Top Ten Tuesday: My 10 Most Recent Reads

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is “My Ten Most Recent Reads”. I’m sharing 3 I’m reading now, plus the last 7 books I finished. I consider myself a slow-to-moderate reader, so my list stretches back to books I read in March.

My 10 Most Recent Reads

Currently Reading

Let It Be Me by Becky Wade | Contemporary romance meets a little family drama. I’m LOVING the depth to these characters!

Is It Any Wonder by Courtney Walsh | I’m currently enjoying the audio version of Cody and Lou’s second-chance-romance story set in idyllic Nantucket. It makes me want to plan a trip!

The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber | I’m rereading this one for a Facebook book group hosted by the author and I’m rediscovering why I love this well-written series. My Review on Goodreads

Latest Reads

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey | Modern romcom meets a little bit of Mr. Rogers and a romance born of a pen pals relationship. Look for my review soon on the blog.

A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver | WWII-era London with a safecracking heroine and a properly loyal Army Major ferreting out spies. My Review

Hope Between the Pages by Pepper Basham | This charming, bookish love story connects generations of heroines in the present and WWI era with a little mystery spanning Appalachian and English settings. My Review

Dearest Josephine by Caroline George | This smart epistolary YA novel has a completely unique storytelling approach, making one of the characters a part of the story itself. My Review

The Indebted Earl by Erica Vetsch | Regency-era romance with a found family + a little marriage of convenience trope, this one wraps up a great series yet reads as a standalone. My Review

Love at First by Kate Clayborn | This general market romance will give you ALL THE FEELS with its beloved-and-quirky characters, a bespectacled hero, and an enemies-to-lovers trope. My Review on Goodreads

Before Time Runs Out by Amy Matayo | If you like time travel-meets-Dickensian London stories with a little adventure and romance, this story is for you! My Review

Did you share a TTT post this week? Have you read any of these books?

Review: “Before Time Runs Out” by Amy Matayo

What do you get when you combine a present-day graduate student, a veteran doctor from 1947, a mysterious book, and London in the time of Charles Dickens? A new Amy Matayo novel, of course! Before Time Runs Out is her first in a unique concept “Charles & Company Romance” series featuring some time travel, depth, romance, and, of course, humor. Read on for more about the book and my take…

About the Book

Graduate student Bree Sanders is failing the one class she needs to get her degree. So when her professor gives her an ultimatum—ace her dissertation or risk having to repeat her final semester—she knows she has to pull out all the stops. After scrambling for an idea, she decides to create her own Ghost Club, a club that blames ghosts for unsolved crimes, the same type of club originally founded two centuries ago by Charles Dickens.

What she doesn’t expect is to find an original copy of one of Dickens’ early works, or to be transplanted into Dickens’s actual ghost club meeting, circa 1870, the instant she picks it up.

When Bree shows up in nineteenth-century England wearing cut-offs and an old t-shirt, her only option is to hide. The Cambridge of 1870 won’t look kindly on a woman dressed like her. So, when Theodore Keyes finds her tucked behind a bookcase at the Trinity College library and immediately demands to know where she came from, she knows he doesn’t belong here either. Turns out she’s right; the same book caused him to time-travel from 1947 almost three months ago and he’s been stuck in England since.

Together, the two vow to work side-by-side in their search for the lost book that will take them home. But as their feelings for one another deepen, Theo and Bree are caught between a desire to return to the lives they each left behind, and the knowledge that if they find the book, they won’t be able to leave together.

In the end, they each must decide which sacrifice is worth making—the one that will cost them their hearts, or the one that could cost them their very existence.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Author Amy Matayo bravely tackles a neat concept in Before Time Runs Out, a FUN time travel romance for fans of book lovers and Victorian England. With the snark and surprise hit-you-in-the-feels depth I’ve come to expect from her, this adventure is a unique experience in examining what-ifs and the contrasts between eras with humor and romance.

Matayo’s authorial voice shines through in the juxtaposition of time periods and characters. It highlights the differences of the eras with humor and deep meaning. Some of my favorite elements and examples include: corsets, pop culture references, candles, books, crimes, walking sticks, top hats, SIBLINGS, responsibility, Google (and the historical lack thereof), grace and second chances.

While there are many facets of this novel to enjoy, I love the heroine and hero the most. Bree is smart, sassy, and driven, with relatable emotional baggage revealed along the way. Theodore (or THEO as Bree calls him) is courteous, strong, and capable, with a backstory I was eager to hear more about. I like how he proves the character of a gentleman is a timeless asset, no matter the decade or century. In a sly way, Matayo uses their pairing to contrast with today’s societal norms in illustrating the qualities of a true romantic hero/heroine and the importance of respect and trust in such a relationship. Their whirlwind of a friendship-turned-romance is fraught with challenges, adventure, and some fantastic heart-sharing moments that make their unlikely situations believable and something to root for.

I recommend this book for any fans of Dickens, literature, sci-fi time travel, Timeless the TV show!, and Amy’s everyday snark 😉 (if you follow her on social media, you know). I’m so excited this is a series — I’m already looking forward to more time spent in the era of Dickens in the next book!

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

Mini Review: “The Reunion” by Amy Matayo

Today I’m sharing a little review of the last book in Amy Matayo’s “Love in Chaos” series. This fourth story, short enough to consider it a novella, revisits the family and couples we know from previous books.

The “Love in Chaos” series 1-3: The Waves | The Aftermath | The Last Shot

About the Book

It’s been quite the year for the Hayes/Gamble family, but now things are looking up. When you’ve survived a tornado, a concert shooting, and being stranded on a deserted island, what else can possibly go wrong? After all, isn’t that the rule—three strikes, and you’re out?

That should totally be the rule.

Dillon Hayes has dreamed of her wedding day since childhood. Now, after months of planning, the chapel is booked, the invitations are sent, and the dress is ready and waiting. In only a few days’ time, Dillon will become Mrs. Liam Gamble in front of God, Tennessee, and everyone she loves.

But when a rare blizzard dumps piles of snow on Nashville and the entire southern region three days before the wedding, all that planning goes up in, well…snow. Businesses close. Flights are grounded. Roads are nearly impassible. Even the chapel now has a gaping hole in the middle of the roof and a giant mound of white powder blocking the aisle.

Dillon can feel her dreams dying one by one…and there’s nothing she can do to stop it. A year filled with one mishap after another can wear a person down. But what Dillon soon discovers is this: the death of one dream isn’t necessarily the end.

Sometimes it can lead to an even better beginning.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Reunion wraps up these characters’ happily-ever-afters in an imperfect-yet-perfect way. While unexpected things happen (and will continue!), they don’t have to end there. Positive and happy and good can come of seemingly bad circumstances (like snowstorms and changes of venue). I think this is a timely reminder for this month especially.

I am delighted the world gets to revisit all 6 main characters of Amy Matayo’s series, along with their POVs and snarky humor, in this little novella. It’s a glimpse of their life-directions and it’s HOPEFUL. Plus it’s a chance to see just what formal wear Dillon makes Teddy wear at her wedding! 😉

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

Review: “The Last Shot” by Amy Matayo

I’m happy to be sharing a review today of indie author Amy Matayo’s latest release, The Last Shot, the third book in her “Love in Chaos” series.

Book 1: The Waves | Book 2: The Aftermath

About the Book

It’s the same routine every night, and country music superstar Teddy Hayes wouldn’t have it any other way.

7:00 pm: Arena doors open and fans fill the stands.
7:45 pm: Lights go out and spotlights come on.
7:46 pm: Energy from concert-goers reaches an ear-spitting crescendo.
7:47 pm: Teddy takes the stage and begins to sing.

But tonight, something is off.

It starts when a stage light malfunctions and sends sparks into the air.
It continues when his drummer stops playing and stares slack-jawed in Teddy’s direction.

It dawns on him when a fan doubles-over and a red stain spreads across her shirt.

Something isn’t just off tonight.

Someone in the crowd is shooting a gun.

And it’s up to a female bodyguard he’s never met before to save his life.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Amy Matayo has a knack for heart-deep storytelling wrapped in a snarky package. In The Last Shot, that sarcasm and banter comes with a mix of loss and peril as an unthinkable scenario plays out. I appreciate both the candor and the care with which the active shooter situation is portrayed. Much like the characters of the story experience, that is a situation no one expects to be in and no one truly knows how to prepare for. Amy takes the time to show this, and to combine it with the experiences of Teddy and Jane to amplify its immediate and residual complications.

Borne of this life-changing event, Teddy and Jane are drawn together by a shared experience and by an instant rapport. I enjoyed seeing their friendship grow naturally and their dealing with heavy subjects together. This story is one that draws great attention to the importance of friendship, compassion, and courageously dealing with any challenges one step at a time.

I really liked the layers of this story, how Teddy and Jane are complex and common at the same time (that is a compliment). Amy also sprinkles a little innuendo into the humorous side of her stories. It makes them have a more gen-market feel although they have inspirational content and messages. I like the balance she achieves with such a technique. It was fun to see the banter this friend-group has in this third book. I’m SO looking forward to the next (and last) book in this series!

Thank you to Relz Review Services for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! Like last year, I’m separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. It’s going to take me a few days to talk about all the stories I loved in 2019!

I have exceeded my reading goals for 2019 according to my Goodreads reading challenge! If you’d like to see all of my 5-star reads and extensive reviews, just check out my completed Goodreads challenge or browse my blog archives. Each day leading up to New Year’s Day you’ll get a new post about my 2019 favorites:

  1. Best of 2019: Novellas & Audiobooks
  2. Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction
  3. Best of 2019: (General) Historical Fiction
  4. Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction
  5. Best of 2019: Film & TV
  6. Best of 2019: Happy New Year #OnTheBlog

The rules: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review.

Today is all about contemporary fiction! On my list you’ll find light hearted contemporary romance, women’s fiction, a thriller, and a bit of a mystery, and some more serious drama.

Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction

A Match for Emma by Pepper Basham | Review

Friendship. Trust. Appalachian humor.

After the Rain by Brandy Bruce | Review

Growing. Emotional complexity. Unconditional love.

Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig | Review

Adrenaline. Brotherhood. Globe-trotting spy stuff.

Brunch at Bittersweet Café by Carla Laureano | Review

Heart-friendship. Foodie environment. Hope.

The Waves by Amy Matayo | Review

Romantic chemistry. Sarcasm. Contrast of hope and loss.

How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim | Review

Surrender. Emotional twists. Compelling retelling of Ruth.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay | Review

Story for booknerds. Faith. Magnetic romance.

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner | Review

Resonating candor. Authentic faith. Classic movies.

Sweet On You by Becky Wade | Review

Sweet – the chocolate & romance. Mystery to solve. Wonderful family dynamics.

Just One Kiss by Courtney Walsh | Review

Rekindled love. Small town charm. The “whys”.

Review: “The Aftermath” by Amy Matayo (Love in Chaos #2)

Happy book birthday to The Aftermath by Amy Matayo! This marks the second story in her “Love in Chaos” series! It’s a quick read that left me curious and excited for the next one! Read on for my thoughts & review.

About the Book

According to Riley Mae Floss, life is a ten-page menu of possibilities. As the owner of a cupcake shop in small-town Missouri, she thrives on candies and rainbows and spreading joy every chance she gets. Even her hair is the color of bubble gum. Life is just the way she likes it, so why would she want anything to change now?

But when a tornado rips into Riley Mae’s southern town and destroys nearly everything in its path, her happy little life changes in less than forty-two seconds. Buildings gone. Homes carried away. People missing or even dead. Her bakery a shell of what it once was; also her life. Riley Mae’s picture-perfect world is shattered, and everyone she cares about has been hurt in the process.

According to insurance adjuster Chad Gamble, life always works out exactly the way it’s supposed to…for other people. As for him, life is a bit of a crapfest—one where he never wins the prize, makes the starting team, or gets the girl. He’s straight-laced, suit-and-tie, all-business, and sees the world for the color it is: muted gray with a little black around the edges.
So when Chad Gamble walks into Riley Mae’s ruined bakery to “assess the damages”—his words, not hers—he has no intention of getting bogged down by sentimental nonsense. Sparks immediately start to fly, and not the good kind. Who does this pushy, pink-haired chick think she is, treating him like an outsider when all he came to do was help? He can’t figure out why the locals like her so much.

Or worse, why he can’t stop thinking about her.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Aftermath tackles natural disasters, family baggage, dreams and purpose, and a romance in the chaos that ensues. This novel portrays an honest and realistic story of how life can change in an instant and be incredibly hard…. and how it can also be filled with joy, filled with people who continue to show up and care about you. I greatly appreciate its theme and message of how the past doesn’t have the final say. (And YAY for a story setting that’s close to me in real life! Springfield, MO!)

Did I mention there are CUPCAKES!? Cupcakes and a bakery that brings a community together. Amy Matayo gets it RIGHT when it comes to the hard behind-the-scenes work of such an endeavor (I’m a baker myself). And I really, really loved how scars are used as a metaphor for Riley. They mark pain and hard things, but they also heal and fade with time (or in Riley’s case, with bandaging from an, ahem, attractive “new friend” 😉 ) In the middle of all the sweet sugar, a sweet romance unfolds that finds the characters vulnerable and sharing their aches.

Once again, I appreciate how Amy Matayo’s stories absolutely cannot be categorized or put in a box. The lighthearted moments strike a contrast with the grit and emotion of Riley and Chad as they learn and grow through the aftermath of devastation. I recommend it to fans of (clean) new adult and inspirational fiction alike!

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

Review: “The Waves” by Amy Matayo

Any time is a good time to read an Amy Matayo novel! This time, her latest independent (shortish) novel is the start of a new series. And I couldn’t be more excited about THAT! Read on for my thoughts on The Waves…

About the Book
TheWaves_Amazon_iBooks

Dillon Hayes is twenty-eight and single, an unfortunate status her overbearing family is determined to fix. So when she’s stuck on a cruise ship for a seven-day reunion with the lot of them, she’s desperate for any escape she can find, even if it means partnering with a sketchy stranger for an off-the-beaten-path snorkeling excursion. After her mother’s last matchmaking attempt, Dillon is more than willing to trade all her good sense for a few hours of solace. 

Liam Gamble is stuck in the middle of family vacation hell. The worst part: it’s not even his family. This will be the last time he ever accepts a free-vacation invitation from his best friend. At this point, he’d be willing to hand over his life savings to get off this crazy ship. So when he catches one of his friend’s cousins sneaking off board, he decides to join her, hijacking her private excursion and nearly blowing her cover. If she gets to leave, so does he. 

But what starts off as a secret escape turns into a very real nightmare when their shady tour guide leaves them stranded on an uninhabited island with nothing but the clothes on their backs and no idea how to keep themselves alive.

As hours turn into days, and the weather proves as threatening as their need for food and water, Dillon and Liam must join forces and rely on each other if they have any hope of seeing their families again. Funny thing: sometimes in life, the end of the rope is when you discover everything you value has been in front of you all along.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

With her distinct humorous tone and ability to weave deep themes into seemingly light situations, author Amy Matayo has decidedly penned another must-read story! Sarcasm and music references are included, along with a pleasant directnesss and a swiftly moving story of attraction and romance. Amy writes the guy’s POV like no other.

I was laughing at the wit of Dillon from chapter 1 and crying by chapter 3. After that comes a twisting, adventurous ride with Dillon and Liam. I loved the subtle ways loss and hope, pain and loyalty are tackled through the journey of the characters. And the romantic chemistry! Trust me, it’s there in spades.

I happened to read this book while on a little bit of a vacation, but mine was not as eventful and crazy as Liam and Dillon’s! Though at all times, Amy keeps it realistic. Survival skills are a must, ya’ll. I liked the ending — how things were brought full circle with the romance in a believable way.. I am highly anticipating the next story in this series! (And I REALLY hope it’s about Teddy)

Thanks to Relz Author Support for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Cover Reveal: “The Waves” by Amy Matayo

You guys, Amy Matayo is releasing a new novel next month! And, it’s the very first one in a new series. This will be her first series. I’m super excited!

The Waves (Love in Chaos #1)

Dillon Hayes is twenty-eight and single, an unfortunate status her overbearing family is determined to fix. So when she’s stuck on a cruise ship for a seven-day reunion with the lot of them, she’s desperate for any escape she can find, even if it means partnering with a sketchy stranger for an off-the-beaten-path snorkeling excursion. After her mother’s last matchmaking attempt, Dillon is more than willing to trade all her good sense for a few hours of solace.

Liam Gamble is stuck in the middle of family vacation hell. The worst part: it’s not even his family. This will be the last time he ever accepts a free-vacation invitation from his best friend. At this point, he’d be willing to hand over his life savings to get off this crazy ship. So when he catches one of his friend’s cousins sneaking off board, he decides to join her, hijacking her private excursion and nearly blowing her cover. If she gets to leave, so does he.

But what starts off as a secret escape turns into a very real nightmare when their shady tour guide leaves them stranded on an uninhabited island with nothing but the clothes on their backs and no idea how to keep themselves alive.

As hours turn into days, and the weather proves as threatening as their need for food and water, Dillon and Liam must join forces and rely on each other if they have any hope of seeing their families again. Funny thing: sometimes in life, the end of the rope is when you discover everything you value has been in front of you all along. 

Releases April 25 | Preorder on Amazon!

And now, the cover……

What do you think? I love the tropical feel and artsy leaves!!!

Best of 2018: Contemporary 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 about CONTEMPORARY BOOKS, AKA the category with the most favorites. I read more contemporary stories this year… and there several on this list! Maybe that means I know what I like?! I think so. Like my historical list, most are from this year, but a few were released prior to 2018.

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: Contemporary Books

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac | Review

Laughter. Living. Chemistry.

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano | Review

Culinary dream. Delightful complexity. Relationships.

Blue Columbine by Jennifer Rodewald | Review

Grace. Redemption. Raw emotions.

The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce | Review

Friendship. Dreams. True selflessness.

Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig | Review

Epic action. Brotherhood. Sacrifice.

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert | Review

Empathy. Call to love. Relevant.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Amy Matayo | Review

Power of words. Choices. Connection.

When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham | Review

Music. Trust. Home.

Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh | Review

Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Homecoming.

Wait for Me by Susan May Warren | Review to come

Adventure. Love worth the risk. Timing.

A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson | Review

Heritage. Romance. Worth.

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

Review: “Lies We Tell Ourselves” by Amy Matayo

 

Amy Matayo (9)

Amy Matayo’s stories always surprise me. Their humor and sarcasm, truth and vulnerability, and relevance always shine through the storytelling. Her latest indie release, Lies We Tell Ourselves, was no different. I could not have predicted the ending, especially the way the last 1/4 of the of story unfolded. And it was perfect — emotionally exhausting in the best way.

About the Book

Presley Waterman is a rescuer: of animals, of businesses, of people. Like the stray cat she’s allergic to, but continues to care for. Like her small-town newspaper, a business that’s been dying a slow death for the better part of a decade. And like Micah. Her best friend and the man she has loved since they were kids, back when no one else cared.   

Lies We Tell OurselvesAs for him… 

Micah Leven loves Presley. She’s the girl who’s always been there to help, the one who knows all the ugly things about him and makes him believe he can be a better man, the one who will never leave because she’s promised over and over.  
But he also loves Mara.  

Mara is his ideal. She’s the dream he conjured up as a boy and never wavered from. She’s beautiful, ambitious, driven, a fellow newscaster at his Atlanta station, and the perfect asset for the life he’s always wanted. Together, they could conquer the world and their respective careers. Even better, with Mara he could prove that he did—in fact—finally amount to something. Maybe then his father would be proud.   

There are just a few things Presley and Micah have both forgotten. One, just because you rescue someone doesn’t mean they’ll love you for it. Two, some dreams disappear when reality wakes you up. Three, the only way to silence lies is to face the truth head-on. 

This is the story of the man torn between two existences, the woman who finally took the choice away from him, and what happens when you stop listening to lies once and for all. 

Even if the biggest liar is you.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

What begins as an intriguing story of two friends quickly grows into a story much deeper and extremely relevant. One of friendship, of the value of relationships, of the ties and loyalties of the heart, and that of lies told and lies believed. These lies are sometimes spoken by the characters but are most often born from untruths spoken over them as children. The statements are internalized and believed until the lies become a part of their identity and define all of their behaviors. Through a series of events, Presley and Micah navigate their relationship they each label as “friendship” when their true feelings are much more romantic in nature.

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Let’s stop for a second and talk about storytelling technique. This book is separated into 3 different parts, each of which is told from the first person POV of 3 characters, one of which was a big surprise! And, moments of memory or flashback were spread throughout the story, telling of important moments of friendship between a young Presley and Micah. These passages are clearly noted and wonderfully add depth of the story, the meaning behind present-day choices and behaviors.

One little thing about this story that really stood out to me was that sometimes recognizing the truth is admitting vulnerability. No one likes to be vulnerable, but that is our nature when we let someone in to see our hearts and our character. This is demonstrated through Micah’s struggle with admitting his motives when it comes to his friendship with Presley. And let me just tell you, Presley’s character has to respond to all of this… and her choice is wonderfully empowering. I loved it!

What a message to readers this story carries: that of WORTH, of the value of people and the power of words.

 

content: overall a clean read, with some suggestive comments and innuendos, most of which are meant to be sarcastically humorous. I would rate it for teens and up.

Thank you to the author and Relz Author Support Services for the review copy. This is my honest review.