First Line Fridays #3: Charming the Troublemaker

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!
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Today it’s all about an upcoming release (Nov. 1) from author Pepper Basham: Charming the TroublemakerI’ve had the fortune of reading this story already, and ya’ll, it’s the perfect blend of humor, sass, romance!, and a little bit of family drama/suspense. But I’ll save the exclamations for my upcoming review.

 

Charming the Troublemaker

The first line:

Loser ex-husbands and freezing January afternoons left a nasty chill.

 

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

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Review + Giveaway & Blog Tour: Returning Home by Toni Shiloh

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returning-home_1Series: Freedom Lake
Genre:  Adult, Christian, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Indie
Publication date: September 26, 2017

Jo Ellen Baker is shocked to find out that the boy who teased her mercilessly throughout high school, has returned to their hometown of Freedom Lake, and he’s missing a leg. When his mother asks her to renovate their carriage house to give him a place to gain his independence back, she wants to say no. But one look at him brings a rush of forgotten feelings.

Evan Carter can’t believe he has to return home and live with his parents. Every hope and dream he ever had dissipated in a car crash that cost him his leg. Stuck in a wheelchair, he’s forced to reexamine his relationship with God and the local carpenter, Jo Ellen Baker.

Will renovating his home open the door for a mended relationship, or are some wounds too deep to heal from?  ​

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Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and president of the Virginia Chapter.

You can find her on her website at http://tonishiloh.wordpress.com.

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Returning Home is a poignant story of healing, faith, and friendship. More than just a sweet and naturally-progressing romance relationship, the intertwining relationships of the characters, including Jo, Evan, and their close friend group, are a testament to the ways you can choose to react to life changes and challenges.

There is a prominent thread of faith I loved in this story. It’s fleshed out in both Evan and Jo as they deal with forgiveness and relying on God’s never-changing strength in completely different ways. And, this faith shines from Evan and Jo as they each grow and have opportunity to come alongside each other in support and understanding (this also wonderfully spills over in their friend group in an encouraging way). My favorite was Nana’s knowing advice and kind prodding — I would just love to have a real-life conversation with her!

With both complexity and camaraderie, this story of Jo and Evan is deeper than a romance or a story of second chances. It’s all about how prayer can change your heart, how love can mean hard lessons of forgiveness, and how faith can be the means of strength and peace no matter your circumstances.

Thank you to SLB Tours and the author for the complimentary ebook copy. This review is my honest opinion.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Meal Planning 101 (AKA Yummy Foods in Books)

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official prompt is: Top Ten Yummy Foods Mentioned In Books (Does a character eat something you’d love? Or maybe the book takes place in a bakery/restaurant that makes yummy things? You could also talk about 10 of your favorite cookbooks if you don’t read foody books.)

Well, people, I READ FOODIE BOOKS! And I didn’t realize how many until I started making this list….so many of them focus on a main character with a culinary background of some sort. I’ve already featured a TTT way back about characters who cook/bake, so I’m going with the actual meals this time. Such fun! Join me as we plan an indulgent schedule of eating and snacking.

MEAL PLANNING 101 (AKA Yummy Foods in Books)

Breakfast

Count Me INfrom Count Me In by Mikal Dawn

a Kit-Kat Latte – the perfect combination of sweet (chocolate and vanilla) and stout to caffeinate your day.

 

 

from Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnsonwhere-two-hearts-meet

3 words: Caden’s cinnamon rolls. “There was only one thing better than the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls in the morning. The taste of freshly baked cinnamon rolls in the morning. “-chapter 1

 

Reservations for Twofrom Reservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge (but I could say ALL THE FOODS from the “Two Blue Doors” series!)

Blueberry buckwheat breakfast cake (AND there’s even a recipe for it in the book!)

Lunch

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano - mini reviewfrom Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

James’s tuna Nicoise sandwiches with new red potato salad and fresh fruit: “seared tuna, seasoned delicately with olive oil, vinegar, and Dijon mustard, then layered with hard-boiled eggs and spring greens on an artisan roll.”

Tea… er, Coffee Time!

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillanfrom The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

Turkish coffee and LEMON CURD SANDWICHES. Merinda would not be herself without her frequent Turkish coffee, and lemon curd is the way to Ray’s heart, apparently 😉

Appetizer

19320758from When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren

Ahi tartar in a rice noodle cup, garnished with char orange supreme. When the characters are participating in a cooking contest, the result is pretty exotic creations!

Dinner

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from A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Chef Benito Vasallo’s Bistecca alla Pizzaiola AKA steak of the pizza maker’s wife: a thick-sauce, wintry Italian dish with “a tangy mix of tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, and something [Emily] couldn’t name….”

The Wishing Seasonfrom The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

Filet steak with garlic butter, asparagus spears, and risotto. A meal fit for a food critic.

Dessert

Dare to Love Againfrom Dare to Love Again by Julie Lessman

Ghrardelli chocolate bars straight from the factory at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA. This list would not be complete without Julie’s “chocolate kiss” fun!

 

Bonus! Books on my TBR shelf that promise all kinds of yummy foods:

The Romano Family Collection: A Trio of Romances Flavored with Grace by Brandy Bruce

All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano (releasing Feb. 2018)

 

Which of these meals sounds the most appetizing to you?  Did you participate in this week’s TTT? Do you enjoy foodie fiction and have recommendations for me? Comment away!

First Line Fridays #2: Christmas at Gate 18

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!
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Today I’m featuring the novella Christmas at Gate 18 by Amy Matayo because it just released this week! And because I love Christmas. *hums Jingle Bells*

Christmas at Gate 18

The first line:

Rory

Maybe the impending storm is putting me in a worse mood than usual, but there are only so many times a girl can repeat the exact same question in the exact same way to the exact same person without feeling her mind begin to unravel.

 

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

Review: “Hometown Girl” by Courtney Walsh

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With each new release from author Courtney Walsh, she establishes her spot on my must-read list by penning charming stories of family and love. Her lighthearted approach cushions deeper themes and elements of faith that speak encouragement to her readers. Her new contemporary romance release, Hometown Girl, is a fresh story with her familiar voice and heart. And, it’s her first full-length indie novel!!! I’m thrilled to be sharing my thoughts on it today!

Random side comment: I’m increasingly impressed with the courageous choices of indie-authors — especially ones who have seen success with traditional publishers and choose to simply share “story” outside of that medium. Bravo, Courtney!

About the BookNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Courtney Walsh returns with a hopeful and emotional new book about seizing second chances, finding yourself, and forging your own path.

Hometown GirlBeth Whitaker isn’t supposed to be a small-town girl. She’s always dreamed of leaving Willow Grove, Illinois, for the big city, but she feels trapped, struggling to make up for a mistake that’s haunted her for years. Just when Beth is finally ready to break free, her sister impulsively buys a beloved but run-down farm on the outskirts of town, and she begs Beth to help with the restoration. Reluctantly, Beth agrees to help—and puts her own dreams on hold once again.

Drew Barlow hasn’t been back to Fairwind Farm since he was a boy, and he’s spent all these years trying to outrun the pain of a past he thought he buried long ago. When he learns that the owner has passed away, his heart knows it’s finally time to do the right thing. Returning to Willow Grove, Drew revisits the old farm, where he attempts to piece together his memories and the puzzle of the crime he witnessed so long ago.

Both on a journey to find peace, Beth and Drew are surprised when they begin to experience a restoration of their own. But when long-buried secrets break through the soil and the truth unfurls, will it threaten their budding relationship—and the very future of the farm?

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

Hometown Girl made me crave all things apple— apple cider donuts, in particular! And coffee with danishes. Oh, and it tells an enchanting story of second chances, romance, and getting comfortable with unexpected dreams with a colorful cast and hints of suspense. And a sheep!!!

I loved seeing the similarities and contrasts between the arcs of Beth and Drew. They were similar in seeking second chances and a belonging or sense of security. Along the way, Beth begins to find the blessing she can be to others by extending her love without conditions or strings. And, Drew starts to see how his past doesn’t have to define him, or weight him down any longer.

Drew is a realistically flawed hero. His strength and personality are often masked under a no-nonsense, quiet way, but it’s a delight to see how Beth draws him out (and prods him, when needed). And he reciprocates by providing a security that encourages her to admit her self-doubt. He’s perfectly chivalrous except for that one time when he admits he doesn’t want to be polite….. but let me tell you, that’s a very, VERY good thing. *swoon*

While Drew’s appearance on the page brings a gravity and thread of suspense to the story, Hometown Girl is very much Beth’s journey. Her personality drives the relationships of the story, especially that of her dynamic with her seemingly-opposite sister, Molly, whom she approaches with a need to be the sensible voice of reason in their new business venture. As the story builds, the complexity and heart of Beth shine through as her perspective shows a growth in overcoming her internal struggles.

Most of all, I loved the simple message of Hometown Girl. Being a resident of a cozy small town myself, I could understand Beth’s dreams and aspirations — and how they took an unexpected turn along the way. This book is a reassurance that having dreams and goals is a good thing. Yet, it’s OK for those dreams to change along the way and manifest in an unexpected source of happiness.

Thank you to the author for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.

About the Author

courtney8web-1New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Courtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theatre director, and playwright. Hometown Girl is her seventh novel. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. She has written two additional books and a novella in the Sweethaven series, as well as three small-town romance novels: Paper Hearts, Change of Heart, and Just Look Up. She lives in Illinois, where she and her husband own a performing arts studio and youth theatre. They have three children. Visit her online at www.courtneywalshwrites.com.

Review & Author Interview: “All This Time” by Melissa Tagg

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Somehow, with every new story, Melissa Tagg manages to tap into her vein of talent to entertain, amuse, and encourage. Plus, she regularly works in pop culture references and words like wee, romantical, nom de plume. AND, she relates to my caffeine obsession. TODAY SHE IS JOINING ME FOR AN INTERVIEW! I’m terribly excited — read on for my thoughts on her 4th and final (indie-released) book in the “Walker Family” series, All This Time, plus her delightful answers to my bubbly questions!

About the Book

Bear McKinley’s past refuses to let go. 

Ten years ago, Bear gave up everything—his freedom and his reputation—for his mess of a family. All This TimeBut after years of distance and too many attempts at starting over, he finally has a new life doing noble work in Brazil . . . until his past catches up to him once again. Suddenly he finds himself back in Maple Valley, charged with the care of his missing brother’s children, convinced he’s out of second chances to make his life count. And yet, with every day that passes, these kids, this quirky town and the woman he never stopped missing help patch the holes in his heart. Maybe this is the fresh start he’s been longing for all along. But as his newfound hope grows, so does the mystery surrounding his brother’s activities—and when the threat reaches into the lives of those he loves, it’s clear he can’t run away this time.

Fear holds Raegan’s future captive. 

Raegan Walker is fine. She’s happy working a slew of part-time jobs, still living in her childhood bedroom and rarely venturing from her hometown. At least, that’s what she tells everyone . . . and herself. But she can’t help wondering what might’ve happened if she hadn’t abandoned her art so many years ago—and if Bear McKinley had never left. When Bear returns and she’s commissioned for a painting that just might revive her artistic ambition all in one week, it’s time to finally reach for more than fine. But doing so means facing the fears that have held her back all this time, including admitting the secret she’s kept from Bear and her family. With her dream and her heart on the line, how much will Raegan have to risk to finally chase her happy ending?

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

If I had to choose one word to describe All This Time, it would be: Perfect. It’s an absolutely perfect story of small town quirkiness, family dynamics, laugh out loud antics, a nail-biting tiny thread of suspense, and the sweetest friendship-turned-love relationship, with GRACE binding it all.

Raegan and Bear’s story has been a long time stewing… and delightfully so. With All This Time, we readers finally see the depths of their characters — both their histories, struggles, and respective adorable and swoony personalities. Their romance is framed with the quirkiness of a small town and Melissa’s signature humor and general wit — and even a bit of suspense that heightens the mysterious past of Bear. It’s not all fireflys and sunflowers, though. The gravity of some of its subject matter — anxiety, estranged relatives, forgiveness, and HOPE — is wonderfully woven with a lightheartedness that makes the characters accessible and the message an arrow to the heart of the reader.

More than a story of the relationship between Bear and Raegan, this story is a picture of FAMILY. Of the crazy dreams and distinct personalities, of the support system and encouragement, and, even of the dysfunction and pain caused by someone’s decisions. It shows the contrasts and possibilities and how choices rooted in Love will endure.

The Walker family is a favorite fictional family of mine….the type one can almost believe is real. Or wants and hopes is real, if only for a dynamic to exist in the world that mirrors the shared ups and downs of life with a group of people that LOVES and CARES and finds JOY amidst all the heartaches and challenges.

Reader friends, you will not want to miss out on the perfection that is All This Time. From the caffeine obsessed characters to the endearing kids that show up on the page to the resonating message of hope and family, this story is one that works its way into your heart and memory like an honest friend.

AND, because Melissa and I are obsessed with NEEDTOBREATHE (ok, Melissa probably more so), here’s a song that matches Bear’s character arc wonderfully. Melissa manages to work in a “tiny” reference to this song somewhere in All This Time. If you’ve read the book, did you spot it?

My reviews of the rest of the series:

#1 From the Start | #2 Like Never Before | #3 Keep Holding On

Interview with the Author

Melissa, thank you for graciously agreeing to this interview!

What was the inspiration behind the town of Maple Valley?

Great question! When I first started the Walker series, I knew I wanted to come up with a fictional town…because when you set a book in a real town, anyone who lives there loves to get picky about how accurately you portray it. LOL! And I knew I wanted it to be a quirky, small town.

Maple Valley was most inspired by Boone, Iowa. It’s funny—I’ve only been to Boone a few times, but every time, I just think it’s a cute little town. There’s a heritage railroad just like the one in Maple Valley. But I also drew inspiration from my hometown of Webster City, Iowa‑—the library in Maple Valley, especially, was inspired by my hometown library—and Little Falls, Minnesota, which is steeped in Charles Lindbergh history!

What theme or spiritual message do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

I hope this story leaves readers thinking about what it means to truly be vulnerable…to be in real relationships. There’s a spot in All This Time where Raegan and her dad are finally getting honest with each other about some things and Raegan makes the remark, “Why do we keep anything from the people we love?” Raegan’s whole journey is about learning to live authentically with the people she loves, to stop letting fear hold her back from true relationships. Personally, that’s a hard thing for me. Even with the people I love most, I’m not always willing to bare my heart. I heard someone say once that most people are willing to go 90% of the way in relationships, but that even with the people we’re closest to, we leave 10% unsaid. That’s stuck with me ever since he said it. Raegan’s journey is about being brave enough to go that last 10%…and I hope that’s something that impacts readers as much as it impacted me.

I think that’s one of the deeper points of this story —- it definitely impacted me!

What was most challenging about writing the final Walker novel?

Probably the thing that was hardest was simply knowing it was the final book in the series! I know I joke a lot about how much I love my fake people, but I’m really not exaggerating when I say that writing these books changed me. Every one was a personal, vulnerable journey. I kept putting off writing “The End” on this last one simply because I wasn’t ready to be done.

The other challenging thing was simply finding space for each Walker to sort of have their moment in this last story! I really wanted it to be a satisfying ending for readers, but giving each character a proper send-off without the book turning out to be a thousand pages long was quite the challenge.

I believe you achieved that balance! Reading this last book was bittersweet but wonderful… it was so good to see everyone in a “happy” place of their lives.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Logan! Oh wait, we’re talking about All This Time. But still…Logan! I don’t know if it’s obvious, but I looked for every excuse to bring him back into this book even though it wasn’t his story.

*jumping in* ❤ ❤ Logan!!!! ❤ ❤

But when it comes to the main characters of All This Time, I’d probably have to say Bear for two reasons: 1) I loooooved writing scenes in which he’s basically the cutest and greatest uncle ever and 2) In all the previous Walker books, Bear was like this elusive little mystery. He’d randomly show up, but we never knew much about him. So I loved getting to finally dive into his backstory and discovery who he really is.

And what a history he had! 🙂

For fun: Do you have any hobbies (besides coffee and being a Needtobreathe roadie)?

Haha! You listed two of my very favorite hobbies!

Other hobbies include reading (of course—I’m a bookworm to the core), traveling, spoiling my nieces and nephew and, as of late, racquetball. Not that I’m any good at it. But man, I love it!

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Either the Gilded Age because, honestly, it just looks fun…or right in the late 1930s…before we dove into WWII and right when some of my verrrry favorite Golden Era Hollywood movies were making their way into the world.

What interesting choices!! Yay for the Golden Era, too!

What are you currently reading (or reading next)?

I’m a huge Sarah M. Eden fan and she just released the latest book in her Jonquil series and it was fantastic. And it made me want to reread her other books, so I went back and reread The Sheriffs of Savage Wells and died laughing/swooning all over again. Up next is Lady Jayne Disappears, which I’ve heard is an a-ma-zing debut!

Finally, you have another Christmas novella set to release this year. Tell us about it!

I do indeed and oh my, I haven’t laughed this much while writing a story in a long time. One Enchanted Noel is the story of Leigh Renwycke and Seb Pierce…or Sebastian Parker Pierce III if you want the full spiel. Seb comes to Maple Valley to renovate an old theater and he is not excited to be there. Leigh is a restless single mom struggling to leave her past in the past. And I had a crazy amount of fun writing their meet-cute!

Oh, that sounds amazing! Yay for another Tagg story in 2017! 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about your books. I know my readers will love getting this peek into your brain, too!

About the Author

Melissa Tagg

Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant writer, and total Iowa girl. She’s the author of the Walker Family series, the Where Love Begins series, and the Enchanted Christmas novella collection. Her books have made both the Publisher’s Weekly Top Ten and Amazon.com bestselling lists. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Melissa loves connecting with readers on her website.

Website | Facebook | Instagram  | Twitter

First Line Fridays #1: All This Time

The fabulous ladies over at the new Hoarding Books blog are now hosting First Line Fridays! Shoutout to Carrie, Sydney, Rachel, and Beth for the amazing idea of a collaborative blog that will be showcasing all sorts of fun bookish things soon.
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For my FIRST EVER First Line Friday, I’m featuring All This Time by Melissa Tagg. It is the perfect contemporary romance — I’m still mulling over it for my upcoming review!

All This Time

The first line:

A single, strained scan of the church’s hollowed interior was all it took for the whispers of Bear McKinley’s past to turn to bellows.


Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!