Best of 2018: Historical Books

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! I’m changing it up a bit and separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. All of this is to celebrate their distinction and spend a few more days talking about all the wonderful entertainment of 2018.

Day 1. Best of 2018: Novellas

Day 2. Best of 2018: Historical Books

Day 3. Best of 2018: Contemporary Books

Day 4. Goodbye 2018 & Looking Ahead

Today is all about HISTORICAL BOOKS. While I dearly love historical fiction, I have read less of it this year. At any rate, these are the favorites from my list!

The rules: sometimes I have to make boundaries for myself when it comes to talking about books because we would all be here a long time if were able to ramble on. SO, I’m sticking to my format of last year and choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review. In no particular order…

Best of 2018: Historical Books

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan | Review

Jazz. Grace. Friendship

Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood | Review

Suffrage. Romance. Purpose.

Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof | Review

Brotherhood. Atmospheric. Poignant.

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz | Review

Liberty. Honor. Love.

The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews | Review

Arrangements. Mystery. Forgiveness

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack | Review

Worth. Growth. Kindness.

My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge by Pepper Basham | Review coming in January!

Family. Tenderness. Hope.

Your turn! What were your favorite historical reads of 2018? Have you read any of these?

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Best of 2018: Novellas

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! I’m changing it up a bit and separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. All of this is to celebrate their distinction and spend a few more days talking about all the wonderful entertainment of 2018.

Day 1. Best of 2018: Novellas

Day 2. Best of 2018: Historical Books

Day 3. Best of 2018: Contemporary Books

Day 4. Goodbye 2018 & Looking Ahead

Today kicks it off talking about NOVELLAS. I’ve read some awesome novellas this year. Novellas are tricky. They are shortened so the author has less time for character development and story depth. With that said, this list is the best-of-the-best. All of these novellas represent the perfect combination of endearing characters, well-paced stories, and a unique depth woven in the plots to make them memorable.

The rules: sometimes I have to make boundaries for myself when it comes to talking about books because we would all be here a long time if were able to ramble on. SO, I’m sticking to my format of last year and choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review. In no particular order…

Best of 2018: Novellas

Love in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan | Review

Caffeine. Eyeglasses. Kindred spirits.

Rose in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan | Review

Parcheesi. Compositions. Friends.

Jane by the Book by Pepper Basham | Review

Family mystery. Bookishness. Charm.

Some Like It Hot by Susan May Warren | Review

Risk. Twists. Heroism.

Christmas at the Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson | Review

Blizzard! Marshmallow Snowmen. Belonging.

Bonus: Favorite Short Story

Of Mozart and Magi by Rachel McMillan | Review

Kinship. Shostafreakingkovich. Wonder.

Your turn! What were your favorite novellas of 2018? Have you read any of these?

Mini Review: “Of Mozart and Magi” by Rachel McMillan

First off, I hope ALL of you had a wonderful day celebrating Christmas and the joy of our Savior’s birth!!!

While in the midst of a wonderful day filled with family, on Christmas, a little notification popped up on my phone that a new Christmas short story was in the world, written by my friend Rachel. The story was Of Mozart and Magi: A Rose in Three Quarter Time Christmas Tale. If you’ve been around for a while, you probably recall my love for that novella. To say I was excited and DELIGHTED to have more Rose & Oliver & Vienna at CHRISTMAS would have been an understatement! Since then, Rachel has made the story available on Kindle. Now you

About the book:
Rose McNeil and Oliver Thorne are really and truly married and living their happily ever after in the most beautiful city in the world. But that doesn’t mean they know what to get each other for Christmas. With a bit of O. Henry magic and, of course, the whipped cream opulence of Mozart, take a tiny peek into their whipped cream world of Mozart and Baroque architecture as they learn the best gifts are romantic experiences…. a novellette for readers who want a little peek into Rose and Oliver’s life together long after their marriage of convenience becomes one of romantic reality.

Goodreads | Amazon

My thoughts: A tiny piece of Christmas perfection! Vienna, mismatched holiday socks, whipped cream, Shostafreakingkovich (you gotta read it to get this!!!!!!!!!) and the kinship of two people are featured in this story that takes a concept from an O. Henry classic and reveals more depths of these beloved characters. I want to spend Christmas with Oliver and Rose in Vienna… but they would probably be uncomfortable with my staring. Instead, I will reread this gem and sigh happily over their romance.

Guest Post: Give Your Library a Little Love

Hello blog readers! Join me in welcoming Shirley Rash of my small town’s Berryville Public Library today in a guest post all about libraries!   -Courtney

Booklovers today have no shortage of options when it comes to finding books. Whether it is Amazon, local brick-and-mortar bookstores, or elsewhere, the possibilities are truly endless. However, there’s still nothing better than the local library.

There are many things I love about libraries (the books, for starters!), but one of my absolute favorites is the sense of community it provides.

The internet has made it so much easier for people around the world to connect, through cha trooms and blogs and other forums. It provides a sense of community but discourages face-to-face interaction. Finding a place to gather among like minded people in person can be hard, especially as our world becomes increasingly digital.

Not every town has a coffee shop (and not every person likes or drinks coffee or has the money to afford it!) Not every hobby has a corresponding club where enthusiasts can meet and discuss.

However, almost every town has a library.

It’s a place where bookworms can gather together and trade reading recommendations informally or participate in more formal book clubs.

It’s a place where children, teenagers, and adults can gather together to participate in hobbies that range from Legos to creative writing to coloring to knitting.

It’s a place where many community members who receive little other social interaction (whether because of age, infirmity, family situation, or poverty) can meet and talk to other people.

If you’re a regular library user, you know what a great sense of community the library provides. And that’s true of any public library, regardless of where you live.

If you haven’t been to your local library in a while, drop by and see what they have going on! There’s a little something for everyone,and you might be surprised to see what’s there for you — beyond the books, of course! 😊

~~~~

Shirley Rash blogs about books and more for the Berryville Public Library at Berryville Book Buzz. Check us out!

Mini Review ~ “A Holiday by Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella” by Mimi Matthews

I’m happily sharing a review today of a Christmas novella I LOVED! After reading The Matrimonial Advertisement, I thought I would enjoy this little novella… and I was right!

About the book:

A Holiday by Gaslight cover
This cover!!! I love it.

A Dutiful Daughter

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run of the mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion–or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things. After all, even a dutiful daughter has her limits.

A Taciturn Tradesman

Ned has come a long way since his days working as a draper’s assistant. He’s wealthy, ambitious, and eager to take a wife. But the courtship advice issued in The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Though he’s followed it to the letter, Miss Appersett still doesn’t wish to see him again. Frustrated and hurt, he’s more than happy to oblige her.

A Christmas Courtship

Severing ties with her former beau isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to the annual Christmas party at Appersett House and give him one more chance to win her? But this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are. 

Goodreads | Amazon

My thoughts: A delight of a novella! Mimi Matthews combines the opulent traditions of the era (Christmas trees! Mistletoe! Sleigh Rides! Country mansions with gaslight!) with two lead characters whose initial misperceptions set up a lovely romantic match with depth. With nods to one of my favorite classics, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, this story transcends classes and the bounds of familial expectations all through the discovery of two persons and their common values. I appreciate how Ned’s attraction to Sophie goes way beyond surface beauty (their intellects are a great match!), and how her journey through her family’s ups and downs makes her recognize the depth of his care, even if he doesn’t show it as easily.

There’s something about the propriety of the Victorian era that is, in itself, romantic. Combined with Ms. Matthew’s prose-like ability to paint a scene and refreshingly honest characters, we have a Christmas romance not-to-be-missed!

Content note: the romance content is squeaky-clean but there are just a few mild, era-appropriate expletives.

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

Review + Giveaway: “Christmas at the Red Door Inn” by Liz Johnson

Book Cover & Tree

This Christmas season, author Liz Johnson takes us back to Prince Edward Island and the famous Red Door Inn with a new sweet Christmas romance in a short novella. I love this story SO MUCH I’m giving away a Kindle copy! Be sure to enter the giveaway after you read about the book.

About the Book

One blizzard. Two friends. Three days to fall in love. 

Lifelong islander Brooke Kane doesn’t know what to do with her college degree, her dreams, or her future, but she knows better than to venture far from home when there’s a storm brewing. But a promise to check on Rose’s Red Door Inn prompts Brooke to venture out. By the time she arrives at the inn, the snow is knee-deep and visibility almost non-existent. She settles in to spend a few days alone at the inn until a familiar figure appears at the door. 

Father Chuck O’Flannigan has never felt like a bigger fool. So focused on his recent decision to leave Prince Edward Island, he’s caught unaware by the blizzard while on a walk. He can only see the inn’s red door, a promise of safety. But when he discovers that Brooke—the only woman who could tempt him to stay on the island—is also taking refuge there, he knows he’s in trouble. 

With Christmas only three days away, Brooke is determined that they’ll celebrate—even if it’s just the two of them. Happy to play Scrooge to her Tiny Tim, Chuck wiles away his hours dreaming of a return to Ireland—praying that God may have plans for him there. After all, God seems to have forgotten him in North Rustico. But as Brooke brings Christmas to life, her joy makes him wonder if God may not have forgotten him. In fact, God may have big plans for both of them—if they can only survive Christmas at the Red Door Inn.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

In a mere span of chapters you will fall in love with this story and its enchanting characters: the woman back in her hometown, trying to find her place in the world and the man experiencing a season of change, questioning his role in life, too. And boy, does one blizzard throw them for a loop! Maybe there’s something about close quarters, no running water, borrowed Christmas things, and the emotional vulnerability that comes with the Christmas season…. whatever the case, this combination proves just what Brook and Chuck need to experience something brand new (yet years-in-the-longing). 

Liz Johnson’s way with romance just “clicks” and makes the reader instantly empathize with the characters. There’s something about the purity in her approach that’s a prime example of why I adore the Christian fiction genre (and what sets it apart along with its Biblical worldview). The beauty of romance (with all its attraction and spark) is still very present, but it is related in a way that keeps it realistic, swoony, and with a certain innocence. I could say the same for the previous books in the “Prince Edward Island Dreams” series or her newest novel, A Sparkle of Silverfrom earlier this year (hello, favorite first kiss of the year!!!! Ben ❤ Millie ).

I hope you have the chance to read a book by Liz sometime soon! I love this story so much I’m giving away a copy! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Open internationally. Must be 18 or older. Giveaway ends 12/19/2018, 12am CT time. Void where prohibited.

Review, Book Blitz + Giveaway: “The Christmas Book Shoppe” by Miranda Atchley

Welcome to the Book Blitz! I’m happy to share my thoughts today about The Christmas Book Shoppe, a lovely little Christmas novella, as well as an excerpt and the info for Miranda Atchley’s #GIVEAWAY! 

Review

The Christmas Book Shoppe is a sweet story of a small town, little joys, trust, and all things BOOKISH! From the quaint small town setting to the quirky cast of characters, this little novella offers a glimpse into the life of Trudy as she faces the sale of her book shop (and livelihood).

How does one react to such a drastic change? With a chocolate shake and British dramas, of course! Oh, and there’s Reed, who offers Trudy quiet encouragement and hints at a happily-ever-after.

One of my favorite parts of this novella was the setting. It’s in ARKANSAS, ya’ll! Not many stories are set in my state. While the town of Christmas is fictional, it’s not too far from me considering the Ozarks hills and proximity to Fayetteville. It was super fun to see places referenced that I know like the back of my hand (ahem, the Barnes & Noble in Fayetteville).

If you love bookstores, Christmas, or light Christmas novellas, this is a quick read you are sure to enjoy!

Thanks to the author for a review copy. This is my honest review.

About the Book

Keeping her book store might take a Christmas miracle… Trudy Gallagher is quite content with her simple life. For the past five years, she has lived and worked at The Christmas Book Shoppe, a new and used book store formerly owned and operated by her great-aunt. She loves nothing more than spending her days in the Victorian house filled with books, surrounded by her cat and loved ones. As Christmas, her favorite day of the year approaches, she begins the season with her usual verve and excitement.

Yet when her landlord threatens to sell The Christmas Book Shoppe, she is devastated. She cannot imagine life without the book store she calls home. As she struggles to create a plan to keep the book store open, it seems as if her whole word is turned upside down and her every attempt to save the store fails.

Can she find a way to keep the store she loves?

Order in the Kindle store for 99 cents | Add to Goodreads

About the Author

MIRANDA ATCHLEY has written several novels, both historical and contemporary, one of which was a finalist for an indie writing award. When she isn’t writing, Miranda loves getting lost in a good book and watching period dramas. She lives in a small town in Arkansas. Visit her blog and subscribe to her mailing list at:

arealwriterslife.blogspot.com

Connect with Miranda
Goodreads | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

Enjoy an excerpt from The Christmas Book Shoppe

As she placed the last ornament on the Christmas tree, Trudy Gallagher stood back and looked at her handiwork with a gratified smile. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, and she had spent the majority of the day decorating The Christmas Book Shoppe for the holiday.Like every other year, she and her assistant Marge had placed the eight foot artificial Christmas tree before the front window in the foyer, and Trudy had happily wrapped it in lights and tinsel, placing book themed ornaments along the branches.

“A little early to be putting up a Christmas tree, don’t you think?” Mr. Scranton, a regular patron at the book store–and the town’s resident curmudgeon–asked when he came to donate yet another stack of used books.

“Well, Thanksgiving was last Thursday,” Trudy replied in the kindest tone she could muster. It was tradition at The Christmas Book Shoppe to decorate for the holidays the Monday after Thanksgiving. After all,they were The Christmas Book Shoppe,a store that carried a mix of new and used books and was housed in the historic district of a small town called Christmas, Arkansas–which was named for the town’s settler as opposed to the holiday, as most out of towners understandably believed. They had to embrace the spirit of Christmas, just like most other businesses in town did. Yet there was always someone who accused them of decorating too early. Trudy couldn’t help but wonder; what would Mr. Scranton say if he knew that she had decorated her apartment on November first?

Scoffing at her, Mr. Scranton turned and went on his way,his pace slow as his cane assisted him. Trudy could have sworn she’d heard him mutter “bah humbug” under his breath as he exited through the front door, his harsh tone clashing with the twinkling bell above the door. Though that could have simply been her imagination, which, given all the novels she read, was usually quite overactive.

Trudy shrugged as she placed the two heavy plastic bags full of moldy paperbacks on the desk and began to sort through them.

Really, who could blame her for embracing the Christmas spirit as fully as she did? After enduring long humid Arkansas summers that often started as early as April and boasted weeks of temperatures in the high nineties and low hundreds, it was a relief to have cooler weather. When the heat of summer was too much to bear, she often daydreamed about the Christmas season just to distract herself from the reality of living in such a humid climate.

But it wasn’t just the cold weather she enjoyed. She loved everything about Christmas. Watching classic Christmas movies, drinking hot cocoa while reading a light and cheery Christmas novella, and listening to Christmas songs all December were some of her favorite things. And there was just something about all the pretty decorations and lights that made the whole town of Christmas, Arkansas look like the inside of a snow globe…minus all the snow. It was simply a magical time of year.

“I’m glad you enjoy decorating the tree so much,” said Marge when Trudy made her way back to the front desk. With a deep sigh, she added, “Putting that tree up just wears me out.”

Looking up from the copy of Thoreau’s Walden she’d been inspecting, Trudy offered a smile and said, “Well, I’m happy to do it.”

With raised eyebrows, Marge shook her head. “I can certainly tell.”

Marge was a middle aged woman who had been working at The Christmas Book Shoppe for the last few years. While she was a good employee,she didn’t share Trudy’s excitement about literature and holidays and found her boss’s enthusiasm rather tiring. It was amazing that the two got along as well as they did.

Trudy once again smiled and then took the newly arrived books and began to shelve them. It was a little curious that Mr. Scranton had donated so much as of late. Counting what he’d brought in today, he’d donated a total of ten bags full of books in two weeks. Trudy wondered how many books he had in that old, somewhat off-putting house he lived in on the edge of town.

After Mr. Scranton’s donations were situated on the shelves, Trudy took to straightening the book cases, and in the process she found herself somewhat distracted, reading the synopsis scrawled on the back covers of titles that caught her attention. She often found herself similarly distracted while working here at the shop and realized that this was one reason why her to-be-read pile was growing entirely out of control.

When she found a particularly interesting novel set in the Edwardian era, she flipped open the cover and read the first few pages. Soon her mind was thousands of miles and a hundred years away, caught up in a world of lords and ladies.

“That a good book?”

With a gasp, she slammed the book shut. Looking up, she saw her friend, Reed Thornton. A roughish smile twisted his mouth, making him look more like Downton Abbey’s Tom Branson than ever.

“You scared me to death,” she said, taking a deep breath in an attempt to steady her heart rate. “And yes, it is a good book. I think I’ll keep it for myself.”

In his hands, she saw a stack of books, all bearing familiar titles. The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, Persuasion. In Trudy’s world, it was unusual for most guys to even like reading. But for a guy to pass up science fiction and thrillers for classic romance? That was just unheard of.

“Looking for a good romance, are we?” she asked as they made their way back to the front desk.

He gave her the same exasperated expression he offered each time she made a wise crack about his reading habits. “It’s required reading for my classic lit class.”

Trudy smiled skeptically. She knew Reed had in fact enrolled in a classic lit class at the university after recently going back to college in order to earn a master’s degree in literature. Yet she also knew that Reed had always been a sucker for classic literature, just like her. They’d taken literature classes in high school together and their mutual love of the classics was one reason why they’d been such good friends for most of their lives.

“You know there isn’t any shame in guys reading romance novels, right?” With a snort she added, “I mean, look at Nicholas Sparks. His novels have been giving women false hopes for years now. And Fitzgerald was a guy, and he wrote The Great Gatsby.Besides, haven’t you already read that?”

“When we were seniors in high school,” he said with a half frown. “But that was a long time ago. I’ve read too many books since then to remember all I need to know about it for this class.”

“Well, it is a pretty good one to revisit,” she said as she rounded the corner of the front desk.

As she scanned the barcode on Persuasion, she cocked an eyebrow at Reed.

He sighed as he dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “It’s the only Austen I haven’t read yet.”

She chuckled as she placed the stack of books in a bag bearing the store’s emblem.

“Do you give all your customers this hard of a time?” he asked as he accepted the bag.

She simply laughed in reply.

“You know, I could just buy my books on Amazon. I’d get a lot less cheek if I did.”

“Yeah, but you’d pay a lot more. Plus, you wouldn’t get this sparkling customer service that brings in customers from miles around.”

Chuckling, he rolled his eyes, took his bag and left.

Giveaway

One winner will receive a Kindle download of The Christmas Book Shoppe. The giveaway begins December 4 and ends December 7. Open internationally to anyone who can receive a Kindle download via email. Must be 18 or older to participate.

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway