Top Ten Tuesday: Top 11 Best Books of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 11 Best Books of 2016

It‚Äôs another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

It’s that time of year again! Time for my “favorites” post of 2016, AND just in time for the same #TTT topic. This year’s list was difficult to compile, to say the least. I’ve read a whopping total of 61 books this year (at press time), a few being rereads and some novellas. I was determined to limit my list somewhat this year, so we have 11 novels plus a couple “bonus” novellas. Surprisingly, all of the novels are 2016 releases, but the novellas range from 2014-2016. Most of these authors are familiar favorites and always “must-reads”, so it’s no surprise to me that my favorites stem from this group.

Now, on to the books!!!

Top Ten Best Books of 2016

Historical Fiction

A Flight of Arrowsthe-lady-and-the-lionheartThe Thorn Keeperthe-cautious-maidenThe Sound of Emeralds

1. A Flight of Arrows by Lori Benton

A riveting, fascinating conclusion to her “Pathfinders” duology.

2. The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

Seriously now one of my all-time favorite books! Go read it. Achingly sweet and heart-wrenching in the best way.

3. The Thorn Keeper by Pepper D. Basham

Really, the whole “Penned in Time” series is amazing, but this one is my favorite for several reasons…. one of them having to do with Christmas ūüėČ

4. The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall

Another great story from Dawn, this one uniquely uses only the heroine’s first person POV.

5. The Sound of Emeralds by Rachelle Rea Cobb

A fantastic conclusion to Rachelle’s debut series, this brings the characters full circle with some amazing surprises. #TeamDirk

Contemporary Fiction

Together at the Table by Hillary Manton LodgeLike Never Before by Melissa TaggYou're the One that I WantTold You Twice by Kristen Heitzmanna-portrait-of-emily-pricewhere-two-hearts-meet

6. Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge

Ahh! This one made me hungry, laugh, and cry. Oh, and try out a new recipe or two I discovered while reading.

7. Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Definitely my favorite of the Walker family series so far! The cover alone should be enough to convince you of the adorableness that is Loganand Amelia, but the emotional depth is what gets me with all of Melissa’s stories.

8. You’re the One That I Want by Susan May Warren

While I’ve loved each book in the Christiansen family series, this one, being the last, made so many pieces fall in place. It drew everything together with a huge thread of grace, and that’s why I loved it.

9. Told You Twice by Kristen Heitzmann

Unexpected and fresh, Kristen is not afraid to depict life in both raw and redemptive manners through storytelling.

10. A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Another one that made me hungry! Ha! Katherine always surprises me with the direction and vast changes she leads her characters through. This one was pleasantly amazing.

11. Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson

One of the sweetest contemporary love stories I’ve read in a long time… and I’m not even talking about the cinnamon rolls and muffins! This one is just “good” for your heart.

Bonus! Favorite Novellas

playing-with-firethis-quiet-skya-night-like-no-other

Playing With Fire by Susan May Warren

The two main characters’ mutual complex history combined with a current-day crazy action/suspense situation made this my favorite of the Montana Fire trilogy.

This Quiet Sky by  Joanne Bischof

Poignant and beautiful, this goes beyond typical coming-of-age story expectations and tore into my heart unexpectedly.

A Night Like No Other by Kristin Vayden

I think this one will be a Christmas season reread every year now for its genuine and Biblical portrayal of Mary and Joseph’s experiences.

Your turn!!! What are your favorite books from 2016? Did you read any of my favorites? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Christmas Novella Mini Reviews

Welcome! The Merry Christmas season is upon us, filling cars with Christmas music and homes with Hallmark movies, Christmas trees, and the spirit of giving. I have a review sampler here of Christmas novellas I’ve read recently (because I love EVERYTHING Christmas!). These will put you in the mood for the season and are to be enjoyed with hot chocolate, tea, or a fireplace close by. Since it’s almost Christmas, you could keep the festivities alive by reading these into January (I totally would!)

(Click on the book covers to visit the Goodreads pages for a plot summary, etc.)

One Enchanted Eve by Melissa Tagg

one-enchanted-eveThis novella continues the story of a character we met in last year’s edition, One Enchanted Christmas. It proves there is always more to the story behind seemingly antihero of that one, illustrating everyone has a journey and has trials. I love revisiting Maple Valley, especially the Renwyckes for Christmas. This is a must-read Christmas novella! The combo of drama, humor, and family is just perfect. And I can’t forget to mention the bonding that happens between Collin and Rylan over pastry and the flirting with recipe cards = swoon! In true “Tagg” style, this story is at once nostalgic and insightful, drawing out an emotional depth and realness from its characters, taking us home for Christmas and to blessings in unexpected little things.

Starring Christmas novella set by Rachel McMillan and Allison Pittman

Starring Christmas.jpgFalling For a Christmas Star by Rachel McMillan

At once depicting a story of made-for-TV Christmas movies AND reading like one, this little novella gives nods to the sappy souls who watch these movies all season and the underlying hope of the season they all exhibit. Rachel applies her humor and pop culture references to a contemporary story for a change, exploring the possibility of happily-ever-after in an unexpected avenue for the characters.

Lone Star Christmas Lights by Allison Pittman

Again reading somewhat like a Hallmark movie with a quaint setting and meet-cute, this one was a proper companion story to Rachel’s because it featured the sister of the hero from hers. Though one of the main professions of the characters was not really “my thing” (it was a craft brewery), I still enjoyed the Christmas setting and relatable characters.

Oh, the Weather Outside Is Frightful by Susan May Warren

32732111This story is perfect for the season – especially if you’re in the mood for a little romance, slight suspense, and blizzards. Oh, and wonderfully familiar faces from the Montana Fire series, like Hannah and CJ St. John, the pair who goes on quite an adventure to realize their feelings for each other. A wonderful message of hope and “being enough” ties this adventure together.

A Night Like No Other by Kristin Vayden

a-night-like-no-otherThis is a powerful, timely story featuring the relationship of Mary and Joseph before and through Jesus’ birth. While it is a fictional account, it stays true to Biblical events and poses a few “what-if?” scenarios which portray Mary and Joseph in a relatable light. It deftly communicates the wonder of God’s plan, the ordinary people like Mary, Joseph, you and me that He chooses to use. It’s highly recommended, especially to read this time of year!

A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck

a-royal-christmas-weddingBoth comfortably read as a standalone novellla AND a return to Rachel’s famed Royal Wedding series, this book spins a modern-day Christmas fairytale with enchanted moments of Divine light. It’s a perfect story for the Christmas season with down-to-earth characters. I enjoyed the second-chance storyline and the way it directs the characters to seek God’s plan for their dreams.I loved the moments of Christmas tradition and the way they were beautifully tied in with an emphasis on the gift of Christ at Christmas. The happily-ever-after ending left me smiling!

Thank you to the Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild for the review copy of A Royal Christmas Wedding.

Review: “Keep Holding On” by Melissa Tagg

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Today I’m reviewing a story, Keep Holding On,¬†of which I’m a little late in sharing my enthusiasm. This latest installment in the “Walker Family” series from author Melissa Tagg further establishes her as one of my favorite go-to authors for contemporary romance that is both hilarious and real. She manages to write such depth to characters while maintaining an overall light feel to a story.

About the Book

keep-holding-onSwoon-worthy Romance. Small-town Charm. 
Best friends reunite in Tagg’s latest novel of second chances and enduring love.
Beckett Walker hasn’t stepped foot in Maple Valley in years. There’s no getting past the painful memories, and there’s every chance he’ll be arrested as soon as he shows his face. Which is exactly what happens when he finally returns. Suddenly his dream of adventure as a military lawyer comes skidding to a halt.

Horticulturist Kit Danby has spent too much time missing home and her childhood best friend–Beckett Walker. Now she might have a shot at reclaiming both. After years of living abroad, she returns to run her family’s apple orchard. She has one season to turn a profit and impress the father she barely knows. But she can’t do it alone.Add to Goodreads

It should be simple: Beckett needs community service hours. Kit needs a helping hand. But there’s more at stake than either of them planned. With a tangled past and futures that look nothing alike, they’ll have to find a way to weather the storms of the present… or risk losing everything.

Review

This is yet another quaint and perfect story from Melissa! It’s light and cute on the surface with depths of emotion and faith at its heart.

Fun bits: twinkle lights. Casablanca. Food comas. Baby goats (!). Apple cider. Oh, and a brooding male (with good reason and a long-carried burden) and his subsequent romance with Kit.

*minor demand side note: I need Megan to have her own story! Pretty please, Melissa?*

I’d say the main theme of the story is about finding purpose and a place of belonging, whether it’s a place of work, home, or family. And, about the constancy of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness. Beckett and Kit are similar in this respect, both trying to prove themselves, in a way.¬†A slight minor story line is worked in with a theme of giving — giving of yourself for others, realizing you might be the only person that can help someone else.

Fans of Melissa’s Christmas novella, One Enchanted Christmas, will be happy and pelased at the lovely cameos and “updates” on Drew Renwycke and Maren.

These characters go through quite the challenges! I loved reading Beckett’s journey, how he had to learn that both his heavenly and earth fathers kept holding on to him, loving him, wanting him “home”. Most striking was the interplay between Case (the dad) and Beckett; the healing, love, and relationship of those two from start to end. I highly recommend this novel to fans of contemporary fiction and I personally cannot wait to see what’s next for the Walker family!

My reviews of the previous books in the series:

From the Start

Like Never Before

 

Review: “Like Never Before” by Melissa Tagg

Author Melissa Tagg can always be relied upon to deliver a story that is equal parts charming, heartwarming, and real. With her latest release, Like Never Before, she continues the Walker Family series in the same fashion with a few new people to love.

About the Book

Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley’s haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher…if only she new who he was.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime–a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he’s inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She’s scrappy, but wounded. He’s dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley’s quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

Review

While this story is super sweet & fun (with a very swoon-worthy hero, I might add), it’s not just warm and cozy — it’s an emotional story of two people’s journey toward something new God is working in their lives. The element of faith¬†propels¬†the story to a new¬†depth. I especially enjoyed the¬†bits of wisdom and encouragement offered to Amelia and Logan from the most unexpected people.

Like Never Before by Melissa TaggThis book is just so endearing! I loved so many things about it, let me just list them for you:

  • the town — picturesque and clannish, just what a small town should be
  • the Walker clan¬†— especially catching up with Kate and Colton, Seth and Ava.
  • Logan — particularly his¬†penchant to take care of everyone around him, especially little Charlie
  • Amelia¬†— her obsession with winter and love of history and books
  • the janitor’s closet — No, that’s not a typo.¬†Melissa has a knack for making scenes interesting and unforgettable, especially in such a quirky place
  • the subtle historical mystery¬†— and fun bits of investigative journalism Amelia and Logan participate in concerning said mystery
  • classic movie references¬†–they make¬†this movie lover happy!
  • mostly the reminder that God waits with open arms

Logan and Amelia experience a renewal of faith. I love how real these characters are, with all their flaws and quirks and dreams and failings, they still persevere through the next step, the next choice — even when the destination is fuzzy. It’s a lesson to live in the now. In the happiness of s’mores made with candy bars. In the precious moments shared with¬†the laughter of a child.

The ending is unexpected yet perfect. Not what I would have guessed as the reader, but it’s just one more way this story offers proof that God is never predictable but always in control. I’m ready for the next book already! Bring on book 3, Beckett’s story!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers and Netgalley for the complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Visit my review of book 1, From The Start here.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Bookish People You Should Follow on Pinterest

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s topic is¬†Ten Bookish People You Should Follow on _____ (Twitter, Instagram,¬†Pinterest, other social media, blogs, etc.). I’ve chosen to adapt it to Pinterest because I’m obsessed with pinning.

Pinterest

Click to follow The Green Mockingbird on Pinterest

One awesome part of the reading experience in modern times, I think, is connecting with authors via social media. The Pinterest platform allows authors to share their story’s “world” with locations, character ideas, behind-the-scenes news, quotes, etc. I’ve chosen to share 10 of my favorite pinning-authors and my favorite of their book boards! I so appreciate these authors for taking the time to compile and share their inspirations and unique worlds this way.

Top 10 Favorite Pinterest Authors & my Favorite Book Boards

  1. Amber Stokes — click here to visit her board for How a Star Falls
  2. Dawn Crandall —¬†click here to visit her board for The Hesitant Heiress
  3. Dani Pettrey — click here to visit her board for Cold Shot
  4. Hillary Lodge — click here to visit her board for¬†Reservations for Two
  5. Laura Frantz — click here to visit her board for The Mistress of Tall Acre
  6. Lori Benton — click here to visit her board for The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn
  7. Pepper Basham — click here to visit her board for The Thorn Keeper
  8. Rachel McMillan — click here to visit her board for The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder
  9. Rachelle Rea — click here to visit her board for the “Steadfast Love” series
  10. Tamera Alexander — click here to visit her board for A Beauty So Rare

Honorable mentions: Melissa Tagg, Kristy Cambron, Lynne Gentry, Jessica Dotta, The Silver Petticoat Review,¬†and this¬†book quote board “Favorite Quotes from Christian Fiction”.

Do you follow any authors via Pinterest or other social media? I welcome your comments and recommendations!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 9 Books or series I wish someone would make into a movie/series

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by ¬†The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week is a freebie topic! I’m choosing to go with books I wish someone would make into miniseries, TV series, or movies. So, make yourself some popcorn and read on for my ideas!

Top 9 Books or Series I wish someone would make into a movie/series

Miniseries

TTT Adaptation 1

#1 The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

No question about it, this book is my number one pick for being adapted into some form of film. I have always said it should be a miniseries, that way there would be enough time for all the little details to be included. Plus the budget would be higher for filming on location in rural TN. And we need authentic costumes. I can dream, right? Basically, I’d volunteer to work on the crew just to see it done. (History Channel, AMC, or Hallmark, are you listening?)

#2 The Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta (Born of Persuasion, Mark of Distinction, Price of Privilege)

It should be no surprise to see this on my list. Favorite. Series. Ever. And a miniseries would be awesome, yes?

TV series

TTT Adaptations 2

#3¬†The “Redemption” series (and subsequent related Baxter Family books) by Karen Kingsbury (some with Gary Smalley)

We have 23 books in 5 series that could be adapted, so I think it could be a very long-running series. (Ahem, Hallmark, since you’ve already adapted Karen’s The Bridge and book-based Cedar Cove, this could be your next hit series.)

(2/4 update: we have a contract! Karen & Roma Downey will be working together to bring the Baxter Family series to television!! http://deadline.com/2016/02/roma-downey-the-baxter-family-faith-based-novel-tv-series-1201694238/)

#4 “Christiansen Family” series by Susan May Warren

This is another that fits the TV series format! Though the 6 books could be a series of movies, too, what with each sibling having their own book.

Movie

TTT Adaptations 3.jpg

#5 The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

In the vein of The Book Thief or Woman in Gold, this would be an excellent historical drama on screen with 2 intertwining stories — present day and WWII.

#6 Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

Besides this being a great story, it made me want to go to Scotland. If it were made into a movie, I might not actually have to go there to see all the wonderful locations referenced in the story. Plus I’d like to see a¬†cast with the great chemistry of James and Andrea (with Henry Cavill, of course).

#7 The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck

With a large cast, this would be a fabulous family drama with flashbacks to the early story of a couple certain characters. It would be a perfect June Hallmark movie!

#8 The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd

Who doesn’t love a good Regency period drama with mystery and romance? With the right casting, it could be a new favorite!

#9 Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg

Because the world needs more good rom-coms! Why not one with realistic characters, a serious story of forgiveness, and small-town charm.

 

Well, that’s my list for now. How about you? Do you have any favorite books you’d like to see adapted to film of some kind? Share in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top {11} Most Anticipated Releases of 2016

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by ¬†The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s topic is actually top 10 most anticipated releases for the first half of 2016…but since that was a bit challenging for me to do, I’m changing it up slightly. So we’re going with the whole year (because some of these don’t have release dates) and 11 titles.

Top {11} Most Anticipated Releases of 2016

Top [11] Most Anticipated Reads of 2016

In no particular order…..

1. Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

After the cover alone inspired this novella, I have to read this one.

2.¬†The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

The prequel novella won me over! This one will be read soon.

3. The Goodbye Bride and 4. Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter

I’m anxiously awaiting these stories about the other 2 brothers after¬†Falling Like Snowflakes.

5. The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall

You probably know my love of Dawn’s Everstone Chronicles series already. This one is likely¬†book 4!

6. Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge

I need to know how Jules’ story will go. Like, yesterday. (Reviews for book 1 & book 2)

7.¬†You’re the One that I Want by Susan May Warren

I’ll be sad to end the series, but I’m anxious for Owen’s story of redemption. (most recent in series, book 5, review here)

8. A Flight of Arrows by Lori Benton

Part of her Pathfinders series, whatever transpires, this will be epic.

9. Where Trains Collide by Amber Stokes

Hopefully releasing in 2016!!!??? Whenever it does, you can count on me to read it pronto. (related novella review here)

10. Told You Twice by Kristen Heitzmann

Not sure of a release date here, but after a fabulous series debut, I’m excited.

11. Under Scottish Stars by Carla Laureano

I know, I still need to read book 2 first, but this one sounds promising. (book 1 review here)

What about YOU? What 2016 releases are you anticipating?