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.
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…
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
Today I’m EXTREMELY happy to share my review of Courtney Walsh’s recent women’s fiction indie release, Things Left Unsaid. While this might be a slightly new genre for Courtney, this story is as emotionally resonant as her contemporary romances.
Audiobook note: I switched back and forth between reading this and listening to the audiobook. I enjoyed the audio version and felt it was narrated with emotion and clarity. I’m a bit picky when it comes to audio narrators, so this was a pleasant thing!
An emotional novel of family, friendship and forgiveness from Courtney Walsh, the New York Times bestselling author of Hometown Girl.
Lyndie St. James is thrilled that her best friend, Elle, is getting married but unprepared for the emotional storm of the wedding week and returning to her childhood summer home of Sweethaven. The idyllic cottage community harbors some of her best—and worst—memories. It’s not only the tragic death of her childhood friend Cassie that has haunted her for ten years, it’s the other secrets she’s buried that have kept her from moving on.
But Lyndie isn’t the only one with secrets.
Cassie’s mother, father and brother, still struggling with the loss, have been drifting further and further apart. And Elle herself, the last to see Cassie alive, carries an impossible burden of guilt. Now reunited, each of them has a choice: to reveal the truths of that night or continue to live in its shadow. That means embarking on a personal journey of the heart—to escape the darkness and all its regrets and to finally come to terms with the past and, especially, with each other.
This story surprised me more than once. What I expected to be a story of friendship, summertime memories, and the way the past shapes identities became so much more with every new secret revealed and emotional layer pulled back. Courtney Walsh has penned (another) beautiful story of GRACE. Of how important it is to belong and be known, and to forgive… even if it’s about forgiving yourself.
I enjoyed how the pace of the story allowed for time to get to know the characters, especially Lyndie, in their current frames of mind before events pulled them all together in the same town. This timeline starts to paint a picture of the past and hints at the baggage each of them carries.
Courtney Walsh always manages to write relatable and even flawed characters, and Lyndie, Tucker, Elle, and Karen are all representative of the struggles we face. When you read this story, you WILL relate to at least one of them, whether their pain, grief, complacency, self-confidence struggles, or possibly the honesty, faith, and positive steps to growth call out to your heart.
I won’t give away any plot points or heart-wrenching secrets (you will have to discover them when you read this story) but I will say that this story deals with some sensitive issues. All of them have to do with the fallout of choices and mistakes, some of them long-buried or years in the making. Courtney Walsh’s straightforward style handles this sensitively and realistically which further proves her place on my must-read authors list!
I went from laughing to crying and experiencing every emotion in between while reading! I highly recommend this book to women’s fiction fans or of authors like Katie Ganshert, Jennifer Rodewald, Amy Matayo, and Katherine Reay.
Thank you to the author for the advance copy of this book. This is my honest review.
It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!
Happy weekend! It’s turning chilly in my corner of the world as fall is fading. It’s the perfect weather to curl up in a cozy place with a book!!! Today I’m sharing the first line of a book I’m VERY MUCH anticipating: Wait for Meby Susan May Warren. It’s the last book in her “Montana Rescue” series, and it’s a finale (and couple) I’ve been rooting for since the beginning!
I still need to read the book just before this one, Storm Front, so the good news is I can binge-read both of them soon!
He wasn’t looking for trouble, but if Pete didn’t act right now, at least one person was going to die.
What a first line, right? What kind of situation do you think Pete is in? (Do you think it involves his search-and-rescue team or something else?)
Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! Then, head over toHoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!
Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours. I’m delighted to be sharing my review of this sweet contemporary romance novel, along with the tour. Read on for the giveaway info and my thoughts!
When You Look at Me
Series: Pleasant Gap Romance #2
Author: Pepper Basham
Publisher: Woven Words Publications
Release Date: October 25, 2018
Genre: Inspirational Contemporary Romance
An unexpected mother-to-be
A romance-leery composer
And a forgotten melody from the past that holds the keys to their futures
When Julia Jenkins’ great aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. As she goes through her aunt’s treasured possessions, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.
Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate’s newest film. The Jenkins’ family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a
bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.
But her broken past and his families’ expectations build a wall much greater than the culture that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?
When You Look at Me is one of the sweetest romances I’ve ever read! Balancing humor and a boisterous family with two lead-character introverts, this story shows the heart of people who trust God to give them strength and lead them to good things, even in the midst of a painful and imperfect world. The friendship-growing-into-romance deserves all the hearts, cupcakes, and happy sighs!
I loved watching Julia and Henry grow, learn from each other, and just be together in so many moments of everyday life. The story felt like a glimpse of their lives with its special moments AND hard things, and through it all their relationship progressed naturally. Little moments I loved: midnight teas, piano duets, family dinners, stress-baking, musical puns, messy hair, old letters, and “The Princess Bride” references.
It was fun to “catch up” with Wes and Eisley (from book 1!!!!!) and see where their journey is headed. Eisley gives good advice, too. 😉
Seeing Henry’s personality and purpose come to life and Julia’s journey to bravery and the discovery of love’s worth was a delight. With a thread of a family mystery, humorous moments that made me giggle, and a prominent theme of music weaving it all together, this is one Britallachian contemporary romance not to miss!
Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.
Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes historical and contemporary romance novels with grace, humor, and culture clashes. She͛s a Blue Ridge Mountain native and an anglophile who enjoys combining her two loves to create memorable stories of hope. Pepper is also a mom of five, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family.
print copy of Just The Way You Are (Pleasant Gap Romance #1)
print copy of When You Look at Me (Pleasant Gap Romance #2)
a plaque which says: Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life…. love comes along and brings you a fairy tale
Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight October 22, 2018 and lasts through 11:59pm October 29, 2018. Void where prohibited by law. US addresses only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.
It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!
Happy Friday! Today’s First Line Friday feature is a novella for the romantic at heart: Rose in Three Quarter Timeby Rachel McMillan. This novella is a #MUSTREAD for any fans of clean contemporary romance, the marriage of convenience trope, or just music and good old-fashioned friendship. It releases in a couple days, actually! (Sept. 30. Go preorder for $.99 now!) Check back on the blog on release day for a review, special interview + more fun!
The revolutionary Oliver Thorne is a study in resiliency.
Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! Then, head over toHoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!
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.
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.
As 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.
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.
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.