Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Signs You’re a Book Lover

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Official topic: 10 Signs You’re a Book Lover

This week’s topic was SO FUN to play with! I’m guilty of most of these on my list…

10 signs you're a book lover

10 Signs You’re a Book Lover

  1. A peek inside your purse (or bag) reveals a book (or two!) in progress… I’ve been known to carry around a paperback or an ebook device all the time, especially on road trips or vacations.
  2. Your TBR (to be read) pile has turned into a bookshelf all its own… or maybe it’s haphazardly scattered through the house. Or tracked on Goodreads. But at least YOU know which books you haven’t read and which ones you must-read-next!
  3. Your Amazon order history is 90% book related… Books. Notebooks in which to write about books. Ebooks. Books to gift all of your family and loved ones. Shelves and bags to house books.
  4. Random conversations or historical tidbits make you think about fictional characters... Someone mentions WWI spies? You think of Kate Breslin’s stories. Or a mention of the name Callum instantly causes all the feels and a need to visit TX (Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge).
  5. You have a pet named after a fictional character… OK, so I don’t have one named Darcy or Thornton or Oliver YET, but those names are on the future pet list!
  6. You have a dangerously high stack of books on your nightstand… and, like me, your mom has warned you about the stack falling on you while you sleep.
  7. You keep a spreadsheet on your computer with a list of books you’ve read, and a separate list sorted by historical eras… or maybe that’s just me. 😉
  8. Your friends and family gift you bookish things… like bookmarks, cookbooks, gift cards to your favorite bookstores, or that one novel you’ve been dying to get your hands on!
  9. Your favorite movies or series are adaptations of your favorite stories… like North & South, Emma, or maybe The Count of Monte Cristo and Jason Bourne are more your thing.
  10. You spend time making lists like this… ABOUT books!

Your turn! Did you participate in Top Ten Tuesday this week? Do you share any of these book-loving-signs with me? Drop a link in the comments!

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.

Series Review: "Sunrise at Normandy" by Sarah Sundin

I LOVE to learn about history through story! Sarah Sundin’s WWII “Sunrise at Normandy” series explores what life in the US and England was like for citizens in each branch of the US armed forces and for those in the Red Cross, Women’s Royal Navel Service, and on the home front employed on and off base.

You can read the synopsis and learn more about each book in this series on Goodreads.

Series Review

The “Sunrise at Normandy” series follows the stories of the three Paxton brothers, each serving in a different branch (Navy, Air Force, Army) and fighting in the Battle of Normandy. Their familial circumstances are estranged because of events at the beginning of the series. Because of this, each participates in events leading up to D-Day independently and experiences unique opportunities for romantic relationships AND for growing into forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Sea Before Us delves into just what it means to be held in God’s hand during one of the most tumultuous times in modern history (and one of the most interesting to me): WWII Europe just before and during D-Day. Sundin’s writing style flows naturally and relates the depth of the characters with ease. I thought the characters wonderfully likable and easy to root for, although Dorothy annoyed me a few times with her propensity to overlook a certain someone’s roguish nature. Thankfully, the strong and steady personality of Wyatt is a bright beacon for Dorothy as she grows during the story.

The Sky Above Us is a fantastic WWII story that’s even better if you’ve read book 1!. 😉 I enjoyed that several characters are based on actual historical people — the research shines through in that aspect. Subtle faith themes and parallels to the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau deepen the characters’ arcs and add to the complexity of the plot. The romance unfolds naturally amidst all of the WWII happenings to be sensible and sweet. I think this is my favorite of the three!

The Land Beneath Us is the perfect conclusion to the series. This approach to a group of stories, all three on a similar timeline with the stories of the brothers overlapping, is unique and expertly woven by Sarah Sundin. I really appreciate the bits of real history included in this story, especially concerning the Army’s training and preparedness, and the way all the characters show true growth and maturity as a result of their experiences and relationships. Leah, especially, grows into her role as a woman through this. Another thing I really liked about each of these stories is how they parallel and draw influence from prominent Biblical persons, this one referencing Joseph and Leah.

Thank you to Revell publishers for the review copy of each title. These are my honest thoughts and reviews.

Review: “Chasing the White Lion” by James R. Hannibal

This review is of a super fun action and suspense story: Chasing the White Lion by James R. Hannibal. Though I’m glad I didn’t experience the dangers CIA agent Talia Inger and her team face in this story, I did enjoy googling all of the locations around the globe for a visual — and now I want to visit Prague!

About the Book

Young CIA officer Talia Inger has reconciled with the man who assassinated her father, but that doesn’t mean she wants him hovering over her every move and unearthing the painful past she’s trying to put behind her. Still, she’ll need him–and the help of his star grifter, Valkyrie–if she hopes to infiltrate the Jungle, the first ever crowdsourced crime syndicate, to rescue a group of kidnapped refugee children.

But as Talia and her elite team of thieves con their way into the heart of the Jungle, inching ever closer to syndicate boss the White Lion, she’ll run right up against the ragged edge of her family’s dark past. In this game of cat and mouse, it’s win . . . or die. And in times like that, it’s always good to have someone watching your back.

Former tactical deception officer and stealth pilot James Hannibal takes you deep undercover into the criminal underworld where everyone has an angle and no one escapes unscathed. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Reading Chasing the White Lion is more fun than watching an action movie — and I do LOVE action movies! If the crew of Ocean’s 11 were working with Mission: Impossible and the CIA, it might look something like what the globe-trotting Talia Inger and her team accomplish.

More than the high-tech, cybercrime-stopping fun, though, these characters share nerdy humor and a deeper story of purpose. While Talia learns to depend and trust those God has placed in her life as a ragtag “family”, ties between these team members grow stronger and more secrets are revealed. I highly recommend reading the first book, The Gryphon Heist, to appreciate the full background of this story and the personalities of each character.

Veteran James R. Hannibal has penned an extraordinarily fun story that simultaneously draws attention to the global opportunities of giving and caring for the “least of these” around us. Chasing the White Lion incorporates the organization Compassion International deftly into its plot and shines such a light on children and human trafficking concerns. For more info, go check out James’ website post about how each book purchased is supporting Compassion.

I highly recommend this book to any fans of action, suspense, or ensemble-cast heist stories with a thread of faith. I hope many more adventures are in story for Talia and company!

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

Recommended Reading: Series to Binge

In light of all the craziness happening in the world right now, you might find yourself with extra time to read that book or series you’ve had on your shelf for forever. If you’ve read all the books in your house (Go you! I commend you!), and you’re looking to discover more great stories, I have compiled a list of 11 series you can binge-read NOW!

In my reading opinion, nothing is better than getting to breeze through a series back to back with NO WAITING until the next book is released!

I’ve listed these in order of historical era and genre, with Goodreads links to the series and some links to my reviews. And, confession time, all of these have some element of romance 😉

Parish Orphans of Devon series by Mimi Matthews | Victorian Era England + abroad

Delightful and deep Victorian romances, each of these couples have unique appeal (brooding, bookish, assertive, sweet, and redeemed rogue in the mix). I will reread these forever. The audio versions are wonderful, too!

The Matrimonial Advertisement | A Modest Independence | A Convenient Fiction | The Winter Companion

Timber Ridge Reflections series by Tamera Alexander | Post-Civil War American West

I remember loving each of these historical romances for different reasons, the first one being the subject of photography in book From a Distance.

Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta | Mystery and Intrigue in Victorian England

My favorite EVER historical series — and I don’t say this lightly! All three books encompass one of the most transformative arcs of the heroine. The allegorical symbolism of redemption deeply embedded in this series blows me away every time I think about it.

Born of Persuasion | Series feature: Price of Privilege

The Everstone Chronicles series by Dawn Crandall | Gilded Age New England

Four novels + 1 novella all with unique 1st person point-of-view heroines. Plus the Adirondack and coastal settings are detailed and idyllic!

The Hesitant Heiress | The Bound Heart | The Captive Imposter | The Cautious Maiden

Herringford & Watts Mysteries by Rachel McMillan | Pre-WWI Toronto

Trouser-wearing lady detectives solve crime in Toronto on the cusp of world war with a colorful cast of secondary characters, and two (or three!) valiant love interests. Three full length novels, two novellas, and a short story offer pages of fun with these friends!

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder | A Lesson in Love and Murder | The White Feather Murders

Penned in Time series by Pepper Basham | WWI England & America

From the front lines to English hospitals and the US treatment of German residents, this romance series explores many facets of the era. Most outstanding, though, it its stories of love and redemption. Book 2 is my favorite!

The Thorn Bearer | The Thorn Keeper | The Thorn Healer

Sunrise at Normandy series by Sarah Sundin | WWII & Battle of Normandy

This series shows how the Allied forces approached and carried out the Battle of Normandy, each by the sea, air, and land. Three estranged brothers find reconciliation and romance while serving in each branch during this pivotal battle. Oh, and each one references and reflects a Biblical story!

The Sea Before Us

Tox Files series by Ronie Kendig | Paramilitary Thrillers

This series needs a seatbelt warning! The prequel novella and three novels follow a covert team around the globe as they work to eliminate a threat and save the day. Besides the kick-butt heroines, the team camaraderie is fun! Oh, and the slight supernatural elements are super cool!

Conspiracy of Silence | Crown of Souls | Thirst of Steel

Two Blue Doors series by Hillary Manton Lodge | Family, Food, & Romance in the PNW

Basically love letters to food and romance, this series courts identity and family as well as a perfect romance between imperfect people. The included recipes will make your mouth water, as will the heritage threads and few “trips” abroad.

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

Chesapeake Valor series by Dani Pettrey | Romantic Suspense

Investigator and law enforcement friends find love amidst the chaos of solving crimes and puzzles in the Chesapeake Bay area and beyond. Fast-paced and memorable, a thread of a story ties all four books together to culminate in a final gripping tale.

Cold Shot | Still Life | Blind Spot | Dead Drift

A Bradford Sisters Romance series by Becky Wade | Contemporary Romance

This series has it all: romance, sisters, family, romance, books, mystery, romance, humor, chocolate, and a hint of suspense. Reading it will make you fall in love with the characters! The epistolary prequel novella and the midpoint Christmas novella are fully-developed and sweet, too!

Falling for You | True to You | Falling for You | Sweet On You

Do you have any recommendations for series I should read ASAP?

Seriously, ya’ll. Stay safe and wash your hands.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 One Word Titles (Recommendations + TBR)

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Official topic: Books with Single Word Titles

I had to look back through my Goodreads shelves for this list! I found that books with 3-5 word titles are most common. Two, plentiful enough. One? Rare considering the hundreds of titles I browsed through!

I’m sharing a few of what I consider “classic” Christian fiction titles today in recommendations (ahem, ones that I read years ago), along with some recent gems. And, I’m featuring 5 titles on my TBR.

10 One Word Titles

Recommendations

Rekindled by Tamera Alexander | I remember loving the setting as much as the unique plot

Facade by Pepper Basham | Espionage, a secret mission, and sweet romance

Freefall by Kristen Heitzmann | The first I read by Ms. Heitzmann that made me an instant fan!

Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald | Humor AND a serious redemption arc that will make you cry

Duchess by Susan May Warren | I remember enjoying at inside look at classic Hollywood glamour contrasted with the wartime events of the era.

TBR

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson | A sweet romance everyone says I need to read!

Bethlehem by Ka ren Kelly | I LOVE this cover.

Nightshade by Ronie Kendig | For when I’m in the mood for action and an ensemble cast, I look to Ronie.

Sway by Amy Matayo | Music + a YA feel

Submerged by Dani Pettrey | I need to catch up on Dani’s debut romantic suspense series!

Your turn! Did you participate in Top Ten Tuesday this week? Have you read any of these books? Which one from by TBR do I *need* to read soon?

Review: “Veiled in Smoke” by Jocelyn Green

Today I’m featuring one of my favorite kinds of stories: one filled with true history! While the characters and plot are fiction, Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green features so many accurate historical details of Chicago and life in the 1870s in the shadow of the Civil War. If you want to take a trip back in time, pick up this book…

About the Book

Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.

The sisters become separated from their father, and after Meg burns her hands in an attempt to save a family heirloom, they make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend not only died during the fire–he was murdered. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.

Though homeless, injured, and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Veiled in Smoke is a richly detailed story of sisters, family, love, and trust. Set during a fascinating time — featuring the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871 and the reconstruction period after the Civil War — it features a city and a family making sense of their lives in the aftermath of loss and destruction.

The many complexities of this novel are revealed at a steady pace along with the development and growth of characters. Meg, Sylvie, Nate, and Stephen share chapter points-of-view and convey the tension and emotions of events well – especially during the fire evacuation. From the dynamic of sisters to a love of literature, the trauma and aftermath of Andersonville prison, a couple new friendships and hints of romance, the way all of these elements work together is a feat in itself. This combined with a subtle mystery and suspense thread makes for a wonderful work of historical fiction.

A slight romantic element is there, too. While it is slowly explored from roots of friendship between the characters, it feels organic to the setting. Now I can talk about Nate! He is SUCH a likable gentleman. His character really shines a light on the theme of sharing everyday life with loved ones, with all its burdens and joys.

Author Jocelyn Green depicts history in a relatable way that always shines a light on unique or lesser-known aspects of the world. In a sense, this gives the past a voice, even in fiction. I’ve enjoyed each and every novel of hers I’ve read (3 to go!). Veiled in Smoke is just as enthralling and enjoyable. Its themes of second chances, trust in God’s unchanging nature, and the strength of love come to life along with the bustling city of Chicago as a backdrop. I am looking forward to the next book in this series — especially catching up with these characters and their bookstore!

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