Tuesday, August 30, 2016

ACFW Carol Award Winners!

I just returned from the ACFW Annual Conference, held Thursday-Saturday in Nashville. As always, it was a wonderful time of learning more about the wonderful world of Christian fiction as well as a great opportunity to connect with authors, agents, and publishers. The conference concluded with the annual Awards Gala on Saturday evening. Here are the 2016 CAROL AWARD winners for excellence in Christian fiction published in the previous year, listed alphabetically by category:


The Art of Losing Yourself

by Katie Ganshert
Waterbrook/Multnomah (Random House)
editors Shannon Marchese, Lissa Halls-Johnson


Secrets She Kept
by Cathy Gohlke
Tyndale House
editors Stephanie Broene, Sarah Riche


A Worthy Pursuit
by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House (Baker ) Publishing
editors Dave Long, Charlene Patterson


The Aleppo Code
by Terry Brennan
Kregel Publications
editors Dawn Anderson, Jannelle Tromp


A Bride for Bear
from The Convenient Bride Collection
by Erica Vetsch
Barbour Publishing
editor Rebecca Germany


Crazy Little Thing Called Love
by Beth K. Vogt
Howard (Simon & Schuster)
editors Jessica Wong, Beth Adams


No Place to Hide
by Lynette Eason
Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group
editor Andrea Doering


Covert Justice
by Lynn Huggins Blackburn
Love Inspired (Harlequin)
editor Elizabeth Mazer


The Five Times I Met Myself
by James L. Rubart
HarperCollins Christian Publishing
editors Amanda Bostic, Erin Healy


by Dina L. Sleiman
Bethany House (Baker) Publishing
editor Karen Schurrer


The Calling of Ella McFarland
by Linda Brooks Davis
Mountainview Books LLC
editor Carol Kurtz Darlington


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Monday, August 22, 2016

Service Tails

Service Tails:
More Stories of Man's Best Hero

Ace Collins
(Abingdon Press)
ISBN: 978-1501820076
August 2016/224 pages/$16.99

Heart-tugging true stories of the courage, faith, and loyalty of remarkable service dogs.

Not all heroic dogs wildly toss themselves into lifesaving situations. Some save lives simply by their incredible commitment to duty and service. Some lead the way to independence for people whose disabilities were supposed to limit their lives.

In Service Tails: More Stories of Man’s Best Hero, prolific author Ace Collins introduces us to leaders whose entire lives are wrapped in the banner of service. Their stories are remarkable snapshots of the value of vision and teamwork, as well as devotion to duty and unconditional love and acceptance–stretching the way we see both canine and human potential. Their training was intense, their loyalty unquestioned and each step of the way they constantly adapt to better serve those they lead. These unforgettable dogs are more than heroes; they are models from which we can learn how to love and serve unconditionally.


Christy Award winning author Ace Collins defines himself as a storyteller. He has authored more than sixty books that have sold more than 2.5 million copies. His catalog includes novels, biographies, children’s works as well as books on history, culture and faith. He has also been the featured speaker at the National Archives Distinguished Lecture Series, hosted a network television special and does college basketball play-by-play. Ace lives in Arkansas. Find out more about Ace at http://acecollins.com.


Gifted in both the fiction and non-fiction genres, Ace Collins presents a compelling collection of stories of individuals whose lives have been forever impacted by their service dogs. These "tails" include more than traditional "seeing-eye dogs" to include service dogs that aid individuals with a variety of disabilities. I was fascinated by the care involved in choosing and training a dog for each individual's specific needs. Inspiring, heartwarming, and educational, Service Tails gives a new appreciation for these heroes who perform a vital role in our society. Don't miss this uplifting book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Abingdon Press and Litfuse Publicity for a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Fall in love with these remarkable service dogs and their stories of courage, faith, and loyalty in Ace Collins' new book, Service Tails. Their training was intense, their loyalty unquestioned and each step of the way they constantly adapt to better serve those they lead. These unforgettable dogs are more than heroes; they are models from which we can learn how to love and serve unconditionally.

Celebrate the release of Service Tails with Ace by entering to win the Take-Your-Dog-to-the-Park Pack!

service tails - 400 (2) 

One grand prize winner will receive:
service tails - prize collage 

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on August 30. The winner will be announced August 31 on the Litfuse blog.

service tails - enterbanner


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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away

Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away:
A Love Letter to My Family

Ben Utecht with Mark Tabb
(Howard Books)
ISBN: 978-1501136603
August 2016/272 pages/$26.00 Hardcover/$13.99 eBook

After five major concussions, NFL tight-end Ben Utecht of the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals is losing his memories. This is his powerful and emotional love letter to his wife and daughters—whom he someday may not recognize—and an inspiring message for all to live every moment fully.

Ben Utecht has accumulated a vast treasure of memories: tossing a football in the yard with his father, meeting his wife, with whom he’d build a loving partnership and bring four beautiful daughters into the world, writing and performing music, catching touchdown passes from quarterback Peyton Manning, and playing a Super Bowl Championship watched by ninety-three million people.

But the game he has built his living on, the game he fell in love with as a child, is taking its toll in a devastating way. After at least five major concussions—and an untold number of micro-concussions—Ben suffered multiple mild traumatic brain injuries that have erased important memories. Knowing that his wife and daughters could someday be beyond his reach and desperate for them to understand how much he loves them, he recorded his memories for them to hold on to after his essential self is gone.

Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away chronicles his remarkable journey from his early days throwing a football back and forth with his father to speaking about the long-term effects of concussions before Congress, and how his faith keeps him strong and grounded as he looks toward an uncertain future. Ben recounts the experiences that have shaped his life and imparts the lessons he’s learned along the way. Emotionally powerful, inspiring, and uplifting, Ben’s story will captivate and encourage you to make the most of every day and treasure all of your memories.


Ben Utecht is a previous tight end for the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals. As a national speaker, author, and advocate for brain health, Utecht has worked diligently to spread education and awareness regarding concussions, and recently accepted the Ambassador Award presented by the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance. He was the national spokesperson on concussion for the American Academy of Neurology and sits on the board for the American Brain Foundation. The AAN awarded him the 2014 Public Leadership In Neurology Award, which is their most prestigious award.

Music is also a passion for Utecht, and he has made that dream come true by becoming an accomplished professional singer and songwriter. He performs Contemporary and Inspirational concerts, thrilling audiences at corporate and non-profit events, and venues across the country.

Utecht’s 2014 music video for the emotional single, “You Will Always Be My Girls”, has drawn well over a million views on YouTube. The song, which Utecht co-wrote, is a love letter to his wife Karyn and their daughters, as Utecht fears that one day that his brain injuries will lead him to not know them. The touching song serves as his eternal reminder that “his girls” will always be etched in his heart. Utecht has released four albums, and was nominated for a 2012 Dove Award for his Christmas record.

Learn more at his website, www.ben-utecht.com.

Mark Tabb has authored and co-authored over twenty books, including Living with Less, the Upside of Downsizing Your Life (B&H), and the 2004 Gold Medallion finalist, Out of the Whirlwind (B&H). He also collaborated with Stephen Baldwin on the New York Times bestseller, The Unusual Suspect (FaithWords). Mark is currently working with Alec Baldwin on his book, A Promise to Ourselves (St. Martin’s Press).

Visit his website, www.marktabb.com.


I neither read many non-fiction books nor follow professional football but the description proved irresistible, so I signed up to review this book. Oh. my. What an incredible, heart-wrenching memoir. Ben Utecht's love for football is palpable as he recounts the early days of playing in the backyard with his dad and progressing through high school, college, and into the pros. I cringed as I read about his multiple injuries, including the concussions that were minimized as "mild" brain injuries. Utecht's faith shines in his lack of bitterness and steadfast resolve to take intentional steps to provide for his family and ensure that they are confident of his love when his memory loss advances to the point that he no longer recognizes them. This book has stayed on my mind and heart long after I finished it, and it is a must-read for any parent considering their child's involvement in contact sports. It also should cause our society to take a long, hard look at the elevated status we have given sports at the expense of many of the players. Don't miss this compelling story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an advanced digital copy of this book free from Howard Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Monday, August 15, 2016

To Follow Her Heart

To Follow Her Heart
The Southold Chronicles #3
Rebecca DeMarino
ISBN: 978-0800722203
July 2016/352 pages/$14.99

Duty and love are powerful forces. Only one has the power to make her life complete.

It is 1664 and Patience Terry is devastated to learn that Captain Jeremy Horton's ship has been shipwrecked off the coast of Barbados. There were no survivors. She had hoped that Jeremy would someday give up the sea and settle down with her in Southold, Long Island.

Unaware his memorial service is being planned, Jeremy sails aboard a British warship with secret orders to attack New Amsterdam and claim it for the British Crown. When he makes his surprise return to Southold--and to an overjoyed Patience--it's not quite the happily-ever-after his beloved had hoped for.

With a finely tuned sense for authentic historical characters and settings, Rebecca DeMarino plunges you into a world of tall ships, daring journeys, and yearning hearts.

Read an excerpt.


Rebecca DeMarino is the author of The Southold Chronicles, a series based on the lives of her ninth great-grandparents, Mary Langton and Barnabas Horton. She inherited her love of baking and gardening from her mother; a love of horses, reading, and writing from her dad; and the wanderlust gene from both parents. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, New England Historical Genealogical Society, and the Southold Long Island Historical Society. Learn more at www.rebeccademarino.com.


Rebecca DeMarino has penned a heartwarming, compelling series based on the lives of her ancestors Barnabas and Mary Horton. The first book, a Place in His Heart (reviewed here) told of Barnabas and Mary's early meeting and early years of marriage. They are secondary characters in To Follow Her Heart, which focuses on Patience and Jeremy, who are products of the author's imagination. I enjoyed seeing more Barnabas and Mary's lives, and the friendships portrayed within this novel are heartwarming. I did weary of Patience's attitude (which contradicted her name!) as the "will they or won't they" question of marriage between Patience and Jeremy became redundant to the point of annoyance, bogging down the story. It began to pick up again toward the end of the novel, and the resolution was satisfying. Even though this wasn't my favorite book of the series, I am happy to recommend The Southold Chronicles and To Follow Her Heart.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Baker/Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Tapestry of Secrets

A Tapestry of Secrets
Sarah Loudin Thomas
(Bethany House Publishers)
ISBN: 9780764212277
August 2016/304 pages/$14.99

What is the weight of a secret?

And what happens when that burden becomes almost too much to bear?

For decades, Perla Phillips has hidden the truth of a decision that still fills her with guilt. But now, seeing her granddaughter, Ella, struggle in a similar way, she's prepared to finally open the past to her family, no matter the consequences. But when the opportunity is snatched from her in a most unexpected manner, will she have waited too long?

Spanning generations, this moving family drama weaves together the interlocking stories of two women as they navigate relationships, family, faith, and the choices that will shape their lives. Heartwarming and nostalgic, the story explores the courage to share the wounds of the past and celebrates the legacy a family passes from one generation to the next.

Read an excerpt.


Sarah Loudin Thomas is a fundraiser for a children's ministry and has written for Mountain Homes Southern Style and Now & Then magazines, as well as The Asheville Citizen-Times. She is the author of Miracle in a Dry Season and Until the Harvest. She holds a BA in English from Coastal Carolina University. She and her husband reside in North Carolina. She can be found online at www.sarahloudinthomas.com.


I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Loudin Thomas's debut novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, and was delighted to have the opportunity to review this novel as well. While it easily reads as a standalone, I loved reconnecting with Perla and her daughter Sadie several decades after that first novel. Thomas has crafted a masterpiece that depicts the changes and challenges that Perla and her family face on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. I love the title and its double significance as it relates to Ella's quilts and Perla's past. An inspiring story of forgiveness, family, and faith, A Tapestry of Secrets is a must-read!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Baker/Bethany House Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Miracle in the Dry Season


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Monday, August 8, 2016

Fetching Sweetness

Fetching Sweetness
Love Unleashed, Book 2
Dana Mentink
(Harvest House Publishers)
ISBN: 978-0736966238
July 2016/224 pages/$12.99

Standing between Stephanie and her dream is one hundred pounds of lovable trouble.

It should have been so simple for Stephanie Pink: Meet up with Agnes Wharton in a small town in California, retrieve the reclusive author’s valuable new manuscript, and be promoted to a full-fledged literary agent.

But Agnes’s canine companion, Sweetness, decides to make a break for it before Stephanie can claim her prize. Until Agnes has Sweetness safely back at home in Eagle Cliff, Washington, Stephanie will never set eyes on the manuscript she needs to make her dreams come true.

When Stephanie tracks the runaway mutt to a campground, she meets Rhett Hastings—a man also on the run from a different life and a costly mistake. Rhett agrees to help Stephanie search for the missing dog…thus launching a surprising string of adventures and misadventures.

Once Sweetness gets added to the mix, it’s a recipe for love and loss, merriment and mayhem, fun and faith in the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest.


Dana Mentink lives in California, where the weather is golden and the cheese is divine. Dana is an American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year finalist for romantic suspense and an award winner in the Pacific Northwest Writers Literary Contest. Her suspense novel, Betrayal in the Badlands, earned a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award. Besides writing, she busies herself teaching third and fourth grade. Mostly, she loves to be home with her husband, two daughters, a dog with social anxiety problems, a chubby box turtle, and a feisty parakeet. Find out more about Dana at her website.


Although I'm not a dog lover, I really enjoyed Dana Mentink's first Love Unleashed novel, Sit, Stay, Love (reviewed here). I had a harder time warming up to this novel, not because of the dog, but because I just didn't care for the characters in the early chapters. I don't mind flawed characters but I couldn't connect with either Stephanie or Rhett. Additionally, I found it quite a stretch, not to mention unsettling, that Stephanie would take off in an RV with a man she had just met to return a dog to the elusive owner-author. (Although I did laugh at the flour incident!) I warmed up to them in the second half of the novel as I got to know them better and as their development progressed with the story. I really liked how Mentink handled the situation between Rhett and his sister as well as the personal growth he and Stephanie experienced. Mentink weaves important truths into this tale, and I'm glad I stayed with it. It reminds me of times in my personal life when someone I didn't particularly care for ended up becoming a friend and blessing me. Take the time to read Fetching Sweetness today!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Harvest House Publishers & Litfuse Publicity Group for a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A recipe for love and loss, merriment and mayhem, fun and faith in the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest can only be found in Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink. It should have been so simple for Stephanie Pink: Retrieve a reclusive author's valuable new manuscript and be promoted to a full-fledged literary agent. But when the author's canine companion, Sweetness, makes a break for it and Stephanie has to track Sweetness down, she meets Rhett Hastings. They’re in for a surprising string of adventures and misadventures.

Celebrate the release of Fetching Sweetness with Dana by entering to win the Sweetness Unleashed Prize Pack!

fetching sweetness - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
fetching sweetness - collage 

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on August 24. The winner will be announced August 25 on Dana's blog.

fetching sweetness - enterbanner


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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

ACFW New Releases - August

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Falling for the Single Dad by Lisa Carter -- After fifteen years away, Dr. Caroline Duer is nervous about returning to her hometown. The veterinarian might be able to save stranded sea turtles, but she can't convince her dad of her good intentions. And when Caroline meets darling Izzie Clark, she encounters similar suspicion from the young girl's father. Former coast guard commander Weston Clark had his life upended by Izzie's mother. He won't go through the same pain again. But Izzie isn't the only one tumbling head over heels for the enigmatic Caroline. And if she can release the pain of the past, she just might be the missing piece Weston and his daughter have been searching for. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Nearly by Deborah Raney -- For Claire Anderson, her position as a teacher in Hanover Falls, Missouri is the realization of a long-held dream. In this loving small-town community where her beloved grandmother resides, she attempts to cast aside the memories of her troubled childhood. Michael Meredith finds worth as a nursing care home administrator. Until an unwelcome investigation concerning suspicious deaths among the home's residents threatens his career and his integrity. In the midst of this crisis, friendship blooms and deepens between Michael and Claire--until an agonizing secret is revealed. One that may tear the delicate fabric of their love. Is their faith strong enough to survive their astonishing discovery? (Romance, Independently Published by Raney Day Press)

Reuniting with the Cowboy by Shannon Taylor Vannatter -- A charming cowboy moving in next door shouldn't be bad news. But veterinarian Ally Curtis knows Cody Warren--she'd never forget the boy who left her when she needed him most. Cody is doing everything he can to show his beautiful neighbor he's not the wild bull rider he once was, from helping her find homes for her beloved strays, to protecting her when her business is threatened. But Cody has a secret that keeps him from fully reaching out. Yet as they continue to work together to promote her shelter, he can't keep himself from hoping that Ally might have a home for him…in her heart. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

An Amish Harvest: Four Novellas by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Amy Clipston, Vannetta Chapman -- Under the Harvest Moon by Beth Wiseman - Can Brock and Naomi harvest a second chance for love?; Love and Buggy Rides by Amy Clipston - A romantic fall buggy ride is the perfect setting for love.; Mischief in the Autumn Air by Vannetta Chapman - Eli and Martha don't seem like a match, but solving a mystery may uncover their true feelings.; A Quiet Love by Kathleen Fuller - Two young people must stand up for the love they know is right, despite what their friends and family say. (Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

General Contemporary:

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart -- What if you could find a corridor at the end of a lake that would lead to you a place where you could find the thing you want most in the world? (General Contemporary from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)


Magnolia Moonlight by Mary Ellis -- Proving a minister was murdered uncovers an elaborate scheme to bilk millions from non-profits across the country in a town where no one is whom they appear to be. (Mystery/Crime from Harvest House Publishers)

Historical Romance:

The California Gold Rush Romance Collection by Amanda Barratt, Angela Bell, Dianne Christner, Anne Greene, Linda Farmer Harris, Cynthia Hickey, Pam Hillman, Jennifer Rogers Spinola, Jaime Jo Wright -- Rush to California after the 1848 gold discovery alongside thousands of hopeful men and women. Meet news reporters, English gentry, miners, morticians, marriage brokers, bankers, fugitives, preachers, imposters, trail guides, map makers, cooks, missionaries, town builders, soiled doves, and more people who take advantage of the opportunities to make their fortunes in places where the population swelled overnight. But can faith and romance transform lives where gold is king? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears -- While Lydia King's reasons for joining the Teaville Moral Society might be suspect to some members, her heart is in the right place. Because of her father's debts and her mother's persistent illness, her best chance at a secure future and curing her mother is to impress the politician courting her. Her first task--to ask the town's wealthiest man to donate--seems simple enough . . . until he refuses. Despite appearances, Nicholas Lowe wants to help others, but prefers to keep his charity private. When Lydia proves persistent, they agree to a bargain, but Nicholas still intends to do things his own way. Neither predicts what they'll learn about true charity or foresee the complications their actions will bring to the town, forcing Lydia to decide where her beliefs and heart truly align. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

With All My Heart Romance Collection by Karen Witemeyer, Jody Hedlund, Melissa Jagears, Sarah Loudin Thomas, Jen Turano -- Take a journey across America and through time in this collection of five novellas from some of Christian fiction's top writers. The collection includes: Karen Witemeyer's "Love on the Mend," set in post-Civil War Texas, tells the story of two competing doctors. Jody Hedlund's "Out of the Storm" finds a desperate woman shipwrecked near a Michigan lighthouse. Melissa Jagears' "Love by the Letter" is an unexpected mail-order-bride prairie story. Sarah Loudin Thomas' "Appalachian Serenade" finds love in a small-town West Virginia store. Finally, Jen Turano's "Gentleman of Her Dreams" tackles the New York social season. (Historical Romance from Bethany House (Baker) Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Devoted Defender by Rachel Dylan -- Personal Chef Annie Thomas thought she'd finally found a safe haven from her past. But when her boss is shot in cold blood leaving her as the only witness, she's forced to go on the run—again. And this time there is an even bigger target on her back. Navy SEAL turned small town police chief Caleb Winters doesn't like that danger has come to Maxwell, Georgia. But he vows to protect the innocent woman seeking refuge from an organized crime network that he knows will stop at nothing to tie up loose ends.
When hiding is no longer an option and threats surround them, will Caleb be the devoted defender Annie needs with her life on the line? (Independently Published [ACFW QIP Approved] Romantic Suspense)

Deadly Encounter by DiAnn Mills -- When an Airport Ranger finds a dead body, the FBI believes it's an act of terrorism . . . or is it? (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)


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