Great Reads (and Gifts!)

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Ah, the written word.

There’s nothing like the combination of a good book, a cup of java, and a quiet corner.

Books are my favorite gifts to give (and receive!). I love short stories and novels that exercise my imagination, volumes that make me think, study, and ponder, and everything in between.

This week I’m highlighting four 2017 releases.  Jess, The Mess and The Wish I Wished Last Night are exciting reads for middle school and early high school, and Renewed and Still Waters are adult non-fiction and fiction respectively. Something for everyone!

Enjoy a preview of each book and meet their talented, Christ-honoring authors.


jessthemess picAs feisty Jessica moves to yet another middle school, she struggles to stay out of trouble, while living in constant fear that others will find out her family’s dark secrets: Jess’s mom is an alcoholic, her dad left them years ago, and most days Jess struggles just to find food to eat.

Jess lives with the daily pain of her mom’s explosive behavior and the accompanying shame. Befriended by sassy, red-headed Anna and cheerful, encouraging Grace, Jess balances the joy of friendship with the hurt she carries with her.

Will self-proclaimed Jess the Mess open her heart and life to her new friends? What happens when her secrets are revealed? Jess learns that everyone can change, but some change comes with a price.

Charlene VermeulenCharlene Vermeulen is a wife, mother, Grammie, follower of Christ, and passionate youth worker. With over thirty years of experience working as a teacher and school administrator with middle and high school students, she still learns from young people every day. She writes faith-based books for young adults to help them not only enjoy fast-paced, middle and high school-themed stories, but understand how to deal with current social challenges and issues as well. Jess, the Mess and Help Me Disappear are her first two books, with Josh Bergman is Missing slated for a spring 2018 release. Connect with Charlene on Goodreads,  LinkedInFacebook,  and Twitter.


thewishIwished picEleven-year-old Jase Freeman is confused when the line between his dreams and his reality blurs. How can climbing hills in his dreams make his legs hurt during the day? He realizes the multi-colored creature in his dreams is leading him. But where?

Secrets, the school bully, strange dreams, and trouble at home are about to collide and Jase has decisions to make.

Can people really wish on stars? Does God hear the prayer of a mixed-up boy just trying to figure it all out?

shelley pierceShelley Pierce is a pastor’s wife, mom, grandma and the Director of Preschool and Children’s Ministries at Towering Oaks Baptist Church in Greeneville, Tennessee. She is the author of The Wish I Wished Last Night, exciting new middle-grade fiction from Elk Lake Publishing. Shelley worked for ten years as a contracted writer for LifeWay Childhood Ministries and is published in numerous devotion magazines and books.

She also writes a monthly column in The Christian Online Magazine as well as a personal blog, Connect with Shelley on Twitter and Facebook.


renewed by leigh powersMinistry is a privilege, but it can also be a painful experience. Unrealistic expectations, church conflict, forced resignations, and our own struggles with burnout, loneliness, and insecurity can make church feel more like a place of wounding than a place of healing. How can wounded leaders find the courage to reject bitterness and keep loving the church?
Renewed is a forty-day devotional for women in ministry, ministry wives, and lay leaders who have been wounded by their congregations. You are not alone. God sees your pain. He knows your hurts. And he is waiting to bind up your broken heart. This forty-day journey into the healing love of Jesus will help you find the courage to stop hiding and start loving the church again.

leigh powers

Leigh Powers is a freelance writer and editor, pastor’s wife, and mother of three. She has pursued a lifelong love affair with the Word of God. A graduate of Baylor University (B.S. Ed.) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.Bl), Leigh has written over three hundred Bible study lessons and devotions for publishers such as BaptistWay Press, Smyth & Helwys, Union Gospel Press, and Worthy.  She has also contributed to MomSense, Just Between Us, and (in) Leigh is also the author of Renewed: A 40-Day Devotional for Healing from Church Hurt and for Loving Well in Ministry.  In her free moments you can usually find her either with a book or knitting needles in her hand—and sometimes both. Connect with Leigh on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and her website,


stillwaters-500x750-1Cora Anne Halloway has a history degree and a plan: avoid her own past—despite being wait-listed for graduate school. Then her beloved grandmother requests—and her dispassionate mother insists—that she spend the summer at Still Waters, the family cottage on Edisto Beach, South Carolina.

Despite its picturesque setting, Still Waters haunts Cora Anne with loss. At Still Waters her grandfather died, her parents’ marriage disintegrated, and as a child, she caused a tragic drowning. But lingering among the oak canopies and gentle tides, this place also tempts her with forgiveness—especially since Nan hired Tennessee Watson to oversee cottage repairs. A local contractor, but dedicated to the island’s preservation from development, Tennessee offers her friendship and more, if she can move beyond her guilt.

When a family reunion reveals Nan’s failing health, Cora Anne discovers how far Tennessee will go to protect her—and Edisto—from more desolation. Will Cora Anne choose a life driven by guilt, or one washed clean by the tides of grace?

brackettlweb1Award-winning writer, Lindsey P. Brackett just writes life — blogs, columns, articles, and stories — in the midst of motherhood. A blogger since 2010, she has published articles and short stories in a variety of print and online publications. She writes a popular bimonthly column for several local newspapers in which she meditates on small town southern life. Her love of family ties and southern places prompted her first novel, Still Waters, a Lowcountry story about the power of family and forgiveness from Firefly Southern Fiction.

Thanks to her four kids, in her home you’ll find wet towels, lost library books, and strong coffee. Connect with Lindsey on her website,, and on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @lindseypbrackett.

Happy reading!


Leigh Ann 🙂


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