Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I Can’t Wait for You to Release!!!

        Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about the ten releases for the first half of this New Year that I am looking forward to the most. Fortunately, this year there are TONS of great books that are going to release, so it wasn’t difficult to find ten novels I cannot wait for. The only problem, however, was actually narrowing it down to ten. So, I didn’t. This list is twelve instead of ten, and that was difficult in and of itself, even though I only allowed myself to add one book from each author. So, here are all the amazing books I cannot wait for!

Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley

        I am so, so excited for this book, that releases on the first day of January!!! I already added this to my January must-haves post; here’s what I said about it:

        Calico Spy is the third book in Margaret Brownley’s Undercover Ladies series, coming after Petticoat Detective and Undercover Bride. While I didn’t have the chance to read Undercover Bride, I did read Petticoat Detective, and I absolutely loved it. Margaret does a wonderful job of weaving together mystery and romance in a way that is intriguing and unforgettable, and this novel sounds like it would be no exception. I cannot wait to hopefully have the chance to get lost between the pages of such a captivating-sounding mystery!

Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund

        This is one of the books I am looking forward to the most!!! I absolutely cannot wait for its release on January fifth! I already added this one to my must-haves post as well; here’s how excited I am for it:

        Undaunted Hope is the third book in Jody Hedlund’s Beacons of Hope series, coming after Love Unexpected and Hearts Made Whole. I absolutely loved both of the previous novels in the series, so I just know that I will really enjoy the final installment as well. It sounds as if it will be the perfect conclusion to the story, and I’m so excited to see what happens to Tessa, who I met earlier in Hearts Made Whole.

A Worthy Heart by Susan Anne Mason

        Here’s another novel I recently added to my January must-haves post. I am eagerly looking forward to its January fifth release; here’s what I said about it:

        A Worthy Heart is the second book in Susan Anne Mason’s Courage to Dream series, coming after Irish Meadows. I really, really enjoyed Irish Meadows, and I absolutely cannot wait to get to read Adam’s story. He seemed like such a tough, bad-boy-type guy when I met him in the first novel, and I am excited to see how he really is, and how he redeems himself throughout the story. Bad guys who redeem themselves are literally the best, so I am super pumped to watch Adam go through that process.

Mermaid Moon by Colleen Coble

        Mermaid Moon is the fourth and final release from my January must-haves post that made it onto this list, and is possibly the one I am looking forward to the most, in January that is. It releases on the twelfth, and here’s what I said about it earlier:

        Mermaid Moon is the second book in Colleen Coble’s Sunset Cove series, coming after The Inn at Ocean’s Edge. I really LOVED every single second of The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, so I cannot WAIT to open up Mermaid Moon. Fortunately, I was blessed with the wonderful opportunity to be an influencer for it, so I already have my copy that I will start just as soon as I get the chance. Look out for my review, because it’s coming soon and it’s going to be full of reasons why Colleen is an amazing author.

You’re the One That I Want by Susan May Warren

        I absolutely CANNOT wait for this novel! By far, this is the 2016 release I am looking forward to the most. You’re the One That I Want is the sixth book in Susan May Warren’s Christiansen Family series, coming after Take a Chance on Me, It Had to Be You, When I Fall in Love, Always on My Mind, and The Wonder of You. I LOVED the first four novels, am dying to read the fifth, and cannot wait for this one. Susan May Warren is an AMAZING author who does a wonderful job with each one of her books, so I just know this novel will be all that I am hoping it will be. I cannot wait for February first when it releases!!!

A Spy’s Devotion by Melanie Dickerson
        I absolutely LOVE Melanie Dickerson’s novels. I have read quite a few of her fairy tale retellings—The Golden Braid being the latest—and every single one has made it onto my all-time favorites list. I am excited to share that A Spy’s Devotion, which releases on the ninth of February, will be the first book in her new series called The Regency Spies of London. I am so excited that she is starting a whole new series, and I cannot wait to dive into this book once it releases!

Room for Hope by Kim Vogel Sawyer
        I absolutely love everything by Kim Vogel Sawyer. So when I heard she had Room for Hope in the works, I added it to my to-read list, even though there wasn’t even a description to be found so I had no idea what it was about. As I expected, my decision was confirmed once the description was posted, as this novel sounds full of pain, love, and hope (obviously), and like it will definitely touch my heart. Therefore, I cannot wait for its February sixteenth release, and am hoping I will be able to preorder it when the time comes so that I can read it as soon as possible.

Playing the Part by Jen Turano

        Playing the Part is the third book in Jen Turano’s A Class of Their Own series, coming behind After a Fashion and In Good Company, and is another book I am absolutely DYING to read. I read After a Fashion back in the summer, and absolutely LOVED it, and have been ready to read the rest of the series ever since. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to move on to the second book, and clearly this novel hasn’t released so I cannot read it yet, but I cannot wait for the day when I finally can! It comes out on the seventh of March, and I am hoping I will have my own copy by that day or the day after so that I can enjoy it.

The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter

        This is another novel that I am looking forward to the most! I am a HUGE fan of Denise Hunter’s, and the description of this book tells me it is going to be a story worth dying for. The Goodbye Bride is the second book in Denise’s Summer Harbor series, coming after Falling Like Snowflakes. I melted my way through that book, and know that I am going to do the same with this one. That’s why I’m already planning on preordering it; because I absolutely cannot WAIT to read it!!! I’m serious, go read Falling Like Snowflakes—and my review of it if you don’t mind—and then read the description of The Goodbye Bride. The description alone will make you melt! Clearly, I am so ready for this novel’s March eighth release!

The Reluctant Duchess by Roseanna M. White

        The Reluctant Duchess is the second book in Roseanna M. White’s Ladies of the Manor series, coming after The Lost Heiress. I absolutely LOVED that novel; in fact, I’m still thinking and dreaming about it and I read it back in September! Roseanna is literally one of my favorite authors of all time, so I am absolutely counting the days until this next novel releases! Unfortunately, it doesn’t come out until the fifth of April, so I’ve got a lot of waiting to do. Thankfully, though, I know that it will be worth it, and I am already dreaming of owning my own copy.

The Midwife’s Dilemma by Delia Parr

        The Midwife’s Dilemma is the third book in Delia Parr’s At Home in Trinity series, coming after The Midwife’s Tale and The Midwife’s Choice. I have only read The Midwife’s Tale, but I absolutely loved it, and I cannot wait for the day when I finally get the chance to read the next two books in the series. Delia is a wonderful author who does an amazing job of weaving together interesting tales that touch your heart, and I cannot wait to dive into her next release when it finally comes out on April the fifth.

No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer

        Let’s just get one thing straight, I am a die-hard Karen Witemeyer fan. I have read six of her seven full length novels--and I just recently purchased the one I haven’t read so that I will hopefully be able to get to it soon—and every single one of those six books has made it onto my all-time favorites list. She is that good. Her most recent release, A Worthy Heart, completely knocked my socks off, and made me that much more excited for the day when she would come out with her next book. No Other Will Do is that book, and it sounds like another that will find a place on my favorites list. I cannot WAIT for June seventh when it finally releases!!!

        So, those are my top ten (or twelve) most anticipated new releases for January-June 2016! What about you? What are some new books you can’t wait to read next year?
        Happy Tuesday and happy reading!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup created by The Broke and the Bookish.

To see where I’m linking up, check out my Where I Party page.

For my reviews of each novel I mention having read, just click their highlighted titles.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Must-Have January Releases

        How is it already almost January? I cannot believe it is about to be 2016! That seems like such a crazy concept, and yet, here it is. The good thing about this transition though, is that there are so many wonderful novels I am looking forward to this year, especially in January. Here’s my list of the books that are releasing this upcoming month, I am sure you can find something there you will enjoy as there are quite a few different types of fiction represented here.

Calico Spy

        Pinkerton operative Katie Madison’s newest case takes her to Calico, Kansas, where two Harvey House restaurant waitresses were murdered in mysterious circumstances. Calico’s sheriff, Branch Whitman, has never met a Pink he liked and is stunned to learn the pretty redhead’s true identity as she works undercover as a Harvey girl. A tornado hits town, and a past deception puts Branch’s eight-year-old son in danger. Now the Sheriff has no choice but to work with Katie or chance losing everything he holds dear.

        Calico Spy is the third book in Margaret Brownley’s Undercover Ladies series, coming after Petticoat Detective and Undercover Bride. While I didn’t have the chance to read Undercover Bride, I did read Petticoat Detective, and I absolutely loved it. Margaret does a wonderful job of weaving together mystery and romance in a way that is intriguing and unforgettable, and this novel sounds like it would be no exception. I cannot wait to hopefully have the chance to get lost between the pages of such a captivating-sounding mystery!

Beyond the Silence

        Lillian Porter has always wanted to fulfill her mother’s dream of going west, so when she hears about a nanny position in Angels Camp, California, she defies her grandfather and takes a chance on a new future. But she quickly wonders if she made the right choice. There are rumors in town that her new employer, Woodward Colton, caused the death of his wife. This accusation doesn’t match the man Lillian comes to know—and Mrs. Goodman, Woody’s long-time housekeeper, is decisively on Woody’s side—but many in town stay far away from Lillian because of her association with the Colton family.
        Lillian’s six-year-old charge, Jimmy, was there when his mother died, and he hasn’t spoken a word since. Gently, Lillian tries to coax him out of his shell, hoping he’ll one day feel safe enough to tell her the truth about what happened. But the Colton olive farm is no longer a safe place. Lillian encounters suspicious characters on their land and mysterious damage done to the farm. Will Mrs. Goodman and Jimmy be able to speak what they know in time to save Lillian from tragedy?

        Although I have read quite a few books by Tracie Peterson, I have yet to read anything by Kimberly Woodhouse, so I am excited to be able to dive right into this novel that they wrote together. Beyond the Silence seems like such a deep, mysterious, heartwarming story that I am so sure I am going to love, so I am extremely glad that I will be receiving a copy as soon as it can finally get here. I am hopeful that it will be just as amazing as it sounds, and that I will be able to post my review of it someday this month!

Thin Ice

        After losing her parents in a car accident and her sister to a house fire, Christy Reed has been mired in grief. Life is finally starting to feel normal again when an envelope arrives in the mail—addressed in her sister’s handwriting. And the note inside claims she is still alive.
        FBI Special Agent Lance McGregor, a former Delta Force operator, is assigned to reopen the case, but he’s coming up with more questions than answers. If Ginny Reed is still alive—who is the woman buried in her grave? Where is Ginny? And is Christy a pawn in a twisted cat-and-mouse game—or the target of a sinister plot? As he digs deeper, one thing becomes clear: whoever is behind the bizarre ruse has a deadly agenda.

        Thin Ice is the second book in Irene Hannon’s Men of Valor series, coming after Buried Secrets. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to read Buried Secrets, so I cannot accurately tell you what all these novels hold, but I have heard wonderful things about both the stories and Irene Hannon, so I am hopeful that Thin Ice will be an interesting read. It definitely sounds captivating!

Undaunted Hope

        Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won’t be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can’t help but say she is  in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him.
        Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she’s the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

        Undaunted Hope is the third book in Jody Hedlund’s Beacons of Hope series, coming after Love Unexpected and Hearts Made Whole. I absolutely loved both of the previous novels in the series, so I just know that I will really enjoy the final installment as well. It sounds as if it will be the perfect conclusion to the story, and I’m so excited to see what happens to Tessa, who I met earlier in Hearts Made Whole.

A Worthy Heart

Can an Irish lass with a dream for America find true love?
        Maggie Montgomery’s long-held wish to see America is finally coming true. She’ll visit her beloved brother Rylan and his wife, Colleen, and at the same time, escape Neill Fitzgerald’s unwanted attention. In addition, Maggie has a secret! She plans to remain in America to seek her fortune and to hopefully find love. While visiting Irish Meadows, she meets an intriguing man whom she thinks is a stable hand. Only when Rylan demands she stay away from Adam O’Leary does she realize he’s Colleen’s brother, recently released from prison. Nonetheless, Maggie can’t seem to make her heart conform to her brother’s request.
        Adam O’Leary has never felt worthy of his place in the family. Spending time in jail only reinforces his belief. Now that he’s free, Adam hopes to make amends and earn back his family’s trust. Falling in love with Maggie Montgomery, however, was never in his plans.
        Despite everyone’s effort to keep them apart, the two develop a bond nothing can break—but has Adam truly changed, or will the sins of his past prove too much for Maggie to overcome?

        A Worthy Heart is the second book in Susan Anne Mason’s Courage to Dream series, coming after Irish Meadows. I really, really enjoyed Irish Meadows, and I absolutely cannot wait to get to read Adam’s story. He seemed like such a tough, bad-boy-type guy when I met him in the first novel, and I am excited to see how he really is, and how he redeems himself throughout the story. Bad guys who redeem themselves are literally the best, so I am super pumped to watch Adam go through that process.

Mermaid Moon

Audra’s father uttered his last words in a phone call: “Come home to Mermaid Beach.” Now she’s back—determined to find the truth.
        Audra Davis believes her father was murdered. Her childhood sweetheart Kevin O’Connor, game warden of Mermaid Beach, is also suspicious of the accident—but he’s equally determined to keep Audra at arm’s length. She broke his heart years ago when she left without a word. He’s not about to lower his guard and let her get close again. He has his daughter Faith to think about. With his track record, he doesn’t think any woman will stay in down-east Maine’s remote windswept coast.
        Hoping to discover what happened to her father, Audra takes over his mail boat duties, guiding his trusted boat on deliveries to see what she can uncover. Soon she finds letters from her birth mother—letters postmarked but never delivered. How could her father have kept them from her all this time? Do they have anything to do with his murder?
        In spite of his doubts, Kevin thinks Audra might be right about her father’s death. As the only law enforcement officer in the area, he has a duty to help her track down the killer. Spending so much time together begins to rekindle the torch he’s carried for her all these years, but he still sees the guilt in her eyes that drove her away in the first place, guilt over choosing to spend time with him the fateful night her mother dies instead of fueling her mother’s boat. Can Kevin and Audra navigate their way to each other before a murderer rips them apart forever?

        Mermaid Moon is the second book in Colleen Coble’s Sunset Cove series, coming after The Inn at Ocean’s Edge. I really LOVED every single second of The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, so I cannot WAIT to open up Mermaid Moon. Fortunately, I was blessed with the wonderful opportunity to be an influencer for it, so I already have my copy that I will start just as soon as I get the chance. Look out for my review, because it’s coming soon and it’s going to be full of reasons why Colleen is an amazing author.

Keeper of the Stars

She blames him for her brother’s death. Can she let go of resentment and open her heart to love?
        Penny Cartwright found it difficult to understand why her younger brother would choose to join a country singer’s band rather than return to Kings Meadow after college…and the separation strained their relationship. Then a car accident made certain her brother could never return.
        Trevor Reynolds has chased stardom in Nashville for more than a dozen years, but it remains out of his reach. After an accident kills his young drummer, Trevor goes to Kings Meadow to keep a promise—and perhaps to discover what truly matters in this life.
        Thrown together by circumstances, Penny and Trevor must learn to give and receive forgiveness. And if they do, perhaps something beautiful can rise from the ashes of heartbreak.

        Keeper of the Stars is the third book in Robin Lee Hatcher’s Kings Meadow Romance series, coming after Love Without End and Whenever You Come Around. I absolutely LOVED Whenever You Come Around, and I really enjoyed Love Without End as well, so I am almost certain I will love Keeper of the Stars as well. It sounds like the perfect story, full of heartbreak and redemption, forgiveness and love, and I absolutely cannot wait to read it! Good thing I am also receiving a copy of this one!

A Son’s Vow

        Three months ago, everything changed for Darla Kurtz and her family. Darla’s father was responsible for a terrible fire at the Charm’s lumber mill which killed five Amish men. And though he, too, lost his life, the town of Charm hasn’t looked at her family the same since. Even Lukas Kinsinger—with whom Darla used to have a close relationship.
        Now her brother’s anger at the town is spilling over onto Darla, and she has the bruises to prove it. The accident already cost five lives, but if something doesn’t change soon, Darla fears it will cost her—and her family—even more.
        Lukas Kinsinger wants to mourn the loss of his father, but he can hardly find time to breathe. Suddenly the head of his father’s lumber mill and responsible for taking care of his three siblings, he’s feeling the pressure. He has also never felt more alone—especially with the new tension between he and Darla. But when he learns of her troubles at home, Lukas knows he can’t simply stand by and watch. Someone has to help her before another tragedy occurs.
        As Lukas and Darla attempt to repair their families, they discover something deeper than friendship growing between them. But will Lukas and Darla’s love be accepted after so much loss? Or will the pain of the past overcome any chance of future happiness?

        A Son’s Vow is the first book in Shelley Shepard Gray’s The Charmed Amish Life series, but is definitely not the first book I have read by her. Although I enjoyed her historical mysteries quite a bit more than her Amish novels, I do like them, and am looking forward to diving into this one. And guess what, I’m getting this one as well, so I will be sure to read it quickly so that I can let you know how wonderful it is!

        Those are the books I am looking forward to releasing this January! What about you? Do any of these look interesting? Do you have a few books you are looking forward to reading next month?
        Happy January!!!

To see where I’m linking up, check out my Where I Party page.

All credit for the italicized synopses goes to each author and their publishers.

The Inn at Ocean’s Edge by Colleen Coble

Claire’s visit to a luxury hotel in Maine awakens repressed memories, threatening all she holds dear.
        In 1989, Clair Dellamare disappeared from her own fourth birthday party at the Hotel Tourmaline on the island of Folly Shoals, Maine. She showed up a year later at the same hotel, with a note pinned to her dress but no explanation. Nobody knows where Claire spent that year—and until now, Claire didn’t even know she had ever been missing.
        But when Claire returns to the Hotel Tourmaline for a business meeting with her CEO father, disturbing memories begin to surface…despite her parents’ best efforts to keep them forgotten.
        Luke Rocco lost his mother under equally mysterious circumstances—at the same time Claire disappeared. After a chance encounter reveals the unlikely link between them, Claire and Luke set out together to uncover the truth about what happened that fateful year.
        With flashbacks swimming just beneath her consciousness and a murderer threatening her safety, Claire’s very life depends on unscrambling her past…even if her family refuses to acknowledge it. Someone—maybe everyone—is hiding something from Claire Dellamare, and it will cost her everything to drag the truth out into the light.

        The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is the first book in Colleen Coble’s Sunset Cove series, but is absolutely not the first book I have read by her. I absolutely loved both her Under Texas Stars series and her Mercy Falls series, and the main reason why is the same reason I loved this novel. Colleen is a genius when it comes to writing mysteries! Somehow she manages to make them interesting, believable, and impossible to truly figure out because of all the little intricacies she throws into them. Although I did begin to understand what happened the closer I got to the end of The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, it was so deep, so involved, and there were so many different little twists and turns Colleen wrote into the story that I couldn’t get it all on my own. And as a little side note, that is one of the best ways for a mystery to work. In my opinion, they are the most enjoyable when you can figure out some of it on your own, so then you feel pretty smart and like you know what’s going on, but at the same time they still keep you guessing to a certain degree so that you remain interested. Colleen does a wonderful job of that.
        Claire and Luke are the PERFECT characters for this story. Claire is so strong and resilient, constantly fighting to find out the truth about her past, and Luke is by far one of the sweetest guys I have ever met. Once they get together, there’s no stopping them. And the way Luke treats Claire will make you melt into little puddles. All. The. Time. The two of them are the perfect dynamic duo, and that is part of what makes this novel just as wonderful as it is. Their strength, passion, and bravery are some of the best things about this book. But not the absolute best…
        My favorite part of this novel is the mystery. It is so intriguing and intricate, and I still can’t stop thinking about it! Because of all of the things that combined to make this book one of my all-time favorites, I have to award it all five bookshelves. Colleen did an amazing job with this book, and I cannot wait for the next one to finally release! I would recommend The Inn at Ocean’s Edge and the rest of the books to come in the series to absolutely anyone who loves a good mystery!
        Happy reading!

To see where I’m linking up, check out my Where I Party page.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Colleen Coble and Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

My Bookshelf: The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

        Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It’s where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she’s beautiful.
        Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother’s neglected duties. Home on leave, he’s sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter’s daughter. He’s startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him—one of Wesley’s discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with a child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.
        Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she’ll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.
        Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family’s estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?

        The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen is my favorite novel by her so far. I have read every single one of the ten books she has published to date, and have loved every one of them, but there was just something about Sophie’s story that put it over the top. It was so sweet, so captivating, and had so many unexpected twists and turns that, added together, made for one of the best novels I have ever read. Julie always does a wonderful job of making you feel transported to the time and place of her novels, and this one was no exception. However, this time, it was something more. Not only did I feel like I was in nineteenth century England, but I also felt as if I was IN the story. It was like I was a character myself; I was a part of everything that went on within the pages, and I quickly became emotionally invested in Sophie and Steven’s lives (don’t judge me, that is a common thing for bookworms to experience!).
        Sophie Dupont, the only daughter of widowed artist Claude Dupont, spends her days assisting Claude in his studio, often by setting up his supplies and painting his backgrounds, though she longs for her own work to be worthy of attention. Though she knows she isn’t anything special, just like her art, she begins to believe another painter, Wesley Overtree, when he tells her she is beautiful, but that leads to disaster. She finds herself not only with child, but also alone when Wesley sails for Italy in search of a new muse without barely a word of farewell. Frightened of the scandal her actions could cause, Sophie jumps at the chance of support and protection that is offered in the form of Captain Stephen Overtree.
        Stephen Overtree, as the second brother of the Overtree family, is used to having to clean up older brother Wesley’s messes. The last thing he expects, however, is to find the woman portrayed in the picture he carries with him, abandoned by Wesley, and carrying his child. He quickly offers to marry her so that she can remain respectable; he fears he won’t make it back from his next campaign anyway and then she will be able to have her child under the protection of his name without being saddled to a man she doesn’t love. However, once Stephen is gone, Wesley returns to Overtree Hall, and Sophie must make a choice. Will she return to her first love, or stay true to the husband she barely knows?
        The Painter’s Daughter will melt your heart, surprise you with a few unexpected twists and turns, and have you cheering for the wonderful Captain long before you even know if the book will end well for him (or you may cheer for Wesley, but I highly doubt it—possibly just because I’m a little biased and happen to favor Stephen). Anyway, I can promise you that you will choose a favorite easily and early on in your journey through this story, and that you will melt into a little puddle by the time you reach the end of this book: by the last scene of chapter 34 to be exact. That one is by far my favorite, or at least in the top three. I can’t wait for you to read it.
        I cannot possibly describe all that makes this book just so wonderful, partially because there aren’t words enough to do it justice, possibly because I will end up spoiling the story, but let me assure you, it well deserves more than just the five bookshelves I am limited to giving it. Something that does show my love for it just a little bit better is the fact that it is on my all-time-favorites list, and that I HIGHLY recommend it. If you like historical novels that will knock your socks off—or even if you don’t—I am sure that you will fall in love with this story as soon as you open the pages, just like I did.
        Happy reading!

To see where I’m linking up, check out my Where I Party page.

All credit for the wonderful picture goes to my sister Allie, whose blog you can visit here.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Julie Klassen and Bethany House Publishers.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Are Those Books Under My Tree?

        Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about the books I would love for Santa to leave under my tree this year. If I were to add both new releases and just novels I would love to own in general, I would have an extremely long list on my hands (even now my list is extremely cut down to just be ten), so I’m just going to slim my options down to a much smaller category: stand-alone novels I have been dying to read over the past few months, stand-alone novels I have either already recently read and loved, or books I am missing to complete a series I have recently read. If it is a book I haven’t yet read, I will add the description on the back of the book to my comments, but for the books I have finished I will supply my own mini descriptive review. So, without further ado, I’m “asking Santa” for…

1. Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

        Anna O’Brien leads a predictable and quite life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.
        Luke Callahan was one of the nation’s most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress.
        From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation’s finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they’ve ever dreamed for their futures?

        Doesn’t this sound like such a sweet and intriguing story? I’ve only read one of Elizabeth Camden’s novels so far—The Rose of Winslow Street—but I really enjoyed it, and Beyond All Dreams sounds like something right up my alley. I absolutely love mysteries, and forbidden romances make for some of the best stories! I know I wouldn’t be disappointed if Santa left this novel under my tree!

2. Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray

        Eloisa Carstairs is one of my favorite heroines. She is so sweet, caring, and broken, and it just made her so loveable as well as completely relatable, despite her wealthy status in society. The way that she almost initially dismisses the social barriers keeping her and Sean apart because she knows he makes her feel safe, and that is something she needs so desperately, is one of my favorite aspects of this book. On top of that, she continuously treats him as her equal, as he deserves to be treated, and I just love that about her. She never puts Sean down for being “less than her”, but rather over looks his social standing to see the heart of gold inside. And I just love her for that.
        Why? Because Sean is, by far, one of the best heroes I have ever read about, and I wouldn’t be able to stand it if Eloisa hadn’t treated him well. Sean is caring, thoughtful, brave, and compassionate, and he deserves a woman who is going to see that about him and praise him for it. Okay, rant aside, Sean is amazing. He is so sweet to Eloisa, it made me thoroughly jealous. And the way he is protective of Katie just goes on to remind me why I’ve always wanted an older brother.

        Deception on Sable Hill is the second book in Shelley Gray’s Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series—I own the third book, Whispers in the Reading Room—and it is my favorite of the two that I don’t own. In it, we learn more about Eloisa Carstairs, a wealthy debutant, and the way she was assaulted by a spoiled heir named Douglass Sloane. She keeps this secret to herself, up until she meets Sean Ryan, who barely knows her yet fights to make things better for her. He may only be on the fringes of society because of his police officer status, and not because of his background, but he has a heart of gold far more precious than anything the elite society could boast. But a mystery of a murderer and the differences in their lives my keep Eloisa and Sean from the greatest thing that could ever happen to either of them. I know I would love Santa forever if I woke up to this novel on Christmas.

3. For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

        Hadassah/Stella is by far one of my favorite heroines. Even after facing the horrors of Dachau and barely escaping a firing squad, she risked her life again and again in attempts to save the prisoners at Auschwitz. Her bravery was inspiring, but not only that, she was a relatable character. I felt that if I had been there, I would’ve loved to have her for a friend. And I suppose she is one now. All characters are friends, ones that you can visit any time you open the pages.
        I really loved Aric as well. Although he had so much pain bottled up inside him, hardness that bubbled out whenever provoked, he was truly sweet, when he let himself be. He was compassionate and considerate, he just didn’t believe he could be that man. Once I got to know him better, I loved him even more. He is also one of my favorites. Especially since he is such a valiant warrior. You’ll find out why that’s important when you read the book.

        For Such a Time is Kate Breslin’s stand-alone debut novel, and is another book I would absolutely love to find beneath my tree. This sweet, Esther inspired, WWII novel pulls you in and tugs at your heartstrings in ways that you will never, ever forget. I don’t even know that I can accurately describe just what made this story so wonderful. Kate just did an amazing job with it, and I know I’m planning on reading it again, so it would be perfect to have my own copy.

4. In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar

Love resurrected from lifeless dreams happens in the arms of a loving God.
        Without wealth or family, the widow Ruth left her people and followed Naomi, her beloved Hebrew mother-in-law, to rebuild Naomi’s home in Israel. Provisions gone and starvation at the door, Ruth used all that she had left—a strong back and a willing heart—to gather grain in a field, abandoned after the harvest.
        Tormented by others, Ruth is shocked to find the owner of the field watching her. Talking to her. Bringing food to her and Naomi. Boaz tells himself his kindness toward Ruth is repayment for the love she has shown to his cousin Naomi. But his heart knows better.

        Doesn’t this sound like such a wonderful novel? In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar is a retelling of the classic Bible story of Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi, and is a book I have been dying to read ever since I first stumbled upon it on Goodreads. I have always loved the story of Ruth, and have wished for a novel like this one that expounds on the parts we already know, and now here one is, and I cannot wait to dive into it. My only fear is that it won’t stay true to what we know from the Bible as some retellings do, but I’m hopeful that it will, and I know that my fears won’t keep me from wanting to see this novel under my tree.

5. Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

Lizzy and Jane couldn’t be further from Jane Austen’s famous sisters for whom they are named.
        Elizabeth left her family’s home in Seattle fifteen years ago to pursue her lifelong dream—chefing her own restaurant in New York City. Jane stayed behind to raise a family. Estranged since their mother’s death many years ago, the circumstances of their lives are about to bring them together once again.
        Known for her absolute command of her culinary domain, Elizabeth’s gifts in the kitchen have begun to elude her. And patrons and reviewers are noticing. In need of some rest and an opportunity to recover her passion for cooking, Elizabeth jumps at the excuse to rush to her sister’s bedside when Jane is diagnosed with cancer. After all, Elizabeth did the same for their mother. Perhaps this time, it will make a difference.
        As Elizabeth pours her renewed energy into her sister’s care and into her burgeoning interest in Nick, Jane’s coworker, her life begins to evolve from the singular pursuit of her own dream into the beautiful world of family, food, literature, and love that was shattered when she and Jane lost their mother. Will she stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane—and Elizabeth to Nick’s Mr. Darcy—or will she return to the life she has worked so hard to create?

        Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay is Katherine’s second novel, and is a story I have been excited to read ever since I first heard about it. I read Katherine’s debut novel—Dear Mr. Knightley—about a year ago, and loved it, so when I heard she was working on another Austen-themed book, I was thrilled. Although I think I may be more exited for her next release, The Bronte Plot, I know that this is another story I would love to find hidden underneath my tree on Christmas morning.

6. A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings

        Nurse Abigail Stuart never encouraged the attentions of any of her patients, knowing they were lonely and in pain and not really attracted to her. But when her favorite patient, the gravely wounded Jeremiah Calhoun, asks her to marry him as a practical arrangement—in the interest of his ailing sister—she reluctantly accepts. After he passes, she carries out her part of the bargain by making her way to his farm and family, until she is stunned by the appearance of the real Jeremiah Calhoun. Will she be able to convince him that her story is true and she has no intention of stealing his farm, or will he quickly send her packing?

        A Most Inconvenient Marriage is the first book I read by Regina Jennings, but it is also the novel that got me hooked on her writing. I mean, doesn’t it sound like such a captivating story? An there is a mystery that also fills the pages that makes it even more interesting than ever, and the characters are some of the most lovable I have ever encountered. I know I would love to get to read this again, since I sped through it so quickly the first time, so it would be wonderful to find it under my tree!

7. A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love

When India Hartley is accused of murder, she must uncover the deceptions of others to save herself.
        India Hartley, a famous and beautiful actress, is now alone after her father’s death and embarks upon a tour of theaters across the South. Her first stop is Savannah’s Southern Palace. On the eve of the second night’s performance, something goes horribly wrong. Her co-star, Arthur Sterling, is shot dead on stage in front of a packed house, and India is arrested and accused of the crime.
        A benefactor hires Philip Sinclair, the best—and handsomest—lawyer in Savannah to defend India. A widower, Philip is struggling to reinvent his worn-out plantation on St. Simons Island. He needs to increase his income from his law practice in order to restore Indigo Point, and hardly anything will bring him more new clients than successfully defending a famous actress on a murder charge.
        Because India can’t go anywhere in town without being mobbed, Philip persuades the judge handling her case to let him take her to Indigo Point until her trial date. India is charmed by the beauty of the Georgia lowcountry and is increasingly drawn to Philip. But a locked room that appears to be a shrine to Philip’s dead wife and the unsolved disappearance of a former slave girl raise troubling questions. Piecing together clues in an abandoned boat and a burned-out chapel, India discovers a trail of dark secrets that lead back to Philip, secrets that ultimately may hold the key to her freedom. If only he will believe her.

        Although I have yet to read a novel by Dorothy Love, I am very hopeful that A Respectable Actress will be my first. I have heard so many wonderful things about it, and it sounds like a story I know I would love. Mystery, intrigue, and romance all rolled into such a beautiful package? I know I would be hooked. Couldn’t Santa leave this underneath my tree?

8. Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter

        Josie is so full of pain. I almost couldn’t stand it, especially as I got deeper into the story and learned why, and realized that some of it was self-inflicted, although she wouldn’t have known it. With so much heartache from her past, and even some that had begun when she was only a child, I almost couldn’t tell where the pain stopped and where Josie began. I cannot tell you just how sorry I felt for her, just how much I wish things had been different—someone had told her the truth and helped her to realize she was worth more than she thought—although it wouldn’t have been much of a story if someone had. Denise did a wonderful job of slowly bringing Josie’s secrets, her inner torment, to light for us readers while still having it remain unknown to the other characters, which made it easy to sympathize with Josie when her family unknowingly touched on a sore spot in her life.
        Can I take another moment to dwell on how wonderfully heartwarming this story was? I have not read a novel that touched my heart more. The hurts these characters face are real, and completely believable, especially with the way Denise slowly brought them to light while giving you little glimpses into the hearts of those who carried them. As I got deeper and deeper into the story, I realized more and more just how realistic—and possible—Josie’s heartbreak was, and it caused every decision she made to make perfect sense. And, unlike many other romances, the hurt and fears that made Josie and Grady reluctant to give in to their growing feelings for one another never once felt forced, but rather played in perfectly to their stories and were perfectly valid reasons that anyone would face today.

        Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter is the first stand-alone novel I have read by her, though I have read another five of her books. She has been one of my favorite authors for quite some time now, and this novel is a good example of why I love her writing so much. She always does such a wonderful job of weaving real-life, believable pain into her stories, and every one of them has touched my heart; this novel the most. There is so much raw hurt that fills its pages that you cannot get through it without wiping away more than a few tears. I would be absolutely THRILLED if Santa left this novel for me.

9. To Get to You by Joanne Bischof

To get to the girl he loves, Riley Kane must head off on a road trip with the father he never knew. Then pray for a miracle.
        Most teens would love to have a pro surfer for a dad. Just not Riley. Abandoned as a kid, he hates the sound of the ocean and the man who gave himself to it.
        When the eighteen-year-old learns that his best friend is stranded at a New Mexico hospital as her father fights for his life, Riley hits the highway to head east. But when he Jeep breaks down before he even leaves California, he must rely on the one man he despises to get to the girl who needs him the most. And when it comes to the surfer with the Volkswagen van and dog-eared map, a thousand miles may—or may not—be enough to heal the past.

        I have been waiting to read To Get to You by Joanne Bischof—even though I’ve yet to read a single one of her novels—ever since I first heard of it early this year. It sounds so, so good, and I know it would be a book that would touch my heart long before I made it to the end of the story. I have been dying to read this story for so long now, I know I just might scream if I found it beneath my tree.

10. The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

        PJ McKinley has always felt like she has something to prove, especially to her family. So when she has the opportunity to start her own restaurant right out of culinary school—as long as she wins the rights to her neighbor’s ancestral home—she jumps at the chance. There’s only one problem. She has to earn it while sharing it with a man she can barely go five minutes without arguing with.
        Cole Evans has wanted to open a home for in transition foster kids for a long time. Now that he has his chance, he hates that he has to share the house with PJ. Her restaurant is taking up valuable rooms that he could use to help more kids. And her bubbly personality has an uncanny way of getting under his skin, no matter how hard he tries to keep her at bay.

        Although The Wishing Season wasn’t my favorite novel of the Chapel Springs series, that was Dancing with Fireflies of course, I did love it VERY much, and it is the only one that I currently do not own. Clearly, I must find a copy of this sweet, captivating story under my tree this year so that I can finally have the completed series.

        Well, there are the top ten novels I would love for Santa to put under my tree this year! How about you? What are some novels you want to find underneath your tree?
        Happy Tuesday!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly link-up hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

To see where I’m linking up, check out my Where I Party page.

All credit for the italicized synopses of Beyond All Dreams, In the Field of Grace, Lizzy and Jane, A Respectable Actress, and To Get to You goes to the authors and their publishers.

All of the italicized reviews/descriptions of Deception on Sable Hill, For Such a Time, A Most Inconvenient Marriage, Sweetwater Gap, and The Wishing Season are from my blog reviews of each novel. To see the full review, click on each highlighted title.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

Faced with an uncertain future, sometimes all you have left is the courage to dream.
        Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their Irish immigrant father expects them to marry well. Recently he’s put even more pressure on them, insinuating that the very future of their Long Island horse farm, Irish Meadows, rests in their ability to land prosperous husbands. Both girls, however, have different visions for their future.
        Brianna, a quiet girl with a quick mind, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry—as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards of the ideal groom. When former stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from business school and distant relative Rylan Montgomery visits Long Island during his seminary training, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans.
        As the farm slips ever closer to ruin, James O’Leary grows more desperate. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to avoid being pawns in their father’s machinations and instead follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams to distant to reach?

        Irish Meadows is the first book in Susan Anne Mason’s Courage to Dream series, and is the first novel I have read by her. Although I didn’t know quite what to expect when I first picked it up, I quickly became immersed in Brianna and Colleen’s story. The tension and hard feelings that radiate between the two of them, and their father, gave for an interesting beginning to the novel, and the drama and confusion that quickly followed the arrival of Gilbert and Rylan captivated me in a heartbeat and had me hurrying to finally get to the resolution of the story. However, it was not an easy journey to the end, with tons of twists and turns I could not have anticipated, but once I got there, I knew that this was going to be a novel I would love.
        Brianna and Colleen are about as different as night and day, which becomes extremely obvious within the first few chapters. Brianna, quiet and modest, dreams of the day when she will be able to further her education, all the while trying to convince her father that a marriage to the prosperous husband he has picked out for her is the last thing she wants to do. Colleen, while actually longing to marry, is reluctant to settle for anything less than the man of her dreams, and therefore desires to have a little fun as she waits for her father to find such a man. Then, Gil and Rylan arrive to throw their dreams and their father’s plans into an uproar of hilarious proportions.
        I have to say, if I’m going to be honest with you, Colleen is my favorite of the sisters. While I understand that she made some pretty bad choices in the beginning of the novel that she later had to atone for, I also know that she experienced so much heartbreak in her past that may have helped cause her to turn out the way she was. Besides, it may be possible that she redeems herself before this book is over. And there’s just something about Brianna, while I love her dearly as well, that paints her to be a little bit of a goody-two-shoes, though she is also a passionate woman with trust issues. Her flaws help to make her lovable as well, but Colleen is just a little more lovable and interesting in my mind. As far as the men are concerned, I am terribly unhappy with James O’Leary for the majority of this novel, for various reasons all related to his hard-headedness when it comes to money and his children. Eventually, though, I came to love him as well, though I am not entirely sure if he fully redeems himself or not. With regards to Gil and Rylan, I fear it is almost too difficult for me to choose a favorite. Gil is so sweet and kind and forgiving, although a HUGE pushover, and Rylan has just the perfect amounts of wisdom and wit that make him perfectly hysterical while at the same time wonderfully intelligent. So let’s just say I love them both.
        All in all, this was such a sweet, captivating novel that surprised me with its plotline while pleasing me with its characters, and it easily earns all five bookshelves. Susan Anne Mason created such a touching story amid Irish Meadow’s pages, and I cannot wait to read more of the O’Learys as she continues on the series with A Worthy Heart. I highly recommend this novel if you are looking for something new to read, and know that I will always remember this as a book that I absolutely loved.
        Happy reading!

To see where I’m linking up, check out my Where I Party page.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Susan Anne Mason and Bethany House Publishers.