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.

Audiobook review: “Whose Waves These Are” by Amanda Dykes

Hi readers! I’m dropping in to share a little review of an epic story… one of those that needs to be on your radar if you haven’t already read it: Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes.

About the Book

In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper asking readers to send rocks in honor of loved ones to create something life-giving but the building halts when tragedy strikes. Decades later, Annie returns to the coastal Maine town where stone ruins spark her curiosity and her search for answers faces a battle against time.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I am in awe of this story and its winding way of layering truth and light in both the commonplace and extraordinary. Through points of view from the past and contemporary timelines, the lives of Annie, Jeremiah, Robert Bliss, and so many others are expertly intertwined in a story of sacrifice and provision, with enchanting threads of sea and light. A story that explores the both the strength and weakness of the human spirit, all tied up with the provision of God and His ultimate will. This is a resonating debut novel with its deeply poignant themes and memorable characters. I can’t wait to experience whatever story Amanda Dykes pens next!

I HIGHLY enjoyed the audiobook version of this novel, and will be looking at other stories with the same narrator. She was a joy!

Thanks to Netgalley for the ebook copy. I purchased the audio copy. This is my honest review.

Travel Inspiration, Adventure, & Stories: “Dream, Plan, and Go” by Rachel McMillan

I love the format of this hardcover book: darling illustrations, thoughtful end-of-chapter questions, tips for travel near and far

Dream, Plan, and Go is an inspiring nonfiction book for experienced adventurers and beginners who only dream of travel and new experiences. Part travel memoir and part manual for solo adventuring, author Rachel McMillan combines anecdotes and advice for all ages hoping to see new destinations close to home and abroad.

With an easy conversational tone and candid manner, Rachel McMillan relays her personal experiences of adventure and travel — everything from childhood to adult bucket list destinations. These are framed in her descriptive style reflecting a love for history, literature, and romance (all traits that shine through in her novels!). Her stories all serve to offer encouragement and inspiration for the reader and her solo adventures; whether bravely conquering a fear of heights, trying a new restaurant in your own city, touring a historical site in your hometown, or venturing abroad for the first time.

One of my own favorite adventures: gelato in Rome!

Reading Dream, Plan, and Go has caused me to reflect on my own travels, especially the rare times I’ve traveled alone, like a few near-home adventures connected to a work trip. Rachel’s considerate approach to travel as an experience to be savored has caused me to appreciate such times in a new way. I have closed the last page with a host of ideas for future destinations — and inspiration for small things to do confidently to learn more about my own corner of the world.

About the Book

A Great Big World is Waiting for You Out There—Go Find It!

Dream, Plan, and Go Cover

Have you been putting off that trip of a lifetime hoping for a special someone to accompany you? Do you find yourself getting bored with the same old girls’ weekends? Are you hesitant to step out of your comfort zone, plan a solo vacation, pack your bags, and just go?

From pastries in Vienna to becoming a tourist in your own town and all points in between, this travel memoir and guidebook will inspire you to seek romance and adventure on your own terms. You will also get practical advice on how to stay safe while traveling single, create a budget, prepare and pack efficiently, and much more.

Chapter by chapter, you’ll encounter creative ideas for excursions as well as historical insights into some of the most fascinating destinations around the globe, smart tips for savvy sojourning, and journal jumpstarts to encourage deeper reflection.

Grab with both hands the confidence you need to embrace new experiences both home and abroad. You deserve the chance to discover the joy of being your own best company—this book will show you how!  

Goodreads | Amazon

Review: “A Mosaic of Wings” by Kimberly Duffy

Today’s review features debut author Kimberly Duffy and her new novel set in New York and India, during the late Victorian age.

About the Book

It’s 1885, and all Nora Shipley wants, now that she’s graduating from Cornell University as valedictorian of the entomology program, is to follow in her late father’s footsteps by getting her master’s degree and taking over the scientific journal he started. The only way to uphold her father’s legacy is to win a scholarship, so she joins a research expedition in Kodaikanal, India, to prove herself in the field.

India isn’t what she expects, though, and neither is the rival classmate who accompanies her, Owen Epps. As her preconceptions of India–and of Owen–fall away, she finds both far more captivating than she expected. Forced by the expedition leader to stay at camp and illustrate exotic butterflies the men of the team find without her, Nora befriends Sita, a young Indian girl who has been dedicated to a goddess against her will.

In this spellbinding new land, Nora is soon faced with impossible choices–between saving Sita and saving her career, and between what she’s always thought she wanted and the man she’s come to love. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A Mosaic of Wings is a story of growth, selfless love, and romance. I was enraptured, like Nora, with the beauty and colors of India encountered in these pages. Her journey is one of discovering purpose, a sweet friendship-to-romance, and the joy of life.

The romance was a subtle thread at first, taking a back seat to Nora’s education and subsequent events that led her to choosing to participate in an expedition in India. It was delightful to see it grow from a deepening friendship to something more in a natural and lovely way. Owen champions Nora, selflessly, and she learns more about herself from his encouragement and confidence.

The portions of the novel that take place in India are my favorite. Kimberly Duffy impressively conveys its colors and cultures, spicy food, challenging terrain, and social customs vastly different from Nora’s norm. This environment and the new people she meets challenge Nora. They cause her to reconsider her purpose and ability to make a difference in someone else’s life, even if that means making difficult choices.

Nora begins the story with some impulsive tendencies. It’s nice to see her grow throughout the course of her travels. Toward the latter part of the story, however, she makes a series of choices which I thought undo part of her newfound maturity and go against my expectations of her character. She does learn from this, and all is righted eventually, but I would have liked to see her understanding and treatment of people reflect the growth she had already surmounted.

I am looking forward to Kimberly’s next historical novel, wherever it might take me!

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

Review: “When I Lost My Way” by Jennifer Rodewald

I’m thrilled to share with you about an indie-published new release ~ When I Lost My Way by Jennifer Rodewald. It’s the second story in her Big Prairie romance series, though it can be read as a standalone. Some characters from book one make an appearance, though, so it is fun to know the context of their story, too!

Review of Book 1: When I Come Home Again

About the Book

Their whirlwind romance takes the hard road toward happily-ever-after as disaster tests their love for each other and their faith in God’s goodness.

Sophie Shultz smiles at her future, even when she doesn’t feel like it, but when a country drive leaves this city-girl stranded in the mud, the cowboy who stops to help gives her plenty to smile about. For real. Lance Carson is tall, handsome, and kind, if a little on the quiet side—not to mention the owner of Big Prairie’s celebrated vineyard.

Lance has always had a decided preference for solitude, but when he rescues Sophie he develops a whole new appreciation for companionship. It doesn’t take long for him to lose his heart as she fills the aching void life’s disappointments have left behind. But a family issue has put him in a hard spot, pushing him to a decision that will ruin his relationship with many of Big Prairie’s citizens—and devastate Sophie, who adores her newly adopted hometown. Before he can figure out how to tell her, someone tattles on his plans.

As their relationship is put to the test, conflict presses in from every side. Can this rapidly grown romance sink its roots deep enough to weather the storms, or will Lance and Sophie both lose their way?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

When I Lost My Way is a beautiful story of romance, grace, and trusting in God’s strength.

I loved Sophie and Lance SO MUCH. Their rapport, from their slight humor to the almost-flirting and deep heart conversations, is natural and realistic. Their romance is sweet and selfless, highlighting how really knowing someone takes time and a desire to understand the other person’s motives and choices. I appreciate how they face their trials head on with honesty, even when it’s painful. One timely issue Jennifer sensitively sheds light on within their relationship is judgement and its ill effects, all in the context of relationship choices, identity, and skin color, referring to Biblical truths to shed light and draw the reader to a place of empathy.

I will be thinking about the deeper threads of this story long after the last page. Through the challenges, Sophie relies on God in an admirable way. Her trust in uncertainty and the way she seeks wisdom from scripture, her parents, and a respected friend is something to aspire to. Lance’s growth is relatable yet more dynamic as he is learning how God wants a personal relationship with him as he learns to pray and listen for His voice. The concept of loneliness in contrast with God’s ever-present strength is contrasted in Lance, and his journey reflects surrender to God’s will.

Jennifer Rodewald is a must-read inspirational author for fans of Courtney Walsh, Carla Laureano, and Lindsay Harrel for her stories of sweetly engaging romance and deep emotional themes.

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

Review + Blog Tour: “The Jane Austen Society” by Natalie Jenner

The Jane Austen Society Blog Tour Banner

Join the virtual online book tour of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, Natalie Jenner’s highly acclaimed debut novel May 25 through June 30, 2020. Seventy-five popular blogs and websites specializing in historical fiction, historical romance, women’s fiction, and Austenesque fiction will feature interviews and reviews of this post-WWII novel set in Chawton, England.

Today I’m featuring my review and thoughts on the story AND the lovely audiobook narrated by none other than Richard Armitage (you North & South fans will be swooning now, I know).

About the Book

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.The Jane Austen Society

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

AUDIOBOOK NARRATED BY ACTOR RICHARD ARMITAGE:

The full unabridged text of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was read by the distinguished English film, television, theatre and voice actor Richard Armitage for the audiobook recording. Best known by many period drama fans for his outstanding performance as John Thornton in the BBC television adaptation of North and South (2004), Armitage also portrayed Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit (2012 – 2014).

Listen to a YouTube audiobook excerpt here.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORYINDIEBOUND | AUDIBLEGOODREADS | BOOKBUB

Review

Thought-provoking in its analysis of Austen, The Jane Austen Society at once pays homage and has an endearing, colorful cast of its own. The trials of war, survival, and carrying the burdens of others are themes that contrast with the tiny little moments that make up the joy of life all prevalent in this story of hope.

Natalie Jenner has an authorly voice that captures an era and a bright group of people with a beautiful cadence and concept. From details like the subtle and leading POV shifts to the timeline of the novel, all of the characters are introduced and set up extremely well before the deeper everydayness of their lives is explored. Their relationships intertwine and wind through the story, exploring the heart of friendship, companionship, sacrifice, and even romance.

I particularly appreciate how the pleasure of reading is portrayed in this story. The joy found in rereading favorite authors, the keen humanity found in Austen’s stories, the comfort of books, and literature as a uniting force are all concepts woven through polite conversations, characters’ thoughts, and ultimately a commonality bringing together an unlikely community. The analysis, in particular, of Austen’s depth and the slight parallels to her familiar tropes Natalie engages with her own characters are simply delightful.

I must mention there is more than one romantic thread in this story and ALL of them are a delight! The couple that parallels Emma and Knightley, though, are my absolute favorites! Their conversations are just so smart, meaningful, and full of wit. They forge their own identities, not merely regurgitations of Austen’s famous duo, as an intellectual and emotional match.

The audiobook version of this novel is a pleasure to listen to, as well. Narrator Richard Armitage delivers a memorable and impactful performance with various accents (English variations, American, and even Scottish!) and a heavy dose of emotion. His embodiment of the character Dr. Benjamin Gray, in particular, is my favorite.

I highly recommend this novel for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, author Katherine Reay, or fans of post-WWII stories of triumph.

 

**content note: to my readers who know I typically review inspirational fiction, I want to fill you in on some content expectations. This is a “secular” novel, and has some mild and brief strong language, and an implied homosexual relationship. **

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

About the Author

Author Natalie Jenner headshot X2 2020Natalie Jenner is the debut author of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, a fictional telling of the start of the society in the 1940s in the village of Chawton, where Austen wrote or revised her major works. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie graduated from the University of Toronto with degrees in English Literature and Law and has worked for decades in the legal industry. She recently founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

Blog Tour Stops

May 25           Jane Austen’s World

May 25           Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog

May 26           Frolic Media

May 26           A Bookish Affair

May 26           Courtney Reads Romance

May 26           Margie’s Must Reads

May 26           The Reading Frenzy

May 27           Book Confessions of an Ex-Ballerina

May 27           Gwendalyn’s Books

May 27           Romantically Inclined Reviews

May 28           Getting Your Read On

May 28           Living Read Girl

May 28           The Lit Bitch

May 29           History Lizzie

May 29           Silver Petticoat Reviews

May 30           Cup of Tea with that Book, Please

May 30           Historical Fiction Reader

May 31           Jane Austen in Vermont

June 01          From Pemberley to Milton

June 01          My Jane Austen Book Club

June 01          AustenBlog

June 02          Lu’s Reviews

June 02          The Green Mockingbird

June 03          The Interests of a Jane Austen Girl

June 03          Relz Reviews

June 03          Impressions in Ink

June 04          The Caffeinated Bibliophile

June 04          Life of Literature

June 04          Laura’s Reviews

June 05          Reading Ladies Book Club

June 05          Bookish Rantings

June 06          From the TBR Pile

June 07          Rachel Dodge

June 07          An Historian About Town

June 08          Bringing up Books

June 08          Austenesque Reviews

June 09          Captivated Reading

June 09          Savvy Verse and Witt

June 10          Lady with a Quill

June 10          Drunk Austen

June 11          Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

June 11          Inkwell Inspirations

June 12          Nurse Bookie

June 12          A Bookish Way of Life

June 13          Calico Critic

June 14          Jane Austen’s World

June 15          Stuck in a Book

June 15          Storybook Reviews

June 15          Confessions of a Book Addict

June 16          Literary Quicksand

June 16          Becky on Books

June 17          The Reading Frenzy

June 17          Anita Loves Books

June 18          Chicks, Rogues, & Scandals

June 18          The Write Review

June 19          Diary of Eccentric

June 20          Cracking the Cover

June 21          Short Books & Scribes

June 22          Reading the Past

June 22          Babblings of a Bookworm

June 23          My Vices and Weaknesses

June 23          The Book Diva Reads

June 24          Books, Teacups & Reviews

June 24          Wishful Endings

June 25          Robin Loves Reading

June 25          Bookfoolery

June 26          Lit and Life

June 26          Vesper’s Place

June 27          Foxes and Fairy Tales

June 28          Probably at the Library

June 28          Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books

June 29          The Anglophile Channel

June 29          So Little Time…

June 30          BookNAround

Revew + Blog Tour: “Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey” by Abigail Wilson

Welcome to my review post in the HFVBTBlogTours.com Tour for Abigail Wilson’s new Regenecy romance: Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey! That title is a clever play on words — this marriage of convenience (one of my favorite tropes!) comes with many secrets, some hidden identities, and concealed truths that all come to light with an enthralling mystery. Read on for more about the book, my thoughts, and enter the giveaway for a chance at a paperback copy of the novel.

Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey by Abigail Wilson

Publication Date: May 26, 2020 by Thomas Nelson Historical/Regency/Christian    

 

 

In this new Regency romance, Elizabeth knows she must protect her heart from the charm of her new husband, Lord Torrington. She is not, however, prepared to protect her life.

When the widowed Lord Torrington agreed to spy for the crown, he never planned to impersonate a highwayman, let alone rob the wrong carriage. Stranded on the road with an unconscious young woman, he is forced to propose marriage to protect his identity and her reputation, as well as his dangerous mission.

Trapped not only by her duty to her country but also by her limited options as an unwed mother, Miss Elizabeth Cantrell and her infant son are whisked away to Middlecrest Abbey by none other than the elder brother of her son’s absent father. There she is met by Torrington’s beautiful grown daughters, a vicious murderer, and an urgent hunt for the missing intelligence that could turn the war with France. Meanwhile she must convince everyone that her marriage is a genuine love match if her new husband has any hope of uncovering the enemy.

Determined to keep her son’s true identity a secret, Elizabeth will need to remain one step ahead of her fragile heart, her uncertain future, and the relentless fiend bent on her new family’s ruin.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Review

Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey is a Regency romance and mystery that will have you turning the pages late into the night to figure out its secrets. I was rooting for the hero and heroine through all their action-filled escapades (that were also, somehow, SUPER romantic) to embrace their newfound friendship and solve quite the twisting puzzle.

The first person POV of Elizabeth creates empathy and understanding for the reader while it conveys the likability of Lord Torrington (Adrian) and an almost-tangible sense of the doubts, secrets, and questions about the well-plotted mystery.

The marriage of convenience trope is done wonderfully by Abigail Wilson in this instance. Time for a list (!!!) of things I love about Adrian: his humorous, personable nature; his trust and confidence in Elizabeth; the way he cares for his family. Elizabeth, too, is a very likable heroine whose revelations enlighten the mystery thread and inform her own character of the freedom to trust others and offer forgiveness freely.

I really appreciated that Elizabeth and Adrian are older than your average Regency romance couple– him moreso with his almost-grown daughters. This sets up a deeper romance plot because they are in a position to have grasped life lessons and experience already, allowing for moments of intention and emphasis of choice in their love story.

 

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

About the Author

Abigail Wilson combines her passion for Regency England with intrigue and adventure to pen historical mysteries with a heart. A registered nurse, chai tea addict, and mother of two crazy kids, Abigail fills her spare time hiking the national parks, attending her daughter’s gymnastic meets, and curling up with a great book. In 2017, Abigail won WisRWA’s Fab Five contest and in 2016, ACFW’s First Impressions contest as well as placing as a 2017 finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. She is a cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and currently lives in Dripping Springs, Texas, with her husband and children.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, May 26 Review at Bitch Bookshelf | Review at The Green Mockingbird

Wednesday, May 27 Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Thursday, May 28 Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Friday, May 29 Review at Heidi Reads | Review at Amy’s Booket List

Saturday, May 30 Feature at Journey in Bookland | Feature at What Is That Book About

Sunday, May 31 Review & Excerpt at Robin Loves Reading

Monday, June 1 Review at Probably at the Library | Interview at Jorie Loves A Story

Tuesday, June 2 Feature at I’m All About Books | Feature at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, June 3 Review at Rhodie Girl Reads | Review at Rejoice in Reading

Thursday, June 4 Review at Jessica Belmont | Review at A Chick Who Reads

Friday, June 5 Review at View from the Birdhouse | Review at Foals, Fiction and Filigree

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 5 paperback copies of Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter. Paperback giveaway is open to the US only. Only one entry per household. All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Enter the giveaway here!

Review: “Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish” by Bethany Turner

If you haven’t read a Bethany Turner story yet, you’re in for a TREAT! Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish, her latest standalone novel, features the world of celebrity chefs, glamour, and alllll the yummy food.

Hadley Beckett's Next Dish
About the Book

Celebrity chef Maxwell Cavanaugh is known for many things: his multiple Michelin stars, his top-rated Culinary Channel show To the Max, and most of all his horrible temper. Hadley Beckett, host of the Culinary Channel’s other top-rated show, At Home with Hadley, is beloved for her Southern charm and for making her viewers feel like family.

When Max experiences a very public temper tantrum, he’s sent packing to get his life in order. When he returns, career in shambles, his only chance to get back on TV and in the public’s good graces is to work alongside Hadley.

As these polar-opposite celeb chefs begin to peel away the layers of public persona and reputation, they will not only discover the key ingredients for getting along, but also learn the secret recipe for unexpected forgiveness . . . and maybe even love. In the meantime, hide the knives.

Fan-favorite Bethany Turner serves up a heaping helping of humor and romance with this thoroughly modern story centered on cooking, enemies, and second chances.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The conflict in Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish is fantastic. From the initial riveting prologue and story setup, I was anxious to see how Hadley would go from despising Max to liking him – let alone actually finding a friendship and romance with him. But trust Bethany Turner to take all these “seemingly” unrelated ingredients and deliver a “dish” that’s as fun as it is memorable. Filled with all the pop culture (and foodie!) references I’ve come to love in Bethany’s voice, this story is an enemies-to-lovers romance at its finest.

I LOVE MAX. And Hadley, of course 😉

Only Bethany Turner could transform a hero in such a dynamic way. Max has met his match with Hadley, and it’s a thrill to see them pitted against one another — and their grudging friendship turn into sparks of the romantic kind. Aside from the hilarious romcom genius of this story, a strong thread of second chances and healing interweaves the culinary world of Max and Hadley. Facades, public image, and honesty are all dealt with in fresh ways.

The cliMAX (see what I did there?) of the story is unexpected in the most refreshing way! The momentum never stops, and the resolution is played out surprisingly when I would have expected a literary trope or a predictable direction. To reveal just how it stands out and plays on a bit of teamwork would reveal too much, so trust me when I say it is perfection!

I enjoyed all the FOOD, culinary and food-celeb references, and the banter of this novel. The quick wit of Hadley and Max, layered and complicated by their relationship, combine to make this a thoroughly entertaining novel with dimension and plenty of flavor! One of my favorite tiny things about this story was Hadley’s penchant for silently reciting “kitchen ABCs” when she is upset: Apples. Beef stroganoff. Cumin. Dicer.

Now I’m off to cook something, because all the kitchen talk in the novel has made me hungry 😉

Thanks to the publisher, Revell, for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Audiobook Review: “Echoes Among the Stones” by Jaime Jo Wright

I’m happy to be sharing my thoughts on an enthralling mystery I listened to on audiobook! Echoes Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright is a split time, standalone novel with suspense and just a hint of romance.

The best time for me to listen to audiobooks is when I drive back and forth to work. Let me just say it was a CHALLENGE to get out of my car at the end of the day and “pause” the story!

About the Book

After Aggie Dunkirk’s career is unceremoniously ended by her own mistakes, she finds herself traveling to Wisconsin, where her grandmother, Mumsie, lives alone in her vintage, though very outdated, home. Aggie didn’t plan for how eccentric Mumsie has become, obsessing over an old, unsolved crime scene–even going so far as to re-create it in a dollhouse.

Mystery seems to follow Aggie when she finds work as a secretary helping to restore the flooded historical part of the town’s cemetery. Forced to work with a puzzling yet attractive archaeologist, she exhumes the past’s secrets and unwittingly uncovers a crime that some will go to any length to keep hidden–even if that means silencing Aggie.

In 1946, Imogene Grayson works in a beauty salon but has her sights set on Hollywood. But coming home to discover her younger sister’s body in the attic changes everything. Unfamiliar with the burgeoning world of forensic science and, as a woman, not particularly welcomed into the investigation, Imogene is nonetheless determined to stay involved. As her sister’s case grows cold, Imogene vows to find justice . . . no matter the cost. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I adored this split time mystery. Its deep themes of grief and family are balanced against a clever and suspenseful mystery that spans decades. I was equally caught up in the historical and contemporary timelines, puzzling how they would fit together. The atmospheric and almost-creepy things that happen are balanced by two strong heroines and their devotion to family.

I feel the need to devote a whole paragraph to Collin O’Shaughnessy. Collin, whose crisply ironed wardrobe, almost-British accent, charming sense of humor, and wavy ginger hair nearly seem out of place in a contemporary setting. But oh, how Aggie needs his friendship and perspective. I loved how he is a steady voice of reason but comes with a bit of a mystery of his own; and how all of this Providentially fits into Aggie’s world. The narration of his accent, as acted by narrator Pilar Witherspoon, was a FUN and bright part of an otherwise serious story.

I love that Jaime Jo Wright’s stories consistently surprise me! Echoes Among the Stones had me guessing the “whodunit” aspects AND questioning the loyalty of many characters throughout. All of it wraps up neatly, with some very accurate and grace-filled lessons of grieving paced throughout.

Thank you to Netgalley for the ebook copy. I purchased the audiobook copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Kings Falling” by Ronie Kendig

Review: “Kings Falling” by Ronie Kendig

I have a somewhat wide taste in genres, in both movies and books. Case in point: I often enjoy a historical romance as much as a contemporary drama or military thriller, as long as the story hooks me from the start. Over the past couple years, author Ronie Kendig has found her way onto my must-read list with her military suspense/thriller/romance stories, sometimes including a hint of supernatural threads, ALWAYS with a compelling cast. Her new novel, Kings Falling, is the second in the “Book of the Wars” series. Read on for more about the book and my thoughts!

About the Book
Kings Falling Cover

Leif Metcalfe and his team, dubbed Reaper, need to recover the stolen, ancient Book of the Wars if they hope to stop the Armageddon Coalition and their pursuit of global economic control. But their attention has been diverted by a prophecy in the book that foretells of formidable guardians who will decimate the enemies of ArC. While Iskra Todorova uses her connections in the covert underworld to hunt down the Book of the Wars, Leif and Reaper attempt to neutralize these agents but quickly find themselves outmaneuvered and outgunned.

The more Reaper tries to stop the guardians, the more failure becomes a familiar, antagonistic foe. Friendships are fractured, and the team battles to hold it together long enough to defeat ArC. But as this millennia-old conspiracy creeps closer and closer to home, the implications could tear Leif and the team apart. 

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Review

Kings Falling is a labyrinth of a story that kept me turning pages as fast as I could without coming up for air! Ronie Kendig has crafted a unique and enthralling thriller of a story with high stakes, believable circumstances, and a team you would want to covering your 6.

This is the kind of book that’s best read in sequence with the first book, Storm Rising. The pace of Kings Falling never lets up – with almost whiplash impact, Leif, Iskra, and the team travel the globe to put together fragments of truth about the famed Book of the Wars. Seeing the team reunited and learning more about some of my favorites was just a bonus (I’m talking Mercy, Lawe and Pete, and even Cell). Getting a peek into their perspectives every now and then added more layers and tension (ahem, CELL) to the events happening. I really, REALLY hope book 3 will complete some of these hinted story trails!

I’m intrigued – though not at all surprised – with the way Kendig has crafted this story. Every tiny detail is important to the whole, and the cohesion of the plot and of the characters on the page is riveting. I was, in turn, surprised, delighted, frustrated, humored, mad, and even impressed; sometimes all in the same paragraph 😉! The psychological dimensions and growth of Leif and Iskra were my favorite.

I highly recommend this story to any fans of military suspense, thrillers, or action-packed, team-centric drama. November and Soul Raging (book 3) can’t come soon enough!

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

Review of book 1 Storm Rising