Top 5 Wednesday: Books to Get You Out of A Slump

In this season between Christmas and the arrival of Spring, it’s easy to fall into slumps of all sorts. I’m linking to Top 5 Wednesday (#T5W) on Goodreads to share five books to get you out of a slump. My intention was to do a short video, but it’s been a long day. It’s late. And I’m just not up for the demands of video. So, a blog post it is. All of these books are highly recommended whether you’re slumping or not.

Out of Slump Collage

  1. The Well by Stephanie Landsem This book earned its placed on the list for how it touched my heart and my soul, demonstrating the power of good fiction to affect mind, body, and spirit. Nothing is more powerful, in my opinion, than the demonstration of self-sacrificial love such as you’ll discover in The Well.
  2. Intermission by Serena Chase Intermission earned its place here for much the same reasons as The Well. It’s another story that moved me in so many good ways, demonstrating what authentic love looks like in a framework that is obedient to God above all else.
  3. The Gifting by K.E. Ganshert A page-turner with meaning and depth, this series, starting with The Gifting, delivers the thrills of an exciting story with the depth necessary for meaningful reflection. I bet you can’t read just one book in this series.
  4. Chasing Liberty by Theresa Linden Ditto what I wrote for The Gifting. Chasing Liberty is imaginative and challenging, immersing you in a world so real you won’t want to escape until you’ve consumed the entire trilogy.
  5. The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole Cupp The mastery, beauty, and magic of the classics belong on any slump-breaking list. The Memoirs of Jane E (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte) is an expert twist on a classic that brings depth and light to a literary treasure.

What book(s) do you recommend to get you out of a reading slump?


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Relevant Fiction Reviews: Christian Romantic Suspense

Relevant Fiction Reviews

There’s nothing to get the heart pounding like nail-biting suspense paired with a blooming romance, one fanned to flame my mortal peril. Here are a handful that I’ve enjoyed in recent months. (All are inspirational/Christian novels, but none are heavy-handed, and faith is woven naturally into the stories.)


Finding AmandaFinding Amanda by Robin Patchen

Finding Amanda is a tightly-written romance with enough mystery and suspense to keep you guessing at the identity of the villain’s co-conspirator clear to the final scenes.

Robin Patchen has created well-developed characters with rich, painful pasts and lets the reader watch as those pasts catch up with them, literally and figuratively. As Amanda and Mark’s marriage teeters on the brink of divorce, they must deal with the real and present threat that Amanda’s past has become to her future.

The inspirational thread is subtle and handled well, and while the details of Amanda’s painful past remain blurred, the author shares enough to keep the story gritty and realistic, not flinching at the scars created by abuse and regret.

Finding Amanda was a quick and engaging page-turner that had me rooting for Amanda and Mark’s reunion.


After the Thaw (Frozen Footprints #2)After the Thaw by Therese Heckenkamp

When it comes to romantic suspense, I’m typically a bigger fan of the romance than the suspense, but After the Thaw delivers both well. Therese Heckenkamp skillfully keeps the suspense going through most the novel as she peels back layers on the mysterious villains and their tragic, twisted pasts.

The central characters, Charlene and Clay, drew me to the story more than the plot. In fact, Charlene’s repeated rejections by, well, just about everyone, brought me to tears several times.

Gentle faith themes are interwoven in the plot quite naturally as you’d expect from characters who make repeated trips to death’s door and endure suffering of all sorts. The mood, however, remains hopeful rather than gloomy.

Among my favorite parts were Charlene and Clay’s conversations about faith, gratitude, and suffering. And, of course, their tender love story, so full of hope, healing, and redemption.


Still Life (Chesapeake Valor #2)Still Life by Dani Pettrey

While I liked Cold Shot, the first book in Dani Pettrey’s Chesapeake Valor Series, Still Life is a far superior book. With a large cast, multiple crimes, and several romances, the author had a lot of balls to keep in the air, which she accomplished remarkably well.

I’ll admit that since it’s been quite a while since I read Cold Shot, I was at least a third of the way through Still Life before I got a handle on who was who once again, a task made more difficult by several names that could fit either gender. That difficulty aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the pacing. A masterful plot twist had me quickly rethinking the identity of the true perpetrator.

Parker and Avery, who are center stage in this book, are likable characters whose sweet romance is endearing. I also enjoy the Baltimore setting, a locale somewhat familiar to me.

Still Life is a perfect bend of nail-biting creepiness, criminal intrigue, new beginnings, and sweet romance. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series!


Tangled Webs (Men of Valor #3)Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon

Tangled Webs is a prime example of the well-crafted, clean romantic suspense I’ve come to expect from Irene Hannon: an honorable man, a woman in jeopardy, and a budding romance.

With a couple of twists in the well-honed formula, Ms. Hannon is able to keep even the familiar reader engaged. Since the hero, Finn McGregor, is “off duty” for the novel and in greater physical peril than pretty editor Dana Lewis, I was eager to see how the resolution would play out.

The banter and camaraderie among the McGregor brothers is fun. Al in all, an entertaining read with just the right blend of romance and suspense.


Most Highly Favored Daughter: A Sanctified SuspenseMost Highly Favored Daughter: A Sanctified Suspense by Janice Lane Palko

Most Highly Favored Daughter is an engaging read with an interesting cast set in my favorite city – Pittsburgh. The author provides enough bread crumbs to keep the reader engaged in unraveling the plot so that suspense is maintained until the final chapters with some unexpected twists along the way.

The book also draws much-needed attention to the vile crime of sex trafficking and its prevalence. I enjoyed the faith elements of the book, particularly the inclusion of Saint Bahkita and the human portrayal of Cara’s friend and advisor, Father Nicco.


Truth Stained Lies (Moonlighters, #1)Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock

The audiobook version of Truth Stained Lies was my only companion on a 400-mile round trip drive. To the credit of the author and the narrator, I didn’t get sleepy once!

Despite a large cast of characters, each was distinct with his or her own story arc. The story was engaging and suspenseful and the writing good. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.


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The Egyptian Elixir Blog Tour

I’m happy to host the blog tour for Page Zaplendam’ s latest release, The Egyptian Elixir: A Regency Vampire Novella, the second book in The Unofficial Chronicles of John Grissom.

Egyptian Elixir

About the Book:

What could possibly go wrong on a surveillance trip to Parliament? Apparently everything.

Vampire bacteriologist John Grissom and vampire hunter Van Helsing are unlikely friends and coworkers. As members of Bow Street’s newly founded clandestine investigative division, Odd Crimes, they find themselves witnesses to an assassination attempt on the Marquis of Wellesley. And discover London’s most notorious purveyor of stolen goods at the bottom of it.

But Sir Antony’s ability to influence people is unusual to say the least. The vampire and the hunter investigate, but the Egyptian elixir may prove the undoing of them both. Continue reading

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Seven Quick Takes

7 Quick Takes

The Blessings Crowding My Brain Edition

The early part of this week left me feeling as if I were suffocating under a growing list of “to-dos.” Each task I accomplished added three to the list as I realized yet something else that needed to be done. From meals to chores to decluttering to blogging and writing – I felt the weight of the many little straws threatening to break this camel’s back. I’ve tried to re-frame my discouragement with gratitude in terms of the blessings in disguise.

pushing boulder

Photo by gentlegiant27153 (Pixabay)

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Bills and Taxes

The bills never stop coming, do they? Online billing is supposed to simplify this process, but while I don’t have to use as many stamps as before, I find myself logging into and out of accounts, checking balances, scheduling payments, and discussing (via text message) with my husband where the money is going to come from. Top that off with the incomes taxes due, requiring multiple reports and paper shuffling, and I’m pretty tired of dealing with money issues. It’s my hope that the taxes will be filed before this blog posts, and I won’t have to worry about income taxes for another year.

Blessing: My husband has had uninterrupted employment. We have a roof over our heads and are able to afford all of the necessities and then some. Continue reading

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The Unexpected Confirmation Saint: One of God’s Mercies

My oldest son will be confirmed in the Catholic Church at the end of the month. The link in the previous sentence explains the sacrament in a thorough, easy-to-understand fashion. Regarding names chosen at confirmation, it explains that:

“At Baptism, the name was chosen without the child’s consent because the child was too little to make the selection alone. Now, in Confirmation, another name — in addition to the first and middle names — can be added, or the original baptismal name may be used. It must be a Christian name, though, such as one of the canonized saints of the Church or a hero from the Bible.”

[As an aside, I highly recommend Catholicism for Dummies by Rev. John Trigilio, Jr. and Rev. Kenneth Brighenti, whether you are a”dummy” about Catholicism or not. Fully orthodox and plainly written, it’s a great reference.] Continue reading

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An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

Welcome to the February 2017 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler’s Heart AND CatholicMom.com!

Somehow it’s February already, and we haven’t had much winter weather in south-central Pennsylvania. My kids are getting antsy for a good snowfall, yet it’s been warm enough to fool our peonies into peeking above the ground. Snow or not, it’s a good season to sit down and savor a good book!

Over 40I recently woke to the audiobook version of Over 40 and You’re Hired by Robin Ryan. My husband checked it out of the library and streamed it from his phone while he was getting ready for work. He’s previously read some or all of the paperback version (when he was a little closer to forty). After a few minutes, I thought that being that I’m on the other side of forty as well, once I returned from dropping the kids at preschool, I should promptly dig my own grave with my withered hands and crawl in. Apparently many of us old folks lack savvy and enthusiasm (read: we don’t give a rat’s patooty anymore), and it keeps us from getting hired. Kidding aside, there are some solid tips here. My husband isn’t job searching, but sales is an uncertain industry, and he likes to keep his resume and skills relevant. So, kudos to him for still caring, what with one foot in the grave and all. If you’re over the hill forty and in the job market, you may want to give this one a look or listen.

the rose and the swordI have a bunch of books competing for my attention atop the to-be-read pile. In addition to some review copies, I’m trying to work through the books on my NetGalley shelf as well as complete requirements for my public library’s winter reading program. First up is The Rose and the Sword by Gina Marinello-Sweeney. Here are a couple of lines from an Amazon review: “The Rose And The Sword exemplifies the Catholic life journey of Rebecca Veritas, written in a uniquely touching, humorous and compelling style. The protagonist’s strong character is portrayed in her ability to persevere, when emotionally and physically challenged, through her belief in prayer and devotion to her Catholic faith.” sweetest rainNext, in an effort to whittle down the NetGalley books, I’ll be reading The Sweetest Rain by Myra Johnson, the third of three Franciscan Media romances I’ll have read this year. I’ve read several positive reviews of The Sweetest Rain by trusted reviewer friends, so I’m confident I’ll enjoy this story set in 1930s Arkansas.

Sherlock HolmesMy son has been busy with Boy Scouts, midterms, and his National History Day project, so I’ve not seen him reading much lately. He’s read more than twenty of the thirty books he’s required to read this school year, but at this point he’s choosing books from categories he’s less than enthusiastic about, such as poetry. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is his mystery selection.  (True confession: I’ve never read Sherlock Holmes.)

HeidiMy daughter turned nine several days ago, and she received four books as gifts. I snagged a discounted copy of one of my childhood favorites, Heidi by Joanna Spyri, at the local Scholastic Books warehouse before Christmas. (The cover pictured is from the version I bought, but the link is to the public domain (FREE!) Kindle version.) I remember re-reading a well-worn paperback of this book, and I’m anxious to read aloud the lovely illustrated version that we got her. Mystery at MidnightShe also received the next three books in the Chime Travelers series by Lisa Hendey: The Whisper in the Ruins, The Mystery at Midnight, and The Strangers at the Manger. She loved the first two books in the series, which is a sort of Magic Tree House meets Lives of the Saints, and I’m sure she’ll zip through these as well.

Night-Light for BunnyOne of our favorite bedtime stories was lost but has been found! Languishing in a box of books, I rediscovered A Night-Light for Bunny by Geoffrey Hayes. My husband picked up the discounted hardcover somewhere in his travels when our oldest was very little. It’s become a family favorite with its warm, cozy illustrations of the bunnies, their home, and their neighborhood. In searching Amazon, I discovered that there was a glow-in-the-dark version of the book, which makes sense based on the warm glow of various lights (street lights, moonlight, lightning bugs, etc.) pictured. I can’t find our particular edition (pictured here) available on Amazon. Saint ValentineIn an effort to explain a little bit of the history of Valentine’s Day to the little kids, I checked out Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda from our library. I’ve read this to the older kids. It’s not particularly Catholic, but apparently there is a dearth of children’s books about Saint Valentine. (Attention, Catholic children’s authors!)

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Want more details on An Open Book? You can also sign up for An Open Book reminder email, which goes out one week before the link-up. No blog? That’s okay. Just tell us what you’re reading in the comment box.


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