Novella Review: “Like a Winter Snow” by Lindsay Harrel

It’s almost that time of year!!! Time for hot cocoa and all things peppermint, Hallmark movies and trimming the trees. I know it’s still October, but I’m excited to read alllll the Christmas stories this year — I’ve already read three! The one I read this week, Like a Winter Snow by Lindsay Harrel, is a charming novella that takes readers on a journey across the ocean to England. It releases on Tuesday (10/29), so add it to your TBR now!

About the Book

In this standalone holiday novella, return to the charming Cornish village readers fell in love with in The Secrets of Paper and Ink.

Women’s counselor Joy Beckman has always been a friend and helper to all. That’s why she’s given up everything to be with her parents as her mother suffers through Alzheimer’s. Joy may not have a thriving career or a love life at the moment, but she’s doing what she does best—taking care of others. And even though it’s difficult, she knows it’s where she is supposed to be.

But life throws a curveball when she has to leave her parents temporarily to travel to Cornwall, England, for the Christmas-time wedding of her best friend. While there, Joy helps Sophia tackle her last-minute to-do list, and in the process, finally meets a man who turns her head—and her heart. The only problem? He lives in snowy London, and her life is with her parents back in sunny Florida.

She tries to resist Oliver Lincoln’s charms, but it’s harder than it should be. With her heart torn in two, Joy is forced to choose between a life she knows she’s meant for and the one she didn’t see coming.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Like a Winter Snow takes readers to a picturesque Cornwall, England for Christmas AND a wedding! Readers of Harrel’s novel The Secrets of Paper and Ink will be delighted to revisit the characters and see the spotlight on Joy Beckman now, the bride’s best friend.

Amidst all the festivities both quaint and beautiful, a story of romance and surrender unfolds. I appreciate that Lindsay always balances romance with “women’s fiction” themes that are very realistic and often serious. For Joy, her newfound friendship quickly (and delightfully!) grows into more with the charming and good-hearted Oliver, but she thinks her burdens and responsibilities have to hold her back from a happily ever after. The female friendships Joy has in her life are a great encouragement to her. This, combined with Oliver’s own life-wisdom and some insightful parental advice, all help her see her life in a new light. I also liked that this central couple was slightly older than average (40s) for typical romance novels, adding a maturity and hopefulness to the whole story.

This novella has just the right amount of sparkle, humor, and poignancy for the season, and a sweet friendship-to-romance. I LOVE the cute cover and the scene it depicts. Also, I adore the setting (Let’s start a send Courtney to Cornwall campaign, too, ok?!) and the slight nods to classic movies and stories.

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

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.

Book Gush: “How the Light Gets In” by Jolina Petersheim

I’m sharing a review today for a book that just blew. me. away: How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim. I have been thinking about it for most of the week, trying to wrap my mind around the story and put into words what it made me feel. I know my words can’t do justice to the beauty of the story and its intricacies, but I will attempt to share my thoughts & argument for why YOU should read it.

About the Book

From the highly acclaimed author of The Outcast and The Alliance comes an engrossing novel about marriage and motherhood, loss and moving on.

When Ruth Neufeld’s husband and father-in-law are killed working for a relief organization overseas, she travels to Wisconsin with her young daughters and mother-in-law Mabel to bury her husband. She hopes the Mennonite community will be a quiet place to grieve and piece together next steps.

Ruth and her family are welcomed by Elam, her husband’s cousin, who invites them to stay at his cranberry farm through the harvest. Sifting through fields of berries and memories of a marriage that was broken long before her husband died, Ruth finds solace in the beauty of the land and healing through hard work and budding friendship. She also encounters the possibility of new love with Elam, whose gentle encouragement awakens hopes and dreams she thought she’d lost forever.

But an unexpected twist threatens to unseat the happy ending Ruth is about to write for herself. On the precipice of a fresh start and a new marriage, Ruth must make an impossible decision: which path to choose if her husband isn’t dead after all.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

How the Light Gets In is probably the most unique book I’ve ever read. It is a storytelling feat with emotional twists, surprises, and a whiplash ending (which I shall not reveal! No spoilers here!). Peer beyond the expert framework and you will discover a retelling of Ruth that is compelling in its exploration of grief, relationships, and the surrender that comes with letting Love shine through the faults and fallacies of our natures.

The brilliance of this story does not lie in the characters, plot, setting, or genre (all of which are great!) Because of its twist, it lies instead in its purpose. To appreciate this, you do have to read the story start to finish.

But its purpose is not a soapbox or affiliation. It is a message of impact. How tiny choices, whether born of love or selfishness (encouraging words or open communication, negative thoughts or a sharp tongue), can drastically change relationships over time. Even if one means well. This theme is revealed through the lens of marriage and its joys and hardships but I feel it can be applied to any relationship, so it’s a story for all.

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Another impressive facet of the novel is the use of the setting. Its simplicity, that of a Mennonite community with little pretense, works to magnify the complications of Ruth’s past (in an urban setting on another continent, no less), revealed in letters and memory segments. Her shift in environments serves to emphasize the universal problems and challenges of any relationship, whatever the circumstance, and shows them to often stem from a heart- or choice-issue, not that of one’s surroundings.

I feel like I could talk for 4 hours about How the Light Gets In. About the vivid characters, the gentle heart of Elam, the virtues of Chandler amidst his seeming faults, the darling children, or the caring family (especially Mabel and Laurie!). Instead, I think everyone should read it! *though I heartily gush and recommend books I love, I am not prone to such hyperbole about just any story. This one is an exception.*

I will be thinking about this story for weeks to come. Especially the ending that left me joyful-and-reeling. It charges the reader to embrace all the messiness of life and to press on when pain inevitably occurs. And, even to hope and trust God to do a new thing when all seems lost.

Sincere thanks to the publisher, Tyndale, for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Author Jolina Petersheim has an awesome book club kit for How the Light Gets In! Book club kit & info on her website here.

Review: “The Secrets of Paper and Ink” by Lindsay Harrel

What’s better than books? Books with bookish characters, of course!

The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Linsday Harrel fits this description wonderfully. From the bookish nature of one of the heroines, Sophia, to the delightful English village & bookstore setting, this novel encapsulates important themes within a charming environment to deliver its message of healing with care.

About the Book

Lindsay Harrel presents a powerful story of healing, forgiveness, and finding the courage to write your own story.

A year after the death of her abusive fiancé, domestic violence counselor Sophia Barrett finds returning to work too painful. She escapes to Cornwall, England–a place she’s learned to love through the words of her favorite author–and finds a place to stay with the requirement that she help out in the bookstore underneath the room she’s renting. Given her love of all things literary, it seems like the perfect place to find peace.

Ginny Rose is an American living in Cornwall, sure that if she saves the bookstore she co-owns with her husband then she can save her marriage as well. Fighting to keep the first place she feels like she belongs, she brainstorms with her brother-in-law, William, and Sophia to try to keep the charming bookstore afloat.

Two hundred years before, governess Emily Fairfax knew two things for certain: she wanted to be a published author, and she was in love with her childhood best friend. But he was a wealthy heir and well out of her league. Sophia discovers Emily’s journals, and she and William embark on a mission to find out more about this mysterious and determined woman, all the while getting closer to each other as they get closer to the truth.

The lives of the three women intertwine as each learns the power she has over the story of her life.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Secrets of Paper and Ink is a delightful women’s fiction novel with a literary bent, historical threads, a little romance, and a message of identity. The main characters, 3 women whose stories span a century, have unique situations on the surface, but all are searching for identity in something or someone. And the setting!!!!! I really, really want to visit Cornwall now. Specifically, the ocean or coastline there. 😉

Sophia and Ginny, in the present timeline, alternate points of view with an intriguing Emily, the historical heroine whose “first person” journal entries intersect and intertwine with theirs. I found the earlier time period was just as captivating and interesting as the present. I would love to see more from Lindsay Harrel with a historical setting!

From being surrounded by books to the nods to literature and a bookworm Sophia (and William!!!), Harrel uses the theme of story to further connect the characters and express life as an ever-growing experience; life as a unique story that is in the process of the telling. And, whose Author is all-knowing even when trials come on the next “page”.

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

Best of 2018: Contemporary Books

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! I’m changing it up a bit and separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. All of this is to celebrate their distinction and spend a few more days talking about all the wonderful entertainment of 2018.

Day 1. Best of 2018: Novellas

Day 2. Best of 2018: Historical Books

Day 3. Best of 2018: Contemporary Books

Day 4. Goodbye 2018 & Looking Ahead

Today is about CONTEMPORARY BOOKS, AKA the category with the most favorites. I read more contemporary stories this year… and there several on this list! Maybe that means I know what I like?! I think so. Like my historical list, most are from this year, but a few were released prior to 2018.

The rules: sometimes I have to make boundaries for myself when it comes to talking about books because we would all be here a long time if were able to ramble on. SO, I’m sticking to my format of last year and choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review. In no particular order…

Best of 2018: Contemporary Books

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac | Review

Laughter. Living. Chemistry.

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano | Review

Culinary dream. Delightful complexity. Relationships.

Blue Columbine by Jennifer Rodewald | Review

Grace. Redemption. Raw emotions.

The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce | Review

Friendship. Dreams. True selflessness.

Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig | Review

Epic action. Brotherhood. Sacrifice.

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert | Review

Empathy. Call to love. Relevant.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Amy Matayo | Review

Power of words. Choices. Connection.

When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham | Review

Music. Trust. Home.

Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh | Review

Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Homecoming.

Wait for Me by Susan May Warren | Review to come

Adventure. Love worth the risk. Timing.

A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson | Review

Heritage. Romance. Worth.

Your turn! What were your favorite contemporary reads of 2018? Have you read any of these?

Review: “Things Left Unsaid” by Courtney Walsh

Today I’m EXTREMELY happy to share my review of Courtney Walsh’s recent women’s fiction indie release, Things Left Unsaid. While this might be a slightly new genre for Courtney, this story is as emotionally resonant as her contemporary romances.

Audiobook note: I switched back and forth between reading this and listening to the audiobook. I enjoyed the audio version and felt it was narrated with emotion and clarity. I’m a bit picky when it comes to audio narrators, so this was a pleasant thing!

About the Book

An emotional novel of family, friendship and forgiveness from Courtney Walsh, the New York Times bestselling author of Hometown Girl.

Lyndie St. James is thrilled that her best friend, Elle, is getting married but unprepared for the emotional storm of the wedding week and returning to her childhood summer home of Sweethaven. The idyllic cottage community harbors some of her best—and worst—memories. It’s not only the tragic death of her childhood friend Cassie that has haunted her for ten years, it’s the other secrets she’s buried that have kept her from moving on.

But Lyndie isn’t the only one with secrets.

Cassie’s mother, father and brother, still struggling with the loss, have been drifting further and further apart. And Elle herself, the last to see Cassie alive, carries an impossible burden of guilt. Now reunited, each of them has a choice: to reveal the truths of that night or continue to live in its shadow. That means embarking on a personal journey of the heart—to escape the darkness and all its regrets and to finally come to terms with the past and, especially, with each other.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

This story surprised me more than once. What I expected to be a story of friendship, summertime memories, and the way the past shapes identities became so much more with every new secret revealed and emotional layer pulled back. Courtney Walsh has penned (another) beautiful story of GRACE. Of how important it is to belong and be known, and to forgive… even if it’s about forgiving yourself.

I enjoyed how the pace of the story allowed for time to get to know the characters, especially Lyndie, in their current frames of mind before events pulled them all together in the same town. This timeline starts to paint a picture of the past and hints at the baggage each of them carries.

Courtney Walsh always manages to write relatable and even flawed characters, and Lyndie, Tucker, Elle, and Karen are all representative of the struggles we face. When you read this story, you WILL relate to at least one of them, whether their pain, grief, complacency, self-confidence struggles, or possibly the honesty, faith, and positive steps to growth call out to your heart.

I won’t give away any plot points or heart-wrenching secrets (you will have to discover them when you read this story) but I will say that this story deals with some sensitive issues. All of them have to do with the fallout of choices and mistakes, some of them long-buried or years in the making. Courtney Walsh’s straightforward style handles this sensitively and realistically which further proves her place on my must-read authors list! 

I went from laughing to crying and experiencing every emotion in between while reading! I highly recommend this book to women’s fiction fans or of authors like Katie Ganshert, Jennifer Rodewald, Amy Matayo, and Katherine Reay.

Thank you to the author for the advance copy of this book. This is my honest review.

 

Review: “Lies We Tell Ourselves” by Amy Matayo

 

Amy Matayo (9)

Amy Matayo’s stories always surprise me. Their humor and sarcasm, truth and vulnerability, and relevance always shine through the storytelling. Her latest indie release, Lies We Tell Ourselves, was no different. I could not have predicted the ending, especially the way the last 1/4 of the of story unfolded. And it was perfect — emotionally exhausting in the best way.

About the Book

Presley Waterman is a rescuer: of animals, of businesses, of people. Like the stray cat she’s allergic to, but continues to care for. Like her small-town newspaper, a business that’s been dying a slow death for the better part of a decade. And like Micah. Her best friend and the man she has loved since they were kids, back when no one else cared.   

Lies We Tell OurselvesAs for him… 

Micah Leven loves Presley. She’s the girl who’s always been there to help, the one who knows all the ugly things about him and makes him believe he can be a better man, the one who will never leave because she’s promised over and over.  
But he also loves Mara.  

Mara is his ideal. She’s the dream he conjured up as a boy and never wavered from. She’s beautiful, ambitious, driven, a fellow newscaster at his Atlanta station, and the perfect asset for the life he’s always wanted. Together, they could conquer the world and their respective careers. Even better, with Mara he could prove that he did—in fact—finally amount to something. Maybe then his father would be proud.   

There are just a few things Presley and Micah have both forgotten. One, just because you rescue someone doesn’t mean they’ll love you for it. Two, some dreams disappear when reality wakes you up. Three, the only way to silence lies is to face the truth head-on. 

This is the story of the man torn between two existences, the woman who finally took the choice away from him, and what happens when you stop listening to lies once and for all. 

Even if the biggest liar is you.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

What begins as an intriguing story of two friends quickly grows into a story much deeper and extremely relevant. One of friendship, of the value of relationships, of the ties and loyalties of the heart, and that of lies told and lies believed. These lies are sometimes spoken by the characters but are most often born from untruths spoken over them as children. The statements are internalized and believed until the lies become a part of their identity and define all of their behaviors. Through a series of events, Presley and Micah navigate their relationship they each label as “friendship” when their true feelings are much more romantic in nature.

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Let’s stop for a second and talk about storytelling technique. This book is separated into 3 different parts, each of which is told from the first person POV of 3 characters, one of which was a big surprise! And, moments of memory or flashback were spread throughout the story, telling of important moments of friendship between a young Presley and Micah. These passages are clearly noted and wonderfully add depth of the story, the meaning behind present-day choices and behaviors.

One little thing about this story that really stood out to me was that sometimes recognizing the truth is admitting vulnerability. No one likes to be vulnerable, but that is our nature when we let someone in to see our hearts and our character. This is demonstrated through Micah’s struggle with admitting his motives when it comes to his friendship with Presley. And let me just tell you, Presley’s character has to respond to all of this… and her choice is wonderfully empowering. I loved it!

What a message to readers this story carries: that of WORTH, of the value of people and the power of words.

 

content: overall a clean read, with some suggestive comments and innuendos, most of which are meant to be sarcastically humorous. I would rate it for teens and up.

Thank you to the author and Relz Author Support Services for the review copy. This is my honest review.