Books That Stood Out In 2018

Books That Stood Out

If you are looking for a book that is just a bit different from your usual fare, this is the list for you. Today I’m featuring those books which I have read this year that have stood out to me as unique and the reasons I think they are different.

Written in the Stars & Written in the Dust (Books 1 & 2 of the Backroads Series)

by Christina Coryell

 

So I’m starting this list by breaking the rules because these two books really read as one book split into two.  The reason they make the list is two-fold:

Firstly, the style of writing and flow of the story felt completely unique and fresh to me. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why, but there is just something different about how this story is told that makes it stand out.

Second, there is a raw realism to the backroads, country lifestyle the author portrays in this story and a depth to her characters that makes you feel like you could bump into them at the grocery store … or inside a gas station.

Amazon

A Chance at Forever (Teaville Moral Society #3)

by Melissa Jagears

A Chance at Forever

This book features a heroine born with a congenital anomaly that led to bullying which shaped her childhood and her view of the world as an adult. Furthermore, the hero is her childhood tormentor with a painful story of his own. This incredible story of forgiveness, redemption and Christ’s miraculous ability to use everything for good, is an excellent conclusion to the series (although it can be read as a stand-alone) and is well worth a reader’s time. The characters were relatable and complex. The plot was unique, compelling, and held surprises I didn’t see coming. The conclusion was satisfying and grin-inducing. In short, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more by Melissa Jagears

Amazon

The Reluctant Groom (Brides of Seattle Book 1)

by Kimberly Rose Johnson

The Reluctant Groom

This book took me by surprise in a very good way. I didn’t realize I had certain expectations of the plot until I started reading and had my expectations thrown out the window. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to find a refreshing take on the usual marriage of convenience story, but Kimberly Rose Johnson has done it. The characters in this story and their motivations and choices felt so refreshingly unique and real. It was like they could be my neighbor or my friend.

There was one particular part which I absolutely loved. Without giving too much detail away, I will say that big plans were made, but they didn’t turn out as expected and what made that so fantastic is that they didn’t go melodramatically wrong. Things just sort of played out in a very true-to-life, relationships-are-messy sort of way.

I am delighted by the unique perspective this author has demonstrated in this story and look forward to reading more novels by her.

Amazon

Catching Christmas

by Terri Blackstock

Catching Christmas

This book stands out because of its unique characters, unique premise, and the unique twists the author throws in at every point in the story. There is an element to it that, had I known of it in advance, would have prevented me from reading this book. That would have been a shame because my reasons for avoiding that element would have been based on completely incorrect assumptions. And it is that very element itself which makes it stand out from the crowd of books I have read this year. If you’re not already a follower, make sure to subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss out on my full review of this book, coming December 17th!

Amazon

Sons of Blackbird Mountain

by Joanne Bischof

Sons of Blackbird Mountain

This book stands out not only for its beautiful writing, but for a very easy to state reason: it features a hero who is deaf and an alcoholic. Joanne has shown serious writerly skill in managing to not only bring this character to life on the page but also in making him someone the reader roots for. She makes us see beyond his addiction and doesn’t let his different communication abilities define who he is, but instead takes us deeper into the many layers of what makes him, him. For my full review of Sons of Blackbird Mountain, click HERE.

Amazon

The Ruby Knot (The Dirty Boat Guys of Coronado Book 1)

by Jane Josephs

The Ruby Knot

If you are a Kathleen’s Readers’ Club Member, you know that I positively gushed about this book in my summer newsletter. Last week, I finally revealed my review to the rest of the world. (You can read it here. To become a KRC Member, click here.)

What qualifies The Ruby Knot for this list of stand-out books is the premise of the book. The story begins with a heroine who, after getting pregnant as a result of a one-night stand, is trying to get her life in line with God’s Word, but as you can imagine, the consequences of her previous choices do anything but simplify her life and the choices she now faces (especially between the two men pursuing her heart) are anything but straightforward. This story shows us how God’s love shines through life’s raw messiness.

Amazon

Let’s chat!

What books have you read this year that stood out as different to you?

TWEETABLES:

Looking for something different to read? Check out this list of Books That Stood Out In 2018!

Discover why these books stood out in 2018.

 

 

First Line Friday – 9.14.18

first-line-friday-3

Hi Everyone! It’s First Line Friday, so grab a book near you and share your first line in the comments below!

Today I’m sharing the first line from Merried Off, a Beards and Belles novella by Christina Coryell.

Merried Off

Here is the first line:

“It must be sheer ecstasy to be known not by a name first and foremost, but by a song.”

about-the-book-2

A whimsical musician who likes her situation just as it is. The world-wise single father who would like to change everything. And an extended Christmas season that might help them unwrap their common ground.

Celeste Jordan has always been different – a fact that has kept her safely tucked into her familiar environment most of her life. Her job as a performance musician at a theme park keeps her busy and gives her the requisite dose of social interaction, until a man dialing the wrong phone number and a little girl’s brave act shake up her routine.

Doug Kirkland’s return to Tennessee is for one reason and one reason only – his daughter, Emily. Until he gets his new life sorted out, he can’t afford to have any distractions. But after one interaction with Celeste, he knows there’s something unique about her that he can’t ignore.

Soon Celeste is an integral part of Doug’s life, along with her preoccupation for Christmas. Will the two be able to overcome their differences, or will their newfound relationship fizzle when it’s time to pack up the Christmas decorations?

Available at:  AMAZON

Click HERE to follow my blog and make sure you don’t miss out on any of my upcoming reviews and other fun posts!

Are you a Kathleen’s Readers’ Club member? It’s free to join (of course) and KRC members receive exclusive content, are eligible for exclusive seasonal book giveaways, and more! Join Today!

Now it’s your turn to grab the book nearest you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

My Rapid Review – Once Upon A Laugh: Eight Novellas With Laughter And Happily-Ever-After

My RAPID Review - Once Upon a Laugh

Today I’m sharing not just one, but eight rapid reviews! That’s because reviewing this collection as a whole would simply not do justice to the wonderful stories contained within its pages.

Since I’ll be rapidly reviewing each these novellas individually, I’m going to start off by sharing the overview description for the collection. Then I’ll work my way through each book in the order they are presented in the collection.

about-the-book-2

Ready for a book collection you can’t put down?

Eight brand new contemporary Christian romantic comedies are here to keep you company. Some of your favorite inspirational authors have come together in this collection of all-new novellas.

From light-hearted romance to laugh-out-loud love, this set will put a smile on your face and keep you reading long into the night.


Jane by the Book

Jane by the Book

by Pepper Basham

She lives by the plans. He talks to imaginary characters. Can they team up to solve a family mystery?

Four years ago, Jane Warwick escaped the shame and heartbreak of being jilted at the altar by becoming a housekeeper at the secluded Inn at Simeon Ridge. Predictable and quiet, the inn helps Jane find a place to heal and celebrates her strengths, where she is promoted to head housekeeper. But an unexpected visit to Bath, England, upsets Jane’s plans and sends her out of her comfort zone, directly into the harrowing path of historical detective author, Titus Stewart.

The only plans Titus sticks to are family holidays and the ones that send him careening into his story worlds, but when an uptight and nervous innkeeper stumbles into his life – and his latest novel – nonfiction begins to take on a much more interesting gleam.

As the unlikely pair delve into the mystery behind a one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old letter, will they both uncover a romance that stands the test of time?

My Thoughts

Titus is definitely one of my favorite heroes of this year. His personality is so fun to read and the way he treats Jane just melts my heart. Watching the two of them get to know each other while working to solve the mystery of Jane’s ancestor was both heartwarming and hilarious.  This fun story features unique characters you won’t soon forget.

Jane by the Book is fully readable as a stand-alone novella, but the couple from Pepper Basham’s Second Impressions do play a major part in this story and reading Jane by the Book before reading Second Impressions will result in certain spoilers. So I would recommend reading Second Impressions before reading Jane by the Book.

Favorite Quotes:

Maybe he could walk close enough to see her face and her book as he disembarked. Or he’d just look like the good-natured stalker he was.

Real life is filled with enough sad endings. I stick to the happy ones when I have the chance to read.

Someday you’re going to look back on your life and wish you’d taken a chance. The only way to become braver is to step out into what you fear.

You are significant. God doesn’t make mistakes, and He’s been working on your story much longer than you have.

If God can use a talking donkey and a group of disgruntled fishermen, I think he can inspire an author with the right heart and abilities to create a story that will touch people’s lives.

(Note to Pepper Basham should you happen to stop by:  I am going to print this last one and post it near my computer. Thank you!)


Crossed Out

by Christina Coryell

Ruth Erickson always spends her morning break doing the crossword puzzle. Tate Darrow just messed it up. What’s that old saying about love and war?

Ruth Erickson is good at crossword puzzles. Stupid good at crossword puzzles. It might even be her thing, if that weren’t a sad thing to claim as a thing. She would probably say her thing was taking care of her daughter, Emily, a spunky nine-year-old with a dog fascination. Maybe being a waitress. but she was mainly good at that in order to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.

In light of that knowledge about crosswords, it’s perfectly understandable why she freaked out when Tate Carrow started writing on her crossword puzzle at the cafe. Who does that? Besides, she didn’t know at the time that he’d taken a sabbatical from his job as a photojournalist to visit his ailing father. Certainly didn’t know that his sudden inheritance of a dilapidated mountain cabin and a moody dog had him out of sorts.

Love is definitely in the air. Puppy love – between Emily and the dog. Romantic love between Ruth and Tate would be infinitely more puzzling. And yet . . .

My Thoughts

My first introduction to the delightful writing of Christina Coryell was the first book in her Beards and Belles series, Mowed Over. It was so different and fun to read that I immediately knew I wanted to read more by this author. When I realized Crossed Out featured the hero’s sister from Mowed Over, I was very eager to see how the author brought together the single mom’s love story. And Christina didn’t disappoint. Ruth and Tate are both deep characters that will tug at your heartstrings and make you root for their healing as much as their romance.

Favorite Quotes:

Kids at yard sales were nearly impossible to corral. Grandmas watching kids at yard sales were like wild mustangs, throwing caution and quarters to the wind.

Sometimes it’s only after you have the answer that you can look back and see the clues clearly.


if-she-daresIf She Dares

by Mikal Dawn

He’s a board game champion, but can he win her heart?

Lia Walker burned the bridges—and her boss’s tie—when she quit her job at a car dealership to go work for the chancellor of a prestigious university. But when she arrives only to find out she can’t start her job, she’s burning with only one question: how will she pay her rent?

Garrison McGarville returned from working in Europe a champion—of a Ticket to Ride board game tournament. But his latest job—informing a distressed beauty she doesn’t actually have a job yet—has him feeling more like a loser.

When Garrison comes up with what he hopes is a game-winning move, will Lia dare to accept?

My Thoughts

I think the description says a lot about why I laughed so hard while reading this story. With a heroine who sets fire to her boss’s tie and a hero whose claim to fame is winning a board game tournament, how could things possibly be boring? From the very first page I was engaged with these characters and I enjoyed every moment of watching their relationship develop.

Favorite Quotes:

She couldn’t talk when it came to books piled on her coffee table. And end table. And bedside table. And kitchen table. After all, tables were just a different version of a shelf, right?

She stared at him.

He stared back.

Silence.

‘No.’ He couldn’t be implying what she thought he was trying to imply. No. Stinkin’. Way.

He grinned, looking like a dark-haired Dennis the Menace.

‘I quit.’

 


Definitely

by Heather Gray

Dating isn’t on her to-do list. Dating a pastor? Definitely not.

Annie Flamingo is a widow, mother of a precocious nine-year-old, and the owner of Pink Flamingo Graphic Design. Her life is busy 24/7. She has no time for a relationship, let alone a relationship that comes with a ready-made set of expectations and responsibilities. No way, no how.

Paul Larkin took a nontraditional path to the pastorate, but he’s there now. As pastor of Trinity Community Church, he takes his job seriously. People expect him to be steady and strong, a man of composure. Being a pastor doesn’t stop him from being a man, though, and this man sees a woman he’d like to get to know better.

Can two people who want such different things be right for each other? God’s the only one who’s going to be able to sort out this mixed-up mess.

My Thoughts

Oh, this heroine and I could definitely be friends … minus the coffee thing. I don’t do coffee. But in so many other ways she and I can relate. I may not be a widow (thank you, Lord) and have never dated a pastor, but I have definitely been in a position where I basically made God drag me kicking and screaming down the path He wanted me to follow. LOL Thank you, Lord, for your infinite patience and love. If you’ve ever pulled a Jonah, this is a story you’ll relate to as well. Plus it’s just plain funny to watch it all go down.

Favorite Quotes:

She’d watched him preach dozens of sermons, and she’d never once seen the expression currently on his face. It was like befuddlement had collided with bemusement, and together they’d decided to have a knock-down-drag-out brawl with bewilderment.

Annie did what any normal, healthy, intelligent adult woman would do in the same situation.

She packed up her daughter and fled. From her pastor. Not from evil. She was still fairly convinced he wasn’t evil.

Every person should have people who loved him or her enough to give an open-armed welcome on a moment’s notice.

 


Under the Honey MoonUnder the Honey Moon

by Jessica R. Patch

A honeymoon cottage reunites a pair of childhood friends. Can it offer them a future filled with happily-ever-after?

When B&B owner Juliet Miller’s childhood crush shows up on her doorstep, she thinks he’s come to honor a pact and pop the question. But he’s already engaged and offers her a bargain she can’t turn down. Bowie Nichols has always seen Juliet as a friend until shifting feelings has him second guessing whether or not he’s marrying the right woman.

My Thoughts

She may share a name with the infamous Shakespearean character, but she has no interest in living out her own tragedy–she insists the famous play is not a romance. Juliet has built her business around newly married couples and made it her mission to help them experience a little bit of fairytale bliss. Trouble is, she can’t seem to find any romance of her own. Well, that’s not true, exactly. Things just aren’t going exactly the way she expected. To say the least. Still, this heroine manages to show God’s true love and grace in circumstances that would make many of us turn into Grumpy of the seven dwarves. Seeing her get her happily ever after? That’s enough to make any reader’s day.

Favorite Quotes:

She did a little line dancing along the side of the road and twirled in the moonlight as she edged up Honey Hill.

“I’m fine. It’s not like I haven’t fallen off roofs before.” He paused. “I’ve actually fallen off a lot of them.” His eyes widened as if he’d had some kind of revelation. “I’d be a terrible Santa.”

“I don’t think broken marriages should diminish the beauty and amazement of marriage itself. I have to believe that even in those painful break-ups, there is wonder and beauty to find–in God.”

 


A Wildly Wonderful WeddingA (wildly) Wonderful Wedding

by Krista Phillips

They may be the worst maid of honor and best man in the history of weddings…

Five years ago, Drake and Danielle had a whirlwind summer romance—but on the day they were going to elope, Drake got cold feet and took the coward’s way out. Now a successful business owner, Drake is more than a little concerned when his best friend announces his upcoming nuptials—to the woman he’s only dated a little over a month.

Danielle is shocked when her best friend announces she’s getting married—in two months—to her boyfriend of a while whoppin’ month. And then she meets the best man. Drake? Her friend is marrying the best friend of her ex-fiancé? She has to do something to help her friend see that this hasty wedding is a mistake. But she can’t do it alone.

Will Drake and Danielle be able to work together to stop this crazy, wild wedding, or will they lose their hearts again in the process?

My Thoughts

While whirlwind romances can make for entertaining stories, I often find them irritatingly implausible. This is why I love A (wildly) Wonderful Wedding. It turns the whirlwind romance premise on its head without denying its real-world plausibility–and ramifications. So, as the reader, I got to have my cake and eat it, too.

P.S. The SUV bit was my favorite part. Too funny.

Favorite Quotes:

Drake’s mouth went dry as Danni opened the door–a flirty tilt to her lips, eyes dancing with welcome, wearing a dress a man would have to be dead not to appreciate.

There. At least she no longer looked like a dead woman walking. The ponytail was staying though–although she fixed it so it was more a messy-on-purpose look instead of a messy-because-I-am-a-slob look.

But she was no longer that girl.

She was a woman–and she knew the life-changing, world-shaking, unconditional love of her true Savior now.

She no longer needed someone to rescue her. God had already done that.


Save the Last Word

by Betsy St. Amant Haddox

When conventional meets creative, who will get the last word?

Free-spirited Zoe Armand has never been conventional. From her multitude of odd-jobs to her bad luck in romance, Zoe blazes her own trail–despite the disapproval of her reputation-obsessed parents.

Straight-laced Ben Marshall is back in Memory, Kansas to pack up his Nonny’s apartment after she’d moved into a nursing home. It’s the perfect opportunity to work on his real passion–his secret blog–and avoid his father’s pressure to commit to VP in the family business.

When Zoe is hired to paint a mural in the nursing home, she’s excited for the excuse to hang out with her former neighbor, Ms. Marshall. When she runs into Ben, she discovers her childhood crush never went away. She’s determined to prove herself to her parents and earn Ben’s affection–but a comedy of errors, a secret identity, and a desire to have the last word threatens to keep them apart.

Ben must choose between the chance to win his freedom from his father and protect the heart of the woman who equally fascinates and bewilders him. Will Zoe and Ben find a way around the obstacles blocking true love? Or will Ben’s brief stay in Memory be the last word for them both?

My Thoughts

It’s always fun to see childhood friends grow into something more. Add in a quirky unique heroine with a big heart, a hero with good intentions but steamroller methods, and interfering relatives? You have a perfect recipe for an entertaining story that will keep you turning the pages.

Favorite Quotes:

Ben shut the door behind Zoe. These were the kind of experiences his readers would assume were fiction. But he couldn’t have invented Zoe if he tried.

“Hey, I didn’t beg,” Zoe kicked one foot out of the shadows and into the swatch of moonlight. “I just asked. Repeatedly.”


The Long GameThe Long Game

by Laurie Tomlinson

Whoever said all is fair in love and war never dealt with small-town football…

When the arts budget gets cut to make room for a new football coach, small-town choir teacher Annie Jacobs has one long-shot chance to save the spring musical: kicking a field goal on national television. But she swore off sports—and the spotlight—forever when her last attempt resulted in social annihilation. And the new football coach is the golden boy she pined for in high school, who was there to witness it all.

Hometown hero Ryan Collins has returned to Lake Greencliff to restore the football program to its former glory, the opportunity for redemption after his first coaching tenure ended in disappointment. When he finds out his second chance came at a cost, he agrees to help prepare Annie for the contest. But he doesn’t count on falling for the fascinating woman who fell off the map after high school, or how much she helps him in return.

When the past threatens to repeat itself, crippling old fears resurface. With their jobs and their students’ futures in the balance, can the show–and their budding romance–go on?

My Thoughts

Two kind-hearted people stuck between a rock and a hard place, overcoming increasing odds and old wounds together? Swoon. Plus, I loved seeing Annie’s faith tested and grown as she waited to see how God would provide. The tension just keeps ratcheting up in this story until you’re on the edge of your seat cheering for these two.

Favorite Quotes:

God didn’t create talent like that to be wasted on fear.

High Shool Annie would have assumed that the next thing after gorgeous, untouchable Ryan Collins squeezed her hand would entail waking up in a pile of her own drool.

Let’s Chat! Which of these stories most intrigues you? Have you read anything by these authors before? 

TWEETABLE:

Heartwarming, hilarious, surprising, and engaging to the last word, this novella collection is one not to be missed!

Reading Update: Loves, Likes, & Losses

This past July I shared my Summer Reading List with you. As we are nearing the end of the year, I thought you might like a quick update on those books.

LOVE

Love Held Captive

Love Held Captive I loved this book! The next book in the series is on my TBR. You can read my full review, HERE.

LOVE

The Lady and the Lionheart

The Lady and the Lionheart Did you know this book just won the 2017 Christy Award?! Oh wow, did it deserve it! I absolutely adored this singularly unique novel. I hope to share my review soon.

LIKE

Finders KeepersAll of You

Finders Keepers & All of You These are the first two books in Sarah Monzon’s Carrington Family series. While I enjoyed both novels, I think I preferred the first. You can see my full review of All of You and a mini review of Finders Keepers, HERE.

LOSS

Carolina Dream

Carolina Dream I remember starting this book and struggling to get into it. The pace was a bit slow for my taste and I didn’t feel connected to the characters. It may have been a victim of my struggle to concentrate during my travels in China this summer and no fault of the book at all. Either way, it wound up on my DNF list. I might try it again in the future.

LOSS

The Captive Brides Collection

The Captive Brides While I did finish this novella collection, I ultimately decided not to officially review it.  My reasons in a nutshell:  several of the stories went beyond my estimation of plausibility, the romance was more of an afterthought for a few of the stories than the main plot, and at least one author presented a view which I strongly disagreed with. That said, a couple of them were fun, quick reads with entertaining premises. Also, I do know there are other bloggers who fully enjoyed this collection. So take my opinion for what it is:  my opinion.

LOVE

Finding Love At the Oregon Coast

Finding Love at the Oregon Coast This was a thoroughly entertaining collection of contemporary romance novellas which I can confidently recommend. I enjoyed the fun way the collection began with one novella that included all the heroines in the following novellas. Each of these women were well-rounded, developed characters worthy of their staring roles.

LOSS

One Thousand White Women

One Thousand White Women – The real sour apple in the bunch. I loved the unique premise of this book, but the execution went in a direction I didn’t anticipate or care to read. It contained cursing and glorified situations I consider sinful. This is permanently on my DNF list.

LOVE

Turtles in the Road

Turtles in the Road The golden apple! I absolutely fell in love with this novel and have read it twice now – and I am NOT a rereader! I cannot say enough how much I just adore this novel! You can find my full review of this hilarious contemporary Christian romance, HERE.

WAITING

Beneath the golden veil

Beneath a Golden Veil This one breaks my heart because I have wanted to read it for so long and I still haven’t. I know. I know. I said I was going to read it and I fully intended to read this one on the plane to China. That was my downfall right there. I could not have concentrated on that flight to save my life. I knew better than to even attempt reading. And so this poor book is still languishing on my TBR list. *sigh* Soon. I will read this one soon.

WAITING

from this moment

From This Moment Another book I fully intended to read and just didn’t. I don’t know why. I have no excuse other than:  life. You know? That annoying thing that gets in the way of reading. Thus this one is also still waiting on my TBR list.

What about you? Do you ever make reading lists? Do you always finish them or are you like me and life gets in the way?

 

My Review – Love at First Laugh

My Review - Love at First Laugh

about-the-book-2

Dive into eight brand new contemporary Christian romantic comedies from some of your favorite inspirational authors.

From light-hearted romance to laugh-out-loud love, this set will put a smile on your face and keep you reading long into the night.

Second Impressions by award-winning author Pepper Basham
He likes streamline. She prefers embellishments. His forte is business. Hers is atmosphere. Will they realize each has what the other needs most to create the perfect romance with a touch of Jane Austin flair?

Mowed Over by USA Today bestselling author Christina Coryell
A tiny, chatty fairy artist with multicolored pastel hair. A burly, bearded landscaper who can’t get a word in edgewise. They have nothing in common, but is that enough to keep them apart?

An Informal Affair by award-winning author Heather Gray
She’s tired of waiting for happily-ever-after, so she takes matters into her own hands…with online dating. He has the worst bad-date streak ever. How will God show two people who are determined to do things their own way that He’s had a perfect plan all along?

A Heart Restored by Elizabeth Maddrey
She renovates old houses. Can he restore her heart?

Unleashing Love by Jessica R. Patch
She’s a dog walker who agrees to a full-time position caring for a puppy. In total shock, she’s handed a precious baby girl. He’s a construction mogul who’s taken his infant niece into temporary relative placement — keyword: temporary. Unless the sassy southern nanny can change his mind…and his heart.

A (nearly) Normal Nanny by Krista Phillips
Normal is highly overrated…

That’s When I Knew by award-winning author Laurie Tomlinson
When two childhood sweethearts find themselves thrown together on the road to a trade show that could save her career, past mistakes threaten to ruin her chances—and the possibility of rekindling a romance. Will the end of the summer find them apart once again?

A Time to Laugh by USA Today bestselling author Marion Ueckermann
When an unexpected inheritance and a lung disease diagnosis coincide, a missionary couple realizes God is telling them it’s time to retire. But sometimes retirement comes with strings attached. Will their life-long dream be a blessing or a curse?

Why This Book:

Well there were several reasons, actually:

  1. I enjoy novellas.
  2. Pepper Basham is one of the included authors.
  3. Romantic Comedy may be my favorite kind of anything – book, movie, song, ice cream.  (Is there a romantic comedy ice cream? Because if there is, I’d probably love it.)

Opening Line(s):

Second Impressions:  Birthdays were not her happy place.

Mowed Over:  With the magnifying glass dangling from the contraption atop her head, Willow Sharpe barely touched the tip of her toothpick into the black ink and made one more slight adjustment to the book that measured only an inch in height.

An Informal Affair:  Lia Promise stared at eh man across the table from her. 

A Heart Restored:  “You did what?”

Unleashing Love:  Just once Emma Kate Lambert wanted to be the center of the sandwich and not the crust. 

A (nearly) Normal Nanny:  “… eighteen-one-thousand, nineteen-one-thousand, twenty-one-thousand! Ready or not, here I come!”

That’s when I knew:  Bless her heart.

A Time to Laugh:  Arms still extended on the Vortex Spin Bike’s handles, Elizabeth Dunham sat back down on the narrow seat.

First Impressions:

Since the first novella in the Love at First Laugh collection was Pepper’s, I’ll use her beginning for my “first impression.” Now you know I’m a major Pepper Basham fan, but I have to admit, I just wasn’t feeling it at the start of Second Impressions. Knowing Pepper, though, I kept reading and eventually I warmed to the story.

Love At First Laugh - Intelligence Quote Image

Characters:

The characters in these stories ran the gamut from a popular fairy artist to a retired missionary. Yet they each held their own when it came to keeping my attention and engaging my heart. Although you can’t typically flesh out any character in a novella to the same depth that you can in a full-length novel, these characters came across as three-dimensional and real.

Love At First Laugh - Overthinking Quote

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

Some of the novellas were page turners while others kept me reading at a steady pace, but none of them bored me. There were some I related to more than others, but I was rooting for each and every relationship to succeed.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

My favorite novella in this collection would have to be Mowed Over by Christina Coryell, because I felt her characters were the most unique. Perhaps it’s because I have a crafty side and three active young boys at home so I could relate to her angst over her little fairy village being threatened by the big nasty mower. Whatever it the reason, Mowed Over is the story that made me smile the most.

However, I have to add that I enjoyed the surprise of the final novella in the collection being very different from the rest. I’m not sure you can call it a romance in the classic sense (the couple is already married and very much in love at the start of the story and that never changes), but the story very much reflects true love in action both through the couple themselves and through their relationship with God.

Ending:

I was very satisfied with each of the endings in this collection. Some I enjoyed more than others, but that’s inevitable.

Overall Rating:

I always have a difficult time reviewing novella collections because it’s like reviewing a box of chocolates. They’re usually all pretty good. Some are amazing. Some are just okay. In the end, you just wanted chocolate and chocolate is what you got. So you’re happy.

I would say the same could be said about this collection (although I’m having trouble thinking of any of them as “just okay”).  I would definitely read more work by any of these authors.

4 out of 5 stars

(none of the links in this review are affiliate links)

Material Note:  I purchased my own copy of this book, for my own reading pleasure.

What do you think of including a non-romance in a romantic comedy collection?

TWEETABLES:

A novella collection is like a box of chocolates.  – Click to Tweet

Check out this review of a romantic comedy novella collection. – Click to Tweet

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos in this post for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !

Summer Reading Roundup 2017 +GIVEAWAY!

Summer Reading Roundup 2017 +Giveaway

Hey everybody! Guess what today is? My birthday! So I thought I’d celebrate by sharing the list of books I’ll be reading this summer and giving away a book to one of you awesome readers! (Read through to the bottom for giveaway details.)

Since I will be traveling to China for an adoption next month, I won’t have as much free time to read this summer as I normally would. Therefore, this year’s list is somewhat limited, but here are the books I am hoping to get to:

Love Held Captive

Love Held Captive by Shelley Shepard Gray

Why:  I requested a free copy of this book from NetGalley to review because the premise intrigued me. Then I opened it to read the first line for an FLF post and couldn’t put it down! I made myself stop after 3 chapters because I have other books to finish first, but I can’t wait to get back to this one.

About the Book: 

After the War Between the States, a Confederate officer longs to heal the heart of a beautiful woman—but first he’ll have to right the wrongs that were done to her.

Major Ethan Kelly has never been able to absolve himself of the guilt he feels for raiding a woman’s home shortly before he was taken prisoner during the Civil War. He is struggling to get through each day until he once again crosses paths with Lizbeth Barclay—the very woman he is trying to forget.

Life after the war is not much different for former Captain Devin Monroe until he meets Julianne VanFleet. He knows she is the woman he’s been waiting for, but he struggles to come to terms with the sacrifices she made to survive the war.

When Ethan and Devin discover that their former colonel, Adam Bushnell, is responsible for both Lizbeth’s and Julianne’s pain, they call on their former fellow soldiers to hunt him down. As the men band together to earn the trust of the women they love, Lizbeth and Julianne seek the justice they deserve in a country longing to heal.

The Lady and the Lionheart

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

Why:  This one has made several rounds to rave reviews on the book blogger circuit, which got it on my TBR pile. Then I discovered the author is a fellow member of the San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild and met some of her friends at the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference last month. That made me curious enough to open it and read the first few pages. What I read moved it toward the top of my TBR pile. 🙂 I’m really looking forward to this one!

About the Book: 

Virginia, 1890

Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.

As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.

Finders Keepers and All of You by Sarah Monzon

Why:  I loved her debut novel, The Isaac Project, so when I was offered the opportunity to be part of an upcoming tour for All of You, I jumped on it! Of course, I much prefer reading series books in order (even if they can be read as stand alones), so I am going to try to read Finders Keepers first. The fact that Finders Keepers won the 2017 SELAH award for contemporary romance, is just added assurance that this will be time well spent.

About the Books: 

Finders Keepers

Three lives. Three hundred years. One ship that ties them together.

Florida, Present Day
Summer Arnet will go anywhere to capture the perfect shot that will get her marine photography noticed by the prestigious nature magazine, Our World–even diving in waters haunted by great white sharks. When a treasure hunter with a ladies’-man reputation approaches her about a sunken ship at one of her dive locations, it may be the chance she’s been looking for to launch her career…if his charming smile doesn’t derail her first.

A past tragedy has left a hole in Trent Carrington’s life–a hole he’s tried to fill with women, money, and adventure. Could the feisty marine photographer be the missing piece, or will Trent finally accept that the treasure he seeks can’t be found where rust and moths destroy?

Spain, 1689
The same evil that stole her mother’s life stalks Isabella Castellano. Afraid for her safety, Isabella disguises herself as a cabin boy and hires on to one of His Majesty’s treasure fleet vessels. But has her flight from a known threat only led her to be ensnared in a sea of dangers?

All of You

Maryland, Present Day

Jacquelyn Rogers can rebuild anything…except the shambles of her past. A restorer of vintage planes, she’s worked hard to earn the reputation of being one of the guys. The last thing she needs is a former Navy pilot fighting his own inner demons stepping in to defend her from dangers she thought she’d outrun long ago. Some battles must be fought alone.

After a freak accident severs Lieutenant Michael “Finch” Carrington’s dreams, as well as two limbs, he’s left with nothing but a fragile faith and a duty-bound promise to watch out for his friend’s baby sister. A promise she insists is as unnecessary as it is unappreciated. But when she turns the tables and begins to weld together the broken parts of his life, it may be his heart that is in need of protection.

England, 1944

With the world at war yet again, Alice Galloway rejects her father’s traditional expectations and offers her piloting expertise to the Air Transport Auxiliary. She may be a woman in a man’s world, but when she overhears key intelligence, she must find the strength to transcend boundaries and her own fears. Or countless people may die.

Sometimes the past reaches forward to bring hope to the future.

Carolina Dream

Carolina Dream by Regina Rudd Merrick

Why:  I recently won a free copy of this book from the God Is Love blog. It’s a debut novel (I love reading new authors), the premise sounds interesting, the reviews so far have been positive, and the first few pages read well.

About the Book: 

Sarah Crawford wants more from life than to attend the wedding of her ex-fiancée. An unexpected inheritance in South Carolina comes at the perfect time, just as Sarah is willing to use any excuse to get out of town.

When she meets potential business partner Jared Benton and discovers that a house is part of the inheritance, she is sure that God has been preparing her for this time through a recurring dream. But will a dream about an antebellum mansion, many rooms to be explored, and a man with dark brown eyes give her the confidence to take a leap of faith, leaving friends, family, and her job behind?

The Captive Brides Collection

The Captive Brides Collection by Jennifer AlLee, Angela Breidenbach, Susan Page Davis, Darlene Franklin, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hicky, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Lucy Thompson, and Gina Welborn

Why:  I was perusing NetGalley for books to request for review and found the premise for this novella collection to be intriguing. I am also fairly sure I haven’t read anything by any of these authors before, so it will be a good way to know whether I should be looking for more of their work in the future. Plus, a novella collection might be just the thing to fit between appointments near the end of summer.

About the Book: 

Love Brings Freedom in 9 Historical Romances

Journey along as nine historical women are about to make their escape from some of life’s greatest challenges. Can their captive hearts be freed to dream, to dare, to love?

Love’s Labour’s Found by Jennifer AlLee – Montserrat, West Indies, 1655
Temperance Simms only wanted a better life. Instead, she finds herself labeled a criminal and sold as an indentured servant. After a kind man saves her life, can Temperance trust that God will turn her sorrow into something beautiful?

His Indentured Bride by Angela Breidenbach – Pennsylvania, 1770-1775
Leaving Scotland for a short indenture with her betrothed, Maire Gree’s contract is sold when disaster strikes her kindly owner, and then extended through cruel circumstances. Can Kirk Lachlan’s service in the American Revolution save her or will she lose love and freedom forever?

The Suspect Bride by Susan Page Davis – Oregon, 1890s
Verity Ames cooks at the restaurant where shy lawyer Jack Whitwell eats lunch daily. As Jack works up courage to ask her for a date, the sheriff walks into the restaurant and arrests her for murder.

His Golden Treasure by Darlene Franklin – Barbary Coast, San Francisco, CA, 1873
Goldie Hatfield grows up on in the Barbary Coast until her guardian demands she pay the cost of her upbringing—or work at her brothel. How far will Pastor Joshua Kerr go to set Goldie free?

Through Stormy Waters by Patty Smith Hall – Atlantic Ocean, 1755
Deported to the British colonies for her father’s crimes, Charlotte Singleton helps Captain Andrew Randell when an epidemic breaks out on the ship. Can two battered hearts find love in the midst of a storm?

Moira’s Quest by Cynthia Hickey – New York, 1869
A quest for revenge ends in a marriage of convenience and a feisty Irish lass discovers that not everything is as it seems as family secrets are revealed. An Irish cop, bent on saving the fallen women of Five Points, New York, finds himself thrust into the role of husband with a woman determined to break down a notorious crime boss. Can these two pull together and find a love bigger than they are?

Love’s Escape by Carrie Fancett Pagels – Virginia, 1850
With her life in peril, Lettie seeks escape from slavery. When Nathan offers to “conduct” her North via an unusual segment on the Underground Railroad, will his efforts help or do them both harm?

Waltzing Matilda by Lucy Thompson – Sydney, Australia, 1821
Henry didn’t plan on a runaway convict masquerading as a shepherd. Or on the woman’s baby. Keeping them safe will cost him his freedom—or will it?

A Score to Settle by Gina Welborn – On the Missouri River, 1870
For JoJo the kiss was a means to an end—she wanted his wallet. For Cyrus her kiss changed everything. He vows to help her escape the snake oil salesman she works for, but exposing the man’s lies may mean settling a score at a cost neither JoJo nor Cyrus can pay.

Finding Love At the Oregon Coast

Finding Love at the Oregon Coast – a novella collection by Angela Ruth Strong, Christina Coryell, Heather Whoodhaven,  and Lisa Phillips

Why:  When I was researching the small publishing company, Mountain Brook Ink, in preparation for attending the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference where the owner would be available for appointments, I discovered this collection with a novella by Christina Coryell. I recognized Coryell’s name as the author of one of my favorite stories (Mowed Over) from the Love at First Laugh novella collection.  So I bought this one because I liked one of the authors (I don’t recognize the others).

About the Book: 

When a wedding is cancelled, three bridesmaids and a runaway bride contemplate the true meaning of love in four related romance novellas.

By Heather Woodhaven–Finding Love in Lincoln City: Liz feels stuck at her little beach magazine until a handsome rival sparks more than just friendly competition.

By Lisa Phillips–Finding Love in Oceanside: Anabeth is looking to get out of her rut when a fender bender and a bizarre date with a former marine leads her to a life of love she could never have imagined.

By Christina Coryell–Finding Love in Cannon Beach: Kadence feels the pressure to write a perfect love song, but an unexpected meeting with a musician will have her living one instead.

By Angela Ruth Strong–Finding Love in Seaside: Christina plans to spend her honeymoon alone, but when the bed and breakfast owner offers her a position as cook, she starts to feel at home in his kitchen…and in his arms.

 

One Thousand White Women

One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

Why:  I stumbled across this one purely by chance on Amazon and found the premise positively fascinating.

About the Book:

One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial “Brides for Indians” program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man’s world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.

Important UPDATE Note:  While I was aware that One Thousand White Women was written for the general market, as opposed to a Christian audience, at the time this post was originally written,  I was unaware of its occasional use of profanity and reference to subjects which some Christians may find distasteful or offensive. Consider yourself warned. This book made my DNF (Did Not Finish) list.

Turtles in the Road

Turtles in the Road by Rhonda Rhea & Kaley Rhea

Why:  This one was highly recommended on a fellow FLF blog and sounds like a fun read with a sense of humor.

About the Book: 

Sometimes a detour takes you exactly where you need to be.

Piper Cope was so sure the Lord called her to be a pastor’s wife. So when her pastor/fiancé breaks it off, she’s every kind of puzzled. Does God even have a purpose for her anymore? On the road halfway between the bridges she’s burned and some kind of new start, she encounters the most unexpected detour. She swerves on a rainy road to miss a turtle and ends up in a ditch with an airbag to the face. Now stuck in this little town, she wonders how in the world she could’ve gotten her God-signals so very crossed. And how in the world is she supposed to know what He wants her to do now? In the meantime, at least the community center guy, Jay Marler, has her working a temporary job there. Problem is, somehow she’s coaching a children’s basketball team. She does not…basketball. And she certainly does not children.

Beneath the golden veil

Beneath a Golden Veil by Melanie Dobson

Why:  The connection to an lesser known part of California’s nineteenth century history will get me every time.

About the Book: 

As elegant as the Sacramento residence she operates, Isabelle Labrie keeps her past concealed, like the treasure she hides under the Golden Hotel. It’s 1853, the heyday of the California Gold Rush. Isabelle is full of hope, staking her claim on the city’s refined clientele and her future on a sweetheart’s promise to marry her when he returns from the gold fields. Then, unexpected guests—fugitive slaves seeking safe passage to the North—force her to confront her past and reconsider her path.

While Isabelle learns to trust God’s provisions, a law student in Virginia must confront his father’s cruelty and rescue a young slave from his family’s tobacco plantation. As the two escape to freedom, and Isabelle risks everything to harbor runaway slaves, the past and present are set on an inevitable collision course—one that reveals hidden treasures of the heart.

from this moment

From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden

Why:  I recently finished reading Against the Tide and want to read more of Elizabeth Camden’s work, plus I was able to snag this one on Audible which means I can listen to it while I do laundry or whatever brainless chore is taking me away from my precious books.

About the Book: 

Romulus White has tried for years to hire illustrator Stella West for his renowned scientific magazine. She is the missing piece he needs to propel his magazine to the forefront of the industry.

But Stella abruptly quit the art world and moved to Boston with a single purpose: to solve the mysterious death of her beloved sister. Romulus, a man with connections to high society and every important power circle in the city, could be her most valuable ally.

Sparks fly the instant Stella and Romulus join forces, and Romulus soon realizes the strong-willed and charismatic Stella could disrupt his hard-won independence. Can they continue to help each other when their efforts draw the wrong kind of attention from the powers-that-be and put all they’ve worked for at risk?

books-42701_1280

Three Words and a Kiss by Sondra Kraak

Why: I loved the first two books in Sondra’s Love That Counts series!

About the Book:  Although a little birdy told me to expect this release near the end of summer, it isn’t even out for pre-order yet so I don’t know much about this one. I only know what Sondra shared in her interview with me:

In Three Words and a Kiss (this year’s release), my hero Cam experiences an identity crisis. His safe, routine life is turned upside down when the owner of his blacksmith shop, Samantha Klein, comes to town. Samantha’s nickname is Sam. I wanted their names to rhyme so that Cam feels like even something as fundamental as his name is being stripped from him (she doesn’t like how their names sound alike and asks him to change his. What?! He’s not going for that).

Looking for more reading suggestions? Check out these post by fellow Christian Fiction lovers:

My Top 10 Anticipated Summer Reads & Why They Made the Cut by Chautona Havig

2017 Summer Reading List by Radiant Light

Summer Reading Roundup by Moments Dipped In Ink

Summer Reading List 2017 by A Baker’s Perspective

 

giveaway-5

How it works:

STEP 1 – Tweet or post (publicly) on Facebook the answer to this question & TAG ME @KathleenDenly :

  1. Which book would you like to win a copy of? (You may pick any book from this post OR any book which I have previously reviewed on this blog!)

(Your tweet/FB post could read:  I’m hoping to win BOOK TITLE HERE from @KathleenDenly!)

STEP 2 –  Leave a comment on this post with the answer to this question –

  1. Which of the books in my Summer Reading Roundup 2017 post sound the most appealing to you? (I will add the most popular book to my list of books to review here on the blog!)

RULES:

MUST complete both steps to enter. Shares and comments must be complete by midnight July 17th! Winner will be announced in a special post on this blog July 19th. Winner must contact me at writeKathleenDenly@gmail.com within 24 hours of the announcement and provide an email address for prize delivery.

WINNER WILL RECEIVE:  1 digital copy of their chosen book delivered to their email via Amazon.

First Line Friday – 4.28.17

first-line-friday-3

It’s Friday, which means I’m sharing with you the first line from a book near me and I’m hoping you’ll share the first line of the book nearest you!

Today’s book has been sitting impatiently on my TBR (to-be-read) list for months and I’m expecting to get to it in the next few weeks! It’s Under A Blackberry Moon by Serena B. Miller, author of one of the few books I have read more than once, The Measure of Katie Calloway.

Under the Blackberry Moon

Don’t you just love that cover? Here’s the first line:

Bay City, Michigan
May 15, 1868

“Whose squaw are you, girl?”

I am so excited to be reading this soon!

Now it’s your turn! Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first line!

Then head on over and share your first line with these friends:

Andi @ Radiant Light

Carrie @ Reading Is My Super Power

Rachel @ Bookworm Mama

Sydney @ Singing Librarian Books

Robin @ Robin’s Nest

Katie @ Fiction Aficionado

Bree @ Bibliophile Reviews

Beth @ Faithfully Bookish

Amanda @ With A Joyful Noise

Jessica @ A Baker’s Perspective

Heather @ Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Sarah @ All the Book Blog Names are Taken

Lauraine @ Lauraine’s Notes