Book & Film Pairings, edition 2

Welcome to a new series on the blog pairing favorite stories in book and film format! This is my second edition of sharing a recommended book and movie with reasons you should check them out! Today’s genre is a mashup of two cultures, family drama, restaurants, and food love!

The Hundred Foot Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey, based on novel, follows an Indian family as they start over with a restaurant in a new country, France. The central character is the eldest son, who dreams of continuing in the culinary world but going about it differently than his family expects. All of this conspires with a rival-turned-friend restauranteur neighbor, a thread of romance, the wonder of discovering a new culture, and a good bit of humor. I really appreciated its subtle lessons on how people can defy expectations in the best way.

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay is a favorite novel of mine. Like the movie mentioned above, it melds two characters from completely different cultures – in this case, American and Italian. The cultures serve cleverly to highlight the characters’ shared passions and facets that make them unique. The novel’s whirlwind romance is more central to the story. It shares a culture shock factor with the movie, with an exquisite setting – the Italian countryside! I love seeing the relationship between Emily and Ben, the hero, progress in this story, but mostly I love seeing Emily learn and grow as she takes risks, makes mistakes, and steps out beyond herself.

If you have read or watched either of these, I would love to hear your thoughts! Do you have other novels or movies to recommend that feature adjusting to different cultures or finding home in an unexpected place?

Having visited Italy in 2019, I am just enamored with that culture. Do you have any Italian-set movies or novels to recommend?

Review: “Of Literature and Lattes” by Katherine Reay

My review today features a book full of COFFEE and LITERATURE — two of my favorite things! Author Katherine Reay is one my list of must-read authors, and this new novel, Of Literature and Lattes, shares the location and a slight overlap in cast with her last release, The Printed Letter Bookshop. Both read as standalone stories, though fans of the Printed Letter will be happy with a return to the picturesque town of Winsome and some familiar characters!

About the Book

Katherine Reay returns to the cozy and delightful town of Winsome where two people discover the grace of letting go and the joy found in unexpected change.

of literature and lattes cover

After fleeing her hometown three years earlier, Alyssa Harrison never planned to return. Then the Silicon Valley start-up she worked for collapsed and turned her world upside down. She is broke, under FBI investigation, and without a place to go. Having exhausted every option, she comes home to Winsome, Illinois, to regroup then move on as quickly as possible. Yet, as friends and family welcome her back, Alyssa begins to see a place for herself in this small Midwestern community.

Jeremy Mitchell moved from Seattle to Winsome to be near his daughter and to open the coffee shop he’s been dreaming of for years. Problem is, the business is bleeding money—and he’s not quite sure why. When he meets Alyssa, he senses an immediate connection, but what he needs most is someone to help him save his floundering business. After asking for her help, he wonders if something might grow between them—but forces beyond their control soon complicate their already complex lives, and the future they both hoped for is not at all what they anticipated.

With the help of Winsome’s small-town charm and quirky residents, Alyssa and Jeremy discover the beauty and romance of second chances.

Goodreads | Amazon | Bookbub

Review

With Of Literature and Lattes, Katherine Reay has penned another contemporary blend of romance and women’s fiction in her picturesque Illinois town of Winsome. Nods to literature abound within this story of returning and working toward a worthy goal, with deeper themes of reconciliation and a bright secondary cast. Readers who enjoyed The Printed Letter Bookshop will be delighted with glimpses of familiar characters and perspective (once again!) from Janet, Alyssa’s mother.

To borrow a concept from Janet’s character, this story is very much about moving through forgiveness after one has let go of the past. While the friendship and romance between Alyssa and Jeremy is a major part of the story, another significant portion of it includes perspective on parenting, both with Janet and with Jeremy’s own experiences and his precious daughter, Becca. I appreciate the way this draws attention to concepts of people’s complexity, motives, relationships, and the way parents should intentionally be supportive for the hard and the good things in life.

The point of view changes employed in this novel echo a clever device used in The Printed Letter Bookshop, with multiple POV and tense shifts. But here, secondary characters sometimes have the narration. This device works and adds dimension, but sometimes I feel that it is abrupt and detracts from page time with the main few characters and deepening their connection with the reader. Maybe I just need a few more pages and time with these characters to feel the ending more fully “settled” with me.

Overall, I really enjoyed this return to Winsome and the themes these characters wrestle with. The Happy Ending is there, with all the bookish talk! I particularly liked the way children’s books are discussed and recognized as an important influence on childhood. I wouldn’t mind a future novel set in Winsome, especially if it has more of Chris and his brother’s conversations (Printed Letter favs!), or Jeremy’s daughter, Becca!

Thank you the the publisher and Netgalley 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”.

Top Ten Tuesday: 12 Best Fictional Cats

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week is officially a freebie topic week!

I’ve been compiling this list for a while now, being the cat person that I am. Today’s freebie topic day is THE DAY to share it with the world! This is not a comprehensive list, but it is one of notable and beloved felines in fiction.

12 Best Fictional Cats

Beloved Cats

Narnia in A Match for Emma by Pepper Basham | This one is extra-special because Pepper mostly named Emma’s cat after my own cat, Narnia, whom I had to say goodbye to earlier this year

Banjo and Good Luck in The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery | Maud captures the true natures of cats with these two personality-filled pets!

Parcheesi Rose in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan | Parcheesi causes some allergies um, problems that endear the hero to the heroine

Pip of the photo studio, Archie of the truck in The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright | These two cats offer personality and humor to some otherwise serious scenes! Archie, in particular, serves as an example of the hero’s tendency to rescue ❤

Perry in The Thirteenth Chance by Amy Matayo | Perry is a VERY pampered cat, whether he wants to be or not

My own #JaketheCat likes to nap while I read

Cats Who “Adopt” People

Agamemnon adopts Paul in Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood | While Lilia takes an instant liking to the stray, Paul’s reluctance is funny then sweet as the gray cat takes up residence with him anyway

Earl Gray adopts Kiera in A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber | from his meager barn cat beginnings, Earl Gray becomes quite the companion and art critic!

The “Bookshop Cat” adopts the ladies of The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay | this cat is catered to by all three ladies, but he specifically seeks out Janet when she really doesn’t want to be a cat person

#JaketheCat is a fan of books!

Cats as Good Judges of Character

Dickens in Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green | He comically doesn’t like a particular suitor of Charlotte’s

Magpie in A Convenient Fiction by Mimi Matthews | Laura’s cat Magpie takes a particular liking to Alex from the start!

Sometimes #JaketheCat photobombs

Your turn! Do you have any favorite fictional pets? Cats or Dogs? What did you pick for this week’s TTT topic? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Reading for Janeites | Austen in August

Continuing the fun theme of “Austen in August”, I am sharing a list of books I would recommend to any fans of Jane Austen! For more Austen fun, check out the list of Austen-themed posts at The Book Rat.

Historical

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack

Regency-era goodness! It’s an expertly crafted story of love and worth, drawing from the societal constraints to set up a unique situation for the heroine whose journey is even more life-changing than that of the Dashwood sisters at the start of Sense & Sensibility.

The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews

The Work of Art is a Regency masterpiece, pun intended! I can highly recommend it to fans of clean historical fiction, mystery, or stories in the vein of the classics (think Austen with a few more kissing scenes, of course).

Contemporary

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

Really, any Katherine Reay novel is a wonderful read for an Austen fan. She has books that give nods to Austen characters, too! (Lizzy & Jane, Dear Mr. Knightley, The Austen Escape) The Printed Letter Bookshop, though, is a story for true book lovers and looks at little ways reading influences our lives.

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensiblity by Hillary Manton Lodge

A contemporary retelling of S&S, Jane of Austin paints a trio of sisters in Texas with a dogs, tea, and a swoony Callum (Colonel Brandon) character. It also shows fresh perspective and “what-ifs” with the “Marianne” character as the heroine.

Second Impressions and Jane By the Book by Pepper Basham

These two novellas take readers to Bath, England with endearing characters. These stories take on literary themes within themselves and tell sweet stories of romance!

The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

Bookish characters, an idyllic setting (Cornwall!), a little mystery, and romance all combine admirably in this story of friendship and a bookstore.

More Austen fun!

Favorite Quotes from Persuasion by Jane Austen

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!

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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?



Review: “The Printed Letter Bookshop” by Katherine Reay

Reay book stack

I’m sharing a review of Katherine Reay’s latest standalone novel, The Printed Letter Bookshop. This novel leans towards character-driven women’s fiction with a gorgeous nod to books and faith and even looks at the roles of women in family, career, and relationships of all kinds. Simply put, is a novel for #booknerds.

Bonus fun: this book has been showing up on all kinds of online bookish lists, like this “8 of the Best Books About Books” list at Book Riot, Goodreads, and more! This makes me happy!

About the Book

Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and when a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and for her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.

The Printed Letter Bookshop is a captivating story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Printed Letter Bookshop is part philosophical view of human nature and part love letter to books and stories, all expressed on a journey of three unlikely friends steeped in grace. Katherine Reay is a reader and clearly knows her craft. The love of books is prominent in all of her stories, coupled with a storytelling style that reveals just enough of a complex situation and each character’s plight bit by bit, drawing the reader in to their stories and hearts.

With The Printed Letter Bookshop, three lives intersect because of the legacy of another woman. This legacy impacts them in unforeseen ways, all living through and learning the about life’s challenges, the pain that sometimes accompanies love, how to grow and forgive, and even the joys and laughter found in unlikely kinship.

One of the best parts of this story is the slowly unfurling love story that’s magnetic and unlike anything from Reay thus far. The romance is less prominent in this than her typical style but still integral to the story. When Madeline and a certain someone are in the same scene, it sparkles. Along with the “new” romance of Madeline’s, I appreciate how Claire and Janet’s POVs explore different stages of romance, even complacency and loss, through a lens of relationship and love.

This is truly a book to lose yourself in and yet find the wonder of story again. With nods and references to countless stories (and a lovely reading list at the back!), I found myself adding to my to-be-read list every few chapters. If you’re a return Reay reader, you might spot a few references to her other fictional characters in the pages!

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

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 (More) Favorite Book Quotes About Books

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s official topic: Inspirational/Thought Provoking Book Quotes

A while back, I used a freebie TTT topic to share 10 favorite book quotes about books. With so many bookish characters out there, I wanted to share more of my favorites. I have discovered most of these since making that initial list. 😉 (book titles linked to my reviews!)

10 (More) Favorite Book Quotes About Books

“A plate of apples, an open fire, and ‘a jolly goode booke’ are a fair substitute for heaven.” –The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

“Something about the books, the stories – they spoke to her, whether they were nearly two centuries old or brand new. Each one had something to say, and she longed to absorb the wisdom held in the secret places of each page. The ink soaked from the pages into her soul.” –The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

“It was one of the virtues of having lived in a book for so long: his imagination painted its perimeters everywhere.” –Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan

“…I like reading books that relate to my own struggles and how people overcome them with their faith.” -Titus in Jane By the Book by Pepper Basham

“P.S. I’ve been sitting in my living room organizing my books. It’s so quiet and dark, but I don’t feel lonely. I feel safe. How could I not? All my friends are here. You should see them lined up.” – Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

“Forget diamonds. Books are this girl’s best friend.” – Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano

“This was not a book that called into question whether or not our lovebirds would end up together. Of course they would. From the opening line, through all of the ups and downs, there could never be any doubt that there would be a happily ever after. But what sort of people would they become before they reached the finish line? Some scars would be healed, sure, but some new injuries were just as certain. It was all about the journey, not the inevitable outcome.” –The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

“Millie read the last four pages of the hardback in her hands one more time. …she needed this. Just a moment with her book.” –A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson

“…there’s nothin’ quite like fallin’ into the world of a good book.” –My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream by Pepper Basham

“Fiction is a way to express mankind’s deepest heart. His fears. His hopes. His failings. His successes. Fiction is truth… in a pretty wrapping.” –A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White

Your turn!!! What kind of book quotes did you share for TTT? Do you have any favorites to add to my list?

First Line Fridays # 14: “Dear Mr. Knightley” + Read-along Fun

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

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This post to twofold: it’s First Line Friday, becoming a First-Letter-Friday with this book! AND, it’s an announcement of an informal read-along.

Starting April 2, myself and some awesome bookish friends will be re-reading Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay and discussing it via Twitter using #DMKral! You’re invited! It’s been WAY too long since I’ve read this story. Since it was Katherine’s debut AND my first introduction to epistolary fiction, it’s time to revisit. (Plus our Twitter read-alongs are a highlight of life!)

Dear Mr. Knightley

First Letter:

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! Then, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

Review: “The Austen Escape” by Katherine Reay

Review: “The Austen Escape” by Katherine Reay

With each novel, Katherine Reay proves her craft and place on my all time favorite authors shelf. Her stories explore so much depth within the relationships of her main character(s), more than just a story of romance, friendship, or family alone. They portray real people with struggles and insecurities and, most importantly, a season of growth. Her main character is ALWAYS greatly changed between chapter 1 and “the end”, and I’ve often found the same is true of myself, the reader, as I’m subtly changed, encouraged, and influenced by Katherine’s story.

Of course, reading this story along with some #bookbesties and chatting on Twitter via #TAERAL was super FUN, too!!!! (Click on the hashtag to see our gushing thoughts, quotes, and general observations as we read.) Thanks to everyone who joined! More Katherine Reay/Austen-fun is coming on the blog soon.

About the Book

the-austen-escapeAfter years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.

Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.

With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.

Goodreads | AmazonReview

Like Katherine Reay’s previous stories, The Austen Escape is full of literary references and general Jane Austen fun (like traveling to Bath and dressing in period-appropriate clothes!). It is not a retelling but candidly acknowledges the similarities between the characters and Austen’s own, like Mary’s friend Isabel sharing qualities with Isabella of Northanger Abbey, comparing Mary to Catherine of the same, and nods to all of Austen’s other works, too. Because of all the references, I think The Austen Escape would be best enjoyed by someone familiar with Austen’s works or main characters (if only through movie adaptation form).

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I could talk about so many elements of this story and why I connected with it, but I will simply state that it is a story of the intricacies of life: how friendship, work, dreams, relationship, family, and even hobbies are interconnected and form the identity of a person. These little things make up the big picture and determine how a person responds when faced with challenges. For Mary, she experiences a season of growth because of challenges to her comfort zone and what she believes to be true about the people around her. A few eye-opening events (and timely encouraging relationships — I’m talking about Nathan and his swoony Austen nerdiness here) spur her to recognize the beauty and opportunity right in front of her.

Jane Austen wrote about people and their need to connect on some level – from friendship to family camaraderie to romantic relationships. Katherine Reay captures the same drive in her characters, using the same timeless lens of connection, to show a heart-level story of individuality and friendship.

More little things I loved about The Austen Escape:

  • Nathan <3, a fitting hero
  • The juxtaposition of modern and old elements: Mary’s work vs the frill and formality of Austen’ s world
  • How neither Jane Austen, HER characters, nor Mary quite “fit in” with the expectations of their environments
  • Red velvet cupcakes, sticky toffee pudding, bubble gum
  • Nicknames and what they reveal
  • Absolutely ENDEARING secondary characters like Gertrude, Moira, Grant, and Clara
  • Little wire animals and skittle contraptions
  • All the love for books and music
  • All the Jane Austen talk — especially when Persuasion is hinted

Thank you to the author and publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.