Top Ten Tuesday: My 10 Most Recent Reads

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is “My Ten Most Recent Reads”. I’m sharing 3 I’m reading now, plus the last 7 books I finished. I consider myself a slow-to-moderate reader, so my list stretches back to books I read in March.

My 10 Most Recent Reads

Currently Reading

Let It Be Me by Becky Wade | Contemporary romance meets a little family drama. I’m LOVING the depth to these characters!

Is It Any Wonder by Courtney Walsh | I’m currently enjoying the audio version of Cody and Lou’s second-chance-romance story set in idyllic Nantucket. It makes me want to plan a trip!

The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber | I’m rereading this one for a Facebook book group hosted by the author and I’m rediscovering why I love this well-written series. My Review on Goodreads

Latest Reads

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey | Modern romcom meets a little bit of Mr. Rogers and a romance born of a pen pals relationship. Look for my review soon on the blog.

A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver | WWII-era London with a safecracking heroine and a properly loyal Army Major ferreting out spies. My Review

Hope Between the Pages by Pepper Basham | This charming, bookish love story connects generations of heroines in the present and WWI era with a little mystery spanning Appalachian and English settings. My Review

Dearest Josephine by Caroline George | This smart epistolary YA novel has a completely unique storytelling approach, making one of the characters a part of the story itself. My Review

The Indebted Earl by Erica Vetsch | Regency-era romance with a found family + a little marriage of convenience trope, this one wraps up a great series yet reads as a standalone. My Review

Love at First by Kate Clayborn | This general market romance will give you ALL THE FEELS with its beloved-and-quirky characters, a bespectacled hero, and an enemies-to-lovers trope. My Review on Goodreads

Before Time Runs Out by Amy Matayo | If you like time travel-meets-Dickensian London stories with a little adventure and romance, this story is for you! My Review

Did you share a TTT post this week? Have you read any of these books?

Top Ten Tuesday: 11 Colorful Book Covers ~ A Rainbow from my TBR

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is “colorful book covers”. I’ve decided to showcase a stack from my TBR that has a rainbow of colors on the spines.

I know which of these I want to read soon. Are any of these on your shelf? Which one(s) should I move to the top of my to-be-read stack? (titles linked to Goodreads)

11 Colorful Book Covers ~ A Rainbow from my TBR

stack of 11 books with a rainbow of spines

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano | historical romance

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert | contemporary foodie fiction +romance

Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson | historical Regency romance with hints of North & South

The Key to Love by Betsy St. Amant | contemporary romance with a bakery

Love and Other Mistakes by Jessica Kate | contemporary romcom

Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton | historical fiction

Chateau of Echoes by Siri L. Mitchell | dual-timeline romance, maybe some intrigue, and family secrets

Panning for Love by Meg Cross Wenig | romcom with a wild west reenactment

The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck | inspirational romcom & women’s fiction

London Tides and Under Scottish Stars by Carla Laureano | contemporary romance in the UK

What did you share for TTT? Have you read any of these books?

Book & Film Pairings, edition 4

Welcome to another post where I pair books and films with similar themes or content! Today’s post is all about romantic comedies that happen to share a church-centric setting of some kind.

All three are self aware of their churchy humor (if you know, you know). And, they all balance humor, romance, and a serious side. Having spent time myself on a worship team, various committees, children’s choir leadership, etc., I definitely related to the humor and situations in these stories! Maybe you will, too. 😉

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated by Kaley and Rhonda Rea

This lighthearted romcom has the planning of a children’s community theater play as a backdrop to much of the characters’ interactions. The cat-owning beta hero and the grouchy barista are my favorite characters. In addition to some hilarious dragon-building and dress shopping situations, it intentionally spoofs Hallmark movies and tropes throughout.

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac

The comedy in this story is all about clumsiness, fish-out-of-water situations (American girl in Australia!), and the trickiness of working in a megachurch (that’s sarcasm). The emotional journey of healing its romantic leads traverse, though, is most impactful and impressive. It’s a fav!

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (2016)

It has been a while since I watched this movie, but I love the cast and remember thinking the story was fun and enlightening. I’m pairing it with the books for its comedy and play-planning story content, as well as the unexpected romance and deeper lessons its characters learn. While its hero “pretends” to fit in to the church culture while fulfilling a community service sentence, he learns what true service and faith looks like in action. AND he falls for the pastor’s daughter along the way.

Best Books of 2020

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration!

I set a Goodreads reading goal at 100 books! I got close to making it happen at 86 books — and I’m happy with the high number I achieved. With all the bad news and unexpectedness of 2020, I have found books and the online bookish community to be a bright, positive spot in many ways. I hope you have, too.

I’ve included 20 books, 2-3 per genre, in my BEST list this year! If you’d like to see all of the books I read and read more extensive reviews, check out my 2020 Goodreads year in books or browse my blog archives.

THE (self-imposed) 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 blog review (if applicable). At the end, I’ll be sharing popular posts on the blog this year.

All titles are inspirational fiction unless noted with *.

Best Books of 2020

Novellas

Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews* | Review

Sweet romance. Compassion. Hope.

A Pressing Engagement by Anna Lee Huber*

Long-awaited event. Earl Gray the cat. Charismatic criminals.

Christmas in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan | Review

Belonging. Vulnerability. Vienna & the Tyrolean countryside.

Split Time

Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes | Review

LIGHT. Longing. Hope.

Echoes Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright | Review

Puzzling mystery. Devotion. Collin O’Shaughnessy.

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes | Review

Sacrifice. Beauty in the commonplace and extraordinary. Poignant.

Contemporary

The Solid Grounds Coffee Co. by Carla Laureano | Review

Honesty. Complexity. Friendship.

Now and Then and Always by Melissa Tagg | Review

Winsome. Humorous. Faith.

The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck | Review

Redemption. Relationships. Enchanting concept.

Romantic Comedy

The Cul-de-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson | Review

Frenemies-to-romance. Farm animals. Rivalry.

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner | Review

Wit. FOOD. Healing.

Close to You by Kara Isaac

Adventure. Unexpected love. Hobbits.

Thriller & Suspense

The Wind Will Howl by Sibella Giorello

Immersive setting. Classic-feel mystery. Smart.

Soul Raging by Ronie Kendig | Review

Twists. Revelations. Banter.

Chasing the White Lion by James R. Hannibal | Review

High-tech action. Suspense. Purpose.

Historical

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan | Review

Reconciliation. Friendship. Selflessness.

An Uncommon Woman by Laura Frantz

Lyrical prose. Strength on the frontier. Riveting romance.

Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews*

Daring adventure. Truth. Swoony romance.

Nonfiction

Special mention to a couple of nonfiction titles I enjoyed: Dream, Plan, and Go by Rachel McMillan, an inspirational travel memoir and guide; Everything Beautiful In Its Time by Jenna Bush Hager, a family-centric memoir of love and grief.

Popular #OnTheBlog in 2020

Most popular posts:

Most popular new book reviews:

That’s it for 2020! Happy new year to you all. As always, thank you for being a blog reader and part of this bookish community.

What are your favorite books you read this year? Do we share any favorites? Did you post a list of favorites on your blog or social media? I’d love for you to share in the comments!

Audiobook Review: “The Cul-de-Sac War” by Melissa Ferguson

Melissa Ferguson’s sophomore novel, The Cul-de-Sac War, is as cute and intriguing as its name implies. It’s a contemporary romcom I highly recommend for fans of the genre!

About the Book

All’s fair in love and prank wars.

Bree Leake doesn’t want to be tied down. She’s had more jobs than she can count, and she plans to move as soon as the curtains fall on her less-than-minor stage role at The Barter—the oldest live performance theater in the US. But just when it’s time to move on again, Bree’s parents make her an offer: hold steady for a full year, and they will give her the one thing she’s always wanted—her grandmother’s house. Her dreams are coming true . . . until life at the theater throws her some curve balls.

And then there’s Chip McBride—her handsome and infuriating next-door neighbor.

Chip just might be the only person whose stubborn streak can match Bree’s. She would move heaven and earth to have him off her cul-de-sac and out of her life, but according to the bargain she’s struck, she can’t move out of her house and away from the man who’s making her life miserable. So begins Bree’s obsessive new mission: to drive Chip out of the neighborhood—and fast.

Bree isn’t the only one who’s a tad competitive, and Chip is more than willing to fight fire with fire. But as their pranks escalate, the line between love and hate starts to blur—and their heated rivalry threatens to take a hilarious, heartwarming, and romantic new turn.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Cul-de-Sac War is truly a LAUGH OUT LOUD romcom! I listened to the audiobook and loved every second. I love the pranks and antics of Chip and Bree, their delightful frenemies-to-enemies-to-romance journey, and the little bits of realistic heart-truths in this story. Most of all, I loved the way I couldn’t predict what crazy thing would happen next or how much I would be surprised by the way it comes together. I especially like how it’s centered on two people who have no idea that each is the answer to the friendship and encouragement they are seeking.

So many aspects of this novel line up to result in such perfection. A short list:

  • the cast of supporting characters: Bree’s off-the-grid obsessed roommate, her matchmaking obsessed parents, and Chip’s pretentious family, just to name a few.
  • relatable humor: Subarus. Duct tape and home remodeling.
  • quaint-but-still-real-life setting: just go Google The Barter!
  • random farm animals: I’ll leave this comment a mystery until you read it for yourself 😉
  • a dog named Russell: so prolific, he deserves his own category. His Slim Jim obsession is award-worthy.
  • finding purpose in life: a major theme here!
  • a surprising, heart-tugging story thread with Bree’s family — and the way Chip relates

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

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.

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Review + Blog Tour: “The Dating Charade” by Melissa Ferguson

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

About the Book

The Dating Charade by Melissa Ferguson

Contemporary Romance, Christian

Available in: paperback, audiobook & ebook, 336 Pages

Release date: 12/3/19 by Thomas Nelson

Just when you think you’ve met your match . . . the charade begins.

Cassie Everson is an expert at escaping bad first dates. And, after years of meeting, greeting, and running from the men who try to woo her, Cassie is almost ready to retire her hopes for a husband—and children—altogether.

But fate has other plans, and Cassie’s online dating profile catches the eye of firefighter Jett Bentley. In Jett’s memory, Cassie Everson is the unreachable girl-of-legend from their high school days. Nervously, he messages her, setting off a chain of events that forces a reluctant Cassie back into the dating game.

No one is more surprised than Cassie when her first date with Jett is a knockout. But when they both go home and find three children dropped in their laps—each—they independently decide to do the right and mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong?

Melissa Ferguson’s hilarious and warmhearted debut reminds us that love can come in very small packages—and that sometimes our best-laid plans aren’t nearly as rewarding and fun as the surprises that come our way.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

From laugh out loud moments to more emotional and serious layers, The Dating Charade has appeal far beyond its cute cover and promising synopsis. Fans of Melissa Tagg and Bethany Turner, take note! The plot reminded me of the classic “Yours, Mine, and Ours” (the Lucille Ball + Fonda version) in the very best way!

I am a fan of romantic comedies, whether in movie, TV, or book form. Rarely, though, am I spurred to laughing out loud while reading. With this novel, I had at minimum 5 instances where I snickered or laughed out loud. One time, I was hoping my coworkers wouldn’t think I was crazy! 😉 I love how Melissa Ferguson has taken the most mundane things and used them for humor in situations I could relate to. Her witty writing style made the pages fly by. In particular, I LOLed at certain scenes that involved a toddler and a gallon of milk, church nursery workers, screening content of children’s books, and the hero’s propensity to be “clumsy” when necessary.

In addition to the humor and fun characters (can Sunny be the hero of a novel someday, pretty please?), relevant issues and themes are an integral part of Cassie and Jett’s character journeys. From motivations, dreams, relationship expectations, to the sacrifice of parenting, all are part of the fabric of the story. These point to an important message of the priority of family and how love and happily-ever-afters might not end up how one plans. In fact, they might involve sleepless nights with a newborn, messy hair, and endless vats of macaroni and cheese.

With just one novel to her name (she has a novella I’m wanting to read!), Melissa Ferguson has found her way onto my must-read author list. I eagerly look forward to whatever she pens next!

Thank you to Prism Book Tours for the review copy. This is my honest review.

About the Author

Melissa Ferguson is an adjunct professor for Bible and religion at King University. She lives in the charming town of Bristol, Tennessee, with her husband, twin toddlers, and baby girl. She used to have hobbies like running and backpacking the Appalachian Trail outside her door. Now her hobbies include admiring the Appalachian Trail out her minivan window while singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” en route to the library.

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Review: “Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner #woocam

I have finally put into words my feelings and love for Bethany Turner’s latest standalone novel, Wooing Cadie McCaffrey! In one word, it is a delight!

About the Book

After four years with her boyfriend, Cadie McCaffrey is thinking of ending things. Convinced Will doesn’t love her in the “forever” way she loves him, Cadie believes it’s time for her to let him go before life passes her by. When a misunderstanding leads to a mistake, leaving her hurt, disappointed, and full of regret, she finally sends him packing.

But for Will, the end of their relationship is only the beginning of his quest to figure out how to be the man Cadie wanted him to be. With the dubious guidance of his former pro-athlete work friends and tactics drawn from Cadie’s favorite romantic comedies, Will attempts to win her back. It’s a foolproof plan. What could possibly go wrong?

Bethany Turner is back with more of the heart and humor readers love. Anyone who enjoys a good romance or binges romantic comedies on Netflix will devour this delightful story.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey (or WooCaM, as the fandom calls it) is a resonating story that will make you laugh out loud, fall in love with the characters, and experience all of the emotions ever defined right along with them. It’s truly a story for movie lovers, with too many romcom references to count. It lovingly makes fun of some classic film moments and even draws truths from a few, using such light elements to deal with the deeper, more serious veins of the story.

I have so many FEELINGS about this story! Mostly, I love the balance of hilarity AND real life. Author Bethany Turner doesn’t shy away from realities, handling some tough topics with a delicate candor. I think that’s what I like best about this story! The decisions Will and Cadie make are not always the best, and that’s ok, because it highlights the dilemmas, temptations, and even the mixed signals of modern relationships. All of this makes Will and Cadie’s love story more meaningful because they deal with messy, real-life stuff. And learn about forgiveness. And what it means to have authentic faith. And the importance of honesty, a boombox, and best friends to see you through.

If you’re looking for a romcom with a hint of faith, I highly recommend WooCaM! It has a few surprises that are refreshing and brave for the genre, along with expected hilarity, a colorful cast of characters, and the BEST banter and chapter titles ever. (Case in point: see my above photo.)

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

Mini Review: “Jane by the Book” by Pepper Basham

Jane by the book

A couple months ago, Jane by the Book by Pepper Basham released as a part of the “Once Upon a Laugh” novella collection. I’m still reading my way through that one — it’s very fun! BUT NOW, Pepper’s novella is available on its own in paperback! *happy dance* If you’re looking for a cute and tender romcom, look no further that the adorably quirky Titus and Jane.

About the Book

Jane by the Book

Four years ago, Jane Warwick escaped the shame and heartbreak of being jilted at the altar by becoming a housekeeper at the secluded Inn at Simeon Ridge. Predictable and quiet, the inn helps Jane find a place to heal and celebrates her strengths, where she is promoted to head housekeeper. But an unexpected visit to Bath, England, upsets Jane’s plans and sends her out of her comfort zone, directly into the harrowing path of historical detective author, Titus Stewart.

The only plans Titus sticks to are family holidays and the ones that send him careening into his story worlds, but when an uptight and nervous innkeeper stumbles into his life – and his latest novel – nonfiction begins to take on a much more interesting gleam.

As the unlikely pair delve into the mystery behind a one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old letter, will they both uncover a romance that stands the test of time?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

List of the reasons you should read Jane by the Book ASAP:

  • Pop culture and Sherlock and mysteries and general bookishness. Oh, and BATH, England!
  • A super-relatable heroine — whose cluelessness is realistic and sets up growth and personal realizations women of the world need to hear!
  • A wonderfully bookish and nerdy hero with an internal monologue that will make you giggle. He definitely earns the nickname #terrificTitus!
  • An intriguing family mystery with smart parallels to Jane’s own heart-journey
  • Simply put, CORGIS!
  • And, last but not least, a sweet and charming romance that will have you rooting for the happily ever after!