Kristi’s Top 10 of 2016

Hard to believe another year is just about over.  This year I participated in the Goodreads Challenge and set my goal for 75 books.  I exceeded that goal and ended up reading 92 books this year.  There were a lot of really good reads in those 92 books.  Now I will attempt to pick my favorite 10 from the list of 92.  Without further ado, here are my top 10 reads of 2016

(Click on the title to see my full review of each book.)

10.  Sarah’s Surrender by Vickie McDonough

Sarah's Surrender

I like reading books about strong, independent women and this book hit the spot.  A well-written story of a young woman trying to make it on her own during the 1901 land lottery.  An entertaining and educational read.

9.  A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell

A Haven on Orchard Lane

My first book by this author but definitely not my last.  I was sad to leave these characters and Orchard Lane once I was finished with the book.  This is one I would like to read again someday.

8.  My Sister’s Prayer by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould


Clark and Gould are a super duo when it comes to writing stories with dual storylines.  The second installment in the Cousins of the Dove series is a fantastic read.  Set aside some free time to read this book. Once you start you won’t want to put this book down.

7.  Sit Stay Love by Dana Mentink

sit stay love

Cute and somewhat out of control dog? Check.  Baseball?  Check.  Romance?  Check.   This book has a little something for everyone.  Dana Mentink creates characters and storylines readers will fall in love with.  This book is a cute and fun read.

6.  From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden

from this moment

Another book with a strong and independent female lead.  Elizabeth Camden is great at writing about women who are easy to relate to and cheer on.

5.  Titus Returns by Amy Lillard


My absolute favorite Amy Lillard book.  A well-written story about redemption and starting over.  You don’t have to be a fan of Amish fiction to enjoy this story.

4.  The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser


This was a very quick read for me.  Another book about a strong female character.  This was my first book by this author and it definitely won’t be the last.

3. Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray by Dorothy Love

Mrs Lee and Mrs. Gray

A book that entertains you and makes you think.  Dorothy Love is one of my favorite historical fiction authors.  This book is must-read.

2.  The Cherished Quilt by Amy Clipston


Amy Clipston is an amazing author and I love all of her books.  The Cherished Quilt is her best writing to date.  This book is awesome!


And now, my favorite read of 2016 is………

Don’t Speak by J.L. Brown


I just can’t say enough about this book.  I was shocked that this was a debut novel because it is so well written.  I kept thinking about this story and the characters for weeks after I finished reading the book.  I can’t wait to read the next Jade Harrington novel.  Don’t Speak has put anything by J.L. Brown on my “must read” list.


2016 was a good year for reading and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2017.  Happy New Year to you and as always, Happy Reading!!!!!


A Perfect Plan by Alyssa Drake (review by Kristi)


About the book:  Samantha Hastings lived a quiet, peaceful life on her family’s country estate. With no man to order her around and no stifling society rules to follow, she considered herself blessed. However, when her brother’s ship sinks during a short trip to France, Samantha receives a request from her sister-in-law to return to town and manage the late Earl’s finances. Suddenly thrust into society, Samantha faces an unfamiliar world and a pair of very familiar green eyes.

Lord Benjamin Westwood never intended on following through with his rash promise to his best friend. Now, with Edward’s death, Benjamin becomes the unwilling guardian to Edward’s bratty little sister, who has grown up considerably since the last time they met. His intention to marry her off to the first available suitor is thwarted when he finds himself falling for Samantha’s unique demeanor. He lights upon the perfect plan; a marriage of convenience, giving him the opportunity to romance Samantha without distraction.

However, when they discover Edward’s disappearance was due to foul play, Benjamin’s prefect plan begins to quickly unravel. Now, Samantha is in more danger than either of them realized and Benjamin is running out of time.

Kindle Edition, 240 pages                      Published May 20, 2016, by Dream Big Publishing


My review:  For a debut novel, A Perfect Plan is not a bad read. It has likable and fairly well-developed characters who are fun to read about. The storyline is a combination of mystery and romance.

I found myself liking most of the characters in this book with the exception of a couple and perhaps those for good reason. I thought the characters were complex and dimensional and written to make the reader feel a familiarity with them from the beginning. Samantha was a fun character because though she was the sister of a Lord she wasn’t exactly the most ladylike at times and was a bit of a handful for those watching out for her. Benjamin, while being a Lord, didn’t really take himself too seriously and didn’t come across as uppity or stuffy. He was enjoyable from the moment he was introduced. Honestly, though, at times I was a bit perplexed at the chemistry between Samantha and Benjamin. Something just seemed off between the two and their relationship seemed a bit awkward from time to time.

While the story starts off as a mystery it soon turns to the budding romance between Samantha and Benjamin and the mystery doesn’t really pick back up until the story is well into its telling. I found this to be different and had almost forgotten about the mystery laid out in the prologue of the story. There were times I didn’t care for the changing POV storytelling as I thought it slowed down the pace of the story. Thankfully though the changing POV didn’t make the storytelling repetitive as can sometimes be the case.

Reading this on my Kindle I was able to tell when I was approaching the end of the story but it didn’t seem as if the story was coming to a close. I was afraid of a cliffhanger and was not really too surprised that the story ends with a major cliffhanger. I was disappointed in this as I do like closure to a story. If not for the cliffhanger I would have given the story a higher rating.

Time will tell if I read the next story in the series. I liked the characters well enough to wonder what happens next and the story was interesting enough to have me wondering if I know who the murderer is. All in all the book was a pretty decent read.

I received a free copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review.


About the author:  Author Alyssa Drake has been creating stories since she could read, preferring to construct her own bedtime tales instead of reading the titles in her bookshelves. Enraptured with all types of writing, Alyssa has tried her hand at short stories, collaborations, and poetry.  However, her first love has always been books.  She thoroughly enjoys strong heroines and often laughs aloud when visualizing conversations between her characters.

Alyssa graduated from the University of the Pacific, with a B.S. in business and a concentration in French literature.  Currently, she resides in Northern California with her blended family, where she works full-time at a chocolate factory.

She believes everyone is motivated by love of someone or something.  One of her favorite diversions is fabricating stories about strangers surrounding her on public transportation.  Alyssa can often be found madly scribbling notes on a train or daydreaming out the window as the scenery whips past.

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The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen (review by Kristi)


About the book:  On a rise overlooking the Wiltshire countryside stands the village of Ivy Hill. Its coaching inn, The Bell, is its lifeblood–along with the coach lines that stop there daily, bringing news, mail, travelers, and much-needed trade.

Jane Bell lives on the edge of the inn property. She had been a genteel lady until she married the charming innkeeper who promised she would never have to work in his family’s inn. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Jane finds herself The Bell’s owner, and worse, she has three months to pay a large loan or lose the place.

Feeling reluctant and ill-equipped, Jane is tempted to abandon her husband’s legacy and return to her former life of ease. However, she soon realizes there is more at stake than her comfort. But who can she trust to help her? Her resentful mother-in-law? Her husband’s brother, who wanted the inn for himself? Or the handsome newcomer with secret plans of his own . . . ?

With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane struggles to win over naysayers and turn the place around. Can Jane bring new life to the inn, and to her heart as well?

Paperback, 448 pages                  Published December 6, 2016, by Bethany House Publishers


My review:  A widow has inherited the coaching inn owned by her husband and his family. She tries to make a go of it even though she has no idea how to run an inn. Jane was a gentle-born woman and was only taught to do the proper things a lady does, not how to run a business. With the help of her brother-in-law, Patrick, and the sometimes not so wanted help of her mother-in-law, Jane tries to save the family business.

This was my first read by Julie Klassen and I found the description of the book intriguing. Add to that a lovely cover and I couldn’t wait to read this story. However, I found the story started out a bit slow and never really picked up the pace like I wanted it to. At times I wasn’t as interested in the story as I should have been. At other times the story was interesting and I found myself quickly working my way through the book. I enjoyed reading about the daily running of the inn.

While the characters are well-developed and complex, I just didn’t feel a strong connection to them. I really wish I would have had stronger feelings about Jane but I found her lackluster at times. I didn’t like Patrick and thought him to be a bit on the shady side. Thora was supposed to be the meddling mother-in-law but I found myself drawn to her the most. She seemed the most rooted of the characters and there is more to her than meets the eye.

There are plenty of twists and turns and enough mysterious happenings to keep the reader interested which is a good thing because at over 400 pages the book is rather lengthy. I was a little disappointed in the ending as I felt like there were too many loose ends. I realize this is only the first book of the series but I would have liked to see more resolution in the storylines.

All in all, this isn’t a horrible book but it just wasn’t one that I found to be extremely entertaining. I still haven’t decided if I will make the effort to read the next book in the series. Maybe after some time away from the characters I will want to visit again. Only time will tell.

I received a complimentary copy of this book and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions in this review are mine.


About the author:  Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also won the Midwest Book Award, the Minnesota Book Award, and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award, and been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards and ACFW’s Carol Awards. She blogs at
Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Meddlin’Madeline: Sweet on You by Chautona Havig (review by Cathy) and Giveaway


Click here to purchase your copy.

About the book:


It is my hypothesis that social conventions are created to test our fortitude. 

Rockland circa 1900-

As the mayor’s daughter, Madeline Brown enjoys a rich social life that many might envy. But a sharp mind but a growing talent for observation leaves Madeline torn between avoiding social censure and exploring the world around her.

With an aunt who considers higher education and employment equally unsuitable for the mayor’s daughter, there is little to amuse her save endless committee meetings, evening socials, and her favorite pastime: curling up with an exciting detective novel. The temperance and suffrage movements hold little interest for a young woman who has just endured the rigors of her father’s mayoral campaign.

So when a young man shows interest in her friend, Madeline’s interest piques–until his actions hint that he might not be the upstanding gentleman everyone presumes him to be. Unable to ignore her concerns, Madeline finds herself in the middle of an investigation into his character and discovers a side of Rockland she’s never encountered.

Will her new hobby reduce the tedium of her life, or will her “meddling” create tension for herself and her father?  Will she be forced to squelch this budding skill of hers or has Madeline finally found her calling in life?

Meddlin’ Madeline: Sweet on You.

Welcome to Rockland’s infancy.

Sweet on You is the first book in the Meddlin’ Madeline Mysteries. Watch for the second book in the series, Such a Tease, in winter, 2017

My Review:

This book was an entertaining and interesting read. I loved the 1900’s-time period and the decorum the characters possessed.  Even, Maddie could be well mannered in social settings for the most part. I have to admit that Meddlin’ Maddie’s antics were very humorous, especially her fondness for her bowler hat. She was a very spirited character to say the least.

She was meddling to help her friend Edith who seems unaware of needing any help with a certain young man. The friendships are integral to this story and I was fascinated by the social gatherings the characters engaged in.

Overall, I found the character development and dialog quite good. I believe that this will be a great series suitable for readers of all ages.

I received a copy of the book from the author and have given my honest opinion.


About the Author 

I am fortunate enough to live in the great state of California (in the Mojave Desert) with my husband Kevin and five of my nine children. My eldest is married with five children, so I have the fun of a son-in-law and grandbabies to enjoy. I’ve graduated six out of my nine children from our home school, and they’re all doing quite well in their lives. My younger children keep me from getting too selfish, and someday I’ll be fully retired as their teacher. I have to say, I’m lookin’ forward to it. Teaching about gerunds was fun the first time… not so much anymore. I salute all of those in the education field. You are my heroes.

When I’m not writing (which I admit isn’t often) I enjoy blogging (a totally different kind of writing, trust me), paper crafts, sewing, smocking, photo editing, and old music. No, really, I like OLD stuff… the Beatles are too newfangled for me. Yeah,I know they’re before my time… but I like stuff before my PARENTS time.

Guest Post from Chautona

The idea for Madeline came while I was searching for photos for another book idea (one I still haven’t fleshed out yet!). I came across an intriguing picture of a girl wearing a bowler and loved it. I wondered who she was and what she was reading. Well… then I turned the page and… wow! Dozens of photos appeared—all in the same general theme. Bowler hat, gloves, late Victorian/early Edwardian clothes…. I could just see her riding through town on a “wheel” and solving crimes. And well, the rest was born. I had to narrow down about twenty pictures to five. I couldn’t do it. So, I did six. I just hope I can limit myself to six.

Fun Facts:

Fact #1:

This is a historical novel, so that meant lots of research. Well, in the sense that it takes place in another period, anyway. Research proved much more difficult than you might imagine. You see, the world was in a state of flux in 1901. Victorian mores gave way way to a new, modern era—a new century! Though an exciting time in history, because everything was in a perpetual state of change, finding truly historically accurate information was almost impossible!

Additionally, the writing style is very different. This is partly due to a quirk of Madeline’s, but it is also because people used broader vocabularies back then. I wrote the book with a style that fit the era. It was difficult not to lapse into modern vernacular or even something a bit more twenties. After all, the series title was inspired by a song from the 1920’s!

Fun Fact #2

This book begins a journey of self-discovery for Madeline. One of the things I wanted most to do with this book was to explore the “birth” of a detective—to show what it might be like for someone to realize that he or she notices things that others don’t. Through Madeline, I explored how people would react to having their secrets exposed, and I tried to show just how difficult it would be to investigate suspicious things without becoming deceitful or putting oneself in compromising positions. It’s easy to assume people would appreciate knowing if they were being taken advantage of, but would they really? Would pride not get in the way of things? I suspect it would.

Each book does have a definite “mystery”. But, these aren’t traditional mysteries. There won’t be a murder until the final book, but each one will increase in difficulty for Madeline and the reader to decipher the truth and will add a new element of danger and self-discovery. Additionally, there’s an

Fun Fact #3

We have five more books to go! We’re just getting started with Madeline’s adventures. A sneak peek into the rest of the series: we’ll get to learn more about her best friend, Amy. I haven’t decided just what kind of girl Amy is, but I suspect she’s quite beautiful. I think that’ll play a part in a future book. She’s also likely to meet someone in her European tour. Will she be the friend with the suspicious letter in book four? Who knows? Not me!

Madeline’s Unofficial Glossary

One of the best parts about writing this series is playing with words that I grew up using and reading, but most people don’t use anymore. I had parents of a literary turn of mind, so I grew up being told to, “Slow down and enunciate.” This began at age 3. So, while other kids were told to “go potty,” I was told to “use the facilities.” I’ll never forget in second grade telling a classmate, “That’s your prerogative,” when she said, “I don’t like you.” She was… confused, I think.

Add to that the fun slang of the day, not to mention a quirk I’m not giving away, and I can honestly say I had a blast writing this book. However, I know not everyone is fond of sesquipedalian words or erudite language. So, with that in mind, I decided to write this glossary of words you will find in the book. Please note: definitions are mine and written with my tongue super-glued to the inside of my cheek

Diffidence: noun

  • . Pretending to be reserved in an attempt to hide the truth. Desperate. A misguided notion that pretending not to notice someone will create interest.

Vicissitude: noun

  • The quality of never being able to make up your mind. A woman.

Multi-eloquent: adjective

The misguided notion that one must be like Nellie Olson in These Happy Golden Years and allow one’s tongue to go “flippity-flop.” Example: Gossips are often multi-eloquent.

Jitney: noun

  • Slang for a nickel. Also, a horse-drawn “cab.” Because it has fewer syll–nope. Not that. Because people like to confuse one another in speech. “Hey, do you have a jitney?” Gee… let’s see. I’ve got a nickel, but I left my horse and carriage in my other pants at home.

Copacetic: adjective

  • Doesn’t matter, because I had to remove it from the book. I didn’t read the entire dictionary entry when I chose the word, and only saw 1880 mentioned. Alas, the first known use is 1919. Eighteen years after this book takes place. I consider the coiner to be tardy, and would appreciate that in the future, words be coined by the dates I need. Thank you. (Do you see the amount of research I must do. I have to check if words were even IN USE before I use them. And I still almost flubbed it.)

Recalcitrant: adjective

  • Madeline… wait. That’s not quite right. But close enough. Okay. Madeline Brown when she has a bee in her bowler. Resisting authority or convention.

Dialogue de sourds: noun (French)

  • Literally: a worthless conversation where both parties speak to a glass wall, hearing only themselves. Example: political conversations, theological conversations, ideological conversations, Facebook wall “discussions,” and arguments with toddlers.

Asinine: adjective

  • Ridiculous or silly–like the assertion that someone saying the word is using foul language.

Penurious: adjective

  • Marked by an inability to part with money. A lickpenny. (see how I did that?)

Scintillating: adjective

  • A word meaning amusing or extremely interesting that lends itself more to sarcasm than plain speaking.

Hawkshaw: noun

  • A nosy person who gets away with it under the guise of “helping.” Sometimes known as a detective.

Fustian: noun

  • Um… yeah. This glossary. Madeline does lend herself to the fustian.

There you go. It’s just a taste of what’s ahead. Happy reading!

Blog Stops

December 13: Bigreadersite

December 13: Jeanette’s Thoughts

December 13: History, Mystery & Faith

December 14: Daysong Reflections

December 14: Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations

December 14: Baker Kella

December 15: Back Porch Reads

December 15: Moments Dipped in Ink

December 16: Pause for Tales

December 16: Quiet Quilter

December 17: cherylbbookblog

December 17: A Baker’s Perspective

December 18: ASC Book Reviews

December 18: Book Bites, Bee Stings, and Butterfly Kisses

December 19: Reading Is My SuperPower

December 19: A Greater Yes

December 20: Lane Hill House

December 20: A Simple Life, really?!

December 21: Books for Christian Girls

December 21: Reader’s cozy corner

December 22: Two Girls and a Book

December 22: Blogging With Carol

December 23: His Grace is Sufficient

December 23: 1983

December 24: Neverending Stories

December 24: Carpe Diem

December 25: Bibliophile Reviews

December 25: The Scribbler

December 26: History, Hope, Laughter & Happily-ever-after

December 26: For The Love of Books

December 26: Ashley’s Bookshelf




To celebrate her tour, Chautona is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card! Click the link below to enter. Be sure to comment on this blog post to claim nine extra entries in the giveaway!













Twelve Bells by Bridgett Lesllie (review by Kristi)


About the book:  In her struggle to heal the emotional torment caused by her ex-fiancé, Lynette Frank attends a speed-dating event to give herself a psychological edge in her quest to find the right man. Each man she meets challenges her to fully resurrect her dating life. But is it all too much too soon?

Kindle Edition, 49 pages                               Published September 11, 2016


My review:  I went into reading this book blindly. I had no idea what the story was about and was surprised to learn it was about a woman who goes on speed dates at the encouragement of her sister. I wasn’t sure if I would like a book about speed dating but the author’s writing style soon had me drawn into the story.

The main character, Lynette, is easy to like and have empathy for. Even though I’ve never participated in speed dates I found the writing of these dates to be very believable and entertaining. The author did a wonderful job of creating twelve different men for Lynette to date. Each man imparts a bit of wisdom and makes Lynette see her relationship with her ex in a different light.

I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of novellas but I enjoyed this one. I really liked the author’s writing style and found she packed a lot into 49 pages. There is enough depth to the story to make it interesting and enough emotion to make me feel connected to the characters.

Bridgett Leslie is a new author to me and I will be on the lookout for more of her work. I am hoping she will write a novel for readers to really see her writing talent.

I received a free copy of this novella from the author and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are mine.

About the author:  Bridgett Leslie is the winner of the 2014 British-Australian Community Literary Award and also the 2015 joint winner for the SAMPAD International Writing competition. Currently, she contributes to media for the United Nations Association of Australia, an official entity of the United Nations. Bridgett is a qualified finance professional and currently based in Australia.
Contact the author:

An Amish Family Christmas (The Charmed Amish Life #4) by Shelley Shephard Gray (review by Cathy)


About the book:

In Shelley Shepard Gray’s fourth book in her Charmed Amish Life series, an unlikely Amish romance reveals that Christmas is a time for family, miracles—and love.

Ever since his father died in a tragic fire, Levi Kinsinger has felt adrift. Newly returned to Charm, Ohio, Levi is trying to fit into his old life, only to discover he seems to have outgrown it.

But when Julia, his young widowed neighbor, asks for his help with a Christmas project, Levi finds a sense of purpose for the first time in months. She and her daughter are new to Charm and could use a friend, a job Levi takes personally. Soon enough, friendship grows into attraction, but Levi can’t help having doubts. There’s something about Julia that doesn’t ring quite true…

Like Levi, Julia Kemps has survived her fair share of hardships—but only by hiding the truth of her past. Being an unmarried mother in an Amish community was unthinkable. Feeling hopeless, Julia did the only thing she could do: she moved to a new town and pretended to be a widow. But meeting Levi, she’s hopeful for the first time. Little by little, she begins to imagine telling him her darkest secret, and eventually…perhaps even sharing her life with him.

Christmas is a time for family, and as the holiday draws closer, Julia and Levi will have to face their pasts together…in order to find the healing, support and love they so desperately desire.

My review: (5 stars)

It’s my favorite time of the year.  The holiday season is upon us, Shelley Shephard Gray has a new Christmas and book and I finally sat down to read it!  I’d been saving it because I knew it would be a treat to read closer to Christmas.  I was right, it was worth the wait.

  It sure was a pleasure returning to Charm and catching up with the Kinsinger family.

They’ve had their struggles throughout the series and how they’ve worked through them has been the focus in the 4 books in the series. I’ve liked that each one of the siblings have had their story told and how it’s brought the family together as they’ve dealt with both losses and successes.

Levi is the focus of this story and even though he hasn’t always been my favorite character, the author certainly changed my view of him in this book as I saw how he had dealt with his grief.   I discovered he really is a good and caring person.

I loved Julia and her daughter, Penny. My heart went out to Julia and I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to live in fear.

I appreciated that the friendship between Levi and Julia progressed slowly and naturally, especially given their circumstances. 

The strong message of faith, love and family has been prevalent throughout and in the final book it’s what brings the family together at the most wonderful time of the year.

The author has a gift for crafting strong characters, wonderful dialogue and storylines that I’ve always been drawn to and she has exceeded my expectations in An Amish Christmas.

Of course, I’m sad to say goodbye to the Kinsinger family which is why I’ll read this series again at some point.


Left at the Alter by Margaret Brownley (review by Cathy)


About the book:

Welcome to Two-Time Texas: Where tempers burn hot Love runs deep And a single marriage can unite a feuding town …or tear it apart for good In the wild and untamed West, time is set by the local jeweler…but Two-Time Texas has two: two feuding jewelers and two wildly conflicting time zones. Meg Lockwood’s marriage was supposed to unite the families and finally bring peace.

But when she’s left at the altar by her no-good fiancé, Meg’s dreams of dragging her quarrelsome neighbors into a ceasefire are dashed. No wedding bells? No one-time town. Hired to defend the groom against a breach of promise lawsuit, Grant Garrison quickly realizes that the only thing worse than small-town trouble is falling for the jilted bride. But there’s something about Meg’s sweet smile and determined grit that draws him in…even as the whole crazy town seems set on keeping them apart.

Who knew being Left at the Altar could be such sweet, clean, madcap fun?

A Match Made in Texas Left at the Altar (Book 1)

A Match Made in Texas (Book 2)

How the West was Wed (Book 3)
My review:(4 stars)

This is a super cute book with characters that are feisty and funny.

Everyone in Two-Time, Texas is ready for the wedding of Meg Lockwood and Tommy Farrell. Well, everyone except for Tommy who waits for the worst possible time to let Meg know that he’s not ready to settle down.

Their fathers are livid and the called off wedding leaves the town still divided into two time zones.  When handsome young attorney arrives in town to set up his practice had, the story gets very entertaining.  I genuinely liked all the characters and was very surprised at the ending of this well written book.

If you like clean, sweet and lighthearted novels, then this one is a definite must read.

I received a copy of Left at the Alter from Netgalley and have given my honest opinion.