Review: “A Girl’s Guide to the Outback” by Jessica Kate

Today I’m sharing about a cute and charming romcom by Aussie author Jessica Kate. Read on for my experience with her version of the “Outback”…

About the Book

Romance author Jessica Kate explores the hilariously thin line between love and hate in her heartwarming new novel.

Samuel Payton is a passionate youth pastor in Virginia, but beneath the surface, Sam’s still recovering from a failed business. His coworker—start-up expert Kimberly Foster—is brilliant, fearless, and capable, but her mother’s rejection from a young age till now has left her defensive and longing for a family. Two people have never been more at odds—or more attracted to one another. And every day at work, the sparks are flying.

When Kimberly’s ambitious plans for Sam’s ministry butt up against his risk-averse nature, Sam decides that obligations to family trump his work for the church. He quits the ministry and flies home to Australia to help his family save their struggling farm—much to Kimberly’s chagrin. As Kimberly’s grand plans flounder, she is forced to face the truth: that no one can replace Sam. To what lengths will she go to get him back?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A Girl’s Guide to the Outback is a humorous “armchair adventure” romance that simultaneously initiates the reader (and heroine Kimberly) in Aussie culture AND shares a story of belonging and purpose. Sam and Kimberly also have All. The. Sparks. and chemistry in their love/hate-romantic relationship. It was just so FUN to see their banter and friendship transforming.

Jessica Kate’s sense of humor shines through in her writing. (If you follow her on any of her social media platforms or podcast, you will find this to be true!) The witty humor and all the pop culture things are interspersed with a serious message of courage and faith. Courage to take risks in many ways, like whether to be vulnerable to heartache or love or to trust God to carry you through your failures. These lessons come along naturally with the story as Kim, Sam, and Jules work (and play) together, argue once or twenty times, and find out what happiness looks like on the other side of trials.

As a reader, I can see Kate’s passion for her culture clearly shining through. Jessica Kate has infused this story with her own personal farm upbringing and Aussie terminology. The charm of rural life — and dedication — it takes to run a farm, are an important part of this story. Australia becomes a setting-as-a-character by the end, making me feel like I’ve visited the outback myself (minus the poisonous snakes and drought conditions, of course).

While Jessica Kate is busy writing her next story for me to devour, I’ll be over here trying to find ways to work the term “fair dinkhum” into my everyday vocabulary!

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy of this novel. 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”.

First Line Friday: “The Austen Escape” + Austen in August



It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

20171006_010334.jpg

I’ve recently learned of a delightful thing happening on the internet called “Austen in August”! There are several blogs and social media accounts hosting themed posts, link-ups, and all around Jane Austen fun. (Shoutout to my friend Kara for bringing this to my attention!)

Over at The Book Rat, you can find more info and see all the Austen posts & love.

In honor of this theme, I’m sharing the first lines from Katherine Reay’s The Austen Escape, a contemporary favorite that pays homage to Austen in themes and characters, though it tells a story of its own.

“How can I help”?

The world stilled. It wasn’t the first time I wondered how one voice, one presence, could quicken the air and simultaneously stop all motion.

Your turn! What’s your first line?



Cover Reveal: “A Match for Emma” by Pepper Basham

I’m very excited to be participating the cover reveal for Pepper Basham’s third “Mitchell’s Crossroads” novel! It is a friends-to-lovers romance reminiscent of the classic Emma by Jane Austen (yay), and it releases on November 21! First , a little more about it…

About the Book

Emma Mitchell may enjoy sprinkling romance into the lives of others, but her own plans involve a single first-class ticket to culinary school in Europe.  

When her best friend, Jon Noble, suddenly moves back to Ransom, Emma’s fairly certain her life can’t get any better…until her matchmaking schemes nosedive, her culinary future falls flat, and a life-long friendship begins to teeter on the brink of something unexpected.

With a little inspiration from Jane Austen’s classic and a touch of Blue Ridge charm, will Jon and Emma discover that what they need the most may be the last thing they’re trying to find?

About the Author

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes historical and contemporary romance novels with grace, humor, and culture clashes. She’s a Blue Ridge Mountain native and an anglophile who enjoys combining her two loves to create memorable stories of hope. You can connect with Pepper over at her group blog, The Writer’s Alley, her websiteFacebookInstagramPinterest, or Twitter.

First Line Fridays # 26: “A Table by the Window” by Hillary Manton Lodge

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

20171006_010334.jpg

This has been the kind of week requiring some comfort stories. (I had to say goodbye to one of my beloved kitties who was very sick.) SO, I sought out something familiar, easy to read, and cozy in its own way. Hillary Manton Lodge’s “Two Blue Doors” series is just that! A favorite of mine, I started with the middle story, intending to reread just it. Well…. after reading it, most of book 1, and favorite scenes in book 3, I think it’s safe to say I revisited the series.

Here, I’m sharing the first line of A Table by the Window, the book that started it all. The family secrets. The blend of French and Italian cuisine. The restaurant culture, friendships, family banter, and the sweetest long distance romance. If you’re curious, I highly recommend this whole series! (I’ll link my reviews below.)

“I can’t believe she left you the prep table,” my brother Nico groused as he and my oldest brother, Alex, carried the piece up the stairs to my apartment.

Reviews: A Table by the Window | Reservations for Two | Together at the Table

Your turn! What’s your first line? Do you have a go-to, favorite “comfort” series or book?

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!!!

Book Gush: “How the Light Gets In” by Jolina Petersheim

I’m sharing a review today for a book that just blew. me. away: How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim. I have been thinking about it for most of the week, trying to wrap my mind around the story and put into words what it made me feel. I know my words can’t do justice to the beauty of the story and its intricacies, but I will attempt to share my thoughts & argument for why YOU should read it.

About the Book

From the highly acclaimed author of The Outcast and The Alliance comes an engrossing novel about marriage and motherhood, loss and moving on.

When Ruth Neufeld’s husband and father-in-law are killed working for a relief organization overseas, she travels to Wisconsin with her young daughters and mother-in-law Mabel to bury her husband. She hopes the Mennonite community will be a quiet place to grieve and piece together next steps.

Ruth and her family are welcomed by Elam, her husband’s cousin, who invites them to stay at his cranberry farm through the harvest. Sifting through fields of berries and memories of a marriage that was broken long before her husband died, Ruth finds solace in the beauty of the land and healing through hard work and budding friendship. She also encounters the possibility of new love with Elam, whose gentle encouragement awakens hopes and dreams she thought she’d lost forever.

But an unexpected twist threatens to unseat the happy ending Ruth is about to write for herself. On the precipice of a fresh start and a new marriage, Ruth must make an impossible decision: which path to choose if her husband isn’t dead after all.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

How the Light Gets In is probably the most unique book I’ve ever read. It is a storytelling feat with emotional twists, surprises, and a whiplash ending (which I shall not reveal! No spoilers here!). Peer beyond the expert framework and you will discover a retelling of Ruth that is compelling in its exploration of grief, relationships, and the surrender that comes with letting Love shine through the faults and fallacies of our natures.

The brilliance of this story does not lie in the characters, plot, setting, or genre (all of which are great!) Because of its twist, it lies instead in its purpose. To appreciate this, you do have to read the story start to finish.

But its purpose is not a soapbox or affiliation. It is a message of impact. How tiny choices, whether born of love or selfishness (encouraging words or open communication, negative thoughts or a sharp tongue), can drastically change relationships over time. Even if one means well. This theme is revealed through the lens of marriage and its joys and hardships but I feel it can be applied to any relationship, so it’s a story for all.

How the light gets in quote

Another impressive facet of the novel is the use of the setting. Its simplicity, that of a Mennonite community with little pretense, works to magnify the complications of Ruth’s past (in an urban setting on another continent, no less), revealed in letters and memory segments. Her shift in environments serves to emphasize the universal problems and challenges of any relationship, whatever the circumstance, and shows them to often stem from a heart- or choice-issue, not that of one’s surroundings.

I feel like I could talk for 4 hours about How the Light Gets In. About the vivid characters, the gentle heart of Elam, the virtues of Chandler amidst his seeming faults, the darling children, or the caring family (especially Mabel and Laurie!). Instead, I think everyone should read it! *though I heartily gush and recommend books I love, I am not prone to such hyperbole about just any story. This one is an exception.*

I will be thinking about this story for weeks to come. Especially the ending that left me joyful-and-reeling. It charges the reader to embrace all the messiness of life and to press on when pain inevitably occurs. And, even to hope and trust God to do a new thing when all seems lost.

Sincere thanks to the publisher, Tyndale, for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Author Jolina Petersheim has an awesome book club kit for How the Light Gets In! Book club kit & info on her website here.