Reading Suggestions

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Gentle Reads

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gentle readsGood stories without graphic violence, language, or explicit sex.  These novels feature uplifting plots with wholesome characters mixed with a little humor, a little romance and a little adventure, including some by authors otherwise known for their less-than-gentle bestselling thrillers!

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David Baldacci.  The Christmas Train.

Banned from flying after an altercation with airport security, cash-strapped journalist Tom Langdon is forced to take the train to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his girlfriend, financing the trip by selling a story about a train ride taken during the holiday season.

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Catherine Hyde.  Pay It Forward.

Pay It Forward is a novel about Trevor McKinney, a twelve-year-old boy in a small California town who accepts the challenge that his teacher gives his class, a chance to earn extra credit by coming up with a plan to change the world for the better – and to put that plan into action. The idea that Trevor comes up with is so simple and so naive that when others learn of it they are dismissive. Even Trevor himself begins to doubt when his “pay it forward” plan seems to founder on a combination of bad luck and the worst of human nature. What is his idea? Trevor chooses three people for whom he will do a favor, and then when those people thank him and ask how they might pay him back, he will tell them that instead of paying him back, they should each “pay it forward” by choosing three people for whom they can do favors, and in turn telling those people to pay it forward. It’s nothing less than a human chain letter of kindness and good will. Does his plan work? No. And yes – it works wonderfully, but only after it has seemed to Trevor that maybe all his efforts have been for naught.

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Colleen McCullough.  Ladies of Missalonghi.

Set in the early 1900s in the tiny town of Byron, nestled in the Australia’s Blue Mountains, it tells of the blossoming of Missy Wright, 33-year-old spinster and poor relation of the town’s ruling family, the Hurlingfords. Missy, her widowed mother and crippled aunt live in genteel poverty, victims of the Hurlingford inheritance policy that gives riches and power to the male members of the family, who heartlessly abuse the women they dominate. Plain, painfully thin and doomed to dress always in serviceable brown, shockingly dark-haired in a clan of luminous blondes, Missy seems fated for da dreary future until a distant cousin, a divorcee, arrives from Sydney. Under her tutelage, Missy acquires spunk, hope and the means to a happy ending.

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James Patterson.  Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas.

Katie Wilkinson has found her perfect man at last. He’s a writer, a house painter, an original thinker-everything she’s imagined she wanted in a partner. But one day, without explanation, he disappears from her life, leaving behind only a diary for her to read. This diary is a love letter written by a new mother named Suzanne for her baby son, Nicholas. In it she pours out her heart about how she and the boy’s father met, about her hopes for marriage and family, and about the unparalleled joy that having a baby has brought into her life. As Katie reads this touching document, it becomes clear that the lover who has just left her is the husband and father in this young family. She reads on, filled with terror and hope, as she struggles to understand what has happened-and whether her new love has a prayer of surviving.

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Rita Mae BrownBook Jacket

Rita Mae Brown writes witty, clever mysteries and mainstream fiction with a strong sense of place and memorable, if quirky, characters. Currently best known for two mystery series, she started with mainstream fiction exploring themes of community and belonging, and has written a few historical novels.  Her stories feature strong women characters, and also include non-human characters (cats, dogs, and horses) who are much wiser than their human counterparts.  A gentle humor pervades her storytelling even when she explores issues from varying viewpoints.

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Jennifer Chiaverini

Jennifer Chiaverini writes heart-warming character-centered Gentle Reads with a focus on the dynamics of small town life and of intergenerational conflict, as well as the traditional art of quilting.  In her Elm Creek Quilters series, women gather from all walks of life and ages, putting aside their differences and working together to create fabric masterpieces. Sweetly nostalgic and rich with historic detail, these stories are enhanced by the reminiscent storytelling abilities of Master Quilter, Sylvia, as she uncovers the secrets of her past.

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Amy Clipston

About the Kauffman Amish Bakery series: When Rebecca Kauffman’s sister Grace, who left the Amish behind years earlier, is killed in an accident, it is up to Rebecca and her husband Daniel to raise Grace’s two teenage English daughters in their Old Order Amish community.

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Lloyd Douglas

About the Dr. Hudson series: After the death of his young wife, a struggling brain surgeon is left with his young daughter to raise alone, and finds a new love in Nancy Ashford, a nurse at Brightwood Hospital.  Douglas also wrote Bible-era historical fiction.

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Clyde Edgerton

Clyde Edgerton’s fiction combines Southern charm with sharp edges. Noted for his vibrant characters and the deep religious current that runs through his novels, Edgerton writes captivating novels about daily occurrences. Edgerton uses everyday speech and wry, witty humor to shed light on the oddities of Southern life. His novels often explore the contrast between religion and secular life, and the clashes between them.

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Gail Godwin

Gail Godwin writes literary novels of relationships featuring women and girls whose lives are strongly shaped by family and family history.  Coming-of-age stories often reflect an exploration back in time that helps the protagonist realize her place in both her present family and in life, generally.  Her male characters may be strong influences on the female protagonists, though sometimes they are less thoroughly developed.  In all Godwin’s novels, there are strong elements of spiritual transcendence, as well as a strong sense of place in Southern setting, all conveyed by her accessible, lyrical prose.

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Elizabeth Goudge

About the Eliot Heritage series: In 1938, on the Hampshire coast, the Eliot family lives in their 18th-century home, in which the grandmother’s personality seems to have merged with the house.

Philip Gulley

About Porch Talk: A nostalgic collection of personal anecdotes reflects on a time when porch-centered lives enabled greater family and community connections, remembering such simple pleasures as lemonade, chirping crickets, and bonding with a pet dog.  An Indiana author.

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Jon Hassler

The late Jon Hassler used straightforward and careful prose to tell stories of small communities and the intricate relationships that develop in them. A sense of grace pervades all of Hassler’s writing; even at its darkest there is hope of redemption. He looks at people with a clear and unflinching eye, and understands that human nature is rarely all good or all bad.  His small town and academic settings give Hassler ample opportunities for humor, as well as for examining lost opportunities.

 

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 Georgette HeyerBook Jacket

Georgette Heyer is best known for her Regency- and Georgian-era romantic comedies of manners, but she also wrote other historical fiction and mysteries during the “Golden Age” of the twentieth century.  Her historicals are remarkable both for the extent of her research and the consistency with which she portrayed her settings, bringing them to life with carefully chosen details.  The wit and style of her characters and lightness and humor of her plots combine with the vividly-portrayed settings and a touch of suspense to produce entertaining stories to which many fans return again and again.

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James Hilton

About Goodbye Mr. Chips: The beautiful and moving story of an English schoolmaster and of his associations with three generations of schoolboys.

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J. Lynne Hinton

J. Lynne Hinton, an ordained minister, writes Christian Fiction. Readers will find humor and coziness in her contemporary, leisurely-paced novels featuring strong women and issues relating to family and friendship.  She has a conversational, light writing style which suits her gentle stories.

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Jan Karon

Jan Karon is best known for her popular series of books set mainly in fictional Mitford, North Carolina, and featuring Episcopal priest Father Timothy Kavanaugh.  Karon’s heartwarming novels offer more character than plot and more dialog than action.  While Father Tim is the focus of these stories, the eccentric townspeople provide the humor. The Mitford novels are leisurely-paced, gentle stories of a small town and its denizens who face moral dilemmas, but can overcome all obstacles and make the best of their lives.  Karon has written several children’s books, as well.

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Thomas Kinkade

About the Cape Light series: A novel by the American artist journeys to the picturesque village of Cape Light on the coast of New England, a hamlet populated by colorful inhabitants who share a strong sense of community and caring for their neighbors.

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Richard Llewellyn

About How Green Was My Valley: The youngest son of a Welsh coal-mining family recalls the tender and tragic experiences of his youth at the turn of the century with his courageous and loving parents and brothers and sisters.

Debbie Macomber

Fans of Debbie Macomber’s contemporary romances and novels of women’s lives prize her inspirational stories, domestic settings, and sympathetic heroines.  Macomber’s protagonists are ordinary women who are sometimes caught in difficult situations, but remain optimistic through every adversity. There are often sexual situations in her books, but they generally take place behind closed doors. The dialogue in these gentle stories keeps the pace moving and her uncomplicated prose style allows the reader to appreciate the upbeat, unpretentious tone. Macomber’s nonfiction includes cookbooks and knitting books as well as inspirational works.

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Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith has written several distinct series, but every book features the richly drawn characters, engaging prose, and vivid settings that have earned him a loyal following. Characters’ thoughts and perspectives are central to his novels, their whims guiding plot and pacing. The settings are described in detail, with frequent references to art and culture. Attention to word choice and a gentle, often warm tone typify his mysteries and literary fiction.

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Joan MedlicottBook Jacket

About the Ladies of Covington series: Grace, Amelia, and Hannah decide that the last thing they want to do is live out their lives in a group home, and so, to the dismay of their children, they pool their resources and move to Covington, North Carolina, and new lives.

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Janette Oke

Janette Oke has won over millions with her heartwarming, historical novels about love and life on the Canadian prairie.  Oke’s gently-paced works center on the Bible and its lessons. Her engaging characters (mostly young women) struggle with faith while facing difficult problems, like the harsh prairie life.  Even-toned and emphasizing rural settings, these novels evoke a simpler time and more old-fashioned way of life.  Appealing mainly to female readers, these stories have romantic elements and optimistic endings.

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Whitney Otto

About Passion Dream Book: Fellow artists Romy March and Augustine Marks migrate from place to place, separately and together, united by their constant love for each other, in a story that moves from the Italian Renaissance and the life of Romy’s ancestor to the early twentieth century.  Whitney Otto is also the author of How to Make an American Quilt.

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Rosamunde Pilcher

Rosamunde Pilcher writes reflective and compassionate sagas that are a savory blend of substance and sentiment. Her earlier works include scores of stories and over twenty romance novels. Pilcher’s subsequent works have all reflected various stages in the cycle of life and love through the interactions of characters from multiple generations. Her books have a strong sense of place, frequently rural Scotland or her native Cornwall, and her writing style is accessible and elegant, with a distinctly British flavor.

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James Pratt

About Paradise Bay: When Jack Santos discovers that his father–whom he believed had been killed in Vietnam–is actually still alive in a coma, he relives his father’s life through his journals.

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Eugenia Price

About the Savannah Quartet: A young man of privilege arrives in Savannah, never dreaming of how the port would become involved in his expanding fortune or of how he would become involved in the intrigue of war and his love for two women.

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Ann Ross

Ann B. Ross began her writing career with mysteries, but is best known for her “Miss Julia” series, which features the eccentric characters of a gossipy small town, including the proper yet sassy Southern septuagenarian Miss Julia.  Ross writes warm, quirky character novels.

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Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks is a master of poignant love stories.  In his novels there is no great love without some loss and his characters frequently are faced with a difficult challenge before proving they are worthy of true love.  Sparks’ characters are honorable and loyal, and they place a lot of importance on family and sometimes religious faith. The pace of his stories is leisurely, quickening for rapid action and dialogue. Sparks’ writing is not dense and he aims for easy-to-read prose with a romantic tone.

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LaVyrle Spencer

Though she’s no longer writing novels, LaVyrle Spencer’s contemporary and historical romances are loved by readers for the ordinary people that populate them and for the slices of American life they portray; in addition, her novels deal with all kinds of love-not just erotic-and leave the reader feeling good, rather than breathless. No matter the decade, the setting, or the protagonist, integrity, love, and goodness ultimately prevail.

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Ann Tatlock

About Promises to Keep: Eleven-year-old Roz (Rosalind) Anthony and her family have just moved to Mills River, Illinois, to escape an abusive situation. Only days after settling into their new home, they are surprised to find the previous owner, Tillie Monroe, on their front porch reading the newspaper. Though her sons have sold the house and sent her to a facility for the aged, she is determined to die in the place she lived her life, and somehow manages to find her way “home” day after day. Feeling sympathy for the elderly woman, Roz’s mother allows Tillie to move back in. Mara Nightingale becomes Roz’s first friend in Mills River. In spite of their many differences, the girls discover they have something in common that binds them together–both are hiding secrets. So they make a promise–“cross my heart and hope to die”–never to tell anyone else.When danger stalks the Anthonys, Tillie exhibits unimaginable courage and selfless love in her determination to protect the family she has adopted as her own.

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Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani has earned a tremendous following with her formula of engaging and animated characters, humorous description, and lots of love, both familial and romantic. Trigiani’s female characters are strong, intelligent women who sometimes err, but usually triumph over adversity by making sound moral decisions. Readers who enjoy romance fiction and gentle reads will certainly discover much to like in Trigiani’s work, and may be pleasantly surprised by her occasional bawdy humor and her unexpected plot twists.

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Jessamyn West

About Leafy Rivers: Jessamyn West’s spirited novel—set in the Ohio Territory in the early 1880s—is a handsomely paced adventure for lovers of period romance and suspense. Leafy Rivers is a young bride caught up in emotions she does not altogether understand and cannot quite control. As she races against time to save a life and a marriage that may already be lost, a vivid assortment of characters—such as Simon Yanders, a man whose loss has taught him generosity and whose grief has made him alert to joy; Cashie Wade, irresistibly wild and free; and Leafy’s husband, Reno, whose love is matched only by his ineptitude—offers challenges that threaten to waylay her at every turn.  An Indiana author.

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Home to Heather Creek series (various authors)

Carolyn Stevenson and her husband Bob welcome Carolyn’s three grandchildren to their Nebraska farm following the accident that killed their mother Denise, who ran away from home as a teenager.

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