Category: Blog

The Perfect Christmas Gift

Happy Monday, friends.

Christmas is only two weeks away! I hope you’re already enjoying all that this wonderful season has to offer instead of stressing about the details. Still looking for the perfect gift for everyone on your list? Well read looks positively gorgeous on everyone. Here are some of my favorites from this year.

For the KIDS in your life:

The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau is the first book in a children’s series about two mischievous brothers whose “tough” intentions don’t work out quite the way they planned. This chapter book is geared for kids 5-8, but I read it out loud with my 8 and 11 year old and we all loved it. I even teared up at the end. It’s just lovely. Kara writes with humor and heart, and I guarantee the lessons the Ratso brothers learn will speak volumes to your kids, too. The illustrations are whimsical, the chapters short, and the characters lovable. Five enthusiastic stars!

For the GLOBAL CITIZEN in your life:

My family and I consider Liberia a second home, so I have been greatly anticipating She Would Be King! I was not disappointed. Weaving magical realism with some historical facts and some imagined events, Moore paints a compelling and hopeful portrait of the birth of a nation. Though, in reality, Liberia plays a small role against the backdrop of a deep character study of three people. Gbessa, June Dey, and Norman Aragon are fascinating in and of themselves, so vivid and relatable that they each broke my heart in two and then mended it again. At first I was disappointed by the abrupt ending, but have since considered that there is power in its subtlety. May we all await our resurrection.

For the MYSTERY BUFF in your life:

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is hands down one of the most unique, complex books I’ve read in years. The mystery is utterly gripping, but the character development as Aiden (our narrator) inhabits the bodies and lives of eight different “hosts” is fascinating–and moving. A story about second (and third and fourth and…) chances, this novel intimately explores the depth of our depravity and our longing for redemption.

For ANYONE & EVERYONE in your life:

The Hate U Give should be required reading. It broke my heart and challenged me and ultimately gave me so much hope for our crazy, messed-up, beautiful country. If you haven’t read it, please do. Angie Thomas offers us the opportunity to slip inside another person’s skin. And wow, what a view. (Readers should know that there is lots of language in this book.)

For the HOPELESS ROMANTIC in your life:

Brimming with Kimberly Stuart’s signature wit and warmth, Heart Land is a tender, funny book that hits all the right notes. As the story unfolds, readers will find themselves tangled in the conflicting worlds and emotions of the likable Grace Klaren and her shifting dreams. This endearing, beautifully told story will leave readers hope-filled and convinced of the power of the human spirit.

For the MEMOIR LOVERS in your life:

Footprints in the Dust, Roberta Gately’s poignant, gripping memoir is a timely and inspiring tale of a big heart in a broken world. Chronicling her years as a humanitarian aid worker in the most desperate corners of the globe, this book is an absolute must-read. As modern society wrestles with obesity and consumerism and self-interest, Gately reminds us of the beauty and importance of a selfless life. Her experiences tending to and befriending the world’s forgotten call us to compassion and significance, and her perspective on the plight of refugees is both exceptional and inspiring. “The proof of my life was in the precious memories of the incredible refugees whom I’d met over the years. They’d given me proof of my life and in the magnificence of all our lives…”

For YOU:

You Were Always Mine is my newest book and one that is very near and dear to my heart. According to Chelsea Humphrey of The Suspense is Thrilling me: “Oh wow. This story was a breath of fresh air in a genre that has grown somewhat stale to me in the past year. Is it a domestic thriller? Yes. Is it women’s fiction? I suppose, although I’ve grown to dislike that term, as it suggests that ONLY women will enjoy those novels, when in fact I know many men who greedily devour them as well. Whatever you want to call it, You Were Always Mine is a complex tale that vacillates between thrilling page turner and thought provoking and heavy thematic elements.”

If you purchase You Were Always Mine for yourself or someone else, send me an email at and I’ll send you some swag (a signed bookplate, bookmarks, my grandmother’s gingersnap recipe, and some special insights and discussion questions) to make it a personal gift.

Happy holidays, friends! I hope the season is filled with joy for you. And books. Lots and lots of books.

xoxo – Nicole

BOGO Books!

Hi, friends.

We’re just over a month away from the release of You Were Always Mine. This book is so near and dear to my heart. I’m equal parts excited and terrified to share it with you. I hope you love it. And honestly, this sentiment hasn’t changed for eleven years now…

On September 19 of 2007 my debut novel was released. I had absolutely NO IDEA what I was doing. The publishing world was mystifying and wonderful and thrilling and incomprehensible. I bumbled my way through for many years before I began to feel like I had a handle on the industry–and then I promptly realized that any wisdom I had attained was largely obsolete by the time I could put it to use. Still, it’s been such a wonderful journey, friends! Thanks so much for joining me along the way.

Because this month feels so momentous (and not at all because I have boxes of reminder books in my basement 😉), I’d like to give a little something back to my readers. If you pre-order You Were Always Mine before I celebrate the 11-year anniversary of After the Leaves Fall on September 19, email me the receipt at and I’ll send you a copy of my debut novel. This is a hold-in-your-hands real, live paperback, not an ebook. Please include your snail mail address and write BOGO BOOKS in the subject line so your email doesn’t get lost in my enormous inbox. My supply is limited, so if this interests you, order today! Once the books are gone the offer is over.

Happy reading!

xoxo – Nicole

You Were Always Mine ARC Giveaway!

Hey, friends. This has not been the best week at the Baart house. Massive flooding in our area derailed an oil train (and caused ecological chaos), evacuated sections of several different towns, and trickled water into countless basements–including ours. Our week in numbers:

  • 4 Shop Vacs
  • 6 fans
  • 1 dehumidifier
  • 1 giant squeegee
  • lots of friends and family (also known as the world’s best helpers)
  • 1 swollen ankle (mine, the floors are incredibly slippery)
  • hundreds and hundreds of gallons of water hauled out of our basement
  • 2 delicious meals delivered by kind souls
  • 2 completely exhausted Baarts (Aaron and me)

The water has finally stopped leeching in (praise the Lord and hallelujah!), and thankfully it was just clean groundwater. All in all, we are blessed beyond measure as so many people had it so much worse than we did. Still, I need a little light in my life right now. I’m weary and sad…

But books make me happy! And I have some to give away. Want an ARC of You Were Always Mine? Good. I’d love to share one with you. Just use this handy-dandy Rafflecopter giveaway engine to earn some entries. Best of luck, friends! I can’t wait to share this book with you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Every Word Matters

I was in kindergarten (the age I am in this photo!) when I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Books were already entertainment and wonder and escape. A million different worlds I wanted to explore. And I didn’t just want to experience each story, I wanted to create my own. What an impossible dream! Even then I realized I had no right to such fantasies. Who was I to wish so boldly? To aim so high? But when I shared my dream with my parents, it changed everything. They started to introduce me by saying: “This is our daughter, Nicole. She’s going to be an author someday.” And because I didn’t know any better, I believed them.

Recently I had the opportunity to share with over 100 young authors and their parents, and it made me feel all the feels… I remember being a young writer at the very same dessert social, my handwritten story clutched in trembling fingers and my heart in my throat. I remember how much the words meant to me and how afraid I was that I would never have the chance to share them. But then my dad or my mom would squeeze my hand, a teacher would offer praise, a friend would tell me she loved my story, and hope would bloom. Maybe. Maybe they’re right.

Every word mattered. Every time someone shared the smallest shred of encouragement it watered that fledgling little maybe. Friends, you may never know the impact you have. You may never be told “thank you” for words that sunk deep and made a secret hope flourish. But you have the power to make a difference in the life of a child. And the life of an adult. Someone struggling and someone thriving. Young, old, rich, poor, happy, sad, it really doesn’t matter. We all need kindness like sunshine–everyday in a myriad of different ways. May our words be rich and golden, filled with love and life, with compassion and grace. And may we lift each other up, over and over again, until our dreams come true. #bekindalways #lovehard #speaklove #throwback #nofilter

Mama Bear

*Post first appeared on Facebook and Instagram

#TBT to one of my favorite photos of all time. This sweet gem was taken by my friend Ellenvelde Photography nearly four years ago in a park not too far from our home. I’m cradling my “miracle baby,” and for those who know the story you know that I’m not employing hyperbole when I call this darling wonder a living, breathing miracle.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and to say that motherhood is on my mind these days is a bit of an understatement. This year has been so full of change for our family, and something tells me the Lord’s not done with us yet. (Is he ever?) I’m trying to ride the wave, to live and love each and every day that I’m gifted, but it’s hard not to be swept along sometimes. To feel like you’re drowning in details. But it’s the details I want to remember. The way his skin smelled. His lisp. Her husky little laugh when it first bubbled up for us. I don’t ever want to forget.

This might sound strange, but writing fiction is one of the ways I remember. I include moments and memories in the pages of my books, hiding them like treasure. #LittleBrokenThings is a story about motherhood in all its forms. It’s an ode to women who are biological mothers and those who are not and never will be–but who still shepherd the hearts of children.

I would love to bless a woman in your life this Mother’s Day. If you purchase a copy of Little Broken Things for your mother, sister, aunt, friend, or any Super Woman in your life, message me a screenshot of the receipt. Next week I’ll draw two winners and send you both a package to include with the book. You’ll receive a sea glass necklace that was specifically designed by ViBella Jewelry to complement Little Broken Things, a journal, and some of my favorite chocolate–along with some bookmarks and fun extras. Just a little way for me to say “thank you” for all the ways you love each other well. Be brave, Mama Bears. We’ve got this thing.

xoxo – Nicole