Writing Desk.  Likewise, fans of contemporary Christian fiction, especially by authors such as Susan May Warren, will also want to read this book.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of The Writing Desk!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – The Writing Desk

Review: A Royal Christmas Wedding – Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck. A Royal Christmas Wedding. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.

Admittedly, the end of October seems rather early for a Christmas story.  However, several publishers are already releasing their Christmas books, well before I would think to buy them.  Fortunately, Rachel Hauck happens to be among my list of favorite authors, which makes any story of hers (Christmas or not) well worth reading!

In A Royal Christmas Wedding, Ms. Hauck returns for one last story featuring the characters of her acclaimed Royal Wedding Series.  First introduced in Once Upon a Prince, Avery Truitt has grown up from simply being the kid sister of the King of Brighton’s wife, Susanna.  Avery made a name for herself as a college volleyball star before an unfortunate injury forced her to the sidelines, just in time for her to find a career of her own after graduation.  In the wake of her husband’s death, Avery and Susanna’s mother wishes to travel with Avery to spend the Christmas season in Brighton.  Travelling back to Brighton means that Avery will inevitably encounter Prince Colin, the one man who broke her heart five years ago.  However, time has not left Prince Colin unchanged, as he finds himself regretting the loss of Avery, even as he has begun a successful career himself.  Both Avery and Colin must choose between continuing to pursue their current paths or finally coming back to each other, hopefully in time for a centuries-old Brighton tradition of the prince marrying on Christmas morning.

Fans of Ms. Hauck’s Royal Wedding books will be delighted with this Christmas-themed conclusion to her acclaimed series of novels.  While the novel brings together many characters introduced earlier in the series, it also serves as a worthwhile stand-alone Christmas story.

Overall, I was exceptionally pleased with A Royal Christmas Wedding!  Even as a shorter-form story (supposedly a novella), it offers a compelling and complete plot with a surprising amount of character development.  As indicated in the author’s acknowledgments, Ms. Hauck received countless requests for a satisfying conclusion to Avery and Colin’s story.  After reading A Royal Christmas Wedding, Ms. Hauck certainly fulfilled that request!  This book offers plenty of extra detail and development that will leave fans with many more of their questions answered, as well as a better sense of what happens to the various families in the years following the series.  Granted, I’m sure that any of Ms. Hauck’s readers would also be just as happy to hear of future novels in this vein.

Readers who particularly enjoyed Ms. Hauck’s Royal Wedding Series will definitely want to read A Royal Christmas Wedding.  Likewise, fans of great contemporary Christian fiction, especially with a Christmas emphasis will also find this to be a satisfying read.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers and Zondervan for the advanced copy of A Royal Christmas Wedding!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – A Royal Christmas Wedding

Review: The Wedding Shop – Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck. The Wedding Shop. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.

The logistics of running a blog are certainly comical at times.  After several delays and rescheduling last week’s post, I am finally able to share my review of Rachel Hauck’s newest release, The Wedding Shop.

In The Wedding Shop, Haley Morgan moves back to her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, after a devastating breakup that resulted in her leaving California and a career in the Air Force.  With the prospect of graduate school in her future, Haley is looking for a new purpose for her life.  A historic building in Heart’s Bend is on the brink of demolition before Haley decides to save and restore the old Wedding Shop.  In the 1930s, Cora Scott found great delight in inheriting and managing her aunt’s wedding shop, even as she made the local brides’ dreams come true in the years of the Great Depression.  However, she always sought love of her own, even as she looked past the one man who could make her dreams come true.  In this compelling story of love and dreams, The Wedding Shop follows the stories of both women and their shared love for a wedding shop in small-town Tennessee.

Fans of Ms. Hauck’s The Wedding Dress and The Wedding Chapel will be delighted with this newest release.  The Wedding Shop continues to intertwine the stories of past and present, even as they prove the universal truths of Christian love and marriage across time.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Wedding Shop.  Ms. Hauck brings her signature writing style to this novel, even while introducing a new set of characters.  Those who have previously read The Wedding Chapel will be thrilled to see Ms. Hauck return to the town of Heart’s Bend, while also referencing characters from a variety of her books and series.  Personally, I found The Wedding Chapel to be my favorite of the three novels.  However, The Wedding Shop offers an intriguing and unique plot that will be a hit with a broad audience of readers.  Ms. Hauck also continues her tradition of including flawed Christian characters who must overcome their pasts and rely on faith for their future.

Readers who have previously enjoyed Ms. Hauck’s novels, especially The Wedding Chapel and The Wedding Dress, will be absolutely thrilled with The Wedding Shop.  Likewise, fans of contemporary Christian fiction, especially by authors such as Susan May Warren, will also want to read this book.

Fans of Rachel Hauck should also keep an eye out for her next release, A Royal Christmas Wedding, which releases on October 18th!  This newest book fits within her Royal Wedding series.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of The Wedding Shop!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – The Wedding Shop

Review: The Wedding Chapel – Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck. The Wedding Chapel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.

It’s hard to believe that we are just over a week from Thanksgiving. With the relatively warm weather recently, it feels like October and the race to the holiday season seems months away. However, many of the books being featured here on The Books and Biscuits Blog over the next couple weeks make it exceptionally evident that the pre-Christmas rush of excellent books being released by publishers is already upon us.

Bestselling author, Rachel Hauck, releases her newest novel, The Wedding Chapel, today! Jack Forester and Taylor Branson each escaped Hearts Bend, Tennessee, years before to escape their pasts and find a new start. When they unexpectedly find each other in New York City, they both cling to the hope of their newfound love and elope. However, the reality of Taylor’s fledgling photography business and Jack’s near obsession with his job as an advertising executive strain their young marriage. At Jack’s urging, Taylor accepts a magazine photoshoot assignment focused on a mysterious wedding chapel located in Hearts Bend. Together, Jack and Taylor discover an unforeseen connection between themselves and the chapel’s builder, a wise football coach with his own complicated romantic history. Spanning multiple generations touched by war, pain, and deceit, the wedding chapel offers a second chance for reconciliation and love.

The Wedding Chapel offers a fascinating perspective on the enduring power of love and forgiveness. Ms. Hauck draws upon her incredible ability to develop believable characters and draw readers into a world of her own. Most especially, The Wedding Chapel offers keen insight into the challenges faced by Christians in a fallen world, capturing the heart of the Christian romantic fiction genre.

Overall, I was very impressed with The Wedding Chapel. Although fans of Rachel Hauck could easily conclude that The Wedding Chapel relates in some way to Ms. Hauck’s 2012 release, The Wedding Dress, the two books are entirely unconnected. However, I thought that Ms. Hauck did a masterful job of creating a unique and distinct storyline that seamlessly intertwines the perspectives of multiple characters over several generations. Likewise, she remains true to her roots in the Christian fiction genre, offering a convincing view of Christians’ obstacles and faith through her characters. While so many other novels have a watered-down version of “inspirational fiction,” The Wedding Chapel fearlessly forges ahead to push the boundaries and expectations of the genre. Fans of Ms. Hauck will not be disappointed with this novel, as they will find themselves entirely engrossed in her writing from the first page to the last.

Readers who have enjoyed Ms. Hauck’s previous novels will be delighted with The Wedding Chapel! Additionally, fans of contemporary Christian fiction and those who have always wanted to try the genre will also find the novel to be well worth reading. Ms. Hauck creates a compelling story with an excellent sense of pacing, character development, and writing style that has the power to disprove anyone’s preconceptions of Christian fiction as being an inferior genre.

Rachel Hauck will release The Wedding Shop, also set in Hearts Bend, in May 2016!

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of The Wedding Chapel!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – The Wedding Chapel